The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Friday, July 28, 2006

"Aunt" Orelena Hawks Puckett

Image: by D L Ennis, The Puckett cabin at Groundhog Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

There are many stories along the nearly 500 mile expanse of the Blue Ridge Parkway that breath testimony to the hardiness and determination of early mountain folk, but none more amazing or interesting than the story of "Aunt" Orelena Hawks Puckett.

Born in 1837, "Aunt" Orelena Hawks Puckett lived here during the latter of her 102 years. She was often heard to say, "The forest was green when I was a-born and I'm still green yet." A bride at 16, Mrs. Puckett and her husband first farmed below nearby Groundhog Mountain.

Mrs. Puckett was past age 50 when she began a long career of midwifery. She assisted at the births of more than 1,000 babies, delivering the last in 1939, the year she died. It has been said she never lost a child or mother through her own fault. Ironically, none of Mrs. Puckett's own 24 children lived beyond infancy.

Regardless of weather, "Aunt" Orelena went wherever and whenever called. Sometimes on horseback, often walking, the midwife brought assurance and kindness to all she visited. When she began her practice, around 1890, her fee was one dollar, and "when times was good", six dollars. Often receiving food or other goods in lieu of money, she generously shared all she had with neighbors or those in need. Today, Orelena Puckett is remembered in this area for her witty, cheerful personality, as well as for her unselfish and skillful practice as a midwife.

The Puckett cabin is located on Groundhog Mountain. The cabin is easily viewed from the Parkway. John and Aunt Orelena Puckett lived in the one room cabin beginning in 1874. Today, the cabin is a standing monument for Aunt Orelena Puckett. People would come from many miles away for Aunt Orelena to help with their child's birth and to stay with the mother and infant after the birth.


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