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The following is an excerpt from the journal of Etha Parsons Yohe (1875 - ?) of Parsonsburg, Wicomico County, Maryland, reflecting on some events of her childhood, and some old remedies she was taught to use then.

A Witch and Some old Remedies


by Etha Parsons Yohe

When I was about 8 years old, the Preacher of the church was due to go to a conference. His wife expected a baby and my mother invited her to stay in our home. There were many carriages-- droves were passing our house going toward Ocean City. Someone stopped for a drink or some business. My mother asked what happened. They said a girl had been bewitched and Old Zippy Tull had put a spell on her. This Zippy Tull was feared by everyone. She was supposed to have bewitched a chicken dinner at Melson's Camp. About thirty people nearly died vomiting and bowels going, sent everywhere for the doctor. A little girl said she saw an old woman put something over the pot. The doctor said it was some kind of poison. She was to be doing something to eveyone who made her mad. This child, a girl about 16, was a daughter on the joining farm and they had trouble over a ditch so she bewitched the child. Blood was coming like perspiration and blood was coming from her eyes. They would the covers and something big as a cat run up and down the bed under the covers. Everyone was telling it, of course growing all the time. In after years when I grew up the Preacher had been sent Gunborra (?). We attended the camp. I saw the girl. Part, or possibly part of it, was true but not the cats and witch craft. Perspiring blood has happened to a girl that age and has a medical explanation and possibly all the witchcraft stories are from a vivid imagination. As you must realize, one doctor had to travel miles with a horse and carriage. The slaves or ex-slaves feared the doctor. They had their own medical laboratory. Herbs, weeds, barks, goose grease, mutton tallow, sulpher and sorghum. For the blood, goose grease and mutton tallow so from the stories of my old folks I will give you cures.

From the ovary of a sheep to the urine from a pregnant mare to penicillin from mold you cannot laugh too much, even though the remedies seem crude. We had an Indian tribe here at the round hill just past Parsonsburg south of the railroad tracks. It is small now to what it was when I was small. We would have to gradually go around the hill to get to the top of it. It is called Muntusi (?) Hill and the people used to say it was where the chief of the Muntusi tribe was buried. My uncle owned it about 60 years ago. He stripped many car loads of the finest grade of molding sand out of the hill. Some of the medicines they made up themsleves and it seemed to work. It was said some of the formulas came from the Indians.

Boil red oak bark, drain of water, add corn meal to water, sealed to make a poultice.

Inflamed bowels from dysentery and so on. Calmus rute dried, made in a tea for excema, gas or indigestion. Chew on the dried root.

Goose grease and camphor for chest cold and croup.

Mutton tallow spread on flannel, heat, put on for chest and lung pain.

Put chewing tobacco quid on a boil.

Crush jimson weed, boil in lard, make salve. Cures burns and sores.

Grate a fresh nutmeg and mix with lard as much as ? will take to make salve for pneumonia, croup and chest troublt.

Mix sulpher with axle grease for open sores.

Mix a pint of apple vinegar, 2 oz turpentine and the white of one egg, put in a bottle and shake before using for sprained joints.

Put crushed leaves from elderberry, boil in lard for poison ivy.

Borax and honey for sore mouth and thrush.

Lemon juice, glycerine and sugar for sore throat, let melt in mouth.

Pour whiskey on a cut

Teaspoon of laudumun? teaspoon turpentine 2 tablespoons castor oil, shake to mix well, take ten drops for dysentery.

Dropping from sheep sealed the black beads and dried for tea for "Yaller Jawders". An old woman claimed she cured her children from jaundice of Yaller Jowders. She lifted a log and a soft long bug gathere under boards or logs. They were called blue sows. She said she put one in a spoon full of molasses as it could not crawl and gave it to her children and it cured them.

Boil chestnut tree leaves and make a tea. Wash the ulcerated sore leg in this tead, cleaning the wound well.

For toe itch--they call it athlete's foot now--watch the cow eliminate and while smoking hot stick your sick foot in it for a while. A healthy cow does not have odor but a perfune of clover and new mowed hay.

Copyright 1997 Alwyn Wootten

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