|John E. Hale with infant children|
Dear Constant Readers,
This is the seventh installment in an ongoing series of posts from which I hope will form the first draft of a book. The working title for this book is, "Confessions of a Second Grade Failure." It is a coming-of-age memoir about growing up in Kingsport, Tennessee during the 1960s and early 1970s.
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P.S. Even though I do proofread my work before publishing on this blog, occasionally a grammatical error or misspelling will elude my notice. I do have a more objective proofreader, my wife, Lynn, but she usually proofs it after it has gone out to you, the reader. When I finish a blog, I transfer what I have written into chapters kept in a text document. These blog posts help shape what I will soon submit to the literary agent. So, if you find grammatical errors or misspellings, feel free to share them with me so that I may correct them. Right now I am writing to generate material and content for the book, so I am somewhat less attentive to the polishing process that goes into finished material. Thanks for your understanding and your participation.
Confessions of a Second Grade Failure
The One-Armed Fiddler
The reason for this warning may have been triggered by one of the Hale boys many pranks. Like the time they took the Mayor’s wagon apart, carrying all the pieces and rebuilt the wagon completely intact on top of the Wise Courthouse.
John Hale, in general, was strict with his children in matters of right and wrong. This was both a bent
|Talton "Bad Talt" Hall|
Papaw also participated in the search and capture of fellow lawman gone bad, “Doc” Marshall B. Taylor, who was a second cousin of mine. He was also known as the “Red Fox.” This nickname came to be associated with Taylor because of red hair and beard, and also for his stealth in tracking down outlaws. Taylor was a mountain mystic and seer, who had studied the works of Swedish philosopher and theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg, and claimed to be able to commune with the dead and the heavenly host. He was also a part-time preacher (at times Methodist, other times Baptist), physician and herb doctor (hence his title, “Doc”), and he also served as a U. S. Marshal.
|Notice that "Doc" Taylor seems to|
be holding both a Bible and a gun.
After this massacre, Taylor went into hiding. Sheriff John Miller organized a posse of twenty-two men, including my grandfather. The manhunt lasted for several days. Taylor was finally captured after he snuck onto an outgoing train in Norton to Bluefield, West Virginia. He was apprehended there and brought back to Wise where he was placed into custody in the county jail. Ironically, Taylor’s cell was right next to Talt Hall, whom he, in his capacity as U.S. Marshal, had helped hunt down and arrest just a year previous. Not only did my grandfather participate in the manhunt for Taylor, he helped guard him as well. Grandpa was present the day that the jury found Taylor guilty of murdering the Mullins family, and he was also present when Taylor was hanged outside the Wise Courthouse.
|The day of the hanging for "Doc" Taylor, aka Red Fox|
|First Edition, 1908|
based in part on the stories of “Bad” Talt Hall and “Doc” Taylor. It was one of the top-ten bestsellers in the U.S. both in 1908 and 1909. The main character in Fox’s novel was none other than John “Jack” Hale - “Jack” was my grandfather’s nickname. Though the character is a composite and fictional, he is based to some degree on Papaw. Fox and my grandfather were close friends for many years. They had served together in Home Guard in Big Stone Gap and participated together in the hunts for Hall and Taylor. Mamaw said that Fox would drop by the house every now and then to visit with Papaw, often staying overnight. It was during these times together sharing memories and tales of Wise County that Fox gathered stories and background for his novels.
My grandfather was born July 2, 1862 in Whitesburg, Tennessee to Samuel Lane Hale and his wife, Catherine Brewer. Mamaw told us that Papaw’s earliest memory was of his father lifting him up to sit atop the split rail fence of their farm so that he could see soldiers marching back to their homes following the Civil War. Dressed both in the Blue and the Gray, the Hales and other families from east Tennessee fought on both sides of the conflict.
Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Hale family suffered economically during this tumultuous period, only to face the national depression in the early 1870s. When coal was discovered in southwest Virginia, many Tennesseans left their homes to start over. in 1880, Samuel and Catherine Hale moved their entire family - all twelve children - to Powell Valley, Virginia, with Big Stone Gap at its south end and the city of Norton to its north.
One of many of my grandfather’s talents was as a mechanic. With the right tools, he could build just
about anything. A fellow from Wise County, Morgan E. Lipps, wrote an article for the Kingsport Times-News about an early incident with my grandfather in 1885 in Powell Valley. Lipps was in his yard near the main road when, in the distance, he saw a man’s head high up in the air. The man was riding something, but it didn’t look like any horse he had ever seen: “That outlandish contraption rolled right up to our gate and sure enough it was part man and part wheels tangled up together... The man part was John Hale, son of Sammy Hale.” In hindsight, Lipps said that the thing that my grandfather was riding was a bicycle, but back then, he had no words for what it was. He said, “This man Hale evidently had found an old buggy wheel and one off a discarded wheelbarrow. He had joined the two together with some sort of frame with the buggy wheel in front with a makeshift saddle mounted high up. John was riding that thing big as Jake.. It was the first bicycle ever manufactured in Wise County and the first one rode.”
John, like his father, Samuel, and his grandfather, Thomas, before him, was apprenticed in art of
|John E. Hale displaying many of the fiddles and furniture|
he crafted by hand.
As much as John was known for his furniture and instruments, he was even more well-known for giving
|William Jennings Bryan|
|John E. Hale just prior to his death in 1943.|