Sunday, May 19, 2019

Is there anything more delightful than a silver tea services and fresh roses?  I think not.  Now that the children are grown, I get to indulge in these pretties as my Daddy would have called them, without fear of their getting mussed up.  I'd gladly trade all my pretties to have a few more days of the kids' back at home, but since that's not going to happen -- onward to the new decade of adulting - empty nest style.    Here's to all things beautiful and serene as I make this apartment our home.  Blessings.   #FreshFlowers  #SilverTeaSets  #NostalgicLiving

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fussin' and Feudin'

It's the stuff legends (and History Channel miniseries) are made of, and it happened right here in my backyard.  Over 50 million people recently watched the three-part miniseries of the Hatfield and McCoy's starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, among others.  The History Channel's offering is not the first.  This is a story that has been told and retold many, many times.  The day after the first installment aired, many of us from this area where the feud actually took place (and who either are, or are connected with and to decendants of the actual folks depicted in the movie) gathered around water coolers at work or on facebook posts to discuss what we thought of this particular offering.  While I'm not a great fan of Kevin Costner, I found this offering less wooden than some of his other characters and in that way, it was tolerable.  What many of us noticed first, however, was the backdrop for the movie.  We who live in the heart of Hatfield McCoy country looked at each other and said, "That doesn't look a thing like here."  "Here", being the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky and Western West Virginia.  What the movie showed you was Romania.  Beautiful place, but not our Appalachia.  Here, the bottomland is scare and people farm on mountainsides, or at least they did back in the 1800's.  Here, those mountains where Devil Anse's crew were timbering would have been almost straight up and not how they were depicted on the movie.  Still, it was an admirable offering and only those who know Appalachian like we do would probably object to it being filmed in Romania instead of here on home soil.  

(I do not own this picture and am unsure who does, but all rights reserved for the original owner of this picture)

Now for the story itself.  It seems that each time a depiction is made, another take on the story is told. Which is the truth?  Well, truth can be such an illusive thing.  And everyone, apparently, has their version of it.  While much of what you saw was based in fact, some poetic license was taken, of course, to help move the story along and make it all fit more neatly.   One such license with the truth was that it was Jim Vance who assaulted Sarah McCoy on New Year's Day in the back of the head with the butt of his gun.  The movie showed bad Jim Vance doing the dasterdly deed.  That worked out well because by that time, none of us liked his character anyway and would not have expected any different from him.  Truth is, however, to my understanding, it was Johnsy, not Jim Vance, who assaulted Mrs. McCoy...the woman who, at one time, he wanted to be his mother-in-law.   I thought of that as Sarah's character lay there on the ground near her dead daughter Alafair. 

Also, Johnsy was made out to be a young man caught in the middle of a blood feud and kept from his one true love, Roseanna, who, according to the movie, he loved right up to the end.   Not much reality there either, although the star-crossed lover theme does play well to audiences.  Truth is, Johnsy married Nancy McCoy, Roseanna's cousin and that liason wasn't any easier to maintain than would his original McCoy liason would have been.  It was still a Hatfield McCoy liason.   And not the first, nor, I suspect, would it be the last.  

Still, with all the poetic license and non-authentic setting, it was a decent tale of an interesting, but grim, part of Appalachian history.  Some who I spoke to thought the characters and action too horrible.  I agree with that assessment, except, living here and having heard of the feud from older relatives long now gone, I would say that if anything, the depictions on the mini-series did not show the extent of the violence or the heinous acts that were perpetrated.

One of the stories that connects my own personal family with the infamous Hatfield clan is that of the murder of my great great grandfather, Bill France, (or William Francis) as he was also known.  Grandpa Bill was Justice of the Peace in Pike County, Kentucky, and a Union man, some say a Colonel (although I can find no proof of that) and some call him "Captn" which he may very well have been, and some say he was just a Union sympathizer.  At any rate, the fact that he was either neutral in the conflict between the states (as the state of Kentucky chose to be) or that he was Union (as many in Kentucky were) does not surprise me.  Although I identify myself as being southern  (we are below the Mason Dixon Line), not all my relatives fought for the Confederate cause.   Like many in border states, I have ancestors that were on both sides of the conflict.  

Devil Anse Hatfield was a member of a band of "confederates" known as the Logan wildcats. These may have been part of the "home guard" but also had a reputation of being rogues and bushwhackers.  And bushwhacking is what you would call what Devil Anse did to my grandfather at his cabin one night.   This was before the killing of Asa McCoy, who was also a Union soldier.  Asa and my grandfather no doubt knew each other as did my grandfather and Ol'Rannal McCoy, even though Rannal was also a Confederate.  Some say he even was along or knew about the raid of Devil Anse on my grandfather.  Some say Ol'Rannal was against the killing the of my grandfather and  held animosity for his death against Devil Anse same as he did the later killing of his brother, Asa McCoy.  There's no one left around who knows for sure, just stories that have been passed down.  But the fact of the matter is that whether Randolph McCoy agreed with it or not, Devil Anse killed my great, great grandfather, supposedly because he was Union.   At any rate, suffice it to say, that although the war ended on a certain date in the history books, for many families, such as those in border states like ours, the war never ended until the soldiers died.   This was true in the case of the Hatfields and many other southern sympathizers who never forgave a family for choosing an opposite side in the war between the states.

My father was from Peter Creek, Phelps Kentucky.  His name was Joe Francis (France) Jr.  His father was Joe Francis Sr.  His grandfather was William R. "Bud" Francis, and his great grandfather was William Francis or "Bill France" as he was also known.  This is the man that Devil Anse hunted down while he was in his own home and shot him dead...because he was a Union man. 

William Francis, aka, "Bill France"
Justice of the Peace, Pike County Kentucky
Union Army Sympathizer
Killed by Devil Anse Hatfield
(my great, great grandfather)

But lest you believe there to be any animosity or bad blood between me and mine and any Hatfield, let me point out, one of my cousin's (I have 51 first cousins on my mom's side alone) is married to a Hatfield from West Virginia.  Yes...a decendant of  "the" Hatfields.   Couldn't love her or her husband's family any more.  There are no good surnames or bad surnames.  There are only people and their choices.  The individual must answer for his or her own actions and I am not here to sit in judgment of any man's choices, past or present.   Let God be the Judge.   I am just sharing the story that my relatives passed down as it pertains to the recent resurgence of interest in the Hatfield and McCoy families.  

I think a historian I heard recently said it best...the two families who reportedly hated each other so much, in their quest for revenge, forever entwined themselves and their family names for immortality.  And it's true.  You can't speak the word Hatfield without automatically thinking McCoy.  This is true worldwide.

I think what the feud taught me is that violence only begats violence-and nothing good ever came from senseless hatred and violence - not even a mini-series.    Until next time, take care.  -Gen. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012


In My Backyard
I can't believe that it's been almost a year since I wrote in my blog here.  Sorry for the long sabbatical.  I work in the office full-time now and come home so tired most nights that I don't take time for the hobby that I love most...writing.  I have, however, been taking time for another hobby which I hope to share with you in this and subsequent posts here on Appalachia Ponderings.  And that hobby is photography.  Back in the day of film and development and long waits for pictures to be returned, I loved photography.  Now in the day of digital photography and instant gratification, I find I love the art from even more.  What you're looking at above is one of the many beautiful vistas that we have about five minutes from our home.  While we live in the valley on the river, five minutes takes me to this view.  For those of you who are homesick for your Appalachia Mountains, this should help.  No matter where you roam in this world, if a person is born and raised in the "hills" of Appalachia.... it is always where their heart calls home and it always draws them back -- if only in their mind.  So with that thought, I'm going to proceed to share some of my pictures that Mike and I have captured while right here in our own backyard.  I hope you enjoy this tour of our homeplace as much as we do living here.  And while we're at it... click on the link below to the song by Mr. Alan Cathead Johnston, one of Appalachia's true authentic treasures.  His song, "Let the music take you there"... goes right along with our "Welcome back to Appalachia Ponderings Tour" today.  So enjoy and I'll try not to stay away so long again.

Our Home is just beyond the top left trees that you see in the picture below.  We literally live right "on the river" as I often say.  In this area, almost everything centers around water.  We live beside the river and on Hurricane Creek, but within this area there is Cedar Creek, Island Creek, John's Creek, Joe's Creek, Mud Creek, Calf Creek, Bull Creek, Racoon Creek, Chloe Creek, Ratliff Creek, Robinson Creek, Knox Creek, Peter Creek, Camp Creek, ...just to name a very few.  Folks built their homes along these waters.  A yankee friend of mine from LaPorte Indiana once asked me why we didn't build up on the mountains (which some folks do) and I said to him, "You obviously haven't seen our mountains).  So folks for centuries built their homes along the creeks and rivers here and the mountains rose up behind them like a giant protector from the outside world.  Flash flooding is a real problems in this area, but there is no doubt as to Appalachia's beauty.  Just take a look for yourself...

You never know what you're going to see from my home office window.  Our backyard is teeming with plant and animal life and it is so beautiful if you take the time to stop and study it.  Below is one little common creature that I spied one day while it was taking a rest in the spring sunshine right outside my window:
The plantlife is full and lush right now in mid-May and so beautiful.  It would take a long time to show you all of it and in a subsequent post, I plan to concentrate on some of the beautiful flowering plants of the area, but for now...come take walk on the thick carpet of grass beneath avenues of tall trees whose canopy covers tower overhead like giant beautiful:
If you're from this area, doesn't this make you homesick to come back for a visit?  And if you're not a native, you should come check out the beauty of both the countryside and the people here.  The vistas are breathtakingly beautiful, the backroads are winding and you'll find yourself relaxing and actually enjoying the ride without the worry of traffic and you can feel the stress leave you as you take in all that Appalachia has to offer. There is nothing like being here in person, as the pictures can't do justice to the magnificient views and simple beauty here.  But if you can't make it in person, or until you do... Use this link and sit back and let the music take you there... featuring the raw and beautiful music of Mr. Alan Cathead Johnson,
Nothing like Appalachia.... no place on earth quite like it and it's where I'm blessed to call home...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Faith of our Fathers...

Lined Hymns. If you have never heard them, then I cannot describe them to you properly. The first time I heard such singing, it was at a funeral. I thought that was the saddest funeral music I had ever heard. My mother explained that wasn't funeral music..but how they always sang. I am not sure how lined hymns came about but I suspect it was because there were few hymnals to go around and even fewer mountain people who could read. So one member of the congregation would "line" the hymn (say/sing the line) and then the congregation would repeat it. No matter what the reason, the music is some of the most unique you will ever hear and it harkens those who hear it back to another day (although this Primitive , or Old Regular Baptist, way of singing is alive and well even today.)

The one thing that Appalachia people have plenty of...besides heart and churches. Some outsiders believe we are 'unchurched" and some come to save us. While we appreciate all that they do...we are anything but unchurched. In fact, you can usually count some twenty churches in a five mile stretch of road. That may be one of the problems. It seems to me that every time a family or group has a disagreement with another within the church, they break off and form their own congregation right down the road. After years of this, churches of every shape, size and denomination have sprang up all over the Appalachia hills of Eastern Kentucky, Western West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

My Grandparents were members of the Primitive Baptist or Old Regular Baptist faith as it is sometimes called. These are a sect of the Baptists that sought to hold onto the original teachings and ways of the church as they believe it to be in the fist century when the Christians first came into being. I don't pretend to be an expert on religion and so I beg you forgive me if I get any of this incorrect about the Old Regular or Primitive Baptist church. Not having grown up in that faith myself, I can only relate to you here what I observed from my grandparents.

Aside from the unique form of music (which I have linked above for your enjoyment and learning), I remember my Grandmother Lee (Solomon King Smith's daughter) traveling with her father every year to the communion and "foot washing". The ritual had nothing to do with hygeine but rather was a part of worship that echoed Jesus' humbleness in washing the disciples feet as recorded in the Bible. It was, my grandmother explained, a showing of humbleness and servitude of spirit between the brethren and sisters of the church.

Another unique quality of the Primitive Baptist church where my grandmother belonged was that they had a different way of preaching. The preacher would get up and begin to speak and pretty soon they were so into their preaching in such an intense manner that when they drew in their breath, they made a loud, "uhhh" sound. Also the words would begin to take on a "sing song" type rhythm usually including a loud exhautation made to the Lord. This unusual rhythm and "uhhh" sound was what caught the attention of the younger of us who heard it more than the message he was conveying.

Often the preacher would preach for a long time and then another preacher would get up and he would begin to preach. The services tended to last a LONG time. Sometimes the preacher would preach so long that a member of the congregation would stand up and start singing while he was still preaching. Soon others in the congregation would join in the singing. This was called "singing a preacher down". I have seen first hand, funeral services for a departed member go all night long while one preacher after another would get up and preach. Those in attendance would wander in and out of the services between the solemness of the services and the "reunion" atmosphere in the hall set up with food.

Of course different churches probably do vary a little even within the Primitive Baptist faith. But I have seen this myself when attending funeral services done in this manner.

The Primitive Baptist faith was only one of many different types of churches in the Appalachians. There are many buildings with the name Church of Christ dotting the landscape all along the southern part of the eastern section of Kentucky and into Tennessee. Methodists, Freewill Baptists and Catholic churches are also prevelant, as are many independent or non-denominational churches with various names. There are even some extreme groups of a certain faith church sect (the name I cannot remember) who practice what is known as snake handling, although the practice has been outlawed.

Whatever the name over the door, it is safe to say that Appalachian people have long been a people of deep faith. Even the names in my Grandfather's family denotes a faith in the Bible. Names like Solomon, Aaron, Moses and John. Names like David and Mary and Sarah. Names like Peter, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All names repeated over and over in the Appalachias and names based on their ancestors who were named for people of the Bible.

And although their faith was often intertwined with mountain lore and supersticion, their faith saw the families of this area through many hard times and conditions that would have defeated weaker characters. Like the African Americans who labored hard in the fields all days under a master's watchful eye and who developed and sung rich songs of a better day a'coming, the Appalachians also used their faith in a better eternity to help them survive conditions that few would envy, and a unique and rich music culture grew up from those hard times as well.

Although my Appalachian ancestors often had very little by way of worldly goods to pass down to their children, they usually passed down their faith heritage along with their songs and rituals. I hope you enjoy learning more about one very old religious practice of the mountains..that of the Primitive, or Old Regular Baptist.
Petercreek Primitive Baptist Preaching, 1979. Listen if you wish to experience the sing-song sound of the Preacher as he speaks to his congregation: (I do not own nor claim to own the rights to this video, but I merely repost it here from the public world wide web for example)
(You may need to copy this link into a separate window browser to view the video)


In Their Own Words (Part 3)

And now we come to the third and final part of Grandpa Solomon King Smith's handwritten letter to his neice, Tennessee Wolford. Parts one and two of the letter supply many names for the genealogical record books and explain the origins of the Smiths (originally Schmidtt) into the Virginias and Kentucky areas. This third part of the letter continues the explanation of one of the Daugherty family members. (Grandpa Solomon Smith's grandmother was a Daughterty -- Leveniah Daugherty, daughter of Hiram Daugherty, from Donegal, Ireland. Leveniah married Jonathan Smith, son of Martin Brosten Smith, of the Schmidt family from Duesmond Germany. ) This portion of the letter continues the explanation of Solomon's Aunt Tilda Daugherty and mentions his grandmother Sallie Ann Coleman May (Sarah Ann was her real name). The letter finishes with Grandpa Solomon's closing of his letter telling Tennessee that he and his brother Scott (Smith) had recently attended church (Primitive Baptist Faith) in Paw Paw. The church was so far away and neither Grandpa or Scott drove at that time, so they hired a May relative to take them to church and back. Part 3 of the letter is translated below:

"(You may know that Aunt Tilda Daugherty was Jim and W.A. Lawyer) Daughterty's mother. She married one George Daugherty and died while the children were small. Grandma May's name was Sallie Ann (Sarah Ann was the actual name with Sallie being the nickname. Sarah's maiden name was Coleman, she was a granddaughter of Peter Coleman.) Well, me and Scott went to Paw Paw church Saturday and came back. We hired a May to take us up and back. Heard some good Preaching. Will I guess this is all for now and will say by for now from your Uncle SK Smith."

Grandpa Smith was born in 1882 and died in 1972 at the age of 90. He is buried in the Phillips Cemetery in Merrimac, West Virginia. His wife, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith is buried beside him but her resting place is marked only by a rock with the initials LAS carved upon it. There was seldom money for proper burial markers in the mountains in those times so this was common practice at the time.

I hope you have enjoyed this sharing of my family history and meeting my Grandpa his own words!

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Their Own Words (Part 2)

In my previous post, I told everyone about a letter written by my great grandfather, Solomon King (S.K.) Smith to his neice, Ms. Tennesee Wolford. The letter is a genealogical find written by an elderly hand holding a #2 pencil and recording his family history as best as he could. It is a treasure to someone like me who is the self-proclaimed family historian. To make it easier to read, I have broken the one-page letter into three parts and am posting each part here along with a translation of the contents in case the original is too difficult to decipher here online.

This section of Great Grandpa Smith's letter concentrates on the change of our Smith name from the original, German "Schmidt" to the Americanized, "Smith". Grandpa also records the earliest settling of the Smith's in Pike County, Kentucky. I found it very interesting. Grandpa Smith also speaks about his grandmother's family -- the Daugherty's. This part of our family was originally from Donegal, Ireland. Solomon's grandmother, Leveniah Daugherty, was the daughter of Hiram Martin Daugherty and Solomon's father, (Hiram Martin Smith) was named for both his grandfathers...his mother's father on the Daugherty side and for his dad, Jonathan Smith's, father (Martin Brosten Smith). This early history of the Smith's is priceless as it ties into many of the family trees and information that I found on researched Smith family trees on genealogical sites. Having it reaffirmed in my Great Grandfather's own handwriting is a wonderful verification of the information.

Another quaint and interesting thing about this part of the letter, is the turn of a phrase by my Grandfather. The letter is written in "mountain speech" that was common in Grandfather Smith's day. And what might sound unlearned to some, sounds endearing to me.

I hope you enjoy this piece of my family history and the knowledge that it was written "first-hand". I hope you enjoy reading my grandfather's (and subsequently my) genealogical story...."in his own words".



"I was told that some of what is called Smiths settled in John's Creek or Pond Creek or Big Creek section . Uncle Aaron said our name was spelled with only three letters but if told what the name was, I have forgotten (Note: Actually the name was spelled with three ADDITIONAL letters..from Smith to Schmidt, but Great Grandpa Solomon had gotten mixed up about what Uncle Aaron had said about the original name.)

Well then this is a poor list but I have a poor remembrance any more. Well we are all able to walk about down here. Well then these names may not run according to their births. You may know that Aunt Tilda Daugherty was Jim and W.A. Lawyer (Daughtery's mother.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Their Own Words (Part 1)

Solomon King Smith. Quite a name. But not uncommon as I have learned. Many people here in Appalachia were, in fact, given Biblical names such as this. Quite a few of them this exact name, Solomon King. That may be why my great grandfather chose to sign his name, "S.K. Smith". Whatever the reason, that is how he chose to identify himself. Solomon King Smith was the son of Hiram Martin Smith and Mary Ann May. His paternal grandfather was Jonathan Smith, son of Martin Brosten Smith, son of Henry Smith II, (who was born Heinrich Schmidtt in Germany). Henry Smith was the son was of Heinrich Schmidtt, Senior who lived and died in Germany. His son "Englished" his name when he came to what would become "America".

Grandpa Solomon's mother, Mary Ann May was the daughter of Daniel May and Sarah (Sally) Coleman May. Sarah Coleman May was of the Peter Coleman line that we spoke of in my previous post.

And how do I know much of this information? Because Grandpa S.K. told me so. No, not in person -- I only met him once that I can remember when I was a very young girl. But he told me nonetheless..and in his own words too.

You see, some people go digging for buried treasure. Some are excited when they turn up relics from the past... indian spears or sunken treasure from a ship. I feel the same way when I find a genealogicial treasure. It is as precious to me as any chunk of silver would be. That's how I felt when a relative shared a letter that had been in her families possession for a long time. This letter was written by my Great Grandfather Solomon King Smith (S.K. Smith) to his neice Tennessee Wolford. In the letter, he attempts to set down for the record his recollections of the family names. It is a precious and rare find for a genealogy buff like myself. I thought I'd share the letter here... in his own words, a section at a time, beginning with the first part.

The letter is difficult to read -- written in the shaky hand of a very elderly gentlemen with a #2 pencil on the back of a lined piece of school paper. But the information is there for any who seek it and for me, it is a priceless little piece of my past that tells me so much about myself. A message from my great grandfather... in his own words!


Part 1 Translation of Great Grandpa Solomon King Smith's letter:

"S.Ks granddad on father side was Jonathan Smith. Granddad had three
brothers, Davison, Mart, and the other I dont' know. Paw (
Hiram Martin
Smith) had 4 brothers, George Harrison (Smith), Joseph
Franklin (
Smith), John Silas (Smith), Aaron (Smith),
and 2 sisters, Vashtie (Smith) Wolford and Juliana (Smith) Dyer. Grandpa's
Jonathan Smith)'s mother was Leveniah Daugherty. On mother's side
Sarah, "Sallie Ann", Coleman May), James May, a Primitive Baptist
Preacher. I think he had a brother Daniel May. I don't if any more.
Grandma May was a Coleman. I don't her parents or brothers or sisters.
Grandpa May had Mose, Jeff, John H. May and James Harve May for boys, Martha Looney, Tilda Daugherty, Elizabeth Dotson, Mary Ann Smith, Sallie Justice, Pricey Baker and Rachel Davis."