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Worthy of a place in this cabinet of valuables

Posted by | May 6, 2016

Here’s a selection from Kentuckian Sarah Ann Jackson’s ‘My Journal for 1835.’ The diary was found between the walls of an old house in Laurel County, KY, but there is nothing that tells us if it was written in that place or how it came to be there. It was the only item found there. Jan Philpot, of the Laurel County Kentucky GenWeb site, transcribed the diary in 2001.

“The diary is written in a faded brown ink,” says Philpot, “with pages toward the back in faded pencil. At times it was difficult to make out, and at those points I place a question mark.”

In the following partial transcript we’ve tried to fill in one or two of those undecipherable points, seeking to remain true to the spirit of the original diary. Spelling and punctuation has been standardized on this excerpt as well for ease of reading. The original exact transcription, with additional notes from the transcriber, can be found at Diary of Sarah Ann Jackson.

May 1st—Children all very pleasant. Camelia is my bed fellow as yet.

A heavy thunder shower last evening. We children and myself very much terrified. As for myself this is generally the case; for what reason I cannot tell without it is.
I am not prepared for the great change I should have to make if struck by lightning. How strange that I should be so heedless when so many warnings occur daily.

Just returned from the hills. Had a very pleasant visit, fared sumptuously, very much pleasant with Miss Carl. Should be happy to become better acquainted.
Had an introduction to Mr. and Mrs. Carl Law—their children peeking out of the windows.

Sarah Ann Jackson’s  ‘My Journal for 1835’ diary

First page of Sarah Ann Jackson’s ‘My Journal for 1835.’

Arrived home rather sooner than we was expected by the family. Found Aunt N. as usual very busy serving. Since then have been engaged in needle work. Aunt very busy preparing for a carpet. Her girls and I left looking for another.

Prospect of a school rather dull. A gentleman called but did not exactly give me the refusal of it. My spirits are good, but if I should take all in consideration in respect to this world and my unconcern for the world to come, it all together would be sufficient to weight them down. My reading at present is ‘Pilgrims Progress.’

Feel very much discouraged in respect to a school.

Attended church at Babylon; heard Mr. Platt preach two sermons in the forenoon. His text was in 5th chapter 27th verse in Samuel. In the afternoon in Luke 22nd chapter 22nd verse. Went during intermission at Mr. Carl’s. Had cake and water for refreshment. Spoke with Mrs. Staples. Set with the singers in the afternoon. Had an excellent dinner when we returned home.

Awoke this morning just as the king of day shed forth a sufficient number of rays to gold the horizon.

Had an introduction to a Mr. Hunt.

May 6th—Spent the day very pleasantly. Miss Davis visited here this afternoon; a very pleasant young lady.

Multiplicity of business today. Have scarce taken a seat. Aunt moving, no help; find it quite necessary to assist her.

Contemplate spending a few days in Babylon in visiting some distant connection and acquaintances. Hopes are blasted in getting a school in this place. They have engaged a gentleman more competent, no doubt, than myself.

I yet retain a faint hope of getting a select school in Babylon. Oh, that I may prosper in that undertaking! If not I then must give up all idea of getting a school this summer, which will disappoint me much.

Thursday May 11th—Went to Mrs. Carl’s in company with Uncle’s family. Had a delightful visit. Called on Mrs. Staples several times; took tea with her, had an excellent repast.

Spent the evening pleasantly at cousin Julia’s. Rode home on Sabbath with Mr. Ireland. Had some very pleasant conversation with Mrs. Cornelius on our way home. They confirmed that a new teacher was to take the school. Received news on my arrival; I ascertained it to be me. If that be the case, to go I must. No backing out!

Went Monday morning according to agreement. Found Mr. B. waiting. Some ladies engaged in cleaning the schoolroom. About nine I entered, and established the school, succeeded very well.

As yet like my employment much. Had a very pleasant call from Mr. P before he left. Find my family differ much in disposition; he has left some very difficult circumstances. Oh, that I may succeed in my efforts to instill the principles of learning and teach the young idea how to succeed.

May 16th—One week flew away with all speed. It appears more like a recent dream than any thing I can compare it too. Have had very little difficulty as yet with the children. Have one that would wish to be obstinate. Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day. Oh, that it may be kept by me right.

May 25th—Since I have written, many incidents have elapsed worthy of a place in this cabinet of valuables. I write down such as occur to me.

When opened school on Monday I had several new names to remember. I find that a difficult part of my undertaking.

Spent last week at Mr. Jar’s home quite pleasantly. The first night took a delightful walk. It was confined to the banks of a small rivulet. This was lovely: the queen of night shed forth a sufficient number of rays to illumine the landscape. It was rather brilliant —or gloomy. All nature appeared to rest in the arms of Morpheus. All was still as at night the labourer had sought repose on his pillow. The weary traveller had taken up his abode for the night. It was thus we sauntered along undisturbed, admiring the serenity and silence of the water.

I contemplate spending the present week at C. Ketchum’s. I dread the first night! Oh, why do I indulge such reflections?? All is for the best.

May 21st—Never enjoy myself better than at Mr. C. Ketchum’s; all so familiar and pleasant. It really appeared like home. I took a walk with Miss K. It was mostly confined to an apple tree, viewing the many different lines exhibited in one tree.

Stay at M.’s? Yet enjoy myself very much, think of visiting at M. W. soon. Hope I shall be as acceptable there as here.

Think of commencing an epistle. Too busy; I will reward myself. Oh, that I may receive a letter! Nearly completed my letter to cousin Julia.

Have 31 different scholars; spending my time very pleasantly.

June 21st— Boarding at Mr. Ketchum’s, spent my time delightfully while there. Have an introduction to Mr. Usher while there. He said was from Kentucky; very tall, rather awkward, yet interesting. He had considerable of the curious; very pointed in conversation. Old Goshen was the theme for some considerable length of time after our introduction with the gentleman.

He was spending the examination in establishing Sabbath schools. He informed me that he belonged to the Princeton Theological Seminary. While at Mr. Ketchum’s his daughters and important self frequently took a walk to see on our neighbors. Would sometimes return without making a call but our walks failed to be pleasant.

We sometimes would go to meeting. There is scarcely an evening in the week but what there is an opportunity of attending some kind. There are three denominations prevailing in this place: Presbyterian, Baptist & Methodist.


The Chain Gang and The Oconee County Cage

Posted by | May 5, 2016

Report on Oconee County Chain Gang
Mr. Newton Kelly Foreman: Visited July 11 1918
by Assistant Secretary Broyles

Convicts present: 16, 3 of them being trusties. All negroes. Camped about three miles from Seneca. The average daily population on this gang for the past two and a half years has been approximately 12. We found this camp just locating at a new site, which was fairly well chosen and well cleaned off.

 A Southern chain gang, between 1900 and 1906.

A Southern chain gang, between 1900 and 1906.

The men were washing ticks and blankets in a nearby stream under the direction of the foreman. Since our last inspection the Commissioners have provided new bedding for the convicts and have gotten slip covers for the cotton pads as previously recommended.

The pads have been in use over six months but they are clean and apparently new due to the use of these slip covers with which the foreman is very much pleased. The use of these slip covers has increased the score of the gang this year.

The absence of white men from the gang has further raised the score there being now no question of separation of the races either at work or in camp. The foreman stated to us that the authorities have decided to work no more whites on the chain gang but to send them to the Penitentiary or allow them to serve their sentences in jail. This is a wise decision.

The mule fly is badly torn and we recommend that the Supervisor purchase a new one. The Supervisor should keep in his office a careful record of the convict population showing the name, age, race, date of commitment, length of sentence, date of discharge and reason for the discharge; and finally, more medical attention to the gang should be provided for by paying the county physician a salary for, and requiring him to make, a physical examination of each new convict within 24 hours of his commitment to the gang, to vaccinate against smallpox when indicated, and to make weekly inspections of the convicts food quarters and especially the sanitary arrangements of the camp.

Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs in early 20th century.

Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs in early 20th century.

We recommend that the foreman have the blankets washed regularly every month, washing the ticks on the pads, at the same time that water and oil be put into the sewerage buckets every night when they are put into the cages; that the fecal matter thrown into the pit daily be covered immediately with about three inches of dirt and that this pit be burned out weekly with straw and oil, that the manure from the mule pen be raked up and piled daily and hauled away from camp weekly and scattered over a field, that kitchen slops be kept covered at all times, that every new convict be given clean blankets upon which to sleep and finally that the foreman secure a good book and keep a complete record of the convicts, showing in the book all the information asked for in the recommendation made above to the Supervisor, and in addition showing a description of the men with notes on characteristic scars, etc. which would help to locate or identify him should he escape.

The Quarterly bulletin, Volume 4 By South Carolina. State Board of Charities and Corrections

The Oconee County Chain Gang Report
Made July 13 1920

The Oconee County chain gang is not in as good condition as it was last year. Some of the reasons for the decreased score, however, are only temporary departures from the usual methods of the camp. Two sick men were confined in the cages at the time of this visit so that the beds could not be made up or properly aired. Foreman Cobb had also departed from his usual custom of having a pit for disposing of the sewage and was emptying the soil buckets out on the mountainside.

For the improvement of the camp it is suggested that a soil pit be dug that the buckets be emptied into it each day and that the waste be covered with at least three inches of earth, that the kitchen be screened to protect the food from flies, that each prisoner be given a separate tub of water to bathe in, that more washable covers for the mattresses be purchased and that the practice of allowing the prisoners to initiate new convicts be abolished in order to prevent bad blood among the men, as well as to avoid unwarranted punishment.

Quarterly Bulletin, Volumes 1-2 By South Carolina. State Board of Public Welfare

During the early twentieth century, it was not possible to return prisoners doing work in the most distant parts of Oconee County to the county jail at Walhalla every night.

The solution was the Oconee County Cage, or “Jail on Wheels,” a prison pulled by a team of horses.

While this treatment of prisoners seems horrible by today’s standards, it was hardly unusual for the early 1900s, and it was certainly far better than the treatment many prisoners received during the years before 1900.

Interior of Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs

Interior of Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs in early 20th century.

Although the cage is only fourteen feet long, eight feet wide, and seven feet high, there were four metal bunk beds of three tiers each inside for a total of twelve beds. A small metal barrel in the center of the floor was used for a fire on cold nights, and canvas covered the sides of the cage to protect the men from cold winds.

The men who worked on the roads in the county and who slept in the cage at night were often serving short sentences of less than two months. On weekends, their families sometimes visited them and brought small baskets of food from home. One man, who remembers visiting a relative assigned to the cage while performing county work, remarked that everyone including the guards would have lunch together on Sunday and talk about friends and local happenings.

In 1915, when the prisoners were working on the Oconee Station Road, they were fed fried bacon, biscuits and syrup, and coffee for breakfast; cabbage, bacon, and cornbread for lunch; and fried bacon, biscuits and syrup for supper. This diet was probably standard at that period.

After the county acquired gasoline powered trucks and machinery in the 1930s and built a county stockade (prison), the cage ceased to be used. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Sources: The Quarterly bulletin, Volume 4 1918 By South Carolina. State Board of Charities and Corrections
The Quarterly bulletin, Volume 1-2 1920 By South Carolina. State Board of Charities and Corrections


How the strawberry came to the Cherokee people

Posted by | May 4, 2016

In the beginning of the world, ga lv la di e hi — Father to us in heaven living— created First Man and First Woman. Together they built a lodge at the edge of a dense forest. They were very happy together; but like all humans do at times, they began to argue.

Finally First Woman became so angry she said she was leaving and never coming back. At that moment First Man really didn’t care. First Woman started walking westward down the path through the forest. She never looked back.

As the day grew later, First Man began to worry. At last he started down the same path in search of his wife. The Sun looked down on First Man and took pity on him. The Sun asked First Man if he was still angry with First Woman. First Man said he was not angry any more. The Sun asked if he would like to have First Woman back. First Man readily agreed he did.

The Sun found First Woman still walking down the path toward the West. So to entice her to stop, the Sun caused to grow beneath her feet lovely blueberries. The blueberries were large and ripe. First Woman paid no attention but kept walking down the path toward the West.

Further down the path the Sun caused to grow some luscious blackberries. The berries were very black and plump. First Woman looked neither left nor right but kept walking down the path toward the West.

At last the Sun caused to grow a plant that had never grown on the earth before. The plant covered the ground in front of First Woman. Suddenly she became aware of a fragrance she had never known.

Stopping she looked down at her feet. Growing in the path was a plant with shiny green leaves, lovely white flowers with the largest most luscious red berries she had ever seen. First Woman stopped to pick one. Hmmm…she had never tasted anything quite like it! It was so sweet.

As First Woman ate the berry, the anger she felt began to fade away. She thought again of her husband and how they had parted in anger. She missed him and wanted to return home.

First Woman began to gather some of the berries. When she had all she could carry, she turned toward the East and started back down the path. Soon she met First Man. Together they shared the berries, and then hand in hand, they walked back to their lodge.

The Cherokee word for strawberry is ani. The rich bottomlands of the old Cherokee country were noted for their abundance of strawberries and other wild fruits. Even today, strawberries are often kept in Cherokee homes. They remind us not to argue and are a symbol of good luck.

source: ‘The First Strawberries,’ retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren


I’ve learned that the most interesting places are not right on the road

Posted by | May 3, 2016

Ridge hikes and crossroad chats yield a bumper crop of legends 
down near the Tennessee border.

By Howard Hardaway —Louisville Courier-Journal, no date, 1930s

The ‘New Era’ is Clinton County, Kentucky’s only newspaper. W. H. Nunn has been the publisher for a number of years. He tells a story on his predecessor of forty years ago.

“Tom Neat, of Adair County, was running for office in a district that included Clinton,” Mr. Nunn relates. “The editor of the New Era opposed him. Tom decided to beard the lion in his den. During a speech in the Albany Court House Tom called on the editor to stand up.

“Take your dirty little sheet and fight me,” Tom challenged. ‘It won’t amount to a damn, because I can stand on the court house steps and spit all over its circulation.”

Howard Hardaway, 1959Howard Hardaway, b. 1898, referred to himself as ‘The Old Hiker.’ “I’ve learned,” said the Louisville, KY native in a May 1959 interview with Alabama newspaper ‘The Florence Times,’ “that the most interesting places are not right on the road. On the back roads, at the little country stores where the road crews gather for a quart of milk and a moon pie, that’s where you find some real historians.”

His writing career started from his habit of going up to Canada each summer for a one-day hike. The Louisville Courier called him in and wanted him to write up some of his experiences. He averaged several pieces a year for the journal and some for other publications at the time of this interview.

Those same court house steps on which Tom offered to stand and spit were treated with indignity once by Uncle Marion Gibbons of the Duvall valley neighborhood. Uncle Marion, in a holiday mood, rode his horse up the steps and into the hall of the court house. This was a bit too informal. The presiding judge called Uncle Marion before him and assessed a $10 fine. The prisoner before the bar fished out his roll, peeled off a twenty, and handed it over to the judge.

“I’m afraid I haven’t change,” admitted the judge.

“Oh, that’s all right,” Uncle Marion waved it off. “Just keep the change. I enjoyed it all so much that I think I’ll go out and do it again.”

Albany has good fresh spring water. Down at one edge of town a large lake is formed by a sheet of water that gushes from below a broad shelf or rock. From the lower end of the lake the water flows by a flume to a flour mill. The water has also been used to generate electricity for town use.

East of Boiling Springs, where Clinton County thrust a long narrow wedge between Wayne County and Tennessee, “happy oak” used to stand on the State line. In days gone by, when one State was wet and the other dry, purveyors of mountain dew would meet their customers on the line at the oak tree. Should an officer of the law of one State be present, the lawbreaker would merely keep on the opposite side of the oak tree-out of the officer’s jurisdiction.

Passing northward through a mountain gap at Doc Powers’ place. I started down the valley of Koger’s Creek by a narrow trail that is passable only by horseback or afoot.

“There have been wagons up there,” I was told later, “but not for a longtime.”

And, yet people live up there, and apparently live very well. The farms up in the gap look well-tended and prosperous.In this neighborhood is a cave, a “bottomless pit,” known as Georgie’s Hole. No one knows the depth of the vertical shaft.

Georgie was the name of an old woman who lived hereabouts many years ago. Georgie and her husband “got their backs up” at each other. They couldn’t seem to patch things up.

One day, out in the pasture, Georgie is said to have maneuvered around so that she got her old man with his back to the hold. A quick shove – and Georgie was a willing widow.

Georgie’s Hole and its story has served as a warning to Clinton County husbands for 100 years to patch up differences quickly with the wife – or else stay away from bottomless pits.

Rolan, at the junction of Koger and McIver Creeks, was the scene of an exciting episode in the lives of two preachers of a century ago. These two preachers, having heard of certain cults or of individual prophets laying claim to ability to foretell events, including the exact date of the earth’s dissolution, became conscious of such a knowledge within themselves.

They traveled afoot, warning and exhorting. On the very eve of the fateful day they covered a wide territory and held numerous meetings. The last night caught them far from home, weary and footsore. Where Rolan now stands they found a haystack and climbed into it.

During the night, from some unexplained cause, the haystack caught fire. The glare and heat aroused one of the sleeping prophets. “Wake up, John!” he yelled. “The Judgment Day is come – and look where we are!”

Once back on the ridge trail, I passed a score of log or box houses along the boundary between Clinton and Wayne Counties and came to the narrow bridge of land where four trails cross. From here Duvall Creek flows off to the south while Gap Creek leads northward to Alpha on the Monticello-Albany Road.

Thanks to a short ride with the young schoolmaster at Savage, I got back to Albany just as supper was being placed on the table. An unexpected feature at the home where I found lodging was a big batch of ice cream made by the hand of the landlady’s son. I required one fish of it for every ten miles of walking; that is three.

My sixteen-hour day had me ready for the feathers before 9 o’clock.


‘The Florence [AL] Times,’ May 3, 1959, Pg. 1, “Hiker Proves He’s Half the Man Grandpa Was,” by Lorene Frederick


A dreadful cyclone that came this way

Posted by | May 2, 2016

It was the greatest disaster ever known to this Western Virginia mountain village.

On May 2, 1929, the unusually violent storm slammed into the little community of Rye Cove, VA in the mountains of Scott County.

During the storm a tornado directly struck the local two-story schoolhouse, with over 150 children and teachers inside. The building was completely leveled, and the debris caught fire from an overturned stove. Thirteen were killed. The dozens of injured were rushed by special train to the hospital in Bristol.

Rye Cove VA tornadoA. P. Carter, of the famous Carter Family, was in the next valley on the day of the storm. He rushed to Rye Cove to help with the rescue efforts. He was touched by the horror of what he saw and soon composed “The Cyclone of Rye Cove.” The Carter Family recorded the song that same year for RCA Victor.

“The Cyclone of Rye Cove”
Oh, give us a home far beyond the blue sky,
Where storms and cyclones are unknown,
And there by life’s strand, we’ll clasp with our glad hands
God’s children in a heavenly home.

Oh, listen today in a story I tell,
In sadness and tear dimmed eye,
Of a dreadful cyclone that came this way,
And it blew our schoolhouse away.

Rye Cove, (Rye Cove), Rye Cove, (Rye Cove),
The place of my childhood and home,
Where in life’s early morn I once loved to roam,
But now it’s so silent and lone.

When the cyclone appeared, it darkened the air,
And the lightning flashed over the sky,
And the children all cried, “Don’t take us away,
And spare us to go back home.”

There were mothers so dear and fathers the same,
That came to this horrible scene,
Searching and crying, each found her own child,
Dying on a pillow of stone

Related posts: “You’ve been fooling me baby”
“It was daytime, but the sky was as dark as night”


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