Just before the Civil War, Archibald Cone, his wife Penelope, and their nine grown children pulled up stakes in Georgia to make a new life in Texas.
Nothing unusual about that. But the manner in which they chose to live certainly was.
Determined to stay together, they bought land about twenty miles south of Seguin, halfway between Floresville and Gonzales, two miles from what is now the town of Nixon.
There they built a store, cotton gin, blacksmith shop and what could be described as a rustic double-wide.
This log home was over ninety feet long and about twenty-five feet wide. At times there were as many as three dozen Cones living under that long roof.
In 1933, Pennie Cone Williams wrote down her recollections of growing up on that place in the 1860s and 70s. I’ll let her tell you about it:
“The house was a commodious structure for that day.
It was built of hewn logs with boards nailed over the spaces between the logs. Counting the kitchen there were six rooms in a row, all shedded on back and front except the kitchen.
The back sheds were made into rooms, four of them used for bedrooms and one was used for a pantry. The kitchen was low-roofed, there was no flooring and the chimney was of dirt and sticks.
There was a wide fireplace with room for pot-hooks and hangers, a wide hearth for (dutch) ovens, spiders (legged skillets with iron lids), covered with red-hot coals and coals beneath, in which all kinds of baking was done.
A roaring fire was kept up to keep the pots and kettles boiling at the same time.
Of the delicious cooking that was done there, all can not be told – the pone bread, the baked candied yams – one never sees them anymore.
Chickens were cooked in every conceivable way, as well as great hams, shoulders, sides, jowls, sausages, and cracklings brought from the smokehouse, to say nothing of the vegetables of every variety coming in most all of the year from the different gardens or patches on the place.
Then, in the green corn and watermelon time, what feasts would be spread! Great juicy melons were eaten every morning and evening under the green shade trees. At this time the hogs and chickens feasted too. Nothing was wasted.
To this kitchen was added an open, wide hall with shed on the back and gallery in the front. This hall was used as a dining room. This dining room and all the other rooms and most of the front porches were floored.
There were two stick chimneys between the four main rooms, making four fireplaces. The fireplaces were built of red rock quarried from our own quarry. The spaces between each pair of rooms which contained the chimneys were designated as the “chimney jams.” Those jams made very convenient closets or storerooms.
Added to this was another side hall like the one used for the dining room. Of course this added length to an already long building.
Each family had its own separate rooms. The single girls, Ameta and Paulina, had the room back of Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s room, which was really the living room, for there, company was entertained.
If the weather was warm, the porch in front of this room was used for entertaining. In that room, before a roaring fire on winter nights, the whole family, men, women, and children, gathered to talk and discuss the news of the day.
They would bring happy meetings to a close by singing most all the old hymns they used to sing back in Georgia – and folk songs – “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Old Folks at Home,” etc., each recalling hallowed memories of other, if not happier days.
It was an affectionate family and when one married, instead of taking a member away, there was one added and the young couple was made to feel at home. As the family grew and multiplied, it would seem that there might have been a great deal of confusion and friction with so many under one roof, but it was not so.
The cooking was arranged so that each woman in the family, married or single, had her “cook week,” taking it in turns. The women who had children large enough to assist with the work carried on two weeks as their share. The ones who were off kitchen duty did the milking, morning and evening.
The churning was done by some of the children who took it by turns. The large wooden churn would be so full of cream that churning was had work, but we would sing, “Big at the bottom and little at the top, a little thing in the middle goes flippety-flop,” or “Come, butter, come. The boys and girls are waiting for the buttermilk,” and soon the yellow lumps would come up on the dasher.
Wash days were always to be dreaded. Such piles of soiled clothes! And they were really dirty clothes! The water was hard water. It had to be broken with ashes.
All got busy (except the cook) and soon all the fences and bushes within reach were covered with snow-white clothes.
There were two twenty-five gallon boilers set side by side with logs rolled up, and the punch sticks were kept busy.
There were several tubs with a woman at each bending over the rub board making the suds fly and foam, then rinsing and hanging – all carried on so systematically that it did not seem such a dreadful day after all.
Often after the wash was all out, the strong soap suds and ashes were used to scrub the leather bottom chairs white and clean. The floors were kept spotless by the same process. Scrub brooms made of corn shucks were used on the floors.
Scalding days came round right often – about every two weeks. Everything had to be taken out of the house on a hot, sunny day. The old high-posted, rope-corded beds and the side walls were scalded with boiling water.
After a day like that, how sweet and clean the rooms would be and the feather beds so soft and puffy one would almost smother on a hot night.
Thus the doings of the Cones went on like clockwork.”