General Custer Nicholas, and other Ohio dulcimists of 1971

Share tidbits of dulcimer history, or history of the songs we play on them

Postby Kendra Ward » Tue Jun 16, 2009 3:25 pm

Razyn,

Here's what Ann (Nicholas) said after I sent the picture to her:

"So cool! Thanks for the pic!! I'll print one off for Momma' I was 18 yrs old, and standing just on the other side of the camera when this pic was snapped. It is Dad and his Dad."

Banjimer,

I said:
I'll give Martin a call later and find out what the connection is


I did talk to Martin for quite some time this morning and found out lot's of cool stuff!

Martin Hash is a 2nd cousin to Albert. Albert was quite an amazing person! He built teardrop dulcimers but was most famous for making and playing fiddles. Audrey, (Albert's daughter) learned to make the teardrop dulcimers from her father and Martin has two of them.

Martin told me that in 1933-34 they used to have a big music festival there on top of the White Top Mountain where the Hash's lived. One of Martin's cousins who is in her 90's told Martin that Eleanor Roosevelt came to one of the festivals. This cousin saw Eleanor and was within 10 feet of her.

The area where they lived was a major logging area and that's what most of the folks did there. In the 19-teens Martin's grandfather moved into southern WV and started logging there. Then in 1921 he heard that loggers were being paid $2-$3 per day in Ohio rather than the $1 a day he was making so that's why they ended up here. The Hash farm is about a mile from where I live. (I am the 3rd generation to own the farm)

One of the last times Martin visited Audrey, she showed him the original teardrop dulcimer that Albert had used as a pattern to make his dulcimers from. Audrey said it was found in some old home down there in the mountains around where they live.

Martin also has two Bob Mize dulcimers and as a coincidence Bob Mize and Albert Hash ran around together as teens. I guess they did not live too far from each other while growing up and they were always good friends. When Martin was last at the Mize's he said he saw one of Albert's fiddles on the mantle.

Martin said he did not really know about Albert's dulcimers when he was younger and the first dulcimers he saw or knew about was from my Mom and Dad. Then he later learned about Albert's building.

I hope you found this to be interesting and it answered some of your questions about how they ended up in Ohio. I know I found it interesting and learned more than I knew. I am glad you asked about it.

Kendra
User avatar
Kendra Ward
Senior Mbr (101-500 posts)
 
Posts: 372
Joined: Fri Mar 17, 2006 1:11 pm
Location: 265 beautiful acres in the Appalachian foothills!

Postby razyn » Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:00 pm

Kendra Ward wrote:Martin told me that in 1933-34 they used to have a big music festival there on top of the White Top Mountain where the Hash's lived.


I didn't know the Hash family lived there -- "Mouth of Wilson" does not say "top of a mountain," to me. And it's not an area I've actually explored. [I Google-mapped the area; Mouth of Wilson is about 15 miles east of Whitetop Mtn. and about 20 miles west of Galax -- maybe a mile and a half north of New River State Park, in nearby NC.] But "White Top Mountain" rang some old bells, and I found this bibliography about the original festival there:

http://www.loc.gov/folklife/guides/BibWhiteTop.html

Note that several of these entries are by Annabel Morris Buchanan. We corresponded a bit (about folk hymnody); and I had the pleasure of spending a day with her in Paducah, KY in about 1970. I mentioned this when I posted a photo of her friend and contemporary, Mary Wheeler -- also of Paducah. I knew that she had had something to do with that festival; I think it involved her friend John Powell, but I'm not clear on the details (and it was some few years before I was born). Anyway, she was one of the earlier and more serious students of this stuff -- not specifically dulcimers, that I know of -- but the broad spectrum of folksongs of the southern mountains.

Her personal papers went to the Southern Folklife Collection of the U of NC at Chapel Hill. (I believe that her good friend Dan Patterson facilitated that.) Here's a brief description:

http://webcat.lib.unc.edu/record=b2443012~S1

The UNC library also has two theses, by Caroline Lelear and Lyn A. Wolz, on the late Ms. Buchanan.

Dick
User avatar
razyn
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Springfield VA

Postby Dulcimerbuilder » Sat Jun 20, 2009 1:07 am

razyn wrote:Look at what Allen Smith had to say (little enough, but it's very suggestive for other lines of research) about instrument D68, of which I have a twin. That "teardrop" pattern was made in some quantity, and was regularly being taken (and played for public entertainment) up and down the river.


What a coincidence. Allen Smith's brother was in our shop this past week. He lived in southern Ohio at one time but now lives in Washington state. He said he would send me a copy of Allen's book when he returns home.
This discussion is all very interesting and amazing to see how all these folks were tied together by the dulcimer. Friends,
User avatar
Dulcimerbuilder
Dulcified! (>2000 posts)
 
Posts: 2979
Joined: Thu Oct 10, 2002 3:23 pm
Location: Waverly, Ohio

Anne Grimes

Postby Banjimer » Sat Jun 20, 2009 10:12 pm

The mention of Anne Grimes in this thread had me looking for the old issue of "The Wonderful World of Ohio" (January 1966) that had an article about Anne Grimes and her dulcimer collection. The four-page article shows pictures of many of the dulcimers in the Anne Grimes collection (as of 1966). It also states the all 40 dulcimers in her collection were found in Ohio. The shapes run the gamut from boat-shaped, teardrop-shaped, hourglass-shaped, and a few shapes so unique they are hard to describe. There is also at least one scheitholt/zitter in the collection.

Her search for Ohio dulcimers took her to 11 counties in southeast and central Ohio, including Athens, Champaign, Franklin, Gallia, Jackson, Lawrence, Licking, Meigs, Pickaway, Ross, and Vinton.

The author (no credit is given, so I'm not sure who wrote the article)credits Gallia County, Ohio with originating the name "scantlin" for the dulcimer. According to this author lumbermen were using 2 x 4's, known locally as scantlings, to fashion crude dulcimers in the 1870's. If accurate, this would suggest a dulcimer tradition in southeast Ohio at the same time J.E. Thomas and Charles N. Prichard were fashioning some of their earliest dulcimers.

For those interested, Smithsonian-Folkways Recordings will make copies of their recordings for a modest cost (roughly $20.00). Anne Grimes recorded for them using some of the dulcimers in her collection. I ordered a CD-R a couple of years back. Look for Folkways F-5217 "Ohio State Ballads" by Anne Grimes. It includes Anne's versions of:

1. Pleasant Ohio
2. Battle of Point Pleasant
3. Logan's Lament
4. Lass of Loch Royal
5. St. Clair's Defeat
6. Portsmouth Fellows
7. Christ in the Garden
8. The Farmer's Curst Wife
9. Boatman's Dance
10. Girls of Ohio
11. Alphabet Song
12. Darling Nellie Gray
13. The Underground Railroad
14. My Station's Gonna Be Changed
15. O, Ho! The Copperheads
16. The Dying Volunteer
17. Ohio Guards
18. Ohio River Blues
19. Up on the Housetops
20. Old Dan Tucker

When I ordered my copy they even sent me a photocopy of the 16-page booklet that accompanied the original LP. Incidentally, Anne recorded this for Folkways Records in 1957. So even though Anne is placed most accurately as part of the dulcimer revival period, she was part of the foundation upon which that revival took place. Through folklorists and collectors like Anne Grimes the rest of us can get a glimpse of what the pre-revival period might have been like. She did much of the groundwork, at least in Ohio, that enabled L. Allen Smith and Ralph Lee Smith to complete their own documentation of dulcimers, dulcimer makers, and dulcimer players. Ah, if only the instruments could speak! What stories they might be able to tell us.

Enjoy!

Greg
Banjimer
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 624
Joined: Sat May 11, 2002 3:22 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby Robin T » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:37 pm

razyn: One of these days, somebody is going to take the historical geography of this instrument seriously. I frankly don't think the National Road is going to play much of a role -- am willing to stand corrected, if I see any evidence of it -- but the river network surely will. And for you (Robin), of course the Ohio is the big one.

Maybe the major routes were the Ohio and Route 23 (the Scioto)! :)

Robin T
User avatar
Robin T
Dulcified! (>2000 posts)
 
Posts: 3354
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:03 pm
Location: SEOhio

Postby razyn » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:02 pm

Robin T wrote:Maybe the major routes were the Ohio and Route 23 (the Scioto)!


The Ohio and any of its navigable tributaries, including the Cumberland and Tennessee (and several other major river systems, especially on the south or left bank) make up a very important, and very large, folk culture area (in a really, really broad sense). There are lots of other things that have been mapped fairly seriously, but I don't know that dulcimers of either sort have been. Though I also don't know that they haven't...

My contact with that discipline, such as it is, is pretty outdated. But if you start with the works of Wilbur Zelinski, Fred Kniffen, Milton Newton, Henry Glassie, and Terry Jordan -- say, mid 1960s through the 1970s, at least -- maps from those works, that on the surface have to do with other artifacts or mentifacts of the same culture (Upland South), could easily be adapted to map the diffusion, and probably also the typology, of the MD.

And they'd mostly follow big watersheds (like that of the Ohio), and other long valleys (like the Shenandoah plus its extensions at either end -- say the Conococheague/Susquehannah to the north, Craig's Creek and the Holston/Tennessee to the south). They'd certainly include ancient Native American trade routes and "warpaths" or traces -- many of which followed ridges rather than valleys, but were still dictated by natural landforms. But the more unnatural routes, like the National Road and the Natchez Trace, I think would need a lot of documentation to show much of an influence on culture. I'm not saying they didn't have some, and it may have been considerable, but it's a good bit less obvious.

I've tried in a very desultory way (because I haven't lived in the Ohio Valley since 1973) to interest somebody like the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen in working on the interrelationships of traditional music and the river, some more. I don't think a heck of a lot has been done since Mary Wheeler took a stab at it. (And her work was mostly about saving and sharing some good songs. It made no real effort to be cultural geography.) There was a pretty good guy on staff at the Campus Martius Museum, but I forget his name at the moment. Nikos Pappas could probably do a bangup job on this topic, but he'll be writing his dissertation until he's ninety. Any of you Ohioans have contacts down thataway?

Dick
User avatar
razyn
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Springfield VA

Frank Miller

Postby razyn » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:37 am

Seems to me Frank Miller could fit into this thread, though he has his own going, on the Jam Session forum (thanks to a recent estate find). Kendra has just posted his picture over there. Easier for me to move it than cite it.

Dick

Kendra Ward wrote:Hi all,

I was just going through some of my old photos of the Roscoe Village Dulcimers Days and I found this picture of Frank Miller. It was taken sometime in the mid-70's at the festival.

He was a wonderful well-respected dulcimer builder.

Enjoy-

Kendra

Image
User avatar
razyn
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Springfield VA

Postby Robin T » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:33 pm

I love Nikos Pappas's fiddling! Last I knew, he'd left our fair state for the Bluegrass State.

Mapping spread of material culture in OH as it relates to dulcimer might be fun and endless! The Ohio and the navigable waterways that empty into it from OH (Muskingum & Scioto Rivers, most notably) would then lead to National Road, Zane's Trace, etc., the canals. . . Still sounds like fun. My husband does retire next year and we're looking to camp/explore OH more then. 8)

In Greg's posting of the Anne Grimes profile in TWWofOH, Champaign county was the only locale that looked a bit out of place. Dots can be connected, so to speak, with the other counties and Champaign borders none of the others on the list. Champaign is, though, not far off the National Road. (I can conveniently make up connections where there may be none. :))

Robin T
Last edited by Robin T on Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Robin T
Dulcified! (>2000 posts)
 
Posts: 3354
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:03 pm
Location: SEOhio

Postby Paul Gifford » Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:01 pm

The late H. E. Matheny, of Uniontown, Ohio, had a lot of traditional knowledge about dulcimers he had picked up over the years. I remember him talking about Gallia County and scantlins.

Dick made an interesting suggestion relating boatmen to the diffusion of music. I think he is onto something. I've been collecting information from all over on fiddling, and have noticed the spread of certain tunes (before 1920 and recordings, before anything was published) from areas in southern Indiana and Illinois, southern Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi. This goes against the usual migration patterns, but supports the spread of certain tunes by the boatmen who were widely known as fiddlers, and who went up the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. These include such tunes as "Natchez under the Hill," "EIghth of January," "Sugar in My Coffee, " and more. I'd have to dig up my lists I've compiled from reports of fiddlers contests from about 1899 to 1930 in these areas to come up with other names.

From my notes, I wrote (probably from a newspaper account) that General Custer Nicholas played "WHen Irish Eyes Are Smiling" on the dulcimer he made at the Smithsonian Festival in 1971.

Herbert L. Driggs, 67, president and manager of the Zanesville Coca-Cola plant, played a handmade, three-string dulcimer (made 40 years before), "patterned after the ancient Grecian lyre used by David in Bible stories." It was the only remaining one of many different instruments Driggs had at one time (Zanesville [OH] Signal, Nov. 3, 1940)

Mrs. Harry Forsythe was to play at the 125th anniversary of the founding of Alexandria, Ohio. She played a dulcimer, but there is no further description (Newark [OH[ Advocate, Sept. 3, 1955)

Not Ohio, but here is a 1948 description of an 80-year-old, Mrs. Mary Peyton, of Lewisville, Indiana. It says her dulcimer is a 6-stringed instrument, with all strings the same note "or as near as I can get them." It was played with goose quills. She was originally from 30 miles south of Lexington, KY, and the dulcimer was made in Kentucky by a man named Dick Orr. She had only seen one other like it, and it had belonged to her mother. Mrs. Peyton had played it since a teenager, playing such tunes as "When I Grow Too Old to Dream," "Bring in the Sheep," "Till We Meet Again," and others. (National Road Traveler, July 1, 1948).

Paul Gifford[/quote]
Paul Gifford
Senior Mbr (101-500 posts)
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat Feb 10, 2007 8:00 pm
Location: Flint, Michigan

Postby razyn » Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:12 am

Paul Gifford wrote:...supports the spread of certain tunes by the boatmen who were widely known as fiddlers, and who went up the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.


There's the famous (and really big) 1846 Bingham painting of the Jolly Flatboatmen -- the most prominent one of whom is a fiddler. I saw it one time, in St. Louis. And it's been published many times, in books and (I think) as a lithograph. There may be more than one original, too -- seems to me, Bingham copied some of his own paintings.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2536601134.html

Keelboatmen were likewise known for fiddling around; they'd be most prominent from the 1790s to the 1820s. By 1847, steamboats had long been working these rivers, and carrying a lot more people. Remarkably, some of these people actually played dulcimers onboard, for a living -- as reported to Allen Smith by his Ohio informant (on instrument D68). So we're just getting the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, even in Bingham's relatively early (and already nostalgic) art.

Paul Gifford wrote:Mrs. Peyton had played it since a teenager, playing such tunes as "When I Grow Too Old to Dream," "Bring in the Sheep,"


I wonder if that was actually "Bringing in the Sheaves." That was, and remains, a popular hymn, that has nonetheless been sometimes cited as one of the worst ever penned... in that it develops the metaphor of the harvest, Time of Reaping, etc. in several verses, without remembering ever to mention any religious concept whatever (except in the metaphor -- which is, to be sure, developed with extreme thoroughness). Of course, "Bring in the Sheep" might be a different song (or, I regret to say, a different hymn) altogether.

Dick
User avatar
razyn
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Springfield VA

Re: General Custer Nicholas, and other Ohio dulcimists of 19

Postby razyn » Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:51 pm

Looking through some oldish scrapbooks, I just ran across another photo I took in late 1970 or early 1971 when I visited the Nicholas family in Ohio. The original photo looks sharp enough, but it's only about 2x3 inches including a certain amount of sky above the house. I copied it digitally, and these images result from zooming and cropping -- after which, the uploading process for this forum makes me go to lower resolution.

The man on the left is General Custer Nicholas, and the other two are his sons. It was a nice moment to capture, anyhow. I took another one indoors, low light and no flash so it's none too sharp, but it shows the large, framed chromolithograph that was over the hearth: "Custer's Last Stand."

P1014501.jpeg

P1014503.jpeg
User avatar
razyn
Super Mbr (501-2000 posts)
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: Springfield VA

Previous

Return to History of Dulcimers and Songs

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests