This is a story about an oil lamp that I have. I got the lamp from my Father, he got it from his Father, His Father got it from his Father. Anyway, the lamp at one time belonged to Louisa Margaret (HELTON) VANCE, b. 1864, w/o William H. VANCE b. 1855. The lamp was (I have been told) gave to William & Louisa (HELTON) VANCE by Mary "Millie" (VANCE) BROWN, d/o Abner & Susannah (HOWARD) VANCE. I don't know if the lamp actually belonged to Mary "Millie" (VANCE) BROWN or not, but that is the story I was told by my Father. I am however positive that it did belong to William & Louisa (HELTON) VANCE, because my Father remembered seeing the lamp in her house when he was a child. So on to the story.
This story took place in the Spring of 1880. At that period in time the mountains of Southwest Virginia were wild and untamed. There were many kinds of wild animals roaming the forest covering the Valleys and Hills of this beautiful unspoiled region of the country. Animals such as Panther, Wildcat, bobcat, Bear, among others.
William & Louisa had just got married, and were building a home at the head of Hill Creek on Glen Burke Mountain, in Tazewell Co. Virginia. The house was located just a short distance from where the Vance Family Cemetery is now located on Glen Burke Mountain. They owned a very few domesticated animals, a cow, a horse, a mule and a few chickens and a dog. The nearest neighbor was about a days ride away by horse, and took even longer if walking it. There were no roads leading to the house, just a horse path.
After working on the house for several days, William had to leave for some reason, but I do not know why. The story goes that he was gone for 3 days. The house had only three sides and no roof when William had to leave. Louisa spent the three days and nights at the house all alone. During the day she would work on the house and clear land for gardening, at night she would gather all of the animals into the three sided house and build a large fire in the fireplace to help keep the wild animals away from the domesticated animals. When the Panther's or other big cats would try to venture too close to the open side of the house, she would take the oil lamp and turn it up as far as it would go, and walk to the opening with her shotgun in hand, and shoot at the wild animals to chase them away. That oil lamp is the one I now have.
It always amazes me what our ancestors faced, and conquered to make a place for themselves and their families in the wild wilderness that covered this land. Louisa Margaret (HELTON) VANCE was not unlike any other woman of that day, they did what was required to survive, and flourish. They were determined, honest and hard working people, and I for one am grateful for the hardship they faced to make this a better place to live.
My brother has pictures of William & Louisa, and I remember the first time I saw them. My first thought was "She was a homely woman" but, I have learned to see her beauty, and I know why My Great Grandfather decided to make her my Great grandmother, for she was a lovely woman, not only in looks, but also in character, she was a doer, and a survivor. I remember my Father speaking fondly of his Grand Mother, he said she always treated him special, and I am sure he did the same for her.
The chimney of the lamp has been replaced several time, and the flame adjuster has been replaced also, but the main base of the lamp is the original. I still use it from time to time. When the electric goes off, it is the first one I light, for it throws the most light. From time to time, my wife and I turn out the lights, and light the oil lamp, it always gives us a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. When we do this I always think about Louisa chasing away the wild animals. So thank you William & Louisa, tho you never knew me, I am forever grateful for all you done for me. Tim
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