Chapter 1 – Family Connections

April 19, 2009 - 1,272 views

My Parents: My father, Asa Fitz Randolph, was born in Salem in 1833, the son of Doctor John Fitz Randolph, being the only son by the first marriage. He had five half brothers—James, Reverend Gideon Henry (who was a Missionary to China about 1890), Joel (who was chief of police of Salem for many years), Steven and Thomas. These are all deceased. Two of the sons of Uncle Henry are Seventh Day Baptist ministers—John is pastor at Berea, West Virginia; and Wardner is missionary in Jamaica, British West Indies.

Mother, Marvel Maxson, was born on Greenbrier in 1832, the daughter of John Maxson. Her mother was one of a large family of Bees, all of whom were Seventh Day Baptists. The most famous of these were Ezekiel, (who was pastor of the Pine Grove Church at Berea for many years) and Ehriam (who went to Richmond to the state legislature before the war).

Mother had one sister, Annetta (who married Grandfather for his second wife), and two brothers, Nathan (who moved to Ohio about 1865) and Elisha John (who spent most of his married life on Otter Slide near Berea). Her father, John Maxson, was a very consecrated Christian and a local preacher. As nearly all the Randolph ministers from West Virginia were direct descendants since their mother or grandmother was a daughter of John Maxson, this, I feel, was inherited from him. Her brother Elisha lived to be past 97 in years.

Father ran a tan yard for Grandfather and had a tan yard of his own until he left West Virginia. I will mention several experiences in the tan yard later in this article.

The chance for schooling was very limited, and Father never got more than three quarters or nine months of schooling until after he was married. He had a felon on the thumb of his right hand which kept his arm in a sling for 18 months. Part of this time he went to school. Later he cut his leg very badly; as soon as he was able to ride, he went to school. He read much and was especially good in figures. In fact, one of his teachers said that he did not need to study arithmetic—he could make one. His interest in education is shown in the fact that of the nine children who grew up, all went to college at least a year, and five have a degree.

Mother was as much interested in education as Father, but she did not have as good a chance as he. I think she could read about like a third grader. She was a very great worker; in fact, I have heard her say that the only request she made of Father before they were married was that he would furnish her plenty of work. She was also an excellent manager. I believe there is no doubt but what she had much to do with his making a success financially.

Father and Mother were married in the fall of l852 at Washington, Pennsylvania. (The grandchildren and the great-grandchildren must skip this.) They eloped! Father said that Grandfather promised him if he would stay at home until he was 21 he would give him the shoemakers trade. But when he arranged to stay, Grandfather forgot the deal; so Father did too. (This should be a lesson to all parents, except me, to keep their word.)

They lived on the waters of Bone Creek for a while, then on Middle Island until 1857, when they bought the farm on the South Branch of the Hughes River, a mile below Berea, where I was born and reared.

My Siblings: There were eleven of us, of which I was the ninth. Two died as infants, but the rest of us grew up and married. There are four of us still living—Virgil, who is 90; Cleo, 80; myself, 78; and Delvia, soon to be 74. We are a long-lived family. Callie lived to be 94, and Alva was 81.

Of the nine, Perie was the most noted; she became a Seventh Day Baptist preacher. She married when she was 35 to Leon B. Burdick, whom she educated and made a preacher. They had one daughter.

Callie married John Meathrell and spent her life on a farm near Berea. They had four children—Julia, Rupert, Conza, and Draxie (who married Ruben Brissey). They are all living.

Emza married the Reverend A. W. Coon and died a few years later.

Virgil taught a few years after finishing college, then became a farmer. He married Mary Wells. They had one son, who is now an engineer.

Ellsworth bought the Hise Davis farm from Father, married Sarah Stalnaker, and settled down on the farm. He had a fine team of horses and did lots of logging in the winter. While logging for Zeke Bee in the spring of 1905, he was accidentally killed. He and I had been more than brothers—we had been companions for years. If one needed help, the other helped him. If there was sickness, the other was there to help in any way possible. Things have never been quite the same since his death. They had one child, Blondie, who is now principal of a school in West Virginia.

Alva married Mary Hoff. He finished college at Alfred with the best grades of anyone who had ever graduated there. He settled down near Alfred and became a famous farmer and leader in farm activities. They had five children—Fucia, Elizabeth, Lowell, Florence and Vida. Florence died in young womanhood, shortly after she married. Elizabeth is an ordained minister of the Seventh Day Baptist denomination. She is now a traveling evangelist.

Cleora (Cleo) went to New York, taught for some years and then married Gene Jordan. Gene died a few years ago, and she is now living in Pennsylvania with one of Gene’s boys, Leon.

Delvinus (Delvia) went through school at Alfred, married and moved to California for his wife’s health. They had two children, but I never knew anything about them. He is retired now and living with his second wife.

The last two mentioned, Cleo and Delvia, and I were inseparable from earliest childhood. Where one went, we all three went. We would go after the cows together until Cleo was almost grown. We had a deal with mother in which we were to feed and care for the chickens and gather the eggs. When we took her twelve eggs, the next one was ours. We made lots of money, for eggs were often worth 5 cents or 10 cents a dozen. We really felt we were in business. Prices are just a little different now.

Mother died when I was 15; three years later Cleo went to New York; and then in 1892 Father took Delvia to New York, which broke up this trio. Oh, that we three could be together for at least a few days! But we are separated by many miles, and none of us has the money to travel so far, I fear, and age is creeping up on us. Blessed are the memories!

Grandfather, Dr. John Randolph

Before I begin the record of my own life, I think I had best give a paragraph to my Grandfather Randolph, as I have already given a short account of Grandfather Maxson. Doctor John Randolph was the son of Jesse Randolph by his first wife, whom he married soon after coming to Salem with the church in 1792. Doctor John was much better educated than most of those of his day. He was a stone mason and helped build the Pike through Salem. He practiced medicine without any special preparation, so was called Doctor John. He had a very keen mind, but I think was very self-willed.

I will give one anecdote about him. Uncle Elisha and he went to a revival meeting down at Bristol. A girl who had worked for Grandfather for years went down the aisle shouting her best, and Grandfather called to her, “Where are you going, Bet?” She replied, “To heaven, I hope.” Just then she reached a young man who had been going with her and threw herself into his arms. Grandfather said, “You have got there now, Bet!”