John E. Fretwell, Lumberjack
A Restaurateur Gets Married
John Returns to the Woods
During Alma’s extended illness, and because of the seriousness of her condition, John was frequently called home from the forests of Webster County. The primitive state of the practice of medicine in rural West Virginia did not bode well for Alma and her family, and she slowly slipped into the clutches of death.
After the death of his wife, John, without immediate family in the area, entrusted his children out to friends in the Orlando area. This was a common practice during the days before the cradle-to-the-grave social programs of the present time. Although dividing the family is not a desirable arrangement by present day standards, in the 1930’s it was the only practical alternative since John’s employment was in a lumber camp in Webster County. Stacie, the oldest daughter, was twelve years of age at the time of her mother’s death and William, the youngest, was but three. The Smith family, consisting of two bachelor brothers, Gene and John, and their niece Miss Hattie Alkire of Meadow Run, took in the oldest boy, Jack, and later the Bill Barnett family and the John Wooddell family of Orlando also provided care for Jack. Bill, the youngest Fretwell child, lived for some time with his Aunt Georgia Skinner and her husband Burt. It is also believed that in addition to providing care for the oldest boy Jack, the Smith family also looked after the youngest son, William. Margie Lou, the second oldest girl of the family, now living at Crestview Manor in Jane Lew, states that as the Fretwell children became older they began to take care of themselves and their father came home to Orlando on weekends to mediate any disputes that would arise between the siblings during the week.
Return to West Virginia