Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Ledford, January 3, 2001. Interview K-0251. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Bridging gap between new arrivals and longtime residents

Ledford tells a long story to demonstrate the mutual suspicion of longtime Madison County residents and new arrivals. Ledford has positioned himself as an intermediary between these two parties.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Ledford, January 3, 2001. Interview K-0251. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Do you, with this, with the road and we're already seeing it. This has been going on for a while. It's not just the highway that's changing this. We've been seeing a real influx of new people coming into the county with new ideas, different kinds of thoughts about what community is all that kind of thing. How does that, how does that conflict with the say the local community and is that something that you as sheriff kind of anticipate as being an issue as being problematic or-
Well, I'll give you an example of that. This is an interesting story. I had a man at the lower end of the county who sold property to two people out of Raleigh. They bought the farm. Got along very well, but there was a, the old man took care of a cemetery and had a right of way through the property he sold to the cemetery. The problem being is that I think a lot of people in Madison County do not really know what a right of way is. They might have abused the word right of way to the point where he was going to do what he wanted to do on that road going in. It came down to a verbal confrontation. Blows may have been struck and warrants were drawn and it came across my desk. When it was all said and done, the people who had moved in from Raleigh had charged this man with assault. The man comes to me and wants me to go down and talk to these people and see if we can get the charges dropped. So I go down and spend an afternoon with these people, very nice people. Very nice. Moved in here, educated and work in banking I believe in Raleigh, but these people, they had some means but they wanted to come back. They really wanted to get along. They felt like that they were being bullied over by this guy. In my mind this guy here may not have thought that he was bully over them. He just simply thought that, "Well, hell I sold them the property. I've got a right of way, and I'm going to use the right of way. It's my cemetery, and I've got to get in and I'm going to show who boss is." I spent the day down there and talked them into dropping the charges. I don't really want to say talked them into dropping the charges. I basically gave them my word that this guy will not be a problem to them, and it's not going to be necessary to go on into court. It might be handled-see Haywood and Buncombe have what's called mediation. Down here the sheriff does the mediating. I had spent the afternoon with these people, and we'd come to an agreement on all that and went back and told this man that and thought we had it worked out and the guy who had violated these people's space and hell then he decides he wants a trial. So we go over and have a trial, spend all day over in court over something that should've never been there started with. In the end the exact same thing the judge found is exactly what I had worked out. My point being on that is you've got people coming into the county who are used to doing things one way. You've got people in the county who are used to doing things another. I think the people who live here are determined that they're not going to be run over by the outsiders. I think the people that are here are, or are coming in here are somewhat afraid of the mystique of some of these people in these communities of being gun-toting mountain people, and they don't want trouble. I think it's just a whole lot of fear based upon ignorance, or maybe they just don't know.
Or just even a lack of contact.
Lack of communication maybe is a better word.
That's kind of funny because I know the old farmer because I'm from Madison County and grew up in there. I know them all, and I can talk, I can talk their language, but I've been out of here and worked off from here and I understand how an educated person moving in here from Raleigh would think and might, and what their customs might be. Maybe that's a good thing. So as long as I can continue to function as a go-between.