Below is a brief history of the Fort Gay High School Alumni Association.  It briefly describes who we are, why we are, and what we do.  At some time in the near future, I will post a more complete anecdotal history, naming some of the names of people who have had an influence in some manner that brought about the success of our pet project; The Fort Gay High School Memorial Scholarship.  There are so many little side stories that will come out of such a project and I would welcome any input from alumni members or friends that would add to the history of the FGHSAA.  The Board of Directors is a very unselfish group, giving of themselves, their time, and their resources.  This is all done with one area of focus, aiding young people in the area in the pursuit of an advanced education.


                                         “GIVING SOMETHING BACK” 




A few years ago, a group of former Fort Gay High School students that graduated during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s began gathering each year to renew old friendships established during their days at Fort Gay High School.  This group would talk about the “old days”, fellowship, and reminiscence about times past.  A committee was formed by a group of these former students to plan the annual banquet, keep up with a small amount of correspondence, and to keep the group together.  They were a very seasoned group of individuals, having attended school during the great depression of the 30s, World War 2, and the turbulent post war years of the 50s and 60s.  They all felt that they had learned something special during their high school years at Fort Gay that was denied students at larger schools.  That elusive something that they had learned was a strong work ethic, the ability to be self-sufficient, a strong desire to succeed in life, and a desire to help those less fortunate than themselves.


This group grew each year and continued to celebrate via their annual banquet, however at some point they determined that something was missing.  Everyone realized that without a long term purpose and goal that the organization was unlikely to survive.  The group decided to give some thought to establishing a lasting memorial to the old Fort Gay High School so that, even though it no longer existed, its memory would be carried on forever.  It was decided that what better memorial to an educational institution than an investment in the strongest resource of the area, the education of the areas youth.  Thereby, was born “The Fort Gay High School Memorial Scholarship” and the group adopted the name, “The Fort Gay High School Alumni Association”.


In mid-year of 1998, the scholarship was established through “The Marshall University Foundation, Inc.” and became fully endowed in 1999.  The first grant was given in 1999 and has been awarded annually thereafter.  The recipient of this scholarship shall be a graduate of Tolsia High School who will enter his/her freshman year at Marshall University and maintain full time student status.  The grant is given for eight semesters and assuming the student maintains scholarship standards, it then is automatically renewed at the beginning of each school year thereafter.  Several goals have been set for the corpus of the scholarship, however, each year these goals have been surpassed.  We are pleased to announce that during the spring of 2014, the market value of the scholarship and associated funds has reached an amount in excess of $300,000.00, far beyond the goal of $10,000.00 that was initially set in 1998.  This means, currently, that $12.000.00 is divided among four students from Tolsia High School each year based on individual financial unmet need and academic performance.. This amount will continue to increase as the corpus of the scholarship increases, but in addition, the scholarship is endowed to last as long as Marshall University is in operation. It is our goal to not only grow the scholarship but to also grow the number of students it serves.


To enable continued growth of the scholarship, we actively solicit the assistance of all individuals and businesses, which, as are we, interested in investing in the future of the areas youth.  Donations may take several forms.  They may be made by direct donations of money or real property, through a memorial in memory of a loved one or friend in lieu of flowers, or through a will or bequeath.  Many of our supporters choose to provide support through sponsorship of our Joe Damron Memorial Golf Tournament from which 100% of the funds are directed to the Fort Gay High School Memorial Scholarship


Anyone requiring additional information should contact:  Richard A Plymale, Chairman, FGHS Alumni Association, 1468 Pine Meadow Rd., Lexington, KY 40504.  Phone 859 255 5836.  Email:  richard.plymale@gmail.com.


Membership in the FGHS Alumni Association is open to all who either attended or graduated from Fort Gay High School and there are no dues.



“Joe Damron Memorial Golf Tournament Supporting the FGHS Memorial Scholarship”     



June 30, 2014


Dear Fort Gay Alumnus;


Enclosed is information regarding our annual banquet, reunion, and golf tournament.  We kmow that you will find this year’s events equal to or exceeding any past reunions.


As many are aware, the Fort Gay Middle School closed the doors of the old high school and has moved to their new building. Because of this it has become necessary to again move the site of our annual banquet this year.  This year’s banquet will be held at the First Baptist Church of Louisa, KY located at 301 West Pike Street, Louisa KY.  The banquet area is air conditioned and is quite large and comfortable with plenty of paved parking.  It is the best site we have had since beginning the banquet back in the 1990’s, and will be our second year using these facilities.   Registration and reception will begin at 5pm on Friday, August 29, 2014.  Beverages will be served during the reception and dinner will commence at approximately 6-6:15 pm.  Following dinner, a program will be presented.  Please note, due to the caterer needing time and space to set up, you will not be able to enter prior to 5 pm. 


The cost of this year’s banquet will remain at $25.00 per person, the same as in previous years.  While we have been able to accommodate all reservation requests in the past, we would recommend that reservations be made as early as possible because of the limited seating area.


We will honor the class of 1964 this year.  They will have reserved seating as a group if they wish and will be introduced as a group.  We would ask that if you are a member of this class and that your class has made plans to attend as a group, that you note that on your reservation request so that we may provide adequate seating.


The deadline for receiving reservations this year will be Monday, August 25.  This is necessary so that the caterer may do her meal planning.  Your check will be your reservation and should be made payable to “The Fort Gay High School Alumni Association”.   Reservations should be made through and checks mailed to our Banquet Chairman, Rita Palfrey, 1105 2nd. Street, Huntington, WV 25701.  Rita may also be contacted at 304 525 5563 or email at;  rpelfrey@yahoo.com.


The second annual “JOE DAMRON MEMORIAL GOLF TOURNAMENT SUPPORTING THE  FGHS MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP” will be played this year at the Eagle Ridge Golf Course located at Yatesville Lake State Park near Louisa, KY.  The tournament will be held on Friday, August 29, 2014.  The tournament will again be a best ball tournament with a shotgun start at approximately 9 am. Registration will commence at 7:30 am.  A lunch will be served on the golf course and water bottles and snacks placed on each cart.  We will also have a continental breakfast for those players arriving early.  There will be a number of prizes and awards.  The cost will be $50.00 per player or $200.00 per team which includes cart, greens fees, breakfast, snacks, beverages, and lunch.  The course should be in excellent condition.


The golf tournament is our major source of income for supporting and growing the FGHS Memorial Scholarship.  One of the major aspects of the tournament is the sponsorship of a golf hole by individuals, groups, or businesses.  This has been very well supported in past tournaments.  We have high hopes for a like response this year.  We are making a plea that if you have sponsored a golf hole in the past, that you would consider doing so again.  If you have not sponsored a golf hole in the past, then we would welcome you on board.   Golf sponsorships are $100.00 each. 


For additional information regarding the golf tournament, to sign up to play, and or sponsor a golf hole, please contact Golf Chairman, Paul Salmons, 9811 South Highway #1, Webbville, KY 41180.  Phone 606 652 4048 or email at psalmons@hotmail.com. All checks for hole sponsorships and golf reservations should be mailed to Paul at the above address.   




 An additional honor has now been bestowed upon the FGHS Memorial Scholarship.  All students receiving the scholarship are now designated “FORT GAY SCHOLARS” by Marshall University.  The FGHS Memorial Scholarship continues to thrive and provide support for four students each year from Tolsia High School.  The students receiving the scholarship this year will be sharing in excess of $12,000.00 in financial support from the fund.  In the event that you do not plan to attend the reunion but wish to financially support the scholarship, you may do so by sending contributions to our treasurer, Paul Salmons, at his address mentioned earlier in the letter.  Checks should be made payable to FGHS Alumni Association and noted for FGHS Memorial Scholarship.


The Alumni Association now has a Facebook page.  Perhaps many of you have already found it and are visiting often. You will see continuing information during the month of July and August concerning the upcoming reunion. You may leave comments and it is operated at no cost to the Alumni Association.  Please visit it OFTEN and check out the pictures and make comments.  It is a great way to communicate with former classmates and friends from your high school days.


Enclosed is a one page summation of who the Alumni Association is and what and how it is doing.  We thought you would find it informative.  Show it to friends, former classmates, and other individuals or businesses that would be interested in helping us to assist students in pursuit of a higher education.  It briefly sums up how the scholarship is doing and how it is surpassing all of our expectations. 


At this time, we have no information to pass along regarding Heritage Day on Saturday, August 30, or the Fort Gay Womens Club reception that has been held on Saturday night  in the past.  If we receive anything we will place it on the face book page.


Anyone having questions or needing additional information, may contact me at my address or either of my phone numbers





Richard A. Plymale, Chairman, FGHS Alumni Association

1468 Pine Meadow Rd.

Lexington, KY 40504


Phone 859 255 5836 Cell phone 859 361 3318    Email: richard.plymale@gmail.com.









 Roberda Jean VanHoose Lane, 98, of Gladwin, MI, passed away Thursday, June 5, 2014.  She was born Aug. 26, 1915, in Fort Gay, WV, the daughter of the late Charlie C. and Sue (Weddington) VanHoose. A sister and two brothers also preceded her in death.  Surviving are her son, Michael David Rossman; a granddaughter, Lauree Rossman Hoag, and two great-grandsons, all of Gladwin, and several nieces and nephews.  Roberda was believed to have been the oldest living alumnus of Fort Gay High School, having graduated 80 years ago, just a couple of years after the new high school building was completed. She moved to Detroit where she worked for 25 years in the office of Dr. Yarrows.  She married the late Mike Rossman, and later married Ed Lane, who also predeceased her. Roberda was the granddaughter of William J. Vanhoose who served as a 1st Sgt. in Co. B 45th Ky. Infantry during the Civil War.  Cremation has taken place and she will be laid to rest in the Bartram Cemetery, Fort Gay.

I remember this day very well. We lived in the former Bob Buskirk’s log house at the Forks of Big Hurricane. The morning of the train collision, the two Ratcliffe sisters, Dorothy and Lois Ann, we’re standing in our kitchen keeping warm while waiting on the school bus. No bus ran up the Left Fork of Big Hurricane, so the sisters and their brother Billy would walk 1 mile out of Left Fork to catch the bus. That morning was spent talking about things going on at FGHS, not knowing this would be the last time we would see them. The girls funeral was held at the Big Hurricane Baptist Church. we were great friends and spent many weekends playing together. David Carroll, a football player and a mother and her daughter were also killed. Their name slips my mind at this time.

G B Berry


We extend our sympathies to one or our exceptional alumni, Bessie Jude, on the passing of her husband recently.  Bessie and her sisters Rebecca and Alice Fay have been strong contributors to the Fort Gay High School Memorial Scholarship.  Each year they bake an assortment of cakes, muffins, and bread and sell it at the Alumni tent on Fort Gay Heritage Day, passing the proceeds along to the scholarship.  They are all truly great ladies.

I know all will want to join me in praying for Bessie and her family.  May God Bless.

The following was posted by Russell Lee Whitlock who is a historian from  the area along the Big Sandy River and is quite knowledgeable of the history of development of transportation in that area.  His comments pertain to an earlier article.  I love to read about the steam boats and early development of rail travel.  I hope you enjoy his comments as did I.

New comment on your post “STEAM NAVIGATION ON THE LEVISA FORK by Russell Lee Whitlock”
Author : Russell L. Whitlock (IP: , cpe-174-101-79-160.columbus.res.rr.com)
E-mail : whitlockrussell45@yahoo.com
URL : http://whitlockrussell45@yahoo.com
Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/
It might be of interest to folks to know that the two steamers owned by C&O Rail Road were used extensively in completing construction of the rail road from Whitehouse on into Pikeville which was around 1905. CANDO’s sister boat was named DONCA and was reputed to have been the fastest boat on the river. I believe the fact that the well experienced steam locomotive mechanics caring for her engines contributed greatly to that fact. During construction of the Whitehouse to Pikeville leg of the railroad these two boats served to transport all the heavy equipment and supplies as well as workers up river. I have a list of over 100 steamers which operated on the Levisa Fork and it a mystery to me how few people are aware of their history. My mother, Janivea Daniels was born in 1912 at Thealka , Ky. which was home port of the steamer by that name. My mom had many wonderful memories of the river steamers and as she grew up in the coal camp of Auxier, Ky. always looked forward to hearing some one call “steam boats a coming” and hearing that distinctive whistle before the boats reached one of Auxiers two Landings. The lanes leading to the landings still remain but that is all that is left. My father left Auxier on one of the last boats to run but she grounded on a sandbar just south of Prestonsburg and he had to walk home in the rain down the railroad tracks, a distance of about 6 miles. In the 1940′s several attempts were made to channel the river and return the boats to operating in the coal transportation business but there were never successful. Sure would have been helpful to our highway system and to the environment by limiting the hundreds of coal trucks. To my best knowledge the last commercial steamboat operation on the Sandy was in 1937 when 3 barge were brought down river from Torchlight. The name of that final boat has been lost through the years but I am still searching for some one who might know it. I am getting well along in years and am unable to continue my research but would still like to hear any new news that is available.

The below article is pretty self explanatory and was written about someone who most of us that attended Fort Gay High School during the turbulent 1940′s would have known.  The article was written by Charles Frasher as a tribute to his brother Jack.  He graduated in 1946 and led a multifaceted life there after.  Thanks to Dan Watts for sending this along

Fort Gay’s own daredevil airman


            Jack Lester Frasher, named for his father’s best friend, Luther Lester Lycan, was born in Fort Gay WV in 1928. Those were the days when boys squatted down around a circle of marbles and shot with their best tall. And Jack was a marbles champion of Fort Gay Graded School.

In those times the boys slipped away from their mother’s sight and swam in the Big Sandy River, paying the consequences when their mothers smelled the river water on their hair that night. Some summer nights they caught June bugs and tied strings on their legs and watched the bugs fly around and around. But in Jack Frasher’s mind, he was dreaming about the day when he would do the flying. He would climb in an airplane and fly around the world. As a matter of fact, he drew pictures of the plane that he planned to fly.

Oh, what he wouldn’t give for an airplane! In his mind we are sure that he dreamed of flying over Fort Gay…..over Louisa! He would finally get a bird’s-eye view of his home. “By gosh,” he probably thought “if I had an airplane, I would fly it under the Fort Gay-Louisa Bridge”.

His mother, Myrt Frasher, would often declare that she never could keep a bar of soap in the house because Jack got every single bar and whittled an airplane out of it. As a boy, Jack drew pictures of airplanes. He carved planes from blocks of wood. We are sure that he dreamed of airplanes.

The years went by. After graduation from Fort Gay High School, Jack, Frank Robinson and Fred Reid joined the U.S.  Air Force. The three were close buddies. Perhaps they saw joining up as a way to see the world as well as a way to finance their college expenses with the GI Bill. And we are sure Jack was searching for a ride in that plane because he joined the Air Force where most all of the airmen would have some connection with an airplane.

After serving his stint for his country, Jack returned to Greenville, S.C., and married Lillian Dow, the girl of his dreams whom he met at Donaldson Air Base in Greenville. After completing undergraduate work at Marshall and Furman, where Jack taught chemistry for a year or so, the couple moved to Baltimore where he entered dental school.  After graduation, Jack and Lil and their young son, Jackie, moved back to Greenville and Jack set up a dental practice there.

Sure, he loved fishing, boating and other sports, but still what he really wanted was a plane.  Finally, he was able to buy his own, and the day came when he flew it to Huntington to pick up his brother, Charlie, and they flew to Morgantown to see a Mountaineer football game. Hot Dog!  They were going in style! Jack was flying his own airplane.

After the game, they flew over Louisa and Jack buzzed his sister Pat’s house and then flew back to Huntington and dropped off Charlie at Tri-State Airport.  Then Jack headed back out into the wild blue yonder!  He followed the Big Sandy River as he began his trip back to South Carolina.  In a few minutes he saw the Tug and Levisa forks of the Big Sandy with  the Fort Gay-Louisa Bridge spanning both rivers. He lined up the nose of his plane with the Tug Fork and got in just the right position.  Whoosh! I can see him in my mind swooping down like a big bird, slowing down and sweeping under the widest part of the bridge—-then whoosh, and he was under the bridge….now he was nosing up, up, up! And he was heading home. He had achieved his longtime dream. He had flown under the bridge!

That night Charlie Frasher heard about Jack’s latest adventure.  The next day, Sunday,  Charlie and his wife, Joy, left Hamlin where he operated a pharmacy, and drove to Fort Gay and Louisa. As they came through Fort Gay and approached the bridge, they were discussing Jack’s claim of flying under it. “I don’t believe it,” Joy said. “Ask the toll collector.”  When they stopped to pay the toll, on impulse, Charlie asked the toll collector, “Anyone flew under the bridge lately?”  The man chuckled and said, “Not lately.”  Then he paused and  his eyes widened as he said:  “Did yesterday! Was that you?” I can imagine his reaction the day before when he heard the roar of Jack’s plane as it swept under the bridge and seemed to rise up out of the dark water of the Tug Fork before it climbed into the sky and headed for South Carolina.

Jack had a very active life, He was a Fort Gay boy who had dreams. He accomplished many of those dreams and one of  them was to fly under the bridge. That flight comes to our minds often. We cherish the memory of his spirit.

Jack’s love of the outdoors was cited in a story written by Herb Johnson in a Greenville newspaper.  It mentions that Jack got his first shotgun when he was eight years old,  a .410  single barrel, which he used to hunt rabbits and squirrels.  His dad, Lace, urged him to hunt birds with him, and he shot his first quail, when he was 12.

His next shotgun was a .20 gauge. He won turkey shoots and the State Handicap Trap Shoot in 1968,. But when he began using it to shoot geese with No. 6 shot, he had to get an eyewitness because no one believed him.  “After that, no one would believe my eyewitness, either,” Jack quipped.

Jack died of brain cancer in 1994. He wanted his ashes thrown off the bridge.  So one misty evening, his second wife, Pat, his brother, Charlie, and his sister-in-law, Joy, stood on the bridge remembering his daring spirit as they threw his ashes from the middle of the span into the Tug River.

The Fort Gay-Louisa Bridge was a narrow, antiquated structure built for horses and buggies and was sadly out-of-date by the time it was replaced in the 1970s.  But it was an engineering marvel when built and opened to traffic in 1906 and a boon to commerce between the two communities it served.

Before construction, you either used a ferry, a boat or you waded when the rivers were shallow enough.

A popular Louisa dentist, now deceased, had the distinction of being the one person born on the bridge.  Dr. John N. Ryan, who was married to the former Valeria Roberts of Fort Gay, was born Oct. 24, 1918, in a two-story toll house on the Point Section at the middle of the bridge. His mother, Mrs. Mary Waldeck Ryan, made her home with her parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. John A. Waldeck.  Mrs. Ryan and her father were employed as toll collectors.  His father, C.C. Ryan, worked for the C&O Railway Co.

Dr. Ryan lived in the toll house for about 10 years, during which time he saw an airplane fly under  the structure.  An Army aviator, Major John Woods, flew under the bridge in a bi-plane on the Levisa side about 1925 or 1926.  He made it safely under the span and narrowly missed power lines strung across the river downstream.

(Charlie Frasher was assisted in writing this memoir of his brother, Jack, by his wife, Joy, and his sister, Patty Frasher Wallace.  The bridge information came from the Fort Gay-Cassville Centennial Observer published by Dan & Cora Watts in 1975.)


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