Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Katherine Sudderth Interview 1982 – Part III


Katherine Sudderth Interview June 29, 1982

I was brought up by a very religious family. My farther was deacon of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Andrews for as long as I can remember. We always had family prayer every night. I remember my father would get in the middle of the floor and he would get the children around him. We would sing and have prayer every night. I loved to sing. My daddy was great. He loved to sing. Another way that he taught us to pray, he made each of us children pray. Every night one of the children had their turn to pray.

I went to church and Sunday School all my life. I was not sent to Sunday School and Church. I was taken by my parents. They went and we went along with them. We would walk back four miles to and from church. Our church was up on “Happy Top” where the school was. We would leave home going to Sunday School at nine o’clock in the morning. We would get there in time to have Sunday School at ten o’clock, then at eleven o’clock we would have morning service. After church was over we would walk back home another four miles. Then have lunch. At six o’clock in the afternoon we would go back again for the night service. Sometimes it would be ten o’clock at night before we would get back home.

I was baptized when I was fourteen years old. That was another great thrill of my life. At times I have strayed away from my raising but I didn’t get too far that I didn’t’ know the way back. The ministers would always come to our home to visit.

The ministers, in those days, were very respected people. When they came to our house we would have to wait until they had already eaten, then we would get to eat. I remember so many times we were so afraid those ministers would eat all the fried chicken. I was so afraid they would eat up everything and that we wouldn’t get anything. Sometimes it would really happen that way. If there were more than one minister, we really wouldn’t get much of anything. We were happy to get whatever was left, though.

Those were hard times but happy times, too. I often think of those times and think about what it would be like relive those times again.

—Excerpt from “The Heritage of Cherokee County, NC, Volume II”


I hope you enjoyed the last portion of the interview. If you missed the first two parts go here and here.


Appalachian Cooking Class details

Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29, 2019
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

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  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 12, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    We use to walk to Church ( a couple miles – one way, on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. Then again for Prayer Meeting on Wednesday.) I never heard Mama complain, even tho she was crippled in her left side. We walked up the highway, cause we only saw a couple of cars.

    Ed, Happy Top is South in Andrews. If you go South thru Andrews, go straight up the Hill, Happy Top is near Baker Furniture was, only on the Left side of the Mountain. Baker is on Kent Street. I don’t know the name of the road, just go straight up the Hill, and don’t turn until you see a place where you can turn Left. This takes you to Happy Top. …Ken

  • Reply
    April 12, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I heard a long time ago that my town was set up so that no one would have to walk more than an hour to get to church in the center of town. My little place is four miles by the old roads from the center of town, so I could do it but I confess I’ve never put it to the test. The route would be shorter in a straight line but it would also mean going through a swamp for a good deal of it…I doubt I’d see the church ever again 😉

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 12, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Can someone tell me where Happy Top near Andrews is? I’ve heard it mentioned before and wondered when it was. The only Mt. Zion Baptist Church I can find in Cherokee County is a little over a mile North of Murphy in the Texana community. That is 14 miles west of Andrews.

  • Reply
    Betzy Day
    April 12, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    What are the dates of Katherine Sudderth’s reminiscence? I always love your stories.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Betzy-the interview was dated 1982 🙂

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 12, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Interesting to me that she describes her family as very religious; that is, more than most at that time and place. In contrast, I expect that had you asked my former co-workers if I were ‘very religious’ some several would say I was. Yet I have never walked to church 4 miles each way and twice on Sunday, nor sing hymns at home with anybody else nor have nightly prayers. Thus, by her account then I am a far cry from ‘very religious’. My point is, just look at how big a difference between then and now as to what is ‘very religious’. In my mind, I do not suppose that I qualify, though I am most definitely not irreligious. I would not contradict them. But I wouldn’t agree either.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    April 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    When we had a dinner at my grandmother’s in the early 50’s, all the men ate first at the big table. Us children ate at a table in the kitchen while the men were eating, but after they were served. after the men finished and the children, the women ate. I don’t remember there not being enough food as all the families brought big baskets at that time. The women didn’t seem to mind as the men got out of the way and they sat around the table and gossiped for several hours. There were probably a total of 50 people at these dinners.

    As time progressed and these family reunions as they would be called today became fewer, tables would be set up and people would line up and pass the buffet tables. there is still more food at these than can be eaten, but a lot is purchased and not home cooked.

    My mother always complained about her grandmother on her mother’s side would save fried chicken for her cousins so they would get a good piece, but never for her or her siblings when she was growing up.

    One other thing that has always stuck with me was an uncle who was seated playing cards yelling out to his wife, ” WOMAN, BRING ME SOME TEA”. My wife would have knocked me off my chair.
    this was probably in the late 80’s. Some things have changed for the better.

    If you ever want to read about male dominace in rural south during the early 1900’s read
    Padgett’s My Name– October 21, 2008
    by Davenport Padgett (Author)
    It was told to his daughter and she wrote it. She was a wonderful teacher but I have an entirely different view of her father from the book than she does.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 12, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Makes me think of a story my mother-in-law told about an uncle. When they visited there they would have only one chicken fried. The uncle would encourage the visiting man to eat up and the children could have “that good gravy”. MIL says her mother would never take a piece of that chicken. MIL said her mother (Mamaw) always killed enough chickens so everyone would have some. My grandmother tended to feed the men first with the choiceist stuff and it made Mama so mad.

    That preacher should be ashamed of himself IMHO. Ought to put himself last instead of first!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 12, 2019 at 7:09 am

    Tip, that illustrates a really different life style than anything I’ve ever seen. Lots of walking and lots of praying. It also is a very different attitude toward children. Children eating last and whatever is left would never have happened where I grew up. I’m not trying to characterize this as bad, just different. It really was a very different life style in this window into the past!

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