Thursday, September 19, 2013

Granny's Pantry# 7: Finding Polly Mahaley

According to High Rock family legend, ever so often Polly Mahaley would catch a ride with the rural mail carrier and then walk up the dirt lane between the twin rows of cedars leading to my granny’s house in the High Rock Community of Davidson County, NC. Polly had come to visit with her few belongings in a little bag, her long dresses and strings of beads around her neck. As soon as Polly arrived, she would busy herself doing something helpful, like peeling vegetables.            
[I know of no picture of Polly Mahaley]
Carrying “news” from house to house in this rural area was an important part of what Polly did. Her visits might last a few days or a week, and she might not reappear for months. My granny always welcomed her as company. When it was time for Polly to go, she would move on to spend time with other families in the community.

My mother, who’s now ninty, remembers going outside of her home as a child and knocking on the door, pretending to be Polly Mahaley come to visit.

No one knows where Polly Mahaley came from. I’m not sure why Polly Mahaley’s story so captivated me. What was life like for this thin, pale woman who belonged to everyone and no one?  I always heard that Polly went to live in the Davidson County Home. County homes were often the refuge of folks who had no family or means to take care of themselves.  

Where was she buried? Could I find her grave? I searched for her online unsuccessfully. And then a summer ago, while driving home one weekend through Lexington, NC, I noticed a street sign for County Home Road. The time to look for Polly had come.

Former County Home, Davidson County, NC
We found the big old gray rambling structure that was once the County Home for Davidson County,NC. It’s now owned by Davidson County Schools and part of the property is fenced off. It was Sunday, and we searched where we could...but no cemetery was visible.

Back home, while searching online again, I found a wonderful helper in Linda Davis, Cemetery Coordinator of the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department. She took the very minimal information mixed with guesses I had about Polly Mahaley and within hours, Polly was found:      

                          Birth: unknown
North Carolina, USA
                          Death: Jul. 11, 1941
Davidson County
North Carolina, USA

Polly Mahaley was a single white female who was born about 1866.
(There are no stones [in the cemetery] but depressions are visible...around a giant oak tree.)

Polly Mahaley was one of 74 persons listed as buried in the Davidson County Home Cemetery (NC) from 1913 through 1960 ( Registrants on Find a Gravemay go to the individual site entry for each person listed to post virtual flowers and a tribute, which I have done for Polly. There’s still a lot I don’t know (who was Elvira Mahaley who was buried there in 1915--her mother/sister/or a stranger)?  I'll likely never know more about Polly, but I can’t explain what finding her has meant.

Although she was not real "kin," Polly Mahaley is part of the collective memory of High Rock and a real life story from Granny's Pantry. 

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

(Matthew 25:35;40)

1 comment: