Family History by Robert Monroe Fleming (Sr.)

Notes on Fanily History by Iva Causey Fleming
(Part 19)

Transcribed by Robert M. Fleming Jr.

Major Worthington was a man of parts, of enterprise and note. His first wife had been Miss Lillah Stevenson a first cousin of my Mother. But she died before he left Kentucky. And he had long been married to a second wife by whom he had a daughter who had on January 17, 1839, married by my Mother's brother Mr James Lincoln McKenzie. She was then living in Colorado County Texas with her husband and their first child. She is now living in Wharton County (carved out of Colorado and Matagorda Counties) surrounded by her numerous children and her much more numerous grandchildren, She is rich in wordly gear. But far richer in the effections and esteem of all her neighbors and of her host of friends. Major Worthington was the son of parents of some wealth. Who had given him a good early education and a fair estate. His experience had been varied and it's lessons well treasured. I knew him well then as a small boy knows a man of affairs in middle life. And I knew him much more thoroughly after I became a man. He kept open house as many did in that early time in Texas. He had a genius for anecdote, human and wit. He was wonderfully well read for one who had lived so long on the frontier. He was personally well acquainted with all the men of note in Texas. And with many through out the Southwestern part of the United States and in Mexico. He had a fine voice, a quick, warm, poetic painter's imagination and was brilliant talker. Our story and our haggard look inspired him. The tide of his talk rose and flowed in like a river. A genuine flow of the soul. I have remembered much of it through the intervening fifty five years. Especially his account of his meeting with Henry S. Foote and Mimncan Hunt. Who were then so widely known and continued to grow famous.

The distinguished historian, Governor and United States Senator and the accomplished diplomat and minister had traveled from Columbia to and through the Major's neighborhood in a buggy drawn by a single horse. On their first day's travel of fourty miles or more they had to cross not far from Major's house a creek with a deep channel usually and then with very little water in it. But with bluff clay banks up which the road ran through a narrow cut on a steep grade. There had been a heavy shower on this part of the road extending along it for several miles in the afternoon of that day. The shower had passed ahead of the travelers but it had made that part of the road wet and heavy. And especially so in the cut up which they had to go from the bed of this creek. Their horse was a good one. But the road and the load was too much for him in this cut. When he was about half way up and in the narrowest, deepest, ugliest part of the cut he stopped, over taxed. Before the thought or resolution had come to the city gentlemen to alight in themud , lift the mud coated wheels out of their ruts and let the horse take the buggy empty up the cut to the top of the grade the Major with the team came on behind them. They obstructed the road so that he could not pass. And he had to give them his special attention. The picture that he drew of the road, the mud coated wheels, the humped strained position of the noble over burdened horse, the carpet knights perched helpless on the buggy seat and the torrent of badinage with which he drenched them as he insisted on their getting out and letting him, one man, and the brave horse put the buggy on level ground where these fine fellows out of their element might re-enter and proceed. I have seen Forest, Edwin Booth, Barrett, Jefferson, Mansfield, Sir Henry Irving and otheres, actors of high note but none of them impressed me in their felivery, delineation as Major Andrew Worthington did at that breakfast table in August 1840.

The boy was enthused and the middle aged man of affairs felt that the twinges from his fatigue, worry and fever were soothed, if not suppressed. While we were enjoying the breakfast and "mine host", Mr Sayre's horse was fed and groomed and a good horse got ready for me. We made a long ride that day. And near the going down of the sun we got to Columbia. There we were in sight of Madam Bell's house. Less than a mile distant. By a plain good road with which I was familiar, leading off to our right. Mr Sayre's home was straight ahead about three miles distant. He had fully executed his trust. We exchanged adieus and parted. He going to his home. I turning off to my Aunt's. The sun was down but it was not yet dark when I got to her house. The distance was six miles by a narrow road through a dense forrest to my Father's house. But I was all anxiety to go on. And my Aunt consenting had Dennis, a young negroe man called. Ordered him to bring Pet, my Uncle's swift, sure footed pacing mule for me to ride the rest of the way. And that he go with me riding my jaded horse. Her two sons, Thaddieus and James, ten and eight years my senior, were at college in Kentucky. When I went to Gonzales and I supposed they were still there. I did not see either of them and no mention was made of them at my Aunt's house or by the negroe on our way. My return was the engrossing theme of thought and speech. We came to the Bernard at a point immediately opposite to and not more than four hundred feet from the veranda on which my Father and his family were enjoying the summer's evening's open air. I got the man to hail for the boat, but his voice showed some excitement. And being recognized he was called by name and asked if there was anything the matter at home. Then he had to or did give the situation away saying, "No Sir, I just come to see Massar Andrew home". I saw ayoung man skip down the bank, enter the light row boat and dart across the river. It was Thaddeus Bell. My Mother and Father came over to the larger boat. What immediately followed needs no discriptive words.

At breakfast next morning I observed that my Father "said grace". In their infancy my parents had received christian baptism as the sacrament in administered by the presbyterian clergy on the personal proffession of faith by one or both of the child's parents. But as was noticed in the first chapter the Mother Church of the presbyterian communion in America and the churches composed of Scot-Irish consituents guarded closely access to the communion table and administered the sacrament of the Supper only to those who having competent knowledge fully approved the doctrine and discipline of the church and were able to state the grounds of their apprecation. My Mother became a cummunicant before her marriage but my Father did not receive this fully fellowship.

By the first Colonial contracts with the Empressario, grants of land were authorized to be made only to good catholics. The church was a part of the State. And public worship and religious observances were conducted, if at all, by or under the direction of priests of the Holy Roman Church. After the declaration of Texas Independence and the establishment of the new government, the clergy of protestant denominations commenced their labors in the Republic. The methodist and presbyterian largely accupied and nearly divided the field in that section where our lot was cast. Though there were a few baptists " elect and precious". In 1838 Rev William T Allen, a presbyterian minister was residing in Houston and extended his labors over all that part of the coast country. Rev Hugh Wilson thebn universally called the "Father Wilson by church members was in Washington County and Rev P Blair a trusty Indian fighter in the late raid, who as he drew a bead on their bodies involked the mercy of God on their souls, was at Victoria. In 1840 The distinguished evangelist and revivalist of the Southwest, Rev Daniel Baker, visited Brazoria County and held many meetings, charming the most Godless by his magic elequence in the pulpit. And the gracious words of his brilliantelo social converse. The leading lawyers and politicians were impressed by him and the youth enthused. His first stop in Brazoria County was at the county seat during a term of the Superior Court. He got his bed and board in Charley Leonard's tavern. There was but one tavern in the town. And judge, jurors, lawyers, parties and witnesses met at one common table. And at night slept in one large common room. And in one small adjacent room separated from the other by only a single board partition a few beds for some, but most on pallets laid on the floor. The clergyman and the Judge were given the best beds in the little room. The other beds were yielded vourteous respect to the elder of the other lodgers. One of the lodgers was the distinguished "Three legged Willie" who could not walk without the wooden leg which he strapped to the disabled one. He was then in his mature prime, greatly admired and loved. He was some what given to conviviality and was wont to release his labors in the temple of justice by refreshments of the shrine of Bacchus. During that term of court it had been his habit to unbuckle his timber as he called it, place it handy by him, take out a a very long, but a very loud nap, wake, put on his timber and get a drink of water. The night that Dr Baker lodged there "the boys" had conspired to play a practical joke on lawyer Willie by removing his wooden leg while he slept. According to his custom he woke,very dry, assumed a sitting posture on his pallet, felt for the needed help and of course failed to find it. Thinking some one had thoughlessly moved it he inquired if any one had. Receiving no response but the heavy respiration of some in the other room he saw but did not enjoy the joke. And invoked maledictions in astorm, strain that taxed the English tongue. Sustained until it exhausted the speaker. Who dropped back into recumbent position exlaimed in accents of prayer, "The Lord have mercy on my soul""Amen", said Mr Baker, in the voice of Pitt whose tones in the utterance of the single word, "Sugar", on a memorable accasion was resistless. The Doctor's large "Amen" was a full sermon, the force company with another distinguished man, who unconsciously garnished and tarnished all his talk with profane expletives, by which he mean't no more than some preachers do by their prayers. Mr Baker in a proper manner remonstrated more than once but the habit seemed to be in?esterate and the Doctor changing his tact dropped into the frequent use of a compound expletive of his own. "Pothooks" and hangers".

He was an actor and an artist as well as an orator. And a great preacher of righteousness. And he travestied his companion's profanity with such grace that his role escaped the other's observation for a time. But with a growing force that soon made itself felt and pricked the stateman's temper into the expression, "Dr Baker what in the devil do you mean by the constant reiteration of your phrase Pot-hooks and hangers"? Only to emphasize and ornament my speech by expletives. No more meaningless and far more innocent than yours.

On June 13, 1840, Mr Allen organized a presbyterian church at Columbia. My Father then united with that church. Dr James Wilson Copes was elcted and ordained ruling elder and installed the first elder in that organization. I was then in Gonzales. In November, 1844, a meeting of the congregation was held to elect an additional elder. I was present at that meeting. And remember distinctly the impression the proceedings made on me. When the meeting was organized and the modertor having stated its object called nominations, the elder, Dr Copes arose and standing erect with this arms folded across his breast said, "Mr Chairman, I nominate Dr Joseph Manson McCormick for election to the office of ruling elder". No other nominations was made. The election was unanimous. In due time he was ordained and installed. In 1845 Dr Copes, the senior elder, removed his residence to Houston, taking his letter from Columbia Church. And my Father thus became it's senior elder in which capacity he acted until his death. He frequently represented the Columbia Church in Presbyterian Synod and once as a delegate from his presbytery into the General Assembly. He held morning and evening prayers regularly in his family. He was a sturdy puritan of the best type with nothing fanatical or repulsive in his puritanism. Prayer with him was worship.

In 1841, Mrs Milburn, who owned and resided on the plantation on the East bank of the Brazos, just opposite Columbia, employed a son of Dr Daniel Baker to teach a school at her house. She was then a widow the second time. And had six children, the oldest nearly grown and the youngest quite small. But all were pupils in the shcool. She was a daughter of Brit Bailey from whom Bailey's Prairie got it's name. He had been a frontiersman all his life. And a law unto himself. He had grown rich and had several very handsome daughters. His resolution and his eccentricities were the theme of such of the current talk in my boyhood years. Awake or asleep he never suffered himself to get beyond arm's length from his rifle. It was his clinching arguement in any issue that arose between him and any one. He provided in his will that when he died his body should be dressed in his hunter's outfit, suit, armed cap-a-pie with powder-horn, bullet pouch, hack knife, tomahawk and rifle and interred standing erect. His will in this was obeyed. Mrs Milburn consented to take me to board in her family and attend the school. I went there and remained as long as Mr Baker taught.

In 1842, Rev John McCollough, then pastor of the Columbia Church, opened a school in Columbia. Now beginning to be called East Columbia. His church had purchased and was using for public worship one of the Capital buildings. The one in which the House of Representatives had held it's sessions when Columbia was the seat of government. In that house Dr McCollough's school was taught. And a school under different treachers was maintained there with short intermissions until the summer of 1845. To this school in the Spring of 1842 my parents sent their three children. Only three children, one son, and two daughters, were born to them. At this time I was nine and my youngest sister four years of age. We boarded at our Aunt's Mrs Bell. And saw our parents either at our boarding home or at their house once a week. In the fall of this year my youngest sister died. in 1845 the school was moved to East Columbia and my sister and I boarded there in the family of Mr Edward H Hall. We were there the day that Annexation was completed, February 16, 1846. I remember having assisted in the evening of that day to illuminate the little town.

After this school closed in the summer of 1846 I did not again attend school in Brazoria County. In the fall of that year I was sent to Washington County to a school conducted by Rev Lindsay P Rucher and Mr John Sayles. The distinquished law writer General John Sayres, recently deceased, late of Abilene Texas. The distance from my Father's house was over one hundred miles. I was given a good saddle mule, one wallet with my books and clothes in it. And another with enough lunch for the noon meals for three days. And started. Mr Perry Alsberry who was starting to the army to serve as interpreter went in company with me as far as Cat Springs, in Austin County. The second night we put up at the hotel in the town of San Felipe which was the first and I believe the only time I ever saw that Capital town. It had long ceased to be the capital of Austin's Colony. It soon after my visit ceased to be capital of Austin's County. I remained at Mr Rucker's school until the close of the year 1847. Going home how ever for the long vacations. In 1848 I received at home private instructions in the Latin and Greek languages from Rev Mr Hunter, then pastor of the Columbia Church. My sister during these years from the summer of 1846 to the summer of 1849 received instructions in private schools in the families of more wealthy parents who were able to secure good private teachers for their daughters. And were willing to take my sister as a boarder and contributing pupil. In the early part of 1849, a Mr Alexander was teaching school in Washington County, in the neighborhood that is now called "Gay Hill". Rev Hugh Wilson (Father Wilson) (a son of Rev Lewis Fenilletean Wilson) lived in that neighborhood boarding in Mr Wison's Family. By this time my parents had set up their carriage and they took me in it to Mr Wilson's house. At this school I began to study. Mr Alexander had the gift of teaching. That is having pupils study and learn. His instruction was like the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. It was not with observation. It was within the pupil.

For several years efforts had been making to run light draft steamboats from"Velasco"to"Washington"on the Brazos and in the fall of 1849 the steamers "Washington","Brazos"and "Elite" were making successful and reasonably regular trips between those points. The town of Washington revived rapidly and a good female school was established there. Of which Mrs Limber was principle teacher. In September Major Cayce came in his family carriage his daughter Miss Sophronia and my sister to Mrs Limber's school. At the Christmas holidays my parents visited their son at Mrs Wilson's and taking him and one of Mrs Wilson's daughters with them went to Washington to visit their daughter. She was boarding in the family of Major Cartmell. Who was a gentleman of dignified and courteous manners. I was then a well grown lad just entering my eighteenth year. And Major Cartmell who had not met either my Father of me before this addressed much of us as"Mr McCormick". In the dining room we were seated side by side at the table. Mr Cartmel did the honors at one end of the table with my Father immediately on the Major's left and I next to my Father. In offering the help to each the host would ask if"McCormick" would be helped to this and that. After my Father had responded several times when the inquiry was addressed to me that annoying mistake occured again and he explained with animated emphasis. "I answer to the name of Mr McCormick". Adding as he turned the thumb of his left hand towards me, "We call this boy Andrew".

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©2009 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last revised on 19 October 2009.