Where the WASPs go to die, the Scotch Spirits Reside

Although my lifelong desire to obtain season tickets to North Carolina Basketball games could be seen as my primary motivator in desiring to move to North Carolina, I do have my other reasons.  There are only two places in this country where I can live and feel the same soil that generations of my ancestors called home – North Carolina and Mississippi. Sure, most of my family came to those two states by way of earlier colonies in the Virginia Tidewater or South Carolina, but the fact remains that those are the two states where they more permanently settled.  In North Carolina, the Sandhill counties of Moore, Montgomery, and Richmond is where my family resided for the better parts of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Amongst the Pooles, Reynolds, Harrises, Boyds, and Hancocks are the McIntoshes.  My great-grandmother was Lessie Eugenia McIntosh before she married an Armstrong, and because I am in part her namesake, I have always felt a special desire to know the McIntoshes better. Aisde from my Armstrong great-grandfather who was born in Canada to Scottish parents, the McIntoshes are the most recent immigrants to America , coming to America in 1773.  Alexander McIntosh brought his young family to North Carolina via the Isle of Skye in Scotland. My ancestor, a son named Alexander was born on the ship crossing to America.  These are my forebearers, and for a while, I have wanted to visit their grave sites located in the “Old Scots Burying Ground” in Moore County, near Carthage and Pinehurst.

Saturday, David and I decided to make the hour and a half drive down 15-501 to try to find the place.

In the piney woods of the Sandhills, we finally found it. We initially missed the site and I walked for half a mile up a logging road, determined to find the cemetery in a clearing.  I ran back to the car in frustration, convinced that my internet directions had led me to the wrong place. It was only then that I looked to the left of the car and saw in the woods, a grave marker  sticking up in the trees. As I walked nearer, I saw that gravestones were nestled throughout the trees, which in the fall of North Carolina is more lovely than you can possibly imagine.

David held Knightley and walked around carefully trying to identify names and dates on worn gravestones. Many were crumbling or covered with lichen. Some had to be carefully pieced back together.

A few of the graves had been restored, with new headstones purchased by subsequent generations.

(I think the MacCaskills might have come over to America with the McIntoshes?)

We found the hand engraved headstone of the older Alexander who had brought his family to America.

We then found the headstone of his son Alexander, the first McIntosh born outside of Scotland.

He was buried next to his wife, nee Mary Jackson.

Knightley paid his respects to the McIntoshes.

I felt happy, which is a strange feeling to have in a burying-place, isn’t it?  Let me explain it.  Yes, it is somber to visit a forgotten, decaying patch of woods where people whose lives I do not understand lie buried beneath the ground.  But it is also quite beautiful.  I only can hope that two hundred years from now when my body lies buried beneath some patch of ground, that my bones too can nourish such a beautiful, quiet place.

Also, coming to a place where your ancestors are buried feels a little bit like coming home, because in whatever small way, these people long gone enabled your life to be what it is. I wish I could know more about the lives of the McIntoshes.  I am sure they spoke in distinctly Scottish accents, and identified themselves as Scots, not necessarily American.  I would like to have been there for that turn in time when the first generation of McIntoshes accents turned from Scottish ones, to North Carolina ones. I would like to know what life in the piney woods, before the founding of Carthage or Pinehurst was like.  Did they golf, generations before Pinehurst because the second most-visited golf resort in the world, second only to Scotland’s St. Andrews, for example?  Or was there no time for such frivolities as sport in trying to eke out an existence in the backwoods of North America?

Alexander, Alexander, Mary, William, meet my small family.

After paying our respects, we went to Pinehurst for lunch at Elliotts on Linden, another delicious farm-to-table North Carolina restaurant, and a walk through the village green.  I thanked my ancestors for their good sense in building a life in place that would one day become a very elegant resort.

Because after all, who comes to the area these days? Why of course it is rich white people who retire from their professional jobs and spend their days golfing until the join the ranks of my Scottish dearly departed kin.  Who else would shop at the Gentleman’s Corner, or drink tea with Lady Bedford?

But so beautiful a place it is to live out your days.

I am quite sure I will be going back to Pinehurst many more times, and I don’t even play golf. I always fit in best in a place where I am the youngest in the crowd.

Old Scottish Souls.

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