Henry Mason Tullis (1883-1952) and Family
A Glimpse of Life Growing Up in Gwinnett Co, Georgia, in the Early 1900s
by Henry Spurgeon Tullis (1918-1984)
Editors Note: The following article was written by Henry Spurgeon Tullis about his parents and his experiences growing up in rural Georgia in the early 1900s. It was provided by his daughter, Genia (Tullis) Lanza, along with most of the family photos. It provides a fascinating glimpse into life on a farm during this time period. See photo of the family on the cover of this issue.
Henry Mason Tullis was born September 18, 1883, in Gwinnett County, Georgia. His father was W. H. (Bill) Tullis. His mother was Iantha Hannah Tullis. His brothers and sisters were Nancy Ann, Elminey, Liser A. Della, Marcenia, Callie Leona, William Starlin, C.N.(Cass), and one step-brother, Leadus Adams.
As a boy, he lived about 100 yards from Peter Puckett Mill pond on Peter Puckett Mill Road. They were farmers. Henry loved the soil. He never wanted to do anything else except farm. He went to school at Hog Mountain. He learned his three R's there. As a young man, he went to Alabama and worked a while in the coal mines. The pay was good but he didn't like it. He said he was sent about a mile underground there and dug coal all day. It was dark when he went to work and dark when he came out. He was lonely and homesick for his sweetheart. He returned to Georgia and married his sweetheart, Estelle Williams, daughter of Rev. Howard R. and Amanda J. Williams, of Auburn Georgia, on February 22, 1902.
Their first child, Rosa Jane, was born January 22, 1903. Their second child was a son, Hubert Howard, born July 9, 1906. They farmed the land. Cotton was the money crop. They raised corn for feed for the hogs and livestock and also for their cornbread. Hay for the cattle. Peas to eat. Sweet and Irish potatoes. They could 'hill' potatoes and keep them all winter. They planted syrup cane. This had to be stripped of all fodder, the heads cut off. The heads were the seeds to be planted next season, also used for chicken feed. The canes were hauled on a wagon to a syrup mill where they were ground into juice and the juice cooked into bright, shining, delicious, mouth watering syrup or molasses. It was always a treat to have new syrup and hot biscuits with fresh-churned butter for breakfast or with hot cornbread and butter for dinner or supper.
Henry Mason Tullis and his wife Mary Estelle Williams (Full-sized image)
Hog-killing time was looked forward to by every member of the family. It had to be the coldest day of the year. The children stayed out of school that day. They would arise early, put on two or three pairs of everything, overalls, shirts, socks, coats and one big thick stocking cap. They had to draw the water from the well, fill two or three large wash pots with water, then build fires around the pots. The water had to be boiling hot. Then kill the hog, drag him to the wash pots, and begin to 'hair' him. This was done by pouring boiling water on him and scraping with a knife and pulling to remove all the hair. He was then lowered to a table and cut up into sections, ham shoulders, middlings, these were trimmed. Some of the fat meat was mixed with the lean meat which was ground with a hand operated sausage mill.
The other fat meat was saved for lard. The hams shoulders and middlings, also the head, were put in the smoke house and laid out on tables to chill all night. A small fire was built in a bucket inside the house, with any material that would smoke a lot, such as rags, or Sulphur, to keep all flies out of the smoke house. The next day, the meat was put in the meat box and covered with salt or salted down. After the sausage was ground, it was mixed with salt, pepper, both black and hot, also sage. Rolled into balls, cooked and canned or put in small cloth bags and hung up in the smoke house to cure out. To 'render' the lard, the fat meat was put into big iron pots and cooked very slowly until there was only lard and cracklings left. When cool, the lard was put in big churns and covered with a cloth and put in the smoke house for use later. The cracklings were canned or put in cloth bags and hung up in the smoke house. Cracklings were used to season the corn bread. You could put a few cracklings in the bread before you cooked it and it would make the bread real greasy with a delicious taste, especially if it was cooked in a iron skillet with a cover on it. You would rake some red hot coals out of the fire place onto the hearth, put some under it and cover the top over also. Made the best bread you ever tasted. You could also cook biscuits or sweet and Irish potatoes this way.
In the winter-time a lot of cooking was done this way. They would have a pot of turnip greens with a ham hock in it on the fire in the fireplace, boiling while the bread and potatoes were cooking on the hearth or maybe a big pot of 'back-bones' and 'spare-ribs' cooking. The hogs head was boiled, then all of the meat removed, seasoned and ground, then pressed until there wasn't any grease left in it so you had 'press meat'. If a family killed several hogs, weighing maybe five or six hundred pounds each, they would have 'a greasy chin' several times during the winter time and enough pork and lard to last till next winter.
Cotton was their money crop. First in February or March, they would knock the old stalks down with a stick; if the stalks were frozen, they knocked a lot easier. Henry purchased a stalk cutter which was drawn by two mules. This was lots easier than the stick method. They used a plow called a two-horse turning plow to lay off the row. They made two furrows for each row, throwing the soil out each way, leaving a deep furrow or ditch. They put barn compost in there. Next they listed this row by throwing the soil back in there. Now they took a 'middle-buster plow', pulled by two mules or horses and busted out the middles. Now they had a large soft bed of soil to plant on. Next they used a 'guano distributor' to lay off the row and at the same time put fertilizer in the ground. Now the Cole Planter followed, dropping the cotton seed in the ground. There was a wheel rolling along behind which covered the seed. These were mule drawn machines and a fairly new invention. When the cotton was up and about three inches tall, it was 'hoed' and thinned to about two stalks to a hill, about a foot apart. Then 'dirted' or plowed on both sides. Cotton had to be hoed and plowed about every two weeks, depending upon the amount of rain that fell and how fast the grass grew. Every farmer in the northern part of Gwinnett County tried to see who could have the cotton blossom first. Prizes were given by newspapers and other concerns. Usually someone would have the first blossom about the first of July. They would have their picture in the paper along with a write-up, quite an honor. Now, they 'laid the cotton by': no more plowing or hoeing. When the cotton began to open in September, it had to be picked. They wore 'pick sacks' with a strap over the shoulder to put the cotton in. This was weighed and put in a wagon. When they had about fifteen hundred pounds of seed cotton in the wagon, it was hauled to the cotton gin, where the seeds were separated from the cotton. You had a bale of cotton which weighed about five hundred pounds and about one thousand pounds of seeds. You took the bale of cotton to market and sold it. You could sell the seed or have it ground into cotton seed meal which was the finest kind of feed to feed a cow during winter when there wasn't any grass in the pastures. Henry usually made about twelve to fifteen bales on his small farm. After the cotton was sold, all debts such as fertilizer, etc, if any owed, were paid. Then new clothes, shoes, and so forth for the family were bought. All other crop were grown almost the same way as cotton except when you 'laid the corn by' you sowed peas in the middles. They had to be picked when dry, about September, and stored away till the man with the threshing machine came by to thresh them out. Peas were planted to build up the soil, course they were very good to eat in the winter time. Oh yes, one other thing about cotton, the average person could pick about 100 hundred pounds a day, some more, some less.
Summer time When the crops were 'laid by', you would think that there wasn't anything to do till gathering time wouldn't you? Far from it was the case. They roamed the countryside picking berries, which were canned and some made into jam and jelly. The vegetables in the garden had to be gathered, prepared and canned or dried for winter use. Corn, beans, squash, okra, tomatoes, any and all vegetables. The beets and cucumbers pickled. The grapes and scupperdines picked for wine or jam and jelly. All the peaches and apples picked, pealed and canned or dried and probably many other jobs not mentioned here. But there was always time for other things also.
Wash hole that was a must for all county men and boys. Cut trees across the creek, shovel dirt in on them. You stopped up the creek, thus a wash hole. You would manage to find time every day to go and swim some. Everything went along fine till a big 'gully washer' rain came along and washed it all down the creek. You wouldn't have time to swim then anyway, you would be busy shoveling up broken terraces that the rains had washed big holes in.
The best part of summer time was the great revival meetings. They had services every morning and every night for a week or maybe two weeks at each church in the community. Each church had their services a different week. That way you could go to meeting for four or five weeks continually. About five o'clock in the afternoon all work stopped. Everyone bathed in a wash tub, scrubbed till they were shining. Dressed, hitched up the horse or mule to a buggy or wagon and went to church. Those were great revivals: people shouted, men hollered "Amen". Preachers preached Hell, Fire and Brimstone. They told you exactly where you were going if you didn't repent of your sinful ways. They didn't preach to please the deacons, they preached to them. They didn't preach to please the people, they preached to them. They didn't preach for money. If you wanted to give the preacher some 'taters' or corn or chickens it was all right, if you didn't, it was still all right. Some preachers preached all year and maybe received five or six dollars. They wanted lost souls saved for Christ. That was their reward. You didn't have to have the finest and shiniest buggy or the finest clothes to be welcome at any church. Your overalls and blue denim shirt were good enough. It was what was under the clothes that counted. You didn't have to have the finest home or the most land. You were welcome, brother. You could cry in church if the spirit got a hold of you, and it would brother, if you didn't get up and leave. On the way home from church, they would make the hills and hollows ring with singing and shouting. Those people made this country what it is today. Those people were our ancestors, maybe we don't want to believe it, but it was true.
Wash day one or two days a week was wash day. The women and children did all these and didn't think any more about it than you do. Setting the button to linen or silk on your fancy automatic washer and sitting down in a big soft, reclining chair to watch color television, with its umpteen-inch screen and its stereo channels of sound, or making a phone call to a friend in Atlanta to see if they can meet you for the weekend in Savannah for a gala time splashing around in the ocean, while the automatic washer washed your clothes. Maybe its freezing weather outside but thats where they did their washing. Draw the water out of a deep well with a windlass, rope and bucket. Fill two big pots and four big washers with water. Build fires with wood chips around the pots. Boil the clothes, take them out and scrub them on a scrub board till your fingers or knuckles bleed, put them in the rinse water, scrub some more in each tub as you progress through the four tubs of water. Repeat all this procedure four or fives times that day, hang the clothes out to dry on long wires stretched out between trees. When night comes you must be in a fresh dress, your hair combed, supper cooked, smiling and happy when your love-mate comes in from cutting wood in the deep woods or a hard day down at the country store, playing checkers with his farmer friends.
Ironing there wasn't any wash and wear clothes then. All clothes had to be ironed. There wasn't any electricity to heat the irons. Some of the irons could be opened and live red-hot coals put inside of them to keep them hot. Others were real heavy, solid iron with iron handles. These were heated either on the wood cook stove or in the fireplace.
Cooking people have been cooking their meals for a long, long time. Only the methods have changed. Estelle had a wood range or cook stove. All you had to do was find some dry kindling to start a fire. Then fill the stove with stove wood and start cooking. The kitchen range was also used to heat the water for dish washing and to heat the water for the baths.
Chores .every child had his chores to do every day and they did them too. They were told only once. There was stove wood to be carried in and put in the wood box every evening. Also in the winter time there was the firewood to be stacked on the porch. There was water to be drawn from the well and carried in. The mules and horses and cows to be fed twice a day. The hogs had to be slopped or fed twice a day. The cows had to be milked twice a day. The milk had to churned every day, to have butter and buttermilk. The milk and butter had to be carried to the storm cellar several times a day and brought to the house as many times. This was to keep the milk and butter cool. Sometimes it was lowered into the well, almost to the bottom, in a bucket.
Wheat threshing time was a time looked forward to by all. It meant fresh new flour for some fine biscuits. All the bed mattresses were filled with fresh new straw. You couldn't hardly climb up on your bed that night it was so high. But the part that the children enjoyed most was playing on the straw. There would be a pile of hay about fifteen feet tall, if you could ever get to the top of it, you had a real thrill sliding down.
Sickness is something that everyone has. Medical science wasn't as far advanced then as now. About the most used and standard patent medicine was Castor Oil. If you haven't had your Castor Oil down you, you have missed the treat of your life. Epson Salts, Catnip Tea, Sasparilla Tea, Sassafras Tea, cough syrup made from wild cherry bark, Poultices made from Mustard Turpentine and anything they could find to go in them. If all these and many, many more failed, then you would try to see a doctor, if you was still living. The old Watkins and Raleigh's Salves, also Cloverine Salve was used. Henry would have the boys hold the sick mule or cow while he poured a bottle of that hot Watkins Liniment down the animals throat. You could almost see smoke coming out or they would hold the cow while he drilled a small hole in each horn right next to the head (hollow horn) or put a board under her tail and take his pocket knife (his knife was always sharp as a razor) and split her tail open, pour some turpentine on and turn her loose (hollow tail). Boy, would she take off. The animals usually survived. All these old home remedies had been tried and used over and over for many, many years, handed down from generation to generation.
Wood cutting time was usually in the fall of the year (full moon) time. All men and boys helped. They would saw the trees up in certain lengths (if you haven't pulled a cross cut saw all day, you have missed something) haul the wood to the house and split it up, stack it neatly in rows or store it in a wood shed. If the house needed a new roof, off to the woods you went. Cut the trees down, sawed them in lengths about fifteen inches long, take a mallet and wedge and split the blocks into shingles and cover the house.
Starch for the clothes was made by using flour and hot water. All the white shirts, dresses, and Sunday clothes had to be starched as stiff as a board. Those dresses were ankle length; all kinds of ruffles and frills adorned them. Lots of lace on them also. They were hand-made by the women. It took a lot of work to iron one of them with starch in it.
Soap had to be made at home. They had a wooden box outside the house with a trough rigged up under it. All the ashes from the fireplace were put in this box. It was kept covered all winter while it was being filled with ashes. In the springtime they poured some water over the ashes. This water came out of the bottom, ran down the trough into a pail or churn. You took pure lye or potash. (Now, remember how they made lard. They cleaned all the fat off the hog's intestines, cooked this lard separately and saved the lard till now.) They took a big double handful of this lard, mixed it with the lye liquid, cooked it some, and stored it in a churn. It hardened in a few days. This was soap for another year. Put it in the smoke house. They used this soap for bathing and washing clothes and scrubbing floors. They could use the lye solution (without the lard) to take the hair or fur off skins of animals such as cows, horses, rabbits, so the skin was tanned. Course there is more to tanning leather but that's another story. They did a lot of trapping animals and used their skins for moccasins, coats, caps, pocket books, etc.
They gathered 'broom straw' from the fields to make all their brooms. They gathered 'white mud' from banks of streams. When mixed with water, this made a real white solution used to paint the hearth and around the fireplace. It was beautiful. They gathered yard brooms from the woods. Yards (known as lawns now) were kept free of grass and swept every week with a yard broom. Those were beautiful yards, filled with large beds of flowers, with white sand scattered everywhere. There wasn't any lawn mowers then. They didn't plant grass around the house, put fertilizer and water on to make it grow, then kill themselves pushing a lawn mower over it every week to cut the grass.
Henry had a small workshop. Here he sharpened all his plows. At first he had a piece of railroad track. Later he got an anvil to beat the plows out on. He had an old bellows rigged up to fan the fire. One child had to pump the bellows, all the time to keep the fire red hot. The plows had to be red hot so he could beat them to a very sharp point. If a single tree on a plow stock broke or an axe handle broke, shovel or hoe handle, he went to the woods selected the proper timber and made a new one. He made a drawing knife in the shop, that would really trim wood down in a hurry. He did most of the repair work on his buggy and wagons. He had a large grinding wheel, made from a round stone. It had to be turned by hand with a handle. Here he ground his tools, such as axes, to a razor-sharp edge. One child did the turning while he sharpened the tools.
Every child had a 'rabbit box' or several of them. It was his job (and he loved it) to visit the boxes every day to see if he had caught any rabbits. They were delicious to eat but most important, he could sell them at the store for a couple cents each.
Children were sent to the store to buy something (baking soda or snuff for instance) and they would take a dozen eggs to trade for the merchandise. They were allowed a penny to spend for themselves. When they told the store keeper that they wanted a penny's work of candy, he would reach in the candy case and fill a bag full of candy. Bless their hearts.
All children had their chores to do. There wasn't any weekly allowance or yearly allowance. Sometimes they might get a shiny new coin. They learned the value of money. They didn't have a yard full of toys, the house wasn't so full that you couldn't walk for falling over a toy. At Christmas time they got a small doll, probably a rag doll, or a Jews Harp, maybe a cheap knife (pocket knife). Their stocking might have some candy and nuts in it. And that was it as far as toys were concerned and they were happy.
One summer the children had a craving for some apple cider. Henry rigged up a homemade cider press. He made a mallet and used this to crush the apples, then he made a box out of strips with about one fourth inch between them. He made a trough under the box. He put the box near a tree and nailed a limb above the fork in the tree. This left an opening big enough to put a long small tree through. We filled the box with crushed apples. The box was sitting on a big log that had been sawed off on both ends and was about three feet long, this log was standing on end. Now, they put a board over the apples, then a big rock on top of the board, then the small tree through the opening in the for, the tree was resting on the rock. Now every one climbed on the other end of the small tree, this caused the big rock to begin to slowly go down and press the juice out of the apples. The cider began to flow. Soon there was a big churn full. They repeated this every day. Plenty of cider to drink and vinegar for pickling foods.
Henry and Estelle were parents again in 1918, July 12. Henry Spurgeon Tullis was born. The year before he was born (1917) they bought the old Whit Duncan Farm from Mr. George Mauldin. It was a fifty-acre tract located on the old Lawrenceville-Gainesville Road which is now called Hamilton Mill Road. The two sons living, Spurgeon and William Louis, after Henry died, bought this land from their mother (Spurgeon's stepmother), Mrs. Indiana Cagle Tullis. This land is one mile from expressway I-85. The house was built of large logs, about eighteen inches each way and about thirty feet long. They were fastened together with large wooden pegs. Most people didn't know that this was a log house. It was finished inside and outside with modern lumber (in later years). It was sturdy as a rock when it was torn down, about 1960. That wrecking crew had a hard time pulling it down. They used tractors and big chains to pull it down. They sawed the logs up into lumber and built chicken houses out of it. Some old-timers said that the house was over one hundred years old. The logs were hewn by hand. They never had been to a saw mill. The chimney and fireplace was one of the largest in the county, made from very large rocks. The landmark that everyone knew so well is still standing there today: a large Holly tree, that bears bright red berries every winter. No one knows how old it is. People that are near one hundred years old say that the tree was there when they were small children. Mr. Robert Harvey Burel of Hog Mountain (born 12 June 1854 and died 16 January 1960 at age 105) said the tree was an old tree when he was a small boy.
17 February 1922, Estelle died giving birth to a fourth child, Flora Mae, who only lived a few days. They both are buried at Hog Mountain Baptist Church, Gwinnett County, Georgia. Rosa, the oldest child that was killed in an accident, is also buried there.
24 December 1922 Henry married Indiana Cagle of Lula, Hall County, Georgia. Their first child, William Louis Tullis was born 10 October 1923. Their second child was stillborn 24 May 1929 and is buried at Hog Mountain Baptist Church beside Flora Mae.
They moved their church membership to Zion Hill Baptist Church from Hog Mountain about 1925. The reason for this was because the children went to school at Zion Hill and that's where they wanted to go to Sunday School. They knew all the boys and girls there.
They continued to farm the soil. Things really got rough about 1929. The Depression hit the country. Cotton prices dropped to five or six cents per pound. A bale of cotton brought only twenty-five dollars. Before the Depression, a bale brought between two and three hundred dollars. Imagine your yearly salary dropping from two thousand dollars to two hundred and fifty dollars. Henry did a lot of 'peddling' or truck farming during those lean years. He was fortunate that he had his farm paid for before the Depression struck. A lot of farmers lost their farms.
Henry died from cancer, 31 August 1952. He is buried at Zion Hill Baptist Church, Gwinnett County, Georgia.
Henry told his children over and over to live by the golden rule and the Ten Commandants. He was one of the strongest believers in honesty. He tried to train his children to live true Christian lives.
Louis built his mother, Indiana Cagle Tullis, a new home where the old house stood. She lived out the remaining years of her life there. She was a faithful wife, a good mother, a wonderful step-mother and a devoted Christian. She died 7 August 1976 and is buried beside Henry at Zion Hill Baptist Church.
Photo taken about 1945. Seated: Henry M. Tullis and his second wife, Indiana Cagle (1895-1976). Standing behind Henry is their son William Louis Tullis (1923-1981). Standing behind Indiana is Henry Spurgeon Tullis (1918-1984), son of Henry M. Tullis and his first wife Mary Estelle Williams.