Home Life in the 1870’s & 1880’s 
By A. B. Amis, Sr.
The home life of the people was one of much toil and privation, especially for the women. The spinning wheel and the loom were articles of furniture and implements of industry in nearly every home. And as one passed a farm house in the afternoon he would hear the drone of the wheel or cluck of the loom, as the housewife busied herself about the making thread or cloth to clothe the family. Then after the cloth was woven she had to cut, fit and make the garments; and the only tools she had for the work was the needle, thimble and scissors. The sewing machine was then a luxury none could afford.
And the making and fitting of those clothes was a thing never to be forgotten by any boy who had to endure it. I remember that when my mother would make me a coat or pair of pants it was to me a time of torture. She would cut the various pieces of cloth and then make me stand straight while she pinned them on me to see if they would fit. Sometimes a pin would stick me and I would jump and get the whole works out of order. She would trim a little here and a little there and fix and pat, and pin, until she thought it would fit; and then she would baste the pieces together and I had to try it on. Then there would be more trimming and fixing and basting, and I had to try it on again, and every time I had to stand perfectly still and straight, which was a positive torture to me. But when the job was finished I had a suit that lasted until I outgrew it. It simply would not wear out at all. It seemed that the longer one wore a suit of home spun jeans the thicker it got until finally the pants would almost stand alone.
All the every day clothes for the whole family and the Sunday clothes for the women and girls were made at home. The men could buy their Sunday suits ready-to-wear at the store; but ready-to-wear clothing for women was a thing unknown. Socks and stockings were all home knit; and after supper and at all other times when the housewife was resting she was busy with knitting. And I have often seen them nodding with sleep after supper while the needles kept clicking.
The shoes for home wear were usually made and repaired at home. And after supper, in the fall and winter, while the wife would be knitting the husband would be making and repairing shoes for the family or for a neighbors family. Some of those old farmers were first class shoemakers and put in their time at night and on rainy days at that trade. Boys were not supposed to wear shoes, except in winter, until after they got big enough to go see the girls; and one pair a year was all they got. But when they were discarded in the spring they never wore them any more because before fall came the shoes had got too little for them.
The cooking arrangements were crude and inconvenient, though the results obtained by the old-time housewife, in her cookery were often magnificent. Cooking stoves were unknown in that part of the country until about 1875 or 1876 when some stove peddlers sold a number in our neighborhood. Prior to that time the cooking was done by everybody on the fire place; and for a long time after that many families continued to do so. Some because they were too poor to afford a cook stove, and others because they said the food cooked on the new fangled Yankee contraption did not taste good.
When cooking on the fireplace the housewife would put the vegetables with a piece of pork or bacon in a pot which had a heavy lid with a rim around the edge of it. The pot was then swung on a hook or crane over the fire. Live coals, bark and chips were placed on the lid and it was left to boil until the food was cooked. This method of cooking was known as boiling the pot, because everybody knew what would be in the pot. The meat was fired in a long handled skillet which had three legs on the underside so it would sit over a bed of live coals raked out on the hearth. The bread, biscuits, pies and other pastries were baked in the spider which was very much like the skillet except that it had a heavy iron top, like the pot, so that live coals and chips could be piled on it so as to make it bake evenly from the top as well as the bottom. A roast was cooked in the pot used to cook vegetables. Potatoes were roasted in the hot ashes or baked in the spider. It was all very crude and required a lot of hot, hard work for the housewife, and also for the boy of the family to supply the necessary chips. One of my earliest recollections is that I never could find any but little chips that would last any time hardly. Toting in chips and later, toting in stovewood was the nightmare of my boyhood days. In fact, there was only one thing that was worse, and that was having to wash my feet after I was sleepy, before I could go to bed at night.
 Excerpt from Recollections of Social Customs in Newton and Scott Counties, Mississippi, Fifty Years Ago, 1934, Republished by Milton McMullan, December 1990.