Written in 1940
- Dictated by Leonard Livingston Jackson to his wife, Sallie Jim Morris Jackson.
I was born in Washington, North Carolina, Beaufort County on Pamlico River, January eighth, 1868. My parents, George Andrew Jackson, born in Long Ridge, Washington County, North Carolina, was of good farming heritage. My mother, Margaret James Darden, born in Washington, North Carolina, was of seagoing people, her father Captain George Darden owning three vessels (or brigs) trading between the West Indies and our coast. These vessels were the Josen, Mary Jane and Anaconda.
I always listened with great interest to the manner of his death, before my mother’s birth. Reaching Cape Hatteras in a storm, with his son James, a lad of thirteen, the "Josen" went down with all on board in August the year 1839. My mother was born the following February, 1840. Her mother added the "James" to her name for the boy who lay in the depths of the seas with his father.
My parents were married about the year 1863 or 1864.
My childish memories began with my mother’s face, as my father died when I was very young. He had a confectionary and toy store on Main Street, Washington, N.C., and died about the age of thirty-six years of pneumonia.
My father begged my mother to promise him she would never marry again. Although young when he died, she never remarried. He was devoted to my mother. She was a woman of charming personality. To know her was to love her.
After his business was sold, my mother put the proceeds of the sale into the private bank of Burbank and Gallagher. Shortly afterward the bank failed leaving my mother penniless with me, a small child to rear.
She had relatives – sisters, Mrs. Mary Darden Grayson and Mrs. Melissa Darden Morton who had a large family of boys and girls in Washington plus her husband’s kinfolk – father, mother, brother, cousins, etc. lived on a farm twenty-five miles away near Plymouth, North Carolina.
My mother was a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church her entire life and my father’s and her graves, side by side, are in the church yard at the gate entrance on Main Street.
There was never a lovelier character than hers, and her friends were always thoughtful of her in my early years, and the memories of many nights spent in their homes, and meals eaten at their tables, come back at times to me very vividly.
During those years few were the ways open to women for self-support. Schools ran for short terms and paid little.
Aunt Melissa’s husband, W.X. Morton, was a director of the public school in Washington, and through his influence my mother taught there and also out in the country in a small country school.
Though only two of us, living conditions were hard for her. We lived usually in a room in someone’s home, as small quarters were unavailable in other ways. Our first room home that I can remember was in Betty Mahoney’s house, the wife of the Methodist minister, in the quiet part of town.
The Washington and Jamesville narrow gauge railway, built by an English syndicate, ran by the house at the corner.
Betty Mahoney had a sister, Polly Patterson, nearby, also a friend of my mother.
Our next home was in Mrs. Cordon’s house whose great grandson, Norman Cordon, in the year 1940, was singing in Grand Opera at the Metropolitan in New York.
Mrs. Cordon was a fine woman, a tailoress, who made me suits of clothes, and cheered my stomach with good things from her table. She was a devout member of my mother’s church.
The streets of Washington were not paved but were covered with crushed oyster shells and were lighted by kerosene street lamps. I remember watching with great eagerness for the man to come and light them at night and put them out in the mornings.
Down at the wharf the Clyde Line and Old Dominion steamers made regular trips carrying passengers and freight to Norfolk and Baltimore. Private line vessels trading with the West Indies and sometimes farther places, carrying turpentine, lumber, etc., brought in pineapples, bananas, hogsheads of black molasses, coffee, etc. and rum. One of these lines was owned and operated by Dr. James Fowle’s grandfather.
Our next home was with Mrs. Mary Bowen. To my young eyes she appeared very old. The house was old, furnished with heavy old-fashioned furniture, and once I caught a glimpse of her attired in flowing night garment and peaked nightcap as she climbed into her high old poster bed. I happened into her room once as she was taking a bag of gold coins from a china pantry and taking out some for her use.
It was there I had my first and only pet, a small nondescript rooster. With what joy I lay in my bed and listened to his early morning crow and my heart swelled with the pride of ownership.
About this time old Dr. Godwin’s face comes back before me. He was a dentist and his wife was another of mother’s friends. We often spent nights with them and I was attracted by a tall, old grandfather clock which ticked away in the hall. It must have been an antique in their family brought over from across seas. I would lie on a couch and await its clang on the large bell as it counted the hours. Its round face showed the moon’s phases and changes. I little realized then what a place clocks would fill in my life in after years.
Our next home in Washington was with Mrs. Dimmock where mother assisted in housekeeping for my tuition in Mrs. Dimmock’s private school. The children of the more prosperous people there attended her school. I also helped by keeping the school rooms clean and working in the flower and kitchen gardens.
I owe much to the training this estimable woman gave me. We learned reading, writing, arithmetic and geography. Her motto was "Do it well or not at all." She was a small, erect, energetic figure, always neatly dressed, with smooth, shining hair and neatly shod feet. A most orderly woman, of systematic habits in the conduct of her house and school.
It was in our room at Mrs. Dimmock’s that I remember my Grandfather Darden’s picture, an oil portrait hanging on the wall, the sea captain, his binoculars with which he scanned the horizon in his hands. A hole was in it, brought about in its rescue from a burning house, I imagine, when Washington was burned during the war. A piece of marble statuary, Greek Slave or something like that, I remember, occupied a prominent place in the room. We had nothing else of interest.
Mrs. Dimmock’s daughter, who became a famous doctor at a time when prejudice was against women studying medicine, had a sad ending to her life at the age of twenty-eight. She had gone abroad for further study and on her return voyage, the ship went down with all on board. Her mother went to New York, hoping against hope, that she might have been rescued, but nothing more was ever heard of the vessel or of its passengers.
Dr. Susan Dimmock was resident physician of the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston and did general practice there. Boston has named a street in her honor.
I went to a school taught by Mrs. Demille, the grandmother of the moving picture producer, Cecil B Demille, of our present time. Mrs. Demille also operated a small town hotel in her home in the resident part of Washington. As I remember it was a large brick house three stories tall. To this boarding place came the traveling public at that time, horse and buggy travelers. She superintended the cooking herself and everything was prepared according to her taste. Her home was an example of cleanliness and order and the table was filled with good food. I shall always remember the taste of her buckwheat cakes which she occasionally gave me on cold mornings. Whether due to my keen boyish appetite or the excellence of their mixing I do not know, but such cakes of such exact roundness of shape, each the same size as the other, such browness and deliciousness I have never since tasted.
I felt very proud to add to our daily living by earning fifty cents a week for sweeping the floor of Captain Warner’s grocery store each morning and bringing a bucket or two of fresh water from the town pump, about three blocks away, no matter what kind of morning it was.
I reached the store about six o’clock, then went home to have a bite of breakfast with mother. I must have been about ten years old at this time. I was a faithful attendant at Sunday school at St. Peter’s in the afternoon where Mrs. DeMille was my teacher. Among my papers is an old card, with roses on it, that Mrs. DeMille gave me. I sat by my mother’s side at church every Sunday morning.
Our pew was underneath a stained glass window, where I spelled out and read to myself each Sunday "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This I have ever tried to carry with me through life and hope its meaning has made an imprint on my conduct.
But I was not confirmed in Saint Peter’s but about the age of seventeen, in New Bern. Rev. Shields instructed the class and Bishop Lyman of the diocese presided. The only member of the class I recall was Miss Bessie Flanner of New Bern.
My next school was on Main Street. Jimmie Swindell, a wonderful mathematician, taught this private school. He had two sons, Beck and Jim. Beck fell from a tree and died. Jim had become a watchmaker under my cousin Jim Morton’s tutelage. It was during my school days here that in a game of ball we were kicking in the yard, one of the boys kicking the ball struck his foot on a fallen lightening rod in the grass. It punctured his foot, and the pain was so great and he suffered so, that it made a deep impression on me.
Mr. Jimmie Swindell’s brillient mind had a queer twist in later years. He grew morose, unsocial, finally leaving his family and inhabiting a hut on the shore of Pamlico River, away from contact with people he had known. He spent his days fishing for a living, netting and seining all kinds of fish.
I must have been considered a good sailor, as his boy Jimmie got me to borrow a boat and sail down the river with him to see his father. We found the old gentleman with the aid of some colored help placing his nets and seines – very neglected as to his appearance, but seemingly contented with his life. Jimmie and his father didn’t have very much to say to each other, which I thought strange. I must have been about twelve years old at this time, but was strong and stocky and a good sailor.
I was always a timid, bashful boy. It was the custom in Mr. Swindell’s school for Friday afternoon to be given over to speeches committed to memory. I remember one Friday, when that time came and my name was called, I went forward. Having prepared nothing, but trusting to my memory of "The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck," I started bravely out, but after two lines, I forgot everything and my voice stuck in my throat. Mr. Swindell aimed a piece of chalk at my head. I gave up in despair and took my seat.
One of the places in Washington that interested me was a small buggy and vehicle factory where they made beautiful substantial buggies. I was fond of the son of the blacksmith, a Scotsman named Forbes. The son’s name was Sam and we often watched the workmen in the different departments and marveled at their fine work. We used to trail around the livery stable where a masterful goat was kept. We boys usually took the opposite side of the street from the stable as the goat disputed our right to walk that side. However quietly we walked, he sensed our approach and chased us many a time. It was really hazardous to go near as he was large with vicious horns. Once a familiar character Millie Ann Lupton was walking along, unconscious of his presence when he started after her and butted her the length of the street. We boys at a safe distance enjoyed the sight and laughed ourselves weak. I knew every creek around Washington and the best places to hunt birds, squirrels and rabbit. But fishing and swimming were our favorite sports.
On the waterfront on Pamlico river was Farrow’s Shipyard in old Washington. I remember as a small boy playing around the shipyard and going inside and watching them making parts of the ships or vessels.
I have later learned that many families before my birth in 1868, around the close of the Civil War in 1865, refugeed from Washington, where the shelling of the town was in progress, to Ocracoke. My mother must have gone with them with my infant brother, because she always told me my little brother died at Ocrrocoke and was buried there. This explains to me my mother’s presence at Ocrocoke at that time and the burial of my little brother there.
My mother was a friend of Mrs. Small, Congressman John N. Small’s mother. I remember as a little boy we spent the night in Mrs. Small’s home. They made a pallet on the floor for me to sleep and in the night I awakened with croup. This aroused my mother and Mrs. Small, who dosed me with a mixture of vinegar, molasses and mutton suet. I was eight or nine years old, but I remember it to this day. Their remedy seemed to be what was needed, as I was all right next day.
During my early years I visited at intervals my Grandfather and Grandmother Jackson on their little farm about twenty-five miles from Washington and touching Dismal Swamp. Uncle Hoyt’s boys were my happy companions, Walter, Milton and Edgar. One sister, a sweet young girl, died in early life, and the little one was Ella. Walter and Milton now have farms at Nashville, North Carolina, Edgar is an engineer living near Washington, and the old home place not far from Plymouth where I spent so many happy days is still in their possession and the old house still stands. It was a small farm but it produced everything they needed. Uncle Hoyt and his wife Aunt Frances, together with Grandpa and Grandma, made everything at home.
Cypress shingles drawn by hand, brought from the swamp on his land where bear and all kinds of wildlife existed, covered his house. The lumber of his house was from the timber on his land, cut, rived and put in place by his hands. They made buckets, tubs and fish barrels which they sold in Plymouth for such things that they needed, and saved what was left over. The tubs and buckets were made of cypress and juniper from the swamp, but the fish barrels were made of oak. They also carried to market handmade cypress shingles. They made their candles, raised, butchered and cured their meat, dried their vegetables, put up jams and preserves, made their vinegar, ground wheat and corn into flour and meal, and lived in a world of their own almost independent of outside help.
My grandmother and aunt made their soap, wove their cloth for clothing on a loom in the yard under a shed, made dyes from barks of trees, etc. for the cloth. They carded wool from their sheep and cotton from their farm for thread to knit stockings and socks, and my cousin Olivia who died early in life did most of the spinning. I can still hear the shirr of the wheel and see her slender form as she walked back and forth about her spinning. Sometimes she would let me try my hand at carding and spinning. A little sister Ella must have been very young as I do not remember her at all.
Out in the garden to the back of the house was a long arbor covered with scuppernongs and another kind of grape like a muscadine. This was the source of a delicious tasting preserve which I remember my grandmother would spread on biscuits for me when she sensed the fact that I was hungry. Nothing I can eat now ever tastes as that did to me then. One night as we sat around the fire, my grandfather heard the squealing of one of the pigs. Lighting a pine torch from the blazing fire, he ran out in time to see an immense black bear with the pig trotting towards the swamp.
The farm was only about fifteen miles from Albemarle Sound and not very far from Roanoke Island where all manner of wildlife existed then. Next day Grandfather
alarmed the neighbors and they gathered together and tracked the bear down by evening. I remember seeing him hung up, skinned, cut up into portions, and divided amongst the neighbors who had a feast of bear meat.
My grandfather’s brother George Jackson who was postmaster lived down the road a short way. He had a son Isaac and a beautiful daughter whose name has gone from me. Across the road a little distance lived Washington Jackson, a relative of my grandfather.
On my grandfather’s trips to Plymouth, nine miles away, to sell his shingles, I was allowed to go when I was there. The wagon with two immense wooden wheels was hitched to a mule, and long before daylight we ate our breakfast by candlelight or coal oil lamps. Then, perched on top of the shingles, with the cold early morning air in our faces, we were off for Plymouth. Over the rough roads we bumped, the wild, furry inhabitants scurrying out of the woods across the road ahead of us. But what joy to get a new pair of shoes and some peppermint stick candy. In Plymouth lived cousin Jim Jackson and his wife Susan and their two daughters, Loula and Birdie. Loula is now Mrs. J.W. Bryan and lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Bertie lives with her, and has never married.
Their home in Plymouth was a very sweet one. Cousin Jim was sheriff and also kept a general store, and Cousin Susan was a fine housekeeper and mother. Another cousin, Charlie, son of Levi Jackson, lived in the town and had a prosperous store and a nice home.
I was very fond of Cousin Jim’s family as a young boy and spent many happy times there. They were so kind to me and Cousin Jim made me very happy with the gift of a shotgun. My first possession of a gun was an old time musket, given me by Captain Monroe.
My memories of Grandfather Jackson’s farm were very happy ones. My cousins and I filled our days with work and play. I remember what a great time we had breaking in a young steer which came pretty near breaking me. We had a homemade wagon we were going to hitch, and we had much fun before the steer was broken to the wagon. Another favorite pastime was going into the swamp with a long handled ax to hunt snakes. One of us would turn over a log, the other would strike the snakes uncovered with the ax and we would kill many in this way.
Another diversion was trap setting and dead falls for birds in winter. Our traps were made from cypress shingles after the pattern of a small chicken coop. We whittled a figure four in shape by which we set the trap. Great would be our joy to find in it bluebirds, snowbirds and redbirds, etc. Our dead fall consisted of a board supported at front end by a stick. Attached to it was a cord which we pulled under the kitchen window where we watched for any bird that ventured i n to get the grain scattered underneath. Bang! Down went the board on the ground and our prey was secured.
In Washington,, among my happy childhood memories, stands out the Tayloe home and my friendship with the boys, Josh and Joe. There were six boys and three girls, but Josh and Joe were my chums. Their home was one of plenty, open to friends and neighbors. Their farm outside the town supplied the bounteous table and many were the times I ate there with Josh and Joe.
Once, in particular, I remember with Charley Gallagher a little cousin of theirs, we were eating dinner when Mrs. Tayloe passing a dish of food said, "Charley, will you have some?" Charley, wishing to be polite and well – mannered said, "Yes, ma’am, if you please ma’am." Joe, turning on this unusual politeness of Charley’s and thinking he was "putting on" for the occasion, said, "The hell you say" which caused great consternation!
We boys loved to go out to the farm in a big wheeled cart, packed in like sardines in a box. And many happy trips we made there.
The Tayloe’s were fine people, the boys becoming fine physicians famous in their part of the country, developing their own fine hospitals. Amistead was a surgeon in the Navy. The girls married into fine families of the town, like their own. Although the decanter of whiskey adorned the sideboard, none of the boys became drunkards. The old Dr. Tayloe liked to mix and drink his toddy whenever he liked.
George Morton, my cousin, and I were inseparable companions, he being one month older than I.
I was in Aunt Melissa’s home every day. Her pickles and tomato catsup were wonderful tasting to me and they must have been of excellent flavor as her daughter Lucy Blount used her mother’s receipt to make and supply the steamers putting in at Norfolk where she lived. She made quite a sum of money in this way, sending her daughter through college.
Aunt Melissa had a large family, four boys and three girls. Brad, a merchant, Bill, a lawyer, Jim – first a watchmaker, then a successful doctor in Baltimore. He first had a watch-making shop while I was there with Uncle George. The girls were Mary, who married a Bogart, Alice, who married B.A. Bell and Lucy who married Dave Blount.
I still can recall Aunt Melissa’s pickles and cold biscuits. They were always the same size, flavor and appearance, and just to taste one of her pickles was joy indeed.
The problem of what pursuit I was to follow must have caused my mother much concern. She wanted me to take up something that would mean a livelihood for me and there came up three directions into which I might go.
Dr. McDonald, our physician, offered to train me for the druggist’s business.
A Mr. Harding an engineer, a relative of Rev. Harding, the rector of St. Peter’s and a friend of my mother, suggested training me for railroading on the Atlantic Coast Line running into Morehead City.
Then, my mother’s brother, George Darden, who had a watch and clock shop in Baltimore, Maryland, offered to take me into his home and teach me watchmaking and clock repairing. This my mother decided to accept for me, thinking it would be better for me to be under my uncle’s care.
Then began preparations for my departure for Baltimore. A small trunk which is now in the attic, was bought for my few belongings. It seemed a very important purchase to be made for me and I thought it very wonderful.
I remember so well how I felt as, seated on top of the little trunk on a dray driven by an old darky, we drove down Main Street to the old Dominion liner and went aboard the steamer Pamlico for Baltimore. It was a very rough voyage, a storm coming up on Pamlico Sound.
To a thirteen year old boy it was a great adventure and I felt indeed that I was going out into the great world through the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal into Norfolk where we transferred to the Bay Line steamer to Baltimore.
It is hazy in my memory but I am under the impression that Uncle Morton, my mother’s brother-in-law, was with me, possibly on his way to Baltimore to buy supplies for his general store in Washington.
The good food served the passengers on the steamer appealed to me greatly as I was ever blessed with a good appetite. I enjoyed the novelty of the trip and observed with great interest everything that went o n about me.
Finally we reached Baltimore and my life in my Uncle George Darden’s house began.
It was a two story and attic brick house like so many others in the row. I was put in the attic to sleep and remember amusing myself at night killing mosquitoes with a candle, burning them as they clung to the walls. My uncle had been married twice, his son of the first marriage a boy of near twenty worked in his father’s shop. His second wife had borne him two girls who were small at that time.
I realize now that her husband’s nephew was an unwelcome addition to her household. She was a conscientious communicant of the Catholic faith, bringing up her household in this belief. To her, I was a heretic, a member of a protestant church and, as such, should not come in contact with her believing children. She discouraged any companionship with my young cousins and showed no kindness or encouragement towards me. It’s all over now and forgotten, but I became very unhappy and lonely, and missed my mother and friends back home. My idle time left me to my own devices.
Occasionally my mother would send me a few cents in a letter. Out of it I would buy a pack of cigarettes for I had acquired the habit of smoking now, left so much alone. In my loneliness, I made friends of the street boys by dividing my cigarettes in two pieces and giving them half, as I had to make what I had last me for some time. We would smoke together while it lasted and in this way I found some companionship. My cousin George would try to force me to go with him to the Catholic church, urged by his stepmother, I am sure. But I would pull away and found my way to my mother’s church, the Episcopal, so strong had been my early training seated with my mother beneath the stained glass window inscribed "Blessed are the pure in heart". This fact drew me back to my church.
After some time, Cousin Jim Jackson of Plymouth, in whose house I had loved to be with Cousin Susan and the girls Birdie and Loula, came to Baltimore and I met up with him. I told him how unhappy I was, and how much I wanted to go back to Washington.
Cousin Jim arranged with Captain Lathum who was the captain of a freight steamer running between Baltimore and Plymouth to take me back home. His kind heart realized my unhappiness and homesickness. I told my uncle, who must have seen how things were with me, goodbye, again straddled the little trunk on a dray which took me to the dock, and with a joyful heart set my face down the Chesapeake towards home and mother.
My trip was very interesting, the freight steamer stopping at different points loading and unloading freight.
After an interval at home where I was overjoyed to be, mother began planning again for my future. Aunt Melissa’s daughter, Alice Morton, had married B.A. Bell who had a thriving jewelry store in New Bern, North Carolina, about thirty-five mile south of Washington.
Through my cousin Alice’s influence, Mr. Bell offered to make me an apprentice, giving me board, clothing and a home in his family and teaching me the jeweler and watchmaker’s trade. This my mother accepted for me, and I began a new life in my cousin’s house, where I became one of the family.
My life in New Bern was very pleasant. I enjoyed my work and made many pleasant friends. I began going to a night school as I realized my need of more education.
My home life was one of pleasant association with my cousin’s children, Bryant, Douglas and May.
Poor Bryant’s life ended early. He was in the Navy, second in command of a ship. The vessel struck a mine during the Jap-Russian war out of Nagasaki and his bones lie at the bottom of the ocean. Douglas was an electrician and lives I think in Norfolk. May married a Mr. Morgan, a lawyer of New York. I spent six pleasant years in New Bern, from age fourteen to twenty.
My early years were enlivened by trips to Washington to see my mother, relatives and friends. This was made possible through traveling men who drove the distance by horse and buggy, rented from a livery stable. Mr. Hon, proprietor of the stable, knew me and my connection with Washington and would get me to drive the drummers there, make my little visit, and bring back the horse and buggy. Although I seemed brave enough, I saw many phantoms in my mind as I covered the distance through he thick forest of the thirty-five mile road on a dark night, but would brave it for the trip home. I carried a pistol once and on reaching home, found out that it would not shoot.
My friends of night school and I had many a pleasant time leapfrogging home from school. Summer evenings we would go swimming off old Dominion decks where the water was deep.
My memory goes back to a hunting trip in a twenty-five foot sailing boat. A small cabin held two bunks. There was an oil stove for cooking and dishes and food supplies.
We sailed down the Neuse river to Pamlico Sound , three of us, a friend, a colored boy and myself. We anchored that night at Slocum’s creek. There was a sawmill there. The men had just killed a deer, and they gave us some of the meat, which was a welcome addition to our food supply. We shot duck and went possum hunting with the natives. They gave us a possum which we boxed and put on the boat. Next morning he was gone! He had gotten away, swam ashore and joined his family, I suppose. I remember standing on the small box ready to shoot duck, when the boat rocked and the end of my gun went off under the water and burst the barrel.
On the way home, on the edge of Pamlico Sound a storm arose and forced our boat on a sand bar. The water was very rough. I trimmed the sail to take the wind, then taking off my clothes, I plunged into the water, waist-deep at the stern of the boat and it was icy cold. My friend took the rudder. I put my shoulder under the stern of the boat and when a wave came I took advantage of it by heaving or raising my shoulder. With the aid of the wind in the sail, we went over the shoal. The storm increased in violence. We double reefed the sail but the boat failed to respond to the rudder. She ran into the bank covered with undergrowth. Back into the cabin I rubbed down as the water was cold in late September, donned my clothing and was none the worse for my unexpected bath. I took the helm, and we double reefed the sail. In a few hours the storm subsided but a stiff wind was still blowing.
A fisherman came along in a skiff. We asked to tie on and he towed us into New Bern about thirty miles away. So away we started sailing before the wind. We made good speed and the little skiff bobbed like a cockle-shell behind.
The history of the sailboat was interesting. An Eastern man had sailed it down the coast into New Bern. Not wishing to go back in it he traded it to my cousin’s husband, the jeweler, for a set of silverware. I do not remember what became of it but I imagine he made quite a good thing of it as he had gotten it at a great bargain.
As I grew older, girls began to take their place in my life, dancing, serenading, etc. An Italian band, harp, violin, flute, etc., wintered in New Bern and the memory of the music they made for dances echoes still.
We had a German Club, the Clarendon and the emblem a clover leaf. We held our dances on Friday night and never danced later than twelve o’clock. Such a happy, carefree crowd of pretty girls and merry boys. Oh youth, youth! I close my eyes and I can see them all again! Naturally there was one who stood out above all the rest. Such a sweet, fine girl, and as I told you, I was a timid boy, easily teased.
Once this young girl came into my cousin’s store. I arose from my bench to wait on her as I did for others when necessary. I went forward, turned my back to get what she wanted to see from the wall case, an my timidity and embarrassment overcame me to such an extent that I could not turn back to face her to save my life. My cousin, sensing the difficulty, came forward and I escaped into the back of the store, believe it or not.
Another time I was coming down one side of the street and saw her on the other. There was a narrow opening between two buildings into which I darted and stayed until she had gone on. Such timidity is hard to understand or explain.
My cousin’s family rented a cottage at Nag’s Head on the ocean for the summer where there was a beautiful beach. Many pleasant outings were enjoyed there.
Those were good old days – when we bathed in tin bath-tubs, drank from mustache cups, brought water from town pumps.
The bakery wagon stopped at the door with bread, rolls,
gingerbread, etc., and we lived orderly lives. New Bern had a fine vegetable and
fish market and food was of the best quality. But a change was in prospect for
Mr. Bell, a native of North Carolina, through a traveling salesman, had his attention directed to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a then booming town with an opening for a jewelry store. He, being ambitious for a larger field for his activities, decided to go and look the field over. There were two firms in business there at that time –E.P. Durando & Co. and Fischer Bros., both on Market Street and not very far apart. Mr. Bell decided to open up a business here and secured quarters in the then new Bates block on Ninth St., between Market and Broad, on the south side of the street. Across the street was an up-to-date grocery store run by Mr. Sullivan, and adjoining that was a wholesale whiskey house, Kelley and Davenport. On the opposite corner was Simpson Bros., men’s clothing store, and on the corner nearest his (Mr. Bell’s) store was the Western Atlantic freight yard as far as Tenth St.
There was a fairly good restaurant near by on Ninth run by a man named Doughty and Mr. Cureton had a whiskey or bar room just beyond.
Mr. Bell wrote me to pack the stock in New Bern and send it on to Chattanooga, which I did and followed later. Chattanooga in April 1888 was in the throes of a boom! Money was plentiful, spending free, building was brisk, real estate values soaring and suburbs were being developed rapidly towards Rossville, Missionary Ridge, etc.
There were no paved streets but in front of the Reed House on Ninth Street. This was finished with cobble stones. It was a rainy Spring and mud covered the streets and sidewalks. At the corners were stepping stones across to the opposite side. Streetcars drawn by mules traversed E. Ninth St. to Park Place and out to St. Elmo which was then a suburb.
We ferried across the Tennessee at the foot of Market Street to Hill City (now N. Chattanooga, Riverview, etc.) and a small dinky line of streetcars went up to Cameron Hill where there was a sort of park, and place of interest. The Dummy line at Newby St. station, went out to Rossville and up Lookout Mountainn, etc.
Mr. Bell’s business, known as B.A. Bell, Jeweler, was very successful. I made social contacts with the young people of the town and soon got over my homesickness for Washington and New Bern.
The young men of the town formed two social clubs, Moccasin and Urban Clubs. Their clubroom was on Cherry Street, near Ninth. I became a member and we gave many enjoyable dances. Wash Mason’s colored string band and furnished the music, waltz, which I always loved most, shottische, polka, lancers, and Virginia Reel were the programs.
Mr. Bell, my cousin Alice’s husband, had taken a house on E. Terrace Street next to the Adam’s home.
I would walk down to the store, opening about six-thirty or seven o’clock, dress the window and put the goods out of the safe in the cases. Mr. Julius Wickstrome from Finland was the watchmaker and Oliver King who died early in life was the jeweler. Mr. Joe Bell, a brother of B.A. bell, worked there also as a watchmaker at one time. I filled the place of salesman and stock keeper at the time, but continued working on watches and jewelry every chance I had.
We did a large business with the railroads as Mr. Bell was the first inspector of watches for the railroad in Chattanooga. There was very little credit business, as money was plentiful.
Later the store was moved on Market Street, between Ninth and Eighth.
It was in the fall of the first year of my stay in Chattanooga, 1888, that news came of the illness of my mother. She had gone to visit her sister, Mrs. Mary Darden Grayson, whose husband was uncle of Dr. Cary Grayson, physician to President Wilson and afterward head of Red Cross activities, also Admiral of the U.S. Navy.
Aunt Mary lived on a farm on the Rappahannock River, the post office was Elkwood. I was twenty-one years old or nearly so at this time. I left Chattanooga for Virginia where I remained at my mother’s bedside several weeks. She must have had a cerebral hemorrhage for she lay in a coma. She recognized me once during the time and talked with me. My Aunt Mary and her daughter, Nan, afterwards Mrs. John Newby, nursed her, giving her every attention. Dr. Burroughs attended her, as he lived near there. I shall always remember Aunt Mary’s beautiful farm and the plentiful crops of grain, etc., she raised. Mr. Grayson was an old man.
Aunt Mary’s children, Will and Nan, were named Hinton. They were children of a former marriage, she being a widow when she married Mr. Grayson.
Mother passed away and it was a sad journey I took with her body back to Washington, where she lies in St. Peter’s church yard beside my father.
Before Mr. B.A. Bell moved, I became ambitious to make a beginning for myself in business. Another boom town, Fort Payne, Ala., about fifty miles from Chattanooga, offered an opening for a small jewelry business.
Mr. Bell assisted me by recommending me to the firm with which he dealt. These sold me a small stock with which I opened a store in Fort Payne, Alabama. At this time it was an interesting little town developed by Eastern capital. They had installed a watering system, rolling mills, iron furnaces, tool factories and two flourishing hotels in which white help brought from the east was employed.
Among those I remember most were the Godfreys whose son Harry was a Beau Brummell, the Buells whose daughter May afterward married Barry Godfrey – Gleason, Ida, Ed Landers, Davis, Dr. Folk, etc. I was there a year when the boom burst, when I returned to Chattanooga.
I tried again in Chattanooga, opening up with the assistance of a Mr. Mohr from the north. He secured half a store on Market Street, the other half occupied by a Mr. Sneed who had a tailoring business.
Into my store one day came a young lady who bought a souvenir spoon. These were very popular at that time. She had me engrave it "Kentucky". I told her when she could get it and decided to find out about her.
I cast around amongst my acquaintances until I found someone who knew her. This happened to be a young man named Barry Sayre. He promised to ask her to let him bring me to call upon her. That was the beginning of my acquaintance with the lady –Miss Jimmie Morris – who afterward became my wife.
Following my meeting with her, my business failed and I secured a position in Nashville, Tenn., With George N. Calhoun, as jeweler. I kept up a lively correspondence with the young lady and at the first opening, I returned to Chattanooga.
Mr. Bell, meantime, had sold his store to G.W. Meyer of Meridian, Missippi and returned to Norfolk, Va., to live.
I was employed by Mr. Meyer as watchmaker, jeweler, salesman, etc., at a salary of seventeen dollars a week, and on this amount I married, February 14, 1893, in Highland Park, in my wife’s home where she lived with her two sisters, Miss Julia Morris and Mrs. Mildred Perry.
My wife was a teacher at Ridgedale
Ed Landers of Ft. Payne sent me the brass and onyx lamp in our home today, forty-seven years ago. The onyx clock on our mantle Mr. Meyer, my employer, gave us at that time(In the home of Betsy Beyhan, great granddaughter of Mr. Jackson.)
We had a sweet home wedding, Dr. McFerrin, pastor of Centenary Methodist Church performing the ceremony in the evening. Afterwards we went to New Orleans on a wedding trip. I remember there was great excitement in Chattanooga that night as a mob took a prisoner (colored) from the Walnut street jail and lynched him, hanging his body from the bridge across the Tenn.
We boarded with my wife’s sister in their home in Highland Park, where our first child, a girl – Marguerite – was born on November 22, the same year of our marriage, 1893.
I continued with Mr. Meyer until about 1895. I gave up my position with Mr.. Meyer as I felt I must be making more money, and having confidence in my ability to succeed. I rented space in a window in Poss building in Pike’s drug store on Market Street. There some of my old customers followed me for their work.
I made a comfortable living, but was ambitious to spread out and carry some stock, as I felt I could sell and make more.
About this time, 1896, our second child was born, a girl – Dorothy – and I took as a partner a young man, W.E. Bondurant, who had fifteen hundred dollars to invest with no business ability. This proved unsatisfactory. We dissolved partnership and again I had to give up, hampered by the debts of the firm.
Not discouraged, I rented quarters on Eighth Street in the Loveman block in a harness shop run by Johnny Veal, a harness maker. It was not a very good location for my business. My next location was on Ninth Street, next to Western Union in Bates block in Mr. Peak’s trunk store, where again I had a small stock of watches, rings, etc., which together with my watch work and repairs made no money, but a living for my family – wife and two children. My wife’s sister where we boarded in the meanwhile, had lost her home, unable to pay off the mortgage. We boarded with her in two different rented houses in Highland Park, one Union and Greenwood, the other on Chamberlain Ave.
My wife and I felt that we should begin on a home, so we found a cottage and two lots on Bailey Avenue for eighteen hundred dollars, on very easy terms, under the control of a Bldg. and Loan Association. Mr. And Mrs. Jack Montgomery were renting the cottage at the time we bought it. It had one bedroom and no bath. We afterward added two bedrooms and bath and finished up the attic room for storage years after. Of course there was a living room, dining room and summer kitchen. We lived there with my wife’s two sisters, Miss Julia Morris and Mrs. Mildred Perry. Miss Julia Morris, my wife’s oldest sister, died there in the year of 1898 on December 29th.
About this time I went to work for Mr Loeffler, who had a successful jewelry and pawn business combined. I was watchmaker, jeweler and salesman combined and I was given a very good salary for that time.
I encouraged him to increase his stock and remodel his store, which he did and he began doing a larger business.
I was with him about ten years. In this time, we had sold off a part of one of our lots which left us a house and forty extra feet on Bailey Ave. We decided to sell the cottage and build a larger house on the forty feet, which we did. Our third daughter, Mildred,(January 26, 1900) and the twins, Katherine and Leonard,(August ?) were born in the cottage, the boy Leonard dying at six weeks of age.
We built quite a nice house and enjoyed moving into it very much. We lived there, later buying a cheap summer house on Lookout Mountain, near Lula lake.
As time went on, Mr. Loeffler sold his business to a Mr. Fred Saul. His business had grown so much that he had employed a jeweler and salesman, Mr. Henry Breidt.
Mr. Saul asked me to stay on with him, which we did for a while, but I decided to again try my luck in a business of my own with Mr. Breidt working for me. I sold the new home for money to help launch the new business, and secured a location at 1002 Market Street, the Southern Express Bldg. Where now is the Plaza Hotel. Later, Mr. Pound leased those buildings and became my landlord. There I made my first success, the Spanish-American and the World war aiding greatly. I added a watchmaker,, Mr. P.F. Crist, who remained with me until I sold out to him in the year 1930. Mr Breidt also worked for me until his death. I worked hard – from morning to night – saw my family growing up, marrying and going into homes of their own, knew the joy of "something attempted, something done," had earned a night’s repose.
Written in 1940 .
Dictated by Leonard Livingston Jackson to his wife, Sallie Jim Morris Jackson.
Cecil Blount DeMille
director, producer, screenwriter
Birthplace: Ashfield, Massachusetts
Photos of C.B. DeMille
DeMille House of Washington. NC