This is a autobiographical sketch of the life and career of one R.D. Murphy, Sr., who was born in Buchanan County, Virginia, five miles above Grundy on the waters of Big Prater Creek on the third day of August in the year of 1867, just two years after the close of the old Civil War between the states.
I was the son of H. M. and Cordelia Oquin Murphy. My father and mother separated when I was less than two years old, my father being a very young man several years younger than my mother, then went wandering around not trying to do any good. My mother took charge of me all together. She took me over on Russell Prater Creek to the home of Old Uncle Abraham Coleman, who had married my motherís older sister. They had never had any children, so my Aunt Millie was only too glad to take me over and take care of me while my mother went back over on Big Prater Creek and hired at the home of one Julius and Malinda Ratliffís in order to work out and get a little house junk and materials sufficient to start housekeeping. My first recollection and remembrance of things is when I was at my Uncle Abraham Colemanís home.
My mother came over on the Greenbriar Fork of Russell Prater Creek when I was little more than two years old and got a little old log cabin house from my Uncle George M. Oquin, and assembled her few items of house junk in it and went over to Uncle Abrahamís and got me and went to housekeeping.
Within the course of a year or two, my Uncle George Oquin moved over on Main Russell Prater Creek and turned over his house which was just another little old log cabin, little larger than the one she had been in, to my mother. There we remained until in February in the year of 1881, when I was thirteen.
My grandfather had just died on the 8th day of February, 1881, and my Uncle Andrew J. Oquin having moved several years before to Webster County, West Virginia, my mother became discontented and decided to sell out what she had accumulated through the past eleven years and go to Brother Andrewís in Webster County, West Virginia. I will say she had made fairly good progress during that time for a lone woman. I was just a mere lad and had never thought anything about trying to make a living. In the meantime, my brother, James B., had been born on May 1, 1873, and getting up to be a right smart little codger and was antic as a monkey.
Just as soon as my grandfather died, my mother went to trying to sell her stuff. She had two cows, two yearling steers, a good gang of sheep and I think she had a few hogs and several items of house junk. She sold one cow and kept one. She sold all the rest of her property stock and all her house junk except one bed and her weaving loom. She kept her bed and tried to sell her old 1oom at any price. The loom was old and had belonged to her stepmother, Old Grandma Abbie Coleman. She could not get anything at all for the old loom, so the evening before we left the old log cabin, she took the old loom down and took her down below the house in the bottom, piled her up in a neat little pile and set her on fire, saying as she did so, "Nobody will get you for nothing!"
We went to Old Uncle Harvey Deelís that night. My mother had already hired Uncle Alex Deel to take his gray mare and go with us two days and carry our bed and what little house junk he could carry on his gray mare, which was one of the best that ever marked mud, I think. The next evening found us on the Pawpaw Fork of Knox at Old Riley Dotsonís, where we spent the night. We were driving the sawed-horn red cow which my mother had not sold. She had sold all her other junk for, just well nigh one hundred dollars. I remember she had little less then a hundred dollars.
Next morning, my mother settled with Mr. Dotson for staying all night, and we started early in the direction of Tug River. That evening found us at the mouth of Peters Creek in the State of Kentucky on the bank of the Tug River near the home of William Johnson, in fair view of the home of Devil Anse Hatfield, over across Tug River in the State of West Virginia.
We spent the night at the home of William Johnson in the State of Kentucky. Mr. Johnson had been married the second time and had a young woman and two small children, and a whole drove of girls by his first wife, ranging from two girls married down to eight and ten and twelve years old. I noticed that night that one of the two smallest girls, whom they called Sarah Belle, was drooping around coughing, and Mrs. Johnson said she had been sick all day. Next morning, she was no better and did not get out of bed, so my mother settled with Mr. Johnson and made arrangements to leave the plunder which Uncle Alex Deel had carried there on his gray mare, and sawed-horn cow there until she could find someone that she could hire to come back for them.
My Uncle Alex got on his gray mare bright and early and started up Peters Creek in a straight line for Buchanan. No doubt but what that was the fartherest away from Buchanan that he had ever been. I know it was was fartherest I had ever been. Soon Uncle Alex was out of sight, and we started down to cross the Tug River and get over into the State of West Virginia, which was the state that my Uncle Andrew J. Oquin lived in, and where my mother had started, too, but it was yet a long, long way before we would ever get there. In fact, it was a destination which we never did reach. A man by the name of Dave Wolford set us across the river in a little flatboat and landed us over into West Virginia. That was the first time I had ever been out of Buchanan County, Virginia.
We were then on the homeland of Devil Anse Hatfield, so we took on down the Vest Virginia side of Tug River and had gone about two or two and a half miles when we met a man by the name of Moses Chaffins riding a bay horse. He at once fell to inquiring who we were and where we were going, and where we had come from, and a thousand other questions. My mother told him she had started to go to her brotherís home in Webster County.
He said, "Why, Hell, oh, that is hundreds of miles from here right through a wilderness, so you canít get there in a month." So, my mother told him she had left a cow and a horse load of house plunder up at Bill Johnsonís over in the mouth of Peters Creek.
He said, "What are you going to do with it?" She told him she wanted to hire somebody that had a horse to go up there and get it and the cow and bring them down where wherever we stayed that night.
He said, "Why Hell, oh, you donít have to hire anybody. I will go and get my brother Andyís boy, Harve, to go and take Andyís mare, and we will bring everything right down here. My brother, Andy, has got plenty of feed and corn to feed your cow, and it will not cost you but little if anything. So, I will go after your stuff."
We went on up to the home of Mr. Andy Chaffins, and at once found out that he was just as liberal and clever as his brother, Moses, dared to be. Dinner was just ready as we got there, and as soon as dinner was over, Moses and Harve, who was just a gawk of a boy about my size, mounted the horses and started for Mr. Bill Johnsonís. It was only a short way, and they were soon back with the sawed-horn cow and the house plunder. Mr. Chaffins carried the plunder in and placed it carefully and said, "Now, it can stay there until you send back after it. Has your cow been fed?"
My mother told him she had been fed that morning. "O. K." he said, "I will have her fed until you send back after her."
Then Moses spoke up and asked, "Has your boys had the measles?"
She said, "No."
"Well," he said, "You had just as well take up here, for one of Bill Johnsonís girls is in the bed the worst broke out human I ever seen. She just broke out last night, and your boys are sure for the measles and you had better not get somewhere else and especially not back in this wilderness that you will strike as soon as you leave here."
Then the Chaffinses both spoke up and said, "Right over across the creek there is an old house or log cabin which belongs to our brother-in-law, Devil Anse Hatfield. We know it will be all right with him for you to just move into that old house until you see whether your boys take the measles or not."
Moses said, "I am sure they will take them if they have not already had them."
One of them said, "Mr. Hatfield is gone down the river with a lot of rafted timber now, but he will be back in a few days. You can go up in the morning and see Mrs. Hatfield. She is our sister, and she is a powerful good woman, and I know she will tell you to go right on in that old house and stay as long as you want to. That Anse will be back in just a few days."
We went up there the next day, and I can safely say that, to the best of my knowledge, Old Aunt Vicey Hatfield was one of the cleverest, best woman-hearted women that I have ever seen in my life anywhere. She said, "Yes, go right on in there. Anse will be home soon, and you can stay as long as you want to."
So, we went back down and moved over in the old log cabin that evening; and, in about twelve days, me and my brother took the measles. We were right with Mr. Hatfieldís family and Mr. Chaffinsís both before we knew we were taking them, and so gave both families a full dose of them. When we broke out, Mr. Chaffinsís boys came over there and got wood for us until we got well. They did not hurt any of them much except Bob Hatfield. They came very near killing him.
By the time the measles was all over, it was warm weather, and my mother decided to stay there and make a crop that summer and not go on to Webster County until that fall. So, we moved down to Thacker Creek and worked with John Chaffins that summer. John was a brother of Andy and Moses Chaffins.
After farming was over, we came back up to the home of Devil Anse Hatfield and stayed there until the first of August. I was then turned fourteen years old, and my mother took a notion to come back to Buchanan on a visit before going on to Webster County to my Uncle Andrew J. Oquin's. Behold, when we landed back on Greenbriar in Buchanan County, we found that my Uncle Andy and his wife, Aunt Lutitia, had come from Webster County on a visit early in the summer and had decided not to go back and had bought a home in Dickenson County. They had notified their family to sell out back in Webster County for what they could get and to come back here, for they wore not going to return.
So, that put and end to our Webster County move. We went on back to West Virginia and went to the home of Devil Anse Hatfield and stayed there the rest of the summer until schools started in the fall, and as there was no school anywhere near there in West Virginia, and a Mr. Jacob R. Mounts was opening up a free school over in Kentucky at the Mouth of Peters Creek in an old log school house near where the mining town of Freeborn, Kentucky, now stands, we moved over Tug River into the Kentucky side into an old house just up in the mouth of Pound Mill Branch which belonged to one Mrs. Mary Brewer, a widow woman. There, me and my brother went to school until some time about the first of February in the year of 1882.
That was the same year that the Hatfield and McCoy feud broke out in August. It started on the first Monday in August at a Primary Election day over in Kentucky, on Blackberry Creek near the home of Preacher Anse Hatfield, a first cousin of Devil Anse. We left Kentucky about the same time in February of 1882 that we had left Greenbriar Creek in Buchanan County in the year of 1881.
Now, except for this one year, I have lived in Buchanan County all my life. I am now going on my 86th year. I have been a voter ever since the year of 1888. I have always been a straight going Democrat until the year of l943, when I could not conscientiously vote for Henry A. Wallis on a Progressive platform, and I wish I could do it again this year. I shall Cast my vote next Tuesday, if I live until that day for Harry F. Byrd for Senate, M. M. Long for Congress, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower for President, this being my first Republican vote ever given in life any higher than a county clerk or sheriff. I reckon he (Eisenhower) is a Republican. He has never been tried before, so far as I know, but Republican or Democrat I wish I had a hundred votes to give to him next Tuesday morning, because in all my long lifetime, I never have been as tired of anything as I am now of this Infernal Trumanism, and that is the only way that I know of that 1 can make an effort to get rid of it. I have lost many, many Democrat votes, but if I lose this, my first Republican Vote, I will be the worst disappointed that I have been in all these many years. I have always had the backbone to stand whatever came, but I now feel like it would be a bitter pill for me to attempt to stand four more years of this Hellish Infernal Trumanism in my declining days.
But, should I lose, though I hope I donít, But id I do, why I will just mosey on and pull what I can of it; but there is one great conciliation... I am too old as far as I am personally concerned to have to help pay any part of that three hundred billion dollars that Mr. Truman has wasted keeping up that dog fight over in Korea and calling it war and experimenting, and on what he calls an Atomic Bomb, that great defense weapon which he has never allowed the American soldier boys to use over there, but has kept them over there dragging around with old, out-of-date arms until he has now about one hundred and nineteen thousand American casualties, which have everyone lost their lives in vain and without any legal cause whatever, except Truman was hellbent from the start to have a war with Russia. He has absolutely failed to get this up to now, but one thing he has done... he has bonded this government for more money than it will ever be able to pay and is still issuing bonds; and he has inflated the money until it is now only worth fifty-two cents on the dollar! The Congress and Senate have kept his bills cut down all they reasonably could, and if they had not and had given him all he asked for, what would have becn the consequences today? Someone try to answer this question if you can.
This just gives a mere hint at the bulk of Trumanism, but here I will quit it and leave room for somebody else to explain their part of it, because there is still plenty of Trumanism left unexplained, so I will now drop back to my boyhood days, where I left off, when we landed back on Greenbriar Creek in Buchanan County, in February of 1832, about one year from the time we left there in 1881.
When we landed, the same old log cabin we had left the year before was still empty, and we just moved right in and took possession, though the Old Man Jake Fuller had bought that place from Old Jim Colley, and he soon came there one day, and raised sand with my mother about possession of the old house. He and my mother rowed around a while, and then he went on off.
Within a day or two, Mr. Mack Deel came there and sold my mother half of a big hog, so he went home and killed the hog and brought her half up there, and when he did, he told her that he had an empty house and plenty of good corn land around on the other fork of Greenbriar Creek and that he would rent her the house and all the land she needed, garden and all, for, as well as I can remember, one fourth of what corn we made. I don't thinkhe ever unloaded his sack of meat, but took it right around to the house which we had rented from him.
I was then about fourteen years old, and had begun to think about wanting to court. I had begun thinking of it over in Kentucky where I had been going to school with a girl about my age by the name of Victoria Daniels. I was gone from her then, though, and soon forgot about her. The Old Man John Wesley Deel, an older brother of Mr. Mack Deel, lived just up the creek above us, and he had a very pretty girl about two years younger than I was, redheaded and keen as a briar, smart and as gay as a lark. We had always known each other from small kids up, so we soon thought we had fallen in love with each other, since we were great playmates in school and elsewhere.
After a couple of years, we moved over on the other fork of Greenbriar... a distance of about three or four miles away... which seemed far away then. By then, things were just common... she had got going with other fellows, and I had got to going with a few other girls, but I still made visits back over there until I was going on twenty years old and she was just turned seventeen. I thought I could out all the rest of the boys and did, right on the first go-round, when I soon asked her how about me and her marrying.
She said, "O.K." and I asked the Old Man John Wesley and Aunt Nancy for her. They both gave their consent without a word of objection, and the fourteenth day of July, 1886, we were joined together in marriage by Old Uncle Jacob Deel, my first old school teacher. He was the first teacher that we had each gone to school to.
The next day, we made our way through the woods over onto the other fork of Greenbriar Creek, where I was then temporarily located. Things went on very well until just before Christmas of that same year, when we got separated without any difficulty or quarrel.
Fortunately, or unfortunutely, we never did make up or live together any more, but on the twentieth day of April, 1887 she gave birth to a little girl baby born just nine months and four days after the day we were married. She named the little girl Hettie Caroline Murphy. She is the same woman now known as Hettie C. Blankenship, wife of John Logan Blankenship of Prater, Virginia. I donít think that my wife or I either ever did know why we parted or what we separated over. She is dead and gone now. She married P. J. F. Coleman, reared a big family, and they are both dead. I made them both a tombstone and put them up at their graves just down below Murphy, Virginia, near the home of Bruce Colley.
Now the little girl, Hettie Caroline, married John L. Blankenship. They have five living boys, who are my oldest grandchildren. There are Charley, Richard D., Byrd, Noah, and David C. Through this line of Grandsons, I have several great, great grandchildren... something that many men never live to see... their fifth generation.
It was nearly nine years before I ever married again, but on the second day of April, 1895, when I was about 27 years old, I was again married over in Russell County, Virginia, to Martha Breeding, my second cousin. She was then going on twenty years old. She was born on June 11, 1874. To our union were born seven living children... four boys and three girls. Two twin girls were stillborn... both dead... and were never named. Those living were Luanna, James B., Elijah H., Bettie, Mary L., Richard D. Jr., and LeRoy Davis. They are all married and have families. Luanna is dead, and her children are about all grown up.
Now I will say a little more about my politics and voting. I have told you that I first voted in the year of 1888, when I arrived at the age of twenty-one years old. I then voted for Grover Cleveland in his second race for president. That was the time he was defeated by Benjamin Harrison. Then in the year of 1892, he was a candidate again, and successfully defeated Ben Harrison. This election led to the so-called Cleveland Panic which but few people now remember or know anything about. However, that is long gone by and so little known about it that I will not go into details anything about trying to explain it, though I know it by heart. It is seldom mentioned any more except by a few hot-headed Republicans who have heard their grand-daddies say something about it. A fcw of them still squawk around a little, just like a few hot-headed Democrats squawk about the Hoover Panic.
Of course, that is a lot closer down and a few more people remember it better than do the Cleveland Panic. I could explain the Cleveland so-called Panic almost in detail, but it so so long gone by and so near forgotten, that I will say no more about it; but I must say one more thing about the Hoover Panic. It was tough... we all know that... but Hoover did not hand a national debt over this country so great that our great, great, great grandchildren will never remember seeing it half paid. Somebody else had done it. No need to say who came along with it... you all know who it is. Letís be frank about it and have the whole truth in a nutshell. Suppose we elect General Eisenhower next Tuesday and see if he can do anything about it. He will first have to revalue and stabilize the currency and make it at least worth about eighty or ninety cents on the dollar instead of fifty-two cents, and then fix and put some kind of a standard behind it instead of nothing like it has been ever since 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed it off of the Gold Standard and put nothing else in place. It kindly looks like something should be done right now and there. Do you reckon Mr. Eisenhower can do it or not, or will it be too much of a job for him? It may be that the lack of experience which he has in government will stop him doing anything about it. Of course, he is a smart man and can get lots of good experience when he gets in the White House and finds it all to clean up before he can start to work on much real business if he gets there. I think he will clean up or miss a good chance.
All this history has been written on the past two days by R. D. Murphy. I may write some more before I deliver this to the news reporter.
I told you I voted for Grover Cleveland in 1892, and won, and I voted in every presidential election from then until 1912 before I ever saved another vote. That was for Woodrow Wilson. Then I saved my vote on up to 1944 and lost to Henry A. Wallis in 1948. I donít know what will have happened to my Eisenhower vote by next Tuesday. I hope to save it. It would be bad to lose a Republican vote when I never cast one before.
I have been knocked out for the past two days on account of the death and funeral of an old friend in Dickenson County, Mr. Ivons Tiller. This brings us to the third day of November, 1952. On tomorrow, we will settle the question as to whether we are going to have a change of Government, or whether we are going to still continue the Social Trumanism as we have for the past seven years.
My slogan is "In God We Trust", and God, I do trust that we will get rid of Trumanism on tomorrow. Here I will rest the case and step on over and tell you where I have lived and how Iíve lived since 1895, when I married my last wife in the midst of the so-called Cleveland Panic. At that time I had never owned any land except a small tract which I had taken up as vacant on Bull Creek and had got a court writ title for it. It was a very sorry little old place and I knew that I could not do any good there, so I rented land from David Deel for the first three years after I was married. I gave him one fourth of the corn I made the first two years. The third year, he charged me one third. I thought that was too much rent, and since McKinley had been elected 1896 and times had begun to look just a little better than they had in the later part of Clevelandís last term, I decided that some place of my own would be better than none, so I had sold... or more so given away... my little old Bull Creek place in order to get out of the Pearson Land Suit which Tebolt had brought against the citizens of Buchanan County.
I said that I had quit renting land, so I went to Little Fox Creek and bought little old place off of Bob James of 35 acres more or less which was in the Warder Survey and not involved in the Pearson-Tebolt suit. I stayed there eleven years in the midst of the Thomas and Gibson tyranny, ere we decided we could not bear with their ways of doing any so we kind of organized a squad, called the "White Caps" Squad on up until the night of October 3, 1901, when me and my brother went over on Abnerís Branch to John Wisorís Store, and we fell in with the so-called "White Caps" assembling to make a raid on Old Jim Thomas up on Hurricane, so we decided to go along with them, and did.
This proved to be worth more to me in real good knowledge than any trip I ever made. I learned that night that I was no "White Cap", no "Klu Klux", or no "Night Raider". The big part of that crowd was from Dickenson County. Of course, there was a squad of Buchanan County boys and men, but the majority of them was from Dickenson. When they got up there, it seemed that they must have had plenty of liquor, and lots of them must have been pretty high. They got two good men killed that night, several more sprinkled with shot. The cowards scattered and left Dave Robinson dead and Bod Arrington dying from the shots from Old Jim Thomasí shot gun. Thus, we had just as good as no law at all in Buchanan County at that time. The Commonwealths had run away for dealing in Bogus Land Business, and Jim Thomas was never indicted for killing the two men, and the country was in worse shape than it was before.
Before long, Mont Browning became Commonwealth Attorney and Judge Henson of Tazewell became judge temporarily, and in 1905 or 1906, Judge Henson appointed me Justice of the Peace, and Creed B. Duty as Constable in the Garden District. We seized the law in our hands as green as two pumpkins, and set out to try to straighten things out a little, and we did, notwithstanding threats from every corner that we were going to be killed if we did not quit sticking the law to the violators. We just went straight ahead regardless of threats or whatever. 1907 was election year and I was elected again, but Creed Duty let Bev Chambers beat him for constable. I didnít expect to get much service out of Bev Chambers, and sure enough I didnít.
In 1908 or 1909, I sold out on Little Fox Creek and bought a little old place off James Tiller near the mouth of Hurricane. I moved over there after the Honaker Lumber Company had come over the hill and times had got lots better both in law and in every other way. I stayed at Hurricane for six years and by that time, Preacher W. A. Hash had come to Council and was making preparations about building a high school up there, so I sold out at Hurricane to B. W. Ball and went up to Council and bought a little farm of I. J. Johnson Hale. I gave him eight hundred dollars cash and moved up there. I stayed there for four years to a day and sold out to J. N. Hall, for one thousand dollars and came over here right to where I am now doing this writing and bought the old W. A. McFarlane Farm off his oldest son, George M. McFarlane, Sr. I gave him twelve hundred dollars cash and moved over here in March of 1918 and stayed here thirteen years and in February, 1930, I went down on Bull Creek and bought the old John W. Clevinger home place, where he raised his family. I bought it from his son, Levi Clevinger. I gave him one thousand dollars and moved down there, and stayed there sixteen years.
Then, my wife became ill, and I saw she was getting worse and never better, and I prevailed on her to let us divide our land up among all our children and make them deeds while we were both alive and able to make deeds, so we did just that. We had one hundred and four acres here at Council and one hundred and forty-nine and one half acres at Harman on Bull Creek. We had one son, Richard D. Murphy, Jr., in the army and we deeded him the home place at Harman and we deeded our home place here at Council to our youngest daughter, Mary L. Presley, and I am now at her home at Council, where I have ever been since my wife died on June 24, 1947 except that I went down into the State of Indiana where my daughter, Bettie Colyer has a farm and stayed about ten months last year.
So this brings me down to the present day of November the third, 1952, and it got so dark, I can't see how to write and just ten minutes after two oíclock, I will wind up by saying that I have always been an independent man. I have only one religion and that is to observe the golden rule of: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and I have never belonged to any secret order or lodge. I have never belonged to any labor organization or to any union of any kind. I have always been too independent to be affiliated with anything that would bind me to do anything that I did not want to do. and I am still just that independent. I am 85 years old and have never yet got old enough to try and draw any Social Security from the Social Welfare Fund. I despise Socialism so bad that I despise anything that has "Social" attached to it.
There are several things in my life that I regret that I ever did: I regret that I was Justice of the Peace; I regret that I ever did join the Regular Baptist Church; I regret that I ever did night-watch at the Council High School; I regret that I voted for Al Smith in 1927; and several other things I could mention. For all the regrets, the reasons are best known to myself alone. None of thcm is serious, but I know that if I had never done any of them, I would have had none of them to think about now. I have never regretted that I worked on the Perpetual Motion. I have always said that it could be made and would be made some time. I have it so near completed at present that I know it can be finished and will be finished in the near future. If I donít get it done myself, I hope that some of my posterity will finish it. I know science says that it canít be done, but I say that it can be done, and will be done.
I am stopping off here, and if I never write any more, this can be a reminder to my uprising generation.
This written by R. D. Murphy, Sr. at Council, Virginia, closed November 3, 1952.
NOTE: R. D. Murphy died at Council, Virginia, on April 14, 1956, at the home of his son, E. H. Murphy. Several years prior to his death, he had completed his own coffin and it was his wish to be buried in it. His wishes were carried out faithfully. He lies in the Hale cemetary at the mouth of the hollow where he died, where he had selected as his his desired resting place. At the time of his death, he had 37 grand children, 72 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren. May they all strive to keep alive the free and independent spirit which was the outstanding characteristic of their ancestor.