"It was the coldest, darkest, rainiest day of December in 2013 when I was scheduled for a book signing at Graysville Methodist Church," says local author Shirley Brock Turney.
The event had not been advertised and Turney says she expected no more than five people to show up. Instead, folks had trouble finding parking spaces. Around 100 people turned out to meet the author and buy a signed copy of her book, "Gray’s Island: Where the Creek Bends." Turney sold enough copies to cover her initial expenses.
Shirley Brock Turney will be speaking to the Catoosa County Historical Society at the Old Stone Church in Ringgold on Monday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m., sharing fascinating stories about the history of Graysville. She’ll also have artifacts with her, including script coins produced by John Gray and used to pay his employees. The public is invited to attend. Admission is free. Turney’s books will be available for purchase. The Old Stone Church is located at 41 Old Catoosa Parkway in Ringgold. For more information, contact the Old Stone Church at 706-935-5232 (you may have to leave a message, but someone will get back to you), or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/catoosahistory.
The book is a collection of stories and poems about growing up in Graysville during the 1940s and '50s. Turney’s family moved to Graysville from Hawkinsville, Ga., when she was four years old and made the community their home.
An edge of humor makes Turney’s book all the more delightful. She writes of her childhood memories: "My brothers and sisters may disagree with me. If my memories contradict theirs, then they will have to write their own book."
Turney begins her book with a succinct and fascinating history of the little town named after a man from London, England. John D. Gray fell in love with the Graysville area while looking for property for the railroad and bought up 4,000 acres that eventually became the town. Gray built up a small business empire in Graysville, says Turney, that included the mining and processing of lime, furniture and barrel factories, a gristmill and a distillery. He hired a surveyor to lay out streets. When the Civil War hit, he produced rifles, muskets, knives and canteens for the Confederacy. When Sherman burned Graysville to the ground, Gray rebuilt it.
From the short history, Turney explains what "Gray’s Island" is: a small spot of gravel, just beyond the bend and the rapids of Chickamauga Creek, shaded by trees – a paradise where children played and swam and picnicked away their summer days. "We spent most all of our time outdoors and only went inside for food and water."
Then for a 130 pages, Turney shares memories and poems. "Shirley Turney has a way of drawing one into her tale, evoking feelings of ‘being there,’" wrote one reviewer on Amazon.com.
Two years after "Gray’s Island," Turney wrote "Graysville: You Can't Get There When the Creek Rises." The book shares much more history of Graysville and includes chapters about local people and families: Cherokee Indians, Fred Vaughan, the Fryars, Pete and Bud Brown, the Touchstones, the Postons, and many others. Some chapters have enticing titles, like "Mom has a Driving Lesson" and "The Goat Man." Turney also includes her poems in her second book.
Turney says it delights her to think about the copies of her books now floating around the country and the world – Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Indiana, Alaska, and in South America, Colombia and Venezuela.