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Moving To Kingsport

Kenny Stallard

     Wisp of fog floated through the mountain valleys as the sun fought it’s way over the ridges to awaken the day.  Early March and it’s still cool in the mountains of Wise County, Virginia.

     “Dee” pours a mug of strong black coffee and walks out of the wood frame house set back from the coal tipple in Virginia City at the base of Bull Hill.  At the gate he stops and looks upward towards his boyhood home on Bull Hill where he was born 31 years ago.  It’s 1919 and railroad construction work in the area has slowed.  It’s becoming harder to find steady employment in the area without going into the coal mines and hard scrabble farming on the ridges might keep you fed but will not pay the bills.

     With “Dee’s” family of six children from Glea, 10 years old, to 1year old Harry and a wife, steady work is sorely needed just to keep everyone in food, clothing and a roof over their heads.  With a railroad maintenance crew lately, their work had taken them on a brief job all the way to Kingsport, Tennessee, 50 miles away.  A short distance by today’s standard, but a world away in 1919.   During the maintenance crew’s short stay in Kingsport, “Dee” had been promised work at the brick yard in Kingsport if he decided to “move to town”.

  Bell had been up well before the sun began to make it’s slow crawl over the ridge to start breakfast of ham, biscuit and eggs for “Dee”, the kids and her sister Mahalay who had come up from Kingsport to help with the moving.  The fire had been damped and the coals removed from the stove to allow cooling before the train arrived to pick up the boxcar on the tipple siding where the family’s belonging had been packed.  All that remained was to break down and load the beds and stove.  The soon to arrive train was to have a cattle car to take the family’s milk cow to Kingsport.

     “Dee”, Moscoe Dewitt Stallard was one of twelve children born to Cyrus Henderson Stallard, Jr. and Lucy Lawson.  Born January 27, 1888 in the cabin on Bull Hill, still occupied by Preacher Cyrus and Lucy, a short distance from the church at Stallard-Trent Cemetery where Cyrus was pastor.

     Linda Belle was the eldest of five children born to Wesley Landon Spears and wife Mary Poe.  Belle was born March 10, 1889 on Beech Creek in the Van Hill Community of Hawkins County, Tennessee.

     The trip by train during this time period would take three or four hours by the time all the stops along the way; Coeburn, Norton, Big Stone, Big Lick, Spears Ferry, Gate City; had been made.

     When the train pulled into Virginia City from Abingdon to pick up the freight car and “Dee’s” family, it was discovered that a cattle car had not been added at Abingdon.  After consultation with the station master, arrangements were made to bring the cattle car with the afternoon train and Mahalay would stay to be sure the cow was loaded and she would come to Kingsport on the afternoon train.  The freight car was connected, the family boarded the passenger car and the family began it’s move to Kingsport.

     When the afternoon train pulled into Virginia City to pick up the cow, it was found that this train did not have a passenger car.  Mahalay had to ride to Kingsport in the cattle car with the cow.

     When the train arrived in Kingsport, the family was met by Belle’s father, who had arranged rental of a house on Catawba Street.  “Dee” made arrangements with one of the dray wagons at the depot to haul the family’s furniture and belongings to the house.  When the wagon was loaded, Belle and the smaller children rode with the belongings, while “Dee” and the older girls walking the eight blocks to the house.  A stroll for people from the mountains of Southwest Virginia.

     When the second train arrived in the early evening with the family cow and a not too happy Mahalay, the move of the Moscoe Dewitt Stallard family to Kingsport had been completed.  The cow was walked to the field near Oklahoma School and staked to graze with the other neighborhood cows. 

 

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