You won’t let her rest in peace, fussing about her all the time

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 18, 2019

Ellen Fridley was a central figure in the economic and cultural flowering of Big Ridge, VA during the 1910s and 1920s. An entrepreneur, she ran the Big Ridge Supply Company, lodged in a small building near her home, where mountain residents could buy gum, tobacco, groceries, clothes, kerosene, and other items. She often accepted butter, chickens, eggs, and home produce in barter, which her husband later peddled in White Sulphur Springs.

Her economic ties with a larger world of commerce were complemented by a literate and intellectual curiosity. She read newspapers, ordered books through the mail, and apprised herself of events of the day. Like her sister-in-law Lelia Belle, Ellen had “modernist” leanings; she believed that scientific and cultural innovations elsewhere could benefit her family and her community, and should be embraced.

Hezekiah Fridley, Ellen’s husband, was in the same respects almost the opposite of his wife. Illiterate, with a resentful suspicion of book learning, Hezekiah was also deeply superstitious. When their last child, Ruth, was born with a severe but surgically correctable cleft palate, the stage was set for a protracted battle between these headstrong individuals and their different points of view.

Ellen resolved that her daughter would not go through life with her speech and physical appearance impaired by a condition she knew could be improved. Hezekiah, skeptical that any human being could or should correct what God and nature had ordained, steadfastly refused to permit an operation. Aunt Ellen prevailed. I don’t know how, but I suspect that her independent sources of income had something to do with her ability to carry on with her own plans.

When Ruth was one year old, she and her mother boarded the train together in White Sulphur, bound on the C&O line for Huntington, West Virginia. Through her contacts with physicians, Ellen had located a surgeon trained to carry out the operation on Ruth’s cleft palate. Uncle Hez railed against her decision and predicted dire outcomes from the surgery. Ellen ignored him, although his wrathful predictions increased her own anxiety about the operation and its consequences for Ruth’s health.

It was an all-day trip, and Ellen entertained her restless daughter with stories, games, and the extraordinary sights of the New River gorge through which they traveled. They spent their last night together away from home, boarding with strangers in Huntington.

Ruth died on the operating table the next day. The doctors speculated later that her tiny body housed a weak heart that could not withstand the operation. Ellen Fridley returned to Big Ridge alone, riding all day on the train with her daughter in a coffin in the baggage car.

Enraged with a grief that was compounded by self-righteousness, for months Uncle Hez upbraided Aunt Ellen for her foolish and fatal decision. Ellen first tried argument, then silence and avoidance, but he kept on. Submerged by her own grief and guilt, and well aware of his stubbornness, Ellen knew she must find a way to stop his tirades.

Uncle Hez’s greatest weakness was his superstitious nature. One night, many months after Ruth’s death, when he had fallen asleep, Aunt Ellen quietly brought a small lantern and set it on the floor next to their bed. After settling herself back under the covers, she reached over and turned up the wick. Shadows flickered through the rafters as she dangled her hand around the chimney. Presently Uncle Hez awoke.

“Ellen! Ellen, wake up!” She feigned sleep. “Ellen, wake up, there’s a haint [ghost]!”

“Hez, what are you shaking me for?,” she asked drowsily. “I don’t see no haint.”

“Ellen, it’s there! Yonder in the corner!”

Ellen moved her long fingers and the ghost danced. “Hez, get on back to sleep. You’re seeing things.” Ellen slowly turned down the lantern, and the house darkened. Hez grumbled and tossed, then fell into a fitful sleep.

The next day, unnerved by the ghost and irritable from his restless sleep, Uncle Hez continued to rail against Aunt Ellen for sending Ruth to her grave. That night, Ellen once again set the lantern next to their bed. When the light began to flicker in the same corner, Hez woke up.

“Ellen! Ellen!”

“Oh, Hez,” she said sleepily. “Let me rest.”

“Open your eyes, Ellen! It’s over yonder!”

Ellen peered around the room, then turned to Hez. “I don’t see no haint, Hez. I reckon that means it’s come for you.” She soon turned down the lantern, but her words had reinforced what Uncle Hez already feared. He lay in watchful terror most of the night.

By the third night, Uncle Hez was so frightened of the nocturnal visitations that he could scarcely fall asleep. It was the wee hours of morning before his snoring finally persuaded Aunt Ellen that he slept. She turned up the wick.

“It’s the haint! Wake up, Ellen, it’s back!”

Ellen feigned sleep. He poked her with his elbow and shouted in her ear: “Wake up!”

“Oh, Hez, can’t nobody sleep with you having all these haints.”

“It’s there! Over yonder in the corner! Same place for three nights!”

Aunt Ellen finally delivered her punch line: “Well, Hez, if it is a haint, it must be Ruth’s. You won’t let her rest in peace, fussing about her all the time.”

Uncle Hez was silent. Aunt Ellen made the ghost dance just a few more times for effect, then she lowered the wick.

Ever after that night, Uncle Hez was afraid to speak of Ruth at all. The ghostly visits ceased, and the lantern stayed on the shelf. As for Ruth, Uncle Hez and Aunt Ellen separately offered up their silent prayers for her peaceful slumber beneath the sheltering trees of Big Ridge.

From “Beyond the Mountains”: The Paradox of Women’s Place in Appalachian History,” by Barbara Ellen Smith, NWSA Journal Volume 11, Number 3 (Autumn 1999)

3 Responses

  • Austin Sgro says:

    Hello ,I was wonder how to get a hold of this book?Hezekiah and Ellen is my great great grandparents.My dad is always interesting in finding his past so am I.We only have family tree’s for Fridley and partial of Smith’s can you give me more info on Barbara Smith I know she would of been one of Ellen’s siblings daughter.Thank you very much you can contacted me at my email which is my name at Gmail or relpy on here as i will be checking back

  • kevin keith says:

    are you steven sgros son?

  • austin sgro says:

    Yes i am his son…

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He removed his eyeglasses and lit the pipe by focusing light through the glasses

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 17, 2019

When he was only five or six years old, James Brennan delivered a pail of water to a farm worker on the grounds of what today is Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The worker took a drink, pulled out a pipe, removed his eyeglasses and lit the pipe by focusing light through the glasses.

Brennan remembers being profoundly impressed by that feat.

Long before the ORNL took up residence on Chestnut Ridge, the land was home to James Brennan. Brennan’s family lived on the property before the government seized it in 1942. His father’s old barn stood where the main office complex at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source is now.

“Dad had a rolling store, a wagon he pulled with a team of gray mules,” he says. “There were no stores around. He sold the basic goods—sugar, coffee and salt.”

mule team at Chestnut Ridge TN

The Brennan family’s rolling store was drawn by a team of mules, similar to this scene in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s historical collection.

Brennan’s father bought the Chestnut Ridge farm in 1915 (Brennan has the original land grant for 100 acres near Chestnut Ridge that the state of Tennessee issued to Thomas Hagler on July 12, 1831. )

The elder Brennan was able to pay off the farm loan in just 10 years. “Dad liked the Chestnut Ridge tract mainly because as a farmer he knew the value of water,” says James, “and the land was unusually endowed with three springs.”

“It was productive farm land. We had three tenant families and a sawmill that provided work for a lot of people.”

The Brennans raised cattle and crops, marketing their produce in nearby towns.

Brennan visited ORNL in August 2007 at the age of 89, and could still recognize many sites, although the changes over 60 years were sometimes drastic.

His directions to the visitor’s center mentioned the Conference Center pond. He remembered that pond as a small stream where he used to come for a drink after services at New Bethel Baptist Church.

James Brennan was born in Bear Creek Valley in 1918. One of Brennan’s favorite memories of life there is when his father got his 1922 Model T Ford truck stuck on a muddy road. James’ father gave his mother, who had never driven a car, a crash course in driving while he pulled it out of the mud with a team of mules.

She successfully drove to a field near their house but didn’t know how to stop.

 Brennan remembers standing on the porch with his brother watching his father run around trying to instruct his mother on how to stop the car while keeping a team of mules under control. James doesn’t remember the conclusion exactly, but somehow his father got the truck stopped.

In December 1941 the Brennans moved to a 64-acre farm near Scarbrough to get electricity but still owned the property on Chestnut Ridge. James enlisted in the Army almost immediately after Pearl Harbor.

He says his parents planned to keep the Chestnut Ridge place in the family for the rest of their lives, but by fall 1942 events beyond their control dictated otherwise. The Manhattan Project uprooted the family a second time, and they finished moving out of Chestnut Ridge near Christmas that year.

James had already left for the war effort.

“I don’t know how my father was able to get rid of what he had in such a short time,” he says of the move.

During World War II, Brennan worked in telephone communications, laying and maintaining telephone wires. He served in the Pacific Theater early in the war—including Guadalcanal and Bougainville—and later in Europe, including the latter part of the Battle of the Bulge and a memorable trip to Paris.

“The French government gave us $17. I still don’t understand the reason why exactly, but we accepted the $17 anyway. That’s what we went to Paris on,” Brennan says.

He remembers the beautiful buildings he saw, but his strongest memory is of the Parisian subway system. He and his Army buddies got on the subway not altogether realizing that the stops would be announced in French, that none of them understood French and that they could not see where they were going.

When he returned from the war, Brennan worked at the water treatment plant at
Y-12 for a few years. He later did contract work at several sites on the Oak Ridge reservation, including the High Flux Isotope Reactor.

When that long-ago farm laborer from Brennan’s childhood focused photons to light his pipe, perhaps he foreshadowed how Oak Ridge National Laboratory would focus protons onto a target to produce neutrons. The ORNL’s processes are much more complicated, but the wonder both produce is the same.

“Long before SNS, memories of farm life pleasant for Chestnut Ridge resident,” by Charlie Smith, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Reporter, Number 93, October 2007
online at

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Did the early polio vaccine cause cancer?

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 16, 2019

In October 1960, Dr. Bernice Eddy gave a talk to the Cancer Society in New York without warning her employer, the National Institutes of Health, in advance. She startled the attendees by announcing that she had examined cells from monkey’s kidneys in which the polio virus to be used in polio vaccines was grown, and had found they were infected with cancer causing viruses. Dr. Bernice Eddy

She had decided on her own initiative to test extracts by innoculating newborn hamsters, since these animals developed tumors with a type of virus she and Dr. Sarah Stewart had previously discovered in mice and named polyoma virus.  This virus was one of the early known cancer-causing viruses, and was later named the SE (Stewart-Eddy) Polyoma Virus in their honor.

The inoculated hamsters developed tumors similar to those induced with polyoma virus. Her inference was clear: There were cancer-causing monkey viruses in the polio vaccine. She warned an epidemic of cancer in America was in the making. When the word got back to her NIH bosses, they exploded in anger.


When the cussing stopped, her superiors crushed Bernice Eddy professionally. Any mention of cancer-causing monkey viruses in the polio vaccine was not welcomed by NIH. They took away her lab, destroyed her animals, put her under a gag order, prevented her from attending professional meetings, and delayed publication of her scientific paper. In the words of Edward Shorter, author of The Health Century, ‘Her treatment became a scandal within the scientific community.’

Later, it became the subject of a congressional inquiry. In the words of Dr. Lawrence Kilham, a fellow NIH researcher who wrote a letter of protest to the Surgeon General’s office, ‘the presence of a cancer virus in the polio virus vaccine is the matter demanding full investigation.’ Dr. Eddy’s discovery was in fact subsequently validated by Drs. Maurice Hilliman and Benjamin Sweet of Merck. After additional studies, the vaccine was found to not cause tumors in humans, but Dr. Eddy was still restricted by the government from publishing anything about her work.

The work of Dr. Eddy and others led to safe polio vaccines through thorough testing, and provided a major impetus for further research on cancer viruses. The United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare awarded her a Superior Service Medal in 1967.

Bernice Eddy Wooley, Ph.D
born Glendale, WV

Dr.+Bernice+Eddy SE+Polyoma+virus appalachia appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

2 Responses

  • Thank you says:

    for posting this. People need to know what our government is doing to the population in the name of ‘science’.

    It isn’t any better than what Mengele did to the jews in WW2.

    Will people wake up to the eugenics program that is being sponsored by the likes of Bill Gates, Bilderberg group and other members of the New world order before it is too late?

    Check out Jesse Ventura’s take on this as well. Do this BEFORE you decide to consider me another nut job with zero credibility.

  • […] needed to use Rhesus monkey kidney cells, which carried many different viruses. As a result, their polio vaccine became contaminated with a cancer-causing virus carried by these monkeys. This vaccine was given to almost 100 million […]

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Haints and Hags on Halloween

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 15, 2019

Halloween’s around the corner. Here’s a little haint tale for the occasion from Putnam County, Tennessee.

About one mile and a half east of Cookeville the Buck Mountain Road is crossed by the old Sparta-Livingston Road. Turning to the left here and going about a quarter of a mile in the direction of Livingston one reaches the scene of the noted ante-bellum mystery. The large and dismal swamp that once covered several acres on either side of the road is now only a memory, due to the propensity of modern man to clear, drain and cultivate the soil. But the name, “Booger Swamp,” still clings to the spot after nearly three-quarters of a century.

One dark night in the early fifties a well-known minister of the gospel, whose name is not essential to our story, was passing this lonely spot on horseback, when suddenly an apparition appeared before him—or, at least, he said it did. After a great deal of discussion and several futile efforts to induce the spook- seeing brother to retract his story, he was finally arraigned in a formal church court and tried, convicted and expelled from the ministry. According to his story, the apparition was a pure white body floating about a yard above the ground and “about the size and length of a weaver’s beam,” to use his exact language. It made some effort to communicate with him, but his horse became unruly and dashed away.

A History of Putnam County, Tennessee by Walter S. McClain, Cooksville, Tenn., Quimby Dyer & Company [c1925]

black cat in a pumpkinA “haint” is an unsettled or angry dead spirit; the term, like “hag,” is of Germanic-British origins. A haint can range from a ghost to an undefinable something that scares the bejeevers out of you. In the same way a haint tale covers everything from a ghost story to a yarn about an odd event. A haint tale doesn’t even have to be scary; some are quite funny. But there are two common ingredients shared by every haint tale. One is that it must involve frightening a character, the listener, or both. The other is that it must include the supernatural, or supernatural overtones. Sometimes it can be a normal event perceived as supernatural, but the paranormal must get mixed in there somehow or other.

source: A History of Putnam County, Tennessee by Walter S. McClain, Cooksville, Tenn., Quimby Dyer & Company

One Response

  • Lisa says:

    my granny was form Harlan County Ky & she always spoke of haints & such!! Wouls care the crap outta us kids!! We’d stay w/her while the others would work the fields or strip tobacco at was always the best times we had…. shed get us all around the old fireplace & tell her”stories”!!! Love haint stories!!!

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Was Stella Fuller ousted, or did she resign?

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 14, 2019

On October 14, 1980, Stella Fuller Day was proclaimed by the mayor of Huntington, WV to acknowledge her lifelong efforts in helping the poor and disadvantaged of that community. And in 2008 she was posthumously inducted into the Greater Huntington Wall of Fame for her 60 years of service. But she wasn’t always so well honored.

Fuller joined the local chapter of the Salvation Army in 1916, and for the next quarter century her humanitarian instincts blossomed. Fuller attained the title of “Envoy Fuller” in the Army and headed a new branch that opened at Johnson’s Lane in Huntington, where she built a recreational program with the assistance of the WPA, consisting of softball and basketball teams. In 1941 the Army was considering building a new outpost ‘to be dedicated to Envoy Stell A. [sic] Fuller who will complete twenty-five years of service on October 1.’

And that’s when it all came to a head.

“In the time that Stella Fuller had served [in the Army], about ten commanders had come and gone, each having to adjust to the community and to the local personnel while establishing his own authority,” writes Nancy Whear in ‘Missing Chapters: West Virginia Women in History.’ “Officially there could never be any question as to who had the authority; but the person who’d been on the spot for 25 years, earning an exceptional amount of independence and building wide community appreciation, had an authority of a different sort. It was a classic setup for confrontation; the only surprise is that it had not come sooner.

Stella Fuller of Huntington WVStella Lawrence Fuller (1883-1981). Photo courtesy The Herald-Dispatch [Huntington WV]. No date.

“The overt cause of the rift was the softball program which had been breaking the Army’s strict Sabbath rule with Sunday games. The league teams, which had had good years but had never won a state or tri-state tournament, surprised local fans with a stunning victory in a tournament in Charleston, won another round at Elkins, and were selected to represent West Virginia in a regional meet.

“The sports page was full of the feats of “Envoy Stella Fuller’s Salvation Army Outpost team.” The phrase “managed by Envoy Fuller” and the picture of the team with Fuller prominent on the back row were probably not very soothing to the already unhappy corps. There were outside complaints to [official post commander] Major Morris about the Sunday games. They were ordered stopped, but they continued.

“With society’s attention on the War rather than on social problems, the resources of the Salvation Army were strained. To Mrs. Fuller the success of the teams demonstrated the healthiness of the youth programs and justified the cost. But to the Army it was an extravagance for a program which not only flouted the rules, but mostly benefitted persons not involved in their religious mission.

baseball game in Huntington WVCrowd in Huntington, WV watching a baseball game. No date.

“The roots of the strain went much deeper than softball. To the organization her activities represented improper independence and outright insubordination. She had overstepped her position. In reality she had outgrown it; her capabilities, experience, and personality equipped her for high-level management, but there was no possibility within the Salvation Army’s structure for her to be the manager.

“Lines of loyalty were drawn and sides had to be taken. The dispute reached the papers in January 1943. There had been a visit for consultation by the division commander who was, by coincidence, the brother of the earlier commander under whom Envoy Fuller had so freely developed her outpost.

“In the meantime Fuller had privately consulted the Volunteers of America about starting a chapter in Huntington. The Army’s Board of Advisors was put in an awkward position an a few resigned to side with Mrs. Fuller.

“The formal break came through another classic impasse: she was offered a contract which she felt she could not sign. Though it did give her charge of the outpost, it had other unacceptable restrictions. The evening newspaper headed its story “Envoy Fuller Ousted from S.A., She Says.” But the morning paper followed with “Stella Fuller Resigns Post.”

“She claimed she was pressured to sign before she could meet with the advisors. Major Morris’ rebuttal insisted that when she did not sign by the specified date, her resignation was “of an ‘automatic nature’ and not due to any action, official or otherwise, on his part.”

“It was not quite over, for public and private accusation, rumor and complaint on both sides continued for months, carried on in Letters to the Editor, poison pen letters, and doubtless in many heated verbal encounters.

“In late February 1943 a long ‘Huntington Advertiser’ story on the upcoming opening of the Volunteers of America listed its advisory board and outlined its program, with ‘Captain’ Stella Fuller in command. The announcement was premature, since the city’s Public Solicitations Committee ultimately turned down the VOA application.

“In fact, the program was already in place informally in a building rented by Mrs. Fuller. She had opened on January 10, in a spot very near the [S.A.] outpost, with very little except her own resources and the good will and volunteer help of the neighborhood. Many times in years to come she would express her gratitude at the city’s rejection of the Volunteers of America.

“For now there was only one way to go: an independent settlement with no confusion as to who would pilot its course. The incorporators (later the board of directors) included prominent persons from a wide range of occupations: lawyer, doctor, industrialists, school principal, labor leader. The years of association with the whole spectrum of the population now made this support available. The board had no trouble selecting the name: the Stella Fuller Settlement was born!”

Under Fuller’s leadership, the settlement went on to expand into the area’s largest haven for the deprived and homeless. The woman who’d been snubbed for the Salvation Army post’s top position spent the last 37 years of her life, more time than all the years she’d spent with the Army, continuing to minister to the needs of Huntington’s poorest, but this time doing so her own way.

Sources: “Stella Fuller gave her time to help the needy,” The Herald-Dispatch [Huntington], September 30, 2008
“2008 Wall of Fame inductees announced,” The Herald-Dispatch [Huntington], August 14, 2008
‘Missing Chapters: West Virginia Women in History,’ West Virginia Women’s Commission, Fuller profile by Nancy Whear, 1983

5 Responses

  • pauline moon says:

    Did Royland E Moon have a part in starting Stella Fuller ?

  • Charlie Johnson says:

    Went there for many years. She was a a very nice lady and went to eat there all the time. MY SHE REST IN PEACE.

  • becky byrd says:

    my brother worked there for years
    my ex b law was the preacher
    she was a amazing lady
    and her son bob was pretty cool also

  • Annie Fuller says:

    Yeah, Bob was indeed pretty cool too (not just because he was grandad). I think I like this story best of all due to the time period. She stood so independent and strong. Most women were barefoot, subservient and easily swayed from feats even half as daring. You go my dear great grandma! I hope my efforts here in this present day have you looking down and smiling proud :)

  • Michael Levi Fuller says:

    My great grandma Stella was the best as well as my grandad “Bro Bob”.
    they helped Sooooooooooo many people. It’s so sad to see now that the
    Stella Fuller Settlement and everything it and they did for the city of Huntington
    is gone…
    No playground no services, no gymnasium, gone… just a memory
    My Family.
    Michael Levi Fuller

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