James Taylor Adams and Luther F. Addington

James Taylor Adams was a prolific writer, a folklorist and a preserver of Appalachian culture.  He wrote thousands of articles for magazines and newspapers of which only a few have been collected.

James Taylor Adams

At work on his typewriter, outside

James Taylor Adams

James Taylor Adams was a prolific writer, a folklorist and a preserver of Appalachian culture.  He wrote thousands of articles for magazines and newspapers of which only a few have been collected.

James Taylor Adams was born February 3, 1892, a son of Joseph and Mary Jane (Short) Adams. He was born in Letcher County, Kentucky and lived in Alum Cove, Little Colley and other small communities in Kentucky.

He moved to Wise County, Virginia while yet a young man. He married in 1908 to Dicy Roberts.  They had a family of eight children. Among James Taylor’s work was  at  the coke ovens in Wise County,  selling fruit trees; owned a grocery store; sold insurance, and owned and ran a print shop. He was a Notary and built houses to rent.  He also established a post office at Big Laurel where he lived and was postmaster there. His wife Dicy also worked in the post-office. He built a Church house; built and ran a library to store his many books, manuscripts, and publications, and to distribute books for people to read. He also built a museum to collect and preserve antiques and old items.

James Taylor worked in the Works progress Association, (WPA).  While working for the WPA he collected old songs and stories of the area and wrote them down to preserve. He became interested in family history and compiled the Adams Family history among others.

James Taylor only had a second grade education in the public schools but was a self educated man. He published several newspapers, some of which was The Vagabond Gazette, Adam’s Weekly and The Cumberland Empire. He wrote columns for several newspapers, and Detective stories for Detective magazines and wrote stories for some Canadian magazines under a pen name of Roland Rivers.

Among the books he wrote was one  called “Death in the Dark,” which is a collection of Factual Ballads of American Mine Disasters with historical notes. He also visited cemeteries of the area and compiled a book of the names and dates on the stones, with a short history of some of the people.  The book is called, “Family Burying Grounds in Wise County, Virginia.”

He and his wife and family moved to Arkansas to homestead land there, lived in Missouri, then back to West Virginia and finally settled  on Rocky Fork at Big Laurel on Rocky Fork. He died in 1954 and is buried at the homeplace there.

MEMORIES by James Taylor Adams

Wild honeysuckles twine around An old log cabin door High on a hill among some pines Above a river’s roar. A winding trail leads down a bluff That’s all aflame with flowers Tis there I wish to take myself  And spend life’s evening hours.

A rock is at the water’s edge,  A boat is fastened there, I’d loose the chain, take up an oar and row ‘way off somewhere. Then as the sun made silvery gleams, along the crystal stream I’d drop my oar and let’r drift And dream, and dream and dream.

And dreaming I would fail to see, The fish a’leaping high, Nor would I hear the gray-squirrel call A I went floating by. Then when the sun had sank to rest, I’d climb back up the hill, To the little house…deserted now So silent and so still.

Again I’d wander ‘long the trails, As in glad days of yore And hear my Mother calling me… From out the kitchen door. In memory lost…I’d pause awhile Then to the churchyard roam Where I will find the friends I knew Around my childhood home.

Some of the above was taken from: “Family Burying Grounds” by James Taylor Adams;. “About My Father,” by Simpson Randolph Adams; Newspaper article found in a scrapbook purchased at an auction in Russell Co., VA by Denver Osborne.

Luther  F. Addington

By Bonnie S. Ball – Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia

Luther F. Addington

Luther F. Addington was born near Nickelsville, Scott County, Virginia on September 3, 1899.  He was the son of James R. and Nancy (Easterling) Addington.  He attended school at Midway and Gate City, Emory and Henry College, and the University of Virginia.

Mr.  Addington married Miss Lou Emma Keys on September 25, 1925.  He served 42 years as an educator, one year in Scott County, Va., public schools, and forty years in Wise County as a principal.  He was also employed for one term as assistant principal at West Palm Beach, Florida.  For six years he was principal of Pound High school, and for thirty four years as Principal of the high school in Wise, now known as the J. J. Kelly High School.

He was a member of the Trinity Methodist Church of Wise, the Retired Teacher’s Association, the Appalachian Regional Library Board, and the founder of the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, of which he served as President for fifteen years.  He was Wise County Citizen of the Year in 1956.

He was a historian and writer, having published a history of Wise County, Virginia, and several juvenile books, and numerous articles on the history of Southwest Virginia.  He also served as President of Emory and Henry College Alumni Association.

He died on Sunday, February 26, 1978 at the Wise Regional Hospital, following a brief illness.  Funeral services were conducted on February 28th at Sturgill Funeral Home Chapel in  Wise.  Burial was in Glencoe Cemetery, Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  The Rev. James Douthat officiated.  Survivors include his widow and three brothers; Olin of Kingsport, Tenn., Orville of Abingdon, Va., and Omer of Gate City, Va.

From an Editorial of News Director, Walter Crockett, WCYB-TV, we quote in part:

Mr. Addington was a product of the horse and buggy days, for motor transportation was scarce indeed when he started his career, and he worked with others who dedicated their lives to the education of young people in Wise County.

“Even though a native of Scott County, no one has done more to assemble and preserve the history of Wise County than Mr. Addington. In 1960 the writer attended a conference for authors and journalist of the Southern Appalachians at Berea College in Kentucky.  While in the company of E. J. and Mrs. Sutherland we joined Mr. Addington during the lunch hour.  It was here that he suggested the idea of a historical society for the southwestern corner of Virginia, which was organized not long afterward.  He was unanimously chosen as the first president, and was followed by Judge Sutherland, who declined a second term because of ill health.  So Mr. Addington was elected repeatedly until failing health eventually prompted him to withdraw from office.  However, he continued to serve in the capacity of an advisor to the Executive Board.  While his place as historian may never be filled, his research and labor will remain to aid future historians of the Appalachians.”

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