A LETTER TO EMILY AND JOHN MAFFITT
(The foregoing article and this letter were among the items left to the Johnson County Historical Society by Miss Martha Basham)
To Emily Virginia Maffitt and John Walton Ward Maffitt
My children, it is highly probable you will live longer than I shall and I want to leave you something that will make you think of me and at the same time it may be of sane advantage to you.
By way of preface, I will say I may make grammatical errors, but you must look over them for I have not the time to rewrite.
I will commence by giving you the names and residence, as far as I can, of mine and your mother’s relations, commencing with mine.
My father’s grandfather was from Ireland; he and his wife came to the United States before what is called the Revolutionary War. He had two children: William and John, the last named was my grandfather. He and his wife died when my grandfather was nine years old and my grandfather was indentured to a General Davidson until he was twenty-one years old. He then learned the art of tanning.
My grandmother was a daughter of Mark Whittaker of the same county as my father; her name was Sarah. Her father was a Whig and a soldier in the Revolution. The tories destroyed all his property; his wife died shortly afterward and his children scattered. My grandmother lived at General Davidson’s and when my grandfather was twenty-one or twenty-two he and Grandmother married and moved up to what is now MacDowell County about four miles up the river Catawba, above Cot. Carson’s residence, on a place which is now owned, I suppose, by the heirs of Jonothan Bird about a half-mile north of Bird’s house. There my Aunt Eleanor and my father were born. He then moved up on the head of a creek about four miles from that place and opened a farm on the head of Cane Creek where he lived the reminder of his days.
I will now try to give you the names and residence of my uncles and aunts on my father’s side commencing with the oldest:
- Eleanor married Wm McGe residence Macon County N.C.
- John (my father) was born June 5, 1792, married Matilda Bird
- Mary married Thos. Curtis, Moses Curtis’ son, residence in Georgia
- James married Eleanor Mackey (who was almost a devil), residence Macon Co. NC
- Elizabeth never married, residence Macon Co. NC
- Sarah married Curtis Saunders, residence Macon Co. NC
- William married Eliza Bird, residence McDowell County NC
- Abagail, never married, residence Macon Co. NC
- Josiah married, but I have forgotten her name, residence Macon Co. NC
I should have told you that Father’s residence is in McDowell County NC. After he married, my father bought land on the Catawba River on the north side about one mile above where Crooked Creek empties into the river a little more than a fourth mile above Jonothan Bird’s residence and about the same distance below what I called the Logan Place. My father and Uncle Zechariah Kelley swapped land and my father now lives about six miles below Marion on Little Muddy Creek, two miles from the math county road. The residence is sometimes called the James Gibbs place as he cleared the land.
Father and mother had twelve children, some of whom died while young:
- Richard (myself) is the oldest
- William married but I have forgotten her name as he married after I left home, his residence is McDowell County NC
- Nelson married Elmira Finger, residence McDowell NC
- Sarah Ann married Jesse R. Mason, residence Georgia
There was a child older than Sarah Ann but it died and was not named.
- Wilson, died at about age four
- Elizabeth married a Loughrun who was killed in Virginia; he was with General Lee, Elizabeth lives with Father.
- James Westlake died when about six years old
- Elvira married a Simmons (I think his name was James) residence McDowell NC
- John Whittaker was raised by Grandfather Maffitt and lived with him as long as he lived. After his death and that of Grandmother, Grandfather and Aunt Elizabeth lived together until 1862 when he and Nelson were conscripted and went into the Rebel army. The last I heard of him he was in Knoxville, Tennessee. Nelson was also in the same company but was discharged.
- Celina Matilda is single, lives with Father
Mother’s grandfather was a Virginian but moved to McDowell County, NC before the Revolution. He had some sons and one daughter: Jonothan, Thomas, Richard and Benjamin Bird were their names. Kasander married a man whose name was Thomas Allison who proved to be a Tory.
Richard Bird was my mother’s father’s name. He married a Miss Elizabeth Westlake of Greenbriar Co., Virginia. Grandfather’s residence was three-fourths of a mile above where Father lived and about two miles from Ebenezer Church where he and all my relative, who have died, are buried.
Grandmother and Grandfather Bird had several children: the eldest, my mother was named Matilda. She died of cancer of the breast. The next was Lucinda who married Thomas Curtis, son of Joshua Curtis, a cousin to Thomas Curtis who married Father’s sister, residence McDowell, NC. The next is Eliza who married Father’s brother William Maffit, residence McDowell NC. Nelson married but I have forgotten his wife’s name, residence Anderson District. S.C. The next are Wilson Lee and Celina (twins), Nelson lives in McDowell County and Celina in McMinn County, Tenn. Caroline married Zechariah S. Kelly, residence Anderson Dist. S.C.; Francis Asbury and Albert Jefferson (twins); Francis married a Miss Patten of Buncombe Co. NC, Albert married a Miss Jarrett, residence McDowell Co NC.; Elvira married John Dicken of McMinn Co. Tenn., Richard Ivy married a Miss Hicks, residence McDowell NC.
Your mother’s father (Cox) was a Virginian by birth; he emigrated to Tennessee and married a Miss Whitesides. I think he lived in White County most of the time. At any rate your mother was born in Sparta. Her grandfather Whitesides had several sons and daughters but I know but little about then: Anderson, James and Boreland were the names of all I can remember. James was a lawyer in Chattanooga and said to be a good one, he was wealthy when he died. Boreland married Anderson’s widow and went out to Arkansas and located at Spadra Bluff, three miles from Clarksville, Johnson County. He was living in Chattanooga, Tenn. about two years since. He has no children. Your grandfather Robert Cox (your mother’s father) was a physician; he had three daughters and one son; Caroline, the oldest, married Eli Thurman and went to California; Virginia married John Wesley Woodward, a Virginia by birth, he was deaf and dumb but a man of good sense and a good education. Virginia lives in Little Rock, Ark and has two children: Gus and Orianna Emily. Robert Monroe, all the brother your mother had, died in Memphis, Tennessee; he was a sharp man but drank too much whiskey.
Your mother, Emily Tennessee was the youngest child; her mother died when she was two or three years old. Your grandfather married a second time and his wife had two children, both girls. I do not know but one of their names; the oldest was called Sydney.
Your relatives are nearly all members of the Church. Each of my grandfathers and grandmothers were Methodists and Grandfather Bird preached sixty-five years. My father and mother were members of the same church; Mother said before she died that she was not afraid to die, that she had received pardon for all her sins. My father did not marry again and was living about two years ago.
Your Grandfather Cox was a Free Mason, as you will find by consulting the Bible that belonged to your mother. He, it seems, from what the Worshipful Master of Sparta Lodge says was a good member. Re was also a Methodist. The largest portion of my brothers and sisters are Methodists; Father always sung and prayed in his family night and morning.
Your mother died of a disease of the brain. She was a member of the Church and, I presume, was a religious woman. She was praying while in her senses after she got sick. She was a good woman to me and I tried to be good to her. We lived as happily together, I presume, as any persons generally do and I think better than a great many do.
I know she was a better woman than either your Aunt Virginia or Aunt Caroline. She had no enemies in Clarksville and, though I say it myself, we were on friendly terms with all and we associated with the best citizens in the town. While your mother was sick, we had more company than is common to see and when we started to the graveyard, notwithstanding I was afraid the guerillas would fire on us, yet there was a large procession. She was kind to the soldiers and there were a great many went to the burying.
Your mother was buried in a nice walnut coffin about twenty or thirty feet south of where Jacob Roger’s grave is. I paid Wyatt Massey to put a tombstone at the head of the grave. I was on a visit to Clarksville when I employed him and he could not get the work quite finished before I left for Little Rock.
We left a home in Clarksville and all we have except some wearing apparrel and my books and your mother’s and two beds. I own a three-acre lot where A. M. Ward once lived with two log houses with a chimney at each one; the houses are weatherboarded and all the floors laid and stair. laid in one house besides a good kitchen weatherboarded and ceiled with a good stone chimney besides two good wells of good water and a good stable - everything in good order when we left. I also own 85 acres of land two and a half miles east of Clarksville where the Little Rock and Dover roads separate; I have a good log and, a good framed building on that place and good outbuildings, but the guerillas burned the house.
I know of nothing more, at least I think of nothing else at present, but I may think of a dozen things that will interest you; but you need not show this to everybody.