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Germain Media films highlight Appalachian Characters and Communities

Posted by | September 16, 2014
Kelley St. Germain (left), Jill Reeves  (owner of Appalachian Antiques in Boone, NC) and Scott Ballard.

Kelley St. Germain (left), Jill Reeves (owner of Appalachian Antiques in Boone, NC) and Scott Ballard.

 

 

 

Please welcome the creative team of Kelley St. Germain and Scott Ballard from Germain Media. Kelley St. Germain is the driving force behind the award-winning “Visions of…” which is an ongoing series of 25 historical documentaries produced in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia in the last two years. Each 30 minute film tells the stories of real people and places in the North Carolina High Country.

 

“We began the series with the people of the High Country in mind as our target audience,” says St. Germain. “We wanted to produce something of true quality for THEM. We not only wanted to tell their stories and let them know that they were important, but also to reveal the details that are deeper and more meaningful than the narrative of Appalachia that currently exists in popular culture and mainstream media.”

The most revealing example of this search for respect and truth is in the recently debuted Germain Media film: Junaluska. The short film chronicles the history of the second-oldest African American community in Western North Carolina, and reveals an incredibly deep sense of community among the African Americans who grew up “on the hill” above Boone, NC.

David “Strawberry” Horton (l)  and Scott Ballard.

David “Strawberry” Horton (l) and Scott Ballard.

“The shared experiences, the strength to persevere, and the importance of faith and family take center stage in this film as something to which any of us can relate,” says St. Germain. “Those attributes have the potential to bring us all closer together as a culture and as a society.

“While we acknowledge that the take-away from this film is going to be different for everyone, we believe the stories of small African American communities in Appalachia still need to be told as we learn more and more about them.”

As an exclusive for the followers of Appalachian History, Germain Media is offering this link to the Junaluska episode with the password germain99 for one week beginning with the posting of this article.

Says St. Germain: “We wanted to share the one moment when we knew the interview was bigger than the scope of the project: sitting down with Charity Gambill Gwyn in Alleghany County, NC. When we were doing research about who to talk to regarding Alleghany County history, the name Charity kept popping up. ‘When are you going to…’ and ‘Have you talked to Charity yet?’

“We usually have a set list of questions or topics because we want there to be at least some (!) continuity to the interviews we conduct, but room is left in each conversation to wander down paths heretofore unknown. It became quickly apparent in our talk with Charity that her personal history…her life story… was the true reason for everyone’s insistence about talking with her.”

“Growing up in a county where less than 5% of the population is black, Charity faced barriers and hurdles that very few of us can imagine. But guess what we found? We didn’t find bitterness or a caustic kind of cynicism. We found the bearer of goodwill and peace. Charity’s message of ‘bloom where you are planted’ struck us as profound.

Charity Gambill Gwyn

Charity Gambill Gwyn

“Given the proper mindset, a seed can germinate and grow, even on rocky soil. But that isn’t descriptive enough. That seed can grow and THRIVE! Charity did far more than go along to get along…she excelled! She was told that she couldn’t get elected to the school board or to the board of county commissioners, but, you guessed it, she trail blazed her way onto both.

“Her message of reaching beyond your grasp, not only to the African American community, but to all of us, is vitally important. Charity Gambill Gwyn is a beautiful human being and we want to get her message out to as many people as we can.”

The Twilight Zone moment: walking out of an interview with Uncle Bud Phillips outside of Spruce Pine. “I had spoken with ‘Uncle Bud’ a couple of times on the phone before Kelley, Tristan and I walked into his old lumber company office,” says Ballard, “but we were wholly unprepared for what was to follow. Bud, who died only months after our interview, had us literally transfixed over the next 90 minutes. He spoke in superlatives on any topic at hand (from mining to logging to various events in his life) and as we stumbled out of his office we weren’t sure what we had just witnessed.” Here is a clip of one of the many powerful moments Bud delivered.

“I come from Eastern Kentucky,” Ballard continues, “and so doing a ‘Visions of…’ episode on mines and mining in Avery County, NC hit home with me…reminded me of this Miner’s Prayer we recorded outside of the abandoned Cranberry Iron Mine in Avery County.

“The good book teaches us to be humble, to live in humility, and it was easy for us on so many occasions when people pulled back the curtain to their lives and spun their life stories.

Ballard speaking with famous guitar-maker and musician Wayne Henderson in his shop.

Ballard speaking with famous guitar-maker and musician Wayne Henderson in his shop.

“We were and continue to be honored when we are welcomed into home after home. One of the most poignant moments was when we were the beneficiaries of an impromptu music session.

“We had heard many stories of old time and bluegrass music being played house to house on the weekends, moving the furniture, rolling up the carpets and having a party in the parlor. During an interview one thing led to another and next thing you know, all of those things happened…here’s what it looked and sounded like.

“One of our most popular shows was on the 30+ miles of Blue Ridge Parkway that run through neighboring Alleghany (NC) county. Here’s a preview of that ‘Visions of…’ episode.

“As our crew has been filming interviews in the Appalachian Mountains over the past two years,” says St. Germain, “we have discovered that the people…the faces and places of Appalachia… are FAR different than what the mainstream media portrays. We are not interested in RUNNING AWAY from our heritage, instead, we want to EMBRACE it…the REAL people of Appalachia! We plan on showcasing folks who are tough-minded, fiercely independent, generous, family-oriented and devoted patriots…the BEST of Appalachia…oh, and did I mention these folks are great story tellers too?

St. Germain (l) and sound engineer Tristan Ham set up for a location shoot.

St. Germain (l) and sound engineer Tristan Ham set up for a location shoot.

“We’re also very excited about a Kickstarter project we’re starting in October,” says St. Germain. “We’re asking for any and all assistance and to share in our labor of love…we see this as a first step toward something greater and more long-lasting… continuing to tell the important stories of a part of the country that for too long has been ignored or just made fun of. If you’d like to join our Kickstarter campaign, please like our Facebook page because we will be sharing all campaign details there in real time.

St. Germain, originally from Owensboro, KY, grew up listening to fascinating stories told to him by his father and great-grandfather, often while fishing on and around the Ohio River. Throughout his journey, from the bluegrass of Kentucky, to gaining a master’s degree in American History at Wake Forest, to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge, he has always remained interested in a “good story.” Germain Media has become the vehicle through which he shares these stories with a nationwide audience that isn’t afraid to wonder how things were “Back When.”

Scott Ballard, who joined the company as a narrator and researcher early in 2013, hails from Middlesboro, KY and the Cumberland Gap, TN area. “I literally grew up in and around stacks of history books as I built forts using my great grandfather Kincaid’s library of books on Lincolnalia and Appalachia. Working the weekend shifts at the family-owned radio station WMIK, I saw and heard first-hand the people’s love of music and the pageant of giving glory to God in Appalachia,” added Ballard.

Germain Media Awards include: The 2014 NTCA TeleChoice Award for Local Video Content, plus The 2013 Paul Green Multimedia Award and being counted as a 2013 NC Family Film Festival Selection.

“Here is a production shot I took during the Character of the People episode of the Watauga ‘Visions of…’ series,” says Ballard. “It’s of Brian Fannon, and the back story is that while the photo is pretty neat, it was a misfire…or what you might literally call a ‘flash in the pan.’ The trigger ignited the pan but the fire did not reach the barrel and thus the rifle actually did not go off. Our goal at Germain Media is to keep telling the stories for the long haul…for the long term…we have no interest or desire to be a flash in the pan!”

Trigger Finger

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The Wisdom of Old Blair Mountain

Posted by | September 15, 2014

Wilma Lee SteelePlease welcome guest author Wilma Steele. Steele is the former Mingo County Conservation Supervisor for the Guyan District at the West Virginia Conservation Agency and a retired art teacher from Mingo County schools. She is a board member of the Mine Wars Museum in Matewan, WV, which is scheduled to open later this year. “I love the history of Blair,” she says. “A group of people that spoke different languages, had different cultures, and sometimes race, yet they bridged the differences. They became a brotherhood for change.”

 

Guns are now silent! The blood stained earth, spent shell castings, and unmanned cannon stand as the silent evidence of what happened on old Blair Mountain. Ninety years now she’s kept the past a secret. Her story is only whispered now and then among poets and scholars, or retold by a few of the miners’ sons & daughters.

The edge of Blair Mountain battlefield.

The edge of Blair Mountain battlefield.

Blair Mountain stood strong as the world changed. Don Chafin and President Harding thought their victory would bring them lasting fame, but few remember them, and those who do only remember their shame. Roosevelt, instead, took center stage. He brought in a New Deal and made way for a new powerful union.

King Coal no longer owned his workers! With the UMW, the miners stood united. At the company store script had no value and miners’ pockets jingled with copper and silver. The miners even bought their own houses. They carried in the few precious things that hadn’t been destroyed when Baldwin Felts pitched them out on the streets. Upon their walls they hung pictures of FDR and John L. Lewis in the place of honor – beside of Jesus and their old banjo.

Sounds of music and the whistle of the train drifted in the wind. Blair Mountain stood quietly above the new road and cars. It seemed as if she was watching as big new machines were brought up the mountain. King Coal no longer needed so many workers! Blair watched as many miners packed up their families, their red bandannas, their ginseng hoes, and their banjos: they left their mountains.

It seemed like they took some of the mountaineers’ heart and soul with them. Money was rolling in the hills now but only a few were getting rich. Coal operators were still doing well. Miners’ wages were much higher. The UMW owned 75% of their own D.C. Bank, as well as their own journal. This new UMW president had his wonderful accomplishments printed in their paper.

Under the leadership of Kerr, the miners would soon have new hospitals, and they would really need them. The new machines roll out the tonnage, as well as the black clouds. The miners’ faces looked as if they had been sand blasted with coal dust. Wise doctors saw miners that were old men at age forty and identified the cause as black lung. Our union, which fought so hard for rights of workers, was now as silent as Old Blair on the subject.

The death rattle of the coal miners’ lungs brought Dr. Buff and Dr. Rasmussen to champion their cause. They were joined by Ken Hechler, Nader and his Raiders, and other honest men. The powerful were silent: where were our senators and where was our strong union? The miners marched to Charleston with only a few champions, but they had the truth that would not be ignored. Their wisdom reached across party lines to Cleo Jones. It was a good thing, too, because his sharp eyes caught the sly change of one word that would have made the bill powerless. The bill became the law.

Farmington Mine Disaster. Smoke and flames pouring from the Llewellyn shaft of the Consol No. 9 mine on November 20, 1968.

Farmington Mine Disaster. Smoke and flames pouring from the Llewellyn shaft of the Consol No. 9 mine on November 20, 1968.

A powerful explosion ripped through the mountain; it was almost as loud as the gun powder at the Battle of Blair Mountain. At Farmington Mine, 78 miners perished and 19 bodies were never recovered. Surely Tony Boyle and others would be awakened by such a sound – the miners’ cries were blocked out by the sounds of money. The old champions once again heard their call. Nader and two of his raiders, along with Finnegan, joined Ken Hechler. Their goal was now safety for our men. The ghosts of Blair must have rejoiced when Heckler’s Mine Safety Bill became a law – it even put a limit on the miners’ old foe: dust from the black coal.

The UMW that the Red Bandanna Army had given their life for had now betrayed them under the leadership of one evil man with the blood of many miners, as well as the Yablonski family, on his hands. This dark red stain would be blight upon the union until this day. Fools would sing, “Union against the worker working against his will…” and men that didn’t remember would join right in!

Dark clouds enveloped old Blair. Now the earth trembled with mountain eating machines and sounds of blasts that roared like thunder across our land. Mountains and the union were brought to her knees. A new Don was on the scene! His goal was to make even more money than the old coal barons. The only things in his way were the union and the memories of Old Blair, so both had to be destroyed. This time the weapons were sly propaganda, political might, bought Judges, and dynamite.

Not since Normandy had the world seen such an all out assault. With Reagan and the Bushes in the White House and coal lobbyists controlling all protective agencies, our mountains didn’t stand a chance. The coal miner’s best friends–the union, the McGraws, and even the old Lion Ken Hechler–were thrown out or powerless. Acts of violence against the union miners were common and every act of retaliation was caught on film. The union men once again were brought before the judge. Don cried out, “Remember Boyle, see the tape, the UMWA is nothing but thugs! Good men don’t need any union!” The people bought his lies.

Friends of Coal Ladies

Friends of Coal brought a new education to our schools. Children were given tee shirts and pizza to celebrate Earth Day on top of a blasted away mountain. Children looked out at the glorious vista of sun, clouds, and still untouched mountains and the vision was so grand they didn’t look down on the nearly barren ground. Mighty machines also kept their attention. Gone were the mighty oaks, hickory, and maple; in their place were pine, locust, and scrub grasses. Like the propaganda, it was everywhere.

Coal was even in our classrooms, with coal fairs becoming more popular than science and social studies fairs. If you won at science or history, you got a ribbon but King Coal gave out checks. Only a few, and it’s mostly the younger ones, still thought mere ribbons were worth their time.

The miners were now Friends of Coal! They noticed neither the clouds of dust nor the moment that the old union miners lost their jobs, health cards and pensions. Good miners that worked for 20-30 years were no longer needed. The UMWA had a real struggle now to save union miners from being forsaken in their last years. Old Blair looked down and wept for their despair.

The UMWA had new leaders, ones that really cared, but the Friends of Coal signs were everywhere. New hope rose in the mountains when Bill Blizzard’s own became UMWA President. He spoke about our lost mountains. Before anything could be done, Don was now calling his new miners lazy. King Coal wanted to replace them with new immigrants. The new President spoke out and brought up the past, including old Blair. A few of the Friends of Coal began to listen. Big Coal stopped their talk and repaired the damage with lies.

They had to reign in Roberts and blast away union history at Old Blair Mountain. They gave Roberts an offer for new union members. New members were to be MTR workers who weren’t really miners, but destruction workers. They made their living blasting away our mountains. With declining union membership and many retired miners pensions on the line, Cecil took the bait. Our UMWA now resided over the destruction of our homes and mountains.

Larry Gibson. Art by Robert Shetterley/Americans Who Tell the Truth

Larry Gibson. Art by Robert Shetterley/Americans Who Tell the Truth

Wise mountaineers never forgot. They mourned the loss of their mountains and streams. They held out against King Coal and his propaganda machine. They prayed; they wrote letters; they spoke the truth in the face of their enemy. Old Blair had her own King—Kenny King—a descendant of Blair’s earlier battle. With his metal detector, he uncovered history. Other mountains had their wise defenders: up at Kayford, Larry Gibson was bringing new comers right up to “Hell’s Gate.” Old Mountaineers held onto their minds and wisdom and would never be silenced! They joined with other wise ones, many old union miners, ones that knew the truth and would stand and fight for their mountain homes!

New sounds echoed in the mountains. Old Blair watched as out-of-state cars drove by. The passengers seemed familiar. They wore red bandannas, and on their backs were banjos and fiddles. When they met the old mountaineers, strangers became family. The youngsters hiked through the mountains finding ginseng and herbs to heal the sick: they felt the energy and call of the mountain and they yearned to learn more. Old tired warriors were renewed with the energy of youth. They laughed and danced when called outsiders, tree huggers, and lazy tramps.

Old Blair’s history touched their hearts! Together with the old mountaineers and with the old Lion Hechler, they planned to march. On the anniversary of D-Day, June the 6th, 2011 their march began, and on June the 11th, it ended. Those who forgot their history will not remember the significance of these dates. Wise ones know that June the 11th was never the end, but just the beginning. Back on June the 11th, 1776, our Continental Congress nominated a committee—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston—to draft a declaration of independence from Britain.

So listen up! The history of the present King Coal of WV is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over this state. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.[1] King Coal owns our land and our politicians! Instead of wise stewards, their greed leads them to ignore mining safety. Our miners are dying once more. They care nothing for our history, our safety, or our homes. They blast away our mountains, pollute water and air. Our politicians protect coal’s power, even trying to force our nation to allow such crimes. Don’t you remember that all men are created equal? Listen, my friends — Big Coal can no longer destroy our land and endanger our people.

[1] Paraphrase of the Declaration of Independence

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Listen Here: Appalachian History Weekly podcast posts today

Posted by | September 14, 2014

We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:

We open today’s show with guest author Gary Greene of Rome, GA. The storyteller, singer, songwriter and historian recently came up against a rude surprise in his genealogy research. “I have a relative who was a murderer,” he tells us. “It is hard for my family to accept. We have always been peaceful people. It is a just a fact of life in genealogy: you may unearth family skeletons.”

We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a calendar of events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.

Coshocton, OH, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, has long been called the birthplace of specialty advertising. The first art-inspired advertisements were printed on trade cards in 1884. From that humble beginning an entire industry branched out to produce signs, trays, thermometers, calendars and hundreds of other items. A new exhibit at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum displays these wonderful wares.

We’ll wrap things up with the saga of Sallie’s Crying Tree, an ancient white oak in Marion, VA. If the Crying Tree could talk it would tell us that slavery was brutal, that people were sold like horses and dogs, that life was especially hard on black men and women. But it would also tell how valiant people are, how former slaves built communities and how their descendants are today’s leaders.

And thanks to the good folks at Berea College’s Southern Appalachian Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from W.L. Gregory & Clyde Davenport in a 1975 recording of Cumberland Gap.

So call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian history.

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Tapping Oil at the Roots of a Family Tree

Posted by | September 12, 2014

The following piece by Janice Cole Hopkins ran September 6th & 8th on her blog Reflections – Past, Present, and Future with God. It is re-posted here with permission.

 

Out of the mountains of North Carolina and the plains of Texas comes an intriguing tale of a black sheep, oil fortunes, and poor mountain families. The story begins with Pelham Humphries, who had been born out of wedlock in the Watauga Settlement area of North Carolina, which would later become part of Tennessee. His mother married a Gragg when he was just a boy, but his childhood must have been rough, and I imagine he was called many names. His adulthood seemed to be rocky, too, because he tended to be drawn into fights.

Greene family members related to Pelham Humphries.

Greene family members related to Pelham Humphries.

Pelham married Sudie Bell, but got into a drunken brawl and stabbed a man. Thinking he had killed someone, Pelham took his wife and a friend, J. William Inglish, and fled to Texas using a flatboat on the Watauga River. He fought in the Mexican Army in 1829 in their war for Mexican independence and was given a land grant for 4,000 acres on the Nechos River in 1835, but Sudie Bell died of a fever not long after they were deeded the land. Later, Pelham was shot to death at a Jefferson County boarding house in a fight between him and Inglish. Pelham’s family back in the Appalachian Mountains knew nothing about what had happened to him, and he and Sudie had no children. Information on exactly what happened in the ownership of the property becomes very muddled and confused at this point.

250px-Lucas_gusher

What we do know is that in 1901, long after Pelham’s death, oil was discovered on this land. Ever heard of Spindletop, the first oil discovered in Texas and the biggest producer of oil for years? Spindletop got its name from the heat waves rising in swirls from the prairie that made a grove of trees look like spinning tops when viewed from a hill above them. From here, many of the big oil companies got their start -Texaco, Gulf, Sun Oil, and Mobil. Today it’s owned by Chevron.

I found out who got the money for Spindletop, the controversy and questions that still exist today, and what happened when the mountain relatives tried to file a claim in the 1980s, and some more interesting information in my family tree, by being one of those distant descendants.

After Inglish shot and killed Pelham Humphries in an argument, the information gets sketchy and contradictory. Apparently in 1859, Inglish acquired the 4,000 acres of property in a transfer. However, instead of Pelham being the transferring party, the name of William, his brother had been inserted. Yet, according to the family and records back in North Carolina, William never went to Texas. This has caused speculation that Inglish may have forged the land transfer, as well as killed Pelham.

Martha Hamby Greene, Marie, & baby Geneva (my mother)

Martha Hamby Greene, Marie, & baby Geneva (my mother)

Some descendant of Pelham Humphries in the North Carolina mountains came across this story, and, in the 1980’s, a group got together, called a family meeting, and proposed hiring a lawyer to tap into the funds owed to them from the oil companies spinning off from Spindletop. Rumor had it that some of the oil companies had a trust fund set up for just such a purpose.The possible list of claimants was huge by this time. Since Pelham had no direct descendants, those coming from the branches of cousins, etc. had a claim. Several meetings were held over the next few years. Diligent people worked hard to put together genealogies that would prove their connections.

Clinard Greene's house & family in the early 1900's

Clinard Greene’s house & family in the early 1900’s

My mother’s family, the Greenes, were included. From a hard-working relative, I gained a written genealogy, which proved I was related to Pelham Humphries. It also gave me what I considered to be a more interesting bit of information. I am a direct descendant of Israel Boone, Daniel Boone’s brother. Can I blame my love of travel and wanderlust on Uncle Daniel? Oh, but that’s a story for another day.

Wedding picture of Chilo Greene and Martha Hamby

Wedding picture of Chilo Greene and Martha Hamby

Nothing ever came of the court case of the current descendants. The crucial events had taken place too long ago. I always thought this would be the case, but I found the family trees, genealogy, and information I found out about my family history much more important.

As a funny footnote, my dad had always pretended to be serious when he joked that he, I, and the Coles were related to Daniel Boone. Well, I was indeed related to the explorer, but it came from Mom’s side of my family and not his.

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Finding Out The Truth – A Rude Genealogy Surprise

Posted by | September 11, 2014

Gary GreenePlease welcome guest author Gary Greene. Greene is a storyteller, singer, songwriter and historian who is currently a part-time clerk at Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville, GA. He has performed from North Carolina to Texas, and in between. The Rome [GA] News Tribune has called him ‘a walking history book of Appalachian and Cherokee lore.’ Greene has a great love and respect for the culture of Appalachia and the history of the Cherokee.

 

My father, Isaac, was born in the mountains of East Tennessee. He didn’t talk about his father except to tell me that he died, too young, from sleeping sickness in the nineteen thirties. Dad was born Isaac Allen Green on February 14, 1914 to John and Hannah Shultz Green. He never spoke of his grandfather. Now, at 61 years of age, I may have finally figured out why.

A few weeks ago, a Facebook page from Sevierville, TN helped me put together my family puzzle by providing me with the missing pieces. I won’t mention their names because I am not sure they want to be named in this article. It has been over a hundred years, yet today it remains a very sensitive issue. The subject still brings fear and loathing to so many different families around the mountains of Sevierville.

My great-great grandfather was Newton (Newt) Green. Along with his cousin, West Hendricks, they murdered their uncle Aaron McMahan. Aaron was married to the sister of James Green, who was Newt’s father, and who was also the sister of West Hendricks’ mother.

Newt Green on right. West Hendrick on left. Tom Davis Deputy Sheriff in the middle. Courtesy the author.

Newt Green on right. West Hendrick on left. Tom Davis Deputy Sheriff in the middle. Courtesy the author.

Aaron McMahan’s daughter had been accused of adultery. During the middle of the night, she was taken out of her bed in her bedclothes by a group of masked vigilantes called the White Caps. Aaron had expressed how cowardly it was for a group of grown men to beat a defenseless woman. This news reached the White Caps, of which Green and Hendricks were members.

More than likely they were the ones who had beaten his daughter. I don’t know if they were chosen to deal with the situation or they just did it on their own. In Wear’s Valley, along Little Cove, they ambushed McMahan, his son, and his son-in law. All were wounded but McMahan, receiving the worst of it, died in agony ten days later, vowing it was his nephews Newt and West who had done the deed. I was shocked to realize I had finally found the proverbial genealogy skeleton in my closet.

I had heard tell about my Dad making and running moonshine during the Depression. It did not set well with the Worthington’s (my mother’s family, who were poor sharecroppers from Cassville, GA). But my Dad admitted to being an alcoholic. He quit drinking in 1950, the year my parents were married. But I still remember the summer visits when my uncle Will would bring a quart of shine to ask my dad if it was as good as they made during the 30’s. Dad screwed off the lid to smell it. He replaced the lid tight, turned it upside down and counted the bubbles. He related to my uncle Will that it was such and such proof and that it was real good shine. There is an art to making moonshine I learned that day.

My dad Isaac was in the CCC in the late 30’s, early 40’s. He helped pave the road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, as well as the famous loop around beautiful Cades Cove. He fought in WWII. He spent four years in the Army plus an additional four years in the Army Air Corp (later to become the Air Force). I am sure he killed Germans. He was a cook and he worked in field artillery.

He would talk about them leading the aim of the cannon way ahead of the German airplanes, and watch the planes as they would crash into the shells. He would then grow silent. He did not enjoy the memories of the war. My dad was a hero to me. Silent and stoic, he used words sparingly so as not to give too much away. It is hard to believe his grandfather was an out & out murderous real outlaw. A member of the criminal vigilantes called the White Caps.

NY Times, October 27, 1894 article about the White Caps.

NY Times, October 27, 1894 article about the White Caps.

I posted the photo of Newt and West in handcuffs. I mentioned to my son that he favored him. My son James (Jamie) was not amused. He told me he really had a problem finding out that he and I had a relative that was a murderer. It is hard for us to accept. We have always been peaceful people. It is a just a fact of life in genealogy: you may unearth family skeletons.

Be forewarned, I am not proud of parts of my family history. American history is filled with family feuds. The most notable, I think, would be the Hatfields and the McCoys. I may have my own opinion on vigilante justice, which would not be approved by some of my ancestors, I am sure.

I bought a book called The White Caps : A History Of The Organization In Sevier County, by E.W. Crozier. Page 114 describes the arrest of great-great grandfather Newton (Newt) Green. Deputy Sheriff Tom Davis followed the boys and ultimately they were surrounded in a cotton gin in Texas along the Red River. Newt was the first arrested. The deputy sheriff Lynch told him he was wanted in Texarkana. Newt hung his head a moment and said, “Hell, I’ve heard that tale before but we ain’t done nothing at Texarkana. I guess, by God, Tom Davis wants us in Tennessee. He glanced over at the other 2 officers and said “Hello Tom, by God you got your mustached blacked, but I know you. “

After being handcuffed together and headed back to New Boston, TX, Newt and West started singing “Take me back to Tennessee ; there let me live and die.” It had taken Deputy Sheriff Tom Davis 8 months to track them down. In the book, they were referred to as “wily offenders” and “ slick ducks.” The pair had avoided many traps before they were finally captured.

I accept my family history, as I have had to do with so many other things in history. Sometimes you just don’t agree with it, but yet it happened. If I don’t report it someone else will. I know everyone says if you search deep, long and wide, you’re gonna find out things you never really wanted to know. And they are right in this case.

Diligence is a way of life for the ladies who have helped me uncover this branch of my family history. I would not be writing this article if not for their help. So, many thanks to Donna Moncy Allen, Doris Noland Parton, and Sherry Whaley. During this search, we actually found out that we were related. It was really great finding more relatives still in the Sevierville area. I hope to return to the genealogy department soon to learn more about the lives and stories of my Smoky Mountain ancestors.

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