Category Archives: Uncategorized

I’ve prayed for straight hair—or hair of a different color.

Posted by | August 8, 2016

If you’ve never been to Plum Grove then you wouldn’t know about that road. It’s an awful road, with big ruts and mudholes where the coal wagons with them nar-rimmed wheels cut down. There is a lot of haw bushes along this road. It goes up and down two yaller banks. From Lima Whitehall’s house in the gap it’s every bit of a mile and a half to Plum Grove. We live just across the hill from Lima’s house. I used to go up to her house and get with her folks and we would walk over to Plum Grove to church.

Head of one of the Dioscuri (# Y1988-10) in the Princeton University Art Museum

Head of one of the Dioscuri (# Y1988-10) in the Princeton University Art Museum

Lima Whitehall just went with one boy. I tried to court her a little, but she wouldn’t look at me. One night I goes up to her and I takes off my hat and says: “Lima, how about seeing you home?” And Lima says: “Not long as Rister is livin.’” Lord, but she loved Rister James. You ought to see Rister James—tall with a warty face and ferret eyes, but he had the prettiest head of black curly hair you ever saw on a boy’s head.

I’ve heard the girls say: “Wish I had Rister’s hair. Shame such an ugly boy has to have that pretty head of hair and a girl ain’t got it. Have to curl my hair with a hot poker. Burnt it up about, already. Shame a girl don’t have that head of hair.”

Well, they don’t say that about my hair. My hair is just so curly I don’t know which end of it grows in my head until I comb it. I’ve prayed for straight hair—or hair of a different color. But it don’t do no good to pray. My hair ain’t that pretty gold hair, or light gold hair. It’s just about the color of a weaned jersey calf’s hair. I’ll swear it is. People even call me Jersey.

There was a widder down in the Hollow and she loved Rister. Was a time, thought, when she wouldn’t look at him. She was from one of those proud families. You’ve seen them. Think they’re better’n everybody else in the whole wide world—have to watch about getting rain in their noses. That’s the kind of people they were in that family. And when a poor boy marries one of them girls he’s got to step.

So Rister James went with the woman I loved, Lima Whitehall, when he could have gone with Widder Ollie Spriggs. Widder Ollie wasn’t but seventeen years old and just had one baby. Rister was nineteen and I was eighteen. Lima was seventeen. If Rister would have gone with Widder Ollie it would have made things come out right for me. God knows I didn’t want Widder Ollie and she didn’t want me. I wanted Lima. I told her I did. She wanted Rister. She told me she did.

Intro to ‘Hair,’ from Jesse Stuart short story collection “Men of the Mountains”

Jesse Hilton Stuart was born on August 8, 1906, in northeastern Kentucky’s Greenup County, where his parents, Mitchell and Martha (Hilton) Stuart, were tenant farmers.

Mitchell Stuart could neither read nor write, and Martha had only a second-grade education, but they taught their two sons and three daughters to value education.

Jesse graduated from Greenup High School in 1926 and from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in 1929. He then returned to Greenup County to teach. By the end of the 1930s, Stuart had served as a teacher in Greenup County’s one-room schools and as high school principal and county school superintendent. These experiences served as the basis for his autobiographical book, The Thread That Runs So True (1949).

Stuart began writing stories and poems about the hill people of his section of Kentucky while still a college student. He met Donald Davidson, a poet who was one of his professors, during a year of graduate study at Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 1931-32. Davidson was instrumental in encouraging Stuart to continue writing.

Following the private publication of Stuart’s Harvest of Youth (poems) in 1930, Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow, poems that celebrate his people and the natural world, appeared in 1934 and was widely praised.

His autobiography, Beyond Dark Hills, was published in 1938 and his first novel, Trees of Heaven, in 1940. His first short story collection was Head O’ W-Hollow (1936), followed by Men of the Mountains (1941) and by more than a dozen other collections in Stuart’s lifetime. His published stories-in magazines and in book form-number more than a dozen novels and autobiographical works.

Taps For Private Tussie (1943) is an award-winning satirical look at New Deal relief and its effect on man’s self-reliance, and God’s Oddling (1960) is a biography of Stuart’s father. Stuart’s books of poetry also include Album of Destiny (1944) and Kentucky Is My Land (1952). He was designated as a poet laureate of Kentucky in 1954.

Stuart also lectured widely for many years, particularly on the subject of education and its value, and wrote a number of highly regarded books for children and youth.

Prominent among the latter are The Beatinest Boy (1953) and A Penny’s Worth of Character (1954). Hie to the Hunters, a novel published in 1950, is a celebration of rural life that has been popular with high school readers.

Stuart suffered a major heart attack in 1954. During his convalescence, he produced daily journals that were the basis for The Year of My Rebirth (I956), a book recording his rediscovery of the joy of life.

He returned to the school environment as a high school principal in 1956-57, taught at the University of Nevada in Reno in the 1958 summer term, and served on the faculty of the American University of Cairo in 1960-61.

The Academy of American Poets made Stuart a fellow in 1961.

Stuart established the Jesse Stuart Foundation in 1979, whose mission is to preserve his literary legacy while fostering appreciation of the Appalachian way of life through book publishing and ‘other activities.’ Jesse Stuart died on February 17, 1984, and was buried in Plum Grove Cemetery in Greenup County.


A home where we would have to pay rent no more

Posted by | August 5, 2016

Since my last annual report the Children’s Mission Home has moved its location; we are now located at No. 120 West Cumberland St. [in Knoxville, TN].For seventeen long years we were located at 918 State St. in the house which is now known as the Old Mission Home. Twenty-five dollars per month I paid for many years out of the scanty income the Mission Home ever had.

In the year 1903 I took the Home and the church grounds on a lease for ten years and from then I paid only twenty dollars rent per month for the Home, and some more money on the grounds on which we had built the church. It was hard work for me to find money enough for provisions, clothes and shoes for twenßty-five to thirty-five inmates, and then to find also twenty dollars per month to pay rent.

But we did succeed in doing this for nineteen years in all without faltering and the Mission Home had no debts at no time and to nobody than to live and to do good to our neighbors. But the load we had to carry was keenly felt as the years passed on and on.

One day in February 1909 the unexpected news came to us that the owner of the house had suddenly died. This meant for us that the lease might become void and that the Old Mission Home might be sold at any time, and that we had to move. As soon as we heard the news, I said, “Praise the Lord I am now done paying rent. If this work is worth anything, it will be worth a free house.”

Friends came to sympathize, enemies to sneer. They said to me, “You’re in a bad fix now; what are you going to do?”
I told them I was going to do nothing, but to trust in the Lord, and the Lord would provide. They went away sneering. But we people of the Mission went together to the Lord in prayers, and told him to give a home to his orphan children, a home where we would have to pay rent no more.

Children's Mission Home, Knoxville TNNew mission home at 120 W Cumberland Avenue.

I was well acquainted with one philanthropist of Knoxville, Mr. Rush B. Strong, who had been one of our supporters from the very beginning of this work. I knew he had a large and well built brick house in a very good location of the city, which he had designated for charitable purposes. It was just now empty. I earnestly prayed to the Lord while on the way to see Mr. Strong about that very house. As soon as I had told him what I wanted he said with the greatest friendliness, “Why sure, Mr. Lauritzen, why did you not come to ask for it long ago? As far as I am concerned you shall have the use of the house but for the repairs, free of charge.”

And now, we want you to rejoice with us, dear reader, and give praise and thanks to the Lord, who has enabled us to carry on this blessed work for twenty years of the past.

Most sincerely yours,
REV. & Mrs. J.R. Lauritzen, superintendants
20th Annual Report of the Work of the Children’s Mission Home
at Knoxville, TN



Whenever he could get a little money saved up he would buy an option on a piece of land

Posted by | August 4, 2016

John C.C. Mayo (1864-1914) was born a poor mountaineer in Paintsville, KY, and by the time of his premature death at 49 of Bright’s Disease, had amassed a fortune in the neighborhood of $20,000,000, making him Kentucky’s wealthiest man.

Mayo became a teacher at age 16, interrupted his classroom activities to enroll in Kentucky Wesleyan College in Millersburg, and later returned to Johnson County to resume teaching at Paintsville, for $40 per month.

At college he heard geology lectures by visiting professor A.C. Sherwood, and learned about east Kentucky’s vast mineral resources. Some day, he felt, somebody would want that coal, and whenever he could get a little money saved up he would buy an option on a piece of land. He read geological surveys made by William Mather, David Owen, Nathaniel Shaler, and John Proctor and filled notebooks with mineral data.

He abstracted titles and paid a few dollars each for options to buy minerals underlying tracts of land. He pledged fifty cents to five dollars per acre if the option was later exercised.

John C.C. MayoIn time Mayo saved $150 and with partners he formed the trading firm of Castle, Turner & Mayo, capitalized at $450. Mayo continued to teach and bought out his partners. At twenty six he engineered changes in the state’s land law. He read law and was admitted to the bar.

By the late 1880’s Mayo spent his days traveling around to purchase land for coal rights. He paid little attention to Alice Jane Alka Meek, who worked as a telegraph operator at the Alger House in Paintsville, other than when he wanted to send a message by telegraph to his sweetheart. But according to Carolyn Turner, co-author of the book John C. C. Mayo: Cumberland Capitalist, Miss Meek never sent those messages. When Mayo became deathly ill with pneumonia not long after they met, Miss Meek nursed him back to health at the hotel. Eventually, the two fell in love and were married in 1897. She was 20; he was 33.

When the constitutional convention met in 1890, Mayo knew many of the delegates, whom he lobbied to drop from the new constitution the ‘Virginia Compact provision’ that shadowed the title to hundreds of thousands of acres of eastern Kentucky land.

Mayo hired Floyd County attorney F.A. Hopkins to draft the broad form deed, and used this form in mineral buying to sever title to mineral rights from the remainer of the land title, making mineral rights dominant and residuary rights subservient ‘forever.’

Until the Mayo children were born, Mrs. Mayo traveled with her husband on business trips, often stashing gold – used to pay for mineral rights – in a specially made riding skirt ordered from Pogue’s, a store in Cincinnati. The gold could be tied to straps hidden underneath the skirt, and as much as $10,000 could be carried at a time.

John C.C. Mayo Mansion, Paintsville KYThe Mayo Mansion in Paintsville, built between 1904 and 1909.

Mayo had been collecting options for almost twenty years when he made his first sale — a big parcel of coal land to the Merrits of Duluth. From them he took $200,000 in notes, and had these discounted. The Merrits failed, and he took it upon himself to make these notes good.

It was not until about 1901 that he began to be a really wealthy man, as the value of his land was still rather problematical. But he got Peter L. Kimberley, president of Chicago’s Sharon Steel Company, Frank Buell of Sharon, PA, and several other capitalists to help him form the Northern Coal and Coke Company in the beginning of 1902, and they started coal operating on a big scale, branched out into the Elkhorn field of Kentucky, and started the town of Jenkins. This concern finally sold out to the Consolidated Coal Company, in which Col. Mayo became a big stockholder.

“While never holding office, Col. Mayo always took a keen interest in politics,” observed his obituary in the NY Times. “He was National Democratic Committeeman for Kentucky, and in the last presidential campaign took an active part and was a liberal contributor. Friends say his most remarkable trait was his personal magnetism. He was essentially a man of peace.

“In a lawsuit, he never settled by fighting it out, but always by compromise, instructing his attorney to see that the other fellow got what was due him, and a little more. To educational and charitable institutions in Kentucky he was a liberal contributor, and his private benefactions were large.” At the time of his death his holdings included 75 companies.

source: NY Times, May 12, 1914 online at
Alka Mayo: Mountain matriarch, by Diane Comer, Ashland Daily Independent, October 29, 1985 – Page 8, Today’s Living online at
The Kentucky Encyclopedia, by John E. Kleber, University Press of Kentucky, 1992


Who let the bedbugs bite?

Posted by | August 3, 2016

“One night during a revival, we had a very heavy rain. Besides myself, only one other person showed up at the church, a young man. I read a scripture lesson, and had prayer before the young man said, ‘Now, Preacher, you have to go home with me tonight. There is nobody else here.’ Well, we walked for a mile up a steep hill in the red mud.

“The boy hung up his lantern and said, ‘Hey, Paw, guess what we have for breakfast? Preacher!’

“‘Put him in your bed. You can sleep on the cot,’ said Paw. Man and wife were in a bed in the front room.

“The son picked up the oil lamp from the table and led the way up a steep stairway to the second floor. It was a story and a half house, with the sloping ceilings common to such. There were four teenage daughters, lying in two double beds in a room without partitions. The boy put down the lamp, took off all his clothes, and lay down on the cot.

“‘You can have my bed there,’ he said, indicating another double bed.

“‘Do you blow out this lamp?’ I asked.

“‘Nope, we leave her burn,’ he replied.

“What was I to do? I had to get into my pajamas in some way, and while the girls all had their eyes closed, I had no way of knowing if they were asleep, or ‘playing possum.’

“Because of the slope of the ceiling, the bed would go no closer than three feet to the wall. I bent over, after having turned the lamp down as low as I dared, crawled back in the space behind the head of the bed, and changed my clothes. I came out, turned up the lamp, put my shirt over the dirty pillow, and crawled into the filthy sheets.

“In a few minutes, I felt something crawling on my back. I caught the insect and crushed it between my finger and thumb, and knew from the odor that I had caught a bedbug. I fought those bugs all night until about 4:30, when the daylight gave me relief. When I threw back the covers, a whole battalion of bedbugs scurried for cover into a hole in the old straw mattress.

“‘Well, I sung the cooks up; now I’ll sing the preacher up.’ the father said. He sang all the way out to feed the pigs.

“I drove the 26 miles back home that night after church. When I told Elizabeth at the door about the bedbugs, she made me take off all my clothes on the front porch. I even had to leave my suitcase outside. Needless to say, I never went back to that house to eat or sleep again!

“Such are the fortunes of those who would serve the Lord in West Virginia in the earlier days. I found that conditions were worse near the Ohio River than in the mountain areas of the state.”

“An Autobiography”
Rev. Troy Robert Brady
Elkins, WV native



You were likely to encounter everybody you ever met

Posted by | August 2, 2016

“[My father] started one trend that horrified all the old friends. He put the kitchen on the front of the house. This was a thing unknown, inconceivable to the local populous. You didn’t put the kitchen on the front of the house. People built houses on Montford Avenue where there was a superb view in the back of the house, with porches that had the whole Pisgah range…the whole Cold Mountain, Pisgah, Spivey, Eagle’s View panorama…in those days it was just clear as crystal all the time, that view. In those days you could see it, but now all that stuff is just a crick in a particulate fog.

Anthony Lord, Asheville NC“Anyway, they put a streetcar track on Montford Avenue, and there was a certain amount of traffic, and a certain amount of streetlights. People had porches on the front of their houses, where they could see nothing but whatever went on on Montford Avenue. This is entertaining, I think, because it illustrates the standards and mores of the period, and I guess of the people. The interest in activity far outweighed the interest in natural scenery or the fantastic set of views.

“The sun sets off this back porch, and its clouds troop across the garage…crocodiles followed by giraffes, incredible Chinese dragons would cross the sunset. Well, you don’t see them anymore. It’s a shame, because they were great pleasures. And big thunderheads we would get over the Duck Mountains out there. Tremendous cumulous clouds, and as it got darker they’d turn gray and keep lightning within the cloud…a flash of lightning would illuminate the whole into pink…it would warm up the whole into pink flesh, these gray clouds. Incredibly beautiful. …

“Well, [Asheville] was an exciting place, in the boom days. The pleasures were very simple, though. It was a very open, kindly, low pressure sort of place. In the late 20’s the…at least that was the way it was to me…it was, for example, there were band concerts on the square. It was not this mad rush always. At least I didn’t feel it. And it felt that way until the beginning of the second war.

Montford Avenue, Asheville, NC“At first it was a stock company that gave the lease to the Plaza Theatre. And they would do a show every week, I guess or every two weeks, and they would rehearse with a chorus line with about 5…one of whom was Lenny’s wife who was pregnant at the time, and could still kick as high as anyone else. And of course this was all during prohibition days. You went up there with a couple of friends, and you came out and had a cola or something…after probably Goode’s Drug Store, a place where you were likely to encounter everybody you ever met.

“It was on Patton Avenue. Ran through…it was where the Wachovia Bank is now. Ran through from Patton to College. I remember Tom Wolfe holding forth on some trip he had made to France, his pleasure and amusement in the provincial French one night stands…and Charlie Parker, who was an architect here. They could all be found standing out front at Goode’s, from about 1:00 in the afternoon to about 6:00 in the afternoon. He didn’t stay in his office because people came in and bothered him. Then he’d go back after supper, at night, and turn it out, and go to work early the next morning. So this is the way we operated. But he was good. He’s the man who did the Arcade building.”

Anthony (Tony) Lord, 1900-1993
August 2, 1979 interview

Architect Tony Lord left his mark on many public and private buildings in Asheville, including the Pack Memorial Library and the D. Hiden Ramsey Library on the campus of UNC Asheville. He was also influential in the greening of downtown Asheville, planting and protecting trees. He was one of the founding members of the architectural group Six Associates. For many years he was a member of the Board of Directors of the public library.


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