From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, dated 2 November 1926, we find this story:
Remember the old song about “Old Dan Tucker”? And did you ever dance to the rollicking tune?
In the November number of the West Virginia Review there appears a sketch entitled “The Epic of Old Dan Tucker” written by Walter Barnes.
“Have the Review readers heard of the tales of Old Dan’s escapades, sung to the accompaniment of a rasping fiddle?” asks Barnes; and then he adds:
“A wonderful old man! He was a graceless rascal, no doubt. But a picturesque character, full of sap, scented with the soil, flinging himself into one amazing and amusing feat after another, ‘the talk of the country,’ and ‘the life of the party.’ The rhymes insist that he was a ‘fine old man’: well, he wasn’t fine and he didn’t act like an old man–he was rather what we call a regular fellow.
“Who was he? When and where did he live? I have no idea. Perhaps he lived in West Virginia in frontier and pioneer days. Tucker is probably a composite like Paul Bunyan. There may have been a real person by that name.”
Here are a few of the nine stanzas that Mr. Barnes has assembled:
OLD DAN TUCKER
Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man,
He washed his face in a frying pan,
He combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
And died with the tooth-ache in his heel.
Get out of the way for Old Dan Tucker.
He’s too late to get his supper.
Old Dan Tucker, he got drunk,
He fell in the fire and kicked out a chunk,
But he got ashes in his shoe,
And laws-a-massy how the fire flew!
Old Dan Tucker is a lovely man,
He swallowed a barrel of whiskey down,
The hoops flew off, the barrel did bust,
Away went Dan in a thunder gust.
Old Dan Tucker is a fine old man,
He tried to ride a Darby ram,
He rode him east, he rode him west,
He rode him into a hornet’s nest.
Old Dan Tucker went out one day
All alone in a one-hoss sleigh;
The sleigh was broke, and the hoss was blind,
And he had no hair on his tail behind.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 2 November 1926.
In late March of 1927, Charlie Conley, a prisoner in the Logan County Jail in Logan, WV, sent this poem or song to the Logan Banner, which it printed:
Come all of my companions
And listen to what I say
About the jail of Logan
In which I have to stay.
Hatfield is our sheriff,
But he hasn’t much to say.
But when George Hooker turns the key on you,
He means for you to stay.
There are men in here,
The jailer they would defeat.
But he keeps the key turned on ’em
And gives them heaps to eat.
There is the “bull-pen,”
Which no man likes at all,
Because it’s over-crowded
With no overflow in the hall.
They whoop and they holler
And you would think they are playing ball.
But when they go before Squire Conley
They pay for it all.
Appalachia, ballads, Clayton Buchanan, crime, history, John C. Elkins, John Harrington Cox, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Logan County Jail, Logan Court House, Market Square, Moundsville, music, West Virginia Folklore Society, West Virginia University
“Logan County Court House” or “Logan County Jail” is one of several songs written about events in Logan County, West Virginia. From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, dated 24 September 1926, we find this:
“For a dual purpose The Banner herewith reproduces one of the four known variants of the song entitled “Logan County Court House.” In the first place it should be of interest to those who have never read it or any similar version. Secondly, this paper is desirous of learning something about the authorship of the song.
“Who wrote it? And when and under what circumstances? Many a Banner reader may have some information on this matter which he or she should be willing to communicate.
“The variants of this song are reproduced in Prof. John Harrington Cox’s volume of ‘Folk-Songs of the South’ published last year. The following one was sent to that author, a member of the faculty of West Virginia University, by Miss Snoah McCourt, of Ornoff, Webster county, this state:
When I was a little boy, I worked on Market Square.
O’ money I did pocket, but I never did it fair.
I rode upon the lakes and learned to rob and steal,
And when I made a great haul, how happy I did feel.
I used to wear the white hat, my horse an’ buggy fine.
I used to court a pretty girl I always thought was mine.
I courted her for beauty, her love for me was great.
And when I’d go to see her, she’d meet me at the gate.
One night as I lay sleeping, I dreamed a mighty dream.
That I was marching down on the golden stream.
I woke all broken-hearted, in Logan County jail,
And not a friend around me for to go my bail.
Down came the jailer about ten o’clock,
And the key in his hand he shoved against the lock.
“Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner!” I thought I heard him say.
“You’re going around to Moundsville, seven long years to stay.”
Down came the jailer about ten o’clock,
And with the key in his hand he shoved against the lock.
“Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner!” I thought I heard him say,
“You’re going around to Moundsville, seven long years to stay.”
Down came my true love, ten dollars in her hand.
“O my dearest darling, I’ve done all that I can!
And may the Lord be with you, wherever you may go,
And Satan snatch the jury for sending you below.”
Sitting in the railroad, waiting for the train,
“I am going away to leave you, to wear the ball and chain.
I’m going away to leave you. Darling, don’t you cry.
Take a glass of whiskey and let it all pass by.”
A subsequent story printed on 28 September 1926, provided more information about the song’s history:
“Publication in last Friday’s Banner of the old ‘Logan County Jail’ song, with an inquiry as to its authorship, has brought a reward in the form of an interesting letter from John C. Elkins of the sheriff’s office. This letter reveals the name of the songwriter, and gives a glimpse into his life after his soul found a measure of relief in rime and rhythm.
“Doubtless many of those who last week read the song for the first time and others who re-read it with more or less eagerness will be interested and even pleased to learn that the prisoner escaped from jail and a long term at Moundsville: went west, reformed, and entered the ministry; then in the flickering twilight of his eventful life, he came back to die amid the mountains he loved so well.
“Here is the letter dated Sept. 27, which outlines the strange story:
“Question: Who was the author of the song ‘The Logan County Jail’?
“Answer: This song was composed by a Logan county boy whose childhood had been thrilled by the horrors of the war of 1861-65. His song tells the story of his life, his crime, his sentence, his thoughts of and goodbye to the girl he left behind, the invitation to take a glass of whiskey and let all worries pass by. He climbed the prison walls and made his escape into the west. There he became a minister. Some years later, broken in health, he returned to his native county and died about 20 years ago. The song was written 50 years ago and its author was Clayton Buchanan.
“To the Banner these revelations come with an irresistible appeal; and while thanking Mr. Elkins, the regret is expressed that he did not go into greater detail in unfolding this story–a story teeming with dramatic values.”
One additional story about the song appeared in the Banner on 5 October 1926:
“What the Banner has been publishing in recent issues relative to the authorship of the ‘Logan County Jail’ song has been read with interest by Prof. John H. Cox, head of the department of English, West Virginia University. It was from his book, ‘Folk Songs of the South,’ that this song was reproduced in these columns.
“From Prof. Cox the following letter dated September 30 was received by The Banner:
“This is to thank you for the clipping from The Logan Banner concerning the origin of the song, ‘Logan County Jail.’ It is very interesting and I have no doubt it is correct. I wonder if any records of Clayton Buchanan’s trial are in Logan County courthouse? I should like very much to have the details of the crime, the trial, the escape, and the death of this man for the files of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society, of which I happen to be the president, archivist, and general editor. Could you not prevail upon Mr. John C. Elkins either to write out or dictate to some stenographer all that he knows about the case and have it printed in The Banner? It would be a real worthwhile piece of work.
“You may be interested to know that I am at work on a second volume of West Virginia Folk-lore, a volume which we hope to make as interesting and valuable as the first. We shall be glad to have any material of any kind that may be found.
“John H. Cox
“34 Campus Driveway
“P.S. A transcript of the record in the courthouse, if there is one, would be especially valuable.”
Appalachia, Cain Adkins, Cain Adkins Jr., fiddler, fiddlers, genealogy, Grand Ole Opry, history, Lincoln County, Lincoln County Feud, Mariah Adkins, Matoaka, Mercer County, Mingo County, Mingo County Ramblers, Norfolk and Western Railroad, Raleigh County, West Virginia, Williamson, Winchester Adkins
Appalachia, Charley Adams, Clell Adams, genealogy, Grace Stollings, Hazel Stollings, history, Ida White, Jack Thompson, Linnie Conley, Linnie White, Logan Banner, Logan County, Odell Butcher, Oma Butcher, Opal White, West Virginia, Yantus
An unknown local correspondent from Yantus in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on July 23, 1926:
Here we come with some news of the past week.
Miss Linnie White has gone visiting up the line for a while. We miss her very much.
Wonder why Jack Thompson never visits Yantus any more? We sure would like to see him.
Mrs. Linnie Conley was visiting home folks last week.
Miss Oma Butcher seems down-hearted these days. Cheer up, Oma. Bernard will come back.
Clell Adams and Opal White were enjoying themselves Sunday.
Misses Hazel and Grace Stollings seem to be happy these days. Wonder what it is.
Miss Ida White and Odell Butcher were seen walking Sunday. They seemed to have a nice time.
Those at the dance were: Clell Adams, Opal White, Charley Adams, Hazel Stollings, Odell Butcher, and Ida White. All reported a nice time.
Daily Events: Lennie and her blues; Jack leaving Yantus; Ida W. and Odell out walking; Oma looking down-hearted; Clell out riding; Opal and her rouge; Odell and his smiles; Hazel and her lip stick; Grace and her new hose.
Albert Stone, Annie Elizabeth Hill, Appalachia, Big Creek, Billy Adkins, Boone County, Brandon Kirk, California, Carlos Clark, Chapmanville High School, Church of Christ, Civilian Conservation Corps, Ed Haley, education, Edward W. Hill, Ellis Fork, fiddler, fiddling, Frank Hill, genealogy, Great Depression, guitar, Hell Among the Heffers, history, Huntington, Johnny Hager, Lloyd Ellis, Logan, Logan County, Madison, Melvin White, North Fork, Pope Dial, Pure Oil Company, Seymour Ellis, Six Mile Creek, square dances, Stone School, tobacco, Vernon Mullins, Walter Fowler, West Virginia, Whitman Creek
On June 2, 2004, Billy Adkins and I visited Frank Hill. Mr. Hill, a retired farmer, bus driver, and store keeper, made his home on Ellis Fork of North Fork of Big Creek in Boone County, West Virginia. Born in 1923, he was the son of Edward W. and Annie Elizabeth (Stollings) Hill. Billy and I were interested in hearing about Mr. Hill’s Fowler ancestry and anything he wanted to share about his own life. We greatly enjoyed our visit. What follows is a partial transcript of our interview:
I was born April 22, 1923 up the Ellis Fork Road. When I was born there, we had a four-room Jenny Lind house. It was an old-timer: double fireplace that burned coal and wood, you know. My mother had eleven children and I was the last one. When she saw me, she give up.
I went to the Stone School, a one-room school just up Ellis Fork. My wife’s grandpa, Albert Stone, gave them land to build this school. It wasn’t a big lot – it might have been 300 feet square. We played ball there in the creek. We didn’t have much dry ground. Well, I went through the 8th grade around there. Arithmetic was my best subject. I had good handwriting, too. I thought I could go into the 9th at Chapmanville but they wouldn’t let me. They said I hadn’t took this test you were supposed to take as you left the 8th grade.
I walked a mile and six-tenths to school. We’d had bad teachers. They couldn’t get no control over the students. Dad got this old fellow from Madison and he said, “Now, I’ll give you ten dollars extra on the month.” I think the board paid fifty dollars a month. Back then, young men and women went to school. Twenty, twenty-five years old. They were so mean the teachers couldn’t hardly handle them. I had an older brother that was one of them. A teacher whipped a younger brother he had one day and he said, “Old man, wait till I catch you out. I’ll give you a good one.” And he meant it, too.
Little Johnny Hager was a fiddle player. He was a little man, never was married. And he never had a home. All he had was a little suitcase with a few clothes in it. He’d stay with people maybe a month or two and the way he paid his keep was he whittled out lids or fed their pigs and stuff like that. He’d stay there a month or two till he felt he’d wore out his welcome then he’d go to another house. He was a well-liked little guy. Us boys, we followed him wherever he went cause he could sure play that fiddle. He played one tune called “Hell Among the Heffers”.
We had a hard time in this world. You couldn’t buy a job then. I had a brother-in-law that worked for the Pure Oil Company in Logan that was the only man that had a public job in this whole hollow. People grew tobacco to pay their taxes and bills they had accumulated. It was terrible. I remember my daddy had a little barrel of little potatoes when spring come and this old fellow lived above us, he was a musician. His name was Carlos Clark. He’d come out of the coalfields in Logan and he lost his home. His wife was a cousin of mine. He was trying to teach me to play the guitar. I’d go there and she’d lead the singing and he’d pick the guitar and I’d try to play second. He give me eleven lessons for that barrel of potatoes.
We had two or three around here that went to work in the CCC camps. Lloyd Ellis from Whitman’s Creek was one of them and Seymour Ellis was another one from Six Mile. In his last days, that was all he wanted to talk about. They went plumb into California in the CC camps. Then war broke out and they just switched them camps over to the Army. The Army operated those camps anyhow. That’s why they was so successful. They had control over boys to teach them how to do things.
We got just as wild as any of them. Ed Haley used to come over here and play. The Barker family had a full band. Now, they could make the rafters roar. There was an old lady lived in here married to Walter Fowler who called the dances and there wasn’t a one of us really knowed how to dance but we put on a show anyhow. They had them in people’s homes. No drinking allowed but there was always a few that did. They always had a lot of good cakes.
It was mostly Church of Christ around here. The main preacher up here in these parts was Pope Dial from Huntington. I’ll tell you another one that came in here that followed him sort of was Melvin White. Vernon Mullins followed up years later when he preached in here. I remember the first sermon he ever preached was around here in the one-room Stone School. He established a lot of different churches in the country but that was the first one. He’d talk about how he started here, preached his first sermon. Every funeral he conducted on this creek, he’d tell that story.
A.D. Cook, Agness Whitman, Appalachia, Beulah Ballard, Blake Bentley, Broda Johnson, Chapmanville, Chapmanville Water Works Company, circus, Crawley Creek, Democrat, Dr. Ferrell, Ed Johnson, G.R. Claypool, genealogy, Gracie Johnson, Gracie Workman, Hazel McCloud, history, Huntington, Ike Jeffrey, Lee Jordan, Lillian Johnson, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Margaret Ballard, Marie Lucas, Mason Rowsey, Minnie Workman, music, Naaman Jackson, Nilla Lowe, Opa Johnson, Otto Shuff, Oza Workman, Pennsylvania, Pitt Branch, Pittsburg, Reva Childress, Ruby Blankenship, Sarless Ferrell, state police, Thelma Scaggs, W.J. Bachtel, Wattie Workman, West Virginia
An unknown local correspondent from Chapmanville in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on April 30, 1926:
Here we come with a rush and a roar Chapmanville more and more.
Misses Agness Whitman, Hazel McCloud and Nilla Lowe were out strolling Sunday afternoon.
Miss Ruby Blankenship of Huntington was visiting relatives of this place through the weekend.
Sarless Ferrell escorted Miss Inez Barker home from church Sunday night.
Misses Opa Johnson, Lillian Johnson, and cousin were out walking Sunday.
Miss Gracie Johnson, Broda Johnson, and Minnie Workman were visiting in Stone Branch Sunday morning.
Oza Workman hasn’t been calling on Miss Beulah Ballard lately.
Miss Gracie Workman made a flying trip to Logan Sunday evening.
Wonder who Miss Thelma Scaggs and Blake Bentley are getting along these days?
Wattie Workman was visiting home folks Saturday and Sunday.
Wonder why Biss Beulah Ballard is so downhearted these days. Cheer up, Beulah. He’ll be back.
Mason Rowsey was calling on Miss Margaret Ballard Sunday night.
We are glad to say that Miss Marie Lucas is able to get out.
Otto Shuff was visiting Ed Johnson Saturday night.
We are sorry to report the death of Mr. Ike Jeffrey.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Lee Jordan, April 26, 1926, a girl.
Miss Reva Childress was seen at church Sunday night.
Daily scenes: Thelma and her new dress; Broda and her new hose; Opal and her shingle bob; Lillian and her new dress; Margaret staying with Gladys; Carless going to see Inez; Susie and her spring coat; Tom and his prize; Beulah and her smiles; Gracie and her knickers; Wattie and his white hat; Minnie and her blues.
Naaman Jackson, G.R. Claypool, A.D. Cook, and W.J. Bachtel were here on business last Saturday.
Space will not permit a list of those politically ill, as we promised last week from this town.
It is reported they had an old fashioned head-skinning on Crawley’s Creek Sunday evening near the mouth of Pitt Branch.
Mrs. Burns, the district music teacher, left on Tuesday of this week for her home in Pittsburg, Pa.
Everything seemed to be in the clear here on Saturday night when the state police were here. Come again, boys. Better luck next time, we hope.
First meeting of the Chapmanville Water Works Co. was held last Tuesday. The time was mostly consumed by listening to appropriate estimated for material.
A goodly number of circus fans attended the circus at Logan Monday evening from this place.
Dr. Ferrell seemed to be the only Democrat here that got anything out of the last election. He has issued over $100 worth of pills to sick Democrats since the Supreme Court’s decision. Some of the boys though are convalescing.