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He poured out his soul in melting exhortations to a devoted people

Posted by | May 3, 2017

Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church, originally located eight miles north of Jonesborough, has been accepted by historians as the first organized church body in Tennessee territory. Tidence Lane moved from North Carolina in 1776 to the Watauga Settlement, where he established and pastored the first congregation.

The first church was constructed of logs with a clapboard roof. A single window provided the light for the pastor to read his text and “line off” his hymns. There was a large fireplace, one window placed high in the end of the building out of the range of Indian gunfire, and a heavy wooden door. The seats were of split logs and had no backs.

In 1785, Jonathan Mulkey succeeded Lane as pastor.

By 1786 there were seven Baptist churches organized in upper East Tennessee; Kendrick’s Creek (Double Springs); Bent Creek (Whitesburg); Beaver Creek (Sullivan County); Greasy Cove (near Erwin); Cherokee Creek; North Fork of the Holston (Abingdon, Va.); and Lower French Broad (Dandridge).

Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church baptism 1931Congregation from Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church baptizing members at Gray Station, Tennessee, 1931.

Pastor Mulkey was instrumental in forming the first Baptist Association in Tennessee, the Holston Baptist Association, in October of that year, and remained active in it till the end of his life.

By 1817 Buffalo Ridge had a membership of 300, but for many reasons, membership declined over the next several years. Around 1815 some preachers began preaching a “Reformation.”

Jonathan Mulkey served Buffalo Ridge for forty-one years until his death in 1826. When the weight of his years laid heavy upon him, and his health had faded, the congregation placed a chair near the pulpit for him to sit down and “pour out his soul in melting exhortations to a devoted people who would listen to his every word.”

The church suddenly found itself without a pastor; furthermore the change in doctrine caused a division in the church and a loss of many members. Membership declined to 23 in 1828. Better times returned to the church with the selection of Rees Bayless as pastor. Membership increased over 300 percent during his pastorate.




By 1848 a new building was needed and a committee was appointed. Church minutes record that “Reverend Martin Kitzmiller preached the first sermon that ever was preached in the New Brick Church, March 22, 1851.” The debt on the new brick church was settled in July 1858.

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Buffalo Ridge slowly lost membership due to population shifts and the isolated location of the church. By 1915 the church had only 77 members and closed due to a lack of support. For nearly ten years, the only time the church doors were opened was for an occasional funeral service.

The church was revived by Missionary S.W. Tindell in the early 1920’s. On October 1, 1922, the membership decided to relocate at Gray’s Station (now Gray, TN), about one mile from the original site. The first services in the new location were held in the upper room of Maden & Saunders Store. After a time, the congregation moved to the “upper room of the canning factory”, then to the high school building. For a while, meetings were even held under a tent. In 1927 the new church building was completed.

On top of Buffalo Ridge in the Buffalo Ridge Cemetery is a marker telling all who visit there that they are standing on very historical and memorable ground. This marker is inscribed: “Here stood Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church 1778 First Baptist Church in Tenn. Pastors Tidence Land, organizer 1778-1785, Johnathan Mulkey 1785-1826. Baptist Historical Society & E. Tenn. W.M.U. Golden Jubilee memorial 1938.”

sources: The Overmountain Men, by Pat Alderman, The Overmountain Press, 1986

History of Washington County Tennessee, Watauga Association of Genealogists – Upper East Tennessee, Walsworth Press, 1988.
The Baptists of Tennessee, Volume One, by A.B. Tindell et al., Kingsport: Southern Publishers Inc., 1930.


Hauling the last shipment of Confederate gold

Posted by | May 2, 2017

“A few miles from Seneca, S. C. on the Blue Ridge Railroad there was a station called Perryville; now only a few rocks remain on the south side of the track to mark the spot. There was a bar-room, where doubtless many regaled themselves. One man who lived nearby would light his pipe with a one dollar bill. Let us hope he never regretted what had gone up in smoke.

“A family who lived across the road were fine businessmen, and their sons established the Tate Marble works of Elberton, Georgia. They were very successful in their enterprise and one of them built a large home of pink marble which was a show place in that vicinity.

“A few miles down the Railroad, established many years ago, and recently enlarged, is Shiloh cut where Mr. Calhoun Clemson, only son of Thomas G. Clemson [founder of Clemson University] and his wife, Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson, was killed on the Railroad. He was said to be an unusually handsome man with a promising future.

“The Blue Ridge was called the Old Blunder Buss in those days and the people seemed not to realize the importance and the great future of the railroads [ed.—SC statesman John C. Calhoun did! He was a member of the original surveying team.]

“The Blue Ridge was the bearer of the last shipment of Confederate gold, and the seal of state was said to have been thrown into the Savannah River.

“At Pendleton, during the War Between the States, the people eagerly gathered around the station when the train came to hear the news read, especially the Casualty List in which all were vitally interested.

“The tunnel, only a few miles from Walhalla, was begun in 1851 or ’52 and is about one and one-third miles long. It was cut through Stump House Mountain and was intended as a link in the Blue Ridge Railway from Knoxville, Tenn., to Charleston, S.C., for the purpose of transporting the coal of the Tennessee mountains to the sea.

the Stump House Mountain tunnel “While the work was in progress [the town, also named “The Tunnel,” had a population of] about 2,000 at this point. When the tunnel was about two-thirds finished, the war came on and the work was never finished. Two or more men lost their lives during its construction.”


Mary Cherry Doyle
“Historic Oconee County, South Carolina” (1935)
Clemson, SC


Blue+Ridge+Railroad Oconee+County+SC Thomas+Clemson Confederate+gold Stump+House+Mountain appalachia appalachia+history appalachian+history history+of+appalachia


Miss America 1924 drives a Dagmar

Posted by | May 1, 2017

Long before the well-endowed Hollywood starlet of the 1950’s, there was a Dagmar car, built from 1922-1926 in Hagerstown, MD by the M. P. Möller Motor Car Company. This luxury sedan was named for the one of Dr. Mathias P. Möller’s daughters. The make’s emblem was a pipe organ. The Danish industrialist by that point in his business career had made his first fortune manufacturing the instrument.  His organ company, in business from 1875 till 1992, was the world’s largest builder of pipe organs for over three-quarters of a century.

Only a few hundred Dagmars were built over the course of six years at prices upwards of $6,000.00. By comparison, the autos produced by Ford and Chevrolet during the same era sold for approximately $500.00. Dagmar models included the Petite, which soon became known as the “Baby Dagmar.” One of the most unusual features was its all-brass trim, instead of the more usual nickel.

Ruth Malcomson, Miss America 1924In 1924, Möller presented a Dagmar to Ruth Malcomson, of Philadelphia, who won the Miss America title that year. Curvaceous fenders appeared on the Dagmar for the first time in the 1925 line—coincidence? Even so, Dagmar sales skidded after that high point; the last car Dagmar ever built was for Mr. Möller himself. It was an enormous 7-passenger limo that was shipped back to his native Denmark for his personal use.

With the 1923 purchase of a 250,000 square foot Hagerstown building originally built for the Crawford Bicycle Company in 1891, Möller entered the field of producing taxicabs and shifted the focus away from luxury cars. Over the course of the ensuing years, more than a dozen models of taxis and trucks were built. The taxi make was dependent on the design and specification of the large taxi companies that sub-contracted the manufacturing to Möller. The best known of his taxicab lines was the Luxor; others included the Blue Light, Super Paramount, Astor, Five-Boro and Twentieth Century.

These names were either chosen for the operating company, as with Five Boro, or simply because the promoters thought a stylish new name would increase sales. Möller vehicles became commonplace on the streets of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and numerous other cities. Growth of the car works reached a peak in 1927 with 125 taxis rolling out of the Hagerstown facility each week.

1927 Möller Five Boros Taxi CabThe only goods vehicle made by the Möller company was the Elysee panel delivery (produced from 1929-1932).  They were made in four models, the Band Box, Fifth Avenue, Courier and the Mercury. These were stylish vehicles intended for the delivery of high-class goods to wealthy homes.

During the early 20th century the Möller name in the auto industry truly commanded respect as being builders of upper end motor cars both private and public. Taxicabs and trucks remained the thrust of the firm until the death of Dr. Möller in 1937 at which point the company was closed.


M.+P.+Möller+Motor+Car+Company luxury+cars the+Dagmar Mathias+P.+Möller Hagerstown+MD Ruth+Malcomson appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history


The art and influence of fiddler Henry Reed

Posted by | April 28, 2017

James Henry Neel Reed, known as Henry Reed, was born on April 28, 1884, in Monroe County, WV,  a rural county lying along the Virginia border in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern West Virginia. Reed grew up in Monroe County as a member of a large extended family.

His father and at least one uncle were musical, and at least two older brothers played music as well. An early photograph reveals him playing banjo with his older brother Josh. But to judge by his stories about his early life and the sources of specific tunes, his early musical influences seem to have come not so much from his immediate family as from the surrounding community.

Josh and Henry Reed, ca. 1903. Henry Reed, age 19, plays banjo and his older brother Josh plays fiddle. Photograph from the collection of James Reed.

He spent virtually his entire life in the region where he was born, but he moved around a good deal within it. As a young man he lived for a time in the coal-mining counties of southern West Virginia, but he did not care for work in the mines and eventually came home. For shorter periods he worked as far away as Pittsburgh, PA.

On December 11, 1907, he married Nettie Ann Virginia Mullins, and they settled in Glen Lyn, VA, in Giles County, just across the state line from Monroe County. Glen Lyn is a town built around a coal-fired power plant operated by Appalachian Power Company. The plant lies on the New River, just before the river crosses from Virginia into West Virginia, and it is fueled by coal unloaded from trains that run eastward through the New River Valley from coal-producing areas of West Virginia.

Reed played from time to time for local dances and more often in home music sessions. He was known not only as a fiddler but as a banjoist who finger-picked the banjo with all his fingers and as a harmonica player who could play all the notes of complicated dance tunes on the harmonica.

He had a reputation for always welcoming visitors and providing food and a place to sleep as well as good music and good company, and the Reed home became something of a convening place within the Glen Lyn community.

Henry Reed’s influence had been primarily local, but Reed’s tunes are now in wide circulation among younger American fiddlers. Perhaps the most widely circulated of them all is “Over the Waterfall.” Though the tune has an interesting history and a number of musical cousins, all contemporary versions of “Over the Waterfall” come from Henry Reed; it is but one of many cases where Henry Reed was the narrow neck in the hourglass of tradition, through which tunes were guided back out into the wider currents of circulation.

The overwhelming majority of the tunes in Henry Reed’s repertory were learned by ear and retained by memory. They are part of folk music tradition that preserves individual melodies in careful detail and calls them up from memory to play again and again. In practicing such a tradition, one thinks of oneself as reproducing tunes largely as one heard them, and the effort to preserve tunes intact is in many cases quite successful.

It is possible to trace a number of tunes in Henry Reed’s repertory to the late eighteenth century or early nineteenth century in the British Isles or the United States. The Upper South has been as a region less attached to printed music than the northern United States, where tunebooks and manuscripts have flourished since the early nineteenth century.

Nevertheless, some Henry Reed tunes can be documented in Virginia in the 1830s, thanks to the existence of George P. Knauff’s important collection Virginia Reels (1839), compiled while Knauff was a music master in Farmville, VA. The book includes many of the tunes in Henry Reed’s repertory.

Memory is central to the fiddling tradition of the Upper South, yet memory alone cannot account for either what was retained or what was changed in Henry Reed’s repertory. Creative musical design was a central element in the performance of his music. Henry Reed varied the sensuous surface of the tune both rhythmically and melodically in each rendition.

The variation was the result of both unconscious and conscious improvisation, and it had as its motive both the need for instantaneous solutions to the problems caused by preceding variations, and the desire to create a pleasing musical texture that sparkles from subtle change while glowing from the shapely constancy of remembered grace.

Thus to praise Henry Reed’s art is to pay tribute both to the strength and character of the tradition from which he drew and to his more personal creative accomplishments within the matrix of that tradition. His music is a testimony to his own artistic sensibility and simultaneously to the fertile ferment created by the coming together of the musical imagination of three continents to fashion the fiddle tunes of the old frontier.

excerpt from ‘The Art and Influence of Henry Reed,’ by Alan Jabbour, FOLKLIFE CENTER NEWS, Summer 2000 – Volume XXII, Number 3
American Folklife Center – The Library of Congress


Hobo Nickels

Posted by | April 27, 2017

Coin collectors today consider the hobo nickel a numismatic treasure, a tribute to long- forgotten folk artists who often literally carved for their supper. The Buffalo nickel debuted in 1913, but it wasn’t until the Great Depression struck that hobo nickel carving reached its peak. During this period, buffalo nickels were the most common nickels in circulation.

The sudden scarcity of jobs in the early 1930s forced a huge number of men to hit the road. Certainly some coins were carved to fill the idle hours. More importantly, a ‘knight of the road,’ with no regular source of income, could take one of these plentiful coins and turn it into a folk art piece, which could in turn be sold or traded for small favors such as a meal or shelter for a night.

The nickel was an ideal coin from which to fashion such a token. The large profile of the Indian on one side and the classic image of the very wide American bison that complemented it on the reverse side provided an adequately sized canvas for the wandering hobo artist to use. It was portable, and the nickel (a copper-nickel alloy) is the hardest U.S. coin in circulation, ideal for carving.

hobo nickelsIn a community of generally anonymous drifters, two carvers rose to prominence among hobo nickel creators. Bertram ‘Bert’ Wiegand was born in 1880 and carved from 1913 to 1949. He signed his coins by removing L I and Y from L I B E R T Y, leaving only B E R T. He tutored the man coin collectors consider the giant of hobo nickel carving: George Washington ‘Bo’ Hughes (born between 1895 and 1900 in Theo, Mississippi). Bert met the young teenager in a jungle, or hobo camp, along the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio railroad line, and Bo’s first nickels appeared two years later, in 1915. Bo carved till about 1980, when he was last seen by his friend of 40 years, Williard Chisolm, in a Florida camp.

Life as a hobo took its toll: the rigorous manual labor Bo undertook to survive during the money-tight, poverty-ridden 30s rendered his hands stiff and permanently damaged. Frequent beatings by ruthless detectives prowling railroads (where many hobos resided) in search of freeloaders and thieves compounded his dexterity impairment.

Nevertheless, devoted to his craft, Bo worked through the pain and frustrating impediments throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, but in 1957, while he was working on a nickel, his chisel suddenly slipped and struck his hand. The injury forced the once-great hobo nickel engraver to resort to a haphazard punching method. Bo continued his work, but with less frequency and diminished quality, and as America moved into the post-war era genuine hobo nickels became a thing of the past.

The U.S. Mint ceased striking Buffalo nickels in 1938.

Related posts: Riding the Rails


appalachia appalachian+mountains appalachian+mountains+history Bert+and+Bo Bert+Wiegand Bo+Hughes Hobo+Nickels

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