Sometimes we can learn about life in earlier days by reading what others, perhaps not even blood relatives, have to say about their lives. For example, in 1936 Mary Ann Johnson, age 80, related events of her life, first in Livingston County, Kentucky and later as a married woman across the Ohio River in Illinois. As you might imagine, her life was far different from that of children today.
Mary Ann was born to Thomas and Lucy Ann (Glass) Jackson on 15 August 1856 on a farm near Smithland.
The 1860 Livingston County census shows 2 year-old Mary Ann in the household of her parents, Thomas Jackson, age 31, and Lucy A. Jackson, age 30, along with her siblings Moses D., Woodford B., Robert N. and Rebecca. 
Mary Ann's father taught her lessons at home until she was big enough to walk the four miles to and from school. Then she went to school in a little log school house in which benches were boards laid across pieces of wood.
She recalled picking cotton and worming tobacco.
Instead of using coal as fuel for heating, Mary Ann's family used wood her father had cut. Meals were cooked over a fireplace or out of doors over an open fire. Bread was baked in iron pots suspended over the fire.
Although she was less than 10 years old, she remembers events of the Civil War, including when soldiers came to her father's home in search of food. She recalls her father hiding the stock to keep them from being confiscated by soldiers. Smithland was occupied by the Union army throughout the war, but many of its citizens were southern sympathizers.
When she was 17, Aaron S. Johnson, formerly a Union soldier, courted and won the hand of Mary Ann. They were married 11 November 1874 at her father's home in Livingston County. It was Mary Ann's first marriage and the third marriage for Aaron. They settled at Green's Ferry, Kentucky, later moving to a farm at Carrsville. By 1900, the Johnson family was living in Lola, Livingston County.
Aaron Shelbey Johnson was born 13 September 1842 to Benjamin F. "Frank" Johnson and Drusilla Travis, who had married 26 November 1835 Livingston County.
Johnson was a General Baptist minister as well as a farmer. He and Mary Ann, like others at this time, had to work hard to support themselves and their growing family. It fell to Mary Ann to work the wool from the sheep they raised and make their clothing. She had to card the wool, spin it, weave it into cloth and make the linsey-woolsey dresses and jeans as well as knit the socks and stockings for the family.
In 1900, one of the Johnson's sons moved across the Ohio River to Hardin County, Illinois. Mary Ann recalled that it took five wagons to bring their household goods across the river. Not long after this, Aaron S. Johnson's health began to deteriorate and it fell to Mary Ann to care for her husband as well as support the family. In July 1917, Aaron passed away. Mary Ann was 61 years old and had given birth to 13 children, but only seven were living in 1936.
Mary Ann Jackson Johnson died at the home of a daughter in Benton, Illinois 5 December 1938. She was 82 years of age. She had lived through the Civil War, the Spanish American War and World War I. She had seen the invention of the telephone, airplane and automobiles and had lived a long and full life.
 "Used to Card Wool, Spin, Weave Cloth," Hardin County Independent, Elizabethtown, Illinois, Thurs., 8 October 1936, p. 5.
 1850 Livingston County, Kentucky census, Smithland, Div. 3, Roll M653_382, p. 291, household of Thomas Jackson, Ancestry.com.
 Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Bond Book, pp 289-290, Register p. 345. Bondsman was Thomas Jackson.
 1900 Livingston County, Kentucky census, Lola, p. 1, E.D. 0059, Ancestry.com.
 Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947, Ancestry.com, Aaron Shelbey Johnson, born 13 Sep 1842, died Cave in Rock, Hardin County, Illinois 18 Jul 1917; parents Frank Johnson and Drusillia Travis.
 Joyce M. Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. 1 (Oct 1799-July 1839), (no. publisher, 1992) 139-140. Benjamin F. Johnson and Drusilla Travis married 26 Nov 1835 by Richard Miles, JP. Lee Travis, guardian of Drusilla, gave consent. Johnson was of lawful age.
Published 27 Feb 2020, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog, http://wkygenealogy.blogspot.com