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Neal S Bryant Hargraves


Neal S Bryant Hargraves

Neal S Bryant Hargraves was born December 14, 1880 in Claiborne County, TN. He was the son of Thomas "Tom" and Sarah (Cunningham) Hargraves. By 1900, Tom, Sarah, and their family had moved into Hancock County near Alanthus Hill. Later that fall, they moved to Lee County, VA and settled on M.O. "Meb" Combs' place in the VanHuss Grove community. It was there that Neal met and married Carrie Johnson.

Carrie was the daughter of John and Josephine (Trent) Johnson. They lived about a mile from the Hargraves family, just across the hill toward the river. After they were married, Neal and Carrie moved into the house with Josephine. It seemed they were set to spend their life together, but this was not to be the case. After having been married for only a year, Carrie succombed to tuberculosis. After her death, Neal remained in the home where his brother-in-law, Ora Johnson, also lived.

Neal and Ora formed a great friendship that would last throughout the remainder of their lives. They farmed together, raising large fields of corn for the livestock. Both of them were employed by Meb Combs in various capacities. One of Neal's most memorable jobs was floating logs down Powell River. The trips would start near Beech Grove and end in Clinton, TN. The river had to be up enough to reach "log tide" before the journey could begin. Keeping the rafts straight was hard work, especially in swift currents. It took a great deal of skill to maneuver around obstacles such as islands and rocks. He and other workers would float down the river with the logs and then walk back home.

They often built a make-shift shelter on the logs for protection. During one trip, while they were sleeping, it began to snow. By morning, although the snow was several inches deep, it added an extra blanket of insulation and they found themselves warm and comfortable beneath the covers.

This type of strenuous labor required stout men. One of Neal's co-workers was Bill McCurry who, according to Neal, could carry a cross-tie under each arm. During their journeys back from Clinton, Bill would walk uphill then run down the other side, thus making the trip shorter.

Neal married Sallie Mae Welch on December 5, 1925 in Hancock Co., TN. Mae was born January 17, 1906 in Hancock County. She was the daughter of Rhinard and Nora (Wolfe) Welch. Rhinard and Nora lived about half a mile from the Johnson's. After living for a while in Hancock County, Neal moved the logs from Mae's uncle's house in Lee County and they then moved into their new home.

Neal and Mae farmed and raised hogs to slaughter. There was alway plenty of food on the table. After church on Sunday, the preacher would often come home with them and enjoy the bounty of the fields. Neal and Mae attended Fairview Methodist Church where he was Sunday School superintendent and song leader for many years. Neal enjoyed playing the fiddle and the harmonica. His favorite song was "Showers of Blessings."

Neal underwent eye surgery in 1926 to remove a cataract, however he still lost the sight in his eye. An accidental shooting set up "honeycomb bone" which caused one of his legs to be shorter than the other. Even with these adversities, Neal labored hard all his life, working the land to provide for his family. Making friends came easily and family relationships were always important to him. He often traveled back to his homeplace in Claiborne County to see his cousins and would spend up to two weeks at a time visiting with them.

Neal and Mae had five children: Lurlie, Grant, Ora Adam, Emma, and Eugene. Ora Adam died at six weeks of age. He was buried in the Wolfe-Welch cemetery in Hancock County. The other four children grew up, married, and raised loving families as they had been shown during their childhood.

Mae became ill and passed away on October 22, 1950, leaving Neal a widower once again. He stayed in their little log house the remainder of his life. He would take a walk to the state line every evening. He would sit out on the porch and wave to passers-by or greet visiting neighbors. He always wore overalls, even to church on Sunday when he would put on a new bright-blue pair. Everyone knew him as "Berry" or "Uncle Neal," even if they weren't related.

Neal died on January 27, 1968. He was buried beside Mae in the Wolfe-Welch cemetery.

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