Friday, April 20, 2018

Till The Storm Passes By

During a recent singing at my church, friends Rob and Debbie sang Mosie Lister's great song, "Till The Storm Passes By." Before they sang, Debbie spoke about how God spared her family from a tornado that completely destroyed their brand new home in 1998, and how a shelter Rob had built in the basement had protected them from harm. For me, it was an all too familiar story of a tornado that came to my family's home when i was a small child.

The date was March 19, 1963. We lived in an apartment above my grandparents' garage at 601 Hopkins Street. My parents had gone out of town that day and my grandmother, Dimple Speck, was left to babysit us kids; Mike (4), Randy (me, age 3), Darilyn (2) and Ronnie (4 months). As a storm intensified outside, my grandmother looked out a window just in time to see the tornado that was fastly approaching. With only seconds to spare, she quickly gathered all of us together underneath the kitchen table and then, realizing she could not physically protect all of us at the same time, she told Mike and I to run to our parents' bedroom and get underneath the bed. We were overcome with so much fear that, no sooner had we got there, we decide to run back to the kitchen table.

By that time, the roof was already beginning to be pulled away from the building. My grandmother would later recall the haunting sound of hundreds of nails being ripped out of the wood. I cannot imagine how horrifying it must have been for her to see us running back to her at that moment. She was already holding our sister in one arm and our baby brother in the other. There was no way she could have physically handled two more kids, much less try to hold the table down.

My grandmother was a very spiritual woman. You could always find her sitting at the table with her bible either opened in front of her or laying beside her. There is no doubt that she did an awful lot of praying between the time she saw the tornado through the window and the sound of the roof coming apart. Instead of it crashing down on top of us, the tornado sucked the roof and most everything inside the apartment, outward. In the quiescence that followed, one thing that remained was that kitchen table, and all who were underneath it. God had spared my family, just like He spared Rob and Debbie and their family.

"Till the storm passes over
till the thunder sounds no more
till the clouds roll forever from the sky
hold me fast let me stand
in the hollow of thy hand
keep me safe till the storm passes by"

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Farmer and the Bicycle

Old farmer Jacob Rust lived about four miles from Albany, said a letter to the New York Sun. He had a good mountain farm and was very well-to-do in a rough and thinly populated region where a man with $10,000 was considered rich. Farmer Rust had several daughters and Ellen, the oldest, was considered the most 'handsomest' of them all.

This particular summer, a young man named Henry Curtis from Ohio, whose parents had moved there from Albany, had gone back to visit his relatives. He brought with him a bicycle. It was the first one to be seen in Clinton County, the letter said, and people came from miles around to see it. Henry, it said, was an expert rider and frequently displayed his bicycleship before the eyes of the mountaineers. He was even kind enough to let a number of the young men try his "velocipede," as it was called in Albany, but their bruised faces and sore joints soon made them very shy of the machine.

Henry fell in love with Ellen Rust. He pressed his courtship and was accepted, but farmer Rust was opposed. He objected to Henry because, as far as the farmer's knowledge went, he did not technically have what was known as any visible means of subsistence, or has farmer Rust termed it, "he was a lazy good-for-nothin' who had nothin' to do but go gallopin' around the hills on two wheels." Henry assured him he had a good business and fine prospects in Ohio, which was later transpired that his statement was true, but the farmer did not believe him.

So, Henry and Ellen waited. She was of legal age and they could have easily eloped, but they did not wish to do that. They wanted the old man's consent. The bicycle appeared to be farmer Rust's chief objection. He did not believe in it. "My gal," he said, "shan't marry any fellow who fools away his time on such a derned thing as that. Why, he might break his neck any day and then I'd have his 'widder' to take care of. I don't want for a son-in-law any man who rides on a velocipede. If he had a horse or a buckboard it would be all right."

Henry would not put away his beloved machine. The letter stated that he loved that bicycle, next to Ellen of course, and he meant to have them both. On Monday, Ellen was visiting a relative in town and Henry went to see her. They were getting angry at the old man's obduracy. "I will ride right out now, see him, and ask for your hand," said Henry, "and if he does not consent I will come back and we will get married anyhow. You are of legal age and we can have the ceremony performed here in town."

Ellen agreed.

Henry mounted his bicycle and headed for farmer Rust's place. The old man had just come in from a journey and his horse and buckboard were still at the yard gate. The young man immediately made known his errand.

" I told you once before that you could not marry her," said the farmer.

"Well, I am going to marry her, anyhow," replied Henry. "She is in town now. I am going back there and in less than an hour she will be my wife!"

"Then you will have to beat me to town," said farmer Rust. "I don't think any velocipede can get ahead of my old mare and the buckboard. If you get there ahead of me, i guess you can have the girl."

With that said, Henry mounted the bicycle and the old man jumped on his buckboard and the race was on. On a good turnpike or level road, read the letter, Henry could have easily outdistanced the old mare, who was not as swift as she once was, but it was altogether a different matter over those hills. But his recent experience with such difficulties stood him in good service, and, in spite of his rough path, Henry soon had the satisfaction of passing the farmer's bumping buckboard.

Henry waved his hand gleefully at his perspective father-in-law, who was swearing at his old mare and endeavoring to whip her into a faster gait. He wrecked twice, but each time Henry was able to right himself and his wheel without harm to either, and passed into town a quarter of a mile ahead of farmer Rust. He then stopped and waited for the farmer to come up.

The farmer looked at the bicycle for a moment and then exclaimed, "Well, I'll be derned!" Together, they went to fetch the Baptist preacher, brought him to the house where Ellen was visiting relatives, and it was there, on that day, that she and Henry were married.

- from the Sept. 26, 1889 edition of the Parsons (Kansas) Weekly Sun.

The story also ran in the Chicago Tribune, St. Paul Globe, Salt Lake Tribune, Daily Bee in Omaha, Times Democrat in New Orleans, the Clinton, Missouri Advocate and several other newspapers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Medal of Honor Recipient: Oliver Hughes

Harry Truman once declared he’d rather have a Medal of Honor than be president. The area i live in is blessed to have had three Medal of Honor recipients so far: Sgt. Alvin C. York during WWI, Lt. Murl Conner during WWII and Cpl. Oliver Hughes during the Civil War.

Most people may not know about the heroics of Cpl. Hughes. The first soldier from this area to receive the citation, he was born in Fentress County, TN in 1844 and lived in the Static area, close to where Conner lived and not far from York's place at Pall Mall, TN. Cpl. Hughes was awarded the Medal of Honor for an act of extraordinary heroism which he performed on February 20, 1865, while serving with the Union army's 12th Kentucky Infantry at Town Creek, North Carolina.

The Union army had came up on Confederate lines along the road from Wilmington to Fort Fisher. Finding themselves in a comparatively open country with only a few pine trees, the federal troops were exposed to a merciless fire from the rebel artillery. Seeing that desperate measures were necessary, Lieutenant-Colonel L.H. Rassieur ordered an attack on the rebel lines. When it began, Cpl. Hughes saw the color-sergeant carrying the flag of the 11th South Carolina Infantry Regiment. The flag, in those days, was used to signal advances and retreats. Determined to capture it, he made a rush toward the color-sergeant, who retreated to within a short distance of his company. Still, Hughes persisted and within 3 feet of the mouth of one of their cannon, killed him and captured the colors. In the disray, the union was able to counter because with the Confederate flag gone so were the communications it provided.

Cpl. Hughes saved thousands of lives that day Town Creek, North Carolina. After the war, he returned home to farm, but a few years later moved to Macon County, Missouri. He died there in 1911 at the age of 69.

The flag of the 11th South Carolina regiment was returned by the U.S. War Department to the state of South Carolina on March 25, 1905.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

U.S. Rexroat

One early newspaper publisher/editor was a man by the name of Ulysses Sampson Rexroat. U.S. was born in 1869, probably in Russell County, to Sampson and Susan Absher Rexroat. His grandfather was Bro. William Rexroat, a popular Baptist preacher. It is unclear when the family moved to Chapman, Kansas, but when he died, Sampson Rexroat was, according to newspapers, one of oldest settlers in Chapman, which was settled in 1868.

It is also not clear when U.S. moved back to Kentucky, but he married Lula Walker of Columbia in 1892. Their only child, a son, Walker Brice, was born in 1893. Lula likely died either in childbirth or shortly thereafter as Walker Brice was reared by her parents and took their surname.

In 1897, U.S. was the editor of The Liberty Tribune in Liberty, Kentucky. He was also the secretary of the Liberty Fair in 1897. He apparently moved to Russell Springs the following year, because he was listed as a stockholder when the Russell Springs Fair Association was chartered in 1898. He was the groups first Secretary. In 1902, he started a newspaper in Russell Springs known as Kentucky Mountaineer.

March 4, 1903 -- (The Adair County News) "The Journal is the name of the new paper just started in Albany. Mr. U.S. Rexroat is its editor and publisher. Clinton County has a republican majority of about 500, but the editor of the journal states that his paper will be non-political. This announcement leads us to conclude that the readers of Clinton County are Democrats. We hope Mr. Rexroat will give them digestible material and that his venture will meet with success."

Ulysses Stewart Rexroat was born in Russell County in 1869, the first-born child of Sampson Rexroat and his second wife, Susan Absher Rexroat. So, i suppose being a native Russell countian allowed him to publish this commentary in his paper:

March 25, 1903 -- The Adair County News "Running a newspaper is just like shooting fish. All that is necessary is knowing how. The editor of the Albany Journal perhaps did not have on his studying cap when he wrote and published the following: Attorney O.B. Bertram went to Jamestown, Ky. last Sunday where he thinks of locating for the practice of his profession. May the Lord have mercy upon him. We've been there."

Ulysses was listed as a stockholder when the Russell Springs Fair Association was chartered in 1898 and served as its first Secretary. Two months after starting up his newspaper business in Albany, it was discovered that papers weren't the only thing being sold at the concession stand.

May 13, 1903 -- The Adair County News "U.S. Rexroat, who is the editor of the Albany Journal, was arrested last week, charged with selling liquor."

This was the second time Rexroat had been in the clutches of the law, charged with the same offense. En route to Columbia, he gave the police officer the slip and escaped. Learning he was at Russell Springs, Deputy United States Marshall R.E. McCandless and Commissioner F.R. Winfrey, went there and, just as the Commissioner entered the Springs Hotel and inquired about him, Rexroat made his escape out the back way. The Marshall was stationed out back and after a chase of 300 yards and firing at him several times, Rexroat was apprehended.

June 3, 1903 -- The Adair County News "U.S. Rexroat, who is charged with retailing liquor, was arrested at Russell Springs Wednesday night and brought to Columbia and lodged in jail. Thursday afternoon he was tried and held over, his bond being fixed at $200. The prisoner not being prepared to execute bond, the officer immediately started with him to Louisville."

Immediately after his run-in with the law, U.S. left Kentucky and moved out West. He moved around a lot, from job to job, living Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, generally working in the printing trade, oft times as a newspaper editor. But, the newspaper business wasn't Rexroat's only vocation. In between all of those jobs, he also worked in the cafe and grocery business, conducted a ranch and supply store in South Dakota, worked on a wheat farm in Kansas and worked nearly two years at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

In September of 1905, he married Maud Gravette in Bentonville, Arkansas. In 1915, he married Clara Peck, a native American of South Dakota. They had three daughters. In 1920, they were living in Strike Axe, Oklahoma, and in 1930, in Wynona City, Oklahoma. 

Here are the known newspapers where Rexroat was employed:

1897: The Liberty Tribune - Liberty, Kentucky
1902: Kentucky Mountaineer - R. Springs, Kentucky
1903: Albany Journal - Albany, Ky.
1910: Gravette News Herald - Gravette, Arkansas
1912: Elsmore Leader - Elsmore, Kansas
1913: Interior Journal - Tina, Missouri
1914: The Simpson News - Simpson Kansas
1916: The Advocate - Lakin, Kansas
1917: The Argonia Argosy - Argonia, Kansas
1918: The Rolla News - Rolla, Kansas
1921: The Hustler - Apperson, Okla.

Rexroat fell victim to life's circumstances at the start of the 1930's, as he explained in a letter to the Amarillo Globe-Times on March 9, 1931while living in Perryton, Texas:

"I am just another unfortunate person appealing to you for whatever assistance you may grant through your column of your highly esteemed newspaper. Circumstances over which i had no control have forced me into an unenviable position. I have been out of steady employment for a year, although i have sought work assiduously during that investment with a stock company, daily paper at Seminole, Oklahoma, boom oil town, broke me and the slump in oil, with its attendant depression, "nailed me to the cross," as it were, and I have been trying in vain to find some kind of permanent job in order to keep my three little girls in school...I would appreciate any other work that will enable me to help myself and family."

In late 1940 or early 1941, U.S. became ill and was brought back to Kentucky. He died on February 18, 1941 at the Central State psychiatric facility in Louisville. His death drew no notice in the Russell County News, but the February 26, 1941 edition of the Adair County News carried a brief obituary, which said services were held at the Christian Church in Russell Springs. Burial was at Rexroat Cemetery in Russell County.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wop Plants A Tree

"Wop Plants A Tree" by randy speck William Oliver Perry McWhorter, who lived at Cartwright, Kentucky and eventually operated a general store there, attended the 1876 Philadelphia Exhibition. On his way home, he visited the tomb of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia, and while he was there, picked up a walnut that had fallen from a tree, which cast its shadow over the tomb. A story in the Dec. 11, 1901 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal said that, when he arrived back home in Clinton County, Wop (as he was known) planted the nut, which grew into a fifty foot high tree. William Oliver Perry McWhorter was born in 1834 and died in 1919. He is buried at Cartwright Cemetery.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hillbilly Jim: WWE Hall of Fame

Mudlick, Kentucky's most well-known resident, Hillbilly Jim, is headed to the WWE Hall of Fame.

The former wrestler will join Goldberg, Ivory, The Dudley Boyz and Jeff Jarrett as part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class that will be enshrined April 6 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans during WrestleMania 34 weekend.

Hillbilly Jim, whose real name is Jim Morris, was born in Louisville, Kentucky but raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, although during his wrestling days, and even at his current job as host of of Moonshine Matinee on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country, his character was/is from Mudlick, Kentucky, which, of course, goes much better with his Hillbilly Jim moniker.

Morris was discovered in Bowling Green during the early 1980's by wrestler Mike Mann, son of Dale "TNT" Mann, who trained the soon-to-be WWE hall of famer.

But, how did this giant of a man go from being an Allstate basketball player for Bowling Green High School to being a then-World Wrestling Federation Superstar?

After playing basketball for several colleges, Jim left the states to play for the European League, then tried out for the N.B.A. When that didn't pan out, he made his way back to Bowling Green and spent his time working out in the gym while looking for a job. Some of you probably remember the days when there was this extraordinary huge character working as a bouncer at the Brass A Saloon and Mr. D's in Bowling Green.

This is when Jim's positive attitude began to pay off. Dale Mann asked Jim if he'd be interested in wrestling. He later recalled those days by saying, "It comes down to knowing people, not only knowing them, but being ready to go when you get your shot. Sometimes you only get one shot. If you're not ready, they'll go on to somebody else." Fortunately, Morris knew this was it and went with it.

Soon, he was signed by the Continental Wrestling Association, where he wrestled around the Memphis area as a biker aptly dubbed, Harley Davidson. He started attending WWE marches and soon some of the wrestlers like Rowdy Roddy Piper began noticing him in the crowd. His fame ballooned once he joined WWE, then known as WWF, as a happy-go-lucky country boy babyface known as Hillbilly Jim, who would strut to the ring dressed in overalls. He began his run in the WWF in 1984. His role as Hillbilly Jim came naturally to him, he said. He drew on his Kentucky roots to morph into a larger-than-life version of himself.

"It was always a very doable and easy character to step into," Jim said. "I know a lot of country people. I know what that translates to. I did the best I could to bring that to the ring. It's a lot like I really am in person. I'm a happy, excitable kind of character. And I just wanted to denote happiness."

In the WWE, Jim was aligned with Hulk Hogan and his popularity soared as he was pitted against the likes of Mr. Fuji during the infamous Tuxedo matches. The two rivals battled in formal wear in Philadelphia, St. Louis and most notably at Madison Square Garden in New York.

For the now 65-year-old Hillbilly Jim, his popular Country and Southern rock radio show on Sirius XM is coming up on its 13-year anniversary. He is grateful to all of those who cheered for him from the stands and to WWE for giving him the platform in which he made his name. "I don't have my Sirius XM radio show because I'm Jim Morris. I've got it because I'm Hillbilly Jim," he said. "This company gave me Hillbilly Jim."

Till The Storm Passes By

During a recent singing at my church, friends Rob and Debbie sang Mosie Lister's great song, "Till The Storm Passes By." Bef...