By Gladys Likens Rumage
Julia Ann (Raley) Taylor was a tiny, energetic woman. She was small-boned with delicately shaped hands and feet. She weighed 86 to 90 pounds, and was a scant five feet in height. In my memory, her hair was straight, white, and thin. She was a bit stooped with the years, and in her seventies, at long last, weighed 100 pounds. That seemed to have been a long sought goal. She was constantly busy, and I can still recall the delicious aroma of her kitchen cupboards. It was, I believe, due to a mixture of spiced dried apples and a similar blend of pumpkin. These were kept in a brown, English, earthenware jar.
I inherited that jar and the lavender and white cream pitcher which I adored as a child. I realize that there were many other objects in that tall, cherry, corner-cupboard, but in the dimness of the past there remains the little pitcher and the room-filing sweetness of the spiced fruit.
With the addition of country sweet cream and eggs, fresh from the nest, these fruit mixtures became mouth watering pies. From the same brown jar, came the filling for delectable crescent fried pies. Her rolling pin, now used in my home, is worn small in the center section - mute testimony of the baking done in that kitchen.
A huge fireplace, designed for pioneer cookery, dominated the large room. It had long been abandoned for cooking purposes, but remained for warmth and cheer. A wonderful place for corn-pop-ping, and the roasting of potatoes and chestnuts, or toasting apples. Farm kitchens of that period contributed much of the family love and security for the younger generation. From them stemmed the family activities and hospitality.
In earlier years, that home was renowned for hospitality and was filled with young people. This was particularly true in summer. Shading the kitchen windows and spreading wide stood a service berry tree. This was without exception given the English flavor of "Sarvice" as we now hear in "Darby" rather than our American "Derby". "Sarvices" were ripe on the second Sunday in June, and everyone came there for this was the largest and most prolific tree in the community. There were also smaller ones in the orchards.
There were plum-thickets -- thorny sweetness -- and orchards with trees to climb, peaches and cherries to pick. Apples! June apples; Ben Davis, wonderful, tart; juicy Summer Reds; wintry Arkansaw Blacks and many others long lost in the limbo of the past; the musky cool of the grape arbor and the wide spreading of wild mulberry trees.
Nearby, one found watermelons just waiting to be thumped for ripeness and eaten there or carried to the house for cooling. The old fashioned muskmelons lay waiting with a tangy sweetness never equaled by their cantaloupe companions.
All these things and many more provided delight for guests, but meant work for my grandmother. Tables groaning with food were the rule in that part of Kentucky, and, as fruits and vegetables came into season, each was the delicacy of the moment.
From the garden came the young and tender, from the orchards the sweet and fresh. From the tangle of berry bushes the shortcakes and cobblers. Beyond these cultivated wonders were the far more tasty wild berries, grapes, and nuts to be had for the gathering. As they were just at the perfect peak of goodness, they must needs be canned, pre-served, dried, or stored for the winter. There was much work to be done. They were people with a zest for food and lots of it.
In these surroundings, being the youngest grandchild and the only grand-daughter, I knew peace, plenty, and a great security with considerable pampering. My impressions of my grandparents were of their old age since my mother was the youngest of her family. Her oldest brother, William Triplet, was 20 years older than she - her sister, Nancy Pigman, 10 years her senior, and James Martin, five years older. Two children died in infancy - John Pigman and Frances Lillian. Both died of what we now know to have been Diphtheria - then unknown, mysterious, and hopeless.
In my childhood I can remember some of the relatives who visited there, mainly those who came each year and stayed several weeks. Jonathan Raley came to see his sister Julia - he called her "Bugs" and it sounded strange to us. He was a courtly old gentleman with beautiful white hair who lived in some city in Kentucky but spent part of the time in Georgia. I have a faint remembrance of another brother Wesley. We visited in his home once. Jon't Raley, a very old man who had traveled all his life, grandmother's cousin, was the one who had traced the name back to Sir Walter Raleigh.
There seems to have always been Johns and Jonathans in the Raley family. My grandmother's father was John Raley. Her mother was Nancy Wilson. The pictures of John Raley seem to bear out the legend of Indian blood in the family, but there is no existing record of it. All I can remember about Nancy Wilson are the stories of her marriage. It took place in Washington, D.C. She was a southern belle and according to the old English custom a three day "Infair" was held following the wedding. It seems to have been quite an event of the time. People came on horseback for some distance, and many people attended.
The farm, the life-long home of my grandparents, was a section of land settled by Ignatius Pigman Taylor and Nancy Leach Taylor. It was cleared and settled by them under a Virginia grant. It is still owned by direct descendants bearing the Taylor name.
This couple had a son, eight daughters, and another son. The older son, Henry Leach Taylor, and his brother, Lorenzo Dow Taylor, each inherited one-half of the original grant and each lived out their lives on the adjoining farms. It might be interesting to record the married names of the eight daughters. They were Miller, Jones, Parks, Johnston, Gilstrap, Williams, Stuart, and Porter.
It would have been gratifying to know how and when Henry and Julie, as she was called, met. (Could I have chosen my own name it would have been Julia Ann.) However, I cannot recall any mention of the meeting or where they were married. They did not come from the same community.
Henry Taylor was more than six feet tall, as were all his sons and grandsons. I was the shrimp of the family, and I believe much prized by my grandfather be-cause of it. Since I was such a tiny baby, he greatly desired that he might live to see me reach maturity. He considered this an impossibility because of his advanced age. He lived until I was 14, so pretty much reached his goal. Perhaps he admired small women since he married one, at least he made me feel special and I never resented being small.
He had curly brown hair, a silver gray in my time, and a full beard. Even at his death, at 86, his eyes were like bits of blue sky and he had a full set of sound teeth. His disposition was sweet and gentle. The family agreed that Julie administered the discipline. She was strict, but they harbored no resentment because they said she was consistent and just. This story was frequently told by Uncle Jim. He had disobeyed when quite a big boy, ran away from her when she attempted some correction. She did not follow or mention it again that day - until he was getting into bed that night. Then she landed on him with a paddle and told him that was double punishment for disobeying and running. He would tell that and roar with laughter. He was a huge man and a wonderful story teller.
My grandfather was as tender hearted as a woman. His eyes would fill with tears at the mention of anything sad. They mourned the loss of the two babies, but differently. I never saw my grandmother in tears even at his death. She spoke so often of those babies and often told us of the great beauty of Frances - the most beautiful child in the country 'round. Henry's fair skin, blue eyes and black hair rippling with curls. She told us how hard it was to see them choke to death with the mysterious disease, and how grateful we should be for science and doctors. Her sorrow was deep and lasting - but no tears. When my grandfather was very old, he used to weep bitterly at the thought of dying. He loved life.
He reasoned with children and explained all questions to the best of his ability. He had a great facility for managing without punishment. As far back as I can remember he did very little work because of age and ill health. So I was able to be with him a great deal. He loved nature and told me so much - some I can remember, but more became a part of my nature. He never failed to notice that I was neat and clean and to compliment that fact.
He insisted that to waste food was a sin and could tell me when food was scarce and sugar impossible to get. Times were very hard in the Civil War days. He could remember bears and Indians. Perhaps that had to do with his feeling that one never took more food than could easily be eaten. Food was eaten as served - never messed about on the plate - plates should be finished and neat at the end of the meal. This was never an order, but explained on the basis that any other procedure was as animals - not the behavior of ladies and gentlemen. I don't know how this affected the other grandchildren, but it made a lasting impression on me.
Courtesy was instinctive with him. He never failed to thank me or say excuse me exactly as he would have to an adult. They were farmers and pioneer stock, but they were not rough, common people. There was good breeding on both sides. My grandmother's brothers were intelligent, fluent, and courteous. They were well read for that day and excellent conversationalists - in fact the conversation in that home was never dull. Julie was not taught to write, but read well and studied her newspaper like a text book. She discussed policies of the government, only she called it "giverment" and Teddy Rosenveldt, as she called him, was a very fine President. At days end, she settled down with her paper or mending. Her hands were seldom idle.
I can clearly remember two of her favorite mottoes - almost hear her voice. "Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Never start anything on Friday that you cannot finish that day." The last was a sure means of having an orderly house on the weekend and clear decks on Monday morning.
Religion, as such, was seldom mentioned in that home, but they lived it every day. They were Methodists, but just as much at home with any of the other denominations. We had various creeds in the family without the slightest friction. I absorbed no prejudices in that house except perhaps that farmers who were late risers were shiftless, and I must admit that was true of those I knew.
Their home was simple neat and clean. I can never recall its being in any other condition. Julie would never have tolerated it for a minute. In fact, she was constantly after the men to keep the farm in the same order. Seeds in the ground at the proper time - fence-rows clean - underbrush cut, stacked, and burned. All this was never done, but I can remember considerable agitation on the subject.
The farm was approximately 4 miles North of Cromwell and 6 miles East of Beaver Dam, Kentucky. In my opinion, the house was originally a large, one room, log building. That was true of most early homes of that day. In my day, there was a large, enclosed breezeway back of the first big room, then the kitchen. A bedroom attached to the original on the front and a wide veranda across both. These two rooms were either two stories or one and a half. There were sleeping quarters there, also storage space and the place where the books were kept. There was a Dutch door dividing the two upstairs rooms and they were on two levels. The breezeway was on a lower lever than the main room as was the kitchen.
The inside walls were of wide poplar planks. This wood takes on a warm brown satin with age and was beautiful. Her beds were the high headboard type of black walnut. They were all furnished with huge soft feather-beds of down plucked from her own geese. They had snowy white coverlets in the summer and wool, hand-woven, like the one I have, for winter. There were feather-beds, pillows and quilts for each child and some for the grandchildren. You have or had one of the pillows. There was a large drop-leaf walnut dining table in the breezeway. It was brought down the Ohio River on a flat boat during the Civil
War. My mother sold it some years ago as an antique.
There was a service porch the length of the kitchen and breezeway on the side opposite the bedroom ell. A fence joined the house on both sides of the back to separate the vegetable garden from the yard. The yard was thick with Bermuda grass and there were clusters of old-fashioned roses, iris, daffodils and the usual flowers of that period. In the summer, there were drying racks for peaches and apples. In the afternoon, the family women and guests were busy preparing fruit for drying and canning. We had chairs outside, and moved them as the sun moved so we would always have shade.
My grandfather spent the summer months on the wide veranda - over-looking the farm and house of his brother. He watched the sun, and could tell the time by the shadow it cast. He could read the sky and forecast the weather. There was a bird house for the Martins and he knew just when they would arrive from the South. There were Bluebird nests in the barn-lot fence posts. We might look at the eggs or little birds, but never touch. We were taught to know the eggs of most birds by their color. Trees by the bark and by the grain of the wood. Mostly now forgotten.
There was the grist mill and saw mill on the next farm to visit, the fields, woods, brooks and creek of all the family farms as a playground with freedom and leisure unrestricted. From the house, we had books provided we put them away after each reading period. We might borrow them to take home, but they must be returned in good condition. Books, magazines, and papers were interchanged throughout the family and commanded great respect.
My cousin, Everett Presley Taylor (named for Dad, Richard Presley Likens), and I were the small fry of the family. He was six months older than I and we were ten or twelve years younger than the other grandchildren. My sister, being 14 years younger than I, does not have a part in my childhood days. She was born just before my grandfather died. My aunt and her sons Claud, Fred, and Henry Porter lived in that home several years after her husband died. Uncle Trip's son, Courtlan, lived on the adjoining farm. These four were of the same age group. Henry was six feet, six and three quarter inches in his stocking feet. The others were only six feet or possibly an inch or two more. Everett, Uncle Jim's son, lived on the same farm, just about a block down the road and was at home in each house.
There were three dogs - my Tower, black and tan; Old Sly, a white nondescript breed who belonged to the house; and Carlo, Courtlan's dog. Carlo was a black and white shepherd and met with a fate that shocked the entire family. Someone fed him ground glass.
Our own farm (the Likens farm) was just north of the home tract and I was able to go back and forth with my dog at an early age. Both places were on hills and most of my way was clearly visible from both homes. In my home the same principles prevailed and most of the people in the immediate community were near or distant relations. There were within my scope some people who were of different standards - less desirable from our standpoint. These were treated with unfailing courtesy, but contacts were kept to a minimum.
By the time we were in school with a mixture of children I had a good knowledge of who was desirable as an associate and pretty well knew why another was less so. This was based entirely on behavior and never on position or money. School was a mile and a half walk partly thru' full grown forest. Perhaps that is one reason for my great love of trees. It was sometimes rough going in bad weather, but I can't see that it did me any damage.
Profanity scarcely existed in the family, certainly not around women and children, and obscene language was never heard or tolerated. It was called "blackguarding" and we were told that there were sufficient words in our language to express any emotion, without lowering ourselves to the level of any so ill-bred as to use it. For a long time, I viewed with extreme distaste a family by the name of Blacklock because for some childish reason I associated it with Blackguard. Well-bred and ill-bred were words one lived with and by, and ugly was a familiar word, not as facial faults, but as to behavior.
No where in my childhood impressions exists any experience of drinking (the term used at that time). Evidently none of them drank. I do remember that there were some wild young men in the community who, I was told, drank and were quite beyond the limits of good taste because of that and their consequent behavior.
Great stress was given to learning in all directions and praise for my efforts however small. Learning from experience was as important as from books. However, I was much encouraged to use books and directions so that I might be independent - not to have to sometime wait for instruction from people. I suppose there was much talk about being independent of other people, but not on the basis of dislike of them, but certainly with a great aversion to imposition on others. We were well aware of unfortunate mistakes made by people and taught to excuse and forgive when people reclaimed themselves. Self-respect was just about the most important requisite in life, and if one did the best one could it need never be forfeited.
I read voraciously - all types of things available to me. It was a family theory that knowledge even of the rough side of life would be of great protection so reading matter was not restricted. The difference in good and bad literature was thoroughly explained to the best of their ability, and I have never been able to enjoy the cheap or lurid.
There was a great amount of outdoor life possible to me, and much of it was enjoyable. A little work, much play, quite a lot of time that had to be filled without companionship other than books, and pets, and hobbies. When very small, instead of being sung to sleep - I was read to sleep and my favorite subjects were the travel articles by Frank G. Carpenter. Nearly all of it was adult reading level, and has no doubt done much to set my taste and appreciation of such things. All this led to my insistence that you boys (her children) have and use library cards as early as it was possible to print your names. That being the requirement of the library system.
Everett and I had lots of fun together and I never missed not having a brother. I fact, most all of my companions were boys. There were no small girls on the nearby farms. We had many projects, my cousin and I. We have made dozens of rabbit traps, snares, etc. We gathered ginseng one whole season. It is a small forest plant (the name is Chinese) and we set out beds -- that never grew quite properly, altho' some lived. This is dried and sold on the market possibly for medicinal uses. We had visions of collecting a lot of money from the growth of our beds. We dug wells, coal mines, and many things drawn from the talk of adults and fortified with our imaginations. We were healthy, happy, and secure. He unfortunately was a victim, of Polio in his young manhood and was permanently crippled, but not to the extent of not being able to earn a living.
One other person must be mentioned as a part of the life about me. A nephew of Henry Taylor - a reputed agnostic who dedicated his life to the service of others. Edgar Gilstrap, a natural raconteur. Had there been the desire or opportunity he would have been a wonderful actor. In my day, he was a practical nurse and received little or no pay. He appeared in homes when need was desperate and remained while needed. He lived, when not on duty, with a son and daughter-in-law. He often came to visit and later, when he was needed there, spent months with grandfather. Julie Ann had little patience with his idleness, but appreciated the good he did. He and Henry spent many happy hours together and loved one another dearly, but grandmother believed about a third of the stories he told. He had a gift in that direction and could entertain a yard full of people a whole afternoon. He became whatever character he was depicting and his stories were funny never malicious. Nor were they often about anyone we knew. Sometimes they were a little risqué and profane. He explained to us that it was necessary to use the words the people used, but that we should not use them. He was a polished gentleman and we adored him.
One nonsensical story clings in my memory. The story goes that a father had promised a reward for the best lie told by a small son and daughter. The son began. "Pap, do you see that old dead tree way over yonder, sticks up above all the others?"
"Yes son, I do seed it."
"Well Pap, I seed a chigger crawlin' right up the top."
The exasperated father stormed, "Son, I've a good notion to give you a lickin' for tellin' such an outrageous lie!".
The small girl piped up, "Sure so Pap. I seed it wink its eye."
Cousin Edgar would be surprised and touched that I here record a bit of his whimsy and remember with delight his presence and part in our family life. He usually observed some point after a story. In the above - women not only usually had the last word, but also got the best of the situation.
The old house was torn down when Julie and Henry were too old to manage it alone and another and better one was built by Uncle Jim. They had a room there, and Julie kept it as immaculate as ever. She continued to do a great deal of work and care for my Grandfather. He died of a kidney ailment after a long bed-fast period. She continued there and never relaxed her vigilant care of the place, doing her own laundry etc. until the day she was found lying in the yard where she was working. She died a few hours later of apoplexy.
Henry Taylor's death was the first to occur in the family in more than 50 years. They were a vigorous people and led healthy lives. Uncle Trip died not long after his mother and a few years later Uncle Jim. My Aunt lived ten or fifteen years more. There is now only one small boy to carry on the name of Taylor (this particular branch) and is the son of Darrel Taylor of Beaver Dam.
My mother (Viola Ann Likens), the remaining member of the family is, I think, the best composite of the two. In coloring she is more like Julie. She once had her blue-black hair, but the perfect curl came from Henry. Her eyes of brown were neither the snap-ping black of Julie nor the bright blue of her father. She had the facial formation of her father and his emotional nature, the ambition of Julie, and the excellent mind of both. It is an odd circumstance that with parents with the same blue-black hair, I should have had mousy brown and you with gold. It is as if the color ran out with the sand of time.
In these pages you will find a reasonably accurate picture of the lives that came and went before you. You will perhaps find much of it so much a part of you as to be completely familiar. That will be those undefinable and indescribable family characteristics carrying down through the years. Some of it endures thru' training, some of it in family resemblances, some of it, we will say, just goes thru' the generations sometimes strong, sometimes weak - but proof of the heritage of the ages.
Herein lies something of the lives of average American people. Pioneers, farmers who fortunately for us were strong in mind and body, strong in determination to achieve a good life and secure place for the future generations.