The Times West Virginian


August 23, 2013

The Rev. Silas Kirk

The Rev. Silas Hoover Kirk, of Rivesville, kept his appointment with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as he departed this life on Thursday (Aug. 22, 2013), at the age of 101 years.

He was born to the Rev. Daniel Webster Kirk and Clara Alice Annon Kirk on April 27, 1912.

He was married to Bertha Elizabeth Reynolds Kirk for 58 years, who preceded him in death on April 4, 1989. That union produced nine children: three sons, Darrel Willie Kirk and wife Juanita, deceased, Howard Ezra Kirk, deceased, and John Mark Kirk and wife Shirley, of Fairmont; six daughters, Mrs. Keith (May) Hovatter, of Rising Sun, Md., Mrs Joseph (Clara) Spaid, of Aurora, Mrs. Jack (Kathleen) Fike, of Valrico, Fla., Mrs. Wayne (Bonnie) Fast, of Shinnston, Mrs. Junior (Mary Jane) Forquer and Mrs. Lonnie (Betty) Fast of Fairmont.

He had 25 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren and several great-great-grandchildren.

He was then married to Lillian Fay Gilmore Kirk for 15 years, who died in February 2005. He was the last survivor of 10 children. He had seven sisters, May Tenny, Ruth Shaffer, Naomi Sanders, Orpha Martin Fike, Martha Bean, Mary Clayton and Esther Clayton; and two brothers, Paul Kirk and George Kirk.

A celebration of his life will be held at the Carpenter and Ford Funeral home with viewing from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday with funeral services following with Pastor Bonnie Kirk Fast officiating. He will be laid to rest in the Nuzum Cemetery at the Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren.

The Life and Times of Silas H. Kirk

 When Silas was about three days old, in bed with his mother, she dreamed she was washing green beans and dreamed she was throwing out the water and threw him out of bed onto the floor. One of the older girls picked him up and put him back in bed with her. He said his father never liked him from day one.

Daddy was a self-made man having to drop out of school in the fifth grade at the age of 14, to work on the family farm. They only had 7 months of school at that time, October through April, so the kids could help on the farm, planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall.   Schooling was not important to his father, keeping Silas home to work on the farm, missing a lot of school days. When he went to school his dad bought pencils and broke them in half and gave each kid half a pencil.

He walked to Rock Lake where the schoolhouse was a shanty on Tom Shreve's property. After the end of World War I his teacher was Andy Henderson. It was hard to get teachers at that time and if you could read and write, you could teach school. He later attended Quiet Dell School which stood where the church now stands.

As a child he walked 3 miles for a penny, to get the mail.  As a young man he worked from daylight till dark for a dollar a day. If he only worked half a day he earned 50 cents. Not having a alarm clock, he would rise well before daylight to make sure he was at work on time and walked for miles to get to work.

When his first child was due he went to town to find a doctor. He saw a “Doctor” sign on a building and went in and said, “Are you the doctor?”

The man said, “Don't I look like a doctor.”

He said, “I don’t know what a doctor is supposed to look like.”

He told the doctor they were expecting a baby and asked how much he charged to deliver a baby. The doctor said $35 and time and you’ll have to come and get me; I don't drive. If I’m there all night it will be $50.

After a year he still had no money to pay the doctor and the doctor wanted his money. Daddy said, the only thing I have is a cow, and the doctor sent a man out to get his cow. When our brother Willie was a small child he became very sick one time and they had no medicine or money for a doctor. Daddy went out in the dark of night, in the winter rain, and crawled around on hands and knees in the mud to find some onions left over from the summer’s garden and Mother made some onion tea for him to drink and made a poultice to put on his chest and he got better.

Natural gas was 50 cents per 1,000 cubic feet. That was 50 cents a month, and they could only use it to cook with.  They couldn't pay the gas bill and when it reached $4 the gas company threatened to shut off the gas. He worked hard because he had a family to feed and take care of and  expected everyone else to do the same.

Everyone had flies and bedbugs by the millions. Only the rich had screens. In World War II they invented DDT and they sprayed the beds and everything in the house to kill the bedbugs. What a blessing. When he started to work and made a little money, they bought screens to keep out the flies.

He worked as a field hand, a laborer, and for a time worked at the Hammond brick yard where his job was to load 100 brick in a wheelbarrow and push it 50 to 200 feet, unload and toss 4 brick at a time to a man up in a truck who stacked them in rows and go back for another load for which he was paid 7 cents a load, 70 cents per 1,000 bricks. Each time I unloaded the wheelbarrow I made a mark on paper and turned it in at quitting time. The kiln baked 40,000 brick at a time and when the brick was baked they would turn off the fire in the kiln. Sometimes when we went in the kiln after the brick, it was so hot it would burn the hair off my face. The brickyard employed 104 men at one time and closed during the Depression and reopened later.

He also worked building roads. At times I would crush rock with a 5-pound sledge hammer all day. Blacktop was hauled in by train in a gondola. (In his words) we slid the door up and the blacktop would drop out into a bin. When the bin was full we would drop the door back down. We used a wide fork similar to a potato fork to spread the blacktop one fork at a time which was about 20 pounds. I'd get a load on a fork and flip it over and tamp it down. The blacktop was hot tar and gravel, and when it cooled they would run a roller over it to pack it down. A man would walk backward in front of the roller and mop the roller with water to keep it from sticking. They first paved the East Grafton Road out to Hopewell Road. They had a bond issue to pave the road out to Colfax Road then to Williams Crossroads, then on to the Taylor County line.

He worked as a coal miner loading coal by hand.  The more coal he loaded, the more money he earned, sometimes loading 25-30 tons of coal by hand on a shift.  He later retired from Consol No. 93 mine.

He bought the family farm from his mother and began to work the ground along with other jobs. The family raised food in the summer and buried the potatoes, apples and cabbage in the fall and dug them up in the winter for a warm meal. Vegetables and fruits were canned and we always butchered hogs or a beef on Thanksgiving day. My Mother would bake 8 loaves of bread at a time. We always had plenty to eat. He provided well.

As his family began to grow he needed a larger house and he bought a book called “O’Dull’s Carpenters Guide” which he studied and built a seven-bedroom brick house, and never borrowed a dime on it. He was working three days a week in the coal mines at Carolina at the time. At one point he was laid off from the mines and borrowed $4,000 to start his own business, Kirk's Contracting, installing septic systems and doing backhoe work.

As an ordained minister of the Church of the Brethren, he was pastor of the Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren for many years. His first sermon was a funeral. In a sense of the word he was even a doctor. When our Mother was sick he made her live. He took care of her and doctored her and when the traditional method failed he figured out a way to make her better and he did the same with Lillian.

He had a very inquisitive mind and was always trying to learn, buying a computer and teaching himself to use it at age 90. Having the Bible on computer, he studied it often until his eyesight failed him. I stopped by his house one day when he was 90 years old and he was up in a pine tree with a chain saw trimming the tree limbs. While in his 90s he had truckloads of wood hauled in and he split it into firewood with a sledge hammer and chisel just for the exercise. He worked like a horse all his life and his family worked right along side of him.

In his lifetime he saw it all, from the horse and buggy to putting a man on the moon to the high-technology boom. He had an amazing memory and could tell you the names of people he grew up with, their brothers and sisters, who they married and their children's names, and the year they were born, where they lived and when they died.

He told of his earliest memory being while he was still in diapers and they had come home from church in the road wagon (a large wagon pulled by horses). His father had pulled the wagon up in the yard on Levels Road, unhitched the horses, dropped the shaft and hadn't set the brake. His sister, Mary, and her friend Mildred Travis were sitting in the wagon looking over Sunday School papers and the wagon started to slowly drift backward. The screams of his mother and others burnt the memory into his mind. His sister jumped from the wagon but the other girl went over the cliff with the wagon and his father ran down around the cliff and came up carrying the girl. She was unconscious but not seriously hurt. The horse was the fastest mode of transportation at that time.

 His mother raised chickens and would take the eggs to town and sell them. One day she sent him upstairs to get the basket of excelsior in which they packed the eggs. He set it in the kitchen and later came back and the basket was setting in the doorway, and he ran and jumped in the basket with both feet, not knowing the basket was full of eggs. His sister saw him and told him it was full of eggs but she never told their parents, who took the basket of eggs to town and they never did figure out what happened to the eggs.

He could tell you about the first car he ever saw, around 3-4 years old, and when he was 12-13 years old the first airplane. They were having dinner when someone said they heard a car and they all went outside to look for the car and his Dad said, “I see him way up yonder.” The double wings on that plane looked about a foot long. The first telephone hung on the wall and was called the punkin vine. Charlie Slaughter had the first radio I ever saw. It had 6-8 buttons and a bunch of tubes. The first television I ever saw was at Faulkner’s store. I got my first car when I was 15 years old. My brother Paul needed a suit and I had one and he traded me his car for my suit. You could buy an old Ford Roadster or $25-$30 at that time. Driver’s license cost $1.

During the last Depression steak cost 8 cents a pound, navy beans were 3 cents a pound, and 25 pounds of flour was 25 cents, rough lumber sold for 18 cents per foot. Our Mother would wash her only dress at night and hang it to dry for the next day.

He told how his brother in law, John Sanders, after being laid off at the Owens, moved to Barberton, Ohio, and got a job there, bought a 1931 Ford Coupe Model A, paid for it and got laid off again. He put his furniture in storage, moved back home and never did get the money to get it out of storage.

Having lived through the Depression he could not tolerate waste or laziness, so if you happen to go to the funeral home and see him in a plain wooden box (casket), just know it was his idea. He had his coffin made several years ago. He wanted nothing fancy. He did this as a tribute to all the fallen soldiers in this country. He often said he was richer than King Solomon, having all the comforts of home but he wouldn’t cheat a man out of a penny and we never grew tired of listening to his stories.

Silas believed in keeping his mind and body busy and as he began to lose his eyesight and the ability to do things on his own he didn't take it lightly. He was a worker and a thinker, always using his mind which held a treasure of information. He had hundreds of tools and could tell you just exactly where to go get the one you needed.  He knew how to make things work and people often sought him out for advice on how to do something.  If we had people like him in Washington, this country wouldn't be in the shape its in now.

I wish I was only one fourth as smart as he. We truly have lost a national treasure. Can you imagine having to walk everywhere you went or having a horse as your only transportation, no paved roads, working for a dollar a day, no car, no TV, no radio, no running water, no phones, bedbugs and flies by the millions?

He fell backward getting off the lawn mower last fall crushing some vertebra and was in excruciating pain. He wasn't mowing the grass; he just liked to ride around the yard as his last little bit of freedom. He had back surgery and made a miraculous recovery, having no pain in his back at all, but a later fall caused him much pain from which he recovered but he was never the same.

He would say, “I don’t know why the good Lord is keeping me around here; I can't do anything anymore.” I told him the devil was afraid of him and the good Lord ain't ready for you yet. He said several times, all my friends are gone and there’s no one left with whom to discuss the old days and in that way, despite all his family and friends, he was lonely. He had several wonderful caregivers, the latest being Mary Jackson and Naomi Radcliff, to whom we are so very grateful. They gave their best but he was ready to go home. He’s been resting for a couple of years now and I'm sure he's ready to get back to work. Look out God!

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