Rural Librarian: March 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Who Was Joe Brown of Whitmer, West Virginia?

A patron of the Pioneer Memorial Public Library was in the other day talking about a man named Joe Brown who was lynched in Whitmer, WV in 1909. He said that he had heard that chief of police of Whitmer, Scott White, admired two pearl-handled pistols of Joe Brown and had confiscated them when he arrested Brown. Later, Brown shot Scott in the head wounding him severely and the townspeople of Whitmer took Joe Brown and hung him for his offenses. What follows is an interesting piece of West Virginia history.

Who Was Joe Brown?

As a amateur historian and folklore follower I had to ask, 'Who was Joe Brown?' It turns out there is quite a bit that has been published regarding this episode in West Virginia history. An article from the now defunct Randolph Enterprise from March 25, 1909 reports that, "Joe Brown, a notorious character who had earned the reputation of an outlaw expiated his crime in shooting Scott White, Chief of Police of Whitmer and a son of Wash White mayor of the same town, early last Friday morning when Brown was taken from the jail at Whitmer by an orderly party of masked men and strung up to a flag pole on the principal street of the town."

Just this one paragraph leaves many questions about the events leading up to the lynching of Joe Brown. Allegedly, a party of 50-100 masked men overcame the prison guards at gun point and took Joe Brown to be hung. In a town as small as Whitmer, I speculate that the masked vigilantes would have been known to most. Also, the Chief of Police, Scott White, was the son of Whitmer Mayor, Wash White, implying that the power in the town of Whitmer was held by the White family.

Outlaw or Victim?

Another line from the above-referenced article says, "It was generally understood here that Brown also was to be brought to Elkins to have his arm dressed but these plans were altered and Brown retained in the Whitmer jail." The Chief of Police was taken to Elkins for medical attention on that evening's train. Joe Brown had a shattered shooting arm, and yet he was not taken for medical attention. This might imply that the animosity for Joe Brown was so great that he was left in the jail to suffer and to possibly allow for the capture and lynching to take place. Clearly, Joe Brown had a lot going against him in Whitmer.

The final line in the news article also reveals that, "Learning of the lynching upon his return from Washington, Governor Glasscock immediate[e]ly communicated with the Sheriff and Prosecuting Attorney, insisting upon a complete investigation. It is possible that the lynching may be investigated but it is doubtful if any more information could be secured than is now known for Brown was so cordially hated by the people of Dry Fork that those who composed the lynching party would be protected in every way even by those who did happen to known everything connected with the lynching." To this researcher's knowledge, no one was ever held accountable for the death of Joe Brown.

So, who was Joe Brown? Where did he come from? What are the true facts of his life and death? According to the same article, Joe Brown was born in Tazewell County, Virginia around 1861. He was hung around 1:30am on Friday, March 19, 1909. The story made the New York Times. This article says that Brown was hung from a telegraph pole while others say it was a flag pole. Either way, it was not a pretty sight. There is a photograph that was published of the dead man hanging but I will spare gentle readers from this sight.

According to historian David Armstrong, Joseph Brown was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, on June 29, 1868, to parents William Patton Brown and Lucinda (Whitt) Brown. Joe Brown married Susan Snyder Summerfield in Harman, WV. Brown's death record gives him a first initial of "W." and indicates that he was married and aged 45 at his death. I do like that Armstrong tries to give more positive attributions to Brown, but by most accounts he was a violent alcoholic and sure shot who enjoyed shooting men's suspenders off for fun.

Side Effects of the Lynching

The lynching of Joe Brown had many repercussions. In the book "Transforming the Appalachian Countryside" by Ronald L. Lewis, it is stated that Joe Brown had a sock stuffed down his throat after he was lynched in an attempt to speed up the dying process. Lewis also says that Whitmer could not get a liquor license approved two months later perhaps due to the drunken and violent nature of Joe Brown and his lynching. In an anecdotal telling of the tale on WV Angler, it is said that the lynch mob spent some time drinking before they did the deed.

On December 13, 1911, The Randolph Enterprise reports that Charles Edward Hedrick committed suicide because he was involved in the lynching of Joe Brown and could not resolve his actions. He was found by the railroad tracks with a self-inflicted bullet to the head. Hedrick was once a constable of the Dry Fork district and later served as chief of police for Whitmer.

The real facts about Joe Brown, who he was, and what happened over a hundred years ago in a remote rural town in West Virginia may never be known. What is fascinating is that people today are still talking about it and asking questions about the life and death of Joe Brown. There is no doubt that in the 19th century, wild and wonderful West Virginia was also wild and wooly.

Do you love West Virginia history? Check out the West Virginia section at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library the next time you are in Harman.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read! Summer Reading Program at Pioneer Library, WV

I am having an exciting near-spring season preparing for the 2014 Summer Reading Program at the Pioneer Public Library in Harman, West Virginia. I'm taking a class in collection development this semester through the University of Tennessee, and it has allowed me to focus on choosing books to promote, books to purchase, and fun hands-on programs for kids and teens. The nationwide summer reading program theme is "Fizz, Boom, Read", and it is a science-focused reading program. Are you ready?

Collaborative Summer Library Program 2014

We received a large volume of suggested activities and crafts from the Collaborative Summer Library Program. There are also reading resources on their website, books they suggest to tie into the science theme, but the overall suggestion list is lacking in certain areas. For example, I see that the CSLP suggests many books that are in mid-series. For example, they suggest "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins, (I think because it has an firey title), but you really have to read "The Hunger Games" first to understand the narrative. Another odd title suggestion was "I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863" by Lauren Tarshis. I think this book was recommended because it literally shows artillery "booms" on the front cover. There are books about white male inventors and scientists but very few that are about women and minorities in the field of science. (Not even a Marie Curie book? Sigh.)

Women and Minorities in Science: Children's Books

There are hundreds of other books that CSLP could have suggested but did not, but I have spent some time researching books that fill in the large gaps in the standard packaged suggestion binder. If you are a librarian with a summer reading program at your library I hope you consider this too. As librarians, we may not be movers and shakers, we may be more quiet seed planters. Just by having a variety of books available and featured allows young scientists and inventors to dream, plot, and learn. In the 21st century, still on the continuum of the civil rights movement we need our collections to reflect our audience and to glimpse beyond as well.

Summer Reading Suggestions

So, if you are a library with a summer reading program or if you just want some great suggestions of current and diverse science books for children I have a list below that you may find helpful. Many of these books are award winning books including: The Newbery Medal, The Caldecott Medal, or the National Science Teachers Association. Also, I have placed Amazon links within this blog entry. If you choose to buy books from Amazon using these links, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, WV, gets a 4% cut. And, maybe I missed some. Do you have good suggestions for current science books for kids? My list is by no means complete. Please comment or email to let me know.

Animal Grossapedia
Bartholomew and the Oobleck: (Caldecott Honor Book) (Classic Seuss)
Benjamin Banneker (Journey to Freedom)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition
Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet)
Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth
Flush: The Scoop on Poop Throughout the Ages
Go Ask Alice
Break the Fossil Record (Ivy + Bean, Book 3)
Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought)
Locomotive (Caldecott Medal Book)
The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top: A Book About Volcanoes (Magic School Bus)
Marie Curie (Giants of Science)
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Hardcover))
My First Day
Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?: All About Weather (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Rachel Carson: Fighting Pesticides and Other Chemical Pollutants
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Something Stinks
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
The Fossil Girl: Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery
The Moon Book
The New Way Things Work
The Stars
Tracking Tyrannosaurs: Meet T. rex's fascinating family, from tiny terrors to feathered giants (National Geographic Kids)
What If You Had Animal Teeth?
Who Is Jane Goodall? (Who Was...?)
You Are Stardust
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

Fizz, Boom, Read needs some work, but together we can create a meaningful and fun summer reading program at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library and at your library too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Your Web Site is Valuable - Don't Let Ad Mills on Your Library Website

A few weeks ago I started receiving emails at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library from a person named Elizabeth Turner from a company called Accredited Online Colleges. Ms. Turner asked me to place links to her company on the website for the library. I get requests like this occasionally and mostly ignore them. As a part-time library director I don't have time to answer every request to place links on my website, but Ms. Turner was persistent. In her final emails to me, she used my name and gave me links to others in West Virginia who had placed her links on their sites. (A state Senator, a major city, and one county school website) This is when I got suspicious.

False Nonprofit

I emailed Ms. Turner back asking for more information about her company. Her emails came to me from gmail, which indicated to me that a scam was happening. When I looked at the website in question, there is no geographical location revealed for the company, nor are any administrators or company officers listed by name. Instead, there are ads. "Accredited Online Colleges" is what I call an ad mill; this is a website meant to generate ad clicks which in turn gives revenue back to the site. The '.org' at the end of the company's URL is meant to imply that this is a nonprofit organization which it is not.

Digging deeper: there are no criteria listed for the alleged resources on this company site, indicating zero legitimacy for Accredited Online Colleges. In searching for this company at WhoIs.com I see that this company is owned by an entity in Scottsdale, Arizona with a private registration name.

Little Internet Scam, Big Consequences

By now, you may be saying, "But Mary, what's the big deal? No children, puppies, or kittens were harmed in this alleged scam." While this is true, placing a link to a bogus site on a trusted site causes your site and your institution to lose integrity and reliability. As information professionals, we want to give out high-quality information to our students and patrons. Also, this scammer sets themselves up as just trying to help kids get into college. No. They are looking for backlinks which give them a higher Google rating, which will give them more ad clicks and income. You are helping scammers make cash for themselves using your website. Ick.

Just remember fellow librarians and educators: your web space is valuable. Don't give it away to anyone without checking out credentials thoroughly. And thank you, Elizabeth Turner, for your persistence and information. I contacted the West Virginia websites who allowed your links to slip in to let them know that you are not legitimate.

As an aside: Feel free to look up their site and judge for yourself. I will not post a link, but you can type it in. Have you been the victim of an online or email scam? If you need help resolving your issue, please feel free to stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia for assistance.