Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The James Thomas Smith Family - Part 4


Jan 4, 1861 – Nov 20 1931

In this section Janice Brown refers to Mildred Bolton, who was a granddaughter of Sarah (Sanders) Smith and James Thomas Smith and daughter of Fannie Mae Smith & Everett Presley Taylor.  The July 22 tape is Mildred Bolton talking.

The reference to Ma & Pa is a reference to Janice Brown's great-grandparents, the parents of Eva Caroline (Smith) Cox.

The March 7 tape is G. O., Gilbert Own Cox, talking. He refers to "they" and that is a reference to Sarah (Sanders) Smith her husband, James Thomas Smith.  In this tape there is a reference to Della and Ma and this is a reference to Della Taylor and Janice's great-grandmother.


Sarah Sanders was born January 4, 1861 at Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana.  She was the daughter of Charles and Fidella (Porter) Sanders.  Her father was born in Stoke-Upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England.  Her mother born in Spencer County, Indiana.

Sarah, age 19, married James Thomas Smith, New Year's Day, January 1, 1880 at the home of her parents, Charles Sanders and Fidella (Porter) Sanders, who lived two miles from Select.  This couple had nine children:  Della Catherine, Charles Thomas, Mary Elizabeth, Ellis James, Eva Caroline, Ella Jennie, Ollie Perry, Harb X., and Fannie Mae Smith.


Mildred Bolton:  “I remember what my dad said, when my grandmother Smith passed away.  He said to my mother:  “If ever God needed an angel, he took her.  I have been in this family all this time; I have never seen her angry…I have never heard her say one cross word to anyone…or one word about anyone.  If she couldn’t say good things, she just didn’t talk.”  Mildred said, “I thought that was pretty good from her son-in-law.”  

July 22, 1978 - Grandmother told about her mother taking the hairpins out of her hair when they were coming home from church in the wagon, jostling over the bumps and ruts in the dirt road, so her hairpins wouldn’t drop out and get lost. Hairpins were at a premium and she didn’t have enough hairpins and didn’t want to lose them.”

Grandmother told about her mother’s cooking.  “She baked different kinds of cakes.  Sometimes they were good, and sometimes they weren’t too good.  But I did think her vanilla cake…with vanilla flavoring was good.  I can’t remember all the cakes she baked.  And she baked a pink layered and had it stacked high.  And sometimes in different colored layers.  She loved to bake pies.  She made good pumpkin pies.”

“And she used to make a cherry cobbler in a big pan.  Cherries and dough, and then more cherries and dough.  She filled it up.  They were good cherries.  Right off the  tree.  And she made peach cobblers and apple cobblers.  Oh, I couldn’t name it.”

“Pa and Ma always thought a lot of your Daddy.  They loved your Daddy.  Because he helped them.  And he was always laughing and talking. They always loved for him to come.  Good natured.  They always liked for him to come and stay all night, and watch him eat.  They just enjoyed that.  And he always did carry on about her cherry cobbler.  He really did.  He was welcome at everybody’s.”

Daddy told this:  “You know what I remember?  She had a big cherry tree by the kitchen door – black cherries.  And the jay birds got in that cherry tree all the time.  And I would get up there and fight with them jaybirds and eat cherries.  And I would always pick enough before I come down, and she would make a great big old…I’m talking about a bread pan…full of cherry cobbler.  And that was the best cherry cobbler I ever ate in my life.”

March 7, 1977 tape:  (A later story about the cherry tree was told by G.O.):   “They had a big cherry tree.  I told you about that.  Had black cherries on it, growing right by the kitchen door.  And my grandmother made her own soap and it was lye soap, and she would throw the dishwater out on that old cherry tree.  Every time she finished washing the dishes, she would throw the dish water up on the body of that tree, and it would run down to the bottom of it, and that was the biggest, healthiest cherry tree I have ever seen in my life.  It got up so high that the limbs would grow out over the roof of the house, and the shingles.  And boy, those were the best cherries you have ever eat. She would make those cherry cobblers out of them.  And I would get up there and fill my stomach up with ripe cherries right off of that tree and then pick enough cherries to make a cobbler, and fight the jay birds.  Because they were all in there after them.

“When we were back in Kentucky, we always went to my grandfather Smith’s house.  Jim Smith.  His name was James, but everybody called him Jim.  And he kept everything up.  If it was raining, he still kept you busy.  You would go to the barn and shell corn, or you would work on the harness, or you would clean the stalls.  There was something to do all the time.  If nothing else, they had a big old keg or two of rusty nails.  I never have forgot…a lot of them were square nails.  And you would take a hammer and straighten those nails out.  There was never a minute that you was there that you didn’t get up of a morning and…except Sunday, that was a day of rest…you were going to work all day.  By the time you got through with one thing, he would have something else figured out.  He had that going all the time.  And there wasn’t much you could do about it…because he kept his eye on you and you didn’t hide out on him.  If you did, he would soon find you.  He would know right where you was.  He knew.”

“One time when we were back there, we stayed about four months on a visit.  I guess you could call it a visit.  Papa was out at Burkburnett working in the oil field, because when we left Louisiana, he lost his job with the Gulf Oil Company when they struck.  They ran the soldiers in there because World War I was going on, and it broke the strike.  After they broke the strike, they brought a lot of scabs in and none of the men that struck ever got their jobs back.  So we went to Kentucky.  And he went with us, but then he left and went to Burkburnett and went to work out there.  So we stayed with Grandpa and Grandma for about four months, until Papa sent for us to come to Burkburnett.

“Grandpa Smith had a big two-story barn, and all the hay had to be put up in the loft of that barn.  It had a hole cut at each manger in the stalls where you put the hay down through that hole into the hayrack down in the stall.  It was my job to go up there every night and feed them horses hay.  I had to fill that manger up, down through that hole.  Well, one night, I was fishing in a little pond.  Aunt Josie had three poles set out.  And she had helped me get some fishing worms.  We fished till dark and then went to the house and I didn’t put the hay out. 

“When we got through eating supper, my grandpa asked me if I had fed the horses their hay because we always give them some corn before we give them some hay.  And he knew how many ears to tell you to put in where they eat…built like a box, but the hay manger was over to the side.  And just the minute he said it, well, I remembered that I hadn’t put any hay out.  It was already dark.  So I didn’t say a word…I just got up and took off to the barn.  And when I got up there in that loft, it was dark, and a lot of that hay had slipped and fell down in there and had those holes hid and I thought I was on the floor and the next thing I knew, I had fell through one of those holes and fell into the hay manger.

“It hurt and knocked the breath out of me, but I got back up there and finished putting out the rest of the hay.  So when I come to the house, of course, they all seen that something was wrong with me, and they wanted to know what had happened, and I told them I had fell out of the loft.  And what they thought of …the ladder went up beside the runways that went through the barn.  They had a driveway all the way through that barn, with stables on both sides.  And they thought I had fell out…off that ladder that went up there where you crawled into the loft.  Because it had two big doors up there that stayed open nearly all the time…swinging doors that you could throw back and put the hay up there, and then in the wintertime you closed it up…to keep the rain out.

“But there was something to do all the time.  Feed the chickens, gather up the eggs.  Build the hen nests.  I could just sit here and tell you…there was something all the time.  For everybody.  Or work in the garden.  Hoeing weeds.  Everybody had a hoe.  Suckering tobacco that was the money crop.  Boy, you really worked in that tobacco.  When he sold that tobacco in the fall, he carried it down to Cromwell, and put it on the boat and carried it to Owensboro and sold it, and when he came back, we met the boat that he came back on, and he brought everything with him that he was going to use the next year…two barrels of brown sugar.  I never will forget that.  The stuff we were going to get for Christmas.  Coffee, pepper, salt, stuff like that.  Flour.  Bought flour by the barrel, because they didn’t grow much wheat there.  Bought it by the barrel. Knocked the lid out of it, and it set over in the corner.  Had a cloth over the top of it, and a sifter in it, and you went over there and got what flour you wanted, and sifted it right there on the side of that…and about that much of that flour would still be left in there.

“Had a coffee mill, and you roasted the coffee beans in the oven on the stove.  Then take it out and grind it.  Had a big old coffee mill on the wall.  And you roasted the coffee beans, and stirred them all the time they were roasting.  And a wood stove to do it on.  And you can imagine how hot it got.  And the stove had a warmer on top that went up, and you kept that full of food up there.  Stuff that was left from dinner, and you warmed it for supper.  You couldn’t believe what it was like.  You had to live it to really know.

“But we had good times, too.  Sometimes we would go squirrel hunting and sometimes we would go rabbit hunting.  And I did love to squirrel hunt.  And we would get on a horse and ride down through the woods and there were so many squirrels that you could hunt off your horse.  Grandpa even had one horse that he could shoot a squirrel off of…and the horse wouldn’t jump. 

“Most of the time we would just ride down through a big strip of woods to the Chancellor place and when we seen a squirrel, he got down and rolled him out.

“But that tobacco was something.  You had to worm it.  Pick the worms off.  With your hands.  Little old speckled worms, and you stepped on them.  And they had a big old horn.  When I was a little bitty baby, my mother gimme a tobacco worm to play with…put it in a pasteboard box and I would sit and look at it in that box, crawling around, and it would keep it from getting away, too.

“And you had to go pick them peaches.  And boy, I ate enough of them.  They had one tree that I just loved.  It was a little bitty one, and when they were ripe you could just break them open with one hand and eating a half would just make a good bite.  It was an Indian Cling peach and it didn’t get very ripe until way up in the fall.  And they had pear trees, too.

“Didn’t you hear Uncle Ellis asking me about getting out there in those trees when he had those…I can’t remember what kind of tree it was.  Not apricots.  Anyway, I asked him if he remembered me getting out there and eating all those.  And he said, “Yes, and did I get on to you?”  And boy he did.  He got all over me.

“Oh yes, I will tell you something else we had to do.  Those horses had to be curried and brushed, and their collars cleaned off…because the sweat would build up on leather collars, and when you brought a horse in of a night, and put him up and feed him, when you got through, you brushed his shoulders and curried him and rubbed him down with a big old stiff brush.  And fed him, and then you went and got that collar and cleaned all that caked dirt and sweat off of it.  And he had a collar pad that went on the horse, and you had to clean that, too.”

“Well, you did everything the hard way.  You had to.  There wasn’t any machinery or anything like there is now.  Lord, they dragged the roads with an old scraper…just a big old triangle of logs, and the front one was hewed out and had a steel blade bolted to it.  And that was the way they smoothed the roads.  And instead of paying the road tax, you could go and work on the road two days…and that would take care of your tax.  So nearly everybody did that.  Some didn’t.  Some paid their tax, but it was hard work.  Pulled that scraper with horses.  Go up one side of the road and down the other, and drag that dirt up into the ruts where the wagons cut ruts, and smoothed them out.”


 Mildred:  “I have never eaten after anyone who could make biscuits…Grandma could make the best biscuits…they were that big around, and she never had…used…any milk.  I guess they were sour dough, I don’t know.  But when I was a little kid and I would go to grandma’s she would always cook what I liked. And it was those biscuits. And she would get this sugar-cured bacon and she would cook some of that…and I loved her fried corn.”

Tape March 7, 1977:  Grandmother, when asked if they had ice back in that day... answered:   “No, but we could go and get ice.  We kept ice when mother was sick with typhoid fever.  We didn’t have any electricity…we didn’t have anything like that.  We couldn’t keep ice.   The only way you could keep ice was to dig a hole and put it in sawdust and wrap it and bury it.  It seems to me they went to Beaver Dam after it.  Beaver Dam or Cromwell, I don’t know which.  It might have kept a week, I guess, or maybe longer.”

About making soap:  GM:  “Of course she made her own soap.  She made soap out of lye and ashes and I don’t know what else.  And it was a pretty, white soap.  Laundry soap.  Well, we had an ash hopper and you poured ashes in there and poured water over it and had lye, and boiled it in an iron pot.  And take it and put it on and…grease in it.  Poured it in a scaffold and poured it in and fixed it, and some of it was pretty, and cut in blocks to wash clothes with.  And she had some to be real white, and that was good, and we washed our hair in it.  It had to make in a kettle, Jerri, and then cut it out in squares.  Just cakes of soap."

“Della always done the ironing, and Ma did the sewing.” 


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