Prepared by Hugh Keedy and Jessie Bennett
Co-directors: Bethesda Museum
Annie Lou McCord
I've heard so many stories passed down from one person to another.
I don't have anything written down. I should write it down for my children and grandchildren.
William Dabney Irving married Laura Alice Alexander; he came in the covered wagon and lived down here above the store where the Taylor farm is. They were my grandmother and grandfather. There were several years difference in their age, he was her schoolmaster. I guess she was an attractive student so he married her. And she always called him Mr. Irving because she had become accustomed to this with him being her teacher. My grandfather was injured and carried a mini-ball in the joint of his shoulder. So, my grandmother ran the farm.
This family had a good sense of humor. I hope people won't think we are rock foolish. My grandmother had a wonderful sense of humor. Remember she was an Alexander and you have met Billy Alexander; he loves to tease. He has the same Alexander sense of humor. Part of the farm at that time lay across the road and part of it was a section of the Mt. Pisgah hill that lays to the right as you are going to Cross Keys. They kept the goats up there. It wasn't too long after they bought the farm that they walked up the hill and it looked so nice. It looked so nice and smooth where they were standing, and grassy. She looked at my grandfather and said, "Mr. Irving, I want to just lay down and roll down that hill.' He said, "well, just go right on." So she laid down and began to roll. She wound up in the creek. She went over stumps. She was young, but she did get over it.
My grandfather had time on his hands since he wasn't into the farm work. He had some sons to help out with that. But he was very interested in politics. He would down to the store at Bethesda because he was reared down there. He never went to the Cross Keys store much even though their home was about half way between Bethesda and Cross Keys. This would be in the very early 1900s. It was still a primitive community--no electricity of course.
My grandmother had told him, "now Mr. Irving, I don't mind doing any work on the farm that I am capable of doing, but there is one thing I will tell you I will never chop wood. If you don't cut the wood for the cook stove there won't be a meal cooked." Well, there was some candidate that was going to come through the community, and they were told previously that he was coming. So, grandfather got up and got off early to the store at Bethesda but, lo and behold, he forgot to cut the wood. At lunch time, she looked out and here he came, and he brought the candidate home with him for lunch so he could carry on a deeper conversation, one-on-one. He came in--his pet name for her was Allie--and said, "well, Allie, this candidate is here for lunch" and introduced him. She said, "fine Mr. Irving, give me just a minute." She went into the dining room and she came back and said they could go right on in. They went in there--Ha--and there was a glass of water and a toothpick at each plate. [Jessie: so that's where you get your meanness!] Right.
Another tale they told on my mother was that grandfather another time brought a candidate home, but I'm sure they weren't fixing lunch that day. My mother was a pretty good size child by that time and somebody looked out and said, "well, I wonder what that man is running for?" And, mother comes tripping up to the window, looks out, and says, "I don't see anybody running anywhere." She had not the vaguest idea of what they were talking about.
Oh, I remember another story. He was a member of the lodge; the lodge that is still in Bethesda. He was a big man and at that time could not buy shirts that fitted him comfortably. He couldn't keep his shirt tail in, for one thing. So, he came in one day and he had several yards of material. He said, "Allie, I don't know when you will have time but I want you to make me some new shirts to wear to the lodge. I'll tell you what I want you to do. I want you to measure the sleeves by that door facing and the tail by that bed rail." She said, "very well, Mr. Irving." And he came in several weeks later when it was time for a lodge meeting and said, "Allie, are my shirts ready?" "Why, yes, Mr. Irving." And she brought out one of those shirts. He held it up and looked at it and said, "Ay, golly, Allie, I did think you had a little sense!" She had cut up that whole piece of material and measured the sleeves by the door facing and the shirt tail by the bed rail. I don't guess he ever gave detailed instructions like that any more.
I weighed 11 pounds when I was born. I call my baby pictures the Gerber baby. I was born in the Shiney Hargrove house on Cross Keys Road. In Shiney's family there were five girls and two boys. Richard died of pneumonia during the Civil War.
Now, I can tell you some about the memories I have because, after all, I'm well into the senior citizen category. I lived with my grandmother and that was my world. I never saw my grandfather. He died before I was born. In fact I never knew either of my grandfathers. When I walked I was given quite a bit of freedom, until after they lost my older sister. She died from what at that time was an unknown disease. They had in baby specialists from Nashville and the way they described the symptoms it was either what today would have been pronounced polio or spinal meningitis. They lost her at age three, when I was just one. I don't remember her but they said I went all through the house calling her and looking for her. After that they were sometimes overly cautious with me. In my immediate family there were just the two children, the sister I lost and me. So I was reared as an only child. I lived with my grandmother, an aunt that never married, my mother, and Mary, a retarded lady who was boarding there.
I was a dreamer. I guess I have been rather artistic most of my life. Loved school, cried every year when it was out because this was my companionship. In those days you didn't have cars and things and if you did everybody was busy in the field. You didn't get to travel and play with a friend all afternoon, unless they were within walking distance. So, I was lonely, just really lonesome.
I couldn't climb Mount Pisgah. They wouldn't let me do that. Mount Pisgah is the hill more or less across the road on my grandmother and grandfather's home place, on Cross Keys Road. But, I climbed up there anyway to see Bethesda and thought, "my goodness, I can see the whole world!" It was really true. This was my whole world. Occasionally my father would go to the corncrib and get an ear of corn. We would shell it into a bag and I got to go to Centennial Park in Nashville and feed the ducks on the lake. That was really an outing for me. I thought I had been hundreds of miles by the time I got there. We had a car, a Model A Ford.
I was allergic to milk when I was small. People thought they spoiled me horribly. When I finally got to where I could take pure milk, the doctor told them to let me take my bottle as long as I would take it, because I needed the milk to build my bones. I'm not sure that I wasn't close to four years old and still taking a bottle. I can remember a pocket in the front of that car, and when we went to church on Sunday morning they would stick my bottle in that pocket, over on the side.
To this day, I am afraid of rushing water. I think it was because one Sunday we had had a horrible rain, a huge spring rain. The creek that runs behind the Presbyterian church has several bridges over it now, but there were none back then. The road did not run where it is now, either. You just forded the creek, and if it was up the sensible thing to do was wait. But, we couldn't miss church. So, dad drove right on through the creek and it came up through the floor board. My mother was petrified and naturally I was too. To this good day, when I see rushing muddy water I can remember that scene and I become petrified again.
Lots of Sundays, if it had rained and the creek got up while we were in church, we went up to my great grandfather's home. He had two daughters that had never married who were living there. They would have lunch prepared. I think perhaps they leaned toward the Shaker faith. They did nothing on Sunday. They put the meal on the table but they had prepared that meal on Saturday. By that time they had a kitchen connected to the house and they also had a cook stove, but there was a huge fireplace in the kitchen that they had originally done their cooking on when the kitchen was added. The building is still standing. It is one of the log buildings there at the Taylor farm, the old kitchen that was totally separate from the house. They tell me that was done because of the danger of fire.
We attended the Presbyterian church. We came to America because of religious oppression. Those ancestors were braver than I was because if I had seen the ocean I would have stayed in Ireland. We were a Scotch Irish border clan, and because of religious oppression we came to America. They landed in the northeast and lived there. I do not know which generation that was.
Mary, our retarded boarder, had a good mind in certain respects, and she was from a wealthy family. They would not accept her in an institution. She had had private tutors, and she could play the piano, which I was never able to learn. She could read but I don't know how much meaning she grasped from her reading. But, she loved magazines and we took lots of magazines. She would sit on the back porch in the summer time and stack the magazines in an old wooden wagon, which I still have in my home. It was Aunt Willie Irvin's wagon, but it made a wonderful place. She had her straight chair out there and she used a pointing stick read all day every day. She would go to my grandmother--she loved to clean up the yard--and would say to her, "Miss Alice, can I expect--she would say "expect" before everything she would say--can I pull some weeds." And my mother would say, "no, Mary, it is too hot. You'll have to wait until the sun goes down." My mother took good care of her. She ate meals with us, and ate exactly what we ate.
One day my grandfather passed by and Mary was industriously reading. She had the Bible instead of her magazine. He said, "Mary, what in this world are you reading about?" She looked up at him and said, "I 'spect its old man Jesus and his disciples." He didn't ask her that question any more when she had the Bible in her hands. It shocked him in those days but you wouldn't think too much about it today.
This is another memory. Our next door neighbor was Mr. John Wallace and his wife, Miss Lottie. We did have a telephone, but lots of people did not. The Wallaces also had a telephone with, I think, eight parties on the line. My grandmother for some reason would shut her eyes tight when she talked on the telephone. She would describe what she was doing. They always kidded her about talking to Miss Lottie. They were talking about harvesting the turnip greens that had come up in the early spring. And she says, "why, Lottie, I just grabbed that thing up this way with my hands and took the butcher knife and cut it off" just like she could see her description of it.
One day grandmother heard that Mr. John was ill. They had grandchildren that lived with them; their mother had died. The father was unable to care for them by himself so the boys went to Miss Lottie's and Mr. John's to stay. She called over and said, "Lottie, I've just made some salt rising bread. How's John doing? Would he be able to eat some? Send Ellis over here and I'll send him some that is just hot right out of the oven." Ellis came and got the loaf of salt rising bread. Now, fresh salt rising bread has quite an odor to it. Ellis got back home with it, in a little basket with a cloth over it, and he said, "Taff, you may be sick now but if you eat that stuff you are going to die!"
Dr. Core was a character too, he really was. My dad drove him after he got older. When I was born in 1926 he was well established in this community. At that time his daughters were very close friends of my mother and my aunt. I just would give anything if I had asked more questions when I was growing up. I do recall that when he passed away I cried like I had lost my very best friend. I was not the least bit afraid to go to him. I was sick all the time and still have some of the same allergies today. For instance, I got this horrible rash all over and my mother rushed me to Dr. Core. He said, "Mary, what are you bathing this child in?" She said, "well, Lifebuoy soap." He said, "that stuff ought to all be destroyed. It causes more skin than anything ever did." So, I've never touched another bar of Lifebuoy soap. It has a horrible smell, anyway.
My Aunt Dena Stowers reared me after my mother's death. She thought that women who smoked were making a dreadful mistake and it disturbed her terribly. She got to thinking one day and said, "you know, Aunt Mary Cox smoked." I said, "Deedie--my pet name for her--who was Aunt Mary Cox?" So, she explained all of this to me and said she remembered her saying when she visited her while visiting her grandmother and grandfather, "Child, come here and get me a coal from the fire to light my pipe, its gone out." She smoked one of those long clay pipes and would sit on the edge of the hearth in her chair so the smoke would go up the chimney. Apparently they didn't want smoking in their household, but they would allow her to go to her room and smoke the old clay pipe.
It was the Steeles that I have the history on. There was bound to have been a land grant somewhere because my great-great-great grandfather was an officer in the Revolutionary war. I never heard things like that discussed but a lady called me from Texas and said she had been given my name to contact. She understood that I had ancestors who were members of the Steele family. She said, "Alex Steele?" and I said, "yes, he was my great-great-great grandfather." She introduced herself and said she was also descended from these people. We corresponded and I copied the family genealogy I had and sent it to her, and she was happy to get that. She was able to tell me where Alex Steele was buried, in an old church ground in Boston. It hadn't been many years since I had been in Boston and followed the footsteps on the historic tour, but didn't know to stop in that church yard and look for my great-great grandfathers.
The stone house up there at Cross Keys was a land grant from the Revolutionary War. [Some men in that war were given land grants in the Bethesda area. Several Revolutionary War veterans are buried in a cemetery on Flat Creek Road.] I did not know until recently until there were actually battles fought in the Civil War in this community.
I have a grandmother who, when she married, became Alice Irving. She was Laura Alice Alexander, but she married an Irving. My grandfather's sister was also Alice. So we had two Alice Irvings since one never married. The Alice who didn't marry went to a female normal school, I believe in Clarksville.
In the Irving family, there were two aunts whose men both went to war. The grandmother and the daughters ran the farm with the help of the one slave who remained there. He was old then. That is what is now known as the Taylor farm, in the heart of Bethesda. There was a little peep hole in their attic and there was a ladder built up the wall in one of the upstairs bedrooms. It was built on the same plan as all of the old homes, but it has since been remodeled. There was a boys' upstairs and a girls' upstairs that were completely separate. The ladder was possibly on the girls' side. They brought with them my grandfather's sister. I don't know where she is buried but undoubtedly she was widowed. She came to Tennessee with them. Her name was Aunt Mary Cox. This little ladder was in her room while she lived there.
I never asked when my ancestors came here. It was prior to the Civil War and one member of the family was an infant, I've been told. I didn't ask which one, and should go back to the genealogy book. It rode in my grandmother's lap in the covered wagon in the chair that I now have. I don't know whether the chair just wore off--she was a rather portly lady--up to the first round or whether they had sawed some off of it to make it more stable. She had carried the infant, whoever it was, on her lap for that journey. I also have the rolling pin that they used on the trip, just a hand carved rolling pin, smaller on the ends with no definite handles. They would have to stop, of course, and prepare meals. I can recall seeing the Dutch oven in that house, but so many of these things were sold to settle the estate.
Gypsies. People were afraid of them because they would steal your chickens. They would come through in the daytime but they wouldn't go too far. Then they would come back and visit again at night when you didn't know they were there. At least, this is the proposition.
My Aunt Willie loved flowers and had a flower garden in part of the front yard, in the left corner as you faced the house. I believe she milked the cows and fed them and shelled the corn for the pigs, or got the corn out for the pigs. We were very self sufficient. We had hog killing, my highlight in the winter time, except for Santa Claus coming. She did the milking and got the milk strained up and I understand they allowed her to have the money from the milk that was sold. She bought a gypsy basket that stood on a stand off the floor. It had a beautiful handle. [Jessie: I remember it sitting in the front hall when I was seven or eight years old.] She would fix flowers in it, and it was used at the church quite often for special occasions. It was a nice basket and I am sure quite cheap. I remember seeing them in Mr. John Wallace's lot that was right across from my grandmother's, just one time.
Cure for the flux
The valley between your [Jessie] hill and Mount Pisgah is called the Jimmy Hollow. There was a black couple, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Parrah Lee Grimm. Aunt Parrah Lee came to see my grandmother one day and she said, "Miss Alice, I haven't been down here to see your new baby. How are you doing?" This was Dabney, my mother's brother. She said, "I'm terribly worried. You know, he's got a bad case of the flux and I haven't been able to find one thing that has helped him. I'm just afraid I'm going to lose him." I think diarrhea in those days was called flux. She said, "Alice, don't I smell cabbage cooking? You give me that baby and you go in the kitchen and bring me a cupful of that cabbage broth." She said, "for what?"
"I'm going to feed it to this child."
"Are you sure?"
She said, "yes, you just do what I tell you."
She did that--she tried everything else and it wouldn't work--and do you know it cured the child. Boiled cabbage pot liquor, seasoned and everything!
Think about the different meanings that words we knew meaning one thing that have already changed today. Frontier people used an old English. People used to say "tote" but that was a valid word for carrying. Also a "tow" sack for a burlap bag.
Earliest schools of Bethesda
Richard Irving, Uncle Dick, who died in the Civil War was in training in Lebanon to become an attorney. I have letters at home where he made the trip there by stagecoach. He had to go to Franklin and had to take the stagecoach. He was belaboring the fact that they charged as much as they did for the candles to study by. I have a letter where he was going to establish a private school here. That undoubtedly prior to there being public schools here. My family and I went walking after we came back to the Bethesda community in 1954 and began to go through the back of the old Irving home place. We came upon a log structure back behind the James Bond property that turns off Arno-Bethesda Road. I came back to the house and said to Aunt Dena Stowers, who was in her eighties, that I had found this interesting log cabin back in the woods and described where it was. I asked who she remembered who ever lived there. She said, "nobody ever lived there. That was the black folk's school house." So, once schools were established there were schools for both. I don't know the exact time but I do know that my mother--she was the youngest--completed part of her education in Nashville because my grandfather had died and my Aunt Dena and Uncle Jim were living in Nashville and mother lived with them.
The old store was a two-story affair where the present store is in Bethesda. That was used as a school house where part of them went to school. I understand that the lot that is between that and Dr. Core's house is where the original school was. The store was possibly the first school.
My school days
I started to school here when I was seven but mother had taught me at home because I just had a terrible inquisitiveness. I asked questions and I wanted an answer. I found a copy of a story of my life that some teacher in elementary school had required us to write. That was when I found out that I weighed eleven pounds when I was born and as I told a friend, I haven't gained much since. I went on to say that I wanted to learn to read and I had not been a healthy child because of allergies, basically. I still have a lot of them. I begged my mother to get me a baby grade primer, and this was an outdated primer but I had seen it on the shelf at the Cross Keys store. They got me that primer but they decided that having to walk that distance to school I was too fragile and frail and having lost my sister, they were overly protective. So she taught me at home. I did learn to read that baby grade primer.
As soon as I got through with that primer I insisted that she buy me a lunch box. I got the lunch box and then I insisted that she get me a pair of scissors and something else that I don't recall. She asked what I needed with a pair of scissors. I said, "don't you know, I'll be taking home economics." Needless to say, when I started to school I found out that home economics was a good distance in the future. I did do this. I got newspaper and my little blunt tip scissors and decided I wanted to make something for myself. My mother sewed; she was an accomplished seamstress. I was fascinated by it. I cut out my own pattern and made myself a pair of pajamas. I was eight at the most.
But I remember I came to almost a disastrous end, because I was hardheaded. Mother was helping me sew one day and you had door to door salesmen in those days. You didn't hesitate--Watkins man was one of them--never do remember what this young man was selling. I don't know whether it was just to be courteous or whether it was something she might be interested in. The other people in the household were busy elsewhere, so he came up and knocked on the door while she was giving me a lesson on the sewing machine. With the curiosity that I had, I went to the front hall and they took their seats. I stood around a while to see if I was going to be interested in what they were talking about, and I wasn't. She had cautioned me when she left the machine, "don't touch the sewing machine until I get back." Guess what. I decided I could do that; I know exactly what I am doing. I put my foot down here and I peddle and I hold on to this fabric. Just hadn't noticed that you had to move your hand along. I kept sewing and I sewed through my finger and was so appalled at what I had done that I jerked my hand and broke the needle off in my finger. Went all the way through. The salesman was kind enough that my mother carried him a pair of wire pliers and he pulled that needle out of my finger. And, guess what treatment they did. They stuck my finger in kerosene and it never did even get sore.
I was in school when it burned in 1936. That's when the schools met in the churches while the new school was being built. I remember getting down on my knees in the pews, and we used the pews as desks. To do our writing we got on the floor on our knees. I was in the Methodist church and the house that is across from the Taylors now was the high school. Charles Oliver was the principal and Jesse, his wife, taught economics. Aunt Dena and Uncle Jim had moved into my great grandfather's home with his sisters, who had become unable to care for themselves. They rented their home to Mr. and Mrs. Oliver, which was convenient to them because it was right next door to the school. After the school burned they continued to live there but taught the high school section.
We had I.Q. tests in those days just like they do today. I remember having to trek up the road; we had to go up there because the principal had to supervise those tests. I always loved math but I didn't how all of the things you were supposed to work were laid out. I kept going past my stopping point, and I got into the algebra section. I thought that didn't make too much sense to me, but I began to work and evidently got some of them right. I began to wonder why students would look at me strangely when I would come around. Then, somebody told me, "do you know what Mr. Oliver told us?" I said that I had no idea, but that I was scared to death of the test. He had a very loud voice and was a strict disciplinarian. If I would hear him holler at somebody I would shake in my shoes. She said, "he was trying to explain algebra to us one day and we couldn't grasp it. He said wait just a minute, let me go in yonder and get Jean Gary; maybe she can explain it to you!" No wonder they looked at me strangely when I came around. I had no idea what I had done or what I had done to make enemies out of them.
And, I called down to the store--someone dared me to do it--and said very sweetly, "do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?" He said, "we do." And I said, "better let him out!" [Every generation thinks that is a new prank.]
The dividing line between Bethesda and Cross Keys was just about my grandmother's house. We went in both directions. My dad would go to Cross Keys store and play cards with the men that would congregate there. I can remember going with him. there was a gentleman in the neighborhood, Greasy Creswell, who was a big tease. My aunt had bought me this special imported hat for me to wear to school, but I would wear it to the store when my dad would take me up there. I could get a whole bag of candy for a nickel, if I could salvage me a nickel somewhere and catch dad when he was going to the store. If Mr. Creswell would come in while I was there he would come sidling up to me and grab that hat and say, "oh, look, I've got me a pretty hat." And it would just make me furious because he had taken my wonderful cap off of my head.
I remember the Cross Keys community about as well as I do the people of the Bethesda community. But there was a dividing line. The funny thing was there were the churches and the Choctaw school house and they were a separate community altogether. They were our friends, and people would come to my grandmother. She must have been a fairly intelligent lady and had a lot of business sense. Apparently even when my grandfather lived she did the major portion of the running of the farm.
I guess the boys did the work; I know my dad did a lot of it after he came there. But times got so hard that dad took a job away from home and would just come home on weekends. He was in construction and helped to build Milky Way Farm in Pulaski. You couldn't drive because you didn't have money for the gas; that would have taken all you earned. You went and stayed on the job and came home on the weekend. I remember him coming home. We had the telephone because the women were there alone. By this time my uncles were in business in Franklin and I think they funded the telephone for us, for our protection.
Trouble in the corn crib
I remember my dad coming in one night. There was one thing about the depression. You did not leave anything of value in a building that was unlocked. You went out about dark, once the chickens went to roost, and you locked the hen house. You did not necessarily keep a lock on the barn door unless you had a lot of harness, but you definitely locked the corn crib. We had a window that we pitched the corn in. I remember my dad getting home fairly late one night and he came up, pulled around this way. If the weather was bad he sometimes parked the car in the barn, but the weather was not bad. He parked the car in front of the front yard gate but facing the barn and his lights played on the barn wall. Someone had gone to the trouble and was hanging up there by main strength and awkwardness, by the window into the corncrib. They intended to go in that way and I guess would have been there the next morning because they couldn't have gotten out. But the light flashing on them --they dropped off and ran away. Apparently they had chickens or hogs or something they were going to lose and did not have enough corn, or maybe they had hoped to sell it and get money to buy some food. We never knew.
I recall this. I had for a long time at my home a tattoo dye, more or less, that the county agent came up with. You raised your flocks' wings and in this flesh under the wings, you tattooed them with this dye. Everybody had their own mark and if somebody came along and stole all your chickens, all you had to do was look under the wings and see if they were your chickens. Now is not the first time that crime has come to the Bethesda area.
Games and pie suppers
Games were played, but I'm not sure what. Some people were allowed to dance. But, there was some in our family that thought that was sinful, and I wanted to learn to dance. I did have a little rhythm and I wanted to dance so badly and they would not all me to go. People in the country were still having square dances as I grew up. A lot of families had dances, especially if anybody had musical talent that could play the fiddle for them. They just rolled the rugs up and had square dances. They had large rooms for the most part. The young men would come.
Then, they had pie suppers. You got a shoe box and--I can recall the older girls talking about this when I was just very small--you decorated this shoe box with tissue paper or crepe paper or wallpaper or anything to decorate it. Maybe even put wildflowers on top of it, but you had to do an elaborate job. One thing you did was make a pie but I think you also packed sandwiches and this kind of thing in there. The thing was that the most popular girl in the neighborhood would normally--the young men would be against each other for the opportunity to eat with this particular girl. Of course, if several were struck on the same girl the bidding got wild. They would spend money they could maybe ill afford. Maybe spend all the allowance that they had. This was quite entertaining. It usually took place at the school house. Some called this a box supper, but you included pie as your dessert. Maybe they weren't sometimes as struck on the girl as they were on the food she produced, because we had some excellent cooks here. I think that the money was a cause for the school. The two churches in the area did not do this to raise money. I can remember having ice cream suppers back in my young days. It was homemade ice cream and it was excellent.
Most people raised their own sugar cane. I remember on the Charlie Reed place, cane was grown down in the bottom, this side of the creek, from there out to the road. This was Miss Lola Glenn's parents and where she grew up. It was the Tom Giles farm and her mother was Ruth Giles. She lost her mother when she was young and my grandmother took over and helped Mr. Tom. Miss Ruth would come and she and my mother were the same age. She would come oftentimes and spend the night. My grandmother would sew for Miss Ruth, so the families were always very close. Mr. Charlie would come to my grandmother for farming advice; I can recall that. She was considered kind of a sage in the community.
They raised sugar cane. I can remember many times coming along, and Jessie's brothers would be along. We'd walk up the road together to have company home from school. One of them might have a pocket knife and we'd get over in the cane field and get us one cane, and we would suck the syrup out of the cane. It was good, but I guess if you ate too much of it it would probably make you sick. But, the field would be minus one sorghum cane by the time we got past going home from school. You would cook off the molasses and everybody had this store of molasses, and sugar was not plentiful in those days. I guess this started during the Civil War because sugar was non existent. If you had it, you had to hide it.
To make taffy, they would cook some molasses down to a certain degree. It was from experience that you knew when it was ready. You took it off and let it cool, and then you would butter your hands. Remember that you made your own butter then so there was plenty of butter. Couples, your boy friend and you, would work this candy. You would pull and pull, and lap it back over, and pull. Once it reached the right stage you would lay it down and let it season to just a certain stage. And, you cut it. If you didn't get it cut it would get too hard to cut. My grandmother would make such old fashioned things as homemade gingerbread. They would often make a sauce to go over that. I don't remember the parties because there was sickness, there was death in the family and this kind of thing and I missed them.
We had hard cider sometimes. [Jessie: did you ever drink any hard cider?] Yes, and furthermore there was a bottle that was covered with some basket weave. It was kept in a fruit closet under the stairway that was in my grandmother's room, and was used for medicinal purposes. It was called blackberry cordial. It had a most delightful taste. Believe it or not, there was such a small quantity in there I would just get me a taste. I was considerate; I thought that somebody might get sick and need that. It is a good thing, because I guess I could have got drunk. I really liked the taste of it, I really did.
They would leave me. You know how old houses are heated--the fireplace in here and you went through a room or two and you got to the kitchen. If you kept pretty good fire in the cook stove then the kitchen was warm enough that you could endure if you had put on an extra sweater or two. Being the delicate thing that I was they left me in the bedroom with the fireplace while they went to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal, or to get it together. Right often I ate my evening meal after I started to school in front of the fireplace on a little stool like table, and I had a tater that was baked in the ashes, homemade tomato soup made from the whole canned tomatoes, and I had a peculiar appetite. I loved roasted duck eggs. You would crack the shell just a little bit, possibly tap it with a knife, and you would wet newspapers and wrap the duck egg and tuck it into the ashes and keep the hot ashes. It was actually a baked or roasted duck egg. I could eat that whole thing by myself, and they tell me they are so strong that the average person doesn't even like them. That was my favorite things.
While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, there were wonderful things to do in that bedroom. My grandmother had a rocking chair that is in my den today. It would walk when you would rock. Thank goodness it walked backward because I would put it right up to the edge of the hearth. The arms came up more or less in a circle at the front and were attached to the seat. I would plant a foot in each one of those circles and rock just as hard as I could rock and the first thing I knew I had walked all the way to the back of the room and was bumping the door that went into the entrance hall. So, I would patiently drag the chair back up there and start all over again. My grandmother had an oak bedroom suite--the prettiest bed and dressers and things were upstairs. The more modern things were downstairs. I understand that her son Dabney and his wife Laura had given her this bedroom suite. They had brought it back from California. They were apparently not successful there so they came back to Tennessee. He was a druggist. This was one of the old fashioned beds that had a high foot board and a yet higher headboard. The headboard went almost to the ceiling in that room. My grandmother's bedroom was the original log cabin that the home was constructed around. It had low ceilings. Just gave room enough for her to pull her quilts on the quilting frames up to the ceiling and have head room.
They had two wells. The refrigerator well was behind the house and is still there today. They fastened on this chain they had buckets that the lids fit very tightly on and they put the butter and I guess at times jello. The water was cold enough that it was equal to an icebox. I remember eating the jello in pressed glass bowls that had this gold edging on it. I was so fascinated by the sparkle of this jello in that gold that I would forget to eat the jello.
I don't know the time when the Waddey chairs were made, but it was before the turn of the century [about 1888 as a best calculation from genealogy] . The Waddey chair in a picture I have was a gift for Aunt Willie when she was born. They made ladder back chairs that are quite collectable now, and they made caskets. We had enough chairs that we used them in the kitchen, but they were a little low for our dining table. They were made in Bethesda--I've laughed and told some people it was in downtown Bethesda. I almost think it must have been close to the Presbyterian church but that is an awfully low field. Mr. Dick Waddey is Mr. Ira Waddey's daddy. He and Aunt Dena and them were real good buddies. He would come all the way to Bethesda to trade when Mr. Ira was running the store.
I got through history by memorizing. It didn't mean a thing to me then. Can you imagine anybody being so interested in family history and antiques now to have never liked history. I think it may have been some of the teachers I had.