It’s a slow morning in the store and there are about a dozen things I should be doing other than writing this blog post, but we’ve had a couple very special visitors this week that I can’t wait to tell you about.
On Saturday, Cornie Belle McCloud stopped in the store. She is the daughter of Hugh Vancel and niece of Curt Vancel, the man who originally owned our store. Her grandfather (Hugh & Curt’s dad) and grandmother raised their children in the house we live in.
She explained the family tree to me, which had been a mystery to me since I’ve heard of all these Vancels but could never figure out how they are all related. Here’s what I can remember: William and Mary Vancel had several sons (5, I think), including Jessie, Curt & Hugh, and a daughter. I should have written down the information while she was telling me.
Cornie Belle lives in Nashville now and she promised to send me more information about the family and the property. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I have to get my fingers on the book Cumberland Gap’s Hillbilly Preacher, written by Cornie Belle about her father.
This morning a man walked up to our house and introduced himself. To my great surprise, it was Tom Vancel, Curt Vancel’s son. He showed us where the grist mill used to be and gave us a photocopy of the following newspaper article about the mill.
He also explained that his dad started the store, then sold it to Mr. Cline. Mr. Cline moved his store up to the old highway, which is now Blairs Creek Road. It is the house at the intersection of Blairs Creek Road and Harbor Road. Then Shelby Day reopened a store in the original store building.
Curt was also a fertilizer salesman and would finance farmers’ fertilizer purchases until the tobacco crop came in.
Curt built his house across the creek from the store from building materials that he salvaged from the old Tazewell courthouse that burned down. That house is the house that Tom was born in and it is still standing.
Tom confirmed that the door and shutters are original to the store, and he told me that our house was not the first house on this property. The original house was much smaller and right next to the creek pretty much in front of the current house.
He went on to talk about the tobacco allotment, the 100+ acres the family used to own, the raceway and tailrace paths of the mill, walking on the waterwheel, the kerosene generator and glass-encased batteries they used to power the house and store before they had electricity back here, and other tidbits of life “back in the day”.
If I’ve gotten any of the facts mixed up, please let me know. I love learning about the history of this property and the people who used to live here.