From the Author -
Members and Other Readers (if any):
As I have heard stories about my great-grandfather, Samuel
Seiber, and have gathered information from various sources about his life
and times, he has come alive to me. I do not know what he looked like, nor
how his voice sounded, but I am convinced that he was a tough, strong
character. Otherwise, he could not have survived the hard circumstances of
In trying to construct a coherent biography, I have imagined
what might have been. These pages might be called "fictional biography." You
will need to take it "with a grain of salt," as my mother would have said.
If anything in my story contradicts the truth as you have
heard it, please forgive me, and let me know where I am wrong. I have not
willfully distorted any available facts.
This has been a labor of love, undertaken to help my
grandchildren and the other descendants of Samuel Seiber to appreciate him,
a man I have come to admire and even to love.
Evelyn Carter Foote
January 16, 1988
When I was a little girl in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the 1920's, my
grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Seiber, would entertain me for hours with
tales about his father, Samuel. While I sat cross-legged on the floor of the
front porch beside Grandpa's rocking chair, he would peel an apple and
scrape it. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," he would say, offering me
a bite off the end of the knife. Then he would take one himself.
"Grandpa," I would beg, "tell me about the time your daddy saw
"Well now, let's begin a little before that," he would reply, a
faraway look in his china-blue eyes.
"My grandfather was born across the ocean in Germany. When he was a
young man, he got on a ship and came to America. It landed in Baltimore,
Maryland, so that's where he decided to live. He got married and my father
was born, back when this was a young country.
"One day when my father Sam was still a little boy, his father took
him to town. They were walking down the main street when all of a sudden
Sam's daddy grabbed him and put him up on his shoulders.
"'Quick, Sam! Look over there! See that tall man getting out of his
carriage? That's George Washington. Now look at him good, for he's a great
man. Remember, and someday you can tell your children that you saw the first
president of the country."
In my mind, I could see the excited little boy sitting on his
father's shoulders, pointing to the sleek horses and the fine carriage, and
the tall white-haired man whose pictures I had seen in books.
That was only one of Grandpa's family stories. When I grew up, I
determined to learn more about the family history and to check up on
Grandpa. Not that I doubted his truthfulness, but I wanted written history
to verify him.
From a family Bible record, I learned that Samuel was born on
April 5, 1790. Since Washington lived until 1799, young Sam could certainly
have seen him.
Maryland to Tennessee
Around the turn of the century, the Seiber family moved from Maryland to
East Tennessee. They settled in the seventh district of Anderson County, of
which Clinton is the county seat. [It was first called Burrville, honoring
Aaron Burr. After his conspiracy in 1809, the town's name was changed, to
honor DeWitt Clinton.] The county was founded in 1801, with Knox and
Grainger being "parent counties." The family Bible record states that they
lived on Poplar Creek, "now Frost Bottom."
If we should travel from Baltimore to Clinton today, we would drive
leisurely down through Virginia on the beautiful scenic parkway, stopping
overnight at a Holiday Inn. But in pioneer days, the journey would have
taken weeks by horseback or Conestoga wagon.
Many German and Dutch families were willing to tackle the trip from
their first homes in the original thirteen states. They would hear tales of
the land of promise beyond the Appalachian Mountains, where land was cheap,
the valleys fertile, the rivers filled with fish, the woods abundant in
game. Although Kentucky and Tennessee had been the hunting grounds of the
Cherokee Indians, they were getting relatively safe for white settlers by
Usually the head of the family would make the initial trip alone,
finding a place where he wanted to settle and purchasing land. Then he would
return for his family. Loading their possessions on pack animals or into
wagons, driving their livestock alongside them, several families might
travel in a caravan in early spring, camping out at night. They would follow
the Shenandoah Valley through Virginia. They would pick up a portion of
Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road, which he had carved out, using old buffalo
and Indian Trails. They would cross the mountains at Cumberland Gap, on the
When they reached their destination, they would put up a crude
lean-to, clear some land, and put in a crop. Then they would fell trees,
build a log cabin, and chink it with mud. The stone fireplace would be used
for both heating and cooking.
Let us picture our pioneer ancestors as they set out on their long
journey from Maryland to Tennessee. It may have happened somewhat like this:
Early one morning in March of 1801, ten-year-old Sam felt his mother's hand
on his shoulder, shaking him awake.
"Get up, Son! This is the day we're leaving. Help your little
brother get dressed. It'll soon be daybreak."
The boy jumped up, alert at once. Throwing back the covers, he
pulled little Philip by his foot.
"Outta this bed, Phil! We're headin' for Tennessee! Yippee!"
The younger boy rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Do I hafta get up? I'm
not through sleepin'!"
"You don't want to get left, do ya? Put on your clothes."
Sam had already pulled on his pants, boots, and jacket.
"Here, Sleepy-head, I'll help you." He crammed a cap on his little
"We're ready now, Maw. Can we get in the wagon now"
Maw handed them each a cold corn pone. "Here's your breakfast,
boys. You can eat on the way. Go on out. Your Paw's already hitched up.
We'll meet the other wagons at Five Mile Post."
As Sam climbed up beside his father, he asked, "Paw, do you think
we'll meet any Indians before we get there?"
"Don't worry, Son. We'll be safe. Quite a few settlers live down
through Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. Forget about Indians--leastways,
till we cross the mountains."
"How 'bout bears, Paw?" little Phillip wanted to know.
"Well, when I went over there last fall and bought our land, I
didn't see a single one. But once we get to Poplar Creek, there may be some
back up on the mountain. I hope so; I'd like to kill one or two, 'cause bear
meat is mighty good."
Leading little John, the youngest, Maw was last to climb into the
wagon. She had the family Bible under her arm.
"Before we leave, let me read something to you," she said. "' The
Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...He leadeth me beside the still
waters...I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.' Now there's nothin' to
be afraid of, boys. God is going to be with us, always."
I'm not afraid to go to Tennessee or anywhere else," Sam declared.
"We've got God--and Paw, too. Our Paw is the strongest, best Paw in the
"Thank you, Son. You and Phil and John are goin' to make good
Tennesseans. Giddap!" he called to the horses.
The Seiber family was on the way to their new home across the
What adventures the family experienced on the way we can only imagine.
The first fact we have record of, after their arrival in Anderson County, is
that Samuel married Isabel Frost, presumably around 1809, for their first
child was born in 1810. The Frost family had come to the area from Lee
County, Virginia, and built a house in 1796.1
How did the young couple meet and fall in love? Allow me to
On a bright summer day in 1808, teenagers Sam and Isabel sat perched on a
giant rock beside Poplar Creek. The sun sprinkled diamonds of light on the
clear, gurgling waters. On a sycamore branch above their heads, a
mockingbird trilled a jubilant melody.
"That bird's goin' to sing his lungs out, Isabel," Sam said,
peering up at the tree. "Do you see him perched up there?"
"He sounds happy, just like me, Sam. I'm glad we're here in our
secret place. I can't stay long, though. I'm s'posed to be pickin'
blackberries, so we can have a pie for supper."
"I'll help you fill that bucket in a little while," Sam said,
moving a little closer to the girl. "But first, I want to ask you somethin"...
Do you like me?"
"Why, course I do, Silly. You don't have to ask me that!"
"Well, then, do you... do you..... LOVE me?"
Isabel backed away from him, startled, and looked across the creek
bed. Finally she nodded.
"Isabel, next year I'll be nineteen. I want you to marry me. I want
us to be together all our lives."
The girl beamed, moved nearer, and threw her arms around his neck.
"Oh, Sam, I want to be with you forever, too. But... I don't know what
will say. She needs me to help her with all the little ones. And Pap-- why,
he'd have a runnin' fit if he even thought I was down here with you alone,
much less thinkin' about marryin'. That kinda scares me to think about it,
"Well, we don't need to tell a soul yet. It'll be our secret. But
come on. Let's pick them berries."
The parents would have found out, in due time, about the desires of the
couple. One of the families probably would have given them a portion of land
from their acreage, according to the custom of the time. The men of the
community would have gathered to have a house-raising. While they built a
cabin, the women would furnish food, and possibly have a quilting party at
the bride's home.
Then on a given day, when a circuit-riding preacher could be found
to perform the ceremony, the wedding would take place. This would be an
important social occasion. A great feast would be prepared, and friends and
neighbors would arrive by wagon, horseback, or on foot. The men would
barbeque a pig, goat, or deer. They would cook bear meat, wild turkey,
squirrel stew, all kinds of vegetables and fruits, pies, cakes, corn pone.
After the ceremony and the feasting, the guests would dance to the tunes of
a fiddler until everybody was worn out.
The Bible record shows that Sam and Isabel had their first child on
September 17,1810, a girl they named Nancy. Then on March 26, 1812, the
second child, Philip, was born. Let's pretend to look in on the young family
on that day.
"Hey, Sam!" Peg the midwife called from the door of the cabin. "Come on in
here, and bring little Nancy. You both need to see the cutest little baby
boy I've helped to bring into this world in I-don't-know when!"
Sam and the little girl had been picking the first spring violets
that were bursting from the ground in huge purple bunches all around the
"A boy! I've got a son? Now ain't that grand! C'mon, Nancy, you've
got a baby brother!"
Sam grabbed the child's hand and rushed into the cabin. He picked
her up and carried her to the bed, where Isabel lay, smiling down at the
soft bundle in her arms.
The baby cried loudly.
"Hey, young feller! What's yer trouble?" Sam grinned. "I declare,
if you ain't the spittin' image of my brother Philip! That's what we'll have
to name him. All right with you, Isabel? Nancy, can you say 'Philip'?"
The child reached down and touched the baby's head. "Pip...Pip..."
Isabel laughed. "All right, Honey, we'll just call him that. Two
Philips might get us mixed up. So Little Philip will be Pip from now on."
War of 1812
In that very year that little Philip was born, war had broken out
with England. The War of 1812 lasted for three years. Both Sam and his
brother Philip joined Andrew Jackson's forces to fight in the final battle
at New Orleans on January 9, 1815.
My grandfather always welcomed the opportunity to tell the story of
that battle. He would be sitting in his favorite rocking chair, singing an
old hymn. As he swayed back and forth to the rhythm of the song, his clear
tenor voice would quaver on the high notes:
"When I can read my title clear, to mansions in the skies, I'll bid
farewell to every fear and wipe my weeping eyes."
Pulling on his sleeve, I'd ask, "Grandpa, tell me about how your
daddy walked down to New Orleans to fight."
He would look out into space, as if seeing the battle out there
somewhere, and he'd stop rocking.
"Well, Andrew Jackson, he was a great Indian fighter in his younger
days, and everybody in Tennessee thought he was a hero. If it hadn't been
for him, a lot of settlers would have been scalped and tortured. So when he
called for men to come to Nashville and sign up to fight the English, my
father and his brother Philip went.
"The troops left Nashville in early fall and walked all the way
down through Mississippi territory--it wasn't even a state then--clear down
to New Orleans. They got there sometime in December. Two weeks after
Christmas, they fought the English--and won. They piled up bales of cotton
around the city; that's how they saved it."
"Those poor men!" I would interrupt. "Don't you know they wanted to
be home at Christmas?"
"That's the way war is, Honey. It separates families. But those men
hadn't really needed to fight. They didn't know it, but peace had been
declared on Christmas Eve. When they heard that, they started back home. It
turned real cold and snowed hard. Many of the men got sick. Some died. My
uncle was one of them. They buried him somewhere along the way, and my
father had to come back home without him."
Although I knew the ending of the story, I always cried, because of
poor Uncle Philip. Grandpa would resume singing about the "clear titles." I
knew that had something to do with heaven, because of the part about the
mansions in the skies.
Of course I always knew that Grandpa told the story as he had heard
it from his father, but years later, I was pleased when I saw proof. On the
roster of the Third Tennessee Militia, the names of Samuel and Philip Seiber
of Anderson County are listed as having signed up in September of 1814.
What, I asked myself, would prompt a man with a young
wife and two small children to volunteer for such a dangerous undertaking?
The history of the period, plus fictional accounts, reveals the motivation.
After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin warned that the
United States was not finished with England. "The war for independence is
yet to be fought," he declared. English ships were stopping American ships
and removing the sailors on the high seas: this was called impressment. The
English were also keeping the Indians stirred up and supplying them with
ammunition to use on the frontiers. British troops captured several coastal
cities. They had shelled Baltimore, and even burned the Capitol building in
By 1814, Americans were desperate. After Napoleon's defeat in
Europe, the British forces were free to concentrate on America. Their ships
were sailing toward New Orleans. Since Jackson had proven his success on the
frontier against the Indians, he was assigned the task of protecting that
valuable port city.
"Old Hickory"--the name given Jackson because he was "as tough as
hickory bark"--knew where to turn for help; the sharp-shooting riflemen of
Kentucky and Tennessee.
Let us suppose what happened when the Seiber brothers heard about
Jackson's appeal for volunteers.
"Phil," Sam said, "our country's in danger. Paw brought us out here when we
were kids, but his paw came from the old country because he wanted freedom.
We've got to keep this country free. I hear the British have even fired on
Baltimore--that's where we were born! I remember when I was a little shaver
no bigger than Pip, I saw George Washington on the main street there one day.
He's still my hero. And, Man what a fighter against the British he was!"
"It's a bad time, all right," Phil said. "I hear tell the British
even burned the Capitol. Jackson says he needs good shots. I reckon that's
you and me."
"Yep, we sure can shoot straight. If we couldn't, we would all have
starved to death by now. Since we got big enough to hold a gun, we've bagged
rabbits, squirrels, quail, turkey, deer--"
"And don't forget who killed a bear first! But Sam, I wouldn't want
to shoot another man--not an Englishman, or even an Indian, less'n I thought
he was gonna scalp me!"
"I wouldn't either. But if it means keeping freedom for my kids,
then I guess I'd have to!"
"You're right, Sam. We can't leave it to somebody else. Let's go
and talk to Paw. You know he'll be willin' to take care of Isabel and the
children while we're gone."
"Her folks would help out too. I hate to leave, but still I feel
like it's the job of us younger men."
When the two went to talk to their father, he agreed that they
"If I was your age, I'd be goin' myself. We can't let the English,
or anybody else, run over us--and that's what they're tryin' to do. Now
don't you worry about your wife and kids, Sam. Your maw and me, we'll look
after 'em," and the older man put his arm around his wife. "Ain't that
Maw said nothing, but her eyes filled with tears. She went to the
shelf over the fireplace and picked up the Bible.
"Boys, you remember when you were little and we struck out from
Maryland one morning to come here to Tennessee?"
"Sure, Maw," Sam said. "You read the Twenty-third Psalm to us."
"It's still true, Boys. Listen." And she read steadily till she
came to "tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Her voice
broke, and she bowed her head to hide her tears.
"Oh, Maw, don't cry," Philip said, stroking her hair. "Why, we'll
be back home just as soon as we clean out that bunch of uppity Englishmen
that think they can take New Orleans away from us!"
So the two brothers left Frost Bottom for Nashville. Once enlisted,
they joined with Jackson's forces, walking down the long military road cut
through the territory that is now the state of Mississippi. This road, like
Boone's Wilderness Road, followed Indian and animal trails through woods and
swamps to the city at the mouth of the Mississippi River on the Gulf of
When they finally reached New Orleans, they found that Jackson had
assembled others to help the frontiersman: planters, some free Negroes, and
even some pirates. Notable among the latter was Jean Laffite, a famous
pirate who became an American patriot. He operated a blacksmith shop in New
Orleans as a cover for his smuggling business. When he became aware of the
activities of the British ships, he informed Jackson of the danger.
Altogether, Jackson's troops numbered about fifty-five hundred. By
contrast, the English had ten thousand veteran troops that had fought in the
Battle of Waterloo and defeated Napoleon. Naturally, they thought they could
easily handle Jackson's motley crew.
The English landed in Louisiana Territory on a day in late
December, planning to make a surprise attack on the city. They captured a
plantation owner, Major Villere, but he escaped and got word to Jackson that
the enemy was only eight miles away from the city. Jackson is said to have
smashed his fist against a table so hard that he almost broke it,
exclaiming: "...they shall not sleep on our soil! We must fight
At seven o'clock the British, who were gathered around their camp-fires,
were surprised by an onslaught of determined Americans. Fierce hand-to-hand
combat resulted. In the morning, Jackson drew back and built walls of cotton
bales around the city for defense.
After initiating two limited attacks on December 28 and January 1,
the British General, Pakenham, could stand to wait no longer. On January 8,
1815, he launched his major attack. Jackson was ready. The British lines
fell under the woodsmen's accurate shots. Pakenham and many other of his
leaders were killed. After an hour and a half, the British withdrew. They
lost two thousand men, while Jackson lost only seventy-one.2
Jackson had proved true to his philosophy. He had said, "The
good general does not lose men in war. His campaigns are so well planned he
crushes the opposing army with a few swift blows."
"The demoralized British fled back to their ships. The commanding
officer, General Keane, sent a note to Jackson, asking if he could buy his
lost battle sword. Jackson returned it with a letter expressing his regret
that so many soldiers had fallen in battle.3
Jackson and his army were treated as heroes by the people of
New Orleans. They staged a big parade in their honor. "They saved our city
from being captured and burned," they shouted. Church bells rang and cannons
boomed. Riding on his black charger, Duke, Jackson led his troops to a
church. When he dismounted, twelve little girls in white dresses scattered
flowers in his path. Inside the church, a choir and all the people sang a
hymn of praise. Even those who could not get inside for the crowd joined in
the song, thanking God for the victory.4
Although news reached Jackson that the Treaty of Ghent had
been signed in Belgium, he was not convinced that the war was over. He
feared that the English would attempt to take the Louisiana Territory, which
they claimed that Napoleon had had no right to sell to America. Besides, he
had not received official word that the war was over. He would not dismiss
For two months, the men remained encamped. On March 13, 1815,
a courier brought the official word from Washington. Only then could the men
from Tennessee and Kentucky begin the long trek northward.
Just when and where Philip Seiber died is unknown. But how ironic
that he survived the fierce fighting and the long weeks of idleness, only to
die on his way home. Sam's heart was certainly heavy as he left his
brother's grave behind. Dream with me...
In Frost Bottom, the dogwood and redbuds were beginning to bloom. A gentle
April rain was falling. Isabel trudged drearily around the cabin. How much
longer could she stand the uncertainty? She had heard a month ago that peace
had been declared, and that it was official. The war was over. Still no word
of Sam and Philip. Was she going to have to make it alone? She couldn't put
in a crop, and she hated to depend on her father and Sam's to do everything
She picked up a bucket and went out to milk. Suddenly she noticed a
gaunt, ragged man stumbling up the path from the road. When he caught sight
of her, he broke into a run.
"Sam! Oh, Sam! Is it really you?" She rushed into his outstretched
arms. "I thought you might never come back."
Sam kissed her silently. She finally broke away to ask, "Where's
Philip? Did he come with you?"
"I'll tell you later... Now, where are the children? Are they all
"Yes, they're inside. And let's get in ourselves, before we get any
wetter'n we are... Sam, you look so tired. Soon as you see Nancy and Pip,
I'll fix you somethin' to eat and drink."
Their arms about each other, tears staining their cheeks, they
walked into the cabin. The children, playing on the floor, looked up in
"Nancy! Pip! Come to your daddy!" He grabbed them both and held them tight.
"I've missed you so much. And my, how big you've grown while I was gone!"
"It's been seven long months, Sam," Isabel said. "They've been the
longest months of my whole life. "But now, what about Philip? Is he with
your Maw and Paw?"
"He -- he won't come back, Isabel. He was one of the bravest men in
our whole outfit. He made it through the battle, but he took pneumonia on
the way back home. He wasn't the only one. We buried dozens before we got
back to Nashville.
"But one thing's for sure. The English won't bother us any more. We
proved to them that Americans can take care of our land. It's ours, Love,
ours and Nancy's and Pip's and their children's...
"But now I've got to go and tell Maw and Paw about Phil.. I dread
it so. Pray I can be gentle-like."
"First, you must eat. Here -- here's a cold sweet potato. And buttermilk.
It'll stay your stomach till supper."
......Sam walked slowly down the path to the cabin he had lived in
as a boy. He remembered when he had first seen this valley, tucked between
green hills. He and Phil had been beside themselves with curiosity. He
recalled Paw's exact words: "Boys -- Maw -- this is our land. I have the deed with my name on
it -- bought it last fall. We'll build our cabin on this little rise, where
we can watch the sun set over the mountains."
He leaned against a pine tree to rest for a moment, watching the
blue smoke curl up from the familiar chimney. He had dreaded the task that
faced him now since the day he had shoveled the dirt over Philip's grave.
"Help me, Lord," he whispered.
Softly he opened the door. There they sat, dozing by the fire,
their old hound Jason asleep between their chairs.
Maw looked around first. "What -- who --- SAM!"
Quickly, Sam knelt beside her chair.
Paw, startled, sat forward, then rose and bent over his son.
"Sam -- old Sam-boy -- you're home! Is Phil with you?"'
Sam put his head in Maw's lap. He couldn't say a word.
Where is he, Sam? Tell me ... Where's my other boy? Is he comin'
"He -- he fought brave as any man there, Paw. And he got part of
the way home. Then he got so sick he couldn't come any further. I was with
him till the end. He told me just before he died, 'Tell Maw and Paw I love 'em.'
We buried him with some of our buddies. I wish't I could 've brought his
"He's with the Lord now," Maw said. "We'll see him again, someday."
Like most veterans, Sam probably told many times the tales of the long hard
trail he had traveled, the great victory over the British, the bravery of
his comrades in arms, and Old Hickory's daring leadership. As Jackson
continued in politics and finally became President, Sam would likely have
been one of his ardent supporters. Locally, he may have been involved in the
Democratic party, which Jackson helped to mold. Since Grandpa Ben was
staunchly devoted to the party, he very likely was influenced by his
One year after Sam's return from the war, he and Isabel had twin
boys, born April 28, 1816. Perhaps that day may have gone like this:
Sam paced restlessly from the barn to the house, to the well, and up and
down the path to the road. How long was this birthing going to take?
he wondered. The midwife appeared at the door.
"Sam! You got twin boys!"
Sam's mouth dropped open. "What! Two boys! I can't believe it! Are
they all right? And Isabel -- how's she?"
"She's weak, but she'll be fine after she rests. The babies are
big, strong young-uns. Don't you hear 'em yellin'?"
He rushed to the cabin. Isabel, propped against a pillow, smiled
down at the red, wrinkle-faced babies.
Sam grinned broadly. "Well, who'd a-thought we'd have twins? One of
them will be John -- we'd decided on that. But what'll we call the other
one? Somebody from the Old Testament. A prophet -- so maybe he'll grow up to
be a preacher!"
"Well, there was Abraham, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah."
"How about Elijah? He was a strong, outdoors man. I've always liked
"Then Elijah he'll be... Now, Sam, you'd best go and tell your
folks and the children."
Nancy and Pip had spent the night with their grandparents.
When Sam told them about their new little brothers, the were thrilled.
"One for you, and one for me," Pip told Nancy.
Maw clapped her hands for joy. "Praise the Lord! He's so good! I
just felt like he'd send us a boy to make it up to us for losin' Phil -- and
he's sent us two! Ain't that great, Paw? Now let me get my shawl and bonnet.
And let's go see our new grandsons."
So 1816 was a happy year, we can surmise, for the family of six. Extra
expenses always occur when there is an addition to a household; evidently
this was the case with Sam. I saw an old paper several years ago that would
I was visiting my Aunt Katie, Grandpa's youngest child. She showed
me an old trunk of his, which contained several handwritten papers. I asked
her permission to copy some of them. Fortunately, she allowed it, for after
her death, no trace of the originals could be found.
The tattered scrap of paper is a receipt, which reads like this:
of Samuel Seiber the feel [full]
amount of a Judment [judgment] that Charles V.
Oliver _________[illegible] said Seiber this the
8 of August 1816
Durrett Oliver Sehff [sheriff?]
I get the feeling from this that Sam was an honorable, honest man who paid
his debts. Certainly his son, my grandfather, was a man of highest
integrity. I judge his father to have been like that, too.
Five years passed. Another son, Thomas, was born on November 18,
By 1824, with four children of school age, and Thomas who would
soon be ready also, the Seibers, as well as two neighbor families, realized
that they needed a school. They could erect a log building, and construct
benches and other furnishings. But they would need money for books, slates,
maps, and other items. They might also want to hire a teacher, if none of
them qualified to teach.
For whatever the purpose, Sam and two other men borrowed money in
1824. I copied the note found in the old trunk. Aunt Katie said that the
money had been used to establish the first school in Anderson County. I
cannot verify that, but this is how the note reads:
"Whereas Samuel Seiber Andrew Braden and Henry Etter all of the County of
Anderson and the State of Tennessee have this day borrowed of the state of
Tennessee the sum of twenty-eight dollars; and to secure the payment thereof
have executed our bill single under our hands and seals, dated the 3rd day
of July 1824 wherein and whereby we have promised eightyeight days after
date to pay to the Bank of the Sate of Tennessee or order the said sum of
twentyeight dollars. Now, know all men by these presents, that in
consideration of the said sum of twenty eight dollars, loaned and advanced
to us as aforesaid by the said Bank, we do hereby constitute and appoint,
authorise and empower Robert Houston, of the County of Knox, or his
executors or administrators, our true and lawful attorney in fact for us in
our name, and on our behalf, to appear in any Court of Pleas and Quarter
Sessions or circuit Court to be held in the County of Knox, as aforesaid,
after the said bil single shall fall due; and if the same bill shall be
unpaid, and in and before said court and in our name to confess a judgment
in favor of said Bank, for the said sum of Twenty eight dollars, together
with legal interest and damages upon said debt accruing; and to do and
perform in our name any thing or things, act or acts necessary to make the
same valid and effecturl; and that these presents shall be to you the said
Robert Houston or your executor or administrators, a sufficient warrant and
power of your so doing.
"In testimony whereof, we have hereunto set our hands and affixed
our seals this 3rd day of July in the year 1824
Saml Seiber Henry Etter
The three neighbors must have been pleased with their success on that
occasion. Let's eavesdrop on them:
Late in the evening, three hot, weary friends stopped their horses along the
road between Knoxville and Frost Bottom. They dismounted, bent beside a
stream, and cupped their hands to get a drink of cold water.
"The fellas at the bank were sure nice to us," Henry remarked. "I
think they let us have the money only because it's for a school."
"Well, they know this is goin' to be a good crop year," Sam
replied. "By the first of October, when that note's due, we'll have cash
money. We can start takin' stuff from our gardens in August down there to
market and sell to the city folks."
"Sure, we'll pay off, maybe even before the due date," Andrew said.
"Won't everybody be tickled when we tell 'em we're goin' to have a real
"It'll be after midnight when we get home," Sam said. "But I'm
goin' to wake my young-uns up and tell 'em."
"Do you realize that tomorrow is the Fourth of July? What a way to
celebrate our country's birthday!" Henry said.
They mounted their horses and galloped off, like men who were
unafraid to tackle a new frontier. They were three good fathers who wanted
their children to have a better opportunity in life than they themselves had
We may assume that when fall came, the schoolhouse had been
erected, the note paid, and that the children were learning to read, write,
and "cipher," as they called arithmetic in those days.
Jackson for President
The main event of that fall of 1824 on the national scene was the
presidential election. Jackson was one of four candidates, but since none
received a majority, the decision was left up to Congress...
Sam stamped the snow from his boots at the door, hung his coat on a
peg, and stalked to the fireplace. He barely nodded to Isabel as he held his
hands out to warm.
"What's the matter with you?" Isabel asked. "You look like you're
madder'n an old wet hen!"
"I am! I could bite a nail in two, I'm so mad! While I was out a
the barn, Henry Etter rode by. He said he heard that that fool Congress made
John Quincy Adams the president."
"How could they do that? Didn't Andrew Jackson get the most votes?"
"Yes, of course he did -- the popular vote and the electoral vote
both. But since nobody got the majority, Congress had to decide."
"But to me, it's not fair, if the people want Jackson."
"I say so, too... That Henry Clay-- he's the scoundrel that
caused it. He made a bargain with Adams that if he could persuade enough
congressmen to vote for Adams, then Adams would make him--Clay--the
Secretary of State."
"I sure feel sorry for Jackson, and for his wife, too. She's had a
hard enough time, without this happenin.'"
"Well, you just wait four years, till the next election. Nobody
will beat Jackson then. I know I'm goin' to do everything in my power to get
out the votes in this county. Old Hickory and his Rachel will live in the
White House in 1829."
Actually, Jackson was elected in 1828. Although he realized his goal, his
beloved wife died before he took office. Three days before Christmas, she
suffered a heart attack, the victim of continuous slander by political
Many of Jackson's followers from the frontier traveled to
Washington to see him inaugurated. They startled the more cultured
Easterners with their boisterous manner and "their muddy boots staining the
carpets of the White House." [Stone]
It is not likely that Sam made the trip, for only the year before,
he and Isabel had another set of twins--a boy named Samuel and a girl named
Maria. With seven children to feed, the father surely would have been hard
at work. Nevertheless, he must have been glad to know that his old
battle commander had reached the peak of his career.
,,,, Henry Etter went to Washington with some of his friends from
Knoxville. When he returned, he stopped by to tell Sam and Isabel all about
"Wish you could've been with us, Sam. Old Andy was so glad to see
us. Lots of the fellers that was with us at New Orleans made it up
there...But Andy looks bad. He's grievin' over his wife, of course.
"We had ice cream and cake at the White House--it was powerful
good. That's sure a fine house."
"I'll betcha old Andy would rather be back at the Hermitage,
though," Sam grinned, "a-lookin' out for his crops and his horses."
From 1829 until 1832, the household must have been a busy place, full of fun
and laughter. It consisted of two grown children, teen-age twins, a
smaller boy, and the younger twins. Then in mid-August of 1832, Isabel bore
another baby, whose birth was not recorded. On October 2, Isabel was killed
by lightning, and the baby died for lack of care. (This information came by
Isabel stood at the door, peering anxiously at the dark clouds
boiling up over the mountain. The air felt heavy. Although it was
mid-afternoon, it looked like almost nightfall.
"Children, come inside," she called to Thomas and the twins, who
were making mud pies in the yard. "It's going to start pouring the rain in a
few minutes. Hurry, now."
"Oh, Ma, do we haf to?" little Maria complained.
"This minute, get in here."
She checked on the baby, asleep in the cradle. She thought she
would go ahead with cooking supper, before he woke up wanting to nurse. She
was hoping that Sam and the big kids, working in the far field, would make
it to the barn before the storm struck. "It's kinda strange, this weather,"
she mumbled. "More like July."
The children trooped in just as huge raindrops began falling.
"Shhhh!" she warned. "Don't wake the baby... Now just sit quietly.
The storm won't hurt you, and it'll soon be over. I'm cookin' you a good
"What makes the lightnin', Ma?" Thomas wanted to know.
"It's electricity in the air, Son. I don't exactly understand it,
but I know it's always followed by thunder. When your Pa gets in, maybe he
can explain it better."
She turned to the fireplace to stir the fragrant stew in a pot
hanging on the spit. She picked up a big spoon. Suddenly a blinding light
flashed through the room, and Isabel fell to the floor. The children heard
the loud clap of thunder and the roar of crashing stones, as the chimney
fell to pieces. Two huge stones rolled from the fireplace to the middle of
Sam came rushing in, wringing wet. He froze in horror when he saw
Isabel. He knelt beside her and felt for her heartbeat. She was still in
"Dear Lord!" he cried. "What can I do? I can't do without Isabel!"
The children were crying.
"Pa, what's wrong? Is Ma hurt?" Maria asked.
The storm had abated. Pip, John, Elijah, and Nancy came in.
"Pa, the chimney's gone! Lightnin' musta struck it----" Pip stopped
"Saddle up, Pip, and go get Granny Frost and Granny Seiber. Right
Nancy bent over her mother's body and took her hand." I'm here, Ma,
and don't you worry. I'll take care of these children." She kissed the cold
Then she rose and began singing the song her mother had loved.
"I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms,
In the arms of my dear Saviour, Oh, there are ten thousand
"Tom," Nancy turned to her brother. "Look in the chest and get that
coverlet that Granny Frost's mother wove back in Virginia. Ma set such store
by it, she never wanted to use it. We'll put it over her now.... John and
Elijah, you pick up them rocks out of the floor and take 'em outside.....
Sammy and Maria, you go sit over there in the corner. I'll get you somethin'
to eat soon."
Sam stood in the middle of the room, stunned. Never in his life had
he felt so helpless. The baby! What would happen to the baby? What would
happen to all of them? Why, Lord, why?
The family survived. Perhaps both Sam's and Isabel's parents helped to care
for the children. But the burden of responsibility would likely have fallen
on twenty-two-year-old Nancy's shoulders.
Like other pioneer women, Nancy must have learned from her mother
to perform the many hard chores involved in housekeeping: spinning, weaving,
and sewing the clothes; washing on a scrub board with lye soap which they
had made; ironing with a flatiron; milking cows and churning butter; tending
the garden; drying fruits, preserving, making sauerkraut; building fires and
cooking. She had also taken much of the responsibility for the younger
children, Thomas, and twins Maria and Samuel.
A Second Marriage
Sam, grieving for Isabel, surely grieved also for Nancy. He
would realize that she could not marry and have children unless he
remarried. Would it not be reasonable for him to look around the community
for a second wife?
Evidently that is what he did, for the Bible record states that on
November 30, 1834, he married Elizabeth Wilkins Chiles, a widow fifteen
years his junior. Her first husband, Macajah Chiles, may have died at about
the same time as Isabel. Elizabeth and Macajah had had three
children: Polly, who was seven at the time of the marriage; Sally, five; and
"You know that old sayin' -- 'Nothin' ventured, nothin' gained.' I'll never
know what she'd say less'n I ask her."
"But she's got three little ones, Pa. Where would we put 'em all?"
"They're not very big; they won't take up much room. 'Course, we
might have to add on a room here... Now, be honest with me, Nan-girl. If I
married, wouldn't you feel free? I've noticed at meetin' when that young
preacher Aaron is here, how you-all look at each other."
Nancy blushed. "Oh, Pa, don't feel like you have to marry on
account of me. I promised Ma I'd take care of all of us. And I'm doin' my
best to live up to my promise."
"You're doin' a great job, Daughter. I couldn't ask for any better.
But it's not fair to you. You deserve to live your own life. Now, come
Friday, I'm a-goin' to see what that pretty young widow has to say."
......Sam dressed extra carefully early Friday morning. He had
curried his horse Reuben till his coat gleamed. He rode by the church yard
and looked over to Isabel's grave. Slowly he went down the road, deep in
thought. Hadn't the Lord himself said something about letting the dead bury
their dead? Isabel--there could never be one like her, his first love.
About mid-morning, he tied Reuben's reins to the Chiles' fence. The
cold north wind felt good on his hot face. His throat felt dry. He knocked
at the door timidly. He took off his hat, but his hands were shaking so that
he could hardly hold it.
"Who is it?" Lizzie called out.
"It's me--Sam Seiber. Can I come in?"
She opened the door. "Why, yes, of course, Sam. What do you want?
Is somebody sick? I saw you and all your children at church last Sunday. Has
somethin' happened to one of them, or your maw or paw?"
"No, Miss Lizzie--or would ya ruther I call ya Elizabeth? My folks are all
well--about like common. I-- I-- Well, I just might as well come to the
point. You know good and well I need a wife. I believe you need a husband.
Your children need a father, and my children need a mother. Now what do you
say? Lizzie, will you marry me?"
"Sit down, Sam. You're shakin' like a leaf. And I guess I'd better
sit down, too, before I fall over."
"This is the scariest thing I've done since I went huntin' for bear
the first time," he said, sitting in the closest chair.
"Well, Sam, I appreciate you thinkin' enough of me to ask me. But I
can't say yes or no right now. I'll have to think about it for awhile."
"I'm a-comin' back ever' day till you give me an answer. Say, have
you anything cooked for dinner? All I had for breakfast was a biscuit and a
little piece of ham. I'm plum hungry."
"How about a bowl of rabbit stew? I made it early this mornin.'".........
True to his word, Sam was back on Saturday. Lizzie said she had
decided. Her answer was Yes.
"Now Lizzie, I know it might sound like I'm a-rushin' you. But why
don't we go ahead tomorrow and get married right after the preacher finishes
preachin'? Wouldn't it be fun to give everybody a nice surprise?"
"Sam, you do beat all! Why not wait at least till Christmas?"
"No use waitin'. We've made up our minds. Isabel and Micajah,
they're just as dead as they'll ever be. What do you say I'll get word to
the preacher to come prepared, and we can go right now and get the license."
So on November 30, 1834, the two spoke their vows in the presence
of the congregation, families, and friends.
Elizabeth was certainly a courageous woman. When she assumed responsibility
for a houseful of step-children, she was twenty-nine years old. Assuming
that Nancy and Philip were still single, the blended family numbered twelve:
mother, father, two adult children, three teenagers, three seven-year-olds,
a five-year-old, and a four-year-old. Probably they did build on to the
As if ten children were not enough, Sam and Elizabeth then began
another family. Ten months after their marriage, Frederick was born, on
September 2, 1835. Two years later, Elizabeth, always called Betty, was born
on June 12. Their second daughter, Massey, was born January 1, 1839.
One event of great regional concern occurred in 1838. The federal
government removed the Cherokee Indians from the states of Tennessee,
Georgia, and North Carolina to Oklahoma. Sam and Elizabeth and their
neighbors may have had friends among local Indians.
A local historian writes that there were quite a few Cherokees
living in Anderson County. "Some intermarriages had taken place before
1838. More intermarriage was to take place later because many Indians escaped
from the troops supervising their removal and fled back into the remote
regions of the mountainous country they loved. Cherokee descendants in the
county today are proud of their ancestry."6
The long march, called the Trail of Tears, resulted in about four
thousand deaths from cold, hunger, and disease. Others were killed in trying
to escape from the soldiers.7 They were marched into stockades,
and their homes were burned and pillaged by lawless men who followed the
The emotions of the settlers who knew Indians as friends and
neighbors were certain to have been stirred by the cruelty of this
By 1840, the older children were gradually leaving the family
nest. Although I found no record of Nancy's marriage, I can speculate that
she was already a bride, and perhaps a mother. On January 28, 1840, John
married Alvina Kincaid. Then on May 2, 1842, Philip married Mary McKamey.9
Close on the heels of Philip's marriage came two deaths. On May 17,
John's twin, Elijah, died. And on August 2, Maria's twin, Sammy, died. Cause
of their deaths is unknown. Here again, we can imagine what could have
May 17, 1842
About dusk, Elijah got on his horse, Star, outside his brother
John's cabin. The twins had enjoyed a hard day's work together, putting up a
split-rail fence around the yard. Alvina was delighted.
"Thank you, Elijah," the young woman called to him from the
doorway. "Now I'm a-gion' to plant flowers all along that fence. We'll have
the prettiest yard of anybody around!"
The two boys had not been apart until John and Alvina's marriage,
two years before. Elijah had helped build the cabin. In the spring, he had
helped to put in the crop.
Now, after a long day of back-breaking work, he was eager to get
home. Even though the children would have already eaten, Mama Liz would be
keeping his food warm.
"Get goin', Star!" he called. "I'm so hungry I could eat a
He spurred the horse to a gallop. Suddenly, a deer leaped out of
the woods and dashed across the road. The frightened horse reared up on his
hind legs, throwing Elijah off. He landed at the bottom of a deep ravine,
hitting the ground with such an impact that he never knew what happened. His
neck was broken.
Star went on home. When Thomas heard him, he went out to greet his
brother. Seeing that Star was riderless, he called to his father.
"Elijah's been thrown. He may be hurt, I'm goin' to look for him."
Grabbing a lantern, he rode along slowly, stopping every few
minutes to shout, "Elijah! Where are you?"
By the time he reached John's cabin, it was pitch dark. But John
insisted that they continue searching. Early the next morning, they found
They buried the young man beside his mother. As they left the
cemetery, Sam cried, as had David when his son Absalom died: "Oh, Elijah, my
son, my son! Would God I had died for thee!"
........Two months later, on a hot July afternoon, Polly, Maria,
and Sammy were in the garden picking beans. The girls were getting more than
"You're a slow-poke, Sammy Seiber!" Maria chided him.
"I don't feel good," the boy replied. "I'm goin' to have to go
inside. I want to go to bed."
He stumbled to the house. At the door, he dipped the gourd into the
water bucket and drank thirstily. When Elizabeth saw him, her eyes widened
"My head hurts, Mama Liz. And my legs don't want to go."
"She felt his forehead. "You have fever," she said. "Come on and
let me put you to bed." He followed without a word.
She bathed his head with a cold wet cloth. He began to shake with
That night he tossed wildly, thrashing his arms and legs.
"He's talkin' outa his head," Lizzie told Sam.
The next morning, his fever was down, but he lay lifeless.
"Sam," Lizzie said, "I think you'd better go and see if you can
find the doctor. Sammy is bad off."
It was noon before Sam located old Doctor Blalock. In
mid-afternoon, he rode up.
Black bag in hand, the old doctor walked briskly to the bedside and
bent over the feverish boy.
"Hmmm......." Finally he straightened and turned to Sam.
"Could this boy have drunk water from an old well? Or maybe milk
that had been out of the spring house a long time? I'm goin' to bleed him,
and hope for the best. But it looks like the typhoid fever to me."
"Is he goin' to get well, Doc?" Sam asked.
"I'll be honest, Sam. I can't tell. He'll have a good chance if the
fever breaks. But that could be ten days from now. Be sure to keep the flies
off of him, or somebody else could catch this."
Each morning, Sammy would be a little better, but by nightfall he
would be raging hot and delirious. Two weeks passed. Then one morning he
lapsed into unconsciousness.
Sam sat by the bedside that night in flickering candlelight,
praying silently. At midnight, while a thunderstorm raged outside, Sammy
breathed for the last time.
While the thunder rumbled and rain poured down, the anguished
father knelt by the bed. "Dear, God," he cried. "Why did it have to happen in
a storm? First my Isabel, now this child! Both while the heavens rage! It's
not been even two months since we lost Elijah! I just don't understand! Where am I going to find peace?"
As if in answer, the storm subsided. When morning came, the sky was
cloudless, and birds sang.
Late in the afternoon, the family and neighbors gathered by the
graves of Isabel and Elijah.
Neighbors carried the pine box to the mound of newly-upturned soil.
As they lowered Sammy's body, Nancy stepped forward and placed her hand on
the box. "Goodbye, Little Boy," she whispered. Then she began singing:
Come, sorrowing souls, lean on Jesus' breast,
The day is done, 'tis time for rest.
Come, ye weary, receive his love,
Set your affections on things above."
The preacher spoke words of comfort, and prayed. Finally, he read from the
Bible, concluding with the words of Job: " the Lord giveth and
the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
The family stood huddled together until the grave was filled. As
they turned to leave, Sam told them: "No matter what else may happen, we
must all help one another. This day will soon be over. And tomorrow, we'll
go on living till the Lord's ready for us to come to Him."
Back home, the family soon was busy, harvesting the crops. Polly and Maria,
missing their little brother, would stay together constantly. And as the
leaves began to turn gold and scarlet, Elizabeth gave birth to another
daughter. On September 27, Annalisa was born. Thus within the space of five
months, the family experienced a wedding, two deaths, and a birth.
An Unexpected Wedding
The next spring, Sam and Elizabeth were shocked when one his his
boys married one of her girls. When they had married in 1834, they
probably thought that their children from separate marriages would grow up
regarding one another as brothers and sisters. They all may have started out
that way, but on March 18, 1843, twenty-two-year-old Thomas Seiber and
sixteen-year-old Polly Chiles were married, with brother John, who was a
justice of peace and eventually an ordained Baptist minister, performing the
Grandpa had told me about the event, always chuckling warmly when
he did so. One of my cousins recalls having heard about the parents'
reaction to the news of the pair's intentions. It seems that when Polly went
to the kitchen to tell her mother, Elizabeth became so furious that she
slapped the girl across the room. But Father Sam, apparently having
suspected what was going on, merely grinned. Thomas went to the barn with
the news, and Sam said, "Well, Son, if that's what you want and you're sure,
Let us hope that the quick-tempered mother calmed down and helped
with wedding preparations. No doubt the siblings wee delighted with the
opportunity for a big celebration. In pioneer days, weddings were the
greatest social occasion they enjoyed. I like to think that the mother
Polly lay on the bed, her face buried in the pillow. Her shoulders shook
from the violence of her sobbing.
Her mother tiptoed to the bedside.
"Polly -- Daughter -- I'm sorry. I guess I've just refused to think
of you as a young woman. To me, you're still my little girl."
She stroked the soft brown curls.
"Why, it seems to me just yesterday that you were making mud pies
and dressing up stick dolls! I should have realized that you're no longer a
child. Will you forgive me, Polly?"
The girl sat up and put her arms around her mother.
"Yes, Ma. I understand. I want to be a good wife and mother, like
you. You do love Tom, don't you?"
"Just like he's my own. He's a fine young man, and a good
blacksmith. He'll make you a decent livin'. And I'll see to it that you have
a new dress and a pretty wedding."
"Tom's already talked to John about it. Of course, we want him to
marry us, and he said he would -- if it's all right with you and Pa."
"Well, let's not cry any more. We've got a lot to do before the
John's business as justice of peace was flourishing, for several
marriages in Whitley's Compilation list him as the officiating officer.
Among them were two more for family members in 1845: Maria Seiber married
Thomas Burriss on February 23. Sally Chiles married Elijah Duncan on March
As the older chldren married, Sam and Elizabeth had others,
seemingly to keep the house ever full. In 1847, they had a fourth daughter,
[I can vaguely remember "Aunt Lindy," who lived with Grandpa. She
and "Aunt Betty" had a back bedroom where they stayed, smoking corn-cob
pipes. They had white hair pulled into a bun on top of their heads and wore
long black cotton dresses. I thought they must be the oldest people in the
whole world. Neither of them ever married, and lived to be over ninety.]
Although Sam was essentially a farmer, he may also have been a blacksmith.
In his autobiography, John speaks of working in the blacksmith shop, as if
it were a family enterprise. Sam may have had other interests as well. A
note from Grandpa's trunk, dated October 3, 1948, is provocative. It reads:
"Let Samuel Seiber have the Patt on money you have collected for me
after paying yourself $4.81. R. Ohm."
Could the "Patt on money" refer to a patent?
On the other hand, the note may have had something to do with
politics. Was a Mr. Patton running for office? In October of 1848, a
Presidential campaign was in full swing. Democrat Lewis Cass ran against
Zachary Taylor, who won the close race. Surely Sam would have been working
Other than the election, the big news on the national scene was the
discovery of gold in California. But the most controversial issue was
Anderson County historian Hoskins writes that "...comparatively few
householders...owned, could afford, or needed slaves...Several
families...had slaves as housekeepers or nurses." Some planters had slaves
to work the fields, and a "few merchants in Anderson County...bought and
sold slaves for profit."11
Now with all their children, it appears that Sam and Elizabeth
could have used some help, but I have never heard mention of their owning
slaves. But Philip apparently did, according to a story I shall relate later
One source records Anderson County population in 1850 as 6,391
white, 506 slaves, and 41 free blacks.12
Birth of Benjamin
On March 26, 1849, Benjamin Franklin Seiber was born. Father Sam
was ten days away from his fifty-ninth birthday. Mother Elizabeth was
....Sunday morning, March 25
Elizabeth woke early, feeling the sharp pains that told her the
time was coming for delivery.
"Sam," she called, shaking him awake. "I can't go to church today.
I didn't think it was time yet, but I've had too many babies not to know."
"Do you think I ought to go after Peg?"
"Not yet. You take the children and go on to church. I'll be all
Heavily, awkwardly, she lumbered out of bed, prepared the
breakfast, and helped the family get ready.
"You sure you want me to go?" Sam asked.
"Of course. I've had eight. I ought to know how by now!"
As she waved her brood out of sight, she grimaced, and staggered
back to bed. She groaned in misery, glad that no one was there to hear.
When the family got back in early afternoon, Sam came quickly to
"Go for Peg now," she instructed. "Drop the children off at
When Sam reached the midwife's house, he found her in the garden,
"Drop them seeds, Peg," he called. "Elizabeth is a-needin' you."
"Well, you kin jist wait till I finish out this row," she replied,
keeping her steady pace.
Finally she gathered up her equipment, complaining all the while.
"Don't you think you-uns have enough children now, Sam? A man your
age -- why, you'll never live to see this-un grown."
"Now Peg, I'm jus' now a-reachin' my prime. I can still do as much
work as any man in this bottom."
"Well then, maybe so. But think about your wife. She's a-gettin' to
the time for her change of life. Mark you, this ain't goin' to be no Sunday
When they reached the house, before they tethered the horses, they
could hear screams. Sam retreated to the barn, while Peg went in to
Well after midnight, Peg came out to get Sam.
"Everything's over. You've got a son. Come on and see him."
Sam slapped his knee. "A boy! I wanted another boy so bad. And I'm
a-namin' him for one of the smartest men this country has ever seen--old Ben
"Well, I'm a-goin' back home, Sam... And don't you come and git me
no more! Enough's enough, I say. And you've got enough young-uns to satisfy
"Don't you want to stay here till daylight, Peg?"
"Nope. I can see in this moonlight plain as day. I'm a-headin' for
my own bed fast as I can. I'm plum' tuckered out." She untied her horse and
hopped on. "Now go see your wife and that big boy."
As Peg galloped off, Sam strode toward the house. "She's right, "he
mumbled to himself. "This will be the last for us."
He gently pushed open the door and tiptoed in.
"That you, Sam?" Elizabeth called softly. "Get the lamp and come
over here and just see what I've got."
She lay still and pale against the pillow, her arm curved above the
round fuzzy head of the baby.
Sam bent to kiss her on the forehead, then rubbed the baby's head.
"My, my, who's he look like?"
He's the prettiest one yet, Pa. Just wait till he opens his eyes.
They're blue as cornflowers."
"We'll talk more later. You need to sleep now."
Although Sam got into bed, he could not sleep. His thoughts raced.
How good God had been to him! Like David said in one of the psalms, he
thought, "Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them."
As soon as little Ben is able to sit up good, I'll put him on my
horse in front of me and take him everywhere I go. I'm goin' to teach him
everything I know: about the Bible and the Old Harp songs. And all of Ben
Franklin's words from his almanac. I'll tell him about seeing George
Washington, and traveling down the Wilderness Road. And about Old Hickory
and that great battle in New Orleans. Old Peg thinks I won't live to see
little Ben grown. Maybe I'll surprise that old biddy-hen.
He prayed then, "Lord, you saw fit to take two of my boys, but now
in my old age, we've been blessed with another one. I'm grateful to you." As
the first rays of the sun peeped through the window, he slept.
Preacher and a Moonshiner
In 1852, John was ordained to the ministry and held several pastorates in
the area. Today, he would be called a bivocational pastor. He tells in his
autobiography that he had to work every day "either on the farm or in the
blacksmith shop" to support his wife and seven girls. In March of 1856, he
was called as pastor of Poplar Creek, where he "had the privilege of
preaching to the companions of ...[his] youth, baptizing nearly all the
people in the neighborhood."13
While John turned out to be a preacher, Philip was, according to
family legend, the operator of a whiskey still. My source of information is
my cousin, Jessie May Compton Burris. As a child, she heard our Great-aunt
Betty tell about the trip she and her mother made to the still site to
attempt to persuade Philip to give up his dangerous business.
morning they packed a market basket full of lunch and set out on the long,
rugged hike up the mountain. About noon they arrived at their destination,
to find Philip running off a batch of the brew.
He offered his stepmother a drink. "Just take a little, Mammy.
You're plumb tuckered out; it'll make you feel better."
She refused. She alternately scolded and pleaded, all to no
avail. He assured her that her fears were unfounded, and that he was
completely safe. As they prepared to leave, he slipped a jar of the
moonshine into the basket.
"Here, Betsy, when you get home, fix Mammy up a toddy. She's going
to need it by the time you get home."
He was right; she was bushed. "Betsy," she said, "bring me a little
toddy from that jar Phil put in the basket. I'm plumb played out.
I sure hope
them revenooers don't kill Phil."14
The exact date of this episode is uncertain, but his death
occurred on January 22, 1861. Jessie Mae told the story as related by Aunt
For some time, unfriendly relationships had been developing with
the neighboring Duncan family. What started it all is unknown. On one
particular January morning, Philip saw members of the Duncan family
approaching his house. He told his wife, their children, and some slaves to
go to the attic.
When the men rode into the yard, Philip went to the door with his
hands up. "I surrender," he said.
Cal Duncan shot him. He fell to the ground at the doorstep, next to
a big flat rock. He played dead, but managed to slip his pocketbook under
Meanwhile, the attackers went into the house, searched and
plundered it, then left. One of the children recalled later that she was so
frightened that she thought the men downstairs could hear her heart beating,
it was so loud. She also remembered the black children's eyes rolled back
till the whites glowed in the dark.
The family came down and brought Philip inside. As they propped him
in a chair, he called for his pipe. He told them where his money was, took a
few draws on his pipe, and died.
The next morning, his brothers Tom and Fred went out early. When
Fred came home, clothes bloody, he told his mother they had shot a big black
"I wish you hadn't done that," his mother said.
That afternoon, they had Philip's funeral. Aunt Betty said that not
one tear was shed. "We were all too mad to cry," she explained.
Ben, who was twelve years old at the time, later made peace with
the Duncans. He went to a party or some social gathering and was told that
he had better leave. "Mose Duncan is coming, and he'll kill you."
Ben said that he would not leave, as he was not afraid. When Mose
arrived, he asked Ben, "Will you walk down to the orchard with me?"
Ben agreed to do so.
Mose said, "Now, Ben, there have been hard feelings between our
families. But I've never done anything against you, nor you against me. Are
you willing to forgive and forget?"
"I am," Ben replied.
The two shook hands. The feud was over.
On April 13, 1861, the Civil War began when Fort Sumter, South
Carolina, was taken by the Confederates. Even as the nation was divided, so
was the state of Tennessee in regard to secession. The middle and western
sections favored it, but the eastern section generally opposed it. In May, a
popular vote was scheduled for June 9. Feelings were bitter. Companies of
rebel troops were mustered into the militia.
"One unit camped on College Hill, home of East Tennessee
University, most of whose students had deserted the campus to join the
Others were joining the Union troops.
Tennessee, the eleventh state to secede, voted 104,913 to 47,238 to
join the Confederacy.15 Neighbors found that every bad feeling they had ever
had for one another escalated. One historian writes: "The worst elements of
society were aroused, and bad men took occasion to vent their spite on such
as they did not like. Old family feuds broke out afresh. And the land was
full of murders and robbery. Bands of the worst men seized the opportunity,
scoured the country at night, calling quiet old farmers to their doors and
shooting them down in cold blood...It was a reign of terror--war at every
June 9, 1861
Sam sat smoking his pipe when Fred came rushing in.
"Pa, I've just heard the results--we've seceded! We're now part of
the Confederacy! Long live the South!"
Sam sighed. "I was afraid it would turn out like that. I didn't
vote--I couldn't turn against my party--but I was hopin' that Tennessee
would stay part of the United States government. But I guess it won't make
too much difference to us folks up here in Frost Bottom."
"Maybe not to you, Pa, but it does to me. I'm a-goin' to join up
with the Southern boys. Soon as I can get my stuff together, I'm a-leavin'!"
"Do you have to, Son? Your Ma is a-goin' to be heart-broken. She
sets a lot of store by you."
"No, Pa, I don't reckon I hafta go, but I want to. What can you
say? Didn't you strike out for New Orleans with old Andy Jackson and leave
your wife and two little young-uns? I'm a single man and foot-loose!"
Sam stalked over to the fireplace, and knocked the ashes from his
pipe. "You'll have to tell your Ma. But be prepared for a fight from her.
And remember this. You'll have plenty of friends enlistin' on the Union
side. Think about how you're a-goin' to feel when you face them on the
"The Duncan boys are joinin' the Northern side. That's enough
reason for me to get me a gray suit. Now what have you got to say, Pa?"
Turning abruptly, Sam retreated to the creek bank and sat on the
giant rock to think things through.
Although he had been a faithful Democrat for years, he opposed both
secession and slavery. He loved his country, hated to see it divided. And he
could not justify one man's owning another. He had not approved of Philip's
buying the black family, even though he knew that they were not mistreated.
Now Fred would be fighting for principles he could not condone.
Nevertheless, he made up his mind that he would give him his blessing when
The next morning as the family gathered around the breakfast table,
the atmosphere was strained. Fred's gear was packed and waiting at the door.
As soon as he ate, he would leave for Knoxville. Sam noticed Elizabeth's
haggard face. He knew that she had slept little. The girls, usually
chattering, were silent. Only young Ben seemed his usual happy self.
Sam looked at the family before the usual blessing. "Children, this
is the first time any of you has left home. But it's not the end of the
world. Fred will be coming back one of these days. Long before any of you
were born, I went off to war, and I got back safe and sound. Let's just
trust the Lord to bring Fred hoe, too."
He picked up the Bible. "Listen to what the Lord told Joshua: "I
will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be of good
courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is
with thee whithersoever thou goest.' If this is true for Joshua, it's
true for us. Ma, say grace." The children bowed as their mother prayed.
Elizabeth brought a pan full of hot biscuits to the table, with
milk gravy, fresh butter, and several kinds of jelly.
"Eat hearty, Fred, for you're not goin' to get another breakfast
like this in the army," Sam said.
"I know," Fred replied. "I'm goin' to miss your good cookin', Ma.
Nobody sets a better table than you."
After they had eaten, Fred went around the table to his mother.
"Thanks, Ma. Here's somethin' I want you to keep for me till I get back." He
handed her a ten-dollar gold piece.
"I'm not goin' to say good-bye-- Ben, you be good. I won't be gone
Sam's heart seemed to stop. He remembered Phil's words when the two
of them had left home as young men to go to New Orleans--and Phil had not
As Fred picked up his knapsack and left, the girls followed him
outside and stood watching as he strode down the road. Just before he got
out of sight, he turned and waved.
Sam realized that his best help on the farm was gone. At
seventy-one, he no longer had the energy to work from sun-up till sun-down.
When he got up in the morning, his back and knees were so stiff he could
hardly walk. He would have to depend on Ben and the girls to help him.
One night at bed-time, he called the family together.
"You've been goin' around here with long faces for a week now.
Well, I miss Fred as much as you do, but we've got to carry on. We're goin'
to do the best we can. You girls can help in the fields, and Ben, you're big
enough to be my right-hand man."
Lindy began crying. "I can't hoe and chop weeds!"
"Stop bein' a baby," Betty chided her. "Of course we'll help you,
Pa. Just tell us what to do."
"I can plow, Pa," Ben said. "Anything Fred's been a-doin', I can
"This war can't hurt us, back here in these hills. We'll pray for
Fred, work this land, and stick together."
Actually, the family did not hear from Fred any more after he left. Although
the others may have given up hope, his mother looked for his return until
her dying day. Nearly fifty years later, Grandpa got a letter stating that
his brother Fred had died in the Home for Confederate Veterans in Hermitage,
Tennessee. He sent his younger son Ed to pick up his trunk, which contained
an old uniform and little else.
Where had Fred been since 1865? Why had he not contacted his family?
Intrigued by the mystery, I contacted the Tennessee State Archives for
information. They sent a Photostat of Fred's application to the Home, dated
June 22, 1910. He stated that he was a resident of Clinton, Tennessee, and
that he was indigent and disabled. He stated that he had enlisted in the
Third East Tennessee Battalion in 1861 under Lt. Col. Brazelton17,
and that he got out of the army by "taking the oath" [of allegiance to the
federal government] at Camp Morton, Indiana.
Attached to the application was a note from the president of the
Home to the Adjutant General of the War Department, checking on the validity
of Fred's claim. His reply was that Fred's name was not on the rolls of the
Third Battalion, but that a Frederick Seiber enlisted on April 21, 1862, in
Company K, Infantry, Thomas Legion of North Carolina. The last company roll,
April 6, 1864, showed him "dropped as a deserter," but that he was reported
captured June 5, 1864, at Piedmont, Virginia, and released March 22, 1865,
at Camp Morton, Indiana, on taking the oath of allegiance.
The Archives also provided records of another Frederick Seiber who
was in the Union army. He enlisted on August 23, 1863, at Loudon, Tennessee,
in Company I, Ninth Tennessee Cavalry, and mustered out at Knoxville,
September 11, 1865.
Confused by the disparity in these records, I checked the 1860
census of Anderson County. It lists three Frederick Seibers! "Our" Fred's
name appears as a dependent of Samuel. Two others are listed as heads of
households: one aged 26, another aged 18. All three were probably cousins.
Two Fred Seibers fighting on opposite sides were representative of
many other Tennessee families. Sometimes even brothers joined opposite
The whole state suffered tremendously from the War. Four hundred
and fifty battles and skirmishes, more than any other state except Virginia,
were fought on Tennessee soil. She furnished more troops for the Confederacy
than any other state: 136,000. Most of the 31,092 who joined Union forces
were from East Tennessee.18
The people of East Tennessee suffered more than almost any others.
Because of its strategic location, it was the "Keystone of the Confederate
Arch."19 The railroad between Chattanooga and Bristol connected
the deep South with Virginia, and the Confederate capital at Richmond. If
Union forces could occupy East Tennessee, they could cut off the main lines
of Confederate communication. Thus Lincoln ordered an "all-out advance" into
East Tennessee from the base in Cincinnati.
On November 8, 1861, Union troops burned nine wooden railroad
bridges between Bristol and Stevenson, Alabama. The Confederates placed
Knoxville under martial law, and all the culprits who were caught were
Some of the Seiber family quite possible attended one of these
hangings. Jessie Mae Burris recalls Aunt Betty's story of such an occasion:
Great-grandmother Seiber rode horseback from Frost Bottom to Knoxville to
witness a hanging. It is unknown how many family members attended, but since
the market basket was packed with food, she must not have gone alone. Sine
Aunt Betty described the incident in such vivid detail, she must have been
"The big old hanging tree was located at Western Avenue and
Broadway, on the lawn of what was later Boyd Junior High School [which
several cousins attended].
"The luckless man to be hanged by the neck until dead was dressed
in his burial clothes, seated on his coffin in the back of a wagon, with a
rope knotted around his neck and the other end of the rope tied to a big
limb of the tree above his head. The wagon was hitched to a team of big
"The sheriff lifted a whip high, gave the horses a cut, after
placing a black hood over the prisoner's head. The horses took off, jerking
the wagon from under the man, who hung there and kicked for perhaps ten
seconds before the sheriff cut him down and a doctor pronounced him dead. He
was then placed in his coffin and his kin took him away to bury. Then the
festivities began. Everybody rejoiced that justice had been served.
Cumberland Gap, on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee, was a key
position for both North and South. Although Kentucky was neutral, Union
troops assembled there. But it was vital to the Confederacy to hold the Gap.
That task was assigned to General Zollicoffer. The Gap was under heavy siege
during the summer of 1862.
If Sam thought that Frost Bottom was safe, he was mistaken. His
farm was approximately forty miles south of the Gap. The countryside was
ravaged by foraging Rebel troops.
Among the papers in the old trunk was the following note:
"Robertsvill Tenn May 27, 1862
Samuel Seiber has leav to pass the pickits from
day to [day] on his farm on good behavier and Loylty
to the confederate stats
O L Blackwell capt"
Let's imagine the scene....
The family was eating breakfast when they heard a man's voice
"Come out, Old Man. I need to talk to you."
Sam went to the door. A tall young man in gray uniform sat on his
horse, a fine chestnut. Sam drew himself up to his full height and asked
gruffly, "What do you want?"
"I know you're like the rest of the people around here. You're all
Yankee-lovers. Well, my men are camped down on your creek--and I don't know
how long we'll be here. I'm here to warn you and your family not to give us
Sam looked the proud officer squarely in the eye.
"Captain, my son is on your side. He enlisted the very week that
Tennessee seceded. Besides that, I'll have you to know that I fought with
Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. That was long before you were
The captain looked at the ground and shifted in the saddle.
"My apologies, Sir. I'll tell my men to let you go through to your
far field. But to be sure they won't harm you, I'm going to write you a note
On June 6, Union troops took Cumberland Gap from the Rebels, but by
September it was back in Confederate hands. Three thousand men were left to
hold it. A year later, in September of 1863, General Burnside and the Union
troops took the Gap again. They were on their way to Knoxville from
The countryside between the Gap and Knoxville furnished food for both armies
in turn. Contemporary accounts tell of the hardships inflicted on both the
people and the property.
My other maternal great-grandfather, Charles Lones, who lived in
Knox County, described the situation in letters to his son Jacob a captain
in the Union army:"...Our
troubles still increase...It appears the whole Southern confederacy is
coming to East Tennessee. We have a team yet, but we look every day to have
it taken from us...Starvation is grinning us in the face very hard. We have
enough to live on--if we can keep it...The condition of the country is very
"...I see no chance for people to live in East Tennessee...The
poorer people...are beginning to leave for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
Until the road is soon taken at Chattanooga, more than half of East
Tennessee will be on the road to those states in less than four weeks."19
Another writer describes conditions in Kingston, which is in Roane County,
adjoining Anderson County :"Farms had become neglected, full of thickets of
thorns, briars, and bushes; fences had fallen to decay. Not a chicken,
turkey, cow sheep, or horse remained. All mules had been confiscated, and
even a few oxen had been taken. Poverty, wretchedness and ruin were
Many commodities were practically unobtainable. Salt was so scarce
that some people removed the floors of the smoke houses, took up the dirt,
and boiled it to get the salt.21
The struggle for East Tennessee culminated in the Battle of Fort
Sanders on November 29, 1863. When first built by the Confederates on the
western limits of Knoxville, it was called Fort Loudon. When taken by the
Union forces, it was renamed for Brigadier General William Sanders, who was
killed earlier in that month.
Knoxville had been under siege for two weeks, with the Confederates
under Longstreet attempting to take the fort commanded by Burnside. Before
dawn on that Sunday morning, the Rebels attempted to storm the fort. Within
twenty minutes, they fell back in confusion. Knoxville was in Union hands,
for which President Lincoln sent a commendation to General Burnside.22
No more important fighting took place in upper East Tennessee, but the
people were so impoverished that relief funds were sought in the North.23
When Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, ending the war, East
Tennessee was left in desperate straits. Years later, a child asked his Knox
County grandfather who won the war. He replied, "It don't make much
difference who won the whole war--in East Tennessee, everybody lost!"24
A Final Move
Surely the Samuel Seiber family lost heavily. Exactly when they
moved from their home in Frost Bottom to Knox County, I have been unable to
discover. It was before December of 1867, for in that month Samuel,
Elizabeth, and Massey moved their membership by letter to Ball Camp Baptist
The move may have come because they could no longer exist on the
impoverished land. But it may have been because of the fear of bushwhackers
and the prevailing lawlessness. Too, they may have feared reprisals as the
family of a Confederate soldier. Thomas Alexander writes that
ex-Confederates were badly treated, their lives threatened, and that one was
lynched in Knoxville.25
Imagine what a traumatic experience it must have been for a
seventy-five-year-old man to leave the home he had loved for sixty years!
day, possibly in 1865
Sam sat beside Poplar Creek on the big rock where he had proposed
to Isabel so long age. How happy they had been! Now, he felt broken in body
He felt stiff in every joint, his eyesight and hearing were
failing, and he had no energy or desire to do anything.
His beloved farm was ruined. Weeds and briars covered the fields.
The barn and the house were falling down. The armies had taken most of his
livestock and almost every thing else he owned.
Three of his sons were dead, and Fred was missing. Although
Elizabeth insisted that he was alive and would come back any day, he had
little hope. If he should return, his life would be in danger. Nancy and
Thomas had taken their children and headed for Illinois. John was still
nearby, but with his seven girls and his Sunday preaching, he was not much
Still he had Elizabeth, four grown daughters, and young Ben to care
for. He felt like Job. Was God testing him? No, he could not, would not give
up. Abraham moved from Haran when he was seventy-five; so why couldn't he
move, too? Maybe if we got close to Knoxville, he said to himself, the girls
could find work in the city folks' homes. They could cook or take care of
the children. The girls aren't really safe here, with so many bushwhackers
But if we leave, and Fred should come back, how would he find us?
Well, he'd go to John, and John would tell him where we are. John is my key.
I'll get him to ride with me down toward the city. Henry tells me there are
dozens of deserted cabins in Knox County, so many folks have left for the
West. First thing in the morning, I'll go over to John's. He'll help me, I
So the family moved. The nearest church to their new home was Ball Camp
Baptist, which they joined. Let us imagine how that happened.
The family had settled into their new home and were gradually
becoming adjusted. One day Sam had taken some corn to the mill to be ground.
Here he met a friendly man by the name of John Byrd. As they talked, they
discovered that they both were Baptists. John told Sam that there was going
to be a camp meeting the following week at Ball Camp Church. "You and your
family would be welcome. There's bound to be some fine singing and
preaching. Plenty of excitement, too, if Sister Abby's there. She's the most
shoutin'est woman in Tennessee!"
"I'll tell my women-folks. Guess it's about time we got into church
again. I'm proud you told me about it, Brother."
When Sam got home, he shared the news.
"I'd sure like to go," Elizabeth said. "I've missed goin' to
meetin's since we left Frost Bottom. Why don't we cook up a heap o' vittles
and camp for a day or two?"
"But Ma, what'll we wear?" Annalisa asked. "We got nothin' but
"Oh, don't be so proud, Sister!" Massey said. "Folks will be so
excited, they'll never notice our clothes. I can't wait to get there,
The girls pitched in and helped their mother cook for the trip. The
next week, they loaded up the wagon and set out. They had such a good time
that they decided to join that church.....
In attempting to trace the family, I wrote to the clerk of Ball Camp Church.
She wrote to me as follows:
"....[In] December 1867 this church received by letter Samuel Seiber, his
wife Elizabeth and daughter Massey Seiber. September 1869 eleven members of
Ball Camp Baptist Church requested their letters from the church for the
purpose of organizing a new church at Valley Grove on Ball Camp Pike. John
Byrd, Ellen Byrd, Adam Hodge, Mary Hodge, Jesse Hodge, Charlotte McClain,
Samuel Seiber, Elizabeth Seiber, M.L. Seiber, Rachel Smith."
Why did not Betty, Annalisa, Lindy, and Ben join? That we do not
know. And why did the group decide to start a new church, several miles west
of Ball Camp? Is it not typical of pioneer people to start a new church in
their own community? The decision may have come about like this:
Ben and the girls came in from the garden, where they had cut the
last okra, pulled all the tomatoes from the vines, and picked bushels of
"We're hot and tired, Ma," said Betty. "But we'd best get busy and
can this stuff. Mustn't let it go to waste."
"I never thought we'd have another garden like the ones we had in
Frost Bottom," her mother replied. "Now look at this--as good as we've ever
had. These peas can't be beat."
"We can thank the good Lord," said Sam. "He's helped us through
this move. I hated to leave, but I'm beginnig' to like this place."
"I think that belongin' to a good church like Ball Camp has helped
us more than anything else to feel at home here," Elizabeth replied.
"Speakin' of the church," said Massey, "here comes Brother Hodge.
And looks like somebody else, too. Yeah, that's Brother Byrd a-ridin' up
behind him. Lawsy-mercy, I look like a ha'nt! And no place to hide!"
"Don't matter," said Betty. "You jis' keep a-shellin' them peas!"
Sam stood and waved. "Come on up and set on this porch for a spell.
Have chairs, Brothers."
The two men removed their straw hats, fanning their sweaty faces.
"Shore hot, today....Howdy, Miz Seiber, and young ladies. Howdy, Ben.
Don't let us stop you-uns from your work. We want to talk to you folks about
helpin' us to start a new church down here closer to home. More people are
movin' in around here all the time. It's so far to go up to Ball Camp. Our
two families and Mis McClain and Mis Smith wish you'd come with us. Brother
Sam, we need you."
"Now you don't need any old beat-up feller like me. Why, I'm nearly
eighty years old and gettin' so bunged up I can't hardly walk, some days.
Now my wife and Massey here, they might help. They're purty good singers."
"Sam, we need your wisdom. Nothin's wrong with your head. Folks
"I appreciate your kindness. We'll think about it and let you
"You pray about it, Brother. We're goin' to count on you to guide
"Do you-all need any tomatoes or peas? We'd sure like to give you
some," Elizabeth said.
"No, we've got more'n we know what to do with, but thank you."
"Before you go, let me ask you a question," Elizabeth said.
"Brother John, where would we meet?"
"At first, at our house. Ellen's agreed to that. And she told me to
ask you to come to see her soon. Now that our children have married, she
After the visitors had left, the family sat silent, watching the
riders till they were out of sight.
"What do you think of that?" Sam asked.
"I'd rather go to Ball Camp, even if it is a long way," said
"You just want to see if you can find a man," Betty said.
"That's not so! I like the singin'."
"You can join any church you like, but I'm not joinin' no Baptist!"
Annalisa declared. "I ain't lettin' no preacher drown me!"
"Me neither," Lindy chimed in.
"I think we should join with our neighbors," Sam said. "We can get
other people when they move in near us. All of you childen are grown, and
can decide for yourselves. But your mother and I will go with the Byrds and
"Then I'll go with you, Pa, " said Massey. "They'll need some
singers. Maybe they'll even let me lead the singin' sometimes."
"Massey ain't so dumb," Betty remarked. "She knows it's a fur piece
to walk to Ball Camp."
"Wonder who'll do the preachin', Pa?" Ben asked. Reckon they might
send for John?"
"I think Brother Adam's boy is a preacher. Maybe he'll come."
"I hope he won't preach as long as that brother at the last camp
meetin'. He preached for three hours without lettin' up for breath. Jist
ain't much sense in preachin' a body to sleep!" declared Lindy.
On the next Sunday, the eleven members requested their church
letters from the Ball Camp Church, which granted them with good wishes for
the new venture at Valley Grove.
"We're followin' the example of the early churches we read about in
Acts," Sam told Elizabeth as they made their way back home. "They spread the
word. When new neighbors move in, we can go to them and invite them to
worship with us. I'm glad we're startin' somethin' for the Lord."
Autumn in all its beauty came to East Tennessee. Sam scuffed the
fallen leaves along the path to the barn, bent occasionally to pick up a
bright red one and admire it.
"I'm like one of these," he muttered. "My life is going out of me.
Every day, I feel weaker. I don't see how I'll make it till Christmas."
How he would love to go back once more to Frost Bottom! If he could
only sit on his big rock by the creek and think, maybe he could figure out
what to do. His family--what would become of them after he was gone? It was
impossible to get back to his favorite spot. He would just go to the barn
and sit there and pray.
When he got to the barn door, he heard the sound of a woman
weeping. Seated on a bale of hay, her head in her hands, was Annalisa.
Quietly Sam walked up beside her and placed his hand on her shoulder.
"What's wrong, Daughter?"
Annalisa grabbed him around the waist. "Oh, Pa, it's so hopeless!
All I've ever wanted in life was to find a good man, get married, and raise
a family. But there's just no men left! What few that got back from the war
were already married, or had a sweetheart waiting for them. Else they're so
crippled up, they won't take on the responsibility of a wife. Particularly
if their brother was on the rebel side. This is Union country all the way.
Me nor Betty nor Massey nor Lindy--none of us can hope to marry. What's
going to become of us?"
Sam sat down beside her.
"It appears to me, Annie-girl, you're a-lookin' on the dark side.
Plenty of young women your age would be glad to swap places with you. What
if you was a widow with half a dozen kids to raise? You've got your health
and a family that loves you.
"You can't let yourself dwell on what might have been, or what you
wish could be. Face what is. The Lord never puts on us more than we can
"Now why don't you get up from here, get into the house, and make
me some of that good corn bread for supper? I'm hungry--and you're the best
cook on the place, you know."
"Pa, you're right. You can always make me feel better. I love you,
Pa. You can bet I'll make you a skilletful of the best corn bread you ever
put inside of your mouth."
The young woman stood up, straightened up, and set out for the
Sam watched her and thought, How could I tell her that I was really
talking to myself. I've got to face whatever comes, and trust the Lord to
take care of my family after I am laid to rest.
The next day, he called Ben aside.
"Ben, I don't want to alarm your Ma or the girls, but I am not
well--not well atall. I don't believe I'm much longer for this world. I'm
eighty-one years old and tired of the struggle.
"I've seen lots of trouble--one loss after another, looks like.
First I lost my brother when we went off to war against England. Then my
first wife, beautiful Isabel, was struck by lightnin'--died instantly. And
her little baby-we tried, but we couldn't keep it alive. I lost two boys in
one horrible summer--both of 'em twins. All of this happened before you were
"I don't see how you stood it, Pa," Ben said.
"If it hadn't a-been for the Lord, I wouldn't have made it. He lent
me the strength when I had to have it.
"Then these last ten years--they've been one thing after the other.
Pip's murder, in cold blood right on his doorstep--I can't even think about
it. And Fred--what happened to our Fred? Oh, your Ma still looks for him to
come back. I don't. He's somewhere in an unmarked grave, dead in one of the
worst wars that's ever been. That war ran us out of the home we loved, once
the prettiest valley anywhere. I've survived--and I will until the Lord
calls for me. I think it's goin' to be soon.
"Son, I have to leave it to you. Somehow, you must take care of
your mother and your sisters. Just have faith. The Lord will see you
"I'll do my best, Pa. I promise you I'll see that they don't go
hungry. You've stuck by us. I'll try to be the man you've been."
Sam died on December 20, 1871. Ben cared for his mother and the four
sisters, outliving them all. Massey died on January 10, 1876, and Elizabeth
the following May 6.
After Ben married my grandmother, Mary Ann Lones, on September 12,
1880, he continued to care for the three sisters. Annalisa died on April 7,
1897; Lindy, on May 1, 1920; and Betty, on May 21, 1929.
Ben and Mary had six children: Nora, Charles, Edward, Elizabeth,
Mary Pauline [my mother], and Delia Kate. My grandmother died on May 12,
1915, one month after I was born, and my grandfather, on April 11, 1938.
None of them were famous nor wealthy, but they were honest, hard-working,
God-fearing people--salt-of-the-earth characters that their descendants can
remember with fondness and pride.
1 Hoskins, Katherine, Anderson County, Tennessee County
History Series; Memphis State University Press, p. 7.
2See Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, vols. 7 and 15. Also Irving
Stone, The President's Lady, Doubleday and Company, 1951. Many
details of battle from this source.
4Hoskins, p. 34.
5Wilma Dykeman, Tennessee, Graphic Arts, 1979, pp.122-3.
6Dykeman, pp. 122-3.
7Recorde in Marriages of Anderson County, Tennessee, 1838-1858,
compiled by Whitley.
8Recorded in the compilation of marriages by Whitley referred to
on p. 36.
9Hoskins, Anderson County, p. 27.
10Sophie and Paul Crane, Tennessee Taproots, p.1.
11From J.J. Burnett, Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist
Preachers, Vol. I, Marshall-Bruce Company, Nashville, 1919. pp. 470-2.
12From a letter written by Jessie Mae to me.
13Digby Seymour, Divided Loyalties, University of
Tennessee Press, 1963, p. 54.
14James Welsh Patton, Unionism and Reconstruction in Tennessee,
University of North Carolina Press, 1934, p. 21.
15Ibid., p. 67.
16Seymour writes that Brazelton's Battalion consisted of seven
companies of men from Knox County. It merged with the First Tennessee
Infantry, and its Company E took part in the siege of Knoxville. p. 54.
18Ibid., p. 10.
19Quoted by Katherine Davis Moore in Sing Remembrance,
published in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1984. She is my third cousin.
21Fremont Worth, The Development of America, American Book
Company, 1937, p. 400.
22Seymour, p. 12.
23Seymour, p. 17.
24Betsey Beeler Creekmore, Knoxville, University of
Tennessee Press, 1958, p. 112.
25"Neither Peace Nor War: Conditions in East Tennessee in 1865,"
East Tennessee Historical Society, #23.