Old Kentucky School

Here is a wonderful picture of my paternal grandmother’s (Mable Gerie Stafford’s) old school in Kentucky.

Old Kentucky School

School – Betsy Layne, Kentucky

Fortunately, she wrote the following on the back of the photograph:

My old school—1st through 12th grade (no Kindergarten)

Betsy Layne

Yea Bobcats (basketball team)

Your dad was one.

One tip to remember as you document your family history: always scan or take a picture of the back of photographs. Family members often write important notes on the back, and these can easily be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of genealogy work.

Obituary of Compton Stafford

The obituary of Compton Stafford (1847-1905)—my 2nd great grandfather—tells a sad tale. A coal miner by profession, Compton sought employment at the Hatfield mines in Nolan, West Virginia. While walking on tracks, he was hit by a train owned by the Norfolk and Western Railway. Compton left behind a wife and seven children with “scant means of support.”

Compton Stafford Obituary

Compton Stafford Obituary: Big Sandy News (February 1905)

 

In Her Own Words: Part 4

This is the final installment of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 3.

Our school band, of which I was a member, played music for promotion of the unions, for a fee. I always wondered how safe our group was from violence at these types of outings, but nothing ever happened to make us quit playing for them. We needed the money for instruments as the members of the band could not afford them on their own.

During our elementary school years, a federal health group provided lunch for all children who were underweight. After the school nurse decided who was to have the lunch, our parents were notified and my brother Raymond and my two sisters had to have their lunch at school. I came home for lunch because I was not underweight. I am not sure of the duration of the program but my siblings did not like it at all. I was glad to go home to have lunch with my mother.

Most of our activities revolved around the school. We had basketball, tennis, glee club, and band. We had a library in our main assembly hall, it was about 10 by 10 feet and the first year I was in high school, I had read all of the books and was made an assistant librarian. I felt very important but I was not in any way a qualified librarian. My English teacher was the librarian and she was not qualified either.

Our school was never overcrowded as about 1/3 of the students came from the very rural areas and by bus. Some of the farmers would not send their kids every day if they were needed for farm work. Our basketball team was one of the best in the state for a couple of years. One of the players, Shade Hunley, was an eighth grade student when the coach spied him playing and put him on the varsity team. As a result, a player could only play four years and he had to stop playing in his senior year. He later became my husband and father of our four children.

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Shade Hunley (1917-1962)

After I graduated from high school, I stayed home with my mother as she was an invalid. She could not walk for six years and we had to feed her for three years before she died at 46 years of age. There were three of us girls and we could never go anywhere as I always had to be home with our mother. My father and brother left home to work in another state and only came home on weekends.

After the death of our mother, our lives changed. My sister Flo went to California to get married to a young man from our town who had moved out to California and he sent for her. My brother left for schooling in Wisconsin and later to Charlestown, Massachusetts shipping yards for a job. My youngest sister was still in school and she and I stayed at Betsy Layne to let her finish and I was busy taking care of two children and a house. When Juanita finished school, we made plans to leave for Boston, Massachusetts. Shade and Raymond had gotten a house for us and furnished it.

We closed up the house and left on the train with Michael and Saundra, my two children. The train was full of military men and they had a great time helping me take care of Michael. Saundra was 2 1/2 years old and quite the little lady. We were supposed to be met at the Boston train terminal but the man who was supposed to pick us up forgot and when we got to the house in our taxi, he was sitting on the porch and was very embarrassed by the whole event.

We stayed in the house less than three months because I did not like the area. So I found a three bedroom and one bath near the subway lines for $37.50 per month and it was heated and water furnished. We lived near the old opera house and the hall for concerts.

Even in the early forties there was a lot of prejudice. I had a very dear friend who was Irish and her husband was Filipino. Because of the Filipino heritage they could not rent in our area. We stayed in Boston four years and while there Beverly was born and we had the best of care. I took the children to Fenway Park (this was home to the Red Sox ball team). Aside from the winter weather, Boston was a great place to live. The history of our country is all there and we had access (free) to most of it. Shade’s father and mother visited us there and Shade took his father to the Boston Gardens for a wrestling match. It was a big deal to him.

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Fenway Park (1940’s)

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My Grandma’s Handwriting

In Her Own Words: Part 3

This is a continuation of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 2.

My mother was crippled with arthritis and had not been able to do laundry for years so she gained a girl to wash our clothes and one to iron. On every Monday morning, Mattie, our laundress, came and took the clothes and all of us kids down to the creek to wash our clothes. The huge black kettle was left there upon some bricks all of the time. We had fun on Mondays and really enjoyed our days at the creek.

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My Grandma’s Mother, Draxie Alice Large (1895-1942)

Later we all four helped Mattie take the clothes back to our house to hang them on the line to dry. The following day, her sister Norma came next door to our house to iron. My mother paid $1.00 for the laundry and $0.50 for the ironing. Juanita was just a small child at that time, but she came along when she could to just be with all of us. [Juanita is my grandma’s younger sister.]

We had a very happy childhood, good schools. We went to Sunday school and prayer meetings. We also had a movie theater, paid for and run by the coal company. You could buy a monthly family ticket, so my father had it taken out of his check each month. For a family of six, the ticket cost $2.00 and you could all go as many as three times a week. My father seldom went and when he did, he slept through the movie. He worked such long hours and such hard work that he was exhausted from it. Weekends were good for him, he got to do as he pleased and rest.

We always had plenty to do because we raised a big garden and had to harvest what we raised for the winter. This was most likely when the mining company would have one to two lay off days a week. This cut my father’s pay. He always managed well and had a small bank account.

We had one big lumber guy move on to our street and build a big house. They were nice people and I went to school with their son, Clyde. One day the lumber guy came down to our house and wanted to speak to my father. After he left, my father came into the house and told my mother he was going to Aunt Molly’s, our grocery store. We learned later he went to get a case of formula milk for this man’s baby. Times were really bad back then even to the ones who appeared well off.

The years when my brother and my sisters needed more things were tough. My father had to go away to work as the tipple of the coal company burnt and the company would not rebuild it. [A “tipple” is a structure used to load the extracted coal for transport, typically into railroad hopper cars.] We all felt later they did it themselves to stop the unions from coming in. This was all John L. Lewis time and they were trying to unionize all of the mines in the area.

It took a couple of years but they finally did it. They got hospitalization, workers’ compensation, and better wages. Although work was scarce, working conditions were much better and even though we missed the theater and having more things close by we were glad of the unions. Lives were lost and very ugly things happened but they finally achieved what they set out to do. For some reason not easily understood, men who were coal miners did not want to do any other jobs.

To be continued…

In Her Own Words: Part 2

This is a continuation of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 1.

In 1924, my father had saved enough money to buy a home for us and he hunted for a camp near schools. He went to work for Pike & Floyd Coal Company, an English based company. [In 1910, the Pike-Floyd Coal Company established its first production facility in Betsy Layne, Kentucky.] They had good elementary schools and a small high school. We were only 13 miles from Pikeville in Pike County, Ky., which had a two-year college. He bought a lot and had a house built on it for $1,800.00 cash. He and my mother finished most of the inside. We had two large bedrooms, living room, two porches, and of course the privy.

We had a large kitchen and cooked with coal because it was very cheap. We had fireplaces in all of the rooms. The kitchen was big enough for a large table, six chairs, icebox, and coal range plus the traditional kitchen cabinet, which held my mother’s cooking supplies. We also had a water table. There was a bucket of water, a basin to wash your face and hands, and soap and towels. We had a large pantry off the back porch which had been built for a bathroom and dad never dug a well so we had no bathroom.

We had a large meat house which housed our meat, four 30-gallon barrels for pickled beans, corn, sauerkraut, and cucumber pickles. We also had a large bathtub (came from a YMCA) and a stove to heat water. My father put three large barrels outside the meat house to catch rain water and put pipes from outside to the inside (coal water only). This could run down into the tub. We heated the water on the stove to bathe in. We also cooked in the meat house during the summer. It was too hot to cook in our home as we had no air conditioning and no fans. The weather got very hot and humid during the summer months.

My first memory of my childhood years was in 1924 when we moved to Betsy Layne where my father had built us a home and we were to remain until we all left Ky. in the early 40’s. My mother had made me a navy blue cape with a red silk lining and I wore it on the train to my new home. Our new home was quite different than what we had been used to. At first, we only had kerosene lamps on the walls throughout the house. A few months later we got the electric lines in and we had our lights throughout the house.

We always had a phonograph and a radio in our home. In later years, my father never missed the Amos ‘n’ Andy and Lowell Thomas show.

My mother listened to soap operas on the radio and read a serial story that ran every day in the newspapers. We got our paper one day late because it came by train from the western part of the state. Things were not as easily gotten as they are today.

I cannot remember when I exactly started school. I think I went to primer class the year after we moved there, so I would have been six years old. My mother taught us to read and do our multiplication tables before we started school. My brother was two years ahead of me in school and very smart, which made it harder for me to catch up.

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My Grandma’s Brother, Raymond Stafford

The coal company paid for the school teachers at that time but later the state took over the cost as the school was well established.

We had been in our new home about six months when one morning about 11 o’clock a wagon, drawn by two mules, came down our road, which was right near our front gate. There were 11 people in the wagon who turned out to be our best friends and neighbors as long as we were there and even in later years. There were five girls, four boys, and Mom and Pop Howard. The mother was very heavy as was two of the girls.

To be continued…

In Her Own Words: Part 1

I am very excited to present a family history written by my grandmother, Mable Gerie Stafford (1919-2011). We simply called her “Grandma G.” I have inserted a few pictures and notes here and there; however, her words are presented exactly how she wrote them. Enjoy!

Autobiography (Gerie Hunley Baughman) (the other coal miner’s daughter)

I was born in the North Eastern part of Ky. in a coal mining town of Wolfpit.

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Wolfpit, Kentucky (circa 1920)

I was one of four children, my brother being the oldest. I was the second born and the first girl. I have two sisters born 2 years apart after me. My mother and father were not real young as most of the young married people were (from early teens to twenty years old). It was not unusual to have young mothers of 15 years old at the time. My father was 26 and my mother was 22 when they were married. My mother had an eighth grade education and was an avid reader. [My grandma was also an avid reader – it must run in the family.] My father only had the fourth grade due to circumstances in the home. My mother taught him how to concentrate on the 3 R’s and he became very good at it.

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Grandma G (sitting) and her Brother, Raymond (around 1920)

I never knew my father’s parents as they died before my parents married. There were 6 boys and 1 girl in my father’s family and when their father died my father was 11 years old. All of the boys old enough went into the mines to take care of the others and their mother. My father was a small boy and when he went to get the job, the mining boss told him to go back home – he was too small to work. My father told him he had to work and they gave him a job of laying wooden ties that supported the rails the coal was brought out on. He worked for 38 years after that in many coal mines throughout Ky. and never had a scratch from any accident. He was very fortunate because many men were crippled or killed from cave-ins in the mine, there was also the danger of gas which killed many men. They took birds into the different areas where they worked and if the birds died, they all left that work area.

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My Grandma’s Father, Charley Stafford (1891-1973)

When the miners died from the accidents there was no compensation from the coal companies to help the families. This was before the unions came in. The people who lived in the camps all pitched in and helped the unfortunate families. They did have a camp Dr. who was paid by the coal co. who owned the mine. If a lady had a baby, the Dr. was sent for and also a midwife if one was near and it cost the family $2.00 to bring the baby. Of course if you needed the Dr. for any medical purpose he came to your home, diagnosed the problem and left the medicine for it, all for $2.00.

We grew up with always having a Dr. to use but no hospital plan until the unions came into the picture. My father worked 10 hr. days and got paid $1.00 a day. The coal company provided the houses to live in and the rent was $3.00 to $5.00 a month for a 2 bedroom home. Most miners would not work at anything other than mining and when the economy got bad and they didn’t work every day they would not even have a garden to grow their food.

I grew up in the years when the whites had their camps and the blacks had theirs, along with the schools and churches. The company’s store had one side for the blacks and one side was for the whites. We never questioned it as we grew up because our parents had taught us that you never speak to a black person and the only time we were close to them was when my father butchered our hogs for winter and they came and took the parts of the hog my father did not use. Their camps were not as nice as the white camps and they stayed mostly to themselves because we had the Ku Klux Klan in our town. They had a club house right in town and my uncle Leo and aunt Franny belonged to it. I saw them in a parade once as a child and my aunt waved to me. She had a white robe and a peaked cone hat on her head but I could tell who it was. After the parade they burned a small cross on the hill above town as their symbol. As far as doing anything bad, I didn’t think they did or some of the townspeople would have heard about it. When a circus or carnival came to town, they were watched very closely by the Klan. [It was my impression that my grandma did not approve of the Klan. I vaguely remember a story where she told a family member to “take off that hood!”]

To be continued…

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This gold bracelet was given to Draxie Alice Large (our Great-Grandmother) as an engagement present from Charlie Stafford (our Great Grandfather) in 1916. Grandmother Gerie gave it to Kelly Hunley Karner in August of 2003. Due to the clasp being broken and some scratches present, Kelly took it to a professional jeweler. After it was fixed, the jeweler was very surprised at the large amount of gold plating on the piece. He said if it was not for this, he may not have been able to buff out the scratches. It is now in very good condition and is a most treasured piece of family history.  

The Stafford’s (Or Is It The Compton’s?)

The Stafford line – truly an enigma and by far the hardest line to trace. I had always heard that the Stafford’s originated from England and eventually settled in Virginia. So far, my research seems to confirm this. However, unlike the other family lines, I am not able to identify a specific ancestor that traveled to America on a specific date.

The earliest Stafford I found was John Miles Stafford, my 5th great grandfather. John was born on February 17, 1783 in Walkers Creek, Giles, Virginia. On May 10, 1803, John married Nancy Runyon in Tazewell, Virginia – they had eight children.

For the longest time I was unable to identify John’s parents – the line simply stopped at John. Then, in early December of last year, I received a message from someone on Ancestry.com who matched my DNA profile. Here is an excerpt from this message:

We have family lore that John Miles Stafford was “raised by the Compton’s” from the memoirs of one of his grandsons and as it turns out, our Y-DNA is a match for the Compton surname. That tells us that John Miles Stafford was born out of wedlock to a COMPTON male and a STAFFORD female, and we are nearly certain of who the couple is, and believe that it is John Compton Jr. and probably Absolem’s daughter Sarah Stafford. Absolem Stafford and John Compton Sr. (father of John Compton Jr.) shared a property line in Tazewell Co, VA and can also be found living in very close proximity during the years of their migration from the east coast.

Jackpot! It turns out that John Miles Stafford is a descendant of the Compton line. After diving deeper into the family history, I began noticing Stafford males with the first name of “Compton.” Compton Stafford (1805-1890), one of John’s sons, was married to Eleanor McCoy (of the famed Hatfield versus McCoy feud). My second great grandfather was also named Compton Stafford (1847-1905).

Compton Stafford with His Wife Jeanie Simpson (1851-after 1910)

Could it be that “Compton” became a family name out of respect for the Compton family who raised John Miles Stafford?

On December 15, 1889, Jeanie Simpson gave birth to my great grandfather Charlie Stafford. I have been told that Charlie loved to wear three-piece suits.

Charlie Stafford (1889-1973)

On December 20, 1916, Charlie married Draxie Alice Large in Pike County, Kentucky.

Marriage Certificate of Charlie Stafford and Draxie Large

Draxie Alice Large (1895-1942)

Charlie and Draxie had four children – Raymond, Mable Gerie (my grandmother), Florene, and Juanita.

Gerie Stafford (“Grandma G”) and Raymond Stafford, Around 1920

Charlie Stafford with Juanita (Left) and Florene (Right)

On February 14, 1973, Charlie passed away in Gardena, California at the age of 83.

On July 1, 1938, my grandma married Shade Hunley – they would go on to have four children of their own, including my dad.

Gerie Stafford and Shade Hunley

My dad and grandma out on the ocean in a big boat, carried 2,000 people and went a 40 mile trip.