Thursday, November 24, 2011

Doing Our Part to Bring Thanksgiving to Many: or a Venture into Raising Turkeys on Our Farm

How my father learned about the availability of baby turkeys that he could order-off for and have delivered by rural mail carrier to our farm at Choestoe, I don’t remember. However, I do recall our venture into turkey raising when I was a child—or how we tried to do our part to make the traditional Thanksgiving bird available to many people.

Maybe Daddy read about turkey poults in the dependable “Market Bulletin.” That was a farm paper that came regularly to our farm mailbox and which he read avidly to keep up on the latest bargains in seeds and other farm needs. That was probably where he learned about where to purchase the baby turkeys and have them delivered to our farm.

But before that adventure saw itself through to the end, his third child was glad our latest enterprise lasted only a few years. I never did make friends with those noisy turkeys, and the mean turkey tom, in particular, must have known I didn’t like him, because every time I was anywhere near him on the farm, he seemed to chase me and scare me half to death.

We built a special poultry house for the anticipated turkeys, and since they were coming in early spring and the weather was still cold and unpredictable in the mountains, my father knew he would have to devise a way to keep the turkey house heated for the darling little poults. He put a small wood heater in the house, and built a fence around the house, with chicken wire strung from pole to pole so the fowl would not wander.

I remember well the day the baby turkeys arrived. The mail man (as we called the postman) blew his horn at our mailbox, and since Daddy was avidly looking for his turkey poults, he hurried out to get the crates. We had a hundred of the little critters. They looked so cold, and even ailing when they arrived. What would we ever do to raise them? They seemed so small and furry. Surely it would take them years to grow into eating-sized turkeys worthy for a Thanksgiving feast.

I’m sure Daddy spent sleepless nights looking after those little critters at first, making sure they were warm and fed properly. I recall how rapidly they grew, and maybe we lost a few, but as they developed from cuddly baby turks to lanky fryers, they had a mind of their own. Their sounds grated on my ears—and soon they were outgrowing their fenced-in area and Dad was allowing them to range a bit farther out. By then that aggressive gobbler had taken to my red sweater, or anything red, and chased me like I was easy prey and something he wanted to sample for his own dinner. I was mortally afraid of that barnyard king-of-the-roost.

Since we had secured the 100 turkeys very early in the spring, my Dad’s aim was to grow them off for pre-Thanksgiving sale. He had to fence them in again and give them special feedings of grains and nutrients to make them ready for market. They didn’t like being confined, since they had been range turkeys for several months. They protested loudly, with a gooble- gobble here and a gobble-gobble there. I, for one, despised turkey language.

But then, who was I to complain? My Daddy was always telling us that when he took the turkeys to market, we would have more money for the things we needed, for the Great Depression had certainly not been kind to North Georgia farmers. Turkeys were a “trial-run” crop to help restore the economy.

Then came time to catch those turkeys, put them in coops and take them to Gainesville to market. We kept about eight or ten from the whole flock so that we and our neighbors could have a Thanksgiving feast from some of our own home-grown turkeys.

I don’t know how much money per pound my father earned from those pestersome turkeys, but it must have been enough for him to try it again for about three more years. For it seems that we repeated that process of having baby turkeys delivered by mail and going through the same process for several years to grow them out for market. And without fail, there was always one or more turkey toms in the flock that played havoc with my own peace and quiet.

Then my father told us how lucky we were that we didn’t have to “drive” the turkeys by foot to market like our grandfather used to have to do. It would take two or three days to herd the turkeys along the wagon roads by foot to market, with the turkeys roosting in trees as they camped by night. I never did understand just how they managed to keep those turkeys under control enough to drive them to market, especially when one in those we raised always gave me so much trouble.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables this year, 2011, we feast on a roast turkey we purchased at the supermarket. But in the 1930’s, in the midst of the Great Depression, there was a time when turkeys were grown on a mountain farm and fattened up and marketed wholesale prior to Thanksgiving. That helped people to have that favorite of holiday meals—roast turkey. I, for one, was glad our turkey venture didn’t last many years. But the business did aid farm families to have a little more money for some of the barest necessities of life.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 24, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Honoring Early Settlers in the Duncan Family and Sheriff Harlan Duncan, a Descendant

One Duncan family was present in the new Union County when the first census was taken of residents in 1834, two years after the county was formed. When Alexander Duncan and his family settled here is not certain. In 1834, his household had three males and three females listed as residents.

By 1840, four households of Duncans were registered in the U. S. census in Union County. These included Alexander Duncan, still residing in Union from 1834, whose household had a son between five and ten, one between ten and fifteen, Alexander himself, between 40 and 50 and three females under fifteen and his wife, between 40 and 50. The second Duncan household was headed by David, with two males under five, and David himself between twenty and 30, and his wife in his same age category. In another household was Charles Duncan, between fifty and sixty, two sons, one 15 to 20 and one 20-30, and evidently his wife, between 40 and fifty, and an elderly lady, aged between 70-80. The fourth and final Duncan household was headed by Elisha who was between 30 and 40, two sons between 10-15, and evidently three daughters, one under 5, one 5-10, and one 10-15 (no wife, or no female who would have been the approximate age of a wife and mother).

In the interim period between the 1840-1850 census tabulations, more Duncan households had been set up, so that by 1850, the first census with names of all residents in a family listed, we note eight with Duncan as the household head. These, listed as found in the census (even with spelling as given then) were:

Household # 9: Charles Duncan and his wife Mary, both age 75, both having been born in Virginia.

Household # 75: Joseph Duncan, age 29, and Mary, age 27, both born in North Carolina. Union marriage records show a Joseph Duncan married Mary Thomas on September 28, 1840.

Household # 111: David Duncan, age 44 and his wife Nancy, age 38, both born in North Carolina. Their children listed were Elisha, 14, William, 11, John 8, Moses 3. I found a listing of marked graves in the Duncan Family Cemetery with David Duncan’s birth date as March 14, 1806 and his death date February 11, 1877. Nancy Duncan, according to her tombstone, was born July 17, 1811 and died November 4, 1890.

Household # 129: James Duncan, 39 and his wife Elizabeth, 36, both born in North Carolina, and their children William, 15, Frances 13, Elizabeth 11, Henry 9 and James, 5. Living in their household was Mary Lunsford, age 72, also born in North Carolina. She perhaps was Elizabeth’s mother.

Household # 169: William Duncan, age 32 and Sarah Ann, 27, both born in North Carolina, and their children Mary 3, and Aryadey (sp.) 1. In the Union County marriage records, I noted that a William Duncan married Ann S. Neal on September 14, 1856, with the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes performing their ceremony. And much later, Areadna (so spelled), their daughter, married Elam A. Scruggs on August 15, 1883 with Rev. C. A. Sullivan performing the ceremony.

Household # 415: Mary Duncan, age 52, was head of household, born in North Carolina, and in her household were John, 21, Mary, 18, Jesse, 15, and Caroline, 11.

Household # 679: Havey (sp) Duncan (should this have been Harvey?), 26, and Nancy, 23, both born in North Carolina, and Louesa, age 1.

Household # 682: Jonathan Duncan, age 63, born in Virginia, Sarah, age 55, born in North Carolina, and their two children, both born in North Carolina, Elizabeth, age 10 and Andrew, age 15.

By 1850, those with the Duncan surname in Union County numbered 33. And by 1850, the first settler, Alexander, had passed away already and was buried in the Duncan family cemetery with his birth and death dates noted: February 28, 1797 – August 17, 1849. Probably several other in the unmarked Duncan graves there had passed before 1850 as well.

Duncan is a very old family name, having derived from Scots and Gaelic “Donnchadh,” the Donn meaning brown and the “chadh” meaning warrior. The first syllable was shortened to “Dun” by the Scots and meant a fortress, and the “chadh” became “chean” and later “can” which meant “the head or a chief.” We are all familiar with the story of King Duncan whom Macbeth killed in William Shakespeare’s play entitled “Macbeth.” Traces of the name go back in history to the Turpillian Stone carving of the 4th century AD in Crickwell, Wales. Dunchad was one of the earliest forenames in Scotland, originating with the Dalraidan Celtic Scots from Ireland that settled in the southwest of Scotland as early as the 4th century. On the Duncan family crest is the motto, “disce pate” which means “learn to suffer.”

One of the lofty and notable Duncan citizens of Union County was Harlan Thomas Duncan (September 14, 1818-May 5, 1985), son of Tom and Gertrude White Duncan. Harlan Duncan served as sheriff of the county for 21 years, from 1964 until his death. Add to those 21 years as respected and efficient sheriff, a time as a member of the City Police force of Blairsville, 18 years as a Georgia State Patrolman, and his term as deputy sheriff and then sheriff and he clocked over 40 years in law enforcement.

Handsome of demeanor, tall and rangy, and always impeccable in character and conduct, he was the “John Wayne” figure of Union County. It has been recounted that he was so intent on maintaining law and order that sometimes just a finger pointed by Sheriff Duncan and directed toward anyone infringing on the law, like speeding teenagers, was sufficient to slow them down and remind them what awaited if their behavior did not improve. Although a tough law man, he is remembered, too, for his congenial personality, his fairness, and his devotion to family and citizens of the county. He was married to Ruth Jackson, daughter of Marion and Emma Davis Jackson. Ruth was a teacher for many years in Union County Schools. They had two sons, Thomas Harlan Duncan, Jr. and Jack Sidney Duncan. His stately funeral procession, with Sheriff Duncan’s beloved horse with an empty saddle except for his sheriff’s hat on the saddle, saw over 500 law enforcement officers and others citizens paying tribute to this man who had stood tall for right in Union County. He served our country in the U. S. Army during World War II. Sheriff Duncan was laid to rest in Union Memory Gardens, Blairsville.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 17, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lard Pail Lunches and Shared Knowledge (or Life in a Country School ~ Part 3)

Through the past two columns, I have shared memories of attending and teaching my first year in the same country school. I hope this journey back in time brought to mind some good memories of your “grade school” years, wherever you attended. It is good to remember foundations in life that helped to mold and make us into life-long learners. I was fortunate to gain a good education even under what may seem now a rather outdated system. To conclude this series on life in a country school, I will pinpoint some memorable incidents that made a lasting impression on me.

We had in the corner of each of the two classrooms at Choestoe School a wooden cabinet with doors. This book cabinet was the “library” for that particular classroom. When we finished our assignments, we had freedom to go to that cabinet, select a book from the shelf, take it to our desk and read it quietly. It was a great achievement in first grade to have learned phonics and “sounding out” words well enough to become competent to select a book to read from our “library” resources. The teachers, to encourage good reading habits, kept a chart with students’ names on the wall beside the book cabinet. A colored star was placed beside the name of each student who successfully read and reported to the teacher on books from this cabinet. These “star” awards seemed to work well as motivational devices to encourage reading. I often wondered how the library was furnished with books. That old classroom library was there in 1936, and it seemed to grow more books year by year—even before the days when Dr. M. D. Collins led state schools to have library resources and before the bookmobile from the regional public library began to make its regular monthly stop at Choestoe School. The bookmobile was an innovation by the time I taught there in the 1948-1949 school year. My life-time love for reading and books was encouraged by that library cabinet in a reading corner of Choestoe classroom long ago.

I recall a memorable field trip. When I was a seventh grader in 1943 at Choestoe School, and just prior to going to high school by riding the bus the next school year, we had our first-ever field trip. Mrs. Florence Hunter was my teacher, and she was known for getting things done. Her husband, Mr. Joe Hunter, was a county school bus driver. So Mrs. Florence and he made arrangements and got permission to take the fourth-through-seventh graders to Atlanta on a Saturday. All who could go loaded on that old bus early, early on a Saturday morning while it was still dark. We had a most memorable trip to visit the State Capitol building, the Atlanta Zoo, and the Cyclorama. I had never been to Atlanta before that notable trip, and that was probably true of the other children on that bus trip. Mrs. Florence managed to take snacks and drinks, and we had been instructed to bring our own lunch as we would have a picnic at Grant Park. What a notable building was our capitol where state government was conducted. How interesting to see all the strange animals at the zoo, some we had only read about and seen pictures of in books at Choestoe School. Then the panorama and story of the Civil War in Atlanta in the Cyclorama display was a first-hand, up close lesson in history.

We were a group of exhausted young children, sleeping on the long trip from Atlanta back to Choestoe after a full and exciting day. I’ve thought many times about how meaningful that trip was for us children, and of the sacrifice in time, money and influence expended by Mr. and Mrs. Hunter. They were able to give us a first-hand view of life beyond the confines of our mountain community. And to look back now and realize that in 1943 when we made that field trip during World War II, there was gasoline and tire rationing. For Mr. Hunter to be able to use some of his allotment of scarce items to take country school children to Atlanta was indeed a notable happening.

Graduation from that country school was a memorable occasion. We had a graduation program, not only with the two top graduates speaking with valedictory and salutatory addresses, but we had a program in which other grades participated with music and recitations. In fact, some of the programs we had for parents at that school during my seven years of learning there were so poignant that I can remember even now lines of poems I memorized to recite. Even though our teachers had few resources, they managed to make learning challenging and interesting. They gave us opportunities such as “Parents’ Night” or “Parents’ Day” when we could “show and tell” some of the things we had learned.

When I graduated from seventh grade country school, my future career as a teacher was already in my mind. I knew I wanted to be a teacher. In that way I could somehow repay Mrs. Mert Shuler, my own sister, Louise Dyer, Miss Opal Sullivan, Mrs. Bonnie Snow, and Mrs. Florence Hunter who had been my able teachers in my seven years as a student at Choestoe School. And so it was that in 1948 I returned to that same school, armed with two years of college and a provisional Georgia teacher’s certificate, ready to teach. As I greeted the twenty-five students in seven grades—for the school, by the time I returned to teach there—had a drop in student population and only one teacher could be hired for the seven grades. Talk about a challenge—a first-year teacher and twenty-five eager students scattered in every grade from first through seventh! I conducted classes much as my own teachers had done in the seven years when I was a student in that school. I had an excellent helper in a very brilliant seventh grade student named Shirley. Without neglecting her own instruction, I allowed her to help me mentor some of the younger students with their math, spelling and reading.

Looking back, I count that year as a teacher in country school as one of my happiest and best, although it was hard, with all the responsibilities falling to me. In that first year of my thirty-year teaching career, I learned to be teacher and administrator, how to cultivate parental support, how to instruct with enthusiasm and how to motivate students to achieve. I had learned to teach by having been taught myself by exemplary role models.

Education has gone through many changes since those days from 1936-1943 when I was a student in country school and took my lunch in a lard pail and had the privilege of shared knowledge because students learned from each other as well as from the teacher. And my year of teaching there, 1948-1949, was foundational to who I became as a teacher. Have we lost some significant aspects of education in these modern days? Then we had the privilege of learning from and being challenged by upper classmen whose recitations we heard. We had concepts drilled into us until the learning became second nature. There is much to laud and praise for our heritage of “lard pail lunches and shared knowledge.” Then eager students gathered at a country school under the auspices of ones called and dedicated to the important role of teacher.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 10, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lard Pail Lunches and Shared Knowledge (or Life in a Country School ~ Part 2)

Attending a country school for the first seven grades of my education and then returning to the same school to teach my first year as an educator were rich experiences indeed. Last week’s column began this series. I continue with Part 2.

Persons have asked me, “What was a typical day like with everyone in several grades studying in the same room? Wasn’t there a lot of noise and confusion? Did you really learn what you should have learned under those primitive circumstances, and wasn’t teaching very hard?

Back from 1936 through 1943 at Choestoe School, a typical day began with us lining up in orderly fashion to march into the building. Then in each room, our teacher began the day with a Bible reading, a few verses from the Psalms or some other selected short passage. Next we quoted the Lord’s Prayer in unison, followed by the pledge to the American Flag. There were no complaints then about this morning devotional time, even though it was a public school. When I returned to teach there in 1949-1950, I practiced the morning opening as I had learned it when I was a student.

Then classes began. The teacher had a schedule, usually with reading, arithmetic, and spelling all done in the morning. The class “reciting” or being taught at a particular time, went to a bench at the front near the teacher’s desk. First grade was mainly learning to make the numbers, count (for those who could not already when they entered school), learning the letters and how to form them, and learning to read in Primer and then first grade readers. Older pupils might work arithmetic problems on the board. Turns were taken reading aloud from the reading text, with comprehension questions and discussion led by the teacher. The classes proceeded in an orderly fashion, first, second, third grades. In the upper room the classes for fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh graders proceeded orderly. The teacher seemed quite adept at being able to assign meaningful seat work for those who were at their desks awaiting “recitation” time. Discipline was good—we were expected by our parents to behave, and if we received a paddling for an infraction at school, we certainly received the same punishment from our parents, as well as a stiff lecture on acceptable behavior. In this manner, good behavior was enforced. School was a privilege and we went to school to learn. That was an expected norm for our community.

Two breaks came during the school day. One was for lunch. My title is meaningful in this regard. Each student took lunch to school usually in a tin bucket, a bucket that had contained lard or maybe a tin syrup pail. In that lunch might be ham and/or sausage and biscuit, a boiled egg, a baked sweet potato, an ear of boiled corn, an apple (in season), or maybe even a jar of homemade soup. We seldom had “light” (loaf) bread in those days. Sometimes we would have “store-bought” bread, a real treat. When peanut butter became available for purchase in country stores, a biscuit with peanut butter and jelly was always a welcome item in the lunch pail. Special sweet treats were gingerbread or cookies sweetened with sorghum syrup.

We gathered outside in good weather to eat our noon meal, or in inclement or cold weather, we took our repast at our desks inside. For liquid, we drank water carried in a tin bucket from the spring, with each student bringing a personal cup from home to receive the water. Trusted older students were assigned “water duty,” and had the privilege of going the distance to the spring near the school to “fetch” the water. Sometimes we would “swap” lunches, with students trading something in their lunch pail for an item a friend had that seemed enticing.

Following lunch, we had a long recess time. Some of the games played were “Red Rover”, “London Bridge,” Hop Scotch,” “Town Ball” or “Antni-Over.” No playground equipment graced the schoolyard. Only the expanse of yard and woods surrounded the building, forming ideal places for creative play at recess time. Games included the afore-mentioned and also “playing house” for the younger children, who might bring a favorite doll to school. In the playhouse, we outlined the house with sticks or moss, giving a name to each room just like at home. “Playing school” was another favorite recess game. We were supervised during recess times by both teachers, and any minor accidents were quickly attended. I might add that disagreements among students at recess time were also summarily handled with the proper punishment, or “time out” from play.

Following lunch and the noontime recess, we were ready for another session of “books” as we called in-class time. Afternoons, especially in the upper grades section, were usually given to science, geography and history. In the lower grades, simplified science and more reading, and extra practice in arithmetic were the drills.

Then came the mid-afternoon recess—a time for toilet and water break, and a very short time for some exercise or short games. Not more than twenty minutes was allowed for afternoon recess.

Following the afternoon recess, any classes not covered either in the morning or after lunch were conducted. This was often the time for intensive spelling drills. We were quite competitive in spelling matches, enjoying the “spelling bees,” both in-school and competitively about once a month on Friday afternoons when parents were invited to come and observe, or even participate to try to “spell down” the most adept spelling students. This period was also sometimes used for recitations when we quoted poems we had memorized, or the teacher read to us from a continuing story book. All too soon, 3:30 came and time to go home. And so days proceeded at the country school in much this fashion.

Part of my title for this series is “Shared Knowledge.” My opinion is that the students learned from each other as they heard recitations of the upper classmen in their room. That way, it could be possible to advance on one’s own level. I can never remember being bored because I learned something in the next grade simply by listening. Teachers then seemed to be quite aware of this occurrence and allowed students to proceed on their own to advanced levels.

Our teachers comprised the whole staff. First and foremost, they were instructors, academically gifted and with skills to teach. They also had the job of keeping the building clean and in good order. They bound up wounds sustained in playground accidents. They felt fevered heads and applied compresses. Discipline-wise, they were strict and a few licks with a sapling switch were not beyond their parameters of dealing with misbehavior. They were likewise community leaders. If a program or drama were to be help on special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, or graduation, they came up with the proper program that made the parents glad their children were going to Choestoe School. When the churches near by (Choestoe Baptist and Salem Methodist) had revival meetings, students were lined up in orderly rows and marched to the church to hear the visiting minister. No questions were raised as to the propriety of this practice.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 3, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.