By LEIGH PROM
An award-winning bluegrass band, Sons of the South, is making Franklin County history come alive through its song “Jackets of Grey.” On June 17, 2017, the band played at the Katherine Grace Manor, which is now under new ownership and called Belle Garden Estate.
The group also stayed at the venue the night before and the night of its performance. The venue’s property includes the Price/Taylor Cemetery, which is the resting place of Confederate veteran brothers Thomas and Josiah Taylor.
Band member Connor Lambert wrote “Jackets of Grey.”
“I was walking over the grounds and came to the graveyard,” Lambert said. “Later in the day someone told me the story of the two brothers and suggested I write a song about it all. I revisited the graves and took some notes and wrote the song.”
“Jackets of Grey” is based on the true story of how the Taylor brothers’ mother stood on the manor’s porch and cried as she watched her boys go off to war in their grey suits and later how she cried when the boys would be brought home in caskets in their grey suits.
A Ceremony of Remembrance was held at the cemetery a week prior to Sons of the South’s concert to honor the Taylor brothers. Linda Stanley, director of the Franklin County Historical Society, provided more information through a fact sheet written about the event.
“Captain [Thomas Skelton] Taylor, named for his grandfather Skelton Taylor of Taylor’s Store, died not quite two months past his 24th birthday. He enlisted June 1, 1861 to serve in Company D of the 24th Regiment of Virginia Infantry and was elected captain by his fellow soldiers. He led them at First Manassas; however, shortly became too ill with typhoid fever to return to the battlefield. He was able to serve only about three months before his death in October 1861 at Camp Ellis in Fairfax County.
“[Private] Josiah Taylor enlisted shortly after his 20th birthday and joined the Franklin Rangers — Company D of 2nd Virginia Cavalry, mustering out July 7, 1862. Fifteen days later, he was sick with typhoid in a hospital at Charlottesville. He was transferred to a hospital in Lynchburg July 23 and died one month after entering service.”
Sons of the South performed “Jackets of Grey” in January at the Sons of the Confederate Veterans state convention in North Carolina. Lambert reports that the song was well-received and that he’s been having people wanting him to come play the song at their meetings.
Lambert said performing at Katherine Grace Manor in Wirtz was “great.”
“It was one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen,” he said. “We really enjoyed staying there and we really enjoyed playing there. They were really nice to us.”
Susan Mitchell Ober, owner of the venue at the time of the band’s visit, fondly recalls having church on the front porch the Sunday morning after their performance. “We sang gospel songs and it was just priceless.”
According to the band’s website, www.sonsofthesouthbluegrassband.com, “Sons of the South is a traditional bluegrass band located in the Western and Central Piedmont of North Carolina. The band has been in existence for over 50 years. Over the years, the band members have changed but the traditional bluegrass songs, tight harmony and professional instrument work has been a mainstay for the band.”
Sons of the South has received numerous awards, including first place bluegrass band at the 2015 Galax Fiddler’s Convention.
Lambert said the band is about to record “Jackets of Grey” and that it will be on the group’s website by May.