Every Day Life in Hopkins County, Texas

 

There was in an early day in Hopkins County a fine range for all kinds of stock-hogs, horses and cattle. Mast in the timber on the creeks was abundant and hogs gathered a bountiful living in the forest. The branches of forest trees would bend and break under their load of acorns and nuts, and no one pretended to feed hogs only to keep them tame. Every man killed his meat from the woods. The country was peculiarly adapted to the raising of every variety of poultry. All kinds of domestic fowls supported themselves and raised their young by scratching for bugs, and every family was abundantly supplied with eggs and chickens the year round, practically without expense or a great deal of trouble.

The greatest and only difficulty in raising poultry was the trouble of protecting the fowls from the ravages of minks, foxes, hawks, owls, polecats and chicken snakes. Those who craved a stronger beverage than milk at regular meals contented themselves with tea made from sassafras roots. Persimmon beer was used at the table of many of the early settled families. The ripe persimmons were put in a large keg, warm water was poured on them and left to ferment, when it was ready to serve. Used with baked sweet potatoes it made a nutritious and very strengthening diet.

Cows found abundant food in the range the year round, grasses of all kinds grew without stint, and the prairie part of Hopkins County afforded the best range for cows. The canebrakes on the creek bottom furnished an inexhaustible supply of excellent provender for them during the winter, and grass grew luxuriantly all over the county during the spring, summer and fall. Every family was therefore abundantly supplied with milk and with butter without any expense at all beyond the small amount of labor necessary to prepare such things for the table.

Household furniture was all made by hand out of rough timber and with crude tools. An ax, a saw and a drawing knife and a few plain augers and chisels of different sizes constituted the full kit of tools of the best equipped workmen. With such tools were made all the chairs, stools, benches, tables and bedsteads. There was not a bureau, sideboard, washstand or wardrobe in the whole county. Such a thing as a piece of painted or varnished furniture of any kind was unheard of. There was not even a sawmill anywhere in reach of the pioneer settler. Sixty years ago a furnished room contained a bed, a few rough chairs and stools and a long bench, a dining table and a cupboard made of boxes or rough cheap boards. The average residence had but one room, which served all the purposes of a parlor, sitting room, library, family room, bedroom, kitchen and dining room.

A brief description of a fashionable bedstead will give the reader an idea as to the general character of household furniture, and illustrate how it could all be made from rough lumber by awkward workmen with a few crude tools, already described. A bedstead had but one leg or post, which stood near one corner of the cabin. The distance from the lone post to the log walls of the cabin was about four feet in one direction and seven feet in another. These distances measured the width and length of the bed. The leg or post was simply a stick of timber about as large as a man's leg, and as high as his waist, split from a, tree, hewed square with an ax, and smoothly dressed with a drawing knife. Large auger holes were bored in two sides of the post near the top, and similar holes were made in the logs in the walls of the cabin at the same height. Two pieces of timber prepared after the same manner as the post, one four feet long and the other seven, served as rails of the bedstead. The ends of the rails were trimmed to fit the holes in post and walls, and one end of each rail was driven into a hole in the post and the other driven into a hole in the cabin wall.

This made the framework of the bedstead. Rough clapboards were placed over this frame after the manner of slats, and dry cowhide, hair turned up, was spread over the clapboards to complete the groundwork of the bed. Economy, utility and durability were the strong points of these old-time bedsteads.

The people in that early day had no locks to anything. It is told as a story perhaps, that the first lock that ever came into Hopkins County was bought by a farmer and attached to the door of his corncrib. It aroused the indignation of the whole neighborhood and the people in mass meeting assembled and compelled him to remove it. They held that it was a reflection upon the honesty of the neighborhood, and an insult to the whole community. They freely granted that he had a perfect right to lock things from his own children in his own house if he felt so disposed, but to turn a key in the face of the whole community was a public insult they would not submit to.

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