Asa Reese as transcribed by Terry Harmon
Genealogy of the Reese Family
Valentine Reese came from Germany about the year 1750. He married Christena Harman. They spent the latter part of their lives on Roan Creek, now known as the old Bowers place, Trade, Tenn. They brought up nine children, all of whom lived to an old age. They were of Baptist persuasion, were very pious and were surrounded by an abundance of the luxuries of life.
John Reese, son of Valentine and Christena Reese, was born about the year 1770. He married Sarah Eggers when she was 17 years old. They lived together about 50 years when John Reese died, aged 70 years. His wife Sarah died aged 96 years. They lived in Watauga Co., N. C. (then Ashe Co.). They both became members of the Baptist church at an early age – lived and died in full fellowship of the same. They were considered wealthy in their day, being able to settle off their children respectably. They brought up ten children, all of whom married and had families.
Hiram Reese, the oldest son of John and Sarah Reese, was born in 1798, married Rhoda Smith at the age of 18 years old. They settled in Watauga Co., N. C. [and] had six children – 4 boys [and] 2 girls – when Rhoda died. They were both members of the Baptist church at that time. Hiram at one time was remiss in his duty as a Christian, notwithstanding that, he gave bright evidence in his last hours, as the writer can personally testify, that there was a crown for him in heaven.
Four years after the death of Rhoda, his first wife, he married Martha McCall. They had six children. He afterwards divorced her for the lawful cause which the Scriptures set forth. After which, some two years, he married Jane Widby, his third wife. They had one daughter, the only child. They lived together about 17 years when Hiram died July 9th, 1872 at the age of 74 years. He was interred in the grave yard with his first wife at the old Cove Creek Church, Watauga Co., N. C.
Asa Reese, son of Hiram and Rhoda Reese, was born May 19th, 1820. He married Catharine Wagner Feb. 27th, 1845, settled two miles west of Taylorsville (now Mountain City) on Crooked Branch, some two years after they were married. They had ten children, one of whom died when a girl. They begun life’s journey [peculiarly?] oppressed, but by ceaseless industry and economy, have procured a good living. They both became members of the Baptist church. Catharine, his wife, united with the church Feb. 1872; Asa Dec. 1876. Four of their children were also members of the Baptist church up to this date.
Written by Asa Reese Jun. 10th, 1877.
Years after writing the [above], eight children of Asa and Catharine Reese became members of the Baptist church and are now living in the same at this date April 25, 1899.
This sketch or genealogy was written by Asa Reese and transcribed by his son J. J. T. Reese on this book, bought by him for this purpose and to transcribe the autobiography of Asa Reese, or as much of it as was written up to his death.
Asa Reese died November 27th, 1898, aged 78 years, 6 months & 18 days old. He was buried at his home near Mt. City, Tenn. by the side of his little daughter, Rodah Caroline.
“Jeff,” my father’s old horse, which he rode for 12 years or more, died Nov. 13, 1913. I bought him at the sale to take care of him and would not swap or sell him to go into rough hands. He was 32 years old or would have been in March. So say those that knew him. He was foaled at Jeff Oliver’s on North Fork of Cove Creek, Watauga Co., N. C. & was 17 years old when my father died. We buried him back of the barn at the far side of the flat.
A part of the autobiography of Asa Reese, who died before it was completed. Transcribed on this book by his son, J. J. T. Reese, which was begun April 7th, 1899. The following is the way he begins:-
Tennessee, Johnson County, Feb. 21st, 1895, I, Asa Reese, will be 75 years old the 9th day of next May. I was born May 9th, 1820 on Cove Creek or on a branch of Sharp’s Creek, the waters of Cove Creek in an old log house near where Pink Henson now lives. The old house mentioned had [a] punched floor, [a] loft laid down loose with plank[s] sawed with a whip-saw, chimney built wood on outside and stone inside up to the mantel piece and that was wood, then stick and clay to the top. The house was covered with an old-fashioned clapboard roof, and that was the way most of the houses were built in those days.
My father had a small smokehouse, though many men hung their meat in the top of their houses, for people in those days liked to smoke their meats yellow, all kinds – hog, beef, venison, bear, coon, etc.
My mother, whose maiden name was Rhoda Smith, had 6 children – 4 boys and 2 girls. The oldest was Johiel, named after Uncle Johiel Smith. Next, Asa after Asa Fairchilds, I think. John after my Grandfather Reese, and Nelson for some stranger. The oldest girl, Cindrilla from a name found in the Bible, I think. The youngest girl, Mahettable, was named after her grandmother Smith, a Bible name found in Gen. 36c:39v, was of the family of some old patriarch.
Shortly after the birth of Mahetable, my mother died. I was 10 years old.
Some small things happened before my mother died that I remember. One thing that I will relate that scared me up, but after I grew older, I have taken a many hearty laugh about it. I relate the story to other green boys who might happen to the same kind of play should they intrude themselves on girls who disdain them. Here I will commence my story. When I was about six or seven years old, my mother had hired at her home two girls, sisters by the name of Isaacs, to card and spin up her rolls, for there was no machines then to card wool, and they were carders and spinsters right, of old times. In time of the girls spinning for mother, there was a green horn young man by the name of Tom Wilson, who came down from the Fork Ridge, perhaps to work some for father. Tom commenced fooling around the girls, throwing the wheel band, breaking the threads, pulling the rolls in two. He went on that way, and many other intrusions for some days; the girls kept reproving him. So it happened one night my father was gone from home and Tom thought he would cut a big swath and high stubble, so he did as you will see. He commenced grabbing the girls, first one, then the other, and thought he would push them down on the bed or in a chair and stop them from spinning, but far from that, for they very much disdained him for his green imprudence as stated. They could not endure his looks for he was badly clad and had a mean, dirty appearance and very homely, which helped to make up a general disgust toward the poor fellow. Now you know by this time they became tired and enraged at poor Tom and begun to fly in splinters. Father made shoes in those days and had a pretty stout piece of sole leather lying in the corner of the house under the indian ladder, for that was the kind used then. The leather was home tanned and pretty hard too and had been hung over a pole to dry, and when taken out of the old log trough, it still retained its shape. So one of the girls grabbed the leather by both edges as Tom made at her; she [clued?] away at him, perhaps with all her might, and struck poor Tom on the side of his neck with the edge of the leather, and down came Tom on the old puncheon floor, flat on his side. Then I became greatly alarmed for I thought they had killed the poor fellow, for he lay there on the floor for some time. When the girls saw him lay so long, they begun to stretch out their necks like turkeys when they became alarmed and say, “Quit! Quit!! Quit!!!,” but after some time, he begun to groan now and then and move himself on the floor. When they saw they had not killed the poor fellow, their hearts were partially relieved, for they thought they had killed him out right. Then they begun to encourage him to get up. So after some shuffling about, he rose up and there was a puddle of warm water under where he lay on the old puncheon floor. So that put an end to their frolic with Tom, for that learned him a lesson that perhaps he never forgot as long as his name was Tom Wilson from the Fork Ridge.
So now we will proceed with some other things after the Tom story. When quite young, I was a great coward when I thought there was danger ahead, whether there was or not. I was very scared up, but when mad, no daunt in me. I was always very mischievous – would venture on other boys’ good nature to have something to laugh over, and was meddlesome any way. I would chop my father’s slides, and the bar posts and stakes, anything that came in my way, for I was naturally mischievous and full of my pranks. One time, my mother put some dough in her skillet to bake, and one of my freaks of mischief came over me and, with my short finger, I ploughed it through the dough and ripped it up and mother, being near by, gave me sound slap on my jaw and whirled me clear ‘round, and I replied, “That came in good time.” So you see I received the correctness of the rebuke.
Now as I have made mention of my short finger, I will give the circumstance in regard to its being chopped off, etc. My brother Jehiel was older than I, and you know boys like to chop with axes. When brother would have the ax, chopping on the wood pile, then I would follow him from place to place to have him give the ax up to me, and I would put my hand on the stick where he was chopping and drive him off. One day he had the ax as before, and I still thought I would do the same thing again in order to get the ax. After he had moved several times, he told me he had moved his last time, and as I thought he would move as at other times, I tried the same trick over, but to my surprise, he let fly and off went my two fingers, and as poor Tom fell by the blow of the side of leather after his many rebukes by those girls, so I fell flat of my back after all forbearance by my brother was lost. As Solomon the wise king says, “Never take a dog by the ears.”
I will relate one more incident that took place between my oldest brother and myself. Father sent us one day to take hair off the hides he was preparing to tan in the log trough and I, as at other times, was full of my tricks and kept tampering with him, first one thing then another, and he kept telling me to quit as he would hurt me as those girls told poor Tom, but I still went on at a venture until he became very angry, for it did not take much to get him out of humor, for he possessed a very high degree of temper – easy to be made mad. So he flew to rocks, as was always his way to fight, for he well knew any other was would not do, for I was a stouter boy than he. So when he grabbed his rocks, I knew he would use them; then I would fly to some place for shelter. On that occasion, there stood a large poplar tree nearby and I, with the quickness of a scared cat, darted behind the poplar and made my escape behind the tree, and made the bark fly, and then kept round the tree in order to hit me, but I kept the tree between us. So directly, he stopped his shower of rocks in order to gather a new supply, for they lay plentiful on the ground. And not aware of what he was doing, and afraid he would slip around on me, I thought I would look around and see what he was doing, and just as I poked my head around the poplar, he let drive and the rock struck me over the eye and hurt me badly, which caused all fear to leave me, for that made me mad and, as above stated, when mad there was no fear in me. So I sprung at him as quick as I could and took hold of him and thought I would give him a flogging. I threw him down on his back. He began to beg, telling me if I would let him up he would quit throwing at me; by this time my passion got off of me some, and knowing I was greatly in fault, let him up. As soon as I did, he grabbed some stones and I made at him again and he fled. So this trouble ended by me receiving another chastisement for worrying him as I had often done before. It was always my nature to have my frolics and play pranks on some and have a big time.
My mother died when I was ten (10) years old, or in the year 1830. She was a Christian woman, I think, for she was a member of the Baptist church and I remember of sitting on the floor and hearing her read the Bible. She used to have many bad spells years before she died, and when I would hear her groanings and lamentations, no more sleep for my eye, for I was so much troubled about her, for my heart was full of trouble, for I was always tender-hearted and am yet – to hear a brute groan with pain disturbs me.
When I was ten years old, after mother died, father moved to Grandfather Reese’s and stayed there three years. While there, I had many ups and downs as you will hereafter see.
At the time father moved to grandfather’s, they had 5 children at home and father had 6, making a family of 14 in all. Father, at that time, was a well-to-do, thrifty man, but after he moved there, he begun to go down and, for many reasons, one was he moved a family on his old farm by the name of McCall, who did him great harm as most of renters do their landlords, for to my hurt, I have in after life experienced these things to my sorrow, for first and last there have lived on my lands nearly or quite one hundred different families and sometimes six or eight families at the same time. I will speak more fully of these matters when I reach that period of my business transactions of life, etc. But as stated, there were 14 in family at old grandfather Reese’s and, as you may readily see, there commenced trouble and sorrows for there were boys of two families, and grandfather’s boys wanted father’s boys to be underlings – to do most of the hardships – and that brought about trouble between the parents of the two families, for it is as natural for parents to hold to their own children as it is for the falling snow to go the way the wind blows, or water to run downhill.
We had to help cut lynn in the woods for the cattle. I here relate one incident, which happened while out with father and grandfather cutting lynn. Grandfather had but one eye; he had one put out by a hot piece of iron flying out of the tongs while working in the shop, for he was a good smith in those days. Having but one eye, he could not perceive objects quick and ready. He and father had chopped a large tree ready to fall, and grandfather thought the tree was going different from what it did, and he still stood near the stump while the tree was falling. Father hollered at him, “Run,” but he still stood there. Father said, “Run,” but there he stood and father had to spring at him and shove him out from under the falling tree, and it appeared to me that the tree was just at their heads as they passed from under it. It appeared to me like a providence of God that they were saved. That was one of the times this boy was scared.
Us children had to help wash clothes, make sugar, and do all kinds of drudgery. We had to go down to father’s old place and work, for father still farmed some down there. The old man who lived on the place was John McCall; he was a good-natured, easy old fellow and loved brandy. Abigail, his wife, was a high-strung old lady and as ill as a viper. They had one of their grandsons, 6 or 7 years old, living with them. The boy brought us some buckeyes from a tree nearby. The old man, being merry on his brandy, wanted to have some fun. So he opened a hole in the hot embers and put some buckeyes in and covered them up; he well knew what would be the result in a short time. When buckeyes get hot, they explode with a big noise and scatter the hot ashes and coals all around. The old Abigail told the old man if they bursted and burned William (the boy), she would demolish him. I knew very well what buckeyes would do, for us boys used to gather hatfuls and put them in log heaps when they were burning, and when they got hot of all the roaring, pistol-like, and scattering ashes you ever saw, it takes the lead for noise, etc. of anything that costs so little.
The old lady was a great smoker; she wore low quartered shoes without stockings in warm weather. So after a short time I suppose, the old lady had forgotten the buckeyes, but I for one had not, for I was carefully watching for the blast, for as before stated, I always liked a frolic, especially when it did not cost me anything to have it.
So the old lady lit her pipe and, as was her custom, would stand by the fire and begin to kick up her [clothes?] – first one side, then the other and would keep on till she would get them up considerably. So when the old Abigail begun to rightly appreciate her smoke, standing there in that plight and all things else lost sight of for the present to the satisfaction of my anxiety, the buckeyes begun to open fire and threw the hot embers in her low quartered shoes and against her ankles and into the boy’s face, on his bare feet, between his toes. You may believe for a few minutes there was a hot time – the old lady squalling, kicking, jumping; the boy crying and screaming at the top of his voice. As soon as the old lady got off her shoes and came to her reason, she sprang at her cane. The old man had better got out and in time, but he didn’t, so he had to take the vengeance of old Abigail with cane in hand. You may believe she [lulabared?] him with a degree of satisfaction.
Now as one passed back and forth from grandfather’s to [the] old place, sometimes grandfather’s boys would go with us as we would work together. Sometimes we would go up Cove Creek by old great-grandfather Eggers’ mills. He had an old negro by the name of Jim, who tended his mills. Us boys used to stop with Jim to hear him play the fiddle. So one of grandfather’s boys by the name of Mathuel, aged 13 years, was with me. It was night, but he would stop to hear Jim play the fiddle. So after we got ready to go on home, Mathuel wanted Jim to let him have some boards off his old house to make us a light. Jim said he would not do it, for said he, people were wanting boards of him so much he could not let us have them, but Mathuel kept on insisting and telling Jim what he would do for him till, at last, Jim raked his house roof and got us good, dry boards and split them up and lit them. There was a large crack in the house opposite Jim’s head where he sit, and would you think after all the old negro’s kindness, that mean, low-down boy Mathuel slipped ‘round outside as we were starting, Jim, poor old fellow, was sitting there animated, no doubt thinking of the good things he was to have from Mathuel for the boards, when Mathuel jabbed the blazing end of the torch through the crack against the poor old negro’s head. Then he ran off and left Jim cursing him. He told us he would give us the Devil and whip us. So by being in bad company with bad fellows, we have to suffer, for I was afraid of Jim after that. I was afraid to even go to the mill that he tended. I was always afraid of the old negro, for I was only 11 years old and, by some means, his eyes had been injured and looked to me as red as fire coals, and when he would go to speak to you, he would turn his head up sideways and he looked frightful to me.
To conclude the story, Jim was one of the ugliest, wrinkliest, old pieces of humanity I think I ever saw – a full blue just from Africa – wore his beard long – meal all over him – leather jawed and could hardly understand anything he said, and I seldom saw a negro and was naturally afraid of them. So you may guess at my suffering from fear of Jim when I had to go to mill. This was one more of my scare troubles to increase my stack of trouble and fear by day and by night.
This same bad Mathuel and I had to feed some cattle from a rail pen of hay. He was one of those ill-grained, stone throwers, and I always delighted in pranking with such hateful tempered boys. I delighted in getting them mad, for I always knew who I could handle & I was not afraid of him, a man to man tussle , but the trouble was Mathuel would resort to stones and other weapons. So as we went along to feed the cattle one day, I guess I commenced to tormenting him. He was carrying an iron fork and, directly, he was mad; then I had to fly from his fork and run and climbed up in the hay pen, and when he came up full of rage, he commenced jabbing at me with the fork, making me dart from one side of the pen to the other, and I had no way for to escape him, he declaring he would stave the fork in me, and it seemed like to me that the fork was piercing my body every stroke he made at me. So you can readily see the trouble I got into by taking a dog by the ears as poor Tom did when he was knocked down by the girls. So when Mathuel saw [how] afraid I was and how much I had suffered by him jabbing the fork at me, he seemed to be satisfied with the revenge he had taken on me and began to laugh and quit jabbing at me. Now no human can tell my relief of body and mind when the danger I thought I was exposed to was at an end. All this trouble came by me pranking with such fellows, for I thought of the hay pen that it would be a city of refuge as is spoken of in Joshua 20:3, but alas, my pursuer followed me and it only proved to be a prison house of death, as it then seemed to me.
I here give another incident of my hardships and sufferings when a boy.
The second winter after father moved to grandfather Reese’s was a terrible, cold, snowy winter and, in a storm of snow, there came along a man and family of seven or eight, moving. Grandfather being a kind, Christian-hearted man, took the family in for the night. In the morning, the weather was worse, so it seemed impossible for them to travel, so they stayed on from day to day. The snow and cold increased and Hutchison, which was his name, stayed all winter. That made a family of about twenty-five persons and only two fireplaces for all to sit by, and the cooking was no small job, for it was like a log rolling every day to cook for them. There was stirring and hustling ‘round. I have not forgotten it till this good day. The kitchen only one story high, loom, long table, shelf, cooking utensils and buckets, etc. took up nearly all the room in it, so the big house that stands until today was the only place for beds. So grandmother fixed a bed on the open porch; there was not a plank nor any protection around it, so it was but little better than if it had stood in the open field, and now the trouble begun for three of us boys had to sleep out there in the open space where the wind had free access, which carried the snow on the porch floor and bed to the depth of several inches some nights. So on going to bed, we had to go through the snow on the porch barefooted and shake snow down from the head of the bed and in we had to go. In the morning, when the weather was cold, the covers were froze with white frost on them from our breaths. In the morning we had to get out in the snow, our breeches covered with snow, and put them on in that cold place.
When we all got in at night around our fire and a bushel, more or less, of Zill apples and a big pot on the fire to heat water to thaw them, then was some fun and loud talking around the big, four horse fire for a while. That was a dreadful winter for me and for all the others, for there was competition and fighting at times among us boys, for there were 9 or 10 boys together of three different families, and I leave to your guess at the results that would follow.
[Note: The house they stayed in that winter, as aluded to above, was the old Uncle Jim Reese house by the road below Phillip Greer’s, now owned by Rad Reese. It, at this writing, is torn down and gone. I am sure it was the one, for in passing there many years ago with my father, I am satisfied he told me of the time he laid out in the snow on that open, cold porch. I remember the porch, house & kitchen as described. J. J. T. Reese or Thaddeus Reese.]
Now when Spring of the year came, Hutchison moved out about two miles from grandfather’s and we were all glad, for this family had been a great deal of trouble to the old folks, and young ones more, if possible, for Hutchison’s family and team wintered on the old folks and but very little pay for the same.
I will give another occurrence which took place to show you how much suffering I had to bear when a boy. There was a full orchard of peaches about [a] half mile from where we lived, and Uncle Isaac Hagaman and his family came to grandfather’s on a visit and, as they wanted some peaches to make a big pot-pie, Uncle Isaac got me to go with him to get some if, perchance, they should be ripe. So off we went, I anxious for the trip, and directly we were in the thick grove of young trees bending with their nearly ripe fruit. Some few were getting soft. So we begun searching for the best, I running here and there through the orchard. After a while, I lost sight of uncle, and the very moment he got out of my sight, I was harrow stricken with fear, for it was an old place and said to be haunted is my recollection now. All these things came up before me while darting about, hunting for uncle, he supposing that I knew where he was all the time, he had started home across the ridge through the green, dark woods. I begun to call or try to call uncle for I had become so wonderfully terrified I could not holler nor cry, although I was too big to cry – only could make a hoarse, wheezing noise, but uncle happened to hear me and called to me, and that seemed like life from the dead to me almost, for I cannot express my feelings at that time.
I will relate another cause of my timidity and fear. Father let me go and work for Uncle Jack Reese one spring and summer over where Celia Madron & L. C. Reese now lives. Uncle would go off some days and leave me to work by myself. I had to go a half mile through the woods to the field to chop in a new ground. I was lonesome all the time for no one lived on the two little creeks there between the Stateline Ridge and Stone Mountain, and there were some panthers running about there then, for we had heard one hollering in some laurel and pine thickets near the old cabin where we stayed. So one evening, I looked down towards the old house where the path crossed a large chestnut log. There was a large knot on the log; it had some small snags on it to represent ears. So I got it all arranged to look like a panther’s head, and his two feet up on the log; then I begun to feel terribly lonesome, for I had heard old people say they would hide themselves in order to spring on their prey and then devour it. I would chop a few licks, then look to see of the horrible creature was gone, but no go, and the more I became frightened, the more I could shape up a panther. So finally I concluded I could see him open his large, ugly mouth and, by this time, I begun to grow desperate, for the evening shade was coming on and I had to go to the old lonesome log house where we kept our things and stayed at night. I thought I would go ‘round through the woods another way, then I knew he saw me and would follow after and spring on me and it would not help me any way I could fix it up. One thing gave me some consolation; uncle had a good rifle gun and he would leave it with me when he would be gone and, by the by, I was a pretty sure shot for a boy of my age. So I knew I had to face the music, for there was no other help for me as I could see. So I concluded to start towards the knot that I imagined was a panther. I concluded to go slow and cautious and look sharp if I could see the creature move, and if he still remained there until I got in close gunshot, I would try him a crack, and if I did not kill him and he remained there till I could load, then I would try him again, and if he came for me, I thought I would make the best of my axe that such an occasion would present to me and as the emergency should be. But as I drew nearer and nearer, my mind and eyesight came to and beheld nothing but a knot on a log having two short snags on it.
Another occurrence took place while living over in that lonesome forest with uncle. The blackberry briers had grown up round the spring that we used, out of which was about twenty-five yards from the old house. So uncle one day went to cutting down the briers around the spring and, low and behold, there was a large rattlesnake in the briers near the spring where I had went (gone) so often for water by day and by night. Uncle sent me in haste for the gun while he watched the snake, so I was there in due time and snake was killed, but in spite of me, it brought chills over me; for if there was anything on earth that I was more afraid of than rattlesnakes, it was wild hogs. Then one more of my troubles began for we had our straw ticks on the floor in that old house where we slept, the floor open, cracks of the under logs open so a snake could crawl in anywhere, for it was summer and snakes were out.
So when I lay down at night to sleep, my very flesh would crawl, as it seemed to me, with such very great fear of snakes, not only in bed but in daytime in the woods and among the high, thick weeds. So I passed that summer in much trouble and distress, for the fear of panthers and snakes rendered me so miserable with fear that that summer was not much satisfaction to me.
In the following fall, I returned home to my father at his old farm where there were no rattlers, and that gave me some consolation as to snakes, but in a short time, trouble came on in many ways. I was now about 14 or 15 years old.
The woman father married gave all the family trouble. About this time, there came in one of father’s cousins from Buncombe Co., N. C. and persuaded father to buy up a team and wagon and make up an outfit for the road. So he bought six horses and a large wagon, harness, etc. to haul goods, etc. from Charleston, S. C. Said cousin’s name was Samuel Reese; he professed to be a great hand with teams and at wagoning. So after all was fixed up for the trip, off Sam went and my brother Jehiel with him to haul goods 300 miles in the winter time.
So when Sam and my brother returned home, being gone six weeks, and in the time hard winter had set in, team run down poorly having labored so hard through mud and deep snows that had fallen in the Blue Ridge and other mountains – horses, as above stated, poor and winter on hand and father scarce of grain, and when spring came, glanders broke out among the horses and some of them died and the team was broken up. Sam took up with a harlot and run off with her and left father the bag to hold and no string in his hand to tie it – Sam gone, horses dead and poor and to pay for, wagon to pay for, and no rise for it, leaving father in debt some $400 or $500 for [the] outfit – and nothing available to pay with, and those who he owed pushed in for their money and Sam gone, who was to help pay for the outfit. This was about the year 1834 or ’35 when there was nothing exempt from execution. So the Sheriff came and sold his property down to his dishes, plates, knives & forks, etc. This left father with his 6 or 7 children in a poor, wretched condition, and us children who were old enough to realize the situation were heartbroken and discouraged.
Father had to sell his old home place to pay for his debts, and that was another terrible shock to me, for to have to leave the place of my childhood where I was completely happy with my dear mother so long as she lived. That old place is sacred and dear to my memory yet and oft times long to go back to look at it, and so I have many times and pass on with a very sad heart.
Now my father had to move to the Fork Ridge, and that was another withering blast to me, to have to go to a house with almost no roof nor chimney or floor, cracks open and lynn bark for [a] loft and puncheons for [a] floor, no other buildings at all and a family of 9 in number. Now you may guess the situation.
My father had, at the old home we left, a tolerable good house for that day and time, a good barn, smoke house, spring house, shop, and plenty of orchard – none on [Fork] Ridge. So, you may readily conceive of the trouble and disadvantages we had to undergo, particularly through the long, hard winters. Now in all this great trouble, my mind would more naturally go back to the place of my acquaintances and near kindred and school mates.
The first Sabbath school I ever went to was held in small log house which stood at the mouth of a hollow just below where the widow Ann Farthing used to live.
[Note: This was the first Sabbath school in Watauga Co., so decided some years ago in the S. S. convention. J. J. T. Reese]
Some of the oldest Farthings taught the young folks. Brother Johiel and I went to that school from the Fork Ridge, a distance of 3 ½ or 4 miles. Old brother Abner and Stephen Farthing then went to said school. Those Farthings at that day were all well to do people, and as Johiel and I were poor and had to wear very plain clothing, I felt embarrassed to be on a level with other nice people. But our chances at that day were so bad for schooling we took up courage to go, and when we went, those noble Farthings were so kind toward us and our embarrassment was soon overcome and there and then at that Sunday school, I formed a love and attachment for that family of people I have not forgotten. I was always proud spirited and high minded, etc. above little dirty things, but not heady nor much dignified in myself, for if I do say it myself, it is a truth not to be questioned that I sprang from two of as good families as the country afforded at that day or perhaps this. So I was determined to make something of myself by the help of God, and today I feel very grateful and thankful to God for what I am and have been in my life’s business, for he has prospered our labors in this life and, as Job says, I have not eaten my bread alone nor turned away a hungry child nor a widow, for as I have here before said, I always possessed a tender heart, but resolute and determined when I was shown that I was right. So misfortunes, as we call them, never dispirited me nor caused me to falter nor shirk from duty.
Now about my 14th or 15th year, father began to hire me out from home to work, for he was so poor and needy he could not well do otherwise, to obtain something to live on. Just at this time, father let Johiel and me go down on Cove Creek to go to school one winter. Johiel boarded with Uncle Jacob Reese where George Hayes now lives, and I boarded with Uncle Bennet Smith nearby. Uncle Jacob did not like me very well from the fact I was always ready to keep up with him, for he was always playing some prank on fellows who he could run over, but Aunt Elizabeth (his wife) always liked Asa, for he was always ready to do for her any favor she would ask for.
So when we were boarding, as stated, sometimes I would stay a night with my brother, but Uncle Jake did not much like for me to stay, but I always had Aunt on my side and that made me alright. Uncle was a great hand to smoke; so one very cold morning, I was at Uncle Jake’s, and he fixed up his pipe for a smoke before he went to feed, so he smoked for some time and then took the stem out of his old nasty pipe and commenced blowing the filth and nasty wax out of it, and when there was a large blubber of the nasty, gummy filth on the end of the stem, he swiped it in my mouth. Then uncle [stone?] out of the house and on to the stable and up into the loft to throw down oats, and I in close pursuit after him. So he threw down his oats and started down the scuttle hole into the cutting room, and as he went down, I grabbed off his hat and he flew mad and ordered me to put his hat on his head and said if I did not, he would come back up and flail me like the devil. So I would not, and here he came. The stable loft was laid with long boards on some poles, and I run up on the pack of oats and he gathered one of these boards as he came and [clewed?] me, as he said he would, with the board and hurt me pretty bad. So I sprang at him and grabbed him and jammed him back against the wall and was going to pegging on him, uncle or no uncle, and he begun to beg so pitiful my tender heart could not stand that, so I let him go and went up to Uncle Bennet’s for breakfast. Now the next thing with me was to watch my chances and give Uncle Jake a remembrance for the way he had treated me at his own house, a poor motherless boy, who he should have been kind to in the place of such unmanly behavior. Jake’s barn stood by the roadside where I had to pass going to and from school. About the time I would pass up at evening from school, uncle would be in the barn cutting oats for his horses, with his back next to the road where I passed. It came into my mind to slip up and jab him through the crack of the logs and see how he would take it, for he was as ill and spiteful as a copperhead. I well knew he would get mad and I did not care, for the way he treated me. So I had prepared me a stick well suited for the occasion and, as I passed, he being busy did not discover me and I stove my stick through the crack and gave him a pretty good jab. He jumped ‘round and squalled at me as though he was frightened, and so he was. He said, “You rascal,” and I went right on and never spoke a word to him as I remember now.
Next morning as I passed by the barn, Uncle Jake had fed and gone. In the evening, I still aimed to give him another big scare as I had the evening before, but let me tell you, I had to rise a great deal of caution to get on him as before. So I waited below, out of sight of him, until my brother went to the house, I suppose him not seeing me with my brother thought I had gone home with some of the scholars, and his fear of the stick had subsided, so he went to cutting oats as on the evening before. So when I heard him cutting, I slipped up behind the lower part of the barn, as before. Uncle seemed to be a little composed, but would cut a little, then stop to watch for me, as I supposed. Now I was about 15 or 20 feet from him, so when he went to cutting, I sprang over the fence like a hart when chased by dogs, and poor old uncle, I gave him another frightful and soul scaring jab with my stick, for he sprang right up and about to see by who, what, and how all that had happened so quick after him peeping out of the crack to look for me. He hollered out as though a reptile had struck him. He did positively hate me by this time as bad as one could, or as bad as I did him for his mean treatment to me as stated.
I have given several of these statements as a caution how people should treat children. You do wrong with young people and they scarcely ever forget the wrong.
After I arrived to riper year, I have, without the asking, forgiven all the wrongs done to me when young.
This was in the year about 1835, and I was 15 years old. Father, at this time, hired me to a man by the name of George Carter, who lived then at the farm James Brown bought and lived on up to his death, on Roan Creek, then Carter Co., Tenn. Said Co. was named for old General Carter, and the Co. site Elizabethton, after General Carter’s wife. Some years after Johnson Co. was taken off from Carter Co., Johnson Co. was named after a man by the name of Johnson, who was a citizen of said Co., and Taylorsville the site of said Co. was named after old General Taylor.
Now [the] Carters were called “big, rich people from below the mountains,” as people used to say in those days. So, you know boys who had never been from home much would naturally feel embarrassed to go to stay with such folks. So I went on over to work for Mr. Carter. When I arrived and found Carter, he looked to me like a very sober, stern man. I said, “Mr. Carter, I have come to work for you.” He looked up at me with that sternness and dignified countenance, with eyebrows long and thick, with rather pale and withered face; all went to give me right smart of embarrassment, for as I have said before, I always had a tender heart and was easily dashed. Then Carter said to me, “I begin to think white men were uncertain and negroes would run away.” I just remarked, “I came when father sent me.” Now all this begun to make me think I was going to be treated with contempt and to be looked at as a poor beggar or slave, and that I could not endorse, for if I was poor, I had a great big heart and was of as good a family as the Carters [even] if they were rich and dignified.
Now Carter never treated me as a gentleman should, who had grace in his heart. He hardly ever spoke to me in regard to business, nor any other matter, for he had an overseer, and he told me what to do. So I spent 3 or 4 months of miserable, hard labor there, etc.
One other thing kept me in trouble. Carter had a distillery going on nearby his house and also had an Indian there who drove his team, a large, square-shouldered, big, stout man, and he would go and get whiskey and get intoxicated, then he was ill and [crabid ?], and Carter was afraid of him, much less a boy scarcely grown. Some of the Carters brought Duffel, the Indian, back with them from the Cherokee war and raised him. If I perchanced to fall in his way when drinking, he would grab me and mash me and sling me about and sometimes hurt me. All that had to be endured, or leave, and if I left I knew that would displease my father, for he was to be the recipient of my labor, for he was in straitened circumstances and need the pay, which was, I believe, $11.00 per month. Therefore, you may know my task was over my strength at times, for we had to rise by daybreak and away to the field, there to work till 8 or 9 o’clock, then breakfast came and I was so hungry.
Now, while working for old George Dollerson Carter, of Saturday evening I would go up to stay all night with one or the other of my two great uncles who lived 2 and 2 ½ miles above where I was working. I would stay most with Uncle Daniel for he had a house full of boys and girls, and then we would have a good time. Old Mr. Snyder lived close by and his girls would come over to uncle’s and helped to increase our social frolics, not dancing, but playing pranks, etc. on each other. Those little repasts helped me to forget my hard labor I had to undergo down at old Dollerson Carter’s. Sometimes I would go on up to old Uncle Isaac Reese’s to see him. Uncle Isaac never had any children. He was rather a dry old coon; he was afflicted with rheumatism and could not go ‘round very much.
About this time, uncle being old and afflicted, wanted someone to go and stay with him and take charge of his affairs. True, he owned some 6 or 8 slaves, but he well knew they did not possess much knowledge and care of his business, and uncle wanted me to come and make a crop with him, and he would know by that time how I would please him, then perhaps he would try to get me to live with him and make me heir of all he possessed, which would have been a handsome fortune for a young man of that day, but I chose not to be confined, for I was young and prepared to go ‘round some in the world and see how other people did, and have a good time, and so I did, but sometimes I would pay dear for it, for I did not care much for riches. I always thought if God would give me the use of my limbs and a reasonable exercise of my mind, I could, at any time, go to work and obtain a good living.
One other incident I will give that happened while at Mr. Carter’s. George Bingham, who lived on Cove Creek, N. C., a very clever man, came over to Carter’s on business, perhaps, and stayed all night. Carter was not at home. So after supper, the candle was set on the table (there was no oil and lamps then), and Carter’s desk was open where he kept his day books and papers. So Mr. Bingham, not thinking it impolite, doubtless, went to the desk and took down one of Carter’s ledgers and begun to peruse it. Now there was a man living with Carter by the name of Griffey. He was there waiting for the furnace to blow for he was to be the foundryman. He was a pretty sharp, genteel kind of a man. He, seeing Mr. Bingham handling Mr. Carter’s book, spoke to him in rather a sharp and insulting tone, “Are you going to posting books?” So Bingham saw his wrong and quietly lay by the book and sat down. Now this little incident I give to show young people who may, as I did, profit by the rebuke of Griffey for impoliteness.
After my time was out with Carter, I returned home to my father who then lived on the Fork Ridge. I worked some at home and some away for provisions for the family to live on and carried it home on my back up that ridge. When I would go home, there was not much enjoyment there, for my father’s house was not a place of much pleasure to me after my father married that disagreeable woman. So my burden was no greater hired from home than it was at home, and the summer was spent a little here and a little there, and when winter came on, father took Johiel, my brother, and myself over to the furnace to chop coal-wood for the furnace. We slept in a [clalyer’s?] camp and lived on fatback & cornbread most of the time. When we would have to go down to the furnace for bacon and meal, those wicked fellows who worked at the furnace would throw stones at us; perhaps they did not aim to hurt us, only intended to scare us. There was a man by the name of old George Brown who had an interest in the furnace and seemed to be the chief boss of the affairs. We had to go to him for our provisions, and he was as insulting and overbearing a man as I now remember of ever having worked for. When we would go to him for bacon and meal, he would say, “You do nothing but eat” – don’t suppose you are earning what you get, etc. He never gave us any words of encouragement at all.
Now, as we were boys over there in the wild forest by ourselves and where the woods and the furnace yards were full of wicked fellows, and not knowing what they might do to us some night to scare us, you may know we spent a lonesome, hard time there. Now old George Brown did not consider that he was nothing but a poor, dependent creature when he was insulting poor, motherless boys. He did not know whose hands he might fall into. At that time, I felt like, if ever I became a man and came up with Brown, I would have revenge for his insults towards us boys. In after years, I laid that all down, but it was all a good schooling for me in after years; and all through my life, to know how to treat poor boys, and orphan children and widows.
Now it happened in process of time that this great, dignified, proud, overbearing, insulting man Brown got [tedatially/totally?] broken up and became almost a vagabond on the earth.
After I became a citizen of Johnson Co., Brown was glad to seek a shelter sometimes in my house, and I would take him in and treat him like a father. It does my heart good today to think I can forgive men for the wrongs done me, even without being asked for it. As Benjamin Franklin said, so say I, Stoop as you pass through this world and it will save you many hard thumps as we go long in this life, and give pleasant reflections as we pass on through it.
Now when the cold winter season set in, I went home to father’s. I spent most of the time that winter on that cold, disagreeable ridge, cutting lynn for cattle, carrying and drying in wood to burn in that open, cold house. We had to carry our grain to the mill through the snow, half [a] leg deep and sometimes deeper, the timber cracking with a freeze & covered with ice.
So you may guess what we had to endure to go through the extreme, hard winters of those times. So by and by, sugar making time came on, and then to the sugar camp. Sometimes we would make a considerable quantity of sugar and molasses; that made the pancakes good.
When summer came on, I was 16 or 17 years old and again father hired me to grandfather Smith. Sometimes I would work in the forge and sometimes would haul coal and ore to the old forge grandfather rented of old David Wagner on Roan Creek, Johnson Co., Tenn., perhaps Carter Co. then. I drove a team of four oxen without a line on them and they were hard to control, so I told grandfather to get me line, it would save me a great deal of trouble and worry, and perhaps him also, but he would not get one. So I had to haul a pit of coal from up Forge Creek about three miles, and a desperate bad road, and I was driving one day down a long, steep sidling road, and the team ran up on the upper side of the road too far, and over went the wagon, coal and all, down the steep bank of the road; then I had to two miles to go to the forge for grandfather to help get the wagon back in the road, then the coal to be got up and reloaded. The loss of time of team and two hands and one half day, worth at least two dollars, & loss of coal that could not be got up, about ten bushels, fifty cents, making $2.50 which would have purchased three lines. So I learned “that a stitch in time saves nine.”
Another time I was hauling coal about three miles from another place. Grandfather would have me go too late for a load and it would take me one or two hours in the night to get in with my load. So one night I was out in the dark, and there was a crook in the road where stood a small tree, the side of which next to the road was all skinned with wagon wheels, but this time the other side got skinned for the wheel ran below the tree and there I was and could not get away. So I unloosed the oxen from the wagon and struck for the forge, getting in at 9 or 10 o’clock and as dark a night as I wanted to try my eyes in. By this age, I did not suffer so much from fear in the night as I once did. Now the coal in the wagon was hot from the pit and was liable to contain fire, so grandfather put out in the night to see if there was any fire in the coal. He found none and returned late in the night. So much for that, for I was troubled in mind and much worried and, of course, old grandfather, then about sixty years old, was tired by the time he got back homes. Now all this trouble would have paid for two more lines.
Grandfather Smith was a man of fine brain and culture at that day and time, say 55 years back, notwithstanding, he had some weak places.
We lay on a straw bed on the floor and cooked for ourselves in the shortest manner, and you know how our fare was, and in this condition I worked for grandfather four months, and father was the recipient of all that hard labor and rough fare/
Now about this time, I formed an acquaintance with my wife and many other young and old people on Roan Creek that runs through that beautiful valley, the Egypt of the mountains.
Now as old Grandfather Wagner became acquainted with me and found out that I was truthful, active, and good to work and also had a reasonable mind given me by God, one proof of which was my readiness to learn all kinds of work so young. I could do pretty fair work in the blacksmith shop, cooper, shoe make, & so on. (This may appear a little egotistic, but I do not mean for it to.) So the old father David would invite me to come and stay of nights with him and his boys, so you see, he never thought it any disgrace, but a credit to have such a boy as I was with him and his young folks.
Now as old Mr. Wagner was always fond of my presence, the young folks soon formed an attachment and love for me, and when I would go down to stay all night with them, they would have me to go with them in to where the black folks lived, to dance, for there were two of the black men who could play the fiddle well; so that was a fine past time and fun for me, for I could make a pretty good show on the floor as a dancer in those times. Dancing then was fashionable, and besides dancing, I could play a great many tricks and act the monkey for them.
So when Miss Rachel, the old man’s daughter, heard how I could make fun for them. After that, when I would go down, she would ask permission to go with her brothers to see me at my smart tricks.
Besides all of theses funny things I would do, I could make a most charming noise in and through my hands, done by an effort of the lungs and was a hard thing to perform. I never knew but two other persons who could make the same noise with its beautiful, charming, bewitching, and bewildering strains coming from human voice. It had such enchanting vibrations that all, both old and young, liked to hear it. But as it strained my lungs to perform it, as I grew older I began to resist it and so on till I finally quit it. Some of my older children have heard me make the noise. [Note: I remember hearing my father when a boy and how sweet and musical the sound rang out on the still air and echoed against the hills. J. J. T. Reese]
I will go on with my story of old David Wagner. He got me one fall to make shoes for all, or nearly so, of his family, white and black, and when I would make three shoes a day, he would tell me to quit work and rest and walk ‘round some and look about, and I would mind the old man and do as he said. That gave me time and opportunity to pass a few words with young Miss Rachel, which seemed to be very satisfactory with Mr. Wagner as far as I was able to tell, for I went there one time and the old man wanted me to rob some of his bees, but said, “No one here to help me for they were all scattered off,” but said, “Rachel can help you.” So you see, if it had not been his pleasure for me to have sparked his young daughter, he would not had her to help rob bees. Then and about that time, Mr. Wagner told me to come and live with him and he would make a man or gentleman of me, one of those terms he used. My first impression was to go, for the thoughts of his large estate and his beautiful young daughter fired me to the bottom of my soul, for he was, at that time, worth from $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 [and] had some 20 or more slaves.
So I consulted my Grandfather Smith in regard to his offer, and he advised me to go and marry Rachel, but in after time told me just what I had already concluded to do myself. I just thought if I went there, his boys would want to domineer over me. I very well knew I would not bear that, and besides all that, if I took Rachel, as she had or perhaps would have a good deal of the property, she would want to do the same thing. So I concluded to take the woman I did take, for neither of us had scarcely anything, and we would have a fair pull for it.
My Grandfather Smith continued to make iron at Wagner’s old forge. Iron then sold at five cents, or five dollars per hundred lbs., so you see, he could do well at that business.
My brother Johiel quit working for father at about the age of twenty and went to work for Grandfather Smith, but he did not stay with him but for a short time till he died, and when the news came to me of his death, that was the hardest shock that ever came to me up to that time, for I was too young when mother died to realize her loss then, but in after time, I felt what it was to have no mother. My brother died so suddenly after he was taken that we never heard anything of it until he was dead, and as I said, that was the most heart rending thing I ever had to bear up till then.
Grandfather took him over to Cove Creek grave yard and had him laid by the side of dear mother. A few years back – 12 or 15, I had nice stones set up to father’s, mother’s, and brother’s graves. I bought nice soap stones, well dressed and engraved by the maker and set them up with my own hands so my children may go when they will and see the place where they lay waiting for the Resurrection of the dead, and I have hope they may have part in the first resurrection of the dead when our Lord and Master comes to receive his jewels in the new life that is promised to his children “who love his appearance in that day.”
[Note: The putting up of those tombstones was so much like the great heart of my father. He thought much about his people, both the living and the dead, and where he could show respect for them or honor God, his money was given freely. J. J. T. Reese]
In the fall of 1838, a man by the name of Alfred Adams, father of Taltan, Abner, Sarah Mast now, and Leah Dougherty now, and myself took a trip out to Sequatchie Valley, Tenn. on the east side of the Cumberland Mountain and down near Tennessee River, to see our kinfolks. Adams had a sister who lived in said valley at that time, and several of the Green families had moved out there with whom we were acquainted before they moved; also, I had an uncle and aunt – Jacob Moody & wife Susana, a sister to my mother. They lived across and on [the] west side of Cumberland Mountain in Warren County and near Collins River. I went over and across said mountain to see uncle and aunt and left Adams in Sequatchie Valley. The distance to my uncle’s was too great for me to reach that day. So when I crossed the mountain at the foot on Collins River, there I struck the settlement. Now it was just about sunset, so I stopped at a house of a man by the name of Edley Harris[on]to enquire the way and distance to my uncle’s. He told me it was three or four miles. I desired to go there that night if possible to do so, although I was very tired. Harrison said I had better stay with him and go over in the morning, for, said he, “It is through woods part of the way and it will be dark and you may be bothered to find the little path.” So by Harrison insisting on me, I turned in, but not without some scruples and fears on account of him appearing so anxious for me to stay. Mr. Harrison was the largest man I ever saw. When I took my seat in his house, which I was glad to do on account of being so tired, he began conversation with me as to where I lived and where I was going and whether or not I was going back soon and about the country where I lived and seemed to be very inquisitive every way. I went on to tell him about the country where I lived and answered all his questions with as much politeness and as good language as I was able to use.
So the good old man seemed to be well entertained with the boy. Sp supper came on, and after my meal, I told him I wished to retire for the night as I was leg worn. A bed was soon ready in a private room, and into the bed I went, for I was so tired. Harrison went out and all was dark in the room. Now chills began to creep over me, for somehow I was uneasy. I could hear transpiring below, and more talking, I thought, than a private family had any need of so late in the night. I wished then I had gone on my way to uncle’s, for if I had lain in the woods, I thought then it would have been a palace in the place of Harrison’s good bed. Now you will say, “Coward,” and so I was. So I lay very still listening to every move I could hear below, but after while, everything was still and quiet and I, being so tired, dropped off to sleep, and day came as I awoke and how glad I felt that all went right with me. Next morning after breakfast, the good man told me how to go. I asked him his bill; “Not one cent,” said he, so I thanked the good old gentleman and went on my way, found uncle and aunt next morning early in the day, and they were almost heart-melting to see me out there, but after a flow of tears from us, all we regained again our man and womanhood, then there were worlds of questions asked – how all were & how I came to see them so far by myself? I told them frankly all I knew, and they seemed so well pleased with my coming to see them. They scarcely knew how to appreciate my visit. I stayed a few days with them, then left to return back to the valley to meet my special friend, Mr. Adams.
Uncle had bought a small piece of land where he lived, but I was not much pleased with it, for it was almost a solid bed of limestone rocks and only one small spring on it. It was run into a large trough, the stream not larger than a large rye straw, but afforded water enough to make out with. The land was very rich, but on account of the rocks, it could not be farmed much. The timber on it was lynn, poplar, and the largest black hickories and the most of them I ever saw anywhere.
Uncle was in a poor condition then. He had better let well enough alone, for he had a very good place on Sharp’s Creek, N. C. known as the old Moody place to this date 1895. So I bid uncle and aunt farewell and started across Cumberland Mountain by myself – a very lonesome trip to me, a distance of 35 or 40 miles from uncle’s to Sequatchie Valley, and most of the way through a wilderness – and lonesome was I and also lonely, but in the evening I overtook a man on foot on the mountain, whose company gave me some relief; still, I did not like the way he talked to me and the questions he asked me, for I had heard of so much robbery and murder about Cumberland Mountain it made me the more fearful and lonesome. So my friend and I, when we started down on the east side of mountain, we made fast time, for he said he had to go home that night and I should stay all night with him, that he lived on the road. Now when we got to his house, it was getting late and he told me I could not go to my place of destination till sometime in the night and urged me to turn in and stay, that I would be welcome. So in I went, but with some reluctance and fear, most of which grew out of old men talking about the dangers of the Cumberland – that and my youth made me fear. So I stayed all night with the kind man and his great wife, who seemed to treat me so very kind. Men in those days, say 55 years back, who lived far apart from each other in the almost wilderness then, was glad to have one come to stay with them so they might have some repast.
So next morning I left the man and his lady and sped on my way to my comrade, Mr. Adams, and never was a man gladder to meet with a long absent son, than he seemed to be. So now all was right and I started on my old line of fun, playing my pranks, making music in my hands for the Greene girls and other. It seemed that they would almost follow me to see my youthful pranks and have big fun. My friend Adams would stand off and would not take much hand for he was promised to marry a woman he left back at home, and he was a little cramped, but by the by we had a nice trip out there to see our folks and that new country. The first cotton I ever saw was growing there.
Adams and I got home safe and was gladly received by our old friends. Not long after we came home, Adams was married to my cousin, a very lady-like, nice looking woman. Adams and her seemed almost like my own brother and sister, and we always remained good friends.
[Note: I remember Alfred Adams. I saw him at my father’s and also at his own house when I was a young man. I know my father and Adams were great friends, for I often heard him speak of him. J. J. T. Reese]
Now after we returned home from Sequatchie Valley, I worked for different men over the country, mostly clearing land by the job. I chopped land for old Brazilla McBride, Alfred Adams, made shingles for Allen Adams, chopped land for Uncle Johiel and Bennet Smith, made a lot of boards for Uncle Jacob Reese, made rails for Bennet Smith and laid them up, all for 37 ½ cents per hundred, worked for Uncle William Grayson to pay for 50 acres of land I bought of him for $25.00, still known as the Pierce place. The land now could not be bought for less than $800.00. In six or seven years after I bought the land, I sold it to Mr. McBride for $125.00 and was glad to get that, for I was now married and was in a strait for something to start on. I also cleared land for James Swift, made shingles for Valentine Reece’s son Hugh, chopped land for John Isaacs, and how many others I worked for I cannot now remember, father all this time being the recipient of a good share of my labor.
Now I was about 19 years old, so I told father one day when we were making rails for Uncle Johiel Smith that I had no clothes hardly decent for to wear when I wished to go in company, for I said to him I did not have scarcely any education and thought he should be willing for me to do for myself the other two years till I came of age. I further said to my father I had always been a good boy to work for him at home and abroad and had gone through many hardships, laboring and packing things in home to help raise those motherless children. When I said all these things to my father, he shed tears and said, “Go my boy and do for yourself and the best you can, for I am not able to help you any way.” I then worked and got me some clothing. Then I started to school to a one-armed man by the name of Samuel Watson, who was teaching at old Ebenezer church house at the head of Cove Creek. I boarded with cousin John Isaacs. I would work mornings and evenings as the days were long in the summer, and worked on Saturday also. So when school was out, my board bill was paid off.
Now after school was out, I again went to work to get me some more clothes, and next winter went to school again to the same man at a house just below Uncle Jacob Reece’s, now George Hayes’s. I boarded at John Wilson’s, who lived over on one prong of Wilson’s Creek, and there I had a good time of fun with Malinda Mast and Rachel Curtis, for they boarded there and went to the same school.
After school was out, I had to blister my hands till they became hardened, and so I worked to get money to pay my teacher, etc. There were no free schools at that day and time, so if a fellow went to school then, he had to foot the bill.
The next fall, two of my uncles started to move to Platte Purchase, MO, and I concluded to go with them and so I did. Hiram McBride, Riley Wilson, and a young woman by the name of Roland, a sister to my uncle Wm. Roland who went out there. Now Uncle Jacob Reese had two girls about grown, and the Roland girl made three, and us three boys made six of the youngsters, and don’t you know we had a lively time on the way, for all remained well and no very bad accidents happened to any of us. Uncle Jacob Reese had a good horse to die on the road. Now we would generally stop on Sabbath and rest up our teams, and about every two weeks, we stopped on Friday and rested, and the girls would wash our clothing and us boys would take a big hunt for squirrels or any game that was lawful & right to kill. So on Sunday we would have a big squirrel feast, for sometimes we would kill 8 or 10, perhaps more. Uncle Jake treated me with the greatest of kindness on our trip, if we did have some frolics back in old N. C.
Hiram McBride and I drove the four horse team or wagon, and when the time began to draw near of an evening for us to camp, I was the boy to choose the time and place to camp and make the fires for my two aunts and the girls to cook our victuals, for it was soon found out who could excel in fire-making. So when supper came on, all who chose took a horn of brandy, or sometimes old Ohio rectified whiskey, and it was splendid whiskey, but no one got drunk on the road. I remember one narrow risk I run. McBride most always chose for me to do the driving across deep waters and on and off the ferry boats, and I never would back out for trifles, as someone had to go in front. I believe the Cumberland River was the first place we had to ferry across on a boat. So I drove on the boat after some little trouble, for the team appeared shy and did not like to go on the boat, but after coaxing and patting them, I got them on; they had never been on a boat before.
Now the road up the bank on the other side where I had to drive off the boat was narrow and pretty steep. There was a long, small log laid at the lower side of the road to prevent wagons from sliding off the loamy bank into the river. As I drove off the boat, the saddle horse and next to the upper side of the road from the rive was so badly scared that when I gave the word, he sprang forward with such force he jerked the lower fare wheel of the wagon up on said log, and in spite of me, the wheel run 8 or 10 ft. right on top of that little log; finally it dropped in the road. If the wheel had slipped over below the log, the wagon would certainly have gone off the high bank, team and all, into the river, and what the result would have been you may guess, for the river was deep at that place. I still thank God that he saved my life, for it seemed like almost a miraculous escape. When I drove up on the level where the horse could stand, well my heart seemed to flutter, and my nerves were weak, but as soon as all was over the river, we started on for the Platt Purchase, rejoicing that the case was no worse.
Now it seems that such things happened to give me more caution in future life and to harden me up for the same.
Now after we left Cumberland Valley, we soon struck the corner of Kentucky and all went well with us, and in a few days, we were on the bank of the Ohio River. Now that was a river for all of us to gaze on, who had never been where much large streams flowed. The flag was hoisted and the boat was soon on our bank ready to receive us. That was a boat right. It could take two 4-horse teams over at a time.
So we all were soon on deck and the boatman soon landed us all safe on the other side. Now as soon as we were all out of the boat, we were in the State of Illinois, in the southwest corner. Now as we passed on through the corner of said state, we came across two springs close to each other, which was a matter of some curiosity to me. One of the springs was strong salt, boiling up in the middle of a small creek. It had a gum set over it – two or three feet high, clear above pretty high water mark. The other was an alum spring flowing out of the bank of the creek not more than 8 or 10 yds. from the salt spring.
We crossed the Ohio River at Cove Rock ferry. The boat was moved by horse power. So on we went through the southwest corner of the third state that we had been in, and some of it the smoothest and levelest part of the country I had ever seen.
We came to the Mississippi River at Shelton, the father of rivers of the western hemisphere, one and a half miles wide, so here was another horse boat ready for us to cross over into the State of Missouri, the state of our destination, but still three-hundred miles to travel before we would reach Platte Purchase. So on we went, passing many moving families and sometimes travel with them days, all camping at night near each other. Then I would have a time with them, for most always there were some girls with them. So we would go, some going one way and some another. Sometimes we would have to take up long before night on account of wood and water. There were groves of timber along the creeks and plenty of squirrels, gray and fox, so we would spend the evening hunting squirrels; we would also kill then on the road as we traveled.
Nothing more of great importance happened until we got up into Clay County, which joined Platte Purchase on the south side, and now it was in November and commenced snowing, and by night the snow was near shoe mouth deep. We camped in a grove of young Spanish oaks on a hillside, and as before, I had to make fires, so that was one of the evenings this boy was straitened, for there was nothing dry to be had. So I downed one of those oaks and split it up pretty fine – hewed off some shavings, cleaned away the snow, and it was not ling till I had a great big, popping fire for the women and children who sat in the wagons till the fire was made; then, like turkeys, they begun to light out and run to the big fire. Then we took a tolerably big horn round, for if any time since we left home demanded a little steam, that was one of the times, for I tell you it was cold right. We soon got our camp tents up and the large fire soon warmed it inside and then my good old aunts begun supper. So we downed several of those trees and kept a big fire all night, and in the morning a man who lived just down from our camp a little came up to us and invited us all down to his house to stay in his house and our teams in his barns till the cold spell was over. We gladly accepted his kind offer and stayed some days till snow was gone. The good old man had a barrel of old Ohio rectified whiskey, and he wanted to treat us all who would use it at all.
Now we had only about three days journey to go until we got to where we expected to stop for winter quarters anyway.
Now while we were at the kind old man’s house, whose name was Craven, but his heart far from being what his name was – Craven, he had two young men at home with him, who encouraged us to go out with them to take a deer hunt and so we did, but killed none; the boys said they had gone to the bottoms, they thought, but anyway we had a good time there with that kind family, for the old Dutchman would keep all the others laughing, hearing his stories of the west and about the Mormons and how they behaved there in Clay County, and the war they had with the Mormons and how they run them out of Clay County over the Mississippi River to a place by the name of Nauvoo, and in after time the people drove them from Nauvoo and they went to Salt Lake where they remain till this day. One of the young men who went deer hunting with us had been shot in the thigh by a Mormon and he was lame. He expressed great hatred towards Mormons still and would as long as he could hear of one.
Now we started on our journey for Platte Purchase and in 3 ½ days, we were at James Webb’s, one of my uncles. Now we crossed Platte River at New Market; there I got my knee badly hurt by the fare wheel of the wagon running over it on the frozen road, but it was soon well, and in a short time, we were all at our destination and drove up our peg.
Now after we had stopped in the Purchase and my two uncles got houses to stay in for the winter, us boys, after a week or so going ‘round with our old friends, set out to work. Hiram McBride and myself undertook a job of fence building for a man by the name of Lewis. He was a wholesome fellow. So McBride and I went right on with our fence; we made hundreds of black walnut and mulberry rails. We finished our job of fencing, earning 75¢ per day, and Lewis paid us like a man. The next work we did was handing up tobacco for Lewis and when that was over, Lewis hired us to make tobacco hogsheads for shipping the tobacco in down on boats to Orleans.
Every now and then we would go to my two uncles to see them and also our dear old N. C. boys who were in the Platte when we went out there.
Now spring of the year is here, prairie grass shoe-top high by the 1st of March ’41. Mr. McBride and I took a trip up the country; there was plenty of public lands to take up, and after looking around, we concluded to go back up on Nottoway River. There we set up our stakes. We took some meal and other provisions with us, also a cow for milk, for the range was just as good as a meadow, but McBride became lonesome and discouraged, for there were not many white people up the country that far yet. There were plenty of Indians roaming about over their old home lands and hunting grounds of their past days, for they liked to go back to their old haunts and catch fish out of that beautiful Nottoway, for it was full of them. The largest and best fish was the Buffalo, while there were plenty of cat- and white suckers, so there was no need to fish as it appeared. Nottoway was given in by the commissioners who surveyed the land originally to be navigable, so they made the sections that lay on the river fractional. So McBride went back down the country and I bought his part of the claim we had got of an old Santa Fe trader by the name of Frank Woods. He had been seven times to Santa Fe with the trading men, old Robidoux and others. I will say something more about Woods by and by. McBride also sold his part of our outfit we had laid in for the summer, and back he went where plenty of white men lived, for he was chicken hearted or homesick, can’t just say which; perhaps both for he had a daisy of a girl back in old N.C. My uncle Wm. Roland had moved up to the woods grove and I made arrangements to stay with him. Now I went to work and cleaned off a small field where it was easy done, grubbing and chopping with the same ax, for there was not a gravel to be found in that black soil which was from 8 to 10 inches deep on high lands at that. I planted my corn late but it made corn right. Uncle and I stayed there in the woods grove through the next winter, hunting and roaming over the great prairies. Around partly to see how beautiful the country was and perchance would kill a deer and catch soon coons and kill wild hens, for there were plenty of, yes thousands of, these on the prairies.
Now when our corn got ripe, we made us a mortar and beat our meal in it that winter, for there was no mill in 8 or 10 miles of us. Some people had hand mills. They hunted what was called the last rocks, but they were very hard to find lying on the prairie and in a place. They dressed them out and made mill stones of them.
Sometimes we would go to where the red men of the Wild West were camped along the river bottoms and shoot with them and have sport. Most of the women were very handsome. So we would have a big shooting match, then the Indians would break for their wigwams and down they would lay on their bearskins and buffalo rugs, and all of them would commence smoking tobacco. Most all of them wore clothing made of cloth; some wore clothing of dressed skins; the women wore clothing bought of our people.
Their babies or papoose were never taken out of their cradles, which they were tied fast in, on their backs when the mother suckled them. She would take cradle, baby, and all up in her arms for the cradles were constructed of splits and shaved pieces of wood, bark, etc. Their cradles did not rock like ours but was fixed on small wooden springs, and they would move them to and fro. It was a very wise, ingenious little frame.
I had no fear of those red men for they had become tame and naturalized to our people. Some of them could talk broken English. They received a yearly payment from the U. S. Government. There were several tribes received an annuity which was paid at Council Bluffs, now known as Omaha. It was then a wild country; now it is a large city.
These things I have mentioned are such as follow the settlements of the U. S. from first to last, and the last, it seems, has almost come and now what will be done? There will have to be something done to supply the place of the range, the wild meadows of the West, game, fish, etc.
Now my Uncle Roland and aunt moved from Woods Grove to the other side of Nottoway River, and as I did not wish to live by myself, I went with them over the river and still made my house with them but worked a little here and there. So uncle and I sold our preemption claims over in Wood Groves with the determination of going back to the old N. C. [boy?] State and risk our chances among those mountains, for we had a severe scourge of fever and ague in the summer and fall, but oh how I did hate to leave that beautiful new country and its rich lands, but I had so many relapses of the chills even all through the winter and spring that it seemed like I could not recover my health there any more.
Now I will go back a little and relate some stories I heard the old bachelor Frank Woods tell. I have before made mention of him. He told me he had made seven trips across the plains with traders to Santa Fe, a distance of one thousand miles. They would go through in the summer when there was grazing for their stock and trade their goods to the Spaniards or Mexicans in the winter and then return next summer. He told me they would sell a knife for $2.50 that could be bought here for 50¢ or 75¢ and other things in proportion. They would take eight to ten thousand dollars worth of goods at a time for they would take from 20 to 30 wagons at a time and would employ a good many men for the journey. Old Robidoux would bring back each time $25,000.00 to $30,000.00 Spanish mill dollars. So you see that was business right.
Old Franky Woods was in the service of Robidoux fourteen years in that goods traffic to Santa Fe in old Mexico. They would have to cook their provisions with dry buffalo chips while crossing the plains. Woods told me a tale about buffalos. He said when they started in great droves for water, it took something to turn their course. When they would hear the buffalos coming, for he said you could hear them many miles on the hard, dry land when hundreds of them would start for water, then all was alive until they formed their wagon train in a circle to prevent the herd from running over the teams. They had one green fellow along who had never been on the plains before. When old Franky told the teamsters to round their teams, that green horn, as he called him, just sat in his saddle listening at the herd coming and never moved a peg but still sat there, and Woods bawling at him, “Round your team!,” for as soon as the herd came in sight, it was observed by the old Santa Fe trader they were coming right in the direction of the train of wagons. Old Frank stormed at the fellow, “Round your team into the circle!” Now the herd was nearing them and there he sat on his saddle horse, amazed at the large herd of hundreds of buffalos. So the great herd parted; some went on one side and some on the other, and one large bull jumped clear over the two lead horses of the green horn’s team, but the team happened to stand and never tried to run, and the old man said it was a wonder that the teams stood. They were near the Arkansas River and the herd ran into the deep river, and when the calves came up, they leaped a straddle of the backs of the old ones, all swimming ‘round and ‘round, drinking and snorting, calves still on their backs.
Now I will leave Old Franky Woods for another line of thought. There was a man by the name of Joseph Robidoux who owned a considerable boundary of land where the city of St. Joe [St. Joseph, MO] stands. It was named after old Joseph Robidoux, who was a brother to the old Santa Fe trader mentioned before. So in the spring before I left that beautiful country, Robidoux had his land laid off in one acre town lots and sold them at $100.00 each; then I wanted money worse than I ever have since then, for I foresaw us, I thought, what would follow and so it did, and even greater things than I imagined, for then there were no railroads being built and the R. R. made St. Joe mostly what it is today. So that much was out of sight to me then and most all other men at that time.
There was no telegraph lines, no cable crossing the great oceans, no telephones, but few steam boats, no mowing or reaping machines, no sewing machines. All these and many other great inventions have been brought into use since I was a man, and what more may be invented in the next half century, God only knows. The first brick chimney I ever saw was about 60 years ago. It was built for old Uncle James Swift on Cove Creek, N. C., then Ashe Co. The first Orleans Sugar I ever saw sold for 15¢ per pound; now a much finer grade can be bought in Mt. City for 6¢.
So now I will go back to the proper place to begin with what I have seen and undergone along the line of my life since I left the west for N. C. But before I leave that beautiful land of the west, I must tell some other small events which I hope may interest the reader.
Hiram McBride & I started from Buchanan Co. to go up the country to look us out some land claims to settle on as before mentioned. I had an uncle who had moved up near the Nottoway River, and first of all, we were going to see my Uncle Roland, then look around. So one evening late, we reached Nottoway and a man showed us the grove where he lived, which was about 3 miles from the river. So we got over the river all right and started for the grove. It was then sundown and I had a short rifle gun; the prairie grass had been burned off and snakes were just beginning to crawl out of the gopher holes; a gopher is an animal about the size of a large gray squirrel. They burrow in the ground, making their holes below freezing and pile up the dirt around their holes, making a nice little mound of dirt. So the prairie rattlesnakes and adders, moccasins, and other kinds of snakes go to den in these holes in winter time with the gophers. So in the spring, you will see some of the snakes’ heads sticking out of the holes and some coiled up on top of the holes & go back at will, for they go back at night and out in the day if weather suits them. So they remain sometimes around their dens before they venture out any distance till all the cold frosts are over. As I have before stated, I was tremendously timid and afraid of snakes, rattlesnakes in particular. So McBride and I had gone no distance till here was a snake on the gopher mound. I shot it, loaded up again, and on we went a short distance and there was another snake. Shot it, loaded again, and on we went and soon came to another snake. Shot him, loaded short, little gun, and by this time it was getting rather dusky but could still see a snake on those mounds. So McBride said, “It is now late; we had better go as rapidly as possible while we can still see some glimpses of the grove for fear we may miss our course and get bewildered and have to stay out all night among these snakes.” Now let me tell you, when that came in my mind, I was scared up, for if I had let the shooting of snakes alone, we could have gone to the grave by dark or before and run no risk of snakes, for we in day time could see them on the smooth, black prairie, but dark had overtaken us, and the time could not be called back, and what shall we do, said I. Well after considering a little, I said, “We will run as far as our breath will last; then we will stop till we catch our breath & if we stop on a gopher mound, we will know it.” So by and by, we struck in some brush and knew we were at the grove. So we stopped and raised a terrible yell, and presently uncle heard us and gave us the signal note and brought out a torch light so we could see what place to go for his house. Then, don’t you know, there was peace and gladness that no one can feel nor express – only one who was afraid of snakes as I was, and till this good day I am still afraid of snakes.
Now you see what trouble I got in by not making good use of our time. Of course, it was well enough to kill snakes, but too late in the day when time was so precious.
So that night-run learned me a bit of wisdom in years after. I did not consider that I could not kill all the snakes before me out to the grove so late in the day. We see plenty of men in the world commence great things too late in the day and night comes on and they never finish it.
My uncle and aunt received us with much joy for more than one reason; first, they had no one living in less than three miles of them; they were glad for even a stranger to come, much more for those who were near a kin and had been their companions on the road for over two months. Also, they were pleased to hear from Uncle Jacob Reese’s folks who stopped 65 miles below. So many questions were asked about their welfare and also to know if any letters had been received from our friends in N. C., for there were some post offices not more than 7 or 8 miles from Uncle Jacob Reese’s, but none nearer than 30 miles of Uncle Rowland’s. Now after all things of vital importance had been talked over, supper was prepared and gladly received by me for one, for I was pretty tired and hungry from our day’s journey and night-run among the snakes, and soon Aunt Mary fixed us [a] bed to lay down for rest and repose for the night.
By morning, I was rested and ready for any emergency that might come, for uncle had gone up there to look at the unsettled [waste?] that lay around us. So uncle and I took our guns and out we all went to look at the beautiful landscape. We could see the herds of cattle a distance of 8 or 10 miles grazing on the smooth prairie slope, for the grass was getting green as a wheat field all over the whole face of the country as far as the eye could see. O! what a beautiful scene it presented to me to behold the great works of our God, who in His great wisdom created all things for the comfort and well-being of his creatures who he had created to have dominion over them.
I tell you that was the most beautiful country to behold I ever saw, but alas, when I took the fever and ague and chills, sometimes chills and suffered with it for most one year, and that partially gave me a distaste against that lovely place. I concluded to go back to the place of my childhood and where most of my people lived, and that has been a course of much pleasure to me, for I always loved my folks and those with whom I formed an early acquaintance, and I have taken as much time and pains to visit my friends as most of people.
[Note: In regard to my father visiting his people, I know what he has said is true. I have often wondered how a man with such industrious habits and with such skills to work, and a man with his ambition to have something, could find so much time to visit his friends and kinfolks. It was never said of him that he was lazy. J. T. T. Reese]
Now in after life, when I have grown old, my reflections are sweet when I call to memory the pleasant hours and days I have spent with my children and fiends. Many who now have passed into the shades of death, where we are all rapidly hastening, to meet, as I hope, many of them and there will be a great revival.
Now I will call your minds back to the beautiful Platte Purchase. I will give another incident that happened out there. I had a very gentle horse, and one day I concluded to ride down to old friend Linville’s to have fun with his girls as I had become acquainted with them, and they always seemed glad to see me come. As I was going down through a small prairie about ¾ of a mile from Nottaway River, the snow 4 or 5 inches deep and a pretty cold day, I heard some chopping down in the river bottom. I wondered who that could be there such a disagreeable day. So I concluded to go down, for I had a pretty good horse and it would not take me long. So off I went and found old Abner Linville and a young man by the name of Jacob Brown chopping down a long, sweeping top, red elm. The tree was nearly ready to fall. I just sat on my horse, but on the right side of the tree. Presently, it started and young Brown just stood there by the stump and Linville squalled at Jake to run, but there he stood, the three gathering tops of other small trees, bending them forward and the old man screaming at Jake to run, but there he stood. In a moment, one of these slim, springy elms snatched a limb off the falling tree; here it came, roaring like a small wind, and the old man saw it as well as I and hallowed on Jake to run, but in spite of all, he just stood there and looking up at the limb as it came, and all he did was to hump up his shoulders, as it seemed to me, ready for death, and the limb struck him on his head & one prong on his shoulder and down he went as though he was dead, and so he was to all appearances. So we ran to him and shook him, and presently he came to his breath, but not to his mind, and he was as limber as a beef shot down. Now came the trouble, for this boy was one more time scared, but nevertheless, something had to be done and that quickly if poor Brown’s life was saved. Linville proposed to take him under his arms and try to carry him on to his home that way. I said we would try to put him on my horse, for as I stated, my horse was gentle and strong, Brown still almost lifeless and limber. So we both made a mighty effort and it seemed that we were given strength for the emergency, for Linville was old and frail, but we succeeded in getting Brown on the horse. I got up behind to hold him on if possible and make a great push for his home which was a distance of about two miles, and the wind blowing cold and freezing. Brown, being warm from chopping and his whole body being paralyzed, began to chill. Now I traveled as rapid a pace as I could to hold Brown on. We left Linville far behind. In a very soon time, we reached Brown’s home and, to all appearances, he was a dead man, though still drawing breath. We got him off the horse and in by the fire, and as soon as could be done, there was prepared plenty of warm water to bathe him in, and I believe they gave him some whiskey. So Brown, after being warmed up, began to recover from his paralyzed state; then he turned sick and began to vomit and threw up a great deal of blood, as I now remember, which he had swallowed from the hurt he had received on his head by the limb.
Now that seemed just like it was so ordered by the providence of God that it came into my mind to go down where they were chopping, for I had no business down there at all, but started to see those girls as stated. But instead of having a good time with the girls, through me as an instrument, I believe saved poor Brown’s life. So it is very conclusive and evident that my horse and self saved his life, for should Linville been by himself, Brown would have perished there in the bottoms of the Nottoway.
The sufferings I underwent in mind and body, trying to save Brown’s life, no man can describe unless he had the same or like trial to go through, for holding him on my horse was a trial to both soul and body, for I well knew if he fell from the horse he would die before other aid could be had to get him in, so the very powers of my soul as well as body was brought to bear and the Lord helped me.
Now I have written 124 pages of my little narrative of things I have mentioned that has occurred in my life and some things I have related gives me pain to speak about, but the incident with Brown is the only one I have written that I had to stop and shed tears, for my poor heart was so melted down I shed tears freely. You may say that was a lack of man in me; man or no man, when my heart is full I weep, and so did our blessed Lord weep.
When we got Brown home, he was so badly hurt they wanted the doctor gone for – a distance of 10 or 12 miles – and it was late in the day and very cold, and no one present as well suited for the trip as I was. So there were arrangements made at once for me to go after Dr. Doshier. There were about 8 miles of prairie to go through, and I could readily find the old trace by some notable things on the way, for I had traveled the trace several times before. I got to Dr. Doshier’s just at dark and very cold for I was not out of my saddle from the time I left Brown’s. You may guess I went at as rapid a pace as my horse could well stand it – in a lope most all the way. The Dr. would have supper and our horses fed before he would start. So in a short time, we were off in the dark traveling at a rapid rate, having partly to guess at our way through the prairie. We would go on horseback 2 or 3 miles; then I would jump off and run as far as I could, my horse following, then on horse and strike a lope. So on we went that way till we reached Brown’s. I was then relieved of one more hard trip through the exceeding cold night. So you see how much change there was made in my expectations. I had trouble instead of mirth and joy. This is very common in life, for when we say, “Peace,” sudden destruction often comes.
When Uncle Roland and I lived at the Woods Grove, we each had a horse and cow, and we mowed 3 or 4 fine stacks of prairie grass at a place where we could save them from being burned, provided the prairie got dry and fire got in it. So one night we saw a light in the west and knew the prairie was on fire. Aunt, being more careful than we, told us we had better go and burn around our stacks, but uncle told her the fire was a great way off and would not be here till morning. So we went to bed and, in the morning, our stacks were burned up; then aunt gave us a master drilling and we received the rebuke alright, for it took us 3 or 4 days to put up the hay, and we could have saved them in one hour. So you see what a little indulgence does. Now that taught me another lesson – that there is more in saving than in making, for we could have saved as much perhaps in one hour as we made in 40 hours putting up the 4 stacks of hay, to say nothing about the worth of the hay had we been compelled to have gone 3 or 4 miles and paid for and hauled it back. I suppose I have said enough on this subject to show you how much men may gain by saving what the Lord gives us. Remember the loaves and fishes, for the Lord said, “Gather all up and see nothing be lost.”
Now I will leave Woods Grove again but perhaps will have occasion before I am done with the west to call your attention back there several times more.
Now about the year 1842, property was extremely low. You could buy good cows for $8 to $10, good horses for $40 sometimes, and very good ones would sell for $50. This was while I was in the Platte country. Pork was worth 2 to 2 ½ cents per pound; the feet and heads were thrown by for dogs if not needed for soap purposes. Beef could be bought for 1 and 2 cents per pound. Labor was tolerably low, though the great demand for it in that new settled country kept it up some, for the immigration was rapid and all had to have some sort of a house for winter. I have seen many families of good standing live in a little, mean, pole cabin just on the dirt floor. They would take pestles and pack the dirt as hard as they could, and it by use became hard and slick. Those little huts were generally built of small logs or poles; then they would scalp them down in and outside and fill the cracks full of mud outside and in, and that made them pretty warm.
There were no saw or grist mills in the northern part of the Purchase for 30 miles, and in some places, a greater distance. So you can imagine how the matter was in the first settlements of that rich and beautiful land. But after a short time, whip-saws came in use and some men began to have plank floors in their pole cabins instead of dirt floors and bark lofts. Some made puncheon floors; I made several of them; I generally got cottonwood though those that would split were hard to find. Cottonwood grew only on bottom lands of rivers, etc. Some of them grew very large and tall. Men would make rails from them. They were like our poplar timber – yellow and made rails that would last, but the splitting of them was business, for nearly all of them were twisting and very [lockey?]. So they would cut them into rail cuts, haul them out and make log yards. Sometimes it would require four yoke of cattle to haul some of these very large logs. Then they would make them a sweep out of a long, strong pole, then get a large block 2 or 3 ft. long and fasten it to a pole that hung down from the sweep so the square end of the large block would strike the wedges & gluts. They put a large pin through the sweep so two men could man it. The gluts were large enough to crack the end of the log; they were from 4 to 8 in. in diameter, and when those large gluts were brought to bear, they would split open the large logs, lack or no lack, and so on till they split them into quarters and eighths; they then would take mauls and split them up into rails – some making 100 rails. Now that was some fun for me to see them make those large logs jump open with their battering rams, as they called them. They would work cattle enough to haul about 100 rails a load to fence large prairie fields, sometimes hauling them 2 or 3 miles. They would plow 5 or 6 furrows round on outside of the field, at the fence to keep the fire from burning it when the prairie got on fire. Now I will give one of my rail making exploits on the plains of Nottoway River. I made the rails with a maul and made them from honey locust, black walnut, hackberry, mulberry, maple, etc. I made them for a large, fat man by the name of Wesley Jenkins; he could out laugh any man I recollect of. He was a good-natured, clever, old gentleman; he could laugh more and louder, as I said, than any man perhaps I ever came up with. He was to pay me 50¢ per hundred, board me and perhaps my horse, for corn was worth only 10¢ per bushel, and that was a small matter to feed my horse. The distance I had to go through the prairie was two miles to and from. It was in cold winter weather, but no snow on the ground. I would take dinner with me, put on my overcoat, and gallop down through the cold, open prairie, the wind blowing most of the time, very cold, but when I struck into the timber, it was much warmer, for the timber broke up the terrible, cold blasts of the wind. There I would hitch up my horse, the same trusty horse that carried poor Jacob Brown, almost dead, out of the same bottoms of the Nottoway River. I never had any fears when I was on that horse. Then I would lay off my overcoat and for a little pastime would work rapidly for a while to warm me up. The ice on the Nottoway was about 16 or 18 inches thick and lay flat on the water, so when I wanted a drink, I would chop down nearly through the ice; then with my axe would jab in the hole and burst through the ice; water would jump up above the top of the ice 6 or 8 inches, then settle back to two inches of the top, and there it stood all the day through. So when I desired a drink, I would break the skin of ice and down on my knees and drink. I made most of days two-hundred rails, then on with my coat and on to my horse, then for a run through the cold blast to Jenkins’s where were would have a good time hearing the old man tell his big, frontier adventures and hunting tales, for he settled in Illinois when that state was a new, wild country. You would liked to have been there and heard him laugh, then tell another wild story that would make the hair rise on a man’s head who was chicken-hearted. Jenkins had one son and one daughter, both of whom were about grown. They were always ready to join in with the others of us to make time as merry as young folks could wish.
Jenkins has a hand mill on which he and his neighbors ground their corn. So on one night, there were several young persons who came in to grind corn. Perhaps you would like to know how the mill was constructed. The stones were about 16 or 18 inches in diameter, let down in a large, round gum that set on the floor and about 4 feet high, stones made and hung after the order of our old fashioned mills. They had a piece of tin for a hopper into which they would throw the corn by single handfuls. Near the edge of the runner or top stone, as you may please to call it, there was a hole made partly through. In that hole they put a small pole, the upper end of which was put in a perpendicular over the center of the top stone, which served for a handle or lever power to turn the stone. There was a hole made in the gum and a spout put in it to convey the meal into some vessel which sat on the floor. Now, as before said, there came in several young people one night to grind. It seemed to have bee understood for them all to meet that night and have a big time, and so they did. Jack Jenkins, the old man’s son, wore the bell. Pretty soon the grinding commenced – Jack at the beginning and almost the ending of all kinds of pranks and tricks, which could be invented – nothing very indecent was done, some pretty smutty tales told, such as frontier people delighted in in those days. Sometimes one would turn and then another, as they became tired, for it was no light business when the feeding was fast and that they kept up to see the grinder begin to puff and blow, if perchance he opened his mouth for breath, then into it went a handful of meal, then there was a general laughter and uproar for some time. If he seemed to get mad, Jack would tease him out of it, then someone else would grind, and so on they went till late in the night. All the while, I was rather still, and if any of them would say or do anything to me, big Jack would soon put a stop to it, telling them that I was a still, peaceable fellow. And so I was then, but it was through fear of those strange, wild, devilish fellows, for if you played a prank on one of them and opportunity failed them at that time to get revenge, they would watch their chances for you if you were a stranger. It was getting late and there was a long, green, gangling fellow there. He became sleepy and laid down across a bed that stood in the house where they were grinding. He soon went to snoring. He had his shoes and stockings off. Jack said he would put a stop to that snoring and so he did. He got several pieces of paper and put them between his toes and set them on fire. Now don’t you forget – there was kicking and snorting instead of snoring. Jack said he would put a stop to his snoring, and you may guess he did, for perhaps you never saw just such a swell as the poor fellow cut – his toes all on fire and the crowd yelling like yahoos. Redwell, for that was his name, as soon as he got the fire put out, was ready for fight, but the trouble was, no one would tell him who set his toes on fire. Now that frolic being over, I went to bed and soon fell asleep. I think some of the boys played a prank on me. Old man Jenkins had a large tar bucket in which he kept his tar to grease his wagons. I suppose a large, gray lizard had got in the bucket. Someone took my shoes and put a large bunch of tar in them, also the lizard. Next morning I had some trouble before I could get the tar out so I could wear them. So you see, a civil man occasionally happens in bad company. They often have to bear some share of the mischief done.
So in a soon time I finished Jenkins’s rails, and he paid me like a man and I left there in peace.
Mr. Curl hired me to get out puncheons, sills, and sleepers and lay his three floors, for he left an open space between the two houses of ten or twelve feet all covered under same roof. I hewed the puncheons so straight and smooth that when they were laid down, the floors would hold water. They were nice, let me tell you, for by the way, Mr. Curl had a pretty young girl and I thought I would show her what I could do as well also as the old folks. Now as soon as the two houses were ready for use, Curl moved up and then I stayed with him a good part of my time. I made shoes there for him and others. I liked to stay there, for he was a man of some note and property and always had money. I had a very good time there with Bettie, for she was all life and so was I. I must tell what happened one day while I was shoe making at Curl’s. There was a man by the name of Tomason making rails or chopping wood down at the river some 400 yards from Curl’s house. Tomason went down a stock path along the bank of the river to a spring for a drink. There laid a log across the path one could step over with ease. Now as he went down for water and stepped over the log, there was a snake there, but returning in a few minutes, and as he went to step over the log, there lay a very large rattlesnake coiled up in the path by the side of the log, and as he went to step over, he saw the snake and made a leap to keep from stepping on it and stepped in the path nearby just in good distance for the snake to strike him on his heel string, just above his shoe. He killed the snake and came up to Curl’s carrying it. By this time, he began to look pretty wild. Mr. Curl had plenty of whiskey, and they gave him a pint within a few minutes and directly still some more. So they gave him such large quantities so very fast it made him drunk in a few minutes and over he went. Some of the family thought he was dying from the bite, but I was of the opinion that it was the effect of the whiskey, and so it was. In a few seconds, he was as dead and they laid him on a bed. He knew nothing more till the next day. When he came to himself and waked up, he did not complain of the bite anymore, though his leg was swollen several days. I think the snake aimed to go to the river for water or to cross it and smelt Tomason’s track and got mad and coiled himself up there to do just what he did, for snakes are a sharp, sagacious creature. The Scripture says, “Be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.” Solomon says in Proverbs 30:19, “The way of a serpent on a rock is too wonderful for him,” etc. If Solomon, the wisest man [who] ever lived on the earth, said he could not understand the ways of serpents, who can? For they have been known to do things very strange. How they come in possession of such knowledge is wonderful. Now I will relate what a sensible and truthful man told me. He said snakes would suck cows, for he had watched them and saw them suck them. That is a pretty tough one on the snake line, but while I’m on the subject, I will give you a still harder one. A lady by the name of Mary Luttrell told me that a black snake came in her bed when she had her baby at her breast suckling. She said she had put her child to the breast and dropped off to sleep, and when she waked up, a snake was trying to get hold of the nipple her baby was suckling, for it had made her breast all wet with the slime of its mouth. She said she thought the snake had waked her and she sprang out of the bed and hallooed to Mr. Luttrell, “There is a snake in the bed.” He told her she was dreaming. The hateful thing had run out, and after the bed was searched and no snake found, he told her to come back to bed and she did so, but was careful to fix the cover ‘round her feet so the snake could not get to her. After all was still, the snake came back and got hold of Mr. Luttrell’s toe and began to suck it. She said there was kicking and jumping, and he sprang out of the bed and said, “Mary, that devilish thing’s here again,” for said he, it was hold of my toe and I felt it with my feet when I commenced kicking. There was another search made for the snake but, as before, it had run off. There was no more sleeping with them the remainder of that night. Next day they found it lying in a crack of the house and killed it. Then the trouble was partially over, but she said she was afraid to go to bed for a long time.
When I was a boy, I saw a large black snake charming a ground squirrel. Now you never saw such capers cut by a ground squirrel in your life unless you saw one of the poor little creatures under the charming influence of a snake. The little thing would almost run into the snake’s mouth, with its hair all set up, and such chattering and queer sort of squalling I never heard a ground squirrel make before. Had I let the snake alone, perhaps it would have made the poor little fellow its prey, but as soon as I threw a stone against the snake, he ran off and so did the squirrel when he was released from the prison of death. One other time I saw a black snake have a catbird under its control. The snake was lying stretched out in the road where James Brown lives on Roan Creek. The bird was fluttering back and forth before the snake’s mouth, and like the little squirrel, so the bird had its feathers all set up squalling and making a pitiful noise and would almost go in the snake’s mouth. I did not want to see what the result would be, for my sympathy for the great distress the little helpless bird was in demanded my intervention between power and the powerless, so I cast a stone on him and he darted like lightning, and both were gone in a moment of time. In Psalms 58 and 4 tells of the adder that will not be charmed and such like passages found in the Holy Writ.
Cousin Frank Reece, who is a truthful man, told me there was a woman at his house, and when she went to start home, she had to cross a lone fence near the house, and when she got on the fence, she looked down and there lay a large black snake. At that moment, there appeared to be a stream of fire extending from her eyes to the snake’s eyes, and she tried to get off the fence and could not move, then tried to halloo and made a pitiful noise. Some of Reese’s family ran out to see what was the matter. I think cousin Frank told me she could not speak but pointed down to the snake. When the snake was disturbed, then the charm was broken and she could take her eyes of the snake, then proceeded to make the statement above. Now, how and by what means snakes have power to do these things, God only knows I don’t.
As I am on the line of snakes, I will give you another incident of a snake as narrated by an editor. Some years back, there was a company of men out in the west surveying public lands. One day, the paymaster general got sick and said he would go back to their camp at headquarters and stay there until he got better. At night, he lay down on his back in the tent. After a while, he saw a very large rattlesnake coming in at his tent door and so near him before he saw it, he was afraid to move. So the snake commenced crawling up his legs and onto his breast, and there he stopped and coiled himself up. The snake just lay there as calm as if they were partners. The man lay as still as death through fear to move. In as soon time, he saw a man come to his tent door; he made a short halt, then proceeded on slowly and cautiously. By this time, the light in the tent was dim and the man moved up to the paymaster’s head and stooped down to listen if he was asleep. Just at that moment, the Lord-sent snake struck the intruder in his face twice before he got away from the snake. He never got from the camp alive, for in a few seconds he was dead, and then the Heaven-sent guardian gently moved himself off and out of the tent. It was thought the man who was bitten knew the man in the tent was alone and was thought to have a large sum of money as he was the paymaster general and the man had come to kill and rob him.
I will relate another small circumstance that seemed almost a miracle. In the year 1875, I was surveying on the north side of the Iron Mountain, several other men along with me. We had finished surveying and started home. I was before going down a small stock path and just where I would have made my next step, I spied a rattlesnake lying coiled. In order to avoid his striking me, I aimed to make a bound up the hill out of his reach. As I made a side jump, there was a chestnut pole sticking out down the hill opposite the snake. As I had raised my foot to make my step, there was no time to view the situation, so as I made my bound up the hill, I struck my thigh against the end of the pole, which forced me back, and my step fell in six or eight inches of the snake’s head. As quick as thought, I made another bound down the hill out of his reach. The snake seemed to flatten himself in his coil as though he wanted to show me that he did not intend to hurt me and just lay still and never moved. So after my scare was over, I fully intended to leave that peaceable snake and do him no harm, but some if the men along would kill him, me begging for his life, for it seemed like God had tamed him that he would do me no harm, all to teach me another lesson – how God protects his creatures and so we gather knowledge from our enemies and out of danger comes protection.
I will give one more dangerous venture of my life. The ice on Nottoway River was 12 or 15 inches thick. When there came a great thaw by the warming wind from the south, the whole country was soon sending down her waters from the thaw, and in a short time, the river began to rise at a very rapid rate and break up the thick ice in great sheets, some from 20 to 40 feet square. Through curiosity, I went down to the river to see and hear the great noise the ice was making by the rushing and heaving of the great bodies of ice being collected into such quantities and forming dams; then it would break loose and, in a soon time, form another dam and so on down the river, throwing out on the river bottoms untold quantities of ice, and while the dam would remain, the ice above kept floating down on the [eddy?] water and would cover the dam all over with those large sheets of ice. Standing there and viewing the whole movements, I concluded I could run across the dam on those sheets of ice before the dam would break loose. So on I went, jumping from one sheet to another, a distance of perhaps 30 or more yards and got over safe to the other bank. In a few minutes, the dam broke loose and away it went down the river for some distance, and the ice heaved up again and formed another dam as before, and so on, the ice above coming down would form dams, and that is the way the matter went on until all the ice came down from above. Now after I was over safe and came to view the great dangers I was in, I surely was thankful that I was not lost in that dam I crossed, for if the dam had given way when I was on it, don’t you know there would have been no chance for the careless and fearless boy – no! no! not at all.
I believe I will relate one small matter that happened to me while living with my uncle and aunt in Giant Grove near Nottoway River in Platte Purchase. I went up to my field about a quarter of a mile from uncle’s house and took a bucket along to water some cabbage plants. I had a narrow path along which I walked through a narrow strip of very rich prairie where the weeds grew up to a man’s shoulder by the 15th of June. As I came back down through the high weeds along the path with the bucket in my hand, all at a sudden there sprang a wild cat into the little path before me not more than 8 ft. from me with his hair all set up the wrong way, looking me in the face with his large, furious, gray eyes, which struck me with sudden horror, for I didn’t know but that he would spring at or on me, so at a moment’s thought, I stove the bucket I had on my hands at the fearful looking animal. At that, he sprang out into the thick weeds again. My uncle had two small half fices [feists?], and I called for them and put them on the track, and they roared out to barking and stove off after the animal and frightened him so that he soon scaled up a stooping lynn tree. I called to my cousin, a twelve-year-old girl, to bring my gun and she was there in due time, dragging through the high weeds and I shot and killed the wild cat.
Now what more shall I tell about my trials and scenes while in the beautiful Platte Purchase? I have seen the ground crack open by freezing when there was no snow on the ground, so large that you could stick a common walking cane 16 or 18 in. down in the cracks and ice would freeze from 20 t0 24 in. thick on the rivers. In the spring of the year, when the country thawed out, there was numerous kinds of wild water fowls coming up from the south along those large rivers, such as blue cranes, sand hill cranes, pelicans, [brauts?], geese, ducks, swans, etc. It was right amusing to see and hear those noisy creatures screaming through the air with such gladness for the returning summer that they might find some selected or remote place to raise their young. In the fall they would return to the south with their young families.
Now in the spring of 1844, I think, I left that beautiful Platte country for my own native land and home. I came in company with old John Whittington and Rube Sutherland. The old man Whittington was a lively, sensible old man, and Rube Sutherland was a sharp, young man, and he was cut and dried, as the saying goes, emergency or fun. So we had a good, cheerful trip of it back to old N. C. Just as we got on the boat to cross the Ohio River at Cave Rock Ferry, I was attacked with a chill. I laid down on my back on the floor of the boat while they rowed it over to the other shore and chilled and whooped and hallooed as we went over, to try to keep up my spirits as well as I could. When we got across, I mounted my horse and went right on our journey up through Ky. by way of Bowling Green. We stopped with one of Whittington’s cousins who had just married his second wife the day we got there. On that night, the mischievous boys of the country met there with music of all kinds, also bells, horns, guns, and they went ‘round the house whooping and yelling like yahoos, and that was fun for me, for you never perhaps heard such a roaring and thundering with guns and other confused noises, etc. They did no mischief to the house or inmates, so we lay still and snug in our beds till next morning. So they gave the new married couple a sound “shiveree” and left in peace. From there we moved on up through Ky. till we came to a man by the name of Moore, who was another kinsman of the old Whittington. We stopped one or two days there, and while there, they got a good joke on me. It was this – my mare I was riding had lost a shoe and I made some inquiry where I could have one put on, and Mr. Moore, the kind man with whom we stopped, told me he had a shop but no smith. “Well Mr. Moore, if that is all that is lacking, I am a somewhat of a blacksmith myself, and if you will give me permission to work in your shop, I will pay you and thank you besides.” “Very well,” said Mr. Moore. “Go and do your work.” So I got some fire from the kitchen, and out I went to the shop. I was not very well acquainted with stove coal, for there was not much of it used in those days. So when I went to the shop, I saw no coal on the shop hearth nor anywhere else. I went back and told Moore I could not find any coal, so Mr. Moore told me there was enough to do all the work I wanted done. Now the old man Whittington was one of your pranky, sharp, funny old coons, and Rube Sutherland, as before stated, was always cut and dried, ready for any emergency that came. As I was one of your game chickens, they always liked to get a good run on me so they could kindly hold me in check. They all found out there was stove coal in the shop. I saw a large, black rock lying on the shop hearth but did not think once of stove coal, and now began the fun, for they all commenced laughing and saying, “Yes! Yes! Great blacksmith! Just from the [busy?] west and does not know coal.” So all who would use it had plenty of whiskey onboard and had a big time over the great smith that didn’t know coal. So after all the big roar of laughter was over, the bad, plagued boy went back to the shop and did his work up immediately. Mr. Moore said he would like to have me stay with him and work in his stove coal shop and other kinds of work, for I knew how to make good shoes, cooper, could hew with a broad-ax as well and as fast as any man I ever came across, although I was young – about 24 years old. As Messrs. Moore and Whittington were kinfolks, Moore made us a fine dinner and it was the custom out there in Ky. when one made feast for his friends, to ask some of their neighbors to come to the feast. So there was a very rich widow there who was about 35 or 40 years old. She had not been there long until we got into a conversation and soon became acquainted, for I saw she was pretty forward – and so was I. She soon became so enamored with me it seemed she scarcely could keep her hands off me. Mr. Moore told me, as I remember, that she had 9 slaves and a splendid farm, and it all belonged to her. She was dressed in black silk in style. After while, dinner came on and it was a dinner to be admired. Now the first thing on plates was chicken dumplings and a bountiful supply of rich gravy, so when the old lady’s plate was amply furnished with plenty of gravy, she commenced eating, or trying to, for the old foolish lady could not eat for looking at and talking to me. All those at the table were giggling at us. As she was trying to eat and talk to me, both at the same time, she got her plate too near the edge of the table, and as she went to cut her a slice of chicken, she bore too heavy on the side of the plate next to her and over her plate went, upside down in her lap on her fine silk dress, gravy and all together, which broke her love spell for a few, for the waiter, a black servant girl, soon cleaned off her dress – don’t just now remember how that was, for it was common for ladies to lay robes on their laps when dining or in eating fruit or berries in Ky. in those days among the rich and noble – and replenished her plate. Now when the lady’s plate upset, the old man Whittington and Rube Sutherland were ready to break out in a roar of laughter, for they were both swelled up like a toad when it is cracked on the back by some mischievous boy, but for credit’s sake for the kind man Mr. Moore and his family, they did restrain themselves.
Now, notwithstanding, all I have said in regard to that enamored, forty-year-old lady, I must confess I was somewhat enticed in regard to that 15 or 20 thousand dollars she was worth. But on due reflection, I concluded to come home to my native people where once I enjoyed my youthful life so well, for I could not form any true love for her, so in a day or two, we left Mr. Moore’s for our journey towards home, making our way through Kentucky towards the Cumberland Mountains. We finally struck on Outer Creek flowing out from the Cumberland. That creek was a lovely place to me in many respects. It was a valley of bees indeed. Leaving said creek, we struck across the divide between Wolf River and said creek. One evening we stopped and struck camp on the table lands of Wolf River where an old, rich man lived by the name of Kiles. He was very old, living with one of his daughters, and they composed the family of white folks. He had some slaves. The situation was a delightful spot, being nearly flat and some small flint gravels over the surface and a large, delightful, gravelly spring breaking out at the foot of the divide as you ever saw and near said Kiles’ house. Wolf River lay on the south of Kiles’, rolling its beautiful waters down from the Cumberland Mountains through as lovely a valley of rich land as was ever beheld. Kiles owned a large farm of that valuable, level land. On the night we stopped there, I took my flute and went out to the old man’s house, for I thought the girl, at least, would like to hear me play some as I could make pretty good music on a flute. I guessed just right, for the girl was so well pleased with my appearance and the music, she could hardly hold herself still as I thought. After I had given them a few tunes, they began to ask me about the west – how I was pleased with it, etc. The old man seemed well pleased with my story of the west and finally began to tell me of his condition – that he was old and had but one daughter with him and had a very valuable farm on the river and no one to see after his matters, and he was too old to attend to business any longer and wanted some sharp, smart, young man to come and take hold of his business for him. He proposed to me to stay with him and take care of him and he would make me heir of his property provided I pleased him. He said he had no fears of my integrity and faithfulness. So you see, the idea was for me to take the daughter, but she, like the widow in Ky., was thirty years old and as ugly as Potter’s wife, but as rich as a Jew. Now here was another temptation for the boy to overcome, but home sweet home was the great ruling passion that would prevail over me, so I told the old gentleman I thanked him for his very grateful offer, but I chose to go home. He told me to come back and live with him, for he said he had been looking for some young man whom he could trust and I seemed to please him so well he wanted me to come back. Now I refused both of these chances for a fortune and perhaps all for the best for either of these women might have wanted me to live under petticoat government and that would not have suited me, for I had too much vinegar in me for that. So it appears to me like kind Providence has shaped my life’s business pretty much, and I am satisfied now with what the Lord has entrusted me with, for perhaps I could not have handle any more property than I have, to the glory and honor of God, for I feel like I have failed in many respects in honoring God with what little he allowed me to possess in this life. If so, the more the worse the case might have been with me.
Next morning, we moved off toward the Cumberland Mt. by the way of James Town on said Mt. and stopped at night with Louis Fairchild, my cousin who lived on the Mt. We stopped no more till we came to old Daniel Smith’s on the beautiful Watauga River. There we found Alex Sutherland sick. We stayed one night there and left Rube Sutherland there with his brother, and Whittington and I came on next day to Watauga, which then was Ashe Co. I stopped in at old Thomas Curtis’s and stayed all night, and Whittington went on home.
Now after being absent two and one half years, I was proud to fall in with some of my old associates and have some good fun, for the Curtis girls were always ready for it.
Next day I went up Cove Creek to my Uncle Bennet Smith’s and cousin George and Polly Hayes’s and we had much rejoicing together after being absent so long. After our tears of gladness were dried up, there was a world of questions to be asked in regard to my trip and the new western world, the Indians, buffaloes, and things in general, for at that age, there were but few people who went to Missouri or other states of the west or northwest, for people then had to travel by wagon, horseback, or on foot, for there were no railroads then and there was more said about a man’s going and coming back from Missouri than is now said about a man going and returning from Europe. So now you see there had to be a great many questions asked about the west and all I saw.
As I went ‘round to see my friends, all of them had to hear about the Wild West, for there had been no history then written by Buffalo Bill nor any pioneer of that country. There was none or very little opportunity of knowing anything of that then far off region, only by those who went out there on horseback or foot. This being the case, you may catch an idea of the thousands of questions that was asked me. I had to go on and tell them all about the prairie and all kinds of animals and fowls that were found on the prairies and of the kind of fish that lived in the rivers and lakes of that newly settled part of the northwest, etc. So I shall not give any general detail of these things here as they have been made mention of here before, but very briefly, but I may have occasion to refer to some of my scenes in Mo. and other states hereafter.
I spent some time in going ‘round to see old friends, for I still had chills and fever after I came back home and was not able to work, so I had a good excuse to idle and roam around, but as soon as I recovered my strength some, my sister, who is now dead and passed from this world stricken with sorrow into the regions of eternal peace and everlasting happiness, as I have good reasons to believe, went with me out under the Rich Mt. to dig ‘seng, for it was tolerably plentiful in those days over fifty years ago. She went with me more for my benefit than for the profit she received from ‘senging. I thought by roaming over the flats of the Mt. where I used to kill squirrels and be under the shade of those beautiful, large trees and drink from those large, cold, and bubbling springs, that it would help to restore my lost health and strength, and so it did, but very slowly.
My father now lived in Russell Co., Va. He moved out there while I was in the west, and so I went out there in a short time to see him. I went by Abingdon, then through Moccasin Gap the other side of the south fork of the Clinch River, then to Copper Creek, then up said creek toward Lebanon, and there I found my father. O! how glad I was to meet with him, yes my much loved father, notwithstanding the poor state in which I found him. Yes, perhaps I loved him as well and reverenced him more than I would have done provided he had been able to have given me a few thousand dollars, for I have been watching and looking along on that line, for very often, children whom their parents set up some in the world become proud and hold a high head and forget their parents and sometimes their God. So it possibly might have been with me if my father had been able to have kept me in a condition that I would not have had to labor. I am thankful that poverty and labor have kept me humble, but not mean and low-lifed, for I never have been placed in a condition that the laws of the states had to correct me, and I am proud of that; neither have my children brought me to shame in my life, and I hope they may not after my death.
Now it was not long after I visited my father in Va. that he left his wife, who was a troublesome woman, and he cam back out here to live with me most of his time until he married Jane Widby, his third wife. He had one child by her about 16 years and died. He always had a reasonably plenty of food and raiment for his comfort during this time. Jane treated my father with reasonable respect and care for the condition they were in. Father left her in a condition to be able to buy the fifty acres of land where Hilton Shoun, who married her daughter, now lives. Jane never fared so well after father’s death as she did before. One cause was she was getting old and could not go through hardships like she had formerly done. Father was a long time badly afflicted and suffered a great deal but bore his afflictions with great patience, which is characteristic of the Christian hope, and from this we judge he was one.
Now the next summer after I came back from the west, I went over on Howard’s Creek and made shingles for the Fairchild women. I had worked for them before I went to Mo. and always had a great deal of fun with them, for they were curious and I like to joke and tease them. There was a girl by the name of Louisa Winkler weaving for the Misses Fairchild, and I would make it my business most every day to go to the loom where Miss Winkler was weaving and spark her some, and the old Fairchild girls would take me up and down Salt River every now and then for it, but as I used a great deal of salt for such old chickens as they, it suited me very well to travel by salt river once in a while. They pretended that I was hindering her from work, but don’t you know if it had been that old maid I sometimes would venture up to the loom could have stopped for hours and my time as well as hers would all went on right and nothing said about Salt River, for my experience is that old maids are the most jealous, superstitious, whining, old things that belong to the human family. Jealousy I hate for it withers a man’s souls and fills him with trouble.
I believe I will go back to the days of my childhood and relate one other scare I got, which I do not think I have mentioned before. If I have, I will tell it again. When I was about seven or eight years old, Grandmother Smith came over to father’s, and when she went home, mother let me go with her, which was a distance of one mile. Now Grandfather Smith had a pet deer, and I always was afraid of it, for when one came, that was strange. The deer would raise up his hair and that made me afraid of him, so grandmother and I went to her home, and my aunts were working in the garden, and I went out where they were, and there was the deer. It walked up to me with its hateful hair all raised up and raised one of its four feet and whack, it tool me in the breast and down I fell on my back; it jumped on me and I screamed like I was wild, for so I was. My aunts heard me and ran and relieved me. Now that was one more of my scares to make me watchful in the future.
My aunts had pea fowls and the rooster has, as you know, beautiful tail feathers 3 or 4 feet long. When I was over at Grandfather Smith’s, I would run and harass them to get hold of the tail to pull out the feathers. I worried myself running after them more than I did them. So you see, I was none the better, time all wasted and no gain, and from that I learned a lesson, for just as I thought I would take hold of his tail, he would give a bound and flit off out of my hands. That learned me not to worry myself in running after things of little value and then not be able to obtain them.
After I came back from the west and before I was married, I hauled logs and joists for Hiram McBride to build him a house on the land that George Hayes now owns up in the flat of the Rich Mountain and where my father’s old sugar camp once was, for he then owned the land. I will speak of two narrow escapes of being badly hurt or killed. The logs had been split for some time and the split sides had seasoned considerably. I hired brother Nelson to score for me. We lined the log, and he commenced scoring and I hewing on same side. So directly, a dry chip stuck to the edge of his ax, and when he made another lick, the chip glanced the ax and here it came, edge foremost, passing between me and the boy. So there was another big scare, but without any damage to the bad scared boy. I told him I would not hew any more on the side he was scoring, but after my scare was over, he told me he would be careful and not let his ax slip anymore, so I went on to my hewing again, and in a short time, here came his ax between me and the log as before without any damage to me; then I was like Uncle Jake when I jabbed him the second time with a stick when he was cutting oats for his horses, as I have told you in the former part of this narrative. I was scared so badly I jumped up and down and hallooed. This put an end to my hewing on the same side of the log he was scoring. That taught me knowledge not to stand before danger when plain to be seen, although I was, as it appeared to me, providentially preserved from great harm. So I went on and finished the job without receiving any harm. Nothing more of much importance transpired up to the date of my marriage. You may think most of these things I have written are childish things; so they are in some sense, but most of them serve as lessons for the young, to give them caution and harden them up for more mature age and practical life.
Now the day being set and all things tolerably well arranged for my marriage (one of the greatest events in a man’s life), I started with my crowd over to Roan Creek, Johnson Co., Tenn. to Mr. Matthias Wagner’s home where my expected bride was. So all heads up and full of fun. When we got over where old Mr. Arrendell’s mill dam, was some dogs had just caught a deer in the creek. We all stopped for the boys to take the deer out of the creek, and in the great huzzah, brother Nelson’s horse got away from him and away he went back towards Cove Creek, and there was a running of horses to overtake him. We were detained for some time before the boys returned; then we doubled our speed to make time according to the hour set. Therefore, by this delay, we met the bride’s guests farther on our way than we had anticipated. When they saw us coming so swiftly, they halted on proper grounds and formed a line on each side of the road and let us pass through them. Then we halted, and each party saluted the other as though we had met friendly traders on the plains of Santa Fe or on the coasts of Peru. Now we had a jolly time with yells of delight and great joy, and soon the arrangements were ready for the remainder of the trip that lay before us, a distance of about 3 miles, all getting in their places, forming a considerable line of fifty or more well mounted persons on fine saddle horses, for there were no other sort put in on this occasion. So all the crowd who met me at the bride’s house were people of the first rank – the nobility of the surrounding country. Now you see, it became me to step ‘round as though I was one of “Lord Wellington’s Dukes” or a “General of Bonaparte’s” legion. I suppose there were over a hundred persons there. Now after the ceremony was said and a few congratulations past, the dinner table was furnished with as good things and in as good order as was seen anywhere in those days and perhaps as you may see at this day and time, for I tell you, those old stand-up great women knew how to cook, for they could beat women these days making big chicken pot pies. So everybody got plenty and went home in peace and was glad.
Next morning, the crowd that was to go with us was there pretty soon, and we all started over to Cove Creek, then Ashe Co. All were joyful and in high spirits for the trip to our home, and when we arrived, there was a pretty good crowd gathered, and with those who went with us, made a pretty fair show. After dinner was over, we had nothing to do but to play pranks on each other and have a “rousing” big time.
On next morning, the Tenn. crowd started for home and all was quiet and still and seemed rather lonesome to me after being with such a crowd, then all of a sudden being left almost alone, but it was not the first time in my life I had been lonesome. Now I knew I was tied to a woman who always had been used to plenty to eat, and I realized the fact that she would want the same still on and on as long as she lived.
On the next Mon. morning, I started out to work as was my custom to do, determined to make a work in this life if the Lord would give me aid and the proper use of my limbs and mind and bless my labors. I saw in the life of Dr. Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac where he said, “Hunger might look into a working man’s door, but scarcely dared to enter.”
I was married in Feb. 1845, made a crop next summer on the old Bennet Smith farm, and the year 1846, made another crop on the same farm. Nothing of very great importance happened with me those two years I stayed on the Smith farm. In Feb. 1847, we moved to Tenn. Johnson Co. to the place where we have been ever since, 47 yrs., a pretty long stay at one place.
I purchased my land of old Uncle Jacob Wagner for $325.00. There were 110 acres of land, and let me tell you, it was a pretty hard looking old place and did not deceive its looks. Some even told me that I could not make a living on the land. One man who had a rich father that settled him on a splendid farm on Little Doe Creek. One day just after I had moved to my place, this man overtook me below my house, if I should call it a house at all. This man, whose name was Joseph Shoun, was riding a large, fat horse, and I was walking. Shoun said to me, “Are you the thing that lives in this old house up the road?” I said, “Yes, I am the thing.” So you may see there was an intended insult in his question and in my answer. You can’t guess where it ended, so I had better tell you as you will naturally want to know, for all who were acquainted with me know the fact that I was pretty high strung when insulted, if I was a poor boy. So Shoun and I went on together and he said to me, “No man who aims to get his living honest would stop at such a place, etc.” I told the good old man I was informed that there were some men by the name of Shoun who were rich – had corn to sell and would it not be fair for me to go out and get supplies? And Shoun went on his way perhaps rejoicing over his condition, so far above what the poor boy’s was. Matters lay still for a short time. So one night, some fellows came up the road near my house and hallooed, “Hello.” I was in the bed. They hallooed again. I got up and went to the door and said, “What will you have?” They replied, “Take in your chimney; it looks like rain.”
Now I will give a short description of my old house – old log wall – clapboard roof all leaking, chimney down to the mantle tree, etc. So the boys concluded they would have a good joke on me by telling me to take in my chimney before it got wet, when there was no chimney to the old house. Now I at once conceived of the idea that old Mr. Joseph Shoun had put this mess of fun, as they thought, into the boys’ brains, perhaps not once thinking of any rebuke, for as you well know, many poor and drifting fellows do droop down in just such old, sorry houses and suffer themselves insulted and trampled underfoot like dogs and allow themselves to be run off by masterly ruffians who have little property and never know the getting of it. But thinks says I to myself, “I have come to stay till I get ready to go.” I supposed the boys would soon be back to try some other trick with me. Now I had a large bored gun, so I loaded her with powder and tow, on first trial, for the occasion. In a few nights, here they were, hallooing, “Hello.” I rose out of bed, took big bore down and cocked her, opened the door and said as before, “What will you have?” They said, “You can make a branch,” in vulgar, “and go back to bed.” The word was hardly out of their mouth when there was a stream of fire went right at them and seemed like it nearly reached them. So that put an end to hallooing at my old log cabin and the poor boy. Now let me tell you that you never heard such running of horses before, for I suppose they thought I shot to kill and I never told any better. That put a stop to their mischief, and I was never plagued any more with Doe boys. Pretty soon, they found out I was a good worker and could do most any kind of mechanical work they wanted done, and by my honest acts and kind treatment, I soon made friends of all the Shouns and many others.
Now I set into work on the old Rube Miller place, for so it was called by the people where I moved to. It was said to be the poorest and rockiest old place known in the whole country ‘round. I made as rapid progress as anyone could expect of a boy in my condition, for I owed $325.00 for the land, had to pay some on that as time went on and provisions to work out for the family. So you see I could not improve the old place very fast. I worked a little here and there as opportunity would offer for me to get work to do. When I would get a little start of provisions for my family, then I would put in my time at home doing whatever I saw was needed worst. As my credit was good over where I was raised, I bought several Bbls. of brandy for 40 and 50¢ per gallon and brought it home to sell for $1.00 per gallon with the view that I could make something by so doing, but soon found out my trouble and losses overrun my gains, so I pretty soon quit the business of the brandy traffic and turned my attention to more noble things.
Now about this time, there was war declared between the U. S. and Mexico. I first thought I would go with the boys down there and have a big time, but it seemed there was some presentations made to my mind, “Don’t go,” so I obeyed those impressions made on my mind by Him who moves on the minds and hearts of his creatures to wild or woe.
So all along through the journey of my life, I have seen so many fields open to step into work, so I would stand and pause for a while to see what choice I would make. So I would make up my mind what I would do, but tomorrow came and next day came and next week came and so on, and I was hindered and did not go, and so in hundreds of incidences of my life’s work, things I thought I would do tomorrow and next day and so on, but was hundred. Perhaps as Balaam was by the angel in the way when the dumb ass spoke and rebuked the madness of the prophet, for the Lord did not want him to go on his mission with the princes of Moab (Num. 22 chap.). So you see when things get in our way, we had better stop for a few moments, at least, and see if we can find any reason why we are hindered from doing everything our inclinations tell us to do. There are many presentments made to us by the Evil Spirit to do, but nearly always there comes another presentment to our mind saying, “Don’t do it,” like the one did to me in regard to going to the Mexican war and said, “Don’t do it.” So we may oft times be benefited by stooping low and going slow and watching where we step lest we should dash our foot against a stone.
I never have asked God for any very great things pertaining to matters of this life – merely have asked for daily bread and clothing for our bodies, but always try to thank Him in as acceptable a manner as I have been able to do, and always feel thankful for all the benefits and great favors that the Lord has been pleased to bestow upon me.
Through my long and protracted labors through so many worries, hard labor, and besetments in this poor, short life, yet the Lord has allowed me to live to a pretty ripe age, and I thank God for that, for it is a natural and a principal given to all animation to live, but there is a better life than this as we are informed, and it far surpasses this. It is this for which my soul pants as the hart after the water brook when he is chased as sometimes we are in this life.
Now I will go back and relate something more of my business life in my many ups and downs and rounds in this life. Now, notwithstanding the busy scenes of life and my desire to make and to have something, I always would take time to pay visits to my kinfolks and friends, for that always appeared to be part of what I was and am still living for as pertaining to this life. As I have stated here before about going west with my uncles and while I was gone, my father became involved with a man by the name of Holden Davis and one by the name of Jordan Councill. They had liens on my father’s Fork Ridge lands. The lands were worth a great deal more than the debts against them. I undertook to redeem them. Now came one of the hardest tugs of all my life life, for I was very poor at that time – owed $325.00 for my land where I now live – the debt to Councill about $100.00 and to Davis $50.00 or $60.00 and money hard to raise, for good milch cows only brought 10 t0 12 dollars, the best two-year-old steers brought 7 to 8 dollars, and good mutton sheep $1.25, some extra ones $1.50. So you can see for yourself how hard money was to command. But I, with the resolution of a mad cow over her calf, struck in for the redemption of father’s land. Now I owned 50 acres of land on Laurel Creek of Watauga River where Eli J. Mast now lives. I entered it before I went west. I sold the 50 acres to old John Mast for $50.00. I took that money to Mr. Councill and made a statement to him in regard to paying him. He took the money and also my note for the remainder and relinquished his claim on said land. I thanked Mr. Councill and felt very grateful to him for his kindness. So now father made me a deed for his Fork Ridge land. Today the fifty acres I sold Mr. Mast is worth perhaps $500.00.
Some of my old uncles had some money in those days, and I went to them to borrow but never got any of them, the reason why I cannot tell, for they well knew I would pay them amply. As I said, I can’t tell why they would not help me unless they thought I was so active in business and appeared to be taking hold of matters like I meant something and they would not be able to compel me to work for them for such a pittance as they had done here before. But as good luck, as we say, did come in my way, I sold 100 acres of said land to Joseph E. Mast for $200.00 and that sale set me up you may guess if you will. That enabled me to pay all the Fork Ride debts and have nearly $100.00 left to do as I pleased with.
Now in after time, I bought the remainder of the land I owned on said ridge. I entered some land, say 440 acres, on south side of Fork Ridge. It was some help to me and not very much, for I sold some of it to James Brown for 16¢ per acre, including the land where Riley Eggers now lives. I sold said land some 35 or 37 years back. Now this is the year 1895 and the land will bring $5.00 per acre, but I was so hard run I had to do that or worse, I thought.
Now about that time, I bought Elias Swift’s land, known as the old Brown field or the Eller land. I sold 150 acres for $400.00 to James Brown. The 100 acres bought of Swift cost me $300.00 and 50 acres I had entered some time before. So I made in that trade $50.00, and that helped me some in my poor condition in life. Now it was not long until I sold to a man by the name of David Hicks 200 acres I had entered on Laurel Creek, as before stated, for $200, and right soon sold a 50-acre tract I bought of Wm. Grayson, my uncle, for $25.00 and conveyed it to Brazilla McBride for $150.00. Now I had on hand $350.00 and that began to help a poor boy who never before had over $100 at one time except these lands I sold. So now I began to look at some small things to buy that I could draw some money out of, for I had the Ridge land and it paid for and had some grass on it, and I could raise some stock there. I bought yearlings in the spring and took them to the Ridge, and by fall they would get fat; then I would kill some of them and sell the beef and make some profits that way.
So I went on with my improvements on the Fork Ridge lands. After some years elapsed, my business and interest became more and more inviting, for crops grew so fine and yielded so great, the attention of men was directed toward said Ridge, and they began to flock in to lease or rent land of me. So I had first and last 7 cabins built in said lands and perhaps as many as 100 families lived in these houses up to the time I conveyed said land to my children. I bought other lands and entered some on which was 13 or 14 more houses with those I bought myself, making in all about 21 houses on my lands. So you may see that I have had enough to do with renters to form a tolerably correct idea of mankind – what they will and will not do. So my patience had been well tried in so great and complicated business affairs, for there have been perhaps from $2,500 to $3,000.00 of dealings between myself and those 200, more or less, renters, who have lived on lands I have owned.
The amount of acres I have owned in my life, I cannot now tell but will give a pretty fair estimate of it, I think about seventy tracts of land aggregating about 5,000 acres, and the cost of the deeds for said lands has amounted to over $100.00 fees and perhaps as much more to have lands surveyed, etc.
My trouble with men in regards to titles and spurious claims, suits in the courts, etc. has been a very great tax on my mind and my purse also. I have paid out for costs and compromises perhaps 700 or 800 dollars. So you see a man who has handled the multitude of business I have and come out with clean hands has had a large amount of trouble and vexation with bad, designing men such as I could name, even a great many, but for prudence’s sake, I will forbear giving any names here, for these things have gone with the history of the past and I will let them all go, for I have endeavored to forgive all men who have trespassed against me whether asked for or not, Lord do help me so to do.
Now I had cleared on my out lands and put in cultivation about 257 acres and on home farm lands say 115 acres, making in all 372 acres I had cleared besides about 75 or 80 acres I had cleared on my lands I bought, making in all 452 acres. So you can see my lands would bring me in 4 or 5 hundred dollars per year in grain or grass. While the lands I had cleared cost me, say $12.00 per acre, for I had most all the timber taken off as is well known, all costing me $3,084.00. So you see, that was some money.
These 21 houses, or cabins as they should be more properly called, cost me $1,050.00, making in all, for clearing and building on these lands, $4,134.00 and my home buildings cost about $1,200.00, a total of $5,334.00 contingent expenses outside of my own family cost, say $2,500.00, money lost by bad debts a $1,000.00, and the 4 years of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 stopped my income of $500.00 per year, making $2,000.00. Stock and other goods taken from me in the time of said war amounted to $500.00 more or less. Costs of lawyers’ fees and compromises made with rascals cost me about $1,200.00, farms dilapidated in time of said war cost perhaps 2 or 3 hundred dollars more to bring them up to the condition they were before. So you see there has been a clear loss of $8,000.00, the interest on above for 33 1/3 years would amount to $16,000.00 and the principal $8000.00 more makes a total of $24,000.00, as you see a pretty large sum, but figures don’t lie. Besides this, we have had born unto us ten children – raised nine of them. Now the rearing and educating, board, clothing, etc. cost me besides what labor they could do between the age of the and twenty-one years, say [they?] worked five years of the eleven at reasonable prices would be $250.00 per boy, making a $1,000.00 for four boys and for five girls $625.00 at the rate of $125.00 per girl, amount for labor in all $1,625.00. Take that from $7,182.00, board, clothing, etc. leaves $5,557.00, and besides all this I have given each one of my children $2,100.00 in land and other means, making in all $18,900.00 interest on same for 8 1/3 years on an average is $9,450.00. So you see, the principal and interest amounts to $28,350.00. Add the above $5,557.00 to the $28,350.00 making $33,907.00. Add the $24,000.00 to the $33,907.00 and you have $57,907.00, a considerable sum. Thus you see this sum of money is almost past any thought or calculation a poor boy could possibly expect, but the above figures are correct as far as I am able to make them. Here I will make a statement of what it has cost me and my wife for fifty years or since we have been married. Board at 50¢ per week and same for clothing and interest on same for one half the time of 50 years all amounts to $12,400.00 and that added to $57.907.00 makes $70,307.00. I have not made mention of the costs of keeping up the expenses of house and kitchen furniture. It would amount to more than one would suppose unless you would make some calculations of the whole matter for fifty years. Now the property we have on hand is perhaps worth 5 or 6 thousand dollars and that added to the $70,307.00 makes $76,307.00. Now I am making these statements [not] for the purpose of showing in myself any egotism but for the purpose of laying these facts before the young and rising generations to school them up to a proper sense of their duty and show them the great propriety of vigilant labor and economy, and as Dr. Franklin said, “Work thus whilst you may, for no morning sun lasts the whole day.” So you may learn how to work and when, how to trade and when, and do both at the right time. I don’t want to feel at all exalted over these things, although I feel thankful to God for all the favors and blessings he has conferred on us through our untiring labors, cares, etc.
Now I will give a short sketch of my brothers and sisters by my mother. Johiel, as before stated, died at Wagner’s old forge [and] was buried at old Cove Creek Grave Yard. He has stones engraved at his head to show who and where his remains lie. Brother John went to the state of Ohio, stayed there about two years. He had bought a piece of land of old Richard Arrendell where Andrew Snyder now lives and it paid for. I told John he had better settle down on his land and go to work. But as he had been to Ohio and seen that beautiful, rich land, this country was too steep and poor for him, so off he went and purchased land and married a woman by the name of Millie Jane O’Neal in middle Tenn. and settled down on said land for which he agreed to pay $700.00 which was more than he was able to pay and away went his land and what he had paid on it, so that left him flat. Then he had to rent here and there the remainder of his life. A few years before, he and his wife died, he moved to Harrisburg, Ill. where he and his wife both died in a short time after moving there. They left six girl children there without houses or anything to go to. So my brother had better have let well enough alone and stayed on his mountain land. My sister Cindrilla, next oldest one, was just grown when I went west to Mo. However, before I started on my trip, I went and procured her a good home with my Uncle Jehiel Smith, and he promised me to keep her until I would return or she married. Before I came back, she married Wm. Wilson, who had a good home for her to live at. So you may see I had a wise purpose in getting her a good home before I left her, for her step-mother was a woman of bad, dissipated habits. So after my sister was married to Wm. Wilson, they always had a good living, for Wm. was always a man who would provide well for his table, and his wife knew well how to cook and prepare it. They raised five children to be grown and married before the parents died. The oldest boy died in time of the Civil War. The other four all have good homes and [are] in good credit, both they and their companions.
Please bear with me a little for I must eulogize them all, both husbands and wives if they are my well beloved kinfolks, for I can’t get along well with my narrative unless I give them a place and a name that well becomes them in it and for their kindness and respect they all show me.
Now I will speak of my next oldest brother, Nelson. He was a very good boy to work, kind and tender-hearted. He went to Mo. when young, married and had one child by her, and died. The child’s name was Ruphema. She married a man by the name of John L. Harmon. They live in Neb. near Beaver City. Hettie, my sister and the youngest child, was a baby when her dear mother died. Grandmother Reese raised her. She married a man by the name of David Thoneburg [Throneburg/Thornburg?], a young, stout, red-faced Dutchman. He was good to work and managed well. He had bought a good piece of hill land and was building up rapidly. When his folks moved to Indiana, he took a notion he must move there too. I told him he had better let well enough alone, but he would not hear me, so off he went. He stayed there a while, then moved to Ill., and there he died, so my sister married another man by the name of Ezekiel Smith, and they moved to Iowa. Smith had some children and they had some more after they were married, so in all they raised twenty children between them. They had a good farm and doing well when Smith died, but before he died, he gave his farm and all he had to his son George and left him to take care of his mother, but in place of that, in two years from Smith’s death, that spendthrift and bad boy spent everything that was given him (which amount was four thousand dollars) by drinking and gambling and had to run away for other bad conduct and left his mother without anything whatever. So she had to make application to the County Board for her support till she went out to Kansas to her oldest son, Jehiel Thornburg [Throneburg?], to live with him. So you see that was a terrible hard strike and quick downfall to her after having such a fine farm and plenty of everything she called for. These things my sister wrote me. As the great Apostle Paul said, “There is no confidence in this flesh” without being quickened by the spirit to war against the flesh and then sometimes we break over and do exceedingly wrong.
Now I will turn to something else that perhaps may entertain you better.
[Thus ends all my father wrote before he died. By his last sentence, I know he intended to have written more. Yes, the last and better part of his life is not recorded here, but I believe it is a record in Heaven. I think I knew him as well as a child could well know a parent, and after looking over his life as impartially as I am able to do, I find but few men his equal, taking his whole life. Some men may have possessed greater morality, and did, but few had as high a sense of true honesty and truthfulness, sympathy, and love for the suffering and downcast, charity for the poor, and a great reverence for the Almighty in the true sense.]
Oct. 12, 1907 – My sister Delrhea Cole died. She had been sick about a week only. Was buried Sunday 13 at the grave yard at my mother’s, west of Mt. City, Tenn.
Oct. 10, 1907 – My first cousin, Johiel H. Throneburg, from Formoso, Jewell Co., Kansas, came in to see us – his cousins, Uncle William Wilson’s & Asa Reese’s children. His mother was the youngest sister of my father, Mahetabel. We all appreciated his visit very much. He seemed to be a good & well informed man. 224 miles west from Kansas City on the Rock Island Road. J. J. T. Reese
Aunt Rebecca Woods, my father’s half-sister, now lives at 1007 May Avenue, Knoxville, Tenn. This May 9, 1914.