Memories of Aunt Gennie (Eugenia Shepherd Myers)
My family moved from Swannanoa, east of Asheville, NC, to the Piney Mountain Baptist Church
community in northern Buncombe County around 1950, when I was a boy of six, after purchasing the
Oliver Taylor Bell property. For the first time since my parents’ marriage, our family lived nearby to
several Shepherd relatives, including my great aunt, Gennie Shepherd Myers, a sister of my
Grandfather Henry Taylor Shepherd.
Aunt Gennie lived alone in a little old house on Stockton Branch Road, across a small stream from the
Floyd Shepherd family. She was an old woman already, but she was large and erect, with wiry gray hair
gathered loosely back around her head into a bun. Despite noticeably swollen legs and ankles (from
her ailing heart) she gave an impression of pride and dignity. Her manner was serious and steady, but I
felt warmth of spirit in her, and I liked her very much.
We began trying to do our part in helping her however we could, as did other relatives who lived nearby
or in Asheville. My father, Roy Childers, had recently acquired our first power mower, so we began
bringing it every week or two to mow her lawn. Also, as she did not own or drive a car, and my father
did, it fell our lot to buy her groceries and bring them to her each week. (She would give us a little list of
the things she needed.) I was at the age to be an eager hanger-on of all such activities, as they gave
me a chance to “go somewhere”. I was fascinated by her small grocery list, because it was very
specific, and it included things which we never bought for ourselves. I remember that her crackers were
Nabisco Uneeda Biscuit – not the ordinary saltines which we always bought. And she usually ordered
Sunsweet Prune Juice, which seemed very exotic to me.
After another relative brought her a small used refrigerator (which, oddly to me, opened at the top
rather than in front), she was able to buy some perishable items as well. I remember seeing a big head
of iceberg lettuce being lifted out of that refrigerator one day when I was there for lunch.
Most importantly, no doubt, we (usually my father and I) would occasionally drive her the seventy mile
trip to Morganton and back so that she could visit her only son Terrell in the state psychiatric hospital.
(According to family stories, Terrell had suffered “shell shock” during active duty in World War II, and
had never recovered enough to live at home.) These were usually sad trips because she didn’t seem to
expect that he would be better and I don’t remember that she ever seemed happier after the visits.
Once, at least, my mother packed a picnic lunch for Aunt Gennie, my father, and me. On the way there,
we stopped on the Old Fort mountain at a wayside and ate our lunch at a picnic table before
proceeding on to Morganton. I don’t remember much conversation. Aunt Gennie was strong in her
views and not shy about expressing them. Perhaps she was somewhat intimidating to my much younger
father, who had an independent streak and strong opinions of his own.
When we arrived at the hospital, she would go in alone to see Terrell, while we waited outside, perhaps
sitting on a shady bench on the grounds.
I gathered that Terrell rarely broke his silence. Sometimes, after seeing him, she would say that maybe
he was a little better that day, but her tone and manner didn’t suggest much improvement. The drive
home would be very quiet.
Aunt Gennie’s house was dark and plain, except for a generous porch across the front. The siding had
weathered brownish-grey, and the plain wood walls inside likewise showed the effect of many passing
years. On a mantle or shelf at the end of the room sat a framed photographic portrait of young son
Terrell in his military uniform.
The furniture in the living room was old and of a style which I had never seen before. It was very heavy
and square, with a lot of exposed dark oak wood and dark brown leather upholstery. I remember a
sofa, an arm chair, perhaps a rocker, and a side table. (Years later, I would come to recognize the style
as “mission” or “arts and crafts” and know that it had been very popular in the first two decades of the
twentieth century before returning to popularity toward the end of that century.)
There was no plumbing, so one of my jobs when visiting was to take the water bucket from its stand in
the kitchen and go across a footbridge to the spring and refill it.
Aunt Gennie had been married to Samp Myers, but by the time of the 1930 census she was listed as
the head of the household that included only herself and her son Terrell W. Myers, who was listed as
19 years of age. The absence of Mr. Myers was not much discussed in the family.
- Dwight Childers
13 March 2006
rev. 13 Apr 2009