by Bruce Whitaker
Samuel Flavel Huntley was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina on April 6, 1864. He was the 8th child of David Job Huntley (March 8, 1825–May 3, 1899) and his first wife Mary Adeline Shehan (1837–1881). Samuel Huntley was especially close to his mother Adeline. Adeline loved to sing while she worked, and always sang while she was churning butter. She especially liked to sing the old songs from the “Christian Harmony” song book. Adeline’s favorite songs were “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?,” “Am I Bound to Die,” and “Lay This Body Down.” Huntley’s job was to keep the flies away with a brush while his mother made butter, but he would go behind the house when his mother sung this last song to keep his mother from seeing him cry.
Samuel Huntley said his mother had a very large skillet that she used for baking potatoes and corn bread. Adeline would heap coals of fire on top of the skillet lid and drag hot embers around the skillet to make the potatoes and corn bread bake. Sam said no food ever tasted better than what was cooked on the fire back then.
One day an older brother thought it would be fun to play a trick on their mother. He said they would try to steal her potatoes while her back was turned. The older brother lifted the lid off the skillet using hooks. He used a sharp stick to spear a potato and then stick it out the window to a waiting brother. Their mother went on preparing the rest of the meal and did not notice what was going on. The older brother put the lid back on the skillet after all the potatoes were gone and raked the coals around the pot so it would look the same as it had before. Adeline Huntley went over to the skillet when she thought the potatoes were done. He took the lid off the skillet and stared in to the pan for a moment. Adeline said; “Now where in the name of God did I put those potatoes?” One of the boys let out a yelp and they all began to run. They were sure their mother would trash them. She said “All right boys, that is all the supper you will get tonight.” Samuel said they had eaten so many baked sweet potatoes that they really didn’t need anything else that night.
Samuel F. Huntley left home at age 14, not knowing where he was going or what he was going to do. He found a job working on a man’s farm for 20 cents a day, but he worked there for six weeks and the farmer didn’t pay him anything. Sam’s clothes were dirty and ragged and he had no money to buy more.
A man came by one day and seemed to be interested in Sam Huntley, and asked the boy to go to church with him. Sam told him he didn’t have any clothes fit to wear to church. He told the man that the farmer he worked for had not paid him. The stranger told him, “He will never pay you.” Huntley decided he would leave the man’s farm and look for a job somewhere else. Then the farmer’s wife told him”If you will stay and help the boys one more week, I will cut out my cloth and make you a pair of pants.” He stayed another week, but the farmer never paid him a cent and his wife never made him any pants.
Sam Huntley left one morning before breakfast. He was hungry, barefoot, hatless and dressed in rags. He went across the countryside and started to work for another farmer for small pay. He worked for that man 6 months and once again the farmer refused to pay him anything. The farmer’s daughter bought him some clothes and shoes out of her own money, and he left that farm and went to work for another man and helped him gather his crop. This farmer refused to pay him as well. Sam Huntley then got a contract to carry the mail for $5.75 a month. This didn’t last long but at least the man paid him.
Huntley then went to work for another farmer. Sam used what little money he saved and bought a used suit from a boy who had out grown it. This job soon ended and Sam went off to the woods to take an inventory of his life. He found he had accumulated nothing — no home, no money, no nothing. He went days and nights without food or a place to call home.
Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. You can reach him at 628-1089 or email [email protected].