The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

I Remember Grandma Hylton

By Minnie Ruth Belcher © 1985

Issue: May, 1985

i remember grandma hyltonPhotograph taken of Newton and Sallie Agee Hylton in the early 1930's.Sara Leah Agee was born October 17, 1878. Everybody knew her as "Sallie." She was the daughter of Tom and Mary Agee. Tom ran a mill on Laurel Fork Creek.

Sallie met Newton Hylton and they married March 20th 1897. They lived on the head waters of Howell Creek in Floyd County, Virginia where Grandpa Newton ran a mill. In January 1900, my father Albert was born.

About 1912, they moved to West Virginia and lived there for about two years. They moved back to Meadows of Dan and bought a small farm on Laurel Fork Creek.

I remember going over to Grandma Hylton's house and going with her to feed the chickens and get the eggs. There was a rock out next to her chicken house that had a hole in it where she had beat up so much glass and pieces of stone jars to feed her chickens. [Chickens have to have such materials to produce thick egg shells.]

I would go with her to milk the cows. I would stay with them as much as Daddy would let me, sometimes two or three days at a time. Sometimes it would be after dark before she got the milking done. She had a milking lot down by the creek where she would milk her cows.

She would beat up corn cobs and soak them overnight in dish water, then mix a little chop and bran with it and feed the cows with it. After she got the milking done, she would have to carry the milk over to the spring where she kept it.

Grandpa Newton had fixed her a water box out of planks. The box was about 25 or 30 feet from the spring, so Grandpa took a cucumber tree and split it in the middle and hollowed out the center and used it as a pipe to run the water from the spring to the water box. Grandma Hylton would have to keep a lid over the box so dogs wouldn't get into her milk. She would strain the milk in stone jars and let them set in the water box until the cream come to the top. Then she would skim the cream off. She would keep some of the cream and make butter out of it. When she got a load of cream, she would fill two cream buckets full and carry it about two and a half miles to the store where she would trade it for groceries.

Grandma had two baskets made out of white oak splits which she used to carry her eggs to the store. I always looked forward for her to return from the store because she always brought me back a couple pieces of candy. Their spring was about 200 yards down a steep hill and Grandma would have to go down there every meal to get milk to drink.

Grandma had tubs and wooden barrels under every eve of their house to catch rain water to wash their clothes in. In dry weather, she would take her iron pot down to the creek and wash their clothes down there.

I remember Grandpa going out and getting some hollow logs and making Grandma some lye gums, so she could make her own lye. Grandma would fill up the gum with ashes that she got out of the fireplace and cookstove. The lye gums would have a hole in the bottom where she kept a bucket. She would pour water over the ashes and the bucket at the bottom of the gum would catch the lye. She would use the lye to make soap.

Grandma didn't live too far from us, so when she got sick, my older brother and sister and I stayed with her a lot. Since I was the oldest, I would stay with her a week, then my brother and sister would stay a week. Finally on November 23, 1939 she passed away.