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Virginia Folk Lore


(EDITOR'S NOTE: The purpose of this section will be to collect and preserve light incidents in Virginia history. Communal tales, traditions, history of old buildings, and ballads are sought for preservation in the LITERARY MAGAZINE.)


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Fus' He made earth,
Den He made de sky,
Den He hung it up above,
An' lef' it dar to dry.
Den he made de stars

Out er nigger gals' eyes
Fer to make a leetle light
When de moon don' rise.


Adam was de fus man,
Eve was de tother;

Dey put Cain in de tredin' mill,

Because he killed his brudder;
Sampson was de strongest man,

He wont no 'count un lazy,
'Case he took an ass's jaw-bone
An' slew de Gates of Gazy!


Noah was a sassage maker,
"Theuslah built de Ark;
Julicum Cæsar was a fisherman,

An' swallowed down a shark.
De greatest mountain on dis earth
Is Pompey's Famous Pillar,
And de greatest man dat eber libbed
Is Jack de Giant Killer.


*Miss Katherine K. Scott, of Gordonsville, Virginia, who so kindly sent us this ballad, writes: "The song my Grandfather Hobson, and after his death, my Grandmother, sang to the babies. They originally came from Cumberland County. We don't even know a name for the song, much less where it came from. The tune is a good old 'nigger' banjo one. So you can name it if you so desire."

Accordingly the Editor has suggested the title, "The Song of Crea



HE illustrious names of which Orange County, Virginia, can boast in the early years of the eighteenth century are James Madison, President of the United States, James Barbour, Governor of the State of Virginia, and Philip Pendleton Barbour, Judge of the Supreme Court.

To this list must be added that of James Waddell, a blind Presbyterian minister, whose wonderful oratory swayed his congregation as a reed in the wind.

Very little is known of his early life. His name, we know from the old folk, was pronounced Wad'dell, with a strong accent on the first syllable. Even the place of his birth is disputed, some saying he was born on the ocean when his parents came from Ireland; some that he was born in the north of Ireland, and some that he was born in Lancaster County, Virginia. His grandson, Dr. James W. Alexander, of Princeton College, is his biographer. He says that the family came from Ireland to Pennsylvania, where he was educated by his pious mother, thence to Dr. Finley's Academy, at Nottingham, Pennsylvania, where he studied the classics and logic.

After teaching a while, he traveled south to Hanover County, Virginia, where he met Colonel Henry, Patrick Henry's father, and the celebrated divine, Samuel Davies. It was this meeting which gave young Waddell the inspiration for his life's work.

He was licensed to preach on April 2, 1761, by the old Presbytery of Hanover. During his long and active life he served in the following churches: Lancaster Courthouse; Northumberland meeting-house; the Forest meeting-house; Tinkling Springs in Augusta County, and in Staunton. Finally he preached at the D. S. Church near Charlottesville, at a log house near Clarksville, the Brick Church at Orange Courthouse, and at the church erected by himself near Gordonsville on the Orange road.

This is the church made famous by William Wirt, a Marylander, who, in 1803, traveling through Virginia incognito, described it in his British Spy.

It was a plain wooden structure built of rough hewn timbers, humble, unpainted, and in the depths of the forest.

This old building was torn down, at the beginning of the prohibition movement (1850-56) and the timbers used to build a temperance hall in Gordonsville. This, in turn, was razed that a new street might be cut. A negro preacher bought the lumber, and it was built into a church near Mechanicsville. Several years ago this church was destroyed by fire.

Thus it is, we Virginians are carelessly, thoughtlessly, and unpatriotically allowing our old historic landmarks to disappear. We are not even teaching our children the glorious history of the Old Dominion, nor the part she played in the making of our country.

James Waddell's last home is on the Charlottesville road, situated in the corner of Louisa County where it adjoins Albemarle and Orange. The house, still in a good state of preservation, belongs to the Baker family. It is an old, dormer-windowed building, of those days when space was unlimited, standing on a high hill, surrounded by old trees, and the view of the Southwest Range of the Blue Ridge Mountains is excellent.

Here at Hopewell, Dr. Waddell trained young men for the ministry, of whom Dr. Archibald Alexander is the best known. Dr. Alexander married one of the Blind Preacher's daughters, and it is to their son, Dr. James W. Alexander, a professor in Princeton University-then called a college-and to William Wirt that we are indebted for the little we know of Dr. Waddell.

Dr. Waddell also taught Meriwether Lewis and Governor James Barbour. He lived here at Hopewell for twenty years and at his request was buried in the garden there. Several years ago

his remains were removed to Rapidan, Virginia, and reinterred under the chancel of the Presbyterian Church.

As a young man he is described as tall, erect, fair of skin, blue of eye, of great dignity and manners, graceful, and elegant.

Alexander says, "His eloquence has become a matter of tradition in Virginia. It electrified whole assemblies, transfused to them the speaker's passion, at his will. . . . Under his preaching audiences were irrisistibly and simultaneously moved like the wind-swept forest."

"Patrick Henry used to say that Waddell and Davies were the greatest orators he ever heard."

A venerable clergyman said: "When other men preach, one looks around to see who is affected; when Dr. Waddell preached those NOT affected were the exception."

Governor Barbour declared that Dr. Waddell surpassed all orators that he knew.

In one of the Literary Messengers antedating 1845, there is a description of how the Blind Preacher, after eight years of cataract, had his sight restored by an operation and the use of glasses.

As all signs of the old church and of the holy man of God have disappeared, the West Hanover Presbytery in 1913 passed a resolution to construct a monument to their memory.

Funds were secured through the efforts of Captain Philip P. Barbour, Rev. Hugh H. Hudson, both of whom are now dead, and Mr. W. W. Scott, law librarian of the State of Virginia.

On July 28, 1914, the monument was dedicated by Rev. Dr. Frazier, of Staunton, Virginia.

It stands near the Orange road and bears this inscription, written by Mr. W. W. Scott:

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