The June beetle – capturing a living music box

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 1, 2015

“From some long-forgotten source, I heard that June beetles made a sweet sound while flying around. I loved music, and the method to acquire this living music box was to fasten a long thread to one of the bug’s hind legs.

“Now, June beetles are about half an inch across and three quarters of an inch long. The ones in the South are dark green on the back side and have an armor-like covering over their undersides. They feed on fennel and are harmless.

june bug

“One day, I chased down a June beetle and brought it in. It was hard to hold. That bug clawed me with its sharp toes and rooted with its sharp nose. But I held on for dear life and persuaded Mother to tie a thread on its hind leg. She wasn’t too anxious to oblige me, but finally the job was accomplished and I took my musical bug outside to test it out.

“The ground around the house was level, so I chose a spot where I could turn my bug loose. It gladly took off, and I ran after it, holding on tight to the thread. The bug made a pleasing sound that was music to my ears. The sound that June beetle made—along with the Jew’s harp and harmonica—was the one source of music my young ears had ever heard.

“Soon the bug grew tired and sat down. I realized the thread might hamper its movements, so I waited while it rested. Still anxious to hear more music, I urged it to fly. As quick as lightening, the bug took off with me pounding along behind it. I was thoroughly enjoying the performance until the thread slipped off. With mixed emotions, I watched my music box disappear in the distance.

“I felt bad over my loss and set about repairing it. I found another June beetle, but somehow I didn’t like this one quite as well as the first one. Just the same, I hurried into the house to have Mother tie a thread on its leg. This time Mother openly expressed her dislike for such activities. Nevertheless, with strong urging on my part, she tied the thread once again. I took the new June beetle outside and let it fly as I had the old one, but the knot in the thread was too loose and slipped off. This bug also flew away, heading due north. It didn’t slacken its speed for even a moment.”


From a Parks family history compiled by Lillian “Lilly Ann” Parks Adams (1880-1976), at Capitola, CA, 1949-50, when she was 70 years old. She was born in Wayne County, WV. The story, she says, is to the best of her knowledge as a four-year-old child, and from family re-tellings.

source: M. Constance Hodges: LORDS OF THEMSELVES, A History of Eastern Lincoln County, Oregon. Volume 1; Delcon Historical Publications, Printed by Pioneer Printing, Copyright 1978, M. Constance Hodges. Chapter: Big Elk Valley: Parks Family History, pp. 243-272, Lillian (Lilly Ann) Parks Adams

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A childhood urge to express my innermost feelings, to record

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 29, 2015

In her book about growing up in Lonaconing, MD, Ruth Bear Levy (1898-1994) wrote about how “modern artists could create masterpieces out of the sights and sounds of Lonaconing,” how a “painter could paint the shapes and dark and light contours of the area” and how “all the pastel colors could be rolled out of the tubes for the pink, green and brown syrups covering fruits and ices in the ice cream parlors.”

Collection of Western Maryland Historical Library.

Collection of Western Maryland Historical Library.

The Garrett County native did not begin painting until later in life. Once she did start making pictures, she often drew from her memories of her hometown, primarily a Scottish mining community, during her turn of the century childhood.

In A Wee Bit O’Scotland: Growing Up in Lonaconing, Maryland, Levy depicted kids playing ball and jumping rope, her father’s general store, interiors, people working, coal cars and scenic views of the Western Maryland countryside.

Ruth Bear Levy grew up playing ball with Hall of Fame baseball player Lefty Grove. They were childhood friends in Lonaconing. She always loved baseball and did a series of baseball paintings — many inspired by Lefty.

Her family was musical: her mother played the piano and Ruth played the mandolin. Her father’s store was called “M. Bear’s Daylight Clothing Store”; he served on the Lonaconing city council. Levy’s paternal grandfather emigrated from Bavaria and settled in Frostburg. Ruth’s father moved eight miles to Lonaconing where he opened his store and got married. Her maternal grandfather Eisenberg emigrated from Austria-Hungary and settled in Cleveland, OH and then in Cumberland, MD. He opened a store there with his three sons and became a founder of the Reform Jewish Temple.

Levy traveled throughout childhood to visit her three uncles in Baltimore and to tour Washington, DC, Pittsburgh and Cleveland with her family. Ruth Bear Levy eventually left Lonaconing for Baltimore in pursuit of a degree in English at Goucher College. In Baltimore, she met her husband, urologist Dr. Charles Levy, a Johns Hopkins graduate.

Ruth Bear Levy painting 'Minemouth'Mine Mouths Open On The Hillsides, by Ruth Bear Levy, n.d. Oil Painting. 30 X 40 in. Reproduced in “A Wee Bit of Scotland: Growing up in Lonaconing, Maryland.”

Levy wrote that it was not until after she was married for 21 years or more and her son returned from service in the Navy during World War II that she had met painter Herman Maril, whose work along with that of other important Maryland artists of the period is characterized in part by the use of pastel tones. She studied with Maril as a private student beginning in about 1954.

“I had never been interested in painting before,” Levy wrote. “But now a childhood urge returned to express my most innermost feelings, to be productive, to record, and I began putting my thoughts on canvas under Herman’s sensitive, skillful tutelage. Later I worked under Walter Bohanan’s guidance. The pictures in this book are among the results.”



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We have been living on the lands of the Shareholders of the Ohio Company

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 28, 2015

In October 1790, Gallipolis (“City of the Gauls”), OH was settled by a group of French immigrants who later became known as the French Five Hundred. Many of the Frenchmen were fleeing the French Revolution and seeking refuge in America.

The settlers sailed on several ships to several ports, the main one being Alexandria, VA, on their way to the final destination of Gallipolis. At that time Gallipolis was pure wilderness and the French, primarily artisans and craftsmen, were totally unprepared for what they would find…100 cabins in what is now the City Park, with lookouts on each corner.

The following extracts from a letter written in Gallipolis on September 24, 1795 by a Mrs. Marest to a Citizen Leuba in Paris convey a feeling for the colony’s tentative situation.


The translation by Marie-Claire Wrage, a French-born resident of southeastern Ohio, precisely follows the original French text. The letter is in the collections of the Eleutherian Mills Historical Library, Greenville, Delaware, item W 2-5654.

The 'French 500' arrive at Gallipolis, OH, October 1790.

The ‘French 500′ arrive at Gallipolis, OH, October 1790.

“Note: Gallipolis is a newly built town on the banks of the Ohio,
across from the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, in the territory north west of the Ohio River, United States of America.

“You must have received news of us through Mr. Monnot, who is supposed to come back to America. We haven’t heard anything from him yet, about which we are sorry. That means one fewer worthy citizen in the Colony. Besides, they have distributed land to the inhabitants of Gallipolis and, since he isn’t here anymore, he won’t be able to have any. It’s too bad for him the distribution is over, if he really intends to come back here.

“Each colonist here owns 207 acres of land on the banks of the Ohio. We owe this present to the Congress, you probably know that the Scioto Company went bankrupt. There are three of us; my husband Marest and our two sons, Joseph and Pierre Marest, each owning 217 acres, which amounts to 651 acres for the family. The land-surveyors are presently at work measuring the lots.

“Until now, we have been living on the lands of the Shareholders of the Ohio Company, which leads us to hope that we will get the lands we are occupying. To get this letter to you, since I am already worried about the one I entrusted to Mr. Monnot, I am taking advantage of the trip of a trusty young man named Joitot, a friend of mine, who is going back to France to visit his family; he will present you with a beautiful Bison skin as a gift from us.

“The country where we are has an abundance of all kinds of game: wild turkeys especially are so numerous that Joseph, by himself, since the beginning of July, that is to say in less than three months, has killed more than 200. The turkeys weigh 16 to 18 pounds, some as much as 30 pounds. Joseph and Pierre do a lot of fishing, which brings variety to our menus.

“For besides turkeys, there are, as meat, lots of deer, bears, buffaloes and doves. But since the streams are teeming with fish, we prefer that catch, as it is much easier. Joseph and Pierre have caught 12 fish in a single day. Each of these fish weighed 16 or 18 pounds; some fifty-pounders were caught, and even one 88-pounder; all that is caught by angling, and one becomes good at it easily when there is hope of such total success.

“We hear from our eldest, my dear Marest. He probably has been affected by the fire at the Cape. He was at the time in the offices of the Administration.

“Felicite is very well established, married to a 26-year-old man, who comes from a good family, very clever and well educated. Before the revolution, he was an officer in the Queen’s regiment, where his father was a captain. The family is from Epernay, in Champagne, their name D’Hebecourt. Felicite’s husband is a commander in our militia. He receives forty dollars a month.

“The dollar is worth just a little less than 50 sols tournois and 3 deniers. As for my husband Marest, he is a soldier, as are his two sons, and between the three of them, they make twenty dollars a month. Besides that, my husband is a baker, so we live a respectable and comfortable life.

“None of us has been ill since we left France.

“The climate here is not bad at all for us, although it is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

“Poverty doesn’t exist here.

“Sugar is 2 shillings a pound, coffee and chocolate three shillings. Bread is 2 sols 6 deniers a pound. But at the height of summer, there are short periods of drought when the mills can’t grind, and then bread goes up to 4 sols a pound.

“Deer meat is worth 1 sol 6 deniers a pound. Bear meat is between 2 and 3 sols a pound. Medium-sized turkeys go for 12 sols and 9 sols, and the smaller ones, which weigh only 4 or 5 pounds, go for 6 sols apiece. Meat at the butcher’s is 3 sols a pound. Pork is the same.
1790 view of Gallipolis

“Wine isn’t common, yet it can be obtained everywhere easily if you are willing to pay. What you get is wine from Madeira. It costs about half a dollar a bottle, about a petit ecu. French brandy is worth the same price. Whisky or apple brandy is 12 sols a bottle. Peach brandy, which is excellent, is worth 24 sols tournois or 2 shillings.

“Some of our colonists make wine and sell it for 4 shillings a gallon (a gallon contains 4 bottles Paris-size).

“We don’t need to be afraid of the savages any more, peace was signed with them last month.

“Good cheese is worth 9 sols a pound. Butter 12. Eggs right now are 1 sol apiece, and 8 deniers in the summer. A hen is worth 12 sols, chicken 9 sols, ducks 4 sols 4 deniers. Hens lay eggs all year round except for moulting season, and they set 3 or 4 times a year. A six-month-old pullet begins to lay eggs and it broods right away, and sometimes a nine-month-old pullet has had two broods.

“Clothes are expensive here, but it doesn’t bother us, because people dress informally here.

“Felicite is as tall as I am, but of a much bigger build. She is a good-looking woman with a pretty face. You wouldn’t recognize her; she swims like a fish, she speaks English well. She may have the pleasure of seeing you again soon, since her husband is still thinking of going back to France to see his family, and since they own property there, they may stay.

“As for my other children, Joseph, Pierre, Madeline, Marianne and Eulalie, they have but one desire, to stay here, and my daughters often wish their cousins would come over too. As for good Marosteau, be sure to tell him that laborers are scarce here; they earn half a dollar or 50 sols. Because it’s easy to find work here, it’s possible for a laborer to set money aside; but the lazy ones, let me tell you, they would be even less well-off here than in France.

“Our crops are corn, wheat, melons, cucumbers in abundance, pumpkins, turnips, potatoes. One has trouble growing onions, but parsnips, carrots, beans, peas, leeks and cabbages do very well.

“Hard cider isn’t expensive. Peach trees bear a lot of fruit, and fruit trees grow so fast that a peach stone planted in the ground will produce a tree in four years, which bears fruit as early as that 4th year. Peaches are most useful: they are made into brandy and a kind of wine; they are dried for the winter and, cooked with a little maple sugar, they make excellent stewed fruit.

“Could you possibly have the following sent to me in a small crate (but as cheap as possible): manna, emetic, some hipecanuana in a small bottle, also in small bottles 3 or 4 ounces of jalap, in a leather pouch 2 curved combs, 2 ivory ones, 2 ordinary snuff-boxes at 2 sols apiece, some senna, some Epsom salts, some rhubarb, some germander, 50 sols worth of veronica.

“You will be a tremendous help to me because in America medicine is very rare, very expensive and, on top of all that, not very good. It will be good if you can add some miramionnes unguent, or any dissolving unguent.” …

from ‘A Settlement That Failed: The French in Early Gallipolis, an Enlightening Letter, and an Explanation,’ by Lee and Margaret Soltow, in “Ohio History, A Scholarly Journal of the Ohio History Society,” Volume 94/Summer-Autumn 1985


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  • Lisa Quigley-Moon says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I bought the book about the French 500 but it’s in French so it’s slow going reading it. I believe my ancestor Louis Labille was one of the passengers on the ship Liberty. It’s been very difficult trying to find anything about him the first year or two. We don’t even know for a fact who his wife was or if one came with him although his first child appears to have been born in 1790 his name is in the District of Columbia news papers in the late 1790’s & up to his death which has helped tremendously. He died in 1841 so no photos but could be drawings out there. I have seen a water color of his son & my direct ancestor Robert A. Labille. It’s too bad the very early census didn’t give more info. His obituary did not mention his wife or children’s names which would also have been helpful.

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North Carolina Ghost Town

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 27, 2015

You can still see part of the boiler room and a few intact boilers from the old cotton mill in Mortimer if you know where to look. There’s also a white maintenance building built by the CCC during the 1930s, and some other CCC building foundations remain behind it. Today these silent remnants welcome hikers and campers at the entrance to the Mortimer campground in the Pisgah National Forest. What a story they hide!

Original caption reads: "Edgemont Baptist Church 1940's--Old Man in front in suit with bible in left hand is the preacher--standing to his right is Archie Coffey." Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

Original caption reads: “Edgemont Baptist Church 1940’s–Old Man in front in suit with bible in left hand is the preacher–standing to his right is Archie Coffey.” Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.


Mortimer, NC had been built rapidly to house workers for the Ritter Lumber Company, which had bought the land for timber in 1904. Ritter Lumber Company’s sawmill and a small textile mill provided jobs for the community’s 800 residents. Substantial logging took place between Wilson and Steel Creeks, and the trees were hauled to the mill via Ritter’s narrow gauge railroad, which followed Wilson Creek much of the way before ending in the village of Edgemont. The Hutton-Bourbannis Company operated various other narrow gauge logging railroad lines fanning out from Mortimer.

There was a company store, a blacksmith’s shop, a church, a school, a hotel, and numerous houses. By 1906, the newly incorporated town even had a motion-picture facility and the Laurel Inn, which Teddy Roosevelt reportedly visited.

Then disaster struck. In 1916, a fire burned from Grandfather Mountain to Wilson Creek, and was immediately followed by a flood, which destroyed the logging railroad and the Lake Rhodhiss Dam, and devastated the Ritter Company’s operations. The company left the town entirely about a year later. The flood is considered to be the worst in Caldwell County history.

United Mills Company, a cotton mill, opened in 1922 and revitalized the town for a brief period. The Civilian Conservation Corps opened Camp F-5 at Mortimer during the Great Depression, and by 1933, had repaired many buildings damaged in the 1916 tribulations. In 1934, O.P. Lutz started a hosiery mill in the cotton mill buildings, but it never really succeeded. The Carolina & Northwestern Railway brought in mail every other day, but closed in 1938.

Original caption reads: "Mortimer CCC Warehouse & the Forest Service office with the 1940 flood waters were decreasing -- Truck was flooded with water." Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

Original caption reads: “Mortimer CCC Warehouse & the Forest Service office with the 1940 flood waters were decreasing — Truck was flooded with water.” Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

Then, on August 13, 1940, Wilson Creek jumped its banks again (this time prompted by a coastal hurricane.) The creek reached a flood stage of 94 feet and engulfed the town. This second flood, coming only 24 years after Mortimer’s first horrific experience, was enough to drive most remaining families from the area.

The CCC hobbled along until the arrival of World War II in the 1940s. The railroad that used to run through Mortimer was taken up during WWII and melted down for the war effort. After the railroad was removed and the CCC left, the valley was left essentially unchanged for the next several decades.

Today, there are only about 16 permanent families living along the stream. Much of the mountain property in the northwestern part of Caldwell County is public land held by the U.S. Forest Service.



Related posts: “Appalachia’s Katrina”

3 Responses

  • Jim Rada says:

    If you’re interested in ghost towns, I have an article in the July/August 2010 issue of Maryland Life about western Maryland ghost towns, primarily in Garrett County. These are old company towns that surrounded the mines in coal mines in the area. All that’s left of many of them are slag heaps and the remnants of some structures. I’ve visited some of them and it can feel like you’re in the Old West as you walk along the streets.

    Jim Rada

  • Kristy Fite says:

    I’m from there—lived 30 mins away. It’s a very special place to me. I have never been really big on history, but I swear that place every time I go, which is very often, I I can still see the old town. I’ve found the ruins to the old hotel where the president stayed. I so wished that I could have lived in those days! That place will always be my home away from home :) no other place like it.

  • Granitefall Paranormal Investigators would love to do some paranormal work to find even more history there and see if some spirits are still there and talk to some of them. Please call us on this. Our number is 828 640 8519.

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The Sleeping Giant – an Indian Legend from AL

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 26, 2015

Many years before the white man penetrated the forests of Alabama, there dwelt a happy, thrifty tribe of Indians in the central portion of the present county of Talladega [ed.- Conchardees, of the Creek, or Muskogee, nation].

The chief of this tribe was the great Choccolocco; a man of vast possessions.  He had only one daughter, the Princess Talladega, whom he treasured above all possessed.

Fountain statue of Princess Talladega carrying her water pot; statue in Talladega, AL.

Fountain statue of Princess Talladega carrying her water pot; statue in Talladega, AL.

Talladega, as every princess should be, was the most beautiful maiden in all the realm.  Choccolocco, realizing that he could not continuously keep Talladega within the walls of his selfish heart and domain, began to cast about for a suitable mate for his treasured daughter.

Now, in those days, as well as in these, one had only to think a thing, and the world anticipated the unspoken thought, and ran away with it.  It so happened that great chiefs, mighty and rich, old and young, from far and near, began to make offers of handsome gifts to the stern old Choccolocco for the hand of his daughter.

Some found favor in the sight of Choccolocco, but Talladega said:    “Nay.  Give me time.  The right companion will come  along some day, who loves the things that I love, and we can be happy wandering through life together.”

Time passed on, until one dawn of an April day, Talladega wandered down a winding path to the sparkling spring at the foot of the hill.  The world seemed lovely in spite of the scheming father.  Suddenly she heard a song in the distance.  It was beautiful.  The song grew nearer and nearer, and more beautiful, until the singer burst into view, as Talladega dipped her earthen pot into the water.  She met the dark eyes of a comely young warrior, and at that moment she knew that in some way their future would be linked together.

Thus began, in the spring of that year, an affair which clandestinely grew beyond the imagination of Choccolocco.

Each morning a song was answered, a friendship ripened, and a love was strengthened.  The wooing progressed, until one day Talladega, approaching her cabin, heard voices.  Her name was mentioned.  To her dismay she realized that Cheaha, an ugly old chief from an adjoining province, was bargaining with Choccolocco.  As she caught the glowering eyes of Cheaha, she immediately knew that she would not submit to wedlock with this eagle-eyed suitor.

'Cheaha, an ugly old chief from an adjoining province, was bargaining with her father for her hand in marriage.' 'The Creek Indian,' by Frederic Remington, c.1906

‘Cheaha, an ugly old chief from an adjoining province, was bargaining with her father for her hand in marriage.’ ‘The Creek Indian,’ by Frederic Remington, c.1906

After Cheaha left, Choccolocco informed Talladega that he was the favored chief, and that she would probably soon follow him to his province.

Talladega slept none that night, and soon after dawn she was out awaiting the song of her young lover, Coosa.

It was indeed a sad morning they spent together.  Coosa possessed no property, and he was so overcome with the helplessness and pathos of their situation, that he plunged into the woodland, where he wandered up and down the banks of his favorite stream for days.

His thoughts were only of Talladega.  He could see her reflection in the still waters; hear her voice in the rapids; and to this day the stream that bears her name still echoes the voice, and reflects the beauty of Talladega.

After Coosa had wandered for days, he decided that he could stand it no longer, and he went back to speak to Choccolocco.  Coosa found him alone and he immediately stated his business.  He told him that he was not a man of property, yet he was young, and taller, swifter and stronger than any warrior of the province; aside from this, he knew where valuable minerals were stored in lands unpossessed, and he would direct Choccolocco to them, whereby the latter could enrich himself more plentifully than any chief in all the land.

In fact, he pleaded so appealingly, and painted a picture so enticing, that Choccolocco listened with growing interest.

“If you can bring me samples of valuable ores, and assure me of the possibility of ownership,” said Choccolocco, “I shall consider your proposition more fully.”

There was never a happier being since the world began than was Coosa at this hopeful remark.  Turning, he found that someone else had joined them, and from the scowl on his face, he discerned that this was the erstwhile acceptable suitor, who had overheard the latter part of Choccolocco’s remarks.

Cheaha turned without a word.  An idea was brewing.  He hastened to put it into action.  He had brought with him two young warriors, whom he immediately dispatched, one for a famous medicine man of his tribe, and the other to follow Coosa.  The medicine man had discovered an herb that would put the strongest of men immediately to sleep, and he could not be aroused until the antidote was administered; that antidote being known to none but the medicine man himself.

Along about nightfall the young warrior who followed Coosa returned with the information that he had pitched camp at the west end of the valley.When Cheaha and the medicine man arrived they found Coosa peacefully sleeping, with arms folded on his breast and his face turned to the heavens.

The medicine man stealthily crept to the sleeping Coosa and quickly administered the drug.  When he assured Cheaha that the drug had taken the desired effect, Cheaha cruelly turned on the medicine man and killed him on the spot.

In the meantime Choccolocco, becoming disgusted at the delay of Coosa, ordered wedding preparations for Talladega and Cheaha.

Talladega had discovered her sleeping lover, and made many secret visitsto him whenever chance permitted.  She became so depressed and unhappy as the wedding day approached, that Cheaha decided that it would be wise to tell Talladega that Coosa could never be awakened.  Talladega said nothing.

She only sat motionless and gazed into space.

When the wedding day arrived, no bride was to be found.  The woodland was searched, the hills and valleys scanned, but no bride was to be found.

In the midst of the turmoil an Indian lad burst into the group with the dramatic news that Talladega had been discovered, lying dead on the breast of her sleeping lover.

Sleeping Giant Mountain, Talladega County, AL.

Sleeping Giant Mountain, Talladega County, AL.

Although the drug was so powerful as to keep Coosa always sleeping, it also carried the power to make him grow, and while lying there sleeping, he has grown through the centuries until the mighty figure has become a great giant, now forming a mountain many miles long, where he can be seen from many roadsides.

Mother Nature has lovingly covered him with earth, to protect him from the cold.  She has planted trees and shrubs to shield him from the hot summer sun, and she has scattered flowers here and there, and each year birds flock to the Sleeping Giant to herald the coming of Spring.

And there he lies, still dreaming of his beloved Talladega, “The Bride of the Mountain.”


Early records speak of the mountain also as “The Giant at Rest” and the “Resting Giant.”  The above portion of the “Sketch of Talladega County” can be found in E. Grace Jemison, Historic Tales of Talladega (Montgomery, AL: Paragon Press, 1959), pp. 1-3.

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