A Dedicated Mountain Woman

Orelena Puckett known locally as “Aunt” Puckett was born in 1837 and lived near Groundhog Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The home she lived in has been restored and is available for visitors to view while driving by on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Aunt Puckett farmed with her husband and she lived for 102 years. During her lifetime she not only gave birth to 24 children of her own, but served as a midwife for others, assisting in the birth of more than 1000 babies. Ironically, none of her own children lived beyond infancy, although it was not uncommon during those days in the rugged environment of this region for many children to die of a very early age. No matter the weather, she walked or rode on horseback to help with the birth of neighbor children. Her fee for those services was typically one dollar, but when times were good, she charged six dollars. For those who could not pay in dollars, she often received food or other goods. The series of photographs below tell a bit of her story visually. The last image was made at a small family cemetery near her home, which marks the passing of Alfred Bowman who was born in August 1893 and died in May of 1894. It is not known if Aunt Puckett had helped with the birth of this baby. The stone reads at the bottom, “Gone to a better land.”

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