Tidbits of Shelby County History
Southern Hospitality

This week’s article was share with me by a reader. The date the information was written is unknown. I love this as it gives us an insight into the lives of our ancestors. (Altonie was born in 1880 and died in 1976. Since she listed her age as 87 in the article that would put the date this was written in 1967.)

This is a true episode recalled in part from the memory of Altonie Walker Taylor and in part from hearing her parents talk about it. Mrs. Taylor is now nearing 87 years of age and is blind. This is written by a sister, Jessie Walker Kelley.

This is as my sister dictates. “I would like to relate an incident which happened in January 1886 before my 5th birthday April. This incident shows southern hospitality as practiced by our parents, the late Samuel O. and Sarah Ann Wharton Walker.

There were no railroads in Shelby County at this time. Travelers from Louisiana crossed the Sabine River at Logansport by ferry boat. The main road going west through the county passed by our home, which was two- and one-half mile west from where the present town of Joaquin now stands.

Our home at this time consisted of two log houses several yards apart. Each house had a large room with a huge fireplace, side room, and front porch. The large room at one house was our kitchen and dining room. The cooking was done on the fireplace. At this time a big pile of cotton seed was in the side room of the kitchen. The large room of the other house was the living room with two beds in the back. These were the only beds we had at this time since our aunt, who lived with us, had married three weeks earlier and moved her two beds from the side room. Our father, mother, sister Addie Lee, who would be three in May, comprised our family at this time.

On this particular night our three cousins, a boy of eight, a boy of five, and a girl of eleven, were spending the night with us. The night chores were finished early since snow had been peppering down all afternoon, a large pile of wood had been placed on each porch and plenty of pine for kindling and light had been placed by each fireplace.

Since it was so cold our parents had decided to have roasted potatoes for supper by the fire in the living room. It was always fun to have roasted potatoes by the fire, especially when we had company. Our mother was probably leading us in quiet games, such as William Tremble Toe, as she always did when we had company. Anyway, we were cozily seated around the fire when a loud hello sounded at the gate.

Father opened the door and saw two covered wagons standing at the gate. He went out to see what was wanted. He soon came back and said, “Looks like we’ll have to take these people in. There’s a woman out there with little children who are crying because they are cold.” Mother agreed as she always did. Then father went back to welcome them into our home. I think mother and children were standing in the doorway watching. Imagine mother’s feeling when she saw all this crowd piling out of the wagons. Besides the two drivers there were Mr. and Mrs. Scott, a boy about two years old, a boy about four, a girl five and a half, a boy eight, a boy ten, and four teenage girls.

Fires were never allowed to go out at any time, so immediately, coals were stirred, kindling placed on them, and wood laid on the andirons. Soon a crackling fire was burning in the kitchen. The horses were unhitched and led to the lot to be fed.

This family was moving from Alabama to a farm about eight or ten miles farther on. They had come by train to Grandcane, Louisiana, the nearest railroad station. The wagon had been sent to bring them and their household goods to the new home. They had stopped at several houses on the way but had been refused shelter. The snow was piling up so much that it was almost impossible to go further.

I remember seeing Mr. Scott bringing in a big sack of flour. The had bought their food supplies before leaving Grandcane. Mrs. Scott made the biggest batch of biscuits that I had ever seen. Soon she was feeding those hungry children.

It must have been a puzzle when bedtime came. Probably they brought bedding from the wagons. I remember seeing father and the three men taking quilts and going to the cotton shed to sleep. Father said it was the coldest night he ever spent as he came near to freezing.

The snow had continued throughout the night, and the next morning the ground was thickly covered. It was impossible for the wagons to go on. The only thing I remember about this day was Mr. Scott and the two drivers took the horses to the new home. Father and the four teenage girls walked about two miles through the woods to their aunt’s home. The girls remained there for the remainder of the time they were marooned. Uncle Bill Walker came by and took his children home. This left only Mrs. Scott and the five younger children with us.

I have no remembrance of how long they stayed, probably eight or ten days until the snow cleared. The little girl and I soon became friends and played together around the kitchen fire.

One incident stands out clearly in my mind. The eight-year-old boy climbed on a chair and got a prized pitcher from the mantle over the fireplace and dropped it on my sister’s head and it broke all to pieces. My sister cried and Mrs. Scott scolded the boy.

When the snow cleared, the teams were brought back, and the family went on to their new home. I don’t remember this family any more until about two years later. A new house was built about a mile away on a farm adjoining ours. The family moved into this house and lived there until we were all grown. They were always our close friends.

We still own our farm. The log houses have long since been torn away and another house has been built on the same premises. My brother, S.E. Walker, lives in the house my father built. The road follows almost the identical line it did in those days. However, it is not the main road now.”

Note: This was sent to me, Lannie Walker, Sr. by Charlene Walker Brazell, the granddaughter of SamuelOrgan Walker and the daughter of Vessie Eugene Walker, Uncle Sam’s son. The children of “Uncle Bill” mentioned in this tale were:

  1. The 11-year-old girl was Lavada Walker, born 2 June 1875
  2. The 8-year-old boy was Elzey Walker, born 27 October 1877
  3. The 5-year-old boy was Alvy Walker, (my father) born 14 January 1881

The Scott family mentioned in this story are an Alabama branch of my mother’s family. My mother was Jessie Mae Scott Walker, and in a recording of her which I made in 1955, she told me of part of her family coming from Abbeville, Alabama. Her father and his immediate ancestors came from Virginia.