Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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from Natchitoches, and called the place Long Moss Camp,
the weather being exceedingly mild and pleasant.

Wednesday, 15th. Brother Whipple went by the city


to deliver and inquire for letters, etc., and the balance of
us came directly across to the Texas road, and forming a
rio-ht angle, turned our faces toward the west, and after
going twenty miles over pine hills, without seeing any
thing specially attractive, slept at Bay tree Camp, by a
sluggish stream of poor water.

Yours, as ever, T. A. Morris.

Natchitoches parish, La., Dec. 15, 1841.


Brother Elliott, — The road from Natchitoches to the
Sabine is broad, much traveled, and though passing over
a broken country, would be tolerably pleasant, if it were
not torn to pieces by the cotton wagons ; but we were
almost constantly meeting teams of horses, mules, or oxen,
mostly from Texas, drawing ponderous loads of this staple
to Natchitoches, the great cotton depot for eastern Texas,
as well as its own vicinity, in consequence of which much
of the road was in bad condition.

Thursday, 16th, in the forenoon, we passed Fort Jessup,
on high, dry ground, twenty-five miles from Natchitoches.
The houses are built of wood, and the walks shaded with
China-trees, but present nothing striking in appearance, or
materially different from other military posts on the front-
ier. Much money, of course, has been expended here
by the Government, but how profitably to the country I
am not prepared to say. We saw five or six soldiers only ;
some of these were standing about the street, and the
others at a considerable distance from the fort, walking
about leisurely : we saw no other persons, except two men
at the hotel, and some very rude children romping about
the post-office. It is supposed by some that if the best
of these houses were rented out for a tavern-stand, and
the fort converted into a yard to accommodate the wagons
of emigrants and cotton-planters, it might save some


expense to the General Government, and do more real
service to the country. Of this, however, I profess to
know nothing. A few miles beyond the fort we met a
small drove, say twenty fat bullocks, large and handsome,
driven from the Trinity, and going to the Natchitoches
market Such exports of cotton and stock from Texas
must bring into it large sums of good money. That night
we lodged at the Dry Camp, on a fine ridge, where it
was difficult to obtain a sufficiency of good water for our-
selves and horses, though in all other respects our location
was comfortable, and the more so as we were well shel-
tered from the north-west wind, which was cold enough
to form some ice in the water bucket.

Friday, 17th, we came down to Sabine river, at Gaines's
Ferry ; stopped on the east shore ; took our last luncheon
in the United States ; crossed over and were within the
limits of the "virgin republic." Sabine is about ten rods
wide, its banks steep and high, and has fourteen feet water
in the channel. The bottom lands adjoining are wet and
poor, producing water-oak, gum, and cypress. Pendleton
is the name of a poor village on the west bank, containing
some six or eight houses, most of which are empty. Leav-
ing this we passed over level ground, plowing through
white sand, which tried the strength of our teams for four
miles, when we rose on to high ground and entered the
border of that interesting part of Texas called the Red-
lands, which is thickly settled and well improved. Our
first night in the republic was passed in Redland Camp,
near a pure fountain of excellent spring water, clear, soft,
and pleasant to the taste, a short distance east of Milam.
Here we found ourselves in a pleasant and plentiful coun-
try. Whatever we desired for ourselves, or horses, was
readily obtained, and on reasonable terms, compared with
what we had been paying for the same articles in Arkansas
and Louisiana. We added to our imported provisions a


mess of sweet potatos, winch were to us the first-fruits
of the land, and an excellent omen of its good things.
The night was cool, but clear, and so perfectly calm, that
the smoke went up from our hickory-log fire as straight as
if it had passed through a stone chimney. Our camp was
handsomely illuminated by driving down a stake at each
front corner, splitting the top and introducing torches of
lightwood. We had one of our best camp suppers, felt
every way cheerful, happy, and joyful ; spent the evening
in our own quiet habitation, singing the songs of Zion,
among others the Jubilee of the Israelites, and with some
emphasis when we came to these words :

u Though Baca's vale be dry, and the land yield no supply,
To a land of corn and wine, we'll go on, we'll go on," etc.

Also the verse which refers to their crossing Jordan, and
entering the promised land, the last of which is,

"Jehovah rules the tide, and the waters he'll divide,
And the ransomed host shall shout, we are come, we are come."

Saturday morning, 18th, before sunrise, the mercury
fell to twenty-four degrees above zero, and the leaves were
handsomely frosted over, but all melted away as soon as
the sun shone upon it. After breakfast we passed through
Milam, the seat of justice for Sabine county, which is built
on the red clay, and contains from twelve to twenty houses,
nearly the color of the dust in their streets. In sight of
town was a gallows still standing, where there had recently
been an execution, the particulars of which we did not
learn, and I only advert to it to remind bad people in the
United States, that if they do not wish to be hung, they
had better keep away from Texas. Just at the west end
of Milam is a handsome stream of water called Boreyas
creek, where the white sycamore and large, green mag-
nolia-trees formed a contrast at once singular and beau-
tiful. The Redlands are undulating, rich, and judging


from the stocks of corn and cotton, the)' must be about as
productive as the "bottoms" of the Mississippi and Red
rivers. They are also remarkably well-watered, abound-
ing with small streams from never-failing springs. East
of the Sabine we had muddy roads and dry brooks, but
west of it we had dry roads and plenty of running water.
These lands are likewise well timbered with hickory, oak,
and, in some places, pine on the ridges. In the richest
land, however, the most common growth is young hickory,
white to the verv center, and nearly as hard as lionumvitae.
The top limbs of the hickories have a whitish appearance ;
and, standing on an elevation where we could see over the
forest trees for miles, the vales white with hickory, and the
ridges green with pine, the whole presented the appear-
ance- of a striped carpet, beautiful beyond description.
We occasionally saw quarries of building-stone on the
points of ridges sloping down to the runs, but none in the
road, which, in all places on the red sod, whether level or
hilly, was perfectly firm, and nearly as smooth as a waxed
floor. That it becomes soft and muddy when wet, there
is no doubt, though it very soon dries into hardness by
the action of wind and sun ; but when we came through
it was perfectly dry. There are in this part of the republic
an enterprising community, and strong indications of grow-
ing wealth among them.

Saturday evening we reached San Augustine, the seat
of justice for the county of the same name. This is one
of the largest towns in Texas, containing some eight hun-
dred or one thousand inhabitants. It is situated on the
east side of the Ayisli bayou. The houses are mostly
frame, and painted white. There is in the town an acad-
emy of respectable appearance; also a new Methodist
chapel about forty by thirty feet, just brought into use,
but not finished. We were glad to finish this tedious
journey. My traveling companions had come from the


extreme north part of Illinois, more than one thousand
miles, with the same teams, and I had accompanied them
from St. Louis to this place, about seven hundred and fifty
miles. Our time from St. Louis through was two months;
but deducting the Sabbath and other days on which we
stopped to preach or rest, we were actually on the road
thirty -seven days, and slept in our own camp twenty
nights. Still the journey has been, upon the whole, quite
a pleasant one. We were much favored as to weather and
low waters. Our company was pleasant, and when in
camp we were not annoyed by cigars, whisky, or rude
language. We were often weary, and sometimes wet and
cold, but, by the blessing of a kind Providence, preserved
from any severe sickness.

Yours, truly, T. A. Morris.

San Augustine, Dec. 20, 1841.


Brother Elliott, — The Texas conference met on the
23d instant, in the city of San Augustine. Most of the
members were present : two were absent, and one or two
of those in attendance were in poor health. There has
been no death among them the past year ; but some of the
first band of missionaries are nearly worn out. The con-
ference was reinforced by four transferred, one readmit-
ted, and three young men admitted on trial ; one located,
and two probationers were discontinued. The whole num-
ber of names on the Minutes is twenty-three — sixteen
are members of conference, and the balance are on trial.

On the day that conference commenced its session, we
were receiving the full force of a norther, which was pre-
ceded by a heavy fall of rain the day before. It continued
quite cold for this country the balance of the week; and
on Sabbath morning, hail, or round snow, commenced
falling obliquely from the east, which continued till after*

N ( > T F S O F T R A V E L . 327

noon, when it assumed the form of a cold rain, producing
a very chilly state of atmosphere, which of course less-
ened our congregation: still the house was tolerably well
tilled morning and afternoon. Seven deacons and two
elders were ordained; all local brethren, except three of
the deacons.

When the Texan mission was instituted in 1837, it was
scarcely to be expected that in four years we should see
here an annual conference, with twenty-three traveling
and thirty-six local preachers, and a membership of two
thousand, seven hundred and ninety-five; but so it is in
fact. The prospects of this young conference are truly
encouraging. Their way is open to nearly every neigh-
borhood and village in the republic ; and in most places
Methodism appears to be favorably received by the people.
We have the ascendency over all other denominations;
and if we do not keep it, the fault will be our own. An
itinerant ministry, which is best for all countries, is spe-
cially adapted to this, in the present scattered condition of
the inhabitants; while the climate, to some extent, super-
sedes the necessity of chapels. Camp meetings have been
held to advantage, the past year, in December, when the
people were healthy, and free from the annoyance of mus-
ketoes, and other troublesome insects.

The missionary meeting was held on Monday night;
and though the weather was damp and chilly, it was well
attended : the amount collected was seventy-four dollars
and forty-four cents. Some jewelry was thrown in, after
which one gave four town lots, another fifteen lots; one
one hundred acres of land, two others three hundred and
twenty acres each, and one a quarter of a league. All
these donations, it is presumed, will be available. The
lands given at the missionary meeting, last year, have
been legally conveyed, and will some day bring the cash
into the treasury.


Tuesday evening, the conference terminated a harmo-
nious and pleasant session of five days, and every man
repaired to his own field of labor, ready to spend and be
spent in its cultivation.

To-morrow I am to leave for Austin, distant three hun-
dred and fifty miles. My health is good, and spirits

Yours, as ever, T. A. Morris.

San Augustine, Dec. 29, 1841.

Brother Elliott, — The Redland, which I attempted
to describe" in a former communication, includes several
counties up and down the Sabine river, and extends west
to the Attoaye, which is the line between San Augustine
and Nacogdoches counties. After passing this stream, the
land assumes more of a chocolate hue, and soon ends in
sand, of which very much of the last-mentioned county
consists. It was on Thursday, December 30th, that we
resumed our journey ; and having been detained one day
over our appointed time, by reason of a cold, north-east
rain, we made a lona: drive to reach a brother's house on
the way. It was dark before we got there, and learned
that the good man of the house was from home, and the
good lady was sick, and of course could not receive us,
but gave us horse-provender, and we soon found shelter
under our own tent. Brother Carl, on his way to Victoria
circuit, lodged with us that night. When the sun rose upon
us, next morning, we found ourselves in the city of Mel-
rose, just laid out, and two or three cabins erected for a
commencement. Whether we were on Main-street, or on
somebody's lot, is not known to us ; but in either case we
advanced the improvement of the city, by cutting down,
logging off, and burning up a snarly hickory-tree, to keep
us warm and cook our supper and breakfast.


Friday, 31st, we passed through Nacogdoches, origin-
ally a Mexican town, and at present a mixture of Ameri-
can and Spanish houses. One of the latter, built of stone,
is said to be nearly one hundred years old. The town is
small, containing some three or four hundred inhabitant-,
and is situated on a plain of white sand, between two small
creeks, which may be a half of a mile asunder; the poor
ridges setting in on both sides. When we came through
a crowd of people had collected, partly to pay their last
respects to a deceased fellow-citizen, and partly to witness
the examination of a man charged with having committed
murder a few days prior at a horse-race, the result of
which examination we did not learn. That night we
lodged at the house of a Mr. Greer, a clever Cumberland
Presbyterian, and were charged nothing.

Saturday, January 1st, we passed through Douglass, a
small village, near which a company of men were collected
to try the speed of their quarter-nags, and spend their
surplus shillings at the place of strong drink. Such meet-
ings are disgraceful to any community ; but what better
could we expect of Texans, seeing they come mostly from
the United States, where horse-racing is encouraged by
law? In the afternoon, we put up at Mr. M'Night's, to
rest over the Sabbath, and to preach, if opportunity

On Sunday we went to a school-house at the Union
camp-ground, two miles from Douglass, to hear the Rev.
Mr. Watkins, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, preach ;
but, at his special request, I had the honor to become his
substitute, and brother Clark preached at the village in
the evening. There are in this neighborhood some
Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, and plenty of

On Monday sister Clark was so much indisposed, that
we were obliged to remain another day with Mr. M'Night;


however, as he is a good old Presbyterian, and we had
preached twice, and served at his family altar every night,
he let us off with fifteen dollars in par funds.

Tuesday, 4th, we crossed Angelina and Neches rivers,
both small streams, such as would be called creeks in the
western states. Between these rivers there is a body of
handsome land, and tolerably rich, being nearly all the
good land we saw in Nacogdoches county. The old San
Antonio road, which we traveled here, is the south line of
what is called the Cherokee land, which was said to be
given by the Mexicans to the Cherokees for their service
in fighting the Camanchees and Texans ; but the Texans
never acknowledged the claim of the Cherokees, and
finding them troublesome, drove them off, and are set-
tling it themselves. When we crossed Neches river, we
entered Houston county, and some eight miles beyond
lodged at a good house of entertainment, kept by Mrs.
M'Lean, whose husband was one of the first American
settlers in the republic. The fare was both cheap and

Wednesday, 5th, we passed Crockett, the county seat
of Houston. The town is new and small, but apparently
improving. That evening we called on brother Box, a
short distance beyond Crockett, who cheerfully received
and entertained us as well as he could.

Thursday, 6th, we halted at a new Methodist camp-
ground, and filled our vessels with water to serve us
through an unsettled region of eighteen miles, where no
water is to be obtained. In the afternoon we crossed Bi<j;
Prairie — high, dry, and handsome, but not rich — and
saw large flocks of deer, but so wild, that we could not
approach within four hundred yards of them. Leaving
the prairie, we came down through poor pine woods, and
in the evening, while crossing a deep ravine, broke the
tongue of the wagon, which detained us some; however,


about dark, we reached the house of Mr. Stephen White,
who resides near Trinity river, east side, a few miles below
the town of Cincinnati, on a league of excellent land,
which he obtained for settling; it, and on which he has a
mill, ferry, etc.

Friday morning we crossed the Trinity, which is per-
haps twelve rods wide, and occasionally affords water
enough to admit steamboats as far up as the three forks ;
but as it was quite low, and we had a pilot, we forded on
a smooth rock, just above a sudden fall of some two or
three feet. Here we took leave of eastern Texas, which,
with the exception of the Redlands and Cherokee lands, is
generally a poor country, so far as it came under our
observation. The bottom-land of the Trinity is about
four miles wide ; on the east side low, but rich, and cov-
ered with cane and lofty timber; on the west side the
bluff is high, which immediately lets into prairie and open
woodland, both fertile and beautiful. Next to this, we
passed poor ridges of pine and oak for three miles, and
then entered a beautiful, undulating country, of prairie
and woodland alternately, which continues, with but slight
intermissions, across the entire county of Montgomery.
The soil is black, deep, mixed with lime, and exceedingly
productive. That evening, unable to reach our intended
quarters, we camped in the edge of a cane-brake, near the
house of an honest Dutchman, a little east of Huntsville,
where we fared sumptuously, having, among other good
things, a wild duck and two young squirrels served up
into a pot-pie, which cost brother Whipple a hunt of about
fifteen minutes.

Saturday morning we passed through Huntsville, a little
city and few men w r ithin it, and most of them collected at
the house called tavern, to enjoy the pitiful entertainment
of hearing a trifling fellow pat his foot and draw his
fiddle-bow, to kill time and chase dullness from the city.


In the afternoon we came down to the Louse of brother
William Robinson — where we were to preach next day —
who had gone in search of wild honey, and returned at
night without success; but brought in some excellent veni-
son. This old brother has lived here eleven years, on a
league of excellent land obtained by head-right; has a
wife and ten children in Texas, all members of our
Church, and twenty-two grandchildren, who are natives
of Texas, and four out of five sons-in-law are also Meth-
odists ; the whole forming a most interesting family. We
were here overtaken by brothers Richardson, Summers,
and Sullivan, going to their fields of labor. Our congre-
gation of Sabbath morning was respectable in size and
appearance, and we gave them two sermons at one sitting,
some of them having come ten miles. In the evening we
walked over to the new camp-ground, one mile off, to
unite a worthy couple in the honorable relation of husband
and wife; both members of our Church. The bride's
father, being a new-comer, had taken his winter-quarters
in one of the double log camps. After I performed the
marriao-e ceremony, the company adjourned to the stand,
where some others had assembled, to hear brother Sum-
mers preach. During sermon it commenced raining; but
the congregation and preacher were all under a good shed,
and experienced no inconvenience from the rain till they
dispersed. Let it be recollected this night meeting at a
camp-ground, without any fire, except pine torches for
light, was on the ninth of January. Returning to our
lodging, however, through rain, mud, and darkness, on
foot, was not very pleasant to one so heavy and clumsy
as myself.

Monday, 10th, was much colder; and the rain continued
all day, and detained us within doors, except brothers
Richardson and Whipple, who left in the afternoon.

Tuesday, 11th, we crossed San Jacinto, where it is


quite a narrow creek, and reached the hospitable dwelling
of brother Porter, lather to the preacher of the same
name in the Mississippi conference, on tin- main Washing-
ton road. The game was so plentiful in this neighbor-
hood, we concluded it was no marvel that most men who
emigrate to Texas become hunters, and especially when it
is considered that provisions are high; but this practice
greatly retards the business of the country, by leading to
idleness and the neglect of more important pursuits. And
yet, in view of the present condition of the vermin and
savage men, the practice of keeping guns and dogs at
every house should not be hastily condemned.

Wednesday, 12th, we traveled twenty miles, to brother
King's, in a neighborhood which, for rich land and beauti-
ful sites, excels any thing we had seen in the republic.
The prairies of Illinois are frequently wide and without
timber, except on the water courses; but here the timber
is irregularly distributed, without any reference to the
small streams, except that the red cedar grows mostly
along the branches and ravines, and the deep, black soil
continues from the tops of the ridges to the very edge of
the water, so that there is scarcely any waste land. In
some places a rich prairie will have green borders of pine,
growing on sandy ridges, so that a man can build on
white sand amidst evergreens ; and, immediately adjoining
his yard, cultivate fields of the best marl-lime, entirely
free from timber. And where the pine begins to fail, the
red cedar comes in, affording abundance of the best timber
for shingles, posting and railing, and even lumber for
barns and houses. Near brother King's we passed the
body of an unfinished meeting-house, and close by saw a
circular cluster of cedars curtained with Spanish moss,
and in the midst of them a neat stand with benches con-
veniently arranged for public worship, with an open prairie
on one side and a dense cedar forest on the other. This


was one of the most lovely spots I ever saw for outdooi
worship, and is designed not for camp meeting, but
ordinary circuit preaching. May Methodism long shed
its heavenly influence around this consecrated and
enchanting green chapel!

Thursday, 13th, the country appeared less inviting as
we neared the Brazos river, though the bottom, on the
east side, about three miles across, is rich enough to be
very muddy. The river is, perhaps, eighty yards wide,
and the banks very high and steep, but at present not
much depth of water. As we ascended the hill from the
ferry on the west side, we entered the town of Washing-
ton, late the seat of justice for Washington county, which
contains, probably, about fifty or sixty houses, and is
apparently on the decline, though in the midst of a fine
country. Having proceeded west to the middle of the
town, we turned at right angles to the north, about three
hundred yards, to the old graveyard, which is situated on
a dry ridge in open woods. Our business was to seek out
the grave of Dr. Ruter, the apostle of Methodism in
Texas, who died at his post May 16, 1838. The mourn-
ful spot sought for was easily found without a guide, the
grave being inclosed by a stone wall, and covered with a
white marble slab, three feet wide and six long, with a suit-
able inscription. At the foot of the slab stands a small
hickory-tree, hung with Spanish moss, waving in the breeze
over the charnel-house. As we stood under this tree
reading the solemn epitaph, the sun was disappearing in
the west, while a thousand thoughts of the past rushed
upon our minds, and forcibly reminded us that our own
days would soon be numbered. With Dr. Ruter I had

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 25 of 30)