Meg Hibbert from the Salem Times Register visited the Salem Museum Monday night during Ted’s presentation on writing about life in Catawba in the first half of the 1900s. She did a nice article giving an overview of both Volume 1 and Volume 2 books and about Ted’s purpose for writing.
The mystery sign:
I suppose it was love at first sight when I came to know “The Sign”. After all, it was a novelty, with Catawba Valley in unique black letters painted on a 12” inch by 55” inch chestnut board; and Squab Farm painted in a like manner on a separate board. It was something seldom seen in early Catawba. The lettered boards were part of the backside of a twenty-foot by ten-foot barn containing a single milking stall on one end and a hay storage/feed barrel space on the opposite end. We had one milk cow on our property that we milked twice daily but sold it shortly after my Daddy being admitted to the Catawba TB Sanatorium in1943. I knew that the barn was built of lumber taken from the Catawba Valley Squab Farm, wherever that was located. The two lettered boards were nailed in a vertical manner with the lettering facing to the interior protecting the letters from fading due to weather. As I entered my teens, Daddy was discharged and returned home to stay after nine years. The barn started to get in disrepair and was razed. I salvaged the two boards, although the Squab Farm board was damaged badly.
I can’t remember the exact date I retrieved the signs from our homeplace, but I eventually did, although the damaged one was turned into picture frames. Thankfully, the Catawba Valley sign has been kept inside, usually hanging in the various houses I lived in over the years. It now awaits being attached to our Salem residence in a room we have designated the “Catawba Room”.
Over many years I have inquired about the history behind the sign from Catawba folks and searched the Internet without success of identifying it. I would confidently estimate it to be one hundred years old, maybe more.
And now the rest of the story: What in “Sam Hill” is a squab? A squab is a young pigeon used as far back as Medieval times as a food source. The meat of squab is dark similar to the dark meat of a chicken, duck or goose. Actually, it is more tender and considered a delicacy in many foreign countries. A young pigeon when hatched grows fast and is tabbed a squab up to about 30 days of age. The fast growth puts them the same size as an adult pigeon after a month’s growth. Pigeons were first domesticated abroad, centuries prior to coming onto the American scene during the Great Recession as a food source. Pigeons were raised by Appalachian folks during the Recession years of the late twenties and early thirties. They used barns and coops to house them including nesting areas. Pigeons pair off male and female and can produce 300 eggs a year to hatch as squabs or be eaten as eggs. In many areas of Appalachia, squabs and/or their eggs made a difference in providing supplemental food. The United States Department of Agriculture created a bulletin that provided instructions on how to raise squabs.
It would appear to me that someone in Catawba Valley most likely started a Squab Farm as a business endeavor. It would have been a profitable venture for several years before the demand ended. Perhaps it got lost in the minds of folks and knowledge of the Squab Farm faded away. I am in hopes that someone will have some information that will shed light on this most unusual occurrence in Catawba Valley. As for now this “one of a kind” keepsake hangs on the wall revealing those proud words of Catawba Valley, but smugly keeping within itself the mystery of its past.
801 E. Main Street, Salem, VA
In early 2018, Catawba native Ted Carroll began to write a series of non-fiction books about life in Catawba in the first half of the 1900s. On Monday, January 20 at 7 pm at the Salem Museum, Carroll will speak about the cultural heritage and history of this beautiful Appalachian community. In case of inclement weather, his talk will be postponed until January 27. Admission is free.
In 2018, Carroll published “Echoes From Catawba, Volume One:” Growing up in Catawba Valley Appalachia. This first book in the series is a compilation of a dozen stories featuring families and individuals, Keffer’s General Store, Morgan Farm/Homeplace Restaurant, and the history of Catawba’s one-room schools and the Catawba School (1928-1981).
“Echoes From Catawba, Volume Two: Granny Taylor of Possum Holler” is a biography of Winnie Earl Taylor. This extraordinary woman, Carroll’s aunt, chose to live a primitive lifestyle for 103 of her nearly 109 years. “Volume Three” is underway with a target release of November 2020.
Ted Carroll was born in Catawba, Virginia to a mother who was the seventeenth and last child of William and Luemma Garman who settled there in 1889. Carroll was milking a cow at a young age and worked on the Morgan farm through high school and college. He worked for 25 years as a member of the Virginia Tech Extension faculty and served four terms as the Mayor of the Town of Orange, Virginia. Answering a call to the Ministry, Carroll studied at the Southeastern Baptist Seminary Extension in North Carolina, became an ordained minister and pastored a church in North Carolina for 14 years. Carroll is a graduate of Andrew Lewis High School and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Virginia Tech.
As a boy growing up in the 1940s Teddy Carroll, along with all the children in this somewhat isolated, rural community of Catawba Valley, Virginia experienced a Christmas unlike the boys and girls in the towns and cities on the other side of the towering Appalachians. How could Santa Claus and his reindeer fly over these majestic mountains and not stop? He could not miss seeing the houses below, many snuggling in the hollows with streams of smoke billowing up serving as landing markers to guide a loaded sleigh down to a nearby meadow? We all knew about Santa and in most cases, particularly the younger ones believed he was real. (I am not, 100% sure to this day he wasn’t real). We wrote our Dear Santa letters, complete with our requests, to be delivered Christmas night and mailed them to a Roanoke radio station for “Santa” to read. Homes with radios gave children the opportunity to hear letters read and it was exciting to be a kid who heard their letter read over the radio. Looking through the Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs gave us many ideas about what we wanted Santa to bring. There was no limit to a child’s desires and most always our lists were long and unreasonable. It was normal for us to talk to each other about “what we had asked Santa to give to us?”
As the week of Christmas arrived the whole Valley focused on this most joyous time. Christmas trees would be found and cut, with cedars being the choice of most everyone. Homes were decorated as space allowed, and sometimes, outside the house. Every home experienced the aroma of mouth-watering aromas during a two to three day period prior to Christmas Day. However, Christmas Eve was the first big happening as church services were held in every house of worship in Catawba. These events focused on honoring the birth of Jesus. Christmas hymns and scripture reading about Jesus’ birth were featured, but the exciting part of the evening was the children’s program, giving of gifts, and the small bags of fruit and candy. My mother directed the children’s program, seeing that all the kids in our church had a part in the program no matter how small.
I remember vividly my very first children’s Christmas program. Let me explain:
“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 where 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 for me to start. 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. Sure enough, I froze with my mind going blank. I glanced over at Mama and she gave me that 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 and 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 a long time.
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. The large, freshly cut cedar tree was decorated with handmade ornaments and such. There were presents under the tree and each child got one. At the end, we all got small, brown paper bags full of edible goodies. There would be an orange, hard candy, bubble gum, and nuts. It was a big deal as 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, etc, 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, VA 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 started, it is for sure the celebration was started first in the churches and homes.
It was not unusual to have snow at Christmas since the snows came early in the mountains, 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 icicles 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 to be had 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 on Christmas morning when we went to the living room where the Christmas tree was located. 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, and not coming. Things would get better in the years ahead but most of the Valley children in the 1930’s and 1940s 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. 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!
Whenever I look back at those times growing up a certain truth comes out loud and clear: Back then when it appeared I had nothing at all———-I realize now——I had the most!
As we draw closer to the November 23rd book release of Echoes From Catawba Volume 2, we wanted to share videos 2 and 3 of the 3 part series of the video interview done by Steve Garman. In case you missed the first video, we’ve included that as well. We are so excited to give you a glimpse of some of the things you will read about in Earl Taylor’s biography.
Part 1: Granny talks about growing up and her brothers & sisters.
Part 2: Granny discussing her neighbors and Possum Holler.
Part 3: Granny talks about school days and firearms.
Ted Carroll will be releasing his book “Granny Taylor of Possum Holler” on November 23 at the book signing at the Holiday Market in Catawba. Thanks to Steve Garman for sharing with us this special video of his mother Louise Garman interviewing Granny Taylor in 2002 when Granny was about 95 years old. We are so excited to give you a glimpse of some of the things you will read about in Earl Taylor’s biography.
Part 1: Granny talks about growing up and her brothers & sisters.
Part 2: Granny discussing her neighbors and Possum Holler.
Part 3: Granny talks about school days and firearms.
Ted Carroll, author of the non-fiction book series, Echoes From Catawba will speak at the New Castle Fire House meeting room at 6:30 pm Monday, October 21. Ted, a native of Catawba, VA published his first book in November 2018 Echoes From Catawba Volume 1, a compilation of stories about people, places and events of Catawba Valley occurring in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ted will share the purpose and motivation for his writings, including Volume 2, which will be a biography of Granny Taylor of Possum Holler to be released in November 2019. He will also share his plans for future books including stories about Catawba and Craig County.
Ted Carroll is a native of Catawba, Virginia and a graduate of Virginia Tech. After an early retirement from Virginia Tech extension faculty, he studied at Southeastern Seminary Extension in Greensboro, North Carolina and served as a Pastor of a church for 14 years. He and his wife Tina now make their home in Salem, Virginia where Ted spends much of his time writing about Catawba, Virginia’s history and speaking.
To learn more about Echoes From Catawba, visit www.echoesfromcatawba.com
On July 16, 1907, a baby girl was born in the Appalachian Mountains community of Catawba, Virginia. She was not given a name; she was just referred to as “baby.” She was the thirteenth child born into a family that would end up with a total of seventeen children. As a matter of fact, the fourteenth child, also a girl, would arrive before “baby” received a name! Her mother Luemma Garman gave birth on November 21, 1908, to another girl. Luemma and her husband Will now had two babies to give names too. The latest arrival would be named Pearl Esther Garman, and, finally, the sixteen-month-old “baby” was named Winnie Earl Garman.
No one has ever offered a reason why the delay in naming Winnie Earl. In the years ahead, she would be known to folks as Earl or Granny. It was a unique, extraordinary happening, and I cannot recall a similar situation. However, the words unique and extraordinary would define this woman who lived 18 days shy of one hundred and nine years. Nameless at birth, she passed away in 2016 remembered forever as The Primitive Woman of Catawba, Virginia. I am sure someone, in the sprawling Appalachian Mountains, can give an account of a woman who lived a similar life. However, when you finish reading this biography, I believe you will be challenged to envision anyone like Granny Taylor.
As you read this biography of Granny Taylor you will go on a journey through almost one hundred and nine years with a woman that will amaze you and impact your emotions in countless ways. Honesty, humility, caring, fearless, hard-working, funny and selflessness are but a few of her attributes. The most notable trait she projected was consistency. Through a century of living she never varied from who she was, while never forgetting her roots. Each chapter introduces the reader to the many people in her life and how they were blessed by Granny. How she stayed true to a near primitive lifestyle through fast-changing times is quite a feat. Few in the early years of the twentieth century would ever desire to live the way Granny did, especially when it was not necessary. For those of you who did not know of or about this lady, prepare yourselves for an adventurous, true story about a woman who could have had all the conveniences imaginable. A typical reaction would be to question why did she choose this life and sustain it for the entirety of her active life? If you as a reader knew her over the years, then let this book be a refreshing walk down memory lane while learning some things about her that you missed along the way. If you are meeting her for the first time, you are in for a real treat. She was approached a decade prior to her passing by someone who wanted to write her life story. Her reply: “My life ain’t worth writing about!” I am honored to introduce Granny Taylor (and her life story) to you!
Echoes From Catawba Volume 2, Granny Taylor of Possum Holler will be available for purchase at the November 23 book signing being held at the Catawba Valley Holiday Market at the Catawba Community Center. Also will be available online at echoesfromcatawba.com.
I awakened on the morning of, June 4, 2019, at 3:55 a.m. after having a vision of crossing Catawba Mountain, Virginia and immediately taking in the natural grandeur of the valley that lay in the forefront of my gaze. Often during my now lengthy years, I have pondered the diverse thoughts that my Creator has inserted into my subconscious with the same response by me: What is this about Lord, what is the meaning of what I see before me? Signs and visions were commonplace in the Old and New Testament happenings that God used to direct a path of action for a chosen person or people. Those things are not commonplace now, nor have they been for two thousand years. Or do these things occur in this day and time in the form of early morning thoughts, words, and pictures (visions?)
At present, I am one year removed from diving headlong into the crowded world of writers or wannabee writers. The desire to write and specifically to do so about growing up in the Appalachian Mountain region of the Old Dominion’s Catawba Valley was, most likely, with me when I crossed over Catawba Mountain, leaving my birthplace and formative years behind as I headed into “the world” in the 1960s. Over fifty years would pass before I returned to my roots to stay, a homecoming that would now take on a mission. It would not be a new mission as such since I had over the last five decades never forgotten my “raising” and although I had flourished wherever I was planted, my roots would always be in Catawba. After several years leading up to my retirement as a fourteen-year pastor, I had what appeared to be a remaining time of longevity and the obvious question of “what now, God.” He who had planned the agenda of my life to date would, finally, set me forth on my final endeavor, to be a writer. Even though I have one book written, Echoes From Catawba Volume One, I feel, physically being back in the area has consummated my calling to write Catawba’s history in terms of the life and times of her people, one family at a time. After all, life is about the people, isn’t it?
As I replay that vision of the mountains and meadows, I see more than the natural, breathtaking beauty of Catawba Valley. I see back to the days of the Cherokees, the original inhabitants followed by the pathfinders and settlers. People named McAfee, Brand, and Spessard amongst others.
Having spent the past sixteen months visiting in Catawba to interview people who would provide the many stories that I would write about in Echoes From Catawba, one would think I had established myself back into God’s Country. The fact of the matter was that I still lived in Greensboro, and something was missing. Sunday, July 21, 2019 that changed.
Shiloh Church Homecoming
My wife Tina and I were invited to attend the 161st Homecoming of Shiloh Church, where my mother and her siblings of the 19 member family of Will and Luemma Garman had attended church. Our visit to this event would, in our minds, represent our return to being a part of Catawba in reality. Four days earlier, we had moved into our new home in Roanoke County (Salem, Virginia) as the commute from Greensboro to Catawba was over.
As we crossed Catawba Mountain and headed up Newport Road to Shiloh, I tried to envision what I was about to experience. Although it had had some upgrades both inside and out, it had not lost its character of being a country church. We parked in the back, and as we walked around to the front door, we could hear the chatter of voices that flowed through the open windows and side doors. Country churches in the Appalachian mountain range do not have air conditioning; Ceiling fans, maybe, but no a.c. We were greeted upon entry and treated, not as visitors, but as God’s children coming to share in the fellowship and worship. Before the beginning of the service, Frank Garman, Pam Garman, Steve Garman, and Linda Eaton provided instrumental music from the piano, violin, guitar, and mandolin. They expertly played hymns from the mountains that all present could recognize as heart, mind, and soul were prepared for worship to be followed by food and fellowship. The choir was made up of vocalists who upheld the tradition of gifted singers that had sung there over the decades in Shiloh church.
A former preacher, Gus Wright who served the church for one year almost forty years ago, delivered the Homecoming message in a style that was true to his style back in 1979-1980. A well-liked preacher then was well-received by all that experienced him previously. Mr. Wright stated that in all the places he had traveled and preached the word of God in two continents, Catawba Valley, Virginia was the best experience.
As we all headed to the picnic pavilion for country cooking at its best, God sent forth distant thunder to alert us that much-needed rain and cooler temperatures were on the way. The food and fellowship were typical of a country church homecoming with the raindrops not dampening any spirits. As we headed back to Salem, Tina and I shared our feelings about the Homecoming. It was a great experience spiritually and emotionally as we interacted with old friends and made some new ones. I am so blessed to have grown up in Catawba and further blessed to record in book form the stories of our heritage that so many people left. After all, life is about the people, isn’t it?
While at the Gaither Family Fest in Gatlinburg Tennessee over Memorial Day weekend, performer Kevin Williams talked with Ted about the impact the late Bobby All, John Garman’s grandson, had on his career. Kevin is the guitarist for the Gaither concerts and has been for almost 30 years.
In an upcoming Volume of Echoes From Catawba, we look forward to sharing more about this story and about the musical talents of the Garman family.