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The old blue-dye pot: domestic arts, Esto style, c. 1850

Once more JIM brings news from Esto, KY, a major anchor of the Sacred Triangle - Esto, Ono, and Sano. Esto, as all CM readers should know through the efforts of JIM to enlighten the masses on its rich heritage, has had major influence on Adair and Russell Counties; and yeah, beyond - across the Commonwealth, Boston, MA, and Western Kentucky University. This story reflects on the folkways of the people who inhabited the always gentrified little town 105 years ago, before it was a major air hub, before it became famed for golf courses, manufacturing, and fine dining.
Click on headline for today's History Lesson from JIM


Now and anon, John Ed Murrell of the Adair County News or a reader of the paper would reflect upon ways and customs of bygone days. Such was the case in mid-January 1911 when "M.B."of Esto sent to the News "some samples of homemade dress goods...which the women of to-day should examine and see the character of Sunday dresses worn sixty years ago."

Along with the swatches of cloth, "M.B" included a letter, to-wit:

"I send you some samples of the old time cotton cloth, or dress goods. There are pieces of my mother's dresses which she carded, spun and colored with the old time Indigo, in the old time blue-dye pot, then wove them with needle, thread and thimble made them with her fingers.

"The women of that day would sometimes compete with each other to see which could make the finest piece of cloth, so the one that succeeded had the nicest Sunday dress.

"Some of them made their own wedding gowns. They would bleach the cotton as white as possible, would then card and spin both warp and woof as fine as possible, so fine that they could draw the warp through their open ended thimble after being warped ready for the loom.

"When the dress was complete and the happy day arrived the bride-to-be would bedeck herself in her home spun robe ready to meet the bride groom, whose wedding suit would also be of home made material, flaxen or tow, made by the skillful hand of his mother.

"What think you of this, young ladies and gentlemen of today? /s/ M.B."


If the gentle readers of ColumbiaMagazine will forgive a bit of speculative rumination, it's possible "M.B." may have been Mary Grider Barger, born 1853. In the summer of 1873, she married Josiah Hayden "Joe" Barger, a native of Esto and the son of Col. Daniel Boone Barger, the latter one of the most prominent citizens of the Esto section in his day. Col. Barger was also a first cousin of Judge James Garnett of Adair County.

Mary and Joe H. resided near Esto for some 40 years after their marriage. In early 1914, however, they moved to a farm "just above Ozark" in Adair County, recently purchased of Mr. Nathan McKinley. Joe passed in 1921, Mary in 1937.

This story was posted on 2016-11-18 06:54:28
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