Old Order Amish

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 21, 2014

When you’re in Oakland or Grantsville, MD, you’re in Old Order Amish territory. If you’re not Amish yourself, you may be wondering just how that group got its name. You’d have to go back to the Zurich, Switzerland of the 1690s and make the acquaintance of one Jakob Amman. Amman’s roots were in the Anabaptists, a movement that had sprung up in 1525, in direct conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics practiced infant baptism; the Anabaptists believed solely in adult baptism.

Originally known as Swiss Brethren, the Zurich group soon became referred to as Mennonites—a like-minded group led by one Menno Simmons had formed about the same time in the Netherlands, and the tag stuck with the Swiss Brethren as well.

By Jakob Amman’s time, a serious dogmatic dispute had arisen amidst the Mennonites over the practice of Meidung, or shunning of excommunicated members. This practice had been more important in former times, but had lapsed.

Amman, determined that the Meidung should be observed strictly, traveled extensively throughout Switzerland and Alsace between 1693 and 1697 preaching exactly that, and was so insistent that his followers formed a separate camp, excommunicating all other Mennonites who did not practice shunning.

Amman’s conservative Anabaptist followers became known as “ammanasch,” a name which was corrupted eventually to the present “Amish.”

Hounded constantly by the Catholic Church, the Amish immigrated to Pennsylvania, where other religious groups had fled, seeking religious freedom. Many Amish settled first in Lancaster County, PA, and subsequently migrated westward to other parts of Pennsylvania and down into western Maryland. Later Amish immigration from Germany in the 1800’s had more to do with avoiding military conscription than with physical persecution.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether the Amish are a church or an ethnic group, as they do not actively evangelize, and conversions to the group are not common.

The Amish prefer to let their strong and silent lifestyle serve as an example of Christian living. The most important institution within the Amish community is the church. The Bible is interpreted literally and directly. The Mennonite hymn book, the “Ausbund,” is believed to have appeared in 1564 and is still used today by the Old Order Amish.

The worship service includes the singing of four hymns in High German. The German dialect used in everyday discourse, and the more formal German or High German used in worship services, tend to make the group exclusive, although everyone is welcome to attend church or convert to the faith.

Title page of the Ausbund Hymn Book, 1564Title page of the Ausbund Hymn Book, 1564

Garrett County, MD has two communities of Old Order Amish. German immigrant Peter Gortner purchased property four miles south of Oakland in 1850 and established a farm in an area that is today known as Pleasant Valley.

The Old Amish congregation was probably organized in 1855. Church services were held in Gortner’s house in the 1850’s-1860’s, and Peter Gortner is identified as the first minister of the church located there. Peter Gortner Jr. later enhanced the original farm by constructing grist and saw mills, a store, and a post office that was officially designated Gortner.

Joseph Slaughbaugh had a significant influence on the town when he purchased 723 acres in approximately 1857, referred to as Ashby’s Discovery Tract at a tax sale in Cumberland, MD. Slaughbaugh’s siblings moved to the area and developed farms on the expanse of land.

Joseph Slaughbaugh’s house served as the worship center during the 1860s. The Slaughbaugh family donated land for construction of Union Church in Gortner, aptly named as it combined Mennonite and Old Order Amish congregations. Through the preaching of John Holdeman several families left, including two preachers. Daniel Beachey was the first bishop in the congregation. After his death in 1897, bishops from the Somerset churches served the congregation until 1908, when Bishop Lewis M. Beachey was ordained.

Other families who settled in Gortner include Pfeil and Miller from Germany, and Yutzy, Slabach, Selder, Beachey, Gnagey, Schrock, and Petersheim from Somerset and Cambria counties, Pennsylvania.

The settlement always considered itself as one church district, even though in the early days of the settlement several families lived about ten miles west of Oakland, near Aurora and Eglon, WV.

The second western Maryland Old Amish community formed as an integral part of the Amish settlement along the border of Somerset County, PA. Grantsville was the Maryland side center of the settlement; it began in a small way about 1770. This area was in the valley of the Casselman River and so has long been called the Casselman Valley district.

The original settlement here was largely built up by German immigrants from Hesse and Waldeck in 1830-1860. Since numerous Grantsville Amish families moved westward to Holmes County, OH, and Johnson County, IA, before 1860, the community never grew large. The Grantsville Amish community ultimately became almost totally Conservative Amish or Beachy Amish.


Sources: Old Order Amish Settlement: Diffusion and Growth, by William K Crowley, Annals of the Assn of American Geographers, Vol. 68, No. 2, June 1978

Amish appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history Garrett+County+MD Mennonites Old+Order+Amish

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"Their bodies were covered with the wreckage of logs"

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 20, 2014

The 1912 Barranshe Run mishap was one of the more dramatic log train wrecks in West Virginia history.

As the Nicholas County story became legendary, Pardee and Curtin Lumber Company‘s runaway train gained additional notoriety as the subject of a local blind poet, who supported himself by selling copies of his works for a nickel on Oakford Avenue in Richwood,WV. The poem brought additional attention to the accident, popularizing it more than recounting of the wreck circulated by word of mouth.

Like so many items from the past, today there are several uncertainties about the poem. In one version of the poem, Charles Lough [one of 3 railroadmen known to have been killed in the accident] is replaced by Luke King, and the identities of the loadermen seem a bit uncertain. Although the poem leads to a degree of confusion, it is invaluable in many respects-including verifying the date of the accident.

As for the story behind the poem, one version is that J. A. Howell of Diana wrote and peddled it with his other poetry. Another recollection is that J. A. Collins was the blind poet from Diana. Jim Comstock, editor of the West Virginia Hillbilly, prefers the story that J. A. Howell originated the rhyme, adding that Howell wrote other poems about mountain railroading.

Log Train Runaway on Barranshe Run 1912, by George Deike, publ. in The Log Train, issue 80, Nov 2004

log train runaway on Cranberry RiverOriginal photo caption reads: Before the clean up: wreckage strewn down the hillside on Barranshe Run. Visible are several tracks from the skeleton log cars, the Barnhart loader, and Shay no. 7’s diamond smokestack.


On Cranberry River,
Up Barren-She Run,
The trainmen seemed jolly,
Were having their fun,

Eight cars they had loaded,
And four empties, it seemed,
The crew got on board and
turned on the steam.

Ivan Green jumped off
As she started down hill;
They had lost all control,
It was running at will,

Dick Green and Luke King
Both jumped off alarmed;
Near eighty rod further the
excitement grew worse,

The further the faster
Those loaded cars flew.
Frazier Adams, engineer,
Jumped off and was killed;

His head struck a tie,
His brains they were spilled,
Joe Taylor, conductor,
And Russell Berry turned brake.

Both stood to their places,
Which was a mistake.
For the cars jumped the track,
And their lives fled as fog

Their bodies were covered
With the wreckage of logs.
The engine still rolling
And left on the road

Pete King, (the log rollerman)
Alone left on board.
The engine turned over
In Barren-She Run

But, Pete, he slipped out
Of the cab as she turned.
So, he took a tie-ticket
For Camp Four, so they say;

And he arrived there quickly,
The very same day.
For he thought himself all
That was left to tell now

The crew, cars and engine
Broke up in a row.
Squire Thomas and Doctor McClung
Got the word and rushed

To the scene – as quick as they could,
Ivan Green and Dick King
Were both badly hurt,
So Doctor McClung was
Soon put to work.

I must speak of an act
Joe Taylor in Life;
He left some support for his
children and wife.

Sixteen-hundred dollars,
In a check that was good,
His wife she received from their
good brotherhood.

Taylor, Adams and Berry
Were three youngful men,
So prompt in their business,
But sudden their end.

Their bodies were mangled,
In all abscess.
Their spirits departed:
They greatly are missed.

But, those four should be thankful,
To God for their breath,
He, the Great Prophet,
Hath saved them from death,

That they may have time
To prepare for the grave:
God is always able and willing
to save.

I am grateful to Paul Richard Greathouse of Richwood, WV for the generous research assistance and time he offered on this post.

Barranshe+Run Richwood+WV log+train+wrecks blind+poet+of+WV JA+Howell appalachia appalachia+history Appalachian+ballads appalachian+mountains+history

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The Santa Train pulls into town

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 19, 2014

In Appalachia Santa Claus comes the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Since 1943, the Santa Special, more commonly known as the Santa Train, has traveled 110 miles through the mountains of eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia and northeastern Tennessee to distribute loads of candy, toys and other goodies to eager bystanders, most of whom have made it a family tradition. The train typically passes through more than 30 towns delivering Christmas cheer.

"The Santa Train"---Commemorating the 50th Santa Train Special. Print sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber and CSX Transportation, available for purchase at www.kingsportchamber.org

“The Santa Train”—print commemorating the 50th Santa Train Special. Sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber and CSX Transportation; available for purchase at www.kingsportchamber.org


This year 6-time Grammy winner Amy Grant is joining CSX as the special guest on the 2014 Santa Train. Celebrities who have ridden the train include Thompson Square, Allison Krauss, Wynonna & Naomi Judd, Patty Loveless, Travis Tritt, Kree Harrison, and Kathy Mattea.

The 72nd annual Santa Train will make 13 stops on November 22. Amy Grant, Santa Claus and volunteers will deliver 15 tons of toys to thousands of Appalachian residents who live along the route. Train staffers throw candy, crackers, popcorn, bubble gum, cookies, stuffed animals, electronic games, hats, handmade gloves, mittens, toboggans, T-shirts, wrapping paper and other treats from the train’s caboose.

The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce awards a Santa Train Scholarship each year to a graduating senior who attends a high school along the 110-mile Santa Train route between Kingsport, TN and Pikeville, KY. The recipient is chosen based on grade point average, extracurricular activities, financial need, work records and an advisor’s recommendation.

This year’s 2014 recipient is Jacob KernJ. I. Burton High School, Norton, VA. The four-year scholarship is worth $5,000—$625 per semester. To date, the Kingsport Chamber has given 31 scholarships since the first scholarship was awarded in 1989, totaling $155,000.

The Santa Special was the brainchild of Kingsport, TN businessmen who wanted to show their appreciation to the people of the coalfields for their patronage throughout the year.

Santa Train Route
Santa Special officials have said that the first Santa Train pulled just one car and a meager load of gifts. It reached towns and cities that at the time had no other means of transportation. Some believe the train provided many children the only toys they received during World War II.

Joe Higgins played the role of Santa Claus in 1943-44 — the run’s first two years.

sources: www.dickensoncounty.net/santatrain.html


4 Responses

  • Marc Bentley says:

    Holy smokes! I remember going to this as a child; we lived near the Shelbiana train depot; we’d drive down and wait with everyone. Fun times, fun times….

  • Vickie Wenter says:

    I sure would love to participate as a volunteer on the santa train. I remember going on the one out of Richmond Va as a child.

  • Judy Norrby says:

    A number of years ago National Public Radio broadcast the story of the Appalachian Train. The narrator did such a splendid job I wonder if this is available to purchase.

  • Joshua Salmans says:

    One of the adventures that I believe I’ve missed out on is riding a train. I never have: what better train could you ask for than the Santa Train!

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The year with two Thanksgivings

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 18, 2014

“I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-third of November 1939, as a day of general thanksgiving.” How appropriate that Roosevelt’s proclamation was issued on Halloween, the day for tricks or treats. The average citizen was irritated and confused; big business was delighted. In the end, Thanksgiving was celebrated on two different dates that year.
FDR signs a bill
At the beginning of Roosevelt’s presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. However, Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November because that was the day President Abraham Lincoln observed the holiday when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.

FDR’s break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association to extend the Christmas shopping season by one week. Roosevelt had rejected the association’s similar request in 1933 on the grounds that such change might cause confusion. The 1939 proclamation proved him more right than he probably would have liked. Football coaches scrambled to reschedule games set for November 30th, families didn’t know when to have their holiday meals, and people weren’t sure when to start their Christmas shopping.

Some folks found mirth in the situation. “Mr. President: I see by the paper this morning where you want to change Thanksgiving Day to Nov. 23, of which I heartily approve. Thanks,” wrote one Shelby O. Bennett of Shinnston WV, whose letter has been saved by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. “Now there are some things that I would like done and would appreciate your approval:
1. Have Sunday changed to Wednesday.
2. Have Monday’s to be Christmas.
3. Have it strictly against the will of God to work on Tuesday.”

Thousands more letters, most not so lighthearted, poured into the White House. Smaller businesses complained they would lose business to larger stores. Other companies that depended on Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of November lost money; calendar makers were the worst hit because they printed calendars years in advance and FDR made their calendars out of date for the next two years.

Schools were also disrupted by Roosevelt’s decision; most schools had already scheduled vacations and annual Thanksgiving Day football games by the time they learned of Thanksgiving’s new date and had to decide whether or not to reschedule everything. Moreover, many Americans were angry that Roosevelt tried to alter such a long-standing tradition and American values just to help businesses make more money.

Opposition grew. While governors usually followed the president’s lead with state proclamations for the same day, in 1939 some states took matters into their own hands and defied the Presidential Proclamation. Some governors declared November 30th as Thanksgiving. And so, depending upon where one lived, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the 23rd and the 30th. This was worse than changing the date in the first place because many families did not have the same day off as family members in other states and were therefore unable to celebrate the holiday together.

Twenty-three states observed Thanksgiving Day on November 23rd, twenty-three states celebrated on November 30th, and Texas and Colorado declared both Thursdays to be holidays.

sources: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/thanks/remember.html#


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Black Draught and Wine of Cardui

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 17, 2014

When the Civil War ended, two Federal soldiers, Z. C. Patten and T. H. Payne, were mustered out of the army in Chattanooga. They formed a partnership for selling paper, blankbooks and miscellaneous stationery supplies. Business in Chattanooga was in a disorderly state because of the chaos caused by the war, and the rapid surge forward of business reorganization.

Zeboim Carrter Patten (1840 – 1925), taken just after the Civil War. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Zeboim Carrter Patten (1840 – 1925), taken just after the Civil War. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Soon after its formation the Patten-Payne partnership acquired control of the debt-laden Chattanooga Times. This fortunate deal perhaps inspired Z. C. Patten to favor a program of expansion, while his more conservative partner wished to hold on to the property which they already owned.

Patten, however, gave rein to his expansive ideas and bought the formulas of Thedford’s Black Draught and McElree’s Wine of Cardui, and organized the Chattanooga Medicine Company for large-scale production of these medicines.

Fourteen years after the end of the war Chattanooga had practically recovered from the rigors of reconstruction, and was rapidly becoming a prosperous city of the postwar South. Falling under the spell of southern progress, Adolph Ochs of Knoxville, an enterprising lad of twenty, began his illustrious career with the struggling Chattanooga Times.

He was offered the paper for the modest price of $800, but, even with the aid of his friend Colonel E. A. James, he was unable to borrow more than $300 on his note. In two years, however, the youthful publisher had increased his paper’s business to such an extent that it cost him $10,000 to complete the purchase which was originally offered him for $800. The lack of $500 cost him $9,500.

Before Ochs became owner of the paper a negotiated sale was necessary to clarify its final disposition. Through this deal, arranged by Z. C. Patten, Ochs became indebted to the drug manufacturer, and the two later developed a warm friendship.

Doubtless it was because of this friendship that Adolph Ochs was tempted to violate a rule of publishing ethics which he upheld so rigorously in his later years as publisher. In addition to his responsibilities in the management of his paper, he became the second president of the Chattanooga Medicine Company.

A rare photo of Adolph Ochs, about the time he was beginning his career as a Knoxville journalist. Courtesy Metropulse.

A rare photo of Adolph Ochs, about the time he was beginning his career as a Knoxville journalist. Courtesy Metropulse.

Thus it was that medicine making and newspaper publishing in Chattanooga were intimately linked for a brief time. Ochs, however, in later years went on to bigger things in New York, and Z. C. Patten’s medicine company concentrated its attention on the rich medicine trade of the New South. Sticking rather faithfully to the territory of the ex-Confederate states, with Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri added for good measure, the Chattanooga Company sought business at every crossroads store.

Publicity was the soul of the business, and salesmen were instructed to see that the name of the two medicines became household words in the region. Freely they wielded the tack hammer and paintbrush.

The only paint used on many barns and buggy sheds in the South was that which proclaimed in black and yellow the inseparable names of Black Draught and Wine of Cardui. In 1884, when the Pure Food and Drug Act was unknown and the lid was off, a medicine manufacturer’s ad writer was constrained by no inhibitions when it came to boosting his products.

Of Wine of Cardui, a newspaper ad said, ‘This pure wine is a simple vegetable extract without intoxicating qualities, and has proved to be the most astonishing TONIC FOR WOMEN known to medical science.”

Twenty years later when Samuel Hopkins Adams published his “Great American Fraud” articles, he mentioned the advertising of the Chattanooga Medicine Company as not being suitable reading material for a family gathered around the breakfast table.

In keeping with this reformer’s cryptic remarks, some of the Cardui ads do constitute a revealing chapter in medical publicity. Somewhere in the periphery there seemed always to be a literate husband who was anxious to testify to his mate’s suffering and final cure.

“My wife,” said a well- known gentleman, “has been in delicate health for fifteen years. She suffered fearfully every month with pains and excessive menses. Doctors could do her no good. One bottle of McElree’s Wine of Cardui restored her health, and she gained eighteen pounds of weight in two months while taking it.”

This was good stuff, but not good enough, and being a little carefree in the wording of his sentences, the copywriter took his lead from the enthusiastic husband.

He said, “McElree’s Wine of Cardui is recommended as a tonic for delicate ladies. It was tested in 7000 cases and cured 6500 of them. Its astonishing action mystified Doctors, delighted sufferers, and restored thousands of suffering women to health and happiness.” Obviously a batting average of 6,500 out of 7,000 cases was enough to mystify the doctors and delight the sufferers.

Likewise for a puny and failing wife to gain eighteen pounds from taking one bottle of Wine of Cardui explains why Z. C. Patten’s friends sometimes chided him by asking whether his “female preparation” was “a beverage or a medicine.”

Interestingly enough, in sixty years of ad writing, the man at the copy desk has grown considerably more conservative. He has become exceedingly skeptical of the word cure; in fact, there is no such word in his glossary, and he will not let a grateful patron become so exuberant in praise as to say that she has been healed.

Chattanooga Medicine Company published this 1912 cookbook as an ad giveaway, liberally sprinkled with ads for both Wine of Cardui and Black Draught. Courtesy Digital Library of America.

Chattanooga Medicine Company published this 1912 cookbook as a giveaway, liberally sprinkled with ads for both Wine of Cardui and Black Draught. Courtesy Digital Library of America.


Illustrative of this was the moderation with which Mrs. John A. Bailey, R.F.D. 2, Arab, Alabama, wrote in 1914 that “my use of Cardui dates back to my mother’s home, she would give me Cardui when I needed it and it always seemed to help me. I have used it since, when needed. Cardui is the only tonic I have ever used.”

Even Samuel Hopkins Adams’ gentleman of the Victorian breakfast table would find practically nothing in the new-style advertising to offend his sensitive womenfolk.

Frankly Thedford’s Black Draught has become a forthright laxative containing, in its liquid form, “extract of senna, rhubarb, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and annis.” In powdered form the formula is essentially the same.

Even more interesting is the candid warning which appears on the back of the traditional yellow pasteboard packages. “Some people,” say the manufacturers, “have a tendency to rely too much on laxatives, which, if continued a long time, may lead to too much dependence on them. Medical authorities advise against this.”

This admission within itself constitutes a significant chapter in American social progress, which perhaps explains why Black Draught has been able to enjoy a rich market for so long a period.


Source:  Clark, Thomas D. Pills, Petticoats and Plows; The Southern Country Store. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1914, pp. 248-251. Print.

Special thanks to Cindy B. Cady for her help with this article.

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