One sunny Saturday afternoon, Stephen and I struck out to find the grave of Miss Mayhayley Lancaster. We followed the directions, as only directions can be given in this town, “you know that first road right outside the county line with the two gas stations? Turn right there and it’s pretty much a straight shot.”
I get a kick out of hearing people give directions here. “Turn at Jeff’s Exxon,” yet another gas station reference that sounds simple but is slightly more complicated as the gas station is no longer an Exxon, nor is it another gas station called Jeff’s, but a BP that used to be Jeff’s Exxon. Got it? Neither do I. That’s why Stephen does the country driving and I do the city driving.
Miss Amanda Mayhayley Lancaster is a local legend in West Georgia. There’s a healthy mix of curiosity, fear and lore that still surround her even 60 years after she passed. Me? I’m a sucker for quirk and a story. My interest has been piqued since the day I first heard the name.
Miss Mayhayley was born in Georgia in 1875 and had a pretty impressive career path. Midwife, lawyer, teacher, politico and, you know, fortune teller/oracle. She never married, dressed in military jackets and hats, had a marble eye and stuffed all kinds of cash in the backyard of the small shack where she lived with her dogs and sister. Stephen said if you were alive during 1875 to 1955 and lived around here you had a Mayhayley story. Lost items? She could tell you where to find them. Missing persons? Yes. Aaaaand dead bodies? Yep, them too.
Miss Mayhayley was a witness for the prosecution in a big murder case that was made into a TV movie, Murder in Coweta County, which starred Johnny Cash and Andy Griffith. June Carter Cash played Miss Mayhayley (it’s on Amazon Prime if you want to check it out.) She was able to tell the prosecution where to find the body. The body, or parts of the body, eventually led to the conviction of a local landowner/bully who had taken over an entire town.
I’ve heard teenage stories of going to visit her grave where you cross over three bridges and only come back over two. People have been in car wrecks after defacing her grave. There is a great, local “swamp, gypsy, rag-time band” called Mayhayley’s Grave in town. And now I have my own story.
One sunny day, we went out to pay our respects to Miss Lancaster. We turned right on the road just outside the county line by the two gas stations and parked in the quiet parking lot of a pretty white church. We left $1.10 on top of her grave stone, which was what she charged. $1 for her and $0.10 for her dogs. Her gravestone reads “for neither did his brethren believe in him” but I have a feeling people still believe in Miss Mayhayley far more than she thought possible.
(Mayhayley Lancaster Photo Source)