Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Christmas at Home

I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped in our most successful food/toy drive ever!

This year, Christmas at home, reached almost 500 children and 256 homes locally. What a tremendous effort! Thanks to our co-sponsors - Clinton County News, the City of Albany, Clinton County Fiscal Court and Albany/Clinton County Chamber of Commerce.

Twenty-one churches helped us by collecting non-perishable food items. They were: Albany First Baptist, Albany First Christian, Albany First United Methodist, Albany Independent Baptist, Beech Bottom Baptist, Caney Branch Baptist, Central Grove Baptist' CIA Children on Mission, Cedar Hill United Methodist, Clear Fork Baptist, Fairfiew United Methodist, Green Grove Baptist, Gospel Independent Baptist, Lands Chapel United Methodist, Lee's Chapel United Methodist and the Lee's Chapel United Methodist Youth Group, Peolia United Methodist, Pine Grove United Methodist, Seventy Six Baptist, Stony Point Baptist, Westview Christian Church and Walnut Grove United Methodist.

Dollar General, Blood Assurance, the CCHS Beta Club, Certa-Care Pharmacy, Clinton County Care and Rehabilitation, Cash Express and Clinton County Public Library, Charles Shelton, Crystal Bowl, Dyer Drug, Equity Group Kentucky Division, McWhorter's Variety Store, Patriot Industries< Save-A-Lot Food Store, Sub Fiberglass Products of Kentucky and the "Fall for Santa" conducted by Wolf River Dock Houseboat Association helped us by collecting toys. What a great job each of you did!

Special thanks to the City and Fiscal Court water and road departments for deliveries, and to each individual who volunteered their time to make a delivery, for those who took time out to help with gift wrapping, and to those who donated food and toys to meet the needs of many during a year of economic hardships....I say THANK YOU! from the bottom of my heart!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


"Christmas is so hustle and bustle. It's hard to find the time to enjoy it, really. We are hectic shoppers, and busy, busy, busy with EVERYTHING going on! Sometimes, we forget to slow down and reflect on what makes this time of year so very special, like the stories that ground us and the little things that make our lives feel festive year round whenever we pause to reflect on them."

A while back I was looking through a few things when I came across some old bibles I had collected over the years. One 1948 Bible belonged to my great-grandmother, Hettie Frost. In it, she wrote down different dates involving her children. I also found the bible given to me by mom and dad at Christmas of 1972. I was 13.

I was glancing through another Bible that was given to me a few short years ago, when something I had written inside the front cover caught my eye.

The date was November 24, 2001. It was a Saturday morning and I remember this incident very well. I was in the bathroom shaving, when suddenly 5-year-old Elijah appeared in the doorway. As he stood there watching me, I began playing a game with him by carving out funny looking beards and mustaches, etc. I would even add more shaving cream to keep it going. He was getting a big kick out of it, and I was enjoying watching him laugh at me. We were having fun. And then, right in the middle of our game, he suddenly exclaimed, "I wish I was you, Dad!" I said, "Why's that, son?" And, he replied, "Because you're a great Dad!" When he said that, I looked down at him and he was looking right at me. And, the way his big blue eyes were sparkling after what he had just said to me are two things I shall never forget.

"Lord, please help me to hold up to his expectations. And, when I can't, please help him to forgive me. Help me to be the kind of father to my children that you would have me to be. I know that if I strive to live up to your expectations, I will live up to theirs."

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Boy Who Couldn't Sing (A Christmas Story)

My favorite Christmas memory is the Christmas of 1971. That Christmas, the adult and junior choirs of my Church performed a musical entitled, "The Boy Who Couldn't Sing." It was about a 9-year-old boy named Donald, who dreamt of singing in the Church choir, but wasn't allowed to because, no matter how hard he tried and no matter matter how much he practiced, Donald always sang off key. His friends and even some family members laughed at him. Christmas was approaching and he was sad because he knew the choir would go caroling and unless he was in the choir, he would not be allowed to go. So, after all the jokes and the turndowns, Donald prayed to the Lord, and his prayer was answered! He could now sing!

My brother, Ronnie, had just turned nine and, up to that point, had never sang solo before. But, he could sing really good, so he auditioned and won the lead role! He was so excited. The challenge for him wasn't singing the was singing 'off key' as the part called for. But, thanks to great coaching from my dad and our choir director, Yvonne Emerson, HE DID IT!

"I can sing, I can sing. Thank you God for granting my desire, I'll soon be singing carols with the choir. It's Christmastime and soon we all will find, the reason God gave song to all mankind."

Ronnie died in an automobile accident on May 7, 1981 - almost ten years later. I am thankful for the memory I have of the Christmas of 1971 and "The Boy Who Couldn't Sing." It was a special 'happy' moment in his short life...a moment he was so proud of, and I am glad I got to witness his joy that Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Honest Brother

At a business meeting of Clear Fork Baptist Church in May of 1855, church member Isaac Wright was accused of drinking too much. His response was, 'I do not remember it!' ( is written that way in the official minutes.)

Well, at least the brother was honest! I suppose after thinking about it, Bro. Wright apparently was able to recall the incident because at the next month's business meeting, he said he DID NOT drink too much! The Church did not believe him.....and the members kicked him out! His wife, Elizabeth, did not take the news sitting down. She stood up and requested a letter of dismission, and at the same time, tried to make some sort of accusation against Bro. Joseph Denton regarding a deposition he had made in an Overton County lawsuit. I don't know what that had to do with her and Bro. Wright's situation, unless it was Bro. Denton who accused Bro. Wright of drinking too much. But, anyway, the deposition was read, but the Church found no fault with its pastor. Sister Wright withdrew from the Church.

I know the way that occured is funny to read, but in reality there is more to the story, because, you see, Brother Isaac Wright was also known as....Deacon Isaac Wright. He had been a deacon for almost six years when this episode occured. And....before that he had been a trustee of the Church from 1844 to 1849.

Isaac and Elizabeth Wright had migrated to Kentucky from Virginia. Both had been born in North Carolina; Isaac in 1789 and Elizabeth in 1803. They arrived in Clinton County in the early spring of 1841, and became members of Clear Fork Baptist Church in May of that year. From 1841 to 1855, Bro. Wright had been VERY active in Church affairs. It is proof that we all sin. No one is immune to it. Some do it more than others, sure. I am just thankful that Jesus forgives us of our sins if we ask Him too.

Isaac Wright was still living when the 1870 census was taken. He was 80 at the time. In his life, he was a wheelwright and a farmer, while Elizabeth was a weaver. The Wright's had five children; four boys and a girl.

Note: I found this entry in the minutes of the meetings from July of 1874: James Craig [is] retained as sexton (in charge of the maintenance of the Church building and/or grounds.), and "Sister Remelia Talbott will SWEEP the house!"

The Fearless Jackson

Joseph Crouch was a brother to James Crouch, one of the founding members of Clear Fork Baptist Church. While many in his family chose to migrate west, the Revolutionary War veteran chose to live nearly all of his life on Boone Creek in Washington County. He was born in 1749 and died September 8, 1830. Joseph was sheriff of Washington County from 1800 to 1806. While a sheriff, he often worked with then-Judge Andrew Jackson, who was upon the bench of the superior court from 1798 to 1804. It was while sitting at Jonesboro that he made the famous arrest of a criminal who had defied the sheriff and his posse. This occurred at the September term, 1802. Russell Bean, a resident of the town, doubting the paternity of a child born to him, cut off its ears, thereby causing its death. A warrant was issued for him, but Bean refused to be taken. Judge Jackson ordered Sheriff Crouch to summon a posse to aid him. He replied that he had summoned a certain number, but to no avail. Jackson then told him to summon the whole town if necessary, whereupon Sheriff Crouch summoned his Honor, Judge Andrew Jackson. The future national hero arose from the bench with the exclamation that, "By the eternal, he could take Bean single-handed." Procuring a pistol, Judge Jackson headed out the door for Russell Bean to demand his surrender. The judge found Bean and ordered him to either give up or be shot. Bean, terrified by the look and the determination of Andrew Jackson, surrendered without a fight.

Now, check this out: Joseph Crouch lived on Boone Creek, which was the first permanent settlement in Tennessee in 1769. He was a member of Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church. Another prominent member of that Church was Isaac Denton, Sr., who was the father of Clear Fork Baptist Church's first pastor. Both Joseph Crouch and Isaac Denton, Sr. were present representing their Church on the fourth Saturday in October of 1786 when the Holston Baptist Association was organized. There was another man at that meeting, who was there to represent North York Baptist Church of Holston. He was the church's pastor, John Frost, who....moved to Stockton's Valley in 1810 - one of the first Frost family members to settle there. He is my ancestor.

My Family Tree has an 'Executive Branch'

Elizabeth Strother Frogge, my 7th great-grandmother, was the aunt of "Old Rough and Ready" himself, Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States. And, she was the great aunt of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and the 'Father of the Constitution', who also helped draft the Bill of Rights.

William and Margaret Watts Strother had 13 children. Their daughter, Agatha, married Augusta Co., VA clerk John Madison, the uncle of James Madison, Sr. His son, was President James Madison. Their daughter, Sarah, married Col. Richard Taylor, father of President Zachary Taylor. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married my ancestor, Col. John Frogge, Jr., Sheriff of Prince William County, VA, who was in the French and Indian War.

Alexander Frogge was a merchant in Edinburgh Scotland toward the last of the 17th century. His son, John Frogge, came to America with Dr. Hugh Graham and was a merchant of Christina, Pennsylvania. His son, was Col. John Frogge, Jr., the sheriff; followed by his son, William (1740-1811), then Arthur Robinson Frogge (1776-1855), then McKendrick Frogge (1810-1850), then Nancy Frogge Koger, who was the wife of Elisha Koger, who was killed by Champ Ferguson during the civil war. Elisha Koger was the grandfather of my great-grandmother, Nannie Koger (1890-1969). Her son, Elmer Boles, was my grandfather.

If you are interested in learning more about this rather large family tree, check out:

Frogge Family History
The William Strother Society, Inc.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Point Pleasant - The Story of John Frogge

John Frogge, Jr., my 5th great uncle, was killed in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. The Ohio Valley indians were trying to drive back the white invaders from their hunting grounds and the Virginians were seeking only to protect their settlements from the rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife. This battle made possible the first settlement in Kentucky.

The plan was to force the indians to accept an Ohio River boundary which had been negotiated with the Iroquois in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The call for volunteers went out. John Frogge, Jr., now with a young pregnant wife and a 3-year-old child at home, hesitated to enlist. But, wanting to join his cousins, neighbors and fellow countrymen for their retribution against the Indians, he told his wife that he would only provide an escort for the militia and would return prior to the engagement. He told her that he would only act as a sutler, behind enemy lines, providing them with provision such as, blankets and food between encampments.

After all the organizing had been done, the army marched on to its destination: Point Pleasant, Ohio, which was a bottom land that extended nearly four miles to the Ohio River. What the army did not realize was that the Indians were watching them. After dark on the evening of October 9, the Shawnee, led by chief Cornstalk, crossed the river on seventy-nine rafts three miles above Lewis' camp, then crept through dense growth along the east bank, and were ready to surprise the Virginians at daybreak, except.....for one unseen event.

Two soldiers had left camp to hunt deer when they found themself surrounded by indians. One of the soldiers was killed. The other managed to escape and ran back to warn the army. 300 men came scrambling after the indians. Little did they know they were about to engage the entire united force of the enemy Ohio indians. The troops had only marched about three-quarters of a mile, when they were ambushed by the indian force. There was furious fighting on all sides. The battle lasted from half an hour after sunrise, to the same time before Sunset. The Shawnees mistook a group of reinforcements as fresh troops and fled across the Ohio and back to their villages. The Virginians, even though greatly outnumbered, had managed to win the fight. But, the all-day battle had claimed the lives of many men, including John Frogge, Jr., who did not have time to return to his family prior to the engagment as he had promised his wife.

A story, told by Virginia Governor Thomas Gilmer went like this: “On the morning of the battle, back in Staunton, Virginia, a little girl named Elizabeth Frogge, daughter of John Frogge, Jr., was sleeping, when suddenly she waked, screaming that the Indians were killing her father. She was quieted by her mother, and again went to sleep. She again waked, screaming that the Indians were killing her father. She was again quieted and went to sleep, and was waked up by the same horrid vision, and continued screaming beyond being hushed. Agatha was very much alarmed at the first dream. But when the same horrid sight was seen the third time, Agatha's imagination, presented to her the spectacle of her husband scalped by the Indians. Her cries drew together her neighbors, who, upon being informed of what had happened. Soon, all of Staunton was in a state of commotion. Elizabeth was only three years old when the dream came to her. Soon, they would know that the little girls dream was real.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Lincolnite is Dead!

Reuben Wood was murdered.

A peaceable and respectable citizen in Clinton County, Reuben had gone with a company of Union soldiers to Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County, and remained there with them about a month before returning home. On a warm August day in 1861, Champ Ferguson and Raine Philpott rode in front of his house on Spring Creek, and called him out. Reuben walked out and spoke in a friendly manner. But, Ferguson mouthed off, saying he intended to kill Reuben, to which Wood replied, "No Champ, you would not kill me. We have lived near each other as neighbors all your life, and I have never done you any harm." Ferguson said he would kill him because Reuben had carried the Lincoln flag at the camp. "Why, Champ, I nearly raised you. I nursed you on my knee," said Reuben. "You are a Lincolnite!" was the response. Champ Ferguson then shot Reuben Wood, inflicting a severe wound in his thigh. Reuben turned and ran into the house. Ferguson followed, and as he entered the house, Reuben hit him in the head with a hatchet. It was a powerful blow. Reuben lifted the hatchet to strike Ferguson again, which could have proved fatal had it not been for Philpott, who entered the room with his pistol in his hand, and told Reuben that if he hit Ferguson one more time, he would shoot him. Reuben knew it would be useless to contend with both of them, and not thinking his wound mortal, dropped the hatchet. Ferguson and Philpott mounted their horses and rode away. Reuben lingered a short time, and died. His exertions in the scuffle, added to the wound, was more than he could bear. A large and respected family was left to mourn the loss of Reuben Wood. He was 60 years old. On October 10, 1865, at a trial in downtown Nashville, Champ Ferguson was found guilty of the murders of Reuben Wood and 52 other people he had brutally slaughtered during the civil war. Ten days after the verdict, Ferguson was hanged as a confederate guerilla. Reuben Wood was his second victim.

Reuben Wood came from a family that had a long tradition of being brave soldiers willing to sacrifice everything for their new country the freedoms it offered. Samuel Wood, who had come to America from England in 1755, could not serve in the military during the American Revolution due to lameness and poor health, but performed patriotic service for his new country by giving his pewter tableware to be melted and made into bullets, and after the battle near Alexandria, he nursed the sick and wounded soldiers in his home. Many of Samuel's sons were dedicated soldiers. William served in the State Militia in North Carolina protecting the settlers against the warring Cherokee and Creek Indians. He raised a company to go north and fight in the War of 1812, and later led a company into battle at the Battle of New Orleans. At the age of 19, James Wood was in Capt. William Cross’s company during the war of 1812. In 1815, Thomas Wood dug the saltpetre used for the manufacture of the powder which made the rifles of the Kentucky and Tennessee troops very effective in their successful part in the Battle of New Orleans.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Keeper of the Key

The Baptists were the pioneers of religion in Kentucky. They came with the earliest permanent settlers. In 1776,William Hickman, Sr. was the first to proclaim "the Gospel of Jesus Christ," in the valley of the Kentucky. He labored faithfully in the field in Kentucky for more than fifty years. The first organized Church was in 1781, Gilbert's Creek Church, a few miles east of Lancaster. After the close of the American Revolution, a flood of Baptists poured into Kentucky and churches began to spring up every where.

The Green River Association, lying in what are now Warren, Barren, Green, and Adair counties, was constituted in 1800, about the beginning of the great revival in that section of the state. It contained at first, nine churches, eight ministers, and about three hundred and fifty members. The very first year of its existence, it increased to more than one thousand members, and in 1804, it contained 38 churches, and comprised so much territory that it was deemed sound policy to divide it into three bodies. The middle portion of the churches retained the old name of the association. Those of the northern portion were organized into the Russell's Creek Association, and those of the southern portion were organized into the Stockton's Valley Association with fourteen churches, eight in Kentucky and six in Tennessee. John Mulkey had established what we now call the Old Mulkey Meeting House near Tompkinsville. Mulkey and two members of Clear Fork Baptist Church, Isaac Denton and William Wood, were the leading founders of the Stockton's Valley Association. Mulkey was chosen as moderator while Wood was chosen as clerk.

In 1808, the association had to exclude several churches and some very influential preachers for adopting the New Light and heretical views of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell. One of those preachers who began preaching Campbellism was John Mulkey. His brother, Phillip, had been a member of Clear Fork. Some of her business meetings were held at his home. One of the reformation movements strongest advocates was Raccoon John Smith, whose family was the second to arrive at Stockton's Valley, and whose father, George, had been an original charter member of Clear Fork. Everywhere, Churches were rent asunder, friends alienated, preachers excluded, meetings disturbed, and the devil turned loose in general.

On the fourth Saturday in July of 1820, the Clear Fork Church record states: "The Church says she thinks it contrary to the rule given in the Gospel for members of her body to attend the ministry of John Mulkey or men in his standing and that it is improper to receive them in their meeting house or dwelling as ministers of the Gospel. The Church says she thinks Bro. John Wood ought to be reproved for his conversation respecting his attending of John Mulkey's preaching and the reproof is postponed until next meeting."

John Wood had kept the key to the Church building and could therefore admit anyone he chose to use the building even without the consent of the Church. There is no evidence that he ever did this, but the seriousness of the charge against him in regard to John Mulkey could not be taken lightly, so he appeared before the Church in August of 1820 and made acknowledgement to the Church sufficient that they withdrew their threat of reproof. At the same meeting, the record states, "At the request of Bro. John Wood, he is excluded from keeping the key to this meeting house..." All was quite for a several weeks, but all was not forgotten. At the December meeting, the record says, "John Wood and wife are excluded from this Church for treating the Church with contempt in withdrawing themselves from the Church."

Ironically, John Wood had married Sarah Crouch, who was the grandaughter of Isaac Denton, the first Baptist Preacher at Stockton's Valley. He was the first pastor at Clear Fork Baptist Church, laboring there for a total of 46 years.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Story of Alexander Sproul

Alexander Sproul was born between 1758 and 1759 and grew up on his family’s farm in Augusta County, Virginia. During his childhood, his father, William, like others living in the colonies, complained of the taxes levied against the colonies by King George III of England. They all were forced to give up a large portion of their livelihood to others, and suffered from laws which had little relevance to everyday New England life. When the conflict turned to outright rebellion against the throne, Alexander’s community in Augusta County took up arms. Alexander joined the American continental army toward the end of the Revolutionary War.

Finally, in October of 1781, the war drew to a close. Alexander found himself in a dramatic final conflict. General Washington’s troops, along with French allies under the command of the Marquis LaFayette met outside of Yorktown, Virginia and planned a surprise attack of Colonel Lord Cornwallis’s British troops, and on October 6th the trap was sprung. The French navy blockaded the river’s outlet to the sea, while the Americans cornered the British against the river. Of all the tactics, Cornwallis sent black slaves infected with smallpox into the American lines in the hopes of infecting them, but it didn't work. Cornwallis surrendered on October 19th.

Toward the end of the conflict, Alexander became ill and was left stranded, unable to make the trip home because of his fatigue. His brother James took a wagon to Yorktown to bring him back home. Alexander returned to his wife, Jane, the first of November 1781, lay sick for some period of time, and eventually recovered. Life began anew for the couple. They conceived and bore nine children. With the increase in the size of the family, the small farm was unable to support them all. Many of their friends and family felt a similar pressure, and moved into Kentucky, where land was available for the taking. So, in the early part of summer 1805, Alexander Sproul and his family headed west on the Appalachian trail into the Kentucky wilderness, where he used his land grant to purchase 396 acres on Indian Creek just north of Stockton's Valley.

Even though the war was over, the British continued to insult and torment the people of the United States. Britain refused to withdraw from the Great Lakes region and provided arms and encouragement to the Shawnee and other Indians in that area. War was declared on June 18, 1812. Alexander and his 17 year old son, Joseph, joined Captain William Wood's company at Stockton's Valley and they headed north. At the Battle of the Thames, Alexander took the scalp of an Indian whom he had killed. On the way home, in the Pickaway Plains of Ohio, he became seriously ill, possibly with malaria. Major Wood saw that Alexander would not be able to make the journey, so he left him there with Joseph by his side. Realizing that he would not recover, Alexander sent the scalp home to his family. Twice Alexander Sproul had been in battle and twice he had been left ill along the side of the road. But, this time, there in the Pickaway Plains, Alexander Sproul died at the age of 55. Joseph returned home to Indian Creek and helped his mother take care of the family farm before eventually marrying and have a family of his own. Alexander's farm was sold at public auction to Cornelius Maguire Connor on July 23, 1822. Jane Sproul died on June 10, 1847 at the age of 94.

Adapted from: Sproul's & Barrier's of Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri.

To learn more about the Sproul family click here.

Note: Cornelius Mcguire Conner was born in April of 1802 and died in 1864. His father, Lawrence, had migrated to America from Ireland. When George Washington settled in his winter quarters near Morristown in 1776, he sought more soldiers from Virginia. A number of regiments were formed, including the 12th Virginia Regiment of which Lawrence was a part of. That regiment was encamped at Valley Forge for most of 1778. Lawrence participated in many revolutionary war battles. He was wounded at the Battle of South Camden, the same battle where my ancestor, Jacob Speck, was killed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17

I stopped today to remember the many things in my life that I am thankful for. God has blessed me abundantly. He caused my life to be open wide and then poured in all these things, and really, I do not deserve anything. Although I have to admit that I do not always take the time to thank God, still I am thankful that He takes time to notice me. I'm surely not worthy of any good gift, much less any perfect gift which I have received. I am thankful.

I remember as a child the wonderful gatherings that took place at the home of my grandparents, when all of my relatives would gather in for a wonderful time of fellowship and feasting. I miss those days a lot. The men folk would gather in the living room and the kids would be in the floor or off in another room playing. The women would be in the kitchen helping to prepare the meal, and, oh the aroma of the turkey sitting on the table ready to be eaten! The green beans and corn cooking on the stove. The pumpkin pie cooling off on the dessert table. The sweet smell of homemade bread coming from the oven. I remember the great anticipation that would sweep over me as I waited for someone to say, COME AND GET IT! I can vividly recall the joy, the laughter and all of the million other precious moments that was always present inside that home at 601 Hopkins Street. Now that some of the relatives are gone, I realize just how precious those times were. I know now that it really was more about the fellowship than the food. Gosh, did I just type that? I have to stop here and admit that I have always had a really nice, beautiful obsession with DUMPLINGS! Legend has it when I was 2-years-old, there was a huge feast at the radio station. While waiting for everyone to arrive, I went AWOL. They found me in Studio B, where a long table sat holding this tremendous feast. I was sitting there, all alone, in front of a big bowl of DUMPLINGS! with a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other. Allegedly, I repeated that same ritual at many other family gatherings, and I am often reminded of those early days as a child when my one and only purpose for showing up at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners was for the DUMPLINGS! Ah, who am I kidding....I'm still that way. I still can be found at the table, before anyone else sits down, with a spoon in one hand and a fork in another. Okay, maybe not really, but what a nice thought! Just typing this makes me crave them.

The Thanksgiving Day tradition that I remember growing up ended when my grandparents passed away. Whenever I pass by the old homeplace, it always causes me to reflect back on those family gatherings. I would love to be able to go back there just one more time to see their faces, to laugh with them once again and to hug them all. I come from a Christian family, and someone always gave thanks before every meal, and on Thanksgiving Day, we were ever mindful of to give thanks to the good Lord for all that he had given us. We always knew what Thanksgiving was about. But today, as I look around at everything going on in our nation, I can't help but wonder if the true meaning of Thanksgiving has gotten lost. The first Thanksgiving was the Pilgrims giving thanks to God for the blessing of a successful harvest, and then sharing their blessing with others; a symbol of gratitude, generosity, fellowship and more. Where have we gotten to today? Is Thanksgiving Day just a day off from work, or a time to eat? Is it more about an After Thanksgiving Day Sale rather than spending time with loved ones? All of us have so much to be thankful for, if for nothing but the gift of life. On January 1, 1795, President George Washington proclaimed in his famed National Thanksgiving Proclamation that, "…our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced…"

I am thankful....
1) that I am a Christian;
2) that only by God's grace, I am an American;
3) to belong to a Church that isn't afraid to preach the truth;
4) for my beautiful children and unconditional love;
5) for parents who made sure I was in Church every time the doors were open;
6) for my mom, whom I owe a debt that I will never be able to repay
7) for a roof over my head and food (DUMPLINGS! - HINT!) to eat;
8) for a military that protects me, my rights and my freedom;
9) to God for allowing me to enjoy my children a little longer;
10) to God for watching over my children when the are away from me.

I want to be a vessel of hope for others. That is what I would like for God to allow me to be. After suffering heart failure a few years ago, I found myself unable to work, and thus, not being able financially to do things for my children. While I was knee-deep in self-pity, God laid it on my heart to help others. And, that is what I did. God had already given me the medium (radio), and then he helped me to see the need. And, then he brought together a network of local people who likewise have a desire to help others. Last year, Cristmas at Home distributed food to over 400 families and new toys to over 200 children. Occasionally I get to hear from someone on the receiving end of the program, like a recent e-mail from a mother who requested help for her daughter because her husband has been ill and unable to provide for the family. Making sure that little girl has a merry Christmas is worth every extra minute of time that's put into this project beyond normal work hours. It's what Christmas is really about.

What our Father does is well
May the thought within us dwell
Though nor milk nor honey flow
In our barren Canaan now
God can save us in our need
God can bless us
God can feed

The other day I ran across a beautiful old song by the late Red Foley, released August 8, 1958 on Decca. It is called, "If I Can Help Somebody," written in 1945 by Alma Bazel Androzzo. The words are beautiful and it describes how I want to live, and how I want to be remembered. I hope you will click on the link below to see and hear Foley singing this magnificent song.

Red Foley - If I Can Help Somebody

This Thanksgiving Day holiday, we will be gathered around my mom, who is facing serious surgery this week. Please pray for her and her family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Revenge of Ransom Jones

Ransom Jones was born October 20, 1835 in Blount County, Tennessee. In early 1861, he rode a horse to Somerset, Kentucky to join the 2nd Tennessee Infantry. Three months later, he was engaged in the Battle of Mill Springs. And, then on July 26, 1984, the 4th Tennessee Calvary, of which Ransom was a member of, marched down the Chattahoochee River to Newnan, Georgia, where they wrecked total havoc on two communities; setting fire to two train depots, destroying railroad track and telegraph wires, and capturing 500 wagons, 250 officers and 2,000 horses. But, as they were making their getaway, Ransom and the other troops found themselves completely surrounded by a great superior rebel force. The Union soldiers cut through the enemy lines and headed for the Chattahoochee. Ransom tried to swim across it, but was captured. He and hundreds of other troops were taken to the prison at Andersonville, Georgia. The conflict later became known as Battle of Brown’s Mill.

Sometime during the war, Ransom's father, Johnson Jones, was severely attacked and left in bad mental condition. The first thing Ransom did when he was freed from prison and discharged in July of 1865 was to go home to find the persons who had waylaid his father. It is not written specifically how Ransom did it, but he was said to have 'settled the score.' Whatever happened, Ransom spent the rest of his life moving from one place to another. In the fall of 1865, he moved to Albany, Kentucky. That is where he met his future wife, Susan. Her great uncle, Jesse Smith, had laid the floor in Clear Fork Baptist Church's first meeting house back in 1818. Ransom 33, and Susan, 17, were married in August of 1868. Over the next 52 years, they lived in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Colorado. They crossed the Cherokee Nation and lived in indian territory, which was known as a haven for people trying to escape their pasts. On February 7, 1920, Ransom Marion Jones died near Chelsea, Oklahoma at the age of 84 years, 3 months and 17 days. Susan lived until 1928.

Ransom was never given credit for his time served with the two Tennessee Calvary units. He wrote:

”I was captured in the rear of Atlanta on the Stoneman raid in the summer of 1864, and taken to Andersonville, GA and kept there about four months. We were then sent 8,000 Federal prisoners to Charleston, SC and placed in front of the Federal guns bombarding the city and kept about 16 days. We were sent to the Florence, SC stockade and kept some three months and then sent to Goldsboro, NC. This was in February 1865. We stayed in this place until the fourth of March when we were sent to our lines at Wilmington, NC for exchange. I was sent from Wilmington to Baltimore, MD and received a furlough for thirty days and an extended thirty days at the end of which time I reported to my regiment at Nashville, TN and stayed with it until I was mustered out. At Goldsborough we were camped out in a pine woods, without tents, blankets or adequate covering of any kind, barefooted and pants off up to my knees and there came a cold sleety spell of weather. We started from where we were in the woods on the road to Goldsborough on a cold night and although it was only little more than a mile to Goldsborough I was so weak from exposure and starvation that I had to crawl most of the distance, and in doing so got my feet and legs badly frozen.

Click here to go to

Friday, November 14, 2008

Remembering The Creed

I remembered the creed alright. I was my high school's Future Farmers of America creed contest champion for 1973-1974. I don't remember how many students competed in the contest, but it came down to my friend, Kenneth Hestand, and myself. FFA members in the upper classes served as judges and they could not make up their mind, so I had to recite the pledge like four times. Nervousness had turned into pressure, which had turned into anxiety and by the fourth round, I didn't care if I won or not, and began encouraging Kenneth. Well, I ended up winning the contest, but looking back on it, it really wasn't that big of a deal for me, and I should have recognized it then. I only competed to please the teacher.

One of the first activities of new FFA members was to memorize the creed. I remember learning it. Little did I know at the time that I would end up in such an ordeal as having to recite it so many times. My teacher had encouraged me because of my broadcasting heritage. I had grown up in radio. The FFA Creed was written by E.M. Tiffany and adopted at the 3rd National Convention of the FFA just after the turn of the 20th century. The short five paragraph pledge has transformed many a shaking, nervous freshman into a confident and articulate FFA member. Me, I was only in the Future Farmers of America for one year. For what its worth, I remember the shaking and being nervous part, but by the time the fourth round came, it had become pure aggravation. I recited the creed so much that one day, I could have probably spoke it backwards.

The creed underwent a couple of word changes in 1990, but here it is as I knew it back in 1973:
I believe in the future of farming, with a faith born not of words but of deeds. Achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuit, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny. I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others.

I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so--for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

I believe that rural america can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.

Monday, November 10, 2008

White Space

I am disappointed by the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to open the television "white spaces" - the frequencies in between television stations - for use by unlicensed, mobile Internet devices. It is reported that the decision relies on unproven, unreliable technology to ensure that these devices do not interfere with wireless microphones.

I see the potential of these new devices to bring broadband Internet access to millions of Americans. Yet, the Commission has opened the door to these devices prior to proving that they will not adversely affect the wireless microphones that Broadway theaters, symphony performances, live concerts and others depend on to deliver the highest-quality audience experience.

I hope that when the order is finally reviewed and the rules for manufacturing "white space" devices are written, the needs of wireless microphone users are taken into serious consideration.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If My People

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.

How many times over the past several weeks, months or longer have you heard someone quote that Bible verse, or seen it, or read it somewhere? I can say I have heard it repeatedly for a while now. Even in my own Church, my Pastor has quoted it quite often lately. As I've already said, Tuesday's election will not fix America's problems. Chuck Colson, who was chief counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973 and who now runs a prison ministry, said "As a country, we face many challenges that neither the President nor any government on earth will have the power to overcome without divine aid. No matter who you voted for in Tuesday's election, now is a good time to remember the words of the apostle Paul: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;" (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

How did America come to reach the point it is at now? After the Russian revolution, novelist, historian and Nobel prize winner Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said, “I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.” Has America forgotten God? Our country was founded on the belief that man is created in the image of God. Without knowing that, our founders never would have recognized the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Benjamin Franklin, when he stood before the Constitutional Convention to call on the assembly to unite in prayer, said: "To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived . . . a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel."

As my Pastor said, "We, ourselves, are responsible for the shape America is in. Instead of worshiping God, we’ve worshipped false idols." He is right. We’ve put our own appetites over our duties to God and neighbor. During Church tonight, I was thinking, "Just because the election is over, doesn't mean that Christians are supposed to stop praying, or turn a blind eye to what is going on in our country." Like Colson said, this is a time to repent and to pray more. It’s a time for Christians to lead, encourage and minister to a faltering country in a faltering economy.

This is a time to hunger for God.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."


Indian Creek vs. Creelsboro

It was a Saturday, September 12, 1931. 400 people had gathered on the Conner farm on Indian Creek, just south of the Cumberland River, or in present-day terms, north of Grider Hill Dock, to watch a baseball game between Indian Creek and Creelsboro. Indian Creek was scheduled to play a black team from Burkesville, but the team had cancelled. So, the Creelsboro team was asked to play and the game was on.

At one point in the game, John Hugh (Monk) Oliver fouled the only ball they had to play with over in an adjoining field. While someone went to retrieve the ball, the shooting started. Down through the years, different stories have been told as to what happened, but here is the real story as told by three members of the Creelsboro team: Oliver (the batter), Carlos Mann (the third base coach), and Kermit Mann (who was on third base).

George Elmore was in the crowd on the third base side, near the backstop. While the foul ball was being retrieved, he came out of the crowd and started walking toward home plate. Constable Leo Mann, who was watching the game from just beyond the first base side, came onto the field and tried to arrest Elmore. Mann drew his gun, and the two men began to wrestle over it. As they moved toward first base, Elmore's buddy, Jasper Hadley, who had been watching the game from just beyond third base, came across the infield, drew his gun, and shot Leo Mann. He fired a second shot that accidentally struck Elmore. Over by first base, Bill Mann came running out of the crowd yelling at Hadley to stop. He drew a gun and shot at him, but the gun jammed. A second shot struck Hadley, but not before Hadley had fired at him, striking Bill Mann in the neck.

Jasper Hadley walked over to the third base area, handed his pistol to Porter Conner, told him he thought he killed Elmore then fell to the ground dead. Bill Mann walked up on a bank behind first base, where he dropped dead. George Elmore was taken to Dr. Ballou's office at Rowena, where he died that evening. Leo Mann was taken to Dr. McClendon's office in Russell Springs, where he died the next evening.

The entire episode lasted only one to two minutes. Four men who were related either by blood or marriage and who had grown up in the Creelsboro-Manntown area, were killed and only four, possibly five, shots had been fired. No one else, including the ballplayers, was involved.

This story first appeared in the book, Russell County, Kentucky by Wayne Johnson of the Russell County Historical Society (1997)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Audition

Lessons learned in life.

Sometimes we learn them the hard way.

Sometimes we learn them at the right moment when it really matters.

Such is the case with this story.

Last year, Elijah auditioned for a part in a Missoula Children's Theatre musical production but was turned down. He was so heart-broken. The theatre company came back to town yesterday. Elijah wanted to audition again. Although my mind raced back to last school year, I did not stand in his way. I am always telling my children to never say never, and to always look for something positive in everything.

Elijah is naturally funny. He keeps me laughing. Sometimes he doesn't even know he is being funny. Like last Sunday night, when Bro. Bob let some of the young boys, including J.D. and Elijah, take up the offering at Church. It was their very first time. When he was finished, Elijah sat down beside me, leaned over and said, "166 dad!"

On the way to Monday nights audition, I told Elijah to just be himself. What I did not know, until later, was that he auditioned to be a director's helper. Because of what happened last year, he thought he would have a better chance of being accepted as a director's helper, rather than an acting role. Unfortunately, four other kids were also trying out for a director's helper job. When the directors helper slots were announced, Elijah's name was not called. He was devastated and trying hard not to show it. But one of his buddies saw the look on his face and asked him if he was okay. Just as he was about to break down, one of the directors announced to him that his audition was so good, they wanted him to be more than a directors helper.

The Missoula Children's Theatre will present Robin Hood Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Learning Center. You are invited to attend. When you read the program notes, be sure to notice that the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham will be played by my son, Elijah Speck. He is on cloud nine. This is going to be a great week.

The Missoula Children's Theatre provides a week-long residency "starring" 50-60 of local students in a full-scale musical. MCT has been touring for more than 30 years. Annually, MCT visits nearly 1,200 communities in all 50 states, 4 Canadian Provinces and overseas. The mission is the development of lifeskills in children through participation in the performing arts. Creativity, social skills, goal achievement, communication skills and self-esteem are all characteristics that are attained through participation in this unique and educational project.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Hope, My Prayer

What happens on election day is not going to fix America. If you want to fix America, go back to June 17, 1963 when the United States Supreme Court declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States of America to be unconstitutional.

Begin there. Fix that, and then lets talk about it.

In 1943, Reinhold Neibuhr wrote (his original version), "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."

If you want change, the place to start is within yourself. Within myself. This election day, it is not who I am voting for that matters, it is what I am voting against.

Vote responsibly. Pray that sanity will prevail afterwards. That is my hope, my prayer.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Religious Broadcast Rumor Denied

A couple times of year I receive an e-mail telling me that the Federal Communications Commission is going to remove religious programming from the airwaves.

This is based on a rumor, which has been circulating since 1975, that the late Madelyn O'Hair, a widely-known self-proclaimed athiest, proposed that the FCC consider limiting or banning religious programming.

These rumors are untrue. According to the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, in December 1974, Jeremy Lansman and Lorenzo Milam filed a petition (RM-2493) asking the FCC to inquire into the operating practices of radio stations licensed to religious organizations, and not to grant any new licenses for new noncommercial educational broadcast stations until the inquiry had been completed. The FCC denied this petition on August 1, 1975. Ms. O'Hair was not a sponsor of this petition.

Since that time, the FCC has received mail and telephone calls claiming that Ms. O'Hair started the petition and that the petition asked for an end to religious programs on radio and television. Such rumors are false. The FCC has responded to numerous inquiries about these rumors and advised the public of their falsehood. There is no federal law that gives the FCC the authority to prohibit radio and television stations from broadcasting religious programs.

As christians, we always need to be alert to things that could happen, however, this is one rumor that is totally false.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mr. One Of A Kind

Sonny West is well-known for writing Oh Boy! and Rave On for Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Like all aspiring musicans and singers, Sonny had big dreams.

In 1956, he tried to audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, but was turned down. As fate would have it, he moved to Lubbock and met Buddy Holly. If Sonny West wasn't destined to make it as a singer, he was bound to make it as a songwriter. Oh Boy! was a worldwide smash hit and is now one of the all-time great rock 'n' roll classics. The song passed the one million airplays mark in 2000, earning Sonny a Citation of Achievement from BMI. Rave On achieved such an immediate response that it was released as a single right away.

But, before any money started coming in, Sonny found himself cold, hungry and broke, and down and out from trying to make it as an artist himself. Feeling rejected, he left Texas, vowing he'd never live there again. He moved to Grants, New Mexico, where he began frequenting Mike's 66 Club, located on the outskirts of Grants on Route 66. He became friends with the guitar player in the band. His name was George Hudson. This is his story.

George and my dad had been guitar-playing buddies when he lived in my town. They performed together often and were very popular. George and other musicians would come over to dads house, where they would play and sing for several hours. He was small in stature and wore his hair long on top but slicked back with oil, probably Brylcreme. He had long, cigarette-stained fingers that would wrap around the neck of the guitar. A lot of what my dad knew about the guitar, he learned from George Hudson. At the club in Grants, George played a Gretsch f-hole electric guitar. (Dad would later purchase a Chet Atkins Gretsch.) Sonny West told me that one night he and George were discussing guitars, and Sonny told him about a new spring reverb, known as a Space Expander, which he had recently bought from a jukebox supply company and installed in his amplifier. He told me that George was so crazy about it, that he installed one in his amp, too. Soon, a vacancy in the band opened up and Sonny was immediately hired. Sonny said George was a fantastic guitar player (which is something I have heard my entire life). He said George was a natural at playing his guitar, and that he could play lead all night long. He said, "I loved George very much. He was one of a kind."

One night I was visiting Sonny West's website and saw the above photo. Up to that point, I did not know that George Hudson had performed with him. I e-mailed Sonny and he told me the above story. He said he often wondered what ever became of George Hudson. It was up to me to tell him.

It was early 1963 when George left Grants and moved to Beech Grove, Indiana. Several months later my family also moved there, and dad and George got the chance to play music together once again. In February of 1965, I stayed at George Hudson's home while my mom gave birth to my youngest brother, Mark. And then, one night, some three months later, George was performing and had done so well that he was called back to the stage for two encores. The crowd beckoned him for a third one, but he refused, saying his head was hurting. When the pain would not go away, George was taken to a hospital, where doctors found a brain tumor. He died a short time later. My parents attended his funeral, and it wasn't long before we moved back to Kentucky.

Note: While living at Beech Grove, Dad also worked at WGEE-AM, where he was voted DJ of the Year for Small Markets. WGEE is the same radio station where David Letterman worked ten years later, but by then it was known as WNTS. Also, while performing in Indianapolis one night, dad met Jack Barlow, who went on to record three songs co-written by dad, Barlow and others, including I Love Country Music (And I'd Rather Fight Than Switch), which helped launched Barlow's career in country music, and went as high as number 18 on Cash Box.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WANY: The Early Days

WANY-AM went on the air for the first time 50 years ago this Saturday, October, 25th. This is the story of how it all began.

The year was 1947. Nine-year-old Darrell Speck told his mother, Dimple, that he wanted to learn how to play the guitar just like her. So, she began teaching him the chords. Soon, he was singing and playing anywhere and everywhere he could. Darrell had a best friend. His name was Sid Scott. Like most young boys, they could be a little rambunctious at times. School teacher Martha Brummett said it was more than a little. Of the hundreds of students that sat in her classroom, she said Darrell and Sid were the meanest. Once, they were kicked off the team bus on the way to a baseball game at Tompkinsville. Apparently, they had become so unruly that the coach had the driver pull over, and Darrell and Sid were left standing on the side of the road. Luckily, someone they knew came along and gave them a ride to the game. They managed to beat the bus to Tompkinsville, which infuriated the coach even more. He refused to let them play. But, soon the Bulldogs were down and in desperate need of a rally. The coach had no choice but to summon Sid from the stands. He came straight out of the stands and walked directly to home plate, where he promptly hit a homerun. Darrell and Sid did everything together and entertaining, one way or another, was the number one thing for them to do. They LOVED to entertain. Darrell would take his guitar to school, and he and Sid would sing and play in front of the students and faculty every chance they got.

(Sid Scott, left, and Darrell Speck during a live broadcast at CCHS.)

By the age of 16, Darrell had gotten a job performing on WAIN-AM in Columbia. He and his band, Darrell Speck and the Rebel Rousers, would drive to Columbia every Saturday morning to do a 15 minute radio show. A record would later be made that would eventually put Darrell into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

In 1955, Darrell left WAIN and began a show on a new radio station that had signed on the air in Monticello. The first time he went to WFLW, Darrell met the station's general manager. His name was Welby Hoover. Darrell auditioned for Welby right on the spot. Welby liked what he heard and agreed to let Speck have a weekly show on WFLW.

(The photo to the right shows Sid Scott, left, Darrell Speck and Welby Hoover at WFLW in 1956.)

Darrell did not attend high school past 1955. In 1956, he joined the Navy and married his high school sweetheart, Glenda. He would later get his GED. Sid graduated from Clinton County High School in 1956.

Just as Darrell was leaving WFLW to go to the Navy, Sid was being hired there as a disc jockey. He went to work for Hoover in June of 1956. His show was called "The Albany Hour." It aired from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and originated from Dr. William C. Mann's chiropractic office in Albany, which is the building next door to Burger King today. Sid was popular, and good, at everything he did. He graduated from CCHS as one of the all-time great basketball players. Along with being a popular disc jockey, Sid also sold tickets and was in charge of security at Clinton Theatre. But, it was through his radio job that Sid learned that the Federal Communications Commission had made an AM frequency available for Albany. He told theatre owners Cecil Speck and Wallace Allred and plans for a radio station in Albany began to be made.

The application authorizing construction of a new standard broadcast station in Albany was granted on May 7, 1958. The following month, Sid left WFLW. Darrell had returned from the Navy, and soon Hoover would leave WFLW to become WANY's first general manager. WANY-AM officially went on the air on Saturday, October 25, 1958.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bill Johnston Loved The Lord

I am glad I got to talk to Bro. Bill, and shake his hand one final time Wednesday night at Church. "You are looking good!" I said. He laughed and said, "Well, I wish I felt as good as I looked!" And, then he said, "But, God is good!"

Bro. Bill died while eating his breakfast this morning. He was 95.

If we could all just be like Bro. Bill, the world would be a better place. There was no finer example of how to be a Christian, and live a Christian life, than him. I have been trying to think of a way to best describe Bro. Bill, and I think the best way to do that is to just simply say, "Bill Johnston Loved the Lord."

Monday, October 13, 2008

To The Cause For Which It Stands

Not for fame or fortune, not for place of rank
Not lured by ambition, or goaded by necessity
But in simple obedience as they understood it
These men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all

A memorial service for my great-great-great-grandfather, Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter, a Corporal with Co. F, 16th TN Infantry CSA, during the civil war, was held Saturday, October 4th at the Ledbetter Family Cemetary at Collins Cove in Overton County, as the Myers-Zollicoffer Camp #1990, members of the Highland Brigade, and the Capt. Sally Tompkins Chapter #2123 United Daughters of the Confederacy unveiled a new marker at Cpl. Ledbetter's grave.

There was something about being there that day. Something that I cannot really explain. As I stood beside that old family cemetery, a soft breeze blew gently across my face, and my attention was quickly drawn away from the ceremony. Suddenly, I was in complete awe of where I was at...Collins Cove. To say I was completely engrossed in it would be an understatement. It was more than that. It totally had me. As my eyes traced along the landscape and I took in the panoramic view that was before me...the mountain in the background and the creek below it, it was like I could feel the presence of my ancestors who are buried they were looking down on us, smiling. The feeling was so overwhelming. I was standing on Pleasant Hillary's land, but I was so drawn to it, like I belonged there. I do not know why I waited so long to go to Collins Cove, but I know it will not be my last trip.

Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter was 24-years-old when he joined the Confederacy in 1861. He was one of 952 men at Camp Trousdale, who were armed with flintlock muskets. It was not a good experience for him. On the Soldiers Application for Pension, he filed on November 20, 1899, Pleasant Hillary wrote, "I took cold on measles, which I had at Camp Trousdale, which affects my throat and lungs badly. Freezing of my right foot to the bone during the march to Huttonsville, Virginia in the winter of 1861 totally disabled [me] for a month or more, and bothered me thereafter at times. [I was also] badly ruptured by said cough [from] straining." He said, "My throat and lung trouble rendered me during the remainder of my service in the army. For the last 25 years, I have been unable to do but little physical labor. The disabilities are permanent."

Cpl. Ledbetter was captured while on pickett duty near Loudon, Tennessee. He was given a choice of either going to prison, or taking the oath of allegience to the United States government. Being in bad state of health, he chose to take the oath.

His pension was denied.

Nothing is ended until it is forgotten. That which is held in memory still endures and is real. We are grateful for the records of the past which bring inspiration and courage. We are appreciative of the lessons taught by memorials to events and deeds of long ago. We pray that our lives may always be patterned to give such devotion and service, as did our forefathers. We, the members of Capt. Sally Tompkins #2123 United Daughters of the Confederacy, now dedicate this marker in grateful recognition of Corporal Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter of Co. F., 16th TN Infantry, CSA, a Confederate hero. May it remind all who pause, not only of the noble deeds of this Confederate hero, but of the continuing need for unselfish service. From this moment of dedication, we trust there may come inspiration for broader vision and finer service.

How I am directly related to Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter:

1. Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter
2. Alvin Ledbetter
3. Josie Ledbetter Speck
4. Cecil Speck
5. Darrell Speck
6. me

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Honoring Sid

Two weeks ago, the Kentucky Broadcasters Association announced its selection committee had chosen long-time broadcaster Sid Scott of WANY as the winner of the Kentucky Mike Award. The award is presented to those individuals who have made outstanding personal contributions to the broadcasting profession in Kentucky.

Sid began his broadcasting career in 1956, as a disc jockey at WFLW in Monticello, where he was the host of the "Albany Hour." Two years later, WANY went on the air in Albany, and it was there that Sid honed out a broadcasting career that has spanned six decades. During his broadcast career, Sid has been a disc jockey, chief engineer, sales manager, general manager and sports announcer, doing play-by-play in six different decades.

The Kentucky Mike Award presentation comes at a perfect time, as WANY is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Sid Scott is a huge reason for any success WANY has seen. The very popular broadcaster is without a doubt, one of THE most popular broadcasters ever in this area. Along with his prestigious broadcasting career, Sid served as Albany Mayor is well-known throughout the region for his 1973 recording of What'll I Do If My 'Baccer Don't Sell during the days of the Singing DJ's.

Tonight, I will have the great honor of presenting the award to Sid at the Galt House in Louisville. It is a huge honor for Sid, and I am very proud of him. Past winners of the Kentucky Mike Award include Walter "Dee" Huddleston, A. B. "Happy" Chandler, Bert Combs, J. T. Whitlock, Jack Farmer, Ralph Gabbard, Ralph Hacker, Cawood Ledford, Milton Metz, Van Vance and many others.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Opening The Door

I have a lot to be thankful for. Ever since I wrote The Darkest Hour Before The Dawn (The Story of Jacob Speck), I have been thinking a lot about my ancestor, Jacob Speck, my 6th great-grandfather; his life, and how it ended. How his family must have struggled to get to America! Things had turned to the good for Jacob here in the land of opportunity. He had a beautiful young family, and no doubt so many hopes and dreams. No doubt, he was thankful for how God was blessing him here in America. What joy he must have had in his heart! He was a brave man, not afraid to stand up for the country that was allowing him to enjoy something we all too often take for granted - freedom.

What must have been on his mind as he stood in line waiting for the battle to start that morning at Camden, South Carolina. He did not have the chance to run as the others did. Knowing how the Gates' battle plan was poorly designed, I would have wanted him to, for only to spare his life.

During the civil war, just before he was executed by hanging, Champ Ferguson's wife instructed him to 'die like a man.' Champ replied, "I wish there had never been a war." Life is so precious. How often do we overlook that part?

George Speck never knew his father. I wonder how many times he said, "I wish there had never been a war!" Probably a lot. Jacob Speck's story is a sad one, but it reminds me that God never closes one door but that He doesn't open another one. Before his death, God allowed Jacob to plant the seed that eventually brought me into this world. Then, He blessed Jacob by allowing him to see his new son George, my descendant. Surely, before he left home to do battle, Jacob must have looked at his newborn son and thought about George's future...a future that includes me. God is good and I really do have a lot to be thankful for.

Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter

On Saturday, October 4th, 2008 at 2:00 p.m., the Sons of Confederate Soldiers will conduct a memorial service at the gravesite of my great-great-great-grandfather, Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter, who fought in the civil war. The SOCS recently erected a brand new marker at Pleasant's grave, which is located at the Ledbetter Family Cemetary at Collins Cove in Overton County, Tennessee. The SOCS will conduct a memorial service in their civil war uniforms. I am greatly looking foward to attending this event, and my sons, J.D. and Elijah, will be there so they may learn more about their great-great-great-great-grandfather. Pleasant Hillary is the grandfather of Josie Ledbetter Speck. Josie was the mother of my grandfather, Cecil Speck.

Pleasant's wife was Icy Ann Collins. Icy Ann Collins's great-great-grandfather was John Plumlee. He was the father-in-law of Phobe Denton, who was the aunt of Isaac Denton, the first pastor of Clear Fork Baptist Church.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Give You Me

My aunt, Marsha, sent me a great e-mail the other day of a small boy, who did not have any money to put into the offering plate, so instead, he put the plate down on the floor, stood inside it and proclaimed, "Jesus, I don't have anything to give you today, but just me. I give you me!"

That story reminded me of a incident that happened almost 10 years ago at Beech Bottom Baptist Church. It never failed that when we would walk into that Church, people would start grabbing for all three of my kids. Always, at some point during the service, J.D., or Marina, would walk from one pew to another, usually enticed by a piece of candy or a stick of gum or some toy. Not that I agreed with all that, but I was very outnumbered. I was raised to keep my back to the pew and my face turned toward the preacher, and if I didn't, boy did I get in trouble! Elijah was an infant so he was unable to walk around. Praise the Lord for that much!

One Sunday morning, as we walked into the Church building, someone reached for J.D. and just like that he was gone. Just before the Preacher began his sermon, I looked around from my seat up front and spotted J.D. sitting in someone's lap with a sucker in his mouth. I thought that would keep him quiet -- and still! Boy was I wrong. Right in the middle of the sermon, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked around just in time to see J.D. walking right up the middle of the aisle with one of his arms outstretched ------------- headed right for the preacher. I reached my arm out as far as it would go, but he was too far away for me to grab while sitting down. Just as I started to stand up and get him, the preacher said, "He's okay, let him alone." I thought better than to do that, but I sat down anyway. And, J.D. continued heading toward the puplit with his arm outstretched. I was on the verge of crawling under the pew when all of a sudden, J.D. went PAST the preacher. I thought, "Huh?" It was then that I realized he was headed for the offering plates! At Beech Bottom, the ushers would take up the offering, and immediately return the plates to the table behind the pulpit with the money still in the plate. To myself I said, "Oh no, he's going to get some money out of the offering plate!" How embarrassing this was going to be. How mad I must have been. I'm sure my face was beet red. Just as I once again started to crawl under the pew, J.D. reached the offering plates. I thought, "Here goes!" But, instead of reaching for the money in the plates, he simply droped the sucker's wrapper in the offering plate, turned around with no emotion showing, and headed right back to the lap he had been sitting on.

Everyone laughed, mostly at me, but I was relieved that at least he hadn't taken any money out of the plate. At the time, I tried to think of a way that I could apply reason to what J.D. did. I began asking myself, "How can the Lord use that candy wrapper?" I came up with this: In J.D.'s heart, he was giving. To him it wasn't about m-o-n-e-y. He was giving what he had. And, even though it was a candy wrapper, it reminded me that God wants me. J.D. only knew to give, and he was giving from his heart. I Give You Me...if only I could learn to do more of that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How I Am Related To The Famous Tinker Dave Beaty

David "Tinker Dave" Beaty, leader of the Independent Scouts during the Civil War, is one of the most famous or infamous individuals that Fentress County, Tennessee ever produced. He did not choose the war so much as the war eventually came to him. Tinker Dave said, “About ten or twelve days after the Mills Springs fight, several of Scott Bledoe’s men came to my house and told my wife to tell me I must take sides in the war or leave the country. They took some of my property, some saddles and other things belonging to me, when they left and as they were going down to cross the creek I fired on them, wounding one man and a horse. After this they kept running in on us every few weeks. I told my boys that before I would leave home or run away that I would fight them to Doomsday and if they killed me, let them kill me. So I took my sons and raised a company of men to fight them.”

Champ Ferguson, who lived in Albany, Kentucky, had been swindled in a business transaction and, wanting to reaquire his property, traveled to a camp meeting, which ended up being a fight where Champ stabbed a man. He agreed to join the Confederacy and the case was dropped. Resenting him taking up the southern cause, a group of Union advocates went to Champ's home while he was away, and forced his wife and teenaged daughter to undress and cook a meal before them. Then, paraded them down a public street in the nude. Champ swore not only to track down and kill all those involved, which he did, but he also swore to personally kill a 100 Yankees for for this crime against his family, which he did.

So, it is plain to see that while Tinker Dave Beaty gathered together Union sympathizers in answer to the Confederate home guard, Champ Ferguson answered the call of the confederacy because of what happened to his wife and daughter. They were each others biggest rivals. The Nashville Dispatch noted that Beaty ‘fought Champ Ferguson from the beginning to the end of his career. The paper said, "They have shot at each other innumerable times, and each has received ugly wounds. They were deadly enemies, and hunted each other down with savage ferocity."

According to a letter printed in a newpaper May 25, 1864 and identifing each member of the Independent Scouts and when they joined, two of them are my direct descendents, John Boles, and his son George. John joined on March 25, 1862, while George signed up three months later.

John Boles, my great-great-great-grandfather, married Matilda Beaty, Tinker Dave's sister. Here they are....
John was a state senator from Overton County, Tennnessee. Before that, he was sheriff of Overton County.
Pictured above is John Boles' son, George Washington Boles, my great-great-grandfather. In the 1934 Centennial program for Clinton County, George was quoted as saying he 'always made the rebels run' and that he remembers voting for Abraham Lincoln for President. Someone in Champ Ferguson's gang, or even Champ himself, shot two of his fingers off during a skirmish, as you can clearly see in the photo below. George and his wife, Deborah, are buried at Cedar Hill Cemetary in Clinton County. Here they are....
George and Deborah had a son named, Alijah Hige Boles, my great-grandfather. Here he is...
Hige was deputy sheriff of Clinton County for his uncle, Willie Winningham.

Pictured below is a four-generations photo of George Boles, Hige Boles, Elmer Boles (my grandfather) and my mom, Glenda....
So there you have it....Tinker Dave Beaty was my great-great-great-uncle by marriage.

In the letter mentioned above, Tinker Dave said he wanted to "rid this country of men who are robbing, thieving, plundering, and shooting regular soldiers as they pass about. Such is the character of a few men now infesting part of this country. Wolf River, the hills and mountains of Overton county, are their hiding places. Some of them have been caught by regular soldiers and released upon oath. What! Release guerrillas and bushwackers on oath? I want to hunt the mountains and kill them; catching them and releasing them will never do, because it will never break the thieving crew."

At the end of the war, Tinker Dave Beaty went unpunished for his actions, while Champ Ferguson was hanged for his. That is because Tinker Dave's side won the war. Before the execution was carried out, Champ Ferguson said, "I wish there had never been a war."

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...