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November 01, 2009
In the month of November we celebrate Veterans Day. November 11th is the day that was the eleventh day of the eleventh month, on the eleventh hour, when fighting ceased for World War I, or the “Great War” as some know it still. So, November 11th is regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” So far I have not found a soldier in my family lineage who served in World War I, but I remember a wonderful man who was like another grandfather to me who served and whom I loved dearly, M.E. Helms.

We honor all Veterans on this day set aside for them, regardless in which war they fought. That is why in researching I remember those of my ancestors who went before me, who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. I do not have photographs of any ancestors earlier than the Civil War, but these tin-type photos that are so very precious bring them almost to life for me, especially when I find and read their service records and pension records. On my dad’s side, one of his grandfathers, Eli L. Clay, my great grandfather, went to war at the age of 16 and was captured at Fort Fisher, sent as a Prisoner of War to Fort Monroe, Virginia, and was finally transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland.

On my mother’s side, one of her great grandfather’s, Spencer Fulcher, my second great grandfather, came home from the Civil War to help with the crops at home. He married while at home, went off to war again only to be captured and sent to Elmira Prison in New York. He died in prison, never seeing his son, my great grandfather, George William Spencer Fulcher. Had he not come home to deal with the crops and help out for a short period of time, he would not have married, he would not have fathered my great grandfather, and I wouldn’t be here today!

I would like to share a story with you of my dad’s great grandmother who was tied closely with the Civil War. She was a soldier all her own! Sarah “Sally” Michaels and her husband, Thomas, had eight children, three of whom were sons who fought in the Civil War. Sally was already in her 70s when the Civil War began and with her sons gone to war and with her husband not being able to work, she decided that she, herself, needed to bring in some money for her family. She had become well known in North Carolina before the Civil War, but she gained recognition during the war as local boys in the Confederate Army carried the clay pipes that she had made off to camp and the word spread from there. When the Union occupied Morganton, North Carolina after the war, soldiers used the pipes and sent them to relatives in the North and the orders began to pour in to Sally. She sold them for 25 cents per dozen and continued to make them as fast as she could do so.

Distinguishing characteristics of Sally’s pipes were the type of clay she used and her meticulous care in the making of these pipes. She used soft, porous white clay, later identified as Kaolin, from the banks of Silver Creek near her home in the Burkemont Mountain area of Burke County, North Carolina. The clay had to be kneaded until all impurities were removed. Although the Civil War made Sally famous as her pipe “company” has been called the first industry in North Carolina, she lost all three of her sons in the Civil War. This left a total of nineteen children without fathers, while one son’s children were totally orphaned. The loss of their sons totally devastated Sally and Thomas. Soon after the war Sally passed the pipe-making business on to one of her daughters-in-law. She died at the age of 87 in 1879, but her name is still remembered today for her pipes.

I had three uncles and one aunt who served their country in World War II. One of my uncles who lives in Florida just returned from a “Flight of Honor” to Washington, D.C. where he, along with 499 other veterans, visited the World War II Memorial. What an experience for him and his comrades. These flights are wonderful to honor our veterans and some have said that after the day’s experiences they do feel appreciated and thanked after so many years have passed. Another uncle who was in World War II served in Guadalcanal. He still suffers with Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder because of what he went through those many years ago. Another uncle developed spinal meningitis but still served in the War in the Medical Corps. My aunt was a Navy nurse and after serving in the War was in the Naval Reserve for ten more years. These four people are heroes to me. I, as a child, remember them coming home to visit, wearing their uniforms, and how proud I was, even at that early age, of them. One of my uncles is deceased; however, my other two uncles are alive and as well as they can be at the ages of 88 and 86, and my aunt, at the age of 88, is still going strong!

No matter what day of the week on which it falls, Veterans Day is both a state and federal holiday. This day has an historical focus on our Veterans as this is the purpose of Veterans Day. We honor them for their love of our and their country, for their patriotism and for their willingness to serve and to sacrifice for our freedom, the freedom that you and I enjoy each and every day.

Pat Ross

“The Roots that make Us One are Stronger than the Branches that Divide us.” Author unknown.








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