Recalling farming life on Hebron home place

Start: Franklin D. Baker's father settled on 460 acres in Howard County in 1920.

150 Years of Howard History

March 06, 2001

Franklin D. Baker, 87, a former dairy farmer and longtime resident of Ellicott City, was interviewed by folklorist Alison Kahn in 1997 as part of an oral history project coordinated by Friends of Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway Inc. His property is now the Mount Hebron community, including more than 500 homes, Mount Hebron High School and Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church. This is the first of two excerpts.

Well, I was born in Whitesburg, Tenn., Aug. 21, 1913. ... My father had a farm in Tennessee and ... two or three neighbors got together, and they wanted to get away from Tennessee so they traveled around Alabama and different places around. And one neighbor went to Alabama and the other one went somewhere out West, and my father come here and bought this place ...

There wasn't no trucks then - 1920, see, they didn't have trucks. All they had was, you know, put it on the railroad. And my oldest brother, John, stayed on the railroad car and took care of the animals ... and fed them and then brought them to Ellicott City and unloaded them, and we drove them from Ellicott City up here, up the road. ...

Well, my father started his farm here, and he liked it and bought it. The house is right back there - Hebron House. We called it Hebron House. And that was the home place. We had 460 acres ... and the closest house was this big house right at the end of [U.S.] 29 and the other one [was] about a mile over at St. John's Lane - no other lights or nothing. Well, we were [there] from 1920 to 1938 before we got electricity ...

Well, we worked probably 10 or 12 hands on the farm here, you know, and my mother cooked for them. Anybody that come along, they'd stay all night and we'd feed them and if ... they wanted to stay and work, why we hired them, you know, like that. See, then, 90 percent of the people were rural, see? They took care of everybody else, see? They were the farmers [who] took care of everybody then, see? ...

Well, we had one [tenant house] down the hill where the colored people stayed and in the house there upstairs, why, there were sometimes four and five white fellows stayed there, you know ... but the colored fellows lived down the hill [in a] little stone house ...

Well, we had corn, and we had a dairy farm, see, milked cows. So [we] raised a lot of corn, lot of wheat, barley and then, before we really got into the dairy business, we raised tomatoes and sugar corn. I used to haul tomatoes to town, 20 cents a bushel, to the packing house. And sugar corn, we'd take that into the market, 10 cents a dozen, go around to the different markets. That was in 1930 ...

We had raw milk first, see it wasn't pasteurized, just raw milk, fresh from the farm. And the cream would get up on the top, you know ... You don't remember that do you? [We delivered to] Ellicott City and Oella and Catonsville, Halethorpe, down almost to Elkridge ... Ellicott City wasn't very big then, you know. When the war was over, Howard County only had 15,000 people ...

Well, from '32 to '52, I was on milk route 20 years. I don't guess I missed three, four days in the whole 20 years. And seven days a week then it was, you see, delivering milk. And you had to be up early in the morning and leave here about three-thirty, four o'clock. Sometimes you wouldn't get back until dark ...

Well, in the morning you would get up and then - that's before we had electricity, you see - you'd get your lantern. You had your nice clean globe on, your lantern full of oil. Everybody would go down to the barn ... Well, in the wintertime, the cows were in the barn, you see, and you go in and clean up all round them, you know, and then you go and wash them off, and then sit down and milk them, strain the milk into a can and then bring it up to the dairy and cool it. That was morning and night, seven days a week ...

We had an icehouse, and we got ice in the wintertime off the ponds, see, and we'd get that ice out to put on the milk to keep it cold until we got electricity. After we got electricity, well, we had an icebox, you know, nice refrigerator to put it in, see. But we weren't very big, you see, until we got electricity.

Well, now, we had a horse and wagons, well, for a couple years, but then, after trucks come, why, we had trucks and kept the trucks running. And all during the war, if that wasn't something. Wartime, you know, hard to get parts.[When it snowed, we] didn't have any tractors or anything ... we had what we called a "A-frame." It was about ... this high, like this, with braces across here, and we hooked the horses to it and drug them, you see, and that would spread the snow out. But it would drift, and then you'd have to go back over it again, and then we'd have to take everybody out and shovel it out to get out to the road.

And then on the roads, they didn't have any snowplows. You just run over it and packed it down and wore it out.

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