Cherry Tree – The Early Years and Beyond
By Eddie Atkins 3/12/2003
My Dad, Edward L. Atkins, Sr, was one of the first land owners in Cherry Tree when in about the year 1905 he, along with a land developer from Wise County Virginia named W P Henritze came to Logan by way of the N&W railway to Dingess, WV, then by horses to Aracoma. This was shortly before the name of Aracoma was changed to Logan. Mr. Henritze bought the sandy corn field known as Ellis Bottom from the owner—a Mr. Ellis (ancestor of Logan attorney Glen Dial Ellis) who had a homestead at the location that was than know as Ellis Addition (Deskins Addition or Black Bottom). Mr. Henritze had this tract of land surveyed, lots and street laid out and had it registered at the county court house as Henritze Addition to the town Of Logan, which is the way all property is listed in land deeds for this area. My dad bought 10 of the lots ($50.00 each). He then returned to Virginia but came back in 1910 to start building houses with the intention of renting them to the men that had just started the opening of the Harry S. Gay Coal company mines at Mt Gay. I am presently living in a building constructed on two of these lots.
The name “Cherry Tree Bottom” was the common name given to the upper section of Henritze Addition. When it was being developed a man named White had a farm on the south side of island creek at the location now called “White’s Addition”, and he had an orchid of apple, peach and cherry trees at the upper end of the bottom. When Mr. Henritze had the primary street laid off on the map– this street running from the western end of the bottom to the cherry tree section of the orchid was named Cherry Street. An early local name for the extreme lower section of the bottom was “Lower Ram Cat”— the back street running beside the creek from the junk yard of “Uncle Harve Parmer” to the foot bridge crossing the creek to Fisher Bottom was called “Ram Cat Alley.” A foot path along the creek bank on the Fisher Bottom side ended at a colorful establishment with the name “Linger A While”. Fisher Bottom was part of the original land areas bought by Mr. Henritze. Several early property owners of Henritze Addition joined with a company named Logan Light & Power and Cherry Tree had street lights as well as sidewalks before 1930
In the early years an Italian merchant named S.” Joe” Scaramizzino” (Namesake of S Joe Alley) operated a large general store in Mt Gay. He raised goats & sheep on the hill side to feed the many coal miners — many favored sheep over beef or pork this section named Monitor Junction was also called “Billy Goat Junction or Mud Junction. Before 1940 the primary employers were Gay Coal Co, Monitor Coal Co, and Island Creek Coal Co. as well as several smaller coal mines that had opened on all forks of Island Creek. In the years before WW11, there were several grocery stores in Cherry Tree: John Tarkany Grocer, Ventry Grocery, Alex Nagy Grocery, Joe & Jimmy Cherico Grocery (later Victory Grocery), Tony Dress Grocery, Browning Grocery, Veto Esposito Grocery and DeHaven‘s Store. Several small stores went out of business during the great depression that started about 1932 and lasted until 1940. Several larger businesses were operating in Cherry Tree before the start of WW11 such as The Logan Battery Shop, a battery repair shop that was operated by the McCormick brothers (Okey McCormick later opened McCormick’s Store in Logan). Tom Robinson operated a large machine &repair shop. Ed Kohotek operated a shoe repair shop in the large block building (Handy Andy) that was later a used furniture store. Leonard Scites operated Scites Mattress Repair Shop in the building that was the first store opened by Alex Nagy Sr. before he moved to the Gore building about 1936. Steve Rats Sr. operated an auto paint & body repair shop for several years before he moved to Monitor. The Dee Dee Donut shop opened by Roland Belladonna Sr. was located in this building. Tennis. K. Killen opened National Cable Inc. and used this building as a storage room for mine cable. The building has been torn down and now the empty lot is used as a parking area for the Appalachian Powder Coat Company owned by Harry Slater. John Bush Sr. & John Bush Jr. operated an Esso service station at the upper end of Cherry Tree. When the elder Bush died a relative, (Little Johnny “gizmo”Bush), came from Cleveland to help run the station until he went into the army.
Bob Piros recalls his mother, Helen Piros, talking about Joe Tira who had a store in lower Cherry Tree next to the first bridge. The Tira family were Hungarians and they lived in an apartment above their store. Much like another Cherry Tree resident, John Tarkany, Joe started out as a coal miner and then became a store owner. Public records show that Joseph Tira was born in 1898 in Alsovadasz, Hungary, a village in northern Hungary known for its richness of brown coal, the lowest rank of coal. He arrived in the US through Ellis Island in 1914.
Joe Tira married Veronica Koshausky from Pennsylvania in 1919. Their children were Joseph, Veronica and twins Andy and Elizabeth. Joe probably opened his store around the year of 1924. Veronica married Joseph Dudas in 1939 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holden, WV. About 1940 the Tira and Dudas families moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Joe Tira died in Cleveland in 1969.
Eddie Atkins relates his memories of the Tira family from his days of delivering the Charleston Gazette. During that time the paper boy was the local news carrier from family to family. On Saturdays when we collected for the paper, we would visit with our customers and pass on the news from one end of cherry tree to the other.
Helen Piros is correct regarding the location of the Tira store. It was the first building south of the bridge. Their storage building was across the street across and was owned by my dad’s business partner, Lee Spratt. My memory of the store was it having a glassed in porch with windows on each side of a single door. I was only in the front section where there was an ice cooler for the cold pop. No doubt they sold other staples but I can’t remember more than the cold “Nehi orange” pop.
Young Joe Tira worked some with the Ola family in their moving business. Also living with the Tira family was an older man by the name of John. We called him “Yunco” and he spoke mostly Hungarian. (This would be John Dudas, coal miner who was born Dec 11, 1878 in Hungary and died August 16, 1956 at Logan General Hospital according to public records.)
When the war began many people were moving into Cherry Tree to work in the mines. Others were moving to Dayton and Cleveland to work in the defense factories.
My favorite member of the Tira family was an old lady they called Ma Maw Tira who raised beautiful flowers on the side of the store walkway. Honey suckle and morning glories climbed the side walls of the store. My mother would stop and talk with her about flowers, which my mother loved, and they would trade flower slips to start plants. On Saturdays I would talk with her and drink a “Nehi orange” drink. Once I helped her loosen the dirt in her flower pots and she brought out a “wurst sausage” which I had never heard of but it was a treat. I still eat them to this day.
My dad, Edward Atkins, and Lee Sprat owned all the houses on the right side of the road below the old Pepsi plant building to the creek and these houses made up the colored section of Cherry Tree. Dad and Mr. Spratt bought several old houses that bordered the creek across from Fisher Bottom which would have been back of Tira’s store. They sold these old houses to “Doggie White” who tore them down and built duplex four room houses.
Dad and Mr. Spratt were carpenters and they built houses for the experienced colored coal miners that Harry Gay brought in from the Alabama coal mines. In fact one of Dad’s renters was “Red Berry,” the older brother of “Chuck Berry,” who was a real swinger and musician. I would stop my delivery of papers to listen to him play the boogie and blues and he danced just like Chuck. I knew Red Berry around 1941. He worked for Mt Gay Coal Company on the repair crew as a carpenter and also worked for dad and Mr Spratt part time repairing their rent houses. He told us he had a younger brother that was a better musician than he was however it was in the 70’s before I ever heard of “Chuck Berry.” He probably left shortly after the start of WW11 (1942).
One of the first colored fellows in cherry tree was “Daddy Fikes” who lived to be over a hundred years old. He collected slop (table scraps) for his hogs. During the war when it was difficult to get meat, “Daddy Fikes” would bring you a big mess of fresh pork when he butchered his hogs if you had been saving slop for him. Most people that lived in the upper section of Cherry Tree didn’t go down to lower “Ramcat” but I delivered papers and knew most everyone.
After the war the Bush family sold the Esso Station to John Green & his wife Masil. Dante Belladonna, Patsy Ferzacci and Miller Farley opened the Logan Bakery Corp… Their famous “Butter Crust” bread was sold & delivered throughout southern West Virginia. Toney Dress owned & operated Aracoma Beverage & Falls City Beer Distributing Co. W. Gore opened the Logan Transfer Co. Russell Baumgardner opened & operated the R C. Bottling Co. Andy Ola & John Tira operated a Transfer & Storage Co. The DeHaven family ran DE Haven’s Transfer& Storage Co. The Browning Brothers (Ernest, Forest, Thamer, and Riley) ran a repair garage for autos and motorcycles.
Robert Samson started a Maytag sales & service company. Ray Barnes Sr. & Ray Jr. operated Barnes Motors (Dodge, Plymouth & Desoto Automobiles). The Crutcher’s (Mrs… Lucille Von Péchy’s family) ran a Plumbing business. John Elkins had a dealership in used cars, (Reo, Hudson, Teroplane Automobiles and Shaack trucks). Dixie Seamons ran “Dixie’s Hotels. “Plato Kitchen ran a boarding house for miners. The Lovins brothers, Johnny & Floyd, ran a used furniture store. Frank Carver was a mechanic who had a garage beside his home. The Egg House was a processing plant that candled & packaged cold storage eggs and was run by a man called Miklos Boche (he was a cousin to John Nagy — The title “Boche” is a Hungarian title of mister.). John B. Butcher’s son Max was a major league baseball player with the Yankees during the Babe Ruth era. Betty Hatfield Caldwell (baby daughter of “Devil Anse Hatfield) lived several years with her daughter Mrs. J. B. Browning and her eight grandchildren in the two story house across the road from Cherico’s Store. Simeon Dingess was the county clerk in Logan and he was known to walk from his Logan office to his home in Cherry Tree and then return to Logan during his lunch hour. Rev. J. Green McNeeley was the circuit clerk in Logan and an associate of the famous preacher “Uncle Dyke Garrett. Richard Herald & John T. Gore were sheriff’s deputies; Posey Griffith was the dreaded truant office who always threatened to send us to Prunty Town if we skipped school. The Skeens boys (B. J., John and Burl) were motor cycle riders who wore black leather jackets, rode “Harleys” and were heroes to all the alley boys. Mason “Bub” White operated White Taxi Service and lived in a big house on the hill above Fisher Bottom. Johnny Davis operated a wood working shop making custom furniture.
Five bridges crossed island creek before 1940-a swinging bridge at the Whites Farm, a low water crossing at the Thompson Farm at the upper end of Cherry Tree, a swinging bridge that crossed to the hill side farms of Guy Gore and John Deskins, a foot bridge crossing from the west end of Cherry Tree to Fisher Bottom that had to be replaced after any high water and the concrete bridge on the main road that still stands. About 1940 The hill on the north side of Cherry Tree from Monitor Junction to the Monitor Coal Co. Mines was declared a State Game Reserve and the Logan County Sportsmen Club under the direction of the county game warden (Ira Carper) & Bill Neal stocked twenty deer brought in from Michigan—one was albino (white) deer which was the start of the white deer herd that grew to five or six before most of the deer in Logan County died with the black tongue plague.
As a kid growing up in the ‘40’s, the main past times of Cherry Treeers were swimming & fishing in the creek, climbing the mountains, playing ball, shooting marbles, playing night games like “lost trail”, playing Cowboys & Indians and bike riding for those few that were rich enough to own a bike and making scooters out of old roller skates. Another pastime was rolling old auto tires and wheel with hoops as well as following the ice truck in summer and getting in coal & kindling in the winter. Of course if we were lucky, we came up with a dime on Saturday in order to go to the Midelburg Theatre and visit with our cow boy heroes: Buck Jones, “Hoot” Gibson, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, John “Mack” Brown, Lash La Rue, Hawk Of The Wilderness, Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger and the new comic characters Mickie Mouse and Donald Duck. Saturday night was bath time and then getting to stay up until 9:00 pm listening to” The Grand Ole Opry” and my favorite “Inner Sanctum Mysteries” on the radio. Cherry Tree was the only world we knew but life was great back then—at least that’s the way I remember it.
I remember Mrs. John Nagy made the Hungarian delicacy called “Ribbons” during World War II. She made them for the alley kids about twice a year. They were a thin strip of psaltery covered with powdered sugar. This was about all the sweets we got during the depression years and I’m sure that anyone that was there would remember Mrs. Nagy’s “Ribbons.”
If my source is right, the Cherry Tree School was built about the time of the First World War (1917). One of the carpenters was Mr. L. E. (Ed) Steele. He was the father of Edna Steele who was married to Doc Erwin hall (Hall’s Drug Store).
The name of the man who owned the shoe repair shop in the building that became Handy Andy Grocery was Edwin Khotek and since none of us could pronounce his name we all called him “Mr. Shoemaker.” After he died his son Joseph Edwin Kohotek moved the shoe repair shop to Deskins Addition where he operated the shoe shop along with a bicycle repair shop until he died in the early 1990′s.
I am not really sure about the Italian girls from Holden that worked at the Bakery. My mother, Katye Atkins, worked for a while in the cake department and she believes their names were Mary Petrone (Mrs. John “Dutch” Barber), Rose Torlone, Llaura Sorrente. Lena Belladonna and her sister Blanch Belladonna worked for a time on the cake department, then in the office. The Logan Baking Company used the trade name “Velvet” for their cakes. The boss of the cake department was Attillio Justi. In 1947, I worked with Lena Belladonna at the Dee Dee Donut Shop which was owned by her brother, Roland Belladonna.
I attended the Pilgrim Holiness Church faithfully from 1935 to 1940 and received a number of awards (called religious mottos) for thirteen Sunday continuous attendance. At one time I believe a man named Everett Hanners was our Sunday School Superintendent. Our Sunday school teacher was Chester Adams. As an award for not acting up in class and learning our Sunday school lesson he would take the entire class on a Saturday afternoon hike. One trip I well remember was a trip walking the railroad track from Cherry Tree to Chaunchy and back with no food or water. The elders that I most clearly remember from that time period were: Fred Hutchinson, Bill Clark, George Browning, Ned Samson, Walter Dings, and Mr. White.
“Once during a revival meeting a woman evangelist played “Onward Christian Soldiers” on an accordion. Most of us kids had never seen or heard an accordion. Some cried, some hid under the seats and others tried to leave. I don’t remember which group I was in but I will never forget the sound of that accordion.”