Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles

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The Life and Times of Grandpa Addington in the 1800's

Omer C. Addington, a grandson

     Grandpa lost his father when he was three years old.

     His father was gored to death by a bull when he was 40 years old. He was a teacher and a surveyor. He taught in the subscription schools, there were no public school in his day. Public schools did not come into being in Scott County until 1870.

     He made his own math book beginning with simple arithmetic and including plane geometry. In the back of the book is the names and dates of the birth of his children.

     There were nine children.

     John Monroe born Sept. 28, 1842, (my grandpa). Like all boys of that day and time, when he became big enough he had to work on the farm. If he ever went to school it was a subscription school where the teacher was paid by the parent or by the student. He was mostly taught by his mother. One of the books he read was the Bible, which in, time he became well versed on. He was a devout Baptist of the Hard-shell faction and a member of the Addington Frame Primitive Baptist· Church.

     Grandpa married my Grandma (Polly Alley) in 1866. Their first home was a log house with one room down stairs and one room up stairs. The house had a stone chimney with a huge fireplace. They did not have a cook stove. They had to do their cooking on and in the fireplace. There were pot hooks fastened to the inside wall of the fireplace on which they hung their iron pots to cook their food. The bread was baked in a baker set on the hot coals and ashes, the lid put on the baker an hot coals placed on top of it.

     Where the two-story log house stood a two story six-room house was built with a front and back porch. The front porch had banisters with fancy wood trim at the top.

     Grandpa learned to make barrels, tubs, pails, churns and piggins. The barrels were made of white oak staves. The staves were the same width from top to bottom, not like a modern stave whose width is wider in the middle. He made barrels of different : sizes and for different purposes. If they were made to hold liquid he bored a hole one inch from the bottom. This hole was called the bung hole and the bung or stopper was called the bung. The word bung is of middle English origin and was brought to America by the first English Immigrants. He also built barrels to hold small grain such as wheat and oats. The hoops for the barrels and tubs was made from a small hickory that was split. Three hoops for the barrels-one at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom. The tubs had one at the top and one at the bottom. The pails had two small hoops, one at the top and one at the bottom.

     The grain was beaten out with a frail. There were no threshing machines in the area. A frail was an implement consisting of a wooden handle at the end of which of which a stouter and shorter stick is hung with a leather strap so it could swing freely. The straw was used to fill a straw tick for beds.

     Grandpa and Grandma kept geese and after the laying of eggs and the goslings had grown big enough to be on their own, the geese were put in a pen and their feathers were plucked. This was done in the middle of the summer. Papa said, "everytime Mother pulled out a handful of feathers the goose would squawk."

     The feathers were used to make pillows' and feather beds. The feather beds were placed on top of the straw tick. This made a very comfortable bed.

     Tubs were made for different purposes and different sizes. If they were made for washing clothes, one for the water with soap and to rinse the clothes. Some were made to hold molasses, sauerkraut, pickle beans and vinegar. These had a bung hole and a bung. Uncle Ezra Addington said, "If Mother sent one of us children to get something from one of these tubs, she would say, 'be sure and put the bung in tight so it won't leak.

     Some of the tubs were made to hold lard, meat scraps, meal, graham flour and etc. Pails also were of different sizes and were used for many things, water, milking, to gather vegetables and etc.

 

     Churns were made from different kinds of wood. The best from cedar. The churn dasher was made from soft wood with a hardwood handle.

     Piggins were made from white oak staves, one stave was left longer and was used as a handle, these were mostly used to carry water.

     Handles for other pails were made from hickory bark or leather.

     Ashes were saved from one spring to the next and put in an ash hopper. This was a v shaped building with the bottom closed an the top covered to keep the ashes dry until soap making time. All the meat scraps had been saved, along with old tallow, and butter that turned bad – not fit to eat.

     After all the meat scraps had been collected the top was taken off the ash hopper and water was poured over the ashes to extract the lye. The lye caught in a wooden trough that was made out of some kind of soft wood. The lye and meat scraps were put in a big iron kettle-and boiled until it was so thick it was hard to stir. It was then poured into a big wooden container about two inches deep and left to age and dry out. After this the soap was cut into cakes.

     I ask Uncle Ezra if they perfumed or colored the soap and he said they did not. The soap was used for bathing, shaving and washing clothes.

     Papa said Pa would have shoes made for us boys. They were made straight and you could wear them on either foot. The soles were fastened to the upper with pegs. The pegs were made from ash I wood. Shoes for the girls were made a little better, for left foot and right foot.

     Candles were made in a candle mold from beef tallow and bees wax. They were not burned every night even in the winter time. The light from the fireplace was all they had.

     The beds were made high and a smaller bed was made and was low and slid under the higher bed, these were for the children to sleep on. They were called a trundle bed.

     Grandpa and Grandma dried fruit, apples and peaches. The surplus was taken to Estillville (now Gate City) and sold. They made apple butter and sweetened with molasses, because sugar was hard to come by.

     Grandpa kept sheep. In the middle of the summer they were sheared. The wool was washed in lukewarm water and homemade soap twice to remove the dirt and oil, then thoroughly washed to remove the soap with clear water. The wool was then hung to dry. After drying the wool was carded. You might think of carding as combing. It pointed all the wool fibers in the same direction. Then the wool was ready for the spinning wheel. The spinning wheel was foot driven. The faster the wheel turned the finer the thread. To get the thread finer the thread was spun twice.

     Grandpa grew flax and from flax came the linen thread and when spun and woven into cloth made their underclothes, shirts, blouses, sheets, pillow cases. It was also mixed with wool to make linsey woolen cloth.

     When Grandpa would take dried fruit or maple sugar to Estillville to, sell he would buy cotton batting, which was nothing more than layers of raw cotton. The cotton was carded and spun into thread. The thread was dyed some color depending on its use and some was woven into cloth.

     After the evening chores had been done and supper eaten, they would do some weaving by candlelight. The up and down thread were put on the loom called the warp and the cross threads called the woof were put in the shuttle. The shuttle went over and under, over and under, back and forth, back and forth until the desired piece of cloth was woven.

     After the cloth had been woven it was dyed with vegetable dyes. Dark brown from black walnut hulls, green from hickory bark and arbor vitae leaves, yellow from golden' seal, red from sumac berries and red puccoon and wild plum bark, black from black walnut bark. Different colors could be produced by proper mixing of different colors. These colors were not fast, and would fade with time.

     At night in the wintertime after the spinning, weaving or whatever was being done was finished, Grandpa would have Bible reading. It was Johnny's time to read a chapter. He was reading Luke Chapter 3, Verse 7, the last part of the verse reads. 0h generations 0h vipers who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Johnny read 0h, generations of vipers who hath warned you to flee from the weather to come. That night it came a big snow.

     Grandpa like his neighbor; kept hogs. In the fall the hogs were let out to feed on the mast which consisted of beechnuts, acorns and chestnuts. Before butchering the hogs were rounded up and brought in and put in the pen and feed corn for two weeks.

     You may ask. How did the neighbors know their own hogs? It was easy the hogs had been marked when they were tiny pigs by so many notches cut in the left or right ear and so many under cuts on the ear. Each neighbor had a different marking.

     After the hogs were butchered the meat was cured with salt if it was available. Salt could not be obtained during the Civil War. It went to the Confederate Army. If salt was not available the meat was cured by smoking. Wood smoke contains acetic acid, acetone, methyl formaldehyde and creosote. All the chemicals have antiseptic qualities which prevents the growth of bacteria.

     The kind of wood used was hickory wood. A pit was dug eighteen to twenty inches deep in the dirt floor. A fire was built in the pit so as to create smoke. The smokehouse was made as tight as possible in order to hold the smoke.

     I ask papa if Grandpa had a sausage mill. He said, he had one of sorts not like the ones we have today."

     I became curious and wanted to know how it was made? Papa said, "There was a round piece of hickory wood about three inches in diameter with metal spikes driven into the wood with a wooden handle to turn the wooden piece with the spikes."

     I then ask what did Grandma season the sausage with. Papa replied, "Mother grew her own red pepper and sage."

     How did you preserve the sausage? Some of it was put in stone crocks and grease poured over it and put where it would stay cold. It kept this way for several weeks. If sausage was to be kept for a longer period the big gut was turned inside out and washed and washed until it was thoroughly clean. The gut was then cut into two feet sections with one and tied closed and then filled with sausage and the end tied and then hung up with the meat and smoked.

     On Grandpa's farm there was a large grove of maple trees. People referred to them as the "sugar orchard" because· they were sugar maples. Late in the winter and early spring the trees were tapped which meant the trees had been made ready by boring a hole about an inch and half into the tree about four feet from the ground. Then inserting a spile made from the elderberry shrub. The stems were hollow. Grandpa made a trough out of soft wood poplar or linden to catch the sugar water. They were called sugar troughs. The troughs were placed on platforms. The best time for the sugar water to drip was a freeze at night and a thaw in the day time.

     The sugar water was collected each day and taken to the furnace where it was put in a large kettle or pan and boiled down into syrup.

     If they were going to make sugar they let the syrup boil until it began to granulate, that is form gains of sugar. Then it was boiled a little more until it was about all grains of sugar. It was removed from the furnace and poured into molds. They called them sugar cakes. The sugar cakes were sold by the cakes or by the pound.

     Late in the season when the sap begins to rise it takes too much boiling to make sugar, but they could make syrup.

     There was another kind of maple that grew on Grandpa's farm called red maple. It produced some sugar water, not as much as the sugar maples.

     I will close this narrative with the heartbreaking and sadness of Grandpa and two little girls.

     Grandma (Polly) died June 29, 1874, leaving Nancy Jane, 7 years old, Sarah Ellen, 5 years old and James Robert (my father) 6 days old.

     What was Grandpa to do?

     He knew that he could take care of the girls, but how could he take care of a 6-day-old baby. Polly's sister Emma Rita Addington came to his aid. She had given birth a few days before James Robert was born. So she took him and nursed him, along with her own baby. She nursed him until he was old enough to take milk or broth from a spoon. Then Nancy Jane and Sarah Ellen took over.

     In 1776 Grandpa married a widow Sarah Elizabeth Wampler Quillen. She had suffered the loss of a husband, having had a like misfortune, she was a very fitting wife for him. She had two children by her first husband, Malinda and Rebecca. She lost Rebecca soon after marriage to Grandpa.

     Grandma (Sarah) was a kind, gentle woman. She and Grandpa lived together for 47 years. Together they had six children.

     My father said, "She seemed not like a stepmother, but a real mother. She was the only mother I ever knew. If she ever discriminated among any of us children we never knew it. She displayed the same feeling for Nancy Jane, Sarah Ellen and me, as she did her own children."

     Death again came into Grandpa's home and took Sarah Ellen October 3, 1879. She was buried in the Old Addington Cemetery on Copper Creek.

     Grandpa died August 3, 1923, age 81 years. He was buried in the Old Addington Cemetery beside Grandma (Polly).

     Grandma (Sarah) suffered a stroke about a year before Grandpa died, and was bedfast. She lingered on for three years. She died August 10, 1926. She was buried in the Old Addingon Cemetery.

     Grand pa was the father of nine children and eighteen grandchildren. All are gone except three grandchildren. Claudia Addington Derting of Hiltons. She is a music teacher.  O.W. Addington of Abingdon, who is 94 years young And the writer, a retired school teacher.

 

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