Dig A Little Deeper: Childhood
Many in the following of William Branham
are familiar with his captivating stories of his childhood days, roaming the hills of Kentucky as he supported his poor mother and siblings by hunting, trapping, selling the skins, and eating the meat. Most of Branham's claims to spiritual events involve the wilderness, and in his descriptions of the great men of the Bible, Branham was quick to point out their "love" for nature.
Believers dedicate songs to the memory of the "Cabin's Location," a small one-bedroom log cabin where his mother poured coon grease in the matted eyes of the eight other children packed into the structure. Interestingly, the Branham family moved to Indiana before William was age three, and it is very unlikely that he would have retained any memories of the place. But the reality is that only two siblings occupied this cabin during the time William lived in it.
The 1930 Census gives the birthplace for both of the parents, and each of the siblings. At the time of this census, Melvin was 18 years old, while William was 21. The record also shows that William was born in Kentucky, and that Melvin was born in Indiana. According to this census report, Branham would have been three years old when Melvin was born in Indiana. The records for the rest of the siblings also show Indiana as the state of birth.
Ultimately, census records place all of Branham's childhood stories in the category of fiction. The hunting, trapping, selling skins, and other activities of a young adult would be impossible when you consider the fact that William Branham would have been under age three.
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Branham's stories of his childhood:
I was borned, I weighed five pounds, little bitty boy. And I haven't growed very
much since. But then my mother, she carried me around on a pillow. I was borned
in a little log cabin, way in the mountains of Kentucky, Cumberland County, near
a little creek called Renox. There's only one way you get through there, that's
you go through the creek. That's the only way to go is by the creek. It's a little
isolated place, way down near the Tennessee line on the Cumberland River. My father
was a logger. My mother, her father was a school teacher, and the principal of the
rural schools. Didn't get to go to school very much in Kentucky, you know, the creeks
could get up and you couldn't go. In the summertime they had to take a gooseneck
hoe and chop out the corn, tobacco, and stuff that they raised in the hills, make
a living. I was down, standing by the little old cabin, not long ago, and took a
picture of it. I think it appeared in my book: a little old two room cabin. The
porch... The end of the kitchen has fallen down. I looked at it. I could imagine
seeing my mother there. My dad was just a young man, mother, only fifteen years
old when I was born. A little mountain children... And my dad worked hard all of
his life. He died young: fifty-two. I'm thankful that mother's still living today,
is, can be here with me.
Down in Indiana, or, this is Indiana; down in Southern Indiana, there's some, I
asked there one day in my church, I said, "How many here is from Kentucky?" and
about two-thirds of them stood up. Someone said... I said, "I don't get it." And
one of them stood and said, "Brother Branham," said, "the ground hogs and Kentuckians
has took the country." So coming across from over the other side. But there, in
the front of this little old log cabin, I remember, I used to look at them old chinked
mud in the cracks like that, and I'd say, "My, that house will stand forever. Why,
it can't go down; what a wonderful place it is." But my, you should see it now.
See? Here we have no continuing city. And around in front of the door was a place
wore off, it was just bare and slick where we, little bunch of Branhams, played
out there like a bunch of little opossums, or something, around there, little bitty
fellows, wallowing around over one another. Say, I'd — I'd like to live that over
again. I — I really would. I — I say. I remember the old spring where I used to go
down there and lay down on my stomach and drink and drink. Come back up, go out
and take Dad a jug of water out of the spring, back out to the field where he was
in harvest or something; worked so hard till I seen my mama cut his shirt loose
from his back from sunburn, where it'd stick to his back, seventy-five cents a day
to take care of me. Look, it's true. You've read my life story out there. My dad
did drink, but I don't care what he done, he's still my daddy. And let me tell you
something, young folks, this afternoon. Don't you never get little enough to call
your mother and dad "the old man and woman." You don't never do that, no matter
what they are. No matter what they are, you respect them as your dad and mother.
You'll never know what... how you love them, till you hear the ca-... squeaking
of a casket going out, and knowing that's the last of it. It won't be the "old man
and old woman" then.
When I was a little boy we was raised up in the mountains of Kentucky, and it was
hard going. We lived in a little old log cabin, no floor on it, an old stump for
a table, sawed off, a little old bed in the corner with fence rails around it, laying
on a straw tick, and a — a corn shuck pillow. You don't know what hard times is.
And I remember mama used to have to get old bacon skins and render them out to make
grease for the corn bread. And it — it wasn't very healthy. It's a wonder we didn't
have all kinds of allergies if God hadn't have been there to help us. But you know
what happened? She'd render out this old grease and put it in there, and every Saturday
night when us little boys come home from school, we all had to take a dose of castor
oil, get fixed up for Monday to go back to school. And I would come to mama, I'd
hold my nose, and I'd say, "Mama, I just can't take it." I said, "It makes me sick
to even smell it." And she said, "If it doesn't make you sick, it doesn't do you
any good." That's the way with preaching the Gospel. If it doesn't make you right
good and sick, maybe it'll stir up your spiritual gastronomics to think over the
things, to get right with God, and get away from this modern nonsense called religion.
No wonder the Holy Spirit is grieved.
When I was a little boy down in Kentucky where I was born, we had a little old cabin...?...
on it, and a stump for a table, and — and a little old rail put around the side,
and a bunch of shucks laying there where papa and mama slept, an old shuck mattress
and shuck pillow. Summertime they took straw when we could get it, make the straw
beds. And we little kids slept upstairs in a — just a little... Two little limbs,
saplings with little sticks of wood across it, we'd go up and go to bed, have just
a shuck mattress laying there and we'd get on it, and — and little old clapboard
shingles shrinking up and great big holes in them. Mama used to put a piece of canvas
over us to keep us from getting wet when it would rain. And I remember too, that
the draft through there at nighttime would get cold in our eyes, and we — we... Mama
called it matter. Their little... Our little eyes would stick together. And she
said, "The cold wind done it drafting through the building." And at nighttime when
she, morning when she would call us, she'd say, "Billy...?... come on down. Bring
Edgar with you so he won't fall coming down the steps." I'd try to get my eyes open,
and I'd say, "Mama, I can't see." Now, grandpa was a — a trapper, a hunter. And he'd
say... He would trap coons, raccoons. And he'd take the grease off of it, make called
coon grease, and mama would set it on the little old stove and get it hot. And she'd
rub our eyes and massage it with this coon grease so that the cold would go out
of our eyes and we could see. Then after the coon grease was applied, warm coon
grease, until our eyes got all the matter out of them, she'd wipe them out and then
we could see to where we were going.
We was raised in a little old cabin, no floor, and just windows, not like your windows
here. It was just a door you pushed out, down the mountains of Kentucky here. And
every Saturday night, all five of these little Branham's would come up to get a
bath all in the same tub, the big old cedar tub. And we didn't have much to eat,
so mama used to... Making our corn pone and things, she'd have to get meat skins
from the grocer, and — and render them out in a pan, put the grease in it, and we
didn't live very good. And — and every Saturday night, mama'd make us take a big
dose of castor oil, and — and then so we would go to school on Sunday and I can't,
or Monday. I couldn't even smell the stuff yet without vomiting. And I used to come
with my nose like this... I was the first one, the oldest. I would say, "Mom, this
stuff makes me so sick, I can't stand it." She said, "If it doesn't make you sick,
it doesn't do you any good."
I was born in a little mountain cabin, way up in the mountains of Kentucky. They
had one room that we lived in, no rug on the floor, not even wood on the floor,
it was just simply a bare floor. And a stump, top of a stump cut off with three
legs on it, that was our table. And all those little Branhams would pile around
there, and out on the front of the little old cabin, and wallowed out, looked like
where a bunch of opossums had been wallowing out there in the dust, you know, all
the little brothers. There was nine of us, and one little girl, and she really had
a rough time amongst that bunch of boys. We have to respect her yet today from the
things that we did in those days. She couldn't go with us anywhere, we'd run her
back, she was a girl. So she couldn't take it, you know. So we had... And all...
Remember that back behind the table we had just two chairs, and they were made out
of limb bark. Just old hickory saplings put together, and the bottom of them laced
with hickory bark. Did anybody ever see a hickory bark chair? Yeah. And I can hear
Mama yet. Oh, later on when we got into a place where she could have a wooden floor,
with those babies on her lap like this, and rocking that old chair just bangity,
bangity, bang on the floor. And I remember to keep the little ones from going out
the door, when she would be washing or something, she'd lay a chair down and turn
it kind of catercornered across the door, to keep the little ones from getting out
when she had to go to the spring to get water, and so forth.
How many of you Southerners know what a fly bush is? I used to have to fan the flies
at the table when company would come, you know, before we had screen doors, way
back in Kentucky where we had to live poor. Little old cabin up on the side of the
hill, seventy five cents a day hauling logs, it was rough. No clothes...
You know when I was a little boy, we lived down in, way down in east — southeast
Kentucky in the Cumberland mountains. And my people, we lived in a little old log
cabin, had two rooms. And it was a pitiful looking thing. They didn't have any floor
in it, but the dirt. And Dad had cut off the top of a stump, about that thick, put
three legs under for a table. And it got an old piece off of the barn and made a — a
little bench that these little Branhams could set on there and eat their dinner.
And for, there was one bed, and that was papa's and mama's; set over at the left
of the house when you come in from the kitchen. And us kids had to go up a ladder,
a homemade ladder, two saplings with some sticks across it. We went up in the loft
and there was an old, straw mattress. I don't whether you've ever seen one or not,
an old feather bed? And they had clapboard shingles on it, and — and this — they was
put on in the light of the moon, and they'd turned up. And the old chinking out
of the logs... Mom would have to put a piece of canvas over us kiddies at night,
for the snow blowing in would give us colds. And sometimes like little boys (there
was nine of us), how we'd wiggle out from under the cover. And there would... Of
a morning our eyes would be all closed from cold. Mama said it was matter in them.
I don't know what it is, but she called it matter. They'd stick together, get cold
in your eyes. Grandpa was a hunter, trapped and hunted all of his life. Grandmother
was an Indian, Cherokee Indian. And we had a cure-all at our house, that was coon
grease, raccoons. Grandpa would catch them, then he'd render the fat out, put it
in a can. And it was good for croup, or sore throat, a or — or a bruised toe, anything.
It was almost a cure-all at our house. So when mama would come to the steps, and
I was the oldest, she'd say, "William, come on down." I'd turn over to my brother,
Edward, which is gone on now. I called him Humpy. And I said, "Wake up Humpy, mama's
calling." He said, "I can't get my eyes open." I said, "I can't either." And all
the little boys couldn't get their eyes open nearly because there'd been a draft
across there. We'd gotten from under the cover, the protection, and it give us a
cold, and we had matter in our eyes. Mama said, "That's all right, honey, I'll be
up just in a few minutes." And she'd get the coon grease and set it on the — the
stove and get it all hot. And we eat the raccoons ourself. So then, she'd get this
coon grease hot, and come up, and massage our eyes with it, till all the matter
went out. Believe it or not, she fixed us up with it. We got all right.
I was raised in Kentucky and my... We lived in a little, old log cabin, that had — made
out of logs and the chinked up with mud. And a lot of that had dropped out, because
it was old. And we had clapboard shingles on top of the house. And they were put
on at the time in the light of the moon, and the singles had drawed up like this.
And the rain would blow in, the snow would blow in. And just had two rooms, no floor
in it, just the earth... And I remember Papa had made a — a bench for us little boys
to set behind the — the block table, that had been sawed out of a piece of a log
with sticks under it to support. And the little, old step stove in there... Mama
had an old trunk setting up on two pieces of a — a log, had little dents in it, an
old cabinet the same way. And that, a couple of beds, that's all we had. And us
little boys had to sleep up in the loft. And there was a... They had two poles cut
down with some saplings nailed across it. And up there, there was a — an old straw
tick. And on this straw tick was a feather tick. Then Mom would come up there at
night and put all the blankets she had on us and the coats. And then over the top
of that she'd put a piece of canvas, because if it rained, we could get under this
canvas. If it snowed, keep it out of our faces. And these three little Branhams
laying up there, the wind blowing through those shingles at night, maybe, we would
get cold. We'd get cold in our eyes. And the next morning, Mama would call us; she'd
say, "Billy, come down." And I'd try to open my eyes; I couldn't do it. And I'd
punch my brother, Edward; I called him Humpy. I said, "Can you go down?" He said,
"My eyes are sticked together too." Then we'd punch Melvin, see if he'd go down.
"No, my eyes is sticking together too." We'd caught cold, Mama told us, through
the night. And I said, "Mama, I — I — I can't come down." She said, "What's the matter,
Billy?" I said, "You know, my eyes is full of matter." She called it matter; I don't
know what it was; it's cold. And she said, "Your eyes is full of matter?" She said,
"Well, just wait a minute, honey."
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