Historic ride

Published 8:26 am Monday, August 12, 2013

GATESVILLE – Edith Seiling can now remove one item from her “Bucket List.” Gates County’s senior historian has experienced a ride on a motorcycle.

Mike Evans was her chauffeur, a happenstance meeting with Seiling who served as a tour guide of the old Gates County Courthouse for his Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) group that visited Gatesville late last month.

“I had been down that way before, taking riders on tours of Confederate monuments and cemeteries there in Winton, Gatesville and Edenton,” said Evans, who resides in Courtland, VA and a member of the SCV’s Camp 1471 (Urquhart-Gillette Camp).

Evans, joined by Mike Armstead, the commander of his group, took a ride the day before to check out what was available in Gatesville to tour.

“I knew there were old archives in the old courthouse in Gatesville, so, of course, I wanted to see them for myself,” Evans said of the July 19 trip. “Mike and I went in; we saw the wall signed by Civil War veterans. We then went across the street to the (county manager’s) office and talked with a lady who was very helpful. We asked could we meet someone there to allow larger group into the courthouse the next day.”

Seiling was the person the group – 20 bikers strong – would meet on July 20.

“We started out in Churchland (VA) that morning and rode to Gatesville,” Evans said. “We parked our bikes and met Miss Edith and Pat Familiar along with a man by the last name of Parker. They gave us a history of the courthouse.”

As the conversation ensued with Seiling, Evans – whose family traces their toots to the Sand Banks area of Gates County – found out that his father (the late Jesse Evans) worked for her husband, Frank Seiling, at the paper mill.

“That was some great history to share,” he said.

The group then gathered in front of the old courthouse for a photo and purchased one of the Gates County Historical Society books from Seiling, who autographed it for the group.

“As we were preparing to leave, Miss Pat came up and told me that Miss Edith has a bucket list…one thing she has always wanted to do is ride a motorcycle,” Evans said. “We fitted her with a helmet and glasses, helped her onboard where she threw her arms around me and said let’s go. We rode for about four blocks.”

After leaving Gatesville, the group toured Cannon’s Ferry; rode to Edenton to see the restored lighthouse and enjoy lunch before riding to Hertford to visit the Confederate monument and graves. All totaled, Evans said the group covered 200 miles that day.

“We’re always in search of Civil War history,” he said. “While visiting the cemeteries we look to see if any of the Civil War graves are in need of headstones, foot stones, etc or make repairs on some that have been damaged over the years. When we are involved in gravesite ceremonies, we have a Confederate Honor Guard and dress in period clothing.”

Evans said the SCV’s 13th Virginia Mechanized Calvary Camp 9 is not a motorcycle club.

“We are heritage riders; what we do is preserve our heritage,” he noted. “It’s not about hate or is it racial, we have black members who had ancestors that fought for the Confederacy.”

And part of that heritage includes the historic Gates County Courthouse, built prior to the Civil War.

“Miss Edith gave us a wonderful history of that building and in return we gave her a chance to scratch off something on her bucket list.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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