This interview was done in March 1998, it ran in the Richlands High School Paper-TORNADO TIMES. The interview was with my brother Richard VANCE.
The VANCE'S have been in Tazewell County since the late 1700's. Richard VANCE has extensively researched his family history. Through his research, he says that he has seen how his family has been tied in with many of the events throughout history.
Abner VANCE settled in Tazewell County in the 1780's. He had seen this area in his travels as a longhunter "A longhunter is someone who spends long periods of time hunting, trapping, and exploring the wilderness." saya VANCE.
Abner liked the area. As a reward for his service in the Revolutionary War, he was granted a tract of land in this area. According to VANCE, Abner was a Baptist Preacher and he hunted and farmed to make a living.
Abner married Susannah HOWARD, and the couple had children. Most of the children left the area, but some chose to stay. VANCE feels that his family stayed in the area for a simple reason. "The ones that remained liked the total package of the area - the enviroment, the type of people, and the overall philosophies of the area."
Abner was involved in a family feud which led to murders and trials recieving statewide attention. "My family, over the years, has seemed to either attract or be drawn into very controversial issues and events," VANCE laughed.
Abner's grandson, "Bad Jim" VANCE, was a prominent figure in the HATFIELD and MCCOY feud that took place in other area counties. "Abner's great grandson, Anderson 'Devil Anse' HATFIELD was the leader of the HATFIELD clan during the feud," VANCE pointed out. The Federal government eventually had to step in to resolve the conflict.
VANCE'S great grandfather (Abner's great grandson) was William VANCE. He married Maggie HELTON. They farmed and had an apple orchard on Glen Burke Mountain in Tazewell County. They grew what at one time was a well known apple called the "VANCE Apple."
William also worked as a mail carrier from Richlands to Whitewood and Grundy. Two of his brothers were arrested after a shootout at William's house in which a man was killed. This argument was "characteristic of the roughness of the time," VANCE commented.
William, aided by family and friends, broke his brothers out of jail. He then hid them under the mail sacks in his mail wagon. As he took the mail to Grundy, his brothers were able to escape into West Virginia. They made their way into the western part of the U.S.
William's son Fields Joshua VANCE, was a farmer and a coal miner. He worked various coal mines in the area. "Even though he lived in Tazewell County, he had to travel to many other places to make a living." VANCE explained. At one point, he worked in Logan County West Virginia. He roomed there during the week and traveled home on the weekends.
During the time Josh was in Logan County, the United Mine Workers of America was in it's beginning stages. VANCE mentioned that he was "involved in establishing this labor movement and remaining a lifelong supporter of the Union."
VANCE had some more thoughts about Josh. Over the years, people have told me that throughout his life, he was very generous," The Great Depression affected Tazewell County greatly. He had more than most people of the time, and went out of his way to help people. He had food delivered to people's houses and helped others survive the "hardships of the Depression."
"My father, Harley VANCE, married Dorothy WHITE. They lived in Tazewell County, primarily in Richlands and Red Ash," VANCE continued. In his life, he worked in the coal mines and in the shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia. He served as an Army Corporal in WWII, and saw action in the Phillippines and was with the first occupation force to land in Japan. He also drove a taxicab in Richlands for many years.
VANCE offered this memory: Dad was working at the Bartley Coal Mine in West Virginia and returning home on the weekends. He believed in premonitions and feelings. One day he had a strange feeling not to go to work. He quit and tried to get some of his cousins to quit and come home. They wouldn't. So he returned home alone. When he got home, the first news he heard was that the biggest explosion in coal-field history had occurred. The site was the Bartley Coal Mine. Over 100 people had been killed, including some friends and family. "This was one of the most infamous events in coal mine history."
"My mother was one of the first people to be treated with penicillin," VANCE commented. It was an experimental drug at the time, and she was given such a large dose that later she was allergic to it. "My sister was working for the White House during KENNEDY'S and NIXON'S presidencies. When Martin Luther KING Jr. died, she was working in the area where the resulting riots occurred. I was in D.C. visiting, and I saw the smoke and flames from a distance."
VANCE'S brother fought in the Vietnam War. His other sister worked as a purchasing agent for the Federal Government during the Gulf War.
VANCE concluded, "My study of genealogy has shown me how much my family has been involved in the events of the country throughout history.
"To me, I think that what each of my relatives did in their lifetime was important to them, to the country, to the development of the country, and to what I am. I think it's important that everyone should learn about their family history to see just how important all families are."