The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Barney and Martha Thompson

By Imogene Turman © 1988

Issue: April, 1988

Seated are Barney and Martha. In Barney's lap is Bessie, in Martha's lap is Henry. Behind Barney and Martha are Mary and Rosie. To the right is Billy and Monroe.Seated are Barney and Martha. In Barney's lap is Bessie, in Martha's lap is Henry. Behind Barney and Martha are Mary and Rosie. To the right is Billy and Monroe.Barney was the son of Elder James Thompson. James was one of the Charter Members of the Laurel Fork Primitive Baptist Church established in 1864. The church still has his writings as clerk. He and his wife, are buried in unmarked graves near his old homeplace.

Barney married Martha who was the daughter of Isaac Dalton. The Thompson's settled a few miles from Laurel Fork Primitive Baptist Church and they owned land along the Laurel Fork Creek. They owned a mill and did grinding for a number of years. This was a very necessary part of country life in those days.

Most all of the small farms grew their own grain. They had small patches of wheat, rye, buckwheat, and corn. These small self-sufficient farms grew and made most everything their families needed.

Barney and Martha had twelve children; six boys and six girls. Three died in infancy. There was only one grandson belonging to the Thompson name. Today he has two sons living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The farm was a busy place, all had jobs and very many jobs were hard to do. The mill was a great help. The farmers brought in their "TURN." (Anyone know why it was called that?) It was ground and a "TOLL" took out. This was used by the miller or sold to someone needing it.

There was the threshing machine that came around each fall. A crew went with it which consisted of each family helping to get help. The women folks had a big chore when the crew came to their house for dinner. It was kind of a holiday except for the hard work for all.

Oxen or horses pulled the threshing machine. A boiler was pulled along to make power for the threshing machine. The boiler used wood that had to be cut by man power.

The grain was stored in a cool, dry place to season out. Then it was carried to the mill as the family needed it.

Most farm kitchens had a mill box. There was stored flour and cornmeal, some had rye and buckwheat. All this had to be sifted and mixed with salt, soda, and baking powder.

The miller was on call anytime someone needed grinding. He could be out in the field working. Either he or his wife could grind. When Martha was grinding, she used the extra time to knit stockings for the kids.

The farms grew cattle for milk and beef and oxen power. They grew sheep for wool and meat. They had chickens for eggs and meat; geese and ducks to eat and make feather beds; hogs for meat. The women folks spun the wool into thread and wove or knitted clothing for the family. The dress material was called lindsey and they had yarn stockings, sweaters and gloves.

Barney, Bessie and Henry had Typhoid Fever. They had a doctor, but the remedies weren't so good. They laid the feverish, often delirious, patient on the floor wrapped in sheets or a blanket and poured cold spring water over them to bring down the fever. The three survived.

As the children grew older they looked outside the family for jobs. They married young and began their families.

Mary married John Connor and settled in West Virginia. Rosie married Samp Lynch and settled in Amelia, Virginia. Billy married Maud Collier and settled in Laurel Fork. Monroe married Nettie Wildman in Prophetstown, Illinois and settled there.

Bessie married Claud Cruise and they lived in Bluefield, West Virginia. Henry married Ethel Spence and last lived in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Sally married Forest Jackson and last lived in Hillsville, Virginia. Nancy (the only living child) married Edgar Jessup and lives in Laurel Fork, Virginia. Joe lived in Staunton, Virginia.

Barney died at age 62 when he had a heart attack. Martha was in her late 70's when she also succumbed to a heart attack.

Today the water runs free on its way to the ocean. There is no mill. The house is gone. The once grassy meadow is growing pine trees. The fields of cattle are also in pine. Where once there were sounds of children playing and working, there is now silence. This was, but is no more.