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Richelieu.

                                                                                      by F. Marie Foley

 When I talk about place, people often think I mean a particular area or region. Though region is implicit in what I am saying, the word doesn't convey the way a place lives inside the body. Place, in my mind, is a deep current that continuously weaves through memory. Eudora Welty speaks of place as "the heart's field,” reminding us of the claim it has on our existence. Place is where story happens.

I was raised in Auburn, being born there in 1940, about four miles out of town on the Cemetery Road. I am not certain of the exact location as the house was torn down a few years after my birth. At any rate, I was born there and truly this cannot be stated concerning any other house, whether that fact be praise or blame. 

Very early in my childhood I came to love another town about eight to ten miles from my home in Auburn. When my children hear me speak of this Edenic place of my youth, it is very difficult for them to comprehend my account in the context of their knowledge of the place today. 

 Recently, I have made it my business to speak to a number of young people around Logan County concerning this community and have most often received a blank stare, followed by, "Where is this place, I've never heard of it". 

 The place I am referring to is Richelieu, one of the three oldest communities in Logan County. Richelieu is located in the extreme northeastern corner of Logan County, near the Butler and Warren County lines. 

 In many ways this is a very personal account of Richelieu, but also an accurate historical record. I made a promise to a number of the older citizens of Logan and Butler Counties who where once residents of Richelieu in its heyday to write this article. 

 In the Logan County Pictorial History book, published in 1996, which in my opinion is a superb work, only nine lines were given to Richelieu. I don't consider this a slight in any way, on the part of anyone. The simple fact is that there has been very little research carried out on the Richelieu community. 

 In 1950 Margaret Stratton visited Richelieu and spoke to my Uncle Sam Sams who was at 87 years the oldest citizen. That same year she published her book "Place-Names of Logan County and Oft-Told Tales". 

 Mrs. J. Wells Vick did a considerable amount of work documenting and compiling in legible form Cemetery and Census records in Logan County. 

 I dare not try to mention the names of so many others who have contributed so much to Logan County genealogy and historical endeavors, because I would invariably leave out many. We owe these people a debt of gratitude that can only be repaid by giving our best efforts to do the same in our time, and encouraging by example our own children and grandchildren of the importance of these endeavors.

 My love and gratitude go to a lady who I have known since I was a young child, Josephine Ragland Chyle. Not only has she helped with information about her home community, but also with her enthusiastic encouragement.

Glenn and Sybil Tinsley, along with Sybil’s mother were the second family of my childhood. Glenn is so knowledgeable about the history of Logan County and is always ready to answer my questions.

My love for the Richelieu of my childhood and the good, decent people who lived there, has inspired me over many years to research the history of the first settlers of that area. In the past two years my husband has caught my infectious passion for the place and has been a great help in reading dozens of deeds, wills, marriage and death records and storing all of this information in the computer. 

I hope this article will bring back good memories to those who recognize the people spoken of and the area. I also hope to introduce the young people in the Logan County area to a remarkable place and people. Every name, date and place mentioned in this article is documented and we would be glad to share this information with anyone who believe themselves related to any of these people and are working on family histories. 

 Concerning the Logan, Butler and Warren County lines I will relate the following-be it fact or fiction I was always told that at the home of my uncle Ray Sams in Richelieu, the sitting room and kitchen were in Butler County and two of the bedrooms and sun room in Logan County. The cemetery just above the house is very close to the Warren County line. 

 This "three county" house was great fun for a small child. My imagination the only limit as I traveled from toys and paper dolls in Butler County to afternoon naps and bedtime stories in Logan County. Then when given permission, walking up the hill pass the cemetery a ways and firmly planting both feet in Warren County. Old Shep, my uncle's collie dog made the trip with me, but never became as excited about the county line as I thought he should. As an adult I have never checked out the exact location of the three county lines. But, if I did and found they were not located where I was brought up to believe, I'd stick with the old boundaries. 

 During the summer months from the time I was about four years old my grandmother and I made numerous trips to Richelieu. If no one in the family happens to be going in that direction, we would get a ride with Mr. Marvin Hutcheson the mail carrier at that time.

 The road to Richelieu was dusty or muddy in the summer and worse in the winter. I can remember the stretch of road just past the old Rockhouse Covered Bridge, going up Pugh Hill, having deep gullies to be negotiated. The actual travel was enjoyed by me much more so than by my grandmother. 

 I had a person to ask me once if there was anything I did not like about Richelieu. My reply was prompt and unequivocal. “I did not like not having electricity and I hate chickens”. The proverbial "out house" was reached by passing through the chicken yard. Enough said! The good outweighed the bad. 

 Richelieu's history started around 1786. In the Richelieu Cemetery you will find two marble slabs with descriptions as follows:

 "In memory of Thomas Neel who was born in Ireland ....... 10th, 1760 and died ...... 8th, 1843, aged 83 years. He lived a consistent life and died the death of a Christian". 

 "In memory of Mary Neel, Consort (wife) of Thomas Neel, who was born in Ireland December 22, 1762 and died February 14, 1846, aged eighty-three years, 1 months and 22 days. She lived a consistent life and died the death of a Christian".

 These are the two oldest people buried in Richelieu Cemetery. The Neel family were the first land owners in the Richelieu area according to deeds in Logan and Butler counties.  

 Thomas and Mary Neel came to America about 1780, to Virginia. Thomas Neel purchased a Virginia land warrant, found the site to his satisfaction, surveyed the land, and obtained title under his soldier's land warrant. This land was on the Gasper River in Logan County. Butler County was formed out of Logan in 1810, and some of the Neel land was then in Butler County. 

 The Neel's Huguenot ancestors had been driven from France by Religious persecution to Northern Ireland and thence to America. In a virgin land they erected their log cabin and began clearing the land. On this land they reared a family of three boys and seven girls. The history of these ten children shows them to have been a credit to their parents and the various States and communities where they made their homes. 

 In Thomas Neel's will, dated October 26, 1843, one can see a man of letters,  who loved to read and bequest his many books to family and friends. He provided well for his family. He was a man before his time, who was careful to make sure that his girls had control over what he left them. I like his idea concerning wills: "I do not expect to please all parties, I will therefore please myself". 

 I am the fourth great-granddaughter of William Hutcheson, and Margaret Clendennon from Ireland, who were early settlers of the Richelieu area in 1796. My great-grandmother America Jane Hutcheson married W. H. Pugh Sr. in 1856. The Pugh family was from Wales. 

 In 1785  William and Margaret Hutcheson, along with son Robert, age 18 years, daughters Mary, aged 9 and Sarah age 7, son Samuel barely one year old, arrived in Port Royal, Charleston, South Carolina. They moved on to Virginia in 1792. They were in Louisville, Kentucky in 1794 and purchased a brownstone house there. In 1796 William Hutcheson received a land grant of 189 acres on Gasper River in Logan County. 

 In 1808 William conveyed to his son Samuel 80 acres, on which Samuel built a rock house in 1823. The House has been leveled for many years now. Mrs. Virgil Hightower has a picture of the House before it was unfortunately pushed-in. Mr. Maurice Heard owns the land at the present time. 

 The small cemetery behind the old rock home has the stone markers of Samuel and his wife, Mary Neel. Mary Neel was the daughter of the aforementioned Thomas Neel. After Mary Neel's death Samuel married Mary Ely. There are a number of markers that are illegible in the small cemetery. We are in the process of having this burying ground and the Pugh burying ground nearby, designated as a public trust.

 We have no record of Margaret Clendennon Hutcheson's death. Only, that in 1808 William Hutcheson married Isabell [Ibby] Porter, sister of Benjamin Porter, who was a son of Hugh Porter, another early Logan County Pioneer, who settled in the region of Caney Fork about 1799. 

 Volumes could be written concerning the descendants of William and Margaret Hutcheson. Among these descendants were attorneys, a State Senator, a State Representative, newspaper editor and many hard working, prosperous farmers. Many still live or own property in Kentucky today. Tom Linton is a descendant of William Hutcheson. We have documented nine generations of this family in America and four generations in Ireland. 

 Other old families from 1796-1803 in the Richelieu community were: Snodgrass, Porter, Hill and Ely. All of these families along with the Hutchesons and Neels were in time intermarried. 

From 1803-1865, we find Samuel and B. S. McGinnis, the Proctor, Dial, Waddle, Tigert, Pugh, Mobley, Vass, Hightower, Shannon, Sublett, and Ragland families.

 Some other early settlers mentioned in Hutcheson papers and elsewhere are Elijah Mansfield, John Grinter and others. David and Benjamin Sawyers, built a rock house in 1814 of the same design as the Hutcheson Rockhouse built in 1823. Both were fashioned after the rock houses in Ireland. A Mr. Hamilton, a Scotsman helped to build the Sawyers home. The source of Rockhouse Creek originates in the yard at the back of this house.

 Every town must have commercial and social infrastructure. A General Store, Post Office, Church, School and hopefully a full time doctor. A very important person in the community in those days was the blacksmith. Richelieu had all of these, even a dentist close by, as early as 1879. His name was Dr. Sam F. McGowan. 

The mystery of who built the Richelieu Store and when, was almost impossible to solve. None of the older generation still living could remember any farther back than when Mr. John Martin owned the store. After years of speculation the mystery was solved last week. The papers had been in our possession for some time and overlooked. The following is a record of how the store came to be. Many will recognize the names of those involved. 

 In 1869, Sarah J. Porter, the widow of William M. Porter bought a parcel of land in Richelieu, known as Lot No. 7, at a Commissioners sale for the price of $41.00. 

 In 1871, Sarah J. Porter, married B. S. McGinnis.

 In 1873, Sarah Porter McGinnis sold Lot number 7 in Richelieu to Levi Moore for $100.00

 In 1880, Levi Moore became bankrupt, thus another Commissioners Sale. Lot number 7 was bought by G. W. Davidson and wife Jo for $1100.00. Something had taken place on Lot number 7 between 1873  and 1880 that increased the value of the property. A store house had been built; The Richelieu Store. 

 In December 1885, G. W. Davidson sold lot No. 7 and the new store to J. W. Martin of Simpson County, Kentucky. Mr. John Martin was a name I heard a lot as a child, though I can't remember him. He married Tempie Comer and Tempie's father Tom Comer built the house across the road from the store for them. The property the house was built on was bought in February 1892. Tom Comer was my Aunt Rhoda Sams maternal grandfather. I have many pieces of the antique oak furniture Mr. Martin sold to my uncle when he and his son left Richelieu after his wife's death.

 Just a note about the above mentioned G. W. Davidson who sold the property to Mr. Martin. Mr. Davidson built a bank in Auburn in 1879 and a home there on Main Street a few years later. This bank served as the first bank of the community until 1929 when it merged with the Bank of Auburn. Many years later the Davidson home and old bank building was owned by the parents of my friend Betty Forgy Whitton. Tom Linton owns the property today. 

 In 1899, John Martin bought a piece of land across the road from the store in Richelieu, from John L. Norris, on which a Blacksmith Shop stood. We have no definite information as to who the blacksmith was in that shop at that time.

 However, we do have many names of blacksmiths in the area at the time. Francis Hightower, John Moss, John B. Paine and William Williams. Mr. Patrick Gasteen was a Wagon Maker in this same period. Many years later in the 1920's Genie McCoun was the blacksmith at Richelieu. Later there was a Griss Mill operated by Vernon Chyle with Dennis Hester as blacksmith.

When I think of blacksmiths, I recall a very kind man sitting in our yard in Auburn, reminiscing about the old days with my grandfather Elias Sams. Mr. Tom Tinsley never seemed to mind my bringing out a chair, joining them and asking umpteen questions. Mr. Tom was the father of Christine Rowe Holland.

 T.L.S. Proctor had a Mill on Gasper River about three miles from Richelieu. This was a large concern and his home was near the Mill. Glenn Tinsley knows the history of the Mill well. He told me about the Proctor home and how it was referred to as “The Proctor Mansion”. Space will not allow me to relate more concerning Proctor’s Mill at this time, but hope to do so later.

The Richelieu Post Office was located at the Richelieu Store, 1913 to 1955.  Later Ernest Tyree built another store in Richelieu and the Post Office was located there 1955 to 1980 with Josephine Ragland Chyle as Postmistress. Vernon Chyle and daughter Gladys Chyle Manning kept that store in operation for many years.  There was a Post Office in Richelieu from 1852 to 1869. The gap from 1869 to 1913 I cannot account for, or the location of the 1852-1869 Post Office.

 The Richelieu Store was the "Wal-Mart" of its day. Tempie Martin made hats and had a shop on the upper floor of the store. Adah Ellis and my uncle Henry Sams were clerks at the store. Alice Hayes worked there also.

 Everything needed by a small local community could be had. Food for man, animal or bird,  shovels, spades, forks, implements and tools of all kinds, needles, thread, buttons, thimbles, dress material, pocket knives and cases overflowing with sweets of every persuasion.

 In August, 1924, John Martin sold all of his property which amounted to eight tracks of land in Richelieu, including the store to Mr. E. C. [Carlie] McKinney and wife. This was after the death of his wife Tempie. He and his son moved to either Missouri or Mississippi. 

 Over time there had been a number of doctors in the Richelieu area. In 1879 there was a Dr. W. H. Williams and a Dr. Proctor. I'm sure there were others.

 In 1912 Dr. J. C. Dodson graduated from medical school and some time later came to Richelieu and took over the practice of Dr. A. M. Belcher. Dr. Dodson purchased the Belcher home there. It is my understanding that Dr. Belcher moved to Auburn at that time. My grandfather Elias Sams purchased the remainder of Dr. Belcher's land at approximately the same time according to deeds registered in Logan and Butler Counties. 

 The home Dr. Dodson purchased from Dr. Belcher was the "three county" home I spoke of earlier, that was later owned by my uncle Ray Sams. 

 Dr. Dodson met and married Miss Brownie Mobley from Richelieu, who was teaching school at the time. Their two sons Carlisle (Dr. C. V. Dodson) and Gates were both born in this house at Richelieu, 1921 and 1931 respectively. Dr. Dodson died there in 1937. 

My grandparents, Elias and Pearl Sams lived next door to the Dodsons. Both Carlisle and Gates as grown men admitted to being "spoiled rotten" by the Sams family as well as by their own family.

 We do not have the exact date when the Richelieu school was started. We have a deed dated March 12, 1907, where my grandfather Elias Sams had bought, "56 acres more or less-there is exempt from this deed one acre in the South West corner deeded to School Trustees". Three other deeds on this same piece of property have the same exemption. I feel we can safely say the school was in operation by 1907 and possibly years before. 

 Mrs. Josephine Chyle gave me a list of some of the early teachers. Ed Tinsley, Virginia Hutcheson, Kathryn Thacker (Josephine's first teacher), Lucille Taylor, Flora Turner Moore, Lucille Price (Prather Price's sister), Harold Haden, Ruby Chaney and Miss Sula McKinney. The school was closed in 1936.

 Churches in close proximity to Richelieu were New Gasper Baptist Church, located in Warren County, Cave Spring Baptist, Gasper River Presbyterian, Pleasant Hill Baptist at Bucksville and others. The Ragland, McKinney and Dodson families attended New Gasper Church. There was a Church a short way from the Richelieu Store towards Morgantown. Glenn Tinsley, Josephine Chyle and I have discussed this and believe it to have been Stoney Point Presbyterian Church. Someone reading this might have more information on that Church.

 How did Richelieu get its name?. I don't know! In 1950 when Mrs. Stratton was gathering material for her book, she asked this question of my Uncle Sam Sams. He said that he had always heard that it was named by a Frenchman from Canada, and that he was a soldier. 

Some have speculated about Cardinal Richelieu of France. Just maybe there is some connection here. Cardinal Richelieu instigated the persecution of the Huguenots in France and drove them from their country in great numbers. This was the case of the ancestors of Thomas Neel. But, then why name a place after your enemy?

The source of the name will probably remain a mystery. Suffice to say the first settlers recognized a gentle beauty about the place. The green sinuousness of spring, the radiant and rich colors of summer, the gold and russet brown of autumn and the gray loveliness of winter, much like the homeland they had left behind. So far as I know nobody famous ever came from Richelieu. None of its inhabitants ever achieved great public acclaim. Richelieu has had no meteors flaming across the sky of life. But it has had gently tumbling stars that together have made for a thing of rare beauty to many.

 Around 1944 when my personal memory kicks-in, Willie Mae and Richard Fisher were operating the store for Mr. Carlie McKinney. These were two very special people to me. They were there from 1943-1953, at which time they bought the store at Chandlers Chapel. 

 Richelieu was still at that time a busy, bustling place. Cars, trucks, and teams of horses were around the store and spilled out onto the roadway. Any need or want could still be supplied by the Richelieu Store. It was a modern-day Aladdin's Cave. 

 In the back yards of the houses in the community the freshly washed clothes were hanging on the clothes lines blowing in the breeze. Carl Lawson was sitting on the side porch of the McKinney home. My uncle Ray and Gates were coming in from the field for their noon meal.   

Does this all sound too good to be true, too ideal?. I can assure you it is true! Those were summers a child's mind thought would go on forever. Time spent with people who you never expected to grow old, or go away. No one ever thought of a time when blacktop roadways would entice shoppers to larger towns and to a different way of life. 

Years later I still go back, because of the stories there, and the people who where once there, and because the land speaks to me. I see through the eyes of my childhood, and memory creates my "hearts field". I recall a spring bubbling up and flowing over smooth rocks in the field not far from the home of my uncle Sam Sams. That was the coldest best tasting water I've ever drank or helped carry to the house. When I think of those days and that spring of water, part of a poem I often quote by Robert Penn Warren comes to my mind-

                        "It was only a bird call at evening,

                        unidentified,

                        As I came from the spring with water,

                        Across the rocky back-pasture;

                        But I stood so still sky above was

                        not stiller than sky in pale-water.

                        Years past, all places and faces

                        fade, some people have died,

                        And I stand in a far land, the evening

                        still, and am at last sure

                        That I miss more that stillness at

                        birdcall than some things that

                        were to fail later".

 Note: I hope to write a sequel to this article in the near future. That article will cover many of the social mores of the time and give a personal glimpse into the life of the people not only in Richelieu, but Pauline, Sugar Grove and other communities.

The main thrust will be the life of a Riverboat/Showboat gambler on the Green River. Ventriloquist, traveling photographers, dumb suppers and accounts of happenings during the Civil War.

 

 

 

 
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