Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2019 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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What Went Unread

This morning's paper was very heavy. It felt heavier than George, who's a pretty hefty cat. I didn't intend to read all of it, though. So what did I read?

These three sections:

What went unread? All of this: 

The sports section is never read in this household. Sometimes my husband reads the classifieds but not very often. Since I'm not looking to buy any crap stuff I don't need and I'm not going into any stores for the next few days, why bother to read all those ads?

Those ads are headed unread to the recycling box. What a waste!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Memories I Can't Remember

. . . because I was a baby at the time.

Recently, while cleaning a closet, I found a box that hadn't been opened since I moved here in 1999. When I opened the box, I found some of my baby clothes—as well as the pillow case above—that my mother had saved. She even left a note identifying them.

 I can't remember ever seeing these garments before, but obviously I must have worn them.  They all seemed to be made from thin cotton, and most were embroidered. 

They certainly don't look like today's baby clothes. Most looked homemade. I imagine that Mama made them, but some might have been made by relatives.

In the gown below, the neckline was hand-embroidered and a few pink flowers were embroidered on the front. She must have made this one after I was born, since it's obviously for a girl. 

I'm not sure about the one below with blue embroidery. Could this have a baby gift when her first child was born from someone who didn't know that baby boy soon died?

Along with the clothes was a very soft—and hand-embroidered—baby blanket. The moths have done a job on it, but the embroidery and interwoven ribbons still show.


She also included two sun-suits that I must have worn when I was two or three. I know I wore sun-suits until I was five. I know where she got the fabric for these—from the sacks that Grandma's chicken feed came in. I can remember those sacks, and I can remember Mama using her treadle Singer sewing machine (which I still have but have never used) to sewing them into outfits for me.

Each sun-suit had a pocket, but I don't know what I would have put in it.

She not only made sun-suits for me, she also made them for my older cousin Marty. Here we are on the back porch of our Floraland Drive house that was built in 1947. The house looks new here, so I'm guessing this picture was taken in 1948.

In the box was a blouse that I must have worn when I was three or four. It's made of the same type thin cotton as the baby clothes.

The box also contained two baby books and a book on baby care. (They're a subject for another blog-post.)

The baby book on the right was provided by Lewis-Gale Hospital where I was born. Inside the back cover is a picture of the hospital, which was located near where Channel 10 is today.

The baby care book had a section on clothes. The ones in the illustration look remarkably similar to what I wore.

 In the box, I found something else—a slip that my mother wore when she was four.

The attached note, in my mother's handwriting, reads: "Alene Ruble wore this slip when she was four years old. Mama made it in 1917." 

I'll blog more about the closet box in a future post.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chatham Bookfest 2014

A week ago yesterday, I was one of the ten authors in the Old Chatham depot for the second annual  Pittsylvania County Public Library's Book and Author Festival. I'd really enjoyed last year's festival, so I was delighted to be invited back. This time, besides selling books and chatting with readers and other authors, I did a presentation on "Confessions of an Under-published Author." Here I am at my display.

The festival is held inside the old Chatham depot that's now restored and is used as the Pittsylvania County History Research Center and Library. This is a wonderful place for a festival—it's easy to find, not far away (only 27 miles for me), and has convenient parking. Plus authors can unload right at the entry door. Plus it has an interesting history.

For years the depot stood in ruins before being restored and reused as a research center. This picture gives you an idea of its transformation.

A miniature display shows how the depot looked in its heyday.

Just inside the door is a statue that used to be at the Chatham Library. The horses caught my eye right away.

The festival is about local authors and their books, and the ten authors at this year's festival offered an interesting variety of books. Returning for the second year was Larry G. Aaron who's written a lot of local history books.

A closer look at some of his books, including The Wreck of the Old 97 and Pittsylvania County, Virginia: A Brief History.

His latest book, Pittsylvania County and the War of 1812 (The History Press, November 2014, 160 pgs.), attracted a lot of attention

A young author, JB North wrote Spark (Legend of the Shifters) as part of the Chatham Library's group for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year. She self-published it via CreateSpace in May.

Courtney Hood, a children's minister at Chatham's Cornerstone Church of Christ, had Rescued, a new Christian book for children illustrated by her brother. 

Since I am a fan of both memoir and regional history, I looked forward to meeting Sarah Coles, who was there with her late mother's book,  All Grown Up: From the Plantation to Washington, D.C. Mary I. Coles self-published her memoir when she was 90. 

I started reading All Grown Up on last Saturday night and finished it on Sunday. It's only 61 pages, but it covers a lot of territory. 

The book begins with a 1901 obituary from the Danville Register—an obituary of Philip "Uncle Philip" Hearne who lived to be a hundred and who was once a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson. Walter Coles I., who was a member of Congress and owner of a plantation near Chatham, bought 26-year-old Philip from Jefferson's estate in 1826. 

Philip "became part of the Coles family, and his descendants, as well, took on the Coles' last name." Mary, a fourth generation Coles, "was born on the Coles' plantation when it belonged to Walter Coles III." From what she's written, it's obvious that Mary's family was hard-working, industrious, responsible, and had a strong sense of family. Even when she was little, she had chores to do, such as milking the cow and tending her little brother. As a young adult, she helped support her widowed mother.

Mary apparently had a sense of adventure as well as responsibility. In 1942, her brother who'd moved to D.C. told her that she could make more money there than in Chatham. Mary boarded a train and soon had a job working for two sisters. During the years she worked for many others whom she fondly remembered. Eventually she was able to buy her mother a house.

I really liked this account of Mary Coles' life. I was impressed by how much she remembered and her enthusiasm for life. I only wished the book had been longer.

I'm already looking forward to next year's bookfest.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Martin Mystery

The mystery is—What is my great-great-grandmother's maiden name?

Lately, I've been researching my family history. The Martin line is pretty interesting. I descend from Brigadier General John Martin through his son Jesse Martin, and through Jesse's son, John Reid Martin. Since Jesse was married to Cecelia Reid, it was natural that her surname might be used for one of her sons. John Reid Martin is my great-great-grandfather. Here's his picture:

John Reid Martin, born May 10, 1813 (one source says 1812) in Henry County, VA, served as preacher at Bethel Church in the Glade Hill/Union Hall area for many years. He married Susan L. Wingfield on August 5, 1840. They had three children: Sarah Elizabeth (b. 1842),  John Christopher (b. 1846), and Luther Calvin (b. 1847). All were born in Henry County. Susan, who was born in 1822 in Henry County, died in 1848 in Union Hall, Franklin County. I don't descend from her.

Since John R. Martin was a widower with three small children, it was natural that he soon take a second wife. On July 2, 1849, he married Elizabeth M. Wade, the daughter of John Wade. Several sources list six children born to this marriage, including Mariah L. Martin (b. 1854 in Union Hall) from whom I descend.

But—I'd heard that my great-great grandmother was Elizabeth S. ("Queenie") Webb, who bore John R. Martin's six children.  In fact, it was John R. and Elizabeth S. Martin who signed the marriage book in 1876 for Mariah Louisa to marry Henry Silas Smith (son of Samuel W. and Latitia Smith)—my great-grandparents.

And, I'd found references online to Elizabeth Webb being John's second wife, such as this one (which only lists three children) and this one at the bottom of a lengthy Reid genealogy. According to the latter, John R. Martin married Elizabeth Webb in 1850.

So, who was wife #2 and/or the mother of six children? I went to the Franklin County Historical Society for my answer. I'd no sooner asked the question, when I was handed a copy of historian Marshall Wingfield's book on Marriage Records of Franklin County. I soon found the answer.

There were three marriages for John R. Martin, not two. Apparently, Elizabeth M. Wade didn't live long after the marriage, but I can't find any mention of when she died. No doubt still needing a mother for his small children, John R. quickly found another wife. He and Elizabeth S. Webb (surety provided by William H. Turner) were married on April 1, 1850.

Mysteries remain: How did Elizabeth M. Wade Martin die? And how soon after their marriage? Why can I find no record of her death or her place of burial? Why can't I find a record of Elizabeth S. Webb's death or burial? Or anything about her family?

Apparently Elizabeth S. is the mother of the six children all born in Union Hall: Nancy C. (b. 1851), Milton Leland (b. 1852), Mariah L. (b. 1854), Mary J. (b. 1858), Joseph Alvin (b. 1860), and Beauregard Gustavus (b. 1863).

At the time of the 1860 census, these were the members of the John R. Martin household:

The three children from the first marriage were included in the household, as well as the oldest five from the second marriage. By the 1880  census, another mystery arises—the wife is now "Sarah E"—but perhaps the S in Elizabeth Webb's middle name stood for Sarah, and the census taker transposed it. That's what seems to have happened with Beauregard Gustavus's name (along with a misspelling).

Anyhow, the Elizabeth mystery has been solved. Sort of.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Little Cart That Could

The road that is my life is getting a bit rougher than it was. I used to walk the woods on my farms, but increasing age and diabetic neuropathy now prevent me from doing so. If I can't walk well, though, I can at least ride—thanks to my golf cart. Last week, my husband and I took the cart to Polecat Creek Farm to see what I could see. How would the golf cart do on rougher territory than a golf course?

Actually, pretty good. It crossed the branch without hesitation, so we rode to within sight a corner to where the Smith Mountain Hounds horse trail crosses the creek. We didn't go as far as the crossing because, even in dry weather, the corner of the field is marshy.

But how would the golf cart pull a hill? Here's where the hillside trail bends into the undergrowth and goes to the old cabin site.

Partway up the hill, I looked back.

We had to stop on a steep place because some branches needed to be cleared before we could go to the top.

A few trees had bent over the trail in the recent high winds, but the little cart went under them just fine.

Again, I looked down at the field we'd left. Over a half-century ago, a farm road went through here, but now there's no trace.

And here we are higher up, but still not at the top. To the right (and out of sight in the picture below) is a large deep pit where tobacco was once cured.

The little cart is halfway to the top field—and near the old cabin site.

What's left of the porch is to the left; the fallen chimney is to the right. The chimney fell about 15 years ago. A few of its rocks are now in my flower beds.

Here there be dragons—or at least a fallen tree that looks like a dragon.

The little cart kept climbing. Soon we saw a view of the top field over the cart's windshield. 

As we approached the field, the rear view mirror reflected the trail behind us.

On the other end of the field, we crossed Bar Ridge Road to get to our corner field.

Just past the corner field, we started down the trail under the power lines. I've ridden a horse down this trail many times and the four-wheeler a few times, but this was the first time I'd ridden a golf cart down it. This trail is rocky and rutted, but the little cart made it.

Finally we reached the bottom beside Dinner Creek.

Spanning Dinner Creek is this tree with a hole in the middle.

A few hundred feet from the holey tree, a bridge spans the creek. This bridge, which cost $60,000 for  VDOT to construct, was built two years ago to replace a bridge that kept developing holes.

The little cart rested beside our picnic area . . .

. . . and then carried us up Blacksmith Road toward where we parked. The land on the left is ours.

The trees along the trails and road weren't very colorful. Most of the leaves had blown away during several days of high winds and the leaves that were left had a burnished look.

Despite the lack of fall color, it's nice to have a way to travel the trails again.

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