Article on the marker dedication as published in the Athens News Courier.(July 1, 2007)
“Historic marker recognizes 'Lucy'
The delicate balance of maintaining a family has always been difficult. Divorce, disease, death, wars, poverty or excess wealth often contribute to scattering the family and destroy its home. .
For an African-American Indian woman in the 1800's keeping a family together would have been particularly challenging
However, one special woman, Lucy Bedingfield, who fit that description, was able to survive and thrive here in Limestone County. Her name is given to Lucy's branch, as well as a cemetery and a park in the western part of Limestone County on Snake Road in the Little Elk Community.
Bedingfield was born in 1832 on land that was just beginning to be farmed, two years after the Indian Removal Act. During this decade Indian families were forced from the land, and some were taken on Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Some of her family members were removed, but Bedingfield, daughter of a Cherokee Indian and a slave of Henry A.B. Yarbrough, remained here most of her life. She learned to tell stories and became a source of advice and news to her community.
Bedingfield married a former slave named Meridith Bedingfield and the family grew to nine children. Today a number of their descendants still live in the Little Elk Community - with last names of Weaver, Yarbrough or Harden. Bedingfield's children were named Mary; Charles, George, Martha Sue, Franky, Al ice, Yancy, Rosetta and Lewis.
By 1888, Bedingfield was able to purchase 170 acres for $600. This land was continuously owned and farmed by her until her daughter, Martha Sue, and her husband, Joe Yarbrough, purchased it. Before flood control, Bedingfield and her family would remove their livestock and themselves to an island when the waters rose and remain until they subsided. Then they would return and grow vegetable crops in the rich soil deposited by the river after the spring rains.
In 1935 Martha Sue Yarbrough had to sell the land to TVA since it bordered the area intended for Wheeler Reservoir.
Unique to the area was the school at the Little Elk Missionary Baptist Church, established in 1874, and continued until 1930, when the Little Elk Elementary School was built beside Snake Road. Those three acres were made available by Mary Cunningham, mother to Joe Weaver Jr., great grandson of Bedingfield. The land was bought back by him when the school was closed. Superintendent of Little Elk School was Emma Cate Gray. Two other teachers there in the early 1940s were Minnie B. Yarbrough and Louise Lockhart. They would expect only the best from each child.
For more than a century, this rural section of Limestone County has had a heterogeneous society consisting of Euro-American, African-American and American Indian ( Cherokee and Chickasaw). Bedingfield, whose Indian name was Finch, remained here until she was elderly. Then she had to join her youngest daughter, Rosetta Price and family, who had been removed to Oklahoma. She is buried there.
The name "Lucy" is given to the spring-fed water known as Lucy's Branch and its surrounding 150 acres which makes up the TVA Forest Management holdings. This includes the park south of the branch and maintained by TVA contract with the county. It has a small sign naming it as Lucy’s Wildlife Primitive Camping Park.
BY PA1RICIA L. ATHA
Patricia L. Atha is a resident of the Lucy's Branch community” and member of the Limestone Historical Society.
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