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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Early 1900’s: Gypsies at Ingle #7 Mine

It’s been awhile since I shared a Kitty Keeton story.

Here’s a good one for spring and summer, about a day when the Gypsies came calling in the early 1900’s at the  Ingle #7 Mine.

We call them Traveler’s now rather than Gypsies.  But I do still hear people calling them Gypsies every now and then.  Whatever you call them, they will try to trick you out of some of your hard earned money.

“It was 3 1/2 miles to walk to the mine. Had to be in mine to “face” meaning back to our loading working place inside the mines possibly a mile. At 5  I was eating breakfast and listening for the loud steam whistle. Every mine had a different sound. No. 7 was a loud full sounding — some were more shrill.  If the whistle at 5:15 AM, blew one long whistle, go back to bed — no work at the mine today. But when the second whistle came, we know that another or three whistles meant grab that filled dinner bucket and start coming to work. Rain or shine.

We were supposed to be out of the mine at 3 P.M. A loader sometimes got his cars that was allowed him filled and could get out before 3:00 and go to the wash house, pull off the coal mine clothing, take a shower, and change clothes and vamoose for your home. Men went all directions. We used boots and slicker water repellant coats when it was raining or snowing to make the trip. Also Gum shoes in the mine to make it safer deal about the electric shock.

The above made me think of a deal of Gypsies. Always a conniving, stealing bunch of transients. Even now the same thing happens in the Spring, but now they use cars, vans, trucks — then wagons covered and drawn with horses. The women are the thieves, always taking someones hand saying they will tell your fortune. Possibly another slapping him on the back while maybe a 3rd one was lifting his Billfold.

But that day, I had got turn loaded and out about 2:00, washed and changed clothes & standing in front of the commissary — a store that was there where we ordered powder, bought carbide, gloves, carbide lights, cookies, cigars, tobacco, and this little weiner cans then at 10 cents a can, cigars 2 for 5 cents, called Stogies. I had my rabbit fur hat on and clean clothes smoking my Stogies and about 3 of these gypsy women came to me trying to tell my fortune.  

I told them I was charged to come from my Pay things I bought at the mine store, and I told them that the foreman was in that brick building to the south about 100 feet and they had the money. I let them to the door and opened the first door, the second went in the General Shower wash house for the 200 to 250 that worked there. The second door was there to keep the cold air from coming in from the north side while men were taking a shower. When we entered the first door I pointed to the second door and said, “Go in there. There is where the Boss’s are”.

They were all duck fashion falling over one and another and when they opened the door, some of the men yelled out, “Keep out, this is a man’s wash house”. Some hid behind the locker and others just laughed. The three women almost knocked me down trying to pass me and the language they were yapping I’ll never know. And I presume if I would have known what they were saying I would have wanted to slap them down. They went to their wagons where men were waiting for them and left at once.

One time at Uncle Charlie’s, on the Winslow and Arthur road, Uncle lived in a nice country frame home-had a nice garage-where he worked on his own cars. He knows just the thing to do and they run fine. I was there and he looked out the front of garage and said, “Look, gypsies”. Three women jumped out of a covered wagon and came to the garage saying, “Tell your fortunes, tell your fortune, you are lucky”. Uncle’s hands were greasy and black since he was working on his car, he made a little run for them and he said “I fix cars and usually have to fix a few women every time I get a chance and here is where I am going to fix 3 right now”. It was funny to see them run for their wagons. He was rubbing his greasy hands together when he started after them and it worked.”

Evans and Keeton Squabble

    No one told a good story like my Pappa John Evans.  Maybe you knew him, most knew him as “Redneck”.  That was way before Redneck had come to mean what it does today, thanks to Jeff Foxworthy.  I would say he earned the nickname due to being a union coal miner or most likely by being a diehard Democrat.   My Pappa, born in 1910, would have been 101 years old this past June if he were still living.  But I met someone in the late 1970s that rivaled him in the art of storytelling and of course, there was a story between the two of them. 

    That someone was Kitty Keeton.  Kitty was the great great uncle to my children through their father’s side.  Kitty was born in 1897 and grew up in the same areas as my grandparents, Muren, Aberdeen, and Turkey Hill.  He was a coal miner and later on in life a barber.  When I first met him I was just a teenager still.  He asked who my family was and he knew them all.  He told me a story about how when he was at the Ayrshire Mines one day a bunch of kids were playing around on the tipple and dropped a chunk of coal that hit him on the head and just about killed him.  If I remember the story correctly it took a chunk of Kitty’s ear off.   One of those kids was my Pappa John.  According to Kitty anyway.

    Not according to my Pappa!!!  I naively told him that I had met someone who knew him.  He said who and I told him Kitty Keeton and that Kitty had told me the story about Pappa dropping the chunk of coal on his head when he was a kid.  In my effort to keep this blog clean, I won’t tell you the exact words my Pappa had to say about this.  But if you knew him, you can only imagine.  It amounted to “That g___ s_____.  He’s still telling that story and it ain’t true.  It wasn’t me.”  He ranted and raved and denied it.  He said Kitty always swore it was him and it wasn’t.  This back and forth went on for years.  Whenever we wanted to hear a good story and get Pappa stirred up we would ask him about it. 

    Kitty wrote about it in his memoirs, not naming my Pappa.

In September 1920, I was out of the mine early and washed, again smoking my cigar and wearing rabbit fur hat, creased, while waiting for a friend from Turkey Hill vicinity—who I had got a job at the mine for him. He said if I would get him a job I had a free buggy ride. I was waiting to ride home, he wasn’t out of the mine at that hour. Two friends of mine, one of them living NW corner of Oakland City now, was wrestling near the tippler while coal was hoisted to the top and dumped on screens, and went in several bins,  3 to 4 inch lumps and large lumps. I saw a little board close, picked it up and was going to go up and when one was bent over give him a hot seat. I got to them and had chance to do the job but saw coal falling all around them and instead of giving one the paddle I slapped both of them on the shoulder and said, “You are in danger, coal is falling. Lets get back to a safe place”. We got back to the front of commissary and it seemed as if I was floating in the air. I knew where I was but wasn’t talking. They picked me up and put me on a cot under the wood water tank,  that held water for our wash house. In the September afternoon it was hot and they lay me in the shade.

It was 3½ miles to Dads house at the foot of Turkey Hill. My Uncle Charlie had a car and he went for my dad. I saw both of them. I also saw two doctors named Deter and Winslow. They was there and friends told me later when I saw those two I frowned. Later I saw the white hair of Dr. John McGowan of Oakland City, our family doctor who doctored me for influenza in 1927 when so many died.  Friends say when I saw him I smiled. Also I saw the ambulance stop and back up to pick me up. I was hit about 2 PM. After loading in the ambulance, a Wood spoke, one from Lambs, Oakland City. The next thing I remember was John Porter coming out to the ambulance and said to his Van Dyke beard father, “What in the hell have you been doing, looked like you took all afternoon”. His father said ‘The three doctors said the roads are very rough, drive careful as he can’t live anyway”.

He said “Get from under the wheel and hold a rag on his bleeding head and let me drive to the Princeton Hospital before he dies on our hands”. I heard all this and they started to Princeton on an old rocky, narrow road. No black top then. Near Frisco a woman was in the road, I see her, but I heard young Lamb tell her that she stopped in the road and stopped an emergency ambulance and he was going to see that she was fined. She said, ‘Mister I ran out of gas and the car stopped and I couldn’t move it”, He took the license number and I remember there were 7s and in her number.

I know they put me on an elevator to take me to the operating room. Then I can remember that a doctor walked up to where I was lying and said, “he can’t live through the operation”. Dr. McGowan, my old friend, wiped a tear from his eyes and said, “Not a chance”.

About that time, McGowan’s wife came towards me with an ether cone and the first words I had said, “Let me get my breath, you came too fast and took my breath. Come slower”. They were amazed. She stepped up and it seemed like I was falling fast.

Next I remember looking in the room of Blonde D. Haired, And the three doctors, Ziliak, Brazelton, & McGowan, and I said “Get me chamber–they possibly were, but I knew I needed it. The nurse fell out of the room when I said “I said I told you S of B to get the S—pot and I meant it. I mean get it”. It came and they found out that I was recovered and had my senses. Later I heard from Brazelton and Ziliak that they were surprised to hear me tell how to give ether and also that I knew what I needed and that my mind was OK. The three doctors and surgeons and Mrs. McGowan are all deceased for a long time now.
I was there two weeks to the day and 60 years this next September 20th.

 Gail was brought down there at 7 PM and McGowan told her to stay the night and that I would not live through the night, Next morning my father and mother came in to see me and asked how I felt. I told them that I would he home in a couple of weeks, Later I heard from them that just after seeing me that McGowan said I couldnt make it. They said, “why a little while ago we were up to see him and he said he was feeling OK and would he home in a couple of weeks”.  Just as we went in, he drank a glass of water and threw it up across the room. Then they started running away and said, “Now I know he will die”.

The nurse sure got a tongue lashing because she left water on the table where I could get it. I would have paid $100.00 for a glass if I could have it. Only a swallow was all I could take. My Aunt Bertha got to the door that morning and waved at me, they wouldnt let her in.


Shortly after, a man who hauled from the mines came thru the door and said “Boy oh Boy, I never thought I would see you again when you was hit. It was a chunk of coal like your two fists closed, and I hid on the pond bank”.   I said, “Is that right” and rang the bell. When the nurse came I said ‘Escort this gentleman out, if my aunt can’t come in, he shouldnt be here”. She really unloaded on him as there was a sign on the door saying Absolutely No Admittance. Anyway, I came home in two weeks as I said I would.

    My Pappa John died in 1994 at the age of 84.  Kitty died in 1982 at the age of 84.   Each still swearing by their own version of the story. 

Muren Church of God

    The Muren Church of God has always been a part of my childhood.  They celebrated their one hundred year anniversary in 2010. 

Plaque on the new bell tower built in honor of 100 years

    Patoka Grove United Methodist was our church, but most of my family and friends attended Muren Church of God.  My great grandparents, Aaron and Maggie Dixon Bolin were part of the original congregation.  My parents were married there in 1960 and most likely my grandparents were married there.  I did spend many Rally Days there by my cousin’s invitations, along with some random Sundays and holidays.  I attended long enough at one time when we lived in Muren to be a part of the youth group.  I remember those Halloween parties with the cold spaghetti used as brains and the frozen grapes for eyeballs.  Then I had to walk home down Muren Hill in the dark.  It was probably more like run home with every imaginable monster chasing me!  I sent my children to Bible School there and still have a sixteen year old Bible School project magnet on my fridge as a keepsake.    

Building of the church: My great grandparents Maggie Dixon Bolin on far left, Aaron Bolin on right in black hat.

    I am now fifty years old and Jocko McCandless was the minister of Muren Church of God most of those years.  He just passed away this month to join in heaven his wife, Maxine Bolin McCandless who passed in December of 2010.  They were among the nicest people on God’s green earth and will be missed by many.  Jocko was the minister at the church from 1958 to 1991.  Jocko was my Aunt’s (on my Momma’s side) Brother in law and Maxine was my Dad’s Cousin.   Most of us from the Muren area are either blood cousins or married in cousins to each other some where down the line. If your family is from the area you know this and if not you will never figure it out.   

Jocko and Maxine at the Muren Reunion (thanks for photo Judy McCandless Loveless)

    Kitty Keeton (1897- 1982 ) grew up in the Muren, Turkey Hill, Aberdeen and Massey areas..  Again that whole married in thing, my first husband was one of his great nephews, making him my children’s great great uncle.  He made mention of Muren Church of God in his memoirs:

    “Arlo Hurt was another and like brothers we would fight one and another.  If anybody would bother the other, they had both of us to whip.  He really was a trusted buddy.  He married a Russ girl of Muren – Rev. Russ’s daughter.  He was the original Church of God pastor of Muren.  Muren, Winslow, Oakland City still have some of his following as of now.  McCandless, the great grandson is the pastor at Muren.  Jodie Davis, another neighbor daughter, Mrs. Claussen, is now the pastor at Winslow and Jewell Morton and I think some more Mortons are still here attending Oakland City Church of God.  Jodie Davis, his son in law Rev. Claussen, and Mrs. Claussen, Joda’s daughter, also are pastors of Oakland City Church.  All originated by the Russ Family.  Another younger daughter of Joda’s married a young man that is a Church of God minister now.  Charlie Hume’s, the Muren storekeeper, son Richard was a pastor and miner until he died at maybe in his early 40s.  He married a girl named May Whitman.  I worked later with Hume at the Muren Mine.  Also his father in law Whitman.  Then later in the late 1900s, Whitman and I was room buddys at Ingle #7 mine.  The McCandless, Davis, Hume, Whitmans, Thurmans, Bolins, Mortons are intermarried so when talking to anyone from Pike Co.—all pretty nice people in all branches of the family.” 

Original church bell

   

Sledding with Wesley's kids & grandkids

 

I asked Bill Berlin, what he might remember about the old days of Muren Church of God from his grandparents.  Bill is in his 80s and probably more computer savvy than I am. His family was also a part of the area.  This is part of a story he emailed me:

   “My maternal grandfather, Oliver P.M. Agee, (1861-1947) was a farmer and a preacher.  I don’t know exactly when he began to preach, but it was before 1900.  He and Grandmother Lou Ella (Pancake) Agee became engaged with the Church of God “movement” early in its appearance in southern Indiana and Pike/Gibson/Daviess/Knox counties, in particular.  It was called a “movement” because its grassroots-type of approach to church organization, participation and growth, rather than the more centralized, clergy-dominated, bureaucratic forms of other groups, such as the Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.   Their major doctrinal difference that set them apart, however, is their belief in a second work of grace for those who became Christian, the sanctification of true believers.

    At some time in the 1880’s, people of the community (including many relatives and their families), built a church house on grandfather’s farm just south of their garden plot.  This location is no more than ¼ mile south on State Road 64 where the Scottsburg road crosses it east of Arthur.  Because of their belief, just cited, it became known as Saint’s Church.  The held outdoor camp meetings in the summer and people came from as far away as Monroe City, Burr Oak, Princeton and Boonville.

   Grandfather traveled to these other communities to preach and to hold “revivals,” as they came to be called later.  I’m sure he preached at Muren several times during his active years.  Even in my time, I remember they were good friends with the Hume family in that community.  And I remember when I was a good sized boy, seeing Dickie Hume and wife at their home.  Of course, Dickie was much younger than Grandpa- more at my mother’s age-so I know that the folks were close to the folks of the Muren congregation.  Incidentally, Dickie went on to become an outstanding minister in the continuing growth of the Church of God.”

Old church in background (thanks for photo Bill Berlin)

  They have a beautiful new church on the highway where Kirby’s Drive Inn used to be.  There is still a feeling of sadness when you drive through Muren and the Church of God is no longer at the top of the hill.