He brought the deer back to North Georgia

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 16, 2016

Deer hunting season got underway in Georgia this past Monday, September 9. It’s all too easy to forget that in the early part of the 20th century, there simply were no deer to be had in the northern part of the state. Arthur Woody never forgot that, and today’s hunters in Appalachian Georgia owe him a debt of thanks.

Arthur “Kingfish” Woody (1884-1946), served the U.S. Forestry Service from 1911 to 1945, starting out as a surveyor. In 1918 the Federal Government combined various local land holdings into the Cherokee National Forest, part of which extended into North Georgia. A short time later additional land the government purchased was consolidated with portions of the Cherokee into the Georgia National Forest (later renamed the Chattahoochee National Forest) and Woody became the Blue Ridge District’s first Forest Ranger. The district was the first wildlife management area in the South.

Ranger Arthur WoodyIn the midst of the depression the CCC began to improve the area around Suches, GA thanks to efforts by “the barefoot ranger,” and he was responsible for the original proposal for a Visitor’s Center at Brasstown Bald.

At the time of Woody’s birth, deer habitat was under tremendous pressure: much of the Georgia mountains had been stripped bare by lumber companies that found it cheaper to simply leave land they’d cleared rather than replant. Woody had gone with his father John on a hunting trip in 1895 when he was a boy, and claimed his dad killed the last deer anywhere in the North Georgia.

“I vowed I would remedy that situation when I was grown,” Woody later told Charlie Elliot, former commissioner of the State Game Commission. In 1927 he started restocking deer in the North Georgia mountains with much of his own money, while managing to raise some money from the U.S. Forest Service. He purchased whitetail deer from a passing show and rounded up more in the mountains of western North Carolina, releasing them in an area near the park headquarters of Rock Creek.

He named many of them. One old buck was named Old Nemo. He had names for others. Finally, the deer did multiply and the state re-opened hunting season in 1941. Among the landmarks in the Chattahoochee National Forest honoring Woody is a trail through the Sosebee Cove, a 175-acre tract of prize hardwood Woody purchased for the Forest Service that is now part of the Brasstown Ranger District.

Sources: http://ngeorgia.com/people/woody.html



Arthur+Woody Ranger+Woody Chattahoochee+National+Forest appalachia +appalachia+history appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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Gertrude a la September Morn

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 14, 2016

baby in the bath tubThat’s the exact caption of this photo, and while the caption dwells in specifics, the photo itself captures a universal moment that most any parent can respond to.

Gertrude is the daughter of Darley Hiden & Mary Ramsey, of Asheville, NC. We don’t know the date of the picture, or who shot it, though it’s most certainly from the late 1920s. Hiden & Mary [nee Sumner] married in 1926.

The grown Gertrude served on the Board of Trustees for Asheville-Biltmore College starting in 1958. She was recognized for her work as the Society Editor at Asheville’s Citizen Times by Editor & Publisher International Year Book (1963) and by The Working Press of the Nation (1969).

Her father had paved the way for her career rather smoothly, having spent 23 years as the general manager of the Citizen-Times Company, corporate parent of the Citizen Times. He’d worked at the Citizen as an associate editor for a year starting in 1920, then moved over to editorship of the Asheville Times the following year (where he served till 1926). Ramsey also served on the State Board of Education (1945-1953) and on the State Board for Higher Education (1955-1960). He died in 1966 at age 75.

D. Hiden Ramsey did well enough as a newspaperman that he was able to endow the University of North Carolina, Asheville with a new library facility: the D.H. Ramsey Library. His correspondence, speeches, and writings, including more than 200 manuscript speeches on a wide variety of subjects and occasions, plus 30 essays and articles on public issues and events, have become the D. Hiden Ramsey Collection. And it’s over in a personal corner of that inventory that this charming photo resides.

source: toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/mss/ramsey/ramsey.html

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The day they hung Murderous Mary the elephant

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 13, 2016

On September 13, 1916 a five-ton circus elephant was executed, hung from a 100-ton Clinchfield railroad crane car, in the little town of Erwin, Tennessee. ‘Murderous Mary’ had killed a man, and for that she had to die. Shooting her in the four soft spots on her head would be both difficult and dangerous. She wouldn’t eat poison. And the town didn’t have enough power to electrocute her.

The bizarre story of the hanging of Mary the elephant begins in St. Paul, Virginia, where Sparks World Famous Shows stopped for a one-day stand. By 1916, Sparks World Famous Shows had blossomed into a successful, 15-car circus with clowns, acrobats, horses, lions and elephants.

Murderous Mary the elephantThe star of their show was Mary, a giant Asian elephant. She was advertised on Sparks posters as “The Largest Living Land Animal on Earth,” weighing “over 5 tons” and standing “3 inches taller than Jumbo,” the star elephant of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. At 30 years old, she could “play 25 tunes on the musical horns without missing a note.” As the pitcher on the circus baseball-game routine, her .400 batting average “astonished millions in New York.”

But it was her size that awed many people from rural communities who had never seen an animal this large or exotic. Mary was valued anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000, and was the primary reason many people came to the show.

On Monday, September 11, 1916, Sparks World Famous Shows played St. Paul, Va., a tiny mining town in the Clinch River Valley. Walter “Red” Eldridge, a local hotel janitor, approached head elephant trainer Paul Jacoby for a job as an under keeper of the elephants and was hired, despite his lack of experience. Eldridge’s job responsibilities included watering the elephants and preparing them for the parades and shows.

The following day, in Kingsport, TN, the elephants (according to the most popular version of the story) were being led to a watering ditch between shows. Eldridge used a bull hook – a stick with a hook on its end – to guide Mary, but had been warned in his training to nudge her gently and not to provoke her.

Suddenly, Mary “collided its trunk vice-like [sic] about [Eldridge’s] body, lifted him 10 feet in the air, then dashed him with fury to the ground… and with the full force of her biestly [sic] fury is said to have sunk her giant tusks entirely through his body. The animal then trampled the dying form of Eldridge as if seeking a murderous triumph, then with a sudden… swing of her massive foot hurled his body into the crowd.” —The Johnson City Staff, September 13, 1916

Circus owner Charlie Sparks knew the animal had to be put down, and decided that the only “humane” way to execute Mary would be to hang her. Clinchfield Railroad had huge, 100-ton derricks that they used to unload lumber off their freight cars. If these derricks could handle those heavy items, they could surely handle a five-ton elephant.

More than 2,500 people gathered to watch Mary swing near the turn-table and powerhouse on the drizzly afternoon of September 13. Her handlers left her hanging for a half-hour, witnesses say, and then they dumped her in the grave they’d dug with a steam shovel 400 feet up the tracks.


sources: www.blueridgecountry.com/elephant/elephant.html

related post: “They’d get up and swing around on the trapeze”

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Squirrel hunting season gets under way

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 12, 2016

Squirrel hunting was and is a passion, necessity (that may be more of a was), and a sport in the hills of Virginia and Kentucky. You see it reflected in the place names: Dickenson County, VA has Squirrel Camp, Squirrel Camp Tunnel, and Squirrel Camp Branch; there’s a Squirrel Hollow in Russell County, VA; over in Kentucky Harlan County also has a Squirrel Hollow; Breathitt County, KY has Squirrel Fork; and there’s a Squirrel Run Hollow in Elliott County.

The story goes that Squirrel Camp in Dickenson County was named by Dick Colley and Joshua Counts, who once came to that area to camp and hunt. They had no luck killing any large game, such as bear or deer, so they had to hunt squirrels for food. They didn’t like hunting such small game, so they named the local river branch Squirrel Camp as a joke.

group of squirrel hunters Millard VA 1912Group at squirrel camp in Millard, VA 1912; photo by Gaines Whitley.

Right across the VA/KY border from Dickenson County lies Pike County, KY.

“My grandfather, ‘Pop’ Ross Anderson,” writes John Lee Anderson, “was an expert squirrel hunter and a great storyteller. When I was in high school, we were eagerly awaiting the beginning of hunting season. The evening before the season opening, I was visiting Pop to get any advice and hopefully some of his hunting secrets.

“Just a few years prior, Pop went squirrel hunting in the mountains behind Elkhorn City. He decided to go over into Eel Flats to an area that he was familiar with and knew that was sure to be loaded with squirrels. He had no more picked out a good spot among some large hickory trees that it began raining. The rain was so hard Pop knew he had to find shelter.

“There was a huge old oak tree that had a hollow crack in it. The tree was large enough that Pop could squeeze into the hollow of the tree. When the rain stopped, Pop decided to squeeze out of the crack in the tree to resume hunting. However, due to the rain, sweating and high humidity, he, with the wet clothing, had swollen and was unable to squeeze out of the tree.

“He tried to remain calm, but knowing the probability that no one would be able to find him or assist him, he became more anguished. He said his whole life flashed before his eyes. He remembered all of the wonderful times he had had with his great family. He remembered how thankful he was to have such a wonderful wife. He remembered all of the friends he had. He remembered all of his accomplishments and the rewards of his early days as a teacher.

“Then, he said, he remembered that he had voted Republican one time and he felt so small he slid right out of that tree.”

Squirrel hunting resultsKentucky hunters currently can bag 10 squirrels a day; in Virginia the limit is 6.

Today hunters can pursue gray and red squirrels throughout Virginia, but if they want the much rarer fox squirrels, state law only permits that species to be hunted in the counties west of the Blue Ridge. Kentucky squirrel hunters traditionally get started the third Saturday in August, but Virginia sportsmen have to wait till Sept 6.

sources: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janderson15/AndersonBook.pdf

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Book Review: ‘Story of the Summersville Dam’

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 9, 2016

Betty Dotson-Lewis has written quite a few books before her latest, “Story of the Summersville Dam and The Mighty Gauley River in the Hills of West Virginia.” She’s had enough writing experience to know when “something came to me to write this book,” it was time to listen to the small voice within and get to her writing desk.

Betty Dotson-Lewis was raised in a WV coal mining town. She attended Berea College.

Betty Dotson-Lewis was raised in a WV coal mining town. She attended Berea College.

She gathered stories from descendants of workers on the dam, government officials involved, and families who’d been displaced by the dam’s construction. Dotson-Lewis was able to collect never before published family photos, take photos herself on site, and even mine unlikely sources, such as the Lyndon Johnson Library, for visuals.

“Still, I wondered, what is the purpose of this book? I continued on writing, rewriting, trying to make sense of what seemed like a somewhat bland topic—but of regional historic importance—and that was what I was after: capturing and documenting Appalachian history.”

Everyone knows dams exist to control flooding, but that seems like such an abstract idea on the day-to-day level. It doesn’t resonate emotionally.

“Then, on June 23, 2016 West Virginia was hit with the flood of the century, and we all saw first hand the purpose of Summersville Dam fulfilled. Had it not been for the Summersville Dam many more lives and possessions would have been lost.

“I then knew the purpose of my book.”

Here’s an excerpt from ‘Story of the Summersville Dam and The Mighty Gauley River in the Hills of West Virginia.’ In this segment, we meet Polina Forren and her husband Otto, lifelong residents of Sparks, WV, one of the towns submerged by the dam. Their daughter Nila watched her parents’ lives fall apart when they were forced to move from their beloved community.



After they moved permanently to the little house in Hookersville, WV, Polina asked her daughter Nila to take her back one last time before the road was torn up and impassable. She wanted to see her house and barn again. She wanted to look at her young peach tree to see if it were growing and check the apple tree up near the barn. She wanted to see the grape arbor. She wanted to look around.

Nila agreed to take her mom back once more.

“I packed sandwiches to eat and water to drink after we got there. We loaded into the car and began the journey. I drove down the main road to where Mary Sparks lived and had the post office in her house. The road was rough and hard to navigate.

“When we got there, the only thing left standing was the back wall of the well house where Mom strained the milk and made butter.

“The house, barn and woodshed were all gone. We walked out to the garden. We found a broken half- gallon jar. I got the food and drink out the of the car and set it on the half shelf left standing. Poor ole Mom looked like she was going to fall apart.

“She wanted to go see the young peach tree and apple tree by the barn. Everything was gone. I took the sandwiches out and gave her one. Tears came out of her eyes. She did not cry out. The tears just streamed down her face and into her sandwich. Her heart was broken. She was born and raised there.

“My sister and her family were displaced but they were younger and it didn’t affect them like it did Mom and Dad.

“Seeing Mom so torn up broke my heart. I told her we would stay as long as she wanted to stay.

“After the move to Hookersville, Dad’s health began failing and he had to have surgery. Before he went to the hospital he told my sister and I that we would need to help Mom with everything that was going on because of the move. He knew she was fragile. He was gentle like Mom.

Otto and Polina Forren. Courtesy the author.

“They didn’t stay at Hookersville very long even though Mom planted a little garden. She said that the neighbors didn’t visit. She was not satisfied.

“They moved to a little four room house in Zela. It had a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. She liked it better there but developed a heart condition which could have been stress related.

“We took her to Montgomery to the hospital. They admitted her. Dad called her ‘that woman.’ His mind was failing.

“When we returned home without Mom, he looked up at me and started humming an old time song. “You girls are going to have to help me,” he said. He was a singer. The song was, ‘I am Just a Wayfaring Pilgrim.’ He was reliving his past.

“Dad’s mind had not been good since the first move. I brought Mom home from the hospital and got her in her bed in the bedroom where they slept. A rocking chair was at the far end of the bed and a straight back chair set at the head of the bed. My sister and I put Dad in the rocking chair after we got Mom in bed but he didn’t want to sit there. He wanted to sit in the chair at the head of the bed.

“When he finally looked down and realized it was Mom he leaned over, picked her up and wrapped her in both his arms and kissed her. He told us he must be catching a cold because his nose was running. He was crying.

“Mom lived one more year after Dad passed.”

‘Story of the Summersville Dam and The Mighty Gauley River in the Hills of West Virginia’ is self-published and printed in Lexington, KY.

To order book –
Contact: Betty Dotson-Lewis
Betty Dotson-Lewis
149 Deer Crossing Lane
Summersville, WV 26651
cost of book: $20.00
+ $4.00 for mailing envelope and postage

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