WVPIONEERS-L ArchivesArchiver > WVPIONEERS > 2000-03 > 0952414294
From: "HAMRICK,DANIEL" <>
Subject: [WVPioneers] Viola, Portia and Rimfire
Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2000 02:31:34 -0500
Thanks for this posting; it is very interesting to me.
Viola Hamrick is the least mentioned of the three Hamrick sisters who
never married and carved out successful careers before returning to the
original Hamrick homestead for their retirement.
She is my favorite among these legendary women.
She was quite beautiful in her youth; I have a wonderful picture of her
with a class in the early 1900s. She has a posey at her waist. I'll send a
copy if you ask me by private email. I also have a photograph of her
beautiful mother, Margaret Ellen, who was my grandfather's half sister.
Viola was intelligent, a teacher of Latin, and she exuded warmth.
There was something about her that invited an arm over her shoulder.
For those who do not know this family, the other two sisters were Mayme
Hamrick, who became a top attorney in the U.S. Justice Department, and
Portia Hamrick, who was principal of a school in Huntington, WV. They were
the daughters of Adam Dolliver Hamrick and Margaret Ellen Hamrick (also her
My son, Mark, and I visited Portia and Viola in 1978. Mayme had died
earlier, and I never met her.
Mark and I went down a long, steep slope to the Elk River. There was a
swinging bridge. We walked, unsteadily and wobbly, onto the bridge, clinging
to the cable on the sides as it swayed. Then we noticed tire tracks on the
bridge. We couldn't believe it.
As we climbed back up the hill to their home, we noticed tire tracks
going straight up the hill.
When we got to the house, I said to Viola, "Don't tell me you take that
Jeep (they had two) down that hill and across that bridge."
She turned to Portia and said, "What does he think those Jeeps are for?"
Viola, then 86, told Mark and I that she was going to take us to the
Benjamin Hamrick Cemetery on their farm. I asked where it was and she
pointed around a mountain that was steeper than the hill.
I started thinking about news reports of rollovers and about a one-mile
trip in the Jeep around that mountain.
"You aren't going to take the Jeep, are you?" I asked. "No, she said
it's too rough for the Jeep."
We started out walking. She led us.
Now and then she would catch a vine in her leather boots. She would give
the vines swift kicks to get rid of them.
She turned around to me and said, "How are you doing?"
"Well, I'm doing OK," I said as I caught my breath. "But I'm nearly 50
years younger than you."
Viola commented: "I just figured you weren't used to it."
Their way with animals truly was extraordinary. When they walked out of
the yard, the chickens, sheep and dogs followed them, like children on their
way to the ice cream store. The animals would crowd around them as if
wanting to touch them.
The Bibles referred to in the newspaper article have been missing since
Another sad note: The family's graves go unattended by most people
despite the fact that Portia left $50,000 to the West Virginia Methodist
Church to keep up the Hamrick Barn and the cemetery (called locally the
"Samp Hamrick Cemetery"). The road to the cemetery, the only destination of
the road, is impassable except to death-defying drivers, and the church has
refused to spend the money to fix it.
Rather than restoring the barn, the church tore it down, captured the
better logs from it and re-built it as a one-story barn, a Methodist
The problem is that it no longer is 100 percent authentic. The literature
describes services in the loft. This barn has no loft.
Every Memorial Day I think of Portia's love of family and the sisters'
great role in preserving family history and lament that a church took her
money and has not kept faith with her will. Since I am giving away images
today, I can provide a copy of her grant to the church.
The only reason that I understand anything about the inter-related mazes
of our families in Webster County is because I have a computer program that
tells me what it thinks. My computer claims that Rimfire Hamrick and Viola
and Portia were second cousins, once removed.
According to the computer, their great grandfather, David Hamrick, was a
brother of William Hamrick, Rimfire's grandfather.
More seriously, the primary source for the David Hamrick family was Anna
Dodrill of Monterville, WV. Anna Dodrill and Patsy Hamrick-Weikart, also a
member of this list, were sources for the Benjamin (Kelly Ben) family.
There also is a photo available of this entire family.
On another subject, I can report with great pleasure that the cemetery
atop Morton's Hill in Webster Springs one of many called The Hamrick
Cemetery has been aggressively maintained in recent years.
Nancy Hamrick Grimm, a member of this list, and members of her family
have kept it cleaned, have gotten the Highway Department to widen the road,
have installed steps and a sign. In addition, the Pioneer Family History
Preservation Society Inc. has cleaned the cemetery a few times, as did a
city crew from Webster Springs. Nancy, her sister Linda and her brothers
Paul, George and Gene are mainly responsible for getting the cemetery
This land,too, was given to the Methodist Church by Kelly Ben Hamrick
with the stipulation that the church maintain it.
402 23rd Street NW
Canton OH 44709
Phone and fax: 330-454-2376
>From: "D & P Ross" <>
>Subject: [WVPioneers] Hamrick article from April 6, 1979 Charleston Gazette
>Date: Mon, Mar 6, 2000, 12:26 AM
>Below is the text of an April 6, 1979 article from the Charleston Gazette that I
>am posting to the Hamrick-L and I thought that perhaps readers here would enjoy
>it also. Accompanying the article was a picture of Viola Hamrick (with a cow
>not named) on her Webster County farm and a picture of the tombstone of
>"Rimfire" Hamrick's grave at Webster Springs. The tombstone reads:
>ELI "RIMFIRE" HAMRICK
>BORN MARCH 28, 1868
>DIED APRIL 1, 1945
>WEST VIRGINIA'S TYPICAL MOUNTAINEER
>Sisters Recall State's "Typical Mountaineer"
>Capitol Statue modeled After "Rimfire" Hamrick
>By Skip Johnson, Staff Writer
>Webster Springs -- Viola and Portia Hamrick who live on a farm on upper Elk
>River near Bergoo, remember Eli "Rimfire" Hamrick, Webster County's and West
>Virginia's quintessential mountaineer.
>Rimfire Hamrick, along with his brother Ellis, posed for a the statue of the
>typical mountaineer that stands on the northeast corner of the state Capitol
>"Rimfire was a hunter and fisherman and all of that," said Viola. "He was a
>fellow who moved from one place to another."
>Portia attended high school in Webster Springs when Rimfire was living there.
>"He cut quite a figure," she said. "He was just a typical mountaineer, a
>typical West Virginia bird."
>When the 300-room Webster Springs Hotel was in its glory, Rimfire often called
>the figures for the Saturday night square dances, Portia pointed out. "One
>night he was pretty full (meaning he'd had a few drinks too many) and took his
>mule right onto the dance floor."
>Rimfire was a jeweler, house painter, game warden, fire warden, hunter and
>fisherman, and not necessarily in that order. A few years ago at a sale, Portia
>bought a wall clock made by Rimfire. It is inscribed: "Eli Hamrick, Jeweler."
>The sisters assume they are related to Rimfire. "All the Hamricks are related
>one way or another," Viola said. "I think he was a third cousin."
>Rimfire is buried in a cemetery above Webster Springs at the end of a rough dirt
>road. An inscription on his tombstone says" West Virginia's typical
>mountaineer." Viola lamented that the cemetery, which also contains the graves
>of other early settlers, is not kept up. "If anybody went there, it would a
>disappointment to them," she said.
>Viola, 87, and her sister Portia, 80, are both retired schoolteachers with
>master's degrees. They tend approximately 100 head of cattle and sheep on a
>their 150-acre farm between Webster Springs and Bergoo.
>Most days in late afternoon, Viola starts up her Jeep and heads out to do the
>feeding, bouncing along the broad river bottom pastureland. With the help of
>neighbors, they have taken care of the cattle and sheep since their brother died
>several years ago.
>"We occasionally think we'll sell them, " Portia said, "but then we always
>decide to keep them another year."
>Viola broke her hip two years ago while hunting for a cow that had wandered off
>to have a calf, but she was on her feet and walking again in a few weeks.
>The sisters' love of animals is legendary. They have names for most their
>cattle and sheep, for example. During severe winter weather, they've been known
>to care for as many as 30 lambs in their basement.
>Part of local folklore is the time a man was helping them on the farm and began
>to curse a cow that refuse to cross a stream. "We don't curse our animals," one
>of the sisters told him. "Well, he replied, "then you get the SOB across."
>The sisters are descendants of early Webster County settlers. Their
>great-great-grandfather is said to be the only Revolutionary War soldier buried
>in the county.
>Among their possessions are 1837 and 1854 Bibles that belonged to their
>Grandfather and great-grandfather. The later Bible, according to family legend,
>was buried in the leaves under a cliff during the Civil War by their
>grandfather, who took refuge there when Confederate soldiers passed through.
>The first church service in Webster County was held in 1833 in a barn on the
>sisters' farm. The barn is still there and called "the church barn" by local
>A rock ledge on their farm overlooking the Elk River is called Indian Pass Rock.
>According to legend, Indians perched on the rock and let arrows fly at white men
>passing up and down the river.
>The sisters and Rucker Dodrill of Webster Springs are the only persons still
>living who attended the first Hamrick reunion on Point Mountain in 1926.
>Assistant State Agriculture Commissioner Bill Gillespie, A Webster County native
>and current reunion president, said the sisters haven't missed a reunion in 52
>The reunion has been expanded over the years and now includes other Webster
>County clans such the Gregorys, Rigglemans, Dodrills, Chapmans, Millers and
>The sisters attended Marshall University, and went on to get Master's
>degrees -- Viola at West Virginia University and Portia at the University of
>Cincinnati. They taught 40 and 42 years, respectively, mostly in Cabell County.
>Another sister, Mayme, was a lawyer for the U.S. Treasury Department in
>Washington for many years.
>END OF ARTICLE
>I hope some of you found this article of interest. Rimfire was second cousin to
>my Grandfather, Emery Milton Jeffreys 1874 - 1931.
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