Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Bit Like the Pied Piper, and Family History

A bit like him because today I was storytelling in Hamlin, WV whereas the Pied Piper was in Hamelin, Germany. I was also in the tiny, busy library in Alum Creek, WV, and that's where the family history part of this post comes in.

I am almost finished with my summer library programs, and it has been great fun traveling to different parts of the state to tell tales, sing songs and engage children and adults alike in the delightful world of stories. A favorite this summer has been the indomitable Molly Whuppie, who in my telling is transported from Scotland to our mountains, and is one clever mountain girl. There's a bit from the story "The Well at the End of the World" mixed into my version too--all is fair in love, war and the telling of tales.

Another favorite this summer is the story of Jack and the Giant, known throughout the world of folktales as Tops and Bottoms. Again, this is an old European tale transplanted to the Appalachian mountains, and a fine story it is too.

While en route to Hamlin, my husband was engrossed in what he was seeing--places he had not seen in years, when he sometimes traveled this road. For a while, he said, he was seeing a girl who lived out there near Sumerco (pronounced Some AIR Co). She told him about a nearby church where snake-handling was part of the worship service. He wanted to see that, so one evening he and the girl walked down to the church. They went just inside the door, afraid to go any further. Sure enough, there were people dancing and holding up bibles with snakes on them. He was looking for the door as soon as he saw that, and left pretty quickly.

On our way home I suggested we drive through Kanawha State Forest. This was the former site of a CCC Camp, and I was interested in seeing it.

Oddly, though we live only 50-60 miles from this forest, I'd never been there. The road into the forest is long, narrow and winding, and lined with homes for almost the entire route. Once in the forest though---well, it's a magical, green place, and on this weekday almost deserted.

This land was once the property of the Black Band Coal Company for which Larry's father once worked (we still own some scrip from that company, and I just bought the pieces pictured below). The 10,000 acres was deeded to the state of West Virginia in the 1930's. The coal company got its name from the kind of coal mined from these hills, of a quality so high it won first place in the 1889 World's Fair.

Larry remembered many happy times in this forest. He said he would ride his bike about 10 miles over the mountains to come to the park by the back way, so he could go swimming in the pool there. He's do all kinds of work--helping people in the gardens, carrying water, bringing coal, etc--to get the money to get in. He'd leave early in the mornng and stay all day. For a boy from the coal camps, that must have been a real treat. I admit to being a bit jealous because even though I was raised in town, I do not recall even one time going to a public pool.  He also recalled once coming to the park for a picnic with his brother, sisters and mother. His father, he said, would never go on an outing like that, although his Dad would find ways to get into the forest to gather ginseng. This wasn't allowed, of course, but for those who knew where to find it, 'sang was a good source of money and when times were hard a man did what he had to do.

A small enclosure caught our attention, and we were both surprised to find ti contained an old family graveyard, for the Shrewsbury family who were early settlers in the area, owning over 4000 acres here. The area is still called Shrewsbury Hollow.

Although there is no readable stone to mark his grave, Find-a-Grave gives the following information about John C. Shrewsbury:

"John C. Shrewsbury was born in Bedford County, Virginia, and at the age of nineteen came alone to Kanawha, settling about ten miles from Charleston. Three of his uncles, named Joel, Samuel, and John, preceded him and engaged in the manufacture of salt above Charleston. He engaged with them as wood-chopper for the furnaces, and later he learned to manufacture barrels which were used by the firm. Afterward, he manufactured salt on his own capital in the same neighborhood. About 1837 he went to Missouri, but returned in 1840. and resumed salt making, which he kept up until 1846. In that year, he settled on a 4,000 acre tract of land about six miles west of Charleston on Davis Creek, where he resided until his death in 1878. He was married in Kanawha County about 1828, to Elizabeth Farley of Virginia. Her ancestors were Virginians who settled in Kentucky in an early day. The marriage of this couple resulted in the birth of the following children: Dabney, Columbus, John, George, Hutson, Samuel, and Elizabeth."
From "History of the Great Kanawha Valley With Family History and Biographical Sketches”, Published 1891 Brant, Fuller & Co.Madison Wisconsin.

Their son Columbus eventually settled just north of my county, in Pleasants county, WV and was an oil and gas driller.

The Civilian Conservation Corps memorial:

We left the park by the back way, over a very steep mountain on a gravel road. The beauty and the sheerness of the mountains were both breath-taking, a reminder that such beauty and wildness could exist just a few miles away from the city of Charleston.

The view was marred in some places by a giant mountaintop removal coal mine, a sad sight to see.
In the distance you can see the destroyed mountain, which will be much more visible in winter. The road below in the photo is the same one we were on, just further down. It snaked back and forth across the face of these steep hills for many miles.

We emerged in the small community of Hernshaw, and as we drove through Larry pointed to a garage and said, "That's where we used to buy dynamite." I don't know about you, but dynamite played no role in my childhood memories. But for Larry, it was all part of living in the coalfields.

It was truly the long way home, but I am glad we took the time. I'd like to go back in the fall; the colors will be glorious, and perhaps a bit more of the views will open up as the leaves fall.

We'll be back over some of the same route tomorrow, and I am hoping to get more photos to share. Til then!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Warts and All

A recent porch conversation came around to the topic of superstitions and folklore. A visiting neighbor told us a unique cure for warts, one his grandparents swore by when he was a boy.

"You have to go into your neighbor's house and steal their dishrag. They can't give it to you, you have to steal it. You take the dishrag and rub it all over the hand with the warts, or wherever the warts are. Then you have to bury the dishrag. The warts will disappear."

I'd never heard of such a cure, although I know there are all kinds of remedies out there.

My husband said, "We had a different way for dealing with them. My uncle told me this. He said you take a straw from a broom and you poke and poke and poke at the wart til it bleeds. Then you have to bury the straw for the cure to work.

Years ago a friend said that the way to get rid of warts was to sell them to someone. The person would say a prayer and then rub the warts with a penny. The prayer was a Bible verse, Ezekiel 16:6, the same one used to stop blood or take the fire out of a burn.

Other wart removal methods:

*rub with a bean pod, then bury the pod. The wart will disappear as the beans rot in the ground. (What if the beans sprout, though? No mention of that.) You can also rub the wart with coffee grounds, apple halves, wheat, corn, bacon or all kinds of other foods. The trick is that whatever you rub it with has to be buried afterwards.

*rub the wart while a funeral procession passes and chanting, "Wart, wart, follow the corpse." I hope one could just whisper this, as it seems a little disrespectful to me.

*wash the wart with holy water; or wash it with water from a stump, or---gross alert--with the blood of an eel. Yuck.

*make a midnight visit to a crossroads, and spit in the middle of the crossroad. Hmmm....

*count the warts. Do this for nine nights, before going to bed. The warts will disappear.

*tie a horsehair around the wart.

*prick the warts with a pin and leave the pin at a crossroads at night. You could also collect stones from a creek, touch each wart with a different stone, then leave the stones at a crossroads, or throw them back into the creek over your left shoulder.

*In the book Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain described this method of ridding oneself of warts: Take a dead cat to a graveyard where someone evil was buried. At midnight, the Devil himself will arrive. Throw the cat at the Devil while chanting, "Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow, cat, I'm done with ye!" That would surely scare the warts off anyone!

*The blog  Feet, Shoes and Superstitions offers this remedy: One other common practice was to pick the wart with a pin then stick it into an ash tree, reciting: "Ashen tree, ashen tree, pray take away these warts from me." The warts will then be transferred to the tree.

*Wash your hands in a metal bowl in which the moon's rays are shining, and chant: "I wash my hands in this thy dish, oh Man in the Moon do grant my wish, and come and take away this!" From Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World edited by Cora Lynn Daniels. 

I am fortunate enough to have never had a wart, but I feel fully prepared to deal with one should the need arise. Because I will just go to the doctor, and follow whatever practices modern medicine suggests. And if that doesn't work, maybe I'll be over to steal your dishrag!

Other sources:

Natural History, Creation and Religious Conflicts

Warts Cures Folklore

Strange Ago


Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Looking for a Lady: Genevieve Lee Wyatt Payne

While in Raleigh county, WV the other day, we noticed a roadside marker that made us curious. We turned around and went back to check it out. What we found was this:

Genevieve Payne, apparently, was the guiding light behind the creation of the very popular roadside parks across West Virginia.

I remember that on my first visits to the state these little parks were a real treat, a place to have a pinic, fill water bottles from old iron hand pumps, and occasionally even camp for the night. Each park was a little different from the others, but all were painted with dark green and white paint, and almost all had a picnic shelter and an outhouse. Some were rather large, others just wide spots on the side of the road.

In the 1970's, then-governor Jay Rockefeller decided to stop maintaining the parks. His reasons were probably the cost of maintenance at a time when the state was strapped for cash. And picnicking had lost its poularity too as more people bought backyard grills. Some parks had become the sites of unsavory goings-on since there was no security to watch them during the night. One by one the parks disappeared and today all are gone except for a few taken over by municipalities or civic groups.

I think the demise of the roadside parks was a real loss for the state. They provided something unique, and the outhouses were mighty handy for travelers in remote areas where there might not be other bathroom options.

I never thought about how the parks came about--I assumed they were a project of th Civilian Conservation Corps, so I was surprised to find this roadside memorial to a lady I had never heard of.
So I set out to learn more about her. Who was Genevieve Wyatt Payne?

I have to admit, I've found very little. I learned that she was born Genevieve Lee Wyatt in 1909 in Greenbrier county, and married Mr. Edward M. Payne, Jr of Raleigh county. Her husband apparently was the son of the owner of the large E. M. Payne Store in Beckley. Mrs. Payne was evidently an avid gardener and a founding member and past president of the West Virginia Club, a group comprised of clubs from all around the state. There is still an award given by the club for Genevieve Payne Garden Therapy. I learned that Mrs. Payne had two sons, perhaps a daughter. And sadly, I also found out that she died of breast cancer in 1954. So young.

This is all I know of a lady who must have had a gardening hand, who appreciated beauty, and who knew the value of time spent outdoors and with family, enjoying a meal or just relaxing and observing nature. I did not find any online photos; probably these are available at for-pay sites. So the only images I have of her is the roadside memorial, and her gravesite:

from findagrave.com
But in my mind, I see her as a gracious lady, tending her gardens and busy in her community with projects of all kinds. Perhaps someone reading this can supply a photo. I found no mention of her in the WV Encyclopedia, or in Comstock's Encyclopedia, although her son is listed there. To me her accomplishment in making roadside parks available all across the state should be worthy of a mention in our state's history. Perhaps I just didn't look in the right places.

Here's to you, Mrs. Payne. Thank you for your hard work to beautify so many small corners of our state. Thousands of West Virginians and out-of-state visitors enjoyed the fruit of your vision.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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