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Wait until the first frost has kissed the persimmons

Posted by | November 9, 2015

Fall means that the persimmons are getting ripe and it’s time to gather the sweet, pulpy fruit. But you’d better try to get to them before the woodland critters beat you to it. Raccoons, foxes, squirrels, wild turkeys, bob white quail, possums, coyotes, and even deer feast on it. Numerous birds also relish persimmons.

The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is a Native American tree in the southeastern United States. Diospyros is from the Greek, and means “fruit of the gods,” and many country people would agree with the meaning. The Algonquin Indians called the fruit “pessamin,” or “pasiminian” and are credited with its common name, and the Cherokee Indians are the ones who first introduced persimmon sweet bread to the Europeans.

Persimmon pulp can be used in many different baked goods including pudding, sweet bread, and cookies, and it makes a delicious ice cream topping or candy treat. Wine or beer made from persimmon is the poor relation of champagne–with the advantage that nobody is ever the worse for drinking it. And persimmon seeds can be roasted, ground, and used as a hot beverage, reminiscent of coffee.

persimmon fruitIt’s best to get the ones that have already fallen to the ground, or ones that fall off the tree easily, when shaking the tree. If the fruit falls to the ground easily, it is ripe. Wait until the first frost has kissed the persimmons, as the frost takes away their puckering quality, making them as sweet as honey.

According to weather folklore, persimmon seeds can be used to predict the severity of winter weather. When cut into two pieces, the persimmon seed will display one of three symbols. A knife shape indicates a cold icy winter (where wind will cut through you like a knife). A fork shape means a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out of the snow.

The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore lists a number of cures and folk beliefs involving the persimmon:

Tie a knot in a piece of string for every chill that you have; then tie the string to a persimmon tree.

Briar root bark, persimmon tree bark, grapevine root bark, and green sage boiled into a tea with alum and honey is cure for yellow thrash.

Wild cherry, oak, and persimmon bark tea with enough whiskey in it to keep it from souring makes a good tonic.

Ground persimmon sprouts are good for poulticing.

To cure Bright’s disease, put into a half -gallon of apple brandy a handful of cherry bark, persimmon bark, red holly bark, and dogwood root, and drink the solution.

To cure chills and fever, make a band, or large thread, of black wool, from a black sheep, or black spotted sheep, fasten it around the waist, next to the body of the sick one, then let the person walk around a persimmon tree as many times as he has had chills. This is supposed to be a sure cure.

Cut a persimmon twig, cut as many notches in it as you have warts, bury the twig, and when it rots the warts will disappear.

If the husband or wife should stray, burn seven sprouts of persimmon in the fire and the unfaithful one will have seven severe pains and return home.

A girl eating nine persimmons in a row will turn into a boy in less than two weeks.


sources: The Frank C. Brown Collection of NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE online at


East Tennessee was considered the ‘pits’ of the mission

Posted by | November 6, 2015

“The Mormons in the hills of eastern Tennessee were often under attack by people from other churches. Near Bybee on November 6, 1934, I wrote, ‘Went around & visited about 4 families of Saints. At Luther Talley’s found a boy 21 yrs. old, just been married two days, reading & studying Book of Mormon. Found this to be case all over the community. The sectarian Ministers have been jumping on the children of the Saints. They have to study so as to defend Mormonism!’

“Everyone in the headquarters seemed to pity me for being sent to such a godforsaken place. My own feelings at the time were mingled apprehension and anticipation, because East Tennessee District was considered the ‘pits’ of the mission. However, I knew that Kirkham was not trying to ‘punish’ me and chose to regard it instead as a test of my mettle.

East Tennessee Mormon Missionaries, April 1943. Courtesy Bruce Crow/Amateur Mormon Historian blog.

East Tennessee Mormon Missionaries, April 1943. Courtesy Bruce Crow/Amateur Mormon Historian blog.


“In retrospect, I’m actively grateful for his decision. I not only survived but came to enjoy the mountaineer people and to appreciate their culture. My experience there with the Scotch-Irish stock of the Martins and the Coys and their fascinating traditions going unbroken back to the days when Daniel Boone pioneered the land on the other side of the Cumberland Gap strengthened my resolve to become a historian.

“The modern revolution introduced by the New Deal had not yet touched the coves and hollows of the thick forest. Some of them were still living like their nineteenth-century ancestors, in log cabins with dirt floors, cooking over fireplaces, sometimes lacking even outhouses. When Mother Nature called, a stranger might be invited to visit the nearby cornfield, although it could be embarrassing when the chickens would follow you into the patch.

“One night we stayed with a miller whose grist mill dated back to the 1840s. I was astonished one day to see a yoke of oxen hitched to a cart and listened with much interest to solemn warnings that sweet potatoes should be dug only in the dark of the moon, that pigs should be killed in the last of the full moon, and that a person would surely come down with the flu if he or she should put his or her hands in newfallen snow.

“Almost always the mountaineers were hospitable. If we came suddenly on a cabin in a clearing, we were invited to dine and spend the night. I learned to love persimmons, apples cooked in new molasses, and, of course, cornbread, and sweet potatoes. Within four months I had gained fifteen pounds, reaching my mature weight of two hundred pounds.

“We enjoyed the common salutation, ‘You’ns come over and see wee’ns,’ with its appropriate response, ‘Us’ns will.’ The dialects were straight out of Abraham Lincoln’s time with ‘heerd’ for ‘heard’ and ‘fit’ for ‘fought.’ The old saw that ‘I raised a sight, sold a heap, and have a right smart left’ would not have raised any eyebrows in Clay County.

“One of the principal reasons for missionary reluctance to serve in East Tennessee was the comparative scarcity of Mormons to whom a homesick or hungry missionary could turn for help and comfort. There were only two organized branches in the whole eastern half of the state. The Chattanooga Branch had no chapel. At Northcut’s Cove a small frame chapel was tucked in a fold of the forest.”

Against the Grain:
Memoirs of a Western Historian
, by B. Dwaine Madsen (1914-2010)
(Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998)


The farmer has become a prince

Posted by | November 5, 2015

“The log cabin no longer adorns the landscape. Instead, is the stately mansion, indicative of wealth, of taste and of hospitality. There are spacious, nicely painted barns, hedges, orchards, well-fenced, well-tilled fields. Steel bridges span the turbulent streams, and macadamized roadways wind among the valleys and skirt the rising hills. Where the wigwam once stood, temples dedicated to the deity now dot the surrounding scene.

“The farmer has become a prince. The telephone has put him in touch with all his neighbors. The daily paper with the markets of the world, is regularly at his gate, and ere he goes afield he may scan its pages, and know the commercial history of the universe.

Ohio farmer plowing“The sickle, the hoe, the cradle, the flail, are the ancient farm implements about which he tells his grandchildren. All the modern scientific, up-to-date methods of farming are employed in Harrison County. Instead of bathing at the back porch pump of an evening, the farmer now adjourns to his porcelain bath tub.

“The gas grate has succeeded the back log: the swinging crane and the Dutch oven, the spinning wheel, and the perforated cream skimmer have disappeared. The tallow candle is regarded as the ‘light of other days.’ Where the rifle once adorned the chimney piece is a portrait in crayon or oil of ‘mother’ or of ‘father.’

“In the parlor are music and books; in the kitchen sunlight, conveniences and comfort. The farm today, in Harrison County, is a scene of art, of taste, of plenty, of comparative ease, and delightful independence. Gone are the ‘good old times,’ and the Harrison County farmer has fulfilled the poetical idea —

“The farmer’s the chief of the nation;
The oldest of nobles is he,
How blest beyond others his station,
From want and envy, how free.”


1909 Souvenir edition of the Harrison County Democrat


The center of social activity for the upstate

Posted by | November 4, 2015

South Carolinians have known about the mineral springs of Glenn Springs, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Spartanburg, for centuries. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, the place was known simply as a “deer lick.” Cattle were continually straggling from their pastures seeking the swamp around the lick.

Its future as a resort destination began to emerge when John B. Glenn purchased the 500 acres on which the spring was situated for $800 in 1825, and constructed an inn for guests to come and enjoy the water. The popularity of his guesthouse was so high with lowcountry residents looking to escape the coastal heat that in 1835 fifteen investors, headed by a Dr. Maurice Moore, formed a stock company to buy Glenn’s property and build a large summer resort hotel on the site.

Glenn Springs Hotel circa 1900In 1877, Dr. John Wister Simpson of Laurens County, who like Dr. Moore had served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, bought the springs property from the stock company and relocated his family to it. His brother was then-Governor and later Chief Justice William Dunlap Simpson; small wonder that the site became the Governor’s summer headquarters.

Simpson willed his interest to sons Harvey, Paul, Casper, and Arthur, who during their tenure saw the resort become the state’s most popular. The resort passed into the hands of their children, and became the Glenn’s Spring Company, later called simply Glenn Springs.

By 1894, the hotel was once again deemed too small to accommodate demand. Paul Simpson of Simpson & Simpson expanded the property to over 58,000 square feet, able to serve 500 guests. “The Hotel is fitted with Water Works, Sanitary Arrangements, baths on first and second floors and Electric
 Bells,” crowed an 1897 ad in the Spartanburg Journal. The signature feature of the hotel was the more than 580 linear feet of piazzas.

Part of the 1894 expansion involved the creation of The Glenn Springs Railroad to make hotel access easier. The two-car train ran from Becca Station (now Roebuck) via the Charleston & Western Carolina line from Augusta to Spartanburg (now CSX), to Glenn Springs.

Bottling house circa 1880s/South Caroliniana LibraryThe nine mile trip from Roebuck to Glenn Springs cost 75 cents for adults and 35 cents for children. Riders boarded a train in Spartanburg, took it to Roebuck, then boarded the train going to the springs. Finally hotel livery wagons delivered guests and their summer-long baggage to the hotel.

Glenn Springs water was not only enjoyed locally, but was bottled and shipped throughout the United States and parts of Europe. Beginning in 1931 Glenn Springs was the official water of the United States Senate. The resort had transformed from being the center of social activity for the upstate to attracting visitors from near and far. The original beautiful wooden building burned in 1941, but was never rebuilt. The hotel’s chapel, built in 1908, still remains on the site.

The Glenn Springs Historic District, including the hotel site, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 4, 1982.

sources: Seeing Spartanburg: A History in Images, by Philip N. Racine, Hub City Writers Project, 1999

History of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, by John Belton O’Neall Landrum, Genealogical Publishing, 1997


Get your liver to working correctly and forget your troubles of the past

Posted by | November 3, 2015

“For the last three or four years, or until the middle of 1920, the cotton mills passed through a very prosperous period, just as did every other kind of business that was properly managed.

“The cotton mills made large profits, but if any other business, including farming, failed to make large profits during the period named the manager of that business should have resigned and gone to work for wages. The mills, the farmers, the merchants and in fact, everyone, passed through a very prosperous period, but all of us failed to realize while passing through the prosperous period that an end to that period was inevitable.

“We failed to take into account the inevitable fact that that tail end of all booms must show a loss, deducting of course a portion of the profits which were heretofore made.

Liberty Cotton Mill, Liberty SC, 1917Liberty Cotton Mill workers, Liberty SC, 1917.

“During the Spring of 1920 the cotton goods market began to decline very seriously and buyers of cloths became very scarce. The buyers who had purchased in advance were disposed to be very critical and in many cases took advantage of technicalities and in some cases bankruptcy in order to cancel contracts.

“The mills having sold the goods naturally purchased the cotton at a high price to make those goods and when the contracts for goods were cancelled, either legitimately or through the bankruptcy courts, or otherwise, the mills had to bear the burden of loss on the cotton which they purchased to manufacture the high priced goods.

“The income tax has been very excessive and unfortunately the idea has been permitted to creep into the minds of the public that profits of the mills represented the gross profits without first deducting the large amounts taken from the mills by the Federal Government through profit taxes.

“In addition to this the State and County taxes, including school taxes, have materially increased so that our present tax from both Federal and State has become burdensome.

“For the last several months it has been impossible to secure a profitable business and as a matter of fact for the last few months practically all of the goods which have been sold have been sold at a material loss, and at the moment we are unable to do a business that is in any way satisfactory.

Pickens Mill Interior, Pickens SC, early 1900sPickens Mill interior, early 1900s, Pickens, SC.

“Most of the mills have kept their machinery running most of the time in order that their organizations may be kept intact and to give employment to those people who are more or less dependent upon the mills. The operation of the mills has been done at a loss, and while I do not intend claiming any philanthropic motives, at the same time I do contend that the mill management as a rule has at all times kept the welfare of their employees before them and has endeavored to furnish enough employment to avoid serious trouble on the part of the operatives.

“The mills’ payrolls in the last few years have increased in excess of 200 per cent above the pre-war wage scale, and it is my understanding that the wage scale has necessarily been decreased about 25 per cent below the scale prevailing in July 1920.

“There has been a disposition in many quarters to misrepresent the position of the mills, and the statements have not always been in line with the truth. In fact in many cases the statements made have been entirely at variance with the truth.

“Unfortunately a few officials whom we have every reason to feel should represent us as well as other lines of industry have been inclined to make political capital at the expense of the mills and at the expense of the truth.

Norris Cotton Mill, Cateechee, SC, before 1899Norris Cotton Mill, Cateechee, SC, before 1899.

“It is impossible to forecast the future, but I feel it safe to say that the mills will operate so far as may be possible so as to avoid serious want on the part of those who are dependent upon the mills, and while we are hoping for an improved business and have no doubt that it will come sooner or later, at the same time we do recognize that the intense speculation in cotton, cloths, stocks, land and everything else that was experienced during and directly after the war ended has not been in the interest of the people generally, and that everything must come down to a legitimate price before a happy and prosperous condition can prevail.

“At the present the prices of cotton goods are about one third the price prevailing in the Spring of 1920 and are about in line with the prices prevailing in 1913. We are operating at present without profit and often with loss and of course that condition cannot continue indefinitely without serious injury to the capital of the mills, though as stated above we are hoping for better times and will in most cases endeavor to so conduct the business as to avoid serious want on the part of operatives.

“The writer personally feels it would be much in the interest of all if everyone will recognize the loss experienced by them during the last several months and accept that loss in good faith and go to work on a proper basis or a basis that is normal, forgetting the losses experienced, and assume a cheerful attitude towards the future.

“There is no question in my mind but that the present condition is largely psychological and that if everyone will get their liver to working correctly and forget their troubles of the past, and look forward with confidence to the future, we will have a better 1921 than the last half of 1920 has proven to be.”

James D. Hammett, of Anderson, SC, president of the Cotton Manufacturers Association of South Carolina, in
Annual report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Commerce and Industries, Volume 12 , by South Carolina. Dept. of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries, 1920

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