The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Autobiography of Mrs. Elizabeth Peirce Crockett Thomas, September 10, 1854 - May 26, 1950

Preserved By Alice Kelley © 1990

Issue: August, 1990

Elizabeth Crockett Thomas - Photograph circa 1890-1900.Elizabeth Crockett Thomas - Photograph circa 1890-1900.Editor's Note... Elizabeth Crockett Thomas was the daughter of William Guise Crockett and Emily Chaffin Crockett. She was the great-granddaughter of John and Elizabeth Montgomery Crockett, who were the first family to settle in Crockett's Cove, about the year 1765. There were no roads in Crockett's Cove at that time.

The old home place (which was located a short distance from the old Presbyterian brick church in Crockett's Cove, Wythe County, Virginia), was destroyed by fire in the early 1940's. Elizabeth passed away May 26, 1950 and is buried in the East End Cemetery of Wytheville, Virginia.

Our appreciation to the Crockett family, for allowing us to share this autobiography with our readers, and the role they have played in preserving not only their family history, but the history of the county and nation as well.

I was born September 10, 1854, in the "far room" at my Grandmother Chaffin's Hickory Grove, near the Lead Mines, Virginia. Dr. Cooper of Carroll County, boarding at Uncle Jimmy Bell's and practicing medicine in the neighborhood officiated at my birth. Years later when he was threatened with T.B. and advised to take whiskey, he said, "I may die with T.B. but I'll never die a drunkard."

A few years later my mother was called from her home in Crockett's Cove to Hickory Grove on account of the death of her grandmother Peirce, living near.

I remember seeing the latter's home where we stopped a few minutes - Ma got out but the children staying in the carriage - Nannie, the baby cried a good deal on the way down - Grattan and Chaffin were the other children, the former born at Hickory Grove, the latter in the Cove, Grandmother Crockett being with my mother when he was born. She died before I was born.

The upper porch with Uncle Miller in his wheel chair on it impressed me most while the carriage stopped at Grandmother Peirce's. The latter died suddenly sitting in her chair. The nurse brought her breakfast and found she had passed away. She had asked that morning if they had finished painting the cemetery fence (the family burial place just above her house on the ridge).

Two instances of my visit to Grandma Chaffin's stand out in my memory - (I was five years old.)

Miss Susan Crawford and I walked over to Grandma Peirce's place to bring something over to Grandmother Chaffin's - red curtains and candlesticks.

Uncle David Graham came to see Grandma Chaffin. He and she rode up to the cemetery to see that everything was in good order there. I rode behind Grandma.

Grandma Chaffin gave Ma our carriage. It was a large closed one, with two seats facing and a seat for driver in front. It cost a thousand dollars. Grandma Peirce willed her carriage to Cousin Laura Miller, her granddaughter, who sold it to Uncle Newton Crockett. She also willed her gold band china (like cups and saucers I have) to Cousin Laura and Cousin Vic Miller. I think the latter sold hers to Cousin Belle Gibboney. The two cups I have were Grandma Peirce's and Grandma Chaffin's, before the former bought her china.

Our carriage, which was somewhat like the one Grandma had, was often borrowed for wedding occasions. Cousin Crockett Graham borrowed it for his wedding in Tazewell to Miss Bane.

Latter that year Grandma visited us in the Cove, and returning with her, I spent part of the winter. I was named for her. On our way we stopped in Wytheville to see Uncle Robert Fox, Aunt Mary Chaffin's first husband, who was sick. They lived where Doctor Charles Fox Graham now lives. We spent the night there. I was playing in the yard that afternoon and got acquainted with a little girl across the fence. She was on the Lawson's side and I was on the Fox side. When I went into the house, I told Aunt Mary I asked the little girl to stay all night with me. Aunt Mary said, "Why that is a little colored child."

Our next stop was at Fort Chiswell, to see Grandma's daughter-in-law, Aunt Betsey (nee: McGavock), who was visiting her sick sister, Miss Polly McGavock. I remember Aunt Betsey had a handkerchief around her throat and was complaining of sore throat. She died in a week or two from quinsy on October 21, 1859. Her sister lived a few weeks longer, dying November 11, 1859.

When at Grandma's that winter, I slept with her. She let me have my playhouse in the closet back of her chair. Cousin Lizzie Litchfield was there, being a young lady. Her room was over Grandma's. I loved to slip up there with her and stand by and look in her trunk. It was tremendously interesting and smelled so good. I knitted a pair of socks there. The colored house girl, Ginnie taught me. She would take off the heel and toe for me.

Uncle Alex Chaffin gave me a quarter for them and gave them to the little colored boy who went around with him, riding behind him. The little boy sometimes went to sleep while riding.

An exciting incident happened during one of my childhood visits to Grandma's. She had gone to see her sister, Aunt Patsy Graham, at Graham's Forge, who was sick. During Grandma's absence, her son, Uncle Alex and his wife, Aunt Betsey (nee: McGavock) were living at Grandma's and he was looking after the farm. He and his wife slept down stairs in Grandma's room. I was sleeping in the room above with Miss Kate Thomas of Marion. She was Mrs. Lumlock's sister who was visiting at Grandma's. Early one morning Uncle Alex sent Lucy Jane, the colored maid upstairs to his room over the parlor of the other part of the house to get him a clean shirt. In a few moments she came running back, saying she heard somebody in the attic above Uncle Alex's room. He told her to go back as there was no one in the attic. She did, but came screaming back with a crazy man after her. She ran into Grandma's room and Uncle Alex quickly locked the door. The man beat on it, trying to get in fortunately; there was another door from the room leading in a side hall with outside door. Uncle Alex told Lucy Jane to run out that way to the woodpile where several men were cutting and stacking wood. They came around carrying their axes. When the crazy man saw them, he began begging them not to kill him. They got a rope and tied his hands. They took him to the kitchen and gave him some breakfast, then took him up to the Lead Mines, the nearest village, where he soon fell asleep and slept for twenty-four hours awaking perfectly sane. He was a peddler from North Carolina, who had been doped and robbed. He evidently slept in the attic. Soon after the maid opened the front door early in the morning to sweep the porch, or possibly the night before, though no sound was heard, he had entered the house. I heard the commotion and came down in my nightgown. There was a stairway from our room to the small hall adjoining Grandma's room.

In January 1860, I think it was, I went to Cousin Mary Ann Raper's wedding, in the carriage with Pa, Aunt Sally, Cousin Mariah Crockett (known as Cousin Pet) being the wife of Cousin John G. Crockett, and Lida; Aunt Peggy (colored) who had nursed Pa went along to look after me, and Rachael Green (colored) went along to take care of Lida. I remember Rachael dressed Lida, and had her standing on a chair while she curled her hair. She was quite proud of her. She was not quite two years old. I was seven at this time. Before the wedding I amused some of the guests on the porch by showing them how I kissed my father. His nose was long so I took hold of it and pulled it to one side and then kissed him. Little Maria Crockett (who afterward married Mr. Lee) and I were thrilled when Aunt Polly told us to carry a candle up to the bride's room for her to dress by. She opened the door just a crack and reached for the candle, but we were thrilled at the glimpse of the bride, as they were not supposed to be seen by outsiders the day they were to be married. Cousin Robert Graham performed the ceremony. Among the brides maids were Lizzie Jackson (who married Albert Oglesby), Nannie Tate (who married David P. Graham), Sis Wood (who married Joseph M. Crockett), and Mittie Crockett (who afterwards married T.J. Hanson).