Recently I chatted with Everett Smith and his sister Evelyn (Smith) Smith who may be the oldest living twins in Greene County. They were born June 15, 1923, so are now 95. Evelyn says she is the eldest by about 13 minutes. Each of them married and raised a family here. They are descendants of John Smith who came to Greene County about 1813 from Virginia.
Born on a farm near Mt. Holly, they attended school in Waynesville. Being on a farm, there were chores to attend even before going to school. The chickens had to be fed, cows milked and other chores before they caught the school bus. After school, there were more chores.
On their farm, they grew wheat, corn, oats and beans as well as a vegetable garden. They also had raspberries and blackberries which were made into jams and jellies. Of course, the vegetables which were to be preserved for the winter months had to be canned and stored in large jars. Elwood recalled picking strawberries selling them to the proprietor at the Spring Valley grocery.
Evelyn was only 6 when her mother died, and many of the household responsibilities fell to her including watching after a younger sister. Before school, she also got up early to fix breakfast for the family and wash the dishes before catching the bus
Although Evelyn did a majority of the cooking, their father would often prepare a meal, and one of their fondest memories was the wonderful cookies that father baked.
The family had two horses, usually used for plowing the fields, but from time to time could be ridden. There were two mules also used for plowing, but one of the mules would never let anyone sit on his back. They remembered a neighbor’s cow which was quite mean. They would cut across the field now and then, but only after checking to see if the cow was in sight.
Additionally, they raised chickens, eight dairy cows, thirty sheep and a few hogs. They even had a pony to ride.
All butchering was done on the farm. Their father would invite their uncles to come and bring their pigs so that they could work together. Usually they would butcher five or six hogs. So the men would come early in the morning to begin the process of butchering, rendering the lard, making hams which were seasoned and hung to cure. Bacon was also processed at this time. Much of the meat was cold packed into jars for storage in the cellar until needed. Elwood worked along with the men and so Evelyn did a lot of the cooking for the men.
Elwood said the best way to preserve the apples throughout the season was to dig a hole about six feet across and eight inches deep. The hole was lined with straw and the apples lay on top of the straw. More straw covered the apples and then dirt was placed as a final layer. He said there was nothing sweeter than to dig up one of those apples. They were always cool and juicy.
During the spring, there were many maple trees on the property, so when the sap began to run, the trees were tapped and syrup was made. Sometimes they would make as many as 50 or 60 gallons, selling some to neighbors.
Of course, it wasn’t always worked for the kids. On occasion, they were treated to a movie at the Spring Valley Opera House. Another fond memory was of the picnics at nearby Bear Branch. The church members often had picnics there,
Winter brought some leisure time although the animals required daily attention. Summer time meant swimming in the branch (local creek). A grape vine was fun to swing from over the water unless it broke spilling the swinger. When the creek froze, it was a place for ice skating.
Family reunions were a part of growing up. The Smiths were part of Marlatt family which gathered each summer with many cousins in attendance.
Harvest time, like butchering time, meant that the men would help each other by harvesting each farm one after the other. Usually there would be two or three wagon loads of hay to be stored in the barn.
Both of them enjoyed playing ball and they were both pretty good at throwing balls. They talked about standing on either side of the house and throwing the ball back and forth over the roof (anti-over). Sometimes it was a little difficult to know just where the ball would appear on your side of the house. Evelyn was chosen for a track meet team because she could throw a baseball well.
Evelyn remembered how Everett loved to pick up rocks and throw them. One time, the rock hit her on the head. She said he didn’t get in trouble for this because she never told their dad. Both kids were pretty good with a ball and bat. Everett would pick up stones and hit them with a stick as far as he could into the woods. She said when he found a patch of graven he was “in heaven”, he loved rocks.
Everett always enjoyed helping at the Greene County Fair in the Art Hall. It was his responsibility to hang all the paintings and photographs for the judging in addition to hanging all the quilts. Sometimes there would be fifty or more quilts to hang.
Evelyn lives in Spring Valley while Everett, a retired carpenter, who still enjoys working with wood, lives in Spring Valley Township. They both remarked that the “old place” where they grew up has changed greatly. Where there were once corn and wheat fields, there are now many trees. In their ninety-five years they have seen many changes.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.