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I continue to get feedback from the readers. Some is poignant and other input gets me to thinking or rethinking past subjects. I welcome all input.

Before going on, another person who contributed to Mercer County in a number of ways has died. Gilbert E. “Gene” Bailey was a teacher, member of , in order, the Princeton City Council, serving as Mayor for two terms, the House of Delegates, and the Mercer County Board of Education. He was well-known for his family tree farm at Camp Creek. He will be missed.

While awaiting further developments in my career, I am continuing a done in one approach with this column. This time, it’s a part on early life in Mercer County using part of an article by Mrs. Clyde Maxey and John Maxey which opened up the 1984 edition of the Mercer County Historical Society’s History of Mercer County,

Without stores of any kind to service them, the first settlers of Mercer County had to rely on what nature had available. Some parts of nature had to be guarded against such as panthers, bears, wolves, wildcats, bobcats, rattlesnakes and copperheads.

Wild game was plentiful and included deer, elk, bear, squirrel, rabbit, woodchuck, turtle, fish, clams, periwinkles, grouse, wild turkeys, wild ducks, quail and passenger pigeon, among others. Clothing and pelts came from fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, beaver, raccoons, otter and skunk.

Non-meat food came from berries such as blackberries, dewberry, strawberry, mulberry, raspberry , gooseberry, huckleberry, elder-berry, blueberry, service-berry and haws which were picked and eaten, made into jams or dried for winter use.

Fruits including fall grapes, fox grapes, wild plums, persimmons, pawpaws, crab apples, apples, ground cherry and wild cherry were eaten raw or made into jams and jellies.

Nuts were gathered, eaten or stored for winter and included black and white walnuts, chestnuts, çhinquapins, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, bitter nuts, beeçh nuts añd acorns.

Pioneers sweetened foods with maple syrup, honey, sorghum molasses ànd sweet apple cider.

Tea came from sassafras, spice wood, catnip, horehound, peppermint, double mint, snakeroot, ginger, ginseng and mountain tea . It was used for drinking with meals, flavoring and for medicinal purposes.

Wild plants including poke leaves, dandelion , wild mustard, narrow dock, water cress, plantain, ramps and wild onions were cooked for greens,

Medicines were made from slippery elm, wild cherry bark, elderberry leaves , puff balls , pine tar, turpentine and ginger tea. Leather was burned to keep down bad odors in homes.

Black walnut bark and nut hulls, indigo and polk berries were used as dyes.

Poplar wood was used to build log houses, furniture, canoes, dishes, plates, bowls, knives, forks and spoons.

Ash and sourwood were used to make sled runners.

White pine was used for log houses, furniture and pine-torch lights.

White oak was used for split boards, clap board roofing , log homes, furniture, chair rungs and splits, basket splits, oxen yokes, fence rails and firewood.

Hickory was used for firewood , tool handles, frame work for chairs and making splits for chair bottoms and baskets. Lye was obtained through pouring water over hickory ashes in a container and catching the liquid in a vessel for use in making soap and hominy. Oxen yokes were made from white oak with hickory bows.

Chestnut was used to build houses, barns, furniture and fence rails.

Cedar was used to build clothing chests, churns and fence posts

Black gum was used to make wheels for crude wagons and wheel barrows.

Hollow poplar logs were used for bee hives. The honey bees were brought from the forest and put into the hives to make honey.

Contact Jeff Harvey at

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