Tygart Junction

After visiting the Morrison Cemetery and Buckhannon Run, we stopped by Brake’s Dairy King in Buckhannon for blueberry sundaes.  Besides having good sundaes, the Brakes must be cousins, through my great-great-grandmother Polly Brake Morrison.  We decided to drive up Buckhannon River Road, which we had intended to do on Easter, but mistook the turn and came across the Carrollton Road instead.

Tracks to Tygart Junction, Carrolton, Upshur Co., West VirginiaThe drive along the Buckhannon is lovely, although it is a one-lane road, lined with weekend cottages and some summer homes.  The railroad parallels the river on the other side.  When we got to the covered bridge and looked at the topo map to decide where to go next, I discovered Tygart Junction.  It is marked as a place on the map, and is the place where the Buckhannon runs into the Tygart’s Valley River, as well as the junction of the railroads up the two rivers.  There is no road, so if it was ever a populated place, the only way in was by rail, foot, or canoe back in the day.  The Monongalia and its upper forks were the main highways for many years after the first settlements in the 1770s.  It looked to be about a mile to the junction from the covered bridge, and was irresistible, of course.  The right-of-way was a bit narrow, and once we got past the first bit, where the bank went up at about 90 degrees on one side, and down about the same to the river, and it widened out, we both admitted we had been a bit nervous.

Up the Tygart's Valley River from Tygart JunctionThe views from the bridge across the Tygart, just before the junction, were worth the walk.  I did some rail-walking on the way back.  Robert grew up where there were lots of railroads, and we had the RS&G in Spencer – the Ravenswood, Spencer, and Glenville, except they never laid the track from Spencer to Glenville.  One Sunday Dad took me and my brother to Sunflower, near Reedy, and we walked the trestle there.  It was high, and long enough that it had an emergency platform in the middle.  I assume Dad knew the schedule, and it was a Sunday.

We discussed whether trains ran on this particular line on Sunday, and since they were undoubtedly coal trains, decided they might.  I occasionally put a hand on the rail to feel for vibrations.  We got to the narrow part, in sight of the covered bridge, and switched to the downhill side, where one could at least roll down the steep bank, although the large chunks of limestone would do some damage.  There was a roaring down the valley, but it sounded like it was across the river.  By the time I realized it was echoing off the hill, the train was coming around the curve. TrainFortunately, the bank was just shallow enough to sit on without sliding, so we did.

Robert and the train

Buckhannon Run

Buckhannon Run School, Berlin, Lewis Co., West VirginiaMy grandmother Maude Hersman deGruyter  taught school at Buckhannon Run a hundred years ago, when she was 22.
She had lots of Hersman and Waggoner cousins there.  It is just up the road from Berlin, where her Hersman, Morrison, and Waggoner grandparents grew up, and a few miles from the Stalnakers and McWhorters.  The old school, next to the church, looks like it was maintained until recently.

I have her grade book, for the school year 1908-1909.  Besides class lists and grades, it has some commonplaces and notes from pupils at the end of the year.

Buckhannon Run Grade Book

Another Day, Another Graveyard

Morrison Cemetery, Berlin, Lewis Co., West VirginiaSunday was sunny but cool, and we had done a lot of yard work Saturday.  (I will be so pleased when we get to a stage where we can describe it as gardening.  Most of what we are doing is moving dirt, stone, trash, cut and fallen branches and trees, and vast quantities of noxious weeds.)  We decided to take the day to be out and about.  The first stop was the Morrison Cemetery on Hacker’s Creek at Berlin, on the John Hacker homestead.  It is visible from the Hacker historical marker, but only going west, because it is up the hill (although not on top) behind a modern house.

My great-grandfather Alexander Morrison’s grandparents, and a great-grandmother, are buried here.  They are his father Mark Hersman’s parents, Mary “Polly” Kiger and Mark Hersman; his mother Margaret Ann Morrison’s parents, Mary “Polly” Brake and William Bascom Morrison; and Polly Brake’s mother, Catherine Shook. Polly Brake’s father, John, was first married to Elizabeth Wetherholt. Their daughter Elizabeth married Edward Jackson, grandfather of  Stonewall Jackson and Catherine and John’s sons Jacob and Isaac married Edward’s daughters by his first wife, Rachel and Mary, just a few of the many Brake-Jackson marriages.  John Brake is buried in the Jackson cemetery at Jackson’s Mill.

There is a downed and illegible stone next to Polly Kiger Hersman which is probably her husband Mark’s.  Several of their and William and Polly Morrison’s children and spouses are buried here, as are four children of Mark and Margaret Morrison Hersman, who moved to Roane County in 1852.  Alexander Morrison, William’s brother, and wife Margaret Brake, Polly Brake Morrison’s sister, are also here.

Catherine Shook Brake stone

Catherine Shook Brake

Polly Kiger Hersman

Polly Kiger Hersman

Mary "Polly" Brake Morrison stone

Mary "Polly" Brake Morrison

William Bascom Morrison stone

William Bascom Morrison

The Necessities of Life

The Pew Foundation does fascinating (to me at least) public opinion surveys.  I ran across the results from a survey on necessities versus luxuries – which only includes, unfortunately, a few household appliances and electronics.  Oddly to me, the percentage of people who view a car as a necessity dropped from 93% to 91% from 1996 to 2006.

Out in the country, a simpler life: Rural residents are less likely than those who live either in the city or the suburbs to view these 14 items as necessities. Of people living in rural areas, fully a third say just 0 to 5 of these items are necessities, compared with 23% of those in cities and 24% of those in suburbs. This difference holds even after controlling for income and internet use.

Here’s the list, in order of perceived necessity:

Clothes washer
Clothes dryer
Home air conditioning
TV set
Car air conditioning
Home computer
Cell phone*
Cable or satellite TV
High-speed internet*
Flat screen TV*

We don’t have cable or satellite, a flat screen TV, or an iPod.  We rarely use our clothes dryer, air conditioning, microwave, dishwasher, and cell phones.  I could live without everything else except the car, computer, and high-speed internet, although a washer comes close to essential.

Native Ground Covers

Our yard had been sadly neglected for years when we bought the house less than two years ago.  Besides what must have been the world’s largest stand of poke weed, there were poison ivy vines the size of my wrist climbing several of the Norway spruces, where they were basking in the sun, blooming madly, and dropping seeds everywhere.  There were grape vines, even larger, regarding everything vertical in the yard as an arbor.  Underneath it all was English ivy, and scattered here and there were volunteer box elders, maple and sweet gum seedlings, and graceful stands of garlic mustard, which is unfortunately an invasive European plant which exudes chemicals to discourage everything else.  Field bindweed enjoyed the sunny slope in the front, amongst the ivy, both English and poison, and climbed the lone native flame azalea.  Dandelions, of course, were everywhere, but at least they are edible.  A bit of lawn had been kept mowed at the front and side, slowly disappearing under the creeping English ivy.  In general, the property was a great example of disturbed land returning to nature.

I spent a morning last week walking the yard and spraying the remaining poison ivy, at least what I could find.  Half an acre is a lot to comb for anything.  Right now it is leafing out, and the shiny burgundy of the new leaves is relatively easy to spot among the Virginia creeper (which sometimes has only three leaves at first, but they are greener and fuzzy when you look closely) and box elder seedlings.  I don’t generally believe in herbicides, but cutting the vines doesn’t kill the roots, which just cheerily send up new shoots, and doing anything that requires touching it is fraught.  I had a good bit on my arms last year, just from not seeing the vines when pulling English ivy.  Robert unfortunately carried a good many loads of dead leaves and vines in his arms and ended up with solid blisters.

Native ground coversWe use a push mower, for exercise, saving the planet from two-cycle exhaust and noise, and old-fashioned charm.  So we would just as soon keep the lawn to a minimum, and most of our half-acre is shaded, sloping or both.  Hence our strategy, which allows us to feel both morally superior and frugal.  Encourage the prettiest low-growing “weeds”, pull out the rest, and call it “native ground cover.”  Here is a slope of ground-ivy and white violets under one of our Norway spruces.  There is some corn speedwell, too.  Earlier, common blue violets were blooming here.  Ground-ivy (also called gill-over-the-ground or creeping Charlie), is officially a weed, but it grows in shade, responds nicely to mowing or looks fine without, and blooms from March until past midsummer.  It is lovely to me by itself or in the lawn.

In Search of Mare’s Run

On another pilgrimage in search of ancestors, we took a drive last week to look for Mare’s Run, west of Jackson’s Mill, where Joseph and Tacy (Ball) Ball, my great-grandmother Elizabeth Ann (Stalnaker) Hersman’s great-grandparents, reportedly lived.  I haven’t found much about them.  Their fathers were brothers, and they came to Hacker’s Creek from Fauquier Co., Virginia around 1807, and then moved west onto Mare’s Run.  I had always wondered about her name, which was common along Hacker’s Creek. A death record for one of their children showed me that it was a nickname for Theis.  Many of the old Virginia English families used fancy names; their sons include Augustine, Fauntleroy (really – known as “Fant”) and Wright Alpheus.  My Hodges include a Theophilus.

DogwoodThe drive was meant to be a relaxing reconnoiter, poking around to get the lay of the land, since it was an area we had never visited.  Mare’s Run itself turned out to be narrow gravel, something we don’t do on wet days when we don’t know the road.  The cemeteries, however, proved irresistible, even though I had no idea that anyone I knew was in them.  We ended up visiting four, all of them high on hills. Old churches and cemeteries in West Virginia inevitably are on a hill, to avoid using up good bottom land, fertile and convenient for crops.  Then there was the hill behind the Valley Chapel church, which had a road that certainly looked like a cemetery road, but ended up with just old gas wells.  While I was climbing and Robert was parking the car, a man came along on an ATV, looking for a lost cow, who told him, too late, that there was no cemetery. There was a lovely dogwood along the road, though.

Fox  Kits, FreemansburgAt Freemansburg there are two churches, a Baptist and a Methodist whose stained glass over the door says Brethren, each with a cemetery separated by a deep ravine, so that, although they are next to each other, the hill must be climbed twice.  Coming down, Robert spotted the loveliest surprise of the day in the ravine, a fox den with two kits, who barked at us but continued to watch us curiously.

View from Snyder Cemetery, Lewis Co., West VirginiaOn the way home, we stopped at a Snyder cemetery; they turned out to be not close kin, although I am sure distant cousins, but the view was wonderful.  We missed the turn to Big Isaac at Avon, and ended up at the edge of West Union, which made a long drive home.

Science and Religion

Psychologists studying the effects of a meditation technique known as “mindfulness ” found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day.

from Science Daily

The specific technique was the vipissana meditation I have been using.  I do find the amazement of the researcher a little startling, as if he didn’t really expect meditation to have any effect.

Findings like these suggest that meditation’s benefits may not require extensive training to be realized, and that meditation’s first benefits may be associated with increasing the ability to sustain attention…

Since the first training is in meditation is to focus attention, and since these methods are thousands of years old, and similarly developed by other world religions as well as Buddhism, it would be surprising if they did not work.  Perhaps the surprise is the immediate benefit.  In any case, it is another example of the scientifically measurable effects of religious practice.

And this just in from Scientific American:

The largest trial to date of “brain-training” computer games suggests that people who use the software to boost their mental skills are likely to be disappointed.

The article goes on to say that perhaps the training period – six weeks – wasn’t long enough.  So we have six weeks of “brain-training” doesn’t boost cognitive skills, but 4 days of meditation does.  Hmmm.

Blooming Spruce

Thanks to cousin Mark  in his post Sex and the Single Pseudotsuga (his post titles are much cleverer than mine), I realized this morning that our Norway spruces are blooming.  Too high to photograph without a telephoto lens, the upper  branches are tipped with red cones like Mark’s Douglas firs.   He said that he had never noticed them in his 20 years of hiking and photographing nature in the Pacific Northwest.  I realized that I had never really noticed a conifer in bloom.  I looked to see if our spruces were, but Washington’s spring is much earlier than ours.  Then today I looked up, and there they were, full-blown, shining in the sun.  As one of my meditation teachers keeps repeating, “Look and see.”

Old Harmony Cemetery

Old  Harmony Cemetery, Hacker's Creek, Lewis Co., West VirginiaAnother day, another cemetery.  This one was the Old Harmony cemetery on Hacker’s Creek.  Great-grandfather Otto deGruyter didn’t get here until the 1870s, and Jane Hill, his wife, was mostly descended from Scots-Irish and Germans who came north from southwest Virginia, but almost everyone else on both my mother’s and father’s sides was living somewhere along Hacker’s Creek in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Hacker’s Creek, along with settlements in Randolph County, on Decker’s Creek in Morgantown, and in the Clarksburg area, were the first settlements this side of the mountains.

Most of the old stones were slate or soft sandstone, and are gone or unreadable.  Descendants have put up new monuments for some.  Mary Elizabeth, known as Eliza, wife of Samuel Bonnett, and whose maiden name is so far unknown, was the first person buried here, when it was the churchyard of the original church.  She was my sixth great-grandmother.  Samuel was killed by a falling tree in 1789, and probably buried on his own property.Eliza Bonnett's memorial stonePeter Waggoner and Catherine Hardman' memorial stone

Samuel and Elizabeth’s daughter, Margaret, married Johannes Waggoner. She was killed in a Shawnee raid on Jesse’s Run, within sight of the cemetery, in May 1792.

Their son, Peter, was taken by the Shawnee, grew up with them in Ohio, and was married with children before he returned to Hacker’s Creek in 1812.   He married Catherine Hardman Hyde, a widow, and they are my fourth great-grandparents.

Catherine’s parents were Peter Hardman (Hartmann) and Charlotte Lazier, my fifth great-grandparents, born in Germany and died on Hacker’s Creek.  Peter Hardman and Charlotte Lazier's memorial stone


Our botanical drawing teacher sent us a link to Focus on Nature, a biennial exhibit at the New York State Museum.  It is a collection of natural history drawings from around the world.  The on-line presentation is beautifully done.  It will run as a slide show, a kaleidoscope of plants and animals in many styles and media.  I sat amazed at the variety and beauty of the living world, and the obvious love behind the attention paid to detail and skill of the renderings.  It is rare to get a close look at most animals, and blossoms are fleeting things. Photographs somehow cannot capture the reality as a drawing or painting can.