STAPLETON REPORT 1932 November “It is such a nice day let us make some visits on Coyle Branch ….”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Dr. Ida Stapleton and Rev. Robert Stapleton

Line Fork 1927 – 1947

“It is such a nice day let us make some visits on Coyle Branch  ….”

TAGS: Dr. Ida Stapleton report 1932 November, Line Fork Settlement, Coyle Branch, Gilley KY, horses, community people, Thanksgiving, moonshine, food, Grace Nettleton Home, chivaree



Gilley P O Kentucky November 1932

Dear Friends:-

It is such a nice day let us make some visits on Coyle Branch which empties into Line Fork down by Gilley post office.  Seldom do horses or mules go up the stream bed but a year ago, when I was expected to attend little Martha at the Eagle’s Nest, John, her husband, did considerable work to make the Branch more passable for Swallow.  Even so, I always think how rough it is whenever I visit there.  At the head the ravine narrows and the water is only a trickle as it runs over a bench of rock with a ten foot drop.  John is minded to make a water mill right there and has already made a rock wall to retain the water and force it down a trough to the tiny mill house below.  Since I was there last May he has built quite a substantial log barn to take the place of the rock house where formerly the cow and mule were stabled.  Another rocky half acre has been grubbed over, which is to be planted to fruit trees.  From where I leave Swallow it is some climb to the Eagle’s Nest.  We can see the children on the porch and Martha herself hurrying to the house from the garden patch that slopes steeply down to the barn.  She has been busy planting the potato onions for next Spring.  They were beginning to sprout so to save them at all they had to be planted now.  Ernest her twelve year old brother had ploughed the place for her while John was over the mountain raising coal for a neighbor in exchange for a hog.  Martha says they have been expecting me every pretty day at least hoping I would come. Gerty sidles up to me with a sweet smile while Bet is as shy as ever but little Melvin (suck-a-thumb) isn’t a bit shy.  Baby Addie, dimples, Harrison and Ruth Ann Martha’s younger brother and sister are here chasing each other around the steep house yard and down into the onion patch to run the cow out.  They live with their father and stepmother, Zion of the golden hair at the Hawk’s Nest – a quarter of a mile down the branch but almost as high up on the hillside.  Martha shows how the upper room has been finished so she could paper it and the big tail-less donkey was pasted over the paper so the children can play the game of pinning on the tail blindfolded.  John has not succeeded in getting a window in a sash but he removed the wind-shield from an abandoned car and put that in between the boards so one room has a little light when the wind blows so hard the door must be shut.  John has raised coal for another neighbor and received two bee-gums as pay.  He will tie a cloth over the end of the hive (a hollowed out log from the black-gum tree – hence called bee-gum) and then carry it up to the Eagle’s Nest on his shoulder.

Floyd and Zion made some improvements also.  New palings were pushed out a yard or so leaving the path too narrow and close to the fence to ride along it so I have to go along the Branch.  They have a coal bank near the Crow’s Nest where Mary and blue-eyed Henry began their house-keeping with nothing much besides “a cup, a spoon and a trencher”.  They had a bench on which two could sit but not one chair. After they left, the cabin was pulled down leaving the chimney standing like a monument to mark the place. Floyd was recently baptised into the Old Baptist (Regular) church which meets once a month in Coyle Branch school house. Zion would not join because she could not leave off cussing long enough.

Descending thru the forest we come to the bottom of the Branch and up there hanging in the air almost is Hill-side House that Charlie has built for Belle.  It had no chimney last year.  Belle got frightened it would blow over when the wind was strong, so she went home to her mother’s on Stony Fork.  This Summer Charlie got to work and built a chimney and managed to get a grate for one side.  Belle raised a gang of chickens to help pay for a second hand kitchen stove on the installment plan.  While she was away the other day Floyd’s cow got in the yard and pulling the hay from the hens’ “nestes” under the porch ruined the eggs, laid by these hens, which she had hoped to bring to the Cabin on Wednesday.  “Hens are not laying at present tho’ it seems like they will soon, as their combs are all getting red.”  Charlie is cutting out some rocks to make the Branch go in another channel so he can build a barn where it is now.

Just a hundred yards or so away is Johnny, Charlie’s brother and his wife Polly with their children in Branch House.   Johnny has recently become a member of the Old Regulars also and is reading his bible assiduously.  He said he read it nine hours at a stretch the other day, but did not try to listen five minutes when Mr S was reading a portion at his father’s home where we had accepted an invitation to eat spare ribs.

Polly has raised a flock of ducks, thirty in all, to pick the feathers for a feather bed for Edny’s and Rita’s bed.  The children were needing shoes badly.  Edny and Elmer could not go to school so Polly came to the Cabin to ask us to order the shoes for her and she would pay for them with eggs when the hens begin to lay.  I said I was expecting to take the eggs from Belle but is she could dress a duck every Wednesday for me for the next six weeks I’d order the three pair of shoes she needed.  The shoes came the day before Thanksgiving and we had the first duck at our Thanksgiving dinner.  Polly tho’t I would not want to take it as it had a little crook in the back bone.  She tho’t it was so nice she would like to dress one for her family if she had time.

That Wednesday the Coyle Branch school had invited the Trace Branch school, four miles distant, to a spelling match and a picnic dinner.  The teachers provided cocoa and cookies.  Some of the children brought milk to which water was added to make the kettle full.  This was cooking on the coal stove while the spelling was going on.  After Coyle Branch had out spelled the visiting school all filed out to the playground where the food was arranged on the school room tables moved out into the yard.  The mothers set to work serving biscuits and chicken or dumplings to every child and then they returned for sweet taters, cake, pie or whatever was left.  The big kettle and tin cups went down from the Cabin and the children at least had a warm drink. As a chicken bone or broken biscuit was dropped, a hungry dog picked up what a big fat hog did not get. Not many scraps were left in the kettle or in the dishes. Hungry little boys and girls spooned out the small crumbs of dumplings and gravy from the bottom of the kettles so Sara Jane would not have to carry anything home.

We made a Thanksgiving service at the Bear Branch school and invited the parents.  But it was such a fine day that two-thirds of them had to finish getting in their corn.  We went in time to see all the children and as they assembled in twos and threes I played bouncing ball with them until the little ones came, then I had two circles leaving the Middlings to play by themselves while I played with the four and six year olds at toss and catch using a big light ball for that purpose.  They tho’t it was great fun to play with “Grannie Stapleton.”  Several of the children had learned poems and psalms. All sang a number of songs Mr Stapleton had taught them.  I had a beautiful story about Melinda and Michel Mouse for the children who listened on tip toe.  Michel kept saying Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow while Melinda insisted Thanksgiving Day is to-day.  Finally after the matter had been referred to Aunt Betsey Mouse, who was much respected by all the Mouse family, they compromised by agreeing that Thanksgiving day was every day but one day in the year it was spelled with a capital T.

Just for a treat we carried a big basket of walnut-drop cookies that Grannie S had made.  These were passed round along with some rosy apples to the forty-five men, women and children who were present.  Martha Ann invited us to dinner but we tho’t we would better come home to our duck and cranberries.  Bert had Mrs Wright and six children at her house.  Neely who made out to call there said they had a good dinner – better than she could get up for anyone in these times.  During the afternoon Bert cut out and sewed a simple dress for Mrs Wright.  She is the Holiness preacher’s wife and seems very sweet and gentle with her children and neighbors.  They have recently moved to a new log house up on Bear Branch above Frank Hall’s.  They chose a rainy day to move their “house plunder” so she had a time washing the mud out that had splashed up on the low sled which had been used to drag the things thru the rocky Jake’s Creek bed then over the  mountain, thru the forest to Bear Branch and then up another small creek to “hit’s” head.

A mile up Jake’s creek live our most persistent moonshine family and the young married daughter seems to be the most determined vendor of their product. She often goes at night. Two weeks ago she went to catch the nag without a bridle or saddle. She succeeded in mounting the beast, her tipsy brother helping her on while advising her not to do it. She had gone only a few rods when the animal bolted throwing her violently against the rocks thus breaking one leg below the knee and injuring the other ankle. There was much trouble in store for them all. However after giving first aid, they got the brothers and kin-folks together and carried her to Pine Mountain Infirmary where Dr [Kenneth] Gould set the leg and she was cared for while there by the nurse Mrs Baird for ten days.  She is now at home again. I visit her occasionally and got Bert to go and give them a day’s work of cleaning and washing as Mary the Grandmother has the four little children to look after. The six month old baby had to be put on a bottle at once but seems to be thriving all right.

I asked Janey why she dared to do a thing like that. “Oh, I was in a hurry and didn’t think,” was her reply. She will have a long time to think now.  I took her some magazines and I read to her and Mary the very appropriate story of “Granny’s Blessing.”  It runs thus, “Dear Lord, Bless this food. I thank Thee for it. Help me to get moonshine outn our mountain. Amen.”  Janey’s cheeks glowed red but Mary only reckoned it turned out very well. In that story the moonshiner came to death’s door with pneumonia and Granny Jenkins nursed him to life and repentance. He ceased his nefarious traffic.  So we are praying that this accident may help to get moonshine outn our mountains.

Some gang of our young men – ruffians – passed up the Fork a few evenings ago, yelling and shooting off their guns. Upon coming opposite to Denver’s house they began shooting the chickens from their roosts on the apple tree limbs. Two of the boys had been paid fifty cents each by their aunt to buy a hat. But before they spent the money they put it up as a target and bent the coins so bad as they shot at them they had to pound them out straight before they could spend them. Later Everett came to the Cabin wearing his new cap. He desired a book to read.

One day Finley began to quarrel with Neely and she said “I don’t aim to quarrel with you” and with that she rushed out, picked up the axe and started up the mountain to find some fatty pine.  While she was cutting a piece out of a rotted trunk Finley came up with a switch and beat her around the legs and told her to get along home and look after her baby. While saying this he threw the pine every which way. She showed me the black and blue welts on her legs while telling me of the affair but she added triumphantly “I didn’t quarrel and I wasn’t mad. I reckon it was the joy of the Lord in my heart.”  She brought a thank offering of the pine all split up into neat little splinters to send to Grace Nettleton Home, Harrogate, Tenn where Miss Jackson has been caring for her two little girls since these three years.  She continues to be so grateful for her chance to visit them and recalls the words she heard spoken at the State WCTU at Middlesborough.

One of our young men who came home from the Federal prison at Atlanta a few months ago said to his mother, “I’m thirty-one. Don’t you think I’m old enough to get married?”  She replied, “No I don’t and if you wait till you are forty, you won’t want to.”  However Mary Jane was willing and that very day Henry went for a license and they were married at the local preacher’s on Line Fork where she met him on his way back from the county seat. As they were returning home the mule took fright and bounced them both off on to the ground just opposite her mother’s home.  Mary Jane was bruised so badly she remained at her mother’s while Henry came on home. I was calling there the next day when Lawrence the brother of Henry brought Mary Jane to the house. Martha received her as casually as tho she had lived there for “allers.”

Henry was keeping out of sight as his boon companions had promised to ride him on a rail and duck him as he had done to one of them when he was married a few years ago. Henry said he did not mind the rail but he would not have the ducking. It seems that this ceremony must be done the first day or two after the wedding or not at all. Something in the nature of a chivari.* Mary Jane becomes, at once, a daughter of the house and assumes the daily duties as a daughter would. In this house, there are already a plenty of feather beds and eleven geese to provide more feathers as needed.

And now we are at the beginning of Christmas.  The children are already looking forward to the Christmas tree and asking if Santa Claus will bring them a doll, a watch or some little pretties.

Sincerely yours

Ida + Robert Stapleton

Please share this with Miss Kingman + Miss Conn if you think she would care for it.

*The term “chivaree” [also chivarii, charivari]  is from the old French [charivari]  custom of celebrating a marriage by banging and clanging pots and pans together to produce a discordant noise. It is not surprising to find it used in the Appalachians as many of the families were descendants of French Huguenots.

** Transcription by Gretchen Rasch.

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