Hannah of Kentucky - James Otis

Spinning and Soap Making

And then the spinning! How homelike it sounded when, after a long time of the hardest kind of work, we had ready the nettle fiber for the wheel, and mother sat in front of the fireplace drawing out the long threads as she crooned the songs I had heard her sing on the Yadkin, but which never had come to her lips from the time we left the old home until this day on which the wheel was first set to whirling.

I cannot say how many skeins of thread mother spun in one day, but there were many. None of it was light in color, yet she did not expect to bleach it, because it made very little difference to us at Boonesborough whether our garments were white or brown.

[Illustration] from Hannah of Kentucky by James Otis

After the spinning came the soap making, which was done outside the cabin. Father made for us an ash hopper out of splints which he had taken from a blue-ash tree. The bottom, which was smaller than the top, was packed with dried buffalo, grass to the depth of three or four inches as a strainer. Underneath it was a trough directly below the hole in the bottom of the hopper.

Then we filled it with ashes, and from time to time poured warm water over them, which, settling down and down, came out finally into the trough as lye, weak at first, but stronger and stronger as it was poured back time and time again to run through the ashes until it became as brown as the mixture in a tanning vat. To this we added bear's fat, and the whole was boiled until it became soap, soft and ill-smelling ; but yet we had no other, except for special days, when, by adding a bit of salt and boiling it still more, the whole became hardened like a piece of journey cake.

This soap was most convenient to use when washing one's hands and face ; but mother said we could not afford the luxury, with salt at twenty dollars a bushel, except on some unusual occasion like a birthday.


Front Matter

At Boonesborough
Beginning of the Story
Boone on the Yadkin
Boone Moves his Family
Ready for the Journey
What we Wore
Driving Cattle and Sheep
Camping at Nightfall
The Long Halt
Jimmy Boone Goes to Clinch
Murder of Jimmy Boone
A Time of Mourning
The Faint-hearted Return
A New Home
Making Moccasins
Tanning Leather
Governor Dunmore
Our Home on the Clinch
Household Duties
Attacked by a Wildcat
Fighting the Wildcat
Boone and Father Return
The Wilderness Road
Building the Forts
Gathering Salt
Our Home in the Fort
Ready for Cooking
Furnishing the House
The Hominy Block
The Supply of Water
Sports Inside the Fort
Wrestling and Running
Religion of the Indians
Indian Babies
Colonel Callaway Arives
News from Eastern Colonies
Venturing Outside the Fort
Dividing the Land
Who Owned Kentucky?
Ready to Build a Home
Billy's Hard Lot
Preparing Flax
Spinning and Soap Making
Broom Making
More Indian Murders
Indian "Signs"
Woodcraft and Hunting
Pelts Used as Money
Petition of the Settlers
Making Sugar
Building Fences
Capture of the Girls
My Willful Thoughts
Finding the Trail
The Pursuit
The Story Told by Jemima
Elizabeth's Heroism
Rescuing the Girls
Alarm Among the Settlers
Indians on the Warpath
The First Wedding
The Wedding Festivities
The Brides Home
The Housewarming
Attacks by the Indians
Besieged by the Savages
In the Midst of the Fight
The Assault by the Indians
Failure of the Assault
Watchfulness of the Indians
The Sortie
My Father Wounded
Our Wounded