Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia - July 1899
Among the wildlife of the unforgiving wilderness Mary Louella Harley's family lived within a community of forgotten people in the forgotten, uninhabitable paradise which catered to the toughest of the tough - both human and indigenous creatures alike. It was a frontier settlement of people who lived by their own laws. Wolfe's notes - a government initiative to eradicate wolves, catching snakes and selling moonshine kept the clans alive. Children were taught to drink moonshine since the early age of 6 or even younger.
Mary and her three sisters were each a color-coded pattern on a special piece of cotton. There was an important reason for it. Embroidery needles did for their mother in patterns what reading and writing skills did for educated people on paper. The latter was hard to find in these mountains. Mary's own literacy was kept a secret, only her mom knew, since her dad scoffed at book-learning.
In the wilderness of Claw Mountain lived the fearful patriarch, Obediah Buchanan, and his sons, produced by his late French extracted, cultured wife, Hedina Charlemaine. The good-looking oldest son, Zachary Thomas, "borrowed" a horse, descended from his own territory and traveled many hours to ambush Mary Harley in her father's cow shed at dawn, after seeing her for a brief few minutes in the trading store for the first time a few days prior, and convinced her to elope with him and get married. Which she did. There were only two rules in the feuding mountain clans at the time: to survive and breed.
Obediah himself once knew a life of prosperity and splendor, being a descendant of a wealthy aristocratic family who owned vast tobacco plantations and several distilleries in the Graves Mill area. His refusal to join the Confederate army during the Civil War, and his wild, unsavory lifestyle, had him disowned and banned from his family (who were all killed in the war anyway and their plantations totally destroyed by fires). His deeply-rooted resentment of authority allowed him to ignore the rights and wishes of the wealthy landowner, Devon Ansley, on whose land Obediah defiantly established himself as a squatter. To him, Claw Mountain was his inviolate kingdom and his mode of rule, both in the mountain and off, was fear.He claimed Ansley Devon's property as his own divine right, after Ansley decided for unknown reasons to abandon it.
As a refugee from the Virginian law, as well as a former experienced manager of one of his own father's distilleries, and having a brood of wild sons to raise, Obediah would produce the finest whiskey and apple brandy with his illegal moonshining.
With their powerful and predatory skills, they would subject their neighbors, the Ficks and Addis clans, to devilment and tyranny. However, their biggest bitter feud would rage against the equally wild and hostile Galtrey clan of Buck Knob Mountain, until Mary came along, and through hard work and a Christian intervention, would change things...
In the media of yesteryear, Claw Mountain and its people were depicted as backwards, ignorant and shiftless. They were also caricatured as hillbillies living in squalid conditions. The agenda of the government and private organizations behind it was to vilify them enough so that their final destiny would not be frowned upon by the general public. But then authors such as Brenda George comes along and put the heart back into the people and their mountain and expose these "false claims" against the people.
Was the government intervention really such a bad decision after all? One thing was certain though and that was that these clans needed to be saved from themselves and as soon as possible - no matter how it was done or by whom!
"There's no reason to think that somebody who comes from the mountains can't succeed. It's just changing the contours of their expectations, and maybe the geography of their hearts. This story proved it."