Laura Frances Pemberton Robinson

Laura Frances Pemberton Robinson

Submitted by her GGgranddaughter Anne Orsi Smith
823 Scott Street

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 Mary Marshall.

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 James.

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 them.

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 live.

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 and wives.

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 1838.

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 correctly.

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 served.

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 linens, etc.

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 trained servants.

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 old.

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 him.

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 and batchelors.

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 be read.

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 taught me.

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 to them.

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 marriage.

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 merchant.

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 out.

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 negroes.

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 North Carolina.

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 floor.

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 days.

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 now.

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 born there.

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 little babies.

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 children.

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.

Last Updated: January 30, 1999
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