Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2002 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

A pioneer's story, continued

Last week this column began quoting a speech by the Rev. Braxton
Parrish which was delivered in Benton in 1874. This was autobiographical
in nature, and the Rev. Mr. Parrish told of his early life in North
Carolina, and his trek westward. We join him in Tennessee:

"During the fall of 1820, while at work at the still-house, Margaret
Knox, a young widow and sister-in-law of my employer, came from Franklin
County, Ill. to visit, in company with her father, John Thompson.
Strange to tell, we, that winter, got bewitched with one another, and on
May 12, 1821, were married. I had no property in the world but a change
of clothing and a horse, saddle and bridle, and what little effects she
had were back in Franklin County. For reasons then that her father,
mother, relatives and property were here, she wanted to come to
Illinois. I had seen the constitution of the state, and being disgusted
with slavery, I wanted a home in a free state, and consented to move

"I came to this country on horse back, and hunted over the entire
territory, which now composes the counties of Franklin and Williamson,
to find some sort of a carriage to take back to bring my wife here, but
I could find nothing less than a four-horse wagon. I had no team to take
such a vehicle, and if I had, we had nothing to haul in it. So I put a
saddle and bridle on a horse which my wife had here and led it back to
where I left her. We packed up what goods we had, put them and two
little boys that my wife had by her former husband, on the two horses.
My wife and I walked and led the horses, thus burdened, every foot of
the way to Illinois.

"I was a recent convert to religion, but had no Bible. I inquired of
my wife if they had any Bibles in Illinois. She said, 'No.' Coming
through Nashville, Tenn. on our way here, I saw the sign of a book
store. I thought I would go in there, but said to my wife, there was no
use, as I had no money to spare to buy one. She said, 'Go in and price
them.' ... The cheapest one was $2.50, such a one as you could now get
for 25 cents. I was afraid to buy it for fear our money would give out.
She said, 'Buy it and trust in providence for means to get to

We would have had money to get there but for the fact that on the other
side of the Ohio River we were overtaken by a man named Heath, an
entire stranger. From his conversation I soon learned he was a recent
professor of religion, also, and strong in the cause of his Master.
When we came to part he insisted we should go with him and rest a day or
two, that the Lord had blessed him with plenty, and he wanted us to go
and share it.

"We went with him, as he lived only a short distance from our direct
route. We remained with him three days and nights, and when we got ready
to leave, he filled our wallets with bread, meat and honey and came with
us to the river and paid our ferryage across the Ohio to the Illinois

"When we left I thought very strongly of my wife's remark in Nashville
to buy the Bible and trust to providence. When we got as far as the
neighborhood of Alexander McCreery in this country, we met McCreery in
the road. He was well acquainted with my wife, and she introduced me to
him as her husband. I then had my Bible under my arm.

"McCreery asked me many questions as to my future intentions. McCreery
was then a rich man, but something of a scoffer of religion and
religious people. A short time after, McCreery, in going through the
neighborhood collecting his payments, etc., said he had met a poor
devil coming into this country to make a living with a Bible under his
arm, and he thought he had better had a grubbing hoe on his shoulder.
The remark soon came to my wife's ears and she was much exercised about
it, but I pacified her by telling her that was a very natural
conclusion for a worldly-minded man to come to.

"When I arrived here I had but 18 3/4 cents in money. It troubled me to
know how to dispose of it to the best advantage, more than any money
has troubled me since. We settled about six miles east of where Benton
now is, in the winter of 1821-22; went right into the woods and cut logs
and hauled them upon what was then called a 'lizard,' a kind of dray
made out of the forms of a tree."

Next week: The Braxtons raise a log cabin and settle in.


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