Then And Now

Then And Now

Adapted by Spessard Stone from the Atlanta Journal Magazine of May 31, 1931

Lydia Oregon Hendry was born April 14, 1847 in Thomas County, Georgia. When only four years old, Lydia Oregon in 1851 moved with her parents, James E. Hendry and Lydia (Carlton) Hendry, from Thomas County, Georgia to Hillsborough County, Florida. Of the three-week journey in a covered wagon, Lydia Oregon in later years remembered little except the nightly camp fires in the woods and the constant riding and jolting over the rough trails. After building a log house near the Alafia River and settling his family, Mr. Hendry returned to his old home for the rest of his cattle. After not hearing from him for some time, the family became very anxious. Mail service was so infrequent that he had been buried three weeks when they received word that he had died of diptheria on January 3, 1852. Lydia Hendry on November 5, 1854 remarried to Benjamin Moody, also of Alafia.

Lydia Oregon recalled: "We raised our own corn and ground it by hand into grits and into meal for bread. Baked potatoes were a staple dish, but sweet potato custard was a luxury for great occasions. At times we raised roasted field corn until it was dark brown, ground it, and used it for coffee. Clothes were made from homespun woven from cotton grown in a patch near the house or shipped to Tampa from Georgia and carried overland to the ranch in lint form."

She further reminisced: "Girls learned housework in those days. I remember one time my sister shot three wild turkeys, but as a usual thing we didn’t hunt or fish or ride in the woods much. There was always a lot to do in keeping the house up. We swept and cooked, wove cloth, and did the thousand and one things to be done in a home where nothing came from a store."

During the Third Seminole War, the family moved to the safety of the fort at Fort Meade. Lydia Oregon there found life lots of fun as she had plenty of companions with whom to play and “everything was exciting and new” until the morning of June 14, 1856 when she suddenly noticed every one running within the barricade. The Willoughby Tillis place, south of the fort, had been attacked by Indians, and a group of militiamen, led by Lt. Alderman Carlton, Lydia Oregon’s uncle, dashed to their rescue, but Carlton and two other men were killed by the Indians. With it was safe, the family returned to Alafia where their cattle multiplied and they prospered until the Civil War brought hardship and suffering.

On February 1, 1866, Lydia Oregon married Benjamin Franklin Blount. They lived in the southwestern section of Bartow where “Ben” was a fruit grower, nurseryman, and civic leader. They were members of the First Baptist Church in Bartow.

On Mother's Day in 1931 Lydia was honored as one of the state's outstanding mothers. Tribute was paid both to her own experiences as a real pioneer and as a mother who had contributed outstanding children to the development of the State of Florida.

Sitting in her wheelchair, to which she, due to rheumatism, had been confined since 1902, Lydia compared the past with the present:

"'We had nothing then,she said. It was twenty-five miles to the church from my home. Some who claim to have been pioneers and who in a measure were pioneers will tell you of the good times of their days, country dances and frolics and picnics. But we were before even that day. We ate, slept and kept house while the men folk hunted cattle. Later when some settlers came in we visited about. And when we went visiting, we went to spend the night. Every one's house was open to his neighbor and even to the stranger. People should be very happy now. They have everything-railroad trains, automobiles, flying machines, radios, telephones, electric lights, running water. They have to pay for them, of course, but they can make money now. In those days you couldn't make money. There wasn't anything to sell except cattle, and they had to be driven hundreds of miles to market. But people don't seem to be any happier. I don't think they have changed much. Some things I hear make me think the world is getting worse, at times. But after considering everything, I believe it is getting better. There are more temptations now. And we hear more about the bad things with newspapers and telephones and every one seeing every one every day. But I've watched the world a long time, and I believe it's a little better than it used to be,' she concluded."

Lydia Blount died November 12, 1933.

Wallace Stevens, "Saved by Florida Cowboys," Atlanta Journal Magazine, May 31, 1931

This article was published in The Herald-Advocate of November 1, 2001

November 1, 2001; May 17, 2002, music "Lovely Molly"; scanned article, June 21, 2004