The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

I Remember Grandpa Vaughn

By Thomas W. Dunn © 1988

Issue: October, 1988

My mother's father was Columbus Penn Vaughn. He was born in Patrick County, Virginia in the year 1845. His father was Wilson Vaughn and his mother was Susannah DeHart.

One year after the [start of the] Civil War he became sixteen years old and joined the Rebel Army. The next three years of his life were spent in connection with the battles fought in the Valley of Virginia until he was captured at Manassas and placed in a prison at Point Lookout, Maryland the last six months of the war. I wish I could remember more of the details of the stories he would tell about the war and the conditions before and after.

His father owned slaves. However, Grandpa and his three brothers worked on the farm doing the same work, eating the same food and wearing the same kind of homemade clothes that the slaves did. A black man named Sam was the farm foreman and Grandpa and his brothers would obey Sam the same as they did their father.

After the war was over he came home and married Julia Ann Hatcher. They had fifteen children. Ten of them grew up to have their own families of several children, which gives me numerous cousins which are scattered all over the country.

Grandpa owned a farm on Burkes Fork Creek at the foot of Buffalo Mountain. Besides farming he built a still house and made tax paid liquor. With his brother, Green Vaughn, they also built a water powered woolen and grist mill on Burkes Fork Creek. It was when they were adding weaving and finishing machinery to the mill that they brought in Tom Dunn (my father) to set up and teach them to operate the new addition. This resulted in Tom's falling in love with Grandpa's daughter, Allie, whom he married. Later Tom and Allie bought and operated the farm and mill.

I was born in Grandpa Vaughn's house on December 4th, 1905 and grew up living and working with or near him until he died in 1927.

The grist mill was operated on a toll system. They would grind corn for one-eight; out of one bushel of grain they would keep one gallon. In the woolen mill the customer could trade his wool at the market price for stocking yarn, flannel, jeans, blankets and coverlets. Or they could pay cash to have the wool made into blankets, etc. As I remember, it took eight pounds of wool and three dollars cash to get a blanket. This operation continued until a short time before my father died in 1950.

I have lived in Roanoke, Virginia for the past sixty-two years but have made many trips back to the Burks Fork and Buffalo Mountain area, and I still look forward to spring time when Moy Hylton and I will get out our fishing gear and head for Burkes Fork Creek and we will spend the day somewhere between Old Pluck Valley School House (where I started going to school) and Little Flock Church (where Grandpa Vaughn was a deacon). This takes us through farms that were once owned by our grandfathers and fathers. So whether we catch any fish or not we have a good time remembering people we knew and things we did while growing up. The mill pond where we went swimming in our birthday suits or fishing at a spot in the creek where, over seventy years ago I watched as Uncle Amos Vaughn, who was a Primitive Baptist Preacher, baptized my mother. Or see and talk to Emma Vaughn who is sitting on the bank fishing near the brick house that my great-grandfather built and where she and her husband, Martin Vaughn, lived and raised their family.

There always seemed to be a lot of preachers who spent the night and ate at Grandpa's and our house. The horse and buggy days caused some of this but Grandma's and Mamma's cooking was responsible for some of it too. None of these preachers charged or received any money for their services. Most of them made a living farming but I remember one exception, Brother Joel Marshal was a horse trader.

For those of you who are still reading this, I thank you. I love to talk about the people and places I know and love.