OLD BROWN SNUFF BOTTLES
Dr. George Avery of Stephen F. Austin presented a program on old bottles at our monthly meeting of the Valley of the Caddo Archeological Society at the First United Methodist Church in Paris on March 15. For years I have seen and wondered about the meaning of dots on the bottom of old snuff bottles. I just knew it had to do with the age of the bottle, like dots on Case pocket knives. Never having dipped, I didn’t know there were different strengths of snuff. The dots referred to the potency with one being the mildest and six the strongest. There are other candidates for dot reasons that we will get to later. Those with five or six dots were relatively rare and I don’t recall ever seeing one. Some people sniffed the stuff but those with five and six dots were so strong they were not recommended for sniffing.
Ma (Annie Mae Mathews McFadden) was raised in the southern part of Lamar County. She and several of her brothers and sisters were known to dabble in the brown dust. She told me a story about back in the day before cars had air conditioners that she and four or five more were crowded into an old car on the way to Paris. It was a hot summer day and all the windows were down. Wind just a whippin’ all around. Between Glory and Paris somebody took the lid off their snuff and started pouring some into their lip. That wind decided it wanted a dose of it and before long everyone in the car was hollering and rubbing their burning eyes.
Papa (Thomas Peters) retired from B&W in Paris told me how men working there played tricks on each other. One rolled up a sheet of paper, straw-like and filled it with snuff. Went to one of his “friends” that was welding and blew all that snuff under his welding hood. The welder flung off the helmet and coughed for a half hour. Said one more second and he would have been a dead %^#$@%.
But back to the dots on brown bottles. When the bottles were in use, many people could not read. Those dots were easy for everyone to “read.” Another possible reason for the dots was to identify which worker at the factory filled which bottles and was therefore a way of keeping up with the worker output. Send me your versions of snuff bottle dot translation along with any snuff stories.
At the meeting the speaker asked if anyone remembered what kind of little dipping stick was used to take the snuff from the bottle. My grandmother always used an elm twig about five or six inches long and a little bigger than a toothpick in diameter. Seems like she would rub her gums with the twig as well as just using it to put the snuff in her lip. Floyd McMillan of Charleston and formerly of west Texas remembers going with his grandmother to dig mesquite roots instead of using twigs. Papa remembers snuff dippers in the Charleston area using elm or willow. The twigs were chewed on one end and used like a toothbrush. Some people kept them in their mouth for hours like some do toothpicks today. Why a certain kind of tree twig? Why not just take a pinch of it with your fingers?
Probably every community has several names for a certain place. For example, if someone from Charleston is going somewhere with another person, a good place to meet and leave a vehicle is at the intersection of Highways 19 and 895. To some that place is called The Charleston Cutoff. Older ones may call it The Gravel Pile since the Highway Department often has several truckloads of gravel piled there. The third name has just about died out along with the folks old enough to remember it. Years ago there was a big store at the intersection and a few of us still call that spot, Pickens Store. South of Charleston on County Road 1180 you find the Mike Owens place previously known as the Van Worden place, or, when he had it, the Croquet Yard. Just west of the Croquet Yard about a half mile is a pasture once referred to as the Dipping Vat Pasture. The Hemby Family owned the pasture when the vat was constructed.
At the archeology meeting Dr. Avery also asked if anyone knew the location of any dipping vats that our government constructed back in the early 1900’s. The one south of Charleston is covered with brush and trees. In the late 1800’s an entomologist working on the King Ranch discovered that a mixture of arsenic and water would control tick fever which then was a large problem. Our federal government covered most of the cost and almost every community had one of the vats. Now The Texas Archeology Society is asking for our help in preserving our history by locating all the old vats. If you know of one in your area contact ARCDIGS@aol.com and they will send you a form to fill out. The program went on for over fifty years and now the vats are approaching a hundred years of age and will soon be lost to memory unless we pitch in.
A planet circles around a star and a moon circles a planet. Due to increasing technology eight hundred planets outside our system of planets have been verified as of April 1. None though, have been verified as fit for life as we know it. It is predicted that by the end of this year there may be as many as 1500 planets located. For a planet to have life as we know it there are things to consider such as is it too close to its star to be too hot, too far away and too cold, presence of water, and many more. Seems like we would be a little naive to declare our Earth as the only place in the universe fit for some kind of life.
A plumber rang the doorbell on a house and said he was there to fix a water leak. The woman said neither she nor her husband had called about a leak. He asked if she was sure no one from that house had called and she told him they had lived there a year and had not called. As he walked away the plumber said, “How do you like that? Somebody call with an emergency then up and move away.”
A "snuff horn" was a fancy way of carrying
your snuff around!