I'm from Catawba, Virginia and graduated and retired from Virginia Tech. I currently reside in Greensboro, North Carolina with my wife Tina and our pup Chloe where I pastor a small Church. I have written the first book ever about the people and places of Catawba, Virginia. My interests include throwing the shot put and discus in Master's track and field events.
I believe the mountains that surrounded Catawba Valley, my birthplace, were talking to me long before they started calling me back after I had left in 1962. Like the Cherokees who called Catawba their home before the McAfees and other first settlers, I felt a special connection to this beautiful land that was a part of me and me a part of it. After one’s birth in the Appalachians, one goes from being a baby boy to a man in short order. I cannot say at what age that happened to me, but the mountains adopted me early in my life. As I look back now, I can understand I spent more time in the mountains along Catawba Creek and on farms than I did most any other place. It was in my blood, probably in the very marrow of my bones. The heartfelt feelings that a person has are sometimes hard to communicate, but maybe that is the way it is meant to be. After I had left Catawba, life itself would have its demands and those experiences growing up in Appalachia Catawba would be set aside, but always a part of me.
Over the years, in my physical absence from the Valley, I could hear the mountains calling to me. It seemed to always occur at times when I needed it the most, reminding me of my life growing up and the lessons learned. My Daddy used to tell me when a country boy leaves the farm he will always get homesick every time he hears a donkey bray. Back then in the nineteen thirties and forties we experienced a culture handed down to us from then Scot-Irish ancestors who forged a way of life that gave to the sons and daughters of Catawba, an identity, values, and strength that we could call upon throughout our lifetime. The following generations would have the opportunity to inherit that. This culture has been grossly misunderstood by non-Appalachians right from the beginning. And it has been that way for over a hundred years.
I had been away from the mountains for five decades and had been unaware of the absence of anyone preserving our heritage. A wave of guilt and shame came over me as I reflected on those five decades that the mountains were calling to me to come home and fulfill what had most likely been my responsibility all along. My first-grade teacher, Lucille Brillhart Garman had told me in the 1980s that someone needed to be writing about Catawba, and its people, places and times. “Teddy, you are the one to do that,” she said. I failed to take the initiative on that. In the 1990s a mentor of mine challenged me to write two books: One of a nonfiction subject and the other of my Appalachian mountain heritage. Again, I failed to respond, and the mountains kept calling me. I remained silent until the third and final calling came. This one would be from God. I would finally start listening to the call of the mountains, but it would happen in an unusual way. But according to Scripture, that is the way God lays out a servant’s path. It is a pleasure to share this time in my life. Read on, folks.
As a teenager in Catawba I felt that God was calling me to be a minister and although that did not happen back then, it would many years later. I would feel, strongly, that call again in the 1990s and move from Roanoke to Greensboro to pursue the necessary training through the Baptist Seminary Extension (off-campus) program. Ordained in 2004 and called to pastor a church in 2005 I began my ministry.
Jesus, in his walk here on earth, used symbols and metaphors referencing agriculture terms that people, in those times would relate to, since most lived off the land. I would incorporate some of my Catawba Valley, rural experiences to emphasize sermon points, using agriculture terms. People started asking me about my upbringing in the mountains during fellowship gatherings. That led to them asking me, “Why don’t you write a book about those times and places.” I would hear that at times over the next few years. People seemed to be genuinely interested in my life and times in the Catawba Valley area of the Appalachian Mountains.
Early in 2018, I realized that my mother Elizabeth, who was the last living member of the Will and Luemma Garman family of seventeen, was in physical decline. She passed away April 24, 2018 and begin her eternal life with her family in Heaven. About thirty days prior to Mama’s passing, my wife Tina and a couple of folks from my church were encouraging me again to write. As we always do, Tina and I discuss every meaningful decision. When I ask her what she thought I should do, she stated very plainly, “just write.” That was it, I got it and realized those echoes from Catawba needed to be recorded, not just for me, but for many. Finally, I responded, feeling this was what God wanted me to do.
The Journey Begins
Most everything Tina and I do, we do as a team, and this would be no different. In April 2018 we set up a simple website to post articles and photos about the life and times in Catawba Valley in the 1900s. We laid out a plan of people and places within Catawba that would be subjects for our articles. I decided to honor the Garman family, William and Luemma and the seventeen children (which includes my mother) through article coverage. Echoes from Catawba was born.
Within a couple of months, we had the idea to compile these posts into a book and publish it in November. The upstairs of our townhome became Echoes Central! We purchased a couple of desks and comfy office chairs for our loft. We upgraded our simple website to be able to include a store, photo albums and other bells and whistles. We set up a work table in our all-purpose room where we store books and supplies and put together packages to mail.
After selecting a family to write about, we gather information from the living descendants. For instance, when we wrote about Carra Garman Shepherd, we talked with her four children, ages 85-91. We traveled from our home in Greensboro, North Carolina to homes where we would talk, laugh and cry our way through conversations of reminiscing and viewing pictures, traveling back in time. These visits were highlights for us and the time and expense we put into the effort made us feel blessed in a way money could never buy.
Once we gather our information, Tina transcribes the tape-recorded interviews and I begin to write. At times during writing, the interviews continue, sometimes over the phone to answer specific questions. We go to extremes to get our facts right, and if we find a mistake, we correct it. After I put the first draft together, Tina proofreads it, checks spelling, grammar and formats it. The final process involves Tina picking out the pictures that will be used and placing them in the story. Then it comes back to me for final proofreading. We then post the story to the website, and it is announced to Echoes From Catawba followers through email notification and Facebook.
Today, we own the trademark for Echoes From Catawba and we’ve sold almost 200 books in less than 60 days after we published on November 18. Our website began in April, 2018 and to date it has had almost 7,000 visitors and 15,000 views.
The book Echoes From Catawba Volume 1 covers a variety of people and places, which worked out great in 2018. We have decided to duplicate this format and publish a volume each year, forming a collection of books, each different but all with the similar theme of growing up in Appalachia.
What a wonderful Blessing Tina and I received at the County Connection annual concert benefitting Operation Santa Claus for needy patients at Catawba Hospital, on December 16, 2018. They are very talented musicians and vocalists carrying on the talent passed down by their ancestors. I thought the musical arrangements were outstanding in every sense of the word. The Mountains were alive with the sound of our kind of music and we thought we would share it with you. Enjoy and Merry Christmas. Thank you County Connection, we are looking forward to hearing you again!
“And now Teddy Carroll will say his Christmas piece.” I slid off of the church pew and slowly walked to the area in front of the pulpit knowing that this was not going to go well. It was the annual Christmas program at Catawba Methodist Church when all the children would participate by reciting a “piece”. A piece was something in the Christmas scripture that we had been given to memorize in preparation for this moment during the Christmas program. The older children would have longer pieces to say than the younger ones like me. The girls always remembered theirs and said them perfectly. My mother was in charge of the program and had coached me for the past two weeks to get up, say my piece and sit back down. Easier said than done! My piece was from Luke chapter two verse eight. It had twenty words but Mama shortened it to six. I stood there fidgeting as a packed congregation waited. Mama was standing off to the side as she was directing the children’s program. She had a copy of each child’s piece enabling her to cue kids like me who got stage fright. I glanced over at her and she gave me that “wait until I get you home” look. This was definitely not going well at all. Finally, she prompted me:
Mama: “There were”.
Teddy: “There were”.
Mama: “in the fields”.
Teddy: “in the——–”
I received a soft, sympathetic applause as I walked back to the pew. As I passed by Mama she whispered, “wait until I get you home.” I was hoping the program would last longer.
This Church Christmas program format would be repeated at all the Catawba Valley churches the Sunday night before Christmas or on Christmas Eve, with mostly identical programs. There would be a large freshly cut cedar tree that had been decorated mostly with handmade ornaments and such. There would be presents under the tree and each child would get one. At the end, we would all get small, brown paper bags full of edible goodies. There would be an orange, hard candy, bubble gum, and nuts. Let me tell you right now, that was a big deal. I got my first orange at my first Christmas program and that would be the only orange I would get that entire year. Oranges and bananas were rare in the mountains. Now don’t get me wrong, we had fruit in the mountains: apples, pears, peaches, watermelon, cherries, berries, etcetera, but no citrus. Except at the Christmas program at our church. I will never forget those little brown paper sacks each Christmas. That was the only time during the year we all got an orange.
Christmas Comes to The Mountains
Christmas trees were introduced in Williamsburg in 1842. Christmas was declared a National Holiday in 1870. The practice of Christmas trees was introduced around 1900 in Appalachia by teachers who came to teach in the one-room schools sprinkled throughout the Mountains, including Catawba. It is believed that decorated trees in houses did not occur until the 1930s. I would assume the celebration of Christmas, Santa Claus, and gift-giving would have gotten its start at the same time. Once Christmas came it is for sure the celebration would be centered first and foremost in the churches and homes.
It was not unusual to have snow at Christmas since the snows came early in the mountains. They were usually deep and stayed late into the Spring. Getting one at Christmas was a real treat, but not as big as getting that juicy orange at church. The mountains are especially beautiful in the winter when snow is present and ice cycles hang down on buildings and trees, sometimes two or three feet long. Nature did her own Christmas decorations. I can remember the many snow fences that were placed along highways to prevent big drifts blocking travel. I guess they helped some.
Most families celebrated Christmas in the same manner when it came to gift giving. There was usually not much money in most families to spend on Santa Claus giving, although the priority would be focused on the children. We did not have any money in our house in the early years for toys, dolls and such. Oh, we believed in Santa Claus and wrote our letters to Santa each year hoping the Roanoke radio station would read them on the air. Dreaming about visions of sugar plums we would fantasize about all the many things boys and girls would desire to have left under the tree. I was one of those dreamers, but reality set in when we went to the living room where the Christmas tree was on Christmas morning. There would be presents for all, some wrapped, some unwrapped. Instead of a doll or a BB gun, there would be socks, underwear, jeans, mittens, scarves or some other article of necessity. I was heartbroken at times, as were my sisters although deep down we knew what was coming. Things would get better in the years to come but most of the children in the Valley in the 1930’s and 1940’s got things they needed, not things they wanted. Christmas was still a happy time as we would have a big meal, visit with kinfolk and do fun things. I had always wanted a train set but that was definitely a “dream”. I did take care of that at age 56 when I went to K Mart and got a train set to run under the tree. I used it for a few years after that, too.
Looking back, as a child growing up in those hard times I have never felt I was deprived or missed out on anything. We made do with what we had and we all pretty much had the same things. I learned lessons that serve me today knowing that I did not miss out on anything of value. After all, how many people can say they grew up in Catawba!
One of my cousins fondly remembered a typical Christmas. She wrote this:
“My early memory of Christmas was always going to Shiloh Church on Christmas Eve to participate in the program. I was nervous and excited to be a part of this special event but always happy when it finished, and I didn’t forget or mess up my part.”
Author’s note: Now, I want to point out a comparison between cousin Sandra’s experience and my experience, at a church Christmas program. Notice she says she got to participate while I had to “say a piece”. And she was “excited” while I “dreaded”. She was “happy”. I “doubled-dreaded”. She finished by saying, “I didn’t forget or mess up!” As for me, I bombed big time. My point: Those children’s Christmas programs back then should have been ‘girls only’. Boys should be there of course, so we could get an orange. Now that I have said my piece, er, made my point, I will let Sandra continue: “
— I loved when we drove home and we were in sight of our house, seeing the beautiful blue candles that Mama always placed in the windows. The family, usually, came over and we had so much good food and opened gifts, too. I am ashamed to say, but I was always anxious for everyone to leave so I could go to bed knowing that Santa was on his way. I was never disappointed because I always got everything on my list and more. I was one fortunate little girl, not because of the presents but all of the love that surrounded me in my home at Christmas time in Catawba”. By: Sandra Abbott.
Christmas Traditions from others:
There were Christmas traditions that different ethnic groups brought to the Mountains. The English settlers brought the tradition of hanging stockings on or near the fireplace. On Christmas morning they would be filled with goodies to eat or perhaps a small gift. In some cases, there would be coins in one’s stocking. The German settlers, (and we had some in Catawba), believed in a tradition called setting a table for Santa. Everyone’s plate was placed upside down on the table in their usual place and the table was moved to between the Christmas tree and a window. The next morning the plates were right side up and filled with candy, sweets and a small gift.
[Author’s note: If you recall in the Taylor-Made article in the Echoes From CatawbaBook-Volume 1, there is a comment about two young sisters who substituted live chickens for doll babies. I got a lot of comments from readers of that story about the ‘chicken dolls’. With that in mind you will enjoy this comment on Ole Time Christmas].
“On Christmas Eve we went to Shiloh Church for the annual Christmas program. When we got home, Daddy and Mama made us go to bed so Santa could arrive. On Christmas morning we rushed to the tree, where usually we had some candy and fruit, but this year there were two dolls, one for me and one for my sister Lola. We were so excited and happy since we now had dolls to carry instead of chickens! (Imagine how the chickens must have felt.) I was around 9 years old at that time. Years later, we learned that the dolls were given to Mama for us by our Uncle John Garman, who worked at Heironimus Department Store. What a wonderful and happy Christmas it was. (Yes, there was a Santa Claus- Named John.) By: Peggy Halsey
Catawba’s “Live Nativity Scene” Lives on. By: Betty Munsey
A simple idea suggested by a bunch of Catawba guys and spearheaded by Ted Carroll over sixty years ago has dominated my Christmas Eve plans for over forty years. Let me explain further. Members of the Catawba MYF(Catawba Methodist Youth Fellowship) thought it would be a good idea to build a simple wooden lean-to structure on the lawn in front of the Catawba Methodist Church and create a replica of the first nativity as it occurred in Bethlehem. The guys quickly constructed the nativity shed while others sewed costumes for church members who would serve as Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, and even the wise men. A doll wrapped in a white sheet was laid in a roughly built manger filled with straw. As cars stopped to view the scene, we were reminded to stay rigidly still and never talk. Visitors commented on the scene reflecting the true meaning of the season. Many left with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces.
So now the rest of the story: Shortly after moving to Bland County where my husband and I have lived for over fifty years, I mentioned to our small rural congregation how Catawba Methodist held an outdoor live nativity scene to reenact Jesus Christ’s birth. The next year after time devoted to sewing robes and constructing a simple wooden nativity shed, our church’s first nativity was held on our church lawn over fifty miles to the west of the first I ever experienced. It has continued through the years regardless of the weather and is still attracting a steady stream of visitors on December 23rd and 24th. Every Christmas Eve you will find our family and friends helping with the nativity and in many cases holding the donkeys from our farm that have learned to stand as still as the Biblical characters.
Christmas Eve always held a special place in our small community as the Catawba Methodist Church youth gathered to go caroling in “downtown Catawba”. The church lot was the gathering place as cars filled with youth heavily bundled in winter clothes to offset the evening’s cold temperatures. We carried small, wallet-sized paper songbooks of favorite Christmas carols, usually starting with “Joy to the World” and always ending with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. Most residents were aware of our caroling tradition and had their porch lights on to welcome visitors. Sometimes we walked the side road, leaving our cars in the Store parking lot with Roy and Ellie Baugh’s house as the turn-around point. We looked forward to Ellie’s snicker-doodle cookies and Madeline Edwards, later Crawford’s hard candies. The evening usually concluded at the Tuck Garman house where Sue and Pam’s mother had delicious hot chocolate and more cookies waiting for us. One particularly memorable evening some of the youth group guys had shot fresh mistletoe from a tree on Catawba Mountain and used it to share Christmas kisses before we left to celebrate Christmas with our families. By: Betty Munsey
The Catawba Blizzard of 2009 and The Christmas Samaritan. By: Ted Carroll
It was exactly one week before Christmas 2009 as Tina and I departed our home in Greensboro, North Carolina heading to Catawba and Mama’s house. We drove separate vehicles, me in my pickup and Tina in the car. Our plan was to spend the night and Tina return to Greensboro on Friday morning while I would remain in Catawba until Sunday. I would be house-sitting and dog-sitting as Mama was in Williamsburg, having traveled with Barbara and some of her family. So, on that Friday, December 18, 2009, I was at the house with a big chow dog named Heidi and a major snowstorm on the way. I finished putting up outside Christmas lighting and loaded my pickup bed with firewood from the basement that I had intended to do before. I needed to get some weight on my truck for the anticipated snowfall. At 2:20 p.m., it started to snow through the afternoon, into the evening and was still falling as I went to bed at 10:15 p.m. The snow at that time measured seven inches.
Saturday, December 19, 2009, at 6 a.m. I crawled out of bed and got the coffee maker started. Opened the door to go outside and the storm door was blocked with snow. After pushing the storm door open with my feet, little by little I managed to open it wide enough to get outside. I looked out over the yard and was astonished. Having grown up in Catawba I was used to deep snows but that was in the 1940s and 1950s. Catawba did not have snows like this anymore, until that December day. I used the same level spot that I measured the evening before and took a reading. Seventeen inches and well over my boots. My first emergency was where to take the dog to use the bathroom. I had a good snow shovel that I had kept at Mama’s house for snowfall situations. I dug a path out into the yard so the dog could care of business, which she did. Back into the house, I fixed breakfast for me and Heidi while contemplating what to do next. In the meantime, I discovered Mama’s phone service was out.
The driveway was blocked and I could not get out and no one could get in. Mama would be due back the next day and not be able to get down the driveway. I wanted the driveway opened after she got back home and after I headed back to Greensboro. In case of an emergency, a vehicle could get to her. So I prayed to God to help me, not knowing at the moment what that might be. I could not shovel that driveway out by hand for sure. After a brief rest, I went back outside and the wind was blowing hard with snow starting to drift in places. I gazed across the road looking up at the Methodist Church Parsonage. I remembered that a lady was renting the house and she had two small children. I walked up to the Parsonage, which was not easy because of the snow depth. The lady answered my knock on her door and assured me she and her children were fine. Feeling better about that I trudged back to Mama’s house pouring myself another cup of coffee. I sat down in the kitchen and looked out at the winter wonderland being thankful that the electricity was still on, although phone service out. I then heard a noise that sounded like a vehicle on the road but quickly dismissed that thought until it became very loud. I stepped down from the kitchen area into the garage and looked out the garage door window. There was a large truck with a big blade attached to the front, push snow to the right looking like a huge ocean wave. All the way down to the end of the driveway near the grape vines. The driver backed up and started pushing snow off so as to clear a parking area near the house. Back up to the road the vehicle roared while widening the driveway and throwing a wave of snow that still hid the driver of the truck. It was something to behold and, I will admit, tears welling up in my eyes as I began to believe that God had sent me a driverless truck to clear away the snow. As I stepped out of the garage and the mist of snow finally settled I could see inside the truck cab. A young boy was in the passenger seat and the driver was exiting the truck on the far side. I recognized the driver who walked towards me with a smile on his face. It was Greg Duffy, whose father Paul I had gone to school with. He asked me if I was okay and I answered that I was now. He turned to walk back to his truck and I asked him, “how much do I owe you, Greg?” He turned back around and said: “just tell Mrs. Elizabeth I said Merry Christmas”. Off he sped, to push another driveway.
Greg Duffy went to be with the Lord on July 19, 2018, at age 54. Long before that day, he had told my mother that he was going to take care of her in any way he could over the years. And he kept his word. He was, as fine a person as I have ever known.
In Luke chapter 10 we read about the good Samaritan who came upon a man who was lying beside the road bleeding to death from being robbed and beaten. The Samaritan was just a regular person who would be unknown to most people but was a kind, thoughtful, humble person that would be the first to help someone in need. The Good Samaritan was not named in the Bible. The one in Catawba was named Greg Duffy!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR
Echoes From Catawba
Ted & Tina Carroll
Like articles like this? Then you would love Echoes From Catawba Volume 1, Growing Up In Catawba Valley, Appalachia.
I am planning to do a post on the echoesfromcatawba blog about celebrating Christmas in Catawba as a child during the period 1935-1955. I am asking anyone who would like to share a comment about their “old timey” Christmas to do so. It can be on the kind of gifts you received, cutting a Christmas tree, Christmas activities in your church, etc. All folks participating will have their names put into a drawing with the winning name drawn receiving a $50 gift card. Deadline to submit your story is December 15th.
Keep it within 100 words. At the bottom of this post, under “Leave a Reply” share your story in the comment section.
Your stories will be included with my article I will be publishing before Christmas.
The 4 a.m. call I got that rainy Tuesday morning on April 24, 2018, informing me that my mother had passed away was not a surprise at all. The caller, my sister Barbara, had alerted me a few days earlier that it would happen at any time.
After the call I sat down with my thoughts, processing the loss which had been on my mind for the past few days. It was not just the loss of a mother, but the end of the largest family Catawba Valley, Virginia had ever known.
William and Luemma Garman had produced seventeen children starting in 1890 and ending in 2018 spanning a total of 128 years. Mama was the last of that line. Out of the seventeen children, there would spring sixty-six grandchildren. There was a wonderful story and history regarding this family that had never been told. I had arrived at that conclusion thirty days earlier in late March when Mama was obviously in her last weeks if not days. I sensed now a loss of not only a mother but a family dynasty whose story would most likely never be recorded.
I felt guilt and shame that I had not addressed this decades earlier when members of my family were alive and alert with tons of stories to tell. The last three: Mae Garman Peters, Earl Garman Taylor, and Elizabeth Garman Carroll Eakin had lived over 100 years each, with two of them knocking on the door of 109 years.
Twenty-five years earlier Lucille Brillhart Garman (my first-grade teacher) had told me: “Teddy someone needs to write about Catawba and the Garmans, and you are the one to do it. I heartily agreed, and then did nothing about it. The feeling of my letting the Garman family down had become a burden that was difficult to carry.
As always, I turned to God, and HE immediately put on my heart that it was not too late and I could write about this family and all of Catawba——just start writing. Lucille had said the same thing—just write. Next, I sat down with my wife Tina because nothing happens in our lives until we have prayed about it and discussed it together. Tina said, with authority, I might add—–just write. And I would! My life was going to change!
I was one of twenty-four grandchildren alive at that time (out of original 66) and there were multitudes of great-grandchildren, great, great grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren, etc out there that would know little about the families they descended from. They would know even less about Catawba and maybe zero about life in Catawba as experienced by their ancestors. The story of Catawba Valley, Virginia, its people, places, and events would have wide range appeal to non-Catawbians, rural and urban audiences. There would be a need to do this, and I was not going to let it slip by this time.
Thankfully, my wife Tina has computer skills and knows how to build a website and use social media. I would do the bulk of the writing and she would handle the publishing, marketing and technical oversight of this project.
She suggested setting up a blog for publishing monthly posts about the people and places of Catawba. Together we would interview people in Catawba to build our stories, and we would publish those stories in monthly posts to our Echoes From Catawba blog.
After many hours, many interviews and many miles the first book ever about the people and places of Catawba Valley, Virginia has been born. The echoes from the past have trickled down through the generations and present voices have carried the torch forward, passed on to the future generations to unveil the life and times of our nineteenth-century ancestors. Those ancestors came from mostly Northern Ireland but also Germany and England to find a better life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In the early 1900s, they would create a unique community in this mountain-walled valley that would forever be called Catawba. On November 7, 2018, over 6,000 visitors had viewed the Blog site creating 13,000 views in seven month’s time!
Echoes From Catawba Growing Up in Catawba Valley, Appalachia contains all the posts written in 2018. The book is 6″ by 9″ with a hardcover and high quality throughout. We have used some blog pictures as well as some different ones that blend well with the printed stories. My writing style is different than most writers and I have no formal education on How to Write a Book. I gather information from Catawba people as they recall their childhood days growing up in a totally different world we live in now. I then used my personal experiences growing up in the mountains in the 1940s and 1950s as well as calling upon my memories of hearing what the previous generation conveyed to me. The echoes grew loud and clear.
After gathering information from interviews and research I would compose the stories with heart and humor so as to transform the reader back into those early times of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Any fiction that may crop up is strictly accidental and not intended. It may sound like fiction to some (that’s okay) but it is history put forth in stories written to induce a smile, maybe a tear and retained knowledge of rural life in the early 1900s.
This book puts an end to the erosion of knowledge of the people, their times and places that they left for us. There has existed a potential loss of great magnitude of our heritage in this postmodern world we live in now, especially to the younger generations. Echoes from Catawba Volume One puts an end to the lament of folks saying, “we need to be documenting the life and times of our parents and grandparents before it is all forgotten.” The coming together of Catawba people has created a groundswell of interest, effort, and support to document and preserve our great heritage. In the past seven months, I have witnessed an amazing spirit amongst those telling the stories as well as those reading the stories. That spirit lives within all Catawbians regardless of where they are now. Many have lived in Catawba all their lives. I hasten to add that this book has drawn the interest of urban people who have no connection to Appalachia and never experienced rural living. These are stories that should appeal to any reader.
I am hopeful that every Catawba household, regardless of where that may be, will have a copy of this book and all future volumes. We owe that to the people of the past and of the future. The stories are enlightening, interesting, heartwarming and inspiring.
Echoes From Catawba book release will be held at the Catawba Valley Holiday Market on Saturday, November 17 from 9 am to 3 pm.
The Holiday Market is held at the Catawba Valley Community Center at 4965 Catawba Creek Road, Catawba, Virginia. The event will have 30 vendors with items created by local crafters and artisans. We hope to see you there!
If you can’t make it to the market, order books at the Echoes From Catawba Trading Post. Books will be shipped the week of November 19. Pre-orders are already being received.
“I helped work my way through college shoveling manure on a dairy farm in Catawba Valley, Virginia.
It was unusually warm on that Monday morning in June 1958 as I sat on that old Case farm tractor staring down the rows of that large corn field on the western border of the Morgan Farm. My mission that day was to cultivate each row exposing the many weeds that had grown during the Spring rains. This would be the last cultivation for the corn crop because in a week the corn stalks would be too high to run the cultivator through the field without damaging the crop.
I sat there thinking about things that had been on my mind since I turned 18 in April while collecting my Andrew Lewis High School diploma in May. Now it was June, and I was back at work on the Morgan Farm where I had worked since age 11. I guess I was at a crossroads in my life pondering what lay ahead for me.
My Daddy had spent nine years at the Catawba Sanatorium and was cured of tuberculosis although it had weakened him greatly. He was still employed at the Sanatorium and had lived full time at home for the past four years. My three sisters were no longer at home, so it was me and Daddy and Mama. I had registered for the Draft, but the Korean War had ceased, and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam would not become active until the early 1960s under President John Kennedy. In the meantime, we were at peace around the world under President Dwight Eisenhower who would end his 8th year in 1960. I felt good about living in the 1950s and still feel that was my best decade ever.
As the tractor started up the silence was broken, and that old Case headed for row number one. Back and forth I would go cultivating headed west until I reached row’s end made the turn and started east. A peace that farming brings came over me as the narrow plow points turned over soil and released that earthy aroma that all farmers know so well. I was at peace and I knew God would direct my path. I loved farming as did my Dad before he got sick and my Grandad Carroll who managed the Sanatorium Farm before his tragic death in 1941. Yes sir, I just might continue to be a farmer.
Cultivating corn is a slow process since speed kills the corn stalks, so it was an endurance effort this day. As I made another turn and headed down a new row, I saw a car stopped on the Creek Road (Blacksburg Road) near the field and someone waving at me. I waved back and stopped as a man made his way towards me. I sat on the tractor and waited not knowing that my life would soon be drastically changed.
The man approaching me was Murphy Scott, whom, along with Jim Peters ran the vocational agriculture program, Future Farmers of America (FFA) at Andrew Lewis High School. Those two men had had a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of many boys throughout Roanoke County, including Catawba. There was a class taught in the Roanoke County Schools called Vocational Agriculture (Voag) and was being offered starting in the ninth grade for boys who chose this course. During the 1940s and 1950s, there were many farm boys attending Andrew Lewis High School.
The emphasis was put on general agriculture, focusing on animal and crop management. The course also involved a Shop class whereas a student would get “hands-on” training in woodworking, welding, blacksmithing, pipe-fitting and how to operate all kinds of machinery. It was designed specifically for boys living and working on farms. A new addition to house the shop had been completed equipped with all the modern machines and tools of that 1950 decade. All boys who took Voag had the option of joining the Future Farmers of America (FFA) which was an organization on a local, state and national level. The FFA offered competition in many areas such a public speaking, conducting meetings, animal projects, etc.
Everyone was required to write and give a speech in front of the class. This was the best thing that ever happened to me as I had been shy being around anyone other than family members. The three year period was a great experience for me in building my confidence and self-esteem. I served as President of the Andrew Lewis Chapter of FFA, and in my Senior year, I was elected State Secretary of the Virginia FFA. So, Murphy Scott, the man walking towards me was a man I would be grateful to for the rest of my life. At that moment I did not realize just how much.
I cut the tractor motor off as the first words were coming out of his mouth in the form of a question: “Are you going to ride that tractor the rest of your life?” I answered that I was just trying to finish the field by day’s end. He looked up at me and said, “Ted, you are going to attend V.P.I. come Fall.” (Virginia Tech University was known as V.P.I. back then). I looked at him and stated what I thought he already knew, that my family could never afford to send me to college. But, Murph had the answers, and he had done his homework.
Without my knowledge, he had been searching for a scholarship for me to attend V.P.I. in Blacksburg. And he had found one that nobody had applied for, and it was for the School of Agriculture. He had all the papers, and all I had to do was fill them out, and he would take me up to Virginia Tech in a couple of days for submission and approval. (That happened, and I was enrolled in the School of Agriculture at Virginia Tech University majoring in Animal Husbandry.) It appeared to be a different man riding that tractor the remainder of the day. After Murphy Scott left, I sat there on the tractor processing what had happened in the past twenty minutes. It seemed surreal, but I knew that my next four years had been laid out and this was the reality of that moment.
Still sitting on the tractor, staring at that cornfield, my mind started backtracking to seven years prior in 1951 at age 11 that marked the beginning of my farming experience at the Morgan Farm. I had already been bitten by the farming bug during my earlier years spending summers up at the Garman homeplace where cousin Gene lived with father Paul, mother Stacil and sister Wilma. As boys during our years of 8-10, Gene and I did many different kinds of things on the farm to the extent our size allowed. We helped with haymaking, harvesting, feeding hogs and chickens, gathering firewood, carrying water from the well house to the main house as well as any and all other things deemed necessary. Milking cows twice a day is the most vivid memory I have, probably since that is what we did the most. I learned a lot even at that age from just being exposed to it and asking questions. Gene is still farming on a part of the homeplace as of 2018.
My association with the Jerry Morgan farm started as a result of playing with Johnny Lopez, who lived at the big farmhouse called “The Summit”. He lived there with his mother Ella Lopez and older brother Ralphiel. Ella was kin to the Morgan’s through marriage and lived at The Summit in the time she was a teacher at Catawba School in 1938-39, and 1943-1945. I was around inside the house, in the barns, and on the property on a regular basis. The farm owner Jerry Morgan was called Uncle Jerry by those kin to him and those not kin to him. He was Uncle Jerry in life and after he died in 1974 (age 94), he remains Uncle Jerry in memory to this day.
Interesting History of the Morgan Farm
The Morgan family bought the farm from Captain W.W. Brand in 1904 who resided there with his wife Mary Thomas Brand who was the daughter of Elias Thomas, Sheriff of Roanoke County from 1848-1850. Sheriff Thomas owned the land before Captain Brand buying it. Captain Brand was described as, “a splendid citizen,” active in all church and civic affairs and was for many years superintendent of the Catawba Methodist Church Sunday School. Captain Brand had given the land for the original church to be built on in 1884. That church would remain there for over 75 years until it was razed in 1962.
In 1904 the Brand Farm of about 900 acres would become the Morgan farm. After purchasing the 900-acre farm for approximately $14,000, the Morgans sold the western 300 acres to J.B. Andrews at $50 per acre.
A year after buying the Brand property, the original house burned and the Morgans built a large, nine bedroom farmhouse in 1907, calling it “The Summit”. It would double as a boarding house through the years, as well. Jerry Morgan would oversee the workings of the farm until the early 1970s. He passed away in December of 1974. He, like Captain Brand would be described as a “splendid citizen.”
The Wingate family would purchase the house and farm buildings in 1978 and it opened for business in 1982. It would be called “The Homeplace”, a very successful family style restaurant, but that’s story itself for a future time.
During my time being a part of the Morgan farm from 1951-1962, there was a number of family members living there. George Morgan, a brother to Jerry, was a skilled electrician, wood craftsman, and inventor. He died in 1957. Annie Morgan, an unmarried sister, lived there until her death in 1953. Another unmarried sister, Esther (Essie) Morgan was there and passed away in the same year as brother Jerry, in 1974.
Jerry Morgan had two grandsons, brothers Bill and Landon Bishop who resided there and did the farm work. An unmarried daughter Maxie born five years after the farm’s purchase in 1909 lived there until the farm was sold. She died in 1982.
A black man, Jessee Blaney who lived in the close-by “Colored Town” community was a full-time employee and taught me a lot about farming. He was a fine man and highly respected. Emory Garman worked there in the summertime for several years. I noted earlier that another Morgan relative, Ella Lopez lived there for a few years, along with her two sons.
Needing Some Wheels
In 1951 at age 11, I desired a bicycle, preferably a Schwinn so that I could ride to places like cousin Jimmy Garman’s home, Sanatorium and to nearby farms like the Brillharts and Sanatorium Farm to work and earn money. My chances of getting a bike were about as good as getting a pony, 22 rifle or the many other things that I dreamed about.
We did not even have enough money at times for necessities. I had decided that I would just settle for a pair of Keffer Store, Wolverine high top work shoes since I would be walking a lot. But God was about to smile down on Teddy. Mama told me one day that Uncle Jerry had talked to her about one of their cows having birthed a calf and in doing so had died, leaving a healthy calf behind. When a calf loses its mother, no other cow would nurse it. It happened from time to time on local farms, which required someone to bottle-feed that calf until it could eat solid food. Uncle Jerry said they did not have anyone to deal with raising that orphan calf, but if Teddy wanted to do it, then they would furnish the milk. Like I had to think about that? That calf will be transformed into a new Schwinn bike!
We got a couple of RC Cola bottles, some nipples and my raise-a-calf project started. There was a barn on our property, so everything was set up. The first attempt at bottle-feeding the calf failed since the calf wanted mama cow’s teat not a piece of rubber. Now what?
My mother came to the rescue since she had done this on the Garman farm growing up. First, you have to sprinkle some milk on your fingers and let the calf suck the milk off. When that occurs, trade your fingers for the nippled milk bottle and the calf doesn’t know the difference. Worked perfectly for me and the nursing began. After a couple of weeks, I would gradually start to feed the calf some cow feed purchased at Minor Keffer’s store. Finally, the day came for the calf to go to the market. Landon Bishop, from the Morgan farm, hauled the calf away in the farm truck, and I got a check that would enable me to purchase a bicycle. It was a sharp looking 26” Schwinn bike, and now I had transportation.
During the summer of 1951, I would spend even more time at the Morgan farm and could not get enough of the farming activities. I, also, was asked to do jobs around the farmhouse grounds like, clean out the chicken house and help plant and maintain the huge garden behind the house. I was paid fifty cents per hour. The garden plot was one-half acre in size and required a lot of work to maintain it. A large part of the garden harvest went into canning which filled a huge pantry in the large kitchen area of the house. Other produce was dried or kept in a root cellar. I recall, vividly, the day I was given a bundle of 200 tomato slips to plant. That was a chore and a half to do that. I would stretch a line from one side of the garden to the other so I could lay off a straight row. The plants would be planted in a hill about three feet apart. Each plant got a cup of chicken manure mixed with the soil at the bottom of the hole. After reaching the end of each row, I would carry a bucket of water down that row applying a cup of water to each plant. That was indeed a long day. All in all, I liked to garden and see things I planted pop through the soil crust and eventually, blossom and bear much fruit. The soil in that garden was very productive.
When you go to the Homeplace Restaurant today and park in back, you are parking on that garden spot. Why would the Morgans want such a big garden? I believe every garden in that day and time was oversized. However, it always seemed to get used or preserved in some manner for the future. People then were quick to share when they had a surplus. The Morgan family and those who boarded there ate vegetables year around, whether fresh or preserved. Teachers, circuit preachers, visitors to Catawba Sanatorium all patronized the Summit.
Annie and Essie Morgan were the co-chefs of the farm kitchen, assisted by Maxie and Ella as needed. Annie and Essie always seemed to be in the large kitchen, cooking, frying, and baking. Johnny Lopez and I always had a kitchen visit scheduled for milk and cookies. I have eaten many meals there over the years and I tell people today that the food served by The Homeplace Restaurant always brings back those memories of delicious and plentiful country cuisine.
I developed many skills doing any and all tasks, whether requested by Uncle Jerry or Miss Annie or Essie. Around the farmhouse and yard area, I pruned hedges, mowed grass with a push mower, planted flowers, raked leaves, picked up tree branches and repaired and painted the yard fence. But the allure for me was the farm work. I loved being around the farm machinery, especially the tractor, and all the haymaking equipment. There was a machinery shed/workshop equipped to fix machinery that would break down, which on a farm is almost daily. There was a forge for blacksmithing and an acetylene torch, which they taught me how to use. Due to my young age and skinny body, I would be limited to smaller jobs, but that was fine with me as long as I could be on the farm. You might say I was upward bound physically and vocationally.
My big break comes as opportunity knocks
The farm had two trucks: A long bed pickup truck that Landon used to haul milk cans to Roanoke three days a week and a flatbed larger truck for hauling hay bales during haymaking time. The big truck was once a school bus. I assume it was discarded in favor of a more modern bus and sold by Roanoke County schools at auction. The Morgans had bought the old school bus and removed the enclosed part consisting of sides, roof, front, and back. The “naked” bus then would become a flatbed with a driver’s seat and a hood over the motor. A frame was built just behind the driver’s seat the width of the truck and five feet high. This would allow rectangular hay bales to be stacked on the truck starting at the front frame and moving backward the length of the bed. When finished it looked and functioned like a flatbed truck. It was a straight drive of course with a clutch and a gear shift that stood tall off the floor.
Usually, there were only two people hauling hay which had one downside. Someone would have to drive the truck to each bale in the row, stop, get out and pick up the bale tossing it on the truck for whoever was there to do stacking. I was about to get my driving lessons a little early in life. The plan was to put me in the driver’s seat on a cushion so that I could reach the brake and clutch. I may have been skinny, but I had long legs so reaching the pedals was no big deal. They would put it in gear, and the truck would creep along in low gear with the clutch released. All I had to do was steer the truck to the next bale. When the truck was loaded, I would press the clutch down and push the brake down and put the truck out of gear. Someone else would drive the truck to the barn to unload it.
Uncle Jerry found out about me driving the truck and wanted to put a stop to it for fear I would get hurt, but after seeing me do it and always on flat ground, he relented. In a year’s time, I was able to handle the truck pretty much like a pro. Two year’s later at age thirteen I was driving the truck and the tractor.
At age fifteen I was able to use all the machinery, including all the haymaking equipment, plow, disc, harrow, plus the seed drill. In 1957, at age 17 I was put in charge of all the crop work. This would be my most busy year of all not only on the Morgan farm but on the Brillhart farm and at Keffer’s store as well.
I remember, vividly, putting up hay from the field near Catawba creek that was called the meadow. It always had a thick hay crop. For reasons I cannot remember, Bill and Landon were not available. I mowed the meadow, raked the field into windrows and after it dried, I hitched up the baler and baled the entire field. I would then get the old school bus “truck” out and haul load after load to the big barn beside the road. That was the hardest I ever worked at the Morgan farm. Surprising what all you can do when you are that age.
New Modern Milk Barn Built
In 1950 a new 30-cow milking parlor had been installed in a rectangular cinder block building. This new milking system contained a six-can milking cooler, hot water heater, and milking machines, making the whole twice a day milking process much more efficient. Cleanup and maintenance time was cut in half. I never was involved in the dairy aspect of the farm, which was handled by the Bishop brothers, Landon and Bill (mostly Bill). Operating a 30-cow dairy operation was very time consuming, which did not permit Landon and Bill to be of much help with the crops, especially haymaking. Landon made three trips a week to Roanoke to deliver the milk to the processor. Although not directly involved in the dairy part, I would be responsible for an important byproduct. Animal waste!
Job Description: Animal Waste Removal- 50 cents per hour.
It was the first job (and the last job) I would ever have where I started at the top and worked my way down! Let me explain. Dairy cows have to be milked every single day and twice a day. That’s it, and it is non-negotiable.
In the late Spring until late Fall after each milking, the cows would return to pasture for grazing. However during the cold weather months, unable to be pastured, the cattle would return to an enclosed barn for shelter and hay that was harvested in the summer. During those winter months, they would eat, sleep and go to the bathroom in that barn. The amount of liquid and solid waste they deposited would mix with the hay strewn about building slowly but surely a rising level of manure from the barn floor up. This accumulation of manure occurred since the barn was, in essence, a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom for the herd. That was the cause. The effect was about three feet of manure on the floor that had to be removed and spread on the pasture farm fields. That would be my responsibility.
Landon and Bill thought it was funny, mainly because they would not have to do it. Uncle Jerry looked at it the first day and felt sorry for me; I suppose because he raised my pay from fifty to seventy-five cents per hour. I did manage to get in about twenty-five hours in a week’s time.
The process involved backing the manure spreader up to an open window on the barn’s east side and fork/shovel the manure out the window into the spreader. When the spreader was filled up, I would drive the tractor -pulled spreader to a field and spread it. That was not a pleasant experience when the wind was blowing hard. Bottom line, it was a humbling experience.
I felt a part of the Morgan family during my decade-long association with them. And they treated me like one of their own. I had many a meal there and ate some good food that Miss Annie and Miss Essie prepared. I am one of the few living now that enjoyed home cooked meals at the Summit and The Homeplace. Both then and now are deserving of five stars.
Miss Essie worked in the post office of which Uncle Jerry served as postmaster. This was when the PO was located in Keffer’s Store. Not sure if Miss Annie worked in the post office at times or not.
Maxie, Uncle Jerry’s daughter, was the youngest and very friendly and outgoing, maybe a little hyper at times. She was a dedicated churchgoer and worker. We had ice cream suppers at the school for church fundraisers and Maxie’s specialty was pimento cheese sandwiches. She made her own pimento cheese and made the thickest sandwiches you ever saw. You got your money’s worth and then some. Maxie was always interesting to be around.
Uncle Jerry’s brother George was a genius in my opinion. He could make just about anything and fix everything. In the new dairy barn, he designed and installed all the electrical work and lighting. He made a wood lathe that was pedal operated and taught me how to use it. George said he wanted me to have it when he died, but that somehow did not happen. He was a very interesting person to talk to.
Landon and Bill Bishop were brothers and with limited education. Bill, in particular, was challenged although he had the major responsibility of the milking parlor operation. The two brothers argued all the time it seemed but never got mad or physical. Bill was always against what I was for. I would argue with him at times because he expected it. Whenever alone he would engage in self-dialogue, which is another way to say “talking to oneself.” I enjoyed working with them and got along fine especially when I would make them laugh.
Landon was never stressed about anything, always predictable, regardless of any situation. He and Bill shared a room at the farmhouse and ate their meals there. Landon would haul the full milk cans to Roanoke on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to sell the raw milk to the processor. He would bring back the empty cans to be refilled during the next two days before taking another load to Roanoke.
There were times when my Mama would need to go to Roanoke and she would ride with Landon and come back home with him later in the day. I remember riding with her and Landon on some of those trips. Landon would drop us off downtown and Mama would put me in the Rialto movie theater where I would watch a western, cartoons, etc. until she came and got me so we could ride back to Catawba with Landon. Sometimes we would ride the Abbott bus and do the same thing. I liked that because I got to see movies which was a treat for sure. And Mama got to do her shopping.
When I was actively trapping and had accumulated some hides to sell, Landon would take them to Roanoke and sell them for me. I guess the modern name for Landon today would be Uber driver.
I treated the farm like I was a family member. I did most all of my hunting on the mountain part of the Morgan farm. Mostly squirrels, but grouse and deer also. I was a trapper for several years, ninety percent of the time on the Morgan farm property and creek. I trapped the creek for mink and muskrat and the fields for skunks. I got sent home when in the seventh grade for going to school with skunk odor on me. I stopped trapping skunks after that——-at Mama’s request!
I fished and did frogging on Catawba Creek, but fishing was hit and miss. Got frogs pretty easily and Mama would fry frog legs. Yes, they do flop around in the skillet when cooking.
Our church youth and neighborhood kids would enjoy the Morgan farm for sleigh riding every winter. The hills there were perfect for sleighing and building bonfires. The Methodist Youth Fellowship would have sledding parties with hot dogs and marshmallows roasted on a stick.
When doing this article on the Morgan Farm, my thoughts wandered back to those who had been there before, namely, the Catawba Indians. I hunted, fished and trapped where the Native Americans did. I farmed where the first settlers including Captain Brand did. Native Americans have always felt that one would have a kinship to the earth. I experienced that to the fullest. It will always be special to me that I experienced those years on the Morgan farm. I would have welcomed living in the 1800s but I guess I came as close to it as I could have. What a blessing the Morgan Farm was to me, thanks to Uncle Jerry.
The Morgan Home, Catawba, Virginia
John “William” Morgan married “Sallie”, Sarah Adeline Wysong, on July 5, 1870.
They had nine children, Ellen, Nancy, Willie, Francis, Jerry, Annie, George, John, and Essie.
The family moved from Dublin, Pulaski County VA after the 1900 census but prior to the 1910 census.
John William died January 12, 1911, age 78. Sallie died April 25, 1944. They are buried at the Morgan Cemetery in Catawba.
The intent of this “Part Two” is to prepare an official account of all the schools that were in the Catawba Valley from the first school in 1871 (Narrows) to the last school in 1981(Catawba), a period of 110 years. All statistical information, names of schools, teachers, etc. are from the documented records of the Roanoke County Schools. Thus providing Catawba with a Historical Document Reference of Catawba Schools 1871-1981. This document will be printed, along with all other 2018 Blog posts in the book Echoes From Catawba Volume 1. This book will be available in mid-November, 2018.
Thanks to the Roanoke County Schools for sharing their records and overall assistance.
Who Educated Granddad & Grandma?
We know about one-room schools in Catawba that started in 1870, but how were children educated in the early 1800s? Compared to the Northern states, the Southern states were 100 years behind in setting up educational systems. Before the Revolutionary War, pathfinders, explorers and early settlers were crossing the looming mountains of the Appalachians. History down through the ages tells us that education was ongoing, but not in the form of Public Education.
God created us with the capability to absorb and retain knowledge. Children were taught at home by their parents or in larger families by older siblings. It is certain that all kinds of trades or skills were handed down but basic reading, writing, and arithmetic would have had to be taught. The process would have been somewhat similar to “homeschooling” today. Wealthy parents (and they were few) could have hired a qualified tutor or they might have sent their children to a private school if available. But by and large, education was handed down, as was work ethic, manners, and commitment to God and family. This method of schooling although very helpful was limited in many cases due to the educational and economic status of their parents. But education by whatever method was available.
Roanoke County was founded in 1838, having evolved from an oversized Botetourt County. It is believed that about 5,000 residents lived within the bounds of Roanoke County at that time. Virginia moved slowly but surely in setting up a school system for the education of all its children. Localities throughout Virginia reacted differently as politics, cultures and various socio/economic approaches would drive the decisions of free school for all. But Roanoke County would step forward in 1846 to establish a county-wide school system according to the requirements of the General Assembly of Virginia. School Districts were set up and Catawba was one of those Districts.
After setting up the necessary school districts in 1846, very little if anything happened. As a matter of fact, there was very little progress until 1870 when the state system began. The Civil War had interrupted the process in the 1860s and the recovery after that was slow. But things were about to change for Catawba and other county schools. The Virginia Legislature was committed to getting the system of public schools up, and state superintendent William Ruffner was given 30 days to present a plan.
Roanoke County organized a school board for each of the four magisterial districts. In Catawba district, John John was elected chairman, Captain William Brand was elected clerk, and one other member was elected, a man named John Gordon.
The following plan was adopted and published with an explanation in the county paper (The Roanoke Times):
Persons living in the vicinity of any schoolhouse in the county (Catawba) may have a free school established among them by complying with the following conditions:
Provide a comfortable school house with all the necessary furniture.
Admit to the school all the children of the proper age within a district of such size as will secure an average daily attendance of twenty scholars for five months.
Employ a teacher who has a certificate of qualification from the county superintendent.
Raise by subscriptions or donations and amount equal to one-third of the teacher’s salary.
Catawba’s Early Schools
The first schools were built as one room structures, occasionally upgraded to two rooms. Some were log structures and some were framed structures. Just like homes in the Valley, water had to be carried to the schoolhouses and they were heated by wood.
Each school was required to have at least 20 students signup in order to qualify for County support. The school year would have a length of three, four or five months, preferably five. Attendance was sporadic, especially with boys since they were needed on the farms. Teachers were brought in from wherever they could find them. There were teachers from some Northern states that would come and take jobs in Roanoke County.
The schools that were in the Catawba area that were part of the Catawba District in the 1870’s through the 1920’s were Narrows, Shiloh, Gravel Hill, Catawba, and Catawba Colored.
According to Roanoke County School Board archives, Narrows School started in 1871 and was condemned in 1926. The children from Narrows were then transported to Gravel Hill.
Shiloh school began in 1872. A new Shiloh school was built in 1916. In 1928 Shiloh school closed and the children from Shiloh School attended the newly built Catawba School. The Shiloh school building was dismantled and rebuilt at Mercy House on the County Farm.
Gravel Hill School began in 1897 and closed in 1928. Those children from Gravel Hill would attend the new Catawba School.
The Catawba Colored School was started in 1872 and closed in 1954.
The original Catawba School was started in 1872 and met until 1877. The location of this school is described as near Brand store. Records show that the school began again in 1883 and met through 1888 and again from 1906 until 1928.
The location of the original Catawba School has been verified as being on the Catawba Sanatorium property (Catawba Hospital) today. It was located on Hwy 320 which is called Catawba Hospital Drive on the left at the ridgeline, top of the hill not far from the Pumphouse. As a young boy I had walked all those fields and woods during my youth. It stuck in my mind that there were foundation ruins there at the time. During these time- consuming school posts I have always felt there was an original Catawba School and had research that suggested such. I am dedicated to writing based on facts, especially since I want this position to be the official record of Catawba Schools. My instincts told me that this aforementioned property was the Catawba School location. Steve Hall, whose dad told him years ago that this was the location he attended school. As a matter of fact, on one occasion a teacher there walking up the snowy path one school morning slipped and fell sliding all the way to the foot of the sloping field. Clay laughed at the site and was punished for doing so. Deedie Kagey’s History of Roanoke County states there was a school near Brand’s store. Another historical source states a school near Catawba Methodist Church. Although this information pointed towards the Catawba Sanatorium/Catawba Hospital location as the exact location of the school, I was still hesitate; Until Alan Lee stated that his Great Aunt Edith Lee Smith told him that this area was the location of the first church/school in Catawba.
A new Catawba School was built in 1928 where the schools would be consolidated, with the exception of the Catawba colored school. The Black students from that school would enter the new Catawba School in the mid 1950s. The 1928 Catawba School would close in the spring of 1981.
“It didn’t make no never mind to me, no how, if that hound dog got saved during that sprinkling-baptism that occurred during the ceremony by Preacher Reynolds. I know I did!”
A large hound was licking water off my shoe as I stood at the front of the church with cousin Jimmy Garman as Preacher Reynolds sprinkled water on our heads, which is the Methodist version of baptism when folks accept the Lord and become saved. In the old Catawba Methodist Church which was built in 1884 and razed in 1962, we had, literally, an open door policy.
In the summer months, the two front doors would usually be open to give air circulation in the church. It was not unusual to have a dog, cat, or occasional bird come to the service. Along with plentiful moths and winged insects drawn to a light. That was life in any country church in the mountains.
Let me introduce s special lady, a friend and native of Catawba who has been removed from the Valley for several decades, however, Catawba was never removed from her. In November 1964, Eleanor Jean Brillhart Avery diligently researched and prepared this “heartfelt” memoir, dedicating it to her daughter Amy Brillhart Avery. Beautifully composed, a mother shares her heart, mind, and soul to a daughter of what this Little White Church in the Wildwood has meant to her life. This story will enlighten you, uplift you, bring a tear to your eyes and leave you inspired. How Blessed I am to have my friend Eleanor Jean to be a guest writer on Echoes From Catawba. You are about to receive that Blessing.
MORE THAN JUST A BUILDING THIS IS CATAWBA METHODIST CHURCH—-MY CHURCH By Eleanor Jean Brillhart Avery
CATAWBA——A strange sounding name for a place that I love, but it brings to me memories of a beautiful blue mountain with brown and green knolls, crossed by the Appalachian Trail. There is a lush green valley patchworked with alfalfa and corn fields and stamped with white farmhouses. A creek, called Catawba creek, gliding through sweet meadows that produced lush hay crops from the loamy soil in the “bottom” fields.
As Catawba Creek hurried along in its Eastward path it would pass by a Settlement of sorts that had a General store and a miniature post office. Very close by stood the little red schoolhouse, called Catawba School that I attended. Across the road from the school stood a newly built Catawba Methodist Church that replaced the original one-room structure that was built in 1884. Nearby was Catawba Sanatorium, which was once the site of Roanoke Red Hotel, an outstanding summer resort for many years.
In years past there was a railroad from Salem to the foot of the mountain on the Mason Cove side. It was built, originally, to haul crushed sandstone from the quarry located on the mountain. The train also hauled coal for the Sanatorium and had one passenger car that took Catawbians bound for Roanoke to the streetcar lane at Lakeside. In turn, it would bring to Catawba the ministers who conducted the services at our little white church, as well as to other churches in the Valley.
Even before there was a train track or a summer resort or sounds of hymns filling the air, there were people who roamed about this rich limestone valley. This area was the hunting territory for the warring Shawnee and Cherokee Indian tribes. One of the greatest Indian trails in the country passed over Catawba Mountain.
The memories of Catawba will always be a part of me for this is where I first opened my eyes to the world, first smiled, played my first games, kissed my first boyfriend and all the other “firsts” that go along with growing up. Outside of my home, I know now the most important influence in my young life was the little one-room white church. It was at the very center of life in the community. Here the people gathered on Sunday for worship and also for the fellowship that comes with mingling with neighbors and friends reviewing all the latest happenings in the neighborhood.
There is a saying that “Home is where the heart is.” Though many years have gone by since I have been away from the blue mountain and the green valley, the little red school, and the little white church, a part of my heart still belongs there. For the many years that lie ahead, when I hear that strange-sounding Indian name, Catawba, it will still mean, “my home” to me.
Author: Eleanor Jean Brillhart Avery
Dedicated to Amy Brillhart Avery
“To give her interesting highlights about my first church home and an understanding of the meaning this church has had for my life.”
Credits: (historical facts) Jerry Morgan, Essie Morgan, my parents: Marvin & Amy Brillhart.
A tribute to Lelia “Lucille” (Brillhart) Garman May 23, 1920 ~ January 23, 2019
“Old School” was originally published September 2018.
This article relates to the school history from 1928-1981 and some insight on the students, teachers, cooks and custodians. It is designed to take you down a memory lane as stories are retold by some of the former students.
” Where Have All the Children Gone”
Catawba School just sits there. It appears lifeless, non-living, inanimate which in a way is properly stated. Most inanimate objects are referred to as “it”. We do not have a gender pronoun for inanimate things. They are just called “it”. I am going to change that right now.
“She” sits there clothed in the same red brick she has worn for 90 years, staring at the Methodist church across Rt. 779 looking at the North Mountain looming skyward in the background.
What are her thoughts? Does she think perhaps she was decommissioned in 1981, much like the USS Missouri Battleship would be in 1992, considered to be obsolete? No longer needed with no legacy to leave to the good people of Catawba Valley? And where have all the children gone?
If Catawba School could speak what stories would she tell? I was born and raised in a small house in 1940 which was located right beside the School. I have an experience of personal history with her that most do not and I will take the liberty of speaking on her behalf. She turns ninety this year having been built in 1928, so she has served as a high school initially and an elementary school later on for a total of 53 years. Hundreds of students would have attended school there over that period which ceased to be a high school in 1939-40 when those above 7th grade headed to Andrew Lewis High School. Catawba School would have been solely an elementary (1st through 7th) grade school at that time until its closing in the Spring of 1981.
I believe that Catawba School was more than a school from the very beginning. It was a community center before it became a Community Center. More than just education happened there. The old Catawba Methodist Church held Easter Pageants there many times. It was normal to have fundraising ice cream suppers there which were heavily attended.
Country bands like Reno & Smiley and others would play at the school auditorium to packed audiences. The school itself had children events scheduled there for parents and community to attend. Baseball was played on the lower part of the property most every Sunday afternoon. The school was an institution that served many purposes, as they should. Little did we know that in 1986 it would become in reality the Catawba Community Center. And rightfully so I might add. May it be so forever.