Modern Day Conveniences in and around my rural Sampson County homestead—circa 1895-1925

By A. J. Bullard

G.W. Bullard

A “convenience” is defined as something that increases comfort or makes work less difficult. In 1895, my grandfather, G. W. Bullard embraced the latest “conveniences” when he built and maintained his home in the Hayne community of Sampson County near Roseboro, NC. All lumber, shingles, and brick for the cellar came from our place except the brick for the house’s chimneys, where were bought elsewhere.

Longleaf pine was common and since the turpentine industry was coming to a close around 1900 in the area, the trees were expendable. The last longleaf chipping for turpentine was in 1907 on our place. Around 1900, longleafs were cut and many were burned at “log rollings” to allow for the land to be cleared for crops. The naval stores industry had begun to move southward by this time.

Our homegrown timber was hauled by mule and wagon to Cedar Creek in Cumberland County to be planed and dressed. The shingles were homegrown, but not hand riven. I don’t know whether the shingle mill was on our place.

My grandfather Bullard (1856-1919) was not considered a wealthy man, but he did accumulate around 1000 acres of land and successfully supported 10 children. My father, A.J. Bullard, Sr. was the youngest child and inherited this homestead on which my sister, Bettey and I were reared.

Grandfather was a progressive man and with the assistance of a son, Dr. T. P. Bullard, he was able to acquire an array of “conveniences” that preceded those of most contemporary neighbors by half a century.

My purpose in writing is to elaborate on many of these conveniences, their function and the approximate years they were implemented. Keep in mind that this period was 40 to 45 years before electricity was introduced into the area.

Central lighting was plumbed in by a network of galvanized piping when our house was built. These pipes extended beyond the house itself to the general store next door, which had a night light on a post in front, but no piped-in lights inside.

Acetelyene Plant

In this same brick cellar was a “root cellar” with steps leading down 6 feet deep. Here canned goods, fruits and vegetables were stored without freezing or overheating them. These earthen cavities usually maintained a temperature of 50-55 degrees F. Leakage was no problem since the root cellar was already sheltered by the brick cellar roof.

Telephone—As with the carbide lights, it appeared the telephone was wired in when the house was built. It was a wall phone on our downstairs hallway wall, but that phone was long gone when I was growing up. I was shown the holes where it was wired in. This was long before A T & T. For this first service, the locals put up poles and lines, and the service was only within the neighborhood.

It was later expanded to include Cedar Creek, Autryville, Turnbull, Stedman, White Oak, and Roseboro. In 1925 a Roseboro Exchange of the Roseboro and Fayetteville Telephone Company issued a directory. My cousin, Virginia Bullard Vinson gave me a copy of this directory, and many familiar names of old were present along with sponsors. Monthly telephone rates were 50 cents a month for all rural phones and $1.50 for business phones. Later, Carolina Telephone and Telegraph Company bought these smaller lines out.

Running water before electricity, gasoline pumps, or paralleling windmills. Preceding such pumps, water was raised manually by use of hand pumps, well tackles, and well sweeps (see photo). Hydraulic rams were known in England in the 1700’s and by the late 1800’s were introduced in the United States. The principle is to raise a column of water with a valve closing and without wind power, electricity, or gasoline power. Years ago, I saw two hydraulic rams, and as the valve closes, it makes a clanking noise similar to hog feeders and tobacco hand transplanters.

We had such a “ram” around 1915. Again, my uncle T. P. Bullard, engineered and installed it. To set it up, and overflow was piped down 64 feet deep in a soggy “branch” about 450 feet from our back yard. The “ram” propelled water via a pipe, uphill to a water tank in our back yard. From this tank, gravity took over to feed a solar heated drum for showers and running water for drinking and washing clothes. All of this was done without electricity, a windmill, gasoline engine, or manual labor!

Electricity would not come for another 25 years. This ram gave way to electric power and I heard the device was taken out by Uncle T. P. and moved to the wooded branch beside his home outside of Roseboro. His widow, my aunt Lula, said I could have it, but I could not find it.

Hydraulic Ram

Tractor—Again, Grandad had to be on the cutting edge of modern conveniences. He purchased a steel tread International “Titan” tractor in 1918. It came by freight train to the depot at Hayne and my first cousin, Roland Bullard (then age 6) described himself as one of six young lads who somehow rode it home along with the driver. I never heard how much the tractor cost.

Granddad’s intent was to then own a superior land breaker and disker. Unfortunately, this was not to be because the tractor was so bulky and ungainly. My dad, then aged 15, said it “couldn’t be turned around in a 10 acre field.” My grandfather’s 10-12 mules were to see no rest in the ensuing years, and the “Titan” was relegated to powering his cotton press and gin at Hayne.

International Titan Tractor

Pea sheller—It seems that any implement that saved manual labor was welcomed. Again, my uncle T. P. Bullard came to the fore! In 1919, he invented a pea sheller and patented it in the United States and Canada. It met with reasonable success but I never heard the number he sold or the price. It did mangle the peas some. It was made out of galvanized metal and stood on legs just over knee high. It rested in the little closet in our main hall under the stairs.

Radio—Before 1925, my family purchased a large radio (I never saw it), but it needed batteries to run it in lieu of electricity. To accomplish this, a wind charger (small windmill) was installed atop the roof. The installers were my cousin, Roland Bullard and another neighbor of a mechanical bent, Halbert Sessoms. This worked well!

Victrola—Following our radio, a Victrola was purchased. By my time, the Victrola was gone but residual, thick 78 R.P.M. records lay around. My sister, Betty and I, with little appreciation for music at that time, used to sail them at each other outside when our parents were in the house or gone. Luckily our aim was off or major injury would have occurred!

Blacksmith Shop—When I was growing up, this had been abandoned, but still stood. I didn’t know of any others in the neighborhood but would guess Roseboro had one. I never heard who the chief blacksmith was, but a tenant on our place, young Lonnie Sessoms, worked there occasionally, and he told me he sharpened hoes, axes, and knives on the pedal grind stone. This shop had a front door on metal sliders and a furnace and bellows. Wrought iron tools, such as plow points, shanks, and mule shoes were forged and repaired there on a huge anvil which I still have.

These “conveniences” that were functional in “the day”. Although many preceded my time, there were residuals left over for me to ponder and to remember through the years. I’m glad I listened to my parents, neighbors, and relatives and now am able to pass this information along to those