A Diary of Public Events and Notices of My Life and Family and Of My Private Transactions including Studies, Travels, Readings Correspondence, Business Anecdotes, Miscellaneous Memoranda of Men, Literature, Etc From January 1st, 1845 to August, 1845 and Sketch of my Life from Infancy by Samuel Hervey Laughlin
In April, 1845, Samuel Hervey Laughlin wrote, "Those were pleasant days---their memory is full of sweet melancholy---and I pen these events here, knowing that no eyes but those of my children, grandchildren, or those who will hold my memory in equal respect, will ever see what I now write. I wish my father or grandfathers had written and left just such free, unreserved, and full memoirs, however badly or hastily written."
Mr. Laughlin comprehended the importance, to following generations, of the accounts of an individual's daily life and personal activities. Such information often fills a void for historians and those trying to gain an in depth understanding of past events and circumstances.
This diary was transcribed by Anabel Easley Tidwell, a direct descendant of Samuel Hervey Laughlin, and her daughter-in-law, Janet Malone Tidwell. It is their hope that in reading these pages their children and grandchildren, and any other interested parties, will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the life and times of this illustrious gentleman.
A Diary, Etc. for the year 1845-
In the year 1834, commencing in the month of December, during a journey from Nashville, Tennessee, where I then lived to Washington City, made for the purpose of concluding arrangements for the establishment of a newspaper at Nashville, to be called "The Union", I commenced and kept a journal of my travels, embracing remarks on political events, discussions, notes of consultations etc. which is preserved among my books and papers, bound up with a similar diary kept during my journey to the Democratic National Convention at Baltimore in May 1840, and also notes made during my journey to the Baltimore Convention of 1844, by which J. K. Polk was nominated as a candidate for the Presidency. These former diaries and journals I refer to as containing my notes and remarks on men and events, and my personal participation in the several transactions to which they relate. They also contain in separate diaries (but bound together) of my participation in the legislative measures of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, at its several sessions from October 1839 to perhaps January, 1844, I having served in the State Senate from the district first composed of the counties of Warren, Franklin, and portions of the new counties of Coffee, Cannon, DeKalb, and Van Buren, and subsequently under the new apportionment of 1841-2 of the counties of Warren, Cannon, Coffee, DeKalb, and the territory now composing Grundy County. In 1839, at the instance and on petition of Uriah York, Wm. Armstrong as a surveyor, and of three or four hundred citizens living on Caney Fork of Cumberland, Rocky River, Cane Creek, etc. I procured the new county of Van Buren to be established, and, as there were then a majority of democratic members in both branches of the Assembly, I had the honor of giving the name of Mr. Van Buren to it; and the Seat of Justice, Spencer, was named by Mr. Samuel Turney, a Senator from White County. In 1843-4 on the petition of large numbers of citizens living on the head of the Elk River, Hickory Creek, Collins River, and Cumberland Mountain, I assisted zealously in the State Senate in getting Grundy County established, and by my pertinacious perserverance, got it named after my old and valued friend, Felix Grundy, who had died in November 1840, while holding the appointment of Senator in Congress, which I had aided in bestowing upon him in the winter of 1840, and in inducing him to resign the office of Attorney General of the U.S. which he then held under an appointment from President Van Buren. In May, 1840, as a member of the Baltimore Convention, he had aided powerfully by his wise counsels and eloquence, in producing harmony in that body, resulting in the unanimous nomination of Mr. Van Buren for re-election to the Presidence, and a unanimous agreement to nominate no democratic candidate for the Vice Presidency. This was done to produce harmony. Col. Johnson desired a re-nomination. In Tennessee, in the Assembly in 1839, I had introduced, and the democracy had carried a legislative nomination of Mr. Van Buren and Col. James K. Polk for these high offices. When the convention was about to meet, to prevent all collisions of claims, Col. Polk magnanimously withdrew his name-but these matters are all noted in the diaries referred to and form only a digression and brief repetition here. One word, however, in regard to Mr. Grundy before I proceed with this introduction. In the recess of Congress in 1840, he labored incessantly in public discussions and in speeches in favor Mr. Van Bursn's re-election. He returned home from Washington in the spring and early summer, after congress adjourned. Through Virginia and East Tennessee, by way of Abingdon, Knoxville, McMinnville, etc. to Nashville, accompanied by Hon. Hopkins L. Turney, and Harvey M. Waterson, they being representatives in Congress, he made speeches to the people (Mr. T. & W. doing the same) at nearly every town and place of public note on the whole route. At McMinnville, my county town, my residence being at Hickory Hill, one mile distant from it, these gentlemen, Mr. Grundy leading, all made speeches to a very large and attentive assembly of people, including many ladies. This was in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Mr. G. although indisposed, laboring under an invetorate derangement of the bowels, made one of the happiest efforts I have ever heard him make. I had been in the habit of hearing Mr. Grundy at the Bar and in the Assembly, and before the people, and then more recently in Congress from the fall of 1815, when I removed from McMinnville to Murfreesboro for the purpose of concluding my studies, and engaging in the practice of law. After I came to the Bar, and had been elected Attorney General, at the very outset of my professional career, in 1817, I was thrown into constant professional and social intercourse with him. He honored me thus early with his confidence and friendship, and it continued without abatement-in fact greatly increased on both our parts-up to the day of his death. He was a really great man. He never was a hard student as far as reading books was concerned, but he read men-he understood men at first sight, as if by intuition, better than any man I have ever known. He was in another sense an intense student. He was more in the habit of what Mr. Wirt, in the British Spy denominates "Close and solid thinking", than was known generally, even to his most intimate friends. In the progress of the trial of great causes in court, especially criminal cases, his habit was to take but very brief notes of leading facts and points. When the court would adjourn over to the next day, Mr. Grundy was always among the first to leave the court room, and retire to his lodgings, and from that moment until after tea or supper, he mingled with every person about him in all manner of cheerful conversation, telling anecdotes which he did inimitably, and in hearing and joining in the heartiest laughs at those told by others. He always seemed to have forgotten the cause in hand, even if it were one of life and death. But after this relaxation, and eating temperately, he immediately retired to his room. He generally preferred to have some friend with him in his room at all times. On such occasions, I have no doubt, I have spent a hundred nights in his room, rooming together during the fifteen or sixteen years we attended courts from our respective homes together. If the weather were cold, he always, if the beds were large enough, preferred sleeping together. After going to his room, unless some indispensable consulation prevented, he was always the first to propose going to bed, and he always had the unusual and extraordinary power, by abstracting all his thoughts, of going to sleep in two or three minutes after the time came when he chose to sleep. Going to bed, and to sleep this early, and always sleeping soundly, he usually awoke about one o'clock in the morning. It was then, and not until then, that he commenced the intense and profound study and preparation of his case, and arranged in his own mind, all the heads of the speech he had to make the next day, or before the case closed. If the trial lasted three or four days, as many important cases, civil as well as criminal often did, this nightly task of study and preparation was regularly taken up every night, but always with more care and system the night before he had to deliver his argument. Even in chancery cases, after the reading of all papers and records and notes taken of dates, leading points fixed and concluded by proofs and depositions, he made the same nocturnal preparation. Even the splendid sentences, and occasional poetical or classical quotations by which he embellished his speeches before juries, were thus prepared, perfectly committed to memory-and nothing committed to his memory was ever lost or forgotten-and the order and connection in which he would introduce them were all thus arranged and prepared. To me, for a great many years, he made no secret of his art. To those who heard him in court, and saw him scarcely ever looking at or taking a note unless it were in the conclusion of a speech, where he would occasionally turn over and look at his notes, out of abundant caution for fear the warmth of debate had caused him to overlook some fact or authority, I say, to the lookers-on, all this appeared perfectly extempore, when in fact it was the effect of cautious and careful preparation. Such, however, was the exuberance of his splendid imagination and the excellence of his memory, that upon thousands of occasions, upon incidental points arriving, offhand, and altogether extempore, he made many of his most masterly speeches, both for eloquence and argument. Scarcely any many ever lived who needed the discipline and preparation to which he schooled himself, less than he did. But he felt it to be a duty to his client, to his causes and himself, lest by a more careless method, he might perchance omit some argument or some ground which would be beneficial to his cause. In all cases, when the proofs were all submitted, he saw at once, with perfect intuition, the very point-or the several points-always few however-upon which the cause must turn. To fortify and maintain these, throwing all extransous matters to the winds, was his method. Hence, generally, his speeches were not labored or very long-never apparently too long or too short. The great controlling faculty of his mind was his profound and clear judgement. He was embued with a greater share-always ready and always at hand-of common sense than any man I was ever acquainted with. The man nearer to him in this respect, whom I have known, is his favorite pupil and friend, James K. Polk, the present President of the United States.
Mr. Grundy by his labors in the public cause of democracy, in which he believed the best interests of his country were at hazard, during the presidential canvass of 1840-his traveling to distant places, over-fatiguing himself-and neglecting the constant disordered state of his stomach and bowels-caused the disease to become so permanently seated that he was compelled at length to retire to his own house and shortly to be confined to his own room. He was still cheerful, apprehending no immediate danger, although he suffered much, and had become considerably emaciated and enfeebled. He still took a lively interest in the pending contest, and all his regrets were occasioned by the madness, folly, ribaldry, and infatuation of the Whigs and people misled by them, under their false professions and promises, and their ridiculous emblems of coons, canoes on dry land and other absurdities. He continued, however, to grow worse and worse, and weaker and weaker, until his kind physicians, Drs. Saml. Hogg and Felix Robertson-two of his oldest and best friends-despaired of his life. He was surrounded by a most affectionate family, and his excellent wife-the beloved wife of his youth-were unremitting in ministering to all his comforts. At last, it was foreseen that he must die, He was in his perfect mind, and believed so himself. One of his physicians, while he pressed his hand, and with eyes suffused with tears and a choked voice, whispered kindly to him that they had concluded it to be their duty to tell him as a Christian man that he could not live much longer. He returned the pressure of the hand, and said calmly, the Lord's will, not mine, be done. This was nearly the last words he uttered.
After his death, in winter of 1843-4, at the request of Mrs. Grundy, Mr. William W. Bass, his son-in-law, consulted me, and put into my hands various drafts of inscriptions to be put on a monument which they had bespoke in Philadelphia, and which was nearly completed except for the inscription. One was by Mr. Silas Wright, now Governer of New York, with whom Mr. Grundy had served long in the Senate of the United States, and the other, intended for a different side of the monument, or rather cenotaph, by Mr. Bass himself. I made copies of both at Hickory Hill, adding some points in the public life of Mr. Grundy, which I obtained from Marshall's and Butler's histories of Kentucky, which had escaped the recollection of Mr. Wright and Mr. Bass. With these additions, the inscriptions may now be read on the monument at the public burial ground, near Nashville, where Mr. Grundy's remains repose. Prior to his death, from about the year 1822, Mr Grundy had been a professing Christian, and member of the Presbyterian church. Dr. Edgar, of Nashville, his Pastor for whom he had a warm regard, preached his funeral sermon which was published at the time, but the worthy Doctor, not being either eloquent or a man of literature, it fell very far short of doing justice to the great man in whose honor it was delivered.
These reminiscences, hastily and promiscuously inserted here, before I commence my brief journal of passing events, I have deemed it proper to enlarge by the following miscellaneous souvenirs of the same kind, mostly in relation to my own past life, and my ancestors and family, in the hope that they may hereafter not be wholly uninteresting to such of my children as may not remember, or who may, perhaps, never see my memoranda formerly made, in a less permanent diary, which has a printed title page, with names of months, days, etc. I therefore think proper here to add the following memoranda in regard to my ancestors and myself.
From my grandfathers, John Laughlin, and John Duncan (who sometimes spelled his name properly, Dunkin, being a Scottsman by descent) and from my father, my mother in her lifetime, and from my Great Uncle Benjamin Sharp, of Warren Co., Missouri, I have learned the following particulars concerning my forefathers.
John Laughlin, my great grandfather, came from Ireland, with his family, consisting of three sons, John, James, and Alexander, James being the eldest, and Alexander the youngest, and three daughters, Jane, Elizabeth and Margaret, and on arriving in the then Colonies, at Philadelphia, about the year 1740, removed first to Chester County and then to the vicinity of where Harrisburg now stands in Pennsylvania, now Dauphin County I believe. About the year 1760, as Benjamin Sharp, my great uncle believes, (see his letter to me in my books of letters of 4 January, 1845, written from Warren County, Missouri) and about the year 1764, as my father remembers from family tradition, my great grandfather and his family, and many of his connections, intermarriages with the Sharps, Duncan's, etc. having been formed, removed from Pennsylvania to Virginia. My grandfather John Laughlin had married Mary Price in Pennsylvania, removed to what is now Bote Tounte County, near the place where the town of Fincastle stands previous to the year 1766, for in that year his second son, John who is my father, was born at that place. All the others, on removing, settled near the same place, or went on farther west and settled in what is now Russell County. My grandfather and great grandfather afterwards also removed to what is now Russell County and before the commencement of the Revolutionary war two or three years, to what is now Washington County, Virginia near Abingdon. There my great grandfather died before I was born. My grandfather, John, finally settled on the head of a creek under the Knobs, as a chain of mountains are called, called I believe, Sharp's Creek. He lived there until his death about 1813 or latter part of 1812.
My father, John Laughlin, was born on November 4th, 1766.
My mother, Sarah Duncan, was born on Sept. 3rd. 1773 in what is now Russell County, Virginia.
My great grandfather's son, John, married Mary Price, as has been stated, and had a numerous family of children. His final residence, about nine miles southwest of Abingdon, the farm having been inherited by his youngest son, Alexander now (1845) being a citizen of Coles Co. Illinois, is now, with the old farm of 7 or 8 hundred acres the property of John Thomas of Sullivan Co. Tennessee; and on the final adjustment of the boundary lines, by Mr. Taylor and other commissioners on the part of the States of Tennessee and Virginia, was ascertained to lie in the former state. In the time of the excise taxes of Washington's and Adams' administrations, it was claimed by both states, and lay in a strip of country a few miles between different lines, run by different boards of commissioners and neither state by law having exclusive jurisdiction, and even the Acts of Congress being enforced in neither between these lines because of some defect, the whole country, and every farm where water could be procured, was the site of a distillery. The repeal of the excise laws put an end to this state of things.
*For an account of the hardships of the first settlers on Holston and Clinch, and where Abingdon now stands, see Benj. Sharp's letter of June 15th 1842, in 1 Vol. Williams ' American Pioneers, published at Cincinnati, page 333.
The sons of my grandfather were Thomas, who died in June 1844 in Whitley Co. Kentucky at an advanced age, and married my mother's elder sister, Elizabeth Duncan who is yet living. They reared a numerous family of children. Thomas, their eldest son, is a citizen of Philadelphia, Monroe County East Tennessee, who has a numerous family of sons and daughters-one of whom, his son, Marshall Ney, a graduate of East Tennessee University is now (March 1845) a student of law at my house and in my office at Hickory Hill, Warren Co. Tennessee. My uncle's second son, John Sharp, is an old batchelor of my age, and lives with his mother in Kentucky. He was a member of the Kentucky Assembly in 1823, in Old and New Court times. His other sons, Alexander, Joseph etc. live in Missouri. His eldest daughter married Andrew Craig of Knox Co. Ky. about 1808 or 1809, and is now dead. His second daughter, Jane, married Isaac King, and lives in Whitley Co., Kentucky. His daughter, Eliza, and other children, have emigrated and settled in the west after marriage, but where, I do not know.
My Uncle Thomas fought gallantly in the Revolution at Kings Mountain, and commanded a Battalion in Col. Micah Taul's Regiment of Kentucky volunteers at the Battle of the Thames in the late war.
Alexander, the third son of my grandfather, married Lavinia King, daughter of the late venerable William King of Sullivan Co., Tenn., and with a numerous family, lives in Illinois. Many letters from him will be found in my bound books of letters from friends.
My grand uncles, James and Alexander, died, the former about 1811 in Washington Co. Virginia, at the place at the mouth of Spring Creek where Jonathan King, Esq. now lives. His children married and removed West. His two sons, James and Alexander, died in Rutherford Co. Tenn. many years ago. The latter, Alexander, died in Sullivan Co. Tenn. near Paperville, about the year 1816. Of my grandfather's sisters, Jane, Elizabeth and Margaret, Jane married Richard Price of Russell, Va.; Margaret married Samuel Vance, a remarkable man who survived her some years, after rearing a numerous family, and died about the year 1834, aged about 90 years, near Abingdon, Virginia. His sons, Robert, Samuel and Andrew were merchants of Clarksville, Tennessee, now all dead. James, one of his sons, lives near Abingdon. John another, lives near Memphis, Tennessee.
Elizabeth, my grandfathers sister married John Sharp of Sullivan, Co. Tennessee. They were married early after or about the time of the removals of the families from Pennsylvania. He was a soldier of the Revolution, fought at Kings Mountain, and was with my grandfather, John Duncan (properly Dunkin), a member of the Convention of North Carolina for ratifying the Constitution of the United States in 1788. The place where they then lived, was at that day, believed to be in what is now, and which then included all East Tennessee, Washington Co. Tennessee, then North Carolina. By an honorable life of frugality and industry as a farmer, he made a large fortune. His wife, who died before him, was deranged for some years before her death. He had a number of daughters-Sally, married to Thomas McChesney of Washington, Va. now both dead; Ann, married to Dreron Longacre of Sullivan Co., Tenn., both alive and surrounded by a numerous family of married and prosperous children; Margaret, married to the late Col. George W. Craig of Knox Co. Ky.; Marianne, married to Thomas McConnel of Washington Co. Va. now dead though her husband survives and is married again; Clarrissa, married to Mr. Cowan, of Sullivan Co. Tenn, who is, I believe also dead. He had no sons.
*My grandfather's true name is Dunkin-see pages 163 of this book-and Journal and Debater of North Carolina Convention to ratify con-stitution, of which he was a member, page 218, Vol. 3 Elliot's Debates.
John Duncan (sometimes spelled Dunkin erroniously), my maternal grandfather, was a native of Chester Co., Pennsylvania, and married Eleanor, sister of the foregoing John Sharp, before the families emigrated to Virginia about 1764 or 1765. He and his family with many of their relatives removed to Kentucky by way of Cumberland Gap and Crabb Orchard, and settled in the country around about where Lexington now stands, then, as I have often heard him describe it, one of the most beautiful and rich new countries the eye of man ever be-held. He located and settled on a little river called Kingston's Ford of Licking, I believe. In the year 1780-or between 1779 and 1781-Butler's and Marshall-s Histories of Kentucky will show the date, a statement in regard to which was communicated in 1842, and published at Cincinnati, Ohio, in the American Pioneer, by Benjamin Sharp, my grandfather's brother, in relation to the affair (see that work Vol. 1 page 359), my grandfather and his family, and all his friends, with all persons captured in Riddles and Martin's Station, old and young, black and white, were carried as prisoners by a party of British and Canadians, and a large number of Indians, and carried to Canada. They were carried down the Licking River to its mouth, between the two present Kentucky towns of Newport, where the United States have extensive barracks, and Covington, and opposite to the present site of the City of Cincinnati. From thence they were taken in boats and canoes down to the mouth of the great Miami, twelve miles, and thence up that river, and then by land and water to Detroit, now the Capitol of the new state of Michigan, and finally to Montreal. There, they were retained as prisoners until the close of the war when they were exchanged and returned to the United States through what is now northern and western New York, and through New Jersey to Philadelphia, where Congress was sitting, and thence to Western Virginia, from whence they had removed four or five years before. My grandfather on returning to Virginia, settled on the north bank of the south fork of Holson river, above the mouth of Spring Creek, just above an island where he died about the year 1818 his wife having died in 1816. By negligence in attending to his head-right or occupant claim for his land in Kentucky, it only requiring his personal attention to identify it which he never gave, he lost it. In fact, after his captivity, he never seems to have recovered his previous energy of character. He commanded one of the companies in Riddle's Station. After he was conveyed to Montreal, his eldest son, John, who afterwards married my father's sister, Polly, and in Kentucky about the year 1817, made his escape from Montreal in company with one or two young Americans, and made their way through the mountains and woods of western New York, and got in safely to Washington's army, having come very near starving on the way, having been driven to eat a polecat, and such wild winter berries and roots as they could find. From the time of this escape, my grandfather was thrown into close prison, being suspected for being the advisor of it, until he was exchanged. In truth, he knew nothing of it. His son, and one or two of this elder girls, who prepared provisions and clothes for their brother being the only persons of the family entrusted with the secret. They kept it secret so as to save their father from implication. John rejoined his family after their return to the United States.
The party of British who took these early Kentuckians prisoners, was commanded by a Col. Bird. Among the Indians were many renegade white men. The famous Simon Girty was among them. The white prisoners were retained by the British, but all negroes and slaves, and property of all descriptions was given up as plunder to the Indian allies. Thus, my grandfather lost a number of valuable slaves, and all his personal property. He afterwards, on her being restored after the treaty of Greenville, recovered possession of an African negro woman named Dinah, the mother of an old woman named, Easter, now in possession,of my uncle Joseph Duncan in Coffee County, Tennessee. Joseph was my grandfather's second son.
My mother, at the time of the captivity of the family, was about seven or eight years old and retained to her death a distinct recollection of the capture of the fort, given up by what was suspected to be Riddle's treachery, and of the voyage down Licking, down the Ohio, and up the Miami, and across the wilderness. She perfectly recollected the clear, limpid water of the lakes, and of the appearances of the Cana-dian population, their customs and manners, and much in regard to the shipping on the lakes, and of the surprise with which she passed through Philadelphia, and along Market Street on their return home, it ap-pearing to her youthful and backwoods imagination that Philadelphia was surely the largest city in the world at that time. She lived after-wards, however, to be extensively read, even in her younger days, in history, geography, travels etc. and when I was a child, often re-counted all the adventures of this captivity, with her fears, feelings, etc. on the various occurrencies of the scenes through which the family passed. Capt. Francis Berry, married to a sister of John and Benj. Sharp, was one of the captives. The Sharp family, John having married my grandfather Laughlin's sister, as before stated, consisted of three brothers as far as I remember, John, Thomas and Benjamin. A notice of John has been inserted. Thomas, who married a Maxwell-relation of Jesse Maxwell, Esq. who lives near Nashville-removed to Barren County Kentucky, and reared a numerous family. Col. Solomon P. Sharp, who was assassinated at Frankfort by Beauchamp, about the year 1823-4, who had been a member of Congress in 1814, and afterwards Atty. General of Kentucky and who was a member of the Kentucky Legislature when he was killed, was one of his sons. Fidelo Sharp, Esq. is another son. Dr. Maxwell Sharp, formerly of Bowlingreen was another, as is Dr. Leander Sharp of Ky. He had two daughters, one named Elleanor after my grand-mother Duncan, her aunt, and another whose name I do not know. One of these was the mother of V.K.Stevenson, and Volney S. Stevenson, merchants of Nashville.
As Mr. V.K. Stevenson told me on the Ohio, in February, 1845, as we came to Washington City in the suite of President, on his way to his way to his Inauguration, that his father was a curious man in collect-ing old matters of family biography, I had a copy of old Benjamin Sharp's letter of the 4th of the preceding January made, and sent to him from Washington to Nashville, in March, 1845.
The daughters of my grandfather Duncan, the sisters of my mother, married as follows, as nearly as I can ascertain. Elizabeth, the eldest, who was nearly grown at the time of the Canadian captivity, after the return of the family, about the year 1787, married Thomas Laughlin, my father's elder brother. Polly, also older than my mother, married James Hignight, who died in Powell's Valley some years since, about 8 miles east of Cumberland Gap, in Lee County. He left a numer-ous family. Faithful, another sister, married Abram Locke, who in 1820 removed from Lee Co. Va. to Chariton, Missouri, where and his wife both died near the close of the year 1843 or early in 1844, leaving a large family and a handsome estate in lands. He, in his lifetime, and his son H. P. Locke, have been my correspondents. (see their letters in my letter books). Eleanor, another, and the youngest of my mother's sisters, married Samuel Campbell in Washington county, Va. about the year 1808-and removed to Chariton, Missouri, with my uncle Locke, and he and his wife, surrounded by numerous children, some married, still reside there. Anne, an older sister than the last mentioned, married William Martin in Washington, Va. some time before the year 1797, and in 1798 removed with my father from Virginia, and Uncle Thomas, to what was then Knox County, Ky. My father and Uncle Martin settled on Indian Creek, as is hereafter stated-then Martin moved to what was called "down on Laurel", about 8 miles above the mouth of Laurel River on the road from Barbourville in Knox County, to Somersett, in Pulaski Co. Ky. This was then a wild region, the great falls of Cumberland, and Spruce and Dogslaughter creeks (named by my father-the latter because of the number of dogs he had killed on it in bear hunting-all being in his vicinity. Certain Cherokee Indians, under a reserve of hunting grounds in their treaties of 1805-06, continued to camp in a large cave or rock house near Mr. Martin's in the years 1807, 1808, and 1809. A Col. George, as he was called, was the principal man among them. About the year 1804 or 1805, the Indians, two skulking fellows, murdered a man named Johnson for his gun a few miles north of where Martin after-wards settled. About 1806, two others stole horses from my Uncle Thomas L. on Watts. These marauders in both cases, on application at the Cherokee Agency, at South West Point, at the mouth of Clinch, where it empties into Tennessee, Col. R J. Meigs being Agent, were arrested by the Indians, given up, the property restored, and punished.
The place where Mr. Martin lived, being a poor, pinewoods country, high clifts of rocks, and overhanging precipices on the creeks and rivers, with immense thickets of laurel, both the ivey and the moun-tain Laurel, abounding for the time in endless wild game, wild deer and saltpetre caves, he became dissatisfied, and in 1807, removed to Tennessee to the three forks of Duck River, near where Davis Mills and I. L. Armstrong's bagging and rope factory now stands. From thence he removed to Missouri about 1820, and now lives with his wife, surrounded by many children, in Livingston Co. Missouri, near Nave's Store post office, at which place his son, Thomas I. Martin, is postmaster-both being my correspondents, as my letter books show. Wm. Martin is a man I have always greatly loved for his kind, affectionate and happy dis-position.
My mother's elder brother, John, married my father's sister, Polly. He removed to Kentucky about the time my father died, and died in Whitley Co. near Williamsburg on his farm, now owned and occupied by Judge Tunstall Quarles, a number of years since, and his widow, and nearly all her children-all except one-now live in Missouri, not far from Wm. Martin. Joseph, my other uncle of my mother's brothers, as before stated, lives in Coffee County, Tennessee, where his wife (Ann a daughter of my grandfather's brother James Laughlin) died about 16 years since. His sons, Thomas, Alexander and Deane, all removed to Texas, and the two first died there about 1836-7. Deane, who had been to North Carolina, after a legacy of his wife, a Miss Scott who he married near Bolivar in Tennessee, died in East Tennessee on his return home, at Squire Eskridge's in Roane County, in 1838 or 1839, from the inflamation and mortification of an incission in his arm in letting blood. Alfred, Jos. Duncan's only surviving son, is married to his cousin, a daughter of his-uncle John and aunt Polly Duncan, and lives in Missouri, near W. Martin's. Mr. Jos. Duncan's eldest daughter, married to a man named Russell, lately living in Walker Co. Alabama, died in the fall of 1844-leaving children. His daughter, Eleanor, married to George E. Patton, who once lived at the ford of Elk River, on the north side, on the road from Winchester in Franklin Co. to Manchester, in Coffee Co. Tennessee, died in 1838 or 9, leaving several children. His only surviving daughter and youngest child, Henny, I think is her name, is married to James Lusk, who lives near the old man, two or three miles southeast of Hillsborough in Coffee County, who is a prosperous man.
The old man lives alone on a farm, well improved as to his lands, but when his wife died, he let a good house rot down which he was build-ing, and still lives in his old cabins. He has ten or a dozen valuable slaves, who make him nothing in profit. He has spent more in building a framed tenement and stone monument over his late wife's grave, in a beautiful oak grove near his house, than in all his other improvements. Seeing the lonesomeness of his life, my father and mother spent the winter of 1838, and spring of the same year with him. His son, Alfred, is an intelligent man, and affectionate son, and urged him much in 1842-3, when he visited him to remove to Missouri, near him-or to rent out his farm, or get some person to take charge of it, and amuse him-self by travelling about to see his children, grandchildren, and numerous kindred in Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, etc. but he refused to consent to leave home, although he had been all the way to see his sons in Texas the year before Alexander and Thomas died. He is an active old man-small in stature-but vigorous, and still for health and pleasure, and from old habit, works with his negroes on his farm, and rides all over the Cumberland Mountains (living at its base on the north side) attending to his live stock, having a large stock of horses, mules, cattle, sheep and hogs. His attachment to his present residence (he first lived on Stones River on the head of Brawly's fork when he removed from Watt's Creek, Whitley Co. Ky. to Tennessee and to Ky. he removed from Lee Co. Va. adjoining his brothers in law, Hignight and Locke, seems to arise from an unwillingness to leave the place where his wife's remains are interred. I have no doubt he wishes to be buried beside her. My father, my mother in her lifetime, his only remaining son, and myself, have all entreated him to remove, and live among his old friends, but he will not listen to it. Between his labors, and some reading, he seems to be contented. His kindnesses, and obliging disposition have from time to time, for many years past, compelled him to pay large sums for persons for surety, many of whom have never been entitled to his confidence. One Roddie, for whom he has paid large sums, and whose family he has mainly supported for years, is an ungrateful, drunken, mean man.
One of my mother's sister, Peggy, not mentioned before in connection with her marriage, removed to Ohio just before the late war, with her husband, John Laughlin, called Big John, who was a son of my grandfather's brother, James, and who was not herin mentioned in con-nection with his brothers, James and Alexander, whose deaths are mentioned at page 20 ante. This John Laughlin and his wife both died in Ohio before 1820 as I learn. Their eldest son, John D. Laughlin, five or six years older than myself, while his father lived in Kentucky, and while I went to school to one Jeremiah Aulgan, hereafter mentioned, was one of my earliest friends and advisers. He married a Miss Sally Gilless of Watts Creek, and emigrated with his family. He lived, when he died, in Indiana in what is now perhaps Johnson County, near a place since called Gregorie's Store Post Office. He has a brother, James, I think, and his widow, still living near the same place.
One of my father's sisters, Hannah, the youngest, married Wm. Easley, a worthy man, who died soon after the late war, in Whitley Co. Ky., leaving his widow, still living, and a number of children. His son, James Hervey Easley, was a member of the Kentucky legislature (of the H. of R.) from Whitley in 1855-45 (see letters from him in 1844-5 in my bound collections).
My father's sister, Jane, I think, married Maj. Samuel McGaughey, of North Alabama. A lame son of his named William visited me several times while I lived in Rutherford, Tenn. His son, Maj. McGaughey, lives in Greene Co. Tenn. and has often represented that county in the Assembly. In 1832-3, I drew up for him, which he introduced and had passed, perhaps it was 1831, strong resolutions against the United States Bank, and approving General Jackson's policy.
My father's sister, Sally, married a man named Robert Boyd, also of Blount Co. Tenn. She died early, perhaps childless, and I have never hear of what became of Boyd. I can just remember to have seen him at my grandfather's when I was an infant.
Martha, another sister of my father, married Maj. George Singleton, who removed at an early time from Sullivan Co. Tenn. to Wayne Co. Ky. He lived there many years, much esteemed, and represented the District in which Wayne County was included, one term of four years in the State Senate, at, or before the close of which, about the year 1809 or 1810, he removed to Louisiana, Parish of Oppeloosas or Attakapos. He succeeded well there, on the Lafourche I think as a sugar planter, but he and his wife both died soon after the late war. He was a Philadelphian by birth, and inherited from an uncle, a batchelor of Blountville, Tennessee, who was all his days a merchant's clerk, a good property and a fine library of the best old English standard works. The uncle's name was John Williams. From this library, in those day a rare thing in Western Virginia, East Tennessee, or Kentucky south of Green River, he became a cultivated and well informed man. He left several sons, with whom I have no acquaintance. One named George, I think is still in Louisana. Another, Owen I believe to be his name, came back to Wayne, and possibly still lives there. He married a daughter of John Laughlin, a son of my father's uncle Alexander L. who married a Miss Newton in Virginia or East Tennessee and removed to Knox Co. Ky. first, and then to Wayne, and finally perhaps to Red River, Louisana.
In this tedious, desultory, and confused way, I have gone through "the books of generations" of many, but not half, the numeous kindred of my family; a matter which may, possibly, some day to some of my children, or to myself in old age, be of some interest in taking a retrospect of old things. There is a good deal more to be added, for I have not come home to my own immediate family yet- nor to some of the Kings, Porters, Berrys, McFerrins etc. who will yet be in some way noticed according to the best recollections I have.
My father I have stated, was born on the 4th of November 1773, in the same state. They were married in Washington County Virginia, at the place where my grandfather lived and died after the Revolution, sometime in the year 1794. I was born of that marriage, on the 1st day of May, 1799, in the same state and county.
My father and mother had the following children that lived to years of discretion-myself, Nathan Montgomery, John Randolph, Henry Clinton, Sydney Nelson, Nelson Singleton, Washington Sharpe, and Laura Matilda. Of those, Nathan Montgomery married in Virginia, and removed with his uncle and cousin John D. Laughlin to Ohio, and then to Indiana, I think Johnson County, where he died in 1842, leaving a widow and numerous family, yet living there. John Randolph came to Tennessee, by my request in 1816, wrote in the clerk's office in Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, under Gen. Blackman Coleman, until he resigned the office in 1821 or 1822, when my brother was elected to his place as County Court Clerk, and held the office until the change of the Constitution in 1834-35, when he went out of office, and was not a can-didate for re-election. With me he had studied law in 1817, 18 and 19, and obtained a license, and never practiced but a short time, but such were his habits and clearness and strength of mind, that with attention to his profession, he could have risen to its first honor. About 1821 or 1822, he married Nancy Ledbetter, sister of W. Ledbetter, long a member of the Tennessee Senate, and now cashier of the Bank of Tenn. The father of his wife was the late Isaac Ledbetter of Rutherford, form-erly of Brunswick or Greenville Co. Va. By his marriage, my brother had two children, a daughter and a son. His daughter, Adriana, is now grown and is a lovely girl. His son, whose name is John, was born in the fall of 1837 or early in 1838, just after his father's death.
In 1837, my brother (John) being a candidate for the legislature in which he was defeated by the falsehoods and slanders of one Beverley Randolph, and Alexander Blair, my brother just before the election, at a public meeting at Pacer in July (the election was in August) took occasion to cane Blair in company. Just after the election, at a public collection of people at Maj. John Bradley's at the fall races, Blair sought an opportunity, having been furnished with a knife by one Henderson, his kinsman, insulted my brother so grossly, that he again raised his cane, when Blair ran in under, no one at the moment thinking of a knife except those who knew his intent, and stabbed my brother in the proin or pelvis, and in other places before he could be prevented, of the first mentioned would, he died in seven or eight days from mortification. When it happened, it being in September, I was staying with my family during the sultry season at my place called Runnemede in Cannon County Tennessee. A messenger arrived at my house, twenty-six miles from Murfreesborough, before day the next morning, it having happened late in the evening. I got to his house in Murfreesborough by breakfast time next day, in company with my sister who then lived in Woodbury, and found that he had been removed from Bradley's home, two miles, and after his wounds were dressed, was easy and doing well. I staid with him several days. He seemed to improve hourly. He received visits from friends from all parts of the county, and sat up in bed and wrote some short letters. He was deemed almost wholly out of danger. I returned home and the second evening after, Maj. Ledbetter's boy, Henry, (now Ridley's) came to me with a message that my brother was dead-that his wound had mortified.
I again returned to Murfreesborough, and attended his funeral with my daughter Sarah, who had gone down to see him a day or two before from Squire Henry Goodloe's where she had been on a visit when the assassination occured. He was buried and now lies where an infant child he had lost was previously buried, at the old Ledbetter place, two and a half miles south west of Murfreesborough. Requiescat in pace. A nobler or better heart was never laid cold by the hands of death-and never had any man more nobly sustained, by pen and in speeches, and his whole conduct through life, the cause of Republican principles, and his own honor, amid the fiercest persecutions, in which his brother-in-law Ledbetter, a Whig, and Geo. A. Sublett, another Whig who had married his wife's older sister, all deserted him. He fell, the victim of party persecution and party rancor. His party were and still are in a minority in the county (Rutherford) and have ever been since Judge White, under the traitor Bell, became a candidate for the Presidency in 1835. There is not now a democrat in Rutherford who does not love the memory of John Laughlin. In 1839, owing to the personal un-popularity of Charles Ready, Col. Yoakum beat him for Senate, but in 1841 the Whigs again triumphed, and elected Ledbetter to the State Senate over Yoakum.
My brother's wife, still a widow, lives with her brother, Richard Ledbetter, as does her children, in Holmes Co. Miss. Geo. A. Sublett, who deserted and joined the swindler Beverly Randolph to destroy my poor brother, has been broken up and disgraced since. Randolph has fraudently taken the benefit of the Bankrupt Law of Clay and theWhigs of 1841 -by perjury, and is in perfect disgrace. Wm. Ledbetter, though a better man than either of the foregoing, has lost his pop-ularity, and if the democracy elect majorities to the Assembly next August (1845) he will loose his office, though all in all, he is nearly the best full-blooded Clay Whig I have known.
My brothers, Nathan and John, both died full of Christian hope.
My brother, Sydney N., died of inflamatory fever at my old farm, now owned by Daniel Hoskins, on the East fork of Stones River, 1832, and is buried in the Presbyterian Church burying ground in Murfreesborough. He was a good, industrious, faithful young man.
My still younger brother, Washington Sharpe, died of the same kind of fever in his seventeenth year, in Murfreesborough, in 1831 and he and Sydney-lie together, buried side by side. In life, they loved like brothers, and in death, they are not divided, as I hope they will not be in the resurrection.
My brother, Henry Clinton, a batchelor, removed to Indiana-going out with John D. Laughlin, about the year 1827, or 1828, from Virginia. John D. having been in on a visit, and to sell an interest in lands inherited from his father. He lived with my brother Nathan until his death, and then, in 1840-1, removed away farther west with a son of my brother, Nathan. I have not been able to hear where he is for the last three years.
My brother, Nelson Singleton, went from my house in Nashville, where I then lived, in 1834 to Mississippi, from thence he went to West Feliciana in Louisana to live with one Parker, and I had had letters from him up to summer of 1844, promising to come and live with me and my father at Hickory Hill, but from that date I have heard no more of him though I have often written to his address since.
My sister Laura M. Married Maj. Henry Holt, of Rutherford, in 1830. They soon moved to Woodbury, Cannon Co. from my house in Rutherford, where he became a merchant on the death of his brother-in-law Henry Wiley. In 1840, in September, they parted. On a divorce being granted, he is married again to a Miss Hannah Shaw, and they have parted several times, one of which occasions, I interfered to get them together again, to save his election to the Assembly in 1843 from Cannon. He succeeded in both-but they have had quarreling since, and separations temporarily. He is a drunken, libidinous beast, keeping several concubines-one Jonathon Wimberly's wife being one of them with whom he staid more than half his time before my sister left him. Since the divorce, my sister is married to a man named James M. Brown, who is some kind of suttler or contractor at some small U.S. post in the Indian country on the west of Arkansas.
My father and mother emigrated to Kentucky as has been before incidentally stated, about the year 1798. My father thinks 1797, but I think it was nearer 1799 or 1800.
As they, and their friends were moving out towards Cumberland Gap, in what is now Scott Co. Va., my mother was riding along on a quiet horse, in a calm, beautiful autumnal day, when a dead limb, from an oak tree, about three or four feet long weighing 15 or 20 pounds-dead but still not rotten-fell from a height of thirty or forty feet-without any noise-not a breeze or breath of wind being perceivable-and struck my infant sister in my mother's arms on the temple. Her name was Emily-about six or eight months old. The blow caused the horse to start, which occasioned my mother a sudden fall to the ground but without hurt. The limb was seen just as it struck in my mother's lap where the child was asleep, as she rode along, but no one saw it in time to give any alarm. In families, there were thirty or forty persons along. The child was found to be stunned and as it died in the evening, and never was roused from the stupor into which it was thrown, it is supposed its skull was fractured. The death of this infant-the first in our family-happening so strangely-was a sore blow to my father and mother. The whole caravan of movers stopped and camped until the next day when the child was interred-and then we proceeded on without any new accident to Kentucky. In Kentucky, on Indian Creek, Knox County, where my father had secured two hundred acres of land by Head Right-that is by being the head of a family and having built a cabin and cultivated a crop of corn of six or eight acres, which he enclosed by a good fence the previous season. We removed early in the fall, going from Washington County, Virginia, out through Lee County, by Jonesville to Cumberland Gap-the old crab orchard road down yellow creek and accross the Cumber-land River-and thence down the north side by the place where Barbourville now stands, crossing Richland Creek, down to Indian Creek.
On Indian Creek, my father's family, and Uncle Wm. Martin's family lived for some time in the same cabin. During the winter after our arrival, my father and uncle killed great numbers of fat bears, deer almost without number, turkeys etc. A good stock of cattle, easily kept fat on the cane which abounded all over the bottoms and rich sides of hills. We, therefore, had milk and butter in plenty. Salt was procured from Powell's Valley. There were then no mills in the country, and meal had to be packed fifty miles also from Powell's Valley accross the mountains. We lived in great comfort and plenty. Persons looking out for lands visited the country constantly from Virginia and elsewhere. So we were never lonesome. Although the distance of the whole removal was only 150 or 160 miles, yet in those days even that distance was considered a long way off.
At this place, my father lived several years-until the country became very thickly inhabited. He then removed to the Laurel Country, on a branch of Spruce Creek, near Uncle Martin's, and near where one brother, Arthur, built a small tub-mill. From 1803 to 1806 or 1807, he lived at this place, and hunted much, and with great success in the country around the falls of Cumberland, a fall of 70 or 80 feet perpendicular to that river, ten or fifteen miles on a straight line above the mouth of Laurel River. Below the falls, the river abounds in all the varieties of fine fresh water fish-above, there are none but min-nows, and endless numbers of the lamper eel, even in the creeks. It is about 150 miles above the falls to the head branches of Cumberland River, in the Virginia and Kentucky mountains-spurs of the great Alleghany chain-bordering on the heads of Sandy, Kentucky, and other rivers running north and north west into the Ohio.
About 1807-the year before or year of the Embargo-the time of the attack of the leopard on the Chesapeak in Hampton Roads, our family removed from Laurel, as we called it, to a fork of Watts Creek near my Uncle Thomas Laughlin. I think we were removed there in 1806, when there was a remarkable eclipse of the sun.
While we lived on Indian Creek, my mother gave birth to two sons who died in infancy, Thomas and Joseph, who are buried on a hill, above where our cabin stood at the mouth of a branch. The exact appearance of the whole place, as it then looked, with every locality, is fresh and vivid in my memory.
After remaining here until 1810, after the death of my grandmother Laughlin, my father, mother, and all our family removed back to Virginia, in the fall, and settled on the place which my father had bought, from which Uncle Thomas Laughlin, had removed when he went to Kentucky, about a mile and a half north of grandfather Duncan's old place, on which my father afterwards lived, and where the late Wm. Maxwell, to whom my father sold it, lived at the time of his death, about the year 1830.
On the death of my Grandmother Duncan, about the year 1816, my father and family moved on the place, and into the house with my grandfather. He died about the year 1818. My father and his family, except myself and John R. who had gone to Tennessee-lived on this place, having purchased it after the death of my grandfather, until the fall of 1829, when I removed the old people, and my brothers, Sydney N. and Nelson S. to Rutherford County. In the year 1828, John and myself had removed our brother Washington Sharpe to Tennessee, to educate him, where he died, as afterwards did Sydney and John as is before noted. I must not forget to mention that my sister, Laura, about 14 years of age, removed with my parents. I went after them all myself, carrying a servant girl named Suzy, to wait on my mother on the road.
When I removed my parents to Tennessee, I was living on the East Fork of Stones River, on an excellent tract of land below the mouth of Bradley's Creek, opposite John L. Sutton, bought of James Gordon. In 1832, in March, I removed to Nashville, leaving my parents, and brother Sydney, and some negros on my farm. In removing my parents to Tennessee, they both having become measurably helpless from decre-pitude occasioned by rheumatism. I hoped to consult their care and comfort for the rest of their lives. Shortly after my mother's removal she became wholly helpless, and for the last twelve years of her life never stood alone, or walked a step. For the last ten years, up to October 1843, when she died, she had lost the use of her hands so far as to be unable to knit or use a needle, in which she had previously taken great pleasure. She was, however, an incessant reader, and her eyes continuing good, especially with the aid of glasses, she read from ten to fourteen hours out of every twenty-four, and her faculties were sound to the last, with, perhaps, a slight defect of memory of recent events. She was a most exemplary and wise woman.
My father, now (March 1845) in his 79th year, though so lame and crippled by rheumatism, by which he has been more or less afflicted since his 30th year, has general health sound and vigorous, and no failure of mind except in memory of late events-walks with the aid of a staff, or rides a gentle horse a mile from Hickory Hill to McMinnville to the post office, to see his grandchildren, or to vote in the election. In 1799-1800, he aided actively in the election of Mr. Jefferson to the Presidence, and has all his life been a warm democratic republican, and in 1824, 1828, and 1832 warmly supported Gen. Jackson for President, as he did Mr. Van Buren in 1836 and 1840. and President Polk in 1844. He never voted for a federalist or whig for any office, high or low, in his life. Both he and my mother were extensive readers of newspapers-and both more minutely read in the details of our national history than any two persons I have known.
My great grandfather John Laughlin, of the date of whose death I have no knowledge, is represented by Mr. Benjamin Sharp in his cor-respondence, who knew him well, and by my father and grandfather-all of the same name-as having been a most exemplary man. He was a native of, and came from the County Downe, Ireland. My grandfather, John, as I have him repeat often, was sixteen years old when they arrived in the United States, then colonies. My grandfather, as his father was before him, was a man of remarkable piety, benevolence, and active cheerfulness. They were both of the branch of the Presbyterian Church denominated Seceders. In the latter years of my grandfather's life, he contributed himself nearly the entire support of the Rev. Mr. Harper, a clergyman of his own sect-but his charity, as was that of his father, was universal for all sincere christians. I have a full recollection of the person and character of my excellent grandfather. Up to extreme old age, he had all the cheerfulness and vivacity of a boy. My father is of the same temperament.
My grandfather Duncan*, was, ever after I know him, a taciturn, serious and rather melancholy man. He was a large, stout man, and in his younger days, and until his spirits were broken and his health impaired by his Canadian captivity and the loss of his property, had been a man of great vigor of mind and body-and fond of hazardous arduous enterprises. He, as my father assures me, kept a journal of his whole captivity, which he remembers to have seen in manuscript, late in his life. I have been trying, but without success so far, to recover possession of it if it is not destroyed. It would supply an interesting desideration in the History of Kentucky, and as a family memorial. I should consider it above all price. Marshall, Butler,Tomlay, and all who have written the history of Kentucky, and of Bird's expedition, and the capture of Martin's and Riddle's Stations, seem to have had but few authentic materials.
*For further and more interesting particulars of both my grandfathers and their families-more authentic than what is here stated, see Relation commencing at page 162 of this book-see also page 22 of this book.
My grandfather considered Riddle, not Ruddle, as his name is commonly written, as a bad man. When confined on parole, or in close prison at Montreal, he often saw Riddle, who was his senior officer in the station when it was surrendered, walking the streets, finely dressed, and under no restraint, or associating with British officers. On the march to Canada, and at Detroit and Montreal, he often saw among the Indians and associating with the British officers of rank, the renegade and incarnate Devil, Simon Girty. This demon in human shape dealt large in the scalps of American men, women, and children bought and paid for by the British authorities. Girty's influence among the Indians was very great. In history his name desends embalmed in the execrations of all mankind. A Mr. Samuel Porter of Russel was married to a sister of my grandfather Duncan-so was Capt. Francis Berry to a sister of my grandmother Duncan (Eleanor Sharp). Mr. Porter had a numerous family of sons, several of whom lived in Rutherford County, Tenn. Among these, as I remember, were Samuel, Hugh and James, the latter a Methodist preacher. They lived on Bowley's fork, near the place where Bradyville now is. About the year 1830, they removed to Missouri. Another brother of their's, a Methodist preacher, a man of much worth, married the widow of Thomas E. Sumner in Williamson Co. Tenn. He afterwards died at Galveston, Texas, about the year 1839. He was a worthy man, but was persecuted by Gen. John L. Russwurm, the mercenary nephew of his wife's first husband, who left a large estate and no child-Russwurm being the principal heir at law.
John Berry and Lewis Berry, two of the sons of Francis Berry, removed to Kentucky, Knox County, while my father lived there. John settled on Spence Creek, above Arthur's mill, and one of his sons, Dr. Berry is now married to a daughter of my cousin Thomas Laughlin, and lives at Philadelphia, Monroe Co. Tenn. Lewis removed to Dickson Co. Tenn. after he married, and, I believe, died there soon after the late war.
Another branch of our family consists of McFerrins. Old Wm. McFerrin married a sister of my grandfather John Laughlin and had a number of sons and daughters. Col. James McFerrin, his oldest son, married a Berry in Washington, Virginia, where his father lived, and removed to Rutherford Co. Tennessee. He was a Captain of Volunteers in the ex-pedition of Gen. Jackson to Washington Mississippi in 1811-12. He served again in the Creek Nation in the War of 1813-14. After the war, he embraced religion, joined the Methodist Church and resigned his commission as a Col. of Militia, and became a popular preacher. He removed to Jackson County, Alabama, where Thomas Berry who had married his sister, had previously removed from Rutherford. He became in time a travelling preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Connection, and re-moved again to the western district of Tennessee where he was a resid-ing Elder, and died in the year 1840, universally respected and esteemed as a good man-and for his limited early education-an able and useful Minister of the Gospel. His brother, Burton L. McFerrin removed from Tennessee to Missouri some years since. William, another brother, lives in Cannon Co. Tenn. and has several sons-Alexander and Burton, neither very much esteemed, being two of them. Old Wm. McFerrin, who sold his place on Holston River, adjoining my father's old residence in Virginia, to Wm. Berry, removed to Tennessee. He was still alive last fall, being about 95 years old, in the Western District, living with C. Curlee, Esq. who married one of his daughters.
Col. James McFerrin left several sons and daughters. John B. McFerrin, a Minister of high standing in the M.E. church, now Editor of the South Western Christian Advocate, is one of them. Wm., another son is also a popular preacher in the same church. John B. I esteem as one of my most respected friends. I think him a sound christian, and warm hearted kinsman. I hope some of his letters may be found in my letter book.
If ever this is read by any one save myself, he, she, they, or it will think it time I should say something of myself, and my own career in life, and thinking the same thing myself, the remainder of this introduction will contain little of any thing else, risking of censures for egotism. Autobiography, however, is nothing but egotism-egotism some-times highly interesting, but which I have no hope will prove so in the present instance, except to my children, or grandchildren, or such partial friends in whom I repose confidence for every measure of in-dulgence, as may happen to see these pages.
I was born, as is perhaps before stated, in the County of Washington, Virginia, at the residence of my grandfather Duncan, on the banks of the Holston River, on the 1st day of May, 1793. Before my father's removal to Kentucky, although I was the first born and exceedingly weak and feeble in infancy, my excellent mother had taught me my alphabet. To keep me out of mischief, I was also permitted to accompany Elias Lankin, a bound boy of my grandfather Laughlin, to school, where perhaps I learned my a b abs, etc. My father then lived in a cabin, near a spring, on a branch, about a quarter of a mile from my grand-father Laughlin's. The first teacher I thus went to scool to, although too young to learn anything very useful, was Robert L. Ferrell, whose school house was near David King's, near the state line between Virginia and Tennessee. At that school I formed an attachment for Jonathan King, David's son, a grandson of old John Sharpe, who now lives at the mouth of Spring Creek, Washington Co. Va. which has lasted through life. Many of his excellent letters enrich my collections. The next teacher at the same place, to whom I was sent to school, was Geor. W. Craig, afterwards Col. Craig of Knox Co. Kentucky, son-in-law of old grand-uncle John Sharpe, whose death is mentioned in a former page.
Col. Ferrell, then plain Robert L. Ferrell, married a Duff in Washington, Va. and removed to Cumberland Co. Ky. before my father re-moved to Knox. He became a respectable citizen, and commanded a company in King's Brigade of Ky. Volunteers, at the Battle of the River Raison. He saw the body of Tecumseh after the battle, and from all he learned on the spot, does not think Col. Richard M. Johnson killed him. From what he saw of Gen. Harrison in that campaign, and his being a mile in the rear with the reserve when the battle was won, he does not think that the General was a man of any but very moderate military capacity, and that his over-caution, and tardy, doubting habits, rendered him unfit to command an army. Col. F. after the war, removed to Overton Co., Tennessee, where he now lives on the West fork of Obid's River-a good old, intelligent, pious man-universally beloved. He rose to the rank of Col. of Militia soon after the war. Geo. W. Craig became the first, or one of the first land surveyors in Knox Co., Kentucky, and died on Yellow Creek, where he had built a fine house, about 1829 or 1830, from intemperance. He was much esteemed, and never had but the one bad habit, which overtook him in his latter days. His brother, Andrew, married my cousin Sophia, a daughter of Uncle Thomas Laughlin. She is long since dead and he married again. Isaac King, who married her sister, Jane, yet lives on Watts Creek. At these schools, I learned nothing that I remember distinctly, as I only went as company for Lankin.
After my father removed to Kentucky, and lived on Indian Creek, I went to school to one Joe Ball, a lame man, whose school house was near the mouth of the creek, between Logan's at the mouth, and David Dunces. Here I learned to read-or rather improved in reading in the spelling book (Dilworth's) and in the Testament, for my mother had taught me to read in both at home previously. In fact I cannot remember when I did not know my letters, and easy spelling, as well as beginning to read under this kind tuition. At this school also, I began to make pothooks, and try to write. Under my mother's instructions, I had learned before, how to make rude letters with a pen on paper, and with a pencil or on a slate. Ball was but a poor scholar, but a rigid disciplinarian, and had a taste for making pictures with a pen on paper. Thinking this a great accomplishment, many is the hard-begged sheet of paper I procured from my mother to scratch up into staring pictures of men, beasts and birds-and to make them more showy, I learned to add the use of the juice of racoon root and pokeberries to the blotchings and rough discolorings of ink. All was done with a pen, no idea of a brush for painting ever entered my head. About this time, my father procurred from some neighbor, a copy of Frazer's or somebodies travels in South America, illustrated with fine engravings of scenery about Lima, and of gentle-men and ladies of that city in full dress, inserted as descriptions of the customs and manners of the Dons and Donnas of Lima. To imitate these in my "pictures", as my rough paintings were called, afforded me great pleasure and improved my capacity for using the pen and reducing my figures to something like human shape. This exercise enabled me to improve my early hand writing. In the meantime, the curious things related in the book itself gave me a thirst for reading. I had read the Bible and Testament both nearly through, but with an imperfect understanding of either. About this time I read, and listened to my mother while she read Robinson Crusoe. This was a wonderful book. My father and mother read alternately, and to each other, and to me, the book of travels just mentioned also. Afterwards, I worked my slow way through both myself, as best I could, running to my father or mother every minute to explain names, and teach me the pronunciation of hard words. In this way, with these books and others, before I was eight years old, I spent days and weeks within doors, when almost any other boy would have been out and at play. To this reading followed a mutilated copy of Salmon's old geography with maps, the general purpose and out-line of which I learned to understand. It was the abridged portions of history, of men, kings, princes, seiges and battles by sea and land, as far as I could understand them, that attracted my greatest attention and interest. An old life of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and a history of the Scotch Rebellion of 1745, in favor of the Pretender, which I borrowed from my Uncle Thomas Laughlin, were in like manner imperfectly gone through, on their reading by one or the other of my parents, listened to with the most inquisitive attention. I began to hear something of the Revolutionary War, and of Washington and his army. Not having access to any printed history of these events, I have for hours and hours together sat, and begged and inquired of my father and mother or any person who could relate any of the events of the war, or of Washington's life, listened to relating of such parts of these events as they were able to relate to me orally. Many and many a time I have gone to bed after thus hearing history traditionally diluted, and dreamed all night about Washington and Hessians, and British, and Tories, and Indians, and battles. I was thus enabled to dream of Washington and his character, just as I do now, that he was one of the greatest and best men-greatest and best in and of himself-and the greatest bene-factor of mankind that ever lived, or that may, perhaps, ever live on earth.
While my father still lived on Indian Creek, and I may be in error as to the date when he removed to Laurel, my uncles Hignight and Jospeh Duncan paid us a visit from Powell's Valley. Uncle Hignight pressed my parents, as we had no school then in our neighborhood, to let me go home with him and go to school with his children to one Powers who was teaching near his residence, near Col. Charles Cox's old mills, and of whom he spoke highly. They consented and I went home with him, and remained five or six months, young as I was. At this school, I improved in reading and spelling, but in nothing else, for I was too young. My Aunt Polly Hignight, my mother's elder sister, was very kind to me. But while absent from home, I lay awake sometimes a greater portion of the night, thinking of home, and often wept sorely in private at my absence. Uncle Hignight, uncle Jos. Duncan, and Uncle Abram Locke all lived in sight of each other. I was much carressed in all the families. It was during a spring and summer I remained there. In the fall, or latter part of summer, one of my uncles going to Kentucky, I went home with him. I will remember that when I got home, I was so overjoyed at meet-ing my mother and my little brothers, John, Clinton, etc. that it was some time before I could speak. This was my first absence from home.
After we removed to Spence's Creek, as is before noted, we had no school in reach of us. While we resided there, myself, John, and even Henry Clinton, all helped to work in our little farm, both in the lighter work of clearing land and in making our crops of corn, potatoes, etc. When not so engaged, our sport was fishing for small fish in Spence Creek, and in shooting with bows and arrows. The first fall after we removed there, the Indians under Col. George, came on their annual hunting excursion, and his son, a year or two older than myself, who often came to our house, or met me at Uncle Wm. Martin's, in company with other Indian children and my brothers, taught us all how to shoot with the bow and arrow. He taught us how to straighten young canes or reeds, and fasten feathers on them for arrows. At camp, where we often visited, the Indians all shot bows and arrows for amusement. It is astonighing the distances and precision with which they could shoot. The bows were comparatively short, made of black hickory, and all made to bend towards the heart of the wood. This added greatly to their strength and elasticity. The feathers of wild turkeys, from the tail or wings were fastened in a peculiar manner with the sinues taken from the back of the common deer, just over the kidneys. The bowstrings were made of the guts of the bear, twisted into a cord, and dried like a hatters bow-string. In this sport we spent two fall and winter seasons with these young Indians.
After we removed to Watt's Creek, near Uncle Thomas' , a new school--master was engaged, who had come from Tennessee from about Bean's Station, or Cheeks Roads, with one Gid. Smith as he was called. His name was Jeremiah Aulgin, a native of New Haven, Connecticut. He was a graduate of Yale College. His father being a merchant, had entrusted him in his youth as a super cargo of some adventure to Jamaica, on some of the West India Islands. Jerry had spent the cargo, and afraid to go home, had gone to Charleston, S. Carolina, where he was found by Smith and brought to Tennessee. On coming to Tennessee, he had kept store and posted books for Col. Ore, who had a store above Bean's Station in Granger, and for Mr. Cheek (I think his name was) at the aforesaid crossroads. Becoming intemperate, he got out of these employments, and Smith on removing to Knox County, Ky. and settling on Cumberland River, brought him over as a school master. Being employed in our neighbor-hood, a school house was built for him in a central part of the county, near Capt. James Stotts. Here, I and my brothers, John R. and Henry Clinton, went to his school, with interruptions during the cropping season, in which we worked for nearly two years. He imparted to me nearly all the education I ever acquired at school. He made me pro-ficient in correct reading, correct writing, and in the useful branches of arithmetic. He was a melancholy man, then prematurely getting gray, and occasionally drank hard, but seldom allowed it to interfere with his school hours. He wrote well, and had a taste for compositions in blank verse. He was about or upwards of thirty years of age. He often wrote to his family, and especially to a kinsman named Ives, Dr. Levi Ives, I think, at New Haven, but his family seemed to disown him. His father had died in the meantime. He left our neighborhood about the year 1809 or 1810, and went to Wayne, and then to Cumberland Co., Ky. He married there about the beginning of the last war. In the war he served among the Kentucky Volunteers, as a kind of suttlers clerk. After the war, he raised a family of sons-and after the death of his wife, lived in 1840-1 in Creelsburg, Russell Co. Ky. with one of his sons who was a tavern keeper. They followed trading up and down the Cumberland, but were never successful in business as I have heard. In 1840, old Jerry, in answer to a friendly letter I wrote him from McMinnville, wrote me a very long letter, full of respects and regards for myself and parents but to which he added a page or two of old, vulgar, exploded arguments in favor of atheism. He must have been over 80 years old when it was written. I never wrote him but one letter afterwards, in 1841 or 1842, and receiving no answer, I have supposed him dead. I never saw him after he left Knox Co. Ky. and I never saw any portion of his family. He was a kind teacher to me, however, and I feel indebted to him for all my early knowledge of the branches of education I have mentioned. May he rest in peace-and be happy if alive-and may he, before death, discard all his infidelity!
At the same time I went to school to him, Betsy Craig, a daughter, of Wm. Craig, who afterwards married Joseph Gilless, now State Senator from Whitley and Knox, and my cousin Sally Duncan, daughter of my uncle John, who afterwards married Elijah Gerting and now lives in Missouri, and also my cousins Thomas and John Sharp Laughlin, went the same road partly, and at the same time. I was greatly attached to these two girls, and for them both, felt the first tinglings of youthful af-fection and first love, sometimes called puppy love, which I ever felt for any of the sex. They were both a little older than myself. Mrs. Gilless, I learn has been dead some years. I never saw her after we removed back to Virginia, or Cousin Sally since the fall of 1810, or spring of 1811, when she visited her relations in Virginia in company with her mother and husband. She has children married I understand-and once lived in Illinois or Iowa, but has removed to Missouri, since her mother, my father's sister Polly, has removed to that country. At this moment, while I am writing, I feel a strong desire to remove to the same country, and spend my old age, which will soon be on me, among the friends of my youth. God knows, whether I shall ever be able to realize these wishes, and castle-building day dreams. The older I get, however, the more they haunt me. My father and my boys have the same wishes. In Livingston and Chariton Counties, Missouri, great numbers of the relations and kindred to whom I was most attached in youth, such as survive, now live; and among them, if I had a home, improved and pre-pared, I believe I could, with a moderate competency, spend a comfortable old age.
In the reminiscences of my grandfather Laughlin, and my father, I have omitted to mention in the proper connection that a fierce Indian war broke out on Holston, about Abingdon, in the year 1776, and that the people, among whom was my grandfather's family were for a long time confined to an old stockade fort, called Black's Fort, which stood on the hill just south of the public part of Abingdon, across the little creek. In this subject, see two letters of the 13th of July and 15th of June, 1842, in Williams' American Pioneer, printed in Cincinnati, Ohio in that year, at pages 133 and 358.
I ought also to have stated, that my father, besides being in 1788 in Martins campaign to Look-Out Mountain, was in other expeditions, and that my uncle Thomas, and numbers of my relations were at the Battle of King's Mountain. Also, that my brothers Nathan, John and Clinton, all served tours of volunteers duty at Norfolk, and the coasts of Virginia, during the late war. Two of them, Nathan and John, had serious and severe spells of sickness at Norfolk and returned home sick. Two of them served under an old lawyer of Abingdon, formerly a member of the Assembly of Virginia, Henry St. John Dixon, who now, I understand lives in Mississippi.
After our family settled in Kentucky, our principal dependence for meats was for many years on my father's skill in hunting. For the first year or two, fat bears were plenty, and in the fall could be found on Indian Creek, Watts Creek, and in all hills and mountains round about. In the winter, they were found in hollow trees, caverns in the rocks, and in caves, hibernated, from which they were driven by fire, smoking, cutting down the trees, or fought out by dogs, of which every hunter kept four or five. Sometimes the hunter himself would, with the aid of a torch, venture into a rock house or cave, often crawling on his hands and knees, in order to shoot the bear in his hole, where he refused to be expelled by dogs or smoke. Some were so killed, and then dragged out. My father had many dangerous and fearful adventures of this sort, es-pecially after the principal seat of hunting adventure was transferred to the inaccessable country around the falls of Cumberland. I remember one hunting expedition of a week or two in which Uncle Wm. Martin and father-and it was during the last late fall or early winter we lived in the Laurel country-hunted about the falls, and on both sides of the river below the falls. After they had been out sometime, Uncle Martin came home, twelve or fifteen miles for horses to pack home the meat they had killed, bear and venison. I returned to the hunting ground with him to help to manage the horses. When we got to the river, my father was at a camp on the other (south) side. After hobbling the horses, Uncle Martin soon made a raft of an old Sycamore hollow log we found drifted up high and dry among the rocks. We crossed on it, with ease and safety, though the river is rapid and rough, dashing all the way through the narrows and rocks, with high cliffs on both sides, from the mouth of Laurel up to the falls. Our adventure was near the mouth of Dogslaughter Creek. Staying on the south side one night, we found father, and all crossed over with the meat and skins on hand the next day, and camped near the river, in a laurel thicket; the next night, our horses being safe out on the hills in the wild pastures of grass and late pea-vine. The night we so camped, several foxes came in hearing of us and barked fiercely in their peculiar way. At a greater distance, great numbers of wolves kept up a fearful howling nearly all night. We had a good warm fire, some blankets and many dried skins, so that we were quite comfortable. That night, for the only time in my life, I slept with my head on the body of a trusty old hunting dog, who lay quietly all night, for a pillow. Hunters were frequently in the habit of such indulgence in very cold weather, and when they wished the dog as a faithful watch-man to warn them of the approach of animals or persons too near the camp. On this occasion, we got home safely next day, loaded with fat bear meat, and fine venison. In the midst of these adventures, and when sitting around the camp-fires of long evening-while cooking the frugal meal and baking the jonnicake at which my father and Uncle Martin were both proficients-or while they were smoking the social pipe after a day's laborious sport, or chewing the Virginia weed-neithers being disciples of King James the I-they related hundreds of anecdotes, and and recounted hundreds of hunting and youthful adventures, or often launched out into relations of their reminiscencies of the closing scenes of the Revolutionary War, or of Indian adventures and expeditions, chiefly against the Cherokees with which they were both still more familiar. When my uncle Thomas happened to be of the company, being the older man, and having often served against the Indians, and been in the hottest of the fight at Kings Mountain, where Ferguson was defeated and slain, he frequently was more minute and exact in his relations. Of my old uncle John Sharp, my great uncle-who commanded a company under Shelby at Kings Mountain, he related the following story-true and witnessed by himself-which is characteristic of Capt. Sharp, as well as of the true Whig soldier of the Revolution. Capt. S. with his company of choice men was stationed at an important point as part of a reserve by order of Col. Campbell, the Commander-in-Chief himself. After the fight grew warm, and the firing was incessant and general all around the mountain, and it was evident that the Americans were steadily ascending the mountain on the advance, hemming the British and tories more closely in, and no sign of a retreat anywhere, Capt. S. could stand it no longer. He gave his sword for a good rifle to one of his men, gave the orders to his lieutenent which he had recruited himself-ordering him to fulfill them to the letter whether he ever returned or not-then he bounded off up the mountain to the battle, rushed into the nearest and fiercest point of conflict, and advancing from tree to tree, and sometimes in masses with the troops, he continued to fire away as fast as he could load and dis-charge his rifle. He was a first rate hunter and rifle shooter. Near the close of the conflict, and after the day was won, the firing having begun to subside, Col. Shelby or Col. Sevier came riding by, and finding Capt. Sharp absent from his post, covered with dust, smoke and sweat, firing away like a man fighting for his life, called out to him- "in the name of God, what are you doing here Capt. Sharp, a mile from your post." Deliberately bringing his gun to an order, and bowing, for his hat was gone in the heat of his pursuits, he said deliberately, "Colonel, I came to help and kill and whip the vile, murderous, robbing tories, and as I was placed where my very purpose in coming out to the field was about to be defeated-and by which my word to my wife and father was about to be broken-you see me here, doing what I said I would do. I have kept my word. If they are defeated, I submit to an instant arrest, and court martial as soon as you please; but if they are not whipped, let me fight on till the battle is over, as it will make my case no worse, and then I will voluntarily bring you my sword and submit to a voluntary arrest.
I regret that I cannot remember whether it was Shelby or Sevier to whom he addressed himself. They both knew him as a tried soldier, and I need not say, that he was never arrested for deserting his post and disobeying orders. The old anecdote, with his very words, I have heard my uncle Thomas Laughlin who was standing by at the time, and my two grandfathers who were both his brothers-in-law, repeat a hundred times. My father who was not in the battle, tells me it was a standing good story in the neighborhood where they all lived, after the war, for a great many years, and was always repeated in connection with Capt. Sharp's name and Kings Mountain Battle as long as he lived.
In Kentucky, while we lived on Indian Creek, I learned to swim, an exercise I have ever excelled in, and been delighted with. I love water and bathing now, at the age of forty seven or eight, as well as any boy in the city where I am writing.
From Indian Creek, myself and other boys, accompanied generally by grown persons, learned to go to mill-and in the summer season, we went to Barbourville to mill, some nine or ten miles. Here, I first remember to have seen the business of retailing dry goods in a store. It struck me as a most plesant business-infinitely preferable in gentility and ease to working on a farm. Now my opinion is precisely the reverse.
After we had lived on Laurel, and returned to Watts Creek, and I had acquired some rudiments of useful general knowledge under the teaching of Mr. Aulgen, and from reading every sort of book I could get hold of, I made a trip in dry season, when the country mills were stopped for want of water, to Cox's old mill at Barbourville. As we went from our neighbor-hood, several in company-the distance being nearly twenty miles-we were detained a day and more, waiting for our grists, as the mill was very much thronged with persons who had gotten there with grists before us. During the delay, I wandered up to the town-the county town of Knox-where a circuit court was sitting in a large old log house. I inquired the name of the judge, and all the lawyers, as they engaged in speaking, or were employed in reading, writing, talking with clients, or lounging about the rude bar. The judge was the late (or perhaps present) Judge Wm. Kelly-a rough, honest, Irish spoken man as I remember him. The late Col. Samuel McKee, afterwards in Congress and a Judge, was one of the lawyers. The late Wm. Logan, a very neat, smooth spoken little man, was another. He and the late George Walker of Nicholasville, Jessamine Co., Ky. argued a cause, upon some point of law, upon demurrer, at great length. In the debate, I heard for the first time, the word demurrer, and the word venue. The question was one of jurisdiction, arising in some attach-ment in a technical and judicial sense.
Tunstall Quarles, since in Congress and now a Judge, and who owns my old Aunt Polly Duncan's old residence in Whitley, near Williamsburg, was also present, one of the finest, best drest, and vainest looking men I had ever seen. Col. Rhodes Garth of Wayne was also present, and a lawyer named Jackman, both very young, unemployed, looking men.
Joseph Eve, who had then represented Knox one year in the Assembly, and Wm. McNutt from Knoxville, Tennessee, were present as young lawyers. Eve became a Judge afterwards, and was by Gen. Harrison, or Taylor, in fulfillment of Harrison's promise, appointed Minister to Texas in 1819, and died there at Galveston in 1847 or 1843. He was succeeded by Gen. Tilghman A. Howard of Indiana, who also died there in 1844. McNutt tried the law at Barbourville-got married to a Miss Jewett-could not succeed-and went back to Tennessee. He went to Bedford County as a Land Surveyor at an early time, and a few years ago-in 1840-was living in Henry Co., West Tenn., a vagabond old schoolmaster, separated from his second wife. When I thus saw him in Barbourville, about 1808 or 1809, he was a very gay, fashionable young man.
Nearly all those I there saw as lawyers, are long since dead. Logan became distinguished, as did McKee, and Thomas Montgomery who was also there. He spoke in the law suit I have mentioned. He was once afterwards prominent in Congress.
From the time I witnessed these incidents, when I was eleven or twelve years old, I contracted, and never lost sight of a most ardent desire to become a lawyer. I had the year before, read in a file of Virginia newspapers, a report of Burr's trial, with the speeches of Wirt, Botts, Wickham, Hay etc. at full length. This had kindled the flame-the witnessing of discussions in a respectable court, the first such I had ever seen, conducted by able men-some of them noted for wit and correct speaking-blew up the fire of my secret desires to a perfect flame. In 1806 and seven, I had read some debates in the Kentucky Assembly in a paper I think called the Western World, edited by one Street, which was sent to my Uncle Thomas. The report of Burr's trial I first read in the Staunton Eagle, and then in a book-an abridged, but correct report I think, by Wm. Thompson, then a lawyer of Abingdon, and brother of the talented young Thompson of Petersburgh, then dead, who wrote "Curtin's letters to John Marshall, against the federalists in old John Adams time. I had also seen some straggling members occasionally of the National Intelligence and Richmond Enquirer in 1805-6-7, continuing debates in Congress. These things, all conspired to made me pray night and day, that at some time I might become a lawyer and public speaker. For fear of ridicule, however, I kept my secret and consuming desires a profound secret. I read, however, with a view to acquiring general knowledge, for which I had an insatiable thirst, every book I could get hold of. I read the Bible, for history, again and again. A man named Woodson-Wade Woodson, an intemperate and unfortunate old lawyer, with an amiable family, bought or rented, and went to live at Arthurs old mill on Spruce Creek in 1808. That was the mill we attended to get meal. Finding Woodson had many good books, and that he and his wife loved to encourage learning, even in an awkward untutored mill boy, a stranger to them too, I continued always for a year or eighteen months, to get myself sent to mill every week or fortnight, to Woodsons, where I had an opportunity of borrowing and re-turning books, and of getting the advice of Mrs. Woodson and her husband upon my course of reading. After I had heard the lawyers speak in Barbourville, of which I gave Mr. Woodson an account, he explained to me, as well as I could comprehend it, all the hard words they used.
These excellent people-he a perfect gentleman and she a lady of the old school-both intimate with Mr. Jefferson and his family before they had removed to Kentucky-were of infinite service to me. From them, I borrowed and read carefully, an edition of the Spectator in 8 volumes. I read it so studiously, or even for a long time to remember the exact substance, and much of the language of Mr. Addison's admirable criticisms on Paradise Lost-Criticism which first brought that great poem into its merited appreciation in England. I borrowed and read several volumes of Saulavie's French Revolutionary Biography, illustrated by engraved portraits of the heads of the great leaders in that wonderful political event. Among other smaller works, I borrowed and read an answer to Paine's Age of Reason, by a Jew named Levi. As far as the Old Testament was concerned, it was a calm, able, manly defence, full of charity and good feeling, and made the first strong and lasting impression my mind received in youth, of the truth of the Bible. I esteemed the author himself-a Jew-whose people had continued always known, and ever unchanged-holding the Bible as an unchanged record received from his fathers, always known as a revelation from God, and never denied or doubted, by the very people to whom the revelation was originally made in their own tongue-and among whom, sacredly preserved, the Bible-at least all the canonical books-and others of more doubtful authority-have been kept without alteration from the earliest ages of the world. They were collected, as preserved, carefully transcribed, and deposited in the temple after the return from the Babylonion captivity. These facts of the preservation of these books, of the records unchanged being kept by an unchanged people-such books in matter and manner-is wisdom, moral truth, and sublimity of composition, as uninspired man never could have made-such compositions as man of himself in no other age or nation ever has made-is to me now, and when I read Mr. Levi's argument in infancy comparatively, and which I have not seen for thirty-five years-was conclusive proof per. se of the truth of the Bible itself as a revelation from God. Of the truth of the Old Testament, every living Jew is a living witness-as much so as one of the most eminent of the prophets would be if he had lived like the fabled wandering Jew down to this day, and was now living among us.
Mr. Woodson also had Watson's answer to Paine-but these were books his excellent wife read more than he did. Among his books for the first time I met with and read a translation of Ovid by different hands into English verse. He furnished me also, I believe, Dryden's Virgil.
About this time, I somewhere met with, and read Tom Jones, Roderick Random, and Peregrine Pickle-worth all the novels and romances written from Fielding and Smolletts time down to Sir Walter Scott.
From an old man, a Mr. Barton, I think, I procured, and my mother and myself read Bishop Newton on the Prophesies, and a work by Derham on natural religion and natural history, called "Physico-Medico-Theology", as well as I remember. My grandfather sent me about 1809, Goldsmith's Natural History, large Richmond edition, in 4 volumes, with find plates. I considered it a rich present-and read, and re-read it, until I was master of the history of nearly all the animals in the world.
After my father removed to Virginia, in 1809, as before related, I went to school, during part of the year 1811, or fall of 1810, and 1811, to a gentleman named Burroughs (Joseph) at the old Bovell meeting house, near Shugart's old place, boarding at my grandfather Duncan's. We lived at about one mile or mile and a half's distance from the old man, as near the school house as where he lived, but as he and grandmother were lonesome, they wanted company. Mr. Burroughs taught me English Grammar, from a grammar by Harrison, and an abridgement of Murray's Grammar. He added by his instructions to my knowledge of arithmetic. During this time, the late Thomas McChesney, who had received a sound early classical education, became my friend, and encouraged my habits of reading and study. He had a tolerably good library for the country and furnished me with many books. He had Helen Maria William's Letters on the French Revolution which I read and Bancroft's Life of Washington. I borrowed from him and also read Cudworth's Intellectual System, a book entirely beyond my depths of comprehension. Morse's large geography, with maps, was of more use to me than any book of his I read. Either Gordon's or Snowden's history of the American Revolution fell in my way and was read about this time. In all these desultory readings, and by a constant habit of written compositions-mostly in correspondence by letters- I aimed at improvement-and in improvement, faintly hoped that at sometime in some way, providence would open a door by which I could sometime become a lawyer, though from what I now felt and knew, from what I saw daily, I was aware of the inseperable defects of my early education, and which I saw no possible way to overcome or remedy, I never believed I could rise even to mediocrity in that or any other profession requiring learning. I looked with great admiration on all learned men. I saw Edward and John Campbell, and Henry St. John Dixon, as lawyers, and Mr. Bovell, (Rev. Stephen) and Mr. Harper as clergymen, and I envied them nothing but their scholarship. I prayed and toiled for knowledge and thought if I had learning enough to enable me to read all good books understandingly, and only had a good library, or access to a good library, that I should be a happy man, and content to live even in want of all luxuries and finery-all superfluities of all sorts, if I could only be wise. Knowledge was all it seemed to me I wanted to make me happy.
Sometime in February, 1811, Mr. Thomas McChesney informed me that Mr. Samuel Fulton, living twelve or fifteen miles from my father's- an old country merchant of the firm of Samuel & Andrew Fulton-Samuel being the active man, Andrew living on a farm in Augusta County, was about to set a man up in business, and send him to the West with a stock of goods, named Andrew Buchanan-that Buchanan would perhaps want a clerk or store keeper-and that, as he knew Fulton well, he would give me a letter to him to enable me possibly to get the situation. He gave me a letter. I had never seen Mr. Fulton, or any person on his place. He had a store, a large farm, and carried on large blacksmiths shops, Sadler's shops etc., making farming tools and saddles to supply his various mercantile estab-lishments in which he had set up many young partners in different parts of the country. Of such establishments, he had an interest in many. He had set up one John M. Moore, at Monticello, Wayne Co. Ky.- W. B. Carter, since a member of Congress, at Elizabethton, Carter Co. Tenn.-Maj. Tate near Kings Salt Works-and John I. Hayter in the same part of the country. On his own account, Wm. Glenn and Francis Porterfield (who died of cholera as a merchant in Nashville in 1834 or 1835) kept a store at Sparta, White Co., Tennessee, and Wm. Snodgrass one at Blountville, Sullivan Co., East Tennessee-Andrew Buchanan, now, in a partnership, was going to McMinnville, Warren Co. Tenn.
I delivered my letter to Squire Fulton, whom I found to be a dig-nified, kind old gentleman. I remained at his house a few days by his request, stayed about the store, and was treated with much kindness by the clerks. James Lowry and John H. Fulton, Andrew Fulton's son, and afterwards a lawyer of Abingdon, and member of the Virginia Senate, and member of Congress in 1834-5, were two of the clerks, and were, about that time, admitted to a partnership, in the business there at home, under the name of John H. Fulton, James Lowry & Co. I got acquainted with Mr. Buchanan, whose parents lived in the neighborhood, who was there laying off his goods from a new stock just received from Baltimore, where the Fultons bought all their goods, and from whence they were all conveyed in wagons to the western part of Virginia, by way of Frederick, Harper's Ferry, Winchester, Staunton, Wythe Court House, Etc. I found Mr. Buchanan to be an inquisitive, plain, worthy batchelor, who asked me a thousand questions. He seemed pleased with my handwriting, my arithmetic, and love of books. At that time, and nearly through life I have labored under a peculiar timidity in approaching, and making the acquaintance of strangers. Besides I was excessively awkward in my manners, and plain and common in my common homespun country dress. I had no other kind of clothing. All my clothes were made by my good mother-sometimes with the assistance of my grandmother, and Aunt Eleanor Campbell, who lived with her husband at my grandfather's plantation, his cabin standing precisely where the house stood in which my father afterwards lived after the death of my grand-mother, and until 1829, when I removed him to Tennessee.
Mr. Buchanan agreed with me, that if I would go home, and return to Mr. Fulton's in a few days, he would give me an answer as to whether he would employ me. I told him frankly that wages was not so much an object with me as to obtain an opportunity of learning the business of acquiring knowledge generally.
On the day appointed, I returned, near the last of February, 1811, and the next day, he engaged me to go out to what was then West (now Middle) Tennessee, and keep store for him for one year at McMinnville, for Ninety dollars per annum-he finding me boarding and washing, and I finding my own clothes the first year; and if we agreed, and I should stay longer with him, the wages for future time was to be the subject of a new agreement. I was then in my fifteenth year, and would be fully fifteen on the first day of May, after making this agreement. The country I was going to was three hundred miles from home-was a new country-having been purchased from the Cherokee Indians in 1805 or 1806, and had begun to be first settled in 1807. In the General Assembly at Knoxville, of 1807, the County of Warren had been created in November, and taken from White and Smith etc. In December, at the same session, finding there were people and territory enough, Franklin County had also been laid off and established. They had both before, for some years, constituted a portion of White County, and the first courts had been held at Rock Island. Major Isaac Taylor, who was one of the early sheriffs of White has told me that he several times had to travel from his residence on Taylor's Creek, in White, to Bean's Creek, twelve miles below where Winchester stands to simply serve subponeas on witnesses.
At Mr. Fulton's, they furnished me a few articles of goods for clothing, charged to Mr. Buchanan, and a few dollars to bear my expenses. Mr Buchanan was to leave at once, go ahead of the wagon that was to carry the goods, and get a store house prepared. The wagon-for the whole stock of dry goods and groceries for a retail business made but one five horse team load, and was to be hauled out by the late Lewis Shell for-about nine dollars the hundred pounds-and the goods, by invoice, only cost about $2500.00-I say, the wagon was to leave in a few days afterwards, and I was to follow on after the wagon, as soon as I could.
I went home, got my few articles of clothing made-one thing being a coarse great coat-and set out into the world, my own man to seek my fortune. I left my fathers I think, about the 10th of March. Many tears between myself, my mother, and little brothers, were shed at parting. My father and some friends went with me as far as my grandfather Laughlin's. The night before, I had taken leave of my grandfather and grandmother Duncan, and Uncle Sam Campbell's family.
My excellent old grandfather Laughlin had given me a young horse and saddle, bridle and saddlebags. When I called to take leave, he added ten dollars in specie to his gifts, with which, and receiving his blessing, and parting with my father and other friends, I set off on my journey with a heavy heart; but being young-the whole world fresh and before me-full of hope and full of a wish to see and hear-with no experience of the troubles, pains, and vexations of life, all my melancholy soon left me. Since I have become a man, and since I have known the world, and have felt how indis-pensable the society of kindred and confidential friends are to all happiness in this world, I have been surprised and wondered again and again how it happened, with my strong love of home and my family, that I ventured, and was enabled to command courage to leave home under such circumstances. I believe, however, without attributing small occurences, relating to our personal affairs to any special providence, that under the general providence of God, my lot was cast, and that all of my future course in life was to be altered, and dependant upon the very incident of my leaving home at that time, under the engagement I had made. Making the engagement-the accident of McChesney learning that Buchanan was going west, and my hearing of it, and obtaining his letter to Fulton, which procurred me the place, humble as it was, all seem the effect of chance and accident-but as things have gone with me in life, as hereafter related, I ascribe it all to Providence-to the good providence of God, to whom I owe a greater debt of gratitude for my preservation through inumerable ills in life, and for thousands of mercies, than any man now living, old or young.
The first night after I left home, I went to Blountville, and stayed at the late Dr. Elkanah R. Dulancy's, who then kept a tavern. Finding I was the son of John Laughlin, and the grandson of his old friend of the same name, who lived in Sullivan, he refused to charge me any bill. I found out who kept store in that town for the Fultons, and slept at the store with him.
On the next morning I set off very early, long before sunrise, and traveled all the way, passing Kingsport and the mouth of Reedy Creek, to Ross' old iron works, then in a state of dilapidation on the North Fork to breakfast. This place, belonging to David Ross of Richmond, Va. and now to his son, Rev. Frederick Ross, had been improved by the late Thomas Hopkins. This place was then Mr. Hopkin's home, as the agent of Ross, and extensively engaged in business for himself in locating and securing Western lands, by which he accumulated a large estate before his death in 1836. When he died, his home was McMinnville, Tennessee, where he had lived many years. -To return from a digression, the tavern and ferry then kept at the ford of the North Fork, a mile or more above where the road crosses now on Ross' bridge, were the property or in charge of Mr. Hopkins. As I descended the chesnut hills, below Holly's old place, where the Abingdon and Mountville roads fork, seven miles west of the latter I overtood two men named Whitworth, Edward and Samuel, brothers, who lived as they said, and as I afterwards learned, near the three forks of Fishing Ford on Duck River, then in Bedford, now in Marshall County, Tennessee. They had been to North Carolina with a drove of horses and were returning home. They told me the place I was going to was forty or fifty miles east of their homes, and that they were going by McMinnville or near to it. I proposed to travel with them, and they said my company would be agreeable. Edward was the older man and loved his grog-Samuel, who was much younger, said his purpose was, being unmarried, to study law in Tennessee with Judge John Haywood, who, he said, lived near Nashville. After we breakfasted together, and traveled on through Hawkins, I discovered that they had traveled the road often as drovers. On getting with eighteen miles of Knoxville, having breakfasted in Granger County at the house of the late Squire Clay, father of Hon. C. C. Clay of Alabama, I found that at the forks of the road at Blain's store, these gentlemen recommended the Emory road, as nearest, it crossing Clinch River at Sutherland's old ferry, and passing twenty or thirty miles north of Kingston and fifteen or twenty north of Knoxville. I regretted this as I wished to see Knoxville, but for the sake of company, being a boy and a stranger, I went on with them. Being very green I told them all my business and prospects. I never knew these men after this journey with them, but judge they were slippery fellows. I discovered from the haste and averted faces with which they passed the Red House, Jarnagin's tavern in Granger I think, and some other places, that they passed without wishing to be known. I afterwards learned, from overhearing their private consultations, that the reason for such conduct was this: as they had gone east, with their horses to market, they had stopped at these places, and had run up bills for provender and lodging, which they had not paid, and were now sneaking by without calling to pay them as they had promised to do. This I thought to be strangely dishonest at the time, and regarded them with suspicion while I remained in their company afterwards. I had never heard before of any such trick of evasion of paying just debts, and looked forward with anxiety to the time when I should part with them. This happened sooner than I expected, for after crossing the mountains to the Crab Orchard, a noted place thirty-six miles east of Sparta, in White County, being of the same name of a famous place in Kentucky history, I suddenly overtook Mr. Shell, with his wagon load of goods, lying by on account of a heavy rain then falling. He was glad to see me, and said if I would stop, my horse being tired, and the day wet, that in two days we would reach Sparta together, where Glenn and Porterfield kept a store for the Fultons, and that there we should find or hear of Buchanan, who had gone on a week before. I agreed to it-and here the Whitworths left me, and I never saw them again, though I afterwards learned that they really lived near the Fishing Ford on Duck River, near where Farmington now is.
Next day, I went on with Shell, traveling slowly with the wagon. The road from Sparta to Crab Orchard, called Simpson's Turnpike, had then just been cut out and opened by Gen. (then Maj.) John W. Simpson. It was new and full of stumps. There were scarcely any houses on it. We camped one night, without fire, sleeping in the wagon, and fastening our horses as wagoners always do. It rained in the night and was cold. Our camp, so to call it, was on the high hill east of the Caney Fork and in hearing of the running waters, near where Maj. Eastland's house now stands. Next day we arrived safely in Sparta, and met Buchanan, just returned from McMinnville, twenty-six miles further west, where he had been and procured a small shanty or cabin built hut to open the goods in. Here I met and got acquainted with Glenn and Porterfield-and Dr. Nourse, since dead, and for the first time saw Gen. George W. Gibbs walking the streets with his wife, he having moved to Sparta, not long before, from Monticello, Wayne County Ky., and had been appointed Clerk of the Circuit Court of White County, Tenn.
Buchanan had known him while formerly in Kentucky, keeping store for John Moore. I have known Gen. Gibbs ever since, sometimes as a friend, and sometimes as an enemy, growing out of politics.
The next day we went on to McMinnville. Buchanan and myself, for the present, as there was no tavern in the town, which had just been laid out into lots the falI before, took lodgings at Maj. Joseph Colville's, more than a mile east of the town on the Sparta road, and lived in the same house now belonging to Charles Schurer, and sold to him by George R. Smartt. Here we stayed, till the store house was fixed and our goods opened. Then we boarded at Mr. Isham Randolph's, the father of Mr. George R. Smartt, and Mr. Doct. Paine, whose house or cabin stood near where the Cumberland Presbyterian Church now stands. We found our board plain and neat, and as good as the new country afforded. Mrs. Randolph, whom I ever knew as an excellent old lady afterwards, and lived to nurse and take care of my grandchildren (Dr. Smartt's children) only died in the latter part of the year 1844.
The late Captain William White, father of William White,' called Buck, and the father of the lady my friend, Mr. Buchanan, afterwards married, removed the same spring to McMinnville from Williamsburg, Jackson County, for the purpose of building the court house for the county, in the new town, which he had contracted to do with the commissioners. He first brought a number of his negros and workmen, and built a double cabin where Mr. Prench's large stable now stands. His negro women cooked for us, and we took up our board among his carpenters and bricklayers, and with himself at this negro quarter as it might be called, and slept in the store. Capt. White, as soon as he built the house, now sometimes occupied as a grocery, and partly as a workshop, right in front of the south door of the court house, and on the corner of a street and the public square, just before and where you begin to descend the hill towards the tanyard; I say, as soon as this house was built, with three rooms, the front one being the bar-room-Capt. White removed his family to McMinnville and opening this house as the first tavern opened in the place, we boarded with him. The backroom below, was the family apartment. At the west end of the house, towards the brick house built by the late Edward Hoge, a large one story frame room was soon added, which contained four or five beds and was a great addition to the establishment. In this last room, and afterwards in the upper rooms of the court house after it was covered, beds were put when the courts were in session, which increased the accomodations for the lawyers very much.
At a former time, and from 1808, when the County Courts were first held in the county, the Courts sat over the river, on a hill, near a spring, on the road to Betsheba Springs. In those times and previously, the old District Court system was in operation, and the District Court for all the Warren, White, Overton, Jackson, Smith, Sumner, and perhaps other counties composing the territory named, sat at Carthage in the County of Smith. Suitors and jurors had to attend at great distances from home. In 1809, the Circuit Court system was first passed by the legislature, mainly at the insistance of the Hon. Thomas H. Benton, now of Missouri, who then represented Williamson County in the Tennessee State Senate. That system, directing a circuit court to be held in each county, twice in each year, went into operation in 1810. N. W. Williams, formerly Clerk of the District Court at Carthage, was elected Judge of the Mountain District Circuit-and held some of his first courts at the old court-house in Warren. When this was the case, the Judge and lawyers boarded about in the neighborhood as best they could. Most of them stopped at the house of old Thomas Wilcher, two miles from the place of holding the court, he living at the place now owned by Buck White, where the old man Wilcher died many years ago, and where the late Joshua Coffee lived. At that time, the late John H. Bowe, Bennett H. Henderson, the late, Alexander Gray, who was a Captain in the late war and afterwards died while a Judge in Missouri, the late Thomas K. Harris, who once, represented the district in Congress, the late Jacob C. Isaacs, and the late Francis Jones, both of Winchester, and both of whom were afterwards members of Congress, were among the lawyers who first practiced in Warren, as was the present Col. A.W. Overton of Smith. Shortly afterwards, Adam Huntsman, Gen. G. W. Gibbs, the late Maj. James McCampbell, an early friend of my father, and under whom I studied law, and Isaac Thomas, now of Alexandria, Louisiana, who also went to Congress in 1814-15 or 1815, all came-out and practiced in the Circuit Court. In August, 1811, I saw the first Circuit Court in session in McMinnville I had ever seen in the state, judge Williams presided, and the court sat under a covered shelter, made of a carpenters work bench for a bar, and seats in front for the jury, with a more elevated seat for the Judge behind the jury box. All was covered over with a shelter of planks and lumber Capt. White had collected for building the court house. It stood about twenty five steps south from the southeast corner of the court house on the public square. That term of the court was attended-in addition to the lawyers I have named-by the late Judge William W. Cooke, the Reporter, by the late Judge Joshua Haskell, by the late Lemuel P. Montgomery, and by the late Maj. John Read, Gen. Jackson's biographer, who commenced the Life, finished by Eaton. Geo. W. Witt also, then of Fayetteville, now dead, was also present, and had previously attended the courts of Warren. At this court, was the first time Maj. McCampbell attended. Immediately afterwards he came to McMinnville to live, from Jefferson in Rutherford, and sent to Wythe County, Virginia, for his family. He afterwards lived at Sparta as a lawyer and tavern keeper, and from thence went to Kentucky or the west, and I never knew his final fate, or when or where he died.
Witnissing this court and hearing the lawyers and hearing them speak, specially Judge Cooke, who was an able and energetic man, again remewed and inflamed my scarcely slumbering desire to become a lawyer. To gain a knowledge of law and forms, I voluntarily wrote for Maj. Colville, the Clerk of the county court in his office. Pleasant Henderson, who was killed by lightning in his own house in McMinnville in 1837, was Clerk of the Circuit Court, and also kept Col. William Mitchell's Land Office-the Surveyor's office of the district in which lands were entered by virtue of North Carolina Land Warrants-and was considered the most knowing business man in the town. The late John A. Wilson had a store in town kept in a log house, since destroyed, which stood on the corner of the next lot east of the present dwelling and store house of William White. Charles Sullivan, the father of the wife of the late John Cain, also kept a small store in the log house, across the street, and on the south side of the square, opposite to the old tavern house before described. Wilson got broke, and moved to the western district in 1820 or 1821, and died. Sullivan left his wife and family, and took up with a girl called Sally Taylor, had a new set of children, and was killed some years ago in a brawl or fracas with a kinsman on a steamboat in the lower Mississippi. A man named William Barnett was sheriff and John McLean and Jeptha V. Isbell, his deputies. Barnett, as sheriff, was succeeded by Gen. Wm. Smartt, and he by Isham Perkins, and he by Leighton Ferrell-since dead-and whose farm, Hickory Hill, is now my property and home.
A post office, at which a weekly mail, on horseback, passed from Knoxville to Nashville, and returned, generally in each week, but sometimes failed. Maj. Colville was the first postmaster, and as his deputy, he living out of town, I kept the office for him. At that day, we never contemplated to see daily and triweekly stages running over the same route and distance. The horse mail passed through Sequatchie Valley-the stages now running, pass by Sparta, while horse mails cross the country in almost every direction at this day, and have for a great many years.
In the summer of 1811, Mr. Felix Grundy, then living at Nashville as a lawyer, where he had removed from Kentucky in 1808, became a candidate for Congress. Under the census of 1810, all of what is now Middle Tennessee, constituted a Congressional district. Col. (the late) Barkley Martin of Bedford, the late Col Wm. P. Anderson who then lived at Nashville and others got up a public meeting and passed resolutions against Mr. Grundy's election-and published them in a handbill signed by Martin as the Chairman of the meeting. Mr. Grundy answered in a circular letter. The late Gen. Isaac Roberts of Maury County was run in opposition to Mr. Grundy. In August, when the election came off, Mr. Grundy was elected by a large majority. I do not now remember whether Col. Robert Weakley (who died in Feb. 1845) or the late Jesse Wharton had been Mr. Grundy's predecessors. T. M. Miller, I think, was the member from the Knoxville District for the latter part of the term of 1809-10 and 1810-11, which had expired on the 4th of March 1811, filling out the second year of an unexpired term of G. W. Campbell, who had been elected to the Senate. I saw Miller on his way home, as I travelled with the Whitworths-he passing Squire Clay's in Granger, or Mr. Copeland's, while we were resting and waiting for breakfast. It was the first time I had ever seen him.
After I went to Murfreesboro to live in Oct. 1815, I got acquainted with Mr. Grundy, of which more hereafter.
After Maj. McCampbell, a lawyer, and old acquaintance of my father, came to McMinnville to live, I disclosed to him my wishes to study law, and fairly set in to reading every spare hour I had from some time in the year 1812, when I was about 18 years old. I read Blackstone' Commentaries with great diligence-and on being frequently examined as to my studiousness, Maj. Mc. encouraged me to persevere. In the winter of 1812-13, we formed a debating society, meeting at Capt. White's tavern, and of which Andrew Buchanan, the late Hugh Brevard, the late Leighton Ferrell, Dr. Lemuel Gilliam, now of Jackson County, Alabama, and others were members-and in this society I made my first essay in public speaking, on such questions as are usually discussed in such societies. I found that I labored under an un-conquerable (as I believed) timidity and diffidence, though time and practice wore if off very much in subsequent years after I came to the bar in 1817-18. But up to this hour, I have never risen in any public assembly, to speak on an important subject, or one in which I felt a deep interest, without feeling all the nervous timidity and tremulous anxiety, and fear of failure, often producing a stammering, which I felt in my earliest attempts. It has ever been the case with me whether in the courts, the Legislature, or before assemblies of the people, I have never yet, and at my time of life, I never expect to overcome it. I don't feel a desire to do so, for I have ever found that in proportion to my excitement, interest, and diffidence in commencing my speeches, have been the success of the efforts I made in the end. I never made a reasonably good speech in my life where I felt a calm unconcern at the commencement of it.
So, I commenced reading law- a doubtful beginning of an endeavor which I had determined from early boyhood to make, if ever opportunity offered. On its becoming known in the village, that such was my design, and such my studies, some laughed at me for the attempt, while others, sober minded friends who know me best, encouraged me, saying that if I even failed in succeeding at the Bar, yet I would find myself greatly improved and made more respectable by it. So, I perservered -- and besides reading law, in the summer and fall of 1812, I read Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire-the same copy of the work I now have in my library, and which I afterwards purchased of the late John A. Wilson. It was then an era in my fortunes to become possessed of such a work.
In the summer of 1812, before I commenced reading law regularly, I became acquainted with the Hon. John Catron, now an associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was then engaged as a partner with a brother or kinsman of his, in buying beef cattle and steers, and driving them to market, or in buying for the Zimmermans or Simmermans, Dutchmen who were kinsmen of his. They had all once lived in Wythe County, Virginia. The Catron family, all Pennsyivania Dutch, were there called Catherines or Katherines-and all the family that remained there, still continue to be called so. But the Judge adopted the spelling of Catron-and I think induced his father and family to do so. The old men of the family could scarcely speak English and perhaps could never read or write it. The way I came to know the Judge was this.
He came by our store one afternoon, having known Andrew Buchanan when he was a clerk for John M. Moore at Montecello, Kentucky. He had been raised and his father's family then lived near Burkesville, Cumberland County, Ky., where the Simmermans also lived. When he called, Buchanan was not at home. He told me he was an old acquaintance, and was then engaged in buying and driving cattle. We had in the store a fine copy of some book, of Blaire's Lectures on Rhetorick I think, and he wished to buy it on credit-said he would be passing and pay for it soon. Being a decent looking young man but exceeding uncouth and self-important, I trusted him for it and he did pay for it as he promised. At that time, he had the same nasal twang of voice, the same self-consequence that has ever marked him since. He was then, however, exceeding illiterate and Mr. Buchanan, who had a good knowledge of books, and of Mr. Catron, laughed very much at the character of his purchase. He afterwards, perhaps in the fall of the same year, or in beginning of 1813, came from Kentucky to Sparta, and commenced reading law and history, and geography in the office of Gen. Gibbs in White County. About the season he came there, or the season before, he had kept a stallion for his father called Agricola-and many stories are told, by way of characteristic anecdotes, of his manner of showing off and praising his horse to the people on public occasions. Harry H. Brown, formerly of the Tennessee Senate from Perry-Adam Huntsman, formerly a member of Congress from the Western District, and others who witnessed these displays, used to repeat them with much effect, and greatly to Mr. Catron's annoyance after he came to the Bar, and to the Bench.
After Mr. Catron commenced study, he read hard and diligently, but though he acquired knowledge-a knowledge of facts, history, and in his profession, yet, properly speaking, he has ever remained illiterate. He has never learned to pronounce, or speak pure English, adhering to the old pasal, and cant word kind of style in which he was bred-and he has never learned to write his mother tongue or any other tongue. His mother tongue might be said to be Dutchy which he forgot in youth-but I mean, he has never learned English. About the year 1835-6, since he had been a Judge of the Supreme court of Tennessee, he and his wife visited the falls of Niagara. He wrote a description in a letter to his wife's sister, Mrs. Marshall, which she published in the paper at Nashville. It was a most ridiculous piece of bombast. Thomas Washington, a lawyer of Nashville, who always hated him, wrote a criticism on it, in the same paper which the Judge will never forget. It took the skin off.
After Mr. Catron came to the Bar, on the resignation of Isaac Thomas, now of Alexandria, Louisiana, he obtained the appointment of Attorney General as they were called, for prosecuting state cases in the White and Warren Circuit, then called the 3rd Circuit. This was after the war. While a student, he served in volunteer campaigns in the Creek Nation. He was not, perhaps, one of those who were afterwards called retrograders-those who insisted on leaving Gen. Jackson and breaking up the campaign on a real or supposed expiration of the time for which they had turned out-but it is understood that he was of the dissatisfied party, and it is understood that Col. Wm. Martin of Smith-one of the bitter enemies of General Jackson ever since whose enmity grew out of his disgraceful course in wishing to return to Tennessee from the nation at an improper time, has a written certificate or statement of some sort from under Judge Catron's hand, given about that time which it is believed the Judge would give thousands to be able to recall.
After practicing law for a time in the third circuit, part of the time State Attorney, and after Judge Gibbs had gone to Nashville to live after the war, he went to Nashville to live and practice also. He assessed great consequence at the Bar and because he affected professional learning, and had no capacity for public speaking, having never delivered an argument before a jury or court that deserved the name of a speech, he had acquired among the people, as all stammering and dumb lawyers do, the name of a man of deep law, learning. The dignity he assumed, and the wise, mysterious, knowing manners he assumed-avoiding all social intercourse with the common people-added to his reputation for knowledge. He went to Nashville and assumed the same and still more dignified and distant habits. He continued to make and save money. After a year or two he married Matilda, a daughter of the late John Childress, who had long been United States Marshall for the district of West Tennessee-by which office and a previous mercantile connection, he had realized a considerable estate.
After this, about the year 1821 or 1823, on a change of the Judicial system of the state, as related to the Supreme Court, he came to Murfreesboro where the Assembly sat from 1819 to 1825, and was elected. When he first mentioned his pretensions, I know that with Mr. Felix Grundy and Andrew Buchanan, who were both members at the time, one being a representative of Davidson and the other from Warren, the subject of his claims were treated as a matter of jest; but in a few days, from his assumptions of pretension and dignity, it became pretty clear he would be elected, as no lawyer of distinguished standing, who had a good practice desired it. He electioneered for-the office incessantly; and it was during this canvass that Harry H. Brown, then a member, told the story that ten years before, when he was a peddler with a horseman's pack, and Catron a groom to the stallion Agricola, who would have thought they would ever meet again, as they had then met at Murfreesboro, one a State Senator, and the other a candidate for a judgeship on the bench of the Supreme Court.
After his election, he continued on the Bench, having become Chief Justice under the system adopted under the old constitution of 1796, until he went out of office under the constitution of 1834, ratified in 1835, by vote of the people in the spring, and under which the newly organized and apportioned legislature met in October 1835, to adopt a judicial system, and fill all the offices vacated by the new constitution, of which the chief Justiceship was one. He had taken sides against Judge Whites nomination for the Presidency in 1835, and was otherwise unpopular and could not be re-elected. In 1836, he became a warm friend of Mr. Van Buren in the presidential election-wrote many articles-some signed Kinderhook-all rewritten by me, and published in the Union. In this way, he scribbled and electioneered himself into the nomination for an associate, Judgeship on the bench of the Supreme Court, on an increase of the number of circuits and Judges, by which he, and John McKinley, still a lightn (sic) man and a Whig, came on the bench. He was nominated by Mr. Van Buren, and since this elevation, has assumed great and vast dignity. Although profoundly aristocratic in all his habits and bearing-as all men raised to wealth and station, by a concurrence of accidents and false pretensions ever have been-and always will be-yet he still professed to belong to the democratic party and was in favor of Van Buren's election in 1840-and of Mr. Polk's in 1844. At one time, he and his kin had all the federal offices in Tennessee worth having. He was a Circuit Judge, pay $4500.00 per annum. His brother-in-law, Morgan W. Brown-a shallow pretender who was starving at the Bar at Nashville for want of talents and want of energy and want of character-the worst appointment Gen. Jackson ever made or Mr. Grundy as Senator ever assented to-was appointed District Judge in place of Judge John McNairy at $2000.00 per annum. Sam Marshall since a defaulter who has ruined his securities, Judge Catron, Morgan W. Brown, V. K. Stevenson, nor none of his near kin being of them-who was another brother-in-law-all those named having married Childresses-was U.S. Marshall for the District, an office worth five or six thousand dollars a year. Benjamin Litton, another of the same, was by the family, procured to be appointed clerk of the Chancery Court at Nashville and Franklin, an office worth from two to three thousand dollars. All these men were unpopular-Marshall and Morgan Brown worthless and mean-but pretension and intrigue carried every thing-as they too often do.
After reading law with Maj. McCampbell, hard and diligently, I obtained a license, and in October or September, 1815, removed to and settled in Murfreesboro by advice of Col. Mitchell and other friends. Col. James Wilson, who once lived at the Fox Camp in Rutherford, lived during 1813 and 1814 in McMinnville, in the log house east of L. D. Mercer's store-then considered a large house, and kept tavern. I had boarded with him. After he removed back to Rutherford, he presuaded me to go to that county.
In 1814, while I still did business for Mr. Buchanan to support myself, I went with John M. Lowry in the employ of the Fultons, with a drove of horses to Pennsylvania, having gone by my native home on the way, saw my parents and family, and gone through the valley of Virginia by Lexington, Christianburgh, Whythe C. H. Staunton, Hammerburg, Winchester, Woodstock, Maitensburg, Lights Ferry at mouth of Cannecocheaque, crossing the Potomac there, thence by Hagerstown in Maryland, accross the mountains to Gettysburg Pa. and by Yorke, Lancaster, etc. to Philadelphia. I kept an old journal at the time-very brief and obscure in its remarks-of all this journey, which is among my old family papers and memoranda.
On my return I engaged in practice in 1815, and well remember the first speech I tried to make in the county court in the present court house in McMinnville. It was upon a motion to dismiss a writ of certiorari as it was called in our practice-upon purely a question of legal forms and practice. After I was done, I was and had been so much confused, that I have no recoll-ection, and had none at the time, of one word I had said. The present Judge Samuel Anderson, who had then just come out from Knoxville to practice law in Middle Tennessee, and who about that time settled in Lebanon, was engaged in the same cause. After staying at Lebanon a short time, he also went to Murfreesboro to live a few months before I did. A month or two after I went to Murfreesboro, Samuel R. Rucker of Rutherford who also had a license, came to town to live. Charles Burrus, a son of the late Col. Joseph Burrus, also came to Murfreesboro to settle and practice about the same time. He died the next year. The late Judge, Joshua Haskell, who died at Jackson a few years since in West Tennessee, after having been a Judge for some years, had also settled in Murfreesboro, having married Nancy Ready, a daughter of Chas. Ready Sr. of Readyville, to practice law. In 1820 or 1821, he was elected a Judge for the Western Circuit, and moved to Madison County. He died at Jackson, Madison Co. Tenn. about the year 1832.
When I went to reside at Murfreesboro, I found a very different condition in the state of society from that which exists there at present. It was just after the war. Gen. Robert Purdy, who afterwards was Marshall of Middle Tennessee, after the death of the late John Childress, after having risen to the rank of a Colonel in the United States Army, being disbanded on the reduction of the army to a peace establishment, came and settled in the neighborhood, on a farm inherited by his wife who was a Miss Phillips. He was a man of the most liberal hospitality. His wife was an excellent woman-a perfect lady-fond of gaity, fashion and company. The late Mrs. Nancy Lytle, wife of the late Capt. Wm. Lytle, an old revolutionary officer, was and had always been the leader of fashion, and patron of all balls and parties at Murfreesborough, as she had once been at Nashville in her younger days. In her former life, there had been many doubtful circumstances, in re-lation to a Capt. Ricard of the army, and the late Judge John C. Hamilton of Paris when a young man, but her husband's wealth, and her liberal hospitality, living in sight of the town where her son William Lytle now lives, and the fact of her raising a large family of handsome, virtuous, and rich daughters, who all married respectably, had enabled her to outlive all those old tales. The late Joel Dyer-the old gambler, famous in the old traditions of East Tennessee and Nashville-also rich, and whose handsome daughters had also married respectably, lived in town, having removed there from his farm where John McIver now lives, about the time I went to live there, kept a tavern in town, where Col. William F. Lytle now keeps tavern. Col. Wm. Mitchell, who was principal land surveyor of the Mountain District, who had been distinguished in the Creek War, and at New Orleans at the seige of 1814-15, as a Major of Volunteers, also lived in town and kept tavern in the old Jetton House, on the East side of the public square, where Col. Robt. Smith afterwards lived for many years. Mr. Joel Childress, a merchant, owned and lived in the framed portion of the tavern house on the West side of the square, now owned and kept by Capt. Geo. Allen Sublett. Mr. C. was a highly respectable man, and was the father of Mrs. Sarah Polk, the lady of James K. Polk, now President of the United States. He had only three other children-a son named Anderson, who died when quite a young man, as did his wife, of consumption. His other son, Maj. John W. Childress, a married man with a family now lives on the farm where his father died about the year 18-- of fever. His other child-his oldest except Anderson, is Mrs. Susan Rucker of Murfreesboro. Capt. Childress widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Childress, now lives in Murfreesboro. She was a sister of Col. Whitsitt, once of Sumner County, Tennessee, where Mr. C. married her. Col. Whitsitt once lived at the old Marable place in Rutherford, and afterwards removed to, and died in south Alabama.
John M. Tilford, now of Warren Co. Hickory Creek, was a prosperous merchant in Murfreesboro when I went there to live. He was son-in-law of Capt. W. and Mrs. Lytle. Nicholas Tilford, and James M. Tilford, now both dead were merchants there at the same time. The widow of Nicholas, now the Widow Brandon, lives near Readyville on Stone's River, below Woodbury. The late William Barfield, and James D. Caruthers, and Joseph D. Smith, were also merchants, as was one Jonathan Estill, now all dead. In 1816 and 1817, the late Jonathan Currin and the late David Wendel, came there as merchants, Currin from Franklin, in Williamson Co. and Wendel from East Tennessee. Old Alexander Carmichael, and James D. Rawlings, both deceased, were tavern keepers. Dr. W. E. Butler, and Dr. W. T. Henderson, and Dr. Elisha B. Clarke, a cousin of my late father-in-law, and Dr. Henry Homes, were all practicing physicians. Homes now lives in Mississippi, and Dr. Butler in Jackson, Tennessee-the others are dead. Maj. Bennett Smith, a remarkable man, is still living, had removed to town to enjoy his fortune about the time I went to the place to live. He pretended, however, now and then, especially when drunk, to engage in the practice of law. He is the son-in-law of the late Gen. Joseph Dickson, for whom Dickson County is said to have been called- a Revolutionary soldier who was in Congress from North Carolina when the contest took place between Jefferson and Burr in 1800-01. He often told me that he was the man in the North Carolina Delegation who caused the vote of that state to be changed in the final result. His son-in-law Smith, I have heard Judge John Haywood say, was the only man he ever knew to amass a fortune at the Bar in five dollar fees. -The late Gen. Blackman Coleman, before mentioned, who died some years since at Brownsville Tennessee, a son-in-law of old Joel Dyer lived in town, and was clerk of the County Court, then a valuable office. My brother John R. Laughlin (notices of whom see at pages 41-42. 43-44 ante) succeeded him in his office.
In the neighborhood, Col. Robert Henery Dyer lived- a son of old Joel-D a gallant officer wounded at New Orleans, who afterwards died in the Western District. Dyer County was called in honor of his name, Gin B. Hegg, now discarded, the father in law of James Grundy, a son of Felix Grundy, and a son-in-law of old Joel, also lived in the neighborhood- both gay men.
I cannot enumerate all those who then lived in Murfreesborough, but of those who were then living near Rucker scarcely any remain, and most of them are dead. Gaming was then a most prevailing and fashionable vice, and was carried on almost openly. Cards were played for money by almost everybody---and Billiard tables were a common resort.
About December, 1815, was the first time I ever saw President Polk. He was then a very young man, little older than myself, and was a student at the Bradley Academy, an institution which had been removed from near Col. Rucker's to Murfreesborough, and was under the care of the late Samuel P. Black, an excellent and learned man. The old Academy House was a spacious log building, and stood near where the brick Presbyterian Church now stands. About the date named, Mr. Black had an examination of his students, which concluded with the enacting of portions of Plays, and delivering of orations. In attending this examination, called an exhibition, I saw and was remarkably struck with young Mr. Polk. He was small for his age---like myself not arrived at his full growth---and his hair was much fairer and of lighter color than it became afterwards. He had a fine eye---was neat in his person---boarded I think at old Capt. Lytte's---and evinced the capacity for public speaking I had ever heard in a youth.
In one of the Plays, I recollect perfectly well that he enacted Levy Sneak, in the "Mayor of Gamet," in which he manifested infinite humor. I remember after leaving the examination to have told the late Col. Wm Mitchell with whom I then boarded and Capt. Samuel Watson, that he was much the most promising young man in the school, and that if he lived, he would rise to high distinction. I became acquainted with him shortly afterwards---before he went home to Maury County where his father lived---and that acquaintance has ripened into a friendship which has lasted ever since. I believe that shortly after that examination he went to the University at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, having completed his preparatory studies under Mr. Black. At the University, on finishing his course, he afterwards graduated with the first honors. His subsequent history is before the world.
The same Academy House was used on Sabbath days as a place of public worship, until it was afterwards set on fire and consumed by a deranged man from Kentucky named Forsyth. The Rev. Jesse Alexander, still a preacher, and other Presbyterian clergymen preached, and held sacramental meetings in the House. At this House, about 25th of December 1815---it was the Sunday succeeding Christmas day in that year---an event happened to me which I shall never forget---can never forget.
On the day last mentioned, having heard that a Miss Bass---I had not heard her Christian name---and several other young ladies, who were staying at Maj. Bennett Smith's, with his daughter Margaret, (afterwards married to Uriah Cummings and since dead) and attending a sacramental meeting at the place mentioned, I went to hear preaching there on the day under consideration, getting there late, in company with Daniel Barnes and others we could not get into the House, so great was the crowd. We stood out by the door and could hear and see in the House. Near the conclusion of the service, with Miss Smith, and in a pew near the door standing up during the concluding prayer, Miss Bass was pointed out to me. She had her face towards me, so that I had a full view of her contenance and person. She was dressed in white, and stood resting on the staff of a folded parasol. Her contenance was meek, modest, very youthful, and her whole attention seemed engrossed by the prayer which I think was made by the Rev. Mr. Alexander before mentioned. I was greatly struck by her appearance. From having heard Dr. Clarke, then a physician in Murfreesboro (a Virginian and cousin of her father) mention Miss Bass, and having heard Daniel Barnes, then a clerk in Estills Store, and Wm H. Smith, now General Smith speak of her, I had gone to the meeting, not being well at the time, more with a desire to see her than any other person---and more from that desire than to hear preaching. When I saw her, all I had favorable to her person and merits, fell far short of what I at once conceived to be her due. Although I had not seen her move, except to turn round and take her set at the conclusion of the prayer, and had never heard her speak, and although I withdrew and went home to Mitchells Tavern without seeing any more of her, I had from that hour a sentiment that she was at some time to become my wife. I was young and poor, but full of ardent ambition, and never feared but what I could make my way in the world if I should continue in health. I had no view or purpose, however of marrying. I had formed no such resolution or wish. I had only wishes to see Miss Bass from no other motive than the natural desire of youth of either sex to see persons of the other sex whom they have heard praised. But from the moment I saw her, I determined to see her again and learn more about her face to face. I knew Dr. Clarke visited at her father's, six miles West of Murfreesboro, where he lived on a large farm on the old road from Nashville to Shelbyville.
Three or four days I think , as well as I can remember after the foregoing adventure---I should perhaps say incident---Dr. Clarke got into one of his occasional fits or sprees of drinking. He was an old batchelor, of great skill in his profession, and was universally esteemed. He had become very friendly to me. His friends were on this occasion, persuading him to take a ride into the country for exercise, and ride back and he would be over his frolic. He said he would do so if I would go with him. I told him at once I would. I never thought, nor did he, of the place we would go to, or how far. We ordered our horses, and Col. Mitchell gave the Doctor, at his earnest entreaty, a gulp of toddy to start on. We mounted our horses, the Doctor taking the lead. When he started off out of town down the old Nashville road by Wilsons Shoals, which led down on the north and northwest of Squire David Dickerson's plantation. He kept on ahead, with but little to say for some miles, when he commenced telling of his adventures in Virginia (in Brunswick and Petersburg, I think) of his being crossed in love--of his extravagance by which he had spent a good patrimony all occasioned by his disappointment in love. He spoke of a friend of his, Mr. Ambrose House, who had lately removed from Virginia to Rutherford County in the neighborhood of Murfreesborough, near his kinsman Capt. James Bass, and said we would turn back, and come home by the house of his friend Ambrose after we got as far down the Nashville road as he wished to go. We dashed on until we got to old Mr. Hartwell Marables', another old Virginia friend of his. Here we stopped and went into the house, he introducing me to the old people. He had gotten nearly sober. He did not ask for any thing to drink, but went out and up the road a short distance where we had seen a blacksmith shop, where he got some whiskey, and presently was so much intoxicated again, as to set his tongue to running. He refused when he went back to the House to stay for dinner, pretending he was in a hurry to get home, and had to go by Mr. House's and Capt. Bass'. We set off and took the Shelbyville road which turned off at the corner of Mr. Marable's fence to the south, and crossed the creek (Stewart's) through what was since Searcy's now Whitson's mill dam. We rode on to Mr. House's, where I hoped he would stop, as I did not wish to go to Capt. Bass' with him when he was drinking. We found Mr. House and his Negroes out clearing new ground, the land where I think his orchard now is, and he invited us to his house to stop and stay till next morning. The Doctor refused to light from his horse or stop, saying he must go home and call at Capt. Bass' on his way. So off we went again, he still showing the effects of his drink and soon got to Capt. Bass', it being only about a mile.
Here we got down, and went in. Capt. Bass was not at home or at the House. He introduced me to Mrs. Bass, to her daughter Temperance Smith, then the wife of Thomas B. Smith, a son of Bennett Smith, who was then a merchant in Fayetteville, Lincoln County, and to Miss Mary Clarke Bass, her sister, who afterwards, in less than a year became my wife; and whom I here first saw at home, in a fine plain dress of neat homespun, which had been made by some of the relations of the family, and sent to her as a present, and which, as I afterwards learned she and her sister had just finished making (that is in the needle work, the spinning and weaving been done by the family who presented it) and which she had just put on. If my first impressions at the first sight in Murfreesboro were favorably, those I now received were more so. I had an opportunity of exchanging a few words with her and her sister. I told them while Dr. Clarke had gone into another to beg Mrs. Bass for some toddy, that I was riding out with the Doctor, whom I much esteemed as a stranger, to try to get him sober, and by arrangement to myself and his friends---that I hoped to succeed. He had previously told me, that when he first came to the country, and when he had stopped to practice medicine I think at old Godfrey Shelton's, thirteen miles East of Nashville, and even after he had gone to Murfreesboro, that he had been in the habit of going to Capt. Bass and staying for weeks to rest, and to sober off from his sprees. I therefore knew that the ladies knew his habits, and Mary's middle name had been given in honor of the Doctor's father, and her first name for his mother.---They expressed a hope that I might succeed. From the moment I heard her speak, some strange, sentimental emotions arose in my mind and heart in regard to Mary. I was dressed in my everyday office clothes---a lead colored suit of lead colored gray coat and pantaloons---a brown frock coat, and long fairtopped boots, buff cassimere vest, and black hat. I remember it well now, though probably I did not in those days or a week afterwards. I remember it, because Mary, afterwards, and all her after days my most affectionate wife, often repeated to me, after our marriage the precise garments which I wore.---It would almost seem that our meeting was providential and preordained, for she has expressed me a thousand times, that the moment she saw me, on being introduced and before she knew who I was except by the name by which I was introduced, she was strangely struck with a strong sentiment that I was to become her husband. Miss Susan House, the eldest daughter of Mr. Ambrose House, then grown, who afterwards married Turner B. Henley and is now dead, was at Mrs. Bass', or came in while Dr. Clarke and myself were there. After we left, and during the same evening, Mary told Miss House, as they both afterwards often told me, that she was perfectly satisfied I would pay my attentions to her, and that I would become her future husband.---These are facts. I am not superstitious---but I have a firm belief in these unexplained and inexplicable sentiments which all persons I believe sometimes have, whether they notice them or not, of coming events.---I state the facts exactly as they occurred---and must be pardoned for entertaining my own honest opinion of them.
The Doctor and myself went home that evening after he got a gulp of toddy from Mrs. Bass, refusing to stay all night as we were invited to do, and in a few days he got sober.
About this time I was in the habit of going to Beasley's Baptist meeting House, two miles south of Capt. Bass,' on the Shelbyville road in company with sundry young gentlemen and ladies from town. It was a pleasant Sabbath ride, being six miles from town and a good road. I had been introduced in town --by Dr. Clarke to Capt. Bass after our call. The old man, who held old Virginia, open housed hospitality as part of his moral creed, was in the habit, with his whole family, when there was no Methodist preaching in the neighborhood, of attending preaching at Beasley's on Sundays. The first time I met him there, after our introduction, he invited myself and two or three other young men from town, after sermon, to go home with him to dinner. I most cheerfully did so, for of all things such an invitation was what I most wanted. In going to his home, and after we got there, although I did not ride with her, I had opportunities of seeing much more of Mary than I had seen before. Again, I had the same invitation and accepted it. On leaving in the evening on the second time for home, I had a general invitation from Capt Bass, and his son James---James being nearly as old as myself---to visit his home for country recreation, whenever it suited my convenience, and I thankfully promised to avail myself of the permission and I considered it. I had been perfectly distant, but respectful in my intercourse with Mary---I admired her modest, timid, yet dignified and becoming deportment more and more at each interview.
I was intimate in town with a young man named Argyle Campbell, a nephew of old George Washington Campbell, who had just completed his course at the Bradley Academy under the late Samuel P. Black, who was preparing to study law under the patronage of his uncle. He had a sister named Eliza at some school in Rutherford who had become intimate with Miss Bass---she afterwards married the Honorable David Hubbard of Alabama and is dead. Argyle wished to pay his attentions to Miss Bass, and was in the habit of going there with his sister as an excuse for his frequent visits. He told me all his secrets. He had commenced his courtship, but had met no encouragement---but no absolute ejection, as he had made no direct definite proposal. I went out to Capt. Bass' with him one Saturday evening, in March 1816, I think to stay all night, and go to Beasley's the next day.
After we got there in the evening, in playing some game of forfeits, I obtained an opportunity, when the forfeit to be paid by me was to court some one of the girls, several being present, as on some such incident, when is seemed matter of course for me to speak aside to Miss Bass, and when no one dreamed of my purpose, or that I had such a wish to ask her with great earnestness, and in perfect sincerity---stating that it was the first opportunity, and the first time I had dared---though I had desired to do so from the first day of our acquaintance---for leave to pay my attentions to her as a professed admirer, and as one whose plain object and purpose was, if she should find me worthy, was to obtain her hand in marriage.
She at once comprehended me, gave me credit in her own mind for sincerity, and instantly, as accorded with what she ardently wished herself, as she afterwards informed me, gave me her full consent that I might pay my attentions to her and make proposals when I should find it proper or convenient. No one present ever dreamed that a serious word had passed between us. She was in her 16th year, and I would be twenty on the first day of May following. The next day I rode with some one else to Beasley's, but rode back to dinner with her---falling somewhat behind the company. Campbell rode with her to Beasley's. In that two mile ride, I poured out my whole heart, or its feelings plainly to her---told my age, situation, prospects, poverty---but hopes of rising in my profession in time through the patronage of friends of whom I had many, though a mere boy as it were among strangers. With perfect sincerity, for she was fully satisfied of my sincerity, she told me, on my direct proposal on marriage, that if no obstacle existed of which she was then advised, that she was perfectly willing, in accordance with the feelings and wishes of her heart to marry me, but desired some time to consider before she would make a definite engagement, which she hoped I would readily allow her, as she had met my plain candor, and direct proposal, with the same plain, direct candor with which I had made it. I readily agreed to it. We agreed in all our future intercourse to deal in plain, direct words---to always speak the plain direct truth---and to accord to each other full and entire confidence, whatever might be the final result. When we got home, to her father's, I was so happy, I could scarcely sit still, sit down to dinner, or conceal my excited feelings.
The next time I went to her father's, I again went with Argyle Campbell. It was on a Saturday again. We found the late Col. Jos. Burnes there with his daughter Betsy, now Mrs. Judge Sam Anderson, and his son Fayette. Betsy and Mary had been educated together at Mrs. Clayton's School on Fall Creek, Wilson County. Fayette, who afterwards married a Miss Ready, was a dull youth---the son of a rich old man, who had brought him to Capt. Bass as an expectant suitor to Miss Mary. He never came as such but once more. Mary told me what his business was. As I never seemed to ask her separate conversation---seldom rode or walked with her except by accident---no one dreamed that we had a full and perfectly confidential intercourse. She had informed her mother promptly of my proposals and her answer---she also told Susan House, a truly good and discreet girl everything. I afterwards met the late Samuel C. Rucker at Capt. Bass' on the same business. He came but once. I also met Benjamin Rucker, who afterwards married her elder sister Temperance some years later her divorce from the Bennett Smith who abandoned her for a vile prostitute with whom he connected himself, and after the death of Benjamin's first wife. I say I met Mr. B. Rucker there, a cousin of Samuel C. Rucker, and he being a good brother Methodist in the church with Mrs. Bass, and being rich, and having the old lady's good will, he came several times before he would be put off. I met him there twice---we slept in the same room---he told his business and hopes---I stayed at a distance, let him have all opportunities of talking, walking or riding with Mary---while at the same time, we had as full and perfect an understanding with each other of all Mr. Rucker said and did, as we ever had of her conversations and intercourse with persons after our marriage. I advised her to hear him fairly, patiently, and dispose of his suit kindly and respectfully. She did so, as she did with Burnes, S.C. Rucker, and Argyle Campbell, a gentleman named Anthony Robert Dickens of Fayetteville, Dr. Holmes, now of Mississippi, and several others, when I found such company at her father's, I kept at a distance---hardly approaching her, and never in separate conversation but when Miss House was there, which was almost constantly, it was my way to tell her any thing and every thing I wanted to say to Mary, and for Mary to do the same as to any thing she wished to say to me, and Susan instantly communicated it. In this way, in the course of an evening we frequently sent and received a dozen communications to each other, without a soul perceiving it, and had our own amusements, and often hearty laughs, no one knowing for what reasons, or always supposing a wrong one. My attentions were all supposed to be directed to Miss House. Those were pleasant days---their memory is full of sweet melancholy---and I pen these events here, knowing that no eyes but those of my children, grandchildren, or those who will hold my memory in equal respect, will ever see what I now write. I wish my father or grandfathers had written and left just such free, unreserved, and full memoirs, however badly or hastily written. I scribble this down (it is now 17 April, 1845) in the recess of office hours and business.
After Miss Bass and myself had agreed to be married in the course of the ensuing Fall, she having entered into a full engagement to me in the Spring, I asked the consent of her parents, which was readily given. But in a few weeks certain anonymous letters were written to Capt. Bass, postmarked at Huntsville, Alabama, which slandered me outrageously. I never learned who wrote the principal letter, which Capt. B. placed in my hands, but I always suspected Jonas I. Bell, and Fredrick Jones.---the latter the son of Rev. Edmond Jones who lived near Mr. Bass. Fredrick had a store in Huntsville, and Bell was his clerk. Fredrick had made proposals to Mary. My friends hearing of it from me, that I was thus slandered, Gen. Gibbs, Col. Mitchell, friends in Virginia, and others, wrote to Capt. Bass through me, giving direct contradiction to the slanders. The charges were chiefly, that I was poor, and owed money. The first was true---the latter false.
When the letters were received, Mary told me of it instantly as soon as she met me one day when I went out to her father's, meeting me at the door, her mother being out and sisters on the right hand side of the doors, in the old porch. She had given no credit to the letters and said she told me of it at once, because she had told her parents that such things could not shake her resolve or her confidence in me. I demanded the letter of Capt. Bass. I asked him to suspend any opinion until I could trace up the slanderer---that none but a slanderer or coward would write anonymously in such a case. He said he had not changed his opinion but I might take my own course. I told and wrote to some friends. They wrote to Capt. Bass, but neither myself or friends could ever trace up the true author. I kept the letter suspected to be both many years and then burned it.
At page 40 I have stated the ages and genealogies of my father and mother and my own birth. In the notes made in an old Diary, marked 1840-1842-1843-1844-1845, is contained a Family record of my own family, but which I have copied on a more permanent form, and better for preservation.
My father was born Nov. 4, 1766.
My mother was born Sept. 3, 1773.
I was born, Washington County, Virginia, May 1, 1796.
Mary Clarke Bass, daughter of James and Temperance Bass, was born in Brunswick County Virginia, June 19, 1801. Her father and mother were natives of Brunswick Co. Va. her maiden name having been Loundon, and were descended from old Colonial families of that state, and removed to Tennessee, first to Davidson County, and then to the place where he lived and died, in 1801, and 1807. He, Capt. Bass, died at his own house, after a lingering illness, brought on by a fall from his in the year 1824, in September. Mrs. Bass, his wife, afterwards died at her son Thomas Bass,' Athens, Limestone Co., Alabama, in the fall of 1839. They had a number of children, this Thomas being the oldest. The next son Loundon, died in Mississippi about 1843, and his widow and some of his children, she being a sister of the Rev. Peyton Smith, removed from Mississippi to Washington, Louisiana, or Arkansas, in 1844-5.
The next child of Capt. Bass was Temperance Weston, who first married Thomas B. Smith, and then Benjamin Rucker, and died of consumption in 1830---Nancy, the next daughter married the Rev. Peyton Smith, a Baptist Preacher, raised on Mill Creek, Davidson Co. Tenn. and now lives with his wife near Covington, Tipton Co. Tennessee. The next son is James Bass, who married a daughter of Dr. Ambrose House, and lives in Rutherford Co. Tennessee. The next child was Mary Clarke, my late wife. Hartwell Bass was the youngest son, and died of consumption in 1825 or 1826, having married a Miss Richardson. He left his wife and one child---both since dead.
After this genealogical repetition, I will here state, that Mary Clarke Bass and myself were married at her father's house, Rutherford County, Tennessee, by Rev. Edmond Jones, an old local Methodist preacher, on the 24th of October, 1816. My Waitors as they were call in those days, were the late Gen. Wm Brady, and Capt. Samuel Wilson, then late of the U.S. Army---Mary's waitors were Miss Susan House, afterwards Mrs Hensley, and Miss Caroline Ready, afterwards Mrs. Dr. Hancock. Gen. Brady died in 1835 of cholera, and Mrs. Hensley soon after her marriage in 1822 or 1823 of fever. Dr. Hancock the husband of Miss Ready is dead, but she is living. Wilson now lives in Mississippi.
I will here make a record of the children and offspring of my marriage:
Ellen Tempe Laughlin, born Rutherford Co. Tennessee, July 18, 1817.
Sarah Louisa Laughlin born, Rutherford, April 3, 1819.
Mary Virginia Laughlin, born Rutherford May 13th 1821.
A son born, surviving but a few hours, Rutherford, Murfreesboro, May 4, 1823.
Isabella Smith Laughlin, born Rutherford, Murfreesboro, May 3, 1824.
Samuel Houston Laughlin, born Rutherford, Murfreesboro, December 12, 1826.
John James Laughlin, born Rutherford, at Mrs. (late Mr. Bass,' place) Bass,' Rutherford, March 8, 1832.
Andrew Jackson Laughlin, born at Nashville, Tenn. June 25, 1834.
A female child born dead a Runnemede, Cannon Co. Oct. 15, 1837.
A male child born at McMinnville, Tennessee, which survived a few minutes, August 19th 1838.
Cora Kezer Laughlin, born at Hickory Hill (my present residence though I am now writing in Washington City) Warren Co. Tenn. Sept. 3, 1839.
Mary Clarke Laughlin, my wife, died a Hickory Hill, Nov. 11, 1840, and is buried, with a plain monument and suitable inscriptions at Liberty Meeting House near McMinnville. My excellent mother died at Hickory Hill, while I was absent, serving in the State Senate, at Nashville, on the 5th day of November, 1843, having just entered upon her 71st year. Soon after she removed to Tennessee, in Oct. 1829, having been almost helpless for many previous years, she lost the use of even her hands, from the effects of rheumatism, so as to disable her from using a needle, or even from knitting as I have elsewhere remarked. The distortion of the joints of her knees, her wrists, hands, fingers, ankles, and feet were the effect, I presume, of an improper use of mercury, under a prescription of the late Dr. Elkanah R. Dulaney of Blountsville, as well as rheumatism. She lies interred beside my wife at Liberty Meeting House burial ground (Cumberland Presbyterian) two miles south of McMinnville. She died in the full faith of a happy resurrection, having long been an humble believer in the gospel of truth and salvation to all who believe.
My dear wife died with myself, Dr. Smartt, my daughter Isabella, all my sons, standing around her bed. Her disease was congestive fever. My father and mother were at my house, but not in the room. On the slab covering tomb, the plain monument having been made at Nashville, under my direction, is inscribed the following:
to the memory of
Mary Clarke Laughlin
Samuel Hervey Laughlin
Brunswick County, Virginia
June 14th 1801
Warren County, Tennessee
November 11th 1840
Requiescat in peace
A day or two after her death, as soon as I was sufficiently composed to write, I wrote the following obituary notice, being unwilling to entrust the commemoration of her virtues to any other hand. It was published in the McMINNVILLE CENTRAL GAZETTE of the 16th of Nov. 1840:
It is an awful thing to die;
Yet the dread path once trod,
Heaven opes its everlasting portals high,
And bids the pure in heart approach their God.
Died, at Hickory, the residence of her husband in this county, on the llth inst., after a painful illness of ten days, Mrs. Mary C. Laughlin, wife of Col. Samuel H. Laughlin, in the 39th year of her age. A life devoted to the faithful performance on every conjugal, maternal, filial, and social duty, was cloud in perfect resignation to the will of God, with every bright hope that gilds the evening of a Christian's day, unobscuredly the smallest doubt In the promises of her Redeemer.
The vanities of the world, its idle ceremonies, and its insincerity, she avoided as well in youth as in mature years, with a uniformity and consistency which were the result of moral and religious principles. Her affections were neither vitiated nor wasted by a general intercourse with the world---her benevolence, kindness and good will were extended to all, and none within her ability to relieve or comfort ever asked her favor or charity in vain. Without pride, she moved through life with humility in the sight of Creator. She would not have deviated from sincerity and truth to have gained the applause of the whole world.
She felt for her husband, her children, and family that deep, generous, self-devoted affection, which, in retirement, springs amid mutual charities, mutual pursuits, and mutual feelings, and connects itself with every interest of life, and twines itself with the hope of heaven. She was a wife twenty-four years. To the tenderest sensibility of soul, in her were united the purest and warmest heart, a sound judgement, a disposition kind and placid, a firm, constant, self-devoting attachment, pure delicacy of sentiment and feeling, an enthusiastic love of domestic life, a deep and solemn sense of her obligations to God and her neighbor, and a soul intent upon their faithful performance. If all these qualities combined could render the conjugal state happy, her husband and family were peculiarly blest. They were so blessed, and fully reciprocated her constant affection and fully appreciated all her virtues. May God support the mourners in their affliction, and convert this severe temporal chastisement to their eternal good.
I feel conscious at this hour that there is not a word of eulogy in the foregoing obituary sketch which was not fully deserved. My heart---my undying affection for her memory---which I cherish in the blessed hope of again meeting in a better state of existence than this world of sorrow affords---approves fully of every sentiment I have expressed in regard to her excellence. All my affections and feelings---my sorrow for her loss---are as fresh and poignant at this moment, though sobered by reason, religion and philosophy, as they were in the hour of bereavement. May heaven keep and preserve me in a condition to insure my meeting with her and my departed little ones in the Kingdom of God in Christ. Amen.
My beloved daughter Isabella Smith Laughlin, who was named for Mrs. Isabella Smith, the wife of Maj. Bennett Smith of Murfreesboro, who was a daughter of the late Gen. Joseph Dickson of Rutherford, once a member of Congress from North Carolina in 1800-1, and once Speaker of the House in the Tennessee legislature, perhaps in 1811-12---I continue, my dear daughter was living in the Spring and Summer of 1841, and in Spring of 1842, with her sister Ellen and Mr. Kezer in Nashville. She had lived with them almost altogether after the death of her mother. She had a tumor on her neck, resembling a small wen which continued to grow. In May, 1842, it was thought advisable to have it removed by a surgical operation. A Doctor Walter, a physician of much pretension and popularity, was employed to perform it. He did so with seeming success. This was done about 23rd or 24th of May. I arrived at Nashville a day or two after it was performed. She seemed to be doing well. I remained three or four days, and returned home. Little did I apprehend what the sad results would be. About the 1st of June, the wound made by the operation became inflamed. She was feeble, delicate and nervous. It grew worse and worse. She was alarmed, fearful, and her kind brother-in-law Kezer, at her constant entreaty, sat day and night by her bedside, holding her hand. He afterwards told me that whenever he would move, she would entreat him not to leave her while she could speak. Symptoms of gangrene or mortification appeared. All remedies failed. To quiet the poor sufferer, opiates were given. I was sent for post haste whenever she was deemed to be in danger. I hastened to Nashville, riding all night, getting there too late even to see her remains. She died on the 5th of June, and was interred on the 6th at the Public burying ground, south East of the city on the afternoon of the 6th. I arrived soon after dark at Mr. Kezer's on the same evening. My feelings I cannot, will not endeavor to describe. She was a sweet tempered, affectionate child. I remember when her mother died, Mrs. Rowan (since dead herself) forced Isabella to retire to a room where I was, and lie down, that after Mrs. Rowan retired, she prayed most earnestly for her mother and herself---prayed and besought God, as I had heard her do in secret the day before her mother died, that if death must visit our house, that he would be pleased to take her---to let her die, and spare her mother to take care of her little brothers and her infant sister. Her whole soul was offered up with tears, earnestness, and deep devotion in these petitions. From the moment I heard this, I seemed, without knowing whince it came, to love the dear child with a new and increased affection. She now, I doubt not, rests in heaven with her dear mother and dear little sister Cora Kezer, who only survived her three months.
The last evening I saw my beloved Isabella in life, she was able to sit up, have her wound dressed, and played the plaintive air of "Long Time Ago" for me (repeating the pathetic words of the little song) on the piano.
On the 4th of September, 1842, my dear Cora, then the adopted child of Mr. Kezer and Ellen, died of congestive fever at Mr. Kezer's house, in the McNairy Range of lots, in the same room where her sister Isabella had died so shortly before. I was sent for to Hickory Hill to see her, and arrived twenty four hours before the little angel---for she was the sweetest most precious child I ever knew, was called home to heaven---being one of those precious souls, pronounced by our blessed redeemer himself to be a fit subject for the "Kingdom of Heaven." These two heavy visitations of a chastising but blessed providence, falling on me so near the same time---and in less than two little years after the death of my beloved wife, were almost more than I could bear. They for a time prostrated all my energies---and, but for the love of the surviving remainder of my family---my children and aged parents, then inmates of my house, I believe I should have wholly lost my reason; for then I had not learned to repose my sorrows and afflictions, through prayer, on my father in heaven, whose name be ever hallowed.
The death of my mother and brothers are herein before stated. See pages 40, 41, etc. and pages 152, 153.
August 13th 1845
These desultory notes I continued to write out at Washington City, living in the family of my esteemed friend Maj. Hampton C. Williams, in the spring of 1845. In April, various engagements compelled me to lay the work aside. On resuming it today, I find myself in possession of fuller, and additional facts in relation to my Grandfather Duncan's life and character, and also some facts in regard to my grandfather Laughlin, which I think it proper to state before I go on with my narrative. There facts have been furnished me in a letter of the 3rd of August, 1845, from Marshall N. Laughlin, the son of my cousin Thomas Laughlin of Monroe Co. Tennessee, who is a student in my office at Hickory Hill---the facts being dictated by my father and written down by Mr. L. The letter will be found in the current volume of my bound letters. I am collecting materials from my further great uncle Benjamin Sharp and others from Lyman C. Draper Esq. of Baltimore who is preparing a volume of Biography of Western Pioneers, and in which I hope to have my grandfather's name inserted.
The true spelling of my grandfather's name I am satisfied is Dunkin, not Duncan. He was born in Lancaster (not Chester) County, Pennsylvania, in 1743---of Scottish parents, his father claiming to be of the clan claiming name and descent (as they yet do in Scotland) from good King Duncan---the true spelling of the patronymic name, as my grandfather and great grandfather contended being Dunkin. My great grandfather's name was Thomas. He had early in life emigrated to Ireland from Scotland, and from thence to Pennsylvania, having married in Ireland a lady of respectable family, named Elizabeth Alexander---she being of Scottish descent.
He (my great grandfather) died in Lancaster Co. Penn. In 1760---leaving one son, my grandfather, four daughters and his widow. John Dunkin, my grandfather, being an only son, and very young at his father's death, had his mother and sisters to support. He married very young, his wife being Ellenor Sharpe, daughter of John Sharpe, the father of my grand uncles John, Thomas, and Benjamin Sharpe, (*Ben Sharpe died in Warren Co., Mo. Jan., 1846.) the latter still living in Missouri as before stated in these notes. By my grandmother Ellenor, he had three children born before he left Pennsylvania which was about 1765. He moved to what is now Russell County, Virginia, on the waters of Clinch river, and settled at a noted place called the Elk Gardens. This was the most remote northwesterly settlement of Virginia west of the Blue Ridge at that time. At Elk Gardens, he was appointed a Captain of Rangers by a Committee of Safety. His company was a small band of choice spirits, always ready as minute men, and qualified by experience and bravery for defending a frontier settlement against the cunning and barbarity of Indian enemies. On one occasion, while he thus lived on Clinch, a predatory band of Indians came into the settlement, and murdered a man named Bush and his wife, and took their children, three daughters and a son prisoners. The son was nearly grown. Capt. D. with a few men, followed the trail, and by hard marching, overtook them, killed three of the Indians, and rescued the prisoners without losing a man. Further to the northwest, where Powell's Valley had begun to be settled, in what is now Lee County, Virginia, the Indians were in the habit of murdering travellers. Before the settlements had become permanent, the great Buffalo trace to Kentucky---or that part of Virginia now forming Kentucky---by way of Cumberland Gap, from 1766 to 1776, was a route for hunters and adventurous explorers, on which numerous murders and robberies were committed by various tribes of Indians, but mostly by Cherokees and Shawnees. Capt. Dunkin and his little faithful band, frequently went out and remained for different periods, on tours of duty in protecting the settlers in their valley and on the road on one of these tours, he and his company fell in with a band of Indians, whom they instantly attacked, killing four and wounding as fifth. They followed the wounded Indian some distance to a place where he had entered a cave. The late Gen. Joseph Martin, under whom my father served in the campaign to Lookout Mountain in 1788---and who had some establishment in that part of East Tennessee which now forms the lower part of Powell's Valley, was along---having, with other rangers, met Capt. Dunkin's Virginia Rangers, was at the time of so tracing the Indian in company with Capt. Dunkin, when it was agreed between the two, that while others kept guard without, they would enter the cave and take the Indian or kill him. They entered, each with a blazing torch in one hand (for the cave was totally dark) and a pistol in the other cocked and primed. After going in sixty or seventy yards, Capt. Dunkin saw the Indian's eyes shining in the distance, and---taking deliberate aim, not knowlng but that the Indian had a gun, and supposing others to be with him, was so lucky as to shoot him right through the bead. Many were the manly and brave acts of Capt. D. and his gallant neighbors.
In the year 1777 he went to Kentucky, raised corn, and made improvements by erecting cabins in the fork between Kingston's [Hinkson's] and Stoner's forks of Licking River. He had removed his mother and sisters with him to Clinch. After thus preparing in Kentucky in 1777-8, he removed his family, including his aged mother, and two sisters and their husbands Samuel Porter and Solomon Litton, out from Clinch to Kentucky in 1779. I say he removed them, for besides being the head of his own family, he was the commander and leader of the company of immigrants, though Porter and Litton and others who went along, were men of enterprise and soldiers and woodsmen. These two had farms, also begun by improvements near Martin's Station. Martin's Station was on Stoner's river (or fork of Licking) five miles above its confluence with Kingston or Licking---Ruddles Station (pronounced Riddles) was three miles below the junction or forks---consequently the forts were eight miles apart.
The winter of 1779-1780, was unusually severe, and is remembered in the history of the times, and traditionally as the Hard winter. (see Marshall's HISTORY OF KY. v. 1 p. 102). The river and streams were all frozen up---cattle and domestic animals died up by hundreds and thousands, as doubtless did the wild game. Wild meat when it could be procured by the border settlers was very poor; and the corn and grain was early consumed and the people put to great straits to procure subsistence of any sort, however common or coarse. Settlers were reduced to the very point of starvation, so much so that they were compelled to live on the most unwholesome meats without bread. Many families, travelling out to Kentucky, by way of Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness, were compelled to encamp, erect huts, camps as temporary shanties were called, and such other shelters as they could obtain, and subsist of the dead carcasses of their cattle, sheep, etc. as died from the effects of the weather and want.
When the spring of 1780 was ushered in, there was an unusual rustle among the new settlers in Kentucky. They had the finest lands in the world to cultivate, much of it easily cleared so as to fit it for corn crops, potatoes etc. The previous winter had admonished them to the necessity of making as much provisions for the next winter as was possible. In the spring there seemed to be but little danger from the Indians. In the vicinity of the forts, the planters pitched or planted large crops, and everything seemed to smile and promise future prosperity. They seemed to be removed from the constant dangers and troubles which the Revolutionary War still in progress, brought to the neighborhoods and doors of their brethren in all the country east of the mountains. In describing these scenes in Kentucky, Mr. Marshall N. Laughlin, in writing me from Hickory Hill from the dicatation of my father says: "Early the crops of corn began to ripen (summer of 1780) and heaven seemed to be suspending the Cornucopia over the famished land. There was a smile on every man's countenance as he looked out upon the luxuriance of the growing Indian corn. There was happiness and security in the forts---happiness there really was and security there seemed to be---where they all lived, each fort like a great family. While living thus in smug and fancied security, they sang their domestic Te Derms around blazing wood fires, around which was also placed innumerable rich roasting ears of corn arranged at proper distances and positions for being nicely roasted."
While this happy sylvan state of things however existed upon this fair frontier, Col. Byrd was busily employed at Detroit plotting their destruction in combination with the northern nations of Indians in alliance with Great Britain in our revolutionary war---a conspiracy against the peace and happiness of these unoffending frontier settlers which was soon to turn all their rejoicing and supposed security into a scene of sorrow and mourning.
On or about the 1st of June, 1780, Colonel Byrd, a British officer, collected a body of about 600 Canadians and Indians at or near Detroit, and after marching by land to the Great Miami where it was navigable, they took canoes, boats, pirogues and floated down that river to the Ohio, in sight of where Gen. Harrison's tomb at present stands at North Bend, they rowed up the latter river to the mouth of Licking, opposite to where Cincinnati now stands, and on the banks of which at its mouth now stand the two thriving towns in Kentucky of Newport and Covington; thence up the Licking to the mouth of the south fork of that river, a short distance below Ruddle's Station (pronounced in Kentucky Riddle's) and thence by land on the 22nd of June, they appeared suddenly before Ruddle's station, as if they had fallen from the clouds or rose out of the ground by enchantment. The people of the fort hastily closed the gates, and began to prepare for defense, but the show of artillery, and the overwhelming numbers of the enemy appalled the stoutest hearts. They therefore surrendered on pledges of personal safety from the Indians, but the whole of their property was given up to the plunder-and rapine of the savages. After the fort was sacked, and the march was commenced, many prisoners were forced to carry the spoils on their backs for their captors. Every kind of property was taken.
Hearing the roar of artillery at Martin's Station, which greatly surprised the people, two runners, a man named McGuire, and Thomas Berry, a relation of my grandfather, were dispatched to ascertain what was the matter at Ruddle's fort. They were met on the way by the enemy, and on attempting to retreat were fired on. McGuire's horse was killed and he was taken prisoner. Berry escaped back to the fort. On his report, the best preparations for defense were made which the time permitted. On the next day, the enemy appeared before the fort, and summoned them to surrender---Two hours were given these brave men in Martin's Station to consider---and they were notified that if they did not surrender, that the Indians would be let lose upon them, to deal with as they pleased. They surrendered without firing a gun. Withers, in his HISTORY OF BORDER WARS, says that Col. Byrd took pains, and had to exert all his authority to save the prisoners from slaughter. The prisoners taken at Martin's were united to the prisoners from Ruddle's. There was understood to be an agreement between the British and Indians that the prisoners taken at Ruddle's should belong to the Indians, and those at Martin's to the British. Let this be as it may, according to Marshall, Butler, Withers, and the other histories of these times, the whole of the property of all the Americans, including their negros, was given up to the Indians. According to a letter of Maj. Benj. Sharp of Warren Co. Missouri, to myself, dated Aug. 11th 1845, my grandfather John Dunkin, had ten or twelve likely negros, and a fine personal property in stock and furniture etc. of which he was altogether plundered. After the Treaty of Greenville, I think he got back an old African woman named Dinnah, (mother of Easter a negro woman now the property of my uncle Joseph Dunkin) and a boy. I remember Dinnah on Holston, but am not sure as to the boy. This robbery and captivity, reduced my grandfather to poverty. As I have heretofore stated, nothing but a few rags of clothes (for all their best garments were taken) was left to him or his family. The prisoners were all taken down the Licking, by the route by which the British had descended, to the Ohio---down that river to the mouth of the Great Miami---up that river as far as navigable, and thence to Detroit, now in Michigan, and thence to Montreal. My grandfather, and my mother who was old enough to remember, often described to me the sight of the falls of Niagara as they passed round by a portage on their way to Detroit. My mother used, in recounting these adventures to myself and my brothers, to dwell upon the hardships of the whole journey from Kentucky. When the march was first commenced, Grandfather carried one of his children. All packed what few clothes were allowed them. He said the British treated them humanely. The Indians who had the Ruddle's fort prisoners, sold most or all of them to the British for trifles. The British wanted them to exchange for their own prisoners then in the possession of our armies in the then colonies.
The beauty of the lakes, the clear purity of the waters, and her surprise at the boats and small shipping of the British on the lakes, were subjects on which my mother often entertained by long and circumstantial details by our fireside, of long winter nights, when I was a boy.
I do not know, nor do-I remember from the relations of my grandfather, or from the statements of my mother, or her older sister Aunt Betsy Laughlin, whether all the prisoners were carried down to Montreal. My grandfather was however, with his family, and the letter just quoted from Uncle Benj. Sharp, gives the reason why he was imprisoned in jail while at that place. His eldest son John, as will be seen by Maj. Sharp's letter bound up in my book of letters, made his escape from the British at Montreal, and his father, who was known to been a soldier and officer of standing, was suspected of having aided his son to escape to carry communications across the wilderness, through New York to Gen. Washington's army. Maj. Sharp says that Uncle John and another had agreed to make their escape together; but that after they started, the other young man's heart failed, and he went back. Not so, says Maj. Sharp, with little Duncan. He made his way through the wilderness and over rivers to Gen. Washington's army, the headquarters being then perhaps in Pennsylvania, and reported himself to Gen. Washington, by whom he was well provided for until his father and family were exchanged and met him in Pennsylvania on their return home---they having come through western New York, and by Philadelphia, and thence through Pennsylvania, Maryland etc. to that part of Washington County in western Virginia, where or nearly where he had removed from when he went to Kentucky, and there he continued to live for the remainder of his life. After his return, he never went to Kentucky to look after his lands and improvements, and thereby lost a head-right to one of the best tracts of land on the waters of Licking river.
After he settled in what is now Washington County, Virginia, the place where he lived was for many years considered as being in North Carolina, in that portion of what is now Sullivan County, Tennessee, the line between Virginia and North Carolina not being then finally settled. While the line was thus unsettled, and his residence being supposed to be in N. Carolina, the State Convention of 1788 was called in North Carolina, to pass upon and ratify or reject the Constitution of the United States which had been formed in 1787. My grandfather and his brother-in-law John Sharp, their residence being as supposed in North Carolina, in Sullivan County, were elected members of this convention and both voted against ratifying the Treaty. See ELLIOT'S DEBATES, Vol. 3, p. 218. They, under the lead of Willie Jones, the great opponent of its adoption, and against Gen. Wm R. Davie was the master leader in its favor, was the same objections which alarmed Patrick Henry and others in the Virginia Convention. Afterwards, however, when the subject was reconsidered in North Carolina, they both became advocates for its adoption. The Convention of 1788 however, rejected the Constitution by a vote of 184 to 84, see same book. My grand uncle Sharp and my grandfather, became Republicans---of the Jefferson and Madison school under the Constitution and so continued while they lived. When the state line was finally settled, my grandfather's residence fell in Virginia and my uncle's in Tennessee.
My great grandmother, the mother of my Grandfather Dunkin, came from Pennsylvania with him---removed with him to Kentucky---was prisoner with him in Canada, and returned to Holston with him, being seventy when captured, and lived many years after their return.
On the return from Canada, as my father states in a letter to me of the 2nd of August, 1845, written by Marshall N. Laughlin, it is stated, and as my father received the facts from Grandfather himself, that the prisoners came by way of Lake Champlain, by Saratoga, the place of Burgoyne's surrender in 1777---down the Hudson by water, and across through New Jersey to Philadelphia. My mother has often told of the astonishing scenes of rejoicing they witnessed in Philadelphia, at the final achievement of our national Independence as they passed through the city---and of the kindness everywhere of the people to them on their journey.
My grandfather had two sisters, one married to a man named Porter, of Russell Co. Va. whose descendents are living in Missouri as far as I know them---another married to Litton of whose descendents I have no knowledge. Mrs. Porter's name I think was Jane. He had a sister named Mary or Polly, married to a brother on my Grandfather Laughlin, named James, who died at the mouth of Spring Creek where Jonathan King now lives, Washington Co Va. His son James died in Rutherford Tennessee, about 1817---whose son James Y. died also there---and his other son, Steth Mead, died in Arkansas some years since.
The other son of my grand uncle, Alexander, died in Rutherford in 1839 of an abscess in the back, near his kidneys---his widow, who was a McGill, and his sons and daughters have gone, I believe, to Iowa. My Grandfather Dunkin's youngest sister married a man named Robinson or Robertson, in Russell, Virginia, and took her back to Lancaster Pennsylvania where he came from. Grandfather had an uncle named Dunkin---or as he spelt it---Duncan who came from Ireland or Scotland to Pennsylvania after he left that state, and either remained there, or went to Ohio---as my father remembers to have heard my grandfather say---and I have heard the same from my Grandmother Duncan.
These notices, are according to father's letter above referred to, dated 2nd August 1845, and Uncle Sharp's letter before quoted, and my own recollections. I write in a most desultory manner, at snatches of time when not employed in my Office of Recorder of the General Land Office at Washington, and the sketches I can put down in these notes are full of repetitions, but as they are only for the eyes of my children and descendants who may be curious enough to read them when I am no more, it is not necessary for me to take pain with the composition, or to look back to avoid lautology (sic) in words, or repetitions of events.
It is now the 4th of August, 1845, and I am still writing autobiographical sketches which I intended when begun as a mere introduction to a regular Diary. I am trying to collect facts upon which to enable Mr. Lyman C. Draper of Baltimore, who is engaged in writing LIVES OF WESTERN PIONEERS, to give a sketch of the useful and honorable life of my grandfather. My letters from friends, containing information and facts of family history will all be found in my bound books of letters; and the file of letters which I am daily writing home from here to my father and family at Hickory Hill, which will, I hope be preserved, will contain nearly as full accounts of my employment here at Washington City, as a Diary would. But I will try, in a few pages more, to bring up the lagging notices of my own very unimportant Biography. Letters that I have recently received from my cousin Thomas Laughlin, of Philadelphia, Monroe Co. Tennessee; Thos. I. Martin of Nave's Town, Mo.; my nephew John S. Laughlin, son of my brother Nathan from Barry Co. Mo.; from John S. Campbell, son of uncle Samuel Campbell, of Chariton, Mo.; from Grand uncle Benj. Sharp, of Warren Co. Mo. and from my family at home, showing the present condition of my dispersed kindred, will all be found in my bound letter books, as also letters from Uncle Alexander Laughlin, in Coles Co. Illinois, and Cousin James H. Early of Whitley Co. Ky.---and perhaps from Jonathan King of Washington Co. Va.
I will here mention, that since I came to Washington City (my Diaries will show my travel) on the 9th of April, 1845, my son-in-law, Mr. Timothy Kezer, merchant of Nashville, Tennessee, the husband of my daughter Ellen Tempe, died at his own home at the city of Nashville, of dropsy of the heart. He wrote me on the 5th of that he was recovering---but alas, how often in the midst life, how near are we to death! He was a man I esteemed in every respect as a son. He married my daughter in 1833 or late in 1834, and from that time to his death, was ever one of my most fast and faithful friends. Never did any man have a son who treated him always with more kindness and dutiful respect. In 1836 he and Ellen lost their infant son, named after me. In 1842-3, they had an infant daughter, Mary, now living, called for my wife; and since his death, in May or June, Ellen has had a son, called Fredrick Timothy, for Mr. Kezer and his father. He has left his wife comfortably provided for in property---but what can repair the loss of such a husband and father? He died in the full and confident hope of salvation through the merits of Jesus Christ. What a consolatory fact is this in the death of any one we love. May my end, come when it may, be so blest. My dear "wife---my beloved mother, and others died in this blessed hope. May it be my lot!"