The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Remarkable Blue Ridge Ladies - Telephone Reader Interviews

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: April, 1984

Each month we call people who send us their phone number and write this column from those “chats”. This way we get to meet more people and share their wonderful stories with our readers.

Anne Conner
Check, Virginia

Mrs. Anne Conner lives in Check, Virginia, in Floyd County. She is 85 years old but she still loves gardening. Her roots run deep in Floyd County. She said her great-grandparents, who she has been told were Dutch, were there. Her great-grandmother’s last name was Byrd. When her parents were married, her grandparents gave them (and each of their children) 80 acres of land. Anne and her sister, Cassie were raised there. She lives now near her homeplace, “between two creeks”.

Anne Conner also likes to save seed for her garden each year. There was one old-timey bean she described that she doesn’t have anymore. She said she would love to have enough seed of it to just plant a hill or two, just to see them grow again. She called it a “tree” bean and said that it had a long, long pod that was yellow and a little flat and the beans were big with yellow stripes. If any of you readers still have seeds of this old-timey bean, we’d like to hear from you.

Mrs. Conner said that there is one bean they call a “Lily Bean”, a little stripped bean with a tender hull that has been grown by families in that area and saved from generation to generation for about a hundred years.

Picking spring greens was something familiar to Mrs. Conner, too. She said they used to go out looking for plantain and cress, dandelion greens and such every spring.

Mrs. Conner’s parents, who were Willie and Mary Ferris, had a cane mill on their farm. They ground cane for the whole neighborhood.

Anne Conner obviously loves good food and good eating too. She said that because of her health, she can’t have salt or grease anymore, but, oh how she would love to have a mess of homemade kraut. She shared one recipe that is old and sounds delicious to me…..

Hambone and Dumplings

Boil a cured hambone (or ham hock) in water. When the ham is done (falling off the bone) remove bones. Add some butter and cream to the water and make dumplings the same way you make biscuit dough. Drop them in the water and cook till it thickens and the dumplings are done.

I’ve eaten boiled ham hocks (and love them) but I haven’t tried them with dumplings. Thank you, Mrs. Conner, I’m going to try it.

P.S. We received a letter from Mrs. Conner asking if any of our readers makes “draw work” embroidery. Mrs. Conner sent us two beautiful examples of draw work and said that she is finding it harder and harder to find new patterns of it. If anyone has any samples, it doesn’t matter how old or ragged, she would like to have them to use for patterns. Mrs. Conner also does a lot of crocheting.

You may get in touch with her about these patterns by writing:

Mrs. Annie F. Conner
Rt. 1 Box 92A
Copper Hill, Va. 24079

Emma Fadness
El Paso, Texas

We printed a letter from one of our readers in our February issue. It was from Mrs. Emma B. Fadness of El Paso, Texas. Since then we received a letter from Mrs. Mildred Cruise of Hillsville, Virginia, saying that the Billy Shelor and Sarah Bramer mentioned by Mrs. Fadness were her grandparents. One Saturday morning after that, Alsen Wood of Floyd, Virginia called us and said he would like to get in touch with Mrs. Fadness also because he has an old deed dated 1890 that her grandfather had.

I called Mrs. Fadness about 9:30 that Saturday morning, forgetting that there is a two hour time difference between Virginia and the great state of Texas. She was kind and gracious though, I still hope I didn’t get her out of bed. I apologize again for calling so early.

Mrs. Fadness told me that she has the Bramer genealogy traced back to the first Bramer in America. He was Thomas Bramer, born in England in 1605.

Mrs. Fadness grew up and lived on Rock Castle Creek, in Rock Castle Gorge (now National Park Service owned). She said if you stood at the look out at Rocky Knob and looked straight down the mountain, you could see a big tree in the old Dillon cemetery near where she once lived. She said they had their own grain mill at the DeHart Mill down in the gorge and she went to the school without a name at the foot of the mountain on the old Woolwine Turnpike. Mrs. Fadness said her family, “Made apple butter, dried fodder, and all the old time things. We used to have a lot of good times.”

When she was 16, Mrs. Fadness moved to West Virginia. Since then she has lived in Montana, Missouri, Texas, New Mexico and back again to Texas.

If there are other people who would like to correspond with Mrs. Fadness about Bramer and Shelor relatives, Mrs. Fadness said it would be all right to give her address. It Is as follows:

Mrs. Emma B. Fadness
10404 Crete Ct.
El Paso, TX

Mrs. Cabel Goad
Sylvatus, Virginia

Mr. And Mrs. Cabel Goad live in the Sylvatus area of Carroll County. The day I called, I guess I was hungry, because most of what we talked about was food. Mrs. Goad will be 73 in May, but last year, she put up 110 quarts of tomatoes. She said that she and her husband are old fashioned and like the old strains of vegetables best. They save a lot of their seed from year to year. She said you could do that with the old style seed but they tried saving some hybrid corn one year and when they planted it the next year, they ended up with nothing but fodder. They like the old time beans the best too. She said, “They seem to have more flavor and aren’t as watery as the new stringless type.”

Anyone who cans 110 quarts of tomatoes must be an expert, and Mrs. Goad had a very good idea I haven’t heard of before. I told her I would pass it along to you readers so you could try it. She picks tomatoes just before they get ripe. Slices them (like you would for a sandwich) and puts them in wide mouth canning jars. Then she puts in a teaspoon of salt, fills the jars with cold water, puts the jar rings on, and boils them about 8 minutes. She said they stay firm and could be used all year long for stewing, frying or just on a hamburger, as you would a slice of fresh tomato.