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Don’t let him shoot me again; he’s got me

Posted by | August 21, 2015

For many years Ira Butts and neighbor Clifton Pitts had been arguing over the boundary line of a small piece of property. The land was separated between the neighbors by a small creek, which headed on property owned by Butts. Each neighbor suspected that someone had channeled the branch to run opposite its original location.

Early in the morning of June 6, 1939, Ira Butts left his home in Holly Springs, SC for a trip back to his old homeplace near Toxaway Baptist Church. He set out walking by way of old foot-paths and wagon roads, for this was nearer than by way of the main roads. He was born and raised in the mountains, and knew every inch of the woods for miles around.

On his way he visited his sister Julie Lee near the Welcome Baptist Church, and Dandy Lee, who lived then at the old Joel Vinson place.

Just before noon, he arrived at the home of his son Tom, who was not there, for he was working that day at a textile mill in Greenville. Ira spent a short while talking with Tom’s wife Bessie. She offered to fix lunch for him, but he refused to eat with her.

After visiting with Bessie, Ira started walking down a path leading to a spring from which the family carried water, and which was close to the property that had caused problems for years between Pitts and Butts.

Tom’s son, Edward, had gone to the spring for water, and was at the spring when Ira arrived, and he talked with his grandfather for a few minutes. The well at the homeplace had gone dry while work was being done on the Southern Railway; blasting had probably cracked the bottom of it. Several attempts had not gained water in the well. The water from the spring formed a branch, which was also a property dividing-line.

After talking with Edward for a while, Ira started walking down the branch bank toward a street which lead from the Toxaway Road to the home of William Carson, another neighbor of Ira Butts and Clifton Pitts.

Edward ran back to the house, leaving his water bucket, and told his mother that he thought trouble was going to occur. Rumor has it that he saw Pitts coming toward the place where Ira was about to enter the road. He was frightened terribly when he reached the house.

Felix Bradley, a long-time neighbor and friend of Ira Butts, was walking up the road just at the time Ira stepped into the road. Ira had not seen Pitts, for some pine bushes along the road had blocked his view, so he turned toward Felix and started to talk to him. Just then, Felix saw Pitts behind Ira with a shotgun, and he yelled – “Look behin ju Pharoah!” (This was a name he used when addressing the aged man, for Ira was then 72 years old.)

Turning, Ira faced a 12-gauge shotgun aimed directly at his chest from not more than thirty or forty feet away. Ira reached into his overalls pocket and drew a revolver, but it was too late, for at that instant a blast from the gun struck him in the left side of the chest and knocked him over. He fell dying in the dusty country road, shot by his own neighbor.

Even though he lay on the ground with a two inch hole in his chest from the shotgun, with the last bit of life left in his body Ira continued to squeeze the trigger, but there was no strength left.

Bradley moved foreword, and by that time Pitts had also moved closer. Ira must have thought Pitts was intending to shoot him again, for with the final breath in his body, Ira said – “Don’t let him shoot me again, he’s got me.”

These words marked the end of a life that had been taken for a piece of property; land valued at not more than the $3.50 Ira had in his pocket when he died.

source: http://files.usgwarchives.net/sc/oconee/cemeteries/c024.txt

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The cabin that became a cannery

Posted by | August 20, 2015

In the fall of 1941 on the eve of the United States’ entry into WWII, the Auburn High School freshman class of 1941-42 undertook an extraordinary community project. Under the guidance of their homeroom teacher, Harry W. McCann, Jr., who taught math, social studies, and English, the students decided that a place for social gathering and recreation was an important need for the people of Riner, VA.

Auburn High School in Riner Virginia

Right Side and Front view of Auburn High School, Riner, VA, Jan. 28, 1942.

Undaunted by the rising crisis in Europe and Asia, and their own experiences growing up during the Great Depression, these youths of 14 and 15 set to work to construct a log building to meet their needs. These students, about 30 in number, drew up blueprints, solicited donations of materials, and raised funds by selling bonds.

On January 6, 1942, the students made a presentation about the project to the Riner Grange, an agricultural service group chartered in 1928 dedicated to the improvement of life for those living in the Riner area. The Grange voted to support the project on February 3, 1942 and on April 21, 1942 moved to provide $200 for the building. An Auburn Recreational Club was formed and a committee was appointed to govern its affairs. Memberships in the Auburn Recreational Club were sold for $1 to raise funds.

In the spring of ’42, newly hired agriculture teacher George Guilliams, along with McCann, the students, the school janitor R. A. Weaver, and Riner farmers Ralph and Raymond Lucas cut poplar trees using crosscut saws from Dan Cundiff’s place and hauled them in a borrowed truck to the building site adjacent to the high school.

The logs were then peeled, footer trenches dug, forms built, and cement mixed and poured one wheelbarrow at a time into the trenches. The log walls were raised and the subflooring put in. A stonemason, Mr. Gray from Blacksburg, was hired to build the chimney using local field stone.

On the 12th of August, 1942, the Grange held a cabin work day, placing top plate and rafters on the building. Soon the roof went on and Mr. Thomas, a carpenter from Shawsville, was hired to put in doors, window, floors, and two interior walls.

However, building supplies had become scarce because of the war and, more significantly for the project, money ran out, so the doors and windows were installed but the interior was not completed.

‘Canners Get Enough of Pears,’ 1951 newspaper clipping from Scrapbook 20, Page 12, The Virginia Deal Lawrence Scrapbook Collection, McConnell Library Archives and Special Collections, Radford University

1951 newspaper clipping from Scrapbook 20, Page 12, The Virginia Deal Lawrence Scrapbook Collection, McConnell Library Archives and Special Collections, Radford University

Auburn principal L. E. Moseley was much interested in the project and determined to see the building used for community purposes. Through his leadership, the community was able to procure canning equipment through the Rural War Production Training program. The federal government, in conjunction with the state, was offering canning equipment to communities that could supply a location, so the cabin’s intended use was diverted to house a community cannery.

The equipment was installed on the oak subflooring and holes were cut for the necessary plumbing. The response was immediate and in the fall of 1943, 5,691 cans were processed. In 1945 the state Agriculture Department granted money for an actual cannery building and in the spring of 1946 an adjoining slab-on-grade block structure was built.

George Guilliams oversaw construction of the cannery with most of the labor provided by the students in the FFA and the Grange men. Again, R. A. Weaver was instrumental in providing the know-how to complete the project, having previously been in the timber and threshing businesses where mechanical steam pressure systems were employed.

George Guilliams supervised the cannery operations from its inception and “never lacked for business.” R. A. Weaver operated the cannery until sometime in the 1950s and Mrs. I. J. “Bess” Greear and her sister Miss Mallie Richardson helped get it all started by showing people how to prepare food for canning. Guilliams taught evening classes on growing and preparing vegetables for canning. Class attendees were given preferential use privileges, but this practice was soon abandoned as demand for the facility was so great it was impossible to dictate use.

Initially, tin cans were used exclusively, but sometime in the 1950s the Ball Company sent a representative to demonstrate the use of glass jars and both types of containers were used until the 1980s, when the rising cost of tin cans made their use less appealing and the sealing equipment became irreparable. The cannery continued to receive heavy use well into the 1970s.

Use has been steady for the past 25 years, although the number of units processed per year has gradually declined. The cannery remains open in season as a service of Montgomery County.

The cannery reflects a fascinating period of American history and served as a cornerstone of the Riner community for two generations. This structure is representative of this community’s ethos and, as such, is highly worthy of preservation, interpretation, and continued use.

adapted from “A History of the Log Cabin and Community Cannery in Riner;” online at http://montgomerymuseum.org/Riner/history of cabin Apr 08.pdf

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A good room cost $1.50 a night and a corner room $3

Posted by | August 19, 2015

“The T. stands for Taliaferro. I was named after Booker T. Washington. My people came from Sherrill’s Fort in Catawba County, NC. I was brought up by my mother, but in 1920, came to Asheville to live with my father. I went to high school at Bennett in Greensboro, NC and two years at Livingston College in Salisbury. I was sorry I couldn’t finish but went into the hotel work. Booker T. Washington’s philosophy was ‘drop your bucket wherever you are,’ and I have done well.

“Asheville was hit hard by the Depression. Work was hard to find, but I worked in the Langren Hotel from 1930-1933 and the Battery Park from 1934 until it closed in 1972. When I worked at the Battery Park for 38 years, blacks couldn’t go in the front door – now I am living here!

“I had a ‘hotel reputation.’ During those times there weren’t many jobs open to blacks – chauffeuring, working at Oteen or in hotels. It was hard getting work in the railroad unless one had good connections. Many blacks were on WPA but I was always employed. Bellmen were paid $1 a day and depended on tips and didn’t anticipate Social Security, where benefits were based on how much they had paid in.

“The Langren Hotel (below) was one of the largest in the area in the 20’s, catering mostly to business men. A good room cost $1.50 a night and a corner room $3. The price was comparable to the Battery Park but the clientele was different. The Vanderbilt and Battery Park catered to tourists.

The Langren Hotel, Asheville, NC
“In 1933 I lost my job at the Langren and went to Florida for the season. I returned to my wife and daughter and, after applying around, came here and worked under Charles Sisney, a famous, widely known bell man who died in 1935.

“My first wife was 16 when we married, and the marriage broke up. In 1936 I remarried a lady with the same name as a character in “Amos ‘n’ Andy” radio program. [Ruby Taylor]

“We were married on Saturday, August 1936, and the following day Martin Moore confessed to murdering Helen Clevenger, who was visiting the hotel with her uncle in room 224. The sheriff hired a detective from New York who found a weapon in Moore’s house. Moore was tried, convicted and executed. People in the hotel were reluctant to go on the 2nd floor.

“I was off duty during the time of the 1936 murder and was not questioned but there were bad feelings about this. Some think it was never solved. Some think the son of the manager was to blame. It upset this city and it took 8-10 years for the people to relax. Room #224 was permanently blocked. Although I kept my thoughts to myself, I don’t think Moore, a relatively new night janitor, had the mentality to commit the crime.”

Booker T. Sherrill
Asheville, NC
(1907-2003)

Source: http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/oralhistory/VOA/S_Z/Sherrill_B.html

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Swift’s Silver Mine – lost or merely invented?

Posted by | August 18, 2015

“I suppose there is no part of the mountains of Kentucky that has not had some experience in search for this silver mine. Last summer (1921) I was on the train going from Pineville to Harlan, when someone on the train pointed out to me a large cliff on the opposite side of the river that had recently been partly blown away in the search for the silver of this mine.

Photo caption: Swift's silver mine - Jonathan Swift's deed to Peter Hope, England, for the mine. Collection Kentucky Historical Society/C. Frank Dunn Photographs Collection/KNU:1987ph2:0944

Photo caption: Swift’s silver mine – Jonathan Swift’s deed to Peter Hope, England, for the mine. Collection Kentucky Historical Society/C. Frank Dunn Photographs Collection/KNU:1987ph2:0944

“It came out in the conversation that some man had come here, probably from the west, and with maps in his possession had located the mine here. He spent much money, time and labor in the futile attempt to disclose it in the cliff.

“James Renfro lived at Cumberland Ford in the early days, 1821 to 1832, and it has been said that the Journal of Swift was left with Mrs. Renfro after the death of her husband.

“The Renfros came from Virginia, but it may be that another Renfro family figured in the possession of the Journal. I think it probable that Swift never left any money here as he claimed, but evidently he came here searching for silver.

“Mr. William Low, of Pineville, in his letter of October 29, 1921, has this to say of Swift’s journal: ‘I asked Mr. Gibson (Frank Gibson, son of J. J. Gibson) about Swift’s journal. Someone told him that there was such a document, but I doubt the fact myself. I never heard of such a document (in fairness to Mr. Low, I might say here that he was not reared in this section but came here as a young man) and I have heard a great deal about Swift’s Silver Mine.

‘This mine has been searched for in every county in eastern Kentucky and personally I very much doubt whether there ever was such a mine, or that any silver was ever obtained from a mine in Kentucky. Years ago it was supposed that this mine, or at any rate a silver mine, had been found on Clear Creek, and a company of native citizens, John I. Partin and others, and some others whose names I have forgotten, secured patents and organized what they called a mining company, but nothing was ever discovered, in the way of silver ore, on this land.

‘I have understood that about Ferndale years ago some persons thought that silver existed and some work was done towards opening a mine at that place, but no silver existed. Since I have been in Bell County, there have been a number of persons here from other places searching for Swift’s Silver Mine because every place where it was thought silver existed was at once claimed to be the place where Swift claimed he found the mine.

The location of one of Jonathan Swift's lost silver mines is given as being on Swift's Camp Creek, in Wolfe County, KY by historian Lyman Draper in manuscripts from the 1830s.  Directions are: "Seven miles above the mouth of the creek (Swift's Creek) is a natural rock bridge.  On the northwest side of the creek, a short distance below the bridge, is a branch.  Follow the branch to its head, thence ascend the ridge, leaving the highest part of the ridge on your right.  Go along the ridge to a point that is higher than the others, where a large rock seems to have fallen from above.  Go in between them.  This is where we obtained our best ore."   Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) was a lifelong student of early American history. Although he was born and raised in upstate New York, Draper made it his life's work to rescue from oblivion the history of the "heroes of the Revolution" in the South.  He made repeated research trips to what he called the "Trans-Allegheny West," generating interviews, research notes, and correspondence. To these he added hand written reproductions of unpublished journals, extracts from newspapers and other published sources, muster rolls, and transcripts of official documents. Draper was the first corresponding secretary for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and lived much of his life in Madison. His manuscript collection was bequeathed to the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Photo by William Fultz II (fultzfotos.com)/Flickr   Rock Bridge on Swift Camp Creek in the Clifty Wilderness of the Red River Gorge Geological Area at Daniel Boone National Forest.

The location of one of Jonathan Swift’s lost silver mines is given as being on Swift’s Camp Creek, in Wolfe County, KY by historian Lyman Draper in manuscripts from the 1830s. Directions are: “Seven miles above the mouth of the creek (Swift’s Creek) is a natural rock bridge. On the northwest side of the creek, a short distance below the bridge, is a branch. Follow the branch to its head, thence ascend the ridge, leaving the highest part of the ridge on your right. Go along the ridge to a point that is higher than the others, where a large rock seems to have fallen from above. Go in between them. This is where we obtained our best ore.”

Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) was a lifelong student of early American history. Although he was born and raised in upstate New York, Draper made it his life’s work to rescue from oblivion the history of the “heroes of the Revolution” in the South.

He made repeated research trips to what he called the “Trans-Allegheny West,” generating interviews, research notes, and correspondence. To these he added hand written reproductions of unpublished journals, extracts from newspapers and other published sources, muster rolls, and transcripts of official documents.

Draper was the first corresponding secretary for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and lived much of his life in Madison. His manuscript collection was bequeathed to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Photo by William Fultz II (fultzfotos.com)/Flickr Rock Bridge on Swift Camp Creek in the Clifty Wilderness of the Red River Gorge Geological Area at Daniel Boone National Forest.

 

‘I doubt if ever Swift was in Bell County. There is an old survey located in Letcher County which calls for a survey made by Swift, but so far as I know no silver was ever discovered on Swift’s survey.’

“The mountain people in the past have been good subjects for the creation of this folk-tale, since no mines have been found that we can trace to Swift. They lived for a century far from railroads in a wilderness of mountain country. They made a living, a bare living in many instances, by the hardest of work. People in this condition dream of wealth and luxury.

“The story of Swift fell into fertile soil of their dreaming minds and became fixed there as a fact. After it became fixed, and no mines could be found, then reasons were invented to account for not finding the silver. Hence, dark caves with heaped-up silver guarded by demons, great kettles of silver deep down in the ground protected by a league of devils, and many other stories grew up around this tradition. What better modern folk-tale could we have?”

 

sources: HISTORY OF BELL COUNTY KENTUCKY VOL 1, by Henry Harvey Fuson, Hobson Book Press, 1947
Draper Manuscript Collection/Wisconsin Historical Society

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The thirty-sixth state is won!

Posted by | August 17, 2015

By the spring of 1920, 35 states had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, which would give women the right to vote. Thirty six states were required to ratify the Amendment in order for it to formally become part of the Constitution, and so all national suffrage effort that summer became intensely concentrated on winning the 36th state.

Decorated car parked in front of the George and Abby Milton house in Chattanooga, TN. Car belonged to Abby Crawford Milton. Thought to be a suffrage or women's rights event.

Decorated car parked in front of the George and Abby Milton house in Chattanooga, TN. Car belonged to Abby Crawford Milton. Thought to be a suffrage or women’s rights event.

As the president of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association, Chattanoogan Abby Crawford Milton spent the entire month of August in Nashville lobbying members of the General Assembly to vote for suffrage.

“The battle for women’s suffrage that summer, that very hot summer of 1920, that occurred in Nashville is generally conceded to be the fiercest legislative battle that ever was waged on this continent,” she said.

Milton and a number of other state level suffragists met up locally with Carrie Chapman Catts, national president of the League of Women Voters. The suffs based their lobbying efforts from their headquarters at Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel, where the antis —anti-suffragists— had also decamped.

“The Hermitage Hotel was the scene of many fist fights and swarms of red roses in the lobby there every evening [red roses were the symbol of the antis],” said Milton. “No woman would dare venture down there. The mezzanine of that hotel had been bought up by the antis. And they served liquor there to the members, all the members they could get drunk. They took our votes away from them with all the men that they could.”

Both ‘antis’ and ‘suffs’ courted the state legislature in the fight over votes for women.  In this 1920 editorial cartoon, the Rochester, NY Herald pokes fun at the tactics used by both sides.

Both ‘antis’ and ‘suffs’ courted the state legislature in the fight over votes for women. In this 1920 editorial cartoon, the Rochester, NY ‘Herald’ pokes fun at the tactics used by both sides.

In the house, as in the Senate, a ratification resolution had been introduced on August 10. But day after day passed; the House took no action. On August 17, the committee on constitutional convention and amendments issued a favorable report.

Dismissing the arguments that ratification would be unconstitutional or a violation of the oath of office, the committee agreed with its Senate counterpart that it would be an honor for Tennessee to be the final state to ratify the amendment, “giving to our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and sweethearts a precious right which they have so long been unjustly denied.”

The debate began. In an impassioned speech, House Speaker Seth Walker urged his colleagues to vote against the ratification resolution on states’ rights ground. Speaking for the suffragists, Joe Hanover of Memphis condemned the interference of anti-suffragists from other states, and denounced the tactics of Tennessee’s own anti-suffragists.

“What is a greater crime,” he demanded, “than for certain newspapers connected with the opposition to threaten you as they have been doing for the last ten days?” The debate continued for several hours, but the House adjourned without voting.

That night was a long one for suffragists. They patrolled the corridors of the Hermitage Hotel and stationed sentries at the train station to prevent the untimely departure of any of the men still pledged to support them. They met in Carrie Chapman Catt’s room for yet another strategy session.

But even she had exhausted her political resources. “There is one more thing we can do—only one,” she said. “We can pray.” After all the careful organization, the years of winning over public opinion, the arduous task of wooing legislators, the women were still left to pray while the men voted.

The galleries were packed when House Speaker Walker called the session to order on August 18. The atmosphere was tense; both sides knew the vote was too close to call. An anti-suffragist motion to table the ratification resolution ended in a tie. The roll call began. There were two votes for, followed by four against. The seventh name on the list was Harry Burn. At twenty-four, he was the youngest man in the legislature, a Republican from McMinn County. Suffrage polls listed him as undecided. He had voted with the antis on the motion to table.

Although Burn had promised suffrage leaders he would vote with them if they needed his vote to ratify, suffragists feared he would continue to side with the antis. They knew that political leaders in his home district opposed the Nineteenth Amendment. But they did not know that in his pocket was a letter from his mother telling him to ‘be a good boy’ and vote for ratification. When his name was called, Harry Burn voted yes.

Harry T. Burn represented McMinn County in the Tennessee House of Representatives. His "yes' vote, encouraged by a letter from his mother, broke a tie and caused Tennessee to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment and it then became law.

Harry T. Burn represented McMinn County in the Tennessee House of Representatives. His yes vote, encouraged by a letter from his mother, broke a tie and caused Tennessee to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment and it then became law.

It took a few moments for the suffragists to absorb what had happened, but before the roll call was over they realized that Harry Burn had given them the last vote they needed. The antis realized it too.

As soon as the clerk announced the vote—49 to 47—Seth Walker changed his vote from ‘no’ to ‘aye,’ and introduced a motion to reconsider. (Under House rules, only a representative voting with the winning side could move to reconsider.) That parliamentary maneuver did not diminish the suffragists’ joy. “Emancipated at last!” some exclaimed. That night, Carrie Chapman Catt sent a telegram to North Carolina suffragist Gertrude Weil: “The thirty-sixth state is won.”

“It seemed too dramatic to happen in real life, but this was the real thrill of history-making, not the excitement of stage or movies,” said Abby Milton. “Personally, I had rather have had a share in the battle for woman suffrage than any other world event. Those who stood apart from it should feel like mummies. The woman suffragists have had the thrill, the victory in the struggle for liberty, that our ancestors had at the Declaration of Independence. It is the purest American patriotism.”

 

sources: “‘Powers That Pray’ and ‘Powers That Prey': Tennessee and the Fight for Woman Suffrage,” by Anastatia Sims, Tennessee Historical Quarterly 50 (1991)

“Tennessee Women and the Vote: Tennessee’s Pivotal Role in the Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment,” by Carole Bucy (written in 1995 for the 75th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment)

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