Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Sad Story of Alfred Short, of the "Infamous Shorts"

From the Circuit Court records of Russell County, 1850, comes the sad story of Alfred Short, a youth raised in "infamy" who was convicted of passing a counterfeit two dollar note, as well as counterfeit coins. He pled guilty, attempted to hang himself in jail, and was eventually sentenced to two years in the State penitentiary. I have found no record of what happened to him after that point.

"At a Circuit Court held for Russell County, at the Courthouse, on Monday, the 16th day of September, 1850.

Present, Benjamin Estill, Esquire Judge of the 15th Circuit.

Isaiah Fuller, foreman; Edward D. Kernan, James G. Martin, John W. Webb, Meshack White, Joseph Smith, Saml. Taylor, James S. Browning, David Price, Thomas Gibson, Abner Harding, James McCoy, William Gibson, Joseph C. Fugate, James Dickenson, Henry Fogleman, Isaiah Drake, Wesley Gilmore, John W. Honaker, Thomas Meade, Henry Campbell and Samuel P. Fogleman, were sworn a grand jury of inquest for the body of this county and having received their charge withdrew from the bar to consider of their presentments: Wm. Robinson, Wesley Soward, Jeremiah T. Chase, Lewis B. Paine, Martin Fraley & Alexr. Wright, were severally sworn in Court and sent to the Grand Jury to give evidence. The said Grand Jury after some time returned into Court and presented,

An Indictment against Alfred Short, for uttering and publishing as true, a counterfeit Bank note, a true bill. They also found a presentment against the same person for passing counterfeit coin; and not having finished the business before them, were adjourned till tomorrow morning at 10 O'clock.

Alfred Short who stands indicted for uttering and publishing as true a certain false, forged, and counterfeit Bank note and passing the same as true, was brought to the bar in custody of the keeper of the Jail of this County, and being thereof arraigned pleaded not guilty to the indictment; whereupon, cam a jury to wit:
Thomas H. Garrett, Robert Burk, Robert Johnson, Abraham Buckles, John D. Alderson, Gabriel Jessee, Harvey G. Long, Henry M. Honaker, Major A. Fletcher, Thomas J. Richardson, William Gilmer junr. and Benjamin Wallis, who being elected by ballot, tried and sworn the truth of and, upon the promises to speak, and having heard the evidence, but not agreeing in a verdict, were, with the consent of the prisoner, committed to the custody of the Sheriff of this county, who is directed to keep them together without communication with any other person and to cause them to appear here tomorrow morning at ten o'clock: whereupon an oath was administered to Robert Boyd, Isaac Vermillion and Jesse Browning deputy Sherriffs to the following effect that they should well and truly, to the best of your ability, keep this jury, and neither speak to them nor suffer and person to speak to them touching any matter relative to this trial until they return into Court tomorrow. And the said Alfred Short is remanded to jail.

Alfred Short, late of the County of Russell who stands indicted for uttering and employing as true a certain counterfeit bank note, was again led to the bar in custody of the jailor of Russell County, and the jury sworn yesterday for his trial were brought into Court by the Sheriff of said County, were then sent out of court again to consider of their verdict, but not having agreed in a verdict at the time when the Court was about to adjourn, were, with the consent of the said Alfred Short again committed to the custody of the said Sheriff, who is directed to keep them together without communication with any other person, and he cause them to appear before the Court on tomorrow morning at 10 Oclock, whereupon an oath was administered to Robert Boyd, Isaac Vermillion and Jesse Browning that they should well and truly, to the best of their ability keep the jury, and neither speak to them themselves, no suffer any person to speak to them touching any matter relative to this trial, until the return in Court tomorrow. And the said Alfred Short is remanded to jail.

The Grand Jury, by permission of the Court, struck out the presentment made on the first day of the Term against Alfred Short for passing Counterfeit coin.

Alfred Short late of the County of Russell who stands indicted for uttering and employing as true a certain counterfeit bank note, was again led to the bar in custody of the jailor of Russell County, and the jury heretofore sworn for his trial were brought into Court by the Sheriff of said County, and not having yet agreed in a verdict, by Consent as well of the Attorney for the Commonwealth as of the prisoner, the said jury were discharged and the prisoner is admitted to give bail for his appearance before the Court at the next term to stand a trial upon said Indictment in the sum of $200; but being unable to find security he is again remanded to jail.

Jeremiah T. Chase, Thomas G. Sowards, George W. Stacy, Wm. Robinson, Wesley Sowards & Lewis B. Payne in Court acknowledge themselves to be severally indebted to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the sum of One hundred dollars each, of their respective lands and tenements, goods and chattels to be levied and to the said Commonwealth for the use thereof to be rendered. Yet, upon condition, that if the said Jeremiah T. Chase, Thomas G. Sowards, George W. Stacy, William Robinson, Wesley Sowards & Lewis B. Payne, shall severally appear before the judge of this Court at the next April Term to give evidence on behalf of the Commonwealth against Alfred Short who stands indicted for passing a certain Counterfeit Bank note, and shall not depart thence without the leave of the said judge, then this recognizance to be void.

Alfred Short, late of the County of Russell, who stands indicted for feloniously passing a counterfeit Bank note, for whose trial a jury had been empanneled and sworn during the previous part of the term but did not agree in a verdict, was again brought and sat to the bar at his own request; and withdrawing his plea of not guilty heretofore pleaded, by permission of the Court now pleads Guilty to the indictment: whereupon, by his consent and the assent of the Attorney for the Commonwealth, a jury was empanneled to wit: Richard H. Lynch, James C. Dickenson, Francis Lark, Joseph Hackney, Jacob Rasnick, Thomas C. McClearey, John A. Pruner, Meredith C. Logan, James P. Warren, Augustus W. Aston, Alexander L. Bratton and Samuel W. Aston, who being sworn the truth of and upon the promises to speak upon their oath do ascertain the term of imprisonment of the said Alfred Short in the Penitentiary of the State to be two years. Therefore; it is considered by the Court, that the said Alfred Short for the felony aforesaid to imprisoned in the public jail and penitentiary house of the Commonwealth for the term of two years, the period by the jurors in the verdict ascertained therein to be kept and treated in the manner directed by law. And, it is ordered, that the Sheriff of Russell County do, as soon as possible after the adjournment of this Court, remove and safely convey the said Alfred Short from the jail of this Court to the said public Jail and Penitentiary house for confinement and treatment therein according to law.

And the Court doth direct the following statement of the case to be made and transmitted to the directors of the penitentiary: The Court has not had time to inform itself of the provisions of the new Code, which it has not seen till the commencement of this circuit; but supposing it proper, proceeds to make the statement required by the former statute. Therefore, the Court doth order it to be certified to the directors of the penitentiary, that the prisoner, Alfred Short, a youth, was convicted at the present Term on his own confession, in open Court, of feloniously passing a two dollar counterfeit Bank note, purporting to be a note on the bank of Indiana. On the first day of the term the prisoner was arraigned on the charge and pleaded not guilty, and a jury were empanneled, who not agreeing in a verdict, were, with the prisoner's consent discharged on the third day of the term. The Court feeling great commiseration for the prisoner, and not thinking the evidence against him conclusive, offered to bail him in the sum of $200; but in consequence of the infamy of his family and connections, he could not give bail, though the Court believes this to be the first offence imputed to the prisoner, and has heard no other evil of him, beyond his connection with an infamous family. On the evening of the third day of the term the prisoner hung himself in the jail with his bed clothes, but was discovered and cut down before life was entirely extinct. The prisoner, after resussitation said, he would rather die than be confined in the jail (a most unpleasant one) till the next Term. Whereupon, he petitioned the Court for leave to plead guilty and go to the penitentiary at once, though he strongly denied the guilty knowledge charged in the indictment, but finally preferred to plead guilty, which he did and the jury rendered the verdict found in the record. This is a short history of his case.

In consideration of his youth and bad raising, and some uncertainty as to his guilt, the Court feels the strongest sympathy for him, and would have dismissed the prosecution and discharged him, had it not believed it would thereby have usurped the functions of the executive. The Court therefore does all it believes it has power to do, strongly and urgently recommends him to be instantly pardoned by the executive, who knows something of the Sandy country in which this unfortunate though was raised, the lawlessness of which, may be justly compared to that of the worst aborigines of the country, though of late greatly improved in its morals and standing. The Court also recommends him to the kindness of the keepers of the penitentiary.

Peter B. Henritze keeper of the Jail of Russell County for imprisonment and support of Alfred Short charged with felony $32.61.

George W. Johnson, Sheriff of Russell County for summoning a venire in the case of the Commonwealth against Alfred Short charged with felony, and the allowance directed by law to be paid by him to said venire $49.56.

Ordered that the Sheriff be permitted to employ two guards for the safe conveyance of Alfred Short to the Penitentiary convicted of felony, the Court believing that number to be necessary."

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The World War II Letters of Billy J. Campbell, Letter 7

Somewhere on Luzon
June 18, 1845

Dear Mom,

Well so far I am still in the same place and feeling fine. Working some, eating a whole lot and sleeping more than anything else. I have done about as much writing as anything else. I should have plenty of mail one of these days if they all answer it. I have written everybody that I got letters from when I got off the boat. And a few more besides. There isn't much to write about but I guess I can say hello and goodbye. A few interesting things but part of them we can't write about. Plenty of the native customs are interesting and as long as we don't talk against them it's O. K.

Boy somebody really goofed off back in the States or they haven't been to the Philipines or or the other. When we started getting ready to come over here they said don't take any moeny, you won't need it and can't spend it. That may have been true when we get closer up but it isn't here. Maybe you had better send me somemoney, it is still a few days yet untill payday. Just registered mail I guess is the easiest. I want to get some souveniers; I have seen some pretty nice ones.

We get cigarettes and beer rations pretty cheap but other stuff is just as high as anywhere. I get my cigarettes and beer then then trade the beer to a fellow that doesn't smoke for his cigarettes. That is the way we get most ever-thing we have something we can't use we trade it to one of our buddies for some-thing he doesn't wan't.

Gilbert and Mason comes over here once in awhile to talk about something.

Well I had better stop now, it is getting dark.

Tell Susie and Ham hello and be good. I will write more soon. Don't worry about me.


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.

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.

August 19, 1881

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 upon 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. D. Boyd. A house occupied by a colored man and owned by J. F. McElhenney, was also burned. The people think the fire was the work on an incendiary. Total loss $3,900. - Abingdon Standard. [As appearing in the Clinch Valley News.]

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.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

World War I Letters of Russell County, August 30, 1918

This letter originally appeared in the August 30th, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"A. E. F. France, July 1918.

Dear Folks at Home:

Will try and drop you a few lines this morning as I am feeling fine and getting along splendidly.

Well how are things there now, very lonesome at home, I guess, since all the boys have left. I hope I will meet Steve and Silas over here sometime. We are at a different place now, but we are going to leave very soon. We get plenty of fresh air for we are sleeping in tents and it is very cool at night but very pleasant during the day. The wind got to blowing the other night and thought my tent was going and I had to get out and pin it down. It is fine to be over here, plenty of excitement and a continual roar of guns. We are going to get the Huns then come home, and I don't think it is going to take long to do it. Don't worry about me for I am doing my duty and I am going to continue to do it for I would rather be called anything but a slacker. Do you know the difference between a slacker and a custard pie? I don't guess you do so I will tell you. Both have a yellow streak but neither has crust enough to go over the top. But folks at home, you can say say you have a son that has crust enough to go over the top and I am going to keep that crust.

Do you hear from Silas and Steve very often? I haven't heard from them for some time. Tell them I want to meet them on the battlefield some day. Did you get the present I sent to my mother and sister? I guess you have, as I sent them about two months ago.

Your son,

Monday, June 5, 2017

Those Fabulously Unlucky Baker Boys

     James C. Baker was a well-to-do farmer in Russell County who married Highly Johnson sometime around the year 1838. They had at least seven children, including five sons: Joseph C. (b. 1839), Nathaniel D. (b. 1843), John (b. 1845), George (b. 1847), and William (b. 1851).

    Oldest son Joseph C. Baker joined the Union army on January 15th, 1863, enlisting in the 39th Kentucky Infantry. Twenty of Russell County's 38 Union soldiers served in the 39th Kentucky. At the time of his enlistment, Baker was 28 years old, six feet and a half inch in height, with a dark complexion and black hair and eyes. Two months later, on March 25th, he deserted the company in Russell County.

     Joseph Baker remained in Russell County and on November 4th, 1865, he married Martha Kilgore in Scott County. They had at least eight children together. While he was married to Martha, he apparently took up with Mary Louisa Deen, a woman 20 years younger than Baker. He maintained two families, having children by both women, for over 5 years, until Martha's death in 1880. He then married Mary Deen, eventually having at least 11 children with her.

     In the 1880 Census, Jame C. and Highly Baker are living next door to Joseph C. and his family by Martha Kilgore. Next door to them is the Deen family, with Mary, age 22, and four children, the oldest age 6. In the 1900 Census, children of both mothers are listed as Joseph's.

     Baker farmed and raised his family, living on Baker Ridge until 1919. On April 3rd of that year, Joseph's 40 year old son Joseph Hopkins Baker (called "Hop") killed his father with two shots to the chest.

     No explanation was given for Hop's action, although there was said to be a disagreement between Hop and his father about money, and there were rumors of "liquor habits" which "led them to wreck and ruin."

    On that fateful day, Hop and Joseph had argued, Joseph was disagreeable and had threatened to kill Hop, and had even drawn his gun on Hop. Hop, enraged, first attempted to kill his mother, missing her by so little that her dress was scorched. She dodged behind a mule and ran for the house, where she hid herself under the floorboards. Two other shots missed her. Hop then shot his father twice, and also fired at two other women who were at the house, missing them. Hop then made his escape.

     Hop made his way to Kentucky, where he bought a farm and lived until the summer of 1926, when deputy sheriff W. P. Horn, N. C. Meade, and Chas. Moneyhun captured him and returned him to Russell County for trial. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, with 10 for acquittal and two for conviction. Hop returned to Kentucky. A second trial later that year resulted in a conviction for manslaughter and a sentence of five years.

     Joseph C. Baker was not the only son of James and Highly to die an unnatural death. Brother John was stabbed to death. Brother William was "shot by a man by the name of Minton" in 1894. Brother Nathaniel suffered the same fate as Joseph C., being shot to death by his son, Bob Baker.

     Other family members also died young, brother George died at the age of 6 years of fever. Sister Sarah died at the age of 24. Robert J., a son of Joseph C. and Martha Baker, died at the age of two in 1877. Two other sons, by Mary Deen, George and Jasper, died in 1888 of flux.

     Hop lived until the age of 86, dying on Christmas Eve, 1960.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

World War I Letters of Russell County, August 9, 1918

The following letter appeared in the August 9th, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"Somewhere in France,"
July 2.

My dear Kitty:

Perhaps since I have gone so far away, it is not as active as the heading reads, but it is army life in its true meaning. You have no doubt been wondering why you have not heard from me before now, and I have also wondered why I have not written you.

Many times I have collected my pen and paper to write, when I begin to realize the face, that my vocabulary is very limited, as you well know, and that my mind is so absorbed that I cannot get my thoughts together enough to find words in which to express them on paper. Anyway you know I am very good at making excuses, especially when it comes to writing letters. We landed in France June 8th, all the way across no one could not help but enjoy every hour of the time spend on board the ship, even the boys who were very sick and "lost their beans overboard." We landed safely without any mishap or excitement throughout the voyage, at times the weather was cool and windy, the waves rolling high. We were all comfortable, cheerful and happy, as though we had nothing to fear, while our good ship moved on and on over the dark blue sea at a great pace. Still land was welcomed by all, and you should have heard the loud shouts and cheers from the brave "Sammies" as we neared the port. The port city (which I shall not name) was a good sized place, and if ever I had my "mouth" open looking it was while we were marching through the city after we had got off the ship.

Thought it was the greatest sight of my life to march through the streets and look at the people watching us pass by, most all would wave their hand and smile, but behind that smile there seemed to be sorrow written so deep in their faces that one could not overlook it. Even to the little children who cannot realize what it all means by woring have the same sad expression, because they seem to have been deprived of lifes essentials. We hiked out a little way from this town to what is called a rest camp. Here we remained for a few days rest, then continued our journey by rail, which has been a pleasant and very interesting trip since, we have been able to see a great deal of the country of sunny France, which is a real beauty. Much more beautiful than I can describe. The land through the country seems to be very fertile and productive. Its nice to see the pretty grass farms, the fine fat horses and milch cows. Through the cities and towns, there are many things to see very interesting. The women take the place of men in many ways such as running street cars, auto, etc. Yet everything seems to be of a very old fashion. Nothing up to date. The substantial structure of the buildings consists only of stone, concrete or brick, very seldom ever see a porch to any house. There are many, many other things to see of great interest, also instructive as well. War seems to be ever present to all who are paying the prices of it.

We could not see these things without having a determination to do our bit in this great conflict. Of course, to us who wear the uniform there is some degree of uncertanty as to what the future holds for us. But as we stand up with strong hearts, as brave soldiers should have, with a full determination to do our very best in this great war, we lay aside every obstacle in view and take up the required work of fighting men, to put an end to "old Fritz," and his wonderful gang go there shall again be peace and prosperity restored to the world when we shall be permitted to return to our homes in the dear old U. S. A. and live in peace, and enjoy the comforts of home life. To me, everything looks very bright. I think America is here in time to save this beautiful country of France, and I am sure we are going to do our utmost to do it. But however should fate decree a different course rest assured we shall acquit ourselves as men, reflecting honor upon our country, making more sacred the stars and stripes in "old Glory" which has become to have a deeper meaning than I am able to describe. I feel sure the dear ones back home are immensely interested in our behalf and faithfully watch our course as to the time when we may return. You speak in your letter of the Red Cross workers, I must say that the Red Cross is playing a great game in helping to win the war, and I trust they will continue the good work, and try to get more people interested in doing their share. I am sure if everybody would be willing to do their bit the war would end much quicker.

Kitty, I have been able to see a few good looking French girls since I have been in France. The hardest thing for me to understand is their language, about all I can say to them, is, "Jer ner parl pah Fraunsay." Jer swee ah mery cang." I am an American. that's going some isn't it? Perhaps if I stay over here long enough I will be quite a Frenchman when I return.

We are having some good times over here, and I don't think our folks back home should worry, while it does no good. It is very interesting to see the boys so eagerly watching for a letter from someone back home. It is a great pleasure to get a letter from someone in "dear old Virginia." I will be pleased to hear from all my friends who wish to write me just a line. I have recently received one letter from you, which was appreciated. Hope to hear again soon.

Well, as my letter is getting rather lengthy, and I have told you about all I can think about, I will soon close this letter. Guess I have written more already than you care to read unless 'twas more interesting.

How's the weather at home now? Very warm I guess. A sweater worn at times, and sleeping under four or five wollen blankets has been very comfortable here.

Wishing you much success in all the undertakings you may wise to accomplish in the future, I remain,

Your friend,
Med. Detach. 317th Infantry
American Expeditionary Forces.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

T. H. Blizzard Walks Out... and Wanders the World

Thomas Henry Blizzard was born in 1871, the son of John and Mary Blizzard. In 1893 he married Susan Crabtree. By the time of the 1900 Federal Census, Tom and Susan had four sons: Beecher, Reed, Rawls, and Rouss. Tom was working as a farmer, but apparently he wanted more.

In 1904 The Clinch Valley News reported the founding of a newspaper in Dickenson County, at Clintwood, called the Clintwood Times; T. H. Blizzard as the "Editor Manager". The newspaper was reported to be Democratic in politics. The paper ran until at least 1908, when it was purchased by James W. Bausell, formerly the editor of the Lebanon News.

In 1905 and 1906 Tom is mentioned in the Clinch Valley News as a real estate man, after buying a lot and building a house in St. Paul. Unfortunately, the house, and two neighboring houses, were burned to the ground in a fire on April 21st, 1907.

At this point, Tom's life becomes strange. Apparently in 1909 he abandons his wife and children to run off with another woman. Sometime around 1910 he wrote a letter to his parents from Norfolk, so angering his father that Tom was disowned. The picture below appears, dated April, 1910:

At this point Tom disappears from the historical record. The only evidence of his life after 1910 comes from letters he periodically wrote to the Lebanon News and its editor, Henry F. Bausell, the son of James W. Bausell.

The first mention of Tom is in 1915, when he sends two photos to Henry Bausell. Unable to locate Tom's mother, the Editor puts a small notice in the News asking for her address.

A few years later, in 1919 he sends the following letter to Editor Bausell:

Chicago, Ill., May 5, 1919
H. F. Bausell
Lebanon, Va.

Dear Editor:

Some one might care to know and might even be news to a few to say that I am still alive and in good health. I am living a correct life and getting on o.k., under an assumed name of course.

Yours with regards,

Sadly, for the Blizzard family, Tom's mother, Mary, dies in November of 1924, still praying and longing for her prodigal son.

The next mention of Tom is in 1925, when Bausell mentions the receipt of a letter dated March 28th, from Winnipeg, Canada. Tom reports "that he was on his way to Alaska on a mining deal."

A few weeks later, editor Bausell writes a longer article about Tom's disappearance. He states that Tom was "prominent in school and politics" and calls him "a brilliant young man". Bausell goes on to state "We have reasons to believe that Tom is receiving this paper under an assumed name". Having complete access to the Lebanon News subscriber rolls, it is likely that Bausell knew the assumed name and location that Tom was using at that time.

The last mentions of Tom occur in November of 1927, when he writes a longer letter. Editor Bausell writes:

Written on the back side of a small bill of fare of a Mexican restaurant, Mexico Moderno, Zaragoza 511, Piedgras Negras, on which the menu is printed in both English and Spanish, and mailed in an envelope secured from the Hotel Eagle, Eagle Pass, Texas, the letter in brief saying:

"H. F. Bausell,
Editor Lebanon News,
Lebanon, Va,
"Dear Henry:

"Still I live. Had quail and toast, beer and a Scotch highball for supper at Piedgras Negras, old Mexico, this P. M. Go to Laredo tomorrow and down in the interior of the state to Tameleping, Mexico, this week. Somebody might care.
"Best wishes to you.
"T. H. Blizzard and aliases.
"P. S. Have seen lots of the earth since I saw you. Send your orders down, all kinds of wine with meals."

A few weeks later Tom's father, John Blizzard, died. Tom was never heard from again.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The World War II Letters of Billy J. Campbell, Letter 6

Somewhere on Luzon
June 13, 1945

Hello Everbody

Well I am on solid ground again and am feeling O. K. Its kinda hot but I am getting used to it fast. Boy I am glad to get off that boat though, I was really getting tired of that. I can tell now that we stopped in the Hawaiian Islands on the way over and I have seen Manila.

We have been buying cocoanuts and pineapples from the natives here. They are high as heck but naturally an American is curious about everthing new and odd. And I mean these natives are odd. You get on a train and have to stop it to run the Philipine children off the track or so it seemed to us. The favorite pastime of the natives seem to be raising children. They dont have many clothes but I havent seen one yet with dirty clothes on. As soon as the children are big enough to walk, they learn to say "Hello Joe" to an American soldier. You can get a handful of Jap money for two cigarettes. They all smoke when they can get anything to smoke young and old alike smoke it doesn't make any difference how young or hold.

Gilbert and Mason are just across the road from me. We have been together all time since we were at home. I still haven't seen Alfred since I was at home. I hope Gilbert and I stay together.

How is Susy and Ham? I bet they are both getting a good sun tan. Are Doris and Anne out of school? Are they going to school anywhere this summer? Joe should be busy now that he is out of school, driving the tractor this summer.

I guess I had better close now. There isn't as much here to write about as I thought there would be. Tell Susy and Ham to be good. Tell everbody hello and don't worry about me. I haven't gotten any mail here yet but I will pretty soon, I hope.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Teachers in Russell County, Castleswoods District, 1878-1883

Here is the listing of teachers for Castleswoods District from 1878-1883. There were approximately 1,000 students each year.

Castlewoods District 1878 1879 1880 1881 1882 1883
Adkins, Mrs. R. J.x
Banner, Daniel E.x
Begley, Abner C.xx
Begley, Miss Malvie J.xx
Banner, Daniel
Bird, Michaelx
Bostic, J. W.x
Bowser, Hobson Boyd (col)x
Cox, Thomas C.x
Dickenson, Caroline C.x
Dickenson, H. J.x
Dickenson, James A.x
Dickenson, Nannie V. (Miss)x
Dickenson, Rusha (Miss)x
Dickenson, T. M.xx
Dillard, William H.x
Dotson, John C.xx
Fisher, C. C. (Prof.)xxx
Fraley, D. A.x
Fraley, Jennie J. (Mrs.)xx
Frazier, G. A.x
Gibson, George M.x
Gibson, H. V. (Miss)x
Gibson, Mattie V. (Miss)x
Greer James W.xxxx
Gose, S. C.xx
Harmon, W. A.x
Hicks, James W.x
Ingram, M. L.x
Jessee, Harvey G.xx
Johnson, G. L.x
Keith, Noah B.x
Kiser, A. L.xx
Kiser, Noah W.xx
Kiser, O. B.xx
Lee, Jennie B.xx
Mead, J. C.x
Musick E. F. (Rev)xx
Musick Granville
Musick, Kernanxxxx
Musick Major A.x
Rasnick, H. C.x
Smith, Cowan D.x
Smith, J. W.x
Steele, Thomas J.x
Tow, A. H. (Rev.)x

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Grand Jury, ca. 1905

First Row: W. B. Kilbourn, H. W. Dougherty, I. F. Carter, Judge H. C. McDowell, H. L. Anderson, G. H. Burton.

Second Row: Henry Fletcher, J. V. Campbell, Jasper Kern, J. E. Lambert, C. W. Allen, M. A. Thompson, A. R. Kilgore, Mart Owens.

G. D. Jenkins, Photographer.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

World War I Letters of Russell County, June 21, 1918

The following letter appeared in the June 21, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"Supply Co., 38 Infantry
A. E. F. France, May 25, 1918

Dear father and mother:

As I have been in England and France since April 2, and I haven't heard from you all yet, but you know as well as I do I am a long ways from home and it takes about 60 days for me to get a letter to you and a reply. After I start a letter it goes to the mail box and then taken to the orderly room and censored by the captain. It then leaves the company and goes to other officers to be censored and I do not know how many hands it goes thru before it leaves the foreign countries. I have written you all several letters, but I do not know whether you received them or not, but hope you have. This leaves me well and happy and liking army life over here in France just fine. I only wish I had joined the army sooner. Well I can say Uncle Sam is sure treating the boys as nice as can be over here. We sure do get plenty of good old U. S. grub to eat here. We get our chow three times per day regularly. We do not get the same thing every meal either. The American Y. M. C. A. keeps all kinds of candies and cakes. They keep the boys well supplied with writing paper, envelopes, pens, ink, chairs and tables to write on. Well mother, I want to say this much if it wasn't for the Y. M. C. A. here in France, I do not know what the boys would do. When I get out of the army I am going to contribute and boost the Y. M. C. A. I attend church here as often as I can. All the Sammy boys are welcome when they go. Most of the services are held in the Y. M. C. A. in the old stone buildings about a century and a half old, large rooms and high walls, the window panes stained and decorated with beautiful flowers and pictures. You ought to hear the French kids sing. They sing so well and look so cute with their rosy red cheeks and patched clothes and bare-footed. They call on the Sammy boys and ask of them, "cigarettes for pap, penny for mama, candy for me." And every chance we get we are teaching them American slang they sure do learn fast. I found everything quite different from what I expected to find it. This is a beautiful country and every thing looks so nice over here. The land is mostly smooth and everything is kept in the best of shape. They can do this as each man has such as small tract of land. The roads are good, nice stone walls for fence.

I haven't met many of my chums of the training camps as yet but hope to meet them later and talk with them.

Well I guess I had better close for this time as you know I am not allowed to write so much. I do not know how much of this will pass the censor. I hope this will find you all well and enjoying life to the fullest extent.

Don't worry about me for I am getting along fine and I hope to be back with you soon, as I think the war will soon be over for Uncle Sam has enough soldiers over here now to lick the Germans and most of us will get home soon. I will be pleased to have a letter from you all at once. Will write as often as I can.

Your son,
Private A. L. Smith"

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Teachers in Russell County, Moccasin District, 1879-1883

Here is the listing of teachers for Moccasin District from 1876-1883. There were approximately 600 students each year.

Moccasin District 1879 1880 1881 1882 1883
Alderson, T. C. (Rev.)xxxxx
Bird, Michaelx
Cross, Robertxx
Dickenson, Mollie E.x
Dickenson, M. M.x
Debusk, R. S.xx
Duff, Henryx
Gilmer, N. H.x
Harris, John (Dr.)xxxx
McFadden, Mollie E. (Miss)xxxxx
Scott, Peter H.x
Vicars, Ira F.xxxx
Vicars, Joseph C.x

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Old Russell County Church Group Picture

Here's a large group picture, taken somewhere in Russell County, possibly at a church, although probably not for Sunday service. None of the children are wearing shoes, and not all of the boys are in suits. Other contemporary pictures show shoes and suits. None of these children are identified. Recognize anyone? 

As for the date, I'll guess circa 1900-1910.