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George D. Ewing Memoirs
By George D. Ewing
Originally published in 1922
Transcribed, 2008, by Alan C. Ewing
Partial transcription, by Evelyn Ewing Glass,
previously published in Journal of Clan Ewing
As I am, perhaps, the only one now living, of the third generation, who will write the memoirs of the paternal and maternal ancestors, I am writing this feeble tribute to their memories, with the hope that younger generations, in reading them, may be actuated by the same spirit which governed them in the performance of civic and social duties, not only for their immediate families, but in a larger sense, would be helpful to others of the same community.
It is quite difficult for the children of the present time to appreciate the conditions that existed more than a century back. The progress that has been made in education, inventive genius, scientific discoveries and mental forces which have, to such a large extent, overcome material obstructions and lessened the hardships of human labor. If these ancestral memoirs will inspire in the young higher aspirations and ideals, I shall be fully compensated for the thought and labor necessary in their production.
G. D. Ewing 1922
Birthplace of my father's parents - Grandfather Ewing's Business - My Grandmother's School Advantages - Their Marriage - Coming to the United States - Their Long Ocean Voyage - Their Coming to Kentucky - The First High School for Girls in the State
My grandparents, on my father's side, were James Ewing and Robina Scott Ewing. James Ewing was born about the year 1777. His birthplace was in Edinburgh, Scotland. He learned the trade of stamping or printing the color designs on textile goods - often called calico printers; but their work was often on more costly fabrics than on cotton goods. His father being engaged in this business, the son learned this trade from his father.
It is hard, now, for the young to understand, without considerable study, the difference in the making of such goods then from the great manufacturing that prevails now. But few manufacturing establishments existed then. Most all articles for general use were made by what was called "shop men". It was before steam power was in use.
My Grandmother Ewing was also born and raised in the same city as that of Grandfather - Edinburgh, but she had better educational opportunities than did my grandfather. She was of the old Douglas line, whose history runs through more than six centuries of the history of Scotland. She was a graduate of Edinburgh University. She was a cousin to Sir Walter Scott. It is said of her that she was well posted in Scottish history, her ancestors having had something to do in its making.
My great-grandfather Ewing and his son James were makers of designs, or patterns, for goods, as well as stampers of such. The designing of patters required considerable artistic skill. But the son James believed that there were better opportunities in the new world, as the United States were then called, his sweetheart, Robina Scott, sharing his opinion. They had planned to come to America before they were married. They were married, I believe, in the year 1798. They, after their marriage, remained in Scotland for about a year, James Ewing continuing in the business with his father until their departure for the United States.
They sailed for the United States of America in the year 1799, not expecting their voyage would take for than four weeks, but it was six months after their departure form Scotland before their arrival in New York. Soon after beginning their ocean voyage, a sever storm stuck their ship, and it was so badly damaged that it went to a port for repairs. The necessary repairing took quite awhile. Their first child - a son, whom they named Douglas - was born on the ship.
They had intended settling in one of the new western states, preferably Kentucky. They were more in harmony with the opinions and views which had gone out from Jamestown, Virginia, than the Pilgrims' viewpoint, as had been exemplified in Europe and afterwards conformed to by them in this country in the mode of government - the ideals as had been proclaimed by Thomas Jefferson and others, who were descendants of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement, that all men where created free and equal, and had certain inalienable rights, which neither kings nor potentates had any right to take from them.
They arrived in Kentucky in the year 1800, and first located at Frankfort. It was at Frankfort that my grandmother taught the first high school for girls that was taught in the state of Kentucky. This was, perhaps, in 1802 or 1803. The winter of 1879-80 I spent at Frankfort. Several of us boarded with the State Auditor, Col. D. Howard Smith. This family were Baptists. One Sunday some of us went with Col. Smith and family to his church. After the services, he asked us to remain and get acquainted with the membership. He introduced me to an old lady. When he called my name this venerable lady seemed somewhat surprised and said: "Can it be possible that you are related to the lady who taught the high school for girls, at Frankfort?" I told her that lady was my grandmother. She answered by saying that she was a most gracious lady and a most worthy teacher, with a fine education, and a very gifted teacher; that she was one of her pupils.
My grandparents had come to the United States with the intention of living in the country, on a farm. Both had so far spent their lives in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, believing that the quiet farm life was preferable to that of the large city.
Upon leaving Frankfort, Kentucky, they bought land in Henry County, near New Castle, which was the county seat. Upon this farm they lived all the rest of their lives. Grandmother died in 1832, the husband surviving her a little more than a year. They took much interest in farm life. A few years after getting their farm , they had one of the best orchards in the country. They took much interest in fruit culture, and did what they could to impress upon their neighbors the importance of fruit growing.
After their son Douglas, the other children were born, as follows: Louisa, Nancy Scott, Fulton and William H. Louisa Ewing married Benjamin F. Spurgeon about the year 1832. Six children were born to them - Robina, James W., Isom, Chaterine, Benjamin F. and Alanzo.
The Roving Disposition of Douglas Ewing - His Death, at New Orleans, Louisiana - The Separation of the two children - The marriage of the children of our grandparents - Father and Mother's Marriage.
The son Douglas was of a roving disposition. Soon after attaining his legal age, he went west as a fur trader with the Indians. His first trading post was between St. Louis and where Kansas City, Missouri was afterward located. As soon as this place began settling with whites, he went farther up the river, to where St. Joseph now is. His next move was up the Missouri River to the Territory of Nebraska, establishing a trading post with the Indians a the point where Omaha, Neb. is situate. At this point he remained until the Territory of Nebraska was surveyed by the Government. Douglas county was named for him. This county contains the city of Omaha.
His next move was down the river to Mississippi, and down that river to New Orleans, Louisiana. At New Orleans he was married, after being there several years. Two children were born to them. The oldest, a daughter, whom they named for her aunt Louisa Spurgeon. Soon after the birth of the son he was stricken with yellow fever and died. Sometime later, his widow was stricken with the same malady, and she, also, died.
Mail service was quite slow, then, but the relatives in Kentucky finally heard of his death. Sometime afterward the word was received that the widow was dead, as well, also, as some of her relatives, leaving the tow little children, suggesting that the father's relatives take the little girl and the mother's people wanted to keep the baby boy. Aunt Louisa Spurgeon sent for the girl - her namesake - and cared for her as for her own children. But soon the whereabouts of the boy was lost. Though efforts were made to locate the child, it was without success. The sister never knew whether her brother was living or dead. She married William H. Harrell, they coming to Missouri. She died in Daviess County, Missouri in 1883.
Nancy Scott Ewing, married LaFayette Lewis and went on a farm in Henry County, Kentucky, about two miles from her sister, Mrs. Spurgeon. Four children were born to them - Frank, Sophrona, Amanda and Carrie. The first railroad built in the state afterwards, ran through their farm. The town of Smithfield was a station at their old home. The husband died about the year 1848, his widow living several years in widowhood; then she married Michael McCormick. She died about the year 1871, the husband living several years thereafter.
Fulton Ewing and Rachel Watkins Robbins were Married March 12, 1833. His mother having died, they lived with the father the first year after the marriage. After the death of the father, they moved to purchased land on the Little Kentucky River. They moved to this place on the 16th of March 1834. At that time peach trees were in full bloom, something unknown before, so early in the season; nor has it occurred since that time. Ten children were born to them, four dying in infancy. They six lived beyond middle age, five of them even down to old age. They were: Mary Frances, born May 31, 1835; William Pryor, August 28, 1837; Augustus M. November 25, 1839; George Douglas, January 2, 1842; Abel Robins, August 31, 1844, and Elizabeth, February 20, 1847. All are now dead except this writer.
William H. Ewing and Honora Robbins were married in the year 1835. Five children were born to them - Able Robins, Mary Louisa, Thomas Newton, Benjamin Fulton and Ophelia C., who was born on May 2, 1849; married Sidney Young in December, 1868; died in 1872, leaving a daughter named Bettie. This daughter married Mitchell Ward. Both are living.
Some years after their marriage, William H. Ewing and family moved from Trimble Country, Kentucky, to Missouri, first locating in Platte County. After living in Platte County for one year, they moved to Gentry Country, where they remained the remainder of life; Aunt Honora Ewing dying in 1850; but her husband, W. H. Ewing was in his ninety-third year when he died. Honora C. Ewing was a daughter of Able Robins and Mary Davis Robbins.
The son, Able Robins, was a soldier in the Confederate Army and died of sickness, in the state of George, in 1864. Mary Louisa married Richard J. O'Bryant. Both are still living, in Collin County, Texas. Thomas N. was a soldier in the Federal Army, during the war between the states; was discharged after it's close. A number of years afterward he and Miss Sarah Sharp were married. The husband died in 1919. The widow is still living. Ben F. Ewing and Miss Elizabeth Akes were married in 1868. Four children were born to them - Augustus M., Albert L., Marvin and Mamie, who died in childhood.
Honora Ewing, wife of W.H. Ewing, died in 1850. Some years thereafter he married Miss Lina Sulzer. To this union five children were born - Martha, Ruth, Nora, Lilburn and Simpson. All were married, and two are dead - Ruth and Lilburn. Ruth had married Joseph Tracy; Lilburn a Miss Cole of Colorado.
Fulton Ewing was born Nov. 4, 1809, and died July 18, 1889. Rachel W. Ewing born June 13, 1814, died November 15, 1883. Mary Frances Ewing and John J. Moran were married Nov. 10, 1853. The them were born thirteen children, all yet living but one. This is remarkable in such a large family. The names of the children are: William R., John F., Anna Belle, Catherine, George D., Augustus M., James T., Robert E. L., Louisa, Elizabeth, Edward, Charles, and Homer.
John F. Morgan and Miss Bettie Hill were married in 1886. To them were born three children, namely: Mattie, Guy and Harry. The husband has been dead for several years. His widow and three children are still living. John J. Morgan died Sept. 24, 1911. My sister, Mary Frances Morgan, died October 10, 1913, having lived over seventy-eight years. It was almost sixty years after her and John Morgan's marriage. She was visiting her sister and family at the old home place, where she was born and married. She was taken violently ill and died within an hour. The home in which she died was only a few feet from the place of her birth and marriage. She and her husband had a large family of children, which they tried to train so as to make useful and good citizens. She had been, from early girlhood, of a religious temperament, and died in that faith which had sustained throughout her life.
To Lenora and Robert Powell one son was born. The father died about the year 1916. The son, Herman, was a soldier in the World War; went overseas and saw active service in France. But after the war was over, he was discharged and returned home, and lives with his widowed mother, in Campbellsburg, Kentucky.
I should have, before this, stated that B. F. Ewing, some years after the
death of his first wife, married Mrs. Sarah McMillan, who has been dead about
Marriages of Father and Mother's children and other members of their family - Army Service - Deaths.
William P. Ewing and Miss Elizabeth Latty were married January 28, 1857. To them were born seven children - John O., Lenora E., Nancy J., Mary Virginia, Jesse, Theopolis and Mattie, their third child, who died in infancy. Jesse F. died during childhood. Theopolis reached early manhood before he died.
My brother William P. Ewing, before his death, had lived some months beyond his eighty-third year. His wife, Elizabeth, had preceded him to the grave more than nine years. There were both good citizens, ever willing to help the needy - no others in the county more readily responded to the needs of the sick or needy than they. They were given to hospitality, and much enjoyed having their neighbors and friends at their home. But few in the county were missed more than they, after their deaths. They looked upon this life as only the beginning of an endless life, relying upon the promise of an abiding life of peace in the life hereafter. In hope they went to rest with and abiding faith in the glories of the life which is to come.
John O. Ewing and Miss Rebecca Coffin were married near 1886.
Lenora Ewing and Robert Powell were married in 1887.
Nannie Ewing and J.R. Sanders were married in 1883. To them seven children were born; all, I believe, still living.
Mary Virginia Ewing and Dr. C.C. Coleman were married in 1886. The husband died May 31, 1890, leaving one daughter - Lotta. She married Herman Barns and lives at Indianapolis, Indiana, her mother, Mrs. Coleman, living with them.
Augustus M. Ewing and Miss Lucy Basey were married Dec. 20, 1873. To them was born a daughter - Ethel - who died before attaining womanhood; the mother soon thereafter; the father in 1907. So none of this family are now living.
George D. Ewing and Miss Artimecia Bain were married July 13, 1865. To them were born four children - Mattie E., who was born September 14, 1866; Charles B., August 10, 1870; Ira Scott and Iva Watkins - twin sons - June 4, 1875. Ira Scott died September 16, 1877, and Iva Watkins, October 5, 1881.
Mattie E. Ewing and T.C. Beasley were married May 15, 1888.
For a number of years they lived at Pattonsburg, Missouri, but now live at
and Grandmother's appreciation of the liberties accorded the people in America -
What they thought was necessary to attain a high national standing -
Grand-father's speech to county court - Lack of high educational advantages, balanced by strong, practical common sense.
While Grandfather Ewing and his wife were foreign-born,
they came to the United States with the intention of making this country their
future home. It was their intention to help in doing those things which would
assist in making this the best country for peace and happiness in the world. To
do so, as they thought it necessary to stand for those things which would
develop intelligence and a highly developed citizenship,
the people being the sovereigns, instead of kings and autocrats. The governments, both state and national, will not go beyond the intelligence of its citizens or sovereigns.
They knew that in England, where kings and autocrats ruled, the people were
more or less slaves. Now, as we had a government of the people, by the people,
for the people, to hold fast to it, lest it slip away. In monarchial countries,
by reason of relationship, the offices were inherited. Great estates were held
for generations, as a hereditary estate, which could not be sold by the holders,
however profligate these scions
of nobility might be.
Under the first constitution for Kentucky, the county courts were self-perpetuating; that is, the court, itself, selected its own members. The oldest commissioned member, every two years, became, automatically, the sheriff of the county. But before his being elevated to the sheriff's office, the three judges would elect a new member, who, in six more years, would become the county sheriff.
The county court, being in charge of the fiscal affairs, was of much
importance. It seems, at this time, that the citizens thought that the retiring
judge had most of the intelligence that should have been more equally
distributed between the three judges. A number of the citizens of the county met
and, as they believed, had agreed upon a competent man to fill the vacancy soon
to occur. This committee made Grand-father Ewing their spokesman to recommend
their selection to the court to fill the vacancy. His speech to the court was
about as follows:
"Gintlemen of the court: If it pi'ases your 'onors, we are before you to recommind, as we belave, a proper person to fill the vacancy soon to occur. We fale, to some extent, the importance of this office to the people and desire to get the best man possible. We think, gintlemen, that the man we suggest will add strength to your body; for we bel'ave that upon the rertirement of the senior judge this court will be pretty w'ake."
It is said that notwithstanding this pointed speech, the court elected the one recommended.
It is difficult, now, for the young to understand the many hardships and environments through which the first settlers passed. According to their opportunities; they made a noble fight, and laid a solid foundation upon which others could build a model government, from local affairs reaching out and up to the top, all inter-allied and coworkers in a people's government, for the good of all the people.
In those days, in a new country, there were but few really educated men. Even circuit judges, as well as other officials, were not able of themselves to make an order for record that was anything like correct in diction. frequently Grandmother Ewing was called upon by the county courts, as well as the circuit courts, to revise the rough drafts of court records and get them in shape before they were recorded. The judges were usually men of good practical sense and well understood their educational deficiencies, and did the things that good hard sense dictated the necessary thing.
T. C. Beasley and wife's European trip - The great maritime port of Liverpool - Sights seen in London - Touring Ireland and some of the sights seen - On to Scotland—Edinburgh, Firth of Forth, Edinburgh University, Stirling Castle, the old home of Sir Walter Scott, the Old and New Bridges.
In the summer of 1911 our son-in-law and our daughter, T. C. Beasley and wife, made a trip to Europe. They went especially to visit England, Ireland and Scotland; but more especially Scotland, to see the land from which our paternal ancestry came.
After arriving at Liverpool, they went on to London. There they visited many of the places of interest—The House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the Bank of England, the Tower of London. In this last named place, if the mute walls could speak, what a chapter of tragedies they might tell, of the thousands who had been committed to prison, there, for opinions they held on religious matters, during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scotts, often called, for her cruelties, "Bloody Mary." She was a rabid Papist, and committed many to the Tower at London, whose heads were severed from their bodies, because they were Protestants and would not subscribe to picture and emblem worship taught by the Pope at Rome and his satellites. The executioner's ax is still to be seen in the basement of this old prison, a silent reminder of the cruelties and horrible tragedies under the guise of religion.
From England they went through Ireland, in tourist conveyances. Unhappy Ireland, where the very rich own most of the land. They lease it to the tenants, who, generally, are quite poor—only a few acres to each tenant. Many of them live in little houses with a straw roof, They visited the great Irish city, Dublin. They saw, there, the Blarney Stone, around which so much superstition has grown. There they go (so many) to kiss this old stone, supposing that it will bring good luck. The steps leading down to it are greatly worn by the millions of feet that have gone down to kiss this rock, around which so much superstition is woven. Even the stone, itself, is worn by the lips that have been pressed against it.
The Irish are a sensible people. It is strange to what an extent superstition has wrought on them; but it dates back for many centuries. They are so tenacious that they will not let up on the wily cult which holds them, and is largely responsible for their unhappy political condition. South Ireland is the maelstrom of confusion; North Ireland is largely Protestant.
In Scotland they Saw many of the same old scenes with which our ancestry was familiar, a century and a quarter ago. Edinburgh, with its quaint old building's, some them many centuries old. They visited Edinburgh University, where our great-grandmother, in girlhood, attended school. They took boat rides on the Firth of Forth, of which our forbears were wont to talk, out to the old Stirling Castle, which was the home of many kings and nobility.
It was in this old castle that one of the Douglases was slain in battle, in trying to wrest it from Scotland's enemies. His body was buried under the window through which it was thrown. Queen Victoria, of England, during her reign, had the grave properly marked; also, a memorial room fitted up in the castle—the same one in which he was killed. Mr. Beasley and wife brought for me some souvenirs bought in the Douglas room at Stirling Castle.
They visited the home of Sir Walter Scott, called Abbots-Ford, which is three miles from Edinburgh.
From the ramparts of Stirling- Castle a bridge can be seen that spans the River Forth, which has been there for many centuries. It is supposed to have been built during the Norman invasion. They now have a new bridge- as they call it—built about 150 years ago. From the ramparts of old Stirling Castle may be seen, in the distance, where Robert Bruce fought the battle of Bannockburn and regained the kingdom of Scotland, wresting it from the Buttons. This was June 6, 1314—a memorable victory to Scotland, it was.
The birth of Abel Robbins and Mary Davis Watkins, who became his wife. The father of Abel Robbins—He was a soldier in the American Army—Was killed in the battle of Yorktown—His mother's second marriage.
My mother's 'father was Abel Robbins, born in Greenbrier county, Virginia, but principally raised in Monroe county, of the same state. Both counties are now in the state of West Virginia. Her mother was Mary Davis Watkins, born in western Pennsylvania, near where Pittsburgh is now located.
Abel Robbins was born 1779. Mary D. Watkins, who became his wife, was about two years younger. While these two families could trace their lineage back to the first English settlement made in America, at Jamestown, Virginia, in May 1607. This antedates the settlement at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts by a few years.
Abel Robbins' father was John Robbins, who became a soldier in the Continental Army, soon after the war for American independence was begun. The name of John Robbins' wife, the mother of Abel, I do not now remember. There were two children born and reared to their union. The eldest was the daughter, Charity, who was more than two years older than her brother Abel. As orally handed down, the record is about at follows:
John Robbins remained in the army from the time of his enlistment until he was killed in battle, at Yorktown. After the British success at Charlestown, South Carolina, then into North Carolina and on into Virginia, Lord Cornwallis came down from New York and took immediate command of the British army.
He saw that General Washington, aided by the French, under General Lafayette, was striving hard to cut him off from his supplies. He chose Yorktown for his base, thinking, it seems, that he would have a sea outlet from whence to draw needed supplies; but in this he had miscalculated, for the French fleet took his sea outlet from him, while Washington, with the aid of the French, cut off his supplies by land.
But, some time before, John Robbins had moved his wife and children to the
vicinity of Yorktown. Soon Cornwallis was compelled to send out foraging
detachments by the most unguarded ways in order to obtain much needed supplies.
Early one morning, John Robbins' wife was milking a cow, near the
roadside. A detachment of the British came up, unawares to her, and without notifying her of danger, shot the cow; but, in falling, the cow did not injure her. While the soldiers were dressing the meat, preparatory to taking-it with them, a detachment of American troops came up. John Robbins was one of this detachment. The Americans opened fire on the enemy and soon put them to rout without their booty. A running fight ensued. In this John Robbins was killed, some distance from his home. His comrades brought his body back home. They said he seemed so enraged at the wanton cruelty to his wife, in shooting the cow without notifying her of her danger, that he did not display the usual caution manifested by soldiers of long training.
Not long after the death of John Robbins, Cornwallis surrendered his army to the allies. The war was soon over. The Americans had gained all they were fighting for. The independence of the United States of America was an accomplished fact.
Not long after the close of the war, the widow and her two children moved back to Monroe county, to their former home. She remained a widow for several years, but finally married a man by the same name—John Robbins; but the two men were not related.
Life and trials with second husband—His desire to make money—Also, for a good name in the community.
The second husband seemed to be successful as a farmer and in his business affairs; he accumulated property, it seemed, with ease. But it seemed that he looked upon his stepchildren more as a chattel property than that of children to be educated for useful positions in life. In those by-gone days, it was thought, in many places, that girl children needed but little education—to read and write, with a little knowledge of geography, was sufficient for girls. But the boys, for business purposes, should be farther advanced. But this stepfather refused to let his stepchildren go to school at all.
The boy, Abel, was ambitious to get an education and become a surveyor, like
General Washington was. He was now about twelve years old, and had never had any
schooling at all. He had several times seen Washington, whose dignified manners
and pleasing address had made him Abel's ideal of a noble manhood. Abel's
ambition to become a surveyor, like General Washington, yet denied school
privileges.—What a dilemma for an ambitious boy. He had only one in whom he
could confide that he thought might be able to assist him; that was mother. As a
good mother, she sympathized with the ambitions of her son; but what could she
do? The edict had been made that in the fields, at work, was the place for Abel.
From this decision she knew that her husband would be hard to move; but the love
for her fatherless son inspired her with some strategy. She knew that her
husband loved the esteem of his neighbors and their plaudits for his business
sagacity. This had as strong hold on him as his love of property. She went to
some of her influential neighbors, told them her troubles, and suggested to them
that the most sure way to succeed with her husband was through the medium of
flattery. These neighbors had observed Abel, and knew something of his
They told his mother that they held observed the ambitions of her boy, and would assist her all they could.
Soon thereafter these men, apparently without any real deal design, saw their opportunity. They praised the stepfather as a great farmer—that it appeared that most everything that he undertook was successfully carried out; that they were proud of him as a neighbor and a progressive citizen; but they thought he was in error in not sending the stepchildren to school. They obtained the promise that Abel might go to school that winter, but for Charity, her mother could teach her all that was necessary for her to know. These neighbors soon communicated to the mother the promise which they had obtained. Abel was soon advised by his mother that he could go to school that winter. What new hopes were awakened in his mind—A SURVEYOR LIKE GENERAL WASHINGTON!—What happy thought!
Although now twelve years of age, he had never attended school. Yet, his mother had taught his sister and he as best she could. The mother was a pretty good speller, and could read and write, but was not capable of advancing them much farther.
School time came on. The teacher employed was an Irishman. At the beginning of the school, the teacher prepared a section of a "gum," such as were then used instead of boxes or barrels, which was the post of honor upon which the head of the class stood. He also had announced that he would give a prize of fifty cents to the member of each class obtaining the most weekly headmarks in spelling.
Abel had never had so much money. Could he win the prize? He resolved to try.
Hope ran high, as he thought of being the victor. His mother being a good
speller, instructed him all she could. The school was nearing its close. One boy
was a close competitor. The last week came, and the two boys had an equal number
of headmarks, with Abel's opponent on the "gum," with only the last lesson to
hear. Abel, with the assistance of his mother, had studied this last lesson with
much interest. The class was called for the last spelling lesson.
The lesson was half through, the boy on the gum missed a word; Abel being next, spelled it and took the post of honor on the "gum." At the close of the lesson, the teacher said: "That is the last lesson." Abel, in the exuberance of his feelings, replied: "Yes. and I an on the 'gum.' " "You have been a good pupil and have studied hard. I hope you may gain your ambition and make a surveyor. In all you do through life, make all honorable efforts to keep on the 'GUM. ' "
But sordidness so possessed the stepfather that even the love of praise would not induce him to let Abel go to school again; so all of his teaching in school was in that three months; but he resolved lo be a surveyor, like General Washington was. His sister, Charity, was never permitted to attend school at all. But the children had friends among their educated neighbors, especially among some school teachers in their community. These undertook to reach them, as opportunity afforded.
The teachers suggested the books necessary for the two children; but to get the books that were necessary was now the trouble. The mother nor the children had it, nor would the stepfather furnish the means. It looked dark for this boy's ambition to become a surveyor. It was then crisp autumn weather. The mother suggested to Abel that he gather chestnuts and sell them to buy books. Chestnuts were then plentiful in the mountains. When the moon was giving- light, with the aid of bark torches he could easily find them. His stepfather had before refused to give him time in the daytime. His step-father finally refused him privilege to go at night, saying that when he was up so late at night, he could not work so well during the day; but Abel was now seventeen years old, and he persisted in getting the nuts at night.
In those days witches and ghosts were thought much about, even with people who should have known better. The stepfather tried to scare Abel from nut-gathering at night, by telling him hideous ghost stories. But his mother did not believe such stories, and told him to watch, for she feared that someone was going to try to scare him. He well-knew who that someone was.
One night, as he was on the mountainside at work nut-gathering, he heard an unusual noise, with hideous moans and cries. Finally it came near enough that he could see the white thing coming, its arms extended, with hideous groans. Abel, like David, of old, was good at stone throwing. He waited until it was almost upon him; then he let fly a rock. The monster fell, but soon regained its feet, but without the white sheet. It was his stepfather, and he was going to whip the boy for throwing the stone. But Abel told him he would never whip him again.
These teachers were very helpful to him. He managed to get the necessary books to study. By the sympathy and helpfulness of teachers and friends, he pursued his studies until he was of age.
He remained at home all of these years. Then he arid his sister received their portion of their father's estate, which was quite small. They bought three horses and a wagon, and putting their belongings in the wagon. Charity rode the extra horse while her brother drove the wagon. They were going to Henry county, Kentucky, where they had some acquaintances.
But the parting with their mother and their half-brothers and sister was to them a sad farewell. They believed they were looking upon their mother and the younger children for the last time. The mother had passed through many sorrows. She had been a good mother to them as well as the other children. It was her actions and mother's love that had shielded them during their young lives. Now they were looking into her beloved face for the last time, as they believed— and it really was. They shed but few tears at the thought of the separation with their stepfather.
Travels to Kentucky- Removal from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, of the Evan Watkins family—Abel Robbins as a Surveyor, and acquaintances made— Contracts for farm—The little log cabin—His future wife's opinion of it.
The travels to Kentucky, owing to the roughness of much of the country and lack of roads, was a considerable task. At night they would stay in towns or with the settlers, It was then unusual to be denied the accommodations that these new homes might furnish.
They came by way of Wytheville, Abington, Jonesville, to Cumberland Gap, at the Southwestern point of Virginia, on the borders of Tennessee and Kentucky. From Cumberland Gap, for more than one hundred miles, through the mountains of Kentucky, there were but few settlements. Virginia hospitality was equally as liberal in these Kentucky mountains: Whatever the home had was freely extended to travelers. After reaching the bluegrass country travel was easy until reaching their destination, in Henry county, where they had friends.
A short time before this, Evan Watkins had moved his family from Pennsylvania to near New Castle, in Henry county, Kentucky. This family consisted of Evan Watkins and Theresa Watkins, his wife, and the following children; Stephen, Isaac, John, David, Mary Davis, Prudence and Theresa. Mary Davis and Prudence were twin sisters.
This family was possessed of more property than was common, then. with the new settlers. The father bought a good body of land, on which they located. Kentucky had never been laid out by government surveys, as the newer states have been: so careful surveying was quite necessary to clearly define boundaries, hence, to get a competent surveyor was the first thing- that business prudence required.
Abel Robbins had contracted for two hundred acres in the western part of the county, near the Oldham county line. The contract price to be paid was one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, with easy payments. On this he had built a one-room log cabin. This, in after years, he said, was a hard-looking home. In this he was living alone. His sister, Charity, was living with former Virginia friends, not far from New Castle.
There were no churches where Abel Robbins lived. This locality was settling
rapidly with substantial citizens. A church house was needed, and agitation
began to build one. Abel Robbins gave an acre of land on his farm, for it's
location, besides assisting materially in it's building. A good log house was
soon erected, the Methodist Episcopal Church owning it. This was many years
before the division of the church and the formation of the Methodist Episcopal
Church South. After
the church division, this church, which was named Olivet, reverted to the Methodist Episcopal Church South. From its first building, near the year 1800, until its removal to Pendleton, after the building of the Louisville and Cincinnati railroad. The desire to have it in a railroad town was the cause of its removal, about the year 1872. Mount Olivet, it its first location was a power for good for more than seventy years.
By this time Abel Robbins had gained quite a reputation for his correct surveying. He was called on by Evan Watkins to survey his lands. It was while at this work, at the Watkins home, that he became acquainted with Mary Davis Watkins, who afterwards became his wife. He long afterwards said he was not financially able to hire help to improve his farm, but was away much of the time, surveying, in order to get his land fully paid for. The farm was not much improved and the little cabin home looked pretty sorry.
In those days churches were few— people went long distances to attend church. The mode of travel was on horseback. He engaged the company of Miss Mary D. Watkins to attend Mount Olivet Church, in the near future. In going to the church, it was necessary to go over his farm and by the little cabin. He did not then tell the young lady that was his farm, and that little cabin was his home. She, in looking at the premises, not knowing the owner, said: "Well, the owner of this farm should keep it in better repair. That little cabin looks bad, as though the owners were careless, if not lazy. If I had to live here, would try to make things look more comfortable than they do now."
Grandfather would laughingly say, many years thereafter, that was one time when he thought silence was golden. He did not tell his companion that this was his farm, and the little cabin was the only home he had to take his wife to, should he marry. But, afterwards, before his marriage, he invited his sweetheart and her twin sister, Prudence, to visit his home and make suggestions as to enlarging the dwelling before the wife's occupancy. The suggestions were to build two large rooms in front, so they could use the little cabin as a kitchen, which they could do with for a few years.
With the suggested improvements made, they were married February 29, 1808, and began housekeeping on this farm which they occupied all the rest or their lives. My grandmother was the possessor of a negro man and his wife, with one or two small children. These came with their young mistress to the new home.
Grandfather had his land paid for and was in fairly easy circumstances.
These negroes were fine people, absolutely honest and faithful. They were several years older than their young- mistress. Their names were Richard and Lucy. Aunt Lucy, as she was called, was a remarkable woman for her race. She was fairly educated and possessed much executive ability. She had the confidence of all who knew her—both white and black. She took much interest in the Mount Olivet Church, of which she was an esteemed member. Later, I may again refer to her influence in church affairs.
Grandfather and wife had twelve children, all living to man's and woman’s estate. The oldest was William; then Evan, Charity, Rachel Watkins, Diana, George H., Honora C., Christopher C., Abel M., Theresa L., David and Mary.
David enlisted in the United States Army, during the war with Mexico, started with his command to Mexico, but was taken sick and left in a hospital at New Orleans. Soon thereafter he died. He was never married.
Charity Robbins, my mother's oldest sister, was a remarkable woman. She
never married; but, like Dorcas, of Bible story, was full of helpfulness to
others. She never studied medicine with a purpose of becoming a practicing
physician, but her knowledge of medicine—even surgery was perhaps equal to many
physicians of her time. It was no difference to her whether the call came from
the well-to-do or the very poor. Neither did it differ with her whether the sick
one was a white
person or a black sufferer; she went and ministered to all who called on her for aid. From the poor she would never take compensation for her services. Nor did she ask anything from those who were able to pay, saying she was able to live without it. She was called to the homes in a large community. She was held in high favor with the physicians, many of them claiming she was equal to most physicians, and far above them as a nurse. She lived to be near fifty-two years old. She never married. Her body was laid to rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery, a large concourse of the people attending the funeral. But few, if any, have I known who lived a more unselfish life than did my mother's oldest sister, Charity Robbins.
My boyhood visit to Grandfather's—His many recitals to me of his early life—The many childish questions I would ask him—The Watkins thrift—Watkins percent—Faithfulness of the Negroes.
Fulton Ewing and Rachel Watkins Robbins were married March 14, 1833. Grandmother Ewing having shortly before died, they lived with Grandfather Ewing that year, he dying during the year. My father contracted for a farm in Henry County; but when Trimble county was formed, was added to that county. On this farm they lived from March 16, 1834, to March, 1859; then buying another farm, known as the Orr farm, on which they lived the remainder of their lives - mother until November 15. 1883, father until July 18, 1889.
When I was a small boy, my mother took me with her, to visit Grandfather Robbins' home. I was to remain one month or more. To that visit I am indebted for much of which I am writing. Grandfather was well informed, and so considerate for children. When he was at leisure, I would ask him to tell me of his soldier father; of his early life; his going to school; what made the surveyor's compass always turn north, and numerous other questions, such as children may ask of their patient elders. He said I seemed to take more interest in his early life than any other of his grandchildren. He said there was a drawing power in the north, which was called magnet or drawing power; that all nature, to us, was full of mysteries that we could not explain—the drawing power of the north was one of them.
I could sit for hours and listen to his stories of early life. He said he did not remember his father. His mother told him he was about four years old when his father was killed in battle. His sister Charity could remember some things about their father. These stories had great fascination for me. Though more than seventy years have passed since their recital, I have never forgotten them. They were as deeply impressed upon my young mind as though written with a pen of iron.
One remarkable incident occurred in 1834, the year our parents moved to the farm on the Little Kentucky River. It was the 16th day of March; peach and other early fruit trees were in full bloom; something unknown before, nor has such occurred since that time.
Before this time the country around Mount Olivet had become thickly settled. The old log church was too small. Many of the membership were desirous to build a new brick church. Among those advocating the new church were, Aunt Betsy Smith, Elisha Houseworth, Monroe Smith, Grandfather and Grandmother, Black Aunt Lucy and many others. Uncle Richard, Aunt Lucy's husband, had died some years before. Some of the most financially able were opposing the building of the new church.
A day was set for the entire membership to meet at the old church and decide whether to build a new brick church, or do with the old one. Most of the membership attended. One of the wealthiest members was made chairman.
Quite a debate was had. Grandfather and other advocates spoke in favor of the new building, while others as strongly opposed it. Finally the vote was taken. Those opposing the building had a majority. Black Aunt Lucy had been a most interested listener. The chairman announced that a motion to adjourn was now in order.
This was too much for the old black Christian woman. Slowly she arose, with tears running down her face and said:
"Marster Chairman, may I speak?"
"Yes," replied the chairman, "you have as much right to your opinion as any of us; speak on."
'Marsters and Mistresses: With the help of the Lord, we can build the new house."
The chairman, now seeing the most effective speaker had the floor, as well as the attention of the entire audience, said:
"You say, Aunt Lucy, WE can build it! What can you do?"
She replied: "l'se got more than one hundred dollars. I'll give half of all I'se got and cook for the workmen while they build the house. Mr. Chairman, if you rich folks will do one-twentieth part as much, we sho'ly will have a fine house."
One of the opposers moved to reconsider the vote. This carried. Then another motion to build the new brick house was put. It carried. The new church was soon built, and it was a power for good for that community for years thereafter.
In the winter of 1879-80 I visited the old church. Near by was the graves of Grandfather and Grandmother Robbins, Uncle David Watkins and his sister Prudence, Aunt Charity Robbins, two of my little brothers and as many little sisters who died in infancy, Black Richard and his faithful wife. Aunt Lucy, and some of their children, and a large number of the early settlers, who had wrought well in their day. I felt that I was on sacred ground.
The removal of John Robbins and family from Virginia to Indiana—Their thrift in new location—-Family prayers—The marriages of ten of Grandfather's children—Tribute to my parents.
Uncle Stephen Watkins was never married—nor his brother David—nor Aunt Prudence Watkins. Their father, Evan Watkins, was an excellent farmer, as his fine farm indicated. The sons had purchased a fine body of land. This they managed with much care. Their sister Prudence lived with them, and was as successful as her brothers. The brothers were noted as good, careful farmers, as well as business men. Uncle Stephen was especially noted as a tine judge of live-stock. The sister managed the household affairs.
All three were, in their wav, somewhat money-lenders. There were, at that time, no banks in the smaller towns. Money was loaned by first hands direct to the borrowers. The rate or interest was from ten to fifteen per cent annual- interest. This Watkins family would never ask but eight per cent. This was known, then, as "The Watkins Percent." From this rate they never changed, all through their lives. They held that was sufficient pay fur the use of money for the lender, and was also reasonable for the borrower.
Aunt Prudence Watkins' eyesight failed her, or at first was much impaired. The three were now old. The brothers sold their lands, Uncle David and his sister, Aunt Prudence, going to Grandfather Robbins' to live, while Uncle Stephen lived with his brother Isaac Watkins.
About the year 1825, John Robbins and his wife and family moved from Monroe county, Virginia (which is now in West Virginia), to Decatur county. Indiana. There they bought a fine tract of land, a part of which is now in the city of Greensburg. On this they lived until Grandfather Robbins' mother and stepfather died, near 1840.
In the year 1850, Evermont Robbins, grandfather's half brother, and his sister's son, Merit Sales, visited grandfather and others of the connection. Aunt Theresa Robbins returned with them and remained for six weeks. She was well pleased with her visit, and her connections living' there. They were quite prosperous, and stood among the best citizens of their community, which is a prosperous part of the state of Indiana.
During the time I spent at Grandfather Robbins', when a small boy, many. Things occurred that I have never forgotten. Before retiring for the night, he always had family prayers. All the negroes came into the sitting room. Grandfather would read a chapter in the Bible; then he would line the hymn, that is, read two lines, then sing those lines, and thus continue until the song was sung. Some of the whites were good singers—but how the negroes could sing; with what pathos and melody they sang.
One night he asked God to bless his grandson— George Ewing—so that he would become a useful and honorable man; to keep him from temptations, or, if temptation came, to grant him power to withstand them. Though so many years have passed since then, I have never forgotten that prayer. It seems, at times, I can almost hear the voice of the petitioner.
Grandfather was very considerate of me. Often he would take me with him to nearby towns; would introduce me to his friends as his little grandson, George Ewing, Fulton Ewing and his daughter Rachel's son. Though he had so many grandchildren, yet he had an especial interest in each one of them.
I should have before stated that not many years after coming to Kentucky, Charity Robbins, my grandfather's sister, married a man by the name of Wooden. Neither of them lived long. They had no children.
Ten of my grandparents' twelve children had married:
The oldest, William, went south and married at New Orleans. He, some years thereafter, died, without leaving heirs.
Evan Robbins married Sophia Whitely. Two children were born to them—Mary Ellen and Melvina. Some years after his death, his widow married John Garriott.
Dianna Robbins married Isaac Pendleton. Six children were born to them—Evan, William, Theresa, Phelix, Fulton and David.
George H. Robbins married Margaret Hayes. They had two children. They moved to Missouri, in 1852, locating in Lewis county, near La Grange. He died some years afterward.
Abel M. Robbins Married Robina Spurgeon. Their children were: Benjamin S., Nora L. Fulton E., Clark and another daughter, whose name I do not remember.
Christopher C. Robbins married Mrs. Artimecia Anderson. They had two children, one dying in childhood. The daughter married W. B. Hill.
Theresa Robbins married Stark Holms. No children are living.
Honora C. married William H. Ewing.
Mary A. Robbins married John Cull. They had five children—David, Mary Virginia, Newton, John. The names of the others I do not know.
Some years after Uncle David and Aunt Prudence went to live with Grandfather and Grandmother Robbins, Aunt Prudence entirely lost her sight; but it seemed that as she was deprived of seeing, that the sense of hearing became more acute. While enfeebled by age, no young person could hear better than she.
It was known that at times there were considerable sums of money in the house, kept in wooden desks, and notwithstanding the Civil War (so called), came on, these old people had no able protectors except the negroes. Yet, through the faithfulness of the negroes and the moral uprightness of the neighborhood, no losses were had from theft or robbery.
Now, after so many years have passed, since the death of Grandfather and Grandmother, her brother and sister, David and Prudence Watkins, their straightforward mode of living often recurs to my mind. Their sympathy for the distressed, helpfulness to the needy, their unfeigned piety, their abiding faith, make their memory as incense to my mind.
 Newspaper: Pattonsburg Call, 107 N Main, Pattonsburg, Missouri 64670
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