Category Archives: Uncategorized

It throwed the lead mule way up on the hillside

Posted by | November 13, 2015

“One time we were hauling long timbers for the railroad company. 30 ft. long and it required 2 cars to haul the timbers on, a car under each end and it was pulled with 2 mules, one in front of the other which was called a double team.

“I myself was driving one of the double teams and a fellow by the name of Keene Lancaster was driving a single team just in front of me. We had quite a hill to go down about one fourth of a mile long and where the trainroad started off the hill, it went over a wood trestle and it was about 200 yards long from where it started at the top of the hill until it came to the lower end of the trestle.

“The trestle was 35 feet high in the highest part. It was a gradual slant to the lower end of the trestle and as we were on our way to the station at Monica with six loaded cars of railroad timbers and as said before, there was one single car in front of me and four cars behind me and when we started down the hill, the car in front of me, I waited at the top of the hill for him to get to the lower end of the trestle before I started down the hill.

“It was late in the fall, about the middle of November, and it had fell quite a frost the night before and there was quite a bit of frost on the track, and we had brakes on the front and rear cars of their double cars and when I started down the hill I got a cousin of mine at the top of the hill to brake the rear car down the hill.

“The fellow on the next car behind me was Derben’s double car load and when I started down before him I said to him, ‘Allen, you had better wait at the top of the hill until I get down, and I will come back and brake your rear car down the hill for you.’

“But instead of waiting, he turned over the hill just behind me, and I saw he wasn’t going to hold his cars with only one brake and I knew if I didn’t get out of his way, he would run into me about the middle of the bridge, and I whipped my team up and let up on my brake, and before I got down the hill my mules was in a long lope.

“As soon as I got to the lower end of the bridge, I jumped off my car and whipped my mules out of the track and as the hook that the stretchers was hooked to was turned sideways and the stretchers came loose from the cars and my mules just trotted out in the field.

“When Derben saw he couldn’t hold his cars with only one brake, when he got to the other end of the bridge, he jumped off the cars and turned the cars loose on the mules. When the cars got to the highest part of the bridge, it punched the mules off the bridge and they fell 35 feet to the ground.

mule team pulling sawed logsThis photo is not from Wolfe County, KY where this accident took place; it’s from Nacogdoches County, Texas. But it approximates the scene of sawed logs brought to a railroad siding by mule teams described in this story. Photo by John Vachon.

“It broke the wheel mule’s back, and throwed the lead mule way up on the hillside and hurt it very bad. It trotted out in the bottom and went to picking grass, but the other mule was never able to get up. It had to be killed, and some of the mules didn’t jerk the heavy loaded cars off the track and they came down and rammed into the rear end of my cars and the two heavy loaded cars rammed into the rear end of the cars ahead of my cars.

“The fellow that was driving the front car just had got off to open a gate when the cars hit his car and he didn’t have time to get the gate open, and it rammed the car, mule and all through the gate, and then they started down a small hill and about 40 yards ahead there was another gate, and then it rammed the front cars and the old mule thru the other gate. By that time myself and the driver of the car behind Derben’s car jumped on the cars and broke them down and got them stopped at the foot of the little hill.

“The company was notified and they sent some men to kill the wounded mule and take it off and bury it. Then we coupled the 2 cars together and hitched 3 mules to the double cars and we hitched the mule that wasn’t killed in front of my 2 mules and pulled them to the station and unloaded them, and drove back to camp and eat our dinner.”

Daniel Boone Childers (1873-1956)
born in Wolfe County, KY, on Holly Creek


My master always treated me like I was a human being

Posted by | November 12, 2015

I spent a large portion of my life in the Chief Vann house with my old master, Mr. Edmondson. He had a daughter by the name of Jennie. Jennie had a waitress who was named Tein. Another of his daughters was Sug, whose waitress was Fannie. Another one of his daughters was Georgia whose waitress was Elvie. These were all of the single daughters that Mr. Edmondson had when I was with him, but he had three married daughters whose names were Harriet, Sallie and Sue. Harriet married Bob Anderson, Sue married Street, and Sallie married Dr. Mathis.

Levi and Mandy BranhamLevi and Mandy Branham, Spring Place, GA, about 1920.

One of my young masters was John Edmondson, another, Tom Polk Edmondson. I was Tom Polk’s waitman until he went to the Civil war between the North and South. Bill, the youngest, was quite small. All of the waitmen and waitresses stayed in the Edmondson house now known as the Chief Vann house. The room in which we stayed had a fine carpet on which we slept. Mr. Edmondson gave us fine blankets and we surely did sleep warm and comfortable.

My old mistress, “Miss Beckie,” was very good to us. She took more pains with us darkies than our parents did, simply because she had more to care for us with, and too, she loved us. Occasionally “Miss Beckie” would give us tea for medicine. She had a hard time getting this tea in me, but I had to take it after all. Sometimes she would give us peach brandy which I was always glad to get. Sometimes we would pretend that we were sick so we could get sweetened coffee and buttered biscuits which certainly tasted good to us darkies. I thought as much of “Miss Beckie” as I did my mother.

When all the white boys and girls would be away “Miss Beckie” would gather the little negro children around the fire and talk with us. One day I said to “Miss Beckie”: “Why do we little negro children have to work for you?” She said, “That’s the way our fore-parents fixed the matter.” I said to her, “when I get grown I am going to change the situation somewhat.”

My Mistress told me that the negroes were brought from Africa so that they could be enlightened and that they may be taught to serve God. That may be so, but I hardly know what to think of it. I had a colored friend who is now dead, who always argued with me that negroes were brought from Africa to be enlightened. It seems that the negroes do not stick to one another as the white people do. If one negro has money the others will stick to him, but if he has no money they are all down on him.

The negro race is a peculiar race, so far as color and mind is concerned. Some are black, some dark black, some are dark brown and some light brown, some are yellow and some are nearly white. To me they resemble Joseph’s coat. They all have many different minds. I believe the North Georgia negroes had better treatment and were more enlightened than the South Georgia negroes.

The Vann House, Spring Place, GAThe Vann House circa 1930. Branham’s memoir was published the year before.

Once upon a time Major Jackson and I carried a drove of mules that belonged to Mr. Sam Carter to South Georgia. The white man in South Georgia to whom we carried the mules, said he did not allow negroes in his house. I said to him, “I was reared in white folks’ house.” He said, “the negroes here would steal if they had to steal the dish rag.” This white gentleman treated us very nice. Some of those negroes down in South Georgia said they wished Mr. Carter would bring them a sack of flour, because they had had no biscuits since last Christmas and it was almost Christmas again.

The old colored folks in South Georgia told me that the negro foremen were as hard again on them as their owners were. One old negro in South Georgia told me that they had to steal or perish because the white folks did not give them enough to eat.

I thank the Good Lord that my master always gave me plenty to eat and treated me like I was a human being.

from “Memoirs of a Slave/My Live and Travels,” By Levi Branham (1852-1944), published 1929 by the A. J. Showalter Company of Dalton, GA. Online at


Hometown wisdom in time of war

Posted by | November 11, 2015

Colonel Ruby Bradley (1907-2002) was the US Army’s most highly decorated nurse. She was born on a farm outside of Spencer, WV and taught four years in one-room schools in Roane County before she became an Army nurse in 1934. Bradley served in the Philippines in 1941 where she was captured by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and was a POW until February 1945. While a prisoner of war she continued to work as a nurse in the prison camp assisting with 230 operations and 18 births.

Ruby G. Bradley, Colonel, U.S. Army Nurse Corps

Ruby G. Bradley, Colonel, U.S. Army Nurse Corps

“In spite of all the preventive measures, the number of dysentery cases increased to such an extent that a small cottage was obtained to house these patients. This cottage became the camp hospital. There were usually more patients than beds, so the less acutely ill were treated in the barrack, while the acutely ill and contagious cases were treated in the camp hospital.

“All bed linen and clothing used by patients was boiled and exposed to the sunshine for two hours after the drying period. When soap became practically nonexistent, a soap product was made from lye obtained from wood ashes and then mixed with fats or oils. This was an effective cleaning agent although it was very hard on the hands. The making of this soap product illustrates the use to which ‘home town talent’ was put.

“The question is – when an individual returns to a world of free people will he be able to forget everything that he has experienced, will he be embittered, broken and disillusioned, or will he have enough strength to find purpose and meaning in life again? Should he be expected to go counter to the laws of human behavior by truly forgetting his experience or should he concentrate upon whatever small good the experience provided, guard those small bits of good, using them as chinking to rebuild the wall of his life?”

As a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Ruby Bradley was the third woman in Army history to be promoted to the rank of Colonel. Her military record included 34 medals and citations of bravery, including two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze stars, two Presidential Emblems, the World War II Victory Medal and the U.N. Service Medal. She was also the recipient of the Florence Nightingale Medal, the Red Cross’ highest international honor.



Related posts: “Do you remember Grandma’s lye soap?”

Colonel+Ruby+Bradley Army+nurses appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia appalachia


Bastardy Bonds

Posted by | November 10, 2015

English law in the American colonies could get a bit florid on the topic of illegitimate children. A bastard child (or ‘bastarda’, if female) could become a ‘special bastard’ by the subsequent marriage of its parents. And if that couple had another, legitimate, son, that son was known to the law as ‘filius mulieratus,’ and the first or bastard son in turn became the ‘bastard eigne.’

The North Carolina colony, starting in 1736, used a tool called the bastardy bond to protect the Crown from being responsible for the support of children born out of wedlock. Bastardy bonds placed the ultimate burden of support for a bastard child upon the father should the mother become unable to provide proper support.

Otherwise, the child would become a ward of the local poor house and be an expense to the government. This English bond system was carried forward when North Carolina became a state in 1789.

NC bastardy bondAs you might expect, the presence of bastardy bonds followed westward settlement right into Appalachia. Hamburg Township, for example, in today’s Jackson County, was settled in 1827. A September, 1853 bastardy bond from that county read: “Ordered that the Sherriff bring into this court on tomorrow during court hours an orphan child (illegetamant of Sarah Dills) named Andrew Jackson” Andrew Dills appointed Guardian, Phillip Dills security.

So how did bastardy bonds work? Typically the process started with public knowledge or a complaint that an unwed woman was with child. Sometimes the process was started after the fact. A warrant was issued and the woman brought into court.

She was questioned under oath and asked to name the child’s father. If she named the father, another warrant was then issued to bring him before the local justices of the peace, and he posted bond to appear in court to answer the charges on a particular date. If found guilty, he would then have to post bond for support of the bastard child. This document was the bastardy bond.

If the woman refused to name the father, she, her father, or some other interested party would post the bond.

In some cases the mother and the alleged father posted the bond together. If the woman refused to post bond or name the father, she could be sent to jail. Where support subsequently became necessary, the court would issue a judgment for collection of the requisite amount from the father and/or his bondsmen.

Bastardy cases seldom came up for trial. Usually the reputed father came into court, admitted the charge, and gave bond for the support of the child according to law.

In 1933, North Carolina’s General Assembly repealed the legislation requiring that bastardy bonds be filed, though state archives continued to store records pertaining to bastardy bonds until 1957.

There’s only one mention of bonds in the current North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 49, Bastardy:
“At the preliminary hearing of any case arising under this Article it shall be the duty of the court, if it finds reasonable cause for holding the accused for a further hearing, to require a bond in the sum of not less than one hundred dollars ($100.00), conditioned upon the reappearance of the accused at the further hearing under this Article.”

Suspect Relations, by Kirsten Fischer, Cornell University Press, 2002
‘DNA and Bastardy Bonds: The Search Ends,’ by Jerry Turecky, Dallas Genealogical Society Newsletter, Nov/Dec 2005, pg. 1


Wait until the first frost has kissed the persimmons

Posted by | November 9, 2015

Fall means that the persimmons are getting ripe and it’s time to gather the sweet, pulpy fruit. But you’d better try to get to them before the woodland critters beat you to it. Raccoons, foxes, squirrels, wild turkeys, bob white quail, possums, coyotes, and even deer feast on it. Numerous birds also relish persimmons.

The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is a Native American tree in the southeastern United States. Diospyros is from the Greek, and means “fruit of the gods,” and many country people would agree with the meaning. The Algonquin Indians called the fruit “pessamin,” or “pasiminian” and are credited with its common name, and the Cherokee Indians are the ones who first introduced persimmon sweet bread to the Europeans.

Persimmon pulp can be used in many different baked goods including pudding, sweet bread, and cookies, and it makes a delicious ice cream topping or candy treat. Wine or beer made from persimmon is the poor relation of champagne–with the advantage that nobody is ever the worse for drinking it. And persimmon seeds can be roasted, ground, and used as a hot beverage, reminiscent of coffee.

persimmon fruitIt’s best to get the ones that have already fallen to the ground, or ones that fall off the tree easily, when shaking the tree. If the fruit falls to the ground easily, it is ripe. Wait until the first frost has kissed the persimmons, as the frost takes away their puckering quality, making them as sweet as honey.

According to weather folklore, persimmon seeds can be used to predict the severity of winter weather. When cut into two pieces, the persimmon seed will display one of three symbols. A knife shape indicates a cold icy winter (where wind will cut through you like a knife). A fork shape means a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out of the snow.

The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore lists a number of cures and folk beliefs involving the persimmon:

Tie a knot in a piece of string for every chill that you have; then tie the string to a persimmon tree.

Briar root bark, persimmon tree bark, grapevine root bark, and green sage boiled into a tea with alum and honey is cure for yellow thrash.

Wild cherry, oak, and persimmon bark tea with enough whiskey in it to keep it from souring makes a good tonic.

Ground persimmon sprouts are good for poulticing.

To cure Bright’s disease, put into a half -gallon of apple brandy a handful of cherry bark, persimmon bark, red holly bark, and dogwood root, and drink the solution.

To cure chills and fever, make a band, or large thread, of black wool, from a black sheep, or black spotted sheep, fasten it around the waist, next to the body of the sick one, then let the person walk around a persimmon tree as many times as he has had chills. This is supposed to be a sure cure.

Cut a persimmon twig, cut as many notches in it as you have warts, bury the twig, and when it rots the warts will disappear.

If the husband or wife should stray, burn seven sprouts of persimmon in the fire and the unfaithful one will have seven severe pains and return home.

A girl eating nine persimmons in a row will turn into a boy in less than two weeks.


sources: The Frank C. Brown Collection of NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE online at

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2015 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive