Hamaan learns more about family, self in new book

Published 3:32 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

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Denny Hamann makes new friends and meets new cousins wherever he goes.

Even Teresa Crump, who is responsible for arranging Stanly County Public Library events, discovered they’re related. Last summer, Crump noticed the book Hamann had in his hand when he walked into a genealogical society meeting at the library: “Cottonville Road: The Dusty Path to Power.”

Hamann and Crump quickly discovered their Cottonville ties through the Aldridge family name shared by his mother and Crump’s grandmother.

Hamann has authored three books of historical fiction since he began tracing the tangled mass of his Stanly County roots.

“You got to be careful when you start shaking the family tree,” he told his audience at a SCPL book signing event recently.

Tangled or not, other cousins and fans showed up in the library meeting room to hear about the “Cottonville Road” sequel, “Cottonville Road II: The Rocky River Washed My Sins Away.”

The key to Hamann’s writing career has been a knack for keeping his eyes and ears open — a habit established during his growing up years in Albemarle.

“My mother and I used to come to town on Saturdays and go to Central Lunch for hot dogs, Tom Carpenter’s place where I listened to the old men talking. I heard a little truth and a lot of fiction in those conversations,” said Hamann.

Listening to his elders during annual reunions at Rehobeth Methodist Church in Norwood also fed his curiosity and gave him more fodder for his stories.

Though he traced his lineage as far back as the 1500s, documented detail about his great-great-grandfather’s Civil War conscription and subsequent death grabbed his attention and sent him searching for more.

“Civil War battles were documented,” Hamann said, “but not the lives of the families.”

By researching the post-Civil War period, Hamann said his widowed, penniless and desperate great-great-grandmother might have worked the system to survive.

“I make things up,” said the author.

Hamann’s mother, Edna Aldridge Hamann, passed away in 1998, along with the opportunity of asking her more about family history.

“I wish we had talked before then, but I was preoccupied and busy with my own life,” said Hamann.

Even when he did ask questions, his mother’s usual response was, “We just don’t talk about that.”

Eventually, Hamann’s persistent digging in genealogical records led to a trail of illegitimacy in earlier generations.

“Everyone in the community knew. It was posted in courthouse records. Imagine what that was like back then for the generation who grew up in the depression era,” said Hamann. “It was a tough life. My mother was a proud woman. I believe she thought shielding me from the truth about her family would somehow make it go away.”

Though Hamann’s books are fictional tales of illegitimate children, violence and ill-gotten wealth, his imagined family narrative has brought his family together, he said.

“The research has answered family questions I thought were lost forever. It has enriched my life. Folks who were strangers a year ago are close friends and relatives now.”

Kim Whitley, first in foreground, and Gail Efird wait in line to have their books signed by Denny Hamaan. (Photo by JO GREY)

Two of the author’s cousins drove from Edgecombe County to attend the book signing at SCPL. Hamann’s friends, Sam and Joan Nash, drove from Salisbury and called afterwards to congratulate him on the book rollout.

Sam Nash also shared his feelings about Hamann’s hometown.

“I was raised in Salisbury, but Salisbury isn’t Albemarle. Albemarle is a special place. Some of the kindest, most generous people I know are from Albemarle.”

Hamann agrees.

“The library gathering was terrific. I can’t thank Teresa Crump, Sara Hahn, Lisa Davis, and all the Stanly County Public Library folks enough. It was a gathering I’ll never forget,” he said.

Jo Grey is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.