Mary Elizabeth Miller Hayes

An Uncommon Woman

What a woman!

What a cook!

What a worker!

What a feeling comes over me when I think about her and the life she had there on May’s Ridge and the Grapevine Ridge

She didn’t seem to know that life could be easier

She loved her brothers, especially the older ones- Johnny and Jim

the ones that didn’t do very well and really had it rough in life

Back to cooking- I think she must have made biscuits at every meal

sometimes it was cornbread

She got some work out of me

She was crippled in her later years (arthritis)

So I was of some help with the house keeping and

I took over the milking at a very early age (around the 1st or 2nd grade as I recall)

She and I would churn and make butter

She made so many sugar cookies

She was a good seamstress – took great pride in her work
She made a lot of her own clothes and some for me.
I remember when we selected dairy feed for the cow one consideration was the pattern on the feed
sack, or whether the feed sack could be bleached and dyed so she could make a shirt of it.
She made quilts and bed spreads. I have one of the bedspreads she and my mother made together – a work of art.

She and I always made APPLE BUTTER lN THE FALL THAT WAS ALWAYS A GREAT DAY. She would make cornbread which was great with new apple butter right out of the kettle. I still have these scenes in my head. Just as vivid as life itself.
I can’t wait to see her again and tell her how much I appreciate her sacrifice for me. lf she had not taken me, I would have gone to an orphanage. I know I was a difficult child to rise especially for a crippled woman. The teen years were really bad. One of my uncles encouraged her to send me to a reform school. Bur she never gave up, just applied the switch with a little more vigor. Not that I appreciated her efforts at the time.

I think she lived longer than she was able to just so she could prepare me for the world. Or, perhaps, she died sooner than necessary because I wore her out.
She only went to the second grade in school and that was when school only ran three months out of the year. That was in the winter after the harvest and before spring planting. I remember the expression she used when she would refer to her school lunch: just a piece of “gritty rye bread”. Altogether she only had a few months of formal education, but become a voracious reader and a strict accountant. She built her library and mastered her books. One of her fondest achievements was teaching adult women’s Sunday school class. She started her own lending library. Circulating her books around the neighborhood.
She made the best apple pies in the world. They were special. I could eat a dozen at a setting – (a whole one anyway). They were a little thinner than any l’ve seen since, but so flavorful and delicious.
Her bread pudding was delicious as well. I remember eating so much I got sick. Couldn’t eat it again for a week.
We had a game with the pies. lt was the only crime she ever let me get away with. She would make several pies and tell me to stay out of them. Then when her back was turned I would get into them and eat at least one whole pie. This is the one infraction I always expected to whipped for but it was the one thing she most often overlooked. Looking back I think it flattered her to know that I loved her pies so much I would risk her wrath which was indeed something AWESOME.

She was a strict disciplinarian. I don’t remember a day that I didn’t get whipped until she reached her last years of life, She just didn’t have the strength anymore. She generally preface the switching with the words “l am going to beat the devil out of you” or “You will remember this as long as you live”. And that was true. I do remember.
However most of them kind of run together. There were, however, a few very special ones for which I have a distinct memory.


Churning and making butter was a regular routine. We churned together and she took great pleasure in molding the butter. She was proud of her butter mold. lt had beautiful flower design and the pound of molded butter always made a beautiful table center piece. lmagine every meal: fresh butter, hot biscuits and homemade jams, apple butter and honey. I would often eat a quarter of a pound at a single meal.When she lived on the Grapevine Ridge Place she had her first child (Howard) attended only by a mountain midwife. Uncle Elza’s wife (Tish). At that time she lived in a one room sawmill shack that had been abandoned when the sawmill closed. She often told me about feeding the chickens through the cracks in the floor. Also, she told me the snow would come through the cracks and often covered her bed. Later she and Dad built a 2 room house just down the path and around the ridge from this place.
The new house was set on the point of the ridge about 1O0 feet from the barn that Dad also built. The next five children were born here – in the house – not the barn. One was still born. Ed and Eleanor were born after they moved off the ridge (about 400 feet down the side of the mountain) to the Lunsford place. Mom farmed along side of Dad as well as raised children. When Dad worked away from home Mom had the whole load to herself. Dad would leave of necessity to earn cash in Philadelphia or Baltimore in order to pay off debts. Mom also helped with the sheep shearing, she washed and carded
the wool, she spun the wool, and she wove the wool, and made it into cloth, blanket s and clothing. I
have a blanket that she produced in this manner.
She preserved beef by canning it. She and Dad gathered wild berries for jams and jellies. They raised a
great variety of fruits and vegetables. They raised grains for flour and meal and feed for the livestock.

When they needed flour they carried the grain they had raised to the mill and had it ground. Pigs, chickens, cows, and mules were all a part of this rich and glorious life on the mountain
Her tools:
Kitchen, the rolling pin used 3 times a day, the quilting frame, and the ringer washer at Valley Forge. I got my arm caught in this once), on the mountain. she used a wash board., the iron pot for bleaching and dying feed sacks to make clothes, the copper kettle for apple butter, the canner, the stretcher for lace curtains, so proud of her house in Valley Forge one of the nicer homes built by Dad { my grandfather).
Making apple butter: pick apples; prepare apples, the cook off, building the fire, stoking the fire, filling the jars, enjoying the fruits of our labor: hot cornbread and fresh apple butter. The weather on apple butter making day always seemed to be great.
She washed clothes every week of the year. ln the ringer washer. This was an outdoor job. We hung the clothes on a clothes line to dry in the sun, and then everything had to be ironed. I helped some with the ironing. When she went to the field to hoe crops she took all the kids with her. The ones that were big enough to help got to hoe or pull weeds. The smallest was PLACED lN THE SHADE OF A TREE. Checked at the end of each circuit and of course under continuous observation. lf and when an accident did occur she was always right there to take care of the problem.Minor infractions and disobedience called for the switch. Severe problems called for nursing and tender care.
There was religious instruction every morning after Dad had left for work and before I went to school.

Her philosophy: work hard, life is serious business; an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. No time for
frivolity, and anything that doesn’t put food on the table is frivolous

Mary Elizabeth and Harold Lee

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