Memories of Mohawk Valley
The log cabin home where Mary Jane Richardson and her children once lived still stands today in Mohawk Valley. The property is owned today by Steve Daniels.
Recently I obtained a copy of a book written by Wilma Beason Nevans of Celina entitled "Memories of Ashburn’s Creek." In her book, Mrs. Nevans describes life growing up on Ashburn Creek, an area that lies in Clay, Overton, and Pickett counties. It makes for some very interesting reading. Even though the days described in her book were only some 60 plus years ago, the changes that have taken place since then are almost unbelievable. There was no electricity, no running water in homes, very few automobiles, no modern conveniences we today not only make use of on a daily basis, but most of them are just taken for granted.
The setting for this week's story isn’t too far, as the crow flies, from where Mrs. Nevans grew up. It is known as Mohawk Valley and is located near Taylors Crossroads in Overton County. The family I'm writing about is the Richardsons who lived on and farmed some 40 acres there. Here is their story as told to me by one of the daughters, Lorene Richardson Combee.
When Andrew Harrison Richardson and Mary Jane Conner Richardson began their life together, I'm sure they had no idea how hard some of the days that lay ahead would be, especially Mary Jane. It was in a two room log cabin with a big stone fireplace in Mohawk Valley that their family would grow to include five children whose names are R.D. (who died in 2006), J.B., Christene, Gene, and Lorene. On one side of the cabin, a small lean-to served as the kitchen. The cabin had a loft where the boys slept. Just a few feet from the front door, a prong of Ashburn Creek begins and continues on for miles through fields of a number of other property owners making its way to Dale Hollow Lake. The setting for a log cabin couldn't possibly be more picturesque or peaceful.
When Lorene, the youngest of the five children, was only nine
months old, the Richardson family moved to Florida. Her father had
family there. After a short period of only six months, Mr. Richardson
became very sick. No one knew for sure just exactly what was wrong
with him. Some thought he could possibly have tuberculosis, but when
no one else in the family came down with it, that diagnosis was
wondered about. Whatever disease he suffered from, after an illness of
only three months, Mr. Richardson passed away. At the time of his
death, he was only 30 years old and his wife, Mary Jane, was 32.
Following the death of her husband, Mary Jane took her children, the
oldest of which was only 8 and the youngest just 18 months, back to
Tennessee by way of a train. After arriving back at Taylors
Crossroads, the Richardson family moved in with John and Annie Bell
Conner, Mary Jane's parents. When the boys got old enough to help with
the raising of crops and other farm work, Mary Jane and her children
returned to their home on the creek. John Conner, the children's
grandfather, along with some of Mary Jane's brothers, helped as much
as they could with the raising of her children. The uncle Lorene felt
closest to was her mother's brother, Hoy Conner.
Mary Jane Richardson and her five children pose near the log cabin in Mohawk Valley where they lived for many years. The cabin still stands today as a reminder of the children's childhood days spent there on a prong of Ashburn Creek.
Pictured out back of the Lone Maple school near Taylors Crossroads is the 1948 5th through 8th grade classes. Front row: Linus Dennis; Troy Daniels; Raymond Sells; Odell Leach; Clauis Bilbrey. Second row: Margaret Dennis Colson; Omagene Winningham Garrett; Lyndel Winningham Arney; Amelia (Melia) Stover Hanahan; Lorene Richardson Combee; Donna Sells Jolley; Aletha Stover Gunnels. Third row: Mrs. Dora Maynord, teacher; Joyce Wright Denny; Eugene Bilbrey; William Sells; and James Garrett. Photo courtsey of Lorene Richardson Combee.The car shown in the background belonged to Ardean Keisling Coleman, wife of Bill Coleman, who taught the lower grades at Lone Maple."
A typical day in the life of the Richardson children included feeding
the animals, milking the cow, working the garden during the summer
months, and washing clothes. Lorene told me they also had time to
play, and lots of days, they walked to the homes of nearby aunts and
uncles and also to the home of their grandparents to visit a while.
The Richardson family depended on a garden for a good part of their
food. The first thing they had to eat out of the garden every year
would be onions, mustard, and lettuce. They made a salad out of these
three ingredients, and bacon grease would be poured over the top. This
is still a favorite for many people who grow gardens even today. The
family always canned beans, tomatoes, corn, and made kraut. Raising a
garden and putting up vegetables is something Lorene continues to do
Days spent on Ashburn Creek in Mohawk Valley are now just memories for the Richardson family. The small cabin that provided shelter for a young widowed mother and her five small children still stands today in that peaceful setting. Even after all these years, the cabin remains in fairly good condition. The present owner hopes to be able to restore it someday. When looking at the cabin around twilight, it is very easy to picture a light from a coal oil lamp in the window, smoke rising from the fireplace chimney, and to hear the sound of children’s voices off in the distance. In spite of what must have seemed like an overwhelming task of raising five children after losing her husband when she was only 32, Mary Jane Richardson was quite successful in this endeavor. I'm very glad, with the help of Lorene, to have had the opportunity to share some of these memories.