Category Archives: Willey

High on the Mountain

The mountain cemetery, as often as not, was placed on the highest ground.  My old neighbors Fred and Laurie Peterson had a family cemetery on a hill behind their house, on the highest point of land they owned.  You could see miles down the Toe River, as it flowed toward Tennessee.  Paying my last respects to them there, I felt uplifted, part of a vast universe.  

Ola Belle Campbell Reid said that when she wrote her song “High on a Mountain,” she was standing by the grave of her mother.  The lyrics speak of longing for “the days that used to be.”  Many people have interpreted the words as speaking to a lost lover.  I think they go much deeper than that.  

In northwestern North Carolina, near Ola Belle’s home grounds, I found the graves of my own great-grandparents and great-great grandparents, as near to heaven as they could be placed.  Standing at the top of a mountain, it’s hard not to feel inspired, even as you feel grief or nostalgia.  Ola Belle’s lyrics begin with “High on a mountain, wind blowing free…”  Every time I hear her song I see the Toe River valley stretching away into a blue-green haze and feel the free air all around, and imagine my neighbors and my ancestors gone to a well-deserved reward for their hard work, perseverance, and benevolence.

With all respect due to Marty Stuart’s interpretation of Reid’s song, I like Ola Belle’s own performance best.  It has a depth no love song can reach.

Copyright 2021 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

“As I looked at the valleys down below,
They were green just as far as I could see;
As my memory turned, oh,
How my heart did yearn,
For you and the days that used to be.”

If my great-grandmothers were alive today…

Post Script to my post on great grandmothers–

I love what KristenLynn Writes on her blog:

“If our Great-Grandmothers would’ve had Facebook and Twitter when they were young mothers…”

This is hilarious…mostly.  “#roughtimes”

My grandmother Loula & her sister, Pearl, when they were young mothers.

Copyright 2018 by Glenda Alexander.  All rights reserved.

International Women’s Day: Honoring My Great-Grandmothers

This is a quilt honoring my four great-grandmothers.

Left:  Martha Frances White Johnson (1862-1933) claimed Native American ancestry, and her maternal grandmother was said to have come from the Powhatan Reservation.

Right:  Margaret Matilda Stillwell Alexander (1847-1931) was an identical twin. She startled the neighbors at her sister’s funeral. Her husband was also a twin.

Top:  Mary Arabella McDonald Richardson (1867-1935) was the grand-daughter of immigrants from the Western Isles of Scotland. She loved to walk on her land in the Sandhills.

Bottom:  Margaret Jane Willey Oakley (1858-1934) gathered wild herbs for a living and ran the farm after her husband’s death. Her six children were all boys.


Copyright 2018 by Glenda Alexander.  All rights reserved.

Valentine’s Day

William Edgar Oakley married Jessie Fannie Johnson on December 24, 1916 in Surry County, N. C.

In July of that year, they had survived the worst flood in western North Carolina history.  Ed, a widower with a small daughter, had his entire house swept away by rising water.  Fannie, on the opposite side of the river, (probably the Ararat, a tributary of the Yadkin) didn’t know their fate until days later, when the rain stopped and the water receded enough for people to cross the river and check on their neighbors and family.

I don’t know if this photograph was taken before or after the flood, but the tree behind them is in full leaf, so it must have been in advance of their Christmas Eve wedding, which took place at the home of Baptist minister J. R. Cruise in Mt. Airy.