Sophrona Philoda HALL LANG
1837 – 1931
Submitted by: Charlotte Bostic Fleming
Article attributed to an interview by Wilbur Morrison
Believed to have been published 1931 in the
Mrs. Sophrona Lang at 94 Holds Fond Memories' of Daring Husband.
Eagle District Woman Near Sunset of Life Relates Story
Mrs. Sophrona Hall Lang, 94, one of the fine old women of Eagle District enjoys the
distinction of being the widow of a man who refused to do military service in Germany even under penalty of death but who eagerly went into
the service of his adopted country to preserve the integrity of the Union. She is the relict of Sebastian Lang, a native of Bavaria, Germany, whose miraculous escape from the executioner will be given in more detail farther on in this story.
Considering the many hardships and sorrows Mrs. Lang has undergone, she is quite a remarkable woman and as she says has a wonderful constitution or she would have been dead long ago. On the ninety-fourth anniversary of her birth, which she quietly celebrated last Wednesday at the home of her daughter, she was not as spry as on previous occasions as she was under the necessity of keeping to her bed because of her enfeebled condition, but prior to last November 26, when she was first forced to remain in bed, she was able to get around pretty well. She thinks she is gradually wearing out and growing weaker, but the next afternoon after she received friends from two until four o'clock in the afternoon, she did not show evidence of going away soon.
At first she thought perhaps she would not be able to talk but once she got started she held her audience and related many features of pioneer life which thrilled and proved equally informative. She said, when asked to account for her long life, "It must be my strong constitution that has kept me going", philosophically adding that she certainly had had enough hardships to try one's endurance.
Although she is well on the last decade of century of life, Mrs. Lang does not seem depressed in spirit but is as hopeful as if many more years are before her. While she is enfeebled, not being able to walk, yet she has perfect control of her nerves and she shows no palsied trembles which so often characterize aged persons who are much younger than she is. Her mind is keen and her eyesight good under the circumstances of age. One would certainly believe so after learning that a week ago she read a four-column article in this newspaper relating to a man at Good Hope, being attracted to the article by the fact that he is just a month or two older than she is.
Mrs. Lang first lived in the days when girls of the family had to work in the fields as well as in the house, and possibly that fact developed a hardy constitution. There were no dissipations in those days and the rules of health were simple but true. It was a case of early to bed and early to rise with her. Like so many girls of her youth, she contracted the use of tobacco at school and continued to chew until twenty years ago, when she changed to snuff. It did not hurt her a particle, she says, to chew tobacco but the nicotine in it would not prove good to persons with weak constitutions.
These modern days one must have his teeth pulled to save his life. There is so much poison originating from the molars which in time gets into the system and then it's all off. Mrs. Lang hooted at this idea although only one lonesome tooth remains in her mouth. She says she never had a tooth pulled either at home or away, They just naturally came out of their own accord. The loss of her teeth doubtless
caused her to quit chewing tobacco.
Prefers Pipe or Stogie
By the way, she does not especially admire the new habit of cigarette smoking, new as compared to the old time pipe and rolled stogie. She rather thinks it unbecoming on the part of women in particular, but makes no loud protest. "They better let cigarettes alone" she says "as they are not healthy".
The constitution of which Mrs. Lang boasts must have been all she portrays it, as she has suffered more or less with leakage of the heart the last twenty-five or thirty years and it's a miracle she did not die years ago. It is suspected that her determination and hopeful spirit have shared in the longevity with her constitution. The mellowed years of age have not interfered with her maintenance of a reputation of having a mind of her own, and it is refreshing to see such a fine since of humor as she exhibits.
Mrs. Lang was a daughter and second child of Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Hall. She was born February 2, 1837, within a stone's throw, at least in sight of, where she now lives on what is known as the Fabius Hall Farm.
Born on the Cheat
Her father, Elisha Hall, was born at the forks of Cheat River, early date from England. He moved to Trumbull County, Ohio, an came back to West Virginia in 1813 and settled on Little Tenmile Creek half a mile west of what is now Rosebud, where there were few inhabitants and the countryside was mostly woodland. His father moved from Cheat River to Fairmont and died there.
Elisha Hall first married Miss Catherine Bennett, a daughter of Dr. William R. Bennett of Brown, in 1807 and after her death married Miss Sarah Swiger, daughter of Jacob and Nancy Bachus Swiger, of Tenmile Creek near the mouth of Gregory Run. The second marriage being celebrated September 9, 1929. He and his second wife were the parents of four sons and two daughters, namely Silas Hall, who was a farmer famous for storytelling and who was a Union soldier in the Civil War; Mrs. Lang, the subject of this sketch; Elisha P. Hall, who was a farmer and lived near the old salt well on Simpson's Creek; and Fabius E Hall, who also served in the Civil War and was in some of the hottest battles, including the engagement of Winchester, Sheridan's triumph at Cedar Creek and the capture of Fort Gregg at Petersburg. The other two died young. The mother was born where later married.
Mrs. Lang's half-brother, Benona Hall, was the first baby born on Little Tenmile Creek. He would be more than 115 years old if now living. John T Swiger, father of A. Gilbert Swiger who died Wednesday at the age of nearly 86 years, was the second boy baby born on the Creek, Mrs. Lang says.
John William and Mary Swiger, great grandparents on the maternal side, were German emigrants to Virginia in 1755. They located in Loudon County, that state, where all their children appear to have been born except the youngest, Christopher who was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The family later moved to Coon's Run in Clay District, this county, forming what was the first Swiger settlement in what is now West Virginia. Some of the first family fought in the American Revolution.
The family of Nancy Bachus, one of Mrs. Lang's grandmothers came from Pennsylvania at an early date and settled near Brown, this county. She married Jacob Swiger, August 6, 1793, and soon after their marriage they settled on what is now known as the old Swiger farm near the mouth of Gregory's Run in a log cabin. They acquired several hundred acres of land and lived to a ripe old age. Joaob was a huntsman of local fame and many wild animals of the forest "fell victim to his unerring air". He rode to Clarksburg one very hot day, was overcome by the heat and died there.
Mrs. Lang married Sebastian Lang, May 21, 1868, as his second wife. His first wife was Sarah Payne Lang, a daughter of Turner and Lucy
Payne, who were also the parents of the late Thomas T Payne, of near Wilsonburg. There were two children by the first marriage, Charles Lang, a farmer living at Sharon Center, Ohio who married Louisa Hall, now dead; and Catherine, who married Jasper Swiger, who lived in recent years at Wilsonburg.
Sabastian & Sophorna Lang
The second set of children consists of Sarah Regina, born June 6, 1869, deceased wife of Dr. Lafayette Swiger, of Laurel Run; Mary Anna, born December 17, 1870, wife of John Holland, who lives in the old home place hear Dola; Theresa Chrishenthia, born September 14, 1873, wife of George H. Williams, farmer at whose home Mrs. Lang has lived for the last fourteen years; Charlotte Rose, born September 30, 1875, deceased wife of Frank Williams who operates a restaurant at Lumber port; and Elnora, born June 5, 1878 who fell into a posthole head foremost and died when two years old. There were no sons in the family. Mrs. Lang has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren living.
Mr. Lang died November 27, 1893, at the age of 70 years, having been born August 23, 1823 in Bavaria Germany. He was a marble cutter and worked at his trade in Italy, three years before he was committed to a military prison in Germany under sentence of death as a spy and traitor. At appears at the age of 18, he refused to be impressed into military services as all young men were in that country of arms compulsion and went to Italy. Returning to Germany he was arrested and sentenced.
It is related that the following morning after his imprisonment when the prison barber, a man named Schwartenbach, entered the prison he recognized Lang as an old friend but gave no sign of recognition. After the day's work was finished in prison, the barber began to plan how to save Lang from the awful death imposed upon him the day before.
Escapes in Sewer
Having knowledge of the fact that there was a sixteen-inch sewer leading 300 feet from the prison to the river, the barber decided that escape was possible and that within two days his friend could be America bound on a steamer which was getting ready to depart, providing the prisoner was not detected in the act of escaping. He outlined the scheme on a small piece of paper and the next morning, when he went to the prison and was cutting Lang's hair, he slipped the folded paper down Lang's shirt collar and whispered, "Be careful".
That night Lang wormed himself through the dirty sewer to freedom. He hastened to the home of a friend, borrowed clothing, made his way to the ship, which was due to leave a little later that morning. Met at the ship by the barber friend, he was provided with money with which to pay his fare, and landed safe and free in New York City. After working in New York for a short while he moved to Fairmont and from that city to Clarksburg section, where he met and married his first wife and later Mrs. Lang.
"In his early boyhood," Mrs. Lang says, "Her late husband's parents, George and Cresensia Lang, sent him to school to educate him for the Catholic priesthood but he was such a bad boy that the school authorities did not want him and sent him back home, and that ended his prospects as a clergyman.:
Enters Civil War
Mr. Lang was mustered into the service of the United States in the Civil War, September 17, 1862, the records show, and became a corporal in Battery E of the First West Virginia Light Artillery, which the late Major Alexander C. Moore of this city, organized in Buckhannon in August and September 182. The Battery consisted of young men from Upshur, Harrison and Randolph counties.
The Battery first defended the town of Buckhannon against Gen. B. F. Jenkins of the Confederate forces. Soon thereafter the troop went to Wheeling where it was fully equipped and then sent back to Clarksburg, and in turn to New Creek and Romney, Moorefield and its vicinity, as well as with General B. F. Kelley in his campaign in the summer of that year to Cherry Run, Williamsport and Hedgesville on Lee's retreat from Gettysburg, returning with the brigade to the South branch Valley where it served until the summer of 1864.
Upon Gen. Hunter's return from Lynchburg, the battery was ordered to join the Army of West Virginia, and accompanied it to the Shenandoah Valley where it took part in the engagements with the enemy at Snitcher's ferry, Cedar Creek, Kerns town, Bunker Hill, and Berryville. The battery was then attached to Artillery Brigade and in the fall of 1864 was ordered to the artillery camp at Camp Barry near Washington . C. and remained there until the close of the war. The battery was mustered out of the service June 28, 1865. Mr. Lang was 37 when he went into the army.
"The country was pretty much settled here when I was a little girl", Mrs. Lang said in speaking of the early days on Little Ten mile Creek. There were not so many families, however, and there woods all around. The Bennett's were living at Brown, Jesse Hall's family, there were others I do not now recall, and they all lived in rough cabins made out of logs. We had big wide fireplace and burned huge logs for fuel. I worked in the fields as well as the house. I helped to plant corn, worked in the hayfields, piled brush in the clearing and other light work on the farm."
There was plenty of deer in our section of the country in those days. The great woods were just full of wolves and bears who sometimes ventured into the open and carried away a shoat or a calf. Deer were so plentiful that it was not uncommon to have venison as a meat rather than a delicacy on our table. The hogs were turned out in the spring to roam in the woods and then fattened on mash in the fall. They sometimes grew wild, even vicious and great care had to be taken in rounding them up for the final feeding and butchering in the fall soon as the weather began to get cold.
"We had a very good school house made out of hewed logs, " Mrs. Lang said in describing her school days. "When I was about nine years old, the teacher, Matthew Orr, whipped me so severely that there were marks on my back for a month,” Snow had been carried into the school room on the children's boots and shoes and made the floor slippery. When I went in one day, I slipped and fell. The teacher cried: "Goodie! Goodie!". That made me angry and I made a sharp reply to him, and then he beat me. I never forgot that whipping or him either. He was a bad man and I hate him to this day."
Mrs. Lang lived to see the day when the woodlands gave way to green fields and the valleys profuse with crops. Many other changes have taken place in the vision of her nativity in common with the whole country. They are really too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say, they are included all the modern ways of living.
Along this line, the aged woman pointed out that it was a day's ride to Clarksburg and back home when she was a girl while now the automobile makes the round trip in an hour or less time, and the train rushes on to and fro with equal speed.
"We rode horseback to Clarksburg then. Did we have good roads?
I'll say we didn't. It was hard to get along at all even on horseback. We simply had hardly any road at all. In winter when there was snow on the ground much of the time we sent to Clarksburg on sleds."
That's the way the aged woman puts it. What’s more she never rode on a train until after the completion of the West Virginia Short Line railroad in 1901, running close to her home. It is needless to say that the first ride gave her a mighty thrill. That, however, is not her favorite mode of travel to hear her tell it, she likes the automobile. She says, "It's fine to ride that way. Whether she would fall for the airplane if given the chance one doesn't dare say.
A year ago she rode with members of the family to Wilsonburg in a speedy car to visit and again last fall when the family clans gathered in her neighborhood for their annual reunion she rode up in state in the family car. She enjoyed the ride immensely, she says, and was delighted with the way she was treated at the reunion being the recipient of honors as the oldest guest.
As an example of her sense of humor, she remarked in connection with a Baptist minister's preaching many years with a record of only one Baptism. While she is a Baptist herself, she has observed that some Baptist preachers talk more about water than the gospel. Mrs. Lang has a ready tongue and thinks quickly. She is never at a loss in conversation.
There is no question about her religious faith. She knows the doctrine and the
Bible about as well as any of them. She has been a member of the Ten mile Baptist church in sight of her home every since it was built many years ago.
Dola, West Virginia
And it's all embodied in two words, Lord's Will, as she says. That is what this lovely mother, grandmother and great grandmother, whose married life was shorter than either her maidenhood or her widowhood adjusts her to on her bed of bodily affliction and in her thoughts of the future. She is ready to go by that living decree leaving behind a heritage of upright living her posterity may well count themselves fortunate to receive.
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