Appalachia Christmas Profiles of Mountain People

Christmas Memories – 1900 Shooting Creek North Carolaina

Christmas shooting creek nc 1900

The winter of 1900 had been an unusually bad one. A true story book picture of what a Christmas scene must be like. It seemed as though the bad weather kept roaring into the Shooting Creek Mountains day after day without ceasing. First the freezing rain came, piling up on the earth and timber causing the mountains to sound like a battle was taking place as the trees gave way to the awful weight of tons of accumulating ice. Then snow had piled up at the Abraham Anderson cabin there in the Bethabera section of the county with little chance for folks to get any work done other than to break a trail to the barn to feed the animals and to find a decent pole of standing dry timber to fuel the fireplace.

Abraham hadn’t been able to get to the mill that was situated further down the valley to try to buy or trade for a turn of cornmeal so his new wife Mae could make their everyday cake of cornbread for their table. Fact was that if he had been able to get to the old tub mill he wouldn’t have been able to get any meal since the miller wasn’t there to do the grinding. The miller like everyone else in the settlement was shut down solid. Mae, the young bride, had worries that went a little deeper that those of Abraham. Although she was just a recent bride she felt an obligation to provide a good meal for their table as this was the tradition that was understood by most women of the time, young and old alike.

The old peddler, Mr. Bramlett, who came over their way from across the mountain in Georgia and who made his usual rounds every few months with his wagon and team, had not showed up because of the bad weather as well. The folks who depended on him to deliver their short grocery list of coffee, salt and other such items that they couldn’t produce on their small mountain farm were pretty much in the same shape as Abraham and Mae.

Finally the weather began to break sharing a bit of sunshine from time to time to perhaps shorten the life of the thick covering of snow. As night time slowly began to settle upon the valley Mae called to her husband and with a tone of sadness and some measure of defeat in her voice she told him to come and sit down at the table for a meager bite. With her call she explained that this was the last bite of anything in the house for them to eat. There was nothing else left in the house that she could cobble together to be made into another meal.

As they sat down at the table and started to eat their supper they both began to hear faint sounds coming up the cove. Could it be the gentle sounds of trace chains and the crunch of snow falling under the feet of a struggling team? As the sounds came closer, sure enough that was what they both were hearing. It had to be the peddler, Mr. Bramlett! As the sounds came closer, and finally stopped in the yard Abraham stepped out the door to greet this night traveler. A better Christmas gift could not be found on the earth than just to know that sitting outside their door was a wagon that held provisions enough to get them through the darkest and leanest winter that Abraham and his young wife Mae would ever have to endure.

This is a true story often relayed to me by my father many, many times. Abraham was my father’s uncle. My grandfather was married in 1899 there in Shooting Creek and Abraham was next down from him in age, so his marriage to Aunt Mae was very near this time. Aunt Mae and Abraham later moved over to Union County GA where they raised a large family. Uncle Abraham lived until 1957-58 and was taken back to be buried in the Bethabera Chruch Cemetery. Aunt Mae died in the middle sixties and was buried beside her husband a stones throw from their cabin there in the valley of their birth. My great-grandfather was Col. Bramlett, so not knowing the real name of the peddler I have substituted the Bramlett name. Artistic license??? You understand. –David Anderson


I hope you enjoyed David’s Christmas story as much as I did!


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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 17, 2013 at 1:09 am

    Reminds me of the time we were snowed in up in NW PA and had been for several days, might have been winter of ’56 or ’57, not sure. We had plenty of food stored in the pantry for the older children, but were running out of food for the baby born in August, had run out of coal to fuel the furnace for heat, and were huddled around the propane oven in the kitchen which mom had draped the doors to with heavy blankets to hold the warmth into the one room.
    She was talking to our Grandmother telling her what was going on and how she was scared for what she’d do when the propane and milk ran out cause the baby needed milk. Don’t know how they found out, but hours later, we heard a roar come through skies, looked up and saw a Civil Patrol or National Guard helicopter drop a pallet of food in the back pasture. Out we two oldest went with a sled trying to bring the food in, musta been about a football field away or so, struggling all the way cause we were scrawny kids then; I maybe about 10, Pattie about 5-6.
    Suddenly one neighbor showed up with his horse, tied the pallet to the horse and drug it to the back door of the house. I was never so glad to get help in my life as it was cold, I was not very big, the distance seemed far and the load was heavy. Then not long after, another neighbor showed up with her son on their horses. They’d ridden out to the nearest town about 3 miles away and had four jugs of milk tied to the horns of their horses’ saddles for the baby. She was a surly woman with obviously a huge warm heart inside, who said as she rode off, “Well, a baby’s got to have his milk.” LOL
    Next day I believe, Dad and our Uncle Don met the coal truck and the propane truck up at the corner about a mile and a half away with the tow truck from the dairy they both worked at, and they towed those two trucks all the way down to the house, one at a time, to get us coal and propane. We made it by. Praise God!!! And it taught us lessons of how to survive in tough times I’ve always been blessed for.
    Those were the days. Don’t see many of them like that up there nowadays. Thank heavens.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2013 at 12:18 am

    I sure did enjoy this story; what a treasure to be handed down through the generations!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 13, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    We need reminding! Our younger generation can’t comprehend what has gone before which binds us all together.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Great story! Thanks for sharing….
    Wishing all the Blind Pig readers a Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Great story, love reading your blog.
    smjohns63 at yahoo dot com

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    December 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I love this story. Thanks to both of you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    What an eloquent Christmas Story!
    David sure pulls at one’s heart
    in this story.
    This morning I heard Paul and Pap
    singing 2 of their Christmas songs
    on our local radio station. One was
    “The First Noel” and the other was
    “What Child is This?”, I think.
    They do such a great job!…Ken

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I so enjoyed this story and enjoy your blog daily.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Thought provoking story.
    The closest thing we had (in the 50s) to a peddler was the Fuller Brush man and the Red Wing shoe man. But then the hardware store started selling brooms and brushes (don’t really recall whether that happened as a result of the Fuller Brush man not coming any more or whether the store’s carrying those items ended the need for the Fuller Brush man.) I do recall Dad needing new boots and the Red Wing man was nowhere to be found. Dad tried lots of other boots through the years but was very excited when we discovered a Red Wing store in central Texas – said they still made the best steel toed work boots.
    Compared to what the storied peddler offered – brushes, brooms, and boots were luxuries!
    I like to think that I could manage as well as our ancestors did no matter what was thrown at me – – but I’m not so sure – – just not sure I have the know how. . . .
    Thanks for a good read.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Well Tipper! You have given us lots of fine reading but David’s story comes close to home. 1900 was the Winter my father was born on Tusquittee. Calvin and Ida probably had just as tough a time with their one little daughter and my Daddy, Joseph David Mull as a brand new baby!
    Thanks for a wonderful read!
    Eva Nell Mull (Author: “Fiddler of the Mountains” 2013 Available on AMAZON.COM

  • Reply
    Shirley Owens
    December 13, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Tipper, you and your family are such a blessing to me. The memories are vivid and the blog is without a doubt the best I have ever read. It gives me hope and joy everyday. This Christmas story will be sent all around to all my friends, so that they too can revisit the days of difficulty that I’m sure we all faced in one way or another. Mine were very similar to the story, so I really identified with it. Thanks for all your efforts and be encouraged that it is really a blessed effort. Merry Christmas to you and your little family.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    December 13, 2013 at 10:19 am

    A good story. I really enjoyed it. The peddler coming by reminded me of “The Education of Little Tree” by Forrest Carter, my favorite fiction book.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I enjoyed David’s story and could relate to it because I remember such heavy snows (blizzards?) in our valley at Choestoe. I also remember the peddler from whom we purchased sugar, coffee, vanilla flavoring, spices and sometimes a trinket or two. My first yo-yo was purchased off the peddler’s wagon! As for getting down to almost nothing to eat–I don’t remember that. We always seemed to have meal and flour, sorghum syrup, and cured pork from the smokehouse, as well as “dried fruit,” “leather-britches” dried green beans, potatoes (sweet and “Irsh”) and canned goods if stored so the cans wouldn’t freeze and burst, spilling their contents. Hard times those were–but since that was the only kind of life we knew, we “managed” and lived through them.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 9:35 am

    What a touching story! I can’t imagine a deliveryman in this day and time being so devoted to his job and the welfare of his customers.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 13, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I’d just been doing some research work on ancestors who lived and are buried in the Shooting Creek area (Union Hill, a short ways down the valley from Bethabara), so David’s story worth telling is personally timely.
    I have a question for David or anyone else with local nomenclature knowledge who wants to reply:
    Shooting Creek runs pretty much east to west. It is surrounded by a U-shaped rim turned on its side, with mountains such as Boteler Peak to the north and Chunky Gal to the east. The southern rim winds its way down into Georgia. Is the entire U-shaped rim surrounding the basin considered the Shooting Creek Mountains by locals?
    On a completely different track – what do you reckon Abraham and Mae would have to say about the modern day version of the “poverty line”?

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    December 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Touching story, David!

  • Reply
    L. Dockery
    December 13, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Great story! In Union County they lived in a house at the foot of the mountain where the trail crossed from Gum Log on the way to Blairsville. I’ve heard my Mother tell many times about stopping on the way home from town to eat with Abe and Mae. She said they insisted that anyone who passed come in and eat a bite!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I enjoyed reading this story about a long ago family history. In many ways I see a religious save here. Thanks for an itneresting writing.

  • Reply
    Sue Simmons
    December 13, 2013 at 8:09 am

    A wonderful story Tipper,it brought tears to my eyes ,it could have been me. I hope you and your family have a wonderful and Blessed Christmas. Sue Simmons PS – Enjoy Blind Pig very much,

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 13, 2013 at 7:48 am

    A beautiful story, David. Thank you!
    It brings everything back into perspective for this holiday season.

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    December 13, 2013 at 7:47 am

    nice post to remind us how fortunate we are…

  • Reply
    December 13, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I LOVE this!!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 13, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Well! Lets see here, Abraham Anderson?
    No! no Abraham here! Wait, here is a Carl born at Shooting Creek. A son perhaps? Yep! Carl’s father is Joseph Abraham Anderson. Mother? Mae Ledford.
    Children: Vina, Lawrence, Roxie Cleo, Carl, William Eugene, Garnett, Gracie Bell, Hobart, maybe more.
    Are these the same people? I sure hope so!

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    December 13, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Tipper, I loved the story, just think what would happen to this generation if something like that would happen. I remember being snowed in back in 1960 and it was several days before we could do anything but climb through the snow to feed farm animals and milk cows about a 1/4 mile from the house, Dad finally got the chains on our old car so we could finally get to the store and get groceries for several of our closer neighbors.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 13, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I have heard many tales of hardship in the winters in the NC mountains. The name of the settlement Shooting Creek has often puzzled me, was there a shoot out there, good hunting, or just a description of the movement of the creek?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 13, 2013 at 6:55 am

    and David…I did enjoy David’s story. I was ’bout to freeze and starve myownself just readin’ it.
    I wonder if the “peddler” had a caged chicken or two as well, as some fatback and dry beans…I hope so! A nice ham shank would have been good too.
    Thanks Tipper and David…
    PS…I think I’ll make some breakfast and put my cold toes in some slippers!

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