The Literary Corner: Remembering Roni Stoneman; women writers

Published 11:33 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Revolutionary War Patriots

By Linda H. Barnette

Here I am starting a big new project!  A few years ago I researched all of my ancestors who served during the Civil War, and now I am venturing further back in time and attempting to find those earlier ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.

The first one is Benjamin Bowles, 1765-1844, my 4th great-grandfather on my great-grandmother Lovie Belle Bowles Dwiggins’s side of the family.  He was born in Franklin County, NC around 1765, not too far from where his parents lived in Virginia before coming here.

He was probably a farmer, helping his dad on the land as most people did in those early days. His parents were John Knight Bowles and Sarah Rice. He married Jemima Parker about 1783 in Montgomery County, North Carolina. They had several children: William, Heney, Lucinda, Stacy, Jesse, and John. Son John Bowles married Jane Annie Starbuck.  They at some point came to Davie County and are both buried at the Center United Methodist Church cemetery. They are the ones responsible for the Bowles family being here.

I searched for Benjamin both on Ancestry and in the History Room at the library. The North Carolina DAR published a book in 1932 that lists the names of all of the soldiers in the Revolutionary War.  I found Benjamin there and then searched for his life events on Ancestry. There I found marriages, family members, census records, and a copy of an application for him to mark his service.  It had been made by A.L. Boles of Mocksville, who was my grandmother’s cousin, in January of 1940. On it he listed the dates of Benjamin’s service and the name of the cemetery where he is buried, the Boles Palmar cemetery in Pekin, Montgomery County, NC. On Find A Grave I found a picture of the monument and am sharing it here in remembrance of his service.

Women Who Write History

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Words tell stories. And today’s stories will be tomorrow’s history

For Women’s History Month, I wanted to shine the spotlight on the achievements and contributions a few women have made in my life, those who influenced me to become a better writer.  Since 2016, I’ve expanded my God-given talents in writing – and learned from the best.

We should all be so fortunate to learn and grow from one another.

Today I celebrate the word-crafters and history makers of the Renegade Writers Guild.

There’s Ellen – she’s all about farm tractors, sunflowers, quilts, and country living – the stories that life and love are made of. She turned the key, opening up new avenues and worlds for writing topics. And just the folksy way she tells it has introduced a more relaxed style of writing. Capitalizing on the country-living lifestyle, Ellen lands on a topic and devours it. Growing up in the South, she has a Southern voice – one heard in her writing. After all, we do live in the country. She’s good at writing stories people love to read about. Folksy words embellish her writing. No deliberate craft here – just an authentic voice and homey take on life. Reading one of Ellen’s homespun tales of the country is like taking big bites of a homemade sweet apple pie. And it’s a natural for her. A strong contributor to any farm and garden magazine, she puts the city slicker in me back in touch with my country girl alter ego.

Gaye – bless her for her folksy and homey stories and history. Current and past history, she writes it all, giving life to people present and those who passed. Another good writer who helps me focus on the details. She delves deep into memories – my favorite writing genre – and brings them to life as if current. She inspires me to dig and delve into those memorable moments of growing up a Southern girl, and giving life to people and places along the way. Sharing with me an attitude for learning and improving, Gaye and I have lots in common. She’s also a nurse, so it’s always the heart of the matter that’s important to Gaye – and it shines through in her writing.  And you’ve gotta know how much I love that Gaye’s is the heart and soul of good writing. Reading Gaye’s work is like traveling through a time machine She keeps people and their stories alive for all of us. Her writing is like a “read all about it!” I feel as if I was there and knew these people. That’s what good writing is made of. A consistent winner in the Senior Services Silver Arts.

Julie is simply, one of the best. She helped me up my game by taking words and carefully crafting them. Anytime I write, I think of Julie’s carefully crafted, and flowing creative sentences – I don’t write like that naturally, so it gives a little color to my otherwise drab sentence. Reading Julie’s writing is like taking a rollicking, rocking, thundering, clickily clack, metal-griding runaway train ride on the way to some rugged, ice-capped, higher altitude, solitary mountain destination. Do you get the picture? And no one does it like Julie. Also, Julie gives me a competitive voice in the Senior Services Silver Arts competition – she racks up the awards. I’ve got some fierce competition here – so I’m forced to up my game – no time for slacking. Julie also pushed timed writing, a practice I never enjoyed, but now appreciate and love – and one that’s made me a more prolific writer. I can put the pen to paper with a rare stop of the flow until the buzzer calls time. She takes it narrow and deep. Julie carries the reader right along with her through storytelling. A great thing I learned from Julie – the creative picture tells the story more than words do. So don’t say it, show it.

Linda Barnette is the writer who squeezes every drop of the stuff good writing’s made from – taking broad, easy-to-read, strokes in genres of history and memoirs along with an art in storytelling. She’s been a constant when writing of family genealogy, and local history, encouraging me to draw from past family and childhood stories giving more substance to my writing and a base from which to write. A quiet encourager, she’s a constant reminder of what I’m not doing – working on the historical account of my father’s days at sea. She edits writings and writes for historical websites. Linda’s my go to when I need help with editing. A quiet read of Linda’s stories is like being invited to go home with her to meet and visit with her kinfolk while seeing her homeplace and Mocksville as when she grew up. Thank you, Linda. You’ve been a great inspiration to travel back to my years of growing up and capture some of the history of Nashville and how things were back then. The stories readers wouldn’t have heard, otherwise. She compiles the writer’s works for the newspaper every week so readers can continue to enjoy the Renegade’s writing. Quiet and consistent, she still uses her voice to talk to us – sharing historical stories that need to be told.

Marie. Books, books, and more books. Marie epitomizes the art of self-publishing and inspires me to continue trying to publish my books. She is such an inspiration – not just delving deep into the history of Davie County but personal books as gifts that bring the past to life for her grandchildren. She’s creative, motivated, a self-starter, and a self-learner – again giving me ideas on people, places, and historical events and from that, encouraging me to write in different genres and topics. She gets the information across in a straightforward, easy-to-read manner of writing without being flowery. Just give us the facts, Ma’am. Marie is like a walking history book.  And she’s another solid competitor every year in Senior Services Senior Arts in any writing category. She’s comfortable with both writing and publishing. Truly inspiring. She’s a constant reminder yet a quiet inspiration to keep trying to do it myself, but I haven’t succeeded yet!

Nancy Tucker – wow, what can’t I say about Nancy? She’s helped me in a million ways with so many aspects of the technology behind writing a column – my Word doc. She’s a true leader – and a great supporter – encouraging my fantasy of publishing any one of my 4 books in progress that aren’t even close to being published yet! The day I publish one of my books will be like a sci–fi story Nancy writes – we’ll all wonder how it happened! On the competitive bike, she’s a soft peddler – taking time to help others along the road and desiring to see others succeed. She’s a true inspirational leader – she always goes the extra mile to help writers improve their craft.  Always organized and prepared. She gave birth to the idea of my getting up at 5 am to work on my food column – thanks, Nancy. I could have been sleeping until noon! Nancy is like watching a machine grind out words that fill one book after another – a solid workhorse – and good at everything she does.


By  Ellen Frye Bishop

It’s not often you get an opportunity to mingle with celebrities, at least not for me anyway. The closest I’d gotten was being in the same vendor tent at Merlefest (2010) with Steve Martin; close enough to get a great picture. But then, in 2015, another great banjo picker/celebrity showed up at a birthday celebration for a family member. And, how lucky we were having such a talented, funny, down-to-earth personality among us.

That personality and talent won her  many fans throughout the years. She was the first female to play the three finger style on banjo. She earned the right to call herself “The First Lady of the Banjo,” a title she received from the Nashville music industry after carving out a career for herself in country music. Being a master musician on a 5-string banjo, she made that instrument her life’s work.

Veronica Loretta (Roni) Stoneman was the 22nd of 23 children born into the country music family led by her father Ernest “Pop” Stoneman on May 5, 1938.  She grew up the poorest of poor (as she stated) in the years following the depression. With her father being a pioneering bluegrass musician, the Stoneman family rose out of poverty to become a longtime fixture in country music winning a CMA Award for the best vocal group in 1967. Shortly afterwards, Roni left the group to forge her own path.

In 1971, Roni became Ida Lee Nagger, the Ironing Board Lady on the ’70’s comedy show Hee Haw.  She is best known for her gap-toothed grin and goofy performances playing the wife in the poor, bickering couple living in a ramshackle home.  Then, after 18 years, “Pfft You Were Gone!”

Roni is well known for being in this TV show.

But, her true talents for the rest of her life were that of being a strong, resilient woman who overcame many obstacles all the while raising five children and continuing her musical career as she describes in her 2007 autobiography called “Pressing On:  The Roni Stoneman Story.” She did press on performing well into her 80s.

So, how did we get fortunate enough to have this remarkable woman join us for Gail Frye’s 70th birthday celebration?  That story goes way back. A family friend, Mona Jo Griffin, had always admired Roni from the TV show, even sat her children down to watch it every week.  This was Mona Jo’s inspiration to play the banjo herself.  Then, in 2004, the Lewisville Arts Council hosted a tribute show to Hee Haw where Roni was going to perform.  Mona Jo was playing with Tommy Drifter and the Lost Travelers as the opening act and was so hoping to meet Roni in person that day.

She indeed did get to meet Roni and asked if she could pick one with her.  Roni said “OK, I’ll call you up when I get ready.”  Mona Jo relayed the the following memory of that day to me last week over lunch.

In Mona Jo’s words:  “When she got ready for me to come up on stage, she said ‘where’s that gal that wanted to pick one?’ and I raised my hand and I’m going to tell you exactly what she said.  ‘Well, get up here you ole hussy; don’t just set there looking stupid.’ We’ve been friends ever since.”

Mona Jo began a journey down memory lane when I asked her a few more questions about their relationship. This is what she had to say.

“She has been so good to me! She was the one that encouraged me to sing and do my own thing. She used to tease me about taking so many photos/videos but she got used to it. We laughed a lot; told jokes a lot; enjoyed playing benefits together to raise funds for child abuse/neglect; enjoyed visiting each other’s homes; she loved to point that finger at me telling me what to do on stage ‘get in that microphone,’  ‘Now, you listen to me.’  Going to miss that crazy ringtone ‘boing, boing’ that was just for her.  There’s nothing we didn’t talk about.  We didn’t always agree on things, just said what we thought. I think that’s why we got along so well.  No fake stuff. Makes for a good friendship.”

There’s no doubt these two meant so much to each other.  Mona Jo (and the rest of world) has lost a precious friend.

     Veronica Loretta (Roni) Stoneman

     May 5, 1938 – February 22, 2024