Written by Himself.
Commenced April 23rd, 1845.
1790 -- In the year 1790, My Father had a school house built on his own land on the point of a ridge near where there is a stone quarry, about one hundred from a spring and Branch south of his house, not 1/4 of a mile from my Present residence, which shortened my road to school deing directly on my old path. At this place I went to school six months to an old English gentleman who was a good English scholar, but used his rod pretty freely. I do not recollect however of ever feeling it as I was very attentive and made rapid progress in learning to read & write I commenced in the Testament and shortly after in making my first Pothooks in my writing book, I ended with him in the Bible & Multiplication Table. My father took the Kentucky Gazette and I was able to read it & often puzzled him with asking the meaning of hard words and places about his Geographical knowledge did not extend, and when strangers came to stay all night instead of going to bed with the other children I always sat up to hear their convseration, by which means I learned many things and could tell my school mates of the passing news of the day. My father observing these things indulged and encouraged me to read and notice all important matters that I heard, during this school two events occurred one of which was the cause of deep sorrow as well as furnished with a new rule for my future conduct, The other a mere pleasantry which we who were concerned very much regretted--
The first occurred during one of our play times, It was usual for the boys and girls to play together, we were one day playing at Pawns, which were to be redeemed by a kiss, one of my cousins who was a very homely girl, and larger than me had won of me and approached to give me a kiss and I spit at her--she immediately threw up her hands over her face and burst into tears, while the other children gave me a look of indignation. I felt the rebuke strike into my heart, and I would have given worlds if I had not done it our plays were instantly broken up, and I went away with the feelings of the utmost misery, I could not hold up my head until on our way home that evening I sought the first opportunity to confess my guilt and ask her pardon, my good cousin granted it, but I have never pardoned myself even to this day, she was even kind to me afterwards and I sought every occasion to treat her with respect afterwards until we were both grown--It has had an influence on my who life, never to wound the feelings of others by act or word, remembering that the poor and the humble as well as the most homely persons have feelings as acute as our own--The truth is I deserved a good slashing for this offense, and I have receaved it mentally every time it rises in judgement against me--
The other was an accidental foible. It was usual for our Teacher Mr. Taylor to give the smaller boys an intermediate play time, so one day about Ten oClock A.M. Four of us about the same size viz Ben W. Casey, Enos Ashby, Robt. Goudy & myself were let out of school to play ten or fifteen minutes, we all paraded out on the side of the hill when Ben Casey asked us If we had ever heard the Indians yell, we told him we had not that we recollected, "Well boys (says he) If you will join with me I will show you how it is done" & with that he commenced yelling most hideously and we joined in chorus, which soon brought odl man Taylor out who did not seem to relish such yelling & we were ordered in the house, we gave Ben a reproachful look, and he whispered to us--pshaw the old man dont understand Indian! This matter broke up our play & we never got any more--
In the fall of this year my father rebuilt his mill he tore down the old mill house and made a kind of Barn of it and built a new hewed log house and had entirely new mill works for two pair of stones put in it, by a Mr. Boucher It was double geared, having one large water wheel, and one large cogwheel with two smaller ones besides the Trundle head in the old stile, all in complete order, and for a second pair of mill stones for wheat he got them out of the Bank of Salt River at the first bend below my uncle Saml McAfees, three forths of a mile above the old McAfee station. The mill wright work cost him one hundred pounds and he had to sell one hundred acres of his settlement land, on Salt River S.W. of Harrodsburgh to pay it, he had however one of the best mills of that day, altho the wheat stones were pure limestones yet they made First rate flour--This Mill house is yet standing and contains my present mill, my father also built a saw mill and put it on the west side of the River There being at that time an abundance of Poplar timber in the field adjoining out of which he sawed more than one hundred thousand feet of poplar plank growing on not more than thirty acres on which there is now not one Tree, I name this, that after generations may know, the condition of our native Forests. My fathers stock of all kind increased abundantly & we then had cattle, Horses & Hogs equal to any Durham or Berkshire I have ever since seen in this country, and sheep done equally well, altho the wolves often made sad havoc among them even in the sheep fold in which they were penned every night, scarcely a night passed without hearing their united howls to the no little alarm of the children & poor sheep who instinctively huddled together with the Rams at the outposts ready to make battle. My uncle James McAfee this year built his stone house where my son William now lives, his stone masons were James Curran & Joseph Adams were after married my sisters Sally & Mary, & William Davenport one of his carpenters married his daughter Elizabeth, being industrious steady young men, being as good matches as could be had in those days of pristine simplicity.
1791 -- I went to school to an Irishman by the name of John Forsythe, he was a good Teacher especially in Arithmetic and writing. I went to him six months in a school house built by my father and John Threlkeld & Ben & Walter Bohon who had settled on Can Run west of Salt River This school stood on the point of the ride on the west side of the River about two hundred yards from my fathers saw mill, I soon became a favorite with this Teacher, who often boasted of it, long after I had entered public life, his school extended to Christmas of this year, & my father was often pleased with seeing the exploits of school boys, having created a Brewery in which he had employed an old Dutchman by the name of Rupertsburgh, promised to treat us to as much beer as we could drink If we would turn Forsythe out to get Holiday, accordingly the day before Christmas we met early & barred the doors well & provided ourselves with clubs & sharp stick sin warlike style many of the boys boasting of their prowess & what they would do if our Teacher ventured near and none talked louder than a large Flax headed boy by the name of Bill Bowling in whom we thought we had a generalissimo. It was not long before Mr. Forsythe made his appearance, and we rallied to our Portholes, he came up to the door and pushed at it, and demanded admission, I told him he must give us a holliday or he could not come in, he made some heavy threats which were replied to by a majority of us the girls included who if anything was braver than the boys, not hearing Bill Bowlings voice we looked round and round him hid under one of the writing benches looking pale and confused, the girls reproached him but he was so confused & alarmed that he could say nothing. After parrying some time longer Mr. Forsythe turned off and went to my fathers mill pond where finding a canoe he crossed over to my fathers leaving us to ourselves, we did not hink of sallying out on him until it was too late, we remained in possession until evening making merry when finding that he had no intention of returning we broke up and went home feeling that we had been outwitted and had got nothing, we however got Christmas day, and my father treated us well as laughed at us into the Bargain. It being the latter part of the week we all returned to school on Monday following and things went on as if nothing had taken place. This little incident proved to me that those are not the bravest who talk the loudest or brag the worst of their valor--
In this year the first constitution of Kentucky was formed, I reccolect [sic] the deep Interest my father took in the event and of his attending the convention in Danville.
1792 -- In the spring of this year I went with my father in his wagon to Louisville after a load of Goods for Capt. Casey & John Waggoner who put up a store house on the spot where Thomas Hutchinson has built his present brick house in which he now resides -- It was considered dangerous on account of Indian depredations and had only one other waggon with us, I will recollect my fathers caution where he camped always preparing himself for a night attack, we went past Kincheloes station and returned by Bardstown, Louisville at that time was but a small place confined to one street on the second bank below the mouth of Bear Grass, and all the houses hewed logs and frame, I do not recollect of seeing a brick house in this place, it was but a small village, The sight of the Ohio river and the roaring of the Falls was a grand thing to me, I was never tired in looking at thme, and it filled me with enlarged & astonishing views of the greatness of the Western country, and its increasing prosperity--
On my return I was sent to school to a Mr. Work who taught near Col. Geo. Thompson where I boarded a week or two & was afterwards placed at Col. Gabriel Slaughters afterwards Governor of this State where I was treated with the utmost kindness, as much so as if I had been his own child, but my heart was at home, and this first experiment of living from home taught me how deeply I loved my native place, I could not learn as I used to and not long after a distant relation by the name of Thomas Adams (1) took up school in my old school house on the west side of Salt River & I returned home to my great joy. This circumstance has ever made me unwilling to force my children from home to go to school, I had suffered mentally the extremest tortures and considered as a prelude to other sufferings as I knew my father intended to send me to school until I had go the best education the country could afford--
1793 -- In the month of February in this year my father went to Philadelphia he rode a fine bay mare he had bought of my uncle James McCoun (the one who married my aunt Susan) and for which he gave one hundred acres of land, --his business was to endeavor to obtain from Congress a grant of Land N.W. of the Ohio on the waters of White River, Mr. John Breckinridge having removed to Kentucky & settled in Lexington being an old Virginia acquaintance of my fathers from Rockbridge & Bottetourt county my father had employed him in his land suit with Williams, Mr. Breckinridge encouraged to engage in this enterprise, and agreed to go partners, with him, my father had also the aid of John Brown who I think was then in the senate of the U States from Kentucky, he remained in Philadelphia attending Congress several weeks but did not succeed as the Indian title had not been extinguished, he however obtained promise from many of the members to aid his views, as soon as the Indian claim was obtained--On his return Mr. Breckinridge agreed to pay him twenty shillings for every Thousand acres he would survey, In compliance with this agreement, my father & Brother Saml (who was his surveyor) James Magee, James Currens, Matthew Forsythe (2) & Richard Steele, Junr got canoes and embarged on the Kentucky river at _____ with knapsacks their rifles & Provisions in the month of ______ and descended the River to the mouth, where having hid a few of their heavy articles in a hollow tree, they took Genl. Wilkinson & Genl. Scotts Trace along which they had made an excursion to the Indian towns on the Wabash & went out to the East and Middle Forks of White River, principally in the present county of Jackson and around Brownstown, where they surveyed upwards of thirty Thousand acres of land and two thousand acre tracts. They suffered very much for bread as all they had was packed on their backs but their guns furnished meat in abundance, They were fortunate in not falling in with any Indians who were then hostile, but had their attention directed to the troops building Forts & escorting provisions on the rout of the army about to move against them from Cincinnati, my father had calculated on this and selected his time accordingly, They however several times heard the guns of stragling Indian hunters, having finished their labors they all returned home in safety.
This speculation turned out a blank Congress refused to make any more grants and determined to survey all their lands purchased from the Indians before making sales and the granting large bodies of land to companies was found to be injurious to a regular settlement of the country, so they had all their labor for nothing, which I have often thought was fortunate for my father and his family, because if he had obtained this land such was the annoyance he felt from the law suit pending over his home place he would have probably moved to it--which afterwards proved to be unhealthy & some of the best lands he had surveyed were annually overflown--James Magee tried the experiment about the year 1809, he sold a fine farm on Salt River & purchased a part of the land he had surveyed, to which he moved with his family when after severn years annually shaking with the ague and fever he returned to Kentucky and afterwards moved to Missouri--
In the meantime on my fathers return I was put to school to a Mr. Ward, a one legged man who taught a school at Providence in the log cabbin built for a church and school house, about fifty yards S. W. of the present Brick church, and I was boarded at my uncle James McAfees, here I was doomed to suffer that contempt which I offered to my poor cousin at my second school with about as little reason, and from a similar source, my uncle James had a daughter by the name of Margaret, who went to school in company with my and another cousin by the name of Susan McAfee, the daughter of my uncle George McAfee, who also board at my uncle James, Margaret had for some cause taken a deadly hatred to me, altho I was not conscious of giving her any offense, on our way to school she took every occasion to abuse me in the grossest manner, she had taken up the Idea that her father was boarding me for nothing altho my father was paying for it in flour from his mill, I bore it patiently & tried to parry her abuse by kindness but all would not appease her my cousin Susan took my part and would shame her for it which caused me to over her ever afterwards. At length weary of her persecutions I complained to my father who took me away and I boarded with my Grandfather McCoun, who then lived alone, except his black people which was a sore trial to me as I wanted some person to cheer me, of course I did not learn much this summer and my father took me home before the school was out, and fortunately a young man by the name of Dunlavy came to the neighborhood enquiring for a school & my father employed him for six months, he commenced his school some time in September, he was a young man of fine Education having receaved a classical education and I was once more in my old school house, he was a first rate reader, his only defect was that he did not write a very good hand, he afterwards studied law and became a distinguished Judge in the State of Ohio, and had a brother who figured largely among the Shaker at Pleasant hill in Mercer County Kentucky and at Turtle Creek in Ohio, he wrote a book explanatory in deference to their doctrines--
With Mr. Dunlavy I progressed rapidly in learning to read distinctly, and also in Grammar and writing he classed his scholars, and I had in my reading class my three Indian yelling boys, Ben W. Casey, Enos Ashby & Robert Goudy who were about the same age and was very ambitious to excell each other, and at the close of his first quarter he had premiums for the best reader & Capt. Thomas, the surveyor of the county & an old teacher was selected as the judge, when time arrived I had practiced assiduously and we each had out portions of reading assigned us. I commenced with a beating heart, and had the high gratification to receive the Premium which I believe was a fine pen knife the other boys yielded the palm to me with a good grace and I was as much pleased as if I had received a kingdom--which was greatly increased at seeing my Sweetheart by the name of Jane Curry receave the Premium on the part of the girls, she was a pretty girl and had a fine clear voice and was of a pleasant happy Temperament, and I was destined (young as I was) to feel cupids arrows deep in my heart, I do not know that it was reciprocated, as I never told her except by my looks and constant effort to make myself agreeable to her, by sharing with her all the good things I could get hold of, which she took in good part so that I finally resolved to make for her my wife if I ever lived to get old enough, But all my visionary prospects, altho I was firm in my resolve for many years but after we left school, and absence, for some time cured me, she lived in the neighborhood which I was sent from home I did not meet her again for ten or eleven years when we met at a wedding of one of my relations upon whom I waited and my love had all evaporated, I contended myself with telling how much I had loved her at school but did not venture to renew the subject, as my circumstances forbid my marrying at that time & she was greatly changed.
I was now considered the best reader at school & my good mother required me to read her a chapter in the Bible or Testament every Sunday, she had taught me the Lords prayer and the shorter Catechism of the Presbyterian church at home as well as the child's prayer, "now I lay me down to sleep &c" which I was punctual in saying over every night when I went to bed-yet my heart was not in it, and I often thought her too rigid especially in keeping me in the house and from playing on the Sabbath day. But I have had reason to thank Almighty God that my dear mother taught me these things so early altho at that time I often eluded her vigilance, and one anecdote of the kind I will relate which took place at this time which made a deep impression on my mind ever afterwards & was of essential benefit to me in secular affairs, I had a cousin by the name of Saml Walker Kerr who had lost his father & mother when an infant before my family moved to the country and my father became his Guardian, he was several years older than me and was my daily companion, one Sunday morning after we had read our usual task of reading in the Bible to my mother we slipped out, and went down Salt River and round to the North side of my fathers plantation, and came upon a large Fox so suddenly that he ran up a leaning White walnut tree. I [sic] leaned so much that the Fox was not more than fifteen or twenty feet from the ground, we were delighted with the idea of securing our prize, but we had neither dogs or an axe, upon consultation my Cousin Walker, as we called him proposed to me to go back to the house and get the dogs and an axe and he would stay and watch the Fox; away I went and slipped silently to the woodpile and got an axe & made signs to the dogs to follow me dreading every moment that my father or mother or some one of the family would see me, however I got off safe and on my way back I began to calculate what I would get with my Fox skin which then sold for thirty seven and a half cents, after cogitating over various things I wanted I finally concluded to buy a good Barlow pen knife, a pair of sleeve buttons & a ginger cake, and full of this scheme I got back safe and found the Fox still up the tree and my Cousin watching him with the most intense anxiety, and as cutting the tree down would make a noise we concluded to try & make the Fox jump off the Tree as we had no doubt the dogs would catch him as he fell. The Fox had gone out to the extreme end of the limbs & we got sticks & threw at him, and every moment we looked for him to jump, dogs and all being right under him some thirty or forty feet from the root of the Tree but Reynard had no idea of being taken and making as if he was about to jump down in our midst he suddenly wheeled & ran down the tree by which means he got at least twenty yards before the dogs saw him, & away he went with the dogs after him when we saw this my heart began to fail as it was evident we were in a fair way to loose our prize. After a close race of about two hundred yeards our Fox was safely housed in a sink hole and away went my fine calculations, which like many others often made in this world, fortunately left a practical influence on my mind, never to indulge in doubtful speculations of success of any kind, long before I had read, of the hunter selling the Bear skin before he had taken it, and I relate it that others my profit by it--
My Cousin Saml Walker Kerr was about this time put to the Trade of a Hatter in Harrodsburgh to Mr. David Sutton, very much against his inclination, my Father thout it his duty to give him a trade as he had no property to support himself, he went with as heavy a heart as I did to board from home and it was unfortunate that he did so as he had no capital to begin with, he however attempted to follow it but never succeeded at it and finally it was abandoned as his heart was never in the matter--This even always prejudiced my mind (and experience justifies the opinion) never to put a boy to any Trade or business which he does freely select himself, as nine times out of ten it will turn out a failure, almost every person has a genius for some kind of business if permitted to follow it, you cannot force nature or give boys inclination which they do not possess, and if any person does not possess talents to make a fortune, they would not keep it if made to their hand, if Parents or Guardians would oftener consult the natural temperament of their children and wards, they would save many heartaches & disappointments--
during [sic] this summer and fall my Mothers health began to fall it was evident that consumption had taken hold of her lunghs but she was as yet not confined to her bed, I could discover from the anxious looks of my father and my mothers distressing cough and wan appearance that Her final end was fast approaching--
My father seemed to be set upon my Education, and to make Provision for my future welfare, and Mr. John Breckinridge having heard that I was a boy of some promise, and being also a warm friend of my fathers he had proposed to take me into his office and complete my Education, and on my part I was to copy any papers he might need, by this I understood that I was to be a Lawyer, which pleased me very much, as my father had often taken me to Harrodsburgh where I was seated in the Bar fo hours to hear the Lawyers plead, I was delighted with the idea as it was an honorable profession and I felt ambitious to rise to distinction and give proof that my Father and his friend would not be disappointed, my whole heart was in the matter and I then resolved to devote myself to the subject. I was however not aware of the long road I had to Travel and how much I yet lacked in my Education before I could get a fair start--
1794 -- In the month of February of this year I was taken from Mr. Dunlavys school and after having the best clothes my father and mother could procure made up I was sent to Lexington with my Uncle James McAfee who was going there to get some Lineseed and other necessaries to paint his house he had several packhorses with flour to sell, I rode one of them, but rode into town behind him and went to Mr. Breckinridges house, he lived in one which Thomas Hart afterward lived in (Mr. Clays father in law) I will never forget his fine carpets which were new furniture to me, I hesitated to walk on it until my uncle seeing my embarrassment ordered me to walk on, Mr. Breckenridge was not in at the time but came in soon after & after inspecting me very closely he told my uncle that Small Pox had made its appearance in town & that he thought he outght not to have me as his own family had not had it and he thought it would be dangerous, The small pox originated in the army then stationed at Cincinnati and was then spreading all over the country I was glad to hear this, as notwithstanding my high anticipations, I was truly glad to get back home, as I had left with a heavy heart, so much so that I had slept none the night before but lay and tossed all night, and when the cocks began to crow for day I had taken a hearty cry, I thought I was doomed to a hard lot & all my ambition had evaporated my mental sufferings were extreme, but when I heard that I could return home I was supremely happy as the thought of my kind & indulgent parents rose before--
We staid that night at a Mr. Keisers on the hill on high street and next morening the ground was covered with snow, but I was happy. My uncle had to go about two miles East of the Town to the oil mill owned by a Mr. _____ and we had to pass through the Transylvania Seminary lot which was then uninclosed & we had to pass near the old Brick Seminary, I was mounted on a pack saddle and in this style rode over the lott, (something like Franklin when he first entered Philadelphia) the school boys were out snowballing each other & as I approached I good [sic] several at me which I thought very unmannerly of them, I took a good view of the house as I knew I was destined to go to school there as it was agreed that I should return as soon as the small pox ceased, It came to Lexington sure enough and the town suffered severely as all who could not get away were innoculated, The Kine Pox was not then known, Mr. Breckenridge was near dying with it and I made a fortunate escape as it ravages were principly confined to the North side of the Kentucky river. As soon as I returned home I went back to my school dressed in my fine clothes as I was anxious to show off to the best advantage to my pretty Miss Curry--which added to my enjoyments--
But my dark days were now rapidly advancing when I was destined to pass through the crucible of adversity. The health of my mother was declining and she was confined to her bed. I well recollect her kind anxious looks as I passed through her room when her eyes would follow me as long as I was in view, she at last after being confined for several months expired like one going to sleep I was at home and myself and younger brothers slept upstairs, I remember my deep feelings, when awakened by my sister about day break on the morning of the 25th ____ to come down and see my Mother die. It was a solemen moment my father stood by her side and all the family round in silence while her breathing became feebler & shorter, until it was announced that she was gone, we burst into tears and my happiness seemed extinguished forever, I then Began to feel my true situation, all my acts of disobedience and neglect of attention rose in judgement agains me and I would have given worlds if she could have only come to life that I might prove to her how much I loved her, as in many instances I had not waited on her as I should have done; These feelings have been so deeply impressed on my heart that I never see children disobey their Parents and especially their Mother without admonishing them and having my own disobedience brought to my view, and I fully believe that disobedience of Parents & particularly of the Mother, is more offensive to the Almighty than almost any other sin, when I see children act thus or abuse their parents I always remember what Solomon says "whoever curses the father or Mother The Eagles shall pluck his eyes out," and I hope this reflection will have an influence on my posterity as long as any of them remain in this world.
After the death of my Mother, I was boarded with my Brotherinlaw James Curran who married my sister Sally & lived about a mile & a half N. E. of the present village of Salvisa near a large swampy pond & went to school to Mr. Joseph Bomar (a Brother of Majr Harman Bowmar near Versailles) who taught in a small log cabbin on Cedar Run a short distance above a fine spring -my Brother Saml went with Genl Scotts mounted men on Waynes Campaign against the Indians and was in the Battle of the 20th August at the foot of the Rapids of the Maumee.
The ballance of the family consisting of my Sisters Mary & Anne & my youngest Brother John remained at home with my father, and during that fall my sister Mary married Mr. Joseph Adams of Maryland, As to my father the world had become a blank, all was dark before him, he appeared inconsolable and mixed but little in society, he finally determined to prepare for a voyage to New Orleans, in a flat boat with flour, Bacon, Lard and such other articles as he could obtain, having raised a fine crop of wheat, he ground it on his own mill & packed in a large room of his house, and about the last of January 1795 he commenced his boat at Armstrongs ferry on the Kentucky river and had all ready by the 1st of March.
The summer of 1794, I continued at school and made rapid progress in writing and Arithmetic in a class with a youth by the name of Benjamin Hensley a year or two older than I was, we went through all the rules in Dilworths Arithmetic setting down our sum and writing as much as we could every day--Dilworth was then the only book used, and in consequence myself and Mr. Hensley learned to write as good a band as we ever did afterwards, This was just after I had completed my tenth year, and I had now acquired the reputation of an extraordinary pensman, of my age, Mr. Hensley afterwards became a highly respected in Frankfort, and ever afterwards were warm friends and often talked over our school incidents while I attended the Legislature, he is now the Keeper of the Indiana Penitentiary at Jeffersonville and a more worthy upright man does not live.
While attending this school altho I was living wiht my sister who was kind to me my heart was at home and I have often retired by myself to take a hearty cry when I thought of home and the death of my Mother, and every two weeks on Friday evenings or on Saturdays I walked eight miles over a new cut out road filled with small stumps of underbrush altho I knocked off nearly all my toenails on the way & on Monday morning I twas almost death to start back altho my father always sent me on Horseback--After my school was out I remained at home assisting my father when I could in his preparations, and in the month of February 1795 previous to his departure I was taken back to Lexington, and by the advice of Mr. John Breckenridge was placed at an English school kept by a man by the name of Duty who kept a school on Water Street opposite the Public square and I was boarded at Mr. Samuel Ayers (a silve smith) who then lived on high street in the upper part of the town, but afterwards moved down on Main street opposite the Seceder church built the next year for the Revd. Adam Rankin of whose church my father was a member--The parting with my father was a severe trial, he took leave of me in the door of my cousin James McCouns store who was to have the superintendence of money matters and see that I was well taken care of--I well recollect the long anxious look my father gave me with his eyes filled with tears, which were also trickling down my cheeks as he took my hand for the last time exhorting me to be a good boy and keep out of bad company gave me a handfull of money & then got on his horse and slowly rode down the street from opposite the court house while I stood like a statue looking after him until he turned round the corner into Main Cross street, something seemed to tell me I was never again to see him, all my troubles were upon me at once, my heart was still with him at home, and I thought I never could be reconciled to live away from it--and often afterwards have cried myself to sleep--Mr. and Mrs. Ayres were kind to me and were indeed to me a second father & mother. At school I soon became a favorite, my teacher proved an excellent one and I was so far advanced for my age that I was soon made one of the Monitors, I now reviewed my Arithmetic, writing, grammar, &c., This school continued three months, and I then entered Transylvania Seminary under the charge of hte Revd. Harry Toulman, a Unitarian Preacher from England. In the latter part of August news reached me that my Brother Sam'l had returned from Orleans and that my father had been killed by some unknown person while sleeping in his boat. The circumstances as related by my brother were as follows, He had nearly sold out his boat load, and had but few articles left, he lay in the fore part of the boat & my Brother slept in the stern, & some person came in & struck him with the edge of an axe on the side o fhis head over his ear, being a very athletic man & watchful he sprung up & the villain alarmed for fear that his blow had not taken effect made his escape he called to my brother who hastened to him & was told that he was badly wounded & then tyed a handkerchief round his head, This was about an hour before daylight on the 10th day of May 1795--he still continued in his senses until an hour by sun when he began to grow delirious and died about ten o'clock A.M. only saying to my brother that his end was come and to do the best he could. My Brothers troubles now began & having only time to make a safe deposit of his moeny, The Government officers seized his boat & such articles as they had not sold as Government property. Totally ignorant of the law, or customs of the country, my brother did not know what to do when a Mr. Thompson, who had been several times down at N. Orleans before with a boat & who lived in the same county in Kentucky near Danville called to see him and told him what to do, by his advice he employed counsel & filed his petition in their court claiming the property as the eldest son of my father which he proved by Mr. Thompson and after a Tedious trial the property was returned, my brother than sold out the ballance of his load, but still he had other difficulties to encounter. It was against the law for a foreigner to carry out of the country any gold or silver and he had also to obtain a passport and return home by sea as in those days there was no other way of getting back unless through several Indian nations whose friendship could not be relied on, my brother finding a vessel bound for Charleston, South Carolina, under the advice of his friend Thompson he sewed his money (about $1500.00, the greater part in Gold) in a bet and buckled it round his waist next his skin & then sending a few hams of meat to the custom home officer he was permitted to pass with but a slight examination to the vessel and in this way returned home by sea landing at Charleston he got home about the middle of August--such were the absurd and oppressive regulations of the Spanish Government in relation to their trade. It was no wonder that the Kentuckians were incensed against the Spaniard & truly rejoiced when by the treaty of 1795 our Government secured a place of deposity & more liberal regulations, I was in Lexington (Ky.) when the news arrived of this even and assisted in making Bon fires out of pine boxes & Tar barrels the night after the news was received--
Soon after I heard my brother had returned I insisted on going home & remained several weeks at my Brotherinlaws M. Forsythes, I then returned to school I felt myself solitary and alone cast upon the world without the guardian care of Parents at the tender age of Eleven years, I viewed my situation as dark and gloomy enough, tis true I had many relations, who no doubt felt anxious that I should do well, but my impressions were that none of them took much interest in my future prospects, none gave me their counsel except my relation James McCoun who had been left by my father with John Breckenridge the Executors of his will, but both of whom having business enough of their own to attend to declined the trust, My brother Samuel became the adminstrator & managed my Estate as well as acting as my voluntary guardian, and in addition to all my troubles the law suit of Williams was revived against me, and my younger brother John to whom my father had left his home farm where I now live which placed in jeopardy, my patrimony and place of my birth, the expenses of which took all that could be raised from the rents. In the fall of 1795 Mr. John Cardwell from the State of Virginia came to the neighborhood and rented the farm for the ensuing year giving the third of what he could raise, young as I was I felt the full force of my difficulties and then took a firm resolution to look to my own effort for my future support, and from that moment determined to qualify myself for business, I felt as if I had no home or any friend who cared much for me and soon lost all desire or anxiety to return to my native home now in possession of strangers until I had completed my Education and was prepared to occupy it when of full age my portion of my fathers Estate was about one thousand dollars part of which was already expended.
Go to Part 8 - 1796 - 1798.
2: James Currens (or Curran) and Matthew Forsythe were Robert's brothers-in-law. James married Sarah (Sally) McAfee in 1791, and Matthew married Jane (Janet) McAfee abt 1790.
Updated May 16, 2000. This transcription is copyrighted by . It may be freely used for non-commercial purposes and family research, but must not be used for any other purpose without written permission from the transcriber.