Boyhood Memories of a Fearsome War
By Wilbur C. Morrison
Submitted by K. C. Hall
Family traditions reveal valuable situations not always found in historical publications and it is regrettable that many of them are passing without preservation and are becoming lost to mankind forever. Handed down from one generation to another, recitals of pioneer life disappear in the mists of memory and are no more.
Old age can be too old to be a treasures trove of useful information as the writer has learned since engaging in sketching the lives of old people and endeavoring to record incidents of pioneer life which may prove beneficial not only to the present but also to future generations and at the same time, be more or less entertaining to those interested enough to read them. Persons can be too old to remember things or if they do, but vaguely. Recently in a brief but interesting talk with one of Clarksburg’s citizens, it occurred to the writer that his story now is of greater accuracy and of more interest than it would be years later when his memory in the course of nature’s way had begun to fade. And the thought impelled this sketch of him.
George Marion Kyle, of Clarksburg, was born March 9, 1859, on Grass Run two and one half miles above Marshville, this county. His parents were John W. Kyle and Harriet Ritter Kyle. He was the second of the tree sons, the first being Jasper S. Kyle, once county superintendent of schools and later a member of the House of Delegates, who was born February 8, 1856, and who died January 31, 1926. The youngest brother is A. T. Kyle, of Clarksburg, who spent twenty five years in the city mail service as a carrier and clerk before his retirement in 1930. He was born June 13, 1863.
There was a previous set of children as Mr. Kyle’s father was twice married. The first wife was Mary E. Watkins, of the Morgantown section before her marriage, and a sister of Elijah Watkins, a widely known citizen before the Civil War.
IN THE ARMY SERVICE
The first family of sons and daughters included James, Mary, who married John Brammer, John, Azariah, Elijah, Martha, who married Amon Martin of Grafton, Joseph, Emaline who married William E. “Polk” Hurst, Priscilla who died when 8 years old and Henry Kyle. These are all dead now.
Mr. Kyle married Miss Ella C. Faulkiner, of Gordonsville, Va. She was the daughter of Capt. Lawrence Faulkiner who served as a quarter-master in the Confederate services in the Civil War. The marriage was solemnized September 3, 1884, in the Goshen Baptist Church near Lexington, Va. Mrs. Kyle’s mother was Miss Fannie Newman before her marriage. Mrs. Kyle was born at Gordonsville May 21, 1860.
Mr. and Mrs. George M. Kyle were the parents of one daughter and two sons, all born in Alderson; Louise, born July 23, 1888, married Frank Carrillo, who is in charge of the water works at Greensburg, Pa.
Paul M. Kyle, born in 1892, and promoted to the rank of Major in 1930 while stationed at Honolulu in the United States army service. He married Josephine Twyman, of Clarksburg, and they have two sons, Paul and Richard.
Kenton Kyle, of this city, born August 14, 1893, and is the operator of a cleaning, pressing and repairing establishment. He married Miss Arline Hudgins, of Fairmont. They have three children, Ella Grace, Caroline, and Marie Kyle.
The parents of George M. Kyle moved to a farm on Katylick, later owned by the late Enoch C. Tetrick, where he spent a part of his boyhood and where the family lived during the Civil War. While they lived there a coal company represented by Meigs Jackson, of Clarksburg, purchased the coal underlying the Kyle farm of 110 acres and Mr. Jackson presented a $1,000 bill as first payment on the purchase. Mr. Kyle recalls that it was the first $1,000 bill he ever saw and the only one until many years thereafter. He confesses that he has never seen a great many of that denomination.
While George was still a lad, in 1866, the father traded the Katylick farm for the Absalom Harbart farm of 160 acres at the head of Lambert’s Run, and the latter farm has remained the homestead of the family ever since. It is now owned by Aquila T. Kyle and Brooks Kyle, a son of the late Jasper Kyle.
Mr. Kyle recalls that he first attended school in the old Baptist Church which stood near the little village of Katylick and which was taught by the late James Smallwood of Wilsonburg, who never married, but kept house with his sister, “Aunt Betty” Smallwood. Smallwood was an excellent teacher, Mr. Kyle says, and he learned rapidly under his tutelage, although only five years old. He directs attention to a device Smallwood held for regulation of the pupil’s conduct in going in and out of the school house. A card with “in” on one side and “out” on the opposite side was hung on the side of the door and turned to indicate where the pupil was, whether in or out. It was his rule not to let more than one go out at a time. The pupil was required to turn the card when going out and again when entering.
Mr. Kyle’s second teacher was Miss Mary Pultz, who later married Silas Flanagan, now living in this city at an advanced age. Her father once kept the toll gate in the western part of Clarksburg. The Kyle boy was barely 6 years old when he went to her school.
His third teacher was Miss Alice Martin, a sister of Barr Martin, who lives now on Simpson Creek below Bridgeport, and of Mrs. F. M. Long of Clarksburg. The fourth was the late Jesse F. Haggerty, of Sardis, and Jack Jeans the fifth at the Garrett School on Lambert’s Run.
Miss Sallie Brent, a spinster, highly educated, he says, taught a pay school on Lambert’s Run and beat young Kyle. She was a daughter of Dr. Brent of the neighborhood whom everyone looked upon as a nondescript, Mr. Kyle recalls.
Referring to the incident, Mr. Kyle says “The old maid almost whipped me to death with a beech gad about four feet long. Aloytus Ambler and I had had a fight over a large grasshopper we had caught and tied a string to. Aloytus jerked the string and pulled off one of the grasshopper’s legs. When I reproved him for his cruelty, a quarrel began between us which ended in black eyes for us both. The teacher saw us fighting and proceeded to beat me unmercifully. Aloytus was more fortunate as her strength had been spent before she ceased beating me. I was about 10 years old then. There was an elder patch below the window next to where Jasper, my elder brother and I were seated in school, and watching our chance we dropped our books into the patch and when school was out we got them and never went back to school.
“On the way home when my shirt was lifted up, it was discovered that my back was bleeding badly from the welts and cuts she had inflicted, but we did not prosecute her, although indignant neighbors advised us to do so.”
Mr. Kyle’s next teacher was Charles T. Righter, who is now an aged resident of the state of Illinois, and a brother of Edgar E. Righter, of Shinnston. He was proclaimed an excellent teacher by Mr. Kyle.
The late Rev. Luther Hall, of Lost Creek, was also a tutor for Mr. Kyle, and was later a member of the teacher’s staff at a select school in Sardis, a kind of high school, which Mr. Kyle attended. The latter then began teaching school.
Mr. Kyle readily recalls the different schools he taught. The first was Coplin school on Tenmile Creek which he taught two terms, beginning in the fall of 1877. He next taught three terms at the Shahan school on the same creek, then a term at the Gore school below Adamston, three terms near Peel Tree, one at Brown, the Swiger Hill school at the head of Lambert’s Run, the Garrett school on lower Lambert’s Run and the Allen school on the same run midway between the two other schools.
Giving up school teaching, Mr. Kyle identified himself with the late Charles F. Thompson as a musical instrument salesman for five or six years and then went to Alderson where he engaged in the same line of business about twenty years, selling the trade in that part of West Virginia and in adjacent sections of Virginia. He lived there when he married.
Returning to Clarksburg in 1897, Mr. Kyle again associated himself with Mr. Thompson as before and remained with him five or six years. He next filled a clerical position with the Union Storage and Transfer Company for four years and then turned his attention to selling novelties and other goods. The last two years he has been engaged in selling spectacles.
An uncompromising Republican in politics, Mr. Kyle says he inherits the same. He says, “My daddy was so bitterly partisan and so expressive of his Union sentiments that it was necessary for him to hide out at night in the Civil War, to keep from being murdered. He lived in secret recesses of the hills where there were woodland or took refuge in the dark chambers of coal banks. I was about 5 years old then and can remember very distinctly incidents of the war as they occurred at our house on Katylick. Soldiers often out on foraging expeditions marched in, stacked their arms and demanded something to eat, and of course, they got it.
“At that time some 10,000 men were camped on Adams farm at Adamston, and many of them were in the habit of going out through the rural regions in quest of provisions and provender. They usually paid for what they got.
“I remember an exception to the rule. A Colonel, the adjutant general I believe it was, rode up on a fine horse, properly caparisoned and himself adorned in brilliant equipage. After he had been served to a dinner of the best and choicest food the family larder provided, the officer mounted his horse after his request for a half dozen fat hens had been complied with and with the chickens hanging across the rear of his saddle, he waved an adieu in military style, with the remark; ‘Well, I’m off for camp now’, and with a broad smile over the mean trick he had played, he rode off.”
There was gloom among the members of the family as they had already secretly enumerated articles they intended to buy with the money they never received from the colonel.
At times in the war, when Rebel forces threatened incursions into the county, hundreds and hundreds of persons were panic stricken. Mr. Kyle says, taking their livestock and worldly goods, filled the highways on their way to the vast wildernesses in the northwestern section of the county and in the adjacent section of Doddridge County, where they concealed themselves and their belongings until the danger passed. They could be seen coming and passing for hours and hours in great droves or groups, he says. The roads were literally filled with horses, cattle and sheep, headed for Catfish creek and the upper reaches of Tenmile Creek. The Confederates, however never came and human lives and livestock were preserved.
Vivid as his description of these pageants of people and animals is, Mr. Kyle tersely tells a story of even more ominous meaning, when he says, “We were almost scared to death. I was a mere child and clung to my mother’s skirts when I heard of some of the dangers we were in The Lanhams, great big fellows in the mountains, the Dakons, the Williams, all only a few miles distant, were felt to be inimical to our welfare and safety because of their secession tendencies and my father was so outspoken as to incur their displeasure as well. The Righters, too, in Shinston section not so far away, were also active in behalf of the Southern cause and we never were free from the fear that they might come our way and do us harm. There were others in the Wallace section who were also menacing, we thoroughly believed. We certainly welcomed the news that the war was over.” While the father of Mr. Kyle was not among the pioneers of these sections, he was a settler in his early married life. The father was born on the edge of Pennsylvania where the old Laurel Iron Works were located, below Morgantown. The mother was a native of Rockingham County, Virginia, and came across the Allegheny Mountains as early as 1832.
Samuel Ritter and his family consisting of his wife and four children, among who was the mother of George M. Kyle, crossed the mountains into this section in a cart drawn by two cows which, in addition to hauling them and their effects, provided them with milk to drink. They came through a wilderness of mountains and had difficulty making their way at times, Mr. Kyle says his mother used to tell him. She was 10 years old when they came across.
At night they camped by what roadside there was, and sometimes they rested two or three days, while the head of the family hunted in the forests for game for their camp spread and midday snack as they trudged along. Reaching this section they settled where the Lynch farm is now east of Brandy Gap tunnel of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and lived there ten years. The family then moved to Mammoth, Ky., Barren Co., where they lived near the Monmouth cave ten years and in 1848 or 1850 returned to Harrison County, locating where the old Ritter estate is now on Grass Run.
When Mr. Kyle was a boy there were very few settlers on Grass Run and they lived a great distance apart. Only little patches of land had been cleared in the vast tract of woodland which lined the run on either side. The county was primitive, indeed, in the words of Mr. Kyle.
The cows wore bells so that they might be located in the woods and the sheep as well were headed by one who wore a bell and was known as the bellwether. As he rode behind his mother on horseback, going to and coming from his grandfather’s place, young Kyle listened to the bells ringing up in the vastness of the hillside woodlands in the stillness of evening or early morning thought it a wonderful presentation of the sublime in nature, although he was too young to think of it in that way. It simply charmed him, he says.
The grandfather Ritter’s place was the finest and dearest on earth to the little Kyle lad and he never tired of visiting there. The family had at its command everything that makes country life so sweet to young boys and girls. In earlier years, when his mother was a young woman, deer ran wild on the farm and just on the other side of the Doddridge county line. In season the Ritter larder was ever filled with venison. Mr. Kyle says, “Tenmile Creek used to be full of the finest fish. I remember going to the Ritter place when a chunk of a boy and with other boys we took Grandfather Ritter’s seine and caught a bushel of fine fish after throwing the smaller ones back in the stream. There were lots of sun perch, large white suckers, perch and catfish in Tenmile Creek. We never kept one smaller than a man’s hand, as larger ones were so plentiful.
“It was a great new country, with plenty of everything and fine crops, fruit and honey galore with other find things to eat. Those were the halcyon days for me and the other boys of my age.”
Nectar virtually dripped from wild bush and rose and there was honey the year around, he adds.
The Ritter family consisted of Overton, the eldest son, who died a few years ago at the age of 92 years’ Mrs. Kyle, who lived to an extreme age; Banks Ritter, who died two or three years ago at the age of 90; and Mrs. Susan Ritter Dakon, who married George Dakon, of Maken, a Baptist minister, who along with his wife have been dead a number of years. The Dakons had no children.
The pioneer Ritter and family are referred to by Mr. Kyle as nomads or half-Indian in character, as the family head dragged its members around wherever he fancied he wanted to go. He was a hatter by trade. He liked to hunt and spent much time fishing, especially when the family lived in Kentucky where the sport was great as fish of the finest kinds were plentiful.
Mr. and Mrs. Kyle lived at 221 South Second Street, where they built their home
residence thirty years ago and moved in to it.