HEZEKIAH SCALF AND SARAH VAUGHAN RIDDLE SCALF FAMILY
(Hezekiah - Brittan - John, Sr. - Lewis)
Hezekiah Scalf, son of Brittan and Talitha Couch Scalf, was born in Russell County, Virginia, Jan. 30, 1841. He was thus about five years old when his mother gathered the family at the recommendation of Dr. Robert Jackson and migrated to Johns Creeks Pike County, Kentucky, near the present postoffice of Gulnare. Of the children journeying with their mother to Kentucky only James Breckinridge was younger than Hezekiah. He had been born May 18, 1842 and was thus approximately four years old at the time.
John Henry and Archibald, two of the older boys, drove the covered wagon over the rugged trail, their mother steadying the children and the two little ones against the jolting vehicle. They left the Clinch River valley, headed west through the mountains of present day Dickinson county toward towering Pound Gap, traditional gateway pass in the Cumberlands to the Big Sandy valley. It was an almost roadless area but pioneers and settlers had beaten a clear path to Pound Gap and they probably had no difficulty in finding their way.
They were three days on the journey and had to encamp twice beside the road. Through Found Gap they threaded their way, descended Elkhorn Creek to Shelby Creek Gap, went through that low gap and down Shelby Creek to the Levisa Fork of Big Sandy River to within eight miles of Pikeville. The lumberingwagon rolled on down the river valley to the Pike County seat, turned east over Ferguson Creek Mountain to the waters of Johns Creek. A journey of approximately 15 miles brought them to mid-way the valley. Talitha Couch Scalf went to housekeeping in a rude cabin on what is now (1966) the Cline Burchett farm and near his present residence. Oldsters of years ago would point to a giant boulder in a bottom which stood near the cabin.
Archibald, Lee, and John Henry, brothers of Hezekiah, were for a few years the breadwinners of the family but they soon married and the burden of assisting the widow Scalf to support her remaining six children shifted to James and Hezekiah. The boys cleared land, plowed and harvested. Their mother and her daughters carded, and spun wool, wove cloth for clothing as they had to subsist in a pioneer economy. It was a busy family, each with its allotted tasks.
Talitha, landless when she left Russell County, remained so all her life. The family moved a few times in the valley, always trying to improve its lot. Life was hard with this propertyless family but all its members had fortitude and stamina. Tradition is always consistent that the mother was frugal and hard-working and blessed with good health, concomitant of survival. on a backwoods farm.
Hezekiah grew to manhood, a rugged character whose individual exploits have come down to us as a part of the family's lore. Many of his escapades were probably embellished by the story-teller but if they are heavily discounted they still remain outstanding vignettes of life of the man and his time. He-was courageous to the point of being foolhardy. Blunt, to the point of rudeness at times, he brooked little apposition to his point of view. Work to him was a way of life and he applied his strength to the field and plow.
Rumors of war filtered into the valley. Andrew Jackson May, Prestonsburg barrister, began to recruit for the Confederacy. Archibald and Hezekiah probably knew little of the constitutional questions that were rendering the nation asunder, and although Archibald was a married man with the beginnings of a family, both joined May and his Confederates.
May encamped his raw recruits north of Prestonsburg and did his best which was little indeed to whip the highly individualistic mountain boys into a disciplined army for he had pressing need to meet Gen. W.O. (Bull) Nelson, Union leader, who was pushing toward West Liberty and of course eventually to Prestonsburg. Few of the recruits had uniforms, few had regular army weapons, most had brought along their old squirrel rifles and ancient backwoods guns. However, they drilled intensely in the big bottom, their officers trying desperately within the narrowing limits of time to get ready to meet Nelson.
There, one night after an arduous day of drilling, the soldiers went to church. The recruits paid little attention to the exhortations of the minister, more to the antics of a little dog that ran around the room, disrupting the effectiveness of the sermon. Hezekiah and several of his comrades sat near the huge wood-burning stove. Quietly he and another soldier held a whispered conversation, winked understandingly at each other. Soon the dog came racing by the stove, ran aver Hezekiah's feet. He seized it and while his fellow-conspirator held the stove door open, he shoved the animal into the red-hot interior. There were unearthly howls as the dog fought vainly to escape the fire. The service broke up in disorder. Complaint being made by the minister to Col. May only the intervention of friendly officers saved Hezekiah from severe punishment. (1)
May finally had to march his recruits out to meet Nelson whether or not they had adequate weapons or uniforms. He lost the skirmish at Hazel Green, fell back to West Liberty, fought and lost again. Back over the old State Road they retreated through Salyersville to Prestonsburg. Scarcely delaying at their old drill ground, they continued to retreat until they came to the mouth of Ivy Creek. There, Nov. 9, 1861, Bull Nelson overtook them.
May took another licking and the troops moved south toward Pikeville and soon out on the road to Virginia. They had no supplies, endeavored to live off the countryside. Hezekiah, like the others, robbed smokehouses, bee stands and corn fields. In the thinly-settled area there was little to find. They were reduced to eating beech nuts, even beech tree buds and acorns. Hezekiah shot a crow, roasted it along the road. He always, said that he and a comrade who helped eat it decided it was a poor substitute for chicken.
Gen. Humphrey Marshall and his lieutenants took the surviving recruits and with an added aggregation of men little better than those who, had survived Nelson's severe beating whipped them into the semblance of trained men. He marched them back into the Big Sandy valley to meet Col. James A. Garfield at the Battle of Middle Creek, Jan. 10, 1862. Again the Confederates were defeated. Hezekiah attempted to escape the encircling Unionists by fleeing near dark up the Spurlock Fork of Middle Creek but was made prisoner.
The next day Garfield commandeered the John M. Burns home, at Prestonsburg as headquarters and here Hezekiah and several others were brought for the colonel's disposition. He paroled them to their homes on their pledge to never again take up arms against their government. After he had administered the oath, he told the prisoners that if they were again found in arms against the government they would be shot.
"You know." Hezekiah always said, "when he said we all would be shot, he grinned a little. I believed every word he said." (2)
Out of the army now and with contact lost with Archibald who had also been captured, Hezekiah went back to Johns Creek. The war dragged on but with the exception of constant efforts to escape raiding guerrillas who wanted to carry him off, he stayed at home to guard his mother and the remaining children still at home.
In the summer of 1863 he went down into the lower Johns Creek section and courted Sarah Jane Riddle, born May 3. 1844, an inmate of the William McGuire household, daughter of Andrew and Susannah Vaughan Riddle. She and Hezekiah were married August 14, 1863. They stayed a few days in the McGuire home and went to housekeeping at the mouth of Souder's Creek on the vast McGuire farm. Sarah had been a favorite of the McGuires and they tried to induce the couple to permanently settle at the mouth of Souder's Creek. However, Hezekiah learned of free land on the headwaters of Buffalo Creek and had decided to move there.
Hezekiah and Sarah delayed moving to Buffalo Creek for some reason or other, probably due to the protestations of McGuire who now offered to deed them land where they lived. Several children were born and approached adulthood. Hezekiah decided the growing family could be of great assistance in establishing a farm on Buffalo Creek and he moved there in 1882. There, December 30, 1882, he patented 175 acres of land. (3)
Two sons, William Preston and John B., were nearing manhood when the family moved to Buffalo Creek, the former 14 years old, the latter 18. They moved into an old log house, long since gone, that stood near the location of the present Burchett schoolhouse at the mouth of what is now called the Scalf Branch. Hezekiah and, his sons built a house farther up the valley and there the family moved. Only one house was above them, that of Mitchell Nunnery, who lived at the mouth of White Oak Creek. From the Nunnery home to the head of Buffalo Creek was a distance of approximately five miles, all of it forested.
A few years after Hezekiah and Sarah moved to Buffalo Creek, Henderson Scott and an associate bought the yellow poplar and walnut trees on the stream's headwaters and built a splashdam midway between the Nunnery and Scalf homes. Trees were felled on White Oak Creek, Big and. Little Rough, Paw Paw Fork and other streams, sawed into log lengths, "snaked" out of the mountains by ox teams to the impoundment of water created by the dam. The Scalfs, Nunnerys and many other area men found work in the logging woods.
Scott and his associate having logged all the fine poplar and walnut they could get left Buffalo Creek and Hezekiah took over operation of the splashdam. He hauled giant oak and other choice logs to the dam, collected a "head" of water, and finally when the impoundment was large enough, opened the wooden gates. The released water carried hundreds of logs downstream toward the larger Johns Creek, a tributary of Big Sandy River.
Farmers below the dam lodged loud and threatening protests with Hezekiah against this method-of logging, which, however, was the usual means in the mountains. It was especially destructive to fences around the bottoms near the creek. There came a time when the dam was full of logs and the stream was rising after a rain, filling the dam to overflowing. The water climbed higher and higher, overflowed the top of the dam. Hezekiah called one of his sons, dictated a notice to his neighbors downstream and sent him down the road to tack it up on some convenient tree or store building. it read. "This is to notify everybody that I can't hold my water much longer." That evening, word of the notice having gotten around, landowners, with their fences threatened, laughed heartily at the phrasing but threatened bodily harm to Hezekiah Scalf if he turned the impoundment loose.
In the night the water continued to rise and Hezekiah saw he couldn't "hold my water any longer." He knocked the sluice gates loose and the imprisoned logs and water roared down Buffalo Creek, demolishing fences as it went. Hezekiah discontinued the dam operation after that for the continual warfare with his neighbors downstream was too heavy a price to pay. Years afterward, when the fences were repaired or rebuilt, the farmers' anger subsided. Their amusement at Hezekiah's unusual public notice, didn't, however. The story of it survived, adding to the legends surrounding Hezekiah Scalf. (5)
By this time Hezekiah and his sons had acquired the name of the "Kiah Bunch," they were so inclined to fight. William Preston or Bill as he was called, acquired distinction as "Rock-Throwing Bill," or "Bony Bill," from his local fame as a deadly shot with a stone or from his bony and angular physiogomy. He could throw a rock with accuracy from more than a hundred feet. John was less aggressive but always ready to back his brother or father in a fight. Melvin, several years younger, usually stood on the sidelines in battle and gave vocal encouragement, One time "Rock-Throwing Bill," enraged at the Nunnerys for some fancied or real injury, drove them into the mill house of the splashdam with rocks. The Nunnerys didn't dare to come out as Bill sat nearby, a silent sentinel with rocks in his hands. Only the peacemaking intervention of the mother released the Nunnerys from their imprisonment. (4)
The years passed, John B. married and went to housekeeping on the lower end of the farm in the house in which his father had settled when he moved to Buffalo Creek. "Bony Bill." having lost some of his "chip on the shoulder" attitude mellowed a bit with the responsibilities of adulthood, married the widow, Phoebe Stratton Nunnery. John B., having constructed a large two-story house, the newly-weds went to housekeeping in the house he vacated. Their two of their children, John T. and Mary, were born. Within a few years they moved to Mare Creek on Alice's part of the Stratton homestead.
The new century came and everywhere there was talk of the new frontier of Oregon and Washington. There was land and game and adventure. Many Buffalo Creek families, among them the Musics and Thompsons, sold out, left for Washington. Melvin Scalf, who had married Elsie Goble, of Martin County, and had a small family, followed in 1904. He settled on the Cowlitz River in Southern Washington, homesteaded a ranch and added to his family. He returned in 1921, after an absence of 17 years. His wife had died and he remarried, went to housekeeping again on the Scalf farm.
Hezekiah and Sarah grew old and since all of their children were married and gone, they went to live with their son, John B., now a widower with several children. Hezekiah died first, April 17, 1924. His wife survived until Jan. 14, 1925. Both are buried in the Scalf cemetery on Scalf branch.
Issue of Hezekiah and Sarah Scalf were:
I. JOHN B. MCCLELLAN SCALF. Born Jan, 13, 1864, on the McGuire farm, on Johns Creek; married Belle Jackson Collinsworth of Johns Creek. She was born May 3, 1867. John spent his life in farming, logging and in the mercantile business. He always kept accurate and detailed records of his business affairs and to an old ledger he had we are indebted for an entry typical of scores of others: "John Scalf hauled at Tom's Creek (tributary of Buffalo Creek) the year 1899, 130 logs and John and Ras Scott guessed each at 281 cubes." Hundreds of other logs were handled by him, according to the ledger. Associated with him were Henderson (Hent) and Scott and Tom James, Sr.
Belle Scalf died Nov. 25, 1915 after a long illness. John survived 17 years, living on at the home and rearing his children. He died Feb. 5. 1932, at the Methodist hospital, Pikeville, Kentucky. Both are buried in the Scalf cemetery.
II. WILLIAM PRESTON SCALF. Born Oct, 2. 1868, on the McGuire farm. He married Phoebe Alice Stratton Nunnery, widow of Andrew Nunnery, and mother of a son, Lee Nunnery. They were married March 14, 1889, at the home of William and Susan Courtney, on Mare Creek, Floyd County, the Rev. Wm. H. Layne, Baptist minister officiating. Witnesses were William Courtney and Tandy N. Stratton. They went to housekeeping on the Scalf farm and there two children were born. Within a few years he moved to Mare Creek, on the lands inherited by his wife from her parents, Harvey Washington Stratton and Phoebe Sellards Stratton. There five other children were born. Lee was reared by an aunt, Susan Stratton Courtney, and her husband, William Courtney. He later went west as a young man and died 1914 at Los Angeles, California, W. P. Scalf spent his life in farming, logging and livestock raising. At the time of death he was the second largest landowner in Floyd County.
William Preston Scalf died after a long illness at home, May 26, 1912. His widow lived on at the farm, a large estate of several hundred acres, and died Jan. 13, 1955. Both are buried in the Stratton-Scalf cemetery on Mare Creek. (For additional information on William Preston Scalf and Phoebe Alice Scalf see addenda.)
III. ROBERT E. LEE SCALF. Born 1872. He was never married and lived for years with his parents on the Buffalo Creek farm. "Uncle Bob," as he was known to all the Scalfs and neighbors, was a distinguished looking man, dressed well and always wore a derby hat. He was a good singer of the old church hymns and was in demand at church and other gatherings as a vocalist. In his fifties he became an employee of the Pike-Floyd Coal Company, at the present Betsy Layne, Kentucky. While there he became suddenly ill at the club house where he was staying and was rushed by train to River View hospital Louisa, Kentucky, where he died within a few days. He lies buried in the Scalf cemetery.
IV. MELVIN SCALF. Born 1875. Married first Elsie Goble, Martin County, Kentucky. He resided for several years on the Scalf farm where three of his children were born. In 1904 he migrated to the Cowlitz River section of Southern Washington where he founded a homestead. Three other children were born there but one, Walter I, died while a young man. Melvin worked at farming while living in Washington, sometimes as far from home as Oregon. He returned to Buffalo Creek in 1921, after his wife died, bringing with him two children. He remarried to Ann Spears Collins, widow. They were parents of four children, one son named Walter II.
Melvin Scalf, after a long illness, died Dec. 17, 1936, and is buried back of his homesite on a cedar covered knoll he selected while living. His widow, born 1882, lived until 1962 and was buried beside him.
V. JAMES PINCKNEY SCALF. Born 1880 on Buffalo Creek. He married first Angeline Collins. He spent his life in logging and farming. James P. and Angeline Scalf were the parents of four children. Following the death of Angeline, Dec. 23, 1918, he married Dovie Lyons. They were parents of four children. While working for his nephew, Wallace Scalf, on a farm, on Mare Creek, he was accidentally killed by falling over a cliff while constructing a fence, Dec. 17, 1936. He lies buried in the Stratton-Scalf cemetery on Mare Creek. His widow, Dovie Lyons Scalf, survives at this date 1966.
VI. LOUANNA SCALF THOMPSON. Born May 1, 1876. Married Ireland Thompson of lower Johns Creek section. They resided on a part of the Scalf farm on Buffalo Creek where they reared nine children. Ireland was a farmer and woodworking craftsman. Two of their children, Martha and Floyd, died in their early adulthood. Ireland died at home in 1948 and his widow at the Prestonsburg General hospital, Jan. 20, 1963. Both are buried In the Scalf cemetery.
VII - VIII. Reconciliation of the 1880 Pike County Census with the Bible and other records of the Hezekiah Scalf family is difficult. The census lists a daughter, Anna J., 14 years old, who, would thus have been born in 1866. This could not be Louanna whose birth date was 1876 . The census also lists a Nancy E., age two. This daughter could not be Louanna. Anna J. is listed in the 1870 Pike County Census as 4 years old, adding evidence that Anna J. was a daughter of Hezekiah and Sarah Scalf. It is believed she died between 1880 and 1890. Nancy E., of whom no other record exists, must have died before the turn of the century.