The Fōth (Fourth, 4th, ¼)

My maternal grandfather, William [Uncle Billy] Phillip Moore died in August, 1925 leaving a 70 acre farm behind with no house as the log cabin had recently burned down. His family consisted of his widow, Rosa Pearce Moore, and five children, aged 15 to 24, who lived with the nearby relatives, especially Uncle Charlie and Uncle Sam.
Uncle Billy and Rosa - my grandparents
(This portrait was photographed circa 1900 and was not discovered until the 1970s by my mother in a small closet under the stairs!  She surmised that the portrait was kept hidden, because it would have been considered much too ostentatious during the depression!)

To replace the log cabin, a four room house with attic and full front porch were built mainly with lumber sawn from the 70 acres.  The windows, doors, and hardware were purchased from Roxboro Lumber Company.  This is still stamped on some of the unpainted wood doors yet today.  Because of the fire, a separate kitchen building stood behind on the side south of the house.  Between the front two rooms was a hallway leading from the front door.   The northeast room was daughter Alma’s bedroom, and the northwest room was the parlor.  Behind these two rooms were two more rooms being my grandmother’s bedroom on the southeast corner, and the dining room on the southwest corner.  This dining room was the largest room in the house and because of its southwest exposure was the warmest and brightest room.  It alone had four windows, while all the other rooms had two windows each.  Not only was dining done in this room, but also it was large enough to be a sitting room as well, probably what today is referred to as a “great room.”  Sometime prior to 1940, Bill added two more rooms across the width of the south side.  Next to the big room was a new kitchen with a walk-in pantry.  Grandmama cooked on a wood stove with an oven and two overhead warming bins. Electricity arrived about 1948 making possible running water from a well, instead of hauling water from the spring.  Bill then built new cabinets with a built-in sink.  The other side of the south addition was a screened in porch.  Again in 1948, the porch was enclosed and a bathroom was added to the southeast corner of the porch.

Three members of the family were left to live on the farm as daughter Lula became a teacher, married and moved to Virginia; Jenny studied nursing, married and move to South Carolina, and Sara studied nursing at Watts Hospital in Durham and married there.  Alma became a teacher and continued to live at home and owned the first car in the family.  Bill spent his time farming the 70 acres.  Grandmama cooked, cleaned and did the household work.  She would spend many hours in the dining room, reading and doing handiwork.

Exactly how my grandfather’s estate was divided up among Grandmama, Alma, and Bill are unclear to me, as I have not found a will.  Both my grandmama and mother have explained the arrangement to me over the years.  Alma, the oldest and unmarried schoolteacher got the house and five acres surrounding it.  Bill, also never married, got the remaining acreage for his farm, where he built a two-story log cabin with large rooms on each level; later, he added two more rooms behind the log cabin.  All of this he built himself, and when he was not farming, he worked as a carpenter.  There were many other buildings on the farm including a two-story pack house with full basement, stables, chicken house, tobacco curing barns (two very old made with logs), and corn crib.
Pack House (left) and Bill's House (right)
So, what did Grandmama (the widow) get?  She got the Fōth and a lifetime right to live in the home!  What is a Fōth (pronounced with a long O sound)? Thus, she was to receive one-fourth of the farm’s income from growing tobacco.  After the sale at the warehouse, she was to be given a quarter of the proceeds.  It was sold in multiple bundles on the warehouse floor with lots of separate receipts.  Grandmama was not always sure that she was getting her rightful share, and demanded to see receipts.  Bill was known to spend a buck or two on whiskey and beer!

Why did Rosa even need any money – the Fōth?  Alma went to the A&P for grocery necessities spending her own salary. Despite all the biscuits and cornbread, Alma bought “loaf bread” especially to make tomato sandwiches.  Right there at hand were the dairy cow, and chickens, and a couple of hogs, not to mention the one acre garden in the summer.

Rosa Moore needed money for the following special items:
·       Snuff! 
Yes my grandmama had a nicotine habit and satisfied it with dipping snuff. Her brand of choice was Tube Rose.  She made her own dipping brush from a twig of the black gum tree.  She kept a pint or quart glass jar on the floor beside her chair to spit in.  Sometimes she used a metal tin can instead. Never make the mistake of accidentally kicking over that container!
Saturday Evening Post which she read cover to cover every week when it arrived. The Post introduced me to the art of Norman Rockwell, who drew the most covers.

Progressive Farmer magazine.
Farmers Almanac in which the calendar must be followed! Know when the last frost will occur.  Forecast published in August, 2013, has been remarkably accurate for the 2013-2014 winter!
Coats and Clark thread.  There was always sewing to be done, whether it was mending, crocheting, or a bobbin to be wound.  Four doors away on the corner of my block in Durham, NC was a neighborhood grocery store.  Right at the front next to the cash register was a glass display of threads.  I was usually sent with a color thread to match up.  The thread was wound on wooden spools, which never could be thrown away, because they would be repurposed as pot lid handles!  In the 1940s, feed sacks were indispensable for material for making some clothes, particularly pajamas.  Yes she made my pajamas.  Rosa had an authentic Singer foot paddled sewing machine, which she famously carried out of the burning log cabin home.  My mother had one also in our dining room next to two bright sunny windows.  Grandmama crocheted beautiful colorful edges onto pillow cases and towels for gifts.  She could also make lace – the doilies for the table tops.
Gifts for her grandchildren on special occasions.  When I graduated from high school, she said that she wanted to give me a gift that I could use in college.  So, I chose Merrian-Webster’s Collegiate Edition Dictionary.
Shoes which she bought at Roscoe Griffin in Durham.  She only had one style, which was black leather ankle high lace up.  She never ever wore anything else on her feet.

·       Certain undergarments, most notably a girdle.


anne marie in philly said...

I LOVE the new author photo!

my grandmother had one of those treadle singer sewing machines too; she made garments without patterns. she also wore the same black shoes, but NEVER a girdle. she was a free spirit, much like myself.

Anonymous said...

Really interesting post, David! What a neat history of your homeplace!

Peace <3

Ur-spo said...

I just love stories like this.

the cajun said...

We had a Singer just like that in our home. My grandmother was always working on something. It lived in my tiny bedroom most of the time, My favorite memory was that the machine itself could "disappear" into the cabinet, the cover closed and the top used as a server or large family dinners. At 4 years old, that was magic to me.

Thanks for the memories.

the cajun said...

Oh, and in Louisiana "Foth" was known as "Usufruct" or roughly translated to "use of the fruits,"