Generation IX: Stella Mae Lowe & Rufus Asbury Penley
Uncle Malcolm's Mountain
Sam and Priscilla's son, Hiram Thomas Penley, was a World War I soldier. Because he returned from the war in poor health, Thomas kept his serviceman's life insurance paid up with his sister Sarah, and brothers Malcolm and Kelly as beneficiaries. He left specific instructions for them to buy a small farm for his mother Priscilla where she could live out her days in peace. Upon Thomas' death, his wishes were carried out poetically. For $1,250 the Penleys bought 85 acres on Clinch Mountain from James Willis. Malcolm later bought 30 acres more for a total of 115 acres. Between Slabtown and Snowflake on State Road 71, the land rises up behind the Woods Cemetery and the old Mountain View School, about four miles from Gate City.
When Mitch's grandson Joey Zack interviewed him for a school paper, he wrote: "Cousin to my grandfather means best friend. He grew up in a very tight-knit family cluster and spent most of his time with his cousins. My grandfather regrets nothing about his life, as he is grateful for all he has been given."
The good times lasted through the years. Don Strong, Jack and Benny Collings would come to our home on Long Street or Dora Street to play Rook until the wee hours. Whenever any of Mitch's cousins visited, there were always big smiles, pranks, and talking long into the night. Helen kept the coffee pot going and usually had to make a cake for Don. When Helen was pregnant, Benny always threatened to call a Vet for delivery. Linda and Karen fell asleep many a night to the voices and melodious laughter coming from the kitchen. Janie (Lane) Mann and her daughter Coantha Mann lived near us in Florida for a few years. We spent a lot of time together, and endured Hurricane Donna at their house in 1960. Jack and Benny Collings might pop up anywhere for a quick visit. These are just memories of Dad's memories; if he were here now there would be more colorful stories about these folks.
January 29, 1929: Mr. Malcolm Penley and Miss Fannie Strong called to see Miss Georgia Freeman Tuesday night. Mr. Malcolm Penley returned to his home near Gate City Friday after spending the week with Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Strong.
October 24, 1929: Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Strong and family, Misses Georgia and Berniece Freeman, Messrrs. Robert McKinzie, Clarence Bruner and Malcolm Penley spent the day with Mrs. Samuel Penley, near Gate City. Mr. K. H. Penley spent Sunday night with Mr. Alfred Strong.
December 19, 1929: The C.E. Strong family spent Sunday with Mrs. Priscilla Penly near Gate City.
Grandma Priscilla's remained a favorite spot on earth for those who came, not just because of the calm and majestic beauty of the mountain, not just because of the table where there was always food for one more, or the beds that were never too full for one more cousin. It reminded you of who you were, where you'd been, and told you where to go next.
Relationships forged on the mountain sustained the family for generations to come, and built character that would see them through tribulations to come. If World War II adults were The Greatest Generation it was the love of people like Sam and Priscilla that made them.
Grandma Priscilla died in 1951. It was "Uncle Malcolm's mountain" to the next generation. The farm was neat as a pin inside and out. He was a giant of a man who made every little visitor feel incredibly important. He guided Aunt Georgia down the mountain on a sled to meet an ambulance after a copperhead snakebite. Aunt Georgia was a powerful woman with a razor sharp mind for every detail of family history. Uncle Kelly and Aunt Bernice lived nextdoor. Their son, Sammy Penley has added some memories to this book.
As this is written, Aunt Georgia is celebrating her 100th birthday, on January 15, 2009 with her son Tommy in Georgia. [Georgia died March 6, 2010] If she lived closer this book would have flowed easily into one big wonderful story. The Penley name lives on in Thomas Wayne Penley, the son of Malcolm and Georgia, born December 4, 194X. Tommy's children are Cynthia (Chilton) born in 19XX and son Tommy Wayne Penley, Jr. born in 19XX. Cynthia and Rudy Chilton have Austin Thomas Penley born October 1, 19XX. Tommy Jr. has Matthew Wayne Penley, born September 10, 19XX and Ashley Nicole, November 6, 19XX.
I Never Knew Another (That Was A Finer Man)