Rev. Giles Wilson of Buchanan County

Interviewed by: Trista Wilson
Date of Interview: November 19, 2006

Trista Wilson reports:

" I interviewed my paternal grandfather, Giles Wilson.  He was born and raised in Southwest Virginia and has lived in this area on a farm for most of his life.  I have modeled my interview around his childhood and his farming experiences, for I used this interview as planned as one of my sources for my local history report, which was on farming."

Interviewer:  What have you been told about the day you were born?

Rev. Wilson: Well, when I was borned, they had a midwife that come and delivered me.  I was borned in the old home place up here. [Interviewer notes: He is indicating the "Old House," which I mentioned in my local history report.]

Interviewer:  Who was there besides the midwife?

Rev. Wilson: Well, all I was told about it was my mother, my dad, and maybe one of my older sisters.

Interviewer:  What have you been told about how you got your name?

Rev. Wilson: Well, I wondered about that a lot, but my middle name.  It came from my Grandfather Rasnake

Interviewer:  What was it like being part of a large family?

Rev. Wilson: Well, it was kindly hectic at sometimes, and sometimes a lot of fun. 

Interviewer:  Was it hard to find time to yourself?

Rev. Wilson: Well, really we didn't really want time for ourself 'cause we was generally working, when we was big enough to work and played in what spare time we had.

Interviewer:  Did you enjoy having so many brothers and sisters?

Rev. Wilson: Yes.

Interviewer:  How did you all get along?  Did you all just play or fight mostly?

Rev. Wilson: Well, mostly played.  We worked hard, then we played what time we could.  We worked as long as we was big enough to pick up a hoe and hoe anything, corn or anything.  We work in the corn fields during the day, and then after my mother got supper over with in the evenings, we'd generally play 'till dark.  That was the only time we had to play.

Interviewer:  So, you played in your spare time.  Did you play in the woods a lot or in the fields?

Rev. Wilson: Me and my brother, Charlie, played in the woods on the grapevine swings, and when me and him and my sisters played, we played, we had a little softball and played, we called it Yankee O'er, 'cross the smokehouse. 

Interviewer:  Describe the kind of school you went to. 

Rev. Wilson: It was a one-room school.  It had one little section off, and they called it the cloakroom.  We hanged our coats in it and put our lunch and everything in it.  They taught from the first grade to the seventh grade.  One teacher taught them all.

Interviewer:  About how many students were there?

Rev. Wilson: Probably, the best I remember, would be, probably, thirty or thirty-five.

Interviewer:  What about lunchtime?

Rev. Wilson: Well, we generally got through as quick as we could, and a bunch of us boys would generally play.

Interviewer:  What were some of the activities you did seasonally, like summer, spring, fall, winter?

Rev. Wilson: Well, like I said, summers, you know, most we had to spend having to work on the farm and to help out, you know.  We have to do things, and as far as the activities, we would play in our spare time, and of course, we went to church on Sundays. 

Interviewer:  What were the holidays like?

Rev. Wilson: Well, they were great.  Christmas was the greatest thing that came, and we didn't have a lot of toys set under the tree or whatever, but that was the time of year we got to have a few oranges and apples, which we grew most of our apples.  And our dad would buy us some candy, and he tried to get us some little something, but it wasn't nothing like you would see now days.

Interviewer:  Did other family members come in for the holidays like they do now? 

Rev. Wilson: No, not like they do now.  We had like they would just drop in on occasion, not just holidays.  Most families was like ours, was large families at that time, but maybe the mother would cook a good dinner for them or something, but like if they had other visitors to come like uncles or aunts or cousins or something, they would come at maybe like at a spare time when they got to come and maybe stay over night with us. 

Interviewer:  What were the church meetings like when you were younger? 

Rev. Wilson: Well, it was great.  I can still remember today.  We had a big church right here below where we lived, called the Ball's Chapel, a Freewill Baptist church.  Though I was just a little oh bity feller [showing with hand about three and half to four feet from floor], I can remember them preachers, and they got sorta loud.  And I can remember, I never did forget that, I can still remember them ladies.  They would, you could here their shoe heels start hitting [[demonstrated by tapping table rapidly].  They went like that, and then they'd get faster, and then, you'd hear 'em squawl out, and they'd be having a big time [spoken while laughing and smiling]

Interviewer:  How has church affected your life and the lives of your family members? 

Rev. Wilson: I think it affected us greatly.

Interviewer:  How old were you when you got saved?

Rev. Wilson: Twenty.

Interviewer:  When did you receive your calling to preach?

Rev. Wilson: Well, probably a long time before I started.  I started about 19 and 80, but a long time before that, probably two or three years or so at least.

Interviewer:  About how old is the "Old House?"

Rev. Wilson: Well, it's probably about a hundred and thirty/forty years old.  It was built in 18 and 82.  In some part of 18 and 82 was when they started it.

Interviewer:  Who built it?

Rev. Wilson: My Grandfather Wilson.

Interviewer:  How was it built?

Rev. Wilson: It was built out of logs.  The main two-story house part was layed out by the hued logs. Then later on, they built a section on it with boards and stuff and built the kitchen and the extra bedroom and stuff out of lumber, but that was done in the later years.  It may have even been after my grandfather passed away when they done a lot of the other building.  I believe our kitchen was off at one time, but I didn't remember it too well, but it was built off to itself a little bit, and then that was after my mother and daddy was there.  So, she got her uncle and some of them to come and built the kitchen onto the house part.

Interviewer:  You said that it was built out of logs.  What about money?  How much money was put into building it like nails and general construction?

Rev. Wilson: Well, you don't find no nails in the logs.  The ways logs was held together was of course they had a notch in 'em and you probably couldn't have put a nail in them no way.  But the smaller logs, the way they had them, they would of drilled some holes in 'em and drove pegs, wooden pegs, through it to hold it, to keep them from giving apart.

Interviewer:  Basically, they just took the wood and used the wood to bond it together?

Rev. Wilson: Yea.  They took the big huge logs, and they hued them down kindly flat-like, so they'd maybe be like twelve to fourteen inches one way and then about six inches the other way, and they gapped them out so they would set level with each other.  They wouldn't hardly give no way. 

Interviewer:  What are some of the special memories you have about the "Old House?"

Rev. Wilson: Well, I guess the main special ones were probably, like a said a while ago, were at Christmas.  All except when I was about ten-years-old and I lost my brother on Christmas Eve.  Christmas wasn't as much fun after that. 

Interviewer:  What are all the buildings that are around it?

Rev. Wilson: This one that is still around it, it is called the smokehouse, and they was one that still stands there that is called the dairy that we kept the can stuff in.  Other than that, the rest of 'em's gone.

Interviewer:  How many were there around it?

Rev. Wilson: Well, they was one called a corn crib, where we kept corn in to feed the horses and everything, and then they had a chicken house, and all of those are gone.  The old smokehouse building still stands, and the dairy still stands.  The dairy was laid up out of block and mud between 'em was how they laid up the dairy.

Interviewer:  How many people have lived in the house at one time? 

Rev. Wilson: Hmmm, probably I'd guess, probably at any one given time there was probably at least twelve to fourteen counting Mom and Dad.

Interviewer:  Were they all brothers and sisters and Mom and Dad or were there cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that lived in it?

Rev. Wilson: No, it was just brothers and sisters and Mom and Dad. 

Interviewer:  Who dug the fresh water spring?

Rev. Wilson: Well, it kindly handed down a lot of times.  As you got big enough to carry a bucket of water, you generally carried the water.  I had to get it all.  The girls mostly helped out with the cooking and stuff, so us boys were on water detail.  When one would get big enough to carry it, and he would get into carrying it one of the older ones would trade off something else to him to get him to carry the water a lot of times.

Interviewer:  How was the fresh spring found?  Who found it?

Rev. Wilson: My Grandfather Wilson found it.  That's why he built the house where it is because he found the spring.

Interviewer:  So, the spring is about as old as the house is?

Rev. Wilson: Or older.  It was already there when he found it.  He just started clearing out around it and started building his house right there at the spring.  And that is why it is so close to the house. 

Interviewer:  Are there any other springs on this land that you know of?

Rev. Wilson: Yes, at least three.  Two produces water all the time—the one that we get water from and the one that Richard and them [Interviewer notes: my uncle and his family who also live on the land] get water from.  But, they was an extra spring right here on this place, but I don't know if it produces enough water, but they have been water in it. 

Interviewer:  How long has this property been in the Wilson name? 

Rev. Wilson: Since 18 and 82.  Well, my Grandfather Wilson and my great-grandfather Cornelius Ball bought it in together in 18 and 82, and then they divided it in 18 and 93.  They run a line between it.  My Grandfather Wilson kept the 116 acres, and my great-grandfather kept a hundred and two or three acres.  They was 218 acres in total.

Interviewer:  Who did the land belong to before they bought?

Rev. Wilson: Okay, I've got an old deed, honey, with their name on it since, but before that some lady owned it, and she may have been a Bowen the best I remember, but I'd have to look through some of my old deeds to see.

Interviewer:  Have you lived on a farm your entire life? 

Rev. Wilson: Yes, except in leaving maybe for six months to a year.  One time I believed I stayed away for a year and a half. 

Interviewer:  What were some of the things you were supposed to do as a child to help with maintaining the farm?

Rev. Wilson: Well, I was supposed to when I got big enough, was I carried water when I got big enough, and I helped cut wood.  We got the cows in as quick as we could, and when we got big enough we had to milk the cows.  We had to feed the hogs.  And we had horses and stuff that we had to put up in the winter and the cows you know.

Interviewer:  What was your favorite thing to do on the farm?

Rev. Wilson: Play, I guess.  Well, probably I guess, my most favorite thing was it was along about June, my dad kept sheep and we had two or three calves or so each year to sell.  That was about the time of year we gathered them up and take them to the market and sell 'em.  I'd get to go to the market.   

Interviewer:  What about your least favorite thing to do?

Rev. Wilson: Well, probably, after I got up bigger, you know, I guess probably the least favorite thing to do was I had to drag in all that wood and chop it with a little ax. 

Interviewer:  Did you have any favorite animals or pets when you were a child?

Rev. Wilson: Not really.  All of our animals that we had on the farm was used to help bring in money or for food or something, so we didn't have any time to try to pet some of 'em or to make a favorite out of 'em.  We raised our own hogs to kill, and we'd kill a beef sometimes.  We had to have the other cows to give milk.  We had to have the horses to do the plowing and all the work.  So, we didn't pleasure ride on horses. 

Interviewer:  You said horses, cows, sheep, and hogs, but what about other farm animals?

Rev. Wilson: Well, of course we kept chickens, and they had goats, and turkeys, and at one time, geese.  That one time they kept some geese, but that was a long time back.  I can barely remember.  My mother would pick them geese and make pillers out of their feathers.

Interviewer:  What about wild animals?

Rev. Wilson: Well, the wild animals, they wasn't no big wild animals around here as far as game.  It's mostly squirrels and rabbits, groundhogs.  But, the bear and the deer and the stuff like that was maybe moved into this country later.

Interviewer:  When is the right time for killing certain animals like hogs, beef, or chickens.

Rev. Wilson: Well, the chickens can be killed at anytime you want 'em.  The hogs we generally killed in November when it got cool enough to where we could keep the meat out where it would freeze out so it wouldn't spoil on ya.  Most time if you killed a beef, you generally killed it in the fall of the year, too. 

Interviewer:  Do you treat the meat of farm animals the same way you would wild animals?

Rev. Wilson: Well, our hog meat, we would ground what sausage we wanted to grind out of it.  Our middlin' meat where the bacon comes out of and the hams and the shoulders was salted down in the smokehouse and left salted down for around ten days.  Then, we would cut a hole in it and hang it up and let it hang before we cut at it.  She (his mother) generally fry the meat, and there was a lot of good meat from the shoulders and what we didn't eat, we cooked it in beans.  Then, our hams was, of course, our favorite thing after they dried out good and get 'em down like in the winter and slice that ham meat and fry it for breakfast.  And, the middlin' meat was maybe the best time of year we liked it to eat was in the May of the year after it had dried out good and the salt taken to it good.

Interviewer:  Do you think farm animal meat has a different taste than wild animal meat?

Rev. Wilson: Yes, all together different. 

Interviewer:  Do you think it is because of the way they are raised or what?

Rev. Wilson: I would think.  A lot of people eat the squirrels and the rabbits, but I was never too fond of their meat, but I guess the way we stored the hog meat by letting it take salt and the way they did the beef and stuff.  Back years back, we didn't have butcher shops to have 'em cut up the meat and put in the freezer 'cause we didn't have freezers to put 'em in.  But the beefs was killed up late when we got cold weather.  Beef meat is dryer than what hog meat is.  You didn't have to salt it.  You could hang it up real high and it would cool down.  Of course, a little bit of the outside would be kindly tough.  Just skin that off and slice it and roast it or whatever you want to out of it. 

Interviewer:  What kind of crops have been grown on this land?

Rev. Wilson: Well, we grew corn, tobacco, and oats, and wheat, and of course, our potatoes and all of that to raise, too. 

Interviewer:  How do you know when to plant certain crops?  Do you plant by the signs or just about the same time each year or when?

Rev. Wilson: A lot of people plant by the signs.  Mostly we just planted when we had a certain time just to be planted.  We mostly planted our crops when we got time and could get it in the ground.  A lot of people went by the signs to plant their stuff.  But, you can't hardly go by the signs 'cause of all the weather.  You might have too much wet weather or something in a sign you wanted to plant something, and you couldn't plant it at that time.  So, we had no problems just plantin' it anytime as long as it was warm enough for stuff to come up, or it got ripe enough to gather it in.

Interviewer:  What did you use to keep the plants growing, so they will produce good food?

Rev. Wilson: Back then, we didn't have, when I was a boy growing up, we didn't have to put anything on 'em.  We put, maybe we put a little barn liter around the tomatoes to get them started out growing.  Maybe our other garden vegetables we would use just a little fertilizer or something.  We never used no spray, we never used nothing.  But back then, nothing didn't have to have spray and stuff.  Even the apples and apple trees were standing all over the place and berries, raspberries and blackberries.  Just plenty of them everywhere.

Interviewer:  So why would you have to use fertilizers and sprays now?

Rev. Wilson: Well, I would imagine it's because of I guess the way people live.  It's kind of like a plague on people now.  Then, you can probably relate (meaning in the Bible), would come upon the land, and all of that.  I guess it's due to a multitude of things.  Mostly, I think because the majority of the United States doesn't live for the Lord, and I believe that is why a lot of people have pestilences like blithes and all of that.  Now when I was a boy, you didn't have to have nothing like that.  People lived better lives, and they don't fear the Lord now.

Interviewer:  So, it's basically because people don't believe in Him as much as they used to.

Rev. Wilson: That is my thought about it.

Interviewer:  I agree.  What was used to till up the soil?  A tractor?  A horse and plow?  A garden tiller? 

Rev. Wilson: A horse and a plow. 

Interviewer:  Now, for the million dollar question, why was farming so important to the Wilson family years ago?

Rev. Wilson: I guess to keep body and soul together—for the food.  My dad, this is a true fact, I never remembered my dad making over six dollars a day wages.  He had a big family, so we generally helped grow everything we could to have food to eat on through the winter.  It seemed like a hard time, and you thought it was rough, but now I look at it, those were the good times.  We never had a lot of money, but we managed to make enough to have our clothes and our shoes and just a place to stay and we never did go hungry.  We always had something to eat and a place to stay.  So, I guess that it's the important thing about life.