Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fires in Russell County, 1855-1925

March 8, 1855 - Richmond Dispatch

FIRE IN RUSSELL. The saddlery shop of Mr. Meredith Logan, at Lebanon, Russell County, was destroyed by fire lately, involving a loss of some $600 or $800.

April 15, 1864 - Abingdon Virginian

A destructive fire occurred at Lebanon, Thursday night, the 7th inst., supposed to be the work of an incendiary. Charles Carroll's out houses, four in number, were all burned, six short horned Durhams and four fine horses, with many valuable farming utensils, in all perhaps 25,000 dollars worth, went with the flames.

November 28, 1866 - Baltimore Sun

FIRE. Mr. Charles Carroll, near Lebanon, Russell county, Va., had his barn, containing a large quantity of grain, and a threshing machine, totally destroyed by fire a few days since. Mr. Carroll's loss is estimated at $5,000.

February 23, 1872 - Bristol News


Destructive Fire in Russell County.

ABINGDON, Va., February 16 - Lebanon, Russell county, Va., was visited by a destructive fire on Wednesday last. The courthouse and jail, the Planter's hotel W. A. Stuart, owner, partly insured in the Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance Company for $3,000, Jenk's shop, the post-office, Dr. Ferguson's dwelling, A. Hendrick's dwelling and store, and other out-buildings, were destroyed. The fire was discovered in the observatory of the Planters' Hotel at 12 o'clock M. The wind was blowing a hurricane, and all was burned in about ten minutes. The records and papers of clerks office were saved. The loss is estimated at from $30,000 to 40,000.

February, 1872 - Abingdon Virginian


Court House, Jail, Planter's House

$44,300.00 LOSS.

Russell Correspondence.
LEBANON, Va., Feb. 19th, 1872.

Editors Abingdon Virginian:

You will remember that in my communication of last week, I spoke of the beauties which our town would present after having it incorporated, and maturing our plans in having our streets graded and side-walks paved: but, alas! a change has come o'er the spirit of our dreams, and we have another striking demonstration of the fact, that all human calculations and expectations are doomed to disappoint: and how it becomes my painful duty to tell you that the most beautiful part of our town is laid in ashes.

On Wednesday of last week, just as 12 o'clock, a dense smoke was seen issuing from the roof of the west end of the large Hotel, known as the Planter's House, which was erected by Alderson & Kernan, but now belonging to W. Alex. Stuart, of Saltville, and was occupied by H. Askbrook, and as there was a heavy wind blowing from the west, the roof was soon in a flame, and before water could be had, the cupalo was wrapped in a fiery sheet, and the raging flames bidding defiance to the citizens, many of whom had buckets in hand carrying water, vainly attempting their extinguishment. Very soon it communicated with the cupalo of our once magnificent Court House, and on burning the chord suspending the striking weight of the clock, it commenced striking its own funeral dirge, thus making the scene still more mournful; and simultaneously therewith, the Jail, the store and dwelling house of N. B. Gray, occupied by Aaron Hendricks and the Rev. J. H. Torbett, situated directly east of the Court House, were in flames, and by this time the large building belonging to the heirs of Col. A. F. Hendricks, dec'd, directly west but adjoining the Planter's House, was also on fire. This building was occupied by Dr. D. C. Ferguson with his family; J. C. Comann, with his tailor shop and Post office; J. P. Jenks, with his saddlers's shop, and Bruce & Thomas for a produce house.

It was a terrible sight to see those find large buildings, all at once tumbling into ruins, and the angry flames curling up heavenward, and interrupted all the time by the violent west winds blowing burning shingles and sheets of blazing fire a considerable distance towards the east. Burning shingles were thrown some three hundred yards and set Geo. Williams' house on fire, which would have been consumed, but for his son James mounting the roof and extinguishing it.

The winds were so violent, which were continually fanning the flames, that an end was put to the disaster in two and a half hours.

The large stable and corn-crib on the log of the Planter's House were saved; also the crib and stable on the lot of the heirs of Col. Hendricks; but on the lot of N. B. Gray, all the out-buildings were destroyed.

The loss, from the best data that can be obtained, and from information derived from the unfortunate ones, is as follows:

Court House.........................................................$17,000
W. Alex. Stuart.......................................................12,000
N. B. Gray................................................................2,500
Heirs of Col. Hendricks, Dec'd................................2,000
H. Ashbrook.............................................................1,000
A. Hendricks............................................................1,000
J. P. Jenks....................................................................100
Bruce & Thomas, in salt, plows, grain, &c...............400
Rev. J. H. Torbett........................................................150
J. J. Henritze.................................................................50
Lebanon Lodge, No. 215, jewels and furniture..........100
Total loss, $44,300

[...]of this property was insured, ex-[...] three thousand dollars[...]

The fire was not communicated to the southside of the street, but it would have been utterly impossible to have saved this part of the town, bur for the wind blowing directly east, and the immense quantity of water which was thrown on the houses: and much credit is due to the citizens of the town, and many from the country who were here on business, for their determined effort to stop the conflagration. The streets were lined with them carrying water to throw on the houses of Bruce & Thomas, Alderson & Kernan, Judge Burns and Capt. Gent, whilst many others were on the top of all of these houses, receiving water which they poured profusely on the roofs, to prevent their ignition from the excessive heat. The roof of Judge Burns' houses caught fire in two places, and that of Capt. Gent in three places, but was promptly put out.

Those who were thrown of of houses by this disaster, have mostly gotten other rooms, but some of them  only temporarily. Aaron Hendricks has moved his family into the house of N. B. Gray, immediately east of Capt. Gent's house, and has his goods in Capt. Gent's Store-house, and is going on with his business. The energetic and untiring H. Ashbrook, who knows no surrender and has never studied the definition of the words, give up, is again in full blast, in the east end of Capt. Gent's house, were he is prepared to satisfy the appetite of both man and beast, and where he will meet his former patrons with a smile and make them feel easy. Notwithstanding his loss, he saved his bacon, corn, wheat, oats and hay, of which he has no small quantity. Rev. Torbett has moved temporarily to the Parsonage, but in a few days will occupy the house of R. D. Powers. James J. Henritze's family have gone to his father's, he is at present absent from home. Dr. Ferguson will probably move his family to his mother-in-laws on Moccasin; the Dr. was at the time of the fire, and is now, professionally absent in Washington county. J. P. Jenks has moved his shop, temporarily, to the shoe-makers shop of R. D. Powers. J. C. Comann has taken the Post Office to his house in the extreme west end of town, but is trying to bring it back nearer the centre of the place. Capt. J. W. McBrown occupied an office in the Planter's House, and was successful in getting his library out, with the exception of some two or three old books, on which he set but little value.

I have been thus minute as to the fire, and the present locality of the sufferers, believing that it will be of interest of their absent friends, many of whom I know to be readers of your paper.

The fire is thought, by some, to have been the act of an insendiary, but generally believed to be the result of accident from the bar-room chimney.

The next morning after its occurrence, Judge Fry issued a proclamation forewarning all persons from going near the burnt walls for fear of accidents, and forbidding the taking away of anything from the public buildings, or private property, and if anything had been taken away, for the same to be returned to the owners, under the penalty of being indicted by the Grand Jury.

(February 23, 1912 - Lebanon News)

Forty Years Ago.

Forty years ago the 14th of this month the Court House, jail, Hotel, and A. Hendricks' residence was burned to the ground. It was a very windy and disagreeable day. On that day H. Ashbrook rolled four barrels of whiskey into the street, and notwithstanding most every person belonged to the temperance council many got a prescription from Dr. Kernan and the obligation to taste was not forgotten.

February 20, 1874 - Daily State Journal (Alexandria, VA)

Two stables, a cow-house and granary, with contents, valued at about $700, belonging to P. D. Humitzin, of Lebanon, Russell county, were destroyed by an incendiary fire Monday night.

no date, ca. 1880 - Abingdon Standard

Another Fire in Lebanon.

On the night of the 3d inst., Lebanon, in Russell county, was again visited by fire. It was not so serious as the fire which occurred a few months since, but still very disastrous to a little place like Lebanon. The loss this time falls heavily on Mr. L. H. Clapp, whose drug store and contents were entirely destroyed. His loss is reported at $2,200. He was insured in three different companies for $400 each. The dwelling in which Mr. Clapp lived was also burned, and was owned by Mr. C. B. Boyd. A house occupied by a colored man and owned by J. F. McElhenny, was also burned. The people think the fire was the work of an incendiary. Total loss, $3,900.

March 18, 1881 - The Baltimore Sun

A fire at Lebanon, Va., last Sunday night, destroyed property valued at $26,500, insured for $11,500. The principal losers were Anderson & Lynch, W. H. Burns, J. C. Gent.

February 17, 1901 - Times (Richmond, Va.)


Good and Prompt Work Prevented a Disastrous Conflagration.
(Special Dispatch to The Times.)

LEBANON, VA., Feb. 16. - Lebanon narrowly escaped having a very disastrous fire yesterday. The smoke and flames burst from the roof of C. M. Jenks & Company's large store, but in a few minutes the fire was under control. The store is in the central part of the town, and had not the fire been discovered as soon as it was doubtless half the town would have been swept by the flames. The fire originated from a defective flue.

October 10, 1902 - Times (Richmond, Va.)


Cracksmen Were at Work in Lebanon Wednesday Night.

BRISTOL, TENN., October 9. - (Special.)

A telephone message from Lebanon, Va., states that a fire, which broke out there at 3 o'clock this morning, destroyed the store of C. M. Jenks & Co., the post-office, residences of J. C. Gent and W. E. Burns.

A loud explosion aroused the people of the community, when it was discovered that robbers were in the town and had made an effort to blow open the safe of the Bank of Russell county. The safe in Jenks & Co.'s store was blown open and robbed and the building fired. Three suspicious men were seen disappearing in the direction of Cleveland.

Sheriff Ashbrook, of Russell County, is here to-night, and states that there is a clue to the gang which has been doing safe-blowing in Southwest Virginia.

October 10, 1902 - The Tennessean


For the Second Time Lebanon, Va., is Annihilated by Fire - Incendiarism Suspected.

BRISTOL, Tenn., Oct. 9. - (Special.)

A telephone message to this city from Mendota this evening states that the town of Lebanon, Russell County., Va., was practically destroyed by fire, the entire business center being in ashes. The leading properties destroyed were the Russell County Bank, John P. Jinks' emporium, the postoffice building and its contents, Barry's dry goods store, W. E. Burns' costly residence, the Gents building and many smaller buildings. The fire is thought to be of incendiary origin. The telephone wires entering town were cut by unknown parties while the fire was raging.

Lebanon was wiped out of existence by fire during the civil war and rebuilt.

October 17, 1902 - Lebanon News

Lebanon Will Rise Above the Ashes

Lebanon is very much disfigured by the loss of three of her finest buildings in the fire which occurred here one week ago yesterday, but we are happy to say she will rise above the ashes again.

L. L. Bays, the biggest loser by the fire, will rebuild and will erect a much finer business house than the one which was burned. Mr. Bays has also secured a lot from D. K. Banner in the west end of town and will erect on it a find brick residence.

Capt. J. C. Gent and Wm . E. Burns will also rebuild. Capt. Gent has been burned out three times in the last few years but he isn't one bit discouraged. he will rebuild at the same place.

Mr. Burns will build a find business house on the lot where his residence was burned. He has purchased a lot from Capt. H. H. Dickenson on north Church street and will build a handsome residence on it.

This news will be welcomed by Lebanon people with enthusiasm. It takes just such men as Bays, Gent and Burns to make a town.

December 17, 1902 - Times (Richmond, Va.)


For Two Months Safe Blowers Have Been Operating Successfully.
(Special Dispatch to The Times.)

TAZEWELL, VA., December 15. For the past two months safe-blowers have been at work in Russell county and much valuable property has been destroyed.

Last Friday night Compton's store, four miles northeast of Lebanon, the county seat, was robbed and burned. The loss was very heavy, with no insurance, just a few days previous the robbery and burning of the store-house of S. F. Combs & Son, on the headquarters of Weaver's Creek took place.

Before the building caught fire the safe was blown open. The explosion tore out one whole side of the building. The loss was $12,000 with $6,000 insurance.

Some time in October burglars, supposed to be the same band that burned the above mentioned stores, set fire to the stores of the Jenks Mercantile Company, at Lebanon, resulting in the destruction by fire of goods and buildings to the amount of $38,000.

May 23, 1907 - Tazewell Republican


Several Business Houses and Two Residences Destroyed.

Bristol, Tenn., May 21. Fire destroyed several business houses and other property at Lebanon, the county seat of Russell county, last night, the loss being estimated at $40,000 or more.

The burning of Henritz Brothers store alone entailed a loss of $20,000. Other houses destroyed were: W. H. Alderson's store, the Lebanon Bank, and the residences of Judge Harry Burns and T. C. Alderson. The insurance but partly covers the loss.

April 22, 1910 - Lebanon News


Entire Business Section of Little Town Reduced to Ashes.

LOSS $100,000; INSURANCE ABOUT $25,000

Fire which broke out early last Friday evening in G. W. Thompson & Co's., Feed store almost wiped out the business section of Cleveland, which lies next to Clinch River.

The only fire fighting apparatus which was at hand was the old time bucket brigade, which was quickly formed, but the flames spread rapidly from one building to another until they were consumed into ashes.

Many of the buildings were old and dry and fit tinder for the sweltering blaze which swept its way through the little railroad town, which is the gateway to the capital of Russell.

The buildings burned were:

J. B. Branson's & Co's., Hardware store.
G. W. Thompson & Co's., Feed store.
M. P. Artrip's store and livery stable.
G. W. Price and Co's., General store.
Peoples Bank.
Dotson's Hotel.
Purcell Brothers & Co's., General store.
Norfolk and Western Depot.
Lumber yard.
Wm. L. Jessee's dwelling house and stock of groceries.

The loss including buildings, goods and lumber yard is estimated at $100,000 with something like $25,000 insurance.

May 13, 1910 - Lebanon News

$15,000 BLAZE.

A destructive fire occurred at Swords Creek Sunday at 3 a. m. The fire which had its origin in B. J. Wysor's store spread to the postoffice and to J. H. Jackson's dwelling, causing a loss of about $15,000.00 which was partly covered by insurance.

By hard work other buildings near the fire were save.

Origin of the fire is unknown.

March 26, 1915 - Lebanon News


Five Buildings Wiped Out.

Honaker was visited by another destructive fire Thursday night of last week. The Honaker Herald of last week furnishes the following report:

About seven o'clock the building in which J. H. Meade was located was discovered to be on fire and had gained such headway that it was impossible to do anything to save the building and all efforts were turned to save the goods. Much of the goods were saved. The building was owned by Dr. J. H. Lockhart and was a splendid two story frame building. He had only $600.00 insurance. Mr. Meade carried $3000 on the stock of goods. John Jackson and family who occupied the rooms up stairs, lost everything, even to their clothing.

The flames spread to the building owned by J. T. Wygal's Cash Store and restaurant. Quite a little of the goods were saved, but the building was soon reduced to ashes. By heroic work the flames were held in check, here, saving the feed store and Honaker Herald office which were the next buildings.

The fire spread west from Mead's store to G. B. Johnson's law office, which was also burned. He succeeded in saving his library and office equipment, though it was badly damaged. Mr. Johnson carried small insurance.

A frame building owned by Mrs. Ratcliff and occupied by the Busy Bee Restaurant was next to burn. No insurance.

A dwelling owned by a Mr. Sword and occupied by Dr. S. H. Speer was the last house to burn. Dr. Speer saved most of his dental equipment and household effects.

It is impossible to estimate the loss this morning but it is immense.

It looked at one time as if this end of the town was doomed, but willing workers conquered the flames and thereby have the thanks of a grateful people this morning.

The Herald plant was carried into the street and is so badly damaged that it is impossible to get out more than a half sheet this week.

July 15, 1921 - Lebanon News

Destructive Fire at Honaker Wed.

Wednesday morning at 2 o'clock a very destructive fire visited Honaker, starting in Paul Clark's feed store and wiping out the Hurt Saddlery and Harness Shop, Honaker Herald outfit, and John D. Miller's store and residence.

C. C. Bausell, editor of the Herald, asks us to state that he will resume publication of the Herald within a month or just as soon as material can arrive and asks his patrons to kindly send in the amounts due to him at once to enable him to resume business at the earliest possible date.

The origin of the fire is unknown.

Combs & Hurt, undertakes in the Hurt Saddlery building, is said to have lost heavily.

May 22, 1925 - Lebanon News

Honaker Suffers Heavy Fire Loss.

Last Thursday night about 12:30 Honaker had another destructive fire which broke out in the N. Yates building opposite the depot occupied by Henry Branson's restaurant, and in a short time the flames spread to the Walter Wallace building which was occupied by the department store of H. D. Wallace on the east and the Clark building on the west, all of which were totally destroyed.

The loss is partially covered by insurance, the Wallace brothers, it is said, carried four thousand dollars, one thousand on the building, and three thousand on the stock of goods. Yates carried twenty-five hundred dollars insurance on his building and fixtures, while Branson carried only nine hundred dollars, but Mr. Harris had no insurance.

The fire, it is thought, started in the Branson restaurant and it was with difficulty that Mr. and Mrs. Branson and a travelling man escaped the burning building and did so by sliding down a pole.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

William Sample to John W. Martin - 1863 Sheriff's Election

"Mr John W Martin
Please read if necessary on the day of Election


Having been informed that E R Smith my opponent in trying to create an impression that I am under promise to him not to run this race I told Maj Harris in the presance of Maj Fulkerson to rite to Smith and say to him if he wanted to run for the sherifalty to wait til my time or tearm was out and I then would give him my support But has he complyed with his obligation the answer must be no is this my tearm according to law if it is then he can have no claim whatsoeaver or hold me under any obligation in so much as he is contesting the tearm I was elected to hold the above is the true statement which I can prove at any time.

Your friend
Wm Sample

Apl 8th 1863"

Monday, October 9, 2017

Strange Happenings in Russell County

Daily State Journal - July 17, 1872


A letter from Lebanon, Russell county, in the Abingdon Virginian, says:

Quite a phenomenon occurred on the lands of Andrew Frailey, in Castle's woods, in this county, about two weeks ago, and I will now related as it was given to me by his son, Nelson H. Frailey, who says he went to the spring to wash, near the house, and after being there but a short time, his attention was attracted by an unusual noise, some three or four times, but observing nothing which gave rise to it, he started towards the house, and after waking some twenty paces, a report in the direction of the spring louder than he had previously heard, and not unlike the firing of a gun, arrested his attention, whereupon he returned to the spring, and to his astonishment found a large rock cracking and making reports as before described, at intervals the aperture in the rock still gradually but constantly increasing in size. These reports continued for about twenty-four hours, and on returning to the spring next morning, rocks were seen which had been thrown of various sizes, some of them weighing from four to five hundred pounds presenting altogether the appearance of some mighty volcanic eruption having taken place. Can you or some other geologist account for this eruption on scientific principles? A report of this kind was heard at this spring some eighteen or twenty years ago, but I believe no rock was thrown up."

Bristol News - January 18, 1881


A Shower of Blood in Russell.

Strange But True.

On the evening of the 6th of Jan., 1881 near the residence [of] Dr. Abram Salyer in the lower end of Russell county, Va., a substance resembling blood fell upon about one half acre of land, and on the 9th day of this month (Sabbath) quite a number of persons visited the spot to testify to the truth of the matter and say that it was plain to be seen upon the rocks and boards, and on some clothes that was on the fence.

I have talked to quite a number of persons that say they saw the blood or what looked like blood, and I have not room to double their statement.

Nickelsville, Va., Jan. 10, 1881."

Lebanon News - October 2, 1925

Russell County's Wonderful Madstone

[...] Some weeks ago since we published an account of the wonderful madstone owned by Mr. Counts [...]

Mr. Counts' communication follows:

[...] this madstone in question was not found by C. F. Counts but was found by A. K. Evans, a man of about seventy years, a native of Russell county, and still a citizen of the same. A man well known by many good people of southwest Virginia. Mr. Evans found this rock not it a cornfield, as was stated, but found it in the underbrush or virgin forest of the farm on which he has lived for about seven years, and still owns a portion thereof.

Now for the benefit of any that might be interested regarding the history of this stone in our modern days, we would submit the following. This stone was dragged from the clay by hauling heavy timbers over a narrow pathway, and was picked up through curiosity by the said Mr. Evans not far from forty years ago. Having been advised by some of his friends that he had found a madstone, he took special care of it until six or eight years ago, when he gave it to his daughter, Mrs. C. F. Counts who still has the rock.

We hare not making any claims for the virtue of this rock, but are willing to submit the record of the stone at work and allow that to suffice. This stone has been actively in operation especially since 1896, and of the many people visiting the stone to obtain relief from dog and reptile attack, from many parts in Southwest Virginia and adjoining states, it seems that a comparatively few have attracted the seeming true adhesive power of the stone. That is we would venture only about 10 or 15 percent of the patients attract the stones best efforts.

We have on our books the names of forty-two parties that the stone seemed to to stick to, more or less, and out of this number about thirty or forty per cent appeared to be of the more aggravated or severe cases. On such the stone adhered from nine to twenty-four hours, and even longer, but finally it finishes the job and quits.

Now we would further say that of all to which the stone has been applied as a treatment of both man and beast, the writer is able (considering of course our limited means of getting news from a distance), to record but one failure, and that was in the Bovine family. If we may detail this case with few words, would say that four or five years ago, a Mr. Anderson near Cleveland, Va., had a fine milk cow bitten by a dog, the cow's ear was badly lacerated and she was highly nervous and excited so much so that ht was very nearly impossible to confine her, so as to give the stone unmolested connection with the wound, for a reasonable time, which we think is necessary.

But notwithstanding its seemingly beautiful record, notwithstanding that many people hail it with their fond recollection, as their benefactor, yet knowing as we do that the scientific world has taken a step beyond the rim of mystery, and that medical science is unalterably opposed to the use of such agencies as a treatment. We would gladly tuck this cute little rock away in its little crown of achievement and its rainbow-like robe of many colors, and never-ending mystery with tender hands lay it away as a mother would her child, never to see it again in service, of only the public could be educated to not make long voyages to obtain the services of this stone as a remedy for their troubles.

Respectfully submitted,
C. F. Counts."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Nannie Jumps

The Richmond Daily Dispatch of September 29th, 1870 brings the following story. The Nannie McCallum in the story married Russell County Confederate solder Robert T. McElyea and lived in Robeson County, North Carolina. However, the historical record is confusing, McCallum married McElyea in 1867 in North Carolina and McElyea was apparently living in North Carolina by 1865.

"From Russell County - Explosion of Kerosene Lamps - Thrilling Scene - Narrow Escapes from Death

{Special Correspondence of the Index.}

September 24, 1870.

Messrs. Editors: My long silence has been occasioned for the want of some local topic to speak of, and that was furnished last night in the way of a kerosene explosion.

Miss Nannie McCallum, principal of the Female Academy at this place, proposed giving, with the assistance of her scholars, a number of brilliant tableaux in the large public hall situated in the second story of the court-house building. The entrance to this room is from the court-room below, through two long, winding stairways enclosed by walls on either side.

Nearly every man, woman, and child in our little town, with a large number of persons from the adjacent country, had seated themselves in this spacious room - supposed to be about three hundred in all. Everything was going on as merry as a marriage belle, and several scenes had been exhibited to the great delight of the audience, when an awkward attempt on the part of one of the managers to draw the curtain overturned a large lamp, used as a foot-light, which at once took fire; one of the musicians, in attempting to move a second lamp broke that, and in an instant the flames leaped from floor to ceiling, the curtains and scenery took fire, and the whole end of the room seemed to be in one solid sheet of fire. The audience, with few exceptions, sprang to their feet, men hallooing, women screaming, and children crying, broke pell mell for the doors leading down the narrow stairways, in which many were badly bruised and trampled, though none fatally, as yet heard of. Miss McCallum being upon the stage at the time, with the fire between her and the door leaped from a back window to the ground, a distance of twenty-five feet. When found she was insensible, and is said to be seriously hurt from her fall, or leap, as you may call it. Some half dozen men now engaged the fire, and, by rolling up the large carpets over the flames, succeeded in extinguishing it, and thus saved to the county its costly and beautiful seat of justice.

How so many men, women, and children, in pell-mell order, passed down the narrow stairways and so few seriously hurt, is the wonder of all.

Many laughable and ludicrous scenes occurred during the excitement, which, but for the want of space, would be given.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

World War I Letters of Russell County, November 22, 1918

The following letter originally appeared in the November 22nd, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"Somewhere in France, Oct. 20.

Dear Ellie:

Will answer your letter received some days ago, was real glad to hear from you. This leaves me well and getting along fine.

We are back for a rest now, have been back four days. We were up in the drive for sixteen days, the one which started on the 25th of September. We drove "Jerry" back about ten miles, captured lots of prisoners, several large guns, amunition and material.

Say, on the night of Sept 25th, (I think) the Allies put over the greatest barrage of the war, there must have been over ten thousand guns firing at one time. We didn't feel like waiting for the word to "GO OVER" the top.

This was the place where the French fought so hard in 1914-15. But it didn't take us long to do the job and drive them back ten miles, and they are still going I don't know how far or where they will stop.

Believe me, they had some good dug-outs on this front, I think they were prepared to stay there all winter.

But there is nothing doing when Uncle Sam's boys get after them, they run just like rabbits. Well, I guess you have read all about this big drive in the papers by now.

Since I landed in France I think I have traveled almost all over it. Have been through Paris but was on the train and didn't get to see very much of the city. We were up on the British front for a while when we first came over here, up close to the Channel. We could look over and see Dover, England, alright on a clear day. We were up there with the New Zealand boys, we liked them fine.

Say, I will have lots to tell you when I come home, of how the French people live and their kind of buildings and how they farm, and also many war tales. I have had several letters from Walter Price, get lots of mail from home. We are always so glad to receive them. It does us good to know you people are doing your bits back home, JUST KEEP IT UP, and we will all soon be home to stay. I think from the way it looks over here we will eat our Thanksgiving dinner in PEACE. We have the Huns going and we are not going to let them [...] side of [...]. That is the way we feel about it over here.

We sure do thank the red Cross for what they are doing for the soldier boys, and the Y. M. C. A., they keep all the cigaretts and writing paper we want, beside we can buy most anything we need. We have plenty to eat - for supper I had steak and gravy, butter, syrup, rice pudding and coffee, and a box of cigarrettes and matches on the side. Another thing which is plentiful is rain and mud, it rains about every other day over here, and the climate is much colder than at home. Say, you ought to be over here and see the flying machines. I have seen as many as two hundred and fifty in the air at one time. They drop newspapers in the front lines to us when we were up. It is a great sight to watch air battles. Believe me, they sure can do dirty work. Well I think all the Russell county boys have come out alright, only one or two wounded in the big drive.

Say, you should see old Conley Buttery. I'll bet he weights 180 or 200 pounds. All the boys are looking good.

The hardest fight we have over here is with the German "COOTIES," you can see the boys sitting around anywhere fighting them.

Where is Garland Fleenor now? and has he been drafted? I don't guess there are many boys left at home now.

I'm having some time trying to write this letter by candle light so guess will have to close. Give my best regards to all inquiring friends and tell them that all the boys are getting along fine. I think the war will be over in six weeks. Write and tell me all the news. Here is hoping to see you all soon,

Your friend,

Saturday, July 22, 2017

World War I Letters of Russell County, September 6, 1918

The following letter originally appeared in the September 6th, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"Somewhere in France, July 10.

Dearest homefolks:

As to this being the 10th or not I do not know, but as to "somewhere in France" it certainly is. Wish I could could tell you just where I am. Anyhow, with three others, I am away from my company doing duty. At last the base censor has opened its heart and we are allowed to tell everything from the time we sailed up until about a month ago. So here she goes.

On the morning of October 18th we broke camp and landed in Hoboken, N. J., that evening and later in the day we said goodbye to dear old U. S. A. Had a nice trip coming over in spite of some of the boys getting sick. The name of the ship we came over on is the Covington, which was formerly a German vessel. There were 3,700 of us on this ship. After 14 days on water we finally landed at St. Nozare about daylight. I was on guard on the top deck. Can you picture how I looked. We remained on the ship for seven days then marched out to a string of freight cars for our next journey and my, my, how it was raining, but who cares for it to rain here? We piled into those cars like a bunch of sheep and were in them for two days and nights, landing in a small town by the name of Caucouleurs. This little place is something the size of Lebanon, but of course didn't remind me of Lebanon one bit. We stayed here until late in the fall, then started on a ninety mile hike. Don't remember names of all the towns we passed through. Orquevaux is the name of the town where we spent Xmas. After freezing to death two or three times we next landed in Rolamponts, where the boys met us with our horses. We stayed here up until the latter part of February when we boarded another freight train for Baccarat. Well, I had a time on this trip - got all mixed up and got away from my Company and had four horses hung to my throbbing heart. At last one night about one o'clock they stopped the train and said this is where you get off. Well, I did and my Company wasn't there. I put my saddle and bridle in another train, right a straddle of one those horses, and rode it until ten o'clock and as luck would have it, rode into Baccarat, where I found my Company. In this town is the largest glass factory in the world. This place is about the size of Abingdon, if not larger. Here is where we were when Hargis said the report of the guns jared him out of bed but he l----- a little but in times gone by there had been bombs dropped on this town - the main part or center was torn all to pieces. We have been through towns that the whole place was ruined, no one living there at all.

If I was back with the Company where I could see my map I could write three times this much, but would have to have more paper. Will write more next time in regard to our travels. This is the first opportunity to write since leaving Baccarat about a month ago, and we are a long ways from there now.

Yesterday while on duty a big wild hog came running across the field and I jumped into a shell hole and layed down. I wanted to shoot it with my pistol but there was an old French man with me and he said wait until I get my rifle, so he came back from his dug-out with the gun and then I shot him once and he fell over the but Frenchman said shoot him again, and I did again and again. It was the largest wild hog I have seen over here. We are going to have a feast tonight. Don't you want some pork?

Haven't heard from Frank yet, but had a card from Carroll Gray a few days ago.

Hoping you are all well, and best regards to everybody, I am,

Your son,

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Freedmen's Bureau Activities in Russell County

In 1865 the U. S. Federal Government established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to help freed slaves integrate themselves into society. Freed slaves were re-connected to lost family members, schools were created, help was given in obtaining food and health care, and freed slaves were given legal advocacy in court cases.

More than 1,000 schools for freedmen were established in the South. Schools in Russell County began to be established in November of 1868. Although the records are unclear, it appears that in Russell County, schools were established at Lebanon and Dickensonville by Fountain Richardson (also spelled Richison), at Copper Creek by William F. Gardner, and at New Garden by Comadore Hurt. Hurt's tenure at New Garden appears to have been quite short, as Gardner is listed as the teacher at that school in January of 1869. Gardner and Hurt were local teachers, which Richardson had previously worked in Tennessee.

Record keeping was haphazard - the local administrator was in Abingdon and had control over several southwestern Virginia counties. Monthly reports exist to some extent for most of 1869. These reports consist of monthly reports listing various attendance figures, school rental information, and general comments by the teachers.

The Freedmen's Bureau appointed Brigadier General Henry Goddard Thomas the Sub-Assistant Commissioner for the 8th District of Virginia, which include most of the counties in Southwest Virginia. Thomas had a storied career in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising from Private to Captain in the 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, before being appointed Colonel in the 2nd United States Colored Infantry and subsequently appointed Colonel in the 19th United States Colored Infantry. He commanded a brigade in 1864 and participated in the Battles of Spottsylvania and the Wilderness.

In December of 1868, Thomas summarized activities for 35 schools, covering 19 day schools, 2 night schools, and 14 Sabbath schools. Seventy eight teachers were engaged, almost all "colored". Thomas held meetings in Wytheville, Abingdon, Marion, Jeffersonville (Tazewell) and Bristol.

When asked to describe "the public sentiment towards the education of the Freedmen and Poor Whites", Thomas wrote "None whatever as to poor whites, I shall probably have trouble in keeping up some of my county schools as chivalric gentlemen in the different localities will drive away my teachers." Perhaps this answers the question of Comadore Hurt's short tenure at New Garden.

Most brutally, in answer to the question "How long will Northern charitable aid be needed for Freedmen and Refugee Schools of your District?" Thomas wrote:

"Untill the present generation shall have passed away. The uneducated adult negroes of today, ignorant of everything except how to curry favor with old massa, with a large family, never earning more than 75 cents per day & cheated out of a part of that by a rapacious landlord who charges him $4.00 per month for a miserable unlighted cabin not worth pulling down for firewood & inclined as the race are everywhere to split up in everything into little factions, will not in this generation be able to support schools. Better white men and more intelligent negroes must replace the present men before the negroes unaided can keep up schools."

Despite these obstacles, enthusiasm was high. In January of 1869 Gardner wrote "I have had very good success [in] every matter as respects Col. schools quiet in my vicinity." He estimated the public response as "common". His New Garden school had 30 students, seven of whom were over the age of 16. Five were free before the Civil War. School was in session for three months at a time, five days a week, from 8am to 4pm.

Gardner soon encountered difficulty. He was not getting paid the full amount for teaching the school and wanted to return to farming. Additionally, his students were getting too advanced for him. In a letter to General Thomas, he wrote: "I cannot teach the students of this vicinity much longer. I expect to farm this season the reason is they are so advanced that I can not teach a part of them after the present cession not with standing I have taught  them from the alphabet." In his March Monthly report he concludes "I have discharged my duty to the best of my skill & judgement & the gentleman that examined my school recommended the progress good."

Fountain Richison's report for the Lebanon school in April of 1869 was more succinct. He was teaching 25 students, ten of whom were over the age of 16. None were free before the War. The school received $300 in aid from the Freedmen's Bureau and were housed in a building owned by "Miss Caroll" or "Marthay Carl" (presumably Martha Carroll, age 85, household #32, Lebanon District, 1870 Russell County Census.)

By May things had turned noticeably darker. Richison reports the public sentiment as "much opose by the rebels saying they outalarew it." Under Remarks he states "hear they thirten to burn houses and kill the teachers." His remarks in August were "oppose finaly through out wanting their labor."

Unfortunately the monthly reports by teachers end in August of 1869. Reports in other counties continue until 1870 or later. Very little information is available as to the state of these schools after 1869. In 1872 the United States Congress abandoned the program.