Elm Grove Baptist Church
Lana (Robinson) Pence
THE SETTING We lived in the Southwest corner of Franklin County. There were farming areas in the county where the land was primarily flat and fertile. That was not the case around Pipe Creek, and certainly not on Lawrence Branch where I spent most of my youth.
We moved several times during my childhood. My earliest recollections were from my first grade years which started in the place that we always called 'the house by the side of the road'. In those days all of the roads in our region were gravel and unnamed. Directions were given like, “You follow this road past the iron bridge then turn left just before you get to Edmond Carlton’s house. Just after you pass Linnie Wolfe’s place you will go around a couple of curves and then you will see ‘the house beside the road.'
In the middle of my first school year we moved about six miles away to a place up behind Oak Forest. That took me out of the Metamora school district. So, I spent the second half of my first grade and the first half of my second grade attending Terry School. Terry was an old rock schoolhouse that had one room, one teacher, eight grades and thirty-eight students. At the Christmas break of my second year we moved back down to the ‘house beside the road’.
At some point in my early school years, probably around 1945, Dad bought a farm from Paris Anderson. It was 68 acres of rocky hillsides up on Lawrence Branch about two miles from ‘the house beside the road‘. That is when we moved ‘up the holler’.
That portion of Franklin County was all hills and hollers. Pipe Creek was the major source of water runoff for the region. There were a series of smaller creeks and branches that fed into it. Each of those had carved out its own niche between its own particular set of hills. I’m not sure that there is an official criteria for what constitutes a holler. But is it my observation that where the gravel road traversed the length of the opening, it was called a valley. If the stream was smaller and the road ran to a dead end, it was called a holler. We were the only family that lived in the Lawrence Branch holler.
The house was a two-story log building. The exterior had been covered with clapboard siding. On the inside, the walls were mostly still log. The building was probably about 20 X 30 feet. A thin partition divided the first floor into a kitchen and living room. The upstairs was not divided. We all slept in one room. There was a lean-to across the full length of the back side of the house. It was not inhabitable but we used it for storage. The cream separator was in that room.
We did not have electricity or running water. Momma cooked on a wood burning stove. The only heat in the upstairs bedroom was where the stovepipe from the living room ran up through the floor. It was enough to warm a blanket so that you did not have to pile into a totally cold bed.The farm was about equally divided by Lawrence Branch. We lived right on the creek and the hill behind the house started right behind the house. The hills on both sides of the creek were steep. There was a little bit of flat in the valley that was taken up with garden, yard, and barnyard. On the top of the hill in front of the house was enough land that was semi-flat to raise corn and hay for the animals and provide additional garden space.
Water was provided by the creek, one spring, and one well. All went dry in the summer. During the dog days of summer, we hauled water from Pipe Creek in fifty-five gallon barrels for the livestock. There was a man in Brookville, seems like his name was Elmer Snoddy, who had a tank truck. He would haul water to dump in the well. It would churn up the mud and make the water undrinkable for a few days.
We cut firewood from trees on the place for heating and cooking. Dad started me on one end of the crosscut saw when I was probably about eight years old. Dad never believed in preparing ahead of time. We went to the woods, cut down the tree, drug it to the yard with the team, sawed off and split what we would use the day we burned it.
It was somewhere between a quarter and a half a mile from the house to the end of the lane where we caught the school bus and picked up the mail. The road ran right beside, and sometimes in, the creek bed. During a heavy rain, the road would wash out and was not passable by automobile. That was OK since we did not own one. Wherever we went we walked or took the team and wagon.
The Elm Grove Baptist Church Building was probably the geographical center of the Pipe Creek community. A couple of miles from there, in any direction, would have been about where the imaginary boundaries would have been.
The most wealthy and influential family in the community was the Hannebaums. Addie Hannebaum (pronounced Hon’ey Bomb) had the good fortune to inherit a large farm in the rich bottomlands of Pipe Creek. He and Nettie had the largest farm, the largest house, the most modern equipment and the newest vehicles in the neighborhood. They also were very nice people. The Hannebaums got the first television.(About 1949 or 50) They would invite a folks over to watch ‘rasslin’. Every Friday night, we hustled to get the chores done so we could get there for the preliminary events. Dad would hook the team up to the wagon. He and Mom sat on a makeshift seat up front. The kids sat on bales of hay in the back. It was the highlight of the week.
Nettie made a trip each week to Rushville to the Omar Bakery. The bakery would sell the out of date products to her at a very reduced rate. They fed those items to the livestock. Each week, when we went to rasslin’, she would give Momma light bread that was still edible. Since our steady diet of bread was homemade biscuits or cornbread, we thought that light bread was as good as cake. Momma made us a marvelous concoction that we never knew by any name other than ‘Nettie Hannebaum fried bread’. Once out of that holler into the big world we discovered that the dish, that we thought Momma had invented, was fairly common and known to the rest of the world as French Toast.
There were two other farms that, by comparison, were large. The old Dare Farm, just down the road from the Hannebaums, had been bought by Fred Knose. Fred was an ex horse jockey and had a permanent limp as a result of a spill on the track. He was the embodiment of The Little Big Man. Fred probably was not more than five foot two but he tried hard to cast a large shadow. He was not held in the same high esteem as Addie Hannebaum.
Finley (Lum) Edwards was. Lum tended the Shackle Farm. Cord Shackle had been the financial equal of the Hannebaums one generation ahead of us. He left the controlling interest in his farm to his last wife, Linnie Wolfe. Linnie rented to Lum every year. After those three, whom we all thought were big time farmers, everyone else in the community lived a hard scrabble existence on much smaller places.
Uncle Con and Aunt Cora both lived in the community. Con lived on, and farmed, the old Hunter home place. He was a hard worker. Con was really quiet unless you got him started on his love for baseball in general and the Cincinnati Reds in particular.
Clayton Bulmer was one of those hard scrabble farmers like us. He lived up on the ridge across Trace Branch from Aunt Cora’s home. I always viewed a visit to his house with mixed emotions. It was an experience to park down in the holler, walk across the foot bridge, and climb the steep hill to his house. The view back down into the valley from the hilltop, while not spectacular, was quite pleasing. That was the fun part.
The other side of the coin was the fact that we were usually going for a haircut. Clayton cut our hair from as early as I can remember until I was well up into high school. He had a pair of those old mechanical clippers that you squeeze by hand. And he had hands like hams. He was a powerful man who pulled out as much hair as he cut off. If you dared wince or yelp, he called you a “sissy britches”. Any boy worth his salt would rather endure the pain in silence.
I was too young to remember this but it was passed down in family folklore and laughed about over the years. When Virg was a teenager, he went for a haircut and got into an argument with Clayton about the amount of hair on the floor that still had the roots attached. Clayton just kept cutting and pulling. When he was done he handed Virg a mirror so he could check out the results. All of the hair that Virg had left started at the middle of his forehead and fanned out toward the back of his head in a perfect V.
Along about midlife, Linnie Wolf married a man named Fred Margeson. Fred was a quite man who talked low and slow and walked the same way. Fred could fix anything. Any kind of problem that you had with an automobile or farm machinery, Fred could diagnose immediately and fix in his own good time. Consequently repair jobs piled up around Fred’s barn lot. Old junk cars, and other rusty metal, accumulated on the hillside that had been a cow pasture before Linnie started sharing space with Fred.
In a time when nearly everyone farmed with horses, because the hillsides were too steep for tractors, Fred built his own tractor. He took an old Model A Ford and turned it into a Model A Fred. He rebuilt the entire running system to accommodate dual tractor sized wheels, striped off everything unessential for a tractor, and went to farming those hills with that one of a kind pulling machine. It wasn’t pretty but it was practical.
Beecher Bunyard, who was never called anything but Sox, was one of my favorite adults in the community. He and his brother Ernest, who were brothers to Nettie Hannebaum, lived on the Bunyard home place. It was up on top of Haytown hill out of the Pipe Creek valley. Ernest was not likeable at all. But Sox was a delight. Sox had a speech impediment unlike anyone else I have ever encountered. When he talked, his tongue rolled around inside and outside of his mouth and seriously impeded the progress of his words. He lived in a one room cabin out in the woods a good ways behind the farm house, which Ernest occupied. Sox’s place was cluttered and unkempt but there was a gentleness and humor about the old man that kept drawing me back. As long as he lived, I considered him a friend. I have forgotten what topics were of most interest to us but it seems that he may have been in WW One.
If you discount farming as a business, there was only one business in the community. John Wolfe had a sawmill on the banks of Pipe Creek that he powered with an old steam engine. His place was known, not affectionately, as The Thick and Thin Lumber Company. Any two by four that you got from him would likely have six to eight different thicknesses and widths at different places on the board, none of which was likely to be two or four. Everyone traded with Mr. Wolfe because you could haul your logs to his mill and he would saw them for half the lumber. That was a great bartering tool in a community where most folks did not have money.
by Ron Robinson, son of Cleo (Hunter) Robinson
It was a cold wintry morning in February when the call
went out to Dr. Foreman that he was needed at the
Robinson’s to deliver a baby. However, due to the snow
and icy conditions he couldn’t make it, so dad went and
got Sophia Sandlin and story has it she saved my life
after delivery because the umbilical cord was wrapped
around my neck.
The first recollection I have of my existence came at the
early age of three, when I went to spend the night at
Aunt Cora’s and came home the next day to find a baby
brother, Jim. For awhile it seemed every time we went
to Aunt Cora’s, a new addition would be made to the family, whether it be a baby calf, a litter of kittens or a baby brother or finally a sister. That of course being Glenna. We came to expect a new baby of some sort, either two or four legged each time we spent the night.
My earliest memory of home was the Dauphen Farm or “the house by the road”, even though I was born when mom and dad lived up Walnut Fork. I don’t remember moving around so much when I was a child. We lived at the Dauphen place and from there, moved up the holler to the Lawrence Branch home. This is where most of my childhood memories were formed.
Back then very few people had indoor plumbing and I remember our outhouse there. It was always clean as it at across a ditch and every time it rained everything was washed away. (Good thing the EPA was established years later or we’d have been in a heap of trouble!!)
Our house sat on the opposite side of the creek and when it rained enough for the creeks to get up, we got a day or two vacation from school, depending on how wild it would get. We were all pretty good students and didn’t really get in trouble when we missed. If it rained while we were in school and couldn’t make it home then we’d go back to Uncle Con’s or Aunt Cora’s until the water receded enough for someone to come get us.
As a little girl and even into adolescence, I spent a lot of time at Aunt Cora’s. Shirley and Ruth (Uncle Con’s Ruth) Hunter were my best friends. Shirley and I used to get into some mischievous scrapes. Sometimes we’d get in trouble and other times as far as I know, no one found out! One time in particular I remember being with Shirley and I don’t know why, but we were home alone. That just didn’t happen back then. Anyway, Aunt Cora & Uncle Greene couldn’t have been too far away because their car was sitting in the driveway. Nonetheless, we decided to take a drive…so we did. Shirley was driving and for some reason we panicked. She got the car sideways in the road. This was one time, I believe had we known any, we would have used some cuss words. We looked up and here comes a car…not just any car, it was Peanut McQueen. On the creek, Peanut and his brother Leroy, were rogues of sorts and I was terrified of both of them. By now, our choices were pretty limited, so we got out of the car and let Peanut go on about the business of rescuing us. I don’t know if either of our parents ever found out about our excursion, but I know of two little girls that were certainly happy to get the car back in the driveway safe and sound. I forgot to mention, Shirley was 11 and I was 9. Remember that Myrt?!?
From the time I was born until I married and moved to the Chicago area, my entire life was spent within a 10-20 mile radius. (as the crow flies)
Growing up we didn’t leave the area very much. As Ron mentioned, we didn’t have a car much of that time, so everywhere we went, which was limited, we either walked, hitched up a team of horses to a box bed wagon or a neighbor with a car would take us. Since there were six of us, very rarely did we all go at once, with the exception of church. Didn’t really have much need to go outside our world except for our annual Sunday school outing to the Zoo or Coney Island.
We all went to school at Metamora Grade School, grades one through eight, no kindergarten then. Even though there were eight grades, we only had five classrooms and five teachers, as the larger classrooms had two grades. The principal I remember was Mr. William Metcalf. His duties primarily was that of disciplinarian, keeping track of absenteeism, the scheduling of sports events and 7th and 8th grade teacher. There was no telephone in the school, so I would assume he had his office at home. I remember Albert Gant, our Truant Officer as a gruff, heavy set man that wanted you to believe he was “badder than Leroy Brown”, but we came to learn his bark was worse than his bite. I don’t remember getting into too much trouble with him.
When we lived up Lawrence Branch, we had to walk a quarter mile or so to the main road so, on occasion, we would miss the bus and had no way to get to school, since most of my childhood we had no car.
I remember well that long walk that lead out from the front of the school, the rickety fire escape, all the classrooms and that long seemingly endless gravel path leading to those outhouses, which incidentally and mysteriously got overturned every Halloween.
It’s amazing how a space can seem so large as a child. Looking at the grounds now it is difficult to believe a fairly large school building, playground of sorts and two softball diamonds were in that space, with room to spare. Several years after this school was condemned and demolished I stopped, got out and walked around. Lots of memories came vividly to my mind…mostly good memories.
Church, Elm Grove Baptist, was within
walking distance so that was our main
mode of transportation, unless we got
out to the main road in time for one of
the members to give us a ride. I can
still visualize that dark blue 1949 or
1950 Chevrolet Finley Edwards drove.
We may not have gotten to ride together,
but most of the time we got rides, though
not all of the time.
Church was always a very big part of our
lives. Dad was a Deacon and Sunday
School Superintendent for many years
and Mom played the piano and sang in a female quartet with Aunt Ev Hubbard, Jean Hunter (Uncle Bills wife) and Zella Fox. Mom sang tenor and when she hit those high notes she could cause chills to run up and down your spine. Seems we practically lived at church; and I mean literally. We started out with Sunday school and Church Sunday morning and in the afternoon was Jr. Choir practice. Uncle Bill was our teacher and he was trying to teach us to read music. We didn’t learn ABCDEFG, we learned Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti and Do! We learned to read the music by the shape of the note rather than where the note was placed on the scale. Sunday evening was back to church for Training Union before the Sunday night service. We did prayer meeting on Saturday nights as well. Mom was the Janitor so some time during the week we made yet another trip to help her clean, carrying buckets of water in for her to mop the floors.
Two weeks every summer was set aside for a nightly revival. I remember all the excitement leading up to this time. Prior to the arrival of the evangelist the ladies of the church would decide which day they would take to prepare a meal for him and the pastor, who, for most of my childhood was Albert Casteel. He was a very spiritual man who really got into the spirit of revival!! He drove a maroon colored Henry J (an American made auto by Kaiser-Frazer) with a huge speaker mounted on the top. Each day that the evangelist was in town, he and Albert would travel up and down the country roads playing gospel music, stopping in front of each home to invite everyone to services. We had some pretty good crowds and some very special times!!
Usually the Sunday after revival closed, we had what is now known as Homecoming. Back then we called it “all day meetin’ with dinner on the ground.” You talk about good eating!! Those Baptist women were among the elite when it came to good food. In my opinion yet today not too many people can throw down a meal like Baptist women. Nothing against you non-Baptist but those ladies could cook!
As Sunday school Superintendent, dad was in charge of the Christmas program. So one guess who really put it all together…you guessed it…mom! Weeks before the program, mom would gather up her material, choosing a play for the older kids and young adults. She would hand pick “pieces” for the smaller ones. The very small were given just the right two liners to memorize and, of course, longer verses for the older children. As we said our pieces we would look down on the front row where mom, our coach was sitting there with tears of pride welling up in her eyes.
The week leading up to the Christmas program was very special. The men of the church would go out and chop down this monster pine or cedar and place it in the church. Anyone that wanted to would come and decorate. We had ropes of green and red garland, shiny Christmas balls, tinsel and lights, big colored lights and lots of bubble lights. Each Sunday school class would draw names within their classrooms so everyone had a present, which would be passed out after the play. The church supplied treats such as oranges, apples, chocolate drop candy, orange slices, hard candy and often mixed in peanuts and English walnuts. This was all bagged up and passed out as you left the building. They always made several extra bags so that any visiting children who were present would also go home with a treat. These were very simple but very good times.
In the summer months we always had a big vegetable garden. Mom would spend her summers growing the vegetables and later canning everything she could salvage out of the garden. She also used to can what the normal person would call weeds. There were several different varieties of the weeds that we learned to recognize as food. The only ones that stick out in my mind now are wild mustard, Lambs quarter and poke. Seems we had to pick a bushel to get three or four quarts because they all cooked down so much. There wasn’t much we had to buy at the store except sugar, flour, corn meal and a few other staples. We didn’t have paper towels back then and our toilet paper was either a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog. We had our own pork, milk, eggs, chicken and of course we churned our own butter by shaking and shaking a jar of cream. A couple of times a week we would actually get bakery bread from Bud the Omar man.
Every Friday we would go down to the main road to meet the “huckster truck” from the Oak Forest store. I don’t remember if the Tebbe’s or the Eckerle’s were the godfathers of the huckster. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this term “huckster” let me explain. It was basically a grocery store on wheels that traveled out in the country during the week bringing goods to those who couldn’t make it to the store. Mom would sometimes have a few eggs to trade for groceries, which I am sure someone probably would buy along the way. She would carry this three gallon can to purchase fuel oil for our lamps. We call this Kerosene today, but back then it was just plain “coal oil.” She also used this fuel to help start a fire in her cook stove. We kids would scrounge around all week searching for a penny because the first thing one saw when the doors of the truck opened up was this box filled with penny candy. If we happened to find two pennies that week we were the envy of all the kids!
We never had beef to eat when I was a kid. Our cattle were all dairy cows for milking and selling the cream. We had this three legged apparatus called a separator which allowed the milk to stand until the cream rose to the top. There was this small window near the bottom of this thing so that you could see the line separating the milk and the cream. The milk was extracted for drinking, cooking, etc. and the cream was put in cans to be sold. One day a week Jess Lanning came out from Brookville to pick up the cream. In order to keep this cream from going bad we had to set these cans in tanks of cold water. I can also remember carrying gallons of milk to the creek to keep cold and keep from spoiling. We had no electricity at this time, so this was our means of refrigeration. Mom used to stain the milk by placing this cheesecloth over the bucket and pouring in a clean container to purify as much as possible. Our milk back then was “naturalized” not “pasteurized”.
Butchering was a fun time which usually involved several families. Hopefully a few days prior to slaughter the hogs to be butchered were separated in a pen. It was believed if these animals were herded and chased or made excited prior to the kill, their muscles would become tense causing the meat to be tough, not tender. After all the processes were completed, the hogs were ready to be cut and cured for winter. Having no electricity, again, we had to do the only ting available at that time, so our meat got rubbed with this special dark brown, coarse curing salt and hung in the meat house. It wasn’t smoked, just fresh salt cured pork. Mom would go out to the shed, take down a slab of bacon, cut back the rind, often scraping mold before frying. It was still good, the salt had done it’s job, but a thin layer of mold would often appear. The cold of the winter provided adequate refrigeration. Mom usually fried up all the sausage patties and can them and boy, what a tasty treat! I was grown and out on my own before I realized that one ate pork chops for dinner instead of breakfast. The skins were cooked to make “cracklins”, we rendered our own lard, dad would have head cheese made and mom would even use some parts to make lye soap. Not much of the hog went to waste.
Laundry days were hard work from the time the water was
carried from the well to the big cast iron kettle to heat. In the
winter we then had to carry the heated water into the house
and put in a galvanized wash tub. Once the washboard
and Fels-Naptha soap were in place, mom was ready to
start the scrubbing process. In the colder months we
always had clotheslines strung across the living room so
that the warm air from the stove would dry the clothes,
hopefully overnight. The wet clothes and the heat also provided a humidifying effect. The galvanized tubs also acted as our bath tubs until we became too big to fit in them!!
The men of the community would get together from time to time to help their neighbors either put up hay, shuck the corn and stack the fodder shocks, cut the winter supply of wood, mend fences, butcher, bring in the crops, or do whatever was needed to be done. Nobody used chain saws; they used a cross-cut saw which required a two man team. This is how the trees were cut down and the wood cut up prior to splitting. (with an axe, not a wood splitter as we have today) The kids got into the action as well, as it was our jobs to stack the wood for burning in the wood shed. This would be an all day event from daylight to dark with the men working and all the ladies preparing meals fit for kings. Seems almost every week someone needed help, so it started all over again. This was back when neighbors knew and cherished each other.
On Sundays after church we either had a gathering at Aunt Cora’s or our house with fried chicken as the main course, which incidentally was killed and processed just prior to frying. After the meal the kids went off to play, lots of pictures were taken and of course, no Hunter gathering was ever complete without singing. Don’t remember too many Hunters that couldn’t or didn’t sing. This was almost like a reunion every Sunday. It’s a shame that today the next generation after mine hardly knows their cousins. We were always together as kids and formed a very special bond that we enjoy today.
Whether it was working in the garden, milking the cows, growing her flowers (that she loved so much), making quilt tops or sewing dresses for Glenna and I or making shirts for Ron & Jim, mom was always busy. Our dresses were made from feed sacks which were quite colorful back then. I can remember Mom cutting a swatch from a garment she was working on so that Dad could get the right feed sack to finish her project. She would order remnants through the mail or cut up material or scraps from our dresses to make quilt tops. Later in years when we would look at Moms quilt tops, we were able to identify our dresses. She was quite a seamstress, using an old Singer treadle sewing machine.
The only job I ever remember Mom doing besides cleaning the church was when she worked at the canning factory in Metamora. There they canned tomatoes which for the most part were grown locally. Mom was a peeler on the line. Mom, Edna Fox, Uncle Con and probably others I don’t remember walked to Metamora every day during canning season.
We, as kids, had a very unique way to entertain ourselves. Our sleds in winter could range from a cardboard box, to a car hood to a plastic refrigerator door liner Dad brought home from work at American Kitchens. We used to scrape roads out of the dirt with a wood chip and cut paper doll models out of a catalog and push them around, using our shoes as cars. We made mud pies in canning jar lids often decorating with shelled corn. We played games of tag, hide and seek, Kick the Can and Red Rover when all of the cousins were around.
I guess you could say we were poor, but I don’t ever remember going to bed hungry, even if all we ate was cornbread and milk for supper. We didn’t have much materially, but then again, neither did anyone else around us, with the exception of very few. Until I got older, I didn’t realize just how poor we were growing up. I thought that way of life was the norm.
Looking back, I can see that we were rich beyond compare, because God had given us to Mom. She loved each of us and we knew it. She had good family and church ties, which she passed to each of us.
I have enjoyed sharing this glimpse into the past with all of you. I do hope that the younger generations will take the time to get to know one another, become friends and make memories that can continue to be passed down throughout the coming years.
by Lana (Robinson) Pence
November 15, 2007
Hunter Legacy - The Descendants of George Washington Hunter © All rights reserved.