Traveling Preachers in Hopkins County, Texas

 

No church-houses were to be seen. Preachers would sometimes come into the county. They were invariably invited, yea even persuaded to stop over and preach for a people hungry for the gospel. They passed over the country on horse back, perhaps a mustang, with saddle bags, Bible in one end and shirt in the other. They were given a cordial welcome, a kind reception, a hearty greeting among the pioneer settlers. The preacher of that day had a great deal to contend with. The people who moved to this county at that time did not come as a rule to seek religion. The dignified, elegantly dressed pastor of to-day, with his fluent speech and polished manner would doubtless have felt that he was a harbinger of refinement "crying in the wilderness of barbarism." He may have been a thing of beauty but certainly not a "joy forever." It is claimed that professional preachers of today are inclined to dictation. In these early times the pastor preached that it was every man's inalienable right as well as his indispensable duty to study the Bible for him-self sand to formulate his own faith, from the teachings of the Bible. The sick and the afflicted, the fatherless and the widow and especially the poor and the needy were visited by neighbors and the preacher. Gold and social influence was not exalted above piety and humble devotion in the church. Their motto was to save the sinners and if needs be let the devil take the church-house. The modern rule is "let the devil take the sinners and save our costly and fashionable church."

It is said that the first lumber, real sawed lumber, that was ever had in Hopkins County was sawed by a Mr. Jordan and son, on White Oak Creek, near the Clark crossing. It took several men to operate this primitive ma-chine for the manufacture of lumber. The log was hewed to a square with a broad axe and then lined on the upper and lower sides at every place where it was to be sawed. The people of that day had faults of course, but greed and avarice was not of them. Greed is the most pitiful passion that ever cursed mankind. This passion will induce those who are afflicted with the curse to endeavor to rent heaven out to be used as a pasture if, by so doing, they could make it profitable to themselves. Everybody was content to enjoy what few blessings they had without a desire to monopolize the world. Homesteads could be obtained by preemption, 320 acres to the head of a family, 80 acres to a single man. Men occupied government land in many places in the county for years without a shadow of legal title to it. Every neighbor knew that the only right they had to it was that they had selected it and built a house and cleared a farm on it. It was generally understood that anybody could file a legal claim upon such tracts of land at the government land office, and take them from the claimants with all the improvements belonging to them, and, yet, strange as it may appear to the two legged razor backs, such settlers were never molested. There was simply less greed for gain then than now. In that day of honesty, people had not learned to make a display of wealth. The richest people could only use what they could eat and wear, and the poor classes could easily gather that much from nature's bountiful supply by a little work. The old pioneer settler will endorse the author when he says, that day was an age of sociability, equality, hospitality and general neighborliness. Brother! Our dependence upon one another drew us close together.

House-raising, log-rolling and corn-shucking among the men, and quilting among the women, often called the entire neighborhood together for a day of work and social pleasure. The wife would invite her lady friends to a quilting, the same day the husband called his neighbor men to assist him at a log-rolling. While men and boys rolled logs, women and girls cooked and quilted, and all united in a big frolic at night. People married then as they do now. On Sulphur creek a Mr. R. married. He and his bride were members of good respectable families. Before the celebration of the marriage he leased a piece of land from Mr. H. which he agreed to clear and fence for the privilege of cultivating it for five years. He built a log cabin in which he proposed to go to house-keeping with the help of his prospective bride.

When their fortunes were united, they took an inventory of their available assets, which consisted of one old ox, a slide and a few articles of household and kitchen furniture which the bride received as bridal presents from her parents. As the bride was both a beauty and a reigning belle, she received many little presents from her acquaintances. The next day after the wedding the old ox was harnessed to the slide and the bride's goods were packed and placed in the slide, a bed, an oven, a skillet, a bucket and half dozen pair of deer hams, and a part of a side of hog meat, a gourd of lard and a gourd of sugar completed the inventory. The bride and the groom took a seat on top, of the load and with a gee-buck, and a hearty goodbye to their parents, started on a short bridal tour to the cabin in Sulphur bottom. In that day, some fifty years ago, there was nothing unusual about this bridal tour and whatever amusement it may excite now serves only to emphasize the changes that have taken place in the customs of the county since that time.

Emigrants to the county in this early day settled near and convenient to timber and water. Houses were all built of logs. Then the logs were cut and hauled to the place where the house was wanted, the neighbors were requested to come together on a set day and put up the building. This was called a house-raising. These logs were drawn by oxen, with the use of log chains, to the place of building. The house was always built in one day. The walls raised, floor laid often out of puncheons, and roof put on. The finishing touches, stopping the cracks, building the chimney and putting down the hearth were left for the owner to attend to in his own way and at such times as suited his convenience. It was no unusual thing to leave but the sleepers and use the ground, for a floor.

In fact when a man was able to have two houses, the one used for a kitchen and dining room almost invariably had a dirt floor. The old puncheon floors were neither air tight nor ornamental. The edges of each puncheon were hewed to a line with a broad axe, and when the cracks between them did not measure over an inch in width at any place the floor was considered good enough. Hens usually made their nests under the cabin floor, possibly to be safe from the intrusion of hawks, owls, minks, foxes and other enemies, and the ease with which the puncheon could be raised was a great convenience in getting eggs. It was almost an impossibility to obtain nails. The cracks between the logs in the walls of the cabin were "chinked" with small pieces of wood split for the purpose and daubed with mud made from red clay and plastered by hand. The process of "daubing" was quite simple. A man stood near the crack and threw the soft mud against the "chink" by handfuls with sufficient force to make it stick fast. The roof of every house was made of clap-boards. In the absence of nails the boards were put on the roof by means of "ribs," "butting poles," "knees," "end stuff" and "weight poles." Each of these words had a technical meaning in the architecture of that day which cannot be well understood without some knowledge of the construction of log cabins. When conditions changed and nails could be had, knees, weight poles and butting poles were dispensed with and the boards nailed to the ribs.

In a few years ribs were supplanted by the more stylish rafters and lathing. The chimney was built of wood and lined with mud made of clay. When the mud was thoroughly dry it was as hard as brick. When obtainable the fire place was lined bottom, back and sides with large flat rock. The top of the fire place in front was simply the first log of the cabin wall above the opening cut for the fire place. A log of unusual size was alway put in the back of the fire place and the rest of the wood was piled about in front. A back log would often last a day and night. When the nights were very cold a fire was kept up all night. The old timer who had built away out on the prairie hauled wood a long distance. No such things as carpets ever entered into the mind of the pioneer. These cabins usually had one door and one window. Water was hauled in kegs and barrels upon slides from the nearest creeks. While these streams did not run except wet or rainy weather, there were always deep holes of water in these dry creeks. Why the citizen did not take advantage of common sense principles, which was accepted by benighted heathen nations who dug wells and built cisterns centuries before our day is a profound mystery to all thinking people.

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