Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.


4 Comments

Spangler, Mary Josephine-Poet in the Shadows of Her Famous Husband and Brothers—52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, #32

MOD, lover's LeapMary Josephine Spangler lived from the 14th of September, 1887- until the 7th of March, 1970. I would have been 21 the week after she died. Plenty old enough to have taken the chance to know her and some of my first cousins, 2x removed who lived in the mountains of Virginia, while I lived in Richmond, Va. –but I did not know of them! How sad! These were the children of my great grandmother’s children! She had died in 1900, they came along about 1882- 1892,  my grandmother’s first cousins. My grandmother, who knew them, died before I was born in 1949. Home from the war, four children and a mother to care for, my Dad was busy keeping up with his own 3 sibling’s families and my Mom worked full time (unusual for women of the 1950’s) and was busy keeping up with her five sisters and all of our cousins there! We had a full life, so we didn’t realize what we were missing! Fast forward 65 years, and here we have our first joint family reunion, with two families of my great-grandmother, descendants of two sisters: Fannie and Evelyn Langhorne. How exciting! We discovered a lot to love about each other, a lot we had in common, and some differences. We left the reunion, wanting more!

Fannie and Evelyn were two of nine children of James Steptoe Langhorne and Elizabeth Rachel Omohundro. Evelyn married Walter Thomas Houchins and had nine children of her own, with three dying in childbirth or early childhood. Fannie married Wallace Wolford Spangler and had six children with him. There were lots of cousins in our huge family!

Spanglers and Vippermans, 1915, may 16.

With stars in the family like the Spangler musicians– John Watts Spangler called “Babe” and dubbed the “Old Virginia Fiddler”; Dudley Spangler, also a recording star fiddler called “Babe”; Charles Langhorne, Tump, a fiddler and a state legislator—it’s easy to see, why a quieter, female, sister, Mary Josephine Spangler, who was a poet, might get little attention! After all, she was busy raising four children of her own, while her well-known husband Dudley played and sang for the masses! At our Langhorne family reunion, I had the absolute joy to see and get to know three of her children!  They are Margie Spangler Cartwright-92, William Wallace Spangler, 91, and Bernice Spangler Irvin, 84. They are all full of enthusiasm, knowledge, and generosity! They brought recordings of their Dad and Uncle Babe singing and playing for us to hear, which was wonderful! But they brought a special treat as well. They brought poetry with them, poetry that their mother had written and poetry that Margie had written and made into a song! I hope to share that with you in another post.

This is a poem by their mother, Mary Josephine. It is called simply, “Mayberry Virginia”. There is a true community nearby called Mayberry, where life was very simple in the early days. It is in fact, where Andy Griffith first visited and got his idea for the name Mayberry for the small town of his television show.  In this way, and in others, this poem is a marker of history, and shows that Mary Josephine was paying close attention to current events when she wrote it in the 1930’s. You see, the poem is also about the coming of the Blue Ridge Parkway to that area of Virginia. President Roosevelt and Congress approved the building of the Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina to provide a scenic trail for sure, but also to put hundreds, even thousands to work as the country was recovering from the depression. Work in Virginia started in 1936. The very end of the poem refers to an electric dam, and to Danville. One of our Langhorne cousins, Lucy Lea Rudd, shared with me that the Dams her Aunt Josie was speaking of are on the Dan River and were built in the 1930’s. They are in a canyon that runs from Vesta, south of Meadows of Dan, and Mayberry. Lucy said  that her father worked on them, which is why she knew they were built in the ’30’s.  How’s that for a bit of eye- witness history! Thank you Lucy Rudd! T he dams are owned by the city of Danville according to Lucy, and people have to have permission to go down to them. Mary Josephine knew all of this, and put it in  a poem! Well done my cousin!

 

“Mayberry Virginia” ©

 by Mary Josephine Spangler, in the second part of the 1930’s,

 

National-Park-Guide-NCs-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-PH1RIU63-x-large

National-Park-Guide-NCs-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-PH1RIU63, ravel.usatoday.com/destinations/story/2012-07-12/National-Park-Guide-North-Carolinas-Blue-Ridge-Parkway/56155918/1

Three cheers for Mayberry Virginia,            

With roads of every kind,

Some go to the east; some go to the west,

And some ore the mountains wind.

 

The scenic highway’s coming,

Room for every soul,

We will not have to push or pull,

Just let the car wheels roll.

 

Blue_Ridge_Parkway, commons.wikimedia.org

Blue_Ridge_Parkway, commons.wikimedia.org

Our cattle will soon by traveling,              

Thru tunnels under ground.

The old jersey cow with the bell on,

Won’t even make a sound.

 

Crossroads will be bridged,            

Up toward the sky so far,

That when the planes fly over,

They’ll wonder what they are.

 

Then when our children start to school,

Underground or overhead,

None at the crossroads,

Will be found hurt or dead.

 

Graves now dot the hilltops,

But there will be no new ones then.

We all will live, I am quite sure,

Three score years and ten.

 

This road will take you to the mill,

That’s just around the bend.

Where buckwheat, corn, and wheat are ground,

Which ere you choose to send.

 

And when the northern tourists come,

That is seeking to get fatter,

We’ll stuff them up on buckwheat cakes,

And let them drink some batter.

 

Cold water is always flowing,

From mountain, hill, or lowland,

So when Miami tourists drink,

They’ll say, “Oh my, ‘tis grand!”

 

The Appalachian Trail comes by,

From Maine, to way down South,

But these tourists rarely stop to drink, no matter rain or drought.

 

Danville will hard surface,

Five miles, it is no sham.

500 men will hit this trail,

And build an electric dam.

 

 


9 Comments

We traveled to the skies of Virginia this past week!

    We went to the sky this past week! Well, it felt like it, but in reality, we were in the mountains of Virginia, in the beautiful Meadows of Dan! The Meadows of Dan is a small town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, in southwest Virginia, but as a region it is much bigger. I have a lot to tell about this trip and the incredible people we met, but I want to show you a few pictures of the area first.

Meadows of Dan, Lover's Leap 2

     This is lover’s leap. The legend says that a young white man fell in love with an Indian maid, but they were given so much grief about their relationship, shunned and shamed, that they supposedly held hands and leapt to their deaths to be together in eternity! How sad! How poignant! How romantic, and what a sad commentary on our society now and then! Looking at this view you are standing on the JEB Stuart Highway in Patrick County, Va. , in the Meadows of Dan, but this valley that you are seeing is an  area of Patrick County called Woolwine, at least this is what one of my cousins told me!

       This area of the Blue Ridge Mountains is known for its beautiful stone churches. We went to visit one of them, and gracious, look at this beauty!

Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church in MOD, VA

This is Slate Presbyterian Church. I can just imagine that you would feel closer to God worshiping in this church on top of the mountain!

      Just a bit down the mountain from this church, was the lovely and gracious Woodberry Inn where we stayed. The owners of the Woodberry were so very friendly to us, helpful in every possible way! We felt like we were among friends with them and with their restaurant owner. Good friends, good food, great hospitality!   

Woodberry Inn, Meadows of Dan, Virginia

 

    

         

     

   

   Everywhere we went, we saw beautiful views and met friendly people! We were very happy to be there, where our ancestors had lived for over 100 years, and where we still have many cousins!  

Greenberry House, Meadows of Dan

Greenberry House above, where owner Leslie Shelor spins her own yarn was a wonderful place to visit! You can find her on facebook! She sells yarn, collectibles, books, and other things.

Below is a picture of the first shop where we stopped, on our way up the mountain, just a half mile past Lover’s Leap! Joyce and Ronnie Green are the friendliest proprietors, and take good care of their handicapped customers, important to me with my wheelchair.

Poor Farmer's Farm Store in Vesta, Virginia, just down the mountain from Meadows of Dan

       One morning we had brunch at Jane’s Country Café in Meadows of Dan. That was a blessing to us! Besides good food, and great service, we felt like we made new friends who gave us directions and information about the area. Besides that, they were able and willing to cater what we needed for the family reunion we were planning to attend. They fixed up a big bowl of banana pudding and another of baked apples for us to take with us, The food got rave reviews at the reunion also! 

Jane's Country Cafe in Meadows of DanJane's Country Cafe, red building

      We also wanted to spend time in the nearby town of Stuart, because again, we’d had ancestors live there, and because we wanted to do some research at the Historical and Genealogical Museum and at the Patrick County Courthouse. We found helpful people everywhere we went, at the courthouse and the museum where the records are well organized and easily accessible. Driving through downtown Stuart you see how close the mountains are! Only 20 minutes up the mountain to the Meadows of Dan and the Blue Ridge Parkway!         Stuart, Va. downtown and view of mountains

Stuart Virginia, historical marker

      Below is the stately Patrick County Courthouse where we went seeking records of long ago relatives.

Patrick County Courthouse

Patrick County Courthouse with JEB Stuart memorialMemorial to JEB Stuart at Courthouse in Stuart, Virginia

The building pictured below houses the Patrick County Historical Museum, the Genealogical Museum, and the Public Library. The Historical Museum is full of incredible exhibits, if you have never been there, it is worth the trip! One of their many volunteers, Mr. David Sheley, wrote a column in the local newspaper, The Enterprise, about my search for genealogical records, and that connected me with many cousins I didn’t even know I had, bringing outstanding joy and friendship to my life. From working on the family tree, to traveling and meeting your kinfolks, can life get any better than this?! 

Historical and Genealogical Museum and Public Library in Stuart, Va,

Next Post: the reunion, the nicest people and the prettiest Southern homestead you could ever want to see!