Archive for January, 2018

My belief that the rapture or “catching away” of the born again believers in Jesus will occur at the end of this age, rather than at the beginning of the tribulation period or at some other time during the reign of the antichrist is based on three sections of the Bible.

First: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Here are the words of Paul describing the rapture. Note that the dead in Christ rise and then the living believers rise. Note that Paul says we will ever be with the Lord.

Second: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, or by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition: who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped: so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

Paul here is reiterating that when he was with the people at the church at Thessalonica that he told them Christ would not come and gather them unto himself until after the man of sin would be revealed.

From the description of the man of sin, he is the antichrist.

So, from this it can be deduced that the antichrist is coming before Jesus comes to gather the church to himself.

Third: Revelation 19: 6-21 followed by Revelation 20:1-6.

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

In Revelation 19 we are told about the marriage supper of the Lamb which is about to occur. Then we are given a glimpse of Jesus in the final battle against his enemies.

The narrative continues with Revelation 20: 

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Here we see that after the devil is bound and cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years those individuals who were martyrs for the witness of Jesus are going to live and reign with Christ a thousand years. Here it is stated: This is the first resurrection. 

The summation is: First we are told there is going to be a rapture of believers, dead and living. Next we are told it will be after the antichrist is revealed. Then we are told that the FIRST resurrection includes the martyrs who refused to take the mark of the beast during the tribulation. 

No other resurrection besides this FIRST resurrection is mentioned in the Bible. All we are told is that there is a second death, and we can surmise from Revelation 20:5 that it is for the rest of the dead who do not live again until the thousand years are finished.

I base my belief on the fact that there is only one resurrection, the FIRST. That one resurrection must include the dead and living born again believers, including the martyrs from all time.Thus it must be at the end as set forth in Revelation 19 and 20.

What I have set forth here is my opinion. There are lots of opinions. But there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ. He said very plainly I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me. (John 14:6) There are going to be differences of opinion as long as we are on this planet. But when we leave this planet, we need to know one thing: Jesus. We need to know him personally, by experience. To know about him will never be enough. Seek him with your whole heart and you will find him. I did.


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Here is another fascinating (in my opinion) article that never made it to print, though a few Realtors lifted parts of it for their own when I had it displayed on my web site. It is about North America’s only native parrot, now extinct. The story of the Carolina Parakeet also parallels another story from the same era — the story of the Cherokee people who, but for the Lord’s mercy,  would have met the same fate as their little counterpart — the green bird of Eastatoe.

The Beautiful Green Bird of Eastatoe–Carolina’s Little Lost Parrot

Image adapted from photo by Fritz Geller Grimm/Creative commons

Swooping low above shadowy river courses, alighting here and there in the overhanging tangles of vines and branches, darting in and out of dense stands of cane — swiftly they fly, in undulating motion, their raucous cries and bright feathers enlivening the dim forest understory. They are gorgeous, in brilliant shades of green, yellow and orange — beautiful birds — that alas, we will never see, for they belong to another time.

These winged beauties were parrots. Our earliest written account of them was made by the English explorer Thomas Hariot. He with others was sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to explore the coast of what is now North Carolina just prior to the seating of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island in 1587. At that time these “parats” were numerous, ranging from Virginia south to Florida, with a subspecies of a slightly variant color inhabiting the Mississippi River basin as far north as Wisconsin. Routhly twelve inches from tip to tip, this bird of extraordinary beauty was known as the Carolina Parakeet. Still plentiful two hundred years later, it was officially catalogued in 1758 and given the scientific name Cornuropsis carolinensis. These were North America’s only native parrots. Today there are none.

So what happened to the Carolina Parakeet? For the answer we can look to one of its favorite habitats. In Upstate South Carolina near the foot of the Blue Ridge Escarpment is a long and narrow alluvial plain, the Eastatoee (present spelling) Valley. Here along the borders of a sparkling stream lived great numbers of Carolina Parakeets, sharing their territory with a band of Indians, the “green bird” people. The Indians were Cherokee, but the nearby white settlers knew them as Eastatoes. The word “eastatoe” is apparently synonymous with the Carolina Parakeet; it has been strnslated variously as “green valley of the bird,” “valley of the green bird,” or simply “green bird.” Whatever may be the exact meaning of this somewhat obscure word, one thing is certain. Eastatoe was a valley of green birds, wild and beautiful.

Though still beautiful, today the Eastatoe Valley is no longer wild. In fact it is becoming modernized. Many of the rustic older structures have been torn away to make room for shiny updated ones. “Posted” and “For Sale” sign proliferate. And down at the lower end of the valley is a large master planned residential community on the shores of Lake Keowee. There the penned up waters of an artificial lake have inundated the campsites of the Eastatoe warriors, prompting us to ask not only what happened to our native parrot, but also what happened to our native people.

Until recently Native Americans were often stereotyped as hunters and gatherers, primordial people living off the land. While their predecessors might have been primitive wanderers, the Cherokee were largely an agrarian people. They planted extensive fields, gardens and orchards which they tended industriously. Great care was taken to prevent marauding wildlife from destroying the precious produce of the land. The Carolina Parakeet had a noted preference for seed kernels and it is certain he got his share of the Eastatoes’ crops. However there were ample amounts of life’s necessities then for both the bird and the people; and if the Indians shooed the parrots out of their corn fields, the parrots simply repaired to the surrounding forests and canebrakes of which there were many.

A planted stand of River Cane on a creek in the Eastatoe Valley

Cane is making a comeback today, but until recently there were few stands of river cane in Upstate South Carolina. In earlier years cne occurred in many places, even on smaller streams. Some of the larger canebrakes choked the banks of rivers for miles. Cane was an important resource for both the Carolina Parakeet and the Indians. In some areas the Indians used it not only for household furnishings such as baskets and mats, but as wattle for houses. Cane was also used for small weapons including knives, blowguns, arrows and fish spears. It is impossible today to determine by observation exactly where the larger cane patches were; we find only scattered remnants. But we know there were significant canebrakes in the vicinity of Eastatoe, by nearby place names: Big Canebrake, Little Canebrake, Cane Creek, and Cane Mountain. For the Carolina Parakeet the canebrakes were safe havens, providing sheltered breeding habitats. With their green and yellow coloring the little parrots were practically invisible in the heavy foliage.

The native people of Eastatoe and their beautiful bird had dwelt long together in their green valley when a new element shattered their relatively idyllic existence. Strange people began making their way into the uplands. They were white men, with white men’s ways and white men’s diseases, and an insatiable appetite for land and resources. Blowing into the land like leaves before a summer storm, they brought swift and sweeping changes to the Eastatoe Valley and the Cherokee nation.

First they brought the smallpox; the Cherokee had their initial exposure to smallpox in the late 1600’s; however we find only a mention of that occurrence. But, in 1738-39 the disease again made its way into the mountains, by way of the Trading Path from Charles Town. This time it decimated the Cherokee nation.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 died, representing about half their population. Nor was that the end of the while man’s sickness. Another serious outbreak occurred in 1759-60. The Cherokee had never been exposed to smallpox; they had no immunity or resistance; and their efforts to cure the malady (by sweating followed by immersion of the victim in cold water) did more harm than good. Thus they were easily overcome by the disease.

During colonial times, the Cherokee occupied or claimed most of the area that now comprises western North and South Carolina. In the section that is now South Carolina were situated their several Lower Towns including a main town at Keowee and a trade town in the Eastatoe Valley. There a government agent called a factor ran a trading post under the auspices of the South Carolina Assembly. English merchants were eager to obtain furs and skins to be shipped back to the British Isles. The Cherokee were just as eager to have English made guns, cloth, hatchets and trinkets. Beginning in the early 1700’s and for many years thereafter a lively trade was carried on between the Cherokee and the English, not only at Eastatoe, but in other towns as well. Unfortunately, the unscrupulous practices of some of the white traders infuriated the Cherokee, adding fuel to the already smoldering hostilities between them and the English.

Meanwhile, white settlers continued pouring into the Carolinas. Some of them pushed up illegally into Cherokee hunting lands. Disputes rose, skirmishes were fought; and then full scale battles. Treaties were made, and with each one, the Cherokee people gave up a little more of their land. Injustices and retaliations were regular occurrences. A massacre of white settlers at Long Canes was followed by a bloodbath at Keowee, where a large number of high ranking Cherokee hostages were killed at Fort Prince George. This was done in retaliation to an Indian attach that had mortally wounded the fort’s commander, Lieutenant Cotymore. All the while the fledgling Carolina colonies were experiencing a threat to their backsides from the French who were approaching from the west, via the Mississippi River tributaries, and making efforts to turn the Cherokee against the English. Prior to the slaughter at Fort Prince George, a number of Cherokees had held out for peace with the colonies. After that, the Cherokee, egged on by the French, commenced what amounted to an all out war against the settlers. Only one Cherokee leader continued to favor the English. That one was Attacullaculla, and even he lost much of his influence due to his pacifist position.

With hostilities at an all time high, the English felt it necessary to send troops into Cherokee territory to subdue the Indians with punitive measures. In 1760 forces led by Archibald Montgomery sacked and burned a large number of Cherokee towns, including Eastatoe. The residents of Eastatoe fortunately were forewarned and most had abandoned their town before the soldiers arrived and destroyed it. Montgomer’s men wrought total devastation wherever they went, setting fire to houses, granaries and cornfields, cutting down and destroying orchards, killing  many Indians and taking a number of prisoners. The next year Governor Lyttleton of South Carolina felt it necessary to send forces into Cherokee territory once again, this time under the command of Colonel James Grant. Grant led a ferocious attack against the Cherokee, reducing one settlement after another to ashes. When it was over he estimated he had destroyed fourteen hundred acres of corn, beans, and peas and driven five thousand Indians into the forest, where they were on the point of starvation. Pretty soon Attacullaculla appeared at Fort Prince George, suing for peace on behalf of his people. Thus ended the bitter conflict known in the Carolinas as the Cherokee War.

We can be certain the little parrots of Eastatoe fled from the smoke and flames, or hid and watched from a distance the strange goings on in their valley. In spite of their troubles, at this point the Eastatoe birds were faring better than the Eastatoe people. For the Indians, the Cherokee War was just one conflict in a long series of troubles. After another destructive campaign led by General Griffith Rutherford and Major Andrew Williamson in 1776 the Cherokee had only a handful of settled communities left. Some of the Cherokee had sought refuge among the Creeks or in their own Overhill Towns. Others were hiding in the mountains and begging food from nearby white settlers. The next year in a treaty at DeWitt’s Corners in South Carolina, the destitute Chrokees surrendered nearly all their lands in upstate South Carokina, including the Eastatoe Valley. They were allowed to remain on the land and this they did, tenaciously rebuilding a number of their settlements in present Oconee county.

Meanwhile the Carolina Parakeet was holding its own nicely, even up to the end of the 1700’s. A map showing its former range includes better than half the present 50 states. Who would have believed that in a mere hundred and fifty years they would all be gone? A report from the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800’s reveals that large numbers of these birds were sighted in the vicinity of the Mississippi River. Audubon reported numerous Carolina Parakeets in various locations during the 1850’s, though he admitted their numbers were diminishing. But even then the birds were seldom seen in the Carolinas. Fifty years later, around the turn of the century the Carolina Parakeet appears to have made a last stand in the Florida swamps. And of those few, several were shot (yes) by an ornithologist. In a few short years, in 1918, the last known of this species died at the Concinnati Zoo. After that there were reported but mostly unproven sightings up into the 1940’s. The only ones left today are lifeless stuffed specimens in museums.

So what did happen to the Carolina Parakeet? What happened to the Eastatoe Cherokees? The parakeets, like the Indians, were displaced by the European settlers who cleared the forests, drained the swamps, opened the riverbanks, and turned the canebrakes into cultivated acres. Further loss of the Carolina Parakeet’s habitat was brought about by the introduction of honeybees in the new world. The bees competed with the birds for tree hollows needed for nesting. And when flocks of parakeets set their sights on the white men’s crops, they were not politely shooed off Indian fashion into the woods. Guns brought them down, by the hundreds. The Eastatoes wove designs into their ceremonial robes with the Carolina Parakeet’s brightly colored feathers. Well, the white people would do them one better. During two walks in Manhattan in 1886 one ornithologist noted feathers from 40 native bird species adorning 525 ladies hats. Though parakeet feathers were not the most desirable, (that distinction went to the unfortunate herons) the hat trade nevertheless thinned out the parakeets. Some of the parakeets were killed for sport; and some for food. Some may have died from diseases transmitted by domesticated fowl. Many were captured and sold as pets. And eventually there just weren’t any more. Like a common commodity, they were all used up. Before anyone realized what a treasure they were, they had disappeared.

The parallel is obvious. Like their winged counterparts, the Eastatoe people along with the various other bands of the Chrokee were gradually vanquished by the white settlers. Their efforts to defend their territory were valiant, but they were the weaker race, and had to acquiesce to circumstances they could not control. As their numbers dwindled due to disease, war and starvation, those that remained were forced to watch in dismay as their lands were appropriated by their conquerors.

After the Colonies’ successful overthrow of British rule, settlement by white people began in the Keowee River basin as Revolutionary soldiers took their bounty lands there and in the nearby tributary valleys. Very soon other settlers came. The Scots-Irish name “McKinney” shows up in the Eastatoe Valley records as early as 1825. By this time most of the Indians had joined their relatives in Georgia and Alabama, or in their North Carolina towns. A few remained in the Upstate, and mingled peaceably with the white settlers, but in North Carolina the conflict between the red man and the white man continued. Finally in 1838 and 39 the U.S. government wounded up the scattered bands of Cherokees that would go willingly and hunted down most of those that would not and sent them along the infamous Trail of Tears to the West. Thus the original owners relinquished their claim and abandoned the Eastatoe Valley. Even so, a handful of dauntless Cherokees managed to live out their lives hidden away in the high country, having no desire to live at the Reservation that was eventually established for them.

But today the Eastatoes are gone, away to a far country; and all that remains of their little green parrot is this place that bears its evocative Cherokee name — Eastatoe. Today in the Eastatoee Valley a few high bred horses are grazing in yonder field, surrounded by a tall (and expensive) wire fence. Some men are fishing from a modern concrete beidge. Cars rush past, their occupants eagerly on their way to the waterfall. Some go the other way, toward Lake Keowee. A crow flies over, cawing at his brother in a neighboring treetop. One little nuthatch is walking downhill on a poplar near me. It’s hard to believe there were parrots here, or Indians. It’s hard to believe this was a battle zone, that blood was shed, somewhere near here, or maybe right here…

A section of the Beautiful Eastatoe Valley

….Right here, if I really try, I can almost see a wisp of smoke rising from the charred skeleton of a rude log hut, just over there, at the base of the hill. A brightly colored little creature perches incongruously upon the tip of the blackened ridge pole. He is screeching something at me in his parrot language. From far away I can hear the beat of the Cherokee drums.

The message is unmistakably clear: the battle is over, and yes, we won; the land is ours. But we have lost. It’s very sad what we have lost….the beautiful bird….the beautiful people…. And now: God save the beautiful valley of Eastatoe!



1. Weatherford, Carol Boston. The Carolina Parakeet – America’s Lost Parrot in Art and Memory. Minneapolis, MN: Avian Publications. 2005. 8-21.

2. Eastatoee is the recently adopted spelling of the more common “Eastatoe”.

3. Jocassee Gorges – A Partnership in Conservation. 19 Aug. 2008 <http://www.dnr.sc.gov/managed/wild/jocassee>

4. McCrary, Mary Jane, Transylvania Beginnings: A History. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc. 1984. 84-85.

5. McFall, Pearl S. The Keowee River and Cherokee Background. Pickens, SC, 1966. 7.

6. When Cane Was King: The Story of Native Bamboo. 22 Jul. 2008. <http://www.appvoices.org/index.php?/site/comments/when_cane_was_king_the_story_of_…>

7. Encyclopedia of North Carolina. “Cherokee Indians.” 19 Aug. 2008. <http://uncpress.unc.edu/nc_encyclopedia/cherokee.html>

8. Milling, Chapman J. Red Carolinians. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1940. 305-306.

9. Milling, op. cit. 319.

10. Weatherford, op cit. 42-53.

11. McFall, loc. cit.

12. Weatherford, op cit. 26.

13. Pickens County Tour, Eastatoe Valley. 22 Jul. 2008. <http://www.geocities.com/lonefalson/eastatoe.htm?200822>




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This article had a chance to be published in North Carolina’s The State magazine, but since it was not I am taking it off the shelf and sharing it with you, for free, no subscription required. It is a love story with a happy ending, of a botanist’s lifelong pursuit of a reticent little flower that early on captured his heart, and how finally she became his.

Shortia galicafolia — Oconee’s Elusive Little Bell

A Botanical Tale of Hide and Seek

The first scientific specimen of Shortia galicafolia, or Oconee bell, languished in a case for decades, a dried up and neglected unidentified species. The story of its discovery in a French herbarium and the ensuing 38-year search for a living plant is both fascinating and heart warming.

Sarvis in bloom

When high against he naked slopes of winter, the petals of the sarvis unfurl white as lingering snow, ere the blushing maples stain the hills in lipstick hues, before the violets dare to show their faces, the shy little Oconee bells quietly announce the arrival of spring. Even at elevations of around 3,000 feet, which is about the upper end of their territory, they bloom early, around the end of March. Their glossy leaves and fringed white petals look sturdy enough, and they are, but the Oconee bell’s range is limited, due primarily to lack of suitable habitat.

Oconee bell

Many years ago my cousin introduced me to Oconee bells. She had a luxurious patch of them growing near her spring, at about 3,100 feet elevation. Someone had given her a few which she transplanted. They had thrived in that location, literally covering the bank of the spring branch with their dark green foliage. Later she gave some to me. And, yes, I knew they were rare plants. So I took special care to place them in the sort of environment they were used to. I planted them above my spring branch and sure enough they soon multiplied beyond my expectations.

Though generally plentiful in its station, and apparently thriving and healthy where it does grow, our local specimen, the Southern Oconee bell, is considered a vulnerable plant, meriting special concern by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. The problem with the Oconee bell is not that it is weak or delicate; rather, it is very sensitive to its environment. It requires a rare blend of conditions, such as those found in the Jocassee Gorges, our small temperate rain forest on the clopes of the Savannah River watershed here along the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. Along these moisture laden corridors of the Blue Ridge Escarpment the Oconee bell is in its element. This area includes Transylvania County in North Carolina, and Greenville, Pickens, and Oconee Counties in South Carolina.

The Northern Oconee bell, a variant species native to McDowell County, North Carolina, is considered endangered. Its station is on the Catawba River about 75 miles northeast of the Jocassee area. Though not the first Shortia galicafolia to be harvested, the Northern Oconee bell nevertheless has the distinction of having been the first whole specimen of Shortia to be found in North America. The botanist Michaux had gathered a leaf and a dried fruit of the Oconee bell in the winter of 1788, but nobody knew where he had found it. That is not to say the Indians and early settlers were not aware of this plant’s location.  Of course, they were. But the scientific community was not, and could not complete the plant’s history and classification without the whole Plant. It would be 89 years before Shortia galicafolia would be rediscovered.

And therein hangs a tale:

The Little Belle of Oconee and the Eminent Dr. Gray

The bashful little Oconee bell evaded botanists for nearly a century, hiding out in scattered environs of the southern Appalachians. A low growing evergreen perennial with leathery sawtoothed leaves, it produces small white bell-shaped flowers of five fringed petals. From the mid to late 1800’s, the Shortia, as it came to be known, captivated a whole generation of botanists and plant hunters, who pursued it relentlessly from place to place without catching so much as a glimpse of it.

The plant was first sighted by the French botanist Andre Michaux in December 1788. It was growing in profusion at Bear Camp, a small Indian settlement on a tributary of the Keowee River, high up in the Savannah River watershed. Michaux gathered a tough little sawtoothed leaf and a dried fruit of the plant for preservation. Carefully he recorded in his journal the exact location of the plant colony, mentioning its proximity to Bartram’s Magnolia ariculata and referencing the features of the land so precisely that anyone should have been able to easily follow his directions. Michaux never returned to the site from which the little plant was harvested.

That dried up and incomplete specimen gathered by Michaux languished for many years in a case with other unidentified plants. Finally, in 1838 the American Botanist Asa Gray uncovered it in a French herbarium. Realizing that it represented a new genus, Dr. Gray became obsessed with the hope of finding the plant “in the high mountains of Carolina,” the place Michaux’s specimen label gave as its habitat. Michaux having died in 1802, Gray immediately reserved for himself the right of naming the plant. Shortia galicafolia it would be, reflecting the plant’s similarity to Galax and honoring Gray’s much admired colleague, Dr. Charles Wilkins Short of Kentucky.

The chase was on! Within three years Dr. Gray had managed to rearrange his responsibilities and was scouring the sides of the high mountains of Carolina in search of Shortia. He went to Roan, Mt. Mitchell, and others that Michaux had visited, but found no trace of the elusive little plant. Two years later he made another disappointing trip to the same general area. Gray had consulted Michaux’s journal before his first trip. But somehow he had missed, or perhaps misinterpreted Michaux’s entry giving the plant’s location. (The journal was written in French.) As word of Dr. Gray’s pursuit of the wily little Shortia spread, others became intrigued and jointed the hunt. For years a succession of scientists and plantsmen combed the mountains as far as Tennessee. But none found the Shortia galicafolia.

There was yet another Shortia however. Dr. Gray had found the other Shortia while examining some Japanese plant specimens brought back to America in 1858. Gray recognized the Japanese Shortia right away, though a Russian botanist had named it Xchizocodon uniflorus. Gray was perplexed however. How was it that a rare North American plant was growing halfway around the world? But, the scientific community had already begun to notice that other plants such as pachysandra and various magnolias were sometimes found isolated in pockets at great distances globally from each other. Gray eventually concluded that these two Shortia plants, once common in the north, had retreated south before the advancing glaciers of the last ice age, and found themselves trapped and unable to return to their original habitat when the glaciers melted.

Time would prove Dr. Gray’s assessment to be correct. The Xchiocodon was a Shortia, and its botanical name was eventually changed to Shortia uniflora. The Japanese people had called their plant crag fan due to the shape of its leaves; the Americans would name it for its flower and call it Nippon bells. These two species of  Shortia had happened to land in hospitable environs in Japan and eastern North America when the glaciers receded; hence they had survived. And that was the sum of it; and might have been the end of it.

Except that already Dr. Gray was hopelessly smitten by Michaux’s elusive little Shortia runaway, and no foreign uniflora would ever replace the lovely native galicafolia. And so the hunt continued.

Finally, in 1877, on the banks of the murky Catawba River near Marion, North Carolina George Hymans, a 17-year-old, gathered an unknown specimen. His father, an herbalist, eventually sent it to Joseph Congdon of Rhode Island for identification. Congdon believed it was Shortia and passed it to Dr. Gray. Though much removed from its purported habitat in the “high mountains,” the Catawba River specimen turned out to be a match for Michaux’s unidentified species. An elated Dr. Gray was soon able to examine a living Shortia galicafolia, with its blossom, and complete the history of the long sought little plant. Unfortunately Dr. Short, to whom the plant was dedicated, had died in 1863, never having seen his namesake.

In the spring of 1879 Dr. Gray and two of his associates, William Canby and Dr. Charles Sargent, came to Marion to see the Shortia plants in their habitat. They were found growing in close proximity to the partridge berry, wild ginger and Galax. Dr. Gray was very disappointed when he realized the colony discovered by young Hymans contained no more than 100 plants, nor were any others to be found. It looked like the native Shortia was nearing extinction, edged out by a companion plant, its stronger cousin, the Galax.

Dr. Gray did not know that even then great numbers of Shortia were thriving in a mountain habitat on the Savannah River headwaters, in coves and hollows just under the crest of the Blue Ridge. Seven more years would pass before they would be found.

In 1886, Dr. Charles Sargent, who had accompanied Gray to the Shortia site on the Catawba River, explored the area near Sapphire, North Carolina, looking for a magnolia species, Bartram’s Magnolia ariculata. With him was an associate and two brothers Boynton from the nearby town of Highlands. One day Dr. Sargent and one of the Boynton brothers unwittingly trekked through the place where Michaux had made his momentous Shortia discovery some 98 years earlier. There, from a colony of low growing evergreen plants, Dr. Sargent gathered a leathery little sawtoothed leaf… .

But when evening came he could not remember where he had picked it. They were, after all, looking for a magnolia. With Galax being pretty much ruled out as the leaf’s identity, the Boynton brothers were sent the next day to retrace Dr. Sargent’s steps. When they got to Bear Camp they found the Shortia exactly where Michaux’s journal had said they would. The fact of the journal entry was not known at the time, but would come to light later.

It must have pleased Dr. Sargent immensely to place one of those very plants into Dr. Gray’s eager hands. For Dr. Gray, the search for Shortia had been a lifelong passion. He’d been overjoyed on learning of the Catawba River colony, only to have cold water dashed on his enthusiasm when it dawned on him how precious few plants were there; nor were there any more, anywhere. Now he could rest, for he held in his own hands a nugget from the mother lode.

The long search for Shortia had ended. Nor was it long before Dr. Gray had finished his course. He passed away in 1888, a hundred years after Michaux picked his Shortia leaf that wintry morning on the headwaters of the Keowee.


End notes: The Shortia galicafolia plants from the Catawba River basin were deemed a variant species of those discovered at Bear Camp by Michaux, hence the division into “Northern” and “Southern” varieties.

Some time after Dr. Sargent’s rediscovery of the Southern Oconee bell, Michaux’s journal was re-examined and the very explicit directions to the Shortia colony at Bear Camp were found. The place where Michaux harvested his Shortia specimen is now under the waters of Lake Jocassee.


Students/others: Below is a list of sources, for free. If you cite my article, please give me credit.




http://www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/plantconserve/plist.htm northern&southern Oconee bell on list. 1/1/12


Click to access 838.pdf


Click to access 838.pdf

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author is autistic adult. Wikimedia Commons image

May 2017. Tonight I sat for a while on the front porch watching little pinpoints of light, bobbing up and down among the upper canopy of leaves. I remembered when we were children, catching lightning bugs. That’s what we still call them, though technically they are fireflies. Frankly, I think the children’s name is more descriptive. We put them in jars and set them on the dresser or bureau and fell asleep watching them blink. And after that I suppose Mama or Grandma came for the jar and turned them loose. I don’t remember that part.

Many years afterward, around the Fourth of July I happened to be a guest at a home perched high on a grassy ridge, sitting on the patio as night drew on. Here and there in the tall grass below there was a wink, and then a blink as the lightning bugs awoke from their daytime slumber and prepared for their performance. And what a show it was! In just minutes, hundreds and hundreds of those bright blinking little creatures flew up from the tall grass below in a dazzling display of tiny blinking, winking, dancing lights. No fireworks display downtown could “hold a light” (to use a mountain expression) to that show. But too soon it was over. The little bugs scattered for their nighttime destinations in less than five minutes, and only an ordinary sprinkling of them remained.

But that was not the last time those talented little insects would delight my senses. One evening in May a few years ago it happened again, and not the way you might think. I wrote an article about it for publication in Yahoo Voices. And now that Yahoo Voices is no more, I can publish it again. Here it is:

The Magic of Glow Worms

When God said “Let there be light!” the fireflies took him seriously. Faithful to their calling, they arrive every spring, in mid-May, and with their tiny lanterns, light up my corner of the world — a temperate rain forest in the southern Appalachians. We normally get plus or minus a hundred inches of rain a year, good for lots of creatures, including these beautiful bugs. Because, before they make their presence known, winking and blinking, skimming along above lawns and meadows, and draping themselves like twinkling garlands over the branches of trees, they are hidden away, wingless creatures, confined to damp and shadowy places. Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are beautiful and entertaining to watch, and wonderful fun for children. But even better is to see them before they get their wings. On a dark night in the woods, it is an almost magical experience.

There are thousands of species of this little beetle and they are found almost all over the world. Adult fireflies live only long enough to perpetuate themselves. They mate and lay their eggs, and after that they are soon gone. The eggs hatch quickly but the larva can take almost a year to develop; in some cases, years. The larva in our area typically live in the soil and leaf litter of the woodlands. Like their adult counterparts, the larva are luminescent; we know them as glow worms. It does not follow; however, that all glow worms are firefly larva. There are also other types of insect larva that glow.

If you have fireflies or lightning bugs in your area, you will also have glow worms. Since they are larva they don’t fly about, and unless you are hunting for them you are not likely to find one in the daytime. They survive long cold winters in the woods, under the leaves, in the bark of trees, rotting stumps, and the like. You will not find any in a dry and arid place. You will probably never see a glow worm in a city or town where it never gets totally dark. If the climate of the town is suitable, they will probably be there, but to see a glow worm you need near total darkness, such as a night on the dark of the moon.

I was fortunate to see a stunning display of glow worms one evening in May. I had seen glow worms before. At my former home a few miles away I regularly witnessed tiny gleamings at the edge of my yard when coming home from work late at night. I even found a few small glow worms behind our house near the chicken yard. Both these finds were pretty insignificant; I didn’t know how beautiful firefly larva would be.

I had been working earlier that day about a half mile up the mountain from our house raking some of last fall’s leaves. At dusk I rode a golf cart up the gravel road to my work site and burned some of the twigs and leaves I had raked up earlier. My job took longer than I thought it would; I was working under a security light and did not realize how dark it was getting. When I finally finished I boarded the golf cart to ride back. Since it did not have lights I found myself in near pitch darkness as I drove away from the security light and into the woods on my way back down the hill. All I could see was a faint smudge that I knew represented the gray gravel in the center of the road. I slowed my speed down to a crawl for fear I would drive off the embankment. And then I began to notice:

The low road bank on my right glimmered with light, not little pinpoints such as I had seen before in the yard, small gleamings on a rainy night. No, these were bold and dazzling, like handfuls of rhinestones strewn out on black velvet. Right away I knew they were pupating fireflies, the largest and loveliest glow worms I had ever seen. Slowly I passed, having to watch also for the dim impression of the road. The darkness was nearly total. In awe I drove the golf cart, slowly, slowly, past distant moons and suns, fiery comets, planets and constellations, myriads of tiny creatures arranged in scintillating patterns of light. It seemed the stars had fallen from heaven and lay in bright splendor upon the forest floor…No night sky was ever more lovely than this lowly insect’s brilliant display. Some of them, having newly found their wings, arose lazily from their leafy beds, and flew away, like shooting stars in slow motion.

Too soon the enchantment was over. The pale yellow of the porch light loomed up ahead. Five minutes more and my husband would have come up the hill in the car to find me. Five minutes more….and I would never have known……Oh… that is frightening!






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