Archive for July, 2010


I happened to be in an area over the weekend that was having a very large craft show.  There was a craftsman selling hand-made hinges and other iron or steel items.  Needing some gate hinges for my back yard, it seemed like a good place to shop for them.  The booth had several styles and sizes available and they all looked very nice.  The price for the hinges was more than the gate I was going to hang with them, which got me to thinking about blacksmith shops when I was growing up.

I imagine there was probably a shop in Fort Gay or at least very near.  I am sure that Bill Wellman or Fred Reid could address that.  In many instances blackamith shops were scattered around communities and the smithy was not necessarily a full-time job for the owner.

The farm on which I was raised had a neighboring farm on which there was a shop and a smithy.  He was a farmer, part-time preacher, and a part-time smithy.  As a matter of fact, he at one time pastored the Fort Gay Baptist Church.  I imagine looking into that red-hot forge fire reminded him enough of hell that he was motivated  to preach his sermons with much greater zeal.  It was great fun as a child to be allowed to turn the handle that fanned the fire in the forge, or turn the handle that turned the grindstone, or to watch and hear the steam that arose when he stuck a hot piece of metal into a bucket of  water to cool it off so that it could be handled safely.

The shop was a simple place with no power tools.  This  was before REA.  Usually there would be a forge, an anvil or two, some tongs for handling hot items, a few hammers of different sizes, punches, chisels, a grindstone wheel, and a few other assorted tools.  It was a place where you would take a farm implement that was broken to have a piece fashioned to repair it, or perhaps to fashion some gate hinges from an odd piece of metal that you might have lying around.  The most important function it served though was to shoe the horses.

Our farm, as were most of that era, had only horses to power the farm implements used in planting, cultivating, and harvesting the farm crops.  As I recall, we would have the horses shod twice each year.  Once in the spring and again in the fall in preparation for winter.  Being your sole source of power for farming, it was a high priority to take care of their feet.  Most hardware and other stores at that time sold horse shoes.  It seems that somewhere in my memory I sort of remember that Mate Thompson’s store in Fort Gay sold them, but I could be wrong.

Usually this shop would put the shoes on the horses on a Saturday and there would be several there on that day to avail themselves of this service.  It was sort or a neighborhood social event.  The kids, such am myself, would sit enraptured, listening to the stories the adults would tell.  Some of them had served in World War 1 and it was exciting to hear about the far off places they had been and the things they had done.  I often wondered how the horse felt about having his hooves trimmed and nails driven in to hold the shoes in place.

Living in horse country, we see a lot of farriers driving their trucks with equipment around to the horse farms or the race tracks doing the job that the old blacksmith did many years ago.  Of course the shoes are much different today and the animals they work with worth considerable more money that the big Belgian or other breeds of work horse of that time.  I think some  of my favorite commercials are the Budweiser horses with their  huge hooves that are a reminder of that time when these type horses powered the farm.

We had a large barn with a center passageway that ran the length of it.  This was a place where neighbors would gather on a rainy Saturday to await the arrival of the rural mail carrier and play a game of horseshoes.  There were always several worn horseshoes lying around the barn that could be used.  We would also have mule shoes and usually they were a bit smaller and lighter than horse shoes so this  allowed the kids to compete on an even basis with the adults. 

Those times were truly the end of a simpler, gentler way of life.

All of this reminds me of oft told story of the young boy who was watching the smithy fashion a horse shoe.  He removed the shoe from the fire and after shaping it laid it on the ground to cool.  The young boy, thinking it was cool, picked it up and immediately threw it down.  The smithy, being  a bit of a practical joker, said to the boy;  “Burn your self sonny?”  The boy, being a bit embarrassed by the whole thing replied: “No sir, it just don’t take me long to look at horseshoes.”


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I received the following email from Maxie Hazlett regarding their 1960 class reunion plans for their 50th reunion.  “The class of 1960 will have its 50th class reunion on Thursday, September 2 at the Community Center in Fort Gay.  It will start at 5 pm and the cost is $25.00.  Billy Dean is in charge of the planning for this.  Apparently 35 of 40 classmates have been located and a letter was sent to each one.  A response is requested by August 15 with a check addressed to:  Billy Dean, P.O. Box 232, Fort Gay, WV 25514”.  Maxie goes on to say that he is planning on attending all of the weekend festivities.

We look forward to seeing many of the Class of 1960 members at Friday nights Alumni banquet.  There will be seating for Class of 1960 members at reserved tables.  Please note your class year when making Alumni banquet reservations.

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As college starting dates approach,  FGHS Memorial Scholarships have been awarded to four deserving Tolsia High School graduates.  We have invited those four students to be our guests at the upcoming Alumni Association banquet, being held on Friday evening, September 3rd.   I think all who support the scholarship would enjoy seeing those that we support and joining them in conversation and fellowship.  We do hope that all four will be able to attend. 

The following is a list of those students being supported this year and their current living addresses.

Freshman:  Bethany Collie, Fort Gay, WV

Sophomore:  April Lynn Robertson, Fort Gay, WV

Junior: Devon Lee Albrecht, Huntington, WV

Senior: Adriene Nichole Spaulding, Wilsondale, WV

I know all FGHS Alumni Association members join me in congratulating this group and wishing them well in this years studies.  We do hope that as many of you as possible can come out and join in welcoming them to the scholarship family.

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The picture  is of a quilt that was hand sewn by the “Mountain Memories Quilt Guild” of Fort Gay.  Mary Jo Damron is a member of this guild and participated in the crafting of it.  The guild made the decision to donate it to the Alumni Association for the purpose of raising money for the scholarship.  Information was posted about the quilt back in March but many may have missed it.

The quilt is king size, 110 inches by 97 inches.  It is beautiful and some lucky person will be taking it home or receiving it following the FGHS Alumni reunion, occurring Labor Day weekend.  It was initially decided that it would be sold, however, to give a greater number of people the  chance to own the quilt the decision was made to sell raffle tickets and give the quilt away during the weekend.  It will not be necessary that you be present to win.

Raffle tickets are on sale at the price of  $1.00 each or 6 tickets for the price of $5.00.  All proceeds goes to the scholarship fund.  If you are coming to the reunion, you will be able to purchase tickets there.  If not, you may purchase them by contacting our treasurer, Paul Salmons, 9811 South Highway #1, Webbville, KY 41180.  Phone 606 652 4048.  Just send a check made out to the FGHS Alumni Association and mark on it “for quilt tickets”.  Be sure to provide a return address.  Also you may purchase tickets from any FGHS Alumni Association board member.  Remember you do not have to be present to win. 

The quilt promises to be something that some lucky person will be able to treasure through the years while providing support for a worthy cause.

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Many have received their letter regarding the upcoming annual FGHS alumni association reunion, banquet, and golf tournament.  We are hoping that you are planning on attending. In considering whether to attend or put it off until another year there is a bit of news that you might want to consider.

Within the last couple of weeks it has been announced that Fort Gay has been awarded a new middle school to replace the one that now uses the old FGHS building.  I believe that it is to open in 2012.  What the future of the old high school building is has not been formally announced.  One thing is certain, and that is we will probably not have the old high school to meet in much longer.  So, perhaps it is time to start thinking about making one more visit before it is gone.  I believe the new building is to be constructed at the old football field. 

Now what does the reunion and the high school building have to do with corn?  Absolutely nothing, but it does tend to draw your interest

In a post a couple of days ago the subject of “gritter bread” or as Bill Wellman put it “fresh corn bread” was kicked around.  Well, someone sent me a recipe for fresh corn cooked on the grill.  It sounded so good that I visited our farmers marked yesterday, bought some corn, and gave it a try.  It was outstanding so I am going to pass it along to those of you that might be interested.

Shuck the corn.  As Paula (the cook on TV) would say, “slather” plenty of mayonnaise (yes you heard right) all over the corn.  Use Hellman, by the way.  Next put chili powder on the corn, generous amounts of parmesan cheese, some fresh ground black pepper, and salt.  Wrap the corn in foil and place on the upper rack of your grill if it has one, that is what I did just to make sure I didn’t burn it, and cook about 20 minutes, turning frequently.  You will be very surprised at how good it is.  I used the chili powder sparingly but will probably use more next time.  Hope all who try it will enjoy it.

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Fred Reid posted a comment regarding the question of grist mills in the Wayne County area.  Thanks much Fred and to bad that some of that old mill couldn’t have been salvaged years ago.  I believe that I read that the early mill stones perhaps came from Europe.  I imagine there are several other sites in the area.

Fred mentions that there were 12 x 12 inch  holes carved in the creek bed under the railroad bridge and speculates that there was perhaps many years ago a dam located there.  I have seen such holes in the bed rock on Swift Creek located in the Red River Gorge near Natural Bridge, KY.  Those were for the purpose of building a dam during logging of that area a century or more ago.  The logs were placed behind the dam and at some point they were released to go downstream to the Red River then on to the Kentucky River and to mills along the Kentucky.  The dams had a name but I don’t recall what they were.  Perhaps that was the purpose of those at Fort Gay during the 19th. century.

I did find a recipe for making “gritter bread”.  It is on a blog site titled “The Blind Pig and The Acorn”.  The author gave two recipes for two kinds, one with parched corn and one with fresh corn.  The fresh corn method was the one my Dad made and was great.  Go to that blog site and give it a look.  My daughter has one of my Dad’s old “home-made gritters” and we are going to give it a try.

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It is a slow Monday and my mind wanders.  Not much exciting going on.  Same old oil spill, Iran rattling the saber, Tiger Woods magic has gone by the wayside, continuing hot weather, etc.  Maybe a drive to farmers market later on for fresh vegetables.  Fresh corn will be one of the primary purchases.  Does anyone remember a food made from corn called “gritter bread”.  My Dad would make this by making a gritter board which was shaped piece of tin with many nail holes driven in it giving it a rough surface upon which he would  “grit” the corn.  He would use corn that had not become real hard and make a bread that was sort of between corn bread and spoon bread.  He did this up until the early 1980s, a few years before his death.  I still have one of his old “home made’ gritters.  I would like to have his old receipe but I am sure he never wrote it down.

I am sure that many of you have seen and or visited the site of the picture above.  It is the old restored grist mill that is located at Meadows of Dan along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It is beautifully restored and operable except they are not allowed to sell product at it.  As I understand it, meal that is ground there during demos is fed to the animals in the area.  This is representative of the many old water wheel operated grist mills that may still be ween throughout the United States.  I am not sure that if there is one still making commercial product any longer other that the type operating in such places as Pigeon Forge, TN which sell to the tourist trade.  Untill just recently there was here in Kentucky a commercial operation still using water to drive the mill.  It was located near Midway, KY.  They are still producing but no longer use water power.

Does anyone remember if there was such water driven operations in the Wayne County area that were commercially grinding product.  As a child in the early 30s I recall a mill operating at the Forks of Big Hurricane.  I remember going there with my father and taking corn to have ground into meal.  It was driven by one of the old engines that would fire and then turn a couple of revolutions and then fire again.  I don’t remember them grinding wheat, but then there was not any one in the area growing wheat.  I do recall  that we paid the miller by giving him a share of the meal that was ground. There must have been others in the communities surrounding the area.

Does any know how Mill Creek got its name?  Must have been a mill around there at some time in history.  Perhaps some farmers had their own mills.  How about other areas such as Paddle Creek, Wolf Creek, Cedar Run, Sunnyside, Lost Creek, Queens Creek, Sugar Branch, Buckhorn?  Is there a history available as to how they acquired their names?

Anyone with pictures of old mills and or farm grinding equipment just scan them into your computer and email them along.  I will be happy to put them on the site.

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