These people were an honest, God-fearing people, thrifty, hard working, and very good citizens. They raised large families on a hundred acre farm, many of them quite hilly, and in many instances abandoned now. They managed to clothe their children, feed them good, and often sent some to places of higher learning. As we had no high school, anything above the 8th grade was entirely at the expense of the parents.
The farms were self-supporting. Most of the food was raised on the farm and material for part of the clothing. In the fall, they killed 8 to 10 hogs, a beef, and this lasted the year round. The hams were smoked and hung in the smoke-house or granary. I ate many a good ham dinner at threshing time in the fall. These hams had a flavor you cannot duplicate in the supermarket.
They spun their wool, knit their own socks, stockings and mittens. They also had hides tanned to make calfskin boots and shoes, made at the local shoemakers. My father was a tanner by trade and tanned many hides for shoes and boots. Tanning was quite a complicated trade in that day. My father had 28 vats for curing hides. These vats were formed by digging a square hole and lining it with plank and made water tight.
The process consisted of placing the hides in a vat that contained lime and letting them remain until the hair dropped off the hides. This made a very sticky mess to work with. Then they were placed in another vat that contained tan-bark and hen manure, which furnished the acid until the hides were properly tanned. He ground his own bark that he bought from the farmers. The bark was placed in a large round machine that had teeth in it and was turned by a horse hitched to a long pole. Hemlock bark was the best for the purpose.
Then, as the changing times brought in the commercial tanneries with more modern processes, my father had to give up the tanning business. The vats were filled up. The original vates were covered with plank, and once when brother Byron was a little fellow and was trying to go from the house to the tan shop with his eyes closed, he fell into one of these vats.
Elwood came along and saw his hat, and him struggling in the vat, ran for my father who came along and grabbed him as he was going down for the last time. He rolled him on a barrel until he got the liquid from his lungs. Byron always said the reason he was so tough was that he was tanned in tan bark and hen manure. After the accident, it was quite a task to fill all those vats, as we didn't have heavy machinery like we have today. They had to be filled by hand labor.