Monday, June 26, 2006


I have reached the point in my history to speak of my mother, and I feel like removing my shoes. It is hallowed ground! She was all the sweet name implies to me. Some one has said that the three sweetest words in the English language, are Mother, Home, and Heaven. I know that the Christian mother makes the true home to the child; the very next place to heaven! It was her tender voice that told me first of God, and taught my childish lips to lisp, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” for I can almost feel the warm good-night kiss upon my lips, yea, almost see her sweet face to-night. Thanks be to God for giving me a Christian mother, and grant that I may never disgrace her name or memory by any act of mine. My mother was a closet Christian. And every day, during my childhood, and boyhood, have I seen her enter that secret place of prayer, and remain for a season with her Bible and her God. That little closet became a sacred place to me, and I looked upon that worn, but well-kept Bible, lying upon the little shelf, with awe and veneration. That Bible, she probably had read all her life, for she brought it with her from Virginia, the paternal home. Many of its pages were marked with tear drops, that had fallen from her precious eyes, while communing with her God.

Mother was a great lover of children, and would gratify their every reasonable desire, but she was very firm in refusing things we ought not to have, and we soon learned when she said “No,” it was useless to ask or bandy words. Her house was the dearest spot on earth to her own and her grandchildren, and once a year, on Christmastide, they had to meet and spend, at least, one day and night with grandpa and grandma. It was the yearly picnic for the family, and all made an effort to be on hand on the evening of the 24th. The children came, and the grandchildren came, and I wondered often how they would take care of the crowd, but that never bothered her for a moment, and she would not only take care of them, and make them comfortable, but would fill them with the sweetest of good things, even after her health gave way, and she was almost an invalid.

The last year of her life was filled with suffering, but she bore her suffering with patience and fortitude. As she drew near the end, she called us all around her, and exhorted us to be true and faithful to God, and meet her in heaven.

I find this record in my bible, written by my father:
“Elizabeth Joseph Wilson departed this life, May 1st, 1861, after a life of perservering industry and economy, in full reliance of the Christian hope.”

He knew her better than any one else. They had walked life’s journey side by side for forty-seven years, sharing its joys and sorrows, its sunshine and shadows, and now separated by death, he felt his great loss.

My father lived ten years longer, and four of these were years of trial and sorrow. War was in the land. His children and grandchildren were called to the service of their country, and he was kept at home by the weight of threescore years and ten. But he was strong and vigorous, and was more useful to his children and grandchildren, than in any four years of his life. He kept us the old homestead, and had his two youngest sons’ wives to care for, with the little ones, while they were away fighting for their country. He kept up his farming, raising corn, meat, potatoes, peas, etc., but very little cotton. And succeeded in feeding and clothing the negroes, and his little household; although the Federal Cavalary, two or three time, stripped him of everything in the shape of food. The negroes were faithful, and would run off the stock and save them from the raiders, but it required eternal vigilance. The people had a system of signalling, that was really interesting, and very effective, and saved them a great deal.

A raid would start from Memphis. As soon as the people could ascertain which road it would take, a horn would blow, and it would be taken up and down the line on that road, and in thirty minutes the people would be warned for twenty or thirty miles. negroes were very faithful and never failed to hear the signal at night. This gave the people time to hide their provisions and their stock. The surrender of the Southern armies was about over by the 1st of May. My father’s crop was about planted, and he planted more than he had done for two or three years. About the 15th of May, he called all the negroes up, and told them they were free, and could go, if they desired, and find homes for themselves, and make their own contracts for the year. They were astonished and speechless. After waiting for them to speak, my father said, “All who desire to go, rise to your feet.” Not one moved. Father said, “Now, I will make you a proposition. If you go on as you have begun, cultivate and gather the crop, as you have always done, obey orders, and behave yourselves, I will feed and clothe you, as I have always done, and if the crop pay expenses, and there is anything over, I will divide among you. The old home will be broken up this fall. I can’t live by myself, I will try to rent the land, as it is impossible to sell it.

Thankee, Master, we will do our best,” came from all sides, and the conference ended.

The year 1865 was more than an average crop year, and everything produced well, but provisions were so high and scarce that it did not more than pay out. The corn used in cultivating the crop cost more than one dollar per bushel; middling meat, 33 1-3 cents per pound, and everything else in proportion.

The time came to break up the old home. It was a very sad day! The negroes had made their contracts for another year, and started away in tears. Summer, an old man now, came to me and said, “Mass Jim, I want to go wid you.” “All right, Uncle Summer, I will do the best I can for you.” Taking my father and Summer, we started for my home at Tyro, bidding the old home farewell!

My father lived with his children the rest of his days. Whenever he could be a comfort to, or of any service, he felt it his duty to go, though he considered the house of his youngest son “his home.” All vied in their efforts to make him comfortable and happy. When seventy-eight or nine years old, a very suspicious ulcer made its appearance upon his right cheek. He had always been a remarkably healthy man up to the advent of this cancer; he would ten or more miles a day, and was very fond of hoeing in the garden, and cultivating the flowers and vegetables, but when this cancer commenced its deadly work, his strength gave way rapidly, and we say his days “were numbered.”

Sometime before his death, he called my wife and told her to go and get such and such articles of clothing, and bring them to him, and said, “Look over them, Betty, for I want you to see that I am buried in them.” When we sent to the undertaker, he had given him exact directions in regard to making his coffin. His resting place had been marked out for ten years. So when the summons came he had nothing to do but close his eyes and fall asleep, aged eighty years, seven months and 1 day. His oldest daughter, his youngest son with his wife, were kneeling by his side when he breathed his last.

The last record in the old family Bible must be recorded here, and then I am done:
“James Wilson did Nov. 6th, 1871, near Tyro, Tate county, Miss., in the home of his youngest son who nursed him in last illness, closed his eyes in death, and prepared his body for burial. He was buried in the family cemetery near Wall Hill, Miss., by the side of his wife, among his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord! Yea, saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.”


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