Monday, November 18, 2013
YOUTH MEMORIES OF JOHN WESLEY "VIRGE" KILGORE Feb 1880---Dec 1949
by a Grandson of John Wesley "Virge" Kilgore,
The McKeever family moved from Nauvoo, where I was born, to the house at the location where the present house now stands in 1936 (the original house burned in 1954). My first memory of Grandpa was about 1939 when my brother, Glen and I discovered that Grandpa had built a store attached to his house. He sold the items people couldn't grow on the farm..sugar, salt, baking powder, several kinds of dry goods and candy. I was 4 and Glen was 3 and Grandpa traded us a piece of candy for each egg we brought him. We discovered where his hens laid their eggs so we were kept in candy. Mom told us later that he knew what we were doing but it suited him fine.
I remember stumbling through the fields to carry Grandpa water when I was 6 years old. I recall feeding the ears of corn into the sheller so he could go to Iver Prestridge’s mill to have the corn ground into meal. In 194l, Pop began to work regularly at the coal mines near Nauvoo, and he had to walk 5 miles from the farm , work 8 or 10 hours, and walk back to the farm. For that reason, we moved to the No. 2 Brookside-Pratt mines. Because Grandpa grew more than was needed on the farm, he sold veggies and fruit to the coal miners. He would come by our house, load up Glen and me, and away we would go. Grandpa drove the mule and wagon and our job was to go from house to house, selling anything he had on the wagon. Oftentimes, he would have milk, butter and maybe, a couple of roosters. Two or three years later, he traded up to a pickup truck, so now we traveled in style. We would work the coal mines and then go to Nauvoo and sell any excess. The only drawback was that Grandpa chewed tobacco and we were teenagers before we found out the spots on us weren't freckles.
On weekends during the summer, we often walked the 5 miles back to the farmhouse to spend the week with Grandpa and Granny and all the cousins that would pile in. The Chadwicks (Ruby Kilgore Chadwick, 4th child of Papa Virge & married to Johnny Chadwick) lived in the old place a couple of years, and then the Spains (Ruth Kilgore Spain, 7th child of Papa Virge & married to Ted Spain) lived there for several years, so we always had loads of cousins to visit with. It seemed that every Sunday was a reunion with other family members coming to visit. Grandpa was a hard worker. He coal-mined, drilled wells, farmed, did blacksmith work, and anything else he could do to support his family. He traded, bought cattle and sold them, and even did a little real estate. Mom told how he was plowing in the field one day in the early '40's and someone came by wanting to sell 40 acres of land. Grandpa gave the man a double-eagle ($20) gold coin in payment for the 40 acres. It was 2 or 3 weeks later before they ever recorded the transaction.
The mines at Nauvoo closed in 1947 and Pop (Carl McKeever) found work in Affinity, West Virginia. That meant moving. We came home on vacations in 1948 and 1949. Mom (Lois Kilgore McKeever) told us after Grandpa passed that he hated to lose his 'boys' because we were of some help to him. The last memory I have of him is his reading his Bible by a kerosene lamp, sitting in a rocker by the fireplace. Living so far away, Mom was the only one able to come home for his funeral. Almost every snapshot I have of him, he was at Possum Trot Church (present-day New Oak Grove). Mom told us that there tons of flowers at his funeral because everyone knew and respected him. What a legacy !