Marvin Tynes was interviewed on cold snowy night in April of 1998 by John Dodson. The interview was conducted in the original A.J. Tynes house on Dry Fork. Marvin unexpectedly died a few weeks after this interview took place.
Family and the Home Place
I was born December 04, 1941. Born right down the road there, in a log cabin. Down at my dad's; my dad built a log cabin. It was right there where my sister has a double wide, used to be a log cabin before that house was built. There use to be a little house where my sister put a double wide, use to be a log cabin sitting there in that flat there. It's been torn down, ever since I was, I think I was in the second or third grade. My dad built that house in 1946 or 1947 I believe it was. I'm not sure about the date but I think it was 1946. I remember when we moved out of the log cabin and into the new house my dad built up there, we called it new 'cause it was new to us.
My grandparents was Jack Tynes, my grand daddy was named Jack. My daddy's name was Ferge Annison Jackson Tynes. My grandpa was Jack. I'll show you a picture of Jack. My grandfather on my daddy's side. My momma's name was Octavia Saunders. Her middle name was Jane. My grandmother's name on my father's side was Emma Tynes. Emma Gordon. Emma Gordon Tynes, she was out of Bland, VA over there, right there at the courthouse. You know where you come down 52 right there at Newberry's Funeral Home, well they lived in that section there. When the road went through there in 1958 or 1959, around 1962 they sold their home and they moved to Wytheville. My grandmothers people were from out of Georgia. On my mother's side, there was Lonnie Saunders and Powell Saunders. Lonnie was my grandmother on my mother's side and Powell was my grandfather on my mother's side. My grand daddy Powell, he had a sawmill back up here next to the creek, on the place that he bought, way back up here. He's the first person to ever have a sawmill here. I couldn't remember him but my momma use to talk about him al lot. He had a sawmill, he had a boiler in there once that they say took four horses to pull it, it powered the sawmill. He had a mill there where he could grind his own flour and wheat and stuff. They had a mill pond in there. I remember the mill pond it was still there when I was growing up. Part of it is still there yet I believe, maybe it has been washed out. He was the first man in this part of the country, I think he was white, I'm not sure. He was more white than he was black. He was the first man to buy a new car and truck. I think he bought a new Ford car and a new Ford truck out of over there at Bland at Dunn Motors.
Ten of us brothers and sisters. All of is still living, andI have a sis younger than I. The house we was raised in was about four bedrooms. The loghouse. We were born in the loghouse except for my brother George he was born in Bluefield, my daddy was working on the railroad. He moved out of Bluefield and back to Rocky Gap and built a log cabin over here. He was only working like three days a week on the railroad. He walked across the mountain to Hardy to catch a train and go up into Bluefield to work. He worked second shift over there. I've had to walk over there, I've done that back when I was a kid. Took about two hours. It was a wagon path in there. Use to take the front part of the wagon and horses and go over there and meet my aunt and bring her back here. He wouldn't take the whole wagon just the front part of it. Go over there and meet them a the little ole train station that use to be over there. It's still there, it still angles over the mountain. You can go up here and get on it, it goes up and then angles in there across the mountain when you go down it starts angling back to the left. That's the way the road is. And there used to be a road going over to Wolf Creek; it use to go to the old Clark place. This is a white family lived over there, they use come this way all the time. They had one guy they called him Big Emmett, and one they called Little Emmett, and then there was Old Man Bane Clark, there was Miss Julie Clark, Momma use to say. Now those Clarks, the grandson lives down here at Rocky Gap, Jerry. He does brick work. We use to go over there and get apples. Over there at the old Clark place. Big Emmett and Little Emmett and they had a sister too. I think she lives in Narrows. It was back on the mountain. They had an apple orchard back in there, I've been there many a time and carry back a sack of apples. They gone, those trees, I think they are rottened out. It was an old place. There was a log house over there. My uncle and me use to go over there and spend the night, that has been years ago, uncle Fred. We had a path where we use to go across the mountain and go over there.
I don't remember him building it, but I remember living in it. Two bedrooms, a big living room, a big kitchen. In the kitchen there was a cook stove, he had a big stove he heated it with, burnt logs about three foot long. I use to help cut the logs that went into the stove to heat with. I haven't seen a stove since like that one, it burnt for a lot of years. I believe it was a metal chimney we had, I'm not sure about that. He had it cemented between the logs, and it was pretty tight, it was tight. No snow blew in, it was pretty tight. My grand daddy built one back here, it sat back here, an old log cabin. There's nothing back there but the rocks that it was sitting on, and then he built this house here. The first cabin was like a big barn. This was Jack, my daddy's father, A.J. He came back in here with Mack H. Ferguson? I think grand daddy Jack was from up there in Tazewell in Grayson County, he was a slave, they had given him so much when they turned him loose, he worked over there in Princeton. I think he gave a quarter an acre for this land. He owned this place here and the place down the road where Perkins live now, he bought them two tracts of land and paid for them and his oldest daughter by his first wife got married and moved to Bluefield, he in turn gave the first wife thinking she would keep it. She in turn sold it to a guy named Bristol Adams. She married an Adams. Somehow, this Bristol Adams bought it off of her and Cleveland Bishop. Now this Bishop, he was a black man. Bishop bought it off of my grand daddy's son-in-law. He got it somehow off of him. I think the Bishop's people finally sold it. I don't know what happened to it We use to call it the Bristol place, my grand daddy use to own it. He had two tracts of land: down there and here, that's where he is buried, down there. My grand daddy, he's buried down there, across the creek, behind Pete's. He owned that, joined the Ferguson place.
My grandmother was a about 118 years old. I remember her sitting right here on this bed she died on, right there. She died in September of 1955. She was about 118 years old when she died. This was Jack's second wife. He had two wives. I think he had eleven kids by each wife. He had twenty-two kids. His first wife died during childbirth. He got this young girl to take care of his kids, and he ended up marrying her and having eleven kids by her. He was tough. He died out there on the front porch. I don't remember him, but I remember my grandmother, his second wife, which is my daddy's momma. I remember when my grandma died, my grandma, she raised his eleven kids and then raised l believe eleven of her own. Jack had a heart attack on the front porch and died. That was my grand daddy Jack. You could hear that bell all up and down the hollow. It was outside on a steeple just like the church. The preacher would get there first, and I would get the wood for about three or four years, the Board of Education furnished the coal and I would get the wood.
First thing you would do in the morning when you would get to school was to take off your overshoes, hang up your coats on a hanger with your name on it, I believe, and school would take up and the first thing your would do is say The Lord's Prayer. Then we would have a Bible verse, the teacher would have us bring a Bible verse everyday. Some of them would say the same Bible verse everyday, I remember I used to say, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want." After the Lord's Prayer, we would sing a song. Different songs, the teacher had a book, "Mary Had A Little Lamb." Then after the song she would come around and give you some work to do and then she would start teaching the class. She would go through the readin the writing, and usually the kids in the upper grades she would let them teach, we would have reading, writing and arithmetic everyday and things like literature she would pick certain days to have that. Everybody would have literature class that day. The older kids would help the younger kids out. The kids like in the sixth and seventh she would let them teach, and if there was something the older kids didn't know, they would go to the teacher and ask her to come and explain it. It was like a system set up, you know. She would have geography about two days a week, so had better study cause you didn't know when she was going to call a geography class. She would assign you a certain portion of it to read and you just never knew when she was going call on you to have geography, she would assign you homework at the end of the chapter.
Most kids were pretty well behaved, your parents taught you to do that before you got to school. Your mommy and daddy would tell you to sit down and behave yourself while you in school. She would turn you out for ten minutes of recess and then we would have lunch. Most kids would go home. Lunch was from 12:00 to 1:00. School would take back up at 1:00 and then would dismiss at 3:30. Some kids would shoot marbles at recess, the boys, girls played jack-rocks, they would play inside the school and the boys would play outside the school. In the spring of the year, the boys would play baseball, she would up it to fifteen minutes. When the teacher went outside the boys and girls would all play games together. Used to play Merry-Go-Round, somebody would get in the center of the eye and select one and somebody would select another and get in the center and they would all circle around.
Inside the school we had maps, pictures and I think we had a flag hanging on the wall.They didn't have it on a stick outside like they do now, but we had one inside that we kept on the wall. We had just regular desks like kids have today, I imagine. They had the old type, they had a bench one set in front of you, there was usually two people to a seat. A lot of kids go to Bluefield, most of my sisters and brothers went to school in Bluefield after that. Bluefield, West Virginia. My sister, she finished over at Bluefield State to be a teacher, she taught over here and taught me in the sixth and seventh grade. My next to the oldest sister, she worked for the Bland County school Board and taught me at the old school house, right down here next to the church. I think somebody has got a picture of it, I might have a picture, let me look back here and I will show you a picture.
My daddy, he worked for the railroad. How long he was gone, well it depended on where he worked at you see, he worked at Portsmouth, Ohio, Trenton, down at Williamson, on the tracks. He'd be away and use to come home on Friday's. Come home on Friday, late Friday evening and go back Sunday night.
We farmed years ago. Mostly corn and hay and that kind of stuff. Raised corn, potato patch. I plowed fields and he did too. Daddy had a team of horses here one time, Uncle Elige had a team, Uncle Jim had a team, when we were logging we use to have three or four teams in that barn. We did some logging, pulled out the logs with horses. We did that when I was a kid. We did that for years. Back then the timber was pretty good, back then they didn't have binders like they do now. You bounded it with a chain and a pole. The truck, they bind it with a chain and a pole. It use to ship out of Rocky Gap, down here, by train. My grand daddy use to ship lumber out of Rocky Gap. When grandpa Jack died, Uncle Jim and daddy hauled it on the road with a wagon from here to Rocky Gap, hauled railroad ties, ship building stuff Grandpa Powell got a letter from England saying he had the best stuff that had ever been sent over there. That was grandpa Powell, my mothers father.
They had had a sawmill down there, there was a lot of mills around here. Tiller had one up here and Smith and Cannon had two sawmills up here back on Pond Mountain as far as I can remember. Big sawmills! About fifteen or twenty men working. That's all the help they had, people from around here. Most the help was from around here, all from this hollow. White and black worked the sawmills. Whites down there, Ms. Lonie White, Hounshells, where Slaughter house is now. Ms. Lonie use to have a big farmhouse there.
We had cows and pigs. One time daddy was raising pigs for that Wallace down at the end of Dry Fork. My daddy and Uncle Elige use to farm that land at the end of Dry Fork where United Central sits. He use to have a big team of black horses and big team of white horses and daddy and Uncle Elige use to cut hay. They farmed all of that land down there. Old man owned a furniture store in Bluefield, he use to pay me ten cents and hour to help, I was a kid. Mr. Wallace was "the money man." My daddy worked the railroad and farmed the land. He would hire every boy on the hollow, black ones and white ones, we would all meet down there to work and he would pay us ten cent an hour. He use to buy us ice cream at lunch time, old Mr. Wallace. Make about a dollar a day, that was a lot of money. All the boys had summer work, putting hay up and working corn. Wallace owned the land and daddy farmed it. Sometimes we would have as many as one hundred seventeen head of hogs right here to ship out. A big cattle truck would come in here and pick them up and take them to Smithfield, Virginia where they would smoke them hams.
I remember the railroad that ran up Wolf Creek. Grand daddy Jack use to have horses and hauled on the road. Back then he had that big old loop wagon they called it, had big old wheels. They put twenty-five or thirty ties on that thing and sold them to the Federal Government.
I was about seventeen, eighteen, right out of high school when I went to Columbus. My brothers and I went up there and worked and came back, I didn't return. I lived up there twenty-five years. I haven't been a bachelor all my life. I got married, stayed married two weeks. I've been a bachelor about all my life. I came home because it is better living down here than there was back there. You can say anything about the city. There's always better living down here. You don't have nobody bothering you. Here, there are no sirens running, the only thing you have here is the dogs barking, and maybe you will hear somebody shoot or something every once in a while. Other than that you ain't got any noise.
My aunt was here and she died, she had been working for a family in Columbus for fifty years, she had a house in Columbus too, but she told me that if anything ever happened to her, for me to move in. I use to transport her back and forth to the house she maintained in Ohio and there was no one else to move in. This was my daddy's oldest sister. Oh, I come up here every day. I used to come up here every day to see my grandma, that's where I eat at. I came up here because I could get a sweet biscuit. About anything that she want, she could cook. Most everything was raised right here. A big garden every summer. She was good on cooking green beans and corn, she use to cook green beans and corn together. Sometimes we might pick wild strawberries or blackberries and she would fix jellies and jams. Strawberries were 'bout as big as the end of your finger. We use to can a lot of stuff. She use to can strawberries, green beans, tomatoes and corn. She use to call them leather britches, dried beans. Run a string them and lay them out here on a sheet. Lay them on some benches on a sheet and dry them, then she would take them inside in the winter and cook them, she called them leather britches. She use to cook all kinds of stuff, this use to be the dining area right here. This is where we had the big long table in here, everybody came in here to eat. Daddy use to tell me that years ago when people use to come along hunting jobs, they would stop here to eat, feed the horses and keep on going. They wasn't no kind of work here so they would feed them and let them go on their way. This was back during the Depression days.
This back here, they called it the Low Gap, that's where they went to Ingleside, this was the primary route to haul lumber, timber across the mountain there. There used to be a lot of people come through here. The way my daddy talked about it, they use to come across here when I was a kid. When I was a kid I remember people coming across the mountain on horses. Daddy use to say that the Browns and Hardings use to cross and come over here all the time. The train still goes through there at Ingleside. Just a little modification on the tracks.
My uncle stayed here with her, my grandmother, until she died. His name was Elige Rotes Tynes. He never had held a public job, he farmed all of his life. He died here. He lived here until he died. My aunt out of Ohio she worked up there and then she retired and moved back here and started staying after he died. That was my daddy's baby brother, you see he died first and then a year later to the day, my daddy died. That was back in 1975 my uncle died, March 23. March 23, 1976, my daddy died. I was in Columbus, I did not come back down here right away because I was working pretty good, but I came in here about every other weekend. Because I like it here, I like to get away from the city. My mother was here, that was one reason I like to come back. I would also transport my aunt back and forth to Columbus. She liked to come here and stay too. Right before she died, I brought here down here, she had been on my back because I took off with my girlfriend to Thompson, Georgia and stayed for about two days. We were on strike. I came back and carried her and my mom to Columbus, and then the same week she wanted to come back here, brought her back here on Friday and she died. And she died right in here, I found her dead, she was ninety-three or ninety-four years old and was never sick. She wanted to go home. It was 1994. Momma was up there in the nursing home, that's where she died. Ninety-three years old.
The First Families of Dry Fork
Jack Tynes built this house. Someone told me that Mack H. Ferguson and A.J. Tynes were the first ones here, around 1880. At one time they were both slaves. Slaves, then they were freed. The man in Grayson County or somewhere in Tazewell, where my grand daddy Jack came from, he married grandma Julie. They bought this land for a quarter an acre and they cleared it. It was nothing but big trees, all timber. I've heard my daddy say that they had cut some trees in here where the little end was five feet. The little end of the tree was five feet tall and it took six to eight horses to pull one log. Then he had to put a slicker under it. It's putting poles under it, so that it will roll. Used to take the log and nose the end of it off, you know cut a circle around it like a head where the horses wouldn't dig in the mud, like a sled runner.
That little spring house out there, my grand daddy built that. He cut the logs and it looks like somebody grew them there. They use to have a milk box in there, somebody tore it out. They use to keep milk in there and hang a beef in there and eat off of it all winter. They would hang it out there in a big white sheet and let it age and go out there and slice off some of that meat, there weren't any refrigerators. It's not as cold now, it used to be cold in December, he would kill that beef the first of December and it on until spring. My grandmother used to cook it and make gravy and set the table in here and wow what a meal.
At Christmas time we would come over here and eat, daddy would make egg nog and we would make ice cream and lord, we would have a big feast here. Thanksgiving too! They would kill a hog, six to eight hogs. Sometimes they would kill as many as sixty hogs and take them to Bluefield and sell them. Daddy used to cure the hams and sell them to the motel up here. Salt them down and let them set six weeks, take them down, wash the meat and put pepper and molasses and a little boric on them to keep the skippers out. Daddy grew sorghum, we used to have a cane mill the horse would go around and around. He and Mr. Cummingham were in it together. Clay's daddy. Daddy use to take care of the cabin where he lives. He had a cane patch down there. They use to boil sown forty or fifty gallons of molasses a year. That's when I was in high school. You would take a horse and she would go around and around, she would get drunk if you left her in there too long, you had to change them out about every forty-five minutes, you set under there with a big tub under there like a half barrel with juice running down in there while you feed that can in there. I tell you has the cane mill that we use to have. The cane mill, well Aunt Kate sold it to Tim Harless. He's got the cane mill my daddy had and it still works as far as I know. I think he makes cane down there with it, he hooks a motor to it. Yeah I know he does. It's the cane mill daddy and Uncle Elige had all them years, I think it belonged to Grandpa Powell. Daddy used to have it on an A-frame sitting on two big chestnut logs, had them notched out sitting down there and the horse went around in circles.
Uncle Archie used to smoke out them honey bees. Uncle Elige used to have a of hives right here. He gotten rid of them before he died, he used to go in there and rob the bunch. He would put a smoker, tie up his sleeves and go in there and take the honey out. He use to get fifteen to twenty quarts of honey out and take home and sell it. He would put the combs in jars and take it and sell it. A quart of molasses runs you about three or four dollars a quart I think. They used to boil it down, my daddy used to boil it down.
We went on trips for school. Back there, the year that the airplane fell in 1943, in 1945 or so we took a trip back up in there. It's back there approximately six miles. I was in about the first grade, I don't remember much, I do remember a tail hanging in a tree, in a big locust tree. Sometimes we would go across the mountain to the Harding's, a big field over there. Sometimes we would hike to Rocky Gap to Round Bottom, sit down at the church and eat lunch. When they stopped timbering on the mountain, they had a bunch of barns they tore down. They gave one to daddy and me and him took horses and made a sled and drug that tin across the mountain, I remember doing that, over onto Wolf Creek. I brought it up the mountain and came out at Uncle Fred's with it. Leave home at break of day, tore the barn down, loaded up sled and brought them across the mountain, we would bring home two loads a day, getting home right at dark. My recollection, about twenty-five or thirty sheets of tin on a load. It was that big old heavy tin. We used it for the barn down here, George still has some of it on his barn down here. Daddy used it on his corn crib too.
I've heard daddy say, they had so much meat and drink when they came in here. They got a ham and a side of meat and then they had to make it. Daddy got a job, he walked to the coke oven to work. There use to be wild hogs up in here. That's why nobody wanted this land. That was then, today it's a different ball game. There are Indian burial grounds and things that nobody know about. Last year, some kids from Concord went back up there to check it out, geological. Daddy said they use to turn pigs out and feed in them all year, and then in the fall of the year they would pen them up and kill them. Hogs eat acorns. I use to hunt rabbit, ground hog and you didn't see any bear or deer like you do now. Had two bear cub come down here last fall. And there was more rabbits when I was young, less cats were around then. A cat will kill a young rabbit easy. What you see basically is they knew what to clear and what not to clear you know, erosion. You take the Amish at Burkes Garden, they know what to clear and what not to clear, how productive it would be. Back then, what they cleared was productive. And there's a lot of rock in here, I guess that's why they named it Rocky Gap.
Integration at the Gap
When I finished at school here I went to Bluefield, Virginia to high school. They run a bus back and forth. My daddy and Mr. Conrad Tuggle had a bet on desegregating the schools. Mr. Tuggle said, they are going to sent them all to the Gap, I don't know what's going to happen. Daddy said, I bet you a six pack of pop that there won't be no incidence down there much. He said they won't have to get no law to put them down there. Mr. Tuggle said, I don't know there might be some stuff go on there. After they enrolled them down there, Daddy said to Mr. Tuggle, I told you now you give me my six pack of pop you promised me, that's when Charlie Taylor owned the store down there. It went peaceful. There was no incident at all, said Daddy. There was a rock fight. But as far getting the law, that never happened.
I remember the day they cut the light on, it was 1940s. I was about five or six years old. There was this guy named Charlie Jarrells who killed the judge in Bland, he was an electrician. He came up wired every body in the hollow. Somebody come up the road, I can't remember who said cut your lights on Ferge, cut your lights on everybody. When we first got a telephone it was back in 1956 or 1957. It was a party line. Four or five people on a line. We had a radio before that and it run on batteries. A six volt battery, like a car. We used to watch Amos and Andy, the news, Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Grand Ole Opry, Hank Snow Randy Record Shop out of Nashville (played Rhythm and Blues), Rex and Eleanore, and the Lawrence Welk Show.
I was the janitor in the one room school. I was paid fifteen dollars a year to keep the fires going to have it warm for the kids when they came in. I had to get the kindling wood and keep the fires going. You wouldn't believe what some of those men have cut in here with a crosscut. They kept them sharpened and they would fly, with one man on one end and one man on the other. About one half hour it took to sharpen. It would last all day, about five or six in the evening it would start and stop hard and you would know it was time to sharpen.
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