John Samuel Porter

Male 1828 - 1882  (53 years)


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  • Name John Samuel Porter 
    Born 27 Jan 1828  Play Place, Piney Mountain, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 1882  Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • The following excerpt is from John Marshall Porter's "Sketches of Maryland Porters", circa 1976. Scott Carter Williams brought it to the attenetion of Michael A. McKenzie in 2018.

      John Samuel Porter...My Grandfather

      John S. Porter, son of Squire Mike and Elizabeth Devore was born 1828 at Play Place on Piney Mountain, the farm his grandfather Samuel bought from the Anderson heirs. And lest I forget to mention it later in my story, I will say
      that from that location on the mountain top is one of the finest panoramic views in Allegany County. Westward, almost all of the eastern slope of Savage Mountain is visible. Looking eastward, one sees a fold of mountain tops all the way to the Blue Ridge Range in Virginia, and far beyond. To the south west lies the beauti¬ ful north branch valley of the Potomac River. North east, one sees a hundred hills and valleys lying fold on fold into Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The mountains and valleys of four states may be seen from there on any clear day.

      John S. and his brothers had worked to clear and greatly enlarge Play Place. John married Rebecca, oldest daughter of Grandpap Si. His second cousin. Rebecca was another of whom Frank Porter wrote of as a "Saint of Earth." Her five children, William, Josiah, Michael, Margaret and John Wesley, my father were all born in the log house that Samuel had built near a strong flowing spring of good mountain water.

      John and his family lived with Squire Mike until the latter's death in 1877. Thus, John's growing family had the influence of that old patriarch and philos¬ opher in their early environment. And that, with the guidance of a "Sainted mother," indoctrinated them with a kindness and gentleness rarely found in individuals.

      This is not to say that they would stand for abuse or exploitation. They could all stand up for their rights when it was necessary. But they were courteous with all people regardless of high or low standing. They were mountain people, but had a refinement not often found in mountain people.

      I never saw my grandfather John nor grandmother Rebecca, nor Uncle Will, Uncle Si nor Aunt Margaret. They all died before my time. I do have vivid recollections of Uncle Mike, of whom I shall write later.

      John S. and his four sons made a good working team to operate the enlarged farm known as Play Place. The altitude of nearly 2500 feet was favorable for growing potatoes in. the red shale soil. But the location of the place was a lifetime of unhandiness for all who spent their lives there. It was three miles from Eckhart (all up hill). Three miles of (hard to maintain) mountain road that had first been an animal trail and moccasin path, trod by Indians on their way to their hunting grounds that later became Play Place. The road washed out with heavy rains and flash floods. It drifted with the snows of winter and isolated the people who lived there. But the family knew no other way of life and never thought of it as a hardship.

      John S. never had good health. But he had knowledge and ability to manage that made him a good farmer. He knew his land, and would never abuse it by overcropping. Long before soil conservation agencies came into being, he was practicing what they came to advocate a half century later. He contoured his hilly fields and strip cropped them so as i:o control erosion. His program of crop rotation kept the soil in a state of high fertility for growing potatoes and other cash crops.

      There were no machines to lighten the tasks of farmers in John's time. The more than a hundred bushels of potatoes that were planted every year were dropped by hand in the rows prepared with a wood beam shovel plow. Those potatoes had to be cultivated and hoed at least three times, and the wood beam shovel plows were used to cultivate. The younger boys fell heir to the heavy hoes that were made by local blacksmiths. And hoeing potatoes and corn was an all summer task for boys not big enough to handle a plow.

      Then in the early 1880's came the first infestation of the Colorado Potato Beetles. "Potato Bugs," they came to be called, and the growers knew nothing about them. But they soon learned that unless controlled, they would eat the leaves from the vines and destroy the crop.

      Controlling potato bugs became another link in the chain of hard work that went into growing the crop. My father told me that he and his brothers and other hired men would work for weeks on end holding a basin under the vines to catch the bugs when they slapped the vines with light paddles. The bugs were dumped into large pails that were filled with lime water, which killed them.

      This would have been a huge, unpleasant task to go over every vine in a en acre field only once. But the bugs deposited eggs on the under sides of the leaves. And those eggs multiplied the bugs by a hundred to one when they hatched in nine days. So potato bugging became a month of extra work each summer to grow a potato crop, because once the potato beetles invaded a new territory they became an annual pest.

      That was long before the times of mechanical spraying machines, which today could control the bugs on a ten acre field of potatos with chemicals in a scant hour.

      But no matter about all that hard work, John S. was almost certain to have a good crop of potatoes to dig every year. And when time came for digging, there was another full month of hard work ahead. A strong man would take a heavy, two horse wood beam plow and go over the center of the potato rows to plow them out of the ground. Numerous helpers would follow the men with the plows and pick the potatoes up in buckets and put them in sacks. Around mid-afternoon the plows were stopped, and all hands went to work loading the sacks on wagons and hauling them to a cave that held two thousand bushels. The cave kept the potatoes crisp, and prevented them from freezing during the severe winters they often had on Piney Mountain.

      Then after the potatoes were planted, cultivated, bugged, dug and stored in the cave, there was still the iob of grading and marketing them. The marketing was a job that, even though John S. was always ailing, he could do well. With sLiaw in the bottom of .he wagon bed to prevent freezing, the wagon was loaded with sacks of potatoes and John would start at daybreak for the five mile trip to Frostburg, or ten mile trip to Cumberland, to market his forty bushel load of potatoes.

      There were no roads but dirt roads in those days, and such roads were either dusty, muddy or snowy, depending upon the weather. In winter, unless covered with snow the roads were likely frozen ruts.
      All of us who live in what I will call "Comfort, and the lap of luxury" today could not even imagine what it was like to sit up on a wagon seat in cold, wintry weather and drive a team ten miles. With the loaded wagon, it took a full four hours to travel the ten miles to Cumberland. I know, because I did it a few times as a big boy prior to 1921 when we got our first farm truck. All a heavily dressed driver could do was get off and walk while driving the team when he got too cold. I know it was never a pleasant task for a man who was in poor health.

      There were years, when the crop was short that potatoes sold for a dollar a bushel. But in years when the crop was big they sold for half dollar a bushel or less, and they were not in ready demand at that low price.

      But John had his business built up. His customers knew that if they bought potatoes from him they could depend on the quality. He became known to his many friends and customers as "Potato John." Over the many, many years that he dealt with them, he knew every groceryman in Frostburg and Cumberland by their first names. John would invite them to come to his mountain farm for Sunday dinner, and many came. And patient Grandma welcomed them and prepared fine dinners for them.

      As John's boys grew up they married. Uncle Will was near thirty when he married Mary Rase, a daughter of a German neighbor. Two daughters, Leota and Idella were born to them in the log house on Play Place. They lived in with Grandfather John and Grandmother Rebecca.

      Uncle Si married Lizzie Rase, a sister to Uncle Will's wife. They went housekeeping in a small log house on the farm that had stood vacant for many years. Within eleven years they had Cecelia, Sophia and Gilbert, in that order.

      And during that period, Uncle Mike married Lizzie Engle. Uncle Mike rented a small company farm not far from the Porter graveyard. They had two daughters, Miranda and Geneva.

      Aunt Margaret, "Maggie" never married. She just stayed at home and helped Grandma. My father was still a young man then. Somehow, those Porters could live agreeably with two or three families in one house.

      Forest fires were another frightful hazard on that mountain-top farm. The dense mountain laurel and other underbrush that grew up after a fire, made fuel for another almost every dry spring or autumn. It was almost a known fact that the fires were set deliberately to make huckleberries grow, since the vines grew profusely on land that fire had burned over. There was no forest service, nor penalties for setting fires in those days. But the fires that swept up the mountain from all directions often burned for weeks and trying to keep them under control kept the men from digging potatoes and husking corn and getting their fall work done. And fighting forest fires was hard, payless work.

      There was always the danger of the fire getting close to the farm yard and burning the buildings. Also, all the fences were made of rails then, and when a rail fence burned it took much work at spring planting time to rebuild it.

      It was during one of those terrible fires that Maggie became so frightened she never recovered from the effects of it. She believed the fire was still burning near the house and barn long after it had been extinguished. Her eyes became starey. She would leave her work in the house and steal off in the woods behind the barn and get herself lost. Her brothers would have to hunt for hours to find her. But she would run off again at the first opportunity. Her mind deteriorated rapidly. She soon became so despondent she paid no attention to anything nor anyone.

      She had always been so companionable with Grandma, but then she no longer noticed her. Squire Mike had died some years before, and Maggie had been given his room, just as he had left it with books, manuscripts, business papers and documents all in the corner cupboard. She began spending all her time in that room. She would be up and standing at the east window to watch the sun come up over the mountain, and stand there staring at it until it went out of sight over the house-top. Then in the afternoons she would go to the west window and stare at the sun until it sank and set behind the western ridges. When the cold weather of fall came , Grandma would build a log fire in the open fireplace to make the room comfortable. Maggie would not notice that she was in the room.
      But then, one day Grandma noticed that the corner cupboard door was open and that all of Squire Mike's papers were gone. Maggie had burned them in the open fireplace. Nothing was left but his Bible. (We have that bible in our home.)

      Maggie lived only a few months longer and just wasted away to death. Her passing, and under those conditions was a great sorrow to Grandma. And by that time Grandfather John had become an invalid. He had grown heavy from a
      diabetic condition. He became so big they had to get an extra large chair with wide arm rests to comfort his swollen arms. As his illness progressed, he began losing use of his fingers and toes a joint at a time over a period of two years, and then became helpless. His sons carried him from bed to chair, and from
      chair to the table until he died in 1884. He was 56.

      A nice new dwelling was under construction during the latter period of John's illness, but he died before it was ready to move into.
    Person ID I13373  McKenzie Genealogy
    Last Modified 29 Oct 2018 

    Father Michael G. (Squire Mike) Porter,   b. 12 Apr 1792, Play Place, Piney Mountain, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Feb 1877, Play Place, Piney Mountain, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Elizabeth Devore,   b. Abt 1792,   d. UNKNOWN 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 15 Feb 1815 
    Family ID F00326  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Rebecca Porter,   b. 1 Oct 1824, Eckhart Mines, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Mar 1900, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 75 years) 
    Married 6 Mar 1851  Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. William Ward Porter,   b. 15 Jan 1852, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Aug 1900, Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 48 years)  [natural]
     2. Margaret E. (Margarette E.) Porter,   b. 9 Jul 1853, Eckhart Mines, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 2 Apr 1880, Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 26 years)  [natural]
     3. Josiah J. Porter,   b. Oct 1855, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 Jan 1900, Eckhart Mines, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 44 years)  [natural]
     4. Michael R. Porter,   b. 19 Mar 1856, Piney Mountain, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 Nov 1928, Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years)  [natural]
     5. John Wesley Porter,   b. 11 Oct 1863, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Nov 1947, Allegany County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years)  [natural]
    Last Modified 29 Oct 2018 
    Family ID F03758  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart


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