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Story of Fidella Downstain Donellson
submitted by: Brenda Dillon

Story as I, Fidella Nash Shoulders, remember Fidella Downtain Donellson
Collins, born 12-29-1865 I remember going to grandmas when I was quite
young(3yrs old to be exact). My first cousin, Ervin Collins Jr. and I both
had polio when we were 3 years old. They would take me to see grandma. We
lived at Camden-on-Gauley. My mother, Ena Collins Nash, my father, Otto
Nash, and my older sister Nellie and younger sister Alta and I. My mother,
sisters, and I would take the passenger train from Camden-on-Gauley to
Fenwick Mountain. Uncle Clarence would meet us at the depot at Fenwick with
(old Bob) their horse. All us girls would love to ride to grandmas, I always
liked to ride Old Bob and did many times. The first thing we'd do when we
got to Grandmas would be to ask her for some bread and butter. She would
open her cupboard doors and we could smell the many different kinds of jams,
jellies, and butters, plus cold cornbread and biscuits. She'd slice a slab
of cornbread and spread some homemade cow butter and whatever else we wanted
on it. We would hold the cupboard doors open for her, while she fixed us
something to eat. I can still spell the delicious aroma of her cupboard. It
spelled really deliciously different from anything you've ever experienced.

After I got over polio and was able to walk again we would go to Grandmas
too. My sisters and I would go to Grandmas garden with her to gather
vegetables for dinner. We wore dresses back then (as all girls did) and we'd
pull our little dresses up in the front of us and make sort of a bag of them
and we'd pick little cherries and pear tomatoes and ground cherry's. We'd
take our little dress tails home full of goodies and of course we'd have to
eat some. So many people liked to visit Grandma and Grandpa on Sundays. They
would gather in after Sunday School and Church. Some would help Grandma
prepare the meal, but more than often she'd have it all to do my herself.

Then there was the dishes to do, which more often than not she did them
alone. I was small but I still remember. I loved carrying wood for her. She
always had a big wood box at the end of her kitchen stove. Grandpa cut wood
and piled it in the wood shed. Sometimes he'd have it piled so full he'd
have to pile some on the outside, when it was pretty weather, we'd carry it
from the outside and when it was bad snowy we'd get the wood from the inside
the shed and carry it to the kitchen. My Grandma would never turn anybody
from her door hungry. Sometimes (not very often) someone would offer to cut
her some wood for the meal they had eaten. But Grandma never complained.
Grandpa was never skilled at any job outside of farming, so Grandma made the
living by hard work. She raised turkey's and sold them around Thanksgiving
and Christmas. She also raised sheep and sheered them and sold the wool.
(what she didn't use for her own family) She'd card the wool and spin it into
yarn on her spinning wheel. She made all the wool socks, mittens, mufflers,
and scarves, and toboggans for the immediate family and some for the
grandchildren. She also sold eggs, butter, and milk that she had left over
after she feed her own family. She never let her family go without anything.

She made all the family clothes. She sent all the children to school and one
of her boys Harland became a school teacher, and Alta became a nurse. Her
son Alvin was called into the first World War and fought in France. He
returned okay. Some of her children were coalminers, some worked in the
woods and the paper mills. The girls became mothers and housewives. All her
family were good providers. I recall one time when Grandma sat down on the
front porch to rest. It was in the summer time and real hot and sticky.

There was a few of us grandchildren around, myself, Bear Hinkle, my sisters
Alta, and Nellie. She wanted a drink of water from the Sulfur Springs away
up the hill. So we got us a bucket and climbed up the hill to get it for
her. We always like to do things for grandma because she was always doing
things for us. Grandma got the timber cut and sold it so she could make ends
meet. She was a small lady but she could manage everything so it would go
for a long time. She canned a lot of food, and dried a lot of fruits and
vegetables. She'd also take some of her field corn and make her own hominy
with lye and ashes. She would render her own lard to cook with. She also
made her own soap out of her scrap fat and lard she didn't need for cooking.

She did her washing on an old washboard and boiled her clothes outside in a
big washtub. She ironed her clothes with a sad iron . She had no
electricity. She had a cold cellar under her kitchen and every time she
wanted fresh milk, butter, or eggs, she'd have to go down the steps to the
cellar. I think she might have gotten her treadle sewing machine before she
died but I can't say for sure. I do remember that she had woven baskets with
a lid on it that she kept her buttons in and us kids loved to play with the
things she kept in it. I recall one instance when we were staying with her,
my mother, Nellie, Alta, and myself. My mother and Aunt Oretta was sleeping
together and they got into an argument and Grandma heard them. Here she went
with a razor strap that she used on the smaller children, she used on both
of them. She told them if they were going to act like kids then she'd have
to treat them like kids. They simmered down and slept the rest of the
night.\par \par I remember when us children would gather at Grandma and
Grandpa's and maybe snow would be on the ground. We'd all go down in the big
bottom land close to the river and play fox and geese and roll over empty
oil barrels that grandpa had. He'd watch us and laugh. He had a good sense
of humor. I recall the big boat landing on the other side of the Big Bottom.

When someone wanted to be set across in the boat, they would stand up on the
railroad and holler across the river for Aunt Ora to set them across and she
did. One time they heard someone (they thought) yelling to be set across and
it was late at night. Aunt Ora got her lantern and headed for the river, but
before she could get to the river she heard whatever it was going down the
river screaming. It was a panther. She went back to the house as fast as she
could and never again did she cross anybody after dark. Grandma and Grandpa
raised sorghum cane to make molasses out of. They would do a lot of their
sweetening with it and they would make delicious cookies out of it too. They
would get the lassies pan ready and take old Bob to work the cane mill. He
would go around and around to press the juice from the cane stalks and it
would take 2-3 days to boil the juice down to make molasses good and thick.
Us children would have a ball playing in the cane fields while they were
making molasses. they would bottle it in gallon jars or half gallon fruit
jars and put it in the cellar so it wouldn't freeze. Then Grandma would make
apple butter in her 20 gallon brass kittle outside. They'd get the apples
all peeled and ready to go in the kittle and the next day they would light
the fire and set the kittle down in a thing they called a spider. They would
add the apples and water so the apples wouldn't burn as they started to
cook. They'd stir and stir all day till the apple butter got think . When it
got thick they would put oil of cinnamon or cloves and sugar to taste. Then
they would can it into jars and that too would go to the cellar. It was
really delicious and to this day I still make apple butter. I recall when
their hanovers and potatoes were ready to dig. They would dig them and let
them dry off. Then they would dig 2 big holes in the garden and put straw in
them and return the hanovers and potatoes to the hole. In the wintertime
they would dig in the side of the mound and take what vegetables they needed
for a meal Grandma also raised her own popcorn too. She'd shuck it back and
leave the shucks on the ears to hang it up by, then when they wanted
popcorn, they would take down an ear and shell it and pop it. Grandma would
dry herbs like yellow root, sassafras root, peppermint, catnip, and bonesett
to use for different kinds of illness. They couldn't run to the doctor every
time something went wrong with them. I can't remember all the herbs but
there were many. My Grandma would can green beans and pickle them and corn
too, and make her own sauerkraut. She would pickle in stone jars or in
wooden barrels and after they got pickled as she wanted taste just right She
would put them into the cellar until she wanted them. Grandma raised 6 boys
and 5 girls and after me telling you a few things about grandma you can bet
that not one of them went hungry or lacked clothes to wear even though hard
times, droughts, and other things happened and did that Grand little old
lady managed to make ends meet. She left me a bigger legacy that money
couldn't buy. I learned many things from her and a lot of things I put to
good use raising my own family. My Grandma struggled on even though she had
cancer eating at her and finally claimed her in death on March 25, 1936 at
71 years of age. My memories of my grandma( the one I am named for) were so
good and inspiring that I want to share them with my friends, children and


© 2002 Rhonda Smith