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To me, the most fun part of genealogy research is not the names, dates and locations of my ancestors, but those moments when you actually find details about the lives they lived. I love it when I uncover a real glimpse into the past.
Jonathan Hill Jacocks’ letters offer such a look into the culture of my Haywood County, Tenn. ancestors who were his friends and relatives from the time of his birth on Nov. 24, 1831 until his death on Dec. 21, 1902. He lived among the Lovelaces, Cobbs, Brantleys, Marburys, Castalaws and others that appear in my family line.
I found a file full of Jacocks’ letters during a visit to The Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Back in June I posted an eight-page letter that included his thoughts on such topics as his pride in his heritage, early history of Haywood County and memories of visits during his childhood by distant relatives from Bertie County, N.C.
In case you don’t have time to read all 12 pages, below are a few of my favorite passages:
“Well, I have lived quite a lifetime with but little knowledge of them. If they have lived right, done well and others are blessed and made comfortable, contented and happy, I am glad and proud to know we were akin.
Otherwise I am sorry.”
Jacocks on hard work in Haywood County as a young man:
“In the day of my youth I labored under many disadvantages, as did many other reared in this section of the country. Circumstances in life by which many were surrounded, compelled the youths, most of them of my day to labor on the farm to help their parents, support the families.
True, all did not work for a living.
There were many slave owners whose children had an easy time, reared in affluence and ease, were educated and refined but the middle class slave owners who taught their children to work with their slaves – cultivate or till the soil with their own hands – many of them up to manhood receiving but little education, many of them are groveling in ignorance today whilst some few have educated themselves and rose to eminence.”
“I am also proud of the girls – schoolmates of my boyhood days.
I have nothing to say derogatory to their department in life – Some of them were pretty and lovely and in after years when their cheeks were all aglow with radiance and sweet womanhood – they possessed charms of admiration; and with these and other adorning, fascinating, alluring and other assent also in her noble refined, dignified – yes their morals and virtues all right – they became charming charmers and charmed some of the boys and actually married them.
Most of them made kind and affectionate wives – and loving mothers. Some of them are great-grandmothers.”
I well remember our pioneer preacher circuit rider whose name was Arthur Davis. Speaking of him, I am reminded of what was told me when a small boy – and the same was told to me not long ago by an old citizen who seems to be ignorant of the fact as occurred.
This man Davis, when a boy, was very wicked and daring. He feared, so said, neither God, the boys with whom he associated nor the devil. Was full of mischief – a digression but will return to the intended narrative after a while after giving you some idea of the character of Davis – something connected with his mischief led to his conviction and conversion that occurred as I have been told in this way –
He was in the road and a boy came along in a cart and Davis said to him he wanted to ride a piece – and the boy in the cart told him to get in – and after a little, Davis asked the boy if he was a possessor of religion – where upon he answered no – then said Davis – without religion you are lost and damned forever, told him he was a preacher – he would preach to him and pray for him – so saying he began his sermon pleaded with the boy to bow and pray to God, have faith in Christ and grace was with him he sins would be forgiven. The boy was converted and Davis too.
They shouted together on the road.”
“…now I return to him as the Pioneer Preacher of West Tennessee. He sent out appointments by travelers with him he chanced to meet at different places – sent one to a place in Madison County adjourning Haywood on the East to a place called Denmark.
He went to his appointment. A few good people were present – some not so good – Davis was invited by one Major Merriweather to leave another appointment – he did so – and some of the reckless characters got up a horse race – gambling crew and swore if that man came to preach they would whip him.
Davis was warned of the threat, he was small of stature but was a man of courage – fearless. On the day of his appointment, he went, found the posse of scoundrels, blacklegs and gamblers – some playing cards, etc. – he associates in a lively way with the crowd, good humor really cracked jokes – told anecdotes and in the meantime, some of them spoke of this preacher and spoke of what they intended doing with him.
The time of preaching arrived – He arose and said to the crowd that if they had no objections he would preach to them.
Believing him to be one of their kind, they agreed he should do so. He told them that he was the Methodist circuit rider that had proposed to whip – now says he, ‘I profess to be a man of God — if you are determined to whip me – give me a fair showing. Come at me one at a time. I am ready for you. I came here to preach. Please be quiet and preach I will.’
He did so and the leader of the flock was convicted under his sermon asked him to his house and leave another appointment. The result was the conversion of the posse and organization of a church.
Guess things often happen mysteriously you know.”
“All these were friends of my youth. With them, I had no quarrels; with us all was peace and harmony; and after awhile we had our social gatherings – invited guests and by the way it not infrequently happened that we had storm parties and let me tell you the girls and boys were passing into young man and lovely womenhood at most all our gatherings. We were warmly greeted and courteously treated. It mattered not whether invitations were written or verbal or whether if given of liberty was taken by any to go whether invited or not. All were or most of them were kindly treated by proprietors of the house and sumptuously fed on the best.”
“We often had music violin, flute and guitar. Seldom any dancing. We had plays of various kinds – among them one called Justification. Some of the older people after seeing the movements in this game denominated it dancing.
Quite a number of church members were betrayed into it whose rules and religion forbade dancing – and the funny part about that game was they could not play it without music.
I had no taste for the plays but was delighted with the music and much more so with the charming charmers – the fascinating young ladies of course – and now that I think about it, will say one of our violinists is a prominent minister in the Methodist Church. A very zealous worker in his charge in sermon, song and prayers – has done much good – won many souls to Christ and I warmly hope may live to win many more.”
“Ever and again the full destroyer death claimed as its victims some of our loved ones – a father, mother, brother, sister or some schoolmate or associate. Just then our fog and gladness changed to sorrow, grief and sadness. ‘Time files’ and with it is light.
We too pass, as have many of our loved ones, to the grave and but for the hope we have on meeting them on God’s blissful shore where we will live with them forever more, our heart of hearts would join and grieve us, our tears forever flow in sorrow and sadness.
We shed for our friends the sympathetic tear, especially those whom we in youth loved so dear. That is but natural with us you know. But when we take into consideration the immortality of the soul, in the resurrection morn when the graves shall be opened, our loved ones consigned these so long will come fourth and in judgment together we shall meet loved ones and abide the sentence of God – as to merit – just or unjust; if the former the full fountain awaits us and all our blessed dead who die in the Lord.”
Jacocks on being fussy:
“I would be pleased to hear from any and all of them like to correspond with them – write to that effect for me – as ever, your old fussy cousin, Jonathon H. Jacocks.
P.S. You may be curious to know why it is that I apply the word old fussy – because so called by my step mother-in-law – a woman that I love and one too who thinks much of me and my wife, her step daughter, She simply chides me for my drollery.