Social Justice

Ashley McGhee Whittle: My Story - Part Two

Nancy Anderson Brigmon

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TITLE: My Story: Ashley McGhee Whittle – Part Two: Nancy Anderson Brigmon

AUTHOR: Ashley McGhee Whittle

PERMISSION TO PUBLISH granted by the author.  All rights reserved.

Paul Brigmon.  He was born in 1938, and he died in 2012.  I called him Daddy; he was my grandfather.  When I was growing up, I had always been told the story that he and his twin sister Peggy had been made to go to the African American school out there in Barnardsville when they grew up.  But then my mom was one of the first people to do one of those DNA tests, and it didn’t show that she had any African American blood. I thought, “Well, maybe it was a fluke that they sent Peggy and him to that school.  Who knows?” But I found out that Peggy had done a later DNA test.  It was one through You know, the more people who do this DNA test, and the more advanced that they get, the more accurate they’re getting as well. So I pulled up Peggy’s test, and on Peggy’s test, it was 5% Nigerian, and then 2% from the Ivory Coast and Ghana .7% - and she’s a twin. Daddy was her twin.

Their mother Nancy Anderson was married to Grover Brigmon. Nancy’s parents Thomas Jefferson Jenkins and Callie [Calacina] Anderson Jenkins had a bunch of kids. So Nancy had a bunch of siblings, including sisters Lurie and Estella and a passel of other sisters and brothers. Apparently, Tom owned a lot of property all over Buncombe County – in Arden, down in Black Mountain. The property that he owned up in Barnardsville was hundreds of acres.  When they built the Blue Ridge Parkway, they took 500 acres from him for 50 cents an acre.  What he had left, he left to all his children.  And he based how much acreage he left to each of his children by how many children they had.  

Nancy married Grover Brigmon.  She made Grover stay out in what we called “the pout house.”  He didn’t get to stay in the main house because they argued so much, and she wasn’t going to let him tell her what to do.  It was just a little old shack, looked like a corn crib. They called it the pout house, “put him in the pout house.” They lived on Burleson Branch Road, right off of North Fork Road on the back side of the Coleman Boundary below Craggy Gardens. Nancy ended up with 50 acres up there, and she farmed tobacco and vegetables.  She had a big vegetable garden, too.  I’ve always been told that Grover, he just wasn’t worth a shit. Nancy ended up having to take care of all eleven of her children, make sure everybody had food in their mouths, and make sure that the taxes got paid when they came due. The children were made to work from a young age. And I was always told that sometimes what the tobacco was providing, and what the vegetables were providing through the barter system, weren’t enough to make ends meet.  So the only other thing she had to sell was her body.  That was why they said she had eleven children by different men.

Even after she had all those kids, she didn’t have Daddy and Peggy until she was 50.  I don’t think Nancy was really wanting Daddy and Peggy.  They were accidents. And there were nine others before them.  When they were born, Nancy wasn’t expecting two of them.  She was only expecting one.  Paul was the second; Peggy his twin sister came before him.  When she realized she had two – she had another girl, too – she picked Peggy up and carried Peggy down to the creek in the front of the property, the North Fork of the Ivy [River].  Now Annie, one of Nancy’s older daughters, was about 26 at the time and had her own babies. She was sitting out on the front porch with one of her babies, and she watched her mama Nancy carry Peggy down to the creek. Nancy stood at the creek, Annie said, for probably 20 or 30 minutes. Annie said, “I just knew inside that she was thinking about throwing Peggy in the creek.” She had so many to feed.  She had grandchildren at that time to support.  She had so many mouths she had to support that she stood down there and thought about throwing Peggy in the creek. But she didn’t.  She turned around and brought her back up to the house.

3 Anderson sisters: Myrtle, Nancy Anderson Brigmon, and Laura (pronounced "Loo-ree")