March 19, 2021

 

William A. Veselik, the Archivist for the F.B. Kegley Library at Wytheville Community College (WCC), has written two articles: one entitled “19th-Century Toll Record Book Sheds Light on History of the Southwestern Virginia Turnpike,” and the other called “Michael Killinger, the Ne’er-Do-Well Son of George Killinger: His Life, Descendants, and Gleanings of His Ancestry.”

Interested readers may find both articles on the Kegley Library website at: kegleylibrary.wcc.vccs.edu/articles-historical-and-genealogical. Both articles are extensively documented with footnotes and fully illustrated.

The first article is based on a hand-written toll receipt record book kept by Veselik’s direct ancestor, Robert B. Allen, who was the toll keeper at Gate 13 on the Southwestern Turnpike in the mid to late 1800s. The gate was located east of Marion near a wooden bridge across the Holston River, which was the scene of fierce fighting during the famous Battle of Marion in 1864.

Veselik traces the development of transportation advances in the early history of the U.S. and Virginia, placing the Southwestern Turnpike and gate 13 within the context of the regional economy and describing its inception through to its construction. “The toll receipt record book is a family heirloom," said Veselik.

“So many people, whether they were traveling great distances or just taking a wagonload of corn or wheat from their farms to the market in Marion, used the section of the Southwestern Turnpike through Smyth County,” said Veslik. “The road was extremely important to the regional economy, despite the fact that it was built just before the coming of the railroad to the region.”

The second article traces the history and genealogy of the Killinger family through several generations and explores the family’s Pennsylvania roots as well as the parentage of Michael Killinger’s wife, Susan Morris.

Veselik is a direct descendant of Michael Killinger and his wife, Susan. He has been researching his family history for more than 40 years, including his Smyth, Wythe, and Washington county forebearers, including the Allens, Bonhams, Killingers, Wamplers, and other lines. The Allens and Killingers lived east of Marion in the area then known as Mount Carmel. The Allen cabin was located down the hill from where the new Smyth County Community Hospital is located. Michael Killinger lived across the road and beyond where Roland Petroleum stands. The old white house that stood until a few years ago behind Roland Petroleum was the Killinger home, later purchased and lived in by the Allens after Michael Killinger’s death in 1866.

“I really miss that old house,” said Veselik. “When I was a child we used to go out there and have big meals, usually after a death in the family, since so many of the Allens were brought back from various parts of the country to be buried in the Mt. Carmel Cemetery just up the road.”

In the article, Veselik traces Michael Killinger’s descendants through his grandchildren. He also examines the extant records supporting the claim that George Killinger’s father was also named Michael Killinger. This elder Michael may have been the son of Jacob Killinger. These Killingers settled in the Lebanon County area of Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s. Lastly, Veselik analyses available information relating to the father of Susan/Susannah Morris, who married Michael Killinger (the subject of the article). While her surname is known from a variety of sources, no solid proof of her parentage has yet been discovered.

“I’ve been researching the Allens and the Killingers for more years than I care to admit,” said Veselik. “Both families were here before Smyth County even existed and many of their descendants are still residents of the area. They weren’t the wealthy members of society. They were the farmers and working people of the county who broke their backs to feed their families and attended church when the bells rang. I’ve always said that from my Czech ancestors on my father’s side to my rural roots on my mother’s side, I come from good peasant stock. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.”

Veselik describes the two articles as companion pieces. “My ancestor, Robert B. Allen, was the toll gatekeeper and his father-in-law, Michael Killinger, was living in the nearby house at the time of the battle. The Allen women, as recounted in Wilson’s History and Traditions of Smyth County, actually traveled from their home to the Killinger house while the battle was raging. They took baby Ferd with them and pinched him so he would cry and let both sides know that they were noncombatants.”

Veselik was the managing editor of the Smyth County News before serving as Wytheville Community College’s public relations coordinator for 26 years. Since July of 2015, he has worked as the Archivist for the F.B. Kegley Library, a regional genealogical and local history research center located at WCC. The F.B. Kegley Library celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. Veselik can be reached via email at bveselik@wcc.vccs.edu.

 

 

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