Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Pretty Good Christmas Tale

I never lived in a coal camp, but I know someone who did.  The name of that coal camp is Crichton, West Virginia.  The name of the person I know is Larry, my husband.  I've heard 39 years of stories from Crichton, and this is my favorite Christmas story.

Larry grew up in a company house that his father bought in the fifties.  All the houses along the street were the same, small and covered with white clapboard.  At the time there were four children in the family, and I'm sure that those four were a houseful.  Christmas was a particularly active time of year with the four Estep children on pins and needles, scanning the Christmas catalogues while stoking up on RC Colas and homemade Christmas candy. 

One day Jim and Helen went to Rainelle.  I'm guessing that they had some "private" Christmas shopping to do, but whatever the reason they left the children at home by themselves.  As luck would have it, while Jim and Helen were gone, a man came through the coal camp selling Christmas trees from the back of a pick-up truck.  The Estep clan decided to take advantage of this opportunity to surprise their parents; they gathered enough coins to buy the tree.  It was a group decision, and they picked the best tree they could buy with the money they had.

Since I didn't see the tree, and there are no pictures, I can only imagine that the tree bore a striking resemblance to poor Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.  At the best, the Estep tree was an irregular form of fir tree.  

The Esteps were industrious children.  They put the tree up in the stand in a corner of the living room and turned the bare side to the wall. They gathered the ornaments from the closet where they were stored.  They put on the lights, the ornaments, the star on the top.  As sister, Becky, put the last ornament on the front of the tree, the weight from that delicate glass ornament was just enough weight to pull that one-sided tree smashing to the floor.  The children stood staring at the mess of Christmas lying in the floor.

Larry, being an inventive child, jumped into action.  He got a hammer and a nail and a piece of rope.  All important items in Christmas decorating.  He tied the rope around the tree and pulled it up to a standing position.  Then he nailed the rope to the wall behind the tree.  Problem solved!  The decorated tree stood straight, a bright and shining beacon of Christmas in the little house in Crichton. 

I've often wondered what Helen did when she came home.  Did she laugh?  Did she cry?  Did she do both?  Christmas is enjoyed most by children, and this was their tree, probably one of the most beautiful they ever had.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Retirement

One year.  It's been that long since I loaded my microwave and refrigerator into the back of my CRV and left my office at Virginia Highlands Community College for the last time.  One year! 

There is a commercial running on television now that shows pictures of people on their first day of retirement.  Now why didn't I think to take a picture?  My blog from December 18, 2010, is the closest thing I have to a picture:  remember the ice storm that knocked out our electricity on my first day of retirement?  Maybe I don't need a picture of that. 

The past year has been educational for me, leading me to explore my "discomfort" zone. 

Lesson 1:  My house will never be completely clean.  One year ago I had mighty plans for completing all those jobs that never seemed to get finished.  I gamely jumped into cleaning out the "attic", washing windows, cleaning carpets, and throwing out old clothes.  I made quite a bit of progress, as was evidenced by the many trips to the dumpster with items from my collection of cardboard boxes.  But the windows are dirty again, and the "attic", while it has much more open space, still needs to have things picked up off the floor.  If I didn't finish it in a year, I don't think it's ever going to be completely clean.

Lesson 2:  I don't have to dust every week. 

Lesson 3:  I don't like to travel.  It's wonderful that retired people go on cruises and have bucket lists of exotic places they want to visit.  I wish them well, but I lack the spontaneity gene, so I will never throw a few things into a bag to take off on an adventure.  My trips require exhausting amounts of planning, and I believe I've seen just about everything I wish to see on this planet. 

Lesson 4:  Snow isn't so bad if you never have to leave the house.  Instead of getting nose bleeds when the snow begins to stick to the roads, I just make a cup of apple-cinnamon tea, and turn on Walker, Texas Ranger

Lesson 5:  Chuck Norris is a very interesting person.

Lesson 6:  An incredible amount of socializing can be done at Food City, our local grocery store.  Once I spoke to someone at Wal-Mart in Marion, saw them a little later at the post office in Chilhowie, and wrapped up conversations with them at Food City.  I'm sure they thought I was stalking them.  The old-age circuit is completed every weekday morning, except on holidays.  I catch up with old friends in the bread aisle, find out all the news in the dairy aisle. 

Lesson 7:  You never know what will happen next, so stop trying to figure it out.  There is just no way of knowing all the wonderful things coming along in your life.  In the spring I worked with high school students to improve their college placement test scores, and now I work at preparing the bulletins for our Sunday services at church.  Both of these jobs would have been impossible for me if I hadn't been retired.  Snow storms and rainbows come along at the most unexpected times. 

Lesson 8:  You can grow as much in a weedy garden as you can in a neatly hoed garden.  The weather has more to do with a productive garden than hours of pulling up especially prolific indigenous plant life.  If you like the way a cultivated garden looks, it's good to get out the hoe and take it for a test drive.  It can be therapeutic. 

Lesson 9:  Paul Farris knows a thousand stories.  A few weeks ago, I told him he should write a book, and he said that yes, indeed, he maybe could fill one up.  During the summer months, Paul (my neighbor) runs over a few tomatoes to me or maybe some yellow squash.  Along with the vegetables or freshly-canned salsa, there are always a few stories to share.  Some are about fishing, some about Chilhowie in the forties, or some maybe about building houses.  He can tell a good story. 

Lesson 10:  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Even on days that I don't have to set the alarm, I'm usually awake by 6:30.  I've had very few days with absolutely nothing to do.  As a matter of fact, I don't think I've had any days with absolutely nothing to do.  There is always something that needs attention, and I have a mental list of things I want to do when I have the time.  I've never been bored in the last year. 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Legendary Isaac Bellangee

When I was a little girl, I once asked my dad that age-old question, "Where did we come from?"  He could have answered simply and truthfully, "Summers County", but he knew that I was looking for a deeper truth, even at that young age.  He told me that we were Irish and possibly a little Dutch.  He didn't explain further, so I let it go at that, and now I'm left wondering what the heck he meant by that.  It turns out, though, that the Ballengee family tree blossomed from French roots.

The best research on the Ballengee family of Summers County, West Virginia, indicates that the family patriarch, Isaac Ballengee, came from the Evi Bellange family in Burlington County, New Jersey.  The various Ballengee family members from New Jersey have been well-documented, but few early records exist for Isaac Bellangee, who settled in the mountains of early Virginia.  Isaac lived through Indian wars and a revolution that formed a new government, but there is no documentation to  prove with certainty who his parents were. 

 Because of the lack of documentation there is quite a lot of legend that exists around Isaac, and when legend is repeated often enough, it is perceived as being factual, so I want to set the record straight by using what we know is true about Isaac.

The Augusta County, Virginia, land grant for Isaac Bellangee in 1767.
    Some say that Isaac married his wife, Jane, in Stokes County, NC about 1767.  This is not true because Stokes County, NC, was not formed until 1789.  No one has presented any records which prove that Isaac ever lived in Stokes County, NC.   In 1767 Isaac was in Augusta County, Virginia.  The Quaker, Henry Ballenger, who first moved to Virginia, settled in Rowan County, NC, about 1759 when he appeared on the county tax list, but there are no links to the Augusta County Isaac Bellangee (note that Isaac used the same spelling of the surname as Evi Bellangee in New Jersey).  Henry Ballenger had a nephew named Isaac, the son of Amariah Ballenger of Burlington Co., New Jersey.  This Isaac is named in Amariah's will in New Jersey in 1747, and he married there in 1755.  Although there is no indication that Amariah's son, Isaac, ever lived anyplace other than New Jersey, the familial link to Henry Ballenger should be strongly considered when determining which Isaac ever lived in North Carolina.   
    Another source says that three Ballengee brothers, Isaac, Eli, and one unnamed, came to America with Lafayettes’ army in 1777 to fight in the Revolution.  This is not true.  Isaac Ballengee first came to Augusta County, Virginia, around 1767 and remained there until he moved to Greenbrier County.  The earliest mention of him is in a land grant in Augusta in 1767 and a land grant in Botetourt in 1772.  In The Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution, by Charlemagne Tower, p. 24, the 11 Frenchmen who travelled with Lafayette to America are listed, and no Ballengees are included.

    At least one writer reported that Isaac served in the Revolutionary War and was on guard duty in 1776 in Philadelphia when the Declaration of Independence was signed.  This is not true, because Isaac was already in Botetourt County by this time.  There may have been another Isaac Ballengee of which this is true, because there was another Isaac Bellangee who lived in Philadelphia 1770-1781 who was a member of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia.   The Summers County patriarch signed a loyalty pledge in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1777. 

    Some say that Isaac was born in 1719 on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel when it was under British control, and another says that Isaac was a sailor who married Jean in NC about 1777.  The Summers County Isaac was born about 1719, but there is no documentation that he was born on the Isle of Jersey.  A search that was completed by the Channel Islands Family History Society on the Isle of Jersey revealed no mention of the Bellange surname, although there was a Bellanger family on Jersey, but not until the 18th Century when our Ballengees were already firmly established in America.[1]   In 1777 Isaac lived in Botetourt Co., Virginia. French-speaking immigrants who settled in New England and Virginia before 1680 were residents of the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, but most of them had lived in the Channel Islands a generation before they came to America.[2]  Some enterprising genealogist could spend some time looking for new records that may have info about the origins of Ives Bellangee (Isaac's father).

    On the subject of Isaac being a sailor, An Index to Seamen’s Protection Certificate Applications in the Port of Philadelphia, 1796-1823 (Dixon, 2001) lists an Isaac Bellangee.  He is registered in the years 1807 and 1815 at the age of 18 and 25 respectively with a birth state of New Jersey.  This may be the Isaac referred to by other researchers, but it is not the Isaac who settled Botetourt and Greenbrier Counties because he was deceased before 1807.  

    One researcher reported in The Greenbrier County Family Heritage Book that Isaac was married in New Jersey and had four children (Joseph, Benjamin, Mary and William).  After his wife died, he left the children with his brother, Samuel, and went to Virginia.[3]  There is an Isaac with his wife and four children who are received on certificate from the Evesham Monthly Meeting to the Burlington meeting in 1813, but this is long after our Isaac is established in Virginia.[4]  On page 196 of the Quaker Encyclopedia Genealogy, we find that the Quaker Isaac, his wife, Hannah, and their children, Mary Ann, Abraham, Isaac H., Hannah and Samuel went to Miami, Ohio, in 1819.   None of this information lines up with the Isaac in Summers County, and the Greenbrier County book offers no corroboration on how their conclusions were reached.

    Another legend says that after their marriage, Isaac and Jean settled on the farm of his brother, Eli, near the Greenbrier River.  A few years later they bought 185 acres.  Isaac actually had a brother named Evi, but there is no documentation that he had a brother named Eli nor is there documentation that Evi obtained land or lived on the Greenbrier River.  Isaac received a land grant of 184 acres on the Greenbrier River in 1787.  The brother, Evi, was older than Isaac and would have been about 81-82 years old in 1782 when Isaac moved to Greenbrier County.  In A History of Summers County from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (Miller, 1908), on page 43 the writer remarks that “Isaac Ballengee, Evi’s grandfather, settled at the Evi Ballengee farm about 1780.”  This may be the source of the confusion, because the Evi referred to is Isaac’s grandson (not his brother), who was the son of George Eli Ballengee.  At his death, George left Isaac’s farm to his sons, Evi and John Robert.  John Robert was killed in the Civil War.  Evi died in 1864, and it’s likely that this is the person that James Miller referred to in his book published in 1908, not Isaac’s brother, Evi.   

    Another mistaken story says that in 1787 Isaac received a land grant of 210 acres in Summers County for service with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  Summers County was not created until 1877.  Isaac received a grant of 210 acres in Botetourt County in1772, obviously before the Revolution.  There is no documentation as of this date to indicate that Isaac served in the Revolution.  The Daughters of the American Revolution have no record of Isaac having served in the war.

    Nor is it true that Isaac received a land grant for service in the Revolution ca. 1780 nor that Jean was patented a tract of land 2 November 1800.  In 1780 Isaac lived in Botetourt County.  He moved to Greenbrier County in 1787, but there is no indication on the grant that it was made for military service.  The deed for the tract that bears the name of Jean Ballengee is Isaac’s land that was deeded to Jean after Isaac’s death.  Although it is reported that Isaac received pay for the use of horses (by the Revolutionary army) in Virginia, there is no evidence of this. Isaac is on an index of men who were paid for services during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774 (the payment was recorded in 1775) which was before the Revolution. 

    Harmon Ballengee says that Isaac was in Cape May, NJ, in 1762 and was in the newspaper business.  Isaac is also purported to be in the newspaper business during the war.  No documentation is offered to confirm that Isaac Bellangee was ever in the newspaper business.  He lived in Botetourt County during the Revolutionary War. 

    J. Bellangee Cox writes that Isaac was the son of Ives and Christian Bellangee, which is true, but much of Mr. Cox's information is not accurate.  He says that Isaac moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, married, and had four children.  His wife died, and Isaac left the children with his brother, Samuel, when he moved to Augusta County.[5]  He further says that Isaac remarried in Virginia, left an estate with 1000 acres of cleared land, and had a number of slaves.  Supposedy his descendents in New Jersey did not respond to requests to come to Virginia for their share of the inheritance.  Isaac sent for his children in New Jersey when they were old enough to leave school, but they did not join him.  The information about the family in New Jersey has not been documented, and there were other Isaac Bellangees from that area.  Isaac's parents moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, but they lived in New Jersey from around 1701 until their deaths.  Isaac would have been born in New Jersey and raised there.  The number of total acres of land that Isaac owned in Virginia was nowhere near 1000 acres, nor did he own any slaves (slaves would have been taxed as personal property and thus appeared on county tax lists).  There was no will probated for Isaac, Sr.  

    There is also debate about who Isaac’s parents were.  There is no definitive documentation to prove that the Isaac Ballengee who settled in Augusta/Botetourt County, Virginia, was the son of Ives, Sr. and Christian Delaplaine Ballengee of New Jersey.  Some researchers think that Isaac was the son of Evi Bellangee, Jr., son of Ives (Evi) Bellangee, and Judith Richardson McClung says in her research[6] that she believes Evi, Jr. is the father of Isaac Bellangee based upon a letter written in 1839 from Edward Ballengee (grandson of Isaac Bellangee) to Aaron Bellangee (descendent of James Bellangee).  McClung quotes from the letter:

    "I have no doubt that we are of the same family [descendents of Ives Bellangee, Sr.], for I very well recollect hearing father say that his grandfather’s name was Evi, so that it appears to be quite a favorite name in the family. . . There are five of us and all are living; our names are as follows:  Evi, Edward, Isaac, Sarah Jane and James the youngest who is 24 years old.”

McClung (and other researchers) feel that if Isaac were born in 1719, he would have been too old to settle wilderness territory in Botetourt and Greenbrier Counties between 1767 and 1787 when he acquired land on the Greenbrier River.  At the time his land was surveyed in Augusta County in 1767, Isaac would have been nearly 50 years old.  His land grant in Greenbrier County was obtained in 1787 when Isaac’s age would have been about 68.  The earliest recorded date for the birth of one of his children is 1778 (Isaac was about 61 years old), and the last child was born in 1789 (Isaac was 72).  The argument is that if Isaac were born to Evi, Jr.(married first in 1724 when he was disowned by the Quakers and married secondly to Susanna English in 1738), then Isaac would have been a much younger man when he first came to Augusta County, and the dates and ages would have been more probable.      

While pioneering at an advanced age and fathering seven children at 60 to 70 years of age would be remarkable, it would not be impossible.  General Andrew Lewis, famous for the Battle of Point Pleasant during Lord Dunmore’s War, was born in 1720 and also would have been in his 50s when settling western Virginia and fighting as a soldier.  As for the reference in the letter to Isaac’s father’s name being Evi, that name is a derivative of Yves (found in documents as Yves, Eve, Ive, Ivi, Evi), and the name Evi is first found on land records when Evi Bellange, Sr. bought land there in 1697, so the name "Evi" could refer to the Bellangee who died in Burlington County, NJ, around 1720, and not necessarily his son, Evi, Jr.  So I don't have any proof that Evi Bellangee, Sr., is Isaac's father, but since Evi, Sr.'s will mentions a son, Isaac, and there is no record of Evi, Jr., having a son named Isaac, I'll say that my great-great-great-great grandfather is the son of Evi Bellangee, Sr. 

How many fantastical legends are there about Isaac Ballengee?  More than I can count.  If all of these stories were true, old Isaac would need a much longer life to accomplish everything attributed to him. Let these legends that are listed stand as proof that not everything that is printed up is true. 

[1] Email from Henry Coutanche to Janet Ballengee Estep, 11 April 2010.
[2] Butler, Jon, The Huguenots in America, 1983, p. 43.
[3] Greenbrier County Family Heritage Book, 1997, p. 30.
[4] Hinshaw, William, The Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy, 1750-1930, Vol. II, 1938, p. 197.
[5] J. Bellangee Cox Records, 6 September 1895, Volume Gen Cp-2, Genealogical Society, PA.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Riding the Turnpike in Sewell Valley

The James River and Kanawha Turnpike
crossing Little Sewell Mountain.

    If you do much investigation into the history of western Greenbrier County in West Virginia, you will read that U.S. Route 60 follows the historic James River and Kanawha Turnpike.  Well, that's true for the most part.    As U.S. Route 60 (now known as the Midland Trail) was constructed, it generally followed the path of the old turnpike road, swallowing up the historic road in contemporary highways accommodating faster and safer travel. In Greenbrier County, however, the James River and Kanawha Turnpike deviates from Route 60 at Meadow Bluff and runs across Little Sewell Mountain to Rainelle.  I had the good fortune to grow up in a house in old Sewell Valley right along the original turnpike.  We had no idea of its story. 
     Early in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, people recognized the need for a means to transport goods, people, and mail from the remote mountain region beyond the Blue Ridge to the Tidewater area.  This need led to the design and construction of a series of roads, including the James River and Kanawha Turnpike which ran from Richmond, Virginia, to the Kanawha River area, where Charleston is now located. 
        White men settled the Greenbrier Valley beginning in the mid-1700s, but little is recorded of the western end of the county other than that Stephen Sewell hunted there.  We occasionally dug up arrowheads in our garden, so Indians also hunted there.  Population in western Greenbrier was sparse until the arrival of the Raine brothers.  John Raine and his brother, T. W. Raine, appeared in 1903 when they purchased land on Meadow River from which they planned to supply timber for a new lumber mill.  Before the Raine brothers ever cut the first log from their newly purchased property, the community of farms along the James River and Kanawha Turnpike was known as Sewell Valley, named for Stephen Sewell. 
      The town of Rainelle was established on April 25, 1913, somewhat of a late development, considering that the James River and Kanawha Turnpike was completed through Sewell Valley in 1826.  The turnpike was the main highway and provided for the movement of passengers and mail between Lewisburg and the Kanawha Valley.    
      Stage coach service along the Turnpike began in 1827 with a stage line operated by the Caldwell-Surbaugh stage company, which ran from Lewisburg to Charleston.  J. T. Peters and H. B. Carden in The History of Fayette County, West Virginia list the “famous” stage stand owners, and among those listed are Harrison Hickman in Little Sewell Valley, Addison Frazier in Sewell Valley, and Thomas Henning at Meadow Bluff.  Stage coaches ran on the Turnpike until 1873 when railroads replaced them. 
      Twentieth century developments necessitated changes in highway construction to accommodate automobiles.  The road from Rainelle to Sam Black Church was by-passed when the Midland Trail diverged to Charmco and Rupert.  The turnpike became County Route 60/32, now paved, but mostly a one-lane road where good manners and driving safety dictate that you pull to the berm when you meet on-coming traffic.
     A tour book produced by the Midland Trail Association in 1916 describes the road as running from Meadow Bluff and over Little Sewell Mountain, the original course of the old Turnpike.  By 1926 when Percival Reniers and Ashton Reniers wrote The Midland Trail Tour in West Virginia, the Midland Trail had deviated to follow the present Route 60.  They write, “At Sam Black Church the Turnpike runs straight ahead over Little Sewell Mountain while the modern route bears right, down the easy grade of the Old Wilderness Road along Meadow River.” 
     The Midland Trail had begun its modern incarnation, while the direct route over Little Sewell Mountain was historically preserved in its rural, peaceful nature, used mostly by the residents of the mountain and valleys between Rainelle and Sam Black Church.  Today the area along the old turnpike route remains much the same as it did in its early days.
      In Rainelle the original turnpike, which is clearly marked with a street sign on Main Street, veers to the right in a fork of the road in what used to be called East Rainelle.  The old turnpike route runs over Little Sewell Mountain to Sam Black Church and reconnects with Route 60 near Interstate 64.  The road loops and bends past small farms and scenic mountain views where life includes everyday references to local history. 
      A few years ago I talked with Bobby Ayers, who at the time lived near Rainelle on the old turnpike.  Near Dennis, where a post office had been located, he had found a watering trough used during “old” days on the Turnpike, as stated on the homemade sign someone long ago posted over the trough.  Unless Bobby had told me about the trough, I would never have noticed it hiding under a clump of overgrown brush.
     There is a lot of history hiding in just 10 miles of turnpike.  The grave sites of the famous Greenbrier Ghost and her mother are located at Soule Chapel United Methodist Church, just off the Turnpike.   The Greenbrier Ghost appeared to her mother to tell how the Ghost's husband had murdered her.  The investigation of the untimely death of Zona Shue on Little Sewell Mountain convicted her husband of murder. 
Highway marker which tells the story
of the Greenbrier Ghost.
      A few miles from Soule Chapel is the Dietz Farm which was occupied by both Union and Confederate troops at different times.  The National Register Bulletin describes the Dietz farm house as being used as a hospital during the Civil War with graves of unidentified soldiers located nearby on the farm.  Soldiers from both sides followed the James River and Kanawha Turnpike through Sewell Valley as they repeatedly marched between Lewisburg and the Kanawha valley.  Some people are surprised when I tell them that my friends and I played "Civil War" when we were children.  We divided up into Union and Confederate forces and went for it.  I wish I had known then how many Union and Confederate soldiers had actually marched on the road just yards from our houses.  Unfortunately our local history was not taught in schools at the time, and we had no idea that where we lived was a major thoroughfare for troop movements.    
      After the turnpike improved travel through the mountains to Charleston in the early nineteenth century, more and more people moved to the area, built homes, and established farms along the road, creating a sense of community.  Post offices opened at Meadow Bluff, Little Sewell Mountain, Dennis, and Sewell Valley.
      By 1889 Sewell Valley possessed a school house and a new Baptist church.   According to the minutes of the first meeting to organize Sewell Valley Baptist Church, the gathering took place at the Sewell Valley Schoolhouse, located on the Osborne farm.  The original Sewell Valley Baptist Church was constructed in 1889 and was used until 1962, when a new church was built and the older one torn down.  The site of the old frame building is now the church cemetery.     
Bible school held at Sewell Valley Baptist Church
in the second building which was
erected in 1962.
     In a manuscript written in 1954, Herbert Harr notes that in 1910 there were not enough children to have a school in Rainelle, so the children attended a one-room school east of town called the Sewell Valley School.  This school was used at least until 1912, but in 1911 the Meadow Bluff District Board of Education provided a school for 30 students in a room over a store in East Rainelle.  Progress was moving away from Sewell Valley and toward the company town that was growing up around the Meadow River Lumber Company. 
The Osborne house as it appeared in the 1920s.  The
road is the Turnpike.  Picture from
K. C. Farren.
Land near the school and the church was part of the Osborne farm where a post office was located from 1909 until 1924.  The Osborne house was a landmark for decades and sat directly across from the intersection with the road that is now Airport Road.   The last of the Osborne family to live in the house was Freda Osborne Critchley, aunt of K.C. Farren, who told me, “I remember spending nights in the old house.  The beds had feather ticks, and every room, upstairs and downstairs, had a fireplace.”  K. C. has much of the furniture from the old house including a desk and a secretary that was used to sort mail when the house was a post office.  The family also had swords that were used during the Civil War.  I was enchanted with that house when I was a girl, and my dad, who knew Freda Osborne, took me by to visit one day, but my memories of the inside of the house are vague. I wanted to see those swords that my dad had told me about, but I don't think they were brought out on that day.  
     In 1947 the Osbornes sub-divided the farm into building lots, creating what is still known as the Osborne Addition, a residential suburb of Rainelle.  The road that had once provided a rocky trip on a stage coach from Lewisburg to Charleston and made mail delivery possible to remote farms, was now the “hard road” to the families in the comfortable bungalow-style homes situated off the turnpike on smaller dirt and red dog roads. K. C. said that documents from the creation of the subdivision show that the right of way for the old turnpike road is 60 feet, which could accommodate a much wider road than what exists now. 
     As homes continued to pop up in the Osborne Addition, Denzil and Audrey Simms opened a small store at the corner where Oak Street now connects with the turnpike.  In the 1960s Squire Haynes developed a grass landing strip on top of Little Sewell Mountain that accommodated small aircraft, and he eventually opened a restaurant at the airport that served meals to flyers from all parts of the United States.
The building along the Turnpike
where Denzil and Audrey
Simms had a store. 
     In the 1950s one of the lots near the Osborne house was used to build a skating rink.  The skating rink was open on Friday and Saturday, and the cost of skating was 75 cents.  Music was provided by a juke box, and K. C. and many other young people in Rainelle and the Osborne Addition spent as much time as possible hurtling around the rink, the girls with pom-poms on their skates.  The skating rink was a gathering place for teenagers, not only from Rainelle High School, but from many other Greenbrier County high schools as well.  When K. C. was about 10 years old, the mother of one of his friends took several children skating.  In the car the mom bragged about being a good skater, so the children insisted that she skate with them.  On the first trip around the rink the mom fell and broke both of her arms.  The skating rink was replaced with a bowling alley called Greenbrier Lanes which operated until the 1970s.   
The site of the Osborne house
as it appears today where Airport Road
intersects the turnpike.
       In the mid-1970s after Keith and Freda Osborne Critchley built a new home, the old Osborne house was torn down.  For several years the stone chimneys on each end of the house marked the location, until they, too, were torn down due to safety concerns.  The field where the house sat for so many years is now occupied by mobile homes.  
       Just as the old horse trough with its faded sign leaves only a trace of earlier travelers, the appearance of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike hints at the history evident along its route.  From horses and stagecoaches to Model T automobiles stirring up dust, the short stretch of road changes as each age dictates, yet it has stories to tell of life long ago if you know where to look. 

The home-made sign above the horse trough near
the old site of the Dennis post office along the Turnpike.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Little Foxes

"Catch for us the little foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom."  Solomon

In the last little while I've had the opportunity to have a discussion with a lawyer concerning the use of Sharia law in the United States courts.  Now we all know that lawyers live on their own planet, and some of them actually think that planet is Earth.  If you've ever been involved in any legal procedure at all, you've probably found that legal interpretations make little sense to the average person.  Justice is blind, they say.  Sometimes she's deaf, too.

Sharia law is quite involved, just as American law is; I'd almost bet my house that this lawyer doesn't understand or know the complexities of Sharia law.  The situation we discussed was one involving a mosque in Florida, the current leaders, and a group of ex-trustees of said mosque.  The disupte between these two groups involved a sum of money obtained from an eminent domain settlement.  This is a civil suit, not a criminal case, and the two groups agreed to a mediation by the Florida court.  The current leaders appealed a decision by the court to use Sharia law to settle the dispute, and the result of the appeal was for the case "to proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law."  According to the court order, the remainder of the hearing will be to determine if Islamic dispute resolution procedures have been followed.

The thinking of the lawyer is understandable:  this decision does not preclude the use of US law, and the case is between two groups of Muslims.  My question is why it is being heard in a Florida court if a decision is to be rendered on procedures of Islamic law?  Procedures are provided in Sharia law for such a disagreement:  if Islamic brothers cannot resolve a disagreement, they should go before the members of the mosque or the greater Islamic community.  If that is not successful, the case can be heard by an Islamic judge.  The current leaders of the Florida mosque apparently did not want to proceed under Islamic law; they sued in a Florida court.  Now the appeals judge has agreed to hear the case, but pursuant to Islamic law.  If the mosque leaders had wanted the case to be settled using Islamic law, why would they have sued in a Florida court? 

The lawyer who shared his thoughts with me (including whether I had the ability to read) felt it was ridiculous and paranoid of me to think that this case indicated that Sharia law was creeping into US court systems.  It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you. 

Sharia law covers many aspects of life, including banking and finance.  Business is conducted through partnerships, rather than corporations.  Equity is shifted over time between institution and client, with the individual accepting equal consequences in losses as well as gains.  According to James Crotty in the Cambridge Journal of Economics, Islamic financial and investment models are flourishing and taking root even in the West as Western corporations collapse. 

I admit it.  Sharia law scares me.  When a political party tried to introduce Sharia law in Turkey, courts dissolved the political party in 1998, saying that democracy is the antithesis of Sharia.  The party appealed to the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that Sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy. 

As a woman, I find Sharia exceptionally distressing.  Under Islamic law, women come out on the wrong end of honor killings, female genital mutilation, adolescent marriages, polygamy, and gender-biased inheritance rules.  Statistics are impossible to determine in these areas, but the National Geographic reports that the UN says that thousands of women are murdered annually in family honor killings.  In a National Geographic documentary Michael Davie reported that every day at least three women (including victims of rape) are victims of honor killings in Pakistan.  One example cited involved a mentally impaired girl who was killed in front of the village tribunal.  Just Google "honor killings" to read about the atrocities, including the increasing occurrences in Muslim families in the US.

The National Geographic article says that being labelled culturally insensitive inhibits the United States and the media from reporting these murders as honor killings.  Hmmm.  Seems I just read a book about Nazi Germany in the 1930s which said that the US did not intervene in the German government's abuse of its citizens because the US did not want to appear intrusive and heavy-handed.  Besides, the German government owed us money.

Then there are the stories about the Muslims who want the entire world to be ruled by Sharia law. About three years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury in Great Britain suggested that Sharia law should be a component in British law.  CBS News reports that at that time the British government quietly authorized Sharia judges to rule on divorces, financial disputes, and domestic violence cases, taking the place of legal solutions in the British courts.  The report indicates that Sharia law is only binding in Britain if both parties agree.  Ahhhhh!!  Just like in the Florida civil suit. 

NPR reports that US courts already recognize and enforce Sharia law in commercial contracts, divorce settlements, and wills.  But in the same article Clark Lombardi is quoted as saying that we're not going to see violent, retaliatory enforcement of Sharia because it's inconsistent with our public policy, but our system is similar to the one in use in Britain.  US law supersedes religious agreements if these agreements are based on tenents not congruent with our laws. 

Now consider the rhetoric of one British citizen, Anjem Choudary, who has vowed that the "flag of Islam" will fly over the White House.  He tried to organize a demonstration in Washington, but couldn't make it because he is on a no-fly list and was thus unable to travel to the US.  He and the extremist group, Islamic Thinkers Society (based in New York), called the demonstration "a rally, a call for the Sharia, a call for the Muslims to rise up and establish the Islamic state in America."  Choudary also said, "I think the American people's hearts and minds are open to receive Islam as an alternative way of life."  Well,  maybe in the case of a certain lawyer mentioned above and a judge in Florida. 

Another statment of Choudary's concerning Sharia in Britain:  "We are going to go to all these same areas and implement our own Sharia-controlled zones.  We want to run the area as a Sharia-controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term."

The little foxes are the ones who eat the grapes, a few at a time, and eventually the vineyard is destroyed.  First, we decide contract issues according to Sharia, if both parties agree.  Then a woman's divorce is settled according to Sharia.  Before we know it, American citizens are demanding Sharia controlled zones.  Then democracy dies. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Walking in the Tiergarten

Children called him Uncle Dolph.  Generals called him fuehrer.  The world called him monster. 

Back when the History Channel actually had programs about history, it aired so many programs on Nazi Germany that we called it the Hitler channel.  We learned about Hitler's family, Hitler's women, Hitler's health, Hitler's art.  It's difficult to study and read about the leader of the Nazis without wondering how shopkeepers and bank clerks and mechanics succumbed to the charismatic leader of the Nazi party.  They all but worshipped him.  They lined up to die for him. 

I am deeply interested in finding out in what kind of world this phenomenon could take place.  Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts sketches a view of pre-World War II Berlin when Europe was on edge.  The story is a personal one about an American family who moved to Berlin but were completely unprepared for Hitler's brutal ascent to power.

In the introduction Larson refers to photographs of the era, black and white photographs that fail to catch the vitality of the spirit of the times and what life looked like.  This book sprints into the reality of life in Berlin with walks in the Tiergarten, outings to the countryside, and parties in the garden.  Reality also included parades of Storm Troopers, assaults on Americans, and late night visits from the Gestapo.  The book refers to the pervasive fear even within the Gestapo where everyone was under suspicion.  One Gestapo officer was advised by his superior to always walk up a stair well against the wall because this would make it difficult for someone to get a clear shot at him from above.  Which was the true Berlin: the "gemuetlich" city with the feel of a neighborly small town where people adored their dogs and horses or the murderous web of national plots ready to cleanse the society of anyone not fitting the Aryan model?

One screaming aspect of Nazi Germany is how un-Aryan the leaders were.  None of them fit the Aryan perfection they sought to secure for the country.  They were middle-aged men, a mediocre artist and a chicken farmer (Himmler), mainly seeking to secure absolute power for themselves. 

Many Germans did not support the policies and actions of the Nazi party, but there were no heroes in this story.  Remarks taken from diaries and letters of Americans reveal the undercurrent of the prejudice with which Jewish people were held.  The Nazi officers were accepted in the most elite social circles in Berlin, and when people found some of their talk and actions distasteful, accommodations were made for their unsavory views.  No one would have believed what would happen to Berlin in the next few years.  It was just ordinary life with an unusual government in charge, which many believed the German people would not tolerate for long.  Things, however, grew increasingly worse, and the book describes in detail the purge on June 30, 1934, when, according to estimates, nearly 100 people were pulled from their everyday lives and shot, and Hitler's hold on power was cemented in history. 

Where were the Americans during this time?  Reluctant to get involved.  Why?  Germany owed the United States millions of dollars in loans, and the American government was afraid Germany would default on those loans.  Even when reports indicated Americans were randomly attacked in Germany, when reports indicated that Jewish people were persecuted and camps were filling up, when reports indicated a mammoth building up of military equipment and armies, the United States refused to disavow the Nazi government. 

In the Garden of Beasts (named for the "tiergarten", a park in Berlin which means literally "animal garden") reveals what it was like to live in Berlin in 1934 when things began to go terribly wrong, before people began to understand that Hitler had more on his mind than uniting the German people.  I don't think even the Nazis realized how much poison could pour out of their souls.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Season of Change

Looking southeast.
The mountains are no longer shining in the sun like a copper penny.  In less than a week, the rain and wind have knocked the color out of the trees.  There are still many leaves to fall, but the mountains have lost that autumn sheen.  Now they sit rather dove-colored and gray as we slip on toward Thanksgiving. 

These photos were taken last week when the color was just peaking.  All of the photos are taken near my house on an afternoon walk.  The trees on the mountain are in full color, but in the lower elevation, leaves are much greener, not yet so colorful.
While I walked along my regular route, the mountains were so colorful that I made a special trip back to the house to get my camera.  The sun broke through clouds drifting along the rolling hills making a dramatic show.   We have not yet had a frost, so the flowers are still blooming.  Along the road are broad patches of chicory still lifting little faces to the sun.  

If you walk with your head down, you come across the most interesting things. I don't know what made me notice the paw print, but there it was, as plain as day. My first thought was that it was the track of a bear. Yes, a bear. Right in the middle of a housing development. I showed this picture to several people, and most voted for a bear track. I asked my neighbor, an old farmer, hunter, and fisherman, to walk down and look at the print which was right across the street from our house. Yep. He thought it was a bear track also, and he said his wife had actually seen a bear along the road about two miles or so from where we live. He said that bears don't have homes but wander around, and that this may have been a young bear who was kicked out by its mama. When our dog starts barking wildly now, we no longer assume it is for no reason.  

Anonymous paw print.

At the top of the hill the view opens up across the valley to the mountain range that contains the highest mountain in Virginia, Mt. Rogers, 5,729 feet.  North Carolina lies just across the mountains.  Rocks on Mt. Rogers indicate that volcanoes helped create this mountain range.  William Barton Rogers, the first Virginia state geologist, is the namesake of the mountain and later helped to found M.I.T.  There is a high-altitude spruce forest on the top of Mt. Rogers, and I understand that people can hike there.  I'm pretty sure I never will. 

At this point I turn right, heading due west, and walk out to the cornfield and barn.  I loved that corn field this summer, and I'm sure the deer did, also.  Now things are different out there.  The corn has been harvested, and just in the last couple of days, new shoots of some kind of grass has sprouted for winter cover. 

This is the season of change.  Young bears are sent packing; corn shocks are chipped up and put in a silo; wildflowers bask in the last days of warm sun before the frost. 

He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  Daniel 2:21
The corn field after the harvest. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Help Me, Mary Jane!

By no means do I mean to elevate the public's cry for Mary Jane with Will Ferrell's plea for help from Chuck Norris.  Who is Mary Jane, you ask?  Cannabis, pot, weed, smoke. 

A Facebook flare this week started with a post claiming that there are NO deaths from marijuana use as compared to deaths from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs.  The discussion turned to legalizing the growing, selling, and use of marijuana.  Those who advocate the legalization of marijuana use think that the country should tap into that walloping source of income; fewer people would die because there would no longer be turf wars between dope peddlars staking out territory for their now illegal sales.  Besides, it's a natural substance.  These same arguments can be made for cocaine. 

No one wanted to discuss the researched side effects of the use of marijuana.  By doing an internet search on the terms, "side effects of marijuana", I found several interesting articles, some by people who describe how difficult it was to quit using the drug.  Can you say "addictive"?    The National Institutes of Health ( lists side effects of marijuana use as "distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory", as well as the depression of natural immunological functions.  These effects can last for days or weeks.  Having problems with basic algebra?  Try putting down the joint.  Someone who smokes marijuana everyday may function at a "suboptimal" intellectual level  all of the time.  Constant users also have a 25-50 per cent chance of becoming addicted to the drug. 

Marijuana increases the heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; this effect can last up to 3 hours. In one study, it was estimated that marijuana users have a 4.8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug.  The smoke from marijuana has 50-70 per cent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.  Respondents on that previously mentioned Facebook flare stated that they just "refused" to believe that marijuana smoke was more harmful than cigarette smoke. 

 I started college in 1968 when pot was the drug of choice for most people.  The drug was everywhere on campus.  I know what it smells like, so if you have been smoking cannabis, I can smell it on you.  I've been around people who searched their coat pockets to find a marijuana seed to eat, just as a person described in an internet article how they constantly searched their bedroom, their couch, their car to find just a scrap of the herb that might be left over. 

Although anxiety is listed as a side effect of the drug, I found an article on the internet which advocated using marijuana as an antidote for anxiety and stress problems.  This article also stated that there was "little to no risk" involved in using marijuana which is helpful in giving a person a different perspective so that they will be better able to solve their problems.  Cigarette smoke is a stimulant, but smokers desire to smoke to calm down.  It's the addiction that makes smokers nervous when they don't smoke and drives them to get a hit of nicotine.  When the addiction is satisfied, they feel calmer.  So it is with marijuana:  the habitual user is anxious without the drug and feels less stressed when using it. 

Yes, I've been around many of those people who are medicating so that they can better solve their problems.  Their vacant stares and inability to focus precede their concerns about their failing grades.  Those people I knew in college who were picking seeds out of their pockets?  They didn't graduate.  They were absorbed into the pot culture, constantly seeking the drug, talking about the drug, smoking the drug.  Their lives were completely taken up with the pointy leaf. 

Other than the physical problems people experience from marijuana use, one ex-user on the internet pointed to the nearly $20,000 they had spent on pot--the same amount as a down payment on a home or the price of a new car.  The irony of this situation is that the people whose perceptions and whose thinking and problem-solving ability have been altered by the use of marijuana are the people who most strongly champion the legalizing of the drug. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

If you watch any television at all, you will notice that some terms and phrases catch fire and burn through every conversation among the dunce he...I mean, talking heads.  When George W. Bush was president, Dick Cheney said that something went "beyond the pale."  What the heck does that mean?  But in no time, the phrase was used at least once, sometimes more often, by every commentator on television. 

I looked up the phrase and found an excellent explanation on (  The definition includes some Jewish history in Russia and the date of the first use of the phrase which has to do with palings, as in a fence.  Originally it dealt with keeping certain groups of people outside the normal society. 

As with so much of what is discussed these days, the phrase was repeated over and over and over...well, too many times.  This also happened with the word "disingenuous" and more recently with the phrase "kick the can down the road", when someone talked about our inability to deal with the American debt crisis. 

Now the phrase of the day is "American dream", as in, "People come to our country to pursue the American dream," or "People are not able anymore to achieve the American dream."  As it so often happens with a vague term, the phrase takes on various meanings, depending on which person is using it. 

"American dream" is so vague that it really doesn't have any meaning.  In a conversation these types of phrases are like static on the radio and snow on the television.  It's indistinct sound and a hazy whiteness that interferes with true understanding. 

America is a country of individuals, a country, more than any other, that allows for expression of the individual.  In defining "American dream", there is no collective aspiration that is common among all our citizens.  There is no American dream. 

There are millions of dreams, though, particular and peculiar for each individual.  People with cancer dream of surviving another day, of seeing the sun come up and having no pain.  Mothers who have worked decades at minimum wage jobs dream of watching their children live a financially secure life.  Homeless people dream of sleeping in a dry, warm bed.  Pastors dream of conducting a committee meeting where no one gets angry.  Corporate executives dream of having 24 hours uninterrupted by phone calls and anxious assistants with unbalanced spreadsheets.

I went to college as a young woman, not because of lofty aspirations, but because I really had nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.  I had no money.  I had no job.  I had no idea what I wanted to do.  People look at my life and say that I have accomplished the American dream.  No, I have not.  Anything I have accomplished is only through the grace of God, with no foresight on my part.  I could never have dreamed the things that have actually occurred in my life.  Reality, while disconcerting and surprising at many times, has turned out overall to be much better than anything I could have planned.   

Each of us has a dream of some kind, but there is no American dream that all of us have.  Raised by parents from the "greatest" generation, I realize that there is work to do, and no matter what I'm doing, I need to commit everything I have to it.  So things haven't worked out the way you thought they would?  Margaret Rucker was the administrator of what was called the Department of Welfare in the 1970s in Mercer County.  She once told a woman who was experiencing difficult times to "get up off your knees".  In other words, stand up and do what you have to do.  The opportunity to do just that is the only dream that Americans have.     


Friday, September 23, 2011

When Lynch Mobs Ruled

Every family has those stories.  You know what I mean.  Those stories.  Many genealogists refuse to include those stories in their reports:  the unmarried mother, the horse thief, the Army deserter.  Undoubtedly, the most famous story coming from our family archives involves the brother of my husband's great-grandfather who was one of the victims in the only lynching to ever take place in Kanawha County, West Virginia.  That isn't the way I would want to be remembered, but the story is definitely a true one.

The name Rufus is a Biblical name meaning "red-haired" according to my Funk & Wagnalls.  I have never seen a photo of Rufus Estep or read a description of his physical characteristics, so I have no idea what color his hair was.  He was the third child of Wesley and Mary (Polly) Pritt Estep.  Wesley had been a soldier in the Union Army during the recent unpleasantness, serving in Company E of the 8th Regiment of the West Virginia Volunteer Infantry. 

Rufus would have been completely anonymous if it had not been for the lynching.  Louis Harlan writes of the environment in Malden at that time in Booker T. Washington in Perspective.  The economy was depressed and not diverse, depending on the salt works and the coal mines on Campbell's Creek.   In the late 1870s the situation improved a little with the salt works working to fill some orders.  Child labor substituted for adult employees; there weren't enough jobs to employ the entire working population of the area.  Grown men with much time on their hands spent a great deal of it drinking which led to labor unrest and other violence.  "A week seldom passed without a violent death or maiming accident in the coal mines, a drowning in creek or river, or a scalding in the boilers and vats of the salt works."  Saturday was payday at the Campbell's Creek mines and that led to drinking and street fights on Saturday night in Malden.

The story has been copied and printed many times. The most often cited report about Rufus is found in the account given by George W. Atkinson's History of Kanawha County, 1876.  On Christmas Eve, 1875, a 40-year-old man named Thomas Lee was murdered on an iron bridge crossing Campbell's Creek at Malden, West Virginia.  No mention is made about how officials determined who the suspects were in the case.  I have my own opinion, but however the investigation developed, on Christmas Day the police arrested Rufus Estep and John Dawson and placed them in jail in Charleston.  Kind of ruins the family dinner on Christmas. 

Public opinion was so outraged by this unprovoked murder that a mob formed after Lee's family insisted they were not going to let the murderers get off in court.  Harlan writes that only one man in 25 years had been hanged for murder even though there were an average of two murders per year.  Because of the murmuring mob, the sheriff, Philip W. Morgan, enlisted the help of  John Lentz, John Perry, and Silas Morgan, waited until dark and then transported Estep and Dawson to the Cabell County jail in Barboursville.  In a version of three-card monty, two days later the prisoners were moved to the Wood County jail in Parkersburg where the prisoners were kept until their court date in January 1876. 

The Kanawha County court and the prosecuting attorney determined that there was no longer any danger of mob violence, so back to Charleston came Rufus Estep and John Dawson.  Exactly one month after the murder Estep and Dawson were arraigned in the Kanawha County court on the charge of murder.  Their attorneys, R. H. Freer and Abram Burlew, requested a change of venue, due to the armed mob knocking on the court house doors.  John Kenna and James Ferguson, attorneys for the state, strongly opposed the request, and Judge Joseph Smith adjourned court so that he could consider the request and render a decision the next morning.  Estep and Dawson were returned to their cells while a mob of about 450 men continued to assail the court house. 

On this same day, another murder occurred on Anderson Street where Thomas Hines, a white man, cut the throat of J. W. Dooley, a black man, in Dooley's shoe shop.  Hines was also placed in the Kanawha County jail.    That night the mob advanced on the jail and took Dawson and Estep.  At the same time a mob of about 50 black men joined in to take control of Hines.  The reasoning of the second mob was that Hines would get off his charge of murdering a black man because he was white. 

Both of these mobs and their prisoners travelled to the bridge over Campbell's Creek in Malden (the same site of the murder of Thomas Lee), a distance of about six miles.  In the minds of the first mob, I suppose it was justice that the lynching would occur at the site of the murder.  There was discussion, according to Harlan, that it wasn't right for black men to lynch a white man and that the white mob should lynch all three prisoners.  In an equal opportunity moment, it was decided to let the black mob take care of their own business.  Dawson and Estep were lynched at the bridge; Hines was lynched on a honey-locust tree about 300 yards above the bridge.  The next morning the authorities (unnamed in the narrative) cut down the bodies and buried them.  No mention is made of where the men were buried.

Now the story does not end here.  George W. Atkinson, the author of this version of the story, was a young lawyer at the time of the lynching and an eye witness to much of the action.  It is said that he tried to reason with the lynch mobs before they overran the jail cells.  Atkinson became governor of West Virginia in 1896.  While he was governor, he was requested to come to the bedside of a dying man in Campbell's Creek who confessed to the governor that he had murdered Tom Lee at the Campbell's Creek bridge.   Governor Atkinson did not reveal this information until a few days before his death in 1925.  He told a Charleston Daily Mail reporter about the death bed confession and said he didn't reveal it because he "lacked legal evidence".  According to the reporter, Atkinson said the dying man was within hearing distance when Estep and Dawson pleaded for their lives.  The dying man had held a grudge against Tom Lee and that is why he murdered him. 

So there you have it.  This is the story as it is told in various sources.  I've not reviewed every source or version of the story, and I have many questions.  Did Governor Atkinson keep mum because he had an attorny/client relationship with the dying man?  Why did that man call the Governor to hear his confession?  I'm curious as to what evidence existed that led to the arrest of Rufus Estep and John Dawson.  My first guess:  a witness who may have been the very person who later confessed on his death bed and was actually in the lynch mob in January 1876, but I'm an extremely suspicious person.  A look at the court records would be interesting.  Were Rufus and John on the bridge at all that night?  Did they perhaps discover the body after Tom Lee had been killed?  Where is Perry Mason when you need him most.