EDITED BY ERSKINE CALDWELL
BLUE RIDGE COUNTRY
DUELL, SLOAN & PEARCE . NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1942, BY JEAN THOMAS
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
To My Brother
DOCTOR GEORGE G. BELL
A once itinerant "Tooth Dentist" who became the first Republican county judge in more than a quarter of a century at the mouth of Big Sandy and whose unique sentences have become legendary throughout the Blue Ridge
Emerald nobility Reaching to the sky, Makes the eye a ruler Fit to measure by.
In the spring an ecstasy Lies upon the hills— Purpling with new red-buds, Ruffling colored frills.
Make an early ritual For the mountain side; Pine and beech are spectators, White dogwood a bride.
Give a pair of ivory birch For a wedding gift, All the mountain side a church Where wild flowers sift
Velvet carpet-petals down To the edge of hill and town, Showing wild-grape fringes through Opal cloud-thrones dropped from blue.
Now the summer like a queen Does her mountain home in green; With a season for a bier Some old majesty lies here.
Autumn gold is swift and fleet With a wing upon the feet, Rushing toward a winter breath Pausing for immaculate death.
In such economic bliss And a swift parenthesis— In immortal mountain trails, There are resurrection tales.
All the while the mountains know Sudden death is never so.
—Rachel Mack Wilson
1. THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE 3 THE LAND 3 THE PEOPLE 10 BLAZING THE TRAIL 16 THE MOUNTAINEER 40 2. LAND OF FEUDS AND STILLS 46 HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS 46 PEACEMAKER 55 TAKING SIDES 72 MARTIN-TOLLIVER TROUBLES 91 FAMILY HONOR 105 3. PRODUCTS OF THE SOIL 112 TIMBER 112 WOMAN'S WORK 117 4. TRADITION 122 PHILOMEL WHIFFET'S SINGING SCHOOL 122 RIDDLES AND FORTUNES 135 THE INFARE WEDDING 151 5. RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS 155 FUNERALIZING 155 OLD CHRISTMAS 158 FOOT-WASHING 161 NEW LIGHT 164 6. SUPERSTITION 168 BIG SANDY RIVER 168 WATER WITCH 169 MARRYING ON HORSEBACK 172 DEATH CROWN 177 A WHITE FEATHER 178 7. LEGEND 180 CROCKETT'S HOLLOW 180 THE SILVER TOMAHAWK 186 BLACK CAT 189 THE DEER WOMAN AND THE FAWN 194 GHOST OF DEVIL ANSE 199 THE WINKING CORPSE 203 THE HOUSE WITH THE GREEN GABLES 205 8. SINGING ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE 210 OF LAND AND RIVER 210 FEUD 216 LEGEND 218 TRAGEDY 228 PATRIOT 239 9. RECLAIMING THE WILDERNESS 248 VANISHING FEUDIST 248 SILVER MOON TAVERN 250 BLOOMING STILLS 255 LEARNING 258 MOUNTAIN MEN 269 COAL 273 PUBLIC WORKS 274 BACK TO THE FARM 283 VALLEY OF PARKS 301 WHEN SINGING COMES IN, FIGHTING GOES OUT 317 VANISHING TRAIL 327 INDEX 331
BLUE RIDGE COUNTRY
1. THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE
High mountain walls and bridgeless streams marooned the people of the Blue Ridge for centuries, shut them off from the outside world so that they lost step with the onward march of civilization. A forgotten people until yesterday, unlettered, content to wrest a meager living from the grudging soil, they built for themselves a nation within a nation. By their very isolation, they have preserved much of the best that is America. They have held safe and unchanged the simple beauty of the song of their fathers, the unsullied speech, the simple ideals and traditions, staunch religious faith, love of freedom, courage and fearlessness. Above all they have maintained a spirit of independence and self-reliance that is unsurpassed anywhere in these United States of America. They are a hardy race. The wilderness, the pure air, the rugged outdoor life have made them so: a people in whom the Anglo-Saxon strain has retained its purest line.
The Blue Ridge Country comprises much of Appalachia, happily called from the great chain that runs along the Atlantic coast from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a well-watered region having numerous streams and rivers throughout, being drained by the Cumberland and Tennessee as well as by smaller, though equally well-known, rivers—Big Sandy in northeastern Kentucky, which flows into the Ohio, and the Yadkin in North Carolina, which eventually reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
In general the region includes three parallel chains, the Cumberlands, Alleghenies, and Blue Ridge. Like a giant backbone the Blue Ridge, beginning in the southwest portion of Old Virginia, continues northeasterly, holding together along its mountainous vertebrae some eight southern states; northeastern Kentucky, all of West Virginia, the eastern part of Tennessee, western North Carolina, the four northwestern counties of South Carolina, and straggling foothills in northern Georgia and northeastern Alabama. The broad valley of the Tennessee River separates the mountain system on the west from the Cumberland Plateau which is an extension of the West Virginia and Kentucky roughs.
Throughout its vast course the Blue Ridge is not cut by a single river. A narrow rampart, it rises abruptly on its eastern side south of the Potomac to a height of some two thousand feet, cutting Virginia into eastern and western, and descends as abruptly on the west to the Shenandoah Valley. Similar in topography in its rough, broken steepness to the Alleghenies across the valley, it consists of a multitude of saddles or dividing ridges many of which attain an elevation of six thousand feet. As it extends south, rising from the Piedmont Plateau, it grows higher. In North Carolina alone there are twenty-one peaks that exceed Mt. Washington's six thousand feet in New Hampshire. Contiguous to the Blue Ridge there is another chain between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, which to Carolina mountaineers is still the Alleghenies. However, the United States Geological Survey has another name for it—the Unakas. It is higher as a whole than the Blue Ridge to which it is joined by transverse ranges with such names as Beech and Balsam and a sprinkling of Indian names—Cowee, Nantahala, Tusquitee. It differs, too, in physical aspect. Instead of being in orderly parallel tiers the entire system, unlike the Blue Ridge, is cut by many rivers: the Nolichucky, French Broad, Pigeon, Little Tennessee, Hiawassee. The parts so formed by the dividing rivers are also named: Iron, Northern Unaka, Bald, Great Smoky, Southern Unaka or Unicoi. Though many of its summits exceed six thousand feet, the chain itself dwindles to foothills by the time it reaches Georgia and crosses into Alabama.
If you flew high over the vast domain of the Blue Ridge, you would view a country of contrasting physical features: river and cascade, rapids and waterfall, peak and plateau, valley and ridge. Its surface is rougher, its trails steeper, the descents deeper, and there are more of them to the mile than anywhere else in the United States.
The southern mountaineer has to travel many steep, rocky roads to get to any level land, so closely are the mountains of Appalachia crowded together. It is the geography of their country that has helped to keep our highlanders so isolated all these years.
This region has the finest body of hardwood timber in the United States. Black walnut is so plentiful and so easy for the carpenter to work that this wood has been used freely for gunstocks and furniture, and even in barns, fences, and porches.
White and yellow poplars grow sometimes six to nine feet in diameter. "Wide enough for a marrying couple, their waiters, and the elder to stand on," a mountaineer will say, pointing out a tree stump left smooth by the cross-cut saw. The trunks are sixty to seventy feet to the first limb. Chestnuts are even wider, though sometimes not so tall. White oaks grow to enormous size. Besides pine, and the trees common generally to our country, these southern mountain forests are filled with buckeye, gum, basswood, cucumber, sourwood, persimmon, lynn. The growth is so heavy that there are few bare rocks or naked cliffs. Even the "bald" peculiar to the region which is sometimes found on the crown of a mountain belies its name, for it is covered with grass—not of the useless sage type either, but an excellent grass on which sheep might "use" if they chose to climb so high.
The lover of beauty finds delight in these mountains from the first daintiness of spring on through the glorious blaze of wonder that is fall in the Blue Ridge. Beginning with the tan fluff of the beeches, the red flowering of maples, the feathery white blooms of the "sarvis," on through the redbud's gaiety and the white dogwood's stark purity, all is loveliness. The enchantment continues in the flame of azaleas, which is followed by the waxy pink of the laurel and the superb glory of the rhododendron. These have scarcely vanished before the coves are golden with the fragrance of grape blossom.
The beauty of the woodland is a paradise for birds. Early in the spring the spotted thrush wings its way through leafy boughs. The cardinal in his bright red coat stays the year round. Neither snow nor winter wind dulls his plumage or stills his song. His mate, in somber green, sings too, but he, unmindful of southern chivalry, attacks her furiously when she bursts into song; ornithologists explain that jealousy prompts the ungallant act. The oriole singing lustily in the spring would seem conscious of his coat of orange and black. These are the heraldic colors worn by the servants of Lord Baltimore. The nightingale and the whippoorwill sing unpretentiously in the quiet of eventide. The blackbird makes up for his somber dress in good deeds. He destroys insects on leaf and bark. The eagle still finds a haven of safety in giant trees and hollowed trunks.
There is neither tarantula nor scorpion to be feared in the Blue Ridge; the harmless lizard is called scorpion by the mountaineer. Nor are there large poisonous reptiles. There are snakes of lesser caliber, but only rattlers and copperheads among them are venomous. The highlander is not bedeviled by biting ants but there are fleas and flies in abundance though no mosquitoes, thanks to the absence of stagnant pools and lakes. There are no large lakes as in the eastern section of the United States and few small ones though the country has numerous cascades, rapids, and waterfalls.
The Blue Ridge is a well-watered region, and characteristic of the country are the innumerable springs which form creeks and small streams. A mild and bracing climate results from these physical features. The rapidity with which the streams rise and their swiftness, together with almost constant breezes in the mountains, reduce the humidity so prevalent in the southern lowlands. Although the rainfall is greater than anywhere else in the United States, except Florida, the sudden fall in the topography of the watercourses brings quick drainage. The sun may be scorching hot in an unprotected corn patch on a hillside, yet it is cool in the shade. And, as in California and the north woods, a blanket is needed at night. The climate is contrasting, being coldest in the highlands where the temperature is almost as low as that of northern Maine. Yet nowhere in the United States is it warmer than in the lowlands of the Blue Ridge.
In the highlands, carboniferous rocks produce a sandy loam which is responsible for the vast timber growth there. Throughout it is rich in minerals, coal, iron, and even gold, which has been mined in Georgia. In some sections there are fertile undulating uplands contrasting with the quagmired bottoms and rocky uplands of other parts of the Blue Ridge. There are high and uninviting quaternary bluffs that lure only the eye. It was the fertile valleys with their rich limestone soil producing abundant cane that first proved irresistible to the immigrants of Europe and lured them farther inland from the Atlantic seaboard.
Long before man came with ax and arrow the wilderness of the Blue Ridge teemed with wild animal life. The bones of mastodon and mammoth remained to attest their supremacy over an uninhabited land thousands upon thousands of years ago. Then, following the prehistoric and glacial period, more recent fauna—buffalo, elk, deer, bear, and wolf—made paths through the forest from salt lick to refreshing spring. These salt licks that had been deposited by a receding ocean centuries before came to have names. Big Bone Lick located in what today is Boone County, Kentucky, was one of the greatest and oldest animal rendezvous in North America, geologists claim. It took its name doubtless from the variety of bones of prehistoric and later fauna found imbedded in the salty quagmire.
Man, like beast, sought both salt and water. Following the animal trails came the mound builder. But when he vanished, leaving his earthen house and the crude utensils that filled his simple needs—for the mound builder was not a warrior—there was but little of his tradition from which to reconstruct his life and customs.
A century passed before the Indian in his trek through the wilderness followed the path of buffalo and deer. Came the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw to fight and hunt. To the Indian the Blue Ridge was a favorite hunting ground with its forests and rolling plains, while the fertile valleys with thick canebrakes offered bread in abundance. Sometimes these primeval trails which they followed took their names from the purpose they served. For instance, the Athiamiowee trail was, in the Miami dialect, the Path of the Armed Ones or the Armed Path and became known as the Warrior's Path. It was the most direct line of communication between the Shawnees and the Cherokees, passing due south across the eastern part of the Cuttawa country (Kentucky) from the mouth of the Sciotha (Scioto) to the head of the Cherokee (Tennessee). Another trail was called Old Buffalo Path, another Limestone because of the soil. Then there was a Shawnee Trail named for the tribe that traversed it.
The Indian was happy and content with his hunting ground and the fertile fields. The streams he converted to his use for journeys by canoe. He had his primitive stone plow to till the soil and his stone mill for grinding grain. The fur of animals provided warm robes, the tanned hides gave him moccasins. Tribal traditions were pursued unmolested, though at times the tribes engaged in warfare. Each tribe buried its dead in its own way and when a tribe wearied of one location it moved on. Unlike the mound builders, the Indian had a picture language and he delighted to record it in cuttings on rocks and trees. He would peel the bark from the bole of a tree and with a sharp stone instrument carve deep into the wood figures of feather-decked chieftains, of drums, arrows, wild beasts. And having carved these symbols of the life about him, depicting scenes of the hunt and battle and conflict, he covered the carving with paint fashioned in his crude way from the colored earth on the mountain side. The warrior like his picture language vanished in time from the Blue Ridge. But not his trails.
These trails, the path of buffalo and deer and the lines of communication between the tribes, finally marked the course of explorer, hunter, and settler. As each in turn made his way to the wilderness he was glad indeed to find paths awaiting his footsteps. The scene was set for a rugged race. They came and stayed.
The men and women who came to settle this region were a stalwart race, the men usually six feet in height, the women gaunt and prolific. They were descendants of English, Scotch, and Scotch-Irish who landed along the Atlantic coast at the close of the sixteenth century—around 1635, when the oppression of rulers drove them from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Some were impelled by love of religious freedom, while others sought political liberty in the new world. Their migration to America really started with a project, a project that had its beginning in Ireland as far back as 1610. It was called the English invasion of Ireland. King after king in England had sent colonists to the Emerald Isle and naturally the native sons resented their coming. Good Queen Bess in turn continued with the project and tried to keep peace between the invaders and the invaded by donating lands there to court favorites. But the bickerings went on. It was not until after Elizabeth's death that King James I of England worked out a better project—temporarily at least. He sent sturdy, stubborn, tenacious Scots to Ulster; their natures made of them better fighters than the Irish upon whose lands they had been transplanted. But even though it was English rulers who had "planted" them there the Scots were soon put to all sorts of trials and persecution. They resented heartily the King's levy of tax upon the poteen which they had learned to make from their adopted Irish brothers. Resentment grew to hatred of excise laws, hatred of authority that would enforce any such laws. These burned deep in the breast of the Scotch-Irish, so deep that they live to this day in the hearts of their descendants in the southern mountains.
So political strife, resentment toward governmental authority, hatred toward individuals acting for the rulers developed into feuds. In some such way the making of poteen and feuds were linked hand-in-hand long before the Anglo-Celtic and Anglo-Saxon set foot in the wilderness of America.
They were pawns of the Crown, used to suppress the uprisings of the Irish Catholics and in turn themselves even more unfairly treated by the Crown. They could not—these Presbyterians—worship as they chose; rather the place and form was set by the State. Their ships were barred from foreign trade, even with America; they were forbidden to ship products or cattle back to England, though after the Great Fire of London, Ireland generously sent thousands of head of cattle to London. Barred then from engaging in profitable cattle trade, they turned to growing wool. This too was defeated by prohibitive duties, and when Ireland undertook to engage in producing linen, England thwarted that industry too. They were forbidden to possess arms, they were expelled from the militia, and what with incessantly being called upon to pay tithes, added rents, and cess they had little left to call their own, little to show for their labors. Then adding insult to injury, the Crown declared illegitimate the children born of a marriage performed by the ministers of these Presbyterians, so that such offspring could not legally inherit the lands of their parents.
Oppressed and persecuted for a century, they could bear it no longer; these transplanted Scotch-Irish (as America came to call them) turned their faces to the new world.
The massacres of 1641 sent them across the uncharted seas in great numbers. And to stimulate and spur their continued migration to America these "adventurers" and "planters" were offered land in Maryland by Lord Baltimore—three thousand acres for every thirty persons brought into the state, with the provision of "free liberty of religion." But Pennsylvania offered a heartier welcome and "genuine religious liberty" besides.
Oppression and unfairness continued to grow in Ireland. Protestants there had never owned outright the land which they struggled to clear and cultivate. Moreover they toiled without pay. Protest availed them little. And the straw that broke the camel's back was laid on in the form of rent by Lord Donegal. In 1717 when their leases had expired in County Antrim, they found themselves in a worse predicament than ever. Their rents were doubled and trebled. Now, to hand over more than two thirds of what they had after all the other taxes that had been imposed upon them left them with little or nothing. How was a man to pay the added rent? Pay or get out! demanded Lord Donegal. Eviction from the lands which their toil had developed—a wasteland converted into fertile productive fields—stirred these Scotch-Irish to fury. They didn't sit and tweedle their thumbs. Not the Scotch-Irish.
In 1719, just two years after the Antrim Eviction, thirty thousand more Protestants left Ulster for America. They continued to come for the next half century, settling in various parts of our land. There was a goodly settlement in the Virginia Valley of Scotch-Irish. You'd know by their names—Grigsby, Caruthers, Crawford, and McCuen.
As early as 1728 a sturdy Scot from Ulster, by name Alexander Breckinridge, was settled in the Shenandoah Valley, though later he was to be carried with the tide of emigration that led to Kentucky.
Naturally, first come first served—so the settlers who arrived first on the scene chose for themselves the more accessible and fertile lands, the valleys and rich limestone belts at the foot of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies. The Proprietors of Pennsylvania, who had settled on vast tracts, were prevailed upon by the incoming Scotch-Irish to sell them parts of their lands. The newcomers argued that it was "contrary to the laws of God and nature that so much land should lie idle when Christians wanted it to labor on and raise their bread." But that wasn't the only reason the Scotch-Irish had. There were other things in the back of their heads. A burnt child fears the fire. Their unhappy experience in Ulster had taught them a bitter lesson and one they should never forget, not even to the third and fourth generation. They would not be renters! Hadn't they been tricked out of land in Ulster? They would not rent! They would buy outright. And buy they did from the Proprietors at a nominal figure. Nor were the Pennsylvanians blind to the fact that the newcomers were good fighters and that they could act as a barrier against Indian attacks on the settlement's fringe. There was still a fly in the ointment for the Scotch-Irish. That was—the Proprietors' exacting from them an annual payment of a few cents per acre. It wasn't so much the amount that irked the newcomers as the legal hold on their land it gave the Proprietors. They objected stoutly and didn't give up their protest until their perseverance put an end to the system of "quitrents."
This cautious characteristic persists to this day with the mountaineer and can be traced back to the persecution of his forbears in Ulster. Mountaineers in Kentucky refused point-blank to accept fruit trees offered them gratis by a legislator in 1913, fearing it would give the state a hold on their land.
But to get back to the settling of the Blue Ridge Country.
When political and religious refugees continued to come to America in such vast shoals they found the settlements along the Atlantic coast already well occupied by Huguenots who had been driven from France, by Quakers, Puritans, and Catholics from England, Palatine Germans escaping the scourge of the Thirty Years' War. Here too were Dunkers, Mennonites, Moravians from Holland and Germany. Among them also were followers of Cromwell who had fled the vengeance of Charles II, Scots of the Highlands who could not be loyal to the Stuarts and at the same time friends to King George.
The Scotch-Irish among the newcomers wanted land of their own—independence. Above all independence. So they drifted down the coast to the western fringe of settlement and established themselves in the foothills east of the Blue Ridge in what is now the Carolinas. Migration might just as well have moved west from Virginia and across the Alleghenies. However, not only did the mountains themselves present an impenetrable barrier, but settlers were forbidden to cross by "proclamation of the authorities" on account of the hostility of the Indians on the west of the mountain range. Then too there were inviting fertile valleys on this eastern side of the Blue Ridge, where they might dwell.
But these newcomers, at least the Scotch-Irish among them, were not primarily men who wanted to till the soil. They were not by nature farmers like the Germans in Pennsylvania. And they did not intend to become underlings of their more prosperous predecessors and neighbors who had already taken root in the valleys and who had set up projects to further their own gains. Furthermore, being younger in the new world they were more adventurous. The wilderness with its hunting and exploring beckoned. And so they pressed on deeper into the mountains. There was always more room the higher up they climbed. And as they moved on they carried along with them, as a surging stream gathers up the life along its course, a sprinkling of all the various denominations whose lives they touched among the settlements along the coast.
In that day many men were so eager for freedom and a chance to get a fresh start that before sailing, through the enterprises set up by shipowners and emigration agents, they bound themselves by written indentures to work for a certain period of time. These persons were called Indents. Their labor was sold, so that in reality they were little more than slaves. When finally they had worked out their time they had earned their freedom, and were called Redemptioners. The practice of selling Redemptioners continued until the year 1820, all of forty-four years after "Honest" John Hart had signed his name to the Declaration of Independence. It is said that a lineal descendant of Emperor Maximilian was so bound in Georgia.
Many were imposed upon in another way. Their baggage and possessions were often confiscated and even though friends waited on this side ready to pay their passage, innocent men and women were duped into sale.
Then there were the so-called convicts among the pioneers of the Blue Ridge. It must be remembered that in those days offense constituting crime was often a mere triviality. Men were imprisoned for debt; even so they were labeled convicts. But, as Dr. James Watt Raine assures us in his The Land of Saddle-Bags, the few such convicts who were sent by English judges to America could scarcely have produced the five million or more people who today are known as southern mountain people.
Widely different though they were in blood, speech, and customs, there was an underlying similarity in the nature of these pioneers. It was their love of independence. Independence that impelled them to give up the security of civilization to brave the perils of uncharted seas, the hazards of warfare with hostile Indians, to seek homes in an untamed wilderness.
BLAZING THE TRAIL
Sometimes a single explorer went ahead of the rest with a few friendly Indians to accompany him. If not he went alone, tramping into the forest, living in a rough shack, suffering untold hardship through bitter winter months. For weeks when he had neither meal nor flour he lived on meat alone—deer and bear. It was the stories of valuable furs and the vast quantities of them which trickled back to the settlements that lured others to follow. Hunters and trappers came bringing their families. The stories of furs and the promise of greater possessions to be had in the wilderness grew and so did the number of adventurers. They began to form little settlements and their coming crowded before them the earlier hunter or trapper who wanted always the field to himself.
In the meantime settlers in the Valley of Virginia were growing more smug and prosperous. They wanted to invest part of their earnings. They wanted to set up other undertakings. So they began sending out expeditions into the wilderness with the intention of trading with the Indians and possibly of securing lands for settlers.
As early as 1673 young Gabriel Arthur had set out on an expedition for his master Colonel Abraham Wood of Virginia with a small party. Through the Valley of Virginia went the young adventurer, taking the well-defined Warrior's Path; he followed watercourses and gaps that cut through high mountain walls, down the Holston River through Tennessee, through the "great gap" into the Cuttawa country. Finally separated from his companions, the lad lost all count of time. Even if he had had a calendar tucked away in the pocket of his deerskin coat, however, it would have done him no good for he could neither read nor write. Weeks and months passed. Winter came. Finally after many adventures young Arthur started on the long journey back to Virginia. As he drew near Colonel Wood's home he heard merriment within and the voice of his master wishing his household a merry Christmas. Not till then did the young adventurer know how long he had been away.
With the master and the household and the friends who had gathered to celebrate and offer thanks at the Yuletide season, with all listening eagerly, young Gabriel Arthur, though unable to bring back any written record, told many a stirring tale. A swig of wine may have spurred the telling of how he had been captured by the Shawnees (in Ohio), of how he had been surrounded by a wild, shouting tribe who tied him to a stake and were about to put a flaming torch to his feet when he thought of a way to save his life. They were charmed with the gun he carried, and the shiny knife at his belt. If they'd set him free he promised to bring them many, many knives and guns. Once young Gabriel made his escape he didn't intend to be caught napping again. He painted his fair face with wild berry juice, and color from bark and herbs. After much wandering he found himself with friendly Cherokees in the upper Tennessee Valley. They were so friendly, in fact, that a couple of them accompanied him on his return to Virginia. He returned along other watercourses—by way of the Rockcastle and Kentucky Rivers. He crossed the Big Sandy—the Indians called it Chatterawha and Totteroy. He got out of their canoe at a point where the Totteroy flows into the Ohio and stood on the bank and looked about at the far-off hills. So it was young Gabriel Arthur who was the first white man to set foot in Kentucky, and that at the mouth of the Big Sandy.
Young Gabriel's tales traveled far. Soon others, fired with the spirit of adventure, were turning to the wilderness. Nor was adventure the only spur. Investors as well as hunters and trappers saw promise of profits in Far Appalachia. Cartographers were put to work. A glimpse at their drawings shows interesting and similar observations.
In 1697 Louis Hennepin's map indicated the territory south of the Great Lakes, including the southern Appalachians and extending as far west as the Mississippi River and a route which passed through a "gap across the Appalachians to the Atlantic seaboard." Later the map of a Frenchman named Delisle labeled the great continental path leading to the Carolinas "Route que les Francois." Successive maps all showed the passing over the Cumberland Mountain at the great wind gap, indicating portages and villages of the Chaouanona (Shawnees) in the river valleys. Lewis Evans' map in 1755 of "The Middle British Colonies in America" shows the courses of the Totteroy (Big Sandy River) and of the Kentucky River. Thomas Hutchins in 1788, who became a Captain in the 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot, was appointed Geographer General under General Nathanael Greene and had unusual opportunity to observe geographically the vast wilderness beyond the Alleghenies. On his map the Kentucky River (where Boone was to establish a fort) was called the Cuttawa, the Green River was the Buffalo, the Cumberland was indicated as Shawanoe, and the Tennessee was the Cherokee. Though there were numerous trails in the Cumberland plateau, the Geographer General indicated only one, the Warrior's Path which he called the "Path to the Cuttawa Country." He too showed the Gap in the "Ouasioto" Mountains leading to the Cuttawa Country.
With the increase of map-making, more projects were launched. There were large colonizing schemes to induce settlement along the frontier, but colonizing was not the only idea in the heads of the wealthy Virginia investors. They were not unmindful of the riches in furs to be garnered in the Blue Ridge. In this connection Dr. Thomas Walker's expedition for the Loyal Land Company in 1750 was important. Dr. Walker, an Englishman, was sent into what is now Kentucky where the company had a grant of "eight hundred thousand acres." A man could buy fifty acres for five shillings sterling, the doctor explained. He was not only a physician but a surveyor as well, and primarily the purpose of these early expeditions was surveying—to lay out the boundaries of the land to be sold to incoming settlers. Such an expedition was composed usually of some six or eight men each equipped with horse, dog, and gun. Fortunately the doctor-surveyor was not illiterate like young Gabriel Arthur. Walker set down an interesting account of the expedition which was especially glowing from the trader's point of view. In their four months in the wilderness the Walker expedition killed, aside from buffalo, wild geese, and turkeys, fifty-three bears and twenty deer. And the doctor added that they could have trebled the number. Walker followed the Warrior's Path as young Gabriel Arthur had more than seventy years before. The rivers they crossed, as well as the places on the way which were sometimes no more than salt licks, bore Indian names. But when Dr. Walker reached the great barrier between Kentucky and Virginia he was so deeply moved by the vastness and grandeur of the mountains that he called his companions about him. "It is worthy of a noble name," said Dr. Walker. "Let us call it Cumberland for our Duke in far-off England." When the expedition reached the gap that permitted them to pass through into the Cuttawa country he cried exultantly, "This too shall be named for our Duke." So Cumberland Gap it became and the mountain known to pioneers as Laurel Mountain became instead Cumberland Mountain.
The doctor-surveyor could not know that one day he would be hailed as "the first white man in Cumberland Gap" by those sturdy settlers who were to follow his course. When Dr. Walker reached the Indians' Totteroy River, or rather the two forks that combine to make it, he called the stream to the right, which touched West Virginia soil, Louisa or Levisa for the wife of the Duke of Cumberland.
This leader of the expedition of the Loyal Land Company jotted down much that he saw. There was the amazing "burning spring" that shot up right out of the earth, its flame so brilliant the doctor could read his map by the glow at a distance of several miles. Apparently he was not concerned with the cause but rather with the effect of the burning spring. He saw the painted picture language of the Indians on mountain side and tree trunk.
Dr. Walker returned on a second expedition in 1758, but he gained only partial knowledge of the wilderness land. However, the mountain he named determined the course of the trail which was to be laid out by Daniel Boone, and the gap through which he passed became the gateway for thousands of horizon-seekers.
Their coming was not without hazard.
The southern Indians resented the invasion of their hunting ground by the English. The French-Indians incited by the French settlers in the Mississippi Valley who wanted the wealth of fur-bearing animals for themselves, began to swoop down on the settlements of the English-speaking people along the frontier, massacring them by the hundreds.
The Assembly in Philadelphia turned a deaf ear to the frontiersmen's plea for help, so the Scotch-Irish, accustomed to fighting for their rights, organized companies of Rangers to defend themselves against the attacks of the Indians. With continued massacre of their people their desperation grew. If they could have no voice in governmental matters in Pennsylvania and could expect no protection from that source against the warring Indians, they could move on. They did. On down the Valley of Virginia they came into Carolina. They built their little cabins, planted crops, and by 1764 had laid out two townships, one of which, Mecklenburg, figured in an important way in America's independence.
As each settlement became more thickly settled the more venturesome spirits pressed on into the mountains. And as they moved forward, clearing forests and planting ground for their bread, they dislodged hunters and trappers who had preceded them. For all of them there was always the troublesome Indian to be reckoned with. A cunning warrior, he pounced upon the newcomer at most unexpected times. To maintain a measure of safety the pioneer began to build block houses and forts along the watercourses traveled by the Indians. Fur-trading posts were set up by the Crown but even when the Indian seemed satisfied with the exchange he might take prisoner a trader or explorer and subject him to torture, or even put him to death. The homes of settlers were objects of constant attack. It would take white men of more cunning than the Indian to deal with him: fearless and daring fighters.
About the time Dr. Walker had started on his expedition in 1755, a family living in Pennsylvania packed up their belongings and moved down into the Valley of Virginia. There were the father, his sons, and his brothers. They hadn't stayed long in Rockingham County, barely long enough to raise a crop, when they moved again. This time they journeyed on down to the valley of the Yadkin River in North Carolina and there they stayed. All but one son—Daniel Boone, a lad of eighteen. Even as a boy he had roamed the woods alone, and once was lost for days. When his father and friends found him, guided by a stream of smoke rising in the distance, Daniel wasn't in tears. Instead, seated on the pelt of a wild animal he had killed and roasting a piece of its meat at the fire, he was whistling gaily. He had made for himself a crude shelter of branches and pelts. It was useless to chide his son, the older Boone found out. So he saved his breath and let Daniel roam at his will. Soon the boy was exploring and hunting farther and farther into the mountains.
On one such venture the young hunter alone "cilled a bar" and left the record of his feat carved with his hunting knife upon a tree. His imagination was fired with the tales of warfare about him, of the courage and independence of the men who dwelt far up in the mountains. He knew of the heroism of George Washington who, four years after the Boones left Pennsylvania, had led a company of mountain men against the French. He had heard the stories of how Washington had been driven back with his mountain men at Great Meadows. Boone longed to be in the thick of the fray. So in 1755, when General Braddock came to "punish the French for their insolence" and Washington accompanied him with one hundred mountain men from North Carolina, Daniel Boone, for all his youth, was among them—as brave a fighter and as skilled a shot as the best.
This was high adventure for young Daniel. It spurred him to further daring, and he set out on more and more distant explorations. Each time he returned from his trips with marvelous tales of what he had seen, of unbelievable numbers of buffalo and deer and wild beasts he had encountered. He always had an audience. No one listened with greater eagerness than the pretty dark-eyed daughter of the Bryans who were neighbors to the Boones. Daniel was still a young man, only twenty-three, when in 1755 he married Rebecca Bryan. They had five sons and four daughters. Rebecca stayed home and took care of the children, while her adventurous husband continued to rove and hunt on long expeditions.
Neighbors gossiped, even in a pioneer settlement. They said Daniel wasn't nice to Rebecca, going away all the time on such long hunting trips. They even talked to Rebecca about her careless husband. But Rebecca paid little heed, though she may have chided him in private for returning so tattered. Sometimes his hunting coat, which was a loose frock with a cape made from dressed deerskin, would literally be tied together when he returned. Even the fringe which Rebecca had painstakingly cut to trim his leggings and coat had been left hanging on jagged rocks and underbrush through which he had dragged himself. His coonskin cap, with the bushy brush of it hanging down on his neck, was sometimes a sorry sight. One can hear Rebecca asking, as the hunter removed his outer garments, "Were there no creeks on your journey?" His leather belt he hung upon a wall peg after he had oiled it with bear grease. His tomahawk which he always wore on the right side, and the hunting knife which he carried on the left with his powder horn and bullet pouch, he laid carefully aside. He inspected his trusty flintlock rifle.... He had slept under cliffs, wrapped in his buffalo blanket with his dog, with leaves and brush for a pillow. His thick club of hair had not been untied in weeks. The chute bark with which it was fastened was full of chinks. There was something worse. "What are you scratching for?" Rebecca would pause from stirring the kettle at the hearth, to survey her husband who was digging his fingers into his scalp. "Lice!" gasped Rebecca. Instead of jowering, she would give him a good scrubbing, comb out his matted hair, and clean him up generally and thoroughly.
Daniel was a restless soul. And every time he returned home he was more restless. So the Boones moved from place to place and each time others went along with them. Daniel had a knack of leadership, but no sooner would everyone be settled around him than he'd pack up and go to another place. Daniel couldn't be crowded. He had to have elbow room no matter where he had to go to get it.
In the twenty-five years he spent in North Carolina Boone cleared ground, cut timber, and built a home many times—and all the while he continued to hunt and explore.
Finally returning from one of his long expeditions he told glowing tales of another country he had found. Bears were so thick, and deer, it would take a crew of men to help him kill them and salvage the rich hides. He persuaded Rebecca to come along with him and bring the children. Once more Rebecca packed up their few worldly goods, while Daniel made sure his guns were well oiled, his hunting knife whetted, his dogs fit for the journey—they meant as much to Boone as wife and children, gossips said—and the family started for a new home.
This time, in 1760, they went far from the Yadkin into the Watauga country of Tennessee. He crossed the Blue Ridge and the Unakas, and settled in what was then western North Carolina, now eastern Tennessee. That year he led a company as far westward as Abingdon, Virginia. But no sooner were they settled than Daniel up and left to go deeper into the forest.
Not only was he a great hunter, he was a good advance agent. Soon, through his glowing accounts, the fame of the country spread far, even to Pennsylvania and Virginia. Hunters came to join him. Some stayed with him wherever he went. It was through his leadership that the first permanent settlement was made in Tennessee in 1768.
But to go back a year. In 1767 Boone worked his way over the Big Sandy Trail in the country which Dr. Walker had seen back in 1750. Daniel lived alone in a crude hut on a fork of the Big Sandy River, close to a salt lick, you may be sure, for he had to have salt to season the wild meat which was his only food. He too saw the burning spring that had helped Dr. Walker to scrutinize his maps at night. In 1768 he entered Kentucky through Cumberland Gap and traversed the Warrior's Path. From Pilot Knob he viewed the Great Meadow. That would be something more to tell about when he got back home.
Though his neighbors may have considered him a shiftless fellow concerned only with hunting and exploring, a fellow who was ever moving from pillar to post, his very first visit to Watauga was not without significance.
It was the way of the wilderness that settlers followed the first hunters, and Boone with his companions had been in Watauga first in 1760. Eight years afterward a few families had followed the hunters' trail for good reason.
Things had been going miserably for immigrants in North Carolina. The situation was fast reaching a desperate point. Some of the oppressed were for violence if that was needed to obtain justice in the courts. Others reasoned that there was a better way out. Why not move away in a body? The wilderness of the Blue Ridge beckoned. It was under Virginia rule and perhaps life would not be so hard there. Because of Indian treaties the lands had been surveyed in those rugged western reaches and could be legally leased or even purchased. The more level-headed mountain people reasoned in this way: Why not send one of their number on ahead to look over the region, negotiate for boundaries, and stake them out for families who decided to take up their abode there? A Scotch-Irishman named James Robertson took upon himself this task.
During this period of unrest in North Carolina, Boone had returned with Rebecca and the children to Watauga where they found others to welcome them. If indeed Daniel needed a welcome or wanted it. Again he cleared a piece of ground and built a log house. But the smoke no sooner curled up from the chimney than scores of Scotch-Irish from North Carolina, who could no longer bear the injustice of government officials, began to crowd into the valley around him. This irked Daniel, for he loved the freedom of the wilds. "I've got to have elbow room," he complained to Rebecca, "I know a place—"
The Scotch-Irish, however, stayed on in Watauga.
They had had enough of injustice and were glad to escape a country where the more prosperous were making life hard for the less fortunate immigrants who continued to come down the Virginia Valley, and the mountain people who settled in the rugged western part of the state. Like their Scotch-Irish brothers in Pennsylvania, they had determined to find a remedy. They remembered how the Rangers in the Pennsylvania border settlements had been forced to take matters in their own hands to protect life and home, and they organized their protective band called the Regulators. If armed force was needed, they meant to use it. They found the Governor as indifferent to their appeals for fairness as the Pennsylvania Assembly had been to the Rangers' protests. If North Carolina's Governor had been a man of cool and fair judgment, the tragedy of Alamance might have been averted. On the other hand, the first decisive step toward American independence might have been lost, or at least delayed.
In ironic response to the pleas of the Regulators, the Governor of North Carolina summoned a force of one thousand militia men and led them into the western settlements. At the end of the day, May 16, 1771, two hundred and fifty of the two thousand Regulators who had gathered with their rifles at Alamance when they heard of the coming of the militia, lay dead. The living were forced to retreat.
If Robertson had planned his return it could not have come at a more auspicious moment. His neighbors had been sorely tried. They eagerly welcomed words of a better land in which to live, and sixteen families followed their leader to the Watauga country.
Things loomed dark for the new settlers for a time. It turned out that the lands staked out for them were neither in Virginia nor Carolina. Indeed Robertson and his neighbors found themselves quite "outside the boundaries of civilized government."
The Scotch-Irish had not forgotten Ulster, and they lost no time in making a treaty with the Indians upon whose territory they really were. They drew up leases, and some of the seventeen families even purchased part of the land.
Soon the ax was ringing in the forest. A cluster of cabins sprang up. Another settlement was established and before long thousands came to join the seventeen families who had followed James Robertson. So long as there had been only a handful of neighbors the problem of government did not present itself. The level-headed thinkers of the group again put their heads together and pondered well. Now that they had burned their bridges behind them they must make firm the rock upon which they built. Above all they must stand united, with hearts and hands together for the well-being of all. To that end they formed an Association, the Watauga Association they called it, and adopted a constitution (1772) by which to live. It was "the first ever adopted by a community of American-born freemen," says Theodore Roosevelt in The Winning of the West.
If Daniel Boone had been a man to glow with pride he might well have done so over the outcome of that first hunting trip he made to the Watauga country. But Daniel was a hunter, an adventurer, an explorer who loved above all else space. He didn't like being crowded by a lot of neighbors. So again in 1773, calling his little family around the fireside one night, he told them he meant to pull up stakes and move on. They had only been there four years which was a brief time considering the laborious journey they'd had to get there, the hardships of life, of clearing ground and taking root again. However, if Rebecca offered protest it was overcome. Daniel had a way with him. Perhaps she even helped her husband convince members of her family that it was the thing to do. Her folks, the Bryans, told others. The word passed around the family circle until forty of the Bryans had decided they'd join Daniel and Rebecca. Boone sold his home. Why bother with it! He'd probably never be back there to live, for this time Daniel and Rebecca, with their children, the Bryans, and Captain William Russell, were going on a long journey. They were headed for Kentucky. Daniel had told them some fine and promising yarns about his lone expedition to that far-off country.
The way wasn't easy. Following watercourses, fording swollen streams, picking their way over rocks and loose boulders, through mud and sand. Besides there was the constant dread of the Indian. Their fears were confirmed before they reached Cumberland Gap. While they were still in Powell Valley a band of Indians attacked Boone's party. The women huddled together in terror while the men seized their guns.
But for all his skill as a marksman, Daniel Boone could not stay the hand of the Indian whose arrow pierced the heart of his oldest son. There was another grave in the wilderness and the disheartened party returned to the Watauga country. This time, however, Boone settled in the Clinch Valley.
The Indians continued on a rampage. Consequently it was nearly two years before Boone started again for Kentucky. This time he gained his goal, though at first he did not take Rebecca and his family. He meant to make a safe place for them to live.
These were times to try men's souls. Everywhere man yearned for freedom. About this time a young Scotch-Irishman in Virginia astounded his hearers by a speech he made at St. John's Church in Richmond. When the zealous patriot cried, "Give me liberty, or give me death," the fervor and eloquence of his voice echoed down the valleys. It re-echoed through the mountains. That young orator, "Patrick Henry, and his Scotch-Irish brethren from the western Counties carried and held Virginia for Independence," it has been said.
There was unity in thought and purpose among the Scotch-Irish whether they lived in highland or lowland and their purpose was to gain freedom and independence. A bond of feeling that could not have existed among the Dutch of New York, the Puritans of New England, the English of Virginia, even if they had not been so widely separated geographically. Moreover, the isolation of the Scotch-Irish in the wilderness, though it cut them off from voice in the government or protection by it, made them self-reliant people. They had had enough of royal government. Added to this was their natural hatred of British aggression, distaste for the unfairness of those in political power from whom they were so far removed by miles and mountains. They thought for themselves and acted accordingly. Their individualism marked them for leadership that was readily followed by others who also had known persecution: the Palatine Germans, the Dutch, and the Huguenots. They had another strong ally in the English who had come from Virginia to settle in the mountains and whose traditions of resolute action added to the mountaineer's spirit of independence. The flame of agitation was fanned by the unfairness of government officials in the lowlands. The mountain people had long since looked to their own protection and their Scotch-Irish nature persisted in resentment of unfairness from authority of any source. This spirit prevailed among the incoming settlers in Carolina. There was dissatisfaction between them and the planters, the men of means and influence who with unfair taxation and injustice persecuted the less prosperous newcomers. Discontent grew and brought on events that were forerunners of the expansive militant movement that came in American life.
First was the Declaration of Abingdon, Virginia, in January, 1775. Daniel Boone had led an expedition there sixteen years earlier and may have planted the seed in the minds of those who stayed on, while he went on to Kentucky. Title to much of the land which embraced Kentucky was claimed by the Cherokees. England still claimed the right to any territory in America and the war's beginnings left the whole thing in doubt. England might even make void Virginia's titles if she were so inclined. In the midst of these doubts and disputed claims several North Carolina gentlemen, including Richard Henderson and Nathaniel Hart, in the spring of 1775 formed themselves into the Transylvania Company for the purpose of acquiring title to the territory of Kentucky from the Cherokees. They meant to operate on a great scale, to establish an independent empire here in the "expansive West." They looked about for a man to help them. They didn't have to look long.
There was Daniel Boone. He had a background. He'd scouted all over the country. He'd fought with Washington against the French when he was only in his teens. He was a fearless fellow; he knew how to deal with the Indian. So the Transylvania Company employed Daniel as their representative to negotiate with the Cherokees. The council met at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga, a tributary of the Holston River. There the Cherokees ceded to the company for "ten thousand pounds, all the vast tract of land lying between the Ohio and Cumberland rivers, and west and south of the Kentucky." This region was called Transylvania.
So, just six years after his first hunting trip to Kentucky, Boone began to colonize it and that in flat defiance of the British government. He thumbed his nose too at a menacing proclamation of North Carolina's royal governor.
Now that the land was acquired by the Transylvania Company they would have to charter a course leading to and through it for prospective settlers. For theirs was a "land and improvement company." Again Daniel Boone was employed. This time his task was to open a path through the wilderness.
With ax and tomahawk, with fighting and tribulations, he blazed the trail from Holston River to the mouth of Otter Creek on the Kentucky River. "Boone's Trace," they called it, connecting with the Warrior's Path and its extensions into eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina through Cumberland Gap and even beyond. It became the Wilderness Trail or Wilderness Road. It was the first through course from the mother state of Virginia to the West.
In spite of the purchase of land from the Indian, in spite of all the treaties of peace, the cunning warrior persisted in attack upon the white men, in massacre of women and children, in capture of hunter and trapper.
Daniel Boone and his men had to safeguard their families and the future of their company. They set about building a fort. As for Boone, he felt himself "an instrument ordained to settle the wilderness." No hardship was too great, no sorrow too deep to deter him in his mission of "pioneering and subduing the wilderness for the habitation of civilized men."
After two years of hardship and toil a fort was built on the banks of the Kentucky River. It consisted of cabins of roughhewn logs surrounded by a stockade. Over this crude fort, in one cabin of which Boone and Rebecca lived with their family, a flag was raised on May 23, 1775. It marked a new and independent nation called Transylvania.
Only a week after the flag-raising in Kentucky the people of Mecklenburg, which had been established only eleven years, made another step toward independence. On May 31, 1775, the Mecklenburg Resolutions were adopted in North Carolina.
In the meantime the Revolution had begun and mountain men were first to join Washington against the British in the forces of Morgan's Riflemen and Nelson's Riflemen. Their skill with firearms, their fearlessness, made them invaluable to Washington. "It was their quality of cool courage and personal independence," said Raine, "that won the battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens and drove Lord Cornwallis to his surrender at Yorktown."
Each movement toward independence in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina had been under the leadership of mountain men and the accomplishment of their several declarations paved the way for the more widespread Continental Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia, July 4, 1776.
It echoed around the world, but Daniel Boone, that young rebel, didn't even hear of it until the following August. Whereupon the fearless hunter with the abandon of a happy lad danced a jig around the bonfire inside the stockade. It could have been an Elizabethan jig, ironically enough, for the Boones were English. Daniel tossed his coonskin cap into the air again and again and let out a war whoop that brought the terrified Rebecca hurrying to the cabin door, a whoop that pierced the silence of the forest beyond.
By the time the Declaration was signed the mountain people constituted one sixth of the settlement of the United States.
As for Daniel Boone, twenty-five years had passed since he, a boy of sixteen, had left Pennsylvania with his father and brothers. He was forty-one years old when he set up housekeeping at Boonesborough where the fort stood on the banks of the Kentucky. Never in all his life had he been quite so settled. Daniel had acquired title to lands from the Transylvania Company and things looked promising. Rebecca too must have been happy in their security. The children could safely play inside the stockade even if they did squabble with the neighbors' children. Rebecca must have sung a ballad betimes as she cooked venison or wild turkey at the hearth, or swept the floor with her rived oak broom. For Daniel could whittle a broom for her while he sat meditating aloud on his past adventures. Daniel was satisfied. Rebecca could see that. Now with the colony established in the wilderness Daniel Boone had realized the dream of his life.
In the thirteen years Boone lived in Kentucky he continued to hunt and trap and explore. He took others along with him on his various expeditions. In January, 1778, with a party of thirty men he went to make salt at Blue Lick. He knew the places to go for he had found them previously by following the path of buffalo, deer, and bear that had gone there to lick salt. Boone and his men threw up rough shelters for themselves. Soon the kettles were boiling, the salt was made. They were in the midst of preparations to pack up their belongings and load the salt into bags when Daniel's keen ears caught the sound of moccasined feet in the underbrush nearby. Suddenly as if they had popped up out of the ground a band of Indians pounced upon the white men. All but three of Boone's party were captured. They escaped and after hiding the kettles took the salt back to the stockade. Daniel and two of his companions were borne off to Detroit.
Boone was a wary fellow, so he pretended to be quite contented with his lot and the Indians were so pleased with him they adopted him as a son into their tribe. He would have looked a fright to Rebecca for the Indians cropped his hair close to the scalp save a tuft on the top of his head which was bedecked with trinkets—shells, teeth of wild animals, feathers. The women dressed him up in this fashion, first taking him to the river and giving him a thorough scrubbing "to take out his white blood." Then they painted his face with colors as bright as those of any chieftain in the tribe. Daniel was a good actor. He pretended to be highly pleased, but he was only awaiting the chance to escape. One day there was quite a stir in the camp. Daniel observed many new faces among the warriors. They talked and gesticulated excitedly, and Boone soon gathered the purpose of the powwow. "They're going on the warpath," Daniel said to himself, "and to my notion they're headed toward our stockade." While they continued to harangue among themselves Daniel stealthily made his escape. He covered the intervening one hundred and sixty miles in five days.
The Indians didn't carry out their plan to attack the fort until some weeks later and when they did march into view they were led by Captain Duquesne of the English Army.
The siege lasted for nine days but the veteran riflemen of the fort, under Boone's skillful direction, gained the day with only a loss of three or four men, while many of the four hundred Indians fell.
There were many other battles with the Indians who crossed the Ohio into Kentucky, and though Boone was always in the thick of the fray he came out uninjured.
And then misfortune came in another way.
Things had looked fair enough in the beginning when the Transylvania Company sold boundaries of land to settlers, with Colonel Henderson, a bright lawyer who had once been appointed Associate Chief Justice, to look after the legal side of the transactions. The company asked only thirteen and one third cents per acre for the land for one year and an added half cent per acre quitrent to begin in 1780. At such a low rate it was possible for a man to purchase a boundary of six hundred acres. When Daniel talked it over with Rebecca they concluded he would not be overreaching himself to invest in such an acreage.
The Transylvania Company did a land-office business. By December of the first year after Colonel Henderson opened up his office for business in Boonesborough 560,000 acres were sold. That was all right for the company, but what of the purchaser? What with the squabbles and disputes concerning title between Indian and settler, English and French, Boone like others soon found himself with not a leg to stand on. He had bought "wildcat" land. Land-sharks cleaned him out.
At the age of fifty-four, in 1788, Daniel had to start all over again. With Rebecca at his side and a larger family he moved on.
Boone had scouted through the West Virginia country long before, when he had passed a solitary winter in a hut on the Big Sandy. So now once more he turned in that direction, pressing on until he reached the mouth of the Great Kanawha River. He lived from place to place in the Kanawha country, following his old pursuits of hunting and trapping, and as usual absented himself from his fireside for long days at a stretch. But Rebecca was used to his ways. She looked after the family, cooked and mended. When Daniel returned home Rebecca always cleaned him up again before he started on another hunting trip.
Eleven years passed without a word being said about land titles. Then one day Daniel found himself facing the same situation that had robbed him of his acres in Kentucky. A man of sixty-five, and with a family of seven, three boys and four girls—two of their boys had been killed in battle with the Indians—Daniel, though still a fearless hunter, didn't want to be bothered with squabbles over land titles. He told Rebecca there was an easier way around. There were places outside of the jurisdiction of the United States altogether. "We don't have to be beholden to anyone," he said boastfully.
Pioneer women followed their men. So once more Rebecca made ready for the journey. She mended garments; she gathered up their few cooking utensils and the furry hides that were their blankets. She tied some of her choice things in her apron. That she'd carry right on her arm. The boys helped their father make ready the great cumbersome cart that was to carry their possessions. When all was in readiness Daniel pulled on his coonskin cap and whistling up his dogs he started off resolutely ahead of his family.
On and on they went until they reached Spanish territory beyond the Mississippi in Upper Louisiana. There at Charette (fifty miles west of St. Louis) Daniel Boone remained for a score of years, still hunting and trapping.
Even after Rebecca died he stayed on in the log cabin that had been their home for so long. An old man of seventy-eight he was, with many a sorrow to look back upon. For him the trail had been a "bloody one," Daniel often reflected. He had seen two of his boys fall under the tomahawk, and his brothers too. He had seen Rebecca's grief and terror at bloodshed; her anxiety in the lonely life of the wilderness. He had seen her despair when the very ground in which they had taken root was torn from under their feet. He had known the suffering of winter winds, the desolation of the forest. He had suffered innumerable hardships. All these things he lived again as he sat alone in the house where Rebecca had died.
But the spirit of the hunter still burned in the old man's bosom at the age of eighty-five. Even then he was all for shouldering his gun once more and setting out with an Indian lad to explore the Rockies. His son persuaded him to give up the thought. "You're too old, Pa. If you fall over a cliff your bones would be broke to smithereens. Come and live with me. My house is safe. It's all built of stone. The Indians can't burn down a stone house." After much bickering Daniel finally heeded his son and went to live with him. He died there in 1822.
The fort which he so proudly built and valiantly defended continues to bear his name, being one of at least thirty localities in the United States which take their name from the first pioneer of the great valley of the Mississippi. His body lies in a little cemetery in Kentucky's capital. A humble grave, though as you stand beside it you feel the spirit of the great hunter hovering near. A courageous explorer in leather breeches and coonskin cap blazed the trail through an unbroken wilderness to help build America.
At length through Cumberland Gap following Boone's Wilderness Trail came the ancestors of David Crockett, Samuel Houston, John C. Calhoun, "Stonewall" Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln. The Boones and Lincolns had been neighbors back in Pennsylvania in one of the most German settlements. Yet both families themselves were English.
Difficulties of communication are enough to explain the isolation of mountaineers. For long years, even until yesterday, the only roads were the beds of tortuous and rockstrewn watercourses that were dry when you started at sunup and were suddenly transformed by a downpour to swollen, turbulent streams, perilous even to ford.
But for all that, in 1803 there were a million settlers in the southern highlands. Hardships of life there might have shaken a man's faith but not his love of the country. In Kentucky alone in 1834 there were 500 pensioners of the Revolution. And when the guns roared at the opening of the Civil War, the southern highlanders sent 180,000 riflemen to the Union Army.
An isolated people drops easily into illiteracy. Cut off as the mountain men were from the outside world, they knew little of what was going on beyond their mountain walls. Even if newspapers had found their way to the mountaineer's cabin they would have been of little use to men who could not read. On the other hand, had the mountain men known of the great westward movement toward the plains few of them could have joined the caravans. The mountaineer had no money because he had no way to produce money. For that reason he could not even reach the nearest lowlands. Even if he had moved down into the lowlands he could not hope to own land but would only have fallen once more into the unbearable state of his forbears in Ulster—that of tenant, or menial, with proprietors and bosses to harass his life. This peril alone was enough, aside from the lack of money, to make the highlander shrink from the society of the lowlands. The few who straggled down were glad enough to return to the cloister of the mountains. Besides the mountaineer didn't like the climate or the water down there. The sparkling, cool mountain brook, the constant breeze and bracing air were much more to his liking. Indeed the climate has had its effect upon the mountaineer, not only upon his physical being—he is tall and stalwart; few mountain men are dwarfed—but the bracing air enables him to toil for long days in the open. He can walk—or hoe corn on an almost perpendicular corn patch—from daylight till dark. He is patient and is never in a hurry. Time means nothing to him. Down in the Unakas a mountaineer once had a cataract removed from the right eye. The surgeon told him to return in a couple months when it would be safe to operate upon the other eye. Twenty years elapsed before the fellow returned to the doctor's office; when he was chided for the delay he answered unconcernedly, "I 'lowed 'twas no use to be in a hurry about it."
Yet for all their seeming indifference the people of the Blue Ridge, who locked their offspring generation after generation in mountain fastnesses that have barred the world, have kept alive and fresh in memory the unwritten song, the speech, the tradition of their Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Celtic ancestors.
Down through the centuries the blood and traditions of the pioneers have carried, creating a stalwart, a fearless people. Hidden away in the high crannies of the Blue Ridge they have come to be known as Mountaineers, Southern Highlanders, Appalachian Mountaineers, and Southern Mountaineers. But if you should ask a name of any of the old folk of the Blue Ridge country they doubtless will tell you, "We are mountain people." Never hill-billies! A hill-billy, the true mountain man or woman would have you know, is one born of the mountains who has got above his raising, ashamed to own his origin, one who holds his own mountain people up for scorn and ridicule. To mountain folk the word hill-billy is a slur of the worst sort. A slur that has caused murder.
They recognize no caste in the Blue Ridge Country. They are hospitable beyond measure, I have come to know in my long years of roaming through the mountains, first as court stenographer in isolated courts, then as ballad collector. I have never entered a mountain home throughout the Blue Ridge, no matter how humble the fare, where man, woman, or child offered apology for anything, their surroundings or the food and hospitality given to the stranger under their roof. "You're welcome to what we've got," is the invariable greeting—though the bed be a crude shuck tick shared with the children of the family, the fare cornbread and sorghum.
As a child I used to go to the cabin home of one of my father's kinsmen, a man who could neither read nor write, though he knew his Bible from cover to cover and could cite accurately chapter and verse of any text from which he chose to preach. There was but one room in his house of logs with its lean-to kitchen of rough planks, but never did I hear father's kinsman or his wife offer any word of excuse for anything. When it was time for victuals his wife, with all the graciousness of nobility, would stand behind her guests, while her man, seated at the head of the table, head bowed reverently, offered thanks. Then, lifting his head, he would fling wide his open palms in hospitality, "Thar hit is afore you. Take holt and eat all you're a-mind to!" And turning to his wife, "Marthie! watch their plates!" My great-aunt kept a vigilant eye on us as she walked around the table inviting us to partake, "Hure, have more of the snaps. Holp yourself to the ham meat. Take another piece of cornbread. 'Pon my word, you're pickin' like a wren. Eat hearty!" she urged, while above our heads she swished the fly-brush, a branch from the lilac bush in summer, otherwise a fringed paper attached to a stick.
They learned through necessity to put to use the things at hand, made their own crude implements to clear and break the stubborn soil; they learned to do without.
Their poteen (whiskey) craft, handed down by their Scotch-Irish ancestors, survives today in what outlanders term moonshining. Resentment against taxation of homemade whiskey survives too. The mountaineer reasons—I've heard them frequently in court—that the land is his, that he "heired it from his Pa, same as him from hisn," that he plants him some bread without no tax. Why can't he make whiskey from his corn without paying tax?
As for killing in the Blue Ridge Country. In my profession of court stenographer I have reported many trials for killing and almost invariably my sympathy has been with the slayer. Usually he admits that he had it to do either for a real or fancied wrong, or for a slur to his womenfolks. I've never known of gangsters, fingermen, or paid killers in the Blue Ridge Country.
With an inherent love of music, handed down from the wandering minstrels of Shakespeare's time, and with a wealth of ballads stored up in their heads and hearts, they found in these a joyful expression. Even the children, like their elders, can turn a hand to fashion a make-believe whistle of beech or maple, although they may never know that in so doing they are making an imitation of the Recorder upon which Queen Elizabeth herself was a skilled performer. Little Chad at the head of Raccoon Hollow will cut two corn stalks about the length of his small arms and earnestly proceed to make music by sawing one across the other, singing happily:
Corn stalk fiddle and shoe-string bow, Best old fiddle in the country, oh!
not knowing that Haydn, the child, likewise sawed one stick upon another in imitation of playing the fiddle. And there's Little Babe of Lonesome Creek who delights in a gourd banjo. His grandsir, finding a straight, long-necked gourd among those clustered on the vine over kitchen-house door, fashioned it into a banjo for the least one. Cut it flat on one side, did the old man, scooped out the seed, then covered the opening with a bit of brown paper made fast with flour paste, strung it with cat gut. And there, bless you, as fine a banjo as ever a body would want to pick.
They are neighborly in the Blue Ridge Country. They ask no favor of any man. Yet the road is never too rough, the way too far, for one neighbor to go to the aid of another in time of sickness or death. I knew a little boy who was dangerously sick with a strange ailment that primitive home remedies could not heal. Neighbor boys made a slide, a quilt tied to two strong saplings, and carried their little friend some ten miles over a rough mountain footpath to the nearest wagon road. There, placing him in a jolt wagon, the bed of which had been filled with hay to ease his suffering in jolting over the rough creek-bed road, they continued the journey on for thirty miles to the wayside railroad station where the cars bore the afflicted child on to town and the hospital.
A feud is the name given to their family quarrels by the level-landers. Mountain people never use the word. They say war or troubles. Their clannishness was inherited from their Scotch ancestors, and the wild, rugged mountains lent themselves perfectly to warfare among the clans. They had lived apart so long, protected from invasion and interference by their high mountain walls, that they learned to settle their own differences in their own way. They knew no law but the gun. If John warned his neighbor Mark that Mark's dog was killing his sheep and the neighbor did nothing about it, John settled the matter forthwith by shooting the dog. Families took sides. The flame was fanned. The feud grew.
However, in time of disaster, with grim faces and willing hands, they come to the aid of an unfortunate neighbor. Once when a terrible flood caused Troublesome to overflow its banks, carrying everything in its raging course, I saw a team of mules, the only means of support of a widowed mother of a dozen children, swept away. She hired the team to neighbors and thus earned a meager living. I remember the despair of that white, drawn face as the widow looked on helplessly at the destruction. Not a word did she speak. But before darkness the next day neighbor men far and wide, and none of them were prosperous, chipped in from their small hoards and got another team for the woman.
2. LAND OF FEUDS AND STILLS
HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS
When Dr. Walker, the Englishman, the first white man in Cumberland Gap, followed the course of Russell Fork out of Virginia into Kentucky back in 1750, he came upon a wooded point of land shaped like a triangle which was skirted by two forks of tepid water. The one to the left, as he faced westward, this English explorer called Levisa after the wife of the Duke of Cumberland.
Generations later a lovely mountain girl wore the name he had given the stream and she became the wife of the leader of a blood feud in the country where he set up his hut. It was a blood feud and a war of revenge that lasted more than forty years, the gruesome details of which have echoed around the world, cost scores of lives, and struck terror to the hearts of women and innocent children for several decades.
Devil Anse Hatfield, the leader of his clan, himself told me much of the story when I lived on Main Island Creek in Logan County, West Virginia, and on Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. His wife Levicy—she who had been Levicy Chafin—did not spell her name as the name of the stream was spelled though she pronounced it the same way. It was a story that began with the killing of Harmon McCoy in 1863 by Devil Anse, who was a fearless fighter, a captain in a body of the Rebel forces known as the Logan Wildcats. Later, when Jonse Hatfield, the leader's oldest boy, grew to young manhood, he set eyes upon Rosanna McCoy, old Randall's daughter, and loved her at sight. But Devil Anse, because of the hatred he bore Rosanna's father, wouldn't permit his son to marry a McCoy. Rosanna loved Jonse madly. And he, swept away with wild, youthful passion, determined to have her. He did, though not in lawful wedlock.
Quarrels and bickerings between the sides sprang up at the slightest provocation. Even a dispute over the ownership of a hog resulted in another killing. Old Randall grew more bitter as time went on, what with Rosanna the mother of an illegitimate child and Jonse, even though he lived with her under his father's own roof, being faithless to the girl. And when, after the McCoys stabbed Ellison Hatfield to death, Devil Anse avenged his brother's death by inciting his clan to slay Randall's three boys, Little Randall, Tolbert and Phemer, the leader of the McCoys vowed he'd not rest until he wiped out the last one of the other clan.
There were killings from ambush, open killings, threats, house-burnings. Once the McCoys had outtricked Devil Anse and had stolen his favorite son Jonse away while he was courting Rosanna. They meant to riddle him with bullets. But the Hatfields got word of it. Rosanna had betrayed her own family, so the McCoys felt, for the love of Jonse. The Hatfields came galloping along the road by moonlight, surrounded the McCoys, demanded the release of the prisoner, young Jonse, and even made a McCoy dust young Hatfield's boots.
When the law tried to interfere, Devil Anse built a drawbridge to span the creek beside which his house stood, stationed a bevy of armed Hatfields around his place, and ruled his clan like a czar, directing their every deed.
The bloody feud did not end until 1920, after Sid Hatfield on Tug Fork, which with Levisa forms Big Sandy, had shot to death some nine men led by Baldwin-Felts detectives. They had killed Mayor Testerman of the village of Matewan. And when they came to arrest Sid on what he termed a trumped-up charge he reached for his gun. Sid, then chief of police of Matewan, West Virginia, had been accused of opposing labor unions among the coal miners and the coming of the detectives was the result. Though Hatfields and McCoys were both miners and coal operators, the killing of the detectives by Sid had no direct bearing upon the early differences between the clans. But the wholesale killing on the streets of Matewan in 1920 marked the end of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
Devil Anse lived to see peace between his family and the McCoys.
Through thick and thin Levicy Chafin Hatfield stood by her man, though she pleaded with him to give up the strife.
They waged their blood battles on Levisa Fork and Tug, on Blackberry and Grapevine, creeks that were tributaries to the waters that swelled the Big Sandy as they flowed down through the mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky, emptying at last into the Ohio.
Levicy bore her mate thirteen children and died a few years after 1921 when the old clansman had passed to the beyond. There was not even a bullet mark on the old clansman. He died a natural death, mountain kinsmen will tell you proudly. He was buried with much pomp, as pomp goes in the mountains, on Main Island Creek of West Virginia, in the family burying ground.
I knew Devil Anse and "Aunt" Levicy quite well. For, long centuries after my illustrious kinsman had returned to Merrie England to report upon his expedition for the Loyal Land Company in the Blue Ridge, I followed the same course he had blazed out of Virginia into the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia. I lived for a number of years on Levisa Fork and Tug Fork and on Main Island Creek in West Virginia, where my nearest neighbors and best friends were Hatfields and, strangely enough, McCoys.
One day Devil Anse stopped at my house out of a downpour of rain and as he sat looking out of the open door he fell to talking of another rainy day many years before. "This puts me in the mind of the time I had to go away on business down to the mouth of Big Sandy," he said in his slow, even tones. All the time his eagle eyes were fixed on me. "I had to go down to the mouth of Big Sandy," he repeated, "on some business of my own. A man has a right to protect his family," he interrupted himself and arched a brow. "Anyway there come an awful rainstorm and creeks busted over their banks till I couldn't ford 'em—not even on Queen, as high-spirited a nag as any man ever straddled. But she balked that day seeing the creeks full of trees pulled up by the roots and even carcasses of calves and fowls. Queen just nat'erly rared back on her haunches and wouldn't budge. Couldn't coax nor flog her to wade into the water. A feller come ridin' up on a shiny black mare. Black and shiny as I ever saw and its neck straight as a fiddle bow. He said the waters looked too treacherous and turned and rode off over the mountain, his black hair drippin' wet on his shoulders. Anyway there I was held back another day and night till that master tide swept on down to the Big Waters [the Ohio]. When I got home my little girls Rosie and Nancy come runnin' down the road to meet me. 'Pappy, look! what a strange man give us!' Rosie held out her hand and there was a sil'er dollar in it and Nancy brought her hand from behind her and openin' her fist she had a sil'er dollar too and little Lizbeth she come runnin' to show me what she had. Another sil'er dollar, bless you. 'This strange man were most powerful free-hearted,' sez I, gettin' off of Queen. I throwed the bridle over the fence rail and went on up to the house, packin' my saddle pockets over my arm and my gun and cartridge belt over my shoulder. My little girls come troopin' behind. Their Ma stood waitin' in the door twistin' the end of her apron like she ever did when she was warned. 'Captain Anderson!' sez she, that were her pet name for me, 'I've been nigh in a franzy. I 'lowed sure you and Queen had been washed plum down in the flood. Here, let me have them soppin' clothes and them muddy boots.' Levicy was the workinest woman you ever saw. Washed and scoured till my garmints looked like new. And after I'd got on clean dry clothes such a feast she set before me. 'Pon my word, it made me feel right sheepish. 'A body would think, Levicy,' sez I, 'that I were the Prodigal Son come home.' She spoke right up. 'See here, Anderson Hatfield, I won't have you handlin' no such talk about the sire of my little girls,' sez she, spoonin' the sweet potatoes on my plate, and smilin' so tender and good on me. Then my little girls gathered round to see what I'd fetched them. There was store candy and a pretty hair ribbon for each one that I taken out of the saddle pockets. And a gold breast pin for Levicy. Never saw a woman so pleased in my life. 'I don't aim to hold it back just to wear to meetin',' sez she. And she didn't. From then on she wore that gold breast pin every day of her life. Said she meant to be buried with it. Well, 'ginst my little girls had et their candy and plaited each other's hair and tied on their new ribbons they hovered around me again to show their sil'er the strange man had give them. 'Captain Anderson,' sez Levicy, 'he was handsome built and set his saddle proud and fearless. But not half so proud and fearless as you. Nor were he half so handsome.' I could feel her hand on my shoulder a-quiverin' a little grain like Levicy's hand ever did when she was plum happy. Then she went on to tell as she washed the dishes and Nancy and Rosie dried them and Lizbeth packed them off to the cupboard, about the strange man. 'He laid powerful admiration on our little girls.' Levicy was wipin' off the oilcloth on the table with her soapy dish rag. 'He had them line up in a row to see which was tallest, whilst I set him a snack. "Shut your eyes," sez he, "and open your mouth." They did, and bless you, Captain Anderson, what did he do but put a sil'er dollar in their mouth—each one.' By this time Nancy and Rosie and Lizbeth had finished the dishes and they come hoverin' round my knee again whilst I cleaned and polished my gun. Each one holdin' proud their sil'er dollar, turnin' it this way and that, rubbin' it on their dress sleeve to make the eagle shine. Just then, Jonse, my oldest boy, come gallopin' up the road on Prince, his little sorrel. He never stopped till he got right to the kitchen-house door. The chickens made a scattermint before him. 'Pa!' he shouted out, throwin' Prince's bridle out of his hand and jumpin' down to the ground. 'They've caught him! Robbed the bank at Charleston!' Levicy was drying the tin dishpan. She starred at Jonse and so did I. 'Caught who?' sez I. 'Jesse James' brother, Frank! It was him that was here. Him that Ma fed t'other day. Him that give Nancy and Rosie and Lizbeth a sil'er dollar!' Levicy dropped the dishpan and retched a hand to the table. 'Mistress Levicy Chafin Hatfield!' sez I, 'never again can I leave this house in peace. A man's family's not safe with such scalawags prowlin' the country!'"
Then Devil Anse went on with the rest of the story.
Devil Anse, the leader of the Hatfield clan whose very name struck terror to the hearts of people, and Jesse James' brother Frank, highwayman and bank robber, had met on a mountain road, each unaware of the other's identity, each intent on his own business. Captain Anderson had gone down to the mouth of Big Sandy, the county seat, Catlettsburg, Kentucky, to buy ammunition with which to annihilate the McCoys. That story too the outside world heard afterward, for the clans met on Blackberry Creek and engaged in battle for several hours with dead and dying from both sides on the field—or rather in the bushes.
Whatever else has been attributed to Devil Anse he liked to prank as well as anyone. He took particular glee in telling the following story to me, his eagle eyes twinkling:
"One day a tin peddler come with his pack of shiny cook vessels in a shiny black oilcloth poke on his back. The fellow wore red-topped boots and a red flannel shirt, for all it was summer. His breeches had more patches than a scarecrow and his big felt hat had seen its best days too. He kept at Levicy to buy his wares but she was one that didn't favor shiny tinware. 'It rustes out,' she told the peddler. 'Nohow I've got plenty of iron cook vessels.' All the time the old peddler was trying to wheedle and coax her into buying something, a quart cup, a milk bucket, a dishpan, a washpan. I was inside in the sitting room resting myself on the sofa. I could hear the peddler outside on the stoop, bickering and haranguing at Levicy to buy. Finally I got my fill of it and I tiptoed out through the kitchen-house, my gun over my shoulder. I went to the barn lot and turned loose Buck, a young bull we had that I'd been aimin' to swop Jim Vance. I give Buck one good wollop across the rump with the pam of my hand. He kicked up his heels and rushed forward, me close behind with my gun. The peddler took one look at Buck, so it peered to me, and Buck took one look at the peddler, lowered his head and charged. The peddler let out a war whoop and flew down the hillside like a thousand hornets had lit on him. The pack fell from his back and there was a scattermint of tinware from top to bottom of that hill. Buck shook his head and snorted. His eyes bugged outten the sockets. I couldn't tell if he was ragin' mad at the shiny tin cook vessels that was tanglin' his hoofs, or if it was the red shirt and red-topped boots of the peddler that riled Buck. Nohow Buck ducked his head again and bellowed, caught a shiny quart cup on each horn and a couple washpans on his forefeet and kept right on down the hill. By this time the tin peddler had scooted up a tall tree quick as a squirrel and there he set on a limb. Buck was ragin' and chargin' in circles around that tree. That bull was riled plum to a franzy and that tin peddler was yaller as a punkin. Skeert out of his wits. 'Come on down, you pore critter!' sez I. But he just opened his mouth and couldn't say a word, just a dry croak like a frog bein' swallored in sudden quicksand. 'Come on down,' I coaxed, 'I'll quile Buck down till he's peaceable as a kitten.'
"But the peddler just starred at me and shivered on the limb like a sparrow bird freezin' of a winter time in the snow. 'I'll tend to Buck!' I promised him. 'Come on down!' And to put his mind at ease I up with my rifle-gun, shot the quart tin cups offen Buck's horns and the washpans offen his front hoofs. 'Now get back to the barn where you belong and behave yourself!' I sez to Buck and he scampered back up the hill as frolicsome as a lamb, pickin' his way careful like as a Jenny Wren through that scattermint of tinware.
"The peddler was still shiverin' on the tree limb overhead and his eyes buggin' out worser'n Buck's had when he ketched first sight of the feller's red shirt and the shiny tinware. 'Buck's gone,' I sez to him coaxin' like. 'You don't need to be skeert of him no more!' 'T-t-tain't B-b-buck!' the feller's teeth chattered. 'It's you, D-d-evil A-a-nse!' With that he drapped off the limb down to the ground at my feet. Swoonded dead away!"
Devil Anse Hatfield chuckled heartily. "'T-t-ain't Buck! B-b-uck,' sez he when he ketched his wind and revived up. 'It's you—D-d-evil Anse!'"
The rest of the story Captain Anderson himself would never tell but Aunt Levicy told me how he packed the tin peddler back up the hill to the house on his shoulder and had her cook him a big dinner of fried chicken and cornbread; how he gave the peddler a couple greenbacks that made him plum paralyzed with pleasure and surprise; and how he had Jonse take the peddler back to the county seat, the peddler riding behind Jonse on Queen, where he bought a new supply of tinware and went on his way.
Except for such interludes of pranking, doubtless Aunt Levicy and old Randall's wife, Sarah McCoy, could never have survived the ordeal of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
The women of both households lived days of torture, ever watchful of the approaching enemy. They spent sleepless nights of anguish, knowing too well the sound of gunshot, the cry of terror that meant another outbreak of the clans. And when the cross grew too heavy even for their stoic shoulders to bear they ventured unbeknownst to their menfolks to the Good Shepherd of the Hills to beg his intercession, his prayers for peace.