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GRANDMA HARRISON: A Da4 at Drew's Landing BY ETHEL OSBORN HILL Ethel Osborn Hill (age eighty-seven) lives alone at the end of a two-rut, deep-sand road on her own forty acres, in a log house she built many years ago. The woods are deep around her Tyler County place, and the pine and sweet gum have grown high and close to the house. The 'coons and 'possums have pretty well accepted her as a kindred woods dweller, and they drop by periodically for left-overs. The squirrels feed from her hand, and the 'coons eat from plates nailed to the top of some nearby fence posts. For a while a panther was coming by occasionally just to see if he could make her jump. The last time he came by it was the middle of the night, and Mrs. Hill waked up to hear him grunting and coughing as he wandered around the house. He scampered up a pine tree that grew close to the cabin and dropped off on the roof. After that it was poke around and sniff until he had satisfied his curiosity: then he sidled down the tree and was off again on his rambles. He killed a calf that night about two miles from Mrs. Hill's cabin and was forced to quit the country with a pack of hounds on his trail. He hasn't been back since, but if he does decide to return, there will be one person who will be glad to see him. In spite of her eighty-seven years, Mrs. Hill is still a hopping little lady, as she has always been. During the 'twenties and 'thirties 69 70 26. Ethel Osborn Hill. she was a journalist and syndicated columnist, writing for papers in Dalws, Houston, Beaumont, and other East Texas towns. Her story on Grandma Harrison (BEAUMONT ENTERPRISE, December 4, 1932) is the result of an interview with one of the most interesting of the Big Thicket settlers.-F.E.A. The Trinity River was rolling along like nobody's business on a bright fall day way back in 1860, but judging from the bustle and excitement along the river route, the business of the settlers was picking up in a big way. Laden with produce, they came on foot and by horseback and ox cart, forming a colorful assembly as they gathered at Drew's Landing on the Trinity River in the Big Thicket. Big doings were scheduled for the lively little river town, for it was "packet day," following 27. Packet day-two river steamboats (Courtesy Clyde Gray's Heritage Garden, Woodville). long months of drought when "Ole Mistah Trinity" didn't have enough water in it to float a raft, much less a packet boat. Mrs. Lela Harrison came to the Big Thicket in the 1850's as a tiny girl when her parents immigrated from Georgia. She has lived all her life on the same land and recalls the glamorous days of the river steamer traffic. On packet days she would load the big ox-cart with all manner of home-raised, home-prepared products and drive to the wharf with the other settlers to buy and sell. Sometimes it was the Belle of Texas, sometimes the Silver Cloud, or anyone of the many packets which plied the Trinity and other navigable East Texas streams at that time. Grandma Harrison recalls the proud day when her load of products brought thirty-five dollars in cash, besides several items in trade, which was unusual. That was the day when she had brought 71 72 28. The Hart house, built in the 1840's. eleven gallons of bear oil, all rendered from one big, black bear which her husband had killed down at the wash hole. Bear oil was always in demand by the boat captains and was always paid for in cash. It and other prime Big Thicket productsdeer hides, bear, otter, and panther furs, tallow, wild honey, homemade palmetto hats, wooden casks of butter, tobacco and cotton- GRANDMA HARRISON would be carried from Drew's Landing on down to Liberty and then to Galveston or New Orleans. Bear oil and wild honey were usually put up in large gourds, often polished and beautifully decorated. A whittled wooden cork would serve as a stopper in the end of the long, slim neck, and a coating of beeswax made it air tight. As the fame of the good hunting in the Big...


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