Excerpt: The Bee Charmer

The following is an excerpt from Stories of a Kentucky Mountain Family. Copyright (c) 2005 AMANDA ADAMS. All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or in part by email forwarding, copying, fax, or any other mode of communication without author permission.

 

stamperpolly.jpgI’m told Great Grandma Polly Stamper walked unprotected amid the bee hives while gently waving her apron and talking to the bees, and they let her have all the honey she wanted. Meanwhile, her husband Grant Honeycutt had to cover himself from head to toe when he went near the hives and was still stung.

I would love to know what Grandma was saying to the bees, if she was chanting some magic bee words. Skeptics will say it was merely chemistry but I prefer to think it’s a family gift, one I, unfortunately, didn’t inherit. Bees do not like me at all, so I would be foolish to try to charm them. What if Grandma had lived in Salem during the witch trials, would she have been called a witch for communing with the bees?

Polly was born in Wise County, Virginia, on November 9, 1863, during the Civil War, to Joseph Stamper and Malinda Phipps. Although no record of Joseph’s military service has been found, the 1860 Census of Wise County shows his nephew Madison “Matt” Stamper living in his household, and it’s believed the two of them served in the war together. We know Madison served, enlisting in Allegheny County, North Carolina, for the Confederate cause, and Joseph’s son Marion Stamper told tales of being taken along when his father went out for muster.

While Joseph was off in Kentucky on a military campaign, Malinda and the children were terrorized by local guerilla bands back in Wise County, Virginia, and their home was robbed. Packing up her children and what belongings they had left, Malinda set out through Pound Gap for Kentucky to find Joseph. This was near the close of the Civil War and Polly was just a toddler, but had older brothers and sisters to help care for the younger children. At least one of them was younger than Polly.

Polly would grow up in the Kentucky Mountains, with only vague memories of the journey across Pound Gap from Wise County, Virginia, but being told about it, time and again, until she could see it in her own mind. The mules pulling the wagon over the rough trail that never seemed to end. Her mother stopping at last to feed the children the cold cornbread and dried meat she’d packed that morning. Polly’s older brother, just a boy, holding his rifle, his eyes sweeping across the jagged rocks rising beside the trail to the strand of trees. Watching for any movement that might warn of danger from the riff-raff that used the Gap to carry terror between the two states.

Deep in the Kentucky hollers, the story would be told and retold, about the journey to find Joseph. And then other stories would unwind further and further into the past. Back to North Carolina, where fathers and grandfathers who had fought for freedom in the American Revolution lay buried under fading fieldstone markers. Some were buried beside the mothers of their children, while others, having lost early wives in childbirth, lay beside the wives of their old age. Many children had been born. Some had died. All were remembered as the stories were told.

But mostly, the stories were of danger, of survival, of the many wars that had been fought since the earliest ancestors came in crowded ships from England, Ulster (Scots-Irish) and Germany to disembark with thanksgiving on the shores of Virginia and North Carolina. Others disembarked in Pennsylvania and later generations would make their way down the Wagon Road.

Often, something in the telling of the stories hinted at dark secrets not allowed to be told. “Tell us the story when—” was a refrain that echoed before many a fireside in the cabins alongside the creeks, and the children also listened for the things not said.

Malinda would tell Polly what she remembered about her own Pap, Devilish George Phipps, whom Malinda barely remembered, being only five when he died. Perhaps she told Polly why he was called “Devilish”; if so, the story got lost between generations. Maybe he joked a lot or had a macabre sense of humor, and it was he who passed that black humor down to us. Possibly, there was a more sinister reason; we’ll never know. But he died young and his widow Nancy, left with four young children, soon remarried. A woman didn’t stay a widow long in those days, especially with young mouths to feed, but Nancy gave her new husband a son to carry on his name.

Malinda’s Mamaw and Papaw Phipps had both died in Ashe County by 1854 so Polly never knew them. But blood kin was important and Malinda would tell Polly that Samuel Phipps had fought in the Revolutionary War, and that before Mamaw Elizabeth, or “Betty” Phipps hair turned white, it had been coal black, matching her dark eyes. “You take after your Mamaw Phipps,” she would say. “She was Portygese. Some say she also had Indian blood. Her Pap was George Reeves, and he was in the War for Independence too, was a Lootenant in the army.”

There were other things Malinda never told her. Things Polly heard the menfolk talk about as they sat before the fire on a cold winter evening. Polly liked to listen to them. She huddled in the corner, staying real still so nobody would notice her and send her to bed. Her uncles would come to visit and the men would get out some shine and start telling the old stories. Polly heard the story about Devilish George’s father Sam Phipps and his brothers, and why they left Guilford County and went to Ashe County when Sam was but seventeen. Their Pap had died and their Maw had remarried. One day the brothers came in from working in the fields to find their stepfather beating their mother.

The boys each grabbed a chunk of wood beside the fireplace and started beating their stepfather, “not intending to kill him,” Pap said. Did they kill him? Nobody said. Did they take their Maw with them when they left? Of course Polly couldn’t ask, as she wasn’t supposed to be listening. And they started talking about something else. But still she wondered.

After the move to Kentucky, Polly’s oldest sister Nancy had a baby boy, and then ran off to Ohio, leaving the baby behind. Polly helped another older sister and her mother care for the baby, feeling sorry for the poor little thing.

The year after that, Malinda died, when Polly was only nine years old. Joseph remarried and Polly had a stepmother and stepsiblings. The feuds had begun and she heard the stories of shootings and bloodshed. But, along with her siblings, she fed the chickens, gathered the eggs, and slopped the hog to get him fattened up for butchering day. Picked berries up near the woods.

On washday, she helped carry water from the creek in wooden buckets, or perhaps she drew it from a well, but the creeks ran clear back then. Filling the big tub in the yard, under which a fire would be lit. She pulled weeds in the garden while her brothers hoed the corn, and when bean-picking time came, they filled baskets with beans for canning. Some were saved for the children to string with a needle and thread, and then hang in the sun to dry, to make shucky beans.

The area they had settled in was on the Forks of Troublesome Creek near a place called Cornett’s Mill during the War, situated in a narrow valley. It was named for the first known settler in the area, Samuel Cornett, who had a gristmill below the Forks, which he used to irrigate his bottoms. He was married to Mary “Polly” Adams, who was our second great grandaunt on Dad’s side, a daughter of Moses Adams, Dad’s Great-Great-Grandfather.

Cornett’s Mill later became McPherson’s Post Office, and was in Letcher County. Even later, in 1884, Knott County would be formed from part of Letcher, and McPherson’s Post Office would be called Hindman. The town was little more than a few log houses, the first courthouse a log structure built that same year.

When Joseph Stamper moved his family into the area, wagon roads had finally been carved out of the rugged terrain to bring goods on mule-pulled freighters from Whitesburg, Hazard, Jackson and Prestonsburg. But the first wagon that made it through had been one driven by fifteen-year-old Peyton Madison Duke about 1848, a peddler from North Carolina. Peyton later married Samuel and Polly Adams Cornett’s daughter Rachel, and acquired some land.

Like the other girls she knew, Polly learned, first from her mother and then her stepmother, the skills she’d need later on. How to make cornbread, biscuits, jellies, preserves, corn relish, pickles – and lye soap for washday. While her brothers went squirrel hunting, she helped her older sister and stepmother with the washing, taking her turn scrubbing the clothes with the lye soap. Rinsing the garments and bedding in fresh water, wringing them out and throwing them over the line between two posts to dry; watching the sky for rain clouds, ready to run gather them in.

When the work was done, there was still time to play. After Polly got too old for her rag doll, she could wade in the creek, play hide-and-seek with her siblings and cousins, and gather wildflowers in the woods. One day in the woods, she found the imprints of a fish in a piece of rock and wondered how it had got into the mountains, not realizing that millions of years ago the mountains had lain beneath the sea.

In springtime, the trees on the mountains that ringed the valley were lush and green, with the white blossoms of dogwood trees scattered amid the foliage. In fall, the trees covered the mountains with splashes of red, brown and gold. But, in winter, after the leaves had fallen and lay rotting on the forest floor, the trees, stripped bare, were an army of skeletons standing watch over the valley from the mountainside. Until the snow came, covering the bare limbs, and the sun on the new snow cast its splendor over the land.

In winter, a favorite pastime was sitting before the fire listening to the stories. Some were about loved ones who had passed on and their spirits appearing later to say goodbye. Others were of premonitions, warning of danger, or death. “I begged him not to go”. Often the warnings came in dreams and dreams were looked at seriously for what they foretold or explained. When the wind howled at the window, Polly would shiver under the faded quilts her mother had stitched, wishing for a moment she could see her mother’s spirit. And then she would remember Malinda’s smile, how her face lit up in approval for something Polly had done, and she would go to sleep.

Winter kept her indoors but there was still much to do, learning to sew with tiny stitches, to mend and patch the family clothes and help make new ones. Saving the scraps of fabric to piece for quilt tops.

Undoubtedly, Polly attended school, as we know Joseph sent the older children, but schooling was only part of the children’s education. Like all children everywhere, they were learning the skills necessary to live within their place and time. And learning about the past through family stories. This was the part Polly liked best.

She would ask Joseph what it was like when he was a boy in North Carolina, in the old days. He would smile as he lit his pipe. “You mean back a hunnerd years ago?” She knew he was joking. “You ain’t that old, Pap.”

“Well, we went fishing a lot, when the field work was done, and went hunting, jest like boys do today. Ain’t much to tell.”

But Polly wanted to hear the stories the men told when they were drinking shine and didn’t know she was listening. “Was there bad folks back then, too?”

“There’s allus bad folks around, youngin, anyplace you are, anytime. Reckon as how there ‘pears to be more of ’em today, what with the War and all. It upset a lotta folks is what it done, made ’em turn fierce.”

But Polly had heard stories about the War ever since she could remember. She wanted the older stories, and remembered one she’d overheard parts of. “What about the bad men that killed your Mamaw? Did they get the gold she buried in the yard?”

Joseph gave her a sharp look. “Where’d you hear ’bout that?”

Polly shrugged. “Somewheres, don’t remember.”

“Little pitchers have big ears. Besides, only remember what I was told, and it happened afore I was even born.” He paused to think, then went on. “Way it was told there was three of ’em, the bad men that is, name of Hart, Cox and Bledsoe. They come to the house when my Pap and his brothers was in the fields with Papaw. Seems the outlaws knew Mamaw had buried some gold in her yard, and they tried to make her tell ’em where it was buried and she wouldn’t tell. That’s all. Ain’t nothin’ else to tell.”

“And they killed her,” Polly blurted out. “Cause she wouldn’t tell.” Why didn’t she just tell them where it was at, instead of dying for it, Polly wondered. “It musta been a lot.”

“Said it was seven hunnerd worth, the way I remember it. A purty good figure, ‘specially in those days.”

“Did your Papaw dig up the gold?”

“Don’t know. Nobody never said.”

“Did the bad men go to jail?”

“They took off. Don’t think they ever found ’em.”

************

Part of the gold was unearthed in the early nineteen hundreds, by descendants of Jonathan Stamper, Jr. and Mary Polly Davis, around their old home site in present-day Allegheny County, North Carolina. Later descendants erected a headstone for Jonathan and Mary, giving her date of death as 1800.

62 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I enjoyed your story extremely. I descend from Marion, son of Joseph & Malinda Phipps Stamper.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. It means a lot to me that another descendant of Joseph and Malinda enjoy my story, which I had so much fun researching and writing. If you would like to correspond with me at any time my email address is nelladams@aol.com.

  3. WOW! Polly was my grt grt grandma, and I’d never seen this story! It’s so wonderful to read this.
    I print my family’s newsletter , “Esba’s Girls”(in memory of my grandmother, Esba Amburgey Everidge who raised me), and can’t wait to point everyone to this site!

  4. Thanks, Angela – it’s great to hear from another descendant of Polly’s – I remembered my mom telling me the bee charmer story long ago and have always felt she must’ve been a very special person. Please stay in touch. My email address is nelladams@aol.com

  5. Hello, Amanda, and hello to you also, Cousin Carol Cooke.

    Polly Stamper Honeycutt was my great aunt, and I was very pleased to read this re-creation of part of her life.

    A few years ago I helped the Stamper Family Association put together the Stamper Family history which details the descendants of Jonathan and Mary Davis Stamper.

    Amanda, I plan to order your book from Amazon.com soon. Thanks so much.

  6. Hello James—I’m so pleased to hear from you! I have the “Eastern Kentucky Stamper Kin” book – in fact, it’s the only one of my genealogy books that survived the flood to my home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in June, 2008. (My eldest daughter and son-in-law rebuilt the house and rent it from me now as I live with another daughter where I’m enjoying my two youngest grandchildren). I enjoyed writing about Polly, trying to imagine what life was like for her in those days, and also being guided by things my mother had told me as I was growing up in Letcher, Perry and Knot Counties. I hope you will enjoy the book!

  7. Amanda,, you’re were so correct in your excerpt about the importance of stories and oral tradition in general among Appalachian people. The story about the $700 in gold never made it all the way down to my family, but it was recorded in the papers of the late Will H. Daniel, a lawyer from West Virginia who was also a descendant of Jonathan and Mary..

    What survived down to my generation came mainly from my grandpa Marion Stamper. He told about being taken out by his father for muster while the family lived in Wise Co., VA. Also according to my older sisters, grandpa told a story about being stalked. by a ‘painter’ (panther).

    Grandpa also claimed to be ‘quarter stock Indian’, something that I have never been able to absolutely confirm. I do know that many people in North Carolina intermarried with the Cherokee, so this is a distinct possibility. The Indian blood, if there was any, possibly came through the Phipps or Reeves line. Anyway it’s all very fascinating.

    The Stampers, like most eastern Kentucky families, go back a long, long way in this country. We are certainly no ‘Johnny-come-latelies’.

  8. So you are Marion’s grandson! I had wondered if you were. I gathered material over a period of several years on many family lines and found Indian traditions in a number of them. I think the picture of Polly shows some Indian heritage and I’ve also heard about the liklihood of Indian heritage in the Phipps and Reeves line. My own belief is that anyone who can trace ther family back 200 years or more in that part of the country will most likely find some Indian heritage (whether confirmed or not). Just think of how many grandparents we have when we go back that far!

    The wife of another ancestor of mine, Rev Jordan Ashley was also said to be Cherokee but I’ve never come across anything definite on that. They also came from North Carolina, which most of my ancestors did.

    I got a lot of information from the Stamper book, and through some research of my own came up with what I believe are some possiblities for John Stamper’s origins, which I include in the book. I’m not a genealogist but I do love doing research. I hope when you get my book you will read this section (near the end) and let me know what you think. We must stay in touch. If you want to write me direct, my email address is nelladams@aol.com. Thank you.

  9. James Stamper`s sister here, Amanda,

    . After we finished the Stamper book, we were told that Polly Honeycutt married Silas Huff, about 1881, and they divorced shortly thereafter. They had one child, a daughter Maggie, b. 1882. She married James Franklin.

    Some of our Stampers in NC told James and me that , during some excavating, Mary Polly Blevins` gold was uncovered by the springhouse.

    And howdy, too, Carol Cook. Long time, no see!

    Janallee, Jan for short

  10. Hello Jan: It’s so great to hear from you! I’m so glad you mention Maggie marrying James Franklin, as I don’t think I had that information in my source materials that were lost in the flood to my house. I’m sure I’m related to Franklin on my dad’s side through his mother Amanda Franklin, for whom I was named (she was also a midwife and delivered me).

    I assume the divorce from Huff took awhile because my grandmother Docia Honeycutt was born a few weeks after Polly was married to Grant. I discovered the dates while researching and put it in my book. Another relative told me Grandma had always “felt bad” about this so I hope she isn’t “cussing” me out from the other side.

    I’ve always had a tendency to put my foot in my mouth ever since I was a child, thinking that “truth conquers all” so imagine my embarassment when my sister pointed out that on the same page where I reveal Grandma’s early birth I also wax on about the picture of the old falling-down homestead, yet had accidentally put in the picture of the falling-down barn instead.

    Although I had the picture of the homestead I was having trouble with my computer being able to handle all the pictures and ended up making the mistake. I almost withdrew the book (pride) but didn’t want to give up a year’s work trying to put it together. (Since it was in print by the time I discovered the error).

    I appreciate, more than I can say, all the work you and others did in creating the Stamper book. I just realized that the James A. Stamper who took the picture of Jonathan & Mary’s tombstone I copied into the book must be your brother James. I thank all of you.

  11. Oops, I should have said that Mary Polly Davis buried the gold pieces!

    Yes, my brother James took the picture of Jonathan and Mary`s tombstone, and tore a good pair of pants crossing the barbwire fence. He and I attended several Stamper reunions in the Grassy Creek Area.

  12. Does anyone have ancestral information on Mary Polly Davis? I always feel a temptation to take off on a new tangent everytime I come across a new surname, especially another grandmother! But of course they are harder to trace.

    I’m glad James made it over that barbwire fence! As they say, a “picture is worth a thousand words” (or more!). I was pleased every time I found a picture of one of the ancestors’ graves. For some reason they inspired my interest in the history of the times they lived and died.

    In case any of you are also related to the Amburgeys, I recently got a copy of Carol Morgan Hart’s book “Facing West: A Conrad Amberger Story” about our Amburgey progenitor. I got each of my children a copy for Christmas.

  13. Amanda, I, too, have tried to work on the Davis line. I can estimate when Jonathan Stamper, Jr. married her, but I am not sure where it occurredt, and I have found no record of the marriage. A marriage bond might give hints as to who her father was, etc.

    Back to the question of Indian heritage. One of my dad’s older brothers said that grandpa had told him that his (grandpa’s) mother Malinda Phipps Stamper was a ‘small dark woman’.

    Also, many of the people from the Blevins line claim that Mary ‘Polly’ Blevins (Joseph Stamper’s mother) descended from the Cherokee chief Dragon Canoe. You can read about him on the Internet. So the Indian blood, if it exists could have come also from this line.

    Many mysteries to solve.

  14. Now you’ve got me itching to find a marriage bond for Jonathan and Mary! I occasionally get listings of new genealogy and history books from North Carolina so maybe someday we’ll get lucky.

    As to the family tradition of Indian heritage through Mary Polly Blevins (whether from Dragging Canoe or a less volative brave) I felt it was a clue in trying to determine which John and James Blevins were ours, since there appeared to be several. The ones who were, I believe, long hunters and Indian traders also served in the same militia as others of my ancestors, George Reeves and David Cox and there is also an Indian legend in Reeves family. I touch on this in my book.

    I’m not surprised that Malinda was described as a small dark woman as I believe Polly Stamper appears to have Indian blood. Also, I think my mother looked a lot like Polly. I believe my family has Indian blood through several lines, though it’s not proven. (One possible clue is that I had six brothers and none of them had hair on their chest, and also did not have to shave very day:-))

  15. Amanda, the leader of the guerillas (really outllaws) in the Wise Co.l, VA area during the Civil War was a man known as ‘Bad John Wright’. According to what has come down in my family, he was the leader of the men who robbed and terrorized Malinda and her children, leading to their departure from Wise Co. in search of Joseph.

    I think a Google search would yield some information on John Wright if you’re interested.

    I have often thought about what that journey over the mountains and through Pound Gap must have been like in those days for a woman in fear who was trying to protect her family from harm.

    A woman alone with children simply could not exist very long in those days. That’s why so many widows with children remarried soon after.

  16. I’m glad you told me that, as I’ve read about Bad John Wright. I had a book (lost in the flood to my house) that told about some of the Kentucky feuds. I also have Harry Caudill’s book (I bought a new one after the flood) “Night Comes to the Cumberland” which mentions him. Although I hadn’t read the book in a long time I felt bereft without one on my shelf.

    Do you know why Malinda’s father was called “Devlish” George Phipps? He died young (was murdered) and left his wife with three young children, Malinda being the oldest and only about five years old. A case in point about a woman alone with young children in those days being bound to remarry. I lost track of his widow Nancy (White) for awhile but then found her in Wise County in 1850 census records married to James Adams. She had also given him a son.

    My imagination was inspired by Pound Gap, which I believe was once called Sounding Gap, intrigued by the Indians and then all the settlers (and also riff raff between the states!) that once traveled through it. It saw an awful lot of history, both good and bad.

  17. I don’t think it takes a lot of imagination to understand how ‘Devillish’ George Phipps got his name. He must have been a wild and reckless young man, and I can only assume his early death was a violent one. Many Phipps families are found today in the Ashe/Alleghany Co. area of NC, and they are mostly descendants of George’s brothers.

    The 1850 Ashe Co. census shows James Adams and wife Nancy living near Joseph and Malinda. The 1860 Wise Co. census is much the same. They are living only a few households away from Joseph and Malinda. Apparently there was a considerable out-migraqtion of families from Ashe Co. between 1850 and 1860, and I have attributed some of this to the growing discord that would lead to the Civil War. There was a lot of Union sentiment there in the northwester, corner of NC, and those who favored the Southern cause, as Joseph and Madison Stamper apparently did, probably felt ill-at-ease surrounded by so many pro-Union people.

    I know that Madison favored, at least initially, the Southern cause since he enlisted for the Confederacy in neighboring Alleghany Co. Madison had an interesting career as a soldier and even would up in the battle of Gettysburg before it was all over. As for Joseph all I could find of his service was his name on the rolls of a local militia regiment in Wise Co., VA.

    Somewhere I have a photo taken many years later of a group of old Confederate soldiers from the Ashe/Alleghany area. Madison Stamper is one of these soldiers, an old man with a white beard.

  18. More…….

    Malinda Phipps’ mother was Nancy White, wife of Devilish George Phipps. In the 1830 census of Ashe Co., I find Nancy Phipps as head of household with two young daughters under five years of age. They would have been Malinda and her sister Naomi,spelled ‘Mioma’ by the census taker. Earlier censuses before 1850 only listed the head of the household by name. Devilish George must have died by 1830 although his widow Nancy wasn’t appointed administrator of his esate until about 1833.

    Nancy White Phipps was the daughter of a Robert White. After receiving this information, I searched NC records for Robert for years with no luck. After we had already published our Stamper book, I found out the truth about Robert. I had been unable to find him in Ashe Co. because sometime before 1830 he deserted his wife and children and ran away to Kentucky with a younger woman named Rachel Becknell. Apparently he had also run afoul of the law from being involved in the shooting of a law enforcement officer. At least this is the information I have received from others who have researched this line.

    Upon learning of this story, I began searching for him in Kentucky and found him for the first time on the 1827 Perry Co., Ky. tax list. At that time Perry Co. included much of what is now Letcher, Knott, and Breathitt Co.’s. Finally, in the 1850 Breathitt Co. census I found Rachel White as head of household. Robert had died by this time. I have often wondered whether Malinda Phipps Stamper ever knew what had become of her grandfather.

    Going back to the 1830 Ashe Co. census, I found Nancy White (somewhere around 50 years of age) with other unnamed people in the household who were probably her children. This is the woman whom Robert jilted for a younger woman, and this means that both Malinda’s mother and her maternal grandmother were named Nancy. I do not know the maiden name of Robert’s wife Nancy.

    As you can see, Amanda, we have some pretty colorful and perhaps lawless people back in our family line. Most people do, I suppose.

    • I have heard all my life about how Robert, aka, Robin, aka Bob White left his wife and children. He supposedly sold the home and “left them high and dry” and “under the cover of darkness, hightailed it out of North Carolina.” The story I’ve heard many times, said he was a horse thief and was to be hanged, and he left “in the knick of time.” I am decendant of Robert and Rachel. I’ve always heard her referred to as “Granny Rachel”, and I’ve heard she was a full-blooded Cherokee. I don’t know how much of this is true, but I have two sisters who have Cheroke features.

    • James, Where can I find more info on Robert White who was the father of Alfred White from whom I am decended.? Robert White is shown elsewhere to be a Lumbee Indian–or a Mulungeon. I want to know more about him.

      • Recent Y-DNA testing has shown that Robin White was closely related to Cajabeth/Micajah White of Bute/Warren Co, NC, and Littleberry Swinney White of Nash Co, NC; both born around 1745-1750. I am collaborating with a number of Cajabeth and Littleberry researchers, and would be happy to add any descendants of Robin who are interested in pushing the family line back beyond Ashe Co. I can be reached at jackandmarianna@verizon.net.

  19. I welcome each ancestor I find and their unique individuality – after all, to use a cliche, “variety is the spice of life”. I believe history is passed down with the historian’s point of view, so we may not know the true story about Devilish George. Although I have no doubt we have some bad’uns back there– like you said, most people probably do.

    Although I also searched censuses and gave such information as I gathered from them, I have real appreciation for genealogists who do the tremendous amount of work in searching out the facts. I especially appreciate the stories that are passed down, and remember my mother passing along such simple stories as how her Grandpa Alfred Honeycutt joining the men at the general store. Knowing he always had something good to say about anyone they said something bad about, they started talking about the meanest man in the county and waited to see what Grandpa would say. He thought awhile and then said “Well, he’s a good whistler”.

  20. I had company come so I had to stop before I finished my last comment. I’m glad you told me about Nancy White Phipps and also that Robin White was her father and to know what happened to him. I remember that I had read somewhere that was her father’s name but I didn’t know any of the rest.

    I had another ancestor whose father just went off and left the wife and children, which would’ve been much worse in those days. In his case nothing was ever heard from or about him, as far as I know. Of course if you never find a trace of them there’s always the possibility of foul play.

  21. I have been told where Robert White is buried there in Breathitt Co. and that some of the descendants of him and his second wife have marked the grave, but have never had a chance to go there.

    He was my great, great, great grandfather. Actually some of Robert’s children from his first marriage left North Carolina and wound up in Wise Co., VA and Letcher Co., Ky.

    • Robin White, aka Robert, aka Bob, White is said to be buried on top of River Caney Hill, at Watts, Lost Creek, KY. I am a decendant.

  22. What fascinates me is how all these people from the same counties in North Carolina and another group who went from there to the same counties in Virginia, all ended up in the same area of Kentucky. ( And how many of them are kin to me). I wish someone would do a book that ties the history of the times and the individual families together to show us how they fit into and exemplify an historical pattern.

    Have you ever read the minutes of The South Fork of the (Old) Roaring River Baptist Church in Wilkes County, NC? Both my dad and mom’s sides had ancestors in the church in the late 1700’s. I included some excerpts from it in my book but the copy I’d made of the full text that’s been transcribed was, of course, lost in the flood.. It would make great background material to build a story on. But I think the research needed in order to try to do the book would kill me. That’s for someone younger who is also bitten by the bug.

  23. I used to read excerpts from the minutes of that church in the Wilkes Genealogical Society magazine that I subscribed to years ago. Very interesting, and some of it was downright hilarious. One man got up in church and confessed to saying ‘SOB’ when he got a wheat straw in his eye!

  24. I got online and re-copied the excerpts I had found before and read through them. You’re right that some of it is downright hilarious.

    The funniest thing to me was that during meeting after meeting in which deacons were “deligated” to go see other members “to site (him/her) to appear before the church to answer Allegations that was against (him/her), including “telling lyes”, “going to a shooting match” , “suffering dancing in his house”, “the sin of drunkenness” , for “selling corn at 20 pr. barrell for which he agreed he not do the like again.” “Also if a member should fail coming to a church meting and doth not send a lawful excuse nor come to the next church meting nor sends, is to be reproved.” It was also noted that a member was seen to be passing by the church but did not come in.

    “Also the church delt with (one member) for saying he red three chapters by head and that he thought he could read the Testament through without the Book, and that he retained that notion for near a twelve months, the church could not disprove, & so concluded to lay it over and look to the Lord and try to get better satisfied.”

    And then on September 12, 1790 “The church got together and indevoured to take into consideration why or what could be the cause of reason that there is no more growth in the church.” Ha Ha.

    By the way, on “Satterday the 18th March (1790), Joel Stamper and four others “joined by experience”. And added on the same day “also silence Bro. Wm. Cark from preaching.”

  25. I am new to blogging and actually loved your blog. I am going to bookmark your web site and keep checking you out. Thanks for sharing your blog.

  26. I so enjoyed your comments on the Stamper & Robin White families. Robin is possibly my ancestor. I still have much research to do to confirm. There were so many Whites in Ky!!
    I do want to follow your comments, so pls do add me to the list to get new posts.
    With many thanks for your work: so sorry you lost precious data in a flood!

    • So you are possibly a decendant of Robin White? I am a decendant of his son Sam, of which was known as Causie White. Causie is buried on River Caney, on Watts. The cemetary is named for him, my father, grandparents and various other relatives are burued there as well.

  27. Thank you so much! When I did the family book I had an urgent feeling I needed to create some kind of record of the material I had researched for several years. If I’d known the flood was coming (well, of course I would’ve moved out of the house!) I would’ve included more. I know I had some material on Robin White that didn’t get into the book, but thankfully other people have researched him too, far better than I.

    I’ve added an email subscription on the left side of my blog. If you’ll sign up there you should receive any future comments, plus (hopefully) some more scribblings from me.

  28. Marion Stamper was my Grandfather and I enjoyed the article on Aunt Polly Honeycutt. I mlght also mention that I have the same picture of Mrs. Honeycutt that is included in this article.

    Dr. Daniel H. Stamper, Jr M.D.
    PO Box 801
    Pikeville, Ky. 41502

  29. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. When I was writing I imagined Marion as being the older brother with the rifle while they were crossing Pound Gap, and of course he would still have been young. Do you know what year Marion was born? My Stamper genealogy book was lost in the flood to my house in 2008. It’s good to hear from you!

  30. I am about 1/2-way thru your book which I ordered from Amazon. A very enjoyable read. It seems that you & most of your siblings were very artistic: writers, singers, poets, etc.
    From which of your ancestors do you think this gift came??

  31. I’m so glad you’re enjoying my book, and thanks for letting me know. I think our artistic interests and whatever talent we had came through my mother. My eldest brother and sister said she wrote poetry and even “made up” a song for them when they were children. She was also a voracious reader, even though she was only able to finish 8th grade. In the time and place in which she lived a student had to board out in town in order to attend high school, which took money her family didn’t have. One of her ancestors who I believe showed writing ability was Reverend Jordan Ashley – his “Sermon on Love” is on this site. I believe there were others but don’t know if any of their scribblings or artwork survived. In many ways, their lives were works of art :-))

  32. Hello My name is Jenny. My husband is Brian. Brian is the great great great grandson of Madison “Bad Matt” Stamper.

    Do you have any photos of the Stamper family from back in this time period?

  33. Hi Jenny! Thanks for writing. No, I wish I did have some photos from those days but I don’t. I did, at one, time have a copy of a picture I found online of (I think) Matt in a group of Civil War Vets – he was playing a fife, I believe, as he’d done during the war (someone please correct me if I’m wrong but this is as I remember it). I don’t remember now where I found the picture and unfortunately it was lost with a lot of my research in the flood to my home in 2006.

    It’s so great to be in touch with another Stamper descendant (or his wife:-)) Thanks again.,

  34. I do have a copy of this photo you are talking about. I also have a photo Bad Matt’s son Madison Nile Stamper and his wife Laura.

    I would be glad to send them to you if you give me your email address

  35. Thanks, Jenny! I would love to have a copy of the photos. My email address is nelladams@aol.com.

  36. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed your “Excerpt: The Bee Charmer.” What a gift! I have often wondered what life was like back then and been frustrated that I could not have been a fly on the wall.
    I have been following my family’s history for several years now but have only recently started looking into my maternal grandfathers family. I would like to understand our connection. I have been working on the Gibbs side from Kentucky with only a little success; so you can imagine how exciting it has been for me to look into my Stamper family history. So many wonderful people doing such exacting research! The wonderful stories you have passed down and shared with others are the true golden treasure of the Stamper family!
    My 6th great great grandparents were Jonathan Brooks Stamper & Rachel Parks, my 3rd great great grandparents were Joel Stamper & Mary “Polly” Turner and my great grandparents were Boone D. Gibbs and Mary Griffith Stamper (daughter of Margaret Stamper & ?). Can you tell me how I am related to your wonderful Polly Stamper, aka the Bee charmer?

  37. Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to hear from another Stamper descendant and that you enjoyed “The Bee Charmer” story. I was inspired to tell the story from the memory of what my mother told me about Great Grandma Mary Polly, and having also grown up in the mountains I knew a lot about how they did things in those days, which helped to flesh out the story.

    Do you have the “Eastern Kentucky Stamper Kin” book put out by The Stamper Family Association? You may be able to google it online and find out if it’s still in print. Since Jonathan Brooks Stamper was Mary Polly’s 2nd Great Grandfather, and your 6th there’s some kind of cousinship going on for sure.

    The Stamper book shows two of Jonathan’s sons were Jonathan Jr. and Joel (your 5th great grandfather). Mine and Mary Polly’s line comes through Jonathan Jr. and yours through Joel. Joel was the father of Richard and your 3rd great grandfather Joel was the son of Richard. This Joel had a daughter named Margaret, born 1848.

    This Margaret (b. in Breathitt Co, Ky) married
    Dec 20, 1881, to William “Grasey” Turner, b. 1837, but it shows her children Sigil and Mary Turner, born 1878 and 1879. I could find no more information on them in the book. I hope this helps!

  38. hi im of phipps@reeves .ward@toliver, wm toliver shot george reeves, he was married to susanna sucky reeves, both buried in indiana, got book bandiitti of prairies, these people lived fast and hard, they all intermarried ,looking for solomon scott @elizabet died 1850 ashe co n,c

  39. Violet, I’m so happy to hear from you! Most of my genealogical material was lost in the flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in June, 2008, so I’m not sure if the material I included in my Ky book is all that I had on Phipps and Reeves. I do have in the book that Susannah Reeves was married to Wm Toliiver and that he had been tried and acquitted of the murder of her brother George Reeves, Jr and “was said to have left the area”.

    According to a quote from “Foot Prints on the Sands of Time” by A. B. Cox, George Reeves Jr. “was an energetic business man, and while serving his country as an officer executed some horses and was carrying them away when the owner followed and shot and mortally wounded him”. (How on earth did he “carry” the horses away?).

    I remember there was some confusion as to, possibly, more than one George Reeves Jr. The one who was murdered also had a son George (another Jr. You say Toliver and Susanna were both buried in Indiana so apparently that’s where they went when they “left the area”.

  40. Do any of you know anything about Daniel Boone Phipps? Sam and Eliz Phipps had Big Ben Phipps, who had Jehu Phipps, who had Sam Ewell Phipps, who had Daniel Boone Phipps. I (Paula Phipps) am the descendant of Sam and Eliz ‘s son William (b 1785), but in doing research I encounted Terry Phipps, the descendant of William’s brother, Big Ben. His grandfather was Daniel Boone Phipps of KY and Terry lives in KY, as, it seems, do you all. I promised to forward info to Terry. Can you help? Thanks!

    • Paula! Please forgive me – I just discovered your comment waiting for approval – don’t know how I missed it except I haven’t been very active on my blog recently. I love the new information you give and hope those more knowledgeable than I will respond now that it’s available:-)) The Phipps background has always fascinated me but the flood to my home in June, 2008 (in Cedar Rapids, IA) destroyed most of my genealogy materials :-((
      (I grew up in Kentucky but have lived in Iowa for many years).

      I don’t remember reading anything about Daniel Boone Phipps but I would also love to know more about “Devilish” George if anyone out there has more information about him!

  41. Hello,
    My name is Ann Stamper Cullop. I am great-grand daughter of Madison “Matt” Stamper. Early in your article, it sates that Madison Stamper was living with his Uncle Joseph Stamper and his wife Malinda Phipps. What do you know of Madison? He was the son of Joseph’s sister, Jane, and some family says that his father was the “best kept secret”. It has been hinted that his father may have been a “Phipps”. All of his family went to Kentucky except Madison and his mother. They stayed in Ashe County, NC. Do you know anything?

    • Ann Stamper. I dont know much regarding the Stamper/Phipps thing but I too have heard this… please feel free to contact me @ jennystamper82@gmail.com

    • Madison followed Joseph and Malinda to Wise Co., VA, and even came to Kentucky briefly. A tale in my family is that he was put in jail in Prestonsburg, Ky. But escaped by dressing himself in female attire which somebody smuggled in to him. He presumably fled back to NC.

      • I’d love to know what he was in jail for! Did you know some of our ancestors were preachers who may have been among the ones thrown in jail for disturbing the peace (and therefore continued to preach through the bars) (in Virginia).

  42. That’s all the information I had on Madison and I think I got it from the Stamper Family book, may also have read it somewhere else. Unfortunately, that book and most of my genealogy information was lost in the flood that nearly destroyed my home in Jun 2008 (in Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Don’t you love these family secrets! As for Phipps, they’re also in my lineage so I’m sorry to say, I don’t know ))-:

  43. I have heard from a number of sources that Madison Stamper’s father was Wilborn Stamper, his mother’s cousin.

  44. Thanks for all the wonderful stories and information! Madeline Stamper Handshoe was my mother, so Marion was my great grandfather I believe. I recognize many of your names from Mommy mentioning them over the years.

    • I wrote you a reply but it got lost so I’ll try again! It sounds like you had a mom like mine. She loved to tell me stories about the ancestors and I really appreciated it when I was doing research. I was surprised I even remembered some of them since I was a teenager at the time and not that focused on genealogy. I’m so glad you enjoyed them too!

      • Polly Stamper is my Great Great Grandmother (me -> Opal Gertrude Collins -> Matilda Hale -> Lavina Honeycutt -> Mary Pollly Stamper). I have extensively researched my lineage on Ancestry.com and, with your permission, would very much like to add this excerpt to Polly Stamper’s profile in my family tree on Ancestry.com. If you desire, I could also give you access to the tree I have built on Ancestry.com. It would be great to have you review it and provide any additions or corrections. Thanks for including the excerpt here! Edward L. Ruth

      • I would be happy to have you add the excerpt to your family tree. However, regarding the lineage, did you intend to put Lavinia Honeycutt as mother to Matilda Hale? Her mother (and mine, etc) was Dosha Honeycutt but Dosha had a daughter Lavina, sister, of course to Matilda & Mom (Havana), etc. I really enjoyed writing this story about Mary Polly, based on the things my mom had told me about her, especially her ability to charm the socks off bees, ha ha, and the fact that Great Grandpa Grant covered up from head to toe and still got stung. I may contact you about the ancestry info later but at the moment am focusing on some other writing projects. Thanks so much for writing!

  45. I don’t remember how I came up with it but I had Dosha’s full name listed as Lavina Dosha Honeycutt and so mentioned her to you as Lavina. I have now removed “Lavina” from her name in the lineage. Dosha did have a daughter named Lavinia (note the addition of the “i” in her name). I may have misunderstood your post – did you mean Dosha was your mother? I have 8 children by Dosha and Alex Hale listed but not you. And thank you for allowing me to add the excerpt to Dosha!

  46. Genealogy can be confusing! No, Dosha was my grandmother through her oldest daughter Havana, my mother. It occured to me this morning that since Dosha had either one or two half-sisters maybe one of them was named Lavinia, and Dosha named my Aunt Lavinia after one (since I don’t know their name(s) I just remember Mom mentioning the half-sister(s). I’m pretty sure Dosha did not have another name but I could be wrong. Nobody ever said. I sent June a message so we’ll see what she says.
    .

  47. I keep in touch with my Aunt Lavinia and Aunt Barbara June so I’ll ask them as well. Thanks.

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