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Wills, Letters & Legends

Here are some extracts from the Memoirs of Elisabeth Turner (Wood) Eberlein, written for her son Charles Wood Eberlein of Klamath Falls, Oregon, when she was quite elderly.

The Woods were near neighbors and great friends of the Lelands. They left Virginia a few years earlier and spent the last week at the Leland home. They were distant relatives, both families being descended from Colonial Governor Plater of Maryland, and cousins of Francis Scott Key.


"The morning Mrs. Alexander was buried (she was Mr. Grimstead's daughter ), the Leland girls came over and Cousin Judith, Mary and Ann Maria, went with Ma and Father to the funeral: cousin Betsy stayed with us and they were all to take dinner with us. Ann was busy sweeping the dining room, in a hurry to set the table before they returned from the funeral. Sally and Betsy wanted her to go to the orchard to get them some apples. She said she would if they would "be stting on the table while she was gone: which they readily promised, promptly seating themselves on the table, where Ann found them and in dismay reminded them of their promise, which they had fulfilled to the letter. . . . . . . . . . . . .

"The Coan River was three fourth of a mile wide here. Mr. Leland was our nearest neighbor and our families were very intimate, good friends. He had ten children, and he planned his house with a view to giving them all the enjoyment possible in a comfortable, beautiful home. There was a wide hall with a handsome, winding stair up three stories. There were many large rooms, with high ceilings and polished floors; it seemed to me the black women were always polishing them until they shone like mirrors. (The 10 children included the son and daughter of his brother, John Lee leland, who were orphans).

"Cousin Judith, the oldest of the family, though very young when her mother died, was a noble girl and at once tried to take that Mother's place in the care of the family and the ordering of the household. She was faithful and very efficient. She, with her brothers and sisters, attended Ma's school, and "Mrs. Wood" was justly loved and honored by every one of them. There were no schools in that part of the country, but Ma taught her own children, and her neighbors wanted her to teach theirs also. At first it seemed to her impossible, her hands being already full, but realizing the situation, and being unselfish and always glad to help others, all in her power, she consented; a schoolhouse was built and she taught the last three years we were in Virginia.

"We often visited at Mr. Leland's, and they were very frequent and most welcome guests with us. They all came to school to Ma, and the girls would very often stay all night, which we children enjoyed as well as ma and Father did. They were fine playfellows and made the summer comings delightful for us - running about the yard and playing games with us till our bedtime, and seemed to enjoy it as much as we. Their kindness in making their little children happy was highly appreciated by Ma and Father. Father and Ma were sociable, cheerful and lively; interested in all the life and progress of the world. Among my earliest impressions was intense interest in missionaries; especially Mr. and Mrs. Judson. Ministers were always welcome; and sometimes when they were there Ma would have the Leland girls stay with us. Father was a fine singer, with a beautiful voice and Ma loved music. Cousin Ann Maria Leland was a beautiful singer, in every sense of the word: so we always had vocal music, for besides hymns; which were our daily breath, Father had a mine of songs - Scotch, Irish and English, which were a never-failing source of delight to us. One night when these friends were at our house, being awakened by hearing for the first time "From Greenland's icy mountains, " etc. sung by these beautiful voices, with all the fervor that the words inspired, it seemed like the music of heaven to me, and made a life long impression. As there was no church to attend on Sunday, Uncle George sent a box of books that were worth their weight in gold; and after reading the bible, Ma read and told us stories. To have her read and tell stories, was one of the greatest pleasures of our life, which we enjoyed just as well when we were older. The Lelands were as fond of it as Ma's own children. (A few years before we left Woodgrove, Cousin Mary (Leland) Cox, made a visit to Ohio with her children.

On Sunday she would bring all her six children to listen to "Aunt Wood" read; and she enjoyed the reading as she did when she was young. . . . . . .

"We often visited at Mr. Leland's and once a year our whole family were invited to spend some days and nights at their house, and once a year their whole family were invited to spend the day with us. Mr. Leland was an old man, and very feeble: the last time they were at our house, he laid on the sofa in the sitting room most of the time. I see him now, plainly as I did then. . . . . . . .

Note: He was 52 when he died. No doubt seemed very old to a child.

"We spent our last week in Northumberland, at Mr. Leland's. We improved every minute and had the best time. One day Father and mr. Leland went to Heathsville, - the court house, nine miles away; as there were men who owed Father, and he was to meet them there that day, to receive his money. At dusk, Cousin Judith sent Gus (Note: the writer's grandfather, J.A.C. leland, 1824-95) to the kitchen with some order to Aunt letty, the cook, about supper; Georgia and I ran along with him. It was dark in the kitchen but for the firelight. In one end of the long room were several great, stange negro men. Gus told his errand, but Aunt Letty looked at Georgia and me so spitefully and said hatefully to us, - "You bettah go into de house; you don' b'long heah, no how." It was the first unkind word a colored person ever said to us, and was an awful shock. That picture is indelible - the firelit room, the dark, strange faces and Aunt Letty's angry scowl. We had come skipping in, fearless and happy as sparrows, but were so frightened that it was good to "Go in de house." Our report caused great consternation. This was in 1831 and the Nat Turner insurrection was still a horror, whose ghost could not be laid. The negroes knew that Father and Mr. Leland were away and there was a houseful of helpless women and children. I suppose the supper was to wait for Father and Mr. Leland; it was certainly entirely forgotten. We all huddled together in Cousin Judith's room which she shared with Grandma Flannery. There were Grandma, Cousin Judith and her six brothers and sisters, - Ma with her six children and Ann: then poor Mrs. Leland, the second wife, (Note: Evidently Aunt Judith and stepmother were conducting different establishments in the house.) came up asking if she and her children couldn't find room with us. The room was large, but it seemed comforting for us to be crowded together; and erie enough to make it intensely interesting to us little children. Ma was there and nothing ever seemed very dreadful when she was with us.

The hours passed and as one and another would listen, they heard the negroes whispering downstairs. Of course Ma and all were very anxious as it was known that Father was to receive money: as they had certainly expected to be home before dark, it appeared that something must have happened to them. (Ma always kept some kind of weapon for defense when Father was away from home, as occasionally he had to go to Washington. She used to keep the axe at the head of her bed.) The gun rack was in the great hall at Mr. Leland's, and Ma said if someone would go with her, she would bring them up: as no one offered Ann sid, "I'll go with you Mis' Liza." Ann would have gone anywhere with "Mis' Liza" and would have done anything she could for her. They brought up the guns, then waited, listening at the windows for Father and Mr. Leland, and at the head of the stair, for they knew not what. At 11 o'clock they heard the tread of horses and voices, and at once Ma recognized Father's. The men Father was to meet did not come until so late, it was after dark before they left Heathsville. So our night of terror ended in peace and happiness."

Note on Nat Turner's Insurrection:

Nat Turner, a slave, from his childhood thought he was set apart for some great purpose. He claimed tp see visions and hear voices. He received a command to kill his enemies. On August 28th, 1831, he and a few companions killed five of his master's family. The conspirators soon numbered over 50. Fifty-five whites were killed. Seventeen negroes were executed. At this time there was a strong movement in Virginia toward freeing the slaves. This was checked by the insurrection. More stringent slave laws were passed and free negroes were repressed.

I have thought of three possible reasons why Aunt Letty spoke so crossly to the little girls -

1. She may have been disgruntled on account of the extra cooking for the company.

2. She may have feared for the children's lives and took that way of getting them out quickly.

3. This may have been a play to make the stange negroes think she was in sympathy with them.
    Many negroes were compelled by threats to join the rebels.

For more information on the Nat Turner rebellion and its aftermath check out the following

The Richmond Enquirer, 1831, on Nat Turners Rebellion

Confession of Nat Turner

Fear of Insurrection

"John and Priscilla Leland ( John Walter Leland and Priscilla Haynie ) cousins of our friends had just been married, and came to Ohio with us.

"Father had been advised not to bring any of our household goods, not even beds; but Ma would bring her own beds. It was said it would cost less to buy after we reached our destination, than to bring them. There was little that we tried to sell, - we gave everything away: not a piece of china, not a looking glass did we bring. We only brought pewter plates and enough commonest cups and saucers to serve on our journey. Grandma Flannery brought her bureau and her looking-glass. In Washington we bought a large covered wagon, and Old Tom, a strong dray horse. Into this wagon we put our bedding, Grandma's bureau, Grandma, Mrs. and Mr. leland. Mr. Leland had a young horse, Waller; he drove him and Old Tom in the wagon. Down this mountain Waller ran off, and the wagon, striking a stump, was broken. If sensible Old Tom had not so resolutely and so sturdily held back, they might have all been killed. There we had to stop till the next morning at the Clear Spring Tavern. It was a lovely place, just at the foot of the mountain; we were delighted to stand on the porch at the back of the house, and watch the clear water rushing down. . . .

"To our first Thanksgiving dinner at Woodgrove, Ma invited old Mr. Harding's family; he was the father of Lewis Harding one of our nearest neighbors, and father of Elijah Stevens' first wife. . . . . . . .

"Cousin Mary and Cousin Ann Maria Leland, were both married before Father died, and their Father died the same year Father did. The next year, the Leland family separated; Baldwin and Sallie went to Illinois with Cousin Mary and her husband, Edward Cox; Judith, Betsy and Gus, came to Ohio with Cousin Ann, Mrs. Peter Cox. They stayed at our house at Woodgrove, three months, till Mr. Cox bought a farm near Cumberland. So we renewed old Virginia times, - but only after a fashion: - "There is no Father," - as Fred grieved when Father died, - "I shall get well, but there'll be no Father."

Note: Ann, the slave woman brought to Ohio by the Woods, lived to be over 100 years old. She was born in 1808. Her married name was Kellis. From 1840 to her death, she lived in Zanesville, Ohio.

From the manuscript of J.A.C. Leland, The Leland Family of Virginia, 1740-1940; pgs.26-28

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