Homer Leo Tate –

Abandoned, Arrested, Successful


Homer Leo Tate, in his career, was a Superintendent of a coal mining operation in West Virginia. After contracting Black Lung disease Homer operated a grocery store, then later a tavern called Tate's Place, all in West Virginia.  Barbara Lee Tate tells a story about a small incident when she was 18 years of age and in the Tate's Place tavern. Three Lively relatives came inside and one suggested she "must be one of the Lively girls." Barbara responded, "No, I'm a Tate." A clannish group, the Lively's.  She is okay with us Livelys these days. 

The following is a letter I received from Barbara Lee Tate, July 2001

    Homer Leo Tate and daughter Bobbie (Barbara)


My father, Homer Leo Tate, was born (out of wedlock) February 11, 1910 and died September 17, 1985. I am not sure at what age or for how long, but he lived with his grandmother, Janie Louisa Strong (Tate) Miller (she was Nora's mother). Nora was only 16 when Homer was born. He talked about having many chores to be done before going to school (feeding chickens. pigs, etc., and gardening). Breakfast was often fried onions.

                      Nora Tate                               John Lively

He seemed to be a man who longed for his father, John Lively. Some time after Nora died, John brought him out to California. So many times he talked of the dairy his father owned. In the 1950's and 1960's he made trips to California to try to get to know his father and to visit Uncle Edgar (Samuel Edgar Lively Sr.) whom I met once when we lived in Quinwood.

Uncle Edgar talked about the dairy. We kids thought being around 90 cows would be so dirty and stinky - he assured us that dairies were cleaner than most kitchens. Of course we girls wanted to know all about Hollywood and how many "movie stars" uncle had seen. 

I have no idea as to why and wherefore, but John Lively gave his son up for adoption to a couple who lived in San Francisco. My father spoke of the situation in a very positive manner. Not long before he died he said to me, "If only I had been left with my adoptive family, my life would have been so different. He told me their name and I never thought I would forget it, but I did. He spoke of a toy store, the hills of San Francisco and his own room, beautiful with lots of toys and other children to play with. Just before the adoption was final it seems some Livelys and Bud Whittington, who had married Nora, wanted dad, so back to WV he went. At this point Nora had already died and Bud married Nora's best friend, Della Belcher. Later Bud went into the Army and fought in WWI, so dad again was without a father and being raised by his stepmom Della.

    Della, Homer and Inez Thompson (background)

Homer went to work in the coal mines at an early age. Bud Whittington also worked in the mine. Everyone we knew worked in the mine or in the machine shop. Dad met Inez Thompson and at the encouragement of Della, married. Then came us four children and later a divorce after a long separation (between 3rd and 4th year of school) from Inez. Later, Dad married Rose Mae Jackson at one of the Lively homes. Dad and Rose went to visit the Lively relatives on many occasions, but us children never went.

    Homer and Rose Tate

My father is to be honored for his stick-to-itiveness. Everyday he went into the dark pits of the mines to earn what it took to care for us children. In the early days of coal mining the "Coal Barons" (who lived in other states) opened coal mines, built houses for the workers, built the "company" stores and entertainment centers for movies (bare rooms with wood benches and no back on them). They paid the men in script, with which the men bought clothes, food, and all they needed at the company store. Often the Post Office was in the company store; this leads to how my dad got into trouble. He went with a friend to get food for the family, the store was closed, and they broke into it - took nothing but milk. He was charged with a federal crime and sent to the "pen". 

This is when Dovie was left with her great-grandma Janie Miller who lived in Kentucky. My mother was pregnant with me, destitute (1930's). Mom went to the poor house in Stollings, West Virginia and that's where I was born. I didn't know this 'til I was in 10th grade. Della Whittington revealed it all. I don't know what she was trying to do. We got on a bus to go home the very day next day. I was not about to stay with her any longer! Dovie grew up believing Janie Miller was her mother until the fourth grade, which is when Janie became ill and Dovie was sent to live with us. My father tried to get Dovie back after he was out of the "pen" but Janie was too attached and wouldn't let her go. It was a difficult adjustment for her to this new family she had only seen a couple of times.

    Inez Tate with daughter, Dovie Mae Tate, 1932

West Virginia was a beautiful place to grow up. Thank God for the beauty around us. My father went to work even when it was almost impossible to get through the snow. Ashes from burnt coal were often put in front and back of the tires to help get traction to get to the road. One early morning I recall vividly when dad left for work, it was still very dark. It had snowed and Rose woke us up to look out the window. The snow was deep, and so white, with no tracks at all. The moon was bright, shining onto the snow. It looked as though diamonds had been spread over the entire area, and the whole field was sparkling. I know dad enjoyed the view on the way from Mabscott to Mac Alpine Coal Mine that morning. 

Several coal mining towns come to mind. I remember Stotesbury, Mac Alpine, Beckley, Rhodell, Quinwood, Mabscott, Mullens, Slab Fork, Rainelle, Quinnemont, Look Out, and Glen Rogers. The coal miners rarely saw the sun.  They went into the shaft early and came out late, went to the bathhouse, then home. Carbide lamps were their source of light. I remember helping to fill the lamp with the dry carbide, and that smell when it was moistened and lit. 

Many miners ended up with poor vision and blacklung disease and until John L. Lewis fought for the miners to get better pay and health benefits, many men died with nothing for their families. 

After I graduated high school the folks bought a combination grocery store/restaurant in Piney View. We lived there for s short time. I joined the Navy and was to be gone except a short visit after corps school. I did not see my dad until he came to California in 1957 when Glenda was a baby. That's when he went to visit his father John Lively and Uncle Edgar. 

My brother, Homer Gene, was killed in a truck accident. He had ridden his bike up the road on Piney View to visit some friends. He got into the middle of the seat (three persons). Somewhere they hit a bridge abutment. He didn't get permission to go with these young boys. He was thrown through the windshield and was hospitalized. Folks did not find out for 2 days or more. Finally the boy up the road came and told dad. He and Rose went to the hospital, but with the head injury and other injuries as well, my brother was hardly recognizable, too much swelling. He died I think, two weeks after Vanessa was born. I was alone, my husband, Don, was overseas so the folks didn't inform me of this. They sent a notice to Don; he in turn sent it to me. What a shock, I thought at first it must be my dad! It wouldn't be 'til after the folks moved to Florida, 30 years later that I could go home. West Virginia was not home without my brother!

       Home Gene Tate 

There are so many beautiful things in the hills of West Virginia. My Dad was a very quiet man and he loved the hills, the dogwood, the wild flowers, berries, and the fresh water of the springs. I don't remember him carrying any water, though. It was fun pumping water from the well by hand! You would put a long bucket into a well and turn a crank with rope. Dad also enjoyed fishing. We had fun roughing it by the Greenbrier River and the Big Laurel too. The potatoes fried over open fire and marshmallows were so good as were the biscuits, scrambled eggs, and gravy. My dad's best friend, Guy Beavers, at 13 eggs! In the evening we had fish and corn picked from a garden of a near by prison. Swimming in the New River was scary. I recall Dad swimming across the river and back with my brother on his back and I was so scared for them. 

As a child we enjoyed kick the can under a street light. What fun watching the fire flies. We played hide and seek, red rover, and had lots of fun on sleds and one roller skate! There was nothing like a Montgomery Wards Catalog. We used to cut paper dolls from it and the clothes too! Hopscotch was a great game for girls and the boys were always playing marbles, and flying homemade kites. We made high-healed shoes out of tin cans. When you stomp on them they stick to the soles of your shoes. Playing "in and out the window" was great fun too. We played ball with a stick and a ball made from an old miner's sock wrapped in black tape. We loved to make snow cream and made peanut butter fudge when we lived in Quinwood. In 9th grade rollerskating was my thing. Lois liked it too. We had to walk from Mabscott to MacArthur for this and it was a long walk, but fun once we got there. 

After various business in West Virginia and Florida, dad eventually went back into the mine inspecting for gasses. He studied very hard to become an inspector and I would help by quizzing him. He was certified when we lived in Quinwood. After that he got a good job as Superintendent of mines somewhere in Mabscott and he was out of town most of the time. He came home once or twice a month driving a jeep sometimes or a station wagon with wood sides. Dad loved lemon pies and butterscotch pies I made. 

A fun thing to be remembered was our last Christmas in Quinwood. Dad and his best friend, and father figure, Guy Beavers, had so much fun putting a Lionel Train set together. That thing had a light on the front and would whistle like a real locomotive. They turned the lights out and these tow grown men played with my brother's gift all night on the floor. 

During my last visit home while dad was still living, we sat on the front porch on a swing listening to the King's Men tape (my daughter Michelle's husband sang with that quartet from California). He really enjoyed it. He agreed that the 1st day in heaven would be so great just as one of the songs described it!


Webmaster’s Note:  In California, in the northern sections of the Central Valley, relatives are many.  Yet, I had never heard of Homer Leo Tate or Barbara Lee Tate.  I discovered them while working on my line on the internet, having posted several questions about my grand-parents.  John Lively (my grandfather’s brother) was Leo’s father.  I knew John Lively, his wife and all of their children and had visited their farm on occasion.  Homer’s branch of the family is quite large, as it turns out.  Genealogy does have it’s immediate benefits after all.


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