On June 4, 1937, the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, offered an interview with an elderly resident who recounted a terrible dry season in the Guyandotte Valley in 1881.
Guyandotte River between Harts and Ferrellsburg, Lincoln County, WV. June 2015.
Pioneer Citizen Recalls Dreadful Drought of 1881
Attorney J.E. (Ned) Peck Says Weather Was So Hot That Corn Was Hoed In Moonlight; Animals Died From “Black Tongue”
Attorney J.E. (Uncle Ned) Peck was in a reminiscent mood early this week as a result of the hot weather which preceded the storms yesterday and the day before.
While everyone else was complaining about the extremely hot weather coming so early in the spring. Uncle Ned contentedly maintained his usual tenor of life and kept himself cool with memories of the summer in 1881 when a drought of proportions such as have never been heard of before or since struck Logan county and lasted for four months.
Attorney Peck told how the weather became so hot that everybody hoed their corn by moonlight to keep the stalks from withering under the blazing sun which would begin to bear down at 7 o’clock each morning and increase in intensity until 6:30 in the evening when the mountain peaks would give some surcease from the bright yellow infernos of mid-day heat which surrounded everything in a furnace-like grasp.
Uncle Ned related that the banks of the Guyan were lined with animals from the hills, all enmity forgotten, staking their thirst side by side for days on end.
He was just 13 years old then, but he says he distinctly remembers standing in the yard of his home at Pecks Mill with his mother and counting more than a score of deer in a river bottom cornfield below the house.
Wild animals died like flies and a plague of “Black Tongue” ravaged the many herds of deer which roamed the mountains and river valleys of Logan county.
A total of 1500 deer died that summer, Uncle Ned said, and Albert Dingess, old resident of Harts Creek, found 101 deer, dead and dying, their tongues blackened and swollen from their mouths, packed, in a lick near his home.
Deer pelts sold for $4 each, but the flesh was inedible after the animal had died of the plague. Licks throughout the county were rancid with the smell of burning carcasses which had been skinned and stacked in huge piles to be made into pyres.
Water in Guyan river became so low that one could stop the flow over shoals with the hand, and his father had to slow corn meal production to one grinding a week at their grist mill, Attorney Peck said.
The only way that corn could be ground was to allow the dam which spanned the river to fill and then run the mill until the water was used. Then it would take another week for the dam to refill.
No persons died of heat in the county that summer and the crops were not materially damaged, though the toll on animal life was high.
When the leaves began to turn and light frosts added a crispness to the air, the animals started an exodus from the river valley back to their haunts along creeks and in dark hollows and Logan countians knew that the drought was ended.
With such an experience, and with the summer of 1881 in mind, it is easy for Uncle Ned Peck to say in all sincerity: “We’re having a mighty cool spring this year.”