Appalachian Dialect Heritage

A Go Devil & A Mystery

go devil

I found it surprising that many of you-who usually know all the vocabulary words, were in the dark about go devil. A few of you guessed what it is-a splitting maul. Makes me wonder if its a local saying or at least a Southern Highlands of Appalachia saying-since Mr. Jones from north Georgia knew it and The Deer Hunter, who grew up 3 counties away from here, has heard it all his life too.

relic
Now for the mystery. The Deer Hunter found the piece above on one of his recent hunting trips. Knowing how much me and the girls like to find treasures in the woods he brought it to me. At first we thought it was an old crock-but on inspecting it closer we don’t think so.

ringed crock

The piece is 10 inches tall, 27 inches around, and 8.5 inches across the top. You can see there are rings on the inside-they go all the way down to the bottom.

old pottery

This view from the top-shows it had some sort of cover or lid that was attached to the piece itself.

found pottery

The bottom doesn’t show any sort of marks-just where the glaze was applied to the pottery.

So can you help us-what is it?

Tipper

 

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Tim
    February 10, 2019 at 11:08 am

    From the way its made, and the way it broke, it was probably a ceramic keg. But whomever set the bung hit it a little too hard!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    September 29, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Scott-thank you for the great comment! I’d say that’s a dandy guess!
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Scott
    September 29, 2014 at 10:43 am

    2 assumpitions about the broken off parts. First, since it is clearly a piece of turned pottery, then we can safely assume that the broken off side piece follows the shape of the rest of the existing piece. Second,the bottom is sealed, and that leads up down the road of thinking that the opposite side (the part missing) was sealed as well, BUT perhaps not. I would bet that the broken top part (that is missing) had 2 holes bored into it, an inlet and an outlet. Lastly, because it is much smaller than a mash keg, and made of pottery, that tells me it was made to deal with heated materials, but not big enough to cook mash in. Also the rings on the inside would collect water vapor and not alcohol vapor. THe alcohol would pass up through the outlet and the water condenses on the rings and drips back into the keg. The inlet and outlet holes would recieve pipes and need to be sealed. You can do this with unfired clay. Ladies and Gentlemen, what you have here is a “Thump-Keg” from an old moonshine still that was probably busted by a T-man’s axe during prohibiton. There’s my guess. Tell me what you think of it.

    • Reply
      Margie Herter
      March 31, 2020 at 7:51 am

      I’m with you on this one but I first thought of a butter churn.

  • Reply
    Gypsy Witch Hunter
    March 6, 2013 at 2:44 am

    That mystery item looks an awful lot like the mash-pit my Pappy & Granny kept for their sour mashin’ before firing up one of the stills.

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    June 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    My neighbor had a wood burning stove in his wood shop as well as a big pot belly stove in his living room. I can’t even begin to estimate how many ricks of wood I cut and chopped for him.
    We used to go up to Bull Holler in Union County, Tennessee to cut firewood. The land was owned by his Uncle Charley Proffit, who more often than not would be found sleeping in the cab of his old truck with his feet sticking out of the window, his dog Jojo sleeping beside him. We would take a 3030 rifle with us and shoot little green army men for fun. Mrs. Profitt would make us lunch. I fondly recall the smell of the soap that we would use to wash up with in their spring house.
    Here in East Tennessee we called that wedge thing a Go Devil.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    November 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Never heard a maul called a go-devil, but think it very a very appropriate name. Can’t really say what the crock might have held or if it’s a crock at all. Might have been a moonshinin’ urn though, ya just never know. xxoo

  • Reply
    J.R. Clark
    November 22, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Great site and music!I’m a blacksmith would like to send you some pix of my work for you to view and maybe post here.

  • Reply
    Marie
    November 22, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I don’t know why,but this is killing me. I read the comments with dropped jaw waiting for someone to know the answer. What gets me is the lid part. . . that’s got to have been for something specific. I like the idea of it being some kind of a feeder or waterer, you know, you fill it and turn it over into a dish and it trickles out as needed? Which might explain the attached lid, if there were an opening in it?

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 21, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Miss Cindy- yes I will let everyone know : ) Im waiting on info from the Museum of Appalachia-hopefully they can solve the mystery!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Stacey
    November 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

    That is an interesting peice of potery but I don’t know what it is.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 21, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I’ve heard of a go devil all my life, but this is Western North Carolina, like you, just a little further east than you.
    The clay pot is interesting. Wonder what it could be. It can’t be a crock, those ridges would be impossible to keep clean and germ free.
    The Deer Hunter says it is about the same size as my one gallon crock.
    I bet it was a whiskey jug. that would account for the closed top. Wouldn’t have to worry about germs in the ridges—-the alcohol content would take care of that! LOL
    Oh well, I love a good mystery. You will let us know if you find out, wont you Tipper?

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    November 21, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Tipper: Nice ‘What Is It’, you sure got me on this one. I worked for a place that fired clay and that was an interesting process.

  • Reply
    finnishwahine
    November 21, 2009 at 12:22 am

    wow! how neat! imagine if it had been whole…what a treasure that would of been. i love old pottery and the things they used it for. way to go deer hunter.

  • Reply
    Jay Henderson
    November 20, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    On the mystery piece — I’ll go with it being a broken crock. Looks like it was wheel-thrown, by someone who turned them out fast, and glazed with Albany slip or something very much like Albany slip. The slip was wiped from the bottom, just not very well.
    Go devil? Never heard that one. But I like it.

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson
    November 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Go devil. Sounds like something a man would think or say while doing the hard work of chopping wood.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 20, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Ethelene-the piece was just laying on the ground-it was covered by leaves but wasnt buried in the dirt. It never occured to me that the circles could have been part of the construction of the piece-thank you : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 20, 2009 at 9:18 am

    PictureGirl-the inside is what made us question whether it was a crock or not. Weve never seen a crock that wasnt smooth on the inside.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 20, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Pappy-one of the older men that hunts with The Deer Hunter thinks it was part of a mash making contraption too.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 20, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Annie-thank you for mentioning that go devil was also used in Virginia. Maybe the pottery is a crock-we just have never seen one that isnt smooth on the inside-so we werent sure.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

    B.Ruth-yes The Deer Hunteruses wedges too-I just dont know where they are : ) He used to have one of Paps old go devils around here-but I couldnt find it either. The oldone was bigger and broader just like you said.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 20, 2009 at 8:17 am

    PS….
    Go-devil…very doggone heavy piece of equipment…and needed a strong man to use it..heard my Dad say…”That’s a toughin’, need a go devil to split it.” meaning lay the light weight axe down…The one he had was bigger, broader than your picture..yours looks like a new one…They would drive the wedge into the wood with the heavy go-devil..to split it..Do you have a picture of the wedge…or did you use just the go-devil..?

  • Reply
    Annie
    November 20, 2009 at 7:59 am

    My Father-in-Law who was from south west Virginia always called the splitting maul a “go devil” so we do too.
    I would have thought your mystery object was a crock. Why do you think it isn’t ? We need more clues !

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 20, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Could be a pottery chicken feeder…a moonshine pass thru jug of sorts..an old battery case…? Looks newer to me…like maybe thirties or forties…Send a picture to John Rice Irwin at the Applachian Museum in Norris, Tenn. He can tell you what it is!

  • Reply
    Paul
    November 20, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Ethelene seems to know her pottery. Her mention of possible buried treasure makes it mysteriouser and mysteriouser!

  • Reply
    Pappy
    November 20, 2009 at 6:50 am

    How about a large crock for soaking hides for tanning? How about a crock for fermenting corn mash? I’m afraid the mystery will continue.

  • Reply
    PictureGirl
    November 19, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I knew what the go devil was. I just hadn’t thought about one in years. We haven’t chopped wood in many a year.
    My guess on the pottery piece is it looks like a crock maybe used for saurkraut. I’ve got an old brown pickle crock that this one looks somewhat like. Why do you think this is not a crock?
    You have a good mystery goin’.

  • Reply
    Becky
    November 19, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Never heard a splittin’ maul called a Go Devil before. But you can bet I’ll surprise the guys with that one. tee hee
    I don’t have any idea what that crock is, unless it’s just a very old way of making them.

  • Reply
    PeggyP
    November 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Our go devil (I never knew there was any other name for it) is old – it’s handle has been replaced several times – (that’s another story – replacing ax & go devil handles – instead of buying new ones). The head on our old go devil does not have the ridge on it like the one in your picture. It’s more like a wedge (now what would they call that today?) on a handle. My husband still loves to chop wood – as long as he’s got his go devil and an axe, he’s a happy man! No log splitter ever comes to our house!

  • Reply
    olecrowsnestnan
    November 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Liked learning about your go devil. My daughter and I are into learning regional language and talking with it amongest ourselves!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    The circular construction of “the mystery crock” seems to indicate that it was made by stacking strings of rolled clay. Probably it needs close examination to determine date. Was it buried or sitting on top of the ground when the deer hunter found it? It could just be a broken crock discarded in the woods. Or it could possibly have been buried during the Civil War with something valuable in it that deteriorated through the years (or was stolen by the one who found the crock).

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