Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Murder, A Son's Promise, and the Truth:
A Book Review of Blood Mountain Covenant by Charles E. Hill
James "Jim" Washington Lance Blood Mountain Covenant: A Son's Revenge
(1/31/1861 - 9/2/1940) by Charles L. Hill explores a century-old
murder in Union County.
Many mists have fallen over
Questions about the dastardly deed
lingered for decades in the minds of those who knew the Reverend John
brutally murdered on
Bereft of a beloved husband, a caring
father, and a minister known for his unapologetic proclamation of
truth, his wife, children, extended family, neighbors and friends
comfort one another, to prepare the desecrated body for burial, and to
to the details of the funeral at
The eldest son of the murdered man, James Washington Lance, hurt beyond consolation, made a solemn covenant not to rest until the perpetrators of the crime were brought to justice. Truth has a way of hiding. Sometimes it is concealed by those who tell only half-truths, and thereby can justify their stand. At other times truth is evasive, overpowered by personal agendas and veiled, as mountains are with thick mists and fogs, until a slant of sunlight, like truth with the ability to set free, penetrates half-truths and outright lies, making a straight path to lucidity.
The book depicts a proud and independent people. Though mainly dealing with the Lance family of Lance Cove, Choestoe District, the characteristics Hill so aptly captures as he introduces those who play important roles in the biographical account of a mountain man and his son seeking revenge, the book paints a picture of a place and a people who are solid to the core, as local poet and cousin to the Lances, Byron Herbert Reece, stated in his poem, “Choestoe”: “Yes, Sprung from the hard earth, nurtured by hard labor.” That describes the people there, and Hill shows them to be just that, honest to the core, dependable to the end, hard-working, hard-hitting, the salt-of-the earth.
The murder was all about moonshine
liquor and those who owned the still believing that the Rev. Lance
them to the revenuers, resulting in the downfall of their
business. Unable to accept that Rev.
Lance and his family, although despising “the devil’s brew,” would not
their neighbors, the minister was ambushed, killed and his murdered
Jim Lance, eldest son of the murdered man, had the major responsibility of securing lawyers, Virgil Marion Waldroop and William E. “Buck” Candler, for the prosecution, and for contacting various witnesses who in some way could give testimony in the trial. Lawyers for the defense of Frank Swaim and his younger brother, Newt, were Carl J. Wellborn, Jr. and M. G. Boyd. Presiding judge over the trial was Carl J. Wellborn, Sr.
After a trial that drew crowds of
people to the
Charles E. Hill has accomplished
masterful job in his book. The dialogue,
though imagined by the author, is authentic to the mountain vernacular
speech. His descriptions of places and
depictions of people are true to the setting and the independent spirit
mountain people. Revenge is not an
theme to treat. Neither is a century-old
murder committed long before the days of
I highly recommend this book. If you love the land and the people, as do I, you will eagerly read Hill’s account of the characters appearing in the pages of this true story. You will check historical documents and the resources he lists to see the relationships of those playing a role in the drama. The book is valuable for an authentic historical view of the turbulent times following the Civil War and of how people coped with the hardships of daily living as well as the trauma of a violent and inane murder. You may even want to find the location of Reece Fields and Lance Cove, and wander beside Wolf Creek as its waters still flow swiftly to the Gulf, their message over the rocks echoing the Biblical axiom, “‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord.” (Heb. 12:19b; Deut 32:35a). And sometimes God chooses time, the right time, to see that vengeance is wrought, even if more than a century after the fact.
c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 11, 2003 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]
Updated September 2, 2009