|By Bob Weaver
Reprinted from Hur Herald 2000
Joker was barely a village from the start, so its fading away was quite easy. It is marked on the Calhoun landscape by the still standing Bryner Chapel Church and cemetery, a picturesque setting at the top of the hill between Hughes Fork of Rowels Run and Annamoriah Creek and Lemuels Run.
Bryner Chapel Church
The traditional country church and cemetery, surrounded by large trees, is visible for miles around. It was an official Methodist church until 1998, when some local folks purchased it from the conference and are attempting to maintain it. It had a religious presence in the community for 100 years.
It was in this church one-legged Preacher Stout was conducting a revival about 1930 before a packed house. Rev. Stout was agitated when members of the congregation drifted from his sermon and began talking with each other.
He abruptly stopped his sermonizing, calling the house to order, and said "I'm going to do something the devil has never done in this church - LEAVE!" He then marched down the aisle, got on his horse and went home to Barnes Run, never to return.
Annamoriah Creek resident, Mary Bryner, came up the steep hill every Sunday for over 70 years, until shortly before her death in 1998. Mary was often the church treasurer, and keep the Sunday School records. In recent years, the Dawsons' and the Riggs' have somehow kept things going, with church attendance dropping below 10.(Church closed about 15 years ago.
The village was named for its first postmaster, Joker Sewell, who came to establish it in 1904. The post office was located in a store building which ceased to exist in the late 1940's. The store and post office was maintained by several different families, including the Stemples, the Bryners and the Dawsons.
Lizzie Hughes reported in 1939 that the village was named Epperly, before 1900.
One of the storekeepers, Kelsey Dawson, was the first school bus driver in this part of the county. He was not only the driver but the owner of the converted International truck, which had benches lengthwise instead of seats. It had the world's smallest heater, heating Kelsey's feet.
Dawson's beautiful farm and home, the envy of many eyes, was first purchased by Neil Blankenship and later by Francis Cain..
Joker has even spawned a published author, Eddie Austin Kirby, his life, vision and philosophy rendered in "Many Are Called - But Few Are Chosen." Eddie was chosen.
It was on Joker Hill that one of over forty assassination attempts was made on Eddie's life, some recalled in various stories on the Herald.
Eddie drilled his famous oil and gas well over a period of 30 years, with the big strike coming in any day.
Joker's most recent claim-to-fame in a published work is Gary Gladstone's coffee table book "Reaching Climax...And Other Towns Along the American Highway."
A few Joker residents didn't cotton to Gladstone's request to take a photograph of a Joker family, and he had to drop down on Rowel's Run and catch Basil and Bubby Brown for the picture.
The Joker store stood on the upper side of the road about 250 feet north of the church. It was a rather long building with living quarters, a porch with steep steps to gain access. Across the highway was a garage to work on horseless carriages.
The tiny hamlet is close to the Bee Creek backwoods, Rattlesnake Knob county, and not far from Bell's Ford on the Little Kanawha River.
For many of us who live nearby, it is the destination at the end of the dusty and primitive Joker Ridge Road, which winds its way from the upper Pine Creek Road and Hur.
The Joker Ridge is a peaceful and bumpy drive, whose only inhabitants for many years were the Craddocks. They have all passed during the last ten years.
Now, there is a population explosion on the ridge with at least four new houses, and electricity available on each end.
Some of the prominent residents of the community in the last century include Dawson, Miller, Deem, Hughes, Gainer, Kerby, Stemple, Bryner, Riggs, Craddock, Holbert, Tuttle, and Bell, most of whom reside in the hillside cemetery.