The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

More Memories Of Grandpa Vaughn

By Thomas W. Dunn © 1989

Issue: January, 1989

Grandpa never talked much about the gruesome happenings during the Civil War. I think he tried to forget that part of the whole experience. However, I remember his story about the time he and several hundred other prisoners, after being captured at Manassas, were walked all the way to the prison at Point Lookout, Maryland. They spent one night on the courthouse lawn at Winchester, Virginia. His only possessions were a small knapsack and a blanket. So using his knapsack as a pillow on the door sill of the courthouse he slept wrapped up in his blanket. More than once I have stopped at the Winchester Courthouse and looked at the door sill that I believe is the one he slept on.

Then the rest of the story is, after the war was over six months later, he was let out of the prison in Maryland with his knapsack and blanket and was on his own to get back home to Virginia anyway he could. Upon leaving with another man, whose name I have forgotten, they were asked by a Yankee Officer if they had any food, which they did not, so he went to his saddle bag and took out a piece of sowbelly bacon the size of your two hands and cut it in half giving one piece to them. After the first day of travel they came to a farmhouse where lady offered to cook some of their bacon with some of her eggs and bread and they all ate together, and she told them they could sleep in the barn. I like to think about what was going through his mind that night; the war had stopped, he had some food in his stomach, and he was going home, and compare this with his thinking the night in Winchester. I am sure his spirits were never lower or higher.

My first memories of Grandpa Vaughn were when he was about seventy years old. His hair and the small goatee on his chin were solid white. He always wore a claw hammer tailed coat that Grandma made from the cashmere that was woven in his woolen mill. There was a pocket in the tail of that coat in which he always carried a handkerchief and sometimes a scarf. His Sunday coat was made the same way, and I seldom saw him without his coat and hat on. The only time I saw him with his hat off was when he was eating, sleeping or in church. He walked as straight as a shingle, and chewed Brown Mule Tobacco with more dignity than anyone I have ever known.

Grandpa's youngest brother was Thomas Aeverett Vaughn who was a dentist. He pulled teeth and made false dentures called upper and lower plates. His house and farm were just across the creek from the woolen mill. We used his spring for the drinking water supply at the mill, so while growing up I made many trips to his spring to get a bucket of cool, fresh, drinking water. Thinking of this I recall many of his activities. He was a big man weighing over three hundred pounds and usually walked with a cane but was very active with his work as long as he lived. I remember he would make trips he called going below the mountain, which was in Patrick County, Virginia, and he would be gone a week or two. He would return with several impressions that kept him busy for days making upper and lower plates. He had a buggy horse name Mag. She was a bay mare with a black mane and tail that did a good job of pulling the buggy load of him and his equipment for many years.

Elmer Gardner was Uncle Aeverett's grandson and lived and grew up at his house. Elmer and I have been life long friends, we walked to grade school together and rode horse back four miles to Willis High School on two saddle horses that I would like to have one like today. Elmer has done his part to carry on the Doctors profession, of his four children, one is a dentist, two are medical doctors and his daughter married a doctor. He says that when he gets sick they tell him to take two aspirin and go to bed.

One thing in connection with the woolen mill operation that remains in my mind was the "Wool Wagons." Two of them were operated by individuals who gathered wool and delivered yarn blankets and cloth for a commission. One of the drivers was Henry Nester, a long, tall man who had to duck his head to go through most of our doors. The other driver was Walter Montgomery; he was a small man with a full beard and a crippled leg that made him walk with a crutch all the time. He used an unusual team of two mules and one large horse to pull his wagon. The two little mules were hitched on one side of the wagon tongue and the horse on the other side. I have never seen a team hitched to a wagon this way before or since.

Grandpa and Papa owned and operated one "Wool Wagon" that Uncle Harvey Vaughn drove for them. There were times that for some reason he could not go and Papa would take his place. This gave me my first experience of being on the road for days. We would cook our food on an open fire and sleep in the wagon or under it, if the wagon bed was full. I was twelve to fifteen years old and it was something I will never forget. We went to places like Copper Hill, Locust Grove and Possum Hollow (Floyd County, Virginia), the farthest I had ever been away from home.