Many interesting folks have made their permanent home in the graveyards which dot Heard County. Tales still swirl wildly about these people and the lives they led.
Among the most interesting include Mayhayley Lancaster, world renowned oracle and seer, the handful of death row prisoners ever held at the Heard County Jail, and a chicken who once managed to successfully occupy downtown Franklin for eight weeks.
Sadly, both the prisoners and the chicken were eventually executed for their crimes. Having no desire to spend my weekend looking through the gristly records of how these people were fried, and in some cases, salted and spiced, on the electric chair, I have turned my attention to the late Ms. Lancaster.
Mahayley Lancaster was undoubtedly the most widely known resident our county has ever produced, and it is likely that the many of my readers will need no explanation of who she was or what she did.
Although, it is also likely that no two of my readers will be able to duplicate the same account. In her own words, she was the “Oracle of the Ages,” endowed with supernatural gifts ranging from finding misplaced items (and occasionally unfaithful husbands) to predicting the future.
This last gift was mainly used to predict winning “Bug Numbers.” The Bug was similar to the lottery, but, since it was not government run, there were slightly fewer criminals involved.
Others swear she was an extremely clever fraud, using an uncanny perceptiveness to scam tourists and desperate gamblers. And still, many more were simply too mystified to ever consider whether or not the one-eyed old woman before them was a genuine link to the unknown.
In every corner of this county and most likely in every corner of Georgia, there is a person with a story of the eccentric woman who made her home and living in the dilapidated shack by Highway 100.
Her career spanned over seven decades. Lancaster served as a world renowned fortune teller, qualified lawyer, sales-woman, teacher, journalist, and unsuccessful politician.
But her real “big-break” so to speak, came from the publicity she received after testifying in a now famous Coweta County murder trial that was famously depicted in the movie Murder in Coweta County. Her testimony helped secure a conviction, as well as a steady stream of customers from all across the country.
It also, seemingly by magic, doubled the prices she charged for every reading. It seemed her abilities did not grant her the vision of how to spend the two-hundred thousand dollars she would eventually amass. Rather than going to improving her own life, or anyone else’s, the money was stuffed into mason jars, buried in the ground, and in some cases, crammed into the walls of her decaying cabin.
She distrusted banks, and her fortune would remain in her walls until the day she died in May of 1955.
She is currently buried at Caney Head Methodist Cemetery. Death has been less kind to Lancaster than life. A seer’s grave is an all together too tempting target for teenagers at Halloween. Because of the repeated vandalism, her original tombstone is damaged almost beyond recognition. It can be found at the Heard County Heritage Museum.
Mahayley was an extremely complicated individual, as are most humans. I could never hope to do her life justice in the time I am allotted, and recommend the aforementioned museum as a place to find more information.
Alternatively, you could simply stop and inquire about the subject to literally anyone who has resided in Heard County for over eight months. They will no doubt have plenty to say about Mahayley Lancaster.- Shawn Foster