The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Charles Lowell Hall's Mountain Memories

By Charles Hall, Jr. © 1984

Issue: August, 1984

The following article was written by Charles Hall, Jr. currently an Extension Agent in Fairfax, Virginia, from a recently taped conversation with his father Charles Lowell Hall who was born in Patrick County in 1894. He is now a resident of Halifax County, Virginia where he was Extension Agent for almost 40 years. The Halls, father and son, own a 20 acre place close to Mabry Mill where Charles, Jr. hopes to retire in a couple of years.

Charlie Lowell Hall was born on February 16, 1894 (more than 90 years ago) in the Claudville community of Patrick County. He was the son of Charles Thomas and Nora Flippin Hall.

The Claudville community is located between Stuart, Virginia and Mt. Airy, North Carolina. At the time of Lowell Hall's early youth, Andy Nunn ran a store in this community and the small farm on which Mr. Hall was born was only a short distance from this store. The Post Office at that time was Bateman, Virginia. This was of course before rural free delivery. Mail was picked up at Bateman, having been brought out from Stuart. Mr. Hall says he remembers picking up the mail at Bateman a couple of times only. "When you got as little mail as you did in those days you did not go to the Post Office frequently."

When he was 16 years old, they moved into North Carolina west of Mt. Airy. At this new location, mail was still received at Bateman until rural free delivery came along. Edgar Turner was the first mail carrier, bringing the mail 6 days a week, either by buggy or on horseback. Postage at that time was remembered to be 2 cents per letter.

The principle cash crop grown was flue cured tobacco and it was marketed in either Winston-Salem or Mt. Airy. Corn and wheat were also grown. A small flock of sheep were kept. Mr. Hall told of having a small steer calf when he was a boy that he trained so he could ride him to pick up the mail and could guide him by tapping him on either side with a switch and stopped him by tapping him on the forehead with the same switch.

No one in the community owned a car in those days. Certainly cars did not become in general use until after they moved into North Carolina about the time W. Hall was 16 years old. "We owned a buggy and a wagon and while in Patrick County, we purchased a new buggy from the Mt. Airy Buggy Co. and a new wagon from the Nisson Wagon Co."

Buck Flippin, Mr' Hall's grandfather who lived 2 or 3 miles away, had a good sized orchard and built a large apple house in which fruit could be dried with heat after being placed on a slatted floor. He had an apple peeler and an apple slicer which helped prepare the fruit for drying. "To sell fruit to the best advantage in that day, it had to be dried", stated Mr. Hall. About the time Mr. Flippin got his apple house and drier built, he died. The facility was never used extensively because the orchard quickly deteriorated since Mr. Flippin was no longer there to take care of it.

Most of Mr. Hall's schooling while in Patrick County was at the Mills School, a frame building. This two-room schoolhouse, about 3 miles from the Hall farm had about 20-30 students. All seven grades were taught in these two rooms by the Waller sisters who were teachers at that time. School lasted only 4 to 5 months a year during the winter months when farm work could not be done. Slates were used to write on with chalk and Mr. Hall remembered that the slates cost 10-20 cents a piece.

They walked to school each day, W. Hall and a sister, along with the Ballard Smith children, walking along paths and roads and crossing a couple of small branches enroute. School started about 9:00 and it took them about an hour and a half to travel the approximate 3 mile distance.

The Halls attended church regularly. They were Primitive Baptists, attending the Countyline Primitive Baptist Church at Countyline community. Church was held there every other Sunday, as he remembered. The preacher at that time was Rev. Barnard who was also the miller at Countyline and operated Barnards Mill there. Countyline was about 4 miles away from home.

The first election Mr. Hall could remember going to was at the post office at Bateman. He thinks it was a local election rather than a presidential one and remembers that two men were fighting. He was about 4 years old at the time.

The closest doctor was 4 or 5 miles away. When someone got sick, someone had to go and ask the doctor to come and visit the patient. This early doctor was named Dr. Jim Leak and he later married one of the Waller sisters who taught Mr. Hall at the Mill School.

Mr. Hall's father ran a thrashing machine with Mr. Hall's uncle, Boss Clark and power was furnished by a steam engine owned by the Epperson brothers. One grandson of the Epperson’s was a professor in the Agronomy Department at VPI in recent years.

When tobacco was marketed it was hauled in wagons much like western covered wagons with bows and canvas on top. Food and provisions were carried from home for the entire trip under the wagon seat. Corn and fodder for the horses also had to be taken. When a load of tobacco was taken to Winston-Salem, it took four days to make the trip. Two days to go and two days to return. "We camped at a campground enroute. The second day was spent in Winston-Salem, back the third day to usually the same campground and home the fourth day." One of these campgrounds which was over in Forsyth County was Dalton's Grove. It was a big oak grove that provided some protection to the horses and wagons, named for a Dalton fellow who lived nearby. "We slept in the wagons on the tobacco, protected by the canvas and kept warm by quilts taken for this purpose."

Tobacco was pulled off the stalks and graded and tied in hands. It was brought into order in a basement similar to the way it is still done today. Tobacco was sold in a warehouse similar to the way it is today. "We were paid in cash and usually did not bank the money until we got home. We did all our banking in Mt. Airy."

A cash crop of tanbark was another crop we had. In the spring when the sap was at its highest which would be about the time the buds began to swell on the Chestnut Oaks, we would harvest tanbark. We would take the bark off by cutting little rings around the trunk at the length we wanted the bark and at this time the bark could be loosened from the tree trunk quite easily. It would be stacked up for a couple of weeks and then we would haul it by wagon to Meadowfield and the railroad. The wagon filled with bark would be rolled up on a big scale, the bark then unloaded and the empty wagon reweighed. The difference would be the weight of the bark. This little railroad came around the foot of the mountain from Mt. Airy to Meadowfield. The bark was sold by the pound, Chestnut Oak was used exclusively for harvesting this product.

Mr. Hall's father rived boards and all buildings including the house were covered with these handmade boards. Chestnut Oak was used almost exclusively for this also.

We had a small farm blacksmith shop to repair horseshoes and make repairs to wagons and other tools used on the farm.

"As children, we amused ourselves making Flutter Mills. A pole 2 to 3 feet long, the size of your thumb was split in two directions and two boards or paddles the width of your hand were inserted through the splits. Take it to a branch and divert the stream so that it hits those paddles and boy it would go to town," Mr. Hall stated. "It was a nice plaything."