Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2018 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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Clement-Witcher Feud

A few miles from me as the crow flies, three brothers who all died the same day in 1860 are buried in a single grave on the family plantation—"Mountain View" on Snow Creek Road in Penhook. How did this triple death happen? Turns out a woman was involved—and she was a Smith, though I don't know if she and I descend from a common Smith ancestor.

Victoria Smith, the daughter of Albert G. Smith, was beautiful and had many beaux in the Franklin-Pittsylvania County area. She came from a good family; her grandfather was Vincent Oliver Witcher, the great-grandson son of Revolutionary War Colonel William Witcher and the son of Capt. Vincent Witcher who served in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates prior to the Civil War.

Victoria married James Clement, the son of Dr. George W. Clement, and here's another  Smith connection: James's mother was Stella Smith, daughter of John Smith of Lewis Island (the road I live on used to be called Lewis Island Road). This John Smith was the son of John Smith of "The "Pocket," a large plantation in the bend of the Smith River.

Unfortunately, the marriage was not happy, and Victoria became so afraid of her husband that she sought divorce. The divorce proceedings were where thing turned ugly.

The story has been told in print several times. One of the oldest is from An Old Virginia Court, by Marshall Wingfield, D.D., who wrote several histories of Franklin County.

From "An Old Virginia Court" by Marshall Wingfield, D.D., Memphis, Tennessee, The West Tennessee Historical Society.

The killing of three Clement brothes---James,William and Ralph by Capt. Vincent Witcher, John A Smith, Vincent Oliver Smith, Samuel Swanson and Addison Witcher. Addison Witcher was the son of Vincent Witcher. John and Vincent Oliver Smith were his grandsons. Samuel Swanson was his son-in-law.

James Clement married Victoria Smith on March13, 1858. He was one of ten children of Dr George W Clement, born1786; married 1811; died 1867. Dr Clement was educated at Hampton-SydneyCollege and the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania. His mother, Stella Smith, was the daughter of Major John Smith of LewisIsland. Their Franklin County home was called "Mountain View".

Victoria Smith was the daughter of Albert G Smith and the granddaughter of Capt. Vincent Witcher. She was born in 1837. The Smith family regarded the Clement family as of inferior social station. Dr Clement was very proud of the beauty and wit of his daughter-in-law, Victoria. Two of her old sweethearts continued their attentions after her marriage(of innocent nature). They were William P Gilbert and Samuel D Berger. Her husband, James Clement, accused her of unfaithfulness and humiliated her. Fearing physical violence, Victoria Smith Clement,fled from her husband on the night of August 24, 1859, and found refuge in the home of Sherwood Y Shelton, who lived a mile distant. She left behind her six month old baby, Leila Maud, born March 1, 1859, so great was her terror., In three weeks, the taking of depositions was begun at Dickenson's Store, to be read as evidence in the suit then pending between John A Smith, next friend of Victoria Smith Clement, plantiff, against James R Clement, defendant. The taking of depositions continued until February 25, 1860, when the Clement brothers were killed. Capt.Vincent Witcher objected to having Elizabeth W Bennett make part of herstatement on Saturday "and then being left in the hands of the oppositeparty to be picked until Monday." He made the statement that shewas under control of the Clements.Ralph Clement said "that whoever saidthat was a damned lie." Capt. Vincent Witcher drew a "five shooter" and started firing at Ralph Clement. Addison Witcher conducted the examination for the plantif. (Robert Mitchell, Justice of the Peace,appeared to have forgotten everything that transpired).

The bodies of the Clements were riddled with bullets and gashed with knives. William Clement was disembowled; James Clement's throat was slit from ear to ear. Ralph Clement lived three hours and made a dying declaration: I never attempted to draw an arm. Addison Witcher caught and held me and told them to come shoot me. A damned rasccal Robert W Powell stated in his deposition that Addison Witcher held RalphClements while Vincent Oliver Smith shot him. George Finney statedin his deposition that John Anthony Smith shot and stabbed James Clement. Both James and William Clement were reclining on a bed in the Counting Room when the firing began. Some thought the early firing came from the bed. The Pistols of both James and William Clement had been fired until empty, but Ralph had not drawn a gun. The three bodies were carried from Washington Dickinson's Counting room, in a farm wagon, and buried in a simple grave near the shaded driveway to the old brick house,their boyhood home.

The defendants claimed self-defense and charges were dismissed, March 23, 1860. In June 1860, the depositions were published in book form by Dr. G W Clement, Sr.

Dr. George W Clement's mother, Stella, was the daughter of John Smith of Lewis Island, son of Mr John Smith of "The Pocket". 1700
(Clement: History of Pittsylvania County)

You can read more online about the Clement-Witcher feud at these sites: "The Clement-Witcher Case," "Allegations of Infidelity at Heart of Massacre," "The Witcher-Clement Case," and a page on Rootsweb.

Some print books about the case are also available. The late Franklin County historian A.D. Ramsey wrote about the case many decades ago. I bought his booklet at The Frankin County Historical Society several years ago. Local historian Beverly Merritt's book, The Untold Story of the Clement-Witcher Feud, is a transcript of the trial.

Victoria was in her early twenties when the picture at the top of this page was taken. Here is a picture of me when I was twenty. 

If you squint a bit, I look like her just a little around the eyes and nose Or maybe it's my imagination. But I would like to know if she and I might might somehow be kin on the Smith side.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mystery Vine

About a month ago, a mysterious vine started growing on a low-lying limb of the pin oak.

The vine grew pretty fast, but it wasn't kudzu. We decided to take a closer look.

It had big leaves and some small flowers on stalks.

A variety of bees seemed to like the flowers.

The vine has  tendrils that attach themselves to branches and leaves of the pin oak.

It also has odd little pods that grow beneath the leaves.

 I asked some friends on Facbook what it might be. Guesses included kudzu, wild grape, fox grape, moonseed vine, and moonflower. A few folks suggested wild cucumber, which seems the most likely possibility, but a wild cucumber has a different flower. Most likely my mystery vine is a bur cucumber—but my vine looks slightly different from pictures I found online.

Whatever it is, its days are numbered on the pin oak.

So—is it a bur cucumber, or what?

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Friday, September 15, 2017

A Place in the Sun

by Tanner

Today was a good day to stretch out in my place in the sun and play with a big feather that my daddy gave me.

He said it fell out of a turkey. The turkey didn't come back for it, so it is mine now.

Anyhow, right in front of the sliding glass door is a purrfect spot fot a cat. My cat-tower is nearby, and I can look ot the door and watch stuff. And the sun shines in real bright, so it is a good place for a cat. Also, I can push things under the chair if I want to keep them safe.

I like to rub my face all over the big  feather. That makes it mine.

I rub it on the back of my head, too. Sometimes my kitty Arlo wants to join me. I raised Arlo from a little bitty kitty, and he is a big cat now.

When Arlo first came here, I had to teach him how to play with a big feather. I wrote about it in this blog post from two years ago.

After Arlo got tired cuddling with me, Alfreda (who is Arlo's kitty) came along to see what I was doing. She wanted my big feather, but I wouldn't share because she would tear it up. 

Alfreda tried to distract me by looking out the window like there was something out there I ought to see, but I didn't fall for her trick.

Finally Alfreda and Arlo left me alone so I could enjoy my big feather and my place in the sun all by myself.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Childhood Food

This meme, which has been making its way around FaceBook recently, made me recall food from my childhood from the late 40s through the 50s in Roanoke, Virginia:

How many of these do I remember?

Pasta: I don't recall the word "pasta" being used when I was a kid. The only kinds I knew were macaroni and the little letters of the alphabet in soup. Never had spaghetti or lasagna until I was in college, even though Chef Boyardee had been advertising on TV in the 50s.

Curry: Never ate anything curied until I was an adult. Don't particularly care for it now.

Take-away: Yeah, it was math! We said "take away" instead of "minus" in elementary school. Is "take-away" the same as "take-out"? "Take-out" food didn't exist when I was a kid—at least I never heard of it then. But then, we didn't eat out, except for an occasional hot dog at a dimestore lunch counter downtown. I suppose my first experience with "take-out" was getting a Kenny Burger at the stand on Williamson Road as I walked home from William Fleming High School when I was in the 8th grade, or maybe it was the 9th grade. Anyhow, the price was right.

Pizza: Another food I never ate until college. Some folks called it "pizza pie." I can remember getting my mother to buy a frozen pizza from Mick-or-Mack in 66 or 67 when I was home on break. I don't remember what brand it was, but I do remember that it wasn't too many years until pizza ads appeared on TV.  I remember eating pizza at Pizza Hut on Hershberger Road in the early 70s when I was back in Roanoke. Soon there were other pizza places or restaurants that served pizza.

Bananas and oranges: We had these year round. Fresh oranges were the source for orange juice, which Mama squeezed herself using this juicer. (I mentioned it on my post "Old Things" a few years ago.)

We also sometimes sucked on oranges that had a hole cut in the top. After we'd sucked out the juice, we peeled apart the skin and ate the remaining pulp. A little messy, but good. I saw fresh pineapple in the grocery store, but usually we had the rings that came in a can. Mama made good pineapple upside down cake with those rings.

Chips: Yep, they were plain. The best ones I remember from my childhood were fresh off the conveyor belt at the Lay's Potato Chip Company on Williamson Road. I'd gone there with my daddy when I was about five. The man grabbed a paper bag, scooped up a bagful of still hot chips, and handed them to me. I ate them on the way home. When I was in junior high and high school, a handful of chips wrapped in wax paper was in my lunchbag every day.

Oil and fat: Mama fried food in Crisco, which was supposed to be an improvement on lard. I don't remember oil until "vegetable oil" came along later. I never used olive oil until 10 or 15 years ago. Now it's a staple in my kitchen.

Other stuff: Mama made tea from Lipton tea-bags, we never had sugar cubes (way too posh for us!), and I'd never heard of yogurt until I was an adult. I'd heard of  people eating "shish-kebobs" on TV shows, but we never had any.

I never heard of broccoli, brussel sprouts, or cauliflower until I was in college—where I also discovered blueberry pie and tuna casserole. I ate my first zucchini in 1971 and my first eggplant a few years later. I don't think I ate a bagel until the 80s. Food we ate was limited to what grew in our garden or what was easily obtainable. Mama and Grandma always had gardens and canned their surplus. Here's a 1932 picture of Grandma in her garden on Watts Avenue in 1932:

Our main vegetables in the 40s and 50s were potatoes, corn, green beans, tomatoes, peas, lima beans, cabbage, and yellow squash. Potatoes were rarely baked, most often sliced into round slices and fried. Squash was sliced and fried, too. Sometimes we had fried okra. Most lunches and suppers year round featured at least two—and sometimes all three—of the following veggies: potatoes, corn, and green beans.

Besides canning tomatoes, corn, and green beans, Mama canned chow-chow, pickles, sauerkraut, and pickled beets, but I didn't like those as a kid. Consequently, I didn't have much variety in my meals.

For meat, we had chicken (always fried, never baked), beef-steak (which was pounded with a hammer-like tool to tenderize it) and then dipped in flour before it was fried, salmon cakes (always fried), hot dogs (always boiled) with a piece of bread wrapped around it for a bun, ham (slices were fried; a whole ham was baked), and—at Thanksgiving or Christmas—a turkey, which was baked. The turkey was never stuffed; dressing (never called "stuffing") made from white bread was served as a separate dish. Once in a while, we might have fried fish. Sometimes we ate canned Spam (fried, of course) or bologna (pronounce "baloney" sandwiches. We never ate lamb or duck or lobster or shrimp. We might have oysters—dipped in cornmeal and fried—once or twice during the winter.

Most food was made from scratch, the exception being canned soup which was just re-heated.

Bread was white sandwich bread—usually Merita. No one ate brown bread or bread with "whole grain" in it. Sometimes there were biscuits at breakfast or rolls at dinner—especially after "brown and serve" rolls becme available. Once in a while, there'd be homemade "light rolls" which were crusty on top and bottom but soft inside. They were wonderful. I blogged about Grandma's light bread recipe a decade ago on this blog post.

We didn't eat a big variety of foods in the 50s, but we didn't go hungry.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Cutting Corn 2017

Across the nation bad things are happening—floods in Texas, wildfire in Montana and other states out west, the threat of deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.

In my neighborhood, about all that's appening is corn being cut for silage. The field across from me was cut yesterday. Last week ago, the GMO corn (which needs an application of Round-Up to grow) towered over the road.

Yesterday, the cutting began.

I'd been taking a nap when the rumbling of a tractor and trucks woke me up. A truck pulls alongside the tractor that's cutting the corn.

When the truck is full, it moves away and another takes its place.

Meanwhile the tractor keeps moving. So does a truck.

And the pattern repeats. Over and over. . . . 

By evening, most of the field is bare.

Silage blown off from the over-filled trucks litters the road.

Today, except for a few stalks that the tractor missed, the field is bare.

Except for a few buzzards that glean any little critters killed in the harvest.

This corn silage will be used to feed the cattle at a big dairy farm down the road. Of course, traces of  the glyphosate needed to grow the genetically modified corn will end up in the milk

And it will end up in the milk drinkers, too.