An Interview with Charles E. Hill
It is not often that one has an opportunity to read a splendid book featuring our mountain heritage and then actually have the experience of visiting those areas where that history took place. On a bright and crisp April day, I met with Charles Hill and his lovely wife, Jackie, at their beautiful home in Blairsville. What I had anticipated to be just a short visit for an interview became a full afternoon of delightful talk, wonderful hospitality and a driving tour of the Choestoe region as seen through the pages of the book. History came alive that day, and with it, a deeper respect for the proud, independent and unpretentious mountain folks whose devotion to each other gives a whole new meaning to the word “family.”
The Reverend John Henry Lance, the
great-grandfather of Jackie Hill, was the victim of one of the most
murders that had ever taken place in
“We are against moonshining, but
reporting it is not the way we operate” said Jim Lance, in a
Frank Swaim over the ominous threats he had made against the Reverend
Lance (pg. 108). Lamentably,
no argument from Jim Lance could
change the moonshine-fueled rage that Frank Swaim held for all the
Charles Hill has written a factual narrative of a true family story in response to substantial misconceptions and misinformation that stemmed from several sources, most notably, from an article that appeared in 1925 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper. Written by Frank Swaim’s defense attorney, Carl Wellborn, Jr., the article was filled with allegations and half-truths. While doing research for his book, Mr. Hill was struck by how far from the truth this article was. “It would have made a tremendous movie…it was romantic and far fetched. I thought, well, this is a great story, but it doesn’t stack up with what we have been told. So, that piqued my curiosity and that got me started,” said Mr. Hill.
Thus commenced a writing journey that began in 1988 as a compilation of family history. “I was never really sure that I wanted to publish it,” said Mr. Hill, “I just wanted to tell the truth.” When the Hills’ extended family gathered on cold winter evenings and played cards, their talk would eventually turn to a figure that loomed larger than life, that of Jim Lance. Mrs. Hill’s dad, Jay Lance, would talk about his father. “He was a man that was bigger than life itself. He was a big fellow. After this occurred (the murder), he was a tough individual,” said Mr. Hill, remembering from the many talks he had with his late father-in-law.
Mr. Hill quoted Jack Lance, another of
Jim Lance’s sons, who said this about his dad, “My Daddy should have
the murder of his Daddy in the light that he was the first martyr to
Prohibition in the state of
“People might think that he ought to have forgiven and initially I might think that. But till I’ve walked in Jim Lance’s footsteps, and had the same things happened to me, I cannot tell how I would react” said Mr. Hill when I asked him if he thought Jim Lance carried this bitterness in his soul too far.
Charles Hill’s book is part history,
part family lore, and an apt portrayal of the people and the culture of
Always interested in writing, but never thinking he would actually become a published author, Mr. Hill said that he would probably pursue the story of Jim Lance in the form of a sequel to Blood Mountain Covenant. “I may do a sequel on this one because I stopped the story in 1925. Jim Lance died in 1940. I stopped it because it was getting so lengthy and I know a lot of people won’t read it if it gets so long, so I stopped there. But there was as much action from 1925 up until the time that he died in 1940 as there was in the book that I’ve written.”
He has also “written up a bunch of funny stories about things that have happened in the mountains. Don’t have them finished yet, but I’ve done that in my spare time. I might do something with that,” he said with a smile. Just listening to Mr. Hill speak in his soft mountain twang about his experiences and knowing the talent he has shown in the writing of Blood Mountain Covenant assures the reader that another outstanding book will debut in the future!
For those of you that are researching
your ancestral roots in
Over the years, the mountain people were given a truly unjust depiction of ignorance, stupidity and backwardness. That is far, far from the truth. Mr. Hill writes of how they are a quiet, proud and unpretentious people, springing from the same strong pioneer stock that helped to carve out the greatness of this mighty country of ours. These people persevered; their love for the mountains is obvious, even today.
a proud native son of these beautiful mountains, Mr. Hill has done a
justice for his family and for the truth.
Jim Lance was known to have said, “The truth will eventually
for I know that as long as there is a Lance residing in
Martha Clayton Clement
Quotes taken from:
Charles E. Hill, author
Ivy House Publishing Company
Union County, GA