Haints and Hags on Halloween

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 18, 2016

Halloween’s around the corner. Here’s a little haint tale for the occasion from Putnam County, Tennessee.

About one mile and a half east of Cookeville the Buck Mountain Road is crossed by the old Sparta-Livingston Road. Turning to the left here and going about a quarter of a mile in the direction of Livingston one reaches the scene of the noted ante-bellum mystery. The large and dismal swamp that once covered several acres on either side of the road is now only a memory, due to the propensity of modern man to clear, drain and cultivate the soil. But the name, “Booger Swamp,” still clings to the spot after nearly three-quarters of a century.

One dark night in the early fifties a well-known minister of the gospel, whose name is not essential to our story, was passing this lonely spot on horseback, when suddenly an apparition appeared before him—or, at least, he said it did. After a great deal of discussion and several futile efforts to induce the spook- seeing brother to retract his story, he was finally arraigned in a formal church court and tried, convicted and expelled from the ministry. According to his story, the apparition was a pure white body floating about a yard above the ground and “about the size and length of a weaver’s beam,” to use his exact language. It made some effort to communicate with him, but his horse became unruly and dashed away.

A History of Putnam County, Tennessee by Walter S. McClain, Cooksville, Tenn., Quimby Dyer & Company [c1925]

black cat in a pumpkinA “haint” is an unsettled or angry dead spirit; the term, like “hag,” is of Germanic-British origins. A haint can range from a ghost to an undefinable something that scares the bejeevers out of you. In the same way a haint tale covers everything from a ghost story to a yarn about an odd event. A haint tale doesn’t even have to be scary; some are quite funny. But there are two common ingredients shared by every haint tale. One is that it must involve frightening a character, the listener, or both. The other is that it must include the supernatural, or supernatural overtones. Sometimes it can be a normal event perceived as supernatural, but the paranormal must get mixed in there somehow or other.

source: A History of Putnam County, Tennessee by Walter S. McClain, Cooksville, Tenn., Quimby Dyer & Company

One Response

  • Lisa says:

    my granny was form Harlan County Ky & she always spoke of haints & such!! Wouls care the crap outta us kids!! We’d stay w/her while the others would work the fields or strip tobacco at was always the best times we had…. shed get us all around the old fireplace & tell her”stories”!!! Love haint stories!!!

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Roy Rogers before he was Roy Rogers

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 17, 2016

Roy Rogers wasn’t always Roy Rogers, and one of Hollywood’s most famous cowboys wasn’t raised on a western ponderosa either. Leonard Slye grew up west of Lucasville, OH on a small farm in Duck Run.

In the early 1950’s, journalist Elise Miller Davis wrote “The Answer is God,” the authorized biography of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, which became a national best-seller, from which this selection is taken.

Much has been told of the hardships suffered by poor people trying to eke out a living from poor land, and the Slye family seemed destined to suffer them all. Finally when the sugar bowl on the pantry shelf became empty not only of cash but of sugar too, Andy returned to his city job. Mattie and the four children remained on the farm to run it as best they could.

Left as the man of the family, most of the dawn-till-dusk chores of farm life fell on Leonard’s small shoulders, “I simply had to learn,” he was to say later, “that no matter if the sun was scorching hot or rain was falling in sheets or snow was up to my knees, a cow was still a cow. She had to be fed and milked. Eggs had to be gathered. Chicken houses had to be cleaned. And hogs had to be slopped.”

Roy Rogers boyhood home in Duck Run OHRoy Rogers boyhood home in Duck Run OH.

By the time he was barely tall enough to reach the handles, the boy was behind a plow almost every day. But the thing the neighbors talked about most was his ability to handle the large, ornery mule.

“Leonard just seemed born being good with and good to animals,” his sister Mary says. “We kids finally decided he knew a secret magic. Several times I saw him capture a queen bee in a box and quietly bring the whole swarm back to our farm. Never once was he stung. When I tried it one day, I was bitten so badly I developed a high fever. He had four pet skunks that he named and taught to answer his call. For him they showed complete self-control. One day Pop spoke to one of them and Mom had to burn his overalls.”

Leonard had a trained rooster that he carried around on his shoulder. And in high school he taught a ground hog to sit patiently while he practiced playing the clarinet.

“One day the boy smuggled the ground hog to school,” his mother says. “And when it came time for assembly, Leonard put the animal in his desk. Soon, however, the pet heard Leonard’s clarinet tooting in the auditorium. She crawled out and followed the sound until she found her master. When the ground hog interrupted the program by climbing into Leonard’s lap, he expected a scolding. But the band leader was so impressed that instead he tried to buy the animal. The few dollars would have meant a lot to us then, but Leonard wouldn’t sell.”

Leonard Franklin Slye, choirboy in Duck Run OHLeonard Slye (left rear) was part of the local Sunday School and church choir. This is a closeup of a photo of the Sunday school choir boys.

Mixed with the endless hard hours of plowing and felling trees and splitting logs to keep the wood box full were the good times.

Spring and summer brought picnics and hikes over the Ohio hills, swimming and fishing in the two creeks near the farm, every outing increasing the boy’s knowledge and love of nature. There were singsongs around summer campfires and the square dancing his parents loved. “Leonard called a square dance well by the time he was ten,’ Andy Slye remarks. “And if folks are amazed today at the way he hits clay targets with his fancy guns, they should have seen him with a homemade slingshot and beans for ammunition.

“He was so crazy about hunting, and so good at it with his bow and arrow and slingshots, I got him a rifle for his twelfth birthday.”

Andy received his pay every two weeks in those days, and they provided occasions for him to visit his family, loaded down with gifts for all. The time he brought home Babe, a black mare that had seen better days as a sulky racer, was a memorable event in the boy’s life.

“All he’d ever had to ride was the old mule,” Mattie recalls.

Hoot Gibson movie posterHoot Gibson movie poster.

“And although we were never able to buy him a saddle for Babe, he soon was learning to sit and ride with grace. Many a time I saw him working away, trying to teach that mare some of the very tricks that Trigger performs today.’*

Occasionally Leonard was allowed to ride Babe into Portsmouth to visit his father, and on rare Saturday afternoons he attended a motion picture. The youth fell head over heels in love with cowboy star Hoot Gibson. Many years later when he met and became close friends with Hoot, he told him about the small darkened theater where, to the twangy whine of the player piano, midst the smell of popcorn, damp feet, and cheap deodorant, a little wide-eyed boy had sat spellbound for wonderful hours in the world of cowboys and Indians.

Source: “The Answer Is God: The Inspiring Personal Story Of Dale Evans And Roy Rogers,” By Elise Miller Davis, McGraw Hill, 1955 online at http://www.archive.org/stream/answerisgodthein012119mbp/answerisgodthein012119mbp_djvu.txt

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Was Stella Fuller ousted, or did she resign?

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 14, 2016

On October 14, 1980, Stella Fuller Day was proclaimed by the mayor of Huntington, WV to acknowledge her lifelong efforts in helping the poor and disadvantaged of that community. And in 2008 she was posthumously inducted into the Greater Huntington Wall of Fame for her 60 years of service. But she wasn’t always so well honored.

Fuller joined the local chapter of the Salvation Army in 1916, and for the next quarter century her humanitarian instincts blossomed. Fuller attained the title of “Envoy Fuller” in the Army and headed a new branch that opened at Johnson’s Lane in Huntington, where she built a recreational program with the assistance of the WPA, consisting of softball and basketball teams. In 1941 the Army was considering building a new outpost ‘to be dedicated to Envoy Stell A. [sic] Fuller who will complete twenty-five years of service on October 1.’

And that’s when it all came to a head.

“In the time that Stella Fuller had served [in the Army], about ten commanders had come and gone, each having to adjust to the community and to the local personnel while establishing his own authority,” writes Nancy Whear in ‘Missing Chapters: West Virginia Women in History.’ “Officially there could never be any question as to who had the authority; but the person who’d been on the spot for 25 years, earning an exceptional amount of independence and building wide community appreciation, had an authority of a different sort. It was a classic setup for confrontation; the only surprise is that it had not come sooner.

Stella Fuller of Huntington WVStella Lawrence Fuller (1883-1981). Photo courtesy The Herald-Dispatch [Huntington WV]. No date.

“The overt cause of the rift was the softball program which had been breaking the Army’s strict Sabbath rule with Sunday games. The league teams, which had had good years but had never won a state or tri-state tournament, surprised local fans with a stunning victory in a tournament in Charleston, won another round at Elkins, and were selected to represent West Virginia in a regional meet.

“The sports page was full of the feats of “Envoy Stella Fuller’s Salvation Army Outpost team.” The phrase “managed by Envoy Fuller” and the picture of the team with Fuller prominent on the back row were probably not very soothing to the already unhappy corps. There were outside complaints to [official post commander] Major Morris about the Sunday games. They were ordered stopped, but they continued.

“With society’s attention on the War rather than on social problems, the resources of the Salvation Army were strained. To Mrs. Fuller the success of the teams demonstrated the healthiness of the youth programs and justified the cost. But to the Army it was an extravagance for a program which not only flouted the rules, but mostly benefitted persons not involved in their religious mission.

baseball game in Huntington WVCrowd in Huntington, WV watching a baseball game. No date.

“The roots of the strain went much deeper than softball. To the organization her activities represented improper independence and outright insubordination. She had overstepped her position. In reality she had outgrown it; her capabilities, experience, and personality equipped her for high-level management, but there was no possibility within the Salvation Army’s structure for her to be the manager.

“Lines of loyalty were drawn and sides had to be taken. The dispute reached the papers in January 1943. There had been a visit for consultation by the division commander who was, by coincidence, the brother of the earlier commander under whom Envoy Fuller had so freely developed her outpost.

“In the meantime Fuller had privately consulted the Volunteers of America about starting a chapter in Huntington. The Army’s Board of Advisors was put in an awkward position an a few resigned to side with Mrs. Fuller.

“The formal break came through another classic impasse: she was offered a contract which she felt she could not sign. Though it did give her charge of the outpost, it had other unacceptable restrictions. The evening newspaper headed its story “Envoy Fuller Ousted from S.A., She Says.” But the morning paper followed with “Stella Fuller Resigns Post.”

“She claimed she was pressured to sign before she could meet with the advisors. Major Morris’ rebuttal insisted that when she did not sign by the specified date, her resignation was “of an ‘automatic nature’ and not due to any action, official or otherwise, on his part.”

“It was not quite over, for public and private accusation, rumor and complaint on both sides continued for months, carried on in Letters to the Editor, poison pen letters, and doubtless in many heated verbal encounters.

“In late February 1943 a long ‘Huntington Advertiser’ story on the upcoming opening of the Volunteers of America listed its advisory board and outlined its program, with ‘Captain’ Stella Fuller in command. The announcement was premature, since the city’s Public Solicitations Committee ultimately turned down the VOA application.

“In fact, the program was already in place informally in a building rented by Mrs. Fuller. She had opened on January 10, in a spot very near the [S.A.] outpost, with very little except her own resources and the good will and volunteer help of the neighborhood. Many times in years to come she would express her gratitude at the city’s rejection of the Volunteers of America.

“For now there was only one way to go: an independent settlement with no confusion as to who would pilot its course. The incorporators (later the board of directors) included prominent persons from a wide range of occupations: lawyer, doctor, industrialists, school principal, labor leader. The years of association with the whole spectrum of the population now made this support available. The board had no trouble selecting the name: the Stella Fuller Settlement was born!”

Under Fuller’s leadership, the settlement went on to expand into the area’s largest haven for the deprived and homeless. The woman who’d been snubbed for the Salvation Army post’s top position spent the last 37 years of her life, more time than all the years she’d spent with the Army, continuing to minister to the needs of Huntington’s poorest, but this time doing so her own way.

Sources: “Stella Fuller gave her time to help the needy,” The Herald-Dispatch [Huntington], September 30, 2008
“2008 Wall of Fame inductees announced,” The Herald-Dispatch [Huntington], August 14, 2008
‘Missing Chapters: West Virginia Women in History,’ West Virginia Women’s Commission, Fuller profile by Nancy Whear, 1983

4 Responses

  • pauline moon says:

    Did Royland E Moon have a part in starting Stella Fuller ?

  • Charlie Johnson says:

    Went there for many years. She was a a very nice lady and went to eat there all the time. MY SHE REST IN PEACE.

  • becky byrd says:

    my brother worked there for years
    my ex b law was the preacher
    she was a amazing lady
    and her son bob was pretty cool also

  • Annie Fuller says:

    Yeah, Bob was indeed pretty cool too (not just because he was grandad). I think I like this story best of all due to the time period. She stood so independent and strong. Most women were barefoot, subservient and easily swayed from feats even half as daring. You go my dear great grandma! I hope my efforts here in this present day have you looking down and smiling proud :)

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Dey didn’ pay me nothin’ fer gittin’ my legs cut off

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 13, 2016

“I went to West Virginia to work in de coal mines. I made eight dollars and one penny er day er drivin’ er mule in dem mines. Later on, I made ten er twelve dollars er day loading coal. ‘At wus hard work but de more you worked de more money you made. Awe, I could load about four er five cars er day. Dey wus cars dey use in de mines, dey holds four er five tons.

“Naw, we ‘ad plenty ob work to do ever day in de week. I never did git laid-off none, not one day. I’d work about three er four months though and den I’d jes stay off er week er two. Naw, I wouldn’ git tired er workin’, jes tired er go in’ to work ever’ day. Naw, when I’d go back dey would always put me back to work.

“I still shot craps most ob de time when I wudn’ at work and I made money when I gambled. Sometimes I’d win two er three hundred dollars. “Naw, dey don’ lock you up fer gamblin’ up there. They don’ pay no attention to you. Naw, I wouldn’ lose near as much as I’d win. Naw, I didn’ save none ob my money. I wus a fancy dresser in ‘em days and I spent most ob my money on women.

“Naw, I never did git married. I wouldn’ marry no woman pig-in-the-sack. Dey might be ar ‘possum in ‘at sack. I had to try ‘em before I married ‘em and when I tried ‘em, well, I jes never did marry ‘em. I would er married one though but she wanted to git married too quick and we fell out.

“Dey got me in de army in 1918. I wus sent to Camp Lee, Naw, I didn’ do no fightin’. I jes stayed at de camp. Naw, I wudn’ scared, I wanted to go to France and fight. Some uv ‘em wus scared though but most uv ‘em wanted to fight. Naw, dey wudn’ nothin’ but colored men in my company. We ‘ad some white officers though. When der war wus over dey sent me down here to Camp Gordon. Den dey let me out.

“I stayed around here fer a while and den I went to Tom Creek, Va. I got a job loadin’ coal at de V. I. C. mine. I worked there ’bout four years and ‘at’s where I got my legs cut off.

“One Tuesday mornin’ I went to work and dey wudn’ no empty cars on de tracks to load de coal in. I walked up to where de cars wus, and when de engine started to pushin’ down to where we wus er gonna load ‘em I went to swing on one to ride down there and my foot slipped and I fell under de [car?]. De wheels run over me and cut off both my legs up above my knees. I wus in de hospital for seven months. When I got out dey sent me to de poor farm. My cousin, Ethel Brown, come ‘air and got me and carried me back to West Virginia to live wid her.

“Naw, dey didn’ pay me nothin’ fer gittin’ my legs cut off. Dey aint never give me one cent. Dey give me some artificial legs but I aint never been able to use ‘em. You see when you git both yo’ legs cut off above yo’ knees you can’t git about on no artificial legs and crutches. You see when I gits to standin’ up on ‘em legs and crutches I can throw my legs out in front of me but, wid my legs like ‘at, how is I gonna git my crutches off the ground then and how is I gonna git my legs back under me again. You can’t do it so you jes falls down. If I had jes one knee joint I could git about on ‘em legs all right.

Archie George
Interviewed by William Jenkins
Atlanta, GA 1939
Federal Writers’ Project papers (1936-1940), #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

One Response

  • Frank Slider says:

    When I read and hear stories like this and the thousands of other injured and killed workers that are undocumented, I am not too concerned about some of the present day workers compensation abuses that I hear about. For a hundred years companies maimed and killed workers with no accountability whatsoever. Sometimes the companies didn’t even have the decency of returning the body home or providing a burial for the family at the company’s expense.

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No matter how mean you are, when you’re dead I ain’t scared of you

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 12, 2016

Georgia State University student Linda Mitchell conducted this 1968 interview in Red Top Mountain, GA, with “R.E. Faulkner, Mrs. Turner, Reverend Cox, and William ‘Pap’ Bailey.” A man named ‘Homer’ appears in the transcript below; most likely it’s Reverend Cox. From a series of oral history recordings coordinated by Dr. John Burrison, English Department, Georgia State University. Linda Mitchell, interviewer, was one of his students. Recording housed at Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center.


Interviewer: I know Mr. Faulkner had a pretty exciting time with the house they moved into. He was telling me about a ghost he ran into up there. Did you ever run into anything like that? A ghost, a haint?

Bailey: No, I never did hear them. I thought I heard one but I always run around and found out what it was.

Conesena Baptist Church, Bartow County, GA. Photo by Wilbur Kurtz (1882-1967), collection Digital Library of Georgia.

Conesena Baptist Church, Bartow County, GA. Photo by Wilbur Kurtz (1882-1967), collection Digital Library of Georgia.


Interviewer: Like when?

Bailey: Hear something else, I’d think I heard one.

Interviewer: When did you hear a sound you thought was a ghost?

Bailey: Oh, I don’t know; used to hear that a lot when I was a boy. They tell me all kinds of tales and I could hear lots of things.

Interviewer: What did they tell you?

Bailey: They’d tell about haints, about seein’ somebody that didn’t have no head.

Interviewer: Did they give any reason? I mean maybe his wife had killed him or something.

Bailey: I just imagine after I got big enough to know anything about them, they seemed to stop. When I was just a little boy I stayed with him here and he’d tell me about a bear. I was about four or five. I stayed here with my grandpa and he was a widder, you know, his wife died.

And Little Twig lived right out on a branch here and he’d get me to ride the cow out for her to milk in the mornin’. And I’d take her up there, and ole man Twig was goin’ out there one night and there was something come up there from the branch, and come into the road there, and they just come and kinda met up, and it jumped the branch and he came down here, or sent some of ‘em down here, after my grandpa to go down there and look at its tracks and see what it was been a trackin’ in that mud, you know, before it jumped the branch.

Well, I was all alone, and I was just a little bugger, too. And they told me big bear tales all the time, and I was scared of bears. And he looked out, and says it was bear tracks. No, nary another time would I carry that cow up there. And I could see that bear once in awhile in the bushes and I’d holler and squeal, and it’d be a stump — a black stump. I could jest see it, you know; for a long time, I was scared to get out. He’d tell me a bunch of bear tales, you know, hisself. Yeah, I was jest a little bugger and I’d meet here and he’d tell me.

Conesena Church 2nd view

Interviewer: What kind of bear stories did he tell you?

Bailey: He said that there was two fellers, or three, went out to camp, and they stayed all night, and the next mornin’ they divided out, and one feller went one way and the other went another way.

He came upon this little bear layin’ on a log, playin’ with a plum. And he looked all around and he couldn’t see that older one nowhere, and he shot that little ‘un.

And when he shot it, he squalled and looked ‘round for a tree to climb. And when he shot it, it squalled and here come that old one right down the mountain, right at him. And he took up this tree and ran up to the top—just a big sapling tree—and run up to the top.

And the top broke out with him, and when the top come back down and scared the old bear, it run back up the hill, and he got on back up the hill ‘fore it got him back. Oh, that jest scared me to death!

Interviewer: I can imagine.

Bailey: Jest a little ole bugger.

Homer: He made you wash the dishes, didn’t he Pap?

Bailey: Yeah, he said “Now if you don’t take the cow, you’ve got to wash the dishes.” I told ‘im I’d wash ‘em. I wouldn’t carry the cow, and you know he’d have the water so hot it’d burn me. He’d have the water hot and pour it in the pan. I know I can’t stand the water, it burns me.

“Go on,” he said, “you have to wash ‘em in hot water to get ‘em clean.”

Interviewer: So you’d have to wash ‘em in hot water while he’d take the cow out?

Bailey: Yeah. And I’d wash dishes, wouldn’t carry that cow back.

Interviewer: Did you ever run into any ghosts?

Conesena Church 3rd view

Bailey: No, I never seed one.

Homer: Heard a few stories but I never did much believe in ‘em. Many has heard about the church, but I walked through it at night.

Interviewer: The church?

Homer: Yeah, up in the cemetery, the graveyard up there. There’s a trail right through it, you know.

Interviewer: Well, are there supposed to be ghosts in the cemetery up there?

Bailey: Say, I don’t care how mean you are to me, when you’re dead I ain’t scared of you.

Interviewer: Pardon?

Bailey: No matter how mean you are, when you’re dead I ain’t scared of you.

Interviewer: Cause you just don’t exist any more, huh?

Bailey: You couldn’t hurt me after you died.

Interviewer: I think I might scare you pretty bad.

Bailey: No you couldn’t.

Faulkner: I heard a story ‘bout two guys goin’ to steal some sheep. One of ‘em was goin’ to wait in the cemetery while the other went down there on the side of the mountain and got in his neighbor’s pasture to get the sheep. He went down and caught the sheep, throwed him on his shoulder and was comin’ back up.

There’d been some guys cuttin’ timber over there and one of them rolled a log over his leg and broke it. And broke his leg and he had him on his shoulder, and they had to go right by the cemetery, and he carried him to where he could get ‘im into a wagon and carry him to the doctor.

And this guy who was his buddy as goin’ to steal the sheep was going to help him carry it, was over behind the tombstone.

And this guy come along with that guy on his shoulders who’d broke his leg. He stuck his head around and he thought it was his buddy who’d gone to steal the sheep. And he said “Is he fat?” And the guy says “Fat or lean, you can have him!” And he throwed him down and took off. And that guy with the broken leg? Got up and outrun him!

Bailey: I’ll tell one. You told one; now I’ll tell one.

There was three of ‘em, I believe, these fellers. They went a-fishin’ and there’d been a grave dug right fresh and they lived down not fer from the church house, and his daddy hadn’t walked none in seven years — had rheumatism and couldn’t walk.

And they sent one of these fellers out to get a sheep while they was dividing the fish. And they was down in that grave dividing ‘em fish, and he’d say “Now you take this one and I’ll take that one. You take this one—and I’ll take that one.” And this boy come along, and he heard ‘em, and it scared him, and he run down to his daddy (who hadn’t walked in seven years), he said “Daddy, God and the Devil are up there in the cemetery dividin’ the dead.”

“Aww,” he says, “you know that ain’t true.”

“It sure is!” he says, “if you don’t believe me, you can look downy and see.”

He said “You know I can’t go.”

“Well,” says, “I’ll carry you.”

And he got on his back, and he carried him up there, you know. He heard ‘em.

“You take this ‘un and I’ll take that ‘un.”

He heard ‘em countin’, he wanted to get a little closer, and he got up and he wanted to see in the grave. They dug it, they was gonna bury somebody there.

So he got up, he kept wantin’ to get closer so he could see ‘em, and he got up close enough as one of ‘em sees ‘im down in the grave where they was dividin’ fish.

And he looked up and he says “Is he fat?”

He says “Fat or lean, take ‘ein as it is!”

And he said they split up and he run as hard as he could. And his daddy caught up and beat him back. I guess that would’ve scared me.

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