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Huntersville Traditions as a way of life

Coming up on the annual Huntersville Traditions Day Friday and Saturday, it seems fitting to reprint some excerpts from letters and articles submitted to The Pocahontas Times from Vera Ritchie, of Falls Church, Virginia.

The following letter was published in the November 6, 1975 edition:

Editor of Pocahontas Times;

My mother, Mrs. Ada Grimes, of Huntersville, gave the Bradshaw Bible to William T. Price several years ago when he was writing the history of this county’s residents.

Bradshaw’s daughter, Mrs. Samuel Hogsett, was my great-great-grandmother, the mother of Renick Hogsett, of Huntersville, who still owned two farms on Browns Creek, formerly owned by his grandfather Bradshaw; the land around Huntersville and on Browns Creek for many years was owned by Bradshaw’s relatives, Moores and McLaughlins.

I am 73 years old now, but when I was a kid almost everyone I knew was a cousin. Charlie Moore, our nearest neighbor on Browns Creek married a tiny woman who gave him fourteen children; three of his daughters were the only school teachers I ever had [Grace, Beulah and Madge]…

My grandfather, once a year, sneaked me to Marlinton to a circus; He loved the clowns and the oranges which could only be bought on trains and at the circus.

We were in disgrace on our return home, and many prayers were offered for our sins.

I loved the circus as any nine year old would.

I came home with seashell necklaces and other trinkets – no dime stores anywhere then.

We went in a road wagon, took our lunch and picked up the neighbors and their children as we drove the ten miles to Marlinton.

One of the highlights of the trip was the conversations after Joe Buzzard joined us, riding his mule.

He was a great church man and political ambitions had acquainted him with everyone in the county.

My grandfather was not a church man, although his brother, Wellington Hogsett, who lived at Mill Point, was a preacher. My grandfather did not believe in anything he couldn’t see…

Published in the June 10, 1976 edition:

Grandmother’s Day

In the years after grandmother married, about 1870, I am listing some of the things she did as her housekeeping duties:

In summer she made blackberry jam – first picking the berries from the tall thorny vines. Apple butter, dark and spicy, which means three or four bushels of apples had to be peeled and cut and cooked into sauce, then sweetened and seasoned with spices and cooked to a certain consistency, huckleberry jam – the berries were picked by going into the mountains and hunting around until the low growing bushes were found, then she usually killed two or three rattlesnakes which somehow were always near the huckleberries.

In later years, my sisters and brothers and I went with her.

Easier to make was pear marmalade. These trees were near the garden fence which also sheltered the beautiful currant bushes covered with red berries used for making jelly. Her grape vines were always loaded with grapes, used for making jelly, as were the wild plum trees, each of these fruits made beautiful jelly; the grape, a deep purple, the wild plums, a fiery red. Her raspberry patch was one of her prized possessions. She usually canned the black raspberries and made preserves from the red ones.

Her back porch was covered with a vine called hops. This vine had thousands of cone shaped yellow blooms. These she picked and boiled and thickened with flour and corn meal. This mixture was spread an inch thick on a clean cloth, let dry for several months, then cut into squares. The hops are the only source of yeast even today.

Two cakes two inches square melted in sweetened warm water made three loaves of delicious home baked bread.

All bread was home baked in those days –buckwheat flour for pancakes, cornbread, rye and whole wheat, all grown on the farm.

Vinegar was made by filling a wooden keg with apple cider. A hole was drilled in the end of the keg, and a wooden stopper was made and inserted to be removed each time the house wife needed more vinegar. It took the cider several months to get sour, however…

In August the cabbage was ready for making sauerkraut.

One or two neighbors came to help as they did to cut the apples for apple butter or to string white wax beans to be placed in a 10 gallon crock in salt brine with a press for pickled beans.

The cabbage was chopped fine and put into a 10 gallon crock with salt to taste, a stomper  was used to start the juice for brine. This operation continued all day, because it takes many hours to chop fine two or three hundred heads of cabbage. When the crock was full – or perhaps two crocks – grape leaves were placed on the top, a 20 pound rock was washed and placed on a board cut to fit the crock to weigh down the process. After a few weeks, a brine would rise, then the cut cabbage would sour and lo! and behold! delicious, sauerkraut was the result…

Fall Duties

Grandma’s soap making was a marvel of ingenuity. Wood ashes were placed in a hopper (a handmade wooden box atop a chute) which when filled with water dripped very slowly into the chute, which, drop by drop, was lye (a grease cutting liquid). This liquid boiled with lard formed a soap that was the only cleansing agent of that day.

In June, she sheared the sheep. The wool was washed and sun dried. It was then carded (a combing process to break up the tangles and make it ready for the spinning wheel) and spun into yard.

This yarn was made into mittens, socks, and other garments by knitting. Her loom wove the wool yarn into blankets and carpets, colored by boiling bark or berries, poke mostly, and dying them while the wool was still in hanks from the carding and spinning process.

New bedding was taken care of in the fall. Yards of heavy ticking were made into bed-size cases, filled with fresh straw and placed on the criss-crossed  rope that was used as we use bedsprings today.

The bulging straw tick was a foot thick. Atop this was another tick filled with goose feathers.

Every bed had its bolster, a long pillow the width of the bed; atop this sat two goose feather pillows. Then to make a pretty bed, hand woven bedspreads of different colors were used throughout the house…

Grandma’s  well house, near the kitchen door in later years, contained her spinning wheels, cow bells, sheep bells, sheep shears, garden tools, coffee grinder, candle molds, nutmeg grater, and large copper and brass kettles.

Her dinner bell atop a tall pole was nearby, and she used it every day to call the men home from the fields at noon. Each worker slapped the cold water from the well on his face, arms and head. This entitled him to a place at the table.

In the fall, Grandma made her clothes, skirts long and wide, blouses tucked, lacy and long sleeved, hats flowered with yards of ribbons. Her riding skirt, which covered her legs on the side saddle, also covered most of one side of the horse…

Church on Sunday morning was the only break in the work week. She was a Presbyterian. I never saw her cry or even laugh out loud. She did not believe in any outward show of emotion. A gracious lady from her heart to her size 3 button-up shoes, she was the youngest daughter of Col Logan and was married to Samuel Hogsett, a grandson of Col. Bradshaw, who once owned most of the land from Huntersville to Dunmore…

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