John Fox Jr.
and Fritzi Scheff

John Fox Jr.
John Fox Jr.
Fritzi Scheff and John Fox Jr.
John William Fox Jr. b 16 Dec 1862 Stony Point, Bourbon Co KY d 8 Jul 1919 Big Stone Gap, VA; buried 11 Jul 1919 Paris, Bourbon Co KY; s/o John William Fox Sr. and Minerva Carr. John William Fox Jr. m. 13 Dec 1908 Mt. Kisko, NY (divorced 31 Jan 1913) to Fritzi Scheff b 30 Aug 1879 Vienna, Austria d 8 Apr 1954 New York, NY; buried Actor's Guild Cemetery, Kenisco Cemetery, Valhalla, NY; d/o Dr. Gottfried Scheff and Frau Anna Jager. Fritzi Scheff m. and divorced again to (2) to George Anderson, her leading man in one of her operettas. No children.

John Fox Jr. loved Currie Duke, daughter of Confederate General, Basil Duke, the brother in law and second in command of General John Hunt Morgan of Morgan's Raiders.

John William Fox Jr. was the author of several books perpetuating the sterotypical "hillbilly" of Kentucky. He and his friends and family came to Kentucky to make their fortune in mining and timber. His books were often about a college man and a mountaineer in competition in various ways. In his biographies, it is clear he thought he and his peers were quite superior to the people of that area. Nonetheless, the people in Letcher County, Kentucky and the surrounding area have made him a celebrity and have created "historical sites" to honor him. Contrary to the beliefs of the folks who live in the area, John Fox Jr. never used Devil John Wright as a hero in his books. This was a myth created by the local papers and perpetuated by the media in the area. Just as the pine tree, as far as a model for Devil Jud Tolliver, there wasn't one. His characters were completely fictional and the only references to Devil John in any of John Fox Jr.'s enterviews and articles is one that describes him as a hoodlum or a thug.

He and all his brothers were members of "The Guard" which was a vigilante police force created to subdue the inferiors of the area while they went about exploiting the coal and timber. They were quite successful at getting land from the unsuspecting landowners in the area and hired men like Devil John to go about beating people out or their land. While living at Big Stone Gap, Wise Co VA, he along with two dozen or more other what he called "college bred men" engaged in timber and mining. The timber in that area was removed completely including all the 1000 year old trees that stood there for centuries. They stripped the land of every tree and left the mountains baren and ruined. The area is not the same beautiful place and is still being destroyed by those who have used up the land and the people of the area.

He took part in organizing the vigilante or self imposed police force which John Fox sometimes called a "volunteer police-guard" in that area. He told a reporter in 1900 that "I have known members of the force to protect a Negro from a mob while he was on territory in which they were sworn to preserve the peace," and join the mob in lynching him after he was taken beyond our jurisdiction where the oath had no binding effect." In his articles and books, he often portrayed himself and his cohorts as superior to the locals and took much credit for "civilizing" the area with "The Guard".

John Fox Jr. was born on December 16, 1862, in Stony Point, Bourbon County, Kentucky. The first John Fox had come to Virginia in 1649, and John Fox, Jr.'s great-great-grandmother had brought seven children to Kentucky along the Wilderness Road in 1790. John Fox, Jr.'s father ran the Stony Point Academy and tutored his son until he entered Transylvania College at the age of fifteen. After two years there, John Fox, Jr., entered Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1883 as the youngest member of his class.

He tried Columbia University Law School and brief jobs for New York newspapers, but in February, 1885, an illness forced him to come home. It was then that he visited his brother James, an engineer who had interests in coal mines near Jellico on the Tennessee line. The rest of his life, John Fox, Jr., was involved in mining, timber and iron speculations, moving in 1890 to Big Stone Gap, Virginia. At the time John Fox, Jr. lived in Big Stone Gap, he and his cohorts promoted the area as greater than Pittsburgh.

Fox's business ventures, his construction of a home modeled after Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford, and his mingling with the rich and famous -- including a White House reading presided over by Theodore Roosevelt -- helped fuel Big Stone Gap's pretensions. Indeed, Fox traveled widely in international circles, serving as a war correspondent in Cuba in 1898 and in the Orient in 1904. It was while living in Big Stone Gap as a single man that John Fox, Jr., made his contribution to American Literature. He began his career with short stories and then moved on to novellas.

The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, his best-known and best-selling book, is a Civil War novel whose protagonist is torn between his mountain up-bringing and his bluegrass roots. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was also very successful, and even more accepted among literary critics. It deals with the positive and negative impacts of progress upon the mountain culture. In 1908 Fox married Fritzi Scheff, a comic Austrian prima donna. She brought her fabulous wardrobe -- reputedly including over one hundred pairs of shoes -- and her glittering lifestyle to Big Stone Gap. But throughout the five years of their marriage -- they were divorced in 1913 -- Fox published not a single book.

In fact, the two books written subsequently received little popular or critical recognition. In 1919 Fox was stricken with pneumonia on a fishing trip near Norton, Virginia. He died on July 8, 1919 in a Knoxville hospital. His best-selling novels put the region on the map. His plots and stereotypical characters combined to give an over - drawn view of the hill country to the world.

John Fox, Jr. was a novelist during the first decade of the 20th Century. His books focused primarily on life in rural Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Two of his books, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) and The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903), were successful. Fox's other books include A Cumberland Vendetta and Other Stories (1895), Hell-fer-Sartain (1897), The Kentuckians (1897), A Mountain Europa (1899), Crittenden (1900), Blue-grass and Rhododendron (1901), Christmas Eve on Lonesome (1904), Following the Sun Flag: A Vain Pursuit Through Manchuria (1905), A Knight of the Cumberland (1906), The Heart of the Hills (1913), In Happy Valley (1917), and Erskine Dale, Pioneer (1920).

Fox was born on December 16, 1862 at Stony Point, Kentucky, the son of John William Fox and Minerva Carr. He was educated by his father, a teacher at Stony Point Academy, and attended Transylvania College briefly before attending Harvard University, graduating in 1883. He entered Columbia Law School before moving into a career in journalism in New York, working for both the New York Times and the Sun.

He returned to Kentucky in 1885 and joined his father and brother in the mining business in Jellico, Tennessee. In 1890, Fox moved to Big Stone Gap, Virginia and began to write fiction while engaging in several failed business ventures. He gave public lectures to raise money and during one such lecture met Theodore Roosevelt who later invited Fox to give readings at the White House. Fox also wrote for Harper's Weekly and for Scribner's as a war correspondent. Fox's writing focused on Appalachia and specifically on Big Stone Gap, Virginia, a town that many expected would become an industrial area of the south.

Fox's novels often contained a college educated hero who competed with a mountain man. Fox's friends included numerous authors, journalists, and diplomats. In 1908, Fox married Fritzi Scheff, a popular Austrian Opera singer and former star of the Metropolitan Opera. Fox and Scheff moved to Big Stone Gap. The marriage was a turbulent one and the couple divorced in 1913. Fox then traveled through Europe before returning to Big Stone Gap. He contracted pneumonia, died on July 8, 1919, and was buried at Paris, Kentucky. His legacy lives on with the John Fox, Jr. festival held annually in Big Stone Gap, which also houses a museum devoted to his life and writings.

Near here (Winchester, Kentucky) lived the ancestors of John Fox Jr. and no doubt when a boy while visiting his grandfather Boaz Fox, the young author gazed in the dim distance at the blue foothills of the Cumberland's, and wondered what lay beyond the jagged horizon in the mountain vastnesses and the inspiration he got in all probability enabled him to write in later years the world famous novels, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come" and "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine". The Kentucky State Highway Commission in June 1935 in honor of John Fox, Jr., officially named the principal highway through this region "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine". Along this trail are those quaint and peculiarly named places made famous the world over by the novels of John Fox, Jr., Cutshin, Bullskin, Viper, Lonesome, Troublesome, Helfer-Sartin, Happy Valley, Kingdom Come, Hazard, etc. (Source Link No Longer Works)



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