Little Rock, Arkansas
February 16, 1916
My Dear Grandchildren:
I have often wished, since I have been a woman, that my grandmother
had written down all the remembrances of her youthful days and all she
knew about the family.
It would have made very interesting reading for her grandchildren, at
least I know it would have been very interesting to me. I am so interested
in my ancestors: thinking some of my grandchildren may inherit the same
taste, I have thought I would try to write some of my recollections and
all I know about the family, which is very little, as I was too young when
my grandmother was living to appreciate the value of this information she
could have given me.
I have never written anything but letters, and was never fond of that.
But, I hope to be able to express myself so that you will understand.
I have gotten up the history of the Robinsons, and have the names of
the ancestors of the maternal side of the Robinson family. But there are
many other branches I would like to get.
I tried a short time ago to trace some of my lines, but the genealogist
I employed was a fraud, but I am afraid they will be very hard to trace,
as I have only the records back to my great grandparents, copies from the
family bibles, and it only gives their births, marriages and deaths.
The record does not give the places of their births, marriages, and
deaths, most of them being, I think, in North Carolina and Virginia. During
the war the Yankees destroyed so many courthouses in both states, in which
the records were deposited. I am afraid the records are lost, but I want
to try again.
On your grandfather Robinson's side, are the Huskes, Tillinghasts, Pearces,
etc.: on my side are the Pembertons, Stiths, Jennings, Harrisons, Marshalls,
Lillys, Craigs, Norwoods, etc.
The two latter were my mother's family.
Our people for several generations lived in North Carolina and Virginia.
I think they originally came from England. The Pembertons came from Philadelphia,
then South. There are a great many Pembertons in Philadelphia today.
I know very little about the Pembertons. When I was a little girl my
grandmother Pemberton had my great grandfather's (Stith Pemberton) family
bible. I copied the family records; the records were written in a beautiful
masculine hand. I suppose that of my great grandfather, Stith Pemberton.
The record of his marriage was certainly quaintly expressed: "Stith
Pemberton and Martha Jennings, his wife were married December 3, 1783."
I wish so much he had named the place they were married. Stith was a
surname of the family, but I do not know how connected.
I have always been told they were a Virginia family, and aristocratic.
My great grandmother was Martha Jennings, from the Jennings family of
England, that so much has been written and said about the great Jennings
Estate. I read only the other day about David Jennings: I have pasted the
article on page 94 of this book [Note: This article lost.]
It was a very noted estate in my grandfather Pemberton's day; he fully
believed we would all be rich some day from it, he had the records showing
he was a direct heir, so my grandmother Pemberton told me.
My grandfather Thomas Pemberton was the fifth child of Stith Pemberton
and Martha Jennings. He was born August 14, 1792, married Frances Lilly,
November 30, 1820.
Frances Lilly (my grandmother) was the daughter of Edmund Lilly and
I know nothing of the Lillys. I have always been told my great grandfather
Edmund Lilly was a fine gentleman and a man of prominence and wealth in
his community. The Lillys are a fine old family, I know.
My grandmother Pemberton could have told me a great deal about the family,
but I was too young when she died to take very much interest in the family.
I remember she used to often tell me about when she was a child. She
stayed a great deal with her grandfather and grandmother Marshall. My great
grandmother Lilly was Mary Marshall. I have been told this, but I haven't
the records, so do not vouch for the truth of it, that she was the daughter
of James Marshall, a brother or cousin of Chief Justice Marshall, and her
mother's maiden name was Harrison.
I was told this by a cousin of mine, but don't think they know any more
about it than I do.
I was always told by my grandmother Pemberton that we were related to
Chief Justice Marshall and President Harrison (William H.). When I was
a little girl at my grandmother's, I used to see a picture of President
Wm. H. Harrison that used to belong to my great grandmother Lilly. Grandma
said her mother (Mary Marshall Lilly) said she used to play when a child
with "Cousin William Henry Harrison" when they lived on the old "Jeems"
River, in Virginia. "Jeems" is the old, old fashioned way of pronouncing
My father was William Stith Pemberton, second child of Thomas Pemberton
and Frances Lilly. He was born December 23, 1823. He married Laura James
Craig, daughter of Doctor James Craig and Laura Norwood, October 26, 1848.
I know very little about my mother's people. My mother went to visit
her mother in Alabama, and died there when I was about eight or nine years
old. My brother Walter was two or three, and my sister Mary Lilly was a
wee baby, three weeks old. Mary Lilly died when she was five years old.
My baby sister and myself stayed with my mother's mother and sister
a year after my mother died. My father took my brother Walter with him
back to Arkansas. My little sister was beautifully cared for, and loved,
as my Aunt had no children of her own.
But I was a rather forlorn, neglected little thing; this is my recollection.
My father and brother came back about a year after my mother's death, and
my father took all of us children to North Carolina to his mother and sister,
as he wished us all to be reared together.
My mother's people felt very bitter toward him because of it, and never
forgave him so we grew up entirely among my father's people.
When I was a young lady, I visited one winter in Florida, my mother's
sister Mrs. Mary Ferrell and her brother Hamet Craig. They had lost most
of their property by the war, and were very poor. I remember they had some
old heirlooms that I wanted very much, but they would not part with them
for love or money. My uncle had children, and they wanted them to inherit
One of the things I wanted so much was a picture of my grandfather,
Dr. James Craig, taken when he was eighteen years. It was a miniature,
not more than an inch wide and two inches long. It was painted on ivory,
was one of the softest, prettiest miniatures I ever saw. His face was so
gentle and refined, with very dark blue eyes and his hair was combed straight
down on his forehead, not parted at all, and he had on one of those old
fashioned ruffled shirts.
I will now try to tell you the little I know about the Craigs and Norwoods.
My mother's father, Dr. James Craig, died a few months before my mother
was born. They lived in North Carolina near neighbors to my grandmother
Pemberton. Some years after my grandfather's (James Craig) death, my grandmother
married a Dr. Treadwell and had a good many children. After my father and
mother married, my mother's mother and all her family went to Alabama to
All I know about my grandfather Craig is what my Grandmother Pemberton
and some old family servants have told me.
Grandma said he was a very fine physician, the best in that part of
the country, a man with a great deal of character and a very charming gentleman.
After I was married, your great grandfather Robinson told me he was a very
fine man and physician; said he (Dr. Craig) and his father Dr. Benjamin
Robinson used to meet and have consultations.
Dr. Benjamin Robinson lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Dr.
Craig in Stanley County, North Carolina, about a hundred miles apart.
My grandma Pemberton's old colored carriage driver, Uncle Hubberd, at
one time belonged to my grandfather Craig and was his carriage driver.
As I said before, my grandparents on my mother's side and my father's side
were near neighbors with just the Pee Dee River running between them.
Often in the days of slavery the slaves of neighbors married each other.
Uncle Hubberd, grandfather Craig's carriage driver, married Grandma Pemberton's
cook, Aunt Allie.
When my grandmother was going to move to Alabama, either Grandma Pemberton
would have to buy Uncle Hubberd or Grandma Craig would have to buy Aunt
Allie and all her children, because our families never separated husbands
They were both valuable servants, neither owner was willing to give
them to us, so they drew straws and Grandmother Pemberton bought Uncle
Hubberd; that is how he belonged to two families.
Uncle Hubberd used to tell me wonderful tales about my grandfather Craig,
said he drove "a coach and four." I know that he was a wealthy man for
that day and place. He left his three children, my Aunt Mrs. Mary Tyrza
Ferrell, my Uncle Hamet Craig, and my mother each a nice little fortune.
The Craigs came from Ireland, and were Scotch-Irish. I think my great
grandfather Craig came from Ireland, and my grandfather Craig was born
in this country, but I am not certain; my grandfather himself may have
come from Ireland.
I have been told we have no Craig kin in this country, except the descendants
of a sister of my grandfather Craig. His sister was Tirza Craig, and married
a Mr. Eli Springs, of Charlotte, North Carolina. I knew none of them.
I think a daughter or granddaughter of Tirza Craig Springs married a
Mr. Johnson, of Charlotte, North Carolina. They were very fashionable and
wealthy people in my day; I have heard Tirza Craig Springs was a remarkable
woman, had a great deal of character and will.
I know even less of the history of the Norwoods than the other branches
of the family. I know they were a very old, aristocratic family of North
Carolina, were very wealthy before the war and very poor afterwards. I
have heard they claimed to be connected with the family of Sir Walter Scott.
I know we belonged to that branch of the Norwoods, but how connected I
have no idea.
I never knew but one member of the immediate family except my grandmother,
and that was her brother John Norwood, who lived in Stanley County, North
Carolina, now the village of Norwood. This John Norwood was a brother of
Judge William Norwood, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, who died about
John Norwood died when I was a little girl; he was a good man and much
respected, but had lived most of his manhood in the backwoods of Stanley
County among a very ignorant class of people. I have heard my father reproach
him for having wasted his life among that class of people. I have been
told that my grandmother Laura Norwood Craig's mother's name was Coleston.
I think Laura was her first name. I do not know that I have spelled Coleston
My grandfather Craig was very much older than his wife. I think about
25 or 30 years older. My grandmother was one of twin girls. I have been
told the romantic story of how my grandfather (Dr. James Craig) was visiting
my great grandmother (Laura Coleston Norwood) and the little twin baby
girls (one of them afterwards my grandmother) were lying on the bed; their
mother had to go out of the room for a few minutes and left them alone
with Dr. Craig. As she left the room, she laughingly told the Doctor to
pick out the one he wanted for a wife, and when she was grown, she would
give her to him.
When my great grandmother came back, the doctor told her he had made
his selection, and showed her the one he had chosen; and afterward he married
her, and she was my grandmother.
I have been told of my father's and mother's wedding. Weddings in those
days were very different from what they are now.
The bride and groom did not go on wedding trips then as they do now,
for there were no railroads and all the traveling was done by coach, or
private carriage or horseback. The young people married at night, at the
home of the bride, a great many guests were present and a big supper was
The supper was not the hand-out affair that it is now, but tables were
set and beautifully decorated and loaded with every imaginable good thing
to eat. Whole roasted pig, with an apple in its mouth, turkey, duck, salad,
etc. the bride's cake was a very large white cake, placed at one end of
the table, and the groom's cake a large fruit cake at the other end.
The tables were sometimes set in the shape a T, sometimes in the shape
of an X, and sometimes an L, to accommodate as many people as possible.
But they couldn't be served all at once, but had to take turns.
It is well to mention here, the houses in those days were built with
very much larger rooms than now. When bed time came, two or three of the
bride's most intimate girl friends went with her to the bridal chamber
to help her undress, and put her to bed. Before the wedding, the nicest
bedroom in the house was fixed up as nicely as possible, with the choicest
Preparing the bridal chamber was only one of the features of the wedding.
The next day the bride and groom and the bride's family with other invited
guests, went to the groom's house for a big dining (they had dinner in
the middle of the day in those days). It was called the "infare." Another
big feast was served equal to the wedding supper.
The bride's "second day dress," as it was called the one to be worn
at the "infare," was as important as the wedding dress.
Parties in those days were much more elaborate than now, though not
near so frequent. It was in the days of slavery, and they had so many well
I will go back and tell you all I can remember that my grandmother Pemberton
told me. You know that I told you I went to live with her and her daughter,
my Aunt Pat (my father's only sister), who afterward married Major L.D.
Andrews, one year after my mother's death, when I was about nine years
Grandmother said when she was a little girl she used to stay a great
deal with her grandfather and grandmother Marshall. I think she must have
been fonder of her grandfather than her grandmother, at least my recollection
of what she said about "Old Grandfather Marshall," as she always called
I don't suppose people in those days objected to being called "old,"
as they do now. She told me about a little party she had at his house when
a young girl.
"Old Grandfather Marshall" told the young people he would tell their
fortunes. At least, those who would marry and those who would die old maids
He went out of the room and came back with an apparently perfectly clean
sheet of writing paper; they all looked at it, and said there was no writing
on it. He then held it to the big open fire. They had no way of heating
the house in those days except the big open fireplaces.
Behold! All the names came out on the paper, very plain, those who were
destined to die unmarried, had coffins drawn under their names.
Grandma said those who had the coffins were so distressed that her grandfather
told them it was only a joke and how it was done. He said he had taken
a pen (they used only quill pens) and had written the names with sweet
milk instead of ink. The milk did not show on the white paper, but when
held to the fire the milk scortched and turned brown, and could easily
I have often thought I would try this experiment, but never have.
Grandma said he used so often to caution her against being proud or
"stuck up," as we would say now, that was something a lady should never
be. She should always be polite and kind to everyone. In those days, money
was not the essential thing, but good birth.
Our ancestors brought this belief over from England. My grandmother
taught and impressed it on me just as it had been impressed on her. In
this generation, when money is the one great thing in life, it always gave
me great pleasure to meet some of those who believe and feel about good
birth as I was taught.
In my grandmother's childhood days, there were no carriages or buggies,
everybody went on horseback, the ladies had riding skirts, to wear over
their dresses, and slipped them off when they dismounted. Every residence
had what they called a horse-block, that is, a place for ladies to mount
and dismount the horses.
They all rode horseback to church, the young men rode home with the
young ladies after church. Grandma used to say there were not so many old
maids in later years when the girls all went in closed carriages.
She said "Old Grandfather Marshall" had the first Chaise in that part
of the country. A "Chaise," grandmother said, was a kind of vehicle; it
was more like two chairs mounted on two wheels, with a horse attached,
than anything else. That is a long step to our automobiles, isn't it?
I suppose when you are grown up you will have flying ships or some wonderful
improvement on automobiles. Grandma said the first Sunday her grandparents
went to church in their chaise, she heard an envious person say, "I wish
it would break down and drop them in the dust." Showing human nature was
the same then as now.
Grandma told me when I was a young lady that when she was young, she
had much handsomer clothes than mine (mine were very nice), but not near
so many of them. Your mother's were not as handsome as mine, but she had
more dresses at one time than I did, but she needed more, for there were
a great many more parties and entertainments given in her day than in mine.
Grandma said everything was real in her day; no imitations. No
lady wore anything in the way of ornaments except solid gold and real lace,
even the hat buckles were solid gold. I remember my aunt had a broach made
of one of grandma's hat buckles.
Even in my young days any kind of lace except real was not much worn.
Of course, the imitations were not nearly so pretty as now. Any kind of
jewelry except solid gold was scorned -- it was called pinch-beck jewelry.
In Grandma's day, there was so much hand embroidery, done by the ladies
themselves, the lady who did not sew well in those days was not much esteemed.
It was considered an essential part of a lady's education, and they did
such beautiful sewing. It was before the days of sewing machines. The beautiful
sewing and embroidery our ancestors did is a lost art now. I haven't seen
any since I was a little girl.
Grandma sewed and embroidered beautifully. I suppose I inherited my
love of it from her. In my childhood, she did the most beautiful bedspreads
and quilts. She made them when she was a girl. They would be considered
works of art now. My aunt, the only daughter, inherited them and all the
old heirlooms. Her house was burned about thirty years ago, and everything
in it was destroyed, except my old "Grandfather's clock" which she had
given me a few years before the fire. We had it shipped to Arkansas. The
old clock, and a good deal of old mahogany furniture were brought from
England by my great, great grandfather, the father of Stith Pemberton.
My aunt said the old clock had been in the family more than two hundred
years. She did not know how much longer.
Grandma was like a great many of her day, she did not think it was right
from a religious point of view to play cards or dance, though she did not
forbid us young people to do it, she advised against it. I was so young
when I learned to play cards, I do not remember when I learned. My father
I remember once she was talking to me about the sin of dancing and her
oldest brother, Uncle Timmy Lilly, was present. He was not as religious
as Grandma, was very jolly and full of fun, and was very much beloved by
all the young folks in the family. When Grandma had finished her lecture,
he said he would tell me a little instance of Grandma's girlhood days.
He and Grandma, he said, went to a party; their mother, who was almost
totally deaf, told them not to dance, but they could not resist the temptation,
and they danced. On their way home, they were talking about what they would
say when their mother asked if they had danced. They agreed they would
say "yes" and shake their heads. She could not hear the "yes," but
would see the shake of the head. Young folk were the same then as now.
I used to say to Grandma when she reproved me for something she did not
approve of, "But, Grandma, you did it when you were young." She would say,
"Yes, my child, but I have seen the folly of it. I want you to see the
folly of it, too." And I have seen the folly of a good many things I did
in my youthful days. I remember so well an old proverb that Grandma used
to tell me, but you will not appreciate the truth of it until you are old.
This is the proverb: "Young people think old people are fools, but
old people know young people are fools." I have lived to appreciate
the truth of that.
My grandmother was one of the best women I have ever known, and one
of the finest characters. I hope some of her great granddaughters will
follow in her footsteps.
She had a hard time in her younger days. My grandfather was very well
off when she married him; he inherited his property from his father, but
he was no businessman; he was a big, kind-hearted man and liked to have
a good time. In those days fox hunting was the sport of the gentlemen of
the country. I suppose the love of it was inherited from the English ancestors.
He kept a pack of fox hounds and always had his house full of company.
He did not drink to excess, and had no bad habits. He was kindhearted,
and couldn't say "no." He went on people's notes, lent them money and consequently
the money went out faster than it came in. It was a great grief to Grandma
that her boys (she had six, and one daughter), were not able to go to college
like other boys in the family, but they had to go to work early.
Grandma had two brothers, Uncle Jonas and Henry Lilly, who lived in
Fayetteville, North Carolina. They were wholesale dry good merchants, and
were rich for that time and place.
They took each of Grandma's boys as they came along (except Uncle Calvin,
who was the youngest) and gave them fine business educations in their stores.
The all worked hard, and saved their money, and in a few years were able
to go into business for themselves.
All were successful businessmen. I am under the impression from what
I have heard said, that my father was the finest character among the boys.
His oldest brother, Uncle Edmund Pemberton, used to tell me if he had had
the advantages of a college education, he would have made his mark on the
world, he was so bright mentally.
When Grandpa died in 1850, some of his property had to be sold to pay
his security debts, either his land or some of his negroes. Our family
had made it a rule never to sell negroes out of the family or to separate
husbands and wives. So his sons bought the land and gave it to Grandma
during her life and divided the negroes between themselves. Grandma's and
Aunt Pat's portion were enough to work the land. Their negroes were increased
by Uncle Henry Pemberton's widow giving them his portion of the negroes
Uncle Henry Pemberton married Mary Elizabeth McAlister, who was wealthy
in her own right, and one of the best and most loveable women that ever
lived. Uncle Henry died when a young man; she never married again.
My uncles lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and did not need many
negroes, but my father lived in Arkansas on a cotton plantation, and needed
a great many, and he brought a good many of his brothers' negroes. He also
had a good many that came from my mother's side of the house.
My grandmother lived to be an old woman; she was in the eighties when
she died. She died at the old place in Montgomery County, North Carolina.
Her daughter, Aunt Pat, married Major L.D. Andrews, the last year of the
war, and Grandma always lived with them.
When Grandma died in 1878, her sons gave the land and all the household
belongings to their sister (Aunt Pat). She afterwards sold the place and
is now living in Monroe, North Carolina.
The neighborhood where grandma lived was settled almost entirely by
our family. Most of those who were not related to us were connected by
About a mile from Grandma's was what was called "The Old Place," where
my Grandma's father and mother lived (my great grandfather and mother Lilly).
Also, two brothers and two sisters with large families lived in a mile
of her. It was not a wealthy neighborhood, but a very nice one.
When my great grandfather Lilly died, all his children were married
and had left home. His death left great Grandma Lilly all alone at "The
Old Place," with her negroes. All her children tried very hard to persuade
her to break up and come live with them, but she said, "No, I've had a
home of my own all my life and could not give it up in my old age."
But after a few years the house was burned, and she consented then to
have a little house built in my grandmother's yard and lived and died there,
but she always maintained her independence.
One of her old servants, "Aunt Leanna," lived with her to attend to
all of her wants. If she felt like it, she came to Grandma's table, but
more often Aunt Leanna fixed her tray and carried it to her, or if she
wanted any special dainty, Aunt Leanna went into the kitchen and fixed
it for her.
I have always thought that was a nice way for an old lady to live, but
it can't be done in these days; we haven't the good, old faithful servants
of those days.
My family has always been very independent, and do not like to accept
favors. Independence is a very commendable thing.
As a rule, they have been honorable and truthful, hating a lie. I hope
you will inherit these traits.
When my father and mother first married, they lived at "Center," afterwards
called Norwood, a small town in Stanley County, North Carolina, just across
the Pee Dee River from grandpa and grandma Pemberton's. My father was a
Five of us children were born there; the oldest was born dead. The second,
James Craig, died when a little more than a year old. Then I came. The
fourth, William, died when a little baby. The fifth, Johnnie, died in Arkansas
of smallpox when about two years old.
Your Uncle Walter was the sixth. Mary Lilly, the youngest, was born
in Alabama at my mother's mother's, where my mother died when the baby
was only three weeks old. The baby died at Grandma Pemberton's in North
Carolina when she was five years old.
My baby sister Lilly and I stayed at Grandma's in Alabama and father
took my brother Walter back to Arkansas with him. A year afterward he came
back and took all three of us to North Carolina to live with his people.
My mother's children came very close together, some of them were not
more than a year apart. She was married at 18, and died when about 30,
and she had seven children. I have always been told that she was a beautiful
woman, a brunette; neither of her children inherited her good looks.
In the spring of 1857, or 1856, my father came to Arkansas. The Steeles,
Terrys and some other North Carolina neighbors and friends had come out
a year or two earlier. I suppose that is why my father thought of coming
He bought land about 20 miles below Little Rock (Little Rock was only
a tiny village then), and made arrangements for a dwelling house for his
family and negro houses to be built and ready for him in the early fall.
He returned to North Carolina, and in the fall he started by private
conveyance with his family, negroes, household goods, etc. It took him
six weeks to make the trip. The roads were almost impassable a good deal
of the way, especially in the Mississippi bottoms.
I was too young to remember much about the trip, and know only what
I have been told. I knew my father, mother, my baby brother, Johnnie, myself,
and nurse came in the carriage. It was driven by our colored "Daddy" (husband
of our colored Mammy). He was a most faithful servant, inherited from my
mother's family; after freedom he called himself John Perry. He and his
wife lived on our place until they died, and were prosperous and well-to-do
The procession of wagons and negroes followed the carriage. We camped
out every night, around a big fire. I suppose the fire was to keep off
the wild beasts, for this was a very wild country in those days.
I suppose there was danger of robbers, too. I remember one afternoon
two men wrapped in blankets stopped the carriage and talked to my father.
They wanted to know where he was going to camp for the night, and asked
so many questions that my father became suspicious of them and thought
they were planning to rob us.
So my father and the overseer took turns and sat up all night with their
guns and the negroes with axes, but the night passed very quietly without
disturbance. They might have come, and finding my father prepared for them,
did not try to carry out their evil intentions.
I remember when we were nearing our journey, and were in Arkansas, the
negroes found the first pecans they had ever seen. They do not grow in
When we reached our journey's end, much to my parents' disappointment,
the man had failed to keep his contract about building the houses. There
were a few negro houses started, but no house for us except an old double
log cabin with a dead hog under it.
My mother positively refused to go in it, so they lived in tents until
the old log cabin could be thoroughly cleaned and made habitable. It had
two large rooms and a wide open hall between the two rooms, and puncheon
A puncheon floor was not made of planks, but logs, hewn with broadaxes
as smooth as possible. Saw mills were very scarce, and most of the houses
were built of logs.
We lived in that house at least a year, though I don't know exactly
how long. My brother Walter was born in it. I forgot to say that each of
the rooms had immense open fireplaces at one end.
My father had a small house built in the yard, called the office. All
plantations had an office in the yard in those days. The overseer slept
there, and the plantation business was discussed there.
The old log cabin was on the bayou on "The Plantation," as it has always
been called -- the place I inherited from my father.
In a year or two my father bought the place almost adjoining. The Robert
Steel place was between. Years afterward my husband (your grand-daddy Robinson)
bought the Robert Steel place, which had a much better house on it, but
it was a log house, too, but weather boarded on the outside and did not
look like a log house.
It was like the old log cabin, had two immense open rooms, with immense
open fire places. My father had several rooms added. Your uncle Walter
and Aunt Jennie lived in it a year or two after they came to Arkansas,
and then built a much nicer house, that John Pemberton (Uncle Calvin Pemberton's
son) and family live in now.
Your Uncle Walter inherited that place from our father, but he did not
like the country; he went after he was married, to the University of Virginia
and studied law. He moved to Little Rock, and in a few years sold the place
to John Pemberton.
The following winter after my father came to Arkansas, a carpenter whom
he knew in North Carolina came to his house and told him he had come out
to Arkansas to buy land. There was at that time a great exodus from the
old states to the new. He had brought his wife with him, and asked my father
if his wife could stay at our home a few days until he could find a home.
About ten days after their arrival, and while the husband was still away
looking for a new home, I was taken very sick. Dr. Terry, our nearest doctor,
was sent for, but he did not know what the trouble was; thought it might
be chickenpox. In a few days my father discovered it was smallpox.
I remember very distinctly some things about that terrible time. The
carpenter and his wife had contracted the disease on their way out from
North Carolina. The wife had it so slightly she did not have to go to bed.
I came very near dying. While I was very ill, the carpenter who was away
looking for land came back to our house with it and came very near dying.
My brother Walter was only six months old, and had it very badly. My
father and mother had it slightly, as they had been vaccinated years before.
My brother Johnnie died with it. Several of our most valuable negroes died
with it. I have heard my father say one of the negroes was worth five thousand
dollars; he was a blacksmith and carpenter. It must have been a terrible
time, and my parents were just getting started in a new country!
My parents never stayed on the place in summer, only in winter. It was
considered too unhealthy. There were so many, many mosquitoes. I remember
my mother used to sit under a mosquito net to sew.
It was such a wild country, my father and the other gentlemen in the
neighborhood had a fine time hunting bear, deer, wild turkey, etc. My mother
shot a deer in the field right at our back gate. The gin house was about
two hundred yards from the house, and my father found a wild turkey nest
between the house and the gin.
In the spring of 1860, my mother went to Alabama to visit her mother,
and died there September 23rd, at the birth of Mary Lilly. As
I said before, a year after my mother's death my father took us three children
to his mother and sister in North Carolina. He left me and my little sister
there, and he and my brother Walter came back to Arkansas.
We spent two years of the war there. I can't tell you much about the
war: the Yankees did not come to Grandma's; they came about 20 miles from
there. I knew we were all very poor. Most of the white men had gone to
the war, overseers of the plantations and all.
All the farms were managed by the negro bosses, with the assistance
the ladies of the family could give, and the ladies in those days knew
much less about business than they do now. I know my grandmother's place
was badly managed. Uncle Hubberd was the boss. I suppose he did the best
he could, but he did not have the sense and judgment to manage it as it
should have been.
The negroes as well as ourselves had to be clothed and fed, and everything
we could possibly spare had to be sent to our soldiers. Everything had
to be made on the place; even the clothes were all spun by women on the
place. We could buy nothing, as all the factories were in the North. Occasionally
a blockade runner would get through the lines with a few things.
We had most of the cotton in the South. We tried very hard to keep the
Yankees from getting it. When our Confederate Government knew the Yankees
were going to invade a state and get possession of it, it ordered all the
cotton in their path burned to keep the Yankees from getting it.
My father burned two crops, but it would have done no good if he had
kept it. The Yankees would have taken it and shipped it to the North.
During the war, or at least the latter part of it, everyone wore homespun
clothes. Everything had to be made at home, even the hats and shoes. Wheat-straw
was pleated into braids, and sewed together, making hats. It is wonderful
how expert the ladies became making all these home-made things.
For the dresses, the cotton thread was dyed from the barks of trees.
I remember walnut hulls dyed a beautiful brown, white oak bark a very pretty
gray, indigo blue, copperas yellow, etc. It was quite an art to dye well.
The cloth was woven into stripes and checks and was very pretty for those
It was very hard to get even home-made shoes, for the soldiers had to
be clothed and fed, too, and they had to come first. Most of the white
shoemakers were in the war, and we had to depend on the negro shoemakers.
Your great grandfather Robinson owned a negro who was a fine shoemaker
but the Confederate Government confiscated him to make shoes for the soldiers.
That was done all over the South.
We could not get even coffee and sugar. I don't know why sugar was so
scarce: maybe it was not made as much in the South then as it is now. Everybody
made sorghum molasses. People used all kinds of substitutes for coffee
-- parched rye, parched sweet potatoes, etc. It must have been terrible.
My grandmother always had a little sugar and coffee on hand, but it
was used sparingly. Her old batchelor brother, Uncle Henry Lilly, lives
in Fayetteville. He was very rich, and had opportunity at times to buy
things that were run through the blockade. Whenever he could get anything,
he sent it to his sisters, so they fared better than their neighbors.
I will not try to tell you anything about the why or wherefore of the
war; you will learn that in history. But I have always heard that the histories
taught in the schools have never done justice to the South.
But I can tell you this, and you must always remember it. NO people
ever made a grander or braver fight for their country than did the South.
They fought for what they believe to be right. When the United States was
formed, the South believed that any state could secede from the Union,
and have their own government if they should ever so desire. That is why
the South believed in States Rights.
The Yankees first brought the Negroes from Africa, but when they found
they could not use them advantageously in their factories, on account of
their lack of intelligence, and the climate was too cold for them, the
Yankees sold them to the South.
The South used them very successfully in their cotton and tobacco fields.
The South became very wealthy and prosperous. Most of the Presidents of
the United States were from the South. The North became envious and did
everything that could to oppress the South, and raised a great hue and
cry to free the negroes.
I do not think it was right that they should be freed. I do not think
slavery was right, but most of the intelligent Southern people 50 or 75
years ago thought it was right. Though the negroes did not have intelligence
enough to take care of themselves, if they had remained in Africa they
would still be barbarians, and now they are a civilized people.
I suppose it is the fault of the South that they were not freed without
that terrible war. The South thought they were their property; they had
bought and paid for them. Of course in this day and generation I see that
slavery was wrong, but maybe if I had been born to it, never known anything
else, I might not see it so clearly. I wouldn't for anything have the responsibility
of a crowd of slaves on my shoulders as did my ancestors. Some of the negroes
were cruelly treated, especially those on large plantations where the owners
lived in town, and the negroes were left to the care of an overseer. But
a great love existed between the house-servants and their owners. Where
ever you see a Southerner whose ancestors owned slaves, they have a very
kindly feeling to the negro. It was only those that the negroes called
"poor white trash" that hated the negroes.
I hope some day a monument will be erected to the Southern negro slave
for his loyalty to the white women and children, while the men were in
the army fighting for their country.
The days after the war, "The Reconstruction," as it was called, the
Southerners say was worse than the war. There is a book called "Red Rock"
that those who know say is a perfectly true account of what the South suffered
during that period. I want you all to read it and always believe that the
South was right, and fought bravely for what they believed was right, and
always remember that you are Southern born and bred, and always be proud
of your Southern blood as I am.
If I have a drop of Yankee blood in my veins, I do not know it.
It is true your grandfather Robinson's people (on both sides of the
house) several generations back came from the East, but they were all loyal
Southerners and fought for the South all during the war. Your father says
he is a Yankee, but he has not a drop of Yankee blood in his veins -- his
ancestors were all Scotch and Canadian, the next best blood to the Southern.
It is true your father was born in a Northern state, but because a man
is born in a stable does not make him a horse. But, I will
not write any more about the truth. You must read, and inform yourselves
all about it, always reading the books that do justice to the South.
During the war my father and brother were in Arkansas. My sister and
myself were in North Carolina with Grandma. For the last two years of the
war, we did not hear from my father and brother at all. After the Yankees
took Vicksburg, Miss., there was no communication. The war closed in April.
In August, my father reached North Carolina, after a round-about trip through
New York, etc.
The latter part of August he placed me in school at Salem Female Academy,
North Carolina, where my mother was educated. I stayed there four years.
Then my father took me to Patapsco Female Institute, near Baltimore, Maryland.
He intended that I should stay there two years, but at the end of the year
his health was so bad, I begged to go and stay with him. I traveled with
him for a year.
We then went to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where my father's two
brothers lived. (Uncle John and Edmund Pemberton; we had other relatives
there, too, my father's uncles John and Henry Lilly.)
After a few weeks after our arrival there, my father died, December
10, 1871, and was buried there.
I continued to live there with my uncle until my marriage June 28, 1877.
We kept house there two years. My first two babies were born there. Your
grand-daddy was never fond of his profession (medicine), though he came
from a family of doctors. His grandfather, his great-uncle, his father,
and his uncle all were doctors of note. His father educated him for it
because he was the youngest son, and he was anxious one of his boys should
be a doctor, and keep up the family tradition.
The fall after our marriage in June, my husband came to Arkansas to
attend to the property out here, and decided he would come out here to
live and would become a farmer instead of a physician. So he came out,
in October 1880, had a house built and came back to North Carolina for
me and our baby girl, Laura Craig, nearly a year old.
We arrived at the plantation January 1st, 1881. My little
girl died the following September. In 1882 your mother came. She was born
in a boarding house in Little Rock that stood where the Young Men's Christian
Association Building now stands.
We lived on the plantation for twenty years, then moved to our present
home at 823 Scott St. When we bought this place we thought it would be
such a nice home for us during our life, and after we were gone for your
mother and you little folks, but it is not such desirable residence property
But it is more valuable than when we bought it. The business part of
the town is coming up too close to us. Your mother had a happy young-lady
life here, was married here, and lived here about three years after her
marriage. Robinson and Margaret were born here: when Margaret was a baby
your father built the house at 2520 Broadway. Laura and Alice Louise were
The plantation life was a rather hard life for me, who have been used
to the conveniences of town. There were quantities of negroes, but no good
servants. In fact, it was hard to get any kind, as they all preferred working
in the field to being confined to house work. Then it was lonely. The few
neighbors lived so far apart, and the roads were impassable at times. But,
after I got acquainted in town and found congenial friends it was much
better. My husband always liked it, and would not have come to Little Rock
to live in 1900 had I not insisted.
For two years I kept a governess for your mother, but I wanted her to
go to school and associate with children her own age. I think, though,
my husband was always glad we came to Little Rock when we did. We never
spent the summers on the plantation. We usually left about the first of
July, and returned the first of October. We spent the summers at different
summer resorts. When I look back on my life I thank the good Lord for all
my great blessings, especially for my good husband and daughter. I suppose
few women have had happier lives.
Our family has been buried in different places. My great grand father
and mother Edmund Lilly, Jr. and Mary Marshall Lilly, were buried in Montgomery
County, North Carolina, in the private burying ground at their old home,
where they lived many years, and where they died.
My grandfather and grandmother Thomas Pemberton and Frances Lilly Pemberton
were buried at the same place. My sister Mary Lilly, aged five years, who
died at Grandma's is also buried there. I am not certain where my other
brothers and sister are buried, but I think at the same place, as my father
and mother lived near there at the time of their death. They all died when
My mother died while on a visit to her mother in Marengo County, Alabama,
and was buried in the cemetery about a mile from her mother's home. I suppose
her mother and a great many of her family were buried at that cemetery,
as she lived there a great many years and died there.
My father died while on a visit to his brothers in Fayetteville, North
Carolina, and was buried there in the old "Cross Creek" cemetery in Uncle
Henry Pemberton's lot.
My little brother Johnnie, aged two and one half years, who died of
smallpox on the plantation in 1857, was buried on the place in the family
cemetery. His was the first grave in it.
My little girl, Laura Craig, aged 19 months, was buried there in September
1881, and my two little babies that were born dead.
The other graves in the cemetery are Uncle Calvin's two wives, and his
Near Fayetteville, North Carolina, at Monticello, the old homestead
of your great, great grandfather Robinson, is the old private cemetery
of the Robinsons. Your great, great grandfather and mother, your great
grandfather and mother and most of the Robinsons are buried there. My first
baby was born dead, and was buried there.
Your grandfather bought lots in Mount Holly Cemetery (Little Rock, Arkansas),
three or four years ago, for him and me, with enough room for you all when
your time comes. I often think I would like to have brother Johnnie and
my babies taken up and placed there, so I would be near them. I suppose
it is best to let them stay where they are. They have rested there so long.
I hope when the Good Lord sees fit to take you, you may rest there with
us -- your grandfather and me.