“The Country Store”
| The memoirs of Hope
Powell Allen, b. 1900, daughter of Peter Powell & Nina C. Egerton
of Grove Hill, Fishing Creek Township, Warren County, North
(submitted by her granddaughter,Tracey Kirkland)
My husband, Dewey Reynold Allen, and I, his wife, Hope Powell Allen, went for a three week trip to the state of North Carolina, this past June 1980, spending most of the time in Greenville, North Carolina, my husband’s home town, where he has several brothers and sisters and a host of relatives living there. My husband’s Mother and Father, reared thirteen children, including three sets of twins, his Father was a twin, and his Grandfather was a twin. So far, only one grand-daughter, has produced twin girls. Maybe in another generation, they will crop up. After leaving Greenville, we went a distance of eighty miles to Warrenton, North Carolina, where my brother and his wife have their home and where they have lived there most of their sixty three years of married life. My brother Major Pope Powell, married the former Gladys Hull, a niece of Cordell Hull, and they raised three lovely sons, who are now married and have children and the older boy, has grand-children. My brother passed away about eighteen months ago, at the age of eighty-three, and the place does not seem the same without him there. His widow lives there all alone in a five bedroom home, but, since she has so many friends and one of the children and their families, are always in and out, there is not much to get lonesome. Of course, when a loved one passes on, you never quite get over it. Since my husband and I, were only going to be there a short time, we didn’t get in touch with the many friends that I also have there, as I lived in the town of Warrenton, N.C. for a number of years, when I was sixteen years of age, having gone there to work as a Dental assistant to Dr. Harry Miller, DDS. So I just wanted to see a few of my relatives who lived in and around there, including a sister who was ninety-three years of age last February 1980, and who is quite active.
Now Warrenton, is not a large town, but a very old one and has many very lovely old homes where folks for several generations have lived and who have contributed much to society in all walks of life. In fact, each year there is a guided tour through these homes and a little booklet given to each visitor describing the many interesting things contained in these homes. This seems to be a “Southern Tradition”. The town of Warrenton, has a weekly newspaper called the “Warren Record”, and it has a very large circulation, all of the townspeople subscribing, the rural areas, and when a person leaves there to seek their fame and fortune, the paper follows them. While all relatives are sent a subscription, no matter how far off they are. During my stay there, my sister-in-law, asked me if she had sent me a copy of the paper dated March 22, 1979. I told her she had not sent me a copy. She was sure she had included me with all the other folks she had sent copies to, but evidently I was overlooked. She said she only had one copy left and she wanted to keep it, but if I would call the Warren Record Office, I might be able to obtain a copy from them. This I did at once, and the lady who answered, said there was not a copy to be had, and if they had known how many people would want copies of that particular paper, they could have sold thousands more than they did. She said if I would call someone that I knew, they might have an extra copy. My sister-in-law’s first suggestion was why don’t you call your first cousin at Grove Hill, N.C., which is a small community ten miles in the country from Warrenton. There will be a lot more about Grove Hill, later in my article.
I called my cousin, Hazel Davis Harris, at Grove Hill, and she was so surprised to hear my voice, as I had not seen her for several years. She said she did have an extra copy of the Record, as she bought several of them and just knew someone would come along that wanted one, and she didn’t know of anyone that she would rather have it.
I told her I would come and get it when it was convenient with her, and she said she had to come to Warrenton, that afternoon, to bring her television set for repair, and would be so glad to bring the paper.
The reason this particular copy is so important, the Warren Record devoted an entire front page as well as a second page of the paper to the article “A Bicentennial Profile 1779-1979 Grove Hill.” I will have to quote verbatim a lot of the story, or it will lose so much of its Historical value.
It also gave pictures of two of the outstanding homes there, as well as the country store, and the church, which was founded about 1745. A lot of know-how and research went into this article, and we have to give praise and credit to Eugene Gilbert, a noted architect. The Warren Record, devoted quite a space to the abilities of this man. I quote “this pencil sketch is of the General Store of R. B. Davis, as it appeared around 1914 at Grove Hill. Sketched by her husband, the picture reaches the Warren Record through the courtesy of Mrs. Eugene (Lena Margaret Davis) Gilbert. The store due to deterioration was torn down in the Thirties. Eugene Gilbert and his wife share an interest in history and a keen awareness of American heritage, in large measure exemplified by the homes in which Americans have lived. Their own early homes are typical of many found throughout the country. Mr. Gilbert, who became 83 years of age while completing sketches used in “America’s Past in Pencil: A Sketchbook of Historic Homes.” In 1975, he was a noted architect before his retirement to Laguna Hills in Orange County, California, with his wife, Margaret Davis Gilbert of Grove Hill. A highlight of his career occurred in the 1920’s when he prepared the overall design of Duke University in Durham, for James R. Duke. While associated with a Philadelphia architect, Mr. Gilbert designed the Pennsylvania Museum of Arts, the University of Pennsylvania auditorium, the Philadelphia Public Leger newspaper building, Jefferson and Episcopal hospitals and Adelphia and Ben Franklin hospitals there. Other memorial structures testifying to his architectural abilities include Tower of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, Penn.; the New York Evening Post Building in New York City; the University of Colorado at Boulder, and many others throughout the country. He is a graduate of the school of Architecture of the University of Pennsylvania. His efforts at preserving history on paper began during World War I, when he sketched action at the battle front and combat ruins in France while serving as a U.S. Army engineer.
When he decided to have the results published, young Sargeant Gilbert, went to the only man he knew who had enough money to pay the printer – the regimental crapshooting sharpie. “He had all the francs in the regiment. I was lucky to know him,” recalls Mr. Gilbert. With less than 1000 francs borrowed from the dice wizard, he took the drawings to a print shop in a French village, where 15,000 booklets were published.
Most of them were sold before his 28th birthday. Infantry Divisions sailed for home after having been engaged in five major actions. Including the second Battle of the Marne and the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
An original copy of his booklet is in the Library of Congress. Returning to California in 1932, he took part in the development of the Westwood-Bel Air area of Los Angeles. He zoned, designed and build many residential properties until World War II. After retiring, Mr. Gilbert resumed his old hobby of sketching.
Although he has worked in pen and ink, pastels, watercolors and etching, he prefers the pencil. Several intricate drawings are included in a publication, “Historical Sketches of Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres”, and account of the Westwood-Bel Air area. Mr. Gilbert has authorized the narrative for this work, which was published as a tabloid supplement by the Santa Monica, California, Evening Outlook. In 1974, the First American Title Insurance Company compiled a series of Mr. Gilbert’s pencil sketches into a booklet entitled “Orange County’s Past in Pencil” depicting historical scenes in the company’s home county, and the following year produced a Bicentennial Map of the United States prepared by this artist.”
Now, from the above life of Mr. Gilbert, I am sure all of the things that I have written or will write in my article, are quite authentic. His wife, the former Lena Margaret Davis, was born at Grove Hill, in her grandfather’s house there, and her sister, Hazel Davis Harris, still lives in the old home.
All of the folks and the two homes in particular, will be discussed at length later in my article, but will try and get down some of the historical value of all of Mr. Gilbert’s research, first. What I am about to write now is written by the Warren Record, according to Mr. Gilbert’s research, and I quote: “One hundred and ninety years ago, a detachment of English soldiers under the command of General Lord Charles Cornwallis, British commander appeared at the settlement of Grove Hill in eastern Warren county, according to the great-grandfather of Wilbur Davis, who at present operates Grove Hill’s only store.
Wilbur said that he and the late congressman John H. Kerr talked near his store one day and that the Congressman related that the late Henry T. Egerton, Wilbur’s maternal grandfather, said his father had spoken of seeing British soldiers at Grove Hill during the closing days of the Revolutionary War. The time must have been in early May, 1781. This was almost two years after Warrenton was created by act the North Carolina Legislature, but probably many years after the village had been settled. More of this later, but first to substantiate the fact that the Red Coats actually visited Grove Hill.
Following the battle of Guilford Courthouse, Cornwallis withdrew his troops to Wilmington, where he would be under the protection of the British Fleet while he regrouped and resupplied his army before leaving for Virginia on a trail that was to lead to Yorktown. This route led to Halifax after skirmishes with the militia near Fishing Creek in which the militia was driven back.
The only comment of the North Carolina history which the writer read was that Cornwallis stopped at Halifax where he crossed the Roanoke River into Northampton County from which he departed for Virginia. Fortunately for one seeking to substantiate the story of Red Coats at Grove Hill, Allen’s History of Halifax County gives a full account of Cornwallis’ stay in Halifax.
It follows in part: “About the first of May 1781, it was known that the British had left Wilmington and were several days on the march. Scouting parties were sent out from Halifax to ascertain their where-abouts. It was learned that on May 3rd, that Tarleton’s dragoons had crossed Fishing Creek and were advancing along the Huckleberry Swamp Road. Governor Nash and General Allen Jones held a hasty conference together with the commissioned officers of the different regiments and the decision was reached that it would be a useless expenditure of lives to undertake to oppose the advance of the British with untried militia against Tarleton’s veteran cavalry.”
“Accordingly on the afternoon of May 3rd, General Jones and his command left in the direction of Warrenton, leaving Halifax to the mercy of the enemy. Governor Nash and the Council of State, together with other state officials also left in the direction of Warrenton. Halifax readily and quickly put aside its military appearance and assumed the air of an unpretentious village.”
The next day, Tarleton at the head of 200 dragoons road into Halifax. After securing headquarters for Cornwallis and his staff in the Eagle Hotel, Tarleton escorted Cornwallis and some 1000 troops into the town where they were encamped around Quank Creek and quartered in homes in and around town, the troops remained in Halifax about a week, during which foraging parties were seen in almost every section of the surrounding country. One of these foraging parties was possibly the Red Coats seen at Grove Hill.
Possibly, they could have been a detachment sent out in pursuit of the North Carolina governor and Council of State and General Jones and his staff. If British troops were placed in the vicinity near Grove Hill, as they were at Halifax, we can accept the statement that some British troops were at Grove Hill.
And what of the village of Grove Hill, settled years before Warrenton was laid off as a town? Wellman follows: “Various brilliant young men from other communities in the state came to seek professional training under Warren County lawyers, Blake Baker, at Grove Hill on Reedy Creek in the eastern part of the county, was esteemed as particularly inspiring to young men under his teaching and he was said to have the finest private library in the State of North Carolina.”
“Five post offices had been established in Warren County by 1822. The postmaster of Warrenton was John Anderson. Colonel William P. Little, operated the post office at Littleton. John T. Kearney was postmaster at Grove Hill, Francis Allen was appointed at Chestnut Crossroads, and the redoubtable Clack Robinson was at Monroe.
After recounting a terrible brawl among prominent persons in Warrenton in which gun and dirk were used and one man killed, Wellman says “Less talented and more crumblingly pitiful than such grapplers was Edward Cotton, who repeatedly drowned a considerable scholarship in too much whiskey. Kind-hearted William C. Kearney literally picked Cotton out of a Warrenton gutter, brought him to the Kearney plantation near Grove Hill for a sequestered sobering-up, and founded there a school where Cotton proved himself a teacher and also gathered material toward a biography of Nathaniel Macon.”
The fourth reference by Wellman was that in 1840, there had been added to new postmasters the name of James D. Clanton at Grove Hill. In addition to the new plantation of William C. Kearney, mentioned by Wellman, there were a number of other large plantations in that section. Two of these large estates were those of Peter Powell, who farmed more than 1,000 acres and Richard B. Davis, who was a member of the Warren County Board of Commissioners when the present courthouse was built in 1907.
Davis ran a large store and cotton gin at Grove Hill, during its heyday, when the village was the voting precinct and the post office of Fishing Creek Township not only contained two stores and a cotton gin, but also a blacksmith shop. Both Mr. Davis and Mr. Powell, owned fine homes at the time but the Powell home was noted for its beautiful boxwoods, but following Mr. Powell’s death, it was sold to the late Roy Pittman, and now is in ill repair and is the home of a tenant family.
Another nice home was the Pittman home between Grove Hill and Reedy Creek. The home of Mr. Davis still remains in the Davis family and looks today as it must have looked when it was the home of Henry T. Egerton, whose daughter married Richard B. Davis.
Here lives Mrs. Hazel Davis Harris, and here other Davis children return on vacations. Among these children, in addition to Wilbur F. Davis, who lives nearby in his store, and Mrs. Harris, are Fred and Irene of Rocky Mount, Ruth of Hollister and Lena Davis, the wife of Eugene Gilbert of California, architect who helped design Duke University, and who later became the author of a book of penciled sketches, which included a sketch of the Davis home at Grove Hill.
Wilbur Davis, owns the only store and commercial building in Grove Hill. For a number of years, he served as forestry ranger for Warren County, succeeding the late E. Hunter Pinnell in this position, and is well-known and highly respected by friends all over the country.
It may be that some descendants of early settlers at Grove Hill may have among family papers information as to when Grove Hill was settled, but the writer has not been able to establish that fact. Wilbur Davis said that it was settled by Virginians in search of better land who thought they were still in Virginia.
Dr. Thomas J. Taylor, in his “History of the Tar River Baptist Association,” says that the Rev. Paul Palmer, an early Baptist minister, made a visit to the Isle of Wight County in Virginia in the late 1720s or early 1730s where he established a church, and where he spread the word of the fertility of North Carolina land and the need for Baptist ministers. As a result, he said, a number of them moved to Halifax County.
A number of other persons from the general area moved to Warren County in the 1730s, probably influenced by the message of the Rev. Mr. Palmer. Dr. Taylor also said that the Reedy Creek Baptist Church, in the Grove Hill vicinity, was established before 1750, and that it is the fourth oldest Baptist Church in North Carolina. The writer believes that the establishment of Reedy Creek Church, within a short distance from the center of Grove Hill is an indication of the age of that village, for it would be established in the vicinity of some settlement.
In 1822, there were only five post offices in Warren County, and one of them was at Grove Hill, and none of them were in villages adjacent to Grove Hill. It was some 20-odd years later that Sam Thomas Alston built the first house at nearby Arcola, and it was only two years after Warrenton was established as a town by the act of the North Carolina legislature that British troops visited Grove Hill and drank from a well that is still serving as a source of good water.
Cotton was responsible for much of the prosperity that Grove Hill once enjoyed and when cotton culture fell on evil days, so did Grove Hill. Wilbur Davis said that his business was booming in the early 1940s, the war years when cotton was in demand, but since the store has only furnished a modest living. He now has a lady, Mrs. Frances Durham, who helps him part-time in the store during the week.
He spends most of his time seven days a week keeping store, until late hours at night, and often opening his store for some customers after he has gone to bed. He left his store a number of years ago for trips to California, Florida, and Alaska and found his store intact when he returned. “That satisfied me,” he said, “and now I am content to stay at my store in Grove Hill.” At night after his store is closed, he spends a few hours reading the National Geographic, and other magazines.
In 1954, the Grove Hill post office which had been in operation for more than 100 years, was closed. In 1977, the voting precincts for Fishing Creek township were changed from Grove Hill to Arcola, because of lack of running water and toilet facilities at the Grove Hill site. Now only one small store and a storage house remains as the business section of Grove Hill only because of the love of Wilbur F. Davis for the community in which he was born.
There are several good pictures of the community in which he was born. There are several good pictures of some of the places that Mr. Gilbert writes about, one of which is a huge oak tree or rather the trunk of one, and my first cousin, Wilbur Davis leaning against the tree trunk and the caption below the picture reads, quote “Wilbur F. Davis stands with his hand on a giant oak tree which measures 8 feet in circumference. It is possible that Redcoats rested beneath the shade of this tree nearly 200 years ago. Long ago a grove of these giant oaks graced the community, providing its name.”
Another picture and the caption reads, quote “When Cornwallis’ troops came to Grove Hill, the enclosed well of the present was probably an open well from which they may have drawn water for their horses.” And a picture of an old store building and the caption reads, quote, “Old store building now used by Davis for storage. Nearby was a tavern or bar-room which was in early days a customary part of merchandising.”
And of course a pencil sketch of the Country Store, which I have mentioned before and a picture of Henry T. Egerton, as a young man with the date 1820-1901 underneath. And just below his picture is a picture of a sword and the caption reads, quote “This sword was carried by Henry T. Egerton during the War between the States. The picture was made available through the courtesy of Don Gilbert of Eugene, Oregon, Egerton’s great-grandson.”
The pictures of the two Plantations, the Peter Powell, under the picture the caption reads, quote “The old Peter Powell home near Grove Hill is remembered for its beautiful boxwoods. It is now the property of Roy Pittman and is inhabited by a tenant family. Major Pope Powell of Warrenton was born in the house and spent his childhood here.” How I wish Mr. Gilbert had included in his wonderful article, the fact that before Peter Powell came to own the home, his father, Morgan Powell, owned it and it was a place of such beauty, that people from all over came just to see it. But I will elaborate quite a bit about this later in my article.
Then there is a picture of the Henry T. Egerton home at Grove Hill, and the caption reads, quote “The Henry T. Egerton home at Grove Hill, built in 1842, was the home of W.F. Davis’ maternal grandparents. Here his Father and Mother lived and all their children were born. A sister, Mrs. Hazel Davis Harris, now lives at the home.”
A pencil sketch of this home is included in an “America’s Past in Pencil: A Sketchbook of Historic Homes” by Eugene Gilbert and Olive Fielding Marrical. Gilbert was married to Lena Margaret Davis in this home. His books points out that: “As Lena Margaret Davis, Mrs. Gilbert was born in a three story frame house at Grove Hill, County of Warren, North Carolina, the ninth of twelve children. Her Mother, Elizabeth Egerton, had been born in the old home, which was built in 1842, and had her wedding reception here. Nearby was a general merchandise store and farm equipment store operated by Mrs. Gilbert’s father, Richard Blount Davis. He also had a cotton gin, blacksmith shop and sawmills, as well as extensive agricultural and timberlands. A leading citizen of the community, Davis served as County Commissioner for several years. Mrs. Gilbert graduated from Warrenton High School, shortly before her 17th birthday, and joined her sister in Philadelphia following her Father’s death, a victim of typhoid fever. She studied nursing at Walter Reed Hospital, caring for retarded children to help finance her training.”
I also very much wish Mr. Gilbert had include in his article that Henry T. Egerton was married three times. His first marriage was to the former Martha Kearney, which took place on December 9, 1895. To this union were born two children, the first a boy, by the name of Lucian Egerton. He probably had a middle name but I can’t remember what it was.
The next child was a girl, by the name of Nina Courtney Egerton, and his wife died at the birth of this little girl, and a maiden aunt raised the child. This child grew up to be a lovely young lady and fell in love and married. And this baby girl was later to become my Mother. More about this later also.
The boy, Lucian, left home at a very early date as he had a burning desire to see the world. I don’t remember hearing about how many states he covered, but he met and married a girl from Tennessee. They finally settled in the state of Texas, and he owned a ranch there. To this union was born nine children, eight boys and the last a girl.
My mother had a great many letters and pictures from her brother, and I can remember how handsome the boys were, and the one that I remember about the girl, was taken on a horse and she was getting ready to ride in a cattle round-up, which didn’t appeal to me at the time. Many years later, this girl’s husband, Peter Kunz, passed away and she visited my brother, Major Pope Powell, at Warrenton, and I happened to be there at the same time, so we had a great time getting acquainted, she also had with her one of her brothers, Eugene. We corresponded for many years. They are both living today, but her health is not good. This is about all I know of the first marriage of Henry T. Egerton.
The second marriage (don’t know the year) was to the former Elizabeth Cheek, and this union bore three children, Elizabeth Egerton, Henry and Columbia. Mr. Gilbert has already given a lot of information on this marriage and the children born thereof but I will give at length later a lot more that I can remember as a child.
The third marriage was to the former Virginia Landis (don’t know when it took place); there were no children to this union. Now all of the above and many other things that I have listed were told to me by my Mother and other folks that knew about these things in that era, so I know it to be authentic, the rest of my article will be a great deal of what I can remember as a child, but of course so much of this happened many, many years before I was born.
The Egerton Plantation and the Powell Plantation were less than a mile apart, and the Egerton Plantation has been described quite well, so now I will try and describe the Morgan Powell Plantation, before it was turned over to Peter Powell. But I would like to insert at this time, before I get into the Morgan Powell Plantation, that all the wonderful pictures that appeared in the Centennial profile, were through efforts of the Editor of the Warren Record, Mr. Bignal Jones. I wish to thank him for the wonderful article.
Now I know it will take a lot of time to describe the Plantation of Morgan Powell. His full name was William Morgan Powell, and he was born in 1807, don’t know when he was married. He married the former Emily Kearney, she was born January 30, 1830, and by the way, was a very distant cousin to the former Martha Kearney, the first wife of Henry T. Egerton.
To the union of Morgan Powell and Emily Kearney, was born one son, Peter Powell, and who was many years later to become my Father. I have heard my Mother, Aunts, and the many folks who knew Morgan Powell and his wife so well, tell about what wonderful folks they were and the many kind deeds that they did, in fact it was said many times if there were Saints on earth, it surely had to be these two. Morgan Powell was considered at that time, very, very wealthy, money-wise, had valuable land and timber and who owned more slaves (I do not like the word slaves, as I am sure they were not treated as such, so will say he owned more folks), than anyone around that part of the county.
It was said that he always helped the needy, no one ever came to him and went away hungry, and I am very sure the folks he owned loved him also. He was a lover of beauty and everything around him was beautiful. I hope I can describe the grounds to the home and the garden as it was described to me, but I know this to be as true, many, many years later. In my early childhood, I saw with my own eyes a great many of the things as they were at the time mentioned above. Of course, they had deteriorated a great deal, but were still very pretty, and you could see exactly how they must have looked when Morgan Powell owned the Plantation.
First, I will describe the garden, which was a very large plot set away from the house, and one of the men that he owned, was the Gardener, that was his sole job, and he loved every inch of it. He was his own boss, he would get up early in the morning and work in his garden, stop when it was too hot, go to his house, which was on the side of the Home, rest, then go back to his beloved garden. The Gardener, was named Jim, don’t know any other name. He was a Bachelor and all he knew was gardening.
This garden was laid out in four large squares and through each square up and down and all around, was this walk, wide enough for two people to walk side by side. There was not a sprig of grass ever to be seen in these walks. Then around the whole affair was a hedge about two yards wide, and a wire fence surrounded the hedge, with a gate to let you in. In each of the four squares there were planted vegetables of all sorts, and such lovely ones, he surely must have had a green thumb.
Naturally it took a lot of all things to feed so many people. But I understand that each of the folks Morgan Powell owned, had a place to live and a plot of ground to raise their own garden. Then on the entire hedge there were just flowers of all sorts, especially the old-time ones, such as Bleeding Heart, Lily of the Valley. Jim took such pride in it and was so anxious to show off to many folks that came from far and wide to see it and the yard around the home and the antiques.
The yard, that is the front one, was laid off in two huge squares and were like velvet and the whole things across the front and around quite a bit of the sides had a fence around it, now it would be called a picket fence, but at that time it was called a paling fence, and the difference being, palings are much taller and are more on the order of regular bed slats that are used on the frame of a bed to sit the box spring on, these were always painted white. Then just inside of this fence were the lovely boxwoods were kept trimmed to perfection, just the right way Morgan Powell wanted them, if one should wilt, another was placed, so it was always the same.
There was a long walk leading from the front porch of the home to the gate that let you in, which was made of the same material, but more ornate. And on each side of the walk the boxwoods were allowed to grow into trees and formed an arch over the entire walkway. This walk was also kept free of grass.
There were also some trees, two of which were there for many years before I arrived, they were called Horse Chestnut trees, and had lovely flowers on them, and then large chestnuts, and after they were shelled, the inside could be polished and shined like a billiard ball.
The backyard was all in one section, but instead of palings, it was surrounded with a rail fence placed in a criss-cross position, with a gate in several places for the cows to come in to be milked. In the era of Morgan Powell, the kitchen and dining room, was not built onto the house, but stood alone several yards from the home. I often wondered why this was done, but that seemed to be the way all Plantations were.
The Morgan Powell Plantation’s house was not as large as the Henry T. Egerton one was, but not as old either, but was kept in A-1 condition, it was a two-story home, bedroom on each side and a very large room in back, which was known as the Parlor, and this was where a great many of his antiques were kept.
Even I can remember as a small child some of the things therein. The thing that seemed to impress me more was the large sofa with curved arms and rather high back and the wood on same was elaborately carved. I don’t know what wood it was, but think it was mahogany, as it looked like mahogany of today. It was covered in horsehair, and had six chairs the carving the same and also the covering, but as to the period of the design, I have no idea what it was.
There was a chimney to this parlor and a large fireplace which of course heated the room. There was a mantle over all the fireplaces and on this one was a clock, very much the same as the old style Grandfather clock, with the brass pendulum and the door where you would open to wind, was lovely stained glass. It sat on the mantle, but of course was not as tall as a grandfather clock, but the same with the base off.
This mantle also had various vases and statues. And always there was a very delicate embroidered or tapestry cloth that ran over the entire mantle and hung off on the ends, which was called a lambrequin. The andirons in the fireplace that held the wood, were large brass affairs in the shape of owls, and the eyes of those owls glistened so. I was afraid of them. I don’t know what stone was in them.
Then there was a baby grand piano with a fancy cover. Also, a music box that played several tunes, which I thought was so beautiful. It had a large metal roller in it with spikes, very thin ones all over it, and as the roller would turn, it would kit a comb-like thing and each tooth of the comb carried a different note. One of my nieces still has this box.
There were several tables that were lovely, and one special one that always stood in the middle of the room that was a marble top one with carved legs. On this table there was a large glass dome on a wooden base and under the dome was a vase of dried flowers. Then there was a large china cat and her two kittens, that sat there too.
Two rockers, one very large with a high back and caned bottom and back and the wood was black walnut. The other rocker was smaller and looked as if it was made of spools and it had a back and bottom of a woven tapestry.
Several large pictures on the wall, two of which I remember so well, one had a picture of a girl with flowing hair and such delicate features, and the other was of a girl with her hair in an up-do with flowers in it, both of the pictures were in lovely gold frames. Some of the things I know I have forgotten, but in the hallway was what they called the sideboard and it was full of lovely cut glass, large pieces and decanters and smaller ones.
Also a table with drop leaves that had little drawers with knobs that were on hinges, and it was called a sewing table. Don’t know the wood. There were so many things that were described to me that I have forgotten, but also remember a desk, have often wondered the period, it was a roll-type desk with drawers and a hidden compartment in it.
Another thing I remember was a tall jug that looked as if it had been cut in half length-wise, and the flat side had the imprint of two feet, as my brother and I would put our feet in those places. This was above the kitchen, as it had an attic to it, also a spinning wheel was up there. There must have been many other things, but I can’t remember now.
Of course, there were all sorts of crops raised, as they had to make their own flour and meal. As with so many folks to feed, one can imagine what a large effort this was, but then too, there were so many folks to do it, it didn’t work a hardship on anyone.
How Morgan Powell loved his antiques and the beauty surrounding him! I am sure there was much entertaining going on in that day, but all good things have to come to an end, as the old saying goes, and he passed away in 1887. And I don’t remember if the slaves were freed before he died or just after, but they were. But Jim, the gardener, would not leave his beloved garden and he stayed on, of course.
By this time, Peter Powell was a young man, and he inherited the entire estate of Morgan Powell, but along with the estate came Morgan Powell’s widow and Jim, the gardener. No one could wonder how a child born of two people that had been compared to Saints, could be so entirely opposite, but I guess that is one of the things of nature that we are not supposed to understand.
As Peter Powell, the child and only child of the two above named people, didn’t seem to recognize beauty, and felt that antiques were so much junk. He was a lover of sports, especially hunting. As I have said before the Powell Plantation and the Egerton Plantation were less than one mile apart, so it was only natural that Peter Powell, a grown young man, and Nina Courtney Egerton, a lovely young lady, were to meet and fall in love. This they did, and were married on May 15, 1880. To this union were born 10 children, the oldest being a girl, Nancy Davis Egerton (called Nannie), a boy, John Thomas Powell, a girl, Nellie Gray Powell (called Net), a girl, Claudia Morgan Powell (called Claude), a girl, Selma Mayfield Powell (called Grady), a boy, Spencer Vernon Powell (called Ike), a girl, Ethel Rivers Powell, a boy, Major Pope Powell, a boy, who lived less than a day, no name, a girl, Hope. As you can see, all of this happened before I could remember too much, as I don’t remember my older sister being at home at all before she was married.
The earliest I can remember is when I was 3 years old, a friend of the family gave me a photo album, and since it was the first luxury that I had owned, that was all mine, it really made a lasting impression on me, and I still have it. The album was covered with a plastic substance and underneath the plastic was a picture of a little girl with a long dress on, all colored, and I thought if I could only look like her, how happy I would be.
As much as my Father owned, we had no luxuries, just the essentials, which were plenty to keep body and soul together. We raised all of the pigs needed, and they were slaughtered in the late fall, all of the different portions of the same were made and hung in the smokehouse to be cured with hickory wood, and those hams were praised by all who ever tasted them.
We had plenty of chickens, which gave us eggs also. Two cows gave us milk and butter, and I can remember how all of the kids hated to churn the milk so it would turn into butter, as it was a wooden affair that had a wooden thin that you had to raise up and down many times before the butter would come.
Of course, Jim kept plenty in the garden so we had fresh vegetables most of the time, and what we could not eat in season, the rest were canned and dried for the winter. Of course at that time there were no refrigeration or water in the homes, no electric and we had to have oil lamps, which had to be washed and polished each week, a job that later fell to me, after my sisters were married and gone away.
Our well was a very deep one all rocked up along the sides, and there was a platform built around it with a box-like affair leading up so as to support a large roller of wood, which was shaved and polished so you could let the bucket slide down the well with your two hands encircling it. This roller had a spike driven through each end, one end resting in the groove of the built-up affair, and the other was quite a long end, which I am sure was made in the blacksmith shop, as it was first bent downward, then out, to form a handle and you would let the oaken bucket down with the handle and then after it was full of water, pull it back up onto a shelf that was made on the side.
And was that water ever good, everyone that came to visit, would want to go out and draw a fresh bucket of water and drink all they could hold. Much later, my younger brother and I fell into the job of bringing in several buckets of water to the kitchen each day, and the range that came from Kalamazoo, Michigan, had a reservoir, which we had to fill each day, so as to have hot water to wash the dishes.
We had a colored woman who came once a week to do the washing, and there was a tripod with a large black iron kettle that hung from a pole in the backyard, and after she rubbed the clothes on a washboard, they would be put in this kettle, where there was a log fire, and would boil them until they were quite white. A long clothes line was in the back of the house where the clothes were dried. I will never forget once when we were children, all of my cousins and other neighbor kids played baseball a lot in the backyard and I loved baseball and could run and pitch and play most any place. I was running one day and forgot to duck under the clothes line, and hit it right under the chin and I was lucky that I didn’t cut my neck off.
We also had lots of fruit trees which seemed to bear each year, so we canned fruit that we couldn’t eat in season. I thought we were very poor, as we had no luxuries at all, such as bikes, toys, many clothes; just enough to get by and that was all. Of course I didn’t take into consideration the wide open spaces, and all we could eat and a place to sleep, a child never does, I don’t think. And if my Father had only held on to all he inherited, not even trying to add to it, we could have had many things as well as a college education, but as mentioned before he was a lover of sports, and he would go on hunting expeditions always with several of his friends, and would be gone for as long as two and three months at the time, and I am sure he paid a lot for the friends also, as most of them were from poor families. So one can imagine how quickly the money that was left would dwindle down. Also on these hunting trips, there was plenty of liquor downed, another expense. So we just grew up like Topsy, more on our own.
Our Mother was a very religious person and tried to instill in us right from wrong, but her health as I remember it was not too good. My Grandmother, which by the way was the only Grandparent that I ever knew, lived with us and was very healthy and small and wiry, and she did all of the cooking, so far as I can remember, but the older girls told me that they came in for a great share of it too.
Another thing that I remembered so well was when I was 4 years of age, my Mother and I went to the other little town that was ten miles from us, Littleton, North Carolina, and had our pictures made by a real Photographer, and there was a train that ran through the middle of this little town, most of it was freight, but there was also two passenger cars attached, and one could go from there to most anyplace you wanted to go, by changing trains lots of times.
I had never seen a train before, and my mother told me that it was a large thing and could be hissing steam as it pulled into the Station, but I told her that I was not afraid of any old train, but believe me, when it did pull into the Station, I know I was frightened, even if I tried not to show it. I was dressed in my one and only Sunday best, and my sisters had rolled up my hair the night before on rags, as I had very straight hair and wore it in pigtails, as it was less bother that way, but when I saw myself with curls down to my shoulders, I am sure I felt like a Princess. I remember this as if it was yesterday, and I still have the picture.
We didn’t know too much about my Father as we saw him very little, as he was away so much of the time, and when he was home, he liked to be off playing cards with his friends and having his liquor. So it is too bad he didn’t play an important part in my life. In fact, I knew him better in the latter years of his life than I did before. But it was too late then to make up for the years that I didn’t know him. He had lots of kin that would come for a days visit and of course we would have dinner for them, and I would look forward to these dinners, as the best dishes and food would be served and I loved to hear them talk of the things that were happening.
We didn’t have much of a chance to go to school, as there was a one-room schoolhouse for all ages, grown men down to 6 years old. I can remember my first day at school, we had a young teacher then, and I am very sure she didn’t know how to cope with those grown men and all ages. The older ones had a desk of sorts, while the younger ones had to sit on a long bench, of which there were several, and I was scared my first day, and as the kids came in, I was pushed along further on the bench until I was pushed off the end. Of course I thought I was harmed forever. I said I wouldn’t go back to school, but of course my Mother said I would and she won.
I never learned a thing that year, as I don’t believe that teacher ever knew I was there. But the next three years, we had a Maiden teacher, that I thought was beautiful, but I am sure she was in her late thirties. She roomed and boarded at our house, and she helped me a lot with my reading, as I learned to read very fast and loved it, but Math, I hated and still do. She taught me the basics of knowledge, and reading and spelling came natural to me. If I had access to a library, am sure I could have educated myself, which I did to a certain degree.
I finally went to live with a married sister who lived in Littleton, North Carolina, where they had a High School, but I soon found out that I was so behind all the other students who had been taught from the ground up, I just could not try and finish, as it was making a nervous wreck of me, and that is when I quit and went to work for this Dentist in Warrenton, North Carolina, as I said before.
We were never told anything about the birds and the bees at home, but learned all we knew from larger kids at school, but my Mother had instilled in us right from wrong, and I don’t think I will ever forget that.
After raising 9 children and all the diapers and getting up at night, she felt she had done her duty, but very shortly after the ninth, she found she was pregnant again, much to her dismay, I am sure. And I have heard her say so many times that she was so tired of having children, that if unborn happened to be a girl, she was sure going to name her Hope, hoping I would be the last; I was, and she did. You know, as a child, this was quite a sorrow to me, as all of my cousins and the kids that I knew had a middle name, and I was just plain Hope, so I gave myself several middle names, but they didn’t stick, and I am very thankful that they didn’t.
My mother’s oldest sister, by the second marriage, Elizabeth Egerton, who married an up and coming young man by the name of Richard Blount Davis, [Husband: Richard Blount Davis, born May 11, 1866, son of James Davis and Mary Cofield Cheek
Wife: Mary Elizabeth Egerton, born August 16, 1872, daughter of Elizabeth Darien Cheek and Harry Thomas Egerton] and it seemed everything he touched turned into money, but had had a real business head and seemed to be at the right place at the right time and knew enough to take advantage of same, and to this union were born 12 children, of which Mr. Gilbert, wrote at length in his article, and all of these 12 children ranged in age similar to Mother’s 10, so I was never without someone to play with.
And I must say all of my cousins were very generous to me, as they had all of the luxuries that I longed for. And I would like to insert here something I forgot to add to my childhood at home, and that is I never hung up my stocking for Santa, like all my cousins did. My Mother said you had to pay Santa, and there was no money to pay him, and I would be more disappointed if I hung up my stocking and there was nothing in it, than if I would try to forget it. But I insisted that just maybe Santa, would stop by once and leave me something, but my Mother won out, and I never did. But the big surprise, which I will never forget, came when I was 7 years old. I woke up on Christmas morning expecting it to be like all the others, but by the side of the bed, was a cane bottom chair, that one of the folks that my Grandfather owned, had made, and in it was a doll, an apple, orange, some candy and a large bunch of raisins. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but my Mother told me one of my brothers put it there, as she did not want me to think Santa would keep coming. But no matter how it got there, it was the one thrill of my life.
And another one that I forgot to mention, was when my older sister had married and lived in Buffalo, New York, she sent me one Christmas, a large book of Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Anderson. I read this book until I wore it out.
Back to my cousins who shared all of the wonderful things they had with me. Their Father was the first to own anything that came along, the first riding horse, first buggy with rubber tires, first lawn swing, all first toys, bikes or anything that came out new, they had it. He also owned the first Surrey with the fringe on top, and of course the first automobile, Ford Touring, and I was included in all of these things.
And most of all the Country Store which I will never forget as long as I live, only wish I could include the sketch that Mr. Gilbert made of it, so you could see just how it looked. It was a very large building, much longer than it was wide, and believe me, it had everything in it, and I mean everything from farm implements to a paper of pins and needles. I would hurry with my chores at home as fast as I could so I could spend several hours each day there, even while the other children were playing games, I would rather wander through the store and imagine each of the things that I would choose each day if I had the chance. I did this so much it seemed almost if it was true. I would include all of the things that I knew my Mother could use so well, and even some gifts.
At that time or rather in that era, it seemed that most things were shipped in wooden containers. In the back of the store, there was a large barrel with hoops all around it and it stood about four feet high, and was put on a low platform, and at the bottom of this barrel, was a spigot, and the barrel contained black strap molasses. Folks from all over the rural communities would come with their containers to get the molasses. Of course, we had our share, not that I like it, but my Mother said it was very good for you, a regular Spring Tonic. I would mix what I had to eat with butter and it would go down easier that way.
And the huge barrels of all kinds of lovely candies, all in wood. My favorite came in a smaller flat wooden box and was made of coconut and each strip was about three inches wide and each a different color, and the same with the huge bunch of raisins, which seemed so large and juicy, these were also in the smaller boxes.
The large round cheeses, these were in very large round wooden boxes with another box top that fit all the way to the bottom. I can taste that cheese right now, I have never tasted any like it since. The customers would buy it by the pound, but whatever the clerk cut off, be it one pound of two pounds, they would always take it. And the boxes were spoken for far in advance, as the ladies wanted them for foot stools, they would have a cotton batting put on top of the box, then the top would be quilted and the whole thing covered with the cloth, and they were very pretty and handy.
Also all kinds and sizes of nails came in small wooden kegs, and as these kegs were empty, they were turned bottom side up and used for seats, especially in winter time for the men who would congregate around the stove and chew tobacco and discuss the happenings of the day. The stove was another odd thing longer than wide and had two plates on top that you could remove to put in paper and trash to burn, and also they would keep a coffee pot on it for the ones that had to be out in the cold. After the fire was well going, you could put a large oak log on it through the front door, and you wouldn’t believe how long that would hold the heat. These men would be so interested in what they were saying, I am sure I was never noticed as I walked through the store.
There was almost any canned goods that you would want, all kinds of pop, package cookies and crackers, popcorn, flour, meal, all kinds of edibles. Anything in the line of hardware and school supplies, handkerchiefs, all kinds of tobacco, snuff and even jewelry, bolt after bolt of lovely material with colored designs on them, and each day I would pick a different pattern for a dress to be made for myself, and with matching bloomers. I will never know why my Mother objected to my wearing bloomers, as all of the kids wore them, but not me. I had to wear what they called Drawers with hamburg lace around the bottoms. I was so ashamed of these. But in my mind, I enjoyed the bloomers in the store that I never had.
There were shoes, hose, rubbers, all kinds of canning jars and tins, as well as kettles and pans, lamps and lanterns, always plenty of kerosene oil and turpentine. And gum camphor which my Mother would get several blocks and mix with moonshine whiskey in a large glass decanter with a glass stopper, and this was good for anything from cuts to bee stings. And I must not forget the Lydia Pinkham’s Compound, that was also good for what ails you. I am sure my Mother, took her share of it, as well as all the other ladies of the community. I can’t remember how all the wonderful things that store contained, but as sure I have left out some of the main things.
Anyway, up towards the front of the store was a boxed-in affair with a window to it and in the back were a lot of pigeon holes that were arranged alphabetically, and this was the Post Office, and as a small place as Grove Hill was, you could mail a letter there and it would go to most anyplace in the U.S. Each morning, about 10 a.m., the mailman would arrive in his horse and buggy to pick up the mail to carry to another small community, known as Macon, North Carolina, and it had a train that ran through it, mostly freight, but a couple of passenger cars that one could take to most anyplace, by changing from train to train. The train would stop if there were any passengers waiting, but if not, the mail would be thrown out in a sack to be sorted at the Macon Post Office and then given to our mailman to be brought to the Grove Hill Post Office with a horse and buggy and especially when the roads were in ruts such as we had in the winter, the mailman would make slow progress, but as a rule, he would arrive in the evening about 5 p.m. and this was a time of great expectation, as so many folks would be there to see if they had any mail. So many of them would order things from Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Catalogue, and they seemed to think it would be back in two or three days, which of course it wasn’t.
Then too, so many of them had children who lived in other places and they would write quite often. And I think mostly, they would be there just to talk and see what others were thinking about. Naturally, everyone read the Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward yearly catalogues, and nothing was wasted, as when the new one arrived the older one was taken to the outside toilet. I too seemed to like the bustling of the folks and the eagerness that they showed when the mailman arrived. We subscribed to the Atlanta Constitution, which arrived weekly, and I read it from beginning to end. Most of the other folks that I knew subscribed to it also. It was about the only outside news around.
After I lingered in the store as long as I wanted to, I would join the other kids outside in the games. And lots of times when it came time to eat lunch, they would not want to have to go to the house to eat, as I am sure they had to wash their face and hands, and too they did not want to take that much time, so their Father, or most likely the clerk, as Father was out most of the day attending to all the other projects that he owned, and the clerk would open several cans of Vienna Sausages, can of salmon and several boxes of soda crackers, and each kid would have a bottle of pop, and would take it out under a large tree that had a table and a long bench under it, and what a feast they would have, I was also included in all of this, as well as a drink from one of the pop bottles when I wanted it. Vienna Sausage, was my favorite at that time of all food.
They had a large tree in their backyard, a cherry tree, I don’t know the name of it but it was loaded each year with cherries, and they ripened in May, so the kids called them May Cherries, they would not be a deep red, but rather pink and on one side a deeper pink, kind o’ like a peach. They would melt in your mouth. We would all climb the tree and eat as many as we possibly could, then have to lie on the grass to re-cuperate before we could start another game.
The best game of all, would be late in the evening, as when all the farmers brought their cotton to be ginned, that is to have the seed removed from the lint, then it was baled in a large bale, weighing from 150 to 300 pounds each, and these would be put in the yard by the cotton gin, as many as 50 at one time, as they had to have a drying-out period, and each would be put on a shallow platform and about a foot apart so that the air could circulate.
Our game would be to have a count-down for about a dozen kids more or less, and the last one had to be ‘it’, and this one would stand by a tree with their eyes closed, no peeking, and count to 50, then they would wheel around and make a dash for one of the kids who would be standing close by but who would run like rabbits and go up those bales of cotton so fast, and as each bale was encased in a loose bagging material with large hoops around it, you could get a toe-hold on it very fast, most of the time we were barefoot. But always one of the kids who was a bit on the heavy side or would get to laughing, would be caught, so then they had to be ‘it.’ This would go on until almost dark, then I would have to run for home, as I dared not be out after dark, and at that time, my legs seemed to be made of rubber, as a hop and a skip and I could be home, no effort at all. Now that I am a Senior Citizen, both my husband and I living in the state of Florida, city of Port Charlotte, I wish for those rubber legs again.
My mother’s sister, Eliza, as she was called, and we all called her Aunt Eliza, and she was able to afford quite a few luxuries. She had a colored cook, one that did the laundry, and one that just helped in the house with the kids and the cleaning, and the three ladies were triplets, by the name of Adeline, Angeline and Emmaline. I thought these were the prettiest names I had ever heard. My Aunt Eliza, called my Mother, Sister. I often wonder if my cousins remember all of these things as well as I do, but they were so used to them, I doubt if they did. Things have changed so much since then, many of the kids have passed away, and most live in far away places, but my memory of the Country Store, will never leave me.
My sister wrote that she was coming to pay us a visit at Grove Hill, and her children had never been to the country, so she was busy explaining to them what to expect, and she said she didn’t know exactly how to explain the outside toilet, especially to the girl, Lela.
Now I was 7 years and a few months older than Lela, so I was looking forward to the visit as I expected to have some fun with them. The boy seemed to take things in his stride, not asking too many questions, but Lela was different, she had to know the whys and wherefores of all things. She seemed to like chickens, and could put up with the cows, of which we had two, one a very large reddish Jersey, the other a smaller beige colored Jersey. My Mother loved the farm and anything connected with it, especially the chickens and cows. She had the two cows named, the large one was Rose, while the smaller one was Pretty Thing, and they really knew their names.
The horses seemed a bit large to Lela, but she kept saying to her Mother, when are we going to see the outside toilet, so my sister said I should take her to see it, as maybe it would be best that way, so we started out on a slow walk to see it, and it was quite a little way from the house, so all the way she was asking questions in that Northern brogue, which I enjoyed hearing, as I had never heard anything but a Southern drawl. She asked me if the chickens went to the outside toilet, and I said yes (all the time bursting with laughter) and the cows too, yes, and she stopped still in her tracks with a very defiant attitude, which she could do to perfection and said, “Well, I will go with the chickens and the cows, but I REFUSE to go with the horses.” I laughed so hard she must have thought I had gone beserk.
Then another time, my Mother always milked the cows, and the cows were turned into a large pasture early in the morning, then about 5 p.m. they would come up to the gate to be milked. My Mother and Lela and I were on the way to the place where the cows are milked, and you could see the cows quite a way from the gate, so my Mother would stand at the gate and call as usual, “come on Rose, come on Pretty Thing,” and as she would call several times the cows would moo, and after several times of this Lela could stand it no longer, so she said, “they are coming Grandma, can’t you hear them talking.”
But aside from the funny thing about the outside toilet and milking the cows, there were very few questions asked. Both of the children were very pretty, the boy had lovely wavy hair, and Lela, had a mass of curls all over her head. The Father, had nice curly hair, this is the one thing that I envied her of. Lela’s Mother said when she would take the children downtown to Buffalo, so many people would say to Lela What pretty hair or some remark, and this one day, this man stopped her and said “My, you are a pretty little girl.” And she kept right on walking, answering, “I know it.” My sister said she felt like vanishing then and there.
Now I want to get back to Jim, the Gardener. When I first remembered him, he must have been in his early seventies. He was very tall, and stood so erect. He had a long white beard which he kept neatly trimmed and white hair, which he wore almost to his shoulders, much like the young men do today. Jim was very distinguished looking, he reminded me of the Southern Colonels. He was supposed to have been colored, but was just as white as the rest of us, and I never believed he was colored.
He loved his house, which was one large room with a fireplace and of course, a chimney. My brother and I loved to go into his room late in the evening and he would tell us tales of his younger days, and of course some fairy tales. He passed away in his eighties, and I can’t remember just how old he was, but he was very active almost to the end, but whenever he was sick and could not come for his meals, some of us would take them to him and see that he had a fire and kept warm. We would even wash his face and comb his hair, when he did not feel like doing it, as he liked to look well at all times. I am sure all 10 children will always remember him very kindly.
My grandmother Powell, lived until the year 1914, she was 82. After she passed away, I was the only child left at home, so my Mother, had to do a lot more work, with my help, even if she didn’t feel well. So in that way I had to learn to cook quite young, which I guess didn’t hurt me. After I gave up trying to keep up with all the kids at the Littleton High School, and came back home, I was at a standstill, as I didn’t know just what would happen to me next.
With my educational background, I couldn’t hope for much of a job, and as I was having quite a bit of trouble with my teeth, which had been neglected, and two of the molars were aching a lot and I guess my Father, got tired of hearing me complain, even though he didn’t have the money to get them fixed, he took me to Warrenton, to the leading Dentist there, Dr. Harry Walters, and wanted to know what it would cost to have them fixed. He was told that I would have to lose two of the molars, as they were beyond saving and also lots of fillings were needed.
I don’t remember what it cost, but he told my Father, that he was thinking of hiring a girl to help him with his work, as he was so busy that he could not possibly handle it, and asked if I would like the job. Of course, I told him I didn’t know one thing about dentistry, and he said he liked it better that way, as he could train me in the way he wanted. He also told my Father, if I took the job, he would fix all of my teeth free, which we both jumped at the chance. I was 15, at the time.
I would have to stay in Warrenton, as going back and forth would be out of the question. He, the Doctor, would see that I had a nice place to live, with his wife’s sister, whose husband died, and she had opened up a boarding house.
Now my niece, Lela, in the meantime quite High School the year before she graduated, and went to work. And after she had worked about a year, she decided she would visit me on her vacation, which she did, and she was quite a young lady by then, young but very sophisticated. Of course, she had no idea of staying in the country at Grove Hill, as she said there must be ghosts walking all over. So my Landlady said she could stay with me a while there.
Then the next year Mother and I went to Buffalo, New York, to visit and I had never been to the city before, and if I thought Lela was green in the country, I am sure she thought I was a real hick. The first thing that impressed me, everybody seemed to be in such a hurry as if the train was leaving, no one noticed you, in fact if you didn’t get out of the way, they would almost knock you down. No one stopped to say Hi, as I was used to, no conversation at all. This I didn’t like. Then the signals would be green, red, and amber, I couldn’t understand how they worked. A big crowd would be waiting and all of a sudden, they would hurry across the street. Lela tried to tell me the difference in them, but it didn’t sink in at that visit.
Another was we would go downtown and she would take the street car at one place on time and another later, then she would take it on one side of the street, then cross the street to take it the next time. She would always know when to get off, and never seemed to lose her balance. So I know I was very dumb to her.
After much hard soul-searching, I decided to go to Buffalo, and live with my sister, Nannie and her husband James A. (as he was called).
When I got to Buffalo, and that severe cold, I must admit that I wish I had had a second thought, but was determined to stick it out. I had several jobs, one especially was for a Shirt manufacturing company, and it was so very hard, I had such difficulty understanding the men that did the dictation on the Dictaphone, as I was not used to Northern Brogue, and I am sure they were not used to me either.
When I left Warrenton, North Carolina to go to Buffalo, I was going with a very nice boy, and we corresponded for about a year, he worked for the Texaco Company and they had a big lay-off, and since he was among the younger hired, he was one that was laid off. He wrote me about it, and I had a first cousin, one of the Davis boys that lived in Buffalo too, and he said they were hiring at the Chevrolet Plant there, and he was sure he could get him a job. So I wrote him this, and he decided to come to Buffalo.
He arrived in February, and it was a real snow blizzard when I met him at the train station, and he had on a top coat. I knew he would freeze before I could get him home. But he soon bought some long underwear, which was a name brand, cotton inside and wool outside, and of course a heavier coat. He also never thought he could stand it. But when you are in love, that covers a multitude of sins.
I know in every life, some rain must fall, but the sun always peeks out, and often we think why this had to happen to me. There is a reason, and while we may never know on this earth, maybe in the next world, we will know. One thing I am sure of, the Lord knows best. There is much more I could write about, but I think this has been about enough, so will stop, hoping for the best for the entire world, and I don’t believe anyone in the U.S. would change places with any other country. It is tops with me.
Mrs. Dewey Reynold Allen
This is an insert that I should have put in my article “The Country Store”, but it just didn’t occur to me at the right time, so will write it now, as this is two things that I remember so well.
Going back to the well at Grove Hill, that the British watered their horses and probably found some food, this well was not a rock walled one like the one at our home, but was a dirt well, and the bottom of the platform that was over this wall had begun to decay, and no one knew it was in as bad a condition as it was. So this one day a little colored boy was playing near and I guess he got the idea that he wanted to see where the water came from, so he stood on the decayed place and just slipped into the well. It was a lucky thing that several folks saw it, and a colored fellow that was near heard the commotion and he rushed over and there was no time to lose, so he consented right away to sit astride the oaken bucket and have a couple of men lower him into the well to try and get the boy, this was done in a big hurry and sure enough the man was able to grab hold of the boys clothing and yelled to pull them up. The little fellow was none the worse for his experience, but that platform was fixed immediately. The colored fellow that got him out was a nice man and he had seven children of his own. He was of a slight build, so he was light enough to do the job. Everyone respected this fellow, Jim Jones, and after that deed, he was a hero.
And concerning the second thing that I wanted to mention, was about the Reedy Creek Baptist Church. Every year, always in August, there would be a Revival of the week, one Sunday to the next Sunday. Always the regular Preacher and all through the week, different Preachers from other churches. This would be one of the big events of the year. The crops would be laid by (as they said then) and all the folks would have a little leisure time, and of course all of us could use all the religion we could get. This was not called a Revival, by the people of the church, but “The Big Meeting”, each lady would ask the other one, are you going to the Big Meeting on Monday or Tuesday? As all of them did not want to go at one time, except on a Sunday, and then the church would be bursting at the seams. The preaching would start at 10 in the morning, usually two Preachers speaking until 12 sharp, then there was a recess of one and one half hours (this I liked best) when dinner would be served on the grounds. It was a large place with loads of shade trees all around, and there were several long tables, which could be pushed together and long benches on each side, and if need be, smaller ones added. And all the ladies that attended each day would try and out-do the other with their picnic basket of dinner. Of course there wasn’t any refrigeration, so all things had to be cooked so they would not spoil, no dressing of any kind. The main meats were Southern fried chicken and country cured ham, huge platters of both, home-made bread, biscuits, muffins, and all kinds of casseroles of potatoes, all kinds of vegetables, and there were many. I liked the corn pudding so much. Baked beans, baskets of fruit in season, etc. Then the cakes and pies, cookies, raised doughnuts, all kinds of fancy breads. You name it and it was there. I think everyone ate until they could eat no more. But the other thing that interested me so was the Natural Spring, about half mile from church. I could not see how that water would always be spurting out of the ground and no well. But it was always there and very cold too, even in the hot weather of August. Some men made a three cornered brick wall of about two bricks high around it, and there was a stake driven into the ground and a heavy cord attached to the stake and on the end of same was a tin cup, so that anyone passing by could have a drink. We kids liked to stoop over and drink directly from the spurt of water.
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