Tricked into pushing one of the best mowers in the county

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 7, 2015

The Leader
October 4, 1917
Meigs County OH


From the Interesting and Eventful Life of T.H. Gold of Bedford

By invitation the editor of The Leader was a guest Sunday of the venerable Mr. and Mrs. T.H. Gold of Bedford.

David Stansbury, who Mr. Gold says was one of the best men he ever met, wanted a hand to help mow with a scythe in the meadow. Could Tom Gold mow? He would try. Mr. Stansbury told Tom Gold that another hand would be present to mow. Stansbury broke the information confidentially that the hand aforesaid had the reputation of soldering[sic] on the job, and he would like to have young Gold crowd him a little to get a good day’s work out of him.

Next morning Tom Gold was in the meadow bright and early, with his scythe in perfect condition. It was then that Gard Neer appeared, climbed over the fence, whet his scythe, gave a look at the meadow and then took the lead to split it in the middle. Tom followed. Mr. Neer never stopped.

hay baling, by Albert J EwingFaster and faster he went, and Tom exerting every muscle to catch up. Catch him he couldn’t. He couldn’t keep in speaking distance. Reaching the farther side, Mr. Neer whet his scythe and was backswathing his way back long before the struggling Tom had gotten across. Tom whetted his scythe and was desperately trying to make a good finish. It was no go. Gard Neer was a bear cat, beside whom Tom was a helpless novice.

At 10 o’clock, when young Tom Gold was doing anything but crowding his companion, so wet with sweat that there wasn’t a dry thread on him, he chanced to look back and there lay David Stansbury bursting his sides in the cut grass with laughter. Mr. Gold didn’t tell us so but we have a suspicion that Mr. Gold now thinks he had been coached to push one of the best mowers in Rutland Township. If so, it was a naughty trick on the part of David Stansbury, but Mr. Gold enjoys it to this day all the same.


Meigs+County+OH hay+baling appalachian+humor appalachia +appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

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Reviving the ancient art of tatting

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 6, 2015

If you’re anywhere near Knoxville, TN this weekend, head on over to the Museum of Appalachia for the Tennessee Fall Homecoming. Crafts and demonstrations include weaving, pottery making, grist milling, wood crafting, basket weaving, broom making, quilting, and tatting.


Tatting is the centuries-old art of making fine lace. The lace form consists of circles and curved lines which are created by looping and tying knots which slide on a core thread. This fine thread is fed into a cat-eye-shaped shuttle. The tatting shuttle consists of two oval blades of either bone, ivory, mother of pearl or tortoise-shell, pointed at both ends, and joined together in the middle.

Tatting manual by Anne OrrA good shuttle contributes materially to the rapid and perfect execution of the work. In the eighteenth century, when tatting was in great vogue, much larger shuttles than today’s were used, because of the voluminous materials they had to carry, silk cord being one.

The English name of tatting is said to be derived from ‘tatters’ and to denote the frail disconnected character of the fabric. The Italians called it ‘occhi,’ while in the Orient it still bears the name of ‘makouk,’ from the shuttle used in making it. The term tatting can encompass a variety of lace-making styles, as well as social aspects of gatherings.

In the early 20th century, Anne Orr emerged as a champion of the needlework arts. Her magazine pieces published in Southern Woman’s Magazine, Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens made tatting patterns available to all.

Anne Champe Orr (1875-1946) was endlessly fascinated with needlework and designed and sold hundreds of thousands of patterns for cross stitch, quilting, crochet, filet crochet and tatting. Orr began her career as art editor for the Nashville-based Southern Woman’s Magazine in 1913-14. She quickly became widely known at home and abroad for the published needlework patterns she began producing in 1915.

Even though she was not a needleworker herself, she created easy-to-follow charted designs for cross-stitch, embroidery, and crochet, later doing the same for knitting, lacemaking (particularly tatting) and rugmaking.

Tatting at Museum of Appalachia Tennessee Fall Homecoming 2011.

Tatting at Museum of Appalachia Tennessee Fall Homecoming.

Orr’s designs were innovative to boot. Teri Dusenbury, in Tatting Hearts, says of Orr’s contribution to the craft: “Through the genius of one designer, Anne Orr, tatting evolved one step further with one of the most innovative techniques to be discovered since the true chain was established in 1862—split ring tatting. The technique first appeared in 1923 in a J&P Coats publication entitled Crochet, Cross Stitch and Tatting, Book No. 14. Of the thirteen edgings shown, twelve utilized the new technique.”

Anne Orr provided employment for women throughout the Appalachians, who thanks to her skilled guides could make such things as appliqued quilts and delicate tablecloths for sale.

“Encyclopedia of Needlework” Therese de Dillmont, 1906, DMC, Dornach, Alsance

“Tatting Hearts” Teri Dusenbury, 1994, Courier Dover Publications

related post: “Winter’s the Quilting Season”

Home+Craft+Days Big+Stone+Gap+VA Tatting Anne+Champe+Orr appalachia appalachia+history appalachian+culture appalachian+mountains+history

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Meeting princes at the gate of Rugby, in the New World

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 5, 2015

The Rugby Colony was founded by English author and social reformer Thomas Hughes in the eastern Tennessee mountains, and was officially christened on October 5, 1880.

Rugby colony founder Thomas Hughes, Tennessee State Library and Archives, no date

Rugby colony founder Thomas Hughes, Tennessee State Library and Archives, no date

Hughes published the President’s Address he’d given at the opening of the town site in a pamphlet circulated in London, Boston and New York with the intent to attract additional lot purchasers:

“The prospectuses and pamphlets of the numerous corporations and individuals who are just now engaged in this work of settling and developing the unoccupied lands on this glorious continent, are full of figures and statements showing the rapidity with which enormous gain will be made in the several regions to which they desire to attract settlers. This being so, you may fairly ask, what have I, standing here at the representative of the founders of this settlement, to say upon the subject?

“I answer them broadly and frankly; we have nothing to say. We believe that our lands have been well bought, and that those who settle here and buy from us will get good value for their money, and will find it as easy as it is at all well that it should be to make a living here.

“Beyond this we are not careful to travel. Whether the lands will double or quadruple in value before you have fairly learned to live on them; whether you will make five or twenty or one hundred per cent on your investments, we offer no opinions. You can judge for yourselves of the chances, if these are your main aims.

“Speaking for myself, however, I must say that I look with distrust rather than with hope to very rapid pecuniary returns. I am old fashioned enough to prefer slow and steady growth. I like to give the cream plenty of time to rise before you skim it.

The wise men wait; it is the foolish haste,
And, ere the scenes are in the slides would play,
And, while the instruments are tuning, dance.

“So far as I have been able to judge, these new settlements are being, as a rule, dwarfed and demoralized by hurrying forward in the pursuit of gain, allowing this to become the absorbing propensity of each infant community.

“Then follows, as surely as night follows day, that feverish activity of mercantile speculation, which is the great danger, and to my mind, the great disgrace of our time.

“If it must come it must, but, so far as we are concerned, it shall get no help or furtherance here.

“On the other hand, all that helps to make healthy, brave, modest, and true men and women will get from us all the cordial sympathy and help we are able to give.

Members of the Rugby Colony in Morgan County, Tennessee, participating in a summer outing. Undated photo. Image 0012_000090_000200_0000/University of Tennessee Special Collections Library, Knoxville, Tennessee

Members of the Rugby Colony in Morgan County, Tennessee, participating in a summer outing. Undated photo. Image 0012_000090_000200_0000/University of Tennessee Special Collections Library, Knoxville, Tennessee


“In one word, our aim and hope are to plant on these highlands a community of gentlemen and ladies; not that artificial class which goes by those grand names, both in Europe and here, the joint product of feudalism and wealth, but a society in which the humblest members, who live (as we hope most if not all of them will, to some extent) by the labour of their own hands, will be of such strain and culture that they will be able to meet princes in the gate without embarrassment and without self-assertion, should any such strange persons ever present themselves before the gate tower of Rugby in the New World.”

The utopia Hughes envisioned didn’t last long. In 1881 a typhoid epidemic took the lives of seven Rugbians. By 1884 the 400 or so colonists had managed to establish a canning company, a sawmill, a commissary, a printing office, and The Tabard Inn, a boarding house which drew in summer holiday traffic. But by 1887 a decline in commodity prices, falling land prices, and a long drought marked the beginning of the end for the settlement.

On top of these woes, the Cincinnati-Southern Railroad failed to build a spur line through Rugby, as they originally had promised. And so, less than two decades into Hughes’ grand experiment, many of the original colonists by the 1890s had left for other parts of America, unable to prosper in Rugby.


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Let Sears, Roebuck & Co. be your architect

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 2, 2015

A headline on page 594 of the 1908 Sears Catalog probably startled readers used to page after page of plows, obesity powders, sewing machines, and cook stoves. It announced: “$100 set of building plans free. Let us be your architect without cost to you.” From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Company sold roughly 75,000 homes nationwide through their mail-order Modern Homes program. Illinois probably has the largest collection in the US, but Sears homes are located in all 48 contiguous states.

Over that time Sears designed 447 different housing styles, from the elaborate multistory Ivanhoe, with its elegant French doors and art glass windows, to the simpler Goldenrod, which served as a quaint, three-room and no-bath cottage for summer vacationers.

Sears mail order homesCustomers could choose a house to suit their individual tastes and budgets. A few weeks after the customer selected a home and placed the order, two railway boxcars containing 30,000 pieces of house – everything from doorknobs and carved staircases to varnish and roof shingles – would arrive at the nearest train depot.

How to get it from the station to the lot was up to the new homeowner. In the early days, people made trip after trip between the building site and the railroad station. Since it would have been difficult to transport all that material long distances, Sears homes were often located within a mile or two of train tracks and in cities that were reachable by rail.

Karen Hudson, of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, reports the results of a 1992 survey the Center conducted in the New River Gorge region of West Virginia to describe that area’s built environment:

“The survey revealed a much more diverse landscape than has been described in the past,” she notes. “While it was easy for project researchers to locate log cabins and abandoned coal towns, we also found many cinder block bungalows, glazed tile barns and silos, Lustron houses, concrete block churches, Sears mail order homes, and geodesic domes. Contrary to past reports, the New River Gorge cultural landscape reflects the history of a community that designed, built, and used its buildings according to individual tastes and principles.”

In 1932, Sears Modern Homes department began operating at a loss for the first time since 1912. The company’s annual report stated that sales of the mail-order homes had dropped 40 percent in one year.

Sears closed the Modern Homes department in 1934. At a time when the average Sears house cost well under $3,000 (and mortgages were typically a fraction of that amount), this was a staggering sum. Foreclosing on (and evicting) customers from their homes became a public-relations nightmare. The Modern Homes department was reopened the following year, but the days of Sears “easy payment” mortgages were over.

Between 1932 and 1940, Sears probably sold another 15,000 to 20,000 homes, perhaps fewer. When the last Sears Modern Homes catalog was issued in 1940, Americans had purchased an estimated 75,000 homes.


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They would work up the apples the next day

Posted by Dave Tabler | October 1, 2015

“Pa bought a mountain farm of about eighty acres that was located about five miles up Coon Creek from where the state road went from Pikeville, Kentucky to Williamson, W. Va. This farm had a framed four-room house on it, but Pa was never satisfied with it, as it was all hillside except maybe two acres.

“Pa and Ma both worked hard and were good managers. They raked and scraped and saved all they could, and didn’t waste anything. Pa was a great hand to set out fruit trees, so naturally he had an apple orchard. They canned apples in fruit jars, dried apples over a kiln, and made apple butter. Of course there were other fruit trees on the place, such as a cherry tree, several peach trees and some pear trees. They made use of all the fruit. When apples were ripe, they would peel a couple of bushels at night by kerosene lamplight, then they would work them up the next day.

Sorting fruit in Kentucky
“Pa was intelligent and he had about fifth grade education at three or four months per school term. Women in those days rarely attended school as it was considered useless as a woman’s place was in the home. So naturally Ma could neither read nor write. Pa taught her to read, write and count. He used a blue-backed speller as a textbook. Ma would practice writing or printing the words from the speller, and soon she could read her bible and the mail order catalog.

“Ma was an intelligent woman and had great pride in her manners, cleanliness and character. She always had a smile for every one and never downed people. They seemed to prosper right along, and they vowed they would send their children to school and educate them. This they did.

“Bertha completed eighth grade, took six weeks of high school, took a Normal Course Examination and received her certificate to teach school. She taught school for three years on Brushy Fork of John’s Creek. Orrison completed high school at Pikeville, and went to the University Of Kentucky at Lexington, where he graduated with a Law degree. He was admitted to the Bar in Kentucky, and set up his practice in Pikeville. John completed high school in Pikeville, and was an outstanding basketball player. After high school, he went into business with Garfield Blackburn, selling White Sewing Machines.”

By Ireland Everett Layne
Coon Creek, KY


Pikeville+KY Apple+harvesting appalachia appalachia+history appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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