Introduction: This Autobiography was written by Juliette Olivia (Dabney) Meriwether Price (1837-1906) late in her life. The original handwritten version has been lost. Juliette's daughter, Nettie Meriwether, typed a copy of the original. Nettie's great-niece, Iris E. (Robertson) Ryan, gave a copy to her niece, Dixie (Brock) Rigg, who is a Meriwether Society member and was happy to share it. This copy was made by Sharon Pike from the typed copy, only omitting several long poems.
Juliette was mistaken about her late father-in-law's relationship to William P. "Uncle Billy" Meriwether [TMSI #25944]. Rather than being the brother of Albert G. Meriwether [TMSI #6843], they were first cousins.
My childhood was one of unalloyed delight. My father was a large tender-hearted, cheerful man. My mother was soft voiced and refined in acts and words. There were three sisters, all loving and kind; and eight as good-looking, noble brothers as ever blessed one family – thrice as many servants, all pleasant and obedient and seemingly as glad and happy as their owners.
A white cottage with many rooms, and almost as many porches, nestled invitingly beneath a forest of oaks, maples, patalphas, and sycamores; pines, flowers, shrubs, abundant green and fragrant, gave our home a most picturesque appearance. There was a lawn in front of the yard through which the carriage drive curved to a high arch all of which opened to the country road. Nearby was a broad deep pond full of fish, which my father tended with care, and was often the resort for gay larks and merry maidens from all the villages around. There were platforms and canoes for the angler, shade trees and rocky nooks for lovers, rustic seats for the more sociable spectators, and often there was a fire and a fish fry.
Back of the house stood the store and outhouses, behind those the garden. Divided along its front fence were four walks, between which were as many strawberry beds, each of which was fringed on all sides with old-fashioned flowers. The four parallel walks led to four summer houses which were named Love, Hope, Faith, and Duty. The names of each summer house was painted above the entrance. I chose Duty for my own. A hedge of raspberries divided this part of the garden from the vegetable garden. On one side was a cluster of plum trees near the fence; on the other, pear, damson and quince. Back of the garden was the apple orchard beneath which shade was scattered groups of white log houses – quarters for the colored gentry. Each had his own chickens, plot of flowers, vegetable garden and melon patch. In the midst of the garden was a babbling spring over which was a roof covered with green, wild vines. Oh! What a joy was this spring for us young, carefree children.
Black Mammy had the care of us children. Often times, too, she robed every one of us in a Joseph’s coat woven into stripes, checks, and splotches of apple tree limbs – black, red and blue coloring.
On each side of the lawn going to the pond was the cherry, peach, and small-stone orchards. As you came out of the yard gate at one corner of the lawn stood the carriage house, back of which was the henhouse, turkey house and duckhouse. Geese, peacocks, and guineas roamed at leisure. Many a moonlight night we chased the fowls which called the shrill “Cario” of the peacocks and the “Potrack” of the guineas. It was great fun to break up the goose meeting by setting to flight the gander which jabbered jibberously to his audience, squatting around in a circle – away the whole flock would waddle to the pond. There, out of reach, they flapped their wings with a grand shout of triumph.
Many a time we had the sheep scampering for dear life, but as soon as old “Ellen” heard the plaintive “Bah! Bah!” of the wee lambs her slumber was disturbed, her dreams vanishes, ire gleamed from her firey eyes, and woe to the luckless chap who stumbled or could not get over the fence in time, out of the reach of long curly horns. Many times she hurled us unmercifully against the wood pile or butted us head over heels over it.
On one side stood the wheat field, on the edge of which was a woodland of young blackjacks and oaks. In the midst of this setting, stood the school house with its square fireplace, its square windows, and its rural playgrounds. Beside the school house rippled a noisy rivulet, seemingly as full of frolic as the urchins who sported knee deep in its laughing eddies.
On the other side were outhouses for farming implements and the big grindstone for the sharpening of blades. Nearby was the moss covered well with its iron-bound bucket swinging from the pulley. Beyond was the stable, the pasture, and tobacco field. The corn, oats and other fields spread around the orchard.
In the wheat field near the back of the garden was a little pond. A big knarled walnut tree shaded the bank on one side. Beneath its friendly foliage we children, white and black, held our camp meetings. Often our songs and shouts frightened the squirrels and birds and sent the rabbits scampering through the wheat. In the placid waves of the little pond we immersed our converts over and over many a time, because the lack of new converts or because they had fallen from grace, I do not remember. Strange to say everyone who put on Christ since those juvenile revivals has been buried with Him in baptism except one. She, Lou Ann, remained such a heathen that I often wonder if she was not baptized many times too often.
On Sunday our mother attended church in Hopkinsville two miles away. My three sisters and little brothers were seated with her in the carriage behind two beautiful prancing iron grays, while Driver John cracked his long, swinging whip on top outside. He was as black as a crow, as gay as a peacock. Oh, those bright Lord Day mornings were and are yet sonny spots on memory’s tablets.
Our father attended the country church at Liberty five miles down the road from our home. I remember, yet, the long shady dusty drive, and what a joy it was to my young heart to be nestled by his side in the buggy behind a black filly. Liberty is the first house of worship I remember. Brother Charles M. Day was the first preacher. His loud echoing voice has never been forgotten though I have been deaf for forty years. My oldest brother went on horseback.
Sunday was a holy day with us. The servants attended church, visited whom they pleased, and my father required that the head of each family pronounce “grace” before breakfast. At night during the summer every soul on the place retired to the side porch where a portion of the Scriptures were read either by Father or one of my brothers. All joined in the songs, and all knelt in prayer. I can see my father now as he dismissed the assemblage – his hands spread out, his head bowed, and on his lips a shout “God bless you.” Nearly every voice joined in the “Amen.”
Christmas was another grand time in those good old days and was enjoyed by all. All received presents, all had eggnog, cakes, and the like. One night during Christmas was given to jollification. The bones, jewsharp, drum, and fiddle set all dancing, singing, bowling, bending, and grinning, winding up with a big candy pull.
Sunday nights during the winter, the dining room was the accustomed place of worship. This room was in the basement. How bright and eager were the little “nigs” to get down the steps, all heads were uncovered, and there was decency and order. When the service ended, there was an echo of “Goodnight, Master; Goodnight, Mistress”; after which Master and Mistress replied, “Goodnight, God bless us all.”
When my godly father finished his meals, he placed his knife and fork on his plate gently, pushed the plate from him saying, “Thank God” and arose from the table.
From this lovely home in the woods, we moved to Hopkinsville. My sister and I were put under the tuition of Mr. Tandy S. Trice. Here my school days began in earnest. Mr. Trice was supplanted by John M. Barns, a Christian preacher; a purer, hollier man, I do not remember. I seems God thought so too. I can remember how his face shoe, his bright eyes glistened under his gold rimmed spectacles, and a halo seemed to encircle his head as he said, “Bretheren, I cannot see.” Death smote him while in the pulpit Lord’s Day morning, February 4, 1852. His funeral was preached by Reverend George P. Street. “Time Is Sinning Us Away” closed the rite. His body was borne to the old cemetery and laid away to wait the resurrection while his broken-hearted family and sorrowing pupils stood by.
Mr. John M. Barns was the founder of South Kentucky Institute at Hopkinsville and from which I was one of the first to graduate, July 15, 1854. The classes were conducted in the basement of the new Christian Church. Reverend Emos Campbell replaced Mr. Barns, who was another man of God. I loved him next to my father. He was very small but well proportioned. He had a high forehead over which curled one ringlet; his eyes were deep blue, and his skin was fair. He was always cheerful with his pupils. I being deaf, he made a pet of me; and I shall ever remember his gentleness and patience while teaching me.
The first sorrow my young life knew was the death of my father, August 11, 1855. Oh! The agony of that and, sorrowful day. The sun seemed to sink forever; gloom shrouded our home. The grim monster, death, took only twenty-four hours to change the bright and happy roof tree into a bleak dismal haunt. I had been my father’s favorite, and he was my joy. When I saw him cold beneath the casket lid, I begged to die. I was then ill with cholera. I refused to take my medicine. Loved ones bending over my bed, with tearful eyes, pleaded without avail until Mother whispered softly, “My child, live for me.”; then I saw my pure, gentle delicate mother as never before, and a stream of tenderness swelled in my heart for her which I had not known.
When I was ten years old, in that beautiful home we left in the woods, typhoid and scarlet fever, for nine long months, racked by poor little body. My father, being a strong man nursed me with great care; and when I was given up for dead and lay shrouded for the grave, it seemed that his tears and kisses brought me back to life. I was left deaf and dumb. Dr. Gish attributed the return of my speech to the perseverance of my mother who toiled day after day, many time weeping and always praying as she tried to teach to talk. After being weary for a long time with what I thought was teasing, I flew into a rage one day and my tongue unlocked. Mother shouted. Father came in and gathered me in his arms and said, “Thank God.” Ever after that I was his idol. My hearing was never restored, and that is why I became spoiled and petted child. Mother was always too delicate to humor my whims as Father did; so, until he died, I loved him the better. His last words were, “Glory, hallelujah! Oh lord, receive me”. Brother folded his arms and said, “Lord Jesus come quickly.”
When he was gone, the fountain of all that was tender and true, loving and pure opened anew and enshrined my mother in my heart. Of all the dear ones God had ever given me, she was the best and truest. She had been very sad, but for the sake of her children she grew cheerful and glad. But in five short years after Father’s death, August 9, 1860, we laid her to rest beside him whom she loved so dearly our home was broken; its life and light had fled; never more would she brighten the scenes of those she loved and left behind.
Memory, sweet memory, has entwined a golden thread through the mist of the years which death alone can unravel – brighter and fairer it shines as near the goal I wend.
In looking backward over my school and maidenhood days, I see many things gilded with a brightness which time alone can dim. God had given me an ample store of cheerfulness; a keen love for the romantic, the weird, and the beautiful. Often when I got into some of my wild, frolicsome ways, Mother would say, “Juliette, there are two sides to every picture.” I would retort, “I don’t see any except the sunny side.” It was delight to make her laugh and thus I was buoyed to sport and romp as I pleased.
My four oldest brothers were married when I was quite a child. All of them were honored and beloved by all who knew them. One was a farmer but afterwards became a minister of the gospel; one a lawyer of much distinction; one a banker, and the other a farmer. One of my youngest brothers was a fine musician and linguist. He died at the age of twenty. Another was a dentist of fine reputation, who died at the age of twenty-four. The other two became preachers. I had one nephew who also was a preacher. We were all reared in the Christian faith, all members of one church – Christian.
There was a preacher’s room in our home in the country, which was often occupied by Jesse, and John Furguson, and many more whom I cannot recall. We were all immersionists. My aunt, who was a Methodist, was immersed three days before the death of my maternal grandmother. She had promised Grandmother this would occur before she died. When the promise was fulfilled, Grandmother sat up in bed, gathered my aunt into her arms and prayed to depart in peace. Then she folded her hands on the Bible and sang, “There is No Abiding City Here,” and fell asleep in Jesus at the age of seventy-five years.
Retrospection brings to memory the sunshine of many happy scenes, many dear friends, and much pleasure. I have been asked often to say something about the time
If I do, I must admit that my nature was a coquettish one. Being a great reader of novels, I lived and acted much that I read; and I was sometimes too much entangled in my own affairs to suit my don’t care spirit. Strange to say, no matter how ruthlessly I toyed with men’s hearts, I retained their friendship. Mother said she never saw such a girl. I suppose it must have been because of my lively disposition.
I shall now dip my pen into some of my love scrapes, for the sake of variety.
My guardian had two sons, and his wife a brother. All three were suitors for my hand. I could not decide how to get rid of them. Both were encouraged by their father, while the brother was urged by his sister. I could not marry the trio.
The younger of the sons was in the habit of taking me out to his father’s home. One summer night the elder one and I went out and sat under a large shade tree. The moon was in all its glory, and all nature seemed to inspire youthful hearts to lisp sweet nothingnessess into willing ears. Our nook, being near the carriage house, prompted the younger son to secret himself in the carriage. The next morning when my companion of the night before took me home, he told me of this espionage, away flew our love in my torrent of angry words and I was minus one plague. The other brother, having learned of our quarrel, was only too glad to renew his distresses with vigor. Finally, I accepted his proposal; and off went to buy his wedding trousers, and a lovely set of jewelry for his bonny bride. Valentine Day came and with it the testing of my love. It was a tangled affair. I listened to no apology; and there in the presence of my mother, I took the ring off my finger and set him free. Off to California he did go, and he may be there now for all I know. His sister berated me but my mother was happy because I had sent him away. The other brother came back, and much to my shame, it was to him I was engaged when I married ... (words cut off page).
There was another little episode in my love affairs which was amusing. The lad was one of the those “exquisits” just loosed from college, with a head full of learning. He wore his hair combed back smooth to the nape of his neck—the suggestion of a cue. I asked if he wore a cue while at college in Virginia and told him that his head looked like it was covered with porcupine feathers. This hurt his pride and he bowed himself out, remarking as he left, “You shall not see me again soon.” But the very next evening I found his shadow in the parlor when I went hunting for my tablet which usually lay on the center table, but which I had hidden purposely. He said that he had a great secret to tell me. I said, “Tell it!” I can hear thunder.” He begged me to let him sit on the sofa beside me. I consented and here he pleaded with all the grace of an artist and lover. Leaning with one arm on his knee, he looked into my face with beaming eyes which were filled with tenderness, and love, he shrieked out, “Miss Juliette, how I do love you!” Mother and sister Betty heard him and laughed. He heard them laughing, and he sprang up like a bee had stung him. I, knowing what had happened, jumped up and asked, “Oh! What is the matter?” He was so excited that he could not find the hat rack. Mother came to the door and said she would get his hat. Gracefully he tipped it, and was gone for that evening. I saw him many times after that and had fun by the tons at his expense. Nothing I ever did or said could kill his love. Again, I accepted his company for an evening. I was at the gate and could see him coming robed in virgin white – his face was as fair as his garments. I darted, ran into Mother’s room, slammed the door and said, “A ghost flew up the stairs.” There was a timid knock. Mother went to the door, startled by the white apparition, she drew back. The poor fellow entered unannounced. The lamps were soon lit and I came in as sedate and free from mischief as though I did not know what mischief was.
I had another, another, and yet another wild freakish love affair, but I shall finale one the following one.
In those days I had twenty-four correspondents, many of them gentlemen. The gentlemen of whom I now speak lived in Elkton, Kentucky, and was one of those “pretty”, vain men we sometimes meet. His profession of love was as “pretty as his pretty face”, and his letters were paragons of epistletory perfection. There were many quicksands and wrecks along the route we had taken, and I was preparing to marry Robert Miller Meriwether. Through my brother-in-law, this pretty man learned of my engagement. One day I received a letter addressed “To the Lady I am Courting”, and which I answered in all seriousness. The lady he really was courting, received the letter he had written to me and returned it to him. Soon after that, he wrote to a gentleman friend in regard to purchasing a mill in partnership. This letter was addressed to me, and I answered it promising to go with him to see the premises, but I feared that I was a poor judge of such business.
I married Robert in May, and he, “the pretty man” was married in June of the same year. We did not meet again for twelve years. I was then a widow; he pretended to be a widower. Being crafty, I caught him with the guilt. He confessed his deception and said that he was only paying me back for the manner in which I had treated his letters.
I shall now speak of a few of my old-time friends. I have always had my Johnathans. The first was a wee bit dark skinned, black-eyed girl, resembling an Indian more than a full-blooded Anglo Saxon. We loved each other so well that we had a sham marriage at the age of twelve. During long years of separation and distance, our letters were addressed as husband and wife. I was the first to really marry. Soon afterwards I received a letter accusing me of fickleness, and Mr. Meriwether, my husband, of stealing his wife. This letter contained a threat to sue him for $50,000, and stated she had been true to the marital vows. Bob promised to compromise while I pleaded forgiveness. A reconciliation was finally brought about by our visit to Memphis where she resided.
My next chum was the blue-eyed, fair-complexioned, light-haired beauty, Millie Bernard, who was a love of a girl. She was ever ready to join in all my sports, but once we disputed about our ages so, to the parson we did go to settle the matter. She based her argument on the fact that I being the larger was, of course, the older; however, she was unable to substantiate this fact because the parson decided in my favor.
At the time I was engaged myself to my cousin Bob, I told him that I was already promised to two, and I was sick of the old song. He said, “Well, as I have sung the song, you sing the chorus and take me.” I asked, “What chorus?” He said, “Yes”, and I said “Yes”. But afterwards caught me coquetting with a very handsome gentleman soon afterwards. He gave me a card on which was written, “Cousin Bob is in earnest with you.” From that hour on, he owned my heart, and a feeling possessed me which I had never felt before. I was his alone, forever.
I was only fourteen and Robert Meriwether seventeen the first time we met. Our seven years of correspondence was full of love, mischief, and fun – sometimes rather spicy and irritable—especially when he wrote me, “You won’t send me a picture of your face, so send me one of your foot.” There were no photographers in those days, so when he received my dogeauretype the glass had been broken in the mail and he wrote me, “Cousin, you must have been to an Irish wedding when you had that picture taken.” I flew into a rage and vowed I would never write him another line. How I kept my promise was portrayed by our marriage when I found that he had our whole seven year epistletory matter, and I had his—both packages tied with a love knot of blue ribbon.
On March 15, 1858, I was enroute to visit my brother Smith at Hickman, Kentucky, twenty miles from Bob’s mother’s home. As soon as he heard of my arrival he came. I met him in the hall at the hotel but I did not recognize him. He threw his arms around me and kissed me. I broke loose and screamed. Sister Pamelia having followed me into the hall saw the drama touched me on the arm and said, “Why, it’s cousin Bob.”
The next day I went with Robert to his mother’s home, Mrs. Catherine Meriweather, on the boat, John H. Dickey. She was my first cousin. Oh! Such an exquisite escort few girls ever had. The boat landed at Columbus, Kentucky. There we took the train and were put off at a little station near the home. It was dark and rainy, and there was no one to meet us. We had to walk, so I put on quite a score or airs and professed a great deal of ignorance about country life, rail fences, stumpy roads, and hogs with their litter of pigs sleeping in a nest of leaves and straw around the barnyard. I took a cow to be the gate, caught her by one horn, thinking or pretending to think that it was the gate latch. The cow threw me against the fence, and I was willing then to follow in the wake of my escort without any more ado.
There was one large fallen tree near the old home which is sacred to my memory. On its snarled knotty side, we sat side by side one Sunday evening, his sparkling, bright, brown eyes pleaded with his lips an early consummation of our troth; his hat beefum was lifted from his forehead, and a mass of lovely nut-brown curls seemed to plead as eloquently as did his eyes and lips.
The next day as I sat on the floor before a sparkling log fire with Bob’s sister Kate, popping corn, he came in and sat between us. He said, “I have told mother.” She was an invalid and confined to her bed with cancer. She sent for me to go to her room. Like all other young fools I blushed, giggled, and wanted to run away; but Bob took me by the arm, escorted me to her bedroom door, opened it, gently pushed me inside, and closed the door. I was a lone with cousin Catherine. She held out her arms; I fell into them. She kissed me time and time again and said, “Marry Robert and come and stay with me.” I answered, “I shall on May 4.” She softly replied. “I shall not be here then, my dear.” When I bade her goodbye to return to my brother’s home, she took a ring from my finger asking that I put it on hers with the promise to come back to see her in May. Truly, she spoke, on October 31, 1858, she was laid to rest.
The fourth of May, 1859, seemed to me the fairest, the brightest day the world had ever seen – so gay and green the earth, so clear and blue the sky, so gloriously bright the sun. I felt as though the angels peered through the gallery of Heaven to witness the ceremony that bound two hearts into one, on this my wedding day while Reverend Campbell bade us love, and honor each other.
The Civil War fraught with carnage dire
Full with bold and angry fire
Four years of strife for the North, curel but victorious
For the South shortlived but glorious
I could relate many things of these trying times which would make hearts ache, and cheeks blush at man’s inhumanity to man. Those were days of bitterness amounting to annihilation on one side; on the other, sacredness of home and family ties, love for country and freedom’s rights.
When the call to arms was first sounded age and youth, male and female, of all color and race en masse were willing to rush to the scenes of conflict or render service wherever commanded. In less than three months property, wives and children were left to the care of the then loyal negros; and loyally did they discharge their trust for two years. After those two years, our beloved South was invaded, and the negro very soon learned the wiles of the degraded white men – terror and distress followed.
The Rebel army was made up of flowers of chivalry, while the Yankee was composed of the slum and sluch of the North. Anyone could see the vast difference in the material of which the two were made.
At that time, I lived opposite Island No. 10. My bridal home was Eden on the Tennessee side. The island was fortified by forts and a redoubt. I witnessed the bombardment. Pope’s army laid waste and desecrated all that was sacred to our hearts. Our houses were plundered, even the beds, drawers, closets, etc. were ransacked; food was carried off, poultry and cattle shot and left, fences demolished, crops and gardens laid to waste. Our churches were turned into resorts for profane song, dance, and hilarity of incredible indecency. Our graveyards were despoiled of flowers, fences and monuments. The one at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was totally wrecked; several corpses were exhumed; the coffins split open across the breast with an ax. The family of my uncle living a few yards away was made to face the unfeeling act, and then left with the command, “Rebury your damn Rebels.”
I was arrested several times and taken to the headquarters where I was kept from five to seven hours through the investigation of negros. One said, “Captain Meriwether came home at night.” A cannon was kept pointed at my home for three months, ready to blow us to atoms should the spies find him there. Letters which I was writing were stolen by a negro whom I had raised. He had been my bodyguard for more than a year. He exposed the cause of his change to the commanding officer who had me under arrest. He made known that he was paid for doing all he could to undermine my peace; that the soldiers at and slept with him; and that they threatened to kill him if he did not go to my home and make me give them all the provisions on the premises.
My piano was taken away. I was ordered to prepare dinner for Sergeant Murdock and his squad, who were detailed to remove the piano while they devoured the dinner. They cut my harp’s strings, and broke the locks of five trunks left there by Rebel soldiers. Our women and children were talked to like they were brutes, and there were many outrages of cowardly malice committed against them. A family of six, and old man eighty years of age, his son, forty, three little boys, and a lovely fourteen-year-old daughter were murdered ten miles from my home. The men were made to kneel and were shot; the boys were thrown alive into the midst of the river; the fourteen-year-old daughter was ravished eight times after which she was thrown into the river. At this point, the river bank was fifty feet high. The water was very low, and Laura, the girl, attempted to rescue her four-year-old brother after which they were shot and left to sink or float down the stream. The mother of the children was visiting in Kentucky when this horrible crime was committed. She was bereft of her mind, and thus lived a raving maniac for ten or fifteen years upon learning of the fate of her loved ones. A monument erected to the memory of this family can be seen today at Compromise, or Beckham’s Landing, Tennessee on the Mississippi River.
Sister Louise Dabney, and my cousin, Sara Meriwether, had two narrow escapes from being kidnapped by Yankee soldiers. They were invited to attend a party given on a gunboat. On account of rain they did not attempt to go. The next morning they spoke to the commanding officer, who informed them that there was no boat on the landing nearer than Columbus, Kentucky, which was fully fifty miles up the river. Again, under the pretense that my brother-in-law’s, Winston Meriwether’s, family was ill, they were sent horseback, through the rain, accompanied by a colored boy to brother Winston’s home which was just one quarter of a mile away. Upon arrival, the family was surprised to see them, and asked what on earth was the trouble. The girls were equally surprised to learn that no one was ill and that they had not sent for them. Fearful of the ruse, they remained all night. Brother Winston went out to reconnoiter. He found two men walking, one on each side of the road with dark lanterns, and answered the description given by the girls of the men who had taken the message to their home. The next morning the men decamped. Three months later, we heard through other soldiers the intention of the men and even the names of the two girls. The soldiers giving this information had never been this far south before.
After the capture of Island No. 10, a meeting was held by the victors. Every negro in the county attended. The Chaplain visited our home, exhorting, and pleading with us to renounce the sin of rebolism. He cursed our fathers, and our grandfathers who he said were the cause of the war; that they were traitors, taskmasters, devils in human form; that he would like to turn them over to hell fire. But the negros were “pearls, rubies, and precious diamonds.” Yes, they are the fragrant roses of Africa, black diamonds – “Stud your crown as full as you please,” said we.
The negros had become such a nuisance we were more than glad for them to leave. The creatures we had loved and cared for as we did our own children were now our rulers. When the emancipation proclamation was issued nearly the whole South rejoiced; nevertheless, some who had not suffered through them were as blue as indigo. I was called a Campbellite and a Rebel by the scoffers.
April, 1865 silenced the martial music. The hateful foe went home, and freedom followed on the tracks of the blue coats. Those who were left of our valiant army soon found their own roof trees. Oh! The sorrow, the tears of the many aching hearts that gathered around as many vacant firesides. God has bottled their tears, and the Great Book records the names of thousands dear to his heart. I thank God every day of my life since I have learned what religion and politics meant that I am what scoffers call a Campbellite and a Rebel.
Dear and hallowed is the earth that hides the moulding clay of our departed ones. The flowers that blossom on its crest are so many jewels decking their clayey nuptials for the Celestial One on high, for ‘tis a marriage of dust to dust. We give our loved ones up with tears and reluctance. We mourn, we sorrow o’er their spirits departed, buy why? When earth and its trials past, they enter the joyous home of their abode. O, mortals; selfish as we are, it rends our hearts tender cord to see our treasures laid beneath the silent sods to worm away, O, lonely graves beneath the Southern sky, send back the jewels that make thy soil more dear; give back our kindred, give back they beauty to our hearts and firesides, yield to us our manhood.
Beautiful land let they sweet flowers ever bloom o’er those mounds; let thy copious dews ever refresh the verdum that shoots from thy sandy earth, and let the winged choristers n’er forget to waft sweet songs in vespers of the night – they loved the flowers and the wild bird’s song.
Stop, wayside wanderer, read the epitaphs, think of the budding youth cut down like the fairest of flowers by the blast of autumn. Those who sleep within these tombs were young and fair, loved life and all its beauties, strived to be heirs where more glorious beauties reign; but who life reached not the zenith of their hopes, now sing sweet anthems to the Lamb of God in the golden palace beyond the sky were they are crowned angelic. Oh! Glorious land of the South, let they well clad bosom ever shield from time and decay those graves which hold the jeweled manhood of our land.
Robert and I were the parents of four children. Albert Winston was born in December of 1860, Dixie Lee, September 7, 1861; Albert Prior, November 28, 1865. He died of whooping cough at the age of 2 months and 2 days. The disease was contracted on a train while we were en-route to Hopkinsville, Kentucky to visit my mother – “Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Netta was born in 1866.
Bob’s health had been greatly impaired during the War. Our physician advised us that travel would benefit him. Accompanied by our three small children, we began a tour of this country. Fortunately, we were financially able to pay for the best accommodations that steamships, trains and hotels afforded. Winston was of little trouble, but Dixie and Netta made so much noise that Robert could not get his needed rest.
Uncle William, Robert’s father’s brother, loved Dixie dearly, and persuaded us to leave her with him. Deciding that this would be best for Dixie as well as for her father, we accepted Uncle William’s offer. He was a very wealthy bachelor and lived on a large plantation near Okolona, Mississippi.
Dixie was given a personal
maid and coachman. She was a child of rare beauty
– dark brown eyes, chestnut curls, and a very fair complexion. I can
now, seated in the carriage behind a pair of black horses with a driver
black, dressed in a dainty frock, embroidered pantelettes, holding an
exquisitely ruffled parasol over her proud head. She loved ‘Pappy
she affectionately called him. Many an evening, after a supper of fresh
milk and cornbread, she nestled against his breast and fell asleep in
strong but gentle arms.
Netta had been born prematurely, weighed only three and one-half pounds at birth, was naturally delicate and became spoiled at a very early age. Silky golden ringlets crowned her lily-fair face and eyes of azure blue with Cupid’s halo. Traveling with this frail child, humoring her always, in order to provide quiet and rest for her father, was a trial. People often came to our suite and inquired, “Mrs. Meriwether, what can we do for the little darling? Surely, she is ill.” I apologized by saying, “She has never been strong and, of course, we have spoiled her. She learned in infancy if she cried long and loudly, eventually she will get what she wants.”
We should have remained at home. Even though our travels were extensive, Robert’s health grew steadily worse. Many were the times when he was too weak to walk, and we were met at a boat landing or a depot by his friends who made packsaddles and carried him to our hotel. As a token of their esteem and love, a group of these friends presented him with gifts – once an elegant pair of boots. In sickness and health, he was dear to the heart of all who knew him, both as an officer in the army and as a civilian. Knowing that his condition was becoming alarming, and they he was not benefitting from traveling, we returned to Mississippi where his early light and joy went out—out, to shine no more along my pathway of life, October 31, 1867.
[Poem on page 22-23]
Uncle Billy had become completely infatuated with my lovely brown-eyed, chestnut-haired, Dixie. She was the joy of his life, and to take her from him now seemed cruel. He was growing old and had promised to make her the sole heir to his large fortune if I would permit her to stay with him for the remainder of his life. “I cannot consider such a thing. Robert is gone and I must have all of my children. I’d rather my daughter know a Mother’s love than she enherit millions, “ was my answer. He replied, “If you take her, she shall not have a penny of mine.” To leave him sad and lonely after he had given her his tenderest care seemed ungrateful, but I could not separate her from her brother, sister and myself longer. Reluctantly, I took her.
On returning to Kentucky, the home of my childhood, my household treasures consisted of my three small gladsome, buxom children, and my beautiful sister, Louise V. Dabney. I was blessed with health and enough of this world’s store. My sisters, Annie M. Carr, and Bettie C. Lewis were within an hour’s reach of me by the railroad. We spent the summer months and Christmases with them. Indeed I was happy, once more living over the past in memory, and with the amusements of my family of children. I purchased a palatial home at Auburn, on the corner of what is now known as North Lincoln and Railroad streets. It was a spacious two-story frame house and was conceded to a beautiful home with the most elegant stairway in that section of the country.
The stately mansion reposed among sugar-maple and locust trees in the center of large lawn. Old fashioned flowers – hollyhocks, daffodils, blue bells, crocuses, snowdrops, and honeysuckle bloomed in profusion dotting the bluegrass grounds here and there. Indeed, it was a picture for an artist when the late snows of winter and early spring covered the ground, after the sun’s first warm rays had bust the buds of the gleaming paradise of beautiful flowers and autumn leaves. I feel that these are the last years of real sunshine and pleasures for me. Many long years have flown since I began to gather these fragments; yet they were the most eventful, if not the most memorial of my life, such as co-mingling of pleasure and sorrow, of sunshine and rain.
Endowed with dignity I had inherited much from the d’Aubignes of France; to the inhabitants of the village of Auburn, I was called the “Haughty Meriwether Widow”, such a title being contrarywise to my very nature.
Financial losses came fast. A large sum of money was lost through a deal with a Mr. Gordon, the town miller. Express money orders were broken open, and the money stolen. Yet, to spare an acquaintance disgrace, I did not prosecute him.
Though my latter days have been akin to Job, and I have been bereft by sorrow and great losses, even now after years of Bob’s absence from my presence, his memory is fraught with the tenderest and purest love I have known. Death has had no power to quench the love which fills my very being. To meet him in dreamland is an ecstasy which thrills my soul; and as I often said during his lifetime, “It’s heaven here below, if people did but know.”
Uncle Billy was true to his word. Shortly after our departure to Kentucky, he married a sixteen-year-old girl. To this union came an heir and Dixie did not inherit a dime of his large fortune.
Ere long, my sisters Annie and Louise, together with my beautiful son, Winston, migrated to Texas. Death claimed sister Betty shortly after my brown-eyed Dixie became the bride of Judge John Edward Herndon, June 27, 1878. My little lily-fair Netta went to Midway College to be educated.
My palatial residence burned to the ground at noon on a Sunday – the insurance had expired at midnight, Saturday, and which I intended to renew the following Monday morning. My children this is a theme of so much anguish and distress that I tremble to touch upon it.
Sister Louise had been my companion, solace, and comfort since childhood. Her absence from my home was keenly felt. The Lone Star State, too, had lured and held my only son.
[poem “To my boy A. W. Meriwether, dated June 13, 1877]
My son, Albert Winston, was as handsome a man as ever blessed a fond mother’s heart. His goodness knew no bounds. His sparkling blue eyes shone with a world of tenderness. He returned to us after nine long years leaving his infant daughter, Hulda, with his wife’s parents – she died at the birth of their child. Again, I had my trio once more in the home nest. Truly we were happy. Winston often remarked that he was as happy as he wanted to be on this earth. Dixie was his confidant – Netta, his darling – Mama, his queen.
Winston, my hope of old age, and the joy and pride of this two sisters, was injured by a train at Guthrie, Kentucky, on Tuesday at noon, March 9, 1887. Death ended his suffering at 1 a.m. the following day. His body was laid to rest in a cemetery at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, at ten o’clock on the morning of March 21, 1887. When I told him that he would soon be with his father, he replied, “Yes, Ma. We will be watching for you, Dixie and Netta.”
It seems we had never known such sorrow and grief. Words failed to express the gloom, the unspeakable anguish which wrung our hearts and from which my little golden-haired Netta never recovered. A sorrow palls our hearts and tears stain our cheeks when memory reverts to my precious boy’s untimely death.
Tribute of Respect
Albert Winston Meriwether
“Can storied urn, or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath,
Can honor’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or flattery soothe the dull cold car of death?”
I am going to do for my friend who is gone what he would have done for me.
He left his home in boyhood, and was buffeted by an unkind world for ten long years, and then came home to die. He went away without vices; he came back undefiled; he has just started down the rugged path of life; just grown to “man’s estate”, when the dreaded summons came. He had not reached the highest point that marks the turning place on life’s highway; but being weary, he lay down by the wayside, and making a pillow of his burden, he slept the sleep that knows no waking.” He was a breadwinner, a toiler of this earth. Mangled, and crushed, and bruised, amist the rush and roar, and stifling smoke he gently passed away. His last words were, “Lord have mercy on suffering humanity,” and with this statement on his lips he stood before “The Great I Am.”
The stains of toil are washed away, and the hands so hard from work, now softly sweep on chords of gold; and he rests at last, safe from the storms of the world.
In the presence of this poor handful of mouldering earth, all doubt and dogmas fail, and skepticism bows in reverence to the living God.
His religion was the kind that made Heaven of his home, and he worshipped at the shrine of two sisters’ and a mother’s love. With those in need, he shared his store, and added to the sum of human joy. He sided with the weak, and was the friend of the oppressed. He believed that Justice was a temple, humanity was religion, and love the priest.
He winged his flight above all superstition, while on his forehead fell the golden dawn of uncreasing day. His tears of pity for the afflicted have jammed for him a coronal, brighter than all the jewels of “Ormus, or of Ind.” Every hour of his life was rich in love, and studded with joy; but at its close, it was a tragedy as dark, as sad, as could be woven by the woof and warp of mystery and of death. Some subtle essence buoyed up his soul in every trial of life.
While yet in love with life, and enraptured with the world he passed to “cold obstruction’ and to sacred dust, yet, “Honor decks and turft that warps his clay, and tells of the toungueless silence of the dreamless sleep.”
I strive in vain to weave a chaplet for the dear, dear friend, but I know the soughing night-wind will sing a fitting dirge; and beneath the cypress, and amongst the trailing myrtle, a broken shaft will tell the pensive stranger where he lies.
In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rush of angel’s wings. He, who sleeps at Pleasant Hill, was left all pain. Our love for him is not for human speech; our farewell wish
Later we moved Winston’s body to my family lot in the Auburn Cemetery.
Two years slowly passed, after which my home was again shrouded in death and gloom by the passing of my innocent pleasure loving little Netta. Gazing upward she said, “I see him.” Her gentle spirit winged its flight into eternity at 4 p.m., December 17, 1889 for a home in the Paradise of God.
Death strikes again. Dixie, now my only living child, lost her beautiful 17 month old daughter, Meriwether three months after Netta’s death. Would fate bereave me of all?
I sold the ground on which my colonial home had stood. Dr. Darby, who purchased it erected a lovely five room cottage here. I have bought this home which is constructed of the best building materials. All the woodwork is of oak and handcarved. The walls are plastered and painted white. The hearths are white too. Dixie and her family have come to live with m, and this shall be my home until the end of my life.
Oh God, create in me a new clean heart, a heart that suffers in silence and lips that speak only gentleness and comfort.
My God, thou art all I have; like Job I sit in the ashes of my earthly possessions. I am almost wrecked on troubled sea. Oh bear my barque throu the tempest. I fill, I need more than I need necessary food. Be my companion and guide. There is none on earth.
After an illness of two weeks, Juliette Olivia Meriwether Price died of dropsy on August 6, 1902 at the home in Auburn, Kentucky and was buried in the cemetery there the following day. The curtain had again been lifted and she approached the throne of her Savior to be reunited in spirit with those whom she had loved so dearly.