The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Thomas and Della Belcher

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986

Issue: November, 1986

Thomas and Della Belcher celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.Thomas and Della Belcher celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.Here in the Blue Ridge, there are so many wonderful people. I always have a difficult time deciding who to visit next. One rainy afternoon I headed out near the Blue Ridge Parkway to see a very special couple, Thomas and Della Belcher. These lovely people are a great asset to our community and I count it a privilege to know them. Their home is a neat white frame house nestled at the foot of Slate Mountain, with a yard tended by loving hands. I climbed the front steps and knocked on the door. A sweet lady with fluffy white hair answered my knock and invited me in. Della Belcher gave me a comfortable chair and already I felt at home. She said, "Thomas will be back in a few minutes." So we chatted until Thomas returned and then he began to tell me a little about himself.

"Well, I don't know if there's much to tell or not. I was born in Floyd County at the Dean Potter Place on February 19, 1918. My parents were Benjamin Harrison Belcher and Mamie Conner Belcher. I had five sisters and three brothers."

"When I was a little boy, we didn't have any toys except what we could make. My brother and I used to go in the woods and saw round circles off a black gum tree. Then we bored holes in the center and made wheels for a wagon. We didn't use our wagon for all play, but had to haul apples and taters to the house with it. When the snow came in winter, we made sleds to ride down the hills. As a boy I loved to hunt possums, foxes, rabbits and most anything. I still love to hunt whenever I can."

Della Belcher shown with some of her quilting handiwork.Della Belcher shown with some of her quilting handiwork."After I grew up I did a lot of work. I tell you, I was pretty good at cleaning up new grounds. When you have cleaned up four or five acres on the north side of the Buffalo [Mountain], you know you have been working. It wasn't too bad knowing that come the weekend, I could have a little fun. There were dances at somebody's house every weekend, flat footing, square dancing... Frazier Helms was real good at calling a reel. Then we got to go to apple butter stirrings, molasses boiling and corn shuckings. Our weekend would start at 12 o'clock on Saturday and didn't end until Sunday night. We, by "we" I mean a bunch of fellows, would sleep in somebody's barn or an old school house on Saturday night. Then get up on Sunday morning and go to an old country store and eat pork and beans for breakfast."

"My goodness, Thomas! That sure was a long weekend. I didn't know they had pork and beans in those days. Guess they have been around a long time."

"Yeah! I guess so. Now maybe after that long weekend, I didn't feel so good by Monday."

"After Della and I were married, I worked on a farm on the Buffalo for six years before we moved back here. I worked at Mabry's Mill for nine summers and on the Parkway off and on for 15. Also I worked at the saw mill for 22 years."

"Me and Luther Belcher used to come over by where your family lived and go by the "Jumping Off Rock" and walk down the mountain to my granddad's to pick cherries. We would stay all night. Sometimes your dad and uncle went with us. Now that's a pretty good walk. Guess that proves walking won't hurt you."

"I've always kept cows and hogs and raised a big garden. With seven children to raise, I had no other choice. We always kept a bunch of laying hens. Today I aim to turn my chicken house into a shed for my tractor. But there was a bee's nest in it and I changed my mind fast!"

"Thomas, you sure do a lot of different things these days. I think it's remarkable for a gentleman of 76 years."

"Well, I still like to hunt and went hunting this morning. These days, Della lets me do most of the garden work. Something else I love to do is go to auction sales. Yeah, I love the sales."

"I knew you loved sales, because I saw you every time I went to one. That's something I enjoy too."

Della who has been sitting quietly by takes her turn.

"I was born right across the road from here. See that shed across there? That's where the house was. My father was John Bolt and my mother was Delia Sowers Bolt. I had four sisters and five brothers. My father passed away when I was little, so we all had to work hard."

"As a child I remember one special doll. My sister Lillie gave me one with white hair. I liked to play ball and build play houses. We had playhouses all over these ivy bushes around here. We played a lot of dominoes when I was a child. The school was close to us and we didn't have to walk far. Mother always boarded the school teachers."

"How did you meet Thomas?"

"We knew each other at school. He was always throwing spit balls at the girls. Thomas was real bad for that. But then I decided he was the one for me. We were married in 1932 and have been blessed with seven children, five girls and two boys."

"I bet you have done a lot of sewing with five girls."

"Yes, I sure did and couldn't have dressed them so well if I hadn't made their clothes. I made dresses for the girls and shirts for the boys. My children were sent to school as neat and clean as could be. The printed feed sacks made pretty dresses back in those days and I've sewed plenty of them."

"I bet you did. Those feed sacks made lovely dresses, sheets and things; once my mom made me a sun dress from one. It was pretty. I sure would love to have a print feed bag skirt to wear now. They had some of the prettiest prints."

"Della, tell me about your quilts. I know you do beautiful work."

"I've been quilting since I was a young girl and lost track of how many I've made. It would be in the hundreds. I gave all the children and grandchildren quilts when they got married. Guess I'll start on great grandchildren next. I have a lot of quilts in my family with seven children, 27 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Sometimes I sell a few. Come in the bedroom and I'll show you the Colonial Girl quilt I'm working on. I'll go get a few of the others. Here's a strawberry design, a rose, and log cabin. That log cabin quilt sure is a lot of work. But I love to quilt and do a lot of it. I got so I just leave the outside work to Thomas and do the housework and quilt. In winter, me and a group of relatives have quiltings or quilting bees. Well, it doesn't have to be cold for us to do that because we all love doing it."

"Della, all these quilts are so beautiful. I've heard about your quilting bees and I think its great keeping an old time custom alive."

Thomas and Della Belcher are typical of the wonderful people in our Blue Ridge Mountains. They are warm, caring and willing to share with others. Their home is filled with warmth and love. One of the grandsons came by while I was there. He said, "I think my grandpa and grandma are pretty special." I'm sure he is speaking for all the rest. All of their family speaks lovingly of Thomas and Della.

On the wall in Thomas and Della's home hangs a plaque with the words, "Happiness is Homemade." How true that is and these two people have made it come true.