The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Elizabeth's Journal - Conclusion

The Cooley Family © 1986

Issue: March, 1986

Read Intro About Elizabeth's Journal

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.

Nov. 27, 1847. It has been a long time from my Journal. Mr. McClure went and made a school at Mr. St. Clair's for himself and one at Mr. Crumps for me, then come and bought a buggy and swapped horses. We went over the river to Father McClure's, stayed two days. Our expenses there and back was $3. Three of the girls married; went to see all of them; stayed all night with Mr. Carter then come on home; found the neighborhood all in a tumble about my school.

[First part unreadable] ...chills, sprained my ankle terrible. Began my school and not well. Been here one week. I cleaned out the trunk, put my things, in the new large one and Mr. Mc's in his. Doubled and twisted some yarn.

Wed. 1st Dec. 1847. Just came from school, had 22 scholars, a heap trouble to keep school. I come home each night weary of life itself. I have a good time enough here at Mr. Lowe's but it does pester me to keep school, but I see no prospect of ever getting to quit while I have life to enjoy...but it is best.

Dec. 24, 1847. I scarcely know how to describe my feelings. Another death to record...William is dead. His soul has left this mortal world and sought a home in heavin. He died happy. I went to town on Sunday, thought him better, then Tuesday evening, they sent for me again. It was dark before I got there. He died in the night. I stayed there Sunday, been keeping school all the week.

Jan. 2, 1848. Sunday evening. Yesterday we went to Mr. Little's to a quilting...enjoyed myself very well. Today I went to Mr. Montgomery's. I am not very well, enjoy myself very well. I have a new dress and shawl.

[The following was written in a different handwriting] ...9, 1848. Sunday 10 o'clock P.M. Now at Lowe's by the fire, dreading the time of leaving my wife for school. Snow about 6 inches deep, very cold. I want to teach school awhile and go to school one year; then myself and wife teach an Academy and live together in some country where we will not have to take pills all the time and the health of the country depend on the skill of the physicians. Now teaching school, making some $25. per month....Mc:

[Unreadable] 1848. Now at Joe St. Clair's. Come here last Sunday.  School is out at Crumps. Now have no school but want one. Went yesterday to Mc's school. He had 35 scholars. Fine pretty weather, just like spring.

March 17, at Mr. Henderson's - got the fever bad. I don't feel like ever getting up at all. I am very low. Very good place here to stay, but I am among strangers. Must send for Nancy. I feel like I should die here, but the Lord's will...

[The following is written in different handwriting] March 18, 1848...Elizabeth  sick of slow typhoid fever...took ten small doses of calomel; operated four times; gave her 40 drops laudanum. Employed Dr. Gordon. I think she is some better. God of heaven have mercy on her. Mc..

[The last entry by Elizabeth Cooley is in pencil and is so faded as to be illegible. The following is such portion as could be read]: "My best to.... in a terrible.... feel very doubtful of whether I can.... well now.... Mc has dissiness his school out on account of go with me along through the valley of death.... help James if I die and if I live...."

[The following is in another handwriting] Elizabeth has written some now would God I was done writing. I call upon God to have mercy upon her. Grant she may get well....and have mercy on me. Mc.

March 29, 1848. This Journal is done! The author being Elizabeth A. McClure died March 28, 1848. The happy in Christ Jesus being the only consolation left me!! She was 22 years 7 months and 12 days old.

Editor's note....Elizabeth's Journal was returned to her family in Carroll County, Virginia by her husband, on a trip back to the area. We are lucky that it was saved and endured the passage of time. The original is in Richmond, Virginia. The Cooley family is fortunate to hold so much of their rich heritage to this day. I speak for all of you readers in thanking them for sharing this journal with us. There have been so many of you who have written and expressed how much you have enjoyed it. It has also prompted many to start journals of their own, as they could see, by reading Elizabeth's Journal, what importance it could hold for the future.