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Published Date: 2011/1/1 17:29:50
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Story of Fidella Downstain Donellson
submitted by: Brenda Dillon

Open in new windowStory as I, Fidella Nash Shoulders, remember Fidella Downtain Donellson Collins, born 12-29-1865 I remember going to grandmas when I was quite young(3yrs old to be exact). My first cousin, Ervin Collins Jr. and I both had polio when we were 3 years old. They would take me to see grandma. We lived at Camden-on-Gauley. My mother, Ena Collins Nash, my father, Otto Nash, and my older sister Nellie and younger sister Alta and I. My mother, sisters, and I would take the passenger train from Camden-on-Gauley to Fenwick Mountain. Uncle Clarence would meet us at the depot at Fenwick with (old Bob) their horse. All us girls would love to ride to grandmas, I always liked to ride Old Bob and did many times. The first thing we'd do when we got to Grandmas would be to ask her for some bread and butter. She would open her cupboard doors and we could smell the many different kinds of jams, jellies, and butters, plus cold cornbread and biscuits. She'd slice a slab of cornbread and spread some homemade cow butter and whatever else we wanted on it. We would hold the cupboard doors open for her, while she fixed us something to eat. I can still spell the delicious aroma of her cupboard. It spelled really deliciously different from anything you've ever experienced.

After I got over polio and was able to walk again we would go to Grandmas too. My sisters and I would go to Grandmas garden with her to gather vegetables for dinner. We wore dresses back then (as all girls did) and we'd pull our little dresses up in the front of us and make sort of a bag of them and we'd pick little cherries and pear tomatoes and ground cherry's. We'd take our little dress tails home full of goodies and of course we'd have to eat some. So many people liked to visit Grandma and Grandpa on Sundays. They would gather in after Sunday School and Church. Some would help Grandma prepare the meal, but more than often she'd have it all to do my herself.

Then there was the dishes to do, which more often than not she did them alone. I was small but I still remember. I loved carrying wood for her. She always had a big wood box at the end of her kitchen stove. Grandpa cut wood and piled it in the wood shed. Sometimes he'd have it piled so full he'd have to pile some on the outside, when it was pretty weather, we'd carry it from the outside and when it was bad snowy we'd get the wood from the inside the shed and carry it to the kitchen. My Grandma would never turn anybody from her door hungry. Sometimes (not very often) someone would offer to cut her some wood for the meal they had eaten. But Grandma never complained. Grandpa was never skilled at any job outside of farming, so Grandma made the living by hard work. She raised turkey's and sold them around Thanksgiving and Christmas. She also raised sheep and sheered them and sold the wool. (what she didn't use for her own family) She'd card the wool and spin it into yarn on her spinning wheel. She made all the wool socks, mittens, mufflers, and scarves, and toboggans for the immediate family and some for the grandchildren. She also sold eggs, butter, and milk that she had left over after she feed her own family. She never let her family go without anything.

She made all the family clothes. She sent all the children to school and one of her boys Harland became a school teacher, and Alta became a nurse. Her son Alvin was called into the first World War and fought in France. He returned okay. Some of her children were coalminers, some worked in the woods and the paper mills. The girls became mothers and housewives. All her family were good providers. I recall one time when Grandma sat down on the front porch to rest. It was in the summer time and real hot and sticky.

There was a few of us grandchildren around, myself, Bear Hinkle, my sisters Alta, and Nellie. She wanted a drink of water from the Sulfur Springs away up the hill. So we got us a bucket and climbed up the hill to get it for her. We always like to do things for grandma because she was always doing things for us. Grandma got the timber cut and sold it so she could make ends meet. She was a small lady but she could manage everything so it would go for a long time. She canned a lot of food, and dried a lot of fruits and vegetables. She'd also take some of her field corn and make her own hominy with lye and ashes. She would render her own lard to cook with. She also made her own soap out of her scrap fat and lard she didn't need for cooking.

She did her washing on an old washboard and boiled her clothes outside in a big washtub. She ironed her clothes with a sad iron . She had no electricity. She had a cold cellar under her kitchen and every time she wanted fresh milk, butter, or eggs, she'd have to go down the steps to the cellar. I think she might have gotten her treadle sewing machine before she died but I can't say for sure. I do remember that she had woven baskets with a lid on it that she kept her buttons in and us kids loved to play with the things she kept in it. I recall one instance when we were staying with her, my mother, Nellie, Alta, and myself. My mother and Aunt Oretta was sleeping together and they got into an argument and Grandma heard them. Here she went with a razor strap that she used on the smaller children, she used on both of them. She told them if they were going to act like kids then she'd have to treat them like kids. They simmered down and slept the rest of the night.\par \par I remember when us children would gather at Grandma and Grandpa's and maybe snow would be on the ground. We'd all go down in the big bottom land close to the river and play fox and geese and roll over empty oil barrels that grandpa had. He'd watch us and laugh. He had a good sense of humor. I recall the big boat landing on the other side of the Big Bottom.

When someone wanted to be set across in the boat, they would stand up on the railroad and holler across the river for Aunt Ora to set them across and she did. One time they heard someone (they thought) yelling to be set across and it was late at night. Aunt Ora got her lantern and headed for the river, but before she could get to the river she heard whatever it was going down the river screaming. It was a panther. She went back to the house as fast as she could and never again did she cross anybody after dark. Grandma and Grandpa raised sorghum cane to make molasses out of. They would do a lot of their sweetening with it and they would make delicious cookies out of it too. They would get the lassies pan ready and take old Bob to work the cane mill. He would go around and around to press the juice from the cane stalks and it would take 2-3 days to boil the juice down to make molasses good and thick. Us children would have a ball playing in the cane fields while they were making molasses. they would bottle it in gallon jars or half gallon fruit jars and put it in the cellar so it wouldn't freeze. Then Grandma would make apple butter in her 20 gallon brass kittle outside. They'd get the apples all peeled and ready to go in the kittle and the next day they would light the fire and set the kittle down in a thing they called a spider. They would add the apples and water so the apples wouldn't burn as they started to cook. They'd stir and stir all day till the apple butter got think . When it got thick they would put oil of cinnamon or cloves and sugar to taste. Then they would can it into jars and that too would go to the cellar. It was really delicious and to this day I still make apple butter. I recall when their hanovers and potatoes were ready to dig. They would dig them and let them dry off. Then they would dig 2 big holes in the garden and put straw in them and return the hanovers and potatoes to the hole. In the wintertime they would dig in the side of the mound and take what vegetables they needed for a meal Grandma also raised her own popcorn too. She'd shuck it back and leave the shucks on the ears to hang it up by, then when they wanted popcorn, they would take down an ear and shell it and pop it. Grandma would dry herbs like yellow root, sassafras root, peppermint, catnip, and bonesett to use for different kinds of illness. They couldn't run to the doctor every time something went wrong with them. I can't remember all the herbs but there were many. My Grandma would can green beans and pickle them and corn too, and make her own sauerkraut. She would pickle in stone jars or in wooden barrels and after they got pickled as she wanted taste just right She would put them into the cellar until she wanted them. Grandma raised 6 boys and 5 girls and after me telling you a few things about grandma you can bet that not one of them went hungry or lacked clothes to wear even though hard times, droughts, and other things happened and did that Grand little old lady managed to make ends meet. She left me a bigger legacy that money couldn't buy. I learned many things from her and a lot of things I put to good use raising my own family. My Grandma struggled on even though she had cancer eating at her and finally claimed her in death on March 25, 1936 at 71 years of age. My memories of my grandma( the one I am named for) were so good and inspiring that I want to share them with my friends, children and grandchildren.

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