Whitesburg KY

Family history revealed

I found out some information about my family recently.

My grandfather, Daniel Short, had an illegitimate child named Mary Melvina (Polly) Short, born March 7, 1866 in Cumberland River.

She lived with her mother until one day when Daniel came riding by on his horse and saw his daughter playing in the yard. Without stopping, he leaned over, swooped up his daughter, sat her on the horse in front of him, and rode off with her. He raised her until womanhood.

Twenty years later she married Jefferson Hollyfield, who just happens to be my late wife Estelle’s grandfather. The one son they had was Daniel Bartley Hollyfield, born March 22, 1985. He married my cousin, Mable Vanover.

Daniel Bartley grew up to be a backwoods schoolteacher. He taught school for many years on Bold Camp in Virginia, and other surrounding schools in Wise County.

After retiring he wrote a book about his childhood and growing up in the mountains. The book, “School Days of a Backwoodsman”, was sold out of publication and cannot be found in bookstores today. This book is kept on display under glass at the regional library, and is not for checking out.

Mary Polly was my mom’s oldest sister, and while I was on leave in Jenkins before getting to my new assignment in Germany, Mom took me to Bold Camp for my first visit to Daniel Bartley in October 1968.

He signed a copy of his book that I still have today. I’ve passed it around to my kids to read, and then it was lost for many years. My daughter, Donna Kay, was moving to another state and found the book and returned it to me.

Mary Polly died Aug. 23, 1893, being not quite 30 years old, while working in the fields on a terribly hot day. Whether she died of a heart attack or sunstroke, no one will ever know. Sadly, a short time after her death, her infant baby, Barbara Ellen, also died.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.

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