History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

     The writer found an interesting bit of information concerning early corn-huskings from which we shall now take. It reads:

     "The ground was peculiarly adapted to the production of corn and potatoes. Both were raised without much work and gave a fine yield of the best quality. Eastern people are even now surprised at our tall corn, but it does not grow so tall by several feet as it then did. The tallest man cold hardly reach all the ears, and it was not uncommon to gather it on horseback, riding between the rows, plucking the ears and throwing them into piles for the wagons to take up afterwards and transfer to a heap for husking.

     "The husking of the corn was generally an evening's work, neighbors enough being invited to husk the heap in one evening. These huskings were made exciting frolics. A rail divided the long heap, captains chosen who selected the huskers alternately, and then the strife was to beat.

     "Men would work harder to beat in these matches, than they could be induced to work for any hire of on other occasions. When one side was hard put to, it was not uncommon to throw corn forward of backward unhusked and sometimes bad work was the result of the strife.

     "But as the labor was free, it was all taken in good part, and a good supper closed the evening's exercise. One, two and sometimes three thousand bushels would be husked in one night. The corn was usually placed in a long semi-circular heap with the crib in the center so that the huskers threw the ears over the heap and thus cribbed as well as husked.

     "Of all the social gatherings of early times, such as house-raising, log-rolling and corn-husking, the last was the most exciting. Usually there was no trouble in getting corn husked, but it was sometimes difficult to procure men for house-raising and log-rolling.

     "In all the neighborhood gatherings utility was a main point in all the strifes to excel. Speed in corn husking was acquired which would now be thought incredible."

     Reed-making was a business that has since gone into oblivion. Reed-cane was used for weaver's reels for the many looms found in country homes.

     Daniel Cushing announced in 1810 that he was engaged in making black salts at Lebanon, Ohio and would pay the highest price for good ashes. (Black salts were accumulated by boiling lye until a dry substance appeared that was marketable at country stores.)

     One report says that the first valuable reward of the pioneer's land was the many ashes he gathered from the burnings of his forests. These ashes were painstakingly gathered and leached. Many towns had their own asheries, which bought wood ashes, or black salts and transformed them into potashes.

     Tanneries and curriers were found in virtually every community. These facilities had their vats in the tanyard and the bark-mill in a shed that was generally turned by a single horse. This procedure was for grinding oak bark into small chips which were then placed into the vat along with a mixture of rain water, in which tannic acid was derived.

     Deerskins were prepared for garments by those who followed a trade called "skin-dressers." Men of all classes wore their products. Others were known as leather-breeches makers.

     It was commonplace for the town folks, who hankered for a new garment, to purchase the material from the local dry goods dealer and deliver it to the tailor, who in turn took the measurement of his client.

     One early tailor set up a shop, said that when customers brought cloth to them for a new suit, they were to charge more for cutting, fitting and sewing than factory made suits of the same kind of cloth.

     Even though a man might have an elementary knowledge of shoemaking, and even if some owned a cobbler's kit, it was generally not found advisable to make shoes. And so the journeyman cobbler made his circuits. He might be kept busy in one house a couple of days, while at another he would be kept busy for a couple of weeks, repairing and making boots and shoes. These shoes were of considerable weight and might be used for well into the second year. They were larger and roomier, and when new resisted the rain very well. There were no thin shoes nor shoes made-up strictly for show.
Moccasins were worn in the early Tennessee country for many years as they were soft and easy to walk in, and made with little trouble. They were much affected by those with tender feet.

     It was a necessity to be a good horseman, and to be well provided with proper riding gear. An essential man of the community was the saddler and harness maker. There was much riding on horseback, as the roads were poor, and it is with great wonder that this tradesman withdrew to them at all.

     Our ways and ideals of today seem to allow us to forget there was another time; a time in which generations of people sacrificed that we should enjoy the luxuries of current times.

Early Schools

     Most pioneers were not educated in the ways that we are today. However, almost every family had a few books, the foremost and most important of which was the Bible, which was perhaps more read then than now.
     A few books stood in the pioneer family such as "Pilgrim's Progress," "Paradise Lost," "The Saint's Rest," "Aesop's Fables," and the like. Newspapers were rarely seen, and if a letter came to the household it was considered a momentous event.

     Many settlers did not fully appreciate the importance of education, and the neglected to give their children any opportunity to obtain this precious knowledge.

     Within all communities were found some settlers of intelligence and learnedness who, as soon as they were able to handle the expense, worked to establish schools and procure teachers for them.

     Quite often a school was taught in a deserted log cabin, and at other times in a spare room of a double log house.
When a schoolhouse was built it was of a rather crude style, but most comfortable in its arrangements. It was made of hewed logs, and had a huge chimney of stones or sticks and mud at one end. The fireplace was wide and deep enough to receive a five or six-foot back-log, and a considerable quantity of smaller fuel. This was unquestionably enough to warm the house in winter and to ventilate in the summer.

     As frequently was the case, one term of school was taught in a neighborhood each year. It was always held in the wintertime, as the larger boys could then best be spared from their work to attend.

     Cutting away a log in two sides of the building made the windows of the log schoolhouse and in the opening a few lights of assorted dimensions were set, or else greased paper was pasted over the opening.

     The writing desk consisted of a heavy oak plank, or hewed slabs laid upon wooden pins, driven into the wall in a slanting direction. Four legged benches, without backs, made from a split log, furnished the seats. The bench upon which the scholars sat while writing was usually so high that the feet of the younger pupils, some of whom had to be lifted upon the bench could not reach the floor.

     Textbooks were considered of small use. The chief books were the Bible and the spelling book; a scholar possessing either was considered to be well supplied. Reading, spelling, arithmetic and writing were the only subjects taught.
Subjects such as Geography and Grammar were unknown to teachers and pupils of the pioneer days, they being introduced several years later. As these subjects were introduced into the schoolroom, many parents regarded these courses as useless compositions.

     Uniformity of textbooks was unheard of; consequently evaluation of the school was impossible, except courses in reading and writing, in which each pupil recited alone.

     The early teachers were meticulous laborers and generally worthy of their hire. Their wages were small and their work was not easy. The practice of flogging was almost universally fashionable, and the teacher, in addition to educational requirements, must possess physical strength to enable him to handle the largest of his pupils, otherwise he was deemed an inefficient schoolmaster.

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