alcohol, Appalachia, Cabell County, Democratic Party, education, Election of 1856, Enon Church, Falls of Guyan, From Youth to Old Age, history, James Buchanan, John C. Fremont, Lincoln County, politics, Republican Party, Salt Rock, Saton Rowsey, schools, Thomas H. Perry, Tylers Creek, West Virginia
About 1910, Rev. Thomas H. Perry reflected on his long life, most of which was spent in the vicinity of Tylers Creek in Cabell County, West Virginia. In this excerpt from his autobiography, Mr. Perry recalled the 1856 presidential election as it occurred near the Falls of Guyan and his early education:
When I was eleven years old I went to my first election; in 1856. James Buckhanan [sic], democrat, and John C. Fremont, republican, were the candidates for president, and as I could not vote, I did not take much interest in politics. I wanted to see how and what they did at elections.
The election was held in a store building, two miles below the falls of the Guyan river, now Lincoln county. The first thing I noticed was a barrel of whiskey standing upon a large tree, the head of the barrel being out, and large tin cups were hanging on nails that were driven into the side of the barrel. The whiskey was free for everybody and strange to say, but one out of that three or four hundred men who drank that whiskey that day, was drunk, and he thought he would die, and he began to beg the people to pray for him. Some said: “Let him died; a man that would make a dog out of himself and get drunk because the whiskey was free, was not fit to live.” But one man said: “I will pray for him.” He kneeled by the side of the drunk man and shut his eyes and raised his hand. I thought I never heard such a prayer in all my life as that man offered for the drunk man. It made me tremble to see the drunk man and hear the other men pray. During the prayer I resolved that I would never get drunk, which vow I have kept to this day. I never saw but few drunkards in my boyhood days. They were considered a low class of people, and ruled out of society. In those days the surplus peaches and apples were made into brandy, and as you could buy pure whiskey for twenty-five cents per gallon by the barrel, it was so cheap and plentiful the people did not have such a craving for it. In my neighborhood it was generally used in moderation. It was not the great evil of the day as it is now. The great evil of intemperance, in my opinion can only be overcome by freedom and moral suasion.
As I do not want to lose sight of the election: I went to the end of the store house where there was a window and a voter came to the window and took his hat off and gave his name to commissioners of the election. Commencing at the head of the ticket, one of the judges asked the voter who he would vote for, clear through the ticket. So we all knew who the voter voted for, from one end of the ticket to the other. I like that way of voting as there are less frauds in elections held that way than there are with the secret ballot. I think it was in 1856 a Mr. Howard made up a large school and taught it in Enon church. Mr. Howard had a great name as a teacher and the young people came for miles to this school.
The commissioners contracted with Mr. Howard to teach in this school the poor children of the district. This did not please some of our young people. They said this would be going to school with paupers, but when they found that the law of Virginia required the teacher who received the free school fund to teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, English, grammar, geography, state and U.S. history and the elements of physical science, and such other higher branches as the school might direct, they saw if Mr. Howard could teach all these branches he was a good scholar and they said nothing more.
Mr. Saton Rowsey was our next teacher. He was said to be a hustling teacher. In my ten years schooling before the war I had seven teachers, in the three years after the war, three teachers–ten in all. Dr. Bias taught the last school I attended. He was about twenty years old and I was about thirty. He was considered a fine instructor. He is now practicing medicine in the west. I always felt that pupils should have the greatest respect for their teachers.
Source: From Youth to Old Age by T.H. Perry, Chapter 3, p. 11-12. Note: At the time of the 1856 presidential election, Cabell County yet remained a part of Virginia.