John Amis starts a feud with the North Forkers

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 23, 2017

(part 2 of 2)

In April 1806 John Amis, who lived along the Kentucky River’s Middle Fork, went elk hunting in the area where his cattle were wintering.

He discovered some cattle from North Fork farms grazing in what he thought were grass fields reserved for him and his cohorts. Amis proceeded to stab about twenty head of the North Fork cattle and drive them into the water where they sank and died.

North Fork cattleman William Strong was outraged and immediately sought outside help against Amis’ actions.

“The Strongs sent to Prestonburg for General White of that place, it was not General White of Goose Creek,” recounted Henry Duff to missionary Dr. John J. Dickey in the late 1890’s. “I am sure the Strongs appealed to the Governor for arms and ammunition, and the Governor asked White to help or gave him authority to help them.”

And General Hugh White’s reply?

A local poet of the time, Cana Baker, quotes White in ‘Cattle Wars:’

You have got yourselves in trouble
Get out if you can,
I’ll neither come to your assistance
Nor send a single man

Upon hearing of this, the North Forkers, led by Strong and including Joel Elkins and 12 men from the Stacey, Davidson, Lewis, Bolling, Eversole, Callahan, Cornett, Lewis, and Begley klans, went to Amis’ house.

Amis wasn’t home, but his wife, Kate Bolling Amis, was there. The North Fork cattlemen shot the Amis horse and took twenty head of cattle from his farm to compensate themselves for the cattle that Amis had destroyed. Peter Stacy reportedly butted Kate in the face with his gun as the cattle were being rustled.

They took Jugie and Frogie
Burnt three fodder stacks
And broke some rifle guns

“As they started back Amis’ Negro man followed them supposed to have been sent by Amis’ wife, for the purpose of shooting at them,” relates John Lewis on July 27, 1898 to Rev. John J. Dickey, who recorded it in his diary. “At a turn of the road Peter Stacey concealed himself and as the Negro came in sight fired and struck his head. Stacey broke the gun, they brought back what cattle they could find.

“Then Amis solicitated a company of 30 men and started to the North Fork for revenge.”

John Gilbert, Amis’ brother-in-law, helped lead the group.

There was one Capt. John Gilbert
As I have heard them say
He fed his men on run down venison
Till Porter ran away
(Porter, a dog that ran over to the other side)

John Lewis continues the story: “William Callahan brought news to the North Forkers that they were coming and assembled at the mouth of Lick Branch concealing themselves in the ivy on the top of the cliff opposite the mouth of the branch, as Amis’ men came across the river. William Callahan fired at Amis and missed him. There was a general firing in which several horses were killed and Nicholson and Cox were wounded.

Nicholson hid behind a log
And hid just like a fox
And presently came shivering & shimming along
This poor half drowned Cox

“Amis spurred his horse under the cliff to protect himself from the bullets. John Gilbert rode up the bank to the company and they took him prisoner. Some of the party wanted to kill him but Strong saved his life. [other accounts claim Strong said ‘Shoot him!’]

John the Captain did miss killing
All met with homely fare
And he who came in last of all
Is apt to lose his share

“The plan was for Strong and Callahan to shoot Amis first which was to be the sign of attack. Strong was the best rifle shot in the county. Callahan shot before Strong, which prevented Strong from getting a bead on him. Callahan was accused of treachery for this act.

“The North Forkers had 18 men, William Strong, (afterwards a preacher), Peter Stacey, James Lewis, William Callahan, John Bolling, Samuel Davidson and Jesse Bowling.”

The Middle Forkers retreated to Cutshin and fortified, leaving portholes, expecting the enemy to follow them.

Eventually, they all agreed to end the fighting and settle the dispute in court. However, on the first day of trial, August 5, 1807, John Amis was shot dead by Joel Elkins as he was testifying from the witness chair.

“It appears from the Circuit Court Records that the Whites had him killed over the contract they signed with John Amis, who then owned the salt mine,” states genealogist Bonnie Miller. “This is how the Whites came to get the salt mine from John Amis.” Joel Elkins was employed at the Goose Creek Salt Works co-owned by John White and John Amis.

The inability of the militia to be able to react in a timely manner and the failure to maintain law and order during the months before the trial had pointed to the urgent need for a local constabulary, organized through a smaller county structure with a sheriff.

Thus, the Kentucky legislature established Clay County on December 2, 1806, from parts of Madison, Floyd, and Knox Counties. Having local law enforcement did not help maintain law and order, however: descendants of these combatants figured prominently in subsequent feuds that occurred in Breathitt, Perry and Clay counties, leaving a bloody heritage for future generations.


Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870’s and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Volume 10, No 6 -November, 1995

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John Amis settles on Kentucky River’s South Fork

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 22, 2017

“That’s a god-damned lie!” cried out Joel Elkins as John Amis spoke to those gathered in the Clay County court. He reached behind the door, grabbed William Strong’s gun, purposely loaded and placed there, then shot and killed Amis.

Accounts differ as to why John Amis was in that Kentucky court on August 5, 1807, and why Elkins shot him.

“Judge John Amis, born in North Carolina, was of the first generation born in America, and was a successful lawyer, was Circuit Judge in Kentucky, and was shot by an outlaw while holding the first Circuit Court ever held in Clay County,” claims the 1891 volume “Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas.”

“He was killed at the first session of court in Clay County in 1807 by Joel Elkins, whom he had partly reared,” recalled John Eversole, a Manchester, KY resident, in 1898.

“It is said that a peddler had been killed, and Amis and this man were accused of the crime. The man told Amis that if he swore against him he would kill him.

“Whether he testified against him or not I do not know, but the man came into the courthouse and shot Amis’ brains out, in the presence of the court.”

More likely than these two interpretations, however, is that John Amis was on trial for provoking a ‘cattle war’ the previous year, between a group of farmers living on the Kentucky River’s North Fork and farmers on the Red Bird, a branch of the South Fork.

Oneida KY circa 1905-10

Oneida, KY as seen from the area where Red Bird and Goose Creeks merge forming the South Fork of the Kentucky River., c. 1905-10.


Amis had grown up in Rogersville, TN. His father Thomas had built a house at the mouth of Big Creek River, about four miles west of Rogersville. When the father died in 1797 he deeded to John “the tract of land he now lives on adjoining the town of Rogersville and lying the east side of the main road, also the lower part of my six hundred and forty acre tract of land to be laid off by a line to run square with the upper end of the above tract he now lives on, to him and his heirs forever.”

It didn’t take long for the 24 year old John to run into trouble. By 1802 a ‘fieri facias’ (a writ ordering a levy on the belongings of a debtor to satisfy the debt) had been issued against him in “Richard Mitchell vs. John Amis (Hawkins County).”

About 1800 he had moved with his wife Kate and their baby son into Madison/Clay County Kentucky, presumably to escape that debt and get a fresh start. John sold much of his land in Tennessee to purchase a partnership in the Goose Creek Salt Works, near Manchester, where the northern section of Goose Creek joins the Red Bird River to form the South Fork of the Kentucky River.

So vital was salt to frontier life and trade that Daniel Boone had offered to re-route the Wilderness Road to pass the Goose Creek salt works. (He did not get the approval, however, and the area had no suitable roads for some time.) Clay County went on to become the leading salt producer in the state during the nineteenth century. The struggle behind the scenes to control the industry was fierce.

“On August 12, 1806 John White made good to John Amis the title of one fourth of 375 acres including the Goose Creek Salt Works’ lower works, White reserving for himself the privilege of ‘wood and water’ for one furnace,” says historian Mary Verhoeff in ‘The Kentucky River Navigation.’ “Two acres of the most eligible and advantageous land of the tract was to be reserved for mansion houses upon which neither party could dig for water without the consent of the other.

“Within one year the reservation was to be equally divided between White and Amis. The tract of land, including the salt works, had on June 22 of the same year been sold to Amis by John Crook for the sum of $2,300, one half of which was to be paid in cash and the remainder in ‘good salable salt at two dollars per bushel.’ By the deed one half of the buildings and half the garden owned by Crook were secured to John White.”

At the same time John Amis was establishing himself on the south side of the Kentucky River, William Strong and a group of Virginia farmers and cattle ranchers were setting down roots on the North Fork of the river.

“About the year 1800 or 1801, a party was organized in Scott Co., VA, to come to Kentucky,” relates Mrs. J. C. Hurst in ‘Strong Family in Kentucky .’ ”This party was composed of Edward Callahan and family ~ William Strong and family ~ Daniel Davidson and three sons Samuel, John, and Robert, with their families ~ also Roger and Robin Cornett. Some reports say that the Cornetts came a year or two previous to this time. The above-mentioned parties brought along with them their livestock ~ household goods ~ slaves and other possessions.

“William Strong, Samuel Davidson and the two Cornetts had married daughters of Edward Callahan. After arriving in Kentucky the parties settled on the North Fork of the Kentucky River at and near the mouth of Grapevine Creek in (current day) Perry County.

“William Strong acquired a tract of land on the opposite side of the river from the mouth of Grapevine. It extended from near what is now Chavies down the river so as to include Strong’s Branch. On this land he erected a log building where he made his home for some eight or ten years. He, as a deputy assessor, made the first assessment of all land and personal property on the North Fork, which was then embraced in the new county of Clay.”

Trouble was about to brew between John Amis and William Strong.

(end of part 1 of 2)

sources: “The road to poverty: the making of wealth and hardship in Appalachia,” by Dwight B. Billings, Kathleen M. Blee, Cambridge University Press, 2000
“Strong Family in Kentucky,” by Mrs. J. C. Hurst, Lexington, KY, privately published, 1960
The Kentucky River navigation By Mary Verhoeff, Filson Club Publications/John P. Morton & Co, Louisville, 1917

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Ollie Ollie In Come Free!

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 21, 2017

It probably started out as All-ee, all-ee, outs in free, a call from the person who was it letting those hiding children (the outs) know it was safe to come back to base in the children’s game of hide-and-seek. The phrase can also be used to coordinate hidden players in the game kick the can, where a group of children hide within a given radius and a seeker is left to guard a can filled with rocks.

hide n seekIf the core phrase is All outs in free, the -ee is added, and the all is repeated, for audibility and rhythm. Another approach: in Britain, it was common for the town crier to pre-phrase a declaration with All Ye, All ye meaning that all the citizens of the town needed to be aware of the information the crier was about to state, and early Scots-Irish immigrants to Appalachia would have brought that phrase with them.

“When I was growing up in the American South,” says Charles Wilson in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture,”we actually said, ‘All ye all ye outs in free’ when playing hide-and-seek (although we called it ‘hide-and-go-seek).” Regional variations include:

Ollie Ollie in come free,
Ollie Ollie oxenfreed,
Ollie ollie in come free-o
Ollie ollie oxen free
Ollie ollie oxen free-o
Oly Oly oxen free,
Oly Oly ocean free,
Alley Alley oats in free,
All-ye All-ye outs in free
Ole Ole Olsen free (more common in areas settled by Scandinavians)
Ole Ole Olsen free-o

Children’s sayings were hardly recorded until the 1950s, and they are very variable. That’s because they’ve been passed down orally from one generation to the next, with no adult intervention or correction. But one educated guess is that the phrase’s root is an English-Norman French-Dutch/German concoction: “Alles, Alles, in kommen frei” or “Alle, alle auch sind frei” (literally, “Everyone, everyone also is free”)or “Oyez, oyez, in kommen frei!”

“Allez, allez” was a Norman addition to the English language, pronounced “ollie, ollie” and sometimes written “oyez, oyez” and meaning “everyone.”

The game hide-and-seek is at least four centuries old, and it seems that the call phrase discussed here was in common use by the 1920s, and probably earlier (‘home free’ is found in print in the 1890s).

sources: []
The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, by Richard Pillsbury, Charles Reagan Wilson, Ann J. Abadie, University of North Carolina Press, 2006
Words to the Wise, by Michael Sheehan

ollie+ollie+in+come+free childrens+games appalachia appalachian+mountains appalachian+mountains+history

5 Responses

  • tipper says:

    We said Ollie Ollie Oxen Free. I never knew why we said it-but now I do : )

  • Larry Bailey says:

    I grew up in upstate NY and we always yelled Ollie Ollie Homefree when we managed to get to homebase while the seeker was out searching for the other hiders.

  • Amy Elizabeth Riley says:

    Funny, my husband said the ollie…in come free version tonight and I thought he was from Mars. As I corrected him on my oxen (auch sind) version, he swore I must have come from Venus. :) I am of French, Dutch and German heritage mainly and he Irish and Cherokee. Interesting . Glad to find this can’t wait to show him we are not from completely different planets! And apologize :)

  • Jeff says:

    We said this as kids in Cincinnati in the mid- 60’s

    Our parents were from Appilacia

    Oilie ollie in come free — playing kick the can

  • Jensya says:

    Alle alle, auch sind frei. “Ollie ollie oxen frei.” You are missing the Germanic root.

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Hellers or No-Hellers?

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 20, 2017

Nestled within a cluster of oaks and maples in Shady Valley, TN, the Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church meeting house is one of those traditional wood-framed worship structures that ole’ Baptists love so dearly—starkly simple, lap-joint sided, white, unadorned by steeples or Gothic-arched stained glass windows. Noticeably absent are any self-proclaiming billboard, marquee, or other bold advertisement of its denominational character, meeting times, and/or clerical personnel.

Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Carter County, Tennessee.

Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Carter County, Tennessee.

The association to which Stoney Creek belongs is the Regular Baptist Washington District Association, the No-Heller side of an older alliance of Baptist congregations that was established in 1811.

After 113 years of relative peace, this older Washington District family of churches fell into bitter doctrinal discord, which in 1924 split the No-Heller side from the Heller side, the latter also still extant and now proclaiming itself The Original Washington District Primitive Baptist Association.

The Heller side of this dispute was reported by Elihu J. Sutherland in his ‘Regular Primitive Baptist Washington District Association: A Short History,’ published in 1952 by that division of the association.

The arguments, as seen by the No-Heller side, must be pieced together from a number of hard-to-assemble sources, including annual association minutes; nevertheless, a reasonably complete view of No-Heller doctrine can be gained by reading Charles F. Nickels’ “Salvation of All Mankind; and Treatise on Predestination, the Resurrection of the Dead, and a Bequest,” published by its author in Nickelsville, VA, apparently in 1937.

The proper appellation for this No-Heller group is Primitive [also Primite] Baptist Universalism, PBU for short.

The central tenets of PBU theology can be compressed into the following doctrinal statements: (1) Christ’s atonement was for the sins of ALL humankind, past, present, and future, thus becoming just as unavoidable as were the stains of Adam’s original transgression; (2) hell does exist, but solely as a factor of the temporal world, with ALL sin being punished in this temporal world; (3) “Christ’s Church” was “elected” before the beginning of time, but the members of that “Church:”—the Primitive Baptist Universalists—possess no final advantage over the non-elect, since heaven will be for ALL and will be experienced in a totally egalitarian eternity; however, (4) throughout the temporal existence the “Elect” will serve as God’s witnesses and as the preservers of His earthly righteousness; (5) sin, punishment, death, and “Satan” are only present-world entities, ceasing to exist after temporal termination and the “Resurrection”; therefore, (6) there will be no hell in the afterlife.

Because Primite Baptist Universalists do believe in hell in the temporal world, they strongly reject the No-Heller label that others have given them. Nevertheless, it must be recognized immediately that all other Primitive Baptist groups simply do not accept the PBU faith as being Primitive, arguing that one essential feature of Primitive Baptist theology is some version of John Calvin’s limited atonement doctrine.

In Central Appalachia, there are four small associations of Primite Baptist Universalist: the Regular Primite Baptist Washington District Association, The Three Forks of Powell’s River Regular Primitive Baptist Association, and two Elkhorn Primitive Baptist Associations, this duplication in the latter being the consequence of an early 1980s split.

All told, there are only thirty-three PBU fellowships; and they are found primarily in a limited area of northeastern Tennessee, a six-county region of southwestern Virginia, the Colley (or Colly) Creed sector of Letcher County, Kentucky, and the McDowell County locale of southern West Virginia. Appalachian migrations into the Midwest have established three PBU fellowships in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania, but these are small struggling congregations that depend heavily upon support from PBU congregations in Central Appalachia.

Elder Jennings Short participating in Stoney Creek's footwashing service.

Elder Jennings Short participating in Stoney Creek’s footwashing service.

Stoney Creek is one of three Tennessee PBU churches. Holston Primite Baptist Church, an affiliate of the Three Forks Association, lies on the west side of Cherokee Lake in Grainger County; Hope Church, a member of the previously mentioned PBU Washington District Association, can be found in Washington County, just on the west side of Interstate 181 near Gray; and Stoney Creek Church is in Carter County.

Southwestern Virginia contains the heaviest concentration of PBU churches, with one or more fellowships existing in each of the following counties: Lee, Scott, Wise, Dickenson, Russell, Buchanan, and Tazewell. West Virginia has only two counties that contain a PBU church: McDowell and Greenbrier. Then, as previously mentioned, Letcher County, Kentucky, shelters only one such fellowship.

Stoney Creek Church in Carter County, TN, is often confused with the now defunct PBU Stony Creek (without the “e”) Church of Scott County, VA. Prior to 1949, this latter fellowship was affiliated with its namesake association, the Stony Creek Association, another small cluster of Primite Baptist congregations that joined the PBU movement after the 1924 split.

However, Stony Creek Association lasted only until the late 1940s before disintegrating over a dispute concerning natural-body versus spiritual-body resurrection. That shattered PBU association is now represented by only one church that lies near Bean Station in Grainger County, Tennessee.

Like Old Regular Baptist, Regular Baptist, Separate Baptist, United Baptist, and a host of even smaller Appalachian sub-denominations of this faith, Primitive Baptist Universalism is largely a Central Appalachian phenomenon, seldom found anywhere else, except as a consequence of the region’s various out migrations.

The PBU movement contributes yet another colorful square in the diverse patchwork quilt that Appalachian religion has become.

Condensed & edited from “Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Carter County, Tennessee: A ‘No-Heller’ Meetinghouse,” by Howard Dorgan, 1996
Online at

16 Responses

  • Hi,
    My family help start that church! it was also a stone church in the 1700s its been there longer than reported and is the second oldest church in Tennessee next to sinking creek baptist. I have the original church records were my 3rd Great grand parents Looney Blevins & Martha Garland signed over the land for the Church that was handed down from Samuel Garland my 6th great grand father you obtained the land from a revolutionary war grant. Looney and Martha helped swear the church into business the second time the doors were open in the 1800s.

    If you do a search on Primitive Baptist & Crypt-o Jews you will see where the church started. basically the Jewish people married into the Cherokee in the Appalachian mountains and used the Term “primitive Baptist ” to hide under. Those people later became know as the melungeons the primitive baptist church is the first place the word was uttered. This church may be found in the buludeen community on carter branch road basically Holston Mountain. I have deep roots surrounding the history of this church. The blevins men who married the garland women were from The Holston Long-hunters that were with Daniel Boone that discovered Tennessee in 1761 before the Wautaga settlement and William bean family. Hit me up on facebook and I will give you some info on this family line.

  • Lucas Shortt says:

    Jennings Shortt is my grandfather. He was one of the best men I knew and did his preaching not only in the stand but by the way he lived his life. I’m proud to say we are still singing old time hymns here in southwest VA and sticking to the old traditions. I learned a little history here. Thanks for the article.

  • Jeff Williams says:

    I am interested in learning more about the history of this area. My grandfather was Carlos Williams, his son Wendell, & his son Aaron were all preachers. I remember the name Jennings Short from my childhood too.

  • Janet Crain says:

    There are many references in the Bible about punishment in the after life.

  • Austin Greer says:

    Hi my name is Austin Greer. I’m from Chilhowie, Virginia, which is a small town in Smyth County. I am a Primitive Baptist but not a Primitive Baptist Universalist. I think it’s crazy that they think there’s no hell—it plainly tells us that there is a hell in the King James Bible.

  • Ed Speer says:

    Mr. Tabler:

    Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church is located in Stoney Creek Valley in Carter County, Tennessee. Shady Valley, located north of Stoney Creek, is located in Johnson County, Tennessee.

    Thanks for publishing this informative article.

    Ed Speer
    Sadie, Tennessee
    (Stoney Creek Valley)

  • Mike Campbell says:

    What a blessing to find this site! My father is the late Jerry Campbell. Dad was a Deacon at Hope Primitive Baptist {formerly the old Blue Springs Primitive Baptist Church} in Gray, TN.

    My father so loved the Ole Baptist way. I can remember as a child the miles he and I would travel to be with the sister churches and to be with and worship with them. How my soul does ache for the days of old and how close the sisters and brothers of the church were then. I can remember one time at the old Esserville Church outside of Norton, Va, when Elder Carlos Williams was called to open the Association Meeting. This would have been in the early 70’s. Elder Williams was blessed {as were all in attendance} and was lifted by the one and only Almighty God and called away. That day forever imprinted my young mind to the power of God and His presence among His people.

    As I watched the Holy Spirit within Elder Williams work I not only was blessed to watch God work in the congregation, but I too knew I would never be the same, and praise God for that glorious day. Oh the precious, precious memories I have of the Old Stoney Creek Church. I was blessed to have been a part of the early 70’s rehab of the dear, dear church. This rehab was truly a labor of love.

    I can still hear the melodious hymns from my youth. Nothing will ever compare to the Celtic sound of the ole Baptist hymns. This worship form is ancient and in my opinion the purest form of humble worship of my Lord and Master. I remember Elders—Stewart Owens, Kermit Hinkle, Roy McGlothlin, Jennings Short, Charlie Haynes, Quinton Looney, Wendell Williams, Carlos Williams, Landon Colley and many other men of God, all preaching from what God breathed through them and being called away in the Spirit of Truth!

    In my memories I can still see Elders: Sammy Nidefer, Presenell, Carl Campbell, Wallace Cooper, Harold Thornsbury; and Brothers: Mikey Garland, and D.C. Campbell. All of these brothers and sisters stand tall in my memories as giants. I remember the old sister saints: Molly Bowers, Hattie Blevins, Rose Hinkle, Ora Collins {my aunt}, Mossie Garland and Ettie Owens.

    If the entire world could experience the true and real love that is within this little congregation of churches, the current world problems would be a memory.

    Jeff, I and your father, along with your grand and great grandfathers, were close in the 70’s when Aaron, et al lived in Indiana. I would love to see your dad. If you would like to contact me, my email is I am blessed to have been directed to the site by the hand of the unseen Almighty God! Thank You God for filling my undeserved cup. I so look forward to the day that this world will be a distant memory and God’s Kingdom come!!!!!!

  • Mike Campbell says:

    I am in no way an authority concerning the Ole Baptist but I do have a fairly good firsthand knowledge of the church and its beliefs. I would be most blessed to have non-argumentative dialog with those that have a true love of the Ole Baptist. I will not indulge or entertain those with a spirit of arguing about the eternal location of hell.

  • Mike Campbell says:

    By the way, the photo above is probably mid 1980’s. Elder Jennings Short {Moderator of Flat Gap PBC in Pound, VA}, in humble obedience, is washing Brother D.C. Campbell’s feet as commanded by Jesus Christ, during what was commonly called “Communion Meeting”. These meetings were most often electric and God’s communion with His people was very powerful. Folks would linger at the church for hours after being dismissed. The feeling would be that of “Being called away”. What a time!!!!

  • Penny Karn says:

    I would love to attend a meeting at a PBU church. Does anyone have an address or any contact info for a PBU church that is still meeting??

  • Christopher Horn says:

    Penny, we hold PBU meetings every Sunday. If your truly interested send me an email at and I will find one that will be a reasonable distance from you to attend.

  • Christopher Horn says:

    That invitation goes for anyone.

  • Kathy says:

    I saw where Wallace Cooper was above mentioned. His wife Rosie was my cousin’s grandmother and I respectfully called him Grandpa Sally and her Grandma Rosie with the rest of their grandchildren even though I was not, they were very kind to me. I loved them. Rosie made the best Apple pies. Wallace sat beside me at my aunt’s funeral when I was a teenager and patted my hand. That meant the world to me.
    I was wondering if anyone has or could tell me where I could find information on the Elkhorn Churches. Those are the ones my ancestors belonged to and I would like to find out more about them. I don’t know if they were Hellers or No Hellers. I do know they kicked my grandma out when she was a young woman for believing in the gift of speaking in tongues. One was a preacher in the early days of the church his name was Mathias Lester maybe.

  • Jeff Williams says:

    Thank you, Mike. I traveled to church from Indiana many times with my dad and uncle Wendell as a little boy in the 70s. Precious memories.

  • JustAnOldGuy says:

    Well, Grandpa was a Baptist preacher and he would joke about the difference between Northern Baptists and Southern Baptists.

    The Northern Baptists say, “There ain’t no hell”. The Southern Baptists say, “The hell there ain’t”.

  • Delphia Lee says:

    Recently while cleaning out old files and family papers, I found copies of Minutes of the Original Mates Creek Regular Primitive Baptist Association organized in 1849, held with Raccoon Church, Raccoon, Pike County KY. They were dated 1967, 1973 and 1977. Anyway, I offered them on fb as I am 78 yrs old and had kept them long enough. Immediately there were several requests so they were given to a young lady from my late father’s hometown church, Sulphur Springs, Kelsa VA. One copy, dated 1973 contained Constitution, Articles Of Faith and Rules Of Decorum, as well as the Circular Letter concerning No Absolute Predestination of Both Good and Evil. My grandfather, Alec McClanahan attended at Big Rock VA in the 1940’s-50’s. where we lived during my childhood. A favorite memory is helping Mom cook a big dinner for his visiting church brothers and sisters

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The spiritualistic singing of the colored people worked over into the white hillbilly

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 19, 2017

“There were only four kinds of country music. One is your gospel songs, your religious songs. The others were your jigs and reels, like we spoke of a while ago at fiddler’s conventions. Your third were your heart songs, sentimental songs that came from the heart, and the fourth, which has passed out to a degree today and was terrific in those days, were the event songs.

“Now would you like to ask me what I mean by an event song? An event song is something that had happened, not today, but maybe years ago, but hadn’t permeated through the South because of a lack of newspapers and no radio and no television in those days, but they had heard of it. For instance, some of the biggest sellers we were able to bring out was things like Sinking of the Titanic.

Willy Stöwer, 'The Sinking of The Titanic', 1912.  Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Willy Stöwer, ‘The Sinking of The Titanic’, 1912. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


“Bring out a record years after it happened and tell a story with a moral. The Sinking of the Titanic was a big seller, but there was a little bit of a moral that people shouldn’t believe that they could build a ship that couldn’t be sunk.

“That’s the way they talked about it; of thinking God took it upon Himself to show them that they couldn’t build anything greater than He could.

“Everything had a moral in the events songs. Well, for instance, things that have been made into a motion picture since – do you remember the story of the famous Scopes Trial? (ed: later a movie with Spencer Tracy, ‘Inherit the Wind’). Well who would think of making a phonograph record about that? He said man descended from the ape. Maybe he did. Lots of people think so, but the country person didn’t believe that at all.

“So we made a record. We sold 60,000 of them on the steps of the courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee – just during that tremendous trial. That shows the interest of the people in hearing somebody else recount an event, because remember, there were thousands of buyers of phonograph records that had no other means of communication.

“You had sad ones, the stories of Jesse James and all kinds of bandits and convicts and everything you could think of. Yes, and a murder here and there.

“Naomi Wise is a story of a little girl who lived. Marion Parker was married unfortunately, in Atlanta. But there was always a moral so what was done wrong should not be done by the person who was listening. It did a tremendous amount of good; I can’t emphasize that too much.

“Down through the Southwest, there was the story of Kenny Wagner (ed: also known as Kinnie Wagner). Kenny was a bandit but he was a clever bandit. He had the habit of committing a crime, getting caught, being put in jail, and getting out. He seemed to be able to master every jail that he was ever in.

“Well, it was all very good for us from the record standpoint. We could have a record telling of the capture of Kenny Wagner, and then a record of the escape of Kenny Wagner.

“We went on through his life through a series of escapes, and then came the time that Kenny was finally caught and shot, not accidentally but on purpose, and that was the end of it. So how were we to end up this series of the wonderful selling records we had? We brought out the finale. We called it The Fate of Kenny Wagner. And again there was a moral at the end of it.

“North Carolina and Tennessee had a different type [of songs] than Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama and so forth. Your North Carolina and through Virginia were based on the English folk songs, most of them.

“Where down below in Florida and in Georgia throughout the South they get a little of Negroid, you know. It gets to be a mixture and there is a very good reason for it because in those days in the outskirts of a city like Atlanta, you had your colored section full of colored people and you had your white, I am sorry to use the word but they used to call them “white trash,” but they were very close to each other.

“They would pass each other every day. And a little of the spiritualistic singing of the colored people worked over into the white hillbilly and a little of the white hillbilly worked over into what the colored people did, so you got a little combination of the two things there. But they were very easily distinguished, you could tell them.”


Excerpt from a Mike Seeger interview with Frank Walker on June 19, 1962. Frank Buckley Walker (1889–1963) was the Artist and Repertoire (A & R) talent scout for Columbia Records’ Country Music Division during the 1920s and 1930s. Along with Ralph Peer of Victor Records, Walker mastered the technique of field recordings. Specializing in southern roots music, Walker set up remote recording studios in cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, Dallas, Little Rock and Johnson City.

Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1995/004: Mike Seeger Collection

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