Wirt County, West Virginia Genealogy
|Wirt County, West Virginia|
Location in the state of West Virginia
Location of West Virginia in the U.S.
- 1 County Courthouse
- 2 History
- 3 Places / Localities
- 4 Resources
- 5 Societies and Libraries
- 6 Web Sites
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PO Box 53
Elizabeth, WV 26143-0053
- County Clerk has birth and death since 1870
- marriage records since 1870
- Probate and land records from 1848
- Clerk Circuit Court has divorce records
See an interactive map of Wirt County boundary changes.
Places / Localities
For tips on accessing Wirt County, West Virginia Genealogy census records online, see: West Virginia Census.
Join us in indexing the 1940 Census
A letter written by Orville Clyde Dotson born in Wirt County (1911 - 2002) to his sister, Pearl Dotson DeQuasie about some old acquaintances of theirs who lived in Wirt County WV near Creston.
"Pearl, you remember the Edmun Davis Family. Edmun's wife was Arthelia Marks of Creston.
How did it happen that they moved into the John Corbitt-Bertha Fox Corbit house? Did they rent it or buy it before our Dad donated the house to become the Grace Community Building on Wagon Run just above Polly's (Walker) old home.
I remember when John Corbitt furnished their living room in the house in mulberry lumber -- some of this very pretty lumber.
Dar(?) Blankenship dated Sarah Davis when she was in her teens, and since our house was much closer than his home on Ann's Run in Creston, he would come up to our house and stay the rest of the night. Sarah's next beau was Clair (Dotson), then me, until Perry Parsons cut me out after several dates, and I quit dating her and started dating Nina McCrosky. I respected and like both the girls but didn't propose to either.
You know Pearle, that I saw Leafie Corbitt safely home many times, and Clair and I helped Mart Hickman in harvest time and other jobs he needed done. You remember that Mart and Daisy (Hall) Hickman were close friends to our parents. I believe our Dad baptized Leafie and her Aunt Daisy. Am I right?
You remember that our Dad was a Mason and Mom belonged the Eastern Star at Reedy. I believe that I have seen them go with Mart and Daisy to Creston lodge together.
I don't remember if Daisy road a side saddle. Mom did and was an excellent rider. I wish I had that saddle.
It brought to mind a lot of memories when Al Englkee said, in his Creston News column in the Calhoun Chronicle, that Jim, the last of the Ann's Run Blankenships, died. Clair and I went to Akron to watch them launch the Akron dirigible. We went with Jim Blankenship. We also saw Amelia Earhart in her Ford trimotor airplane advertising Wrigley Chewing gum.
Polly had seen her in a Lyceum program at Glenville College previous to that time.
I was at Gilboa Church one night and got there a little early and as was the custom, the young fellows liked to congregate on each side of the entrance and exchange a little banter and do a bit of flirting with the girls.
Virgil Cheuvront parked his car and accosted me before he went in and said, "I want to double date with you tonight so you can ride back home with me."
"You mean triple date, don't you?" I told him I didn't have a date.
I'm not sure now what girl it was he was dating, but she was, I believe, teaching at the Mt. Solon school.
When church services were over, I was near the front entrance and caught Nina's eye, and she nodded at the door. I nodded a yes and waited to walk out with her.
Virgil said to me, "I thought you told me you didn't have a girl."
"I didn't then," I replied.
I think you remember when I bought an engagement ring for Polly and had Jean Petty keep it for me while I worked for Luke Gibson in the store. She kidded me and asked me if I wanted her to wear it. I told her if Pauline Walker turned me down, I just might let her as I considered her a very fine person."
More Written by Orville Clyde Dotson born in Wirt County (August 5, 1911 to December 11, 2002)
I was born about 2:00 P.M. on a rainy Saturday August 5, 1911 in the same house my mother was born in. Her parents were Henry and Elvira Miller. The house was about a quarter of a mile from Buffalo settlement (in Wirt County West Virginia) that had Lee Collins' Country Store, a Methodist Church, and a two-room elementary school that my four older brothers attended. Grandfather Miller had given the land for the church and was a trustee.
It was March 25th 1916, when I was four years old, and our mother gave my next older brother, Claire, fifty cents to go get himself a present for his seventh birthday. He bought a beautiful candy dish. I was with him. We went everywhere together. I put up a howl for a birthday present (my birthday wasn't until August 5th). I picked up a candy dish that was the same color as his, but mine had a stem and his was flat. I was a genuine redhead, and I refused to go home without my dish. Mrs. Collins settled the matter by sending a note home to our mother telling her she could pay for it later if she wanted to keep it.
There were two younger children than I by this date, Charles Henry who was two years old January 24th 1916, and Roberta Pearl, our first sister, one year old, born January 1, 1916.
We had moved to a newer house that Dad had built for his brother and sister-in-law Orville and Della Dotson, almost in sight from the old house. I recall two events while we were living there.
I was pretending to shoot various things, and entertaining cousin Carl who was there with his parents who were visiting and helping my mother and father. Aunt Della was doing a laundry for my mother. She had a large iron kettle on a spider (a three-legged support) with a load of clothes. A fire was going under the kettle, and my aunt was keeping the clothes submerged by using a long wooden rod (probably a broom or mop handle).
I looked behind the front door, which was open in the living room, and saw a snake coiled up. I must have been very excited when I yelled, "Bang! There Carl, it's really a snake!"
Carl came and looked and yelled, "Come, Mom, it is really a snake!"
Aunt Della came with her clothes puncher stick and made a quick job of killing a copperhead snake.
She took the dead snake out and hung it on the clothesline, then rang the dinner bell which brought the men and older boys in from their work as it was just about noon anyway.
Everyone praised Aunt Della for probably saving me from being killed, but tried to convince me that I should never get close to a snake like I did, and that my fool stunts would be enough to drive them crazy or the cause of my untimely death.
I reckon their advice about not getting to close to a living snake must have been right since I don't know of any of them becoming insane nor of my untimely death since I have lived more than eighty years since that time.
One day I was carrying around Bill's old Daisy air rifle shooting at various inanimate objects. I was not allowed to use regular BB shot, so I was using tiny gravel. I didn't have enough strength to pump the rifle more than once so my improvised shots only went about six feet away. I suddenly heard a commotion, and a duck quacking. My oldest brother, Bill, had a mother duck with a brood of a dozen ducklings which were very pretty, fuzzy little balls of down, so I ran around the corner of the house to investigate.
Charles was holding a duckling under water in a sunken tub of water Bill had fixed for them. I yelled for him to stop and took the almost-drowned duckling from him. I told him if I caught him doing anything like that again I would shoot him.
In a short time, I was interested watching a bird build a nest because I loved birds and animals. I heard a repetition of mother duck and her brood. I rushed around to the back yard and saw Charles taking up his duck swimming lessons again.
He dropped the duckling when I yelled at him, but turned and looked at me defiantly. He was only wearing a pair of training pants and he was only eight feet or so from me. I couldn't miss his naked belly as a target. I didn't miss. Charles cried and screamed like he was half-killed.
The gravel never left even a red mark, but my mother's hand did on my rear end when she learned what I had done. She gave me the punishment I richly deserved, and I learned a very valuable lesson. All guns are made to shoot and should never be aimed at anything one doesn't want to shoot.
While lumber was being cut to build our new home at the head of Falling Timber Run, a huge pile of sawdust was created, about as high as a house. When Reedy Creek froze over Dad and Cale Thompson, our nearest neighbor, sawed blocks of thick ice and buried them in the sawdust pile. We had ice to use well into the following summer.
Mrs. Thompson, Arizona, babied me, and I loved it. She always had cookies for me, and I would help her, I thought, with her housework. I especially loved to churn butter with the old-fashioned dasher-type churn. Mr. Thompson made me a churn with a half-gallon sized jar made by A.P. Donehue of Parkersburg, WV. He made a recessed cover with a center hole for the dasher.
Mrs. Thompson, who loved to grow flowers and used lots of jars for potting plants. One day I noticed my churn was filled with potting soil. I cried all the way home. When my mother found out why I was crying, she showed me my churn in its usual place along with several others exactly like it. All of them had lettering advertising A. P. Donahue of Parkersburg, WV. I learned another lesson when my mother called Mrs. Thomason and made me apologize.
On March 25, 1917, on my brother Charles' birthday, we moved to Spring Creek.
On that eventful day, it was very cold with some snow still on the ground. My mother, baby sister Pearle, Charles and I were riding in Uncle Orve's wagon packed with all furniture and all kinds of other stuff that could be put into the wagon. Mother, Charles and I were in the front of the load with barely enough room to crowd in. We were bundled up with bed ticks, blankets and plenty of stuff to keep us warm. Our trek took us down Fallen Timber Run and up Reedy Creek to the mouth of McCutcheon's Run, then the road to Sanoma, ten south on the Sanoma-Spencer Road to the mouth of Beaver Dam Run and Grandpa Dotson's farm.
There we would have to ford the creek because the only bridge was a footbridge.
Our wagon was in the lead followed by our cattle and Dad drove the second wagon with the older boys driving the cattle ahead of the wagon.
The cattle refused to enter the cold water, and Uncle Orve seeing they were having difficulty, stopped about half way across the ford. Rain and melting snow had swollen Spring Creek until the water was almost up to the bed.
Uncle Orve stopped the wagon mid-stream and walked out the tongue of the wagon. After unhitching one horse, he climbed on the horse and went back to help drive the cattle into the water.
The other horse was still hitched to the wagon but tried to turn around to follow her teammate. The sharp turn cramped the front wheel and tilted the wagon on its side.
Charles was thrown out of the wagon into the water.
Mother, with baby Pearl under one arm, jumped out of the wagon and hit the water, almost the same time Charles did. She grabbed Charles under the other arm and waded ashore telling me to grab hold of the wagon sideboard and to hang on.
Uncle Orve noticing the commotion came back and hitched his horse up again, but yelled at me for not holding on to my brother. My mother had made the half-mile to Grandpa's house in record time.
Our new homestead was wonderful in many ways. We were not long in giving the farm a name. We named it Spring Dale Farm because of the many springs it had.
Grandpa had two farms. One 90-acre farm was south by southeast of the home farm. 83 acres bordered on a mile and a half of Spring Creek, stretching from the fjord at the mouth of Beaver Dam Run in a great bend to the mouth of Cain's Run entering the creek from the opposite side.
He also had a grocery store. The store was a complete store for people from a remarkably large area. Some of the settlers his age called him Squire Dotson because he had been a justice of the peace at one time. He often took eggs, chickens, and rabbits in payment for what he sold, and gladly extended credit to anyone he knew.
He smoked a pipe and grew his own tobacco and cured it inside a building we called the granary that had been built for storing wheat and other grains to feed livestock and poultry. He put the tobacco leaves from a 'hand' of tobacco in a metal container and poured boiling water over it. Sometimes he would put some honey in the water and sometimes a sassafras root for flavor. He
would let the tobacco simmer for a while in the container. I never knew him to take any cough medicine or other drug store or doctor prescribed medicine. His cough medicine was horehound candy dissolved in whiskey. He sold the horehound candy in his store and kept his whiskey hidden away. I never saw him take a drink of intoxicating beverage. He was omnivorous in his eating and very clean in his habits.
While he never took any pills or liquid cures other his horehound cough medicine, he had reached the place where he was depending a lot on Yeager's liniment for his aging joints - especially when winter rolled around, and we didn't have any cattle pasturing on the hill farm. It was then when we started using the fireplace in the front room, and Granddad moved his bed out into the living room in front of the fire. Granddad would keep the fire going all night and would use the liniment on his joints.
Mother was a very light sleeper, and one night heard a crash and then a yell. She rushed into the room.
Grandpa had dropped the liniment bottle, and it broke on the stone hearth throwing the liniment on his flannel pajamas which in turn burst into flames.
Grandpa may have gotten some minor burns, but there was little doubt that Emmie, as he called her, saved his life, and he was quick to tell her so.
He loved his grandchildren, especially when we would read to him from the daily newspaper, Cincinnati Post which we got a day late as it came by boat from Parkersburg to Sanoma post office by river boat to the mouth of Spring Creek 6 miles away. Grandpa took a lot of magazines - Comfort, National Stockman and Farmer, Farm Journal, Literary Digest, and Saturday Evening Post along with a couple of hunting and fishing magazines.
He was a squirrel hunter, had a Savage 22 caliber rifle, the only one of its kind I ever saw, and a 12 gauge single shot shotgun. He loved to listen to the hounds chasing foxes at night. He, Dad, and two or three neighbor men would listen to the baying hounds, sometimes until almost daylight when the fox would finally go to his den. Each dog owner knew his hound by the tone of its bark. The men would have a fire built up, usually on top of Granddad's hill. I was glad when I was old enough for Dad to take me along with them. The men liked to brag about their own dogs, but I was always betting on Queen, my grandfather's black and tan foxhound.
I remember there was one red fox that liked to trick the dogs. The men would explain some of their tricks, and I would assure them with all the certainty of my seven or eight years of experience, "Queen will straighten everything out when she comes to the place where Red Fox has doubled back on his trail or is using some other trick." One of the men would tease me by saying that I ought to know about how another redhead would think.
I grew up with another all-purpose hunting dog, Jack. We were pals. The rest of the family never worried about me when they knew Jack was with me.
The first summer we lived on Spring Dale farm, during hay cutting time, Dad had mowed around the house and stacked the hay, made up mostly of broom sedge which was used during the winter mostly as bedding in the stable and in the chicken house, so the chickens would have to scratch for their eats when the grain was scattered on the litter.
One sunny March day Claire came into the house and asked Mother where I was. She took him to the kitchen window and pointed to the stack of broom sedge which was about half gone and was only about eight feet high.
The hay was piled around the pole and mounded up to shed water when it rained. I had made us a cozy nest on the lee side. I stuck the pitchfork about halfway down the side of the stack and stood on it. I told Jack to jump, and I would catch him. I did and boosted him on up on the stack. We were both asleep in the nest I had made. Incidentally, we three boys, Delbert, Clair, and I built trails and even a grass hut in the broom sedge which grew to about 40 to 45 feet tall. We got to use our dandy place to play until school started. Dad usually cut and stacked the broom sedge after all other harvesting and labors were done. He said it was less of a fire hazard after it was dry if it was cut and stacked, but I think he probably did it so we had more time to play.
Very close to our house was a spring of water we never used since we had a well just outside the kitchen door. Granddad made use of the spring for soaking out salt fish. He had a pipe to the spring on which he could hang a screened basket so the water would wash the salt out of the fish if he left them there overnight. He liked his fish for breakfast.
A black walnut tree grew very close to the northeast corner of our house. A few days after we moved into the house, Clair challenged me to a race. He said we would start at the southeast corner and race clear around the house. He would wait for me to get to the front door that would be about half the distance to the next corner before he started and he would count loud enough for me to hear him before he started, so I would know he wasn't cheating. I heard his counting and heard him yell, "Here I come!" I ran as fast as I could, but made a mistake in looking back just as I got to the corner. I swung a bit wide in rounding it while looking over my shoulder. What happened was told to me about two hours later when I regained consciousness. I had hit the walnut tree head on.
The one-roomed Corbett School was in sight from our home about half a mile away. If Spring Creek was at normal or low stage, we could cross the riffle and go straight up the hill to the school. If the creek was at above-normal flood stage and too deep for us to wade across, we would have to go almost tow miles by the foot bridge at the mouth of Beaver Dam and a foot path up to the Powell’s house, and then follow the road that went by our school and on to the Hall farm.
Of course we could pull off our shoes in warm weather and ford the creek in our bare feet. In the winter, we would use a johnboat until the ice froze thick enough to hold our weight.
We even cut a boat channel until the deep freezes made it too much trouble to keep the channel. Then we crossed on the ice. I learned some of the necessary things about skating and some of the hazards. I’m not sure, but I believe Rachel Straight taught our school for two years. I remember and episode that may be funny now but was scary when it happened. All of us, including her, should remember to stay away from the ice which has a snag or tree limb or anything wooden protruding through the ice, especially if the ice is thawing. The ice immediately surrounding the object is weaker. Also, when the stream is falling after a raise, ice will sound like it’s breaking when it settles with the water.
One evening, after a warm day, we were crossing on the ice, taking our route home. The ice cracked as it settled and scared our teacher who headed for a large snag so she could grab it. She didn’t quite make it and broke through the ice. Her feet touched bottom where the icy water was only about shirt pocket deep. She smashed her way to the shore which was only a little more than an arm’s length away. We all raced home, but she won the race by several lengths.
While the ice was still safe for skating and we had a boat channel still in use, we would build a nice bonfire. Our teacher, Brother Bert, was a pretty good skater. He practiced jumping over a barrel we had rolled out onto the ice. When he mastered the barrel jumping, he thought he was good enough to jump the boat channel. He almost did and decided one try was enough.
During morning and afternoon recesses at school we played a form of baseball (softball). We called it round town, using home base and three others forming a square. There was a pitcher and catcher and the rest of the team were fielders. If a fielder could retrieve the ball, the batter was out. If the fielder could hit him (or her) before he reached a base, he was out, or if a fielder could throw the ball across the base path and the base he was headed for, he would be crossed out; hence the game was sometimes called cross town.
We of course played ‘Fox and Goose’ if there was enough snow to lay out the outer and inner circles and cross paths.
I think it was about my third or fourth year of school when a big husky boy about my brother Clair’s age, which would put him in the sixth grade, maybe still in the second year as a sixth grader. I said something, and the boy called me a liar. Before I could defend myself verbally, Clair knocked the boy down and bloodied his lips a bit. Our teacher slipped inside in time to see the beginning cause and ending of the one blow fight. He reprimanded both the boys and suspended them from playing with the rest of us during the recess and noon periods for one month. I asked the teacher to suspend me too as I was a cause of the fight. He granted me my request, and Clair and I spent the month finishing our bird book we were making. We used our goldenrod pencil tablet I had won in our weekly spelling bee and the Arm and Hammer soda bird pictures we had saved. I wish I still had the book but will never forget how much we enjoyed the “punishment” the teacher gave us. In later years, Clair and I had many a laugh about it.
When Clair was getting ready for his eighth grade test for his diploma honoring his completion of elementary school (for most country boys and girls, the completing of their formal education) I asked my older brother, Harry, who was our teacher, if I could take the diploma test along with Clair. He said I would have to leap frog the seventh grade and be with Clair in the eighth. He informed me that I was supposed to be in the sixth since I had leap frogged the third grade some time before then. I was doing all right in seventh, so he said we could be eight graders together.
We took an examination at the Wirt County High School at Elizabeth, the only high school in the county. It was a seventeen-mile trip. Our brother’s father-in-law took us and his daughter, Clair’s age, to take our diploma test at Elizabeth, traveling in a Model T Ford touring car. The two “old folks” and us three high school to be “kids” had a barrel of fun on the trip. The lady with us had a huge picnic for us at noon. We got back home well after dark.
Night traveling in a Model T is an experience. To have light in darkened places or to cross mud holes, you must shift into low gear and speed up the engine even if you have to slip the clutch. If you don’t, the magneto does not rotate fast enough to cause a bright light. You had no battery. Incidentally, there was no door on the driver’s side because the emergency brake was in the way.
When Clair and I got our diplomas along with our test grades, I had beaten him in several subjects. My brother in California who had me promoted from grade six to eight wanted me to go to high school. My parents didn’t want me to go; I was too young. I enrolled in a correspondence school, American School, in Chicago. I finished a half-year’s credit in four subjects but dropped the course as many people advised me to try to actually attend high school.
I went back to Corbett School and made eight dollars per month by going to the school an hour early to build up the fire and get the school warm and stoke the fire in the evening, sweep the floor, clean the chalk board and erasers, and see everything, including a bucket of water was ready for school the next day.
That way I could spend most of the day at home. I had never given up the idea of going to high school and college.
In March the following year, I volunteered to plow a twenty-acre cornfield. My Dad said that if I started it, I would have to finish it. I was very happy. I was now doing a man’s work.
Dad was the mail carrier for our rural mail route from Sanoma to Spencer. He had to rise before six o’clock and ride 6 miles and back to Sanoma, then go on to Spencer, twelve more miles and back, making a long day’s job. I was glad I could do something to help. Charles, a younger brother, would help me get my evening janitorial work done at school, and then I would hurry home so I could do some more plowing before we had to quit for the evening. One March day I had some work at home that would keep me from doing my plowing of the day, and I didn’t want to come back over to the school. I would pay Charles 50 cents and wanted him to help me with the evening chores, and I’d pay him for that too, maybe the rest of the dollar. I didn’t get to my plowing until afternoon, and the team Prince and Cindy were fresh. I planned to plow until dark, and let Charles earn his extra pay.
That old 12 inch Oliver turn plow had a moldboard that had to be unlatched and turned to throw the soil in the other direction when one reached the end of the furrow. That way all the soil was turned in the same direction when the field was finished. There was no wide, so called “dead furrow” in the center of the plowing. The plow had to be lifted, turned over and re-latched before returning. Before I had finished a day of plowing, I was so tired I would unlatch the moldboard and make it turn itself as the team started in the other direction, and then I would re-latch it.
We used mules and horses both. Bob, a bay mule, was the finest I ever drove for cultivating corn or any row vegetables. I never needed to use lines; he knew how to go to the end of the row close enough on his left so I could throw dirt along and between the corn hills and return between the two rows with the second row on the left. The corn hoers had few weed to cut and dirt to level around the plants.
When we were cutting hay, we of course used a team with the mowing machine and also the 18-foot wide hay rake, when the cut hay had cured enough to stack. The hay rake would windrow the hay in rows 18 feet apart. When we were going to take the hay into the barn and store it in the haymows, we used the wagon with a special bed for hauling hay and of course used a team. When we were stacking it outside, we used Bob and a rope about 30 feet long with both ends fastened to his two trace chains. The hay was now shocked in what Little Boy Blue would call “cocks” in the song. The hay shocks (or cocks) were in rows.
We would determine where we wanted the stack; then using a post hole digger, we would set a pole, usually about 20 to 30 feet long, in the ground. We would take Bob and the rope to the first cock we would haul and throw the rope around it close to the ground. To keep from losing it, we would stick a pitchfork into the hay on each side with one tine straddling the rope to hold it in place. All the rest of the hay was loaded on the ropes like loading a hay wagon or sled. Two men, or farm boys, and a mule could move a lot of hay in a short time.
Mules have the name of being “mulish” and “cantankerous”, but I liked to work them. They seem to have more stamina than equal sized horses. If they like you, they try to do everything they’re asked to do.
Clair and I would make a “travais” to haul our tent and camping equipment to our campsite about tow miles from home. When we got there we just unloaded our equipment and took Bob to the hill pasture and turned him loose. We kept him around close to where we were by taking an apple or two or maybe a lump of sugar every evening and visiting with him.
When Grandpa died in January 1929, he had bought a large mare mule to team up with Bob. It is better to have a team of two likes, either horses or mules and not mule and horse. Isn’t it strange that the offspring of a jackass and mare is a mule, a desirable and useful farm animal, while the offspring of the mating of a stallion and a female ass (jenny), called a henny, produces an unruly, worthless farm animal? I have never seen one but have been told the attempt to make the cross usually fails to produce a colt.
Dad built a long building about 40 feet long and 10 feet wide with a loft. It was built to house a big engine for running the threshing machine that made the rounds of the community when the wheat and rye was ready to be threshed. The gasoline engine was one with huge flywheels. A belt about 36 feet long and 6 inches wide ran from the engine to the thresher. The reason it was so long was to keep the exhaust of the engine far away from the hand fed thrasher’s dray chaff. After threshing season was over, Dad stored the engine in the shed and powered a gristmill and produced corn meal and ground grain feed for the livestock and poultry for the farmers in the community. A miller charged a tenth of the “grist” brought to the mill for grinding it. The mill house was right across the road from Grandpa’s store, and people coming to the store could off load their grist on the loading deck, tie up their horse. Their ground feed would be ready and paid for when they were ready to pick it up.
Dad was a handyman who repaired machinery, harnesses and saddles, rebuild broken wagon wheels and shoe horses. He had a blacksmith shop and made horseshoes and many repair parts for farm machinery. I loved to turn the crank of the bellows to the forge and watch the flying sparks when he was shaping and welding iron. He never used soldering and only used blowtorches for thawing out water lines. He taught me how to resole a sled. He taught me how to drive horseshoe nails at the right angle in a horse’s hoof so they would not go deep enough to hurt the horse. He taught me how to weld a toe cleat and a cross calk on one side and parallel one on the other side so the horse would have better traction in the wintertime.
We kept a barrel of crude oil (unrefined petroleum) sitting in a shed to keep it dry. Dad made axe handles out of clear hickory. He kept them suspended in the crude oil until they seasoned. Neighbors got the word out, “Preacher Billy Dotson makes the best axe handles you can buy.” The handles were worthy of the praise. They would take the weather if left outside, and no ordinary use would break them.
Another use we made of the mill house was storing the sorghum cane heads in the loft of the building. One end was open for convenience. I recall that we had a freak snowstorm on the night of May 8, 1929. It snowed about three or four inches, and in the morning, we found the purple martins were all in the loft eating the cane seed. Martins are strictly insect eaters and never venture inside nay structure except their own nesting boxes or gourds. I have read that the purple martin becomes a rice eating bird in Brazil where they migrate to for the winter. Like the swallows of Capistrano in California, we counted their return at a fixed spring date at or near the 25th of March in West Virginia.
We had a problem with rats and mice because there was so much of their food around. The rats denned under our house, especially in the wintertime. Clair and I got rid of many of them by burying traps in wheat bran under the edge of the house and waiting to hear the snap of the trap and then killing the trapped rat. We devised other ways too and soon got rid of most of them.
The English sparrows were great pests too. They would drive off the martins and we soon made them a rarity at the Dotson homestead. We even ate them. We rigged up a box trap for them in the barn where they congregated. It was a deadfall type of thing which held up one edge of the box by a figure four type of trigger which extended far in under the box. The trigger had an open container on the far end which held feed for the birds. When enough of them were eating, and several would discover the food on the trigger, enough of them would hop upon the trigger to trip it.
A big family like ours believe it was a sin to waste food. So Clair and I decided to treat the little sparrow like he was a chicken. After plucking the bird, cleaning and washing it, we stuffed it and instead of baking it then, we hollowed out a potato that was cut into halves, placed the stuffed bird in the potato fastened together with toothpicks, and baked it in the oven. Of course would bake several at each time because there isn’t a great deal of meat on one sparrow, but they taste good.
Looking back, I can see how innovative we were. I remember that we were caught out in a cold rain near a relative sock overhang which would shelter our guns, but not us. We quickly shucked our clothes off, wrapped them around our guns and put everything in shelter except us. When the rainsquall was over, Clair remarked, “I would be tempted to burn my gun stock if I had some matches to light a fire.”
He had one of those handy knife and tool combinations in his pocket. Both of us remembered something at the same time. “Get your screw driver out of your pocket,” I said, “while I reach up in this old hollow beech tree and pull out some dry wood.”
By the time I had several splinters and bigger pieces of dry wood ready, Clair had the butt plate off his shotgun and pulled out a little metal pillbox with several kitchen matches he had stored in a hole drilled in the gunstock to hold the bolt fastening it to the gun. It had been a long time since we had put them in there. If I was caught out in the woods and a rain came up I always tried to find a hollow tree or log or some other shelter for my clothes and gun. My dry clothes always felt so good to put on when I was cold and wet.
One time we had to take shelter for a good while. We were in a dry place, but it was long after lunch and we were hungry. There was a large pool of water with a waterfall over the rock cliff under which we sheltered.
Clair said to me, as we were watching some silver sides and chubs swimming, “If we could catch some of those shiners, I have some matches with me. They would taste pretty good roasted, even without salt.”
I said, “I know where we can get plenty of salt. I saw a block of salt of the cattle right up here in the field. We can knock off a hunk of it and use what side the cows haven’t been licking.”
“Okay, and how are we going to catch the fish, if your magic furnished the salt?”
“Take your shirt off and here goes mine”, I said, as I took mine off. He did likewise.
“Now,” I said, “Let’s get two sturdy sticks longer than a shirt sleeve.”
We then buttoned our shirts together and put one stick through the outside sleeve of each shirt. We then tied the inside sleeves together. It was a crude seine but captured a couple of fair-sized shiners, and soon had them roasting on spits over a fire. They may have tasted smoky and perhaps were not perfectly cooked, but almost anything that doesn’t bite him first tastes good to a hungry boy.
We made pets out of baby groundhogs and squirrels and almost any animals we could catch when young. Clair had a chipmunk that would sit in his hand. The chipmunk would cram his cheeks with peanuts, then climb inside Clair’s overall jacket sleeve to his shoulder and come out the neck of his jacket. He’d then sit on Clair’s shoulder and eat the peanuts one at a time, using his paws as dexterously as a human uses his fingers.
We had a pair of chipmunks living under the floor of the millhouse. They carried wheat from the granary to the millhouse in their jaws making them look like they had the mumps. We would watch them in their trip to the millhouse. They would hurry to the end of a six-inch wide culvert under the country road and go through the culvert, then down the ditch to another culvert like the one near the granary. They would scramble up the bank and then repeat the process.
Our nearest neighbor a few years after we moved to the old house on the Spring Dale farm was a family named Straight. They bought about a 30-acre farm, adjoining our farm on the southwest and south. They had a large family of three boys and four girls. It was a nice bunch of new friends, and we enjoyed all the many things we did together.
Soon after the Straights moved into their new home, a nice one Mr. Straight had built, a stranger stopped at our house and asked if he might get a night’s lodging and a couple of meals. He said he had been directed to come to the Dotsons.
While he was explaining why he wanted accommodations, Mr. Straight walked up and spoke to the stranger and introduced himself, thinking the man was probably one of our relatives.
He extended his hand and said, “I’m Bill Straight.”
The stranger said, “I’m Kenny Bent”, and everyone laughed. He informed us that he was looking for room and board for a few days as he was investigating some trouble the Eureka Pipe Line people were having with vandals causing leaks in their pipelines. They were paying $5.00 for reported leaks.
Mr. Straight said, “Well, Bent and Straight ought to keep people on a proper course.”
The three oldest brothers were gone. Bill was working at various jobs from Cleveland Ohio to New Orleans. Harry went to Oakland California in 1926. Delbert went to Bremen Ohio in 1924 and with the Marines in Nicaragua from 1927 to 1931. That left Clair as the oldest man at home when Dad was working on construction jobs. Clair started working with Dad about 1927, so I was now the oldest left to help.
I was influenced by a very nice young lady to get an education. She was soon to become a graduate of Glenville College and already had been teaching in country schools. We attended the same Baptist Church, and my Dad was the preacher. She lived about 3 ½ miles from us in Roane County, very near the church.
We had dated for a couple of years when she persuaded me to go to our high school in my county, Wirt, in 1936.
I already had three brothers and one sister enrolled in Wirt County High School. When I went with them to enroll we had to walk six miles to the nearest point to catch a Greyhound bus. Then we traveled seventeen miles. There were no school busses ten. I old my brothers and sister I would have to be their Bus since my nickname was Bus, short for Buster. They had been doing that twelve mile round trip (by road but shortened a couple of miles with shortcuts by foot paths). I asked the principal, Mr. Waldo, if he could put up with another Dotson. He agreed he probably could. My next favor was to have him get me permission to take 8 subjects a day and have the teachers of the two extra courses to let me come into his offices to take my tests. He was happy to arrange the system.
Our next move was to rent an apartment for five days a week, so we could go home Friday evening and come back each Monday morning. Charles had graduated when I started, so we five –
Evelyn, freshman; Darrell, sophomore; Quentin and Pearle, juniors; and I (part of all four grades). We were on our way to Blue Goose, Russell Starcher’s store, to catch the Greyhound bus to Elizabeth. Evelyn said, “Bus, I suppose you remember we are having a test on Scot’s Lady of the Lakes today.” I said, “Ebby (her nickname) I have never read it. Tell me the story.” She was a good teacher as I made a little better grade on my test than she did.
The summer before I enrolled at Wirt County High, Charles and I hitchhiked to Pikeville, Kentucky, where he was enrolling in their college. He wanted me to check on their high school academy in connection with their college. We had to stay overnight twice on the trip, one on a wooden bridge in a field in Kentucky and once in Huntington, West Virginia on seats outside the entrance to what we thought was a city park. We were traveling light with a blanket apiece. I was on the seat right by the entrance, and Charles was in the next one, a bit further away.
A woman’s heels clicking on the paved walkway awakened me, and I rose up to a sitting position when she was right by me. She let out a scream and really sped through the entranceway. Her scream awakened Charles, and he said, “What in the world is going on?” I said, “We had better get out of here stat, for the next person we see will be a policeman.” I pointed to the sign over the entranceway: “West Virginia Hospital for Incurably Insane”. We caught a streetcar to the far edge of town. On our hitchhiking trip we had spent one night in a school bus stop shelter, one night under the stars at the end of a small bridge and one night traveling with a truck driver on his way to Florida.
The next trip we made to Pikeville, Kentucky we three, Delbert, Charles and I along with Delbert’s wife, Erma, our mother and a sweet girlfriend of mine Pauline Walker, went in a Dodge pickup truck.
Delbert had put car seat cushions in the truck bed, and we put bent stays in an arc so they would fit in the places for truck body staves, prairie Conestoga style. Delbert, the driver, Erma, and Mother rode in the seats and we, Charles Pauline – pet name Polly, and I rode under the canvas canopy. The women took turns in being pioneers riding in the prairie schooner.
We stayed one night in an old stone quarry with a nice bonfire and cooking fire. It was quite an experience for all of us. Delbert, Charles and I slept (or mostly talked) after the womenfolk were all bedded down inside, and we were outside on the ground and under the stars.
When we got back home, Mother said to me, “Buster, if you ever mistreat that girl, you will have me to answer to.”
I replied, “Don’t worry, Mom, I have found the woman I am going to marry.”
Since June 4, 1939, Polly has been my wife, the mother of our son and two daughters, the grandmother of seven and great grandmother of four.
Wow! What a clan.
- West Virginia, Naturalization Records, 1814-1991
West Virginia Will Books
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Family History Centers
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- The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).