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."

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Illusive Miss Coleman

Photo: Peter Coleman

She was a tiny little woman but wiry. She had very long arms. Some might have said God gave her those for "catching" the babies that she mid-wifed in the Appalachian hills. Whatever the reason, her arms did look longer than normal. Not that I ever met her -- she died long before I was born. But my mother remembered her well and I have seen pictures of her. Who is she? She's my great-grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith.

The ironic thing is that while I have no idea from whom she came, I do know exactly where she is...or rather, where her final resting place is. Great Grandma Louisa Coleman Smith is buried next to my great grandfather, Solomon King Smith in the Phillips Cemetery in Merrimac, West Virginia.

Trying to find her parents, however, has proven very frustrating. I am the oldest daughter of the oldest living daughter of the oldest daugher to the illusive Miss Coleman, however, for some odd reason, the oral family history (of which we have so much and which is a treasure and which I have written down for our next generations) never included that of Louisa Ann's parentage. All I can remember hearing about her is that her family may have come from a place called Wolfpit, Kentucky in Pike County.

The other facts that I know about her is that she and Great Grandpa Smith lived in Hurley, Virginia when my grandmother Ethel Smith was born back on New Year's Day in 1901. Papa Smith was a blacksmith and it is said that Grandma Coleman had taught school before marrying Solomon. It was also said that she was a year or two older than her husband.

Louisa had at least one sister who's name was Phygenia Coleman (Roberts). My great Aunt Phygenia could draw very well and it is no doubt from her that I get this same talent as did some of my 50 first cousins and at least one nephew. Great Grandm Louisa also had a brother that she referred to as "Shack" or something that sounded like that. But that's it. That's all I know about her. I want to know more. I want to trace her lineage as I have so many of my other ancestors..but she has proven very illusive.

Her husband, Solomon King Smith, my great grandfather, had a grandmother who was also a Coleman. My Great Great Great grandmother Sarah Coleman (May) is from the Peter Coleman and Abigail Jayne (originally "De Jeanne" - Fr.) lineage. This is the same lineage from which my husband, Paul Coleman, hails. (Paul Coleman, Edward Coleman, Riley Coleman, Matthew Coleman, Abraham Coleman, Richard Coleman, Peter Coleman II). My lineage in that same lines goes Geneva France, (Francis), Opal Lee France, Ethel Smith Lee, Solomon King Smith, Mary Ann May, Sarah Coleman May, Daniel Boone Coleman, Peter Coleman II. (So that means my 7th generation grandfather (Peter Coleman II) and my husband's 6th generation grandfather (Peter Coleman II) was the one and the same. Peter's grandfather was William Coleman, one of three Coleman brothers who settled in Virginia.

Was my great grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman from this same line? I don't know but it is highly likely as it is said that three brothers who immigrated to the Virginia area and one of those three brothers was William Coleman and his son, Peter, (whose wife was Abigail Jayne (or De Jeanne" originally) begat all the Eastern Kentucky Coleman clan.

And boy is that a clan! You can't pick up a rock in Pike County, Kentucky and throw it lest you hit a Coleman or a Coleman relative. Mike and I were at a local restaurant once and we told them "Coleman reservation". After we were seated, we heard three more Coleman reservations be seated right behind us. Yeah, there's that many of us.

So, why can't I find definitive proof of the line of my Great Grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith's parentage? I don't know. I have been conducting genealogical searches for more than ten years and I have yet to find definitive proof of her parents. It's frustrating. But it's also interesting and I have learned much along the way from my false starts. One day, perhaps someone, somewhere, will be able to help me finally put a name on the parenting chart of my great grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith. Until then she will remain.....the illusive Miss Coleman.