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Sulphur Well Had Its Own Version Of Thoreau

This article first appeared in issue 12, and was written by Geniece Leftwich Marcum and Linda Marcum Waggener.

A Sulphur Well version of Henry David Thoreau, Matthew Walter Scroggy's writings categorize him as a poetic nature writer. Just as Thoreau did in his Walden Pond days, Matt Scroggy spent many hours studying and writing about nature along the banks of the South Fork of Little Barren River that runs through Sulphur Well. He made a home away from home in the rugged bluffs that rose above it.

Matt was considered eccentric because he spent much of his life alone in the out of doors. Many locals still hold an image of the solitary man, respectfully referred to by most everyone, related or not, as 'Uncle Matt'.

As Thoreau had done decades before, Matt took a rare delight in life, swimming, fishing, walking, reading and recording his thoughts. And like Thoreau's works, Matt's poetry reflects his dedication to personal freedom, solitude and gentle humor.

Matt Scroggy taught young Tommy every nuance of the rivers and the lay of the land between Sulphur Well and Edmonton. He traveled between the two locales on foot, following the river.

"He never hurried," Tommy says, "It might take him two or three days to complete the trip." He knew both the South and East Forks by heart, even to knowing how many holes of water located between Sulphur Well and Edmonton that were too deep for him to walk through.

Matt's education came more from his love of reading and from his keen observations of people and nature rather than from classrooms.

He was well read, a gifted writer, proven by the numerous poems he left behind. He was a man of simple tastes working on local farms for his income. He worked with the Porter family from 1910 on, as long as he was able.

Cora Emma felt she had a rare opportunity to get to know Matt Scroggy and says she gained the greatest respect for the man few people ever understood.

"Uncle Matt came often to the post office," Cora Emma says, "Usually asking for help addressing envelopes - that's how I got to know him." Through helping him this way she learned that much of Uncle Matt's earnings were regularly mailed off to help his favorite missions.

His gift as a writer became apparent to friends and neighbors in the early to mid-1950's when his poems began to appear in Allen Trout's Courier Journal column.

This story was posted on 1997-03-01 12:01:01
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