This is a digital re-publication of the interview found in Voices from the Land, A Caroline County Memoir, by Mary Anne Fleetwood.

The text was digitized, edited, and prepared for re-publication by CCHS volunteers Dave Ellis and Don Barker.  Copyright for the original text and photos, and this digital publication, is held by the Caroline County Historical Society.

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See all of our re-published interviews by Mary Anne Fleetwood here.

 

Caroline County has traditionally been the land of the small farmer. The old farming practices, such as hog butchering, wheat threshing, curing hams, and making homemade scrapple and sausage were part of Caroline’s cultural heritage as an agrarian county on the Eastern Shore.

In conversation with Kemp Todd, Sr.

Still farming at age seventy-six, Kemp Todd, Sr. is proud of the cured hams hanging from poles in the smokehouse. “It’s got to where there ain’t no neighbors even kills hogs anymore,” he said. Kemp and his wife live between Chestnut Grove and Smithville and have made their own sausage from a family recipe for the last fifty-six years.

Kemp, can you describe the hog butchering days on your farm?

I killed hogs all my life up til this last fall. I kill about the first of December. The weather gets cool so that you can sugar cure the meat. The day before hog killing, you set the scalder (large vessels used to scald the slaughtered hogs) down and get your wood and get your pots you’re going to cook your sausage and scrapple in. Next morning you get up pretty early . . . they used to do it before light . . . the older people. You built a fire under your scalders to get the water hot. They used to use a corn cob to test the water, but they got a thermometer now . . . tells you just how hot to get it . . . to get the hair off good. Then you go out and shoot em, stick em, and bleed em. Next we take a manure loader. We used to have to pull the hogs by hand. They used to drag em by hand to clean em and take the hair off’n em. Then they hang em up. They go to the shear poles and string em up, scrape em down good, then scrape em down again to get the hair off. My job since I got older . . . I always gut em.

How are the hogs killed?

You shoot em with a bullet rifle. Then you turn em over and stick em with a knife to get the blood run out of em. Stick em with a butcher knife in the throat.  Next they go to the scalder to take the hair off. Then they go to the shear poles.  Then you clean em up good, gut em, take the insides out, take the heads off.  Next you take the heads to a head table we got and cut em up.  Then you put em in the pot to soak. Next we lay the meat down across the boards and trim it up the way you want it. The women cut up the lard meat and the sausage meat.  I’ve got a milking parlor here . . . we use it to kill hogs in there.

What happens after the meat is cut up?

We got more to do to it. After they get that cut up, my brother out here at American Corner, Thomas Todd, Jr., he cleans the heads. And you put all your scrapple meat in a pot. You have about two of em pots, and you put  water in and a double hand of salt so’s the salt cooks through the meat some.  You cook that till the meat’ll come offa the bones. You take it off and put it on  the table and take the bones out. Then grind it. We strain the liquor out and  funnel that back in the pot and put your meat in there. When it gets just about  aboilin, you put in your salt and pepper and sage seasoning. My wife does  that most of the time. I got a young fella out here . . . and his wife . . . Kenneth  and Barbara Fishell. They’re as good as anybody ever had to help em. So you  go ahead and cook that. When it gets aboilin, you put flour and meat in it . . .  thickens it. Then you dip it up. When the paddle comes out of it and the  meat’ll slip off’n it, it’s done. This is how scrapple is made. You put it in a pan,  about four pounds to the pan. You set it on the bench overnight.

How do the women help during hog butchering?

The women help with the scrapple some, but the men does too. By the time you’re ready to put the scrapple on, my brother always had the heads ready  to go or had em in the pots cooking. The hogs’ heads are cooked too. They go into the scrapple also. The women cut the lard up. And then sort the sausage meat out of it. My wife generally seasoned the sausage meat. You sort the sausage meat out of the lard, yeah. You use the fat for the lard and the lean for sausage. My wife . . . she’s got a recipe she’s had ever since we’ve been married for fifty-six years last December.’

 Do the women stuff the sausage?

My wife she stuffs the sausage . . . has for fifty years. Once the sausage is made, it’s kept in the smoke house. Used to be you could hang a quarter of beef up there. You could go in there and slice it off all winter, and it would keep. Now then you have warm spells, and it won’t keep.

How did you use the smoke house twenty-five or fifty years ago?

They kept the meat in the smoke house. If they thought it was gonna mold, they’d put it in crocks and put grease over it. Your meat will keep in the smoke house if you sugar cure it. Just this fall, we ate a fifty pound ham from the year before.

How do you sugar cure a ham?

They use four pints of salt the day after the hog is butchered and five tablespoons of pepper, just a spoonful of saltpeter, and about three pound of dark brown sugar. You put all that stuff in a washin tub and mix it up. You rub that meat till it sweats.

You rub the meat till it sweats?

That’s right. Then you lay it up on the bench, leave it there about a month or two in the smoke house. Then go ahead and hang it up in cloth bags, and it’ll keep. A whole lot of people cut their meat up and put it in the freezer after they’ve sugar cured it, but I never have. Cause I’ve always found . . . fat meat in the freezer’ll get strong.

Do you recall the wheat threshing days? 2

Yeah. I went with a thresherman name of Joe Wallace lived over here on the Frank Covey farm. Put up straw ricks (stacks of hay in the open air) when I was seventeen or eighteen years old through the summer. That’s straw that comes out of the thresher . . . and blows up in the rick it does . . . in a pile. Mr. Wallace run a steam engine by Concord Camp (the site of early camp meetings). When he got through threshing in this area, he carried one of  them threshers over to Tuckahoe Neck and had a run on it. Your farmers helped one another threshin wheat. They helped one another saw the wood.  But today it’s a different story. Everybody’s looking out for theirself now. You don’t have neighbors on a farm like we used to have.

Describe the threshing days.

They’d cut the wheat and shock it. (Shocks are piles of sheaves of grain or stalks of corn set up in a field.) Then round about the fourth of July, they’d go to threshin it. Used to go from one farm to another. Used to have about eight wagons. Pitchers went in the field. Threw the wheat up to them wagons, and then once in awhile you’d find a snake under the shock. They’d say, “Well, I’m gonna throw this up there to you.” I’d tell em they’d better not throw no snake up to me.

How long would the farmers stay at your farm during the threshing?

 I would say about half a day . . . the average farm through here.

What would the women do?

The women would get the dinners. We’d have country ham, chicken, dumplings, iced tea, cabbage, white potatoes, no fancy dishes.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

It’s a lot different than it used to be. I got so I can’t farm with these young boys. They don’t even plow the ground. Oh, I don’t know. A lotta stuff happened in seventy-six years . . . a lot. Farming has changed. used mules . . . one horse and three mules . . . plowed with em. The farm I lived on two or three years go, they had five of these big combines out on it. I used to till that land with about three head of horses or three head of mules and a horse with walking plows. You got up about sun up, fed your mules, worked till dinner time, and dinner time you come to the house. Most farmers had to feed the horses and mules and let em eat. The farmers would lie down and go to sleep for an hour. Then you’d go back and plow till sundown. 3

 

NOTES

  1. Mrs. Todd’s recipe for sausage is: seven pounds of meat, two tablespoons of salt, two tablespoons of pepper, one and a half tablespoons of sugar, and one tablespoon of sage. Mix together and grind.

 

  1. During wheat threshing, the seed was separated by the threshing machine from the harvested plant.

 

  1. For information on the structure and design of old Caroline County farmhouses and manor houses, see Appendix B.

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Voices from the Land:  A Caroline County Memoir 

Text by Mary Anne Fleetwood 

Photographs by Hal Rummel 

Edited by Betty Carroll Callahan 

Sponsored by Caroline County Historical Society 

Published by The Queen Anne Press, Queenstown, Maryland 

Since Voices from the Land as an oral history is a book about what people believed happened and is accordingly in large part quoting the words of the interviewees, the Caroline County Historical Society, Inc., the Caroline County Commissioners, The Queen Anne Press of Wye Institute, Inc. and Mary Anne Fleetwood are not responsible for any statements of the interviewees which may be inaccurate or false. 

Historical photographs courtesy of the Caroline County Visual History project. 

ISBN 0-937692-02-6 (cloth) 

0-937692-03-4 (paper) 

Library of Congress Card Catalog No. 83-062826 

 

Copyright © 1983 Mary Anne Fleetwood and the Caroline County Historical Society, Inc.