folder 24: Autobiography of Charles A. Hentz, Part I





of peach -- from the earliest June to the latest October-; Indian peaches of the richest kind -- free stone -- cling stone &c &c. I knew every tree, and spent many an hour, during summer's vacation seated in a comfortable fork, with a copy of Scott's novels, regaling myself with the delicious fruit. Father used to allowance me to so many peaches a day, for fear that I might make myself sick by over indulgence and I obediently kept myself within the prescribed limits; & father knew well that I would do so-; although I was a butt of ridicule with the school girls for my obedience.

A splendid well of water, 106 feet deep-, round & curbed with brick was not far from the back of the house, on the edge of the orchard-; splendid water, exceedingly cold-; with 2 buckets, one going down, whilst the other came up -- old aunt Judy did the washing near it. Father, for years, hired two old negroes -- husband and wife -- Aunt Judy and Uncle Young -Aunt Judy kept a big iron wash pot sitting on the slope near the well, with generally a quantity of soap suds in it-; and as the ground was quite sloping, a brick bat was used to put under the lowest leg to make it even. My little sister Callie was once washing some of her doll clothes in this pot-; & she had to lean far over to reach the bottom of it-; with her stomach pressing on the edge-; on one occasion, when she was thus engaged, the pot lost its balance, & toppled over, carrying Callie with it-; as she went over, she instinctively drew in her legs, so that she was caught all curled up in a circle without being injured at all; but saturated with soap suds and ashes --

Last edit almost 4 years ago by Jannyp


Most fortunately old Aunt Judy happened to see the accident -& ran there, & turned the heavy pot back, & brought her strangling & frightened nearly to death, to her house-; had no one seen the capsize, she might soon have suffocated soon; she was so tightly shut up -- Father was dreadfully agitated & frightened, as the old negro woman came up with her dripping form.

Back of the orchard, ran a lane, separating our place from a twelve acre field, which father bought & devoted mostly to the mulberry & silk worm business. During the morus multicaulis mania that swept over the country in 1835 & 36, he fortunately made $1200.00 by a fortunate sale. He had bought a lot of trees early during the excitement, and by rapid propagation, by cuttings &c &c. he sold out before the bubble burst with $1200.00 in his pocket. I believe that the bottom dropped out of the mania so suddenly that the gentleman who bought from father never called for his trees. I remember that at one time trees sold at 2 1/2 cts per bud; counting the number of buds on the trees. Father devoted the proceeds of this speculation to carrying out a pet hobby of his -- the raising of silk worms. He built a house, as near as I can recollect, about 20 x 60 feet in size, of frame-; with ranges of staging on which the worms were raised -- These ranges ran about 2.3ds of the length of the house, from the floor to the ceiling -- made of slats, so as to be airy, & allow the trash & excrements of the worms to pass through-;

Last edit almost 4 years ago by Jannyp


some three stories of these frame work shelves-; large crops of worms were raised on these shelves-; the branches of the white mulberry trees, with the leaves on them, were laid over the worms, also the large leaves of a morus multicaulis, on which they fed-; they were fed 3 or 4 times a day - regularly and the noise that the thousands of worms made when feeding, with their jaws, was like a gentle shower of rain on a roof-; they were little mites about 1/4th of an inch long, when first hatched, & of a dark color-; they grew rapidly, changing their skin 4 times during their life of about 6 weeks (I believe I am correct); and when they were ready to spin their cocoon, they were from 2 to 3 inches long, & about 1/2 inch in diameter, and of a delicate silky white color-; & with a sharp pointed soft horn over the tail -- When spinning time came, the worms ceased feeding, and began to wander about in quest of suitable places for locating their cocoon-; father then removed the remnants of the mulberry twigs &c. and placed oak limbs, with their stiff leaves which curled up & made admirable hiding places in which the worms spun their cocoons-; they were gathered from all these places-; & the floss or loose thread that surrounded the hard cocoon was put by to card & be spun into a soft yarn like that made from wool -We had soft gloves and socks made from this material-; the cocoons wer exposed on platforms under a bright sunshine, & the heat killed the chrysalis within, when the cocoons could be kept until it was convenient to have them ruled off -- for

Last edit almost 4 years ago by Jannyp


making into sewing thread, or for the loom under a hot sun the cocoons would jump about moved by the chrysalis within that was dying from the effect of the heat -- by & bye they would still in death.

The care of these worms, thus, raised on quite a large scale, required a good deal of labor. I was taken from school generally every worm breeding season, & was very useful to father too in budding trees & assisting in the cultivation of the trees &c &c. Free tuition was also given to several poor scholars, for their services in this department. I remember some of them-; there was Polly Glover, homely & freckled faced, a fat, jolly, black haired girl -- Susan Kitchen, a pale, light haired, quiet girl, and Minerva Faircloth, a very homely, square faced, light haired girl, quiet & good-; these three & I constituted the main force of the silk raising industry.

The reeling of the cocoons was accomplished, by putting a quantity of them in a large wide mouthed pot, which was placed over a furnace, & when filled about 1/2 full of water, it was made to boil, & whilst the cocoons were bobbing up on the surface, one person on each side caught, by means of a little wisp of broomstraw -- the ends from the cocoons -(that is an end that would run off readily from the cocoon) & these -- to the number of from 20 to 60 or 20, were twisted into a thread-; a number of these threads on either side were twisted around each other & separated again, & by means of two hooks, one on each side, were rapidly passed to & fro so as to

Last edit almost 4 years ago by Jannyp


be stretched by the simple machinery of the reel on to the frame where it dried, & the hanks were put away to be dyed & spun into sewing thread, or they could be kept for the loom, to be woven into silk fabrics -- Father made an ingenious machine out of an old cotton spinning jenny, on which he made a quantity of sewing silk, which I must say, was by no means a success in the way of good sewing silk -- It all amounted to nothing but a pleasing hobby of father's-; & the loss of a good deal of money.

The road, or lane that ran between our place and the cocoonery lot met the road that ran in front of our place, at an acute angle at the northern end of our lot, which accordingly ended in a sharp point there-; father generally had an acre of two of corn, potatoes &c planted up there, & I used to set partridge traps, & rabbit snares in the fence corners of this lot. I never shall forget my excitement when, one morning I actually found a partridge in my trap that had made the top of its head bald in its efforts at escape; the only one I ever caught. I was more fortunate with my rabbit snares; I often caught them, particularly in snowy times, when they were pressed with hunger-; baiting my snares generally with a piece of apple. I was triumphant when I found a big fellow hanging by the neck, dead.

In front of Locust Dell, across the road, lay a large tract of land that we called the "Hill"-; undulating, and covered with patches of blackberry bushes & stumps, & some dead trees-; all this is now, I have been told built over with

Last edit almost 4 years ago by Jannyp
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