The Cooley Family © 1985
Issue: March, 1985
The following is an excerpt from a journal kept by Elizabeth Cooley McClure of Carroll County, Virginia from 1842 (she was 17 then) until her death in 1848. Her journal not only reflects the day to day world she and her family lived in, but a young girl's hopes and expectations for the future.
The Journal follows Elizabeth and her new husband, James McClure, as they leave the Blue Ridge and head to Texas by wagon only to be turned back by the Mexican War. She and James then head upriver to Missouri. The details of their travels portray the sheer grit of mountain people.
A special thanks to the Cooley family for sharing it with us. This month we print excerpts from several different monthly entries showing her acquaintance with James McClure ripening into romance The year is 1845 and Elizabeth is now 20 years old.
Feb 15,  It is cold again, snowy, terrible indeed! Oh I fear cold, cold and no feed hardly...hard times. I am busy body and mind and heaps to do and attend to. James [her brother] is gone to invite hands to my wedding. What a word! How long have I thought of it…I dread it. I would be glad if it was over. It is concluded upon that we have to go to Tiptons for an infare. Texas is the motto with me now. I expect to start by the last of March and must have a mind of my own and get along the best I can. Oft will I think of Carroll and its inhabitants with tears of fond remembrance, but may they not be those of bitter repentance.
Feb. 22nd. Last week Mother and I made James a pair of fine cashmere pants which he bought last Monday at town. Amanda sent by him and got some cantia and grapes for the wedding. I got a pair of side combs and little tuck comb. Amanda went to Jesse's Tuesday. The infare is again moved there. It is a heap of trouble. I wish I had a place to go and a place to stay at when I go, but alas! I have not…for it is only the voluntary hospitality of Jesse and Rebecca to which we are going and I don't feel right about it, for I don't know what or how to do. I want a place to live that will be mine where I could earn my own support, but it appears that it will not be so soon; but I would be willing to make almost any sacrifice for that alone. We have got all the things washed and most ready, we have all the cooking to do yet and a great trouble about a horse to ride to Jesse's. We made all of us false curls and Amanda cut paper leaves for the candle sticks.
March 15th, 1846. THE WEDDING IS OVER, I AM MARRIED. I cannot give utterance to my feelings. There is no language to describe the overflowing of my heart. The wedding day arrived, it was a cold, chilly day but not as cold as it had been before, misted rain a little in the evening. I was busy all day fixing the house and clothes, all was busy and active. In the evening the bridegroom and his company - about 12 in number - came. It was all bustle and hurry then, I was not quite dressed. We got ready, and to my notion too, and marched down stairs and stood before the priest and a house full of my best and dearest friends, all of whom I was well acquainted, and in the presence of a great and awful God, who I felt was working on my heart, then our fates were linked, bound and sealed together while life should last. Then we went in to supper, and I must say that I enjoyed the evening well and felt happy and satisfied. Next day, the 26th of February was a little colder, but the sun shined a little. We eat breakfast then played a little, sat about, fixed our clothes, and eat dinner ready to start. Then my feelings overcame me for the first time. I felt strangely miserable…loved and loving, could hardly speak for several miles, then got over it, laughed and talked and was happy. We had about 18 in company then, sung, hollowed, laughed and a more jovial crowd I never saw. We went to J.P. Worrell's, dressed in white, sat down by the fire, eat supper and enjoyed ourselves first rate. That night for the first time I sat in Mr. McClure's lap or he in mine. At midnight I went to bed and could hear all the young people playing and singing the Barley corn with the riper grain that ever was sown in America's land. The seed of the barley corn was slain; what will the Americans do for the seed again....sing taloll, taloll, di dee, &c. &c.
Mc. and I talked and said we never had felt as we then did, to know that all our childish glee was almost past, that we were married and had now to be our own agents in all things and probably would move away to Texas and leave all those gay young friends we loved so dear, perhaps peace and happiness behind; but in the morning we concluded to buy land and stay and enjoy ourselves in this country a few years at least, so by those means I bore with considerable fortitude all of them leaving there. They all left and Mr. McClure and myself went to Pauls and was contented again. Next day it rained, first part of it, and Jesse came over to town after medicine for little Nancy who was very sick with the scarlet fever. We went back to Jesse's and stayed there and nursed sick children till Thursday. Enjoyed myself as well as could ever have been expected in such case; the babies got a little better and Mrs. Williams died. They sent for me to make a shrouding. Mc. had went down to look at Carlin's land, expecting to purchase it but failed, and came to Mr. Williams and we stayed till 9 o'clock, then came to Jesse's. The next day being Friday the 6th of March, Mc. went to Carters land by old Bobbitts. I rode behind him as far as Grandma's…went with her and Mrs. P. to the burying, came back there and stayed all night, Mc. too. Saturday the 7th we went up to Amos Worrells. Stayed all night. Sunday 8th we all went up to Jerry Edwards…a serious time we had, for by this time Mc. had looked at all the land that were for sale, and tired and weary of the pursuit, concluded that we could go to Texas.. came on to Mrs. Worrells put up the pony which was very tired…no person at the long house so we went up to Jesse's again with heavy hearts. Monday 9th I washed. Mc. went to Hillsville and Amanda came down there to see what was the matter.
Tuesday the 10th. We came back with her, rode in the little wagon and talked of Texas all the way, shed a few crystal tears; Mc. left here Wednesday evening.
Sunday the 22nd. We all went to Hillsville meeting, heard Creed Fulton preach. Went back to Mrs. Worrells, got dinner for me and Mc. and Wm. Hill, the first one I done all myself. Monday I washed, mended a coat, Tuesday went to Jesse's and stayed all night…Wednesday went back ironed and sewed up a wagon cover. Thursday came with James in the little wagon back home; Friday quilted my quilt. During all this time my feelings have been changable, sometime fine spirit, then the next moment almost insupportable, sometimes almost perfectly happy, others miserable. I have earthly love almost to perfection and I am fixing to go to Texas, a country to which I had rather go than anywhere else, and to leave my dear old native land for a new and untried place of residence, quit my old true and long tried friends for new and untried love and friendship: at times my spirits are as dark and gloomy as the grave, smothering, restless, uneasy…sensations I never experienced before, but I have placed all my earthly confidence in one lone orphan without any home, and I am content so to do.