29 June 2011

Catlettsburg Pottery

Compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
June 2011

About twelve years ago hubby and I attended an auction in Russell, Kentucky.  The auction ran into the wee hours of the night but there were some exciting items that kept everyone alert.  The item that brought the most attention and bids was a 5 gallon salt ware crock marked Catlettsburg, Kentucky.  We have inherited a Cecil crock from Catlettsburg and also have a more widely known Hamilton & Jones crock from Greensboro, Pennsylvania.  Since, at the time, we were living in the heart of pottery country in Muskingum County, Ohio,  I made a mental note to someday research the early potteries of Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky.

The clay utilized for salt ware has a white grey appearance.   The term salt ware is applied because salt would be tossed in the kiln at the highest temperature.  As it vaporized it created a shiny glaze.  Salt glazed ware began to replace wood vessels for food storage in the mid to late 1870’s.  The pottery is also referred to simply as stoneware.

The compound cobalt can also withstand extreme temperatures produced in the kilns. The decorators would either free hand or stencil the name of the pottery or an advertizing firm’s name on the piece, using slip made with the cobalt, creating a beautiful blue that is prized by collectors.  Since clay has variations because of locale and firing results each piece of crockery is unique.  My love of all things with a history combined with my favorite color blue makes these beautiful historic pieces one of my favorites.

William Ely mentions potter’s clay along the banks of Big Sandy in his book The Big Sandy Valley.  The United States Geological Survey Bulletin 1896-1905 talks about clay used principally in the manufacture of fire brick and locally suitable for pottery in Catlettsburg.  It goes on to cite that the product was also obtained near Amanda Furnace in Greenup County and shipped to Cincinnati for the same purpose.  The 1906 Kentucky Geological Survey says that clay rests on Ferriferous limestone and has been found in the cliff between Ashland and Catlettsburg.  “The color of the clay varies from dark near the top to a light drab below.”  The article goes on to state that “Forty feet below the clay opening, at the base of the cliff-forming sandstone, coal number four is now being mined and used at the pottery plant.  … Underneath the coal is a deposit of fire clay three feet in thickness…”

Local newspapers are housed at the Boyd County Public Library, many of which have not been microfilmed.  The first advertisement mentioning pottery at Catlettsburg indicates it is being shipped on the river to the wharf.  The ad indicates that there must not be a producing pottery large enough to meet buyer demand locally and thus is being imported.  The ad appeared in the Big Sandy Herald December 1869 and involves Colbert Cecil who will be cited later in this article.


The Catlettsburg Centennial 1949, page 14 states “James Le Grand McLean operated a pottery on what is now Oakland Avenue…produced jugs, churns, jars...the pottery was torn down in 1890. Work continued for the Weaver Pottery in the lower end of town in …1888…Above McLean Pottery and facing the railroad was John W. Dillon’s Machine Shop.”  The article provides great clues for further research.    Early Sanborn maps show that James L. McLean does have a lot next to Mrs. J. W. Dillon’s Pottery on Louisa Street which would later become Oakland Avenue. No kiln nor pottery is shown on McLean’s lot.  But the Dillon property shows a substantial building with another building housing a kiln on Mrs. Dillon’s property which borders John W. Dillons Machine Shop.   John L. Vance in his History of the Great Flood of 1884 made a list of “sufferers” from the Ashland Democrat. The list appears to have been compiled as they went from location to location and includes the following names in the order given: “…J. W. Dillon, A. Borders, A. P. Borders, Catlettsburg Pottery Company, Stein & Son…”  

James McLean does not appear in the Federal Census in 1880 in Catlettsburg.  The 1892 Wiggins Directory for Catlettsburg lists James L McLean at 320 Louisa Street and the Foundry of J. W. Dillon at 336 Louisa Street.  By 1900 McLean gives his occupation as brewery man.  James Le Grande McLean was born in 1851 in Ohio and died in 1907.  He married Minnie F. Price 17 November 1886 in Boyd County, Kentucky.[i]  He and his family are buried in Catlettsburg Cemetery.  The lot that McLean lived on had been a small portion of property owned by Archibald Borders.  It appears that McLean worked next door at the Dillon’s pottery operation.

 I have not located any person listing their occupation as potter in the 1880 Federal Census.  John Dillon lists his occupation in  both the 1870 and 1880 Catlettsburg census as Machinist. Having reviewed records from the formation of the county in 1860 including IRS tax records of the early 1860’s I find no one paying tax on pottery manufacturing during the years leading up to the 1880’s.    John W. Dillon married Julia Ann Borders, the daughter of Archibald Borders 19 April 1863.  There is no indication that they had a large pottery until the 1880's.  Thus it is this writer’s theory that the first significant pottery production in Catlettsburg did not commence until between 1880 and 1884.

The Dillon couple received property on Louisa Street from Archibald Borders[ii] the year after they married where they settled and John W. Dillon built his large machine shop and an excellent reputation.

The first advertisement for Catlettsburg Pottery Company that I have located from the scattered newspaper collection is from the 27 August 1884 Kentucky Democrat, the same year as the flood.  The ad clearly states that in 1884 John Dillon, J. W. Dillon and Thomas L. Marr are partnering and manufacturing pottery as the Catlettsburg Pottery Company on Louisa Street.


Julia’s father and brother A. P. Borders shipped goods via steamer along the Sandy River. Their goods include crockery. Her husband, John W. Dillon, was the son of John Wesley Dillon [1801-1891] from Burlington, Lawrence County, Ohio.  The elder John Dillon purchased a pottery from Joshua Hambleton[iii] in Burlington.  Thus John W. Dillon was more than familiar with the working and running of a pottery business. 

Captain Ellis Clarence Mace born 1862 near Burlington wrote an autobiography[iv] and mentions a boat the Sandy Fashion that blew up at the mouth of Sandy in 1879 and killed two people.  “I was at this time working for the Burlington Pottery.  John Dillon would give us boys seventy-five cents to take a skiff  load of jugs down to Catlettsburg and ship on one of these boats.  That day we had just delivered a consignment to the Sandy Fashion and we left for home at the same time she left for Pikeville.  We were about half a mile above the point when she exploded her boiler. Joe Newberg and Alfonzo Osborn were killed. Osborn was pilot.”   It is easy to see that the Dillon pottery on Louisa Street was an extension of John Dillon’s pottery across the river at Burlington, Ohio, and did not start firing until after 1880.   Maybe the cost and hardship of skiffing the pottery from Burlington to Catlettsburg was the catalyst for encouraging the younger Dillon to open a pottery on Louisa Street where shipping was thriving.

The other partner involved, according to the ad, in the earliest Catlettsburg Pottery was Thomas L. Marr.  Marr married Matilda Williamson, daughter of Benjamin and Easter Deskins Williamson in Lawrence County, Ohio. In 1880 he was working as a clerk on a wharf boat in Catlettsburg.    He would be one of the first people to notice how productive pottery was as it was shipped in and out of Catlettsburg. The 1892 Wiggins Directory of Catlettsburg lists him as a bookkeeper living on Penola Avenue.  In all probability his contribution to the pottery was keeping books.  When Matilda died in Cabell County, West Virginia Thomas moved back to Catlettsburg living on Front Street in 1910.  Thomas L. Marr died 30 December 1920.  The couple is buried in Catlettsburg Cemetery.

 A social news article appeared in  April 1891 at Burlington stating that “John W. Dillon, of Catlettsburg, was in town a few days ago”[v].  John’s father, the elder John W. Dillon died in 1891.  A newer and larger pottery was established in the north end of  Catlettsburg in 1889.  With the death of the elder Dillon, his own age and the growth of the newer pottery the demise of the Dillon works was eminent. The 1901 Sanborn map still shows the Dillon Pottery works but has added “not in operation.”    John W. Dillon died 9 October 1902 and is buried in Catlettsburg Cemetery.  Julia Ann Borders Dillon lived until 19 July 1909 and is buried beside her husband.

For Catlettsburg pottery lovers narrowing down exactly which pottery produced a pot marked “Catlettsburg Pottery Company” may be difficult.  On 5 September 1889 D. D. Gieger and A. L. McDyer went to the courthouse and filed incorporation papers under the name of Catlettsburg Pottery Company.  It is unclear at this point in my research if Dillon gave them permission to utilize the name or not.  Did he sell his pottery wheels, molds and other equipment to the new pottery?  What is clear is that Dillon was the first to use the company name.  

Capital stock, at $100.00 per share, in the new Catlettsburg Pottery Company was held as follows: D. D. Geiger 2 shares; A. L. McDyer 30 shares; C. W. Berger 1 share; C. Cecil Jr. 1 share; John McDyer 4 shares.  The purpose of the said incorporated company was the manufacturing and sale of stoneware, sewer pipe, tiling and paving bricks.  The incorporation was stipulated to commence on the 16th of September 1889 and continue in said manner for 25 years.  I found no renewal which indicates the Corporation of Catlettsburg Pottery Company would be defunct by 1914.

Incorporated as such, the pottery ran under various name changes throughout it’s life.   First called McDyer & Co. Pottery it was built on the Ashland and Catlettsburg Turnpike “one mile north of the courthouse.”[vi]  It appears prior to the filing of Incorporation on the Sanborn Map in 1885. The detailed drawing shows a large furnace within the building that is brick lined.  Extending back from the furnace is a large kiln.  Notations state that there is no watchman, no hose, no lights, heat live steam and fuel wood.

John McDyer, son of John and Laverna Hutchinson  McDyer, married Nellie Geiger in Boyd County 20 April 1881.[vii]  Nellie was the daughter of D. D. Geiger and Anna Eliza Henderson. Prior to John’s marriage the 1880 census lists his occupation simply as merchant. The Ashland Independent 24 November 1881 writes “Rev. I. B. Hutchinson ceased cutting calico long enough the other day to join in matrimony Joshiah Bush of West Virginia to Miss Elizabeth Smith of Ohio, who were married among the bales, boxes and bundles of goods in John McDyer & Co.’s store in which the Reverend is chief clerk.”[viii]  Among those boxes and bundles one can visualize a crock or two.  But there is no mention of the word “pottery” when referencing the store.

John McDyer was one of the twelve jurors selected for the murder trial of William Neal in January 1882.[ix] In August 1887 William Geiger wrote in his diary that he voted for John McDyer for Legislature against Jim Hughes.  By 1900 McDyer is listed as a surveyor. [x]   He acted as the county engineer, was instrumental in forming the Catlettsburg Chamber of Commerce, and bid on a bridge over the Big Sandy River.  When John McDyer died 13 December 1914 his death certificate lists him as a civil engineer.[xi]  Well known and community active, sadly his wife, Nellie Geiger McDyer, who lived until 28 November 1940 died alone in the Masonic Home of Kentucky for Widows and Orphans in Jefferson County, Kentucky.[xii]  Both John and Nellie are buried in Ashland Cemetery.

There is no mention in any materials reviewed for this article of John’s interest in the Catlettsburg Pottery other than his 4 shares in the corporation.  The main shares of Catlettsburg Pottery Company were held by  A. L. McDyer. As of this writing no information has been located for A. L. McDyer. 

Shortly after the 1900 census the pottery name changed to the K. B. Cecil Pottery Company.  The 1901 Sanborn map once again indicates that they have no watchman, no lights and no hoses.  The map shows no expansion of the pottery nor the kiln.  The grounds appear the same.  Kinzie Berry Cecil was the son of  Colbert Cecil Jr. and wife Arabella “Belle” Miller Cecil.    Another son William Cecil is listed as a pottery manufacturer, living with his mother in 1900 making it highly probable that the brothers worked together utilizing their father’s share in the pottery.

Colbert Cecil Jr. along with John McDyer were among nine gentleman that formed the Catlettsburg Cemetery Association in 1882. Colbert Cecil Jr. was a wholesale dealer.  Ads appear in early Catlettsburg newspapers as C. Cecil, Jr. selling stoves, grates, mantels, hollowware, glass and Queensware.  An ad in the Kentucky Democrat 12 January 1887 states that he is also a manufacturer of tinware.  The store was on Front Street in Catlettsburg.  Potteries made good profit by taking orders for advertising. Cecil took advantage of this advertising opportunity.


Colbert Cecil Jr. died in 1896.  It is conjecture that his sons would have received his share in the Catlettsburg Pottery Company Corporation.  The information  helps date the  crock prior to 1896 in the picture above. 

Kinsey Berry Cecil was only 24 years old when the pottery was named the K. B. Cecil Pottery Company.  With great flair the Catlettsburg Pottery Company with K. B. Cecil as owner was published in the Annuaire De La Verrerie Et De La Ceramique in 1906.  Yet after only five years the K. B. Cecil Pottery Company  had changed hands in 1905 before the publication reached readers.  By 1910 Kinsey/Kinzie Berry Cecil along with a brother named Colbert Cecil III were involved in banking. Brother William had become proprietor of a hotel on Penola Street. Kinsey Berry Cecil was a cashier at the Catlettsburg National Bank while Colbert was employed as a bookkeeper in the same bank. In  April 1916 Colbert Cecil Jr.  was convicted of “misapplication” of funds while working at the Catlettsburg National Bank. He received a five year sentence.[xiii]   By 1920 Colbert was back in Catlettsburg residing with his mother on Louisa Street with no occupation.  Divorced and still listed with no occupation Colbert Cecil III died 17 February 1953 in The C&O hospital at Huntington, West Virginia.[xiv]     Kinzie Berry Cecil’s life was a success story.  He had moved to Philadelphia by 1920 and unlike his wayward brother became a bank examiner for the United States Treasury.[xv]  Kinzie died in 1954 and is buried in Catlettsburg Cemetery  William also died in 1954 and is buried along with his brothers and parents.

The pottery became Weaver Pottery in 1905. The Brick and Clay Record reported that the Weaver Pottery Co., of Catlettsburg, Kentucky was considering the advisability of increasing the capacity of its pottery in March 1905.  The Sanborn map for 1907 shows that the kiln had been damaged by fire and the word “dilapidated” is written across the plat showing the grind room and brick lined furnace.  But the pottery was updated as shown on the 1912 Sanborn map.  They still had no lights and no fire apparatus but were using steam coal and gas for fuel. The 1906 Kentucky Geological Survey describes the plant as “near Cliffside Park, between Ashland and Catlettsburg…in the manufacture of jugs, churns and similar wares…The plant has one round, down-draft kiln of 4,500 gallons capacity. It requires sixty hours to burn the ware.  Coal is used as the fuel.” 

John Weaver was a potter operating in Fayette Township, Lawrence County, Ohio in 1880.  It is unclear if he owns his own pottery in the Burlington area or if he was possibly connected with John Dillon. What is clear is that he migrated from Roseville, Muskingum County, Ohio, the heart of all things pottery to Lawrence County, Ohio shortly after the birth of his son Earl Morton Weaver in July 1877. John L. Weaver married Martha J. Thomas in 1866 in Perry County, Ohio.[xvi]

By 1910 Earl Weaver is listed as the owner of a pottery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.   Earl married Mayme B. Williams 14 January 1906 in Boyd County, Kentucky.[xvii]  When Earl died in January 1934 an obituary states that his father was the founder of the Weaver Pottery Company of Catlettsburg.[xviii]  Under the guidance of Earl Weaver and the knowledge of the Weaver Potteries the business flourished until 1922.  In 1921 The Chilton Hotel Supply Index listed Weaver as one of their suppliers along with Weller Pottery in Zanesville, Ohio.  Then in 1922 Albert Foster Crider wrote “…pottery plant located near Cliffside Park between Ashland and Catlettsburg…which was still in operation in 1912, but is no longer.  It made stoneware jugs, etc. At the present day there are few potteries in operation within the state…” [xix]  By 1924 Earl is listed as an employee of the Ashland Fire Brick Company. Earl Weaver died in Boyd County 1 January 1934[xx]  His simple will was written in April 1926 leaving all real and personal estate to wife Mayme.[xxi]  Both are buried in the Williams section of Golden Oaks Cemetery.

While  the fire in the kiln went out a legacy of wonderful salt glazed pottery still tantalizes collectors of stoneware and local history buffs, leaving tangible evidence of the craftsmanship and ingenuity of our ancestors.














[i] Boyd County, Kentucky Marriage Book 9A page 175
[ii] Boyd County Deed book 2 page 4
[iii] Ironton Register, Thursday, Aug 29, 1895
[iv] http://incolor.inetnebr.com/raydar/notiongoing/dox/ellis1big.htm
[v] Ironton Register, April 16, 1891
[vi] Sanborn Map, Catlettsburg, KY 1907
[vii] Boyd County, Kentucky Marriage Book 7A page 57
[viii] Jackson, Evelyn, Bygone Bylines, page 42
[ix] Daily Evening Bulletin, 17 Jan 1882
[x] Ker, Charles, History of Kentucky, Volume #4
[xi] Kentucky Vital Statistics, Boyd County Death Certificate 1914-30764
[xii] Kentucky Vital Statistics, Jefferson County Death Certificate 1940-26439
[xiii] Hartford News, Hartford, Kentucky 12 April 1916
[xiv] West Virginia Vital Certificate, Cabell County #1255
[xv] Census, 1920, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 24-WD Series T625, roll 1627 page 71
[xvi] Perry County, Ohio  Male Index to Marriage Records 1818-1914, Marriage book 4 page 434
[xvii] Boyd County, Kentucky Marriage Book 24A page 83A
[xviii] Portsmouth Times, 3 Jan. 1934
[xix] Clays of Kentucky, Series 6, Volume 8 Kentucky Geological Survey, 1922
[xx] Kentucky Vital Record, Death Certificate Boyd 1934 - 168
[xxi] Boyd County Will Book 4 page 276

05 June 2011

This Is The Face of Genealogy

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
June 2011
An insulting, degrading picture was recently attached to announce an upcoming genealogy event in California by LA Weekly.  All genealogists are asking what was the author thinking?  Can she possibly be such a horrible person? Where were the editors of LA Weekly to allow such a degrading, insulting photograph  to make it into publication?

The paper was obviously swamped with complaints and by 4:00 this afternoon the picture has been removed from the article.  Thank goodness.  But it has still left me seething!

Usually I don't utilize the Eastern Kentucky Genealogy Blog for this sort of thing.  But not only was this hurtful to the California genealogy group sponsoring an educational seminar, and an attack on the science of genealogy, it also offended my beloved Appalachia.  

My only comment is to say to the author and the world that the photograph in my blog represents the true nature of genealogy.
This Is The Face of Genealogy



My beloved grandmother Katherine Marie Halderman Feyler 1892-1980

So I now wonder, in the year 2011 how many people in the world still visualize the pioneers of my beloved area in derogatory terms.  In a climate where we all fight against racism and want equality, what do the jokes of southern and Appalachian culture actually do?  Raised here I have laughed at "red neck" jokes.  Laughed when people ask why my farm is called Deliverance Farm but quickly set them straight! For the record: de.liv.er.ance: the act of delivering ...set free...liberation. Coming back home to Eastern Kentucky was a breath of fresh air. 

Why would anyone think our pioneer ancestors, good or bad were not the foundation on which our own lives are based?  Tonight I think I will bow my head and pray for the person who has created an international genealogical uproar!

My best to the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree June 10-12 2011.

03 June 2011

Saving Voices Part 5

transcribed by Teresa Martin Klaiber
June 2011
Elsie Rucker Klaiber: John tell Terri about your first plane ride and what you threw out at everybody.

John Henry Klaiber: I didn’t throw nothing out. Pauline Riddle wanted me to throw out a piece of paper and I told her she couldn’t use it again.  They had a plane down there at the river bank one Sunday. I don’t know, I was loafing around. There was Pauline and her boyfriend. They was taking them up as couples, see.  Heck I was a single. There was some other girl there and they put us together. Pauline said you get up there and throw me out a piece of paper. I said you can’t use it. Come back and she said …I was ahead of them, said “who was that woman you were with.” I said “I don’t know.”  “What was you doing taking a plane ride with her.” I said “That is what the man said to do” taking two at a time. I said “We were both by ourselves.” I don’t even remember what she said her name was now. It didn’t make no difference to me.  I never went around with the same one all the time. … Why no … trade automobiles and I would pick up some lady and take them a ride. Well I knew all the ladies around and if they wanted a ride I would take them. [Ashland Airport was on the banks of the Ohio near Mansbach Scrap Yard is 2011].

Teresa Martin Klaiber: What kind of car did you have?

John Henry Klaiber: I had a Ford and I had a 35 Chevrolet.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: Did they have running boards?

John Henry Klaiber: The other did.  The 35 didn’t. The Ford did. It was a 31.
Teresa Martin Klaiber: You were telling awhile ago when you took the pigs to Ironton, would you spend the night?

John Henry Klaiber: Spend the night. … We usually stayed at some of the relatives. Put the horses in the livery stable. See right over from the courthouse used to be a livery stables. Ketch [?] Campbell run it. He was the Mayor and a pretty good veterinarian.  Everybody put the horses in the livery stable … took them in and fed them.  I think he charged ten cents for putting them in the stall … maybe a quarter if you gave them feed. Dad always put his horses in the livery stable and went down to Land’s and stayed all night. [Johnson Landon Klaiber ½ brother of John Henry Klaiber.] Landon never bothered to take them down there, he had a pair of mules then. He had his powder houses, where you put your powder in it to dry it over on 60. Then there was two out there …[interruption].

[1938 Feb 7 Klaiber Explosives Co...Gussie Klaiber, Drusie Weddington, J. L. Klaiber city of Ashland nature is buying and selling of wholesale and retail dynamites, powder, gelatin and other high explosives of all kinds and makes including blasting supplies used in connection with said explosives and with hauling and transporting of said explosives -likewise the preparation of explosives for purpose of shooting and exploding same in gas and oil wells, mines and other places --Boyd County Incorporation book 7 page 271]


John Henry Klaiber: See you usually took the feed with them to feed your horses.  Feed them on the back of the tail gate in the wagon bed, you see.  We would deliver most of the stuff out at Cannonsburg. That was the end of the pavement. 60 was paved out to Cannonsburg.  But the first pavement I ever remember was from Cannonsburg to Catlettsburg. The old Cemetery Road.  That  was the first pavement I remember all the way out in there. I think it was paved before 60 was.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: Did Ironton have a stock yard?

John Henry Klaiber: No they had a stock yard over on Jack.  A sale over there. Years ago at old Man Hazlett’s place. They would bring the livestock in there so many days of the week … people wanted to buy cattle would go over there and look them over. And anybody had any to sell they would bring them in.  Used to be they bought the cattle and buy them in the summer or spring and fatten them and take them up in the fall.  They would buy them at a certain price. Maybe the bottom would fall out of it or the price would go up. Then they would gather them up and take them some place and weigh them.  Nearly everybody had calves.  Then they would hit the road with them.  They would drive them to Kenovy [Kenova, West Virginia] and put them on cars [train] or on a boat at 50 cents a head. But dad said that the fellers in Catlettsburg took timber to Cincinnati.  And  got down there and the old Dutch people [German] and back and forth they’d go talkin German, see. Them fellers didn’t know what they was talking about. They would burn the britches off em.  They come back to Catlettsburg and gave [grand] dad twenty five dollars a piece to teach them German.  They went back the next trip, them fellers got out there and went to talking and these two guys went to talking German too. They’d offer so much and they didn’t take it and they would offer them something else.  But before they didn’t know what they was doing.  Said that twenty five dollars made them a thousand. Learnin a language, see. 

But  now dad could speak German you see [James Matthew Klaiber]. Him and Henry Riekert used to talk. Every time they got together why Shade [William Shadrick McGlothlin 1868-1941. Daughter Esther was 1st wife of Henry Riekert] would make em talk for him.  But dad had to have somebody lead.  He’d forgot a lot of it, as a kid up.  One of my cousins was in World War I. He was in Germany a long time and he talked it pretty well. Him and dad would sit around of an evening and talk for hours.  I got so I could understand a few words of it. I would hear them talking it.  I don’t know if I would now or not.

[Changing subject] But Rush over here had all kinds of stores a long time ago.  … There must have been five hundred people over there. 

Teresa Martin Klaiber: There was a train stop there right?

John Henry Klaiber:  Freight depot. Company store. See if you went over the hill over there they had rail road tracks run up there  and had a coal tipple. An old coal tipple and load coal on cars there and the tracks ran across the road, up that holler.  There is where they loaded their lumber, timber. They’d be ten or fifteen wagons of lumber, cross ties, timber over there mud axle deep. 

Up here from the barn up I’ve seen the oxen run into their belly in mud coming up through there….it was that way in winter time after it would freeze and thaw out.  If you pull a ton on a wagon from over from Rush you had a real team. I know one time we was hauling from up here in the head of the holler, a saw mill up there. I don’t know there were five or six teams. I was just a big boy but I drove cross ties over there and had to take the horse to pull them off. I wasn’t big enough to roll them off the wagon.  There was an old man…and he couldn’t hear. But he was a tease.  The boys, somebody would get up on the hill behind a tree and holler whoa at his horses and stop them on that hill [chuckles].  Getting to have some fun out of him, see.  The wagon would just sit there.  Well he usually walked beside the wagon.  He’d stand there a little bit and speak to them and away they’d go.   The next day way down the road there I was up on the hill I seen the old man and I seen him reach down every once and awhile and get something and lay up on his load.  When his team stopped that first time he just cut loose with a rock at the tree.  We got over there unloading and the old man reared back and laughed and said “I had my fun today.”
…crazy young bucks. 

Charlie Mayhew lived up here where Mead lives. Him and his mother.  He worked over there at the head of the holler at Four Mile in a coal mine.  They pulled that coal out of Four Mile through the hill to Rush. He’d leave on an ole horse about four o’clock in the morning, maybe five in the morning. Every house he passed he’d holler.  That was the alarm clock. 

Beulah Ross lived down here where Fred Dowdy lives.[Vanover property 2011] Frank is her husband [Frank Riffe Ross 1887-1938]. He worked away a whole lot.  She was crazy as she could be. She always had to have some stay with her.  So one night there was a big snow on.  I don’t know a couple of the girls was down there with her.  She called up home and asked mom if there was anybody up there.  Somebody around the house. Mom said “Oh Beulah what is the matter with ya?”  “I heard them out there.”  Well the young men then they would just walk around of the night from one house to another and sit around and talk.  I don’t know who it was but a couple was down there and mom told them to go down.  Beulah told the girls “If there ain’t no tracks out in the snow they will ride me to death.”  She went in and put Frank’s gum boots on [laughter] got out and went around the house, back out in the road.  Where the road was broke you couldn’t track them. Went back in. When the boys come down there they found the tracks around the house, and Beulah had made them.  She was scared but if they found out they was probably going to laugh at her… she never told it for a long time.  She had a boy there. He was about 15. She was just one of them goofy people, didn’t want to stay by herself.

They used to keep geese.  Turned the old goose in your lap and put the head out here. Turn it backwards, see. Lay it flat on its back and pull the feathers off…they just pull right off…off the stomach and the side and off the back too.  They saved them feathers.  Beulah had brought her geese up and her and mom were pickin them there in the building. Me and Russell was having to catch them.  Up there in that barn yard. They was just running our tails off.  I picked up a corn cob and hit one in the head and caught it. Took it in and gave it to Beulah or mom one.  Anyway when the one got, whoever got done pickin it, laid it down the old goose was dead.  They said “Lordy Mercy, smothered that one to death.”  Well Russell he caught him one that way and gave it to the otherin. I don’t know which one. They got done pickin they had smothered theirs to death.  I told Russell “They ain’t no smother.” We had to quit that right quick. You didn’t fool the women then or your dad either.

And maybe that is why Go Tell Aunt Rhody was his favorite song [Part 4].  This ends the sound of voices from 1978.  But they still echo on around the cliffs and in my heart.

02 June 2011

Saving Voices Part 4

transcribed by Teresa Martin Klaiber
June 2011

This is part 4 of a transcription of a cassette tape recorded in 1978 on Big Garner, Boyd County, Kentucky.

John Henry Klaiber:  Went up Sandy one time a huntin. Tryin to buy some cattle … talked to him. He said “well you’ll have to eat supper with me.” He said "you wanna drink before we eat?" I said  "It don’t make any difference if I do or I don’t." “By God,” he said “I’ve got it.”  Well I said "Let’s have it."  I had to go with them. Back up in there then you didn’t contrary them. You’d insult them if you didn’t eat with em.  We took two or three swigs of that moonshine and went in to eat. There was a beef head laying on the table and they hadn’t took the eyes out.  I sliced me off a piece and ate it just like they did.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Yeah, but John tell about the place you went up the road here and saw …spittin clear across the table and you decided to come home. Where was that?

John Henry Klaiber: Up the holler above Cline Stewart’s.  They was makin molasses up there. I was supposed to eat dinner up there.  I don’t know who it was now. He was a Reverend.  I went out and washed and the table was sittin here by the window. I washed outside and started walking around to go in and she spit across the table and out the window. [laughter]  Boy, that bothered me then but it wouldn’t any more. I just come on around went back in the field and went back to work.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Mrs. Toppin, we would buy butter from her.  She lived down here. Jimmy was pretty good sized…but anyway she had the best butter. And you know somebody was down there one day and they said “well my goodness,” that she chewed tobacco all the time. She wouldn’t let that husband come and open the fridgerator and get him a drink of water. Afraid he would get a little dirt on the fridgerator … I told John about it and he said “oh boy, she’s got good butter, though.”  …[tape damage]…and it was years before we discovered that she would let her daughters, when they went to the high school, stop and get her some chew.  We wondered why the daughter was kinda embarrassed about going to the store. She knew she had to bring that chewin tobacco back to her mother. She was the sweetist thing.

John Henry Klaiber:  Bought some cattle over there at Elkhorn City…and I had to drive them down the road. I started drivin them down and puttin them in the truck and three guys come up the road.  Couldn’t tell, they hadn’t shaved, their beards were long.  This feller walked up and said “Why the hell didn’t you try and buy my cattle?”  I said “Mister I didn’t know.” The guy said “They is as good as them.” I said “No doubt about it Mister.” You had to get along with people. I said “I’ll tell you what I will do I’ll go look at your cattle as quick as I load these. I won’t say I’ll buy em.” He said “You boys go up and get them cattle so we can look at them.” He went back down. Well I guess I walked two miles back there to look at them.  I was by myself.  That was when we lived in Ashland.  I looked at the cattle and he priced them to me. Of course I didn’t have money to pay for em. Oh I gave him so much down on them. Before he would take any money, I had told him “I am goin buy your cattle but it might be a week or longer for I can get back after em.”  He said “Boys, run them cattle in the pasture so the man will know what they look like when he comes back.” I stood there while he moved them cattle around past me … put so much down on them.  Well I got to go back quicker than I thought I would.  It was about one o’clock in the morning when I got up there. I just stopped where I was. It was a long way to the house and I thought I would sleep in the truck til  … someone grabbed me by the arm. So I didn’t know what was going on.  … It was that old man.  He said “Did you think my bed wasn’t good enough to sleep in?”  I said “Hell no, Mister, your bed sounds awfully good, but I didn’t want to disturb you.”  We walked about two miles up that holler and I went to bed in his bed. We had breakfast the next morning. Baked ham and biscuits and stripped gravy.

[Editoral note in background every time John Henry said an off color word Elsie whispered that I needed to erase that. I did not. Tk]

Teresa Martin Klaiber: What is stripped gravy.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: He had to teach me to make stripped gravy [pronounced strip ped gravy].

John Henry Klaiber: Don’t you know what red eyed gravy is?  Ham….grease. Take your ham out and take a little water and milk  and flour. Put that in there and stir it up.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Lots of grease…  

John Henry Klaiber: Called Red eye or stripped eye either one. …[bad tape]…water just makes red.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: His Aunt Martha [Martha Sexton Reece] could make dumplings and they was so good.
John Henry Klaiber: I would work midnight turns and had a couple of days off. Well I would drive some place and hunt me up a load of cattle.  If you come in around meal time they thought you ought to eat. Just about had too to get along with em.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber:  … to Reeces…right after we  were married and he was surprised they had cars sitting out and no chairs to sit in.  What was it they had?

John Henry Klaiber: They had a big stone. Uh Aunt Martha Reece, her husband’s sister lived up there; was still livin then. I went up there one Sunday. We pulled up and there was two brand new Oldsmobiles sittin in the drive way. And when we went to eat dinner why there was a bench behind the table against the wall and a few kegs to sit on….those big ole automobiles but they didn’t have chairs.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: And he was amazed they didn’t cut the bread.

John Henry Klaiber: They broke it.  … dumped it out on a plate and didn’t even cut it…

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: I guess that was like Biblical times, you break the bread together.

John Henry Klaiber: Said you wasn’t supposed to cut bread you was supposed to break it.  How come you didn’t go along?

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Clearing throat. We hadn’t announced – we were keeping it a secret. … I was already in the family. I had been in the family for two months before anybody knew it. [John Henry and Elsie Ellis Rucker Klaiber were married 4 August 1939 at London, Laurel County, Kentucky.] 

John Henry Klaiber:  Didn’t tell in case I wanted to get rid of ya. [Chuckles]

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: John said he never had a pair of shoes on til he got married [talking over each other].

John Henry Klaiber: …[garbled]...they just stayed with us see. Have some place to stay. Some of those boys come in from Indiana [Some of the Sexton family migrated to Indiana to work in coal mines.] Nobody wore shoes.  And this old woman went barefooted all the time. When they pulled up down there at the house there was the old woman out in the yard bare foot 

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: What was that song you used to sing about Aunt Rhody? You used to sing it to Jimmy and all the little boys.

John Henry Klaiber: You sing it then! [Reciting] Go tell Aunt Rhody the old grey goose is dead. The one’s she been savin to make me a feather bed.  [Tape was stopped and conversation picked up later] You see I used to work at Armco and Bill [Prichard] worked at Armco. And they had the old poor house down there and Armco had a club house out of it.  It was gone before you went there…

We used Kerosene lamps here about twice, winter before last [power outage]. It went off along in the night and they quit taking calls they got so many. It was around zero. We fooled around here awhile and cranked up that gas stove in the wash room.  Enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Next morning I got up and called in there.  Had a report on it and they asked where abouts and I said up here on Garner and he said “Which Garner is it?” I said “Big Garner.” Oh he said there would be electric by noon that they were coming thru Louisey [Louisa, KY] with a transformer now. He said don’t open the deep freeze. I said “Freezer, Hell, I want heat!.”
That would have been in 1975 and as I write this we continue to have electric outages on a regular basis in 2011.  Big Garner was the last in the county to have telephone party lines as well.  After we married in 1968 and called home I spoke to everyone up and down the road.  Once I assured them we were ok they would hang up and let us continue our family conversation. 

I do hope you are enjoying these episodes as much as I am transcribing them.  It is a window for my children and grandchildren about the farm and area they have come to know and love as much as we do.  To be continued!