Mary Little

This is an edited and combined versions of two interviews with Mary Little. The interviews were both conducted by John and Bonnie Dodson in 1998 and 1999. The sessions took place in Mary's home. Although Mary was raised in Newark, N.J. she traveled every year as a child to Dry Fork to spend her summers and retired there in 1977.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, well, where and when were you born, Mary?

Mary: In Bluefield on May 8, 1940

Mr. Dodson: 1940, ok.

Mary: Bluefield, West Virginia

Mr. Dodson: Right. Uh, who was your mother and father?

Mary: Her name was Brazilia Ferguson and my fathers name was Booker Barskille.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, and where were they born and raised?

Mary: My mother was born in Rocky Gap, I do believe, she was raised here. My father was born in Bluefield, West Virginia. And he was raised in Bluefield.

Mr. Dodson: Alright, what did he do for a living?

Mary: Well, now lets see, he had a pool room, he was a welder, he was a ship builder during the war, and he worked for Bethlehem Steel, and then he ran a grocery store till he, uh, he died.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, do you have any brothers or sisters?

Mary: Two brothers, one sister.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, what were their names?

Mary: My brothers name was Booker, ones named Michael, and my sisters name is Maggie.

Mr. Dodson: Alright, um, and where were you raised?

Mary: Well, mostly in Newark, New Jersey.

John: The next question is when and how was your family’s land acquired. Alright, and I guess this goes back to . . .

Mary: In 18 . . . I think somewhere around 1870, 80 . . . Somewhere around there. I can be exact if you want, I can go in there and get the information for you if you want it exactly.

John: Alright, well who, well tell me who your ancestor was that came here.

Mary: Uhhh, Mac Ferguson. He got this from his father, his father was Ruben Ferguson.

John: Okay.

Mary: And about 1880, or something, they bought it. Now. He, Mac Ferguson, it was given to him from his father, Ruben Ferguson. 1893. And he left it to his sons, which Mac was one, Mac Ferguson was one, he was my great grandfather. And this was in 1893. And I was going to look and see how much it is . . .

John: Okay so now, he was your great grandfather.

Mary: Yeah Mac Ferguson was my great grandfather.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, um, well, tell me how you ended up coming back to Dry Fork.

Mary: Well, my mother moved back down here and uh, I had a son, she kept my son, my sisters son and my two brother's sons, and uh, we all, well my sister moved down here and then a couple years after that I moved down here. And uh, I been here ever since 1977 when I moved down here.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, did you when you were growing up in Newark did you come back here in the summer?

Mary: We came back every summer um, until, lets see 1959 when my grandfather died, up until then we came back every summer, spent the summer down here, we would spend, each person, let's see, my father's family but then uh, Bluefield and Cables, and we would go spend a week or two there, and then he would go back, back to work, and we would come over here and stay for the rest of the summer and he'd come back and pick us up and take us back home.

The Park

Mary: It was open every day we, we would go there every day. It was like a meeting place to go down, you know, go down there and play and different, you know, games and whatever, and uh…

Mr. Dodson: It was kinda like a little camp or resort type thing?

Mary: Yes, yes just a little, yes…

Mr. Dodson: Did they charge any, did they charge money for you to get in?

Mary: No, they didnt charge anything, and then I was what I always liked to go down there, they use to sell raisin pies and I loved raisin pies.

Mrs. Dodson: Who was, who was nice enough to cook em?

Mary: I, I, uh, I dont know whether they cooked em or whether they bought em, I don't remember. I just remember eating em. (laughs)

Mr. Dodson: Now, the, the dance hall what was, what was that like?

Mary: It was, it was just a big building, it was a big, uh, building, just a, you know, a great big building and uh, Id say sort've like the, like the gymnasiums down the school, you know, just the big open place like that with tables and stuff and they had a little, uh, lunch counter and you could go in there and sit around and dance if you wanted, listen to a little music in there you know…

Mr. Dodson: Kinda like a jukebox?

Mary: Yes, uh-huh like that.

Mary: This nice, this big swimming pool, and they had umm---it was a big building then, they had a restaurant, sort of in there. And there was uhh, picnic tables and stuff out there. People would come over here in the summer time and have you know picnics and stuff. And it was nice, place to go hang out, the kids and, you know, grown ups, who uh, wanted to go down there. And they had a juke box down there. And people would come over here all during the summer every day. On weekends some churches and stuff come over here for picnics and stuff. And it was just a fun place to be. Especially when you grew up in the city and you couldn’t do nothing, you know. They didn’t have all that stuff and everything and it was just a fun place to be and spend the summer.

Mr. Dodson: And did people from Bluefield use to come over…

Mary: Yeah, people from all I over use to come over here to have, to have picnics over here, come over here on Sundays and you know, whatever. A bunch of people, individuals, you know, just coming to have, uh, to have a picnic.

Mr. Dodson: How many people would be down there at one time? I mean…

Mary: Oh, sometime now, I guess, I dont know, maybe 30, 40 people down there sometimes the ???? would come over and you know there'd be quite a few people down there, then sometimes it would be, but the people around here in the community would be down there.

Bonnie: So there was a restaurant, you say?

Mary: Yeah, nothing big and fancy, you know, just oh maybe, hot dogs and---enough for kids, you know for kids, it sorta was something big.

Bonnie: Well who---who did the---who ran the grill---

Mary: Hmmm mmm. Well, they lived here, the name was Spencer. He was, umm, he was one of the sons, he was pastor at umm, Union Baptist Church in Bluefield. And his mother is a pastor now, I don’t know where she pastors at. And I think a couple of the children are pastors. But they ran it, and it was uhh, I don’t know, maybe about nine of them or so.

John: Okay, and they lived back here?

Mary: They lived---as I remember they lived down there.

Mr. Dodson: Yeah, well what happened to that? Did it, did, was there a fire? Somebody told me there was a fire.

Mary: Uh, somebody, they told me that there was a fire down there and it burned down.

Across the Mountain

John: Uhh . . . any stories that your, your grandparents used to tell you anything that you remember?

Mary: Well my, I remember my mother they used to tell us how long it would take them three days to get to Bluefield. When they was small. They would go to Bluefield it would take them three days. One day to go, one day to do what they had to do. And one day to come back. I remember that.

John: And so they, what, would they spend the night over there?

Mary: Yeah. It would take a day, they would have to go back, then they had the uh, horse and buggy, and it would take them all day to go across the mountain. And uh, then they had to you know, spend the night. Then the next day they’d do what they had to do, then spend the night and come back the next day.

Low Gap

Mary: They'd also go across the mountain to catch the train. Cause it was shorter than going down and across the mountain, down, you know, across East River Mountain and everything, and running from my grandfather, my great-grandfather, yeah, he use to walk across the mountain, you know, go shopping and then catch the train, you know, walk across the mountain and carry all the groceries you had back with us, and uh, you could tell about how long it would take when they, when they would go to Bluefield, and um, then in the horse and buggy, and how when it was cold they had to put bricks in there, heated bricks with the blankets and stuff to keep warm. itd take em a day to get over there and a day to come back. So it was like a three day trip just to go to Bluefield.

Mary: Huh uh. They, my uncle, umm, Uncle Woodrow, he’s dead now. Uh he had umm, appendicitis, and they had to carry him right across the mountain here. And go down and catch the train and take him to the hospital. So that’s how they used to do that. And they used to go. Would go umm, they’d just walk right up across the mountain there and come right across the other side, Ingleside, and take the train if they wanted to go somewhere on the train. Rather than go all the way down there and go across East River Mountain.

Bonnie: How did they carry him? Did they carry him in a wagon over there?

Mary: No they just carried him on a stretcher.

Bonnie: A stretcher.

Mary: And uh . . . she said that’s how they, you know, how they go up there. They had, you know in case of an emergency, that’s what they would do. And uh.

Bonnie: Do you have an idea of how long it took---

Mary: It’s not, it’s not ???, because one year before I got this arthritis, I was going up there looking for a Christmas tree, I was walking up and looking, and I guess it took me I guess 15 or 20 minutes. And I was up to the top. And I didn’t know I had went that far. And I looked up there, and I looked down over there, and I ?????. It don’t take long, because it took me I’d say about 20 minutes. To get up there to the top. But then I used to walk kind of fast so maybe that’s why.

Bonnie: It must not be too steep.

Grandfather MacDaniel Ferguson

Mr. Dodson: Alright. Did he ever talk about, um, attending the uh, the uh, Christiansburg Institute?

Mary: He just told us all that he went down there, that he, that he went to school down there, uh, but he never said, but, I don't remember him talking about it too much.

Mr. Dodson: Ok.

Mary: I guess he, you know, told us where it was. that he went to school down there, but we didnt know where Christiansburg was, we didn't know where Christiansburg was.

Mr. Dodson: Uh-huh.

Mary: And that he went down there but I don't remember him saying too, you know, saying much more about it.

Scary Stories

Mary: He was the type, he was always, he liked to scare people.

Mary: Mmhmm. Mmhm. I know my grandfather, he used to always get us out there at night time, he’d get people out there in the dark, and come over here, and tell them, come over there, I’ll show you a haint over my shoulder. And he was always scaring the kids and everything. You know. Different ones. And what not. But umm.

Mr. Dodson: Did he?

Mary: Yes. He'd get out there and he would, he would always tell us when the weather was bad, Cornelia [his dead wife] comes in the house and sleeps, cause she don't like to sleep out there in the rain, and uh, he was always, you know, coming, looking over my shoulder and saying hey, and, you know, stuff like that.

Mary: Marvin's sister, and uh, we use to go up on the cemetery and put flowers on the grave and we went up there one day and we took some newspaper to kneel on and we left the paper and it started raining, and it was a real bad storm, and my cousin, May, was down, down at the house and the wind started blowing the paper down the hill, while he was talking, talking about how she was gonna come in the house at night and sleep and you see all that stuff, you know, be coming down there, you know, and everything and it scared Ficey, and uh, the next day we saw Ficey telling granddaddy, that that don't really happen, and everything, and, but he said ??????? people, he says that the tombstones, the peoples tombstones, were rolling down the hill, we told there's only two people up there that's got tombstones, that was all that was up there at the time, you know, they had, they had the big stones on their grave, and the rest of them had little, a little thing, a little plaque-like thing and she got, she got really scared the next day, you got the paper out the back yard and showed it to her, that this was what was blowing down the hill but she wouldn't believe us and I don't know whether she believes us yet. (laughs)

Mary: One night. we were coming, we were going coming from my grandfather’s house. It was night time. We were going up to the Stower's house. And umm, somebody was howling, pretending that they were ghosts over on the side of the road in the bushes. And I guess it was maybe about six of us, and we took off running and we ran all the way from about, about Nate’s house up to Ann Stowers. And I fell, and the next day when we were coming back down, the road, the skin off of my knee was laying underneath the rocks on the road!

Bonnie: Eww.

John: Eww.

Mary: Because I skinned my knee, and Ann Stowers patched it up and everything. But it was red, there where I fell on that rock.

Bonnie: You haven’t told me that one. That’s a new one.

Mary: But they were always, they were doing always scaring. People . . . and this umm---

Bonnie: Who was it that was doing the scaring?

Mary: I don’t know. We don’t know! But they umm, ???? Remember the back of this church that was over here?

John: Right.

Mary: Well umm, umm, they had, used to say you could hear the piano playing, in there at night. And they would say the church was haunted. And uhh, we used to, would scare us, and we used to run away from there. Or whatever. Eventually we found out that somebody was in there playing the piano. They’d go in there and uhh, without the lights on and play the piano. To scare everybody!

John: I bet that was scary!

Mary: Huh? Oh it was, you’d be walking by, ‘cause uh, we would be coming, Miss Reba Charlton, she lived in the house up on the hill behind the Baptist church, and the path went right by the church, and you’d be walking by and then you’d hear this music playing. And the lights were out and the doors were locked and everything, and you hear this music playing. So everybody would take off running to get away from there. And we eventually found out that somebody was in there playing the piano.

Church on Dry Fork

Mr. Dodson: Well, let me ask you something. When you were a little girl when you came down here and you went to church ok, do you remember who, do you, you remember who some of the pastors were?

Mary: Theres only one.

Mr. Dodson: Theres only one, who was that.

Mary: The Reverend Porter.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, now Ive heard a lot about him, alright.

Mary: He was only, the whole time we would come down here, he was the pastor, I dont uh, I remember ????????? I dont, I think they were pastors after him, you know after he was, when we use to come down here Reverend Porter was pastor.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, now did he move back here or did he travel?

Mary: He, he lived in um, Bluefield.

Mr. Dodson: Ok. And he would just come over every Sunday?

Mary: Uh-huh. They had church every other Sunday.

Mr. Dodson: Every other Sunday.

Mary: Uh-huh. Cause they had two Sundays for the Methodist church and the Baptist church over there, they had services two Sundays.

Mr. Dodson: Ok, so one week you would have it, at the, at the, at the Tynes Chapel and the next week youd have it at the Baptist Church.

Mary: Uh-huh. Everybody use to go to both of em (laughs)

Mary: As far as I could, you know, tell, you know, the difference in the, you know, the thing the ritual, the ritual, you know, but as far as, you know, the preaching and singing, or whatever, but they had different rituals.

Mr. Dodson: Ok. Now what about, what about baptism? Did they use to use the creek? For baptism? Now what was that like? Can you remember?

Mary: Now, I think I got baptized in the creek, they'd go down, just go down and baptize, just take em down and baptize em in the creek just like he was baptizing in the uh, pool in churches now.

Mary: They'd, all them people have gotten baptized in the, in the creek during the wintertime.

Mary: There was a couple times they said um, about the people that joined the church that wanted to get baptized and they, so they, you know, baptized em… (laughs)

Mary: …down there, they didnt wanna wait. So they went ahead and did it, but they had, you know go down there and uh, theyd um, dam up a place, you know, to fill it up, fill it up with water, and then baptized em down there.

Mr. Dodson: So the water was pretty deep, and theyd like have a…

Mary: Yeah, it was a whole lot deeper than it is now.

Mary: To do the baptize, but before they said, you know, its still down there and they'd, you know, they'd dam it up the day before, but sometimes they didnt have to do nothing cause there was already enough water in there.

Mrs. Dodson: So when you compare it now to when you came here as a little girl there's not as many people livin back here.

Mary: Huh-uh.

Mary: There was, there was a lot of, a lot of kids, a lot of kids.


Mary: Well, when they use to have it, I guess, preach, and theyd you know, get the choir to do something, they had service in the morning, then they would have dinner on the ground, and sometime they had service in the afternoon, and uh, all the families that were here at the time would all cook dinner, theyd cook, you know, cook a whole everything, you know, the green vegetables, whatever, and they would cook plenty of it and um, everybody would bring it out and have a table in the yard and everybody would put their food out there, and theyd go around and get something. And it was um, well, I can't think of the man's name now, cause I was never in it, they say he use to kill, uh, uh, goat or something and cook it and bring it and they would have more kinds of food and stuff out there, and they would do that when we had uh, an anniversary and pastor's anniversary, they'd do that and then have it at the Baptist church, ?

Mr. Dodson: Yeah.

Mary: That was a lot of fun. (laughs)

Mrs. Dodson: Yeah, like corn and beans and all the fresh vegetables that…

Mary: Yeah, they had all kinds of cakes and pies and all kinds of salads and stuff, and theyd have to go up and down, you know, up and down the row getting a little bit here and a little bit there, that was a lot of fun.

Mr. Dodson: Well, what happened at the Baptist church, I guess they just…

Mary: Uh, everybody pretty much, they all died out and um, eventually, lets see, ????? and Ms. Ladie Showalter, they were the last 2 members left, so they just um, you know, closed and they started to go to church in Bluefield, all with the rest of em, well, Uncle Andrew he, he had been a member but he um, joined the Methodist church cause he use to belong to the Methodist church and then he joined the Baptist church, and then he joined the Baptist church again but so it was just 3 of em and they closed the church down when they started going to church in Bluefield.

Mr. Dodson: When was that? Do you remember?

Mary: Oh, its been a good while ago. Probably around 77 about 70, 77 something like that.

Mary: Well, Gladys, he talks about one, she said his name was Shaffy, and he use to ride across the mountain to get here to preach.

Mary: She never did say where he was from, he just use to ride across the mountain.

Mrs. Dodson: Coulda ridden from Wolf Creek over there.

Mary: Not ride, he walked across the mountain, thats what the Reverend said, he walked across the mountian. You see, Reverend Porter, he came in 1931, and he stayed until uh,…

Mr. Dodson: Fifties?

Mary: He stayed til in the 50s, he was in the uh, he, I know he was here in 1959.

Mr. Dodson: Well, what was he like?

Mary: Well, uh, he was nice, he, you know, he helped, uh, when he came, they had stopped the building, you know, hadn't really got too far with the building of the church, you know, what not, and when he came he got em started again and they finished building the church and everything, and every, and you know, everybody say he was, you know, he was a good pastor and he was a real, you know, good person and everything and uh, I guess he retired, I guess he got you know, decided that, you know, just to give up, you know, being the pastor or something, so he uh, he, he was a real nice person and everything and his wife, I think his wife is still living, shes in uh, nurses home or somewhere, shes uh, Gladdys Ferguson that lives down the road, she's her aunt. Uh-huh.

Mr. Dodson: Oh, ok.

Mary: She's her aunt. Her son was down here a couple years ago, he wanted to, he had the church anniversary, and his son came down.

Mary: He's the longest one thats been here.

Mr. Dodson: Well, when, when you were a kid, and you came down here to go to church, what time, what time would ya'll, what time would they have the services? Do you remember going in the morning and…?

Mary: Um, I think 11 oclock, I think about 11 oclock when they had the services, you know, you can't, you know, remember nothing, you remember your Momma chasing you outta bed to get up to go to church. (laughs)

Mrs. Dodson: Did ya'll have a Sunday School too?

Mary: (still laughing)

Mr. Dodson: Well, what would you, I mean would ya'll…

Mary: Yes.

Mr. Dodson: …get dressed up, wear your best clothes?

Mary: Yes.

Mr. Dodson: And did you have Sunday School?

Mary: Yeah, um, we had Sunday School, um, the 3 that use to teach Sunday School down here and um, he was teaching Sunday School when I moved back down here, um, I dont remember I think Lance Ferguson did.

Mr. Dodson: Ok.

Mary: I dont uh, really dont remember, if he, I think, I think, Lance was teaching Sunday School, then I just remember, you know, we was so busy running, I was so busy running around. (laughs)

Mr. Dodson: Right.

Mary: And just having a good time. (laughs)

Mr. Dodson: Well how long, well how long would the service last, when did yall get out?

Mary: Well, I don't think it would last for 2, it didnt last as long as it did at churches when we was home. (laughs)

Mr. Dodson: Ok.

Mary: But I…

Mr. Dodson: Well…

Mary: But I don't think it lasted maybe about, probably about an hour and a half.

Mr. Dodson: Well, did yall have a big, big Sunday dinner at home after that?

Mary: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Mrs. Dodson: You ate the biggest meal in the middle of the day?

Mary: Yeah, we always had one on Sundays and I dont know why.

Mary: We come home, come home from church and Momma would have, you know, go home early and fix some dinner and wed eat dinner about 3 oclock.

Mary: …Sunday and holidays. I never could figure out why and I still dont. (laughs)

Mr. Dodson: I, I, I just never thought about it, you know, I just, it was just what we did.

Mary: Uh-huh.

Mr. Dodson: And I notice, we don't do it, people don't do it so much anymore. Uh-uh. But um, ok, so there'd be like after church, there'd be a lot of socializing, greeting people.

Mary: Yes, they still do that.

Mr. Dodson: Sure they do.

Mrs. Dodson: Did ya'll have services at night too on Sunday evening or…?

Mary: I think they did. I think they had services then in the evening.

Mrs. Dodson: And Wednesdays?

Mary: Yeah, they have uh, prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. I dont know whether we have a ????? or not. (laughs) But they, we still have prayer meeting over there and Bbible study and what not on Wednesday night.

Mr. Dodson: Yeah.

Mary: And then we have our church now.

Mr. Dodson: So when was the new, the new church finished?

Mary: Uh, I forgot, its been about 10 years now. Ill, Ill look and see if I can, cause I got so much, this aint, this is not the one that I wrote, you know, where I had it all in order, this is just a little scrap. (long pause) Uh, they started it in 1984 and they were finished in 1985. Thats, thats 13 years, it doesnt seem that long. Well.

Mr. Dodson: Time flies.

Mary: Sure does. They started it in um, June, 1984 and finished in April 1985. Dedicated in November, November 1st in 1986. Long time ago. They, they did a lot of work afterward on, you know, they kept on…

Mr. Dodson: Right.

Mary: …and things, you know, getting things started and everything, they finally finished uh, bricking it up thats the last. They built the porch on the old church.

Mr. Dodson: Now what, now what do they, now what do yall use the old church for now?

Mary: Dining hall.

Mr. Dodson: Ok.

Mary: And uh, sometimes like, when they, and when they have Bible School or something and, you know, different age for different things and a dining hall.

Mr. Dodson: Well, well that's nice.

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