A Review of My Life: Reuben Taylor George

As told to Buell Zirkle - 1937
I was born in an old fashioned two story log house on what is now known as the Coon place, the present place of one of my grandsons 1½ miles West of Belington, Barbour County, West Virginia.

There were seven children in my father's family. I was the sixth child. The eldest was a sister named Jane (Bennett) George. She was buried in the Old Coon graveyard which is located on the above mentioned Coon Place. My father's name was Samuel George, and my mother's Elizabeth (Warner) George.

My father died of tumor when I was in my sixth year. My mother lived to be seventy-two years of age. James Warner the second child moved to the West after his marriage and remained there until his death some years ago. John Randolph was the third child. He died while still a young man, but he had several children. One whom I took and reared to manhood. His name William Taylor, he later became a lawyer, and now lives in Philippi, W. V. Rebecca Ann was the fourth child. She attained ripe old age and was married to John Waters an Irishman. Mary Clay fifth in line never married, she died in her youth just after the Civil War. I. R. Taylor was the sixth child. The seventh and last child, William Biggs died at the age of seventeen years.

After my father's death my mother was faced with the problem of raising a family, the oldest, but fifteen years of age. My two oldest brothers, John R. and James Warner enlisted in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War and served until the end of the conflict. My mother was resourceful like all pioneer women in the early days. We raised a few sheep, and mother spun the wool and made our stocking, mittens, sweaters, etc. Mother also spun the flax and made all of our clothes. She mixed cotton and wool and made a cloth called linsey. Our pants that she made from this material were called jeans. We lived very simply. Wheat bread was a luxury in those days. We had corn bread, buckwheat, and sometimes rye bread, cake and pies were almost unheard of. Our cabin had a "puncheon floor" logs hewed with a flat surface. There were no stoves. We cooked on the hearth of the open fire place, burned tallow candles which my mother made, and sometimes we had for illumination lighted rags placed in melted tallow. We had no windows as we now have today. Most cabins had greased paper placed over shallow openings to let the light in. The first cook stove ever to come into Valley District was brought by pack mule over the mountains, from Virginia, by Joe Teter a circuit rider preacher. He also brought the first wagon in this part of the county, packed also by a mule as the roads were not wide enough to accommodate a wagon.

Our grain was cut with reap hooks, and threshed out with flails; it was then turned in a sheet to remove the chaff, then taken to the mill and bolted on a hand bolt. A laborer's wages in West Virginia, as Virginia West of the Blue Ridge Mountains was called then, was about twenty-five cents for a ten hour day. Cow and horse hides were tanned by the home folks then. The first pair of shoes that I had were made by a neighbor, named Samuel Harris, and his work was rather crude; for I remember that a considerable amount of the hair had been left on the hide when it had been tanned, and those shoes looked rather peculiar with patches of hair hanging to them here and there.

I remember distinctly hearing the booming of cannon in Philippi, W.V. during the skirmish there, which was the first land battle of the Civil War, and took place on the hill that Broaddus College now stands. I also remember when both Union and Southern cavalry troops and marching infantry passed through Valley District. Once my little brother and I were along the road and a company of Southern soldiers passed through. We hid in the brush until they had passed by. I remember how their sabers rattled and flashed in the sun, and their gray uniforms covered with dust. The cavalry would travel until their horses became tired, and if they happened to reach a mountaineers cabin where the owner had a horse, they would take the man's fresh horse and leave their tired one without the consent of the owner. Sometimes if they came to a home where someone had a hog, they would take it along and very seldom they would offer to pay for it--The Spoils of War.

Soon after the close of the Civil War I went to the West with friends who migrated to Eastern Kansas, which was then called Cherokee Nation. Dodge City in the extreme Western part of the state is the site of Old Port Dodge and at that time was a shipping and trading center for range cattle and buffalo hides. This extreme Western outpost was more or less ruled by allcross element, and the six-gun was the law of the range, an old time slogan was said to have been, "There is no God west of Dodge City".

I suffered many hardships while on this new frontier. I worked along the Missouri, Texas, and Kansas Railroads which was then being built to the Gulf of Mexico through Texas ans Oklahoma. I contracted the fever ague while there, and almost died of the dread disease. I tramped from Galveston, Texas all the way back to eastern Kansas, sleeping out on the open plains many times where great herds of buffalo roamed practically unnoticed, prairie grass was waist high, and the only roads were the cow trails, water was full of alfari, and wells were few and far between. I drank water many times from buffalo tracks and the taste was something like spoiled eggs, and this unsanitary method of obtaining drinking water no doubt contributed to my falling victim of the dreaded fever.

I stayed in this western country about a year, coming home in the late spring of the year 1869--incidentally I might add here, that I had occasion to visit friends and relatives in this same section of the country a half century later; and the physical as well as the geographical change that had taken place during that time was quite startling. I had harkened to the advice of Horace Greely a prominent man of that period, who along about that time was proclaiming far and wide, "Go West young man, Go West" however the vast impartially civilized West did not hold the charms for me that my own native mountain home did, and so I was supremely happy to be back again in my native state.

After my return from the West, I bought a small tract of land in Valley District 3 miles West of Belington, and all of it was in virgin timber, I cleared ground for a corn patch, falling large full bodied trees with only an axe to work with, chipping them up in log lengths. Some logs were three feet over, would have made wonderful lumber. I piled them together (log heaps) they were called and burned them. I built a cabin in the clearing on this patch of ground, and did not have it quite completed when I married and brought in my wife, a young widowed mother named, Sarah Ann (Wilmoth) Tallman. Her former husband was Marion Tallman and they had been married about three years when he died of appendicitis, Their only child, Mary Francis was as yet unborn at his death--being born three months later. After our marriage which was performed by Joseph Teter (whose daughter Grace later became my son's wife) times were hard, there was practically no market in those days, and money was made only through local exchange of products and by hiring out at the current labors wages which was pathetically low sometimes doing a hard days work from sun up to sun down from twenty-five to fifty cents.

The above mentioned home was located on the headwaters of Zebbs Creek, on land now held by the Lewis Swick heirs. I traded it a year or so later for 35 acres of land with a cabin already built on the site where my present home stands. I moved to this new location in March 1877, and on August 8th of that year my only son, Vioda Eli was born, six years from the date of my son's birth, my only daughter, Lulu Laverne was born on April 12, 1884. In 1889 I moved to Hall, WV (then called South Bend) and entered the mercantile business there. I remained in business at this place approximately for two years, then returned to my farm. Not long after this I bought a general merchandise store at Audra, WV a small village on the Middle Fork River. At that time there was a water grist mill on the river just below the covered bridge and just a stones throw from my store. Today the site is a ghost village of towering pines and all of the buildings have vanished, all of men's former handy work remaining is the covered bridge and where the squeaking mill wheel once turned only a crumbling pile of quarried stone remain.

I remained in business at this location until 1889 at which time I sold it to J. Everett Strader and moved back once again to the farm. After this venture in business I began buying and selling land in this and four adjoining counties. I have at one time or another owned all of the land of a distance of two miles either way from my present Valley District address, north and south, and a mile either way east, and west, between the Middle Fork and Tygarts Valley Rivers.

During the spring of 1899 I had the pattern for the home which I now live in sawed and the Autumn of that year I employed James K. Anderson to construct my present residence. My daughter and her husband, Dellus Corley and two sons; Craig George and Orion Taylor have shared my home since 1914. My wife died on the 27th of March, 1926 (God rest her dear soul, I know she is in Heaven) at the age of 75 years. She shared my burdens and perplexities with a fortitude and kindly patience she could not have shown so consistently, but for her utmost faith in God and her constant trysts with him in prayer. She was a true wife, a kind and loving mother and an honored friend of all whom she contracted on the pathway of life. I seldom speak to God in prayer, that I do not thank him for allowing me the privilage of having had as helpmate one who always exemplified by her actions in daily life her determination to serve God faithfully and this duty she carried to her peaceful end. She has been deceased eleven years and her dear memory is as much cherished and great to me as was my trust in a virtuous bride that day long agowhen we stood with bowed heads before the minister.

Since my wife's death I have been much alone, however I have a room to myself, a comfortable bed, plenty of nourishing food and my daughter tends my wants and is kind and considerate of me, nevertheless, I have never been content since my dear wife's passing, for it seems as if part of me is missing without the one by my side who was always so faithful and left a void in my life none earthly can ever fill.

On January 8, 1936 a little more than a year ago my son, Oda died of cancer at the age of 58 years. Since his death my loneliness has increased and now as this is being written I am helplessly bedfast with the inevitable complications due to advanced old age, and have been for several months. I have hosts of friends who come to visit with me often, many bringing little tokens which they think I might possibly be able to eat, or something that I might be able to enjoy otherwise. All bringing words of kindness to encourage me and try to help make my last hours happier. All this tends to strengthen my lasting faith in mankind. My long and useful life is about over, my 88th birthday will be on Wednesday August 11th. One week hence from the date this is being written.

As the shadows of life begin to grow shorter, and the end of the trail looms expectantly ahead, I approach the not far off conquering enemy; death, with the firm faith of my Father and without not a lingering doubt that the man of Galilee will be holding out his right hand when I approach the river of Jordan. I thank God for the certain knowledge of eternal life and the blessed promise he has given through our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Submitted by Elizabeth George-Jordan, great-great granddaughter of John Randolph George.

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