Grandma Lena’s Cabin

I recently had an opportunity to stay in my Great Grandmother’s cabin in the Fallville community of  the Spring Valley area of Grayson County. The cabin has been repaired and renovated with modern conveniences such as electricity; but, for a Southern California native, the harshness of early 20th Century  life in Grayson County was quite apparent. My Great Grandmother, Lena Byrd, married William A. Vaughan in April of 1896.  Lena and William’s families were from the Spring Valley area of Grayson County.  After they married, they crossed Iron Mountain and were living in a small cabin in Speedwell in Wythe County. Family tradition indicates that William was a miller. Their first child, a son, was born in November, 1897 and soon thereafter in October of 1898 their second child, my grandfather, William Jerome Vaughan was born.  Although no record of death or place of burial has been found, family lore holds that William A. Vaughan died of typhoid fever when his second son was only five weeks old.  William’s death left Lena alone with a one year old child and an infant, and separated from her family by Iron Mountain. Lena moved back to Grayson County to be closer to her father and the needed support of the rest of her family. A few years later Lena married Jonathan “Jonce” Burris and had five more children.  Lena and Jonce raised the seven children at the cabin in the Spring Valley area and lived there until their deaths in 1952. Lena and Jonce are buried at Jerusalem United Methodist Church near their cabin home.

Knob Fork of Elk Creek runs next to the cabin, the fire flies come out in June, the birds sing in the Spring and wake early to gather food for their young  just like they did all those years ago when Grandma Lena lived there raising her family. Much life has been lived there; many tears of sorrow and of joy have been shed within the walls of that simple cabin home.  It is obvious that the old, crooked and worn boards that made this house a home were appreciated and cared for by many over the years.  This cabin home protected its occupants from the wind and rain and shaded them from the sun on a bright summer day.  It was a place to gather, a refuge in times of trouble and joy alike. This simple cabin home sheltered the family through births, deaths, times of war and years of peace.  Grandma Lena and Jonce Burris raised their children, watched them grow while making their way through school, and saw their children off when they became adults and began families of their own.  They welcomed many grandchildren as they came along.  One of Lena’s granddaughters recalls going out back to gather eggs only to find that a black snake had swallowed the eggs and was circling himself around a tree in order to crush the eggs he had swallowed.  This granddaughter also asked if the little stairs were still in the cabin and commented on how she was never allowed to go up those stairs.  As a child, she wondered what was up there.  I was able to tell her that the stairs led to a loft which was probably Lena’s and Jonce’s room.  The children may not have been allowed up those stairs.  Maybe that was Lena’s place of refuge in that small cabin home, a place she could call her own. Life, by our standards, was difficult when Lena and Jonce were raising their family.  But to them, it was a normal life in the hills of Grayson County, the only life that they knew. Life required hard work and perseverance.  Like the black snake took the eggs from the coop, the emptiness of death comes uninvited.  Grandma Lena and Jonce have long been gone from this cabin home, and their life of hard manual work in order to sustain themselves and their family is a thing of the past.  The cabin home is now a symbol of Lena’s and Jonce’s life and much can be learned from the strength and perseverance that was required of them to raise a family in that simple cabin and how they made that house a home.   

Joanne Boucher

Grayson County, Virginia Heritage Foundation
As she decribed in an early blog, Joanne only began learning about her Grayson connections a few years ago.  Since then she has visited Grayson several times to meet her relatives and learn more about her heritage.