Honzura Rider was born April 7, 1888. His birth record has him named Hans Ulrich Rider. Somehow this became Honzura but there isn’t much record to explain when he started using Honzura. I’ve just assumed it was a breakdown of pronunciation of Hans Ulrich since he was raised deep in the hills of West Virginia where words have a way of being written on paper one way but sounding entirely different when spoken out loud.
I have a dim memory of going “up the hill” with my dad a number of times and sitting on the porch or playing in the yard while my dad sat and visited with Poppy, usually on his front porch. ‘Ole Harv would often be roaming around the yard and I was absolutely terrified of him. This was Poppy’s brother-in-law, John Harvey Wills, and most days he seemed not to have any idea where he was or what he was doing and walked around muttering mostly to himself. The story they told us kids was that ‘Ole Harv had been bitten by a rattle snake sometime in his youth and it had left him kind of childlike and unable to completely take care of himself and so he lived with my great grandparents. Much later I heard a different explanation, that he’d once been pretty much an average guy with a fiancee and a normal outlook on life. War came and he started to fret about being drafted into service. He was consumed with fear and worry about being sent off to war to the point it drove him to what most people would describe as a nervous breakdown. “He never was right after that” his niece Marceline Rider Keenan said of him. I don’t know if either account is true but one thing is for sure, Harv definitely didn’t seem to be in any shape to live on his own.
Poppy liked to talk and he loved for my dad to come see him. We lived in Ohio and would come to West Virginia every so often to visit and most trips my dad would take a little time to walk up for porch sittin’ with Poppy. I didn’t always go along but I know I went more often than not and I wish I could remember more about those visits. I was just 14 when Poppy died and those visits up the hill had mostly stopped for me by then since I didn’t tag along behind my dad so much at that age. I guess since I was younger during those visits, I wasn’t too interested in listening to a couple of men sitting around talking. I wish I’d done things differently now. Poppy liked to talk and I’m sure he could have filled in a lot of blanks about some of our family tree if I’d just asked him.
Over the years my dad has told his share of stories too and a lot of them were repeats of stories Poppy had shared with him. He talked about running moonshine during prohibition and the daily hassles of managing horses, mules, cows and other livestock. He worked in the coal mines like many of the men in my family tree and one of the jobs had something to do with using mules to pull wagons of coal for the mining company or maybe it was supplies, I really don’t know for sure.
One of the stories he told my father was about Robert Rider, Poppy’s father and my great great grandfather. He said Robert and two of his brothers traveled up from Virginia, in their time it was all Virginia so they would have just been traveling to a different part of it, and settled on the various mountain tops, going in separate directions. He said one of them settled on the “other mountain” and “done good”. That was all my father knew about his heritage when I started digging around in the mid 90’s, not even having Robert’s name at that time. What Poppy shared seems to fit. His father Robert Rider traveled up from Wytheville, VA sometime after his father Isaac died in 1862. He did come into the area with two of his brothers and his mother Rhoda also moved from Wytheville though I can’t tell for sure if it was at the same time, she might have come later. Rhoda, Roberts’ mother, was the second wife of Isaac and his earlier family bankrupted her in a squabble over Isaac’s assets after his death. By the time all the dust settled and the creditors were paid there was nothing left. I will reserve more about this for Robert’s profile.
Poppy married my great grandmother Lottie Mae Wills on October 28th, 1908 in Kanawha County West Virginia. They had 8 children including a set of triplets, one of the triplets died at birth. Ivan Rider was killed on August 29th, 1936 at the age of 19. The story goes that Ivan had been drinking, quite a lot and bought a new car that day. He was killed when he wrecked it driving home. There are lots of rumors that have swirled around over the years that Poppy either sued or threatened to sue the car dealer who sold him the car when he was clearly in no condition to drive or perhaps it was to do with his age. Poppy was said to have received some type of settlement for that claim that substantially changed his financial picture. I haven’t found any proof of this but I also haven’t spent any time looking for it. Just six months before he died Ivan escaped from jail with my grandfather, his big brother. The full story of this incident is on Virgil Floyd Rider’s biography.
Poppy survived my great grandmother by a few years. Mommy, as she was known to the family, passed away in 1975. I was only 8 when she died and I don’t remember anything about her. I always had the impression she was sick and bedridden in her later years because I never saw her on those visits with my dad. ‘Ole Harv passed away just a couple of years after her in 1977.
Now for the rascally side to Poppy. After my great grandmother passed, he was said to have put the word out that he was in the market for a new wife. He went a step further in letting it be known he was interested in a younger lady who could take care of him in his later years. Scandalous in a lot of ways but practical in others. I haven’t spent much time tracing Poppy’s life in his later years but family lore has it that he did re-marry and she was much younger than him. On his death there was much controversy among his children, mostly among his daughters. They were furious to find the seating for the family at his funeral occupied mostly by his new wife’s family. Family drama, everyone has it and Poppy stirred it up even after he left this world, which he did in August of 1981. I have also hear the local television station did a story on his May December union but I don’t know if this is true.
He outlived my grandfather Virgil, living through the same major events in history plus quite a few more presidents beginning with Grover Cleveland who was toward the back end of his first term in office when Poppy was born. Benjamin Harrison, a second term for Grover Cleveland, and then William McKinley at the turn of the century marked his adolescent and early adult years. Theodore Roosevelt was in office in 1909 when Poppy & Mommy had their first child. By the time my grandfather was born, Taft had been in office nearly 3 years. Poppy lived to see Nixon, Carter and Ford lead our country after my grandfather’s death. He died just 3 months before Ronald Reagan was elected in 1981 at the ripe old age of 93.