The best way to begin this story is with another - As previously mentioned in the Roads Traveled saga we
paid a surprise visit to a Cousin.
One Saturday in July, 2012, (my daughter)Alicia and I met Lonnie Dockery at the old court house in
Blairsville GA for an afternoon’s tour of the area I have been researching while working on the Reece and
McClure family stories. I hoped to gain some much needed perspective of how far they lived from each
other, from the places they were buried, and from the Georgia and North Carolina state lines.
After coming back to Pine Log Road (at the church) we turned right and went about a half mile and turned
right into the driveway of Max Reece. The Georgia/NC line runs along the back of the Max Reece property
and along the ridges and Rocky Top Mountain.
It must have seemed a little odd – three strangers pulling up to your house and asking about kin. But Max
was gracious and invited us in to share the AC and tell stories. I was very glad Alicia had the digital
recorder, because otherwise I might have missed something.
He still had that tractor
In the photo behind us!
Max Reece, Norma Stamp (me) and my
daughter, Alicia Anderson
Max Reece’s dad was Arthur T. Reece. His mother was Mama Dot Reece. Arthur T. was the son of Ellen and Curn
Reece. Caswell’s son (Mont) and Max were first cousins. Max’s Reece’s came from Haywood County in 1914.
From Echoes of Our Heritage - Clay County – Max was born in 1935 and graduated from Haywood High School
in 1956. Max stayed home. Worked for NC D.O.T. He married Mary Sue McElrath (b. 1938) in 1956. They had
five children – all graduated from HHS: Paul – no children, lives in Pine Log; Sherry Long Collins – married, 2 sons,
lives in Pine Log; Perry – married, 1 daughter, lives in Pine Log; Anita Wood – Appalachian St., Astrophysicist,
married, 2 daughters, 1 son, lives in Fredericksburg, VA; Phillip – married, 2 sons. Max and Mary Sue live on the
family farm in Pine Log.
Max told us the story of how a bear almost took his arm and I took a picture of the photo.
Rocky Top Mountain behind Max's house
That says Reece on the mailbox!
The Bear story:
Alicia said – so you have a story about yourself?
Max said – Yeah, I bear hunt.
Alicia said – I noticed that picture up there.
Max:Uh, yea, that’s the bear that bit me.
"A group of us, there’s 7 of us, goes to coast of NC to hunt. We hunt here too.
The woods are real thick down there and you have to get through the woods to just where the dogs could tree the
bear up a bear tree. Then you have to get down and crawl under this ol’ brush.
Well, the dogs treed a bear. And this time I was hunting with a doctor, and it was his day to shoot the bear.
So we were crawling through this little channel; we called it a bear tunnel. He was in front of me. He ran on up and
shot the bear. The bear fell down off the tree, but he just wounded it.
I was still in that little tunnel crawling through there. It wanted in that tunnel too.
It run in there and it grabbed me there by the arm and tore it, it took 21 stitches to sew it up.
I was lucky. The bear weighed 420 pounds so it could have jerked my arm off. But I survived.
The guy went ahead and shot it again or did you get to do that?
Well. The guy shot it over there and it was coming towards me and I couldn’t shoot because the doctor was
between me and the bear ‘till it got right at me and just about the time it bit me I had a rifle and shot it again."
*I have not been able to locate an article he mentioned at the end of his story. Having searched
online, but will link it if I find it.
Byron Herbert Reece, the poet, wasn’t the only famous cousin around,
Max’s mother made quite a name for herself. Known as Dot Reece or "Mamma Dot" Doris Reece was first
exposed to woodcarving through her neighbors Hope and Glen Brown who carved and sold their work
through the woodcarving cooperative that became known as the Brasstown Carvers. Reece's first carving
was a cat. She became a prolific carver capable of creating eighty carvings per month. She carved napkin
rings, mice and opossums in walnut, cherry and buckeye and is best known for her cheerful baby pigs. This
photograph was taken from a booklet published by the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1990 titled "The
Brasstown Carvers" with text by Bill Biggers, photographs by Werner Kahn and Bill Biggers
In a letter written Nov. 17, 1947 by Doris to Murrial Martin
"Carving came to me at a time I kneaded a new interest. It was before my
seventh child was borned I feel ashamed to admit it now, that I was
discouraged. Carving gave me a new interest kept me busy, I don't know
how to express it but I do feel it was a great help to me.
It is such interesting work to take a piece of wood and crate something life
like out of it.
I don't have much time for carving but it is a kind of secure an
independent feeling that you have a way to make a bit of money in spare
The day we take our carving is kind of a recreation day for us housewives."
Your friend. Doris Reece
Max shared with us a fine book created by his brother Buck and Bob Jones, who was an early Reece
researcher, and I came across the Pine Log Singing School picture, taken in 1912, this time complete with
information and names! I had found a copy of this picture online, but did not have the information to go with
it. It was a great find!
This is the best quality I have, and would appreciate it if you have a sharper digital version, if you could share
it with me.
The photo in the book was included in a story –
Max told us a story about his mother:
Momma Dot was supposed to go to the Folk School every Friday. One Friday she didn’t have a way to go.
But daddy had a log truck. She didn‘t know how to drive or nothing or how to drive it. But she got in that old
truck and went to the folk school and kept it in ‘Bull Dog’. You know what that means. She drove it all the way
down there and back in ‘Bull Dog’. That old truck…. Bull Dog is the slowest gear on the truck (first gear). I’ll
bet he was there to take her the next time…
|Pine Log Singing School 1912
They Sang for Their Supper by Lenora Bacchus.
The above photo shows about 40 people who attended a “singing school” held in the Pine Log Schoolhouse
(across the road from current Pine Log Church) around 1912. They were probably singing gospel songs such
as “Amazing Grace” and “Wonderful Words of Life”. The music was printed with shaped notes, such as Do-re-
me, etc. which we rarely use today. According to Richard Powers who has taught many singing schools in this
area, the leader probably used a tuning fork, which was struck on the knee or other object and held up to the
ear to get the “pitch” which was sung out to the singing group.
These people had no electricity or any of the conveniences we enjoy today but they managed. Doctors and
modern medicine were practically out of the question and unfortunately individuals died. Mama Dot’s father,
Tollie, half-brother to Wythe Miller who is standing just to the right of the right-hand window, died in his early
20s. This left Mama Dot’s mother with three small children under the age of five. The bearded man in the center
is Peter Miller, he and his wife, Anna Plemmons (front row left) moved here from Leicester, NC. She was Peter’s
second wife whom he married after losing his first wife, Laura Brookshire, mother of Tollie Miller. Peter was a
good farmer and his place abounded with fruit trees grapes and a variety of nut trees. Another thing of interest
is the gentleman show in the left window. Is that a golf ball he is holding or is his hand gloved? I think he might
be saying “I’d rather be golfing”.
Front Row L to R:
Anna (Plemmons) Miller
Pearl Payne (with doll)
Mallieu Investor (kneeling)
Back Row L to R:
Bessie Miller Sherlin
Jessie Waldroup Spivey
Ada Sherlin Caler
Novella Waldroup Miller
Elsie Miller Green
Azalle Miller Green
A Payne girl whose married name is Trout
Theosha Invester Sherlin
David Sherlin (holding baby)
(people in the left window not known)
|As of this writing Max is still living in the
North Carolina Mountains.
This visit still means a lot to me. It was
early on in my research and really
provided a spark.
Click on the bear below to
hear Max tell the story!
|Click on the picture to
see a bigger version