In these days when it seems like we can’t really plan for much of anything, how about planning to read my next story? It officially releases on election day (Nov. 3) and who doesn’t want a distraction from THAT?!?
Here’s a teaser to hopefully whet your appetite. While I feel like I’m not all that good at writing romance, the pieces of this story that focus on an estranged married couple trying to rekindle what once was . . . now that was fun to write!
I’m a dog lover. And I enjoy researching family history. Imagine my delight in finding the two passions intersecting!
I’m descended from David Phillips who first purchased the property we now own in West Virginia back in 1833. In reading up on the family, I found a story about David’s brother, Elijah Phillips, and a dog named Lant. I’ve put it down word-for-word, simply because no one writes like this any more. Or, at least, no one should.
“Edwin owned a dog named Lant, which possessed remarkable intelligence as illustrated by the following incident: One night Edwin was awakened by a distant barking of his dog, and supposing that a raccoon had been treed, dressed himself and went into the woods from whence the dog’s voice came. Upon reaching the place, however, he found old Lant walking behind Elijah Phillips, his father, and barking at frequent intervals. This was unusual conduct on the part of the dog toward one with whom it was well acquainted and would indicate the opposite of intelligence under ordinary circumstances; but when it is explained that the aged man who the dog followed had lost his mind and was apt to go wandering from home and become lost explains the act. No possible motive can be assigned to this act of the dog except a desire to warn his master of the danger which attended the wandering of the feeble and mentally helpless old man.”
The story goes on to describe Elijah as being, “Low in stature with dark eyes and hair, inclined to corpulency, full of life, a great talker, a man of good sense.” I think I may have to include such a man (and his dog) in a future book!
It’s been a quiet weekend with early morning hikes before the heat, humidity, and insects get bad. I know lots of people love the hustle and bustle of a city, but give me a couple thousand acres of national forest any day!
Especially when there are sweet spots of botanical sunshine all along the way!
Some friends and I have been trading jigsaw puzzles back and forth. I have a pretty good collection, mostly from my mother who shares hers with me. My friends had discovered puzzles based on art by Charley Harper, a renowned illustrator and artist who specialized in nature art.
I am NUTS for these puzzles! I love the detail, the birds and animals, the saturated colors. Gorgeous!
And while chatting with my mother I mentioned my new discovery. “Oh, he’s from Buckhannon,” she said. That would be the nearest “town” to our farm in West Virginia. Hmmm. Really?
Well, Mom was wrong. He’s not from Buckhannon. He’s from Frenchton, WV, which means he grew up about five miles from where I did! I like to think I enjoy his art so much because we were both originally inspired by the same hills, creeks, trees, and critters!
Harper had this to say about when he became interested in nature: “When I was growing up on a farm in West Virginia, learning that I didn’t want to grow up to be a farmer. I goofed off a lot and roamed the hills. I disliked hoeing corn, hauling hay shocks, cutting filth, and stomping down sheep wool inside those big burlap bags on hot summer days. I tried to disappear on hog butchering and cattle dehorning days because I felt so sorry for the animals. And before I was old enough to use a gun, I learned that I never wanted to. A hunter fired over my head at a rabbit and put a shotgun pellet through my scalp. I’ve been on the side of the rabbits ever since.”
I love discovering such nifty connections. And there are now Charley Harper murals up in Buckhannon. I’ll be sure to check them out next time I go to the farm. Stay tuned for a selfie . . .
I’m so weary of all the controversy in the world right now. People have so many opinions and strong feelings about just about everything. And we’re all so doggone determined to get our two cents in. Well here are mine:
The flowers sure have been pretty this year! I mean, like, the best ever. Thank God for that. If you disagree, I don’t want to hear it. The end.
More than 120 years ago, in July 1897, Edward Shue was convicted of murdering his wife Zona “Elva” Heaster Shue–thanks to HER testimony.
The story out of Greenbrier County, WV, actually rates a state historic marker. And it goes something like this:
On January 23, 1897, Elva Shue was found dead–either at the foot of the bed or the bottom of the staircase (stories vary). The doctor who examined her determined that she had experienced an “everlasting faint.”
Elva’s husband Edward had gone to work that morning and sent a boy home at lunchtime to see if Elva needed anything. The boy returned with the awful news that his wife was dead. Edward rushed home, moved the body to the bed, and dressed it in a high-collared dress. This was unusual in those days when the women of the community would have washed and dressed the body before laying it out for viewing.
When the doctor arrived, Edward was so hysterical, the doctor barely had a chance to examine the body. He declared that Elva had died of natural causes and left. Elva was buried soon after and that was the end of the story.
Elva’s mother Mary Jane Heaster somehow felt Edward was responsible for her daughter’s death. She claimed that when she washed a white sheet she had taken from inside the coffin, the water turned red. About a month later, Mary Jane said that her daughter’s ghost appeared to her claiming that Edward broke her neck because she hadn’t prepared any meat for dinner. After three nights of this, Mary Jane went to the local prosecutor and insisted they dig up Elva’s body and reexamine it. He refused until the doctor confessed that he really hadn’t done a proper autopsy.
On February 22 the body was exhumed over Edward’s protests and it was easily determined that Elva’s neck had, indeed, been broken. Edward was charged with murder. Mary Jane served as a key witness, testifying to the visitations from her daughter. The defense tried to make her look crazy, but Edward was convicted and died three years later in jail, still proclaiming his innocence.
The Greenbrier Ghost hasn’t been seen since.
And people wonder where I get ideas for stories . . .
I love getting to visit the places where I set my stories. The Right Kind of Fool–releasing in November–is set in Beverly, WV, just down the road from my mom’s house. Last fall we went over and poked around town making it possible for me to add some nice details.
The old Odd Fellows Hall crops up several times. Today, it’s a cute shop filled with country knick knacks and collectibles–in my 1932 story it was a place for some tense conversations! Here’s a peek at the beginning of one of those . . .
Creed followed Virgil not much more than a block to the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street. Although membership in the organization had dwindled, the building with its stamped metal sheathing and false front remained a point of pride for many in the town. Apparently, Hadden was a member, and from the way Virgil walked in like he owned the place, Creed guessed the sheriff must be a member, as well.
Hadden sat at a table to the side of the long, narrow room. A cup of coffee sat in front of him, and he was reading a copy of the Randolph Enterprise. He lowered the paper, folded it, and set it on the table. He crossed his arms.
“Appreciate you sticking around,” Virgil said.
“I’m saving you a trip to my home. I hope you appreciate that.”
Virgil grunted and pulled a chair over near Hadden. “Could have gone ahead and locked you up. Then I wouldn’t have needed to cross the street.”
Hadden turned his attention to Creed. “We could use some new members here. Have you ever thought of becoming an Odd Fellow?”
Creed laughed. “Guess I’m odd enough without joining a group to prove it.”
I love it when I discover something wonderfully Appalachian that I didn’t know about!
I was researching Appalachian funeral traditions for my 2021 story (oops, I think I just gave away that someone dies–well, several someone’s actually!). I knew about cooling boards, sitting up with the dead, hand-digging graves, silver dollars on the eyes (pennies turn the skin green), and draping a cloth soaked in soda water over the face to keep the skin from darkening. But coffin quilts–this was new!
Called coffin or graveyard quilts they would be stitched by a family to be revisited each time someone died. They were typically somber colors–grays, blacks, or browns. Patterns varied, but often included a large square in the center that was the “graveyard.” Pieces of fabric shaped like coffins would be embroidered with each family member’s names and basted to the outside edge. When that person died, their coffin would be moved to the center graveyard and sewn into place.
The quilt might be used to drape the actual coffin at the funeral or used to cover the deceased at the viewing. While it might seem morbid, I tend to think it strikes the right balance between acknowledging that we’re all going to die one day and honoring those who already have.
Because in the end, we’ll all find our spot in the graveyard!
Follow this link to see a beautiful example from the Kentucky Historical Society. Don’t miss the link at the bottom of the page giving the quilt’s history. Priceless!
When my husband and I took on the family farm in West Virginia, a big part of the reason was to preserve family history. Turns out I’m pretty sentimental and I’m fascinated with history–especially my own.
I’ve known for years that my brothers and I are the seventh generation to live on that particular parcel of land. But I’d long wondered, just how much of it actually goes back seven generations?
In going through Dad’s papers my brother pulled out a legal-size folder full of papers “about the farm.” There are old deeds, maps, and handwritten notes. Among them is a page in my father’s hand that traces the property’s history back to 1833 (with county deed book citations in case I want to look it up as well). That means the land has been in our family for 187 years!
Turns out there are only eight acres that have passed through all seven generations, but I think it’s fair to assume the other 50+ we now own were part of the original tract since it was originally 1,460 acres!!
Here’s the rundown:
David Phillips acquired a 1,460-acre tract from David Stringer on February 4, 1833.
Horace Phillips received a portion of the original tract upon his father, David’s, death in 1849.
Horace willed 8 acres to his son David Phillips and his wife Serena on August 22, 1870.
David and Serena conveyed those 8 acres to Perry S. Loudin (son-in-law) and Jane Phillips Loudin (daughter) on December 4, 1909.
Jane Phillips Loudin Howes conveyed the 8 acres to her son, Rex Phillip Loudin, on May 3, 1943. The house my dad grew up in was on that parcel.
Rex conveyed the land to his son, Larry Phillip Loudin (my dad), on March 19, 1971, along with several additional tracts of the original 1,460 acres that had been purchased over the years, totaling 98.5 acres.
And then my husband and I purchased 58.5 acres including the 8 consistently in the family in February 2018.