-Henry and Mary Bias. Photo courtesy of and used with permission of Bonnie Hager
Henry Arthur “Straight” Bias was living at Ethel on Dingess
Run in Logan County, working as a coal miner, when West Virginia professor of
English Louis Chappell visited on 26 August 1940 with his portable aluminum
disk recording equipment and recorded four of his unaccompanied songs. He sang a spirited version of Child ballad
200, The Gypsy Laddie, that he called Black Jack Davey; it’s a popular ballad
but otherwise not collected in the southwestern West Virginia coalfields. He sang the well-known American ballad East
Virginia which he called In Old Virginia, and he sang Pretty Little Miss which
he called Come Go With Me, a song that had come to America from England and
Scotland. He also sang Froggie Went
A-Courting, which he called Old Froggie, a song that dates back to a 1549
He is remembered today in the Hewett Creek area of Logan and
Boone counties, where he lived for many years, as a singer of hymns at
graveside funeral services and as singing for children and adults who’d gather
on his front porch, on Missouri Fork of the creek.
Mr. Bias was born on 3 March 1898 at Turtle Creek in Boone County. In 1900,1910, and 1920 he was living with his father who was a farmer in Boone County. By 1930 however he was living at Lake in Logan County and working as a miner. And then in 1940 and 1942, we find him in Ethel, mining coal for the Chilton Block company. He died in October 1976 and is buried in the Bias family cemetery at Hewett.*
—Gloria Goodwin Raheja, February 2021.
Sources: Gloria Goodwin Raheja’s research for her book Logan County Blues: Frank Hutchison in the Sonic Landscape of the Appalachian Coalfields, and the Louis Chappell Collection at the West Virginia University Library’s West Virginia and Regional History Center.
*the Bias Cemetery is on private land and any visits to the gravesite should be coordinated with the landowner.