Louisa, Virginia 21st Sept 1837
Frances' letter dated 30th of May came to Lucy Jane's hands on Sat. last - the 15th inst. This forcibly reminded me of my duty in answering yours of the 28th Jan last. Indeed, it has been out of my power to respond effectually to it until lately, for very soon after it came to hand, my brother Henry's son, John, came here in my absence, though quite agreeable to me, and took it to Caroline for the perusal of our brother and other kindred there. It is now before me, and in reply, it does me good to notice the pleasant picture you draw of your domestic habits, and the enjoyments you all have in foregoing the employments of slaves.
It seems very queer to us all, but I think you are in the right of it. Alas, my brother, this is to be one of the most perplexing and difficult questions of too much delicacy to handle unadvisedly now. All we have to do now, is to look diligently to the present and leave the issues to futurity. What that may have in store, Omnipotence alone can foresee. Will it be the Spartan Policy? Human nature revolts at this. On the other hand, self preservation hath no law, as is the fundamental principle of all animals.
You complain in your letter of the labour and incapacity of writing. This too is my case. I never was expert in expressing my ideas on paper, or even by word of mouth, and as years increase for the 12th of April last, I was 60, I am as sensible of its mental as I am of its physical effects, both of which are too plain for me to doubt. This letter, therefore, is a kind of job which, but for the love and duty I owe to a brother, I would willingly forego; and for the more effectually going through it, I have taken the opportunity of an empty house - my wife and children having started today to visit one of our neighbors.
As regards my family, we are all in pretty good health. My children by my first marriage have left me. I do not know whether I ought to complain or felicitate myself on their account. On the one hand they are popular, and I believe honest. Thus far I joy. On the other hand, they are in a high degree qualified by the handicraft professions I selected for them, to provide for the necessities of age, but they are lacking in economy; and in this I sorrow. One exception I hope I have is my youngest son, Nelson, who is less qualified by expertness in the use of tools in the various professions but, more than supplies this deficiency in prudence and economy. My four youngest are with me. Can say nothing about them except the youngest - Sir Roger de Coverly, now in his eleventh year, and about him, only this; that all his neighbors like to have something to say to him, and he is never at a loss for a reply.
The intercourse between us and our Caroline relations has been frequent in the course of this year. Our brother Henry's oldest son, John, is a contractor on the railroad which is constructing through this county to Taylorville in Hanover County, - intersecting at the place with the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad which is now in full operation. He is a fine boy, we all love him, and is very popular even in this county, though but lately an inhabitant. He frequently goes to Caroline and comes to see us. My son, Nelson is engaged with him as overlooker at $20 the month. My son James is also engaged with one of our neighbors who is a large contractor at $30 the running month, besides throwing every advantage in his way; so ready is he in comprehending, and so potent in execution, it is no cause to wonder that he is a favorite with his employer - but also lightly come, lightly go, as the man said when he earned his money by mauling and lost it gambling. I hope he will reform and begin to save, for from his cradle and up, he has never given me a disrespectful word, notwithstanding my fatherly rebukes.
My brother Thomas' son, John, is employed at the depot in Caroline at six or seven hundred dollars the year. He finding two hands, it is considered by all his friends as a money making business. Thomas is employed this year on the James River Canal at $30 dollars the month; he is highly approved of by his employer - he is a steady, fine young man. Hope he will do well. As for Samuel Harry, my brother's youngest, it is yet to be ascertained what he will do; from present appearances, not much is to be calculated from him - sloth and idleness are at present his predominate habits - though I must admit he is quite young.
There are now two of our bro Henry's daughters in these parts, namely Elizabeth and Mary Jane. They remained with me about three weeks until last Sat. when I accompanied them to our brother Pleasants'. My daughter, Lucy Jane with them, they will remain there some time to try the Green Springs. Our brother's daughter Mary and my daughter's health is not very good. From thence, they propose going to Albemarle to visit our cousins, James and Joel Terrell. Joel still lives in the house you built for Robert Lewis, Snugly, I think they call it. I made a night with him in the early part of last June. While there, and more especially when in view of Pen Park, it carried me back with a kind of pleasing melancholy to other time forty years ago. You, Richmond, Harris, and myself, with sturdy stroke and jocund glee reared the barn at that place.
All that Gilmer family except George and his sister Lucy are dead. I met George a few years ago in Richmond. He preserves the same plainness and ease of manners he was so remarkable for in his youthful days. Mrs. Elizabeth Lewis and all her children have sold out their possessions in the neighborhood of Charlottesville and removed to the state of Missouri.
We took Frances' letter along with us to brother Pleasant's for his perusal. He was pleased with its contents and desires her to be assured that he shall always feel a lively interest in her welfare. Tell Frances that her sister Agnes, although very fleshy, is not in good health at this time. The physicians think that she has an affliction of the liver. Tell my nephew, John Henry, that we would at all times be gratified in receiving communications from him by letter, and more especially to behold him face to face.
How does my nephew David Nelson come on? Is he as mischievous in projecting gun shooting through the slabs of the loft as he was wont to be twenty years ago in your Kentucky cabin? Tell him to write to us and let us know. Tell my niece, Barbara, that we were all pleased at the little notice she took of us in adding her mite to Frances' letter - that she incites well, and need not be ashamed to have her performance reviewed by any one. Tell her to continue writing to us and I shall see that Lucy shall keep up the correspondence.
You speak highly of the fertility of the soil of your state, and its abundant production. The aspect of old Virginia is greatly improved in many sections from the spirit of improvements manifested by the farmers for the last thirty years, but the change our climate has undergone renders some of our staple crops very precarious and uncertain, particularly that of wheat. This crop has been short for the last four years so as to scarcely requite the farmer for his trouble. The price of this article is worth in Richmond from $1.55 to $1.60 the bushel; corn is worth $4.50 the bbl. We have been dry this summer, and it is thought the new crop will readily command $4 from the stalk. The tobacco crop is also unpromising, and very little taken off the land.
Remember me with affection to my sister. Lavina desires to be mentioned affectionately to you all. The writing of this letter - the work of today - if it will afford my brother gratification and amusement, I shall be well paid, at least, let him be assured of the brotherly love,
P.S. Between 9 and 10 o/clock at night and all in bed and asleep but me. In future, direct your letters to Yaneyville, a village that has a post office close by.
Address: Yanceyville, Sept 23 D. N .B
Mr. John Burruss, Carrollton, Green County, Illinois (25 cents)
Richmond, Dec 11th 1839
Very Dear Uncle,
It is with feelings of the deepest gloom that I seat myself to announce to you the melancholy intelligence of the death of our poor and long afflicted father, and your dear brother Henry. His ill health continued much the same as when you were here until five or six weeks ago, when he was attacked with yellow jaundice. His body became very yellow and himself much reduced and enfeebled, yet without exciting either in himself or the family, much apprehension of immediate danger, until the day previous to his decease - which occurred about 12 o'clock (night) on Friday the 6th inst.
For the last fifteen or sixteen years of his life he has been so much afflicted and preyed upon by disease, his constitution so entirely undermined and exhausted, that his departure was calm and tranquil, and unattended even by a single struggle. His liver was supposed to be very much diseased. Notwithstanding the change in his condition had excited the alarm of the family, he died when not a single member of it was expecting it. They saw that he must die in the course of a week or so, unless relief could be afforded, but even not thinking of his dying the night on which he did. So great and so sudden had been the change for the worse that before I could get information of it and get home, he was dead and buried.
He is gone, and it is vain to speculate upon his destiny, but we cherish the hope that his is the Good Man's lot. Poor Nancy is deeply penetrated with grief at his death, and even in the short intervals of sleep which come to her, seems to be in the greatest agony over her loss, frequently calling his name. He had been so wonderful to her through her illness, her long spells of depression, and since she recovered, she has done every thing for him, and now her grief is pitiful.
Others probably better prepared than myself will write to you, and therefore I will dismiss a duty which has been truly painful to my feelings. Remember me affectionately to all my relations, and believe me with sentiments of the greatest veneration,
Your affectionate nephew
P.S. I should consider it a great favor to receive a letter from you or some member of your family
Address: Mr. John Burruss, Carrollton, Illinois
Cibilo Valley Texas, March 5th, 1853
I found my things in good order at G. W. Adams in Lavacca. We went six or seven miles the evening we left you, and found the mosquitoes quite troublesome. We camped with a Dutchman who had some wood and we boiled our coffee and fried our meat at his fire. We got twelve miles out from Lavacca on Saturday and we picked up enough corn cobs and burr stalks to do our cooking. The next evening we got across the river to our camping place; as we went down John killed a wild goose on Sunday evening and sold it to a boy at the ferry for a bucket of potatoes, which were quite a treat for us. The roads, until we crossed the river, were generally bad. I think that we had five or six miles of good road between Lavacca and Victoria. After we crossed the river, there was but little mud but we had a good deal of heavy sandy road.
We got home on Thursday evening without having any rain on us, and our mules stood the trip pretty well. We found them all well at home. I was very sensible that the baby had grown while I was gone.
Pulliam's Negro woman, Eliza, and her child are both doing very well. Mr. Hastings was very sick while I was gone, and is not able to be out of bed yet. Pulliam's second daughter, Fe, as they call her, and his Negro boy Alex are quite sick now. Doctor Bracht says they have a typhoid fever, believe they do not consider Fe dangerous and the boy has not been sick but a day or two.
Mr. Johnson's second son, about the age of Henry, is very sick with the same disease, and I do not think that he will recover, as he is very low. Sam did not go to Bastrop while we were gone, as he found on examining the note that it was the 9th instead of the 1st that it was due. I shall go myself for it when it is due, as I will know better what to do in case it is not paid.
I want you to have me two good plows made and sent to me - you know what kind would suit as well as I do. I want them small but strong, as this is a grubby country, and they could be used for one horse after the ground was broke. I want them stocked and ready for work. If you should have an opportunity to send them to me by any person coming here, I would prefer it. If not, I want them shipped by the 1st of August to G. W. Adams at Lavacca, to be forwarded to Lewis and Groesbeck, San Antonio. You know now the necessity of sending them early so as to get them hauled in time. If you should send any stock out here next fall, I would like for you to get Taylor to make me a wagon, and Ruly to iron it. I want the axles four inches and the wheel 3 feet 10 - and 5 feet high with good thick tire. If you find that you will have an opportunity of sending it, and a pair of good mules to it, I want you to let me know, and if no one comes who is going to return, I will send you a draft on New Orleans for the money.
Tell Mr. Ballinger that Martha is very much pleased with her stove, and that I will write to him before long. Tell mother that I will write to her soon. Give my love to all my relations and friends and accept the same for yourself.
Your affectionate Brother
John H. Burruss
N.B. The potatoes you helped plant are coming up very pretty.
Address: Mr. George Burruss, Carrollton, Illinois
Springfield, Missouri - May 1926
Your mother insists that you will like to have some of my early recollections to add to your book of old letters, so, in spite of the fact that I do not like to write, I will do my best to make my letter worthy of a place near Brother John's.
In 1853, my Father, A. H. Rhodes and family, left Boonville and started on the long trip to Texas. We had a wagon train consisting of four wagons and a carriage. Two of the wagons were for the Negroes and my mother often drove the carriage herself. The Negroes all belonged to Mother. Father had wanted to go to California in the Gold Rush of 1849 with Uncle John Ashby Tutt, mother's brother, but Mother would not sell the Negroes that her Father had given her, and so she refused to go.
There were six of us children from Brother Ed, the oldest, to baby Frank, just beginning to walk. I do not remember very much about the trip. I have a few recollections, however, about the Indians we saw. One day sister Mary and I were out in a creek on some stones - out in the middle of the creek. We looked up and saw some Indians coming toward us! We turned and fairly flew toward camp, and the Indians just laughed at us. Another time, an Indian man and a boy came to our camp, wet and cold, and shivering. My Father gave the man a drink of whiskey which seemed to please him very much, for pretty soon, he asked for another drink and got it. Then soon he asked for another one, and Father gave him just a little bit. My mother got scared and emptied the jug into something else, and when the Indian insisted on having another drink, Father got the jug and showed him that it was all gone. The Indian and his little boy slept around our camp fire all night and the next morning, Father told sister Mary and me that the little boy slept right at our feet on our pallet! Of course, he was just teasing us.
The family first settled near Austin Texas, but did not like that part of the state at all. Father said that if all Texas was like that, he was going back to Missouri. We then moved to a farm about two and a half miles from Seguin, and later moved into town, but kept the Negroes working the farm. The children went to school at the Male Academy and the Female Academy, which by the way, are still standing. These were private schools of course. There were no public schools in Seguin at that time - or "free schools" as they were then called. I never went to a free or public school in my life, and neither did any of the other children.
While we were living in Seguin, I was about ten or eleven years old, word came that the Indians were coming into town that night, and for all the women and children to go to the Magnolia Hotel, where the men would gather to protect them. All of our family went except old nigger Dave. He said: "Miss Dollie, I jest aint goin', i'se got an old hen a settin' out here in the barn, and if them Indians some they'll steal her sure!', and he never went a step. It was a false alarm. The Indians were on the Cibolo, but did not come into town that night. This was long before they killed the little boy that brother John tells about.
After we left Austin, and before locating on the farm near Seguin, we lived for a few weeks in a vacant house of Mr. Pulliam's on the Cilbolo. Mr. Pulliam was a Missourian from Saline County, and offered father the house until he could find a farm he wanted to buy.
The Burruss family had moved to Texas from Illinois in 1850, and lived close to Mr. Pulliam;s and this house we were living in. While we were there, the Pulliam, Burruss, and Rhodes children played together day after day. I do not remember anything in particular about it, but Henry, your grandad, said that he remembered perfectly going over to Pulliam's to play with those little Missouri children living in one of Pulliam's houses. We went away and I never knew the Burruss' until during the War. However, several of these children who played together at that time, later married. Henry and I, Brother Ed and Fan Pulliam, Brother Frank and sister Mattie married Lex and Sallie Childs (brother and sister) niece and nephew of Mr. Pulliam. Mattie, Lex and Sallie were not born at that time, though.
In 1856, we moved to San Antonio, and lived on Flores Street. That is the street that brother John, in his letter, said he could not remember the name, but which he described as the street that runs north from the north east corner of Military Plaza. While we were there, my father loaned money on short time loans at a high rate of interest, and made a great deal of money. He needed to make money, for six children were kept in private schools, besides having Music, French and Spanish lessons in addition. Sister Mary and I went to a convent, while brother Ed went to the same Select School for Young Men that brother John Burruss later attended.
Father had a lot of land rented north of San Antonio, and brother Ed managed the ranch. He had all the Negroes out there except the servants in our house, and two who were hired out in town. My aunt, Virginia Jordan, mother's sister, had one of these Negroes hired. I remember going out to this ranch to see them run the water through the irrigation ditches.
I remember visiting several of the old Missions near San Antonio - the San Juan, Conception, and others that I have forgotten. These old buildings, fine homes for bats, were over a hundred years old at that time. The old Alamo was always an interesting place to me. I have been in the room where Bowie was killed.
One day, we children were crossing the Alamo Plaza on our way to school, we stopped to look at a lot of camels that were loaded with provisions to carry to soldiers stationed out west of San Antonio to guard us from the Indians. One of the keepers, seeing my interest, asked me if I'd like to ride. I instantly said, yes sir, and he placed me on one. I was hardly seated, until the camel started to get up and you may be sure I was glad to jump off.
One of my childish memories is rather horrible. A band of desperadoes had been so bold and desperate that it was not safe for a man to get out in the streets at night. The officers at last located one of these men in an old adobe house and finally broke in the door, killed him and dragged him out in the street. When we came home from school, a pool of his blood was still on the sidewalk, and the dark stain was there as long as I went to that school.
San Antonio was a military town. United States soldiers were stationed there all the time in order to keep down Indian uprisings. One school I attended was just back of the Commissary Department, and many a time, I have seen a soldier marching up and down in front of the building with a great big ball and chain fastened to his ankle. An officer always was standing guard with his gun, making him keep marching. This was a punishment for drunkenness, stealing, or some other low behavior.
These U. S. soldiers were the scum of the earth. One of them was drowned in a big ditch right in back of our lot when we lived there. Some one came and told Mother that there was a dead man in the ditch and she thought sure that it was old Dave; she thought he was coming home that way, drunk as he often was, and fell off the plank that was across the ditch. But, when they got the man out, it was just one of the U.S. soldiers.
While we lived in San Antonio, I knew the Tunstalls that brother, John mentioned in his letter - cousins of the Burruss. Mrs. Tunstall was a beautiful woman - related to the Hall's of Marshall.
Just before the War, we went back to a farm east of Seguin. My father suffered terribly with neuralgia of the face and head, and Dr. Hurf, a noted surgeon of San Antonio, thought the glare from the white buildings of the city made his sufferings worse, and advised him to go back to the farm. He was better for a time, too.
Father was at first much opposed to Secession, but after we were into the war, he was as bitter as it was possible for a man to be. It was no wonder that he was bitter. Brother Ed and brother Ashby both entered the army at once, and besides, several men who owed him large sums of money took the bankrupt law and never paid him a cent. One man in San Antonio owed him over $30,000, never even tried to pay a cent, though he was able to do so. Brother Ashby was wounded the second year of the war and came home a wreck. He developed T.B. and though he went to old Mexico for his health, he never got better, and died when Harry was a baby, Feb 1868.
Mr. Yeager, the man that sister Mary finally married, entered the war when the other boys did. He and sister Mary were married during the war. He was a Colonel and while located at Brownsville during the third year of the war, came home on a furlough, for a week or more. They were married one morning before breakfast and he left immediately after breakfast and was gone for months and months. He wanted to marry so if he was killed sister Mary would get his money, his Virginia property, and his Negroes he had brought to Texas and had hired out there. He was a young man from Luray, Virginia who had come to Texas for his health, and for years made him home with us. The doctors said he wouldn't live long when they sent him to Texas, but he died in 1904, while my Mother and Fran were at our house, when you were a little girl. Mr. Yeager taught school in the Male Academy after the war, he was a West Point graduate, and Frank, George and Dave Burruss all went to school to him (grandad's brothers) He and sister Mary went to Virginia when Mamie, their oldest child was five months old.
It was during the War that I first saw Father Burruss. Sister Mary and I had been to Seguin to church, and as we drove up the lane home, we noticed a covered wagon, spring wagon, at the front gate. Sister Mary was excited for she thought possibly it was Mr. Yeager, home on another furlough, but I asked her why on earth he'd come in a covered wagon. When George, the Negro boy, came to take our horses, we asked him who was there. He said: "Old Mr. Burruss, from over on the Cibolo, goin' up to Dallas after flour" When I saw him, I wondered why they would let as old and feeble a man make that long trip alone. He coughed hard as he always did as long as he lived and seemed old and feeble to me but he could not have been very old nor very feeble either, for he lived until after my Dave was born in 1881, - I don't remember the exact date of his death. He was always frail looking, very tall and slender, smooth shaven always, and never wore glasses in his life. He was always kind to every body, soft voiced and gentle in his manner, a good man, though never a church member. Brother John was always so much like him. He was a college graduate (Louisville Kentucky) and a Greek and Latin scholar. Your Uncle Dave told your mother that Professor Buchanan of the Miami schools, in the days when Miami was one of the best high schools in the state, said that Father Burruss was the best Latin scholar he ever knew. Your mother has one of his Greek text books, and uncle Dave said that Nelson had one of his Latin texts.
Not long after the first time that I ever saw Father Burruss, he sold out down on the Cibolo and bought a farm about three quarters of a mile from my father's. They were good neighbors, and our families soon became friends. Not long before the war closed, Henry came home on a furlough and his mother brought him down one evening to see us. This was the first time I ever saw him or remember seeing him, at least, although we had played together at the Pulliam's when I was about nine and Henry was twelve.
I didn't see him again until the war was over. We were married the 8th of January 1867. One day, not long before we were married, Henry's little brother Dave, your great-uncle Dave of St. Louis, was down at the Mr McKee's, neighbors of ours. They asked him what the folks were doing at home, and with a twinkle I his eye, he said: 'they're cleaning out one of the nigger cabins, I think Henry is thinking of living in it' Of course, it was not true, and he knew that they would know it wasn't but they seemed to have a lot of fun out of teasing me about where Henry was going to take me. Dave was always a great tease, and George, who died when your uncle Dave was a little boy, was worse than Dave.
The Burruss boys frequently made trips to Missouri with herds of cattle to sell. Their father made the trip with them at time. They made the trip in 1866 after we were engaged to be married. After Henry and brother John got back, Mother Burruss said there was no need of delaying the wedding until Mr. Burruss' return, because it was so indefinite. He didn't get back home until some time after we were married and I remember that he came in, driving a big new hack, I don't remember where he had bought it. Henry and I were living at home, and continued to live there until after Harry was born.
The next year, Brother John, George and Dave and I think Mr. Joe Wilson and Jess LeGette, drove a herd of horses, that is, 1867, the year after henry made the trip. Henry and Frank ran the home place, and also rented a mill from M. Safford, over on the Guadalupe River. Frank stayed at the mill most of the time, and attended to that part of the business, while Henry ran the farm and looked after all of us. Mother and Father Burruss were at home, the little girls, Lucy and Mary, and Henry and I made the family. All the Negroes were gone at this time except Sallie. She didn't have any kin and wanted to stay. Father and Mother brought her to Missouri with them in 1868, and she stayed with some of the family until 1874. She stayed with me from the time Ed was a baby until before your mother was born.
We lived with Father and Mother Burruss a little over a year. Harry was born there. In the spring of 1868 they started to Missouri. Brother John, George, and Dave were already there; they didn't come back to Texas after the trip in 1867. Brother John had already bought the River Side Farm that he always owned, and which is still in the family.
Awhile before the family started to Missouri, henry and I went up to York's Creek, twelve miles from Father's to manage brother Ed's ranch that old Dr. Beckwith had willed him. It was a big stock ranch with a lot of horses and cattle on it. We stayed there a year. We had four Negroes to help with the work; Millie and her three children, Mandy, henry and Tom. They had lived there before old doctor died. Mandy and Tom were still working for the family when your mother was in Texas. Tom was considered rather foolish, but he looked after your uncle John Rhodes for years and years, and no doubt looked after Tom's interests too. Mandy was grown when she nursed Harry, and still Looked young when we were in Texas last.
Soon after we went to York's Creek, mother and father, with the little girls, started to Missouri. They drove to our place and stayed with us the first night out, and then started out alone with one wagon for the long trip to Missouri. Father rather dreaded to come on account of his health. He told me that he knew he wouldn't live long, but that Mother wanted to come, and he guessed it was best.
Henry and I lived up at York's Creek until the next spring, when we too, started for Missouri. Frank had already gone sometime during the year, and of course, henry was anxious to join the rest of his family. We had a four horse wagon a lot of loose horses. We fed a man all the way up here to get him to help with these horses. Mr. Joe Wilson came with us. He had two wagons, and it seems now that all of his horses must have been balky, for we were forever pulling him up hills, and out of mud holes. His mother and old maid aunt, two old maid sisters, and four children made up his family. His wife was dead. He had a Negro man to drive his loose horses, and another man who drove one wagon.
On the way up, just before we got to Red River, and while we were stopped at Sherman to get provisions to last us through the Indian Territory, the horses wandered around the town while the men were not watching, and when we started to move on, they could not be found. The men went up one street and down another looking for them, and at last Mr. Wilson said he would go on and strike camp, and Henry and the two men could find the horses and come on. I sat in the wagon in a strange town for hours, all alone except for my baby, Harry, scared nearly to death, while the men hunted those horses. They found them at last in a little secluded spot, all of them hobbled. They took the hobbles off and drove them back to town to the wagon, and never saw a soul who appeared in the least interested or guilty. We reached camp before dark.
I think we were about six weeks on the road, and were certainly glad to stop. I remember we had a hard rain a few nights after we got the father's and oh how glad I was to be under a roof. Father and mother were living with brother John, on the Carroll County side. As we drove down the hill to the river, at Miami, we saw that the ferry boat was on our side, and just then we met brother Frank, going up the hill in a wagon.
When we got nearly to the river, there was a big boat there being loaded; we heard a shot, and saw a Negro running, and then another shot. I told Henry if that was the way they did in Missouri, I was going back to Texas. Henry said they were not trying to hit the nigger, they were just running him off; they often worked these roustabouts and then ran them off on some pretext or another to keep from paying them.
Not long after we got here, I went down to Booneville on the Post Boy, a big boat, to see my aunts, Mary Lionberger and Martha Hutchinson. Henry, harry and I lived at the Brick Hotel, in Miami that fall and winter, Ed was born there. Mr. Joe Wilson and family kept the hotel for several years. In the spring we went to the country and all the rest of the children, except Jim were born on the farm. We lived in Miami, and Henry ran the boat, the year Jim was born.
I hope that you enjoy all this as much as your mother seems to think you will. She has enjoyed it, and it has not been as much of a job as I thought it would be, when she first mentioned it.
Your loving grandmother,
Annie Rhodes Burruss
To: George Lewis Burruss, 3rd
Green County, Illinois
From: John H. Burruss - Jan 19, 1840
We received your letter of the 11th Dec a short time since, which conveyed to us the melancholy intelligence of the death of our near and beloved relation. It was with feeling of deep sorrow that we heard the sad news, but we console ourselves with the hope that our near relation has passed to a better and happier world. We are all in good health, and I think that father's health is better than it has been for several years. He was very unwell when he got home last fall, and had a very unpleasant trip owning to his bad health and low water - and expresses much satisfaction at having visited the land of his nativity. And more .......(illegible) since the receipt of your letter, and often converses about the pleasant and agreeable time that he spent with you. Rather desires me to request you to write to us and let us know how you are likely to succeed with your school, as he feels anxious to hear - and also whether you received the papers that he sent to you from Louisville. Cousin Agnes has enjoyed very good health ever since she got to this country and as far as I am able to judge seems to be quite cheerful and contented. I suppose that you heard before this of the marriage of Cousin Frances (Burruss Henley) and my brother Nelson. They were married in November and are living about thirty miles from us in Macaupin County. We should be much pleased to hear from you frequently - and through you from the balance of our relations, and I have promised you that I will answer your letters promptly and with a great deal of pleasure. Give my love and best wished to all of my relations and accept the same for yourself.
John H. Burruss
October 1, 1998
First transcribed by Mary Kate Burruss Proctor.
Jan 13, 1870
My dear Uncle Pinkney:
The ways of Providence are mysterious and past finding out----God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform, but little did I think the 21st of last May, when I gave you the parting hand, that today would find me locked up in this asylum, but such is the fact, why I am here. I shall not attempt, on this occasion to explain. Seemingly I am entirely forsaken by all of my relations in this State as well as Va. But if they are satisfied I am sure I am I suppose. It might not be amiss for one to give you some of the particulars of the treatment I rec'd since I've been ill.
I arrived in Carrollton after spending some 9 or 10 days with sister and family on the 3rd June, commenced working on a farm about the 14th and worked till about the 22nd or 23rd July when my physical health gave way, or in other words a general debility of the system took place. Cousin George and wife insisted that I make their house my home. I did so. On the 29th July while walking from Aunt Frances' old home over to cousin George's it seemed as if I heard a voice saying thy sins are forgiven or in other words, I involuntarily began to praise God, and I can assure you, my dear Uncle, I have been happy every hour since. My afflictions have been sweet. The next day I went to C, and saw the Pastor of the Baptist church and made arrangements and was baptized Sunday night Aug 1st in the presence of a large audience. On the 3rd I was arrested and thrown in the inner prison of Green Co. jail, and kept 26 days, then sent here.
I have only heard from my children once since 12th July and that was about the 14th Nov. I have received only 2 letters since 3rd August, 1 from home the other from Sister. I've written to Livie, Bro. John, Mr. Ballerman of the Post-Office in R, trying to get a hearing but alas; I have failed and last night I concluded I would try you. Please if you think anything in the world of me, let me hear from my children. As to their mother, I have nothing to say against. I presume you are aware of what kind of a married life I spent with her. I presume she would cheerfully consent for us to get a divorce. I want one as I am convinced it would be best for both of us. Divorce or no divorce I expect to be married about the 1st May
Now Uncle Pinkney, there is one thing that gives me some concern which I think you can and will attend to, i.e. the Education of Livie and Eddie. You will accommodate me very much to furnish Livie with a good supply of clothing and send her to the Baptist female seminary beginning the 1st. Boxino, I expect if possible to be at your house some time in March. If you are keeping school I want you to take my dear boy Eddie and teach him. You will if you take him find him a great help to you. I have taught him how to attend to feeding H. Please take him anyhow. Let him have a good supply of clothing. I have thousands to this worlds goods. You shall be well pd. Please ans immediately on the accepting of this. Love to Aunts Kate and Mary, Uncle John, Mrs. And Mr M and accept a large portion yourself.
Your devoted Nephew ----Taylor
Riverside Farm, Miami, Mo.
Mrs. H. P. Drought, San Antonio, Texas
My dear Cousin Ethel:
In accordance with your request and my promise, I am jotting down some of my recollections of a comparatively early period in the settlement of San Antonio and adjacent territory. I realize that much of it will not be interesting; yet many of the things that I recall seemed quite so at the time they occurred, and may bear telling now. I bespeak your charity for one not accustomed to such tasks. Our family preceded yours to this new land by only a few years. We had reached San Antonio in January 1850 after an over land journey that lasted from the October preceding. Our first stop was a camp at the mouth of the San Pedro, which was then quite a distance below the lower limits of the town, whose population, I think was about three thousand, certainly less than five thousand. My father canvassed the town thoroughly but could not find any kind of shelter, much less a house to live in. Being the military headquarters for Texas, the town was literally jammed full of soldiers and army people, so he selected a location at the end of the street (I have forgotten the name) that runs north from the northeast corner of the military plaza; it was almost due west of the convent which had not then been built. The San Pedro Ditch bordered the east side of the road at this point, and the creek was something like two hundred yards west. The space between was covered with wesaache brush, eight or ten feet high.
After this was cleared off, father set poles in the ground for a two room tent house and covered it with canvas. This, with the two tents we had used on the road, made us comparatively comfortable. It was only a little way down to the Military Plaza, and we frequently went down to hear the band play and see the soldiers drill.
In the early spring, one hundred and five hostile Comanche warriors came in under flag of truce and camped at San Pedro Springs. The Government issued all kinds of rations to them - had beeves (meat) killed, and it was said even bought honey for them. They were given the freedom of the town. They went in an out in squads of various sizes and in all kinds of regalia and war paint. They passed what is now San Pedro Avenue, which was just across a truck patch to the east of us, and in plain view. The general commanding, thinking to make a profound impression on them, prepared for a sham battle, which he invited them to witness. They pretended to accept; but broke camp the night before it was to come off, and left on the run - stealing and killing as they went. The soldiers followed, but never overtook them. They had learned what they wanted to know - it was treachery then, it might be diplomacy now.
We heard of other raids and depredations, but none near us until the following fall, after we had moved to the Cibolo. Then one night the Indians came almost into our camp and got the saddle stock our men had ridden until after dark of the day before. They seemed especially to want something broken to ride, and frequently came right into the edge of San Antonio and drove off stock turned to grass at night. These depredations were usually committed by small parties, who seldom murdered; and no official effort was made to apprehend them. One morning my brother Henry and I were sent on an errand to a neighbors house, across the creek about half a mile distant. At the creek crossing there was a stretch of pure sand and it was covered with moccasin tracks, fresh and plain to be seen. I showed them to Henry and explained that they had been made the night before.
We tarried and examined them with much interest, but with not thought of danger, either past or present. At the neighbors we found the people assembled around two dead horses that were full of arrows, and lying about two hundred yards in front of the house. They were killed by Indians the night before because they could neither catch nor drive them away. The neighbor advised us to hurry home, which we did. Mother was somewhat ruffled at our narrative, but if father was, we failed to detect it - in fact, I can't recall that he ever appeared alarmed or excited over any past, present or prospective danger.
In 1850, Father built the old concrete house that was still standing two years ago, and my Uncle George Burruss, his wife and little boy spent the following winter with us. I think it was the next spring that your father's family came to Texas. While I am not quite sure about it, I am under the impression that they went directly to San Antonio and found much the same condition in regard to houses that we had found some three years before. Anyway, they came to our place on the Cibolo.
There were your Father and Mother, Pryor and Pearce, Josie and Lizzie, Foddie, about brother George's age, and Pattie, the baby, Besides these, they brought a little metallic casket - the first I had ever seen - containing the remains of a lost baby. It was placed in the garret of our house and remained there until your old home in the river bend was built. I remember well how it impressed me. Besides the family, they had a number of servants, a carriage and a pair of beautiful bay mares. We had a good deal of house room, besides a quantity of camp equipage, and as I recall it, we were never the least bit crowded.
It appeared to us that the older folks had a jolly good time, and as for the children, there was nothing to be desired. We had the creek to fish and bathe in, horses to ride, cows to drive, calves to rope, and rabbits to chase. Henry and I could swim already. Pryor and Pearce and brother Frank soon learned, and we had to be almost dragged out of the creek every day. Josie and Lizzie were in on the fishing and riding, and I don't think a bunch of children ever had a better time. Brother George and Foddie were little tots near the same age, and Pattie was the baby.
Your Father naturally spent much of the time in San Antonio arranging for future business, and looking out for a place to live. Father usually drove him in and went for him. They soon found places for several of the servants, but Charlotte and Watton stayed with us. The carriage and team were very useful and much enjoyed. One day Father and Cousin Warrick wanted a full day in town. It was an eighteen mile drive and only a fair road, so they got an early start and announced that they would not leave town until near night. We had had no excitement about Indians for quite a while and everything was serene. Along in the forenoon our German doctor, a neighbor, came over and asked for Father. Mother told him he had gone to town with Cousin Warrick he seemed under a strong mental strain, and after some hesitation, said he didn't want to frighten them (meaning Mother and Cousin Florida) but he must tell them that a serious situation confronted the neighborhood. A very large party of hostile Indians was camped in the cedar brakes only ten or twelve miles above us, and would be down that night on the war path. He and other neighbors had consulted and decided that our house would afford the best protection; being the easiest place in the neighborhood to defend. Could they gather there for the supreme effort" Father and Cousin Warrick could not be reached - even if we went in town, we might spend the day in a fruitless search for them. The Doctor must have an answer of some kind. Two as brave, sensible and practical women as I have ever known looked into each others eyes and read the high resolve that has supported so many noble souls in the direst extremity. They said, "Come on, we will make common cause, and win or die together." So it was understood that the gathering would take place just before, or after dark. What my Mother and yours thought and felt that dreadful day may be imagined, but can never be known. Action is a kind of safety valve for feeling, and whether they intended it or not, it served them a good purpose that day. They called their families together and explained the situation to the older children fully, to the younger ones in proportion.
I was the only one of the boys who had been allowed to freely handle guns, of which we had several of the old fashioned types. We used powder and shot and bullets and percussion caps in that day. We boys were directed to get out every kind of shooting iron on the place and clean them up ready for use. Under the direction of our mothers, we cleaned them up ready for use. Under the direction of our mothers, we cleaned them and overhauled our supply of powder and shot. We molded bullets from bar lead. We found heavy cotton drilling for wads, used in loading the rifles. The powder flasks were examined and filled. Every percussion cap was carefully hooked up and put in place. The uses that such things as axes, hoes, and pitchforks could be put to, were openly discussed and they were added to our military stores. By noon our preparations were nearly completed. No neighbor had put in an appearance and no word of news had reached us. The work and the talk of the morning had caused the boys to grow at least a hundred per cent in their own estimation; but their mothers knew better how to estimate them, and at dinner your mother gave our pride an almost fatal blow, when she called for the corn bread, remarking that she wanted to eat something substantial because if the Indians did come, she expected that she and Cousin Martha would have to do most of the fighting, at the same time giving us boys one of those looks, which I expect many of her friends can remember, but I doubt if any of them could describe. My Mother remembered the circumstances and referred to it occasionally as long as she lived. The afternoon seemed interminably long. The daily trip to the swimming hole had to be cut out. As the day wore on, our mothers reasoned that if the report were true, it would reach San Antonio, and Father and Cousin Warrick would hurry back to look after us. There had been no news from anyone since Dr. Bracht's call in the afternoon, nor any communication with anyone, when shortly before night the Doctor appeared again and informed us that it was a false alarm about the Indians, and that the neighbors would not gather at our house.
It seemed that he had either forgotten, or else never realized, that he had filled a household of women and children with an indescribable terror, and left them for more than half a day to suffer its tortures. Though the report was false, and in reality there had been no danger, it was believed for nearly a day, and all the horrors of an Indian massacre hung over a helpless household; and to this day I wonder that two women did not turn gray. Though the report had been corrected, the coming of darkness increased a lingering feeling of insecurity, and it was a very subdued and quiet party that fathered around the supper table that night. It seemed to be understood that Father and Cousin Warrick would not get in until late, so the children were sent to bed. The boys all slept in one room, and the one nearest the approach from San Antonio. I felt no inclination to sleep, and when all the others got quiet, I put my pillow in the window and listened to the varied noises of the night. I never knew before that there were so many, or much weird sounds. Again and again I imagined I heard the noise of the returning carriage and horses, until finally they did come, and I heard Father and Cousin Warrick come into the house, after which I remember nothing. None of us turned gray from the days experience, but I know that I aged considerably. From that time on, I felt and was allowed to assume more responsibility than the other boys of my age whom I knew.
There were many little thieving expeditions after this, but no important raids for more than a year. Then a large party of Indians raided the entire Cibolo Valley, from six miles above our home to a few miles below Sulphur Springs, where they turned for the Conquista Ford on the San Antonio River, and made their way into Mexico. They passed our neighborhood during the latter part of the night taking any desirable horse stock they came across. They got through the night without encountering any settlers and were eight or ten miles below our house at daylight. There was a dense fog that morning and one could only see a very short distance.
The Indians with their drove were on the main road leading from San Antonio to Sulphur Springs, and on to Victoria, when they came upon a negro girl carrying water from a spring across the road to hands in a nearby field. She heard them coming but couldn't see, and thought it was a Mexican drove, so she stopped to watch them pass. When they came up one of them threw a rope around the water bucket on her head and jerked it off. She ran, and he threw the rope over her and jerked her down. He allowed her to take the rope off and start to run, when he roped her again. He kept this up until his party was getting away, then he struck her down with a lance. She lived long enough to tell all about it.
A few miles further down they met a man on a horse and a boy on a mule driving a cow and a calf. The boy, eleven or twelve years old, was a neighbor of our, and the son of a Methodist preacher, recently from Kentucky, who had settled eight miles below us on the Cibolo. He had been sent, the day before, some miles down the country for a milk cow and the man was helping him to drive her home. Like the girl, they heard, but could not see, and like her, they assumed that it was an ordinary Mexican drive until the foremost Indians were directly upon them. They were unarmed and of course, excited and frightened. The man called to the boy to run. They both turned and the man did run, but the boy's mule sulked and the boy was unable to move it. And soon the man realized that the boy was unable to move it. As soon as the man realized that the boy was not with him he stopped and looked back. He had a good horse, and he stayed near enough to see what happened. The Indians had surrounded the helpless boy, and one of them threw a rope around him and jerked him off the mule, and then allowed him to take off the rope and start to run, when he went after him and caught him and threw him again. This was repeated several times, and then he allowed the boy a good start down the road toward his home, when he went after him on his pony, full speed, lance in hand and struck it through his body, killing him instantly. The man was a helpless witness to every cruel detail of this blood thirsty murder. He gave the alarm and the Indians were pursued to the Rio Grande, and across into Mexico. I stayed all night at the murdered boy's home not very long after his death, and his poor broken hearted Mother told me the whole sad story, as she wept over a lock of his hair and the little mutilated garments that he was wearing when killed. The boy's name was Jewett McGee. The family went back to Kentucky a few years later and we lost sight of them.
We had a period of comparative quiet following this. True there were numerous thefts of horses, and some interesting chases to recover them, perhaps some Indians were killed, a long way from home, but none of our neighbors. Above us about ten miles on the Cibolo were the "Cedar Brakes" an exceedingly rocky and rough territory. My Father owned some land there and we were familiar with the locality. Two men attempted to make a little home in a beautiful narrow valley, with high rocky hills on each side of it. The creek ran on the northern edge of the valley and beyond it, the bluff was steep and high, and covered with timber. The ridge on the south was comparatively barren. Their cabin was probably a hundred yards from the creek. It was built of logs and had one main room and a shed room. The front room was good size and had a floor in it - the floor being well up off the ground. The shed had no floor, and it required two long steps to reach the ground from the main room, which was under pinned all around. They also had a small horse lot, a little corn crib and a few head of horses. While the men were attempting to get some land in cultivation they kept a negro woman to do the house work for them. She had a little boy some eight or ten years old. One day when the men were busy in their clearing above, the woman in the house, and the little boy playing about the hose lot, a party of Indians approached from below the house. When the boy saw them he ran, screaming to the house and into it. As he entered an arrow struck the door. His mother closed and fastened it as best she could. The man furthest from the house saw the Indians first, and calling to the other, ran toward the creek, which was unusually high at the time. The Indians made no stop at the house, but followed the man as fast as they could. They overtook the man behind and murdered him on the spot. The foremost man reached the creek and plunged in, and although they fired many shots at him he swam safely to the other side, where the timber protected him. The Indians then went back to the house. In the meantime the woman had gone into the shed room and removed some underpinning so she could crawl under the front room; then she tried to get her boy, who had hidden behind some barrels, and put him under, but he was so frantic from fright she was unable to do anything with him. So she crawled under and replaced the underpinning. The Indians pushed in the door and ransacked the house - even emptying a feather bed in order to get the tick, and took all the clothing and bed clothes. There was one man who appeared to be white and presumably the same one, spoke English to the boy. They went in both rooms but did not find the woman; so it was supposed they didn't know she was there. Then they made the boy get corn and catch the horses by feeding them. This done they told him to run and commenced shooting him with arrows. They didn't follow but allowed him to run into the house, mortally wounded. Then they moved on up the creek out of sight. By this time it was nearly night. The man who swam the creek had climbed up among the brush on hillside where he could not be seen, but could himself see all that occurred outside the house. He thought it probable the Indians would expect him to make his way back during the night, and were therefore watching for him. So he decided to remain where he was - which he did until something after sun up the next morning, then he swam back. The woman had come from her hiding as soon as the Indians left, and ministered to the wants of her boy as best she could. The Indians had used all the water in the house, and when the boy's cries for it in the night became so piteous she could not stand it longer, she took the bucket and went to the creek for it. Death ended his sufferings before daylight, but his mother stayed by him. In the morning, when the man approached the house, chilled from the night's exposure and the fresh wetting in the creek, and haggard from the horror of it all, it was no wonder the woman failed to recognize him. She thought he had been killed the evening before, and was only looking for enemies; so she left the dead boy on the floor of the front room and sought her former hiding place. The man came in the front room, and seeing the dad boy there, wouldn't look in the back room because he was sure the dead woman was there. Being thoroughly chilled, he decided to make a fire in the fireplace and warm and dry himself; which he proceeded to do. The woman watched as best she could, and finally decided to take a chance by calling to him. Then she recognized him and came out, and as soon as he was warmed and partially dried, together they walked six or seven miles to the nearest settlement. Neighbors were notified and did all that was left to the done. That is the story of the man and the woman, literally as it was told and retold in the neighborhood. I remember every detail of it the more clearly because only a year or so later, a party of boys of whom I was the oldest, got permission to go on a camp hunt, and being curious to see the place, which had not been occupied since, decided to go there and camp. We had a fire in the fireplace and slept in the house. From the simple fact that we did not discuss the tragedy that night, I feel sure there must have been an awesome feeling hovering over us as the night settled on our little party in the shadow of the big hills. I confess to a very uncanny feeling on my own part when I went to bed thinking of all that had happened there, but I never told it to anyone. I don't know just how old we were, but I know I was not quite fifteen and your brother Pearce, was not quite as old as I. Pryor was not with us. This was the last Indian raid in which murder was committed in our vicinity. Once a large number of horses were stolen, and had been gone a day or so before the theft was discovered. Ten men were organized, headed by Captain William A. Haile, father of John H. Haile, of the State Bank and Trust Company of San Antonio, to go after them. The party prepared for a long chase, but they found the trail dim, and a succession of rains almost obliterated it, making their progress slow, until finally they lost it altogether. They were out of provisions and the rain was almost continuous. They called a halt and had about decided to give up and start back when their "trailer" asked permission to make on more look - instead of Indians, he found some of the stolen horses quietly grazing. The Indians had driven them hard and feeling that they were now safe, had stopped to rest them. The "trailer" taking in the situation, proceeded cautiously to locate the Indian camp; then he went to his company and reported. They immediately planned a surprise attack and would probably have annihilated the band, had not the wet weather so affected their arms that few of them would fire. As it was they captured the camp and equipment, wounded some of the Indians, and I think, killed one. The Indians got into thick brush, where our men could no nothing - gathering up such of the trophies as they could carry - the ten men started on their weary return journey, with the stolen drove. They had jaded horses to ride and to drive, and had to depend on the game they could kill, for their living. Meanwhile, as they had stayed so much longer than expected, the home folks had almost given them up for lost, thinking they had been ambushed and killed. Of course, their sudden appearance with the entire drove of stolen horses was an occasion of great rejoicing.
Another time, near the same date, the Indians appeared in the role of practical jokers, though the joke was eventually turned on them. It was near the full of the moon, and for some reason the neighbors expected an Indian raid, so they agreed together their herds in the upper end of the valley, near where the M.K. and T. RR now crosses the Cibolo, and guard them every night until the danger was passed.
In the later afternoon before the first night of the agreed program, the herds commenced arriving, and just before dusk the last one was on the ground and the guards were about to take charge, when the Indians made a sudden dash, stampeded the entire collection, and were off to the hills just as night set in. Everything had been done in their interest. The horses collected and delivered to them at the right place and at exactly the right time. There were not enough armed men present to intercept, or follow and fight them. The neighbors were aroused and the company soon ready to give chase. Experience had taught them that for a number of miles, there was only one practical trail for the Indians to travel, after which they might take various directions. The company planned their start so as to be at this point of divergence by the time it was light enough to follow the Indian trail. They were well mounted, and they made a great ride. A little before sunset they came in sight of the herd of horses on a hill far in front of them. While they did not appear far off, it was a long way around to reach them. The place was evidently chosen for the night's rest, because it commanded a view of the trail for so long a distance back. The Indians must have discovered the Rangers as soon as they came in sight, and immediately made preparation for flight. There was no hope for escape with the herd. They were too tired so they selected the best saddle hoses to ride, killed one of the herd and cut a supply of meat from it, and were out of sight when the Rangers reached their camp. It was too dark to follow their trail at night; and the rangers knowing how the Indians were mounted, knew it would be useless to attempt to follow, after the Indians had an all night start on them, so they rested overnight, and when morning came, they headed homeward. Next day, a part of the company reached the settlement with the good news, but it required several days for the tired herd to retrace the trail that the Indians had forced them to make in a little less than twenty-four hours.
I am not quite sure of the chronological order of events described, but I have given them as they come in my memory. After this, we had no raids or excitement of importance that I remember, but Captain Haile and his men were long regarded as the bulwark that stood between us and danger from the Indians. Indeed, they must still be held in grateful remembrance by all whose memory reached back to those stirring days. A few years later, when the civil War called the whole South land to arms, he was made an officer of a company organized in that neighborhood (of which I was a member) and served the Lost Cause honorably to the end.
I make special mention of Captain Haile, because he was one of those retiring, modest, quiet, but brave and loyal men who never claim their won, and are seldom appreciated at their full value. He has sons in San Antonio, who should be high class citizens, and doubtless are.
Though I have told all that I was asked to, and some more, I cannot close without adding something regarding my personal relations to, and association with, your family. Beginning with their arrival in Texas, it seemed that I was called on for more kinds of service, such as finding good places to swim, and to fish, furnishing poles, and tackle, getting bait, catching and saddling ponies, and chaperoning or bossing the numerous younger members of the two families, than all the other boys put together. This was all right and proper because I was older, and at home and familiar with everything, and the surroundings. On the other hand I was shown more consideration, more favors. I was the acknowledged leader in the swimming, fishing, and the hunting parties; also in the horseback riding and in the calf roping contest. They were great days for boydom, and having wide liberties, we enjoyed them to the uttermost. I think I felt my own importance about that time, to a degree, that I have never since been able to attain.
After your folks got a house and moved to San Antonio, there was much visiting back and forth, and I either got more invitations to your house, or was allowed to accept a larger percent of those I got, than the other children. Anyway I was there oftener. We had had some excellent country schools on the Cibolo and I was fairly well advanced and exceedingly anxious for an education. But in the fall of 1858, we failed to get a satisfactory teacher and I was in great trouble. Father couldn't afford to send me off to school and the outlook was far from pleasing. I never knew how it came about, but one day, I was told that I had been offered a home at your house, with the opportunity to go to school in town. I started in with Pryor and Pearce to a private school in town, of some reputation, but though the tuition was higher, I soon found that the teacher was not as good as several I had gone to, in the country. We had several changes before Christmas. At that time Captain R. H. K. Whitley was in charge of the U.S. Arsenal, then located on the southeast corner of Soledad and Houston Streets; the ground extending on Houston Street east to the bridge and the water's edge on the river. He was a Presbyterian, and I think, an elder in the church which we all attended regularly. Just before Christmas, Cousin Warrick told me that Mr. Frank McNewton was quitting the position of first clerk (there were only two) at the arsenal and that Captain Whitley would give me a trial if I wished to undertake it. I accepted gladly; and started in at $1.00 per day. Mr Newton had received $75.00 per month with office hours eight to twelve a.m. and one to six p.m. My duties were not onerous and exacting. Captain Whiteley was a strict disciplinarian and exacted perfect obedience and attention to every detail from his subordinates and employees. Sometimes, I thought him a little hard, but I have long since concluded that he meant it for my good. Anyway, I am sure that it worked to that end. He knew that I was carrying on my studies and approved my course, allowing me to use my books on the office desk, anytime when I had a little leisure. So I felt free to put in my spare time as I pleased, studying, reading and so forth.
Your house was my home as before. One time I heard Cousin Warrick telling how he was rushed getting ready for the coming term of the Supreme Court in Austin, having to make three copies of each brief submitted. Stenographers were unknown in those days. Being accustomed to copying, I naturally offered to take the originals and make the extra copies. He gave me one and I took it to the office. It was a slack time there and as soon as my little official duties were attended to, I spread it on the table and went to work..
I hadn't thought to ask the Captain's permission or even explain what I was doing. They were such good friends, I felt sure he would be as pleased as I was, to accommodate Cousin Warrick. I noticed him looking at me but thought nothing of it. He got up, and walking past, looked again; then returning, he stopped near me. I felt he had something to say, but never suspected the cause or the nature of it. He asked me what it was I was doing, and when I explained fully, he waited a moment, and then asked if I thought it was any part of the duties for which I was employed, and being paid? I was shocked, almost stunned. When sufficiently collected, I explained to him that there was no unfinished office work, and I didn't think it made any difference what I did in the meantime, provided I was in place and kept the office work up. He heard my explanation without reply. I pushed the papers aside and busied myself with my lessons the remainder of the day. It was the Captain's custom to place any work for me on my table. I came back next morning and finished the routine work before he came in, but did not get out the brief I had to copy. The Captain came in with his usual pleasant salutation, looked over his mail, but found nothing for me to do. I sat idly at my desk for sometime. Then he suggested that I might as well go ahead and copy that brief for Mr. Tunstall - all the stubbornness in me, had been stirred. I had worked some on it out of office hours and resolved to finish it without using any of the Government's time, and I did. So I replied that I would have plenty of time outside of office hours, and got busy with my lessons. I had missed the lesson that he had intended for me, but it came to me, with full force later in life, and I have been thoroughly ashamed of my whole course ever since.
If I had only had the courtesy to even mention to him the work I wanted to do in his office, it would have been all right. Soon after this, they started to build a new presbyterian church and Captain Whiteley drew up several long contracts, of which they wanted duplicates, and when the Captain asked me to make the copies, I had it on my mind, but not on my tongue to ask him, if it was part of the duties for which I was employed and paid? I worked diligently and faithfully on both the office and school work without a break in the entire year. After I became thoroughly familiar with the office work, I began to hope for a raise in my salary. The other clerk, a German, getting two dollars a day, who disliked Captain Whiteley, encouraged the hope, and made me feel sure, it would come with the new year. So, near the close of the year, when the Captain handed me his annual report, with recommendations for changes in salaries etc., to be copied, and I found that I was not mentioned, I was sorely disappointed. I knew there was not a clerk in any of the Departments in San Antonio, getting less, than twice my salary, and as I couldn't afford to quit, I decided to ask Captain Whiteley for an advance, leaving the amount to him. He hesitated a moment, then took the manuscript and rewrote a portion of it, recommending that my salary be raised to a dollar and a quarter. I felt sincerely, that it was due the Government to either discharge me, or to put me on a level with the other lower paid clerks. The German in the office with me did his part to keep me sore; but Captain Whiteley was such a fine man, it couldn't last. While I never understood his viewpoint, I don't doubt that there were reasons that appeared good to him.
At this time, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, was commanding the Department of Texas, with headquarters in San Antonio. If there ever was a thorough combination of a perfect gentleman and a perfect soldier, I think it was found in him. No wonder the whole South loved him so, in after years. Then he was smooth shaven except for a short mustache; and his short hair was only slightly gray. For these reasons, the portraits of him, that we usually see, don't look natural to me. One day when he and some other officers were in the office, Captain Whiteley called me and introduced me. Telling the Colonel that I was working for a College Education. He met me as cordially and graciously as though I had been his equal in rank, asked me some questions about my plans, and kindly commended my ambition and determination to work up.
The close confinement and hard work and study had begun to tell on me, though I hadn't noticed it, but Cousin Warrick and Dr.Willis Edwards noticed and talked about it. The Doctor had undermined his own health in the same way, and was then fighting tuberculosis. He also knew, that my Father had done the same thing, and had to go to Texas as a result. Both of them also knew, how earnestly me heart was set on an education, how persistent I was, and how my Mother was encouraging me. The Doctor was positive, that it would be ruinous for me to continue. So they put their heads together and evolved a scheme. Whenever I was present, they were to talk about Pryor and Pearce quitting school on account of their health. Cousin Warrick argued the importance of an education, and the danger that a boy of that age would never get back to his studies if the break were once made. The Doctor replied that without health, nothing in life was worth while, and that the critical age between boyhood and manhood was the time when health was confirmed or broken; and that an injury to the constitution at that age could never be repaired; and he cited his own case and my Father's. Even if an impaired life continued to old age, it wasn't worth living, none of the dreams or hopes of youth could be realized. That education was a matter of a lifetime after all, and that a man would gain time in the long run by allowing a few years, at the critical age, for building up his health. It seemed to me that they never talked about anything else. It interested me from the first. I bit like a sucker, and began wondering if what the Doctor said applied to me. I knew I was studying and working harder than any boy of my acquaintance. I also recalled what he said about himself and my Father. I believed in him unquestioningly as a physician and admired him as a man. What he had said began troubling me. I couldn't shake it off. It came to me at all times of the day and night until I could stand it no longer. I went to his office, and asked him the direct question. He said he was glad of an opportunity to impress upon me that it did apply to me, with more force than to any boy he knew. That if I continued on my course, I might acquire an education, but that would be all I would have, and I wouldn't be able to use it. He went on to advise that I quit office work and books, go home to the ranch, live out of doors and as much as possible, on horseback, until I was twenty-five years old. If I would do this, he promised, with apparent sincerity and confidence, I would have more time left for living and be able to follow almost any vocation I chose. I thanked him, not because I was pleased, but because I felt that he was my friend, and went back utterly cast down. I slept little that night and was greatly depressed for several days; but by the end of the week, I had definitely determined to accept the Doctor's advice and follow it. So on Saturday evening, I went out home, and told my Father first of all. He had never directly opposed my plans but I felt they lacked his hearty approval. He told me frankly that he was glad of my decision, that he had felt all along that I needed physical growth and development more than anything else. The next time Father said, Dr. Edward, the Doctor told him all about how they worked me, adding that he knew if he could make me come to him, I would heed his advice, but Father didn't tell that to me until long afterwards. Returning to my work, I made my plans and my reasons for them known to Captain Whiteley. He cordially approved my course. It was agreed that I should remain until the close of the quarter, March 31st, and make the quarterly reports, by which time my successor would be selected and ready. He was, and started in at $2.50 per day. Captain Whiteley and I parted the best of friends in March 1860, and I saw him frequently until the next year on account of the breaking out of the Civil War.
Leaving your house was like breaking home ties. Every member of the family was dear to me. At the never failing morning prayer, on the day that I left, your Father's personal reference to, and plea for me, brought tears in spite of my efforts to suppress them. He did the same thing, only in a tendered more touching and effective manner a few year later, when I was sent back from the army on a mission.
Following Dr. Edwards' advice, I went home to the ranch and was soon reconciled to my work. Early that summer, Mother and all the other children went north, intending to spend a year, only Father and I remained. I was at your house frequently, never missing an opportunity, and your brothers were often with me. The Presidential election came in the fall 1860, and Lincoln with it. Political excitement ran high. The country fairly boiled with it. Father had known Lincoln personally in Illinois and esteemed him highly as a man and a statesman. Therefore, though he was very earnestly opposed to his election, he was a conservative southerner, who did not feel that everything was lost. Cousin Warrick took much the same view. I listened to many interesting conversations at your house and heard many notable speeches in San Antonio. Your Father's friend, Mr. Chas. Anderson, made a great impression on me. We youngsters were, naturally enough, inclined to be radical, but were held in wholesome check.
Once, just at the close of a meal, Pryor made a snickering remark about Yankees and your Father gave him a lecture that I think did me more good than it did Pryor. However, the extreme element prevailed, and it was evident, the war was coming. My Father left me in charge at home and went north after the family. He had many delays and difficulties and was gone all summer. Of course, I depended much on your Father and Mother, and was often at hour house and the boys often with me. Our folks finally got home and shortly afterwards we youngsters were off in the army. Soon after the war was over your family moved to New Orleans.
The following spring, I went north with stock and returned that winter. I had a delightful visit with your folks in New Orleans. The following spring I went north again, settled on our present farm and remained there. Whether I did it of my own volition or through force of circumstances, I had followed Dr. Edwards' advice to the letter and found myself in excellent health; for which I have never ceased .to thank him and Cousin Warrick. A few years after coming to Missouri I met Cousin Warrick in St. Louis and remained over there in order to visit with him and hear about each member of the family. It was the last time I saw him, and I have always treasured an exceedingly pleasant memory of that little visit. To me, he always appeared the embodiment of a most delightful gentleman; and at that time, was in one of the most charming moods.
My next visit with the family was soon after your marriage, when I visited all of you in San Antonio, and I think, slept and breakfasted at your house during the entire visit. Everyone was so nice to me. Your Mother received me like a long lost son, and for my part, I fairly worshiped her. That visit was well worth the two thousand miles of travel that it required to make it. Nearly twenty years ago the kindness shown my wife and Marion, when none of the family had ever seen them, laid me under additional obligations. Obligations which have grown with the years until my hope of ever being able to discharge them, had grown dim, and I am almost reconciled to the idea of dying in debt.
I sincerely wish that I had words and opportunities to express to each member of the Tunstall family, my sincere appreciation of all that they have felt, and done for me. As it is, I can only hope that some day, in some way, somebody may do as much for some of them, and thus, in a measure, repay some of my indebtedness.
Kansas City, Mo. - January 9, 1957
Your grandmother has been after me for some time to write some of the recollections of my early life in Missouri and Texas. Some of the things at the time seemed quite natural, but looking back through the years, in the light of so many changes, they seem to me, and no doubt will seem to you, to belong to another period.
In 1889, when I was eight years old, Dad sold our farm near Miami, Mo where I was born, and started to Texas where he was raised. Miami at that time was one of the best small river towns in the state. It was a good river shipping port for both grain and stock. My Uncle John and Uncle Dave had a steam boat that they used for a ferry and also for shipping stock and grain, principally wheat, to DeWitt where it was shipped to market on the Wabash RR. But Miami has suffered the same fate as so many small towns and is now only a shadow of its former self. It reminds me of the poem, "The Deserted Village".
Some time in the summer of 1889, we started for Texas with two covered wagons and a buggy. The preparations for the trip were very interesting to me. I do not remember just how long we were on the trip and, of course, many of the happenings of the trip are blotted from my memory.
One night through in the southern part of Missouri, in a part of the country that seemed even to me, to be filled with a pretty hard lot of people, a bunch of pretty rough looking men came to our camp and stood around for a while then left. I remember that Dad and my older brothers kept a close watch all night for we had some good teams, and they didn't want to take any chances. Those men may have been perfectly honest for at times we misjudge people
I remember at another camping place there was another party of movers who were from Vernon County. They had a boy who was an idiot and he would sit around the campfire and watch the sparks fly up and always seemed to wonder where they went, and he would point to them and jabber all the time.
We reached Hill County in Northern Texas some time in the fall of 89 and Dad rented a farm and we raised a crop of cotton the next year. That was my first experience in a cotton field and if the country had to depend on me to pick it, I will say that it is a good thing that all these other kinds of cloth have been developed. I remember that it was a prairie country, and there was a dandy creek running through the farm. In some ways, your Uncle Jim and I were more interested in swimming and of course, in seeing that the little fish did not get hungry, than we were in working in the cotton fields. Your Aunt Doll and I worked together and it was very interesting to watch the buzzards sail overhead, it seemed for hours, with never moving a wing. Another bird we watched was the scissor-tailed fly catcher. It was very fast and pretty in the air. I have never seen one since that time.
That summer Dad went down to LaSalle County and bought a piece of land and later built a house near Aunt Mat's (mother's younger sister). She was as sweet a person as I ever knew. On the way down there Doll and I were kept pretty busy riding stick horses and driving an imaginary herd of cattle behind the wagon. One day while going through some heavy timbered country, we passed a very crude log house and tow dogs came out right at us barking and showing their teeth. If they had been lions, they would not have looked more dangerous. Doll rose like a bird and went through that little hole where the canvas is pulled together and she landed I Mother's hair. I pulled all the chairs off the back of the wagon but could not get my feet very far off the ground. I remember I looked around and the dogs were standing there looking at me. Doll caught it for landing in the wagon and I caught it for wrecking the back end of the wagon. That seemed to be one game you could not win at. On the way from hill County to LaSalle County we camped on right close to the small town of Valley Mills. We came down a very steep rocky hill, and camped in the valley surrounded by high hills. I saw a goat up near the top of the hill, back of our camp, and I never forgot that sight.
On our recent trip to Texas we came by the town and we stopped to get some ice-cream. I talked to the lady in the drug store and described the location of the hill and the goat. She knew th place, said the hills were still there but that they had a good highway there now. She thought I would no doubt see some goats there but doubted it would be the same one. The goat I saw didn't look just like the one I remembered and the hills were also not quite so high.
I have forgotten much of the trip, but I do remember crossing the Colorado River not far above Austin. I was riding a pony called Paint that George had bought in Hill County. The ford was a short distance up stream from some rather swift falls and it was hard for me to see why the wagon kept slipping up stream. They had some trouble convincing me that I was pulling my horse down stream, toward the falls. That shows what a swimming head and dizziness will do for you. Lots of times when we think the other fellow is all wrong we will find out we are not going in the right direction ourselves.
We lived one mile from Millett, Texas for eighteen months. This was strictly cattle country and to a nine year old boy from a farm in Missouri, it was like a different world. None of us can explain how so many things could happen in so short a time that left such lasting impressions on our minds.
Aunt Sally Rhodes, Mother's sister-in-law, lived on a ranch near enough to drive up there. To me other trips may have been finer than going to that ranch, but I did not know of them. That is how I learned the capitals of some of the New England states, some of the ones we went through this summer. It was learn them or not go to the ranch. I could not see why they had to have capitals anyway.
Your Aunt Doll, and I had a lot of faith in the doodle bug, telling us which way the horses went, when we were sent to hunt for them and drive them home. At least that was easier than looking for them. When we found the horses sometimes we would catch one old tall horse, named Frank, and get his head down, then we would slide on his back, and with the help of a small stick to steer him, we would get home OK.
One winter morning we were on our way to school that your "Aunty" (my sister Mag) was teaching when we heard a roar that seemed high in the air. We wondered what it was but failed to solve the problem. However, not long after reaching the school house one of those real Texas Northers settled down to the earth. We were about the coldest bunch of youngsters you ever saw for we were all dressed for summertime, and summertime dress in South Texas was not very heavy. Your Aunty, a born teacher, sent one of the older ones home for more clothes and shoes. There was an old stove in the school house, but it was not safe to have a fire in it. So we built a big bonfire on the south side of the school house and used that for a school room that day. You think it gets cold in South Bend, and it does, but for a real chilled to the bone feeling, just try a real Texas Norther once, especially when you are not dressed for it.
After eighteen months with only one rain, Dad was forced to sell out and start back to Missouri. We thought the country was burnt up, but this fall your grandmother and I drove through the same country, and they haven't had a rain there for seven years. Thank goodness we were in a car and could make faster time. We were seven weeks on the road to Missouri, that took about three days driving time with a car.
We drove a bunch of loose horses through so Jim and one of the girls, Mag or Doll, and I rode horseback to take care of those horses.
They tell it on me, and there was a lot of truth in it, that I spent all the time coming north riding a pony and looking back at things we had passed. But try, as I would, I could not catch up with my looking. You see we were going about twenty miles a day, and that takes a lot of just looking to satisfy an eleven year old boy. That is one reason the country didn't look natural when your grandmother and I drove north from Texas last fall because I had to keep looking ahead, and on the road a car doesn't have eyes like a pony.
I find myself looking back even yet.
Mother and the two younger sisters came to Missouri on the train. I will always remember how good a sport dad was with us four kids. We camped one night on Horse Creek, I think it was, in Indian Territory, and I have never seen a worse storm or rain. Our camp was in a flat bottom along the creek, and when the lightning would flash, it looked like we were out in a big lake. The water must have been at least a foot deep all over that part of the land. Jim and I always slept on the ground under the wagon but, of course, that was out of the question that night. For a restful night, I would not recommend two boys trying to sleep, as wet as rain water could make them, in space about three feet square and on top of cooking equipment. I remember that a camp skillet with a sharp edge up was not quite as soft as a foam rubber mattress. But we lived through it, and some time in the afternoon we got dry. Of course we didn't change clothes at all. The night it stormed, the wheat was in the shock, but next morning the telegraph wires along the railroad were simply covered, and one field, I remember, had a good wire fence along the road and the wheat was laced around the wire so thick that a rabbit could not have gotten through. I know Dad was uneasy but he did not let us know it, and for us kids, we had all the confidence in his ability to get us through it.
Some place in the Indian Territory we were out on a big open prairie, no fences, where we could see for miles, and a long way in front of us, I saw what looked like a speck coming toward us. When he got near enough I saw it was a man on a pony. When we met, he was singing "Oh bury me not on the lone prairie". It was about as lonesome a sight and sound as I ever saw or heard.
Some place on the road, I have forgotten whether it was when we were going down or coming back, we went through a small town of run down unpainted houses. There was an old unpainted, boxed up hotel with the sign, over the door, Adam Hotel. Your Aunt Doll didn't like it at all and said it sure looked like one but it was not smart for them to advertise it that way.
Maybe your Aunt Doll can explain why she drove under the one lone tree out on the open prairie and broke several bows on the wagon that held the canvas up, but I can't. I remember she had some trouble explaining it to Dad.
After about seven weeks we finally reached Uncle Franks' at Miami, and of course were glad to get there, and all were so happy to see Mother and the little sisters. But I, also experienced a rather let down feeling when I knew that the trip was over and that I had to settle down to one place. I have never gotten over that feeling.
I hope that you won't get too bored reading this and will realize that some of the conditions and roads of 65 years ago, were not as smooth as those of the present time but they
were traveled just the same, and while you will not have the same kinds of roads to cover, you will travel them just the same.
To. Linda Burruss South Bend Indiana
Written by: David Nelson Burruss, Kansas City, Missouri