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Mountain 3
Old Timey Living

If you have any family history you would like to share,we would love to hear from you.All of our ancestors had such talent for survival and utilizing what Nature provided.Please write so that we can keep alive the wisdom they possessed.
My sincere appreciation is sent to Linda and Dan for all their help in researching material for this page.I couldn't have done it without you two.Thank you!

Wild Plant Foods
These potential food sources have not been extensively ex- plotted in the recent past, but one may assume that the earliest white settlers along with the Indians once made much fuller use of these re- sources.

Among the potherbs or sallet greens used by informants, poke is the most frequently mentioned and is still collected by a good many informants. However,some families used to gather other greens also yellow dock, sour dock, old field lettuce, pigweed, lamb's quarters, crow's foot, mustard, dandelion, and bullweed. Wild sage rather than cultivated sage sometimes was used to season game and as an ingredient in sausage and souse meat.

Roots were used almost exclusively for medicine; however, meadow garlic may have been used in sausage making, and one informant reported collecting and roasting the Indian turnip, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, when she was a girl.

Beechnuts, black walnuts, hickory nuts, and chestnuts were gathered in the fall,and chestnut mast also fattened the semi wild, semi domestic hogs ranging free in the woods. Old timers contend that the chestnut fattened hogs yielded better flavored pork than animals finished off on grain. The chestnuts are no more, but black walnuts are still a popular wild food.

Among the wild fruits and berries collected both in the past and presently are persimmon, papaw, blackberry, huckleberry, frost grape, and muscadine. The two wild grapes are quite sour but produce flavorful jellies. Muscadines used to thrive in the cleared areas along the O & W railroad tracks, but reforestation has destroyed that former habitat.

Various plants were used to prepare table beverages. Sassafras tea was brewed from sassafras root bark; spicewood bark and twigs, and the leaves of bee balm, also known as Oswego tea, were steeped for table beverages. Many other teas were prepared for medicinal purposes. Persimmons were turned into mildly alcoholic persimmon beer. First the persimmons were baked in corn bread.Then the bread was crumbled into a crock, covered with water, and allowed to ferment for a few days.

Big South Fork residents have been able to use a variety of substitutes for refined sugar. Honey and sorghum molasses are still quite popular, but in the early decades of this century, maples were tapped and the sap was boiled down into maple syrup and sometimes maple sugar. In the process of logging out the area's hardwoods, some fine old sugar groves were lost. An additional natural sweet for children was the balsam exuded from sweet gum trees. This balsam was chewed like chewing gum...
Benita. Howell

Note:Sugar was  made from beets, corn stalks and watermelon. It was also made from maple sap, a process that settlers learned from the Indians.Earlier settlers really didn't prefer sugar even if they could have access to it,preferring honey and molasses as sweeteners.

Most settlers had their own bee gums , homemade  hives were built in  hollowed out black gum trees, or they raided wild honey-bees' hives. .If there was enough honey to spare,it was sold to obtain extra  income.


The Native Americans knew how valuable cattails were and pioneers were grateful for their knowledge.Click here for the amazing truth about this plant.
NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art:Cattails-Supermarket of the Swamps

After  1758 very few Indians lived in the state of Kentucky. No one particular tribe had ever claimed Kentucky ,instead ,sharing the wealth of animal and plant life as belonging to all tribes.

The Europeans brought guns and new weapons that the Indians were unable to defend themselves against. However, one of the largest threats was disease carried with the Europeans of which there was no natural immunity. The Indians did continue to travel through
Kentucky to hunt and raid the settlers.

Indian Tribes of Kentucky :

Paleo Indians:The Paleo Indian period went on to the Ice Age. The word Paleo means "Very Old."

Archaic Indians:The Archaic Indians lived about 3,000 years after the Ice Age.

Woodland Indians:There is proof that the Woodland Indians lived in
the Lexington area and Mason County.

Mississippi Indians:The Mississippi Indians lived in the western part of Kentucky.

Shawnee Indians: The Shawnee Indians fought the settlers for a long time. The settlers were coming to Kentucky with Daniel Boone for a new beginning. In October, 1774 at the Battle of Point Pleasant, the Shawnee Indians were defeated. It was at this time,Chief Cornstalk promised to give all of the Kentucky land to the whites. He also promised that the Shawnee would never cross through Kentucky again.

The settlers' encounters with the Indians did not end until 1815 when Tecumseh, a leader of the Indians was killed.

Tecumseh, {tuh-kuhm'-suh} b. 1768, d. Oct. 5, 1813, was a Shawnee warrior chief who with his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, attempted to stop the advance of white settlement in the Old Northwest.

Cherokee Indians:

The Cherokee Indians continued to battle the settlers after the Indian defeat of 1774.In 1775 ,arrangements were made with the Cherokee Indians to purchase about a million acres of Kentucky land.

Sequoyah:Developed the Cherokee alphabet

Davey Crockett had his political career destroyed because of his defense of the Cherokee.He had this to say: " I would sooner  be honestly damned than hypocritically immortalized". Good for you,Davey.

Read about the Trail of Tears Click here..

Plants with a milky sap are usually not edible.
Milk weed (cooked), dandelion, wild lettuce, figs, lettuce, and mulberry are a few exceptions to this rule.

Water plants used:
Cattail, arrowhead, bulrush were dried and ground into flour by Native Americans. Cattail roots can be used at any time of the year, but they're best from late fall through early spring, when the starch concentration is higher. (After spring the roots shrink and harden.) They can be baked, or the starch can be processed out of them. 

If you are really lucky,you might have wild asparagus growing on your property.It is hard to spot among the weeds, but it is a wonderful ,tasty surprise if you do have it.If it has gone to seed,it's too old to eat.

Identifying berries: A little rhyme that was used to remember which berries to pick goes like this:

Black and blue are good for you.
Red use your head.
White don't bite.

 Raw poke berries and nightshade berries are black and poisonous, Western snow berries are white and edible, but if they are not ripe they are bitter and give you a sore throat.(As kids,we would make the most beautiful magenta color ink from ripe poke berries.)

Edible Plants:Here are some of the plants we consider flowers but pioneers knew as food.The old belief that if an animal was seen eating a plant,that made it safe for humans is false.Any animal that is starving and out of its original habitat will be drawn to a plant that resembles what they are programmed to eat.There is no natural distinction in recognizing the poisonous plants in this case.

Note:For reading purposes only.
Edible plants of Kentucky and Ohio regions.
  Name        Part Used   Season Collected
Garlic Mustard) Just prior to flowering All year
(Onion Grass)  Leaves Best in spring
Ramps or Wild Leeks Leaves Spring
Winter Cress Basal leaves Late winter ,early spring
Shephard's Purse Basal leaves of 1st year plants Late winter ,early spring
Redbud, Judas Tree Flowers Early spring
l.whole young
2.tops of older plants
Early spring,later in year
Ox-eye Daisy Basal and early leaves Later winter
Indian Strawberry Leaves (best in spring) All year 
Ground Ivy Leaves All year
Wild Prickly 
Basal leaves Early spring
Sour Grass Leaves   All year 
Ground Cherry Ripe fruit only Early winter and late fall
Plantain Leaves Early spring
Purslane Over ground plant prior to flowering Spring and winter
Chickweed Over ground plant All year(best in spring)
Common Blue Violets Basal leaves All year(best in spring)


In the mountains of Appalachia,sweetgum trees are readily found.
Sweet Gum
               Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is readily identified
               by its star shaped leaves, "corky" winged twigs, and spiny
               seed ball.  The sweet gum sap was used by the Cherokee
               as chewing gum.

The early American Indians valued the wild blueberries. They called them "star berries" because at the blossom end of each berry, the calyx forms a perfect five pointed star. Their legends tell of a time when children were dying of hunger during a famine and the Great Spirit sent "star berries" to feed them.

Native Americans made a beef jerky called pemmican, using dried

During Civil War times, soldiers subsisted on a beverage made with
sweetened blueberries.

The Blueberry, is a native American species.
 Early settlers cherished the fruit as a staple ingredient in foods and
 medicines. They incorporated blueberries into their diets, eating
 them fresh off the bush and adding them to soups, stews, and many
 other foods.Of course,they had to keep a sharp lookout.Bear loved 'em,too.Have you ever argued with a bear?No thank you!

Garden herbs found in the gardens of the early settlers.
Sage Savory
Fennel Horehound
Rosemary Marjoram
Chives Tarragon
Dill Tansy


Nature Bulletin No. 736-A   December 15, 1979
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation


Some historians claim that the log cabin, symbol of pioneer life, originated from those built by Swedes and Germans who were early colonists in Delaware and Pennsylvania. However, the first settlers in Kentucky and north of the Ohio River came from Virginia and the  Carolinas. They all built log cabins differing from the Swedish and German types which, of course, they had never seen.

I think that log cabins -- like the sod houses built by homesteaders on the Great Plains -- were born of necessity and expediency. Both were products of the pioneers' ingenuity and skills in utilizing materials available.

Many pioneers, having selected the site for a home, quickly built an open faced shelter, a 3 sided lean-to having a sloping roof of poles covered with brush, grasses and clay. It was in such a temporary home that Thomas Lincoln and his family spent their first winter after moving from Kentucky to southern Indiana.

The next job was to "get somethin' growin' in a hurry. " So the undergrowth and small trees were cleared from a patch of ground, piled around the edges as a fence, and corn, potatoes and garden seeds were planted between the big trees. To kill those trees and admit more sunshine, they were girdled: a notch was cut, through the bark and
into the sapwood, entirely around each trunk.

Then the settler went to work, all by himself unless he had a teenage boy, cutting trees and logs as straight and uniform in size as possible, in the lengths required for the sides, ends and gables of a cabin -- commonly from 16 to 20 feet long and from 10 to 16 feet wide.
Although many an isolated pioneer had to somehow roll and skid the logs into place by his own laborious efforts, usually the "raising" was an occasion, a festive occasion, when every neighbor came to help.

After a rectangular foundation of four big logs had been laid, axmen were stationed at the corners. When a wall log was rolled to a pair of them they notched the under side near each end, so that it fitted snugly upon the ends of the cross logs and, if possible, left little or no space between itself and the one beneath it.

Ordinarily, after the walls were up and the ridge pole and rafters, or longitudinal roof poles, had been added, it was the owner's job to finish a cabin. He had to roof it; cut openings for the door, fireplace and a window or two; and chink the walls with splints of wood held in place by clay, moss, or crude lime mortar. Sometimes he laid poles on top of the walls, from side to side, as the floor of a "loft" or attic where a "passel of younguns" would sleep.

The roof consisted of clapboards rived from bolts of green oak or ash with a frow and a mallet. From 3 to 4 feet long and about an inch thick at the butt, they were laid in courses and held down by poles and
weights. A clay floor, and windows covered with thin deer hides or greased paper, commonly sufficed until they could be replaced by glass windows and a puncheon floor -- hewn from small logs of oak or, preferably, tulip tree -- or a floor of boards from a sawmill.

The wide fireplace, for cooking as well as heating, was frequently of the primitive "cat and clay" construction difficult to describe without illustrations. Some, however, were built of or lined with masonry.

Primitive log cabins and methods of building them may be seen at New Salem State Park in Illinois. Improved double cabin and two- story types, with hewn logs, have been restored at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana.

Early mattresses were filled with straw and held up with a rope stretched across the bed frame.  If the rope was tight, sleep was  comfortable.  Hence the phrase, "sleep tight."

Inside the cabin:
Since electricity wasn't available until around 1890,the problem of providing light was solved by the sheer ingenuity of pioneers.A burning rope knot which hung in the room provided light.It was common to light homes with candles made from beeswax or tallow.Pine knots were also a source of light.

Tallow candles were made from beef fat ,didn't smell very nice and made as much soot as light so beeswax was preferred.Before you start getting romantic ideas of how candle light looks,it took 500 dips for each finished candle.That would take the romance out of the necessity of candles.

While most chores were done during the daylight hours,pitching the hay and similar chores were done by lantern light during the cooler hours of night.The old romantic movies showing glass lanterns are false.They were expensive and too fragile for the average person.Most lanterns were made from metal,punched out with many holes to let the light show through.(I do have a wonderful glass oil lantern passed down through the family that survived the great storm of 1900 in Galveston.)

Tables and chairs were hewn from logs.On the table you would find wooden dishes along with wooden spoons,forks and knives.Gourds that had been carved and hollowed out were used for drinking glasses and cups.A large cast-iron pot,with a tight fitting lid,doubled as a cook pot and oven.To bake anything,the dough would be placed inside ,then the pot lid was placed on tightly,then hot embers were piled on top and all around.Believe it or not,this was a wonderful oven to cook bread,etc.

If the pioneer family owned any pottery,they would put the cooked food in the bowl,cover tightly and place in a stream of cool water to keep from spoiling.Salt was so scarce and expensive,it was considered a luxury.Even wheat flour was considered to be a sign of prosperity,the average family subsisting on wild animals and plants they could forage.If the family had found a permanent place to live,they immediately set about planting gardens if they had the seed.

Coffee and tea were rare items and most families used the spice bush or sassafras for their tea.


Clothing was scarce  for the earlier settlers and consisted of the furs and skins of animals they had killed. Later later along, of flax was raised and woven by their own hands and usually by the time a girl was 6,she was already well versed in the art of spinning.Even if goods for trading were available,usually there were no stores within their reach for the purpose of buying food or material.To reach the nearest trading post would often mean a walk of a week or more ,through woods with no trails.

Needless to say,people didn't have several changes of clothes .To launder the clothes they did own meant oftentimes of going to a creek with a bar of lye soap and then pounding the clothing with a stone until clean.

Other times,water was hauled from nearby streams to wash all clothes by hand with homemade soap.  Filling a large pot with water, the women would heat it over a fire.  When the water was boiling, lye soap would be added along with the dirty clothing.  This was then stirred, by hand, like the motion of a washing machine.  The clothes were wrung out and hung to dry.  Just making the soap was an all day affair.

Styles of clothing:

If you were lucky,your sons would have shirts and pants made from cotton or buckskin,which had been made from the skin of a deer. If properly done,it was soft and would either be gray or yellow in natural colors.This leather would last for long periods of time,which was an essential fact since there was so much more important chores to fill the days.Along with this outfit would be some sort of hat.

If your family could manage it,your daughters would have a dress made from a heavy duty type of cotton called calico,bright in color and being either striped,checked or flowered in pattern.Along with this calico dress would be a bonnet to protect her against the heat of the day and also shade her eyes.

Buttons would often be carved from wood or bone.Often the very needle used to hand sew these outfits were carved from the bone of a deer.
Ann Kennedy Wilson Poague Lindsay McGinty was an extraordinary woman who was widowed four times.She is  credited  with combining nettle lint with buffalo wool and developing the famous "linsey-woolsey" material of pioneer clothing. She now lies buried in the Fort Harrod (ky.) graveyard, were most of the graves are anonymous.

About 500 pioneers were buried here between 1775 and 1833 in the oldest cemetery west of the Allegheny Mountains. Old plaques read:

"Here lie the dead of Kentucky's first settlement, men, women  and children . . .

               "Their identity known to God alone . . .

               "The roots of the present lie deep in the past."

 Buried at this same cemetery is  Ann McGinty, who "brought the first spinning wheel to Kentucky" and died in 1815.

Spinster:where the term originated

Because spinning thread and yarn was so time-consuming, the only women who could spend enough time to earn the title spinster were those who had no husband or children to care for.

Pop Goes the Weasel:

This familiar nursery rhyme phrase originated with spinning. When the finished yarn was wound into skeins, a clock mechanism called the weasel inside the reel would pop after 40 turns.

Dying the Wool:

The wool could be dyed after being wound into skeins.Pioneers made their own dyes,by choosing plants and boiling them,creating natural colors.


Fulling woven cloth is the process of filling it out by pre shrinking it. Pioneer women often gathered for fulling parties, where the cloth was soaked with hot water and soap suds,then stomped on the floor by the barefoot women. To turn this chore from a tedious job into a pleasant day,the women would tell stories and sing songs.

Unfortunately,the mountains became known for the moonshine stills.Some sources claim that the English should be credited with creating this term along with its synonym - at least in that country - "moonlight." Around the time of Prohibition,moonshine also came to mean any foolish or silly talk.No explanation of why it came to interpreted that way is known.

Hollywood has perpetuated a myth in reference to the Native American.
Firewater isn't moonshine, though the term is often used to describe it. A translation of the Native American Algonquian words ishkodew, for "fire," and aaboo for "water,"firewater can mean any ardent spirit, whether rum, brandy, or whiskey.

A mountain custom of yesteryear:

A religious observance developed soon after the Civil War. The mountain people were among the first to set aside a day "to decorate the graves." This day became fixed on May 30 or the nearest Sunday to it. Earlier in the week the menfolk would go to the graveyard and clean off the creepvine and shrubs and remound the sunken graves.

Soon as daylight came on Sunday the mothers would rise and send their children to pick the flowers of the field and around the house and to cut green shrubs from the hillsides and along the streams. The women
would pack every basket on the place with flowers and bulbs to transplant and all the pies, cakes, fried chicken, and pickles and make their way to the meeting house. After Sunday school the congregation would adjourn to the graveyard on the point. There under the largest clump of sassafras trees the preacher would take his stand and talk in a thin wavering voice about "this land of trial and tribulation, where we all totter over the earth until we lay this body down."

And after naming those who had come there to rest within the year he would continue, "And we must prepare to meet those who have gone on before and join our loved ones there with no more sorrow and where our tears will be wiped forever from our eyes."

Sometime between twelve and two the ministers would "give way" and the people would wind about among the graves scattering their flowers and setting out their shoots of evergreen and roses.Then they would leave the sacred grounds and have dinner together on the hillside.
 Flint, Timothy. Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone. James K. Folsom Ed. New Yaven, CT: College and University Press, 1967. 176-8.

Note:When I was growing up,this was still one of the most respected observances and those who had moved to other cities for employment,would drive long distances for "Decoration Day". I helped my grandmother make boxes of crepe paper roses and flowers,dipping them in melted wax to take to the graves of family members. It taught me to never be so complacent about life that I would forget the names of those who helped make my life possible.

Little by little,the town cemetery in McRoberts grew shabby and uncared for as the custom seemed to be fading. My Aunt Pearl organized people to  volunteer time and money in making sure those who were buried there were not dishonored .

Wakes:As a child,I grew up with the custom of " wakes." Our mountain custom wasn't a time of drinking and carousing as some would have you believe.It was a time when friends and neighbors would gather at the home of the deceased and remain there until the funeral.

All the food and needs of the family of the deceased were attended to and the life of that person was discussed in hushed and reverant tones.

However,the custom of wakes date back the 1500s when ale or whiskey was consumed from lead cups.This dangerous mixture of alcohol and lead would render a person unconscious for two days. When someone came by and found them,looking dead as can be,the body was taken to their family.There,it was laid out on the kitchen table.While people waited to see if that person was really dead or in a deep stupor,they would eat,drink and visit.They were waiting to see if that person was going to wake.This began the custom of the  "wake."

A friend of mine who has sent many of his writings to Mountain Memories sent this article to me.  Jack (Grey Squirrel)found it in a newspaper several years ago after a cemetery had been vandalized.

I Am
I am your fathers and your mothers.
I am your sisters and brothers.
I am your aunts and uncles.
I am your grandfathers and grandmothers.
I am your friends and co-workers and guards against danger.I fought for your freedom and I died for you in the line of duty.I climbed in burning  buildings and pulled our your loved ones and gave them life over my own.
I worked long hours to save your life on the operating table.
I taught your children to read and write.I showed your children, and I  showed my children,the word of Christ.
                                                        Who am I?
I am only one of the names on a headstone in a cemetery.I only ask that you remember me as I remember you.Don't allow my resting place to be only a hole in the ground.Don't allow the high grass and  the children's pranks to destroy me.For where I AM,you shall be.

Grey Squirrel shares some history with us.He was featured in Outdoor Illinois where he shared lots of information about Dutch Oven cooking.Thanks Grey Squirrel for sharing with us here at Going Home on a personal level.!I'm looking forward to a lot more history from you.

According to my research Paul Revere invented the first dutch oven which was two skillets (one was taller) that had a flange around the top of one of them. I have one that I picked up somewhere.  Anyway; at that time the United States had very little industrialization as we know it today so other countries saw a good thing and began bringing them to the colonies.
It just happened that HOLLAND was the first to really start making them and sending them here so people started saying "You have a DUTCH oven. So now you know.

A lot of our sayings come from the "old country" and I will give you another history lesson at another time.

Well one more: Did you know that the mountain men in the late 1700 - early 1800 KNEW that there was gold in the West but never messed with it as they preferred to trap.  Also the best trade item to carry was BEADS. Ounce for ounce it carried a far greater value than most everything else.

One last thing:  You could buy a pint of whiskey in St. Louis for 50 cents and you could take it West and do one of two things with it.  You could drink it and sell the empty bottle for a dollar as it could be used as a window in a cabin to let light in OR you could trade it for ?????

Okay this is the last one:  Did you know that there was one bead that was made in Europe that had a very small hole in it to be strung with linen thread.  The Indians did not have linen but used sinew which was very coarse and couldn't be gotten through the holes.  Therefore, the Indians called it a SKUNK BEAD.
Ne Quay (Grey Squirrel)


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