The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Fannie Langhorne Spangler - An Interview From 1935

By Charles F. Adams © 1984

Issue: September, 1984

(Editor's note... The following story appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin in 1935. It was sent to us by the man who wrote it, Mr. Charles F. Adams. Mr. Adams was originally from Berea, Kentucky. Both he and his wife attended college there. She was from Patrick County and they eventually moved back here. It was at that time that Mr. Adams interviewed Fannie Langhorne Spangler and wrote this story which, when submitted to The Martinsville Bulletin, resulted in an offer of employment for Mr. Adams with that newspaper.)

"And they built the city, and dwelt therein. And they called the name of the city Dan."

Remember the "Waters of Meram", the Sea of Galilee", and "from Dan to Beersheba?" From these one comes naturally to the name Meadows of Dan. It brings to one a feeling of ancient times, a sense of poetry, and, withal, a wonder as to just how the place came to be called.

After many fruitless visits to learn its origin and early history, I came, finally, to Mrs. Fanny Spangler (Fanny Langhorne) now living with her daughter, Mrs. Webb, near the present Meadows of Dan Post Office.

Rarely has it been my good fortune to meet so charming and beautiful a personality as that possessed by Mrs. Spangler. She is now eighty-one years of age [in 1936], but has a most wonderful memory.

Back in the 1830's Jack Langhorne, Mrs. Spangler's uncle, came with his wife from Lynchburg to settle near what is now the residence of Tump Spangler. His wife, however, did not like the country, so, after a short stay, they returned to Lynchburg.

Some time afterwards James Steptoe Langhorne, who was Jack's brother and Mrs. Spangler's father, came to the Meadows of Dan territory and was much taken with it. Knowing his sight to be rapidly failing him, he determined to move from Lynchburg and settle permanently in this place which so pleased him.

On his return to Lynchburg he lost his sight completely and never saw the woman he married.

It was not until 1847 that he came back to take up a grant from King George II of 13,000 acres. He called his place Langdale and later it was often referred to as The Meadows from the fact that along the Dan River on his estate lie the only important flat rolling lands found on that stream on the mountain. It was he that first named the gathering community Meadows of Dan [Virginia].

For long I sat listening to Mrs. Spangler and wondered at the beauty of expression, at the excellent choice of words she employed in describing to me some of the early Meadows of Dan history and the people connected with its beginning. So vivid were her word pictures that I could see the scenes she drew from memory just as clearly as if I had been there with her at the time they occurred.

When James Steptoe Langhorne came to settle on the Dan River, the country bore a considerably different aspect from that it now has. The forests were open and far more beautiful, having no underbrush to obscure and give them the ragged, unkempt appearance they now possess. The streams and rivers abounded in fish, and the waters were clear, dark, and deep, never assuming a muddy appearance as they now do from every rain. There was game in abundance.

Often times a wolf would begin a series of forays on the sheep of the inhabitants. One wolf gained fame, not so much from his own exploits, as from the results of them. His activities became so persistent, often killing as many as fifteen sheep from a herd, that a subscription was made up of some 60 sheep from the folks around for his capture. One Mr. DeHart, called familiarly "Uncle Solly", who was noted for his prowess as a trapper, built a sturdy trap and took the wolf in, but a Mr. Ingram, being also on the look out for the animal, removed him from the trap and proudly brought him in as his capture. The ensuing law suit, finally won by Mr. DeHart, was a long drawn out affair and left but little of this world's goods to the participants at its conclusion.

The first school at Meadows of Dan was of the subscription type, that is it was run from the money supplied by the patrons. The first school house was called Langhorne School and was situated near the old Langhorne home between Mountain View and Vesta at what used to be the four forks of the road.

The first teacher was Chap Harbor. Later Miss Sue Pedigo taught. She was the daughter of Louis Pedigo. One of her brothers was county surveyor for Patrick, another in Henry held the same capacity. Mr. Pedigo's place was situated on the Ararat at its joining with Lobel's Creek. Across this stream from his land was that of the Stuarts, a lovely place, far famed for its beauty, and the home of J.E.B. Stuart as a boy. It was near the old Stuart place, in a little mud school house, that old Uncle Johnny Monday first taught young Stuart his letters.

Mrs. Spangler at the age of two was often taken by Miss Pedigo to school, and was allowed, with her small hand held tightly by the young school marm's to walk most of the way.

The first church at Meadows of Dan was a crude log structure with mud being used as a filler between the logs. The church was an arm of the old Sycamore Church at Buffalo Ridge and was named Concord.

Some time in 1850 a split occurred in the church, part of the congregation going to the location of what is now known as the Concord Church. They were to be known as the Primitive Baptists, while those left were the Missionary Baptists. It is said that the split came about mainly over each faction's belief in or against missionary work and that the question of Sunday Schools entered in.  What is now the Meadows of Dan Baptist Church was organized from that part left from the split. The first members were Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Scott, Mrs. Motley, Mr. and Mrs. Harim and James Steptoe Langhorne. It was this group that believed in Sunday Schools and missionary work.

James Steptoe Langhorne was the first to teach a Sunday School in Patrick County. His home being large, and some three miles from the church, it was his custom during the long winter months to hold the school in one of the rooms of his house. He secured from a Bible society in Richmond a great deal of Biblical literature as well as the Book it self. These he distributed throughout the surrounding neighborhood. Some of these are still to be found in homes around the countryside.

At the time Miss Fanny Langhorne was ten, and the Civil War was being fought, Stoneman brought his Yankee army from Tennessee down what is now the J.E.B. Stuart highway. In passing they annexed one of Mr. Langhorne's horses which happened to be his favorite. He, though blind, accompanied by his small daughter Fanny, insisted on following the army to Stuart in search of his horse. There the captain agreed to allow him to retrieve his horse if he could recognize him. Mr. Langhorne set Fanny to hunt the animal. After walking down the long line of horses hitched to the racks along the road and back again, she was unable to find him. On her return, however at one side, away from the rest, she saw her father's mount and immediately squealed in delight. Mr. Langhorne was led over to a tall roan mare, not his, but near the one Fanny had discovered, and told to see if that were his. Fanny squealed to the contrary, but Mr. Langhorne turned to her and said, "You don't understand the joke". Then his hand was placed on another, his own; this time he said, "This is my horse, but not my bridle".

Shortly following his return home with the horse it was again stolen along with another by a detail of the Rebel army.

Sometime after the close of the war, over in Floyd County, the horse was again found. He had received an injury in the war of such a nature that it was said that swimming him in water would cure it. It was Fanny Langhorne's only brother who was drowned while riding the horse for this purpose.

May 27, 1935