The Greenwood Legacy

The Greenwood Legacy

Jacquelyn Cook

$16.95 September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9841258-1-4

Faith, Love, Family and Courage on the Southern Frontier

Our PriceUS$16.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

In 1827, newlyweds Lavinia and Thomas Jones moved into a cabin in the vast pine forests of South Georgia. Over the decades to come, their magnificent home, Greenwood, rose among the pines, and their family grew and prospered. But their faith, love and future were tested by the joys and sorrows of a turbulent era, including the war that nearly destroyed their beloved homeland.

In the authentic storytelling tradition of Eugenia Price and Gilbert Morris, author Jacquelyn Cook turns the true story of the Jones family into a rich drama. The Greenwood Legacy is a sweeping epic covering three generations of one of the most unforgettable families of the American South.

Jacquelyn Cook is the nationally acclaimed author of historical and inspirational fiction with a strong dedication to research, vivid drama and biographical accuracy. With sales of nearly 500,000 copies, her books are well-known and loved by readers of fiction that chronicles the lives of real people and places. THE GREENWOOD LEGACY is the third novel in her trilogy about fascinating Civil War families and the legendary estates they created.


"Jacquelyn Cook writes with such an eloquent tone and attention to detail, the reader is enthralled." -- Kaye's Penquin Posts


Chapter I

"It feels mysterious!” Lavinia gazed out of the phaeton window at the towering trees whispering in the March wind. "It's as if we're in a secret world hidden in pines.”

"Don't be afraid. Look up.” Thomas Jones pointed at the treetops one hundred-twenty feet above, where long needles filtered sunlight in shining shafts. "They're like cathedral windows directing light from heaven.”

"I will conquer my fear,” she promised; but she thought, How far this is from our cultured homes, how different from the eastern coast of Georgia!

Thomas dropped the reins of the sporting carriage between his knees and took her in his arms. "I'll keep you safe. Now that Spain has ceded the Florida Territory to the United States and Andrew Jackson has defeated the Creek Confederacy and moved Chief Neamathla and his Fowltown village into Florida, the Indians and outlaws shouldn't . . .”

Lavinia shivered. The imaginary line that proclaimed them protected inside Georgia was a walk away. The nearest help was at the budding village of Thomasville, three miles east. Hostile Seminoles roamed the thirty-six miles to Tallahassee. Savannah floated like a mirage on the gray Atlantic, two hundred miles away.

They had ridden through thousands of acres of Pine Barrens growing on flat ground that bore no other vegetation except stiff clumps of wiregrass. Suddenly agitation seized her. Her leg, pressed against his on the short seat, gave her away with a violent trembling.

Hurt washed over Thomas's face. "I doubt I'll ever make you love this isolated place as I do. You shouldn't have married a fourth son whose entire inheritance is risked on a spot of land and a year's supplies.” He gestured behind them at the oxcarts following their carriage through the narrow cut that served as a roadway. "I know you could've had your pick of first-born sons who would inherit a grand plantation.”

My pick? Lavinia's soul leaped. She clasped her hands over her cheeks. She had always seen herself as horse-faced. Doesn't he realize I'm not beautiful enough to be a belle? She looked at him in awe. She thought his thick black hair and blue eyes made him the handsomest man she had ever seen. His own man at twenty-four, he was so tall that she could stand to her full height and not slouch as she had done with boys her own age.

Misunderstanding her attitude, Thomas flung out. "I know the Pine Barrens seem wasteland to you. Even the Georgia legislature refuses to build roads here,” he mocked sarcastically. "‘We won't spend the state's money to develop a country that God almighty left in an unfinished condition.'”

Lavinia's sudden happiness at his appraisal of her charms overcame her apprehensions. Still shy, she caught her lower lip between her teeth and grinned. "Perhaps the Lord intends for you to help finish it,” she said, stroking the bristling brows that dominated his strong features, smoothing his face into a smile.

With the tension broken between them, she felt encouraged to continue. "When our ancestors settled the Georgia Colony nearly a hundred years ago, they faced Indians and wilderness. I believe you—and I—can overcome this.”

Thomas kissed her, pouring out relief, longing, anticipation, making her know she was wanted, loved.

The horse, unfettered, began to run, sensing he was nearing oats, home.

"Keep your eyes closed until we round the bend. I have a surprise.”

Lavinia obediently covered her face.

"Whoa, Prince,” Thomas commanded the sorrel. As he lifted Lavinia down from the seat, a ball of white fur roused from sleeping on her silk pumps and whimpered.

"Shhh, Hamlet.” She scooped the puppy into her arms and turned to look.

"Oh, Thomas!” She sighed in pleasure.

A higher spot, which had been concealed, was suddenly revealed. A tremendous oval space had been cleared of pines. Beauty enclosed it into a sheltered haven with an atmosphere of peace. Gleaming globes of magnolia trees dominated. Cherry laurels and berried yaupon holly created an evergreen backdrop for dogwoods, blooming snowy white. Farther out, various hardwoods, not yet dressed for spring, were robed in swags of purple wisteria. Its heady perfume made her giddy. She had not realized Thomas had such poetry in his soul.

Thomas smiled. "I just moved in some native plants. You can add what you like. I know how much you love live oaks. I intend to line both sides of the road so their spreading arms can form a canopy. Visitors will know they're approaching a plantation of importance.” He tilted her chin so that he could gaze into her face. "And when I make enough money, I'll build you a mansion that will endure.”

"I adore our home place,” she whispered. "I love what you have begun.” She breathed the fresh spring air and listened to trilling mockingbirds making soft music drift around them. Suddenly she set down the puppy and ran around the house site, touching each tree and shrub, marveling. The wind snatched her shawl, exposing the slim column of her Empire-waist gown, making the silk cling. She could feel Thomas's eyes upon her.

He loves me, she exhilarated. He created this hidden beauty just for me.

Since their marriage six months ago, Thomas had left her for such long periods that she had feared he didn't love her. He had come ahead with covered wagons loaded with furniture, bringing his people and crates of chickens, ducks, and hogs, preparing a place for her. When they were together, he talked only of their land, and she had even wondered if he planned to hide her from society because she wasn't beautiful. Now she knew. The magnolias told her even more. Hamlet yapped, running behind her, tumbling over his fat stomach. Lavinia laughed, fears gone—at least for the moment.

"Thank you for the flowering trees,” she said as she returned to a bemused Thomas. "I'll design a garden in front of them. When the house is built, it will nestle in as if it had always been here and always will.”

Husky-voiced, Thomas replied, "For now it will be make-believe.”

He kissed her to seal his promise and then led her behind their future home site to a row of notched-log cabins. Men were unloading supplies from the oxcarts that had been driven by shining black twins, Micah and Nahum. She knew Augustus, the giant of a man who had ridden ahead to announce their impending arrival. Thomas introduced a young couple, Samuel and his wife Julie.

It was Julie who spoke up in a sprightly voice. "I done fixed yo' supper.”

"Thank you, Julie.” Lavinia felt proud of the grown-up graciousness she displayed in greeting them. All the while she struggled to fix her memory so she could call them by name tomorrow.

Thomas showed her the dogtrot cabin that was to be their temporary home. One shingled roof united two log rooms that were joined by an open-ended porch.

"It's like a dollhouse,” exclaimed Lavinia, clapping her hands. "Perfect for two.”

She meant what she said, but she envisioned her stepmother, standing in shock, her rope of pearls heaving on her bosom, her fox fur shaking on her shoulders as she compared Lavinia's cabin with her own sprawling mansion. Lavinia's lip protruded. But this is mine. I like it. It will do fine.

She glanced at her confident husband. Their servants stood behind him with idle hands, awaiting commands. How would she manage all these new things? Maybe Mama's advice would have helped—occasionally.

Dusk was gathering, and Thomas dismissed the group. He helped her up the step to the porch and opened a door, letting cooking aromas entice her. Beef, turning on a spit over the open fireplace, and biscuits, browning in a Dutch oven placed on the hearth and packed in hot coals, smelled wonderful. She was hungry to her toes. Thomas smiled and stopped her before she could enter. He lifted her in his arms and carried her over the threshold.

He held her aloft as she gazed in delight at her domain. Firelight twinkled over a table laid with damask and set with her heirloom silver in colonial fiddle-thread pattern. Lavinia smiled. Julie had unpacked barrels of their wedding presents. She had placed porcelain treasures about the rough-walled room. How incongruous, but they make it inviting.

"Our home,” Lavinia whispered.

Thomas kissed her, and she sensed they both felt an excitement that this, rather than their time in her parents' home, was really their wedding night.

All he said was, "We'll mark down today, March 3, 1827.”


Thomas Jones stood surveying his acres as dawn streaked a freshly washed sky. Satisfaction overflowed. He had worried about Lavinia's first glimpse of their solitude, but last night a reticent girl had become a wife. He was ready to build her a kingdom, a dynasty. The very air here filled him with vigor.

He had fallen in love with her when she was only fourteen. He had waited, biding his time, knowing she was the one he would give his life to win. The moment Lavinia finished her schooling and was marriageable age, he had asked for her hand. They had married last September, but he agonized that he had little to offer her because his father, James Jones, had just died, willing him only $730.00 and five workers.

Thomas reflected on how the Jones's fortunes in Georgia had begun when his grandfather, Welshman Francis Jones, had accepted a Royal Grant in Saint George's Parish in 1769 when Georgia was a colony. Others in the clan, including Thomas's father, James, had received additional land grants and had established their homes up the Savannah River toward Augusta. Thomas knew these coastal plantations would never have endured had it not been for the English custom of keeping estates together for first-born sons. Nevertheless, it hurt when the eldest inherited nearly everything.

When I have children, none will feel second best, Thomas vowed. Everything I do will be different.

The difference had begun when he looked to the newly available lands in the southwestern corner of Georgia. This area had long been in dispute even after Andrew Jackson broke the Creek Indian power at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. The general had to face Neamathla, who had touched off the Seminole War by an "ils ne passerant pas” stand at Fowltown, Georgia. Finally, the United States had paid the Indians for several tracts of land. It was distributed to the citizens by the 1820 land lottery. Many who had won the draw had taken one look and rejected these empty Pine Barrens. Last January, Thomas had bought Land Lot 83 from one of those lottery winners, and then, carefully, had purchased enough surrounding land to make 2500 acres.

People laughed. No one wanted this farm. It was landlocked, they said. How would anyone ever get a crop to market through the wilds of Florida's Indian Territory?

But Thomas had seen it, loved it. He had put his hands in the soil and known it would grow cotton. Excited, he suggested to his younger brother, Mitchell, that he also buy a home place.

Now, exhilarated, he breathed the sharp, clean pine scent. My land! My air!

He threw back his shoulders. On rolling red hills, the evergreen trees were spaced six, ten, even twelve feet apart. The Indians had known that long leaf pines would die without sunlight, but they could stand fire and heat as other trees could not. They had managed their woodland by control burning.

So they could maneuver. See game. Enemies, Thomas thought. I'll do that, too.

Interspersing the open pine stands were dense hardwood hammocks where live oak and hickory grew along creeks that bubbled up from springs, providing constant clear, cool water. He could hear the calling of bobwhites, telling him that his land abounded with the quail. He had seen turkey and deer and knew his family would never go hungry. He owned only one spot that was swamp.

One day, he thought, my place will stretch all the way to the black waters of the Ochlockonee River.

Daylight was breaking, and Thomas offered a quick prayer for his good fortune as his workmen appeared, yawning. He strode forward to meet them, ready to do twice what they did.

What first? A proper house for Lavinia and a crop to pay for it.

He directed the twins to the sawpit. He showed Nahum how to climb down into the pit while Micah stood astride the log. Muscles flexed and gleamed as the men drew the saw up and down.

Thomas laughed and joked with Augustus and Samuel as they harnessed the mules. Big Augustus had been on Thomas's father's place as far back as he could remember. The newer hand, Samuel was small and wiry, but he was a willing worker. They set in to plow small fields, some tediously cleared, some merely patches between ever-present pines, which had been girdled to kill them.

Thomas could hardly wait for spring planting.

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