At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 27, the Orchard of Altapass will present a two-person, one-act play, “A Tale of Two Charlies,” written by Jo Carson. The well-known Tennessee author and playwright wrote the play following several conversations with Bill Carson, her cousin and Orchard co-founder.
Many around the region know the story of Frankie Silver who was hanged by the state of North Carolina for killing her husband, Charlie. Almost two centuries later, the circumstances surrounding the murder are still under some discussion. But in 1833, women had little rights, and Frankie was not permitted to testify, to tell her story. The two-day trial ended in a guilty verdict and brought about the first (and supposedly only) hanging of a woman in Burke County.
Twenty miles away on what is now Yellow Mountain Trail and on Orchard property, lived Charlie McKinney, who by mountain standards, was a wealthy landowner. He was married, reportedly, four times. His first wife, Elizabeth, was the mother of two. He subsequently fathered 46 more. He built each ex-spouse her own house on the property and each could decide whether or not or when to “spend time” with him. When Charlie died, he left his 1,500 acres to the wives —unheard of during the mid 19th century — yet not illegal.
“The McKinney women had rights in a way that Frankie Silver just didn’t … Frankie Silver killed an abusive husband … hanged for what should have been a misdemeanor crime,” Jo wrote. “So, I compared and contrasted those two stories.” (“Southern Appalachian Storytellers,” edited by Saundra Gerell Kelley, 2014)
“Two Charlies” directed by Kiesa Kay, a local author and playwright, features favorite Appalachian storytellers Sherry Lovett and Larry Pearlman.
The curtain rises at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 27. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the door. The General Store will be open with refreshments available.
The Orchard at Altapass, a not-for-profit working orchard, entertainment, and educational venue, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday through October.
For more information, visit www.altapassorchard.org and visit the Orchard Facebook page for current updates and happenings.