November 2008

A Neighbor, Mary Lucille DeBerry, Drops by the Farm

Mary Lucille DeBerry reminisces about how important education has been to the families living near the Spiker farm.

A Neighbor, Mary Lucille DeBerry, Drops by the Farm

By Mary Lucille DeBerry

Just as I might do when “crashing” the Spiker Family Reunion on Memorial Day weekend, I’m dropping by to reminisce about how important education has been for many years to the residents living in the “loop” beginning at White Oak going toward Holbrook, then toward Oxford and back to White Oak. Many of the families early on saw that their children went to college.

It was a surprise to me, however, that my great-great-grandparents, H. B. and Elizabeth Tharp (whose children and grandchildren all died young) had a son George who attended West Virginia University.

When I was working once on a public television documentary about WVU, my parents (Max and Lucille Cox DeBerry) thought I should have a letter George had written to his parents – to hang on my office wall.

My father thought this was a typical letter from a college student: George seemed glad to share his grades; gave a lot of information about how “good” he had been and, of course, he needed money!  We all thought, though, that young Mr. Tharp was inclined to be a bit extravagant!  

George must have also passed the Spiker home site in his travels as he was growing up in the curve of the road between Summers and Holbrook.  Note: the address on his letter is definitely “Holbrook.”

[Transcription of Envelope]

West Virginia University  
Morgantown, W.VA.

FALL TERM begins first Wednesday of September.  
WINTER TERM begins fourth Wednesday of January.  
SPRING TERM begins second Wednesday of March  
COMMENCEMENT on second Thursday of June.

If not called for in 10 days, return to P.O. box 35\
Morgantown, WVa.

Postmark:  Morgantown, WV - March 22, 1882 - WVA

The letter bears the same information as on the envelope along with the State Seal and a scroll extolling West Virginia University. Also preprinted, except for only a line of insertion of the month and day was Morgantown, March 21 1881. George must have acquired this stationery during the previous term since it was postmarked 1882.

[Transcription of Letter]

Mr. H. B. Tharp  
    Dear Father and Mother: 

    Your letter recd yesterday.  it found me well. glad to hear that you were all well. You said that you had forgotten something about my reports.  I send them all to you as I have no use for them now.  Please preserve them.  I come back to my old subject again and ask for more money.  I will haft to get me some things and have no money to get them with. I need a suit of clothes, a hat, a pair of shoes or boots and some shirts & soc.  Please send soon as convenient I have paid Mrs. Johnson $80. eighty dollars on my board -- the other boys (75) $75.  I have no news I believe to write: except the Rev. Mr. Hughes will give a lecture tomorrow night at the "Young men's Christian association"  this is an association composed of students only, of course they all don't belong.  there are about 40 of us belong to it.  This is the same Hughes that used to be elder on our circuit.  I hear him preach every Sunday and am in his Sunday school class. The first time he saw me he came to me and asked me if I wasn't related to Timothy Tharp  he said he could see the Tharp in me. 

Gor T. Box 35  

NOTE: In Bradford Spiker’s THE GOOD-WILL COMMUNITY A HISTORY OF HOLBROOK, W.Va. 1814-1945 under THE WALNUT GROVE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, he writes: “A few of the ministers who preached in the school were, T.B. Hughes.”

Also according to RITCHIE COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA CEMETERIES - THROUGH 1993 published by the Ritchie County Historical Society: George M. Tharp was born July 26, 1862; died December 22, 1884, almost exactly six months after Lillie Missouri Gay Zinn was born; and he was buried in the Auburn Community Cemetery.


  • Submitted by Bobbi Spiker-Conley – There’s still time to participate in the October family competition.  Stop by theGame Room to play “It Makes a Difference”.   

  • Submitted by Bobbi Spiker-Conley – We’ve all been enjoying the creative and beautiful scrapbook pages Melanie Fouse has contributed to our website.  Now you can learn more about her creative talents by reading her personal blog at Creekside Cottage Designs.  We have heard that she will soon be including her first digital scrapbook kit.  (And it will be free!  We love that too.)

  • Submitted by Mary Lucille DeBerry – The West Virginia issue of the on-line literary journal: Hamilton Stone Review # 16, Fall 2008 (edited by Meredith Sue WIllis: Shinnston native, successful novelist and creative writing instructor at New York University) showcases one photographer and 46 writers associated with the Mountain State.  I’m pleased to be among the poets.  Two of my four short poems are “set” in the Holbrook community: “Autumn Walk” and “To My Great- Great-Grandmother.” The other two are “set” in Harrisville but relate to Holbrook traditions: “The Cat’s Meow” and Memorial Day.”  To access the fall photographs, stories, nonfiction, poems and contributor’s notes, go to .