Monday, August 17, 2009

Old Time Ways

I thought I'd share a little bit from the book "Our Roots Are In The Mountains" by a distant cousin of mine, Jocie (Thompson) Armentrout. The book details the local heritage and early customs of Pendleton & Randolph Counties in West Virginia. This little book has so much information in it, you won't be sorry if you can find a copy of it.

Page 21 "Note on Customs of the Period"

"In the pre-Civil War period and long afterward doctors were not required to register births. Folks sometimes neglected to name their babies for a long time, even as much as four or five years. They just called them "Sonny" or "Sissy"."

This was the case in my family as well, only it was long after the Civil War period. My grandfather, Richard Henry Burns, was one of these babies who wasn't given a name until he was the age of 5. My granddad just went by "Baby" Burns, or sometimes "B. Burns" on records of the time. His parents were waiting until he grew into a name, and since they lived way up on the mountain, there really wasn't any pressing need to name him. When my granddad was five years old, the county forced my great-grandparents to name their son, but only because my great-grandmaw was pregnant again and they could only have one unnamed child at a time. So, they studied on it, and named my granddad Richard (nobody knew where the name came from) and they gave him the middle name "Henry" after his great-uncle Henry J. "Uncle Sonny" Burns. I got my middle name from my granddad, so by diffusion I got my middle name from Uncle Sonny as well. I often wonder though if anyone ever called Uncle Sonny "Sun Burns"?

Also, why did my great-grandparents, after having 5 years to come up with a name, hang the name Richard on my granddad? With the last name of Burns, you have to be careful what name you give a child (we all know Dick is short for Richard). But it didn't stop there, oh no, my Dad was also named Richard (Richard Junior Burns) but he goes by Jake! Then, my mom and dad named my brother Richard Jason who goes by Jason. So none of the three generation of Richard Burns' were ever known as Dick Burns though; they went by Rich, Jake and Jason, respectively. I suppose I am fortunate to have been the 2nd born and got the middle name of of my grandfather rather than his first name. To think, all of these names are simply the result of the county forcing my great-grandparents to name their 5 year old son!

"Our Roots Are In The Mountains" continues on page 20 with:

" was so scarce and all kinds of merchandise was so difficult to obtain that "trades" were often made that would amaze us today. One small farm in Pendleton County was traded for a jacket pattern, and a larger farm was once paid for with a rifle gun."

Again, I can relate this to my family. Family stories maintain that my great-great-great granddaddy George Burns was land rich but money poor and would "sell" land for whatever he needed or wanted. Land was seen as an inexhaustible resource. It is told that you could stand up on top of North Mountain and as far as you could see down in the valley was the land belonging to George Burns. Stories tell how he sold the back side of North Mountain (about 500 acres) for a horse and buggy, and how he traded the North Mountain flats, known as Buffalo Bottom (about 200 acres), for a bottle of whiskey! All of this land now sells for at least $1,000 acre, and a great deal of it is now part of the Monongahela National Forest.

Times sure were different then. I'd like to find some land deals like that now.

I hope you all enjoy hearing about some of the information found in "Our Roots Are In The Mountains" by Jocie (Thompson) Armentrout as much as I did. You can expect more posts based on this wonderful book in the future.


Granny Sue said...

I'm glad my family didn't follow the middle name tradition. My Dad's middle name was Irving. Yuck.

Nance said...

my g.g. grandfather and my g.g. g'father was Irving.

I'll be in the great state of wv the first week of September.

Can't wait!

Tipper said...

Matthew loved this post-as always. Interesting details about the naming of a child.

Janet, said...

Interesting post. The way people kept using the same family names long ago really makes it hard when you're doing genealogy research. You never know which one you're reading about. We had lot's of Henry's in our ancestors.