Memories of Aunt Ruby Shepherd Allen and Uncle Lyda Allen
My first memories of my Aunt Ruby Shepherd Allen and Uncle Lyda Allen are at their house on Hobson
Branch Road. This was an old house near the large bend in the Ivy River just up the road from the
Forks of Ivy crossroads. Uncle Lyda’s stepmother, whom I heard called only “Ma Allen” or “Miz Allen,”
lived with them there. She was a cheerful, jolly woman who seemed to have a warm heart, and she
kept herself very busy with household chores.
The house sat back from the road a good way, behind some farm fields and the branch. It nestled
back against the hill and its stone springhouse was partly underground toward the back. The
wonderful thing about the arrangement was that the springhouse was connected directly to the house,
so that the spring water flowed right into the house.
Later the Allens moved to Nebo, NC, away east down beyond the Old Fort mountain and Marion, NC,
to a farm on the road to Lake James. My parents seemed to disapprove of this move. I imagine that my
mother was sorry to lose the close proximity to a sister she loved. My father seemed to think that Uncle
Lyda suffered from wanderlust and that they would have been better off to just settle down on Hobson
Branch. I think he, too, missed the Allens. Perhaps of all his fellow brothers-in-law, Uncle Lyda was the
one whose company he most enjoyed. They had often hunted together and they loved to trade ‘coon
dogs, pocket knives, and various things. Uncle Lyda was a tall, long-legged, wide-hipped man (he had
been nicknamed “Highpockets”), and he possessed a wry sense of humor. His talk seemed mostly
quiet murmuring and muttering, but there was a lot of laughter when he was around.
This Nebo house was a large rambling place situated very close to the road, and it had several acres
of gently rolling fields and pasture stretching out behind it. There were enough different hallways and
sitting rooms scattered around among various bedrooms to make the place confusing to a small boy.
But, whatever faults of layout it had developed during successive remodelings over the years, it had
the virtues of a huge sunny country kitchen overlooking the fields outside and a big wide porch
extending across the front.
In their early years there, the Allens seemed to live an easy life. There was work to tend a big garden,
a tobacco patch, chickens in the pen, and cattle in the pasture, of course, but there also were frequent
days of fishing on nearby Lake James, Uncle Lyda and Aunt Ruby together, while Mrs. Allen took care
of the house and prepared dinner, which often included fried fish caught on the previous outing.
Later, for reasons unclear, perhaps financial need or perhaps need for a different way of living, Aunt
Ruby filled up the spare bedrooms with elderly women who needed fostercare at county expense. This
arrangement brought in more money than the Allens had had before, but of course there was a huge
increase in work for all concerned as county standards for care had to be met, including three
substantial meals every day. There was no more time for lazy days fishing on Lake James, at least for
On the other hand, whenever we visited, the county ladies always seemed cheerful and contented,
wandering around the house and greeting visitors like members of the family. As both Aunt Ruby and
Mrs. Allen were very kind-hearted and hard-working, these fostercare ladies actually were rather
fortunate in their late years.
At some point in these years, the household peace was strained when Uncle Lyda developed an
attachment to another woman and left to live with her. Mrs. Allen remained with Aunt Ruby and
continued to assist her with the fostercare work. After several months or a year, the romantic affair
ended and Uncle Lyda returned to Aunt Ruby. My parents didn’t have much to say about these
developments, but forgiving seemed difficult. There remained a taint of bitterness about what had
In 1980, about this time in the spring, Aunt Ruby was at work in her kitchen one morning when she
suddenly collapsed and died of a heart attack.
Unfortunately, the family has lost the location of her grave. Apparently, her husband Lyda failed to
have a marker installed before his own death in 1989. Then, to compound the problem, he informed
her sisters that he intended to have her remains exhumed and reburied elsewhere so that he and his
second wife could be buried side-by-side in the cemetery of Nebo Baptist Church. Whether or not that
happened is unknown. There is some indication that Lyda and his second wife (name?) were buried
elsewhere and Ruby’s remains still lie in the original unmarked grave. Several family members,
including Inez Shepherd Childers (now deceased), Phena Shepherd Howie, Darla Shepherd Jonas,
Dale Rector, and Gerald Childers, have attempted to resolve this mystery, but to date have not been
- Dwight Childers
5 April 2006, revised 28 Jul 2006