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Transcribed by Rita O'Brien

Post-Herald and Register, Beckley, W.Va.
Sunday Morning, August 28, 1960
 
Raleigh County's Senior Citizen
 
Milam Recalls Selling
Ginseng For Food, Money
 
EDITORS NOTE:  This is the
7th of a series of some of the
area's outstanding senior
citizens.
 
By MAUDE PAROLARI
 
ARNETT (RNS) - The good earth has always been kind to its peoples.  It has taken care of man's needs in various ways at all stages in history.
 
IN WEST VIRGINIA today, we worry about the declining coal market, the replacement of manpower by modern machinery, and the moving away of many of our people to find employment in other industries.
 
In Thomas Milam's day, he had no such worries.  He, too, depended on the good earth for his livelihood.  He has been around now for ninety years and is enjoying excellent health.  He has been richly blessed; in addition, he has nine living children, six sons, three daughters, 43 grandchildren, 77 great grandchildren, and 1 great great-grandchild.
 
He was born August 11, 1870, at Peach Tree, the son of Mary Milam and Tom Webb.  On the maternal side, he had the following half brothers and sisters, all deceased but one.  She is a half sister, Mrs. Artie Rutherford, Charleston.  The others are Cal Webb, Mrs. Bill (Stella) Painter, Mrs. Oma (Avie) Bradford.  His step-father was Jim Webb.
 
ON THE paternal side, Thomas has these half brothers and sisters, who are deceased.  Mrs. Willie (Nora) Burgess, Mrs. Jim (Flora) Hendricks, Mrs. Jordon (Martha) Peters, Lewis Webb, Crockett Webb, King Webb, and Jake Webb.
 
He married Parthenia Stewart of Jesse, Wyoming County.  In a good-sized, worn, family Bible, is the following record of his marriage:  "Thomas Milam and Parthenia Stewart were united in holy wedlock, September 19, 1894, by Capt. Wm. Walker."
 
The first nine years of their married life were spent in Wyoming County.  They came to Peach Tree where he bought his boyhood homeplace.  From there they acquired a farm at Cove Creek, which belongs in the family to this day.  It seems the latter was a trade with Pete Webb, with Milam giving the difference in the deal.  Anyhow Webb went to Peach Tree, and Milam to Cove Creek.
 
Twelve children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Milam.  The nine living are Charlie Milam, Beckley, Cal, Oma, Earl, and Arthur Milam, all of Arnett.  Alfred Milam, Oceanside, California; Mrs. Milt (Mary) Cook, Mrs. Adda Webb, and Mrs. Carl (Martha) Wiley, all of Cove Creek, with Arnett being their postoffice.  The three children deceased are a son, Bill, daughter Paulina, and an infant.  His wife died October 27, 1957.*  Mr. and Mrs. Milam also reared Lee Lambert of Wyoming County.  Later, they reared his son, Lawrence Lambert, Warrant Officer in the U. S. Air Force, now stationed at Cely, California.
 
MILAM MAKES his home with a son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Milam, Arnett.  They moved from the farm to a new home near the service station which Arthur operates.  With more modern conveniences than the elder Milam could possibly have dreamed of back when he was a lad, he appears quite content.  Really, in spirit, he seems younger than his years.  He is quite jovial, and has a keen memory.
 
His daughter-in-law, Mrs. Milam, said that he never complained of being sick.  Sometimes he chokes like with an asthma condition.
 
He keeps a cane at either entrance, front and rear, of the house, to use when is he walking outside.
 
He is a member of the Freewill Baptist Church, and has been for many years.
 
His conversation is rich in the unwritten history of the past.  He has worked on a farm all his life.  He has worked some at logging jobs.  He never got to go to school a day in his life.  He never learned to read or write.
 
"If I could have gone to school, my nearest teachers would have been either Lewis Hunter or Pole Hendricks," Milam said.  "They both taught on Peach Tree.  The schools lasted about two or three months," he added.
 
HIS STEPFATHER, Jim Webb, owned the land around Peach Tree Falls.
 
His mother and stepfather are buried about three hundred yards up on the left side of the hill from the Falls.  He spoke of Peach Tree Falls as the Falling Rock.  A gristmill was built there by Jack Pettry.  Another man who also operated the mill was Bob Daniel.  Thomas Milam, as did his neighbors, had most of his corn ground into meal at this mill.  There was also another mill at the Flatts.  The mills had to be operated when the water was up.  Then they would grind all the time.
 
He also spoke of the Obe Tabor Mill at Cove Creek.  When questioned about Obe Tabor, Milam said that he was the father of the late Charlie Tabor, prominent land owner and sawmill operator.  The Honaker Mill at Saxon grounded both wheat and corn.  It was owned and operated by the Honaker family noted for making Mountain Rifles.
 
The people back in his days provided their own bread by growing corn and wheat.  After the wheat was gathered and threshed, the farmers took it to Beckley or Cirtsville to have it ground into flour.  Milam told of once taking twenty-five bushels of buckwheat to Prince Phillip's Mill at Beckley to have ground.
 
NEARLY EVERYONE raised cane from which they made sorghum molasses.  Getting meat for the table was no problem, for the livestock were let to run loose.  Everyone fenced in their corn fields and gardens to keep the animals out.
 
How did Thomas Milam make any money back then?  He made an occasional trip to the Bob Barrett General Store at Dry Creek carrying sacks on his back which contained the rewards of his labor.  What was in them was as precious as money, and that was exactly why he went.  Bob Barrett bought ginseng, yellow puccoon, and red puccoon roots.  Milam exchanged the contents of his sacks for money.  He bought his necessities at the store, got his mail which he said was very scarce, and headed for home.  The mail was hardly more than an almanac and no newspapers as there are now.
 
With his ginseng hoe and mattock, Thomas was out shortly after daybreak, hunting for ginseng.  It is a low plant with three leaves at the top.  Each leaf is made up of five leaflets.  Ginseng has small greenish-yellow flowers.  Some of these flowers later change to scarlet berries.  The Chinese long believed that ginseng will cure nearly every disease.  The name of this plant comes from Chinese words meaning "likeness of a man," because of the shape of its root.  Those shaped most like a human body are really worth their weight in gold to the Chinese.
 
Ginseng grew wild in the woods.  This meant money to Milam, real money.  For each pound of green ginseng roots, he would get different prices, ranging up to a dollar.  If it were dried, he would get much more per pound.
 
"THERE USED to be people camping out in the mountains from many places hunting ginseng," he said.  "I would run up on these camps often," continued the ninety-year-old man.
 
Other roots that he dug and sold were may apple, yellow puccoon, and red puccoon.  These were in demand for medicinal purposes also.  These had to be washed and dried before marketing.  The may apple brought about two cents per pound, the yellow puccoon from 10 to 15 cents per pound, and the red puccoon, about two and a half cents per pound.
 
If Milam's income was insufficient, he did farm labor at fifty cents a day.
 
According to his conversation, the members of the Dickens Clan and also the Webbs, came from Virginia, and settled in Peach Tree.  They staked out their farms which cost them nothing except the surveyor's fee.  They got General Alfred Beckley to come down from Beckley and survey the land for them.
 
The first man to ever own around the Falls was Jim Webb.  He came from Carroll County, Virginia.  His sons were Lieutenant Jake Webb, John, who was known as Carroll John, and Amanda Clay, daughter of John Clay of Clay's Branch, Peach Tree. **
 
HE RECALLS when the first timber was cut and taken out of Peach Tree.  The walnut timber was cut and sawed by a firm he remembered as Waters and Kirby.  The walnut lumber was cut into squares, then into little thin boards.  These boards were put in the water, floated down over Falling Rock, into Coal River, on into the Kanawha River at St. Albans.
 
The poplar timber was taken out later.  A handmill was set up by one known as "Logging Charlie Jarrell."
 
When the Thomas Milam family needed medical attention, Dr. Jesse C. Hurst of Saxon was called.  Later, his son, Dr. Posey Hurst, and Dr. George P. Daniel, also served them.
 
Milam is held in high esteem by his many friends, as one of our very finest citizens.
 
NOTES:
*  Parthenia Stewart Milam died October 27, 1956, not 1957.
** Although this paragraph appears to be missing some words, it was transcribed as written in the article.