Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Founders


This is a reposting of an article I wrote on 8/15/11.
Due to technical difficulties and problems with Networked Blogs I was unable to finish and post my original ideas in a timely fashion. Please revisit this edition, or read it anew, as it holds a certain personal meaning to me, as well as a national view I believe is shared by many of you out there. I have added new links to recent articles from local  and national sources which illustrate my intent.

I have a pick just like the one above, that belonged to my great grandfather. He was a small man and would fit neatly into small crevasses. His pick is very short, cold hammered, and with a short throw to get into these small spaces. It still carries the coal dust ground into the handle. I can just imagine the backbreaking labor that he endured in order to feed his family. Here is a song that brings to mind the stories I heard as a child coming up near Wheeling, West Virginia and in Pennsylvania.



The Oral Histories

My great grandfather Gillespie brought himself up out of the hard scrabble existence in downstate West Virginia (Appalachia) in the early to mid 1800's.

He settled in the small community of Colliers in the WV panhandle. He started his farm and raised horses, mules and, cattle as did most men in that day, just as he got out of the coal mines. 
My great grandfather became an iron worker who helped build the rail lines and infrastructure for what is now The Weirton Steel Corporation. He also became familiar with the growing steam engine technology and was a pioneer in the use of steam power on local farms; especially in the areas of threshing and well drilling. 


Eldersville/Hanlin Station

His son, my maternal grandfather Clifford Gillespie started work in the mines as well when he was just a youth. He soon learned the benefit of expanding his skills in farming, carpentry, and in the building trades. He and his three brothers were instrumental in building the community of Eldersville, PA where I grew up. 
I learned most of what I know and hold dear at the knee of these great men. They built the schools, churches, fire stations, town buildings, and the Odd-Fellows hall. Many of the families in the region saw their hand in the construction of their homes and barns as well.

My uncle Baldy was to become the town's leading entrepreneur shopkeeper, competing with the Company Store run by the local mine owners. Two other Gillespie brothers were successful farmers for most of their lives. One became a steam engineer at Weirton Steel as well.

One, however moved to Washington DC--Arlington, VA to work for city government. He became involved in the rampant corruption there and was to serve time for embezzlement some time later in life. No man is immune to such influences, some are just not touched by them.

Clifford Gillespie (one of the latter) went on to help in the construction of many of the roads in this rough and hilly region. With this experience as, what today would be considered a civil engineer, and his intimate knowledge of the people of the entire surrounding area, Clifford was hired as a Postmaster working with his sister-in-law as mail sorter out of Hanlin Station, PA.
He started on mule and buggy; eventually moving up to one of the first Model-T's to be bought here.

Clifford Gillespie retired after many years in the Postal Service, but kept his hand at farming and raising cattle with my uncles until he died. 
Incidentally, he fought vehemently against the unionization of the Postal Service. Of course lesser---greedier, more corrupt men prevailed.

I will also give my respects here to my paternal great grandfather, Jud Rouse. This man, a Mason of second generation Lithuanian descent came over before the war and became another Civil Engineer in his own right.
He was instrumental in bringing the first electrical service into the region, extending from Wheeling, WV all the way into central OH where he later settled.

My paternal grandfather Lockhart was to become a lead chemist at Weirton Steel; a highly respected position in the days before modern metallurgical techniques were developed.

                            The New State Run System

So this is a bit of where I come from. I will always try to carry on the principals, faith, and values that I learned here. The hard work and civil pride these men shared is a beacon to others in this community to look out to and live by. However, I will never be so much as a pimple on my grandfathers ass.

You see in their day there was no government; local or state; to offer what we would call Public Services today. The men and women gathered together in Granges, churches, or in the homes of civic leaders (quite often the local shopkeeper Baldy, or local garage owner). That was where decisions were made concerning Public Works projects and the like.

Back then the folks would all pitch in with their labor and donations to carry the project through. There was no mayor, no city council--still isn't. The town never incorporated. County government was distant and unobtrusive at the time.

THIS IS WHERE I GET TO THE POINT OF ALL THIS HISTORY TELLING...

WHERE ARE THESE KINDS OF MEN TO BE FOUND TODAY?
WHEN THE NEXT GREAT DISASTER/DEPRESSION, OR WHATEVER HITS US, AND IT WILL, WHERE ARE THE MEN THAT WILL PUT THEIR LIVES AND FORTUNES ON THE LINE AND REBUILD THIS COUNTRY FROM THE ASHES OF NEGLECT THAT WE HAVE PILED ON HER FOR THE PAST THREE GENERATIONS?

I realize there are some good men and women of stout character out there still, but take a serious look around you. Do you really see the kind of men that will be needed to lead us out of this morass? I see very few.

Have we taught our children the necessary skills to survive AND THRIVE in difficult circumstances?

We have stopped telling the Oral Histories.

Worse yet, I don't believe that many of them have the moral fortitude to survive the coming storm.

So I say to you, do what you can now to pass on what knowledge and survival skills you have retained to this next generation and the one after. They are going to need REAL direction and guidance as they weather the coming turbulence.

They will come to us looking for the way; the real way to set their own course. I pray that there are enough of us who care to offer this guidance; the kind of guidance like I got coming up, and that I hope I had a hand in passing on to my children.

 I have forgotten so many of the oral records passed on to me by my forebears. If you can try to set these things down to file in your own life. There will come a day when someone out there will need this help.

After all these years, my family still honors the memories of those days and the stout men who brought us and our nation out of a depression (the 1920 variety) with sheer will and determination. There were no bailouts or phony stimulus packages meant to extend the misery and expand government corruption back then. Men and women worked through the hardships and the markets were allowed to self correct.

"President-Elect Obama ought to consider the model of Warren G. Harding, whose policies raised Americans’ standard of living, and lifted the nation itself out of a depression…"

Now we see what Our Dear Leader and his enviro-fascist regime thinks of our heritage, and what he plans for our future in West Virginia and around the nation. It is no wonder that people are disheartened and disillusioned with this disconnected leadership---so called. I am saddened today as I have not been in quite some time. I / we have lost something here and I don't see it returning to us. There is a strength and resiliency we have lost and may never regain.

Below is a picture of my grandfather's first vehicle...or one just like it.
Read the letter below it and think of what we have lost today and what we must attempt to retain.

For those of you who may have an interest in history, especially the personal and faith based history of Appalachia, may I suggest that you visit the site of a man for whom I have the utmost respect---Gorges Smythe

and
The Feral Irishman for the inspiration

2 comments:

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

Scotty, you did great. Thanks for the window into your world.

Scott said...

That means much coming from the Woodman. Mas Vidas!