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FOOT WASHING & DINNER ON THE GROUNDS
I was eager to get my first glimpse of the three hundred acres, so Bartlett and I saddled
our horses early the next morning, and rode the four miles west to Rocky Creek. John
Bledsoe agreed to take the Hills down Little Penn Creek to their new land. Henry C.
Turner and his family had already left for the little settlement of Golden Grove yesterday.
When we topped a knoll just to the east of Rocky Creek, I couldnt believe the view.
There, ahead of us, was the most beautiful valley of oaks and hickories Id ever seen. They
were on a gentle slope for about a mile on each side of a sparkling, winding creek, with no
sign of civilization in any direction as far as the eye could see.
As we started down the slope into the valley, a large herd of deer suddenly bounded
away. Their tails looked like a mass of long, white flags as they headed toward the creek.
When we reached the creek, I was surprised to see that it was flowing in a northwesterly
direction instead of southeasterly toward the Little Saluda River. Bartlett explained that
we had entered the watershed area of Turkey Creek, Stevens Creek and the Savannah
River when we crossed the knoll behind us. He explained that Golden Grove was on the
headwaters of Rocky Creek southeast of us, with the village of Edgefield about six miles
to the west.
During a stop at a small spring to rest the horses, I asked Bartlett how much he wanted
for this land, and it was no surprise to me when he said it wasnt for for sale, but it was
ours to use as long as we wanted it. We rode the approximate boundaries of the three
hundred acres and also looked for a suitable place for us to set up camp and build a house.
Bartlett said that the creek flooded sometimes when the spring rains were heavy, so we
were looking for some high ground suitable for a dwelling and the outbuildings. We
eventually found a small plateau of about five acres covered with live oaks and hickories.
Below the rise was a free flowing spring that emptied into the creek below a shoal area.
The spring was on the west side of the creek. We both agreed immediately that this was a
perfect setting for a home.
That night after supper, while we were sitting on the front porch, I again brought up
the matter of buying the land. After all, Becky and I wanted to be able to leave something
for our children, and it didnt make sense to spend good money building a house on
someone elses land. Both Bartlett and Lydia assured us that we could use the land as long
as we lived, but this didnt suit me. I wanted to own the land.
Bartlett finally compromised and and drew up paperwork that granted the land to
Becky and me as long as either of us lived and at the death of the survivor, the land would
revert to our children as long as they lived on and worked the land. If none did so, the land
would revert to the Bledsoes or their survivors. This was not exactly what either of us
wanted, but, since we didnt have enough money at the present to buy other land and also
build, we signed the paper. Bartlett never recorded it with the court but placed it in the
back of their family Bible for safekeeping.
After the spring planting, Bartlett let us use most of his Negroes to help clear the land
and start the building. By the end of August 1791, we were in a comfortable house with
four sleeping rooms, a large parlor or sitting room and a big kitchen off the end of the
back porch. There is also a large barn with stalls on each side, a tool room, and a hay loft,
and a smokehouse to the left of the barn. To the right and rear of the barn is a two-hole
outhouse. About a hundred yards to the north we built a nice two room cabin with a
replace for Coot and Pansy.
We only cut the trees that were absolutely necessary when building, so we are living in
the shade of all the big oaks and hickories. We saved all the saplings to make a rail fence
for the five-acre pasture behind and to the east of the barn. We extended it more toward
the east to include a part of the creek, so the stock would always have plenty of water.
Becky loves sitting on the porch, so the front porch extends down each side of the house
until it meets the back porch on the south side and the kitchen on the north side. The
house faces east, overlooking the creek.
After we settled in our new house, Becky informed me that we would also have
something new for Christmas that year, a new baby. I was elated and totally surprised and
asked, When did that happen? Becky replied, Oh, it was just something you gave me
on the trail from Noth Calina.
Coot and Pansy are now forty-six and have never been able to have children. Pansy di
have one stillborn boy in 1764 and another in 1767. She was very unhappy at the time, but
now says, Ise got mo white younguns than I can keep up wit, anyhow. Pansy is a tall,
strapping woman, weighing around two hundred pounds. She is a fine cook and knows
how to keep the children in line. She is also a good seamstress and makes most of our
Coot, having been taught by his father, Gimmie, knows fishing like the back of his
hand. Since weve been here, fish has been our favorite meal. Without Coots help with
the farming, I would have a hard time making it. Coot is six feet-four inches tall, weighs
about two hundred and fifty pounds and is as strong as one of my oxen. His hair is a
prematurely gray, and no matter what task lies ahead, he always approaches it with a wide
smile on his face. Pansy and Coot have been with me since I was born, and they are like
With our two milk cows, chickens, four oxen, three sows, and one boar hog, we are
pretty well fixed for livestock. We even bought a Franklin cook stove for Becky from the
store in Edgefield. Its called a Franklin stove because Benjamin Franklin, a Philadelphia
inventor, made the first one in 1744. Pappy and Anne had one in their house, but it was
used only for heating.
This new fangled cooking stove is one of the first in this so called up-country and is the
center of attention when we have company. It is made of iron, has four legs, an oven, and
a water warmer. You can build a fire in the firebox and cook on top of the stove. The
stove is in the kitchen in front of the fireplace, with whats called stovepipe from the back
of it leading into the fireplace. It even has shelves extended above it to keep food warm. I
thought fifteen dollars was too expensive for a heavy contraption like that, but when I saw
how much work it saved Pansy and Becky, and tasted some of the hot biscuits and
cornbread from that oven, I wouldve paid twice as much for it.
We werent able to get any crops in that year but did get a big spring garden planted.
Wild game was plentiful in the valley, and the creek was full of trout and redbreasts, so we
would eat well that winter. When John and Bartlett got their crops in that fall they sent
over ten big Negroes and three pair of oxen to help clear the two hundred acres that we
planned to cultivate. Their only stipulation was that we feed and sleep them until we
finished. The Negroes slept in the hay loft and nearly ate us out of house and home before
we finished ten weeks later, just before Christmas.
On December 23, 1791, as she had promised, Becky delivered our second baby girl.
We named her Gillianna, and it didnt take long before the boys shortened that name to
After the land was cleared, Coot built a long woodshed by the kitchen and filled it with
firewood and stovewood. The remainder of the trees and stumps were burned in a huge
pile out in the middle of the cleared land. The dirt was as rich and black as Ive ever seen,
probably a result of the decaying leaves on that particular land since creation. I was
excited, anticipating the abundant crops that we could get out of that land for years to
This first winter in South Carolina was very mild compared to the last few harsh
winters we had in Wake County. Coot and I, with the help of my oldest son, William, had
the two hundred acres of cleared land cultivated and ready for planting by the middle of
March, 1792. In early April, we had a hundred acres of tobacco planted along with fifty
aces of corn and fifty acres of wheat. Because of the mild winter and the warm soil, we
decided to go ahead and plant. I figure by getting these crops in a little earlier than Bartlett
and John, their Negroes could be rented for the harvesting. I just hope and pray we dont
have a late freeze. If everything goes well our crops should be in a few weeks before
William has always been big for his age and with all the hard work he put in while we
were building and clearing land, the muscles on his five foot seven inch frame are now
bulging. He is taller than his mother and almost as tall as me. Its hard to believe that he is
only ten. Julius is eight and is a big help in keeping all of our livestock fed and watered.
He thinks hes old enough to plow one of the oxen, and weve let him try, but hes not
quite tall enough to see over the plowstock. Julius has a keen interest in reading and
writing. Uncle Peter worked with him on the way down from North Carolina, teaching
him numbers and helping him with his reading.
Julius and William spend a lot of time down at the creek. Just beyond the spring there
is a deep hole, ideal for swimming. Coot taught both boys how to swim and also has made
pretty good fishermen out of them. Wiley and Harris are six and four and want to tag
along and try to do everything the two older boys do. William and Julius put up with them
to a point and do their best to keep them out of trouble.
Charity is two, and it takes the combined efforts of Becky, Mama, and Pansy just to
keep up with her. If there's anything to get into, Charity will find it. Gillianna, or Gillie,
our first child born in the new house, is almost one and just learning to walk and talk. She
and Charity are the center of attention each night as we sit around the cookstove after
supper. As Pansy says, Wid all de tention dem two younguns git, dey gonna be spoiled
rotten fo dey git to be yard chillun. Dey near bout ruint rat now.
After the crops were planted, we turned our attention to digging a well. We knew this
would be one of our hardest jobs in making the place more livable, and I guess thats why
weve waited so long to get started. The boys have done a good job in keeping us supplied
with plenty of fresh water from the spring, but its pretty tough carrying that much water
that far every day, especially on Wednesday, which is wash day.
Since we first moved in, weve been bringing rocks up from the creek and stacking
them in a big pile out behind the kitchen for the sole purpose of using them for well
curbing. Coot found a nice fork of an oak branch, placed the two prongs lightly in the
palms of his hands and started walking slowly in a small circle out from the kitchen back
porch. He kept widening his circular path and when the front of his stick suddenly tilted
toward the ground, he shouted, Heah it is, Missa Theo!
Ive seen people use so-called divining rods before, but have never believed they could
find water. Nevertheless, as I marked off a five foot square space beneath the stick, I
asked Coot, You dont really believe that stick, do you? He answered, Yas sah, yas
sah, dat water neah bout pulled dis stick right outta my hands. It's down deah, an not too
deep from de way it wuz pullin.
We dug with a pick axe and shovels and hauled the dirt out with buckets. After the
second day of digging, we used a ladder to get into and out of the well. I told Coot to
make sure the hole got smaller and smaller as we went down. I didn't want any cave-ins
and knew that it would make the curbing job much easier. On the fourth morning Coot
was down about twenty-five feet and sure enough, water began seeping into the well. The
first I knew of it was when I heard Coot saying, Heah it is, Missa Theo. Heah it is. I tole
The hardest part of the digging was going down that extra five feet below the water
line and getting the mud and water out. As we got closer to the bottom, we encountered a
lot of rock that had to be picked and chiseled out, but I was sure this would give us good
clean water when the curbing was put in place. It took us two more days to get the
curbing in place and mortar it with clay that the boys gathered from the creek. We curbed
it to four feet above the ground, framed it in with boards and covered it with a shingled
After about a week the water cleared up, and Coot had the privilege of the first drink.
After all, he found the water. All he could say after drinking a full cup was, Dats da best
water Ise had since we left Nawth Calina.
In early May, we gathered at Bartletts for Sunday dinner. After dinner, Lydia said she
had a present for us. She led us out to the side of the barn and pointed out four peach and
four apple trees that she had rooted for us. Becky was beside herself with joy. In North
Carolina we always had apples, and Becky could make the best apple pie youve ever
tasted. She even had a method of drying the apples so we could have pie the year round.
Lydia told Becky, You can dry the peaches the same way as the apples. In fact, she
added, the peach cobbler we had for dinner was from dried peaches.
While we were sitting on their front porch, Bartlett put a big twist of tobacco in his
mouth and said, Next Sunday is preaching Sunday, and that new young circuit preacher
can sho preach tha gospel without laying too much hell and damnation on ya. Why dont
you pack some vittles, load up the folks, and come on ova to Golden Grove early next
Sunday morning? People from all over always come on preaching Sunday, so yall will get
to meet some new folks. I replied, Sounds like a good idea. Weve been meaning to get
started back to regular church, and now that we're sorta caught up on everything, well be
there. Mamas been reading to us from the Bible a little bit every night, but that sho
dont take the place of some good preachin. For as long as I can remember, all the
Goodwins and Bledsoes have been Baptist, so fortunately for us, the only church in
Golden Grove is Baptist.
We dug up the fruit trees, leaving as much soil around the roots as possible, and loaded
them into the wagon. They were almost head high, since Lydia had rooted them last
spring, knowing that we were moving down. On the way home, I walked beside and drove
the oxen. Mama, Becky, the girls, and Harris rode in the wagon and William, Julius, and
Wiley ran along and played in front of us. We got back to Rocky Creek with plenty of
daylight left to plant the trees at the edge of the garden. While I was planting the trees, the
boys unhitched the oxen, put them in the barn and fed and watered the stock.
Little Wiley had been fascinated with the digging of the well, so we gave him the
privilege of drawing all the house water. As soon as we got home, he got the big water
bucket off the wash stand on the back porch and headed for the well. By the time we
finished with our chores, he had a bucket of fresh water waiting for us.
It took Coot a while to teach Wiley to let the windlass down slowly, so as not to stir up
any sediment and always get clean water. At first, he liked to see how fast he could make
the windlass turn and listen to the loud splash when the bucket hit the water, but he finally
learned. We call him the water boy, and he attaches a lot of importance and pride to that
Becky and I were sitting on the front porch later that afternoon about sunset,
discussing our plans for next Sunday. All the hickories and oaks were sprouting bright
green with new leaves, and the dogwood trees were in full bloom. It was a beautiful site
looking down the slope toward the creek and across it at our first crops bursting out i
I said to Becky, You know, from all the activity Ive seen with that old boar and those
sows over the past few weeks, I think well wind up with three litters of pigs fore too
long. Becky replied, Thats great, and I just put four dozen fertile eggs under five settin
hens out in the barn, so we'll have plenty of fryin chickens . I always marvel at the new
growth and the new life that burst forth every spring. By the way, speakin of new
growth, well have another new baby sometimes before Christmas this year.
I was sitting in a straight chair balancing on the two back legs with my feet on the
railing. I literally fell over backwards and hit the floor. When I recovered and got to my
feet, I went over and kissed Becky and said, Im the most shocked and the happiest man
in the world. Her reply, Im glad youre happy, but you didnt have to tell me about the
shock, it was hard to miss. Are you all right now?
Saturday afternoon I picked up a large piece of lye soap from the washstand and told
all the boys, Come on, were goin swimmin. They knew that Saturday was the day for
their all-over scrubbing, but for the last several months it had been in a wash tub by the
stove. The temperature of the creek had warmed up enough that we could go swimming
and, with the soap, get our hides sparkling clean at the same time.
Wiley had learned to swim well enough to take care of himself, but we all had to keep a
close watch on Harris. He was four, but thought he could do anything the rest of the boys
could do. He was watching his older brothers climb up and jump off the big boulder that
flared out over the deep end of the swimming hole. He wasnt scared of the devil and told
me he could swim, and asked if he could jump off, too. I told him he could, but to wait
until I could get down to the deep end to get him out. Before I moved, I looked over just
in time to see him sailing off the boulder. I immediately ran toward the deep end and,
much to everyones suprise, Harris popped his head out of the water and started
dog-paddling over to the bank toward me. He didn't seem scared or shocked, so I let him
climb out by himself.
As Harris crawled out on the bank, he said, to no one in particular but to all of us in
general, Tole yall I could. William was laughing so hard he almost fell back in, then he
picked up Harris and threw him back into the middle of the creek. Harris popped up
smiling and paddling toward the bank as hard as he could. I dont think I've ever seen the
boys have so much fun. After about two hours of frolicking in the creek, we all scrubbed
from head to toe with soap, washed it off thoroughly, put our clothes on, and headed up
the hill to the house.
When we got back, we walked into the kitchen to the scrumptous odor of fresh fried
chicken, fresh baked bread and peach cobbler. Much to our dismay, all we heard from
Mama and Becky was, Yall git yourselves right on outta here now, this food is for the
church dinner tomorrow, and we dont want any little hands pickin at it. As I gave
Becky an affectionate hug and a pat on the rump, I said, What about big hands? With a
big grin on her face, she waved a wooden cook spoon at me and said, If you dont get
out, Ill put some knots on your head.
At daybreak the next morning everyone was scurrying around like rabbits, getting their
Sunday clothes on, combing hair, and washing faces. Pansy had cooked a fine breakfast of
side meat, scrambled eggs, grits, biscuits, and coffee. While we were eating, Coot was
sweeping out the bed of the wagon and hitching up the oxen. Becky carried a big quilt out
to the wagon and spread it out neatly to cover the wagon floor. The baskets of food were
placed under the seat and all the children, with the exception of William, jumped in the
back. Mama and Becky, with Gillie in her lap, sat on the seat.
William and I took turns riding Sugarfoot and walking and driving the oxen. We forded
the creek in front of the house and followed the trail between the tobacco field and the
creek to the southeast and Golden Grove. Everyone was excited at the prospect of
meeting some new people and seeing Golden Grove for the first time. Of course, William
and I had been to the village twice in the past year when we went to pick up seeds and
The journey took about half-hour, and as we crested the hill out of the Rocky Creek
valley, Charity started squealing, Look, I see tha church! I see tha church! Sure
enough, as we got to the top of the rise, we could see the tall white-washed steeple
extending above the tree line. Before we reached the church, Julius, Wiley and Harris had
already jumped off the back of the wagon and were running into the churchyard toward all
the wagons, carriages and people assembled there. It was ten oclock, so we made it with
an hour to spare before the preaching was scheduled to start. Out in the huge oak grove
was a long makeshift table, assembled with a series of sawhorses and broad planks. The
women were busy covering them with tablecloths and placing the food on them. We
stopped under one of the huge oaks. As William unhitched the oxen and tied them to the
tree, I helped Mama and Becky down and got the food from under the seat.
Bartlett, Lydia and their children, Mary, age eight, Amy, age seven, who was named in
honor of her grandmother, Amy Reynolds Bledsoe, Berryman, named for his uncle, age
two, and one-year old Elizabeth were already there.
As we were folding the blanket from the wagon bed, John and Sarah with their two
children, Karren, almost three and William, named in honor of his uncle, now a year and
two months old, pulled up and parked their carriage beside us. Sarah was expecting
another baby in the fall and was dying to share her good news with someone. As for
Becky, she couldn't wait to get Sarah off by herself and tell her the wonderful news of our
William came hurrying over and said, Yall come on quick, look who I've found; its
Mr. Turner and Mr. Hill and all of em! Sure enough, over on the other side of the grove
was Henry C. and Nancy Jane Turner, and their daughter, Nancy, the one who so
faithfully helped William with the chickens on our trip from North Carolina and their son,
Henry, Jr. Much to our surprise, Nancy Jane was holding a brand new baby girl, Mary,
who was born this past January. Of course, little Mary, with a head full of dark hair and
deep blue-green eyes, was the center of attention for Becky and Sarah.
With them were Lodie and Nancy Hill, and their children. After we got to South
Carolina, in March of 1791, Lodie had bought a hundred and eighty acres from Bartlett on
Penn Creek. This was a part of a seven hundred and ninety-three acre grant, and was next
to Lodies original land. Nancy told Becky, Lodie built me the purtiest house I ever seen.
Yall just got to come over and see us; its smack-dab on top of a big hill, lookin right
down on the creek. All of us were excited to see each other and talk about our new life in
this beautiful up-country of South Carolina. Soon the church bell started clanging, telling
us it was time to get into the church.
The preacher was Jeremiah Tate, a dominant figure of about six feet three and well
over two hundred pounds. He had gray, piercing eyes peering out of a thick black beard.
His voice was deep and echoed out of each corner of the building as he read a few
opening passages out of an enormous Bible that covered the entire podium. The song
leader banged a tuning fork on the podium; we followed him through a few songs and then
settled down on the wooden benches to listen to the sermon.
Bartlett was right, he didnt dwell too long on hell fire and brimstone, although he did
stay on it enough to get all the boys squirming nervously for a few minutes. Becky, Mama,
and the girls remained after the sermon for the foot washing, but me and the boys were
anxious to get outside. That hour and a half sermon was enough to last me for months.
While the women were busy unpacking and spreading the food, the men talked politics,
land deals, crops, and news of the latest settlers arriving. I enjoyed a long conversation
with Eldred Simpkins, the owner of the general mercantile store. He told me that
Congress was thinking of implementing what he called a new postal service. He thought it
would be in place early next year. He said, You'll be able to write a letter, go to the
posting office, buy a government stamp, and have the letter leave that same week, carried
by a postal rider. That sure beats the old way of having to wait until the circuit rider was
making a trip and hoping that he was heading in the direction you wanted your letter to
go. Of the folks who can write, most of them dont even bother, because it now takes
months, sometimes over a year, to get a letter delivered. Eldred said, With all the postal
riders they plan to hire, Ill bet you can get a letter from here to Washington City in two
weeks time and to anywhere in South Calina in a week. I put in my request to have the
posting office over in my store, if they plan to have one here bouts.
After my informative conversation with Eldred, I was telling Bartlett and John about it,
when a well dressed, older gentleman walked up and joined in our talk. John introduced
him as Aquilla Miles, the Justice of Peace for our area. His reaction to the posting office
was in a very British voice, The government would be wise to take care of the problem of
illiteracy before imposing such an extraordinary costly venture on its subjects. When John
jokingly replied, Now, explain what you just said. Aquilla laughed and said, We should
first teach everyone to read and write, so theyll be able to write letters, and read the ones
they get, before we spend money on delivering them.
Aquilla also said that he was planning on starting a school on Saturdays to teach reading
and writing for those that might be interested. I asked him if our children could attend, and
he said, Anyone is welcome, as long as they are eight years of age or older.
The women rounded up all the children and menfolk and herded them toward the food.
It didnt take much prodding, cause it was already around one oclock, and everyone was
starving. Ive never seen such a display of good food. There was fried chicken, ham,
baked turkey, baked chicken, chicken and dumplings, cornbread, biscuits, peas,
butterbeans, baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and turkey dressing. The desserts
were all on a separate table. There was any kind of pie you could name and a varity of
fresh baked cakes.
Brother Tates five minute blessing of the food was backed up by the sound of
constantly growling stomachs. The food was delicious, and there was very little left of it.
After dinner when everything was removed from the tables, we disassembled the boards
and sawhorses and stored them under the church.
When we were ready to leave, Gillie, Charity, and Harris were sound asleep on the
blanket in the back of the wagon. The sun was just sinking below the trees on the western
horizon when we forded Rocky Creek and pulled back into the yard.
In June, 1792, we got out the grinding rock, sharpened the two good sickles and cut
the wheat. As Coot and I cut, William, Julius, and Wiley stacked it in small bundles and
left it in the field to dry. Two weeks later, we brought it into the barn and beat the small
kernels into a large wooden wheat bin. We then used one of Becky's sheets and chafed it
in the wind outside the barn to remove the weeds and trash. We loaded the wheat into the
cloth-lined wagon bed and took it to the mill in Edgefield. It took us several trips, but it
was well worth it. The fifty acres yielded seven hundred and fifty bushels of wheat which
ground into six hundred pounds of flour. The owners of the mill kept a hundred pounds as
a fee, we sold another two hundred pounds and took three hundred pounds home and
stacked it in the pantry for our own use. Becky and Mama were surprised and very happy
with the yield of the fifty acre plot.
During the spring and early summer months we fought a constant battle against
tobacco worms. Coot, me, and the boys picked off and squashed what seemed like
thousands of these big green pests. It was all worth it because by the first of August, we
had one of the best looking crops of tobacco Ive ever seen. I rented ten Negroes from
John and Bartlett, and by the first of September, the corn was in the crib, and the tobacco
was hanging in the barn drying. We left most of the corn in the crib for the chickens and
other livestock, but took an ample supply over to the mill to be ground into meal and grits.
On September tenth, the tobacco was dry and ready for baling and taking to the market
in Edgefield. When Coot, the boys and I pulled up to the big warehouse, we were all
amazed at the hustle and bustle of the farmers and the buyers assembled there. The thing
that most amazed us was the huge barreled wagons pulled by four to six of the largest
types of horses any of us had ever seen.
The boys were sitting on top of the tobacco and with eyes like saucers. They were all
pointing and screaming, Look! Look at the big horses! Look at the big wagons! Look at
the long barrels! Coot, wide eyed and grinning from ear to ear, exclaimed, Missa Theo,
dis beats a rooster layin and a goose agobblin. What you think dey hauls in dem
wagons? Well, Coot, I answered, I know they ship tobacco downriver in small barrels
like that. They call em hogsheads, but Ive never in my born days seen barrels or horses
and wagons like these.
As we were pondering our surroundings, a well dressed young man of slight build,
wearing wire-rimmed glasses was crossing the street. Noticing our astonished looks, he
approached our wagon with a big smile and said, Im Judge Waddy Thompson, can I
help yall in some way? I introduced myself and said, Yes, what in the devil do they haul
in those big barrels? Laughing, he replied, Those wagons are from Augusta, Georgia.
They come here every fall to pick up the tobacco crops and take them back over to the
docks on the Savannah River.
The judge told us, If youll pull your wagon around to the other side of the
warehouse, you'll get plenty of help unloading it. As he walked away toward the
courthouse, he said, When youve finished selling your tobacco, drop by and let me get
your name on our records.
It took four trips, two hours there and back, to get all of the tobacco to the warehouse,
and we finished in two days. After the tobacco, meal and flour was sold, Becky and I were
going over our books and found that after all the expenses of renting Negroes and paying
for tools and seed, we had made a profit of over fifteen hundred dollars. In all the years
that we gathered crops in North Carolina, we had never done that well. This had been an
exceptional year. We planted in rich new ground, and we got the right amount of rain at
the right time.
On a Saturday afternoon, late in September, we were sitting on the front porch. The
boys were all down by the creek, and Charity and Gillie were playing in the dirt out in the
front yard. Becky, now as ripe and plump as a July watermelon, said, Let's all go to
Edgefield next Saturday. Were runnin low on sugar and coffee, and maybe we could find
some new work boots for you and Coot. Yall are just about walkin around here in your
bare feet. I replied, That suits me fine. I noticed the other day that the livery stable had
two or three nice carriages for sale, and Im thinkin I could cut a pretty good deal with
Mama asked, Whos Clyde? I answered, You know, Mama, Clyde King. He was the
blacksmith in Louisburg for years. Moved down here back in 85. She replied, Oh yeah,
the big fat guy with the red beard down to his belly and big hairy arms. I said, Yeah
that's the one. You know it wouldn't hurt to look for some Sunday shoes and dresses for
y'all womenfolks.right down to Gillie. Becky said "you're just trying to butter us up, so
you can buy those two horses youve a us up, so you can buy those two horses you've
been looking at been lookin at over at Johns place. I said, Maybe so, but if we get that
carriage, we gotta have something to pull it with; you know old Sugarfoot wont stand still
to be hooked to no carriage. Becky retorted, You know that horse is only four years
old, and you love him so much that
youve never tried to hitch him to a plow or wagon or get him to do any work other
than prancin his fancy self round with you perched in the saddle.
My boy, William, was the only one who knew Id already made a deal with John for the
two horses. It was actually a done deal back in August, when all of us spent a Sunday
over at his and Sarahs place. William happened to be out in the barn when John and I
agreed on the deal. I told John that I would pick them up after the crops were in. I made
Bright and early the next Saturday morning, we pulled into the livery stable and tied the
oxen to a sweetgum tree. Becky, Mama, Pansy and the girls headed up the street to the
general merchandise store. As soon as they were out of sight, I sent William, who had
ridden Sugarfoot into town, out to Johns place to pick up the two horses. Coot sat under
a big oak tree, pulled out his pocket knife and whittled on a piece of oak. The other boys
trailed along behind me as I walked into the big barn-like structure to talk to Clyde.
After about an hour of haggling with this bull-headed man, we finally agreed that for
fifty dollars, he would have the three seated, triple tongued carriage ready when William
got back with the two horses. He even agreed to throw in all the tack, including brand
new harness, collars, and bits. The three seats were covered with leather and had iron
springs at each end, where they were mounted to the carriage. The carriage body was even
mounted on the axles with four huge iron springs.
Julius, Wiley and Harris thoroughly tested the springs, while Clyde and I bantered back
and forth. I paid him and asked him to help William get the team hitched up when he got
back with the horses. As we walked out front to the main street, I said to Coot, We just
bought a fancy nine passenger carriage. Come on, lets go up to the store.
When we entered the store, I heard Becky from the back, Theo, yall come on back
here and look at these button up shoes me and Lucy got. They showed us their shoes, got
the positive reaction they were expecting, and then continued their shopping. The clerk
helped me pick out some work boots and finally found a pair that would fit Coots extra
While I was helping Becky with the girls, I noticed that Coot was really inspecting
some tools in the back of the store. I went back and said, What you lookin at, Coot?
He replied, Missa Theo, if I had one a dese fine saws, a planer an dese wood carvin
knives, I sho could make yall some fine rockers fa da poach. Betcha I could make Miss
Becky a fine cradle fa dat new baby, too.
After paying for all the purchases, we packed them up and headed back down the street
to the livery stable. When Coot and I started placing the goods in the two horse carriage,
Becky shouted from over by the wagon, What in the world are yall doin? That's not our
wagon! As I walked over and put my arms around her, I whispered, It's ours, Becky; I
just bought it this mornin. She was grinning from ear to ear and said, I knew it, I knew
you had the fever, and that was the only way to cure it! But, where did those fine lookin
horses come from? William answered for me and said, Papa bought em last summer
from Uncle John, and I rode over this mornin to get em. Ain't they tha purtiest things
you ever saw?
All the children were beside themselves with excitement, and Mama said, We can go
to church in style now. Coot drove the oxen back home with Pansy, in a brand new
store-bought dress, sitting on the seat smiling. William drove the carriage, and I rode
Sugarfoot back to the house. I had to shout at William two or three times, Slow down,
youre about to bounce evabody outn tha carriage. We pulled into the yard, Coot and
William unhitched the horses and oxen and ran them through the barn and out into the
pasture behind it. I unsaddled Sugarfoot and let him go. He followed the other animals to
the pasture. We then pushed the wagon and carriage into the barn.
When everyone finally settled down, Pansy had dinner ready. After dinner, the boys
headed for the pasture to look at the new horses, while the grown-ups settled on the front
porch, the most popular meeting place for the family. As Becky slowly rocked in our only
porch rocking chair, she said, I sure do wish tomorrow was preaching Sunday, I just
cant wait to get all gussied up and show off our new carriage. Coot, sitting down on the
bottom step, said, Miss Becky, wid dem fine new tools, I spek Ill have some mo nice
rockin chairs fa you and Missa Theo, fo too long.
On November 20, 1792, Becky gave birth to our fifth son. We named him Henry, after
my father. The next several years were very prosperous for all the Goodwins and Bledsoes
in South Carolina, both in farming and family. We continued to have bountiful crops and
Aquilla Miles, Justice of the Peace, started a Saturday morning school for reading and
writing in Golden Grove in 1793. Rebecca makes sure that all of our children who are old
enough, are there every session. William, now eleven, insists that he already knows how to
read and write and doesnt need to go. We convinced William that it was his responsibility
to hitch up the carriage early every Saturday morning and make sure that Julius and Wiley
got there on time and behaved themselves. With this new found responsibility and control
over his brothers, William didnt miss a day for the next five years.
Julius started at age nine and proved to be our best student. In the winter of 1800,
Aquilla Miles told Rebecca and me that he planned to open his school four days every
week beginning in November and continuing through February. He asked our permission
to offer Julius, then age sixteen, the job of teaching for him. He explained that in those
months, the crops had all been harvested, and he knew that they would have many more
students than were attending the Saturday sessions.
Aquilla asked a fee of two dollars per month per student and paid Julius four dollars
per week for helping him with the teaching. Julius was in hog heaven. He had started by
helping Aquilla with the younger students, but he couldnt imagine getting paid a dollar a
day for doing it.
In May, 1802, Julius sat down by me at the kitchen table and asked, Papa, you were in
the militia back in Noth Calina, werent you? I replied, No, that was your uncles and
your great-grandpa youre thinkin about. I was in the Noth Calina regiment of the
regular army during the war, though. Why are you askin? He said, I signed up with the
Edgefield group of the South Calina Militia last week. I hope its all right with you and
Mama. He continued without waiting for an answer. With Aquillas help, I was able to
get a lieutenants commission. We meet only once a month and have to attend the muster
every summer for training. I replied, Julius, me and your mama are very proud of your
decision; its fine with me.
It is now December, 1802. Becky and I now have two more girls and another boy.
Elizabeth was born in 1797, and Frances in 1800. Young, a son, named after my uncle and
Beckys cousin, was
born on June 4, 1801. Becky is expecting another baby any day now. John and Sarah
have had new babies almost every year since Heathy was born in October, 1792. Julius,
named after our son, was born in December, 1793; Artemesia on April 19, 1796; Martha
on February 27, 1798; Cassandra on September 2, 1799; Emily on February 28, 1801; and
Sarah, like Becky, is expecting another one any day now.
In January, 1803, our daughter, Sarah, was born. She was named after Sarah Beckham
Bledsoe, John's wife. Sarah Bledsoes son was also born in January, 1803. They named
him Bud. The year, 1803, would be a memorable year for all of us.
CHAPTER SEVEN BACK