The Old-Time Herald Volume 11, Number 2

Posey Rorer of Franklin County, Virginia
By Kinney Rorrer
courtesy Kinney Rorrer

A young coal miner in Raleigh County, West Virginia named Posey Rorer was among the millions of men who registered for the draft under Selective Service Act of 1917. On the registrar’s report, Posey is listed as having no sight impairment or being “otherwise disabled.” This was a stunning claim by the registrar, L. E. Warden, considering that Posey’s left foot was turned almost completely backwards and his right foot was turned inward at an almost 90 degree angle. Even if Posey had not been physically handicapped, it is unlikely that he would have been called up for military service. He was working in a vital industry during wartime and was listed on the registration card as working to support his aged mother and father at home in Virginia.

Posey Wilson Rorer was born on September 22, 1891 to W. T. and Lucy Abigail Rorer in Franklin County, Virginia between the hill country villages of Henry and Ferrum.


Early on . . . Posey took an interest in music. His father played a little on the banjo and may have encouraged him to play string music. Posey made his first fiddle out of a wooden cigar box and he made his first bow from a limber stick and horsehair. Posey’s first cousin and neighbor, Bob Moore, was a clawhammer banjo player and the two of them played for dances in the Rorer home while both boys were still in their teens. Posey’s niece Nanny, born in 1905, stated that her earliest childhood memories were those of Posey Rorer playing for a dance at her home.

courtesy Kinney Rorrer

By 1917, Posey was working for the Pemberton Coal Company at Big Stick and living in a coal camp called Hot Coal, West Virginia. Among other jobs, Posey worked as trapper (opening and closing mine doors) and ran an electric coal car in and out of the mines. Prior to Harvey Stone’s military service, he and Posey, along with Jim McMillan, played to entertain their fellow miners around the coal camps.

On December 11, 1920 Posey Rorer became Charlie Poole’s brother-in-law when Poole married Posey’s younger sister, Lou Emma. Poole and Rorer now spent more time playing music together as Posey had moved across the street from Lou Emma’s house on Flynn Street in Spray. Sunday afternoons usually found Charlie and Posey, joined by guitarist Norman Woodlief, playing under a large tree in Lou Emma’s front yard. Though the three of them worked in the mills at various times, music began to consume more of their free time. The trio would ramble through the hill country of southwestern Virginia and the coalfields of West Virginia busking on street corners, courthouse squares, and any other place that would draw a crowd. Calling themselves the “North Carolina Ramblers,” they journeyed as far as Huntington, West Virginia and Ironton, Ohio. …


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