Published in the D.A.R. Patience Wright Chapter, Laguna Beach, CA – April 2019
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One Daughter’s Ancestral Story – Suzanne O’Rourke I am a California born DAR sister, but had always been drawn to North Carolina where my father’s family settled in the 1740s. While in NC, I let my husband, John, know that we needed to drive to Chapel Hill and find the old homestead. I had heard that until about 20 years ago, it had still been in the family, but no one could verify that.
John being the curious type said, “Sure, why not.” Our first stop was at the Orange County Deed Department where we were allowed to dig through old land grant records, and eventually made a copy of a hand drawn map that showed George Long’s 100-acre farm alongside “Long Creek” and a few other geographic landmarks. Keep in mind in the 1740s this land was under assault during the French Indian wars and was densely wooded wilderness.
We did some triangulation that day and looked at several old churches and small cemeteries. While in one of the cemeteries, a woman drove up, got out of her car and walked up to us to ask, “Can I help you?” I explained we were just looking for some ancestors’ tombstones for the Long family. She quickly responded, “Oh, there is only one Long left around these parts, and that is Jack Long. But he’s at death’s door. He lives on the corner of these two roads in a small red brick house and you should go see him right away.” Well it was getting late on a beautiful Carolina summer evening, and we decided it would be bad form to drop in on an elderly sick person.
Three years passed, and we found ourselves back in North Carolina. I wanted to resume the hunt. We packed our map and headed out. This time we stopped by a small log cabin where a woman, Beverly, was sitting out enjoying her coffee. We told her of our quest to find the ancestral home of the Long’s. She explained that she was a tenant and the cabin belonged to the Minnis’swho had bought it from some Long’s years ago and moved it on to their farm.
Her understanding was that it was the original Long family homestead cabin from the 1740s. This was amazing.
Time was short and we drove on in search of the Long Farm. A few miles on, we pulled over on the shoulder of the country road under the shade of a towering ancient oak. As we stood there leaning against the hood of the car with our map stretched out, a farmer walked up from the property we were in front of. “Can I help you?” People sure were helpful around these parts. I explained to him that I was looking for family history for the Long’s.
As if from a script, he said verbatim what the lady in the cemetery had said to us three years before. “Oh, there is only one Long left and that’s Jack Long. He’s really old and nearly dead. He lives in a red brick house on Arthur MinnisRoad and you should go see him right away.
This time, the startling coincidence was too much to ignore.
We immediately drove over to Jack Long’s house. It was twilight on an Autumn evening. John was not feeling well, so I left him in the car and knocked on the door. A diminutive, graceful elderly woman answered the door.
I introduced myself. “Hi, I am sorry to intrude, but my name is Suzanne Long and…” I didn’t have the chance to say another word. She gently tugged my hand and pulled me into the house and into a darkened living room. As my eyes adjusted, I saw about twenty-five people sitting all around the room.
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One Daughter’s Ancestral Story – Suzanne O’Rourke (continued)
In a recliner was a large, strong framed man with thick shock white hair, a blanket pulled over his legs and an IV hooked up to his arm. The woman, Jack Long’s wife Thelma, simply placed my hand in Jack’s huge hand and said, “Jack, she’s come.” He squeezed my hand with so much gusto, I flinched, and then he began to softly cry.
I looked at Thelma, knowing there must be some horrible mix-up. Searching her face for an explanation. Aware of all the eyes on me from every direction. She smiled with a knowing look in her eye.
And then Jack began to speak. “What took you so long to come back. I’ve been waiting for you.” For two hours he clenched my hand. I knelt next to him as we talked. Everyone was collectively transfixed. The room was silent, reverence for this man they all loved permeated the air.
The lady in the cemetery three years before had related the chance meeting with us to Jack and Thelma. Jack had been waiting for me to return. His brother had run away in the 1920s to California and had never been heard of again. Jack wanted to know how his brother was. I didn’t know the family connection, but I told him about the Long’s of California, and he told me about his brother. The depth of emotion we both shared, transcended conversation. It was a shared history, a shared story, a lost love of a missing brother and the love of family, all our family.
It was getting late, and we had a long drive ahead ofus, so I gently kissed Jack with tears streaming down both our faces and hugged Thelma. I said my good-byes to their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren huddling around me and John. They were so grateful to have been present for our unexpected appearance.
I felt like a fraud. It was all just a random coincidence, but we had all just shared an unexplainable mystical interlude.
The next day, I called Thelma and she told me how Jack had been waiting all these years for me to return. Her voice smiled when she shared with me, “He was so happy that you came.”
Jack Long died in his sleep the night I met him. His family believes he was waiting for me to return.
My search for my family has taken more equally unexpected turns including my proving to DAR that my 4thGreat Grandfather George Long was an Unknown Patriot in the Revolutionary War.
The discovery that the farm is still in the family 273 years later and owned by my 2nd cousins Betty and Linda Long Cates was another shocker. Betty found me on Ancestry.comasking details about their farm, because she thought I knew more about it than she did. It’s still a family run farm on the same hallowed ground today and the next generation has taken over. The farm was directly across from Jack Long’s house, but now it’s called Cates Corner Farm. It is the land on the Deed Map that we thought was the Long’s, and we finally verified it. In 2017 I hosted with Betty and Linda a Long Family Reunion on the Farm and more than 100 descendants came from all over North America and Europe.
I am now leading a Tour back to our English and Scotch Irish home places in 2020. Over 50 descendants are joining in the trip to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors. New puzzles need to be solved, old mysteries resolved. The thrill of the chase continues. The richness of our shared history continues to deepen and with it our understanding of ourselves. Take a leap and climb up the branches of your family tree. The view gets clearer the higher you climb.
Visit http://thelongfamilyhistory.com/and ask PW chapter member Suzanne to see her family pictures.