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Flemming Pack Loses Another Wife

A note on this story, Rebecca Burress was Flem Pack's first wife.  Rebecca was a sister of William Burress who married Flem's sister, Sarah Pack.  Rebecca Holbrook was Flem's second wife.  Not sure where the name Jones came from unless there was a third wife also named Rebecca that I have never found a record for. ~ Michelle

Little Liza Pack Eases Her Ailing Stepmother's Worries
Now along about this time, Sarah's brother Flemming Pack had grown up, fallen in love, and married a beautiful frontier woman name Becky Hoback.  Flem was a good sized man, and he dearly loved his Becky, but love alone was not enough to stop the deadly typhoid fever that took her young life.  No one could put a name to the immense sorrow Flem endured while mourning the loss of Becky, but his was doing nothing to find a mother for three kids.  Flem then turned his interest to finding a new wife, which didn't take long.
This wife, too, was young and pretty, and her name was Becky Jones.  She and Flem endured many hardships, and presently they had two children of their own, bringing their family total to five.  Now, believe me, life in those days was a trail in itself - long, cold, dark winters without much to eat at any one given time.  Their cabin was not only small and drafty, but it was damp.  It sat on the banks of what was a great river.
The way grandmother told it, it was much larger then, it was the almighty Clinch River.  The fog off that river could bring a chill clean to the bones. Such was the case with Flem and Becky the second.  While Flem worked at the sawmill somewhere between Cliffield and Pounding Mill, work of any kind was hard to come by.  There were no roads except dirt roads, and no railroad until many years later in 1905.  Even though Flem worked very hard at the mill and Becky worked hard at home, there came a time when things began to change at home.  At first, cousin Flem thought it might be possible that Becky was beginning to resent his children by his first marriage. 
Now Flemming Pack was a man of few words.  He was quiet even to the point of shyness.  When the men teased him about it, he'd just laugh and say that was how he got his women.  But he began to study in his own mind if he was really right.
One warm, clear evening, he took a walk in the woods looking for wild game, and he thought, "Self, let us study this thing about a while and see what turns about." So that night, instead of falling asleep straight away as usual, he just pretended to sleep.  When young Becky's didn't come in to bed right away, Flem called out, "Becky, what are you doing? Are you coming to bed?"  Becky replied, "I'll be there shortly, I'm sewing."  After a long while, Flem heard no sound.  He slipped out of bed and looked around the door, only to find Becky asleep, with her head lying on the hard, homemade table.  Flem just let her sleep for a long while.
Becky slept this way until along toward morning, when Flem decided it was time to get her to bed without her finding out he had known she was asleep.  He pretended to put wood on the fire, dropped a log with a loud bang, and Becky stated awake and came running.
"I'm sorry about the noise," he said, hugged her close, and carried her off to bed, pretending not to notice the time.  No sooner had he started to go to sleep than Becky started to cough, softly at first, then profusely. 
The next morning, Flem asked her how long she had been doing this.  "Oh," Becky sighed, "for a long time now..."  Her neglect of the children was not of any one child.  Instead of washing them herself and dressing them, she began to tell them to go wash up and dress themselves.  This was beginning to get to Flemming.  The next day being Friday, after work was over, instead of riding straight home, he said down on the porch of the mill.  A big man called Irish stopped and asked, "What's eatin' ye?"  Flem told his best friend how Becky had been acting.  Irish sucked on his corn cob pipe and allowed that something wasn't clicking just right, so if it was okay with Flem, he and his Mandy would pay them a visit on Sunday.  They had to come from Pounding Mill Branch, a long way by horse and wagon.
Come Sunday, Becky was excited at the thought of company, and hurried to do her chores.  Flem noticed a slight stoop in her shoulder as he tried to hurry with all her might, every few minutes stopping to cough. 
Around noon, the red-headed Irishman and his blond, blue-eyed Mandy came calling on Flem and Becky.  As the lunch drew to a close, the talk grew less and less, and Flem allowed as how he would like to show Irish some animals outside.  While the women washed the dishes, Becky stopped and went to the window.  Looking out at the men, she began to cry softly.  Now this was a little more than Mandy Irish could take, so big Mandy took Becky in her arms and held her close. Mandy could feel the rattle in Becky's body, just above the waist.  "Becky, Flem told Irish how you've been coughing all night." Mandy said.  Becky tried in vain to deny it.  Mandy walked over to the double bed, pulled down the double wedding ring quilt top, and said, "Now Becky, look at these bleached pillow cases.  I guess you've been carrying strawberries in these cases in October.  Is these red and brown spots anything but from your mouth at night?" finished Mandy, pointing to the bright red stains on Becky's pillow only.  Becky's face was a grayish white.  She just stook and looked at Mandy speechlessly.  Mandy asked, "How long have you been staining your pillow?" "Oh, a couple of weeks or so, I guess. After a while, I just didn't pay any attention," answered Becky. 
Mandy hugged her.  "If you stay wrapped up and don't do hardly any work - you'll have to stay in the house when it gets colder - you just may get to see the spring come." Mandy smiled trying to make Becky feel better.  Becky began to cry, "Oh Mandy, whatever will become of Flem?  He's lost one Becky, that nearly killed him, and now it's my turn.  I feel so guilty.  I told him I would raise his children when we were married."  Mandy held her tight, "it's this darn river" she said.  Both were unaware of the three pointed little faces peering around the door. There were Flem's children. His and Becky's were asleep.
The late fall sunshine made halo's around the blonde heads of the children.  The oldest was 12 year old Liza, who promptly spoke up.  "Mommy Becky, please don't cry.  I will take care of Poppy till as long as he lives."
Mandy and Becky turned around to face them.  Becky grabbed Liza by the arm.  "Will you swear on the Bible to always put your father first?  Oh, Liza, if only I knew you would I could die in peace."  "Becky," scolded Mandy, "The Bible!"  By this time Becky had gotten the Bible off the mantelpiece.  "Yes, the Bible," whispered Becky.  "Becky, that's not fair to Liza," objected Mandy.  "It's all right," said Liza, placing her hand on the Bible, "I swear by this Bible and all that's holy to look after my Poppy as long as he lives," said Liza.  Then, turning to Mandy, she asked, "What's wrong with Mommy Becky?" 
Mandy sat down in the bark bottom chair.  "Oh my child," she said, taking Liza on her lap.  "Your momma is dying of consumption.  The wealthy folk call it tuberculosis, but no matter anyway, there's still no cure, for it's deadly.  It always kills those afflicted with it.  We couldn't cure it, even if we could find a doctor," said Mandy.  Now Mandy and Becky were both God fearing Christians.  Irish and Flem came in about that time, they had heard the whole thing.  Flemming hugged Becky to his chest.  Little Liza patted both their hands, "It'll be all right, Poppy."
"Now, now," said Irish.  "It mightn't be all that bad as we think.  Any howsomever, we can pray. God always has a way with sickness," he finished, hanging his head to hide the tears.
Flemming Pack Loses Another Wife
For the second time in young Flemming Pack's life, God didn't take a hand.  As fall wore on into winter, the mill shut down, and poor Becky grew worse and worse. By Christmas it was all Becky could do to put a meal on the table, even with Liza's help.
Shortly after New Year's she could no longer leave her bed, except when Flem would pick up her bony little frame and sit it in the big chair he had made for her by the fireplace. One day Becky said to Flem, "Flemming, I'm truly sorry to take so much of your time."  Flem bowed down on his knees in front of Becky, laid his head in her lap for just a moment, and cried softly.  When he raised his head he smiled at Becky and said, "Becky, you know what I was thinking?" I know you are sick but I will have you.  What I mean is, I was down at the store this morning, and Thacker and the others said them devilish Indians got two more white women yesterday, that's what they said," finished Flem.  "They left by way of Roark's Gap again, too."
Becky said, "I guess my sickness is a blessing in disguise.  I'd rather be dead than to have to endure what those women are going to go through."
Time went very fast from then on.  One day in early spring, the sun came in so warm that Becky asked Flem to take her outside, as she believed spring had broke.  He carried her out to the big oak tree and propped her up on her quilt with pillows.  She saw robins, read birds, and blue jays busy building nests, a couple of squirrels, and their faithful old crows that always built a nest across the river in the tall sycamore.  Liza and the other four little children picked dandelions and violets by the bunch and brought them to Becky. 
"Flem," said Becky, "Do you see that little sycamore where the land is level?  Please bury me there, put these flowers on my grave, and bring me that square green stone down by the river for my head stone.  I love you all."  Becky started to cough badly.  Now, by the time Flem could put her to bed there was no breath left in her.  Becky the second was gone to meet her Maker.
Liza ran as fast as her young legs would carry her to the Irishes' place.  All out of breath, she managed to say, "Aunt Mandy, Momma Becky's gone.  Would you all please come over?"  Mandy said she would, Irish went to tell the neighbors.  By sundown, the older ladies of the community had Becky "all laid out" as it was called, which was to bathe and dress her in her best clothes and high top button shoes, and comb her hair.  The men helped Flem to make her coffin of dressed poplar boards he had been saving up. He insisted on doing it mostly himself.  They all stayed for the setting up all night, and buried her the next morning at sunrise in the flat under the sycamore.  They placed the green stone at her head.  All summer Flem worked hard gathering roots and herbs in the mountain to sell to a man who traveled in a covered wagon from community to community.  He bought them as well as all the furs he could buy in the fall.
Now back in those days where West Virginia was all the way to Cedar Bluff, it was all Virginia wilderness.  Flem made it through that winter after Becky had died, but when it came spring again and his children put flowers on her grave, it was a little more than he could take.  He gave away everything that he could travel without, packed up his five young children, and set out for the high mountains of west Virginia.  He went back far into the wilderness where the soil was good and black and built them a cabin.  Flem and the children gathered herbs and roots all summer.  That fall, he explained to the children he'd have to make a trip to Pounding Mill to sell their herbs and furs.  Liza was now 13, and quite grown up.  Cousin Flem said for her to take good care of the children and not let them go away from the cabin, for the moon would be big and full so they wouldn't be afraid, and he would be back some time the next day.
So that evening Liza made them a pot of corn meal mush for supper.  They took their wooden spoons and sat down in the floor. Liza took their three legged iron pot off the fireplace and set it on the floor, so they ate this for supper.  The iron pot was all the had to cook in, so when they were through eating they just left the iron pot on the floor.  Now, cousin Flem hadn't gotten around to making a door to the cabin - he said he would when he got back - so they hung a homemade quilt over the door and they went to bed.  Their beds were bunks framed to the wall and woven with rope or hickory bark. 
Now it was getting dark. They pulled the covers up over their heads to sleep.  All the children had gone to sleep a short time later, except for Liza.  Out on the ease point of the ridge, just behind the house, Liza heard the gathering call of the well-known timber wolf.  She listened intently.  soon another and then another - they were close now, and she began to be afraid.  She silently woke the children and put them on the top bunk and warned them to be quiet.  They stuffed the cover into their mouths to make sure one wouldn't cry out.  They next thing they knew, the leader of the pack came sliding under the quilt.  It was a large gray wolf with a ruff around its neck. The another and another, until all five have come in.
Luck and God himself were with the children. The wolves didn't notice the children, they were intent on fighting over the pot, which luckily for all them turned over and rolled out the door, down the hill, and into the creek. Liza and the children jumped out of bed, turned the heavy homemade table over, and put it and everything else across the door.
Now as all this was taking place with the children, Cousin Flem was having a bad experience of his own.  By the time he'd left Pounding Mill and gotten to Amonate, he could tell by the way his horse was acting, it kept shying and stopping and shivering, that they were being tracked by a predatory animal.  So when he go to the top of the first mountain he saw his quarry, a large yellow panther.
It seemed to be jumping from tree to tree and bank to bank.  This kept up for miles and miles, until the back horse was almost given out.  They had arrived almost home, at the edge of the clearing, when the great panther jumped out of the tree to jump on Flem, but it missed him and clawed the horse's hindquarters badly.  Flem jumped down, ran into the house, got his muzzle load gun, and killed the panther.
When Liza got up that morning, she had to go down the hill and get her pot, which had been licked clean by the wolves.  So after Flem was told of their horrifying experience, he made them a heavy door to do until cold weather. 
Grandma had been praying diligently, as had Cousin Ellie, that he would bring the children back out of the wilderness for the winter.  Their prayers were answered.  Flem brought them back to Pounding Mill and never took then back.  He would go, but never again with the children.  He went every summer and gathered as long as he was able.  When he brought them back the first time, he bought a three acre farm with a three room house on it in what is now known as Baptist Valley. 
Liza never stayed married.  She had gotten married after Flem died, but her husband wanted here to will her land over to him. She wouldn't, and ran him off.  Before this, you see, Liza had stayed single and true to her promise to Becky, she kept house for her poppy and younger brother Jim, until Jim grew up.  When Flem died in his late fifties or early sixties, it was learned he had willed the land to Liza.  Flem had willed Liza his Civil War pension as well as the land.  He left his whole little life's savings to young Jim - it was $900.  At that time, it was a lot of money.
Now, along about this time everywhere you would look there were posters and advertisements, every one just alike, "Go west, young man, go west." After Jim having talked it over with some of the older men in Pounding Mill, he decided this was the thing for him to do.

*Georgia Maude Quesenberry Maxfield, an 80 year old Tazewell resident (deceased), wrote recollections of early Tazewell County life as told to her by her great-grandmother and her grandmother. Her Recollections appeared in the Tazewell Newspaper sometime in the early 1980's. Georgia was the daughter of George & Mary Frances Burress Quesenberry.

Linked toFamily: Pack/Holbrook (F924)

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