The memoirs of Martha Frances Caudill Brown
Introduction to Martha’s memoirs by Dan Brown
I hope you all enjoy the memoirs of my great aunt, Martha Frances Caudill Brown. To me they are a real treasure since I never knew my paternal roots or any of my Blue Ridge ancestors or cousins until 2004. I have inserted some comments and research data such as census records that I hope will help everyone. I also have other family history and some photos available.
If anyone finds or knows of any additional or related sources or data pertaining to any person, place or event in the memoirs, please let me know, and thanks for your interest and thanks in advance for your comments on the memoirs.
Martha’s husband, Jonathon A. Brown was the brother of Dan Brown’s grandfather, Joseph H. Brown.
Martha is the daughter of John P. Caudill (b 25 Feb 1850) and Rhoda C. Blevins (19 Oct 1849) who were both born in Wilkes Co, NC.
I was born June 3, 1878 in Wilkes County, North Carolina near the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I go back in my mind and start life all over again, I see myself a little white haired girl. My mother kept my hair babe (?) cropped is what she called it. It was considered too much trouble to take care of if left long. My sister older than I was going to put my hair up like older folk did and she got a lot of Burdock burs and put them on the back of my head and all of my hair that was long enough to reach them she put in the burs which caused my hair to be cut close or clipped.
One of the earliest memories of my life was the death of my Grand mother (Jane Susan Wood Caudill, aka: Jinnie or Virginia), my father’s mother, which was sudden. It made quite an impression on my mind. Her death occurred ( Mar 1882) in the early spring before my fourth birthday. There was no such thing as an undertaker or hearse. The body was kept in the house until time for the burial which was usually the 3rd day unless conditions were so it could not be kept. The coffin was homemade and was considered very much uncharitable if any charge was made, so a coffin maker got no pay for his work. (pg 3) There was a low bed that was set in the large room with a tallow candle burning at the head of the bed. The neighbors would come in and set up all night, usually sing most of time. And when time came for the burial the corpse was carried by four men walking very slowly and singing softly while the family and relatives followed.
Taken from the 1880 Federal Census of Wilkes County, North Carolina
Township: Walnut Grove
Date Started: 4 June 1880 Date Completed: 29 June 1880 Enumerator: Franklin Miles
Page: 53 Dwelling Number: 65 Family Number: 65
Name: William Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Male, Age: 64, Relation: Head,
Status: Married, Occupation: Farm Labor, Remarks: None
Name: S Jane Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Female, Age: 55, Relation: WifeStatus: Married, Occupation: Housekeeping, Remarks: None
Name: John P Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Male, Age: 30, Relation: Son
Status: Married, Occupation: Farm Labor, Remarks: None
Name: Rhoda Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Female, Age: 26, Relation: Wife
Status: Married, Occupation: Cook, Remarks: None
Name: Susan Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Female, Age: 8, Relation: Daughter
Status: Blank, Occupation: Blank, Remarks: None
Name: Margaret Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Female, Age: 7, Relation: Daughter
Status: Not Listed, Occupation: Not Listed, Remarks: None
Name: Martha F Caudill, Color: White, Sex: Female, Age: 3, Relation: Daughter
Status: Not Listed, Occupation: Not Listed, Remarks: None
The old farm house was built of large logs that had been hewed out with an axe and the cracks was daubed with clay mud. The one room in the big house we always called it was 20 by 24 ft, not a partition in it. (pg 4) There was four beds in that one room. A big fireplace at the east end of the house and by the fireplace one bed set for my grandfather. On the other side the stairway started near the door and turned and reach the top all most over the big fireplace. There was only one window in that large room and it was near the door at the foot of the stairs. Three beds set in the back of the room. My two older sisters (Susan Jane and Margaret Leah) and I slept in the middle bed. I usually slept in the middle and one night I insisted I must (pg 5) sleep on the front side of the bed. So some time after I was asleep I was awakened by something almost pulling me out of bed. My screams woke all there was in the house. I got back in the middle of the bed between my two sisters and was glad to stay there. I never knew who or what gave me the scare.
Either Martha had an exceptional childhood memory, or she revisited her parent’s early homes when she was older. The detail which Martha describes her childhood homes and the words she uses-are also exceptional as is her understanding of distances, compass directions, measurements, construction techniques, etc.. Another possibility for all the detail when we consider Martha’s education (or lack of) and that Martha died in 1939 but her husband not until 1956—is that Jonathon could have helped his stenographer daughter to add detail to a rough draft of the memoirs. Unfortunately, we have only a few of Cordelia’s original shorthand pages. An unsuccessful attempt was made to have a modern day stenographer or someone who knew shorthand, to decipher or transcribe the shorthand pages to script or longhand.
There was not a porch to the house. There was a small dirt yard on the south side of the house and the most beautiful flower garden I ever saw on the north side of the large log house. There was a long room built the full length of the house (pg 6) which was kitchen and dining room. There was two large stone chimneys at the east end of the house. The yard on the north side or the yard above the kitchen was laid of large flat stones, some of them as large as a common dining table. The yard had been dug out level leaving a bank about two feet in height and a smooth rock wall to keep the dirt from falling. On the west side at the end of the rock wall there was a large pear tree, and at the other side at the end of the rock wall was a large apple tree
Just a few feet above the yard where the rock wall stood the old log smoke house where the meat was kept after the hogs was butchered. I will describe the farm starting at the east side of the house. There was some large cherry trees and a very large oak and one of the old eastern cedars by the road that led to the old spring house which was a small house built of large logs built over the spring. Further out was a large nearly flat rock. Must have been an acre of the bare rock where my father and grandfather would thrash (pg 8) out the grains with flails. They would take small hickory wood poles and pound it about two feet from one end so it would easily bend. Having the other end about four or five feet long. They would lay eighteen skines (skeins or bundles) down with the head ends laping over and they would stand facing each other beating out the grain. After the grain was threshed then came the part when I had to help and I very much disliked it, especially if the grain was rye. One would take a large siene (or sieve) and fill it with the grain and chaff holding it high shaking (pg 9) the grain thru. While two others would take a bed sheet and with it fan or blow chaff out of the grain.
Just a little further north was a road that could be gone over easily with wagon and team that led to the field we called the two mile gap field. This was a place where the mountain was lower than on either side. The view from this field was wonderful. We could see the Old Stone Mountain, almost a solid rock and was said to be five miles around it. One side was high and steep with a few shrubry (?) trees in patches and the (pg 10) other side was so anyone could easily go up on it. The Dunkard people would go up on that mountain each Easter and take the lamb and have the feast of the Passover. There was another mountain in plain view of this same field that was called the Pilot Mountain. The wonderful thing about it was that on the top there was a cliff that was three hundred feet high and almost round. And someone had drove iron spikes in the crevices of the rocks and climbed up there and built a cabin and planted a peach orchard. (pg 11) My grandfather said there was about, as well as I remember, two or three acres of ground on top and was nice and level. From our field the cliff looked to be perpendicular.
Almost north from the old farm house was a large chestnut orchard which was the joy of we children when the chestnuts began to fall. And back of the chestnut trees was the field we called the Boiling Spring field. There was a spring in that field where the water boiled up like boiling water and the bottom of the spring was white gravel rock. The water (pg 12) was clear as crystal and seemed almost ice cold. This field was quite a distance from the house and we most of the time took our lunch after the crop was planted. And my father only used one horse to plow between the rows of corn.
I well remember one day we was working in this field and there was coming an electric storm. There was a lot of dead trees standing that had been deadened by choking a ring around them. It was very dangerous to be in the field as the lightning quite often would strike a tree and tear it up from top almost (pg 13) to the ground and limbs and trees falling from the severe wind which usually came with the electric storm. This time mentioned mother sent me to the spring to get the things we had carried our lunch in. I was running as fast as I could but tried to eat a piece of apple pie as I ran and got choked so bad I do not remember what else happened at that time. Many times we would be caught in those quick rain storms and hurry as fast as we could . We would get as wet as could be. And it all passed and the sun shining some times before we would get to the house.
On the west side of the house (pg 14) stood the old grainery and a big wood shed made by the roof extending several feet from the grainery. My father would haul wagon loads of black walnuts and put them up on the floor overhead of where the grain was kept. They would get dry and we did enjoy them in the winter time. On west from the house was a trail that led gradually up to the top of the hill where the family graveyard was. My grandmother (Jane Susan Wood Caudill ), my aunt Frances Gambill and my little sister Lydia which was only seventeen months (?) were buried there. Just below the graveyard was a plum orchard (pg 15) and near it was a grove of pine trees. We called it the pine thicket. The trees was so close together in many places a cow could not walk thru the grove. They were not over eighteen inches in diameter and smaller were most all straight and several feet to the first limbs. And the long needles had fallen until it was more soft to walk on than a soft rug. There was but very little undergrowth and it was a beautiful place to play.
On further south was a trail winding its way down a steep ridge down the mountain side over which I went to school. On that side of the mountain it was about one mile from the (pg 16) foot of the mountain to the house and about one mile from the foot of the mountain to the school house. I would have to leave school and start home if it began to snow. The school house was a framed building, just the siding, not even siding on the inside. The floor was about six feet from the ground at the lower side of the house. A small wood stove near the center of the house did not warm up the house only a few feet from the stove. The county road run just below the school house and a grove of pines most all around the school (pg 17) house except on the side next to the road. It was called Piney Grove school house. I went to school part of three terms. There was only three months of school each year-Dec., Jan., and Feb.. The work on the farm was usually all done for the season, the crops harvested. Then the children was sent to school. As a general thing those three months was so cold. The weather was so rough not much work was done. Only cutting and hauling wood for the two big fireplaces, and the chores. I am sure my school days did not exceed three months.
My clothes were all home made (pg 18) and hand made. In the spring of the year after the cold weather was passed, the sheep was sheared. The wool washed, picked and after it was properly prepared it was sent to the carding machine where it was made into wool rolls thirty six inches long. After all outside work was done, my two sisters would put the two big spinning wheels in the kitchen in front of the fireplace and spin the wool rolls into yarn. Then we would go to the Black Walnut trees and dig the roots and pound the bark off them. And it was cut in short pieces and boiled in (pg 19) the big fourteen gallon pot in several gallons of water. In that water or ooze, the yarn was put in and died. Mother would die some real dark, some medium and some light brown. She would get the cotton (?) for the warp (?) which was also colored with maple bark. When everything was in readiness, mother would put the big weaver loom in front of the fireplace in the big house described and the clothes was woven for the whole family. Winter clothes. The cloth for my father and grandfathers clothes was wove first. Then some yarn was died red, some blue, and different colors for the dresses, etc.. The striped (pg20) cloth for our dresses was cross the width instead of length wise. We was so very glad when the cloth was ready to make as our cloth was all made by hand and took quite a while to get garment for each one of the family. We did not have underwear as we have now. Our clothes were all long loose skirts from the waist and the waist was usually tight fitting or fit close. We knit all our own stockings. They was just long enough to reach the knees. Part of the time when the snow was not too deep, I would go to school and the wind would blow in (pg 21) such winding sweeps that often my underskirt would be wet from the snow blowing and stick to them and melt. My knees would be chapped like you have seen children’s hands from the cold wind. Many times we would get back of the barn where we could not be seen from the house and run and play in the snow, the wind and snow blow to our waist.
Sometimes when it was very cold my mother would have me wear my father’s everyday coat to school. Of course I did not want to do so, but when mother said for me to wear it, I knew that (pg 22) there was no use for me to say anything. But would go on to school thinking how I looked going to school with that big coat an the sleeves turned up and it came almost to my feet. There was none of the other children going from our home. So when I had to wear the coat I would most always be late and would pull my coat off and put it away with the tiny basket I carried my lunch in.
I had only one book to study at school, the old Blue Back Spelling Book. When school was out, the children told “now put your book away until (pg 23) next year. We had to learn to spell such long words as incomprehensibility, individuality and incompatibility. Not so hard to spell but long words. Then after we had gone thru our book we was turned back to the first and go over it again. The teacher would give out the words, or pronounce them such as : ab; ac; ad, etc.. Our reading then was –go an go up an ox. We could learn for it was only beginners work to go over after we had completed the book. I tried in every way I could to get all the education I could. I had a deep desire to know more than just to able to read and write which my (pg 24) parents told me was all that girls needed. Although money could not buy the limited education I obtained in those few days of school and so what I learned out of school. I would take my book to bed with me and study from the light of the fire place. My father would not let me study from the light of the fire if he knew it. He said it would injure my eyes which was true. Although I did it I would turn my face from the front of the bed and study that way. I slept in the bed that set in the middle between the other two that set in back end of house.
(pg25)—the house being 24 feet long made it quite difficult to see from the light of the fireplace. I can remember the first glass lamp that was bought for the home. The only lamp before that time was a small brass lamp, no chimney. The wick was round and about the size of a lead pencil. If we wished to carry the lamp upstairs or anywhere that it was likely to be blown out, we would stick a pin thru the wick and carry it most anywhere we wished without it blowing out.
In the fall of the year when the crops was being hauled in from (pg 26) fields, my father would have me go and mind the gap. That was to stay by where the rail fence was laid down to keep the cattle from going thru so he would not have to put the fence up every time he would go thru. I would take a book of the New Testament and commit scripture to memory. I got a little book of the Psalms for a prize for getting scripture, so I could read chapter after chapter without looking at the bible or testament. One of my children have the book for a souvenir.
Mother and we children would pick and (pg 27) dry wild black berries and dry apples to sell at the store to get such as coffee, salt, sugar and soda, etc.. Also our Sunday clothes and leather to make our shoes. My father would have someone come in the fall of the year and stay and make one pair of shoes for each one of the family.
The long evening in the winter time was put in popping corn or cracking Black Walnuts, and roasting Sweet Potatoes in the fireplace. We never had a newspaper or magazines to read. The bible—(the scanner clipped off the last line at the bottom of this page 27)—(pg 28)—we had to read.
My grandfather’s name (my father’s father) was William Caudill, and grandmother’s maiden name was Virginia Wood. My grandfather spoke of her as Jinnie. My father (John P. Caudill) was tall, fair complexion, medium brown hair, blue eyes. He wore chin whiskers which was a dark sandy. He was very firm in his discipline but was one of the most kind loving father I ever knew. Mothers fathers name was Andrew Blevins. Her mother’s maiden name was Susie Joines. Mother (Rhoda C. Blevins Caudill) was low of stature, more short and heavy built than my father. She also had fair complexion, blue eyes, real dark brown hair. My father was more of a mild temper than mother was. She was as much interested in her children as a mother could be in what she thought best for us. There was no limit to the sacrifice she would make that was not beyond her ability. But she expected and demanded strict obedience and as a usual thing we knew better than to disobey. If we did something happened. I remember very well how much I felt I must be subject to my parents. I remember one especially.
We was in the black berry field. As (pg 30) the fields that was not cultivated regular soon grew up in black berries, briars, persimmons, pines and sassafras. We wore sun bonnets. So one day, I think it was (Margaret) Leah, my sister older than I was picking berries off some briars that had grownup under a persimmon tree. Something struck her on her sun bonnet. Looking up she saw a black snake. It fell to the ground and started after us. It would raise up and look and then fall to the ground and run again. We would turn and run the other way and zig zag back and forth ___ we got (pg 31) to the house. Those black snakes was not poison or did not bite but would wrap around anything and squeeze the life out of their victim. They would stand up, some were 6 or 7 feet long and would stand as much as two feet high and fall and run straight toward the object. So dodging back and forth, we could get away from them, otherwise we never could have, as they would run so very much faster than we could.
We could only work in the field from early in the morning until about ten o’clock on account of the intense heat. Then we could go out about (pg 32) three o’clock in the afternoon. In the hot part of the summer we would go to the corn field about four o’clock in the morning and work until eight or nine o’clock then go to the house and have breakfast. Then go back and work until the heat got so intense it was not safe to stay in the field.
There was so many pests such as ticks , chigars (chiggers) etc.. The tick would get on cattle and get as large as a large goose berry. When they would get so large they would fall off. We would look for them on the cows and keep them picked off so they would not (pg 33) drop in the pail of milk. The seed ticks never got larger than small cabbage or mustard seed but was very annoying, they would get on anyone. Just hundreds of them and if they got their heads buried in the skin they would stay for days unless you bathed in something that would kill them. As they were to small even to get hold of to pull them off. I was going thru an old field one time and noticed on a white apron and the seed tick was on my apron in wads, just thousands of them. I took my apron off and got home as soon as I could and (pg 34) took dried tobacco leaves and burned them and let the smoke go all thru my clothes. In that way we could them before so many would bury their heads in the skin. Not much use to change your clothes off to get rid of them if you were working outside for the next time you went out where there was grass or weeds you would get them again. The chigars was just as bad, they were even smaller. Just a tiny red speck but would make a welt as large as the end of your finger and would have to picked off with a pin or point of a sharp knife, or bathe (pg 35) in strong salt or soda water.
We was afraid to step outside the door at night on account of poison snakes. It was a common thing to kill a rattlesnake or a copperhead snake around the house. My mother kept a lot of geese and we had to round them all up and put them in pens at night to keep the foxes from catching them. I remember one night we left the geese where we milked near the house and some time in the night the foxes came and mother got up and put her flock of geese in the garden. She said she heard foxes barking at (pg 36) five different places.
The winters was so cold that the turkeys and chickens would be found on their perch sometimes with their mouth frozen full of ice. And the trees would snap like a gun shot from freezing and bursting. Sometimes we could not get corn or wheat ground as the mills were all water power. The rivers would be frozeup for weeks and we would have to do without bread for part of our meals. Sometimes we would have baked sweet potatoes as a substitute.
There is especially one spot on the old home place that stands out so vividly in my (pg 37) mind. It was a small rock about ten or twelve feet across. It was hedged with the old eastern cedars that was tall enough that no one could see the rock unless they were near it. There was a natural bench in the rock about one foot in height that extended clear across the rock. I have gone to that secluded place and crawled under the cedar limbs that came so near the ground that no one could go under or thru them otherwise. It was not so far from the house but what I could hear mother call me. I would go there and read the best I could and kneel down by the bench mentioned and pray. All that I (pg 38) knew what to say was Oh God be merciful to me a sinner, oh lord thou son of David have mercy on me.
My two older sisters were more like twins. There was only one year and fourteen days difference in their age. The one next older than I was borned dead. And the one younger than I died at the age of seventeen months, so I always felt that I grewup somewhat alone as there was no one near my age.
When mother would buy any clothes for us she would get their clothes just a like. And my clothes were (pg 39) different in color or some way which I now believe made me feel more alone or one to myself. Why mother did so I do not know.
My mother had four brothers that was missionary Baptist preachers. My father told one of them, uncle Callie Blevins, if he would move near us he would give him half of his farm. And the line was run thru, leaving my father one hundred and seven acres of land and my uncle got one hundred and three. My uncle had a large family and he being a minister was a way from home (pg 40) quite a lot. My father and mother was very generous and sympathetic tried to supply the needs for my uncles family as well their own. Soon they found their selves unable to meet the needs of their own family.
In the year 1893 my father sold out the portion of the old home that he had kept and on the 21st day of November of the same year before it was daylight we left for what we thought a long move. There was another family whose farm joined ours sold out and started out with us not knowing (pg 41) where they were going. There was six covered wagons, one horse team and five ox teams. Leaving early as we did before daylight, they drove all day and camped about twelve miles from home. We camped the first night near the top of the Blue Ridge Mountain which was said to be five miles from the foot to the top at that crossing. We were from noon until after dark going from near the foot of the mountain to where we camped. And we crossed over the top of the mountain about nine o’clock the next day. We was on the road five days and traveled the (pg 42) distance of about sixty miles.
My oldest sister (Susan Jane Caudill 3 Dec 1872–) was married and she rode with her husband (Leander Walker 11 Dec 1871–). He was driving an ox team. My father (John P. Caudill 25 Feb 1850–) was driving an ox team also and mother (Rhoda C. Blevins 19 Oct 1849–) and the two youngest children (Geneva and Rebecca Eliz. 22 Oct 1885–) rode with him, leaving my sister older than I and me to see that the cows went in the right roads at the crossing. After a short while they would follow the wagons. One time I got behind all the wagons and came to a small stream that was frozen over and no way to cross. Only to walk across (pg 43) on the bottom rail of an old rail fence and hold to the rails above, I slipped off. One foot broke thru the ice and my foot was so badly frozen that I had to ride quite a bit of the time.
Although I walked, must have been two hours after I got my foot wet before we came to New River. The river was wide and at common time could be easily forded with a team. There was an awful lot of mush ice going down the river and it was turning colder, the ice freezing worse. We stayed there some time before any (pg 44) one ventured to drive in. My brother in law (Leander Walker) took one of the horses out and rode across. The ice was frozen for aways out from the banks. The ox team could not get out on the opposite side from where we were. The horse he rode in would strike the ice with one foot until it was broken, then go on doing the same as it came to the unbroken ice until a way was broken thru. Then the ox teams were driven thru. The water came well up on the sides. We sure felt relieved when all was safe (pg 45) across the river.
We camped out every night but one and we stayed at my uncles ( ? ) that night. My mother’s brother (Callie Blevins) my father’s brother ( ? ), that was with us would go on ahead late in the afternoon to find a place to camp near water and near where someone lived. He would take forked limbs and drive them in the ground and arrange like a fire made in a fireplace where we cook our meals. Bake corn bread in the old fashioned baker and lid, and milk the cows and how we did enjoy our meals. After supper mother would cook pork or whatever she wished for the next day. She had about six feather beds and she would make our bed on the ground. Father and mother would sleep (pg 46) on one side of the bed and my sister and her husband on the other side and we four children between them. The other family (?) that was with us had six children and they also camped out. One night we was awakened by snow falling in our faces. One evening I was real hungry and ate some boiled spare ribs for supper and when I awoke I was lying on my stomach with my head draped up and was trying to vomit. I sure was a sick girl. There was two nights we had to take our beds up and put them in the (pg 47) wagons to keep them from getting wet.
At the end of the fifth day we arrived at the house our father had got for us to move into. It was a log house about 18 X 20 with a rugged stone chimney and a ladder in one corner to go up in the upstairs. The joists were round poles and loose lumber laid down on them to make the upstairs floor. There was a side room built to it that we used for a kitchen. It also had a small rough built chimney. It was a cold rough winter. The snow would blow in the upstairs or up in the loft as there was no stair way except (pg 48) a ladder. We would sweep it down and carry it out . We had to carry water quite a ways up a hill. My father got quite sick that winter and my sister and I had to take a cross cut saw and cut wood. And then we would take an old mule our father had bought and hitch her to a sled and haul the wood to the house. We stayed on that place we had rented and made a crop of corn as the place my father had bought was all in woods. In the spring of that year we took the logs off a large field and planted it in corn. The corn was up nice and we had hoed quite (pg 49) a bit of it out and on the 19th of May it began to snow. It snowed for three days. Quite a lot of course melted as it fell but the snow got about six inches deep and our corn all froze down. We went over the field and replanted it but the corn that was froze outgrew the last planted and we had to pull up the last we planted. There was about eight or nine acres in the field.
After we got the crop gathered, my father cleared off a place to build on the land he had bought as it was all in woods. He was anxious to get moved on it so he could be clearing (pg 50) the land. The first house was warm and cozy in a way. My father first dug holes and planted posts then he put siding or weather boards on the post until he got the sides as high as he wished then he covered it all one way. The floor was close on the ground. A chimney built in a way that we could have a good fire but looked more like it was built for a outside furnace.
One camping place we all worked like men. My sister and I would saw logs with a cross cut saw. Sometimes I would take (pg 51) an axe and chop for hours clearing off the ground. We could not get land enough cleared for a crop the first year after we moved there. So my father rented a field about two miles from our home. There was ten acres in the field and after the corn was planted we did the rest of the work with our hoes. At one time my father made a fairly good living with his hands. But he was the most big hearted generous person I ever knew and he helped others until he found his own family in need.
So the first summer we lived in our (pg 52) new home. While mother and we children tended the crop, my father hauled lumber across the mountain with an ox team to buy the family supplies which was very meager. We worked from early until late as we could not hire any help. I was stronger than my sister and could stand to do hard work more all the time than she. One of mothers cousins (?) wanted to hire one of us girls to work for her a while as she had a new baby. So my sister went to work for her. I did not know how to do very much cooking as I had did outside work most all my life. (pg 53) I worked at home and when my sister would have to wash mother sent me to help her. There was nine in the family, seven children and the washing had to be done on a board. She stayed and worked two weeks. The last week, everything that could be gathered up to be washed was put in the wash. I don’t think we got it done in one day. When it came time to pay her, the husband of the woman she was working for did not want to pay her but one dollar for the full two weeks. She told him she wanted one dollar and a half. After quite a bit of complaint, (pg 54) he paid the $1.50.
My sister got 8 1/3 c. per year. She gave me half which was my wedding dress. It was not much better than common cheese cloth. Was blue, white, red, yellow and black. And I don’t know how many more colors it had in it. I had only one pair of shoes thru that summer. I would wear them and hoe corn all week thru. Then on Saturday afternoon I would wash them good all inside and outside and grease them and black them and wear them to church on Sunday, that is when I would go to church. I stayed at home until the (pg 55) crop was gathered in, as I knew my father and mother so much needed my help.
On the 17th day of Nov. 1895, I was married to a young man (Jonathon A. Brown born 2 May 1874–) I had met about two years prior to that time. I thought at that time and do yet, that he was one among the best of young men. I never told my father or mother I was going to get married. I left that for my future husband to do. Well the day came the set time we was to be married. I did not change clothes until I saw him coming. My mother had always told we girls that we should be very careful as to not put too much (56) faith in what a young man told us and my husband had to prove his word to me before I was convinced of his sincerity. The day of our wedding we went off as usual on Sunday morning. The family knew we was going to be married as I had told my sister. I had a new pair of shoes was all I had that was new. We reached the school house where we was going to meeting. The house was small and well crowded. My husband found a seat down in the audience and some other girls and I sat up on the rostrom where the preachers sat. (pg 57) Just about the time the meeting closed, I looked across at him and shook my head. He stood by the aisle, as I walked out he whispered to me when I came to him “Are you going to back out on me now” ? I said no but don’t talk to the preacher now. So he waited until most of the crowd had left and then he spoke to the preacher. We walked out the road to an oak tree and was married.
We went on to his fathers (George H. Brown) and stayed that night. The next morning I asked my husband (Jonathon A. Brown) to go home with me, he said “no, I have some corn up in that north hill to get out.” He said if it freezes up in there, I can’t get it out all winter. So his sister (Melissie Brown—Hart, Caudill, Stout), my sister and I all went up in the north hill to pull corn off the stalks that was still standing. We throwed it in piles and he and a boy friend of his hauled it in with a yoke of small oxen. After we got the corn gathered in we back to my home and the next day we went to his home where we stayed until March. I became very much dissatisfied. I had never done much work in the house and my sister in law which was about one and one half years older than I was considered herself an expert house (pg 59) keeper. She was very hard to get along with. So I tried in all my awkward ignorant way to please her and my mother in law (Anna Osborne) with all my might. My sister in law would get vexed and would not speak to me for days. I did not know then nor never did know what she got vexed at me over.
So in March there was a little log cabin near his father’s house that was vacated. I wanted to move into that but did not have anything to keep house with. So my mother (Rhoda Blevins) gave me quite a nice wooden bed, straw tick , four quilts, two pillows, (pg 60) one sheet, one wool blanket and a good feather bed, and a homemade bedspread. My mother in law gave us a straw tick, one quilt and a feather bed. My mother gave me a very small skillet and lid. The skillet had legs to it. I could bake enough corn bread in it for a meal for us. Mother also gave me an old iron cook kettle large enough to cook for a dozen people. And she gave me another one to use for washing clothes. It had legs and one leg had been knocked out leaving a hole about an inch or (pg 61) more across it. I would take some rags and dip them in water and roll them tight and twist them into the hole and could use it for boiling clothes several times before it would come out. I would bake corn bread in the little three legged skillet, then if I had anything to fry I would take up my bread and fry in the skillet as it was all the cooking utensil I had except the old iron kettle. My grandmother let me have three plates, three cups and saucers, three knives and forks and three spoons. That (pg 62) was my supply of dishes until I set an old hen and the chick got big enough for market, then I got me a few dishes.
In the spring my husband went to West Virginia to work awhile. I stayed in the little cabin and helped to hoe the corn as thru the persuasion of his father, my husband had planted a crop with them again that year. My shoes was worn out, I could not go to church but stayed at home on Sunday and in the field weekdays. When my husband came home he (pg 63) bought me some shoes and a short jacket coat. And he had a few dollars in money.
NOTE inserted from Dan Brown: The brother (Joseph) of Martha’s husband, Jonathon had a child born in Bluefield, West Virginia in 1897 (the only one). Martha and Jonathon were married in 1895 then moved into Ashe Co. near Whitetop. So, it now appears as thou the two brothers, Jonathon and Joseph, may have went to W. VA. to work together.
I never got a letter from my husband all the time he was gone but was opened and read before I was allowed to read it. His mother would send to the P.O. and get the letter and open it and take the stamp out and when she would write, she would say if you want to write any you may. So she would take my letter and read it before sending it. One time I walked about six miles to the Post Office and a lady gave me material to write to him was all the letter I got to send him that my in law mother did not read before it went out.
We lived in the little (pg 64) cabin a year. I became very dissatisfied and wanted to move out. My mother knew I was soon going to be a mother so she insisted we move in with them so she could take care of me. Our baby (Cordelia “De” Octavia Brown) was born July 18, 1897 on Sunday morning (in Kipling aka Park aka Whitetop Gap, VA). We had no money to buy clothes for our expected baby. So I went into the woods and dug May Apple roots and dried them to buy cloth to make clothes for my baby. My husband refused to go to the store to get the cloth for me. He said they will know what I am getting it for. He was too bashful to do so as it was just two yards of good for a dress of calico of red and white. So my (pg 65) mother took the herb roots to the store and got two yards of calico and I made the dress. I also had enough outing flannel to make one little underskirt. Then the rest of my baby clothes were made of old pieces of garments such as the tails of old shirts. Most all work shirts were made of unbleached muslin, but we got by somehow.
There was quite a demand for Birch oil for some time. We would go into the woods, chop down the Birch trees, then we would take an ax and scalp the rough bark off and take a pole ax and pound the bark until it (pg 66) would come off the log. There was no work that was more hard and slavish than this work was. The bark was carried in sacks to the place where it was stilled much in the same way that whiskey was made, only the Birch oil came with the first boiling. A glass jar was set to catch it. It sold most of the time at one dollar per pound. It took one pint to make a pound. It was the same as this winter green extract only was several times stronger. We thought we was doing well if three or four working together if we could make three or four dollars a week.
One time we worked (pg 67) so hard to get enough to get my husband (Jonathon Brown) a suit of clothes. He had no clothes so he could go to church. We had some contention before he would consent to get clothes for himself as I too needed clothes. But I remember I told him if I had clothes I could not go to church without him as we had to walk and carry our baby. We at this time had two children (Roy Brown born 23 Apr 1901 in Kipling/Park/Whitetop Gap, VA). So the morning that he put on his new blue wool suit of clothes and started to church, he did not feel very happy because of the need of the family. His suit had cost the sum of $7.50.
I (pg 68) thought I did not want to stay at home. So my two younger sisters (Geneva & Rebecca Eliz.) went to help me to my oldest sisters (Susan Jane Caudill Walker). I did not have a shoe to my name. As I had to go some distance along the public road, I went quite early so as not to be on the road barefooted about the time people would be going to church. I did not go home until late in the evening so that way as I remember I did not meet anyone on the way.
In the summer of 1903 we moved from the place where we was living on my father’s place (John P. Caudill) (pg 69). We moved to my husband’s uncle (John Wesley Hart) by marriage. His aunt ( Melissie Katherine Brown born 3 Oct 1876) had fell and broke her wrist and crippled herself quite badly. We worked very hard. My husband did a job of ditching and got wood and we took care of their beans and some of their fruit. I churned every other day in a big eight gallon churn. I would make about one gallon full of butter at each churning. So when we had worked more than two weeks, his uncle told us we could go.
He thought our board (?) and some cloth I had gotten to make our two children some little cotton dresses. (pg 70) –had abundantly said us—(?). His aunt slipped me a five dollar gold piece she said her husband did not know she had it. We milked five cows, fed their hogs. He said he liked our work and all that, but he did not want our children around. It was a relief to me to get away. We moved near my husband’s father again in a little smoke log house.
In February 1904 we left North Carolina and moved to West Virginia (probably near where Martha’s husband, Jonathon, and his brother (Joseph) had worked earlier, maybe Pageton or Bluefield, W. VA ?). We moved on an old practically worn out place on quite a high mountain. There was no road only just a trail. All our things (pg 71) had to be carried up the mountain as there was not a way to haul not even with a sled. When we got to the house it was filthy dirty. We did not have any thing to cook in. It was raining and snowing. We did not have anything but our clothes, bed clothes, and a few dishes. We borrowed an old fashioned baker and lid. We had gotten a few groceries so I baked some cornbread made with water. We managed.(pg 72) to get enough to eat to keep us from going hungry.
Then where would we sleep. We put our bed clothes on the floor in front of the fire place and slept what we could. The fleas were terrible. The next day my husband got enough leaves to fill a straw tick and then took little oak poles and nailed us up a bed. Putting poles across to arms (?) for the purpose of springs. When he got it done we found we had to climb in a chair we had gotten from a neighbor to get in the bed. It seemed to us (pg 73) it was the best bed we had ever slept in. Soon after we all four had got in bed, it started to creel over, but the front rail caught on the chair and we slept that way until morning. There was no road to haul anything over, so we got more oak poles and made three beds and filled our ticks with leaves. Later when we could, we got straw for our bed ticks, but we used our oak pole beds for more than two years.
We worked hard. My husband got $1.35 per day. He would work hard all day and carry a sack of flour—(the left edge of the next page has been clipped by the scanner)—or whatever we would have to haul up the steep mountain. We had been there about one month when my husband was taken down with measles. He was in bed three weeks. Then I had to cut and carry wood to keep the fire going to keep the house and us warm day and night. I would chop the small oaks then cut the limbs off and get one end on my shoulder and drag them to the house, then chop them up in stick length. I had to carry oat —about one mile to feed four cows. All the water we used had to be carried quite a long ways up a very steep hill.
I took cold which settled in one of my eyes. I seemingly — near going blind. My husband got up out of (pg 75) bed and started doing what he could. His voice was almost gone and his strength was not equal to the task. He went to the store one day which was quite a distance. He had to climb the steep mountain carrying what supplies he could. When he got home he was shaking as if he was freezing and great drops of sweat standing out on his face and his voice in a terrible condition.
Our two children, not yet seven and three years old was taken down with measles and was very sick with them for some days. When we was all well again we felt that we never before was so thankful for health. (pg 76) About one year after we came to this place, our third child (Coy Delbert Brown) was born (18 March 1905 in Pageton, McDowell Co, W VA). The children and I stayed there thru the day alone. My husband would get home late and he would carry water to do until the next night, and cut and carry wood. Then he would get up about three o’clock in the morning and do the chores and cut the wood he had carried the evening before. He would have to be at his place of work by seven o’clock and quit at six o’clock and got $1.35 per day. We took in five boarders in May, charging $12.50 per month. Each one had (pg 77) at least two miles to walk to work. We would get up about four o’clock in the morning, get breakfast , pack their pails, and then we had the chores to do.
My father in law (George Brown (Jr)) and brother in law (?) stayed with us part of that summer, making seven to cook and wash for besides our own family of five. I hardly ever went to bed earlier than ten o’clock and got up at four all summer long.
In March 1906 we moved to another place in W VA. When we got to the R. R. station, we found we were several miles from the place of our destination. (pg 78) My husband and a friend of ours that had gone with us, started out to find the folks to whom we was going. We had never met any of them, they were all strangers to us. The children and I stayed in a hotel until my husband and a young man came for us, planning to take us on horses but the snow was so bad and it was so cold we only got a short ways. We was taken in by some kind old people and the next day we was taken to the foot of the mountain on a lumber truck drawn by horses and we was supposed to be taken (pg 79) over the mountain on an incline. When we got there we was told it was not safe as the rope had broken a short while before. Then what could we do. So we started to cross the mountain with our three children, one (Coy) one year old, our little boy (Roy) not quite five years old and our little girl (Cordelia) was not yet eight years old.
We walked the tram road built for the lumber trucks where it was not too high off the ground. Then we would climb thru the brush. There was quite a snow on the ground. After a long and tiresome climb we reached the (pg 80) top of the mountain and it was not so difficult going down as it was not so steep and not so long. When we reached the home to where we was going, we found the folks very kind to us, taking us in and doing for us the best they could but they were in very hard financial circumstances.
We could not get a house to move in to so the children and I stayed in this house. My husband got work in a camp where they logged with horses. He would come home at the week end and bring some groceries which was gone (pg 81) all too soon. Then we would have to just get by. I can not figure now how we did but we got by. All three children and I got whooping cough. We were hungry, I went out to see if I could get some wild greens. It was cold and raining. I would cough and pick greens when I could find any. I could have eaten all I got after they was cooked, but I divided them up. Between my three children and another little girl that was all we had from Sunday evening until Tuesday. A widow woman gave me some milk. I (pg 82) boiled it and stirred flour in water to thicken it and we had a real meal out of it. About one quart of milk with salt water and flour in it.
It was about two months before we got a place to move too. Then we moved to a cook house where the company had left. We stayed there until in November 1906 and moved back to Powhatan, West Virginia. In March 1907 we moved to Herndon, W. VA. where our fourth child (Virginia Lee) was born August 9, 1907. We was living in a log house, two rooms downstairs, two upstairs with a log partition both downstairs and upstairs and a long porch along the side of the house next to the public road.
In November 1908 we left W. VA and moved to Kentucky. We had to live on shell beans and turnips until I thought if we ever got anything else to eat I would never eat any more beans or turnips. So a man, Mr Ball, hired some work done on his farm. He raised tobacco and also corn so he let us have what we needed and let us pay for it in work. I washed for his wife and my husband worked in the tobacco and other farm work. My mother gave us a cow so we got along fairly well.
(pg 84) We left Kentucky (by train) the 16th day of March 1911 and arrived in Morton, Washington March 21st. There was so much difference in the West and the East. We almost felt that we had gone into another world. When we got to the station we was kind of slow to get our bundles of pillows etc as we had not had any berth. We prepared for our children to be as comfortable as we well could. So I had all the family go ahead of me and before we all got off the train was in motion. Our oldest boy jumped off the train. I tried to set down on the step as I had my part of the luggage and could (pg 85) not very well hold on to anything. So I lost my balance and fell off the train. There was nothing to do only lie there until the train had gone as I was near the wheels.
There was some of our friends met us at the station. They had a two seated buckboard drawn by two ponies. We never before had seen such large trees many of them with moss hanging several feet long from the limbs. They took us to their home and we stayed there for a few days. Then we went to the home of an old lady of whom those people had rented her farm for us before we had arrived. It was a few months of torture, her house being small. Her dogs and cats lived, ate and slept together with an innumerable company of fleas.
We was strangers in a strange country, no money, no job. Did not know what to do only take the place that had been rented for us. So we too took up our abode with them. We lived very skimpy. Would be hard to tell just how we did get by until my husband got work. First he got a job of making tiling which (pg 86) lasted only a few days but we was able to get some supplies to keep us from going hungry. Later he got work in a shingle mill and worked for a short while.
We raised quite a bit of garden and other stuff. I put up 132 quarts of Black Cap and Black Raspberries. Then we went into the forest and picked most of them. When the hay crops and other crops was stored away, the old lady became very anxious that we go elsewhere to live which we very much wanted to do. So again those people that had (pg 87) rented her place for us, rented another place . When we got ready to pack our few belongings, the old lady would not let us have only half the stuff we had put up. But we managed to not have trouble with her more than we refused to eat in the dishes the dogs ate in. Invited them to sleep outside in order to be able to get rid of the fleas. Her house was made of cedar boards. The floor was on the ground and the dust came up between them and the fleas could be seen on the floor or in the dust. I took lye and boiling water and got (pg 88) rid of them to the extent that we could have some rest and sleep. In spite of it all we had many pleasant hours. The little shack was built by a lake and there was such nice forest near by. We was away from our friends or near relatives and our family ties seemed all the stronger and dearer to us.
The eleventh day of October, after butchering an old mother hog we had bought from the old lady, we loaded into a wagon and started to our new home. The snow was about six inches deep and the wagon did not