Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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Ida Belle Starnes

One Of Scott's Finest

     At 106years of age, Mrs. Ida Bell Starnes at present holds the uncontested honor of being the oldest surviving native of Scott County.

     Originally of Gate City and surrounding area, this venerable and exceedingly sweet lady now lives at 738 Plantation Road in Kingsport with her daughter, Clarice Marie Starnes Fluce, and her son-in-law, John M. Fluce, both also being natives of Scott County.

     Her daughter, Clarice, noted that Mrs. Starnes remains in fine health for a woman of her ripe age, and still gets about without the aid of a walker or a cane.

     She was married to Rev. Robert Starnes, who was four years older than she and passed away in his seventy-eighth year.

     Together they founded quite a line of descendants which continues its steady geometrical progression. Mrs. Starnes has thirteen children (five currently surviving), 36 grandchildren, 109 great-grandchildren, 58 great-great grandchildren and lordy, 7 great-great-great grandchildren. She is quite a matriarch to say the least.

     Born in Scott County on Dec. 26, 1881, Mrs. Starnes spent most of her youth here. She moved to Kentucky in a covered wagon for a brief spell, but longed to return and within several years did just that.

     She continued to live and raise her family in Scott County until a few years after her husbands death (about 20 years ago) at which time she went to live with the Fluce's in Kingsport.

     At 106,she remembers a Scott County - and an entire world vastly different from the one we live in today.

     "We went to school in a log schoolhouse...one big room. The big'uns was on one side and the little kids on the other. We had a man-teacher for some time, then he married and went off to Rye Cove," She recalled, noting that she did well in her studies, particularly so in reading, writing and spelling.

     Even as she reached young adulthood, however, a great many technological marvels of modern life had yet to find their way into the mountains. Many, had even yet to be invented!

"When I was a young woman, nobody had even thought of making airplanes and things like that," she exclaimed.

     She remembered amazement upon seeing the first automobile in Scott County, although "the road was a way down below me and I couldn't quite tell what it looked like up close."

    Many of us imagine the absence of such commonplace sights of modern life as something of a novelty. But Mrs. Starnes clearly recalled what the full impact of "the old way of doing things" in the absence of enhanced communication, transportation and household electrification.

     "It was pretty hard times for us back when I had to raise my family up...you had to work hard ...real hard," she reflected.

     Oil lamps were not a charming accent to decorate a house, they were a staple of household lighting - troublesome, smelly and an ever-present fire hazard.

     Cooking was quite a chore: all foods had to be hand-prepared from scratch, then baked, fried or boiled on a stove which required considerable labor to keep hot. Laundry was boiled in a galvanized tub then scrubbed on a washboard before rinsing and hanging out to dry.

     Fortunately, hard as life was, nobody seemed to go hungry. "People kept the hogs fattened up good ... back then they certainly didn't have much, but they always had something to eat," she said.

     When asked if she would like to go back to the beginning and do it all over again, she was honestly ambivalent: "In a way I'd like to, but in a way I wouldn't; there was a lot of trouble back then."

     When asked about the secret of her longevity, she said she believes it was because she "got saved" as a young woman and "the Good Lord let me live      because I've always tried to be good all my life."

     What kind of advice would she give all the younger people these days?

     "I'd just tell them to try to do good all their lives and not be mean ...to live right," she said.

 

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