My grandmother was born in 1856 on a farm near Bells, Tennessee. She lived with us all my life, and I grew up hearing stories about the Civil War. Once a year she would open her trunks and show us Confederate money, buttons off a Confederate uniform, old dresses and dishes and all the pictures and keepsakes of her life. Then she would sprinkle snuff among the treasures to keep out the silverfish and pack the things away for another year.
My grandmother's father joined the Confederate Army immediately and fought all through the Civil War. When the battle came so close to their farm that they could hear the cannons fire, the neighbor women told my great-grandmother to dip snuff to calm her nerves.
My great-grandmother dropped the silverware in the well. At night she went into the garden where she had planted flowers and buried what jewelry the family owned. The War lasted for years. When she tried to dig up the jewelry, she could not find it. Had someone seen her bury it? Had she forgotten just where she put it? I've always been fascinated by that story. Perhaps someday someone will plant a tree and find something of value. The Northern soldiers and the Confederate soldiers were both hungry. When they passed through the area, they would take whatever food they needed and anything of value that they could use to finance the war. The milk cow was staked in a ravine so that when the soldiers looked out over the pasture to see what stock was available, they would not see the cow.
The front door opened against a loom where my great-grand-mother was weaving a counterpane. She stored food for her family in the space behind the loom.
Coffee was something that could not be grown in the garden, so they made a substitute out of the skins of baked sweet potatoes. I tried making this drink. It was hot and it was colored like coffee, but I didn't like it. (I didn't like coffee either the first time I drank coffee.)
My grandfather said the most delicious thing he ever tasted was a sunbaked beet. He had found it where a garden had been destroyed by Northern soldiers and the beet had been left in the sun for a couple of days.
After I married I asked my grandmother, who had never been to a talking movie, to go with me to see Gone With The Wind. She refused, saying she remembered the War too well. I have always been thankful she did not go. She would have had a heart attack.
Gypsy Damaris Boston
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.