Sunday, June 21, 2009

West Virginia in 1938

My grandfather, John Melvin Maddex, along with 3 of his brothers, moved from Shepherdstown, West Virginia to central Ohio in the 19th Century.

One of them moved to Richwood, Ohio - Uncle Jim; another to Urbana - Uncle Butler; my grandfather - John, and his brother Joe, to Mechanicsburg. Joe’s son and daughter lived in Central Ohio, and his grandson Edwin - two weeks my junior - started school with me in Mechanicsburg.

An interesting bit of history to me and my immediate family is that we somehow early gathered that the original spelling of our name in West Virginia was MADDOX. We told all of my family that for years. The story was that the 4 brothers who came to Ohio themselves changed the spelling - to distinguish from those in Shepherdstown.

Not so!

In recent years, our son Jim became our family historian, and in the last 3 or 4 years has concluded that the ORIGINAL spelling was rather, MADDEX - our spelling.

Jim says: “The ‘ox’ part was assumed by Uncle Ewell (a brother of Grandpa who stayed in Shepherdstown), and of course, Horace Lee (Uncle Jim‘s son here in Ohio). They both assumed that everyone was spelling it wrong, so, they just arbitrarily changed it to "ox". Horace Lee was the more voracious of the two, and kept that spelling until his death. Jerry, his son, has kept it that way as well.”

It seems incongruous now that we didn’t just ask Granddad whether they changed the spelling when they arrived. Of course, we now know that they didn’t!

Though older family members traveled back to West Virginia on occasion, I had never done so - until 1938.

As previously recorded here, Dad had a 1937 Ford V8, and all four of our family members embarked on a journey to Shepherdstown in 1938, the year I turned 14.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that my dad was often uncomfortable driving the car - especially in heavy traffic - or, more especially, in uncharted territory to him. I don’t recall noticing this during the ride there, but later, when we journeyed from Shepherdstown to Washington, DC, it became all too apparent.

His most ardent “demons” were the “Circles” in DC.

One would enter these circles, bearing right, then left around the circle, then picking which street to follow from there, since several streets branched off from there. Of course, the CORRECT street was straight ahead, if perhaps, you were traveling on Northwest Connecticut Avenue, toward the White House, for example.

But, WHERE was “straight ahead”? With so many other streets meeting at the circle, a novice (which Dad was) had difficulty finding the street he wanted.

He broke out in a sweat!

This was my first trip to DC. The National Religious Broadcasters provided me the next few trips in later years. I faced those “circles” then also, and was likewise confused, but I didn’t sweat. (Jean might have while I was driving.)

I digress, as usual.

Back to the narration.

There were NO Interstates then, of course, so we headed east on US 40, or the original National Road (which actually had originated not far from our destination - in Cumberland, Maryland.) Even “racking my brain”, I have a hard time remembering any of the trip there at all. My hope is that the more I think and write about this, more memories will “flood in.”

(In re-reading the previous paragraph, I see that I rather imply that US 40 originated at Cumberland. Not so. The National Road did, apparently, but US 40 ran from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Park City, Utah.)

After arriving in Shepherdstown, I met for the first time, several of my relatives - Uncle Ewell (youngest brother of my Grandpa); Aunt Rose (his sister); cousin Marguerite (Ewell‘s daughter); cousin Evelyn (also Ewell’s daughter), and her daughter Betty (Ewell’s granddaughter, and the current documentary historian of the family); along with Mary Belle, also Uncle Ewell’s daughter, and others I fail to remember the names of.

Since my dad was in the first generation after the ones who moved to Ohio, and who also had gone to Shepherdstown in about 1917, he just re-acquainted himself with nearly every one.

My Uncle Ewell was a “joker”, as I remember him. Full of joking phrases - none of which I knew, or remember. Oh………I remember one time he talked about someone “flipping a wassip”, whatever that was. I can’t find the word anywhere. It seemed funny at the time. I wrote it down, I remember.

Though Dad was a nervous wreck, we did drive around DC some, and saw some sights from the windows of the 1937 Ford V8. I remember very little - though just now - the Washington Monument looms in my mind, like we may have climbed up part way, maybe. I’m not sure, since I have been there since.

Another aside:

I was told that when they went there in 1917, or thereabouts, they traveled in a Model T Ford. They had to “back” up hills, since, legend has it, the Model T had more power in reverse than in forward. More recently, however, that myth has been replaced by still another (maybe), that says since the Model T gas tank “outlet” was toward the front, going up a steep hill made a nearly empty tank hard to feed gas to the engine. (Who knows?)

But they did go in reverse, apparently - for whatever reason.

Where is Shepherdstown?

Well, it’s just across the Potomac River from Sharpsburg MD, which itself is next door to the Civil War Antietam National Battleground. Just south of Shepheredtown is Harpers Ferry WV, noted as the location of “John Brown’s Raid” on the Armory, in 1859 - near Civil War time.

In recent years, when Jean and I joined Jim and Joyce at a “latter day” Maddex Family Reunion near Shepherdstown, we saw the grave site of my great-grandfather - James Solomon Maddex - who fought in the Civil War, for the South. (HIS name was spelled MADDEX!)

Another interesting sidelight is the village of Uvilla, near Shepherdstown. This is where the later Maddex Family Reunions are held. During the Civil War days, the town was officially “Union Village”, but the southern sympathizers there (nearly every one), couldn’t stand the “Union” part of it, so they re-named it “Uvilla”.

And, prior to the Civil War, the state was just “Virginia”, “West” not being part of it.

(Who says my blog is not “elevating” and “historically” interesting?)

(Of course, these facts about Shepherdstown et al, will have to be checked by Jim, for accuracy. What you read now has his approval.)

(Whew! Jim had only ONE correction. I just made it. He’d be proud of me! “You‘re doing great!!!!”, he said.)

I’ve been doing this West Virginia thing now for some days, and so far, I can’t remember anything else I should report on.

What’s that old saying? “If you can’t think of anything helpful to say, Just Shut Up?”

I think I will!

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