When he drew his magic bow against his violin’s strings

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 13, 2015

During the 1870s, William Murphy of Greenville, S. C., wandered through these mountains making music every day. He, like Stephen Foster, was regarded as a half-vagabond, but he was tolerated for the pleasure his enchanted violin gave whenever he drew his magic bow across its strings.

There can be little doubt that men of his genius feel the indifference and neglect of their contemporaries; and it may be that, from their Calvaries of poverty, they, too, realize that we know not what we do. For to them the making of music is their sole mission here upon earth, and come poverty, obscurity or death, ay, come even disgrace and obloquy, they, like Martin Luther at Worms, “can do no otherwise, God helping them.”

Indeed, it is the highest form of worship, and David’s Psalms still live while all the Ptolemies of the past have been forgotten. Foster’s songs are linking earth to heaven more and more as time goes on, and will be sung for eons and for eons. There can be no higher destiny than that a man should pour out his full soul in strains of haunting melody; and though Stephen Foster be dead and “the lark become a sightless song,” the legacy he has left behind him is more priceless and more bountiful than those of the builders of the pyramids or the conquests of Napoleon and Alexander.

Murphy, too, is dead, but while he lived, like the grasshopper “beating his tiny cymbals in the sun,” he poured forth those matchless orisons that none who ever heard them can soon forget. For, while he was not a creator, he was the slave and seneschal of the masters who have left their melodies behind them for the ravishment of a money-mad and sordid world.

And when he drew his magic bow across his violin’s sentient strings, his genius thence evoked sweet strains formed with soul to all who had the heart to comprehend their message and their meaning.

Was it a jig or waltz or stately minuet? One’s feet moved rhythmically to the “sweet melodic phrase.” Was it dirge, lament or lovelorn lilt? One saw again the hearse-plumes nod, sobbed out his heart with pallid Jeane, or caught the note of bonny bird Blythe fluting by the Doon. Was it martial air or battle-hymn? Then, once again, came forth the bagpipe’s skirl, the pibroch’s wail, “what time the plaided clans came down to battle with Montrose.” Again, with change of air, there dawned once more that “reddest day in history, when Pickett’s legions, undismayed, leapt forth to ruin’s red embrace.”

But best, ah, far, far best of all, was that wonder-woven race his fine dramatic instinct had translated into song, in which the section-riven days of ‘Sixty-One were conjured back again from out their graves and ghostly cerements, and masqueraded full of life and hate and jealousy. For then we saw, as if by magic, the mighty racer, Black Hawk, typifying the North, and his unconquerable rival, Gray Eagle, the steel-sinewed champion of the South, start once again on that matchless contest on the turf at Louisville.

We heard again the wild, divided concourse cheer its favorite steed along the track, and saw the straining stallions, foam-flecked with sweat—now neck and neck, then one ahead, but soon overtaken, and both flying side by side again, their flame-shot nostrils dripping blood—till Gray Hawk, spent, but in the lead, dropped dead an inch without the goal, his great heart broken, as the South’s was doomed to be a few years thence, when

Men saw a gray gigantic ghost
Receding through the battle-cloud
And head across the tempest loud
The death-cry of a nation lost!

‘A Wandering Minstrel He’ from “Western North Carolina: A History, 1730- 1913,” by John Preston Arthur, 1914, Raleigh, N.C., Edwards & Broughton Printing Co.

online at http://www.archive.org/stream/westernnorthcaro00arth#page/n7/mode/2up

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He deserted the Confederate AND the Union armies

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 10, 2015

John Denton fought for the Confederate Army, but deserted it. Then he joined the Union Army, but deserted it even faster. And that was just the beginning of his troubles.

Denton volunteered for Company B (Monroe County, TN), 3rd Tennessee Regiment of Confederate Volunteers in Knoxville, TN on May 23, 1861 and fought at Manassas. We know he was still present for duty as of February 1862, but on May 7, 1863 he switched sides and enlisted for three years at Lebanon, KY in Company D, 11th Tennessee Cavalry, Union Army Volunteers.

That didn’t last long. By July Denton was listed as a deserter from Camp Nelson, KY. The following month’s muster rolls reported Private John Denton absent from recruiting duty.

“While on leave (from Union Army) in Monroe County he was captured by a band of Confederate guerillas or bushwackers from the area,” begins a letter found in Cocke County, Tennessee’s Stokely Memorial Library.

“They stripped Uncle John, tied a rope around his neck, threw it over a tree limb and pulled him off the ground until he about choked. They’d let him down and then repeat the process. While this amusement was going on word came that a Union patrol was in the area.

“Two men were assigned to take Uncle John deeper into the woods and shoot him. When they arrived at a rail fence Uncle John managed to push one of his guards over the fence and knock the other one down and run away.

“Instead of hiding in the deep woods he managed to get to a lightly wooded section and cover himself with leaves while the search for him went on in the more heavily forested area. Subsequently he managed to get to the cabin of a couple of Union women whose husbands were gone away to serve in the Union Army. They dressed him in women’s clothes, put a bonnet on his head and managed to smuggle him through the lines.

“Some time after the war, knowing some of his captors, they being from the same area, he killed a couple of them and was sent to prison for a few years until pardoned.”

John DentonOn April 10, 1864, Denton, his brother Charles, their cousin William Click, and another associated family member, Pink Gentry, murdered Patrick T. Trotter. The men hung Trotter by the thumbs and severely beat him, before shooting him in the presence of his elderly mother.

Several months later, on the 4th of July, brothers William Riley and David Burton Curtis had headed home on leave from the Confederate Army. They arrived just in time to discover one of the women in their family being raped by bushwackers. The attackers had the element of surprise in their favor, and they shot and killed the two brothers before they even got past the front porch.

Family members “dressed in women’s clothing” waited across the river for the escaping offenders. Jackson Denton, Grief Ragsdale, and William Hartsell were later charged with this murder, but historians think John Denton also may have been involved.

John & Charles Denton were arrested by Union troops on October 3 in Roane County, but by February 1865 they’d been released at Knoxville. In May 1866 the two brothers, William Click and Pink Gentry were indicted for their role in Trotter’s murder; that September the sheriff was directed to arrest them and bring them to court. The ensuing trial was moved to Blount County, where the two were convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

However, they filed an appeal with the Supreme Court over the change of venue, the conviction was overturned on a technicality, and the case was sent back to Monroe County for further disposition in 1869.

After numerous delays and postponements, Charles and John Denton were brought to trial in 1872 in Monroe County and found guilty of 1st degree murder. They again filed an appeal, but it never transpired. John Denton went to prison from 1873 till 1880. His brother fled to Missouri and apparently was never apprehended.

John Denton filed for a government pension in late summer of 1890, but was rejected in 1891 because he’d served less than the required 90 days of service, and because he did not have an honorable discharge.

He died on Aug 12, 1912.


Sources: Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, by Thomas Harvey Coldwell, Tennessee Supreme Court, publ. S.C. Mercer, 1870


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A mill built plenty sturdy

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 9, 2015

The western Algonquin called it the ‘Mooskingom,’ and to the Narragansett tribe it was the ‘Mooshingung’ —“water clear as an elk’s eye.” The Muskingum River, which empties into the mighty Ohio River from the furthest point in Columbiana County, is at 112 miles long the longest river lying wholly within Ohio. And the last remaining mill on the Muskingum River is the Stockport Mill in the town of the same name.

In 1839, G.W. Sanburn laid out Stockport next to Windsor Village. Later on, Stockport and Windsor Village merged to be called the Village of Stockport, named after a town in England by Postmaster Samuel Beswick. Stockport became one of the most important shipping and trading points on the Muskingum River between Zanesville and Marietta.

Stockport Mill, Stockport OHThe first mill at this site was built in 1842 and operated only a few years before it burned. A second mill was built in 1849 and operated for 54 years until it too caught fire and burned to the ground, around 2 a.m. on July 1, 1903. In 1906, the Dover Brothers began construction of the current mill. A local boy, Fred James, stated that it was built “plenty sturdy,” which was proved true enough when the 1913 flood took out many other mills on the Muskingum but left the Stockport Mill standing.

The mill was powered by two 40-inch Leffel turbines used for grinding. In 1908, the mill began fulfilling a contract to supply the village with electricity for street lights. On April 6, 1928, the Suburban Power Company was given the light contract and hydroelectric operation in the mill was shut down.

The Stockport Mill produced Gold Bond Pastry Flour, Pride of the Valley (bread) Flour, and it also ground feed for livestock. The Stockport Milling Company shipped its products by steam packet boat and over the Ohio & Little Kanawha Railroad before the era of all-weather roads. The mill also functioned as a community hub where local farmers obtained supplies and shared news.

In 1942, Fred James and Ray Devitt purchased the mill from the Dover heirs for $4,000. They then sold it to the Farm Bureau and it was operated as the Landmark Mill with Dow Kasler as the manager. The mill operation ceased in 1997 and today the refurbished building houses a bed & breakfast.


sources: www.stockportmill.com/history.htm
Christopher Gist’s Journals with Historical, Geographical and Ethnological…by Christopher Gist, ed. William McCullough Darlington, 1893, J.R. Weldin & co.
Ohio historic marker: http://www.pbase.com/gshamilton/image/31450643


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Yellow Mama claims her first victim in AL

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 8, 2015

“Some time between 1 o’clock and daybreak, Horace Devaughn will be led into the death chamber to pay the penalty for the murder of A.B. Moore and Mrs. Ruby Thornton in Birmingham last January,” reported The St. Petersburg Times on April 5, 1927. Three days later Devaughn, a black man, was executed at Kilby Prison, marking Alabama’s first use of the electric chair. Two weeks later, Virgil Murphy, a veteran of World War I who was convicted in Houston County of murdering his wife, became the first white man electrocuted in the chair.

In 1923, legislation had provided for state-performed executions to be carried out by electrocution. Prior to 1923, executions were the responsibility of the counties, and in Alabama, that generally meant hanging.

Yellow Mama electric chairThe electric chair was first used in 1890. The execution box consisted of a simple electrical panel with three buttons: an orange power button, a red stop button and a solemnly black execute button. The chair was subsequently used by more than 25 states throughout the 20th century, acquiring nicknames such as Sizzlin’ Sally, Old Smokey, Old Sparky, and Gruesome Gertie.

Alabamans referred to their electric chair as Yellow Mama; the chair acquired its yellow color from a contribution of highway line paint from the adjacent State Highway Department lab. It was built by a British inmate in 1927.

Yellow Mama now sits unused, inside the execution chamber at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. The last execution to occur in the chair was that of Lynda Lyon Block on May 10, 2002. Following her execution, a bill was passed that would allow for execution by either lethal injection or electrocution.


sources: www.patrickcrusade.org/YELLOW_MAMA_RETIRES.html

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When I saw his shoulders sink, I knew right then that I had won

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 7, 2015

Annie Taylor could get away with anything she pleased at school. Her father Champ was feared in Catawba Falls, NC by every teacher who had ever tried to rein her in; he’d threatened to kill several, and had literally run one out of town. Then Annie crossed swords with Miss Daintry Graham one day in class, and got the whipping of her life. It wasn’t long before Champ came in search of Miss Graham:

“I got me a piece of chicken wire and went out into the river to wade, because that was the most defiant thing I could think of. There was a fish in that river that I’d tried for days and days to catch, and couldn’t. I decided to seine him up; and I did. I know now, and I didn’t then, that he was a big-mouth bass and that he would have weighed approximately seven pounds. He was a whale of a fish. I strung him onto a forked alder stick.

“Then I heard Champ Taylor coming down that river, cursing at the top of his voice: ‘Git in that road and git to running, I’m a coming and I’m a-going to cut you into shoestrings and strew ‘em from here to Old Fort. Come out from under that bed and git to running.’ I just calmly waded along, because I had buckled on a .38 by the side of me before I went into that river and I made up my mind that if that man bothered me I was not going to waste a bullet; that I was going to shoot about the third button of his shirt. I knew that I could hit it, too, because I’m that kind of a marksman.

“Anyway, he was raising Cain until he came down and got even with me. There were alder bushes along the creek and he couldn’t see me till he got right even.

“I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute, I want to show you my fish.’

“Well, I had decided when I got that fish what I was going to do, and I’d put a nice little bullet hole right through between its eyes. I held it up: ‘Look, see my fish. This river makes so much noise, I’ve got to come further out.’

rural one-room NC school, 1903Rural One-Room School, P. R. Young and pupils, Transylvania County, NC, 1903, left half of photo.

“So I waded out nearer to him, and all the time my mind was going two ways. I was talking like somebody that had no sense, but my mind was saying: ‘Don’t shoot him unless he takes his hands off of that saddle. As long as he holds that pommel of that saddle, don’t shoot. Don’t shoot till he tries to come down; watch his hands, then aim for the third button on his shirt and just let one bullet do it all.’

“But I was talking. I said, ‘Look at my fish. I had to put a bullet between his eyes, but I got him. Didn’t take but one bullet. I got me five more in here,’ and I waved the gun out and sashayed it around. I said, ‘I’ve got five more shots in here, all ready, and I think I’ve got six more in my pocket. Yep, I can re-load if I want to.’

“You see, what I was doing was letting him know that I could blow him off of that mule if I wanted to. And I was letting him know that he’d better ‘tend to his own business, but I was doing it in a very gentle way.

“I was giving it time for the idea to soak into his weak mind. Well, he didn’t know what to do, for the last thing he expected was to see the teacher in a short dress, wading in the water, with a fish in one hand and a gun in the other hand.

“And the last thing he expected was one that could talk in a calm voice and that was just like a little girl so excited over a fish.

“Directly, when I saw that old Adam’s apple begin to jump up and down in his old long throat; it began to go up and down before he could. . . he didn’t know what to say, and I knew he was up a tree, and when I saw his shoulders sink, I knew right then that I had won. When his shoulders slumped, I knew right then that the day was mine.

“I said, ‘Oh, you’ll have to excuse me for being so enthusiastic over a fish. I’ve got to tell you something: you’re the very man I wanted see.’ I said, ‘You know something, I had to whip your daughter today, because she went through these woods down here to meet those old wagon drivers, and I know that you and your wife want to raise decent children and you don’t want any unexpected grand-children, and the proper procedure is to just keep those girls out of that road, and I told them I’d switch ‘em if they went down there and they did, and I switched them.

“‘More than that, I’ve got another supply of switches on hand, and if they don’t mind me, I’m going to switch ‘em again.’

“‘That’s right, Miss Graham, put the wood to ‘em, and if you can’t do it, just report it to me.’

“Big change in attitude, I mean. I wasn’t letting him know that I’d heard all that cursing coming down the road. I was making him think that that water made too much noise, and that I couldn’t hear him.

After that, I had no trouble.”

Daintry [Graham] Allison
(b. 1896 in Old Fort, NC)
Interviewed July 24, 1975
Southern Highlands Research Center
Louis D. Silveri Oral History Collection,
D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections,
University of North Carolina at Asheville

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