Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, genealogy and family history, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats.

© 2006-2020 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

SOTK Report Summer 2020

A State of the Kitties Report: Summer 2020
by Tanner 

Well, it's been a while since I posted, but I've been busy. I work outside during the day with  Jim-Bob. We patrol around the house and part of what used to be the pasture.  Eleven-tear-old Jim-Bob is the boss. Here he is in his field. 
At seven, I am the second-oldest male cat. Sometimes at night, I work in the garage on rodent watch. Jim-Bob and Arlo often help. Other times, I sleep in with the others. That's me at the right.
Orville, who is in the front center of the picture, had to have ear surgery in July and again in early October. He had a polyp in his ear that was kind of icky. The first time it was removed, he stayed mad at mommy for a while, but after the polyp grew back and he had to have it removed again, he forgave her pretty quickly.

Two very sad things have happened this summer. The first sad thing is that our border collie Maggie crossed the rainbow bridge in May. She used to stay in the garage, and Alfreda liked to sleep cuddled with her. Maggie was fourteen and a half and was having trouble walking. Then she had trouble standing up without help. One morning she gave mommy the look that said she was ready to go. The vet came to our house, and helped Maggie cross the bridge very peacefully. She is buried in the pasture beside Melody.
The vet who helped Maggie was the same one who fixed Chloe's femur after Chloe got hurt real bad in some kind of accident last year. Even though Chloe is all healed up and doesn't even limp, Mommy won't let her go out anymore.

The other sad thing was that Alfreda vanished without a trace one morning in early August. Mommy called and called, but Alfreda didn't come, and Alfreda always used to come when she was called. Mommy  looked and looked for days but never found a trace of her. We have coyotes and a hawk in the neighborhood, so we think the worst might have happened. Alfreda and I used to hunt together, and I miss her. I am still sad.

Chloe and I are pretty good friends now. I like to wash her, and sometimes she washes me.
Even though she is eleven years old, Chloe still plays like a little kitty. She likes to whip up on Grover when she gets a chance, and he is learning how to defend himself. Grover is at the left of this picture. Otis and Charlotte are behind him; Jim-Bob is beside him.
Those four kitties that Daddy brought home last year are grown up now. Rufus really grew. He is way bigger than his sister and brothers. Mommy was worried that he was too fat, but the vet said he was just portly. Rufus likes to sleep belly up. 
One thing the kitties like to do is watch for the raccoons who visit the front porch every night to see if the cats left anything. (Mommy puts out a buffet on a table there so the working cats can have snacks when they get hungry. I usually visit the buffet a few times during the day. But I leave a little something for the critters that come at night.)
 In the afternoon, I come in the house where I have my supper. Then I have to watch the kitties and make sure they don't get into any trouble.

In this picture, I am sitting on Mommy's desk while Charlotte, Otis, Claudine, Arlo, and Grover watch for the raccoon family. When they see the raccoons, some of them want a closer look.
It's hard to get a real good picture of the raccoons, but you get the idea. . . .
Last month, one of the cats (Not me!) jumped onto the mantle and knocked off Mommy's plant. I think Charlotte caused the trouble.
Speaking of trouble, a little shy kitty started hanging around here a few monthis ago. At first he would come to where Mommy feeds the outside cats (Twiggy, Spotz, and Skippy) and wait for them to finish eating so he could have the left-overs. Then he tamed down so Mommy could pet him. His name is Cedrick, and I don't much like him, but Skippy does. Skippy is a big cat who will attack big dogs and chase raccoons. Skippy used to live down the road, but a few years ago he decided he wanted to live here when he wasn't visiting lady cats. Mommy told him that if he wanted to sign on here, he needed to get a rabies shot and get neutered. One day he came back neutered. Since the end of his ear had been cut off, somebody must have thought he was a feral cat and took him to the place that neuters ferals and "tips" their ears, and gives them rabies shots.  He has now met the requirements to sign on here, so I guess we are stuck with him. This is Skippy.

 Skippy's fur is exactly like Otis and Charlotte's fur, so it is possible that he might be their daddy.

This is Cedrick. Have I mentioned that I don't much like him?
He tries to act cute so Mommy will like him. I am not fooled by his behavior, but  Mommy is.

So, Skippy is raising Cedrick as his kitty. If I chase Cedrick, Skippy comes after me and I don't much like that.

I guess that is about all for this report.



Sunday, May 24, 2020

Old Man of Turkeycock Mountain

 Turkeycock Mountain is twelve miles long and straddles the Franklin-Pittsylvania line. I can see it from where I live. We own 167 acres on the Franklin County side, just below the mountain's "notch" (to the right of the tree in the above picture). When we bought the land in the 1970s, I didn't know much about it—only that our land was  part of the old Reynolds plantation, a horse track was once on it, and Confederate deserters used to hide farther up the mountain. But I didn't know anything about folks who had once lived on the mountain.

Recently, I acquired a booklet  about a resident of the Pittsylvania County side of the Mountain, Owen Adkins, who was supposedly born there in 1786 and died there in May 1885 when he was 99 years and 6 months old. He'd wanted to live to be a hundred, but didn't quite make it.

The booklet is a transcription of a story written by a reporter for the New York Herald and originally printed in March 1878.

Owen Adkins was apparently quite a character. As a young man, he excelled at foot-racing, and his father used to make money wagering on him when he raced men or—on some occasions—horses.  Apparently he never lost. When he as fourteen, he fought a bear on the mountain and finally managed to kill it with his knife. From a young age, he enjoyed fox-hunting, card-playing, foot-racing, and horse racing. He apparently owned a racetrack as noted in an article, "Miss Effie is Fondly Remembered," (from The Quill Pen—Pittsylvania Historical Society, by Robert c. Vaden, Jr, February 1986):

"The tobacco factory for making plug tobacco, owned and operated by Christopher Lawson Carter (1834-1901) was the principal industry of the community. Mr. [Algie] Davis recalled that there had been a racetrack "beyond Piney Mountain" owned by Owen Adkins before the Civil War. He said that plug tobacco was hauled to Pennsylvania from this area, and the wagons returned loaded with salt. The Davis family has been located here since 1790, and Col. Christopher Davis, great-uncle of Mr. Davis, was in the Civil War."

Owen was officially married twice; his first wife died in 1830 after having borne 19 children, all of whom were still living in 1878. Four months after her death, he remarried, but this wife only bore 5 children before she died in 1839. While married to his first wife, he also had 4 concubines. Near his own dwelling, he built a separate house for each one, and each produced several children. During his second marriage, he took an additional concubine. All told, he had 70 children, 66 of whom were still living when the reporter interviewed him. It was likely, given the large families his offspring produced, that he had nearly 550 descendants at the time of the interview. Because of the number of Adkins familie, that area of Pittsylvania County was know as Adkintown.

Owen Adkins witnessed much of history, albeit from a distance. He didn't believe in going to war so he paid a substitute $160 to take his place in the War of 1812. The substitute became ill a few months after enlisting and died. When enrolling officers then tried to get Owen to join the Home Guards, Owen hid out on Turkeycock Mountain. During the Civil War, he was a Union sympathizer and tried to talk his sons out of joining the Confederate army, but two of them did and were killed at the Battle of the Wilderness.

I tried to find out more about Owen Adkins online, but couldn't find much. didn't have a lot. Apparently, there was another Owen Atkins, a Baptist minister who died in Tennessee in 1853, and the Turkeycock Owen was confused with him on numerous family trees. Another source of confusion: sometimes the name Adkins was Adkinson, Atkinson, or Atkins,

However, a Rootsweb site yielded a bit of info about his family: Owen's father was William Adkins III, born 21 September 1760 and died 22 Oct 1848. A picture of William and Mary was on the website. Note how much William looks like his son Owen:

Owen's parents, William and Mary Hartman Adkins

The Rootsweb site also lists the names and probable marriages of William's children:
From Knorr, Catherine. Marriage Bonds and Ministers  returns of Pittsylvania County, Virginia; 1767-1805. 1956
1. 7 October 1799. Henry Adkerson (Adkins) and Elizabeth Rossett dau. Of Sam Rossett who consents.  Sur. William Reynolds. p. 2 (26 of marr. register)

2. 18 July 1803. Nathan Carter and Elizabeth Atkins. Sur. Henry Atkins. Married by Richard Elliott. p. 15  (p. 34 in original register)

3. 9 December 1805. William Adkins and Betsy Thacker. Sur  Joseph Thacker. Married by Rev. Willis Hopwood. p. 2 (p. 38 of marr. register)

From Williams, Kathleen.  Marriages of Pittsylvania County, Virginia; 1806-1830. 1980
4. 18 August 1806.  George Smith and Lucky Adkins. ( Sucky? Or Suk?) Sur.  William Adkins. p.  145  (p. 42 in marr.  register)

5. 15 July 1809  Owen Adkins and Isabel Harris, dau. of John Harris who consents. Sur. James Hines. p. 3 (p.  46 of marr. reg.) Second marriage: 19 September 1825. Owen Atkinson (Adkins) and Fanny Campbell. Sur.  Jacob Zink. p.6 (p.  82 of original register) 

6.  21 May 1810. Charles Gibson and Sarah Atkinson, dau of William Atkinson. Sur Nathaniel Carter. Thomas Geo. Gibson consents. Married by the Rev. Joseph Hatchett. p.  62  ( p.  48 of marr. register)

The settlement of William Adkins estate again confirms the names of his children:

Estate Settlement of William Adkins decd (1848)
 Accounts Current vol. 18 pp. 160-162
 Date of confirmation October 20, 1851

Accounts of Executor and Legatees

1. To Susan Smith one of the legatees of William Adkins decd
November 27, 1849 paid in terms of will  $100.00
Sept. 11, 1850 paid for legacy in residuary fund $230.00
1851 to balance due Susan Smith 2.63 ½
TOTAL: 332.63 ½

2. To Nathan Carter in right of his wife Elizabeth Carter
Nov. 27, 1849 paid in terms of will  100.00
Sept. 11, 1850 paid for legacy in residuary fund 250.00
TOTAL paid by confirmation:  350.00

3. Sarah Gibson
Nov. 27, 1849 paid in terms of will 30.00
Sept. 11, 1850 paid for legacy in residuary fund 219.22
1851 balance due Sarah Gibson 13.41 ½
TOTAL:  262.63 ½

4. Henry Adkins
Sept. 11, 1850 paid for legacy in residuary fund 232.19
1851 balance due  2.63 ½
TOTAL:  232.63 ½

5. William Adkins
Sept. 11, 1850 paid for legacy in residuary fund 232.19
1851 balance due    .44 ½
TOTAL: 232.63 ½

6. Owen Adkins 
Sept. 11, 1850 paid for legacy in residuary fund 230.00
1851 balance due 2.63 ½
 TOTAL:  232.63 ½

Two "What's on Your Mind" columns in The Roanoke Times provide information about Owen Adkins:

Register of Deaths 1855 1896 p. 136, line 5

Owen Adkins 
white male 
Died May 15, 1885 in Pittsylvania Co., VA 
Cause: old age age: 99 yrs  6 mo (this would place birth approximately Nov. 1786) 
Parents: William and Mary Adkins 
born:  Pittsylvania Co. 
Occupation:  farmer 
Consort;  unmarried  (actually widowed) 
Informant:  Owen Adkins, Jr.  
Relationship: son


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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Jamestown Brides

I first visited Jamestown, Virginia, in November 1957. I was among the seventh graders from Lee Junior High School who boarded three Greyhound buses and spent three days touring Richmond, Williamsburg, and Jamestown. At that time, all seventh graders studied Virginia history, so the trip was meant to enhance what we'd been studying. But this history had happened long ago and didn't have anything to do with me. Or so I thought.

Then, I didn't know that I had any connections to Jamestown—that my 10th great-grandfathers on my Nace side, Jonathan Giles (who arrived in 1619) and John Haynie (who arrrived in 1621) both survived the March 22, 1622 massacre, and on my Smith side that another ancestor, William Hancock (who arrived in 1619), didn't survive it.  I don't remember hearing much about about the massacre on the school trip. But I remember standing in the church at Jamestown and being told that Queen Elizabeth had stood in that church a few weeks earlier.

Now, having learned a lot about my genealogy, I decided to learn more about what my 17th century Virginia ancestors endured. (I recently blogged about what I'd learned from books I'd read about colonial life.) From my 7th grade Virginia history class, I knew that the original settlers were all men, but later a few brought their wives from England and also some single English women were sent to become wives.  In 1621, the Virginia Company, responsible for Jamestown's settlement,  having advertised in London for potential brides, sent more young women from England to become wives of planters who could pay their passage in tobacco. Some of my ancestors no doubt witnessed these maidens' arrival aboard the ships Marmaduke and Warwick. Recently I read about these women in The Jamestown Brides by Jennifer Potter.

The Jamestown Brides is a hefty book. The paperback edition, including endnotes and index, is 372 pages in a fairly small font. It is apparent the author did considerable research prior to writing this book, and for that I'm grateful. (Note: I'm also grateful the author used endnotes instead of footnotes. There are so many citations that the text would have been unnecessarily choppy if footnotes had appeared on each page.) While the writing is a bit academic, it is also quite readable.

Potter gives considerable background about what both England and Jamestown—like in 1621, why wives were needed for Jamestown, how the potential brides were selected, what their lives were like aboard ship during the voyage, how Jamestown appeared to them when they arrived, and how different life in Jamestown was from London. And then, of course, there was the Massacre of 1622.

The Marmaduke and the Warwick left London in September 1621 and arrived in Jamestown in November. The maidens had to be housed in homes where there was a wife in residence, but there weren't enough suitable accommodations at Jamestown itself. Consequently, many potential brides were dispersed to different settlements until they found husbands.

The book has many illustrations and maps. An especially useful one shows where the different settlements were.  Berkeley Hundred is where my Hancock ancestor, who was reportedly staying at George Thorpe's house, was among those murdered there on March 22, 1622, although he isn't on the list of nine killed. At least 347 men, women (including some potential brides), and children are known to have died  during the massacre, but the number is likely higher. Some—including a few of the potential brides—were taken as captives.

Page197,  paperback edition of The Jamestown Brides

I'm glad I read this book for the background it gave me in an important part of Virginia history. I especially recommend it to all those whose ancestors lived in early 17th century Virginia.  

If you're interested in Virginia's early years, another resource is Mary Newton Standard's out-of-print 1928 edition The Story of Virgnia's First Century


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Sunday, April 26, 2020

April 2020

This April has beeen like no other I can remember. We have spent the month "sheltering in place" because of the coronavirus outbreak. Most businesses are closed, so there's no where to go if we wanted to. This April has also been incredibly beautiful.

In between rainstorms, the air has been clear (fewer vehicles on the road=less pollution emitted) and the sky has been bright. Flowers in my yard have bloomed profusely. Here are some pictures of things in my yard this April:

There's a gazebo behind these redbuds, but you can't see it. The willow oak behind it is one of my favorite trees:

I purchased these bluebells at a plant sale in Rocky Mount about a decade ago:

I brought the seeds of money plant from our house in Roanoke in 1999. It blooms in various locations around the property here:

The redbud by the bottom driveway grew from seeds the birds had planted. Same for the mulberry at right and the poplar tree behind the redbud:

The azalea near the patio was here when we bought the place in 1999. It has grown huge since then:

I bought a small sweet shrub a few years ago. I didn't think it would live, but it did:

I planted these tulips a half-dozen years ago:

The white dogwood in the font yard was here before we were:

So has the pink dogwood in the side yard:

Ditto for the spirea:

Another redbud:

The peach tree I planted near the mailbox about 15 yars ago already has little peaches:

 Jim-Bob, one of the working cats, guards the property line:

This azalea was here before we were. The green garden bench beside belonged to my grandmother. Maggie the border collie has been here nearly 15 years:

I doubt that Maggie will be here net April. Given the current state of the country, I wonder if any of us will be.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Happy Valley Review

If you're looking of something uplifting to read while you're sheltering in place, I'd like to recommend Lin Stepp's latest novel, Happy Valley. Claudine couldn't wait to get her paws on it.

You'd expect a book with the title Happy Valley to have a happy ending, and it does. This isn't a spoiler alert—fans of Lin Stepp's novels know they usually end happily—at least for some of the characters, but there are trials and tribulations along the way. In  Happy Valley, there are also mysteries and misunderstandings.

Walker Logan, who has spent two years travelling across America, happens upon the town of Happy Valley in the Smokies,  is intrigued by an old rock house on a mountainside, and decides to buy it. Meanwhile, fiber artist and quilt-maker Juliette Hollander has temporarily left her job in North Carolina to return to Happy Valley and visit her grandparents on the family farm. One day, Juliette goes to a nearby abandoned place to pick some apples for her grandmother. When Juliette venutures a bit too far out on a limb, she falls—and lands on Walker, who is inspecting his new property. Although they feel an attraction to each other, Juliette returns to her life in North Carolina and Walker sets about making his property livable.

During the followig year, Walker not only restores the rock house but also buys an abandoned store and sets about renovating it. Some townfolks are curious about where this stranger came from and where he got so much money; some think trying to open a general store will be a disaster. But Walker doesn't reveal much about himself or his past—only that he's been traveling the country.

He opens his store about the time that Juliette returns to visit her grandparents again. Before long, she is working for Walker and selling some of her quilts at the store. This doesn't set well with a local boy, Dade Claiborne, who grew up near Julieete and always figured she would marry him. Juliette has no interesst in Dade despite his persistence, but she does find herself becoming increasingly attracted to the mysterious Walker. But she's only staying in Happy Valley temporarily, and she knows next to nothing about him. . . .

Several things happen during the next few months, but I'd be revealing too much if I recounted them. Suffice to say there are some complications, some conflicts both within Juliet's family and without, some misunderstandings, and some mysterious happenings that prevent Happy Valley from being as happy as it should be.

Because I live by choice in a rural area with mountains in the distance, I enjoy stories set in rural areas and in the mountains, and I enjoy settings that ship and develop character. Happy Valley does that. The inclusion of a map brings the setting home to the reader.

Stepp does a commendable job of capturing small town life. Her characters are believable, interesting and well-developed. If you're looking for a  novel with a strong sense of family and community, Happy Valley will lift your spirits in these troubled times.

TANNER: "I couldn't wait to get my paws on this either!"
NOTE: I received an advance reader copy of Happy Valley, which will be released in early April, but is available for pre-order from Amazon now.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Trees Are Watching

Not long ago, the oak in my front yard was watching for spring. Here's how its eyes looked from different angles:


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