Days Gone By - stories from the past

Margaret Austill (b. 1805) – her life in the Alabama frontier from her diary

(We seldom hear about the lives of pioneer women so I was truly excited when I found this autobiography of Margaret Eades. She was the wife of Jeremiah Austill of the Legendary Canoe Fight. She, like her husband was an early pioneer of Alabama. In this autobiography we hear her own words as she describes her experiences when her family moved to Clarke County, Alabama. This autobiography was published in The Alabama Historical Quarterly in 1944)


LIFE OF MARGARET ERVIN AUSTILL

My father, John Eades,was a native of Georgia, my mother, Jenny Fee, was born in Ireland, in the County Atmah. Father and Mother first met in Augusta, Georgia, where they were married in 1802. They then left Augusta and bought a farm in Washington County on the… where they lived happily and made money rapidly.

I was afraid to go near the big bag

Father had a saw mill and cotton gin, about the first one that was put up in the County. I well remember the mode of packing cotton in that early day. A round bag was fixed in a round hole in the floor of the gin house, which hung down some ten feet. A big negro man jumped in with an iron crowbar, two hands threw in the cotton, and the packer did the work by jambing it hard with an awful grunt every lick. I was dreadfully afraid to go near the big bag with the negro inside shaking it.

Oh, it was a sad day when Father determined to move to Louisiana, but so it was, that on a bright morning in the spring of 1811, the wagons were loaded and three families were assembled at my Father’s house. My Uncle, Daniel Eades, his wife and one daughter, Mr. Billy Locklin and wife, and about one hundred slaves, men, women and children, and with much weeping at parting from dear old friends, the drivers cracked their whips and off we rolled, much to my delight. But my sister, five years older than myself, was weeping bitterly. I was all talk, she said to me “Do hush, you too will rue the day.” Childlike, I reveled in a bustle and change.

moving old days

We spent the first night at Sweetwater Iron Works

Well, the first night we camped at Sweetwater Iron Works, where Father’s sister, Mrs. Jenkins, came to bid us good-bye. She was a jolly old soul,—was Aunt Priscilla. She spent the night with us in camp, after breakfast next morning she drew put a flask of rye rum from her pocket, saying “John and Daniel, I drink to all, good luck attend you, but the next thing I hear will be that you all have been scalped by the savages, so be on your guard, for war will surely come, and that soon. Farewell, may the Lord guide you through the wilderness.”

Our party traveled on through the Cherokee Nation without the least trouble. The Indians were kind and friendly, but as soon as we entered the Creek or Muskogee Nation, we could see the terrible hatred to the white, but as we advanced, we were joined by many movers, which gave us more security.

At night the wagons were all fixed round the encampment, the women and children and negroes in the center, the men keeping guard with guns, so we made a formidable appearance of defense.

A most terrific earthquake took place

One night after a fearful day, the Indians had followed us for miles, we camped in an old field. Just as supper was announced, a most terrific earthquake took place, the horses all broke loose, the wagon chains jingled, and every face was pale with fear and horror. The Indians came in numbers around us looking frightened, and grunting out their prayers. The trees lapped together, and Oh, the night was spent in terror by all, but next day some of the Indians came to us, and said it was Tecumseh stamped his foot for war.

Tecumseh, (March 1768-October 5, 1813)

Tecumseh March 1768 – October 5, 1813)
Tecumseh March 1768 – October 5, 1813)

Then the rain set in, not a day without rain until we crossed the Alabama, there were no roads, and mud and water large creeks to cross with slender bridges made by the Indians, which they demanded toll at a high price for every soul that crossed a bridge, and often rather than pay, the men would make their negroes cut trees and make a bridge, which gave the Indians great anger, and they would threaten us with death.

He used Grandfather’s long sword to threaten the Indians.

No doubt we would have been killed had it not been for Uncle Daniel Eades, who had been stolen from the Fort in Georgia by the very people that threatened us. He was a little boy, only a year old when the Indians took him from the nurses and carried him to the Nation, and gave him as a present to their big Medicine Man, who raised him and taught him his craft in roots and herbs. He would talk to them and defy them, he would go to his wagon and draw out Grandfather’s long sword that he wore in the Revolution, brandish the sword, and speak to them in their own language, telling them they were fools, that they were nothing, and could never whip the whites, but that their Nation would be destroyed. They would listen to him, and raised their blankets around their shoulders and move off, doggedly shaking their heads.

Well, finally we crossed the Alabama River at Bale’s Ferry, we then were in Clarke County, bound for Louisiana, expecting to cross the Tombigbee next day at Carney’s Ferry. That night we camped at this place, some of the neighbors came to see us, Mr. Joel Carney, Mr. Henry B. Slade, Mr. George S. Gullet, and every one begged Father and all the travelers with him to stop here until they could recruit their teams that were completely broken down. They said we could never get through the swamp on the other side of Bigbee, and after a consultation, all consented to remain until they could make corn to fatten their teams.map of clarke county

Father bought this place with a log cabin on it

Father bought this place, which was only a claim with a small log cabin on it. Daniel Eades rented the Sun Flower Bend, Billy Locklin built a cabin on Salt Creek, and put up a saw and grist mill on the creek in a very short time, the first saw mill that was built in Clarke County. So Father put some hands to cutting cane and planted corn. He had brought a whip saw with him, he put up large logs of pine on a scaffold, and with two negroes, one on top and one at the bottom. They sawed planks for flooring, for every family then lived in cabins on ground floors.

Snyder's Mill on North River, Tuskaloosa, Ala - for 55 years articleSnyder’s Mill on North River, Tuskaloosa, Ala  – example of an old mill unknown age (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Father kept on building and making us comfortable, but when the corn was gathered, Uncle Daniel Eacles said, “Well, John, it is time to be off, let us hurry up and be gone, the waters are low, the roads good, the teams fat, and all well. This is no country for us, let us travel.” Father said, “Daniel, I am getting fixed up here, the water is splendid, the land good enough, and you have made a fine crop of corn, we have wild game plenty for the shooting, and I can’t see that we could do better.” “John,” he replied, “You will never make a fortune here, so come with me, I hate to leave you, but here I will not stay.” But Father would not leave, so Uncle Daniel left, and we only had one year of peace, for the Indians came down upon us with vengeance. Uncle Daniel came back for us, said everything he could to get Father to go with him, but all in vain, so he left us to battle through the fearful war.

 SOURCE

  1. The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 06, No. 01, Spring Issue 1944. (Margaret Eades who has left this hitherto unpublished account of her experiences as a young girl, daughter of a pioneer and witness of many of the bloody scenes of the Creek Indian War of 1813-14, married Jeremiah Austill. Mrs. Austill died in 1890 having borne several children whose descendants still live in South Alabama and other sections of the country.)

 

Read more of Margaret Eades diary in ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS- Pioneers – A Collection of Lost and Forgotten Stories

Other stories include:

  • The Yazoo land fraud;
  • Daily life as an Alabama pioneer;
  • The capture and arrest of Vice-president AaronBurr;
  • The early life of William Barrett Travis in Alabama, hero of the Alamo;
  • Description of Native Americans of early Alabama including the visit by Tecumseh;
  • Treaties and building the first roads in Alabama.

 

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers: A Collection of Lost & Forgotten Stories


By (author): Donna R. Causey
List Price: Price Not Listed
Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .
For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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50 comments

  1. Dale McDonald

    I enjoy learning about our pioneers,but I do not agree with the slavery of those days.

    1. Rebecca P. Smith

      No one does but it was part of history. Like it or not….

    2. Alabama Pioneers

      We should not ignore our past. We need to discover our entire history, good and bad. That is the only way we can learn from it and not make the same mistakes again. Then we will move forward together.

    3. I think we’re all wishing we’d picked our own cotton!

    4. Yes, most of are wishing we had picked our own cotton!

  2. Linda D. Crumpton

    I love our Alabama history…Keep them coming!

    1. Alabama Pioneers

      Thank you , we love sharing them!

  3. Renée Shelfer

    She is my 6th great grandmother. Her first husband was Robert Hails. I am descended from their daughter MaryAnnabella Hails Marshall.

    1. Her sister was my husband’s 3rd great grandmother, from her son Robert Hugh, with Samuel Ervin.

  4. Marlon Long

    If you had lived in those days you would have had slaves too! The slaves weren’t looked upon as people in bondage even tho they were, but rather they were viewed as a source of help for the people who justified them as an economic commodity for the building of one’s family empire whether it be a few acres or a plantation. The families knew they could not perform the daily tasks without extra labor. This was at the time rationalized & justified because of the enormous work load as acceptable free labor with uneducated humans. Now, should you wonder if most people were religious people to allow such free labor to occur? Yes, they were. And probably many thought it was a blessing from God that He helped them out to be able to purchase and have slaves with their free labor? But in reality it was birthed from the one in the Bible that God calls the “great deceiver” satan. With his tactics of deception used on mankind for thousands of years satan set the human labor bondage of a negro race in motion that would cause conflict then and even unto this present day with race relations. Now ain’t that sumtin’ that what looked as nothing wrong with some free African labor actually turned out to be heartache, pain, suffering and death. But if the people at that time had been “doer’s of the Word(Bible) and not just hearer’s only” they would have known that JOHN 10:10 would be a Biblical reality for generation to generation when the sinful seeds of “nigger” labor was born in the minds of people as being a normal labor human process. Satan was slick with mankind then just as he is today. Same sinful tactics but with new people to use at his will if they will take the bite of his seemingly harmless fruit, which is rotten at the core. Only when mankind will truly follow the Way of God, is when we as people will surely be able to see clearly an ungodly, unjust and unnatural act of SIN…

  5. Charles Banister

    could listen to older people tell their stories love the elderly

  6. Adrienne Jones Myers

    Larry Jones! The wife’s story!

  7. Dean Bonner

    There was a single white woman who went off to the wilderness where Montgomery now stands in the 1700s and farmed there alone.

  8. Judi Graham

    Enjoyed reading this……

  9. Keith Scooter Newman

    alot of information in & around that whole article. B ham zoo & botanical gardens is built over non moved cemetary

    1. Alabama Pioneers

      Yes, we wrote a story about the zoo and the graves a few months ago. You can see the story here. http://alabamapioneers.com/birmingham-zoo/#sthash.J45FshLS.dpbs

  10. Karen Wells

    I love to read all about the Alabama pioneers, this is where my roots are from.

  11. Fay Elrod

    Loved reading this article. I love HISTORY!

  12. Clifford Allen

    Strong role model for women back then before it became cool!

  13. Sara Wood

    Reminds me of home I grew up in

  14. Victoria Smith Knierim

    A family story. Margaret is a great aunt a few generations back.

  15. Judy Cameron

    Looks like the work shed at my grandparents farm sixty years ago

  16. Janis Sillivan

    Thank you for the articles you post. So interesting. My ancestors were from Alabama. Moved to Texas after the Civil War. We are all still here. Love Alabama though. Such a beautiful state.

  17. Jeanie Stockman Thain

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have Fee ancestors that went from Augusta to AL. I am now going back looking for Jenny Fee.

  18. Mary Catherine Nichols Stanfield

    Talk about Tiny House living! Very interesting!

  19. Deborah DeValcourt

    Very interresting!!!!!

  20. Mary Pharr McGowin

    Katherine Winslow Austill

  21. The big story here was the big earthquake in S. Alabama. No exact date given, but could have been part of the New Madrid earthquakes of the early 1800s. The Indians lost their land and culture because they could not defend their borders. Sound familiar?

  22. Jenny Tucker

    Must see the whole thing! Wow

  23. Cynthia McCarty

    Have some old family pics that don’t look much better

    1. Bill Austill

      Yep – great great grandmother (I might be missing a great). thanks for sharing.

  24. Sylvia Skidmore

    Kelli, I was reading Margarets story and Mike was setting on the sofa telling what was happening as I read it. I wish I had his memory

  25. Sylvia Skidmore

    Jeremiahs fathers grave stone is still in north Fla. at the Miccosukee

  26. Robert Prince

    Most fascinating, please tell us more .

  27. Loved the story. Sad that some feel we must still apologize for what happened in the past when we are still doing evil upon the native Americans who dwell in the “concentration” camps our grandfathers forced them to. People have been enslaving their fellow man forever. My Viking ancestors liked to rape, pillage and sell slaves all over their domain. My ancestors were in southern Alabama at the time of this story so it pleases me greatly to read this one My grandparents crossed the Chattahoochee at Columbus on an Indian ferry and an Indian tried to trade a “pickaninny” girl to my grandma for her baby daughter who was an infant. Indians and blacks had slaves too. Historians can not have “politically correct” attitudes.

  28. I have recently discovered this wonderful website and am thoroughly enjoying the daily postings! An Alabama girl, I am now living in Tenn. I miss my home state terribly, but having these wonderful, historical readings every morning lifts my spirits. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

    1. I’m happy you enjoy them!

  29. Enjoyed this story

  30. Janis Gilbreath Martin

    Thanks for this informative post.

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