Shiloh Sketches – John Burl Tabor Family

Written by Edna Liggin – 1961



The house or home mentioned in this sketch was owned by John Burl Tabor from 1890 to his death in 1930. A painting of it from an old photograph will soon be on display in Hicks store. It was a story-and half house put together with square nails and wooden pegs. After the photograph was made another room and porch were added.


“For the wind passeth over it and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know no more. — Psalm 103:16


It was a house that had heard the voice of history being made. Known as the Buce place no one today can recall when it was built or who built it, but Aunt Mary Lee told the family years ago it was there when she was a girl for she went there horseback riding. There were two enormous front rooms with fireplaces, two smaller bedrooms downstairs, two upstairs, and of across the hall a long dining room and kitchen with a fireplace. There were banisters then around the front porch and the house was white with blue trim. Someone must have lived out the long, lonely years of the Civil War in the house, waiting probably on “a lonesome porch” for a loved one to come back.

The War had been over 16 years when John Burl Tabor and his wife Josephine, daughter of John and Rebecca Webb Butler, (her parents had come to Union parish in 1872) bought the house and 800 acres of land for $2,000. John Burl Tabor himself was the son of George and Mary Edmonds Tabor and his father had died in 1864 from illness contracted while serving with the South, and his mother had subsequently married Dan Lee. There had been three Tabor children, John B., Molly and James E. (Lige), and also three Lee children, Tom, Jim and Ellen. Now, in 1890, John Burl and Josephine themselves had five children –Ethel, Jessie, Bob, Jim, and Laura.

So the house heard the voices of a new family of three generations for later “Grandma” Lee lived with them. Her father with whom she came from Georgia (probably Henry County) when she was a girl had a plantation home some where back of where now is the Ben Lowery farm and “Doc” Ray store, and in that vicinity she lived as Mrs. Dan Lee until he disappeared on a trip on business to Monroe and was never seen or heard from again. As she grew older she visited more and more with the John Burl Tabor family to whom six more children were born in their new home–Ruth, Charley, Pat, Florence, Inez and Bertha. Two others died in infancy.

The house for the next 20 years heard the sound of busy activity for as John Tabor’s family grew so did his farming enterprises. He and his wife worked hard and the children helped as the farm began to produce cotton, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, watermelons and hay. These latter were mainly as feed stuffs and food for the family and livestock, while cotton was the money crop. Usually there were from 50 to 80 cows; also horses, colts, mules, goats, sheep, 60 geese, turkey and a large flock of chickens with 10 to 12 hogs to kill each year. On an average there were from 50 to 60 bales of cotton made each year from the 100 acres planted in cotton, though in 1899 he made 89 bales. There were about 100 acres of corn and the yield was good. One year the seven tenant houses on the place happened to be vacant and he filled all these with corn. The rest of the 800 acres was in pastures and timber, necessitating much log rolling, a job Mr. Tabor started in the daytime and finished way in the night. This was clearing new ground, the logs rolled together and burned.

The house contained within its walls woman’s work that was never done as the burden of cooking, cleaning and clothing the 11 children fell on the mother. Night after night she sat by her spinning wheel making wool yarn for socks and stockings and other wool articles. The men had previously shorn the sheep, the children washed it and picked out burrs. To supplement the knitted clothing Mrs. Tabor went by buggy twice a year to Farmerville to buy 200 yards of cloth for the other garments that she made on a sewing machine. A daughter, Laura, recalls a time the water was high and she left the buggy this side of Cornie and was carried by boat up near the town. Besides the wool, the geese were plucked regularly for feathers for ticks and pillows, and the family’s supply of soap was made at home. Until Mrs. Tabor died she had never used bought soap or powder or cold cream.

The family of John Burl Tabor in the big house were busy with no time for the mischief of idleness as the floors echoed with hurried footsteps, and the walls resounded with gay family chatter as one task after another was finished. One sister might have thought she had too much to do, another preferred cleaning the parlor to cooking, Ethel complained because the boys let their horses eat her china berry tree in front of the kitchen door, but it was typical of a growing big family that didn’t try to mix work and play, but found time for both.

There were no idle hours on the farm as on rainy days the men and boys headed off to the barn to shuck corn or shell corn for grinding. There were fences to repair, wood to saw and chop for three fireplaces and a cook stove, and, as the farm never had an adequate well, there was that problem. Sometimes the 90 foot well gave water, but more often water came by back-breaking carrying from a spring deep in a ravine back of the house. Once they used a gasoline engine pump. And always went on the constant work of carrying for, and cultivating, and harvesting, the feed stuffs and livestock.

The children did not escape the work, helping in the fields, carrying water to the workers, babysitting with the young, and milking, cooking, washing, ironing and housecleaning, Josephine Tabor was a meticulous housekeeper with everything spotless and no wrinkles in the ironing. There was company often and always two hired white hands and two colored men extra to feed at each meal. Yet there was fun and frolic and many good times with the work. Hospitality was one of the fine arts and social graces of the times and there was an abundance of welcoming warmth for all visitors.

The house knew too, in nine years, the glad song of an approaching wedding. The children had been growing up, in good health, too, for none ever needed a doctor, none were seriously ill or broke a bone, and all 11 lived until adulthood. Now Ethel was betrothed to William Burns and the wedding was set for December 12, the year 1899. Preparation began weeks before the date and over 100 guests were invited. It is recalled that goats, hogs, turkeys, hens were killed while 100 cakes were baked. Lizzie Hamilton (later Mrs. Floyd Burns) came to dress the bride and at dusk the ceremony was performed in the front parlor. There followed a wedding feast and Mrs. Tabor was in the kitchen until 11 p.m. fixing boxes of food for guests to take home with them.

William and Ethyl Tabor Burns

William and Ethyl Tabor Burns

Then December 13, 1900 the next oldest girl, Jessie, was married to Jim Louis McCallum with a similar big wedding. It is remembered that Alma Shaw (Mrs. Starling Tabor) helped dress her as was the custom then. The only other daughter to marry in the house was Ruth, to Larkin Salley. This wedding took place on the front porch, and according to the mother, cross ways the planks and she predicted this was a bad sigh.

The house knew the sound of may visitors being welcomed. School teachers boarded there and those remembered are Viola Covington, Callie Jones and Lee Burnside. After Patrick church was organized in 1896 the Tabor home welcomed the preacher and his family on Friday night until Monday morning though he usually at dinner Sunday with another member at the church. The early preachers at Patrick were both Van Burns and his father, Rev. Marion Francis Burns, who lived in the area at one time, too. A Bro. Neal from Farmerville can be remembered too. The Tabor house was on the main road to Farmerville and seemed to be a good half-way mark as many weary travelers from court there spent the night with the Tabors, sometimes six at once. All visitors were welcomed as a matter of course, school-teacher, preacher or traveler, and of course, kinfolks, always.

The house knew the welcoming sound of the homeward bound steamboat coming up Cornie and the Tabor boys in their bed at night listening for it. They would get up, hitch up the mules to the wagon and meet their father at Shiloh landing. He would be coming back from transporting cotton to Monroe where he had sold the cotton and bought barrels of flour, hoops of cheese, candy, and shoes for the family. Shiloh landing was a well-known embarking place on Cornie with a warehouse there. Sometimes Mr. Tabor and the boys took three wagon loads of cotton (it had been ginned and baled at home) to Monroe. This trip usually took three days.

The house knew the sound of music, singing and family worship. Every Wednesday and Saturday night Mr. Tabor led his family in prayer service while the young people and their friends gathered often around the organ to sing hymns. The boy, Bob, played a violin. Going to church regularly became a part of their lives after Patrick church was organized, though they had gone occasionally to Mt. Tabor and Shiloh. It was several miles to either of these places and the building Patrick filled a real need. Services were held once there under a brush arbor. When the new church was dedicated a daughter, Laura, recalls her father made coffee in the wash-pot.

Although the house and farm furnished an abundant life for a big family, and it seemed adequate, the sons and daughters later came to regret the lack of opportunity for an education. Their only schools were at Patrick and Buckley, one room school houses to which Mr. Tabor only sent his children at two month periods when he was not so busy on the farm. Like so many pioneers of his times he could not foresee the need for education or make an opportunity for it beyond the immediate provisions at hand. So their schools were either very hot or cold weather affairs with cold lunches in pails and muddy or dusty roads to walk. Equally courageous were Stella Digby, Viola Covington, Bertha Porter, Callie Jones and Lottie Sterling who taught them.

At  this time the culture of Shiloh was almost gone, the only store left that Laura Tabor can recall when she was 16 was that of Joe Buckley. It was at Shiloh she went to her first ice cream supper, but the education center of Baptists now was at Mt. Lebanon.

It wasn’t long after the first decade of the new century that Mrs. Tabor died, and the children began to marry and make homes of their own. Mr. Tabor grew too old to operate the big farm alone. In time he sold 400 acres to Mr. C. T. Salley and these acres are the Salley ranch today. At the time of Mr. Tabor’s death in 1930 the other 400 were left to his ten heirs (Inez died in 1918). For many years the old white house had been rented out, and was finally torn down in 1935. As the scripture says, “the place thereof shall know it no more.”

Today only the blackened hulk of the old walnut tree Laura Tabor planted as a girl and three crepe myrtle sprouts remain where stood the house. One walking over the pasture (belonging to Leroy Lee who married Florence Tabor) may kick the sod and unearth a piece of crockery or a part of the old sewing machine that stitched hundreds of yards of cloth guided by Josephine Tabor’s busy fingers.

One thought on “Shiloh Sketches – John Burl Tabor Family

  1. Here is a link to John Burl Tabor. Anyone interested can easily join wikitree as a contributor, make corrections to him, his spouse, his ancestors, make additions, like parents of spouse, and of course add children, grandchildren etc.

    The Tabor and Tubb family are very much interconnected, and eventually connect with my line when
    Mary Polly Tubb married Dr Sion B Sanders.


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