My Anderson Grandparents
By Winifred Anderson Huddle
I was two and one-half years old when Grandma Sarah Jane Anderson died at Major, Virginia in March, 1924 My parents and I were living in Knoxville, Tennessee at that time. We had moved there when I was a few months old, so I cannot claim to have even a faint memory of her.
I do have some impressions of Grandma garnered from conversations with two of her daughters, Viola and Rose, an ex-daughter-in-law, Lula H. Anderson, and from my mother. There is also an obituary written by her son-in-law, Lee N. Hash, in his extravagantly flowery words.
I know nothing at all of her childhood. Her parents were Eli and Mary Hash. She lost her mother, and perhaps her father as well, when she was very young, She was raised by an aunt and uncle, Betsy and John Rouse. My dad was always rather vague about where that family lived. His “up Rabbit Fork, up there in that area somewhere”, was the only thing he had to say about it.
Thanks to the research. of my late cousin Edith Hathaway Anderson, I know more about her antecedents than of her early life. Her grandfather was William Hash who married Jane Bonham, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Williams Bonham. William was the son of Moses and Rebecca Park Bonham of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Moses was a soldier in Meylin’s Cavalry, a part of Mad Anthony Wayne’s command out of Pennsylvania. After the Revolutionary War his widow and their children moved to Wythe County, Virginia.
The Bonham name in her family first appears in Massachusetts when Hannah Fuller, daughter of Samuel and Jane Lathrop Fuller and granddaughter of Edward Fuller of the Mayflower roster, married Nicholas Bonham, and began the southward migration through New Jersey and Pennsylvania that eventually brought them to Virginia.
In appearance Grandma was slender, and had straight very dark brown, almost black hair which she always wore in a rather severe style, according to photographs and Aunt Viola’s description. Her eyes, though rather deep set, were a sparkling merry brown. I know this from her daughter-in-law, Lula H. Anderson. I once mentioned to Aunt Lula that I was in high school with Bonhams. One of them, Eugene, was a good storyteller whose lively sparkling brown eyes enhanced his stories. She said, “Your Grandma Anderson’s were like that , and one of my great-grand-daughters have the same eyes. Since that time I have thought of them as the “Bonham eyes”.
According to Aunt Viola and Aunt Rose, Grandma was very neat in appearance. She liked having new clothes as often as circumstances allowed. A new outfit would put a spring in her step as she walked to church on Sunday. Photographs show that she conformed to the style of the place and time – long dresses in dark fabrics, with long sleeves and high neck-lines.
The only thing I know about her housekeeping skills and standards was that she was fussy about kitchen clean-up. She did not allow her daughters to leave things to soak or sit for the next person to clean up, Aunt Viola remembered. Aunt Viola and Aunt Rose were pretty good cooks, and I assume they learned from her, but no recipes came down from her as far as I know.
When Uncle John died, Aunt Betsy came to live with Grandma and her family. Aunt Viola told me that she was something of a character, or seemed that way to her young grand-nieces and nephews. She preferred the homespun clothing of the frontier, and always wanted something on her head. She was rarely seen without a scarf or cap. Knickknacks on tables and shelves were fascinating to her, and she loved to rearrange them. Aunt Viola told me that one of the great aunts, Aunt Betsy or Aunt Polly (Welch?) smoked a pipe, and carried her pipe and tobacco in the pocket of her large apron. I wish I could be sure which one it was, for I have a mental picture of the old lady sitting by the fire, filling her pipe and “lighting up”, just as Aunt Viola described her. There is at least one picture of her in existence, and apparently Helen Virginia Smith, Aunt Viola’s granddaughter, has it. It is reproduced in MEMORIES OF GRAYSON, Vol I (Grayson County Historical Society, 1992) It shows her with a scarf on her head, bearing out part of Aunt Viola’s description of her, sitting with Sarah Jane and Timothy and their family.
My grandfather, Timothy Alexander Anderson, and I, along with my sisters Margaret and Garnetta share a common birthplace. We were all born at the Nelson and Rachel Anderson Place. Grandpa, Margaret, Garnetta, and my other sister Mildred, brought there as a baby, spent all their “growing-up” years there, and I spent twelve of my first eighteen years there. Though that does not necessarily give us any traits in common, the fact that we lived in the same house, and saw the same view every day of our young lives had to have some slight effect on how we all five grew up.
Nelson, son of Johnnie and Feraby Cornett Anderson, had grown up a few hundred yards down the hill from where he was to build his house. All of the land for over a mile up and down Middle Fox Creek had belonged to Jacob and Susannah Buchanan Anderson, parents of Johnnie. Jacob had served with Osbourne’s Militia in the Revolutionary War, and had returned to make his home down the creek a mile or so from where his son and grandson were to establish their homes on the Anderson land. Johnnie built his home near the creek and the road, such as it was, which followed the creek through part of the Anderson property.
When Great-grandfather Nelson married Rachel Isobel Cornett, daughter of David and Feby Sutherland Cornett, they chose to clear out the timber and build on the hill overlooking the creek and the meadowland. The house was well-sited on a knoll that not only overlooked quite a bit of the farm, but to the east there was a view of part of Buck Mountain, and to the southwest Kendrick Mountain raised its rather impressive bulk, and though it was several miles away, it seem to dominate the view in that direction. One can’t help thinking that Rachel had quite a bit to say about where the house was built, for she had grown up a mile or so upstream in a house well-located on a hill that captured the view of the creek, the meadowlands and the hills beyond.
The house was probably built around the mid-eighteen hundreds. It was a substantial house, and for that time and place, rather spacious. It consisted of two units, approximately 16 X 18 feet each. They stood end to end, but with a breeze-way, (called a dog-trot by the family) between them. They were both two-stories, though the ceilings were rather low. The large hewn logs were chinked with homemade mortar that seemed to have a lasting quality to it, for I don’t remember that much of it had fallen out. Each unit had it own field stone chimney with a large fireplace. The thick walls made the house warm in winter and cool in summer. The northern most unit stood nearest to the spring and springhouse, and served as the kitchen and dining area. Upstairs was a large sleeping loft, and I seem to recall Aunt Ang ( the older daughter of the family-Angeline) saying that “the boys slept up there”.
The living room-bedroom unit was the one that survived to my time I don’t know why the other one was torn down, but a lean-to type kitchen and a porch were added to the living room unit on its north end, and it was here to this remodeled house that my parents came when they were married, and where I was born, and where they returned, after about six years of “seeking their fortune” elsewhere, to settle for the rest of their lives. My sisters Margaret and Garnetta were born there in 1932 and 1934 – seventy-six and seventy-eight years after Grandpa Tim’s birth in 1856.
1 have a little insight into the family life of my great grandparents, Nelson and Rachel, and for that I can thank my Grandmother Sabory Long and my Aunt Viola Anderson Ross. Great-grandmother Rachel Isobel Cornett Anderson was no shrinking violet!! Aunt Viola told me that “Granny Rach” had a “powerful temper”, and it took a brave person to “cross her”. Grandma Long told me much the same thing. She said my Great-grandfather Nelson was a kind, soft-spoken man, but “your Great- grandma Rachel had a fiery temper”. Grandma Long reckoned that she had inherited it from her father, David Cornett. She told me that my great-great-grandmother Feby Sutherland Cornett once told a neighbor that sometimes she thought she couldn’t stand another one of “Davy’s mad fits.” It seems that he would rave and rant for awhile, and then go silent for a long, long time. She, Feby, was said to have a nervous temperament, and no doubt bearing and raising fourteen children didn’t help that! So if “Granny Rach”. as Aunt Viola called her, knew how to speak her mind, it is not surprising, and apparently she learned that the best way to get your own way was to make a scene, especially if you had a gentle, soft-spoken spouse!
I have the memory of Aunt Ang, Grandpa Tim’s sister who was two years younger than he, talking with Dad, and while I didn’t pay a lot of attention to their conversation, in the manner of the young who don’t want to hear all that “ancient history”, I felt that her memories were mostly pleasant. She seemed to laugh a lot as she told stories, and she was such a nice old lady, that we all liked her and enjoyed her visit.
I do remember one story that she told that caught my attention, and I think it tells something of Grandpa’s young life. It seems Great-grandma Rachel told her younger daughter Flora to cook up some dried applesauce (a regular side dish with pork). Unfortunately, she didn’t give her instructions, and Flora didn’t take into consideration the fact that rehydrated dried apples increase in volume. She cooked up a huge batch, and as she was struggling with it, one of the brothers came into the kitchen. He didn’t say much, but went out and told the other boys about it. They found a little broken-down wagon they had played with a few years earlier, repaired it, and put a flat bed on it. Complete with a wagon tongue to pull it around, it was brought in and placed on the table. They told Flora that the dish of dried applesauce was too big and heavy to pass around the table, so they had fixed up the little wagon to haul it around. Aunt Ang said that Flora was not very amused for awhile, but later even she laughed about it. Aunt Ang told the story so many years later, and could still have a good laugh about the “boys’ little joke”.
Another story that showed that Grandpa’s early life could have its light side was told to Dad by Wesley Robinson. He was the son of Margaret Jane Cornett Robinson, Rachel’s sister. He and his family lived just over the ridge from the Andersons, and he came over to play with his cousins, and even to help with the farm work at times One hot day he and the Anderson boys were put to hoeing corn. Not too far from where they were working, there was a “mighty good swimmin’ hole” in Middle Fox Creek. As boys will do, they decided the “swimmin’ hole” was too inviting on that hot day to pass up, and went down for just a splash or two, but it extended into quite a romp. They were having a good time when one of them looked through the trees and brush along the creek, and saw “Uncle Nelson a-comin’ up the road”. There was one break in the brush where they would be in plain view, so they decided to dive under the water, and stay there for a moment or two as “Uncle Nelson” passed by. I’ll never forget Mr. Robinson’s chuckle as he said, “Tim popped up like a cork!! He never could hold his breath under water.”
It was hard for me to believe that the quiet, serious old man I knew as Grandpa Tim could have ever been young, to say nothing of romping and playing, or playing a little joke on his little sister. However, the two old people who told the stories were so pleasant, and seem to enjoy recalling the happenings. It was not as if the stories were tall tales made up to entertain.
When the Nelson-Rachel Anderson property was divided among the five children, Grandpa Tim got the gristmill down on the creek and some acreage adjoining it. The homeplace went to their younger daughter, Flora Anderson Plummer. She sold it to Uncle Lige and Dad, and later Dad and Mother acquired it outright.
Grandpa Tim, from all accounts, was a man who worked at a steady pace all of his adult life. As a farmer, gristmill owner, and father of a growing family, the years following his marriage to Sarah Jane must have been busy ones. For one thing, he made shoes for his large family, a daunting task! He built the family home “up the holler” east of the mill, and though he never got around to painting it, he did some finishing work for the interior that I recall admiring as a child. The newel post and banisters were of his making, for instance, and I seem to recall some exterior trim that was in vogue at that time, and I am sure he made that. Through it all, his dreams and ambitions were very much alive.
When the youngest of his twelve children was still a little boy, he extended his milling operation on the Middle Fox to include a flour mill, a sawmill, planer and a lathe. That meant enlarging the dam, moving the gristmill to the south bank of the creek, installing a large waterwheel and a wooden millrace. By this time his son Lee was in his twenties, and he not only helped with the expansion of the operation, but took over the flour mill and the gristmill, leaving Grandfather to the sawmill, planer and lathe. He sawed and dressed lumber, and turned out newel posts, banisters and some decorative scroll-work for the houses he and his friend and neighbor, Jim Ross, were building in the Clems Branch community and beyond.
There are not many stories that have passed down that give an insight into the man. Grandmother Sarah Jane is said to have declared that the best way to get him to do something she wanted done around their place was to talk against it. That makes him not too different from about million other husbands down through the centuries! He loved fruit, especially apples, so planted a good orchard with many varieties. His favorite was a smallish yellow apple with brown flecks on its skin. It was called “rusty coat”, and was indeed delicious eating in the fall of the year. I expect it is the Russet listed in the catalogs of the nurseries that now specialize in old varieties.
There is one story I can relate with the certainty that it happened, for I was there. In the spring of 1929, Mother was cleaning out our apple house at the Plummer Place, and found two “rusty coat” apples that had somehow got under some straw and rotting apples in the bin, and were perfectly preserved.. Mother finished her work, washed up, and called me from play to “put me in charge ” of my little sister Mildred while she walked down to Grandfather’s shop, I recall that she said, “I’m going to take these two apples to your grandpa . They are his favorites, and I’m afraid he will not live to see another crop of them.”
I was somewhat disturbed by those words, but too young to take in their full meaning. I liked apples, too, and it seemed to me the period between crops went on a mighty long time! I felt he could be around for quite a long time, and still miss the crop as slow as it was coming around!! She was right, for he passed away on August 14th of that year. “Rusty coats” are not good to eat until late September or early October.
He always peeled his apples and cut them in quarters. That is not so unusual, for the “old people” tended to peel their apples (bad teeth often made it a necessity), and feed the peels and cores to the hogs. It was the way he did it that was interesting. Even at seventy-one, he had a steady hand that could guide that knife from the stem end right around the apple in an unbroken peel no thicker than an onion skin! It was enough to make a seven -year-old’s eyes pop out!! Of course he used a good knife – his pocket knife – which he kept rapier-sharp.
Another story that I was told about him happened long before my time, and I think it says a lot about him. I cannot recall where I heard the story, but it impressed me, even as a young child.
It seems that Grandpa regularly attended the services at Livesay Hall, the forerunner of Central Church, and took an active roll, singing, praying in public, and even speaking now and then. Then one day during the service, a group of four or five rowdy teenage boys came riding up on their horses, and created a disturbance outside of the Hall. The service was interrupted. It turns out that one of Grandpa’s own sons was in the group. No doubt that son got a good tongue– lashing! But a serious consequence of the episode was that Grandpa never again took an active roll in the service. He stated simply that until he could be sure his own house was in order, he would not stand up before his friend and neighbors and tell them how their lives should be lived.
Sometime later Central Church was built to replace Livesay Hall, and he took an active part in its construction. I do not believe that he took any sort of role in the church service there. Central was on the Grant Circuit of the Holston Conference of the Methodist Church, and a minister was supplied for that circuit, so there was less active participation of the lay people in the service. Even if he had come to terms with himself and his perceived shortcomings as a leader, “professional” leadership in the person of the Methodist preacher had taken over the church service.
I had a few years to get to know Grandpa , but the difference in years I was six to eight compared to his seventy to seventy-two – and the accepted custom that children should be seen and not heard, or seen when it was deemed appropriate by the adults, made contact with him limited. His health was not good, and I believe he was not comfortable with children around all the time.
I remember a very feeble old man, and heard adults murmur about his “condition”. It was said in hushed tones that the doctor had given him some very potent medicine. I learned much later that he had angina, so the medicine may have been the nitro-glycerin pill. The adults in the family made no secret of the fact that they were worried about his working with the heavy machinery at the mill, “in his condition”, but he stubbornly refused to retire to his rocking chair.
He stayed with us for a few weeks in 1927. Uncle Bill was to take over the mill from Uncle Lige, who with his family had moved to Fairfax County, Virginia. Uncle Bill and Aunt Vella wanted to paper and paint the house before they moved in, and it was felt that Grandpa would not be very comfortable in all that upheaval. There may even have been a period when the house was completely vacant. I simply can’t remember that much of the details. He slept in our living room, and ate breakfast and supper with us. The rest of the time was spent at the mill, and at his shop near the mill. I remember the rather feeble and painful way he walked down the hill and back everyday. I think Mother must have prepared a lunch for him, for a trip up and down that hill at midday would have been too much for him. He had problems with his knees that made walking downhill very painful. He had been afflicted with that condition for many years, and age had only added to the problem.
He had a sweet-tooth, and was especially fond of a peppermint stick candy which was made in Bristol. It was indeed a melt-in-your-mouth confection. He bought a rather large sack of it from time to time, and kept it in the drawer with his shirts. It was his after-supper routine to take a stick, break it in two, and put half in his mouth. Half a stick was his daily treat. When Mildred and I were present, he would take another stick, break it in half, and give us each half a stick. Though it was all we needed, I felt it was but an appetizer, and longed for more. Mine was gone in a minute, but Mildred being just a baby, made a long sticky work of it!! It was absolutely forbidden for us to go near that drawer. It was also where his medicine was kept. I was known to have “pilfered around” where I thought such goodies as stick candy might be kept, but I never went near that drawer. I think I must have been a little frightened of Grandpa, or scared away because of that powerful medicine!! When Uncle Bill and Aunt Vella had completed the redecoration of the house at the mill, Grandpa moved back, and occupied the large bedroom on the northeast corner of the house. It opened off the living room in the corner next to the heater. The door could be left open to provide warmth in his room. He had a rocking chair that, I believe, he had made in his shop. It sat in the corner next to the heater, and by the door to his room. He sat quietly, and it was generally assumed that he was not paying attention to what was going on around him. Dad worried that he was losing interest in everything except the items he was working on in the shop. Mother said that she believed his hearing was quite good, and that he could see a lot without moving his head. As she put it, the corner of his eyes caught much of what was going on in the room. He just did not wish to become involved in conversation, she felt.
In the summertime he moved his rocking chair out onto the porch, and was often seen there in the late afternoon and early evening. It was on a warm summer evening when my cousin Geraldine was a baby that I heard him sing.
I was walking down the “mill road”, probably in search of wild raspberries, or some of the cool mint that grew in a moist place by that road. I was engrossed in my search when I heard a man’s voice singing “Froggie Went A Courtin”‘ When I looked in the direction of their house, I could see Uncle Bill and Aunt Vella doing some of their evening chores up at the barn. He didn’t appear to be singing in that “lullaby tone” to Aunt Vella! I walked on a little farther to where I could get a good view of the house. There was Grandpa sitting in his rocking chair with his hand on Geraldine’s cradle (or small baby bed), gently moving it to and fro, and singing about Froggie going a courtin’, ah, ha. He didn’t see me, for he was thoroughly occupied in getting the baby to go to sleep, or at least entertained I turned and went back up the road, and by the time time he got through the wedding supper “way down yonder in a hollow tree”, the singing ceased. I assumed that either Geraldine was asleep, or so pacified by the lullaby that she was not making a fuss. I had witnessed another side of the quiet old man who seemed to work so much of the time, and have so little to say to us all.
Ironically, it was not until the time of his death and funeral that I got a better understanding of how his life had been spent. I knew that he and Grandma had raised a large family, and that my father seemed to have respect and devotion for him. I was to learn in a couple of days in August of 1929, that he had been a very respected member of the extended community.
It started with my Grandmother Long who came to get Mildred and me to take us out of Mother’s way so she could prepare extra food, and also make herself available to Aunt Vella during the next few hours As we were walking away from our house, at the point in the road where we were about to lose sight of the mill where Grandpa had died not more than two or three hours earlier, she paused and look down there and made some remark about his working right to the last moments of his life. She said something else that I cannot remember, but I do remember the sadness in her voice. I looked up to see her face as she took one last look before we walked on to her house. While they were not close friends – the Longs and Andersons – I understand now that Grandma Long respected people with a will to work up to the last moments of their lives. After all, one of her favorite hymns was “Work For the Night Is Coming”.
Mildred and I came back the next day. Grandpa’s body was brought from Catron’s Funeral Home, and the casket was placed in Uncle Bill’s living room, For the rest of the day and all of the next, a steady stream of people came to pay last respects. I stayed near my dad, for he seemed so sad I felt he should not be alone. As people came and turned down the road to Uncle Bill’s, they would stop and shake hands with Dad, and talk awhile about Grandpa. Dad knew most of the people , but there were some he did not know, and he would introduce himself, if they paused before they went down the road. I heard old men and not-so-old men talk of working with Grandpa on this or that project. Some would say, “He built my house, you know” or “He sawed lumber for me.” And on and on until I got a pretty good idea of the busy life he had led. Over and over, I was to hear that he was a good man to do business with -fair and honest in his dealings.- that he was a man who knew his trade. At the end of this brief period, I had learned that my grandfather was a respected man, not only in our immediate community, but in the Bethel community, in Comers Rock, Crossroads, Grant and Grubbs Chapel.
It was a hot August day when his funeral was held at Central Church, and all the windows were opened to the fullest extent. The crowd that had assembled was the largest I had ever seen in my eight-plus years, and though I had been taught to sit lady-like in church, with my eyes forward, I was too interested in all that was happening to sit perfectly still. I managed several glances to the left and right. I could see people standing in the outside aisles on both sides of the church. Furthermore, many people stood by the open windows outside the church. Six pallbearers carried the casket to the front of the church, followed by as many honorary pallbearers. Behind them came young women and girls carrying flowers that were handed to the undertaker who placed them on and around the casket. That done, the service began. I regret that I cannot recall the speakers. I think that I remember the hymns, but since they were the traditional “funeral hymns”, I cannot be sure. I can name the ones that were usually sung at funerals – In the Sweet By and By, Rock of Ages, Abide With Me, We Shall Gather At the River, Nearer My God To Thee, and Amazing Grace – and be sure that three or more were sung that day.
When it was time for the final viewing, Mr. Catron, the undertaker, took charge and moved that large crowd with great skill, starting with the people in the outside aisles, then bringing in the people who stood outside, and finally those seated behind us. It took a long time for that many people to pass by the open casket, especially since many of them wanted to shake hands with family members seated in the front rows. The images of that solemn procession have been with me all these years. And I have never forgotten being impressed with the numbers of people who came to pay their last respects to my grandfather.
I was to learn that Grandpa Tim was known and respected in the Mouth of Wilson community, at least by one man. Some seventeen years after his death, I was visiting a family in Mouth of Wilson. The father asked me who my father was, and when I told him Garnet Anderson of Flatridge, he replied that he didn’t know him. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to drop the subject there, and told him my father was the youngest son of Timothy and Sarah Jane Anderson. He immediately became animated, and his reply was:
“Oh yes! I’ve heard of him! From all accounts Old Man Tim Anderson was a fine man!” From that time on, Mr. Halsey and I had “grounds for conversation”!!
Dad spoke now and then of the houses Grandpa and his friend and neighbor Jim Ross built. Some of them were the Everett Cornett house, near Clems Branch School, and the Wesley Cornett house about a mile beyond.. Others beyond our immediate community were built for people known to me by name only. Some of them were Forrest Cornett, Maiden Roberts, and Stuart Hackler. He sawed the lumber for many other projects throughout the area, and often the area around the mill had stacked lumber in every available spot. I do not know if he had help at the sawmill. If he did not, he did a prodigious amount of work. He had to roll the log onto the carriage, then pull the green lumber out of the way at the other end, go back and shift the log for the next board, and so on. Dad said that one time he even moved the sawmill to Grubbs Chapel to saw the lumber for the Zero Goss house. I believe he also sawed the lumber for the John Young house there, but I don’t know if it was done while the sawmill was set up nearby.
Dad once told me he could “cruise timber”, that is, he could estimate the board feet of lumber in a standing tree, and that he sometimes did that for a customer. He could tell the customer approximately how many trees he would need to cut for a project. He could then saw, cure and dress the lumber. It is not too surprising that he was known around the area as a “good man for the job.”
After he got the lathe, he had all the work he wanted to do making newel posts, banisters and other “fancy work” for people, far and wide. He was working on banisters for the Tolley Roberts house when he died. He had put a piece of wood in the lathe, and was waiting for Uncle Bill to finish grinding wheat upstairs, so the power could be switched to his lathe. He slumped down by the machine, and was dead when Uncle Bill came down to see why he did not hear the lathe start up.
During his last years he did quite a bit of woodworking. He and Uncle Bill had a small workshop. Here he made caskets, mostly for the Comers Rock undertaker, Mr. Catron, I believe. He also made a chair or two, and tried his hand at violin making. It was his favorite instrument – the “fiddle”, that is. He didn’t care much for it when it was played as a citified “vi-lin”, but old-time fiddlin’ was good music. In fact, he described the concert “vi-lin” as being about as musical to him as “a sow rubbin’ against a splinter”. He got interested in making the instrument when someone brought a dulcimer (dulcimore, he called it) to him for some repair work. Dad said he knew a lot about carpentry and woodworking, much of which he had figured out for himself, for he had been born to farming, and to the operation of the small gristmill left him by his father. As I learned in those two or three warm August days in 1929, he had made quite a name for himself with his self-taught skills.
Winifred Anderson Huddle