By Jason Hawkins
Special to The Chapel Hill Herald
Doris Wilson doesn’t think of herself as an author, yet. However, looking over the stack of recently arrived, 100 copies of her book, “Senior’s 90-100+ and Their Families: What keeps them Going?” Wilson should get used to the title of “author.”
“I had a fascination with reading obituaries and learning about the history of people and families. I followed my daddy to the cemetery every year to put flowers on his mother’s grave for Mother’s Day and I remembered just being fascinated with grave markers and determining how old people were when they died,” Wilson says.
Born in Hillsborough and from a long lineage of town residents, Wilson speaks affectionately of the people in her book and her family’s presence in Hillsborough. “This is the home place,” Wilson says of her home on Hassel Street. “It (the property) has been here over 100 years, and my daddy purchased it for $500, this block, which wasn’t really a block back then. There was a cow here and a pig pen and he raised chickens to sell at Farmer’s Exchange; this is where I fell in love with the history of people,” says Wilson.
Her book is a masterpiece of collection of the rich and valuable history of people that contributed to the history of family and community. “I am fascinated by ancestry and the roots of people and I have an appreciation for those that live to be over the age of 90 and beyond,” says Wilson.
Before she retired from the Clerk of Court’s office in Orange County, Wilson spent her break time researching public records and furthering her interest in people.
“I collected and read obituaries; just learning how people are linked together and what there relationship is to one another,” says Wilson.
Yet, it is her book that is the strong link between her life and her interest in life and more importantly in the community around her. “I am inspired by people; and, I am also inspired by the stories within,” says Wilson.
The book is a collection of stories about those that are over the age of 90 and either live in Orange County or have affiliations through marriage or otherwise with Orange County. “I began the book five years ago and took delivery of the first order of books this September. I knew of six or seven people from Hillsborough over the age of 100 and set out to do a story on them. Then, I kept digging and discovered more over age of 90 and soon I was up to 200 people. This book is volume one and for volume two I am already up to 150 people. You know, we are just living longer now,” Wilson says of how her seed idea has grown to a tree of generational proportion.
To write her book, Wilson had to rely on old photographs and stories from families and interviews of those still living. “I made it fun, used various resources to search ancestors of people, and engaged those I interviewed to learn of their life, hobbies, interest, and anything else that is interesting about them,” said Wilson.
There are 80 faces on the cover of her book, designed by students at Orange High School. Photography and editing work was done with the assistance of friends and family members close to Wilson.
“Oh, there are some good stories in here. Stories of romance, moonshine, history, and multiple marriages, and everything from snuff dipping, sassafras root healing to funny and sad stories alike,” says Wilson. Her favorite story is of Adolphus Hester, who might just change the way we think of indoor plumbing.
The title of his story is, “Don’t like Change.” Hester was born in 1883 and died in 1983 and he had 9 children and 31 grandchildren. He was a farmer and his grandson told Wilson that his grandfather did not like change.
“He says when a bathroom was first put in the house, he wouldn’t let them tear down the old “out house.” He would still, no matter how hot or cold, rain or shine, sleet or snow, go outside to the old toilet. When asked why he did this when he had such a nice bathroom in the house, he said, “That’s just it, in the house. I don’t think you ought to be eating and using the toilet under the same roof.”
There is also the story of Chester Poole, who lived to be 91 years old. He was invited to a party in Washington, D.C., with a lady he must have been quite fond of. The party was a black-tie only affair and he had not worn a tie. The lady was upset and she dumped him. From that point on, Poole wore a tie, always, except to bed.
Wilson attributes her inspiration to the late Lizzie Kirkland Benneham. “She was fascinating and just an awesome lady and she inspired me to write this book,” says Wilson.
So far, Wilson has received rave reviews and she says the books are making their way onto Christmas lists for people and that many featured on the cover and inside the books are just humbled and flattered that a book would be written about them and their families.
While she is working on volume two, Wilson is also planning her next two books. One is titled Mrs. Liza (after her mother Eliza Wilson), because she was a known character of the community; the other book is titled “Hugs, Pubs and Watering Holes.” The latter book is about bars and liquor houses in and around Hillsborough.
“Oh people would just be surprised to know what went on way back then,” says Wilson.
For Doris Wilson this collection of stories is perhaps the most intimate detail of the lives of people from the Orange County area. While Wilson might not think of herself as a writer, she should get used to the idea as a published author. Her story is telling the stories of those that are part of this community and the families of Orange County.
Do you have a feature story idea? Contact Jason Hawkins at email@example.com.