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.

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
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.

Snakey Point Lily

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

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.
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
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 Point. More of the lilys.


Annual Antique Tractor Drive

This year on Saturday, September 22, the 5th Annual Antique Tractor Drive meandered through a lot of Patoka Township and my old stomping grounds.  For those of you not familiar with the group, each year they take their old tractors and do a drive through some historic parts of Pike County.  This year about thirty six drivers participated and three wagon loads of  onlookers rode along after meeting up at The Trading Post about 10 am.  I had to work and was unable to ride so Sherry Lamey shared the information and Terenda Wyant shared her photos with me for this post.

For this blog, I’m not going to use the road numbers now assigned but the names we always called them (and still do most times!).

Meeting up at the Trading Post.

The group started out down Hathaway Station Road to wind up at Ashby Cemetery as their first stop.  Ashby Cemetery sitting out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by land that is now coal mined was once a thriving little community.

Ashby was named after the family members of Benjamin and Margaret (Burdett) Ashby from Hampshire County, Virginia who settled there soon after they were married in 1813 after temporarily residing at White Oak Springs.  Their graves are located in Ashby Cemetery.  Benjamin died in 1881, Margaret in 1860.   Thomas English, a native of Vermont, taught in the pay schools  of Pike County.  His first school of this kind was in the Ashby neighborhood in the year of 1844.  Benjamin’s sons and grandsons became large landowners in the area and successful businessmen.  If I remember correctly the little Ashby Church was burned during an act of vandalism several years ago.  

Tractor drive

They then drove over to Scottsburg Road to wind up at New Liberty Church and Cemetery near Coe.

 Coe used to be called Arcadia and was laid off in 1869 by Simeon LeMasters.  I don’t know much about the history of this church and cemetery.  If anyone does, tell me about it in the comment section below.

Old Barns on the drive

Next they went across the road through the old South Fork areas and wound up on the Line Road.

 It is the Meridian used for old grid mapping systems that divided the county into the North and South sections, now it’s called Meridian instead of the Line Road.  Division Road divided the East and West.  Many of Pike County’s early settlers settled along the Line Road.  It runs through what is now the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge.


Patoka Grove Church was their next stop.    Other friends and neighbors joined them there for a dutch treat lunch by the Pike County Young Farmers in the churchyard.  Some guitar music, singing and fiddling was provided by Norb Wehr and Freddie Hopf from Dubois County and enjoyed by all.   You can read more about the history of Patoka Grove Church on this past blog post.

Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

Stopping at Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery on the route.

Pike County Young Farmers lunch in the churchyard.

Picking and fiddling at Patoka Grove Church.

The group left Patoka Grove Church and wound their way down to Snakey Point.  You can read more about the history of Snakey Point on this past blog post.

Snakey Point and the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge

The group then wound around on the old Winslow Oakland City Road, the one used before the Highway 64 was built and where the old community of Ingleton was located.  Like other old areas named for the families that lived there, some may have heard it called Whitman and Wiggs.  We’ll just say they wound around and came back up H Pit Road and stopped at the church again for a pit stop before heading back down # 7 Road to Muren Road and the old coal mining community of Muren.

In Muren they went past the old coal mine houses, one of which is featured at the top of my blog.  For more about Muren read these past blog posts.

A Winslow Auction and A Muren Reunion

My Grandma and the Early Years at Muren and Turkey Hill

Muren 2010 and 1965

Then they turned onto Ayrshire Road and went through the bottoms and around Kitchen Corners to the old Ingle Barn where only the silo stands today.  The Meyers family owns it now and has done a wonderful job of keeping it cleaned up and retaining some of it’s history.  They had their dad, Ab Meyers old tractor sitting there for the drive.  The house across the road is the one that David Ingle gave to his black butler and family and they became caretakers of the barns and property.

The silo of the old Ingle Barn remains.

They then turned into Logtown and rode past the remains of the old coke ovens down by the railroad tracks across from where the old Ayrshire store was.  The old beehive ovens are built in a row, double with ovens on the front and back.  For more history of Logtown see this blog post.


After leaving Logtown they drove back down Ayrshire Road and over to where they started at the Trading Post.

Jim Capozella followed along in his truck to serve as aid if needed by anyone.

Ms. Burns of the Pike Central Digital Design and Visual Communications department came out and did the interviews with the drivers.  Their group helps put together the dvds.

DVDs are for sale of the historic tractor drives.  Not only is it the scenery, but inserted are interviews with folks telling of the history of these places.   If interested, let me know and I will try to put you in touch with the right person to order a copy.

How The Drought Looks Around Here

We have been breaking record after record for the heat hereabouts.  We had a ten day stretch of over 100 degrees.  Now the humidity is setting in and the 100 degree days seem so much hotter.

The last week, rain showers have been hitting and missing us.  Today we had rain in Winslow and they didn’t out on Number Seven Road.  But now it is like a sauna out there.  It was good for the plants and cooled the house roof off though.

This was the outside temperature on my way to work one of the days.

The grass in the yard crackles under our feet.

These cactus are flourishing 🙂

Crabgrass never dies.  It is thriving and stealing the water I give my roses.

I am not sure what this plant is.  It showed up this year all around the edges of my sidewalks.  Some kind of succulent weed?  Or did someone plant it?

Most corn is lost in the fields.  Just brown and a few feet tall with no ears.  This field on Number Seven Road by the old Rogers place is looking pretty good.

A brush fire started over on Highway 64 near the Line Road.  It burnt 620 something acres between the Highway and the Number Seven Road, and between the Line Road and the H Pit Road.  It was way too close to our little Patoka Grove Church for comfort.  Thanks to the firefighters it was brought under control before it damaged any homes.

Snakey Point is drying up.

In some places north of us the Patoka River is pretty low.  It is spring fed around here.

Mold is growing on the houses and roofs.  I can’t wait till fall to wash it off.

The tomatoes are practically stewing on the vine.

Pray for rain and cooler temperatures.

Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

For many of us whose families lived and worked in the Muren, Maryville, Massey, and Turkey Hill areas of Pike County, we laid our loved ones to rest at Williams Cemetery near Patoka Grove Church. The timeworn cemetery has been known as Massey Cemetery and Whitman Cemetery but is now referred to officially as Williams Cemetery. It is older than the long-standing church it surrounds. It is a place of peace for me. I go there whenever I want to walk around in the quiet, mull over life’s mysteries, dwell on a problem, or remember someone I loved who is buried there. My family graves lie in a row directly behind the church, a long length of empty grass awaiting the next to join them.

In the autumn of 2004, my stepdaughter, Kristen Beyke of Sarasota, Florida, was visiting to attend a family funeral. She was majoring in photo journalism at the University of Florida at the time. She was so pleased to be here in the fall when the leaves were changing colors. She wanted to shoot photos of the blazing countryside and some old country churches. She took this photo of the Williams Cemetery and Patoka Grove United Methodist Church and it has become one of my favorite photos of that place.

Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

There is much history surrounding the church and that burying ground, many stories to be told and some forever to be left untold.

My memories of attending Patoka Grove Church are all from my childhood in the 1960s. Like most children, the sermons were boring and too complicated for a 6 year old mind to wrap around. But the singing….I loved the singing… The hymn “In the Garden” was one I adored the most. I always stood with my grandma whenever they would sing that song.

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the son of God discloses. And he walks with me, and he talks with me…”

My Mamma Evans and I both prized flowers. On Decoration Day, not the Monday Government Memorial Day holiday that we celebrate now, but actual Decoration Day on May 30th when we honored the war dead , she and I would decorate the graves of our family at Williams Cemetery. We did not buy a fancy silk saddle or vase of colorful fake flowers. We walked the fence rows and yards of old home places that no longer existed and wandered along the roadsides, filling up tin cans wrapped in aluminum foil with flowers we would cut. I could not describe to you a single silk flower memorial I have decorated a grave with over the past few years, but I could describe to you the smell of the yellow roses we cut on Mary and Sampy Corn’s fencerow, the bees swarming the sweetpeas we cut along Number 7 road, and the deep red color of the peonies from Ma Bolin’s old home place. For years after the Government in 1971 made Memorial Day the official 3 day weekend on the third Monday of May, my Mamma refused to acknowledge it, she would take her flowers to the cemetery on Decoration Day. As she got older, she conceded to the new Memorial Day, but she still grumbled about it. Decoration Day was a languid day to spend hours at the Cemetery. Money was collected for care of the graveyard. Lunch was eaten there that day. Lawn chairs would appear from car trunks. It was a time to catch up with friends, family and neighbors. Kids would sit under the cedar trees on the hill in the “Old Part”, sometimes reading the grave markers of the children in the cemetery, retelling stories about how some had died and curious about the others.

Patoka Grove Church

Patoka Grove Church

Easter is another treasured memory of Patoka Grove . Even if the grown ups could not afford a new dress, the little girls always had their new Easter bonnets, pastel dresses, white patent leather Mary Janes, and wicker purses. Patoka Grove held an easter egg hunt each year in the field next to the church. I always wanted to be the one to find the Gold Egg that would win you a prize, but I never did. Each year however, the hope would be renewed that I might.

Easter Finery

Easter Finery

We attended Bible School there, tediously gluing together countless craft sticks, sprinkling glitter on paper plates and pasta, and when we were older stitching together a leather wallet. We would lay out all of our treasures on a long table in the basement for our family to admire on the night of the Bible School program. At Christmas Santa came to the basement and we had a treat from him. We would all have to remember our “piece” for the program. We would draw the little cut and folded pieces of paper out of a basket . I always hoped mine was short because I very much disliked standing in front of people. If my little brothers drew a harder one my mom would make me trade with them.

More Easter Bonnets

More Easter Bonnets

Our family held noteworthy events at that church and basement. Weddings, wedding receptions, baby showers, bridal showers all were at Patoka Grove. There weren’t big catered meal, kegs of beer, or dancing. We had a decorated cake, dinner mints and nuts. The cake was usually made by another of our Church friends. My Mamma made punch with pineapple juice, 7up and sherbert. We used the fancy glass punch bowl and cups, right beside our color coordinated paper plates and napkins. We made rice bags with toile and ribbons. Gifts were opened and displayed so that family and friends could appreciate them. After funerals all of the church ladies would make their best potluck dishes and a meal would be served to the family. Those are the best memories.

My Aunt and Uncle

My Aunt and Uncles Wedding Reception in the Church basement

You cannot have attended Patoka Grove without remembering old Perlina Whitman. An early recollection of mine is of my Grandma taking me with her to a Ladies Meeting at Perlina’s old farmhouse next to the railroad tracks on Number 7 Road. Perlina had no electricity, used kerosene lamps and had a lot of antiques. I had the stern “Don’t you touch anything” warning before we arrived. This day made an impression on me because my Grandma made a Baked Alaska. She opened a carton of Neopolitan ice cream, whipped up a meringue to smear on it and put that in the oven. I was so young and could not figure out baking ice cream.

One of the earliest graves at Williams Cemetery is that of Joshua Massey. He was born in 1795 and died in 1844. He was the father of Wash Massey, the man that the coal mining town and community of Massey was named for. Wash Massey married Lou Bolin (a possible ancestor of mine). Lou was the daughter of Jarrett Bolin. Her sister Phebe married Horace Williams. Many of the children’s graves we would wonder about on the hill under the cedar trees were the children of Wash and Lou Massey. When Joshua died, his sister had a gravestone delivered from Maryland by oxen to the cemetery for his grave. In the early 1890s the Massey school was built and doubled as the community church. In 1892, at a revival meeting held at the school, the congregation decided to have a church built. Lumber was cut and seasoned. Wash and Lou Massey deeded one half acre of land for the building. In 1894, the church was built and located in a grove of trees not far from the Patoka River in Massey, hence the name Patoka Grove. Like the cemetery, it was also called Massey Church. In 1934, the church members decided to move the church to a more accessible location. Since there was no church at Williams Cemetery, they decided to move the church there. Curtis and Lyda Williams donated the land. The church was moved about a mile to it’s present site. It took 18 ½ days to move the church at a cost of $226.00. Donations paid for the move. The movers made $2.00 a day, except Mr. Harper who furnished the horses, he earned $4.00 a day. The history remembers Lyda Williams and Perlina Whitman, who kept the church open in 1946 to 1951 when there was no minister, just them, a few children and a pot bellied stove in the center of the church. The church has been updated in the 1950s and the 1980s, but still retains it quaint charm as a little country church.