Leaving my Old Tennesee Home

Ann H. Hill Russell

The following was written out long hand in pen on nice stationery by my great grandmother when she was about 88 years old.  She wrote to her daughter Pearl, youngest of her 11 children who was born when Ann was 42.  Pearl was 46 when this was written. I could edit it as she would have if she'd had the time, but she was busy to the end of her 94 years. I've left it as much like she wrote it as I can read it.  Elsewhere I hope to find more complete recollections of the crossing of the plains.

  Leaving my Old Tennesee Home

<> by Ann Haseltine (Hill) Russell

117 N. Main St.
Ashland Oregon                            Oct 26, 1926
<>My Dear Pearl,
     Your request to "tell about how I felt on leaving my old Tennessee Home," reveals to me that I never have told it. Like my youngest daughter am not much given to broadcasting my own feelings, but I still remember.
     I will enclose a picture of the hnouse where I was born. You imagine my grandfather's big armed chair in corner of the porch where he rested and read his bible & papers in the corner post was a small shelf which always held a bucket of water. On the post hung a silver mounted coconut dipper.  This little bucket was given over to my charge by my grandfather to keep filled, or a call from him I would hear "Hasseltine, can I have a drink right out of the bottom of the spring?" Away would the flaxencurles go in sun & wind down to a steep rocky cliff. (after whirling rocks to scare away the snakes from the stone wall around the spring. that snakes insisted on sunning themselvesthere) I almost feel yet that chill crall down my spine as I neared the grandest spring that I have seen. But them snakes took away all charms to me. but not a word ever was told of my fear & reaching the broad plank that crossed the spring, I tried to dip deep to obey grandfather's "from the bottom of the spring" order and climb up the cliff with my bucket & put on the corner shelf & fill the coconut dipper for grandfather's "God bless you child," served a sure thank you.
     One day I saw a snake in the water comming my way - I jumped backward into the spring - I felt ashamed to explain why I was dripping wet & sneaked off to change my clothes.
     This "John Fine" spring is remarkable, it gushed out of solid rock 4 feet across. It looked like an auger hold down down a river of pure cold water flowed out.  It was in front of the house across the "Big Road." (we say High way now) the main throughafare throu the state at that time. On the spring "branch" or creek grew little slim trees where we played "horses" of the saplings - the wild ones.  Took two of us to hold or bend down until one was perched side-ways on the horse, a limb in hand as a bridle & carefully let loose in care of the rider - (Mary usually was bravest rider and some way managed always to get first & best.)
     From this front porch we could look down a slopeing rocky hill into the beautiful Sweetwater (creek or called a river in Cal.) We could see swans & long legged cranes in the water, our own geese & ducks swimming there.  The smooth limestone rocks on the hill side was our picture galery of people, birds, cows, pigs or flowers as struck our fancy - we used a peice of broken rock for a pencil - a ford (not Henry) & a foot log served for crossing over the creek.  A dense forest of hickory, mulberry, walnut, pawpaw elms &ct was across the creek - the school house path went 1/4 mile throu this forest.  It was near the creek, builtof logs - 2 logs left out on one side for a long window to give light to the only desk in the building. 2 front windows, a stone fire-place 6 ft wide - a black-board on either side of it. A map of the U.S. & one of the world over the fire-place and seats without backs - was the furniture. You may wonder that we all considered it a great priveledge to attend school?  but we did. I would take my little slip of paper showingI stood at the head of my class home with my chin in the air - to show mother, as proud as Russell does his deportment card.  All the school sang geogryby, teacher pointing to thhe ststs & capitols & surround each state, giving  source & direction of rivers flow & where they empty.
     But the Sweetwater Creek was not on that map. still is indelably printed in my memory - it seemed sometimes to take on frightful priveledgs after "thunder showers" & play Boss a while. one of these occasions, 3 of us silly 7 year old girls.  Betty Hiskell, Betty Ramesy & I ventured on a big log that crossed over the creek.  the water was gushing under it - to get a drink (is silly the proper word to use?) I was in the middle in being very polite.  the dipper of (muddy) water was passed from one Betty to the other Betty in some way over I toppled into the waves below the log - Betty Hiskell threw the dipper & caught my dress as fell. the other Betty added to screams & flew to school-house for help while I bobed up and down in that rageng rapid mudy stream. Betty H. holding on to dress squated on the log until Aunt Martha Fine reahed me. (you imagine how I just loved  my teacher that had shiney shoes too good to get muddy. he stood on dry ground & did his duty scolding us?) well that same Betty Hiskell & I were life long friends, one of her requests of her last illness a few years ago was to "tell Hassie to write to me." her memory is sacred.  When I said "good by" (in my mind) to the schoolmate of that old log school house was a funeral feeling and lasted  all the way across the Plains and mingled with other heart aches when reaching our Oregon home in Rouge River Valley.  A "good by" thought to the crossing of the foot log over Sweetwater, a glimps at the pictures on the lime-stone rocks & then over the spring branch to our "tree horses" was already grabing at my throat, but a soldier courage was needed to smile and bid grandparents & aunts the last hand shake & looking back at them all watching us go. a feeling of depression or submission to fate. expresses how I then and I believe has lasted for years and only after battling with what seemed had to be for years. I opened my eyes to see I must not depend on being managed as a machine. But dare to do what I could see was honest to my self. to use my own ideas some times (which does agree with southern training) But looking backward I am glad I never complained and would not exchange the feeling of helping to make Oregon grow to a beautiful state for what I surrendered as "lost privedges." you can better imagine than I can tell the giveing  to friends what we had to leave out of boxes of sacred belongings on our last days packing u0p for wagon loads. to come across the Plains - even our pet cat was about our last give away to my cousin Nancy Hill. we sit in the moon light talking about far away Oregon.  Nancy had a very religious streak in her nature she said (looking at the moon) "God sees us every where we are & and the same moon will shine on you there. we can remember each other when we look at it!"  a big freight wagon was loaded standing in the yard ready to take our Oregon-bound things next morning toLondon on the Tenn. river. I had never seen a steam boat so mistery loomed up - we went to the largest hotel I had ever seen to wait for a steam boat to come - the walking on a "gang plank" over the water to get aboard - the racket of orders to darkies loading on freight & being at last enstalled in a (2x3 state room(as it seemed so box like to me) But down the river went - but the "Muscle Sholes" stoped our floating - to take the first R.R. I had seen. I have no idea of the distance on Steam Cars. neither how far we rode on tressel -like R.R. cars drawn by mules one ahead of another tandem. to board a steam boat & travel to Cairo on Miss. River.  there ice floated thick in the river. almost stoping navigation & forcing us southerners......

The rest is lost, I hope to find it some day.

Last updated by William P. Russell onSaturday, 08-Sep-2018 09:40:26 MDT