Day 219, Year 7: Trip Back in Time
Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Weather: Mixed Sun and Clouds
Location: Best Western Hotel, Covington, Virginia

We travel on land about the same as we travel on the water. We sometimes
end up going where the wind blows us instead of where we intended to go.
That happened to us today. We got on the road at 7 am figuring we were
headed directly to West Virginia for my nephew’s wedding on Friday night.
We were supposed to stop a couple of hours short of our final destination
and stay at a motel we booked back in April. But once we got on the road
and I started searching in my computer for some information on the motel, I
hit a dead end. There was no reference in my email or Word files. Mark
checked Quicken on his phone to see if a charge had been made against our
account. Nothing registered in the past two months of records that could be
accessed without Mark’s computer (which is back in Falmouth). I called
every motel near the highway in the section of West Virginia where we
thought we made the reservation. Still nothing. By this time we realized
we were making good time and would reach that area of West Virginia by 6 pm
(we thought it would be later), so we changed our plans. Instead of hanging
a right and heading across to northern West Virginia, we kept heading south
and drove through the Shenandoah Valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains on our
left and the Appalachian Mountains on our right. Instead of making good
time, we decided to make a trip back in time.

My father grew up in a place called Laurel Branch, West Virginia right on
the Virginia state line. There was nothing in Laurel Branch except my
grandfather’s big farm house which also served as the boarding house and
company store for his sawmill on Potts Creek and a few other family farms.
Family history has it that my father’s mother was part Indian and was from
somewhere across the mountain. My niece, Candi, has never been to Laurel
Branch, so we decided it was time for a dose of Martin family history. We
stopped for dinner around 6 pm which meant we didn’t get to Laurel Branch
until dusk. But we saw enough that we have been enticed to return in the
morning to get good photos. The closest town to Laurel Branch is Paint
Bank, Virginia, settled around the beginning of the 1700’s. Paint Bank,
Virginia was settled around 1700. According to an article I read on the
internet tonight, Cherokee Indians lived here and used the red clay from the
banks of Potts Creek to make pottery and war paint. Later the settlers used
the red clay for making bricks and paint, thus the name Paint Bank. I have
always thought it was the Shawnee coming down from Ohio that might have been
our Indian heritage. Now I wonder if it is Cherokee. I have no idea how to
trace this, but it is something I would like to pursue when I have the time.

I was a bit shocked to see how the area has changed from the sparsely
populated and sleepy farm area it was in the 1950’s when I was a child. Now
most of the land on Potts Creek appears to be owned by two large companies
raising American buffalo. When I checked the internet, there are claims
that Hollow Hill Farm has 4,700 acres here where cattle and bison are
raised. There was also a second buffalo farm and Potts Creek Outfitters
which offer vacation packages to hunters and fishermen. Potts Creek is
stocked with over a quarter-million rainbow trout each year, so there are
plenty of fish.

But the biggest shock was my grandfather’s home. It used to white. Now it
is yellow. It used to have a wide steps leading up to the front door. Now
there are no stairs at all. No one was home but the lights were on and the
side of the house that used to be the company store now has floor to ceiling
glass windows with a modern living room and huge stone fireplace. The big
barn is still standing but a pond has been put in where there used to be a
field. Candi and I are going to drive back in the morning to get good
photos while we leave Mark here to get a little extra rest before we head to
Charleston, West Virginia for the wedding.

When we decided to stay in Covington, Virginia for the night, I asked Mark
to ‘talk’ to his smart phone and have it list the funeral homes in the town
for me. Mark shot right back asking, “What do you have in mind?” Candi
knew why I was asking him to do this, but Mark had not heard the
explanation. His quick reply got more than a few laughs. And then when he
gave me the results, we laughed even harder. There are three funeral homes,
Nicely, Loving, and Arritt. It was the latter I was looking for as it was
once owned by my father’s adopted sister. I thought I might call or go by
the funeral home tomorrow morning to see if it is still in the family. So
the trip back in time will continue tomorrow and we will still be in
Charleston by early afternoon. This has been a fun diversion, so I guess
I’m glad we didn’t find that reservation.

120614 Day 219 West Virginia, USA–Visit to Laurel Branch