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Martin & Winnie Lewis's Trip From Cocke County Tennessee To Collin  County Texas

A few days before Christmas 1867, Martin and Winnie Lewis with their boys, Frelinghyson (about 18 yrs. old), Allan Crockett (about 14 yrs. old) Craig Tipton (C.T. Lewis) (about 9 yrs. old); married daughter, Louisa and her husband, M.M. ("Ben") Montgomery Tucker along with James P. Duncan and wife and two small children left their homes near Newport, Cocke County, Tennessee, on a trip to Texas.

Martin, J.P., Duncan, "Ben" Tucker and others made 2 gunnels [*] out of poplar logs measuring about 60 ft. long, and about 2 ft. 8 inches thick -hewn out with a broad axe. They hauled these with ox teams to the Little Pigeon River. The boys floated these down Little Pigeon River into French Broad River and on to Hayes Ferry on the French Broad River. There they bought sawed lumber and nailed it on the two gunnels on both sides, top and bottom, and on this they erected the flat boat and weather boarded it making two windows and one door in it. It was covered in lumber arched across like a box car. This made the boat 20 feet wide and 60 feet long. The cracks between the lumber were stuffed with tar and tarred over.

On this boat the families put their household goods and provisions such as bacon and flour. Then the families got aboard. The front of the boat was the [**] prow (but was not weather boarded). It had an oar on each side to be used when rowing the boat when the stream current was not strong enough to float it. A third oar was at the rear and on top and was called the rudder. This was used at all times to guide the boat (like a fish guides it's movements).

The families proceeded down the French Broad to the Tennessee River and on to Decatur, Alabama, where Martin left the boat and went up into middle Tennessee to get his oldest son, Felix Grundy, and his family. The rest of the family continued on to Muscle Shoals where the river was about 1 mile wide and the shoals about 15 miles long. Martin was to meet the boat at Florence just below Muscle Shoals. Martin expected to find the boat and his family already there when he arrived.

Martin had employed a pilot for the boat. The pilot found so much ice on the river that he would not undertake going over the shoals for about 10 days. He said that if he was carrying lumber or corn or something of that kind, he'd undertake it, but not with Winnie and the children. Martin was distressed when he got to Florence and found that the boat wasn't there. The report got out that the boat had sunk and all were drowned. In the meantime, when the pilot started the boat across the shoals, they were so rapid that the 15 mile stretch was covered in 15 minutes. When the boat came into sight, the people cried and yelled.

The reunited family waited another week or two for Grundy and his family who came in a wagon drawn by mules. They put the mules on the prow of the boat, tore the wagon down and stored it on the boat. Then, they went on down the Tennessee River until it emptied into the Ohio. There were steam boats on the Ohio and sometimes the pilot was troubled with dense fogs, but they had a large bugle on the boat, and they would blow the bugle and the steam boats would answer with a whistle and thus avoid a collision. Another danger they encountered was from large rafts of lumber floating down the river to saw mills. Everything on the river gave the rafts the right-of-way.

From the Ohio they went into the Mississippi River. Shortly after entering the Ohio, they encountered a severe storm, but they were able to anchor the boat on the East bank before the storm struck from the West. They took the children off the boat and put them on sheets on the ground and covered them with feather beds. They kept fairly warm that night. The next day they managed to get the boat down the river about 1/2 mile and steered it up into a stream of water that ran into the river. They stayed there 3-4 days until the river was calm. In walking around where they stayed that night, they found their first pecans and learned they were good to eat.

The Boat floated down to Memphis where Martin traded the boat for winter clothes for the family. The buyer of the boat wanted it to transport dry goods up and down the river. The family loaded their belongings onto a steam boat and went on down to New Orleans. It cost no more to travel on to New Orleans than to the mouth of the Red River two miles above. There were five boats leaving New Orleans for Jefferson, Texas. Four of them were stern-wheel boats, but the one the Lewis family was on had a side-wheel. The four stern-wheel boats out ran the others for awhile. On the way to Shreveport they passed 3 that were sunk. Their tickets were for Jefferson, but Martin was afraid to continue on the boat, so they got off at Shreveport. They put part of their goods on the wagon and the women rode while the men walked nearly all the way to Jefferson. The rest of the goods were put on a train for Marshall, Texas. They stayed in Marshall a few days. Martin hired a man with two yoke of oxen and a wagon to haul the goods that had arriving on the train and they started for Sherman, Texas. All the streams had to be crossed by ferry. There were no bridges.

Instead of going on to Sherman the family stopped in McKinney. The long trip took about 3 months.

Martin and family found a house and 20 acres of land about 3 miles west of McKinney near the home of Alf Chandler where Tog Chandler later lived. Martin planted this in corn which was destroyed by grasshoppers.

Some of their neighbors were Dave O'Brien (father of D.W. O'Brien), Doc Feland (father of Miss Rosa Feland and Mrs. Nayhew of McKinney) and Colonel Chambers who later went to the Texas Legislature.

Martin lived 2 years on the Roseman place near the present site of Anna, Texas. He moved from there to Dr. Leslie's land near Old Mantua (about 2 miles south of Van Alstyne). About 1870 Martin bought 100 acres in cultivation near Rhea Mills from Searce and John Taylor, bachelor brothers of James Taylor. He farmed here successfully for many years. He bought the families first cookstove, a Charter Oak, in 1871 in Jefferson where he had to haul his cotton. He was a Notary Public and his name appears on many old records at the Court House in McKinney. He believed in Education and sent his children to school. He taught his children to be upright and stressed frugality.

His wife, Winnie, was a good mother and quite talented. A quilt she made for her youngest son, Tipton, is still in existance. She died July 20, 1881 and was the first person to be buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery northwest of McKinney.

Their son, Allan Crockett , and his family moved into the family home with Martin after Winnie's death and lived there until Martin died Oct. 19, 1897. He was also buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery.

Allan Crockett Lewis and wife, Mae Irene (Searcy) later moved to Haskell, Texas, and are both buried there.

Felix Grundy and wife, Lavinia (Bryant), lived and died in Collin County and are buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery.

Frelingheyson ("Hyson") died young of Typhoid. He was not married. Buried in the Van Alstyne, Texas, Cemetery.

Craig Tipton Lewis and wife, Mary Ellen Cornealia (Franklin), lived in the Franklin Community (north of the Bloomdale community) in Collin County and later in McKinney, Texas where they died and are buried in the Franklin Cemetery on the Chambersville Road north of McKinney.

Ben and Louisa Tucker and family were later killed and their house burned after they moved to Oklahoma. Read the Story!

[*] gunnel: Variant of gunwale; The upper edge of a ship's side. [**] prow: The forward part of a ship's hull.

Photo's taken in May of 2016 of Muscle Shoals Alabama mentioned above.  Taken by Jim Lewis on his trip to Alabama with his wife Linda to visit her family at Halleyville, Alabama.  On the way to Halleyville Jim noticed the sign to Muscle Shoals and remembered this story so he took a day and went there to take pictures and see for himself what his ancestors has seen and experienced some 149 years before.  See Pictures here.


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