Francis Marion Wilcox Journal
Francis Marion Wilcox
Samuel Wilcox, the second son of Isaiah and Fannie his first wife, was as before stated born at Three Forks of the Kentucky River in what now comprises Owsley County, Kentucky on March 7, 1821 and when only eleven months old was taken back to North Carolina where they settled in what is now Ashe County on the waters of the New River about nine miles southwest from Jefferson, the county seat of the above named county. Here young Samuel grew to manhood, laboring on his father's farm also inheriting some of his father's genius and having access to his tools, he learned the carpenters trade and he became a fair cabinet maker. The schools of his day were very imperfect and far from what they have become in a period of sixty years, hence his education was limited to the common branches gained by attending subscription schools or over a pine torch fire around his father's hearthstone. His principal instruction was given by a gentleman by the name of Clayton who taught in those days. The instruction was perfection, as he was an able scholar and a graduate as well and author of several text books. He was called "Old Silver Head Clayton" from the fact that he had a fracture of the skull and in closing the fracture they used about a quarter of a silver dollar in silver, in platting over the crack in his cranium.
The arithmetic used by father was Sinley? and Old Pikes, the latter in its imperfect form or condition. The writer has kept it as a relic among his books. Mr. Clayton visited my father on or about the year 1854 or 1855 while a resident of Pike County, Kentucky. He remained with us over two weeks and although now very old, his highest ambition was still to impart instruction. During his stay the writer of the sketch had to undergo a thorough drill two and three times a day to learn to spell and the names and capitols of all the states then admitted to the Union. This, to me a boy with pockets filled with white marbles, was torture. Yet not until I had mastered the situation did Mr. Clayton leave or let up on me-- about the only lessons I ever did master thoroughly. And this was forced on me by father's old teacher, "Old Silver Head".
The training Clayton gave Father was good as far as it went and the study that he gave his books along enabled him to do business and teach in the Common Schools of Kentucky in after years. Samuel had a splendid mind and made himself almost, if not quite, a perfect reader. He could set down and "read" for hours without a book, repeat the life of Washington by heart, recite Washington's farewell address which the writer has heard him do more than once.
But young Samuel was human and on or about the age of seventeen years, a large young man in his teens, began to think no doubt that he was about five times larger than he was in reality. It is at this period that young men set a larger estimate upon their selves than they ever bring to the markets of the experienced world. Samuel began to look around and finds, like Adam or old, that he was in need of a helpmate. He about this time, met a Miss Barbara Houck, a daughter of George W. Houck a respectable gentleman of German descent. Young Barbara was about the right size and age to fully captivate Sam and she did it. As we are informed during the year of 1839, in the early spring they were joined in matrimony by a Reverend James Johnson and from that day on trotted along in double harness.
Strange things often happen in this world. Often have I heard my mother say that when she first saw father he was about six or eight years old and had accompanied his father, Isaiah, to her father's home. She said young Sammy was attired in buckskin pants and looked as through they had been well lubricated with bear-oil lard or some other greasy substance. She said he laughed at the young kid then little thinking that one day she would become the wife of that boy, yet she did.
After their marriage they settled in their native Ashe County near the old home ranch and remained for a short period and then moved some twenty-five miles northwest and settled on the waters of the North Fork of the New River near where the Miller settlement now resides on Staggs Creek. While there the writer then a small kid, wandered to a deep spring and tumbled in and when found was "dead" but was resurrected after a thorough rolling in the bed quilts for more than two hours, so Mother informed me. I don't remember anything about it yet in 1862 I visited the old long ranch which was yet standing but much dilapidated. West of the house was the spring then only about 1/2 inch deep gushing out its nice blue waters, clear as crystal. There I quenched my thirst from the same stream my father and mother had so often quenched theirs and the spring that had come so hear to sending me away from my troubles lay, the water cool, soft and pure and I thought what a good God to keep this beautiful spring flowing on.
Home was not there for Father moved back to South Fork and settled for good and went to work, cleared up for a new home, erected dwellings and made himself quite a comfortable home where he worked his trade and framed for several years and became quite popular for his integrity and industry.
While residing on the South Fork, he was chosen, elected and commissioned Captain of Co. N? North Carolina State Guards as was the custom and requirements of law that state troops be organized and meet for Company and Regimental drill from once to twice each month of the year. Samuel, now Captain Wilcox, was said to be the best commanding officer in the regiment. He commanded his Company for a number of years, but like many men residing in an old settled country, he desired to make a change. His father and one sister were now north of the Cumberland mountains, permanently settled hence we found Sam, in the early days of 1850, grooming old brown "Moike", a high headed charger that could rack a mile in 3 minutes for means of conveyance to the "promised land" on a voyage of discovery. "Moik" was groomed, a new saddle cinched and over this was thrown a large saddle, pockets filled with clean clothing for change after arrival in Kentucky. Over saddle and saddle pockets was thrown a large black bear skin to afford the passenger ease and keep the contents of the saddle dry. Now with broadcloth leggings and heavy overcoat, Capt. Sam mounts old "Moike", bids Barbara and the four little ones goodbye and off he goes to Kentucky. Around the fifth day after starting he finds his sister and father, well likes the country, yet does not buy or rent land but returns back home and consults Mamma.
She gives her ascent to go provided that Uncle Jesse Houck, Father's brother-in- law, would come along too. Jesse hears Father's report and says he would go. They now begin to sell off, preparatory to a final move from the old Tarheel State to cross the Cumberland Mountains. At that day and age, the world was though to be a long way off. After arranging matters for the final move, father was sent back to Kentucky, this time in April to rent and have ready homes for the two families. The second trip was made like the first and on old "Moike" and successfully, too.
Father rented two farms, one of a Robert Fleming on Shelby Creek, Pike County, Kentucky for himself and the other of a Broker Mullins I believe on Beefhide Fork, Pike County, Kentucky for Uncle Jesse Houck. On or about April 20, 1850 with Uncle Henry Houck, Uncle Jacob Houck and Uncle Jesse Houck, Mother embarked with our household goods for Kentucky; the two former hauling our plunder in two wagons and drawn by four horses, the other three with Uncle Jess arriving with his own team. We went slowly yet successfully onward, the winter playing pedestrian most all of the time. Father after renting lands, started to meet the Exodus and while in the streets of Abingdon, Virginia, Uncle Jess being in the lead looked nearly one mile north ahead, saw old "Moike" playing the rack splendidly and knew it was father on return, raised his hand and then and there in the streets of the City of Abingdon gave one of the loudest yells that I have ever heard come from the lips of a small man. Father heard it, raised his stovepipe fur hat and in a minute ole "Moike" had placed the intervening space to his rear and we now shook Papa's hand. He was well and so were the crew.
We drove on north of town and stopped for dinner and Uncle Jess and Father returned to town and bought myself, George W. and Isaiah each a black pitched "Deek" cap. Oh my, but we were pleased as these were new to us. We wore them all summer and became tanned as Southern Mulattoes before fall. After dinner with Father and "Moike", Marion could get on with more ease, riding behind Father at intervals. We landed at Pound, Wise County, Virginia and in a course of time found Grandfather and Sallie ready to welcome us. We tarried for a few days then crossed the Cumberland at Pound Gap, then into Kentucky and rolled on down through Pike County and arrived at our destination on or about May 1, 1850. Here we entered our new home in a strange land among strange people among the rugged hills and precipitous mountains, settling on Shelby Creek near the mouth of Beefhide Fork, Pike County, Kentucky on what was then known as Bob Flemmings' place.
Soon the writer wanted to catch some fish. It had rained and muddied the creek so he, with hook and line, was off to a hole near the house and in a few minutes something pulled at his hook. He pulled and something that looked terrible, not like the speckled North Carolina trout, came out. Back he sent the hook and gave another pull and out comes another Grumpus, as Marion thought, until one after the other were pulled out until a dozen had been landed where the writer and his sister then got some stones and proceeded to kill the "water dogs" as he called them. They had just commenced these operations when a resident citizen, Nelson Mullins, chanced to pass by and asked us what we were doing. We told him, killing Grumpus and he says, "you are mistaken, those are yellow catfish, splendid to eat". He told us then and there how to catch, handle and clean the fish and you can imagine our good dinner. Yet, their water-dog appearance rivetted on me a kind of hatred towards that species that was never entirely obliterated. I have always relished catfish as food but never admired his continence in or out of company, never admired his manner of sneaking up after dark and trying to steal his grubb, more than once leaving me minus a good fish hook with no ready substitute.
Well, we remained there two years and then moved to what is known as the Old Johnny Edwards place on High-House place. This house was made of hewn logs and was a full two stories high with an additional log structure used for a kitchen. There at this place, on or about February the 10th, 1852 our brother William was born and my blue game rooster met an untimely death that caused my tears to flow freely, yet brought me an appeaser in a silver quarter dollar presented to me by my Grandfather, Isaiah Wilcox. On account of this untimely taking of my game rooster and although paid for him, I could not relish our Bill or esteem him as a young baby brother for quite a while. Yet as time rolled on, we found our Bill to be a good boy and was glad that he had come to stay with us.
Father soon bought land and settled in the County and remained here quite a while. He made farming his principal vocation and while a resident of the County taught in several of the Common schools, always rendering the best satisfaction. In all the districts in which he taught, he worked at his trade in winter, often going into Virginia and into Wise County and the Holly Creek neighborhood where he got better wages and at the same time erected and finished off several houses.