Unfolding the Map
After a long trip, we leave Tennessee and enter the state that was first in flight. We are also just over 1000 miles from the start in Columbia, Missouri, and we move from Part 1, in which we were traveling east, to Part 2, in which the road in Blue Highways takes a southeasterly swing. In this post we'll whip around Winston-Salem and Greensboro. William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) doesn't have much to say about these two places as he doesn't pass through them on blue highways, but on the hated interstate. However, he does start thinking about family history. I will too. Click on the map to see where these cities are situated.
"Blood. It came to me that I had been generally retracing the migration of my white-blooded clan from North Carolina to Missouri, the clan of a Lancashireman who settled in the Piedmont in the eighteenth century...
"Highway 421 became I-85 and whipped me around Winston-Salem and Greensboro. For a few miles I suffered the tyranny of the freeway and watched rear bumpers and truck mudflaps."
Blue Highways: Part 2, Chapter 1
Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina
This post is ostensibly about Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Yet, as you may have learned, often my posts are not exactly about the places named. When I read a book, places and images correspond to images and memories in my own life. So in a sense, you are reading in this blog what I am thinking as I process those thoughts upon my own reading of Blue Highways. LHM doesn't really say much about these places, and North Carolina is one of the ten or so states that I have never set foot in, so I don't have any experiences that I can add that would be of any value to you if you want to know more about these places. I have assembled a few sites below so that you can explore for yourself.
The images that come to mind for me are located in the first part of the quote I cite above. LHM realizes that he is tracing in reverse the route of his ancestors. The search for one's roots has become very popular over the past few years, especially with the growth of the internet, which has allowed people to access each other's data and fill in gaps in history that may have existed for years. Many people have become so good at finding bits of history and genealogical facts that they are almost like amateur family history detectives.
I became an unwitting beneficiary of this phenomena. I'm going to touch on this story briefly and fill in gaps over the course of the next couple of posts. The backstory is that I'm adopted, but I was always interested in solving a mystery about my adoptive father's own father. We never knew much about him, and any records he might have had were lost in a fire. His sons, my father and his brothers, never really knew much about his life prior to their births. Their mother died when they were young, so they couldn't learn anything from her. So, nobody knew where Marion came from, other than back east.
Occasionally, I would put his name into Google to see if anything would pop up. There were mostly false leads, other people with his name that had no relation to the family. But one day, about two years ago, I put his name in and got a hit. Someone, in a genealogical database, had filled in his and his wife's name. I contacted the person, and because she had an interest she embarked with me on a fact finding mission. I filled in some gaps for her, and because she was passionate about geneaology, she was able to use those facts to find out more about my grandfather. We learned that he apparently left a family behind in Ohio, came out to California, and married my grandmother and fathered my father and his brothers. It was a sad story, because he left a fatherless child, Julian, behind. I have recently made contact with a set of cousins in Ohio, descendents of Julian, a half-brother that my father and his brothers never knew they had. Unfortunately, all of the brothers are now dead and never met each other. But I was able to let my last surviving uncle know about all of this before he died, and my cousin let me know how much he appreciated my efforts to discover family history.
I still don't know what led my grandfather to leave a family, nor why he never told his sons about his past. It all seems shrouded in mystery and pain and he apparently was not a happy person. But a recent letter from one of my newly discovered cousins said that she hoped that old family wounds could be healed by this new contact. I hope so too.
LHM, in his next couple of stops, will discover more about his own family history. As an adoptee, I never really gave the importance of family history much consideration until recently, because my adopted family's history was never really my own. I didn't know mine, that is, until I met my genealogical detective friend online. I'll tell more about that as we move through the next posts.
For more about Winston-Salem and Greensboro, see below. We're in tobacco country now, so you'll recognize some names. Winston-Salem is the home of RJ Reynolds Tobacco, creator of some of the most recognizable brands of cigarettes. Enjoy checking these places out!
If you want to know more about Winston-Salem and Greensboro
Dishing it Out (Winston-Salem food blog)
Downtown Winston-Salem (blog)
Eating Up Greensboro (Greensboro food blog)
Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau
Greensboro News-Record (newspaper)
Life in Forsyth (blog)
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem Journal (newspaper)
Winston-Salem State University
Yes! Weekly (Greensboro alternative newspaper)
Next up: Chapel Hill, North Carolina