Saturday, November 22, 2008

Four Stories

My grandfather was James Mullins. His parents were Joshua and Annie Houston Mullins. Joshua's parents were James and Rebecca Hayes Mullins. James father was Booker Mullins. One of Booker's children's death certificates lists his mother's name as Sarah. Other women are listed as Booker's wife, but I have never found that he had more than one marriage -- and the only clue for his wife being the Sarah listed on the death certificate.

Booker grew up in the home of William and Katherine Mullins. With DNA tests of today Booker's descendants are not matching those of his brothers descendants. It is thought that he was fathered by one of the daughters of William and Katherine and Sherwood Adkins who was known for his attachments to young girls. Of course, those who tell that story can never tell me the name of the daughter who might have been the mother. Why couldn't it have been Katherine who dallied with a younger man? Regardless, Booker was brought up as if he were a child of William and Katherine. They lived in Franklin county, Virginia.

I found an article by James Taylor Adams. It tells a bit about Booker, a bit about the naming of Pound, a bit about Susan Dean Sowards and finally how John Fox used Susan and her husband as models for characters in his book, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine".

Pound is the only place I ever heard which always had "the" in front of it. We are going to "the Pound". We never said we are going to "the Dayton". Put most times growing up I would hear it referred to as "the Pound." I just never knew til I read the article that James Taylor Adams wrote that my family, through Booker, had anything to do with the name.

Here is the article:

Kingsport Times
Kingsport, Tennsesee
July 19, 1950 page 8

The Forks Of The Pound Is Historical Ground

By James Taylor Adams
Daily News Correspondent

Big Laurel, Va. July 19 – Historic ground. That’s the story of the forks of the Pound… and a quarter of a mile there from in every direction.

If Col. Christopher Gist’s journal has been read correctly, it was in the little scrap of level ground, just west of the meeting of the two streams that the first white man’s fire was kindled in all the territory now embraced in Wise County; and a little to the
east near the center of the present incorporated town of Pound.

Booker Jim Mullins, seeking adventure and a home in the wilderness moved in from Franklin county, Virginia, and established himself and the first mill, capable of turning corn into meal, to be operated in this region. Mullins’ mill was not a mill in the exact sense of the word. It was simply a mortar, operated by horsepower, which pounded the corn into meal. But it was sufficient unto the needs of the settlers for twenty miles around; and its pounding was enough to give a name to a river and a town.

Mullins didn’t stay long. He was a man who wanted plenty of elbowroom. So, when other settlers began crowding in on him to the limit of a mile, he sold out to William Roberson, a native of Greenbriar County, and moved on across Pine Mountain and fixed himself on Shelby.

It was sometime in the 1820’s that Roberson made the deal with Booker Jim Mullins; and soon thereafter he abandoned the pounding mortar and built a water mill. Hut folks had become
accustomed to calling the place “the Pound”; and it’s been “the Pound” ever since.

The Roberson house stood on a gentle rise of ground, between
the emptying of Bold Camp and Mill Creek. One night there came a timid tapping on their door. Pulling the bolt, they found a little girl standing on the step. Although the night was cold and uncomfortable to the well-clad, the child was barefoot and her clothes were thin and well worn.

The little girl, destined to become immortalized in tradition
and story, said her name was Susan Dean. Her parents were dead, she told the Roberson, and she had no kin who would take her in; so she had just started out. “I come from back yunner,” she said, with a nod of her head in the direction of the Clinch Valley which lay twenty-five miles to the south “an ‘I run nearly ever’ step of the way.”

Susan Dean never forgot that lonely childhood journey. Long years after, when she was old, she would tell it to her grandchildren. It seemed she always chose a cold and blustery
night for narrating the hardships she suffered on her first (and last) trip to the Pound…. For she never left the neighborhood where fate had brought her. She had almost forgotten the very names of her parents; and she might, she said, sometimes forget the many hardships of her early life on the Pound; but she would never forget how, barefooted and almost naked, she madder her way over miles and miles of snow covered wilderness trail to reach the haven of the William Roberson home. There was a light snow on the ground; and she remembered how she would run from one mud puddle to another, holding her feet in the water and slosh to keep them from freezing.

While Susan Dean was in her early teens young Eff Sowards came a courting; and it was not long until they were married and were building a house, just above the clearing that Peter Reedy had made some years before but had abandoned.

Here they settled down; and here they reared their several sons and daughters.

One day, during the War Between the States, the Federal
soldiers, who had captured the town of Gladeville, but were then retreating through Pound Gap to escape a Confederate Army moving up from Wytheville, left one of their company on the Soward porch. The captain, in charge, told Mrs. Sowards that the man had died of a fever; and he requested that she see to his burial.

It was a mile to the nearest neighbor; and Susan Sowards did not like the idea of leaving the dead man alone while she went for help. So, seating herself on the porch, she took her baby on her lap and began singing it to sleep with a lullaby.

All at once the sheet, which she had used to cover the body, began to move; and the next moment, the “corpse” pawed the sheet from his face and, looking Mrs. Sowards in the eye,
cried, “Sissie, oh Sissie!”

Susan Sowards, hugging her child to her breast, started to run away. “Hut,” she said later, “I couldn’t leave those pleading eyes.” So all through that day and til midnight she nursed
and doctored the dying man; the man who but a few hours before, had been engaged in laying waste the farms and towns of her land.

“Aunt Susan,” as Mrs. Sowards was affectionately called by her younger neighbors, would break down and cry, as she would tell this story of the dying “Yankee.” It was just after the hour of midnight, she said, that the soldier looked up into her face and, with a smile crinkling the corners of his fever-arched mouth,
whispered: “Sissie, I’ll be alright.” And, with that, he was
gone. She sat by the corpse the remainder of that long and awesome night. The next day, Jim Roberson, son of William, came along; and he “put out the alarm”: and some others came in and helped to dig a grave and bury the unknown soldier …. Unknown unto this day. How long, how long, did “Sissie” wait and watch for his return?

When John Fox, Jr., was gathering material for his novel, “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”, he with the late Hennie Gilliam, visited the Soward’s home. He was so taken with the old couple, particularly the conversation of “Aunt Susan” that he returned for several other visits; and “Uncle Eff” and “Aunt Susan” became the “Uncle Billy” and “Old Hon” of his story.

From that old mortar mill owned by Booker Mullins where 'the pound' could be heard from miles around when the mill was working came the name. I will think of the Pound differently in the future.

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