The Maynard Gang

Our Randolph County forbears were an earthy people. Most were yeoman farmers whose knowledge of cultures outside of our Ozark foothills communities was quite limited.

The vast majority came to America from the British Isles and Germany. Their migration routes to Randolph County were predominantly from North Carolina and other old South seaboard states through the uplands of Tennessee and Kentucky.

In their treks westward they lived mostly in isolated enclaves among kin near and distant. The earliest Randolph Countians repeated the pattern.

Susan Chester Seawel’s ancestral families came to the upper Elevenpoint River Valley from Hawkins County, Tennessee in a wagon train in 1812. The Looneys, Stubblefields and Rices were in the Yadkin River Valley of North Carolina before migrating to Tennessee. William Looney and three slaves had preceded the migration in 1802 when the area still belonged to France. The family had intermarried in North Carolina and Tennessee and continued to do so in Randolph County.

A similar kinship network developed in the Ingram-Palestine area. The Shavers’ and Mocks’ route west was from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina to Sumner County, Tennessee to Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Ingram Township, arriving in 1815. Also originating in North Carolina the Spikes family came from Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1820. Jane Jackson Waddle brought this clan from Sullivan County, Tennessee in 1833. The Jessie Johnson family came from St. Francis County, Arkansas in the Delta in the 1830s.

The upper Elevenpoint families all originated in the British Isles. I was astounded to learn that the three founding Palestine families - Shaver, Mock, Waddle - all originated in Germany.

Living in isolated communities for many generations, the founding families of our homeland had few outside linguistic influences. Words and expressions common in Elizabethan England were a significant part of our language until wider travel and television moved us nearer the cultural mainstream.

Kinship and expressions related to kinship were hallmarks until recent years. Rarely did I hear the word “relatives” in my youth. It was almost always “kin” or “kinfolks.”

Our people took pride in their ancestry and connections. “Blood kin” meant kin by descent rather than by marriage. An “own blood cousin” denoted pride in a first cousin. “Cousin” was a common designation up through fifth cousin. Eileen Morris Singley tried to explain who a man was. “Harmon, you ought to know him, he is our cousin.” The man referenced was a fifth cousin, through both the Shaver and Waddle lines.

Kinship also had its derogatory expression. “Shirttail kin” were very distant or little esteemed. Kinfolks of whom one disapproved might be dismissed by saying “his dawg might have run through our back yard.” One man referred with pointed meaning to his “wife’s son-in-law.”

Estimations of character were often pithily expressed. “He will do to cross the river with” was a high accolade. James Knotts said of Milton Lemmons “he covered all the ground he stood on.” A stalwart reference was “he was all man and a yard wide.”

Negative assessments were also quite colorful. “He would steal the nickels off’n a dead man’s eyes.” “He would climb a tree to tell a lie.” “He ain’t work brickle.”

Family members provided examples. Susan’s great-grandmother Aunt Mary Waddle said of profligate, high-flying people “they will come to their buttermilk.” Griff Buckley, who was married to my cousin Agnes Long, summarized a well-known clan succinctly. “They are just sorry.”

Conflict had its own jocose terminology. One who had enough “of another” might say, “I’ll break that feller from suckin eggs.” Serious intent was indicated when one man threatened to “stomp a mud hole” in another. “He’s anybody’s dawg who’ll hunt with im.” was a scathing insult in the hunting fraternity.

Fishing, as with hunting, was a part of the subsistence lifestyle of our earlier generations. Its terminology made a major linguistic contribution. “The politicians were a shoalin” described a large number of aspiring leaders at an event. Somewhat disparaging, the implication was that their attendance might not have graced the gathering if it were not an election year. Redhorse and suckers spawned in large numbers but were visible for only a short period of time.

Politics was a fervent sport as well as a governmental decision. Joe Alphin’s pickup truck pulled into Hite Barnett’s yard in a cloud of dust. Hite described the scene. “He looked right straight up and went to coughin. I knowed he was a politician. I just didn’t know who he wuz fer.”

B.E. Foster amplified our ancestors’ Yellow Dog Democrat tendencies with a firm declaration. “I’d vote for a blue nosed mule as long as he was on the Democrat ticket.”

The Star Herald

 

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