Meet the Grand Parents
Meet the Grandparents – Jeremiah Clark and wife Mary Ann. In our story – “Without a Country” – they are grandparents of a large family that moved to the Valle Crucis area of Watauga County, North Carolina in the 1840’s. When the Civil War started, most of their children were grown and had families. Like their children, they were subsistence farmers. They lived in a log cabin and scratched out a living. They survived off what they raised on their small farm in a narrow valley high in the mountains.
Jeremiah and Mary Ann didn’t have slaves. None of their family or neighbors had slaves. Prior to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, a number of men in the South pushed for secession They pushed hard. Southern leaders were concerned with the destiny of the South – they feared the North would eventually push to eliminate all slavery. Politicians and plantation owners insisted on the rights for each state to control slavery. Jeremiah and Mary Ann knew the Raleigh politicians looked out for the men with power and money – mountain farmers typically were not in that group. They wanted no part in secession or war or slavery.
Most of Jeremiah and Mary Ann’s children lived within easy walking distance. “Without a Country” focuses on their oldest son James Wilburn “Will” Clark and his wife Suzanne Lusk Clark (my great-great-grandparents). As we filmed this scene, we focused on Will’s brother John (below left) and John’s two daughters, Mindy and Martha (below right). John stopped by to see his Ma and P and the conversation gravitated to the war. John and his Ma and Pa were hearing stories of a war that was erupting… Charleston guns fired on Ft. Sumter. South Carolina and a number of Southern states had left the Union and now they had war.
Jeremiah, Mary Ann and John felt men with money were driving the South toward war – men with an interest in keeping plantation life intact. Mountain farmers overwhelmingly favored the Union. They didn’t want war.
But, they, like almost everyone else, assumed the war would be short.
And when the firing started, many in the South who had favored the Union felt a tug of loyalty for their state. When those shots rang out, many felt mighty Southern, at least for a season.