Alice Lawson, Aracoma, assistant postmaster, Ben Bolt, Charleston Gazette, Edgar Allan Poe, George T. Swain, George Washington, Guyandotte River, history, Karl Myers, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, logging, mayor, New York Mirror, Pennsylvania, poems, poetry, postmaster, rafting, Rafting on the Guyandotte, Savage Grant, St. Albans, Thomas Dunn English, timbering, Vicie Nighbert, Walt Whitman, West Virginia, writers
Thomas Dunn English (1819-1902) was a Pennsylvania-born writer who lived briefly in present-day Logan, WV, before the Civil War. At one time, many Loganites believed he wrote his famous work titled “Ben Bolt” while a resident of Logan, then called Aracoma. For more information about his biography, follow this link: https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2205
The following story appeared in the Logan Banner on November 23, 1926:
“Logan gains quite a bit of notoriety from the fact that the song ‘Ben Bolt’ was written here,” said G.T. Swain in his short history of Logan county, published in 1916. Dr. English wrote “Ben Bolt” for the New York Mirror about 10 years before he ever came to Logan. So here explodeth another nice literary myth–if a myth concerning “Ben Bolt” may be called a literary one. They even tell how Dr. English laid aside his law and medicine practice, his novel writing, and his duties as assistant postmaster and politician and dreamily to go to the shades of certain elm trees overlooking the Guyandotte and there wrote the poem to a sweetheart of other days. The truth is that English wrote the poem while in the east at the request of “The Mirror” and while trying to compose a sea song he suddenly hit upon the sentimental mood and dashed it off, tacking the first four lines of the sea song-in-the-making onto the one in question. He sent it to the editor and told him the story and remarked that if it was not worth using to burn it. It was always a matter of chagrin to Dr. English that it was the best received piece he ever wrote and his prestige in congress was largely due to his fame from the song.
“For information relating to Dr. English we are indebted to Mrs. Vicie Nighbert, who gave us the information as told to her by her mother, and to Mr. Bryan [who] was personally acquainted [with English, now in his] 80th year and living at present in Straton street,” said Mr. Swain. “Mr. Bryan was personally acquainted with Dr. English, having at one time been postmaster of the town and employed Dr. English as assistant postmaster.”
English was mayor of Logan, according to Swain, in 1852. Mr. Swain said that Dr. English suddenly disappeared while living in Logan and showed up again with a woman and two children. Dr. English announced at the time that he had married a widow but rumors around the Logan chimney corners had it that the versatile gentleman had added that of wife stealing to his accomplishments. He did not permit the woman to visit or receive but a few friends “and she always carried a look of apprehension.” It is known that English, by act of the general assembly, had the names of the children changed to his own.
Although the whole thing is not worth refuting or proving, English did not write his “Ben Bolt” as told in Logan county. Mrs. Nighbert told the author of this historical sketch that “Dr. English used to often visit the large elm trees that stood by the bank of the Guyandotte near the woman’s residence. It was beneath the shade of the elm that stands today by the railroad bridge that he composed the song ‘Ben Bolt.'” Dr. English was a frequent visitor to the home of the Lawson’s, but the story to the effect that this song was dedicated to Alice Lawson is only imaginary for there was at that time none of the Lawson children bearing the name of Alice, nor were any of the girls at that time large enough to attract the attention of Dr. English.
The “Ben Bolt” myth is comparable to the story around Charleston that Poe wrote some of his works at St. Albans. Poe was never at St. Albans. It is like that pet tradition of the Huntington D.A.R. that George Washington surveyed lands in the Savage grant, the first grants involving the present site of Huntington.
Dr. English wrote a thousand rimes and jingles and couplets but no poems. “Ben Bolt” is a spurt of sentimentality of which the author was ashamed. Its popularity began when the German air was adapted to it, and has lived only on the strength of the music which is a sort the folk will not forget.
Don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt…
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown.
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile.
And trembled with fear at your frown?
In the old churchyard in the valley, Ben Bolt.
In a corner obscure and alone,
They have fitted a slab of the granite so grey,
And Alice lies under the stone.
And so forth. English was at a loss how to open the verses when he hit upon the idea of tacking the first four lines of a sea song he was trying to compose for Willis, editor of “The Mirror,” and his last lines reflect the influence of the idea:
Your presence a blessing, your friendship a truth.
Ben Bolt, of the salt sea gale.
English wrote “Rafting on the Guyandotte” and two other “poems” while waiting on the return of a friend he was visiting, taking about an hour to [write] the poem. The opening to his poem is:
Who at danger never laughed,
Let him ride upon a raft
Down Guyan, when from the drains
Pours the flood from many rains,
And a stream no plummet gauges
In a furious freshet rages
With a strange and rapturous fear
Rushing water he will hear;
Woods and cliffsides darting by,
These shall terribly glad his eye.
He shall find his life blood leaping
Feel his brain with frenzy swell;
Faster with the current’s sweeping;
Hear his voice in sudden yell…
And so on for a 100 lines or more he describes the thrills of rafting. It would be interesting to have the collectors of West Virginia verse to rise up [illegible] now and tell exactly their reaction to this “beautiful verse” and why they like it, or why they attach importance to the scribbling pastimes of Dr. English, politician, physician, and lawyer.
Although he went to congress on “Ben Bolt,” there is no legitimate claims to list him as a West Virginia poet. Karl Myers writes much better verse than English ever achieved. A sixth grade pupil of native brightness a notch or two above his classmates can write pages of rhymes as good as the rafting poem. It is the sort of rhyme that is easier to do than not to do, once you establish the swing of it. Youngsters have been known to turn in history examination papers done in rhyme as good as this. But West Virginia is so anxious to claim some poets. Why this should worry the state is a mystery, for European critics say that the whole of America has produced but a poet and a half… Edgar Allan Poe the poet and Walt Whitman the half poet. So why should we feel sensitive about it?
Source: Charleston Gazette via the Logan Banner, 23 November 1926.
Alice McCloud, Appalachia, Carl Adams, Charley Mullins, Dingess, Florence Adams, genealogy, George McCloud Jr., Gillis Adams, history, Hoover Fork, Howard Adams, Ireland Mullins, Logan Banner, Logan County, Lucy McCloud, Mason Adams, May Robinson, Mollie Robinson, Queens Ridge, timber, timbering, West Virginia, Whirlwind
An unknown correspondent from Whirlwind in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on November 26, 1926:
All the boys and girls of Hoover attended the spelling match at the Hoover school Friday and all reported a nice time.
Ireland Mullins was calling on friends at Mollie Robinson’s Saturday evening.
Mason Adams was the guest of Florence Adams Saturday.
Lucy McCloud was visiting her grandmother at Queen’s Ridge Wednesday.
Alice McCloud was looking sad Friday. Cheer up, Alice. I hope Si won’t forsake you.
Wonder who the three good-looking boys were leaving the left fork of Hoover late Sunday evening.
Look out, boys. Gillis Adams is coming back to Hoover Saturday.
Charley Mullins and George McCloud, Jr. were hauling lumber from Dingess Saturday. Boys, are you going again next Saturday?
May Robinson looked so sad Sunday. Cheer up, May. Winter sure is here.
Howard Adams is looking lonely since his girl went to Twelve Pole to spend a few weeks.
Carl Adams is right on his job this week. Stay right with it, Carl. Sunday comes but once a week.
Daily happenings: Carl and his chewing gum; Burl and his tie; Howard and his shoes; Hays and his milk; Burnett and his ring.
Annie Elizabeth Hill, Annie Elizabeth Stollings, Appalachia, Big Creek, Big Ugly Creek, Billy Adkins, Boone County, Brandon Kirk, Charles Stollings, Edward Hill, Ellis Fork, Estep Branch, Ferrellsburg, Fork Creek, Frank Hill, genealogy, history, John Patrick Fowler, Jones Fowler, Lincoln County, Madison, Margery Ann Fowler, North Fork, timber, timbering, West Virginia, Willie Stollings
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:
JOHN PATRICK FOWLER (1827-1911)
Grandpap [John P.] Fowler lived at Ferrellsburg at one time. He was a timber specialist, I’d call him, because he always run a timber job and hired lots of men. He’d cut out all of the timber on a farm and then buy another one and cut it. They didn’t make much back then but they could get a little money together.
My grandmaw [Margery Ann Fowler] was born, I’d say, down there at Ferrellsburg. My mother lived there at Ferrellsburg when she was a teenage girl and she told me she’d plowed corn right there in Ferrellsburg Bottom before the highway or the railroad either one came up through there.
Grandpap bought a tract of timber on Big Ugly and he moved to where it was at. That was virgin timber up there. Hadn’t been cut for years. He just followed the work. He went through Big Ugly and over to Fork Creek. He sold out over there to a coal company and they just paid him so much a month. Then later he got over here on North Fork. He lived in a two-room log house just above our place.
Grandpap Fowler was well-liked. He was a pretty good sized man. My mother thought the world of him because he raised my mother. She lost her daddy [Charles Stollings] when she was ten. Her mother died of what they’d call cancer today. My mother had two sisters and a brother younger than her. The baby one was just two years old and that was Willie Stollings. Grandpap Fowler took in all four children.
My mother, she had a third grade education. She could sign her name. She met my dad when he come in that area saw-logging. His name was Edward Hill and he was a timberman. Cut timber all over this country. They’d have contests. They’d drive a stake out there and cut this tree and bet who could drive that stake on down with that tree when it falls. And he won a many a time. He was accurate. He could chop right-handed or he could chop left-handed. Anyway, there’s a record of their marriage in the courthouse down here at Madison. Preacher Ball married them, I believe.
Grandpap [John P. Fowler] had a boy named Jones that lived over on Big Ugly and he was digging coal with a pick, just enough to do tonight and tomorrow, and a rock fell in on him and killed him. And Grandpap had loaned him his pistol ‘cause him and this Johnson wasn’t getting along good. They was neighbors over there. But that was the first man got there to help get this rock off of him. But Grandpap Fowler sent my mother as soon as they buried him over there to get that pistol. She went right up here and crossed the hill and come down Estep Branch and told his wife that Grandpap had sent after that pistol. She give it to her and on her way back when she come off’n the hill here she knew that Grandpap and old man Dan Harmon wasn’t very good friends. And just for meanness, she shot five or six times and that fellow took her for a warrant. And Grandpap had to go over there to Madison Court House and pay a fine to get her out of it. She was nervy, I’ll tell you that.
Hill Store at the mouth of Ellis Fork of North Fork of Big Creek near the Boone-Logan county line. 19 October 2013.
Albert W. Adkins, Appalachia, Ballard Smith, farming, Fourteen, Fourteen Mile Creek, genealogy, George T. Adkins, Guyandotte River, Henry H. Hardesty, history, Hugh C. Adkins, Laurel Hill District, Lewis B. Adkins, Lincoln County, Riland Adkins, Sarah M. Adkins, Sina Smith, timbering, West Virginia
From “Hardesty’s History of Lincoln County, West Virginia,” published by H.H. Hardesty, we find this entry for Hugh C. Adkins, who resided at Fourteen in Lincoln County, West Virginia:
Is one of the farming population in Laurel Hill district, Lincoln county, owning 50 acres of good land on Guyan river, at the mouth of Fourteen. The land has good improvements and a part of it timbered with poplar, pine, and oak. Mr. Adkins was born in Lincoln county, April 17, 1853, and his parents’ history follows this. Sarah M., daughter of Ballard and Sina (Myers) Smith, was born in Lincoln county, January 20, 1852, and in this same county, in 1873, she became the wife of H.C. Adkins. The children of the union are: Riland, born November 24, 1873; Albert W., January 25, 1878; George T., October 3, 1880; Lewis B., August 11, 1883. Mr. Adkins is a very industrious man, and is prospering in his farming. He may be addressed at Fourteen, Lincoln county, West Virginia.
Source: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Vol. 7 (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 138-139.
Albert M. Adkins, Appalachia, civil war, coal, Confederate Army, Cosby J. Adkins, Fourteen, Fourteen Mile Creek, genealogy, Henry H. Hardesty, history, Jeremiah Lambert, Laurel Hill District, Lewis Adkins, Lincoln County, Melcina Adkins, Sarah Lambert, Tazewell County, timbering, Virginia, West Virginia
From “Hardesty’s History of Lincoln County, West Virginia,” published by H.H. Hardesty, we find this entry for Albert M. Adkins, who resided at Fourteen in Lincoln County, West Virginia:
At the age of eighteen, enlisted in the late war, in 1862, and bravely did he fight for Virginia and her rights. He served in the Confederate army, was taken prisoner and held ten months. Mr. Adkins was born in what is now Lincoln county, West Virginia, August 27, 1844. His parents are Lewis and Melcina (Hunter) Adkins. In Lincoln county in 1868, Albert M. Adkins wedded Cosby J. Lambert, who was born in Tazewell county, Virginia, in 1843, and whose parents, Jeremiah and Sarah (Hedrick) Lambert, settled in Lincoln county in 1856. A.M. Adkins is one of the farming population in Laurel Hill district, dealing to some extent in lumber, and is the possessor of 400 acres of land, situated on Fourteen-mile creek. A portion of the land is cultivated, and the rest is heavily timbered with oak, poplar, pine, and walnut, and coal and iron ore are found in abundance. Any mail for Albert M. Adkins may be addressed to Fourteen, Lincoln county, West Virginia.
Source: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Vol. 7 (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 138.
Adam Lambert, Andrew D. Robinson, Appalachia, B.C. Curry, Big Ugly Creek, Boone County, Burbus Toney, Charles Spurlock, constable, Edley Elkins, education, Fourteen Mile Creek, genealogy, Guyandotte River, Harts Creek, Harts Creek District, Henry H. Hardesty, Hezekiah Adkins, history, Isaac Elkins, James White, Jefferson District, Jeremiah Lambert, Jesse Gartin, John Fry, John H. Brumfield, John Lucas, justice of the peace, Kiahs Creek, Laurel Hill District, Lewis Queen, Lincoln County, Little Harts Creek, Little Ugly Creek, Logan County, Methodist, miller, Rhoda Elkins, Richard Adkins, Richard Elkins, Sarah Elkins, Squire Toney, timber, timbering, Wayne County, West Virginia, William Lucas, William West
From “Hardesty’s History of Lincoln County, West Virginia,” published by H.H. Hardesty, we find this entry for Harts Creek District in Lincoln County, West Virginia:
This is the most southern subdivision of the county. It derives its name from Harts creek, a tributary of the Guyandotte river. On the north is Laurel Hill district, on the northeast is Jefferson, east Boone county, on the south Logan, and on the west Wayne. Guyandotte river flows northwest and divides the district into two nearly equal parts. There are several small streams, among which are Little and Big Harts creeks, Little and Big Ugly creeks, Kiahs creek, and Fourteen Mile creek.
The first settler was Richard Elkins, who reared his cabin in the month of September, 1807. Here he removed his family, and here Charles Spurlock became his first neighbor. Other early settlers were: Esquire Toney, John Lucas, Edley Elkins, John Fry, Hezekiah Adkins, John Brumfield, and Richard Adkins. Rhoda, a daughter of Edley and Sarah Elkins, was the first white child born in the district. The first grist mill was built by James White about the year 1821. It was a small tub-wheel mill, water being the propelling power. Isaac Elkins built the first saw mill in 1847 or 1848. It was constructed on the old sash-saw plan, and had a capacity for cutting from 800 to 1,000 feet per day.
The first school was taught in a log cabin one mile above the mouth of Big Harts creek about the year 1832, but who the teacher was cannot now be ascertained. The date, however, is remembered by an old resident, because it was the year in which he first visited this section. The first house for educational purposes was built near the mouth of Big Harts creek in 1834. It was a five-cornered building, one side being occupied by the ever-present huge fire place. There are now ten public school houses in the district, “some of which,” says an informant, “are in bad condition, but will soon be replaced by frames;” 334 boys and girls attend school in this district.
The first sermon was preached here in the year 1823 by a Methodist minister named William West, and here the same year he gathered a little church, one of the first ever formed in the valley of the Guyandotte river; but of its history or who composed its membership, nothing is known. When the writer asked of an old settler the question: “Who were the first members?” his reply was: “The register is gone, and no one living can tell.” When asked who organized the first Sabbath school, he replied: “There never was one in the district.”
The first township officers were as follows: Supervisor, Burbus Toney; justice of the peace, Jeremiah Lambert; constable, Jesse Gartin; clerk, Andrew Robinson; treasurer, B.C. Curry; school commissioners, Adam Lambert, William Lucas, and Lewis Queen. According to the census of 1880, the population was 1,116.
Source: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Vol. 7 (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 106-107.
NOTE: I descend from Richard Elkins, John Fry, John H. Brumfield, and Jeremiah Lambert.
Appalachia, Catherine McComas, Catherine Messinger, Emery F. Messinger, Erastus Messinger, Fall Creek, Falls of Guyan, farming, genealogy, George W. Messinger, Hamlin, Henry H. Hardesty, history, John W. Messinger, Lincoln County, Mary Messinger, Mary N. Messinger, miller, Myrta Messinger, Nicholas Messinger, Sarah E. Messinger, Sheridan District, Thomas J. McComas, Thomas J. Messinger, timber, timbering, War of 1812, West Hamlin, West Virginia
From “Hardesty’s History of Lincoln County, West Virginia,” published by H.H. Hardesty, we find this entry for George W. Messinger, who resided at West Hamlin in Lincoln County, West Virginia:
Is a son of Nicholas and Mary (Williams) Messinger, who settled in what is now Lincoln county in 1838. He was here born, in Sheridan district, in 1842, and his marriage was solemnized in this district, in 1868, Sarah E. McComas becoming his wife. Their seven children were born: Mary N., December 6, 1868; Erastus, September 11, 1870; Thomas J., September 28, 1872; John W., June 6, 1875; Catherine, August 27, 1877; Myrta, September 14, 1879; Emery F., September 27, 1881. The parents of Mrs. Messinger were both born in what is now Lincoln county, Thomas J. and Catherine (Condons) McComas, and her birth was in Sheridan district, in 1844. The father of George W. was a soldier of the 1812 war, and died in Lincoln county, March 29, 1878, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years. George W. Messinger is a prosperous farmer, owning 518 acres of good land on Fall creek, near the Falls of Guyan. The land is well improved, so far as under cultivation, and the remainder well timbered, with mineral croppings. He has a fine fruit orchard of apples, pears, peaches, and plums. In addition to his farming interests, he deals extensively in lumber and has an interest in a grist mill. Post office address, Hamlin, Lincoln county, West Virginia.
Source: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Vol. 7 (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 144.
Annie L. Dingess, Appalachia, Argillite, board of education, Cabell County, genealogy, George E. Dingess, Greenup County, Henry H. Hardesty, history, Jerome Dingess, Jerome Shelton, Kentucky, Lincoln County, Logan County, Maggie V. Dingess, Maldidia Dingess, Malinda Shelton, Sheridan District, Susan Dingess, timbering, Vivia Dingess, West Virginia, William D. Dingess, William P. Dingess
From “Hardesty’s History of Lincoln County, West Virginia,” published by H.H. Hardesty, we find this entry for William P. Dingess, who resided at Argillite in Greenup County, Kentucky:
Was born in Logan county, then Virginia, in 1848, a son of William D. and Loanna (Berry) Dingess. He came with his parents to Lincoln county in 1862, and in this county was long actively engaged in business as a lumberman. In Cabell county, in 1867, he was united in marriage with Susan Shelton, and in the years that have ensued seven children have been born to them, and death has taken two away: Annie L., was born January 22, 1868; Maggie V., January 2, 1870; George E., May 18, 1872, died September 12, 1878; William D., July 14, 1874, died March 19, 1875; Jerome, August 19, 1876; Maldidia, June 28, 1878; Vivia, April 8, 1880. The wife of Mr. Dingess was born in Cabell county in 1848, and her parents, Major Jerome and Malinda (Messinger) Shelton, were born and reside in this county. Mr. Dingess was secretary of the board of education in his district. In 1883 he moved to Greenup county, Kentucky. His post office address is Argillite, Greenup county, Kentucky.
Source: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Vol. 7 (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 142-143.