The Margaret Tree
High in the mountains of North Carolina; where the mist gathers, almost as if were Scotland;
there stands a fir tree over one hundred feet tall. It is a tree of memories, dedicated to the generations of Margaret’s who sat beneath it. I am the oldest daughter of the Margaret of her generation. I have asked my Mother over the years about the history of the Margaret Sinclair. She told me when the time came my Grandmother would tell me. A text arrived this morning; Mother and I will be leaving shortly for Sinclair Mountain in North Carolina; the ancestral home of Margaret Sinclair. There are so many questions that I want to ask. Mother only told me that Grandmother Sinclair would answer any questions I may have; she is the Margaret that carries the story. When I have a daughter my Mother will pass the story onto her. During the pandemic we could not travel to Sinclair Mountain; Grandmother had pressed my Mother to bring me NOW! Now it was.
The flight from Austin, Texas to Durham, North Carolina, was delayed due to inclement weather. It snowed, shutting down everything in Texas for several days. Finally we were able to obtain a flight to Durham. The plane landed an hour late which meant that Grandmother’s chauffeur would have to wait at the airport until we landed. I hate to fly; the anticipation of seeing Grandmother again was not helping in the least. She was a very sarcastic woman in her early seventies. No one had the nerve to ask her exactly how old she is; even if she would tell anyone. I thought about why there was a Margaret in every generation back to the original Margaret who arrived in the United States in 1775. That was all I knew; Mother is the type of person that if she wants you to know something she will tell you; if she doesn’t want you to know you never will.
Finally the plane landed at the Durham Airport. We noticed a tall white haired gentleman in a black uniform; holding a white sign:
The Margaret Sinclair
That was Mother and I. We followed John to the limo that awaited us. Our bags had already been taken to the Limo. John, opened the doors for us. It was amazing, I am so used to opening my own door, I could learn to live like this...maybe. John eased the Limo onto the interstate; then onto a narrow secondary road. Trees for as far as we could see. We could feel our ascent up Sinclair Mountain. On the precipice stood the Sinclair antebellum home that Mother had spoken about so often. John took Mother’s hand helping her out of the Limo, I was about to open my door when Mother cleared her throat; in other words wait and let John help you alight. I sighed and waited. The maid a woman by the name Mary showed us to our rooms. I wondered where this phantom Grandmother was. Once we were settled in our rooms Mary announced that Grandmother would like to see me alone.
I found the library after several attempts; Grandmother stood there; near a long lovely bay window. She looked regal standing there:
“Good afternoon Margaret. I am your Grandmother. I have been looking forward to meeting
you and telling about the history of your name. Come with me please child.”
Child, child! I thought; I was seventeen almost eighteen. I followed her as we began our walk to the top of Mount Sinclair. She stopped when she arrived at our destination a hug fir tree. It looked to be well over one hundred feet high. It’s blue highlights hit by the sun. It was beautiful here on Mount Sinclair. Grandmother made a fuss over sitting down in front of the tree. She motioned for me to sit next to her. I thought: ‘this must be some sort of tradition or what have you. Grandmother smiled as she began to speak:
“I may be in my seventies child but my mind is still good. The reason you are here today is
because it is time to tell you about the Sinclair. We hailed form Loch Rannock in the
Scottish highlands. The first Margaret Sinclair arrived here in 1775; the young bride of
Jamie Sinclair. Ah, she was a bonnie lass if ever there was one. She had flaming red hair and
green eyes, skin of alabaster. Jamie, her intended husband was a brae laddie. He stood over
six feet, with sparkling blue eyes that danced when he spoke. The day Margaret arrived Jamie
took her by the hand. They walked to the top of the mountain, where Jamie promised
to build her a grand house. Margaret, noticed a wee fir tree; she told Jamie that their love
would endure just as the fir tree would.
Jamie knew that he would at some juncture fight in the Revolutionary War at some point but
he simply knew that the time was approaching for him to leave. He hated the thought of
leaving Margaret alone. There were Shawnee Indians that took white women captives t
turning them into slaves. The British were also in the area. Jamie worried about leaving
Like most men Jamie belonged to militia. Their only purpose was to protect the
their homestead and their women.
Margaret, Maggie as Jamie called her, was a woman of determination. Since she could not
disguise herself, she prepared to live in a cave until Jamie returned. Jamie convinced her
she would be safe in the wee cabin. He sternly warned her not to be out at night. Shutter
the windows and put the huge bar across the front door. He also instructed her to use the trap
door which was used as a root cellar but also as a passage into the forest and the near by
‘och, Jamie I no want to be stayin here; not with the British in the area. I was just but a wee
barren when my Father fought at Culloden. Most of the Mac Donald clan was wiped out,
dead on the fields of Culloden. My Mother feared for our lives...we lived in caves. Having a
name such as MacDonald was like havin a target painted her back. We lived like animals for
five long years. We fled to the Isle of Skye where we hid another two years. Finally, we
returned to Loch Rannock and home. The heather was blooming when Mother became ill.
She urged me to leave Scotland; go ta America, get away from the bloody British. Instead
here they are in the same area.’
She cried then as Jamie comforted her:
‘Lass, Maggie, I won’t be leavin ya forever but the militia has a job to do and I must go.
I’ll be leavin ya with the squirrel gun. Don’t be afraid, these mountains are just as
the mountains in Scotland. The British no like the mountains vera much.”
Jamie, hoped that his words were true. The British would not be found on Sinclair.
“Margaret one day found herself sitting beneath the fir tree just as we are now. Suddenly,
she heard the trapping of feet. She quickly scrambled to her feet, running to the cave entrance.
She could feel her body trembling as she listed to the feet approach. ‘Oh dear God, please
let it no be the British.’ She saw the black boots and red breeches...the English. Her
heart sank, she knew that Jamie kept food in the cave. She grabbed the musket, she
would go down fighting. The soldiers marched on past the cave. She was safe.
Time went on, Jamie returned vowing to never leave Sinclair Mountain again. The next
Margaret Sinclair was the antebellum Margaret. When the Civil War broke out, North
Carolina joined the confederacy. Margaret stood under the fir tree praying that her
husband Jed would return safely. The tree was more than a sapling at this point. The
union soldiers visited the home frequently. Margaret entertained them never revealing that
she was a confederate sympathizer. She was passing important information to General Joseph
Johnston toward the end of the war. One sunny spring day Jed came home from the war.
Margaret noticed a shaggy figure with a limp approaching. ‘Not another one, I think I
have fed half the confederate army and even part of the union army.’ Suddenly the shape
became more familiar...it was Jed.
The next Margaret, found herself living here in our ancestral home. The Great War, was
raging when Jack her husband; graduated from West Point. Upon graduating he was
commissioned a second lieutenant. He promised Margaret, he would return home. Margaret
found her way to the fir tree, she pleaded with God to spare Jack. The door bell summoned
Margaret one afternoon. There was a telegram. She clutched it in her hand as she cried;
Jack was killed in action in the Battle of Belleau Wood June 26th, 1918. Margaret
would have to run Magnolia Run herself. She closed off most of the house, living sparingly
in three rooms.
My Mother Margaret, was born in this house. The only child of Jack and Margaret Sinclair
Jackson. Margaret married Samuel Larkins, he was an Annapolis man. He was an officer on
the USS Arizona. Margaret sobbed beneath the fir tree when informed he had gone down
with the ship. She remarried I was born of that marriage. That brings me to you my dear
granddaughter. Magnolia Run will be yours when you turn twenty one, to commemorate
the two hundred and forty six year anniversary of the arrival of Margaret Sinclair. My
story is now complete.”
I sighed as I realized what grandmother had done. I could not imagine living on Sinclair Mountain, at Magnolia Run; however I had to fulfill the legend of Margaret Sinclair. That is who I am.