"Good Neighbors Worth More Than Money" Anna Mae Peoples Davis said long ago.
A little reminiscing.........
She was born in a house "up on the mountain" above the Big Creek Valley but doesn't remember living there so the family moved down on the creek while she was still quite small. The house where she was raised was a log house on Dry Branch with a "hall" or breezeway and a puncheon floor of hand-hewn logs.
Anna May said her father set a list of tasks to be done and put her sister Becky, the oldest child, in charge (Rebecca Jane Peoples Foster). If the work didn't get done, Becky got a whipping "and he'd usually end up whipping us all." Typically of that time there was a big family, four boys and three girls. Anna May was 93 in 1988, the last of the family living.
She was just five when neighbor Sarah Ann Smith's twin sons were born on New Year's Day and she often tended the babies so Sarah Ann could work in the garden and fields. The babies would be put on a pallet and Anna May left with them to watch for snakes.
One time she was left in the house with the children and heard them giggling in the front room. She went to see what they were up to and found they had gotten into their mother's churning "and smeared that cream off the top of the churning up the mantle board as high as they could reach."
Sarah Ann gave Anna May a pair of garters for babysitting. "She got me the prettiest pair of garters you ever lookd at. They had ruffles around the elastic. I was on cloud nine when I got them."
Anna May went to school at Log Hall and remembers the first school as a small square log building with a little room added on to store their lunchboxes. Later, there was a big,two-story schoolhouse and two teachers.
She recalled that after the two-story school was built, Martin Tack Smith would amaze the other students by taking a long pole and vaulting into a second story window 12 feet or more above the ground. He could also jump the pole held lengthwise above the heads of two of the other big boys.
One of the favorite entertainments was programs and speeches at the school and she remembered that she always took whatever part came along, although a lot of the students didn't want to take the parts where they would have to look ugly. One she particularly recalls was the part of a little old lady where she fixed a hump on her back underneath her dress.
Square dances were another favorite community entertainment and everyone would gather at one of the homes for the dances where local musicians an a caller stood at the edge of the living room and called the sets.
Although Anna May's parent went to Jasper fairly often, it was rare for the kids to get a trip to town and it wasn't until after she was married that she got to go to her first County Fair in Harrison. What was the fair like she was asked? "Oh it's so long ago, I don't remember much. I remember mostly there was this man who walked on a rope. The rope was about as big as my finger and he had a...seems like he had an umbrella...and he walked on that rope. We thought lots of times he was going to come down, but he made it. I saw the first monkey I've ever seen there, too".
Her parents traveled to town mostly by horseback, taking the old "Town Gap Road" which followed roughly the same route as Highway 374 takes up the mountain from Vendor today. If they were going to Harrison, they'd get up before daylight and leave at the first light of dawn with the oxen and wagon. "We'd get to Harrison about dusky dark and go to the wagon yard and rent beds. We slept in bunk beds. Some folks brought their own bedding same as camping out."
When sister Becky married and moved to the Hopewell community, the family went sometimes to visit her and "spent more time on the road than visiting." They traveled all day to get to the house of a friend in Boone County where they stayed all night, then went on to Becky's and spent one night with her. They'd start home the next day in time to stop at the friend's house again and get back to Big Creek the following evening.
Most of the people of the area made their living by farming and cutting logs. They raised what they ate and sometimes sold logs for cash money. They bought few groceries, just sugar, salt, soda and similar staples.
Anna May was almost 18 shen she married Eldredge Davis, a blacksmith, who ran the smithy at Vendor for some time.
They married on 20 February 1913 in Jasper.
Vendor at one time had a grist mill, a blacksmith shop and general store and a postoffice across from where the post office is now.
One time a faborite teacher in the community, J. Arthur Smith and his wife, Blanche, who lived at Copper's Bluff, came by and spent three days with the Davis Family "and the house was full from the time he came until he left," Anna May remembers.
Not all of the teachers were so sought after. Anna May remembers one who wouldn't allow the girls to get the smallest speck of dirt on them. He sent them a quarter mile to the creek to wash if they got their hands and feet dirty and "would nearly send us home if we got something on our dress, so we hated him."
Where there is no school at all now, there once were several strung all along the creek, at Copper's Bluff, Red Rock and Log Hall. There were more people there then, too, and Anna May recalled there were families living all over the valley and the benches.
Anna May and Eldridge had the first radio in the Big Creek Valley, an RCA Victor that they played for a house full of guests every Saturday night when everyone who could would come to listen to the Grand Ole' Opry.
A houseful of company was a family tradition for Anna May. One neighbor recalled how half the church would go home with her father and mother on Sundays for dinner. Tom People's favorite saying was"Go home with us and we'll have a great pie".
She spent her summer tending the garden and canning everything she could harvest to provide the food for the flock of guests and her family.
There was only one year her garden totally failed her. She had just moved to Vendor and she and Eldridge planted a new piece of ground, planning to make the best garden in the county, but they hauled pine sawdust to cover it and the sawdust killed it all out. "I canned that year just like I had raised the best garden, she said, "for it was brought to me. Folks just carried it in by the sackful."
"Good neighbors", she concluded, "are better than money."
Tragedy struck her food supply another year in the form of flood waters. She had canned her food and stored it in the storm cellar but water filled the cellar and ruined much of it. "The fruit was just floating in the cellar and some of it busted." She hired Herbert Pierce to pump the water out and salvaged what she could.
That was the same time the big flood wiped out downtown Harrison and Anna May recalled stories she heard about the flood.
All her life, Anna May's strongest principle has been to be a good neighbor. "That's the way I was raised. I just followed my raising". The community will vouch for that and she earned the place of honor she holds among them.
"Granny May's quick laugh and love of good story makes it obvious why her home was always a gathering spot for the community. Although she looks back over a life filled with hard work, the times that hold her memory are the happy times, the pranks and jokes, the visiting and most of all, the sharing that binds a community together.
In the big chair in the living room of her neat white farmhouise, she rocks gently and says once again, "Yep, good neighbors can't be beat. They're worth more than money."
Story taken from the Newton County Times Newspaper dated June 16, 1988 in "Lookin Back".
Anna May Peoples Davis went to her heavenly rest on 29 July 1991 and is buried in Smith (Log Hall) Cemetery by her beloved husband.
A little background on her family.