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Edward “Pore Ole Green” Bass, Part One by Bruce Whitaker

The story of “Poor Ole Green” Bass is a little of everything. It is tragic, funny, pitiful and shows both the worst and best in people. Edward Bass was born in the Fairview-Broad River area in August 1849. He was the son of Jordan Bass (1812–1875ca) and Susan “Suekie” Williams Bass (1825–after 1900). The Bass family was poorer than most people in Fairview. Edward Bass was born mentally challenged, retarded or whatever the proper term would be today. In the 1800s the term “insane” was used for all mental problems whether it was the result of old age, injury or problems you were born with. It has been said that Edward Bass could not even open his eyes the way a normal person could. Carrie Chatham Jenkins (1894–1985) and her sister Carmie Chatham Guffey (1888–1982) both said that Green Bass could only peep at you through a tiny slit under each eye lid.

Edward Bass got the nickname “Green” because he would believe anything a person told him no matter how ridiculous it was. Bass would fall for the same prank or joke time after time, the same as he did the first time. Green did not appear to know that people were making fun of him. The Chatham sisters, Eva Smart and others I talked to said that Bass did not seem to know the difference when people were good to him or mean to him. He just acted the same either way.

John Wright (1800–1878) went to Leicester in the fall of 1852 to attend a big church meeting. He had been a widower for 14 or 15 years. John’s Indian mother Chaney had moved in with him after his wife died to help him raise his small children. She babied and petted the boys but she detested girls and was very mean and abusive to his daughters. John Wright was in the market for a wife; he knew if he married his mother would not tolerate another woman in the house and would leave.

Nancy Plemmons (1809–1872) was at the church meeting. She had two daughters and was looking for a man with land and a little money to marry and take care of her and her two daughters. John Wright and Nancy Plemmons married in December 1852. Chaney Wright had a fit and moved out of John Wright’s house just as he hoped she would.

Four years later, John Wright’s son, Robert Franklin “Frank” Wright’s wife died. He was living in North Georgia, and John Wright and his daughter Hannah went to Georgia to help move Frank and his three small kids back to Fairview. Frank had three children under the age of four, and he needed a wife. Frank soon married his stepsister Malinda Plemmons (1830–1891).

Nancy Plemmons Wright pushed her other daughter Matilda Plemmons to find a husband. Matilda didn’t find a husband; instead she ended up with three daughters. When Matilda’s oldest daughter Nancy was old enough to marry, no man was very interested in her. Men knew that if they married Nancy Plemmons, they would not only have a wife but a mother-in-law and her two sisters to take care of. One man was willing to take on all this responsibility— his name was Green Bass. Edward “Green” Bass married Nancy Malinda Plemmons on May 30, 1875.

Nancy Plemmons Wright was in poor health and knew she would die before her husband John Wright. She made John promise that when he died, Wright would leave her daughter Matilda Plemmons his house and enough land for a small farm. John Wright kept his promise and left Matilda Plemmons the house and land. The problem was that by the time of John Wright’s death, Green Bass had married Matilda’s daughter, and Matilda had the inheritance put in her son-in-law’s name.

So Green Bass had a house and a farm. He felt on top of the world. But one thing he didn’t have was a horse. You need a horse to plow the fields on your farm, so Bass set out to get a horse.

John R. Wright (1854–1893), the grandson of the elder John Wright who gave Bass’s mother-in-law his farm, lived next door to Green Bass. Bass went over to see Wright to work out a deal to get a horse. The deal was quickly worked out: Bass agreed to sign over his house and farm to Wright in exchange for a fine horse. The papers were soon signed and Bass could not wait to tell everybody what a good deal he had made. Green Bass took his horse up and down Old Fort Road showing it to everyone and telling them about his deal.

People laughed at Bass, many because they thought it was a joke, others because it was the stupidest thing they had ever heard of. Some tried to tell Green that he had made a terrible deal. Bass would have none of that kind of talk. He wanted a horse and he got a horse and a fine horse at that. Green Bass did not realize what a bad deal he made until he was put out of his house.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. Contact Mr. Whitaker by phone at 628-1089 or email brucewhitaker@bellsouth.net.