My great-grandfather Walter F. ROOP was a blacksmith, coal miner, artist, poet, photographer, and cartoonist. He left us precious memories including this photo of the Gauley River. Walter took three photos at Jodie in Fayette County, West Virginia, in 1921, tinted them by hand, and put them together to make this panorama view.
As far as I know no one has come forward with the camera(s) he used for his photography. I was surprised to find the photo (at top) on a cousin’s Facebook page of him with his photo enlarger. I have images of his drawings and photos but none of his cartoons. My wish is that others will read this and remember that they have keepsakes hidden away in the attic or basement [please don’t let it be in a shed unless it’s a car], photos in an old family album, poems and letters written by him, or old UMW journals with his “art”.
Let me tell you about this wonderful man who loved his wife so much that he wrote at least five poems for her in 1950 following her death: “The Letters You Loved and Kept”, “That Darling Pal of Mine”, “Admiration”, “My Garden: Gethsemane”, and an unnamed poem which begins with “Dear heart, since you have gone to rest I only think of you”.
Walter Farmer ROOP was born on 16 April 1883 in Montgomery County, Virginia, to Gordon Washington ROOP (1862-1930) and Milla Susan PETERS (1856-1891). His parents were married on the first of January 1880 in Floyd County, Virginia, at the residence of Jordan PETERS, father of the bride. They lived on Alum Ridge at the time of the census and birth of their oldest son George Washington ROOP (1880-1950).
From the beginning of my research into the ROOP family (also seen as RUPE, ROUP, ROOPE, ROUPE) I have always believed that my great-grandfather was the oldest child. However the draft cards for WWI and WWII and the death record of George W. ROOP show that he was the oldest child. George as well as his brother Charles Turner ROOP who was born in 1885 have their place of birth listed on different records as Floyd County. [Research: Birth records of George, Walter and Charles may show that place of birth was different from that listed on later records as Alum Ridge is near the county line of Floyd and Montgomery counties.]
Following Charles’ birth in 1885 the family of five moved to Raleigh County, West Virginia, where the fourth son, James H. “Old Man Jim” ROOP (1887-1962), was born on 30 May 1887 at Snuffer’s Branch. They moved to Kanawha County where a daughter was born in June 1890. Mother Milla and her baby daughter died in a house fire in 1891 and, according to family tradition, the four sons were placed in the homes of Henry and Lee Snuffer until their father was able to care for them. Gordon remarried in 1894. By 1900 Walter was living with his father, stepmother, and four stepsiblings. His brothers Charles and James were boarding with Snuffer families in Raleigh County while his brother George has not been located. Walter’s father Gordon was working as a photographer in 1900. Like father, like son.
Walter F. Roop is the first of the 4 Roop boys to marry in the 1910s
Walter (20), a miner, married Rebecca Jane CLONCH (16) on 12 July 1903 in Fayette County. On the marriage record [line 5] Walter’s place of birth was incorrectly listed as Kanawha County. The marriage was performed by James M. Epling. J. A. Tucker is mentioned under Remarks and may have been a witness. Their first child, Lacy Shelton ROOP (1904-1937), was born seven months later on 8 February 1904 in Pond Gap, Kanawha County. A second son Piercie was born the next year on 15 March 1905 and died 5 May 1905. No record of birth or death has been found however the child is buried in the Clonch Family Cemetery at Mount Olive. Walter’s great-granddaughter Janice Louise Cox Bostic visited the cemetery and read the dates off of Piercie’s stone for me.
Three more children were born in Fayette County before the 1910 census: Myrtle Hazel ROOP (1906-1997) on 26 March 1906 in Belva; James Henry ROOP (1908-1957) on 11 February 1908 in Marting; and Walter Gordon ROOP (1910-1984) on 9 March 1910 in Mount Olive. The 1910 census listing, which should show that there were 4 of 5 children living, has not been found. On this map we see the area that they were living in at this time. The distance from Marting to Belva is 8 miles.
Walter and Rebecca’s 5th living child Edith Estelle “Edie” ROOP (1913-2003) was born on 9 June 1913 in Marting, a coal town along Smithers Creek. About mid-July 1913 the family moved to Jodie. Edith was six weeks old at the time. The family of seven travelled over land from Marting to Belva and then took a flat ferry up Gauley River to Jodie. We know this because Edith wrote on the back of the Gauley River panorama photo: “We moved to this place (Jodie, W. Va.) in year of 1913 on a flat ferry up Gauley River (Fayette Co. W. Va.)” and “I was 6 wks old, Edith Roop Ramsey”.
World War I 1914-1918
Soon after Walter and his family moved to Jodie the first World War began. In 1918 Walter Farmer ROOP gave information on his World War I Draft Registration Card pertaining to his residence, birth, occupation, and physical description. He was working as a mine blacksmith for the Gauley Mountain Coal Company in Jodie. He was of medium height and build with blue eyes and brown hair.
Following the end of World War I the family was photographed in this car. We’ve been able to date the photo using the photo of the daughters Edith and Myrtle dated 1919 which shows them with the same hairstyles and wearing the same clothes. During that year Walter’s youngest son Alfred Lee ROOP (1919-1981) was born on 22 August 1919 in Jodie.
Artist and Photographer
The year 1921 was a very productive year for Walter, the artist and photographer. Not only did he make the panorama photo of Gauley Bridge, he also made ink drawings that were passed on to his children and are now in the possession of grandchildren. His granddaughter Peggy Jean Ramsey Baker recounted that Panther and Deer and The Grizzly drawings were copied from pictures in a big book (maybe some sort of history book). She saw the pictures which were approximately 2×2.5 inches in size in the book as a child. She believes that there was a third drawing of “some sort of cat in tall grass”.
Following births of his first three granddaughters, Walter photographed the girls and tinted the photo.
Three Marriages and a Death in the 1920′s
Three of Walter’s children married in the 1920’s: Myrtle Hazel md. Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY in 1923; James Henry md. Goldie M. WALKER in 1927; and Edith Estelle “Edie” md. James David RAMSEY in 1929.
Shortly before the 1930 census Walter’s father Gordon Washington ROOP died on 30 January 1930 in Kanawha City and was buried in Jodie.
With three children married, Walter and Rebecca had two children living at home in 1930 as their oldest son Lacy was working in Raleigh County and living with his first cousin once removed Myrtle ROOP and her husband Golden Stewart BROWN. The Roop family was renting a house at $9 a month. Walter and his son Gordon were working as coal miners while young Alfred (10) was still going to school.
Three Marriages and a Death in the 1930’s
Three more marriages took place in the 1930’s: Walter Gordon married 18 July 1931 Ica Laurel CARR (1913-1993); Lacy Shelton ROOP married 28 March 1932 Lulu Irene HAYS (1915-1992); and Alfred Lee ROOP married 15 May 1937 Lorena Lea ELSWICK (1918-1992)
Walter’s oldest son Lacy Shelton ROOP was killed on 8 July 1937 in Sprague, Raleigh County. “He was crushed by a giant lump of slate 18 feet long which broke loose from the mine roof. He had finished his day’s work and was starting the gathering motor to take his load of coal to the tipple.”
By 1940 Walter and his wife Rebecca were living alone in a house they rented for $10 a month. Walter worked 35 hours a week as a utility man in the coal mines and earned $1,692 in 1939. Per the 1940 census Walter had 8 years of schooling. In 1942 he was still working for the Gauley Mountain Coal Company. He was 5 ft. 6 in., weighed 155 lbs, had brown hair and grey eyes.
Walter’s beloved wife, Rebecca Jane CLONCH, died 3 February 1950 in Belva, Nicholas County. Walter wrote poetry to mourn the death of his wife: “The Letters You Loved and Kept”, “That Darling Pal of Mine”, “Admiration”, “My Garden: Gethsemane”, and an unnamed poem which begins with “Dear heart, since you have gone to rest I only think of you”. [left]
We know that at least one of Walter’s poems “When We Retire” was published in the United Mine Workers Journal, January 15, 1952 issue. David C. Duke author of Writers and Miners: Activism and Imagery in America (published by University Press of Kentucky, 2002) referred to it in the notes on a chapter in the book. Part of the book is available on Google Books, unfortunately the page that may include a quote from the poem is not included. The UMW Journal is only available online for the years 2006-2013. It is my belief that Walter may have submitted other poems and maybe even the cartoons that the family says he drew but of which we have no copies. [Research to-do: request lookup in old UMW Journal]
Walter married second Mary Elizabeth [–?–] MOSS between 1951-1963. Mary was from North Carolina and was widowed. No marriage record has been located on http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/.
Walter Farmer ROOP died 1 June 1971 in Jodie and was buried in the Clonch Family Cemetery. He was a member of Jodie Baptist Church. Surviving were his second wife Mary, sons Gordon and Alfred, daughters Edith Ramsey and Myrtle Dempsey, and half-sisters Hazel, Mandy, and Julia.
Many thanks to Amy Johnson Crow author of the blog No Story Too Small for not being that big on New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because her challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is turning into a wonderful research tool. As I work on one ancestor at a time I’m checking on his/her parents, siblings, children, and even grandchildren in relation to him/her. What seemed unimportant the first time around is turning into clues that lead to more interesting information. The best part is that family is getting involved! They are sharing photos and anecdotes that are helping me to make the stories so much more interesting to write.
© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey