This biographical piece is fictitious except that it is about a real family, all of whose members were born in the county where I reside and all of whose graves are probably near the home of their youth. The parents’ and their children’s lives cover a period from June 19, 1826, when the father was born, until July 8, 1957, when the last child died. The romance of this story is the work of my imagination based on having lived near where they did and during a time when the way of life I knew was pretty much the same as theirs. All is romance and fiction including the names. Only the statistics are the reality.

Peter B. Wynter was born June 19, 1826. He was born at home in the bed where he was conceived. In attendance was a neighbor matron who had had ten children and knew midwifery from experience. Peter survived all the childhood diseases; and when he reached age 5, his parents taught him to drop corn seeds and thin the seedlings, to pick beetles off beans, to set traps for mice, and to run errands hither and yon. As he grew, he took on more arduous and weighty responsibilities involving work with back, foot and hand, for the only other muscle power around was either ox or horse.

Sometime in 1849, Peter met Isabel A. Lynn, who was born September 9, 1834. Here was a lassie of just 15 in full bloom, trim of ankle, slender of waist and ample of bosom. Peter was enthralled and couldn’t think of much else but Isabel. And Isabel came to love Peter. So, on June 6, 1850, they were married and went off to acreage and homestead of their own to work with nature in a joint venture for their sustenance and for the sustenance of their children, one of whom Matthew A. Wynter arrived on April 6, 1851.  At 16, Isabel had a child at her breast and a household to keep and a husband to please. She cooked, canned, washed the clothing, keep the fire going, planted the garden, sewed the clothes, drew the water, milked the cows, fed the chickens, plucked the geese, churned the butter, gather the fruit and always attended church on the Sabbath.

Peter was also busy from dawn to dark. He was in field and woods summer, winter, spring and fall. In summer: cultivating, haying, cradling wheat, oats or rye, corn cutting and shocking. In fall: harvesting apples and making cider, shucking corn, butchering hogs, cutting winter wood, feeding the stock, repairing fences. In spring: tapping the sugar maples, turning the ground, tending to the lambs and calves and planting the fields. And ever meeting his conjugal duties with enthusiasm.

Since neither knew of or cared about methods of contraception, because having children was God’s plan and His blessing, the couple cohabited and were fruitful and they multiplied: Sarah C. was born September 20, 1852 when Matthew was just 17 months old. Isabel took Sarah to breast and Matthew had to go to solid food. Then there was a succession of births: Thomas C., September 21, 1853; Elizabeth Ann, October 20, 1854; Rebecca J., August 8, 1856; Peter M., January 8, 1858; Isabel Susan, October 25, 1859; William G., August 5, 1861, while the Civil War was raging; Mary C, April 6, 1863, a few weeks before West Virginia became a state; Elijah C., August 23, 1865, a few months after Appomattox; Eliza A., July 3, 1867; John Anderson, August 9, 1869; Charles C., February 5, 1872; Cora A., June 6, 1876; and Samuel B. August 16, 1877. A total of 15 children in 26 years, 8 sons and 7 daughters. What a marvelous household! What glorious beauties and handsome males! And so many hands to do the chores on weekdays and so many washed faces turned toward  the pulpit on Sundays!

Charles S. Wynter, the 13th child, and I were alive at the some time. I remember him and his family of nine. They all had a smile that identified them indelibly. They came to the same church that I attended and I fell in love with a comely daughter but nothing came of it, since I was 10 and she was 16.

Peter B., the father, died April 28, 1897, at age 71, in his home in his bed surrounded by all of his offspring. Isabel Agnes lived until August 25, 1928, and died, at age 94, surrounded by her surviving children and numerous grandchildren.

Peter and Isabel had nothing in the way of the amenities and high-tech help that this generation conceives to be indispensable. Raw nature was inside and outside of their domain. They had only plow and hoe, ax and froe, horse and ox, and little else but the will to survive and procreate. But they had the satisfaction and contentedness at the end of every day of rest deserved and of hopes for just rewards, if not a windfall, from God. Also, they had the insurance of family, loving and helpful, in good times and bad times.

One wonders in these perilous days, amid obscene superfluity and apocalyptic

weaponry, amid the ruins of nature, amid all the world’s problems converging outside everyone’s door the world over,  whether man has helped himself or damned himself.  Whether Peter and Isabel did or did not have a better life than modern Adam and Eve.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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