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Dashing through the snow

Posted by | December 2, 2016

Stephens’ “Book of the Farm” (1840) says “Winter is the especial season of man – our own season. It is the intellectual season during which the spirit of man enables him most to triumphantly display his superiority over the beasts each day that perish.” In winter, the countryman plays a conqueror who sets forth each day to battle the elements, and winning, returns to the rewards of his harvests. It’s a daily game, beyond the ken of the city-dweller whose comings and goings lack the flavor of make-believe.

The coming of winter in the old days was heralded by a “banking-up season,” when the north sides of houses and barns were stacked with proper insulation. Corn stalks, hay, leaves, or sawdust shouldered the base of the farmhouse against winter’s blast; cow dung did the job at the barn.

The first of December was Sled Day wherever winter and snow were synonymous; that was the day when sleds of all sorts were readied and sleigh bells were made to shine. Just over sixty years ago there were real sounds to winter: steel-shod runners squeaked over the packed snow and the almost constant music of sleigh bells filled the crisp air everywhere. Winter was a season of bells.

sleigh scene in wvTime was when you could recognize a neighbor’s approach by the sound of his sleigh bells, even tell which neighbor it was. Some farmers made up their own sets of bells and others preferred to use inherited sets. For those who wished to buy, however, there were Swiss Pole chimes, Mikado chimes, and King Henry chimes; the Dexter Body Strap of twenty-four bells was a popular buy. At first, sleigh bells were made from two half-globes of metal soldered together, but one-piece bells were later cast and sold separately, ready for fastening to harness. A matched set cost about $1.50.

The reason for using bells on a sleigh was not only for merriment but primarily for safety. A sleigh was a silent vehicle and a fast one, which its driver often found the greatest difficulty in stopping. Furthermore, everyone wore ear muffs or some other sort of ear-covering in the early days, so that winter pedestrians were practically deaf. Just as lights and horns are now required on the highway, bells were once a “must” for all winter traffic.

“The Cracker Barrel”
by Eric Sloane
(Funk & Wagnalls, 1967)

appalachia appalachian+culture appalachian+mountains+history banking+up Eric+Sloane Sled+Day sleigh+bells winter


Double murder in Vinton County, part 2

Posted by | December 1, 2016


On November 11, 1926, young neighbor Manville Perry noticed the living room door of William and Sarah Stout’s farmhouse open, and was shocked by the sight he saw. He ran to a nearby coal mine and called for several miners to accompany him back to the farm.

Mrs. Stout’s body lay in front of the living room stove. Her face, neck and portions of her body were burnt and charred beyond recognition. One arm was extended on the floor in front of her and was not burnt, suggesting that she had not tried to extinguish the flames of the fire. All her hair was burned off except where her head came in contact with the floor.

It was obvious to the gathered group that the body had been placed in front of the stove. Local Prosecuting Attorney Blake was called in, and he and Dr. O. S. Cox and Dr. A. E. James studied the scene. Their post mortem concluded that Mrs. Stout died of strangulation, not burns. The body was then covered with kerosene and set fire, they declared.

double murder in Vinton County OHSarah Stout was last seen alive in McArthur, two days prior, when she had sworn out a warrant against Arthur Stout, her stepson. The adultery charge cited his illicit relationship with one Inez Palmer, who had been co-habiting with him for three years on his family farm about three miles east of Sarah & William’s farm. It was rumored that Inez and Arthur had had a child since they had been living together.

The young Stout had been bailed out of jail by his father. Mrs. Stout feared that Arthur would kill her on account of her actions, Stout neighbor Mrs. Lucy Gibbs later testified.

Sarah, age 60, and her husband, age 65, were recently wed and were respected, well-to-do farmers in the county. We don’t know Sarah’s exact motive for turning in her stepson, especially if she realized it would be a life-threatening move.

One view is that for her to allow the situation to fester would undoubtedly have tarnished her and her new husband’s reputations and thereby threatened her future security. Another view is that she was a gold digger, looking to eliminate any competition for the old boy’s money. We just don’t know.

William Stout immediately called for the arrest of his son. “I shall demand his punishment,” he said. “It was an awful thing to do, to murder the woman who had raised him even if she was only his step-mother.” Interestingly, before his own death William Stout hired the law firm of Woolley and Rowland to defend his son.

Bloodhounds followed the trail of the murdered woman’s stepson from a wagon he had unhitched in the yard to the room in which Sarah Stout was slain, which in turn led to Arthur Stout’s arrest. In early February 1927 a Grand Jury indicted him for first degree murder.

When Stout was taken to jail, Palmer became a housekeeper for the elder Stout. So apparently William didn’t suspect her of any wrongdoing. Or maybe he did and wanted to keep close tabs on her!

Here’s where the Athens Messenger account becomes confusing: “Coming from Bellaire several years ago, Inez Palmer first took care of Mrs. Arthur [sic] Stout. Mrs. Stout had been ill for some time. There she met Arthur Stout.” So far so good. “Mrs. Stout died and William Stout remarried.” Now wait a minute! We’re not told why the death of his daughter-in-law coincided with William Stout remarrying. But the red flag here is that the elder Stout said he was angered that his son murdered the woman who RAISED him. The newspaper accounts shed no light on this inconsistency.

So to recap, at the time of her own arrest in mid-March 1927, Inez Palmer was in the Stout farmhouse with Artie and William Stout, Arthur Stout’s sons, who’d been living with their grandfather for some time, while Arthur was behind bars.

Inez Palmer didn’t say anything about Sarah Stout’s death when she was first arrested. She did confess that she killed William Stout because he made advances toward her. She explained that she attempted to cover up the crime by putting on a pair of her victim’s shoes and had made footprints near the repaired fences. And yes, she said that she’d forgest the will placed it in the dinner pail under a tree.

When Arthur Stout learned of Palmer’s confession, he confirmed her story, and furthermore declared that she had killed Sarah Stout. Palmer had instructed him to burn the body, he said.

Arthur Stout and Inez Palmer were tried for the murders. On the stand, Arthur Stout, Jr. informed the prosecutor that his father was the person who proposed the idea of murdering Sarah Stout, because she’d had him arrested for living with Inez Palmer without the benefit of marriage.

Arthur Stout was found guilty of second degree murder and Inez Palmer with first degree murder in April of 1927. They both were sentenced to life terms.

Sources: Athens [OH] Messenger, 11/18/26, 11/19/26, 3/14/27, 3/18/27, 5/1/27 issues
Profiles of Ohio Women, 1803-2003, by Jacqueline Jones Royster, Ohio University Press, 2003
Vinton County, Oh, by Family Heritage (Firm), Turner Publishing Company, 1996


Double murder in Vinton County, part 1

Posted by | November 30, 2016

The last time she saw William Stout, the man missing, he was mending fences here at his Axtel Ridge place, Inez Palmer told the sheriff. She’d heard her boyfriend’s father had headed out west, and was acting strangely before he left Vinton County.

Maude “Sheriff Maude” Collins and her deputy Ray Cox followed the trail of patched fences. Two and a half miles from the house they found a lunch pail under a tree. The pail contained a handwritten will, in which William Stout cut off his other two sons, Noah and Burn, and named Palmer’s boyfriend Arthur as the sole heir. The document was not signed by any witnesses.

Sheriff Maude examined the footprints leading to and from the dinner bucket. She returned to William Stout’s farmhouse and retrieved a pair of his shoes. The shoes fit exactly to the footprints, but Sheriff Maude noticed that the footprints were not as deep in the soil as those of Deputy Cox, a man about the same stature as Stout.

Sheriff Maude Collins, Vinton County, OHSheriff Maude Collins, Vinton County, OH.

The sheriff dropped the Stout shoes to the ground and slipped them on. She walked up and down beside the original set of footprints. Her own fresh footprints were about the same depth. Sheriff Maude concluded that a person much closer to her weight made the prints, not William Stout.

The two law officers proceeded to the missing man’s home and examined the contents of the house. It was obvious that William Stout never took any of his belongings. They went back into McArthur and presented the will to the cashier at Vinton County National Bank, where Mr. Stout maintained his account. Sheriff Maude compared the handwriting of the will to that of his canceled checks. No match.

Sheriff Maude and Deputy Cox returned to Axtel Ridge the next morning to search the Stout’s farm for any trace of William Stout’s body. Once there, they conversed with the missing man’s two young grandsons.

Arthur’s sons Artie and William innocently provided the missing clue that solved the case. In the course of questioning, they informed the two law officers that Inez Palmer had told them the water behind the Stout house was not fit for consumption and they’d best just stay clear of the well.

Sheriff Maude and deputy Cox promptly arrested Inez Palmer, who’d been living at the house, as a suspect, so they could search the premises without interference.

Sure enough, they discovered William Stout’s body in the well behind the house. Stout had suffered severe head trauma caused by a blunt instrument.

Why was Inez Palmer staying at the house? And where was Arthur, the boyfriend, during all this? Did William have a wife at the farm? There’s more, far more, to this Ohio murder story. Stay tuned!

Part two tomorrow…

Sources: Athens [OH] Messenger, 11/18/26, 11/19/26, 3/14/27, 3/18/27, 5/1/27 issues
Profiles of Ohio Women, 1803-2003, by Jacqueline Jones Royster, Ohio University Press, 2003
Vinton County, Oh, by Family Heritage (Firm), Turner Publishing Company, 1996


A body can take comfort in layin’ herself out on the quiltin’ of patch quilt

Posted by | November 29, 2016

“I’m proud to see you,” said Aunt Cynthy. “Go in, ef you can get in for the children, or ef you are willin’, we can talk right hyar. I couldn’t miss the first good quiltin’ weather this spring. All winter I piece and patch, me and the gals, and when pretty weather comes I set up my frame right hyar under this beech tree.

“I’d rather piece as eat and I’d rather patch as piece, but I take natcherally delight in quiltin’. I’m an old woman, honey, and I tell ye, a woman can do her work better ef she has something pretty to her hand to take up whenst she air plumb worried out.

“Whenst I war a new married woman with the children round my feet hit ‘peared like I’d git so wearied I couldn’t take delight in nothing; and I’d git ill to my man and the children and what do you reckon I done them times? I just put down the breeches I was patchin’ and tuk out my quilt squar’. Hit wuz better than prayin’, child, hit wuz reason.

“I don’t reckon you want to see my quilts, do you? I reckon you’ve seen a sight better, but they are always new to me. Thar’s hist’ry in ‘em, and memory.

Kentucky woman with quilts, late 19th century“Now this Swarm ‘o Bees—I made that when my man and me were a-talking. [i.e. courting—see King Lear.] Thar’s right smart of this speckled pink in hit, see. I put hit in because Tom ‘lowed I looked mighty pretty when I wore hit. A body’s foolish child.

“I always liked this here Flower Basket. I made hit when Jack war the baby. He had a little green dress like this here base, and Tom and me ‘lowed he looked so sweet in that dress that I put ever’ bit an’ grain I could cut out of it in this here Flower Basket.

“We buried Jack thirty-five year ago, but I can see him, crawlin’ into ever’thing and always a laughin’ so a body couldn’t scold him, as plain as the day I begun to make this quilt.

“Here’s my Radical Rose. I reckon you’ve heared I was the first human that ever put black in a Radical Rose. Thar hit is, right plumb in the middle. Well, whenever you see black in a Radical Rose you can know hit war made atter the second year of the war. Hit was this way, ever’ man war a-talkin’ about the Radicals and all the women tuk to makin’ Radical Roses.

“One day I got to studyin’ that thar ought to be black in that thar pattern, sense half the trouble was to free the niggers and hit didn’t look fair to leave them out. And from that day to this thar’s been black in ever’ Radical Rose.

“This here Rocky Mountain I made atter Belle’s man went West and couldn’t stay away. But atter he come back he talked a mighty sight about the Rocky Mountains and about the way the sun come up over them mountains in jagged peaks, like he said, ‘Thar’s the sun, and thar’s the road a-trailin’ back.’ Lor,’ no, I didn’t draw hit off out of my head, I reckon hit war made before my time, but I made mine to remember Loge’s goin’ and comin’.

“Thar’s one quilt here my grandmother made. Hit’s the Wilderness Road and I’ve got it in my head that she made hit up herself, because I know she rid to Kentucky horseback behind her man over the Wilderness Road.

“A body can take comfort in layin’ herself out on the quiltin’ of patch quilt. Hit’s somethin’ to show whenst you are gone.”

“Patch Quilts and Philosophy,” by Elizabeth Daingerfield, in The Craftsman: an illustrated monthly magazine in the interest of better art, better work and a better more reasonable way of living, Volume 14, 1908


The Wildcats vs. The Vols

Posted by | November 28, 2016

Perhaps you thought the UK Wildcats-UT Vols football rivalry is a recent phenomenon? This photo from the Abe Thompson photograph album, circa 1920-1923, in the University of Kentucky’s archives, suggests otherwise!

The handwritten caption below the photo reads “KY vs Univ. of Tennessee at Knoxville.” Note the lack of any enclosed stadium; Neyland Stadium, though first proposed as an idea in 1919, didn’t assume a form anything close to what we know until 1962, when it was dedicated with that name. Today, with a seating capacity of 102,455, it’s the largest football stadium in the South, the third-largest college stadium in the country.

An early 1920s game between the Univ of KY Wildcats and the Univ of TN Vols.

An early 1920s game between the Univ of KY Wildcats and the Univ of TN Vols.


At the far right of this photo you see basic bleacher-style stands. These are the West stands, built in March 1921, which seated 3,200, and which today are the lower level of Neyland Stadium’s West Stands.

General Robert Neyland is the foundation of the Tennessee Legacy, and it’s his name that graces the stadium. Under his command, the University’s football program started to blossom. Neyland was the head coach at Tennessee from 1926 until 1952. He later was athletic director for ten years until his death in 1962. But he wasn’t yet a factor when the game pictured was being played.

Col. W.S. Shields, president of Knoxville’s City National Bank and a University of Tennessee trustee, provided the initial capital to prepare and equip an athletic field. Thus, when the original stadium was completed it was called Shields-Watkins Field in honor of the donor and his wife, Alice Watkins-Shields.

The first game played on the new field was September 24, 1921. The east stands were added five years later, in 1926, to increase capacity to 6,800. The west stands were increased from 17 rows to 42 rows in 1929, increasing capacity to 17,860. From 1921 to the end of the 1967 season the field surface was natural grass.

By the time the two teams shown in this photo took to the field, football was solidly established at both the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee.

Kentucky football got its start on Nov. 12, 1881. Kentucky, known in those days as A&M College, Kentucky State College and/or State University of Kentucky, defeated Kentucky University by the clumsy score of 7 1/4 to 1. The game of football resembled more of a rugby form and the scoring procedure is still unclear.

Though football came to Kentucky in 1881, it quickly vanished after the three-game season. UK finished 1-2 in the inaugural campaign, but the lid was shut on UK football for the next nine seasons.

Football returned to the University of Kentucky in 1891, when UK defeated Georgetown College, 8-2, on April 10, 1891.

The seed of the University of Tennessee dynasty was planted coincidently that same year of 1891. But UT didn’t win its first game until the following year, on October 15, 1892 against right-down-the-road rivals Maryville College. They final score was Tennessee 25, Maryville 0. A pretty solid victory for a team without a coach. That’s right, no coach. Tennessee competed in their first five seasons without the benefit of having a head coach.

The first known head football coach at Kentucky was Professor A.M. Miller, who the students asked to coach despite his admitted limited knowledge of the game. Miller began the 1892 season, then graciously stepped aside later in the year for John A. Thompson, who had more experience with the sport.

And the team names? Tennessee acquired the name “The Volunteer State” during the War of 1812. At the request of President James Madison, Gen. Andrew Jackson, who later became President himself, mustered 1,500 from his home state to fight at the Battle of New Orleans.

The name became even more prominent in the Mexican War when Gov. Aaron V. Brown issued a call for 2,800 men to battle Santa Ana and some 30,000 Tennesseans volunteered. Tennessee’s color guard still wears dragoon uniforms of that era at all athletic events.

The term “Volunteer State,” as noted through these two events, recognizes the long-standing tradition of Tennesseans to go above and beyond the call of duty when their country calls. Hence the name “Volunteers” is often shortened to “Vols” in describing Tennessee’s athletic teams.

The Kentucky Wildcats football team got its name “Wildcats” after a 6-2 road win over Illinois on October 9th, 1909. During a chapel service, after the game, the head of the military department, at the time, stated that the team “fought like Wildcats.” Soon after, the majority of sports writers, fans, and eventually the University embraced the name. Records indicate that the first wild animal, named “Tom,” was given to the University in 1921. Other live mascots followed, including “TNT, ” “Whiskers,” “Hot Tamale” and “Colonel.”


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