It was an original land grant farm to Mr. Douglas Guttery. It had been sold to Mr. E.C. Ellison, a business man from Scotland who came to the fast-growing coal mine district and built a furniture store. He and my dad were good friends, and he rented the big farm to my father. They had a great relationship and became a part of our family. I still cherish several of their personal items after over 70 years.
There were two porches on the front — one at each level. Square white posts stood the height of the two floors. A glass door with two sidelights dominated the front. The floor plan consisted of two, large fireplace rooms on the front with a wide hall running between the rooms from the front door to the back. On the left back was an offset with a wall of shelves for canned goods. A door led to a bedroom and on the right side was the large kitchen.
The kitchen had a wood-burning stove. There was a water tank on the right, warming closets on top with two doors, the fire-box and a large oven. A dish and storage cabinet stood in one end; a meal/flour bin with a hinged lid was against a wall. The dominant feature was a long, harvest table with a bench the length of the back, chairs at each end and down the other side. The parents had a special place to sit. Mama was at the end next to the stove so she could serve as needed, Daddy sat the first place to her left and kept complete control. One more shelf held water for kitchen use. Cooking pots and pans hung on the wall to the side and back of the stove.
The two front bedrooms each had a huge rock fireplace. The rocks were beautiful, hand-hewn stone from the farm. A bed was on each side of the room at the back. Chairs were grouped in front of the fireplace. Later, a battery operated radio stood on the floor to the right in the room on the right of the hall. I can remember the first time I heard a radio play. For the first time, we had linoleum covering in the “front room.” I rolled on the smooth surface of the floor like a puppy and never felt so happy in my life.
The radio brought neighbors in on Saturday night to listen to the “Grand Old Opera” and other times, “Amos and Andy.”
The bedroom on the left of the hall at the front was much the same as the other, the difference being the stairway going to the upstairs. There were three bedrooms, a front room (which also was used for a bedroom/sitting room), a kitchen, and pantry on the upper floor. A large, open area was at the top of the stairs where the glass doors with side glass led to the porch. This top floor was used many times by older brothers before they moved their brides out and my mother’s parents at one time.
The extra large room to the left at the top of the stairs had at one time been two rooms. Much of the time we lived there, this was used as a “lockup room.” Anything that the boys could sneak out to sell for cigarettes or movie tickets was stored in this room with a padlock on the door. The girls were trusted with a key to go get an item that Mama needed. My sister, Ollie, was a soft touch and my brothers would get her to go up and throw gallons of sorghum syrup out the window to them. They would take the buckets into the coalmining town of Townley and sell to the B. Grusin Store or trade for “goodies.”
After the crops were “laid by” in the summer, the men folk would get out the crosscut saws and axes, and make their annual trek into the woods to cut the winter’s supply of firewood for the house. Later, the wood used for the stove would be split and stacked in a shed to season for the cook stove. The logs were stacked high for the fireplaces.
The barn nearest the house was used for the milk cows. The loft was filled with hay and became a favorite place for all of us to swing from the rafters and drop into the sweet hay. Nearby stood the big “wagon shed” and blacksmith shop. Close by was the dug well for house use. We had “running water” back then. Mama would hand one of us a bucket and tell us to “run to the well and get a bucket of water.” Away from the house were the mule barn and the corncrib. The dug well, lined with hewn stone was used for drawing water for the animals. It was also used to put gallons of milk down on a rope in the morning for supper that night.
At the back of the house was the pigpen where there were always varying sizes of hogs growing. The smokehouse held hams and sides of bacon hickory smoked, and hanging inside toesacks. ( the name of these sacks to a farm kid) waiting for the order to “run cut a slab of meat.” The chicken house was to the right of the other buildings and it was a fun thing to do to gather the eggs. We often found stolen nests in the hay and other places. The last building out back and sitting farther away was the outdoor toilet, a two-holer. That was never a favorite place to be. Kids could always find a sheltered spot somewhere on the farm to go.
The fields were carefully laid out. Each field had a name. We knew where we were to work that day by name. Sorghum Cane, peas, corn, cotton, potatoes, were in fields and the vegetables were in the large garden spot. We always had big patches of peanuts. They were a favorite on a cold winter day as they came out of the oven parched and hot. Popcorn was popped in the winter in wire baskets with a long handle over the open fire in the fireplace. Black walnuts were a wonder in a cake, as were hickory nuts. We had large trees. My dad planted pecans and we had those after a few years.
The farm was an original land grant to Douglas Guttery (Guthrie). At the time we lived there, Mr. E.C. Ellison and a partner had bought it. They divided the large acreage. My daddy and Mr. Ellison were lodge brothers and a great friendship developed between them. Mr. Ellison never had children and he sort of adopted me. I was an avid reader and Mr. and Mrs. Ellison brought their magazines to me when they had finished reading them. I could hardly wait for the next edition of the Saturday Evening Post. There were continued stories and it was agony to wait for the next episode. These fine, generous people gifted us at Christmas with fruit and candy, a real treat in those days.
Our home was in the heart of the community. My dad was a successful farmer. Others came to him for advice and he shared his knowledge and farm implements freely. He carried food from the farm to families in the town when times were hard. We never knew we were poor because we ate well, and never had anything to compare to our way of life. If “ignorance is bliss,” we were the most blissful family around. We did not long for “things” because we had no idea of what was going on outside our world. Life on the farm was a good teacher of work ethics that would carry us to far-reaching places with odd-sounding names. I had already found those places through the pages of books.