A Mountain Homestead: A 19th-Century Childhood

A farm girl recalls her experiences growing up on a mountain homestead at the turn of the century.

| January/February 1976

Sometimes we forget that many of our ancestors built for themselves lives of beauty, peace, and independence, lives that — trapped as we are in a better-things-for better-living-through-chemistry, keep-up-with-the-Joneses charade — we can only barely imagine, and perhaps never truly duplicate. We also forget how much of our time is spent in relearning skills that were almost second nature to our grandparents.  

It's a welcome event, then, when a survivor of frontier America gives us such a vivid look into her childhood as Lillie Baxter does in the following account of life at her Tennessee mountain homestead. (This, by the way, is Lillie's first attempt at writing a magazine article, and we certainly hope it isn't the last.)  

Lillie is now a hale and hearty 89 years old and enjoys recounting the varied experiences of a busy life both during her childhood in the Tennessee mountains and in the Oklahoma Territory, to which she moved with her family in 1906.  

We hope you'll enjoy, as much as we did, this account of "Them That Did It."  — THE EDITORS  

I was born in Mulberry Gap, Tennessee in 1886, the oldest of three sisters and three brothers. We lived on the side of the Cumberland Mountains, eight miles from Cumberland Gap. The cornerstone that marks the junction of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia is on top of the mountain there.

Middlesboro, Kentucky was also eight miles from our house. There were saloons in Middlesboro, and it wasn't uncommon to see men, who had gone there on horseback to get whiskey, returning with a gallon jug hung on each side of their saddles.

4/26/2009 3:42:23 PM

The author of this article Lillie Laura Lucas Baxter was my great great aunt. I ran across the original article from the magazine and wondered if it was on the internet. I was 17 when this article was published, and when I was a child we would go to Oklahoma City and visit my aunt. She was a very intelligent lady.

8/6/2008 7:42:08 AM

AMEN. Thank you for printing the article by Lillie Baxter, January 1, 1976, "Girlhood on a turn of the Country Mountain Homestead' (1900's). My grandmother was born 1890 and lived to be 82 years old. She raised her family on a farm in Iowa where my father was born there in 1913. They raised corn, cows, alfalfa and horses. My Dad died February 27, 2004 at 90 years old retired to Arizona. We live in the country among the pines and firs in Washington state. I found this article when asking the question "Can you eat the berries from the Mountain Ash? Thank you for you website. Pamela

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