I’ve always known my family is strange…literally. My grandfather’s name was Fern Hall Strange and I’ve traced his ancestry back to twelfth century Britain. What I haven’t been able to decipher is what really happened with Gramps’ uncle, Noverta.
Great-Uncle Noverta “allegedly” killed his wife. I say allegedly because Gramps was a no-nonsense sort of fellow who could call bullshh…eh, who didn’t let emotion cloud his rather superior judgment. Since my grandfather didn’t believe Noverta was guilty, I have to presume innocence despite evidence to the contrary.
Here’s the thing. The murder isn’t the mystery. The strange twist (pun intended) in this tale is what happened after the conviction.What follows is strictly hearsay…
Shortly after Noverta’s incarceration in Jackson, Mississippi’s Parchment Prison, our hero/villain escaped from his cell. Supposedly, the guards were bribed (now you know what happened to my family’s fortune J). Our con somehow made his way to Colorado where he assumed a new identity--John Quincy Adams. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Under this pseudonym, Noverta remarried, sired five children, and get this, became the deputy sheriff. No, really.
Our tale gets stranger still. Noverta worked his way up to sheriff and flaunted his tin star for almost thirty years. According to some sources, there was a deathbed confession, followed by a Time or a Life Magazine article. I’ve done extensive research, yet have been unable to find any news story about Noverta.Here’s the part of the mystery I unraveled. What follows is factual.
With some extensive research (and a lot of luck), I found another person looking for Noverta. The mystery woman was from—you guessed it--Colorado. My fellow Noverta-stalker turned out to be Noverta’s granddaughter. She was able to confirm Noverta had indeed been a sheriff, although she knew nothing about the murder (thus adding legitimacy to my suspicion that there was no magazine article).Finding my distant cousin was an amazing thing, but finding the Adams side of the family tree enabled me to locate Noverta’s nephew, Larry. He told another story.
We’re back to hearsay, but believable hearsay…
The nephew told me the state of Colorado gave Noverta immunity. He said Noverta’s wife committed suicide. Noverta’s sons spent over $100,000 to clear their dad’s name, and eventually all charges were dropped.I have not been able to confirm Larry’s story. Being an author, I rather like the ending, although one might say it’s a bit convenient. Hearing about my infamous great uncle spurred me to become a serious writer—maybe even a seriously strange one. I’ll keep digging. To coin a famous TV phrase, the truth is out there.
What about you? Do you have any strange limbs in your family tree?
Blue Ridge Fear
Coming November 23rd