Saturday, June 11, 2011

America (and Haywood County, TN) Firsthand, from Settlement to Reconstruction

Fifth Edition of "America Firsthand," Volume One
by Robert D. Marcus and David Burner
being read by me on The Spring River in Hardy, Arkansas

I just returned from camping on the Spring River in Hardy, Arkansas.

In a moment of trying to be a good parent, I declared this to be a “no electronics trip.” Since there would be no Kindles or ipads, I grabbed a real book to read that has been on our shelf for a long time.

Being outdoors on the bank of a river turned out to be the perfect place to read the book, “America Firsthand, Readings from Settlement to Reconstruction.

Actually a textbook, and available in many other volumes, it presents the stories and letters of people from history in their own words. From the well known, like John Smith who describes the Powhatan Indians he discovered in Virginia, to the lesser known like John and Margaret Winthrop whose love letters give a glimpse into the lives of the Puritans, reading the writing of people who were actually there truly makes history come alive for me.

I highly recommend these books for anyone interested in genealogy and when was the last time you bought a good book for 99 cents?

This also got me thinking about how happy it makes me when I run across things written by my own ancestors.

Click to Enlarge

Sim Cobb, his third wife Caroline and his headstone
in the Cobb family cemetery in Haywood County, TN

One of the best examples I have found so far is Sim Cobb’s 1875 diary, a great deal of which is reprinted in “Nicholas Cobb Descendants, Neighbors and Relatives” by Joe H. Cobb, a book that costs a little more than 99 cents. But if you happen to have an extra $250 and have the Cobb family in your line, it is a great investment.

Sim, my second great uncle, was brought to Haywood County by his father and my third great grandfather, John Hardy Cobb. He fought in company L of the Seventh Tennessee Calvary in the Civil War. He married his third wife, Caroline Fletcher when he was 63 and she was 32 and they stayed married 24 years and had four children together. At the time they were married, she was younger than two of Sim’s children. Sim died in 1927 at the age of 87 and was buried in the Cobb Family Cemetery and Caroline died eight years later at the age of 64 and was buried at the Holly Grove Baptist Church cemetery.

Sim spent a great deal of time with many of my ancestors including W.C. Cobb, Tommie Rawls, J.C.W. Cobb, Sam Marbury, Sarah Elizabeth Steele, Daniel Watridge, Tinie White, Martha Watridge and others.

Here are a few of the entries in Sim's diary that mention my ancestors:
Sunday January 17 - went to father's in company with William Thomas Cobb and back to John Charles Warren Cobb and from there to Daniel W. Watridge and took supper and came home - Bet went to Daniel W. Watridge.
Sunday January 31 - Bet went to her mother's and I went to Daniel W. Watridge; faired off about 12 o' clock; took dinner at Daniel's and came home.

Friday February 12 - Went and asked hands to help roll logs. John Charles Warren Cobb, Leonard Decatur Cobb, Daniel W. Watridge, John F. White, W.G. Booth and J.E. Lott helped some.

Sunday May 2 - went to Sunday School; Daniel W. Watridge and family was here and stayed until after supper.

Monday October 4 - Daniel W. Watridge came to get me to go with him to hunt horses.

Tuesday October 5 - Cloudy and rainy; went with Daniel to hunt horses, we went to the bottom as far as Lewis Tatum by 12; took dinner at his house; went to near Woodville and back to Tatum's by night.

Wednesday October 13 - Went to Daniel W. Watridge and got his mules; James L. White came with me and drug old Jack off (dead mule or horse possibly).
You can read more about these families on the Cobb page or the Watridge page of

Click to Enlarge

Items from Robert Green Marbury

Another really interesting written history from one of my ancestors was shared with me by my cousin, Janet Marbury Lewis.

Robert Green Marbury, my fourth great grandfather, had some really fascinating things including letters that have been passed down to Janet.

One letter, from his brother was written to him on April 14, 1889.
Mr. R. G. Marbury
Haywood County, TN
South Chicago

APR 14th 1889

My Ever Dear and only brother

I now write in reply to your kind letter of some months since. This leaves us tolerably well. I truly hope this letter will find you and yours in good health and doing well. Have no news of much interest to write. I want to see you and yours worse and more than I can express but see no chance to come. Money is so scarce and times are so close that I can hardly venture to make the trip down there. I would gladly come to see you if I could. I do hope and constantly pray God that I may yet live to see you but if never we do meet on this earth let us work and pray God that we may meet in heaven where parting will be no more forever and where we shall sing praise to God for ever and forever more.

I see Rush is married again. Well I hope he and his dear companion will live a long and peaceful and happy life and he be prosperous and kind to each other.

I was very glad to know you are keeping in pretty good health and spirit and I hope and pray God you will continue so. Yes, I was truly sad over Cleveland’s defeat. Cleveland got more popular votes than Harrison by nearly 100,000. The Republicans bought up the bosses of big companies such as foundries, big machine shops, mills factories and these bosses and head men after getting immense pay turned their men over to the Republican Ring to vote the republican ticket there never was as much money spent by the republican party before. They paid from 1 to 500 dollars a piece for votes and that is the way they swung NY in to their line.

The winter has been lighter and milder here than has been known in a great many years. I hope Rush will stay with you to help and take care of you dear brother. Take good care of your self and remember me in your prayers as I do you in my prayers every night. Please write soon all ___ _____. I will try and write you once a month from this out. You please do the same with out fail.

W.C. Marbury
Robert Green Marbury died on May 27, 1904 and his obituary included this description of him:
“Mr. Marbury was one of the most genial of men, and industrious farmer, and a first rate sportsman, fond of the hunt, a fisherman, fond of animals and birds and in love with all nature, and all the beautiful works of his Maker. Godly, sincere, loyal and honest, a host of friends, will long cherish his memory."
You can read more about this family on the Marbury page of

Click to Enlarge

a. Virginia, Cordillia and Betty Brantley in the foreground around 1940
b. Virginia, Cordillia and Betty Brantley with their mother Allie around 1970
c. Virginia and Cordillia around 1985

This last example of letters from ancestors I am greatful for was to my maternal grandmother, Virginia Brantley Lovelace from her sister, Cordilia Brantley Jacocks and gives what I think is a great example of what their lives were like in Haywood County in the late ‘30s at the end of the depression.

Bells Tenn
June 15, 1939

Dearest Virginia,

How are you all getting along? I haven’t heard from you in all in so long I thought I would write to you. I had to write a letter because no one in this county had a postal card.

I guess you know by now that I’m an old married lady now. I don’t feel so much older though. Maybe I just haven’t had time yet.

How is Bobby? Tell him I said Hello and that he has a new uncle. I guess he thought that J.T. was already a member of the family though.

Are you all through chopping cotton? Daddy is going to try to get through by Sat. J.T. and Mr. Arthur have been chopping for hire while it was too wet in theirs. I haven’t chopped any since I married. I am celebrating. They are ? here this ? but they won’t let me help.

I mean they really are nice to me here. They treat me just exactly like they treat J.T. and Solan. Aunt Clara said to tell you she thought about you every day and would surely like to see you but that was a little too far to walk.

When have you seen Aunt Gladys? I haven’t seen anyone in a long time.

Tell Bobby J.T. said tell him “hey.”

How is Guy? I’m so sorry he isn’t doing well. Daddy said he looked mighty bad last Sun. aft. when they went by there. They said Aunt Mabel was sick too. I guess our family has a curse over it. Something is always happening to us.

I aimed for us to go up to mothers Sunday but we messed around and didn’t even get up until nearly eleven o’ clock. Aren’t we lazy?

Didn’t it rain hard Sat night? J.T. and ? and I got wet all over. We went to Bells and were coming back when it started raining so hard.
That lightening scared me. I never saw it lightening so hard in all my life. I better get up from here. I’ve got to wash out some things and finish cleaning up the house. I clean up the house and ? the kitchen every morning.

Well I’ll see you when I can.

Lots of Love,

Only a few people write letters any more but lets hope the genealogy fans of the future try to figure out who were through more than just our emails and texts. That's one of the reasons I started a blog.

Hopefully, just like these letters, it will help those in the future learn a little more about the ancestors who came before them.


  1. So great to read the above found your page a while ago and find it very interesting. The Watridges are spread all around the globe. I live in South Africa all my life, but I believe my Husband's family came here from Wales. No definate proof of this. I have a Watridge page on facebook and you are quite welcome to have a look. Regard Heather Watridge.

  2. So sweet to read your very warm post about history and family. I came to your page by googling my father, who was Robert D. Marcus, author of the book you included such a lovely photo of above. Although an academic historian by trade, late in his life he because much more interested in the personal side of history and the intersection between history and autobiography. He wrote an essay on the subject which was included posthumously in this volume, perhaps at some point you will find it for 99 cents somewhere! :-)

    Anyway, thank you for bringing a smile to me on this early father's day morning.

    Abigail Marcus

    1. Thanks for sharing that Abigail! I just ordered the book on Amazon. Have a great summer. SW

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.