Monday, June 26, 2006


After tracing out the seven limbs of the family tree, I return now to the old Alabama home, and write up the history of the parent stock to the point I have reached in my history. The children have been growing up and going to school to their fathers, who had to teach, nolens volens, because compentent teachers were few and hard to obtain. The oldest are now nearing their majority. The old home must be given up. The tender ties of twenty years must be severed, and the family moved to Lincoln county, Tenn., in the winter of 1839.

Why this move was made I do not know, probably the desire prevalent among tillers of the soil to find a "better country" was chief, and I have no doubt that church privileges and educational advantages had a great deal to do with it.

My father bought land two miles west of Petersburgh, Tenn., then a thriving town, now a considerable railroad city. In this home, the family lived six or seven years, farming, and raising hogs principally for market. Every fall and winter, my father, with two oldest sons, and hands sufficient, would make a trip to South Alabama with a drove of fat hogs, and two wagon loads of cured bacon, and would be gone from home two months and often longer. This was hard work, and would keep them from home so long that my father was soon convinced that it was not the best thing for the family. But I must not forget to record that an interesting event occurred about this time, especially, as it was the last of its kind in the family. Consulting the record in that dear old family Bible, I find than that Le Grand James Wilson, fourth son of James and Elizabeth J. Wilson, was born April 8th, 1836, in Lincoln county, Tenn. The last, as well as the first, is a marked event in every family.

In studying up this history, I am forced to believe from results, that this move from Alabama to Tennessee was the mistake of his life, as a "farmer." What was gained in other respects I do not know. He found a rocky country, rough, and unsuitable for himself, his sons, or his Negro hands. He tried the meat business, but that kept him away from home so much, and interfering with the training of the children, home duties and responsibilities, that he decided to make a change. So about the fall of 1842, he sent his oldest son, George, on a prospecting tour to North Mississippi. The trip was made on horseback. A big trip to think of now, but George made a similar trip both fall before to Lexington, Ky., to attend medical lectures, and returned in the spring, double the distance

So he started on his long ride about the middle of September, and reached his destination, Marshall county, Miss., in the midst of the cotton season, which charmed him, and charms any one who sees it for the first time. His letters soon satisfied my father that Mississippi was a better country for him, and family, and he began at once to make preparations to move. The farm was sold, the corn, wheat, hay, etc. A year's supply was disposed of. The little crop of ten bales of cotton was gathered, ginned and sold, and the preparations for the move were nearing completion, when a trouble came up. One of the Negro men, Dick, a pretty good Carpenter and blacksmith, had married a neighbor's negro woman, and had a family of three or four children. Summer, a man belonging to the same neighbor, had married a young woman of my father's. This move would separate husbands and wives. My father seemed to have overlooked it in his eagerness to get ready for the move, and when his attention was called to it, he was very much troubled. Dick's wife and children were valued at $3,000. Summer $800. He could not invest, for he would need all the cash on hand to buy a home as soon as he reached Mississippi. In this dilemma, he went to neighbor Mayhew and tried to sell, but he refused to invest. My father was very much troubled about it, but, finally, went to Mr. Mayhew, and proposed to swap Dick for Summer, and finally, as he could do no better, gave Dick for Summer, although Dick was worth, in the market several hundred dollars the more, on account of his knowledge and experience as a blacksmith and carpenter. I never knew him to sell one of his negroes, and he would only buy to prevent separation of husband and wife. Early in December, we started for North Mississippi. The family had increased a good deal since the great move from Virginia to Alabama. The negroes now numbered forty, old and young, and there were none older than my parents. Whites, nine. A drove of more than one hundred hogs, twenty head of cattle, mostly milch cows, and several head of horses, and, "mirabile dictu," a drove of forty turkeys. It looked a little like Jacob returning from Padanaram. After be first two or three days, we made an average of twelve miles per day. One of the boys was sent ahead every day to select a camping place, buy a load of corn for the hogs, shuck it, and have everything in readiness, so you see we had to have one extra wagon for this work. We were on the road for five weeks and reached our destination in January, 1843. My brother, George, had the best place rented he could find, and we were soon under shelter, and comparatively comfortable for emigrants. Hogs were in demand, and my father had no trouble to sell all he had, after killing and salting up enough for the family for one year. The winter of '43 was noted for earthquakes, for the big snow in March, which is still remembered, and the great Comet. The Millerites were predicting the end of the world in April or May, and were making all their arrangements for the grand day, and when the great luminous Comet began to ascend the sky they felt certain that their calculations were correct, and the end was near at hand. The ignorant declared it was useless to work or plant a crop. And when the big snow melted, and the ground dried sufficiently, and my father started every plow he could raise, many actually said that the old man was crazy!

The labors of the farmer were greatly blessed that year, and an abundant crop was gathered. From sixty acres we picked forty-eight heavy bales of cotton. The corn and sweet potatoes were also extra find. The whole family, white and black, were well pleased, and all were happy.

My father made two crops before buying a home, but he finally found one to suit him, five miles northeast of Chulahoma, Marshall county, Miss. This was a beautiful home of 640 acres, a good roomy house (log), neatly painted, also comfortable negro quarters, ginhouse and cotton press, with barns, stables, carriage house, etc. A most valuable piece of property. There were 250 acres and cultivation, and an abundance of fine timber. We settled down to farm life in Mississippi in 1845. The oldest brother, practicing medicine, next teaching; the third, with my two youngest sisters, was at home, but all in school.

There was a small congregation of Presbyterians in Chulahoma, and the family was welcomed to the fold, but they had no church, and had services only once a month in the Baptist Church. The pastor was Rev. A. W. Young, native of Kentucky, and man of sterling piety, and a good preacher. He had the care of three or four small churches in a radius of twenty miles, and taught school to help him to support his family; like Paul, "laboring with his own hands," to lighten the burden upon his people. In fact, I don't know what we would have done at that early day, if our preachers had not been teachers also. They were a blessing to the whole community. My father was soon installed elder in this little church, which he served faithfully for many years. He was emphatically a working Christian, and at once began talking up a church. A lot was secured, and the subject was canvassed freely in and out of the church. The great trouble was procuring the necessary lumber, sawmills being "few and far between," and the only sure source of supply was Memphis, Tenn., sixty miles away. This made the building of a church, or any considerable edifice, a formidable undertaking. But, "Where there is a will, there is a way." So he kept his subscription list before the people, to be paid in the fall, when the cotton crop brought money into the country. When his own crop was cultivated, about the middle of July, he got down his old reliable "whipsaw," which had been stowed away for twenty-five years; the fristine "sawmill" of the emigrant, and went into the forest, and by the first of September, all the necessary framing lumber for the new church was on the ground, and work commenced.

The cotton soon began to roll off to Memphis, and all the shingles, doors, flooring, siding, etc., were brought back by the planters "free of cost." By the time cold weather was over, and plastering could be safely done, the house was rushed to completion, and at the Spring meeting of Presbytery, a new church was reported ready for dedication, "free from debt," which was really an event in the early history of Presbyterianism in North Mississippi. The work had been accomplished, no one hardly knew how, no burden placed on any one man, the necessary means had been furnished willingly. God had blessed the effort of his children and all were happy. When that church was dedicated, the little flock had a glorious day, "a high day," and after the "feast of fat things," returned to their homes with joy and gladness. On the records of this church can be found the name of every member of my father's family, but they soon began to move their membership to other churches, where in the providence of God their lot was cast.

I must testify to the faithfulness of my father as a Presbyter. He loved to attend this court of his church, and was often on this account chosen as a representative. I have known him to ride fifty or sixty miles on horseback to Presbytery, when he was an old man. And his house was often the gathering place for delegates to meet and start. As he grew older, his faith in Presbyterianism, as a blessing to the world, and the principles of the old Whig party, as a blessing to the country, grew stronger and stronger. And as the war clouds began to rise in the Northern sky, and secession whispered in the South, he took a strong, uncompromising stand for the Union. He believed that secession would produce a long, bloody war. But when his State and convention passed unanimously the ordinance of secession, his mouth was closed, and I never heard him murmur, or speak a harsh word against the North, until the General Assembly, in 1861, in Philadelphia, refused to receive the Southern delegates, and branded them as traitors, heretics and scismatics. This was too much for the Camel’s back, and he was converted, and nothing but the weight of threescore years kept him at home. He was always a congenial companion, a true friend, a good neighbor; always ready to help the distressed, comfort the sorrowing, and aid the needy. He was a kind husband and father; and I never saw him correct one of his children but once, and I did not seeing much of that, but felt it. One morning, my father was sitting on the portico, deeply absorbed reading his church paper, “The True Witness.” I came ‘round in front of him and commenced making a wedge with his hatchet, which was very sharp, he looked up and saw what I was doing, he said, “Hold, I will make your wedge,” but young America kept pegging away at his wedge until it suited him, when all at once, in a twinkling, the thought occurred to him to play a practical joke upon his father, down came the axe and spring to my feet, I exclaimed, “Oh!” as if in great pain and clapping my finger to my mouth. Farther was frightened, and springing out of the portico, reached my side, exclaiming, “I told you to stop; I knew you would hurt yourself! Let me see!” When he saw the joke perpetrated, I saw a mischievous twinkle in his eye, but he never spoke. Taking me by the arm, he quietly walked to the rear of the house, and introduced me gracefully to a blooded peach tree growing there. Well, I took my medicine; and strange to say, I have never felt the least inclination to frighten anyone, or to play off a practical joke, and I have never been exceedingly fond of peaches. While he rarely used the rod, he considered it a most useful implement in every household and schoolroom.


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