Fox Hunting in Ohio County
Oral History Stories
James Thomas Smith (1856-1926)
John Henry Stewart (1861-1931
Including his son,
Roy Thompson Stewart (1892-1971)
and Ohio County Recollections of Billy Morris
Submitted by Janice Cox Brown
In years gone by in Ohio County fox hunting was a pastime for most small farmers, who kept a pack of hounds for their favorite sport. When they weren’t working and had time, fox hunting was their entertainment and was something they could look forward to and enjoy. Several times a week men and boys got together and sat around a big fire from sunset to dawn listening to their hounds bark, after they were released to chase the fox. That's all there was to their fox hunting -- listening. There was no kill. A pack of hounds simply chased a fox around in circles through the woods, over the ridges, down creeks and gullies, until the dogs got tired, or they lost the scent, or the hounds ran Brother Fox into a hole.
The roving fox started his forage by sunset, traveling many miles in a night, and he never holed up, even in dropping temperatures overnight snow falls, or when Kentucky winter weather brought a bitter freeze.
Mostly, the fox hunters had trained their hounds themselves and just wanted to see how long and how hard their dogs could run the fox through the rolling hills of hardwood country – great oaks, hickory and pine. When the hounds were turned loose, and when a scent was picked up, the hounds cried more loudly, and took off along the trail. A dog that could run long and hard was worth a lot, and if they could keep up a steady bay on the trail, it was even better. Many fox hunters believed that some foxes enjoyed the chase, too – the matching of wits.
The prime fox hunting season was from when crops were harvested in the fall until spring when fields had to be planted again. Often, several men and boys would get together on some cool October evening, and each would bring their fox hounds. Usually, they built a big fire and made a big pot of coffee, or at times, whiskey or some other fermented beverage might make an appearance. A few hunters took a snack with them and maybe even roasted some corn over the open fire. There was nothing like sitting on a ridge at night, with a harvest moon hanging low in the west, as they swapped stories and listened for their dogs barking as loud as they could. It was music to their ears. Nothing was more exciting or satisfying than watching and listening to their hounds. It meant that the fox was giving their hounds a good run. Each man knew the voice of each of his hounds and could tell from their bark how close his dogs were to the fox. The hunters enjoyed rooting for their favorite dog, reminiscing, and telling stories about hounds of old.
At times, the hunters just sat quietly around the camp fire and absorbed "the music of the chase”. With all the dogs together, it was kind of like a chorus, always changing. And every hunter listened for his own dogs, to know how they were doing. Each man tried to visualize where each dog was in the pack, and could usually tell whether his dog was carrying the lead by the change of his bark, (called “change in his mouth”). In other words, each hunter tried to visualize in his mind the drama of the chase by what he was hearing. If the hound was aggressive and going ahead, his bark was more eager, more excited.
A successful hunt ended when the fox was accounted for because he entered a hole in the ground or slipped into his den under a rock ledge before the dogs got him, only to be chased again on another day.
As one old farmer put it, “fox hunting would make an old man young, and a young man forget his wife.”
~ FOX HUNTING ~
Oral History Story
James Thomas Smith
G.O. Cox - (my dad):
“Grandpa Smith was a fox hunter. My grandmother, (Sarah Sanders Smith) would make a great big pan of bread…that big a square (measuring) for them dogs. Every evening. And if he told her not to feed the dogs, I knew we were going to go hunting that night. So they would run real good. And he would put me up in front of him in the saddle and away we would go. And we would meet four or five other fellows and they would all have their dogs and boy, I’m telling you, the fox chase took place. And we would stop and listen to those dogs, and they could tell which dog was in the lead…and where the fox was going to cross. And we would get on those horses, and race to get there in the moonlight and watch the dogs cross with that fox. It was thrilling…to a little boy!
“Yes, it was a pastime to them. He had the best dog there was in that country…my grand-father. His name was
Pullman. I don’t know where he got that name for him,
but I never will forget it.
“Pullman”…like the Pullman car on the back of a passenger train. And he
had the best nose, and was one of the fastest dogs.
“I know one night, we had started across a bridge over there at the Chancellor Creek over a foot log when he was just a puppy, when my grandfather was training him, and it was a coon he was after instead of a fox, and when we got up there, that coon had a hold of that puppy on that log and pulled him off in that water. And it was icy, mind you. And Grandpa went right in that icy water and grabbed that pup by the leg and that coon was still holding on to him, setting right on top of his head. And he would have drowned him, too, if Grandpa hadn’t of got him out. They will do that, a coon will.”
Eva (Smith) Cox – (my grandmother) telling about her dad, James Thomas Smith, the fox hunter:
“My daddy was a great fox hunter. He had fox dogs, and he went with all of them. All of them hunted. But daddy liked to go with Roy Stewart’s daddy. John Henry Stewart. Those two really loved to hunt together. Yes…they went fox hunting all the time! And then got up early of a morning and go to the field and work hard all day, and then his health give away. And Roy Stewart would come by to go fox hunting, and he would help him finish his work so he could go fox hunting at night with them.” Roy Stewart’s daddy was a farmer too. And him and my daddy was as close as brothers. They sure was. (laughing) “He was a fine man.”
“Some of the fox hunter’s families would come and spend the night and they rode in the wagon, and they would spend the night because it was too far to go back home at night. I don’t know - (she was trying to remember…) some of them that fox-hunted came in wagons, and some had their dogs tied all around it…and the family would come along and spend the night.”
~ Contributed by Janice Cox Brown
(Roy Thompson Stewart married Aunt Ella Smith, my grandmother’s younger sister next to her in age. Roy Stewart’s father was John Henry Stewart who married Susannah Miranda Cox (daughter of James William Cox and Mary Elizabeth Mitchell – my grandfather’s parents).
From my Family TreeMaker Notes Section:
Roy Thompson Stewart was born November 26, 1892 at Select, Ohio County, KY. He was the son of John Henry Stewart and Susannah Miranda Cox.
Roy Stewart married Ella Jennie Smith, the sister of Eva Caroline (Smith) Cox, my grand-mother. They had two sons: Velno Kenneth Stewart, born April 16, 1917 at McHenry, and Theron M. Stewart, born February 20, 1923; died July 17, 2006 at his residence in Indiana.
Roy was a well-respected member of his community and among his family relations. He was a member of Select Church of Christ, the Cromwell Lodge No. 692 F&AM and the Cromwell OES No. 294. A long-time rural mail carrier, he retired in 1958.
He had Masonic graveside rites and was buried in Sunnyside Cemetery.
Roy helped me with my initial genealogical research on the Thomas Smith family, and I still have his letter written to me in 1964.
An obituary from The Ohio County News, dated Thursday, Dec 2, 1971, page 8, reads:
"Roy T. Stewart"
"Cromwell” -- Roy T. Stewart, 78, died at 12:15 p.m., Tuesday, November 23, at the Ohio County Hospital.
Mr. Stewart was born November 26, 1892 in Ohio County. He was a member of the Select Church of Christ, the Cromwell Lodge No. 692 F&AM and Cromwell OES No. 294. He was a retired mail carrier, retiring in 1958.
Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Ella Smith Stewart; two sons, Kenneth Stewart and Theron Stewart, both of Hammond, Indiana; three grandchildren.
Funeral services were conducted at 2 p.m. Friday, November 27, at the William L. Danks Funeral Home by the Rev. Gary Embry, pastor of the United Methodist Church, assisted by the Rev. Arnett Williams, pastor of Concord Baptist Church. Burial was in Sunnyside Cemetery."
Roy T. Stewart, Master
Cromwell Lodge No. 692
(photo, but not shown here)
Cromwell Lodge No. 692, Cromwell, met on St. John’s Day,
December 27, 1939, and elected and installed officers for the
ensuing year. Those so chosen were:
Roy T. Stewart, master; R. C. Burgess, senior warden, Hudnall
LeMasters, junior warden; Otha West, treasurer. The new secretary,
Bro. Past Master Elmer Embry, acted as installing officer.
Bro. Past Master R. C. Burgess then installed Bro. Embry as
secretary and the following appointed officers: H. N. Phelps,
senior deacon; D. Nelson, junior deacon; Owen T. Wallace,
senior steward; J. W. Martin, junior steward; Clarence James,
chaplain, and Hilley Kessinger, tiler.
Our new worshipful master, Bro. Roy T. Stewart, is an ardent
Mason, is taking the duties of his office seriously and members
of the lodge confidently look forward to a year of progress under
his capable guidance. He will have the support of a loyal corps
of officers, eager to assist in helping the lodge to prosper. An
increased attendance of our members will be highly pleasing to
officers of the lodge and spur them on to greater achievements .
Stated meetings of Cromwell Lodge are held on the 4th Monday
each month, and we welcome visiting. Craftsmen.-E Embry, secretary.
From my Family TreeMaker Notes Section:
John Henry Stewart -- 1861-1930
Susannah Miranda Cox -- 1863-1910
Susannah Miranda, born July 18, 1863 was the second child of James William and Mary Elizabeth Cox. She was named after her two grandmothers – Susannah Miranda Cox and Susannah C. Acton. When she was eighteen, Susannah, called “Susie,” married John Henry Stewart, twenty, September 13, 1881. He was born October 1861, the son of John F. Stewart and Catherine R. Douglas. Susie’s name is written in her father’s Bible as “Susanah M. Cox.”
During the next twenty-five years, this couple had eight children of whom only five lived to maturity.
1) Oscar Newton, born July 1882; died age 60, 1943
2) Minnie, born Oct. 1885; died age 33, 1919
3) Azro B., born 1883 and died the same day.
4) Elza Wayne, born 1887; died 1899, age 11 years
5) Estill L., born 1890; lived two days.
6) Roy Thompson Stewart, born Nov. 1892, (who grew up and married my
grandmother’s sister, Ella Jennie Smith); died 1971, age 78
7) Warren C. Stewart, born Sep. 1894; died 1916, age 22,
8) Ethel Catherine Stewart, born Jan. 1897; died 1946, age 49
When the census taker visited the Cromwell community in 1900, he stopped at the home of John Henry Stewart and his wife, Susie M. John was thirty-eight and Susie was thirty-six, and they said they had been married eighteen years. Susie had borne eight children, five of whom were living at the time. Children listed in the home were Oscar N., 17; Minnie F., 14; Roy T., 7; Warren C., 5; and Ethel C., 3. John Henry’s occupation was farming.
By the time of the 1910 census, the family was living at Rosine, and Oscar and Minnie no longer lived in their parent’s home. More than likely they had married and started families of their own. Three children, Roy T., 17; Warren C., 15, and Ethel C., 13, were still living at home.
The census of 1910 was taken in April, and at that time, Susie had been ill for several years. Four months later her condition worsened and she died August 26, 1910. She was only forty-seven at her death, and she and John Henry had been married almost twenty-nine years. She was buried in Fairview East Cemetery, Ohio County. It was a very sad occasion for the entire family.
Her obituary was found in the Hartford Republican, dated Friday, September 2, 1910 on page five and another mention under the community of Select, dated September 4:
~ SELECT ~
“Sept. 4 – Mrs. Susie Stewart, wife of J. H. Stewart, died at her
residence this place Thursday night, August 25th of consumption.
She was a member of the Christian church and was a good
She leaves a husband and five children, and a host of friends to
mourn her loss.”
John Henry Stewart later remarried Ida Luck on December 23, 1919, who helped make a home for his three children who were still in their teens. According to his death certificate he died April 15, 1930, was still married to Ida, and was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Ohio Co. Kentucky. Son O. N. Stewart was the informant and listed his father’s name as John Henry Stewart (and not John McHenry Stewart as some researchers have recorded).
(Email Note to Janice Brown from Billy Morris, a distant cousin, re his Uncle Clida Morris, another fox hunter. Also, notes for John Henry Stewart, Ohio County trains, and mining.):
Recollections by Billy Morris
Billy remembered that his Uncle Clida Morris was a fox hunter, and he related this story:
“I remember my uncle Clida Morris was a big fox hunter. In rural Ohio County back in the 1930s, early 1940s, when it got dark, it was really dark. Also, sounds carried very far. No airplanes or automobiles rumbling all hours of the night. You could hear the dogs running and barking for miles.” (Clida Morris (1897-1986) was son of Granville Morris (1872-1954) and Viola Frances Daughtery (1877-1919)
“Janice, I got both your messages this morning. My grandfather Henry Stewart was the son of Charles W. Stewart and Susan C. Rains. Charles’ father was Henry Stewart and this Henry was the son of Archibald Stewart.
“John McHenry Stewart who married Susan Miranda Cox was the son of John Franklin Stewart, who was the son of Cornelius Stewart; he was the son of Archibald Stewart.
“Most all the Stewarts around Mt. Pleasant, Select, Cromwell and Rosine area are from Archibald Stewart.”
Thanks to Billy for this information below on trains and mining in Ohio County:
Billy Morris: Recollections about Ohio County Trains
“You could hear the trains on the Illinois Central track when they went by. The Rosine hill was a real problem for the old steam engines. It was a long hill with the maximum incline allowed, at the top was a tunnel. When an engine started to spin its wheels going up the hill they would uncouple the last half of the train, take the front half to Horse Branch where they had a big siding. The engine would go back and get the remainder of the train and put it back together and go.
“If this happened at night you could hear the train running back and forth. During that time, trains were the way of hauling most everything. At Horse Branch there was a “Y” so the trains could change directions. This “Y” was also connected to tracks running to Owensboro.
“The railroad was the Illinois Central. It ran from Fulton, KY to Louisville. There was
a spur at Horse Branch that ran to Owensboro, KY. Trains were the main form of transportation then. My mother used to catch the train in the morning at Rosine and go to the High School at Horse Branch and back to Rosine in the afternoon.
Billy Morris: Recollections about Mining
“My grandfather worked in the mines at McHenry. They lived in the housing you mentioned and shopped at the company store. My mother was born there as were all the children. My grandmother Sadie Crowder died in 1918 with the flu that killed so many people. My grandfather quit the mines then and moved back to Rosine.
“I don't know much about the mines. I know he had two scars on his head from slate falls. I grew up at Renfrow and there were several what was called truck mines around. Farmers would find a small vein of coal and would work it during the winter to make extra money. Most of the people in the area got their winter coal from them. I went back in one when I was about 10 years old. Had to crawl back as it wasn't over 24 to 30 inches high. Once was enough for me.
“I wish I could have taped some of the conversations with my grandfathers. But when I was a kid they did not exist, and if they did, we would not have had one. Didn't get a radio until about 1939. It belonged to my grandfather Morris and we were not allowed to listen to anything but 1/2 hour news at night.”
I hope you enjoy retirement as much as I have.