The high cost of carbide miner lamps

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 29, 2016

Six Victims of Mine Explosion at Keystone Die in Hospital

Gallia Times
Gallipolis, OH
June 24, 1937

One of the worst disasters ever to occur in this section was a powder explosion in the Fred Rupert truck coal mine near Keystone shortly after the noon hour Monday, when six men were so badly burned that five of them have since died, and the sixth will probably succumb. The victims are Edward Rupert, 24, Theodore Rupert, 25, Dan Rupert, 19, all sons of Fred Rupert; George W. Cadd, 53; and Lester Kerr Harris, 25. The sixth man is Thomas Godfrey, 48, who was living Wednesday morning.

George W. Cadd, one of the 6 explosion victims. Photo courtesy Ray Cadd.

George W. Cadd, one of the 6 explosion victims. Photo courtesy Ray Cadd.

Shortly after the noon hour Monday, when the men were returning to their duties after eating lunch in the mine some 400 feet from the entrance, Edward Rupert leaned over an open keg of powder to secure material for a charge, when the carbide lamp fell from his cap directly into the explosive. A blinding, searing flash followed and the mine entry became an inferno as the six victims, their clothing in flames, struggled blindly toward the main opening.

Others at the mine, and those summoned by the sound of the explosion, aided the seared and suffering men as they emerged, and called for help in rushing them to the Holzer Hospital. The suffering of the burned men was agonizing, as their charred clothing fell away.

Arriving at the hospital, they were first given morphine injections to allay the pain, and placed in water baths before their injuries were dressed. Dazed and weeping relatives and anxious friends grouped about the hospital corridors and on the lawn, hoping for some favorable report, yet despairing of it.

Everything that medical skill could do was done and extra nurses were assigned the care of the stricken men, but shortly after midnight Theodore Rupert died, followed in a few minutes by his brother Edward. Harris lived until 3 o’clock Tuesday morning and Cadd until 5. Dan Rupert died at one o’clock Tuesday afternoon.

Theodore Rupert lived at Rocky Hill and is survived by his wife, formerly Zella Foster of Meigs County. Edward and Dan Rupert were unmarried and lived at home. Kerr Harris was single, and lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. David Harris, about four miles from Vinton. George W. Cadd, oldest of the six, lived near Vinton with his wife, Amanda Ethel Cadd and three daughters. Another daughter, Virginia, is a graduate nurse employed in Cleveland.

Thomas Godfrey is married and the father of four children. The family home is near Vinton. They first moved from West Virginia to near Cheshire and later to their present home.

Update: Thomas Godfrey, the sixth and last victim of the explosion, died in the Holzer Hospital at 5:45 Wednesday afternoon.

Our thanks to Ray A. Cadd of St. Albans, WV, grandson of George W. Cadd, for providing the material for this article.

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Samantha Bumgarner records the first banjo record ever

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 28, 2016

She entered her first music contest in Canton, N.C., when she was still playing her “cheap 10 cent banjo,” Samantha Bumgarner told a Sylva [NC] Herald reporter years later.

“And here I looked up and saw all these fine banjos coming in from Asheville. I wanted to leave, but they wouldn’t let me. I tell you I was so nervous I didn’t know I was hitting the strings. … But I won that contest. And I’ve been winning them ever since.”

Samantha Bumgarner

Samantha’s father Has Biddix played the fiddle, but had not been keen for his daughter to take up that instrument, still in the late 19th century nicknamed by some “the Devil’s Box.” Samantha recalled that she did “sneak” the fiddle out to practice on her own. Has allowed her to have a banjo, at first home-made— “a gourd with a cat’s hide stretched over it and strings made of cotton thread waxed with beeswax”—later replaced by the aforementioned cheap store model.

It took awhile for the promising young musician to gain widespread recognition, though. She was 37 years old when Columbia Phonograph Company took notice of her and invited her and Eva Smathers Davis to New York City to record for them.

Bumgarner was probably the first Appalachian banjo player of either sex to cut a commercial record. In April 1924 she and Davis recorded 10 songs for Columbia, playing frailing-style banjo on six of the tunes, including “Shout Lou” and “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss.” Columbia billed them as ‘quaint musicians’ in their subsequent promotional ads two months later in ‘Talking Machine World’ magazine. “The fiddle and guitar craze is sweeping northward!” it cried. “Columbia leads with records of old-fashioned Southern songs and dances.”

The Columbia playlist:

Big-eyed Rabbit (Samantha Bumgarner & Eva Davis)
Cindy in the Meadows (Samantha Bumgarner & Eva Davis)
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss (Samantha Bumgarner)
The Gamblin’ Man (Samantha Bumgarner)
Georgia Blues (Samantha Bumgarner)
I Am My Mother’s Darlin’ Child (Samantha Bumgarner & Eva Davis)
John Hardy (Eva Davis)
Shout Lou (Samantha Bumgarner)
Wild Bill Jones (Eva Davis)
Worried Blues (Samantha Bumgarner)

Her recordings were made only one month after OKeh records had produced tracks by Fiddlin’ John Carson and his Virginia Reelers, considered the first “hillbilly” recordings to be commercially marketed in the United States. Thus not only should Bumgarner be considered the first “banjo-pickin’ person” to record and reach a mass audience, but one of the earliest Southern mountain musicians to make it to the studio as well.

Record label for Big Eyed Rabbit, on Columbia Records, by Bumgarner/Davis

Record label for Big Eyed Rabbit, on Columbia Records, by Bumgarner/Davis. Columbia 129-D (81710). Archie Green Collection (#20002), Southern Folklife Collection/Wilson Library/University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Although she never received critical acclaim, Bumgarner was obviously an inspiration for other women in the Southern mountains, who would emerge a decade later as some of the nation’s most popular entertainers.

Click here to listen to an MP3 of Big Eyed Rabbit, by Bumgarner/Davis

Yonder comes a rabbit,
Fast as he can run,
If I see another one,
Gonna shoot him with a double-barrel gun.
Gonna shoot him with my gun.
Yonder comes a rabbit,
Slippin’ through the sand,
Shoot that rabbit, he don’t care,
Fry him in my pan,
Fry him in my pan.
Rockin’ in a weary land (x2)
or Big-eyed rabbit’s gone, gone (x2)
Yonder comes my darlin’,
How do I know?
Know her by her bright blue eyes,
Shinein’ bright like gold,
Shinein’ bright like gold. (Tommy Jarrell/Plank Road String Band).
Bob Woodcock (Pa.) supplied this verse (a coney is an old English term for a rabbit-Coney Island=Rabbit Island):
Coney on the island, coney on the run,
I’ll get that rabbit in my pan, I’ll shoot him with my gun

MP3 from Archie Green Collection, Southern Folklife Collection/Wilson Library/University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

3 Responses

  • Bill Boyer says:

    Hi, enjoyed your post but I did notice that you had confused the roundpeak version of Big Eyed Rabbit with Samantha’s version, if you listen to the clip you have you will see that the tune is different, in melody as well as the verses, Brad Leftwich recorded the tune as” Are You Getting There Rabbit” and the Ledford String Band recorded a version similar to Samantha’s as “Big Eyed Rabbit”

  • Chad West says:

    I am looking for a copy of ‘The Last Gold Dollar,’ by Samantha Bumgarner. My father had an instrumental version on 45 that made it all the way through Vietnam and back, before being broken by me when I was young. If you can help me, I would be forever grateful!
    Thank you for your time…….
    Chad West

  • Tony Thomas says:

    It is pretty ignorant to call this the first banjo record ever. The earliest recordings of the five string banjo took place in the 1880s in cylinder recordings.

    The five string banjo reproduced very well in early cyclinder recordings and late in the acoustic disks when they appeared in the early 20th century. Thousands of recordings of five string banjoists were made in both Europe and North America by commercial recording artists. In fact, many more ragtime recordings were made of banjoists than pianists, and probably of any other solo instruments. Van Eps and others like him became major recordings stars in the first decade of the 20th century.

    And while US recording companies were essentially racist and recorded only a handful of Black entertainers before 1920, one fo the exceptions were James Reese Europe’s society orchestra that contained no less than 5 banjoists. On the other hand European, particularly English and German recording companies recorded a number of African American banjoists in the first two decades of the 20th century.

    There is a quite ignorant approach to banjo history that isolated banjoes as something “Appalachian” or native to “mountain folk” or whatever, but across the mid 19th Century there was a massive world of commercial, popular music, and art music banjo entertainment that involved stars on an international level. At the turn of the century leading banjoists like the AfroAmerican Bohee brothers gave lessons to the British Royal family and banjoists like Horace Weston, another African American, did command performances in Buckingham palace in the 80s.

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The panic of 1907 engulfs the Collins Company

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 27, 2016

“One of the most important business enterprises of modern Pennsboro was the founding of the Collins Company, [the holding company for Pennsboro Lumber Company] which was opened as a retail planing-mill in 1905,” declares Minnie Lowther’s 1910 ‘History of Ritchie County (WV).’

The company was headed up by Creed Collins, then considered the wealthiest man in Ritchie County, who partnered with Charles W. Sprinkle and Elbert M. Bonner in this venture.

In April 1907 the trade magazine ‘Hardwood Record’ reported:

“The Collins Company, wholesaler of lumber at Pennsboro, W. Va., has just purchased from the Deckers Valley Lumber Company a large tract of West Virginia lumber near Sturgisson, between Morgantown and Kingwood. The tract comprises from 2,500 to 3,000 acres of virgin timber and is one of the finest in the state.

“The transaction includes several miles of railroad, two sawmills, a hotel, store, and other property. Although the exact amount of money involved has not been announced, a report places it at at least $100,000. The company has taken possession of operations, with E. M. Bonner as general manager and Frank Smith as superintendent.

“The sales department will be conducted through the general offices of the Collins Company at Pennsboro, W. Va. Creed Collins, C. W. Sprinkle and E. M. Bonner are the principals of this well-known hardwood house.”

Business seemed promising enough that the following month Collins, Sprinkle & Bonner opened a second lumber concern (along with the Frank Smith mentioned above, and also one J.B. Yates).  The Lick Run Lumber Company also based in Pennsboro.

Creed Collins and his partners couldn’t have predicted the Panic of 1907 that was about to engulf their businesses that summer.

In early 1907 consumer goods prices were high and continuing to increase, a situation set in motion by too easy credit. The money center banks of New York City owed their depositors more money than the whole country possessed, real money and ‘credit money’ combined. The system couldn’t sustain itself that way any longer. A stock market panic hit that threatened to topple the New York investment banks and reverberate through the economy, triggering a depression.

The Panic of 1907 caused nationwide bank failures, timber prices collapsed, mine operations ceased, railroads stopped running, a rash of bankruptcies occurred, and a dramatic loss of confidence and a nasty economic downturn sank in for the next year.

“Collins Lumber Company Bankrupt,” reported the NY Times on October 9, 1908.  “Following the filing of a petition in bankruptcy in Clarksburg, WV today Judge Dayton in the Federal court adjudged Creed Collins of Pennsborough, a prominent business man of Ritchie County, and the Collins Company, a large lumber concern, bankrupts.  The Collins Company’s liabilities are listed at $254,879 and its assets at $46,644.  Mr. Collins assets are estimated at $92,427.”

“….thus one of the largest enterprises in the history of the county took its place among the annals of the past, and untold sorrow followed in its wake,”  historian Minnie Lowther tells us.

Charles Sprinkle and Elbert Bonner were also bankrupted in 1908, but had nowhere near the remaining assets Collins had.  And so Decker’s Valley Lumber sued Collins individually for restitution, knowing he had more assets than both his partners and the partnership itself.

The same Judge Dayton mentioned in the NY Times article ruled the suit valid, despite the fact that the original transaction papers were signed not solely by Collins, but by Collins and his partners Sprinkle and Bonner.  The court cited a technicality that the signatures at the bottom of the document did not reference the partnership, but were simply individual signatures, and therefore that Decker’s Valley could sue any or all three partners as individuals.

But the lawsuit stalled.

Meantime, the turbulent business environment and his own personal misfortunes were too much for the 64-year old Collins to bear. “Death quickly follows in the wake of the financial misfortunes of Creed Collins,” announced the Wheeling Intelligencer in April of 1909. “Health fails when fortune of lumber magnate and Democrat politician dwindles,” the obituary continues. “The well known Democratic politician and financier died this afternoon [April 23 ] shortly after 1 o’clock at his home at Pennsboro. The end was not unexpected and it came with all members of his immediate family at his bedside.

“The death of Creed Collins was caused by his recent financial troubles. Formerly known as the richest man in Ritchie County, he was hard hit by the financial depression. A few months ago he went into bankruptcy. The loss of his fortune was a deathblow to Mr. Collins and it is said that he died of a broken heart.”

Three years after Creed Collins’ death, his estate trustee, Homer Adams, filed an appeal in West Virginia’s Federal Circuit Court Of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.  Circuit Judge Pritchard reversed the lower court decision, only allowing Decker’s Valley to claim against the partnership assets. “If there shall be any surplus of the individual estate of Creed Collins remaining after the payment of his individual debts,” wrote Pritchard, “this claim, like all others allowed against the partnership of which he is a member, will participate in its distribution.”

And what happened to Sprinkle & Bonner after the Collins Company implosion?

Timber crusing (estimating) prior to purchase of the 7,600 Acre tract, known as the Ranwood Lumber Company Tract, on Sugar Creek and Back Fork of Elk, Webster County. CH Holden, Ranwood Lumber Company; C.W. Sprinkle, Atlas Lumber Company; EM Bonner, Atlas Lumber Company; and Dave Cogar, woods boss. Photo from 1913.

Charles Sprinkle moved to Cincinnati, where he founded the Atlas Lumber Company, which provided butts for guns in World War I (the “Encyclopedia of American Biography, “Vol. 19, edited by Winfred Scott Downs, 1947 states “all the butts” for guns in WWI, but that sounds exaggerated). He also sold wood to the auto industry in Detroit. Sprinkle was a member of the Lumberman’s Club, the Cincinnati Club, the Hyde Park Country Club, the Detroit Athletic Club, and Calvary Episcopal Church. He died 1944 in Cincinnati.

Bonner regrouped to form EM Bonner Associates, based in Pickens, WV.  Photos in the collection of the West Virginia Regional & History Collection confirm that the company was still active as of 1920, and had lumbering operations in the towns of Log Bottom & Camp Run.

Sources: —West Virginia Corporation Report Of Secretary of State.  March 1, 1907, To March 1, 1909. — Online at

“Encyclopedia of American Biography” (Vol. 19, edited by Winfred Scott Downs, 1947)

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I did not enter politics. I was shot into it as by a catapult

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 26, 2016

“You want to know when l really entered public life.

“I did not enter; I was shot into it, as by a catapult, and I learned politics in front of Gatling guns and Mauser rifles. The foe left nothing undone that human ingenuity could devise or tricky politicians could muster up. As soon as I could get an inkling of their respective political histories, I made it lively for the gentlemen, and it was an unequal but vivacious struggle, with one woman versus some dozens of north Georgia politicians.

“When convict lease politicians attacked Dr. Felton, I searched the records and made the lease and the lessees step around lively. A legislative report, made in 1879 and printed in the proceedings of that year’s General Assembly, gave forth the astounding fact that twenty-five little children, under three years of age, were then in camp, along with their convict mothers, little helpless innocents, born in the chain gang, in the lowest depths of degraded humanity.

Rebecca Latimer Felton, age 75. From frontispiece of "Country Life." Collection University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rebecca Latimer Felton, age 75. From frontispiece of “Country Life.” Collection University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“These children, according to the report mentioned, were born from convict mothers, were also the offspring of the guards, (employed by the Lessees to punish all offenders,) who had basely used their authority to compel these women to submit to their carnal desires. This state of things was so plainly horrible that I wrote it up in the newspapers at the time this legislative report was published.

“When the state road lessees entered our politics, I posted myself and flung hand grenades until the whole thing got in a blaze.

“The corruption of the judiciary in Georgia has been more than once exposed in legislative investigations, but it is well understood that the “dominant faction” elected the judges at the time when a negro could be sent to the chain-gang for ten years for stealing three eggs or for stealing a bowl of milk, and a negro girl fifteen years old in Atlanta was sent to the penitentiary for five years for snatching fifty cents from the hand of a smaller negro. The dominant faction made a half million annually out of a convict lease, and the judge who could send able-bodied negroes to the pen was well worth electing!

“Whenever the dominant faction showed heads above the ramparts, this sharp shooter in woman’s form deliberately picked them off for public amusement and feminine revenge.

“Did they attack me?

“Yes! Times without number, but I have always been careful to know I was correct in my statements, and then I had nothing to fear. About a dozen years ago I joined the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. I introduced a resolution pledging the union to a reformatory for youthful criminals and a separate prison for women convicts in April, 1886.

“The organization authorized me to memorialize the legislature on these two reforms that summer. When my petition was read before the legislature the ball opened. Dr. Felton, as a member, championed the reforms, and the whole pack, ‘Tray, Blanche and Sweetheart,’ opened on us both. I heard myself denominated as the political ‘She’ of Georgia.

“I was sneered at as a reformer and vials of wrath were poured out on my spouse, who was helping me in my work as I had so long helped him in his political work.

Chain gang in Atlanta 1895Chain gang from Fulton County, GA working in Atlanta in 1895.

“I sat in the same hall five days later and listened to Dr. Felton’s reply that will never be surpassed for strength and powerful invective so long as the English language exists. I forgot myself in admiration of my defender and his marvelous defense. I saw that audience also forget itself and rise as one man to cheer and shout in praise of the speaker. Such a day as that marks a milestone as big as the Washington monument.

“The reformatory for juvenile convicts had a small beginning and only a woman to start it, but such as it was, I had the responsibility and the honor of agitating and launching the craft into sailing waters. More than six years later I was gratified to find that the convict women were quietly separated into other camps and I felt certain that had Senator Joseph E. Brown lived a few years longer he would have made a reformatory system for the juvenile criminals under his control.”


from “Country Life in Georgia 
in the Days of My Youth,” by Rebecca Latimer Felton, 1919, Index Printing Company, 

Until late in her life, Rebecca Latimer Felton saw her career as tied completely to her husband’s. William Felton served three terms (1875-81) in the U.S. Congress. From 1884 to 1890 he served another three terms in Georgia’s state legislature. “Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth” is primarily a record of Rebecca Latimer Felton’s middle years and her husband’s political campaigns.

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The Harmonia Sacra

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 25, 2016

Go to Harrisonburg, Virginia and you’ll find them in just about any of the numerous old, old Mennonite churches in the area. They’re “Old Folks Singings,” an event unique to that religious group in that region. People filter in and out of the one-room churches, picnic in the church yard, rub tombstones if the church has a cemetery. And sing hymns. In some communities there is 100 per cent participation in the singing. Their songbook is and has been since 1832 The Harmonia Sacra. No other hymnal in the English language has had such a long lifespan of constant use in any Christian denomination. Indeed, many of the families of Harrisonburg have also been in the area since the mid-1800’s — Buckwalters and Hosslers, Stutzmans and Brubakers.

The original Harmonia Sacra was a “four-shape” shape note book using the shapes and syllables “faw, sol, law, and mi.” Joseph Funk designed A Compilation of Genuine Church Music for use in singing schools. It contained 208 pages, including rudiments of music and tunes harmonized for three voices. In the early 20th century the singing consisted primarily of German hymns; however, not the slow tunes used in the church services. The 17th edition of 1878 was the one widely in use during the Depression era.

Harmonia Sacra title page“The different musical grammar of these hymns makes them sound fresh, rugged, and often rough-hewn. As the layout suggests, this music is written as melodic parts, not in chords. Each line is an individual composition against the principal melody… In this style of hymnody each singer chooses any line which is comfortable, and then focuses on expressing that part, that personalized manifestation of the words. The parts do not necessarily form the identifiable and static chords which a modern congregation might encounter together in an improvised harmonization.”
—Review of The Harmonia Sacra, 25th ed.
Bradley Lehman, 1995 for Mennonite Quarterly Review


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