My Ancestral Legacy
My Cooper Legacy

Martha Elizabeth McEwen Cooper
 Some of the Things my Mama used to do
Told in 1932 by her son, Eli Franklin Cooper
recorded by Nellie Cooper Rogers
 Old times here are not forgotten

Home life was much different when Mama was raising her family than it is now. When we try to think of the things they used to do, we wonder how they ever got it all done. Now, we never have time to do the things we would like to do in our homes. The person who really makes an attractive home for their family does not have much time for anything else.
   The secret to how Mama did all the many things to be done is just this. She rarely had company and she rarely went visiting because they lived far from any neighbors. There were no churches to attend at that time, because there weren't very many people in the area to make up congregations. She did not run to town two or three times a day because they lived very far from any town.

Homesteading
By Eli Franklin Cooper
   Martha and Eli lived far away from others because they were homesteading. What is a Homestead? At that time a man or family could get the land without money, but they had to build a home on the land and live on it and grow crops on at least part of it. Because of this, their homes were miles away from each other and they couldn't do much visiting at first until gardens and crops were planted and then roads had to be made.
   Mama was only seventeen when she was married. They moved to the homestead when her third child was a baby.
   Sometimes she would go six months at a time without seeing anyone. She saw no one outside of the family. Although she was barely twenty-three, yet she did not loose her pride. She kept her family and her home clean and neat.
   Every Sunday morning found all the family, even to the baby, bright and clean. Although there was no Sunday School nor Church to go to, nor any neighbors coming in, yet she felt the necessity of cleaning up and observing the Sabbath as she had been taught as a youth. If food must be prepared, this was done Saturday because Sunday was a day of rest for the Cooper family. The Holy Bible lay on the table in the front room and was often read. (With her great faith in God and teaching her children, we can understand why her son recognized the Gospel of Jesus Christ when the Missionaries taught it to him. He was already familiar with it.)

Fun on the Frontier
By Libbie Cooper Olsen
   At first, Martha and Eli were quite alone, but not too many years went by before the community had more people. As more people took up homesteads, there came needs for stores, so towns began to be established with stores, churches, schools, and community offices and services.
   As more people moved into the area they found reasons to get together and enjoy each other's company. It soon became the custom in those days to pack the family in a wagon, roll the quilts into bed rolls, take food, and whatever the family needed and to go a friend or relatives over Sunday. It was a big day.
   Families would get together to go berry hunting. While the women and children picked berries, the men hunted. Sometimes this was a family affair but often two or more families got together. Of course the berry hunting was for food, though they mixed work and pleasure.
   There were harvest times when families and community would gather to run the sugar cane through a mill and start boiling it down. They all gathered to drink the juice. The young ones enjoyed the chance to play and the older youth to court.
   Then there were church picnics also. They would take their families in the wagon and drive to church where after, or between services, they would spread a picnic. Each woman would try to outdo the neighbors in lunch fixing.

A Bee???
By Libbie Cooper Olsen
    A "bee" is a time when friends and neighbors would gather together to complete a job or big task for someone. In those times, there also were quilting and husking bees.
     What is a "quilting bee"? Sometimes the women and older girls would gather to make quilts for a friend that needed quilts, and sometimes they would bring their own materials and with many hands helping, each woman would go home with a guilt made or nearly so. While the women worked, the children would play outside. And as the children got older there would be more social activities.
    What is a "husking bee"? Families would gather together to help "husk" the harvested corn (that is to take off the leaves that cover the corn on the cob) so the corn could be dried for grinding into flour or for cattle food.
    A barn or house "raising" would be a time when the men would all get together for a day or a half a day and try to complete as much of a building as they could. Often at these times the whole family would go. The women would cook the meal, and maybe sew or quilt while the children would play. Every one enjoyed these times of getting together to talk, laugh, and work together.
   These neighborhood get-togethers were the highlight times for these homesteaders. They were looked forward to, and fondly remembered. The rest of their lives were busy with necessary and hard work.
    Often the men would sit outside talking and chewing while the women went to the house to talk. The children were gathered up and taken in with the women to play quietly, while the young lovers wandered off in the cool evening. It was a quiet, sweet way to end the fun work filled day.

Mama's Great Knowledge and Skill Taught to Her Children
Information by Eli Franklin Cooper
recorded Nellie Cooper Rogers
   By the time we were in our early teens we knew how to make a living for ourselves, how to survive well in the world we lived in.
    Mama supervised most of the work done by the children. She taught us how to properly cut up or butcher animals for food. They had no refrigeration, so all meat had to be specially prepared, by being cured, smoked, or dried. Martha had learned how to do these things when she was young, and she taught her family to do them too. This way the family had meat to eat for period of time afler slaughtering the animal.
    And of course the cows not being raised for meat, were milked. From the milk Mother made the cottage cheese, and from the cream, she made the butter. Of course we had no refrigeration, so all meat had to be specially prepared so we could eat the meat for a period of time after slaughtering the animal.
   Mama also taught us to properly work the hides in the tanning process so that we could make Feather to be used for whatever we needed to make from it. We made a lot of different things from this leather. We used this leather for gloves, for soles for the shoes, harnesses for the horses, as well as for chair seats. Mama was the only one in the family that could make gloves from the leather.
    She taught us where to find and also how to pick berries, fruit, and vegetables, and how to dry them for use during the winter.

Household Items
Information by Eli Franklin Cooper
    Up until 1880, all the light that the family had at night was from Mama's home made candles. The tallow that the candles were made of was saved from the beef and mixed with beeswax. After 1880 kerosene lamps were brought into her home.
    The soap that was used to wash the faces of her children, wash the dishes and the clothes was made by Mama's own hands.
    She made lye from the ashes secured from the stove. She taught us all how to make lye out of wood ashes so soap could be made. But the girls did that most of the time, because the boys were doing the heavy field work.
    A very fine mattress is one made from moss. The moss was secured in the swamps. It grew on trees and was very long. The moss was gathered and put in water for about three months. By this time all was rotted except the fiber, which still remained. The fiber was then washed thoroughly, then dried. Only then could the tick be filled. A "tick" is the fabric for the top and the bottom of the mattress, sewn together on three sides. The moss fiber was stuffed into this tick, and then the fourth side was sewn shut. The mattress was tacked by strong thread, fastening the top covering to the bottom covering to hold it together. Then it was then ready to use.

Cloth and Clothing

Information by Eli Franklin Cooper
recorded by Nellie Cooper Rogers
   Mama made all the hats we wore. She made them from wheat straw, pine straw, and wild palm or palmetto. I even had a hat made from wiregrass.
   Mama had a spinning wheel and weaving loom. These she used to make all the cloth used in her home.
   If she were going to use cotton, it would have to be picked from the cotton plants they grew. Then the seeds removed by a small hand gin her husband had made her. After that the cotton had to be carded. This meant that she used what would look to us like a flat brush, but instead of bristles (like used to brush hair), it would have wire. To card means to lightly stroke the cotton (or wool, or whatever you were going to use) to get all the fibers going in the same direction. Then this could be spun into thread. To spin means to twist. A hand spindle or a spinning wheel helps one to twist the fibers while stretching it into a thread (or yarn). Then this thread or yarn could be woven into cloth. Then after all of that work, the cloth could at last be made into some article of clothing.
   If wool was to be used, the sheep had to be sheared, the wool washed clean, then carded, spun into thread or yarn, and then woven into cloth. If flax (for linen or "linsey") were used, there was a complicated procedure to obtain fibers from the plant stalk before they could be carded and spun into thread. The procedure for obtaining fibers from the flax plant for linen was similar to working the moss so it could be used for mattresses.
   Martha was very knowledgeable and skilled in her duties. She knew how to spin yarn, how to weave fabric, how to cut that fabric and make it into clothing for the family members, like shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, and underwear, as well as into quilts, of beds to cover and other bedding. Mother had lots
and they were covered with bedspreads woven at home. There were towels and curtains to be woven also.
   Martha also knit stockings and gloves. Crochet was for decorating the clothing or household items, and was done only if there was time as well as extra thread.
   Another thing must be considered. They had colored garments the same as we have today, but they couldn't go to the store and buy dyes to dye the yarn and cloth. Mama would gather plants from the woods and make their dyes. She also taught the girls how to make dye out of plants so they could color the wool and cotton that she would spin into thread and yarn, and then weave into cloth, to make into the clothes that her family wore.
 
In Florida
recorded by Nellie Cooper Rogers
    The family moved from Georgia to Florida while Eli Franklin was still a baby. The family hadn't been in Florida very long, when the Civil War between the Northern States and the Southern States began. In fact, Eli didn't really get the log cabin finished that he was building for his family. The family lived in the part that had been built.
    By this time a new little baby named Ann, had joined the family that summer of 1861.
    It was at this time that the Confederate Army desperately needed more men to fight the Civil War. Papa (Eli) refused to join the army because he felt that killing another man wasn't the right thing. But, the army needed more men, so he was conscripted into the army.
 
While Papa was at War
Information from Eli Franklin Cooper
and recorded by Nellie Cooper Rogers
By Nellie N. Olsen Ostler
    With Papa away with the Confederate Army, it meant that Mama (Martha) was left with the children on a homestead that wasn't really ready, because Eli had not had time to clear very much land to raise food crops. The mother and the children now had to make do without his knowledge and strength. They continued with the animals and the planting. They cooperated and worked so that they would have the necessities to survive.
    William, although only a little over ten years old was the oldest boy and had to take on the duties of a man and plowed the ground, while the girls planted the corn, beans and potatoes. There was not a gun in the house to supply meat because the father had to take it with him into the army. That meant that the children and mother had to make traps and snares in which they caught rabbits and birds for food.
    At night, they could hear the wild animals in the swamp. Somehow with Papa gone, these sounds were frightening. Especially frightening were the wolves. The wolves sometimes announced their arrival at the farm by howling before they tried to attack the farm animals.
    The family tried hard to keep the animals securely safe at night. As time went by it seemed that the wolves grew bolder and began openly prowling around the log cabin. The mother and boys were especially careful to shut and latch the window shutters and fasten the door securely.
    One night the wolves kept circling the house, and then began pawing at the door, Then they attempted to dig underneath the unfinished cabin walls. The children were very frightened. Before long, they could see the paws of the wolves as they dug underneath the bottom log. Mama was not only worried, but also frightened for what might happen to the children if the wolves succeeded in digging their way under the log walls. She was praying as she frantically looked around the house. Seeing the horn that her husband had made from an old cow's horn, hanging on the wall, she quickly snatched it down and standing in front of the closed door, she blew as hard as she could on the horn. She blew again and again.
    The noise must have really frightened the wolves, because they quickly left the house. The family were all grateful to God in their prayers that Mama had been inspired to blow that horn.
    She used that horn every time she heard the wolves, and every time, the wolves left their home alone.
    There was great rejoicing in the little family when the father finally came home.

Be On Time, or Go Without
(By Libbie Cooper Olsen)
    One of Martha's granddaughters said, "Grandmother Cooper was a very strong willed woman. She always had her way in the home. When she prepared a meal she would give the family what she thought a reasonable time to get to the table. If they did not come in from the fields in that time, she would sit down and eat, get up, clear the table, wash her dish, and no one dared eat until the next meal.
 

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