Traditional Stories


EARLY SCHOOL AND HOME
Described by Pioneer, Columbus Bailey

I was born in what is now Logan County, West Virginia, eighty-six years ago (written in 1934) the second day of September. I am the son of William W. and Lucinda Godfrey Bailey, who moved from Logan County to the waters of Beech when I was eleven or twelve years old. My boyhood was one of hardship because father had but one arm. I didn't go to school much but I can read and write and cipher a little. I went to school a few days each year in a little hewed log schoolhouse which stood behind the present Doddridge Bailey house at the mouth of Fink. John Bailey, Benny Metz, Gabriel Godby and Levi Reed were teachers who instructed me. Benny Metz was blind but was one of the best teachers in this county.

The seats were only split logs with sticks stuck in holes for legs. I never sat on a seat with a desk when I was a boy. My old hewed log home at the mouth of Maze Fork, which empties into Fink, was made of two unhewed log houses about seventeen by seventeen feet each, boarded up between with boards sawed on an old-fashioned whipsaw. The houses were chucked with strips of wood and blocks, and daubed with clay mud.

The whipsaw resembled a crosscut except it is large at one end and tapers gradually to the other, with the teeth all set one way. Logs to be sawed are laid up in forked trees. Boards were marked off by dipping strings in pokeberry juice or ooze, and marking the desired width of the board on the log. Later bluing was used for this marking. One man stood on the ground and one on the top of the log when sawing. A good whipsaw could cut one inch at a stroke. Elijah Webb, father of Lynch Webb of Minnora, and I cut joists, loft planks, and flooring for one of the largest log houses in the country for Joshua Gillinwaters, an uncle of mine, who lives in Roane County, using a whipsaw for this huge task.

My father owned seven hundred acres of land on the mouth of Fink. Our neighbors were Balas Dewees, John Cooper, and William Haverty. When we moved from Logan, I was afraid of these men because of their funny clothes. They wore hunting shirts or "wampuses" made of homemade linen or woolen cloth. These were colored with sumac berries, a pale red, or chestnut oak bark, a dark brown. They had blue shirts, too, but I don't know how they were colored. These shirts were cut in two pieces and opened up the sides, part way. They had no buttons so the corners of the shirttails were caught and tied in knots, making the shirts baggy and ill-fitting.

The men's hunting caps were made of coonskin. John Cooper had one of fox skin with the tail left on for trimming. These caps together with their homemade shoes and trousers really frightened me.

Everyone on Beech went to mill to the old tub wheel mill that used to be near the present home of Joseph Knotts, near Minnora. We carried our grist on our backs and came down Wolfe Run because there were no roads and we could follow a footpath this way. When we first moved here nearly every family had a hand mill or gritter. The hand mill was made up by hollowing out a stump and making two rocks to fit into the hole. The upper rock had a mall niche knocked out of one edge and a bent sapling was cut off and the end fastened into the niche. Then by hand the upper rock was turned around and around, making meal for johnny cakes. Gritters were only pieces of tin with nail holes through them over which ears of corn were rubbed to form meal while the corn was yet soft. I've gritted corn many an afternoon during the fall of the year.

I can remember several things that happened during the Civil War. One day I had to go a way down on Beech and get two bushels of corn for my mother. Dad had only one arm but he was in Dixie in the army and we were seeing a hard time. I started over to the tub wheel mill with this corn on an old gray horse. I came across by Hardway's Run as there was a road then. Just as I reached the forks of the road below where Bee Hopkins's lower garden now is, the Union Home Guards from Spencer met me. They ordered me off my horse and took my grist and poured it out on a big flat rock that was there until the late road was graded through here. They took my old horse and galloped off down the road. I guess though that the old horse was so lazy and slow they had no use for him, for we heard that he was grazing around down where Maury Keith lives, and a few days later we had him back home again.

Nearly everybody in this country was in the Southern army. Mr. Fleming, who lived on the old Fleming farm on Left Hand, was Union, and because people didn't like him, he rented his farm to my uncle, John Bailey, and moved away. One time when I was visiting over there, John Bailey's son and young Henry Lowry slipped in at night and got something to eat. They were home on a furlough from the Southern army. While they were talking and eating, the Home Guards from Spencer came. Both boys started to run and Bailey escaped by hiding in some willows under the creek bank. He was the father of John Floyd Bailey and Doddridge Bailey. But young Lowry was shot down while crossing a cornfield. The Guards then dragged his body and threw it into my uncle's yard and hurried away.

Lowry's parents lived on White Oak by the big cedar tree in Clark Jarvis's garden. We sent them word of the murder and William Jarvis and his wife came after the body. This William Jarvis was the father of Bill Jarvis who lives on White Oak. These folks came because all the Lowry men were in the army.

They brought one horse and a little shabby sled. I can see them now as well as if it were yesterday. Lowry's grave was among the first made in the old graveyard near Clark Jarvis's house. I have seen lots of changes in eighty- six years in this part of Calhoun and I am wondering just what else is going to happen before I die.

Source: The Calhoun Chronicle, Grantsville, West Virginia, appearing in 1934.


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