Sometime last summer I set up the pages at the top of this blog and decided to include a booklist of books I own which I especially like. One was The Legend of Nance Dude, reconstructed in Nance’s POV by writer Maurice Stanley from events as covered in newspaper clippings, old jail records, and talks with mountain people who either remembered Nance’s crime or had heard it firsthand from their elders.
It the story of the grisly discovery of the body, in April, of Nance’s two-year-old granddaughter in a cave on the side of a mountain in western North Carolina. The body appeared to have been buried under a grave of stones and it’s widely believed that she died of starvation and exposure after being deserted by her grandmother during a Febrary walk on the mountainside. At first Nance said she had taken the child to the county home to be raised, then later changed her story to say she’d given her to a man who offered to take care of her.
At any rate, Nance was 65 when she was convicted of murdering little Roberta, and spent 15 years of hard labor in prison. After her sentence ended, she spent the remaining 24 years of her life alone, chopping her own wood and raising her own chickens. She died in 1952 at age 104. It’s a fascinating read and several commenters expressed the wish that the book be made into a movie. Anyone out there in moviedom interested?
I was very surprised to find a comment in September from Kenny, (Ft. Worth, Tx) who said “I have read the ‘Legend of Nance Dude’ at least twice, and am getting ready to read it again. I have always been intrigued with such stories, especially when they’re true.”
Paula (Charlotte, N.C.) wrote, “I learned the story of Nance from my grandmother (Maggie Leatherwood Stephenson) who was a first-hander of the story, having grown up in the location of the story. My grandmother was 10 years old at the time of the murder and was so affected by the events that she named her first child (my mother) after the little girl, Roberta.”
In spite of the obscurity of the title and the regional nature of the book, I continue to hear sporadically from readers who have heard the legend of Nance Dude. Especially gratifying was this latest one from Linda, another reader and blogger from North Carolina, who writes, “Nancy Dude was My Great Grandmother’s Aunt … I found the story very Interesting and I must say it is a great read …. The pictures of Nancy that are in the book really was a shock to me and I could not believe my eyes cause my Great Grandmother looked exactly like her Aunt Nancy Dude … I was born and raised and still living in the location of the story … ”
A second story I posted more recently was one called Remembering Howdy Doody, the tv show from NBC in the 1950’s. This post, which featured a video tape from one of the original episodes, seems to have brought back fond memories for a variety of readers, which was not surprising as it had done the same for me. What was a surprise, however, was a comment from Eiko (northern California) who said, “I could SWEAR that my son #1 is sitting there. He was shy, looked like the kid in the upper right, second one in. (That’s where he was sitting the day he went).
A week or so back I got an email from Eiko confirming her discovery. She said that her son, now 55, had recently visited her, and the two of them with his family watched the video several times. He confirmed that he was sure it definitely was him, since he remembered exactly where he sat and how things looked to him that morning. They got quite a kick from the memories the day stirred up for them.
The whole point of writing about this is that I wanted to share with my readers how much appreciated your comments are to any blog writer, whether myself or others. Thanks for visiting, and a special thanks to all of you who take the time to leave a comment if/when a story or memory touches you. It’s nice to make connections with strangers and old friends who have similar interests and sentiments, and it makes the big world out there feel a whole lot friendlier and connected.