Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.


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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! )

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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!


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The Spangler Reunion, part 2, Charles Langhorne, “Tump” Spangler

  •      The Spangler Reunion as you may remember was held at the homestead formerly owned by Charles Langhorne Spangler and his wife Kittie Cockram Spangler. You could feel their very presence at the family gathering even though both are deceased.  “Tump” as he was called, was a very special man who inspires pride in all who claim him as kin, myself included as he is my first cousin. At the reunion, in the barn, there were displayed a number of photos, portraits, video and audio recordings and other family memorabilia. It felt like stepping into a treasure chest of family memories! Today I want to share with you some about Charles Langhorne Spangler. 

    Spangler homestead, Meadows of Dan Spangler reunion, Helen meets sisters Berniece and  L age 98

    Spangler displays, Tump

    Mountain Laurel ,  mtn-logo

    http://www.mtnlaurel.com/

    Charles Langhorne Spangler, “Tump” a tribute by John Hassell Yeatts    

  • By John Hassell Yeatts © 1983

    Issue: April, 1983

    “This was the offical state photograph taken of Mr. Spangler in the early 1930’s when he served in The Virginia General Assembly.It is never too late, they say, to mourn again the loss of a great individual. The fact that two months have elapsed since the kind and genteel heart of Charles Langhorne Spangler, “Tump” to all who knew him, stopped beating, does not make his passing a less somber event to be considered.

    Many people loved him for many different reasons. Some, perhaps, simply because his greatness was measured in so many dimensions that went far beyond the five productive terms he served in the Virginia House of Delegates. However, ‘the fact that he served with so much dedication, integrity and humility, set him apart from many of his legislative associates, and endeared him to many people.

    The overwhelming political odds he overcame to be first elected to that august body might have changed the character of a more pretentious person. But Mr. Tump, being the wise and humble person he was, sought only to serve that office with distinction. Had he possessed aspirations to higher office, he could undoubtedly have been elected and would have become one of Virginia’s outstanding Governors. He had the ability and leadership capable of higher office; the ancestral bearing of the Langhornes and the acumen and wit of the Spanglers. But he wanted nothing greater than to represent the people of Patrick County with democratic and unassuming distinction during the legislative term and then to hurry back to his loving family and comely white house beside Quakerfield Creek near the Meadows of Dan Post Office. He visited that Post Office almost daily until he was in his early nineties. And he always found warm hands to shake and pleasant conversation waiting for his arrival.

    Had he chosen a lawless route when he was a youngster in Mayberry instead of a law enforcement and lawmaking route, he could have easily become the terror of the top of the mountain. He possessed the physical strength of a good horse which he once obligingly demonstrated by breaking a lifting pole during the construction of the big Ceph Scott house, built by his outstandingly talented father, Wallace Spangler. Two of Mayberry’s strongest men in tandem had failed to fracture it. His contemporaries gave him a wide berth, we are told, even though he always displayed the harmonious and sympathetic character of his gentle mother, Fanny. He was born to be a leader only for good. The number of people in Patrick County and elsewhere who have benefited from their friendship with this great statesman could not possibly be enumerated. Many have preceded him to that Great Beyond. But the example he sat for young men and women to follow should not be allowed to become forgotten. And one way to do that would be to attempt to fill the mighty void his departure created with deeds of kindness and consideration for those left behind. We believe this is bound to happen and will become another measure of his greatness.

    When we last visited him in the Blue Ridge Nursing Home, he was still concerned with the passing of another great mountain man, Reverend Lawrence Bolt. We lamented his loss together. And when his eyes filled with tears and his booming voice choked with emotion, we quickly changed the subject. It was then he informed me. “You know I must have the finest room in this home. Looking from my window to my left, I can see the lumber plant where Brother (his nephew Langhorne Webb) and I spent so many happy days. Doesn’t look like it used to, but with a little imagination I can remember it all. And to my right, I can see the top of the Rye Cove mountain and toward the folks and land I love so well.”

    Well, he’s resting now in a plot on a large ridge top in Mayberry that he helped to clear and plow along about the beginning of this century. And he’s resting among many of those same folks he loved so well. But perhaps more importantly, he’s living inside the hearts and minds of even more folks that he loved; and he’s being remembered as he wanted to be; a good father, uncle, cousin and friend. But even more than that, he’s being remembered as just plain ‘Tump.”

    ____________________________________________

         Tump was one of six children born of Wallace Wolford Spangler and his wife Frances (Fannie) Eunice Langhorne. Tump had one, half brother- Harry Hannibal Spangler born 1877 to Wallace Wolford Spangler and Catharine (Katie) Ellen Spangler.  Wallace and Fannie’s children were:  

         As a young man, Tump married first, Susan Bertha Shelor, 1885-1909 who unfortunately died in childbirth.  Second he married Kittie Clyde Cockram and they had seven amazing children !  

         Only two sons are still living and I will tell you more about these amazing men, but there were a couple more displays I want to share with you right now. First is a lovely portrait of Tump and Kittie as the young professionals they were.  Thinking of Kittie,  you may remember a post called  Leila Cockam: Age 16, Murdered While Picking Apples! Another story re. my intriguing ancestors! -see the genealogy category- about a murder in Patrick County, Tump’s wife Kittie was the one up in the apple tree who witnessed her sister being murdered! The fact that she could sucessfully raise seven children is a miracle of life’s renewal. 

    Spangler, need to identify

    Near this portrait, was an interesting display–a framed pair of spurs one would use when riding a horse. A framed story accompanied the spurs, making something interesting into a “wow” moment. Notice__

    Soangler, display of spurs, worn by Tump, see story separatelySpangler story aboutspurs

    The story reads:  “A True History of These Riding Spurs

    These spurs –were removed from a German Army Officer’s boots on the battlefield in France during World War One, by Pat Rakes. a young U.S. Army soldier from Floyd,Virginia–brought back and given to me by him.  I used them several years while riding horseback as Deputy Collector for the U.S.Internal Revenue, searching out and destroying Moon-Shine stills in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, in Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Floyd, and Carroll Counties. My daily diary shows some 400 miles per month, for 4 years–1917-1921.  signed C.L.Spangler, unsure of date

    What a remarkable man! In the next post, you will learn that he played the fiddle also, along with his famous brother and cousin!