THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF JAMES NORMAN SMITH
Part I His Early Life, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age
Handwritten 1870 by James Norman Smith
[b. 1789 Richmond County NC, d. 1875 Dewitt County TX]
Submitted for publication here by Bennie
Lou Hook Altom of Dallas, TX.
This is part of a wonderful collection of 169 well written pages of poetry,
narratives and anecdotes. The first 50 pages or so covers JNS's early childhood
in Richmond County NC and their subsequent move to Maury County TN.
"James' delightful true stories of well-known early Richmond County folks include
Benjamin H. Covington, William Cotton, James Picket, Thomas Blewett, Sylvester
Chunn, the Moreheads, Billingslys, etc.,." Myrtle
Pages 37-38 of typed copy 1981 by Thomas Calhoun Anderson based on his
grandmother's typed copy of 1965. Original handwritten manuscript in
"Special Collections" University of Texas at Austin.
Posted July 22, 2002 by Myrtle Bridges
JAMES N. SMITH, early Texas patriot and educator, was born September 14, 1789 at
Richmond County, North Carolina. James had a twin brother named CHARLES ALLISON
SMITH. The twins were the sons of American Revolutionary Patriot JAMES SMITH, JR.
(1752 MD - 1817 NC) and CONSTANTIA FORD (1760 MD - 1812 TN). CONSTANTIA FORD was
the daughter of CHARLES ALLISON FORD and ANN CHANDLER of Charles County Maryland.
[Charles Allison Ford and Ann Chandler were grandchildren of early Charles County Maryland
James Norman Smith 1789-1875
JAMES N. SMITH's teaching career began in 1806 after the family moved to Maury
County Tennessee where he met and married SARAH JENKS (1812). SARAH JENKINIS was the
daughter of American Revolutionary Patriot PHILIP JENKINS and ELIZABETH HUNGERFORD both
of Charles County Maryland. Before Sarah's death in 1820, JAMES SMITH and SARAH
JENKINS had five children: CONSTANCE FORD SMITH, ELIZABETH HUNGERFORD SMITH,
JANE CATHARINE SMITH, and JAMES BROWN SMITH, ROBERT BENJAMIN SMITH. All five
children were born in Maury County, Tennessee.
Following the death of SARAH JENKINS, in 1824, JAMES N. SMITH married ELIZABETH
HUNGERFORD MOREHEAD. They had eight children: MARY MOREHEAD SMITH, SARAH ANN
SMITH, CHARLES ALLISON SMITH, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN SMITH, MARTHA JENKINS SMITH,
JOSEPH MOREHEAD SMITH, SUSAN STOREY SMITH, and THOMAS CRUTCHER SMITH.
In addition to positions of political and social leadership in Tennessee, JAMES
N. SMITH farmed, taught school and engaged in commerce. With the collapse of
his business in 1839, he moved to Texas. In 1840 the family settled in Gonzales
on Cuero Creek and were caught in the GREAT COMANCHE RAID. JAMES N. SMITH, at
age 50, fought in his first battle at PLUM CREEK, 1841. When the Mexican Army
invaded Texas in 1842, Smith took his family to Mill Creek for safety.
When DeWitt County was formed in 1846, JAMES N. SMITH made the original survey.
He was elected County Clerk and held that office until 1865. Before his death
in 1875, Smith chronicled his life in a hand-written, four-volume manuscript.
His MEMOIRS describe how he surveyed the DeWitt County lines using the "old
stock lock compass" his father bought for him. Smith's MEMOIRS are currently
in the Barker Library, Center for American History, University of Texas at
Austin. A descendant, THOMAS CALHOUN ANDERSON provided a typed copy of the
MEMOIRS in 1981 which numbers 244 pages. A Texas Historical Marker in JAMES
N. SMITH's honor stands today at the First Presbyterian Church, Cuero, Texas.
(Biography written by: Bennie Lou Hook Altom)
Children of JAMES N. SMITH and SARAH JENKINS [d/o Philip Jenkins &Elizabeth Hungerford]
1. CONSTANTIA FORD SMITH, d. young
2. ELIZABETH HUNGERFORD SMITH, m/1 WM. CALHOUN, m/2 JOHN D. BARNHILL
3. JANE STOREY SMITH, m/ FRANCIS S. LATHAM
4. JAMES BROWN SMITH, m/ VIRGINIA FEATHERSTON MURPHREE
5. ROBERT BENJAMIN SMITH, d. young
JAMES N. SMITH m/2-1825 - ELIZABETH HUNGERFORD MOREHEAD, d/o JOSEPH MOREHEAD
and JANE STOREY JENKINS. Their Children:
6. MARY SMITH, d. young
7. SARAH ANN SMITH, m/ 1845 Washington CoTX, JOHN BROOKS MURPHREE (1817TN-1855TX),
m/2 Mr. DULANEY
8. JOSEPH MOREHEAD SMITH
9. MARTHA JENKINS SMITH, m/ R.E. WILLIAMS
10. SUSAN STORY SMITH
11. THOMAS CRUTCHER SMITH
12. CHARLES ALLISON SMITH, d. young
13. BENJAMIN ROBERT SMITH, d. young
THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF JAMES NORMAN SMITH
Part I - His Early Life, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age (Dated July 21, 1871)
I was born in the County of Richmond, State of North Carolina on Little River,
about two miles above its mouth. Little River empties into the great Pee Dee
River, three miles below Standback's Ferry. The Pee Dee River is about five
hundred yards wide at the ferry.
My father's name was JAMES T. SMITH and my mother's name was CONSTANTIA ANN FORD
[d/o CHARLES ALLISON FORD and ANN CHANDLER] She was born in the State of
Maryland in Charles County. My father was also a native of the same county
and state but in his early life, before the Revolutionary War of 1776, he
moved with his father to Halifax County, State of Virginia. When about seventeen
years of age my father was a volunteer in the Revolutionary War and joined a
company which was commanded, as Captain, by his uncle, JAMES TURNER.
My father was wounded at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, in North Carolina.
His thigh bone was broken and all the bones came out from his hip to his knee.
He lay on the field of battle for some hours but was finally taken to the house
of Mr. Walter McCustion who lived some three or four miles from the battlefield.
He remained there for more than twelve months before his wound was sufficiently
healed to permit him to be moved to his home. The doctors wanted to cut off the
thigh near his hip bone but he would not consent to the amputation. The large
artery of his thigh was not injured, new flesh and skin formed and the wound
healed. After some years he was able to walk without crutches. When he went to
[Charles County] Maryland to see my mother, before marriage, he walked with
crutches. He was married on the 4th day of May, 1784. They lived awhile in
Virginia and then moved, with his father and mother, [James Smith Sr. and Sarah
Turner] to Richmond County, North Carolina. Also his uncle, James Turner and
his mother, a very aged woman, [Kerenhappuch Norman Turner] came with his
father's family and settled in Montgomery County which adjoins Richmond County.
An uncle of my father whose name was JOSEPH MOREHEAD and who had married a
sister of my grandmother Smith [ELIZABETH TURNER] also settled in Richmond
County, North Carolina.
My father and mother had five children, two daughters and three sons. Their
names and births were as follows:
Annie Ford, born August 1, 1785 [d. 22 April 1796]
Richard, born September 24, 1787[d. 13 Jan 1808]
James Norman, born September 14, 1789 [d. 21 March 1875]
Charles A. (My twin brother) born September 14, 1789 [d. 1851]
Elizabeth Ford, born March 23, 1792 [d. 4 Feb 1802]
These children of my father and mother are all dead, except myself. [Editor's
Note: These children are buried in the SMITH CEMETERY, Richmond County NC.]
It has already been stated when and where my twin brother, Charles Allison
Smith, and myself were born. My twin brother was born with a remarkable birth
mark on his face; his face was entirely red with the exception of a little white
skin on his temples. As we grew up he was always more playful, more lively and
had a greater stock of jokes and anecdotes than myself. When we were little boys
we were very mischievous. The earliest recollection of my infantile days, which
I remember well, was as follows:
My brother, Charles A. and myself were quite small and wore small coats or frocks
as we had not yet begun to wear pants. One day in our Mother's room we were
playing before the fire with broom straws and setting them on fire. We first
thought that we would set the counterpane on fire to see it burn but as we were
afraid our mother would chastise us we decided to let it alone. My brother said
to me, "Brother, let me set your coat on fire." I said, "Very well." My clothes
were already very warm as we had been sitting for sometime by the fire. My
brother set a handful of straws on fire and placed them under my coat which
immediately blazed and we could not put the fire out. I ran through the room
into the parlor and on the porch; flames of fire were all around me and I was
screaming loudly. My mother heard my screams, as she was in the kitchen a short
distance away. She ran out to see me fall on the floor, my clothes all in a
blaze, and ran to me and pulled off what remained of my clothes which was only
a small part of my shirt around my shoulders and the collar about my neck. I was
dreadfully burned on my left side from my hips and groins up to my breast, the
flesh being burned off entirely. My neck, shoulders, and face were greatly
blistered. It was several months before I could go out to play. I have now a
large scar on my left side which is smooth and hard. The flesh on my whole side
was burned to my ribs which were exposed for some time. The doctor came and
furnished remedies and for many months my burned side had to be dressed and
something put on it which was very painful. My Aunt Ward came over every day
and dressed the wound. She was an aunt on my father's side, a widow, named Mrs.
Mary Ward. While my burns were dressed and more medicine poured on, I would cry
out, "O Aunt Ward," "O by Geese, by Geese, by Geese, How it hurts." I suppose
I said those words hundreds of times before I got well. After I did get well
if at any time I got hurt I would say, "O By Geese, By Geese!" which words
became a saying of mine for many years after. Perhaps this kept myself from
swearing by a more Holy Name.
About six months after I got well another fire occurred which also made a lasting
impression in my memory of the early life of my childhood. This was the burning
of my father's house. He had just build a large new house at a distance of about
three quarters of a mile from the old plantation house on the river where he had
lived for several years. It was a large frame house with many rooms and had a
large stone stack chimney in the middle with fireplaces in all the rooms, up and
down stairs. One Saturday night there were a number of young people, nieces,
nephews, and other young people assembled at my father's house to stay all night.
It was a custom in those days to have what was called "Cotton Pickings." They
would pick the seed out of the cotton as there were no gins or machines in those
good old days. When the "Cotton Picking" was over the young people would play
"Old Sister Phoebe" and other plays of amusement as well as often times dance.
It was for one of these "Cotton Pickings" that this large company of young
people had assembled. After the playing and frolics were over and the young
people were about to retire to their different rooms for sleep the fire was
discovered. It had caught in the ceiling of one room which was all in flames.
The house had been built of pine lumber which was almost as inflammable as a
match used to light candles at the present day. My father had only a few negroes
who stayed at the house and they were only women and boys. The older negro men
and women lived at "The Quarters" as it was called on the plantation in those
days. My father, ascertaining that the house could not be saved, made all the
young people assist in taking out the household furniture. The neighbors seeing
the great light were soon assembled, but all in vain, the house burned to ashes.
The fire was so great and hot that many of the beds and furniture were burned
after being taken out of the house. When the fire first started, my brother
Charles A. and I ran off in a fright to our grandmother's about a mile away.
While we were running as fast as we could we met our Uncle on his way to help
put the fire out. We ran along puffing and blowing and crying out, "Uncle
Bennie, house all on fire!, Uncle Bennie, house all on fire!" After the
excitement had somewhat ceased my mother missed her twin boys. She was almost
frightened to death and cried out, "My twins are burned up, my twins are burned
up!" My Uncle Bennie came up and told her to cease crying as he met us on the
way to our Grandmother's. She sent a runner over to verify the fact and then
became calm and satsfied that we were safe.
We soon grew large enough to ride a horse and our father would take great
pleasure in teaching us to ride about. He would often tell us many little
pleasant stories about the war and teach us many little songs. When we
were permitted we would ride on a horse with a bag of corn to the mill which
was about two miles away. There were many little negro boys, much larger than
we, who could go to the mill but our father humored us by allowing us to go.
We rode together on the bag of corn, I would ride in front and my brother behind. One day when we went to the mill there was a very rich man, who owned about 100 negroes, who also went to the mill and took his little daughter with him. His daughter was younger than we so she rode on the bag and her father led the horse. She went all over the mill with us and looked at all the wheels, etc. We saw how the meal would run into a great chest and how the miller would shovel the meal up into the bags. We had a nice time. We were quite small, perhaps six or seven years old. I used to call this little girl "my sweetheart." When I got home I told my father that I had seen my sweetheart at the mill and called the little girls name. My father would say to me, "James, did you court her any?" I would say "Daddy, (in those days we used to say "Daddy" and "Mamma" instead of "Pa" and "Ma") I kissed her once, is that what you call courting?" He would say, "Well, that will do for a beginning." He then said to me, "I will teach you a little song about kissing." It was as follows:
"Dear Chloe, come give me sweet kisses,
For sweeter no girl ever gave,
And now in the height of my blisses
Would you ask me how many I'd have.
Count the stars that are placed in the heavens,
Count the sands that doth lie on the shore,
And when so many kisses you've given,
I shall be asking for more."
In year after year I have heard this little song sung by grown young ladies
and gentlemen. My father took great delight in singing to my brother and me
and would also tell us many anecdotes about the war. He told us how he used
to sing while he was wounded and had to lie on his back and could not move
his leg. My father was a man with a very lively disposition but with a very
strong mind. He would never give way to a despondency of mind under any trial
he might have to undergo. He could bear pain and affliction of body with more
fortitude than anyone I ever saw. I can recollect that while I was quite young
sometimes his wounded thigh would pain him but he would be cheerful and merry.
I remember he once taught us a little song while he was in great pain. It was
not so lively and full of fun as were some others. He said, "Learn this one my
son so that you will remember it when you are old and in trouble." It was like
"In all situations, a man may be glad,
He never was created for woe,
Let him seek and he'll find that content may be had,
And a great deal of comfort below."
He would often repeat to us this little ditty about being industrious about our
"Go to the plow, go to the hedge or ditch,
Some honest calling choose, no matter which."
When I was about six years old my father provided us a school master (as he was
called in those days) and my brother Charles A. and myself were sent to school
with our older brother and sister. The schoolmaster's name was Philip Brooks,
an Irishman. There were few such teachers as this Irishman in those days or
afterwards. He first taught in my father's house, while a bachelor, but afterwards
he married and lived in the neighborhood for years. He had a large school of
young men and girls as well as little boys and girls. There were but few school
books in those days but he did not seem to need books in his school. He appeared
to know everything and it did not seem necessary to have Arithmetics, Grammars,
or Dictionaries in his school. He seemed to know them all by heart. He used to
write our exercises and rules on paper, a sheet of fools cap paper folded so as
to make sixteen pages. He wrote a beautiful plain hand and could print almost as
well as type. He taught the Smith children to read handwriting as soon as they
could read printed books. Every day at our playtime he would write on one side
of the paper our lesson (or exercise as he called it). This we had to learn at
home that night or next morning and repeat to him during school hours. He would
then write a new "exercise". If we did not know them well he would keep us in
during the play hours. By this means we generally had the lessons well prepared
as we never wanted to be kept in the house during playtime. These little exercises
always contained many useful as well as entertaining histories, little pieces of
poetry, etc., many of which in after years I have read in Peter Parley's works,
the English Reader and other school books of the present day. Noah Webster's
spelling book had just been printed at that time. We used Dilworth's Spelling
Book and Dyke's but finally put them all aside for the new Webster's Spelling
Book. I can now remember a great many little pieces of poetry, anecdotes, etc.
that were learned from those little exercises, such as: "See how the little busy
bee, Improves each shining hour, etc." and "Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
etc." as well as many others. He used to make us write words in our spelling books
(or he would write them for us) and then he would write the meaning or definition of
these words beside each word, like it is in the dictionary. We had to learn these
words and meanings for our next day's recitation. So in my very early life I
knew the meaning of very many works before I had ever seen them in the dictionary.
Such words as Crucifix, a cross, Diadem, a crown, luminous, a light, and so on.
One day I wrote down a list of words for him to write the meaning after them.
One of the words I wrote was "Gimlet." His meaning written against it was, "Any
foolish boy knows." The next day I had to recite the lesson by heart and he made
me give the definition of "Gimlet" as he had written it. He then took me by the
hair of my head and slapped my jaws and cheeks well, saying at the same time, "James,
you knew what a gimlet was, every negro man and boy your father has knows what a
gimlet means, you knew too, when you put it down." He would then slap me again.
It was the only time, I believe, he ever whipped me. I hated a gimlet after that
so much that I have not used one since. Although in after years I always keep one
about the house I will never use it. The schoolmaster would say to me "James, I
want you to learn the meaning of words which will be useful to you, never write
words when you already know their meanings."
When the pupils were able to learn Arithmetic, Mathematics, Surveying, Calculations
of Astronomy, etc., he always wrote the rules and exercises in their books. He
was indeed a great scholar and had every rule in his head. As I grew older I
learned arithmetic, chronology, surveying, trigonometry, navigation, and
astronomical calculations, all before I was thirteen years old. While I was
studying the calculations of astronomy, surveying, etc. he told my father to
buy for me "Gebona Surveying" and "Fergunn's Astronomy." My brother and I always
studied together. We were able to make calculations of the eclipses of the sun
and moon which will take place up to the year 2000. I have often compared the
eclipses of the sun from 1810 to 1840 with the calculations made in my Exercise
Book and always found them to be correct, making further calculations for the
difference in latitude and longitude.
In the study of Chronology as was defined in our Cyphering book, was to know how
to find the Leap Years, The Epact, The Moon Age, The Solar Cycle, The Dominical
Letter, etc. Also to be able to tell what day of the week any day of the month
would be on any date in years past or years to come. For instance, what day of
the week was the 4th of July, 1776. or what day of the week would be the 8th of
January, 1895, and so on. The rule he gave us for this calculation I have since
seen in Almanacs and elsewhere. It is this:
"At Doer, Dwells, George Brown, Esquire,
Good Christopher French and Davy Friar."
The way to use the rule is like this: First find the Sunday or Dominical Letter
of any year and that will stand for Sunday that year through. The Capital
letters of each word in the above verse stand for each month in the year.
Thus if "E" should be the Sunday letter, then the table
A B C D E F G
0 6 5 4 3 2 1
E stands for Sunday that year and if you want to find what day of the week the
first day of any month would be, say for instance the first day of May, then E
stands for Sunday all the year and B stands for May, then A B C D E F G - E
Sunday, D Monday, C Tuesday, etc. so the first day of May would be Saturday.
Again if E is the Sunday letter and you wish to find what day of the week would
be the first day of November, as above E is Sunday and D is November. E would
be Sunday, F Monday, G Tuesday, A Monday, B Thursday, C Friday, and F Saturday.
The rule to find the Sunday letter is: add 1/4 of the date of year to itself
and divide by 7, the remainder is the Sunday letter by the table as already given.
A B C D E F G
0 6 5 4 3 2 1
In a Leap Year there are two Sunday letters, the first to March 1st, and the
second to the end of the year.
My teacher never taught me to work problems in Algebra. When I would occasionally
visit other schools I would examine their Arithmetics and looking over the different
rules I noticed the rules of False Position and True Position. As I know nothing
about these rules I requested my teacher to give me some questions on the Rule
of Position. He wrote the rules for each in my Cyphering Book but also wrote
this in my book:
"James, this is a good rule for exercise in figures but it is of no use to any
man who wishes to attend to practical business, nevertheless I will teach you
how to work the questions." He wrote several questions for me to work out. For
every rule he gave to us he would always require us to write down the whole
statement as well as the calculations and sums at which he arrived under the
different rules. He used to write many of his questions in poetry. One he gave
in position was:
"A young man a courting did go,
Fond was he his lover's age to know,
My age, said she, if multiplied by three
And two of that product three times be
And the square root of one fourth of that product will be four,
Tell me my age or court me no more."
Another problem he gave me when I was studying right angles and triangles in
"I am constrained to plant a grove
To entertain the maid I love,
The form in which the question goes
Is nineteen trees in none straight rows,
And in each row five trees must plant,
Or else lose the maid I want."
In the exercises which he gave us there would be a great deal of poetry. One day
a dog ran by the school house with four or five after him crying out, "Mad Dog."
At playtime our teacher wrote in all the pupil's exercise books the following
piece of poetry which we had to read next day. I have since read in the "Vicar
of Wakefield" a similar poem but the words are different:
Poem about a Mad Dog
"The dog was sick and some did say
I believe he's going mad,
With sticks and clubs they drove him then
And no compassion had.
Until at last in his defense,
He bit the first he could,
He is surely mad they cried, and then
Like mad men they pursued.
The wound did look both sore and sad
To every Christian's eye,
And while they swore the dog was mad
They swore the man would die.
But soon a wonder came to light,
Which showed the men they lied,
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.
I will relate some other poetry which I learned from my father. He used to
sing these to us at night, after we had returned home from our school. My
father's song entitled:
Johnny Blount or Bar the Door, O.
"There was an old man lived under the hill
And Johnny Blount was his name, Sir,
And he kept beer and ale to sell
He bore a wonderful fame, Sir.
The wind did blow very hard from the North,
It blowed all over the floor, O,
O, do, Johnny Blount, the old woman said,
Get up and bar the door, O.
A bargain, a bargain, a bargain, they made,
A bargain they made full sure, O,
That they who spoke the very first word
Should rise and bar the door, O.
There came two travelers from the North,
They traveled it late in the night, Sir,
Until they came to Johnny Blount's house,
No candle or candle light, Sir.
They took the old woman out of the bed,
They dragged her all over the floor, O,
But never a word the old woman said,
For fear of barring the door, O.
They went to the cupboard, they ate all the meat,
They drank all the beer in the cellar,
And that did cause Johnny Blount for to speak,
And talk like a clever fellow.
Saying, you've eat up my victuals,
You've drank all my drink,
You've made my old woman so poor, O
O, there Johnny Blount, you spoke the first word,
Get up and bar the door, O.
My father used to sing us another song, called:
Sweet Nan of the Vale
"In a small pleasant village
Where nature's complete
Lived a few honest shepherds.
In a quaint retreat,
There lived a young lady
Of so noble a mien
That she often at balls
And at Court could be seen.
The lads of the village
All strove to assail
And called her in rapture
Sweet Nan of the Vale.
Young Hodge spoke his passion
Until quite out of breath,
Saying, Zounds, he could hug her
And kiss her to death.
But Dick with her beauty
Was so much oppressed
That he laughed at his food,
His board, and his dress.
But she could find nothing
In them to endear,
She sent them away
With a flea in their ears.
Saying, Sure no such boobies
Could tell a love tale
Or bring to their wishes
Sweet Nan of the Vale.
Young William, the smartest
Of all the gay green
Took a voyage to Virginia
For improved he had been.
Came home so much improved
That he made his address
And boldly attacked her
Not doubting success.
Saying, sure nature never formed
Those lips to be kissed
He hugged her so close
That she could not resist.
And taught the young lady
The right way to assail
And brought to his wishes
Sweet Nan of the Vale.
During the time I went to the school of Mr. Philip Brooks there were number
of large boys and young men who also attended. Two young men boarded with my
father. Their names were Benjamin H. Covington and his brother John W.
Covington. Benjamin H. Covington was a natural off-hand poet. I will give a
few of his poems which he recited off-hand. There was a young man by the name
of Cash. He came from Jonesborough, Tennessee, to see his brothers. One of
them lived in Richmond County and the other kept a hotel in Wadesboro, Anson
County, North Carolina. Young Cash was about twenty years of age when he came
to attend the school of Mr. Philip Brooks although there was an academy at
Wadesboro where his brothers lived. He brought his horse with him and applied
for board at several places, they were families who knew his brothers very
well. He would stay only one week at a place and then move to some other place.
He stayed one week at my father's. None of the families would charge him board
for such a short time, and thus he continued, while going to school, for some
three months. One day someone found a short piece of poetry. Some of the pupils
thought that Benjamin H. Covington had written it but I was of the opinion
that it had been written by a Scotchman by the name of McMillan.
The little verse ran like this:
"A gentleman of wit and art
Who lately came into these parts
From Tennessee, with wondrous skill
His head with learning for to fill.
To Philip Brooks he soon applied
That he as teacher must preside,
A boarding house he must procure,
For hunger he could not endure.
A boarding house he soon found out
And there he stayed a week about.
This lad so fast in knowledge grew
He thought his horse must study too.
The horse not willing to obey
Had rather browse about the hay
And thus he rode both night and morn
And feed his horse with hay and corn.
The teacher very quickly saw
His horse would never study law.
Away he sent the horse to town
Perhaps to study under Brown.
(C) Can any man find out my name
(A) Among so many men of fame.
(S) Should any wish his name to know.
(H) His name the last four lines do show."
Mr. Cash didn't like this piece of poetry, became much dissatisfied and left
the school. He went back to his brothers in Wadesboro.
My father and mother with all the children as well as the two Covingtons who
boarded with us, were invited to a Quilting Party which was given one afternoon
by a very wealthy and near neighbor. His name was Joseph Hinds and his wife's
name was Betty. Squire, as he was called, was a very liberal man but would
sometimes take his toddy rather freely although this time he kept quite sober.
After the company were all seated at the dining table the young men including
Benjamin H. Covington and others were about to carve the turkeys, pigs, etc.
Squire Hinds, who never was in the habit of asking a blessing at his meals,
spoke to Benjamin H. Covington. The Squire wanted to surprise Covington and
make him ashamed before the ladies. The Squire said "Mr. Covington, will you
ask the blessing or say grace for us?" Ben. H. Covington approached the table
and while standing with his hands outstretched said off-hand the Grace as
"Here is hoping all
Both great and small
That's seated 'round this table
May eat with might and appetite,
As long as they are able.
Our sins forgive and let us live
We pray the Lord for pity.
What we receive, I do believe,
Comes free from Joe and Betty."
The old Squire jumped up and ran to Ben saying while he patted his shoulders,
"Ben, you are the smartest young man in Richmond County." The whole company were
full of glee and laughter. Hereafter I will quote more of his poetry as he could
make up verses on any subject, right off-hand.
During the years of 1800, 1801, and 1802, there were great Revivals of Religion
in different parts of North Carolina. People would come from parts of the State
from a distance of over 150 miles. They would bring their wagons, teams, tents,
and quantities of provisions, meeting together in some convenient neighborhood
to form a camp ground. They would stretch their tents and after dark with torches,
lamps, and large open fires it would make a very brilliant appearance. A great
many stands or pulpits would be built for the different preachers from which to
preach. A camp meeting was held within ten miles from my father's house. Our
whole family attended with many of the servants. This camp lasted for over fifteen
days and was carried on mostly by Presbyterian and Methodist preachers although
there were some Baptist preachers. There was a row of pulpits, ten in number,
situated over one hundred yards apart. The different preachers would preach from
these to their various congregations. During the whole period of the camp it was
stated that there were over thirty thousand people in attendance. During the
whole time of the camp at practically all the tents there would be prayers and
songs during breakfast. At 10:30 o'clock in the morning the preaching would
commence from the different stands. During the preaching all the people would
remain very silent. In the afternoon the singing and prayers would again commence.
After three days great excitement prevailed such as had not been seen by anyone
who had not already attended one or more of these camp meetings. This excitement
would start after the preaching services and during the time the singing and
praying was going on. These meetings started in Kentucky and Tennessee and came
on east through North and South Carolina. In these times of excitement there
appeared to be a sympathetic kind of feeling among the people which can be described
as like electricity. Many of those who were thus excited would fall down suddenly
and to all appearances would be as silent as death. All pulsation through the
arteries would cease and those taken in this way would be entirely stiff and
helpless as if they were dead. Usually the ladies who were struck down in this
way would be taken to their tents as if dead. I have seen young men and young
ladies walking along together through the encampment, laughing and talking
merrily among themselves. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, one would
drop down stiff and helpless, then another would fall as if shot through with
a bullet. Thus this feeling or as described, electric shock, was not confined
to the serious persons alone. It was an unaccountable mystery. A great many who
would be thus exercised did not even profess religion but thousands of others
did. I heard old Christian men walking around the camp grounds, exclaiming and
saying, "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, the mysterious Providence of God."
One Sabbath afternoon my brother Charles A. and myself made an agreement that
we would walk around together and count the men who were lying stiff on the
ground, in all appearances like dead men. On that afternoon we counted over
eight hundred men. The women had all been taken to their tents. The doctors
were walking around feeling the wrists of the men to ascertain if there was
any pulse in them. I have known some men to lie on the ground in this way for
more than twelve hours before they moved. I even saw one of the doctors who
was making an examination of a man on the ground, instantly fall down and become
as stiff as the patient whom he had been examining. It was indeed a great
mysterious and solemn thing.
There was a very eloquent Presbyterian preacher who attended this camp
meeting. He was quite a talented man. He came from the Waxsaw Settlement in
South Carolina. This preacher's name was Rev. John Brown. He could say more
words in one hour than any man I ever heard in my life and these words would
all be plainly and distinctly pronounced. The young men who were not pious,
but thoughtful on religious subjects, called this preacher, "The Waxsaw Bully.
"Rev. Brown afterwards moved into our settlement which was near the camp
meeting grounds. He preached to two different congregations which were twenty
miles apart. After the camp meeting these two neighborhoods erected houses of
worship, built up Presbyterian congregations and called Rev. Brown as their
pastor. He also erected and taught in an academy in Wadesboro, Ann County,
North Carolina, but continued to preach once a month to the two congregations
in Richmond County.
After Mr. Philip Brooks, my great teacher, left us I learned to plow on the farm
and was much pleased to continue this plowing for a year. My older brother was
sent to school at Rev. Brown's academy. My brother Charles A. was too much
afflicted to work, he had been badly salivated by taking calomel to break up
a fever. This was given him by a new doctor who practiced in a different
neighborhood. I got disgusted with plowing and was determined to let it alone,
so my father boarded my brother Charley and myself with a relative and let us
attend the school with our older brother, Richard. As we then thought we were
great scholars in mathematics we decided to study Latin. Our two sisters, Annie
and Bettie, were dead. Annie my oldest sister as well as the oldest child of my
parents, was a very beautiful girl. Bettie was nearly two years younger than I,
Annie was very smart and full of life. She looked lovely in death. As Annie was
several years older than myself, Bettie and I were a great deal in each other's
company. I must confess that I loved Bettie a great deal more as we spent many
playful hours together. Bettie was a very beautiful girl and I always thought
that she would have made a more beautiful woman than my sister Annie. There were
other people who thought differently. As I now remember these sisters of mine
were the first dead bodies I ever saw. Their deaths made a serious and lasting
impression on me which has never been entirely erased.
The great Pee Dee River was a fine river to catch shad. The shad would come up
in large numbers in the winter and spring. Often, while I was quite young, I
would go with my Uncle to see them haul in the seines with the shad. In the
fishing season they would catch wagon loads of these shad. The Little River,
on which I was born, was a great stream in which to catch herring. This river
was not more than thirty yards wide. We would catch the herring in this manner:
the herring would go up the river in large schools and could be plainly seen.
When a large number of these fish would be up the river three or four men would
stretch a seine across and hold it fast. The seine would have balls of lead on
the bottom side which was called the lead line. This would keep the seine at the
bottom of the river so the herring could not pass under it. There would also be
a line at the top of the seine full of cork balls, this would keep the top of
the seine on the top of the water. The seine was made of strong twine and the
meshes were so close no herring could get through. On each side of the river
two men would hold it fast. A great many large as well as small boys would go
up the river for some distance and wade and swim down. They would carry poles
and make all the noise possible. The herring would swim down the river to the
seines when two men on one side of the river would haul up the seines taking
their end across to the opposite side where they would haul it up on the bank
full of herring. I have seen over five hundred caught at one time. The way the
fish would try to get out was very amusing to the little boys.
My brother Charles A. and myself quickly learned to swim quite well. Before I
was ten years old I could swim across the Pee Dee River, which was over 1000
yards wide. I could go over and return without stopping to rest. We used to do
our swimming, or nearly all, on the Sabbath Day. While I was growing up there
were no Sunday Schools. Neither the large or small boys were kept in the house
on Sundays and until after the camp meeting, about which I have related, there
was but little preaching in the neighborhood. One Sunday while I was swimming
across the Pee Dee River with several other boys, a large sturgeon jumped at
least five feet out of the water and fell back not more than fifteen feet from
where I was. Had he landed on me I would have been sunk. The sturgeons are very
large fish weighing more than 100 pounds. They come up the river with the shad
but not many are caught in the seines as they can jump so high they usually get
away. Sometimes they are caught in fish traps which are placed in the falls and
shallow parts of the river. I have often thought in after years that it was a
kind Providence that kept the sturgeon from falling on me and causing me to be
As my brother and myself went to Rev. Brown's Academy to learn Latin, we quickly
learned all the Latin grammar. Our teacher, Rev. John Brown, was very much more
strict in his school than was our old Irish teacher. He would whip both the
large and small boys if they disobeyed or broke his rules. I have seen him make
large young men take off their coats and he would "cow hide" them well. They
would have to submit to it or quit school.
My father moved an old widow lady, with four sons, from the State of Maryland.
This lady was a sister of my mother's. She was older than my mother and was poor
as regards property. He settled her near us. Her two oldest boys were large
enough to work so my father furnished them a place so that they could farm.
This aunt had married a Mr. Smoot who died a short time after his youngest son
was born. Her sons were named Samuel, Jack, Charles A., and David Smoot. David
was just the age of myself and brother Charles A. We were often with all these
boys especially the two youngest who seemed more like brothers than cousins. My
father sent the two youngest boys, Charles A. and David to school with us while
we were with the Irish teacher. He did not send them to the Academy. My brothers
and I had not attended the Academy for quite a year when Rev. Mr. John Brown
moved out of our neighborhood, going to Wadesboro to teach as well as preach.
My brother Richard went on with him to attend his school at Wadesboro. My brother
Charles A. and myself stayed at home and did not attend school for a year. It
was a year of pastime for us. We spent much time with our cousins, Charles A.
and David Smoot; my mother would always be satisfied if we were with our Aunt
Smoot. When we were at our Aunt's house she was always very kind and attentive
I went around in the neighborhood more than my brother Charles A. as he was not
well from his salivation. He was lame in the ankles, hips and shoulders. He
finally outgrew his afflictions which were caused by taking calomel.
During the year of absence from school I was permitted to go with my father's
negro men to take our tobacco hogshead to Fayetteville on the Cape Fear River,
about sixty miles from our plantation in Richmond County. This city used to be
called Cross Creek in those days by many people. There were two creeks which
ran through the city and almost in its center these creeks crossed at right
angles. Hence the name of Cross Creek. The way in which we took our tobacco
to market was as follows: Two large wooden pins were driven into each end or
head of the hogsheads, which served as an axle tree. A wooden frame was placed
on these pins and a tongue attached to the frame so that two horses could pull
it. The hogshead of tobacco would roll over as the horses went along. Often I
was permitted to drive one of these hogsheads of tobacco to the city of
Fayetteville, which was to me a great source of pleasure. As we camped out on
the road frequently there would be many tobacco rollers camping together. Before
they went to sleep they would pass the time in laughter, songs, and anecdotes.
On one trip we traveled with an old Scotchman who was also rolling his tobacco
hogshead. In crossing a small creek called "Que Whiffle" he drove his horses
too near the edge of the bridge and turned his hogshead over into the mud and
mire. Our negro men helped him to get it out but the frame and tongue, with
which the horses worked, were entirely broken. The old Scotchman took his horses
out and turned back home to send his sons to take the tobacco to market. He
spoke out loudly, "The back of my hand to you, Que Whiffle." He said he would
never cross that creek again. This anecdote became a saying as when anybody
became disgusted or did not like anything they would say, "The back of my hand
to you, Que Whiffle."
At the end of my year out of school my father persuaded my Aunt Smoot to move to
Wadesboro and keep a boarding house. He purchased a house and lot in town for
her. My brothers Richard and Charles A. and I all boarded with her. Her son
David Smoot went to school with us. The three oldest boys learned trades. Sam
and Jack became brick masons. Charles A. learned the hatter's trade.
Living in town was a novelty to my brother Charles A. and myself. Time passed
off quietly and smoothly while we were in school. There were nearly 150 students,
male and female, at the Academy. With our other studies we had to learn speeches.
Before the school was dismissed each afternoon, three or four of the students
would speak. Our teacher Rev. Mr. Brown, would write little speeches in poetry
for the smaller boys. As with our Irish teacher, Mr. Brooks, we learned many
pieces of poetry in this school. Having never seen them in print I will relate
some of these speeches, my own as well as those of several of my classmates,
I still retain them in my memory.
Speech taught by Rev. John Brown
"A good old farmer of the Country
who ne'er had much of learning's bounty
Had heard that it would help the Nation
to give our sons more education.
Resolved tho' Tommy was no fool,
To send his darling boy to school,
To Mr. B. he soon applied,
That he as teacher must preside.
He came, he bowed, and thus began
For here was a well spoken man.
Now Mr. B. as I hate arguing
'Tis best forehand to strike a bargain.
Name you your terms, or high or low,
And then I'll answer, yes or no.
Then says the teacher, or my skill
You'd have subservient to your will
To teach the lad the price is here
Precisely, Sir, three pounds a year.
Why sure, my friend, you are in jest,
Three pounds would almost buy a beast,
Three pounds, you say? Three pounds a year?
Why Mister B. 'tis dreadful dear.
Come Tom, let's go, we need not stay,
One can't give all one has away.
You're right, says Mister B. in jest
Three pounds would help to buy a beast
But more than you have said is true,
Tom and the beast will make you two.
Another speech we had was on spectacles.
Speech on Spectacles
"Begin my muse and tell the story
Of an old man with head so hoary,
Whose name I dare not plainly tell,
But you all know him very well.
In old Virginia he was born
And made tobacco, peas, and corn;
From early life, but true indeed,
He never learned to write or read.
He chanced one day to go to preaching,
Where a good man was loudly teaching
That aged people ought to look,
Of Sundays on their Bible book.
For that by reading they could tell
How folks would fare in Heaven or Hell,
Whether a harder lot or softer
Would be their portion in hereafter.
Old white head thought as he must die,
It would be well the case to try.
He had an old church Bible left by father
Well bound in strings of calf skin leather.
A better Bible ne'er was needed
By man or child who could but read it.
On cupboard shelf did safely lay
For many a year from day to day.
The old man hastened home and took
From cupboard shelf the Holy Book,
On walnut table laid it down,
Unloosed the strings and turned it round.
He looked and looked but could not tell
Whether in heaven or in hell,
Whether a harder lot or softer
Would be his portion in hereafter.
About to lay the Bible by,
And swear the preacher told a lie,
He just remembered to have seen
In many places he had been,
Old people carry things about them,
And could not read a word without them.
Little glass things which placed on nose
Would make them read in verse or prose.
In a merchant's store he lately saw them
With strips of paper tied between them.
The thought is happy, off he goes,
To get a saddle for his nose.
The merchant's at home and all is well,
He only wants his goods to sell;
Behind his counter takes his stand,
First views his goods and then his man.
"Pray hand me down some of those things
Which you have there tied up in strings";
"These? These?" "No them"
"Oh spectacles; sir, here they are;
A pair to suit you we will find.
Here is young and old, and every kind".
Our aged friend begins to look;
The merchant hands him down a book;
He looked and looked, and looked again;
But still he looked and looked in vain;
Tried them all over, pair by pair,
But could not read one letter there.
The merchant then grew tired and vexed,
Declared he could not read the text-
"Not read; confound you for a fool,
If I ever went to school
I would not give cash for things like these
To put a saddle on my nose,
No sir, you cheat, you shall not miss
The honest truth is simply this;
You have good things for food and clothing
Your spectacles are good for nothing."
I will relate one more of the little boys speeches recited at the school in
The Ram and the Wig
There was time in days of yore,
Queen Mary's days or days before,
The time is no great thing to you,
Provided that my tale be true,
The common custom, then was said
To wear a wig upon the head,
These wigs were made I know not how,
Of a long tail of horse or cow,
But I have heard old people say,
The most of them were brown or grey;
In these old times it seems, somehow,
Matters were much as they are now,
In time of preaching some would weep
And others nod and fall asleep;
On a certain Sabbath says my song,
Old Parson Holdforth preached so long,
That one of these same sleeping gentry,
Just then seated in the entry,
Began to bow his wig and head,
Regardless what the preacher said.
He now adores that sober Bob,
Where number worship is a nod,
With half a dozen nods or more,
And every nod a little lower;
At length by nodding rather low,
Attraction caused the wig to go
He takes it up with some surprise,
Looks at the Parson, wipes his eyes,
In haste git it on once more,
Places the hinder part before,
And in this awkward situation
He bows to all the congregation.
Who gazed upon him for a while;
The Parson scarce suppressed a smile,
"Don't laugh good friends, I do protest,
You've not yet gotten half the best."
Before they raised the song of praise,
A ram who had been there to graze,
Chancing to cast his eyes that way,
Saw the wig so large and gray,
Making at him such kind of motion,
As quickly filled him with a notion,
That this should be some ram or whether,
Swearing they should not graze together
Without a moment's cool reflection,
The ram prepares for close connection.
He first steps backwards on the grass,
Then at the wig he makes a pass.
Crown met with crown, a dreadful clatter,
Blood spouting round, the ladies scatter,
Down from his seat falls honest Ben,
And yonder lies his wig again.
Poor Ben cried as he sprawled along,
"La Parson, but you reason strong,
That argument of yours, I know,
Has given me a dreadful blow."
The ram looked stern and cried, "Baa;"
And turned around and went away.
The affair broke up the congregation,
So now you've gotten my oration.
When I was about ten or eleven years old and while I was going to school to my
Irish teacher, Mr. Philip Brooks, I would often visit at my grandmother's. In
those young days we called our grandmother "Granny" and our Pa and Ma we called
"Daddy" and "Momma".
In those days it was very fashionable for young men and young ladies for amusement
at parties to play cards. At this day and time, A.D. 1871, it is still the
fashion. This fashion claims a longer age than any of the ladies' fashion,
for they change every few years. My old Irish teacher used to write in the
Exercise book of the girls'
"Never follow the fashions,
But let the fashions follow you."
One day my Granny saw me have a pack of playing cards. She said "Jimmy, are
you learning to play cards?" I replied, "Yes Granny, I can play three cards,
3 up and all 4's. I know how to count the game. I know how to count High,
Low, Jack, and the game." My Granny said, "Well, Jimmy, I will teach you to
read and count the cards a different way, your Granny will teach you how to
read them a better way. Get a sheet of paper and write down the twelve verses
I will give for the twelve cards. You know there are thirteen cards in each
suit, that is for Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs, and Spades. I will leave out the
Queen which will leave twelve cards for each suit. I want you to learn the
twelve verses which your Granny learned when she was fifteen years old. She
is now seventy-five years old."
Verses on the Twelve Playing Cards
Ace, or One Spot
One God there is, of Wisdom, Glory, Might,
One Truth there is, to guide our souls aright
One Faith there is, for man to practice in,
And one Baptism, to cleanse our souls from sin.
Deuce, or Two Spot
Two Testaments there are, the Old and New,
In which the Law and Gospel you may view;
The one for laws and works do precepts give,
The other says by faith the just shall live.
Trey, or Three Spot
Three Persons is the Holy Trinity,
Which makes one God in Unity,
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost - these three,
Forever equal and eternal be.
Four most divine and righteous men,
Who did the life of our Redeemer pen;
Twas Matthew, Mark, yea Luke and John likewise,
Whose righteous truth every Christian tries.
Five senses doth to every one contain,
A governing power both to rule and reign;
This tasting, seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling,
Which at our death must leave us and our dwelling.
Six days, O may thou hast to labor in,
How Good and Merciful our God has been;
Of seven, to himself He claims but one -
O rob Him not of that, and leave him none.
Seven liberal arts, by the Great God's decree,
Unto man's knowing soul united by
Reading, writing, logic, and geometry,
Arithmetic, Music, and Astronomy.
Eight people in the Ark of Noah were,
When God could this world no longer spare;
Sin did abound, wherefore this world was drowned,
And in that ark was only safety found.
Nine muses their harmonious voices raise,
To sing our Great and Kind Redeemer's praise;
They are the source from which all blessings flow,
To us poor mortals living here below.
There's Ten Commandments which we should obey,
And yet how apt we are to go astray,
Breaking them all, our follies to pursue,
As if we did not fear what God could do.
Eleven disciples did with Jesus pray,
When Judas did the Son of Man betray,
He was crucified between two noted thieves,
But now in heaven reigns and ever lives.
Twelve patriarchs among fathers old,
Twelve articles our Christian faith doth hold,
Twelve gates in New Jerusalem there be,
Into which city Christ may bring you and me.
My grandmother used to give me lectures on each card and verse. These verses
were memorized by myself and I believe I have never played cards since.
During the late War between the States, the Confederate Government had an
office of the Cotton Bureau stationed at Clinton, DeWitt County, Texas. All
cotton raised in Texas, North of the Guadalupe River, had to pass through
this office when it was then sent to Brownsville and Matamoros on the Rio
Grande River. The office of the Cotton Bureau was in the Court House adjoining
my own offices as I was at that time Clerk of the County Court of DeWitt County. The clerks on the Cotton Bureau slept in their office at night while I slept in mine. The Cotton Bureau clerks were frequently playing cards. The Principal Clerk, a polite man who had formerly been Sheriff of a county in Kansas, called to me one night to come into their office and play cards with them. There were two young men, citizens of the town, who were with them. They had been playing for some time before I was invited in. I went in and it was proposed that I should take a hand with them. I told them that I would handle the cards awhile but that I had learned to use them in a very different game from theirs. Then they insisted that I should show them how I used the cards and what I had learned about them. I took the twelve cards of the diamonds out of the pack and laid them in a row and repeated the above verses as well as some lectures I had learned in early life from my Grandmother. When I had finished, the Principal Clerk said "Uncle Jimmy, that is the best lecture I ever heard on cards." I told them that I anxiously hoped that they all would finally be brought into that Grand City with twelve gates, where the King in all His Glory presides. The Clerk, who at times was dissipated but was a talented man, insisted that I make him a copy of the verses as perhaps thereafter they might be a benefit to him. I have often desired that it might be a benefit to him. It was the first time I had ever written the verses for anyone, not even my children. I requested the editor of the Bloomington Democrat, a weekly newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois, to publish the verses in his paper which he did in either October or November, A.D. 1870. I
suppose they had never been printed before that time or at least for 150 years.
My Grandmother had learned them when fifteen years old, which is about 145 years
** (Note in the original record: The part of my history in regard to the Clerk
in the Office of the Cotton Bureau should not be recorded at this particular
place, but should have been inserted in the account after my removal to Texas.)
While we were in Rev. John Brown's school at Wadesboro my brother Charles A.
and myself read Latin. We were in his school only seven or eight months as in
that time he left and taught an Academy in Salisbury, North Carolina. My brother
Richard went with Rev. Brown and continued his studies at the Salisbury Academy.
A sister of two boys, who were our classmates in the Wadesboro school, was
married while we were there. These boys persuaded their father to send my
brother Charles A. and myself an invitation to the wedding. My other brother,
Richard, as well as his classmates, some of them young men, were not invited.
Indeed none of the students, except relatives, were invited except my brother
and I and we felt highly honored. We went to the wedding. There was a large
company of grown people, men and ladies, old and young, but not many little
boys of our own age. We had a playful and happy time and a fine supper and
continued on a long time after supper. Our little classmates were very attentive
and would insist that we take toddy and cakes frequently. Some of the large boys
got to mixing the spirits, rum and brandy toddy mixed together. My brother had
refused for some time to take any more, but I took a drink every time it was
offered. It was just a few mischievous young men who had mixed the drinks
unbeknown to the older ones in the company. My brother left and went to our
Aunt's where we were boarding, sometime before I did. Our Aunt lived about
200 yards from the house where the wedding took place. There was a large brick
yard between the two houses and a deep circle, about 100 feet in circumference,
where the horses trampled up the mud to make the bricks. This place was near
the path between the two houses. After awhile I felt my head getting very heavy
and I could scarcely hold it up. I told one of my classmates that I felt very
curious and funny and believed I could hardly keep my head on my neck and that
one of the boys was already down drunk. Immediately I started home, was
conscious of my condition and was very fearful that I would get into the circle
where the horses trod up the mud and went a hundred yards away from it. I knew
that if I fell into the circle I would be unable to get out before the sun came
up. I managed to get home but it was very hard to keep my feet on the ground
and I was afraid of falling for fear I would not be able to get up. I got home
and, as I thought, went silently to sleep. My Aunt heard me scrambling into my
room. I became very sick and began to throw up. "Hey-houp, hey-houp, hey-houp-houp,
houp, etc." My Aunt heard, got up and gave me some boiled milk and other things
so that I got easy and was not so noisy. It was the first time I had ever been
drunk. I have been sometimes merry with liquor since but have never been drunk
It was sometime after my brother and I left Wadesboro that my father sent me to
see my Aunt Smoot. He sent something, by me, for my board. My cousin, Jack Smoot,
insisted on riding my horse and taking me behind him. He wanted to visit some of
his cousins in Richmond County. At that time he was a grown young man. When we
got to the ferry on Pee Dee River, fifteen miles from Wadesboro, I told Jack that
we could go and stay with my Aunt Billingsley. She was a widow who had a son of
my own age as well as older children. Her husband, who was dead, was a brother
of my Uncle Billingsley who had married my aunt, a sister of my Mother's and Aunt
Smoot. When we arrived there we found that the whole family had gone to a wedding
in the neighborhood, at the home of an acquaintance and particular friend of my
father. My cousin, Jack Smoot, persuaded me to go with him to the wedding although
we had no invitation. We were pleasantly received by the family and I had a fine
time with boys of my own age who lived there. A little after midnight, but
before we were all ready to go home, my cousin, Jack Smoot, had a quarrel
with some one at the wedding. The gentleman of the house put Jack out doors
and told him not to come back again. He went away cursing and swore that he
would get powder and blow up the house. I was afraid that he would ride my
horse off so I got my hat and left the house to go with him. The lady of the
house heard that I was going and told her husband that my father might think
that I had been turned out of the house also and that he would be quite offended.
The gentleman came out to find me and Jack Smoot had just had my horse brought
out to ride him off. The gentleman scolded my cousin Jack for acting so badly
and told him to behave himself and to go back into the house with me. He said
that I should not leave and that he had not known that I was there as he had
not noticed me with the little boys, he asked me to stay all night. It was all
made up and cousin Jack went back into the house. After the company had broken up cousin Jack and I went home with my Aunt Billingsley and her children.
She had two girls and two boys. The week after some one went to my father's house and told my mother how cousin Jack had behaved at the wedding. It was nighttime when my mother was told and I had already gone to bed. She told my father and he asked me how it was that I had gone to a wedding without an invitation. I told him all about it. He said that I should have come straight on home and should not have allowed my cousin Jack to ride my horse with me behind, that he could have visited here some other time. He scolded me and said that he believed that he would whip me in the morning. I felt so badly that I could not sleep as I was afraid that my father would whip me. He had never whipped me in all my life but my mother used to spank us sometimes. In the morning I trembled and begged my father not to whip me, he said, "No, James, I will not whip you but you must not go to weddings without an invitation." These two weddings made a lasting impression on my memory. One when I went with an invitation and got drunk and the other when I went with my cousin Jack Smoot, without an invitation, and he got drunk.
My brother and I did not go to school any more after we left Wadesboro. We had
Latin as far as Virgil, having read the books then used in school, viz: Aesop's
Fables, Nepos, Caesar's Commentaries, and Virgil. We had read most of Virgil
through when we left school. As we had but little to do after leaving school
we reviewed our mathematics, etc. and our Latin. Our Latin Grammar was different
from those now in use. It had a little poetry mixed with some of the rules. In
these after years I have often made the students at Academies and Colleges laugh
at some of the rules in my grammar. For instance the formation of Verbs, Supines,
While we were going to school taught by our Irish teacher our father had made a
compass and chain for us to use in the study of Practical Surveying. This
compass was made by a gunsmith in the neighborhood who also made a shotgun
for my father which was used by my brother Richard to kill deer and wild turkey.
The compass was different from the common compasses. It only cost $5.00 but it
answered as well as if it had cost $60.00 or $70.00. It was made thus:
A piece of wood was planed very smooth in the shape of a stock lock, about 9
or 10 inches long and about 6 inches wide, or thereabouts. There was a half
circle cut out on the top and filled with lead which was made smooth with the
surface. This half circle was divided in 90 degrees at the North end and 90
degrees at the South end. There was a groove cut about six inches long and
perhaps 1 1/2 inches wide, in the center was a pivot on which the needle was
to rest, which needle could be thrown on or off the pivot at any time, there
being a clasp over the groove. When not in use the needle was always thrown
off. On each end of the groove was a perpendicular black line, precisely
opposite the ends of the needle when it was entirely settled. On one edge of
the compass, precisely opposite the 90 degrees in the lead circle, was fastened
in the wood a brass screw on which to place the sights of the compass. The sight
was a cast piece of brass or copper as long as the compass and in the center
a screw hole was cut that it might be fastened in the compass. At each end of
the sights was an upright part of the same material with small apertures to
look through when taking sight of objects at a distance. At the bottom of
the sights a small aperture was cut out, one side perpendicular and then a
bevel side. The bevel or slanting side was to cut the degrees on the circle.
Under the bottom side of the compass a hole was bored about an inch or more
deep into which hole the Jacob's Staff was placed. The needle had only about
an inch or so to traverse in. The compass had to be turned on the Jacob's Staff
so as to make the needle settle precisely on the two perpendicular lines. When
the needle became entirely settled to these lines it was precisely due North
and South. You would then keep the needle perfectly at rest and turn the sights
on the lead circle to any degree you wished to run, letting the bevel side
cut the degree. After the needle had become perfectly still opposite the
perpendicular lines you had to count the degrees of variation to the West of
North. For instance if you had to run North 40 degrees East, you would have to
place the sights on the 30 degrees in the circle. That is allowing 10 degrees
variation which is the variation generally allowed in Western Texas. If you
wished to run South 40 degrees East you would have to make the sights cut the
50 degrees on the circle. The opposite course would be North 40 degrees West,
and so on. To run a due East course, after the needle settled you would have
to let the sights cut the 80 degrees on the North side of the circle. You will
notice that with this compass the sights are turned around in order to run the
course desired. With other compasses the needle turns entirely around and
sights are stationary. This old stock lock compass as it was called is still
in use and runs a perfectly correct line. With this compass our teacher taught
us how to take courses. We would keep the field notes of our surveys and he
would make us plot them and calculate how many acres had been surveyed.
My father had three neighbors named William Cotton, James Picket, and Thomas
Blewett. These men had to go together on business for about sixty miles. The
first day they traveled thirty five miles and stopped for the night at a widow
lady's house. She had a nice house and farm and was in the habit of taking in
travelers. They had a fine supper. After dark the lady placed a large pile of
seed cotton before the fire on the hearth. Her children and several little
negroes were on the side of the hearth picking out the cotton. About the time
this was finished and the gentlemen were ready to retire to their rooms the
lady inquired of the travelers saying she would like to know the names of
those who stopped with her. The first gentleman said his name was Cotton,
the other said his name was Pickett, and the third said his name was Blewett.
The lady got into a passion and said, "Gentlemen, I did not expect to be
insulted in my own house, just because I had some cotton picked tonight.
I am tempted to make the negro fellows bring out your horses and send you
somewhere else to spend the night." Mr. Blewett, who was a member of the
Baptist Church and a mild clever gentleman, addressed the lady: "Madam,
upon my honor as a gentleman and a Christian, which I hope I am, these
are our real names which we have had since childhood. We did not intend
it as a jest or an insult when we told you that our names were Cotton,
Pickett, and Blewett." The woman was satisfied and they were permitted
to stay all night. They told the joke to my father and Mr. Blewett said
he believed that he would not travel any more, where he was not known,
with Cotton and Pickett.
My father bought a cotton gin a short time after this. It was the first
ever started in the County of Richmond, North Carolina. After that the cotton
picking frolics were no more. I used to attend the cotton machine, weigh the
cotton and take out the toll for ginning the cotton, which was one-eighth part.
For the Christmas vacation when my brother Richard was about to leave Salisbury
I was sent in a buggy to bring him home. Salisbury was about seventy miles from
where we lived. I made the journey in two days. The first night I overtook a
young man and his sister, a young lady about sixteen years old. They were going
a few miles above Salisbury to see an uncle. I soon became acquainted with
them as they lived in Richmond County. The next day, as they had but one
horse, I tried my best to get the girl to ride in the buggy. She rode the
horse and her brother walked. She refused to ride in the buggy because she
said she knew that from the way I looked at her the night before I could
not drive the buggy well if she were in it. I would be constantly looking
at her and perhaps would drive the buggy into some gully or run over a stump
and turn her over. She would not risk her life in the buggy with me. I drove
on for some time with them, the young man walking slowly. At least, I thought,
I could let him ride with me. We traveled that day together and arrived at
Salisbury. After spending a day or two in Salisbury waiting on my brother
we started home. My brother waited in Salisbury to attend a party which was
given by the hotel keeper to the students of the Academy. We arrived safely
at home a few days before Christmas.
My brother was quite well. He visited in the different neighborhoods and
attended parties during the Christmas holiday. My father and mother gave a
New Year's party. It was a large affair and included young and old. When my
father had a gathering at our house he always included all his neighbors. There
was a large assembly of neighbors and kinfolks, uncles, aunts, cousins and
grandmothers were all present. You may rest assured there was a splendid
dinner. My mother was said to be the best woman in all the country to fix up
a fine dinner or supper. All the assembly were loud in their praise of my
brother Richard. He had just grown up and had spent several years at schools
in fashionable towns and cities. He was very polite and dressed tastily, and
in fashion. In a day or two afterwards my brother Richard was taken sick with
a very severe fever. Our family physician, called in, pronounced it
inflammation of the brain, and told my father it was a very doubtful case.
He paid very strict attention to the case and for a short time had hopes for
his recovery. My two bachelor uncles, my father's brothers, and other young
men in the neighborhood attended my brother day and night. The day he died
he appeared that morning to be easy and calm and the doctor directed that
he be kept quiet and have little company. About two o'clock in the afternoon
he was taken with a severe derangement of his mind. There were no men present
but my father, who was sleeping in his room. My brother, C.A. and myself were
present. He began to scold us and then his mind turned to a negro man of my
father's who, in his frenzy, he imagined was present. He became outrageous,
before any white men could be gathered, my mother called in two negro men,
belonging to my father, to keep him from jumping out of the bed. In his
delirium he wanted to run after the negro whom he was scolding. These two
strong negro men were scarcely able to keep him on the bed. My uncles came
over with the doctor and my father was also in the room. Such a scene occurred
as I had never seen before and hope to never witness again. His agony was so
great that it almost makes me tremble now as I wite the account of the death
of my dear brother Richard. His strength was so unnaturally great that it took
two strong white men to hold him in the bed. His voice was raised in such a
pitch of frenzy toward the negro whom he continued to scold, that he could
plainly be heard three hundred yards away while he was uttering threats
against this negro. The doctor gave him some soothing medicine but his mind
was still agitated and he died in his delirium. The death of my brother was
a sore trial to my father and mother. He had just completed a classical
education and expected to attach himself to the Presbyterian Church. At the
next meeting of the Presbytery he intended to ask to be licensed as a
Presbyterian minister of the Gospel. My father and mother bore the bereavement
with resignation to the will of Divine Providence. My brother died January ___,
A.D. _____ .
At the beginning of the next session of the academy in Salisbury the students
and his former classmates met in the Academy to give vent to their feelings on
account of this death. One of his classmates delivered the following address,
a copy of which was sent to my parents.
Address by a classmate of my deceased brother, Richard, to the students in the
Academy at Salisbury, North Carolina:
My friends and fellow students:
You have devoted this evening to friendship and devotion. The late event which
calls you to this duty is indeed distressing. In common with all of you I feel
the solemn call, perhaps I feel it more sensibly than any of you as I have but
lately arisen from a bed of sickness in which I narrowly escaped death. Mr.
Richard Smith, our friend and not long since a classmate and fellow student
in this academy is dead. He is gone from us and we lament. He is buried in
the cold and silent grave and we deplore. Not so much the crepe you wear as
those tears you shed, bear me witness that I speak the truth when I say he
is dead. Yes, my dear fellow students those hands are now stiff and motionless.
Yes, those eyes which have often looked upon us with brilliancy and delight,
those eyes are now closed in death. Yes, my dear fellow students, that voice
that we have so often heard, that voice which so often spoke and poured forth
in strains of powerful eloquence-and eloquence was our Richard's favorite
theme-that voice is hushed in death. Well my friends we must submit. It
becomes us to be submissive. We must check our feelings and say "O God
thy will be done." But loving parents of the darling son, we see you weep,
we hear your sighs, and we sympathize with you in your distress. We hear
you grieve for your oldest son. We see your tears on this occasion and this
bereavement is accompanied by circumstances which gives pungency to sorrow
and redouble distress. We see this lively son of yours just ready to tread
the threshold of public life with a mind well stored with religious and
scientific and classical knowledge. Whose intentions were settled and whose
desires were ardent. His mind was fully persuaded to become a minister, a
preacher of the Gospel of Christ, and to declare glad tidings of salvation,
by the death and suffering of his Blessed Redeemer, to a dying world lying
in sin and misery. We see your expectations blasted and your comfort dead.
But dear parents of this departed son let me not provoke your tears. Let me
rather suggest some thoughts for your consolation. We are glad that your
first born son was not stricken by the violence of disease until he had
reached his parents home and the home of his childhood. We are glad that
he was permitted to spend the last week of the year with his familiar
friends and relatives who had grown up with him from childhood and to
spend so many convivial entertainments both by oral and auricular conversation.
We are glad that his death bed and dying pillow was surrounded by his friends
and relatives. We are glad that there was tender mother and father at his
death bed to soothe him and soften his pillow during his dying moments. Alas
that there were none to relieve him from death. But you my dear parents of
this departed youth must not sorrow as those who have no hope. You must submit
to your bereavement. It is your duty to be submissive for it was the Wise and
Powerful hand of God that has caused this distressing calamity and you should
and must say, "O God Thy Will be Done." And now dear parents of this departed
son we muster all the powers of our souls and bid you an affectionate farewell
with the request that you will put this epitaph on his tombstone:
"The youth who here enjoys this calm repose
Sought not that fame which pride to flattery away,
His goodness given, His wisdom takes away."
After my brother's death my uncle Benjamin Smith, my grandmother, my two
uncles John and Charles, aunt Ward, my grandmother's brother James Turner,
his son-in-law James T. Sanford, and my father's cousin Joseph Morehead,
all moved to Tennessee and settled on Duck River in Maury County.
A family by the name of Daughtry was to have moved with my uncle Benjamin
but his son was taken sick which prevented his moving. During the illness
of this youth, who was about 14 years old, my uncle John and myself went to
sit up with him. During the night his fever was very high, he became
delirious and was entirely out of his senses. I advised my uncle to put
a blister plaster on the back of his head which was done. The doctor
afterwards said it perhaps saved his life. The youth had two grown sisters.
My uncle persuaded them to lie down and endeavor to sleep as we would sit
up during the night. Sometime during the night the young ladies got up, one
of them looked very earnestly at her brother and let out a shriek crying out
that her brother was dying. She fainted away and fell in my lap, to my great
terror as I thought she would die before I could get her up. My uncle procured
camphor and smelling bottles and rubbed her face and also threw water on it.
In about half an hour she came to herself which was to my great relief as
she lay in my lap all the time. This family afterwards moved to Tennessee
and then to Texas. Perhaps I will say something about them hereafter.
I gave up the idea of going to school as my father sold out his land and farm
with a view of going to Tennessee. He sold to a Mr. Terry, a Methodist preacher
who married a Miss Leak who was a daughter of a neighbor of my father's.
The year after my uncles and grandmother moved to Tennessee my father went
with a neighbor to Tennessee and Kentucky to look at the country. I went
along with my father. We rode horseback and had an interesting travel for
many weeks. The mountain scenery was new to me and I was greatly delighted
to look at the wonderful high top mountains. As we crossed these with the
clouds and rain below while we rode in the sunshine on the top it seemed
strange. It looked quite fearful as we rode along the banks of some of the
rivers, especially the French Broad River, and looked at the hanging rocks
one hundred feet above our heads, which appeared almost ready to fall on us.
It was a wilderness at that time, the way we traveled the nearly two hundred
miles distance from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Cumberland River. There were
only a few houses, at convenient distances apart, for the entertainment of
travelers. Our neighbor and traveling companion, Mr. Smith, parted from us
after we crossed the Cumberland River. He went to Kentucky, near Bowling
Green, to visit his sons and old neighbors, the Covingtons. My father and
I went on to Nashville and near there, on Mansco Creek, we found my father's
uncle, James Turner and his cousins James T. Sandford and Joseph Morehead.
They had stopped, rented land, and remained for some time. They raised two
crops then purchased land in Maury County on Duck River and its waters. They
all settled in convenient neighborhood distance of each other. My father,
after visiting with his uncles and cousins for a few days went on to his
mother's and brother's on Duck river. I was delighted with the neighborhood
of Mansco Creek and made many acquaintances with the young people near my
relatives. We spent some few weeks on Duck River. My father made a purchase
of some land from my Uncle Benjamin as he had bought nearly 1500 acres on
the river. My father had heretofore settled a debt of $2500 for them and
that caused our visit to Tennessee to see the land.
While on Duck River our horses ran off. The large horse which I had ridden
on our journey had been purchased out of a drove of Kentucky horses a few
months before we started on our journey. That horse by instinct had a knowledge
of the country and left the good range of Duck River for the Kentucky barrens.
My father borrowed a horse from my uncle Benjamin and started to hunt for
the horses as both had left us. He got on their trail before we reached
Nashville and after a few weeks found both horses. When my father found
them they had been taken up as strays and were both working in a horse mill.
On our return to Duck River he spent some time with his mother and brothers.
My Aunt Ward had been taken sick on the road near Abingdon, Virginia, where
my grandmother had a cousin living who was a relation on her mother's side.
(The Norman relations). My aunt retained a negro woman and a small girl to
wait on her and sent the balance of her negroes on to Duck River to stay
with her mother and brothers. We then went to Kentucky as we had many relatives
in and around Bowling Green. Our old fellow traveler, Mr. Smith, was there
awaiting our visit as he intended to travel back to North Carolina with us.
As my father started to Kentucky and before he left the Duck River he had
heard that the land he had purchased out of his brother's land was likely
to have the title contested by a gentleman who lived in the vicinity of
Nashville. We called to see the gentleman who was making a claim to the
land. It was uncertain whether or not the claim would cover the land which
had been purchased. We rested a day with the gentleman and found him quite
a clever man.
While there we visited a neighbor and relative of the man we were with.
My father was generally inquisitive and tried to find out where the people
had lived before they moved to Tennessee. There was a great emigration at
that time to Tennessee from North Carolina and Virginia. He inquired of this
family as to from where they had moved and found that they had come from near
Guilford County, North Carolina, the place where my father had been wounded
at the Battle of Guilford Court House, during the Revolutionary War of 1776.
He asked the gentleman if he knew a Mr. Walter McCustion. That was the name
of the man with whom he had stayed for twelve months after being wounded as
he was unable to be moved to his home in Virginia. The gentleman told my
father that he ought to know Mr. Walter McCustion well as he had married
his daughter, Sallie. She was the beautiful young lady who had been with
my father a great deal after he was wounded and had waited on him very
kindly during his confinement. My father was always lively. He looked awhile
at her then sprang from his chair and said "Sallie, O Sallie, is this you?
Don't you remember the wounded soldier who stayed twelve months at your
father's house? I am that soldier." She jumped up and said, "Mr. Smith is
that so? Is it possible?" They rushed into each others arms, breast to
breast, knees to knees, arms to shoulders, and gave each other many pleasant
and warm kisses. And the husband seemed delighted to see it. I stood
astonished and looking upon the old lady's daughter, a beautiful young
lady about 16 years old. I ran up to her and seized her around her neck
and waist. I told her that as your Mamma and my Daddy are kissing each
other so lovingly we must kiss each other. I imprinted on her sweet,
rosy and tender lips several sweet and pleasant kisses. It was an afternoon
of kisses in a strange land. The old gentleman laughed very much and said,
"Daughter, if Mr. Smith kisses your mother you have the right to kiss his
son." The old people talked much about the times of their youthful days and
I talked much with the girl about the new country and the young ladies of
The same evening we left them and pursued our journey to Kentucky. The next
day we stopped and spent several days with my father's cousins, James T.
Sanford and Joseph Morehead. I became acquainted with several young ladies
in the neighborhood. As they were intimately acquainted with my cousins I
gave them all kisses as I had known them from my childhood.
I was then nearly eighteen years of age. My cousin Joseph Morehead had a
beautiful little daughter, five years old, named Elizabeth H. Morehead.
She was much pleased with me as she called me then "My North Carolina Cousin,
Cousin James N. Smith." She would tell the young ladies about my twin
brother, Charles A. Smith, who had such a pretty red mark on his face.
The ways of Providence are so very mysterious. If anyone had told me that
she was to be my future wife I would have not believed it, although in after
years it became true as she did become my beloved wife.
We went on our way to Kentucky. We passed through the settlements of my
father's old neighbors from Richmond County, North Carolina. Mr. Colex,
Mr. Strong, and others. We stopped with them for a day or two. We arrived
at Bowling Green and made inquiry about our old acquaintances who had moved
from North Carolina. There were two or three families of the Covingtons and
Smiths. We found our former traveler, Mr. Smith. He was with his son who had
married a daughter of old Mr. Covington. We had quite a joyful meeting with
these old friends. We also asked about my father's relatives who had moved
from Virginia to Warren County, Kentucky. Besides the Moreheads there were
the Randalls, Donaldsons, and Briggs who had married into the Morehead family.
They met us with all warmth of love and friendship as could be desired from
any relatives. All the older ones of these families were our first cousins
of my father's. We spent nearly a month here, with old acquaintances and
relatives, with great pleasure. The sons and daughters of old Mr. Covington,
some still living with him not yet married as well as those who had married
and had homes of their own, all seemed like relations to me. Especially was
this true as I had known all of them very well in North Carolina. Two of the
young Covingtons had once boarded with us while with me they attended the
school of old Mr. Brooks, our Irish school teacher. I was much pleased with
the Misses Covingtons as they were beautiful girls. Especially Miss Rachel
who was about sixteen years old.
Before starting back to North Carolina and leaving Kentucky my father and I
went to see some other near relatives in order to bid them a formal farewell.
Afterwards we went back to the Covingtons.
While staying at Mr. Covingtons I was reading and examining several books
which were in his library. I found about half a dozen with the name "James
N. Smith" written in them. I thought I was held in great esteem by the young
ladies and that they had written my name in these books so that I might be
remembered. I took the books and sitting down by Miss Rachel I said that I
was so glad that she wished to remember me as she had written my name in these
books so often. I told her that I had her name written plainly on my heart
where it would remain much longer than if written on paper with pen and ink.
I took a kiss from her to witness it. She blushed and appeared not a little
confused with my familiarity and rudeness but by taking another kiss we made
friends. She said that she did not know that I had an "N" in my name but that
this was the name of her nephew who had written his name in the books.
The young ladies gave me some locks of their hair to take to their cousins
in North Carolina and we parted after taking leave of all the family.
My father, old Mr. Smith, and myself all started back to North Carolina. We
traveled a different route from Knoxville. Instead of going up the French
Broad River to the _______ Gap in the mountains, we went on by the way of
Abingdon, Virginia, crossing the Allegheny Mountains at Ward's Gap. We called
to see my aunt Ward who was stopping with a Mr. Jones who lives about twenty
miles from Abingdon. He was also a cousin of my father's by the Norman relation.
My great grandmother Turner was a Miss Norman. My aunt Ward was most delighted
with our call and visit. We found her very well but more fleshy than when she
lived in North Carolina. We tarried there three or four days with our cousin
Jones and found him well situated. He had a nice farm and several married
children whom we also visited. One of the daughters of cousin Jones had married
a Mr. Houston and I found out that he was a near relative of General Sam Houston
who afterwards became President of Texas.
We pursued our journey passing over Allegheny Mountains once more into North
Carolina. I had much pastime and pleasure on the road. Whenever we stopped
for dinner or to stay all night on the way, I would generally make up an
acquaintance with the young ladies of the families with whom we would stop.
From my boyhood I was always very fond of the girls.
When we arrived at my father's former home we found my mother and brother,
Charles A., quite well and glad to see us again. My father had left my mother
and the family at my uncle Billingsly's who had married my mother's sister.
We spent a short time with them as my father had given up the possession of
his house and farm. We left uncle Billingsly's after we had rented a house
and land from my father's cousins, Charles, Mary, and Nancy Morehead. These
were an old bachelor and two old maid sisters, all living together. Our rented
house was within one-half mile of theirs.
As my father was not yet ready to move to Tennessee I obtained a position as
a clerk in a store in the neighborhood. This store was about three miles away.
I boarded with Mr. Benjamin H. Covington who when a young man had boarded with
my father as he went to the school of our Irish teacher, Mr. Philip Brooks. Mr.
Covington lived at the store in which I was a clerk. He had a pleasant family
consisting of a wife and two children. I told them much about my visit with his
father in Kentucky. The store was a country store and my time was not always
occupied. I had considerable time for reading and study. Mr. Covington would
write for me many original pieces of poetry. As I have stated sometime back
he was a splendid off-hand poet and could write on any subject.
While I was living there a brother of my cousin Charles Morehead came with his
family to visit. He lived on the Dan River near the Virginia line about 150
miles from the Pee Dee River. The older son was about two or three years younger
than myself and in after life he became Governor of the State of North Carolina.
There was a daughter whose name was Prudence Morehead. She was a beautiful
young lady about 18 years old. I was most delighted with both her and her
brother and they spent much of their time at my father's.
One day I requested Mr. Covington to write some poetry for me about my cousin,
Prudence Morehead, which he did as follows:
Poem to Miss Prudence Morehead
Written by Benjamin B. Covington
at the request of James N. Smith
My mind I'll disclose to her I adore
But alas, she well knows, I have told her before,
But perhaps she'll attend to my poetic strain,
And make me amend for enduring such pain,
This girl I admire, she is my sole theme,
My heart is on fire, my life is a dream,
All pleasures have fled, no more to return,
Unless we do wed, all my days I shall mourn.
O, shall I indulge such thoughts of distress,
And my sorrows divulge when I ought to caress,
Her name as a balm can remove all my cares,
And with soft hands she may wipe off my tears.
I know she is young and I am not old,
I am blessed with a tongue and my heart is not cold;
O, how could any human refuse for to wed
To fine a young lady as Miss Prudence Morehead?
When I mention her name pungent darts do I feel,
She's the model of fame, and to her all must yield,
My case is before her, my pain and my grief,
And I sincerely implore her to give me relief.
This poem I memorized and gave her a copy. Since that time I have often
written it putting in other names in place of hers.
During the time I was living with Mr. Covington there was a gay young man
who rode a gay looking horse. He used to bridle with seven silver plated
buttons, like stars, placed in the brow band. He also had a very fine saddle.
The girls and young men would call him "The Seven Stars." There was a young
lady in the neighborhood whom he loved very much. The young lady's name was
Miss Annie Pate. He requested Mr. Covington to write him a poem about this
young lady. It was written and was as follows:
Poem to Miss Annie Pate
Written by Benj. H. Covington
Come neighbors all, both great and small,
And listen to my fate,
Without a joke, my heart is broke,
By seeing Annie Pate.
I started out to take a route,
The distance was not great,
Away I went with full intent,
To see Miss Annie Pate.
When I got there I do declare,
My bashfulness was great,
No mortal knows what pleasure flows,
By courting Annie Pate.
I drew a chair and asked her
If she would be my mate,
She told me plain it was in vain
To court Miss Annie Pate.
I mounted Bay and rode away,
With sorrow and regret,
With broken heart from her did part,
And left Miss Annie Pate.
My life is reeled, my will I yield,
As I will now relate;
My fervent prayers and whole affairs
I leave to Annie Pate.
And I do intend these lines to send,
To her my cruel mate;
I am forced to tell a long farewell
I die for Annie Pate.
My cousin Charles Morehead and I used to ride about the neighborhood a great
deal. He was taken sick and died during that year, about 1808. His two sisters
continued to keep house after his death but the youngest sister married a short
time before we started to Tennessee. The older sister married after we had
left. Cousin Nancy (the younger) married a man by the name of Daniel Thomas
who was a new neighbor. Cousin Mary (the older) married an old widower by the
name of Stanback.
We started to Tennessee. My cousin Sam Smoot who had married a daughter of the
widow Billingsly went with us. He owned a negro woman who was a wife of a negro
fellow belonging to my father. My father did not want the negroes to be parted
so he persuaded my cousin Sam Smoot to move to Tennessee with us.
I had a fine time on the road. At night we generally camped out as we had a
fine large cloth tent. I had nothing to do with the fixing of the camps as
the negroes attended to that business. Often, as I passed along, I would stop
on the road for hours at a time, talking to girls. As we traveled slowly I
could easily overtake the wagons and did not hesitate to stop many times by
the way. After we had been traveling for a week or more we passed through a
small town. We passed a fine large house where there were several young ladies
on the porch of the second story who were looking down on the wagons and train
of negroes walking along. My father and mother rode in a carriage and my
brother, Charles A., often rode with them, but sometimes he rode horseback.
Many days I would walk. I was looking at the girls on the porch. I heard one
of them say, "look at the wagons and travelers moving to Cumberland." (On
account of the Cumberland River, Tennessee was then called "Cumberland") They
said "Look, a gang of negroes and but one young man riding in the carriage
with the old people." One of the girls spoke to me and said, "God love your
pretty face, I wish I could go to Cumberland with you." I ran in the house,
downstairs, and asked for some water. I asked if I could go upstairs and see
the girls. The lady said "Yes, you will find a merry set of them." I ran
upstairs and was among them and asked what young lady it was that wanted
to go to Cumberland with me. One said "That is she," and pointed to a neat
looking girl. I caught hold of her and said, "We'll talk about it." She pulled
away and said "It isn't me, it is that one." So I went around from one to
another until I had taken hold of all the girl's hands. As it was early in
the day I stayed with them nearly an hour. I had a fine play and romp with
them as I have been fond of girls from my childhood. I was obliged to leave
and had to walk fast as well as run to overtake the wagons.
When we reached the Allegheny Mountains which we then called the "Blue Ridge
Mountains" we had to "double team" as we then expressed it. We would take the
horses from one of the wagons and put them to another, using two teams to haul
it to the top. We would then bring the teams back for another wagon, and so on
until all wagons were carried to the top of the mountain. By the way of the
road this was about a mile and one-half. My father, mother, and brother went
to the top with the first team. While I was staying with the remaining wagons
at the foot of the mountains, a young girl about 15 years old came by. She was
going up the mountain. She stopped and asked some of the negro women where we
were moving and where we came from. They told her that we were going to
Cumberland and Duck River, and that we had come from way down the country,
from the sand and long leaf pines on the Pee Dee River. When she started to
her home up the mountain I told her that I wanted to go with her. She said
that I could do so but that I could not keep up with her. She said that no
boy raised on the longleaf pines and sand hills could keep up with the
mountain girls. I told her that I would try. She walked with me for sometime
in a seeming slow walk, then she would dart forward like a wild deer and
leave me behind endeavoring to overtake her. She would stop awhile and say,
"Come on, Sand Hill." I found that she could indeed outwalk and outrun me and
not mind it at all, while I would be running puffing and flowing and almost
out of breath. She was a lively, funny mountain girl. She told me that I could
not keep up with her as every day she ran up and down the mountain and that
"practice made perfect." I must confess that I had no idea that walking fast
up the mountain would cause me to be so much fatigued. The girl passed our
wagons and went home. I was very faint and weary. My mother said, "Son, what
makes you look so bad, you seem almost ready to faint." I said "Mama, I have
been trying to keep up with that girl, I was determined to do so if it almost
killed me." My father laughed and said, "That's right, my boy, old Virginia
I had much pastime on this journey. Would often stop at houses and ask the
girls to give me some buttermilk from the cool looking spring houses on the
road. This they often did and we would have fun and pastime.
As we moved on we got into company with other families moving to Tennessee.
When we were near to Abingdon, Virginia, we went to our relatives, Mr. Jones,
where we supposed our aunt Ward was still staying. She had left Virginia and
had gone to Blountsville, East Tennessee to stay with a relation of hers, on
the Norman side, a doctor Delany by name. She had left Mr. Jones on account
of a law that had been passed in Virginia. This law concerned people who came
into the state with slaves. If they owned slaves and stayed for twelve months
or more their slaves would be forfeited and sold for benefit of the state. On
account of this law, or one something like it, she left Virginia and went to
Tennessee. We rested two or three days with our relations. Mr. Jones and family.
The negro women employed their time in washing our clothes, etc.
When we arrived at Blountsville, we stopped with Mr. Delany. We found that aunt
Ward had gone on to Duck River as one of her brothers came after her to take
her to her mother's and brother's. Mr. Delany was a very fine man, well settled
in Blountsville and esteemed very much as a physician. He appreciated our
relationship and knew the whole history of the Moreheads, Smiths, Turners,
and Sandfords, and also others of the Norman relations. My great-grandmother
Turner was a Keren Happuck Norman before her marriage with my great-grand
uncle, James Turner.
There was a family moving with us who were going to Elk River, Tennessee,
which was beyond Duck River. The family consisted of a man named Mr. Lop,
his wife, and a child eighteen months old. There was also a man and his wife
(but no children) traveling with them. The man owed Mr. Lop some money so Mr.
Lop was bearing his expenses and moving him from North Carolina to Elk River,
Tennessee. This in order to get the man to help work in the new country and
thereby collect the debt he owed him. Mr. Lop appeared to be a fine gentleman
and Mrs. Lop a fine lady, quite intelligent but hasty in temper and sometimes
quarrelsome. Mrs. Lop was especially quarrelsome with the lady traveling with
them. This lady said she was well acquainted with Mrs. Lop and did not mind her
temper. We traveled hundreds of miles together, but sometimes my mother could
hardly bear Mrs. Lop's temper although she would often let her and her little
son ride in the carriage with her. Mrs. Lop would often say to my mother that
she was afraid some of the negro women would steal her clothes while we were
camping nearby. My mother told her that she had raised our negroes and knew
them to be honest. One day Mrs. Lop gave her little baby a silver dollar to
play with while we were all at dinner. The dollar could not be found and Mrs.
Lop said she knew some of the negro women had it. Her negro girl said it was
lost. My father told our negroes that if any of them had it he would give
them forty lashes on their bare backs. Mr. Lop said he knew that none of our
negroes had it. The man and his wife who were with the Lop's thought that the
negroes had the dollar so it looked like there was going to be a fuss in the
camp. After much inquiry among the negroes it was found that Mrs. Lop's own
negro girl had it in her clothes. For some days after we did not camp near
each other. As Mrs. Lop was enceinte my mother again let her ride in the
carriage as it was much easier on her than to ride horseback or in a crowded
One night we got within a mile of some town in East Tennessee. I believe it
was Rutledge. The road was near the end of a wide lane with a large farm on
each side of the lane. There was a good running branch near the road so my
father thought this a good place to camp for the night. There was a nice
residence, a large frame building about 300 yards from the road, up the lane.
We struck camp with Mr. Lop's family near us. My father rode his horse up to
the house to buy corn and fodder for his teams. It had been raining some and
looked like it would be a rainy night. He inquired of the lady of the house
about the corn and fodder and she let him have what he wished to buy. Her
husband was not at home. He asked if he could get rooms for himself, wife,
two sons, and nephew and wife traveling with us. She told him that he could
certainly have the rooms for the night. My father said that he would have his
negroes bring beds and bedding down from the wagons but the lady said that he
need not do so as she could let us have beds, that it was a rainy night and
his bedding would get wet. My father returned to the camp and told my mother
and her niece to go to the house to spend the night. Mr. Lop went also to
get corn and inquired if he could get rooms for the night for his wife and
the other lady. The lady told him that he certainly could so we all went up
to the house. The lady of the house was very kind and insisted that we all
have supper with her free of charge. She prepared a large room for us upstairs.
There was a bed prepared for my father and mother which had curtains all
around it. Also a bed with curtains for my cousin and his wife. There was
a nice bed placed on the floor for my brother and me. At a little distance
from our bed there was another placed on the floor for Mrs. Lop and the other
lady. After sitting up for some time we all went upstairs to retire. The lady
of the house went up with my mother to show us the different beds and then we
went downstairs. When Mrs. Lop found that she had to sleep on the floor she
declared that she would not stay in the house. My mother spoke to her and told
her not to get mad but to lie down on the bed. She would not listen to my
mother but took her baby and went downstairs where she had quite a quarrel
with the lady of the house. She said that she would not stay in the house,
that because my father and mother were rich and had a quartet of negroes that
she had put them in the nice beds with curtains, that because she had but one
negro she was placed on the floor. She talked very loudly so that we all heard
her. The lady of the house told her that she did not know how many negroes were
at the camp nor to whom they belonged, that my father was the first to speak to
her about his family spending the night. She said she only had the two beds so
she prepared them for my father's family. She told Mrs. Lop that she had better
go back upstairs to bed because she was determined not to give up her own room
and bed to her. Mrs. Lop left the house in a rage and returned to the camp.
My mother, finding that she was leaving the house, made me go with her to help
carry the baby. The lane was very muddy and it was over 500 yards to the wagons.
I got up and went with her and helped to carry the child while she was all
the time quarreling about the lady of the house. Mr. Lop told his wife that
she was very foolish and should have stayed all night at the house. The lady
traveling with Mrs. Lop said that she got mad because she had to sleep with her.
The next morning the lady of the house would accept pay for nothing except
the corn and fodder. She said that she hoped that we had a good night after
the quarreling was over, that she did not like to hear of husbands who
mistreated their wives but she did not think it would have been very much
wrong if Mr. Lop had given his wife a few lashes with the wagon whip when
she went back to the camp. In a few days after this we parted from the Lop
family as we went different ways so thus we got rid of the Lop family.
As we traveled through the wilderness between Knoxville and the Cumberland
River one day a friendly Indian came to the road and made us understand that
he had wounded a deer. He wanted our dogs to go after it. A negro man of my
father's said that if I would go with him that he would go and take the dogs
along. It was the first Indian I ever saw. We went miles with him. The negro
man said that this Indian might get us into trouble and that we had better
return to the road. Just then the dogs startled the wounded deer. The Indian
yelled and ran as fast as the dogs. We left the Indian and dogs, went back to
the road and followed after the wagons. When we overtook the wagons the Indian
was already there with the deer and the dogs. My father purchased the deer
from the Indian who left us and went off into the woods.
We had very rough roads through the wilderness and some large mountains to
cross. We crossed one which was called Spencer's Hill. It was named this
because a man named Spencer was killed by Indians on this mountain many years
before. It was a very steep hill, or mountain, for the wagons to go down. We
had to cut good size trees and fasten them to the hind part of our wagons to
keep them from running down too fast. At the bottom of the mountain there were
hundreds of tops of trees which had been brought down by other wagons. My
mother had to walk down this steep mountain and was very much fatigued. She
said that if we had any more such hills to go down that we had better leave
the road and go down some other way.
When we crossed the Cumberland River, near the mouth of the Caney Ford, we got
into very rich lands, well cultivated with many farms on the road. My mother
was well pleased with the looks of the land and farms. When we got within
thirty miles of Nashville we gave out going to Duck River until the fall or
winter. My father said that he would go to the Messers Cole and Stone's
neighborhood and hire out the negroes. He and mother would then visit his
Morehead relations in Bowling Green, Kentucky, during the summer.
Just before we arrived at the Cole and Stone settlement my brother Charles A.
was taken sick. We reached the settlement and found a schoolhouse which was
vacant. Mr. Cole said that there would be no school during the summer and that
we were welcome to stay in it. We stopped there. My brother had a severe spell
of sickness, but with medicine and care got well in a few weeks. My father put
up some little cabins for a kitchen, smoke house, etc. With the exception of
one negro man, a woman, and a girl, he hired out his negroes until December
1st. As he could get none nearer he rented a field ten miles off and the negro
man made a fine crop of corn on these 15 acres. My brother and I had a fine
time of it there that summer. There were several young men and girls in the
neighborhood with whom we spent much of our time. The summer and the fall
My father did not visit in Kentucky but he and I visited Duck River, spent a
week or two there. We rode down in a buggy. As we passed through Nashville we
heard that there was to be, about twenty-five miles below Nashville, a Masonic
funeral with a large Masonic procession. We concluded to stop there, see the
procession and burial and hear the address. As we left Nashville there were a
number of Masons going to the burial. Several of them asked me to take charge
of their umbrellas and keep them in the buggy during the procession. It was
the first time I had ever seen a Masonic procession and I thought it was a
beautiful sight. There were Royal Arch Masons with the blue and red aprons
trimmed with Masonic emblems. To me it was quite a novel procession. Mr. Felix
Grundy delivered the address. He had just that year settled in Nashville.
There were a large number of people, men and women. Before the company was
broken up there was a shower of rain. I ran to the buggy to get our umbrellas.
There came by the buggy seven young ladies who were walking together in the
rain. I handed out all the umbrellas which were in the buggy to these young
ladies and stood with them under the umbrella and trees in a grove. The
owners came after awhile for their umbrellas and I told them to pay me for
my trouble in taking care of them that I had let the young ladies have the
use of them during the rain. They said, "All right, young man, we see that
you are a ladies man." So they stood under the trees during the rain.
We found all our relatives well on Duck River. When we returned we stopped
for dinner at a house on the road. There were seven grown young ladies there.
I supposed it was a Quilting Party as I saw a quilt in a frame in one of the
rooms. I was always fond of getting acquainted with young ladies as I traveled
about. I inquired if there was a quilting there that day with so many young
ladies together. They answered "No, Sir, we are all sisters and live here,
don't you remember the young ladies to whom you loaned the umbrellas during
the rain at the Masonic burial? We are the girls to whom you gave the umbrellas,
we are glad you were there as it kept us from having a shower bath. Some of us
liked to have fallen in love with you." That was sufficient for me. I told them
that I would have to kiss them all in order to find out which one I loved the
best. We had quite a playful time before dinner was ready.
We returned home and the last of November all started for Duck River. With the
hire of his negroes my father bought some cows, calves, and a few hogs. He sold
his crop of corn in exchange for goods from a store in Nashville. The Cole's
settlement went by that name as there were three brothers there of that name,
all living with their families near each other. Before we left there my cousin
Jack Smoot came to Tennessee to see his brother Sam who had come with us from
North Carolina. Cousin Samuel Smoot had gone to Duck River to make some brick
chimneys for our cousins Sandford and Turners. Cousin Jack came up to see us
at the Cole Settlement, stayed with us for awhile and went with us to Duck
Once more we were on the road with the wagons, carriage, etc., moving to Duck
River. We had some new additions to our company. That was the cows, calves,
hogs, etc. It was about the 1st of December and the weather was quite cold
and it was a rainy time. We arrived at the ferry on the river at Nashville.
This was called the Lower Ferry. There were also two other ferries near the
city of Nashville which is on the South side of the Cumberland River. They
were called the Upper and Middle Ferry and were all within one-half mile of
each other. It was late in the afternoon and my father was anxious to cross
over, to go through the city with the wagons, etc. and to secure a camping
place for the night. My father and myself had often crossed at this ferry and
were known to the gentleman who owned it. The owner of the ferry was sick and
confined to his room. His son, a young man about twenty years of age, was about
to start to a wedding about six or seven miles in the country. He told my
father that it was too late to cross the wagons and stock over and he must
wait until in the morning as he was going to ride away. The way he spoke was
very abrupt. My father got into a passion as he was a hasty tempered man. He
told the young man that he would not be delayed, that he would take the flat
boat and make his negro men ferry us over. The young man was on his horse just
ready to ride off. My father was determined to cross over. The young man said
that he dared my father to touch the flat boat. My father made two negro men
go to the flat and moved it so that the hogs and cattle could go on, as they
were to be taken over first. The young man seeing my father so determined
became a little fearful to interrupt him. Everything was ready to drive the
hogs down to the flat. It so happened that we had a large sow in the flock
which was quite poor. Her ribs plainly stuck out and her backbone was as
crooked as the curve in the rainbow. There was a very large bully looking
man about 30 years of age who had been listening to my father and the young
man who lived at the place. When the hogs started down the bank the old sow
was quite weary and she could scarcely walk along. This fellow came up to my
father and said "Stranger, I see that you are determined to cross over but I
wish very much to make a trade with you before you ferry the hogs over. I wish
to purchase that fine looking sow of yours for a breeder. She looks like a
fine blooded sow". This made the young man, who was on his horse, laugh aloud.
My father walked with a very heavy silver headed cane. He instantly rushed up
to the fellow and caught him by the throat and raised his cane in a threatening
manner and said "You infernal ____ I am a great mind to knock every tooth in
your head down your throat." The man appeared to raise his hand as if in
defense. My father still shaking his cane said, "You insulting rascal, if you
raise your hand one inch I'll jerk your arm off at the shoulder blade and beat
your brains out with the bloody end, you _____!" My mother in the carriage
screamed aloud. The man became alarmed. I ran up to my father who still held
the fellow by his shirt collar and said, "O Daddy, let the man alone, do pray
Daddy!" Cousin Jack Smoot ran up and said, "Uncle, knock him down for his
insolence, I'd stamp him well." The young man on the horse got off and ran
into the house to tell his father. It was a terrible time. The fellow
endeavored to apologize to my father but he would not let him speak,
threatening again that if he opened his mouth that he would knock his teeth
down his throat. After awhile my father became calm and said to him, "Begone,
you dog, don't you ever attempt to insult me again. If you do I'll make my
negro man tie you up and whip you within an inch of your life, you may depend
on it." So he let the man go who appeared very glad to get away. By this time
it was getting too late to cross over. The old gentleman who owned the ferry
sent a polite message to my father to come in the house and see him. When he
went in the old gentleman knew him and said he blamed his son for what he had
said about the flat but he had been anxious to go to the wedding. He told my
father that he could occupy a vacant house which was near the ferry landing
and in which he himself had been sleeping at night. That he could put our
cattle and hogs in his cow pen lots for the night. My father then said that
he would stay and that the negroes could stretch their tents on the banks of
the river so as not to interfere with the road. After the terrible scene my
father told the young man to "Hasten to the wedding." We all enjoyed a
pleasant night of rest.
The next morning we crossed over and passed up into the city. As we stopped to
make a purchase for our corn crop we saw the man who wanted to buy the sow. I
heard him tell a friend that the old man in the carriage was a very hasty, high
tempered man and that he could make General Jackson himself cave in under to him if he insulted him.
We proceeded on our journey and got to the big Harper River to camp that night.
We arrived at our uncle's and grandmother's on Duck River and found them all
well. The affair at the ferry was the only time my father got mad on the road
from North Carolina to Maury County, Tennessee. He was always of a lively
disposition and not often out of humor.
My father settled on the land he purchased from my uncle Benjamin but it was
lost in a law suit which my uncle afterwards had in regard to that part of his
land. He built on the place where he desired to settle and put up a cotton gin
and press. My father gave up the purchase he had made of Uncle Benjamin but
there was only a part of the land which he had purchased that was lost in the
law suit. He afterwards purchased lands on the South side of Duck River which
were lying immediately opposite the land he had first bought and settled on.
My father's place was about ten miles from his cousin Turner's and Sandford's.
They often visited each other. My brother Charles A. and myself had nothing to
engage our attention but to visit our relatives and to ride about. During the
first year after we settled on Duck River, we reviewed our studies, both in
mathematics and Latin.
During the latter part of the summer my brother decided to make an almanac for
the next year. He made the calculations complete. There was then no almanac
printed in Nashville or any other part of West Tennessee. Almanacs were all
brought from other states. As we often visited in Nashville my brother became
acquainted with the printer there and show him a copy of his almanac. The
printer said that he would obtain suitable type and offered to buy the copy
of the almanac at a good price, provided he would accept one half of the price
in almanacs. He offered my brother $50.00 for the copy, one half to be in
almanacs at a low price, which my brother accepted. The printer wanted my
brother's name, as the author, attached or printed in the almanac, but to
this he would not consent. There were but few schools of any kind in Maury
County as it was a new county on the frontier, as that part was then called.
The almanac was printed and my brother realized 100% profit on his share of
the almanacs as there were none in the West. It was made known about Nashville
and Columbia that "the little red faced Smith" was a great scholar and
astronomer and that he had made the almanac. It was as public as if his
name had been printed in the almanac. This caused it to be said that we
both were very learned young men.
In October of the next year, that is the year after the almanacs had been
printed, I was very much solicited to teach a primary school. My father's
own cousins, James T. Sanford and William Turner, lived about ten miles
from my father. At my cousin Will Turner's request I agreed to teach school
for one year so that his children could attend the school. He and Col. Sanford
both lived on Rethersford Creek but there were more settlers on Carter's Creek
and as this was near enough for them to send to the school, my school house
was built near Carter's Creek. I boarded one year with my cousin William
Turner, whose house and mill, which he had built on Rethersford Creek was
about 1 1/2 miles away. His little sons and daughters would walk to school
with me. A Mr. Brooks had built a mill on Carter's Creek and he also sent
pupils to my school. My school had about thirty pupils nearly all of them
in their spelling book but some few reading in "The Columbian Orator", a
school book of those days.
Major Samuel Polk lived not far from the school house, perhaps 1 1/2 miles,
so he agreed to send two pupils, his oldest sons. Both had already attended
school awhile. James K. Polk was the older boy, and could write and cypher a
little. When the boys came Major Polk sent me a short note and said that he
wished James to learn mathematics and surveying, if he could get that far
along before I ceased teaching. I used the method of writing short exercise
and rules as I had learned when young and taught the younger pupils to read
handwriting very soon. The only reason I had for teaching this school was to
gratify relatives and friends.
I did not care very much for the pecuniary emoluments as my father furnished
me with all the necessary money and articles of dress. I must confess that
another reason that had some influence on me was that the neighborhood was
much more wealthy and refined than where I resided and there were more grown
young ladies near my school than there were in my father's neighborhood. After
I started the school Major Polk informed me that he did not wish his son James
to study Latin; he thought dead languages were of no use to any man unless he
expected to become a graduate for a literary occupation and that he intended
James to become a merchant or practical surveyor. I told him that I was only
capable of teaching the first primary rules of the Latin language and that I
would not attempt to teach it in any way whatsoever. After a few months had
passed I concluded to make all the boys, old and young memorize speeches and
to recite them publicly once a month-the last Friday in each month. I put
this into practice and quite a number of ladies and gentlemen would come
to hear the pupils speak. When I told James K. Polk that I wished him to
memorize a speech for these occasions he said that he did not want to speak
in public, that he expected to be a merchant or to be in the woods surveying
and that it was not necessary for him to learn one. I told him that I wanted
all the boys to learn one. I said to him, "James, perhaps when you are grown
we may send you to Legislature or to Congress from these cane breaks." He
said "Never, but Mr. Smith if I do have to learn a speech do not let me
learn it out of the "Columbian Orator," you must teach me one that was never
in a printed book." I told him very well that he should have one that had
never been in print. I wrote one that I had learned when at school with the
Rev. John Brown in Wadesboro, North Carolina.
First Speech of James K. Polk
I make a speech before so many ladies?
Not I, indeed, my genius but a jade is,
I've tried often, and I know full well,
In public speaking I shall ne'er excel;
My fears and bashfulness will so prevail,
If I attempt it I shall surely fail--
Of my fine speech forget at least one-half--
Stand quite confused, and raise a general laugh.
Ye boys with flippant tongues, and brazen faces,
Go show the ladies how you learn the graces,
Play well your parts, and suit them to the time,
Scholastic boys and nonsense most sublime;
For me I've no such talents to display,
But only wish to keep myself away,
And not expose deficiencies today.
Well, ladies, you have heard each learned speech,
Good sense no doubt but far above your reach;
Sound, more than sense, delight the lady's ear,
There are but few can think, but all can hear
For instance, first a Latin declamation,
Pray, were you not made wise by that oration?
If there be wisdom in such kinds of speech,
It must be far above a lady's reach.
Now in the North there is a certain college,
In which they've gotten a strange kind of knowledge,
I'm told, they try by learned dissertation,
To prove that all the wonders of creation,
Are only visions of imagination;
Trust what we see and feel and taste, they call
Nature's sleight of hand, deception all.
O rare Philosophy, O skill divine,
Pray ladies, is not this extremely fine?
Alas, 'tis pity, that you beauteous maid
Should only be the shadow of the shade;
Her glowing cheeks, her lips of deepest dye,
Her panting bosom and her sparkling eye,
Are all delusions, so we have been taught,
Existing only in the lover's thought.
My teacher tells me, that to gain much knowledge,
I must learn first with him, and then go to college.
He says, there professors sit in due decorum,
The school boys standing in a row before them;
The President then speaks to them all in Latin,
A language which he is now very pat in.
In Auctora tattum qua fuit consituta,
You've begun good boys, of that there's no dispute,
In culpis rei, here it is my laddo,
Hoc little scroll of parchment, tibe irde,
This in your pocket fortune can't deceive;
But all the world for learned men receive you.
And now, dear ladies, without a joke,
You've heard a speech from James K. Polk.
This speech pleased James K. Polk very much and he spoke it often before the
ladies with much vivacity and eloquence.
(Note: Not in the original -- this speech of James K. Polk, afterwards
president of the United States, was learned and recited when he was about
fourteen years old.)
When my school was about one half over I had to leave it for nearly two
weeks to sit up with and attend my uncle John Smith who was sick and died
while I was with him and absent from my school. His death made a solemn
impression on me. Just a few days before I had to leave the school, one
of my pupils, a lad about twelve or thirteen years old, stopped at a house
where there was a still and whiskey was made. His older brothers and sisters
came on to school but he would not come with them. He stayed at the whiskey
still house and kept drinking the beer and whiskey until he got beastly drunk.
At playtime his brother went to see about him but could not find him. The
boy had left the road and had gone into a thick cane break and lying down
had fallen asleep. About the time his brother and sisters were going home from
school he got over his drunken sleep and went home with them. His parents
scolded him but did not chastise him. The next day was Friday. Just before I
dismissed the classes for their playtime I had him to stand up before the
school. I told him that he had acted very wrong in stopping on the way to
school. He said that he did not think it was very wrong. I asked if his
parents had whipped him for it and he said "No, sir." I then told him that
I would have to whip him but he said he guessed not. I was determined to make
him humble for his acts as I made him take off his coat and talked to him for
some time. I gave him five lashes then talked to him again but he did not
seem to mind it. I gave him five lashes again when he begged me to cease and
said that he would not do it again. It had a good effect on him and the pupils
likewise. I told them Monday morning I was not at the school but had secured
the assistance of a young man, who was studying surveying with me, to teach
the school for me while I was absent attending to my sick uncle. That morning
the father of the lad, supposing me to be at the school came to give me a
whipping. He came again, later, after I had returned to my school. He was
a very large man, fifty years old and a member of the Presbyterian Church.
It was playtime when he came the second time. His son, whom I had whipped,
was with me in the school house and was asking me to write for his exercises
about people getting drunk. He had made friends with me and had said that
he was glad that I "had him up" for getting drunk. The father took a seat
and requested that I send his son out to play. I did so. He commenced talking
and said, "Mr. Smith, you may thank Providence that you had to leave school
to attend a sick uncle. On Monday morning I came to your school to whip you
for whipping my boy. Had you been here I would have given you the worst beating
you ever had in your life." I spoke up very quickly and asked if he had come
to give me the beating then. He said "No sir, I am now more calm and free from
passion. I am thankful to my Maker that he kept you from school the day I came.
Had you been here in my rage and passion I would have hurt you very much. I
have come now to talk with you but not to whip you. If my children do wrong
make them obey your rules but never again make one of them take off his coat
to be whipped like a negro. That is what made me so mad. I will not suffer
my child to take off his coat to be whipped like a negro. Never do it again."
After that the old gentleman was well pleased with me and his children learned
well. I believe that the boy whom I whipped, who is now dead, has a son who
is a Presbyterian minister of the Gospel. I had many pleasant visits in the
neighborhood while teaching school on Carter's Creek, Maury County, Tennessee.
At that time I taught only one year and it was for my pleasure and to please
The next year I rode about and did not attend to any particular business.
Occasionally I would plow in the field for a week or two with the negro men.
During the summer my brother, Charles A., went up above Nashville to visit
at the Sulphur Springs. They were situated near the Cole's settlement where
we had formerly lived. The year I taught school he had been going to school.
A Presbyterian preacher had moved to Maury County and settled on Rethersford
Creek. He taught Latin and English school and would preach for the neighborhood
on the Sabbaths. My brother attended this school and finished a liberal
education of Greek, Latin, etc. My brother stayed longer at the springs than
we expected and did not write to us. My mother became very uneasy and would
send me to see him or to inquire about him. I was very glad to make the visit.
When I arrived at the Cole's I found that my brother had gone about twenty
miles away, with some of the Cole young men, to visit a family of Blewetts,
who lived in Kentucky. They had been acquaintances of the Cole's as well as
my father before they had moved from North Carolina. While there my brother,
in company with some young men and ladies, had ridden out in the barrens of
Kentucky to visit some of the neighbors. While returning my brother's horse
became frightened and ran away, throwing my brother off and dislocating his
hip. The Cole young men took him to Mr. Blewett's where they had been obliged
to leave him when they came home. This was sad news to me. I went on after him.
My brother spent two or three weeks at the Blewett's in great pain. They
treated him very kindly and after some days sent after a doctor to see him.
My brother would not permit his hip bone to be broken loose and pulled by
force back into place. He knew that he had some Morehead relations in Bowling
Green, Kentucky. As Mr. Blewett was going to Bowling Green one day he insisted
that he be put on his horse and allowed to ride with him. They did so. Mr.
Blewett and my brother had to ride very slowly. Before they reached Bowling
Green they passed near the house of Mr. Thompson Briggs who had married a
Morehead cousin of my father's. Mr. Blewett knew of the relationship and
told my brother that he had better stop there with Mr. Briggs. My brother
consented and told Mr. Blewett that as the house was but a short distance
from the road that he could ride there alone. It was about one o'clock P.M.
and Mr. Blewett had to go to Bowling Green and get back home, so my brother
went on to the house alone. Although he was in much pain he was full of life
and merriment. When he arrived at the gate it was about twenty yards from
the house. He hailed the house alone. Although in much pain, he hailed the
house and asked if Mr. Thompson Briggs lived there. The sons and husband
were in the fields. Cousin Betsy Briggs went to the door. My father and I
had been there before we had moved from North Carolina and had told her of
my brother's red face. Mrs. Briggs called out and said "as I live that is
cousin Charles A. Smith from Duck River, Tennessee. I know you by your red
face." My brother answered, "Yes, Madam, I am the lark." She ran to the gate
and said "Alright, alright, Cousin Charles." My brother told her in a merry
way that he was used to having people wait upon him when he got off his
horse, that he had someone to hold his bridle while others held the
stirrups, before he would get off from his horse. My cousin Briggs,
supposing that he was a funny kind of young man, told him to alight,
that her husband, sons, and negro men were in the fields, to get down
and come into the house as dinner was then on the table. My brother then
said "Cousin Betsy Briggs, I am crippled as my hip is out of joint, I am
in great pain and I cannot get off my horse until someone lifts me off."
Mr. Briggs and his sons came up just at that time. Cousin Betsy told them
who it was and that he was unable to alight from his horse unless help was
given. Mr. Briggs with the help of his sons and negro men, took my brother
gently off of his horse, carried him into the house and laid him softly on
the bed. This was my brother's first introduction to that family of his
Kentucky Morehead relations and where he afterwards lived for some years.
When I arrived at Mr. Briggs, as I had found that my brother had left the
Blewett's, I found my brother quite lively. He was sitting up in a rocking
chair with brass rollers to move him about the house. I went up to him and
spoke to him but I was so full of grief that I could only say, "I have at
last found you, my twin brother." And I burst into a flood of tears. My
brother looked at me and laughed and said, "You cry and I'll laugh." I
only spent one night with him and then went back to Tennessee to let my
father and mother know about my brother's misfortune. I went fifteen miles
the first night and stayed at a Mr. Owens on the road. He had two beautiful
daughters and I soon became acquainted with them. There was preaching that
night in the neighborhood by a Methodist preacher who I had become acquainted
with in the Cole settlement. I asked permission to ride with the oldest
daughter to church and to attend preaching with them. When I was coming
up after my brother the Methodist preacher was at the Cole's. I had been
told that it was thought that he would marry Mr. Cole's daughter so I asked
the young lady about the wedding and that her cousin had said that she was
going to marry the preacher. She had said that as I had come from Tennessee
that we would "pass the preacher by." We had lived near each other when we
first moved to Tennessee and she had been called my sweetheart. She was a
beautiful girl and I loved to be with her but had no thought of courting
her although we would laugh and joke together very much. I believe she
thought I would court her. The night I went to the preaching with the Owens
young lady the young preacher came home with us. As he was on his way down
to the Cole settlement to preach the next Sabbath I traveled with him for
two or three days and then stayed near to hear him preach at his different
appointments and did not hurry home to let my mother hear about my brother.
I continued to travel with the Methodist preacher a short distance each day
until we would get to the Sabbath preaching which would be entirely Methodist.
I had but little thoughts on religion at that time but loved to attend
preaching. During my travels with the preacher he asked me if I were
courting Miss Cole. I told him that I was not but that I had heard that
he was. He said that it was true but that her mother wished her to marry
someone who was rich. He thought that a Mr. Covington was in the way. I
told him that I had almost fallen in love with the Miss Owens who had gone
to preaching with me. He said that he had some thought of courting her himself
but did not know if the parents would be willing. I told him that if I were
in his place and the girl would marry me, if the parents were not willing,
I would steal the girl and get married. He said that would be wrong for a
preacher, but afterwards he courted the youngest sister; the parents were not
willing. He took my advice and ran away with her and got married. Afterwards
he made friends with the old people.
When we arrived at the Cole's the next day, Miss Cole was going to Nashville
with a young man and his sister, who lived near Mr. Cole. They were going
to purchase goods. The young man and his sister had started that morning
without Miss Cole, thinking that she had given up the idea of going with
them to Nashville. The family told Miss Cole that as they knew they would
travel slowly that they thought she could easily overtake them, so she went
on with me. We had a pleasant ride of some twenty miles before we overtook
them at the ferry near Nashville. I must confess that I was glad to have
her company that far on my way home. After a week's travel, which should
have been only three days, I reached my home.
My mother was in great distress when she heard of my brother's accident.
She said that I ought to have returned home sooner. The day after I got
home my father and mother started in a carriage to see my brother. They
stayed awhile at Bowling Green among the relatives. This was the first
time my mother had ever seen these Kentucky Morehead relations. She was
much pleased with them all but liked cousin Betsy Briggs the best as she
had taken care of my brother in his affliction. Mr. Brigg's two oldest
daughters were very lively and fine young ladies-cousin Polly and cousin
Susan. They afterwards would write to my brother. His hip became stiff
and his leg a few inches shorter than the other and he was a cripple for
life. He could walk with a cane and did not have to use crutches. My
brother stood the journey home better than we expected. They arrived
in a few days after leaving Kentucky. Thus after an absence of more
than six months my brother was again with us on Duck River. In his
afflictions, while in Kentucky with his relatives, he had been very lively
and happy, but he had longed to be with his dear mother.
After his return home he professed religion and joined the Presbyterian
Church. Rev. Duncan Brown, a Scotchman, was the pastor. (Rev. Mr. Brown
came from Robeson County, North Carolina, to Tennessee. Two of his sons,
Neill S. Brown, and John C. Brown were governors of the state of Tennessee.
[W.A. McLeod, Cuero, Texas, 1/10/1937]) My brother had studied under him
in his school. He was a devoted minister of the Gospel and rejoiced to see
my brother become a member of his Church.
I paid but little attention to religion at that time but some years before
had thought seriously on the subject. When I saw my twin brother go to the
sacramental communion table I thought my heart would break with grief. I had
concluded that I was not qualified to become a member of any church, but was
a "cast away" and that my better half, who was then my twin brother, was a
Christian while I was not. I now believe that the religious impressions which
were then made on me were not entirely in vain.
About this time, perhaps before, I attended a singing school in the neighborhood
of Rethersford Creek. I was often there but not much interested in learning a
great deal. My mind was more engaged with pleasant looks and smiles of the
young ladies who attended the school. As I attended these schools, I thought
I would cease learning the notes of do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do, and learn
a softer and better tune of "Honey, my dear, my love, my dove, etc." I
actually commenced a courtship with a young lady who was a pupil in the
singing school. She was a pious, devoted Christian, a member of the same
church to which my brother had attached himself. Finally after many months
of courtship I succeeded in gaining the love and affection of this devoted
Christian young lady. She consented to marry me. Accordingly on the 16th day
of January, A.D. 1812, the marriage ceremony was duly solemnized by the
Rev. Duncan Brown. It was at the home of the lovely bride whose father was
Mr. Phillip Jenkins. In Maury County, Tennessee, about two o'clock P.M.
Miss Sarah Jenkins (often called Miss Sallie Jenkins) then and there became
my wedded wife. This was in the presence of many ladies and gentlemen,
young and old. I am now married, 16th January, A.D. 1812. At 2 o'clock P.M.
On the 17th day of January, 1812, I saw the sun rise as a married man. On
that day my wife and I, with a number of invited guests, dined at my father's
house. My wife's home was nearly ten miles away from his. When we arrived many
of the neighbors had collected to participate in the festivities of the day.
They were plain, industrious people, not so refined in their manners as were
those in the neighborhood of my wife's former home on Rethersford Creek; that
neighborhood had been settled with more wealthy planters, mostly from Virginia.
My mother had prepared a most sumptuous and splendid dinner and we all enjoyed
the day with mirthful hilarity and glee.
The year before my marriage my father had purchased a fine tract of land on
the south side of Duck River. It was immediately on the river and opposite
the place where we were then living. My mother was taken sick and died about
six weeks after my marriage. Notwithstanding the best medicine and kind nursing
of friends and relatives she died a few days after being taken sick. After my
mother's death my brother, Charles A., went back to Kentucky to the place where
he had spent months of pain with his dislocated hip. He lived again with cousin
Thompson and Betsy Briggs. For a year or two he taught school near Bowling
Green, Kentucky, and had many promising young men studying Latin, Greek, etc.,
who in after years were talented lawyers, doctors, and members of Congress.
My father commenced to build on the south side of Duck River before I married.
We did not move until the Fall after my mother died. My father desired to build
a good house, plant an orchard of apple and peach trees and make the new
place comfortable before we moved into it. The new home was on a beautiful
hill about a mile from where we were living. His land lay principally in a
large bend of the Duck River. The house on the hill was about four hundred
yards from the river's turn and the farm was over a mile below the house in
the bend of the river. The river on the east side of the house to the river
on the west side was four miles around with the meanderings of the river. My
father would spend his time mostly with the hands across the river, returning
at night. He had hired a white man, who was over six feet high to cut and
hew timber for the new house, kitchens, barns, etc.
In the latter part of March or the first of April my father was over the river
at a log rolling near our new buildings, when there came an express from the
Colonel of a regiment in an adjoining county to a Colonel of a regiment of
militia in our county. It stated that there was a large body of Indians who
had crossed the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals and had destroyed the town
of Huntsville, Alabama; that they had arrived in Giles County, Tennessee,
and had killed over fifty families on Bradshaw's Creek. Our Colonel, upon
receiving the express, sent an express to the Captain of the Militia in our
neighborhood, a Captain Kilpatrick. The letter was directed to my father to
forward to the Captain. The people at the log rolling heard the letter read
and went to their different homes to spread the alarm. My father did not
immediately go home but went to some of his neighbors to give them the news.
At about two o'clock in the afternoon my wife and I were sitting in the shade
of the house in the yard. The tall workman of ours came home, his countenance
frightful with fear. He threw down his broad axe so that it stuck in the
ground and said that he never expected to strike or hew another lick with
it. I could not understand what was the matter. I supposed that he had not
done his work as well as my father had required. My father was very particular
with his workmen and made them do their work in accordance with his
directions. I supposed that he had not done his work as well as my father
required, and had dismissed him. I asked the workman what was the matter. He
handed me the letter which my father had sent for me to deliver to Captain
Kilpatrick and cried out, "Indians!, Indians!!" He then ran off and left us.
I sent the letter to the Captain and my father came home before sunset, had
his horse fed, and we had supper. My father started out to ride all night to
spread the news. I had horses saddled for myself and wife that we might go to
her father's and have her brothers ride off in another direction. My wife would
not ride the horse but rode behind me on my horse. The negroes were given
orders by my father to get all the guns in order and to stay at home until
he returned or sent them word what to do. They were not to cross the river
to work. My wife and I reached her father's house about ten o'clock and
informed them as to why we had come. They were all much distressed and
alarmed. My brothers-in-law and I rode all night, until sunup the next
morning, giving the alarm. The news spread almost like lightning to the
different neighborhoods and counties. My father came to the Jenkins home
the next morning and the three Messers Jenkins, my father, and I all went
to Columbia, the County Seat, to get more news about the Indians. I had
taken a very distressing farewell of my lovely wife who was in tears and
great lamentation as we did not know if we would ever see each other again
in this life. I then thought that I had started to battle with the Indians.
When we arrived at Columbia we found Brigadier General Roberts and a large
company of soldiers preparing for a battle. My three brothers-in-law wanted
me to keep with them but I did not belong to the same regiment and did not
want to forsake my own Captain and company. My father and I hastened home.
When we arrived we found that my Uncle Benjamin's family, Aunt Ward, Uncle
Napier, and Aunt Sallie had all moved off to the more thickly settled
neighborhoods. These families had settled in our neighborhood the year
before. Also all of our neighbors had moved off. Two or three negro men
of ours had stayed at home but the negro women and children had gone with
my uncle's families. My father and I started alone to join our Captain's
company which had already gone. We went by our new house and looked at my
mother's grave. She was buried under some large shady oaks at our new place,
but she died before we moved over there. We rode about twenty miles and met
our Captain who was returning. It had been fully ascertained that it was a
false alarm and that no Indians had crossed the Tennessee River in a hostile
manner. The newspapers stated that during this alarm there had been over
thirty thousand men under arms. Before they heard that the alarm was false
over two hundred men came from Lexington, Kentucky, to Nashville.
The alarm started in this way: Some Indians went to Huntsville, Alabama,
to purchase blankets, powder and shot, etc. A gentleman, who lived about
three miles from the Tennessee River, was in town and saw them. He said
that the merchants ought not to sell powder and shot to Indians, that he
was afraid that they would come and fight us. That night some mischievous
young carpenters and brick masons disguised themselves as Indians. They went
to this man's house and raised the Indian war whoop, rushed up to the house,
firing off their guns. The man ran off like a wild horse, ran to Huntsville
and raised the alarm of Indians. He said that they had killed his family and
burned his house. The men disguised as Indians had carried lighted torches,
as it was a dark night. The owner of the house fully believed that his house
had been burned and his family killed. It was all confusion in Huntsville
and some families moved off to Maury County, where they had formerly lived,
and spread the report. During the night the people in Huntsville sent to
the man's house and ascertained the truth, finding out that it was a false
alarm. It was many days before the truth was fully known and many hundreds
of people moved from their homes in the frontier counties while thousands
of men were under arms.
My wife and I spent the summer very pleasantly at my father's but in the
fall of the year moved to our own new place. Our house was not finished
but there was an old school house on the place into which we moved until
our home was ready. While we were living in the school house my wife gave
birth to a beautiful little daughter who was born in November, A.D. 1812.
She was named Constance Ann Ford, after my mother. My new house was so
nearly finished that my father and the carpenters were living and sleeping
in it at the time my little daughter was born. During my wife's confinement
my aunt Sallie Napier stayed with her and was as kind and attentive as a
mother could be. She lived within a mile of us and would occasionally go
home during the day but would return to stay during the night.
My uncle Napier was an industrious, hard-working man; but unfortunately,
was given to hard drinking of liquor. After the birth of my little daughter
he became more and more given to intoxication and was very cruel to his
negroes as well as his wife and children. My aunt endured it very quietly
for some time and said very little to anybody about it except myself. Some
years back Mr. Napier had been very cruel to his family and he and my uncle
Benjamin had an altercation about it as his wife was my uncle Benjamin's
sister. It almost caused a separation at this time between Aunt Sallie and
Uncle Napier but my father interfered as a peace maker and they had lived
happily together, for some years, but he would still drink hard at times.
My aunt told me that he had commenced his cruelty again and it increased
so that it was thought he might endanger her life in his drunken fits. My
father went to see them and suggested to my aunt that she have the Court
bind him over for good behavior, which was done. My uncle Napier could not
make bond and so was confined in jail as it was several months before the
Court was convened. Uncle Napier had created debts and there were executions
issued against him and his property was sold by the Sheriff. My new house
was finished so my Aunt came and lived with me. We had several rooms in it
so she and her children occupied one of the rooms. She lived with me for
some time. My father had to leave home for awhile on business. I always
called to see Uncle Napier whenever I went to Columbia. One day he made
the proposition to me that he would go to his old mother's home in Virginia
to live if I would furnish him a good horse and money for expenses. Upon the
condition that he would leave immediately and before my father's return, I
agreed to get him out of prison, furnish him with a good horse and $150.00
in money, and to raise and educate his children. I told him that he might see
his children before he left but that he could not see my aunt. She did not
wish to see him for fear that she might give way to her feelings and that
she could not bear the separation. He said that he did not wish to see her
but before he left he would like to see his children. I sent my aunt over to
her sister Ward's and my uncle Napier went to my house and took leave of his
small children. I gave him the money and the horse and he left for Virginia.
When my father returned he approved of what I had done. On the advice of a
lawyer it was thought best that my aunt petition for a divorce which was
done and in due time the decree was granted.
My brother, Charles A., was still in Kentucky teaching school. After he had
been there a year or more he became engaged to a Miss Elizabeth Lanier. Her
father was married a second time. While she was quite young she had been
taken to the home of a wealthy man who had raised her. His name was Major
Loving and he was a great friend of Mr. Lanier and his first wife. He had
given her a fine education. During my brother's courtship they were living
at Major Loving's but they were married at the home of her father who lived
in Warren County, Kentucky. My brother wrote to his father and asked his
consent to the marriage and invited all of us to the wedding. My father
was much pleased to hear about it. He had said that he was afraid that
my brother would never be able to marry, that with his red face and being
a cripple that no girl would ever take a fancy to him. My father was unable
to attend the wedding but my wife and I made the necessary arrangements
to go. We also prevailed on a young man and his sister, acquaintances of
ours, to go with us. It was about 120 miles from where we lived. We got
within about ten miles of our destination when night overtook us and we
were compelled to stop for the night with strangers. The young man going
with us had his horse to get very sick and about midnight the horse died.
We hired a horse from our host and proceeded to the wedding. We arrived
at our relatives, where my brother was staying before he had started.
They were to be married at 1 o'clock, P.M.. My Kentucky relations were
pleased and delighted with my wife as well as the young man and his sister
who were relatives of my wife's. Quite a number went with us to Rev. Mr.
Lanier's where the ceremony was performed.
The next day Major Loving gave a dinner party in honor of the new married
couple. There was a great company in attendance, many from Bowling Green
and the surrounding neighborhoods. A number of my Morehead relations were
present. My wife said that she did not know that I had so many although
one of her sisters had married a Morehead many years before. She was delighted
with them. Our cousin Thompson and Betsy Briggs gave them a supper party with
many guests. The night was spent in social conversation with great hilarity
and mirthful glee. Two days after the Briggs party there was a dinner given
by one of our Morehead relations in Bowling Green. There was a numerous
attendance of the fashionable and aristocracy of the city. We had a nice
time indeed at our brother Charles A.'s wedding. His wife was a splendid
beautiful, gay, and intelligent bride. After spending two weeks my wife
and I and the young man and his sister all returned home and reported to
our Maury County relatives and friends the happy account of the event.
After his school was over my brother and his wife left Kentucky and came
to Maury County, Tennessee and lived about three miles from me. He taught
school in a church building near his house for several years.
After my return from the false alarm of the Indians, which has been related,
I joined a company of light horse or mounted cavalry and was elected its
First Lieutenant. When the war commenced with the Creek Indians, General
Jackson was Commander-in-Chief. There were so many volunteers that orders
were sent that only two men out of the companies of cavalry in each regiment
could be accepted. There had to be a lottery or drawing to see who would be
the two fortunate volunteers. In my company the two fortunate soldiers
selected were my brother-in-law, Walter S. Jenkins and a Mr. Henderson,
who was a near neighbor. All the men who were chosen were ordered to
meet in Fayettesville, Lincoln County, Tennessee, and there to elect
officers to command the companies of cavalry. My brother-in-law, Walter
S. Jenkins, was elected First Lieutenant in one of the companies to serve
during the Creek War.
The plan of drawing only two men from each company of cavalry pleased me as
although I was not fortunate enough to be drawn I was permitted to stay with
my beloved wife. My love of my country was very great but I believe my love
for my young wife was greater. I felt rejoiced that my name had not been
drawn. My wife said she fully believed that her prayers had been answered
as she had earnestly prayed, with strong faith, that I might not be drawn.
My sweet little daughter, Constance Ann, died in A.D. 1813. She was a most
delightful and pleasant little baby, she could crawl about the house with
great speed and would often play and hide from me. It was the most distressing
time I ever experienced. I had lost sisters, brother, and mother by death,
which was to me great grief and sorrow, but these were nothing to compare
with this bereavement. Since my marriage I had often serious impressions
on the subject of religion and I engaged in secret prayer often. My wife
would also frequently converse with me on the subject of religion. Very
often at night, after my father had retired to his own room, at my wife's
earnest request I would kneel down with her and engage in family prayer.
This was done often but I was endeavoring to work out a righteousness of my
own in my own way. After the death of my sweet babe I became more serious
but I was still striving in my own strength. At length I became hardened in
my rejection of religion and was neglectful of those things. I requested my
wife never to mention those things to me again, that we could converse on
many other subjects of love and affection but not to mention religion to me
anymore. For several years I was a hardened sinner and to all appearances
had lost all of my serious impressions. I still was regular in my attendance
to the stated preaching services on Sabbaths in our neighborhood. Our preacher
was a Presbyterian and my brother and my wife were both members of his church
before I was married. Just before the Creek Indian war General Jackson was sent
down to Natchez with 1,500 men, in order to go to Red River near Shreveport.
When he arrived at Natchez he was ordered to dismiss the men there. It was
generally supposed that they were to be dismissed at that time and place so
that the Recruiting Officer of the United States Army might enlist them in
the United States Army, under General Wilkerson, who was stationed on Red
River. It was also supposed that Aaron Burr would also be there to organize
a company against the United States. General Jackson would not obey the orders
which were sent to him. He marched his men back to Columbia, Maury County,
Tennessee. When they arrived there they were dismissed with the roar of
cannon and firing of muskets by platoons. Although I lived twelve miles
above Columbia I heard this distinctly. My father went there to see the
soldiers but I had no desire to see them. Afterwards I was much troubled
in my mind that I had not gone to see this great parade and dismission of
the soldiers. Mr. Carroll, who was afterwards Governor of Tennessee, and
Thomas H. Benton were aides to General Jackson in this expedition.
Mr. Carroll, before this time, had owned or was interested in a nail factory
in Nashville. The newspapers in Nashville and elsewhere published a piece of
poetry entitled "The Nail Machine." When but a small boy I had learned this
and have for years past while traveling in Texas and elsewhere taught it to
hundreds of little boys and girls. I have never found any person of fifty or
sixty years of age who ever heard it. I will write down what I remember of
it but it is not the whole of the original poem:
The Nail Machine
Pray have you seen the nail machine?
Tis all the people's wonder, O,
It thumps away both night and day,
It makes a noise like thunder, O,
There's canks and jams, and battering rams,
They keep such perting, pouncing, O,
That all the ground is shook around,
By reason of their bouncing, O,
With a battery bang, clattery clang,
Battery, Clattery, Bang, they go.
Spoken: Now you must know that I had a whole lot of cousins, come all the
way from Vermont to see the fashions and all the cute and curious things-a-jigs
of the old colony.
"By Golly" says cousin Zachary Diggens, "I'll insign to see the nail works,
if it costs my pie-bald colt. Uncle Fife told us that it had ten thousand
rattle traps, which went:
"With a battery bang, clattery clang,
Battery, clattery, bang they go"
So off we set with Tom and Bet
Dick, Durphy, Dup, and Dolly, O.
And Joe and Josh, and Bill Magosh,
And Shakleford the jolly, O;
And Susan Mudd, and Bill Mudd,
They rode behind on pillions, O,
And Sarah Slack, she made such clack,
You'd think there was a million, O,
With a battery bang, clattery clang,
Battery, clattery, bang they go.
Spoken: So we passed along through mud and mire, quite in the style of the
fashion, until we reached Squire Clinker's nail works, when out screamed
Cousin Betty Diggins, as loud as a screech owl; "Oh, the wonderations!"
what a nation sight of jigamarees! "Old rabbit, bet, hold your gab there,"
says Tom. "Take care, John, don't go nigh them rollers there, they will take
your head off as quick as a hog could crush a walnut. O the old sneezer, how
it shells the nails out!", cries Bill. And there was Cousin Susan, who cried
"O fags and catnips; I am all over goose pimples. I'll be soused all over in
a butter tub if I ever saw the like before in all my born days."
On the 9th day of August, A.D. 1814, I had another sweet and beautiful little
daughter born, whom we named Elizabeth Hungerford Smith, as her grandmother
Jenkins' maiden name was Hungerford. As my father and aunt both lived with
us it enabled my wife and I to visit often among our relatives. We had a
son born in 1816 and I was so rejoiced that I had fourteen muskets heavily
loaded and fired for each State at that date comprising the United States.
Those guns were heard for miles up and down the river. Many people came to
our house thinking that the Indians had come again although the Indian war
had been over for years past. I had a merry time rejoicing with my neighbors.
We named our son James Brown Smith. The middle name according to the wish
and desire of my wife, was for our preacher, Rev. Duncan Brown. I always
insisted that it was for my teacher, Rev. John Brown, to whom I had gone
to school in my boyhood. (*Footnote: This was the man known in Presbyterian
history as "Waxhaw Brown", a truly remarkable character. With 18 months
formal schooling, received after he was 16, he became a great preacher and
teacher. He was professor in the University of South Carolina and President
of the University of Mississippi. [W.A. McLeod, Cuero, Texas, 1/10/1937])
My father was solicited to go to North Carolina to settle a law suit for the
heirs of the deceased father of these heirs. He had been the Executor of the deceased father of these heirs. Both sides had written him and earnestly requested that he come instead of sending depositions. My father made preparation for the journey and went in company with his cousin James T. Sanford. While there he visited many of his old acquaintances in Richmond and Anson Counties. Both sides agreed to leave the matter of the law suit to his decision so he made a compromise which was satisfactory to all parties who became friendly with each other.
While he was in North Carolina my father decided to make a second marriage.
He addressed a widow Turner whose deceased husband was an own cousin of my
father's. Her father was a Captain Marshall who lived in Anson County and
for many years had represented that county in the state legislature, also
his sons and grandsons, William and Clem Marshall, were able members of the
Legislature from the same county for many years afterwards. My father's
second wife, Mrs. Lucy Turner, had been a widow for some years and had eight
children. Her oldest daughter was married.
My father returned to Tennessee in 1817 and divided his land and negroes
equally between my brother, Charles A., and myself. My aunt Ward had died
while he was in North Carolina and had given him two negro men. He retained
these two negroes and purchased from my uncle Benjamin Smith a negro woman
with two or three children. These were taken on a debt which my uncle
Benjamin and Rev. John Brown had made while they were in North Carolina.
My father remained with us a few months and started back to North Carolina
with the negroes he had purchased and those two left to him by my aunt Ward
in her last will and testament. The woman he bought was a wife of one of
the negro men. My father was in bad health when he started on this trip.
After my father's first trip I had persuaded an old man, the same age as
my father, by the name of Mr. Sylvester Chun, to live with me and be my
overseer. This old man's father and mother had died when he was three years
old and my grandmother and grandfather had adopted him. He was brought up
with my father, aunts, and Uncles whom he always called his sister and
brothers. My brother and I called him uncle Sil Chun. He was with my father
in the same company under Captain James Turner, through the Revolutionary
War up to the time my father was wounded at the Battle of Guilford.
As my father was in such bad health when he started with his negroes I went
with him but after two or three days travel he insisted on my turning back
and returning to my wife and children. He said that his negro men and woman
could wait on and attend to him. A son of my old uncle Sil Chun, with his
family, was also along as they had decided to go back to North Carolina as
this man's father-in-law lived in the same neighborhood there with my father.
I did not want to leave my father but thought it would be all right as this
Mr. Chun said that he and his wife would look after him should he get sick
on the road.
Before my father had returned to Tennessee I was one day in Columbia, our
county seat. As I rode past the public square a very fine blooded horse was
being sold at auction. Some small bids had been offered and as I rode along
I made a bid of $150.00 and the horse was sold off to me. The man who owned
the horse had given $2,500.00 for him some years before. I had also raised
some fine colts from this same blooded and celebrated stallion. It was a
surprise that he was sold so low. The horse was about eighteen years old.
My uncle Sil Chun took great interest and pains to keep him in good shape
as I sent the horse to my farm. When my father started on his trip he said
to me, "James, I will take your horse with me to North Carolina and will
pay you $150.00 for him when I get home." I told my father that I would give
him the horse as he had just deeded me the fine tract of land where I was
living and had given me twelve or fifteen negroes, large and small. He said
that he would take my horse and ride him as he rode so much easier than his
While on his journey my father got in such bad health that he had to stop
eighteen days in Asheville, Buncome County, North Carolina. He persuaded
young Mr. Chun and his wife to go on as he said that he did not need their
assistance, that he would stop at a hotel and his negroes would wait on him.
The morning he left Asheville he wrote me a letter and told me how long he
had been detained and said that he had hired a large wagon with a swinging
bed in it, that he was very anxious to go on and to arrive at his home before
his death. He got within fifty miles of home when his bodily strength failed
and he was compelled to stop. He arrived at my uncle Benjamin Smith's
brother-in-law's, a Mr. John McCullough who lived eight or ten miles from
Salisbury, North Carolina. He sent one of his negro men with a letter to
his wife to come to him as he knew that he could only live a few days. His
wife arrived two or three days before his death and he was in his perfect
senses until he died. Before his death he made a short will and left his six
or seven negroes, horses, etc. to his wife for the term of her life. His wife
was expecting to give birth to a child in a few weeks and there was a
provision in his will that should the child live that at his wife's death
all the property, with increases, should go to the child; that should the
child not be living at the mother's death then the negroes, with increases,
should go to my brother and myself. My father claimed no interest, whatever,
in my step-mother's estate. She was a very wealthy widow and guardian for
At my father's death my step-mother took his remains home and buried him
in the family burial lot with her first husband. She wrote me of his death
and sent me a copy of the will. His wife and myself had been appointed
Executrix and Executor. She requested in her letter that I come to North
Carolina so that the will could be probated and we could both qualify as
Executrix and Executor at the March term of the Court in 1818. My step-mother
gave birth to a child a few days after the burial of my father. He was named
Robert Benjamin Smith, after her brother and my father's brother.
Here I want to relate that scarcely ever do I have dreams in my sleeping
moments but on the night of my father's death I dreamed that he was dead.
My wife awoke me, as I seemed in great agony and distress, and inquired
what was the matter and I told her that my father was dead. I told her
that I had dreamed that my father had gotten on his journey so far as Mr.
John McCullough's, the brother-in-law of my uncle Benjamin Smith, and that
from there he had sent his negro fellow, Asa, with a letter to my step-mother
asking her to come to see him before he died. I dreamed that my step-mother
went to him as requested and was with him when he died and that she took
the corpse home and had it buried in the family grave yard where her first
husband was buried. There were many other incidents that happened in my
dream. My wife endeavored to pacify me and said that the dream was caused
by the letter I had received from my father telling me he was sick while
on the road. At that time it took quite a while for letters to come and
go by mail from North Carolina. Some days after my dream I received the
letter from my step-mother saying that my father was dead, and she gave
the account just as I had dreamed it.
I made preparations to go to North Carolina and persuaded my uncle Sil Chun
to go with me so that he could see his children in Richmond County. I was
glad to see my step-mother also to see my sweet little fatherless brother,
Robert, but it made me very sorrowful and sad. While resting there several
days I visited an Uncle who had married my mother's sister. My step-mother
and I went to Wadesboro and as the Court was in session we had the will
proven and were qualified as Executrix and Executor. We sold his crops,
horses, wagons, etc. My step-mother gave back the horse for which my father
had said he would pay me $150.00. She also let me take a negro fellow to
Wadesboro to sell but I was unable to effect a sale. I took the horse to a
fairground in Richmond County to try to sell him. A friend, who was a wild
and merry young man took the horse around the grounds and offered him for
sale. The horse was about the best formed animal I ever saw and was of the
best blooded, both by his sire and dam. My friend led the animal around and
he had many admirers, he offered to make a race with him. He was a wealthy
man and said that he would put up $5000.00 that in one month from that date
the horse could beat any other horse in the state. No one would accept the
offer as they were all afraid. The horse had a sprightly and active walk but
was really incapable of running as he was old and very stiff in his joints
when he was made to run or gallop fast.
I visited my uncle Sil Chun at his son's. As his children were all married
he decided to return with me to Tennessee and to live with me as my overseer.
His son, Henry Chun, bought my horse and paid me $150.00 in cash. So my
uncle Sil Chun and myself went back to my stepmother's before starting
to Tennessee. I found it necessary to first go to Raleigh, the capitol,
about 120 miles from where my stepmother lived, in order to receive the
money which was due my father as a pension. This pension was due for two
years past and was on account of his having been a wounded soldier in the
Revolutionary War of 1776. When I reached Raleigh I found that the Pension
Office had been moved to Fayettesville. That was the place where I used to
roll the hogshead of tobacco when a small boy. While at Raleigh and
Fayettesville I found many of my father's old friends and acquaintances
who were glad to see me and asked many questions about Tennessee. While
at Raleigh I became acquainted with some of the Hungerford's who were
related to my wife's mother also some of the Turner's, related on my father's
side. I drew the pension and returned to my stepmother's going back through
the neighborhood of my youthful and boyhood days. While I was away at Raleigh
and Fayettesville my uncle Sil Chun awaited my return at his son's in
Richmond County. I stayed two days with my stepmother and while there
her father, Captain Henry Marshall, died. He left her twenty-five negroes
and $1000.00 in cash. Thus she was a more wealthy widow than when my father
I arrived home after a fatiguing journey on horseback from Tennessee to
North Carolina and return. My uncle Sil Chun was with me. I found that a
little daughter had been born just two weeks before I got home. I had fully
expected to be home before this event but was detained on account of my trip
to Raleigh and Fayettesville. My wife got along as well as usual in such cases.
We named our little daughter Jane Catherine.
When my aunt Ward died she had left about twelve negroes, consisting of men,
women, and children, and also her farm and homestead to my aunt Napier, who
had obtained a divorce from uncle Napier. My aunt Napier had left my house
before I made the trip to North Carolina and had moved to her own farm left
to her by aunt Ward. My uncle Charles Smith, an old bachelor, lived with her
and died two years after the death of aunt Ward. He left a negro man and a
small tract of land to my aunt Napier who now had sufficient means to educate
her children. I had obtained a situation for her oldest son, James C. Napier,
as a clerk in a store in Columbia.
In the summer of 1819 our preacher, Rev. Duncan Brown, had an appointment to
preach at Mr. Carthel's who was married to a cousin of my father's. This Mr.
Carthel and his wife, in their old age, had made a profession of religion and
with several of their children had joined the Presbyterian Church. As this
family lived some distance from the church building Rev. Mr. Brown had made
an appointment to preach at Mr. Carthel's under a fine shady grove.
There were several of his members who lived in this neighborhood as well
as a thick settlement around, so the appointment was made for the whole
neighborhood. The preacher and his two daughters came to my house on the
Saturday afternoon before and spent the night at my house. The next morning
my wife was unable to attend the services, as she was not in good health and
had symptoms of consumption. I accompanied the preacher and his daughters to
Mr. Carthel's. I was thoroughly unconcerned as regarding religion, the serious
impression made some years before had all passed away. I was a hardened sinner
notwithstanding that I had a religious wife and was raising a family of
The preacher commenced and there was a large attendance. The text was from
Hebrews 6:18-20 verses inclusive; "That by two immutable things, in which
it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who
have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we
have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth
into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even
Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedes." The
preacher proved the scriptures to be the Word of God and he often referred
to the precious promises which are contained in them and the consolation
they were to the Christian. He urged all to lay hold upon the hope set before
them and said the Christian would positively find it to be an anchor for the
soul, sure and steadfast. I listened with intense interest and felt the soft
impressions upon my heart more sensibly than I had ever felt before. The
preacher also gave attention to the 4th, 5th, and 6th verses of the same
chapter, viz, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,
and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy
Ghost, and have tasted the good work of God, and it's powers of the world
to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing
they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put him to an open
shame." The preacher said these words did not relate to the Christian but
to the sinner, to a sinner who had been raised by Christian parents, to a
sinner who had been raised up under preaching of the Gospel, to a sinner
who had often felt the soft impressions of the Holy Spirit and was convinced
that the scriptures were true; but who through his mind had almost seen the
glories of the heavenly world, had hardened his heart against the convincing
proofs of the religion of Jesus Christ; this sinner was in the dangerous
situation of being lost eternally. He said that the Spirit would not always
strive with the sinner. There was a point in the human life when a sinner,
who had experienced those feelings in his heart and reflected upon them,
would be left by the Spirit of God who would depart from him and he would
never after that feel repentant, but would be lost forever. He urged sinners
to pause, reflect, to that day hear the voice of God and not to harden their
hearts. This exhortation and description of a sinner's ruin was to me
alarming. I felt that I had enjoyed all the privileges which had been
pointed out and was in danger of being lost forever. I then and there
made a solemn vow that I would give myself to the Savior, sinner that
I was, that then and there by the Grace of God assisting me, that I would
live a new life and accept salvation on the terms of the Gospel. I made
these resolutions with the condition that the Savior would help me to
carry them out and I earnestly and devoutly prayed to Him that I might
on that day become a faithful follower of the Blessed Redeemer. No person
knew my feelings and resolutions at that time. The preacher and his daughters
accompanied me home but did not stay all night. I had been in the habit of
profane swearing when I was mad with a brute beast or with my servants. I
was afraid that if I made a public confession of religion that this besetting
sin would overcome me. That evening I made a matter of private prayer and
in the deepest sincerity and faith I asked Jesus Christ to help me overcome
this sin. I rejoice to say that up to this time I have never sworn an oath
My wife saw that I was uneasy in my mind but as some time before I had
requested her never to mention religion to me, she said nothing. I believe
that I can say that never had I ever sworn in her presence for fear of
hurting her feelings. After several secret prayers I felt relieved and
was ready to tell my wife about my resolutions and determination. But
that time it was late at night and the little children were already in
their beds asleep but my wife was in her room waiting for me. I told
her of the change of heart that I had experienced that day and night,
that as I had once told her never to mention religion to me I then wanted
to tell her of the change. I now wanted her to speak to me often of the
happiness and pleasure of the soul who trusts humbly in the Blessed Redeemer.
I wanted her to pray that I might be enabled by Grace Divine to follow
the Redeemer and become an heir of salvation. You may be sure that it
was to her a most delightful time. She said that she had often prayed
for me and would constantly pray for me and greatly rejoiced that her
prayers had been heard and that both hers and mine had been answered.
We had a happy time.
I told my wife that we would have family prayers. I called the negro families
in to join with us in prayers. It was like a clap of thunder, this strange
and sudden request. They came in and I told them of the resolutions I had
made and told them that I had hopes that they too might "cease to do evil
and learn to do well." I opened the Bible without selecting a chapter to
read. I opened it at that passage which commences, "Ho, every one that
My wife's health continued to grow worse and she grew more feeble. It was
evident that she had consumption-not hereditary but from a sudden cold which
had settled in her lungs some years before. The doctors prescribed medicines
but were of the opinion that the disease was too deeply seated to be cured.
They told me that she would likely die with child birth which she was
expecting in a few weeks time. She herself was of the opinion that she
would not survive this event. A few weeks after I professed religion
there was a camp meeting held at the church we attended. My wife wanted
to attend the meeting so I built a nice camp for her, had a chimney in
one room so that she would not be too much exposed to the cold in the
night. I took great pains to fix up the camp so that she might be comfortable,
which she was and spent the time with much religious feeling. I applied
for membership in the Presbyterian Church, was examined by the Session
and received as a member. In a short time there was a Ruling Elder to be
elected and the votes being taken I was unanimously elected and afterwards
publicly ordained and installed.
The days before my wife died she appeared in better health than usual. That
day I had invited my neighbors to help shuck my corn as I had raised over
two thousand bushels. Generally these frolics of corn shucking were at night
when the negroes would enjoy singing while working. I had this corn shucking
in the day time. We finished the corn husking before night and then all, both
negroes and visitors, went to the house which was about one-half mile from
the corn pile. The negroes carried me on their shoulders from the field to
the house, singing merrily as was their custom. Every one had supper and
returned to their homes a little after dark. My wife and I sat up quite
late and she said she was glad the corn pile was finished so soon. Before
we retired she asked me to have family worship as was then my custom. Her
feet and ankles were very much swollen so she had them bathed with warm water.
After retiring we conversed much on the subject of death. She said that she
was prepared to go and felt happy in the prospect of eternal felicity in
heaven, and that she could leave the world with much more satisfaction since
I had become a Christian. She gave me some directions about the three little
children and how she wanted me to dispose of them after her death. We then
went to sleep. About one o'clock she waked me and asked me to send for the
doctor as the time for her confinement had come. Immediately I sent for
my aunt Sallie Napier, who lived two miles away, as well as the doctor.
The little children were asleep and I was entirely alone. I called in two
or three of my negro women and in a short time my aunt Sallie arrived. In
about fifteen minutes after her arrival my dear wife gave birth to a little
son who was attended to by the negro women. In a short time my aunt told me
that my dear wife could not live. I sat by her bedside and although sinking
in death she talked freely. She told me that it was as she had expected
and that it was all over with her as she would die and in a short time
would meet her Savior in peace. She talked a little more about the children
and said that it was a happy thought to know that I was a Christian and would
bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that she
was taking her last farewell of me until we should meet around the throne
of God in heaven. She was calm and composed and I sat by her bed watching
her dying moments. Her last words were, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
The doctor did not arrive until after she was dead.
I gave way to sorrow and grief. She was bound to me by such strong
cords of love and affection that no wonder when these cords were torn
asunder they bled abundantly. The funeral sermon was preached by our
beloved pastor, Rev. Duncan Brown, to a very large gathering. His text
was her last words, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." It was twelve months
before I ever spent a night anywhere except my own house or with a very
near relative. My brother moved and lived about one-half mile away, so I
spent much of my time with him. I placed my little daughters with their
aunts but kept my son with me, he spent most of his time with his uncle
Charles A. Smith. The little motherless infant we called Benjamin and he
was nursed with great care and attention by my aunt Sallie Napier and my
two sisters-in-law, the Misses Jenkins, who all stayed with me for awhile.
The little baby died when about eight days old.
My old uncle Sil Chun lived with me several years but finally married,
bought land, and lived a few miles away. His son, to whom I sold the horse,
came from North Carolina and brought the horse with him. Major Joseph Morehead,
who lived near me and whose daughter I afterwards married, bought this same
horse from Henry Chun and sold him to Major Joseph B. Porter, the Clerk of
the County Court. Major Porter lived near Columbia where the horse had been
owned many years. He gave Major Morehead 160 acres of land in Tipton County,
Tennessee, and near the county seat of this county. I am relating the purchase
of this horse because of the events which took place in relation to this horse.
While I was riding past the public square where the horse was being offered
at auction I had not an idea of making a purchase. I made a casual bid and
to my great astonishment and contrary to my wishes, I became the purchaser.
I have often reflected upon the results of that purchase. Had I been five
minutes sooner or later I would never have made the purchase. When my father
came to see me from North Carolina he asked to take the horse back with him
and agreed to pay me for him when he got home and sold his crops. On his
way home, in his sickness, he found that the horse carried him with much
more ease and comfort than his own. He rode him over four hundred miles,
perhaps with more ease than he would have with any other horse. I sold
the horse in North Carolina and he was afterwards sold to Major Morehead
who in turn sold him and received 160 acres of land. Major Morehead
afterwards lost all of his property which was sold to pay his debts
and the land was reserved as a homestead for his family after his death.
So had it not been for my original purchase of this horse my mother-in-law,
Mrs. Morehead, and her children would never have settled in Tipton County,
The year after my wife died I boarded my older little daughter, Elizabeth,
with the family of Rev. Thomas J. Hall, a Presbyterian clergyman, and for
more than a year she was sent to school. Mrs. Hall was a nice lady, very
industrious, and had a little daughter about the same age as my own. She
also had two grown daughters whose names were Liza and Celia. They took
great pains to teach my daughter to read and write as well as to be polite
in her manners and conversation. My sister-in-law married a Doctor Joseph G.
Hall and they lived a few miles away and kept my younger daughter, Jane
For a few years I rode about a great deal in the neighborhoods of my county
as well as other counties. I had a negro man who could manage my farm and
would make the younger negroes do their work well. I left the farm to his
management and knew that although I was often away from home that he would
manage the business well.
Three or four years before my wife died I taught school near Major Joseph
Morehead's who had married my wife's oldest sister. My father was then living
with us and I could teach school as he attended to the hands on the farm. I
had three boys boarding with me, two of them nearly grown, who attended my
school. I had a full school. Major Morehead sent six children, four boys and
two girls. There were two deaf and dumb pupils, a sister and a brother. They
were children of a wealthy man in the neighborhood who also sent several other
children. The two deaf and dumb children came only for pastime and to please
them. I taught them to read, write, and spell. They were smart children and
I wanted their father to send them to a deaf and dumb asylum but he would not.
I got some thick harness leather from a saddler and cut up fifty pieces about
half an inch square. I printed the alphabet, capital and small letters, on
these pieces. These children knew how to converse by signs, and they knew
all the pupils. I would show them a boy's name, John, and then place the
letters in a row from A to Z both in the capital and small letters. I would
take out the proper letters and place them in order to spell John. It was
astonishing how quickly they learned. I would mix all the letters and let
them arrange them from A to Z themselves which they did as soon as any normal
boy or girl would have done. They soon learned to spell every boy and girl's
name in the school and would never forget them. I taught them to spell horse,
cow, etc. They would look at the horse or cow and soon learn the letters that
would spell them. I would then point to a horse, etc., and they would spell
them out in a moment. They were greatly amused and their father could not keep
them at home as they would come to school. They also learned to write the words.
They kept my leather letters for years after and used them. (There are
a total of 169 pages, only 53 shown on this page)
The original four volume handwritten manuscript is in the Center for American
History, University of Texas Library in Austin.
Additional Copies Available:
Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, Texas;
Daughters of the American Revolution Library, Washington, DC;
University of Texas at Arlington, Special Selections;
J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, Dallas, Texas;
Maury County Library, Maury, Tennessee
I was just reading the page re: Life and Times of James N. SMITH and thought
I'd add a little bit to what you have. You might want to make a note
about the Kerenhappuch (NORMAN) TURNER who is mentioned on that page. She
is a very interesting character. Did you know she was a patriot of the
Rev. War also? There is a statue of her apparently at Guilford Court
House. During the Rev. War she rode on horseback to Guilford when she
heard her son and grandson were seriously injured. She nursed them back to
health and also helped several other soldiers while there. Sounds like a
very courageous and interesting woman, doesn't it? There are several
webpages about her - if you or anyone else wants to know more, just type
"Kerenhappuch Norman" in Google's search engine and you'll find all kinds of info.
Karen Groce, Starkville, Mississippi
JAMES SMITH, SR.
b. ca 1720 MD - d. 1791 NC
ALIAS: JAMES "RICHARD" SMITH
James Smith, Sr. was born ca 1720 in Pickawaxen Parish, Charles County MD. He
was the son of Richard Smith and Mary ____(?) , grandson of Richard Smith and
Anne Turner and great-grandson of Arthur Turner and Margaret ___(?) all of
Pickawaxen Parish, Charles County MD. [Southerland Latham & Allied Families,
Imogene Southerland Vorhees, 1947, LDS-FHC.; Early Families of Southern Maryland, Elise
Greenup Jourdan, Vol. VII, 1998.]
Many descendants of Arthur Turner settled in Northern Neck VA where it is likely that
James Smith met and married Sarah Turner, daughter of James Turner and Kerenhappuch
Norman. The earliest known record of James Smith, and Sarah Turner Smith is in Culpeper
County VA, 22 April 1751, as James Smith and Sarah Turner Smith's sister, Mary Turner,
witness a deed for James Turner. [Culpeper County VA Deeds 1749-1755, P. 307.]
James and Sarah Turner Smith lived in Pickawaxen Parish on Richard and Mary Smith's
property called Smith until the death of Richard Smith (ca 1762). Children of James
and Sarah Turner Smith: Richard (1750MD-1780VA), Mary (1752MD-1816TN), James (1755MD-1817NC),
John (1756MD-Bef.1816TN), Charles (1757MD-Abt 1818), Benjamin (1758MD-Aft 1818), Sarah M.
(1760MD-1842MS). [All dates circa.]
Records indicate James Smith began to sell parcels of land in Charles County MD, and by 1767,
the family had moved to Halifax County VA near Sarah's parents, James Turner and Kerenhappuch
Norman Turner who were then living near Difficult Creek. [ Halifax CoVA Deeds, 1771, P. 206,
James Turner; VA Land Office Patents #37, P. 214, 1767, James Smith, 400 acres on Buffalo
Creek bounded by Joseph Echols's & Smith's own line .]
James and Sarah Turner Smith's oldest son, Richard Smith died in Halifax CoVA. [Halifax CoVA,
1780, Will Book 1, P. 302.] Another son, James Smith, Jr., was wounded in the Battle of Guilford
Courthouse NC (1781). By 1790 the Smith and Turner families moved to Richmond County, NC where
James Smith, Sr. died in 1790. His will identifies only one son, John Smith, and two daughters,
Mary Ward, and Sarah Smith referring to the rest as "all my children."
[Richmond CoNC, 1791, Will Book 1, P.37.]
The remainder of the sons are identified in the will of Mary Ward, Maury CoTN. [Maury CoTN, 1816, Will Book B-P.26,27.]
Sarah Turner Smith moved with her son, James (Turner) Smith, Jr. and wife, Constantia Ford to
Maury County, TN by 1807. Sarah Turner Smith died in Maury County TN in 1812.
Additional information on the Smith Family of MD, VA, NC, TN, may be found in the Memoirs of
James N. Smith, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Memoirs also available
at the Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas; Daughters of the American Revolution Library, Washington,
D.C.; Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, TX, and University of Texas at Arlington
Library; Early Southern Maryland Families, Vols. VII, VIII, Elise Greenup Jourdan, 1998; Southerland
Latham & Allied Families, 1931, Imogene Southerland Voorhees, LDS-FHC; www.kerenhappuch.com.
28 February 2000
Bennie Lou Hook Altom
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Since July 22, 2002