Fannin County, Texas

Reminiscences at Seventy-Nine, by Mrs. J. L. Caylor


[Jennie Stubbs Caylor is buried at Willow Wild Cemetery]

From the Bonham Herald, December 29, 1932


By Myrtle Hancock

"No, I'm not going to tell you because you want it for the papers," said that kindly, modest gentlewoman with fine brown eyes and clear skin, Mrs. J. L. Caylor, when I went to see her on occasion of her seventy- ninth birthday. “Or course, I coaxed, "you wouldn't for your own sake, but there are so many other people who don't know the interesting things you do." So, we fell to talking.

First, she told me of how the family came from Cumberland County, East Tennessee, when she was only four years old. The father and other members of the family drove the covered wagons, while the mother drove the learn of horses hitched to a large vehicle somewhat like a surrey, but then called a hack. She had to use the brake so much that a large bunion developed upon her foot and it was necessary for her to wear specially made shoes designed and made by her husband. The family wagon train first stopped at Paris, Texas, to visit a brother of the mother, Shiloh Stubbs. They then went on into Hunt county and settled upon a farm 10 miles north of Greenville where the neighbors, as was then the custom, came over and helped build the house which was made of logs, notched at the ends to fit together. After the logs had been put in place they were chinked with a mixture of hay and mud and chimneys were made of slats chinked with mud reinforced with hay. Sometimes these chimneys caught on fire and the boys had to crawl on the roof to put out the fire. In front was a big room then, connected with a passage where one went down and up again, was the dining room. The kitchen had a big stick and mud fireplace wide enough to burn cord wood. From one side to the other about half way back was an iron rod which was built into the chimney. Over this rod a log chain was looped and into these loops hooks were put to hold the iron kettles in which the cooking was done. Sometimes as many as three of these big kettles were used at one time. Then big, wide, iron shovels with iron handles, beaten out at the blacksmith shop were used to pull out the coals to the front of the fireplace. Over these coals the iron ovens, which had legs, were put and in these ovens the women of the family baked potatoes, bread, etc. Mrs. Taylor said her mother made salt rising bread twice each week. Can't you smell it and don't you know the family of thirteen - there were twelve children and the mother “just took" two more walked about easy while it was coming up?

To one side of the kitchen was a big closet in which meal and other provisions were kept. The kitchen floor was of dirt and Mrs. Caylor says she used to sweep it with a broom made of broom weeds gathered from the prairie and tied to a handle with a cord made from cotton spun by the mother. The black land which made the floor became packed and the floor was hard and smooth.

In those days the school was held in church House. The first school she attended was known by the poetic term of "Hog Eye", though why is not known. Relatives came to visit by the week. Deer were to be seen in gangs of twelve. With their heads adorned with long horns, held high, they would go galloping by in a row. Panthers could be heard as their terrifying screams rent the air.

The nearest neighbor was a Methodist minister,Reverend Culver and he lived half a mile away. The whole family often went to camp meeting which was held under a brush arbor. The first church built was small but well attended and the behavior was of the best, to use her own words, "never saw such reverence in my life."

The first school was a log house with split logs for seats. These logs were arranged around the sides of the room so that the walls served as bench backs. The legs were made of pieces of hewn limber nailed together in the shape of an X. Here, too, the floor was of dirt.

There was no need for any member of a well regulated family to be idle then. Out-of-door work kept the men busy and the women had a schedule which kept even the children busy.

On Monday the general house work was attended to and wool and cotton were carded and spun. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday had somewhat the same work. Friday was wash day and on Saturday the clothes were ironed and the mother mended them.

Now, the general house work included mopping the floors, making bread, cooking, as already described, over the open fire, making soap, etc. Mops were made by the father. They were of thick wood about 12x6 inches in size with a handle, like a broom handle attached to the center. Holes were bored all through this piece and then corn was taken out of the ear leaving the shocks whole. The stem end was left on the top side of the board and the shuck was pulled through and split until the pieces were fine.

Sheep were kept and sheared by the men and then the wool was prepared, carded, spun and woven by the women of the family. The wool was washed carefully and worked around and around into a ball which was squeezed out and put in the sun to dry and bleach. Then two handled boards like curry combs but with long wire teeth were used to comb out or card the wool and the cotton which was spun on the two spinning wheels of the family into thread. Then the mother and older girls wove this into cloth on the loom. The children helped by gathering leaves and chips and roots to be used for coloring.

Dogwood made a brownish tint, Bois d' Arc chips when boiled yielded a yellow dye to which lye was sometimes added to give a different lint. Plum tree bark was used to produce a lead color. When the yarn, or cotton, had been dyed the mother wrapped the sample threads on a piece of card board so that she could tell when and what to weave in. The threads were on spools and checks and stripes were both worked out in the woven designs. Blue and white or hickory was produced by a coloring matter called ‘logwood" which had to set, like yeast, and had an "awful odor". In later years this logwood was brought on in blocks like soap.

Dresses lasted in those days, however, A dress outgrown by an older person was cut down for the smaller children and when it had served its time thus the good parts were cut out and made into quilts.

To make soap all the grease and bacon skins were saved and all the ashes. The ashes were put into an ash house "to rot". When they had aged sufficiently they were put into a hopper, a v-shaped box about 4 feet long with a trough beneath. A hole was made In the ashes and filled with water which was allowed to drip into the trough. This water was taken out and brought to a boil and the grease added to make soap. When they wanted to test the mixture to see if it had made soap they dipped in a paddle as a modern miss tests her candy. If it was thick enough for good soap it was poured into great barrels to harden and age as the fresh soap cut the hands. Soap enough to Iast a year was made at one time. Soap was made when the moon was on the increase to keep it from shrinking.

That was before the days of lamps and electric lights in Texas, so each family made its own candles. The tallow was poured into moulds which were set in cold water and then heated a bit after the candles had hardened. Wicks were made of raw, or unwashed cotton, spun at home, The washed cotton would not burn. Always a tablespoonful or more of tallow was put into the moulds before they were put into the water so that there would be no water mixed in with the tallow at the small end which was lighted. The water made the candles sputter. Mrs. Caylor said she had made many a candle though she was too small to learn to weave very well, just learned as children now to do whatever the older ones were doing.

She said that although times were hard, work heavy every new baby was welcomed and they were all just as proud of it as could be. Trundle buds were used for the children and were small enough and low enough to roll under the larger beds. Two and sometimes three slept in each bed.

She said her father and mother were very careful of their children's morals and of the company they kept and would not let them go to “puncheon floor dances" but took them to church where the father said, they would always hear something good and they would be with a good class of people. The father and mother, when buggies were brought here, had small buggy for themselves but the children rode horseback. They all went in wagons to camp meetings.

About 1867 the Stubbs family, Mrs. Caylor was Miss Jennie Stubbs, moved north of Savoy into the Fulp community because an older married daughter, who had thought Texas too wild and had refused to come with the family had settled there. There was no town of Savoy there at the time and Bonham is described as a small place with blacksmith shops, livery stables, dwelling houses and small business houses with little, low porches under which there were no side walks, but where Indians and whites came to trade, walking in the mud if it rained. Later plank walks were built but the boards were so loose that they rattled when walked over.

Her brother clerked for Andy Carter and later for C. C. Alexander and was a great favorite with the Indians who thought him part Indian because of his high cheek bones. The Indian men wore breech clouts and blankets when they came to trade and the women came in their blankets with their papooses on their backs.

In 1871 Miss Stubbs met a young man of 37, Jacob Laban Caylor, who, as was customary, was capable of more than one kind of work.  He was photographer, merchant and farmer and had seen service in the civil war.  For fifty-one years they walked along life's way together until his death in 1922.

For the past sixty-one years this woman of kindly, heart and keen mind has lived in the same place, within two blocks of the business part of Bonhnm. One son, Fred, lived only to boyhood. Two other children, and Charlie L. Caylor with his wife and two children, Charles Juniorand Jenie May and Miss Lois Gist (one of the three young women whom Mrs. Caylor like her mother “just took" to rear) were with her on her birthday with gifts from friends and the family and a birthday dinner and cake made a festive occasion for this interesting woman.

Summing up the times then and now she said, "‘Talk about hard times now, they are nothing like the times we had then and we did not hear any complaint then like we do now."