Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lee Skinner Rode His Bicycle

by David Parmer
Lee Skinner. was tall and slender and had a habit of standing and staring which prompted people to comment that he looked like a "standing fence post." Bits and pieces are all we have about Lee. He was a bachelor all his life and lived in a shack on stilts that he built on Oil Creek, just upstream from downtown Orlando. And he was eccentric.

Lee's full name was Alfred Lee Skinner. He was born in 1892 to Charlie and Maggie Janie (Cosner) Skinner. To the left is Lee with his family. The kids, from left to right are Lee, Burt, Ethel, Wes, Necie, Wayne and Frank. Nora is on Maggie's lap. Click on the photo to enlarge it. To the right is a closeup of Lee taken from that photo
(Notice Lee, Ethel and Necie are wearing clothes made from the same bolt of fabric.)

From his WWI registration card we know that Lee was 26 and living in Akron, Ohio, working for the Erie Rail Road when he went into the army in October, 1918. The War to End All Wars ended a month later, Nov 11, 1918. He first went to Camp Gordon, Georgia. From there he went into Depot Service Company 41, which was one of two units that funneled men into depleted fighting units in France. The Armistice had already been declared by that time. From the records available we can't tell whether he was assigned anywhere else before he was honorably discharged in July, 1919, but Dale Barnett, for one, understood that Lee had been in France and Germany.

The next information we have about Lee is from 1923. In 1923, when Lee was about 30, he had the following gristly experience. Lee's 16 year old brother Wayne was killed in a train accident. Lee went to Gilmer Station to make the official identification of his brother. It is reported that the bodies were so mangled that it was difficult to reconstruct the body parts which were scattered along the railroad right of way. The severed head of Wayne Skinner was awaiting identification in a five gallon bucket. Lee later related that he reached into the bucket and lifted his brother’s head by the hair to make the identification.
See the Feb '07 entry Death Rides the Rails

In the early 1930s Lee Skinner and his brother Bert became a little over zealous during a revival at the UB Church and became so engrossed in the experience that they became somewhat out of control. The Skinner brothers would not leave the revival and were causing such a commotion that they had to be wrestled out of the church. Lee and Bert were then manhandled down to the Orlando school house where they were both tied to the school house porch columns for the rest of the evening. Reportedly, as remembered by Dale Barnett, the rope for the school bell at the school was cut off and was used to hog-tie the two brothers. Mildred McNemar however advises us that it was not the rope to the school house bell which was used to bind brothers Lee and Bert, but rather the school house flag pole rope, according to Mildred’s foster father, Bill Henline. Mildred also recalls that the account of the incident she had been told was that Lee Skinner was jumping from pew to pew, chanting “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, Preacher in the pulpit, steal my wool.” Now whatever the meaning of that demonstration may have been we don’t know, or if it meant anything at all.

"Uncle Zeke," P. N. Blake, a faithful United Brethren Church member, reported in his newspaper column of February 11, 1932 that Lee Skinner and Bert Skinner of Orlando were adjudged insane and lodged in Weston State Hospital. Presumably, the brothers had a short stay in the State Hospital until they lost their religion, or at least their religious zeal, at which time they were discharged as “normal” and resumed life in Orlando. From the April '07 entry Tales from the U. B. Church

In the 1950s and '60s Lee Skinner rode a bicycle all over the country. A couple of times when I was a boy in Burnsville, I saw Lee (I didn't at first know who he was) riding a bicycle through Burnsville. I thought it odd because a grown man riding a bicycle was an unusual sight to see. At any rate many years ago I was told that Lee rode his bicycle to the Clarksburg VA Hospital (40 to 50 miles, all up and down steep hills) to see a doctor because he was having trouble with his legs! Dale Barnett repeated this story to me as gospel. Apparently Lee was trying to get VA disability for a service connected leg injury from his tour in France and Germany in World War I.

comment 1
Bill Beckner remembers Lee Skinner in the 1950s. One thing he remembers is that every day Lee would go into W.D. Brown's store and buy a can of condensed milk and a package of crackers for his dinner and he'd walk home tossing the can and the package in the air.

Bill also remembers that an auto would pull up in front of the store and Lee would go down to the car and take care of some kind of business. Bill was told that Lee bought Jewish war bonds.

1. has collated government military information on Lee Skinner as follows:
"157 Depot Brigade to 15 Oct 1918; Cp Gordon Ga Oct Automatic Replacement Draft to 13 Nov 1918; Depot Service Company 41 Army Service Corps to Discharge Private American Expeditionary Forces 27 Oct 1918 to 5 July 1919. Honorable discharge 11 July 1919."
I believe this means he first went to Camp Gordon, Georgia. From there he went into Depot Service Company 41, which was one of two units that funneled men into depleted fighting units in France. The Armistace had already been declared by that time. I can't tell if he was assigned anywhere else before he was honorably discharged in July, 1919. -D. Gloff

His brothers were Bert, Frank. and Wesley. Bert lived in Orlando and Frank lived in Buckhannon. They had three sisters Nora, Ethel, and Necie. Nora married a Rogers and lived in Richmond, Virginia, Ethel (Charlotte Ethel) married a Blake. Necie married first a Freeman and then Robert Mitchell. Lee was 87 when he died in 1989."

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