The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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John and Patty Hylton, My Great-Grandparents

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986

Issue: February, 1986

John and Patty Hylton.John and Patty Hylton.All my life I have heard people in my community speak of my great-grandparents on my dad's side, and their goodness. They were true pioneers according to family members who remember them. I have gathered vast information from my Granny Dollie and Dad, along with information from a great-granddaughter, Mrs. Clarice Belcher.

One wintery day in December, Clarice and I got our heads together and had a good time reminiscing about her memories of our great-grandparents. Although I never got to meet them, I'm certainly proud they are my ancestors.

John Cruise Hylton was born in Patrick County, Virginia, January 13, 1846. Martha Elizabeth Hall Hylton also was born in Patrick, on April 11, 1840. John's parents were Moses and Elizabeth Cruise Hylton. Martha Elizabeth, fondly called "Patty" by all, was the daughter of William Hardin (Bucky) Hall and Celia Harris Hall.

Great grandpa and grandma were married March 31, 1870. They were the parents of four children; Malvina Jane, Moses Lee Benjamin (Ben), Nathan Albert (This is my Grandpa), and Loucinda Elizabeth.

John Cruise Hylton's original homeplace still stands and is the stately home of Mr. and Mrs. Greely Hylton, near Woolwine, Virginia. It was built around the year 1863. Great Grandpa left there at a young age and married Grandma Patty. They came up into the mountains nearer the top, and settled near the "Dark Hollow."

Great Grandpa was a maker of wooden barrels, wash tubs and water buckets. All his buildings were covered with wooden shingles which he split from shingle bolts. He was an excellent rock mason. Great Grandpa was also a shoe-maker. The shoes and soles were pegged together with a pegging awl. The holes were punched, linen thread made from flax was used. Resin was used to wax the thread and sometimes bees wax was used.

Great-Grandpa carved tombstones from soapstone. One he carved is still in the Conner Cemetery on state road 764 in the Mountain View Section of Meadows of Dan.

I am also proud of the fact that my great grandpa helped do a lot of the work on the church I attend, Mountain View Methodist. He did some of the original boards. Many times I sit in church and try to visualize Great-Grandpa working. He was a good Christian and he would have been proud that this old church is being preserved.

There are two old stories about Great-Grandpa that I find amusing. One day he took a turn of corn to the mill to be ground. The miller was out, so Great-Grandpa just went on in and ground his corn. Someone asked him what he did about the toll. Great-Grandpa replied, "Yessee, I ground my turn and took my toll."

The other story puts me into fits of laughter. I look at his picture and can just hear him saying, "Yessee." They tell me this "Yessee" was one of his favorite words.

Great-Grandpa made lots of apple cider. He used wooden mallets to beat the apples. The cider was stored in huge wooden barrels. After the cider set awhile, it turned to vinegar and Great-Grandpa sold it. One day the law came by and chopped up his barrel of cider. Someone asked Grandpa what he thought of that. He just replied, "Yessee Rascal!"

Oh! If I could only have known Great-Grandpa Hylton. Boy! I bet we would have gotten along great and had loads of fun.

Great-Grandma Patty was a real home-maker. She raised flax, which had to be dried bone dry and beat until it broke into fluffy chunks. It was carded into nine inch cat tails about the size of a man's thumb. It was then carded and spun on a spinning wheel into thread, then woven on a loom into material, from which she made the family clothing, including Great-Grandpa's suits.

Many nights she stayed up to the break of day sewing, then slept a nap and went to the fields to work along beside Grandpa.

Great-Grandma Patty made candle wicks by weaving wool strings and plaiting them into wicks. They were then placed in containers of tallow made from animal fat. This was the light that she worked by at night.

My dad always said, "Grandma Patty was such a great lady and one of the greatest cooks ever. She could cook vegetables and bread like no one else." Great-Grandpa loved the "soup" from beans and boiled cabbage and Grandma Patty always had a steaming mug beside his plate. Dad had a favorite drink that Grandpa and Grandma made. They dried apple peelings, then put some in a cup, poured boiling water on and let steep awhile. Dad said this was delicious.

Great-Grandpa and Grandma Hylton were true pioneers and carved a living from the land. They dug holes in the mountain side and planted corn. Besides raising their family, they took in two grandchildren and an older relative. They were never too busy to help a neighbor. I'm proud that John Cruise and Patty Hylton were my great-grandparents. Now Clarice Belcher relates her childhood memories of these spirited individuals:

Both Grandma and Grandpa were short in stature. Their hair never did turn completely gray. Grandpa had a long beard. Grandma had big brown eyes. Both were good Christian people. Granny hummed and whistled a lot. She wore a bonnet during the day, about her chores and at night, a little night cap adorned her hair. I have the night cap, along with one of her flowered blouses, in my keepsakes.

They had a good garden and canned a lot of food in the old time blue glass canning jars. Granny dried beans, berries and peaches. The peaches were so good made into a skillet cobbler.

Breakfast at their house was pone bread, ham and gravy, biscuits, honey and coffee. Even though they had a little flat top stove, Granny did most of the cooking on the fireplace. Always there was a pig for meat, chickens for eggs and two cows for milk and homemade butter. That butter went good with that honey and pone bread. I always loved to go to Grandpa Hylton's because the kitchen was cozy with lots of good things to eat.

There was a walkway from the big house, to the kitchen, that was sheltered by a beautiful grape arbor. There was a fire place in the big house. Little steps went up to the attic. Granny kept the honey up there. I remember one time she was going to get some honey and told me to wait at the foot of the steps. Of course I didn't mind and went crawling up the steps anyway. Granny said, "I allow now child I oughta slap your behind." I just got down and went on to supper.

The first thing Granny Patty did in the morning each day was jump out of bed, run to the spring house barefooted, even in the cold and snow, and get the milk and butter. She was a healthy woman all her life.

Going to Grandpa's always meant some good cider and getting it from a wooden barrel.

They sold butter and eggs at the Wade Hylton store in exchange for sugar, coffee, soda and salt. The last time I saw Granny Patty was at the store. My mother and I walked with her and she bought me a little pitcher that day. Then we walked with her down below Mountain View Church.

In March of 1922 a tragedy took my beloved Granny Patty away. A match got dropped in some broom straw. She was fighting fire and the flames got her or she was overcome by smoke. They found her leaning against a rail fence, burned to a crisp. She was 81 years old.

We were so sad and from that day, Grandpa John Cruise Hylton began to go down hill. He lost his will to live without Granny Patty. On April 16, 1923, he joined her. Memories precious and sweet live on...