Mr. W. L. Moore
Kansas City, Missouri
Our family records and traditions show that I was born near Florence, Lauderdale County, Alabama, May 9, 1833. I am sure these are authentic and true, in view of which I recognize the fact that I am this bright day passing the ninetieth annual marker on my life’s eventful highway. In view of which and at the request of some members of my family, I have concluded to pen a brief outline of some of the scenes through which I have passed, a sketch of my paternal and maternal ancestors and some of the inventions and discoveries that have been made to bless the world since I first saw the light, May 9, 1833.
Some members of my large and widely scattered family will appreciate what I propose and am now undertaking, others may not. If I succeed in formulating the thoughts, that the work indicated may suggest, in intelligible shape, I hope all concerned may appreciate and occasionally recall, after I have passed over into the great beyond. Many forget their forebears and concern themselves only with persons and conditions with whom and with which they are at present in elbow touch.
Remember, I am a nonagenarian, nearing Sunset. I must soon cross the bar. The inevitable and unavoidable will soon be mine. Remember, I am in the old family mansion where you were born, situated amid the memorable forest trees under which you played in childhood and youth. Our sumptuous Birthday Dinner was served in the old dining room on the long table that you will recall, as long as fond memory is true to her sacred trust. The long eventful pathway that is now behind me has had its ups and downs, its successes and failures, its joys and sorrows. On reflection, I cannot say I want or would like to retrace this pathway over which I have just passed, but with my experience, observation and knowledge, I would like to live the ensuing ninety years to witness the material, intellectual and moral progress that is sure to come.
Such a possibility is not thinkable. I could not dodge the inevitable if I would and would not if I could. So I am serenely drifting, content to meet my fate. With a fixed and abiding faith, I confidently hold and believe that state or condition that awaits us all is not the dreary end of life, but the gateway to a higher, better and more permanent life for all who make progress in the preparatory school, in this state of being. Poisonous infidelity, that pert, whining pessimists pretend to believe, should have no place in the preparatory school for the life over there. But I trust there is no use in elaborating to you a doctrine that the best of earth hold, with a tenacity that knows no compromise and is held only by a different and unworthy class and the pretensions of the tall sons of science.
It affords me pleasure to say to you, that your good mother and I are in the enjoyment of our usual health and no special annoyance out of the ordinary confronts us. You know that she and I have lived longer than is allotted to most mortals and are more comfortably situated than is the luck of some. There are many things and conditions all around and about us that are not as we would have them. Discontent brings no change or relief, so we think it best to submit to the ills we have than to flee to those we know not of.
Your mother has not entirely recovered from the fall she had at Lexie’s [daughter], of which you have been advised, but she is much better. She gave aid in the preparation and serving of the sumptuous Birthday Dinner. You will remember her fondness and skill in such work and the quality and quantity required to satisfy. Notwithstanding hard times and the great scarcity of culinary essentials, she managed to make the last measure well with those of more prosperous times.
Now to the subject matter that I have in mind to present for your consideration. I would prefer to prepare a copy in my own hand, but must depend on a skilled typist for a copy for each brother and sister, and a few for me, to hand to the next of kin, who may be interested in the proposed production. My physical powers may be taxed in the formulation of the original. I also fear that my mental powers are not as they have been. I know old age has enfeebled me so I cannot run, jump, throw rocks, cut wood, scale hills and mountains, use a pen and do about generally as I formally could. The mutations of time mark all things material. Change is the fate of mortals from the cradle to the grave.
When a young man at Franklin College, I was fortunate in having the inclinations and opportunity to read Dr. Hall’s Laws of Health. I am inclined to believe what I got and held from that book has contributed to my health, strength and long life, and has also been helpful in respect to your mother. He stressed the doctrine: sickness and premature death result form violated natural law, and sin is the violation of law. Violate natural, fixed, immutable laws and the penalty always follows. Human law can be and often is violated and the penalty avoided, but mark you, not so with natural law. I would have you wear out in obedience to law, and not die out by violating law.
When my physical powers decline through the disintegrating influences of time and old age, so I am a burden on others, or when my mental powers fail so I cannot deal with the problems of life sanely, I now think I would prefer to pass over the River into the Great Beyond, but until thus changed and enfeebled, I imagine I will be content here. The old song, “I Would Not Live Always,” never appealed to me only the condition indicated.
With health, peace and competence, amid desirable environments, I want to wear out and not die out. When the great living, moving nationalities of earth learn to observe the factors and principles that enter into and constitute progressive Christian civilization, this state of being will be a happy adjunct to that over there. I hope you see and believe, the trend of times is now pointing with greater clearness and significance to the consummation of this desirable condition, than every before in the history of the world.
Let us not stand in the way of this happy trend of affairs, in our great country and elsewhere. I confidently believe the better elements in all the civilized nations of earth are now seriously considering the propriety of eliminating war and the desolation, misery, ruin and poverty it causes.
With selfish, designing, unscrupulous political leaders and the like class of military autocrats our of the way, peace on earth and good will among all would surely come to stay. Ignorance and indifference on the part of the masses are the reliable supporters of political bosses and military autocrats. Be impressed of this historic truth.
There are many potent influences now at work in all quarters of the world to better, to refine and to elevate the masses. The world is slowly but surely getting better. I may not be better, you may not be better, but the great living, moving masses are. This improvement is due to a greater dissemination of knowledge than ever before, because of modern discoveries, inventions and the consequent activities resulting therefrom. These are blessing the world to an extent and degree heretofore unknown in history. The facts under consideration justify the statement, that there
has been more material, intellectual and moral progress since May 9, 1833, my birthday, than had been in any former period of a thousand years. The activities that now exist are destined to make other wonderful discoveries and improvements. I may live to see some of them, my posterity will see many. I am truly glad that our lot has been cast in this great country and this wonderful age.
Let me insist that you stand for the ways and means that look to and contemplate progress and the betterment of others, without halt or compromise. Have the courage of the boy who stood on the burning deck, and of the boy who hacked the cherry tree. In all the active doings and busy scenes with which you may be connected, be true to yourself, to duty as you see it, and you cannot be a failure or false to others. Keep within your horizon the quaint saying of the great dramatic poet: “Let all the ends thou aimest at be thy God’s, thy country’s, and truths.”
Time and space suggest that I take up the proposed ancestral sketch. I want to make it intelligible so you may not be as ignorant as to your ancestors as many are to theirs. Remember, my father, Stephen R. Moore, a native of Moore County, North Carolina, died in military prison at Alton, Illinois in 1863. He was a son of John Moore, a native of Guilford County, North Carolina, who died at his home near Bay Springs, Mississippi. John Moore and his aged wife died when they were nearing one hundred years of age. The said John Moore was a son of Robert Moore, a native either of Virginia or South Carolina, who was killed in the battle of Guilford Courthouse, now Greensboro, North Carolina, in March 1781. Robert Moore left a wife and three little boys. Robert Moore was a son of Patrick Moore, a native or Ireland, who came to Jamestown, Virginia, in the early colonial period, went from there and settled near Columbia, South Carolina. At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War of 1776, two of Patrick’s sons, Robert and Fanning, were residents, with families, of Guilford County
Another son remained near Columbia with the father. It is understood that the father and this last named son were opposed to the Colonial struggle for independence.
My father and Uncle John Hood were sent to prison for refusing to take the iron clad oath not to give aid or comfort to the Confederate cause for which their sons stood. Had they been of the pliable type, they like some others would have taken it and remained at home inside Federal lines. They were true to their convictions in all relations of life.
During my youth and early manhood, I was often at my grandfather’s home. His thrilling accounts of the trying scenes and hardships through which his brave mother, Bettie Sisson Moore, passed, with him and his two brothers, impressed me. I still recall many of them. Grandfather was an old Baptist, but high strung and impulsive. He often would shed tears and use curse words at times, in telling of the privations, hardships and dangers through which they passed after the death of the husband and father. A record in the Secretary of State Office at the Capitol shows that his father was an Ensign in Colonel John P. Williamson’s Regiment of North Carolina Infantry.
This was used as evidence in Lexie’s petition for membership in the D.A.R. [Daughters of the American Revolution] Order. Her certificate of membership is No. [blank] in the Secretary’s Office in Washington, D.C.
My great, great grandmother, widow of Robert Moore, and her three little boys, were subject to much toil and dangers, as their home was within British lines and dominated by marauding Tory bands led by the notorious Tarlton and others, who were a menace to defenseless citizens.
I recall many incidents related by my grandfather. Once, a squad of Tarlton’s command came to their humble home, too such bed clothes as they wanted, threw corn from the little crib over the yard for their horses, chickens picked it up, the soldiers cut their heads off with sabers. The mother became enraged and abused them, blew a horn as a signal for General Marion to come to her relief. The ruse had the effect to hasten them away. She and her little boys were often molested by the Tories, who had less respect for defenseless citizens than the regular British soldiers had. My grandfather cherished a feeling of hatred for them, when a thought of them was presented, for as long as he lived.
Another incident related by him impressed me. Want and oppressions forced the mother to take her little boys and go to her father’s home in Georgia. Preparatory to this undertaking, she exchanged her little farm for a strong gentle horse, bridle, and saddle. With a few scanty clothes and rations she mounted, the younger boy in her lap and two behind, she started on the journey through a wilderness country, over poor unknown roads, encompassed by uncertainties and dangers. When and where the roads would permit, two of the boys or the mother would walk. They were several days making the eventful trip, were often much bothered in securing places to spend the night, but finally reached their destination much fatigued, but rejoicing, to receive a welcome and safety from the dangers that had beset their home. All toiled and economized for several years, after peace was made and the stormy conditions that follow war, at the home in Georgia of the father and grandfather. When the boys attained age, strength and experience sufficient to make a support for themselves and mother, they went back to their native state and settled in Moore County and engaged in farming. They supplied the mother with comforts incident to the results of toiling, economizing labor. The mother lived to a great age. Each one of the boys – John, Robert, and Fanning – married and reared a family in Moore County. Robert moved with his family to Jefferson County, East Tennessee, from which his family grew and most of them went to other parts.
Fanning and family remained in Moore County. His son Robert with his family went to Lauderdale County, Alabama, and then to Mississippi. He reared three sons who were sensible and aggressive. John, my grandfather, married Mary Richardson and remained in Moore County until about the year 1820 with his four sons, Robert, Stephen Richardson, John, and Hugh Moore, and his two daughters, Lizzie (Mrs. A. M. Carroll) and Mary (Mrs. William McGee). Robert and Lizzie married and had families prior to 1820.
My grandmother, Mary Richardson Moore, was a daughter of William Richardson, an honored and much respected patriarch. He and his aged wife and five sons – John, Mat, Stephen, Isham, and Isaac Richardson – and his four sons-in-law – John Moore, my grandfather; Jake Stutz; John McGee; and James Myrick, each with a large family and some of the members of these had families prior to 1820. This entire bunch was uncompromising Primitive Baptists and Democrats. I am a Democrat from inheritance, from prejudice and principle, if the principle suits me. But I have passed the yaller dog degree.
My mother, Lucy McDougal Moore, and her brothers and sisters were Methodists. So was her father, William McDougal. Her grandfather John, her great grandfather Duncan, and her great great grandfather Arch McDougal, a native of Argyleshire, Scotland, were Presbyterians of the Blue Stocking order, as tradition had it. She was a native of Cumberland County, North Carolina.
About the year 1820, William Richardson, his aged wife, five sons, four sons-in-law, with their respective families and other friends, impressed by the restlessness that moves empire westward, determined to move to Lauderdale County, Alabama. They prepared for the long journey by disposing of their non-movables, rigging substantial wagons, culling out such cattle, sheep and horses as they deemed advisable to take with them, and seed for favorite gardens, orchard and field products. Mat Richardson was sent to Giles County, Tennessee, months before on a prospecting tour in the interest of the proposed colony. His observation and report led them to Lauderdale County near Florence. The long journey was eventful and memorable. The scenes and observations made by the younger men and women, boys and girls, on Blue Ridge, the hills, valleys, dense forests, creeks and rivers and rough roads were never forgotten.
My father and mother were in their teens. Father drove an ox team. Mother belonged to a class that had charge of the loose livestock when moving. Some of this jolly class at times were on foot, on horseback, and in wagons. These youngsters enjoyed this job when roads and weather conditions were favorable.
The Colony consisted of about one hundred and fifty men, women, boys, girls, and children. The death of the much loved patriarch, William Richardson, en route was sad indeed. He was nearing one hundred years of age. He died and was buried at the foot of a little mountain near Knoxville. All rested for several days during his illness. His grave was only marked by tons of loose stones, that everyone in the party that was able, helped to contribute. This being done, all in sadness moved on, tenderly caring for the aged widow. While in camp near Knoxville, an incident occurred that was somewhat remarkable. Uncle A. M. Carroll went to a nearby new ground to get fire for the use of the campers. To his surprise, he met and recognized a fugitive from justice. One Spence, who had killed his wife in Moore County. A reward had been offered for his arrest. For a time, he denied his identify, but when confronted by many who knew him, he was arrested and taken back, tried, convicted and executed in Moore County.
Finally, the colony, with no other happening out of the ordinary, reached their destination. The heads of families were soon active in locating homesteads on desirable lands. There was an unwritten law in that age and country that pioneers approved, to mob anyone would who clandestinely enter land on which another had an improvement and was calculating to enter as soon as his financial condition would justify. Some of the pioneers were protected for a time by this law. These pioneers, with few exceptions, were eminently successful in their agricultural enterprises on rich productive soil. My father and mother grew to maturity amid these pioneer conditions. They married in December 1828. They went to a cabin on a partially improved productive tract of land, by him, on which they prospered, where sister Sarah, I, and brother Jack were born. A tempting offer for his home and cheap lands in north Mississippi, obtained by the U. S. from the Chickasaw Indians for lands west of the Mississippi River, induced Father and others to sell and invest in a new pioneer field in Mississippi.
He went horseback prospecting and located lands on the Tombigbee River and its tributaries in Itawamba and Tishomingo Counties. He bought cattle and ponies from Ross, an Indian Chief, who was preparing to go west. This was a fortunate investment. I recall but few incidents during our move and prior to it. But I recall much about Alabama kin and conditions that I saw while on a visit with my mother in 1840 or ’41. This trip was made in an ox wagon driven by Uncle John Moore. I recall Grandmother McDougal’s home and orchard, Uncle Jo McDougal, Uncle John Richardson, and Father’s old home. Also, the few and far between stopping places in going and coming.
I often heard my father tell of the crude, but sincere hospitality of Chief Ross while on his prospecting tour and while negotiating for his cattle and ponies. He subsisted on bear, deer, and turkey meat and parched corn. Slept on and covered with bear skins. I remember seeing Indians who did not go with those who first went west of the Mississippi. There were abandoned wigwams on land that father entered and a graveyard that curio seekers had opened, that I and others, notably my Carroll cousins, occasionally visited and picked up beads.
I must briefly sketch some of the pioneer conditions through which my father and mother and their paternal and maternal ancestors passed and in which my childhood, youth, and young manhood were spent. Pioneer conditions in Lauderdale County, Alabama were somewhat similar to those in north Mississippi with which I am better acquainted, having been more intimately connected. I recall with distinct clearness the natural scenery, the wild animals, the birds, reptiles, and fish that abounded in the land of my youth. Also many of the men and women, boys and girls, who resided near our humble home. I also recall the several material, intellectual and religious activities that then and there existed with more or less zeal. The tall dense vine-clad forest appeared to defy the demands of civilization. A variety of wild animals roamed over the hills and valleys; birds that dominated the earth, the water and the air were plentiful. Reptiles of the dreaded varieties were in evidence, to remind the passerby of the estrangement that began in the Garden of Eden, soon after Mother Eve had Adam to eat the apple.
Luxuriant vegetation for summer and winter grazing existed in abundance. Bears were a recognized menace to hogs, wolves to sheep, fox, mink and weasels to the feathered tribes. I have often gone with my father to bear and wolf pens, peculiarly built by interested parties for their protection. My boyish precaution usually kept me at a respectful distance, until the unerring flintlock rifle sent a death dealing missile through the vitals of the entrapped. These annoyances gradually disappeared, also the discomforts of crude cabins with weight pole covers, puncheon floors, stick and dirt chimneys, as other settlers came and felled the forest, cleared and cultivated the lands and erected better homes. There was a marked contrast between the pioneer conditions of the last of the thirties and the early forties and those that existed in 1861 when the Civil War began. I know of no section, in any part of our great country more prosperous or the inhabitants of which were more refined and cultured, nor so devoted to the principles on which our government was founded, than was that of the Old South. But my purpose is to present for your consideration pioneer conditions and not what finally resulted.
Neighbors during the early part of that period were few and far between, but remarkably kind, true, helpful and hospitable to each other. Sectarian prejudices were a fixture with many. The entire bunch, with few rare exceptions, were committed to either extreme Calvinism or extreme Armenianism. They fraternized on all theories, issues and enterprises aside from their peculiar religious views. It was noticeable that those who knew least about the principle under consideration were most obstinate and unreasonable. School and church houses, also grain and lumber mills, were few and far between. Some produced lumber for floors and doors with wedges, gluts and mauls, others by the whipsaw method. At times meal and flour were made by pounding the grain in a mortar. Leather was made in a trough in a nearby log after taking the hair off in ashes. Bed clothes and wearing apparel were produced at home.
Mothers and daughters, without exception, knew and practiced the art of carding, spinning, weaving and knitting. Fathers and sons furnished the food and raiment and the women prepared and served. There were but few drones in the family or in the community. Neighborly obligations were rigidly observed. Mutual dependence in new and sparsely settled pioneer neighborhoods demanded help in time of need. Those were ostracized who refused to help erect log houses, roll logs, shuck corn, wait on the sick, bury the dead. Self inflated egotists or those who were so regarded, were ostracized, also.
The English historian and statesman, T. B. Macauly, held that our United States democratic form of government would prosper and be a success, while sparsely settled and the people felt mutual dependence, but would go to pieces when densely populated and selfish conflicting interest developed. Modern conditions in our government indicate the correctness of Macauly’s philosophy and prophecy.
Under my youthful observations, many emigrants flocked to that north Mississippi pioneer settlement. In time, church houses, school houses, mills, shops, stores, and still houses cam to supply the wants of the growing colony. These at first were crude, but in harmony with their surroundings. Schools were formed by subscription, tuition a dollar per student each month. School usually continued three months. I recall six terms and teachers that I attended that were not respectable burlesques. Webster’s Blue Back Speller was a standard text book. The New Testament was used by some students. Pike’s Arithmetic and Olney’s Geography. I recall one class that used Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress. Teachers were up in manners and the use of thought quickening rod that the famous Solomon commended. The boys were taught to bow, the girls to curtsy. Those who wrote used goose quill pens made by the teacher and homemade ink. None of the houses named had floors, door shutters, or chimneys. All were required to spell and read aloud. Often the united voices made the welkin [archaic term meaning the open air or the vault of heaven] ring. Preachers and teachers were held in high esteem by most people. Teachers were called upon to solve hard problems, write and read letters for certain ones, formulate legal documents, name the proper time
To plant the garden and field seeds, deaden timber, trim livestock, pass around the hat for public contributions, judge at shooting matches and arbitrate differences among neighbors involving figures. My first teacher was old and peculiar. He believed in witches and various superstitious signs. Would go on Saturday, occasionally, to a nearby store, get drunk and fight, but strange to say, would not drink during the week while school was going on. He stood as a challenge, while drinking, to all who would indicate that he could not whip the best of them. My other teachers were less pugnacious, but no better informed than the first, in books, demeanor, or of the thought quickening rod.
Preachers were held in high esteem by their respective followers. I recall only old Methodists and Baptists. It was understood that they were called form on high to this holy work. I now see and believe some of them preached for the good of others, some for notoriety and a good time, and others, as now, for the want of sense. I remember well the first infidel I ever saw or heard of. He was a prominent pioneer, noted for his wealth and outspoken opposition to the orthodox views of his neighborhood. I heard him criticized by men who often met at a gunsmith shop on Father’s land near our home. I was afraid of him. I had been led to believe that an infidel was a strange and dangerous sort of beast. My view changed when, at that shop, he gave me some chestnuts and in so doing, spoke to me most kindly. It was told that he said to the Methodist preacher, when about to start to the annual conference a the end of his year’s work, “I understand that you have not received much pay. I have no faith in what you preach, but I now give you fifty dollars and may pay you more if you are sent here net year. You have kept some of these crooks scared, so they don’t steal my cattle. I want you to come back and preach hell to them.”
Finally, the population increased so as to justify an old Baptist Association and a Methodist Camp meeting to materialize within the bounds of our home. These annual meetings were fondly anticipated, amply provided for, and well attended. Each created a characteristic religious wave that appealed to many.
The preachers were all called from on high, but the marked difference in their teaching raised a doubt with some as to their call, but none as to their qualifications. The average old Baptist sermon embraced an account in the characteristic whangdoodle tone of his experience in conversation and in his call to the ministry and a criticism of the teaching of the non elect. What was added to his experience was usually a fatalistic mess of theological nonsense.
The rigidness of that state of things when I was in my youth has been modified. The Old Baptists were noted for their honesty and tenacity to which they held their views on all lines of good citizenship. As a rule they glorified in their religious teachings and in their quant, peculiar make up. The experience of one of the elect amounted to about this: “I got religion when I did not want or expect it; if I had wanted it, I would not have gotten it. When I got it, I did not know it; if I had known it, I did not have it. When I got it, I could not lose it; if I could lose it, I never had it.” Such teachings now can only be heard in backwoods regions from the ignorant and superstitious. A dissemination of knowledge is fatal to superstition.
The Methodists were active and zealous in propagating their doctrine that appealed to me with more force than that of the Old Baptist. Their zeal and enthusiasm at times chilled me. Green and untaught as I was, I recall many sensational commotions claiming to be Holy Ghost visitations. Some would pray, some sing, some shout, others laugh, dance and jerk. This silly and ridiculous outburst often resulted in some lying for hours in a death like swoon. I never heard any teachings but the kind indicated from the pulpit until I entered Franklin College in 1853. The and there, for the first time, I heard a plea for the restoration of Apostolic teaching and a disregard of all sectarian creeds. This teaching was forcible and free from the vague mysteries to which I had been accustomed from childhood. I accepted it, and obeyed it, as it is written in the Christian scriptures. I have never at any time or condition doubted the correctness of the course then taken. The criticism of friends and relatives only increased my faith and determination to go where the Book goes, in all religious work and stop where it stops, to be simply a Christian.
I could not adopt the religious doctrine of either my father or mother. There is something about each that did not appeal to me. I never heard anything but sever criticism of the Christian brotherhood until I entered Franklin College in January 1853. President Fanning, one of the pioneer preachers in the restoration movement, preached to the students every Lord’s day at 11:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. in the College Chapel. His appointments were often filled by Sandy E. Jones, President of a nearby female college; Professor F. M. Carmack; or Professor William Lipscomb of Franklin College; or Evangelist J. J. Trott. From the first I could clearly comprehend their teaching and it harmonized with the New Testament scriptures that were daily read and explained. I made the confession that Philip made, the Ethiopian Nobleman made, and was baptized by President Fanning in April 1854. Criticism for this departure from the ancestral faith increased my devotion to the cause espoused.
In view of the changed affairs that have come to many as to sectarian teachings since my youth, I am sure it will be difficult for you to realize the religious status in which I was reared. The plea for restoration, not for reformation, is destined to grow as the years come and go. Let me now briefly outline some other conditions that have been much improved since pioneer times as to school teachers, lawyers, merchants and mechanics. The teacher was respected and honored for his learning, skill and ability to direct the young in paths that lead to usefulness and respectability. The textbooks were few and simple. All the schools I attended until I entered that of E. W. Carmack, Euclid Academy, were not respectable burlesques compared with many we now have that are free to all.
Mr. Carmack was the first college graduate I ever saw and my first worthy and capable teacher. I honored and respected him and his brother, F. M. Carmack, graduates of Franklin College near Nashville, Tennessee. They, to my thinking, were models and inspired me to want a college education and to finally begin the work under discouraging conditions. I am what I am, due to their teaching influence.
I was a student at Euclid Academy for two years. Much came within my mental horizon during this time that was new, novel and useful. My father did not approve my plan to go to college, opposed it only on account of the anticipated expense. He only felt able to do for my four brothers what he had done for me. I worked and managed to accumulate about $200. I had a good horse that I had reared from a colt that I gave for a 160-acre land warrant. Thus armed with a limited supply of clothes and books, I mounted an ox wagon going to market with cotton to East Port, Mississippi, where I boarded the first steamboat I was ever on, changed at Paducah, Kentucky for Nashville. This trip on the Tennessee, Ohio and Cumberland was new and novel. From Nashville, out five miles, I saw my first pike. I soon reached the old college building with its able faculty and about one hundred students. Nearby were Minerva Female College and a private female school presided over by Mrs. Fanning. Her advanced pupils recited to President Fanning with young men in certain studies. I soon realized that some of the young men and boys were bright, studious and aspiring, others just the reversed. The young ladies were looked upon with admiration and regarded as objects of loveliness and beauty. I went home once during my four years at at college, taught school while at home. During other vacations, I taught near college and thus made expense money. I executed my note for a balance due at the time of my graduation, July 1857, and paid it with my first earnings.
I noted with interest, in the presence of a large cultured audience, the first graduating exercises that I ever saw. The first honor was conferred on a poor but bright young man who had worked his way through college as a tailor. I secretly resolved to gain that honor that would come to my class three years hence. It was a forlorn hope that I never intimated to anyone, but never ceased to cherish.
In President Fanning’s department in 1857, there were sixteen, only two of these are now living besides me and your mother. At our marriage by David Lipscomb, there were thirty-five present, September 5, 1860, only four besides us are now living.
After my graduation I hastened to Father’s home where I was greeted by my relatives and friends. I soon took a school at Mount Olivet for five months, then at Pierian Academy near Blackland for three years. I married during the last year, 1860. When not in school, I studied law with Judge B. N. Kenyon at Jacinto, Mississippi. Obtained a license signed by Judge Joel N. Acker, but for the Civil War, I would have entered the practice that I had in view while at school.
I made this place my home because your mother, the only child, and her parents were averse to us going elsewhere. After marriage, while teaching at Pierian Academy, I was offered the presidency of a Female School at Purdey, Tennessee.
I went into the Confederate Army with convictions that offensive war is wrong. I was never under fire when I would not have dodged, but for the eye of others. I was paroled at Meridian, Mississippi, May 11, 1865, serving as Adjutant General of Dennie’s Brigade in a Mississippi Company. I was merchandising with your Grandpa Hunt when I went into the Confederate service. When the army retreated form Tennessee, I took our confederate money and invested it in cotton, saved fifty bales out of fifty-three purchased. This saving enabled me to buy my present home for $5000 from your grandfather, at what he said was half price. For years, I devoted myself actively to farming and merchandising, only succeeding in making a support and caring for you and others of my large family. I have represented Franklin County in the Legislature, have been an uncompromising prohibitionist, was nominated for Congress on this ticket, made a strenuous canvass for the principle, not expecting to be elected. I have taken some lawsuits occasionally through the partiality of friends and made intricate land surveys that were in litigation. I have been an elder in the Christian Church at Salem and then at Huntland for fifty years.
I must return to the thought I had in mind when speaking of the pioneer schools. Teachers of singing and writing schools were occasionally in prominent evidence. Their work reached satisfactory proficiency and afforded a social elbow opportunity for the pioneers’ youngsters to utilize sparking privileges and opportunities.
The pioneers in due time recognized and demanded millers, merchants and mechanics and physicians. The lawyer, as an office holder or candidate for office, held the confidence and respect of many, but not simply as a practitioner. Many regarded him as a sort of necessary evil, ready to maintain the right or the wrong of any contention for a fee. It is not the vocation, but the man that makes the man.
Pioneer doctors in the land of my youth were few and far between who were properly equipped for that important calling. In the absence of the hampering restraints that are now recognized, full fledged quacks were in evidence. Difference systems of therapeutics were practiced. Occasionally, acrimonious contentions as to the efficiency of certain remedies would arise. One prominent class stressed the virtue in certain leaves, barks and roots. Others found remedies in the mineral kingdom, others rubbed and applied hot and cold water, bitters, tinctures, salves, ointments, walnut pills and vermifuge were found in well regulated families. Doctors, then as now, in pulling teeth, setting broken bones, bleeding, steaming and purging the suffering, killed some and cured others, but they were not so skillful and scientific as they are now nor were their financial skinnings so merciless.
I trust the reminiscence that I have briefly sketched may possibly be of some interest to you and yours after I have passed form this state of being. I have made many mistakes and passed through many unpleasant and trying scenes that I trust with your more desirable environments you may avoid. I have and may continue to lose sight of many of the persons, scenes and conditions that I have, from time to time, come in contact with during my long and eventful life, but I can never forget the boys and girls, men and women, that I knew in that dear old land of my youth. Standards of style and fashion then and there present quite a contrast to those that now exist. According to modern standards, these men were civil, but rough and uncultured, although brave, honorable and honest. Women were frugal, modest and faithful, efficient keepers at home, but would talk when bunched as they do now. The boys were green, diffident and gawky, but obedient to parents and respectful to their seniors. I do not recall any “Big Ikes” or “Smart Alexs” among my boy associates or anyone who thought it smart to do mean or one who tamely submitted to an insulting challenge from another boy.
Girls were then as they are now, naturally inclined to conform to recognized styles in dress and general demeanor. They felt at home and were at ease when arrayed in stylish fashionable homemade outfits and would modestly avoid spectacular departures from the ordinary. An everyday or Sunday outfit, too short at both ends, would have caused a blush and hide-out. If girls and women had gone in public, arrayed in the style that is now tolerated and admired, those modest commonsense pioneers would have given them the go-by and probably would have had them arrested for a sensualistic exposure. Have those modest-like pioneer styles gone forever?
Before closing, be impressed with an additional thought that I would have you consider and contemplate in connection with the past and present. Think of the mutations of time, of the immutability of earthly conditions and human affairs. I hope you may take the time and have inclination to deliberate on the trend of the inevitable. The thoughtful see the unrest and changes that are taking place here and elsewhere in the nationalities of the world. The fighting influences of ignorance and superstitions are slowly but surely giving way. Modern discoveries, inventions and improvements are blessing the world in presenting essential factors that promote Christian civilization. Ways and means are being more seriously considered for the elimination of war, with its desolation, ruins, miseries and poverty, than every before. The best in all nations realize that the observance of the God-given Golden Rule and not the blind following of the autocratic, selfish, unscrupulous partisan leaders bears the best fruit. The potency of passion, prejudice and ignorance in political and sectarian organizations is giving place to independent thought and action.
Many are beginning to see that the cohesive force in social, political and religious partyism is based on passion, prejudice and ignorance. They also see that intelligence, honest independent thought and action are favorable to progressive Christian civilization. I hope and trust you may keep lined up with those who thus see and act. Keep on the right side of the line between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, hones toil and aimless idleness. Remember the thoughts, words and deeds in this life, make the character on which we stand or fall in the great beyond. Be true to yourself and you cannot be false to others.
Time and space suggest that I now close. I have at opportune moments attempted to pen such facts as to my ancestors and such thoughts as to their pioneer surroundings and some of the trying conditions in which they and my early youth were spent, as the task under consideration has suggested. I am not satisfied with my effort. I could improve my sketch by rewriting. If my manuscript could be accidentally destroyed as one was, on which Isaac Newton had long labored which fell into the fire by dogs fighting under the table on which it was placed. He rewrote and greatly improved. By rewriting I would leave some items out and add others and would thus improve mine.
I must close, I am tired of the job, and will not longer tax your time and patience with my ancestral and reminiscent stuff. A tithe in fond memory’s sacred casket on the lines indicated has not been expressed.
Forget what does not appeal to you; retain and transmit what impresses you as being worthwhile. Occasionally reread and pass its subject matter to yours after I have crossed the bar, so they may know something of your ancestors.
May health, peace and competence by yours, I am truly, hopefully and sincerely,
H. R. Moore
[Handwritten note follows: “I note a few mistakes in this neat and stylish copy of my letter. Yours, H. R. Moore”]