Appalachia, Barboursville, Bill Herndon, Cabell County, civil war, Huntington, Main Street, Maurice E. Beckett, Morris Harvey College, Old Abraham, poems, poet, poetry, Tanyard Branch, Union Cavalry, West Virginia, writers
Appalachia, Barboursville, Bill Herndon, Cabell County, civil war, Huntington, Main Street, Maurice E. Beckett, Morris Harvey College, Old Abraham, poems, poet, poetry, Tanyard Branch, Union Cavalry, West Virginia, writers
The following poem appeared in the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, on August 7, 1928. The author was Fred Durham, address unknown.
THE RAINBOW END
At the end of every rainbow,
So we always have been told,
If we find its termination
Sits a pot of virgin gold.
There are those who take it serious
And their entire talent bend
To a lifelong ceaseless searching
For the fleeting rainbow end.
Some are harmless near Micawbers.
Some of lawless dangerous trend.
But they all have one objective
The entrancing rainbow’s end.
Some there are who hear the story
With a tolerant knowing smile,
Knowing that these little stories
Help to make life more worthwhile.
And to them life in its fullness
Will an untold blessing lend
They seek not but find contentment
At the phantom rainbow end.
This poem was brought to The Banner office last week either by the author or some one else who deemed it worth publishing. The editor, though knowing little indeed of the technique of versification, thinks it meritorious in several essential respects.
The following poem appeared in the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, on July 7, 1922. The author was Sally Godbey, who gave her address as the “State T.B. Sanitarium, Hopemont, Terra Alta, W.Va.”
THE HOPEMONT BLUES
When the golden sun is sinking
Behind the hills of old Hopemont,
When of home and friends I’m thinking
That “what-might-have-been” is not.
When the night birds’ soft notes falling,
Melodies sweet float on the air,
Then my thoughts go back to Logan,
And the friends that I left there.
When the sighing night-winds moaning,
Groaning through the old oak trees
and the strain of “Home Sweet Home”
Carry softly on the breeze,
Then is when my thoughts go roaming,
Filled with memories old and new
Days of gladness, days of sadness,
Nights so happy, nights so blue.
Though there’s many miles between us,
Little town I love you yet,
And I long to hurry back,
For I’m homesick and regret
That I ever left you Logan,
But I had to, so they say.
I’m lonesome for the old home town,
And I’m coming back some day,
They say that you are a dull little town,
They spell it with a capital D.
They wish that they could get away,
But you are all the world to me,
And though the world is a very big place
My home has always been with you.
And I find you quite a nice little town,
With friends both kind and true.
The Banner prefaced the poem with this: “The Logan Banner is the recipient of a constant chain of poems which would fill our columns if we even dared to publish them. People will never learn that poets are born, not made. However, we have just received one which is from a former Logan girl and now a patient at Hopemont. we are pleased to give this publicity and for genuine beauty of expression and sentiment it far excels many of those we see in the public print today. The author is Miss Sally Godbey and she calls the poem “The Hopemont Blues.” We will refrain from further comments but pass the beatufiul lines on to our readers with the request that they write Miss Godbey, care of State T.B. Sanitarium, at Hopemont, W.Va. and tell her what they think of her literary ability.”
This song was composed and sung by Elder Abner Vance, under the gallows, about 80 years ago. Given by Rev. A.M. Lunsford, October 14, 1897.
[Published by Request.]
Green are the woods where Sandy flows.
And peace it dwelleth there;
In the valley the bear they lie secure
The red buck roves the knobs.
But Vance no more shall Sandy behold,
Nor drink its crystal waves,
The partial judge pronounced his doom,
The hunter has found his grave.
The judge he said he was my friend
Though Elliott’s life he had saved.
A juryman did I become
That Elliott he might live.
That friendship I have shown to others,
Has never been shown to me;
Humanity it belongs to the brave,
And I hope it remains to me.
‘Twas by the advice of McFarlin
Judge Johnson did the call,
I was taken from my native home
Confined in a stone wall.
My persecutors have gained their request,
Their promise to make good,
For they ofttimes swore they would never rest,
Till they had gained my heart’s blood.
Daniel Horton, Bob and Bill,
A lie against me swore,
In order to take my life away,
That I might be no more.
But I and them together must meet
Where all things are unknown.
And if I’ve shed the innocent blood
I hope there’s mercy shown.
Bright shines the sun on Clinche’s hill,
And soft the west wind blows,
The valleys are covered all over with bloom,
Perfumed with the red rose.
But Vance no more shall Sandy behold,
This day his eyes are closed in death,
His body’s confined in the tomb.
Farewell my friends, my children dear,
To you I bid farewell,
The love I have for your precious souls
No mortal tongue can tell.
Farewell to you my loving wife,
To you I bid adieu,
And if I reach fair Caanan’s shore
I hope to meet with you.
Source: Logan County Banner (Logan, WV), 13 November 1897.
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this poem by T.C. Whited titled “Dug and Dad”, written on May 30, 1928, and published on June 5, 1928:
DUG AND DAD
The voting now is over,
And I am rather glad
As we will have for J’s and P’s
Our good old “Dug and Dad.”
The other boys were good old “scouts”
Not one of them is bad,
But did not have the pull it seems
Like “Uncles Dug and Dad.”
If we don’t be more careful
Our days will be long and sad
As we pull the time and pay the fine
As fixed by “Dug and Dad.”
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this poem written by Evert W. Husk of Huntington and Three Forks titled “Life in the Railway Mail”, written on January 8, 1923 and published on January 19, 1923:
“LIFE” IN THE RAILWAY MAIL
“Put your overalls on, Buddy, and likewise your jacket blue,
For the porter soon is comin’ with four-wheelers–one and two.”
“Number one is mostly workin’, number two is all directs,”
Says the porter through the doorway but the clerk-in-charge corrects
That the two of them mean business and it proves as he suspects.
In old Forty-Three they load it, calling “workin'” one and two–
These R.P.C.’s in uniforms–their overalls of blue.
Pile it wide and straight and careful so that it will stand the shock,
When the drivers roll too swiftly and the coaches roughly rock,
And the “subbie” gets so frightened that his knees begin to knock.
When at length the car is loaded and the engine coupled-to–
First a slightly jerky motion, then it shakes you through and through,
Then you dump them on the table in an agitated way,
Grab and turn, and pitch and throw, as a tedder tosses hay,
Till you scarcely know time passes as you journey on your way.
While the clerk-in-charge sticks letters with the skill of a machine,
Striving not to make an error that his record may be clean.
Too, he has his “reds” to handle–job despised by one and all,
Signing cards for Mr. Peter, sending cards to Mr. Paul,
And the slightest little error means his very certain fall.
Then you hear the whistle sounded and the clerk-in-charge to shout,
“Here’s the package for this station, you had better lock it out.”
In the doorway next you stack ’em piled with skill and knowing care,
As you glance along the railway in a cinder flying glare,
See the pouch on crane is hanging and you “stab” it then and there.
Unlock, dump it on the table, hand the “pack” to C-in-C.
Then return unto your papers for you must not leave them be.
You are gaining headway slowly on the stalls of working mail,
And the engine ever signals as it speeds along the rail.
“Lock it out! and lock it quickly, lock it out or you will fail!”
It is thus the day unirksome speeds along to tireless noon,
And you eat a scanty dinner without knife or fork or spoon.
But there’s humor in the “Life,” boys, even fun in going stuck,
Don’t the fair ones in the doorways sometimes wave a sweet good luck?
Then the C.-in-C. grows peppy and the helper clerk shows pluck.
Piffle! Merits and demerits–five for this and ten for that.
Why the skinny one grows skinny and the fatter grows more fat.
Though we have to stick a section, pass on space and black book too,
‘Bout the first of every quarter of the bloomin’ year all through,
The “annual” and the “layoff” keeps us on and lures you.
You are not on duty, boys, in this layoff day or week.
But a few things keep you busy and of them my name must speak.
Slips to fold and cards to check up, and also correct your schemes,
Ans’wring this, explaining that often poils your sweetness dreams,
And with other things unmentioned, “lay-off” isn’t what it seems.
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this poem written by Harry Durham of Taplin titled “The Wanderer,” published November 20, 1928:
I have been in sunny Italy.
I have been in flowery France.
I have seen the silvery moonbeams
On the Alpine mountains dance.
I have been in quaint old China.
I have trod Great Britain’s land.
I have seen the heat elfs dancing
On Sahara’s burning sand.
I have rode the rattling rikas
Thru far Yokohama’s street.
I’ve eaten in snow-clad Igloos
Strips of frozen walrus meat.
I have sailed the broad Atlantic.
I have whaled in Arctic ice.
Steered a bastard thru Magellan.
Rounded bleak Cape Horn twice.
And the wanderlust keepings calling,
Mocking, just around the bend,
Leering me by empty promise
To a homeless, friendless end.
But its call is fainter growing
And its beck no longer thrills
For I’ve found a golden milestone
In the West Virginia hills.
For no matter where I’ve wandered
On a vain and empty quest,
I have left my heart behind me
In the land I love the best.
And when I sign articles
On that last and endless trip,
Let me sail thru-out the ages
On this rugged square rigged ship.
For I ask no sweeter nectar
Than to quaff its crystal rills.
For I’ve known a golden milestone
In the West Virginia hills.
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, comes this poem written by J. Rush Cook titled “Faithful Rover,” published January 21, 1915:
Old Rover was a faithful dog,
He stuck through thick and thin;
With me he crossed a thousand logs,
We’ve waded a hundred bogs
With the mud up to his chin.
We’ve hunted together, day and night,
He’s treed ten thousand mice;
He never retreated in a fight
Whether in darkness or in light,
And never barked but thrice.
One on the scent, one at the tree–
His gait was swift and strong;
Third, a long–that was for me,
Where e’er I might be,
To hustle and hurry along.
And when I’d reach the long sought spot,
Always on top of the hill,
A lookin’ wise there Rover sot,
Jump up and round he’d hop–
Could never keep him still.
And then, of course, the tree I’d cut
Old Rover sitting night;
Perhaps three, four feet at the butt
Pretty hard to crack such a nut!
But I did it without a sigh.
Down in the top old Rover would go,
To catch the game, you see;
But always in the tree below,
Old Rover would try to show,
Was the game for him and me.
With this repeated till at the foot,
He’d start up t’other side,
And then to me it began to look
As plain as an open book,
That Rover had surely lied.
I don’t think he meant to lie,
His guilt I could not own;
But in his eagerness to try
He always looked too high,
As others I have known.
Old Rover was built for strength,
Was deep across the chest–
His hips didn’t lack for breadth,
Neither his legs for length–
‘Tis needless to tell the rest.
He had a curl in his tail
As nearly all dogs do,
But he straightened it out on the trail–
It might hook on a briar or rail
And get to bleeding, too.
The scent of the game be lost–
The smell of blood is strong,
This he knew at any cost,
If this trail he happened to cross
The game would surely be gone.
Old Rover has passed away
To the happy hunting ground;
And there I hope he’ll stay
And tree his game each day,
And do his own cutting down.
Anna Meadows, Appalachia, Chapmanville, Charles S. Whited, Charleston, civil war, Craneco, deputy clerk, Ella Godby, Ewell Deskins, genealogy, George W. McClintock, H.A. Callahan, Harriet Totten, Harts Creek, Hattie Rothrock, history, Huntington, J. Green McNeely, J.C. Cush Avis, John A. Totten, John W. Buskirk, Logan, Logan Banner, Mud Fork, poetry, preacher, Raleigh County, Robert Whited, Russell County, Slagle, Southern Methodist Church, T.C. Whited, teacher, Thomas Harvey Whited, U.S. Commissioner, Virginia, W.B. Johnson, W.G. Whited, W.W. Beddow, West Virginia
From the Logan Banner we find this entry for Thomas C. Whited, who resided at Logan, West Virginia:
“Uncle Tom” Whited, United States commissioner, one of the county’s oldest citizens, and poet, came to Logan, or the present site of Logan, on October 11, 1877.
He was born on a Russell county, Virginia, farm in a one-room log cabin on November 25, 1854, the son of Robert and Anna Meadows Whited, who reared a family of ten children, nine boys and one girl.
“Uncle Tom” has only one brother living, the Rev. Charles S. Whited, a preacher in Raleigh county. His sister is dead.
His home was broken up by the Civil War, and Mr. Whited began the life of a vagabond, wandering about over the country seeking happiness, but never finding it until he came to Logan. He discovered the little frontier settlement as he was making his way on foot back to his Virginia home to take a job in a store.
“I just dropped in here, tired and sore-footed and decided to attend a teacher’s examination that was advertised for the town–mostly just to see what kind of a certificate I could get among strangers,” Mr. Whited said.
He received his certificate and taught his first term of school at the mouth of Mud Fork in 1877. Then followed terms at Chapmanville, Craneco, Logan and Hart’s Creek until 1883 when he was asked to take a position in the clerk’s office as deputy clerk.
Among the well-known citizens that “Uncle Tom” taught in his educational forays in Logan county were the Rev. J. Green McNeely; Ewell Deskins; Mrs. Ella Godby of Huntington, mother of Mrs. W.W. Beddow of Slagle; J.C. (Cush) Avis, and several of the Conley family.
From the position as deputy clerk, Mr. Whited rose in succession to circuit clerk, county superintendent of schools, city councilman, and United States Commissioner. He served a total of 18 years as circuit clerk of Logan county.
In 1930 Federal Judge George W. McClintic appointed “Uncle Tom” United States Commissioner which office he will hold for life unless removed by the judge on charges of misconduct.
“Uncle Tom” is a poet of no mean ability. His poetry is recognized throughout the county and some think his best work was a poem dedicated to the old elm tree in the court house square which was recently cut down.
He was instrumental in saving the tree when it was just a sprout and John W. Buskirk was about to dig it up to plant a locust orchard near the site of the present courthouse. “Uncle Tom” requested that the sprout be left to grow. It was not moved from the original spot where it sprouted until it was cut down in 1931, Mr. Whited said.
Mr. Whited married Miss Harriet Totten, daughter of the Rev. John A. Totten, pastor of the Southern Methodist Church in Logan, on March 4, 1887.
The couple reared a family of five children–two boys and three girls. All are still living. They are Mrs. W.B. Johnson, W.G. Whited, and Mrs. H.A. Callahan, all of Logan; Mrs. Hattie Rothrock, Charleston; and Thomas Harvey Whited whose residence is unknown.
Though 81 years old, “Uncle Tom” still manages the affairs of U.S. Commissioner and finds time to dash off a line or so of poetry now and then.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 17 April 1937.
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, comes this poem written by three young female students of Marshall College, published May 22, 1913:
Shady tree, babbling brook
Girl in hammock, reading book;
Gold curls, tiny feet,
Girl in hammock, looks so sweet;
Man rides past, big mustache,
Girl in hammock makes a “mash”.
Mash is mutual, day is set,
Man and maiden, married get.
Married now, one year ago,
Keeping house on Baxter row;
Red hot stove, beefsteak frying,
Girl got married, cooking trying.
Cheeks all burning, eyes look red,
Girl got married, nearly dead;
Biscuits burn up, beefsteak charry,
Girl got married, awful sorry,
Man comes home, tears mustache,
Mad as blazes, got no hash,
Thinks of hammock in the lane,
Wishes maiden back again,
Maiden also thinks of swing,
Wants to go back too, poor old thing.
Hour of midnight, baby squawking,
Man in sock feet bravely walking;
Baby yells on, now the other
Twin he starts up like his brother.
Paregoric by the bottle
Emptied into baby’s throttle,
Naughty tack points in air,
Waiting some one’s foot to tear,
Man in sock feet, see him there!
Holy Moses! Hear him swear!
Raving crazy, gets his gun,
Blows his head off, dead and gone.
Pretty widow, with a book,
In a hammock by the brook,
Man rides past, big mustache;
Keeps on riding, nary “mash.”
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, comes this poem written by J. Rush Cook titled “Perception,” published January 7, 1915:
I have seen the rosebuds blowing
In the springtime’s early morn;
The shining dewdrops showing
On the petals newly born.
I have heard the happy bird’s song,
Wafted from the leafy bowers;
I have felt the heart beat strong
As I gazed at bird and flower.
I have seen a grander vision
Than dewdrops on the flowers;
A sweeter song to me is given
Than was wafted from the bowers.
‘Tis a vision of the feature,
When right o’er wrong prevails;
When man, the noblest creature,
No longer each assail.
‘Tis a song of love and duty,
‘Neath a bright or frowning sky;
Like the rainbow in its beauty
And its promise, by and by!
This poem was written by O. Benton and dedicated to Don Chafin, “a true son of Logan.” The poem relates to the Mine Wars, or as it was called by the Logan Banner, the “armed march.”
There’s a land of “Love thy brother”
By the sky-blue Guyandotte
Where the folks love one another,
And I know God loves the spot.
For he built those mighty mountains
And he touched their tops with blue,
From their sides gush crystal fountains,
Just to quench the thirst of you.
Oaks and poplars, pines and hemlocks,
On the mountainsides they grew.
There’ll be no coal beneath the mountains
For a million years or two.
In this glorious land of blessings
Long before the railroad came
Lived the honest, fighting people
Who have brought the country fame.
Now there’s mines beneath those mountains
And there’s towns most everywhere,
But with all the wealth and greatness
Freedom reigns and all is fair.
Some may say, “You think there’s freedom,”
But I’m saying what I know.
I have crossed the rushing rivers,
I have tramped the mountain snow.
I have sweated ‘neath those mountains
Where the motors screech and hum.
I have worked upon the tipple
Worked with pick and shovel some.
And I swear by all above me
That a man may have his say.
He may tell of any grievance
Unmolested, go his way.
For there is no lack of freedom
When the Court-House clock looks down
On the men who love their neighbors
In the busy coal-gorged town.
When the men from New York City
Told us that they were not free,
It was something quite unheard of,
Something free men cannot see.
If our misinformed brothers
Wish to DO, and not to mock,
Let them stay within the cities
Where there’s Hell in every block.
Let them stay away from Logan,
Where a man can be a man.
Take your creeds and go to New York
Where their brothers understand.
For the famous “Logan Wildcats”
And the lads who fought the Hun,
They are tired of soap-box teachings
And have said there shall be none.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 29 June 1923
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, comes this poem written by J. Rush Cook titled “Home,” published January 14, 1915:
Endearing words to us are given,
Endearing thoughts for us they hold.
All for which the heart has striven,
But none so dear to us as home.
When wearied with the cares of life,
With toil and labor, sorrows borne,
There comes a joy amidst the strife,
When e’re we think of home, sweet home.
Home replete with all its pleasure,
Be it a cot or palace grand;
Be it poor or rich in treasure,
‘Tis always home in every land.
If peace and love therein abide,
Reign supremely every hour.
In each heart in faith confides
Like a sweet, unfolding flower.
‘Tis the thought of home we cherish,
As we roam some distant land.
All else for us may perish,
But sweet home in childhood land.
Where dear mother led us gently
O’er the hills, through vale and field;
Where she sang to us so sweetly,
And in prayer so oft did kneel.
Where the songbirds ever singing,
‘Neath a blue sky with music ringing,
Where the hills with music ringing,
And the zephyrs blow at night.
This is home to us forever,
Home, with mother at our side.
Perhaps in thought when ties we sever,
And have crossed beyond the tide.
Appalachia, Ashland, author, authors, coal, Guyandotte Valley, history, Kentucky, Logan Banner, Logan County, physician, poems, poetry, Thomas Dunn English, Three Forks, Viola Ann Runyon, West Virginia, writers, writing
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history about Veola Ann Runyon, authoress-poet of Logan County. The story is dated January 13, 1922:
LOGAN COUNTY HAS AN AUTHORESS-POET
Mrs. Veola Ann Runyon, of Three Forks, Has Had Much of Her Work Published.
We never know in what nook or corner we may find unknown talent or beneath what bushel measure we may and a shining light unless, perchance, we may trip across a clue that may lead us to a welcome discovery. Such was the case with a representative of The Banner on a recent trip to Three Forks, when he fortunately learned of the presence there of Mrs. Veola Anne Runyon, a poet and talented writer of fact and fiction.
Mrs. Runyon was born in Ashland, Ky. Her grandfather was a French physician and author. From him she derived the gifted talent at at the early age of sixteen she began writing stories and for the past ten years she has been a regular contributor to several of the largest magazines of our country. She has in preparation at the present time a romance which will be happily connected with the coal mining industry, while she has in the hands of her publisher two other books, one dealing with scientifical and botanical work and the other on entomological facts.
The story now in preparation will be eagerly sought by all readers in Logan County, due to the fact that part of the plot will be based upon knowledge gained within this county. Mrs. Runyon was requested by her publishers to write a story closely connected with the mining industry and so not knowing the details connected with the industry she came to Three Forks, and while stopping at the Club House there she is gathering facts that will prove invaluable in her latest work.
Mrs. Runyon is a gifted writer and is filled with the love of the work. She is also deeply interested in botanical work and the study of nature. Through persuasion we were able to secure some of her poems for publication in The Banner, and we are pleased to announce that arrangements have been made with her for regular contributions to the columns of this paper.
Her presence here will recall to mind another author who came to Logan County in years gone by. Dr. Thos. Dunn English recognized the beauty of these mountains and the nearness of true nature and came here during the period between 1850 and 1860. Some of his poems deal with life in the Guyan Valley.
With her ability and fluency of language, Mrs. Runyon should find in these grand majestic mountains and wonderful natural beauty an invaluable aid to inspiration that will enable her to complete a wonderful story that should attract the favorable attention of the most critical.
Note: I cannot locate any biographical information for this writer. Three Forks, according to one source, is also known as Saunders (Buffalo Creek).
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this poem by an unknown author printed on July 20, 1923:
A MOUNTAIN CABIN
The roof of rough rived boards,
The walls hewn logs and chinking;
Over windows vining gourds,
Round gourds for festive drinking.
A wood hinged batten door
With latch, and string for greeting;
A near to nature floor,
Stone hearth for friendly meeting.
An open fire place wide,
And black pot hooks showing;
No art the crude to hide—
Shelter when winds are blowing.
This house quite humble stands,
But love wrought in its building;
Great wealth is not in lands
And homes are not gilding.
Appalachia, Cecil Workman, Crawley Creek, genealogy, Halcyon, Harts Creek, history, Lawrence Mullins, Logan Banner, Logan County, Mt. Era United Baptist Church, poems, poetry, West Fork, West Virginia
A correspondent from Halcyon at West Fork of Harts Creek in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on March 23, 1923:
Out in the air
Out away from town
Away out in the country
Where the trees and birds are found.
There is where my heart is bent
There is where I find content
There satisfaction hangs all around
It even blossoms from the ground.
There is where the Julip bees
Are humming among the trees.
There is where old Barley Corn
Is pouring from his lavish horn.
Hump! And you will say
The city is where I like to stay.
You just don’t know as well as I
Ere the country you would come and try.
Two preachers from Crawley Creek delivered good sermons at Mt. Era Church Sunday.
The stork visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Workman March 13th and left a fine boy.
Lawrence Mullins is the proud possessor of a grandson.
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this poem by Charles M. Gore of Chapmanville printed on December 23, 1927:
GOD’S GREAT GIFT
Far away in a eastern country
About this time of year
There was an expectation ____
___ and fear.
The hope within her had been prompted
By a message she had received
From the messenger Angel Gabriel
And the message she truly believed.
That she and not another
In this sin cursed world below
Straight way would become a mother
Of a son whom men should know.
Knew him as a lowly Saviour
And not as a high browed king,
Know him through loving favors
And the peace and joy he’d bring.
Twas in the little town of Bethlehem,
Near two thousand years ago, Dec. 25th,
God set a new star in the firmament
Which was proof of his great gift.
His son was born, his angels sang
“Peace on earth, good will I bring”
The shepherds heard and the wise men there
Brought gifts of frankincense and myrrh.
They bestowed them on that little babe,
Who in the hay-filled manger laid
To show to the world that what they knew
Of the prophets’ word had sure come true.
Appalachia, Battle of Buena Vista, Ben Bolt, Charles Porter, Charleston, Edgar Allan Poe, George P. Morris, Green Gables Inn, history, Huntington, Know Nothing Party, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan Grazier, McDowell County, N.P. Willis, Nelson F. Kneass, New York Mirror, Philadelphia, poems, poetry, Rafting on the Guyan, Roy Fuller, Staunton, Thomas Dunn English, Vicie Nighbert, Wayne County, Welch, West Virginia, West Virginia Review, Wyoming Hunter
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history concerning Thomas Dunn English and his famous poem “Ben Bolt,” which was reportedly composed in Logan:
Poem Ben Bolt Not Written In This City
Legend Concerning Thomas Dunn English Is Refuted by Roy Fuller in Magazine Article
Another forceful kick has been directed against the legend that Thomas Dunn English wrote the poem Ben Bolt under the big elms back of the former Vicie Nighbert home, now known as the Green Gables Inn.
Though all reliable investigators agree that this famous poem was written before Dr. English settled in this community, the legend survives with a strange pertinacity.
The subject is discarded in an interesting and enlightening way in the current number of the West Virginia Review by J. Roy Fuller. He has written before in a similar vein for other publications.
Fuller, a native of Wayne county, had been connected with Charleston, Huntington, and Welch papers for several years. Recently he went to New York to take an editorial position on Picture Play. On the subject “As to Ben Bolt,” he writes as follows:
If a man writes a poem a little more sentimental than any other, and then some ten years later moves to another state, it seems that the towns and counties around his new home will, years later, recall the very spot where the poem was written. Such has been the case with Ben Bolt, by Thomas Dunn English. The people of Logan county point with pride to the very tree under which the poet scribbled Ben Bolt, and time and again articles have been written in support of the legend, and people who speak of it choose to believe nothing else. Why this should be considered in the least important is amusing. But that is not all. In McDowell county, it is said, Thomas Dunn English wrote the feverish lines while at the old county seat town, now called English. A clerk in a hotel informed this writer that he knew exactly where Ben Bolt was written and offered to show him the house somewhere just over the Virginia state line.
The rare honor of being the birthplace of Ben Bolt cannot be claimed truthfully for this section at all. It was written in Philadelphia nine years before he ever came to West Virginia. There was no romantic posing over the grave of the beloved lady in the song as it has been said in Logan county. A New York editor asked English to write something for him. He insisted, and finally English mailed the verses with instructions to burn them if not satisfactory, after combining parts of two poems into one. So any weeping we do can be for our own images, and not for sympathy with the poor poet.
English was once postmaster of Logan (1857), and also a resident doctor, politician, poet and lawyer. One time he attended a convention in Staunton where he made a speech that was influential in helping to bring about the downfall of Know-Nothingism. He wrote many local poems such as Rafting on the Guyan, Logan Grazier, and Wyoming Hunter. Before coming to the south he was well known in the east and was mentioned—unfavorably—by Edgar Allan Poe in his Literati. For calling him Thomas Dunn “Brown,” English wrote a severe criticism of Poe. Some time later Poe answered him in a Philadelphia paper, and brought suit against him. Poe was awarded $225 damages for English’s sarcastic literary thrust.
It has always been a matter of chagrin to English that his Ben Bolt was the most popular of his literary works. He himself called the song “twaddle.” But the German melody, mention of old mills, school, a loved one, friendship—these things made it take hold of the heart.
He wrote Ben Bolt in 1843 after having dabbled in his professions for several years, and quite unexpectedly found himself famous. The story of the song will show how far removed it is from the cherished pastoral story told in Logan county. The story persists, however, this being one of the cases where the “moving finger writes,” etc., and nothing more can be done about it.
N.P. Willis and George P. Morris had revived the old New York Mirror. The former asked English to write a poem for the paper and suggested a sea song. English tried to write it after renewed pressure but he reported to the editors that his muse was not working. Later he drifted into reminiscence and produced four and a half stanzas of the well known song. His muse balked again, and after some thought he added the first four lines of a sea song he had started and sent the whole with a note to Willis telling him that he would send something else when he was in a better writing mood. The poem was printed with a little puff, and was signed with the author’s initial.
Later it was suggested that the poem be set to music, but several attempts failed. English composed a melody for it, but another got the start of his. In 1846 Charles Porter, manager of the Pittsburgh theatre had Nelson F. Kneass, a fine tenor, in his company. Porter told the singer that if he could find a song suitable for his voice he would cast him in The Battle of Buena Vista. An Englishman, a sort of hanger-on named Hunt, had read Ben Bolt and could recall most of it. The gaps were patched up and to this Kneass adapted a German air and sang the piece. The drama was soon dropped but the song took the country by
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 11 December 1928
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this poem titled “West Virginia” by Granville D. Hall, dated October 4, 1927:
“Child of the Tempest”–O, puny Ship of State!
Christened with the Crimson vintage of the War,
Fate gives thee launch upon a dark unquiet tide;
But the future signals welcome from afar,
Anchored to the Union, thou shalt ride
In haven safe while smiling fortunes wait!
“We know what master laid thy keel;
What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel;
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope;
What anvils rang, what hammers beat–
In what a forge and what a heat
Thy anchors grew–our Hope.” (*)
We laid deep with all our love,
With all our hopes, and bid thee go–
Despite the frowning skies above;
Breasting the heaving tides below–
Forth to the future, strong in right.
Time evens all, and God is just.
In thine own strength and to His might,
Our best beloved–our all–we trust.
Fare forth, O, rich imperial State!
Virginia’s last reluctant gift,
Award of War, the fruit of Fate.
The Sea subsides, the storm-clouds lift.
Take courage, Heir to halcyon years!
Beware the reef; the treacherous lee;
Beware the perils yet to be.
The Prosperous Isles, their lures and guiles;
Their apples of gold, their sirens’ smiles–
Are waiting to win thee from the Sea.
Once more the skies shall bend serene,
And placid seas He broad between;
The tempest past, the radiant bow
Shall arch the heavens above thy prow;
And golden shores beyond the Sea
Shall lift their fronds to welcome thee.
(Granville D. Hall was formerly the editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer. He is now living in retirement [in] Glencie, Ill.)
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