Category Archives: Uncategorized

It looks like a creature from hell, where it must be bent on returning

Posted by | March 29, 2017

North Carolina is home to at least 48 species of salamanders, and the mountain counties are the most productive with at least 35 species. And among those 35 species is the hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), one of only three giant salamanders found in the world—the other two are the Chinese Giant Salamander and Japanese Giant Salamander. The hellbender’s one of the largest salamanders found in the United States. Only the amphiuma, a salamander shaped like an eel, is longer.

According to a Missouri state herpetologist, Jeff Briggler, early settlers thought the hellbender looked like a creature from hell, where it was “bent” on returning, which is how this salamander got its name. In Western North Carolina hellbenders are also called ‘water dog,’ ‘devildog’ or ‘Alleghany alligator.’

hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)During the Middle Ages, people believed salamanders were born from fire, because they observed salamanders scurrying out of damp logs burned for fuel. Consequently, in some languages, the word salamander means “fire lizard.” Leonardo da Vinci wrote that the salamander “has no digestive organs, and gets no food but from the fire, in which it constantly renews its scaly skin.”

Other early myths about salamanders claimed their saliva destroyed human hair. While salamanders probably did scurry out of damp logs back in the day, they no doubt did so to escape the fire, not to be born from it. Further, salamanders do not lack digestive organs, do not have scales, and do not have saliva that ruins human hair.

Hellbenders are not venomous, though their skin secretions are somewhat toxic (don’t touch your eyes after handling one!). They will bite, but only if they are really provoked. A common myth is that hellbenders will ‘ruin’ good fishing streams by eating all the fish. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, if you see hellbenders in a stream, this is an excellent indication that the water quality is still good.

They feed almost entirely on crayfish, but will also eat small fish, invertebrates, and other hellbenders. The hellbender is a nocturnal animal with poor vision; consequently it relies on touch and smell to catch food. They will scavenge for anything that smells good — this is why they are often caught on fishing lines.

The hellbender’s voracious appetite for crayfish also means that they are very important for keeping a stream’s food chain balanced, and this is good for fish and the entire ecosystem.

Mature hellbenders breathe entirely through their skin. Young hellbenders are born with gills. Gill slits located at the base of the throat replace the gills when the young reach 1 1⁄2 years. The young hellbender is then able to absorb oxygen through its skin.

Because hellbenders rely on the thousands of capillaries found in the fleshy folds of skin along their body and legs to get oxygen from the water, they spend nearly all of their time in fast-moving water where dissolved oxygen is plentiful.

In North Carolina, the hellbender can be found in mountain streams that drain toward the Ohio and Tennessee River systems. Streams noted for their hellbender populations include New River, Watauga River, South Toe River, Mills River and Davidson River.

The oldest known hellbender in captivity was 29 years and individuals in the wild likely live that long or longer. Because they live so long, the removal of adults from the wild can cause populations to dwindle.

North Carolina is fortunate that national forests protect many of the hellbender’s mountain watersheds, yet development in some mountain watersheds threatens its habitat. Stream conditions have been detrimentally impacted by increased urbanization, poor agricultural and forestry practices, and road-building. As these streams are disturbed, sediment builds up and smothers the rocks under which the hellbenders live.

The hellbender’s habitat has also been impacted as more rivers have been dammed. Damming of rivers has converted many of the free-flowing waterways into slow moving lakes no longer suitable for species like the hellbender.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has designated the hellbender as a species of Special Concern. This designation prohibits the taking and sale of hellbenders.



Not much spectacular ever happened on North Fifth. The people just wouldn’t allow it.

Posted by | March 28, 2017

Parcel post was one year old. The Pennsylvania Railroad ran six crack trains daily, right through the middle of town, headed for St. Louis or New York, not counting a dozen locals to Pittsburgh or Columbus. You stood under the shed of the station, enviously peering into the Pullman diners as supercilious patrons dipped into their soup and stared at you out there in the dark. Some day, you promised yourself, you’d sit in a diner too and stare too.

A nickel bought a shoe shine, a hamburger with onions, a box of Uneeda Biscuit, and a pound of soup beans. A pair of steel-rimmed spectacles from Doc Bougher cost a five dollar bill. Coal was 10 cents a bushel, dug out under the town itself by the High Shaft Coal Company. The best ice cream you’d ever taste, no matter if you lived to be a hundred, cost 25 cents a quart.

The people in 1914 took their politics, religion and their patriotism seriously. The Elks, K. of P.’s, the Masons, and the K. of C.’s were Very Big socially. So was the G.A.R. and Women’s Relief Corps, although their ranks grew thinner and thinner on Decoration Day.

John H. C. Barr Home, Steubenville, OH331 South Seventh Street, Steubenville, OH, several blocks over from where this piece’s author George A. Mosel grew up, typifies the look of the neighborhood he describes.

Thousands, young & old, thought nothing of toiling up Market Street hill to Union Cemetery on foot to hear some windbag froth at the mouth over the bravery of the boys at Gettysburg or San Juan Hill.

Automobiles were still pretty risky things to some people. They hadn’t learned to trust them much. Babies were conceived at home and not on a vacation trip to Niagara Falls or in a Tourist Cottage on the Lincoln Highway. Old folks died home-style. The shades were pulled down in the front parlor and services were held there and not in an antiseptic Funeral Home ten squares away.

The phonograph was coming of age. The little square boxes with the cornucopia horn and revolving disks were going out and “His Master’s Voice” was coming in. At Erwin & Robinson’s, you could squander your hard-earned money on “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” which had come out back in 1911, or on “It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary”(1912); “Peg ‘o My Heart”(1913). If you wanted to be strictly up-to-date you’d go for the very latest songs, “The Missouri Waltz” or “When You Wore a Tulilp.” The really ‘hot’ record was “The St. Louis Blues.” Harry Lauder’s “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’” was a prime favorite on records.

Home was more than a place where they had to take you in, no matter what you did. Families did things together. They played games, sang songs; they went to church en masse; they fought and argues with one another and they entertained their friends under the family roof tree instead of the country club.

Not much spectacular ever happened on North Fifth. The people just wouldn’t allow it. No big fires, or robberies, juicy divorce cases or scandals that I can recall.

That is not to say life was one soft bed of roses. There were many a heartache back of those austere front doors. Babies died too young and old folks turned into vegetables. A favorite diagnosis of sudden death was “acute indigestion,” known now as a coronary thrombosis. The people were beset by the fears and desperations of a long lingering illness, unemployment, and a poverty-stricken old age, without the modern blessings of Social Security, Relief Checks and free nursing for the aged. Many lived low on the hog.

But they put on a brave face to the world. They “made do,” bearing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with the quiet courage of their forefathers.

from Through a Rear-View Mirror, by an ex-child of the city of Steubenville, Ohio. George A. Mosel, publ. by Hamilton I. Newell, Inc., Amherst, MA, 1963


He made his boast that he lived here 40 years and had never done any useful work

Posted by | March 27, 2017

When asked what brought him to this community, Joe Raines said the Lord had sent him here as a pest on the Maynors and Williames for their meanness. That is the only reason Joe ever gave for coming to Cirtsville, WV. However, he came, and once here, he proceeded to make the most of the generosity of the people of the community.

He established a circuit of enough homes that he would spend a night with so it took him two weeks for him to cover his route. If Joe was delayed in making his rounds, the people became worried about him and began to inquire about his whereabouts.

Joe liked to fish and spent many hours fishing in Paint Creek. Next to Dr. Billy Feazell, Joe was said to be the best fisherman to ever fish in Paint Creek. After fishing all day Joe would take his string of fish to the home he was going to spend the night with. He would dress them and give them to the cook to fry for supper.

Cirtsville, WVCirtsville, WV. No date. Collection of Carol Sue (Lively) Beavers.

Joe was always welcome whether he had fish or not. He was not a lazy man and always had some kind of project underway, but it was usually something that was of no benefit to him or anyone else. His first project in the community was a school. There was a small building at the foot of Spruce Mountain that was vacant and Joe took it over for his school. Some of the people paid a small fee and enrolled their children in Joe’s school. A few of them learned to read and write and a little arithmetic. Joe’s school lasted two months. All his pupils were tired of school and quit going, so the Raines School closed.

Joe was the slowest man I ever saw. The method used to speed up someone who was dragging behind was to say: “Come on, you are as slow as Joe Raines.”

Another project Joe tried that was hard work and very little profit was to gather up surplus from the gardens and haul it to Mount Hope and sell it. Then he would take the money he received for the products and buy such items as soda, soap, matches, and other things that the farmers needed and bring them back and sell them to the people who had given him the garden products.

One summer he used a wheelbarrow to transport his products. Another summer he used a small wagon which he pulled himself. Each year in April he would leave Cirtsville and go to Sandlick and spend a month with the Sandlick people, but he would return to Paint Creek by May 1.

Another visit that Joe made every summer was to the Tollison Stover home. This place was on Lick Run of Coal River. The route traveled was to go to the top of Spruce Mountain, then take a footpath along the Lick Run ridge. It was a good half day’s journey for any man, and at the speed that Joe traveled, it took most of the day.

So on this occasion Joe started early in the morning, and it was late afternoon before he arrived. He was tired and hungry. The girls of the family were good cooks and they were all glad to see Joe again. They prepared a good supper for him. Among the things that they had were biscuits, butter, and honey. That was Joe’s favorite food. Joe just could not quit eating honey and hot biscuits, so he overate. A short time after supper he began to feel pain in his stomach. Joe’s remedy for all ills was Japanese oil [ed- this is the liquid portion remaining after the separation of menthol from Japanese peppermint oil]. He is the only man I ever knew that could drink Japanese oil full strength from the bottle. Joe took several swigs of Japanese oil but it did not help.

The pains continued to get more severe so Joe decided to go to a higher power. Joe went to prayer and his prayer was: “O Lord, I need your help. If you don’t help me Lord, I am going to die, Lord, I know you can help me. I know you have the power to help me but the H— of it is, will you.” Joe’s prayer was answered. He recovered from the honey colic but from that time on, he put a limit on the amount of honey he consumed.

Joe stayed with the people of Cirtsville until he became too feeble to make his rounds and he was taken to the poor house at Shady Spring where he died. He made his boast that he lived in Cirtsville for 40 years, and had as much to eat and was as well dressed as anyone else, and had never done any useful work.

Okey R. Stover
Upper Paint Creek, WV
b. 1895
online at


Book Review: ‘Chasing the Powhatan Arrow’

Posted by | March 24, 2017

If you’re at all familiar with the work of Studs Terkel, you’ll recognize a kindred spirit in the work of author Michael Abraham. Terkel was world renowned for his ability to draw out compelling oral histories, from both the mighty and the not so mighty, over his 45 year tenure as a radio talk show host on Chicago’s WFMT.

Likewise Michael Abraham, in his recently published travelogue ‘Chasing the Powhatan Arrow,’ reveals an endless curiosity and enthusiasm in his interviews with railroad CEOs, railfan hobbyists, museum curators, city councilmen, and just about everyone else he encounters on this journey.

chasing book cover

Abraham’s goal in this book is to retrace the 676 mile route of the Norfolk & Western Railway’s famed steam powered crown jewel, from Norfolk to Cincinnati, and to investigate the historical, and modern, effect the train has had on the communities it touched.

Why a book length treatment for that specific railway line?

“Throughout its history, the Norfolk & Western had a dramatic impact on the communities through which it passed,” explains Abraham. “It had its hand in almost every aspect of commerce, and it made many communities and broke others.

“The corridor of the Powhatan Arrow is one of immense geological, economic, and cultural diversity,” he continues. “The time of the Powhatan Arrow was the time of our nation’s greatest economic prosperity.

“Norfolk & Western chose to make the Powhatan Arrow one of its showcase passenger excursions. It spared no expense. The Powhatan Arrow was pulled by a Class J locomotive, widely considered the finest steam locomotive ever built, had the finest cars, and the finest accommodations of any railroad in the country.”

Abraham also has a personal connection to the Powhatan Arrow. “My maternal grandparents lived in Richmond,” he says, “and sometimes I’d get to take the Pocahontas or the Powhatan Arrow to Petersburg, where a family member would pick us up.”

‘Chasing the Powhatan Arrow’ is not a tour guide, though Michael Abraham is in fact a very entertaining spokesman on behalf of the cities and towns he encounters. He paints vivid portraits of the oystermen of Norfolk. The desperate Civil War battles fought around Petersburg and Appomattox, VA. The childhood home of movie star Roy Rogers along the Ohio River.

His subtitle—‘A Travelogue in Economic Geography’—points to the methodology he’ll use for the book’s narrative. Economic geography is a very specific branch in the study of geography. It deals with “the relation of physical and economic conditions to the production and utilization of raw materials and their manufacture into finished products.”


By looking at this particular railroad line through the lens of economic geography, Abraham shows readers how the region’s two major industries, tobacco farming (on the eastern end of the line) and coal mining (on its western side), influenced the development and the growth of the railroads, and vice versa.

“Economies are Darwinian, survival of the fittest,” he concludes.

“There is efficiency and productivity in uniformity, but there is resiliency and sustainability in diversity, which ultimately is more vital. Everybody I’ve ever met in economic development says they’d rather have ten companies emerge or come to town with 20 jobs each than one with 200. The reason is that the former better adapts to changing environments.”

Abraham has a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech, so it’s easy to see how he’d be fascinated by how the steam engine works. Luckily for his readers he’s able to translate its complexities into English for those of us who don’t have a technical bent. His prose is clear and concise, and his historical commentaries backed up with numerous well-researched examples.

‘Chasing the Powhatan Arrow’ is written for a general, not scholarly, audience, and because of that Abraham has opted not to use footnotes, endnotes, or an index. Usually that decision helps reinforce the breezy conversational style he writes in. But every now and again I would have liked to have known his sources. For example, as he’s crossing the state line from Virginia into West Virginia, he takes a few pages to explore an “unauthorized people’s history of West Virginia,” saying that many history books present a more sanitized version. How unauthorized is his people’s history? Say what other sources?

Michael Abraham continues to stake his claim as one of Central Appalachia’s top regional writers (six of his seven previous books are set in Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia). The Christiansburg, VA native’s obvious love of railroading shines through on every page in this, the latest addition to his oeuvre.



She was a great Herb Doc, the main Doc of the county

Posted by | March 23, 2017

Following is a family history written in 1985 by Ethel (Barrows) Shilling, of Washington County, OH. Grand Ma & Grand Pa Seevers were: Mary A. Severs (1821-1909) & Samuel Severs (1809-1877)

Some History of Grand Ma / Grand Pa Seevers.

Reports are and have been they have Indian blood, and perhaps they have; who hasn’t? But, I too perhaps think Grand Father might of been of the Indian Tribe. I’m that age. Seems the public wants to class them of the Indians. I never heard of any comment from my mother as such. They surely could of been associated with them in those days.

Grand Mother knew a lot about wild life, nature, etc. You name it. She was a great Herb Doc. She was the main Doc of the county, and saved a lot of lives and brought many lives into the community. Emma Limpert says Grand Ma brought her into the world. Also she saved one of her sisters from diphtheria, from her herb doctoring.

Grandma lived in a log house as I remembered, one side sloped down to ground like a shed, an outside dug cellar with sod banked at the side, herbs of all kind were hanging inside drying. She had curly hair (of which I don’t think Indians have), wore black, and a black hood or a fascinator, she chewed tobacco, pieced comforters and quilts (by hand sewing) in the winter. She also knew how to rob the squirrels of their winter nuts; by finding them in rotten logs and stumps she would always come up with all she could pack.

Mary A. Severs of Washington County OHI used to sometimes sleep with her. Before going to sleep she would make noises of different animals, especially like a bear. I used to curl her hair when a little girl.

When she got older, so I understand she pieced each grandchild a quilt. These pieces were very small; she never had no waste to throw away. Her fingers were very much drawn crooked by her age.

She stayed with us when she got old. My father built her a bedroom all her own. We lived down on Fountain St. Uncle Jim Seevers her son was her guardian. This log house was joining Uncle Sam Seever’s farm, back a lane, perhaps a mile. She went fishing in what you call Little Lake close to her home. She was a great fisherman.

She was quite a person in her age. She passed away at the age of 87. Her funeral was at the Logan Church. I was about ten years old and well remember it all. She passed away at Aunt Tan Cole’s home. She and Grandfather and two babies lay at Six Corners Cemetery about in middle of the big section with a large brown marker. The only brown I think in that side. You cannot miss it.

I cannot give you any dates. I don’t have any records of such. Only as I remembered down through time. My mother never said much about the life or I was too young to get it.


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