Friday, December 11, 2009


With the holidays upon us, I reflect upon the last year and feel truly blessed to be a part of a family whose lineage and traditions find its heart and home in the mountains of North Carolina. Just as those majestic mountains still guard and protect the land of Greene, Etta, Grandpa Jimmy and Grandma Sally, so are we embraced by the love we share as a part of the Michael / Shook clan.

It's been quite a year for all of us....Thoughts of the reunion in July continuously brighten my days, and I can still see all of you clearly in my mind as I stood in front of the hearth at the Matney Community Center. What an amazing homecoming! How wonderful to meet people about whom I had heard stories all my life, and how special to see cousins I grew up with and hadn't seen for decades!! It's so true...there's nothing like family, and I'd place ours at the top of the list in terms of strength, love, and connection at the heart any day. We are truly, truly blessed.

As the year comes to a close, I pause to reflect upon the lives of Ruth and Hoyle, Tom and Ada, Grady and Myrtle, Larry, Zeb, Carroll, Michael Tanner, little Samuel Wilson and others who now look upon us from the world of spirit. I give thanks for our elders who are advancing in years and say a special prayer for those whose lives are impacted by health problems. And, I delight in the images in my mind of the children in our family who will continue our legacy. There is nothing stronger than the bond we share - we can always look to the Shooks and Michaels for the encourgement, strength or wisdom we may need at any moment.

The happiest of holidays to you all, AND don't forget to mark you calendars for July 4, 2011 for the next "gathering of the clan."

Infinite love,


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I took notes one afternoon while sitting in Grandma's living room in Pigeon Roost as Aunt Audrey talked to me about her love for Carroll Shook and Aunt Ada and Uncle Tom...Here's what she told me...

"I loved staying down at Aunt Ada's house. She only had boys, and I loved to pretend I was her little girl. She'd let me wear her clothes, her dresses, and I always felt real pretty in them....
When the 1940 flood came, I was at Aunt Ada's, and Bradley was staying with Grandpa and Grandma Michael. I remember seeing them walking up to Aunt Ada's carrying their clothes as the flood waters were rising..."

She went on to talk about Carroll Shook..."Carroll was my hero. He always made over me when I'd stay down at Aunt Ada's. He would play with me and chase me around. He'd hide in the boxwoods around Aunt Ada's house, and as I ran by, he'd jump out and scare me. I remember crying when he left home. He joined the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and left home to plant pine trees."

(Posted by Tanya Shook Wilder)


(Note: As I was cleaning off my desk this morning, I came across some notes I took while talking to Audrey Shook Rominger one afternoon at Grandma Ruth's home in Pigeon Roost. )

Hoyle and Tom Shook's mother, Sally Hayes Gragg Shook, was married to Larkin Gragg prior to being married to James Dalton Shook. Larkin went out west, where he died, leaving Sally Hayes Gragg a widow. Sally and Larkin Gragg had four daughters, half-sisters to Hoyle and Tom once Sally married James Shook:

a. Blanche Gragg married a Mr. (?) Frank and had a daughter, Hilda
b. Belle Gragg married a Mr. John (?) Calloway and had a son and daughter (still living ?)
c. Lizzie Gragg married a Mr. (?) Townsend
d. Onie Gragg married a Mr. Beard (Baird ?)


(NOTE: Pauline Shook Bender recently sent this email to Myra Shook, and I thought it would be nice to share with all. (Mado is her sister, Madeleine, who was also at the reunion.)

Hi, Myra!
Thank you so much for e-mailing the photos. Looking at the picture and remembering the reunion makes me think of the cool air of the mountains ... something in very short supply here in the Southwest at the moment.

I apologize deeply for not responding sooner. I thought I had, and discovered that I had saved the e-mail as a draft and not actually e-mailed it.
How is your Mom doing?

The day Mado and I left Boone to head down to Greensboro, it was raining, and I said to Mado that the mountains were crying because many of us were leaving the mountains to go back to our daily lives ... We visited the Michael land, met some bees furiously buzzing about the fireplace (and me), looked at the height of the weeds that had to be cut to create the path (gigantic height for weeds) to the old barn and the house ... drove up some of the "roads" that have been built on the land, there was even a picnic place, listened to the rushing creek. Peace.

We also videotaped but I don't know how well the video will be - camera is not waterproof so we tended to film from the inside of the car. We also drove down a bit on Dutch Creek, but I'm not familiar with the road and we didn't know where it would go, so we turned around and went back to 194.

I recognize most of the people in the picture, but not everyone. Who are the people who are primarily in the back row, left, of the photo? I recognize all in the front row, including some of the back row through Larry and James, but to Larry right and beyond, I don't know who they are. Would that be Glen wearing the cap? I recognize Bill Rominger. I was amazed to see so many people, and at the same time it was sooooooo heartwarming to see so many relatives! Mado and I talked about our experience later, and we both felt that at the reunion, there were these unseen arms holding us, wrapping us in warmth. That's how it felt.

I had e-mail correspondence with Eric, Uncle Carroll's stepson, who lives in Germany. I asked him if he planned on visiting the US again in the near future. His reply was that no, his travel days were over. Shortly after his last visit to the US, around 2000 or 2001, he was diagnosed with a cancer, an effect of Agent Orange, so his immune system is not in tip top shape, making travel nearly impossible for him. His wife passed away some time in the last two years or less, but he lives in the same apartment building as his daughter, Sandra lives in, so I think he is doing okay.
Otherwise, not much is going on, except Neil and I seem to have spent nearly every weekend (since I came back from the reunion) going back and forth to the Phoenix area. We did so again yesterday. Depending on where in the PHX metropolitan area we go, it is a drive of just under two hours to over two hours with radar photo enforcements galore. Already, we are looking forward to next weekend. I can't believe it's almost September!

I forgot to ask before I left NC - is there a way to make a donation to the Matney Community building? I think there was a box at the reunion. And also to the reunion fund to help defray the expenses from the reunion? Mado and I were running short on cash, embarassingly, and we didn't bring our checkbooks with us, so we couldn't leave any money before we left.

I spoke to my parents a week ago or so. There had been some strong earthquakes of late. So far, they are doing well.

Take care, please say "hi" to your mom and Tanya, and our love to everyone!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Recently I received the following message from Bill Smyer of Fancy Gap, VA. He's a distant relative of ours on the Michael side. His great great-grandfather, William Mastin Michael, was a brother to Larkin Michael, father of Greene Michael. That would make him my generation's 4th cousin, and my father's generation's 3rd cousin. See the message he sent me below. He also has contact with Bianca Stout, a former student of Aunt Mildred's and a relative (by marriage) to Gertrude Potter Shook. It's a small world! I hope Bill will be able to attend our July, 2011 reunion.

Bill's message:

To: Ms. Tanya Shook Wilder

Hello, I'm Bill Smyer in Fancy Gap, VA. My GG-grandfather was William Mastin Michael, a brother of your GG-grandfather Larkin Michael. So we're fourth cousins, I believe.A few days ago Bianca Stout gave me the link to your blog about your Watauga County reunion last month. You have done an outstanding job with it! I wanted to make contact with you to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading it to learn more about my distant Michael cousins. I found you through your comment about Nash Shook and Facebook, then your sister Myra told me about your FB handle of "Senora Wilder."

I have already made a couple of comments on your blog. (Grace Shook's middle name was Virginia according to the North Carolina Death Collection), and I have entered into my genealogy file several facts from your blog, sourcing you as:Reunion in the Mountains, Tanya Shook Wilder,

I keep my file on-line at, except that data on the living are masked to protect privacy. My file is here:

I always want to give proper credit to others for their research, and if you have any changes you wish me to make in how I have sourced you, or if you prefer I not even use your blog as a source, please let me know.

Just wanted to let you know I'm out here. ;-) if you or anyone else in the Larkin Michael branch is interested in sharing data, I can be contacted outside FB at:

Again, fine job on your blog.

Thanks and best wishes,Bill

PS: I admired your tribute to your grandmother Ruth, and added a link to it in the Notes section of my page for her:

(Posted by Tanya Shook Wilder)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


It's hard to believe two months have passed since the Shook / Michael family gathered in Matney for our family reunion. We're saying that about 175 people attended, and each of the three families, Grady & Myrtle Michael's, Ada & Tom Shook's, and Ruth & Hoyle Shook's, were represented. We'll call the photo above the offical reunion portrait, but several folks had left before it was taken. In this photo, we see children and grandchildren of the original three families.

The weather couldn't have cooperated with us any better. We had food for 350 people, and the photo show James Shook put together was spectacular. I am grateful to him, his brother, Larry, Billy Rominger, Myra Shook, and everyone else who helped us pull this gathering off. It was truly a labor of love, and by all the hugs that were exchanged, I think it might have been one of the greatest love gatherings ever.

By unanimous vote, our next gathering will be in two years, July 2011. Put the weekend closest to the 4th on your calendars and let's see if we can bring in all those who couldn't make it this time to enjoy another reunion in the mountains.

(posted by Tanya Shook Wilder)

Monday, June 22, 2009


(written by Tanya Wilder, June 18, 2009)

Her body finally gave way this morning, and as she has told all of us for many a year now, Grandma died, "right here in my chair."

She'd had a restless night, and when my aunts and cousins got her up for the morning, it was evident she was struggling to breathe.

Peacefully, she let go... right there in her chair....
Ten children, eight of whom still live...Around 30 grandchildren...Numerous great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren...a woman of great faith....the best biscuit and gravy maker in the strong as the mountains that surrounded her all her life...had the prettiest dahlia gardens in all the mountains...loved the hummingbirds who flocked to her feeders...possessed a dry humor and a cute little chuckle til the last day of her life...loved all her family through thick and thin....raised everything from a bountiful garden to baby groundhogs...when a neighbor was sick or died, folks called on Grandma for strength...spent days upon days on the ground in the mountains picking galax to sell for money to buy herself a few things...could squirt milk from the cow's udders straight into your mouth...never touched a drop of beautiful in passage as in life...

Other than my own mom, the most influential and loving woman in my life....
(With her second son, Rhonda Shook, in the photo above_
(Posted by Tanya Shook Wilder)