Editor’s Note: The following is taken from the “West Family History Records,” compiled by Kathleen West Robbins. This excerpt first appeared in the Independent Herald on June 20, 1985. Bound volumes of the 36-page family history can be purchased through the Scott County Historical Society.
By Kathleen West Robbins
My great-great-grandfather, Reuben West, born 1810, and my great-great-grandmother, Emily Clemons, born 1811, were married in 1830 and came from Fentress County, Tennessee to settle on a farm in the Cherry Fork section of Paint Rock Creek, then Campbell County but now Scott County.
When their second son, Jeremiah “Jerry,” born 1844, decided it was time for him to marry and rear a family of his own, he found his bride-to-be in what was known as the Grassy Creek Settlement down below what is now the town of Helenwood.
She was Melissa Ann Sexton, born 1846 in Burksville, Kentucky, the daughter of Robert Sexton, born 1809, and Lina Keeton Sexton, born 1817. They had moved here from Kentucky in 1849 to be near Lina’s parents, William Keeton Jr. (1786-1850) and Artema Stevens (1793-1855) who had traveled here from Kentucky earlier and homesteaded in that area.
Great-grandfather Jeremiah’s father, Reuben, deeded him a 200 acre (more or less, as all of the old deeds read) tract of land from off the westernmost boundary of his farm in the Cherry Fork community.
When he, great-grandfather Jeremiah, searched for a site on which to build his house, he could not find water on the 200 acres. But, nearby on the adjoining property of a man by the name of Harrison Keeton, he found a good spring in a hollow. He approached the man and he sold him a 47 acre (more or less) tract to add to his 200 acres. He went a short distance south of and up where the land leveled off and there he built his house.
It was a log house containing two large rooms with a big double fireplace between them; and also a large attic bedroom. The fireplaces, of course, were built from big, pretty, hand-hewn rocks with hand-hewn arches in each one.
Great-grandfather Jeremiah and great-grandmother Melissa were married in 1863 and in this house they reared eight children, seven daughters and one son. The ninth child, a son, died in infancy. He later bought another adjoining 50 acre tract from Harrison Keeton, making a total of 297 acres, more or less. He lived on and farmed this land until his death.
Great-grandfather Jeremiah died in 1890 and great-grandmother Melissa died in 1893. Three of their daughters, Emily, Martha and Artema, were married and gone from home by this time, but my grandfather Columbus, was left with the responsibility of the rest of his sisters. Needless to say, he was a dearly beloved only brother.
In 1894, his sister, Artema, who had married Richard Hatfield, died, leaving two children. My grandfather (or Grandpa West, as I called him) took the boy, Oscar, who was three years old, and the grandfather, Stephen Hatfield, took the girl, Hattie, who was five years old. Their father, Richard, went away to the army and was not heard from any more for a long, long time.
In the meantime, two more of Grandpa West’s sisters, Nancy and Etta, married and left. Then, Grandpa West himself decided it was time for him to find a wife.
He found her down across New River on Brimstone Creek. She was Lucinda Thompson, born 1875, the daughter of Esau Thompson, born 1847, and Parzida Buttram Thompson, born 1846.
They were married on December 24, 1896 and she, too, came to live in the old farm house with Grandpa West and two remaining sisters, Lina and Katherine, and the little four-year-old nephew, Oscar.
In 1897, Grandpa and Grandma West’s first child, Cleo, was born. Then came their second one: my father, Lawrence, born in 1899. Then Lawton, their third child, was born in 1900, but he contracted whooping cough, which turned to pneumonia, and he passed away at the age of nine months.
Next came Lonnie, their fourth child and third son, who was born in 1901. By this time, the family was getting rather large, but in 1903 another one of Grandpa West’s sisters, Lina, married and went to Huntsville to live with her new husband, Adelbert H. Doisy. Then, in 1904, Grandpa and Grandma West’s fifth child and fourth son, Claude, was born.
The next year, 1905, the last of Grandpa West’s sisters, Katherine, married and moved away.
This left Grandpa and Grandma West with their daughter, Cleo; three sons, Lawrence, Lonnie and Claude; and nephew, Oscar.
About three years later, Grandpa West added more room to the old house. It was built to the back in a long lean-to fashion, running the entire length of the house. It contained two small bedrooms and a long kitchen-dining area. They also covered the rest of the house vertically with rough boards, thus hiding all the old logs. They also built a large front porch and a smaller back porch.
It was almost five years before another blessed event in the old farmhouse. Then, their sixth child and second daughter, Eunice, was born in 1909. Then came their seventh child and third daughter, Bernice, in 1911, and finally, their eighth child and fifth son, Christopher Columbus Jr., was born in 1914.
The West family lived, farmed, worked, loved and enjoyed life on the farm. They were a very close and loving family. The Wests are, in fact, a very “clanny bunch.” My father, Lawrence, would claim kinship as far back with cousins as he could go!
Then, the older children began to marry and leave home to go out on their own. First, Aunt Cleo in 1918 — then my father, Lawrence, in 1921, and Uncle Lonnie in 1922. Neither Claude, Eunice or Bernice were ever married. Christopher, or Chris, was he was called, was married in 1946.
Grandpa West had a stroke in 1938 and died after a few weeks, on August 26, 1938. This left Grandma West, Claude, Eunice, Bernice and Chris on the farm. They were no longer interested in farming or living in the farm house. They bought a house down in the little town of Helenwood — a place known as the Carter House.
They rented the farm to John Dee West, a first cousin to Grandpa West. John Dee and his family lived on and took care of the place for a number of years, then they, too, moved away. In the meantime, my father, Lawrence, had bought out the heirships of his brothers and sisters and now owned the entire farm himself. This was in the mid 1940s, after World War II.
Daddy began slowly to rebuild fences, do small repairs, etc., trying to put the old place back in shape, as it had run down quite a lot. He would work for hours at a time up on that farm, alone except for his white mare named Macel.
I just must tell this. He rigged up an old wooden-runner sled with a pole of some sort on which he placed his spool of barbed wire and put the other spools along with hammer, staples, etc. in the front part of the sled. Then he would call to Macel and away to the fence lines they would go.
He would nail the strand of barbed wire to the post which, by the way, he had also dug the holes for and set the poles by himself, then he would call to Ole Macel, and she would go the exact distance past the next pole, Daddy would call to her, she would stop and stand there just as still and taut as could be until he had nailed the wire to the next several posts. Then, they would proceed to the next stop. My daddy really loved this horse and kept her until she was very, very old.
in the meantime, he had gotten his uncle, Jim Terry, and wife, Leona Buck Terry, to come live in and take care of the place for him. Uncle Jim had married his aunt, Emily, Grandpa West’s older sister, years before, but Aunt Emily had died in 1935 and he later married Leona. Uncle Jim and Aunt Emily had no children from their marriage. Uncle Jim thought a lot of Daddy’s white mare, Macel, too. Leona used to laughingly say that he thought more of Ole Macel than he did her.
The old home place was beginning to look better as the days went by. Daddy, either by himself or with someone hired to help him, cleared up and sowed some more hay fields and pasture fields, bought a few head of cattle and did a little work on the old house.
Eventually, Uncle Jim’s health got to the point where he needed to be closer to town and a doctor, so the place was vacant again.
Daddy and Mother would come up and spend a week or so during the summer months — then, when they were building their new home down in Helenwood, they came and lived up here a year or more.
They did quite a lot of work on the house, such as sheet rocking, painting inside, building new porches, etc.
Then, with the coming of the REA, they finally had electricity in the house. This, along with the telephone a little later, was something that was only dreamed of years before.
They weren’t using the old spring that Great-grandfather Jeremiah had used, though. They had a water well dug near the kitchen door and that was being used now. Daddy also had a nice pond built just below the house and had it stocked with fish. Mother was furnishing the old house with discards of furnishings that any of the families might come up with, such as old iron bedsteads, chairs, tables or anything the individual had discarded for something more modern. But, it had to be from someone in the family — for sentimental reasons, I suppose. My brother, Kenneth, and family also lived in the farm house for a short time in between the changing of jobs.
Finally, the time came when Daddy was no longer physically able to work and look after the farm. He hated so badly to give it up and when my husband, Howard, and I approached him to buy it, he was really pleased. He sold it to us with the stipulation that if we ever considered selling it to please try and sell it to someone in the West family somewhere. This was promised and we have no intention of it ever being sold out of the West generations.
Footnote — Lawrence A. West died January 1, 1980 and was buried in the Buttram Cemetery. His wife, Florence Boshears West, died August 2, 1989. See the second part of this two-part story in the March 2019 Forgotten Times.