[The following appeared in the Forest City Courier, in installments, from October 6, 1938 to January 19, 1939. No attempt has been made to change unconventional spelling, capitalization – and lack thereof, or grammar. Where it appeared obvious that a transcription error had occurred we have added, or changed, letters and words. These changes are enclosed in parentheses and printed in italics. It is said that the original manuscript for the Lee Reminiscences was discovered in a desk in the Cliffside Mills Office, at some time uncertain.]
REMINISCENCES of CHRISTENBERRY LEE 1823 – 1895
(The Lee reminiscences appeared in part in The Forest City Ledger during 1895. The original manuscript, from which this series is taken, picks up events from a former chapter in which current news and personalities were discussed.)
The readers of my reminiscences were left last week in my grandmother Bedford’s apple-orchard tasting the various kinds of delicious fruits that grew there, but I failed to mention one of the different kinds of apples that was found there, and which was, to my taste, the nicest flavor among them all. We had no special name for it, and as one of the trees stood very near the smokehouse cousin Cynthia and myself called it the “smokehouse apple.” It was of medium size, of red color and in shape very much like the green pippen. I think its proper name was limber-twig. It was certainly a choice apple, but I will not keep you longer in the old orchard, though I could linger here for sometime yet and not become tired, for I have not yet offered you a drink of the sweet cider that was pressed from the thoroughly mashed apples of different kinds, for my uncle thought the cider was better and of a richer color when it was made from apples of different varieties, so he would gather the fruit from several different trees and mix them in a large trough, which had been nicely dug from a poplar tree, and oh, what nice cider we did have! Just here is a part of my life I would be willing to live over, and have a good, old-fashioned drink of sweet, newly-made cider right fresh from the trough, but I will not further tantalize the taste and appetite of the readers of this article by talking about good things, such as we had in times of yore. I am now getting pretty close to High Shoals, for this old orchard place is only a half-mile up the creek from (where) High Shoals was, and where Henrietta is, and so I will necessarily have to pass the “old High Shoals” in getting to the new place called “Henrietta,” and while I am passing this old historic place I must stop and gaze a little while. There is no place in Western North Carolina more noted for its water-power than High Shoals in Rutherford county. Many have been the predictions made in regard to the vast amount of machinery that would be put in motion here some day, and these ancient prophecies are now being wonderfully fulfilled. The command of the Bible is, “not to despise the day of small things.” The beginning at High Shoals was small, but it was a beginning, and from the most reliable information that I have been able to gather this small beginning was in the year 1790, one hundred and five years ago. And what was it? There was a lively contest for a premium consisting of a nice body of land, offered by the Government to the party that should manufacture the first plough mould for agricultural purposes in Rutherford county. There were two men that entered the field as contestants for the prize, Isaac English at Tumbling Shoals and Peter Fisher at High Shoals. The struggle grew very spirited and was the general topic of conversation
among the people. English, who was operating at Tumbling Shoals, saw that he was likely to be outstripped by Fisher at High Shoals, so he began to look for a nigh cut, by which he might gain the prize, and he found it, which lay along this route – he made a purchase of three pairs of the common bellows used by the blacksmith and by a concentration of their forces he succeeded in getting up a heat sufficient to melt his ores, and when melted and run into a solid mass he drew it from the fire, pounded it awhile with a wooden mallet, then placed it on his anvil and with the hammer held in his own hand, and the aid of two others of a larger size wielded by two athletic men, whose arms were well practiced in this kind of manly exercise, beat it out into a well shaped plow mould, which he presented to the Government officials, and drew the prize. The number of acres received by English by this crafty (and may I not say?) fraudulent act, I cannot state definitely, but my opinion is that it was five hundred and fifty acres. Just where this land was located I cannot say positively, but my impression is that it was just below the High Shoals on the East side of the river. I believe the same land was afterward owned by John Haney, and is still known as the old Haney tract of land. It may be that English sold to Haney, for I have it from tradition that English did not remain in the country many years after the occurrence of the incident above credited. Public sentiment was somewhat against him, as it was considered that he had obtained the premium fraudulently, so he abandoned his enterprise and pretty soon left the country.
Peter Fisher was still driving ahead at High Shoals, and although he felt
considerably put out by losing the prize offered by the Government yet he did not
abandon his work nor feel greatly discouraged, but with renewed energy and increased determination he worked on, feeling assured by the many advantages, which he had and the pressing demand there was for such an industry and enterprise as the one in which he was engaged, that his labor would not be in vain. Sometime in the year 1791, the “big hammer” at the High Shoals began to beat; but from what I was an eye-witness to thirty years later on I feel authorized to say that its beats were not only weak, but few and far between, but it was a beginning. These establishments were then called forges. The number of them in the country were very small. I think the High Shoals Iron Works were the first of the kind that were started in this section of the country. In the upper part of South Carolina in York and Spartanburg counties (districts as they were then called), some ,manufactories of the same kind were established a few years later, but from the most reliable data that I have been able to command the old High Shoals Forge was the only one started as early as the eighteenth century. In the early part of the nineteenth century the South Carolina Iron Works were established, the first of which was known as the “Old Cowpens Furnace.” Here they made what was called “pig-iron”; they also had a foundry and moulded a great deal of pot-ware, supplying the surrounding country with cooking vessels. I well remember how my oldest brother, James Raimond, used to peddle on pot-ware made at the Cowpens furnace. He would (c)arry load after load up into the mountains and barter them off for mountain produce, which he would carry back to the furnace and exchange for more pot-ware, keeping what money he might receive for his ware in his pocket as the net profit of his business. The South Carolina Manufacturing Company about the year 1815 commenced business at a place called Hurricane Shoals on
Pacolet River, seven miles East of Spartanburg C. H. This company manufactured nails, had a foundry and rolling mill and dealt in iron generally, but I am getting too far away
from High Shoals, as that is the place I am writing up. I have stated that this is the place where iron was first made in this part of the country, and that the beginning was in the last decade of the eighteenth century. I have also stated that the beginning was a small thing, but I use the adjective, or qualifying term “small” in a comparative sense and not in the abstract sense, for if the beginning made at High Shoals in 1791 be abstractly considered it could not be called small. It was a big thing for the time and country, and I have no doubt but the excitement in the country and the interest felt among the people in 1791 when the Iron Works were being built at the High Shoals were equally as great asthey were in 1887 when the 21,000 spindle cotton mill was started at Henrietta.
Peter Fisher has now started his forge with two fire-places, in which he melted his ores. He used mostly what was called red ore, which was dug out of the surrounding hills where it was found in great abundance. This kind of ore was hard to work. A very high degree of heat was required to fuse it and much hammering to get it in shape, but when well worked it made good tough iron, well adapted to agricultural purposes. The first hammermen employed in this forge were by the names of White and Bradly. These men were employed by Fisher for a number of years. I think they worked for him as long as he continued business at this place. About the year 1812, while Jackson’s war was going on, Fisher failed in business and his works were sold. Just at this time the country was passing through a fearful financial crisis, and as money was scarce and hard to raise the new iron works sold very low, bringing, as I remember to have heard my father and mother say, only about one-half of their actual cost. They were bought by Reuben Cooper, a man of very little energy or business talent, but strictly honest and high-toned. I well remember “Uncle Reuben,” as we all called him, when I was a boy. He lived right near my father’s house for some years and would often pass there in going to his son William’s. He was a very poor man, having no home or personal property of any kind, and I remember to have heard it said, when his poverty would be talked of by the people, that he once owned the High Shoals Iron Works, but he ran them only a short time and they were sold again. They were bought this time by Achilles Durham, and here I reach a point in my reminiscences and a part of my history, in which many will feel a special interest. The man whose name I have just mentioned was one of the most noted characters in the country. He had studied law when a young man, but had never gone to the bar as a practitioner. His knowledge of law was said to be equal, if not superior, to the ablest lawyers that came to the Rutherford bar, and I remember to have heard it said that even the judges would confer with him and seek his counsel in regard to difficult points in the legal profession. He was a man that stood among the people as did Saul of old. He was said to be the most popular man in the country, and in proof of which I would mention one circumstance, which occurred, I believe, in the year 1835. (1834-Editor.)
Joseph Carson, a man of the first order of talents and of high standing among the people, had represented the county in the upper house of the Legislature for some years and had given, so far as I remember, entire satisfaction to his constituents, but in some way he had given offense to this man, Achilles Durham. Carson was a lawyer and is the same man I have mentioned of that name in some of my early reminiscences. He ranked with such men as Mike Hoke and John Gray Bynum in his profession. Durham’s legal knowledge
was equal, perhaps, to that of Carson’s, but Carson had the advantage of him in that he was a regular practitioner at the bar, and when employed in a case against Durham he took such a stand and used such language as highly offended him. He now became his sworn enemy and declared that Joe Carson should no longer be Senator from Rutherford county. But now, how is this gigantic undertaking to be accomplished? For it certainly was a big undertaking to beat old Joe Carson, but Durham undertook the job. He was a great organizer. He could take a small force and so organize and place it as to bring forth the most wonderful results. He now begins to devise plans for defeating Carson in the next election, but he could find no man of notoriety who was willing to undertake the task and come out as his competitor. He finally however, succeeded in persuading Berryman Durham, whom I think was his youngest brother, to become a candidate. This young man was entirely unknown by the people, having just grown up, and had not been before them for any office. He was looked upon and regarded by the people as an ordinary young man, not rating above mediocrity in point of natural endowments. There was nothing, so far as the people could see, to make his election at all probable, but he was elected by a very handsome majority, and it was his brother’s influence coupled with his powers for organizing, that secured his election. Achilles knew all the prominent and most influential men in the country and he either went to see or wrote to them and got them well organized into an electioneering body, and by this strategy he accomplished the big job he had undertaken and beat old Joe Carson.
Some years before his purchase of the iron works he had bought a body of land on
the West side of the river right opposite the shoals. The forge, when he bought it, had but two fireplaces, but he soon added the third one and the building of this third fireplace was the cause of a suit in court that lasted about fifty years. A man by the name of Ross owned the land on the river below the iron works and he claimed that his line ran through the forge and cornered on a little island out in the shoals and that this third fireplace was on his side of the line. He commenced suit, which was not closed ‘til the place was bought by John and George Baxter about a half century later. My personal knowledge of the High Shoals Iron Works commenced three score years ago. It was then owned by Achilles Durham and had been run by him for a number of years. At the time of which I now speak there were three fireplaces in full blast. Five men, as well as I remember, were all that were employed to run these three fireplaces. Three hammermen, one coal-bearer and one to attend to the ore beater, which consisted of a small iron pestle making about three beats a minute. The first hammermen have now given place to their sons, George White, Jr., and Tom Bradly, Jr. Durham was the owner of a good many slaves for that time and part of the country, among them were two very stout men, Jubilee (Jube) and Coon. Jube was the ore-master and Coon the coal-bearer. The third hammerman was Henry (Hal) Bradly. He was a brother of Tom’s. The nationality of the Bradly family was not fully defined. It was well understood that they did not belong to the Anglo-Saxon race. The ancestors of the family claimed to be full-blooded Indians. The first one of the family, of whom I have any recollection, was old Aunt Winney, who had in her features some very striking marks of the Indian race. She lived to be very old and finally committed suicide by hanging herself in the chimney corner, by fastening a hank of thread around the pole, to which the pot-rack hung. This pole was several feet up the chimney, but there were some projecting rocks, upon which she could place her feet and
reach it. It was supposed that she first tied the hank of thread around her neck, and then placed her feet upon these projecting rocks, climbed up the chimney till she could reach the pot-rack pole, around which she fastened the hank of thread and then swung off. This took place in the darkness of the night when the family were asleep. The old home in which this tragedy occurred stood on the hill just a little piece from the big spring between Henrietta No. 1 and No. 2. The house in which Craig Lovelace now lives stands very near the spot on which this old house stood. Well do I remember how we children used to dread passing this place on our way to school. In taking a little stroll the other morning with Squire James Simmons, I passed by this tragic place. I could linger for awhile and take a retrospective view. What a wonderful faculty of the mind is memory. How quickly it carries us over space and time and permits us to look upon scenes that transpired in our early childhood! Nothing has escaped that was ever planted in the mind, and how easy it is for us to think of events and for things to come vividly before the mind that took place in the “long ago!” What force is in the word “remember!” Its power is two-fold in its results. It sometimes and in some cases brings great joy and peace, while at other times and in other cases it brings bitter remorse and profound sorrow of mind and soul. With what awful force did it fall upon the care of the rich man, of whom we have an account in the Gospel, when Abraham said to him, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime hadst good things and Lazarus his evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented!” This great attribute of the human mind is not lost at death, but is carried with us into the future world, for it is evident that the rich man, by the exercise of this wonderful faculty, could think of and look at what had taken place in this world, and I am ready to conclude that this will be the greatest source of anguish and remorse in the world of lost spirits. When neglected opportunities, slighted mercies, despised privileges and unimproved advantages all pass with panoramic review before the mind of those, who have been eternally doomed to the fires of destruction, oh, how greatly will their misery and suffering be augmented! Memory, oh, thou eternal attribute of man’s immortal nature, how often has it been wished that thou couldst be forever obliterated and eternally blotted out.
Coon, the colored man before mentioned, though a slave and as black as Egypt, seemed to have some aspiration about him. He kept a spelling book with him all the time, and I remember how he would ask me to teach him when I went to mill and how very anxious he was to learn. His book was all covered with smut and dust from the coal which he handled. There was a grist mill in close proximity with the forge. At this mill they ground both wheat and corn. Wheat mills in the country were then scarce. For some miles around the people would bring their grain to have it ground. I was now large enough to be trusted with a horse and sack of grain and go to mill. These mill occasions I enjoyed hugely. While my grist was being ground I would go down into the forge and stand around the blazing fires, which if the weather was real cold, was a pleasant thing to do. Here I have stood for hours at a time and looked upon the iron making process with as much interest and delight as I now gaze upon the vast amount of buzzing machinery, which is being run upon the same spot by the same power, and turning out its forty thousand yards of nice smooth cloth daily. If I had the talent or gift for contrasting I
would like to exercise it just here a little while. Contrast means an examination of differences. Contrast High Shoals with Henrietta. Show the difference between the old forge and the Henrietta Cotton Mills. I have already stated that five hands worked in the forge. I think the outside hands numbered about fifteen, all told, including wood-cutters, wood-haulers, colliers and coal-haulers. I was told some time ago by S. B. Tanner, who is secretary and treasurer of the company, that they had seven hundred hands employed. The difference in the value of the products of the two places and the amount paid the laborer is altogether as great as it is in the number of operatives employed. I am trying to contrast the place as it was three-score years ago with what it is now. How wonderful are the changes and how different is the appearance! The venerable David Beam, who did business there in 1842, said to me the other day, “I visited the place sometime ago and tried to know it, but I could not make it out.” I have been told that the late Dr. Columbus Durham, who was born and raised on the High Shoals Hill, said while visiting there some two years ago, “If I had been brought here blindfolded and sat down on these hills and had my eyes opened upon the place that once was so familiar to me I would not have known where I was.” I think I would have enjoyed the old place as it was when I remember to have gone there as a mill boy, but am more delighted with the new place as it is. Progression is the order of nature. God made nothing to stand still or be inactive. Inertia clogs the wheels of progress, and if universal would bring about a state of general stagnation. Let us go forward in the best and most sensible acceptation of the word, which is to advance in whatever may conduce to the glory of God and tend to the prosperity and general good of our common humanity. The marvelous progression at High Shoals has been conductive both to God’s glory and the general good and prosperity of the people. There is no section of the country, which has developed better or more rapidly than this. The secular prosperity among the people is very largely owing to the erection of the Henrietta Cotton Mills. Here is a market for all the products of the farm, the garden and dairy. I have heard of one man living near Ellenboro that sold in one season cabbage to the amount of one hundred dollars. It is a good wood market. At least ten thousand cords of wood are sold in this market annually. This puts into circulation among the people close around about thirteen thousand dollars every year and when the amount, for which other commodities are sold, is added to this, the sum will be fully doubled. All this is in reference to Henrietta No. 1. If we consider No. 2, which is drawing rapidly to completion, every statement may be a little more than doubled. And just here the interrogative forces itself upon me, and I feel constrained to ask, “Who has done all this?” And the question at once brings into lively exercise that extraordinary faculty of the mind – Memory. It instantly carries me back over space and through time and sits me down in an humble rural home. This home I cannot forget. I was impressed with its neatness and quietness, quiet, though there was a baby in the home. The young mother had just a few months before looked upon the face of her first born, and was now happy and rejoicing in a well-developed, fast-growing boy. Of course the baby was brought out and commented on, while some prophecies were made in regard to his future greatness cannot call definitely to mind to what height the baby boy was elevated in those random predictions, but feel perfectly safe in classing them among the fulfilled prophecies.
My readers are next invited to look upon the seven-year old boy of thin visage and pale face, but keen eye, with books in hand on his way to school. His school days were not many, but well improved. As soon as he was large enough for work he went at it with vim. When able to manage a team and handle wood, he engaged in wood-hauling. As wood was rather cheap and shoes high, he had to deliver three loads of wood to get him a pair of shoes. This he did with willing hands and a cheerful mind, but he is very soon thinking about business and looking out for a situation. It was already observed that he had talent for business, a cast of mind for governing and the faculty to control. He enters a large retail house without the promise of pay. Here he did faithful and satisfactory work until he is employed by a large wholesale house as a traveling salesman. In this position he continued for several years, and I hesitate not to say that the drummer’s calling was never more honored and dignified than by the manly bearing and fair dealing of this young man, but he now takes another step forward – becoming a large stockholder in a company organized for the purpose of building a large cotton mill. The company elected him to the responsible offices of secretary and treasurer, and sent him out to begin work. The work was begun and rapidly driven to completion. The energy, with which this enterprise was pushed forward, broke the record for quick building of cotton mills, and I am now ready to answer the question, “Who hath done all that?” My readers will behold the man when they look upon the person pf S. B. Tanner, secretary and treasurer of the Henrietta Cotton Mills.
The wonderful changes that have taken place at High Shoals are now before my
readers. There is now another question forcing itself upon me. Has the church kept pace with the world? Have the changes and the improvements in the church in spiritual conditions of the world been as great as the secular improvements have been, or have we to make the same lament as did the Savior, and with him to say, “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than are the children of light.” We sometimes hear it said, even by ministers of the gospel, that the world is getting worse instead of better, that the ministry is losing its power and the church its spirituality. If I were gifted with analogical powers, would be glad to use them just here a little while. Christianity is on the advance. Its progress may apparently be slow and seemingly it may not, to the casual and superficial observer, be fully abreast with the world, but when a full survey is taken by the mind that is unprejudiced and by those, who are not naturally inclined to be pessimistic, it will be evident that the “Kingdom of God” is coming, and though it may be with slow steps yet its tread is certain. There are a great many, and especially among the older people who think that the old times were better in every respect than the present. We are free to say that there was much in the good old times to be remembered, admired and emulated, but with all of our admiration and love for the past and as much as we
enjoy making occasional visits into the “long ago,” yet we cannot regard them as being
better, or even so good, as the present. We do not wish to do, as did the Gaderene, take up our abode among the tombs, and yet occasional visits to the place where our dead are buried may do us good and excite within us greater desire for usefulness, and “teach us so to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” We have no inclination or desire, as some people seem to have, to live in the past, but at the same time we find it pleasant, interesting, edifying and stimulating to take retrospective views, to look at and to think about the past. According to the common saying there is only one class of people
who live in and enjoy the present. The young, it is said, live in the future, the old in the past and only the middle-aged in the present. I think we lose much by not taking hold of the present. The past is gone, the future is uncertain and we can only claim the present as ours.
I would like to trace the analogy between the improvements of the world and the advance of the church, between the secular and moral prosperity of this section of the country. Sixty years ago there were but few churches in the country. High Shoals was the largest and most noted Baptist church; in fact, it was the only one in the vicinity for some miles around. The house was made of pine logs of medium size, rather roughly hewn with the broad axe. The logs were not closely notched and the cracks were very large. Those who sat against the wall could find a place to rest their arms by putting them in the crack between the logs, and a row of arms could be seen hanging out by the church wall all along its length. Boys on the outside, who were inclined to mischief and loved fun, would stick the out-hanging hands with pins to see them jump. The original building was made longer at both ends by the addition of twelve or fifteen feet, made of logs very similar to those of the old part of the house, only not quite so large, and I think were made of old field pine. The seats were without backs and made of slabs or thick heavy plank, with holes in them, bored with a two-inch auger, for legs at each end, and one in the middle to make them solid. There was nothing overhead in the way of ceiling, not even loose plank were laid down, no sounding board until the roof was reached, which was fastened on with wooden pegs driven through holes made in the shingles and then hung over a narrow strip split from a pine tree and nailed to the rafters, with nails made in the blacksmith’s shop, but nails were hardly known in the country then. Wrought nails were only used when wooden pegs could not be made to answer the purpose. This primitive church was very uncouth in its appearance. The old part being considerably lower than the ends made it have a very unsightly aspect. This old open log-church was honored with the ministry of such men as Drury Dobbins and James Webb. Drury Dobbins was a little advanced in age as far back as I can remember. He stood among his peers as did Saul among the people, “from the shoulders and upward higher than any of them.” I have no definite recollection of his preaching – do not remember to have heard him preach only a few times. So far as I can call him to mind now, he was commanding in person, dignified in address and attractive in speech. He would hold his congregation spellbound for an hour and a half and on extra occasions for a much longer time. The church has shown her appreciation of his ability and of his Christian character by erecting to his memory a marble monument costing three hundred dollars.
The other man, whose name I have mentioned as being a leader of the hosts of Israel, I regard as having been intellectually superior to Dobbins. James Webb was the son of Daniel and Selah Webb and was born about two miles below the High Shoals in the last decade of the eighteenth century. He was a young man of fragile body, delicate in appearance, tall and slender in form. He was unique in his physical make-up. He rode mostly on horseback – do not ever remember to have seen him on wheels, though he may have used a buggy in his old age. He was pastor of the High Shoals church for fourteen
years in succession. During these years, while I was yet in my boyhood and early manhood, I attended frequently upon his ministry – was deeply impressed by the earnest appeals to the unconverted. His preaching was largely of the hortatory character, but like John the Baptist he “preached many things in his exhortations.” The first mention that I remember to have heard made of him as a preacher was by my eldest brother, when I was about eight years old. On Christmas day my grandmother Bedford was celebrating the occasion with us at my father’s house. My brother James went to the High Shoals church. On his return he spoke of the sermon in the most complimentary terms, saying it was the best sermon he had ever heard. My grandmother asked who was the preacher; he answered “Jim Webb.” The old lady’s countenance brightened up and the smiles covered over her wrinkled face as she said, “Well, Hock and Jim will be somebody yet.” Hawkins was the name of her “baby boy” James Webb and Hawkins Bedford were young men considerably above the mediocrity in point of natural endowments. They were about the same age, raised in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools. Their mothers were close friends and neighbors for many years, and it is not to be wondered at, or thought strange of, that they should feel a mutual interest in, and desire for, the well doing of each other’s boy, and hence the brightening up of the countenance and the covering over the face with smiles of my dear old grandmother when she heard that the schoolmate and chum of her “last born boy” was a “big preacher.” Both of them had managed to get a fair education for the time in which they lived. My “Uncle Hock,” – that was the name by which we all called him – was spoken of as the best school teacher in all the country around. His penmanship was unequalled. The copies that he would write for his scholars to imitate were so smooth and the letters so uniform in size and shape as very much to resemble those made by the regular stereotyped plate. He made his own pens of the common goose-quill, and was considered quite an expert in the art. His schools were generally large, and as a great many of his pupils were learning to write he was kept right busy making and mending pens. His physiognomy was very different from that of his friend Webb. He was very robust in body, having a deep, broad chest with long sinewy arms swinging to shoulders whose muscular powers were acknowledged to be unsurpassed. I remember once to have heard George McDaniel, a good friend of his, say, “Major,” this was a military title that he bore, “I would hate for you to strike me with all your might.” He was a Saul among the people both physically and intellectually, and in this connection I may also say “morally.” He was a good man – had license as an exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal church – was always faithful and zealous in his work. He was of a very emotional temperament, and very much in the habit of giving full vent to the emotions of his natural disposition. The demonstrations made were always in perfect harmony with the occasions. If he were in front of a pulpit exhorting sinners to “flee the wrath to come,” he would cry, but if on the stump making a political speech to his fellow citizens he would laugh. He represented this county for three terms in the State Legislature; was very popular with his constituents and also with his fellow representatives. His house was a home for the preachers for many years. It was here I often met them and learned to love them. He was the leading spirit at old Providence. This was the oldest Methodist church in the country. It was organized about the year 1792. Jesse Richardson was at that time the ruling genius in the ministry of the Methodist church, and I think Providence was organized by him. He lived very near the church. The house, in which he lived, stood just about where the house in which Millard Hopper now page 10 lives, stands. It was a two story house and looked very old as far back as I can remember. He also established a camp-ground, which, I think, was the first established in this part of the country. It was between the old Providence church and the branch running South of the church. The camp-meetings here were attended by the pioneer Methodist preachers of this country, by such men as Jesse Richardson, Joseph Moore, Daniel F. Christenberry, and I believe, James Arthur. These were all men of the first order of talents and were a great power for good in the church of God in those early days of Methodist. I have no recollection of ever seeing any of them but the last one named, though I was baptized by Daniel F. Christenberry when I was quite an infant. His family, or surname, was given to me as a Christian name. James Arthur I well remember, but he was old and frail when I first saw him.
The country at the time of which we now write was new and very sparsely settled.
Just a few families were then to be found for miles around. I am now tracing the analogy between the conditions of the country as it was then and as it now is, both in a secular and religious sense. How marvelous are the changes and how wonderful are the improvements, which are made in one century, in a country where the people are
intelligent, fairly educated, though I do not use the word educated in the broad and
comprehensive sense, in which it is now used in common parlance, to imply a collegiate course, but I use it in its more natural and appropriate sense to mean instructed and brought up, and when taken in this acceptation it may very justly be applied to the early and original settlers of this country by the Anglo-Saxon race, and in addition to the intelligence and culture of this people they had great enterprise and determination. So great were their industry and economy that some of them accumulated considerable fortunes and amassed great riches even before the Revolutionary War had closed, and the more miserly ones among them would sometimes bury their gold and silver for safe keeping.
Just at this time – the 12th of March, 1896 – there is some excitement and a great deal of talk about a hid treasure being found and buried money being dug up. Three days ago I saw the cavern that had been made in search for the long hidden treasure and from which, as some think, a large sum of money was taken. The story, as told, runs on this way: About the close of the War Between the American Colonies and Great Britain a certain man, name not given, buried a large amount of money – some fixed the amount at thirty thousand dollars, close by a church called Holly Springs. The church has long since been torn down but the spring and holly bushes are still there. It is the place where my uncle Larkin Lee lived and died. He died, I think, in the year 1820. I can’t get it very definitely fixed in my mind, but it is before me as a kind of dream, that I used to hear my father talk about the money that was said to have been hidden on the place where Uncle Larkin lived and was buried. James McMahan married my uncle’s widow, and lived on the place for many years.
The story goes, that years ago a company of men came in there, no one knew
where from, and camped on the place for several days, making diligent search for the hid
treasure, but found it not. The man, by whom the money was buried, as the story goes, left his home to be gone for a time and while away was taken sick and died, but while on his death-bed he told a man, by the name of Boyd, where he had buried his money, giving him the direction and number of steps it was from the spring and holly bushes, but no search has been made, so far as any one in the neighborhood knows, until one night last week some persons came – no one knows where from, or how many there were – and probed the ground in a good many places around with an iron rod of good size as was proven by the diameter of the opening it made in the ground. These probed places are to be seen all around the hole that is dug out. It seems that they were feeling for a rock and kept driving the probe down until it touched what they were hunting for. This is proven, I think by the fact that there are eight or ten flat rocks close by that evidently had been taken from under the ground. One side of two of these rocks is perfectly clean, having no sign of dirt at all. They look as though they had been placed over something that prevented them from touching the dirt on one side. The inference is that there were two pots or vessels of some kind, in which the gold and silver were put, and they were then covered over with these two flat rocks, but it is not certainly known that anything was found, as all the evidence is only circumstantial. It is, however, certainly known that many persons did bury their money during the old war and about its close, as did some about the winding up of the late Civil War when the Federal soldiers were passing through the country and pilfering by the wholesale. They not only tied out their horses, hid their jewels and silverware, but buried their money. A lady, Mrs. J. W. McDaniel, has just said to me, that she remembered seeing her father and uncle fix up their money in a wooden box and bury it. A company of marauders about the close of the Civil War came to her father’s house and demanded his money. All his gold and silver had been buried and was out of their reach, but her mother had seven dollars in silver in a pocketbook, which they found and took. They then went to the house of her uncle, Joe Biggerstaff, and made the same demand of him. He had some money yet in the house, which they found, and while counting it out around the table he made a deadly assault upon them with his axe, killing one and wounding two others; the fourth one starting to run he pursued for a distance, but failing to overtake him he returned, and as he was entering the house he was fired on by the two wounded men, who had somewhat recovered their strength, and was literally shot to pieces, being penetrated by seven balls.
But perhaps the digression from the main subject is getting a little too great, so I
must return. I call the attention of my readers again to the moral and spiritual progress of the district of county we are writing up. High Shoals and Providence were the two principal churches in this section. I cannot give the precise number of members at either place, but do not think that both together would aggregate more than one hundred and fifty members, and when we come to speak of finances we touch upon “the day of small things.” I have been told that the pastor of the High Shoals church received twelve dollars as his salary for one year’s service. The amount paid at Providence was not much greater than this. I have been taking a survey of the territory, which was represented by the membership of the two churches above mentioned, and by this survey I find that the same territory, or district of country, now has a representation in the several churches organized within its precincts of about seventeen hundred members, and if we turn away
from statistical reports of the church and look at her financial reports we shall find that even greater progress has been made along this line.
The salaries paid their pastors by the several churches in the bounds before mentioned will approximate very closely twenty-five hundred dollars. Bear it in mind that I am now taking an analogical view of the church and the world, endeavoring to find out whether the “children of light” have been as wise in their generation as “the children of the world.” Is the church lagging? Are her members slothful? Have her ministers lost their zeal and spirituality? Has the gospel failed to be the “power of God unto salvation?” These are questions we are trying to answer and the problem I would like to solve, but I am not ignorant of the formidable difficulties that confront us in such an undertaking. There are two standpoints from which we may look when we come to solve these problems, and the answer we give will depend upon the point of observation we occupy, and so I conclude we are warranted in giving both a negative and a positive answer, in saying no and in saying yes, but in order to keep this opinion from appearing somewhat paradoxical I must explain a little. If we look solely from the standpoint furnished by the spiritual state of the church and look only at the spiritual force and influence of the church, and when we hear the gospel preached in its purity and with its “heart-searching” and “soul-stirring” qualities and see the people unmoved and congregations untouched, then we feel justified in giving positive answer, but when we change the point of observation and look from the one offered by the enterprise and energy of the church members, we feel also authorized in answering negatively, and when the entire situation is fully taken in mind that have sufficient capacity for admitting such an observation, the concession will be made, whither voluntarily or forcibly by testimony that cannot be controverted, that the great wave of moral power and spiritual influence is now beating upon the shores and passing over the interior of heathen lands with greater force than has ever been witnessed in any former generation. The large increase in church machinery and the notable improvements in moral mechanism generally are indubitable evidence to my mind that Christianity is more progressive in spirit and practice than in any past age of the world.
I spoke of Achilles Durham only as a man of wealth and affluence and high standing, and would be glad to leave him before my readers in this character, but after mature thought and deliberation I have reached the conclusion that it would not be exactly just to my readers to leave him, and it can certainly do him no injustice to state facts as they were developed. Every man makes his own history, and the same may be said of nations.
It is not the prerogative of the historian to make history, but simply to record it as
it may be furnished by men and nations. Mr. Webster defines a history to be “a
systematic relation of facts and events.” History relates facts and events, and of course the faithful and true historian must give a replete account of facts as they stand connected with whatever subject he may take in hand. Every phase should be presented so that a correct understanding may be had. And if, while relating such facts, in order that a proper conclusion may be reached, a word of warning can be given in a way, so as to turn the whole incident to good accounts, then more than the ordinary object of history is
accomplished. Fain would I omit this part of biography. His latter days were full of sorrow and bereavement. Never did a man end his earthly career in greater sadness and affliction. How can such an event, so full of disgrace and ignominy, be so manipulated as for anybody to receive the least possible good in any possible way? There cannot be even a gleam of hope, only in one direction. Can I persuade my readers to take a look with me in that direction just for a little while? That effect should follow cause is the great law and the eternal principal of nature. It is at this principle that we ask our readers to look and it is this law that we wish them to study. Consider them in reference to their bearing on the case now in hand. If we can induce to due and timely reflection, then would appear a gleam of hope for good results. The young men of the country compose the class, in which we feel the deepest interest and for whom our sympathies are most profoundly excited, and it is to this class that our note of warning is now given. It is before your eyes I wish to hold up the sad picture that you may look upon it and see in it the danger signal. Here is a young man of commanding appearance, of polite manners and very affable in disposition. He is wealthy, intelligent and educated, “but he drinks.” Naaman was a great man with his master and in the Kingdom, “but he was a leper.” One bad quality will more than counterbalance many good ones. The “drink habit” very soon got the upper hand of him and brought him into a state of complete subordination, and now his hands are ready for crimes of deepest dye.
Satan, finding him such a willing subject, gave him something to do at once, for he had been leading him on from one degree of crime and wickedness to another still greater until the climax in crime is finally reached, and his hands, while in a state of intoxication, are imbrued in the hearts blood of his helpless and innocent wife. He drew her from her bed of sickness and literally stamped the life from her body. There was a post-mortem examination made and it was evident that injuries received from abuse was the cause of her death. He was arrested and imprisoned, and as no one would go on his bond he had to lie in jail for a long time. His trial was finally moved from Rutherfordton to Hendersonville. He was there tried and condemned. The sentence was branding and imprisonment. John and George Baxter, whom I have written about in some of my reminiscences, were his lawyers. They had known him all their lives and of course sympathized with him very greatly. When the branding iron was just touching the hand George, who was to speak in the State’s defense, knocked it off, but went on with the words that the law required and repeated “God save the State” three times. I beg the young man who may chance to read these lines, to bear it in mind that I am now writing about the great principle of “cause and effect.”
He had lain in jail until his body had become almost a solid mass of putrefaction.
Having no one to care for him or attend to him and he not being able to keep away the flies, they had deposited their eggs in the putrid part of his flesh and he was literally eaten of the worms while he was yet alive. In this deplorable and very pitiable condition he would doubtless have died had he not been visited by Col. John Baxter, who at once had him cared for and attended to. About this time Gov. Reid, who was canvassing the state for re-election, came to High Shoals, and being told of Durham’s condition said “I will
reprieve him.” Two of his brothers, Cage and Crawford Durham, went to Hendersonville and brought him home. He lived only about two months.
There are two families in this country, the origin of which, I presume, is known but by few. I refer to the Blanton and Womack families. They were in the country as far back as I can go in my memory. Thomas Womack and Nancy Blanton came from England to America about the year 1760. They had two children before leaving England, but had not been married. Their children’s names were Thomas and Archie. Shortly after coming to America, they decided to marry. Thomas took the name of his father and Archie the name of his mother, and so in process of time there were two families, one headed by Thomas Womack and the other by Archie Blanton. In the year 1779 these two families moved to Rutherford county, N. C. Archie Blanton was the father of our own “Uncle Jerry Blanton,” of such precious memory. This good old man lived right near what is now called Oak Grove church. Fifty-five years ago I think it was called Blanton’s church. Uncle Jerryand Aunt Sallie were noted characters. They were proverbial for piety and exemplary living. Aunt Sallie was the daughter of Thomas Womack. Archie Blanton and Thomas Womack were full brothers, having the same father and mother. A very novel case it was. And so Uncle Jerry and Aunt Sallie were first cousins, lived together for many years and raised a large family of children. I remember being at their house in the year 1842. Churchwell A. Crowell was then the Methodist preacher on the circuit and I had gone with him to Blanton’s church and to Uncle Jerry’s for dinner. This was the only time that I remember to have been at their house, for I left the country the following year and went out west, but I remember to have seen the old people often at church and to have heard Aunt Sallie talk and pray and praise, for she was a great hand to shout about and rejoice in church. She was faithful in obeying the command, “Pray to thy father who is in secret,” and the promise following the command. “Thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” was always fulfilled. She would clasp her hands and bless the Lord. Many a one has been deeply impressed with the earnestness, with which she would engage in the holy exercises of sanctuary. Even the very covering of her hands seemed to be impressive by the way they were used. Just the other day while talking about the old people with the wife of Franklin Blanton, who is a grandson of Aunt Sallie, she told me what a lady once said to her while she held one of the old lady’s half-handed cloth gloves in her hands, which she had chanced to come across and seemed almost to regard as being sacred, “Often,” said she, “Have I seen this old glove slap ‘glory’ to God,” and she was keeping it as a religious relic, something that would bring up pleasant associations in the mind of a religious nature, and nothing would more certainly bring about such associations in the mind of this woman than “Aunt Sallie’s glove.”
The two old people have long since passed away and gone to reap their reward for faithfulness in the Master’s vineyard. They had nine children, all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood Riley, Jesse, Josiah, Ransom, Jackson, Steven and Elijah were the names of the sons. Tempa and Sarah Ann were the names of the daughters. I believe that they all had families and raised a good many children.
The other branch of the family was not so prolific. They did not multiply and
replenish so numerously. Thomas Womack had a son Lewis. If he had other sons I have
not been able to get their names. Mrs. Louisa Smart, who is about sixty-five years old, tells me that when she was a little girl she knew a man by the name of Willis Womack and that his name was Anderson and from the best data I can get I conclude that Anderson Womack was the son of Thomas Womack, who came to North Carolina from Virginia in the year 1779, and that Willis Womack was a brother of Lewis Womack, who married Manima Padgett, or Hollifield. The Hollifields and Padgetts intermarried a gooddeal along about that time. Uncle John, Uncle Billy and Uncle Edmond Padgett were all brothers, and they married three Hollifield sisters. Uncle Edmond married Louranie. We all called them Uncle Edmond and Aunt Lou. They lived about one mile from my father’s house and I very often saw them. The style of Aunt Lou’s riding was rather novel, and to some, who were a little inclined to fun, amusing, for she rode not as was the manner of women, but otherwise. Lewis Womack lived only a few years after his marriage and died, leaving two children, Isham and Leah. These two persons are the first of the Womack family, of whom I have any recollection. Leah married Samson McDaniel, who was the father of our present honored citizen, Guilford McDaniel, Esq. Isham Womack married Betty Bailey, to whom were born sons and daughters who are yet among us.
The Harrill Family
There is more material to work up when we come to tackle this family in the way of giving its history than perhaps can be found in any other family in the whole country around. I have made some research in trying to find out the number of families bearing this name living in an area of ten miles square, and from my investigation I feel safe in putting the number at one hundred families. The first man by this name that came into Rutherford county, so far as I have been able to find out, came from Virginia about the year 1780. His name was Housen, and this name has been well preserved in the Harrill family and handed down from one generation to another until it may now be said, the name is “legion.” Housen Harrill came to this country with a small family. His wife’s maiden name was Street and her given name was Frankie, and this was the origin of the name “Street” in the Harrill family. They only had one or two children when they came from Virginia. They had five sons in all, Richard, Gilbert, Street, Samuel and John Richard. The oldest one married the only daughter of Rev. Drury Dobbins. Her name was Artie. She was familiarly known and called by the people all through the county, “Aunt Artie.” They had born to them six sons, Drury, John, Street, Samuel, James, and David. They also had several daughters, one of whom married a man by the name of Wilson and one a man by the name of Jones. They are both yet living.
The sons all had families and I believe all have children and grandchildren now
living in the county. There is but one of the sons now living, so far as I have been able to find out, and he is known as “Big Dave” of Ellenboro. Drury had two sons, William and John. William lives at the Suttle’s old place near Henrietta No. 2, and is known as
“Talking Billy.” John lives in Charlotte. He married Miss Sallie Suttle, the youngest
daughter of B. F. Suttle. William Harrill, who married Ester Suttle, was the son of
Housen Harrill. To them were born nine sons and two daughters. The names of the sons
were David, Housen, James, Pleasant, Dobbins, Baxter, Bateman, Samuel and Homer. James and Homer are dead. Samuel, the son of Richard, married a Miss Hamrick. The fruits of this marriage were eleven children, six sons and five daughters. The names of the boys were Housen, James, William, John, Samuel, and Amos. The names of the girls were Rebecca, Prissa, Cynthia, Frankie and Susan. Rebecca, whom I think was the oldest child, married Martin Beam. I remember seeing her in 1838 while I was staying in Rutherfordton. Martin Beam was then making hats and selling goods in Rutherfordton. Prissa, whom I think was the second child, was born in the year 1800, and I am indebted to John Hamrick of Henrietta, for the following incident as given to him by “Uncle Sammie.”
He was rather expecting to be called up at an untimely hour from the signs of the time around and was trying to prepare himself for the worst as it might come, but when the Crisis came it very far surpassed all the calculations and preparations that he had made, and now how to meet the emergency was a perplexing problem to solve. New plans had to be devised and different arrangements must be executed, for now the snow is fully forty inches deep, and though the distance to the house of the midwife was only a mile, yet it was a fearful undertaking. “I had as fine a horse,” said Uncle Sammie, “as could be found in the country anywhere, but I was afraid to risk him under existing circumstances in the hands of a negro, for the snow was well up to his sides and I was almost as careful of my horse as I was anxious about my wife, but there was no time for parleying, so I hastily saddled up and plunged through the snow, but never before had I confronted such formidable difficulties in the way of traveling. My horse had forcibly to plough his way through the snow. His steps being short and seldom, but little headway was made. Finally the place of destination is reached and the errand is made known, but now comes the real “tug of war.” By what means can the “old lady” find transportation? It required a strong horse to breast the snow and a brave woman to start out at such a time, but as “the King’s business required haste,” so do some other ‘occasions!’ and now no time is to be lost, so the old lady mounted the already well tried and practiced steed, behind the present rider, and was carried slowly but safely through. When the time was observed it was found that it had taken four hours to make the trip.”
This was the deepest snow that has ever fallen in this country. I remember very well to have heard my father and mother speak about the “big snow” that fell in the year 1800. It was up to a man’s waist. The little girl, who was born at this memorable time, grew up to beautiful womanhood and married George Blanton. He was a county merchant and sold goods on the old Lincolnton road leading from Rutherfordton, on the east side of Second Broad river. As far back as I can remember he was doing business at this old stand, but he very soon fell a victim of “strong drink” and died.
George Blanton had a son by the name of Bate, who followed in his father’s
footsteps and filled an untimely grave. He had two other boys, Hill and Guilford, who left this country when they were comparatively young men. Do not know what their life has been or whether it has ended or not, but hope that the end, if yet to come, may not be so sad as the one to which their father and brother came. There were two girls in the family, Susan and Margaret, whom I remember often to have seen in their early womanhood.
Susan married James Young and is the mother of Dr. Guilford Young, of Forest City. Margaret married Alex Wray of Shelby, and is the mother of my good friend, Arthur Wray, of Knoxville, Tenn.
Amos Harrill married Betsey Baxter. She was a first cousin of mine and a full sister of Judge John Baxter of East Tennessee. She was the mother of four sons, Lawson, John, Calvin and Samuel. Lawson is a doctor and lives in Statesville, N. C. John was also a physician, but died in Ellenboro a few years ago. Old cousin Amos died about ten days ago after living four score and four years. I called to see him some sixteen months ago and found him in bad condition, both physically and spiritually. His body disease was of a chronic nature and it was with great effort that he could walk at all. It was finally the cause of his death.
William Harrill, another son of Samuel Harrill, was for many years a prominent
man in the ministry of the Baptist church. He was a good preacher and a very exemplary Christian man. He had the misfortune to lose one of his eyes when he was a boy. I have been told that while adjusting some bows to a wagon-bed, in drawing one out to trim it still more, it slipped and having his open knife in hand the point being upward, pierced his eye-ball and destroyed the sight. I remember going to one of his appointments in 1852 at a church called Mt. Pleasant. He was remarkably kind and courteous to me on the occasion and would have me to preach for him. I took as my text, “We preach Christ crucified,” which led me to speak of the great doctrine of the Atonement. My friend and relative, Barney King, who I believe was present at the time, told me some days after that he asked “Uncle Billy” (for he was known among the people by that name) how he liked the sermon. He answered by saying: “When I hear preaching I give close attention and the part that suits me I hold fast, but the part that don’t suit me I throw away, but in that sermon I found nothing to throw away.” He was a true and devoted servant of God, and after serving his generation for half a century, fell to sleep and was received into the home prepared for the good and faithful ones on earth.
The Seth Branch of the Bedford Family
Seth Bedford was the third son of Jonas and Massa Bedford. They were my great grandparents on my mother’s side, of whom I made mention in my early reminiscences. They were both from England and I gave it my opinion that “Granny Massa” came over in 1756 on the same vessel with William Baxter, Joseph Roach, Samuel Miller and Katy Moreland. Grandsire Jonas came over a few years later. They were married as early as 1760, if not a little earlier. So far as I have been able to learn, they had only four children; three sons and one daughter. Raimond, Jonas, and Seth were the names of the boys and Eunice the name of the girl. I stated in some of my first writings that they had bought from the Government some several large tracts of land in different parts of the county, and as their children would marry off they would settle them on these lands, generally making them a title to several hundred acres. When Seth, their youngest son, married which I think was in the year 1792, they settled him on the Piney Mountain tract of land
in what was called the Sweezy neighborhood. He married Miss Mary Francis. She became the mother of eight children, six sons and two daughters. The names of the sons were Steven, Edwards, Joseph, Jonas, Peter and James; the names of the daughters, Eunice and Masa. Steven, the oldest son, married a Miss Blankenship. They had three children, two daughters and one son. The names of the girls were Mary and Susan; the son’s name was Seth. Susan married Phillip Owens and Mary married a man by the name of Farmer. Seth went to Louisiana, and Dr. Palmer tells me that he saw him in the late Civil War, that he was unmarried, but had heard nothing from him since. Joseph married first a Miss Elliott and then a Miss Bridges. His first wife bore to him three daughters. Their names were Mary, Nancy and Sallie. Mary married Dr. V. J. Palmer, Nancy never married, but lived to be fifty years old. She made her home at Dr. Palmer’s with her sister Mary. She died eight years ago. I would have been glad to have seen her, as she had the full name of my sainted mother, Nancy Bedford.
This writing is done in the hospitable mansion of Dr. Palmer in the upper part of Cleveland county, N. C. I take from the family Bible, as I find them there recorded, the names of the eleven children that were born to him by his loving, devoted wife, Nancy Catherine, Margaret Bedford, William Butt, Joseph Bedford, Thomas Rowell, Valentine Jackson, Jonas James, John Daniel, Mary Susan, Benjamin Hazard and Loamma Charles. Eight of these are now living but the other three, together with the mother, are gone to compose a branch of the same family in Heaven. How wonderfully grand is the expression of St. Paul when he speaks of “the whole family in heaven and on earth,” by which expression he conveys the idea of unity and at the same time the thought of separation. It is only one family, but it is separated. A part is in heaven and a part is on earth, yet it is the same family. Separation, but oneness.
I am now at the house of Malinda Stroud, the widow of the late Thomas Stroud
and daughter of Peter Bedford by his second wife. I have just gotten in from a visit to the “old family graveyard” made in company with Mrs. Stroud and her son Matt. I find in this old burying-ground about fifty-five graves. The oldest ones in appearance, so far as I could judge, were those of old Uncle Seth Bedford and his wife, though there were several others, which had visible marks of great antiquity. There was an old chestnut stump, which tradition said, stood right on one of the oldest graves, and if that be true the grave must have been made at least one hundred and fifty years ago. I judge that the first persons that died in this vicinity were buried there. These oldest graves have no tombstones, giving the names of those whose dust they enclose. In this ancient cemetery there is a short grave known as “little Jimmies grave.” Little Jimmie, I think from what Mrs. Stroud tells me, was the first born of Peter Bedford. He was a very sweet, sprightly little boy of six or seven summers. He as most little boys do, loved to go with his Pa about the yard and lot and even out into the fields, and it was said to me that little Jimmie’s tracks were seen in the soft places in the fields where he had played around where his father was at work, for sometime after he was laid in the grave. Little footprints sometimes make deep and lasting impressions on the minds and hearts of the living, and perhaps a wise and loving Providence may, in some instances, cause these little tracks to be made and preserved that some of his great purpose may be accomplished thereby. The father of little Jimmie was heard to say that it, “almost killed him” when he saw his little
page 19<be /> tracks in the mud, and who can say but that impressions were then made upon the feelings and conscience of that father that culminated finally in some great good? “God moves,” says Cooper, “In a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”
Peter Raimond Bedford first married a Miss Sweezy, who bore to him 5 children, three sons and two daughters. The first (little Jimmie) I have already mentioned, John and Jonas were the names of the other two sons. Mary and Sarah were the names of the girls. John died in the Confederate Army during the late Civil War at a place called High Point. His body was brought home and buried in the old family burying-ground. I stood by his grave today. Mary died while she was yet a young woman and was buried just at the head of her brother John’s grave. Jonas who is known all through this country by the name of “Duck” (a nickname given to him on account of his great propensity for paddling in the water) is now living in Texas. He owns in this neighborhood one of the best farms in all the country around, and it is said that he has made quite a handsome fortune since going to Texas. He married a Miss Lattimore, the daughter of Joseph Lattimore near Polkville in Cleveland county. Sarah, the other daughter of Peter Bedford, married a man by the name of Gettys and moved to Texas when her brother Jonas went, and is now living there. Peter Bedford married a second wife by the name of Blanton. She bore to him one daughter, who is the present Mrs. Stroud of whom I have already made mention in this chapter. She is the mother of seven children, five sons and two daughters. Her baby girl passed away two years ago and is now with her father and members of the same family, but on the other side of the River. Her other daughter married a Mr. Gettys and lives in this community. The five sons are all at home with their mother, and they seem to be vieing with each other in kindness, courtesy and obedience to her.
Seth married Margaret Sweezy, lived and died in this neighborhood. He was born in 1804 and died in 1869, aged 65 years.
Peter Raimond Bedford was born 1817 and died 1855, aged 38 years.
The “Raimond Branch” of the Bedford Family
Raimond Bedford was the second son of Jonas Bedford. He was my grandfather,
and was born in the year 1768. I think his birthplace was a few miles south of where
Forest City now is, and I have been told that some of the timbers out of which the house, in which he was born, was built, are yet sound, and have been used in erecting another building. The joists are said to be perfectly sound and are still used for the purpose for which they were originally designed. That house must have been built as early as 1760, for I have stated in my history of the “Seth branch” of the Bedford family that my greatgrandparents, Jonas and Massa Bedford, were married as early as 1760, if not a little earlier, and I am supposing this house to be the one in which they first lived after their marriage. Some people were very careful in those early days in selecting their building material. They would only take the very best, such as was all heart without any sap being attached . A house built of all heart lumber would not soon decay, and I judge from some
facts, which I have connected with their history, that these two old ancestors of mine were “wise in their generation” in that they provided well for the future and laid up a good foundation against the time to come. I called into the Register’s office the other day and examined some old records, and in these old books I found as many as eleven grants to land made by the State government to Jonas Bedford in 1782. Alexander Martin was then Governor and F. Glasgow, secretary of the State of North Carolina. These old grants conveyed land to the amount of fourteen hundred and ninety-nine acres. These lands were located in different parts of the county. I have already spoken of the Piney Mountain tract, which was situated on Duncan’s Creek, and deeded to my great-uncle, Seth Bedford.
I now come to speak of the High Shoals tract, which lay upon the waters of Second Broad river. This was a large body of land, a part of which was given to my grandfather and a part to David Liles. Liles had married the only daughter of my greatgrandfather; her name was Eunice. I have often heard my mother speak of Aunt Eunice Liles. She was regarded and spoken of as a woman of superior qualities, both of heart and mind, and was said to have been very handsome. Liles sold his part of the land to Achillis Durham. Durham sold it to Thomas Baxter, Baxter sold it to Thomas Wilkins, and it is now known as the Wilkins’ land.
Raimond Bedford married Patsy Hawkins in the year 1781 or 1782. (I may not be exactly correct in dates every time, but feel quite sure that I will approximate it very closely.) They settled on this High Shoals tract of land, and raised a family of six children, four sons and two daughters. The names of the sons were James, Jonas, Peter, and Hawkins, the names of the daughters were Nancy and Massa. James, the oldest son married Anne Poole. They had born to them eight children, six sons and two daughters George Lawson, Peter, James, Jonas and William were the names of the sons; the girls were named Patsy and Petay. Uncle Jim, that was what we called him, was a very poor man for many years after his marriage, but later on he became a man of considerable wealth. He struck a lucky streak by finding a right gold mine on his land. He then lived, I believe in the upper part of Rutherford, or lower part of Burke county, near the place known as Brindletown. His mine proved to be exceedingly rich, and after taking out a large fortune of the “precious metal” he sold his land for ten thousand dollars. I remember very well, though I was only a small boy at the time, when he passed through our neighborhood as he was moving to Georgia. There was a large company of them. His children were all along; some of them were married and had their families with them. He had a good many slaves. All told there were some thirty-five or forty persons in the crowd, and when they pitched their tents and kindled their fires it made altogether an imposing appearance. It would remind one of some great “caravan” as it passed through the country loaded with its merchandise and gold. They tarried on the road, just about where Butler Postoffice is, for several days, so as to give all the relatives around time to call and see them. He moved to Dahlonega, Georgia, and ran a hotel for many years. He has been dead a long time.
Jonas Bedford, the second son of Raimond Bedford, married a Miss Suttle. They
didn’t get along so well as man and wife, and only lived together a few years and
separated without having any children. He married the second time very much against the wish of his mother and relatives, for he married a woman of low standing and not pleasant in her ways. He went out to Georgia, and the last account I had of him he was working in the mines, but had never done any good.
Peter Bedford, the third son, was regarded as the flower of the flock. From the way I have often heard him spoken of he mush have been a very superior man. His name was called with reverence and his memory was almost cherished with a sacredness that amounted to idolatry. With the ear of imagination I can now hear my mother and grandmother and Aunt Massa Doggett saying, “your Uncle Peter.” These words were generally spoken when the eyes were suffused with tears and when the mind had vividly before it the image of one, whose memory was so precious and which would come up before them as the sweet smelling incense fresh from the “altar of sacrifice.” I have often wished that I could have seen Uncle Peter, and even now while I write about him, and have before me his manly form, and the many noble qualities of his mind. With the potency of his intellect, there springs up an inward sentiment, which hankers for a real personal interview and conversation with “Uncle Peter,” but in his case there was a clear demonstration of the truth of the old maxim; “death loves a shining mark.” He was cut down while in the very prime of his early manhood. His reputation and standing as a school teacher were not equalled by any person in the country, and his services as a teacher were sought by many neighborhoods. Even from Georgia he received a letter, begging him to come out and teach school for them. The man Fisher, elsewhere spoken of in these writings, had moved to Georgia; and as he was well acquainted with Uncle Peter and knew his qualifications and adaptability for teaching he wrote him a very pressing letter, urging him to come, with the promise of better days, so he arranged and went. I imagine it was a very solemn time at the old homestead—the place with which I became so familiar in after years—the day when this young man (dressed in his new well-fitting costumes, with his broad-brimmed white hat the passing breeze might fondle) mounted his noble steed. I have it from one, who was an eye witness on the occasion, and who well remembers his stately appearance as he rode through the draw bars, which had been lowered by her tiny but willing hands to give him passage, and not only is the color of his horse and the looks of himself remembered, but also his words which were spoken as his horse was stepping over the bars: “Be a good girl until I come back.” These words and those things are still fresh in the memory of old cousin Susan King, who is now eighty-five years old. She is the oldest relative I have living, so far as I know. My very aged nurse, Mrs. Nancy Hollifield, is yet living, and from the best data that I have been able to gather, from which to make calculations, she is now one hundred and fifteen years old. Uncle Peter never returned from Georgia, but died very soon after going out.
Of Hawkins Bedford, I have already spoken in these writings so I will pass on to
the daughters of Raimond and Patsy Bedford. And now I begin to tread on holy ground, and feel like doing as Moses was commanded to do as he approached the burning bush inthe wilderness, and take the shoes from off my feet, for I now come to speak of my own dear sainted mother. I have always felt like writing mother with a capital M. Nancy Bedford was the oldest daughter of Raimond and Patsy Bedford. In 1802 she married William Lee. To them were born ten children, six sons and four daughters. The names of
the sons were, James Raimond, Felix Walker, John Green , Levi Burrow, Christenberry and Herbert DeLafayette; the names of the girls were, Martha, Mary Chisolm, Massa Travis and Sara Casander. These ten children all grew to manhood and womanhood. The first person who died in my father’s house of his own family, was my mother, after they had lived together as man and wife for sixty-six years. I doubt if such another record can be found in the annals of our country. Some of the children died before my mother did, but they had married off and had homes and families, except brother John who died when he was a young man. My oldest sister married Reuben McDaniel, the second married Edmond Durham, the third married Jonathan Carpenter and the fourth married Hilliard Haynes. My oldest brother married Priscilla Flin, the next one married Elizabeth Howard, brother Burrow married Mary Wade, I married Lou Waters and brother Herbert married Sallie Damron. Only three of us are now living. Massa, the second daughter of Raimond and Patsy Bedford, married William Doggett. To them were born eight children, four sons and four daughters. The sons were named George, Peter, Lewis and John; the girls were named Susan, Nancy, Patsy and Betsy. George married first a Miss Watkins and afterwards a Mrs. McDaniel, Susan married Barney King, to them were born sons and daughters. Nancy married Edmond Durham.. Peter married a lady in East Tennessee, name unknown. Patsy married George Byers. Betsy never married. Lewis married a Miss Tanner. John married a Miss Harris. Four of this family are yet living.
A Short History of R. R. Haynes
"Honor to whom honor is due” is a maxim based upon the principle of equity and justice. Give every man his due. Let everyone have all that is merited. This is just and right. These thoughts were suggested by some facts being made known to me, of which I was previously ignorant. And I come now to place upon the “roll of honor” the name of one who has been a very important and active factor in promoting the prosperity and the building up of this section of the country.
I doubt whether the man can be found in this, or any other part of the country,
whose success in business has been greater or even equal, to that of R. R. Haynes. He
was left while yet in his early boyhood without a father, and he, being the oldest of the boys, had to take the lead in farm work and in business generally, and never was there a youth whose natural endowments better qualified for a position so responsible than did his. It was here where he took his first lessons in the management of business, in which he has become such an expert in these latter years. Responsibility, when fully realized, is often sanctified so as to result in great good to those on whom it rests. And even a burden when not viewed in the sense, of responsibility, may be very beneficial to the one on whom it is laid. And hence it is said by Solomon, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
In early manhood the subject of this short history manifested a business talent and a great tact in trading. He went down into the lower part of Union county, S.C., and ran a cotton farm for three years. During these years he made the discovery that cotton could be grown in Rutherford county, N. C. to about the same advantage that it could be grown in Union county, S. C.; so he returned to his native home and commenced the cultivation of cotton. He also engaged in the mercantile business in co-partnership with his uncle, William Walker. They were equal partners, each one putting in stock to the amount of two hundred dollars. He had the management of the business and made a very decided success in it. In a few years be bought out his uncle’s interest and became the sole proprietor. He now begins to enlarge his business, and to reach out in different directions for something new and lucrative. And it may be truthfully said of him, as it has been of some others that, “whatever he touched turned to gold,” and just about this time he “touched” something that was turned into a “big lump.”
He made a purchase of the High Shoals tract of land on the East side of the River. This was the land that was in litigation for so many years, about which I have had something to say in some of my former writings. There was no dispute about the titles of this land after the purchase was made by the Baxter boys, which I think was in the year 1850. They were both good lawyers, well posted in all legal points; and especially were they experts in tracing the chain of titles, which was necessary to make an undisputed title to a tract of land. Before taking a deed from Achilles Durham, who had the land in possession, and from whom they bought it, they were careful to see every person holding the shadow of a title against it, and from them they secured a title to all the interest that they claimed to have in it. And now when they get a deed from Achilles Durham, who has the land in possession and who is the last one holding even the shadow of a title to it, of course there can be no question about the legality of such a title; and holding such a title, it is equally evident that they could make one of like character, which they did, to their sister, Mrs. Micajah Durham, and it was from the heirs of this lady through a commissioner, that R. R. Haynes bought the land.
But he, being such a careful and prudent business man, looking into everything closely and investigating every matter thoroughly, had the chain of titles to this land examined by the Hon. Mike Justice, who pronounced it perfect and without any missing links, and when he was negotiating with the Charter members of the Henrietta Cotton Mills Company about the sale of the shoals and this land, he had lawyer Justice to make this statement before them in his first interview with them in the town of Shelby. And now the foundation is beginning to be laid, upon which the cotton mill is to be erected, and this man about whom we now write, took a very active part, both in laying the foundation and erecting the building. He was a wise and a safe counselor in devising and in executing their plans. He sold the company one hundred acres of land contiguous to the shoals. This gave him stock to the amount of twenty-five hundred dollars, to which he added twenty-five hundred more, giving him stock to the amount of five thousand dollars. He still has left, after selling the company one hundred and sixty acres on the east side of the river, which are now well dotted with tenement houses that are rented at prices, which, when aggregated, amount to quite a handsome income. On the west side of the river, joining the company’s land, he has a large body of land, on a part of which he
also has many houses to rent. His wonderful insight into business is marvelous. It seems as if he knew what was going to be developed or what was going to take place or turn up before it came to a pass.
There is no one in this section of the country who has been so successful in business, or who has accumulated property and increased in riches as has he. He is proverbial among the people as a man of business talents and as one of extraordinary good fortune, and while he is thus reported he is also currently spoken of as a man of fair dealings and honest purpose. I have yet to hear the first one speak of him only as a high toned gentleman and as a general benefactor among the people. I do not undertake to estimate his actual worth in a secular sense for fear his modesty might be offended, which can only be surpassed by his skill as a financier. Yet, I do not hesitate to place him among the very foremost of the rich men of our country and to speak of him as occupying a most enviable position, one to be greatly coveted. Not that I would unduly stress riches, or place too high an estimate on wealth, but when I see a rich man, whose wealth has beenhonestly acquired and fully consecrated to God, I feel that such a one is blessed above the ordinary walks of men.
For when we turn our attention to the other side of his character and view him as a
moralist and a Christian we find him to be even as Caesar’s wife: “above suspicion.” He professed faith in Christ and joined the church in his early manhood and has lived and exemplary Christian life, obeying strictly the injunctions; “Not slothful in business,
feverent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
Biography of Nancy Hollifield
About two years ago I saw it stated in a North Carolina paper that a colored woman had just died in one of the Eastern counties, aged one hundred and fourteen years. It was also stated that she was, at the time of her death, the oldest person in the state. The name of this very aged person, so far as I remember, was not given. It is very unusual for such an advanced age to be reached. It is only now and then that we hear of any person passing, or even reaching, one hundred years of age. Some few years ago I remember to have heard it said that Aunt Anne Carpenter was one hundred and five years old when she died. I am invited to be present at a birthday dinner on the twenty-sixth of this month (June), which is given in celebration of the ninety-ninth anniversary of Mrs. Deidamia Henson, but such occasions are certainly like angel visits, “few and far between.” But it is left to me to chronicle a case, which breaks the record for longevity since the days of Moses. “Moses died when he was a hundred and twenty years old; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” I furnish a brief biography of my old nurse, Mrs. Nancy Hollifield, who is now just about one hundred and fifteen years old. I have no doubt but that she is the oldest person now living in North Carolina, and perhaps the oldest in the United States. I stated in some of my early reminiscences that Katy Moreland came to this country from Ireland in the year 1756. She was the daughter of John and Betsy Moreland. This family settled in Columbia, South Carolina. Their daughter Katy married a man by the name of John Leake.
He was raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and while wagoning to Columbia he met Miss Moreland, wooed and married her. To them were born several children. One of them was named Nancy, and the other is the heroine, of whom we now write, and she is certainly worthy of the title, which we have given to her. She is certainly a worthy specimen of our common humanity. I have tried to philosophize a little on her case, and to see if certain facts could be reconciled to, or made to harmonize with, what seems to be some of the established laws of nature. We doubt not for a moment but what the great Author of nature’s laws has the power and prerogative either to change or suspend those laws at will. There is nothing connected with nature, things which are made which cannot be modified, without infringing any moral law or in any sense impeaching the divine character. This old lady has been marvelously endowed with vitality and natural force. There are two facts that may be stated in proof of this last insertion. First it may be stated with perfect assurance and without fear of contradiction, that she has done more hard work, real drudgery than any one woman – I am almost ready to say two women – in all the country around. While I am writing her daughter, Mrs. Smart has just said to me, “Why mama, when she was sixty years old, could bind wheat after two cradles, and when she was sixty-five could do more hard work than any of the girls can do now.”
Second, the fact that she gave birth to a child when she was full three score years old is proof not to be controverted that the vigor of her body was unequaled, amounting to phenomenon. When she was quite a little girl, her mother gave her to Jonas Liles, who lived near High Shoals. He raised her until she was nineteen years old. She then lived about with different families for a long time, probably twenty years. During all this time she was doing hard work and much drudgery. Her hands were always willing and her feet nimble, and wherever she went it seemed to be understood that she was to take the foremost row. About this time (1821) she went to live with the family of my father. Here she remained about eleven years. It was in the second year after she came into my father’s family that I was born. She was kind to my mother, giving her all the attention needed during her confinement, while she was tender and attentive to the baby, and when I think of those days of watchfulness and tender nursing there springs up a feeling and emotion very close kin to those possessing the heart of a child toward the mother. And when the many kindnesses, which were done in after life to my mother and her children and especially the faithful nursing given to my mother while on her last bed of sickness (for she was untiring in her attention to the last), are remembered, they produce the profoundest sense of obligation and gratitude.
She was married to Jacob Hollifield when she was well advanced in life, by
whom she had two children, but they are both dead. She has made her home with her only living child, Mrs. Smart, near Ellenboro, for some years past where she is well cared for and treated with great kindness. Last January three years ago she fell from the door steps and dislocated her hip joint, from which time she has not been able to walk, but her mind is vigorous and her memory good. In regard to events of ancient date her memory is marvelous. She can state with perfect clearness incidents, which I am sure occurred one hundred and five years ago. She remembered distinctly when the first grave was dug in the graveyard at old Providence church. From the best information that I can get this
church was organized in 1790. She says the first person buried there was a woman by the name of Goodwin. The second person buried there she remembers to have been her brother, Henry Leake.
Tradition tells a very pathetic story connected with this second graveyard grave.
There were a company of ladies going to church there shortly after this second grave had been opened, and when near the church they heard an unusual noise in the graveyard, which so alarmed them that the most of them were afraid to go any nearer, but one of them said she must know what it was, for it seemed to be a person in great distress, and when near enough to see they saw a person prostrate on the newly made grave, moaning and making lamentations with strong crying and tears, and when they had pushed their research still further they found that it was little Nancy Leake, who had gone there to weep over the grave of her dead brother. This incident, which must have occurred when she was about nine or ten years old, is proof of the real tenderness and sympathetic nature of her disposition, and though her long life of hard work and drudgery she has fully unmistakably testified to this redeeming and very praiseworthy trait of character by her many and persistent acts of kindness and true devotion. And while she may have been regarded by some, who were only partially acquainted with her and knew but little of her inner feeling, as being stern and austere, yet those who have known her best could see an
undercurrent of tenderness and love as it flowed silently and almost imperceptibly,
sometimes being quite covered over by harsh words and sarcastic expressions which were not understood only by those who knew her well. This old lady has lived far beyond the expectations of her friends or physicians, and from her I have been able to learn many things that have interested me and which I may tell others later on. She is now awaiting the time of her departure with patience and submission, though she sometimes expresses a desire for the day to be hastened.
I was born the 31st of March, 1823, in Rutherford County, N. C. My father and my mother were both natives of this county. My father’s name was William; my mother’s name was Nancy. Neither of them had a double name. My mother’s maiden name was Bedford. She was the daughter of Raimond and Martha Bedford. My father was the son of James Lee. He was a native of Virginia and came to North Carolina about the year 1774. His first settlement in this state was about three miles west of High Shoals, just a little back of the place where Jesse Webb now lives. The old walnut tree that stood near the house, in which my father was born, and the rock-walled spring, from which he drank and carried water in his childhood, are still there.
In company with Joe Webb I walked over the grounds and drank water from the spring, which are made sacred by the power and influence of association. When I bring into close proximity in my mind the place and the events that have taken place thereon, I am made to fell as though I should take off my “shoes” because “the ground whereon I stand is holy.” Here my father was born and lived til his marriage, which took place in
1799. He first settled after his marriage out on what was then, and is yet, called Island Ford road. The place was known for many years by the name of “the old Baxter place.” It is now owned and lived on by Mrs. Hamrick. Here he lived until three children were born in the family; Patsy, Polly and James. He then moved to my grandfather Bedford’s place, which was just one-half mile above High Shoals. Here he lived for two or three years.
He then bought a tract of land on Second Broad River, one mile above High Shoals. Here he built a rough primitive house with pine logs neither hewn nor scalped. It was in this rude tenement that I first opened my eyes upon the light of heaven and the objects of earth. I remember the old building, though it was torn away when I was only six years old. Just a little while before I was twelve years old I went to live with my grandmother Bedford. She was an old woman of four-score years and was very frail. I gave her all the help I could, brought all the water, cut and carried wood and made her fires. Very soon I was milking her cows, doing her churning and helping in various ways around the house. She was fond of cheese-making and in this branch of industry I soon became quite an expert. I had a fondness for the business as well as for the cheese itself. Many a one did I make and assist in making, but my dear old grandmother soon passed away. In passing out at the door she fell, sprained her hip and never walked any more. She lived only about one year after this, and like a ripe shock of grain was gathered into the “garner of the Lord.” How lonely was the night she died: I went by myself to tell mother that she was dead. And O, how desolate I did feel; I could scarcely deliver my message when I got there. Oh, I felt so sorry that grandma was dead, and I cried and sobbed. Mother spoke words of comfort and condolence. She said, “Oh, my son we ought not to grieve after your grandma, the good Lord has spared her to us so long, and she was so old, had suffered so much and was so well prepared to go, I don’t think we ought to grieve for her or wish her back,” and so I was able to dry up my tears, but could not help thinking how lonely we would be without old grandma.
I remained with my uncle a year or to after the death of my grandmother, and then
went to Rutherfordton and commenced with Wright Wilson and Ancil Harden to learn
the wagon and carriage making business, but not being so well pleased with my
surroundings and comrades I only stayed about two months. During this time I made
some very pleasant acquaintances; among them was David Beam. He was several years older than I was, but we were together several times during my stay in Rutherfordton. He was then a right young man and was doing business for his brother, Martin Beam. He was a young man of good moral character and fine business talents. Again in 1842 I had the pleasure of meeting him at High Shoals while he was doing business there for an iron manufacturing company of South Carolina. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few weeks ago and find him to be the same high-toned gentleman and energetic business man that he was in 1838 and 1842. I made also the acquaintance of the two Twitty boys, Decatur and Lafayette. They were fine looking and brilliant young men, fine specimens of our common humanity. In after years they went to Spartanburg, S. C., and carried on a large dry goods business for some years. They were both good businessmen, but traded too largely on the credit system, which made it against them in winding up. They both died in Spartanburg some years ago.
There was another man, whose acquaintance I made the short time I spent in Rutherfordton, the Rev. Abel Hoyle. He was the preacher in charge of the Rutherfordton circuit. He was a young man of small statue, broad chest, but rather delicate in appearance. He was a good preacher, and so far as I remember, was in good favor with his people. Wilson, the man with whom I boarded, was a Methodist and his house was a home for preachers, so I had a good chance to get acquainted with the “circuit rider.” He had heard that I was a member of the church and was very kind and attentive to me. I became very much attached to him and loved to be in his company, always feeling that I was edified and built up by his spiritual talks and Godly admonitions, but at the close of this conference year he was sent to another field of labor and I saw him no more. He has long since gone to reap his reward for faithfulness in the Master’s service.
I was engaged with Thomas Baxter, who was a thrifty farmer in the neighborhood, and went to farm work again. The wages that I was to receive, as agreed upon, were five dollars per month, which was considered at that time to be a fair remuneration for the labor of a sixteen year old boy, and so I was “sent into the fields,” not to “feed swine” but to plough and hoe and kill grass, and this was the work, in which my hands were employed for several years. Sowing and reaping. While with this man I did some hard, rough and even perplexing work. It was during my stay with him that those bottoms now owned by the Wilkins’ heirs and are in such fine state of cultivation, were cleared up and ditched off and prepared for the plough. Ditching is hard work; covering them over, after making a small rock culvert at the bottom as a drainage for the water, is rough work, but what shall we say when it comes to ploughing among the tussicks of an old mill-pond place where there is no solid ground upon which your horse can place his feet, but all is mire and softness for some distance around. The pough hangs under one of these tussicks, the many little fibrous roots holding it down being more than equal to the strength of the animal; there is a perfect hitch. Sunk into the mire half way to the knees he cannot give back; the strength of the youthful ploughman not being sufficient to handle the plough the hitch continues until it becomes very analogous to the dead-locks, which sometimes hold fast our legislative bodies.
I have said that I did not only hard and rough work but also vexing or perplexing
work, and now I leave it for my readers’ to say whether I have used a misnomer, or a
word inappropriately. If the wickedness of the Sodomites vexed the righteous soul of Lot from day to day, I think surely it would not have been less vexed had he have ploughed among turfs and tussicks of a mill-pond place, but not only did I do hard work while I stayed with Baxter, but other cares were upon me. A part of the time I had to look after and take care of a lunatic. Alfred McKinney, a very noted character in the county, had become insane. He was the only child of his father. His father was a rich man for that day, having some fifteen or twenty likely slaves and a large quantity of land. He was regarded as one of the wealthiest men in the country. Alfred being the only child, of course he was looked upon and spoken of as a rich man, but his riches proved to be a curse rather than a blessing. He married a Miss Moreland when he was quite a young man. His father gave him money to buy a nice stock of goods and he commenced merchandising on the south side of Main Broad River at the Island-Ford. He opened a large stock of goods and drew customers for many miles around. There was no country
store in the country that could compete with McKinney’s. It was said that he sold more goods than any one house in town, but he soon began to temper with the “fire water of hell.” He became a drunkard, lost his mind, squandered a great deal of his property, mistreated his wife, abused his children, annoyed his neighbors and finally was taken and lodged in the county jail.
Here he was kept some weeks, but my uncle Hawkins Bedford, who had been a
schoolmaster of his in their boyhood and having such a profound sympathy for him, went and arranged to take him out of jail and engaged to keep him at his own house and take care of him as best he could. This was before the lunatic asylum was established in North Carolina. But he found him very troublesome and hard to manage. He would get up out of bed in the night and wander off in the darkness, and in this way gave my uncle a great deal of trouble. He got very tired and worn out with him and got Thomas Baxter to take him off his hands. Baxter’s wife was very much against the arrangement, as she could not bear the thought of having a crazy man about the house, but her opposition was disregarded and the crazy man was taken into the family, and now the unpleasant task of taking charge of him and looking after him devolved to me. I had to follow him in his rambles by day and by night. I could stand the day rambles very well, but the night rambles got away with me, and in order to provide against them I suggested to Baxter that we devise some means, by which he could be confined in bed and stop his rambling at night; and so acting upon my suggestion we fastened a chain to the wall at the head of the bed, in which he and I slept, by taking an iron staple and putting it through the last link of the chain and driving it into the log, so as to allow the chain to hang down between the wall of the house and head of the bed, but little did I think when we were thus arranging that I was doing as did Haman when he erected the gallows upon which he intended to hang Mordecai. I did not dream that even an attempt would be made to fasten
me with the chain, which I had prepared to bind another. He was very quiet at night for sometime, making no attempt to leave the bed. I suppose he saw the chain and knew its object. Everything passed on quietly for sometime. My place in the bed was on the front side, so that he could not get out and not wake me up, but I was awakened one night, not by his trying to get out of bed as I had often been but by his trying to fasten the chain around my neck. He had reached down and drawn it up from where it hung at the head of the bed and passed it under my neck – I was lying upon my back – and when I awoke he was trying (as it seemed to me, for I did not move for a few moments after waking, waiting to find out what he intended) to pass one link through another, but it is not a time for long waiting when a crazy man is trying to fasten a chain about one’s neck. He had reached out and drawn it up from where it hung at the head of the bed and passed it under my neck, as I have stated before, so I turned over on my right side, the chain falling in front of me, and I lay quiet for awhile to see if he would renew the attempt. After he had waited sufficiently long, as he thought, for me to get fast asleep again he reached softly over, took hold of the chain, drew it up and was again trying to fasten the links together. What object he had in view I did not know; neither have I been able since, in thinking about it, to decide in my own mind what he intended to do, or whether he had any evil
purpose or not. Probably his object was only to frighten me a little, or it may have been that he thought of getting the chain so fastened around my neck that he could hold me down and give me a sound beating, or it may have been that he thought of chocking the
life out of me right there and then. We can’t define the thoughts of crazy man, but at this juncture I rose on him and asked what he was doing. He gave me no definite answer, but seemed to be greatly confused, jumped out of bed saying he was hungry and would have something to eat. We both dressed and started for the kitchen, and there chanced to be a good good (sic) supply of eatables on hand, as it was hog-killing time, and quite a good quantity had been cooked up and was ready for the emergency. I spread it all out and told him to help himself, and he pitched in without using either knife or fork, and though part of the supply had been finely hashed, he would use his fingers and while his head was thrown back he would cram his mouth full of the hashed meat; after this operation had gone on for sometime he said to me, “I am not eating this, because I want it, but just to show you that it won’t hurt me.” We had a sight of trouble with him, but I suppose Baxter was well paid for it all. I remember that he brought home three likely negroes at one time that belonged to the estate of James McKinney, and it was said that he got them all for taking care of Alfred and looking after his business, but he recovered pretty well from his insanity, gathered up the little stuff that he had left and moved out West.
I remember being at his home in Desoto County, North Mississippi, while I was traveling the Chulahoma circuit in 1850. He was then living on a farm and seemed to be doing right well. His wife told me he was not drinking any and was agreeable to his family. He might have been one of the richest men in the country had it not been for strong drink. It ruined him and brought his family into very destitute circumstances, and as it did for him and brought his family to degradation and want, so did it for many others of his day and so is it doing for many of the present age and generation. It is slaying its thousands annually.
This is the year 1840. I am now in my seventeenth year, a member of the church but not a professor of religion. I had been religiously trained from my babyhood. My mother, being a devoted Christian woman, feeling the responsibility that was upon her as a parent and especially as a mother, dedicated me to God in Christian baptism. I say Christian Baptism, because all the elements essential to constitute Christian baptism fully met in my case. I was baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I was baptized by a legal and constitutional administrator; the Scriptural element – water - was used, and I being a fit Bible subject for baptism there was nothing lacking to constitute what we consider, and recognize, to be “Christian baptism” but I had not carried out practically the work my good mother had begun for me. I had not up to this time given myself wholly to God. I had not fully consecrated my heart and life to Him and His services. True, I had experienced some very pleasant sensations and felt my emotional nature stirred within me as I had listened to the recital of personal Christian experience.
Some such occasions come vividly into my mind as I write these lines. There was
a prophet of the Lord, a holy man of God, that made his annual visits to our
neighborhood. He was as certain in his calls as the prophet Elisha was in his visits to
Shunam, “where was a great woman.” I suppose that Elisha went down to Shunam to
preach. This was the object of the prophet, of whom we now speak, in coming to our community. He came to preach His (?; his) name was John Godfrey, but all the people had a pet name for him and would call him “Uncle Jackie.” He would spend several days among us and visit from house to house. He was spending a night with Thomas Baxter, I was there. He related an incident that had occurred in his past experience, which fully established the fact that the mind could be so completely absorbed by devine meditation as to make it unconscious or insensible of the manner or way that the body is exercised. He said, “I was preparing a piece of new ground for a turnip patch. It was very rough and full of roots, but I finally got it ready for the plough, and now comes, I said to myself,” ‘tug of war.’ How can I get it ploughed? I had no well-trained, patient horse, nothing but a young fractious, half-trained filly. What shall I do? I got my gears and plough in readiness, but dreaded the undertaking. How can I plough such ground with a fretful colt? I began to feel that I needed help, but there was no one to help me, no one to lead the colt or hold the plough. I began to think up some Bible promise that I could claim and plead in this emergency, and one came instantly into my mind, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver thee.” I said, yes, that suits my case exactly. I’m in trouble. I don’t know how I am going to get through with this job, but the way was made plain to me in the promise; so I went right off and hitched up the colt, meditating at the same time upon the promise, thinking about the condition and trying to fulfill it, and by the time I was ready to begin ploughing I was considerably drawn out in prayer and meditation. I began my work and continued to call upon God, keeping in mind all the time that this was the condition to be met, and when fully met deliverance would be given. I never prayed more ardently and never had a more complete deliverance.
The ploughing was done, but I knew not how. Whether the colt had fretted or been quiet I could not tell. The first thing that I was perfectly conscious of I was standing at one corner of the patch looking how I could plough it a second time, and if I had been asked how the filly had done I could not have told. “It seemed to me” said the old man, “that the Holy Ghost came upon me and upon the colt and we worked in perfect harmony with each other, both being under Divine influence and control.” I have often spoken of this circumstance, because of its effect upon me. My tears flowed profusely. My emotional nature was touched and moved to its very center. I was convicted and almost converted, and if “Uncle Jackie” had called for mourners I would have gone up. If I had known the real, true nature of “the kingdom of God,” if I had understood that it were as a grain of mustard seed, small in the beginning but grew to be something great and glorious; had I understood all this at that time and have given the “little seed” proper culture I might have been saved some trouble and anxiety of heart later on. On another occasion, some three years before the one just recited, I felt my heart “strangely warmed.”
I was yet living with my uncle, but had ploughed a day for Thomas Baxter. The
field in which I ploughed was between the road, on which Geo. Hawkins now lives, and the creek. I think the road then was just about where it is now. The field was a large one, and the rows were long, reaching the whole length of the field and from the road down to the edge of the bottom (the bottom was not yet cleared up). After having worked with Baxter through the day, making as many furrows and ploughing as many rows as he did, I
was leaving for home; had gotten over the fence; was taking a few words, when he said to me, “Well Christenberry, we have been working together today in the cornfield; now let us work together in the field of the Lord, God has a great field to be cultivated, and we are the laborers that he employs for its cultivation. Every human heart is one of God’s fields, and oh, how much it needs cultivating. The soil is fertile and whatever grows there is luxuriant. If it be uncultivated and the seeds of sin allowed to grow therein, how fearful be the result.” As he talked along after this strain I felt a moving sensation within, which caused tears to flow from my eyes, and Baxter seeing that my feelings were touched reached his hand through the crack in the fence, took hold of mine and we had quite a good little hand-shaking. It may have been that the mustard seed was at that time cast into the soil and all it needed was proper culture.
In the year 1840 I attended the meeting at Camp’s camp-ground on the South side of Main Broad River, about two miles below Island Ford. It was at this meeting that I made for the first time an open profession of religion. I don’t remember that I went to the altar very often. Don’t think I did, but while there a stream of light and glory was poured into my soul as though it came right down from the regions above. I saw it before it reached me. It had the appearance of an electric flash as it darts across the bosom of the threatening cloud. It seemed as if it came right into my heart, and just then the burden was lifted and an uplifting influence came upon me and an elevating power seemed to take hold upon me. I arose from my knees, sat upon the bench and asked my brother John, who sat close by, to sing. I wanted to hear music, for now the sweet music of heaven was ringing in my head and was responsive to the sweet music of earth.
Soon after this the Rev. C. A. Crowell, who was then preacher in charge of the Rutherfordton Circuit, appointed me class leader at Providence Church, which office I held as long as I remained in the country. In the year 1843 I went out with my brother, Felix Walker, into the western district of Tennessee. He had lived here seven years, having gone out in the year 1837. The first year after I went out there was spent in going to school, preparatory to the work to which I then felt I was called. In the early spring of 1844 I was licensed to preach by the Quarterly Conference of the Lagrange Circuit, which met in the town of Lagrange, G. W. D. Harris was presiding elder, Wilson L. McAlister preacher in charge and Lewis L. Davis junior preacher. As soon as I received my license I went directly to the Oxford circuit in Mississippi. It had been previously arranged that I should travel the balance of the Conference year with William R. Morgan, who had lived in the previous year in Lagrange and with whom I had become well acquainted. He was a good man and a faithful worker. The Memphis Annual Conference met that fall in the town of Sommerville, Tenn. The quarterly conference of the Oxford circuit gave me a recommendation to this conference for admission into the traveling connection. I attended the conference and was received on trial.
This was the first conference after the division of the Methodist church. It was
presided over by Bishop James. He was a Northern man and a new Bishop, having been elected at the late General Conference, which was held in New York in the previous May.
He was a good little man, was well received by the conference and presided to the entire satisfaction of the conference. He preached an able sermon on Sunday from the text, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He held on to the North and was never at another Southern Conference. My first appointment (was) the Ripley circuit. It lay mostly in Tippah county, North Mississippi. My colleague (was) William S. Jones. He was a good man, but not a very strong preacher. William M. McFerrin was my presiding elder. He was the brother of John B. McFerrin, the editor of the Nashville Christian Advocate; a good preacher, but not so able a man as his brother. It was a very pleasant year with me, though something occurred to bring sorrows to my hear(t). It was this year that my brother John died. He had gone out West about one year before he died. I had seen him only twice after he went out. He died at the house of a Mrs. Johnson seven miles from Lagrange. The disease with which he died, I believe, was typhoid fever. I was holding a meeting at a church called Hickory Flat. The news that my brother was dead came to the church on Saturday, but the brethren thought best, as I was alone in the meeting and had all the preaching to do, not to tell me until the meeting was over. We closed on Sunday in the afternoon. I went home with a brother Moorman, and they then told me of the death of my brother. That afternoon an incident occurred, which greatly impressed me and of which I have often spoken.
Of course we talked about things that were solemn and impressive after having received such sad news. Our conversation was about death and the necessity of being prepared for it at any time. There were two children present, listening to the talk, one the son and the other the granddaughter of brother Moorman. They were about the same age, eight years old. These children, it seems, were impressed by hearing us talk and made to feel the importance of being ready to die. After while the children were missed. Search was made for them, but it was sometime before they could be found, as they had gone some distance from the house down a little branch through the thick woods, looking, as it seems, for a very private and secluded place where they could be all alone. We had all gone out in search of them, and after a half-hour of anxious looking they were found kneeling by an old log, apparently in great agony, for they were both crying and praying with much earnestness of mind and spirit. Never before had I seen anyone in greater distress on account of a sense of sins unforgiven than were these two children, and so they continued for sometime after we found them, crying out and saying, I am not prepared to die, I am not prepared to die, but after talking to them for awhile and giving them all the instruction and encouragement we could, they were relieved. The mighty burden, which had weighed so heavily upon them was lifted; their trouble(s) passed away, their crying ceased, their countenances were changed, and I have never before nor since witnessed brighter or happier conversions than were theirs. The little boys’ especially was wonderful and to his mother it became alarming, for the little fellow expressed himself as wishing right then to go to Heaven. His mother said to me, “I believe the Lord is going to take my boy right now.” My reply was “Let him do whatsoever seemeth it good. If the Lord thinks best to take your child now,” said I, “it will be all right.” He was not taken then but lived to be a burning and shining light in the church and in the world. The last account I had of the children they were still witnessing for Christ.
My next work was the Itawambia Circuit. Here I was in charge, having Robert Martin for a colleague. He was several years older than I, both in age and in ministry, and I thought at the time should have been the senior preacher. My third appointment was the Fulton Circuit. It was on the Easy bank of the Tombigby river. Here I was alone and felt a little desolate. The circuit was large and I could give them preaching only once in four weeks. During the year we had some good meetings and quite a good many joined the church. Right near the town of Fulton lived Uncle Hugh Rodgers. He was rather a noted character, a good church member, faithful in attendance, but rather miserly, paid but little to the support of the gospel. I was sent the fourth year to the Purdy circuit, which lay mostly in McNairy county, West Tennessee. Here again I was without a colleague; had a large work and could only give my churches monthly appointments. The father and father-in-law of Jesse Welch lived in the bounds of this church. Jesse Welch was one of the most brilliant, promising and popular young men of the Memphis Conference. He took a good start and stood high among his brethren for some years; later on he got in some trouble and I believe was put down from the ministry, and I don’t know what became of him finally. His father was a nice old man and stood high on the community. W. M. McFerrin was still my presiding elder. My work was in his district four years.
My fifth appointment was the Granada circuit in the most southern part of our conference. Robert L. Andrews was my presiding elder. He was transferred from the Tennessee to the Memphis Conference, and I believe the Grenada District was his first appoint in our conference. He was a good preacher and very soon became quite a favorite with all the people. I was again this year thrown a great deal in company with Lewis H. Davis, the blind preacher that I have before mentioned. He was stationed in Grenada and boarded with a brother Sims. He had (been) at the same house every conference that I had attended. He was a very pleasant companion and always seemed glad to have me with him. I would read for him and then we would talk about the lesson read. He was a good expositor of the Bible. I have listened to his exposition with much interest and profit. He lost his sight when he was fourteen years of age. While splitting a piece of pine, one end flew up and hit him in the eye, which caused inflammation, and the other eye went out through sympathy. He was one of the most devoted men I have ever known. He spent more time on his knees in prayer than anyone I have ever been with. He was a very useful, faithful and devoted traveling preacher. He was an effective itinerant for more than forty years. He died about ten years ago as a member of the North Mississippi Conference. Many are the souls that will rise up and call him blessed in the great judgment day.
From Grenada I was sent to the Chulahoma circuit. This charge lay partly in
DeSoto and partly in Marshal county. It embraced a rich district of country. Large farms and many servants were owned by the people. Among some of them there was an aristocratic spirit, which made it a little unpleasant for me and very much so for a young man by the name of Abrams, who was sent with me as junior preacher. He was a young man of good mind, some education and deep piety, but the official members thought he would not suit the work, and the first quarterly conference requested the presiding elder
to remove him. They were very tender and polite in dealing with the young man, simply giving it as their judgment that he had better go to school awhile longer. And now I was left alone again upon my work.
My presiding elder this year was Moses Brock. At one time he was entirely broken down and could not preach for several years. He commenced his work in the ministry in Virginia when he was a young man. Later on he was a member of the North Carolina Conference, and then was transferred to the Memphis Conference. He was now an old man, rather feeble, but preached strong sermons. He had never married up to this time, but married twice after this. There was some little romance connected with his first marriage. There lived in the bounds of his district an old wealthy local preacher with whom Mr. Brock made his home. His name was Henry Warren. He had no children and his home was very quiet and pleasant, so he said one day when they were alone, “Bro. Brock, when you quit traveling I want you to come and live with me; make my house your home.” Bro. Brock gave him thanks for his kind offer and invitation, and so time passed on a few years and Bro. Warren died, and a few years later Bro. Brock located. And he was without a home, but he remembers Bro. Warren’s kind invitation, but he also remembered that Bro. Warren is dead but sister Warren and the home are there so he ventured to call and remind Sister Warren of what Bro. Warren had once said and how kindly he had offered him a home in his old age. When he had finished his recital, by which the sympathy of Sister Warren was aroused, she said, “Yes, certainly, Bro. Brock, you are welcome and to come and make my home your home the balance of your days.” Seeing the old lady did not exactly “catch on,” he said “But Sister warren, you don’t fully understand what I mean; I want to marry you.” By this time her sympathies were more deeply touched. She felt that the old, worn out itinerant needed a home and a companion, and she was willing to give him both, and so she again said promptly in a solemn tone and even with tearful eyes, “yes Bro. Brock you can do that, too” so the old people were no longer “twain, but one.” They were completely happy in their new domestic relations and so it continued until Sister Brock was taken away. After this Bro. Brock again married, and when he died left a young widow and one child.
The next year I was sent to the Clinton circuit, which lay in the new, or as it was
called by some, Jackson’s purchase of Kentucky. They gave me this year as a colleague a young man by the name of Brooks. He was a very pleasant, nice young man and a good preacher. My presiding elder was also by the name of Brooks, Joseph H. Brooks. He was on the Paducah district. He was regarded as one of the best preachers in our conference, but I heard him only a few times, for it was this year that I came back to my native state. My constitution is now broken down, my health has failed and I am left only a mere wreck of my former self, for I have now had the chills and fever for seven years, with but little intermission, having been in a malarial country all the time. The western climate did not agree with me, and I was advised by my best friends to leave. My brother Felix had stood it very well and so had my brother Burrow but it was too malarious for me. I liked the country – I mean the soil and the people – very well, and would have remained there if I could have had health in that climate, but it was the opinion of my friends and of
myself that I had to leave the country or very soon go to my grave. The quarterly conference gave me leave of absence for six months, and I started immediately for North Carolina. It was a big undertaking for an invalid to start six hundred miles on horse back, or on wheels, for then there were no railroads through the country. I had a good horse and buggy on hand and felt that I could make the trip by taking my time and resting on the way. I left Kentucky in the early spring of 1852. I was on the road three weeks making an average on thirty-three and one-third miles per day. I traveled very leisurely, stopping sometimes a good while before night. I spent one Sunday in Nashville with Dr. J. B. McFerrin; went to the McKendree church and heard an excellent sermon. I also spent a night with the Rev. W. G. Brownlow in Knoxville, East Tennessee. He was one of the most noted characters in the country. I had often heard of him “by the hearing of the ear” but mine eyes had never beheld him. I was received by him with great kindness and entertained with much courtesy and respect. I never met him after this time, but I have been at his house and have seen his wife and some of his children several times since his death. His widow still lives in the house in which they lived in the year 1852. But I am now back at my old native home – have seen my father and mother and some of my near kins-people, and now forty-four years later in the year 1896, this writing is done in the room and right near the spot where I stood when the sainted spirit of my precious mother left the tenement of clay and passed away from earth, exchanging its pains and sorrows for the joys and pleasures of Heaven.