The Appy League: play ball!

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 13, 2016

The Appalachian League was born in 1911 with teams in Asheville, N.C.; Bristol, Va.; Cleveland, Tenn.; Johnson City, Tenn.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Morristown, Tenn. That first version of the league lasted just four years, with the league disbanding in the middle of the 1914 season when Morristown and Middlesboro, Ky., folded on June 17.

The league reformed in 1921 with six teams: Bristol; Cleveland; Greenville, Tenn.; Johnson City; Kingsport, Tenn.; and Knoxville. That incarnation of the league managed five seasons, before again closing up shop midway through 1925.

In 1937, the Appy League, as many called it, was restarted with the Elizabethton Betsy Red Sox in Elizabethton, Tenn.; the Johnson City Cardinals in Johnson City; Newport, Tenn.; and the Pennington Gap Lee Bears (league champs that year) in Pennington Gap, Va. During World War II, while most other minor leagues ceased operations, the Appalachian League played on. It continued right up until 1955. The league’s current incarnation got underway again in 1957 after one inactive year.

Ron Necciai, the Bristol Twins

On May 13, 1952, while playing for the Class-D Appalachian League Bristol Twins, pitcher Ron Necciai struck out 27 batters while pitching a 7-0 no-hitter against the Welch Miners.

“After the game, [catcher] Harry Dunlop said, hey, you had 27 strikeouts,” Necciai says. “I just assumed it had been done before. It wasn’t till the next morning when the phone started ringing that I understood it hadn’t.” By the next morning Ron Necciai was a celebrity, soon to be the subject of a feature article in The Sporting News. Necciai’s accomplishment remains without parallel in baseball history.

The league’s season starts in June, after major league teams have signed players that they selected in the annual amateur draft, and ends in September. The league is divided into an East Division and a West Division.


Related posts: “Baseball legend Hack Wilson”

Appalachian+League Appy+League minor+league+baseball appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

One Response

  • Hugh Goodman says:


    I am doing some research for a friend of mine whose uncle is supposed to have played in the Baltimore Orioles farm system in the 1950s. I did notice that the Orioles had a farm team in Wytheville in 1954 and Bluefield in 1958-59. The player in question’s name is Preston Marathas.

    Are you aware of any local baseball historians i could contact who might be able to assist me?

    Thank you

    Hugh Goodman

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A Civil War treasure returned

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 12, 2016

Daughters of the Confederacy
Confederate Memorial Day is May 10. On May 12, 1909 the 4th Ohio Cavalry Association returned the Rifle Scouts’ Civil War battle flag to the state of Alabama at the Elk’s Theater in Huntsville. Note the presence of Tallulah B. Bankhead –not the famous actress, who was 7 years old at the time, but rather her mother.

Captain John R. Pitts of the 4th Ohio Cavalry Association presented the flag to Mrs. Charles G. Brown of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The following individuals are pictured: Mayor T. W. Smith of Huntsville; James Quinton (4th Ohio); Mrs. Virginia Clay-Clopton (UDC); Mrs. Helen Plaine (UDC); Joseph H. Goddard (4th Ohio); L. C. Bramkamp (4th Ohio); T. C. Lindsey (4th Ohio); W. W. Shoemaker (4th Ohio); William H. Henry (4th Ohio); Mrs. A. W. Newsom (UDC); Mrs. Charles G. Brown (UDC); Mrs. Cornelia Branch Stone (UDC); Mrs. Andrew J. Dowdell (UDC); Captain John R. Pitts (4th Ohio); Mrs. Thomas W. Palmer (UDC); Mrs. Bennett B. Ross (UDC); Mrs. Leopold Bashinski (UDC); Mrs. Tallulah B. Bankhead (UDC); Mrs. Clarence M. Tardy (UDC); Thomas Osborn (4th Ohio); M. H. Richardson (4th Ohio); C. N. Vaught (UCV); James R. Johnson; Mrs. Ellen P. Bryce (UDC); Mrs. Asa S. Rountree (UDC); Mrs. L. T. Pride (UDC).

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She donated her mansion to the church but then sued to get it back

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 11, 2016

Alice Jane Meek (1877-1961) could trace her roots to members of pioneer families in Eastern Kentucky. Her resourcefulness emerged early when, amid serious competition, she wooed and wed a teacher from a one-room schoolhouse in Van Lear who had been her instructor.

She bore John C.C. Mayo —“Calhoun” to her— two children, John C.C. 2nd and Mary Margaret. A highly focused woman, Alice contributed greatly to the rise and success of the man who became the wealthiest man in Kentucky by the time of his death. He was a pioneer in the development of the coal industry in the Big Sandy Valley.

Mrs. Mayo traveled with her husband as he met with local landowners to acquire their coal interests. She would often speak with the wives and work out deals for the interests behind the scenes. Her nicknames of “Alkie Jane” and “Alka” were well known, and Mr. Mayo named a steamboat after her that was misspelled as “Thealka” rather than “The Alka.” When the steamer was built in 1899, Alka Mayo became president of the Paintsville and Catlettsburg Packet Co., which operated the boats.

Steamboat ThealkaThe Thealka, classified as a batwing boat due to the position of her paddle wheels. Instead of a single stern paddle wheel, she was equipped with two smaller side wheels, set well towards the stern of the boat. Photo undated.

In 1906 the North East Coal Company had created Muddy Branch, an unincorporated community in Johnson County, but in 1911, renamed it “Thealka” after the steamboat.

Alka worked hard to develop the public relations of Calhoun’s enterprises and helped to get railroads to Pike County to move the coal to market. From 1905 to 1912 she spent a great deal of time directing construction of the couple’s new three-story mansion in Paintsville, KY.

By 1913 the Mayos were comfortable enough to take a lengthy tour of Europe. They’d already traveled together to New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago and Minneapolis. Soon after their return from Europe, however, Mr. Mayo learned that he had Bright’s Disease, which in 1914 was incurable. He consulted physicians in Cincinnati, where he was briefly hospitalized. He was eventually moved to New York City in search of the most eminent doctors, but to no avail, and he died in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on May 11, 1914.

After her first husband’s death in 1914, a distraught Alice moved to Florida. In 1916 she met Dr. Samuel P Fetter of Portsmouth, OH when he was recuperating from an illness in Palm Beach, where she frequently visited. He was a bachelor several years her junior, whose “mother presides over his household.” The couple married at his friend Cyrus Preston’s home, and moved to Ashland, KY in 1917. They purchased a Victorian home there, but due to war rations, were not allowed to build a new house.

Mayo residence and S.V. Seminary, Paintsville, KY. Undated photo, courtesy New Country 98.9 WSIP

Mayo residence and S.V. Seminary, Paintsville, KY. Undated photo, courtesy New Country 98.9 WSIP


Alice received permission to “remodel” and henceforth rebuild almost the entire house. During this period she became a director of the Mayo Companies. Before the marriage, she had formed the Mrs. John C.C. Mayo Company, transferred all the property of the estate to this corporation, and divided the stock between her children. She donated the Mayo home and land to Sandy Valley Seminary. In 1918 the grounds and buildings of Sandy Valley Seminary were acquired by the Methodist Episcopal Church/South, and its name changed to John C. C. Mayo College.

The marriage to Dr. Fetter only lasted 4 years. He was 37 when he died. Like his predecessor, he had gone to New York just months before his death in hopes of finding a cure for his illness, but was similarly diagnosed as incurable. Alice, “for business reasons related to the administration of the properties and enterprises inherited from the late John C. C. Mayo,” changed her last name legally back to Mayo, reported the Paintsville Herald in 1927.

After years of financial struggle the Methodist Church Conference reluctantly closed Sandy Valley Seminary in 1928. A bitter legal battle promptly erupted between the Conference and Mrs. Mayo over ownership of the properties; she claimed that “the purposes having failed, title to the lands had reverted to and was vested in her as the surviving donor;” the Conference disagreed. Mrs. Mayo eventually won ‘Board of Missions of Methodist Episcopal Church v. Mayo’ and received undisputed title to the school property in 1936.

She then sold the house and property to E. J. Evans, a friend and employee of John Mayo. Mr. Evans leased the mansion and other buildings. In 1938, Paintsville bought the Mayo College property and the Kentucky General Assembly created and opened the Mayo Vocational School.

In 1945, Mr. Evans sold the mansion and grounds to the Most Reverend William T. Mulloy, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Covington, KY, and his successors in office. Under the guidance of the Sisters of Divine Providence from Melbourne, KY, Our Lady of the Mountains was opened in October, 1945. It is currently under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, KY. Alice Meek Mayo died in Ashland on Sept 5, 1961 and was buried behind the Mayo mansion in Paintsville.

sources: The Kentucky Encyclopedia, by John E. Kleber

Ashland Daily Independent, Front Page September 5, 1961
Board of Missions of Methodist Episcopal Church v. Mayo
A standard history of the Hanging Rock iron region of Ohio: an …, Volume 2 edited by Eugene B. Willard et al.
New York Times, March 19, 1921, page 11, “Samuel P Fetter Dead”

7 Responses

  • Jesse says:

    This is my husbands great grandmother! Really interesting stuff! There’s a lot of information out there about John CC Mayo, but this is the first I’ve ever seen about his wife. Very cool.

  • Leigh Ann says:

    Very cool indeed. Alice Mayo is my Great grandmother Thelma Meek’s sister. Their father was Warren Maitland Meek. My father was named after him.

  • Brian Daley says:

    Great article! John CC was my great great uncle! Fun tracking down this history!

  • michael says:

    Mr. Mayo invented the concept of a land owner selling the mineral rights to his property. Thus, poor folk in eastern Kentucky could keep their land, but Mayo owned the rights to the underground coal. The results were ruined farms and families who were paid pennies for their coal, and a very wealthy Mr. Mayo.

  • freda says:

    Just because Mr. Mayo invented the concept. The land owners sold their rights. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their own actions. And no I’m not related to him!

  • David meek says:

    Alice J Meek (Mayo) was a daughter to Greenville Meek. You should get your facts straight.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    Thanks for the correction, David.

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They courted for 7 years, going places together with the crowd

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 10, 2016

To see Mrs. Augusta Robinson walking over town from Castle Hill, which she does most everyday, where she makes her home with her daughter’s family, one would never believe she is old enough to join the Past 80 Club.  But she was born May 10th, 1875 in Collierstown, the daughter of Mr. John and Mrs. Wilhelmina Robinson.

There were 6 children in her family, 3 boys and 3 girls, and she is the lone survivor. Mrs. Robinson says all of her education was received in the Maple Grove, one room, log school located in the Entsminger hollow near where the New Hope Baptist church now stands.  Her first teacher was Mrs. John L. Pain and is remembered by Mrs. Robinson as a very kind person.

Fancy Hill, VA in Rockbridge County  1920

A small country store on an early path of Rt. 11 near Fancy Hill, in Rockbridge County, VA. Photographed by Arch Tolley about 1920.

On one occasion there was a hole between the logs in the ante-room, which was used as a clothes closet, and some of the boys pushed a plank through which they were using as a seesaw. Mrs.Pain said “Children, what will people passing by think?”  That was all that was necessary; the plank came out.

Her second and third teachers were Mr. Ed Harrington and Miss Margaret Ayers.  Schoolmates she recalled were Miss Drewry Entsminger, Mrs. Emma Conner, Mrs. Rebecca Nicholson, Rucker, Oak, Carter, Minnie and Maude Entsminger and the John Entsminger family.

In those days children didn’t get to Sunday school until they were good size because most people had to walk.  But Mrs. Robinson said the catechism was always taught in the home.  Her early Sunday school days were at the Rough and Ready school House which was on the turnpike going over North Mountain.  It was some walk from her home, but she thoroughly enjoyed it, with the crowd composed of:  her family of 6, 4 boys and 4 girls from the John Entsminger family, 3 girls from the Clinton Entsminger family and Miss Emma Hayslett.

They traveled across the hill, over fences, across the creek, through a muddy lane. The one great occasion in Mrs. Robinson’s life was when she was converted. Rev. E. C. Root conducted a revival at the Rough and Ready school and she was one of the 18 converts, who were baptized in the creek in front of Mr. Bill Knick’s house, which is now owned by the Supervisor Herbert Chittum.  Of this group there are only three living; Mrs. Drewery Entsminger, Mrs. Emma Conner, and Mrs. Robinson.

When the New Hope Baptist church was built Mrs. Robinson moved her membership there, where it has remained through the years, even though she attends the Baptist church here in town most of the time.

Mrs. Gussie says she can remember when her mother cooked on the fireplace and later when they bought their first cooking stove. Like every other girl of that day she learned to cook but much preferred working in the corn fields with her brothers.  Of course there were not as many different means of entertainment as we have today but the youngsters got together on different occasions.

What she enjoyed most was the taffy pulling which always followed molasses making from the sugar cane her father raised. Laughing, Mrs. Robinson said, “the children of today raise cane—but of a different kind.”

Another annual affair was in the fall when the young people of the community gathered in the home of Mrs. P. I. Huffman to help her and her two daughters—May, who later became the wife of Dr. H. R. Coleman, Sr.—and Lucille, who married Ernest Armstrong.  As a reward Mrs. Huffman always treated them to hot apple pie, honey, preserves and hot biscuits.

At the age of 14 Mrs. Robinson became interested in boys.  Jordan Entsminger was her special friend, and she said they courted for 7 years, going places together with the crowd.  But, finally they were married on November 20, 1894 by Rev. E. T. Mason, Sr., in her home.  Their attendants were Cynthia and Eliza Entsminger and Sam and Emmett Robinson.  Her wedding dress was of a tan worsted material, Basque waist, high collar, long sleeves, and the skirt touched the floor. Her matching felt hat was trimmed in darker tan ribbon.

They started housekeeping two weeks later at Long Dale mines, where they lived for 13 months. To this union there was one daughter, Mrs. Gilmore Reid. Mrs. Robinson now has 3 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

In spite of her 80 years she is planning ahead just like a young person. She says she expects to go dewberry picking this summer and wants to pick enough to can 8 quarts and some for jelly and preserves like she did last summer.

When asked what she attributed her long life to, Mrs. Robinson said she didn’t know, but she thanked God for giving her good health through the years. If you don’t know Mrs. Robinson it would be worth your while to meet her and learn how she lives—always in a good humor and ever ready with something worth while to talk about.

Lexington [VA] Gazette, June 1, 1955, “Past 80 Club”
online at

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Old Man Wright rides into exile

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 9, 2016

Sunday Magazine–St. Louis Post Dispatch–May 9, 1926

So as to Git Away From Trouble, This Settler of the Hills–Fighter and Killer–Sits Astride His Mare and Goes Slowly Down to the Valleys.
Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

Pikeville, KY—Old Man Lige Wright packed his traps in the saddlebags and gingerly pulled himself across the back of his good bay mare. He rode out then through Osborn Gap and into Virginia slowly. For Old Man Lige Wright was doing the hardest thing he had ever done. He was running away from trouble.

Back of him was a lifetime of warfare. And ELIJAH WRIGHT was essentially a man of peace. He feared no one. He told no lies. And he paid his debts. There were notches on his gun–speaking figuratively–but that was Lige Wright’s misfortune. The luckiest unlucky man that ever lived! Twice he had been condemned to spend his life in the penitentiary.

Once he had been sentenced to hang by the neck until he was dead. And in Virginia–whither now he was going–Elijah Wright had served to the full a life sentence for murder. For in the Commonwealth of Virginia, eighteen years in prison is, constructively, a life term. His debt to the Commonwealth had been paid in full.

Old Man Lige WrightFour years ago at the door of the penitentiary, the Commonwealth of Virginia had given Elijah Wright a suit of clothes and a bill and sent him out to face life’s battle. And he had gone back to his native Kentucky hills to begin once again. There trouble had come upon him–trouble that was not of his own seeking, though the moon¬shine liquor that brought it on had been.

And now he was going into voluntary exile. It was not that he was afraid. In the old man’s face you could read the fearlessness of an eagle. There was no man lived who could say that Old Man Lige Wright was afraid. He had leaped too often to meet death face to face.

His right hand, which gingerly held the reins as the bay mare ambled through the gap, was still stiff from a deep cut between forefinger and the stub of what at one time had been his thumb. This cut was a mark left by the butcher knife when he seized it as his enemy lunged that night last March.

And as he rode into exile Old Man Lige Wright thanked God that those enemies from behind had knocked him senseless with his own gun–taken while he wasn’t look¬ing from his saddlebags, wounding him so sorely that he rode even now in a dizzy haze and sometimes saw double as images danced before his eyes. He thanked God that the blow had prevented him from seizing that murderous knife and turning it against the wielder.

Read the full story here

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