The Reverend Fred Saunders and Family
The Reverend Fred and Estellia Saunders and their son, Powell, and daughter, Delores. are interviewed by John and Bonnie Dodson. The interview took place in the home of the Rev. Saunders in March of 1998.
John: in 1891, and that was, so yall had that school, was established that, that long ago.
Estellia: Right. It---
John: Okay cause---
Estellia: It was a log school then.
Estellia: But they remodeled it and made it---and now its torn down.
John: Okay. Okay. Okay. Ummm . . . Im not sure . . . okay. So, when, alright now, Mac Ferguson, okay, are yall related to the Fergusons?
Estellia: Thats my grandfather.
John: Okay. Youre a Ferguson.
John: Okay and the Saunders came---when did the Saunders come?
Fred: Yes umm . . .
Estellia: They came later on . . .
John: Later on, okay. Now, Mac Ferguson, he was a graduate of the Christiansburg Institute?
John: Okay. Now---
Estellia: That was my daddy.
John: That was your daddy.
Estellia: My daddy, yeah. And the, old man was my granddaddy. His name was Mac Ferguson too. [Mac H. Ferguson was the grandfather and Macdaniel Ferguson was the father of Estellia]
John: Okay, now which one went to the Christiansburg Institute?
Estellia: My daddy---
John: Your daddy went.
John: Okay, so how did, he was living up here and he went all the way to Christiansburg?
Estellia: Well he stayed down there and, and worked on the farm, paid his wage.
Estellia: Goin to school . . .
Estellia: It was just like going to college, then , uh . . .
John: Because that was the only,[...school in SW Virginia for Blacks to obtain a secondary education] thats on the national historic registry--
Estellia: Right. He milked cows, and churned, and done all that kind of work, paying his way through school.
John: Right. Yeah. Okay.
Estellia: That was my daddy.
John: And that was your daddy.
John: How many years was he down there? Do you know?
Estellia: No, I dont know.
John: No. And he came back and he was a farmer?
Estellia: He came back, and married, married my mother, and, he worked at the freight station.
Estellia: The Bluefield freight station. Two years.
John: Yeah, okay, and he farmed on the side.
Estellia: For a little bit.
John: A little bit. Okay.
John: Okay and your mother---what was your mothers maiden name?
Estellia: My mother was the Hogans.
John: A Hogan. And was she from up here also?
Estellia: She was from Pulaski.
Estellia: From New River. Thats where she was originally living.
John: Okay. Did he meet her when he was going to school over there or---
Estellia: Uh, he met her here, in Bland County.
Estellia: She was going---they moved here and lived here for a long time. My Grandmother was a Hogan, and she used to live here down, bout round the church . . .
Estellia: And he met her here. In Dry Fork. Cause his daddy lived here too. But he went off to school. My daddy went off the school.
John: Right. Right. And he learned . . . New farming techniques and methods and all that kind of stuff.
Estellia: Yeah, just about everything.
Estellia: Right. A variety of things.
John: Right. Okay, and yalls, your, the the Ferguson land is, is where?
Estellia: Ferguson land is umm . . . you know where Adair, my granddaddy had two hundred acres and I think he mightve paid one dollar an acre for it.
Estellia: The Adairs living there, you know Adair?
John: Right, I. . .
Estellia: Yeah. Hes living there on, my granddaddys. [Mac H. Ferguson]
John: That was your grandaddys place.
John: Okay. Do you know, do you know who he bought the land from, who?
Estellia: No, I dont. At that time, you could get all the land you wanted for, maybe a dollar or, I would say a dollar or two dollars, something like that.
Estellia: Finally it went up to ten dollars, I think.
John: And he came from, Franklin County?
Estellia: My grandaddy--
John: Your grandaddy came from Franklin County.
Estellia: . . . came from Franklin County. But he, owned a farm here, and he farmed, he raised cows, sheep, horses, whatever, he just made his living on the farm.
Estellia: So he sent his son, my daddy, to Christiansburg, to school.
John: Yeah, well he mustve done pretty well to be able to send him to---
Estellia: Well, see my daddy worked his way through, it by working, going to school and working, down there at the farm, on at, well they had to wait for the children to work their way through school.
Estellia: At that time.
Estellia: So he churned, and, he used to tell me how hed eat butter and eat the cream off, ha ha ha, the milk and all this stuff.
John: Oh, he got the best before everybody else got them, yeah. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Estellia: Ha ha, but thats the way he got his education.
John: Oh, thats great. Thats great. And umm, well let me just go through--- and your---what part of Franklin County did he come from? Do you know?
Estellia: No, I dont.
Powell Saunders [Powell Saunders was the first Saunders to come to Dry Fork. His grandson is also named Powell and is part of this interview]
John: You dont know. Okay. And your father, came from Floyd County?
Fred: Floyd County.
Fred: Saunders. Powell Saunders in Floyd County, and my mom Lonnie Saunders, come from Floyd.
John: Yeah. Do you know what part of Floyd County they came from?
John: Do you know what part of Floyd County?
Fred: I-- I was born right here.
Estellia: What part of Floyd County did you come from?
Fred: Oh Willis.
Fred: Willis. At Willis. Mmmhmm.
Fred: It was . . . right there, in Indian Valley, wasnt it?
Estellia: . . . Your daddy was from Indian Valley, was that right?
Fred: Yeah . . . Indian Valley . . .
Powell: They didnt name like Dry Fork or Laurel Fork . . .
Estellia: My sons older than we are, he knows . . .
John: Ha ha ha, usually theyre like that when theyre teenagers, arent they?
Estellia: They hear the old folks talking and . . . . ???? . . . .
John: I know. Oh---
Bonnie: So you named him for your dad.
Fred: ???????? Virginia, yes he move here, he was a sawmill man, his saw milled all time, ?????
Fred: And then he, he was uh well, in fact he was uh, he was an all-around man, ?????
John: So he had, he powered the sawmill with a steam engine?
Fred: Yes. ????? Big steam engine, ????, and then loaded the lumber, and then usually when making patterns with them things he made them patterns ????
Fred: And sometimes a load of wood would get tied up, they said for him to come get, help.
Fred: Fix, over there, he was that kinda type of man . . .
John: Well, what what what . . . brought your father over here and your grandfather. I mean, you know how they ended up, what brought them to Bland County?
Estellia: I, I guess Maybe they, just lookin for a place maybe, it was all woodland, you know, they just . ..
John: Okay, this was all, this was all forest back here.
Estellia: Right. And they just found the place.
Powell: He was a sawmill man, and uh, he was looking for ??? worth timber, you know...
Powell: So he just set up in here . . . bought 100 acres here, over at uh, and brought all the fellers from Floyd that knew anything about sawing, and they sawed here for a pretty good while.
Powell: ??? sawmill. Set up a camp, had a bunch of men working for him, and umm, hauling ????? down to the Rocky Gap, rode on the train.
Powell: And they had some uh, some uh, hauling them out on a wagon, paying them a dollar a day.
Estellia: Ha ha ha ha.
Powell: . . .Horses . . . needed a horse and a wagon . . .
Estellia: That was big money then.
John: Yeah Im sure it was.
Powell: Because I think of gettin 25 ???? ????.
Powell: In a whole, bout eight . . .take them down and put them on the train.
Estellia: Ha ha ha ha.
Powell: And they had men sawing, some making liquor . . .
Estellia: HA HA HA HA!
John: There was always a little bit of that, Im sure.
Estellia: HA HA HA HA!
Powell: Yeah . . .???? he was a bootlegger from Floyd . ..
John: Oh was he?
John: There was a lot of that going on over there, I knew that.
Powell: Yeah, see, Floyd County is the moonshine, And Franklin County is the moonshining county.
John: Right. I saw in the paper where they busted a big still on, in Franklin County last week!
John: A great big one.
Powell: Franklin and Floyd was your biggest moonshining places . ..
Powell: ??? grandaddy, he was a bootlegger, and a saw mill man . . . .
Estellia: HAHA HA. Ha ha ha!
Powell: And umm, had a sawmill, I mean uh,??? grain mill, and all that.. .
John: Well, now, but your grandfather came here to farm right?
John: But you dont know what brought him.
Estellia: No, I guess maybe they just . . .
Powell: They just looked at the land . . .
Estellia: Wandered . . .looking around just discovered this you know, and just settled . . .
Powell: And thats where they originially from.
Powell: And they just ventured out, you know.
Powell: So thats the way they done, they did . . .
Powell: Theyd venture out, and find a 100 acres, for a dollar an acre .
John: But yalls two families didnt know each other before they moved here.
Estellia: No. No we got acquainted here, after we got here, right.
John: Okay. Alright.
Estellia: We just settled here and those ???? got acquainted with each other.
Estellia: Everybody helped one another. When they were living here, the old folks was better than those young folks . . .
Powell: . . . Wheres grandaddys picture? Do you have grandaddys picture?
Estellia: Over there on the shelf. In the front room.
John: He also asked yall if you yall, do you have any old pictures of uh, of uh, your parents or grandparents, or of the church?
Powell: Yeah. Yes uh, heres our, heres our grandaddy.
Fred: Thats my daddy.
John: That was your daddy.
Powell: I think he drove a team of oxen in that day.
Powell: I think he drove a team of oxen from Floyd to here.
Bonnie: That takes a long time doesnt it?
Bonnie: Days and weeks, wouldnt it take that long?
Powell: Not today.
John: Id say.
Powell: They come, of course they came through the mountains, somewhere.
John: Yeah. Well they logged with oxen.
Powell: Hmmm mmm. Yeah.
John: They could pull the, pull the logs out, of the mountains and everything.
Powell: Yeah. But uh, he had a big saw mill down on creek bank operated with steam engine.
Fred: And Grist mill, ???? and fellow came across that mountain from Wolf Creek and carried lumber to the saw mill. From Wolf Creek . . . . across to that mill . . . drive all night long.
John: The people would come all the way over from Wolf Creek to. . .
Fred: ????? Some of them would come over from Round Bottom, and some of them would come from West Virginia to that mill.
Fred: And when I was a boy, they had ride all night, and I used to go to the pond, to hold the lighter knot for the men, and Id go to sleep there, and this tar dropping on my hand! ha ha ha!
John: And itll burn ya, yeah. Oil lighter.
Fred: Oil light, but its . . .I know . . .
Powell: Theres one log down there in the river, down there in the creek, where they had the logs in the creek, down in the water, theres one left down there.
Powell: Hasnt washed away.
John: There used to be a lot more water in the creek, didnt there?
Powell: Well, they just dammed it up.
John: They dammed it up?
Powell: Yeah. They just dammed it up, and the water backed up, maybe four,
Powell: Back, had that whole place . . . I dont remember but uh, I hear them talk about it.
Powell: And uh, they said uh, they could put a boat, small boat, on it . . .
Powell: It was that deep.
Uncle Ned Saunders
Powell: ???? He left with the Silas Greene Show. Wandered . . .
Estellia: Who is that Powell?
Powell: Uncle Ned.
John: He left with what now?
Powell: The Silas Greene Show.
John: Whoops. Oh he did?
Powell: And uh, winded up in ah, St. Paul Minnesota, and that s where he just stayed at.
Uh, Silas Greene, you remember a show called Silas Greene?
John: I dont remember that. (to Bonnie) You do?
Powell: Used to be a show called Silas Greene.
John: And so, it come through here?
Powell: Yeah, it came through Bluefield. And he joined up with them and uh, and took off to a, one of these ???????, in uh Minnesota. And thats where he lived at til he died.
Estellia: He raised kids.
Powell: He drove the old car back here once or twice.
****looking at photos****
John: Yeah, yeah I get a couple of those.
Young Powell Saunders
Powell: Then of course I went to vocational school, umm, at Bluefield State College. ???? Ive got a trait ??? for vocational education.
Powell: And uh, somebody said how do you go to college and didnt finish high school?
Estellia: ha ha.
Powell: Ha ha.
Estellia: Aint easy is it?
Powell: ???? The governor pays me to go, I was going on G.I. Bill.
John: So, you, you were in the service?
John: What years were you in the service?
Powell: Went out in 53 and got out in 55.
John: Oh okay. So you were between any trouble, then werent ya?
Powell: Yeah. Oh, the war was about over when I went in.
John: Mmmhmmm. The Korean War.
Powell: Umm, yeah.
Estellia: I cried night and day. And when he come back I cried night and day!
John: Was he, was he trouble when he was a teenager?
Estellia: He wasnt all that much trouble, but I was---
Powell: I was wild.
Estellia: He was wild. I was thinking all the time he gonna be---
Powell: I didnt get in, I never get in nothing, dont mean, dont mean ????? when I first got out of the army. Mommy, mommy told me says uh, uh you go up there and get you a job on that railroad, and uh, cut that liquor making out. So when I got out of the army, they said what you gonna do when you get out? Make liquor. I said just as quick as you can spit it.
Powell: and uh. . .
John: Well where did he make it? You didnt make it up here?
Estellia: Well I mean, I didnt know . . . I mean . . . Theyd sneak in and do it.
Powell:They, it was in the hollows, a bunch of those hollows, so uh, I was planning on, well big time, general. So uh, put down a thousand pounds of sugar, and uh, momma kept telling me dont make no more liquor. So we just run off maybe, three cases, we was down to a case. Something telling me, says, you better listen to your momma. So the next run, I didnt do nothing. And momma says, I want you to make up your mind today to go get a job on the railroad. And I said I gotta have a diploma. Theyd not hire you unless you got a diploma. Momma said you dont need no diploma, you go up there and tell that man you want a job!
Powell: ??? So everybody that had diplomas, a couple around here had diplomas, Ol Powell think he gonna get a job on the railroad, but, he mistaken, cause he got to have a high school diploma. And he dont have that. So uh, I went on up there, and had a load of liquor on the car then. And I said, uh, I want a job braking. Uh, what have you done? I said I just got out of the army back in July, this is November. So I made liquor from July up until around November. And uh, so they said---
Estellia: No jobs for ????!
John: I think hes alright now.
Powell: They said uh, ummm, what, what , what have you been doing? And I said well, Ive been uh farming with ----
Estellia: Making liquor!
Powell: I said I been farming, and just got out of the army and then I started farming. I didnt tell them nothing bout no liquor.
John: Oh I reckon not, yeah.
Powell: And so uh, he said well, I tell you what, you bring me some chesnuts, Ill give you a job. I go oh yeah, yeah, I can get you some chesnuts. But uh, chesnut died about sixty years ago, its been years ago.
John: Right yeah.
Powell: So he said well, you gotta learn 28 shifts . Can you do that? And theres a lot of complicating, do you think you can learn? Oh yeah, yeah I can learn. So I learnt my 28 shifts and the other guys still learnt it, but I , I had this whiskey and these old guys, I said hey, umm, you drink any moonshine? He said oh boy, I used to drink that back years ago but I aint never found none any good. I said well, umm, Im gonna learn this shift and then Ill bring you a little taste. So umm , I said let me go to the car, and I go to the car and get him a pint, and uh bring it over there and he takes it down there and tastes, and he go back in the shanty, Im gonna run in here in the shanty, to eat my sandwich, then you just be right, stay right here, and he come back, after he got to feelin pretty good, he said, I tell ye what, you cant learn it all one shift no ways. Im gonna sign your paper and let you go on down to Joe, and let Joe take it. I think youre gonna make a very good brakeman myself.
Powell: ???? I think youll make the best brakemen that we have out here, he said. First thing you you ???? that youre not one of them smartalicks. And he said, you listen to what people tell you. But that moonshine done got his ????? you know . . .
Powell: Then Id go to the next one. And I said I just had Tom up there, and Im gonna learn this shift. Yeah! Come on, come on. And uh, Id ask him, and Id say, hey! You ever drink any moonshine? Oh yeah, yeah, Id drink some now if I had some. And I said, well this, thats this right here, and Id go over over and see if I could get some, and Id bring him a little dab. And, hed take a shot or two, and umm said man, this is some good stuff, whered that come from? I bet it come over there in Bland County, thats moon county. . . .
Powell: And I get him feeling pretty good, and umm, next thing I know, I done learn all 28 shifts, and drew the first pay day, and bought my first brand new car. All them other guys struggling around, trying to learn the railroad, and they couldnt learn nothing. Man thats ahard, how many more you got? They had a sheet that long, and everytime youd complete one theyd mark it down you know, with the name . . . I had mine filled out, drawed the first pay day, and they still Id bet struggling around in the woods talking about me, hee hee. Got no high school diploma, they never could, they never did learn, I dont know if they every learned . But I learned 28 shifts . . .
Estellia: I used to tell him, I said now, you can do anything, I made him think in, he never wouldve, I never babied him, I told him he was a man when he was about like this, I said now youre not a baby, youre a little man, you mommas man. Hed walk in and pick up something and sell it to somebody, like little wood, I said now, he thinks, he thinks right now he took care of hisself since he been born.
Powell: I been working long enough.
Estellia: He think he been a man, I, I taught him, I said you can do anything anybody else can do. I said now, making liquor, that aint nothing for, that aint no skill, no kind of way. I said you aint gonna make no liquor and stay around here.
Estellia: I said now, you, get that in your head, you get out and get you job, or else!
John: Oh railroads pretty good, pretty good work now.
Estellia: Well, so he could, I made him think that ????? I said you can do it, I said you can do it, and I just made him think he could do it.
Bonnie: ???? thats just what it takes.
Powell: . . .. ??? lunch time, sitting there, fourteen hours, lunch bucket sitting on the side, and Im just, moving legals, and I had a stomach on me about like that.
J : MMM!
Powell: And uh, so I got out of it, they, everybody went why wont you stay in it? ???????? Why you leavin? Well my wife done got sick. I made all kinda of excuses.
Powell: And uh, but Im running the engine there, uh about eight months, and I couldve been a conductor, but I done experienced working guys and you gotta tell them this, and hand them notes, and tell them stuff.
Powell: And uh, I had, trained a lot of guys braking, and I tell them to do something, what! what! Why I gotta do that? And I said I aint got time to explain, just DO it. You know. And umm, so when I go to work on the railroad Im sitting relaxed. You know, I aint gotta worry about nothing.
Powell: Unless something happens, on the ??? train, then Ill take over.
John: How many years did you work?
Estellia: How old are you boy?
Powell: Ha ha ha. . . Ill be 65 next month.
Estellia: Howd you manage to get all that old . . .
Powell: Ill be 65 next month.
Bonnie: Well, you dont look it.
John: So you run some, you got some cows over here?
Powell: Yeah, my cows and horses. . .
John: Yeah. And youre over here everyday looking after them.
Bonnie: Yall have a party every summer, right? I saw your name on the sign didnt I? Down at the . . .
Powell: Yeah, we have a festival up here, in July. And umm, yall are invited next year to come up.
John: Alright, Ill come.
Bonnie: Oh wed love to come.
Powell: Yeah yeah.
John: You have a lot of people come back home for it?
Powell: Well, not like they should, well theys two or three of them started a family reunion and, two or three or years they fall through, and I just got tired of it, I said well, Im gonna have something that aint gonna fall through Im gonna have it if dont nobody be there but me and the grandbabies. And uh, theys all, we wanna come back home, we wanna get back down there. Well have a reunion, so the Saunders, they started having one, then the Fergusons, they started having one, and I said well uh, all yall kin, and I never did know none of yalll in ????, so yall all about the same, I mean, you know, kin, you know what kin ???? and so I started a festival every year. SO some of them come in, some of them dont.
John: Mmmhmmm. Yeah.
Powell: I think they resent it because I started it. But I have it every year.
Estellia: These are his grandchildren.
The Hill House
Powell: Yall live in the umm, yellow house, the Hill House? The Jim Hill house?
John: Ive never heard it called that!
Bonnie: Its the first yellow one on the right as your coming up. . .
Bonnie: Its got the garage with the green doors on the front.
Powell: Oh yeah yeah, hey.
Estellia: Thats the Hill House isnt it?
Powell: Thats, them Hills built that house.
John: I hadnt heard that.
Powell: He was a ummm, hed move houses. Ummm, That was his, thats what he done all his life. Which uh, worked for a place that moved houses.
Powell: Hed move brick houses anything. They had a daughter, they named, they had a chicken and they named it after one of my sisters.
Estellia: Oh. Dolores.
Powell: Yeah. Had a little . . .
Estellia: And she had a little chicken, and she said Im gonna name it, the little chicken Dolores, cause Dolores is so purdy.
Powell: But he, he could uh, move brick houses, rock houses . . .
Powell: Everythang. Thats all he ever done.
John: Yeah. A bunch of people have lived there . ..
John: Over the years.
Bonnie: Well what happened to them?
Bonnie: I said what happened to them?
Estellia: Id say they died.
Powell: Well, he had some daughters, and uh, I think some of the daughters married into the Brewer family. And all, I think all of thems dead now.
Powell: He was a little short fella, about five foot something.
Bonnie: Well, that explains it, our ceilings are kind of low in there. . .
Powell: And umm, but uh, that was his job. Thats all I known him to do.
Powell: Moved houses.
Reverend Fred Saunders [Fred is the son of the original Powell Saunders and the father of the present Powell Saunders. Fred is over 90 years of age and is a little hard to understant at times.]
John: Yeah. Well now, is this the Saunders farm, is this it right here?
Fred: Both sides yeah.
John: Both sides of the road.
Fred: Mountain to mountain.
John: From mountain to mountain. Okay. But you never did do much farming yourself?
John: You never did do much farming yourself?
Fred: Yeah, I did ????
Estellia: Not too much because he worked at uh . . . in the mines . ..
Fred:I was just , wasnt gonna ??? cattle, like . . . .
Estellia: You retired what year.
Fred: I worked in the coal mines for, 25 year. Run a coal mine . . in West Virginia . . .
John: And uh . . .
Fred: ???? Never forget, ??? man coming over there and I said, you cutting the mountain ????? cutting that mountain . . . ????? gotten around it , and . . . . ????????
Estellia: I went to uh, I worked over at uh, ?????,?????
John: And how long did it take you to drive to ???? Is that where youre . . .
[at this point everyone is talking at once and I have no earthly idea what is going on]
Fred: . . . but now my Daddy was a sawmill man, he, he could do anything, he was a sawmill man, ?????? ???????? ??
Fred: So he came out of Floyd County and . . .
Fred: ?????? and my momma died I kept ?????? a lot of people ???? had the farm ???? ????
Fred: See the people comin out of the city, out into the country . . .
Fred: but uh, someone a lot of ????? she she . . .????
Powell: ??????? playing football, and man I done got into the hundreds then . . . .
Fred:???? . . .teaching school in West Virginia, teaching school in Bluefield . . .
Fred: And working ????? . . . .
Fred: That pays bad that job.
Estellia: HA ha ha ha!
[everyone is talking at once again]
Powell: Yeah they, I figured I figured I was smarter than they was, they theyd make, uh this one boy would make straight As, A pluses. And his brother would run neck in neck with straight As. And when I come up, uh, Id have Ds all the way across, and then the end of the month, I would take, take that D and make a B out of it.
John: So you were the first one that did that. Huh?
Estellia: Thats where Dwayne getsit! I hope you didnt pass all that stuff down . .
Powell: Yeah we we, thought little ol, wasnt nothing to do in school and I said well, we gonna start us a little old club, and uh, two yall can bring some sugar, and we gonna make ice cream ???? ???. So , ???? dang we always had, you know, plenty, a little more than that, and uh, now I aint got no sugar! Can you bring some milk? NO I aint got no milk. Well yall got cows, ya you can bring the milk. Well I wound up bringing the milk, sugar, and the flavorin too, but I was the President and the Secretary. Now wed sell, wed sell uh ice cream, and uh, I was the treasurer, I was on the treasury . . .
Powell: ??? Wed take, wed sell, dollar and something cent worth of ice cream, and I said yall write that down now! But I got the money and they got the paper.
John: Right. This is over in Bluefield?
Powell: No this is--
John: At one of them stores, Okay.
Powell: And uh, when I was on recreation at the house, and wed have alittle party, and ???? teacher just let us to have a little party. Had some ice cream.
END OF SIDE ONE
Continued Part 2
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