Contributed by Gordon Merritt
I was born in Bedford County, Virginia, on the 8th day of
August, A.D. 1796. I spent my juvenile days there, which were the happiest of my existence. By
then I was eight years old. I was put to work on the farm and kept in constant employment
except the winter months. I then went to school. It was the early training to habits of industry
and labor that gave me a vigorous constitution which has served me in the most trying hardships
which I have been forced to encounter through life. It may not be improper to say that I was
taught by my parents never to do anything that I was ashamed of, to hold my honor above price
or temptation. Their early instruction has been of great advantage to me. It grew with my
growth and strength, it became so interwoven with my nature that to do a thing I was taught not
to do; or, in other words, that was wrong, left a deep impression on me, and often a source of
many unhappy hours to show the great necessity of proper training of youth that when he gets old
he will not depart from it. It will become part and parcel of his nature and stand as a beacon light
to steer to, will guide him from the shoals, breakers and quicksands which lay in the way through
the journey of life.
I will here recite a circumstance that happened when I was quite a small boy. I had been fishing in a little creek. On my return home I passed through a tobacco field of one of our neighbors where there was a large quantity of watermelons. As I passed along I kept thumping the melons to see if they were ripe. The temptation was too great and I came to the conclusion that I would take one and go into the woods and eat it; accordingly I plucked one off and started for the thicket to ear it. Now comes in the force of proper training. I felt I was doing wrong, in fact that I was stealing; the remorse of conscience that I felt from the departure of principles which I had been taught overpowered me. I could not, I would not steal the melon; it would do no good to throw it away. So I concluded I would bust it open on a stump and eat it in the open field. This being done, I determined to go to the neighbor's house and tell him what I had done. On my arrival at the neighbor's house, I approached him with a heavy heart and addressed him in these words: "Mr. Terry, I was passing through your tobacco grounds, pulled one of your watermelons and ate it." His reply was: "My little man, you are welcome to it; you can go there whenever you want them, so that you don't waste them." It can be better imagined than I can describe my feelings of gratitude for those kind and benevolent words. It dispersed the doubt and gloom that overshadowed me. I tripped off home with a light and cheerful heart, determined never to place myself in such a position again.
I give this little narrative to show how important it is to train up children in the way they should go. I am well aware that parents have a sympathy for their children and in some cases indulge them too much, to their detriment and injury. If you would have them respected, teach them to be respectful to others. It will always be reciprocal.
In the fall of 1810 my father moved to Middle Tennessee. I was then entering my fifteenth year. He settled in Wilson County and commenced opening a farm in a heavy timbered country. There was little transpiring, worth noting, for the first two or three years, as it was quite a new settled place. All our energies were turned to improving the farm, building a residence and out-buildings. In the year 1812 or 1813 I took it into my head that if I were from under the control of my parents I could do much better for myself. My intentions were known to them, which were positively objected to. It did not discourage me in the least. I told my mother that I was unalterably determined to go. It gave her much trouble but finding that all her entreaties were unavailing, she set about preparing suitable clothes, and necessaries that I was to take. My father still opposed my leaving home and said that if I went I would go without money. All this did not discourage me. Thinking it would be to my advantage to have an introductory letter to whomsoever it might concern, stating that I was of a respectable family and of good habits, and deserving the confidence of whomever might give me employment, the document was signed by many citizens.
Thus armed with a recommendation and a few dollars handed to me by my mother, I set out on a delusive journey, on foot, with my knapsack on my back; bound for the Saline Salt Works, in the Territory of Illinois.
I had before me a distance of two hundred miles through mud and mire, in the winter. I did not mind the fatigue and hardship so much as the idea of carrying a knapsack on my back. I had always looked upon one traveling in that condition as a low, degraded fellow. I, therefore, endeavored to shun every house on the road, that I possibly could.
I arrived at the Ohio River on Saturday night, crossed next morning and proceeded on my way, arriving at the Saline Lick in the evening, a distance of twenty-five miles, tired and hungry. My first object was to find a tavern to stay at until I could get employment. But this proved fruitless. There was no tavern kept there. I roamed about, hunting a place, in a rather disconsolate mood. I began to realize the forlorn, unpleasant condition that I had placed myself in, against the urgent appeal and advice of my parents and friends.
It was growing late and I had visited most of the road huts, without the least prospect of getting shelter for the night or even a bite to eat. I saw at a distance what seemed to be a comfortable building, and I resolved to go and try my luck there. On arriving at the house the gentleman appeared at the gate and asked me what I wished. I told him I was hunting work and wished to know if he knew where I could get employment. At the same time I took out my letter of recommendation and handed it to him. He read it, then said he thought he could direct me to a place where I could get a situation. He then invited me into his house, saying that supper was about ready. I accepted his kind offer; this was the first I had eaten since morning. After supper I asked him where I could get a place to stay all night. He said I could stay with him. This kind treatment was thankfully received and it had a tendency to cheer up my drooping spirits.
I arose early in the morning and set out for the furnace. I was directed to travel along a line of pipes which conducted the salt water to the furnace, a distance of three miles. On my arrival I soon made an engagement to work at $20.00 per month. I told my employer that I had not any breakfast. He replied that he had eaten breakfast but I should go to the cabin and get mine; that I would find meat, meal and cooking utensils. On entering the cabin, to my great surprise I found nothing but a dirt floor all covered with ashes and straw. The cooking utensils consisted of a frying pan and a broken pot. Hanging on the wall was a side of bacon, and in one corner of the room was a barrel of corn meal. I set to work, cleaned the frying pan and fried some bacon. I made some dough or batter and fried it in the grease that came out of the bacon. I ate breakfast and went to work. The bedding consisted of bunks fixed up against the wall. Their beds were straw; the covering a few old dirty blankets.
I began to repent of my foolish and unfortunate enterprise. I remained in this most uncomfortable situation for about one month, often reflecting on the pleasures of home and undergoing the greatest privations and hardships that I ever experienced. The hands were all the roughest and the very dregs of creation.
About this time I had a difficulty with one of the hands, one of my employers taking sides with him, the other with myself. I then determined to leave them and return home. I called on them for my wages, but they had no money and they could not nor would not pay me. I think they gave me a dollar or so. I had spent all the money my mother gave me, but the want of means did not stop me. So I set out on my journey, depending on the hospitality of those I had stopped with on my outward trip. In this I succeeded, as I was treated well on the road and reached home in ten or twelve days. I was kindly received, with a firm conviction that home was the best place for foolish, inexperienced boys.
This was the first experience of my life and it proved to be a complete failure. It taught me a lesson never to be forgotten. It was one of the errors of my life and I often looked upon it with profound regret, having caused a kind mother so many sorrowful tears and sleepless nights. Thus ended my experience of 1812.
The next year I remained at home and worked on the farm. War had been declared against Great Britain; also, troops were called for against the Creek Indians. This created in me a great desire to go into the Army. Under the excitement, I again became restless and could think of nothing else but the glory and fame I would acquire in the service of my country; but the opposition I met with from my father and mother prevented me from carrying our my most ardent wishes. They insisted that I was too young, that it might be a protracted war and that I would have sufficient time to display my gallantry when I had arrived at the proper age. I had now entered into my seventeenth year. Under this suspension of my wishes, weeks seemed months and months seemed years. The wheels of time were not fast enough. I longed to be a man.
The eighth day of the ensuing August, I became eighteen years of age. I looked upon it as the brightest epoch of my existence. I was then untrammeled and could act at my pleasure with regard to serving my country. In September there was a call for volunteers to go to Florida.
I immediately went to town and enrolled myself as a volunteer. My oldest brother was going to school about thirty miles from home. I wrote to him what I had done and invited him to come and go into service with me. He came and entered with me. A few days were spent in preparation.
All things being in readiness, we set out on the line of march. During our preparation at home my father insisted that one of us should stay at home and take care of the farm and let him fill the place. We both refused. When the day arrived, on which we were to start, he went with us on one day's march. Before leaving us, he still insisted that one of us should return home and fill his place. We again refused and wished to know why he was so anxious to go in the army. His reply was that he knew we were both young and inexperienced, that our courage might fail in the hour of need or danger, that if either of us was by his side he knew we would fight, but without his example he did not know the result. I told him I was sorry that he thought he had raised a son that was less brave than himself, and that we were determined to fill our places. He then said: "well boys, I must bid you farewell, and I trust you both will behave like brave men; if so, I shall be proud to see you return, but if either of you are shot in the back never show your face to me again." Those words left a deep impression on me and will ever be remembered.
We soon set out on our march again and arrived at Fayetteville in five or six days. There we encamped for two or three weeks, waiting for troops from other counties and making other preparations. This being accomplished, we received marching orders with the intention of crossing the Tennessee River at Mussel Shoals. The day before we reached the point, encamped about dark. I went out to cut some wood with my hatchet and, unfortunately, made a mis-lick and struck it into my knee. On examination, it was found that it would be impossible to do service for some time to come, if ever. I, therefore, was sent home. This was a source of deep mortification to me. All my lively anticipations were again blasted. I was doomed to dull monotony on the farm. On my arrival at home I was unable to walk; my knee was badly swollen and gave me much pain, but, with good care, it began to mend in a couple of weeks. I then began to have some hopes of reaching the army again. These reflections gave me much pleasure, and cheered me up. In about one week more I was able to mount my horse without help. Hearing that one of our company had returned in consequence of sickness and had regained his health, I went to see him and made arrangements to return to the army. This being done, we prepared for the long and perilous journey before us, most of which was through the Indian country -- a distance of from four to five hundred miles.
We set out again on this almost forlorn-hope expedition. After three days travel we were in Indian Territory -- both unacquainted with Indians. They looked like demons to us. My traveling friend said he wished he had never started. We crossed the Tennessee River in six or seven days after leaving home. Near by the road forks and we took the left hand trail, which led to Mobile and Pensacola. The weather was rainy -- waters high -- which impeded our progress very much. There was no alternative but to swim the creek -- no bridges on the road. This, together with the fear of Indians, gave my companion much trouble and he insisted that we should return home. I told him that I would not; I would reach the army or die on the way. He had gone too far in the Indian country to think of returning alone; so he was forced, through necessity, to keep along with me. Many difficulties lay in our way; rain continued. Our progress was slow.
On arriving at a creek that was very much swollen, we held council -- should we wait or swim it? I concluded to swim, sitting on my horse. I had a wallet of biscuit tied to my saddle which I took off, put it across my shoulder and rode in, and was soon safely landed on the other side. I urged him to follow. He refused, saying he would go up the creek to see if he could find a log on which to cross, where he could drive his horse over. I started on but had not gone far before I met four or five soldiers who said they had served out their time and were on their way home. I traveled slowly but my companion did not overtake me. I stopped and waited for him. Still he did not come. I at length concluded he had returned with the soldiers. My opinions proved to be too true. It was the last I ever saw of him. But this was not the worst. His leaving was no small matter, as he carried all the meat with him, leaving me nothing but bread to subsist upon.
In this forlorn condition I continued to press on, as fast as circumstances would permit, suffering from hunger, wet, and cold, and laying every night on the cold, wet ground or in some cane-brake, or reedy swamp, where I could gather feed for my horse. Sometimes I had the good luck to kill a wild turkey. Then I would dress and roast it, and have fine living for a few days.
I still proceeded onward, suffering much. I arrived at a large stream one evening; it had been raining all day; and was wet and cold. I saw an Indian hut on the opposite bank, which was unoccupied. The River was very high, out of its banks, and from thirty to forty yards wide. There was no mode to cross but by swimming it on horse. He had taken me across so many streams that I felt little doubt. I took off my overcoat and laid it on the saddle, and again mounted. I had some distance to swim in back water, through which the horse carried me with great ease; but as soon as he reached the current he began to fail and soon sank. I was washed off, one foot hanging in the stirrup. I finally got loose from the horse. I was encumbered with a heavy rifle in one hand, and had to swim with the other. I exerted myself until I became exhausted and sank, as I thought to rise no more. I shall never forget my thoughts while under water; that this was the last of me and that my friends would never know what had become of me.
During this time I rested and made a desperate attempt to rise, and succeeded. I came up just above a long birch limb which the high water had reached. The current would bear the limb down stream a certain distance, then bread loose and fly back. I caught it on its return and hung to it until rested sufficiently to make the shore on the same side that I went in. My horse swam across with my saddle bags hanging by the strap to one of the stirrups, and as he raised to the bank the strap broke and the saddle bags seemed to lay on the edge of the water. In the meantime, my overcoat had floated off. I could see it down the stream, and was anxious to secure it, so I ran down to see if I could recover it. Before I could reach the place it disappeared, and I never got it. I came back and sat down on the bank of the river with feelings of mingled pleasure and pain. I felt happy and thankful that I had escaped such a premature and untimely death. I felt that my sufferings were almost insupportable.
During these reflections, I heard a bustle and noise behind me. I looked around and saw a dozen or more Indians squaws coming toward me. They came nearer, and seemed to pity my condition. I was trembling with cold and shaking as if I had the ague. One of them said something to a little Negro boy that was with them. He ran off and soon returned with a wooden dish filled with boiled potatoes. I was hungry and cold, and did ample justice to their hospitality.
Whilst we were on that bank there came up another squad of discharged soldiers. I called across and asked them if they would do me a favor -- and take my saddle bags, which seemed almost in the water, and save them for me until I could cross in the morning, also tie up my horse and give him some cane to eat. They said it should be done. I then went with the squaws and stayed all night in their wigwam. In the morning the Indians procured a canoe and sent me across, but before I reached the place the soldiers were gone. All the money I had in the saddle-bags in a pocket of my pantaloons, with a string tied around it. On my arrival at the cabin, I found my horse well cared for, all my wet clothing taken out and dried and, to my great satisfaction, found all my money.
I was soon on my way again. In three or four days I came to a very comfortable Indian house. It being nearly dark, I concluded I would try to get lodgings for the night. There was a young Indian man standing in the yard. I spoke to him. He replied in English: "How do you do". I asked him if I could stay all night with him. He answered: "yes, sir, alight". My horse was taken and put in a stable and fed, and supper prepared for me. After supper we sat around a good comfortable fire. In our conversation I found him to be a well educated man and conversant on all subjects, and, to gather information of the roads I had to travel, he inquired where I was going. I told him I belonged to Gen. Jackson's Army; had been crippled and left behind, and was then trying to join them at Pensacola. He said the army had left Pensacola and moved on to the Mississippi that he had then in the house a newspaper which reported their departure from Pensacola, which he showed me. I inquired of him my best route to reach them. He said travel west until I struck the Natchez trail and that would lead nearer to where the army was. I asked if there were any roads that would intersect that road. He said, No, that I would have to steer my course due west and that I would strike it in about one hundred miles; that there would be no obstacles in my way, no streams to cross, of any note. I told him that if the day was cloudy I could not tell whether I was going north, south, east or west. He said I could know the course by observing the timber; to bear in mind that the moss grew up higher and thicker on the north side of the trees, and to keep across that and it would lead me west.
Being fully satisfied with his theory, I again set out and reached the Natchez trail in three days, without much difficulty -- with the exception of hunger, as I had had scarcely anything to eat on the trip.
The Indian above alluded to was John Peachlyner, one of the chiefs of the Choctaw Nation. He was educated in Nashville and knew many persons with whose names I was familiar.
Having reached the old beaten track, my journey was more comfortable. I had been reduced to one biscuit a day for several days; had traveled in the wilderness for about thirty days. But all these troubles were at an end and it was the happiest hour of my existence.
I had safely waded through all the difficulties, and met my friends and companions-in-arms. My greatest desire was accomplished and I hoped to have a few days rest. But this was not to be. I had scarcely been in camp two hours before marching orders came to make a force march to New Orleans, that the enemy was hovering along the coast. Everything was put in order and we were on our march before day.
We arrived in New Orleans in three days and nights -- a distance of one hundred and seventy-five miles. We encamped there three days, making preparations to meet events as they might turn up. On the evening of the 23rd of December an express came that the English had landed and were coming up the levee to take the city. Our order was to be in our saddles in five minutes. It was all bustle and confusion; most of the horses were loose on the plains and could not be had on such short notice but enough were gotten up to form a regiment of eight hundred.
We were soon in line, with order to march. We went at about half speed, and called a halt in the city to supply ourselves with ammunition. During the halt, there was a great bustle in the city. Bells were ringing, colors of flags flying and martial music in every direction, all of which was well calculated to inspire the soldiers with courage. The citizens were busily engaged in treating the soldiers along the lines. Our halt was but short; we were soon under way to meet the enemy. After a march of seven or eight miles, we saw their encampment. This was about dark. The order for battle was given; preparations for an attack were made.
The mounted rifle-men soon forced the enemy's back line into the river, where they again formed on the levee. After several charges and retreats, their column gave way and we occupied the battle ground during the night. But I must be brief and leave history to explain. It will answer my purpose to say that I was in every battle during the siege. On the 23rd of December I was slightly wounded on the wrist. Did not feel the wound when made but discovered it by the blood filling the gun-lock, when in the act of priming in the dark. About the same time, my Captain, Beverly Williams, was struck, causing the loss of his eyesight.
During the battles of the 23rd and 28th, New Year's day, and the 8th of January, I was actively engaged...
About the 12th of January, the British evacuated their posts. So ended the war. We were all soon encamped above New Orleans and remained there until the 12th of March.
Peace being established, preparations were made for returning home and disbanding the army. Dreading the long march, I applied to our Colonel for a furlough for myself and two others. He said that he had refused furloughs on the ground that there would be so many that would want to go. It would be impossible to get sustenance through the Indian Territory, so it became necessary, for the welfare of the soldiers, that there should be some system to provide for their return. I told him that we had means to provide for ourselves, and that it would be a very great accommodation to us. He being a kindhearted man and a friend of mine, gave me the furloughs required but said he would not give another. He made them out and handed them to me, and we were soon on the road.
We arrived at home on April 8th, 1815. I was taken sick on my route, a couple of days before I reached home, and was confined to my bed on the 10th, and was not able to be out of the house until the latter part of August. I spent the balance of the year visiting and feasting with my friends.
I was married March 14, 1816, to Sarah Rogan Carlin. I lived on my father's farm that year and raised a crop. In 1817 I bought a farm of my own and farmed it one year. Finding it rather slow process in money-making, I determined to build a keel-boat and go into trade in the rivers. I rented my farm and in the winter of 1817 I went to a boat-builder, got patterns and commenced getting out timbers. In the month of February I went to see a friend living on the Cumberland River, to purchase timber enough to build a boat. He told me he would not sell me the timber but would give me enough for that purpose. I thanked him for his generosity.
I returned home, gathered up the necessary tools and patterns, and set out on foot -- a distance fifteen miles -- carrying a broad and narrow axe, square and patterns. On my arrival I selected a white oak, three and a half feet in diameter, chopped it down and hewed it square so that it would be sawed into planks, by means of a whip-saw. I then hired two Negroes who were accustomed to that kind of work.
We soon had a stock pitted. They commenced sawing and I prepared another stock. The work went on rapidly and in a few days we had all the timbers in the boat yard. This being done, I wrote to the boat-builder or ship carpenter who had agreed, when I had all the timber out, to come and fit the timber and place on stock, and show me how to plank and finish the boat. On his arrival he pronounced the timber first rate. He soon had the keel set on blocks and the model of the boat complete. He then put on two streaks of planks, showed myself and hands how to plank and calk the boat, and left for home. We soon got the proper idea and practice. Our work progressed rapidly, and by the first of June the boat was done.
This consumed all my surplus means. I owned the boat but had nothing to load it with. I knew of several large distilleries in Sumner County, not far from where I built the boat. I concluded to go and see them, and buy a load of whiskey on credit. I found no difficulty in consummating a contract on six months' credit. I then hired my hands and in a few days my boat was loaded.
All things being in readiness, we set out for St. Louis on the 18th of June, 1818. This was my first adventure on a trading expedition. Every one of us were what was then called "green horns" by boat men. None of us had ever been on a trip on a boat, but, as our course was down stream, we found little difficulty in keeping with the current.
In about ten days we arrived at Smithland, at the mouth of the Cumberland. There we stopped to buy setting poles and rope for cordelle to ascend the Mississippi. We again set out on the broad waters of the Ohio. We glided down that stream to its junction with the Mississippi. We landed and made preparations for ascending that rapid and turbid stream. We started around the point and met the current.None of us had ever pushed a boat with a pole, and there was no system. We made desperate attempts but to no affect, for we could not move her against the current. We all became exhausted and the boat began to fall back; the water was not more than three feet on the bar. I ordered all hands to jump out and hold the boat, and keep her from floating below the point. I then put some hands to the bow line. They pulled and the others shoved, and by that means we passed over the bar.
We were five days getting to Tywapity Bottoms, a distance of twenty-five miles. I there hired two old boat hands, who said it would be impossible to take the boat to St. Louis without rigging a mast to cordelle by, so all hands went to work to put it up. As soon as the work was done, we started out with much better success. We made an average of fifteen miles a day. When we arrived at St. Perivare we stopped a few days, tried to sell and went out to the Potosi lead mines. We did not meet with any success.
On my return I again started for St. Louis and arrived there in four or five days, but found whiskey a dull sale. There I met a gentleman from Kentucky, with a boat-load of whiskey. He told me he had not found a market for much of his, but said he had understood that at the Fort at Prairie Du Chien we could find sale for all we had, at very high prices; that it was bought by the Indian traders at that place. Upon consultation, we agreed to put both our loads in one boat, join our forces and go to the Fort. But we were told that the trip would be impracticable, owing to the fact that there were two rapids on the Mississippi which would be impossible to cross. This information stopped the expedition. I rented the ferry at St. Louis and moved my boat on the Illinois side. I found better sale for my whiskey, as much of it was bought for the interior of the state. I gave $180.00 per month rent for the ferry, and found it very profitable. My prospects began to brighten. There was great emigration to Missouri from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. I employed three hands at all they could do at high rates. I, also, bought all beef hides from the butchers and two thousand deer skins from a Rocky Mountain trader, partly loaded my boat and sent her back to Tennessee. I stayed and attended to the ferry and the sale of liquor.
In the fall I gave up the ferry and returned home, after having made a prosperous trip, clearing about $1500.00 in six months. Thus ended my first enterprise in 1818.
I bought three Negroes and went on my farm in 1819. I raised a large crop of tobacco that year. After it was all secure in the barn, I again set out on horseback to visit the Missouri lead mines, to see if I could make a purchase of lead to my advantage or find anything else to invest in. I was pretty well equipped, being dressed much after the fashion of a brainless fop, with my ruffles protruding out of my bosom from four to six inches, well starched and crimped in the fantastic style.
I stopped at a tavern at night, and ordered my horse put up and well fed. I wanted a room by myself, with a fireplace in the same, and wished a fire made in the morning to get up by. The old gray-headed landlord said I should be accommodated according to my wishes. I was ushered into my room, which had a warm fire. Supper was soon ready and all things bid fair for a good night's rest. Travelers began to come in but there seemed to be ample provision for all. They all mingled together in a large sitting room. They all mingled together in a large sitting room. They all got up early in the morning. I heard them settling their bills --$.75 for man and horse, $1.00 for man and span of horses. These charges seemed to me to be reasonable. The old landlord had a fire made in my room. I got up, told him I wished breakfast before I started and that I should like to have fried chicken, if convenient. He said, "all right, sir, you shall have it according to order". After I had eaten I called for my horse, which was brought out and saddled. I called for my bill. The old gentleman made some preliminary remarks by saying that when gentlemen put up with him -- that cared more for comfort than money -- he endeavored to make it as comfortable as possible, and charged them accordingly. "Your bill, sir, is two dollars and a half." The money was handed him, as the Frenchman would say, with much "sang froid". Though it lightened my purse, it reached my vanity and before I was fairly out of sight I might have been seen shoving my ruffles to one side in to my bosom. I performed my journey without ever having another terrible bill to pay, and the old man taught me a lesson -- that vanity was an unprofitable stock to deal in.
I returned home late in the fall, without accomplishing anything. During the winter the farmers held a meeting to appoint a suitable man to freight their tobacco to New Orleans and sell it for them. The situation was given to me. I willingly accepted their offer, which was to give me $1.00 per one hundred pounds for freighting and selling -- they paying all other charges. I bought two boats of sufficient capacity to carry sixty hogsheads, each. I set out for New Orleans some time in March, and was about thirty-five days in reaching there. I soon sold out and got 25% per hundred more than any person from our section of the country. This advantage was gained by there being a ship almost loaded and my two loads would complete the cargo. I held it 25 cents higher than the market proved to be, and in order to get ready to put to sea they paid me my price.
I returned home, I believe, in the monthly of July, 1820. On my return I bought a stock of goods, made preparations to move to Arkansas in the fall and bought a boat and set out with my family and goods about the first of December.
I arrived at Cape Girardeau on the 26th of December and hired teams to haul my goods to a little village called Currenton, on the Current River. On my arrival I soon had my goods open but found business dull. I was disappointed in my expectations, for the country was sparsely settled and no enterprise among the people whatever. There were no markets; if there had been, there was but little to sell. I sold my goods on a credit, which I ought not to have done.
In the months of July and August my family all took sick and my father, hearing of our unpleasant situation, came and moved my family back to Tennessee. I remained there to settle up my business, and dispose of the balance of my goods. To expedite or increase my sales, I advertised that I would sell goods and take beef, cattle, horses and hogs in payment. This notice increased my business. I commenced building boats to take my stock to New Orleans. I had three completed in December and soon had them loaded, and on the way to the lower country. I placed them in charge of my clerk, with instructions to lay out all the proceeds in dry goods and groceries. I also boxed up the remnants of my unsold goods and put them on the boat to be taken back to Tennessee. Thus ended my Arkansas expedition, with a loss of several thousand dollars.
This was in the years 1820 and 1821. All things being closed, I bought a horse and left for Tennessee. On my arrival I expected to hear from my clerk who had the boats in charge. Three or four months passed and no tidings from him. I began to think that all was lost, but I was not kept in this unpleasant suspense much longer, for, in a few days, he arrived with the gratifying news that the had sold out the stock at good and remunerative prices, that he had laid our the proceeds as directed, and the goods were landed safely in a warehouse in Cairo, on the Cumberland River.
The next object was to look up a place to commence business. I went to Hartsville, Sumner County, Tennessee, rented a room or a store and soon had the goods open. Business was good and my prospects brightened. I sold a large amount of goods at a fine profit. I continued the business, with the same results.
In the spring of 1823 I formed a co-partnership with my clerk, Francis Duffy. Our businesss still increased. We bought tobacco and shipped to New Orleans, and did well. In the winter of 1824 we bought tobacco again and cleared about $2,000.00 on the purchase. This, with the profit on our goods, gave us means to extend our business largely.
In the fall of 1825 we received a letter from our commission merchant in New Orleans, stating to us that they wished us to purchase $40,000.00 worth of tobacco on joint account and draw on them at ninety days for $20,000, at the same time limiting us not to exceed $4.00 per hundred. We immediately wrote them that we would accept their proposition. In a short time we received another letter from them, stating that we should hurry and purchase as fast as possible, as they had no doubt tobacco would maintain last year's price, if not exceed it. This seemed somewhat discretionary with us as to what prices to pay for tobacco, as tobacco had ranged from six to ten dollars last year. We being anxious to get all we could, appointed agents to assist us in the purchase in different counties, and authorizing that they might give $5.00 per hundred. In less than ten days we had about seven hundred thousand pounds of tobacco on hand, but no sooner had we closed our purchase than we received another letter from them, stating that if we had not purchased not to do it, for tobacco had declined in price in Europe and that if we purchased we would lose money. This unfavorable news, coupled with having transcended their limits, caused us to see where we stood with the whole amount on hand. We had drawn on them for $5,000.00 at ninety days and discounted the draft in the bank at Nashville. Tobacco began to pour in upon us. Our money began to run short. We began to pay only a part and give our notes for the balance. Pressed upon all sides, it became necessary for me to take a boat at Nashville and go as speedily as possible to New Orleans, and make some arrangements for money to send forward for our pressing necessities and stay there and sell as fast as the tobacco arrived.
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