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TALES from the FRONT PORCH

Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

 

Goin' Up the Old Hog Drivin' Trail
Driving Hogs to Afton As My Father Remembered it

by Charles Bennett, President of Ringgold County Historical Society

  Between 1872 when the Railroad came through Union Co. and 1880 when the first trains came to Ringgold Co., it was customary to drive hogs to Afton. By 1872 quite a few hogs were being raised and fattened on corn and acorns.

The "Hog Drive" usually began when a livestock buyer on horseback or in a buggy would visit the community. He would be interested in buying a carload of about 60 to 80 head. These hogs would weigh around 300 lbs. and be a year or more of age. The buyer would visit enough farmers in any one community until he got sufficient hogs to make up a car load. On the morning of the drive the hogs would be gotten in a tight pen and marked with paint or by clipping some spot of bristles.

Each group of hogs was then driven to a common meeting place. As the hogs arrived there was the usual conflict as they "resseled" around to find out who was boss. The trail equipment would consist of a team and wagon with corn for the hogs, baskets of food and jugs of water, some blankets and other supplies which night be needed.

The crew would consist of someone to drive the wagon and 4 or 5 drivers on foot, usually boys between 12 and 20 and sometimes a couple of fellows on horseback. Usually everyone selling hogs furnished at least one driver and the person with the most hogs furnished the team and wagon.

During the drive when things were going well some of the drivers would ride in the wagon but when the hogs started to scatter, all but the driver of the team leaped into action.

The first few miles the hogs usually drove well but then they would begin to tire. As the drive progressed stragglers would be a problem. A pouring rain could further complicate things.

About 2 1/2 miles south of Afton on what is known as the EcELROY place was the "Sullivan on the Hill" Feed yard. This was the goal of the first day's drive. The hogs would be headed into the corral and fed corn from the wagon.

The fire would be built and the food heated. With supper over the crew would sit around the campfire and exchange stories. The Civil War was recently over and there was usually a veteran or so along on the drive and they were always ready and willing to tell stories of that conflict. The stories did not usually last long for everyone was tired.

If the weather was warm and dry they would sleep under the stars. If it was cold and wet they rolled up blankets in one of the various sheds.

Early in the morning they would arise, feed the rest of the corn to the hogs, stir up the campfire, warm up and eat the food.

The train would usually be coming in the forenoon and the hogs must be weighed and loaded before the train arrived. As soon as possible, they would be on the move over the hill north to Afton, across Twelve Mile Creek. The hogs were ready to get in the stream if the weather was hot and never ready to get out. The drivers would be muddy and wet before they were again on the way.

Up the hill and through the tiny Union County seat they went with the housewives complaining as the hogs "lumbered" across gardens and through yards despite the best efforts of the drivers.

Down the hill and into the stockyards they went and the drive was over. The livestock buyer would be waiting. The hogs were broken up into the original groups and weighed. The buyer's men drove the hogs into the livestock cars, the checks were made out or the farmer was paid in cash. If the money was in cash they money was examined carefully to see that there was no bad bank notes in it. Check would be hurriedly cashed in case a bank might fail.

Everyone stayed till the train came in - What a thrill - then walk around the square to see what Afton "looked like." After that the foot drivers climbed into the wagon and sitting on boards laid across the wagon box as they started for home.

Another Hog Drive was completed!

Map courtesy of Ringgold County Historical Society

SOURCE:
Ringgold County Tour Bulletin 39th Annual Reunion. Ringgold County Historical Society. July 25, 1975.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2011

To submit your Ringgold County materials,
contact Sharon R. Becker at srbecker@windstream.net.
Please include the word "Ringgold" in the subject line. Thank you.


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