Continued from 11/13/22
By Grace Thompson
The water supply in Canton, during dry seasons has always been a source of worry. Many years ago a public well was located just at the corner where Cleatis Fultz’s woodhouse now stands. During one drought of great severity, most all of Canton depended on the Cliff spring for their water supply, this spring was located on the north part of John Harned’s farm. It was not unusual to have to stand in line two or more hours waiting one’s turn, because of the number wanting water and too, because the water trickled slowly. One lady would often go down at four o’clock in the morning to avoid the rush, as well as the hot sun. Today, water is supplied from the cisterns and wells in our homes.
Sam Gilliland built one of the very first telephones in the county. This was before his marriage and at that time he resided with his grandmother in Harristown. This line extended from the depot up to Jake Garriott’s store and was made of small boxes put together pyramid fashion, the base being about 8x10, the next section 7x9—four sections in all. A hole in the center about the size of a teacup was cut out and over this hole was stretched a dried squirrel skin, drawn very tight, and in the center of this “sounding board” the wire came through, fastened to a common button to hold in place, and to call party at other end of line, a tiny mallot was used to strike the button and give signal, or “ring.” After his marriage he brought this telephone to Canton and connected his house with that of Mrs. Gilliland’s parents. Many of us here remember having used this phone to talk with the Harned girls.
Stella Tatlock relates Mary McCoy owned the first carpet loom in Canton. She lived in the home now occupied by my sisters and myself. She tells us the women made their dyes in those days, many raising madder and various herbs for their dyeing. They used walnut hulls for dark brown, white oak bark for grays, logwood for blacks and copperas and keel rocks for yellows; indigo for blues, setting these blues with copperas, chamber lye and yeast. To obtain some shades they buried their dye pots in the ground for a period of time. Mrs. Tatlock says a little girl, she disliked very much to go to one neighbor’s house because the dye pots “stunk up” the whole house.
Mrs. Greeley Thompson tells as a little girl she pastured the family’s cows on the highways. The cleared ground was too valuable to use as a pasture, being needed to produce grains and garden truck for the family’s use. She also says she would often have to ride horseback for miles rounding up the cows, that would run down the steep hills and up the ravines, saying these hills and ravines are now graded down to fine roads. Said some of the farmers turned out their hogs on the highways to graze, and they were harder to round up then the cows, for the cows were always led by a belled cow and they could tell where to find them, but one just had to hunt for the hogs. She says the roads were merely bypaths and not laid out as now. She often rode one horse and led another one down to Jim Faulkner’s blacksmith shop to have them shod, riding through mud up to the horses’ knees. A trip to Salem was one of hardship and required the greater part of a day, the red clay was so deep, the horses had to stop for rest often and, too, the sticky mud would have to be pried off the wheels with fence rails, and often the wheels pried out of the ruts. She says, “Traveling was not a pleasure in those days for the roads were full of deep ruts and stones and any trip was a tiresome one—not like you travel today, hop into an automobile and be there before you know you are started.” Most of the farmers had sugar camps and raised sorghum cane and maple sugar and sorghum molasses were used to sweeten instead of sugar as it was very “dear” and used only when company came. She said they boiled cider down to sweeten apple butter. They did not have cream separators then and churned and sold butter. She had to use an “old stone churn and I just hated it!” She displayed some flax that she helped her father “pull” when her brother, Pritchard Winslow, was a baby in long dresses, She and her sister, Mrs. Sarah Morris, interestingly told of the process employed in preparing the flax read to be woven into linen. Every farmer grew his own flax to be made into dresses, pants, shirts, sheets, pillow cases, towels and underwear. It seems to us it was real task to prepare this flax. It was cut with a sickle, curved similar to the grass hooks now used, and then put into bundles like oats and what. It then was spread out to rot (or ret) then in course of time was broken with a flex “break” to separate the sheaves from the inside fibre. A scuching (or scotching) knife was then used to knock the sheave off, then it was taken through the hackle, separating the two from the fine fibre. It was then ready to be scarf made from a sheet woven by her grandmother many years ago. The soft yellow stripes were dyed with keel rock picked up in the creek bottom by Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Morris. The lace was crocheted from some tow thread made for the husks of flax; the beautiful white and cream-colored lines were made from the inside of the flax. They told us they would gather the keel rocks from the creek and would then pound into powder, then boil and strain and add a pinch of copperas to “set” it.
Girls were not considered qualified to marry until they had acquired a thorough knowledge of the use of application of nature’s remedies then in use. The treatment for various diseases was vastly different then from methods now employed. For instance, a fever patient was kept in a closed, warm room with no ventilation whatever, and on no account must a drink of water be given! Instead, a warm decoction of slippery elm was substituted, and the idea of ice or snow being used in a sick room was preposterous! Lobelia was always the first remedy given, regardless of the ailment. Most women grew bitter herbs, (we have heard some older folks say ‘yarbs’) in their gardens and with the barks and roots gathered in the woods would make teas and cordials; the use of poultices was another favorite remedy.
The farmers “swapped” work, especially at hog killings. My cousin, Mrs. Ella Timberlake Maddock, told us that our grandfather, James L. Thompson, butchered 125 hogs at one time. After dividing with the neighbors, he had enough spareribs and back bones to fill a wagon bed on which he had put two sets of side boards, these he took into Salem, selling from house to house. Having about half a load left he took them to the poorer sections known as “nigger town” and “Stinky Flat” and gave them to the residents there. He went to Louisville market to get an offer for his “joints”, but they offered him the very lowest price, evidently thinking he was some uncouth farmer and doubtless having “razor back” type pork for sale, but when he arrived there with his pork, he was paid a price, and as a premium given a barrel of Coffee A Sugar, one barrel of brown sugar, half-barrel of tea, large bag of coffee, (we have been advised these sacks contained 250 pounds), and many smaller cartons of fine rice, prunes, dates, raisins and various kinds of spices. My cousin lived in our grandfather’s home at the time and said she never was so tired of anything as she was of those “hog works”, as the children were expected to work after returning from school.
Benton McCoskey tells of the Canton string band. He played the fiddle, Claude Tatlock and Nasby Herrod the bass viols, Nale Tatlock the French harp and Sam Gilliland the guitar with June Cannon at the organ. June Cannon and his bother, Dillard, Newell Motsinger, Dr. Martin Crim, Winfield Crim and Clell Sinkborn, all taught singing schools at various times. He says writing schools were also popular as well as spelling bees, quiltings and wool-pickings where the woman vied with one another to see who could have the biggest pile of wool freed from the cockleburs, bits of sticks, tickets, etc., before the delicious dinner was served.
The older people had very little time for recreation, as the men had land to clear, rails to split, and crops to plant and harvest and the tools used were very primitive ones; the women had the flax and wool to prepare and weave into cloth to be made into clothing for the entire family, sewing machines were almost unknown and the sewing was done by hand.
After learning of the many hardships and privations endured in eking out the barest of living, one wonders that they even had the courage and energy left to participate in the frolics, and we pause to pay tribute to their willingness and eagerness in aiding a neighbor in distress, and it is with no surprise doubt in our minds that they grew up to do and be good.
From the press of
The Leader Publishing Company