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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Worthy of a place in this cabinet of valuables

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 6, 2016

Here’s a selection from Kentuckian Sarah Ann Jackson’s ‘My Journal for 1835.’ The diary was found between the walls of an old house in Laurel County, KY, but there is nothing that tells us if it was written in that place or how it came to be there. It was the only item found there. Jan Philpot, of the Laurel County Kentucky GenWeb site, transcribed the diary in 2001.

“The diary is written in a faded brown ink,” says Philpot, “with pages toward the back in faded pencil. At times it was difficult to make out, and at those points I place a question mark.”

In the following partial transcript we’ve tried to fill in one or two of those undecipherable points, seeking to remain true to the spirit of the original diary. Spelling and punctuation has been standardized on this excerpt as well for ease of reading. The original exact transcription, with additional notes from the transcriber, can be found at Diary of Sarah Ann Jackson.

May 1st—Children all very pleasant. Camelia is my bed fellow as yet.

A heavy thunder shower last evening. We children and myself very much terrified. As for myself this is generally the case; for what reason I cannot tell without it is.
I am not prepared for the great change I should have to make if struck by lightning. How strange that I should be so heedless when so many warnings occur daily.

Just returned from the hills. Had a very pleasant visit, fared sumptuously, very much pleasant with Miss Carl. Should be happy to become better acquainted.
Had an introduction to Mr. and Mrs. Carl Law—their children peeking out of the windows.

Sarah Ann Jackson’s  ‘My Journal for 1835’ diary

First page of Sarah Ann Jackson’s ‘My Journal for 1835.’

Arrived home rather sooner than we was expected by the family. Found Aunt N. as usual very busy serving. Since then have been engaged in needle work. Aunt very busy preparing for a carpet. Her girls and I left looking for another.

Prospect of a school rather dull. A gentleman called but did not exactly give me the refusal of it. My spirits are good, but if I should take all in consideration in respect to this world and my unconcern for the world to come, it all together would be sufficient to weight them down. My reading at present is ‘Pilgrims Progress.’

Feel very much discouraged in respect to a school.

Attended church at Babylon; heard Mr. Platt preach two sermons in the forenoon. His text was in 5th chapter 27th verse in Samuel. In the afternoon in Luke 22nd chapter 22nd verse. Went during intermission at Mr. Carl’s. Had cake and water for refreshment. Spoke with Mrs. Staples. Set with the singers in the afternoon. Had an excellent dinner when we returned home.

Awoke this morning just as the king of day shed forth a sufficient number of rays to gold the horizon.

Had an introduction to a Mr. Hunt.

May 6th—Spent the day very pleasantly. Miss Davis visited here this afternoon; a very pleasant young lady.

Multiplicity of business today. Have scarce taken a seat. Aunt moving, no help; find it quite necessary to assist her.

Contemplate spending a few days in Babylon in visiting some distant connection and acquaintances. Hopes are blasted in getting a school in this place. They have engaged a gentleman more competent, no doubt, than myself.

I yet retain a faint hope of getting a select school in Babylon. Oh, that I may prosper in that undertaking! If not I then must give up all idea of getting a school this summer, which will disappoint me much.

Thursday May 11th—Went to Mrs. Carl’s in company with Uncle’s family. Had a delightful visit. Called on Mrs. Staples several times; took tea with her, had an excellent repast.

Spent the evening pleasantly at cousin Julia’s. Rode home on Sabbath with Mr. Ireland. Had some very pleasant conversation with Mrs. Cornelius on our way home. They confirmed that a new teacher was to take the school. Received news on my arrival; I ascertained it to be me. If that be the case, to go I must. No backing out!

Went Monday morning according to agreement. Found Mr. B. waiting. Some ladies engaged in cleaning the schoolroom. About nine I entered, and established the school, succeeded very well.

As yet like my employment much. Had a very pleasant call from Mr. P before he left. Find my family differ much in disposition; he has left some very difficult circumstances. Oh, that I may succeed in my efforts to instill the principles of learning and teach the young idea how to succeed.

May 16th—One week flew away with all speed. It appears more like a recent dream than any thing I can compare it too. Have had very little difficulty as yet with the children. Have one that would wish to be obstinate. Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day. Oh, that it may be kept by me right.

May 25th—Since I have written, many incidents have elapsed worthy of a place in this cabinet of valuables. I write down such as occur to me.

When opened school on Monday I had several new names to remember. I find that a difficult part of my undertaking.

Spent last week at Mr. Jar’s home quite pleasantly. The first night took a delightful walk. It was confined to the banks of a small rivulet. This was lovely: the queen of night shed forth a sufficient number of rays to illumine the landscape. It was rather brilliant —or gloomy. All nature appeared to rest in the arms of Morpheus. All was still as at night the labourer had sought repose on his pillow. The weary traveller had taken up his abode for the night. It was thus we sauntered along undisturbed, admiring the serenity and silence of the water.

I contemplate spending the present week at C. Ketchum’s. I dread the first night! Oh, why do I indulge such reflections?? All is for the best.

May 21st—Never enjoy myself better than at Mr. C. Ketchum’s; all so familiar and pleasant. It really appeared like home. I took a walk with Miss K. It was mostly confined to an apple tree, viewing the many different lines exhibited in one tree.

Stay at M.’s? Yet enjoy myself very much, think of visiting at M. W. soon. Hope I shall be as acceptable there as here.

Think of commencing an epistle. Too busy; I will reward myself. Oh, that I may receive a letter! Nearly completed my letter to cousin Julia.

Have 31 different scholars; spending my time very pleasantly.

June 21st— Boarding at Mr. Ketchum’s, spent my time delightfully while there. Have an introduction to Mr. Usher while there. He said was from Kentucky; very tall, rather awkward, yet interesting. He had considerable of the curious; very pointed in conversation. Old Goshen was the theme for some considerable length of time after our introduction with the gentleman.

He was spending the examination in establishing Sabbath schools. He informed me that he belonged to the Princeton Theological Seminary. While at Mr. Ketchum’s his daughters and important self frequently took a walk to see on our neighbors. Would sometimes return without making a call but our walks failed to be pleasant.

We sometimes would go to meeting. There is scarcely an evening in the week but what there is an opportunity of attending some kind. There are three denominations prevailing in this place: Presbyterian, Baptist & Methodist.

4 Responses

  • Susan E. Feldman says:

    Thanks to those instrumental in preserving,transcribing and publishing this light and sweet journal sequence. It’s delightful to read of her success in establishing the classroom that summer and learningo f her observations of a member of Princeton’s Theological Seminary. The talk of future prospects with regard to humanity and general business of the season referencing sun and moon as principles, punctuate a time full of hopes and dreams. A wonderful history and creative piece.

  • tipper says:

    Fascinating peek into her life!

  • The historian in me was fascinated. The genealogist in me kept thinking “look at all these NAMES!” Thank you for sharing this!

  • Peggy Clemens Lauritzen says:

    I LOVED reading this excerpt from this fascinating woman’s life!!!

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The Chain Gang and The Oconee County Cage

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 5, 2016

Report on Oconee County Chain Gang
Mr. Newton Kelly Foreman: Visited July 11 1918
by Assistant Secretary Broyles

Convicts present: 16, 3 of them being trusties. All negroes. Camped about three miles from Seneca. The average daily population on this gang for the past two and a half years has been approximately 12. We found this camp just locating at a new site, which was fairly well chosen and well cleaned off.

 A Southern chain gang, between 1900 and 1906.

A Southern chain gang, between 1900 and 1906.

The men were washing ticks and blankets in a nearby stream under the direction of the foreman. Since our last inspection the Commissioners have provided new bedding for the convicts and have gotten slip covers for the cotton pads as previously recommended.

The pads have been in use over six months but they are clean and apparently new due to the use of these slip covers with which the foreman is very much pleased. The use of these slip covers has increased the score of the gang this year.

The absence of white men from the gang has further raised the score there being now no question of separation of the races either at work or in camp. The foreman stated to us that the authorities have decided to work no more whites on the chain gang but to send them to the Penitentiary or allow them to serve their sentences in jail. This is a wise decision.

The mule fly is badly torn and we recommend that the Supervisor purchase a new one. The Supervisor should keep in his office a careful record of the convict population showing the name, age, race, date of commitment, length of sentence, date of discharge and reason for the discharge; and finally, more medical attention to the gang should be provided for by paying the county physician a salary for, and requiring him to make, a physical examination of each new convict within 24 hours of his commitment to the gang, to vaccinate against smallpox when indicated, and to make weekly inspections of the convicts food quarters and especially the sanitary arrangements of the camp.

Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs in early 20th century.

Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs in early 20th century.

We recommend that the foreman have the blankets washed regularly every month, washing the ticks on the pads, at the same time that water and oil be put into the sewerage buckets every night when they are put into the cages; that the fecal matter thrown into the pit daily be covered immediately with about three inches of dirt and that this pit be burned out weekly with straw and oil, that the manure from the mule pen be raked up and piled daily and hauled away from camp weekly and scattered over a field, that kitchen slops be kept covered at all times, that every new convict be given clean blankets upon which to sleep and finally that the foreman secure a good book and keep a complete record of the convicts, showing in the book all the information asked for in the recommendation made above to the Supervisor, and in addition showing a description of the men with notes on characteristic scars, etc. which would help to locate or identify him should he escape.

The Quarterly bulletin, Volume 4 By South Carolina. State Board of Charities and Corrections

The Oconee County Chain Gang Report
Made July 13 1920

The Oconee County chain gang is not in as good condition as it was last year. Some of the reasons for the decreased score, however, are only temporary departures from the usual methods of the camp. Two sick men were confined in the cages at the time of this visit so that the beds could not be made up or properly aired. Foreman Cobb had also departed from his usual custom of having a pit for disposing of the sewage and was emptying the soil buckets out on the mountainside.

For the improvement of the camp it is suggested that a soil pit be dug that the buckets be emptied into it each day and that the waste be covered with at least three inches of earth, that the kitchen be screened to protect the food from flies, that each prisoner be given a separate tub of water to bathe in, that more washable covers for the mattresses be purchased and that the practice of allowing the prisoners to initiate new convicts be abolished in order to prevent bad blood among the men, as well as to avoid unwarranted punishment.

Quarterly Bulletin, Volumes 1-2 By South Carolina. State Board of Public Welfare

During the early twentieth century, it was not possible to return prisoners doing work in the most distant parts of Oconee County to the county jail at Walhalla every night.

The solution was the Oconee County Cage, or “Jail on Wheels,” a prison pulled by a team of horses.

While this treatment of prisoners seems horrible by today’s standards, it was hardly unusual for the early 1900s, and it was certainly far better than the treatment many prisoners received during the years before 1900.

Interior of Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs

Interior of Oconee County Cage, used to house SC chain gangs in early 20th century.

Although the cage is only fourteen feet long, eight feet wide, and seven feet high, there were four metal bunk beds of three tiers each inside for a total of twelve beds. A small metal barrel in the center of the floor was used for a fire on cold nights, and canvas covered the sides of the cage to protect the men from cold winds.

The men who worked on the roads in the county and who slept in the cage at night were often serving short sentences of less than two months. On weekends, their families sometimes visited them and brought small baskets of food from home. One man, who remembers visiting a relative assigned to the cage while performing county work, remarked that everyone including the guards would have lunch together on Sunday and talk about friends and local happenings.

In 1915, when the prisoners were working on the Oconee Station Road, they were fed fried bacon, biscuits and syrup, and coffee for breakfast; cabbage, bacon, and cornbread for lunch; and fried bacon, biscuits and syrup for supper. This diet was probably standard at that period.

After the county acquired gasoline powered trucks and machinery in the 1930s and built a county stockade (prison), the cage ceased to be used. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Sources: The Quarterly bulletin, Volume 4 1918 By South Carolina. State Board of Charities and Corrections
The Quarterly bulletin, Volume 1-2 1920 By South Carolina. State Board of Charities and Corrections

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How the strawberry came to the Cherokee people

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 4, 2016

In the beginning of the world, ga lv la di e hi — Father to us in heaven living— created First Man and First Woman. Together they built a lodge at the edge of a dense forest. They were very happy together; but like all humans do at times, they began to argue.

Finally First Woman became so angry she said she was leaving and never coming back. At that moment First Man really didn’t care. First Woman started walking westward down the path through the forest. She never looked back.

As the day grew later, First Man began to worry. At last he started down the same path in search of his wife. The Sun looked down on First Man and took pity on him. The Sun asked First Man if he was still angry with First Woman. First Man said he was not angry any more. The Sun asked if he would like to have First Woman back. First Man readily agreed he did.

The Sun found First Woman still walking down the path toward the West. So to entice her to stop, the Sun caused to grow beneath her feet lovely blueberries. The blueberries were large and ripe. First Woman paid no attention but kept walking down the path toward the West.

Further down the path the Sun caused to grow some luscious blackberries. The berries were very black and plump. First Woman looked neither left nor right but kept walking down the path toward the West.

At last the Sun caused to grow a plant that had never grown on the earth before. The plant covered the ground in front of First Woman. Suddenly she became aware of a fragrance she had never known.

Stopping she looked down at her feet. Growing in the path was a plant with shiny green leaves, lovely white flowers with the largest most luscious red berries she had ever seen. First Woman stopped to pick one. Hmmm…she had never tasted anything quite like it! It was so sweet.

As First Woman ate the berry, the anger she felt began to fade away. She thought again of her husband and how they had parted in anger. She missed him and wanted to return home.

First Woman began to gather some of the berries. When she had all she could carry, she turned toward the East and started back down the path. Soon she met First Man. Together they shared the berries, and then hand in hand, they walked back to their lodge.

The Cherokee word for strawberry is ani. The rich bottomlands of the old Cherokee country were noted for their abundance of strawberries and other wild fruits. Even today, strawberries are often kept in Cherokee homes. They remind us not to argue and are a symbol of good luck.

source: ‘The First Strawberries,’ retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren

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