Saturday, June 30, 2012

Finding Polly Mahaley

  Likely only a handful of people living now know who Polly Mahaley was. I would be one. I could never have met her; she died before I was born. I know her through the memories of my mother and my Aunt Ruthie. Although she was not real “kin,” Polly Mahaley is part of the collective memory of my mother’s family. 

  [I know of no existing pictures of Polly Mahaley]

No one knows where Polly Mahaley came from. According to family legend, ever so often she would catch a ride with the rural mail carrier and then walk up the dirt lane between the twin rows of cedars leading to my granny’s house in the High Rock Community of Davidson County, NC. Polly had come to visit with her few belongings in a little bag, her long dresses and strings of beads around her neck. As soon as Polly arrived, she would busy herself doing something helpful, like peeling vegetables. Carrying “news” from house to house in this rural area was an important part of what Polly did. Her visits might last a few days or a week, and she might not reappear for months. My granny always welcomed her as company. When it was time for Polly to go, she would move on to spend time with other families in the community. My mother, who’s now eighty-something, remembers going outside of her home and knocking on the door, pretending to be Polly Mahaley come to visit.

I always heard that Polly finally went to live in the Davidson County Home. County homes were often the refuge of folks who had no family or means to take care of themselves. It makes me sad to think that she had no other place to go toward the end of her life.

I’m not sure why Polly Mahaley’s story so captivated me. What was life like for this thin, pale woman who belonged to everyone and no one? Where was she buried? Could I find her grave? I searched for her online but never did much to find out...until the summer of 2012. While driving home one weekend through Lexington, NC, I noticed a street sign for County Home Road. The time to look for Polly had come.
We finally found the big old gray rambling structure that was once the Davidson County Home. It’s now used by Davidson County Schools and part of the property is fenced off. It was Sunday, and we searched where we could...but no cemetery was visible anywhere around.

Back home, I tried searching online again. I hadn’t been successful earlier and her name still didn’t appear. And then I found a wonderful helper in the form of Linda Davis, Cemetery Coordinator of the City of Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department. She took the very minimal information mixed with guesses I had about Polly Mahaley and within hours, Polly was found.

Linda graciously offered her help and found the following information through a Find a Grave search (

 Birth: unknown
        North Carolina, USA

 Death: July 11, 1941
        Davidson County
        North Carolina, USA

 Polly Mahaley was a single white female who was born about 1866

 Burial: County Home Cemetery
         Davidson County, USA
 There are no stones but depressions are visible...around a
 giant oak tree.

Polly was one of 74 persons listed as buried in the County Home Cemetery from 1913 through 1960. Find a Grave registrants may go to the individual site entry for each person listed to post virtual flowers and a tribute, which I have done for Polly. 

While there’s still a lot I don’t know...may never know...about her, I can’t explain what finding Polly Mahaley has meant to me.



 Product Details

by Jenny Johnson

*Don't forget to check out The Taxi: at; --& Kindle;;
An unexpected encounter with strangers changed everything about reporter Jannia Redmon’s life…and her heart. The Taxi is, "A gripping story packed with action, surprise, satisfying romance, and international intrigue."

1 comment:

  1. How fitting to honor Polly so close to her Death Date July 11th. What a wonderful story.... hmm.... could see another book it this.