Saturday, December 1, 2018

George W. Burchette: Guard of Honor

In the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of the Department of Library Special Collections at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky is a letter addressed to George W. Burchette, a civil war soldier born in Clinton County, Kentucky, who was in the service of one our nation's greatest presidents and recognized by another.

George Washington Burchette was born on August 27, 1843 to John Calvin Burchette and Polly Branham. He was the grandson of Icil Burchett. On September 29, 1861, soon after the Civil War began, George enlisted in the Union Army's 12th Kentucky Cavalry, where he became a 1st Sergeant. He served until July 24, 1865. Although he fought in battles at Mill Springs, Fort Henry, Perryville and elsewhere, it is what he did at the war's end that he became known for.


The story begins just after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, which occured on April 14, 1865, less than a week after the Civil War ended. A funeral train, known as The Lincoln Special, was set up to transport the president's remains from Washington D.C. to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, where he was to be buried. There were no television cameras or radio broadcasts in those days, only newspaper and telegraph. The Lincoln Special brought the slain president to the people. It allowed the nation to mourn together in a way that neither telegraph nor newspapers could do.


The train left Washington, D.C. on April 21 and traveled 1,654 miles through Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, never exceeding 20 mph, to the final stop at Springfield, arriving there on May 3. Following his assassination on April 14th, over the course of 20 days, the president's coffin made 14 stops between Washington DC. and Springfield, Illinois, retracing the route Lincoln had traveled to Washington as the president-elect on his way to his first inauguration, more than four years earlier. Millions of Americans came to view the train along the route and to participate in ceremonies and processions that were held at each stop. The normal routine of everyday living stopped; work, stores, businesses, schools...everything came to a standstill. At each train depot,.and along the streets, tens of thousands of people came and stood in silence, waiting patiently for the Great Emancipator. Most wept.


The Lincoln Special sojourned from Washington, D.C. through Baltimore Maryland, Harrisburg and Philadelphia Pennsylvania, New York City, Albany and Buffalo New York, Cleveland and Columbus Ohio, Indianapolis and Michigan City Indiana, and finally to Chicago, where George Washington Burchette had been chosen as one of 24 men who would serve as funeral guards (Guard of Honor) and for Lincoln's body as it was taken from the train depot to Cook County Courthouse to lie in state.

When the funeral train arrived at Chicago's Park Place, a signal gun was fired, and the tolling of the bell on the courthouse announced the news to the citizens, but there were already thousands and thousands of people congregated in the vicinity of the funeral arch. The vast multitude stood in profound silence and reverently uncovered their heads as the coffin was borne to the dais beneath the grand arch, while the great Western Light Guard Band performed the "Lincoln Requiem," composed for the occasion. Thirty-six young lady pupils of the high school, dressed in white and banded with crape, then walked around the bier and each deposited an immortelle on the coffin as she passed. The coffin was then placed in the hearse, prepared expressly for the occasion, and the funeral cortege passed out of the Park Place into Michigan avenue, and fell into procession.”


“He comes back to us, his work finished, the republic vindicated, its enemies overthrown and suing for peace,” editorialized the Chicago Tribune. “He left us, asking that the payers of the people might be offered to Almighty God for wisdom and help to see the right path and pursue it. Those prayers were answered. He accomplished his work, and now the prayers of the people ascend for help, to bear the great affliction which has fallen upon them. Slain as no other man has been slain, cut down while interposing his great charity and mercy between the wrath of the people and guilty traitors, the people of Chicago tenderly receive the sacred ashes, with bowed heads and streaming eyes.”

  John Carroll Power, an historian who served as the first custodian of the tomb of Abraham Lincoln, described the funeral procession: “It was a wilderness of banners and flags, with their mottoes and inscriptions. The estimated number of persons in line was 37,000 and there were three times as many more who witnessed the procession by crowding into the streets bordering on the line of march, making about one hundred and fifty thousand who were on the streets of Chicago that day, to add their tribute of respect to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.”


The viewing itself at the courthouse lasted for 28 hours, ending on May 2 at 8 P.M.. Power wrote: “The coffin was then closed and carried to the hearaw. The Light Guard Band performed a requiem as the remains were being transferred. An immense procession, bearing about three thousand torches, was already in line, to escort the remains to the depot. At a quarter before nine o’clock, it moved to the time of numerous bands of music. While the preparations for starting were in progress, the choir continued to sing funeral dirges, and twenty-five Sergeants of the Veteran Reserve Corps stood around the funeral car with draw swords. At half-past nine o’clock, the funeral cortege moved slowly out of the depot to the strains of a funeral march by the band, while the bells of the city tolled a solemn farewell to all that was mortal of Abraham Lincoln.”

U.S. Sanitary Commission activist Mary A. Livermore recalled: “There was none of the hum of business; none of the rush and whirl and hot haste that characterize Chicago, – but closed stores, silent streets, and sadness resting on all faces. Flags bound with crape floated mournfully at half-mast. Black draperies shrouded the buildings. All talk was low and brief. Many wept as they walked, and on the breast or arm of all were mourning badges. All nationalities, creeds, and sects were ranged along the route to be taken by the funeral cort├ęge, or stood amid the solemn pageantry and funeral splendor of the great procession.”


The train left Chicago to the sound to tolling bells. As it crossed through Illinois towards Lincoln’s home town, it passed large bonfires, large crowds and banners that read, “Come Home" and “Go To Thy Rest.” At Springfield, the coffin was loaded into an elaborate hearse pulled by six black horses in feathers and mourning blankets and bearing a silver plaque engraved with “A. L.” and taken to the state house. There, in the Hall of Representatives, where Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech, approximately 75,000 people filed silently by the coffin as a band played hymns sung by a choir of 30 vocalists. The next morning, Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest at Oak Ridge Cemetery.


George Washington Burchette was 22 years old when President Lincoln was assassinated. Being a member of the funeral guard brought him much notoriety back home in Cumberland and Clinton counties in Kentucky. After the war, he was appointed to oversee a group of 40 men who assisted the sheriff's of both counties in getting rid of bushwackers. He went on to become one of the Burkesville community's outstanding citizens and was elected state senator of Clinton and Cumberland counties.


When he died in 1935, just four months shy of his 92nd birthday, Burchette was Cumberland County's last surviving Union soldier and the last surviving member of the 24 men who had been chosen as guards for President Lincoln's while it as in Chicago and subsequent trip to Springfield. A few weeks before his death, Burchette received a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the letter, dated March 8, 1935, the president wrote "My dear Mr. Burchette, I am informed that you were a member of the funeral guard of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago and I am glad to send you this note to extend to you my personal greetings and my best wishes for your welfare. Very sincerely yours, President Franklin D. Roosevelt."

George Washington Burchette died at noon on April 18, 1935, one month and 10 days after receiving that letter. A funeral was held the following day at his residence and he was buried at Burkesville Cemetery. After his death, the letter was placed in the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU, where it can be seen today.

Burchette's grandfather, Icil Burchett, was killed by civil war guerrillas at his home in Clinton County. His great-grandfather, John Burchett, was a revolutionary war soldier in Virginia.


The photocopy of the letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to George Burchette is courtesy of Library Special Collections, WKU.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Catching Up With a Hero

A member of a retired United States Marine Corps was in Albany, Kentucky today and while here, presented a copy of the book, "Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation Honors War Veterans For More Than 60 Years of Growth," to James E. Morrison, who was a Master Sargeant, a non-commissioned officer with Co. C, 23rd Infantry 2nd Division. Morrison demonstrated exceptional valor when he distinguished himself by leading his troops in an attack on Heartbreak Ridge on Sept. 2, 1951. For weeks, his platoon had been completely surrounded by North Korean troops. Before being rescued by a Calvary Division, his Silver Star citation says he continuously exposed himself to enemy fire to direct his troops. At one point, he did not hesitate to carry one his wounded officers back to the first aid station, even though he himself was wounded by a grenade during the evacuation of that officer. Refusing to be evacuated himself, Master Sargeant Morrison continued leading his platoon during violent enemy fire until they were in consolidated positions on the seized objective. During this action, he was also given the French Croix de Guerre by the United Nations French Ground Forces. The book, presented by the KIA Motor Company, is dedicated to U.S. Veterans of the Korean War and their families, thanking them for their service.



"Roy Clark, Thanks For Coming"


I don't know whose idea it was to form the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet, but boy was it a good one. Formed In the late 1970s, the quartet consisted of Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones and Kenny Price. They would gather around a microphone and sing a gospel hymn at the end of the show's last segment. Several of the quartet's performances were released as recordings. We had two albums at WANY and we played them a lot. When Elmer Goodman died Sid Scott told me he had regretted not taking him into a recording studio with The Singjng DJ's and recording a gospel album in Hee Haw Quartet fashion. That would have been awesome.

Yesterday when I first heard that Roy Clark, a Grammy-winning country music singer-guitarist, had died of pneumonia complications at the age of 85, I immediately thought of the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet.

Clark was born on April 15, 1933 in Meherrin, VA, but his family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was a kid. His father played in a square dance band and took him to free concerts by the National Symphony and by military bands. “I was subjected to different kinds of music before I ever played,” Clark once said. “Dad said, ‘Never turn your ear off to music until your heart hears it — because then you might hear something you like.”

Roy started playing the guitar when he was 14 years old. In the early days of his career, he performed with banjo player David “Stringbean" Akeman. He said, "We would play drive-in theaters, standing on top of the concession stand. If the people liked it, they'd honk their horns."

Roy began making records in 1954. It didn't take long for people to sit up and take notice of his guitar playing. In the mid 1950s, he honed his television chops as a regular on Country Style, the D.C.-based television show hosted by Jimmy Dean, eventually taking over as host after Dean relocated to New York

. His big break came in 1960, when he was invited to Las Vegas to open for Wanda Jackson. After her band broke up, Clark hired her manager, who secured him appearances on The Tonight Show and Beverly Hillbillies. Clark was guest host on “The Tonight Show” several times in the 1960s and 1970s, a rarity for a country performer at that time. Yankee's baseball great Mickey Mantle was moved to tears when he heard Roy sing “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial, a request granted when Mantle died in 1995.

His first hit single came in 1963 with his recording of the Bill Anderson song, "Tips of my Fingers." He scored a huge hit in 1969 with one of his most beloved recordings, "Yesterday When I Was Young." He followed that up in 1970 with, "Thank God and Greyhound She's Gone." His 1973 hit "Come Live With Me," went to #1. His recording of "Alabama Jubilee" won him a Grammy Award in 1982. He was also known for his instrumental versions of “Malaguena,” on 12-string guitar, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

As if his pickin' the banjo or the guitar wasnt enough, Roy's sense of humor captured the hearts of his fans. In a 1966 appearance on the TV show, Swingin’ Country, the host, Rusty Draper, asked him, “About how long have you been performing?“ Without skipping a beat, Clark said, “About three months.”

The music-comedy TV show, Hee Haw, greatly impacted a whole generation of people, thanks largely to one of Kornfield Kounty's most popular residents, the show's co-host, Roy Clark. CBS launched Hee Haw in summer 1969 as country music’s answer to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Each episode was filled with country music stars and down-home comedy skits. It lasted three seasons on the network before moving to syndication, where it aired for 22 more years.

Hee Haw was theme-based on rural culture, although it was not limited to a rural audience. It was successful in all of the major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago.

The show provided a lot of laughs, and plenty of country music. Buck and Roy hosted the show through most of its run for most of its run. Their dialogue at the beginning of each show became one of most popular quotes ever: "I'm a-pickin' (Buck Owens)and I'm a-grinnin' (Roy Clark.

My favorite Roy Clark skit was set in a barber shop with Archie Campbell, a barber, cutting Roy's hair as he told one if his stories, like the one about Rindercella, her mugly other, two sad bisters and a very prandsom hince, or how about the "Oh that's good, no that's bad" gag? There was also the one where Roy would raise up from behind the counter to exclaim "Empty Arms Hotel!" Clark said Hee Haw capped off his career. “This was the icing on the cake," he said. This put my face and name together.” Another favorite of mine was the lamentful song "Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me," featuring Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Gordie Tapp and Archie Campbell.

Roy Clark was member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also won the Acedemy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award. Beginning in 1983, Roy opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and was one of the first country entertainers to open a theater there. Dozens followed him.

Roy was all about spreading love and good cheer. One of my all-time favorite quotes came when he said, "The next chance you get, do somethin' nice for somebody - say 'good day,' hold a door open - and don't wait around for a thank you...you don't need it." If only we would all do that, the world would be a better place. Roy must have known that.

He appreciated his fans and always let them know that he did. At the end of his concerts, he would tell the audience: “We had to come, but you had a choice. Thanks for being here.”

Yes, we had a choice and we chose you, Roy Clark. Thanks for coming. We were not let down. Thank you for the music, and for the laughs.

I close my story with the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet singing a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, featuring Charlie McCoy on harmonica.



Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Cheyenne Social Club


The Cheyenne Social Club is a 1970 western comedy film directed and produced by Gene Kelly and starring James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Shirley Jones and Sue Ane Langdon. Set in 1867, it's about an aging cowboy, John O'Hanlan who inherits a brothel and decides to turn it into a respectable boarding house, against the wishes of both the townspeople and the ladies working there.

O'Hanlan (Stewart) and Harley Sullivan (Fonda) leave their jobs working on open cattle ranges in Texas to make the 1,000 mile trek to Cheyenne. Along the way, they engage in quite an interesting conversation, except it's Sullivan who does most of the talking.

Harley Sullivan: "I remember when I was about twelve years old. My daddy asked me, he says, 'What do you want to be when you grow up, Little Harley?' And like a fool, I said a cowboy. I've been making wrong moves ever since."

Harley Sullivan: "Did I ever tell ya how my Uncle Charlie got stoved up?"
John O'Hanlan: "No, Harley."
Harley Sullivan: "His home set right out in the prarie. One day he went in the outhouse and got caught right in the middle of a stampede. When he went in there wasn't a cow in sight. A few minutes late 365 longhorns ran over him. Broke him up something terrrible. That was nineteen years ago and he's still constipated."

John O'Hanlan: "Harley, did you ever get married?"
Harley Sullivan: "Yes, John, I did."
John O'Hanlan: "Well, I never knew it."
Harley Sullivan: "Well, John, it ain't something I like to talk about, but I was married once. And once is enough for any man. You can't smoke, chew, dip, drink, scratch in the parlor, or cuss. When you leave the house, they ask you where'd you go. And when you come home, they ask you where have you been. And right now with you, it is just like when I was married."
John O'Hanlan: "Why, how is that, Harley?"
Harley Sullivan: "Well, John, when a woman's talking to you, you can be pretty sure that she thinks she's in control. And when she's not talking to you, you can be pretty certain you're in control. Take Helen. She had flame red hair, pitch black eyes, ruby lips and no teeth - but talk about a body! She could straddle two horses at the same time. I went with her until I found out she dipped snuff. There's something awful unfemale about a snuff dipper - don't you think so, John?"

John O'Hanlan: "Harley, I want you to do me a favor. Don't ever tell anyone here in Cheyenne I voted Democratic. You'll do that for me, won't you?"
Harley Sullivan: "If you say so."
John O'Hanlan: "Thank you."
Harley Sullivan: "John, you don't mind if I still vote Democratic, do you?"
John O'Hanlan: "Just so long as you're not seen with me when you do it. Be bad for business."

John O'Hanlan: "What are you lookin' at?"
Harley Sullivan: "You."
John O'Hanlan: "Why?"
Harley Sullivan: "I don't know. You look different some how."
John O'Hanlan: "What do you mean different?"
Harley Sullivan: "John, its kind of hard for me to put my finger on."
John O'Hanlan: "Well, try Harley. Use 'em all."

Harley Sullivan: "Hank Jameson had fourteen brothers and sisters. She only had three toes on her left foot. I remember one day..."
John O'Hanlan: "Harley, who only had three toes on her left foot?
Harley Sullivan: "Hank's sister, Cora B. Cora B. Jameson was her name. Folks used to pay her to take her shoe off."

Harley Sullivan: You just ain't the man you was yesterday. At least ways not from where I stand."
John O'Hanlan: "Well, maybe you're not standin' in the right place Harley! What do you mean I'm not the man today I was yesterday?"
Harley Sullivan: "Just, like you lost yourself when you took a bath!"

Fonda drones on and on as the pair travel across the vast Western landscape, about his family and dogs and heaven knows what all else. Finally...

John O'Hanlan: “You know where we are now, Harley?”
Harley Sullivan: “Not exactly.”
John O'Hanlan: “We’re in the Wyoming Territory and you’ve been talkin’ all the way from Texas.”
Harley Sullivan: “Just been keepin’ you company.”
John O'Hanlan: “I appreciate it, Harley, but if you say another word the rest of the day I’m gonna kill you.”

Friday, October 12, 2018

William Christian Shearer Was Well Respected

My 4th great-grandfather, William Christian Shearer's, roots can be traced back to Northern Ireland. According to the 1938 book, "A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, 1800 -1900," by Augusta Phillips Johnson, sometime around 1740, four brothers: George, John, William, James, and their families came to America from near Ulster, Ireland.

William settled in what became Wilkes County, N.C., where, according to Geni.com, his son, William Christian Shearer, served with the 16th Regiment during the American Revolution. It says after migrating to Wayne County, KY around 1812, he and his son, Jacob, ran a freight line that transported household goods, machinery and merchandise between Monticello and Louisville. It said that he was educated and well liked in the community and that he set up and conducted the first Bible study class in Wayne County.


William was married twice, first to Hannah Hoover, who died in North Carolina, then to Sallie Walters. He reportedly had numerous children with both wives. His son, Daniel, was the father of Margaret Shearer Huffaker. Her daughter, Hettie, married U.S. "Grant" Frost. They were the parents of my grandmother, Vada Boles. Christian and his son, Jacob, and Christian's wife, Sallie, are all buried at Bethesda Cemetery. Christian's granddaughter, Margaret, and her husband, Henry Clay Huffaker, my great, great-grandparents, are also buried at Bethesda Cemetery.

Chapter five of the book, "A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, 1800 -1900," tells that in 1828, Christian Shearer's son, Daniel, my 3rd great-grandfather helped to build a church at Pleasant Bend, now Cooper. In the book, author Augusta Phillips Johnson wrote that Daniel's son, Adam Napolean Shearer, then a lad of nine, remembered going with his father to do this. They called it the Church of Christ. In 1852, they organized and planned to build a church in Shearer Valley. The Civil War came on and this house was not completed until the war was over, but enough was done that the soldiers camped in it during the war. This house stands yet, and members of the Church of Christ meet there for worship. Jenkins Shearer, and later Daniel Shearer, preached in this church. Daniel B. Shearer was born on May 12, 1791 and died on April 21, 1865, at the age of 73. He and his wife, Margaret Vickery Shearer, are buried at Shearer Valley Cemetery.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Be A Winner!


Remember the football gag where Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football while he kicks it?

"KICK THE FOOTBALL, CHARLIE BROWN!"

At first, he refuses because he doesn't trust her. Eventually, she talks him into it and, just as he is about to kick the ball, Lucy picks it up.

"AAUGH!"

...yelled Charlie Brown as he went flying through the air, followed by...

"WHAM!"

...as he hit the ground.

The message was clear...

"DON'T GIVE UP!"

While Charlie Brown may not have ever kicked the football held by Lucy, he never stopped trying.

So it is with life, where the impossible can become possible if we are determined enough to not quit.

Never stop trying...a quitter never wins, but a winner never quits.

Be a winner!

YOU CAN DO IT!

George W. Burchette: Guard of Honor

In the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of the Department of Library Special Collections at Western Kentucky University in Bowlin...