Walter Mondwell Twiggs was the second of three children born to the Rev. John Wesley Twiggs and his second wife, Georgia Elizabeth Westmoreland. Walter grew up to be a noted Methodist minister in Georgia. After his retirement, he wrote his memoirs. These were never published but some were made available to relatives and friends. Barbara Allison Crawford, a niece who compiled “The Old Homeplace: A Twiggs Family Saga” (1994) had a copy of her Uncle Walter’s “Memoirs,” and shared some of them in her book.
Marvin M. Twiggs’ account of going to market in 1895 gives insight into how the farmers of Choestoe Valley took produce to the market in Gainesville and bartered for items not available to them on their farms.
Marvin Twiggs, born March 27, 1888, was only seven years of age when he was allowed by his father to go in 1895 on his first wagon trip to the market at Gainesville some forty-five miles from their Choestoe farm. His excitement built daily as they readied for the trip which would be the highlight of the boy’s life to that point.
Although Marvin Twiggs does not mention this in his memoirs, it was customary in those days for a wagon train to form and travel together across the Logan Turnpike, crossing Tesnatee Gap by way of Cleveland, Georgia. Even though Mr. Jack Shuler of Upper Choestoe and his sons had a contract to keep the north side of the road in good repair from rock slides and wash-outs, the road was still somewhat rough and special care was needed in driving the mule teams along the narrow mountain road. Being in company with other wagon teams was a safety measure for they helped each other if a break-down or other trouble occurred.
The Twiggs family gathered fall apples from their orchard and filled the bed of the wagon with the luscious fruit. This was to be one of their major items of trade at the market in Gainesville. They added sacks of shelled corn and threshed rye to the load, and even a butchered hog that had been cured in the smokehouse.
The first night the wagon with its load arrived just south of Cleveland, Georgia where they lodged at the home of Marvin’s Great Uncle Ben Allison, brother to his Grandmother Westmoreland. He remembers the gentleman’s goatee and the hospitality with which the Twiggs caravan was received. The Allisons lived in a large house occupied by the old gentleman and his son and family. They arrived at the Allison house in time to go into the town of Cleveland and see the sights before dark.
In a Cleveland store, Marvin Twiggs spied a one-bladed, horn-handled Barlow knife on display. He had no money, not even the five-cent price of the knife. But his desire to own that knife became almost an obsession. That night, before they retired, Marvin told his father, the stern disciplinarian Rev. John Wesley Twiggs, that he would like to have a nickel to spend. Questioning the boy as to whether he wanted to buy candy for the journey, Marvin was evasive, fearing to tell his father he really wanted a knife. But to his delight, his father gave him the nickel. The next morning he was at the store early and purchased the knife. But with his purchase he had a guilty feeling, and he kept the knife well-hidden in his pocket all of the journey and even for some time after they arrived back at home for fear of his father’s punishment. It never was forthcoming, and eventually Marvin began to use the knife.
In two days the Twiggs wagon arrived in Gainesville. They spent their nights there in the home of Bill Dyer, ordinary of Hall County, who lived on Green Street just off the square. Dyer had been a childhood friend of John Wesley Twiggs before moving away from Choestoe. Mrs. Dyer prepared excellent meals for the travelers.
In Gainesville young Marvin Twiggs heard his first train whistle and saw the large steam engine pulling the loaded boxcars behind. He was both excited and frightened by the train, fearing that it might jump the tracks and head in his direction.
Days were spent bartering the load of produce they had brought from the mountains and purchasing cloth and thread for his mother to make garments for the “first” and “second” family; shoes for winter; a barrel of flour; sugar; coffee; rice. They tried to have enough money left to pay taxes for the year.
It took two days to make the trip from Gainesville back to Choestoe. His father knew many families along the route and they always had a place to spend the night. As Marvin grew older and continued to accompany his father on those twice-yearly trading trips, he felt that they were in a sense “sponging” on the good nature of the friends and relatives where they stopped. They enjoyed their hospitality, meals and shelter without paying anything whatsoever. But those were the days when people were neighborly and glad to take in travelers. He remembered stopping in homes of relatives like Ben Allison and Bill Harkins, but also at Densmore, Huff, Allen, Reed and Richardson households along the way.
The journey northward across Tesnatee was another hard pull. When they arrived home with their wagon loaded with the purchases from far-away Gainesville, it was an exciting time for the Twiggs household. They would have to practice frugality to make the staples last until the next trip south for goods. And Mrs. Twiggs would begin right away to make shirts for the men and dresses for the girls from the yard goods.
There, in his pocket, Marvin Twiggs proudly fingered his five-cent Barlow knife. He would have many hours of pleasure using it to cut and whittle, make sourwood whistles and have the satisfaction of being a proud owner of his very own Barlow knife.
c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 7, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved