Truth Seeker: Family story holds hint of unknown

Photo Provided Dale Roberts, at the age of 17, passed away in a 1941 accident in Newhall, W.Va.

Storytelling is always good when you’re learning about history and even the lives of family members — listening to the way things were in the good old days. I remember hearing my own mother telling us stories of the past, but I was even more interested when she would talk about things that could not be explained.

One particular story that I remember the most was from when they lived in Newhall, W.Va. Her father and brother worked in the coal mines and they lived along with other miners in a coal camp. She remembered one day, while out in the yard, a dark cloud came over the house, and her mother making a comment about it. It was an old wives tale that if you ever experienced this, something bad was about to or has just happened to your household. She then watched her mother go back into the house silent, as if she knew something was coming. Later that day her father came home from the mines and wanted to sit down and have a talk with them. Her mother asked him if something happened today at the mines. He began telling her that there was an accident and everything was going to be fine. But while he was speaking, a police car had pulled up and informed them that Dale Roberts, my mother’s brother, had died in the accident.

This alone is interesting to listen to, but she continued with her story. Before that day, Dale had been working on a car that had not run for some time. He would spend day after day trying to get it started and running so he would have a car of his own. That night after the accident, she remembers hearing the car start up and that it then drove down the dirt roadway that led out of the camp. Toward the bottom of the road, the car had turned, staying on the road as if someone was driving it. But then it came to rest against a tree. At that time the car’s horn began to blow and continued throughout the night until the battery died.

Neither her father nor any of the other miners went to check it out because they believed Dale had driven the car himself, because he wanted to leave. The next morning her father packed up their belongings and headed back to Parkersburg to live.

I know some people can say that since my mother was young she may not have been able to remember all of these details. But I do know that while I was doing research on Dale Roberts and his death, I almost had given up on finding anything. Then I came across a newspaper article from August 1941 stating that Dale Roberts, at the age of 17, did indeed pass away in the accident in Newhall, W.Va.

Photo Provided Before the day of his fatal accident, Dale Roberts had been working on a car that had not run for some time.

As to whether he drove his car down the road to leave, I cannot say. But Dale himself came to his final resting place in the Tavennerville Cemetery in south Parkersburg.