SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Frozen Dead On The Husk, No Matches To Be Found

Bob Weaver 2002

When the snow sweeps across the hills around Hur and the temperatures plunge into the teens, I recall a tragic tale which happened in the 1940s.

Leona Sturm, the switchboard operator at Hur, cranked the long and two shorts to tell my mother of a tragedy out "The Husk."

It was a snowy, stormy morning in February, 1947, when she spread the word that twenty-two-year old Eugene Reynolds was bringing the frozen bodies of two people around the ridge to Hur. Eugene, a veteran, was to become a well-known educator in Calhoun and Roane.

He had discovered the man and woman in his grandfather's barn, about two miles from Hur, where he had gone to feed cattle. Leona told my mother that Stump's, the funeral directors, were coming to get them.

Bundled and chilled, my mother took me the half-mile up Hur Hill through the snow drifts, to wait the arrival of the horse-drawn sled on which the frozen bodies had been tied.

Several people had gathered at the People's Cash Store, owned by Will Sturm. Gerald Stump, the County Coroner, and his helper from the funeral home came in the hearse, which was chained to get through the drifts. The counties only State Trooper L. E. Haynes and Sheriff Doy Arnold was with them.

The horses were straining, vapors coming from their nostrils, as they trudged the last few feet up steep Buckhorn Hill to the village, after which Gerald Stump removed the old comforters to reveal the bent and twisted bodies, their lower extremities covered by ice. My mother told me to wait in the warm, but I wandered out to stand beside her, not wanting to miss the excitement.

The faces looked like they had just gone to sleep, as Trooper Haynes and Sheriff Arnold began to inspect the remains. They ruled the couple had frozen during the night in the Godfrey Fritz barn, where they sought refuge from the blizzard.

45-year-old Amos Lamp and his 25-year-old wife, Bethel Carpenter Lamp, had traveled from Charleston to Hur in taxicab. Amos had gotten a job with the Wiant Coal Company, and they had returned to the country that Saturday night to visit her mother, Rosy Belle Carpenter, who lived a good ways out the Husk.

Reynolds saw them get out of the cab with a duffel bag and an umbrella and start down Buckhorn Hill, out the Husk.

Traveling around the primitive ridge through five foot snow drifts, the poorly clad couple chilled down and Mrs. Lamp collapsed from exhaustion, dropping her umbrella. Her husband dragged her to the Fritz barn. Neither had matches to start a fire.

Eugene Reynolds said he often wondered why the couple did not break-in the Fritz house, where they could have found matches, a stove and blankets.

Fritz was a German immigrant who moved to the ridge with his wife Bertha Wallbrown in the late 1800's to be neighbors with the Husks, Coons, Tuttles, Carpenters, Goughs, and others.

Stump's brought the bodies back to Hur for a funeral a few days later, and their caskets taken the final journey out "The Husk" by horse-drawn sled to the Carpenter Cemetery, not far from the original Alford Carpenter log house, tucked down-hill in a narrow hollow off the left fork of Barnes Run.

Thirty-three years later as a Funeral Director in Spencer, I brought Bethel's mother, Rosy Belle Carpenter, to her final resting place on the Husk, the four-wheel drive chained to the hilt to get through axle deep mud.

The Husk is now void of habitats, but traveled on most days by folks like me who enjoy the backwoods of Sunny Cal, to remember the days when at least fifty families graced the primitive landscape. (Our thanks to the late Eugene Reynolds for his contribution to this story-BW)