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By Anna Paget Wells (used with permission of publisher Sue Cronkite) from the book "Heart and History of Holmes County". This book is chock full of pictures and what has been used within this web site is only a small amount of the book.  It can still be ordered from Sue Cronkite or from the Holmes County Advertiser, 112 E Virginia Avenue, Bonifay FL 32425; phone 850-547-2270; fax 850-547-9200

Early Days in Poplar Springs -- By George Grace

On Ground Hog Day 1886, I arrived on this earth in a small one-room log, stick-and-dirt-chimney house located about four miles west of Graceville in the Poplar Springs Community.

About two years before this, my father had homesteaded 160 acres there. He went out with his ax, cut down trees into logs, peeled off the bark, notched them, and then asked 12 men in the community to his house-raising. They erected the log walls and then my father cut smaller pines for the rafters and with a froe and mallet split laths and three-foot shingles. All materials for the dwelling came from the surrounding woods with the exception of the nails and 12-inch flooring.

Next he used his ax to cut the big long-leaf pines into 10-foot lengths and split rails to enclose his future farm. All farms were enclosed by rail fences in those days. He deadened the pines, cut the fallen trees and asked 15 men to his log-rolling. These men used hand sticks to pile the big logs into heaps. It took a week or more to burn these big long-leaf pines. Some were three feet in diameter at the bottom and would have been good saw-logs for 50 to 60 feet up, but there was no market for them.

When I was about three years old, my dress caught on fire, but Lee, my brother pushed me down and extinguished the flames with a board. He was four at the time, and just big enough to begin wearing pants.

All women had spinning wheels and would card cotton and wool into rolls, spin it into thread and then crochet (or knit) stockings and sweaters or weave into cloth. Mamma had no loom, so she would put Thad and me on the pallet in the back of the ox-wagon and drive two miles to Mrs Martinís and use hers. Just before the sun went down, we would start for home and the ox 9Old Bright) would trot all the way without mamma even prodding him. Papa could hear the wagon rattling all the way home.

When I was about four, mother got her first cooking stove. Most women then cooked on fireplaces. We had no time-piece of any kind except the sun. The kitchen was about 100 feet east of the big house and was connected by a plant walk. We had marks on this walk and could tell time by the kitchen shadow on the south side of the walk during the morning and by the dwelling shadow on the north side in the afternoon.

The school house was a small one-room log building. We went early on the first morning so I could claim a back seat and lean against the wall. The seats were made from split logs and peg legs, and my feet could not touch the floor. There were no backs on the seats and we had no desks.

W H Martin was my first teacher. The first morning we had about ten rules written on the board to follow. I could not read and broke rule number three which said, "Donít play in the branch," the first week. He gave me a whipping. We drank spring water out of gourds and nature furnished the toilets out among the bushes. Nature also furnished the toilet paper "stick".

Some of the pupils walked as far as four miles along narrow paths through the wood to get to school. When the ground itch was too bad, we came in the ox wagon. All the children had found itch and everybody had chills and fever. We ate our dinner out of tin buckets and used logs around the school house for tables. All the hogs in the neighborhood soon learned to meet us and fight for the crumbs.

Alex Fulford, who taught me when I was about 12, later became County Superintendent of Schools. Mrs Jenie McIntosh, Fred McIntoshís great-grandmother, taught me when I was about eight.

I did some of all the usual farm work, chopped and picked cotton, put out guano by hand, and helped pick the geese. We had about 50 geese in the cotton field. Cotton and sugar cane were the money crops. John Kirklandís fatherís water-powered mill ginned our cotton and furnished the baggings and ties for $1 a bale. Leander Bess worked for us for $8 and board a month.

We used our two-ox wagon to take cotton and syrup to Chipley and to bring guano back. Cotton brought five centers per pound; we got about 12 Ĺ cents per gall for syrup. It was 15 miles to Chipley, so Papa, Lee and I would leave home at daybreak and get there about 11:30, then have to hurry back to get home before dark.

Our old yellow dog, Bruce, helped "raise" all the children. He was friendly and kind and we could never have found a more faithful friend that him. He died with old age after 15 years. He would run rabbits, bay possums and occasionally make the mistake a=of catching a polecat.

Many of our nearby neighbors would often drive over and spend the weekend with us. Our neighbors who lived about one mile away would put their eight children in the wagon and drive over on Saturday evening to stay until Sunday. Although we never spent a night with them, they were always welcome. We didnít have to buy extra groceries as there was always plenty of pork, beef and sausage hanging in the smokehouse and banks of potatoes, barrels of syrup Ė we did not use any sugar Ė cribs full of corn, homemade hand-beat rice, milk, butter, chickens, turkeys, guineas, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Also, quail and dove that we trapped.

We had two four-inch snowfalls that covered the ground for about three days. One was about 1892 and the other in 1895.

Since there was no Methodist church at Poplar Springs, the "Shouting Methodists" had weekly prayer meetings in their homes. They would move their furniture from the big bedroom (they had no living room) and put plant seats in. At our home it was difficult to get our two corded bedsteads out of the door.

The preacherís text was usually "Hellís Fire" and I had scary dreams about the devil pushing me into a lake that burned with "Fire and Brimstone". I thought that the reason for being a Christian was so we wouldnít go to hell. At church, we always asked everyone to come with us. If they didnít come, we went with them.

When we moved away from Poplar Springs in 1899, Papa had 400 acres of land there, and hoped each of his three boys would be "Big Farmers". But our ambition was to be school teachers, as they made so much money and had so little work to do, so each of us began teaching as soon as we finished the eighth grade. By that time teachersí salaries had been increased to $30 per month.

At night, after supper, we had to shell a shoebox full of seed penders (we had never heard of peanuts in those days) before retiring. The rooster always crowed at midnight and again just before day when we got up. I would about ten when my father bought our first time-piece, a clock from John Kirklandís fatherís store. He paid $2 for it.

Each fall we and our neighbors would grind cane on our wooden home-made mill and cook it in a 60-gallong kettle. The neighbors would come at night to chew cane, drink cane juice, eat syrup foam, talk and having jumping and wrestling matches. The women had quilting bees and the hostess always had pent of dipping snuff and home-made tooth brushes. Cousin Lizzie McKinnie was the champion ""pitter"" She could spit between her fingers and hit a spot ten feet away.

Papa and other men met on Saturday night to play marbles. The girls played with their rag dolls. There were no store-bought toys Ė the boys made flutter mills, sling shots, (the kind that David killed Goliath with), popguns, bows and arrows, rode bent saplings, played deer-dogs, and went fishing in the nearby ponds.

About this time there were three loggers boarding at our house. They paid mamma 25 cents a day for room and meals. Each had the old ten-foot two-wheel log carts that were pulled by six oxen. The tongues of these carts must have been 30 feet long. The oxen had no bridle or rope on them, yet the driver could direct and control them with a long whip. These loggers were the two Slay boys and George Everett, all from Chipley. They hauled the logs to Holmes Creek where they were floated down to Haglers sawmill in Washington County.

Although my father never went farther than the sixth grade in school, he was one of the best educated men around Poplar Springs. He taught two three-months schools and was paid $17.50 per month. He had no buggy so he had to ride his horse to Cerro Gordo, the county seat of Holmes County, to make his monthly reports. A few years later the county seat was moved to Westville and Papa was elected County Commissioner and School Board member. We still had no buggy, so Pap would take Lee or me on the horse and ride to Chipley or Bonifay to take the train to Westville. He would tell us when to come back and meet him with the horse. He had a pass to ride the train, but he never used it except on these monthly trips.


This page was lasted updated on 17 June, 2002 08:42 PM