Happy Independence Day!

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 4, 2014

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B’ar in the Syrup Bar’l

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 3, 2014

Back in the days when this was new ground you had to cotch a b’ar ef you wanted to keep warm.

Yessuh, my pappy knew this country when she was somep’n. He come over the mountains from South Ca’liny with his pappy, my gran’pappy, and gran’maw, when he was jus’ a boy. When they decided to ‘light here a spell, this wasn’t overrun with folks like now when you can’t go two whoops and a holler without runnin’ into a cabin.

Man in a wagon pulled by oxen in Fort Payne, AL, circa 1880-1889.

Man in a wagon pulled by oxen in Fort Payne, AL, circa 1880-1889.

Back in them days it was a good ten-mile to the nearest folks, lessen you count Injuns, which pappy said nobody did back then, ‘cept when they got to drinkin’.

Pappy says times like that was when dead Injuns was surely the only good Injuns. But gran’pappy didn’t wait for ‘em to git good. He used to take gran’maw and pappy and the other kids down to a cave a short piece from here and hide out till them Injuns sobered up. Other times, pappy says they didn’t have to trouble with the Injuns. They didn’t get no help from ‘em neither, and that was a time when gran’pappy sure needed help.

He brang a load of truck in the kivvered wagon they rode from South Ca’liny here and he had young steers on the front end fitten to work when piled high with a plow, and hoes and axes and such like tools, along with cotton and corn and wheat seed. What little room was left, pappy said they shoved in some household things, but not much. Pappy said he was real sorry that they hadn’t put in more kivvers until the time come when they cotched the b’ar.

Leastways they didn’t have no trouble finding logs to build ‘em a cabin. Pappy says the trees was so thick you had to squeeze between ‘em, and they just took their pick of big fine logs to cut and peel and notch to build the cabin. Whilst it was building they slept in the kivvered wagon and tried to get the Injuns to help out. A few friendly ones would work now and then, but they warn’t worth a lick, pappy says. He claims he and gran’pappy did most of the the building and scratching up a little patch of dirt to get some seeds in.

Grinding cane and making syrup in DeKalb County, circa 1880-1889.

Grinding cane and making syrup in DeKalb County, circa 1880-1889.

They come along here in the Winter time and pappy says the frosties in them days was like a light snow it lay so thick on the trees and rocks. Took two or three hours atter good sunup to melt it off, so he says you just naturally humped yourself a-working to keep from freezing to death. They got a good patch cleared up by the time frost broke and got in planting of all them seeds they brang and some millet seed the Injuns give ‘em.

They made fine crops and things rocked along thataway for two year and pappy says they fin’lly got along to building another room to the cabin. About that time some neighbors moved in, not more’n five mile away, and he says gran’pappy was afeared for a while things would get crowded. But they help the neighbors r’ar ‘em up a cabin and got to visiting around frequent, much as oncet a month or so.

The second Summer gran’pappy laid out to make him some sorghum cane and got in a right good crop. That there sorghum just about saved ‘em from freezing to death pappy say, ‘cause even with some blankets gran’pappy had traded offen the Injuns and gran’mammy biled in lye for going on a week, it was pretty cold that second winter.

We knowed there was b’ars up in the hills. They come down in the corn, but gran’pappy didn’t mess around with ‘em none. He was right handy with his rifle but he didn’t put faith in it against b’ars. Anyhow, this Summer he really turns out some fine sorghum cane and when the steers git through grinding he had a sight of syrup.

Pappy says the kids had all the long sweetening they could hold and gran’mammy filled up all the big gourds, what she had done scraped and washed during the Summer, to lay by a store for the winter. Even then there was plenty left over, so gran’pappy traded off with the Injuns for a keg that they’d had whiskey in on one of their big drunks. Gran’mammy talked with him a long time about the evils of drink and putting sweetening innocent chillun would eat into a barrel where rum had been, but gran’pappy convinced her that sorghum was strong enough to lick any rum. So they filled up the bar’l and set it out in the store shed where they was hams and bacon and the chickens roosted when it was cold.

One night atter ‘simmon time and when the wild turkeys was a calling down in the holler, they all come wide awake, pappy says, with the biggest racket out in the store shed anybody ever heard.

Gran’mammy yelled ‘Injuns!’ and started packing up to get down to the cave, but gran’pappy said ‘Twarn’t Injuns ‘cause nobody yelled. So he gits his rifle, pappy gits the axe and afterwards, ‘cause they didn’t notice then, they found out gran’mammy come traipsing atter ‘em with her sedge broom. She made that broom herself, too; cut a straight hickory sapling, scythed her down some ripe sedge and tied it on with cotton thread she spun herself.

Anyways the three of ‘em git on out to the store shed where the chickens is a squawking and there’s a beating and a thumping and a sorta groaning going somep’n awful. The door burst open and out come a big black thing with somep’n on its head. Gran’pappy fired and missed.

’Hit’s a b’ar,’ he yelled, and pappy says he went in a-swinging with his axe.

‘Don’t you tech that b’ar,’ gran’mammy yelled at him. ‘We needs that hide.’ With that she just naturally laid into that b’ar with her broom, pappy hopping round trying to git in a lick with his axe without cutting the hide, and gran’pappy hopping fust on one foot and then t’other, to keep his toes from freezing in the deep frost, while he tried to load his gun.

What with gran’mammy a whooping him with that broom, pappy a-yelling and gran’pappy cussing a streak every time he hopped, that b’ar was just plumb skeered to death, I reckon. Anyhow, pappy says he r’ared up on his hind legs and started slapping at that bar’l trying to git it offen his head. By and by he slaps feeble-like and in about three-four minutes he just rolled over on his side, dead. That long sweetening had just choked him to death.

By the time gran’mammy got through scraping and curing his hide they sure slept warm that winter, and all his sinews made good strings for fixing up the plow drags for the steers next Summer, so gran’pappy was able to git in a fine crop. So did the neighbors, and there was cornshucking frolics all that Fall. Everybody went in together and after the corn was shucked, there was eating as was eating!”

Written by Margaret Fowler in 1937 for WPA Alabama Writers’ Project, “Folklore of DeKalb County”

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When the war ended, all the coal mine whistles blowed

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 2, 2014

My father was a coal miner back in the…well, he went into the coal mine when he was 12 years old, and he came out when he was 47. And he worked through the First World War, well he worked, that’s all he ever done, ’till he came to the farm. But he worked through the First World War, but he was down here in the other one.

Everything was rationed back there, just like in the Second World War. You had to take sugar, you had to take cornmeal, and a whole bunch of stuff to get other things, you know. And tea and coffee and all that was rationed. But my dad went in when he was 12 years old. ‘Cause it was a big family of them and he had to work.

Well, bread was ten cents a loaf. And when you could get a dollar—you couldn’t get a dollar hardly ever—but if you got a dollar you could buy something with it. And you can’t now but whenever you made a dollar, and you’d save to get groceries, well, then you could get stuff; but we baked our bread and churned our own butter and had our own eggs and all of that.

We grew gardens and fields, you know, with corn and stuff like that, but I’ve lived with my parents and all my life, and I’ll be 91 in March, and never forget your mother son—that’s right I don’t care—well, your dad too if he’s some people’s man. I feel sorry for the people who do get them and don’t want them and I don’t believe in that.

The teachers were strict when I was in school. If you whispered or turned in your seat a little bit, I don’t know. I can remember once, I whispered, and I remember that teacher ‘till this day. She bent my thumb back like this and whipped me here with a ruler. And you wouldn’t do that now nowadays in school, y’know.

And I was 10 years old when the First World War stopped. And we had to gather, I don’t know what this is ever for, but they had a nail cagier, they used to have nail cagier back then, and we had to save all the nutshells like hickory nuts, walnuts, or anything, but what they ever done with them, I don’t know.

Frontispiece from 'The Story of the Great War,' by Francis Joseph Reynolds et al., 1916.

Frontispiece from ‘The Story of the Great War,’ by Francis Joseph Reynolds et al., 1916.

But when the war ended, all the coal mine whistles blowed, the school bells rung, and the peoples’ wonderin’, well they hadn’t heard yet that the Armistice was signed. They was wonderin’ …and then they all celebrated. But I was ten years old when that ended.

I had an uncle over there in the war. It was rough, they was in those trenches y’know, and things. My mother made taffy and sent it to her brother for Christmas, and he got it, he said and then he sent me a piece to read in church and I knew two verses. “In Flanders field the poppies rose,” and something about crosses rose on rose, but I remember that.

When we was havin’ church I always went to church, and he sent me a doll baby from over there, but he never got back. And I had a cousin over there. They never knew what became of him.

The coal mines had to put out coal and that made the production but my dad was a coal miner and he went from loading coal cut more. And that’s what he did. When he was in the coal mine, mother would put a fire in for the winter so you could have something to bake bread with.

We always had a cow and when my dad was in the coal mines he had ten acres that he would farm. And we always had a cow and chickens and had hogs. That helped with the butchering and things and Mom always kept a garden and we used to churn butter and sell it to people and back then you’d skim the cream off the milk and save it to make butter.

People’d come and buy it for the skimmed milk, you know, and they say it’s better than the stuff you get now. Well there’d be little bits of cream floating in it. Things ain’t like they used to be. Food’s not like it used to be. Sugar, and they got so much dope in the stuff you don’t know what you’re eatin’ and what you are.

Well, my sister was older than me and she was boss, but I didn’t really get in trouble but for Halloween—we’d throw corn and we had a thing with a wooden spool and you’d wrap a string around it and I think you used rosin on it like on violins; and you’d set that on someone’s window and that would make the darndest noise.

And I’ve never trick-or-treated, and you weren’t allowed to be on the streets all hours of the night, and my parents were strict. They knew where their parents were and their parents knew where they were. Wasn’t like some of the families are today.

 

Emma Barnhill
Guysville, OH
b. 1908
interviewed 1998 by Jesse Brown, Countdown to Millennium Oral History Project, a cooperative effort between Ohio University and Rural Action

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A Quilt and Its Many Connections

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 1, 2014

Please welcome guest author Sherry Joines Wyatt. Wyatt is the Collections Manager at the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center in Christiansburg, VA. The museum collects and exhibits Montgomery County history and works by regional artists, has an extensive historic photograph collection, and offers a research library.

 

Research often leads you in directions you never considered. In preparation for the new history exhibit (opening July 1), we began researching the quilts in the museum’s collection.

One of these, an unfinished quilt top in the Pine Burr pattern, was intriguing because it is a friendship quilt made by at least twelve women whose names or initials are on the quilt top. We wanted to learn something about the women who made the quilt top. I started with the genealogy of the donors—the Stanger-Silvers family who donated the quilt and other items in 1988.

Portion of Exhibit_MontgomeryMuseum

A color guide for historic fabrics provided an approximate late-nineteenth century date, guiding me to theorize who the quilt makers had been. I soon discovered that many of the women had lived in the Belmont community of Montgomery County. This was a good start, but what else could I learn?

Marriage records seemed to be a logical place to find out more. The marriage dates of the women could help me to discover a more accurate quilt date since friendship quilts were often done in honor of a marriage.

In fact, I learned much more. By chance, I noticed that two of the women were married by the same minister: Reverend D. Bittle Groseclose. This was a new idea – what if the women were not only neighbors or relatives, but also attended the same church.

Crazy Quilt Detail.

Crazy Quilt Detail.

Three women who I believe were connected to the quilt were married in 1890, 1892, and 1896 by Rev. Groseclose. Rev. Groseclose served as chaplain at Virginia Polytechnic Institute from 1897-1902 and organized New St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in the Glade community of Montgomery County in 1903 shortly before he moved to South Carolina.

A search of all the marriage records for 1889-1903 revealed that Rev. Groseclose had married 98 couples. These couples ran the social gamut including African Americans and whites, miners and farmers, railroad workers and physicians. I also learned that an additional twelve couples related to the quilt makers were married by Rev. Groseclose. My study of Rev. Groseclose has brought me a richer history of the lives of these women.

Pine Burr friendship quilt top donated by Stanger-Silvers family in 1988, currently on exhibit.

Pine Burr friendship quilt top donated by Stanger-Silvers family in 1988, currently on exhibit.

In the end, I have been able to hypothesize that the quilt top was made for Amanda Linkous (1864-1906), probably upon her marriage to Sylvester Stanger (1866-1942) in 1890. The identified quilt makers are thought to include: Mattie Hawley, who may have been the daughter of James and Catherine Hawley; Mary Keister, who may have been the daughter of James Ballard and Nancy Hawley Keister; Hattie B. Long who is thought to have been the daughter of William and Rebecca Long; and Luvenie (or Louvenia) Sheppard who was married to James C. Stanger in 1896 by Rev. Groseclose. The fifth name on the quilt top is partially illegible: “ ___ Linkes” [sic, Linkous]. Are you able to identify this Miss Linkous?

Join us to see the Pine Burr quilt top and many other quilts during the museum’s new exhibit: A Pieced History: Quilts in Montgomery County.

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New Exhibit at Salem Museum celebrates D-Day

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 30, 2014

A new exhibit at southwest Virginia’s Salem Museum commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion with a unique look at one World War II troop transport, the USAT General George W. Goethals, and its role in that epic campaign.

Used to ferry men and equipment in the Atlantic during and after WWII, the Goethals was operated by the United States Army and for the most part carried out routine and uneventful voyages during the war. In June 1944, however, the Goethals took part in the D-Day invasion, one of the most dramatic and well-remembered moments in the war.

The USAT General George W. Goethals. Courtesy Salem Museum.

The USAT General George W. Goethals. Courtesy Salem Museum.

The June 6th D-Day landing in Normandy was one of most difficult seaborne invasions in history and contributed significantly to the Allied victory in World War II.

“The fact that much of the ship’s story survives is by sheer coincidence, and the fact that we have such significant artifacts to tell the story of the Goethals is even more of a coincidence,” said Salem Museum Director John Long. It was a series of chance encounters that made the exhibit possible.

The first coincidence: a ship flag, logs of the Goethal’s activities, and photos of the vessel were donated to the Salem Museum many years ago by the widow of an officer who served aboard the ship. Her husband had attended Roanoke College, but had no other particular connection to Salem.

However, it was only recently as Long began to research the ship and relics that the full story, and the ship’s forgotten connection to one of WWII’s most important operations, was uncovered.

Goethals Ships Flag

“The flag was described in our records simply as a navy flag, no other explanation,” said Long, who also teaches WWII history at nearby Roanoke College. “But we discovered, among other interesting data, that the Goethals was not a naval vessel; it was a ship of the United States Army. It is a little known fact that the army operated more ships in WWII than the navy did!”

More poignantly, Long noted, this ship was significant because it was involved in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, more commonly known as the D-Day invasion.

“The Goethals served in that campaign by bringing elements of the 2nd Infantry Division to Omaha Beach on June 7, the second day of the fight,” said Long. On that day, the ship’s personnel came under fire and witnessed, among other things, the sinking of the Susan B. Anthony, another troop transport in the flotilla.

The Goethals was credited with being the first troop transport to arrive at Omaha Beach (earlier troops hit the beach only from smaller landing craft).

The other coincidence leading to this exhibit involves something the crewmen of the Goethals never imagined: Youtube.

After the Salem Museum posted a video describing the ship’s flag online, Rick Pitz of San Jose, CA, contacted the Museum. His father, William Pitz, had served on the Goethals, and as a signalman likely hoisted the flags in the Museum collection. After a flurry of email correspondence, Pitz made the trek to Salem with his mother to see the Goethals collection and meet with Long. In his father’s memory, Pitz made a donation to fund the new exhibition.

“Of course, this summer marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day,” noted Long. “It’s the right time to tell this compelling story.”

After WWII, the Goethals was tasked with ferrying European “war brides” and the children of American servicemen to the US to begin their new lives. When the maritime arm of the Army was discontinued, the ship was transferred to the Navy, continuing to serve in the Atlantic through the Korean War period. She was inactivated in 1959 and scrapped in 1971.

In another interesting local coincidence, Long discovered that the Goethals had a sister ship named for a Salem native. The USAT David C. Shanks was another army transport of the same class, serving in the Pacific Theater, and was named for the celebrated general, raised in Salem, who commanded the embarkation point in New Jersey that sent American soldiers to Europe in WWI.

The exhibit features flags from Goethals, excerpts from the ship logs, period photographs of the ship and crew, and snapshots taken during the Normandy campaign.

The exhibit, located in the Logan Library of the Salem Museum, continues through the summer. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, VA and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

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