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 Little Home Histories, Part 49 -- Historical Reminiscences of the Joseph Edgerton Family.

by Edgerton, James.

See previous entry: Little Home Histories, Part 48 -- Some History of Wool, Flax and Nettles in Leatherwood Valley (from Cyrus Hall's History of Leatherwood Valley).

Note: Prepared for and read at an Edgerton reunion 9-25-1891 by James Edgerton.

It has been laid on me to give at this time some items of unwritten history concerning some events in the life of the family to which I have the honor to belong. A very striking feature of my remarks on the reminiscences of the past sixty years will be the contrast between the present times and that of forty or sixty years ago in respect to the manner and the expense of living.

When our father Joseph Edgerton, son of James Edgerton Sr., settled on this place in 1818, the country was almost an unbroken forest, and the wolves were quite numerous and troublesome. The neighbors united to hunt them down, and found a den about a mile away on the Leatherwood hills. It was not certain whether the old ones were inside or not. Therefore they decided that grandfather Doudna would crawl in, light in one hand and gun in the other and rope tied around one foot by which his comrades on the outside were to draw him out on signal of danger. Thus equipped, he dragged himself in about twenty feet and was awarded by finding a nest of several young ones but no old ones. These cubs they secured and used as decoys to draw the parent wolves, and in this manner succeeded in shooting one or both the parents.

We had no friction matches in those days, and if we let the fire go out we had to go to a neighbor for a supply. Grandfather lived a quarter of a mile away, and usually burned good hardwood -- maple or sugar-tree wood. As a result, he was in a position to furnish fire, so some of us were dispatched there to get hot embers. In those days, everyone did their cooking by open fire in a large fireplace, so we seldom lost fire. If we did, and couldn't get fire from a neighbor, we knew how to make it by striking flint and steel which, we always kept on hand.

We seldom lost fire when the weather was cold and a fire was kept up all of the time; but we lost it sometimes in summer. A fire of green sugar wood, covered well with ashes when not in use, kept very well. Many a time I have gone for fire when grandfather would open his pile of ashes and divide his stock -- giving me a generous share, which I would carry home on a shovel. Then too, our light at night for reading or sewing was from the open fireplace, and if an extra task of the kind needed to be done at night, a supply of light wood must be provided. This was secured from an old tree or some such place and stored in one corner. The tallow candle was kept only for extra times or for use when company was present. Our oil of today was then unknown although it was at that day stowed away in natures storehouse waiting the light of science and the inventive genius of man to find and utilize it. Indeed, when I first went to Mt. Pleasant Boarding School in 1845, our light for studying at night was a lard oil lamp swung overhead and raised or lowered by a pulley. There was one such lamp in a room, the balance of the light being supplied by candles.

I also well remember the first cook stove brought into our house. It was of the Hathway patent. The peddler begged hard and finally got them to let him put it in to try but it was thought too expensive a luxury and he had to take it out and they returned to the open fire for cooking and the tin reflector for baking.

This article was a case made of tin about twenty inches long, a little like a miniature house or shed set with the open side to the fire. It was equipped with a pan similar to the bread pans of today. This would soon bake a loaf of bread or a couple of pies if placed near and in front of a good hot fire. A more advanced contrivance was the Dutch Oven out in the yard. Made usually of mud, it had to be heated to a certain degree, then the bread or whatever was to be baked, put in and shut up tightly to bake as the oven cooled. I remember very vividly my honor of getting oven wood, which had to be very dry and split up fine. A modification of this oven is still in use, particularly by bakers, but we never see nowadays the old mud oven out in the backyard. It stood on four posts set in the ground and on them a floor laid of split puncheons covered with a thick coat of mud to keep them from burning. The oven was made of mud piled on wood and arranged so that when the wood burned out it would leave the oven of dried mud. This possessed the great advantage of costing little except work, and that was a grand item in those days -- when it was harder to get a shilling than it is now to get a dollar.

We were glad to get six and a quarter cents a pound for butter then and many things which now sell readily at paying prices would not sell at any figure. Wheat, so important to us now, was not then found to any great extent in any farmer's storehouse, and would commend only twenty-five to fifty cents a bushel. I well remember when father had a few bushels made into flour, which he thought we could spare -- and he had to haul it to Wheeling, W. Va., in order to sell it.

There was a tread mill in the neighborhood to which I used to go to get our family breadstuffs made and I well remember one time in the fall of the year when our father was away from home and the water was so low the mills could not run. I would have to get up way before daybreak and go to the mill and wait until someone came to join teams so as to have force enough to run the mill. In this manner we got our corn and occasionally a grist of buckwheat ground. In the latter case I would have to put the product into a sack and carry it into an upper story and bolt it by hand. Compare this with the present mode of producing breadstuffs.

In the matter of clothing there was nearly as marked a difference. We would raise flax, pull it, thresh the seed from it, spread it out on a clean piece of grass rot, and when sufficiently rotten for the hard stiff part of the stalk to break easily, it was put away in a dry place until time to manufacture it. Then if the weather was too damp for the stalk to break up readily, it had to be dried by fire. For this a frame was made over a pile of burning logs on which the flax was spread to dry, but great care was necessary to keep it from catching fire.

To break, skutch, spin, and weave the lint was a job for the farmer's family in those days and nights also. In the cold winter evenings, mother would get her wheel in front of the large fire and spin the evening away in the manufacture of sheets as well as clothing such as skirts, pants, etc. -- save what few dimes we could raise and lay away to pay our taxes or other necessary bills.

The item of fruit has also changed. A peach orchard stood on the hill in sight where we now are, which was planted in 1805 and bore abundantly. It was very difficult to realize anything for the fruit and I have seen neighbors come with ox carts, beat off the peaches, put them in their carts, and take them home. The sugar bills were of the indispensable variety and father would make any exchange he could to secure a supply. I remember his coming home with a lot of maple sugar cakes at one time. These were very large -- having been molded in some vessel which made them big enough to weigh ten or twelve pounds each -- and it seemed a problem how best to get them reduced to a state to be used. Father finally got the cutting box from the barn and sliced the sugar on it. In subsequent years we secured sugar water from this grove of maple trees, and made our own maple sugar. We hauled it to the cellar where there was a large open fireplace and evaporated it in iron kettles, and thus procured the season's sweet.

Source: Written by: Sarah Maxwell.

See next entry: Little Home Histories, Part 50 -- Anecdotes Concerning Charles Livezey.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, please see: Little Home Histories, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Little Home Histories in Our Early Homes, Belmont County, Ohio, which was published in 1942. Its publication was coordinated by Robert D. and Beulah Patten McDonald. This entry has been reedited for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Website by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Website. It may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Website. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Maxwell, Sarah.

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2002 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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