Friday, October 28, 2016

Verne Finds His Roots

Exactly when my father returned to Smyth County, Virginia after the horse sale trip in November 1936, I’m not sure, but return he did, and soon. The green hills and the cool summer nights may be part of what drew him back. Maybe he saw a business opportunity. Maybe he liked the looks of the pretty young ladies he met. Maybe it was a sense of belonging, to nearly 190 years of his maternal ancestors’ rootedness in those hills.

For certain, he liked his Uncle Jim. He liked Jim's folksy, outspoken speech. A favorite saying of Jim's that Verne liked to quote was, "I'd rather wear out than rust out." Verne lived with him and Aunt Susie and their teenage daughter Frances in Marion for a while. In August of 1938, Uncle Jim took Verne for the first time to Troutman, North Carolina, where they attended the annual family reunion in the hometown where Jim’s father, Daniel A. Troutman, had been born and raised.

Uncle Jim and Verne in front of the depot, Troutman, NC.

Verne drew arrows to point out himself and Uncle Jim, on right.

At the reunion, Verne met some of his grandfather’s cousins. He sent pictures and wrote home to his father, Clint, about his experience:

“Marion, Va.
“August 20, 1938

“Dear Dad,

“We just got back from the Troutman reunion. I sure wish that you and mom and all could have been here. We left here Friday morning about 7 o’clock and got down there about 11 o’clock. It was 131 miles from Marion. We went by the mouth of Wilson, Independence, Sparta and Elkins. When we got at the meeting place. It is an old building in an old school house, used for only this purpose. We were greeted of course by Chal. The first thing we did, was to go into the building and they had a program especially suited for the meeting. Several talks were given by Troutmans. A violin solo by Sarah Troutman, in fact all was by Troutmans except one preacher who gave a short talk. He was not a Troutman but was a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Troutman North Carolina.

“There were two Lutheran Preachers who gave talks, one of them was in charge of the program. They were both Troutmans. One is a son of El. Troutman, your first cousin. And we stayed there all night last night. He lives about five miles from Troutman. El looks like a german and is a brother of Chal. His son is pastor of the Lutheran church of Boone North C. He sure is a good preacher. He made a talk on ‘Time.’

“They made all the ones that come from quite a distance stand up, of course we had to stand. They all seemed to know Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie. There were several from out of State there. One man and his family from Washington. They ask Uncle Jim if he did not want to say a few words and he said he was a better listenor [sic] and talkor [sic]. But he said a few words and told them how glad he was to be there. They ask me if I didnt have something to say and I told them no. But Chal. told them I was a big Auctioneer and was from Nebraska and I just had to get up and say something. So I told them how glad I was to be there and sat down. I would have to go back as far as Grandpa and tell them I was a grandson of Daniel T. before they could get me placed.

“One woman told me she knew me when I first came in, because I looked exactly like a picture she has of you, when you were about my age. She was a nice looking lady. She looked quite a little like Aunt Stell looked in her younger days.

“All of them seemed to be nice sociable people. Some looked like they had money and some looked rather hard up. But as Uncle Jim says, I didn’t see a mean looking face in the bunch. I think there must have been over 200 there.

“They had a business meeting and elected committees for the coming year. This was the 35 annual Troutman reunion. The building has printed in big letters over the door ‘Troutman Historical Building Association.’

“There is a cemetery and nearly all the graves are Troutmans. I saw my Great, Great Grandfathers grave. It was so old you could hardly read the writing on it. He came over here from Germany and married a german girl and at one time owned 20,000 acres of land around Statesville. He bought it for 12 ½ cents per acre. I saw your great grandfathers grave. His name was Henry Troutman and he was at one time Sherriff of Iradell [sic] County, North Carolina. And he owned 32,00 [sic] of land at one time. I guess grandpa was a son of a rich man. Uncle Jim says that accounts for him not being much of a hustler.

“Uncle Jim, Aunt Susie, Francis, Chal and myself went out to the old place where grandpa was born and raised. There is one old building still standing. You can see where the house used to stand. It was a large one. There is one big walnut tree still standing right in front of where the house stood. There is a stump of a big old pine tree left where it had been burned. We took a picture of the place. This is the first time the Uncle Jim seen the place where his daddy was born and raised. He cried as he looked at it.

“They told me how Grandma told about her and grandpa going to N. C. after they were first married. From what they tell me they were greeted by a bunch of boys and girls on horses. And they rode their horses around and around the house. Grandpa took out after them in the buggy and she said two wheels were on the ground part of the time. She said Farewell Vain World, Here is where I get killed. As we looked the old place over I could just see the horses and buggy running around that place.

“Write soon

Sixty-nine years later, Verne had come full circle, back to the home place his paternal grandfather had left in 1869, the place the Troutmans had lived since about 1790. And for the same reason Verne had left Nebraska, his grandfather, had left North Carolina: to take horses to sell in Virginia.

[1] Verne Troutman, Marion, Virginia, to Clint Troutman, letter, 20 August 1938, relates events of a 1938 family reunion in Troutman, North Carolina; Verne and Lois Troutman binder, privately held, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.

 © Z. T. Noble

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