Nola Daniel’s Distinguished Ancestry

By Joan Doggrell

St. Paul’s very own Nola Daniel, member of the Parish Choir, a Daughter of the King, holistic healer, folk singer, and mother of seven children, comes from a family that played a central role in the preservation of the folk songs and stories of Appalachia. In 1916, when Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles were collecting ballads and tales in Hot Springs, North Carolina, Sharp went to Nola’s great-grandmother, Jane Gentry.

“Cecil Sharp collected more songs from my great-grandmother than from anyone else, more than 70 songs. Everybody said you should go see Jane Gentry and one other person – people said they were the ones who really knew how to sing these songs,” said Nola.

On August 24, 2019, more than 100 people came to Hot Springs for the Centennial of Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles. And you’ll never guess who was there.

This is her picture taken from the website Cecil Sharp in Appalachia. https://cecilsharpinappalachia.org/janegentry.html

When she was a child, Nola and her family made frequent trips to Hot Springs for the Dorland-Bell Girls’ School reunion. (More about this school later.)

“We would go up there in the summer on vacation, though not every year. Mom would pile us all in the station wagon. My dad would usually stay home and work. He held two or three jobs. There are seven of us. The first time I remember much about it, I was in the fifth grade, I think.

“We stayed with Aunt Maud in the big house called Sunnybank. It was built as a boarding house. Aunt Maud taught all people in that area how to play the piano and organ. She knew all the words to all the songs in the Presbyterian hymnal.”

Hot Springs is on the French River, and Main Street is part of the Appalachian trail. Sunnybank is still a boarding house today. The present owner gives trail hikers special price breaks.

Nola’s Heritage

Why were so ancient many folk songs found in Appalachia and nowhere else in the USA? According to the above website, “Settlers established themselves in the Appalachian region of several states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. In these isolated areas, the old songs of love, loss, murder, ghosts, and earlier times were passed down by oral tradition, expressing timeless themes and ties to the past.”

“Back then, people couldn’t just run up to Appalachia,” said Nola. “It was hard to travel there – it was up in the high mountains.” Because of their isolation, the people sang the same songs and told the same stories generation after generation.

Nola explains how the songs were discovered and made known to the world.

“Cecil Sharp was an Englishman and a music historian. He was visiting one of the rich landowners when he heard this beautiful singing, songs he had never heard before. He asked his host what it was. The host said, ‘Oh, it’s just the gardener. He sings while he’s working.’ Cecil was mesmerized by the music, so he listened and studied the matter and found out that the people of the region were singing these old songs the way they had been sung 200 years earlier. And so he came to hear and then capture the songs because it was the way they had been sung so long ago in the British Isles.”

Nola knows these songs, and she sings them beautifully. She can tell stories, too.

“My great grandmother was a singer of old English ballads. She was also a teller of the Jack, Will and Tom tales and also the Grandfather tales, which have been passed down via the oral tradition. My great aunt, one of my grandmother’s sisters, Aunt Maud, recorded the songs and stories for the Library of Congress. My sister Zola and her husband got a copy of the record and made us all cassette tapes of the songs and stories. My children and I learned them by listening to the tape in the car.”

Maud Gentry Long lived in Sunnybank in downtown Hot Springs. However, she and her siblings were all born out at Meadow Fork, about 10 miles north of Hot Springs downtown. The family kept sheep and used their wool to make their own clothing.

“On the Library of Congress record, Maud talks about how, in the evening, the family would all be busy. Father would be working on harness or other things he needed for the horses, and Mother would be cleaning, picking and carding the wool to get it ready to be spun the next day. The kids all had chores to do as well.”

And that’s when they would sing together and tell stories.

“I can almost quote Aunt Maud line and verse,” said Nola. “She said the songs and stories were ‘to keep our hearts merry and our eyes bright.’ Mother would tell the wonderful Jack, Will and Tom tales and sing the songs. I learned her way of singing through the tape I have. Joan Baez learned The Cherry Tree Carol from my Aunt Maud.”

Maud’s mother is Nola’s great grandmother, Jane Gentry.

“When I first came to St. Paul’s, William Fred Scott was there. He played The Cherry Tree Carol and Wondrous Love, two of my favorite songs of all time, and I told him how much I enjoyed his playing them.”

Nola sings The Cherry Tree Carol from her book, Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, written by Betty Smith. “She is a cousin of my Mom’s,” said Nola.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jb50

“My grandmother was born in 1898,” said Nola. “She was the second or third child of thirteen children. There is a story in this book about her when she was a baby. The family, including her mother, were working on a hill side clearing trees. She nursed her baby and then put her to sleep in a piece of bark. When it dried, the bark curled up and rolled down the mountain, baby and all. Suddenly the family noticed she wasn’t there anymore. After a frantic search, they found her down the hill, still sound asleep, rolled up in the bark.”

As well as singing together, the family would listen to stories, many of them known as the Jack Tales. One of those tales, Jack in the Beanstalk, comes to us from the British tradition.  But there are a lot of other tales about Jack, as well as his two brothers, Will and Tom, that hadn’t made it into popular culture, either British or American. However, they survived in Appalachia, passed down orally, and today are published in books and told at storytelling festivals.

“There is a whole collection of these stories,” said Nola. “They are about a family of three brothers who get into all kinds of trouble. There are a number of stories on my cassette tape. ‘Jack and the Bull’ is a really funny story. The stories they told children then were about real life. They were pretty macabre. The phrase ‘Haggy old witch of a woman’ appears frequently. There was always one in the story.”

Below is one of several publications of the stories collected by Richard Chase.

The following information comes from Folkstreams http://www.folkstreams.net/film-context.php?id=258

“In the last fifty years, Jack Tales have come to occupy a privileged position for scholarly analysts of folklore, for popular purveyors of folklore, and even for folk themselves. … As far back as English-language folktales can be traced, there are stories about Jack. From the fifteenth century, when ‘Jack and His Step-Dame’ was set down in rhyme in England, to the present, when Ray Hick’s rendition of ‘Jack and the Three Steers’ dominates the National Storytelling Festival, one name above all others has been associated with magic tales in the British-American tradition. Yet the relation between the earlier Jacks and the most recent is difficult to trace, since no oral Jack Tales have survived from distant centuries.”

These are the stories Nola’s ancestors told as they did their evening chores.

Another piece of history that includes Nola’s family was the Dorland-Bell School in Hot Springs.

According to Wikipedia, “The Dorland-Bell School was a mission school in Hot SpringsNorth Carolina, USA. It was founded in 1886, when Luke and Juliette Dorland, Presbyterian missionaries and educators, retired to Hot Springs. At the request of area residents, they established a school in Hot Springs and soon were teaching 25 students in their home.

By 1894, the school, now known as the Dorland Institute, had grown to include a girls’ dormitory, an expanded schoolhouse, and additional teachers. In 1918, the Dorland Institute merged with the Bell Institute, a large day school for girls, to form the Dorland-Bell School . . . When Dorland-Bell School closed in 1942, it merged with the Asheville Farm School to form what is now Warren Wilson College.”

According to Nola, “Before the school was started, there was no schooling available for girls. The boys were given some education, but it was not considered necessary to educate girls except in the skills needed to run a household. My grandmother, born in 1898, attended that school.”

Nola’s family is also connected to the John C Campbell Folk School. Her mother’s cousin Betty Smith taught there.

According to Wikipedia, “The John C. Campbell Folk School . . . was founded to nurture and preserve the folk arts of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a non-profit adult educational organization based on non-competitive learning. Founded in 1925, the Folk School’s motto is “I sing behind the plow.”

The school continues today, offering “week-long and weekend classes year-round in traditional and contemporary arts, including blacksmithing, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, storytelling and writing.”

If you’ve ever thought there was something special about Nola Daniel, well, you were right. She is the embodiment of a unique chapter in American history and culture.

Anne Graner’s Story

By Joan Doggrell

I’d heard that the Launch Pad Library at Ruth Hill Elementary School is an awesome place, and when I visited it, I wanted to be a kid again. The large, colorfully decorated room is organized so that books, STEAM activities, and community connections are grouped together by common themes. They are organized in six learning portals: Travel the World & Beyond; Learn from the Past; Stay Fit & Healthy; Investigate Nature; Express Yourself; and Discover a Solution. And it all looks attractive and inviting.

Kids can experiment with a sewing machine, a 3-D printer, and musical instruments. They can also make movies and audio recordings in the recording studio.  They are involved with career exploration, are taught soft skills focused on professionalism, and are encouraged to create projects that impact others.

The learning portals are sponsored by community partners who supply materials and expertise. If students have a project calling for outside help, the partners are ready to supply it. For example, the Newnan Times Herald carried a story on June 9 about students making weighted lap pads that are used to help autistic children focus on learning.  The Coweta Community Foundation stepped in to help them purchase useful, quality products.

Obviously, the Launch Pad Library is a far cry from traditional school libraries. Its conception and creation are the work of St. Paul’s own Anne Graner. Anne is on a mission to empower the Ruth Hill students, 85% of which are on free and reduced lunch.  She believes that every child has the potential to succeed. With the collaboration of other teachers and community partners, the Launch Pad Library constantly strives to improve its offerings to close the opportunity gap so many of the students have.

“We don’t stop when the school year ends,” said Anne.  “For three summers, we’ve had a weekly bookmobile that reaches some of our neediest students so they can have free books over the summer.”

I met Anne at a St. Paul’s women’s retreat at Banning Mills a few years back. She took us on a “prayer hike” where we stopped and prayed at inspiring natural sights, and then she led a free-form dance that encouraged us to worship with our bodies. I knew then that this woman had a creative gift, one that could inspire others.

My own involvement with the Launch Pad Library occurred every Tuesday afternoon while students Christian and De’ Angelo filmed and interviewed me about my prosthesis. This video project ended up winning first place at the Coweta County Technology Competition.

I usually arrived just before dismissal. I watched Mrs. Graner bring her busy fifth graders, who were working on various projects throughout the library, to a halt with very few words – spoken softly. They all stopped in their tracks. They sat down together to debrief about their activities, and then were quietly dismissed. I was speechless in admiration.

How does a person become an Anne Graner? Where does that creative leadership come from?

I had a chance to ask her on June 13, when she and husband Lou Graner (more about Lou in another post) agreed to be interviewed. We began with a question:

Joan: What is in your background, or what inspired you, to develop that wonderful Launch Pad Library at Ruth Hill?

Anne: I have to go back to my parents. They were creative educators and missionaries. My mom started out teaching kindergarten and later became an elementary school principal. My dad was an Episcopal priest. Soon after they married, they went to Liberia, West Africa, as missionaries for the Episcopal Church. Mom co-founded a school there. Along with leading worship services, Dad taught courses at Cuttington College –the oldest private and coeducation university in Africa — and also served as its interim president.  I was born into this way of being: following a call, serving God and others with the gifts you’ve been given, finding creative ways to solve problems, and making the most out of being alive.

Later in life, I became a classroom teacher and noticed how much my parents’ philosophy of education and living fully influenced the type of teacher I became. That early childhood influence was a key foundation to leading me to create the Launch Pad Library.  I have found that when you observe kids and listen to them, you can get a better sense of what excites them, what they are curious about. Then you build a space and bring in resources to help them explore and become.

Mom and Dad passed away before the creation of the Launch Pad Library, but their essence permeates so much of what occurs there. I am also blessed to have the support of my husband Lou who has scrubbed floors, worked the book fair, moved bookcases and has been a sounding board for ideas and an extra hand when needed.  Our two daughters, Jessica and Lindsay, have witnessed the birth and development of the Launch Pad Library, and are excited to see how the legacy of their grandparents lives on.

Joan: Anne, any other passions that drive you?

Anne:  Yes!  I have a passion for story- for discovering other people’s stories, for documenting others’ stories with video, and for expressing my story through free-form dancing.  And I’ve always had this desire for deeper spirituality. I’ve been to the Kripalu Holistic Health Center in Massachusetts where I’ve taken workshops and trained as a yoga dance teacher. All of it was about how to access and bring alive deeper, sacred parts of me, and to learn how to invite and lead others in spiritual experiences.  It’s been a blessing to lead workshops, sacred dance experiences, and now currently, to be a healing intercessor at our church.

My passion for story led me to explore documentary filmmaking.  The training I received was very hands-on and entrenched me in the life of another. What an experience!  For someone to allow you to film them in their ordinariness and in their self-discovery was so sacred.

After the training, I was able to film other videos and created a website for these videos: http://snowpicnicfilms.com/  One of the videos features church member Billy Newman and his creative photography.  The website’s name, Snow Picnic Films, is in honor of my dad because he used to take us on picnics in the snow when we were living in New York state.

What it all boils down to is I just want to be true to my callings, to use the gifts I’ve been given, to embrace different kinds of people, and to live life fully.  Life has not always been easy.  I’ve experienced a lot of heartache.  But I continue to try to navigate all of this alongside taking time to listen, to pray, to be in nature, to create, and to just be.