One Book - One Community

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Volunteer State Community College is providing an opportunity for the residents of Sumner County to read the same book and get together with friends, family and neighbors to discuss it.  Vol State is partnering with the public libraries of Gallatin, Hendersonville, Portland, Westmoreland and White House in what is called One Book One Community. The Vol State Thigpen Library is leading the effort, which will include special events and an author visit for the selected book.

2013 Selection: The Ballad of Frankie Silver

Sharyn McCrumb’s book, The Ballad of Frankie Silver is our 2013 book selection.  Sharyn McCrumb will visit Sumner County on Thursday, October 24, 2013 for a free event at 7 p.m. in the Rochelle Center of the Thigpen Library on the Vol State campus at 1480 Nashville Pike in Gallatin. Everyone is invited to come find out more about the book from the author's perspective and ask questions.

About the Author

Sharyn McCrumb is the author of The Rosewood Casket, She Walks These Hills and many other acclaimed novels.  Her books have been named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and she has been honored for Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature.  McCrumb, who has been named as a “Virginia Women of History” for Achievement in Literature in 2008, has won an award for the Best Appalachian Novel, the Chaffin Award for Achievement in Southern Literature, the Plattner Award for Best Appalachian Short Story, and the Appalachian Writer of the Year Award.  She lives and writes in the Virginia Blue Ridge, less than a hundred miles from where her family settled in 1790 in the Smoky Mountains that divide North Carolina and Tennessee

Synopsis of The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The Ballad of Frankie Silver Cover

In a little mountain cemetery in Mitchell County, North Carolina stand three graves—all belonging to the same man. Behind the legend of graves is the true story of Frankie Silver, an 18-year old frontier girl, hanged for murder in Burke County North Carolina in 1833, for a crime she might not have committed. This stirring tale of mountain justice is also a study of a frontier family, and of the contrasts between the mountain South of log cabins and trappers and the flat land South of plantations.

Present-day east Tennessee Sheriff Spencer Arrowood,…is obsessed with the case of Frankie Silver, because he has just been invited to witness an execution.  Twenty years ago, Spencer Arrowood, then a deputy, had apprehended a fugitive and testified at the trial that sentenced him to death.  Now a letter from Riverbend, the new maximum security penitentiary in Nashville, says that Sheriff Arrowood is required to be a state’s witness to the execution. He remembers that Sheriff Nelse Miller used to say, “These mountains have produced only two murder cases that make me wonder about justice: Frankie Silver and Fate Harkryder.” Spencer wonders what he meant by that, and he begins to look into both cases, hoping to satisfy himself that justice was indeed done.  He will find disturbing parallels between the historic frontier murder case and the sordid seventies conviction of an east Tennessee teenager.

It is too late to save Frankie Silver, but what about Fate Harkryder? If the sheriff learns that the wrong man was convicted, he has little time to save him.


Discussion Questions for The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb

  1. Why did the author choose to tell the story from the point of view of Burgess Gaither instead of using Frankie Silver herself as narrator?
  2. In Frankie Silver’s time, Burke County stretched all the way to the Tennessee line, with Morganton as county seat for all of it.  Today the Silvers’ home is located in Mitchell County (a county founded in 1861), whose county seat Bakersville is less than 10 miles from their home.  Would a trial conducted by mountain people in Bakersville instead of by the planter class in Morganton have had any effect on the outcome?  Why or why not?
  3. Twenty-seven years after the execution of Frankie Silver, the Civil War began, and North Carolina seceded from the Union.  The flatland part of the state was devoutly Confederate, but the mountain part of North Carolina favored the Union.  Can you see the political split between flatland and mountain foreshadowed in the circumstances of the case of Frankie Silver?  Explain.
  4. How does the case of Fate Harkryder parallel the case of Frankie Silver?  Why was it included in the novel?
  5. If you were defending Frankie Silver in court, how would you have handled the case and what evidence would you have presented?  Why?
  6. How does this case change Burgess Gaither?
  7. Both John Sevier and Frankie Silver escaped from the Morganton jail.  Find out what became of John Sevier.  How do you explain the difference in their fates?
  8. Talk about Miss Mary.  Was she born ahead of her time?  What would she be like today?
  9. Why did Isaiah Stewart tell Frankie to die without speaking?
  10. Why did the governor refuse to pardon Frankie Silver even though half the original jury signed the petition requesting it?

A special thanks to our One Book, One Community partner libraries. Visit their websites for more events:

Gallatin Public Library –

Hendersonville Public Library –

Portland Public Library –

White House Library –

Westmoreland Public Library –

Tennessee arts commission