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Title: Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Snipes, John W., interviewee
Interview conducted by Glass, Brent
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 148 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-11-27, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0098-1)
Author: Brent Glass
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0098-1)
Author: John W. Snipes
Description: 147 Mb
Description: 39 p.
Note: Interview conducted on September 20, 1976, by Brent Glass; recorded in Bynum, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976.
Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Snipes, John W., interviewee


Interview Participants

    JOHN W. SNIPES, interviewee
    BRENT GLASS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BRENT GLASS:
I want to start by telling you that this tape will be made for your purposes and my purposes, and if you don't want anyone to listen to it it's fine with me.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
There's not anything that I object to, as I know of.
BRENT GLASS:
OK, fine. Well, after we're finished I'll send you a copy of the tape or the transcript that we make from it, and you can look it over and see if there's anything that you want to add to it or subtract from it, OK?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That'd be all right.
BRENT GLASS:
Could we start, Mr. Snipes, by your giving me your full name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
John Wesley Snipes.
BRENT GLASS:
And where and when were you born?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I was born in Baldwin Township June 27, 1901.
BRENT GLASS:
So were you born in the town of Bynum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just a little ways up. It's the same township. That's my father's house right in front of the store yonder. But I was born on up on a piece of land my grandfather gave my father a few miles up the road. I went to school here. I was born June 27, 1901 and I was one of nine children; I was the fourth child. My father and mother were both born in 1872.
BRENT GLASS:
What was your father's name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Charles A. Snipes.
BRENT GLASS:
And your mother's name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Daisy Hackney.
BRENT GLASS:
You said your grandfather gave your father a piece of land. Did you know your grandfather?

Page 2
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir. He died in 1912; I was eleven years old. Fletcher, William Fletcher Snipes. He gave him a hundred acres up the road here. There was nine of us children, and Poppa and Momma was born in '72; they married in '95. Marvin was born in 1896. Betty was born in 1898. Jesse was born in 1899, and I was born in 1901. Brooks was born in 1904. Grady was born in 1906. Edna was born in 1909. Then Frank was born in 1913 and Thomas was born in 1916.
BRENT GLASS:
I almost stopped writing there. [Laughter] You've got nine altogether?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir: four dead and five are living.
BRENT GLASS:
What can you tell me about your grandfather Snipes, William Fletcher Snipes? What was his occupation?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
He was a big landowner. He inherited from my great-grandfather Wesley Snipes a 640 acre grant from England, one square mile.
BRENT GLASS:
Who was that grant from England given to?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
My great-grandfather Wesley Snipes. He handed it down to my grandfather Fletcher, and my grandfather handed it down to my father. It's up here next to, adjoining Polk Landing and Fitch Creation and the Twin Lake Golf Course, up here off of Chapel Hill highway about a mile to the left of the Chapel Hill road. It runs all back in there. It's been added to; there's a thousand and four acres in there. And they've got it listed as University Land Company; it belongs to the University Land Company, a thousand and four acres.
BRENT GLASS:
And who is that University Land Company now?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, it was J. J. (Joe) and Cash Haggerty from Rocky Mount and Wilson. They've got plants at both places. Old man Cash Haggerty

Page 3
(that old uncle) is worth $46 million; he's got two nephews. But old man Cash never was married. And he put it here locally in Cash Haggerty and J. J. Haggerty (Joe), and then they for some purpose switched it to the University Land Company. That's the way it's listed now.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, let's start then with the grant to your great-grandfather Wesley Snipes. That was one mile square, 640 acres.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he farm that land, do you know?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, he farmed it a little and just had a few hogs for his own use, and a cow or two and killed beef. And they raised honey, and they had the pumpkins and corn and wheat and stuff like that: raised all of that.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he own any slaves that you know of?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Not that I know of, not my grandfather on the Snipes side. Now on the Hackney side he did. My grandfather John Joe Hackney, my mother's father, he owned old Uncle Hanks Hackney.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, before we get on to your mother's side, your great-grandfather Wesley Snipes received this grant.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
As far as I've always been told. We had a proported deed written by goose quill of this grant. My grandfather died an old bachelor there by himself, and he turned it over to my father. Then when my father died in 1954, when the lawyers settled up the estate I ain't never known what went with that grant. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
I see. Well, was he from England, your great-grandfather?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. I got the history of when they left England. They went from England to the Barbado Islands, and from the Barbado

Page 4
Islands to Cross Creek, Fayetteville down yonder, where the muddy water and the clear water crosses. Then they moved on up here. There's a building up here on the present old place that was made out of logs, and I'd say just roughly the old building is about eighteen foot wide and about twenty-four foot long, with a door on each side. And it was sawed: at the time they'd put a log on two workbenches, and one man got up on the workbench. And the logs were sized with a cross-cut saw up and down this-a-way, one up yonder and one down sawing up and down like this. Just a few years ago somebody went there and sawed out two of those top logs. And I'm satisfied they was 150 or 160 years old.
BRENT GLASS:
Is that house still standing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, it's still standing, or was about a year ago. A fellow carried me in there in a Jeep. Two logs have been sawed out; they just cut it off from the notches, cut it off about a foot or two from each one and left that building standing. The editor of the old Progressive Farmer, Clarence Poe…. In the state fairground at Raleigh they've got a section of old country of yesteryear, I mean old, old things. Well, Clarence Poe, the editor of the Progressive Farmer, came up here and asked for that building about seven or eight years ago to be moved and put on the fairground at Raleigh. But the family didn't want it tore down. It's an old log house; and it's still standing there, or it was about a year ago. But it's real old.
BRENT GLASS:
So the Snipes, then, have been in Chatham County ever since just about the beginning of Chatham County?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Where our old house is sitting, up here, Chatham County has given off a lot of land to Orange County and also Lee County.

Page 5
That county line has been moved. Seventy-five or eighty years ago that county line was moved over to Orange. We were setting right on the edge of Orange County at that time. And Chatham gave Orange oh, I reckon fifteen miles further on up. Chatham was a big county at one time. And it's the only county in the world that I've ever heard tell of (and the records bear this out) that ever shipped a solid carload of rabbits to New York. Chatham rabbits; we were known for Chatham rabbits. They caught them in hollows and boxes. And you could go in New York seventy-five years ago and call for Chatham rabbit on the menu in New York City. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Wow. I tell you, I didn't know that.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Rabbits run just like ants or grasshoppers. They shipped them by the carload to New York.
BRENT GLASS:
Can you tell me a little bit more about your father's family and this piece of land up here? Your great-grandfather might have been a farmer, you think?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes. Not a big farm, but just made a living. Weren't one-tenth of the land cultivated. It was in timber, forest.
BRENT GLASS:
And how about your grandfather?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Same way, yes sir: just a small farmer.
BRENT GLASS:
And then your father? How about him?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Same way. We'd have several acres of cotton, 12-15, maybe 25 acres of corn. And had a few tenants on the place.
BRENT GLASS:
How many tenants would this be? Do you have any idea?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Usually we had three tenant houses; there was somebody in them most every year.

Page 6
BRENT GLASS:
Would these be black or white?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Both, some white and some black.
BRENT GLASS:
I meant to ask you, do you have any record of your great-grandfather's fighting in the Revolutionary War? Wesley Snipes?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, neither one on my father's side. On my mother's side, now I have his old musket, sword and pistol that he carried through the Civil War.
BRENT GLASS:
Through the Civil War?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
But now you don't have any recollection of your great-grandparents fighting in the Revolutionary War?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, I don't have no record of none of that.
BRENT GLASS:
All right. Now let's go on to your mother's side, the Hackney family. What can you tell me about them?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, my grandfather John Joe Hackney married Elizabeth Josephine Snipes. See, my father and mother were cousins.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, I see.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That was on my mother's side that they were Hackneys. And Grandpa went and fought in the Civil War. He hired a hand to fight with him. I forgot what nationality he was but (I've got a record of it) his name was Feroni. I believe it's in there in the Bible. He carried him all the way through the Civil War. Then he had this old colored man, old Uncle Hanks Hackney. He had belonged to grandfather John Joe Hackney's father Joshua Hackney. And Joshua Hackney, the father of John Joe, they built this church down here at Mount Gilead in 1824 at Hackney's Cross-roads; there's a Hackney's post office there. And that's on my mother's

Page 7
side. Joshua Hackney was my mother's grandfather, which was my great-grandfather.
BRENT GLASS:
Is that in Chatham?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. It's right across the way on the Mount Gilead road. Mount Gilead / Church is where the Hackneys settled there. Oh, there's hundreds of graves. The first person ever buried in that there cemetery was Geneverite Hackney. And that church was built in 1824, which has been 150 years.
BRENT GLASS:
Is that still standing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir. It's a live, wide-awake church. And then right there they had a post office; it was Hackney post office for years and years, just sort of a country post office. And when they carried their mail back by horse and buggy you probably got mail about twice a week or [Laughter] something like that, maybe three times a week. Write a letter this week and if it was a mile or two up the road maybe they'd get it next week. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Well that's about like it is now, [Laughter] sometimes.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
One cent postage then, then later on two, three, and now it's thirteen.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, right. Was your mother's father a farmer also?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
About how big a farm did he have?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just a small one. Had about two hundred acres of land, and they just were average. Had a few hogs, a few sheep, a few geese. They'd kill a beef in the fall, and they'd hang it up and dry it way back then. They made their own homity. They'd burn the ashes and drip lye onto the

Page 8
ashes; and that was to take the husks off of that hominy corn. Then they made their own lye soap. And they picked their own geese, the down, the soft feathers from under the geese to make the pillows. And they swapped their sheep wool for yarn cloth. They'd carry this sheep wool up here to the old tanning yard, the cowhide and the sheep wool up there, and they'd swap cowhides for tanned leather. Then they treated these feathers; I don't know what they did to them, but they treated them anyway.
BRENT GLASS:
Would this be both your mother's family and your father's family that would do that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
My father's family never did. My father's family, as I have any record of it, never did have no sheep or geese, but my mother's side did.
BRENT GLASS:
How large a family did your mother come from? How many brothers and sisters did she have?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh, let's see: there was Kemp Hackney, Daisy Hackney, Clarence Hackney, Gita Hackney, Ben Hackney and Dixie Hackney.
BRENT GLASS:
That's six.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Let's see: Kemp, Clarence, Jack, Ben, Daisy and Dixie. That's seven.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh yes, so you left out Jack. And your father, how big a family did he come from?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just one sister: two.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, two altogether. What was her name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Berta Snipes; married J. B. Atwater in Durham.
BRENT GLASS:
OK. Now, what do you remember doing with your grandparents?

Page 9
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh. [Laughter] My grandmother was my buddy; I stuck right under my grandmother. And of course I went about a whole lot with my grandfather.
BRENT GLASS:
Now which one would this be, the Snipes?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
On my mother's side. If you go back you'll take when my father and mother was married in '95, see there was Marvin in '96, Betty '98, Jesse '99 and me 1901. That was four children in four years. And my mother was sickly, and they carried me down to my grandfather's. And they practically raised me. I went to school here in 1907, I reckon—when I was six years old, and I was born in 1901.
My grandparents practically raised me.
BRENT GLASS:
This is your grandparents Hackney?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
On the Hackney side, yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
And what kinds of things would you do there? Did you help them on the farm any?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. I'd help them feed the pigs and the cows, and I'd hold the old gander's head for them to pick down off of him, the feathers you know to make feather beds and pillows. Nobody at that time didn't have mattresses. I'd never seen a mattress 'til I was a great big boy. They had straw ticks made out of wheat straw, and then they had the feather beds. And they had to make them feather beds. They raised the geese to pick the feathers. It took a whole lot of feathers to make a feather bed. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
I bet.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And every spring my grandfather and them would round up twenty or twenty-five geese in this old log-boarded barn. We'd catch

Page 10
'em, and I'd hold their heads. Them old ganders would bite you, pinch you. I was little fellow; I'd jump on him and hold his head for grandma to pick his soft feathers out from under. They didn't pick the wing feathers and the tail feathers (they were stiff, you know), they picked his soft down. You could have a barnfull [Laughter] and wouldn't have ten pounds. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Really, 'cause they're so soft.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And old fellow said it takes a thousand pounds of feathers to weigh a hundred. [Laughter] You'd have a barnfull, but you wouldn't have many feathers. The same way with shearing sheep. My grandfather got old, and I'd help hold those sheep. And the skin on the sheep will stretch, pull way up. You can just take hold of the sheep. My grandpa'd pull the wool up and clipping along, and he was nervous and his hands shook. And he'd just chip little patches of blood all off, you know; those sheep'd be bloody from their head to their tail [Laughter] when they got the wool off. Started at the hind end and sheared him on up to the front, and just turn it over. He'd have forty or fifty little skins where he'd pulled the skin up and he'd clip it off with the scissors, you know. His hand would shake.
BRENT GLASS:
So you helped him do that too?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, I'd hold the sheep [Laughter] for him to shear them.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember any things that you particularly enjoyed doing with your grandparents? Did they like to tell you stories?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I fought the Civil War. My grandfather and old Mr. Isaac Morris—I. J. Morris lived just across Polkberry Creek about a mile…. And in the summertime when I was a little fellow my grandfather, about

Page 11
every week he'd go over there to old Mr. Isaac Morris's. And I'd sit down and play in the sand, and him and Mr. Morris would go over the Civil War. I knew every word of it by heart: what they done at Gettysburg. "Well, John Joe, you remember that day we went in there? There was about fifty of us went in there and captured so-and-so?" "Oh yes, Isaac, I remember it." Well, one day my grandmother said something to me about the Civil War. I said, "Oh yes, I was there. I know all about it." She said, "Hush your mouth. You weren't even born!" [Laughter] I said, "Well, I've heard it a thousand times from Grandpa and old Mr. Isaac Morris, a'fighting the Civil War." I said, "I've heard it; I know it by heart." [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Did you enjoy hearing it over and over again, or did you get a little tired of it?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, I just heard it so much I could tell it as good as they could, just about. But they enjoyed old buddies getting together.
BRENT GLASS:
How about any kind of times on the farm where a number of farm families would get together for corn shuckings or…?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That was an annual affair in the fall. About the time of the frost they'd get up the corn in big piles and have a big dinner and have a neighborhood corn shucking. That was a common custom back up until fifteen or twenty years ago. They don't do it any more 'cause they've got these combines and pickers and all to pick it in the field and shuck it in the field. But that was a big occasion, those big old corn shuckings and cutting frolics. Everybody used a wood stove, and in the spring before the sap riz they'd go out and cut down maybe an acre of pine and split it

Page 12
and stack it up for stove wood for that summer. And they'd cut it before the sap riz in the spring, maybe early March or late February. And it was a much better grade of stove wood than it would have been after the sap started to rise.
BRENT GLASS:
How about sorghum? Did they raise sorghum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They raised their sorghum. And they'd take a forked stick. The stalk standed up like this, and you had to get that old fodder off of there. We'd take a forked stick and just beat right straight down, and it'd knock off the fodder on each side, you see. We just beat the fodder down on the ground so that you'd get to the cane stalk. Then you cut the top of that cane out, and then you carried it to this mill. And they had an old-fashioned grinder with a long pole and these cogs in here. You stuck that cane in there, and the mule went around about a thirty or forty foot circle, and that turned that. And that squeezed the juice out. Most of them cooked it in the neighborhood, sometimes on the same place, sometimes they'd cook it one place or another. They cooked their own cane sorghum. You stood there continuously and skimmed off that green. The stalk would cause a green scum on it. And then they'd put it up for wintertime.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever make candy out of sorghum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes, the old-fashioned pulled candy. [Laughter] That was about the only courting anybody ever got to do then. They'd have a party and cook pulled candy, and the girl on one end, you know, and you on the other. I don't reckon it was clean; I think it was nasty. They'd drop it and just pick it up and keep on pulling it 'til it'd get tough, you know.

Page 13
BRENT GLASS:
Now what was this: you'd make the candy and have a candy pull?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, you'd have to pull it. And you'd just keep pulling it and just lap it back and pull it out, and lap it back and pull it out. One'd have a hold of one end and one a hold of the other. You'd have about a two foot rope when you stretched it out. Then one'd take both ends and you'd pull again; the other one'd take both ends and you'd pull again. And they made the candy that way. They made about everything they eat. They knit their own stockings, and the men did their own shoes and everything. Weren't no money. Long about 1905 cotton was five cents a pound. My grandfather on my father's side run an old post office up there at old Kilgo. He used to run a blacksmith's shop that pulled teeth; let me bring you the box. [interruption] This plucker come here from England about 1824.
BRENT GLASS:
What are we looking at here?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Tooth pluckers.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh boy!
JOHN W. SNIPES:
[Laughter] Cold steel! And up until I was married the only dentist I ever went to was my father and grandfather. And they'd get me down and put their fist in my forehead and not put nothing on it, just reach in there and get the tooth. And it'd be me and them 'til they turned me loose. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Boy! That's quite a thing to save. I would save that if I were you. That's really something. What about a doctor? Was there a doctor when you got sick?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
There was nine of us young'uns, and I believe about six of

Page 14
them were brought into this world by what we called the old granny-woman: old Emeline Cotten, my old black mother.
BRENT GLASS:
Would you know if that's C-o-t-t-e-n or o-n?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That's right, C-o-t-t-e-n, Cotten.
BRENT GLASS:
Now who was she?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She was a neighbor. They had a little piece of land. I believe my grandfather give them about twenty-five acres, and they had a house there right adjoining the place up there at my father's.
BRENT GLASS:
On the Snipes'…?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She brought, I believe, the first six all into this world. Then we had an old dokey doctor, old Dr. Mann. There was two of them brought into this world by old Dr. Mann in a horse and buggy. And he drank. He'd come down and he'd come about half shot. Then the other was later on in 1916; they was getting a little bit more civilized then. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
What can you tell me about Emeline Cotten? What do you remember about her?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Old Emeline Cotten, she had one son Tom Cotten, and he married… his wife was named Effie. They done a lot of helping in hog killing time about drying up the lard and cutting out the meat just right and fixing the sausage and fixing the lard just right. They cooked that fat and made the lard, and strained it and all such of that. And that was all left up to Emeline, Tom and Effie.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
BRENT GLASS:
We were talking about Emeline Cotten.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Old Auntie Emeline, she done all of the grannywomen jobs

Page 15
in the neighborhood at that time. There weren't no local doctor in what you might say the early nineteen hundres when Marvin in '96, '98, '99 and 1901 and 1904. There wasn't no doctor in miles and miles of there.
BRENT GLASS:
So she would deliver the babies?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She delivered all the babies.
BRENT GLASS:
Would she do anything else as far as health care was concerned?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No, nothing else so far as health was concerned. If you had the measles and couldn't break out she'd get some sheep balls and make a tea and she'd make you break out. That was the old remedy: sheep balls, then boil it and drink that sheep ball tea [Laughter] and you'd break out or die on it. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
When you say sheep balls you mean the… ?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Manure, the manure.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh really?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes. You'd go to the barnlot. It was principally grass, you know, sort of like a rabbit's, balls about like rabbit balls. And [Laughter] I'd of rather had the measles than to drink that sheep ball tea.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, I would think. And that was one of her remedies?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That was one of her remedies. And they'd kill a mole and cut off its foot and tied a string around it, and tie it around your neck when your baby's cutting the teeth, you know. And them old superstitions…. Of course now we I reckon are more enlightened now than we were then. But those old home remedies, we all lived anyway. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did people pretty much go by them and believe in them?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh, absolutely believed in them. A baby couldn't cut teeth

Page 16
without a big mole's foot tied around his neck, and he wore it there like a locket. Sulphur and lard for itch.
BRENT GLASS:
What's that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Sulphur and lard for the seven year itch. Everybody had the itch and lice, you know, long about then. Old Auntie Emeline would take some hog's lard and some sulphur and make a sulphur and lard for the itching. We all went to school in a long old one-room schoolhouse with a big pot-bellied stove in the middle. Well, didn't nobody ever get no higher than the eighth grade or ninth grade, nohow; they were through then anyway. And they just had one teacher, and all in the same room. And in cold weather when we all got hot you could get around that old stove. You could tell whoever had the itch 'cause you could smell that lard, [Laughter] you could smell that sulphur and lard.
BRENT GLASS:
What did they do, rub it on their chest?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, they'd get it between the fingers, you know; the seven year itch would get between the fingers. And they'd be a'scratching. They'd get close to that stove and you could smell that sulphur and lard; you could point out the ones that had the itch. They was ashamed of it. They wouldn't let you know they had it, but you knew who had it by smelling them. It was right amusing.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, you lived a good time with your grandmother and grandfather Hackney. Did they discipline you? How many of the other children, I should ask, lived with them?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
None. See, I was what they called a kneebaby. See, there was four young'uns in four years, and my mother was sickly. I was the fourth young'un, and weren't nare a one of them big enough to wait on

Page 17
theirselves. So when I got big enough to wean my grandmother come up there and got me to take some of the load off of my mother.
BRENT GLASS:
Why did they call you a kneebaby?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, there was another litte'un just a month or two old, and there I was about eighteen months just a'walking, you see. I weren't big enough to wait on myself. And they took me when I was about eighteen months old and kept me. The babies come so fast [Laughter] that they was all the same size.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. Well, how would your grandmother discipline you then?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I don't know if she ever whipped me in my life. I done just as I pleased down there; that's the reason I liked to stay down there. And I stayed down there off and on 'til I married. I stayed down there two winters in 1915 and '16 and went to school. But I stayed there to get in their wood. I'd cut their fireplace and stove wood. When I got home in the evening after school I'd cut up enough wood for that night and the next day, and get up wash water (maybe fill up four or five tubs so Grandma could wash). She was getting old. I'd sort of help them that much, because they were both getting old.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did your grandmother have any rules about how to behave around the house, or any kind of sayings?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I respected them, and I'd mind. I didn't do anything mean in their sight, [Laughter] but I did it out of their sight.
BRENT GLASS:
[Laughter] Like what? Did you have many chums down there that you…?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Get behind the barn and smoke—wonder I hadn't have burned the barn up. And of course now I know they could smell it on me when I

Page 18
come back in the house. But I'd slip and smoke rabbit tobacco. My grandfather chewed the old homemade tobacco that grows in the field. He'd plant him a row or two and then sun cure it and hang it up. And then long after the sun cured it he'd take in a damp day while it was in the high order. He'd stem it and twist it up in twists, and he'd put it in the closet. And he'd have maybe two or three bushel baskets full of twisted tobacco in there. And he couldn't miss it. I'd get me a twist every once in a while, and then I'd have to carry mine out. I'd just cut me off a piece or break me off a piece and carry the balance of it over to the barn and hide it. But I'd have to get a whole twist at the time. Then later on he got to buying tobacco by the box. Tobacco weren't but about five cents a plug, but it come two plugs side by side. And if I got a plug I had to get two. If my grandfather left it level then I'd have to get two plugs to make it level. If it was one up and one down, if I just got one he would notice it. I'd have to get two plugs, one on each side, to leave it up and down. So I had to outsmart him, and he couldn't tell in this little square box how deep the tobacco was going down. And every time I got one plug I had to get two to leave it exactly in the same shape.
BRENT GLASS:
And where would you get your plugs from?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I'd get it out of his box, and I'd carry it to the barn and hide it. And [Laughter] I've chewed tobacco ever since I was four years old.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh boy! And you think your grandparents wouldn't have approved of that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, they wouldn't when I was that little. Later on they all used tobacco many years in some form.

Page 19
BRENT GLASS:
Did your grandmother dip snuff?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, dipped snuff; my grandfather chewed tobacco. The stronger it was, the better he liked it. And I never smelled anything on my grandfather. He was a big, round man; wasn't very high, maybe 5 feet 6 or 8 inches, not as tall as I am. But he weighed about 230 or 40. And he lived to be eighty-four. But he had an old little brown jug under the stairsteps. Where we went up the stairs there was a little closet under there, a little dark closet. And he had a little brown jug under there, and I'd catch him every once in a while in the morning slipping out off in the hall there to this little closet. He'd keep that little brown jug full of homemade whiskey, old stumper or white lightning. He'd take a swallow or two every morning, I imagine. But I wasn't big enough for a long time to know what he was doing; I realized later what it was. Never smelled him, never heard tell of him being drunk in my life.
BRENT GLASS:
Just got himself started in the morning, I guess, huh?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just sort of a little tonic to shoot him off [Laughter] every morning, I reckon.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, he must have worked pretty hard on the farm.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
He did, up until he died. Grandmother died in 1921, and my grandfather died in 1924. He lived three years more. Grandpa was eighty-four, and my grandmother was about eighty.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, tell me about your father's parents. Did you have much to do with them? Did you spend some time with them?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No. My great-grandmother, Grandpa Fletcher's wife, she died a good many years before Grandpa was dead. And he come in a separate house out there and lived with us. He begin to get feeble, and he died in 1912.

Page 20
BRENT GLASS:
You didn't know him too well?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes, I knew him. I lived near them. I waited on him a long time in his old age there. But my father and my father's family, we tended to him. He died at home in 1912.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did your parents discipline you very much?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Poppa was strict. Didn't have nothing to do much but just turn around and look at you, and you minded, absolutely minded.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he ever put a switch to you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir. [Laughter] He kept my hind end stripped half the time, 'cause I was mean as a snake, mischievous rough. I'd get into everything. I wanted to try everything there were that come along: chew tobacco, dip snuff, get sick; try it again, chew rabbit tobacco. [Laughter] He'd catch me once in a while and wear me out, and it didn't do no good. I went right on doing it again.
BRENT GLASS:
How about the other children in the family? Were they mischievous?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Not as bad as I was. There were so many of us, I just accepted the job of being the black sheep of the family. [Laughter] I accepted that myself, I believe. My older brother finished state college and worked with the citrus people in Florida for twenty years. And then he went to the mountains and worked for the government up there at the Tennessee Valley project. Brooks, he finished at state college; and he was county agent at Wilkes County for so many years, and then he came back here in the county at Chatham. I tried three years to get out of the sixth grade. I'd start, and we'd get to go to school by October, maybe November, December and January. And then we'd have to start cleaning up and plowing and one thing and another, start farming. And I didn't learn nothing. I went.

Page 21
Two years influenza broke out, and they closed the school down. I didn't get to go a month that year, I don't reckon. I just got tired of sixth grade and married; I never did get no further.
BRENT GLASS:
Before we get into school, maybe we could talk a little bit about games you liked to play with some of your childhood friends. Did you have many friends growing up?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir. The little old country schoolhouse was right there pretty close, and my father was schoolteacher.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, he was a schoolteacher as well as a farmer?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
[Laughter] In the winter. We had school about three months a year, all in the same room. My father taught school. I saw an old voucher here a while back, and I think he got I believe it was fifteen dollars a month.
BRENT GLASS:
What were his qualifications to teach in school?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
He finished high school, that was all.
BRENT GLASS:
So you played with the children over at school. What kind of games would you play?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
See, my mother knit all of us stockings. She'd knit it out of white cotton thread. And she knit well-wore stockings, not socks. When I was eight or nine years old I wore knee stockings that come up to my knee. But my mother would sit by the fire at night and knit all of those, different lengths of them for different ones in the family. And then we'd get red oak bark, and get that inner bark next to the wood, the thin bark, and boil it and make a dye. And she dyed all of our socks. Then when we wore the feet completely out we'd take and unravel them and make a thread ball. Then we'd take the top of an old shoe and cut the shape of a cover

Page 22
of a baseball. It'd come around here, and then come around here, and then the one would come across this a'way. They're sewed together with four seams. We'd cut tops of an old shoe out (an everyday shoe or something) and make us a horsehide cover, we called it. And that was our baseball. Played with thread balls most of the time. Didn't nobody have no store-bought balls or store-bought glove or nothing.
BRENT GLASS:
What did you use for a bat?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We'd take us an ash and straighten it out, dry it, and cut it out, and take a drawing knife and scrape it down sort of in the shape of a bat. It didn't make no difference whether it was forty inches long or two foot or three foot or what, just so it was in the shape of a ball bat. There weren't no [Laughter] distinction or regulation.
BRENT GLASS:
Where might you play?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We had a little place over in the straw field. I don't even know whether the bases were regulation bases or not; I doubt it very much, though. We had a rock at every base, and if you slid into it you were liable to bust your head open [Laughter] or knock your kneecap off or something. But there were some big games that day and time.
BRENT GLASS:
Who would play, just boys from around?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
One school. There were five or six little old country schools about two or three miles apart. We'd play each other along about school closing or Easter or something like that. School usually closed about Easter.
BRENT GLASS:
Well now, where was your school located?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Are you familiar with any of the land up at Chapel Hill Road? Are you familiar with where Fitch Creation is?

Page 23
BRENT GLASS:
Yes.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, Fitch Creation is sitting on our little old ball ground. We had a big boys' ball ground and a little boys'. As you turn there close to Manns Chapel Church, as you turn down towards the golf course, that was our schoolhouse right on the left there. Where you hit Fitch Creation's houses, that's sitting on our old schoolhouse lot, that old ball ground and schoolhouse lot. And that's where my wife was raised, right there. The Connie Smith land, R. B. Fitch and them built houses all over it. The Haithcock and Smith land there was where my wife was raised.
BRENT GLASS:
How about hunting or fishing? Did you do much of that when you were a boy?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, we didn't have nothing to fish. I mean, there's nothing but little old branches and creeks, and not much water up in that area. And we didn't get to go nowhere. I'd never seen the river 'til I was a great big boy. We rabbit hunted. Now, that was a big occasion: go out and kill thirty or forty rabbits a day.
BRENT GLASS:
What would you kill them with, guns?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Sticks and guns, and the dogs'd run them down and catch them. We'd just take the entrails out in real cold weather and hang them up in the smokehouse with the hide on them, and dry them out. Then we made rabbit hash, and cooked them. And they replaced a whole lot of meat, hog meat. There was a lot of quail way back there, a lot of turkeys. Chatham County has been blessed with rabbits: just thousands and hundreds of thousands of them way back seventy-five years ago.
BRENT GLASS:
And you were telling me that Chatham County supplied… ?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It's the only county in the United States that ever shipped

Page 24
'em by the carload, a carload of nothing but rabbits with the entrails taken out with the fur on them: just pack 'em down and fill the whole car full. Like this place over here Rabbit's Crossings, they've shipped them from there here in Chatham County, and Devil's Tramping Grounds and over there at Hogs Crossing and all that. They shipped them by the carload. But the foxes got so they destroyed them, and we don't have that many rabbits now, very few.
BRENT GLASS:
Let me ask you about these corn shuckings and cutting frolicks and so forth. Would there be music at these?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Sometimes they'd wind up with an old-fashioned square dance, and move out everything after supper. See, they wouldn't shuck corn but well around Thanksgiving, and chances are it'd be cold by that late in November probably. And they had the big fireplaces. And they'd move out everything and put on a log fire. Now I was little, but them bigger ones, I expect they'd go out to the woodshed once in a while. The longer the dance the redder the eyes got, and they'd have the old-fashioned square dance with all figures, you know. Maybe some old neighbor would have an old banjo with about half the strings on it. It didn't make no difference, just so it was making a fuss sort of. [Laughter] I weren't big enough to get in on all that. I'd have to sit off and look through the door, peek through the hole. But they had good times.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you enjoy living on the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
What did you like about it?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The freedom, I reckon. When you'd caught up, when you'd done your day's work you'd go out and sit on the porch. Weren't nobody

Page 25
right near us much of the time; weren't too thickly settled. On Saturday dinner in the summertime and farming time my Daddy'd let us off. We'd come home. There were nine of us, and if you had about five or six pair of overalls they would fit any two in the crowd. But it didn't make no difference which one got them on first, [Laughter] because they were so near the same size. My mother made them little old britches. She used to make little old britches 'til I was up twelve or fifteen years old. Never had a store-bought pair of britches 'til I was grown, I mean a great big boy. I don't know whether we was clean or not, but she washed every Monday morning. And she had four or five tubs of water and build a big fire in the yard. And she washed with homemade lye soap. And she didn't wash no more 'til next Monday morning. We had maybe one or maybe two changes. We'd have one on and the other on the line or in the wash, one: that was all the clothes we had. We handed them down from one to the other just like stairsteps. [Laughter] If this one outgrow them this year there was one right behind you to pick them up next year, so it didn't make much difference.
BRENT GLASS:
So you'd get off from work on Saturday afternoon and come home?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just play around the yard, just stay around the house.
BRENT GLASS:
But it's hard work, isn't it, around the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. We farmed four mules one time; we had about four or five mules. We raised corn, potatoes, garden peas, cotton—never no tobacco. That land up there was not to amount to anything. Very little tobacco. But we raised a lot of corn, cotton. The boll weevil come, you see. First the red spider come, and it hit the cotton. And that slowed people up. And then later on the boll weevil.

Page 26
BRENT GLASS:
When would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That red spider must have hit along about 1911 or '12, 'cause it was about four or five years before the boll weevil. The boll weevil was in the late 20's. It was about World War Number One when the boll weevil hit the worst, and it got so we couldn't make no cotton. We didn't have the stuff to spray it with, and the boll weevil'd eat it up.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of jobs would you do on the farm when you were getting up a little bit older? Say would you do plowing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes, plowing, cutting wheat, pulling fodder, shucking corn, sowing wheat, cutting firewood. See, you'd cut fifteen or twenty cords of wood a winter for fireplace wood. Two or three great big old fireplaces, and three or four foot long. We'd cut down trees as big as them out there, and just cut them down with an axe. Didn't have no saws; weren't no such a thing as a chainsaw.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your father grow food just for home consumption?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Or did he try to market his… ?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We never did have nothing to sell in the food line, for it took every bit to eat. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
And how about the corn?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We kept enough corn to fatten up the hogs. And then about every three or four weeks we'd take three or four bushels of corn and carry it to the old grist mill up there and have it ground into corn meal.
BRENT GLASS:
Which mill would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Pritchard's old mill, Lessie's grandfather's.
BRENT GLASS:
Where was that?

Page 27
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That was just about a mile or so. It was right there at them Mitchum boys, above Manns Chapel Church up there; it's where the Wilsons live now. Between the Mitchums and the Wilsons there, between Manns Chapel and Damascus.
BRENT GLASS:
Was that on a creek?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
What creek would that be? Do you know?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Barnes.
BRENT GLASS:
Barnes Creek.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I think that's right.
BRENT GLASS:
You'd carry it up there with your dad?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, we'd carry it in the wagon, maybe two or three sacks of corn, and go up there. And they'd grind it. They'd take out their toll. Maybe if you carried a bushel of shelled corn they'd take out a gallon of corn for toll. Then that way we kept corn bread all the time. Of course you could eat it for mush and muffins or most anything you wanted.
BRENT GLASS:
Where would you carry your cotton?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The old Alliance cotton gin was right there close to home. My grandfather run an old cotton gin and a post office and a blacksmith's shop over there. I don't believe you're familiar with it. It's on that creek right below Leon Mann and Romy Mann. Romy Mann lives right there. I believe my great-grandfather was the old post office. Part of that old lumber is out there in that field now in an old shed or something. It was Kilgo.
BRENT GLASS:
I'll bet if I brought a map of Chatham County you could show me where some of these places are, right?

Page 28
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I've got a map. I can show you anything you want. I've got a map of every county in North Carolina.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
In North Carolina. [interruption]
JOHN W. SNIPES:
On this old Snipes place here where my great-grandfather Wesley and Grandfather Fletcher, where this old log—we used it for a granery—it's in a big oak grove. And there was a big rock, I reckon four or five foot high and as big around as… I'd say twenty-five or thirty feet around. And right on the top of that there was a pinnacle, and the Indians had pestled out a thing shaped just like a top. It was big at the top, but they pestled out in this rock. Then it went down to a peak sort of. And it was supposed to have held exactly a peck of corn. They ground their meal, legend has it, at this old Indian rock. Well, there's two: there's one over there at the Nelly Blake place. And they'd take something like a mallet or something to beat that corn up, maybe and sift it. They claimed the Indians used that. Now that was handed down from my greatgrandfather; whether that's right or not I don't know.
BRENT GLASS:
Is that rock still there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I think that in cleaning up down there, I think with the blasting one time, I think that one's gone. Then there was one about as big as a bale of cotton over there across the creek. And it set up like an egg, and right in the top of that…. Now somebody bought that rock, somebody from Chapel Hill, and got a front-end loader or something out there and loaded that thing up and carried it away from there. They bought that rock there in the old Dollar yard. Earl Dollar is in there close to the old Blake place. But it helped to claim at that time just a peck of corn.

Page 29
Now whether that's right or not I don't know. I don't know that I ever measured it.
BRENT GLASS:
After you ginned your cotton where would you bring the cotton? Would you leave it there at the gin?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No, we'd bring it back home and put it on the shelf, or either bring it on down to Carrboro, to the cotton mill there at Venable: the old Venable Cotton Mill there at Carrboro, way back yonder before it was ever named. It was Venable for years and years, Venable post office; it was Venable, North Carolina. And then Mr. Jule Carr (he's related to my people just a little bit), he started them Carr Mills, the Julian S. Carr in Durham. He started that other cotton mill there, and then they named the place instead of Venable it was Carrboro.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. Well, you would carry your cotton that far rather than carrying it over here?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, yes. We got a little better market there at Carrboro. We'd sell it there, and carry the cotton seed there. They shipped cotton seed there to the oil mills. They bought cotton seed there later on, long in the teens, '12 and '13, long in there and on up 'til…. I carried cotton there 'til 1925 or '6, I reckon. But the boll weevil just about broke me from trying to raise it; it'd eat it up. We'd carry the cotton and seed to Carrboro. And Mr. Dave Neville run a store there, and they bought….
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
BRENT GLASS:
We were talking about Carrboro, about bringing your cotton down to Carrboro. And you said you would bring it there rather than bring it over here to Bynum because you could get a better price. About how much

Page 30
could you get?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, right in the World War Number One it got up to forty cents. But it didn't stay there. Before that it was five, six cents in the early nineteen hundreds. But on up into the World War Number One it got to forty cents.
BRENT GLASS:
What were they paying here for the same?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
There would probably be a cent or two under the market, maybe thirty-eight. They had a little better market, we always thought, at Carrboro.
BRENT GLASS:
But it would be worth it to you to take your wagon all the way down? Did you have a car by then?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No. First car I ever bought was in 1926.
BRENT GLASS:
So it would be worth it for you to take your wagon all the way down to Carrboro and sell your cotton there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, see, weren't but one company store here, and most of the time when we carried our cotton then we bought our fall shoes. And maybe we'd buy then a little coffee and sugar and all for wintertime, you see. We didn't have that excess. There were several factors in it. We'd just rather go to Carrboro. It was about the same distance, a little farther to Carrboro maybe. But we had all those stores and drugstores and things there at Carrboro that we didn't have here. But that Depression was rough, I'm telling you.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, before we get to that, let's back up a little bit. You said you carried cross-ties down there also. How would you prepare those back on the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Every morning (me and my wife lived up there in the woods)

Page 31
we'd get up. And she'd cook breakfast and we'd eat breakfast. We'd take a cross-cut saw and we'd go over there in the woods, and I'd cut down four big white oaks. She'd help me saw them down with a cross-cut saw. And the four things would make two each, to keep the two lengths across there. She'd go back home and fix dinner and all, and I'd get on top of the crossties, stand up there and hew down both sides. And then I'd get maybe two ties out of each one. I wanted to make eight ties. [interruption]
BRENT GLASS:
So we were in the middle of preparing crossties.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, when it would come a rain maybe I had two or three days I couldn't plow. Well, I'd hew all my crossties that day. I'd have to take a drawing knife and skin them and saw them off. I had to get them out to the road. Then the next day I'd take those eight crossties with a two horse wagon and carry them to Carrboro. And at that time they'd bring about a dollar.
BRENT GLASS:
You would get a dollar for how many crossties?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
A dollar apiece for about eight crossties. Well, then I could buy maybe a twenty-four pound sack of flour, five pounds of meat, five pounds of sugar and, oh, maybe salt and pepper and stuff that usually a family have. I'd buy my stuff with that, and then maybe I'd even catch up for it to rain no more in two or three months. If I didn't get a chance to cut no more I lived on that 'til we cut some more.

Page 32
BRENT GLASS:
Well, why would you wait 'til it rained?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I couldn't plow. See, I'd have a leisure day. I couldn't plow the field; it'd be too wet to plow.
BRENT GLASS:
I see. So you'd cut some wood then.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I'd go out there and get me enough. [Laughter] I told my wife then, I had about two pairs of overalls, but I told her I kept wearing them in the Depression 'til I could put on five pair and still scrape my butt. [Laughter] The whole seat wore out of them. [Laughter] That's how poor we was in the Depression, I'm telling you right.
BRENT GLASS:
Now by the Depression do you mean after 1929, or before then?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, it was during '29. That was the reason we left from up there; that was about the year we left. We left them up there on Thanksgiving Day in 1929.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, let me just go back. There are a few things I forgot to ask you. I wanted to ask you: with nine children in the house, how big a house did you have? And what was the sleeping arrangement there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
[Laughter] We had a three-room house, besides the little kitchen. We had two rooms built this way, and a little shed, then a shed off of there for a cook room.
BRENT GLASS:
Let's see: now if this was the entrance to your house, did you have a front porch?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, wasn't a porch at the period.
BRENT GLASS:
So you'd come in and there's be what, one room?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
There'd be a room on each side.
BRENT GLASS:
Was there a hall in the middle?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. When you'd come in the door then there was a door

Page 33
that went in that room. But you could come on through, and they built a little shed room off to the right there. Here'd be the front door. And these rooms would be like this, cut across this way. When you come in, then you could go into this room. It didn't have no outlet at all. But when you'd come on through this room, I don't know why but they had a little shed room right there, and then a kitchen off like that.
BRENT GLASS:
Was the kitchen connected?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It was connected to this one. That was just two rooms.
BRENT GLASS:
So where would you all sleep?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
There were two beds in this little old shed room here for the boys, and the bunch of us slept in here. Poppa and Momma slept in this one. And Grandpa slept over here sort of in this corner. He died in 1912. I was standing there looking at him when he died. And then the girls—well, the girls stayed in there. We stayed in here with Grandpa, most of the times until after Grandpa died. And then we stayed in here and the girls stayed in here.
BRENT GLASS:
I see.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And my father and mother stayed in that one.
BRENT GLASS:
So how many boys would sleep in the bed?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Three. We'd just pile it up. That's anyway to keep warm. Two or three of us were piled up.
BRENT GLASS:
Now what about mealtime?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We had a long table.
BRENT GLASS:
Would you eat in the kitchen?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. And also we had a little old dining…. At that time we did all eat in the kitchen. There was a big fireplace, and

Page 34
we all ate in there. But after Grandfather Fletcher died, my Grandpa Fletcher Snipes died, we moved out to Great-grandfather's old big house later on.
BRENT GLASS:
And that would be 1912?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I believed they moved in there in 1913.
BRENT GLASS:
And how big a house was that? Was that bigger?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It was a good deal bigger. It had a basement, a big basement. It was about five or six rooms. But it burned.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you have any particular seating arrangement when the whole family would sit down?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh, didn't have no chairs in the kitchen at all, except my Daddy was at one end and my mother at the other. We had a long bench on each side, wooden bench. My father'd sit at the head of the table and my mother at the foot. And they'd stack us young'uns in the two benches, four or five on each side there. A few times, well most of the time later, there was eleven of us eating at one time: nine young'uns, my father and mother. Then the older ones begin to get out of school, you know, later on.
BRENT GLASS:
What might be a typical dinner or supper for you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh, it'd take a peck of snap beans and two pones of corn bread. It'd take a gallon of ice potatoes, and maybe a pot of cabbage or turnips or turnip greens.
BRENT GLASS:
How many times a week would you have meat?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We didn't have much. We didn't have none except what we raised. Now sometimes we'd have ham for breakfast, as long as there was ham. We'd kill about four hogs or three hogs, and maybe we'd have five or six hams. But we didn't start cutting those hams 'til long up in the spring

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when they took the meat up, which started long about Easter or something like that. We'd eat on the shoulders first and let the hams season a little more. Shoulder meat weren't too bad fresh, I mean before it got too rank and old. But we'd keep them hams. We'd put molasses and black pepper on them hams as flavor to them, and we'd keep them on up until the summer and fall when we didn't have no vegetables maybe, until hog killing time.
BRENT GLASS:
Would there be a prayer at dinner time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We'd never eat a meal without my father saying a blessing. I believe if you'll always say a blessing and ask a blessing from God you'll always have something on the table. And we don't miss a meal; I've never missed a meal without giving thanks to God.
BRENT GLASS:
Now that sort of reminds me that I didn't really ask you about going to church when you were a small boy. Who would you go to church with? Or would you go to church?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We was raised to go to church from the time we was eighteen months old. Momma carried us in her arms 'til we got on up like little stair steps. Manns Chapel was right there in sight of where we was raised, just six-seven hundred yards. [interruption]
BRENT GLASS:
We're going to talk for another fifteen minutes or so, and then we'll call it for today. So your parents took you up to Manns Chapel?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. My father a lot of the time was superintendent of the Sunday school. And I was raised in the old-timey Methodist shouting method.
BRENT GLASS:
What do you mean by that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, they had these old revivals or what we used to call

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protracted meetings. And I was raised in a Christian home, of which I'm mighty proud. We'd hitch a two-horse wagon. My father and mother would sit on a spring seat (it was a little better seat than just a plank acros there), and they put wheat straw in the wagon bed. And they'd stack us young'uns in that wagon bed, and then maybe about a crackerbox full of three or four chickens and cakes and pies. And we'd go to those. When they started on Sunday they lasted through the week, maybe 'til the next Sunday. We was raised in an old-fashioned shouting Methodist. And as the revival got on over into the middle of the week, when the preacher got to sort of stepping on their toes everybody in there, almost, started shouting. I was talking about it last night. They've got away from that.
BRENT GLASS:
Now what do you mean by that? I mean, stepping on people's toes?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, telling them about their sins, just laying it on the line. Maybe the preacher'd get right smart hot and lay it on the line to them. And they'd get up and get to shouting when they give the invitation at the altar call and all such as that. Well, they didn't think, I reckon, little bitty old barefoot boys…. My Daddy put me on the front seat with him, and I'd wear little old knee pants and I was barefooted, barelegged and barefooted. I went barefoot; didn't have no shoes in the summer. I'd stub my toe and there'd be sore toes. Well, the preacher might have though I was sitting there on the front seat scaring the gnats off of my sores on my toes. I was shooing the gnats off of them and the flies, but I was listening to everything he said. I was taking it all in, but he might not have thought so. I knew what he was talking about. We had as good a Christian people in Manns Chapel old church as… well, I just think that they were tops, just out of this world. We run about eighty

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or ninety to a hundred average attendance. And I didn't think that church would ever fall down and go down low. Recently it's got down to four members—four attendance, not members. I think the superintendent told me they have four one Sunday or two, and maybe then seven. Maybe one's parents would come with them or something, but running from four to seven.
BRENT GLASS:
Was this a Baptist church or Methodist?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Methodist church.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh that's right, shouting Methodist.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Manns Chapel.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you ever get swept up in the revivals and start shouting?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I never shouted, but I felt like it many a time, when I was little even. I'd sit mighty still. I'd be sitting there maybe shooing the gnats off of my sore toe, but I knowed everything that was going on. I might not seem to have been attentive, but I knowed what he was saying and knowed what it meant. But them were great days back then. I think the country has got away from the old-time religion. That's what they lived on then, was the old-time religion. Now I was listening to a program last night with Pat Boone and Billy Graham and them. It come on last night. I come in from church and just turned it on and got the end of it; didn't get all of the program. But I think that there's a turning back. We've had about four or five years of the biggest increase in crime rate that the world has ever known. But I think the trend will switch back; I think the pendulum will switch back, because I think people are going back to the church and going back to God. They swung away from that. Human life now, the way most of the criminals feel about it, is no more than an animal or

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a rabbit or something. But crime has got too high in the United States. I think that the trend is going to turn back to God; I hope they do.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, now who would you give credit to for teaching you right from wrong?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I think it was a principle that my mother and father…. I loved my grandmother better than anything on earth. She'd make me squat down every night; I never did go to bed without saying my little bednight prayer. "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen." And I'd scoot into bed, jump into bed just as far in the bed as I could get. [Laughter] I think that it was the life that they led. They were Christian people. My grandmother, my father and mother, I'm proud to say, awful proud to say that they were Christian people.
BRENT GLASS:
And they taught you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The principle, the philosophy of life was to love everybody, to be kind to everybody and treat everybody right. Of course there were mean people back then—not too much, weren't too much. They didn't have the communication then, the way of traveling and going about from place to place. See, I was born before the automobile was, and I was born before the airplane was. The airplane down at Kitty Hawk weren't 'til 1903. I remember the first automobile. Mr. Bruce Strowd's father, who used to live just above us, adjoining plantation, and then his father moved to Chapel Hill (well, his grandfather lived there too)…. Bruce Strowd at Chapel Hill Strowd Motor Company, Bruce was just a young boy, and they took an old gasoline engine and took some old wheels. We lived right on the side of a little sandy dirt road, public road. Bruce took this gasoline engine, and it was an old type of engine with alternate

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stroke. It would hit "pow, pow, pow, choo, choo, choo; pow, pow, pow, choo, choo, choo." It'd skip; you've heard them, and you know what I'm trying to say. Well, we was plowing out there a little, (I just could reach the plow handle; I believe it was in 1907 or '08) and we heard this fuss coming down the road. It just scared the mule to death. And I run around there and got him by the bridle, trying to hold to him 'til that thing passed. And Bruce Strowd come in sitting on a goods box, come right by the house in a little four wheel contraption, him and Mr. Seaton Smith of Chapel Hill (that's my wife Lessie's uncle.) [Laughter] That's the first automobile that was ever in Chatham County. It had a gasoline motor, but it was a woodsaw motor. And he had it geared so it would propel, you know, and it would go along about five miles an hour. And it went "chooka, chooka, chooka, pow, pow, pow, pow." And then there was a streak of smoke; he had a smokestack, and it'd fly in there. And that just scared the old mule to death. [Laughter] The greatest thing we'd ever seen in all our lives. I believe it was about 1908; I was about six or seven or eight years old.
BRENT GLASS:
I think I'm going to stop this for now.
END OF INTERVIEW