The Memoirs of Martha Frances Caudill Brown
There is especially one spot on the old home place that stands out so vividly in my (pg 37) mind. It was a small rock about ten or twelve feet across. It was hedged with the old eastern cedars that was tall enough that no one could see the rock unless they were near it. There was a natural bench in the rock about one foot in height that extended clear across the rock. I have gone to that secluded place and crawled under the cedar limbs that came so near the ground that no one could go under or thru them otherwise. It was not so far from the house but what I could hear mother call me. I would go there and read the best I could and kneel down by the bench mentioned and pray. All that I (pg 38) knew what to say was Oh God be merciful to me a sinner, oh lord thou son of David have mercy on me.
My two older sisters were more like twins. There was only one year and fourteen days difference in their age. The one next older than I was borned dead. And the one younger than I died at the age of seventeen months, so I always felt that I grewup somewhat alone as there was no one near my age.
When mother would buy any clothes for us she would get their clothes just a like. And my clothes were (pg 39) different in color or some way which I now believe made me feel more alone or one to myself. Why mother did so I do not know.
My mother had four brothers that was missionary Baptist preachers. My father told one of them, uncle Callie Blevins, if he would move near us he would give him half of his farm. And the line was run thru, leaving my father one hundred and seven acres of land and my uncle got one hundred and three. My uncle had a large family and he being a minister was a way from home (pg 40) quite a lot. My father and mother was very generous and sympathetic tried to supply the needs for my uncles family as well their own. Soon they found their selves unable to meet the needs of their own family.
In the year 1893 my father sold out the portion of the old home that he had kept and on the 21 st day of November of the same year before it was daylight we left for what we thought a long move. There was another family whose farm joined ours sold out and started out with us not knowing (pg 41) where they were going. There was six covered wagons, one horse team and five ox teams. Leaving early as we did before daylight, they drove all day and camped about twelve miles from home. We camped the first night near the top of the Blue Ridge Mountain which was said to be five miles from the foot to the top at that crossing. We were from noon until after dark going from near the foot of the mountain to where we camped. And we crossed over the top of the mountain about nine o’clock the next day. We was on the road five days and traveled the (pg 42) distance of about sixty miles.
My oldest sister (Susan Jane Caudill 3 Dec 1872--) was married and she rode with her husband (Leander Walker 11 Dec 1871--). He was driving an ox team. My father (John P. Caudill 25 Feb 1850--) was driving an ox team also and mother (Rhoda C. Blevins 19 Oct 1849--) and the two youngest children (Geneva and Rebecca Eliz. 22 Oct 1885--) rode with him, leaving my sister older than I and me to see that the cows went in the right roads at the crossing. After a short while they would follow the wagons. One time I got behind all the wagons and came to a small stream that was frozen over and no way to cross. Only to walk across (pg 43) on the bottom rail of an old rail fence and hold to the rails above, I slipped off. One foot broke thru the ice and my foot was so badly frozen that I had to ride quite a bit of the time.
Although I walked, must have been two hours after I got my foot wet before we came to New River. The river was wide and at common time could be easily forded with a team. There was an awful lot of mush ice going down the river and it was turning colder, the ice freezing worse. We stayed there some time before any (pg 44) one ventured to drive in. My brother in law (Leander Walker) took one of the horses out and rode across. The ice was frozen for aways out from the banks. The ox team could not get out on the opposite side from where we were. The horse he rode in would strike the ice with one foot until it was broken, then go on doing the same as it came to the unbroken ice until a way was broken thru. Then the ox teams were driven thru. The water came well up on the sides. We sure felt relieved when all was safe (pg 45) across the river.
We camped out every night but one and we stayed at my uncles ( ? ) that night. My mother’s brother (Callie Blevins) my father’s brother ( ? ), that was with us would go on ahead late in the afternoon to find a place to camp near water and near where someone lived. He would take forked limbs and drive them in the ground and arrange like a fire made in a fireplace where we cook our meals. Bake corn bread in the old fashioned baker and lid, and milk the cows and how we did enjoy our meals. After supper mother would cook pork or whatever she wished for the next day. She had about six feather beds and she would make our bed on the ground. Father and mother would sleep (pg 46) on one side of the bed and my sister and her husband on the other side and we four children between them. The other family (?) that was with us had six children and they also camped out. One night we was awakened by snow falling in our faces. One evening I was real hungry and ate some boiled spare ribs for supper and when I awoke I was lying on my stomach with my head draped up and was trying to vomit. I sure was a sick girl. There was two nights we had to take our beds up and put them in the (pg 47) wagons to keep them from getting wet.
At the end of the fifth day we arrived at the house our father had got for us to move into. It was a log house about 18 X 20 with a rugged stone chimney and a ladder in one corner to go up in the upstairs. The joists were round poles and loose lumber laid down on them to make the upstairs floor. There was a side room built to it that we used for a kitchen. It also had a small rough built chimney. It was a cold rough winter. The snow would blow in the upstairs or up in the loft as there was no stair way except (pg 48) a ladder. We would sweep it down and carry it out . We had to carry water quite a ways up a hill. My father got quite sick that winter and my sister and I had to take a cross cut saw and cut wood. And then we would take an old mule our father had bought and hitch her to a sled and haul the wood to the house. We stayed on that place we had rented and made a crop of corn as the place my father had bought was all in woods. In the spring of that year we took the logs off a large field and planted it in corn. The corn was up nice and we had hoed quite (pg 49) a bit of it out and on the 19 th of May it began to snow. It snowed for three days. Quite a lot of course melted as it fell but the snow got about six inches deep and our corn all froze down. We went over the field and replanted it but the corn that was froze outgrew the last planted and we had to pull up the last we planted. There was about eight or nine acres in the field.
After we got the crop gathered, my father cleared off a place to build on the land he had bought as it was all in woods. He was anxious to get moved on it so he could be clearing (pg 50) the land. The first house was warm and cozy in a way. My father first dug holes and planted posts then he put siding or weather boards on the post until he got the sides as high as he wished then he covered it all one way. The floor was close on the ground. A chimney built in a way that we could have a good fire but looked more like it was built for a outside furnace.
One camping place we all worked like men. My sister and I would saw logs with a cross cut saw. Sometimes I would take (pg 51) an axe and chop for hours clearing off the ground. We could not get land enough cleared for a crop the first year after we moved there. So my father rented a field about two miles from our home. There was ten acres in the field and after the corn was planted we did the rest of the work with our hoes. At one time my father made a fairly good living with his hands. But he was the most big hearted generous person I ever knew and he helped others until he found his own family in need.
So the first summer we lived in our (pg 52) new home. While mother and we children tended the crop, my father hauled lumber across the mountain with an ox team to buy the family supplies which was very meager. We worked from early until late as we could not hire any help. I was stronger than my sister and could stand to do hard work more all the time than she. One of mothers cousins (?) wanted to hire one of us girls to work for her a while as she had a new baby. So my sister went to work for her. I did not know how to do very much cooking as I had did outside work most all my life. (pg 53) I worked at home and when my sister would have to wash mother sent me to help her. There was nine in the family, seven children and the washing had to be done on a board. She stayed and worked two weeks. The last week, everything that could be gathered up to be washed was put in the wash. I don’t think we got it done in one day. When it came time to pay her, the husband of the woman she was working for did not want to pay her but one dollar for the full two weeks. She told him she wanted one dollar and a half. After quite a bit of complaint, (pg 54) he paid the $1.50.
My sister got 8 1/3 c. per year. She gave me half which was my wedding dress. It was not much better than common cheese cloth. Was blue, white, red, yellow and black. And I don’t know how many more colors it had in it. I had only one pair of shoes thru that summer. I would wear them and hoe corn all week thru. Then on Saturday afternoon I would wash them good all inside and outside and grease them and black them and wear them to church on Sunday, that is when I would go to church. I stayed at home until the (pg 55) crop was gathered in, as I knew my father and mother so much needed my help.
On the 17 th day of Nov. 1895, I was married to a young man (Jonathon A. Brown 2 May 1874--) I had met about two years prior to that time. I thought at that time and do yet, that he was one among the best of young men. I never told my father or mother I was going to get married. I left that for my future husband to do. Well the day came the set time we was to be married. I did not change clothes until I saw him coming. My mother had always told we girls that we should be very careful as to not put too much (56) faith in what a young man told us and my husband had to prove his word to me before I was convinced of his sincerity. The day of our wedding we went off as usual on Sunday morning. The family knew we was going to be married as I had told my sister. I had a new pair of shoes was all I had that was new. We reached the school house where we was going to meeting. The house was small and well crowded. My husband found a seat down in the audience and some other girls and I sat up on the rostrom where the preachers sat. (pg 57) Just about the time the meeting closed, I looked across at him and shook my head. He stood by the aisle, as I walked out he whispered to me when I came to him “Are you going to back out on me now” ? I said no but don’t talk to the preacher now. So he waited until most of the crowd had left and then he spoke to the preacher. We walked out the road to an oak tree and was married.