The Cooley Family © 1985
Issue: June, 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.
21st. [April, 1846] Yesterday we traveled 21 miles, crossed Clinch River crossing Cumberland Mountains, camped on the bank of a creek near a large tree…romantic and beautiful place. Had fish &c. All our baked bread is gone and butter and sugar. We have come clear through Knoxville and Anderson Counties and are now in Morgan, 9 miles from Montgomery. Very warm indeed. All in the burning sun, talking about swapping horses. Think it a long ways to Texas, but tolerable spirits.
22nd. Still on the Cumberland, the roughest road I ever saw. The land is poor here. The sun shines warm, the atmosphere poor - going on but the road is very long and tiresome.
27th. We come 21 miles…the worst road, come through Lebanon, a dashing place. Come to A. Clay's, bought a large ham, bacon, 2 lbs. butter and got some buttermilk.
28th Last night it rained, thundered, lightened…the negros camp fell down. I have a bad cold, Mc. a hurting in his breast, small pox at the next house. Tuesday we passed the Hermitage; it rained very hard, then stopped at Corley's, eat dinner, stayed in the house while raining, low spirits. Then to Nashville. There Mc. went down to the steam boat. Thomas and me was left there to see the gentlemen and ladies strutting about whirling their carriages in every direction. We passed through, went to a little double cabin, stayed in the house.
May 2nd, 1846. We crossed Trace Creek about 20 times. Damp morning. Mc. got his foot wet; came through Waverly and then through Reynoldsburg, Dickson County…then came to the broad deep Tennessee River…there baked wheat bread and eat. Saw a small steam boat come blowing and belching like a thunder gust. It passed down the river; its name is Vesta, the first I ever saw. We crossed the river in a house ferry boat…about 620 yards across. We then was in the Western District, Benton County. The swamp is a dark, gloomy desert… a suspicious looking man along.
May 7th. The seventh night we come to Sugar Creek, it was up, we camped there after traveling 16 miles and got but 12. It rained most all night and all day; yesterday we come to Greer's, crossed the north fork of Forky Deer River on the double bridges. Warmed at Greer's, then come to Jackson, a beautifully arranged town. Got news of war in Texas... come 3 miles this side making 19 miles, crossed South fork on a long bridge. Rained, was dark... I felt most wretched indeed - high water, wet clothes on…sickly country…no acquaintances... 600 miles from home. We got to Isom Burchs, a private Dutchman and real friend to us he was. I owe him and his little black eyed wife many thanks.
9th of May. Been gone from home one month. 9 o'clock P.M. have come 21 miles. Got encouragement of Texas…in 18 miles of C. Dickenson's. The whippoorwills hollering, feel well only some melancholy thoughts about my old home, which I believe I never can get over...did anybody ever.
12th. Left Mr. Dickenson's in very low spirits, come to Lagrange, eat dinner, come 10 miles to Moscow - worse than Hillsville. Then came across Wolf River on a trifling bridge. Very warm and dry - cooked by a log heap. Going to start. War in Texas…a heap trouble going on.
13th. We passed a little pinhook village, then came through Germantown, lost the wagon slides, fell in company with some Mississippi cotton waggoners…received bad news from Texas. Out of hope of Texas. Camped with waggoners 14 miles from Memphis, concluded to go to Mo. Lost my shawl had trouble finally got 75 for it. Met J. Lewis and Mr. Perkins, Mr. Jefferson and held a long council in the road, sold the wagon and horses for a hundred dollars… rolled in Memphis - raining - received money in wagon. A great and populous place. Went on the wharf boat, seen steam boats, got in company with Doctor Elis - went up to his tent, came back with the boat, slept in the pass way but little it was. Morning came, went up to Elis's tent, come back, engaged to go on the Empire. They loaded and unloaded till 2 o'clock. During that time we went in store, got teacups and plates, delf butter plate - sat about out of hope, out of spirits and patience, out of good water - right dirty blue cotton dress, cotton cape. Came on board, a dirty place, but in company with Texas folks…very well contented.