Albert Sidney Johnston Morgan, Appalachia, Battle of Charleston, Battle of Scary Creek, civil war, history, Jacob D. Cox, John Morgan, Kanawha County, Morgan Kitchen Museum, St. Albans, Terry Lowry, Union Army, West Virginia
22 Wednesday Jan 2020
Posted Civil Warin
28 Saturday Jul 2018
Posted Boone County, Civil War, Native American Historyin
Albert Allen, Appalachia, Ballardsville Methodist Church, Boone County, Cabell County, Charleston, civil war, Coal River, crime, Crook District, Daniel Boone, Danville, Edgar Mitchell, Frankfort, French and Indian War, genealogy, history, Jack Dotson, Johnson Copley, Kanawha County, Kanawha River, Kanawha Valley, Kentucky, Lee Sowards, Lewisburg, Logan Banner, Logan County, Madison, Missouri, Nathan Boone, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Peytona District, Point Pleasant, Pond Fork, Ruckers Branch, Scott District, Sherman District, Spruce Fork, St. Albans, Virginia Assembly, Washington District, West Virginia, West Virginia Synodical School, Yadkin Valley
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history about Boone County in a story dated December 9, 1927:
Boone county was created in 1847 of parts of Kanawha, Cabell and Logan counties. Its area is 06 miles, 65 miles larger than Logan, and in 1920 its population was 18,145. It is divided into five magisterial districts, as follows: Crook, Peytona, Scott, Sherman and Washington.
Boone county commemorates in West Virginia the name of Daniel Boone, the pathfinder to the west. It is an honor worthily bestowed, for who has not heard of Daniel Boone and the story of his efforts as an explorer, hunter, land-pilot and surveyor. His was a romantic life, picturesque and even pathetic. For more than a century he has he has been held as the ideal of the frontiersman, perhaps for the reason that his course in life was not marked by selfishness and self-seeking. He fought with the Indians, but was not tainted with the blood-lust that so often marred the border warrior and made him even more savage than the red man whom he sought to expel; he built and passed on to newer fields, leaving to others the fruits of his industry and his suffering. As a man needing plenty of “elbow room,” his places of residence mark the border between civilization and savagery for a period of fifty years. And there was a time, a period of nearly ten years, when his cabin home was on the banks of the Kanawha, a short distance above the present City of Charleston.
Daniel Boone was born in the Schulykill Valley, Pennsylvania, on November 2, 1734, but in 1750 removed with his parents to the Yadkin Valley, in North Carolina. Here he grew to manhood, married and reared a family, but was active as an Indian trader, frontiersman and defender of the feeble settlement. He was with Braddock’s army at its defeat on the Monongahela in 1755, and a few years later became the founder and defender of Kentucky. He strove with the red man with force and stratagem, and many are the fire-side tales recounted and retold in West Virginia homes of his prowess with the rifle; his ready plans and nimble wit that helped him out of situations that seemed almost impossible. Many, perhaps, are without foundation of fact; others contain enough of truth to leaven the story. Of his service to the western settlers, records preserved in the archives of state and nation show that he was indefatigable. At the Indian uprising in 1774, Boone was sent out to warn the settlers and surveyors, ranging from the settlement on the Holston river throughout all of what is now southern West Virginia to Lewisburg. In 1788, after he had lost his property in Kentucky through defective titles and failure to properly enter land grants, Boone and his family removed to Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, where they remained about one year. Contrary to his habit, his next move was toward the east to a site near the City of Charleston. When Kanawha county was formed in 1789 Boone was a resident and was named the first Lieutenant Colonel of the militia, and the following year, 1790, was elected a member of the lower house of the Virginia assembly. Colonel Boone left the Kanawha valley in 1799, removing to Missouri where he had been granted a thousand arpents of land by the Spanish government and had been appointed a Syndic for the Femme-Osage district–a local office combining the duties of sheriff, jury and military commandant. Colonel Boone died at the home of his youngest son, Colonel Nathan Boone, on the Femme Osage river, Missouri, September 26, 1820. His remains, with those of his wife, were some years later taken to Frankfort, Kentucky, and re-interred with pomp and ceremony. A monument erected by the state marks his last resting place.
Madison, the present county seat, is located at the junction of Pond Fork and Spruce Fork, which form Coal River, is 603 feet above sea level and in 1920 had a population of 604. It was incorporated as a town by the circuit court of that county in 1906. At the organization of the county in 1847, the seat of justice was located on the lands of Albert Allen, at the mouth of Spruce Fork, opposite the present town of Madison. The original court house was burned by Federal troops during the Civil War, and for a time thereafter the seat of justice was located at the Ballardsville Methodist Church. In 1866 the court house was re-located on the lands of Johnson Copley, opposite the old site, and the public buildings erected, which were used until 1921 when the present fine court house was erected.
The West Virginia Synodical School maintained and operated by the Presbyterian church, occupies the site of the original court house, opposite the present county seat.
Danville, another incorporated town in that county, had a population of 327 in 1920.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 9 December 1927.
25 Friday May 2018
Posted Coal, Giles County, Native American History, Tazewell Countyin
Alex W. Quarrier, Andrew Donnally, Benjamin F. Morris, C&O Railroad, Cabell County, Charles Droddy, Charles Page, Charleston, Clendenin, coal, Coal River, Coalsmouth, Daniel Boone, David Ruffner, Davis Creek, Donnally's Fort, Ebenezer Oakes, Elk River, Fleming Cobb, Fort Tackett, genealogy, Giles County, Greenbrier County, Henry Ruffner, Herbert P. Gaines, history, John P. Huddleston, John Young, Josiah Hughes, Kanawha County, Kanawha Court House, Kanawha Salines, Kanawha Valley, L.H. Oakes, Leonard Morris, Logan Banner, Logan County, Malden, Marmet, Mason Campbell, Mercer Academy, Michael Newhouse, Native Americans, Owen Jarrett, Point Pleasant, Roy J. Morris, salt, South Charleston, St. Albans, Tazewell County, The Western Virginian, Walton, West Virginia, William Cobb
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, in a story titled “Conditions Century Ago: Charleston Educator Tells of Settlement of Kanawha County Which Embraced Part of What Is Now Logan–With 550 Population Charleston Was Metropolis of Kanawha Valley,” comes this bit of history for the city of Charleston dated October 14, 1927:
Josiah Hughes, principal of the South Charleston graded schools, has written a sketch of Kanawha county, telling of the activities of a century and more ago. It is of interest here, because Logan county was created in 1824 from parts of Kanawha, Cabell, Giles and Tazewell, and because some of the pioneers he names have descendants in Logan. Kanawha county was formed Oct. 5, 1789. His article in part follows.
Charleston was the largest town in the valley, and had a population of approximately 550. It had its stores, its schools, its court house, its jail, its pillory, and its whipping post.
The postoffice at Charleston was “Kanawha C.H.” established under that name in 1801, and was so called until late in 1879. Among those who received their mail here one century ago were the following: Leonard Morris (an ancestor of Roy J. Morris, who is in the local C. & O. ticket office), probably the earliest of the pioneers of the valley; Fleming Cobb, the noted Indian scout, who lies buried near the mouth of Davis Creek; John P. Huddleston, who hunted and trapped with Daniel Boone; Alex W. Quarrier, who was many years clerk of the courts of Kanawha county; Herbert P. Gaines, founder of the first newspaper in Charleston; John Young, whose father saved him and his mother from death by Indians when Fort Tackett at the mouth of Coal River was destroyed about 1789; Dr. William Cobb, the first physician in this valley and the ancestor of the Cobb family near Clendenin; Michael Newhouse, a noted pioneer of Elk river; Ebenezer Oakes, a near ancestor of our townsman, L.H. Oakes; Charles Droddy, the first settler at Walton; Owen Jarrett, noted ancestor of the Jarrett family in Kanawha county; Col. David Ruffner, the noted business man whose enterprise made possible the establishment of Mercer Academy in Charleston one hundred and ten years ago; Benjamin Morris, a noted pioneer and near ancestor of Benjamin F. Morris of Marmet; Col. Andrew Donnally, whose father built Donnally’s Fort in Greenbrier county.
During the years 1825-1829. “The Western Virginian,” as it was called, was the only newspaper published in Charleston. Mason Campbell was editor.
50 Salt Furnaces
The first great industry in the Great Kanawha Valley was the manufacturing of salt. One hundred years ago more than fifty salt furnaces were in active operation. A few years later the annual production of salt reached upwards of 3,000,000 bushels.
Kanawha Salines, now Malden, was the center of the great industrial area. The salt companies had greater stores than could be found in Charleston and many of the citizens of Charleston went to Kanawha Salines to do their trading.
One hundred years ago only a few coal mines had been opened up. Wood was the principal fuel used at the salt furnaces. Prior to 1830 but little coal was used by the salt makers. The coal industry in this valley was of comparatively small value until the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad in 1873.
By 1827 three steamboats had succeeded in reaching Charleston. In 1830 the first towboat on the Kanawha reached Charleston.
Before the close of the first quarter of the nineteenth century missionaries of various churches had visited the valley and preached in the homes of the pioneers. The Protestant Episcopal church established parishes in Kanawha valley about 1821. The Rev. Charles Page was the preacher for the churches at Point Pleasant, Charleston and Coalsmouth (St. Albans). But the Presbyterian church was probably the pioneer in the valley, although small congregations of communicants of the Baptist and Methodist churches may have worshiped in the homes of some of the pioneers. Dr. Henry Ruffner organized the first Presbyterian church in Kanawha county in 1818. The church was organized in Charleston.
19 Friday Jan 2018
Appalachia, Broadway Journal, Charleston, Edgar Allan Poe, Evening Mirror, history, Logan, Logan Banner, New York, Philadelphia, poetry, Ravenscourt, Roy Fuller, Saturday Gazette, St. Albans, Sweet Alice, The Literati, The Mirror, The Raven, Thomas Dunn English, West Virginia, West Virginia Review, White Sulphur Springs
From the Logan Banner, of Logan, WV, comes this item of interest relating to Thomas Dunn English, former mayor of Logan, and Edgar Allan Poe:
EDGAR ALLAN POE AND DR. ENGLISH, LOGAN’S POET, HAD VERBAL DUEL
Some interesting matters are brought to light by Roy Fuller in an article titled “Edgar Allan Poe in West Virginia” in the January number of West Virginia Review.
Of special interest is what he writes of the hostility between Poe and Thomas Dunn English, who was probably the most widely known citizen this city or county ever had.
Fuller, a Charleston newspaper man of real talent, smashes the tradition that Poe visited St. Albans and wrote “The Raven” in a house long afterward named “Ravenscourt” by a resourceful real estate agent and still an object of reverent interest to credulous folk.
“Oddly enough, Poe really spent three summers in what is now West Virginia, but this is never mentioned if it is known here,” says the Review article. “The unsubstantiated tale has precedence over the truth, a situation not at all rare. He came into West Virginia not as a wanderer but as the recently adopted son of the Richmond tobacco merchant. The three summers following his adoption by the Allans he was taken to White Sulphur Springs, then the most popular resort in the south. This is the only claim that the State’s romantic folk can establish, so far as it can be learned from his biographers, except his dealings with Thomas Dunn English, whom West Virginians claim as one of their poets…
“As to ‘The Raven,’ it is generally believed that he wrote it while living near West Eighty-fourth Street, New York. It was published in the ‘Evening Mirror’ January 29, 1845.
Poe wrote “The Literati” condemning and puffing some thirty-eight of his contemporary New Yorkers, including Mr. English. Poe called him “Thomas Dunn Brown” and spoke further of him in such a light way that the author of “Sweet Alice” became peeved. The versatile gentleman lately of West Virginia poured out his heart in a few columns of “The Mirror.” Poe replied four days later in the Philadelphia “Saturday Gazette” and followed his answer with a suit for damage. He got $225 on February 17, 1847. Thus Poe got perhaps his greatest “stake” from Mr. English, an amount great in comparison with $10 he got for his greatest work “The Raven.”
“English also brought out one issue of the ‘Broadway Journal’ after it was given up by Poe. Thus good West Virginians may claim that one of their boys ran a Broadway paper–for a day.”
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 18 January 1927.
15 Monday Jan 2018
Posted Big Creek, Big Ugly Creek, Gill, Harts, Huntington, Loganin
Annie Dingess, Appalachia, Big Creek, Blanche Spry, Caroline Brumfield, Cat Adkins, Charleston, Columbus, Cora Adkins, Ed Brumfield, Ethel Brumfield, Fisher B. Adkins, Fred Shelton, genealogy, H.R. Adkins, Harts, Hendricks Brumfield, Herb Adkins, history, Howard Stone, Huntington, Inez Adkins, Jessie Brumfield, John McEldowney, Lincoln County, Logan, Logan Banner, Nye Rooper, Ohio, Pauline Scites, St. Albans, Sylvia Cyfers, Verna Johnson, Vesta Cyfers, West Virginia
An unknown correspondent from Harts in Lincoln County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on August 5, 1927:
Hurrah! Here comes Harts again!
H.R. Adkins was transacting business in Logan, Monday.
Miss Cora Adkins of Huntington spent the weekend with home folks here.
Cheer up, boys. The flapper from Big Creek will come again.
Mrs. Verna Johnson of Columbus, Ohio, was the guest of her mother, Mrs. Chas. Brumfield, here over Saturday and Sunday.
Howard Stone of Huntington was calling on friends in Harts, Friday.
F.B. Adkins was looking after business matters in Huntington, Saturday.
Miss Pauline Scites of Huntington was calling on Mrs. Jessie Brumfield here Saturday and Sunday.
Mr. and Mrs. John McEldowney and children of Charleston are here visiting friends at present.
Miss Ethel Brumfield was the guest of Mrs. Robert Dingess at Logan last Saturday.
Mrs. Jessie Brumfield and Pauline Scites and Fred Shelton were calling on Miss Sylvia and Vesta Cyfers at Gill Sunday and were accompanied by Nye Rooper of St. Albans.
George Midkiff is our new operator here this week.
Jack Marcum of Hamlin was in town Sunday.
Daily Happenings: Fred in his new car; Inez in her sleeveless dress; Catherine and her pipe; Herb and his bill book; Hendrix and his mail; Clara crying; Blanche flirting; Jessie and Pauline in Bessie’s fine new Oakland coach; Ed with his tax books.
Dear old Banner, goodbye, see you some time again.
19 Tuesday Sep 2017
Posted Boone County, Chapmanville, Huntington, Loganin
Boone County, C.B. Hainor, Chapmanville, Cora McKinney, Decoration Day, E.P. Stowers, Emma Stowers, Erie Blevins, Floyd Barker, genealogy, Henlawson, history, Hughey, Huntington, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Lottie Hainor, Lula Blevins, Manila, Nellie Barker, Robert Hainor, St. Albans, Thermal Hainor, W.G. Willis, West Virginia, Wilsondale
An unknown correspondent from Chapmanville in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on June 3, 1921:
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hainor attended the decoration exercises at Manila Sunday.
W.G. Willis made a business trip to Logan Saturday.
E.P. Stowers and Miss Emma Stowers returned Wednesday from a business trip to Huntington.
Uncle Floyd Barker, of St. Albans, is visiting relatives here this week and attending decoration.
Mrs. Lottie Hainor and daughter Thermal left Sunday afternoon for a visit with relatives at Henlawson.
Mrs. Cora McKinney spent Sunday with friends here.
Miss Erie Blevins, who is staying at Hughey, spent Sunday with her parents at this place.
Miss Nellie Barker was called to Wilsondale Sunday on account of the illness of her sister.
We are glad to say that Miss Lula Blevins, who has been staying at Hughey, has returned to her home here.
Mrs. C.B. Hainor visited friends at Manila Sunday.
An exciting incident occurred on last Saturday evening that might have caused serious loss to the firm of Stowers and Garrett and besmirched the glorious record they have been making the past few weeks as peddlers. As they were returning home, Mr. Garrett noticed a large fowl in a wheat field, he proceeded to capture it and confine it in his chicken coop. Thinking he had captured some rare bird of the tropical jungles, he drove with all speed to the home of Mr. Stowers where some of the family promptly pronounced it to be a turkey but Messrs. Stowers and Garret had their own opinion on the matter and had already decided they had captured a parrot. They had christened him “___m” and were already beginning to teach him to talk. However he didn’t show much aptitude as a pupil, but stood with dull expressionless eyes and his long crooked bill of a mouth wide open. After much deliberation they were finally convinced that they had not captured a “Poll Parrot” but a vulture or more commonly speaking, a buzzard. When they were convinced of this they opened the coop and Mr. Buzzard flew away to his rightful dominion, while their golden dream of selling a parrot to some enterprising Loganite vanished away on the soaring wings of the “Buzzard.”
15 Saturday Jul 2017
Alice Lawson, Aracoma, assistant postmaster, Ben Bolt, Charleston Gazette, Edgar Allan Poe, George T. Swain, George Washington, Guyandotte River, history, Karl Myers, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, logging, mayor, New York Mirror, Pennsylvania, poems, poetry, postmaster, rafting, Rafting on the Guyandotte, Savage Grant, St. Albans, Thomas Dunn English, timbering, Vicie Nighbert, Walt Whitman, West Virginia, writers
Thomas Dunn English (1819-1902) was a Pennsylvania-born writer who lived briefly in present-day Logan, WV, before the Civil War. At one time, many Loganites believed he wrote his famous work titled “Ben Bolt” while a resident of Logan, then called Aracoma. For more information about his biography, follow this link: https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2205
The following story appeared in the Logan Banner on November 23, 1926:
“Logan gains quite a bit of notoriety from the fact that the song ‘Ben Bolt’ was written here,” said G.T. Swain in his short history of Logan county, published in 1916. Dr. English wrote “Ben Bolt” for the New York Mirror about 10 years before he ever came to Logan. So here explodeth another nice literary myth–if a myth concerning “Ben Bolt” may be called a literary one. They even tell how Dr. English laid aside his law and medicine practice, his novel writing, and his duties as assistant postmaster and politician and dreamily to go to the shades of certain elm trees overlooking the Guyandotte and there wrote the poem to a sweetheart of other days. The truth is that English wrote the poem while in the east at the request of “The Mirror” and while trying to compose a sea song he suddenly hit upon the sentimental mood and dashed it off, tacking the first four lines of the sea song-in-the-making onto the one in question. He sent it to the editor and told him the story and remarked that if it was not worth using to burn it. It was always a matter of chagrin to Dr. English that it was the best received piece he ever wrote and his prestige in congress was largely due to his fame from the song.
“For information relating to Dr. English we are indebted to Mrs. Vicie Nighbert, who gave us the information as told to her by her mother, and to Mr. Bryan [who] was personally acquainted [with English, now in his] 80th year and living at present in Straton street,” said Mr. Swain. “Mr. Bryan was personally acquainted with Dr. English, having at one time been postmaster of the town and employed Dr. English as assistant postmaster.”
English was mayor of Logan, according to Swain, in 1852. Mr. Swain said that Dr. English suddenly disappeared while living in Logan and showed up again with a woman and two children. Dr. English announced at the time that he had married a widow but rumors around the Logan chimney corners had it that the versatile gentleman had added that of wife stealing to his accomplishments. He did not permit the woman to visit or receive but a few friends “and she always carried a look of apprehension.” It is known that English, by act of the general assembly, had the names of the children changed to his own.
Although the whole thing is not worth refuting or proving, English did not write his “Ben Bolt” as told in Logan county. Mrs. Nighbert told the author of this historical sketch that “Dr. English used to often visit the large elm trees that stood by the bank of the Guyandotte near the woman’s residence. It was beneath the shade of the elm that stands today by the railroad bridge that he composed the song ‘Ben Bolt.'” Dr. English was a frequent visitor to the home of the Lawson’s, but the story to the effect that this song was dedicated to Alice Lawson is only imaginary for there was at that time none of the Lawson children bearing the name of Alice, nor were any of the girls at that time large enough to attract the attention of Dr. English.
The “Ben Bolt” myth is comparable to the story around Charleston that Poe wrote some of his works at St. Albans. Poe was never at St. Albans. It is like that pet tradition of the Huntington D.A.R. that George Washington surveyed lands in the Savage grant, the first grants involving the present site of Huntington.
Dr. English wrote a thousand rimes and jingles and couplets but no poems. “Ben Bolt” is a spurt of sentimentality of which the author was ashamed. Its popularity began when the German air was adapted to it, and has lived only on the strength of the music which is a sort the folk will not forget.
Don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt…
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown.
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile.
And trembled with fear at your frown?
In the old churchyard in the valley, Ben Bolt.
In a corner obscure and alone,
They have fitted a slab of the granite so grey,
And Alice lies under the stone.
And so forth. English was at a loss how to open the verses when he hit upon the idea of tacking the first four lines of a sea song he was trying to compose for Willis, editor of “The Mirror,” and his last lines reflect the influence of the idea:
Your presence a blessing, your friendship a truth.
Ben Bolt, of the salt sea gale.
English wrote “Rafting on the Guyandotte” and two other “poems” while waiting on the return of a friend he was visiting, taking about an hour to [write] the poem. The opening to his poem is:
Who at danger never laughed,
Let him ride upon a raft
Down Guyan, when from the drains
Pours the flood from many rains,
And a stream no plummet gauges
In a furious freshet rages
With a strange and rapturous fear
Rushing water he will hear;
Woods and cliffsides darting by,
These shall terribly glad his eye.
He shall find his life blood leaping
Feel his brain with frenzy swell;
Faster with the current’s sweeping;
Hear his voice in sudden yell…
And so on for a 100 lines or more he describes the thrills of rafting. It would be interesting to have the collectors of West Virginia verse to rise up [illegible] now and tell exactly their reaction to this “beautiful verse” and why they like it, or why they attach importance to the scribbling pastimes of Dr. English, politician, physician, and lawyer.
Although he went to congress on “Ben Bolt,” there is no legitimate claims to list him as a West Virginia poet. Karl Myers writes much better verse than English ever achieved. A sixth grade pupil of native brightness a notch or two above his classmates can write pages of rhymes as good as the rafting poem. It is the sort of rhyme that is easier to do than not to do, once you establish the swing of it. Youngsters have been known to turn in history examination papers done in rhyme as good as this. But West Virginia is so anxious to claim some poets. Why this should worry the state is a mystery, for European critics say that the whole of America has produced but a poet and a half… Edgar Allan Poe the poet and Walt Whitman the half poet. So why should we feel sensitive about it?
Source: Charleston Gazette via the Logan Banner, 23 November 1926.
29 Monday Dec 2014
Posted Big Creekin
Anna Garrett, Appalachia, Big Creek, Boone County, Charley Ferrell, genealogy, Grace McComas, history, Hunter Bros., Hurricane, J.L. McComas, J.M. Mitchell, J.M. Nelson, Kanawha County, Lake, Logan Banner, Logan County, Manila, Otto Bethel, Peter Craddock, R.H. Vickers, Sally Blevins, St. Albans, Susie Garrett, typhoid fever, W.B. Phipps, W.H. Vickers, West Virginia
“Forest,” a local correspondent at Big Creek in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, written on September 15, which the Logan Banner printed on Friday, September 18, 1903:
Seeing your earnest solicitation for correspondents from each village, we will try to give you a few items from this vicinity.
The drought still continues in this section of the country and people and property are almost suffering from want of water.
The law school convened Monday with W.H. Vickers as teacher. We predict for him a successful term of school.
Work on the new residence of W.B. Phipps, near the Lane, is being rapidly pushed forward. Hunter Bros. are doing the work.
Quite a number of our young people attended church on Hewett Sunday.
We are pleased to chronicle that R.E. Vickers is able to be out again after being confined to his room several weeks with typhoid fever.
Miss Sally Blevins has been the honored guest of Mrs. J.L. McComas at Manila for several days.
Charley Ferrell, a prominent young man from St. Albans, was transacting business on the creek last week.
Rev. Peter Craddock preached to a large congregation at the Lane Saturday night. We hope the people will all turn out to hear him again Thursday night.
Miss Grace McComas of Lake came over Sunday to stay with her uncle, J.L. McComas, and attend school at Hurricane.
Mrs. J.M. Nelson and children, who have been visiting friends and relatives here for several weeks, will leave next week for her home in Kanawha county.
Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Mitchell, Misses Susie and Anna Garrett and Otto Bethel were pleasant callers at the home of John Phipps last Sunday and were treated to a nice lot of melons.
14 Wednesday May 2014
Posted Calhoun County, Clay County, Ed Haley, Musicin
Appalachia, Arnoldsburg, Ashland, banjo, Ben Friend, Bernard Postalwait, Bill Stutler, Bob Carr, Brandon Kirk, Calhoun County, Camp Chase, Charleston, civil war, Clay, Clay County, Clendenin, Ed Haley, Ed Williams, Edden Hammons, fiddlers, fiddling, history, Hog Run Hollow, Jack McElwain, John Hartford, Kentucky, Kim Johnson, Laury Hicks, Lawrence Haley, Lincoln Republican, Luther Carder, music, Pat Haley, Pisgah Bridge, Richwood, Sol Carpenter, St. Albans, Ugee Postalwait, West Virginia, William E. Chilton, Williams River, Wilson Douglas, writing
Brandon and I got a good night’s sleep at Pat Haley’s home in Ashland, then took off the next morning to see Wilson Douglas in Clendenin, West Virginia. I wanted to hear more about his memories of Ed, play some music, and go see the old Laury Hicks homeplace. Wilson met us on his porch with Kim Johnson, a banjo player. We all went inside and got settled, where Kim mentioned that Laury first invited Ed to his house after meeting him in St. Albans, near Charleston. Wilson was quick to offer new details about Ed — of a more seedy variety. He said Ed “ran around” a lot with Bernard Postalwait when he was in the area. They usually got drunk and went “women crazy” and stayed gone all night. Hicks apparently had a “wild side,” too. Wilson hinted that he was a moonshiner who sometimes left home on timber jobs…and never showed up.
We wasted little time in taking off to see some of Ed’s old stomping grounds in Clay and Calhoun Counties. There was a slight drizzle, just enough to wet everything.
Our first stop was the Hicks homeplace, which had been overtaken by weeds on my previous visit in 1994. The weeds were gone this time, so we got out of the car and maneuvered through the rotting remains of an outhouse, chicken coop, cellar base, parts of an old fence, and scattered boards — all damp and colored dark brown due to the light rain dropping down around us.
It was a far cry from the “old days” when (according to Ugee Postalwait) the family had farmed corn, wheat and cane all the way back up the mountain to the head of Hog Run Hollow. Gone were the apple and peach orchards. Gone were the gardens down by the creek (now taken in by the paved road). And, most obviously, gone was the old Hicks home, the last of four houses built on the site (the final one having been constructed in 1936).
We soon made our way up the hill to the cemetery, where Brandon took pictures. I just kind of stared at Laury’s grave — picturing Ed playing there after Laury’s death in 1937.
As we came off the hill, Wilson said Hicks was rumored to have died from “some bad cases of VD.”
Later that day, Wilson showed us Clay, the seat of government for Clay County. This was the place where Ed Haley arrived by train from Charleston enroute to the home of Laury Hicks. Lawrence Haley once told me about his father walking from Clay to Arnoldsburg, a town some thirty miles away. Brandon had found this great article titled “Old-Time Fiddlers Will Gather At Clay Saturday” from a 1921 edition of the Lincoln Republican.
Clay, W.Va., Jan. 10 — Elaborate preparations are being made in the little city of Clay for the old-time fiddlers’ contest which will be held on Saturday night, January 22. An attendance surpassing anything ever held in Clay is expected, and the hospitable citizens of this town have appointed a committee to look after the welfare of its guests. Similar contests have been held in various other sections of West Virginia this winter, but they cannot even compare to the one which will be held in Clay, it is predicted. Old-time fiddlers from far and near are coming to compete, and, if possible, carry off the honors of the evening.
Among some of the celebrated old-time fiddlers who will be here is “Jack” McElwaine of Erbacon, in Webster county. “Jack” has played the fiddle for more than fifty years, and between times has been justice of the peace, preached the gospel and practiced law. He learned to play under Saul Carpenter, the most famous old-time fiddler of them all, and who played himself out of Camp Chase during the Civil war. Another fiddler equally famous is “Edin” Hammons, who hails from the head of Wiliams river, and whose sole occupation all through life has been hunt, trap and play the fiddle. “Edin” has killed more bears, deer and played the fiddle more than any other man on Williams River.
It is said that Senator William E. Chilton and Colonel Bob Carr of Charleston have been given invitations to attend the contest and compete with these old-time fiddlers.
Several local celebrities are expected to enter the contest, and the old mountaineer fiddlers are looking forward to this part of the contest with great pleasure and saying “the city fellers will have to fiddle some to beat them.” No complete list of the fiddlers who enter the contest has been made public, but some fifteen or twenty are expected. Ben Friend, Ed Williams, Luther Carder and “Bill” Stutler, men who have been winning prizes in other contests, will be there.
People of Clay and surrounding country are looking forward to this event with great anticipation and pleasure. The last contest of the kind was held at Richwood, Thursday night of last week, and fully 200 persons were unable to get into the theater where it was held.
There are very few of the real old time fiddlers who play the old mountain tunes living today, and within a very short time there will be none left and no one to take their place. The younger generation has neither talent nor desire for this kind of music. At any rate, one can not find a young man of today who can play the fiddle in the “good old-fashioned way.”
Clay, I found, was a small shell of a town with a nice old courthouse sitting high on the hill. There was the typical arrangement of buildings: sagging old businesses hinting at lost prosperity, a small bank, dollar stores, a car dealership, a post office, and a Gino’s restaurant. No red lights and basically one two-lane thoroughfare through town. There was a hotel with the weekly newspaper office headquartered beneath where, I was told, you could go in late and help yourself to a key and then pay for your room the next morning on your way out. After passing through town and crossing the Pisgah Bridge, we spotted an old section of residences and a community church. The track bed was still visible but the railroad was long gone.
Writings from my travels and experiences. High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water. Mark Twain
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