William Jasper Cotter.

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Who has lived nearly a quarter century beyond the
allotted threescore years and ten and has
been a Methodist preacher in Geor-
gia for seventy-three years


Edited by

Nastivfiii?, Tenn.

Dallas, Tex.; Richmond, Va.

Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, South

Smith & Lamar, Agents


9 3<?.6

f b-f6<f/f


On coming into this world and becoming acquainted with
it I found things too numerous to mention prepared for my
comfort by those who had gone before. It is my single aim to
do something, if possible, for the good of those who may come
after me. Hence I write this book, which I have finished
June 1 6, 191 7, at the age of ninety-three years and seven

In grateful remembrance I dedicate it to James Gouedy and
his wife, born Halliburton, for their kindness to the lone girl
and myself after she became my wife.

I also tender my heartfelt thanks to Charles O. Jones, D.D.,
for whose generous assistance in preparing this volume of per-
sonal reminiscences I am greatly indebted.

William Jasper Cotter.


Those who do not live in historic times are recompensed by
knowing, hearing, or reading those who were actors in pioneer
days. When we read of the Cherokees in North Georgia and
of their removal by the Federal government to the distant
West, we are in a sort of historical haze, where it is easy to
confuse that tragic event with other incidents of a remoter
past. Indeed, memory must take an aeroplane flight to visual-
ize occurrences that stirred Georgia and other parts of the
Union as far back as 1835, more than fourscore years ago.

Yet when the Cherokees migrated, the author of this auto-
biography was a boy in his teens. He was alert and open-eyed
to the quick-moving scenes of the human drama whose actors
were hardy pioneers, soldiers of State and nation, and the red
men unwilling to leave the fertile and beautiful territory where
their forefathers had hunted the deer in primeval forests and
speared the trout in limpid mountain streams.

The removal of these Indians, the most intelligent of all our
aboriginal inhabitants, has caused a tremendous amount of
historical and critical writing. By many authors Georgia has
been harshly censured for the treatment of the Cherokees and
the violence that in some cases was inflicted upon the defense-
less Indians. The author of this book was a witness, and he
writes out of his own experience and observation. He gives
us first-hand information. He defends and acquits Georgia
of violence and cruelty to the Indians. The chapters concern-
ing this are the longest in the book, but will repay close read-
ing, and with their documentary evidence should convince all
except those blinded by prejudice.

Since the author was born all great modern improvements,



from the railroad to the flying machine, have been developed ;
the State has grown into a populous and prosperous common-
wealth; the States of the Union have been welded into a
mighty nation; and the Church of which the author has been
an honored and loved minister for over seventy-two years has
become immeasurably strong in numbers, resources, and spir-
itual power.

These experiences of almost a century have been clearly and
faithfully depicted in the following pages. They have been
written primarily for the descendants of the men and women
mentioned in these pages, and the author has been discursive
and not crisp and cold, as in a scientific or philosophical trea-
tise. They are interesting reading and, because of the method,
have needed only the slightest touch of an editorial hand.
They will be a mine of information to future writers of for-
mal history.

As we read these reminiscences of the Nestor of Georgia
Methodism let us murmur a song of gratitude that our fore-
fathers, by the divine blessing, developed for us this goodly
heritage, resolve to embrace the glorious opportunities opened
to us because of their labors, and breathe a gentle prayer that
the author may complete his full century of years and then go
to rejoin his Rachel, whose loveliness and love he has em-
balmed in this interesting book. Charles O. Jones.

Trinity Church, Atlanta, Georgia, July 4, 1917.



Boyhood Days and the Georgia Cherokees


I. My Ancestors and Moving from Home I3

II. My Boyhood Days with the Indians, 1832-38 i7

III. Years of Labor and Trial 23

IV. Some Indian Traits and Customs 29

V. Early Politics and Preaching 35

VI. Preparations for the Removal of the Cherokees 41

VII. The Treaty with the Cherokees in 1802 5i

VIII. Boudinot, Ross, Vann, Howard Payne, and the Old Federal Road. 65


Conversion, Marriage, and Beginnings of Ministry

I. Conversion and Call to Preach 81

II. Admission on Trial, 1844, and Dahlonega, 1845 87

III. My Precious Wife 9i

IV. Going to Our New Charge, Blairsville Mission, 1846 97

V. Summerville, Marietta, and Indian Generosity, 1847-48 104

VI. Clarksville Circuit, 1849— Conversion of My Father m

VII. Canton and Gainesville Circuits, 1850-51 ^^^


Pastoral Service (Continued) and War Times

I. Watkinsville and Carnesville Circuits, 1852-54 125

II. Warrenton and a Visit Home, 1855-56 130

III. Waynesboro and Sandersville, 1857-60 136

IV. Culloden, Greensboro, and Forsyth, 1861-65 I45

V. The Battle of Chickamauga 152

VI. Fort Valley, Whitesville, and Grantville, 1866-69 I55

VII. Troup Circuit and LaGrange College, 1870-73 161




Last Appointmexts, Superannuation, and Peaceful Waiting
Chapter Pag2

I. Grantville, Elberton, and Other Circuits. 1874-82 167

II. Summerville, Senoia, Troup, Hampton, and Turin. 1883-94 175

III. Atlanta and Superannuation, 1895-97 178

IV. The Wife and Mother in the Home 180

V. Newnan and Coweta County 183

VI. Ordinations and Appointments 188





My Ancestors and Moving from Home

TV /TY grandfather, William Cotter, was born in County
Down, Ireland. When a young man he came to Vir-
ginia and there married Miss Catherine Vance. They settled
in Union District, South Carolina, where, on November 28,
1789, my father, John Vance Cotter, was born. He was
brought up on a farm, with the school advantages of that day.
His family was Presbyterian, and its members gathered around
the family altar in daily prayer. Father was a soldier in the
War of 18 12 and was stationed at Charleston. When peace
was declared, he came to Georgia and traded on the borders
with the Cherokee Indians.

My mother was Miss Mary Ann Nail, born in Chatham
County, North Carolina, June 12, 1796, and was reared in
old Pendleton, South Carolina. My father and mother were
married December 19, 18 19. To them were born six children,
three boys and three girls. My sister Emeline E. was the
oldest and in all respects a noble woman. She was an intimate
friend of Miss Joanna Troutman, who designed the Lone Star
flag of Texas. My sister never married, and after our parents
grew old she became the head of the household. She died in
1872 in Arkansas while on a visit with our other sisters.

I was the second child and was born in Hall County, at
Cotter's Store, November 16, 1823. I was named William
Jasper, evidently after Sergeant Jasper, the Revolutionary
hero who replaced the American flag on Fort Moultrie after it
had been shot down June 28, 1776, and was mortally wounded
in trying to place the colors on Spring Hill redoubt at Savan-



nah October 7, 1 779. My brother Robert, next to me in age,
died a member of the Georgia Conference, leaving a wife, born
Caroline McRae, and three children. My youngest brother, J.
C. K., married Miss Malinda Green, one of the best of women.
Much of his time he has taught country schools and still sur-
vives at the age of eighty-nine. My sister Louisa was a most
amiable character. She married Thomas Smith, son of a local
preacher, and bore him four children, surviving him many
years. She died in 1888 at the age of fifty-seven. Martha,
the yotmgest, was born in 1834, married a Mr. Canterbury,
and still lives at Mountain Home, Arkansas. We were a har-
monious family to the end of the days.

My parents settled in Hall County, Georgia, at a place
known for years as Cotter's Store, now Gillsville. Pioneers
had located thirty years before in this eastern part of the coun-
ty, on a section of fine farming land between the Oconee and
Grove Rivers. I may mention some of our early neighbors:
The Garrisons, Caseys, Terrells, Bufifingtons, Rileys, Bowens,
Cowans, Peepleses, and others equally worthy. The commu-
nity had good schools and a high standard of morals. The
Baptist church was at Timber Ridge, where they had large As-
sociations. The Methodist meetings were held at Wesley
Chapel, Miller's Meetinghouse, and old Dry Pond Camp

The larger portion of the county was west of the Oconee.
The county had been organized in 18 18. The first members
of the County Court were: Jacob Eberhart, John Bates, John
V. Cotter (my father), Nehemiah Garrison, and William
Cobb. The first thing for the court to do was to select a site
for the county seat. The Big Spring and the Lime Kiln were
nominated. My father suggested the place where the city of



Gainesville now stands, then an unbroken forest. He also
suggested the name for the new city that was to be in honor
of Gen. Edmond Pendleton Gaines, under whom he had served
during the war. The surveyor who laid off the site was a
great-uncle of the late Governor Terrell. The deed to the lot
bore the names of the five judges already mentioned.

Our old home originally called for eight hundred and eight
acres of land, but had been divided into three parts, called the
Garrison, Cotter, and Peeples places. It was a lovely country,
shaded with great trees and brightened with pinks and roses.
We had a cold and living well of water and a garden fertile
with the vegetables of that time. In the spring the sunshine
was made more beautiful by the glittering wings of butter-
flies, and bird choristers made the trees vocal with their songs
of praise. On Sunday mornings mother would say: "Go
down to the washing place and gather some flowers." Swiftly
we gathered honeysuckle and sweet shrub. As we returned
mother would say: "You didn't stay long, and you kept your
clothes so nice. Now I will read to you." We gathered about
her knees, and she read the Bible and told us that God made all
things and that Jesus Christ was our only Saviour. I have
never heard any one else speak that precious name exactly with
the sweetness and unction that she did. When about eight
years old, I went with her to church on a beautiful Sabbath
morning. As we came home she said: 'T don't want to hear
that man again, for he said that our Saviour is not God."
She was a constant Bible reader and was well informed as to
its doctrines.

The time came for us to leave our beautiful home. We dis-
posed of most of our live stock, prepared provisions for the
journey, loaded the wagons, and started on April 3, 1832.



Every place and object we passed was new. On the eleventh
day we stopped at the James Monroe place, on the old Federal
Road, about two miles north of what was then known as the
Harlen place, now the Carter place. We were in the midst of
the Cherokee Nation.

The third Sunday after we had been in our new home the
Rev. Mr, McDowell preached for us. He was then surveying
that district. He was a good man, and all the people I have
known of that name honored it. I cannot tell how long it was
before we heard another sermon. The country was a wilder-
ness, and the Indians were about us.



My Boyhood Days with the Indians, 1832-38

TT THY did we go there? Many answers might be given to
the question. It would be hard to make the people of
the present time understand the situation then. People had
the spirit of adventure, the new country had the charms of at-
traction, and it was confidently believed that the Indians would
all be gone in a year, at least ; but they did not go till six years.
After the War of 1812 my father drifted to Georgia and
embarked in trading with the Indians with some success. He
and his partner were neighbor boys, different in almost every
respect, except David and Jonathan were not better friends.
My father had great powers of endurance and complete
control of his appetites. I never saw him the least intoxi-
cated. He could sleep anywhere and eat almost anything.
Smith was the opposite, dainty in his eating and particular
about his sleeping. At one time the fare was too bad for
him. There was a place where the prospect was better. He

said: "Cotter, things look better at . Let us call for

a nice piece of meat and cabbage and a chicken. I intend to
watch how it is prepared." The meat and cabbage were nicely
washed and put into the dinner pot; and so was the chicken
dressed, and all started off cooking nicely. He took his
partner out to tell him how well everything was going on
and said he could hardly wait for it to get done. Back he
went ; and the two women with a stick made hair and dust fly
from the dog's back, saying, "Skeener!" (their word for "Get
out!") and then stirred the cabbage with the stick. It nearly
killed Smith. Again he said to his friend: "Did you see that
2 17


dirty thing hit the dog and stir the cabbage? I couldn't eat a
mouthful." He declined meat and cabbage, but did his duty
to the chicken. Though he was doing well, there was one back
at home in his mind and heart. She afterwards became his
life partner. The time came when Smith and my father sep-
arated. They shed tears then and remained dear friends as
long as they lived, and a hundred miles was a short distance
to go to visit each other. Smith settled in Middle Tennessee,
was a captain in the war of Texas in 1836 and, I think, was
a prisoner in a dungeon in the City of Mexico when the war
ended. The authorities at Washington sent Gen. VVaddie
Thompson, of South Carolina, with papers of authority to
have the prisoners liberated. I heard him say that before go-
ing to a hotel or looking after baggage he went at once and
saw the iron bolts drawn and the doors opened and grasped
the hands of his dear countrymen, saying to them: ''I have
passports for you to go home with me." He said it was the
gladdest hour of his life, and it made every one glad to hear
him tell it. I may allude to Captain Smith again.

Cotter continued and extended the business. At that time
there was a great trade center at Grayson Bend, on the Chatta-
hoochee River, fifteen miles above LaGrange. From the
mouth of Peachtree Creek, near where the city of Atlanta is,
he shipped in large canoes a cargo of goods. The canoes were
worked by strong negroes and Indians. The river was at
flood tide, out of banks, which were bordered with cane-
brakes, a home for wild beasts. Great gangs of wild turkeys
flew over their heads, filling the air with the whir of their
wings. The dangerous voyage was safely made, but a great
calamity came at the last moment. In turning the canoes in
the bend of the river to land, the whole cargo capsized, and



everything was lost. The crew escaped safely and, in the best
way they could, made their way back home, going pretty much
over what is now the line of the West Point Railroad.

Grayson's Bend had its name from Sam Grayson, the most
widely known man in all that part of the country up and down
the Chattahoochee and then to the white settlements in the east •
em part of the State. Grayson's trails led out in every direc-
tion and are still spoken of by the old people of Troup and oth-
er counties. I don't know that Sam Grayson had Indian blood
in him. I think not. But he had great influence over them and
over the whites also. He was a man of honor, most hospitable,
and kept an open and orderly house.' My father had great re-
spect for Sam Grayson. After the country was settled, the
place was known as the Colonel Townes place, named for the
father of George W. B. Townes, Georgia's Chesterfieldian

I saw that interesting part of the State when all was new —
waters in the creeks and rivers as clear as crystal; rich val-
leys, hills, and mountains covered with a thick forest ; a land
of beautiful flowers — white, pink, yellow, and red honey-
suckles, redwood and dogwood blossoms, wild roses, and oth-
ers. The ground was covered with violets, sweet williams, and
other beauties. There was plenty of wild game — deer, tur-
key, and other varieties. When first seen, all was in lovely,
beautiful spring, and I was nine years old.

Many and varied were the troubles encountered with the
wild animals, bears, panthers, and wolves, and the smaller ones,
wildcats, coons, and foxes. I never saw a bear in the woods ;
but they were numerous, and many were killed. I saw a
panther three hundred yards from the house. The cattle in the
lane scented it and were excited. Panthers killed colts, spring-



ing from the limb of a tree. I have often seen the prints of
their claws on a colt's back and sometimes on grown horses.
Wolves howled in hearing on the mountain, but never did
much mischief. The smaller animals gave the trouble. Stand-
ing in the yard, we could hear the foxes barking; and coons
were nearly as bad as hogs in destroying corn. They began
on it before it was in roasting ear. The Indians had no dogs,
but small curs, which were of little account. There were no
hounds. Colonel Carter's overseer brought two from Mil-
ledgeville, and Mr. Black got some from Buncombe, North
Carolina. We soon trained them to hunt together ; and in the
winter and spring we caught twenty-seven foxes, four wild-
cats, and quite a number of coons. It was the gray fox, and
usually the chase was fun. If started by eight o'clock, it was
caught by twelve; if at four o'clock in the morning, it was
caught a little after sunup. We never saw a red fox there.
Once in a while the dogs were out all night, and we did not
know what they were after. When they caught a fox they
would lie down around it for several hours, then one after
another would leave. Old Buncombe was the last to go in the
afternoon. Walking around the fox, he would howl as loud
as he could and start for home with a look of disappointment.
He was a large, leopard-colored dog and was the leader of the
pack. While the others stayed, he was always nearest the dead
fox. Only hunters know the meaning of "as cunning as a
fox," when, far ahead of the dogs, he runs back on logs, runs
a little way up trees and from log to log, then jumps as far as
he can and often eludes his pursuers. The chase was hard on
horses. Wildcats can run up a tree and are usually shot.
Coon-hunting involves hard work as well as lots of fun. Late
one fall, while gathering corn about dark, a company of boys



came for a coon hunt ; and, grabbing a handful of bread and
meat, I went with them. Early in the night we treed a
coon up one of the largest poplars on the creek. It would
never do to give up. The tree had to come down. We sent
home for help. White boys and negroes came with axes and
supper. It was about daylight when the tree fell. We held
the dogs, that they might not be killed by the tree. The coon
escaped, crossed the creek, and ran up a small tree. We cut
it down in twenty minutes and got the coon. It was sunup
then. An old coon can easily whip a young dog and is a full
match for an old dog.

On that spot I had a most fearful encounter with a large
rattlesnake, alone with a good dog that killed nearly every
snake that he found. He seized them with his teeth and shook
them to death in a little time. It was a sand bar barren of
weeds. The rattler was coiled ready to strike. I saw his
eyes and realized the expression, "as mad as a rattlesnake."
Had he not been in his coil, the dog would have seized him,
but he knew the snake could strike first and so held off. It
would never do for a boy to let such a snake live, and with a
ten-foot fence rail the blow was struck that turned the tide of

That year's hunting thinned out the wildcats, coons, foxes,
minks, skunks, opossums, and other varmints that troubled us.
A traveler told us how to catch wild turkeys. Next day we
followed instructions. With an ax and a hoe we cut down
some little pines, dug a trench, and made a pen so that a tur-
key would come up in the middle of the pen and have to look
down in order to get out. This the frightened bird would not
do, but would hold his head high. I baited the trench with
corn and soon caught two large turkeys and proudly carried



them home. Squirrels and opossums were in great abundance.
Great fat opossums were dressed, put on the roof of the
smokehouse during a frosty night, and the next day cooked
with potatoes, making a dish fit for a king or an American


Years of Labor and Trial

IVyTR. WILLIAM MAY was living at the Monroe place.
He was a nice old gentleman of seventy years, and his
wife was about the same age. He owned negroes and was
well off. He had brought up a large family, equally divided
in sons and daughters, all well educated. One daughter mar-
ried George Harlan, a rich half Indian. I heard Harlan say
that if Mr. May had said "No" when he asked for Ann he
would have knocked him into the Chattahoochee. They were
on the bank of the river near Winn's Ferry. That knock was
a joke, for her father and brothers were strong men. Mrs.
Harlan was an estimable woman. They lived in a two-story
frame house painted white. She painted the stair steps. At
the end of our journey I spent my first night in that house.
He owned a large plantation on the Coosawattee. What crops
of corn, three or more stalks to the hill, yielding sixty or more
bushels to the acre! Woe to the hands that gathered it, for
their clothes were as thickly covered with cockleburs and
Spanish needles as the hairs on a dog's back ! He had a large
orchard of apples, peaches, and other fruits. Better fruit it
would be hard to find. They were the best of neighbors, but
they left for the West in 1834.

James Monroe was a skilled mechanic, millwright, etc., and
held a permit from the government and the Indians to live
there and be protected. He went in 1816 and built the only
grist and saw mills. Monroe was a nephew of the late Rev.
W. M. Crumley. Monroe's death was tragic. Riding in
a gallop, his horse threw him against a tree and killed him,



This was before we went; but the tree was pointed out, and
I saw it many a time. The tree died ; and some years after, on
a still day, it fell and killed a yoke of oxen, the driver narrow-
ly escaping. His grave was inclosed, and when we children
went to it on Sunday mornings we talked low and walked
lightly. We did not see as many graves then as we do now.

The surveyors were there. I saw them running the lines,
marking the station trees and corner posts, shaving off the
outside bark of the trees, and making the figures telling the
number of the lot of land. Where one of those trees is now
alive, the figures are to be plainly seen to this day. Mr. Mc-
Dowell, a Baptist preacher, surveyed that district. He
preached for us on a beautiful Sunday morning in May.
These men had a hard time getting on in the wildwoods. On
the side of a mountain a rattlesnake in his coil ready to strike
looked them in the face. They reported that three days after
the full moon in May and August was the best time to kill trees.
A lick with a hatchet sometimes killed a chestnut tree.

A month had gone, and there was no home to buy nor one to
rent. The State owned all the land. Father was disappointed
in his plans. Three miles away there was a nice new cabin
which had never been occupied. He bought it and moved it
on the road between the Monroe and Harlan places, a lovely
locality, with one of the best springs of good water, all in the
woods. We cleared a place and planted a little garden. How
we crowded so many things in the little cabin it would be hard
to explain.

The cabin was made of small logs nicely notched down at
the corners and squared at the ends, with joists and a loft.

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Online LibraryWilliam Jasper CotterMy autobiography → online text (page 1 of 12)