Catawba Valley Squab Farm


The mystery sign:


I suppose it was love at first sight when I came to know “The Sign”. After all, it was a novelty, with Catawba Valley in unique black letters painted on a 12” inch by 55” inch chestnut board; and Squab Farm painted in a like manner on a separate board. It was something seldom seen in early Catawba. The lettered boards were part of the backside of a twenty-foot by ten-foot barn containing a single milking stall on one end and a hay storage/feed barrel space on the opposite end. We had one milk cow on our property that we milked twice daily but sold it shortly after my Daddy being admitted to the Catawba TB Sanatorium in1943. I knew that the barn was built of lumber taken from the Catawba Valley Squab Farm, wherever that was located. The two lettered boards were nailed in a vertical manner with the lettering facing to the interior protecting the letters from fading due to weather. As I entered my teens, Daddy was discharged and returned home to stay after nine years. The barn started to get in disrepair and was razed. I salvaged the two boards, although the Squab Farm board was damaged badly.

I can’t remember the exact date I retrieved the signs from our homeplace, but I eventually did, although the damaged one was turned into picture frames. Thankfully, the Catawba Valley sign has been kept inside, usually hanging in the various houses I lived in over the years. It now awaits being attached to our Salem residence in a room we have designated the “Catawba Room”.

Over many years I have inquired about the history behind the sign from Catawba folks and searched the Internet without success of identifying it. I would confidently estimate it to be one hundred years old, maybe more.

And now the rest of the story: What in “Sam Hill” is a squab? A squab is a young pigeon used as far back as Medieval times as a food source. The meat of squab is dark similar to the dark meat of a chicken, duck or goose. Actually, it is more tender and considered a delicacy in many foreign countries. A young pigeon when hatched grows fast and is tabbed a squab up to about 30 days of age. The fast growth puts them the same size as an adult pigeon after a month’s growth. Pigeons were first domesticated abroad, centuries prior to coming onto the American scene during the Great Recession as a food source. Pigeons were raised by Appalachian folks during the Recession years of the late twenties and early thirties. They used barns and coops to house them including nesting areas. Pigeons pair off male and female and can produce 300 eggs a year to hatch as squabs or be eaten as eggs. In many areas of Appalachia, squabs and/or their eggs made a difference in providing supplemental food. The United States Department of Agriculture created a bulletin that provided instructions on how to raise squabs.

It would appear to me that someone in Catawba Valley most likely started a Squab Farm as a business endeavor. It would have been a profitable venture for several years before the demand ended. Perhaps it got lost in the minds of folks and knowledge of the Squab Farm faded away. I am in hopes that someone will have some information that will shed light on this most unusual occurrence in Catawba Valley. As for now this “one of a kind” keepsake hangs on the wall revealing those proud words of Catawba Valley, but smugly keeping within itself the mystery of its past.


Leave a Reply