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Allen B. Dingess, Alleyne Dye, Appalachia, Ashland, Battle of Blair Mountain, Cabell County, Caroline Dingess, Cattaraugus County, Ceredo, coal, Democratic Party, genealogy, Hannah Mitchell, Henry Street Settlement, history, Huntington, Illinois, Kentucky, Leo Frank Drake, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Mollie Drake, New York, Republican Party, Springfield, Wayne County, West Virginia
Mollie (Dingess) Drake, daughter of Allen B. Dingess and Caroline (Jackson) Dingess, was born on June 30, 1881 in Logan County, WV. She was the wife of Leo Frank Drake, a salesman. She appears in the 1910 Wayne County Census (Ceredo District). Hannah Mitchell profiled her life in the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, on December 30, 1921. Her husband died in 1925. In 1930, Mollie lived at Springfield, IL. In 1940, she made her home in Cattaraugus County, NY. Mrs. Drake died on July 7, 1958 at a nursing home in Huntington, WV.
It would be easy enough to make a melodramatic start and give her some such extravagant title as “The Angel of the Hills” or “The Mother of the Mines” or “The Florence Nightingale of Blair Mountain.” But if you did and Molly Dingess Drake found it out she might laugh and she might make some sharp remark, but most certainly she would not be pleased.
How she escaped the “war correspondents” who were rushed to the front to cover West Virginia’s recent mine war is more than I can say, for the story is still told of how Molly, like “Sheridan twenty miles away,” when the armed miners were marching on Logan, made all haste not toward safety, as she might very wisely have done, but back to where the bullets were flying.
Her narrowest escape from the feature pages of newspapers was several years ago–two, in fact–when, a woman of some two score years, she was graduated from high school with her sixteen-year-old daughter. That graduation and the attendant high school diploma were in no sense honorary affairs given out of respect for Molly Dingess Drake. They had been earned by this very determined, ambitious woman of the hills after four years of high school work, in which she had enrolled along with her daughter and for which she had attended classes faithfully and with classmates half her age.
On pay day Mrs. Drake is a welfare worker for one of the coal companies operating in the Logan field. Having finished her high school course, she did not go on to college with her daughter. And, as she puts it, one of the coal producers “knew she wouldn’t sit at home and knit and crochet.” So he offered her the job of visiting nurses among the employees of his company. In this job Mollie mothers a large family. It is composed of men and women much older than she and of the children of these older children. True to the mother-type anywhere, she makes their individual troubles, their health, their happiness, a very personal matter.
There was the young Spaniard who lay in the hospital after a severe accident. No friends or relatives rallied to his bedside, and the doctors and nurses could not understand him when he moaned out a word or two in his native tongue. Mollie Drake scoured the hills for an interpreter and found one. She also dug up a cousin of the unfortunate boy. Moreover she made the lives of nurses and doctors miserable until the lad was out of danger, sometimes calling at the hospital late at night to see how the boy was getting on. Was not this foreign born lad one of her children?
It was not the Mollie Dingess Drake, ready to face danger along with other brave women of Logan county when armed miners were marching upon their homes, that interested me most, as you may have guessed already. The World War is too recent proof that American women are not afraid to risk their lives for a cause. It is Mollie Drake and the work of her hands when peace broods over her native hills that make her a woman among women.
Mrs. Drake is a mountain woman herself. She knows the desires, the needs and the hopes of the women and children who live in her hills; in a double sense she is working among her own people.
No serious-minded killjoy is Mrs. Drake, but a large motherly woman with a great capacity for fun and for seeing the human side of things.
It is a common statement among traveling salesmen that they live in a Pullman; Mollie Drake might say she lives in a day coach. Her headquarters are in Logan, and much of her time is spent in riding to and from the little mining towns along the branch lines out of Logan.
Her trips are taken to visit the homes of miners, and no place is too remote for her to visit. Her energy in tramping about and the speed with which she walks over the hills is enough to make a younger woman gasp for breath and all but beg for quarter. That from one who knows.
We started out of Logan one morning on the 10 o’clock train.
Before the train started we were part of the social gathering which greets the all-too-few passenger trains that come into Logan. Mollie Dingess knew everybody.
Arrived at the mining center, our first visit was to the schoolhouse, a substantial two-story building, in front of which were all the latest playground devices for amusing the modern child. The teachers were young and efficient in their schoolroom manners. In Logan county the schools have the advantage of extra good teachers because after the school board has voted what it can afford for salaries the coal companies make up the deficit needed to attract the best.
It was then I learned of Mrs. Drake’s unusual high school career.
“You know I have a high school education,” she remarked as we left the school and strode (at least Mrs. Drake strode) along the dirt road.
“As a girl I went to school till I was thirteen. In the teens I took up nursing and later was married. But I always wanted more education. Sometimes it is the persons who are denied education appreciate it most. Well, when my daughter was ready for high school I decided that I would get my high school education too–not by following her studies at home (I knew that wouldn’t do), but by enrolling in high school with her.
“Some of my friends thought it was an absurd idea. They said I could enroll in college for special courses or take correspondence courses. But the idea of my going to school right along with my daughter and the other young people seemed queer to them. I suppose it was unusual. But what I wanted was a regular education. So I enrolled and went through the four years of high school and was graduated in the same class with my daughter.”
“And how did your daughter feel about it?”
“Oh, she had her young friends and took part in school activities just the same.” Again the twinkle behind the glasses. “It may be that she studied harder than she would have.” I had no doubt of that.
“She is in college now,” continued Mrs. Drake. “When her grades aren’t has high as I think they ought to be she sends them to her father, but a man can’t keep such things secret, and I always find out. She knows I haven’t much patience with students who don’t keep up their grades.
“My daughter is going to be a physician. She didn’t make up her mind until after she entered college. I was rather anxious to know what she would choose. After she started studying biology she was so interested that she decided to go on and study medicine.”
It occurred to me that Mollie Drake was a feminist. I wondered if she had ever been a suffrage worker.
“No,” she answered. “I’ve always been a Democrat, though. My husband says I am what is called ‘a mean Democrat.'”
She paused and then laughed. “I made one rule when I was married. You see, Mr. Drake is a Republican. Well, I told him that if I married him he must keep just one rule. I knew our marriage would be a success if he did. And of course I promised to keep it too. The rule was that we should never talk politics. We never have and we’ve been very happy.
“Of course I voted at the last election, and much good it did so far as the Presidency was concerned. But someway I didn’t care so much for the voting. I’m old-fashioned in many ways. I was brought up in a strict way and I don’t like to hear about folks playing cards on Sunday. I suppose it isn’t wicked, but I can’t get over my bringing-up. And I never take a needle in my hand on a Sunday, only when I just have to mend something, that I don’t feel kind of guilty.”
Our conversation had been interspersed with visits to various miners’ homes, mostly where there were babies. Mrs. Drake’s philosophy had been punctuated by advice on babies and friendly comment upon the little interests of the women we visited. If we weren’t inspecting a baby we were talking with some elderly woman over a fence about her latest “misery.”
As we climbed the trails I was tired, but Mrs. Drake seemed as energetic as when the day began.
“I like the work,” she said, “but I want to study more. Last summer I took a course in New York, and I’d like to go back there for a second at the Henry Street Settlement. I want to study languages, too. There are so many things I want to do.”
Some day I have not a doubt she will do these things she wants to do. In the meantime I think of her in connection with the verse: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do.”
Source: “The Florence Nightingale of Blair Mountain,” Logan (WV) Banner, 30 December 1921.
To see Mrs. Drake’s photo and entry at Find-A-Grave, follow this link: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=20145994
Mrs. Drake’s daughter, Alleyne Howell Dye, died of suicide in Ashland, KY, in 1944. For her death record, follow this link: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9YV-H7M5-H
To see Mrs. Dye’s photo and entry at Find-A-Grave, follow this link: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=20146072
From the Huntington Advertiser of Huntington, WV, we find the following story dated October 31, 1899:
Tonight is Halloween and the small boy, as well as many of the larger ones, are happy. Girls ditto.
The lads and lassies, particularly of Scotland and Ireland, and the young people of Wales and England, as well as the youth of this and other countries, have for centuries hailed the night of Halloween, the last night in October, as prophetic.
The first ceremony of Halloween among the Scotch is the pulling of a stock or plant of kale. All the company go out and with eyes closed each pulls the first plant of this kind he or she is able to lay hold of. It being big or little, straight or crooked, is prophetic of the size, shape, and other characteristic of the grand object of all the Halloween spells–the husband or wife. If any earth remains clinging to the root, that signifies fortune, and the state of the heart of the stem, as perceptible to the taste, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition of a future spouse.
Burning nuts is a famous Caledonian charm. Two hazel nuts, sacred to the witches, one bearing the name of the lad and the other the lass, are laid in the fire side by side and accordingly as they burn quietly together or start away from one another so will be the progress and issue of the courtship.
Certain forms must be observed to insure the success of a given spell and in the following one there must be no departure from the formula: A maiden should steal out, entirely alone to the kiln, and throw into the pot a ball of blue yarn, holding fast to the end. She should then begin winding the yarn until it resists, whereupon she should demand, “Who holds this yarn?” An answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, naming the Christian and surname of her future spouse.
Another test is for her to take a candle and going, alone by its light only stand before a mirror and eat an apple. Some traditions say one should comb one’s hair instead of eating the apple. The conditions of the spell being perfect, a shadowy face supposed to be that of the maiden’s future husband will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over her shoulder.
Another Scotch ceremony into which the uncanny largely enters as an element is described as follows: One or more go out, as the case may be (for this is a social spell), to a south running spring or rivulet where “three lairds’ lands meet” and dip the left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire and bang the wet sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake watching carefully, and about midnight an apparition having the exact figure of the grand object in question will come and turn the sleeve as if to dry the other side of it.
An interesting Halloween divination that solves matrimonial doubt and banishes uncertainty is accomplished by arranging three dishes upon the hearth. Into the first is put clean water, into second clouded or muddy water, while the third is left empty. The candidate is securely blindfolded and led to the hearth where the dishes are. The left hand is dipped and if by chance it be in the clean water the wife that is to be will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the muddy water, a widow; but if in the empty dish it foretells with equal certainty no marriage at all. This ceremony is three times repeated, the arrangement of the dishes being each time changed.
Ducking for apples and the attempt to secure by means of the mouth only an apple balanced upon a stick suspended from the ceiling upon the end of which is placed a lighted candle provokes much laughter and no little spirited competition.
For a girl to know if she will marry within the year she must obtain a green pea pod in which are exactly nine peas, hang it over the door, and if the next man guest entering be a bachelor her own marriage will follow within twelve months. This spell is sometimes tried at other times than Halloween, but the conditions then are generally considered less favorable.
Three small rings should be purchased by a maiden during the period of a new moon, each at a different place. She should tie them together with her left garter and place them in her left glove with a scrap of paper cut heart-shaped on which her sweetheart’s name has been written in blue ink. The whole should be placed under her pillow when retiring Halloween and she will dream of her sweetheart if she is to marry him.
The future is sometimes prognosticate on Halloween by candle omens. If a candle burns with an azure tint it signifies the presence or near approach of a spirit or gnome. A collection of tallow rising against the candlestick is styled a winding sheet and is deemed an omen of death in the family. A spark in the candle denotes that the observer will shortly receive a letter.
Two cambric needles are named on Halloween and skillfully placed in a vessel of water. If they float, swimming side by side, the course of true love runs smooth for those they represent. If they sink both together, or if one sinks and the other floats, the persons named will not marry each other.
A printed alphabet is cut into its individual letters, which are placed in water faces downward. On the morrow the initial letters of the favored opposite will be found reversed.
Peel an apple so that the skin remains in unbroken sequence. Whirl this skin three times around the head so that when released it passes over the left shoulder and falls to the floor, assuming the initial letter of the chosen one’s name.
Many young girls fill their mouth with water on Halloween and walk or run around the block, being careful not to swallow the water or suffer it to escape from the mouth. If a girl succeeds in doing this the first man met on returning home will be her husband.
To ascertain one’s standing with a sweetheart select at random an apple and quarter it, carefully gathering the seeds from the core. According to the number found, the following formula is used: 1. I love; 2. I love; 3. I love, I say; 4. I love with all my heart; 5. I cast away; 6. He loves; 7. She loves; 8. They both love; 9. He comes; 10. He tarries; 11. He courts; 12. He marries; 13. Honor; 14. Riches.
At some of the American colleges for women it is customary to celebrate Halloween with straw rides, games, and an annual sheet and pillowcase party, where the illuminations are grotesque pumpkins containing candles, and where cakes containing mystic rings, beans, and a coin are served with the refreshments.
Source: “Hallowe’en Is Now Here,” Huntington (WV) Advertiser, 31 October 1899.
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From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, we find the following story dated April 17, 1914:
“GRANDMA” RAGLAND PASSES TO THE BEYOND
MATE OF MAJOR HENRY CLAY RAGLAND, EDITOR OF THE LOGAN BANNER FOR MANY YEARS, PLACED BESIDE HIM EASTER SUNDAY
Mrs. Lou Ragland, mother of the Buskirk family, of this region died last Friday a.m. at the home of her son, Robert W. Buskirk, in the Urias Hotel at Matewan, Mingo county. She had married Henry Clay Ragland, for a long time editor of the Logan Banner, after the death of her first husband, Urias Buskirk. By her first marriage she raised a most interesting family of sons and daughters who are still residing in this section. Mrs. Buskirk was a most remarkable woman in many respects. She had always lived an exemplary and Christian life and assumed her responsibilities after the death of her first husband with efficiency and diligence. She was true to friend and family and was a good and faithful mother and a loving wife. Through her long life she has retained the confidence and respect of all who knew her. We grieve with her relatives and friends at her death. She was near the ninety-two milestone when she died and had been sick only for a few days.
“Grandma” Ragland’s exact age was 91 yrs. 11 mo. 20 days; born on Blain creek, Lawrence county, Ky., May 1st, 1823. For 30 years a member of the Christian church.
On May 1st also (1911) Major Ragland died. He was born on May 7th, 1844; belonged to Co. B 5th Va. Cavalry; member of the Aracoma Baptist church.
Mrs. Ragland’s last request, to rest one night in her old bedroom–the present residence of Rev. Bradshaw–was complied with. This parsonage now becomes the property of the Baptist church, according to the terms of Major Ragland’s deed, at her death.
Her age indicates her wonderful physical endurance, and while she knew she must die soon, retained her usual discretion and fortitude. She made plans with her kindred as to where her last resting place should be and desired that none of her children and friends be troubled about her demise. Up to the last she kept her mind intact and conversed with those near to her.
The mother of the Buskirks has gone, we hope, to a happier sphere. Mother is the dearest friend on earth. We grieve at the bier of the departed with the bereaved, and shed a tear with them in their desolation as we think of our own dear mother. Our sympathies go out to the bereaved ones in the loss of their one best comforter, but we hope and continue to hope that we may meet again in the unknown hereafter.
On April 17, 1914, the Logan Banner offered a small additional item: “Among those in attendance at the funeral of ‘Grandma’ Ragland last Sunday were: B.B. Goings, Williamson; Jno. A. Sheppard, Huntington; G.B. Hamilton, Matewan; in addition to the sons of the deceased.”
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An unknown correspondent from Chapmanville in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on May 20, 1921:
Mrs. George H. Seagraves has returned from a visit with her husband’s relatives in Warren, Ohio. She is preparing for house keeping at Wilsondale.
Miss Rosa Stowers is convalescing from a severe attack of tonsilitis.
Miss Ida Garrett, who is working in Huntington, is spending the week with her parents here.
Most of the boys and some of the men were highly elated over the recent rains which caused a rise in the creek and gave them an excuse to “lay off” the spring work and go fishing.
Miss Kate Barker of Logan spent Saturday and Sunday with relatives here.
Dr. Stanley, veterinarian, of Logan made a professional visit to W.G. Willis’ Saturday.
P.D. Blevins of Logan spent Sunday with his mother here.
Mr. and Mrs. James Bryant of Russell, Kentucky, are visiting relatives here this week.
Lacy Browning, who is working at Logan, spent Sunday with his wife.
The wedding bells were ringing Sunday for two of our young folks. The bride was Miss Arda Jeffrey and the groom Mr. Herbert McKinney. The ceremony was performed at the home of the bride of Rev. W.D. Garrett.
Beecher Curry was calling on Miss Erie Blevins Sunday. It is our opinion that “Uncle Dyke” will be called upon to don his surplice again soon.
C.B. Hainor and family were visiting at J.D. Ball’s Sunday afternoon.
Lacy Ball of Jeffry was seen on our streets Sunday. He seemed to be all smiles. The reason: He was manipulating the “brand new” Ford, and had one of our best looking girls by his side.
Miss Erie Blevins was a charming hostess to a small party of her friends on Saturday night from eight to eleven o’clock. Chocolate fudge was served. Among the invited guests were Misses Eliza and Ella Garrett, Ida Garrett, Nora Stollings and Myrtle McKinney, Messrs. Stollie Hainor, Kyle Hill, Charlie Garrett, Beecher Barker and Henry McKinney. Everyone reported a nice time.
On last Sunday morning at ten o’clock some of the folks of the community under the leadership of Wallace Garrett and Robert Hainor met at the school house for the purpose of organizing a Sunday School. The first meeting of the school will be at 10:30 the 15th. Everybody welcome.
Kyle Hill of Logan was visiting Stollie Hainor Sunday.
Mrs. John Hunter was visiting her daughter Mrs. Opie Pridemore Sunday.
Best wishes for the Banner.