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Experience in 19th-century America.
Library of Congress Subject Headings,
19th edition, 1996
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 19th edition, 1996
DEAR CHILDREN AND FRIENDS:
I HAVE thought it might tend to your advantage, and that of your posterity, to give you a short and succint history of my life. It is not my intention to extend it to a great length, but merely to state some facts connected with it, which I hope, may prove not only satisfactory, but beneficial to yourselves and those who are to come after you.
I was born in the North of Ireland, County of Derry and Parish of Tamlacht, on the 13th day of February, A. D. 1756, of poor, but respectable parentage. My father was a Farmer by occupation; he died when I was fourteen years of age. For three years before his death, he was in bad health, and was not able to be of any use to himself or his family. After the death of my father, I continued to reside with my mother, and assisted her in supporting the family until I was in the twenty-eighth year of my age, during which time I learned the Weaver's trade, and worked at it for about five years: it was of great service to me afterwards, when I commenced store-keeping, as it enabled me to judge correctly of the different kinds of common cloth.
The death of our landlord, and others coming in and raising the rents, prevented my mother from giving her children more than a very limited education. This, together with the many difficulties we laboured under in Ireland, induced a wish on my part, to try my fortune in some other part of the world. I accordingly, in the 28th year of my age, obtained her consent to come to America for the purpose of procuring the necessary means of bringing herself and family to this land of liberty, where we would no longer feel the oppression of haughty landlords, and where virtue and good conduct give a passport to the highest stations in society.
I embarked at Lairn, in the County of Antrim, on the 4th day of June 1783, and landed at Philadelphia on the 3d day of August following. When I left Ireland, my mother furnished me with two suits of clothing, two dozen shirts, and other things necessary, so that I would be enabled to save all the money that
I might make; calculating that I would return in two years and bring them to America, but sickness prevented the execution of this plan. After I landed, I remained in Philadelphia ten days; I then left my chest and clothing at the house where I boarded, and went into the country to the house of a Mr. Green, (a Quaker) fifteen miles from the city; the first night, I recollect, that he observed to me -- "If thee have as good luck as thy countryman Robert Kerr, thee will do well. He rented a small house at an early day in Philadelphia, and worked at hard labour on the streets, and now, by the perseverance of himself and his wife, he owns nearly a whole square in the city." He made many other observations, which occur to my mind, when I am lying on my bed. I told him, that I came to this country for the purpose of amending my condition in life, and that I would try to do so. The remarks of Mr. Green, together with my own observations, soon convinced me that the Americans were not composed of Lords and Dukes and belted Knights, (as Burns says.)
The next night I went to the house of Mr. Green's son, and undertook to clear out a small piece of land for him at the end of a field; and not being acquainted with such work, I hurt myself so much the first day, that I was not able to do any thing the next. Mr. Green mentioned, that the work could be done in two or three hours, but as I knew nothing about it, I could take no advantage of the grubs, and therefore I spent the whole day at it. From this I went to deliver a letter which I had promised, and then engaged to weave for sometime with a Mr. Chafin; during the time I was here, an Englishman (a Tinker) came along: he asked me, what I stopped here for? and told me to quit the place; intimating some unfavorable things respecting the people; accordingly, I left Chafin's and went to a Thomas Wilson's and wove sometime for him. During that winter, I worked at different kinds of business, but principally threshing. The Americans at this time were generally poor, having been stripped of almost every thing by the British during the Revolutionary War, consequently the price of labor was very low.
Not being afraid of sickness, I went the next spring to the Delaware River, where hands were employed in embanking. There I was attacked by the dumb ague (as it was called in that country) and was sick for nearly twelve months; in consequence of which the small pittance I had earned, and the clothing my mother had given me, had all to go for Doctors' bills and board. When I became able to work again, I had nothing left but the clothes on my back, one shirt, and a dollar in my pocket.
I had boarded sometime with a Mr. Shaw, a countryman of mine, and when I left his house, he took two horses and assisted
me along the road for some distance. He inquired where I was going? I told him I was going to Canada, that my mother had told me, she had an uncle and brother in that country, who had become rich; and that I would endeavor to find them out. But this was not my real motive, I was really afraid that nothing awaited me but misery and poverty, and that news would reach Ireland that I was in a most destitute situation, and being naturally of a proud spirit, I wished to go where I would not be known by any person. My health was at this time so bad, that I was unable to do any thing for myself; but thanks to the great and mighty God! I had a mind that enabled me to surmount all difficulties. When Mr. Shaw left me, I went off the road into the woods, sat down by an oak tree, and gave vent to a torrent of tears.
Just reflect on my situation at this time; a stranger in a strange land, an ocean rolling between me and every relation I had on earth, without a friend to advise or protect; health precarious, and funds exhausted; misfortunes seemed to thicken around me, and in whatever direction I would turn my head, I could see nothing but misery staring me in the face. My situation was truly disconsolate, but the Lord was my strength and my shield, and to him I ought ever to be thankful for strength of mind capable of supporting me under such severe trials. That night, I went to the house of Mr. John McCall, on the Susquehanna River, (a countryman of my own) he treated me kindly, and would have nothing for my lodging, but wished me to stay some days with him; he had seen me at Mr. Shaw's and knew that I was sick. When I left his house, he advised me to go to a Mr. James Patton's (a namesake of mine) and live with him until I would recover my health; I accordingly went and found him to be a very friendly man, but he had a young wife of whom I did not form so good an opinion.
At this time I had but one dollar, and as I could not travel long on that, I went to a canal that had been commenced at the Ball Friar Ferry on the Susquehanna River; there I engaged to work, and got into a mess of eight men -- old soldiers, and the very refuse of the army. It was very disagreeable to me to associate with such people, and therefore applied to the employer for a part of the canal that was clear of rocks, and not so difficult to work; I got an Irishman to join me. We worked at it for three months and boarded ourselves. During the summer I enjoyed tolerable health, with the exception of three weeks, and worked about in different parts of the country.
I was advised to go to some moral and orderly part of the country; but it will appear from what follows, that I had not
done with misfortune: yet, on my way to the section of country I had in view, I stopped at a Dutchman's house in York County, Pennsylvania, and it then being in the winter, I engaged to work for him for three months at a guinea per month. I dug a well for him 52 feet in depth, in a very short time. When I first went to his house, I handed him all the money I had, except three dollars. Calculating that he would return the same when I wanted it, and also pay me for my labor like an honest man. One night when I returned from work, he and others were throwing dice and drinking: he kept a public house and would always give me spirits when I came in from work. He proposed to me to join their party, and that he would be my partner, and thought it would be a money-making business; I refused, and told him that I knew nothing about gambling. He said it was not gambling, that his little son could do it as well as a man. He gave me some more liquor, (that wily destroyer of the human race,) which had the desired effect, and I took my chance among them. He and I were fortunate for some time: at last luck changed, (as gamblers say) and I lost all. Too late I discovered that they had too sets of dice, and instead of those we commenced with, they had a set of their own which threw up twelve every throw. I then found out that my partner had been acting the scoundrel, in connexion with the others. It almost deranged me to think, that I had lost all my hard-earned wages, by the influence of drink, and by the persuasion of a villain in whom I had placed confidence. I accused the company of cheating me. We all became angry, and consequently an affray took place: fearing nothing in my then distracted situation, I took up the tongs and paid some of them in hard coin: the balance of the night I passed without sleep. When we went out to work the next morning, the Dutchman's son appeared disposed to amuse himself at my expense, and I thought proper to give him a little of the same sort of change, and told him to go and tell his father what I had done.
I then left the house; having the character of a faithful laborer, a great many persons wished to employ me. From this, I went to Yorktown, Pennsylvania, and set into work with an honest Dutchman (Philip Kissinger, a brick-maker by trade) and remained with him during the spring and summer; during the time I was with Mr. Kissinger, two young Irishmen came to the brickyard on their way to a canal on the Potomac River; they urged me to go, and said that I could get two dollars per day. I was flattered with the prospect of speedy gain, and requested Mr. Kissinger to let me off, as I had but about six weeks to stay with him; he refused, as I suited his business, but at last
agreed, on condition that he could get hands in the place of another Irishman and myself; he got hands and let us go. We got fixed for the journey and made a start. We stopped in Yorktown to take a parting glass with our countrymen and some others, and they all drank freely; it was almost daylight before I could get them off. We had gone but a few miles from town, when they all laid down to take some sleep by the side of the road; I sat there like a wild goose watching, while the flock would be feeding. This put me to thinking. I asked myself, if this was the kind of company I ought to keep? No, said I! -- I will part from such people, and accordingly the next morning started to the Canogege settlement, a rich section of country about 150 miles from Philadelphia, and settled by a moral and orderly people.
I had now been in America about three years, and through sickness, misfortune and one imprudent attempt at gambling, I had very little more than when I landed. This single act has made me abhor gamblers and swindlers all my life, I consider them no better than pickpockets.
This Dutchman at the time he cheated me at throwing the dice, had a plantation which at this time would probably sell for twenty thousand dollars. About eight years after this, I was going down with about two hundred head of good cattle, I went ahead and stopped them opposite to the honest Dutchman's, Philip Kissinger, at whose brickyard I had worked. I asked him who lived in the Widow Fryer's house? He said Coffield. I asked him what Coffield? Said he, don't you know the man who made you lose all your money? I then said, let us go and see him. He had at this time no way of supporting his wife and two children, but by her making straw hats, and he selling them. When he saw my cattle, he said, good God! How did you get all these cattle? I answered, sir, I got them after I quit gambling, and there are plenty more where these came from; but a man must not gamble if he wants to get them. It was very mortifying to the poor wretch.
In the Canogege settlement, I made my home at a Mr. Walker's, an excellent man and a member of the Presbyterian Church. He was very kind, and would always let me have a horse to ride to preaching with himself and his wife. He would often laugh at me, and say, "Jimmy, you will be a rich man yet! Never mind Jimmy, you will be a rich man yet." Said he, "The grandfather of that young man, (alluding to a young lawyer) came to this country a very poor man; he had as much money when he landed as bought a bed and a cow in Philadelphia. He placed his clothes on the cow's back, and milked her at night." He also said, that his own father, Mr. Dickey and
many others were in the same situation when they came to America. I first cleared ten acres of land for Mr. Walker, and agreed to wait for the payment until he could make it out of the first crop of wheat which he raised on the land. I made my home at his house for three years and worked about in the country, at various kinds of business, such as blowing rocks, digging wells, &c.
The last time that I drove cattle to Philadelphia, I went somewhat out of my road to reach this settlement where I had lived for three years. I had two objects in view -- one was to see my old friends -- another, was to indulge a pride of my mind which I always possessed. I wished them to see that I was rising a little in the world. I staid three nights in the settlement, and one of them with my old friend Mr. Walker; and the most of the time I was there, he was in my company. He and his wife were anxious that I should have connected myself with their family, but I had commenced trading and it did not suit me at that time. But to return from this digression: for a great portion of the time, I worked in this part of the country -- I got only about 26 cents per day: a hand in the harvest field could not get more than 31 1/4 cents per day. This shows that the price of labor was very low at that time. I made it a rule to be always employed, and for three years was scarcely ever seen any where except at my work, or at Church.
I soon discovered the difficulty of clothing myself decently, and making money merely by hard labor alone; I would therefore try to make a little besides when an opportunity offered. I once bought one hundred bushels of rye from a man who needed some money and had it distilled, the distiller giving me six quarts and a pint for every bushel I delivered at the mill: I made something by this speculation. I also bought a field of wheat of a man who wished to move away; it was covered with snow when I bought it; in the spring it looked very yellow, and Mr. Walker would laugh and tell me, I was cheated, although he knew better at the time.
When the wheat was ready to be cut, the neighbors and their daughters came, and assisted me. They brought plenty of every thing to eat, and I had plenty of rye whiskey, of which I gave them freely. The wheat was ripe two weeks sooner than any in the neighborhood, on account of its being sowed on slate land. I had understood that there was a premium offered in Baltimore for the first load of good new flour that might be delivered in that market, a premium for the second, and also a premium for the third, and I was determined to compete for one of them. The neighbors were all anxious that I should be successful, and Mr.
Dickey had his mill put in the best kind of order by the time my wheat was ready. I had it cleaned and ground as soon as I possibly could. I hired a young man to haul it, and agreed to give him something extra to hurry him, but he was so slow in his movements, that I lost the premium by about one hour. The neighbors were much mortified that I did not get it, and ridiculed the young man very much, for he could have gotten there in time, if he had pushed his team.
I had worked hard and used great economy, and all I had at the end of the three years that I had lived in the Canogege settlement was two hundred dollars. In the mean time I kept myself decently clothed, which I always would do, if I had nothing left. From the long spell of sickness which I had -- the effects of which I can feel to this day -- I was unable to work constantly at hard labor, (for I could eat no strong diet) and therefore concluded that I would turn my attention to some other business. The first thing that suggested itself to my mind was to get three or four young men to unite their small capitals with mine, purchase a boat load of flour, and take it to New-Orleans; but in this I was disappointed. In the same year that I intended to start, a difference took place between the Spaniards and Kentuckians, which prevented all trade from passing down the river. Having failed in this scheme, I (contrary to the advice and wishes of all my friends) concluded to lay out the little money I had in dry goods, and vend them over the country as well as I could. The principal objection that was urged against this plan was, the scarcity of money. I told them that I could get something else that would answer in the place of money. About this time I wrote for my mother and family, and mentioned in my letter that I had been unfortunate from sickness, but that I now saw the way clear before me. Accordingly, in the month of November 1789, I went to Lancaster, Penn., and bought my goods of an old German: he told me, that he and his wife had both been servants, and had served out their time, and that he started in the world on very little. The old woman furnished a piece of Russia Duck, took it to the Saddler's and had it made in the shape of saddle bags. The old German wrapped up the goods in the best manner. I paid for the whole of them, taking nothing on credit; I was so little acquainted with the nature of trade that I did not ask for credit; neither did I expect that it would be extended to me, as I was poor and had no friends to assist me. When I was ready to start, I placed the pack on the back of my pony and drove her before me, with my staff in my hand, whistling and singing in the highest spirits: I thought that I was a very rich man, or was in a fair way to become so; but misfortune
seemed to await me at every turn: I had not gone more than three miles when I met with an awful defeat at the millpond of a Mr. Stoner. The road passed over the end of the mill dam, my pony stopped to drink, after drinking, instead of keeping the road, she dashed into the pond, but could not get through; she stuck fast in the mud at the bottom of the pond, got her head upon a stump, and thus saved herself from drowning. Imagine (if you can) my distress, at seeing my whole fortune on the back of my pony in the middle of a mill pond, and he stuck fast in the mud and unable to get out; it looked like a bad beginning to the mercantile business; there was no time to be lost, so Mr. Stoner procured some kind of a craft for the purpose of rescuing my pony and goods. He wished to release the pony and let her go out with the pack on her back, but I said no! we will save the goods if the pony should be lost; so we took out the pack of goods first, and then the pony. The goods had been so carefully wrapped up that they received no material injury. That night I went to the house of a widow woman, one mile and a half from Mr. Stoner's at the forks of the Road, one leading to Anderson's Ferry, the other to Wright's Ferry (now called Columbia) on the Susquehanna River. She furnished me with a good room and lines to hang my wet goods upon. I sat up all night drying my goods and cleaning my buckles and buttons with my brush and chalk, so that they looked as well as they did at first.
Having put all in good order, I proceeded on my way; I met with a young Dutchman who wished to purchase a pair of silver lockets; he asked me the price of them: I fearing that they were probably too high, asked him the price of such in town. However, I sold them to him at 13 or 14 cents advance: this was the first profit that I realized from the sale of my goods.
The next night I went to the honest Dutchman's, Philip Kissinger, at whose brickyard I had worked, got all my goods hung upon lines in the stove-room, where he and his wife slept: I went to bed and took a sound sleep. The next morning, Mrs. Kissinger took a dozen of my cotton handkerchiefs and sold eleven of them for me at about 13 cents advance on each, and for her trouble and kindness, I gave her the twelfth and last one. I had now made about $1.43 on my handkerchiefs, which money I laid out for the same sort, and got as good a bargain as I did for the first.
I then steered my course for North-Carolina, fifteen miles from the place I had lived; I met a young man who had been out with $500 worth of goods to the same section of country I intended to go to. I said, hie, hie, Elick, sold all and returning, and
I doing nothing? Yes, said he, it is well I met you here, I would advise you to sell your goods and go to work; there is no money in the back country, and I sold my goods to a merchant in Virginia for the same they cost me in Philadelphia. I said to him, Elick, did you call at every house and all the cabins on the road? He said, he did not: that he only called at the best looking houses, where he expected to find something. I told him that he was wrong, that money was sometimes to be found in cabins, when there was none to be had at fine houses. Sir, said I, you are too finely dressed, you should have gone out in your common clothes; a man should always be dressed to suit his business, and don't suppose that show will make money. The people took you for some collegian going to College with a load of books. No Sir, said I, they would laugh at me if I were to go back, if I cannot get money, I will try to get something else, and was determined that I would not be turned by him.
I proceeded on my way and got in company with Mr. James McIntyre, of Morgantown, Burke County, North-Carolina, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. We travelled together, and camped out at night, as he had a wagon loaded with goods. My forming an acquaintance with him, was the cause of my coming to this part of the country. I formed a good opinion of him; he was kind and advised me what to do. We parted in Botetourt County, Virginia, and I took the road to the head of the Holston. After beating about for some time in that part of the country, I crossed the mountain into the county of Surry; thence, into Wilkes, Burke and Buncombe. To show how slowly I got along in my business, I will inform you that I travelled in the section of country now called Ashe County, for ten days, and got but three dollars in money. I could have purchased fur skins, but was not willing to risk it, as I did not know their value. During this trip I met with poor success in the sale of my goods.
I will here mention an incident which occurred to me at Morgantown; it will show you the kind of stuff I was made of. An Act of Congress had been passed to pay the Revolutionary soldiers for their services; I found that the certificates were selling very low, and I thought that something could be made by buying them; accordingly I purchased some of them, and paid part in goods and part in money. When I was going from Wilkes to Burke County, the Entry Taker of Wilkes, a Mr. Fletcher, requested me to take an £80 note of his, (as he called it) and dispose of it along with my own. When I got to Morgantown, I showed it and some other notes to several persons in the public
square, and they all refused to receive them, as the note I had gotten of Fletcher proved to be a raised note from £8 to £80. I then stepped into Mr. Intyre's and had scarcely seated myself, before a man came in and told me to make my escape, that I had bad money and would be taken up in an hour; said I, thank you sir, for your information, but I never went to a place yet, where I would go out of the back door if the front door was open, for any crime which I have ever committed. I told him that I would go immediately to the gentlemen; they were not dispersed, but were talking together and probably laying some plan to secure me. I said, gentlemen, I am told that I have bad money, if I have, I don't know it. I am informed that this £80 note is raised from 8 to £80, if so shew it to me; and that you intend to put me in jail: I told them that I hoped they would not do that, that the jail was never made for me; you can take my horse, my money and all I have, until I satisfy you better. I had become acquainted with Mr. Wallace Alexander, a lawyer of Mecklenburg County, North-Carolina, at Wilkes Court, previous to this time: he was in Morgantown: I told him that I had gotten that note from Fletcher in Wilkes County, and that I had no suspicion at the time, that it was not good. He said, gentlemen, I believe what Mr. Patton says; he then told me that he would take the note, and put it out of their power to do me any harm. I told him he could have it, if he would stand between me and danger, and let Fletcher have the note if he wanted it. Now you see, that I possessed a proud, independent spirit, and was not to be alarmed at trifles, when I was conscious of my integrity; and remember, a clear conscience will carry a person through difficulties when every thing else fails. When I returned to Wilkes, I told Fletcher that he had done very wrong in giving me that note; that I was not only near getting into trouble, but was in a fair way of having my character injured, as I was a stranger in the country. I told him that he could get his note if he would apply for it: he said, let it go.
I now made preparations to return to the North, which was in the spring of 1790. On my way, I bought 200 pounds of indigo at Fincastle in Virginia, and made almost as much profit on it, as I had done on my goods. I also bought a few fur skins of different sorts, to see what each kind would bring; I shewed them to eight or ten different hatters, told them not to be offended before I opened them. This way of proceeding learned me the value of the different kinds of fur, and was of great service to me the next year, and many years afterwards, when I had a store in Wilkes. This shows with what caution I acted in my trading; I was unwilling to risk anything, even in the smallest
matters, without some certainty of profit. During this trip, I called upon my old friend Mr. Walker, with whom I had lived for three years, as before mentioned. I had at that time two good horses; I took the best care of them, and they were in fine order. I purchased another from Mr. Walker, and went down to the Federal City, and the adjacent country, with an old Mr. McCall, who had a small drove of horses also. I sold one horse and swapped the other two for an old horse, and got the difference in their value: the one that I got was poor but strong.
I now discovered that there was something to be made by buying feathers and taking them up the country. Accordingly, I purchased some, made a large cloth sack and filled it, and loaded my horse and started. You see, children, nothing was too humble for me that was honest; I was not ashamed of any thing that soap and water would wash out.
On my return I bought an old Jersey wagon for about $30, which was not worth thirty shillings, except the iron. This shews that a person should not touch on matters of which he is not a judge. It was a bad time for me to pay high for my schooling, as I had but little to go on; however, I got my wagon so repaired that I got it to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There I had to get it made almost entirely new, no part of it being worth any thing, except the body and some of the irons. As I was going to the North this trip, (of which I have been speaking) I met two young men on the way; one of them said to the other, does not that man (alluding to me) favor old Mrs. Patton and family who came in the vessel with us? I then made some inquiry about them, and asked the men if they could name them? They soon satisfied me that it was my good mother and family; this was the first information I had received of their arrival. The next night I arrived at the place they were, and we had a joyful meeting. I then went to Philadelphia and bought as many goods as I was able to pay for, and $90 worth on a credit besides, which I did not ask. When I looked over the bills, I discovered that they would take too much of my money, and prevent me from buying other goods on which I could make more profit, and requested the merchants to take some of them back, and told them my reasons. These merchants were Quakers. One of them said to the other, don't thee think James will come back and pay us? O, Yes, said the other. I thought he was amusing himself with me at the time. I took the goods, and this was the commencement of a credit that would afterwards have commanded twenty thousand dollars or more., if I had asked it, at that house and others. I happened to see a young man in Philadelphia at this time, who was going to Ireland and to the
very neighborhood in which I had lived in that country; I sent a small amount of money by him to defray the expenses of my brother Thomas and family to this country, which he received and came in the next summer. When he arrived, the whole of the family were in this country, except one brother who had gone to the East-Indies.
I now left Philadelphia with my goods, for the State of North- Carolina; sold all I could on the road, and would stop a day or two at a place for that purpose. When I came to North River, Rockingham County, Virginia, I stopped at an honest German's house by the name of Jacob Singer, and staid there three weeks. With what I had gotten before and during this time, I had upwards of three hundred dollars in cash, and also some fur skins and beeswax. The fur skins and beeswax I left at that place until I would return. I laid out what money I had on hands in. Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia; this was in the fall of the year; I bought such goods as I thought would sell readily in the country; I got them on very good terms, and had at this time a pretty good assortment. The last purchase I thought would help to sell the first. I travelled on by the way of Lexington, Pattonsburg, Fincastle, Pepper's Ferry on New River, to the head of the Holston. On my way I frequently stopped from six to twelve days at a place; would send out word beforehand, that I would be at such places at the time appointed. By this means the people would get their trade ready, such as fur skins, beeswax, &c., and some money. I sometimes left money with men on whom I could depend, to purchase fur skins, beeswax, &c., for me at such prices as I directed them to give. This year I took in fifteen hundred skins of different sorts, and made a handsome profit on them, having the year before made myself acquainted with the prices of all kinds, from a rabbit skin to an otter skin. I left my wagon on the south fork of the Holston and packed my goods on horseback; came to Roan's creek, thence into Ashe, Wilkes, Burke and Buncombe counties.
I returned to the North the first of the next summer. I left my small wagon and got a light four horse wagon. I purchased as many goods as I was able, and returned the same road that I had travelled the first two years, stopped at the same places, and sold double the amount of goods that I did the first two years. I drove my own wagon, until I came to the North River, Rockingham County, Virginia; I then hired a little simple Dutchman and kept him until I got to the head of the Holston; he was so much of a fool, and withal so lazy, that I would not have him any longer. I now met with Andrew Erwin, let him have about $150 worth of goods to trade on, sent him into the country and
directed him where to go, and to meet me at Wilkes Court-house, which he did. He transacted the business as well as I expected; I did not calculate on his doing much, as he was only nineteen years of age, and had little experience; but I found he was honest: this has caused me to overlook many errors of young men, all my life. I have had a great many in my employment from this time until I quit business; for I touched at every thing that I thought would be profitable -- gathering ginseng, snake root, purchasing deer skins, bear skins and driving large numbers of cattle. Having left my wagon at the south fork of the Holston, I hired a man to assist me, and packed a part of my goods on horseback to Wilkes Court-house. Those that I left with the man, at whose house my wagon was, I directed him to sell during my absence, and collect all the fur skins, beeswax, &c., that he could.
During this and the preceding trips, I had frequently stopped at the house of a man by the name of Jonathan Tompkins, in the County of Wilkes, a member of the Baptist Church, and apparently a very pious man. He told me, that his land was under execution, and that £40 would save it; that his brother had gone to South-Carolina for money, and would be certain to get it, but for fear that he might be detained by high water or some accident, wished me to let him have it, which I did. I knew so little of mankind at that time, that I took no obligation on him for the money, but merely made a memorandum of it in my pocket book. This single circumstance is sufficient to shew my great want of qualification for business at that time. I then attended Burke Court, and on my return, this same man came to where I was stopped by high water, and told me that I would lose my money, and he would lose his land if I did not pay £40 more. He therefore proposed to let me have a part of his land, and he would have a good crop raised on it for me, if I would pay the other £40, to which I agreed, as I intended to move my mother and family to that part of the country.
This summer I intended to go to Philadelphia to dispose of my furs. and purchase goods to enable me to buy a handsome drove of cattle, but finding it would be too late before I could go and return, I stopped at Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, and employed three hatters to work up a part of my fur into hats, and paid them in fur for their labor. I returned to North- Carolina with my hats in boxes, packed upon horses. I purchased all the cattle I was able to pay for, in the counties of Wilkes, Burke and Buncombe, and started for Philadelphia; stopped at Staunton, Virginia, and took on the balance of the furs which I had left there. I purchased in Philadelphia as
many goods as I was able to pay for, and returned to North- Carolina with two wagons, one loaded with goods, and the other with my mother and family. We moved to the piece of land which I got of Tompkins, in Wilkes County, North-Carolina, fifteen miles from the Court-house on Lewis' Fork, near the foot of the Blue Ridge. This was in the winter of 1792; at that time there was no building of any kind on the place; but I got the assistance of the neighbors who were very kind, and in two weeks had a comfortable house a story and a half high to move into. It was built of pine logs and covered with clapboards. I put up my goods on the second story of the house. My principal reason for commencing business at my mother's, was to procure such things as were necessary for the family. We never lived better in our lives, and had plenty of every thing that was comfortable. By this time I had fully seen the value of a good parent who strove so hard for the comfort and the happiness of her children.
The ensuing fall I moved my goods to Wilkes Court-house. The nest year in the fall, I moved my brother Thomas and family to Wilkes County, and settled him on the top of the Blue Ridge, ten miles from my mother's. I let him have cattle and horses to make a beginning on, and he lived well though at a distance from neighbors; he had but three children and they were small: his wife was an excellent woman, I always esteemed her highly: she was a high-minded honorable woman, and endeavored to instill pure principles into the minds of her children. Brother Thomas was a weakly man, but did all he could for his family. I gave them all the assistance in my power, but it could not be expected that I could do much for them in so short a time from my little beginning of two hundred dollars; however, I put them all in a way to support themselves and raise their families decently. They are now respectable, which is well known by those who are acquainted with them.
The first year after I moved my mother to Wilkes County, I bought a small drove of horses and took them to the Federal City, and from that to Baltimore. I also bought a house and lot in Staunton, Virginia, from a man who lived in Wilkes County, North-Carolina, and agreed to give him two young negroes for it. Indeed, before I bought it, I had sold it on condition that I would make a right to it. If a man will help himself, he will always find friends. The merchants of Staunton saw that I was making a better use of my small beginning, and some of them became my security for a title, before I had bought it myself. I made something by the speculation. I also bought some other negroes, besides the two that I paid for the house and lot. The
money was all paid down for the house and lot, and I intended to lay it out for cattle. You will observe how careful I was; I knew how much I would have to pay for negroes, and also knew what I could get for the house and lot before I made the trade.
About two years from the time that I moved my mother to Wilkes County, I was married to your good and great mother. She was the daughter of Francis Reynolds, a man of little property, but as honest and respectable as any man in the County of Wilkes. He was one of the first settlers on the Yadkin River in that county; he had twelve children, of course he was not able to give her much: all she ever got did not amount to more than three hundred dollars. When we were married, she was in the bloom of youth and very handsome; amiable and sensible. There was great disparity in our ages; she was twenty years and five months younger than myself. She was ambitious to excel in all the duties of a wife, and assisted me greatly in my business. She saw that I was using all the exertions in my power, and having confidence in my judgment, it gave an increased impulse to her industry.
Her mother (Mrs. Reynolds) was a superior housekeeper: it was from the management of her domestic concerns, the neatness of her house, and the nice arrangement of every thing about it, that I took a fancy to my wife, and I was not disappointed. She was every thing I expected and looked for -- prudent, industrious and economical, ready at all times to receive advice -- cheerful, but not ostentatious. I gave it as my opinion, that it would be imprudent for myself and her to appear at Church and other public places in superfluous dress, or to appear at any time above our neighbors; not only because I disliked vain show, but my principal reason was, that as we were just starting in the world, and were dependent on the public for our success, it might have an improper influence on their minds, and excite prejudices very much against our interest. My motto was, plainness and neatness; and this is as far as any one should go, however prosperous their circumstances may be: a beautiful exterior may dazzle the fancy for a short time, but solid worth depends entirely on a well trained and virtuous mind.
I made it a rule to consult my wife on all weighty and important matters that I thought she could comprehend, and when I deviated from her opinion, I generally found that I was in error. I would advise all married men to consult their wives in every important undertaking. If they cannot fully understand the whole of any matter that may be presented to their consideration, they will be certain to catch at parts, and make some observations that will set their husbands to thinking. My opinion
is, that women have never been allowed their just weight in society: were they permitted to use that influence in society to which I consider them entitled. they would contribute much more to the success of business through life, than is generally imagined, and particularly to domestic prosperity and happiness. During the third year after I had commenced trading, I took Col. Andrew Erwin in, to assist me in my business. The second year that he was in my employment, he married my sister. About twelve months after his marriage, I took him into full connexion with me in trade, although he had nothing at the time; I had two reasons for it, one was, on account of the high regard I had for my sister -- she was a high-minded honorable young woman; the other was, that I wished to encourage him, as he had become my connexion. At this time my capital was greater than his by twenty-eight hundred dollars, after all I had done for my good mother and family.
It gives me consolation at this time, to think that I did not grasp all, and prevent others from coming forward, which (it is well known) I had no disposition to do. I find fault very much with wealthy men, for not taking poor young men by the hand, and putting them in a way to do well, when they find them honest, trusty and capable. I had now lived in Wilkes County, North-Carolina, twelve years, and my health had become so greatly impaired, that I took a dislike to Wilkesborough, and resolved to leave the place; accordingly, I rented my possessions to Waugh & Finley (merchants) for seven years. We then moved into the county of Buncombe in April 1807, and settled on the farm where my son Thomas now lives, three miles from Asheville, where we lived for seven years. We then moved from the farm to Asheville, where we lived together thirteen years and six months, before your mother died. She had been afflicted with a liver complaint for several years, which finally took her off. I think I can date her indisposition back to the birth of your sister Jane Hardy, who died the past winter in Charleston, South-Carolina: she then took cold, and was more or less indisposed from that time until her death. From the time we were married, until the death of your mother, was thirty-two years and ten months. We had eleven children, of whom we raised ten. At the time we moved to Asheville my son James was 11 years of age, my second son John 9, Franklin 7, and Thomas 5 years old. You can judge from this that I had to contend with many disadvantages when I commenced public house-keeping.
Col. Erwin and myself were in partnership for twenty years, and made a complete dissolution in one day, to the astonishment
of every person of understanding: it was effected in the following manner. As he was the active partner, I told him to make a division of the whole, accompanied with a statement on paper, and give me my choice, which he did; and in this way we came to an amicable settlement at once.
Col. Andrew Erwin was a man of a clear head and a good heart, but too credulous and too easily imposed upon by bad men. I was like the little boat spoken of by Dr. Franklin, I would always keep near the shore; I would not venture far out to sea for fear of accidents, therefore, I always endeavored to find out whether a man was deserving of confidence, before I trusted much in his hands.
I have thought it unnecessary to extend this narrative any further, as my principal object has been to give you some knowledge of my low beginning in the world, more than any thing else: and my dear children, having thus endeavored to give you a short sketch of the struggles and difficulties which I have passed through in life, I can assure you that I have not done it by way of boasting, but quite the contrary. It would be vain and foolish in me to suppose that it would be of any advantage to me as an individual, for at my time of life I have no disposition to indulge any such feelings; but I have thought that if it should never be of any benefit, it would perhaps afford satisfaction to some of my posterity to know from whence they sprang. You could not reasonably expect, that I would be able at my advanced age (being now in my 84th year) to give you an exact and accurate account of the various vicissitudes of my life, merely from memory. I know that I have omitted many things worthy of notice, but I could not from recollection alone, embody them in a way calculated either to please or instruct; but imperfect as it is, I hope it may be profitably read by some of you when I am no more. You will see that I had many hard trials to endure, and difficulties to encounter. You will also observe how much can be accomplished by industry and frugality. To the exercise of these virtues is mainly to be attributed the little success I have had in life, for I was possessed of very moderate qualifications for the business in which I was generally engaged; but I had a firm mind, which by the assistance of a kind providence enabled me to surmount the many obstacles which were in my way. Besides the many hardships and difficulties which I have before enumerated, I have met with various personal misfortunes: the first was, the long spell of sickness which I have mentioned, and which was a serious drawback on me at that time. I have met with various accidents also, but the worst of all was at the Warm Springs where my son John lives. I was
giving some directions about making a path to a limestone spring on the opposite side of the river, to the house, when an unthoughful boy loosed a large rock from its bed, and it rolled against both my legs, fracturing and bruising them very much. I was greatly injured, and in consequence of it was confined to my cabin for several months: I was then in the 80th year of my age. It is however, a consolation to me to think, that these accidents all occurred when I was engaged in some laudable business, that I thought would be of advantage to my children. But with all the trials and misfortunes that have come my way, I never desponded; I always looked onwards and suffered nothing to arrest my progress; If I met with troubles, I consoled myself with the reflection, that it was the common lot of man, and endeavored to profit by it for the future. The little success I have had in life, was owing (as I before mentioned) to industry and frugality, for I settled in the upper part of North-Carolina, at that time the poorest part of the country I ever saw to make property; but I do not entertain the same opinion now. Changes and improvements have taken place, which have convinced me that there are few sections of country superior to the western part of North-Carolina. I am thankful that the Almighty blessed my weak means and enabled me to do as much as I have, and I have the consolation at this day to think, that I never made any thing at the expense of the widow and the fatherless. I have never sold the widow's cow or the poor man's land. You know my character, and I hope that no conduct of mine will ever cause you many blushes; although I cannot that I have been guilty of many errors; but one thing I will say, that when I did wrong, I always disliked myself for it more, than any other person could have done, and endeavored to do better for the future.
Let me advise you to live in a peaceable and friendly manner with each other. Never encourage family quarrels, but strive against them. If any difference should take place among you, suffer it not to come to the knowledge of the public, if you can avoid it. If you cannot agree among, yourselves, refer the matter in dispute to snme of your own connexions, who have no partiality, and are equally interested in your welfare, and if either party should consider himself injured by the decision, let him abide by it rather than expose himself and the family: it is a disagreeable thing for relations to be at variance with each other; besides, it is certain to injure their characters in public estimation; therefore, be cautious never to give cause of offence, family differences are seldom adjusted, and when a breach is once made, it is scarcely ever effectually closed. If any of you should not be so successful and prosperous as the others, let it
not give rise to envy and dissatisfaction, if you encourage such feelings, you will always be unhappy; and on the other hand, if the exertions of any of you should be smiled upon by fortune, don't look down upon the less fortunate with contempt: in this way, envy and pride will both be avoided and peace and friendship insured. In my opinion, it shews a great want of good sense for one person to consider himself superior to another, because he has a little property, particularly when he knows not how it was earned. All men are not blessed with the same capacity, or the same opportunities to become rich, the situation of some is so favorable that they appear to prosper without exertion, while others gain nothing by the most constant industry. Therefore, a rich man should be thankful and not high minded. Let all your intercourse with the world be marked by honesty and integrity. If any person should do you an injury, don't retaliate and do the same to him; this course of conduct would serve as an apology to others to injure you, who otherwise would not have thought of it.
Don't strive to be the richest people in the country, by grasping at too much, you may lose all. Therefore, never engage in uncertain speculation. Wealth is generally the result of patience, industry and frugality; but some persons are so eager to become rich, that they leave the old beaten path, that would certainly lead to success, and take by-paths for a short cut. In nine cases out of ten, they become bewildered and never attain their object; and it is seldom that they are ever in as prosperous condition as when they started. I will give you an instance to shew how cautious I was in the transaction of my business.
My partner, Col. Erwin, during a trip to the North, shipped some goods which he had bought to Richmond, Virginia. Having heard that tobacco had taken a great rise, he wrote to me to purchase all that could be procured in the counties of Wilkes and Burke, he stated that it was $10 per cwt., and it was thought would soon be $12. Before I bought any tobacco, I tried to know how many wagons I could engage to haul it of to market. I procured five or six, loaded them in haste and started them; they went safe and he got $10 per cwt. for it. As I could not engage any more wagons, I bought no more tobacco. He came home and was much displeased that I had not acted up to his instructions. He then bought 40 hhds., and before the tobacco could be taken to market, the price fell; he then sent it to Fayetteville and stored it for some time; I urged him to go and sell the tobacco for whatever it would bring, as we needed the money; he then took it to Boston and sold it (as he said) at or near the first cost. Taking into view the expense
of wagons, storage, shipping, &c., I do not believe that we got more than half as much as it cost us, besides being deprived of the use of the money, which we could have laid out for cattle to good advantage, as they were in high demand at that time. Now you see, my children, this was a bad speculation; had I commenced in this way my $200 would not have counted $2,800 in three years, and enabled me to have done something for my family besides. Never touch at speculation unless you have a surplus on hands; if you then should be unsuccessful you will not feel it so much. I approve of speculation for men in business, but remember, in the first trade I made in the 100 bushels of rye, the fur skins I bought, and the house and lot, and some others, how much caution I exercised. I would advise you to have your business confined at home as much as possible. A man seldom leaves home but he loses something. The most trusty person that you can have in your employment, can not act with that degree of care, attention and judgment in your absence, as he will when you are present, because he cannot take the liberty. Make use of all honest and honorable means of gain, and God will give the blessing. Treat every person with kindness and respect, be plain and decent both at home and and abroad, and you will have the good opinion of your poor relations and neighbors. This was the advice I gave your good mother when we commenced house-keeping. I found the good effects of it. We kept a good table, good beds, and a good stable, and when we went to Church we did not ride in a fine carriage, or appear in the most stylish dress. Children, you know the above to be true, and the public know it likewise. It is true, we had not much to be proud of, but enough to have made us vain and foolish, if we had been so disposed. I flatter myself, that I have been more respected by both rich and poor, than I would have been, if I had made a show in the world, as is usually the custom at this day.
Be charitable to your poor relations and neighbors, and as God has enjoined, that we must earn our bread by the sweat of the brow, we must be industrious. In my opinion, a man cannot be a good Christian, unless he be industrious; and I know, without industry he cannot be a good citizen. Do not think from what I have said, that I wish you to be avaricious and covetous, and worship wealth as an idol, and hoard it up for your children, who will perhaps make a bad use of it. This is one extreme, as much to be avoided as that of indolence and stupidity; but I wish you to use all the honest means necessary to enable you to act your parts well in the world, and be useful and respectable members of society. Give your children a good education,
impress upon their minds principles of industry and morality, but above all set before them pious examples and encourage them to follow the same. I have observed that children of pious parents generally pass through life with less trouble and difficulty, than those brought up by parents of immoral and dissolute habits. Children may occasionally deviate from the rules prescribed to them by their parents in early life, but it is seldom that first impressions are completely effaced from the mind, especially those that have been made by the mother. To her peculiarly belongs the task of training the infant mind and producing the first conceptions of right and wrong; this I know by experience.
You who are living in a public way, should have as many tradesmen and others about you, as will be profitable, and you can attend to; this will shew the extent of your business and attract public attention. Treat them all with kindness and assist them in small matters. Never treat them coolly when they ask favors, and if it should not suit you to comply with their requests, deny them courteously. In this way you will always have their good will, and they will do their duty with pleasure. I have often given my assistance to poor young men who were beginning the world, but I would notice particularly, whether they were making a good use of my kindness. As I have passed through life I have often reflected on my hard lot, and wondered that my father had not exerted himself more for the good of his children when he had it in his power, but he was like many others, he did not think properly until it was too late. He died when his children were all small. I have often felt the consequences of his neglect, which has stimulated me to do all that I could for you. If you should properly improve upon what I have done, and leave your children in a more prosperous situation than yourselves, it will shew to the world that you did not abuse the means that were put into your hands; but that you properly appreciated your advantages. Admonish them to pursue the same course, shew them a worthy example and they will be apt to follow it. I would advise you to avoid litigation as much as possible. There may be instances of honest men appealing to the laws of their country for redress, but I think they are rare; there is neither much profit nor much honor attending it; very often each party is a loser. When the name of any man becomes conspicuous on the Court docket, the public are apt to form an unfavorable opinion of him; it shews one of two things, either that he is dishonest, or that he is very careless in the transaction of his business. When you make a contract even of the most trifling nature, reduce the terms to the utmost certainty
at first, and you will generally have little difficulty in your dealings. I was once in company with one of our Superior Court Judges, when a conversation casually took place in regard to myself. He remarked, that I had been engaged in a great deal of business and had accomplished much for my time; I asked him if he had ever heard my name in Court; he said he had not; I observed to him that I had never sold the widow's cow or the poor man's land: he then asked me if I had ever sued any one? I told him that I had sued some persons, but that I always laid some plan to avoid distressing them: I also told him that a Sheriff had never served a process on me for money, and that no man had ever to ask me more than once for any thing I owed him. Now, this was owing entirely to correct calculation before hand, and my own exertions to carry my plans into execution; and altogether by the means I had within myself, for I never had but one thousand dollars from a Bank in my life.
There cannot be a stronger argument in favor of industry than the fact, that a man cannot be a useful citizen without the means, and without industry the means cannot be procured. People in moderate circumstances can do but little towards assisting their fellow-men in trouble and distress or aiding in any important undertaking, however much they may desire it. But if you should follow the advice which I have given, and should consequently possess an abundance of the good things of this world, don't imagine that you hold them clear of all obligation to appropriate some portion to objects not immediately connected with your own personal interest. We are informed by divine authority, that we are nothing more than stewards, and are bound to account for the talents put into our hands. The rich man who lives only for himself, does not deserve the respect and esteem of his fellow-man. He should always be viewed with suspicion He shews by his conduct that he has in some measure separated himself from the rest of the world, and that he has no feelings connected with their interest and happiness.
Be charitable to the poor: it was never intended that all men should be rich, and I have often thought, that it was designed by Providence that some portion of the human family should be in a destitute condition, that the wealthy might have opportunities of performing acts of beneficence. Don't confer acts of kindness to be seen of men: pride often prompts persons to bestow favors when their feelings dictate the contrary, for the purpose of increasing their reputation in the public view. In every case, act with cheerfulness and without ostentation. One single act of charity, when it accidentally comes to the knowledge of the
world, will add more to your character than a dozen performed with a view to public approbation.
You should exercise a good degree of judgment in determining who are proper objects of charity, and who are not; there are impostors in the world, and on that account many worthy persons have been refused favors when they deserved them: but because there are such, we are not to withhold, with a parsimonious hand, from all who seek our assistance. We might with as much propriety, refuse to add anything to the cause of religion, because there are some unworthy members in the Church. And if we should unconsciously shew kindness to the undeserving, we are not to blame. Favors should not be conferred on those, who we believe, will make a bad use of them; such as spendthrifts, or persons of dissipated habits. It is only furnishing the means to assist them in their career of vice and profligacy; but there is a class of persons, in regard to whom, a course of conduct should be pursued different from what is customary: I allude to those who have indulged in intoxication and other vices and who evince a disposition to reform. They are generally treated by the community at large, and even by their own connexions, in a cold and distant manner. They are told that they are unworthy of confidence, and that none should be placed in them. In one word, they are treated with the utmost disregard by those who are probably guilty of crimes, which, in comparison with those of the unfortunate drunkard, are as mountains to molehills; but the world is ignorant of them and they go unpunished. This is not the proper way to act towards them; it produces unhappiness and distress of mind, which plunges them deeper into dissipation, and hastens them on in the road to destruction. The minds of such persons are peculiarly sensitive either to kind or harsh treatment, and while they admire the one, they will resent the other. These unfortunate persons should be taken by the hand and encouraged to do well. They should be kindly and affectionately advised, and when they find your feelings enlisted in their welfare, they may repay your kindness by a complete change of conduct. This I know in some measure by myself. I was often fond of spiriis when a young man, and even after I was married, and frequently drank too much, and never can be too thankful that I did not become the victim of intemperance. It was in a good degree owing to my natural strength of mind and determined resolution, that I escaped ruin and destruction; but I must confess that it was also in a great measure attributable to the gentle and friendly admonitions of your mother. She did not become irritated but acted with prudence and moderation. Had she acted in a different way (as many do) it is more
than probable that the effect on me would have been very different. She did not fret my mind, but left it free to think. This is the only way to insure reformation. Can you expect, that a man in a passion will think correctly when he is not in the possession of the faculty of reason? No: the only way to cause them to reflect properly, is to act towards them with gentleness and friendship.
I would advise you to have your names connected in a greater or less degree with the public institutions of the present day. The destitute condition of the human family in distant parts of the world, is commanding the attention of philanthropists, throughout every part of our widely extended country. These institutions cannot be sustained without means, and the means cannot be procured without the aid of individuals. You may think that a small amount from you would have little bearing, and on that account refuse it; but if every person were to act in the same way, there would be nothing done; it is by the connexion of individual means that great objects are accomplished. -- Swannannoa is an insignificant stream, but it contributes its part towards making the Mississippi what it has been justly called -- the Father of waters. Every man should be possessed of some portion of public spirit. No day should pass without the consolation of having done some good to our fellow-men, and every person who is so disposed can always discover some opportunity of performing some praiseworthy action, either of a public or private nature. What do we live for, but to improve ourselves and be useful to others? It is a melancholy reflection, that every thing, from the mammoth down to the most filthy reptile answers the purposes of its creation; but man -- possessed of reason and reflection, and a faithful monitor within to distinguish right from wrong -- pointing out the advantages arising from the one, and the unhappy consequences resulting from the other, is it not strange that he will in spite of all the examples which are daily set before him, pursue a course of conduct, which is certain to produce misery and degradation? It appears to me, that if we were to consult nothing but our individual happiness, that we would endeavor to abstain from all manner of evil. But there are other considerations which should have a powerful influence on all our actions in life -- gratitude to the parents who bore us, should ever restrain us from committing any act calculated to render them unhappy. How can children ever repay the enormous debt which they owe to their parents, who watched over them in helpless infancy, who administered to their comfort in sickness and in health, who have followed through good and through evil report, and perhaps deprived themselves of the
common necessaries of life to advance their interest? The answer is easy -- by doing right. They ask no pecuniary rewards -- they only ask them to pursue that course of conduct, that will render themselves happy in this world, and that which is to come. If children would only reflect on the constant anxiety of their parents for their welfare, they would certainly endeavor to smooth their passage through life by a virtuous course of conduct. But a parent only knows how a parent feels.
Don't be too proud to ask advice when you are in doubt on any subject; but take counsel of good men of understanding. You will find that the flattering side of a prospect always presents itself first, and the side on which danger lies is dark and silent. Be careful to examine both sides attentively, before you make a decision. By following this advice, you will avoid much trouble and difficulty through life, save your characters, and save your property.
Be humane to your servants; give them plenty of nourishing diet and clothing. This will make them esteem you and cause them to do their duty with cheerfulness. Don't keep a servant or white person about your house who is possessed of a bad disposition, or inclined to mischief; it is hard to change their minds and danger attends their living with you. But don't part from a good servant, or any other person in your employment, for a small fault; you may get one in his place that will not suit you so well. I have had experience in these matters. I have had men living with me from one to ten years-storekeepers, labourers on the farm, wagoners, blacksmiths, tanners, and others of different occupations, and I would not dismiss them for trifling offences.
I would advise you to select young men from the middle rank in life, of sober and industrious habits -- sons of honest and respectable farmers. These are the best citizens in any country; these will consider themselves, in a great degree, dependant on you for their advancement in life, whereas the sons of wealthy parents will not think themselves under the same obligation to do their duty. This is a rule which I have adopted myself, and generally found to be correct; but if the character and capacity of a young man were such as I wished. I would only employ him for a short time at first, at low terms; because, they are not of much value until they get some experience in business. If I then found that they were honest, trusty and capable, I would engage them for a longer time, and increase their wages. I think it due to Jeremiah Cleveland, George Jones, and William R. Smith, to state, that they were taken into my employment, from the knowledge which I had of their parents. These men
were possessed of honesty and industry. They lived with me from nine to eleven years, and when either of them was attending to my business, 1 was satisfied that all was right. They were obedient and faithful: they did well for me, and they have done well for themselves, and are now wealthy and respectable. Many others have lived with me who have done well; but I have mentioned these three, because they were in my employment longer than any others.
I wish to say a few words to the female part of my family: in the business in which your mother and I were engaged, we were often obliged to have the assistance of females. We sometimes took the daughters of ignorant parents, who had been raised in extreme indigence. They were frequently (when they first came) in such a condition, that they were not fit to be seen in company; but as soon as they were decently clothed, pride would take possession of their minds, and they soon got above their business; and although they had never known any thing but poverty and want, they became wasteful and extravagant as soon as they got where there was plenty. They were so deplorably ignorant, that they had no idea of economy, or the value of any thing about them; but used every thing as if there never could be an end of it. Such people should be avoided. Employ such as have some smartness and capacity for business, and are descended from honest and industrious parents. Such an one was Nancy McElroy, now Mrs. Clayton. She lived with us for several years until your mother's death; she was industrious, capable, and attentive to business; her parents were honest and respectable. She is now married to a man of excellent character and doing well.
I will soon close my remarks, and will take the liberty of cautioning you most seriously against the danger of speculation, when there is any uncertainty attending it. There have been instances of some of you attempting speculation, when it appeared almost certain that you would realize some profit, but how did it turn out? It was attended not only with direct pecuniary loss, but still greater loss at home in various ways. Dr. Franklin says, that the eye of the Master is worth both his hands, and to employ men to work for you without attending to them, is to leave them your purse open. Besides, the advantage that a man will derive by staying at home and attending to his business -- it is a gratification to every person of a well regulated mind to be with his family. When I observe that any man is frequently from home, and appears regardless of the manner in which his business is going on, I come to the conclusion at once, that he is doing no good. And it is the same in regard to women --
not that I object to occasional visits, they may be proper and even necessary, sometimes, but not often. A woman who is much from home, is apt to acquire the character of a gossip, than which there are few more despicable. Home is the place where your affections and your business should be centered, and if it should not be so extensive as to make you conspicuous in the world, it will make you useful and respectable. Many men have reduced themselves and their families from a high state of prosperity to poverty and want, by engaging in uncertain schemes of speculation. They could not exercise a little patience and wait for certain profit, but risked all to save time. -- Such men act with about as much sagacity as the boy who killed the goose which laid the golden eggs. He wanted all at once, and for want of proper consideration forever closed the door to future gain. If any of you should be deceived by villains, (as some of you have been) don't be discouraged, but renew your efforts and be more careful for the future: pick up courage and go ahead -- just think of me and you will never yield; but you must be humble, don't try to cut a figure in the world until fortune smiles on your exertions again, and the world will honor you for your energy and perseverance.
Children, the little property which I have made, I have divided amongst you to the best of my judgment. When you take into view every thing connected with it, I hope you will not think that I have exercised any partiality, for I can assure you that I had no such feeling, but made as just a distribution as I was able, so as to keep the principal property together in Asheville, and prevent it from going into the hands of strangers, for I wish my name to be there when I should be no more, and therefore imposed many burdens on your brother James, with which some of you are unacquainted. When you take into consideration my bad state of health, and the many misfortunes I have met with, I hope that you will think that I have acted with as much justice and impartiality as I was capable of. Without a correct statement of every thing, it would be impossible for you to judge with any degree of accuracy; but I could meet my God and say with a clear conscience, that I intended nothing but justice to each and every one of you. I hope you will all be satisfied, live in peace, and be an honour to each other. You have many advantages for which you should be thankful. You are young, blessed with common capacities, and have something to start on in the world; I had none of these. My education was very limited; I had no friends to lend me a helping hand, and at thirty- four years of age had but two hundred dollars; besides, many misfortunes came in my way which were obstacles to my success
in life. I now believe, that it was for my good, that I was unfortunate in my youth; had I never met with disappointments, it is probable to me that I would not have effected as much as I have: for they caused me to think and act with caution. Remember that afflictions are sent for our good, and if we were to meet with nothing but prosperity, we would soon forget the source from whence we derive all our comfort and happiness.
I will mention some other reasons which I had for keeping the Asheville property together: in the first place, it was the wish of your good mother, who had done every thing in her power, to assist you all, that it should remain in the hands of one of the children, and James was the one she named, as he was the oldest son. It was her lot to die and be buried in Asheville; it is my wish also to lie by the side of her and my mother, in the small space of ground which is laid off for that purpose. Another was, that when your mother died, your two youngest sisters had not received their education, the youngest being at that time only twelve years of age. Your brother James gratified my wishes in giving them excellent opportunities of improvement in Salem, Philadelphia and Nashville, which was attended with considerable expense; and his house, subsequent to that time was the same to them that it had been before your mother's death; they were both married there without any cost or expense. Besides, it is a pleasant place for the family to meet together and enjoy sociality and friendship, and has been, and is at this time, a place of refuge for some of the connexion who have been unfortunate. These considerations afford me a great deal of pleasure, and at the very moment I am writing this sentence, I can look through my window and view the spot where I will soon repose; and how happy would be my transit from this world of toil and pain, if I were certain you would all do well. Although I have often erred, still I am pleased that God has blessed my weak means, and enabled me (at the advanced age of 84 years) to give you some advice for your good. And may the God of Grace, cheer and support me until the time of our separation on earth, and give me a life of blessed immortality beyond the grave. That you may live in peace and harmony with each other, and so spend your lives in this world, that you will be prepared for that which is to come, is the wish of your affectionate father,
Asheville, N. C., March 1839.
THOMAS PATTON, his oldest brother, married Jane Shaw in Ireland,
came to this country early, by assistance of his brother James, and
died in Coffey County, Tennessee, where his widow is now (1844)
still living. They had issue, now living, Neely S. Patton of Tennessee,
James Patton, jr., of Philadelphia, John Patton, of Tennessee,
William Patton, of Charleston, Daniel Patton and Mary
Anne, (Searcy) of Missouri.
WILLIAM PATTON, his second brother, lived and died a bachelor.
JAMES PATTON, whose narrative is annexed, was the third brother.
JOHN PATTON, the fourth brother, settled and died in the Calhoun settlement, Abbeville District, S. C.
DANIEL PATTON, the fifth brother, died in Bedford County, Tennessee, leaving two children.
NEELY PATTON, the sixth brother, went to the East-Indies, in the East India Company's service, and afterwards returned and lived near London; having a family.
JOSEPH PATTON, the seventh brother, died in Asheville, N. C.
GEORGE PATTON, the eighth brother, died near Franklin, Macon County, N. C., in 1843, leaving several sons and daughters; one daughter married to Col. Moore of Franklin.
The following letter gives the family of his sister, ROSANNA PATTON, who married a Mr. Campbell, of Pennsylvania.
Dear Brother, - You desired me to send you an account of my children, their wives, &c.; we unite in tendering our thanks to cousin William Patton for his kindness in remembering us, may he be blessed in all things that are lawful and right. I will now commence giving you an account, as near as I can, according to his request.
ELIZABETH, my eldest daughter, is in her 54th year, married to Alex.
Young, their children's names, &c., are John, (married to Ann M'Leod
and they have had four children, two living and two dead,) Samuel,
(he is dead,) Alexander, William, James, Thomas, Isaac and Hugh,
sons; Elizabeth and Mary, daughters.
JAMES PATTON CAMPBELL, my second is in his 52d year -- Margaret Hoover, his wife; their children's names are Samuel, Susannah, Rosy, Jane, Washington, Elizabeth, Archibald, Angeline, and James Franklin.
ARCHIBALD, my 3d, is in his 49th year -- Esther Hutcheson his wife;
their children's names are William Hutcheson, (W. H. is married to
Margaret Meals, daughter of Daniel Meals, &c.) Samuel A., Margaret
Moorhead, Robert, Rosy Jane, Euphemia, James Patton, George
Washington, David Fowler, (one dead between Jas. P. and Geo. W.)
BARBARA, my 4th, her age is 47, married to Samuel Bell; their children are James Campbell, Samuel, Rosy Ann, Archibald, Martha Jane, and Erwin, (five dead, names in part unknown.)
JENNY, my 5th, her age 45, married to Fergus Hutcheson; their children are William, Margaret Jane, Samuel Campbell, Robert, Rosy Ann, Esther, Isabella, (three dead, names unknown.)
POLLY, my 6th, her age 43, married to Robert Donaldson; their children are Samuel Campbell, Eliza Jane, Isabella, Rosy Ann, Margaret, Andrew Patton, James Campbell.
ROSANNA, my 7th and last, her age 41, married to Andrew Donaldson, Esq.; their children are Isabella Sprout, Rosy Anne, Samuel Campbell, Margaret Jane, Catherine, Fergus Hutcheson, Henderson, John Bredin.
Dear Brother, -- When you write, I wish you to give some particular account of W. Patton and Andrew; we are more particularly acquainted with them. In particular, Archibald my son, wishes to know how they, W. and A., are employed.
I now tell you, I send you a remembrance of me, a knot of my hair blossoming for the grave; it is said the hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. May mine so be found.
I remain your affectionate sister,
Dear Uncle, -- I and my wife and children, send our best wishes to you and yours; may we have a joyful prospect in life, and a glorious immortality beyond the grave. Your nephew, niece, and their children. -- Farewell!
Family of JANE PATTON, (sister of James Patton,) living in 1847 in Tennesssee, who married Col. Andrew Erwin, born in Wythe County, Va., August 8th 1773, died in Bedford County, Tenn., April 19th 1834.
MRS. JANE ERWIN, born in Ireland, May 1770.
JOHN P. ERWIN, their eldest son, born in Wilkes County, N. C.,
January 8th 1795, was married June 13th 1815, to Fanny L. Williams,
daughter of Col. Joseph Williams, of Surry County, N. C., and sister
of the Hon. John Williams formerly Senator in Congress from Tennessee,
and the Hon. Lewis Williams formerly Representative in
Congress from North-Carolina. Their present living descendants are,
FRANCES LAURA ERWIN, who was born March 22d 1816, and married in April 1834 to William J. Ledyard, a merchant of Mobile, Al., where she now resides.
REBECCA JANE ERWIN, born in September 1819, and married in July
1843 to Francis Goff, Attorney at Law, and Solicitor or States Attorney
for one of the Judicial Districts of Tennessee, resides at Winchester.
AMELIA ERWIN, born in 1821, and married in the summer of 1838 to William T. Yeatman -- son of Thomas Yeatman by his first wife Miss Beckwith, they reside in the neighborhood of Nashville.
Ellen Erwin, aged about 17 years. Mary Erwin, aged about 15 years. Caroline Erwin, aged about 12 years.
JAMES ERWIN -- their second son was born October 21st, 1796, and married to Ann Brown Clay, daughter of the Hon. Henry Clay, October 21st, 1823, who died in December, 1835. Their present living descendants, are --
Henry Clay Erwin, aged about 17 years. James Erwin, aged about 15 years. Lucretia Hart Clay Erwin, aged about 14 years. Andrew Eugene Erwin, aged about 12 years. Charles Edward Erwin, aged about 9 years.
JAMES ERWIN, was married a second time in February 1843 to Miss Margaret Johnson -- daughter of Capt. Henry Johnson and niece of the Hon Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky. They have a daughter named Julia Elizabeth, born in February, 1844.
JANE ERWIN, their eldest daughter was born October 22d, 1798, and married to Thomas Yeatman, a merchant and private banker of Nashville in September, 1817. Mr. Yeatman died on the 12th June 1833, leaving by this marriage the following descendants, viz:
JAMES ERWIN YEATMAN, born August 27th, 1818 and married in the fall of 1838, to Miss Charlotte Angelica Thompson of Baltimore -- he now resides in St. Louis.
EMMA YEATMAN, born in July 1822, and married in January 1842, to Col. Thomson T. Player of South-Carolina, a widower, and former son-in-law of Gen. Wade Hampton.
THOMAS YEATMAN, born July 20th, 1827.
HENRY CLAY YEATMAN , aged about 13 years.
MRS. JANE YEATMAN, was married a second time in November 1835 to the Hon. John Bell, then Speaker of the House of Representatives in Congress -- and since, Secretary at War, by whom she had 2 children, (viz:)
Jane Erwin Bell, aged about 7 years. Ann Loraine Bell, aged about 4 years.
ANDREW ERWIN, Junr., third son, was born May 27th, 1800, and married October 12th, 1820 to Miss Elvira Julia Searcy daughter of Major Robert Searcy of Nashville, who died in August 1820. Major Searcy was an Aid-de-camp of Gen. Jackson, in the Creek War; Clerk of the Federal Court at Nashville, and President of the Branch of the old State Bank at Nashville. Elvira Julia Erwin, the wife of Andrew Erwin, died at Nashville July 6th 1838. They have the following descendants now living, viz:
Frances Ann Erwin, born February 23d 1823, and married in September 2d, 1841, to William H. Pope, youngest son of Col. Leroy Pope of Huntsville, Alabama. Elizabeth Jane Erwin, born March 12th, 1825. Henry Hitchcock Erwin, born May 13th, 1827. Thomas
Yeatman Erwin, born December 21st, 1829. James Porter Erwin,
born July 27th 1832.
ANDREW ERWIN, had two other sons, and a daughter that died, as follows:
His eldest son Robert. S. Erwin, born September 9th, 1821, died December 7th, 1842.
His youngest son Andrew Patton Erwin, born August 22d, 1836, died July 19th, 1837.
His youngest daughter Elvira Julia Erwin, born June 25th, 1838, died June 7th, 1839.
ANNE ERWIN, second daughter was born December 30th, 1803, and married on the 11th October, 1821, to Henry Hitchcock, son of Judge Samuel Hitchcock, and grandson of Gen. Ethan Allen of Vermont of Revolutionary notoriety. Mr. Hitchcock was at the time of his marriage Attorney General of Alabama, and afterwards one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of that State. He died of Yellow fever in Mobile in August 1839. Their descendants now living, are -
Caroline Lorraine Hitchcock, aged about 19 years. Henry Hitchcock, aged about 15 years. Andrew Erwin Hitchcock, aged about 13 years. Ethan Edward Hitchcock, aged about 9 years.
GEORGE WASHINGTON ERWIN, fourth son was born June 16th, 1805, and has never married. He now resides in Barren County Kentucky, and is manufacturing salt.
ISAAC HEYLIN ERWIN, fifth son, was born May 1st, 1807, and married March 2d, 1831, to Miss Rebecca James of Clarke County, Alabama. He died in Clarke County Alabama in October, 1843 -- leaving the following living descendants.
Mary Jane Erwin, aged about 12 years. Thomas James Erwin, aged about 10 years. Anna Maria Erwin, aged about 8 years. Charlotte Erwin, aged about 5 years. Emma Elvira Erwin, aged about 3 years.
MARY ANN ERWIN, the youngest daughter was born 9th September, 1810, and married to James Porter, brother of Judge Alexander Porter, former Senator in Congress from Louisiana, on the 20th September, 1832. She died at Smithland, Kentucky on her way from Louisiana to Tennessee, in July 1836, and her only child a daughter about 10 months old, died about a week after her. Mr. Porter has since married a Miss Walton.
The great grand-children of Mrs. JANE ERWIN, now living, are -
Francis L. Ledyard, aged about 8 years. John E. Ledyard, aged about 4 years. William Ledyard, aged about 6 months. Thomas Yeatman, son of William T., aged about 5 years. William Eugene Yeatman, aged about 2 years. James Alexander Yeatman, son of James E. Yeatman, aged about 5 years. Charlotte Angelica Yeatman, aged about 2 years. Jane Bell Yeatman, aged about 6 months. Thomas Y. Player, son of T. T. Player, aged about 18 months.
Recapitulation of the
living descendants of Mrs. JANE ERWIN.
4 sons 2 daughters -- Total 6 grand-children, descendants of John P. Erwin. 6 do. do. of James Erwin. 6 do. do. of Mrs. Jane Bell. 5 do. do. of Andrew Erwin. 4 do. do. of Mrs. Anne Hitchcock. 5 do. do. of Isaac H. Erwin. -- Total 32.
3 great grand-children, descendants of Wm. J. Ledyard. 2 do. do. of Wm. T. Yeatman. 3 do. do. of James E. Yeatman. 1 do. do. of T. T. Player. Total 9. Grand Total 47.
There are also three living daughters-in-law; and 2 living sons-in-law; and 5 living grand sons-in-law; and 1 living grand daughters-in-law. Total 11.
July 6th, 1844.
The following extract of a letter from and old old gentleman named John Patton, a resident then of London, who had written to William Patton, of Charleston, to inquire after a son of his; and of whom William Patton made some inquiry, as to his uncle Cornelius; gives the family geneaology, which may be amusing to those of the same name.
"Dalston Rise, near London, 9th July 1828.
* * * * " As to the Pattons, there are others -- as Peyton, Payton, an Admiral Peyton, without arms. Patin, the Guy Patin, famous French Physician. Patten, the Lancashire and Lincolnshire family, one many years ago Lord of the Manor of Stoke, Newington, and repaired the Church at his own expense. One within these few years sat in Parliament, and afterwards as Patten Bold. A daughter since his decease, married to an Italian Prince, but not our family arms, motto different. The Pattons or Patons are originally Scotch, found wherever they are; there are two families -- arms the same, one with the addition of a sword, motto to the same effect, one 'virtute adepta,' the other 'virtute Lau dando;' one from Kinaldy or Kincaldie, the other Ferrochie -- crests, a sparrow hawk perching proper, with wings expanded." -- Pout's Manuscript, or Nesbit, 41 & 247.
"The Pattons have been extended in my time, one was with Nelson in the battle of the Nile, afterwards an Admiral, and Lord of the Admiralty. I have not met or heard of your Uncle Cornelius. I forgot to say, reading that the Dukes of Devonshire, were from the daughter of John Patton of Suffolk, Lord of Cavendish; and Roger de Garnon, who came over with William the Conqueror. I referred to the history of the peerage, and the spelling found different in the body and index; a reference to manuscript can only clear that up. His Lordship was a Patton or Patten. It would be desirable to see the arms of Cavendish at the time."
The relative who attended to the printing of this Narrative, (which is intended only for the family and a few friends) was desirous of adding a more extended list of each brother and sister's family, and wrote to several persons to procure it. Having failed to obtain more than the two which are annexed, he only gave a short account of the others, fearing he might not be accurate, if he attempted more.
The remains of James Patton are interred in the beautiful burial ground of the Presbyterian Church in the village of Asheville, N. C., which ground he had presented to the Church; and in the spot he had
long before pointed out, which is marked with a plain marble obelisk, bearing this inscription:
" In memory of JAMES PATTON, born 13th July 1756, in County Derry, Ireland; died at Asheville, N. C., 9th September 1845, in the 90th year of his age. He was the founder of his family in America; an honest and persevering man, accumulating much property without grinding the poor -- prudently assisting his poor relations, as well as bringing forward in the world many deserving young men."