The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Uncle Ted and Aunt Jullie Go To A House Raising

By Edith Biddex © 1986

Issue: November, 1986

My Aunt and Uncle are clipping 88 years old. They can remember the old days back in Western Virginia, and their simple hard working life. When I visited them recently, they shared this true story with me.

It was in the fall of the early 1900's when one of the neighbors wanted a house built. In those days all the men folks would gather in and help, the women did the cooking. The man got his house built. It was hard work, done by oxen, hand and simple tools. Uncle Ted and Aunt Jullie were invited, so they got the old horse saddled and were off to the house raising.

The men had been working about a week and more to get ready for the main big day. The cleaned ground was ready; the workers had cut trees with axes and sawed them with whip saws. The men had hunted flat rocks; these were stacked with clay mud. The floor was made of hewed logs. It had taken several days to get all the materials ready to start laying the logs and building the walls. Uncle Ted talked about how tired the oxen were after pulling logs in. Those men would wipe sweat for thirty minutes and chew on their tobacco.

It was a job to hew the logs with broad axes, notching every corner so they would fit together. It took four men to lay one log in place. "We usually rested after building one side," he quoted. "Climbed up 12 feet high on a ladder," "I was on top and dropped all my tobacco." "One feller, cut his hand while nailing the rafters across the top." "He yelled until the whole mountain trembled," laughed Uncle Ted. "About dinner time," one man yelled. We walked about a half mile to eat. The women had the wooden table full with chicken and dumplings, dried green beans, cornbread and apple pie. We enjoyed a cold glass of milk from a nearby spring. We talked and rested about an hour."

Uncle announced to everyone. "It was time to get on with building the house. Up the ladder went one man to start putting on the roof. Small chestnut boards were sawed with a 'froe,' these were 2 ft. long and split. They were nailed across the top. The house needed a door and windows, these were sawed out, framed with slats. By now all the workers were very tired of working and chewing. The finishing touch was using clay mud to seal up the cracks. The left over pieces of logs were drove between the cracks." Uncle Ted and Aunt Jullie said good by to all their friends and started home. The sun was setting and the day had been a good one. "We helped our neighbor," stated my uncle. "In olden days that was mighty important."