The Farm

The land was located about three miles east of Friday's Crossing and was within five miles of the Cliff King place that Floyd and Lillian were currently renting.  The farm was about ten miles from Oneonta.

There is an abstract deed that has been preserved in the family trunk.  The abstract shows that the first settler of the land was Lafayette Brown.  Based on a sworn statement, he had been in possession since 1878, but the first legal deed was dated 06/06/1890.  It shows the seller as the United States.  There is no known purchase price, so I assume he met the requirements of the original settler and received the land without payment.  A mortgage was placed on the land, and a foreclosure occurred in the mid 1880's.  There were several owners before the purchase by Floyd and Lillian. Some examples:

The land was purchased by Floyd and Lillian, forty-four acres bought on 08/16/1930 at a cost of $576.00.  A second purchase of thirty-six acres was concluded on 1/15/1931 at a cost of $300.00, making the total cost of eighty acres $876.00.  I do know that the Model-T Ford was a part of the down payment to R.S. Allgood.  I do not know the exact terms, but most of the money was borrowed.  At the time of the purchase, the great depression of the thirties was in its infancy.  It took great courage and confidence to go into debt.  Many parents raised their children with the constant admonition Stay out of debt.  Despite the apparent small cost in today's dollars, it took our family about 12 or 13 years to pay of the mortgage.  During this period, it was refinanced at least once.

The house we moved into (I was three years old) in October of 1930 had been unoccupied for some time and was filled with dust, dirt dobber nests, and spider webs.  The house, probably constructed about 1878, was originally one large room.  Some time later, an additional room was added to the side, and finally a small area about six feet wide was added as an area to the house to the kitchen stove.

The main room was about twelve feet wide and twenty-eight feet long.  There was on small, single-paned window on the front and two small windows about five feet high on each side of the chimney at the other end of the room.  There were two outside doors, the first on the front, and the other in the center on the side.  The front door had a wood bar for a closure, with a latch string outside to open it.  The side door had a wooden bar inside, with so latch string.  This door was about three feet of the ground, but no steps were added.  There were no screens on the door or windows.  The floor was pine planks, and the ceiling was the same.  There was another back door on the room that was added.

See the drawing of the house.

Drawing of the house.
House Plan

The furniture in the house was as spartan as the house itself.  There was no couch, and all the chairs were straight chairs plus one rocking chair.  The diagram shows the arrangement in the thirties when our family was complete.

Only an optimistic pair with limited options and great confidence in what they could accomplish in future would have moved into the dwelling.

There was a dug well about thirty feet in the front of the house.  Unfortunately, it had water only in the winter.  Evidently the hard rock diggers were going through discouraged them, and they quit.  Since the well was essentially useless, all water for the family came from a spring which was located 200 yards from the back of the house.  The spring was open, but had been dug until it was about three feet by four, and about two feet deep.  It had clear, tasty water and even in drought years it never went dry, although it would become less deep.  'Go get a bucket of water' was a frequently requested chore.  Not only did we bring water for our personal needs, but during the summer months, we also transported water for the animals.

At the time we moved to the house, there were two outbuildings.  One of these was the corn crib, which seemed to be the older of the two. It was a small building about ten by twenty feet, with a very steep roof.  The corn for meal and feed was stored in this space.  The second outbuilding was a pole barn made by matching poles and stacking them on top of each other just as frontier cabins were constructed.  The barn had a stall for the horse and a stall for the cows and some overhead room for hay.

At the time of our moving, Daddy had one horse to help him cultivate the approximately twenty acres cleared.  The horse was gray and was named Nell.  We also had a one-horse wagon to use for farming and for travel to the mill.  Since the speed of walking horses or mules was three miles per hour, a trip of any distance took virtually all day.  We were about ten miles from Oneonta, the count seat.  When a trip there was necessary, we would leave about daylight.  Three hours later, we would arrive.  By the time shopping and business transactions were over, the trip would usually end in darkness.  On TV or the movies, the family always has a buggy with a trotting horse.  When you depend on the horse to pull the plow the next day, you had to be cautious.  To have him trot would be foolhardy.  It seemed as if the trips to Oneonta were very infrequent.  Actually, I had been one time by the age of twelve.

When we first moved to the new home, there were only four in the family.  We slept in two double beds in the big room.  In 1931, my sister Alzie joined the family, and a baby bed was added.  In 1934, my second sister Marjoe joined the group, and my brother and I were moved into the second room.  When it was added, for some reason the builder constructed it about a foot lower than the original room, so you always had to step down or up when entering or leaving.  In 1939, the final member of the family, my brother Andus, arrived.  At this time, my two sisters took over the second room, and my brother and I were moved back into the big room with my parents and little brother.

As previously stated, when the family moved in 1930, the country was entering the Great Depression.  Times were hard.  The cultivated acreage was small and, while it was about all you could handle with one horse, additional land had to be cleared.  During the growing season, Daddy farmed.  in the off season, he cleared land, using an ax to do so.  The timber cut was needed either as firewood, or, if it was pine, for stove wood.

Each year, despite the depression, the family's economic condition improved.  Although there was almost no cash, there was a cow with abundant milk and butter, and chickens with more eggs than we could eat, and a barn loft with peanuts, peas, and corn.  In additions, there was a potato hill with potatoes, a smokehouse with meat and canned goods, and an abundant supply of homemade syrup.  About the only items requiring cash were sugar, coffee, flour, and spice.  Daddy even grew his own tobacco.

Naturally, there was clothing to buy, but men and boys had one pair of shoes, two pairs of overalls, two shirts, two pairs of socks, one pair of long handles, a denim jumper, and a hat.  Many of these items were hand-me-downs from older siblings or relatives.  Girls and women were not better off since they mainly had hand-me-downs or dresses or blouses made from flour and sugar sacks.  In buying flour and sugar, the women would buy matching patterns to acquire enough cloth to make an item.  Without exception, all women could sew and would patch items to extend their use.  My brother and I once had a pair of overalls made from guano (fertilizer) sacks.

As previously mentioned, since water had to be carried from the spring, baths were usually a once a week affair, whether needed or not.  While we always washed our face and hands before meals (drying our face and hands on a common towel), a full bath required much effort.  Water had to be transported to fill a washtub.  If it was cold, the water  had to be heated on the kitchen stove.  In the absence of this effort, a sponge bath was the best you could do.

There was usually a bath every Saturday.  Imagine the effort to bathe four children under these conditions.  When you also had to milk a cow twice daily, prepare and cook from scratch three meals, tend a garden, can vegetables, etc.,a farm wife was a wonderful achiever.

I don't think the occupants of today's insulated houses, where the thermostat is set at the desired temperature, have any idea of the problems you have trying to heat several rooms with a one room fireplace.  The first problem is that the fuel in the fire must be regularly replaced.  This becomes especially tedious when it is raining, requiring a trip into the rain, or when it's necessary to out into the cold.  Most families allowed the fire to diminish as bed time approached.  Then they banked the fire so some coals would be available the next morning to begin fire for the next day.  This means heat would almost totally disappear during the night and the cold would permeate every area.

Problem two:  there was no way to transfer the heat from the fireplace area of the one room to the remainder of the house.  You might be cozy at the fireside, but venturing into another room you would discover no heat.  Fortunately, the kitchen had a wood burning stove.  Although the stove was designed for cooking, it would provide enough heat to make the dining room bearable for a meal.  However, since the stove was used only for two meals a day, much of the time it was not a source of heat.

The presence of heat in only in one room made that room a popular area in the cold weather.  Our entire family would assemble in any seat near the fireplace to share its blessing.  This was a time for reading, games, mending clothes, repairing tools, quilting, or other chores.

Since the rooms in which the beds were located were cold, much cover was necessary.  In order to stay warm during the night, numerous quilts or blankets were required.  So many were used that it was difficult to turn over.  The cold sheets when you went to bed would almost take your breath and made you appreciate long handle drawers handle drawers or pajamas.

On especially cold nights I can remember our water bucket in the kitchen having ice.  You would have to break it to remove the dipper.  This means the temperature in the bedrooms was below 32 degrees for a sustained period.  The cold bedroom made it much more difficult to arise in the morning.

Who could look forward to dressing in a freezing room?

I suppose the main problem with a fireplace is its inefficiency.  Almost all the heat is sent up the chimney, not into the room.  Because of the cold kitchen in winter we wore heavy coats to breakfast.

As has been stressed throughout these writings, the only transportation available was the wagon.  This meant that cotton and corn were the principle money crops since they would not spoil.  Corn sold for about one dollar a bushel.  Blount County's average yield in the thirties was some fifteen bushels per acres.  Very few farmers had any surplus to sell after feeding the horses or mules, hogs, chickens, and having a meal to eat.  This left cotton as the primary cash crop, and it varied in price.  I remember it being twelve cents per pound.  This means a 500 pound bale brought only $60-and out of this the ginning cost also had to be paid.

Fortunately, in 1936, my father's uncle, Tom Robertson, purchased a pickup truck.  Working with Uncle Tom, we were able to grow and transport tomatoes, watermelons, and other crops to Birmingham to market.  Another means of transportation was a neighbor, Burl Robertson, who had a truck.  Working with him, we grew more produce, and our cash position improved.  In 1941, we purchased Uncle Tom's truck and had our own means of delivery.  Once again our economic condition improved.

Carefully preserved in the family trunk are some eight records of money borrowed, including the purpose in some cases, and, in all cases, the collateral.  These items are listed below:

DATE AMOUNT PURPOSE AND COLLATERAL

04/10/1928 $37.50 Twenty bags of guano- 10 x 2 ½ x 4

NOTE:  A co-signer was required.  I assume

the crop was rented on the halves, and the

landlord, a Mr Epperson, had to sign.

04/10/1928 $29.47 Fifteen sacks of guano.  The collateral for each of these

loans was a cow and heifer calf, plus all crops grown in

1928.  At this time, Floyd and Lillian were sharecroppers

and had no mules or horses.

01/05/1930 $54.00 Cow and heifer, plus all crops grown in 1930

05/09/1932 $71.69 Jersey cow and heifer, plus all crops.

02/26/1938 $222.72 See attached photostat

01/19/1938 $30.77 See attached photostat

03/07/1940 $280.30 See attached photostat

03/04/1941 248.00 See attached photostat

Documents reflecting bank loans.
Bank Loans

Documents reflecting bank loans.
Bank Loans

The increasing borrowing as the years passed indicated more cleared acreage and some prosperity.  I am not sure, but the 1941 loan may have been the last time crop money was borrowed.  This shows the gradual progress made in the family's economic condition.  This was helped by improved economic conditions as the depression lessened.

On a cold winter morning a trip in a wagon was about the coldest place you could be. You were in the open sitting still, and whatever chilling breeze was blowing had no problem making contact.  When it was necessary for the women and children to make a trip in the cold, an effort to provide some heat was made.  Either rocks or bricks were heated in the fireplace and then wrapped in a heavy material to conserve heat.  The rocks were then placed in the wagon to keep the feet warm.  If the children were in the wagon, quilts would be placed on the floor with the heated rocks.  Small children could then stay warm under other quilts.  Perhaps this just emphasizes that transportation by wagon was not an ideal way to travel.  It was slow, whether hot or cold, and the wheels hit every bump.  In addition the mules provided occasional unpleasant whiffs of perfume.

NEXT: New Home And Bailey School Community (circa late 1930's)