Written By Ola William d/o Isom Hamilton a
Samuel Hamilton - my great grandfather - was a big, red-faced, sandy-harried Irishman. My grandmother on one side of the family and my grandpa on the other side came from Ireland. My father knew so many old Irish ballads, and could he ever sing them! He had the most beautiful, soft voice, and he led the choir of Regular Baptists for years at the church where his picture hung on the wall long after he died.
One of the Hamilton's came over from Ireland and married Annie McGregor, a "Scotch" lady. I don't know which we are most of Irish or Scotch. That's the Hamilton's - so says Linnie Short, a distant relative from Louisa, Kentucky, who traced down the family tree once. The first Hamilton to come to Kentucky came from Virginia.
On my mother's side, three Conley boys came over here from England. One was my great grandfather, father of Wince Conley. All the Conleys were music lovers. They formed their own band once up Weddington Branch in Pike County. They loved to dance and could play most any kind of musical instrument. Uncle Walter played a banjo like Earl Scruggs. So does Gertrude's boy, R.C. Anyway, they had their own bands and parties, and woe to anyone who tried to crash the gate!
The Hamilton Clan also played music and loved to sing and write poetry. My daughter Sandra plays and teaches piano - even writes a few songs. My son Jay Bird and his trio won a trophy with their guitar and songs. And Mary Lou is quite an artist.
They tell me Cynthia Hamilton, my grandmother, was made of strong stern stuff. Grandma Conley told me how once when the kids were all home, Uncle John decided to take all the girls dancing. Now Uncle John was what I call a "swapper" and loved parties. (He was the son to eventually become a lawyer. Grandma didn't approve of where John wanted to take Mary, Cynthia and Sarah to dance and told them, " If you go, I'll whip you all. " Well, after grandma went to bed, John sneaked the girls out and went anyway. True to her word, grandma was standing behind the door with a long willow switch and gave each girl her whipping when she came home. But Uncle John knew what was coming, so he just didn't come home ... not for a month! when he finally did come home, grandma greeted him with open arms and a welcome. She cooked his favorite food, and sat a supper such as only grandma could. Then she put him to sleep on a homemade "factory" sheet, so strong you just couldn't tear it. When Uncle John got good and sound asleep, which didn't take long after a whole month of partying, she sewed him up in the sheet and gave him the whipping of his life - just like she promised she would. Grandma never broke a promise.
Grandpa Samuel was a preacher. At 27 years old, he joined the old Regular Baptist Church. At 38, he was ordained a minister and belonged to the Paint Creek Church for fifty years before his death. Grandma was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star it's on her tombstone at Silver Hill at the head of Coffee Creek. Grandpa built a platform out in a clearing in the woods and was preaching when a troop of soldiers came along. Grandpa shook hands with each man in turn, and never missed a word of his sermon. Once he was gone so long in a revival away from home, and the kids got bad sick. When he finally returned, Grandma said, "Where have you been?" Says Grandpa, in his soft Irish drawl, "Well, Sarah, I've been out saving souls." And Grandma Cynthia, tired and worried over the sick kids and having to tend them alone while he was out, said tartly, "Well, Samuel, you very nigh lost some too!"
Grandpa Samuel, so my daddy told me, would wash his face in the creek all winter through. He even cut the ice to get to the water. Until Uncle John (who was also a cobbler) made daddy his very first pair of shoes - they were red-topped boots and daddy was nine - daddy played on the ice barefoot. Yes, the Hamiltons were made of hard stuff! Grandma told me about the time Grandma Hamilton lived in the head of Coffee Creek, near Elk Fork in Morgan County. Back then, they had no sewing machine, so Grandma made herself a dress and a bonnet, apron and hankie. First she wove the cloth, then dyed it, then cut it out and sewed it on her fingers. The dress was very long and full. It took yards of homemade material. The bonnet had an old-time slat tail on it, made by putting cardboard slats through strips in the long tail. Well, she had just finished it and had tried on t@ dress, when she heard an awful scream. It sounded like a woman's scream. First thing she thought was that the neighbor' s sick baby had died, so she put on the rest of the outfit and took off to the neighbor's house. Just below the house, Grandma passed under a tall oak tree - I've played under that tree many a time, but the new road took the tree. Anyway, right under the tree grandma heard the pat-pat-pat of a panther's tail. She looked up, and knew then she'd heard the panther, not a woman, scream. And now that panther was patting its tail and ready to spring on her.
She knew whatever she threw down, the panther would stop long enough to tear into it. So running towards the house and calling the dogs as she ran, Grandma tore off first her hanky, which the panther ripped in seconds. Then the bonnet - that took a little longer because of the slats. She was unbuttoning her dress to throw next when finally the four dogs met the panther, and it wisely turned tail and ran.
Grandma Conley herself told me of the time when Grandpa Wince was away for the night, and my mother Louisa was just a baby. Grandma laid across the bed to get her baby to sleep, then fell asleep herself, leaving all the doors and windows open. When she woke up, a neighbor was calling to her and asking if she'd seen a bear. "No," said Grandma Conley.
"Well here's its tracks all around your door." He trailed the bear into the hollow and killed it. Only reason it hadn It come in on Grandma was it wasn't hungry. Someone had killed a hog across from the house, and the bear had eaten the guts. If that bear'd gone in and killed Grandma and baby, neither you nor I would be here today!
Some of my f ather I s brothers f ought f or the blue and some f or the gray in the Civil War - brother against brother. Uncle jack, who was in the Union army, was going home on sick leave. He'd brought shoes for grandma and the girls. On his way home, he stopped at the house of a neighbor he'd known all his life. They welcomed him in, fixed him a good bed, and begged him to spend the night with them. Since he was so sick, he agreed. Then after he fell asleep, they sent someone to the.enemy lines and told them they had a Union soldier at their house. Next morning, they came and got him. He died in a rebel prison in Indiana and is buried there. He never married; the girls never got the shoes either. But that's the way things were then - neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. It must of broke my grandmother's heart, and grandpa must have had to lean heavily an his faith in those awful days of the Civil War. Uncle Major, Samuel Is brother, was shot before a firing squad for being a spy.
If ever you get a chance to go back to Coffee Creek at the head of Elk Fork, you turn left at West Liberty. Anybody can tell you where. At the head of Coff ee Creek still stands the old school house where we all went to school. They are turning it into a tobacco barn.
I went up there not long ago and bought a school bench, all carved in initials with who knows what, perhaps my brother Claude's jackknife. I antiqued it red and have it in the bedroom now. Even Gertrude sat on those seats, and she's now 85. William Wright's widow owns the old schoolhouse now, and she sells the seats for five dollars.
Right above the old post office and store where my father and uncle once ran a store stands the old house of Uncle Ben Hamilton.
Straight up the hill from William's house and the Silver Hill post office is the family cemetery. Both the Hamilton clan and the Conleys are buried here. My father and mother, my sister Eythel, Verna and her husband Joe Griffith are at the lower side all in a row. We go once a year and clean off the place and decorate the graves. Further u the hill are the graves of Samuel and Cynthia, great grandfather and grandmother, and an old stone so old we can hardly read it. I suppose it's Samuel's father and mother. There too lies Aunt Julials daughter Ossee and her husband, Uncle Dave Ross. Aunt Julials in Ashland cemetery.
Also there is Ned Hamilton, once Morgan's best-loved and most respected sherif f . His sons died the f irst year the f lu came around, and Ned died years later. He got his leg cut off in the woods while sawing a tree down. Soon as he was home from the hospital, he whittled himself out a wooden leg with a pocket knife. Then he fell and broke what was left of his leg --it was already off at the knee. Soon as that was well, he walked on his homemade leg, and now lies to rest beside his sons.
Further up the hill lies grandpa Wince Conley and Grandma Sarah, Aunt Manch (Samantha), their baby daughter, Uncle Oscar, and Uncle Walter. Father's brother (Uncle Ben) and Aunt Becky, their son Sanford Hamilton, and Hollie.
They are all there together - the two clans joined together in marriages and now in death. Their tombstones tell much of their lives ... the rank they held in the army, Grandma Hamilton's Eastern Star. On Aunt manch's grave, it simply says, 'She died as she lived - A Christian." Aunt Manch married Hoke Salyers and had three girls. One of them, Opal Fields, lives near me.