Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More About the Cantrell Child

There's rosemary -- that's for remembrance -- and I took some with me when I returned to the Walnut cemetery yet again in search of Emma Jane -- or possibly Emma Jean -- the Cantrell child whose grave I went looking for a while back.
I'd been in touch with Jeter Cantrell -- who was born after his sister's death -- and he told me the story as he remembered it. (I didn't catch everything he said -- thus the Jean/Jane confusion.)

Emma Jane (or Jean) would have been three on February the second. It was December (of 1925 0r '26) when her parents left her and her brothers at home (the older boy wasn't feeling well) and set off walking down Thomas Branch to attend Sunday night church meeting.

The older boy went out to water the mule; when he came back his little sister was fine, happily playing with her dog. A little later he left the house again to go turn the cows out. When he came back, Emma Jane was gone, as was his younger brother.

The older brother figured that the two must have gone over the mountain to their grandparents' place in Sodom. So he got the mule and rode over there to find his brother there but no Emma Jane.

It was snowing lightly and she didn't have a coat on, said Jeter. Later the searchers figured that the little girl must have set off down Thomas Branch, following the way her parents had gone, but rather than continuing toward Walnut, she had turned up the switchback that led toward Saddle Top Mountain.

The sheriff searched on horseback and, as Nancy's family remembered, the lights of the searchers could be seen weaving back and forth through the leafless trees on Saddle Top.

When they found her, Emma Jane was frozen to death, but the little dog with her was still alive.

She's buried in the main cemetery around the church, Jeter said, under a flat stone near the marker for her parents, William and Nola Cantrell. Look in the southeast corner, he added, next to the pasture.

So back I went, on another cold and windy day, with a little bouquet of rosemary to put on the grave. With such good directions, I felt sure I'd find Emma Jane.
(Or Jean.)

But I didn't.

Which is why I haven't updated the ongoing story. But when Esta, who comments here occasionally, asked me yesterday what more I'd found out about the little girl, so I thought I'd go on and do an update.

Eventually, I'll get to the library and see what I can find on micro fiche. And when the weather is more moderate, I'll go back one more time and look for Emma Jane. Or Jean.

And I'll take some more rosemary.

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Pat in east TN said...

This is all so interesting Vicki ... I'm enjoying your updates.

Tammy said...

Such a sad story--the outcome all based on a wrong turn, or a moment of looking away. Thanks for the update though. It really is fascinating the stories that people can tell about their lives. On another note..when I just glanced at the first picture of the Rosemary, I thought it was a bush in the middle of a muddy flood of water! Oh my, I definately need more coffee. :-)

Carol Murdock said...

I love this story and the fact that you feel led to keep searching makes me think you will find her!

Vicki Lane said...

Some of the old guys who hang around the place are beginning to look at me suspiciously when I come tromping through the grave yard yet again.

I see what you mean about the rosemary picture, Tammy. But maybe you should get that second cup.

Unknown said...

Is all of this research for a particular project you have in mind or are you just seeing where the journey leads you? There is just something about the those old headstones that is so lovely and peaceful. The stories almost tell themselves. Can't wait to hear more on this Vicki. Happy New Year!!

Vicki Lane said...

'Seeing where the journey leads me' is exactly what it is . . .

Tipper said...

This seems to be a story meant to be written about-I can't wait to see what else you discover.

Nancy M. said...

Vicki, I remember a Cantrell headstone down below where my parents, sister and brother are buried. If you are standing at their headstones, looking toward where the school use to be, it was down at the bottom - might be a fence there???? I plan to come back down when the weather cooperates (will that happen anytime soon!!??) - and I'll also be on the lookout....

Vicki Lane said...

It's such a compelling story, Tipper; I'm sure I'll use it eventually.

I saw a Cantrell stone, Nancy, but it wasn't William and Nola. But we'll keep trying!

Jenn said...

"When he came back, Emma Jane was gone, as was his younger brother."

What of the brother? Did they ever find him?

Vicki Lane said...

Hi, Jenn,

He found his brother at his grandparents' house but no little sister. (Sorry, my wording wasn't as clear as it should have been.)

Each brother thought that the sister was with the other brother.