Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Visit With Uncle Logan

I received news today that my great uncle Logan is in the hospital and is not expected to make it.

Logan is sort of the patriarch of my mom's side of the family - the Kentucky side. He grew up very poor in the back of a holler called Long Branch and worked very hard to put himself through college and become a successful businessman. He is also a veteran of World War II.

Realizing he is a family treasure and also realizing my time with him was limited, I went down to Kentucky 10 years ago with a recorder and asked him for all his stories. He spoke for almost two hours and I recorded it and my mother in law transcribed it.

The following is an excerpt from that document. I offer this so that you can know something of my uncle.

A Visit With Uncle Logan

In his words, as recorded by Steve Laughlin

October, 2000

Before Adams generation come to Kentucky, they lived in North Carolina, in the mountains. Seems we’ve always been in the mountains. In 18 and three, they lived in North Carolinar in Wilkes County on Roarin’ River and they decided to move and come to Kentucky. So they settled just out of Perry County up in the edge of Letcher County at Making in 1803. They stayed there several years and some of the young men was awful rowdy. They got in trouble and said, “We’d better move.” So they moved about ten or twelve mile away down to Blackie. That was completely out of the way back in those days. And the old man was named Cager John, our ancestor was. He had two brothers that come with him but I have no record of them. His name was Cager John. Well, they lived there at Blackie a few years and some more young men got in trouble and they moved to Perry County to Mason Creek and they lived there during the Civil War. Cager John, he had square dances and they said he could dance all night in a washtub. But they lived there during the Civil war and he had three boys that went into the war. Ben and Saul and John (Smoker John) Ben, they never did hear from him again. They never did know what happened to Ben. He never did come back. Saul was sixteen and he got run over by a horse and got out early. He didn’t see much fightin’. But Smoker John went through it all. He got captured and stayed in Andersonville nine months. He had typhoid fever and he said they was a starvin’ him to death. Had barbed wire around and he couldn’t go far. He found a patch of blackberries and he got in those blackberries and just eat all he could. He’d slip out there every day and eat blackberries. He said he started gettin’ better right then. He said he woulda died if he hadn’t found that blackberry patch.

(Steve: “He fought for the North right?”)

Yeah. Finally they turned him loose. But first let me tell you about Saul. They turned him loose in Georgia after he got run over by horses. He come to Atlanta and rode a train out to, (To Rose) What’s that little town where Leonard lives, about ten or twelve miles outside of Atlanta? They’ve grown together now. But he was on his way home and he finally got home and he married my grandmother, Elizabeth Hamilton. The Hamiltons were originally from North Carolina too and they settled in at the head of Trace Fork up there. He married her. They lived on Lankus Creek for awhile. In 1880 when dad was one year old, they moved to Cutshin, and lived up there at the mouth of Cowhead. Dad [Saul] had built a little leanto there agin the big rock and he set logs up agin it. He covered it over and stayed there until he got the cabin built . Then he went back and got his family. Dad said his Granddad [Cager John?] told them when they was children that there was twelve families lived on Cutshin Creek. It was said to be twenty five mile long and twelve families.

He said they didn’t know anybody. And a stranger would come, him and his brothers would run and run under the bed. They was afraid of strangers. But they lived there for several years up there at the mouth of Cowhead. Granddad got tired of farmin’ them hills. But, in the meantime, before he left here, he rode his horse to Irving. He got a pension, $6 dollars a month, Army pension.

(Steve: “Now this was Saul?”)

Yes. Brought a clock back with him. Dad said he was ten or twelve year old and that was the first clock he had ever seen. They lived up there at Cowhead. They lived there and they farmed those hills and all the soil washed off about it and they couldn’t grow much and they decided they’d buy them a farm in Laurel County, Black country.

But they got down there he farmed but the soil was poor and they didn’t have fertilizer in those days and he couldn’t raise any more corn than he raised here. One of dad’s sisters had a baby and she’s not been married. That was just unreal at that time in their culture. Women just didn’t have babies unless they was married. She never could find nobody to marry and finally she married an old man with five children. His name was Boss Shell. Aunt Betty was his wife, dad’s sister. They moved to Laurel County and raised those five children. The one she had out of wedlock, Granddad raised her. One of them boys growed up and they was down to the, (she may have been mean to ‘em, I don’t know where she was or not. I have no idea.) They was down at the milk house milking cows one evening and that boy grabbed a ax and chopped her all to pieces, killed her. That was sometime in the 1920’s. After that Granddad moved back up here and brought the place up there where Hayes Lewis School is. He stayed there until he died.

He give all his boys a farm apiece. But the one dad got was too steep to plow with a mule. We had to dig in the corn up there. Right across the creek from the mission over there. Very little places you could plow a mule. We stayed there till I was eleven years old. There were several fields in Long Branch that you could plow with a mule and dad traded places with Van Tilgen. We moved to Long Branch in 1930 and then dad started buying little adjoining properties. The first place he bought was four acres. That’s where the old man, I told you about the old man that said “Monroe, I’m not gonna tech that pen unless you buy me a sack of flour.” He couldn’t read and write and he had to make his mark and have a witness and he wouldn’t touch the pen until dad got him a sack of flour. Had to get on a mule and ride to the store and buy a sack of flour and bring it to him. Anyway he bought that place and got a deed for it. And then there was about thirty acres adjoined that. But before he bought the thirty acres, he bought what we call the Sam Grinestead place. That’s where the old house was there. You remember that. He paid $175 for a house and sixteen acres.

Then, a little later, he bought the place there where the chimney is. Land was the thing back then. Everybody wanted to accumulate all the land they could get. He bought that place. Then during the war he wrote me one letter hisself. He didn’t write much. He wrote me one letter and said this place here’s for sale, forty acres. You can buy it for $250. You can pay $25 down and $25 a year at 4%. I said “I like it,” Well, I bought that place. They lived there for years after that. But you couldn’t drive up there. They moved out to Wooton one winter and stayed down there and was real unhappy and as soon as spring come we moved em back up in the holler, and he raised a garden and was real happy when he got back home. But then April of 1973, he was about two months of bein’ 94, he died. Then three months later my mother died. Then, of course, Moore(?) went up there and divided the property. Stelle and Effie said, “We want a place on the road. We’ll take 12 ½ acres apiece here on the road. Each person had 25 acres apiece back where there was no road. The rest of us got 25 acres apiece, five of us did. Stelle and Effie got 12 ½ acres apiece. We then wrote a sale. One time I was up there. Willard(?) just started to build his house. He said, “You got a whole lot more land than I got, than I still have. Well, I said, “I’ll be glad to trade with you right now.” And he said “Well listen, I don’t want to trade with you.” Anyway that was home to me as long as dad and mother lived, but after they was gone, it really didn’t seem like home anymore.

(Steve: How many acres did they have altogether?)

About 150 and I bought 40 acres up there. I come back home and I was real fortunate. On the ship coming back we played poker seven days. It took seven days to come back and we played poker seven days and I won $600. That was the most money I ever seen in my life. I made about $27 dollars a month from the army. That was the most money I’d ever seen and I plugged my pillowcase and slept with it in there until I got home. I went down to finish paying my place off up there and I believe I paid two payments of $50 and I thought I’d get by with $200. “No siree, He said, I’m not takin that money. I’m gonna wait and get my interest.” I tried to give him money and he wouldn’t take it. I shoulda just brought it back and put it in the bank. I coulda got probably 3 or 4 % for it. But anyway I just gave it to him. Paid him interest and all. But that was I guess a good deal for me.

I may have left something out. I’ll start out on when I first remember. I nursed my mother ‘till I was three years old. The child that was the next one after me died, between me and Nell. So I guess she just left me alone. The first thing I remember was her makin’ me quit. She turned her back to me and she had a great big round mole on the back of her neck and I just picked that and she turned around and slapped me and that was a real terrible experience for a three year old. I remember that.

Let’s see, the next thing I remember was my mother cooked on the fire. We had a little one room cabin there, and I’m not jokin or lyin’ it looked like the cabin, the Clampett’s cabin there you see on television (this was around 1930). I’m not lyin’ to you it looked like that. And we had one room and a fireplace and a little kitchen made out of boards that dad had rived with a froe. It was cold in the winter a sight. My mother would cook on the fire of a evenin’ and dad built us a big room there out of logs next to that right up against it you know and cut a door out to go into the big room. It was 16 foot square. He set a big heatin’ stove right in the middle of it and that was the most comfortable place I was ever in. But we stayed there and my mother was cookin’ on the fire one evenin’ and I must of been four or five, I don’t know how old I was. But anyway she had a pot of boilin’ water settin’ on the hearth and I started to run across the hearth and put my foot in it. That’s the next thing I remember real good. The hide come off my foot when we took my shoe off and I seen dad run. He run out of the field. He was back in the field clearing ground, cuttin’ down the finest timber you ever seen, a rollin it up and burnin it, tryin to make a place to grow corn. But he run to the house and there was an old man named Doc Hawkin, herb doctor. And you know, I didn’t know if he had been to medical school but he had lived over in Cumberland. Him and his brother went to medical school and his brother got a license and practiced medicine there in Cholera. But Doc dropped out of medical school but he come to Cutshin and practiced medicine. I don’t remember what he done to my foot but he took care of it. If you didn’t have any money he’d take a few potatoes or whatever you had to give him. But anyway we lived there and I guess I got spoiled real bad when I burnt my foot. They’d have to lead me everywhere I went and I wouldn’t walk and the foot was well and they were still leadin. Homer jerked his hand loose from me one time and boy I got onto him over that. Pretended I couldn’t walk.

(Steve: “Homer was older than you?”)

Yeah. We lived there ‘till----Oh I’d better tell you this one too. I may have told you this before. There were two preachers come from New York. They was holdin’ a revival there at my Uncle Willies down the road about a quarter of a mile. Well I had to go to church every night and I was seven or eight year old I guess. Them was hell and damnation preachers and they had me scared to death and I didn’t know how to get to heaven hardly. I couldn’t figure it out. They said the Lord was a comin’ just any day and he was comin’ out of the east. Well, I knew where the east was because I had been told that was where the hoot sun come up, that was the east. But one day I was down at the barn lot playin’ with the pigs, chickens and cows. We had everything in the barn lot, a big lot fenced off. There’s an airplane come right over the hill where the sun come up. I thought that was the Lord a comin’ and it scared me plum to death. The cows was a bawlin’. It was real low down. The cows was a bawlin’, the chickens was runnin’ and hiding. Well I knew my dad and mother was two of the best people in the world. They was supposed to have been caught up and gone to heaven if they was alive you know when Jesus come and I just knew they’d be gone when I got to the house. But I got to the house and by golly they was still alive. And not a person in the neighborhood, now that was sorta in the middle twenties I’d say. Not a person in the neighborhood knew what that was. Nobody knew what it was. But there was a Boggs girl that lived here on the creek that had been in Harlan a workin’ and she’d come in one weekend and somebody was tellin’ her about seein that thing a flyin’. She said, “Well that’s an airplane. They light over there at Harlan all the time.” When I got over my scare eventually, I started goin’ to church up there in l936. That’s the year that Miss Shaw and them people come through.



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