EARLY VOCATIONS AND SCHOOLS
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
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
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.
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
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.