The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Albert and Dollie Hylton's House

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1988

Issue: November, 1988

Albert and Dollie Hylton's house.Albert and Dollie Hylton's house.You see, I am a house, but I talk. People drive and walk by me and say, "Lookee yonder at that old house! Why don't they tear it down?" The last few years I've heard that statement so many times that I just sagged on down a little farther. I am a special house and want to share my life with you.

Albert Hylton, with the help of friends and neighbors, built me in 1903. Mr. Jim Howell from down the road built my chimney, October 10, 1903. The flat rocks have stayed perfectly in place all these years. Mr. Jim carved his initials and the date on a slab near the top of my chimney and it is visible to this very day.

Young marrieds, Albert and Dollie Hubbard Hylton moved in. I was so proud. They were such good people. Soon my rooms were filled with the cooing sounds of a tiny baby. Then more children came along until there were five: Ava, Elva, Stowell, Ray and baby Cleo. Laughter, sometimes crying echoed throughout my rooms. What a nice family! I just loved being their house. Albert was a good, hardworking man and Dollie, a fine Christian woman. Together, they were making me into a home.

My happiness was shot lived. Albert was taken ill. A country doctor did what he could, but nothing helped. A Mrs. Slaughter from up the road was good at helping in sickness and she came a lot. (This Mrs. Slaughter lived at a place that is known as the Sam Wood Farm.) Dollie was trying to take care of five small children and nurse Albert. She really appreciated Mrs. Slaughter's kindness. I heard her speak of it many times over the years.

The dawning of day, March 23, 1911 was a sad day. Albert passed away. He was so young, only 32 years of age. I had been his home for eight years. Oh! I was crying inside. His funeral services were held here. Friends and neighbors carried his coffin out into the field nearby where he had chosen his resting place. They sang as they walked along. It was beautiful, but I thought my heart would break.

Poor Dollie, left with five babies, was so sad. I wondered to myself what would she do. Really, I was worried. What if my family left me? No, I decided Dollie would stay here since Albert had built the house. That's what she did. Dollie didn't mind work, but she knew that it would be extra work to keep her family together. That's what Dollie did – WORK!

A garden plot was near me and lots of different vegetables were planted. Even the little ones pulled and chopped weeds. A field of corn and oats was planted. Hay was harvested to feed the milk cow. There were hogs in the lot. Different kinds of chickens supplied meat and eggs. I know the chickens were helpful, but they sure made a mess of my yard. I liked to hear them crow in the mornings.

Dollie and the children picked berries and cherries, and canned a lot. She dried bushels of apples. Some days I groaned under the weight of so many racks of drying apples. I tried not to complain because come winter Dollie could make those good fried apple pies, and my kitchen would smell spicy. They gathered chestnuts by the sackfull. Many times I watched them set off for Vesta with a wagon load. Money from the chestnuts meant the children would have shoes for winter. Sometimes I would heave a sigh of relief because my family seemed to be managing quite well, although times were hard.

My children attended school. Dollie saw to that. Some nights clothes had to be dried around my fireplace so there would be clean clothes for school the next day. Their outfits may have been few, but always clean and neat.

Furnishings in my kitchen were sparse, but handmade with loving hands. It was a busy place with so much cooking and canning. My old black range did double duty. Dollie cooked some good food; apple butter stack cakes, pies, and a kind of cookie like a biscuit that was called sweet cakes. Every Friday was fried apple pie day. Mmmm – what a treat! A favorite place for eating was a long bench behind the old wooden table. Young and old loved that place. I always enjoyed meal time, especially supper.

My sitting room was well used especially in winter. The family spent many evenings around the fireplace. Sometimes they read, and other times had little chores like shelling corn for the mill or cracking walnuts. Dollie mended, patched, and worked on quilts. There was always an apple for munching. I loved those cozy evenings with my family.

On a rainy day my attic was the place to be. With the raindrops falling on my tin roof, even I would feel drowsy. Dollie saved all books, newspapers and catalogs, so there was always something to read. Some that I remember are Progressive Farmer, Comfort, Poultry Tribune, and religious papers and books. Stacks of the Stuart Enterprise were everywhere. A little trundle bed was waiting if anyone wanted to take a nap.

Years sped by and one day I was shocked to see a young fellow come calling on one of my girls. Then my parlor was being put to use. The old time Victrola was wound up and played Carter Family songs, Blue Sky Boys and Uncle Dave Macon. My parlor was very pretty with wallpaper and antique furnishings, pictures on the wall, lace curtains and lots of pretty do–dads. My girls were proud to entertain their fellows in my parlor. Then Elva and Ava decided to get married. They had a double wedding here. Elva married Sam Howell and Ava, Clark Bolt. Preacher Sol Hylton performed the ceremony. I was happy for them, but sad one way. It meant two of my girls were leaving.

Stowell and Ray were all grown up and had girlfriends, so I knew they would be gone soon. Before Stowell got married, he did something for me. I had never had a real porch, only a small stoop. Stowell and Sam Howell built me a nice porch. I was so proud and even more so when Dollie set pots of flowers all across the front. My porch was built in 1932. When Stowell finished the porch, he took Gracie Hall as his bride. Thank Goodness! He finished the porch before he left. My family was leaving fast. Soon Ray married Edna Hall, only baby Cleo remained. She stayed home for several years, then went to Roanoke and got a job. That left just me and Dollie.

Now that all the children were gone, Dollie had more time to pursue her great love of flowers. My yard became a showplace. People came by just to see my yard. Dollie shared the flowers with others by giving them a bouquet to carry home. My yard had pretty boxwoods. Dollie could break off a twig of boxwood, stick it in the ground near the spring house, and make it grow. She really had a green thumb.

One granddaughter lived nearby and stayed with Dollie a lot at night. She was Stowell's daughter and they called her Ivalien. The girl loved to read, and spent lots of Sunday afternoons in my attic. She liked the parlor also. On Sunday, Dollie let her play the Victrola and she danced on my porch until I was tired. Ivalien did one thing that made me want to tell Dollie on her. Sometimes when Dollie was feeding the chickens or gone to milk the cow, Ivalien climbed up in the big china cabinet in the sitting room and sipped from the camphor bottle. Boy did she ever love that camphor and sugar! She still has the camphor bottle, but it's empty. I guess that's for the best since she loved sweetened camphor and whiskey so well. Ivalien enjoyed my fireplace doing homework by a crackling fire. She liked to eat frozen apples. They say frozen apples will kill you. That's bound to not be so for Ivalien would have died as a child. She would sit by my fire and read everything she could get her hands on.

Dollie and Ivalien enjoyed my porch on late summer evenings. They sang hymns like Sweet By and By, and Bound For The Promised Land. In between songs, they listened to the little peep frogs in the swamp.

Ivalien and all of Ray's kids were here a lot. They raced to see who would get to eat on the bench. The supper they enjoyed most was potatoes, boiled in their jackets in an old iron tea kettle, fresh printed butter, new green onions, and buttermilk. They would eat until I was sure they would get a tummy ache. All the other grandchildren came as often as they could because everyone wanted to come and stay all night with Dollie and get some good soul food. I hear that all these kids still talk about her fried apple pies.

Well, Ivalien finished high school and left to be married. Dollie cried and I was sad to see her go. Ray's girl, Freeda, came to stay, but she got married also. Again, Dollie was alone. Ivalien lived nearby and visited often bringing her little boy to enjoy me and Dollie. He liked the fried pies too.

In 1960, Dollie stood the winter well and was busy. One morning in May, she was taken ill and passed away, May 19, 1960 at Stuart Hospital. Ivalien came over and sat on my front porch and cried. I thought my heart would burst with sorrow. It had been Dollie's request to have her funeral service here. Friends and neighbors came from all over Patrick County to pay their respects. Elder Joel Marshall and Elder Jim Matt Vipperman held the service. Singers from Dollie's church sang and everything was beautiful. Dollie had attended and been a member of Conner View Baptist Church for many years. She was laid to rest beside her beloved Albert. Now I was all alone and felt like an empty shell.

The yard and garden were so pretty that Ivalien mowed and took care of the things that summer. She tried the next summer, but with a job and family it just got to be too much for her. Stowell tried to do things, but his health failed, but he did buy my farm from the other children. I was happy that some of my family were around. The children came and divided my furniture among themselves. I was left with a few things. Woe seemed my lot. What was to become of me?

Stowell's health failed and finally he passed away. His wife kept me and the farm. The weeds and bushes almost choked my land. Ivalien would walk over and sit on my porch. One day I heard her say, If only I could fix you up again." My yard still had lots of flowers and she tried to get seedlings and plants from almost everything. Today most of her flowers came from my yard.

Over the years I kept sagging on down. I thought some of the big snows would sure get me, but I hung on. Then one day a nice young family by the name of Hopkins came over and walked on my farm. They liked what they saw. I was sold to Elwood, Linda and Ernest and they began to work on my farm, building good fences, clearing land, and started a herd of cattle. They were very busy, so I understood that they couldn't fix me up, but I knew that they liked me. Yes, I overheard them say so. They liked my flowers, and preserved some of them. Those cows liked me too, rubbing up against me, and messing up my yard. Well, at least I wasn't alone.

In July of 1988, I got the shock of my life. I saw the Hopkins Family coming armed with tools. They went to work on my porch and before the week was out, I stood tall and straight. Ivalien was overjoyed. Lordy, she wasn't any happier than me, I just about burst with pride. You see, I'm in better shape than passers–by think. Then there was another surprise. They erected a temporary fence to keep the cows away from me. Don't get me wrong, I love the cows and cute calves, but they were rough on me and my yard. When Ivalien came by and set a big pot of flowers on my porch, I knew things were going to be all right. Now I stand tall and proud, full of wonderful memories. I'm happy again because I know my new family cares for me. Now don't you see that I'm not just a house, but a home.

Author's Note...

This house gave me pleasure for twenty–seven years of my life, memories I will carry with me for a life time. Although Grandpa Albert died so young that my father could only remember a few things, Grannie Dollie always told me what a good man Grandpa was. I loved the way she always called him "The Children's Papa." Grannie and I spent many pleasant evenings sitting on the porch singing. She could read the notes and taught me a few. We both shared a love for reading and books and read by oil lamps and the fireplace. Grannie had a heart of gold and was kind. If ever a saint walked on this earth, my Grannie Dollie was one.

The house holds so many memories for me and the rest of the family that remain. You may think me strange, but I think this house has feelings and thoughts. I think I'm probably included in those thoughts. From time to time, I'll be by to visit you, house.

(Ivalien Hylton Belcher, daughter of Stowell and Gracie Hall Hylton, Granddaughter of Nathan Albert Hylton and Dollie Hubbard Hylton.)