Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.


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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.

 

 


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The Spangler Old time Fiddler Musicians, Babe, Tump, and Dudley

John Watts, “Babe” Spangler was perhaps the most famous of these old time fiddlers. He was regularly featured as “The Old Virginia Fiddler” on WRVA radio and television in Richmond, Virginia in the late 1920’s until he died in 1970. Back in those days, their music wasn’t called bluegrass, but ” old-time” or mountain music,  even “Spanglin!” Today I believe it would fit into the category of bluegrass, and those of you who enjoy bluegrass like I do will probably recognize this marvelous sound! Babe was an outstanding musician, even after losing his sight to a genetic disease, perhaps retinitis pigmentosa, which also stole the sight of his mother, his maternal grandfather, James Steptoe Langhorne, and several others in the family.  

53 Jaybop writes on You Tube September 29, 2010, 

“Babe Spangler was born on November 15, 1882 in Patrick County, Virginia. His father was a widely known fiddle player in the region. Babe moved to Richmond in 1906 and worked as a guard at the state penitentiary until 1920. It was around this time that Babe began to suffer from congenital glaucoma; he then ran a grocery store, and eventually got into the lumber business. He became more and more involved with his music, and by 1926 or ’27, he was known as “The Old Virginia Fiddler” on the Corn Cob Pipe Show on Richmond’s WRVA. His music reached much of the Eastern U.S. In 1927 he won the Virginia Fiddlers Contest. In 1929 Babe Spangler and Dave Pearson, who accompanied him on guitar on his radio broadcast, recorded 4 songs at the Richmond Sessions. Two of the songs were un-released. Spangler died in 1970 Note: Babe Spangler recorded some tunes at WPAQ,Mt Airy.NC in the 1940’s, which were later issued on County Records.”

Wallace Wolford Spangler, 1851- 1926,  and his wife Frances (Fannie) Eunice Langhorne had six children together. Wallace had one child by his former marriage to Catherine Ellen Spangler, a son named Harry Hannibel Spangler.  Wallace and Fannie’s children were:

Wallace Wolford Spangler was an accomplished musician himself, well-known, well respected and admired.   He had his own special style some called “Spangling” instead of “fiddling!”  Apparently he passed on this musical talent to many in his family, but his son John Watts, called “Babe”, and his son Charles Langhorne, called “Tump” were very accomplished. Their sister Mary Josephine married her second cousin Dudley Spangler who was also a musician!

Charles Langhorne Spangler, “Tump”  loved to play with his brother Babe.  In an interview with Nancy Lindsey in  The Enterprise, the local newspaper of Stuart, Virginia, published June 19, 1974, Tump is quoted as recalling once when he and Babe were playing on WRVA radio, after it had increased its wattage to 50,000- reaching the whole country, when this Virginia legislator burst “into an impromtu rendition of a song he once played , “Black cat, yeller cat, riding on a rail, Black Cat stepped on the yeller cat’s tail…” They  had so much fun together! (Thanks to Dr. Pat Spangler, Ph.D, Tump’s son, for sharing that newspaper article with this author! )

DSCF7252

Fiddling is just oneof many accomplishments of the Hon. Charles Langhorne Spangler, “Tump” of Meadows of Dan, Patrick County, Virginia. One of Patrick’s most distinguished state legislators, he won fiddlers conventions back in his younger days. The Enterprise, newspaper of Stuart, Virginia, June 19, 1974.

 Dudley Spangler was Tump and Babe’s second cousin as their grandfathers were brothers. This is the way it goes: John Spangler b. 1783 married Susan Susannah Hudnall, b.1788, Fauquier, Virginia, and they had six children including  Richard, b.1813, and his brother Thomas born 1819. Richard married Lucretia Laura Scott and had son  Wallace Wolford Spangler who married Fannie Langhorne then had Babe and Tump as told above. Thomas and his wife Mary Rose, had son George who married Sisley and had Dudley!

Spangler, Dudley with fiddle

Photo of Dudley Spangler from Images of America, Music Makers of the Blue Ridge Plateau, by the Music Makers Guild, p.113.  –another gift from Tump’s son, Dr. Pat Spangler, PhD. 

As you know from earlier posts, this author’s great great grandmother, Evalyna Langhorne was Fannie’s sister. Evalyna married  Thomas Houchins and their son Harry, also blind from the family disease, played the banjo and sometimes played with Tump, Babe, and Dudley. As you may remember from earlier posts, I met Charles Langhorne Spangler’s children, Harvie Langhorne Spangler and Patrick Spangler, along with many of his grandchildren and great grandchildren!   I also met Dudley Spangler’s children, Bernice, Margie, and Wallace Spangler! They are all wonderful, kind , smart and friendly people! Babe has only one living child left, Grace, age 98 at this writing, called Sweetie. In my post just referred to, there is a story Babe’s great grandson tells about Sweetie that is priceless!  Pictures of many in this family can be found on the last blog post or two about the Spangler family reunion.

Published on Jul 10, 2012, Banjerholler on You Tube writes:

“These Virginia Fiddlers are John Watts “Babe” Spangler and his cousin, Dudley Spangler from Meadows of Dan, Virginia. The two learned their fiddling style from John Watts’ father, Wallace Spangler, a regarded fiddler from the area. This recording comes from a session of private recordings made by the boys to preserve their music. Let’s help to fulfill their wish!”

I’m all for preserving our musical heritage, and so very proud to be part of preserving some of my family’s talent!