The Cooley Family © 1985
Issue: May, 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.
April 11th, 1846. Smyth County, Rivalley, waters of Holston, 55 miles from home. the 9th of April we started towards Texas. Went to Grayson Courthouse, purchased feathers and bade them all farewell there…then went on to John Dickenson's, stayed there all night and was treated with all kindness imaginable, bid them farewell, and then the last tie was broken that had bound us to stay. I left home better than I expected right at the starting, but bad was the best for it seemed like breaking my heart to leave my poor Mother and Father and Grandmother, who had been always so kind, and loved me so well. It seemed like they could scarcely support themselves and that is what grieves me yet. I fear it is a sin to break off so abruptly - if so, may the Lord pardon us. From John Dickerson's we traveled to the face of the Iron Mountain…about 16 miles, there took up camp for the first time in life, got supper, sung and prayed long, then went to bed in the wagon, slept some, felt awful strange and contented with our lots. In the morning arranged some matters and started at 7… climbed the mountain then down it…then by Porter's pretty garden, then got to crossing the waters of Holston and have come 20 miles today and camped by a shelter, and now are in the wagon and it raining fast. But take it all in all, I am as well contented as ever I was, for we are on Uncle Sam's land and pay for what we eat and have showers of love.
April 13th, 1846. Yesterday it rained all day. We came by Dr. Hopkins and the 7 mile Ford, met Esq. Porter & c. The road was torn up all to smash. We came about 20 miles. In the evening we stopped and Mc. gone to the spring, a large wagon passed our wagon and shivered the axle tree; got in company with some slaves and their masters - went up on a hill and camped with them though it was very cold, and we vexed. In the morning the blacksmith came up there and banded the axle tree so it runs, shod Crockett; paid 25. It had by this time quit raining, and today we come through Abington, got in company with Mr. Cook and 8 black persons. Mr. McClure bought me a checked shawl. $1.125…come about 22 miles, camped altogether four wagons, and a fine lively time of it we have. I love to travel. I am so well fixed...I love so well, all I hate is wagon is too heavy for our horses. It is cold today and I went in Duttin's house and warmed. Now we are both in the wagon writing; Crum is singing the Glorious Light of Zion, the rest gone to bed...romantic scene.
Tuesday 14th. Today we had a first rate day, traveled 23 miles, pleasant day, camped all together in open woods, good fire and joyful.
Wednesday, 15th. Tennessee, 3 miles east the boat yard. We have come 10 miles, stopped at a large house, eat dinner. The country here is level, poor and I think sickly. It is warm here, the roads good. The sun shines warm…I am satisfied yet. The houses not so fine.
We traveled 21 miles yesterday, camped with Cook, had fine times. Carolinians passed us and some negro drivers along here. Hampton whipped 4 slaves for staying at the spring (but not for too long). It is very warm and smokey here now. I have some very serious, melancholy thoughts to steal over me at intervals. Oh, it is warm, but Lord grant mercy to us, and have mercy on my poor Father and Mother who I left behind. What a busy world this is. What…what.