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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Memories of processing corn and cotton

Snipes recalls processing corn and cotton with his grandfather. After keeping enough corn to feed their hogs, they would grind it into meal at a local mill. They ginned their cotton and sold it to nearby mills. On their trips into Carrboro to make the sale, they might buy supplies to last them through the winter.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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?
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?
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. 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 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.