Appalachian Thursday–Uncle Celly

The cemetery where Marcellus Phillips came to rest.
The cemetery where Marcellus Phillips came to rest.

Last week I included an excerpt from a booklet published by the Descendants of the French Creek Pioneers. It was about my great-great grandfather and included a mention of one of his children–my Uncle Marcellus.

This is particularly interesting to me because I’d heard stories about Celly Phillips all my life–not only from Dad, but from others in the community. Apparently Celly was a wee bit infamous.

THE WOODSMAN & THE DEVIL
Celly was known to go off and spend long stretches in the woods. Then, perhaps tired of fending for himself, he’d show up at someone’s house expecting a meal and a bed. Just about everyone in the community would oblige him.

Aunt Bess showed me the chair he’d sit in when he turned up at their place. She was just a child then and was more than a little afraid of wild Celly. She said he often drew pictures, but there were only two things he ever drew–lewd women and the devil. She got bold once and asked him how he knew what the devil looked like. “Seen him many a time,” said Celly.

Of course, Celly was not what you’d call a regular church-goer. He did, however, share that when he died he wanted to be buried in a chestnut coffin. When asked why he said, “So I can go to Hell a poppin’.” (Chestnut wood–especially when not dried–spits sparks as it burns.)

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