My Sandy Mush: 52 Weeks, 52 Communities

Abraham Reynolds was one of the earliest settlers in Western North Carolina. He received land grants totaling some 1525 acres of land in the Bent Creek area in the late 1770’s. My great-great-grandfather John Haskew Reynolds was a grandson of Abraham Reynolds.

John Haskew Reynolds (1836-1918) grew up on his father’s farm on North Turkey Creek in the Sandy Mush community.  He married Sarah Ferguson (1840-1892) in February of 1861. Their first child was born shortly after he enlisted in the Confederate Army. At the battle of Chickamauga in 1863 he was wounded in his right hand. The wound became infected and his hand was amputated. Inspired by the care of his doctors, he returned home after a long recovery and proceeded on a course of self-education to become the local doctor. He and his wife Sara raised 7 children. He paid for his three sons’ college educations and gave parcels of land to each of his 4 daughters upon their marriage.

John Haskew Reynolds and his seven children. Front Row:  Joanna Estlellina (Anner) Reynolds Wells, J.H. Reynolds, Allie Reynolds Worley. Back Row: Eleura Idaly Reynolds Worley, Mary Cornelia Reynolds Reeves, Alonzo Carlton, Thomas Frazier, and Joseph Letcher Reynolds. Alonzo Carlton is the A.C. in A.C. Reynolds High School.

These two photographs were taken around 1906 -1909 during a family reunion at the Reynolds’ home place on North Turkey Creek. The next photograph of the entire family includes John Haskew’s second wife, Annie Luther Reynolds, my grandmother, great-uncles, and aunts.

Blue stars: Willard & Eleura Worley; Red star: John Haskew Reynolds; Yellow star, Lucy Manilla Worley, my grandmother. That’s my great-Uncle “Hass” with his thumb in his mouth next to Lucy.

My great-grandmother Eleura married Willard Humbolt Worley in 1891. Lucy Manilla Worley (1898- 1984), my grandmother, was the third of their six children. Eleura and Willard lived in the broad valley of Sandy Mush where they built a house, springhouse, and log barn. Eleura was postmistress for Sandy Mush from 1913 – 1922 until the service was moved to Odessa. Eleura and Willard built a newer house in 1929. The original spring house and log barn were still standing in the 1960’s.

Eleura & Willard Worley around 1929 as the house was being built. I’m not sure who the toddler is.

My grandmother Lucy married Very Burgin Duckett (1887-1979) in 1916. Granddaddy Duckett was raised on Little Sandy Mush. He purchased a parcel of land on Bee Branch off Willow Creek Road for their first home. They farmed the land all of their lives. Their first child, Worley Burgin, lived only a few months in 1917. My Uncle John (1919-1995), my mother Fay(e) Alma (1921-2005), and Aunt Grace Annie (1923- 2011) followed. They were raised on Bee Branch until they moved to my great-grandmother’s home in the early 1930’s shortly after my great-grandfather’s death. Granddaddy Duckett was frequently a list taker for the tax assessor and for many years my grandmother was precinct chairman for the Board of Elections. My grandparents also provided room and board for a few teachers at Sandy Mush School across the valley.

Note the columns supporting a front bedroom are missing in the previous photo.
My grandparents Burgin and Lucy Duckett, circa 1940’s

My Uncle John enlisted in the army in WWII and returned home to raise a family, first on the Bee Branch farm and later on his own farm on Bald Creek Road in Sandy Mush.  My mother and her sister, Grace, attended Asheville Normal and became teachers. Both married Buncombe County boys who after the war made careers of service life in the Air Force and Navy.

Here’s where I enter into this story. According to my mother, my great-grandmother Eleura was elated my parents had returned to the states from Germany in time for my birth at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Why? Because I could become President of the United States! Eleura was a character by all accounts. My first road trip was to Sandy Mush. Here’s a photo of my cousin Lucy Duckett and I. Lucy is sitting in what my mother claimed was her chair. (I still have that chair.)

Terry Burgin Taylor and Lucy Duckett, 5 years old

Here’s a photo of me and my great-grandmother Eleura made in 1955 (most likely) after we had moved from Connecticut to Greenville, South Carolina where my father was stationed at Donaldson Air Force Base.

In 1959 my Granddaddy Duckett celebrated New Year’s Day delivering his tobacco crop in Asheville.

By 1964/65 my family and Aunt Grace’s family returned to settle in Buncombe County. Both families had lived in several different states and, in my family’s case, Japan for three years. This is a family reunion photo with my grandparents, their children and spouses, and all six grandchildren after we all settled in Buncombe County. I must have been in about the sixth or seventh grade at the time. My Uncle Jack isn’t pictured because he was taking the photo.

My grandmother, Lucy, is sitting in the chair. From left to right is Aunt Grace Greene, Uncle John, Granddaddy Duckett, my mother, Faye Taylor, Eva Duckett, Aunt Betty Duckett, and my father Vernon Taylor in the snappy bow tie. In the second row are Loretta Greene, Lucy Duckett, Susan Greene, and my brother Randy. My Uncle Jack Greene was taking the photo. You figure out who’s in the back!

This is the front porch my great-grandparents built. This is the home we came to between postings, for vacations, and holidays. Both my family and Aunt Grace’s family lived in that house for a short time when we returned to Buncombe County. I spent many summer weeks staying with my grandparents (being underfoot, a moody teenager, etc.). It was my second home.

Aside from twenty-some-odd years, I’ve always lived in Buncombe County. I’m as close to a native as you can be without being born here. And though I live in Lower Hominy Township, in my heart of hearts, that house in Sandy Mush is and always will be my true home.


As a reminder, this post is a part of our 52 Weeks, 52 Communities Series. In this series, we are covering a different Buncombe County community each week. Do you have materials related to Samdy Mush , Odessa or some other Buncombe County community you’d like to let us know about? Do you, your parents or grandparents have a good story to tell? We want to hear from you! The North Carolina Room is Buncombe County’s Public Archive, we want to help preserve and make accessible the history and culture of Asheville and Buncombe County for all its residents.

This post was authored by Terry Taylor, Board Member of the Friends of The North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library.

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