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Mother Myers

It's winter 1968. Mommy is 80 years old now and memories are 
sometimes a little foggy. She's telling me of her life as a 
little girl and down through the years. When Mommy was two 
years old, her mother died, her father abandoned her. A dear 
sweet Aunt and Uncle took her into their home and shared with 
her the little they had, which was very little. They were 
gentle folk and very religious. Their name was Lacy, Uncle 
Oliver and Aunt Sis. They had a son, Ezra, a few years 
younger than Mommy. Also they raised an orphan boy, 
a nephew of Aunt Sis. His name was Arno Hill. The three 
children were cousins but were raised as brothers and sisters 
and remained so through the years [until] death came to Arno 
in 1938.

Ezra was an invalid for many years having suffered a broken back 
in a coal mine accident. A cable broke and let the car in which 
he was riding fall to the ground. Others in the car were killed. 
He died in 1953. Uncle Oliver and Aunt Sis lived by the Golden 
Rule. From them Mommy learned honesty and hard work are rules to 
live by taken from the Good Book. Back in the hills of West Virginia 
when Mommy was a little girl, even the little one room school houses
were few and far between. For the little education she got she 
walked three miles over a trail through the wilde made by cattle 
and other animals in search of better grazing. For a little girl 
alone, even the big trees were frightening, but she is ever 
grateful for the little schooling she got. She is able to read 
her Bible and to write letters to her family away from home.

She tells me when she was eleven years old she went out to work 
as a hired girl, often treated as a slave, was paid 25 cents a 
week and didn't always get that. Some of the people she worked 
for were cruel. They got her out of bed at 4 A.M. to make fires 
and do chores milking feeder stock, then get breakfast, wash, 
iron, cook, clean, work in the garden, can and chop wood.

There was never any time for fun. The days were long and the 
work was so very hard for a little girl. As we sit by the fire 
this cold winter day and memory goes back through the years, 
she tells me the names of some of the people she worked for and 
a little bit about them. Her first job was for the Henry Hill 
family. They paid her 50 cents a week. There she worked in the 
fields harvesting the crops, helped to chop and carry in the 
winter wood for fuel.

From there she went to Joe and Kit Chandler. They only promised 
to pay her 25 cents a week [they never paid her].  She only stayed 
three weeks with them. They had a big family. [_______________]
made soap and quilted or knitted socks in her spare time. If, 
when she left she had not been able to do all the things expected 
of her, she was severely criticized.

The years pass and Mommy is sixteen or seventeen. She is working 
in a home where the Mother had just died and left a little baby 
girl. The husband and father was Sam Griffith, and little Marie. 
Sam Griffith, Mommy and Marie remained close friends. Sam is 
gone now. Mommy and Marie are still good friends.

Mommy had an Aunt Aggie who married a man named Freeman Michael. 
They had a daughter Alice. They lived on Lens Creek, about 35
miles away. But it might as well have been a thousand miles. 
There were no roads and no rail roads. On Little Coal River 
then, another aunt was married to a McKindley. She died young, 
was the mother of two daughters. Their names were Alice and Minnie. 
Alice lived in Huntington for many years, moved on to Ohio, 
has kept in touch and has come to visit a few times. These 
visits were a great joy to Mommie.

We only mention the cousins here because Mommoy had only a few 
kin folk. Her friend, Sam Griffith's brother, Cap, married a 
girl whom Mommy knew. They went to the same little school and 
were friends. Her name was Gennie Holestine.

Gennie wanted her friend, Nancy (Mommy) to come stay with her 
when she was expecting a baby - she had twin boys. It was 
through Sam and Cap and their Sister Christine (Aunt Jean) 
Mommy met their nephew John Myers (Johnnie). They corresponded 
and seen each other when possible. Johnnie worked in a coal 
mine on Davis Creek. His mother, a widow for many years, and 
his three sisters, Anna, Lona, and Ailie, ran the boarding house 
for the coal company. It was a very shy nervous young woman who 
went with Johnnie that Sunday so long ago to meet his folks,
his Mother, three sisters and a brother. Mother Myers, Lona, Ailie
and Frank liked Mommy and she liked them. But Annie was a bit 
of a snob. She was older and wiser, she liked to think. She 
insisted on being consulted on everything concerning the family,
personal and otherwise.  They didn't always choose to obey her 
orders and often told her their life was their own.

On Christmas Day, 1900, Mommy, (Nancy Miller) and Johnnie 
Myers were married. Work was scarce and the going was rough. 
The following summer Johnnie's 18 year old sister, Ailie, 
died. A dear, dear friend was gone. The bright shining light 
was gone from the boarding house and from the hearts of those 
who lived there. Johnnie got a job driving mules in the
mine-and Mommy worked at the boarding house. Soon they decided 
they must get a place by themselves. They moved into a company 
house a mile or so away. Mommy still helped with the work at 
the Boarding house.

In 1902, March 28, their first child was born, a tiny 3 pound 
boy. For many weeks life hung in the balance for both Mother and 
the tiny little baby. That winter was a bad one. Much of the 
time Mommy was alone with her little baby and afraid. There 
were lots of tough characters around as there always is in a 
mining camp. We believe it was fall 1903. Great preparations 
were being made for a birthday party for Annie. The cake was 
all decorated and sitting on the sideboard. Johnnie's brother, 
a young mischievous fellow of about 20, came in taking the 
aprons off all the girls in the kitchen, stuffed them in the 
bib of his overalls, climbed to the top of the highest 
Sycamore tree in sight, tied the apron strings securely. It 
is said those aprons hung there blowing in the breeze for 
several years. He came down from the tree, went into the 
dining room, cut himself a generous piece of the birthday 
cake, called out Happy Birthday Annie, Good-by Ma. When 
they next heard from him he was in the US Army training 
with the Calvary in Oregon State. In 1904, he died with 
Small Pox in Manilia, Philippine Islands, is buried in a 
Military Cemetery there.

The shock of his death was almost more than Mother Myers 
could bear. She gave up the Boarding House which wasn't 
doing very well by now anyway. The mines were closing down. 
More and more people were being laid off every week. Soon 
Davis Creek was a ghost town.

Mommy and Johnnie, we call him Dad from here on, loaded their 
house hold goods and their two sons, Bernard, age four, and 
Frank, age two, into a wagon, headed across the mountain to 
Briar Creek. There at a spot now known as Dog Town, Dad built 
a small house for them to live in on a plot of land given to 
him by his mother. The land was deeded to Dad's mother by her 
Father-in-law, Dad's grandfather, John Myers. The home is near 
Brownland on Coal River where, on September 14, 1907, a baby 
girl was born to them. She was named Beatrice. (Dad had not 
been able to work much because of a broken leg he had gotten 
while working in the mines at Davis Creek in a bout with a mule. 
It was about this time Aunt Annie comes back into the picture. 
The land where Dad and Mommy had built their house was what is 
called a creek bottom. She, being the oldest, insisted she was 
entitled to the choice spot, that being the spot with the
house on it. Easy going Dad and Mommy went on the hill and 
built themselves another house.  Aunt Annie, of course, was 
married and had promised to look after their mother if she 
could have the property with the house. This, of course, was a 
very selfish thing to do. But she got the house. Mother Myers 
didn't know about all this. She had absolutely no use for Charlie, 
Annie's husband.

For Mommie and her growing family, life was very hard. She 
worked so hard making every little bit count. She raised 
everything she possibly could. Everything had to be carried 
up the hill, water had to be carried from a spring a half-mile 
away. But Mommy somehow managed. How, none of us can imagine.

We believe it was 1912, August. Grandma Myers went to spend some 
time with her daughter, Lona, who lived on Lens Creek. Lona had 
three children, Robert, Clarence and Dorothy and was expecting 
another that fall. In August, Grandma took sick with pneumonia 
and died. Her death was a great shock to Mommy. The two, Mommy 
and Grandma, had become so close. It was sort of a mutual 
understanding each to look after the other when the going got 
too rough for either to go on. So, on that sad day so long ago, 
Grandma Myers was laid to rest beside her daughter Ailie in a 
little cemetery on a hill in the head of Davis Creek. For many 
years this little burial ground would have been a source of 
wonder to a stranger passing through - the town was gone, the 
few graves were surrounded by large trees and some of the graves 
had trees growing on them. The little grave yard is now inside 
a West Virginia State Park, a beautiful spot.

A few. days after Grandma Myers passed away, little Dorothy 
Price, Aunt Lona's darling little four year old girl whom they 
loved so dearly, died suddenly of ptomain poisoning. During this 
time little Hollas was born to Aunt Lona and John Price.

Dad worked first one place and then another, always so restless. 
The year 1913 the two Johns, Myers and Price, brothers-in-law, 
went up New River in search of work. They landed at a place called 
Glen Gene on Luke Creek New River. This was an awful place. The men 
didn't get along very well together. It was at Glen Gene, Lester was 
born on January 30, 1914. That Spring the family moved back to the 
home on the hill. It was like heaven. Then came World War I [and 
everything started]. Dad still working in or around the mine, not 
knowing when he might be called to military service. It was about 
this time Dad decided he needed and wanted very much an education 
that would help him in his ambition to become a carpenter. So he 
bought himself a set of books and went to work studying under a 
gentle old man who had been a school teacher, an expert in math 
and science, Uncle Allen Cantley. Dad stayed with it until he 
became a very good scholar. When the course was finished, he began 
taking contracts to build houses, coal tipples, schools, churches, 
rail road trestles, all kinds of projects. Some he did very well, 
some not so good. Lots of the money he made went for tools. Mommy, 
Burnard and Frank cleared up a patch of new ground in the head of 
White Oak hollow. This was wonderful soil for growing all sorts of 
things the family needed to eat. They raised great quantities of 
corn, beans, potatoes and pumpkins. Oh, yes, there was a draw back.. 
This fine garden was in the woods about two miles away. Either she 
had to leave her children alone at home or take them with her, 
Either way was hard for her. By then there were seven children and, 
of course, some very little ones that had to be carried. Often 
Mommy would pack a lunch and head for a day of work in her garden 
taking all the children with her. Those who could, helped those 
not big enough to hoe or pull weeds, fanned the gnats and insects 
off the babies while they slept.

After a long hard day of work, the long trek home carrying a baby 
and maybe leading a little one by the hand, get home late and so 
very tired, prepare a meal for herself and the children. We stop 
here to think and to wonder how on God's Green Earth a frail little 
woman ever stood up under the burden she carried. Mommy is and has 
always been very religious. Every night she got down on her knees 
and prayed for strength to carry her through the day. Many were 
the times we sat down to a meal when there was not enough food, 
but all heads were bowed while Mommy said Grace. I believe this 
is one of the things her children will remember all the years of
their life. When Sunday came every one was off to Sunday school. 
Perhaps not dressed as well as some, but just as clean you can bet. 
Clothes, were hard to come 'by as was food. Dad was away from home 
most of the time working. Then came the summer when Dad built three 
additional rooms and a porch to our two-room house. This was just 
great, so much room.

Now we're up to about 19 It was decided all of us would go there to 
live, at least through the winter. That was not easy. Mommy took 
care of her family as well as several boarders, men who worked for 
Dad. That winter, Burnard and Luva came awfully close to death. 
Both had pneumonia. It was that fall before going to Ivy Branch 
to live. Mommy got a chicken bone fast in her throat. It remained 
there for many months causing much pain.

Early Spring we head back to our dear little house on the mountain, 
surrounded by an apple orchard and lots of flowers. "Home!" The 
year 1918 Dad sold the home, we went to live on a small truck farm 
at the mouth of Fork Creek. It was here Ralph was born. We didn't 
stay there very long, a year or so. Dad then bought a litle place 
across the river from Holly Hurst. When we speak of home it's 
a little house on the West bank of Big Coal River. There in that 
spot lies many memories, some pleasant, some sad. It was there 
Mommie's family grew up, left home to work, to marry, to serve 
in World War Two.

Yes, in this year of 1963, Mommie is alone now with only her 
memories.She's living in a little house that Dad built for a work 
shop just across the river from home.

I'm sure that when she looks out across the river at home, time is 
folded back like the pages in a book. She must surely see Dad and 
each one of her twelve children growing up, four of them born there 
in the little house by the side of the river. A time when we all 
were down sick in bed with the flu except Dad. Aunt Jean coming to 
the river and calling to Dad to bring the boat. Unafraid of catching 
the disease, she brought baskets of food, all prepared for sick 
folks to eat. Our dear old gentle Aunt Jean who did so much for 
those in need.

A depression that no one can ever forget. Getting a call in the night, 
one of her sons has been hit by a car and is seriously hurt. She 
and Dad must go to him at Beckley over a hundred miles away. The 
night is very cold. The roads are icy and mountainous. Or the call 
that came when one of her sons had been badly injured in a coal 
mine accident. This one a broken back. Seeing 3 of her 8 sons 
depart for service in World War II. Lester served four years in 
the Navy. Lawrence, four and a half years in-the Army.. John, 
six years, Air Force. The great joy of seeing them comes back. 
The thousands of little things that only a Mother can see or 
remember. Things that 'made her family happy also made her 
happy. Always so very pleased. When someone got something nice 
for her or for the house. The great joy experienced by all when 
her boys brought home a May Tag Wash Machine and a new stove. 
Or the time Dad got the nice new Norge refrigerator.

Mommy was a lot of fun. Anyone playing a joke on her could expect
her to think of a better one in return. She could beat anyone 
or all of her kids playing checkers. She must surely see herself 
and Dad so very sick. And when Dad came to the bend in the road 
on April 12, 1959. Or herself so terribly sick the spring of 1960. 
No one thought she'd ever make it. Her great faith and courage 
have in some mysterious way born her along like a great Spirit 
on the wings of an Angel. She's a wonderful person. Pray that 
God will give to the world more like her.

A wonderful person. Our Mother.

By Ralph Myers

The place where Mommy was born and grew up is now a West Virginia
Game reserve and a park. Boone County. 25 miles or so from Charleston,
Fork Creek.

Submitted by: Emma Ayles

WV Coal Mining
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