Original Print-Good Way Print, College Mound, Missouri
Thinking it would be interesting to the people of America to have a few words
from the oldest man in the United States (unless they can get ahead of one
hundred and eighteen years old) I have concluded to have a few of the sketches
of my life written, and as I have no education, there will be nothing flowery,
but just simply my words from time to time during the year of 1884, that
year being my one hundred and eighteenth year.
I was born in North Carolina , in the County of Randolph, on the 25th of
December, in the year of our Lord, 1766. At the age of 35 I married Gracie
Smith, and by her had sixteen children. I now have at this writing, one hundred
and five grand-children. And one hundred and ninety great -grand children,
and ten great-great-grand, making in all of children, grand children,
great-grand, great-great, three hundred and twenty one.
I voted for George Washington for president, and have voted in every presidential
election there has been since. The last one I voted for was Blaine in 1884.
I was brought up on a farm, which occupation I have followed from my child
hood up to the time I quit work. That was not until I was 106 years old.
I have always taken great delight in farming, but when I think of the kind
of farming tools that were in use in my boyhood, and then think of those
in use now, I am struck with wonder and amazement why, the only plow that
was in use in my boyhood, was the shovel plow, and they were not one-half
as good as they are now. But we broke up our ground and put in our crop and
cultivated it all with the shovel plow.
What would a boy think now if his father was to take him out to a ten acre
field with one horse and an old shovel plow and tell him to go ahead and
break it up. Why, if he was not a boy of great resolution, he would tell
him that he could not get it broke up in time to put the corn in this year.
That was all the way we had of breaking up until I was about 45 years old.
I recollect well the great excitement and re-joicing there was when the old
wooden mold-board plow was invented and came into use. The people thought
this was plow was the greatest plow in the world, and it was the best the
country afforded at that time. When it first came into use it took a man
and a boy and a horse to use it; for there was no such a thing as a check-line
in the country, nor men driving two horses hitched up together, only by riding
one and leading the other. The boy rode and drove, and if he ever went three
steps without the plow catching dirt he was lucky. But we had our little
paddle hanging to our plow handle, and when our plow would catch so much
dirt that our team could hardly pull it, we would stop and clean it off..
This plow was in use, I think about forty years. The Kerry plow took its
place, and was a great deal better. There is, I suppose, many living now
that recollect when the Kerry plow came into use. It would be considered
of no account now, and in fact they are of no account at this time. They
were looked upon as being a great plow, when they first came into use. The
Diamond plow took their place, and if the people had broken up their ground
as many years as I have with the shovel and mod-board and Kerry plows, they
would know a great deal better how to appreciate the Diamond plow than they
do. After I got to plowing with the Diamond plow, it appeared to be no labor
for myself or team, and at night I would have three times as much ground
broken up as I would have with the mold-board and twice as much with the
Kerry. It seemed to me that breaking with the shovel was no breaking at all.
I know how to appreciate such a plow as the Diamond plow. I plowed many a
day with them, and plowed a great many days after I was 105 years old. It
seemed a new thing to me every day. I loved to see the dirt whirl over.
Well I must get back to my boyhood again. There was nothing to cut grain
with but the reap hook. It was a nice way to save grain, but you would consider
it as being a very slow way to save grain, especially if there was a reaper
cutting on one side of a field and you on the other with a reap hook. Well,
it would look like doing nothing, and it would be getting nothing hardly
done in a day. A good days work with the reap hook was one-half acre,
and a man could not lay around in the shade long if he cut that much. You
may ask the question how did you cut your hay? We, at that time did not know
what hay was. I never saw a hay stack until after I was 35 years old. There
was no such thing as hay. There was plenty of nice prairie grass growing
all over the country and plenty of timothy, but people did not know how to
make hay out of it, and if they had they had nothing better then than the
reap hook to cut it with, and that would have been a slow business. I remember
well the first scythe and cradle that I ever saw. There was great rejoicing
among some of the farmers, and others said they they didnt like them
at all. These said they they wasted too much grain, but it was not long until
all who were able to buy one used them. They were such an improvement on
the reap hook that it soon went out of use.
Soon afterward, the mowing blade came into use. Then the farmers began to
cut grass for hay. They first began to cut prairie grass, and afterward timothy
and clover. Although this was a fast way to make feed, the people preferred
fodder and the tops of corn. We always went over our corn and pulled the
fodder and the tops off. It made good roughness, as we called
it, and I would rather have it, yet, than hay.
I have told how we put in our grain. I will now tell you how we threshed
it; we first went into the woods, and procured a lot of white oak, or hickory
poles, about eight feet long; three feet from the largest end of each pole,
we took an ax and beat the pole until it was limber. Then our flail was complete
. We then took three, or four bundles of grain and laid them down, and beat
them with our flails. We would repeat this process until it was time to
clean up our days work..
We did this by two men taking a sheet, and holding it horizontally between
them, and making a fan-like motion of it to produce a current of air; another
man would stand upon a box, or bench, and pour the grain upon it. By going
over it three times, this way, we would get it tolerably clean. I have helped
to thresh and clean up many a crop of grain in this way.
You may think that we had hard work with such tools. It was slow work, but
in those times I enjoyed life better, and made a living easier, than I ever
have since. We did not run to the store for every little thing that we needed.
One good reason for this was, that there was no such thing as a store or
store goods in the country to run to. During many of my boyhood years the
people never spent five cents for anything to eat or wear the whole year
round, for we had no need of them. We made or raised our provisions. We made
sugar out of the water from sugar or maple trees. If we run out before the
time to make again, we did very well without it, for we nearly always had
plenty of honey all the year round. Bee trees seemed to be inexhaustible.
We often cut them down when making rails; sometimes as many as three or four
a day. They were so numerous that often a tree was left standing when bees
were found in it. If we went out hunting for them, and found one that was
large or in an inconvenient place for cutting, we would leave it and hunt
for another, in order to save time and labor.
There was no end to wild game. We often saw twenty or thirty deer, in one
drove, feeding along the valleys. All we would have to do to secure one for
venison was to creep along, through the wild grass, until we came close enough
to them to pick one out, and then shoot it. The remainder of them would make
the brush pop in getting out of the way.
There hardly ever was a time when I was growing up when there was no venison
or bear meat in the house. Wild turkeys were so plentiful that we could kill
one at almost any time we wanted to. We scarcely ever killed them except
in the time of the year when they were fat. As for squirrels and rabbits
they were not considered to be worth a load of powder and shot. The streams
were full of fish. We had them to eat at almost any time we wanted them.
We could catch them nearly as fast as we could bait our hooks and throw them
into the stream. Wild meat was not much trouble to get. I have seen, I believe,
as many as one hundred wild turkeys in a gang.
We raised our bread stuff and made our salt. There were many
salt kilns. We would take our kettles to them and make it ourselves, or trade
furs for it. As for coffee, there was none used when I was raised up. So
you see, in this line, which consisted of what we eat, we had no need of
spending one cent of money from one year to the next, and the way they lived
then suited me much better than the way they live now.
We never thought of buying clothing then. We raised flax, hemp and cotton.
And these were the materials from which we made our clothes. This gave the
girls something to do, instead of being raised up in idleness, as a great
number of them are today, without even knowing how to cut out and make their
own dresses. They first prepared the hemp and flax by hackling it; next by
spinning it; and, third, by putting it in the loom and weaving it. Then they
did not run off to the dressmaker with the cloth, as they do now, but went
to work and cut it out and made it. It was always the latest style, and it
must have been the best for it was all the fashion with the women for about
forty-five years since I can remember. I dont know how log it was the
fashion before I can remember. They were simply home made clothes, cotton
chain, and hemp, or flax filling, and cut plain, without ruffles or flounces,
or anything of that sort, I have often thought that if a woman had come into
a crowd of the women of that day, and had frisked along with her hoop-skirts,
dressed in silk, with her ribbons, laces, ruffles, and flounces, and with
a hat stuck on the top of her head, and with her high-heeled shoes, breast-pin,
bracelets, a great big hump on her back, a coat of paint on her face, and
her hair bushed down over her forehead, the people would hardly have known
whether she was a human being, or some sort of an artificial thing which
some man had invented and put on stilts to try to draw the attention of the
people. Well, I am glad that I lived a good portion of my life out before
such foolish pride came into the world, but I am sorry for any poor man who
is simple enough to buy such foolish and simple things, which cost so much
money, for his family, and which are of no profit. The pride of the
eye is not of the Father. They had good reasons for not wearing such
things then. One was because they did not have the money to buy them with,
and another was because there was no such things in the country to be bought.
Men, women, and children all wore the same kind of goods, and when they went
to preaching then, it was not simply to show their fine clothing, as I believe
is often done now. You may think it strange that we all wore the same kind
of cloth, but it was all the fashionable suits we had in my boyhood days,
and until several years after I was married. Well do I remember my wedding
suit. It was all made of the same material, except my pants, which was made
of flax altogether. My huntingshirt, which was worn then instead of a coat,
was made of cotton chain and flax filling and my shirt of the same material.
As for vests there were none then. Men wore huntingshirsts made of buck-skins,
hemp, or flax. My wifes wedding dress was the finest that the country
afforded. It was homemade, cotton chain and flax filling, with copperas stripes
running through it. In those days, cloth was part cotton was used more for
Sunday clothes, as we called them. It took a great deal more
work to prepare cotton for the loom than it did flax or hemp or tow, for
when our cotton was raised and gathered it seemed that the work was just
begun. It was such a task to pick the seed out with our fingers, as there
was no cotton gins at that time. So after the cotton was picked from the
stalk, we had to pick the seed out, and then card it with hand-cards; after
this was done, it was ready for spinning, doubled and twisted, reeled, and
then it was ready for the loom. You see that it took a great deal of work
to make cloth out of it.
Almost every family would have a cotton picking and ask men and women to
come and help them. When a number had gathered in to the picking, we would
divide the cotton into two piles, and then some two would throw up
pr choose up for choice of piles, and then we would go to work
in earnest. Some times they would get up a great excitement in the race,
and then cotton seed would fly. There would always be some one,
the next day after the cotton picking commenced who would ask them to help
him pick, and thus we would continue until every family in the neighborhood
had had a cotton-picking. So you see that we enjoyed ourselves and got our
cotton picked also.
When cotton picking was over, the women went to spinning and the men commenced
hunting and fishing, cutting bee trees, trapping, etc. O, we enjoyed ourselves.
As for money, you see that we did not need to spend one cent, and it was
well for us that we did not, for there was hardly any money in the country.
The first piece of store goods that I ever saw, was after I was married.
I remember well what an excitement there was over it. It was a piece of calico.
You may think it strange but people came for miles to se it. Right there
pride and expense began, which have run along together ever since. The women
began to cry out at once for new calico dresses. A few of the wealthiest
farmers sent off for calico for their wives and girls to make dresses for
to wear around in company. When they put them on they would flirt around
and were prouder than they would be now of silk and satin dresses. This is
the first time I ever saw a difference made by the people on the account
of dress. Those that could afford calico dresses appeared to be stuck up,
and shun the girls that had to wear their homemade clothes. This put the
spirit of pride in the farmers, they all endeavored to raise money enough
to buy their women calico dresses, and it took the most of the money out
of the country. It also throwed the most of the stock in the hands of those
who happened to have a little money at the time.
You could buy a good cow and calf for six dollars, and other stock was very
low. So the people strutted around, and in a year or so the women all got
their calico dresses. They took the best care of them, and one calico dress
would do them a long time, for they wore them as long as they would stick
together. The women were dressed too fine for the men with their hunting
shirts and hemp and flax pants. But it was not long before the store clothes,
as they were called, came into the country, and there was fully as much
excitement over these goods as there was over the calico. The men soon got
too proud to wear homemade clothes as well as the women. The pride of the
people brought on them hard times, and in fact nearly went with many of the
farmers who were trying to keep up with the pride and fashion of the country.
But the pride of the people had just commenced.
At that time there were no fine parlors to furnish for the girls, no fine
cushioned chairs. There was no pianos or organs for the girls to play on,
and they were just as much concerned about making a living as the men. In
my boyhood, a house with more than one room was a rare thing. They were made
out of round logs, and in it we cooked, eat and sleep. It answered for a
sitting room and parlor.
There was no such thing as stoves in the country. I never saw a stove of
any kind until I was fifty years old. We had a wide fire place and a wooden
chimney. The fire place would often take in a stick seven and eight feet
long. The family had plenty of room at one end while the cooking was done
at the other end. This would look like crowded living now. Well it was a
little crowded, but we made out very well; but we could not have made out
at all if it had taken as much furniture then for the people as it does now.
As it was we done very well. Two homemade bed steads and a couple of trundle
beds, which we shoved under the large beds in the day time, and a table,
a few chairs and a shelf for our dishes, and our house had all the furniture
in it we needed. Thus you see the cost of furnishing a house to what it now