Appalachia, Cabell County, Cook Humphrey, Craig Tolliver, Democratic Party, history, Huntington, Huntington Advertiser, John Martin, Kentucky, Morehead, politics, Republican Party, Rowan County, Rowan County Feud, sheriff, Solomon Bradley, West Virginia
From the Huntington Advertiser of Huntington, WV, dated July 2, 1887 comes this letter about the Rowan County Feud:
The Rowan County War.
The writer is not surprised that your paper of last week fell into the current of popular opinion and denounced the Toliver gang, of Morehead, Kentucky, as the guilty ones in the celebrated feud which has caused the killing of about thirteen persons. Later advices appear at least to throw doubt on the subject of who is really to blame. Let us see. Here is the Cincinnati Enquirer’s account of the origin of the trouble, taken from that journal of the 23d inst.:
“The beginning of the trouble dates from the August election of 1884, when Cook Humphrey, a Republican, was elected sheriff by a trifling majority. He was a young, spare-built man, fresh from the country, and unsophisticated in appearance and manner. Craig Toliver, at the head of a party of friends, declared that Humphrey should not serve as sheriff. On the evening of the election a row occurred. Pistols were drawn and used, and Solomon Bradley (Democrat), a friend of Toliver’s, was shot and killed. The killing was charged against John Martin, and Toliver swore to be avenged. Subsequently Floyd Toliver and Martin got into a fight and the former (Toliver, Democrat) was killed on the street. From this time it may be said that the Martin (Republican) and Toliver (Democrat) factions were organized in deadly array, both sides determined never to yield, one to the other.”
The analysis of the above is, that the Republicans, having carried the election, became more or less insolent towards the opposition, who were correspondingly depressed and sore over their defeat, and gave utterance to their disappointment, and Craig Toliver used a very foolish expression to the effect that the Republican sheriff elect should not be installed. It is probable that this was accompanied by charges of fraudulent voting on the part of the Republicans–at any rate it was not such an offense as to justify Martin, Republican, in shooting Sol. Bradley, a partisan of Toliver’s. Subsequently Floyd Toliver denounced Martin for having killed Bradley without sufficient provocation and in an unmanly way, and was himself shot by Martin on the instant. So that a war of extermination seems to have been inaugurated by the Martins and their Republican following, against the Bradleys and Tolivers and their Democratic following, and signalized by the cold blooded murder of two of the latter. If this is true, and the record seems to bear it out as true, then the Tolivers were simply defending themselves and their households and party friends against the tumultuous murder of the Martins and their Republican following.
The subsequent getting possession of the person of John Martin (already a double murderer) and his killing at the hands of the Tolivers, whose brother and friend he had slain, was in the nature of retribution, and justified by the circumstances. Later, killings on both sides followed from the hot blooded feud which these had aroused, and while some of them appear to have been barbarous in the extreme, yet they legitimately came of a war of extermination such as had been initiated by the Martins and responded to, and not by the Tolivers and their friends.
A prominent citizen of Cabell Co., now sojourning near the scene of the disorder, in Rowan County, says:
“I suppose the dispatches have told you the war news; how 300 Republicans succeeded in killing four Democrats; but the war has only begun. I hear, to-day, that the Democrats are organizing a company near —— to put down the mob at Morehead who did the killing. He is more than sanguine who thinks the trouble ended.”
Our fellow-citizen, on the ground in Kentucky, evidently thinks the late killing of the three Tolivers unjustified by the facts as they are known to him. Let us wait for the facts.
African-Americans, Appalachia, coal, Con Chafin, crime, Democratic Party, deputy sheriff, Don Chafin, E.T. England, guitar, Guyandotte River, Herald-Dispatch, history, Huntington, Ira P. Hager, John B. Wilkinson, Ku Klux Klan, lawyers, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, mine guards, O.J. Deegan, politics, prosecuting attorney, Republican Party, sheriff, timbering, W.C. Lawrence Jr., West Virginia
From the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, WV, comes this story printed by the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, dated October 30, 1914:
Republican Voters Driven from Co. by Gunmen
Deputy Sheriffs, Acting as Mine Guards, Are the Law and Enforcement Thereof.
Many Believe Martial Law Will be Sequel to Rule of Thugs.
Democratic schemes for the intimidation of Republican voters, for the prevention of a Republican victory in the state next Tuesday, whether by fair means or foul, have reached their climax in Logan county. If there is a place in West Virginia where lawlessness has succeeded law and order, where the persons chosen to enforce the law have initiated a system of rule by force and intimidation, a rule by force of clubs and pistols, a rule by thugs and gunmen, that place is Logan county.
A thorough investigation of conditions in Logan county today proves that the Ku Klux Klan in the south were mere pikers. There are men in Logan county who could beat them blindfolded.
The man, woman or child who would enjoy life–aye, who are willing to accept life or pass through Logan county, must be careful not to cross the paths of Sheriff Don Chafin and his force of about two hundred armed deputies.
And it can be truthfully said that the paths of these men extend to every nook and corner of the county. And several newly-made graves along the banks of the Guyandotte river and its tributaries shows who is the law and the enforcement thereof.
Several men have been shot, two negroes fatally, others have been clubbed and driven out of the county, women and children have been forced to flee clad only in their night-clothes, upon order of the Chafin deputies.
And all this because some Republicans desired to be registered in order that they might cast their votes for the Republican candidates next Tuesday.
Logan county is about to throw off the yoke of Democracy. The coal and lumber industries are rapidly being developed, and, as is always the case in progressive communities, the Republicans are making large gains.
If the voters of Logan county are allowed to cast their ballots as they desire, and those ballots are counted as cast, the Republican candidates will be elected.
If the conspiracy which has been formed by and in the interest of the Democrats is allowed to be carried out, the Democrats will continue in control of the county, the enforcement of law will be a mere joke and there will be probably a score added to the newly made graves along Old Guyan after next Tuesday.
Opinions vary as to what the outcome will be. Some believe that only martial law will prove a solution. Others are of the opinion that conditions will grow gradually worse and that the enforcement of law and order in Logan county will be a subject for investigation by the next legislature which convenes in January. Most certainly, if the threats of the Democrats are carried out, the Republicans are driven from the polls next Tuesday, the legislature will be asked to make a sweeping investigation and their findings will reveal conditions incredible in a civilized state.
Don Chafin is high sheriff of Logan county. His cousin, Con Chafin is prosecuting attorney. All the county officials are Democrats. Circuit Judge Wilkinson is a Democrat, though a man who wants the law enforced.
Sheriff Chafin, it is estimated, has about two hundred deputies. When he was elected, a part of his platform was that he would drive out the Baldwin mine guards from Logan county. No Baldwin men are known to be in this county now but these deputy sheriffs are known as mine guards. All of them are supposed to be armed with pistols, black-jacks and the usual weapons of gunmen. But few of them are licensed to carry such weapons and there is no trouble to find evidence that they have these weapons in violation of the law. Some of them are known to be ex-convicts and as such would not be licensed to carry revolvers, etc.
They shoot, club, slug and thug at will. But they are not arrested and imprisoned. For they are the law and the enforcement thereof.
Events of the past few weeks show the effectiveness of this organization of deputies and the way in which they operate. When the registrars were on their rounds registering the voters some of the deputies were on hand and even the Democratic registrars were afraid not to obey their orders. To go back further, they were on hand at the Democratic primaries and the Democratic nominees were the men of their choice and of that of their chief.
The Democratic registrars refused to register many Republicans, especially among the colored voters. When the county commissioners met to canvass the registration, four Republican lawyers State Senator E.T. England, Ira P. Hager, W.C. Lawrence, Jr., and O.J. Deegan, the latter being Republican county chairman, took the lead to see that Republicans entitled to vote were registered. One hundred colored voters were brought into Logan for examination and registration.
Threats have been made by deputies against the journeying of negroes to the court house, there to demand their rights, and the republican leaders realized there was danger.
The work before the county court was slow, as the democratic leaders challenged every step of the republicans. But eleven men were passed upon the first day, five of whom were registered, six turned down. That night the apparent cause for delay came. A colored family lived at Monitor, a mile from the court house. It was supposed that some of the negroes awaiting registration were there. This gave the conspirators a chance and the gunmen got busy.
Soon after dark a band of armed men raided the house, shot out the windows, fired bullets into bodies of two colored men, beat up others and drove a woman and child into the hills without giving them time to dress. The raiders said they were looking for “strange niggers.” As the result of that raid one colored man lies in an unmarked grave on the hillside and another is likely to join him soon. No “strange niggers” were in that house.
A colored man owned a cleaning and pressing establishment within a couple of squares of the court house. His windows were demolished and his place of business next morning looked as though a German siege gun had been turned on it.
A score of colored men awaiting registration were quartered for the night in the office of Senator England, and adjoining offices. About 11:30 o’clock at night some of the negroes were awakened by noises in the hallways and a sensation of not being able to breathe. They rushed to the windows and threw them open, but met with a shower of stones from the outside.
Piled on Senator England’s desk can be seen the stones hurled with force as is shown by the scars on the walls. Some of the stones were thrown from the court house steps.
No arrests were made. A grand jury was in session and Judge Wilkinson instructed the jurors to ferret out the dastardly assault and bring the miscreants to justice. But not an indictment resulted. It is no mystery in Logan as to who committed the deed. Any citizen not afraid to talk, and they are few, will name half a dozen deputy sheriffs as being in the party.
A telephone exchange girl next door to where some of the negroes were attacked made an outcry and was told that she would not be hurt if she kept still. She knows who told her to keep quiet, but would hardly give his name, probably not if she faced a jail sentence for contempt of court. It is not safe to talk in Logan county. “Don’t mention my name,” is what they all say when discussing the outrages.
A short distance from Logan is a construction camp. A large crowd of deputies raided the camp. One negro was playing the guitar and singing. No “strange niggers” were found there, but the one negro sang his last song. He, too, lies in an unmarked grave along the banks of Old Guyan. “Resisting arrest” was the excuse given.
Such depredations naturally drove many colored voters away and they will not vote.
Though threats have been made against the life of Senator England and his followers, they are putting up a game fight. By agreement the county court was to hold a night session to get through with the registration. England was later notified that nothing further would be done that night but the work would be taken up the next day he was amazed to find the court was no longer sitting. He went before Judge Wilkinson, mandamused the county court to sit again, and got ninety-eight colored voters registered.
The democrats were beaten in that game. “What’s the difference,” said a deputy when the court reconvened. “We will get them election day.” It has been openly boasted by the democrats that in many precincts the republicans, especially the colored voters, will not be allowed at the polls next Tuesday.
The sheriff and his deputies form an organization with unlimited power. Every little town or village, every public works, has the deputies. By intimidation and force in most instances and by favors in others, these deputies can run things to suit themselves. Infractions of the law by supporters of the organization can easily be overlooked, while on the other hand, the slightest technical violation can be punished to the full extent of the law.
The high-handed way in which the Democratic county organization is running things has caused a ruction in the Democratic ranks and many of them will quietly vote the Republican ticket. Many members of the old-time militant Democracy, some of them ex-Confederate soldiers, have assured the Republican leaders that they can no longer approve the Democratic methods employed in Logan County and will record their votes against it.
A.A. Lilly, A.D. Cook, A.J. Fowler, A.L. Sansom, Amherstdale, Appalachia, assessor, B.A. Browning, B.L. Holland, Bernadine B. Ridenour, board of education, Bruce White, C.V. White, Chapmanville, Charleston, Christian, circuit clerk, county clerk, county commissioner, Curry, Edward Cooper, Edward S. Doolittle, Evart Campbell, Fayette County, Ferrell-Cook Republican Club, G.R. Claypool, George Godby, H.C. Burgess, Henry D. Hatfield, Henry Godby Jr., history, House of Delegates, Hugh Ike Shott, Huntington, Huntington Advertiser, I.M. Conley, Ira P. Hager, J.C. Elkins, J.D. Copley, J.M. Mitchell Jr., J.W. Hinchman, James Jeffrey, John M. Perry, John Perry, justice of the peace, lawyer, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Logan County Banner, Logan District, Lon Walls, Mike F. Matheny, Naaman Jackson, O.J. Deegan, Pat Riffe, prosecuting attorney, R.F. Mitchell, Republican Party, Richard Kirk, S.A. Ferrell, sheriff, T.C. Whited, Thomas B. Hensley, Thomas Wilson, Triadelphia District, Union Army, W.A. Brazie, W.C. Lawrence, W.P. Neekamp, Wayne County, West Virginia
From various regional newspapers come these stories about the Republican Party in Logan County, West Virginia:
Republicans of Logan
Endorses the Candidacy of Judge Doolittle for Supreme Judge
The Logan county republican convention was held last week. Instructions were given for Gaines for Congress, and the candidacy of Judge Doolittle, of this city was endorsed for Supreme court judge.
Source: Huntington (WV) Advertiser, 30 April 1900.
The Republican Ticket
The Republicans, at their convention on Saturday, nominated a full county ticket.
The nominee for House of Delegates, Pat Riffe, is a native of the county and an old Union soldier.
W.A. Brazie, the nominee for County Clerk, is a native of Fayette and came here about twelve years ago, and worked in this office about ten years. He is well known in the county, and is well fitted for the position for which he is named.
J.D. Copley, the nominee for Circuit Clerk, is a native of Wayne, …
Source: Logan County Banner (Logan, WV), 2 October 1902.
Republican County Ticket.
Member of the Legislature–Naaman Jackson, of Logan.
County Clerk–John Perry, of Logan.
Circuit Clerk–J.M. Mitchell, Jr., of Curry.
County Superintendent of Schools–R.F. Mitchell, of Christian.
Member of the County Court–A.D. Cook, of Triadelphia District.
W.C. Lawrence, for the Committee on Nominations, reported the following selection for members of the County Central Committee of the Republican Committee of Logan County.
For Logan District, Bruce White, I.M. Conley, James Jeffrey, T.C. Whited and W.C. Lawrence.
For Triadelphia District, H.C. Burgess and Lon Walls.
For Chapmanville District, A.J. Fowler and T.B. Hensley.
Hon. O.J. Deegan was selected County Chairman and Hon. Ira P. Hager as County Secretary and Treasurer, both promising young attorneys of Logan.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 17 July 1914.
Republicans Organize Club At Chapmanville
Republicans met at Chapmanville Friday night and organized a campaign club and named it the Ferrell-Cook Republican club. Praise was sounded for local and national Republican administrations for the tax reductions that have been made. The following officers were elected: S.A. Ferrell, chairman; Evart Campbell, secretary; A.L. Sansom, treasurer. Another meeting of the club was called for 7 o’clock tonight.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 19 October 1926.
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, we find the following editorial dated February 24, 1916:
The following was prominently displayed in fourteen point type under the bold, three-column heading, “What Does It Profit a Young Man to Be a Logan County Democrat?” on the front page of the Logan Banner last week. We cheerfully aid in giving it the widest possible publicity and commend its careful reading to all of the conscientious and thoughtful citizens of Logan county:
“To the young men of Logan county, who are to cast their first vote this year and hereafter participate in the political life of the commonwealth:
“For Forty Years Logan county has given stupendous democratic majorities. It has always had the largest percent of democratic votes of any county in the state.
“Logan county has never been recognized by the Democratic party by awarding any one of its citizens a nomination upon the state ticket.
“Logan county Democracy has never had a member of the state committee.
“Not one of its citizens holds an appointment under the national administration other than postmasters of the local offices.
“You, as a Democrat, are just voted like dumb cattle.
“In the Democratic organization of Logan county the highest achievement to be obtained by ambitious youth is to become a deputy sheriff with a tin badge and a gun.
“The Republican party welcomes the vaulting ambition of youth.
“It meets young men on the first round and lifts them higher.
“Logan county Republicans have a voice and exert a powerful influence in the councils of the party in the state.
“It dwindled the Forty Years of Huge Democratic Victories in Logan county to the necessity of a recount in the election two years ago.
“This year the Democratic Hurrah and Horrors will be as naked as Robinson Crusoe’s summer underwear.
“Choose which primary you will go into.”
“Honest confession is good for the soul.” But, whoever expected anything honest from the source from which the foregoing sprung? Yet there it is, and seeing is believing, and we have no choice other than to congratulate the author of the superlative exposure of the designs and ambitions of the so-called Republican organization of Logan county.
Public office, spoils, graft, gratification of personal desires and ambitions, such is the bait brazenly held out in the effort to tempt good men to desert principle and aid in the maintenance of the most corrupt political organization known under the sun, the state Republican machine and its Logan tentacle. The implied promise may be within the Corrupt Practices act, but never was there a more damnable attempt to influence or corrupt voters than The Banner’s public solicitation.
Logan has never had a citizen on the state Democratic ticket; never had a delegate to a national convention; none of its citizens holds an appointment other than postmasters, etc., says the Banner. Undoubtedly true. But for fifty years the Democrats of Logan county along with those throughout the country have battled for something that they prized and still prize far more than self-advancement and this Principle.
How many Presidents has the Democratic party had in fifty years? How many Democratic governors has the state of West Virginia had in the past 20 years? But, has the rank and file of the Democratic party of the nation or state wavered in its allegiance to principle? Not that you could notice it; it has fought steadily on in the face of repeated failure, and discouragement and was finally crowned with a glorious success in the nation in the year 1912, and it is now strongly entrenched and fully prepared to turn the rascals out of the West Virginia state house in the year 1916. The Banner can read the signs, and its outrageous plea for succor is a forcible admission that its organization is in dire distress and will go the limit for votes. Votes to carry on the nefarious work of an organization that has bankrupted the state and sullied its reputation; votes to keep in office the plunderers who have done nothing but feed from the public trough from time immemorial and would not know how to work if cast adrift; votes to maintain a system of subsidized newspapers to outrage the public while at the same time subsisting from public funds lavishly distributed through administrative favor. It is obvious that the Banner is correct when it asserts that its organization, posing as the Republican party, can feed its swine. There is no room for argument on that score; but, where is the honest man of principle that wants that kind of success? He is not in the Democratic party, whether he be young or old, about to cast his first vote or his last this year.
The Banner boasts that Logan county Republicans exert a powerful influence in the councils of the party in the state. No they don’t, and the Banner knows it lies when it says they do. The Republicans of Logan county have no more influence in their so-called party affairs than the editor of the Democrat has with Hatfield, et al. The true Republicans of Logan county are a negligible quantity when it comes to influence, but the so-called Republicans who wear the administration, stand-pat collar, who dictate the policies and the utterances of the Banner, and who are in the political game to rule or ruin are high with the powers that be, but so far as can be noticed they have never let anything get away from them that was at all valuable or that they could use. The very existence of the Banner is a testimonial to the selfishness and applications of this little coterie to whom principle is an unknown quantity and the dough bag and preferment the swaying elements of their lives.
Principles not spoils nor selfish ambition sway the Democratic voter, and one of his foremost principles is directed against this very system of corruptness that the Banner so valiantly expounds as good Republican doctrine. Reduced to the naked truth, the battle of ballots in the state of West Virginia for the past 12 years has been between Democrats and Grafters, the Republicanism of Lincoln has long since been routed out. Democrats vs. Graft, and up to this time Graft has won, but the battle is to be renewed with increased vigor next November and w hen the smoke has cleared away there is every indication that at last Right will have come into its own.
The Banner’s closing paragraph is worthy of another repetition: “Choose which primary you will go into.” Yes, choose! But be not too hasty. Consider well the situation from every angle. If you are a Republican in principle, and you can discover any Republican principle in the organization posing as that of your party in the county or state, do your duty; if you are a Democrat in principle now is the time of times to assert yourself and your manhood, without thought of personal advancement or selfish ambition, but for the satisfaction of assisting in achieving the goal of Democratic ambition, the betterment of the condition of all the people.
Democrats will be confronted this fall with a condition that will take concerted action and shoulder-to-shoulder advance to successfully combat. Negroes, the secret of the Banner’s boast of reduced Democratic majorities in Logan county, will be voted in increased numbers and every artifice and design, legitimate or otherwise, that can be devised will be used to stay the tide of public indignation and resentment against Republican gang politics, so it behooves all true party men to stand-pat and go into the fight prepared to battle for and with his neighbor of the true faith for the common wealth.
Appalachia, board of education, Cemetery Ridge, Chapmanville, Chapmanville Mountain, coal, county clerk, Crooked Creek, Democratic Party, Dr. Ferrell, genealogy, history, Joe Buskirk, L.B. York, Logan Banner, Logan County, O.F. Ferrell, Republican Party, Sons of Rest, West Virginia
An unknown correspondent from Chapmanville in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on July 23, 1926:
Joe Buskirk, candidate for county clerk, was looking up Republicans here this week.
Doctor Ferrell gave a wiener roast Friday evening on Cemetery Ridge. It is said one man danced until his shirt was wet with sweat, something that had not happened to him before for five years.
This being the only Democratic district in Logan county, we have a surplus of candidates for members of the Board of Education. The Democrats hate to lose clear out.
Both the Vickers and Tompkins mines have started again, practically everybody is at work.
A number of our young folks went a hiking before breakfast Sunday morning, and cooked breakfast on Chapmanville mountain. It is rumored that some of the boys got treed.
L.B. York is suffering from some strange malady. Doctor Ferrell thinks it is a back set on the sun shine.
...refused to lick stamps for the public.
Quite a lot of our people attended the Sunday School Convention at Crooked Creek last Sunday.
O.F. Ferrell has purchased a fine fox hound. He is a Virginia trail burner.
On Saturday evening the Sons of Rest will award the following prizes to those present: Fattest man, Gold headed cane; Biggest liar, Plug of Brown’s Mule tobacco; Best looking man, Manicuring set. The names of the winners will be given next week.
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
A.L. Samson, America, Appalachia, Big Creek, board of education, Cap Adkins, Chapmanville, constable, county clerk, Edgwright, Ferrell Hill, Ferrellsburg, Fisher B. Adkins, genealogy, history, Jim Bryant, John Dingess, Ku Klux Klan, Lincoln County, Logan Banner, Logan County, Lumbago, O.J. Phipps, Republican Party, Route 10, The Old Rugged Cross, West Virginia
An unknown correspondent from Chapmanville in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on July 9, 1926:
O.J. Phipps is now on his vacation.
Cap Adkins of Kentucky has been visiting his grand children on Big Creek this week.
Grading on our new road is being finished this week.
Several of our citizens motored to Big Creek Monday evening to get their part of the hot air dispensed by John (Corn) and others.
A white-robed crowd of men of mystery assembled on the Ferrell Hill last Monday night and burned a very beautiful cross and sang “America” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”
Mrs. Jim Bryant is visiting her parents at Edgwright this week.
Fisher B. Adkins of Ferrellsburg was attending the meeting of the Board of Education here Monday. Fisher is a candidate for Clerk of the County Court of Lincoln county.
John Dingess is confined to the house with Lumbago this week.
A.L. Samson is a candidate here for constable on the Republican ticket. He says he served seven years in Lincoln county and never took any one with him to arrest a man in his life. We say hurrah for Abe.
Appalachia, Cam Pridemore, Chapmanville, Democratic Party, deputy sheriff, G.S. Ferrell, H.T. Butcher, history, Hubert Toney, Huntington, John Webb, Logan Banner, Logan County, Martin Johnson, moonshine, moonshining, Peach Creek, Republican Party, Route 10, Squire Barker, Sutton, W.H. Phipps, West Virginia
An unknown correspondent from Chapmanville in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on July 2, 1926:
The grading of our road is not quite done, but the road is open to traffic to Huntington.
W.H. Phipps of Peach Creek was here Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Cam Pridemore is the best deputy sheriff we have had for years.
Squire Barker is kept busy hiving bees these hot days.
Ask John Webb what it costs to get a taxi here.
Martin Johnson has purchased the wholesale feed store of G.S. Ferrell. We like to see new capital come to town.
Hubert Toney and wife left his morning for Sutton to visit Mrs. Toney’s parents at that place.
The Democrats can’t see how there comes to be so many Republicans here this time.
H.T. Butcher is making the bootlegger’s life a hard one these days.