Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I Come From A Long Line Of Musicians


Anthony Bassano, a 16th century musician who is buried in the churchyard at All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of London, was born in Italy but later moved to England to serve in the court of Henry VIII. Five of his sons also served as musicians there, while his daughter, Lucreece, married the french-born courtier and artist, and my ancestor,  known as Nicholas Lanier, the Elder.

Nicholas, who was born in Rouen, France in 1542, served as a court musician to Henry II. After fleeing to England to escape Catholic persecution in 1561, he began serving the court of Queen Elizabeth I.


Nicholas and Elena's grandson, also named Nicholas Lanier (see photo), became the first person to hold the title of Master of the King’s Music while serving as court musician, composer, performer and groom of the chamber to King Charles I and Charles II. He was a singer who also played the flute as well as the viola.


I am descended from Nicholas Lanier, the Elder's son, Clement, my 11th great-grandfather, who served as Gentleman of the King’s Chamber to both James I and Charles I. Clement's son, and my ancestor, John Lanier, Sr., known as The Immigrant, migrated to Virginia in the late 1600's. His great, great-grandson, George Washington Lanier, later moved to the North side of Obeds Creek in Overton County, TN, then Jackson County. George's  granddaughter, Nancy Asburn, married John Speck. They are my 4th great-grandparents. I wonder if Nancy knew she descended from aristocrats who were distinguished and educated musicians for kings and queens of France and England for three generations?

Another of Clement Lanier descendants, his third great-grandson, Lloyd Addison Lanier, came up the Cumberland River from Nashville and operated a general merchandise store near Mill Springs in Wayne County. His brother-in-law, Thompson Brown, owned a twelve hundred acre farm there, which he eventually purchased. When the Battle of Mill Springs was fought, Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer used the home as his headquarters. Today, the Brown-Lanier house and grounds, which includes the mill there, are part of Mill Springs National Park.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Let's Get Together (And Do It Right)

There is too much noise in the world right now that is producing a level of adrenalin rush never before seen in my lifetime, and most likely yours. Raised blood pressures, accelerated heart rates, stressed out to the max, hypertension overload that is increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. What are we doing?

If ever there was a moment for an awakening, it is now. It happened once before, you know, and it could happen again.

It was in the spring of 1966, when a group known as The Youngbloods signed with RCA Records. Later that year they recorded their self-titled debut album. One of the songs on it had been discovered several months earlier after singer and bass player Jesse Colin Young had gone out looking for a place to rehearse. As he entered a club in New York City, folk singer Buzzy Linhart was on stage rehearsing a song. He was filled with emotion by what he heard.

“Love is but a song we sing, fear’s the way we die, you can make the mountains ring or make the angels cry, Though the bird is on the wing and you may not know why, Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

It was in that moment that Young had an awakening. He ran backstage and asked Linhart who had written the song. The answer was Dino Valenti, whose real name was Chet Powers. He had written the song in 1963.

“Get Together” had been so tightly arranged during The Youngbloods' rehearsals that in the studio no one with RCA dared to do anything to it. It was a pure and self-contained piece of art, whose sacred nature was apparent.

But in New York the song didn't go over very well. It wasn't until the band took it's tour to San Francisco that it's popularity began to rise. It was 1967 and the "Summer of Love."

People then actually wanted to learn to love one another. Imagine, today, a world where peace and love are the counterculture to what we have become, a place where everyone gets along. We need that awakening.

"Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"




Wednesday, June 10, 2020

J.H. McKinley was Bozo Texino


Pleasanton City Cemetery in Atascosa County, Texas is where Clinton County, Kentucky native J.H. McKinley lies buried. Born at Cartwright on March 25, 1893, he was an early-20th-century train man who was also a railroad car graffiti artist, someone who marked up freight cars with pictures and messages in text.

For a long time the identity of Bozo Texino remained at least semi-anonymous. The mythical character McKinley created began leaving his hobo chalk-drawn graffiti/artwork on the sides of boxcars from Maine to California as early as 1919. In the photo you can see his graphic signature and the simple bust of a pipe-smoking character in a peaked hat with an infinity-shaped brim. In 1939, he told a reporter he had adorned a quarter-million or so boxcars since bringing Bozo Texino.

James Herbert McKinley worked for Missouri Pacific, first as a fireman then later as a locomotive engineer. He was known to sometimes wear a checkered shirt, a bow-tie and a derby hat with his denim railroad overalls and is remembered by his peers as one of the wildest engineers who ever worked for Missouri-Pacific.

As I mentioned, Bozo Texino's identity wasn’t exactly a secret. For more than 25 years he wrote a humor column called “Bozo Texino Sez” for Missouri-Pacific magazine and occasionally would write a piece in Albany's New Era newspaper.

"When I was a teenager," he wrote in 1953, "and used to climb the steep grade from the foot of the 76 Falls, I didn't know that some day I'd go to the top of the falls in a boat. When I used to swiim in the 7-foot swimming hole on Ind­ian Creek I didn't know that some day it would be a 77-foot swimming hole. No one could have ever made me believe that some day I'd catch a fish 100-foot above Aunt Ann Ellen Grider's chimney.

Born March 25, 1893, McKinley left Clinton County when he was barely 17 and moved to San Antonio. In 1914 he was hired to work on the San Antonio, Uvaloe and Gulf Railroad, then two years later on the IGN. Both of those railroad companies were eventually bought by Missouri-Pacific. McKinley was promoted to engineer in 1928, but it was his penchant for humor that made him well known and admired through­out that part of the country.

"I remember when very few people trusted a bank and buried their money under the hearth in front of an open fire­place or under a haystack," he wrote in 1954. "Ev­erybody trusted and loved one another and nobody would tell a lie until they started trading coon dogs."

James Herbert McKinley was the son of Charles Ellis and Rachel Neathery McKinkey. He died in Pleasanton, Texas, just outside San Antonio, on February 26, 1967. Several of his relatives live in Clinton County.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Day the Civil War Came to Albany, pt. 4, "Blessed are the Peacemakers"


It was during the late winter and early spring of 1862, as the civil war was now in full swing, that the Union and Confederate factions of the Upper Cumberland attempted to reach a peaceful compromise in order to prevent the raids that were occuring in Fentress and Overton counties in Tennessee, and Clinton County in Kentucky.

Murder, theft and arson had become commonplace during the absence of regular soldiers who had gone off to fight in the war. It was decided that a peace conference should be held in hopes a solution might be reached that would end the senseless acts of guerilla warfare. It was agreed the meeting would be held at Monroe in Overton County.

The Northern side was represented by men from Fentress and Clinton counties. The Southern side was represented by men from Overton County. Since confederate guerilla Champ Ferguson was committing the largest number of atrocities, he was invited to the conference to represent the Confederate interests of Clinton County. It would prove to be a big mistake.

Even though the parties agreed to stop the raids into adjoining counties, on the way back to Clinton County, Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men. Before the wars' end, most of the Union men who had participated in the peace conference were killed, while others were pursued but only terrorized. Those killed were James Zachary, Thomas Wood, William Johnson, Robert Martin, Joseph Stover, Louis Pierce, Eli Hatfield, Parson Joseph Dalton, John McDonald and a Mr. Taylor. Another was my third great-grandfather, Elisha Koger.

Elisha had been a member of the home guard in Clinton County. On the morning of Sunday, June 1, 1862, just as the sun was starting to rise, he rose from his bed and headed out to the spring that ran beside his home at Oak Grove, with his wife, Nancy, by his side. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed for him to run, but it was too late as Champ Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Elisha threw up his arms and said something, but Nancy couldn't make out his words because the couple's children were screaming.

As shots continued to ring out, he ran toward a fence some fifty yards away. He reached the fence and tried to cross it, but Ferguson and nine other men rode up to him and continued shooting. By the time Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms, covered in his blood. Elisha gasped once, but never spoke. He had been shot more than 30 times. Nancy knelt beside her dead husband's body as Ferguson and his outlaw gang ransacked the Koger home.

Seven months earlier, on Nov. 1, 1861, Ferguson had killed Nancy Koger's brother, William Frogge, as his wife Esther, also watched in horror.

On October 20, 1865, Ferguson was hanged for the brutal murder of 53 people. Nancy and Esther were two of those who testified against him at his trial.

The historical significance of the peace conference rests upon the premise of what might have been, a story of reasonable men who searched for solace during unreasonable times.

For the record, I had family members on both sides of the Civil War conflict who were both persecuted and harmed over what they believed in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Tale From Caney Gap, KY


There once was a wealthy farmer who lived at Caney Gap in Clinton County and his name was Bill Burchett. He always had something to sell. He didn't count his money, he measured it in a cedar water bucket that held a peck. When he'd get this bucket four or five times full he'd have a bushel. He also had an earthen crock to measure gold that held $3,000 worth when it was full. Sid Burchett, an old African-American who was born a slave, always lived with Bill or some of his children. Sid couldn't read or write and he stuttered, but when he finally got the words out of his mouth they were words of wisdom. Sid could lean on a hoe handle in a cornfield and smell the atmosphere and tell within thirty minutes when it was going to rain. No deal or business transaction was ever made without consulting Sid, and his decision about anything was seldom wrong. If he told them to sell a hog and they didn't sell it, it would die of the cholera the next week. - J. H. McKinley, The New Era, April 12, 1951

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Hymns of Hope: Faith is the Victory!


Rev. John H. Yates was born in Batavia, New York on Nov. 31, 1837. He was licensed as a Methodist preacher after high school, but instead was forced to get a job to help maintain his aged parents. His father had been a shoemaker, so John's first job was in a shoe store. For thirty years he worked at different retail jobs, including a hardware store and a department store, eventually becoming the editor of the local newspaper.

All through his years of working Yates still managed to preach here and there, sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. Before his death in 1900, he switched from a Methodist to a Free Will Baptist and in 1897 began pastoring at a church near Batavia.

He also had another way of serving the Lord. His mother had been a school teacher who loved poetry and literature, and it was at her beckoning that Yates became a writer of poetry and songs. It wasn't long before hymns he had written were being sung all over the land.

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” - 1 John 5:4

John's faith was severely tested when his wife and two sons all died within the space of one week from an outbreak of diphtheria. He eventually remarried and kept going, giving living illustration that our faith in the promises of God and in our Lord Jesus gives us overcoming victory.

His success as a hymn writer led the famous singer and musician, Ira D. Sankey, to ask Yates to write hymns for him. Perhaps the deaths of his wife and children, and the testing of his faith, is what led him to write his most famous hymn, "Faith is the Victory."

Encamped along the hills of light
Ye Christian soldiers rise
  And press the battle ere the night
  Shall veil the glowing skies
Against the foe in vales below
  Let all our strength be hurled
Faith is the victory we know
That overcomes the world

Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh glorious victory
That overcomes the world


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Day Aeronauts Fell From the Sky in Kentucky


Metcalfe County, Kentucky has been known for a lot of different things over the years: The Kentucky Headhunters, Black Stone Cherry, UK basketball star J.P. Blevins and the natural gas pipeline explosion at Beaumont in 1985, but in 1910 it was known as the place where a hot air balloon fell from the sky.

On May 8, 1910, Viking, said to be the largest hot air balloon in the world with a gas capacity of 85,000 cubic feet, left Quincey, Illinois on a journey to set a long-distance record. The balloon, piloted by A. Holland Forbes of New York, President of Forbes Publishing Company, sailed over Missouri, Indiana and then Kentucky. At 16,000 feet they encountered a thunderstorm which caused their virtually uncontrollable aircraft to shoot up to an altitude of 20,600 feet, which was a new altitude record.


As the balloon approached Tennessee, Forbes and his crewman, J. C. Yates, also of New York, almost passed out from the effects of the high altitude. Forbes later said the air pressure at that moment was no more than four pounds. The trauma caused both men to lose their ability to function properly. Forbes panicked and pulled the rip cord too hard in a rush to slow his descent. The two men were forced to discard all ballast and provisions to check their descent when suddenly, at a distance of almost 500 feet above ground, the rip cord tore Forbes' new balloon open and, like a piece of lead, it dropped straight to the ground in the Center community in Metcalfe County. Residents there arrived to find both men unconscious and seriously injured, Yates' injuries were more severe. The two men might have been killed had it not been for a pneumatic mattress that was laying on the basket floor. When they began their journey in Illinois, thirty-three bags of sand were onboard the Viking. There was only one left when it hit ground.


Forbes was internationally known as a balloonist. There was not another balloonist in the United States, and probably in the world, who had more enthusiasm about the sport than he did. He had made so many trips skyward that newspapers and magazines dubbed him the "Cowboy of the Air." A year earlier he won a trophy for the longest flight made in the United States during the year after his balloon, The New York, covered 731 miles in 19 1/4 hours. The accident in Metcalfe County wasn't his first narrow escape. At the Berlin races in 1908, his balloon, The Conqueror, caught fire and fell rapidly. Fortunately, the torn bag formed a sort of parachute that enabled Forbes to escape serious injury.


After the ordeal in Metcalfe County, Forbes continued to be an active member of the Aero Club of America, retaining his keen interest in all forms of aviation until his death on Dec. 23, 1927.

I Come From A Long Line Of Musicians

Anthony Bassano, a 16th century musician who is buried in the churchyard at All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of Lon...