Col. Davy Crockett

Samuel Albert Link, my great grandfather, was an educator and an authority on 19th century Southern literature. This sketch comes from the second volume of his book, Pioneers of Southern Literature. Originally published in 1900, the sketch of Col. Davy Crockett was included in the chapter titled Southern Humorists.

Davy Crocket

Davy Crocket by Chester Harding

“Truth is stranger than fiction,” says the adage, and it is verified in the case of Col. Davy Crockett, who fell among the last of the immortal band struck down at the Alamo.  No character in all American fiction stands out in such life-like proportions as Col. Crockett, and yet his adventures were real.  If courage and patriotism had not made him famous, his unswerving integrity, shrewd common sense, and quaint humor would have perpetuated his name.  Davy Crockett was born in Greene County, Tenn., August 17, 1786.  Being brought up as he was in a log cabin, he received little education, but early became noted as an expert marksman, trained in the lore of the forest.  He commanded a battalion of rifles in the Creek campaign.  He lived for a time in Middle Tennessee, but finally settled near the Obion River, in West Tennessee.

Col. Crockett, after having served in the Legislature, was elected to Congress in 1827, and served two terms.  He was defeated for the third term, but reelected later on.  He was a Jackson man at first, but, like John Bell and many others, disagreed with the national policy of Old Hickory.  So firm a stand did he take that in a tour through Northern cities great crowds turned out to hear him arraign the administration of Jackson.  Crockett picked up information rapidly, so that if caught unawares upon any point he sought information, and was soon in position to speak advisedly upon the subject.  His motto was “Go ahead,” and he never fell below his motto.  In 1835 the entire power of the administration was put forth against him, and Crockett was defeated for Congress by a small majority.  As he had previously announced in case of such event, he immediately set out for Texas.  His dauntless courage at the Alamo is known to all the world.  Crockett gave out his “Reminiscences” for publication because others had invented adventures for him.  Even now it is next to impossible to determine the veracious from the fictitious, as almost anything of a comical nature which has happened to any one is credited to Crockett.  Eccentric and unique he may have been, nevertheless his racy humor lifted him out of the ordinary, and his courage and straightforward honesty made him an honor to the State which seemed to drive him into the wilderness.

When his “Reminiscences” were published he gave the following account of the affair:

I don’t know of anything in my book to be criticized on by honorable men.  Is it on my spelling?  That’s not my trade.  Is it on my grammar?  I hadn’t time to learn it, and make no pretensions to it.  Is it on the order and arrangement of my book?  I never wrote one before, and never read very many, and of course know mighty little about that.  Will it be on the authorship of the book?  This I claim, and I’ll hang on to it like a wax plaster.  The whole book is my own, and every sentiment and sentence in it.  I would not be such a fool, or knave either, as to deny that I have had it hastily run over by a friend or so, and that some little alterations have been made in the spelling and grammar; and I am not so sure that it is not the worse of even that, for I despise the way of spelling contrary to nature.  And as for grammar, it’s pretty much a thing of nothing at last, after all the fuss that’s made about it.  In some places I wouldn’t suffer either the spelling, or grammar, or anything else to be touched, and therefore it will be found in my own way.

A glimpse of Col. Crockett in Philadelphia throws into bold relief the man as he was:

Early after breakfast I was taken to the waterworks, where I saw several of the gentlemen managers.  This is a grand sight, and no wonder the Philadelphians ask everyone that comes: ‘Have you seen the waterworks?’ Just think of a few wheels throwing up more water than five hundred thousand people can use — yes, and waste, too for such scrubbing of steps, and even the very pavements under your feet, I never saw.  Indeed, I looked close to see if the housemaids had not web feet, they walked so well in water; and as for a fire, it has no chance at all.  They just screw on a long hollow leather with a brass nose on it, dash upstairs, and seem to draw on Noah’s flood.  The next place I visited was the mint.  Here I saw them coining gold and silver in abundance, and they were the rare e pluribus unum;  not this electioneering trash, that they send out to cheat the poor people, telling them they would all be paid in gold and silver, when the poor deceived creatures had nothing coming to them.  A chip with a spit on the back of it is as good currency as an eagle, provided you can get the image of the bird.  It’s all nonsense.  The President, both Cabinets, and Congress to boot, can’t enact poor men into rich.  Hard knocks, and plenty of them, can only build up a fellow’s self.

The backwoods philosopher was equally at home in New York:

From thence I went to the City Hall, and was introduced to the mayor of the city and several of the aldermen.  The mayor is a plain, common-sense looking man.  I was told that he had been a tanner.  That pleased me, for I thought both him and me had clumb up a long way from where we started, and it is truly as ‘Honor and fame from no condition rise,’ that ‘It’s the grit of a fellow that makes the man.’

No one can read the life and autobiography of Crockett without having a higher appreciation of one of nature’s noblemen.

Source: Link, Samuel A. Pioneers of Southern Literature Vol. II. Nashville, Tenn: Pub. House M.E. Church, 1900. Print.

Portrait: By Chester Harding (1792 – 1866) (cliff1066) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A Golden Word

 

Sunrise on Matanzas Bay

Sunrise on Matanzas Bay – from the author’s collection on Flickr

As I went farther and farther north and it got colder and colder, I could see why Florida is a golden word. The very name of Florida carried the message of warmth and ease and comfort. It was irresistible.

~ John Steinbeck

Veterans Day

fl hero stampToday is not a day to mourn those who died serving our country. That is Memorial Day. Today we celebrate all of America’s veterans – especially living ones. Not every veteran went to war, but they all did their part to keep our country safe.

So, if you happen to see a veteran today, shake his hand, give her a hug and thank them for their service. It will make their day even more special.

A Golden Wedding Anniversary Celebration

For John Thomas Barker and Linnie Ann (Blake) Barker
Sponsored by their son Adolphus “Dolf” with sisters assisting

Time: Maybe July 4th, 1917
Place: Hense Spring Park, one mile south of Holland, Ga.

These memos’ recorded by their granddaughter, Ethel Cofer Newton, believed to be the only survivor who is now 77 years old, March 8th, 1974.

We got word that Uncle Dolf was having a big picnic for grandma and grandpas’ fiftieth wedding anniversary at the Hense Spring Park. (My mother, brother and I were living in the old Hense home with Miss Emma B. Hense at this time.) We knew the Hense house would be headquarters and did we get busy, making everything “ship-shape”. We brot in white sand and scrubbed all the pine floors and even the old cedar waterbucket until the brass rings shown like gold. All five rooms had a bed in a corner, they were covered with snowwhite homespun coverlets with ruffled pin-up shams. The dottedswiss curtains must be freshly laundered. The dining room was furnished with one long table which was laid with a pure linen white cloth and a blue bowl of “makeshneill” roses in center. The kitchen was spotless with its large wood range with a water jacket – a big cooktable covered in metal. There was a big fireplace at the end where we boiled the pots, baked the potatoes and heated the smoothing irons. Our yards were swept clean. I can remember the boxwoods bordering the walk and an immense Dorothy Perkins rosebush in full bloom. We had pots and vases of these in every available place.
Now for the picnicing area. The Hense Spring seems to bubble up out of solid rock and is rocklined thruout. The water is pure, clear and cold. There was always a fence around the spring with a drinking gourd hanging on the post. Big trees surrounded the entire area with plank seats nailed between the trees. Squirrels played among the trees and many birds nested there. The spring branch ran off along a grassy plot and to me, it was a most wonderful place. The young courting couples from Holland drove down on Sunday evenings, carved their names on the trees and done some honest-to-goodness courting (no neckin’) we were different.. Up the hill above the spring was a flat grassy plateau where the Saturday evening ball games were played and where the BarBQ pit was being dug. Miss Emma and I had raked the leaves, cut the grass and repaired the seats.

The men dug the deep pit the day before in which to start the BarBQ, it must cook all night with Uncle Bob Davidson and “Uncle Lige” (negro who were top BarBQ men). Strong iron rods went across on which hung “a goat” a large pig (guess you called him a shoat), a big calf and a yearling, and some rabbits. They made a sauce, can’t recall the exact mixture but think it was vinegar, mustard, lots of red pepper and garlic and molasses, never knew what made it brown (maybe a little tobacco juice). They basted and turned the meat all night, it came out a golden brown. It was cooked over hickory chips and had that delicious smoked flavor.

The large wash pot was brought in day before also a big new zinc tub. Mamma started early in making the Brunswick Stew in the pot. I do not know what her base was. I know she put in whole chickens, whole green beans, okra, peeled tomatoes, whole kernel corn, pods of red pepper and pounds of country butter. You have never tasted anything like it.

The tub was for lemonade. Uncle Dolf bro’t a big block of ice from Lyerly and with dozens of sliced lemons and pounds of sugar and that fresh spring water and a big tin dipper, all said “help yourself”.

We didn’t have paper plates and cups in those days but there was a big stack of tin plates, tin cups and Kress silverware. The long three plank table was covered with several plys of brown wrapping paper and there was a separate table covered with a red checked cloth for the desserts. The BarBQ meat came out a golden brown and was laid whole on the table with Uncle Bob and Uncle Lige with the big knives to slice off your selection. There were thick slices of Long Horn cheese and barrel dill pickles scattered around. At the end of the table was a big dish pan full of potato salad, my mother made it, the old fashioned kind of buttered potatoes, raw onion, sour pickle, boiled eggs and vinegar. The desserts were pies and cakes (all baked by the Barker girls). There was an egg custard with meringue an inch high (Aunt Battie’s specialty) and grandma bro’t a flour sack full of her tea cakes.

Now my role. I think I was seventeen, guess I looked alright, remember I wore a blue chambry dress, pleated skirt (took an hour to iron that) a middy blouse, white cotton stockings and baby doll shoes. I had a boy friend who kept me company all day and was a lot of help in “toteing things” from the house to the spring. And we waited on a lot of the older ones who didn’t get around too good but most of them sat on the wooden planks between the trees.

Every old person was invited for miles around and most of them came. I am listing those I can remember:

Mr. & Mrs. Tom Barker “Linnie and Tom” (my maternal grandparents)
Mr. & Mrs. Jim Cofer “Jim and MaryJane” (my paternal grandparents)
Mr. & Mrs. John Brown “Uncle John & Aunt Sis” (he was my grandfather Cofer’s half brother)
Mr. & Mrs. J. M. VanPelt from Coosa (old neighbors)
Mr. & Mrs. Bob Brison “Bob and Ruthie”
Mr. & Mrs. Joe Smith “ Joe and Cap” (he was a Confederate veteran)
Mr. & Mrs. John Clark, Sr (he was a Confederate veteran)
Mr. & Mrs. Jules Worsham
Mr. & Mrs. Tom Foster
Mr. & Mrs. H. B. Garvin from Menlo (Pauline’s inlaws) She came with them.
Dr. Ben Shamlin and wife from Lyerly
Mr. & Mrs. John Mostello from Lyerly (cousins)
Mr. & Mrs. John Chambers ?
Mrs. Liz Davidson (Uncle Bob Davidson’s mother)
Mrs. Chas. (Eme) Holland (and Mr. Bob and Gilbert and Mrs. Gilbert)
Mrs. Ellen Worsham
Mr. Mack White
Mr. & Mrs. Jim Woodard
Mr. & Mrs. John Gray ?
Mr. & Mrs. Tom House ?
Mr. & Mrs. Crumby from Bolling (Aunt Lois Cofer’s parents)
Mr. & Mrs. Bill Cook from Chattoogaville (cousins) “Cousins Charlsey & Billa”
Mr. Lige Smith ?
Mr. Marsh Hense ?
Mr. & Mrs. Earl Moon
Mr. & Mrs. John Ratliff
Mrs. Hailey Ratliff
Mrs. Minnie Holland ?
Mr. Sam Jones (he was County School Superintendent)
Mr. & Mrs. Billy Meers ?
Miss Emma B. Hense
Lula and Rufus Brison
Clyde Stevenson
Mr. Griss Stephenson ?

After everyone had eaten all they could hold and got seated again for a period of smoking, chewing and dipping, and were close to the improvised rostrum, Uncle Dolf who was master of ceremonies, took over. He was a good looking man of about forty, jolly, clever and entertaining and he could sing.

I was first on the program with a reading, had been taking expression from Mrs. Gilbert Holland and she helped me. Mrs. Holland was next with a couple of appropriate numbers (she was good). Next Dr. Ben Shamblin made a few remarks complimentary to Tom & Linnie. Next, Mr. Sam Jones (he was full of jokes and a good speaker). Then Mr. Jules Worsham. His speech was rather long and he had to bring in some politics, he was running against grandpa that year for the office of Justice of the Peace (I think he was a republican and of course grandpa was Democrat). I didn’t think much of that but since he complimented me during the time, I guess I forgave him. There was no rebuttal from grandpa but I think he won that year.

Now it was time for the singing, Mr. Brison was there with his fiddle and someone played a juiceharp. Uncle Dolf led off with suggested numbers from the audience. Grandpa’s first was
Dixie
Yankee Doodle
America
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Darling Nellie Gray
Old Folks at Home
Suwanee River
Barbara Allen (grandma’s number, must have been a hundred verses which Uncle Bob sang when he had a few drinks)
When You and I Were Young Maggie
Old Gray Bonnet
Down By the Old Mill Stream
Amazing Grace
On Jordans Stormy Banks
God Be with You Until We Meet Again
was of course the last tune and bro’t tears to many eyes.

That was a “gala occasion” for those older ones. I can still see their happy faces. And it was time to go home to feed the chicken and milk the cow before dark. Grandpa insisted they take home a poke of BarBQ and a watermelon (Mr. Rufus had bro’t in a load from his patch which we were keeping cool in the spring branch but never did get around to cutting.) Many did take some home. After the congratulations and goodbys the pasture lot was soon empty of all the buggies, surreys and wagons (not an automobile, was only one in the whole county and he wasn’t there)

The shades had gone from the springlot with the evening sun coming thru, my feet really did hurt with blisters on my heels and corns on my toes. I suggested to my escort to let’s cool our feet off by putting them in the spring branch, he was a timid fellow and didn’t think much of the idea. Well, I did anyway and sat there on the green bank until the sun went down.

Hold on, that’s not all. We had a square dance that night. The bed was taken down in the big south room. Mr. Brison came over to do the fiddling. We had to draft mamma in to have enough girls for a set, the ones I can remember were Mr. Rufus (he called), Lula, Dora Smith, mamma and me and Blake. John Davidson, Clyde Stevenson and Henry Smith. We danced until Mr. Brison gave out. Mamma lasted and she must have been clean worn out. Well, I didn’t have to be rocked to sleep that night.

The next day was clean-up day. The negro tenants came in to help and soon “cleaned up” the remaining BarBQ. I tho’t we would never get rid of that goat and to this day, can’t stand even the odor of mutton or lamb meat. I gave the baby dolls to a negro girl. I think her name was Mame McClendon, never did I want my feet to hurt like that again.

This story is mostly true. There may be some dates and names not accurate but it is indelibly stamped on my memory. My typing is bad and spelling worse but I hope some day somebody will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed recording it. To my knowledge, I am the only one living now who was there. It is a lonely feeling but I am looking forward to a big reunion in the after awhile.

(signed)
Mary Ethel Cofer Newton 3-31-74

Foot-notes:
Aunt Liz Davidson, Mrs. Joe Smith and Mrs. John Clark were sisters whose maiden names was White, some of their brothers were Abe, Joe, Mack, John. They came from Texas in a covered wagon, two of the children died enroute of a fever and were buried on the side of the road. They settled in Kincaid Valley, thus the “Whites”.

The Hense house which is originally log was there in time of the civil War.

The Hollands, Charles, Pink and Dicy (she married a Mr. Taylor) came from South Georgia after the slaves were freed, they were progressive, bought lots of land, built good homes, worked a lot of negroes and the post office was changed to Holland from Kincaid, Ga. The railroad came thru when my mother was a girl, Aunt Emma married an engineer on the Central of Ga.

The Barkers were married after the Civil War and settled in the Kincaid Valley a few years after, grandpa came from around Rome, Ga. and grandma from Sulphur Springs, Ala. Grandma was an aristocrat but grandpa, just a poor,hardworking fellow but he was schoolteacher, Sunday school superintendent, Justice of the Peace, preacher. He built a good house and they raised a fine family of children. Thus the “Barkers”.

Both my grandmothers were enrolled in Shorter College in Rome when the War broke out. My grandmother Cofer was Mary Jane Vann and was raised in Vanns Valley. Grandpa Cofer came from Middle Georgia. The Ratliffs came from Texas.

Source: A copy of the original, handwritten account along with a typed transcription are part of the Barker Family Collection now maintained in the author’s archive.