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Elsie Blue George

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Lone surviving child of famous chief

ROCK HILL, S.C. - The only surviving child of a famous Catawba chief sometimes thinks of the yard where she was raised and played as a little girl.

''My daddy kept it clean,'' Elsie Blue George, 94, said recently. ''There was not any grass on it. The dirt was white, and when the moon would shine on it at night, it would be so pretty.''

George is the eighth of nine children born to Chief Samuel Taylor Blue and Louisa Hester Jean Canty. All have died except her. She remembers her father getting sick now and then. ''All along he was in pretty good health, but he told me at times that he used to get so sick.

''He had cancer of the stomach. He would be in the field. He would get so sick he would fall, but followed the mules' pull to the edge of the field, and he would lay there until he got better, and then he would get up and go home.'' ''Old Chief Blue'' was well-known as a leader of his tribe. He died in 1959.

George, born in March 1914 on the reservation, said her father gave the home to her sister who lived in it until she died. She said, ''She let her granddaughter have it. The house is still there.''

When she became of age, she went to a local school.

''We always had plays at the end of school. I was always in one of them. I enjoyed those times,'' she remembered.

She continued through the 10th grade. By then, her teacher's wife, who was helping him teach, became pregnant and could not continue. ''So he took me in to help,'' George recalled. ''I taught in the morning and I went back in the afternoon to take up my lessons.''

As a teenager, she rode on her father's horse. ''My daddy had a big old red horse. It used to be a race horse. I had a brother younger than me. We would ride.''

She remembered that every October her father took a load of children in his horse-drawn wagon on the two-hour, 10-mile ride into town. They went to the county fair, stayed there several hours, and returned to the reservation toward evening.

At 18, she married Landrum George, also Catawba. They moved into town, where he worked in a cotton mill.

During World War II, Elsie followed her husband to Kansas when he joined the U.S. Army. The two years they lived in Kansas she worked in a dime store near the base. Soon, they came home on furlough, but only to move on to Mississippi, for another two years. Landrum became ill and was in the hospital when his company left for the war.

After recovering, he was given a choice: stay in the states as a military policeman or join another company and go overseas. He chose the latter and fought in Germany for 11 months. When the war ended, his company went on to Japan, but he returned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

''He came in late one night,'' she recalled. ''It was about 11 or 12 o'clock.'' After arriving in Fort Bragg, he didn't wait to take a bus home; he called a taxi, which took him to Rock Hill, about a two-hour drive.

They resumed a life together. He went back to work at the mill. In 1995, he became ill from cancer and died.

''He's been dead 13 years this year in August,'' she said. ''I still miss him. I missed him real bad when he died, because we did not have any children. I thought, 'well, I want to die too.' I just did not have the desire to live. I just felt like I was in the world by myself. Nobody but me. How in the world was I going to get by and take care of myself?''

Her nephew, Gilbert Blue, who was then chief of the tribe, told her, ''Auntie, we're going to take care of you. Don't worry about it.''

He helped her settle down.

''He's been waiting on me since.'' Then a niece, Gilbert's sister, came home from living in the West. ''She came right in and started taking care of me, so I depend on them now,'' George said.