The twentieth century began auspiciously for the Maxwell’s.
Preparatory to moving his family to Philadelphia, Uncle Hiram Lynch had sold his business to Dad and Uncle Ed Ritter and in early March 1900, we moved into the Lynch homestead. There was an overlapping of several months between our arrival and the Lynch’s departure and during the interim; we all lived harmoniously as one household.
Whether it was this circumstance or whether I had just reached that stage of growing up, would be hard to determine. But be that as it may, from now on, personalities as well as incidents began to exert an influence on my development. And I was most fortunate in being surrounded, both at home and throughout the neighborhood, by people of highest character and ideals.
Looking back over more than seventy years and a host of acquaintances, I remember Uncle Hiram as one of the most outstanding individuals I have ever known. He was intelligent, unassuming and considerate to the nth degree. Although I never heard him extol these virtues, seeing him live by them made a lasting impression for the good. Even though I was never able to emulate him with any great success.
Aunt Sue was a democratic aristocrat. A wonderful mother, an understanding, likable person and an unusually handsome woman. One only had to be in her presence a few seconds to sense that ‘nobody but nobody’ excelled and few equaled her in any sphere. The superlative job she did (left with a family of tender age when Uncle Hiram died) is ample proof that these qualities were not superficial but quite real. And they continued to be her hallmark throughout a long lifetime. Such legacies never die.
At this time, the then three Lynch children were very young and we loved them as baby brothers and sisters. It was not until we had attained varying degrees of teenage that our association was renewed and they became our favorite cousins for an extended, unforgettable period.
The closest neighbors with youngsters of our age were the Carneys. By any standards, they were a fine family and in the early days they were our special playmates. The elder Carney was a gruff, outspoken Irishman who punctuated his every conversation with eloquent profanity. This was a common trait with oil field workers but in sharp contrast to his soft spoken, gentle wife.
He operated a machine shop specializing in oil field tools, and I was always fascinated watching the steam hammer forging heavy pieces of red hot steel and the lathes, drill presses etc, magically turning out finished metal products. Then and there, I decided to become a machinist. This wish was eventually gratified and while not exactly a lofty ambition, the overall rewards were such that I have never regretted that decision.
The Wright Carpenters lived farther away but we were school mates in winter and made many visits back and forth during the long summer vacations. I recall countless happy hours spent with them. The youngest daughter, Bess, was one of my first childhood sweethearts. And, through her, I experienced my first encounter with feminine guile, which later I was to learn is universally a woman’s weapon with which no man has ever been able to cope.
The Bill Lynches, Stonestreet’s and several others are remembered as good and interesting people but they made no particular impact upon our living. The most colorful of these were the Harry Parkers.
Parker was a prosperous drilling contractor and with his second wife lived in
one of the more pretentious, temporary dwellings, located at the junction of the turnpike and the Ten Mile Creek road. She was much younger than he and a typical Gibson Girl in appearance. A native of Pittsburgh, she made regular, lengthy visits back there. She was also an avid dog lover, having seven of as many different breeds, ranging from Great Dane to toy French Poodle. Upon her arrival at the depot from frequent trips on the train, her maid would release the dogs and they would race, pell mell, the several hundred yards to meet her, with the Greyhound always winning.
Again, as if by some female instinct, she was practically ostracized by the neighborhood women, probably much to her satisfaction,
The school house was located across Ten Mile Creek behind a small promontory, which then as it still is, was the site of a church and cemetery. It was a typical one room building of its day, designed to accommodate perhaps thirty pupils. But due to the influx of oil field workers during my fist term there, it seemed that it housed almost two times that number, ranging in age from six to almost twenty one.
Our teacher for that term was a man named Johnny Flanigan, who divided his time between preaching and teaching. Rather small in stature, he always wore a Prince Albert coat and chin whiskers. He provided his own Board of Education in the form of a stout wooden paddle, which he applied vigorously in a manner that would not be condoned today. Most of his victims were from the size group. As the larger boys were too much for him to handle and we younger ones were too innocent (I don’t expect much agreement on this point) to cause much trouble. All was not in vain however, what we lost in contact punishment we gained through first hand observation.
Our second term teacher was Myrtle Patterson, a young lady with considerable personal charm, which she used to advantage, especially on the older male group. Soon after her arrival, there was a marked improvement in their grooming and deportment as they vied with each other for favorable attention. We young pupils were not neglected and judged by the standards of that time, we had a very successful year. A few years later Miss Patterson and Uncle Henry Maxwell were married. They emigrated to Oklahoma, then Indian Territory, and both continued teaching until retirement.
We had a new teacher for the third year. A young man named Wilbur Perrine. In some ways we became quite modern, away ahead of our time. Discipline was almost nil and each youngster had the opportunity to develop his potentials in his own way. Under leadership of older pupils, nice days weather-wise usually found us doing extensive field work. The class, enmasse, would walk out to roam the woods and fields at will. The teacher following at a distance, ringing his band bell in a futile attempt to shepherd us back.
Somehow it worked. In three successive years I progressed from McGuffey’s First Reader through the Fourth and to a corresponding degree in other subjects. I was quite proud and awed when I began my first term at North View as a fifth grader, in a new, two story, brick school house. Incidentally, many years later Uncle Kemper Maxwell married Wilbur Perrine’s sister, Clara, and they both taught school throughout their active life. Regrettably, I never saw Wilbur again.
By the summer of 1901, drilling in the immediate vicinity was finished and the area had returned to its former pastoral atmosphere. The activities of the remaining production and maintenance workers on the leases was only enough to add a little variety to a strictly rural life.
When leaving the farm a year earlier, Uncle Hiram had disposed of all livestock except a grey mare affectionately known as Granny. That spring she foaled a chestnut colt which grew up to be a magnificent stallion and sired many foals over the next several years. Uncle Bud Carter had a good brood mare which produced some outstanding foals the last of which was sire by Uncle Hiram’s horse. She was named Goldie and when matured, sold to Uncle Doc Ritter who rode her in his practice out of Marshville for years. I know nothing about the pedigree of these animals but am sure they had a strong infusion of American Saddle Horse blood. At that time these horses were known locally as Kentucky Saddle Horses.
Upon his return, Uncle Hiram restocked the farm with beef cattle and the other animals needed on a stock farm of that date. Among the latter was a beautiful team of chestnut mares, which as carriage horses, graced the country roads before the days of automobiles. All of these things made a paradise on earth for a youngster of my age and inclinations. Ten Mile Creek was ideal for swimming, fishing and frog and turtle hunting. The only Kingfisher’s nest I ever saw was discovered and guarded with great concern, until the brood was grown, in the creek bank back of the house.
Uncle Hiram directed us to almost endless, out of the way spots where persimmons, nuts and berried of all varieties could be found in season. He had enjoyed these as a youth and was delighted to share them with a younger generation. Gypsy Caravans came regularly once or more each summer and camped beside Ten Mile Creek at the railroad bridge. I have no desire to visit Disneyland but would go a long distance to see old time gypsy camps.
Circus thrills began when the bright poster went up on roadside barns and covered bridges, weeks in advance, and carried through the drive to Clarksburg in time to watch the parade, see the main show and ride home in bewilderment that such improbably things could really be true. The county fair, which came later, was a happy occasion but for the most part we were with home folk. Circus people were a breed apart.
Trains fell into two categories……local and express. The locals we took in stride and used them frequently but the “fast trains” were something else. Roaring through from New York to St. Louis at the speed of forty five miles per hour and regular, nearest stops Clarksburg and Salem. Now and then we caught glimpses of a colored chef dressed in white enjoying a breath of cool air from the rear platform of the diner. I identified him then, as I do yet, with the longstanding Cream of Wheat trade mark. Only years later when living in Clarksburg, did I experience luxury travel on occasional trips to Cincinnati and Washington D.C.
Each summer, mother and we four kids made vacation length visits to Grandfather Ritter’s. While there we got around to shorter visits with other relatives living on Grass Run, including Great Uncles Amos Maxwell and Jim Morris. And to Uncle Bud Carter’s on Indian Run. Many Sundays found us at Grandfather Maxwell’s, a country mile over the hill, mostly through woodland and open fields. I felt quite grown up when I was first allowed to make this trip alone for a weekend stay.
Our second Christmas in Lynchburg was spent with Uncle John Maxwell, who lived in Doddridge County. We traveled by train to Morgansville where Uncle John met us for the several mile drive up Flint Run to his home. It was a log house and although I had
previously lived in similar structures, this is the first time I can recall seeing an open wood fireplace. The huge back log served as a genuine Yule log and when smaller wood was added, not only warmed the large room but lit it up brightly. Another first and happy experience was sleeping in a trundle bed. They were not uncommon in those days but a privilege usually reserved for older children. We had food in abundance but home grown and dressed turkey and beans fried in the pod are memories that linger. It was a simple celebration but without modern foo-for-awe we knew it was Christmas and a very festive spirit pervaded the air.
The following Christmas we celebrated with Uncle Bud Carter. It was their first winter in a new home (which is still standing, well preserved) and the occasion was somewhat of a house warming as well. Dave, then a student in law school, was home on vacation and provided transportation through a deep snow by sled. Minus the train ride, it was practically a repetition of the days at Uncle John Maxwell’s place and equally as memorable.
In the summer of 1902, both the Maxwell’s and the Ritter’s held family reunions. And each has been photographically preserved for posterity. The Maxwell’s had one hundred percent attendance, with twenty nine persons representing three generations present. Uncle John brought his family from Doddridge County by wagon, which was no mean feat, considering the round trip was more than thirty miles, over unimproved dirt roads. It meant starting before daybreak and reaching home again long after dark, on a midsummer day. Very few people today are hard enough to put forth such effort for any reason, another aspect which would be overlooked in this automotive age. By this arrangement the horses could be rested during the heat of the day and do their work in the comparative cool morning and evening.
The Lynches and Maxwell’s were forced to forego the Ritter reunion. Aunt Sue was seriously ill and mother refused to leave her. Erastus Ney, who worked for Uncle Hiram, was sent as a messenger. He and Uncle Hiram’s stallion, mentioned before, which he was riding, are in the picture of the event.
Our sojourn at Lynchburg lasted almost exactly three years but in retrospect, they represent proportionately a far greater span of my life. Our departure on March 3, 1903 was an occasion of grief and sorrow. With copious shedding of tears all around.
But childhood sorrows are fleeting. In a few hours we were in new surroundings, meeting new people. Lynchburg will never be forgotten but soon became a series of most pleasant memories in a life beyond recall.