The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Early Webb

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1984

Issue: August, 1984

early webbLelia and Early Webb.Sunday, May 20th was a beautiful day here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a perfect day for me to go on one of my "ramblin" trips, going to new places and meeting new people. That morning I had made an appointment for an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Early Webb of Hillsville, Virginia.

Always when I'm out on one of my Sunday trips, I go to a church in the area. This Sunday I stopped by the Stone Mountain Missionary Baptist Church. The drive out to the church was so beautiful with fields of cabbage, green pastures and lovely old farm houses. Upon my arrival at the church, I was greeted very warmly by the people. Rev. Bill Norman of Galax, Virginia brought the message and a very soul stirring one. I was really impressed by the number of young people taking part in the service. After church, I met a very nice gentleman by the name of Howard Turner who is 84 years old. He showed me the grave of the first Missionary Baptist preacher in that area, Mr. George Chapin. The cemetery was so pretty with a stone cross erected in it. I stood in the church yard gazing at all the beauty, a pond below the church, dogwoods blooming and a sky colored true blue. Now after a stop at a little restaurant for lunch, I'm off to visit the Webb’s.

When I drove up, Early and Lelia Webb were sitting on the porch of their beautiful farm house. They invited me into their home. It's the type of house I would love to live in, old furniture and very comfortable. We got settled down and began to talk. Here's what I learned about Early Webb, a pioneer of Carroll County, Virginia. Mr. Webb did most of the talking, with Lelia sitting quietly, smiling and nodding in agreement.

(From a tape recorded interview) Early Webb speaks:

"I was born near where I'm living now. My Dad was born in the next house above here. I was raised right here beside the JEB Stuart Highway (US 58). I'm past 86 years old. My mother died when I was 12 years old. When I was a kid, people out of Patrick County would come by here carrying their valises on their backs going their way to the wood choppings at Dublin and other places. There were no jobs and hardly any money so people had to work at anything they could find. My first job was doing the chores around home, feeding the cattle, chopping wood and carrying water. There were six of us children, two left here soon after Mother died and one got killed in Honolulu. The rest of us just stayed here. I had a sister who was only 6 months old when Mother died and our grandmother kept her until my father remarried.

Lelia and I were married September 14, 1916. I was 19 and she was sweet 16. I went to school with Lelia, so we were childhood sweethearts. After we were married, I got a job for 75 cents a day. We set up housekeeping. That first year corn went to $2.50 a bushel. I lacked a quarter from three days work for a bushel of corn. It was Judge Dalton's granddad I was working for. I bought this little place a year after we married. There was nine and one half acres and we gave $425.00. Lelia had raised turkeys that year and we happened to have $125.00 to pay down on it, but it took us several years to pay that other $300. Both of us have worked pretty hard all our lives.

Lelia and I raised four children including a set of twin boys. We really had to work hard to make a living. During the depression I got a job for George L. Carter, a big land owner, who had about 11,000 acres over at Fort Chiswell. I worked for him during the summer and then I got a job carrying the mail as a substitute mail carrier and I think I got $2.50 a day. They would ship rabbits and chickens by parcel post already dressed. Sometimes there would be a few turkeys. Rabbits were 10 cents each. People thought they were doing pretty good if they could get a hold of 10 cents to buy a rabbit.

Over the years we kept buying a little land every time we had something extra. Finally I added to my farm until now there are about 163 acres. We worked hard, but we have been blessed.

I worked out in all kinds of weather and the roads would be real muddy. Sometimes the mail route was rough. One time around 1912 it snowed 3 foot deep. The route was 27 miles long and once it was 18 days before I could go the whole route. I went by horseback and I got a boy to take a wagon and team and packed the mail in a wagon. That 3 foot snow stayed on all winter long. You could just see the tops of the sheep's heads sticking out of the snow. During the bad winter of 1960, I was carrying the mail. The regular carrier got here and said, "Here it is", and I never saw him no more until April. Drifts were so high you couldn't even see the houses. At this time I was going out into Patrick County.

I remember the Courthouse tragedy at Hillsville very well. Probably I was around 14 years old at the time. All the Allen’s I ever knew were industrious people. I always thought the Allen’s were pressed a little too hard. I was there when they carried Floyd Allen out. There were some high pickets around an old barn and I climbed on top of them. I was there when Flowler died. They came out and told us he had died. I knew a lot of the jurors. My uncle loaned Sheriff Webb a gun. Sheriff Webb didn't even have a gun the morning of the shooting.

(Note: Mr. Webb was on television a few times regarding the Courthouse Tragedy.)

I remember when there weren't any funeral homes. My father used to go and help "lay out" people on a plank. Also I remember when we didn't have dentists. I had a Great-Granddaddy who made a set of tooth pullers hammered out in his shop. He pulled my mother and father's teeth. After he died, my uncle took over. I still have the tooth pullers.

Later, Dr. Marshall used to come along the road and stop and pull teeth. He pulled one for me one time. At that time, we didn't know what numbing was. Law, how it hurt!

I remember Mr. Buford Sutphin coming through the county. He had things to make shoes with wooden pegs. For years Mr. Sutphin made my mother's shoes. The kind of shoes I had were called Elkins. You couldn't tell which was right or left, and could wear them on either foot. I only got one pair of shoes a year when I was a kid. When I was 14, I got my first pair of Sunday shoes. Law, I was proud of them. I went to Mount Airy one time wearing my Sunday shoes. They got to hurting my feet so I set them up in the front of the wagon. One of them got lost. I would have cried if it would've done any good.

When I was a child, we hardly ever saw any candy except at Christmas time. Then we were always proud to get a piece of candy or cake. The first knife I ever owned was one I got by saving mule tobacco stamps. It was a real knife. Kids in my day really appreciated things. In spite of the hard times, Christmas was still a special time. The worst thing that happened to me as a child was when I found out there was no Santa Claus. I really thought I was smart finding out but then the presents quit coming.

I remember the first car that was bought in this part of the country. My cousin bought an old T Model. One time my dad got in this car. He didn't know anything about it. There were a bunch of us kids with him. The car got to hitting water and would twist sideways. My dad thought it was supposed to do that. After a while the T Model turned over. My cousin was driving and when it turned over, he got caught by the collar. The kids all got out with lots of bloody noses. It beat anything you ever saw! The next car I ever saw was owned by Mr. R.J. Reynolds. He had a black man driving for him. It went through the creek here and us kids would run to the top of the hill to see that thing go through the next creek.

I remember when there was a post office here called WASP, before there was a regular mail route. I remember when the first mail route was established out of Hillsville. The way the Wasp post office got its name was interesting. The inspector came here and they were going to name the post office. A wasp fell down off the wall and stung him, so the inspector said, "We will just call the post office Wasp." Later it was changed to Freemont. Let me tell you, those wasps hurt. One time I was at my niece’s wedding and a wasp fell down my shirt sleeve and began stinging me. This was in the most serious part of the ceremony. My wife said, "Can't you be still?" I said, you let a wasp sting you and you won't be still.

When we started housekeeping, we had very little but still we made out. We had two beds we bought. One solid oak cost $3.50 and the best one cost $4.50. It was something extra. We had a dresser, table and chairs. Maybe there were a few more things. Times were hard, but we were blessed in many ways. Everyone says Lelia is a good cook and I say so too. I know one thing, she's been a good helpmate. Yes, we have been blessed."

This was a pleasant visit. On this Sunday I met two very special people, Early and Lelia Webb. Neither look their age. Early is 86 and Lelia is 84. Their binding love made a marriage that has lasted 67 years. Not only did they raise their family, but they took in a man who didn't have a home and he's been with them for 49 years. They have 3 grandchildren living, one deceased and 5 great-grandchildren. Both are still very active. Mr. Webb says his long life is contributed to a verse from the Bible, Honor thy Father and Mother so that thy days may be long. Mrs. Webb says your days will be longer if you follow the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

These people are special. Good values of life can be learned from them. Yes, these are the kind of people we still have here in the Heart of the Blue Ridge.