Moving on a flatcar!

Circa 1890’s, this old pie safe could probably tell a story or two if it could talk. Made of poplar wood and put together with wrought nails, the old piece has two tin punched doors and a top drawer. The primitive treasure was handmade in Russell County, VA. My grandparents, Asa C. Davis *(1883-1962) and Altha R. Brooks ** (1884-1980) received it from Asa’s uncle John Henry Jessee (1860-1921 pictured below w/hat) when they when to housekeeping in 1902. 2013-06-14 08.19.04

JESSEE John Henry DAVIS AC Altha's husband Altha Rudolph Brooks

My grandparents were married August 20, 1902 in Bristol, TN. Sometime between 1909 and 1911, Asa, Roadway Foreman for the Norfolk & Western Railway, was transferred from Russell County to Tazewell County VA. It really was only a short distance from Cleveland to Tazewell, but in those days, it would have been difficult to move an entire household. With only 3 children at the time, Asa and Altha loaded all their worldly belongings into an N&W flatcar and moved to Tazewell. The primitive, hand-me-down pie safe was carried along in the move.

DAVIS Altha, Asa, 3 kids

As a child, I remember Grandmaw Davis having this junky piece of furniture on her little screened in back porch in Tazewell. A few years before her death in 1980, she had my mom and dad take it from her house to their house. She wanted me to have it. It is a treasure that I cherish because I think of my sweet grandmother every time I look at it.

Let me tell you about how Gramaw got her big toe cut off by a train –

* DAVIS asa davis RR crew DAVIS Asa & Section Crew 2 DAVIS Asa


Tazewell, Jan 31 – When A.C. Davis comes in from his day’s work as section foreman on the Tazewell Section today his final official act will be to lock the tool house over which he has had control since 1909 and turn the key over to a successor. Having reached the allotted three score and ten years, he will enter a well earned retirement.

Acie was born on Mill Creek in Russell County near Cleveland, a son of D.C. and Nancy (Jessee) Davis, and attended the Glade Hollow Elementary School finishing the 7th grade.

He entered the employ of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company as a section hand in 1905, and in 1907 received promotion to foreman. After a couple of years on the Cleveland Section he was transferred to Tazewell where he has served continuously since.

He is familiarly known as “Casey” having acquired the nickname some 35 years ago, when he emerged from a blinding snowstorm in a cloud of steam from a parked engine on the Tazewell Yard, only a few minutes after a train had passed, with a large pump knot on his forehead, and so added that he was unable to give an understandable account.

When the local newspaper came out a few days later, an item contributed in humorous vein was given of the incident, closing with a parody on the then popular song, “Casey Jones” in which a phantom engine was introduced to raise the knot and he was quoted as saying he heard the engineer say to the fireman, “Pour in the Water and Shovel in the Coal Stick Your Head Out the Window and Watch the Drivers Roll”.

Davis has enjoyed a wide popularity among his fellow workers and railway officials, and has the reputation of being one of the most efficient men in the track department, a statement supported in the fact that he has been the recipient of first prize on his roadmaster’s division at the annual track inspection 26 times, second prize six times and third prize three times, which sets a record on the entire system.

He was married first to Miss Altha Brooks, of Cleveland, Va. and they have ten children. The daughters are: Mrs. W.G. Carbaugh, Akron, O., Mrs. V.G. Jordan, Bristol, Tenn., Mrs. Forrest Mace, North Tazewell, Mrs. Foster Mundy, Mullins, W. Va., Mrs. L.W. Buckland, Falls Mills and Mrs. B.M. Hall, Baltimore, Md. The four sons are Lacy and Holly, both of Akron, O., Vaden and Leman, North Tazewell.

His second marriage was to Miss Ocie Bennett in 1937 and they have a daughter, Acie Kathleen.

Davis purchased a restaurant in North Tazewell and will devote his time to its operation.

His fraternal affiliation is with the Knights of Pythias.

** A R Davis Altha DAVIS Altha 5


Mrs. Altha R. Davis, 96, of North Tazewell, Va., was dead on arrival at a Tazewell hospital Tuesday evening of natural causes.

Born in Russell County, Va., she was a daughter of the late William and Mary Sutherland Brooks. She was a member of the First Assembly of God Church in North Tazewell.

Surviving are five daughters, Mrs. Al (Lillian) Berman of Abingdon, Va., Mrs. N.F. (Joella) Mace and Mrs. C.F.(Russell) Mundy, both of North Tazewell, Mrs. L.W.(Lucille) Buckland of Bluefield, Va., and Mrs. Ralph (Elizabeth) Clevy of Vincennes, Ind; four sons, Lacy Davis and Hollie Davis, both of Akron, Ohio, Vaden Davis and Leman Davis, both of North Tazewell; two sisters, Mrs. Gene (Effie) Owens and Mrs. Kathleen Dye, both of Lebanon, Va.; sixteen grandchildren, several great grandchildren and several great great grandchildren.

Funeral services will be conducted today at 2:30 at Peery and St. Clair Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. William Sadler officiating. Burial will follow in Maplewood Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Paul Bales, Buddy Herald, B.C. Peek, Jimmy Dawson, Jeff Davis, James Mullins and Ronald Davidson.

DAVIS Grace Lillian JoElla Altha Russell Asa Hollie Lacey


Russell County is located in the far southwestern part of Virginia. In 1738 the area now contained in Russell County was formed as a part of Augusta County. Between the years 1769 and 1785 it was contained in Botetourt, Fincastle and Washington Counties. Russell County was formed in 1786 from Washington County. The area which became Russell County contained about 3000 square miles or 1.9 million acres. The boundary lines extended northward from Clinch Mountain to Cumberland Gap on the Kentucky border and eastward to a point near present Bluefield, Virginia. In 1790, the population of the county was 3,338, which included 190 slaves.

Other counties were then formed from Russell County. In 1793 Lee County was formed. In 1799, Tazewell County. In 1815 Scott County was formed from a portion of Russell and Lee Counties. In 1855 Wise County was formed and in 1858 Buchanan County was formed. In 1880, Dickenson County was formed from a portion of Wise and Buchanan Counties.

By 1858, Russell County had been reduced to an area of 483 square miles or 309,120 acres. The crest of Clinch Mountain is currently the southern border. Sandy Ridge is the northern. Clinch River meanders down near the center of the county from Mill Creek at the Tazewell County line to St. Paul in Wise County. The county seat is in Lebanon.

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One thought on “Moving on a flatcar!

  1. Pingback: Women Trapped on Rail Trestle at Wittens Mill | The Railroader's Daughter

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