Kitty Keeton: “musings and incidents that are only part of the things I could tell”

Things have been fairly unpredictable in my family the past year.  Dad has not been in the best of health.  So I am going to fall back on a Kitty Keeton story for the blog.  This is the first 3 pages or so of his memoir.  With a few random pictures I have around.

The Old Muren School Pump

This picture is of the old pump from the Muren School that stood in the field on the corner for years before someone tore it out.

ORVAL “KITTY” KEETON
For those who knew Orval Keeton, you know that he was never short of stories that he was delighted to tell. Over a period of several months in 1980, while he was 82 years old, he wrote of many of his memories and life experiences. He referred to this compilation of stories as ‘musings and incidents that are only part of the things I could tell”. In the following pages he writes of a large variety of subjects: school pranks, farming, snakes, hunting, coal mining, fishing, skunks, Barber Shop conversations, ghost stories, the KKK, old age, his self—taught detective and lawyer ability, and his Black Lung case … to name a few. All of these incidents paint a picture of what life was like in the early 1900’s and also demonstrate his enthusiasm for life. It is our hope that “Kitty’s” family and friends will find his writing as interesting and entertaining as we have. Tim and Kristi Keeton 1984
CHILDHOOD
Born: 9/3/1897 Pike County, Indiana. Grandmother’s Home. Located near (Massey, so called)but officially Patoka Grove Church, ME. Built in 1843. My first remembrance was at Bill Dorsey’s place, on the Winslow and Cato road. I can remember that Bill Dorsey brought a fish to our home located on his land, and mother cooked the fish and he ate with us. I also remember Mother threw out the meal she put on to fry, through the north window for the birds to eat. I also remember that Uncle Bill had a mine on his farm and was told that Father hauled coal for Dorsey with a team of horses and wagon even to Otwell, North East, or anyplace Dorsey had a sale.

Bess Dorsey, a cousin of mine, and Bill and Nana Keeton Dorsey possibly was a baby tender for me, because I can remember she took me to a shade tree near the mine, between our little home and the mine, and used corn husks and sourdock burrs to make baskets.

I can’t recall the school house name that was about one block distance from our house. But I can remember that there was a slat gate at the south end of the school ground to Uncle’s farm. I was caught trying to go between the slats of the gate by my mother . I cried and told Mother that I was going to school to see Bess. Mother threatened to spank me for running off, but I remember she had to laugh when I told her the reason I was there so I didn’t get spanked.

I can’t remember my Father in the wagon, hauling coal as I was told that sometimes he left before daybreak, and got back sometimes after dark. Funny, but I can’t remember Aunt Nana at that time. But in the years to follow, she was a real fine Aunt to me, always giving me something gloves, hats. Dorseys had two sons, Virgil and Fred. So Aunt Nan so we called her knew what boys needed. This is all I can remember of the Dorsey home.
—1—

Snakey Point Lily

The water lilys are blooming at Snakey Point right now. Pretty site if you get the chance to go out there.

ABERDEEN HOME, THE SECOND HOME THAT I REMEMBER
I remember we lived in a small home at Aberdeen, just about a half mile from the Carbon Mine, then later Sophia, and last name even now known as Muren. Aberdeen was north of Carbon. I was really young when we moved there. Father was then working at Ingle Coal Mine Number 5 as a flat trimmer. His job was to use a pinch bar under the wheels of the flat cars that the coal was loaded in, to ship out on Southern Railway. And after getting the cars rolling get on top and turn the large wheel for brakes to put cars under the chutes or under tipple to fill with coal. There were other helpers to help. The mine was about a mile and quarter from our home. That was on possibly a couple of acres at South East corner of I think a 40 acre tract of land that belonged to my Grandfather John Thomas Keeton.

Uncle George Keeton (George Keeton was the brother of Grandpa John Thomas. The only time I saw him he brought me a boiled turkey egg that day) helped cut wood from a fallen tree by that home. There was a spring about half way to the road. Since our home was on the SE Corner, the road was a quarter mile from our home. Grandpa Keeton farmed the rest of the farm and Uncle Ed Keeton was home then and helped farm our home that was owned by Father. There was a house and a real nice little barn.

I can remember Dad having a pet crow that stayed in the hay loft. I tried to climb up to see the crow and I remember the ladder on the outside of the barn was straight up and fastened as a permanent ladder. I fell off about 3 or 4 feet on my sitter and I can remember I didn’t try to go up for awhile. We also had a pet Shoat, and he took the back of my britches off when I got in his pen. Dad happened to be home at that time and saved me. Pet pigs get to think they own the place and are really dangerous.

Since I was born on September 3, 1897, I can remember a pine box leaning up on our north yard fence. I asked Uncle Elisha Thurman, Grandmother Keeton’s brother, what it was and he said, “For little boys to ask questions”. It was a burial box for my little Sister Estelle. The little casket was inside waiting for the time of burial at Williams Cemetery. Uncle Elisha Thurman was there to haul the body with the casket in the box to burial. There were dirt roads then. Estelle was born on October 15, 1901. There was no death date so I presume she died at birth. Same way, I can’t remember seeing her in the casket.

All miners working at the Ingle Mine could have $1.00, believe it or not, One Dollar per Month, taken from their pay envelope and given to any Doctor in Winslow. They were to ride their horse in very bad road times or in better road times a buggy, and make home calls for anyone of the family paying their $1.00. Dr. McGlasson was ours, and I remember him coming and being a very nice looking man, leave medicine for me and say, “No more meat’. I really wanted bacon, and “No candy at all”. I hated the looks of the Doctor.

The next death was about a quarter of a mile east and a few blocks south toward Carbon. It was a neighbor girl , 13 years old, named Flora Johnson. I remember her as if I had a picture to look at on the East room next to Carbon Road. Head south just inside the bedroom laying on I would say a cooling board not in the casket at this time, and nickels on her eyes to keep her eyelids closed. Her death was January 18, 1900 ,figure how young I was.

Mother’s cousin, Rilla Robling Robinson lived on the farm north of Dad’s and Grandfather’s. We ate there alot and they ate at our home also. They too were farmers. Their children were Grace, who was older than myself, and Gertrude, or Gerty, who was about my age. They were at our home alot and usually their barn right on the north side of the road was our meeting place. Their house was about 300 feet north of the barn.

I remember that the thresher men ate at our house when Grandfather, and I presume Dad, had a part in it. Grandfather left his wagon at a large tree by the spring. I usually was there when the horses had a drink from the spring and ate corn and hay for 1 hour at noon. I would eat things Grandmother Keeton put in for me and have Grandfather or Uncle Ed scratch my back that hour. Another girl visited us, possibly for nights. Her name was Dessie Hume, Charles Hume’s girl, always a merchant, I think she was my age and we really romped. She died at an early age, I don’t know what it was now, maybe when 1 was about 5½ years old.
—3—
A woman, a week visitor of many homes–ours, Grandmother Jane Richardson Hurts. She would talk, eat, and rock. She could sure keep rocker do its best. She had visited us a few times before, but the last time there she came she brought me some candy, but I wasn’t talking. When we were eating supper she asked me what was wrong-I very readily told her that I was hearing that the next day she and Father and Mother was going to Grandfather’s home to meet John Grimes, a notary, to made deed and sale of our home to her and she was to pay $700.00 cash for it. The next day arrived-and when she was ready to pay off she turned and took it from her stocking-$700.00 in currency. That was money then.

After that I usually went to Grandmother Janes when she was there-as she was a good story teller. Sometimes, I could hardly go to sleep, as she could give some ghost and some things that would almost make a believer out of you. She finally died in a shack on Division, one block and ½ NW of our home. Probably money buried there now. She cooked on something in back yard when she cooked at home.

Father and Mother and I then moved to a log house. A small one, owned by James Thurman, Dad’s cousin. Possibly a little over a year. There was a spring south of that place about 200 feet away. I remember a little red wagon Dad and Mother got me that Christmas. While there it wasn’t far from Grandpa Keeton’s and I would threaten going to Grandpa’s. Mother said “ok if I wanted to”. I started but after passing spring and at top of hill where I would lose sight of our home I “crawdaded”!

At this time Grandma Jane deeded a 20 acre to Dad and Mother. And Dad cut logs in the woods, had lumber made from them. Had a man by name of Ira Smith of Winslow, a carpenter build him a 3 room home–with planks like Max has. They were rough and once a year white washed with barrel lime, and they really showed white. When I got older that was my job.

When at Aberdeen and until we moved and sometime after, Dad was getting $1.56 per day at mine. So you can see why the Doctor only had to have $1.00 monthly. I think when we made this move I was 7. Possibly I started school first year, at 7. At that time we were having to get our mail at Sophia’s, no rural mail
—4—
then. They had to change the name of Carbon since there was another Carbon in Indiana, to Sophia. This story about Sophia is in book “Our People”, I have a copy. Sophia Wiggs, wife of Alex Wiggs, the Company Store Manager. The Post Office was in the store. Therefore, she was the Postmaster, until several years later when Rural Service started.

Pirkle was our first mailman and he didn’t miss regardless of the weather. When the rural mail delivery started the Sophia post office closed, and our mail was delivered from post office at Winslow, Indiana.

To be continued.

snakey

Snakey Point. More of the lilys.

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4 thoughts on “Kitty Keeton: “musings and incidents that are only part of the things I could tell”

  1. As the oldest grandson of Orval “Kitty” Keeton, I enjoyed reading these portions of his life story. My wife and I had the pleasure of transcribing Kitty’s handwritten manuscript and typing it up so it could be shared with family members. He had so many good stories and they provide a real glimpse into what life was like in southern Indiana in the early 1900’s. I’m grateful these memories and the history are now available to a wider audience. Thank you for sharing a portion of these ‘musings and incidents’.

    • I always loved talking to Kitty. He and my grandpa carried on about that mine accident until they were gone. I think he would like that the next generation is hearing his stories.

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