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American History
Poetry
John Andrew Howell, the Blind Poet of Webster County WVA


The history in verse by John Andrew Howell was written at the beginning of the 1900's...and as the reader follows along, read carefully and grasp the meaning of the messages as they were seen from this very specially gifted person.  The poems were scraps of paper, meaningless, until his nephew began to put them together and finally had the little pamphlet published..  Credit to Bob Gilles for the work of compiling  and I wanted to share it with the readers for posterity.

HISTORY OF J.A. HOWELL

Jane Fisher, mother's maiden name
My father, Jerry, married same.
It was over sixty years ago
while yet there were buffalo.

When my existence firs begun
I was my father's first born son
It was June the 23rd, I find
In eighteen hundre and forty nine.

They lived at Skelt on sugar Creek
When panthers, bear and deer were thick
The meat was bear, deer and coon
Thery made their clothes from wheel and loom.

They tanned their leather, made their shoes
or moccasins, which ever they choose.
All kind of grain they raised for bread
They baked in a skillet with a lid.

They raised their cattle, sheep and flax
Found many bee trees, and sold the wax.
When fish was wanted from the brook
they caught one with line and hook..

My father killed five panthers there
with many deer and many bear.
The panthers screamed, the wolves would howl
Like tomboy demons with the owl.

Sometimes while working in the field.
they'd hear a hog began to squeal
the men would run for gun and dog
It was a bear upon a hog.

The court house, forty miles away
No store no nearer so they say
A dove tail coat and bee-gum hat
Each gentlenman afforded that.

With deer skin jeans of line pants
The O'possum pocket in advance,
Knit cap, suspenders, mittens too.
With wampus, red, brown , black and blue.

Each lady tried her level best
to spin and weave the nicest dress.
With linen bonnet,bordered cap,
striped woolen dress and woolen wrap.

With Shaker bonnets, veiled in blue
alpaca dresses, worn by few.
The looked as lovely, sweet and gay
as those you see in town today.

They'd tell us daring tales at night.
how Indians killed and scalped the whites.
So little childen would not sqaul
they'd burst their brains out on a wall.

Six Indians one woman slew,
to save her life, her husbands too.
The sixth one down the chimney came
She roasted him in feathers flames.

Two captive boys of three red skins
they traveled on til night came in,
The redskins slept but ere they woke.
Those boys had killed them dead as pork.

Some men would move to mountain caves,
their wives and children for to save.
For when those indians sneaked around
from ambush, they would shoot them down.

Saul Carpenter in a cave was born
at Sauly's Rock upon Camp Run.
hid Uncle Ben and household killed
where now dothes set the Palmer Mill.

How indians came to find Ben out
Old John O'Brien blazed the route.
Ben's wife and children all were scalped
and he himself, for lack of help.

Those indians up to Hosey's went,
They burned his house, destroyed his fence.
They cut the tops from apple trees
They killed his hogs and destroyed his bees.

Old Jerry Carpenter kept still
upon a rock on top of hill,
nine years their prisoner he had been.
He did not shoot, he could not win.

In Hacker's Valley, Hacker's Lick
insight of the mouth of Hodam Creek
Where Indians watched to kill their deer
on pleasant evenings, warm and clear.

Five whites those Indians killed for fun
their graves are just across the run.
But Hacker watched it all the same,
and killed the Indians for his game.

One mile above at Laurel Fork
we found an Indian tomahawk.
In the base of mound or pile of stone
that had been built by hands unknown.

How Hacker came athirst for blood
he did it for to keep his word.
He'd told his daughter and his wife
while dying from the scalping knife.

He spent his life in killing reds.
He killed till all he found was dead.
He killed the crew that killed his wife
got her scalp, tho lost her life.

An Indian pipe Neal Williams got
where since was dug the Summit cut.
Of stone engraved and not much broke,
I saw him light it and take a smoke.

Aged Johnnie Lynch to me detailed
his birthplace near the Indian trail.
In a cave below Webster Springs
while Indians raided Elk that spring.

Soon came the Stroud Creek Tragedy
The Indians killed Stroud's family.
Then Stroud and friends to Bulltown flew
killed all the red men and women too.

A mound of earth now marks the place
eight miles from Burnsville nearly east.
One boy of twelve by flight got free
and stole his way to Tennessee.

The date exact I do not know
Near seventeen and eighty four
I've read the Border Warfare some
but as to the date, I never learned.

The civil war I would forget
its details here I would omit.
It rolled through Webster like a flood
and left its path stained with blood.

Our houses burned and all we had
I've heard the children cry for bread.
No coffee, salt or stores were there
Nor right-of-way to where they were.

When peace was made, it seemed so sweet
Long parted friends again could meet.
All men were pardoned by the law
for what they had done in time of war.

The ladies fashions changed about
the hoop-skirts puffed their dress-skirts out.
This lasted six or seven years
and hoop-skirt fashion disappears.

The soldiers widows made a rush.
to see which one could marry first.
It was not long they had to wait
till most of them would have a mate.

The homespun clothing soon went down
with hoop skirts and bonnets, caps and gowns.
Like gents, the ladies all wore hats
We've never see the likes of that.

With Grecian bend or polonaise
with mother-hubbard, blue or gray
Sound lungs, good health they'd had enough
exchanged them for the use of snuff.

I've served as justice on the bench.
Board of Education president.
Notary six and twenty years
Postmaster at three offices.

Nineteenth hundred year and four
through these eyes I see no more.
The days to me seemed dark like night
twas always dark and never light.

The friends with whom I used to play
are mostly dead or gone away.
The Indians are all gone or dead,
the deer and bear have also fled.

Near forty wells I've digged and walled,
mined coal five years and that's not all.
A life of labor, care and pain
John Andrew Howell is my name.

I am nearly sixty years of age
and time is running like a stage.
My health is gone, I am poor and blind
but everybody treats me kind.

The ladies would their bustles wear
they'd frizz and curl and puff their hair.
Remonstrance seemed to be in vain
they won their lovers just the same.

Gents wore white collars, slik cravats.
Fine shoes, fine suits, fine shirts and hats.
Gold buttons, cuffs of celluloid.
With watch of gold or silveroid.

Some habits family provoke
too much tobacco chewed and smoked.
Some men got drunk, this was a shame
the whiskey seller was to blame.

Of course the drunkards crime is great
himself and all his friends disgrace.
His purse, his health, his fame brought low
at death to hell his soul must go.

I hardly got to school at all,
four months, two weeks and that was all.
At home I studied as I ought
five grades I got, five winters taught.

I studied vocal music too
I taught the old as well as new.
I asked them questions, then you bet
I lectured then, I could lecture yet.

In 1881 I lost my eye,
it pained me so they thought I'd die.
In nine years more, my eyeball burst
and then got well and was no worse.

Albert Baughman was the clerk
in old-time fashion, did good work.
These men were sober-men of worth,
men of honor--little mirth.

Surveryor Bernard Mollohan
off seen with Jacob staff in hand.
Near thirty-seven years or more
surveying Webster County o'er.

He'd watch his compass needle still
close down on his sight, bound off up hill.
Of tired legs the men complained
who followed him and carried chain.

O'er ravine, rocks or mountain tops
to take his sights, he only stops.
The corner mark he always found
sometimes in chunks beneath the ground.

In 1861, the war came on,
the cannons roared like thunderstorms,
the mammoth tide destroyed the mills
and many citizens were killed.

In sixty-two the troops came around
destroyed the salt works, burned the town.
some soldiers there were shot and killed
with long ranged rifles form the hills.

Because the Webster Springs boys would fight
they killed, took off or burned outright.
Up Holly thru to Randolph line
four dwellings left is all I mind.

Four years of bloody battle field
with thousands crippled, thousands killed.
At last, at Appomatox raid
when Lee surrendered, peace was made.

The sweetest news I ever heard
t'was like the music of the bird.
But oh how lonely those would be
Whose friends were left on battle fields.


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