by Gene Byrd
Circa May 1959
Another stately and venerable oak in the forest of time has fallen. Last week that "grand old man" George Aden Burgin passed from this vale of tears. I had come home from my duties in the classroom and was looking at the motley collection of plants and shrubs that occupy my yard and give me so much pleasure. My daughter Jackie came out and said, "Mother, said to tell you that Mr. Aden Burgin is dead." Although the news was not wholly unexpected, I felt a keen sense of loss. I realized that another landmark of our community had been removed. Memories of this man from early childhood came unbidden to mind.
I was brought back to the present by a question from my six-year-old daughter, who, with the intuition granted to the young had remained silent by my side for several minutes. "Daddy, just what was your association with Aden Burgin?" Not only was I pleased with her choice of words but also with the trend of thought that was brought to mind.
Aden Burgin's father was a neighbor and Civil War companion to my great-grandfather, Aden Keeter of McDowell county. Where Grandpa Keeter got his first name I don't know unless his father was geographically minded, but my daddy and Mr. Burgin were both name for him. My Grandpa Keeter and Aden Burgin's father made that long trek from North Carolina all the way to Gettysburg, and Grandpa didn't come back.
I have heard the story many times from my grandmother (who was born in 1856) how in the summer of 1863 she was attending her first school. The teacher called her into the yard explaining someone had a message for her.
A bearded and tired man that she scarcely recognized as a neighbor said, "Bell I have bad news for your. Your Daddy is dead. He was wounded in the battle, and we left him dying under a tree. Before I left, I filled his canteen for him and asked if there was any message. He sent his love and requested that you might try to meet him in a better world. Now, child, go home and tell your Ma."
Grandmother, too young to appreciate all the implications of the situation, hastened home with her message. Her mother's reaction was to throw her apron over her face and hasten into the other side of the double cabin. "When she came back", said grandmother, "she never was the same again."
I never asked who the neighbor was; youngsters don't always inquire for details. A few years ago Mr. Burgin wrote a fine series of historical articles for the Black Mountain News, and retold the same story, but from his father's viewpoint. I am sure the entire community shares the sorrow of the bereaved family.