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Believe It Or Not

How old is old? I have a relative that lived to be one hundred and three years old. That’s pretty old by anyone’s standard. It could be that exercise and talking slow may have helped him live that long. See what you think after you read this story. My Daughter has been doing Ancestry. Com and she surprises me all the time with new information.

Back in the nineteen eighties I raced sailboats on Kerr Lake with a good friend. The last boat I raced was docked at a marina in Townsville, NC. We raced with the Kerr Lake Yacht Club who had just moved from Steele Creek Marina to Townsville. Instead of moving my Yamaha 21 by water from one marina to the other, I changed boats. The new race boat at Townsville was a Com-Pac 23D. We enjoyed racing, but we were out-matched by the Catalina 22 fleet. The Catalina’s had as much sail area and weighed five hundred pounds less. The Catalina boats also had a much better PHRF rating than we had. We were never going to win a race in those light winds. We did enjoyed sailing with the nice sailors from the Kerr Lake Club. Being in the sailboat business, we were promoting sailing and enjoying the sport at the same time.

Haft the fun of racing is the start. You don’t have to have a fast boat to have a good start. You have to follow the rules and timing is everything. A good plan for starting is almost as important. You have to get to the start at a precise time and have good wind and a predetermined course to the first mark. Of course, other boats may have the same plan. That’s why the start is so important. The rest of the race may be flat out speed or you may have better tactics than the other guys. Sailing in light winds around changing terrain is an art.

We were driving from Raleigh, NC to Townsville on several secondary roads that connect the two towns. We passed through several small rural towns along the way. The area is mostly farmland with pretty rolling hills. I had no idea that I was passing by two plantations that were owned and operated by my relatives many years ago. They came down from Virginia as a group in 1766 and settled in Granville County, NC. My Grandfather Peter Downey left Virginia at the same time and settled in Orange County, NC. Orange bordered Granville at that time. We think James Downey; the person that lived to be one hundred and three years old is buried in a cemetery just north of Oxford, NC on one of the plantations.

Colonel Samuel Smith owned the other plantation in the early days. The Colonel participated and became famous in the French Indian Wars fighting for the British. He also severed in government positions in Granville County, NC. The Downey’s and the Smith’s were friends, came south together and had adjoining properties. The Downey that built the cemetery that I recently visited lived during a period of time before the Civil War. He was a businessman and politician that had ninety-four slaves, three plantations, built railroads and did major construction projects for NC. He had two wives that both died young. He died at fifty-eight, his father at eighty and his grandfather at one hundred and three. We need to do more research why Samuel Smith Downey died early. The other Downey’s that died at sixty were alcoholics. The picture shows his tombstone and cemetery. We have lots of work to do.

The person that owns the property now where the Downey Cemetery is located is a nice congenial black man. He has very light colored skin for a black man. We checked the computer records for his family and he has several relatives named Downey. From our research, it was not uncommon for slave owners to give their property in one form or another to their slaves.

Have you noticed that people that talk slowly have slow heartbeats? A heartbeat near seventy is good and slower is even better. If you talk fast, slow down and save your heart. A southern drawl may be a lifesaver. The Downey that was one hundred and three years old was a farmer and I bet he got lots of exercise. How long are you going to live?

With all the race problems that we have in this country, it nice to know that what comes around goes around. Slaves two centuries ago that worked the fields now own the fields. Samuel Smith Downey’s papers are in the Library at Duke University. I wonder if the kids that do the research on race at Duke know the whole story?