By E. J. SUTHERLAND AND J. H. T. SUTHERLAND
Dickenson County is the “baby county” in Virginia. It was formed in 1880 from parts of Buchanan, Russell and Wise Counties. It is located on the Kentucky border line, high up on the southeastern slope of the Cumberland Mountains. The terrain of this county is rough and mountainous, with but few facilities for travel or commerce. In 1915 a railroad was built through its center, opening it up for the first time to outside industries and influences. It was the last county in Virginia to be settled. In 1816, Richard Coney, a descendant of the sturdy Scotch-Irish, building his three-walled log cabin at Sand Lick, became its first permanent settler. Since that time until the C. C. & O. Railroad was constructed, the county has been inhabited almost wholly by “native whites.” Very few negroes and no foreign-born whites lived here previous to the building of the railroad and the opening of the coal mines in 1915. Its citizenship before, during and after the World War compared favorably with that of any other county in the “Old Dominion.”
Dickenson County performed its part in the World War gallantly and patriotically. It calmly and uncomplainingly bore its share of the sacrifices, burdens and inconveniences of the war period, and when the victory was won it joined hands with the other counties in Virginia to preserve, as carefully and completely as possible, the record of the activities of its sons and daughters, both at home and abroad, in that titanic struggle. When the State organized its War History Commission, the following persons were appointed members of the local branch for Dickenson County: S. H. Sutherland, Chairman ; John W. Flannagan, Jr., and Mrs. Fannie E. Wise, all of whom had been active in war work. The Board of supervisors of Dickenson County patriotically appropriated a fund to aid in the collection of material for a history of the county during war time and two ex-service men, Jonah E. Beverly and E. J. Sutherland, were selected to do this work, in which they were engaged about two months. Service records were prepared, war letters and diaries read and copied, and written articles prepared on the following topics:
The present account of Dickenson County in War Time is based mainly upon the material gathered by the local branch of the Virginia War History Commission, in addition to the personal knowledge of the editors. Other sources of information used in this history are: “Virginians of Distinguished Service,” a source book prepared by the Virginia War History Commission; “The Dickenson County News” and “The Dickenson County Moon,” the only newspapers printed in Dickenson County during the war period, but both of which are now defunct, and of which a few scattering copies can be found in private hands. In the footnotes may be found references to the sources from which were drawn the facts and figures given.
One hundred years before the beginning of the World War, hardy pioneers began settlements in that part of the hill country of Southwestern Virginia that is now Dickenson County. These trailblazers found immense potential wealth, but could make very little use of it. They found virgin forests on more than 200,000 acres, timbered with choicest oak, poplar and other valuable trees. They found later that almost the entire surface of 332 square miles is underlaid with valuable coal deposits. They followed trails and streams to reach their new-homes which they established thirty miles and more from other settlements and stores. They built their cabins at strategic points and feasted upon the roasts of bear, deer and other wild meats found in the forests, and protected themselves from the wolves, rattlesnakes and many other dangers of pioneer days.
Descended chiefly from the Scotch-Irish, English and German stock, these pioneers established in the mountains a race of liberty-loving, gallant, resourceful and fearless people.
Perhaps three-fourths were descendants of the Scotch-Irish and English. Several of the larger families-among them the Countses (Kuntzee), the Rasnicks (Rasnakes), the Kisers (Keysers) the Deels (Diehls), and the Vanovers–were of German descent. Yet they were not of that GermanAmerican type that spread pro-German propaganda. The ancestors of these people had come to America so long ago that most of them had forgotten their Germanic origin; but those who knew of their German blood, through tradition or history also knew that it was the religious and military persecutions of the old German rulers that drove their freedom-loving forefathers from their ancient Fatherland, so their descendants held no special love for present-day Germany. This was true in a large measure with the descendants of the Scotch-:]lrish and English. There had been much inter-marrying between the descendants of these nationals, and they had consequently blended into a new race-the American. Add to that condition the further fact that they were now so far removed moved from the conflict, and it is easy to see why there was little expression of favor or antagonism for either side at the outbreak of the war.
Year by year these pioneers and their descendants mastered more completely the dangers and hardships of the hill country, and when the World War came it found 12,000 happy and contented people living in the county. Very few were extremely poor, and none very rich. There was a rapid growth starting about 1910, when the population was 9,199. Talk of a railroad was heard, and better facilities of travel and communication were asked for. Finally, in 1915, the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railroad opened a line through the center of the county, between Elkhorn City, Kentucky, on the north, and the Carolinas on the south. In 1920 there were 13,542 people in the county. Of these 13,107 were native white Of native parentage, 50 native white of foreign parentage, 15 native white of mixed parentage, 74 foreign-born white, and 296 colored. Thus only 74, or onehalf of one per cent, are foreign born. The foreign born and negroes live almost entirely in the mining and lumber camps.
With the opening of the C., C. & O. Railroad in 1915, for the first time the rich mines and forests of the county were made accessible to the world markets. From 1915 to 1917 several mines were opened up, and new towns sprang up along the railroad, such as Clinchco, Haysi, Splashdam and Trammell. These towns were the results of the mining industry and had a population ranging from 200 to 1,500 people. The W. M. Ritter Lumber Company, during the same period, had begun extensive lumber operations at Fremont and Caney in this county.
The great demand for coal and lumber at that time made Dickenson County a veritable hive of industry. The people were all busy at mining, lumbering or on their farms producing to supply these laborers with food. It was the construction of the railroad and the great growth in industry that followed that caused the rapid increase in population at this time and found Dickenson for the first time with ally colored or foreign population.
Most of the people lived on farms in 1914, and raised most of the products they used, but no surplus for profit. The farms were isolated, and social contacts were not frequent. Few telephones were in the county; many mail routes were tri-weekly; roads were only fair mountain trails. Not a large number of the citizens read daily papers; news was often brought from the outside world by peddlers. The people were used to hardships, and few modern conveniences and luxuries were known.
Radical improvements and the urge of a new era cache with the railroad in 1915. In Clintwood alone in that year $75,000 to $100,000 were spent on the courthouse, the Dickenson County Bank building, and beautiful homes. The McClure Bottling Works started at Haysi that year, and general prosperity led to the establishment of the Bank of Haysi in 1919. A Freeling correspondent of the Roanoke Times in June, 1915, stated that labor was scarce on the farms, but it was easier to get the labor than the money to pay the wages The people were busier and making more money than they had ever made before, and being far removed from Europe, were consequently not greatly concerned about the war.
To be sure, the county was shocked with the news that Germany had brutally crossed Belgium, and eagerly awaited to see if Paris could be taken. On the part of most citizens there was a comparatively neutral attitude. There was sympathy for Belgium, Serbia and France, and a hostility toward the brutality of the German leaders. Many of the isolated hill people were unable to comprehend the reasons for the warcould not realize its immensity and terrors at first. As the Germans drew near Paris, and the fierce fighting around Verdun was in progress, the citizens began openly to express the hope that the Allies would win, although many of them thought our people should not go across the seas to fight for the other nations. Most of them were individualistic acid held that it was none of our business; but on the other hand. had America been invaded they would have responded to a man in defending the country.
As the war progressed the people became better acquainted with its causes. The constant newspaper reports of the German atrocities shocked these peaceful and liberty-loving hill people; many citizens saw it was inevitable that America should take up the fight, and advocated war long before President Wilson recommended this to Congress. Most citizens had such confidence in their President and Congress that they willingly and unquestioningly accepted their leadership. When war was decided upon, as well as the other incidents connected with it, the Dickenson soldier, true to his traditional and gallant defense of honor and right and home, set sail to fight and cover himself with the glory of his fathers.
The churches of Dickenson County performed a valuable function in the war period that aided very much in achieving the final triumph. The church served as a steadying influence to those who went into the army and navy and a consolation to those who remained at home. It gave spiritual succor to the weary and despondent and was a fountain of strength for all. In spite of the manifold services of the churches during war time, it is difficult to lay hold of and record the tangible results of their endeavors. The main reasons for this condition are these: (1) Mountain men, as a rule, do not join a church in youth. They are not born and bred in the church of their fathers and mothers; they feel it would be an act of’ sacrilege and hypocrisy to attach themselves to a church before they have personally experienced the pardoning and Saving power of God. For this reason but few of our soldiers were allied with any church which could lay just claim to them as its own: (2) The great majority of Dickenson County people do not believe in mixing church and state affords and as war is necessarily a business of the state, the church as an organization, stands aloof, though its members individually may be strong advocates of war as a last resort. (3) These same people do not believe in collecting funds for such purposes through the medium of church organizations. They do not pay their preachers salaries; they give willingly and freely to causes they think worthy; but they believe in old admonition: “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” For these reasons church records give no satisfactory information as to the extent of the war-work activites of the church members in Dickenson County.
In no other county in the State of Virginia is there a deeper religious feeling and belief in the existence of an Omnipotent d than among the people of Dickenson County. Nutured in the eternal mountains and living close to nature, they have abundant evidence of God’s power and mercy. When troubles come thick and fast and the future looms dark and threatening, they know of no other source of comfort and protection than their Maker. So when the World War began to reach its powerful tentacles across the ocean and to draw America irresistibly into the conflict, the people of Dickenson knew that alone they were powerless to avert the catastrophe that was coming into their lives. Suffering, destruction and death could not be avoided. God was punishing the world for its sins. America could not escape her share of this punishment, and her people would have to pay along with the rest of the world. So they put their trust in the Ruler of the Universe and sent their sons forth to battle with the abiding faith of those who know their cause is just and that God is with the right.
While the religious faith of our people was strong and they did not despair of ultimate victory, a casual observer would not discern readily such sentiments in the written records of our churches. Very much that was said and done was never recorded. The vast majority of the people of Dickenson County belong to-or believe in the tenets and practices ofthe Primitive Baptist Churches. Unfortunately for their own history, these churches do not keep a careful record of their proceedings, and they have no active and powerful interchurch organizations like those that characterize other religious denominations. They have no higher board or bishop to which to report their actions and deliberations. Consequently no complete record is ever made of their meetings. Local conditions make it inadvisable to hold more than one or two meetings each month in their church. No organized effort is possible in communities that are sparsely populated. Nevertheless, many special meetings for hearing Liberty Loan and Red Cross speakers were held in these churches. Several of the Primitive Baptist preachers took a leading and effective part in these war-time campaigns for raising funds for war work. While no special war-time services were held in these churches, the prayers and sermons of their elders were filled with patriotic fervor and devotion to our soldiers.
The Methodist and Missionary Baptist Churches at Clintwood????? and a few other points in the county were very zealous in their war work. Funds were collected for the Red Cross and other organizations; special patriotic services were held; service flags and national colors displayed, and other work of a similar nature accomplished.
The general attitude of all congregations, except perhaps the Dunkard Church at Skeetrock, was that America’s participation in the war was unavoidable and that our nation should exert itself to the utmost to win the victory. They were earnest and anxious in their solicitation for the welfare and comfort of the soldiers and sailors. The people willingly complied with every request of the Federal government in so far as it was in their power. Food conservation and thrift became popular, and a spirit of helpful cooperation manifested itself strongly throughout the county. The opportunity for social intercourse at church meetings aided the growth of these sentiments in a very material way.
One gratifying effect of the war was the disappearance, in a large measure, of the factional and denominational friction between the various churches. The spirit of patriotism and national danger drew all people of the county together in one common bond of brotherhood, and they forgot their theological differences for the time being. They saw only their boys in camp and trench facing the national foe, and they all looked to the same God for succor and guidance.
The World War wrought many mighty changes in the various avocations of life. The public school did not escape. One of the most marked changes in the school curriculum of this county was the effect upon the teaching of history and geography. History, which was at one time viewed as a group of dry facts concerning the different peoples of the world, was made realistic. When the boys of this county donned the khaki uniform and went overseas to fight a foreign foe, the children began to realize in a vivid way that their old histories had really told of true happenings, and that history was repeating itself. A new impetus was therefore given both to the study and to the teaching of history. Geography was also given a newer and more realistic meaning. The children became interested in the geography of the Old World. During the war they mere enthusiastic to note the various battle fronts. Since the war they have become particularly interested in the new map of Europe.
Not only has the school curriculum been changed as noted above, but other innovations have come into being that are proving of real north. Before the war there were many children of this county who had perhaps never heard the “Star-Spangled” Banner,” but when the spirit of patriotism began to assert itself, our national anthem was taught in all the schools and was heard ringing from the many bird-like throats of the boys and girls of this county. Flag drills and salutes, with other patriotic exercises, were introduced in many of the schools.
Another change worthy of note is that of calisthenics. We learned from the war that America’s physical manhood was considerably below people’s expectations. The fact that a large number of the young men of this county were physically unfit for the government’s service caused the boys to yearn for a physical strength that would manifest itself with proper physical exercise. As a result, calisthenic exercises have been introduced in all of the schools of this county, with increasing satisfactory results.
A chief contribution of the pupils to the winning of the war was the sale of War Savings Stamps. The amount of money raised in the county in this way was considerable the pupils buying many of the stamps. Pupils also carried home the enthusiasm imparted by patriotic speeches in the schools and interpreted the meaning and menace of the war to their parents, thereby aiding in maintaining and increasing the morale of the people.
Thrift was taught by every means, to young and old, during the whole war period. June 28, 1918, was set aside as Thrift Day in Dickenson County by the thrift director, W, W. Pressley. The County School Board urged all teachers to purchase at least $10.00 in War Savings Stamps, while at district teachers’ meetings thrift and questions concerning the winning of the war were eagerly discussed, the patrons taking part in the proceedings.
The personnel of the teaching force has been greatly changed. Below are three lists????? of teachers of this county who served in the World War; the first being those who were teaching at the outbreak of the war; the second, those who have formerly taught in this county; the third, those who volunteered for the government’s service:
Before the war broke out nearly all teachers in Dickenson County were men. About this time general progress laid hold on the people with the building of a railroad and the beginning of development of the great resources of the county. Lumbering, mining and other industries, with better wages and year-long jobs, have drawn away many former menteachers, and women now fill three-fourths of the teaching positions in the county. During the war many schools were without teachers; some were filled with incompetent teachers because of the scarcity of qualified teachers. Larger boys dropped out of school to work. Conditions have radically improved since the war in the school system, with equalized opportunities, more standard schools, better trained teachers, and one of the best high schools in the South, the Memorial High School, at Clintwood.
The people of Dickenson County welcomed the draft law as being the fairest and best method of securing soldiers for service in Europe. They did not thoroughly know what the war was about, nor why American soldiers should be sent to fight in Europe, but our boys were ready to do their share of this work. Very few objected to the spirit and operation of the law. It is true many did not understand the various provisions of the selective service act or draft law, and they did not know what effect it would have on their work and life, yet they had enough confidence in their government to leave the details to those in authority. They did what they were instructed to do, and left the outcome to the wisdom of their leaders and the mercy of God.
The registration of those within the draft age was accomplished by the local registrars at the various voting precincts on June 5, 1917. Very little opposition was encountered in this work. All the questionnaires were returned to Clintwood and there they were checked and classified by the Local Draft Board. This board consisted of M. C. Swindall, chairman; G. M. Jones, secretary, and Dr. W. H. Reed, physical examiner. This board organized and began its work immediately after the questionnaires were returned. The work of exemption was performed by the same board. There was little objection to the classification by the board, and few appeals were taken to the State Exemption Board. In every appeal case the State Board sustained the classification of the Local Board.
The Local Board was engaged for several days on the work of classification and exemption. Dr. Reed was assisted materially by Dr. R. L. Phipps in the physical examination of the selective service men. This examination was perhaps the most thorough ever submitted to by the youth of this county. That in itself was a great help to the individuals, as it showed them for the first time just where they were weak physically and laid the foundation for a general improvement in the health and sanitary conditions throughout the whole county.
The Board of Legal Advisers, composed of judge A. A. Skeen, S. H. Sutherland and S. P. Riddle, rendered very valuable service in the short time allowed them in aiding the people to understand the selective service law, and also in assisting the young men to fill out their questionnaires properly. Other lawyers volunteered their services in this very important and helpful work.
All the men drafted were sent to the army cantonment at Camp Lee, near Petersburg, Virginia. Upon receiving the quota for the county the Local Draft Board sent out the call for a number of men sufficient to fill the quota, and they reported at Clintwood where they were usually entertained overnight. A captain or leader was chosen from among theta, who took charge of the men and the papers to accompany them, and delivered them to the camp authorities at Camp Lee.
Practically all claims for exemption were based on marriage. A few claimed exemption on account of their religious or conscientious scruples. These latter claims came from persons residing at Skeetrock and adjacent points south of Cumberland Mountain. At that place the Dunkards had an active church, and several of its members objected to military service because of their religious tenets. They were required to report for service.
A second registration was accomplished in the county on June 5, 1918, at which time all the men who had attained the age of 21 since June 5, 1917, were registered. This included about one hundred young men. On September 12, 1918, all the men from eighteen to forty-five years of age, except those in the army or navy or already registered, were registered for military service, the original Local Draft Board, being in charge of this final registration.
There were few slackers and deserters in Dickenson County. Some hesitated at first to go into the army, but after a short period of meditation, most of them reported for training. The Adjutant-General of the Army reported the following slackers from Dickenson County:
Omar Reed Clifton, Hazel, Va.; Henry Cully (subject of Canada); Emplues Hawkins, Dwale, Va.; Roy Hawkins, Darwin, Va.; Thomas Isiah Hawkins, Dwale, Va.; Creed Mullins, Georges Fork, Va.; Luther Mullins, Georges Fork, Va.; Walker Page, Dante, Va.; Johnnie Phipps, Freeling, Va.; Andy Stevens, Duty, Va.; John L. Turner, Dante, Va.; Nathaniel Williams, Edwardsville, Va.
As will be noted, Cully and Williams were not residents of Dickenson County. None of these men were ever apprehended by the authorities or punished for their evasion of the draft law.
A number of citizens of Dickenson County, being anxious to do their bit in actual military service, did not wait to be called by the draft authorities. Others, too young or too old for the draft, tendered their services. The navy had a fascination for many, and near the close of the war several men from the second registration, who persuaded the naval authorities to give them an early chance for active service, enlisted for sea service.
The number actually in service from Dickenson County is unknown. The necessary result of the selective service law was to scatter the county’s quota in various military organizations. No complete roster can be compiled by resorting to the roster of any particular organization.
From records supplied from the office of the Adjutant-General of the Army, it is ascertained that the number called to the service from Dickenson County by the draft was approximately 275. There were about 20 volunteers in the navy, and more than 50 entered the army as volunteers or were drafted outside the county. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that more than 350 sons of Dickenson County saw military or naval service in the World War.
There has never been any military organization in Dickenson County. It has been too isolated to make feasible the organization of a National Guard, Home Guard, or State Militia unit. It was too sparsely settled and its transportation and travel facilities were too meager to permit the organization of any of these units during the war period.
The people of Dickenson County have never handled large sums of money. In undeveloped resources this county is perhaps the richest in the South, but its permanent citizens have never been able to convert much of this wealth into ready money. When the World War began the most valuable asset of the county was its young men, and of them it gave without stint or limit.
In years gone by the citizens had sold perhaps half their holdings in the county to large corporations for a song, so to speak; coal lands were sold for 50 cents to $2.00 per acre, and virgin forests for $15.00 per acre. A few citizens had foresight enough to keep their property for better prices, or saved the puny proceeds from the sale of their potential fortunes. Some had slowly accumulated funds by the sweat of their brow. Patient industry and frugal living had brought some rewards, but there were no idle rich in the county. On the other hand, the county has never had the slightest need for a poorhouse nor other institutions for the indigent.
When the World War came so suddenly and snatched their sturdy sons from their homes and hillside fields, the people thought that was enough to demand of them. But as the months wore on and the immensity of the struggle became more apparent, they saw that it was necessary for the homefolks to supply the real sinews of war-money. The boys must be clothed and fed and armed, and that took money. For the first time, perhaps, in their lives, the people began to realize that the government was no magician that was able to create unlimited funds with the single stroke of a wand. In the past they had hardly realized that they themselves were an important part of a government that existed and lived alone by their combined efforts and aid, or perished for want of those things. Now that their sons were under the immediate control of the government, they took a closer look at it, and found that in the end the money that it must use came from their own pockets. It was an important as well as startling discovery to many.
When the Federal government called for the First Liberty Loan, the people of Dickenson County were not quite adjusted to the whirlwind developments of that time. News did not then penetrate the hill country so rapidly as elsewhere, and the full strength of the county was not organized for this drive. But at the second call, the response was better, and on the third loan the quota secured a 160 per cent response. The fourth quota was larger, as was the fifth, and the subscription to the last three drives was approximately the same, being near $75,000 per loan. It was inspiring to witness a small population, without much money but eager to do their part, dig down into their pockets for their last penny, saying: “Take it for my boy’s sake. I don’t need it now — I can save more by the time I need it.” Such was the spirit of a people at last aroused to the knowledge of their power and duty as patriotic American citizens.
In the various drives for Liberty Loans, Mr. John W. Flannagan, Jr., a young lawyer of Clintwood, served as county chairman of the men’s organization. He had a strong and active organization spread over the whole county, composed of the leading citizens. These men worked as a unit, and deserve great credit for arousing the people to understand the treed of responding to the government’s call for funds to prosecute the war to the limit. The women’s organization had for its chairman, Mrs. J. K. Damron, of Clintwood. This organization also did splendid work.
Printed circulars were sent broadcast over the county urging the necessity for subscriptions, and announcing speakers at certain hours.) Schools and churches were utilized to spread the cause. Strong and convincing speakers, both resident and non-resident, covered the county in the effort to arouse the cause. Strong and convincing speakers, both resident were: A. A. Skeen, S. H. Sutherland, R. E. Chase, C. Bascom Slemp, T. J. Munsey, W. A. Daugherty, Bruce Johnson, A. K. Morrison, W. H. Rouse, R. L. Hooker, Lee Long, Eivens Tiller and Wm. B. Sutherland.
Detailed figures for the First Liberty Loan are not available. For the remaining loans the following figures are supplied by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which handled the loan for Virginia:
|Loan||Maximum Apportionment||Amount Subscribed||Subscribers|
|2nd||$ 30,500||$ 11,500||No report|
While many citizens gave much time and money to the work in all the loans, the following men, in the opinion of the county chairman,  did exceptionally fine work: John F. Trivitt, William B. Sutherland, Frank Clark and M. C. McCorkle. Valuable assistance was rendered by Mr. Frank Hammel, general counsel for W. M. Ritter Lumber Company, who lives at Columbus, Ohio, and by Mr. Lee Long, general manager and vice-president of the Clinchfield Coal Corporation, who lives at Dante, Virginia. Employees of these companies living in the county liberally used their wages to purchase bonds.Loans in Dickenson County. Associate  of the chairman, Mr. Flannagan, in the Men’s Association for the other loans were:
THIRD LOAN-John F. Trivitt, Frank Clark, Frank H. Fuller, Captain Deviney, R. L. Hooker, W. B. Sutherland, S. H. Sutherland, W. W. Pressley.
FOURTH LOAN-J. G. McFall, W. J. Branham, W. J. Artrip, D. R. Crabtree, B. F. Kenady, J. P. Kelley, J. T. Kiser, Joseph Mullins, Will Buckles, Mert McCorkle, R. L. Hooker, Drayton Musick, Zack South, S. H. Sutherland, W. W. Pressley, Mr. Randolph, Lee Long, T. K. Colley, N. C. Fuller, Frank Large, J. W. Mullins, G. B. Counts, W. B. Sutherland, George W. Stone, J. E. L. Sutherland, N. J. Buchanan, Dave Kenady, R. L. Mullins, E. C. Kiser, G. C. Mullins, Meredith Willis, M. C. McCorkle, Frank Smith, R. D. Sutherland, Lucian Priode, Henry Keel, John F. Trivitt, Frank H. Fuller, Frank Clark, C. G. Jackson, W. J. Cochran, John G. Kerr, E. D. Sutherland, J. W. C. Counts, T. C. Sutherland, Eivens Tiller.
FIFTH (VICTORY) LOAN-J. G. McFall, J. E. L. Sutherland, W. J. Artrip, D. R. Crabtree, B. F. Kenady, J. P. Kelley, J. T. Kiser Joseph Mullins, J. W. Richardson, Mert McCorkle, R. L. Hooker, Drayton Musick, Henry Hamilton, S. P. Riddle, W. W. Pressley, D. Litton, Lee Long, C. G. Jackson, W. J. Cochran, E. S. Counts, Frank Large J. W. Mullins, G. B. Counts, W. B. Sutherland, George W. Stone, W. J. Branham, N. J. Buchanan, Dave Kenady, R. L. Mullins, E. C. Kiser, G. C. Mullins, Meredith Willis, M. C. McCorkle, Frank Smith, R. D. Sutherland, Zack South, G. -Mark French, John F. Trivitt, Mr. Randolph, Frank Clark, Captain Deviney, T. K. Colley, N. C. Fuller, John G. Kerr, E. D. Sutherland, J. W. C. Counts, T. C. Sutherland, Eivens Tiller.
Besides Mrs. J. K. Damron, chairman, the members of the Women’s Organization were:
FOURTH LOAN-Mrs, Hobart Kiser and Mrs. Will Mason.
These same workers directed the Fifth (Victory) Loan in the county for the women.
While the persons named had the responsibility of directing the loans in the county, many others contributed very largely to this cause and deserve much credit for the success of the various loans. Those who could not fight on the battle front gave all aid and support from the rear.
No figures are available for the War Savings Stamps campaign in the county, but it is known that the sales were general at all points and that young and old responded generously to the call. In July, 1918, Dickenson had sold only $3,583 in War Savings Stamps, which was proportionately loner than for other counties in the Ninth District.
During the war period there was a noticeable increase in production on the farms. Concerted  efforts were made to conserve and increase the production of wheat, rye, buckwheat and corn; of hogs, sheep and poultry; of milk and milk products, and of potatoes, beans, peas and other garden truck.
Citizens were encouraged to furnish most of the family needs from home gardens. Wasteful methods of harvesting and storing crops were discouraged.
Mr. J. Nick Jones, county farm demonstrator, organized pig clubs, poultry clubs, corn clubs and advised the farmers concerning their problems, which resulted in larger yields per acre, rotated crops and better ways of doing the work of the farm. Although labor was scarce and wages almost prohibitive, the farmers loyally bore their share of the burden during the war.
The local Food Administrator, Dr. N. B. French, of Clintwood, tactfully and energetically performed his duties. Instructions were spread as completely and quickly as possible concerning food regulations, the columns of the Dickenson County News being employed for this. There was a spirit of co-operation on the part of the people to observe the principles of conservation, to do without sugar and other article to a great extent for the sake of the soldier and his welfare. There was little, if any, profiteering in Dickenson County.
With the completion of the only railroad in the county in 1915, mining towns sprang up rapidly, and the W. M. Ritter Lumber Company began extensive operations in the county. During the war the demand for coal was so great that coal was often mined some distances from the railroad and hauled in wagons to shipping points. The choicest and largest white oaks were cut in lengths from 12 to 40 or more feet, running from 12 to 30 inches on the face, and shipped for export or ship timbers, in addition to the increased lumber production at several small mills in the county.
There was a large increase in transportation over the only railroad, and fuel and war supplies had the right-of-way. Along with the later trend toward highways, Hon. R. E. Chase, aided by Senator Swanson, secured extra train and mail services early in 1919.
No strikes marred the record of laboring men in Dickenson County during the war. The farmers were native-born whites, as were most of the industrial workers. All were loyal and earnest. As has been the custom of mountain women, the Dickenson women bore their share of all burdens as bravely as did the Spartan women of old. Wages went beyond the dreams of the workers, and many were filled with a feeling of their self-importance. Whereas they received $1.00 to $2.00 before the war on the farms, wages of $4.00 per day, with pay day each Saturday, were offered for work at stave mill and in the mines in 1918. By 1919 free board and $3.00 per day were offered for cutting and shipping timber. Naturally there was a shortage of farm labor, since the farmers could not afford to pay such wages.
Since practically all people in the county are related by blood, and are native whites of purest stock, there has never en any class feeling. The absence of negroes until 1914 moved all causes for racial prejudice. Customs brought into the mountains with the settlement of the county prevailed in 1914. Women assumed a greater share of the home work than their lowland sisters, and the children had their dart of the work. A majority of the women perhaps did not desire suffrage, but they have been interested and instrumental in elections since they have won their equal rights. These equal rights arid the new freedom have perhaps wrought eater changes in the mountains than elsewhere. Before the war most of the teachers in Dickenson and other mountains counties were men; now most of them are women. On “the farm and in the home the men now perform more of the duties. The advent of women into the official and political life of the county, along with the urge of progress brought back by the soldier, has begun to transform the potential wealth of Dickenson into highways, better schools, civic improvements greater comfort in the homes, and a growing interest in the affairs of the day.
In May1917, a start was made by the Woman’s Literary Club, of Clintwood, to organize a Red Cross Chapter for Dickenson County. This movement was retarded by the fact that most of the people of the county were unfamiliar with the Red Cross, and the organization was not perfected until September, 1917. That the people were finally aroused by e chapter to do their part is shown in the fact that Dickenson raised three times her quota in the Red Cross work. The following prominent men of the town were elected officers of the chapter: W. H. Rouse, chairman; J. W. Stewart, vice-chairman; J. W. Flannagan, Jr., secretary; W. W. Pressley, treasurer.
The following executive committee was elected: W. H. Rouse, J. K. Damron, F. P. Sutherland N. B. French, Jonah Mullins, W. W. Pressley, J. W. Flannagan, Jr., Rev. F. H. Fuller, Henry Keel, Rev. J. W. Stewart, and Mrs. J. K. Damron. Mrs. J. K. Damron was elected chairman of this committee, which was composed of persons of high standing in the town, being lawyers, preachers, doctors, bankers, etc.
Mr. Rouse served as chairman about six months and then resigned because his business required him to be absent so much that he felt he could not give the office the time it deserved. A special meeting was called and Rev. F. H. Fuller was elected chairman. He served about nine months, then moved away. Professor M. W. Remines was then elected chairman. Mr. Flannagan served as secretary about nine months and then resigned. Mrs. J. K. Damron was elected in his stead.
A public meeting was held at Clintwood, at which judge W. E. Burns, of Lebanon, Virginia, after making an appropriate address, presided. At this meeting a working branch, known as the Clintwood Auxiliary, was organized with the following officers: Mrs. J. K. Damron, chairman; Mrs. A. A. Skeen, secretary: Mrs. F. H. Fuller treasurer.
The following working committees were appointed:
Two workrooms were donated to the chapter by the Board of Supervisors. These rooms were maintained and operated by the chapter for many months.
Most of the time was devoted to cutting, sewing by hand and on sewing machines, and knitting by hand. The following is a list of active workers and the kind of work done by each at Clintwood.
Mrs. F. C. Hillman, knitting and sewing; Mrs. Floyd Damron, knitting Mrs. J. K. Damron knitting, sewing and cutting; Mrs. J. M. Skeen, knitting; Mrs. J. W. Stewart, knitting and serving; Mrs. W. H. Reed, knitting and sewing.
Front time to time the chapter had plays, public meeting. etc., to raise money for the purpose of carrying on the work. Some of the most liberal contributors were: W. H. Rouse. T. H. Long, T. K. Damron and G. B. Long. All supplies bought from Red Cross headquarters, Washington, D.C., except a small amount of material from local stores. Our Red Cross quota was always filled.
The chapter supplied all our county boys who left for the different cantonments after November 1, 1917, with knitted outfits, consisting of sweaters, wristlets and socks:
The following articles were shipped to Potomac Division headquarters and to France: 17 sheets, 99 inches long; 1 sheet, 71 inches long; 21 convalescence robes; 212 hospital shirts; 33 pair pajamas; 506 substitute handkerchiefs, dish towels, napkins, etc.: 18 refugee garments; 180 pair socks; 53 pair wristlets ; 96 sweaters; 8 helmets; 50 pair hospital socks; 7 layettes. This work was accomplished by fewer than a dozen members.
When the boys were called to the county seat to be entrained for camp, there was served to each a nice dinner, and they were given lunch boxes, fruit, etc., and were sent away with good cheer.
During the summer of 1918 there were collected and sent to Camp Lee, 169 jars of preserves, jellies and pickles, valued at $100.00.
A Home Service committee was appointed, with Professor M. W. Remines, chairman, and Mrs. J. K. Damron, secretary. This committee did splendid work during the influenza epidemic in 1918, assisting more than twenty-five families by loaning garments, furnishing food, medicine, etc., and nursing the sick. The influenza epidemic was perhaps more fatal in Dickenson than in any county of the State in proportion to the population. It was spread from the county fair at Clintwood, early in October, 1918, and more than fifty deaths were known to have occurred in the county, in October of that year, from influenza. As many as six in some families died.
Auxiliaries were organized in different parts of the county, namely: Clintwood, Nora, Fremont, Clinchco, Haysi and Bucu. Only two of these auxiliaries were especially active, Clintwood and Nora. Nora is a small place in the county, but Mrs. Hugh Binns, with only a few associates, accomplished a Mrs. amount of work. A small amount of work was done at Bucu by the ladies of the Red Cross, especially in knitting and sewing.
Letters from the soldiers in camp to the folks back home, Fin which the work of the Red Cross, Young Men’s Christian; Association and other organizations were praised, aided much in educating the public to the value of these auxiliary agencies and stimulated concerted and county-wide effort in the drives for funds for them and for necessary supplies for the soldiers.
Very few citizens of Dickenson County had seen military service prior to the World War. Occasionally a youth with the fire of adventure in his blood would enlist in the regular army, but usually a short term weaned him of any desire to make soldiering a life profession. No student from this county had attended a military school. Thus when war came the soldiers from Dickerson County had to begin at the bottom; yet in the short period of their active military- experience they proved that they, had the stamina and ability to make excellent soldiers. The following natives of the county won commissions in the army:
Winfield Scott Duty, second lieutenant, infantry; Charles Rufus McCoy, second lieutenant, infantry; Leland Stanford Owens, second lieutenant, infantry; James Corbett Senter, second lieutenant, aviation; Brady Sutherland, second lieutenant, infantry; Elihu Jasper Sutherland, first lieutenant, infantry; Fitzhugh Sutherland, second lieutenant, infantry.
The names of Dickenson County soldiers who won special honors in military service follow:
The war closed suddenly, but the effects of the cessation of hostilities did not reach Dickenson County at once-it was too far from the center of camp and industrial activities. There was a welcomed sense of relief, but no one was greatly confused. The news of the Armistice, on November 11, 1918 brought great joy to the people. At Clintwood and other points great bonfires were built to celebrate the coming of peace, and young and old alike roamed the streets till late at night, engaged in the spontaneous celebration.
The war was overat last the awful suspense, the sleepless nights, the days of anxiety were ended. The enemy was on his knees, and the victory-so costly yet so priceless-was won. The soldiers on the firing line, those trooping up from the rear, and those still in the training camps in America breathed a sigh of relief, and the folks at home-brave and toiling ceaselessly-could now rest a moment with their work well done.
No sooner was the Armistice signed than the soldiers in the home camps began to come back to their mountain homes in Dickenson County. Camp Lee, 350 miles away, was the nearest camp to this county. To that camp practically all our soldiers went for training. The steady stream of our young men was suddenly reversed, and now their steps led homeward. Those who had barely gotten there, together with some who had been there for months, were speedily discharged. It was only when a great number of them had come home and a few of the overseas boys had returned to the hills, that the people felt the full joy and assurance of peace.
As quickly as the boys could get discharged they struck a bee-line for Dickenson to see the old folks and the neighbors. All were glad to get back. Practically every soldier visited home before going to work as a civilian. It was pathetic and also inspiring to see father and mother often go many miles to the station to meet THEIR hero and escort him proudly to the little home in the hills. Here, surrounded by admiring brothers and sisters and all the neighbors, from infants in arms to tottering gray-beards, the soldier paraded in his neat uniform, and, if given to talkativeness, he told them his thrilling experiences in the far-away camps and battlefields. Often the crowd would sit up all night, talking and joyously celebrating the return of the defender of his country. Sometimes an old rebel, his fighting blood once more aroused, and the memory of the days that he followed Jackson and Lee corning back upon him strongly, would quiz the modern son of Mars as to how “they fit in this war.” He would make the young man do the manual of arms, or mark tune, or give the countersign in the new way, much to the old veteran’s dismay.
Very few soldiers returned without being given a dinner or party, or both, by their parents. To this event all the neighbors were invited-or since everybody. is always welcome to such affairs in the Dickenson mountains, they came any way-, if they heard the news. This occasion usually happened the first night after the return, and often there were parties at two or three homes in the same neighborhood on successive nights. The merrymaking- was kept up all night, and a holiday was observed for several days. After many soldiers had returned, and a belated one carne home, all the “vets” for miles around helped welcome their comrade home.
Several home-coming celebrations were held in the county during 1919. The hearts of the people being stirred by a sublime spirit of patriotism, the Fourth of July was chosen as an appropriate day on which to hold these exercises. That day being fair, great crowds gathered at the appointed place. At Haysi everybody went on a picnic to Hylton’s Bottom. Several khaki-clad boys were present. On Frying Pan Creek, near Tiny, a great feast was served by the good ladies of that community. Foot races were had and a hot baseball game was staged between the soldiers and civilians. Eighteen returned service men were present, and to the delight of the 500 spectators, they went through, under the direction of Lieutenant E. J. Sutherland, matey of the closeorder movements and setting-up exercises which had formed part of their daily program not many months before.
The main home-coming event in Dickenson County took place at Clintwood on October 4, 1919, during the county fair. All the soldiers in the county were invited to be present in their best uniforms and to give their people an exhibition of real soldiering by veterans. It was to be their farewell drill. Old veterans of other wars were also invited to sec the new maneuvers. Several of the Gray and the Blue-so white-haired and feeble now-watched the spectators. .1 brass band was on hand to supply martial music. Former Governor Andrew J. Montague made a stirring patriotic address to the assembled citizens. The fathers and mother of service men were rewarded with appropriate emblems. About 100 “vets” were present, and in charge of Lieutenants C. R. McCoy and F. H. Sutherland, they executed many dose-order movements. This was the first military drill ever witnessed by the vast majority of the spectators.
The suddenness of the war disjointed the “even tenor” of life in the Dickenson hills. Accustomed to infrequent intercourse with the outside world, the mountain people were not prepared for the cataclysm of the war. The selective service law, which swept the sturdy youth of the whole land into the army, affected our people more than those of most other sections. Few of them had been away from the hills, and few had carefully studied the causes of the gigantic struggle in Europe. They were home-loving boys, and the war was far away. Yet there is no doubt that under a volunteer system, the percentage of their volunteers would have compared favorably with any other section of the whole nation. When the country called in the recent emergency, they responded as had their grandfathers in the Civil War.
Now that the war was over and they were back home, the question of readjustment and the problem of utilizing the knowledge of life, health and society that they had gained in the army and navy were demanding attention. In sentiment some of them had changed. Their old, calm, eventless life did not appeal to them any more. The glare of the white lights and the urge of the wanderlust were strong upon them. Some had learned more of the Bad Book than of the Good. They were restless and dissatisfied with their old life and work. The sudden plunge into the mad life of the outside world had shattered their life-long plans and they could not easily readjust themselves to the life to which they had come back. That was true of some of our boys but most of them, though profoundly shaken by the war, hung tenaciously to the old anchors, and after the storm had spent itself, quietly and easily took up the task that their hands, a short while ago, had left incomplete. They found that readjustment was a matter of work, time and serious thought, and conditions gradually returned to normal as our boys settled down to steady work.
In the matter of sanitation, the soldiers of this county probably learned their greatest and most valuable lessons. Neatness and simplicity in dress, cleanliness of the person, the beauty and desirability of order, both indoors and outdoors, use of toothbrush and shoe polish, and numerous other lessons were indelibly fixed upon the sensibilities of all. At home, the erstwhile soldier painted the house, repaired and improved the gates and fences, mowed and swept the lawn, and introduced the army method of sawing wood and caring for the horses. And in the community where cooking and its attendant labors have been almost invariably the lot of women, it was an historical event when Johnny donned an apron and helped mother and sister “put up a corking feed.” Most of the boys learned how to K. P. while spending their vacation with Uncle Sam.
The war sharply changed the social conditions in the county. The people realized once more-if only temporarily their need of each other. Bearing the same burdens, having the same anxieties and realizing as never before their duties to the nation as an integral part of it, they could see the value of co-operation with their neighbors, as had their fathers and grandfathers in pioneer days. The desire of everybody for social intercourse with their neighbors was very apparent to any one who saw the crowds that gathered at churches and other public functions. Parties were very popular, and sorne of the boys, who had learned to turkey-trot and tango in the camps, tried to introduce these innovations, but they met with small success. The dance craze did not conquer the hill people as it had done the lowlander.
Educational conditions have been re-adjusted slowly. Previous to the war, the majority of the public school teachers were men. The draft took the major portion of these. Then the work of teaching fell to the young ladies. They responded nobly, but in a community where women teachers were not popular, they had a hard struggle to make any headway. Unfortunately, also, the sudden rise in prices and the heavy demand for laborers at high wages robbed the schools of most of the remaining male teachers and many of the boys over fourteen years old. Education was neglected in the mad scramble for money. However, the pendulum of public opinion has swung decidedly within the past three years toward better schools, with more equal opportunities for all the county pupils, so that the educational advantages of Dickenson County are beginning to compare favorably with those of any county in the Old Dominion.
Labor conditions in the county were chaotic for a few years after the war. During the last year of the war and the year following, wages in the mining and lumber camps-at Trammel, Nora, Caney, Fremont, Clinchco, Calhoun, Lick Creek and other points in the county-shot upward and drew laborers from the farms and governmental works in such swarms that these industries were badly crippled. There were no employment bureaus, and each soldier chose what work suited his fancy. Many of the returning soldiers, instead of going back to their pre-war jobs, entered these mines and lumber camps. In exceptional cases women had taken the absent soldiers’. jobs and still retained them. The wages paid for farm laborers, teachers, store clerks and road hands were too small to tempt the lusty, self-reliant ex-service men. Big wages in new industries gave him a chance to gratify some of his newly-awakened desires. He “blew his money like a gentleman” on fine clothing, automobiles, guns, whiskey and other luxuries impossible before the war. The people acquired the spend-thrift habit, and when hard times came they were not prepared to live economically. This condition, however, slowly adjusted itself.
There were no labor unions in the county, and no strikes marred the period of readjustment. Mines, lumber and stave plants ran at full blast for a few years-then suddenly the bottom fell out of the market and most industries were swamped. The prices of foodstuff, clothing and other necessaries of life had gone up with wages, but they have not come down in proportion to the wage cuts.
Several ex-service men met by agreement at Clintwood in July, 1919, and formed the Dickenson County Post of the American Legion. Its first officers were: Commander, Walter B. Phipps; secretary, W. G. Rasnick, and treasurer, Clinton Sutherland. This post aided very materially in helping needy comrades to get their service claims adjusted and in fostering the spirit and memories of the World War among the people. It was active in securing and completing the Memorial High School building at Clintwood, and in furnishing it with portraits of the soldier dead and a bronze tablet to their memory.
Several of the returned soldiers who had been wounded or gassed in France took advantage of the government’s offer of vocational education and were trained in special professions. Most of these chose auto mechanical and business training.
When the soldiers returned the home folks proudly told them that they had done their job well, and that whatever they wanted they- could have. For a while the service men could not decide what they wanted. At least the county election of 1919 gave them a chance to get something. The vote of the county was normally Republican by a small majority. In this campaign that party nominated its strongest ticket, composed of old, tried-and-true party workers. Then the Democrats sprang a surprise on their opponents by nominating two ex-service men for office. J. Frank Sykes, who had been desperately wounded while fighting bravely on the Marne River in France, was nominated for county treasurer, and Willie E. Rasnick, who had served faithfully in the Naval Reserve, was named for Circuit Court clerk. After a bitter campaign both these men amateurs in politics but veterans in the service of their nation-were elected to their respective offices. Later, in 1921, when the office of Commonwealth’s attorney became vacant, the presiding judge appointed Leonard N. Sowards, who had served gallantly for many months overseas, to fill that vacancy.
The honor roll of Dickenson County contains the names of sixteen soldiers who gave their all for America. The citizens of the county believed that a permanent token of esteem for and indebtedness to their soldier dead should be erected in the county while the memory of their sacrifice was still strong in the public mind and relatives yet lived to see that their great personal loss was not forgotten by the people. This sentiment was so strong that the leaders of public life in the county cast about to find some memorial project that would be appropriate for the occasion and yet bring great future benefit to the people of the county. The ultimate decision was the erection of a Memorial High School building at Clintwood, in which industrial courses could be given in addition to the regular academic courses. In 1920, the Honorable Roland E. Chase, a firm friend of the soldiers and a member of the House of Delegates of Virginia, carried a bill through the General Assembly to allow the Board of Supervisors of Dickenson County to raise $75,000 by local taxation to be used for the erection of the proposed building. Ground was purchased and the construction of the edifice pushed until completed. In 1922 the General Assembly authorized the Board of Supervisors to lay an additional levy for the years 1922, 1923-1924 to be used to complete this project, which has been done. Now the school children of Dickenson County have a high school building second to none in Southwest Virginia, in which they are being trained for better citizenship under the inspiring surroundings of a structure dedicated to the lives and ideals of our soldier dead.
The Dickenson County Post of the American Legion donated and hung in the auditorium of the Memorial School building portraits of the following eleven members of the soldier dead, being unable to obtain pictures of the other five: Allen Jackson Bailey, Fred Haskins Colley, Thomas Jefferson Grizzle, Alexander Killen, Nelson Mullins, Teddy Owens, Fred Hicks Priode, Jessie Lee Silcox, Leonard Joseph White, Luther Hay and Garland Wright.
The Board of Supervisors appropriated a fund for the purchase of a bronze roll of honor tablet, and, the local post of the American Legion superintended the purchase and installation of the tablet in the D. M. H. S. building. The inscription on the tablet is in the following words and figures:
PEOPLE OF DICKENSON COUNTY, VIRGINIA
SONS WHO SERVED THEIR NATION
AND HUMANITY IN THE GREAT
WORLD WAR, 1914-1918
MEMORY OF THOSE WHO MADE THE
Allen Jackson Bailey (K. A.), October 5, 1918.
Fred Haskins Colley (K. A.), October 5, 1918.
John Henry Deel,(D. D.), November 9, 1918.
Thomas Jefferson Grizzle (D. D.), October 15, 1918.
Luther Hay (D. D.), October 18, 1918.
Walter H. Keel (D. D.), September 22, 1918.
Alexander Killen (D. W.), October 6, 1918.
Nelson Mullins (D. D.), October 9, 1918.
William A. Neece (K. A.), October 3, 1918.
Teddy Owens (K. A.), September 17, 1918.
Fred Hicks Priode (K. A.), October 7, 1918.
Willie Ratliff (D. D.), October 17, 1918.
Jessie Lee Silcox (D. W.), November 2, 1918.
Morgan Stanley (D. D.), October 17, 1918.
Leonard Joseph White (K. A.), October 1, 1918.
Garland Wright (K. A.), July 15, 1918.
Under the auspices of the local post of the American Legion, the following program was arranged and carried out for the dedication of the D. M. H. S. building on Saturday, November 10, 1923:
“Song: Star Spangled Banner.
Introduction of Speaker: W. B. Phipps.
Military Address: Major Richard F. Beirne.
Unveiling of Memorial Tablet: June Priode.
Parent-Teacher Association Address: Mrs. Harry Semones.
Introduction of Speaker: J. H. T. Sutherland.
Literary Address: President J. N. Hillman, Emory and Henry College.”
The war is over and peace is come. But to none of the people of Dickenson County will the world ever be just the same as it was on April 6, 1917. To some it will have changed but little-a new duty, an extra effort, a fleeting glimpse into a world of ideals, but the vision will linger however imperfect-until death comes; to many the change will have been profound and lasting-new life, new energy, new hopes, new vision. A light has penetrated the hills that cannot be totally extinguished.