EPHRAIM CLAMPUS VITUS
A number of months ago, my family and I decided to take a trip back to Virginia and visit relatives in the Lynchburg area. I knew I’d be aware that we would probably be within driving distance of Doddridge County, West Virginia, where E Clampus Vitus was to have started in the 1840’s. I decided that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to try and find Ephraim Bee’s gravesite, since there were really no directions.
Somewhere around May or June, IRJR had told me that a self-proclaimed Clamper, Gregg Dulaney Smith, had ventured into the Sandbox. He claimed to be ECV and his Lodge (Chapter) to be the one started by Ephraim Bee, the alleged founder of the Order. He also claimed to be a descendant of Mr. Bee and was a 3rd Great Grandson. Gregg said he had once lived in the Boulder Creek, CA. area and his family still owned property there. Mr. Smith also claimed to have met Al Shumate of YB #1 and Clyde Arbuckle of Mt. Charlie 1850 during the 1980’s. This would be somewhat hard to prove, since these two honorable Brothers have now passed on to the Golden Hills. He says he attended several Mt. Charlie Doins as a guest of some of the Chapter’s members. Lastly, he stated he had a road in the Boulder Creek area named “Ephraim Bee Road”. IRJR became very skeptical and considered the claims to be a huge hoax. After all, this self-proclaimed Brother says he is of a Lodge that has no record with our honorable Order. Now, if a Lodge or Chapter were still active since the 1840’s, we would surely know about it! If Gregg Smith had attended one or more of our Doins, how come he was never initiated? Had he truly known of Al Shumate and Clyde Arbuckle, he would have surely been initiated into our Order! Or, could it be that these two honorable Brothers recognize him as a member in good standing? Now, last but not least, he claims to be a descendant of Ephraim Bee!
For a Clamper, like our own IRJR, to believe all these claims was just a little too much! Too many questions with not enough valid answers. Being a most honorable “Officer Of Inequal Indignity” and trying to uphold the secrecy of our Order, IRJR promptly banned Gregg Smith from the Sandbox.
I strongly concurred with JR’s decision, but was still intrigued with these claims. One of my hobbies is Genealogy and his claims of descendancy to Ephraim were quite interesting. If this was true, then all his other claims could then fall into place. Could we possibly bridge our Brothers of the West with these so-called Brothers of the East? I figured my first step was to contact Gregg Smith and try to judge his claims as a hoax or not for myself. Gregg had contacted me, Steve Wilson of Mt. Charlie and IRJR to try and prove his claims valid. He said he lives on Smith land that was once owned by Ephraim Bee, as was most of the land between Smithburg and West Union. The Smith property, known as Maplewood Farm, was just outside the small town of Smithburg. Just a few miles west was West Union, where Ephraim had his tavern known as the Bee Hive. He was also supposed to be buried in the Cabin Run Church Cemetery, just north of town.
Gregg claimed that the West Virginia Lodge was still active, but just barely. Most of its members were of a senior age and didn’t get around much anymore. He felt that with some guidance and help from the West, maybe the WVECV Lodge could return to the growth side again.
I was still somewhat skeptical, but thought further research would be in order. Since I was going on vacation to Virginia, I checked on distance to Doddridge County. It was some 350 miles by horseless carriage and would be a somewhat lengthy trip. I decided to call Gregg Smith’s bluff and asked him about making a “pilgrimage” to Ephraim’s gravesite. To my surprise, he invited me to come to Maplewood Farm and even “clampout” if I so desired. An invitation he says is made to any Redshirt from the West. I felt at this point, that I had committed and must fulfill my request.
I checked with some of our senior Clampers to find if they had any information about Doddridge County or more of its history. Al Menshew, Joel Roberts and Geno Fambrini had responded to my request. All felt it could be a remote possibility that ECV was still active in WV, but our records or history could not prove it. Geno asked me to contact XSNGH Rod Stock, who was originally from West Virginia. Upon contact with Rod, I found that he had accumulated history of the Ephraim from a Great Grandson, Earl Bee. Rod was very interested in what might happen when I would go meet Gregg. Rod has been to Ephraim’s gravesite, but did not know of Gregg Smith. Unfortunately, Earl Bee has passed on to the Golden Hills, so we could not verify from that end. Rod will be making a trip to WV in September and hopes to meet Gregg then.
I then decided to try and find a common Bee ancestor to Gregg Smith. I did this without his knowledge. I found several Family Trees through the Internet and GedCom files. GedCom is a common software file used on the Internet for Family Trees. The files I found then on Ephraim Bee had no Smith connection. I then placed a message on a Genealogy Board and received an answer from a woman named Smith in WV. She sent me to another site and there I found a file that linked a Bee with a Smith. Genevra Bee, Ephraim’s Granddaughter, had married a Johnston Benjamin Smith. Gregg’s land was probably given or sold to Johnston Benjamin Smith since he married Genevra. They had a son, Paul Amos Smith and his descendants were named Living Smith. (When a GedCom file is posted on the Internet, it is customary not to use the first name of persons still living.) Gregg had spoke to me of a Grandfather named Paul Smith, who had initiated him into ECV. I then contacted Gregg and asked him about the names of his ancestors who would have been connected to the name of Bee. I still was a bit skeptical and didn’t want him to know that I was checking up on him on the Internet. To my surprise, he named his ancestors right up through and including Genevra. He said she had been a schoolteacher in West Union. I found out later that Gregg Smith had created this file, I’d discovered, some several years ago. One important note to make a family tree legitimate; you must have a reliable source. Most of his sources were from West Virginia Archives and Historical Records and were very reliable. My skepticism had now turned to excitement! It was all starting to come together and the chance of a West Virginia ECV Lodge founded by Ephraim Bee and still active had vastly improved!
Before my trip, I attended several Doins in July. One was Mt. Charlie at The Pitts and also Monterey Viejo’s Candlelight Initiation. Humbug, Ken “Rebel” Newton, once he had heard my story, wanted to send a metallic Mt. Charlie sign to Gregg. That gave me the bright idea of asking the Hawkers at both Doins if they would like to donate a small gift to WVECV. Not one Hawker turned me down! I collected buttons, pins, shirt, hat, etc., from about 8 Chapters. I wanted these gifts to have each Chapter’s name so they could be known to WVECV. Although I was unable to contact all Western Chapters, I’m sure that given the opportunity, they would have surely donated a little something. Oh yeah, even IRJR, who was still a bit skeptical, donated Cyber Whang gifts to our Eastern Brothers. I too, decided to donate my personal copy of ECV, Then and Now, (by Seth Slopes) to the cause. I felt the stories in the book of Ephraim would be of interest to WVECV.
Well, the day had finally come! I was back in Lynchburg VA, on my brother-in-law’s farm on Aug 9. I borrowed his pick-up and was ready to head out about 6am! The trip would take about 6 hours of driving time, if traffic and weather were good. About a week earlier, there had been flooding and contact with Maplewood farm was next to impossible. I would send emails to Gregg, but no return. I tried calling, but no answer. Excitement had started to turn back to skepticism. Then several days before I left, Gregg had emailed me. He could not read nor answer emails because his phone line was down. His gravel road was washed out and he was stuck at the farm. Once the road was cleared, he had to go to the West Union Library to read email. His phone line finally was repaired about the time I was leaving for Virginia. I called for final directions and after talking to him, figured he had to be a Clamper! Directions were vague and out where few people go. The last part of the trip would be up a gravel road with creek crossings. Pray that there be no rain, or you won’t get over the creeks! Gregg also said that another Brother, Justin “Mountaineer” Scarberry, from Billy Holcomb Chapter, would also be at the farm.
On the morning of the August 9, I started out on my trek into West Virginia Territory, where Ephraim’s Clampers were known to inhabit. West Virginia is a mountainous region. Not like our own Sierra Nevada’s, but still with a splendid beauty. The woods were so thick, in some spots; it was impossible to navigate by foot. Around 1pm I turned into the small-unincorporated town of Smithburg. As I recall, there was an auto repair shop with a small store, within the town limits. There were also a church or two and a number of small houses scattered down its main street. Some homes were old broken down shanty’s that has withstood the test of time. These were truly mountain folks!
The Bee’s and Smith’s were all Seventh Day Baptists and always honored Saturday as the Sabbath. They would attend church and devote the rest of the day to honoring the Lord. This hasn’t changed from Ephraim’s day to the present. Most, if not all folks attend and actively participate in church functions. They are truly good old down home people.
I forged my way 1 mile and 70 rods (per Gregg’s instructions) across both creeks to finish my journey at the Maplewood Farm. The old farmhouse was a place of beauty and a good look at the area’s past history. The house was well over 100 years old. As I stepped up on the porch to knock on the door, I found Gregg, his Widder and two orphans having lunch. A finer family, you could not meet! I introduced myself and as Gregg shook my hand, he bellowed out, “SATISFACTORY!” I sat down with “little slippery” and we talked as they ate. Gregg was excited about this day and the fact that Western Clampers were finally here. He invited me to be initiated into the West Virginia Order. I then bellowed, “SATISFACTORY”! Mountaineer soon arrived and he accepted too. We all sat down to some liquid refreshment and discussed the rest of the day. While Mountaineer and myself downed several beers, Gregg drank liquids of the non-alcoholic type. He and many of the Clampers of West Virginia only consume portions of alcohol during meetings or initiations. His old farmhouse was filled with portraits of the past. Old pictures of Johnston and Genevra Bee Smith, his grandfather and other Smith family members. Then he showed us an old portrait of Ephraim Bee. He said that he had copied prints of the portrait and had given them to several Western Clampers. He recalled giving one to Clyde Arbuckle and another Clamper whose name he couldn’t remember, but had his ECV card. Low and behold, the card belonged to none other that X-Sublime Geno Fambrini!
I then gave Gregg all the gifts from our Order and he was thrilled. Being active with the West Union Museum, he decided to place most of Western ECV paraphernalia into the museum for all to see! I was honored that he would want to do so! If any Western Clamper makes a trip to West Virginia, a stop at this museum is now a must! Gregg then offered me some gifts from his West Virginia Lodge. He requested that they displayed in Murphy’s Hall of Comparative Ovations. I promised him that I would give these gifts to the Grand Council. He then gave me a copy of the deed to his property in Boulder Creek that he had given to his parents when he left. The deed describes Ephraim Bee Road. He hoped that maybe Branciforte could hold a Doins sometime on this property.
Gregg said that he had a special treat planned for us. After the initiation, a small string band with several Clampers as members was going to do some pickin after the initiation. Due to our limit on time, we now had to head out for other sacred places to see.
One part of the initiation was to ride a wild ass or horse backwards. Since none were available, Gregg suggested I sit on a picture of a jackass while driving. Backing up counted! We then drove our “Assless Carriages” to West Union. Here we stopped at the museum and took a tour. The museum is not open every day, but Gregg asked the Curator to open it in for this special occasion. He said he would be pleased to do so. Upon meeting him, I found that Clampers in this territory are no different than ours. He being a non-Clamper, upon meeting us gave a small giggle that we were Clampers. It seems that over the past 150 years, residents have known of this organization and it’s fun and frolic. Credo Quia Absurdum at its best! I found these people to be no different than our own folks back home. Some loved them and some could care less. But the fact is, they knew of ECV! The museum is full of Doddridge County artifacts and some old Smith and Bee articles. What a satisfactory building to have Western ECV articles on display! The building was once the Sheriff’s Office and County Jail. The old cells are still upstairs. Reminded me of Alcatraz. When you may be in the area, don’t hesitate to stop by and see if it’s open.
Next we went to the newspaper office. Gregg had our pictures taken for hopefully the next edition. That would not be for a week or so, since the paper only goes into print weekly. Gregg will send us a copy of the paper at a later date.
We were now heading for the old known (or almost known) location of Ephraim’s Bee Hive Tavern. It was washed away in a flood, as was a covered railroad bridge that Blacksmith, Ephraim Bee made the hardware for. All that was left was an old dirt road by the river trees and under brush. We stood on the ground where the tavern stood, give or take a hundred yards, and raised a glass to Ephraim and all other WV Clampers who had gone to the Golden Hills! Me with my Jack Daniels, Justin with his Bud and Gregg with some Samuel Adams. What a grand experience it was! I felt as if I was standing in the tavern and Ephraim was behind the bar sipping his favorite whiskey. Some drilling was going on down the dirt road, so Gregg went to investigate. Turns out it was a drilling company who was checking an old well for natural gas. According to Gregg, one of the Bee women, I can’t recall her name, became a millionaire from the gas on the property. Gregg was somewhat excited, because any gas found there would mean some royalties. His family still owns the property.
Finally the time came to go to the Cabin Run Cemetery. It was a few miles north of town on Cabin Run Road. At the top of a small hill is the church and cemetery. The property is now privately owned and the church was turned into a home. Kind of strange to look through the windows of the church and find furniture instead of a pulpit and pews. Gregg asked me to find Ephraim’s grave and I walked right to it. I remember him saying it stood under a tree. It wasn’t hard to find a huge old tree with his gravestone underneath. Legend has it that the old tree’s roots have grown through the remains of Ephraim’s body and now it holds his DNA in its branches. A fresh branch is cut and used as The Staff Of Relief. Gregg did not know of what kind of tree it was. I later found out that the tree was called Black Gum.
The Hewgag was sounded and it was time for initiation. Gregg brayed first for WCECV and I brayed next for The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, wherever it may bee! I laid out the gifts from our Order’s Chapters for Ephraim to gaze upon. We then partook of a “little hair of the dog”, and then anointed Ephraim’s gravesite with Jack Daniels, Samuel Adams and Bud. Ephraim loved his whiskey, so I hoped Jack Daniels would be satisfactory. I had a feeling that he had shared several shots with me. We ate potato chips named “Mr. Bee”, another part of the initiation. We also left some on his gravesite along with little and big slippery. We walked to several other Clamper’s graves and hoisted our glasses to them. Gregg then handed us the Gum Tree Staff of Relief and we were proclaimed as associate members of West Virginia Ephraim Clampus Vitus, at the site of Ephraim’s grave! It was a quiet and solemn ceremony and one that I will always be proud of. Two days I will always remember is when I was initiated into Estanislao Chapter 58 and today’s most satisfactory initiation. Warm showers were not needed this day!
Gregg asked that I take the staff back to the West, hopefully to display at Murphys. I had to cut it up to fit in my suitcase, since I was flying. I hope to put it back together and hand over to the Grand Council. It’s nothing but an old tree branch, but with a very special meaning.
We collected up our trinkets and took a few more pictures. I left the remaining bottle of Jack Daniels for Ephraim to have a snort on those cold West Virginia nights! We bid our founder farewell and I promised to return.
We proceeded back to Maplewood Farm and received one final part of the initiation before receiving our sheepskins. We were both given a good lick with an old walnut cricket paddle. This was to be a part of the cemetery initiation, but being the good Humbug that Gregg is, he forgot to bring it. The sheepskins were a document to be proud of. It had our names and also our original chapters documented. Very suitable for framing.
We soon parted company with Mountaineer, as he needed to get home with the family before dark. I stayed on for another libation, then off to the Salem Train Depot to hear some pickin music! There I met two or three other brothers whom were with the band or just came by to listen. These mountain folks sure know how to play good old down home Country and Bluegrass music! As we were listening to the band, a huge thunderstorm approached the town. You could see the heavy rain and lightning coming down the main street. Band members and spectators scurried away and headed home for shelter. It was now time to say goodbye to a newly found brother and friend.
Gregg Dulaney Smith is one of the finest people I’ve ever met. He is a gentleman, scholar, well versed and most of all, a damn fine Redshirt! We parted company in the pouring down rain, but I will return to enjoy his company and libations in the future. Ephraim’s West Virginia E Clampus Vitus or Vipers as some knew them is 150 years old and is alive and well! Becoming a member of such an honorable Lodge is by far SATISFACTORY!
I’m sure there will still be some skeptics, but for Justin, and me it was real and that can never be taken away!
HAIL EPHRAIM CLAMPSUS VITUS!
Steve Myers, XPBC, Cyber Recorder, WM
Estanislao #58, Joaquin Murrieta #13, Yerba Buena #1 and now West Virginia ECV Lodge #1