September 8, 1904
The ball of history it not composed of one even skein but o'string, scrap, itd-bits, broken threads, dropped ends, knots-and tangles and designs of many colors and shapes. The material to work upon is fragmentary and incomplete. There are few living to interview. It is sometimes difficult to get them in a reminiscental mood. Time is a measured distance which changeth not - a circle we travel, passing perhaps the starting point of those who have passed before. Mankind only is going onward and seeing different scenes and passing out into the great beyond. Many customs of long ago are obsolete and almost forgotten. One should have been an eyewitness to fully appreciate the spirit and significance of many of the usages and scenes of earlier days. A compiler of historical data is therefore be set with hindrances without number. old times were good times. Life was simple and untrammeled. There were no demands of an ultra fashionable realm to acquiese to or any outrageous styles or fads to follow. Frugal habits, economical pleasures and circumspect aspirations, together with pure "mountaln dew" and "home-made" tobacco made life long and blissful. The cornucopia of heaven lavishly blessed their labor and hospitality and contentment reigned supremely. Maple syrup and "Johnny Cakes" with sweet, freshly made butter and a glass of cool buttermilk made healthful, mirthful people. One's mouth will water to hear the old folk tell of these good things. Every household had a "Johnny-board" -- a plank about three feet long and two feet wide, glazed until it was slicker than grease and shone like a bald head beneath the scorching rays of an August sun. The cakes were made of wheat batter. They were put on these boards and held obliquely before the fire. When one side was cooked it was turned over. Then there was the ash cake -- bread cooked upon the coals. Corn, with the shuck on was roasted in the embers which made it a succulent dish -- and this is the best way to cook corn.
Jugs with red corn cob stoppers were in every home. Whiskey was cheap. There was no tax on it. It sold for twenty five cents per gallon in 1840. The preachers would take a dram in those days. Yet there was not much intemperance. "Marse John McCormick says he remembers at a log rolling two gallons of liquor was brought and only one man took a drink and he only took a small dram during the day. Grist mills were run by over-shot wheel power, with a race to carry the water. Corn was ground on buhr-stones. Wheat was ground on stones and then put into a bolting chest which was operated by turning a crank. In the antebellum days there were no buggies or two horse wagons in this section. Mesdames Camp and Phillips of Elkton, drove to camp meetings in carriages which cost $1,200 each. They had livered colored coachmen who deigned not to notice common negroes. Andrew Ballentine, of Pulaski, paid $800 duty on a carriage imported from England. James Owen and John McCormack were two days going to Pulaski and back with an ox team. They carried 1,200 pounds of pork which sold for twelve dollars. With the money they purchased twelve acres of land. People never dreamed of selling eggs. This valuable product was fed to hogs. Negroes, who had purchased their freedom, had franchise rights in Tennessee until 1834. Oh, how the negroes sang as only that song-gifted race can sing. Although under the galling rules of bondage, and often receiving the cruelest kind of treatment, the poor sons of Ham stooped to serve their taskmasters.
The negro is a born poet and musician. He delights to behold things beautified. They composed their own songs. Some of these were real genius of poetry - quaint, plaintive, full of pity and tenderness. I recall a verse of one of their songs, entitled "Lucy Neal". "Away down in Alabama, Dar is cotton in the field; And dar is where I fell in love, with my pore Lucy Neal, Oh, lovely Lucy Neal! My pore Lucy Neal And if I had her by my side, How happy I would feel".
The ??? were rarely closed. Should one go to prison he was pointed out as an object of greatest disgrace and was shunned and feared by all. But this fact nowise proves that there was no lawlessness. There were some rough and dangerous characters in this section whose reckless escapades and misdemeanors resulted in their tragic deaths or they became fugitives from justice.
Wicked men attempted to break up the camprneetings. One old negro sold liquor for some time around the camps. Many of these foes of Christianity became penitents were converted and became useful members of the church. Others were arrested by officers and tried in civil courts. Some fled the country and many left the grounds. The campers kept guards day and night until this lawlessness was eliminated.
There were forty seven annual campmeetings held on Pisgah's hill. The meetings, the oldest living people remember, were held in a large shelter, located a few yards in front of where the present church stands, facing north and south. At some of the meetings there were more than one hundred tents with two hundred families camping. People came for miles around to attend. The attendance at times was estimated to be from 2,000 to 3,000. The elite of Florence, Alabama, and other places would come. To adequately (??) a campmeeting scene baffles my skill.
The camp covered several acres and were arranged in rows forming a square. The campers came generally on Friday and stayed until the following Wednesday, often longer. These meetings were great social events. Young men were very gallant and vied to show ladies attention. At night the camps presented a weird spectacle. Negroes built brush fires behind the tents where they prepared the next days food, kept the babies, and attended the stock. "Keep dat pot biling", some old colored woman would command a young slave, while she lulled her own pickaninny and her "white folk's chillun" to sleep. Other darkies were humming songs. Some were as happy as the white people. The horses were neighing, the oxen mooing and the cocks crowing. The shed was lighted with tallow candles. Penitents filled the straw covered alters. It was nothing to have one hundred conversions at a meeting and as high as two hundred were converted at one campineeting. Moans, prayers, shrieks and shouts filled the air and reverberated in all directions, making a din that could be heard for a great way off. After repairing to their tents often a "mourner in Zion" found salvation and the shouting would break out afresh. Many friends and kindred would rush to that particular tent to rejoice and in a short while the whole hill would be a mighty shouting host, "halleujahs", "amens" and "glories" staccatoed from every radius. Or someone would start a familiar song after service and it would be taken up from tent to tent until it welled into a chorus of thunder. The gospel was preached in power and demonstration. It was no rapid dissertation or learned homily, but an earnest, heart-felt, presentation of bare truth. The influence generated was so overwhelming that it was irresistable. Some times the preacher could not finish his sermon because of the cries for mercy and the shouts of praise. Sinners under conviction did not take time to reflect but fell prostrate. Those who lived near enough not to camp, at times on the way home, would stop and sing and pray with some sin-stricken person who could go no farther , until that person was converted. On the road at midnight it was not uncommon to find such groups. That was great revival times. The like has never been seen in this country since. Thousands of souls claim Pisgah as where they found "the pearl of great price". This is a sacred hill held in hallowed memory by scores throughout the four corners of the earth. Many prominent ministers and laymen were converted at this place. The expenses were borne by the campers. It cost quite a number over $100 a meeting to entertain their friends and visitors. The preachers slept in the church house and had featherbeds. In the tents on one side earth was thrown up and covered with straw over which was spread sheets and quilts. People slept on this, which was divided into stalls like a livery stable.
One Saturday evening Reverend John C. Burrus, while speaking, said: "There will be a corpse here before this time tomorrow". The next day an old lady named Griffin suddenly expired. She had always wanted to live to see all of her family converted. Her youngest child was converted and she said, like Simeon: "Lord, now lettest thou servant depart in peace", and died. She was the second one buried in the graveyard here. This prophecy had a profound impression upon the audience and many were ready to believe the preacher to be a prophet.
Thomas Martin, of Pulaski, founder of Martin College, persuaded Andrew Ballentine to visit the campmeeting. Mr. Ballentine had served four years in the British Army in India and was a successful business man in this County. At the conclusion of the service in his rich brogue, Mr. Ballentine said: "Why men, oi niver hoied the loike. Oi got a glimpse of the celestial city as recorded in the Rivelation".
William F. Ballentine, a relative of the above, lived near this place and owned a 660 acre tract of fertile land. which now belongs to his heirs and assigns.
Dr. C. N. Ordway, a native of Massachussebs, who was raised under the puritanical "Blue Stocking" discipline, came to this County and married a Miss Goode, the only daughter of a wealthy planter of Elkton. He attended the camprneetings here, and said that he had never seen such, and that it was a Revelation to him.
"Young America" was present in droves, as usually that generation is on large occasions. At the spring, which is on Dr. R. E. Aymett's lot, they met and settled their difficulties by fisticuffs hair-pulling, biting and scratching.
Dr. A. L. P. Green, a wonderful and magic preacher, participated in these meetings. He was a rare conversationalist of rare charm. He could preach only great sermons. The discourses were long but they were strong and he never had a word to add when he finished. He was also skilled in piscatorial sport and enjoyed angling, being successful in this as he was in preaching.
A great deal of enmity existed in those days between the believers of the Arminian creed and those of the Calvinistic faith and each side slapped at the other at every opportunity. At the campmeetings on Sunday the preacher most adept in polemics was put up. The man selected invariably chose a doctrinal subject and defended his views without glotis. The Methodist had many able men. Among the most famed in these parts was Fountain E. Pitts, who "hit between the eyes". will give an instance or two to show how Pitts handled the subject: One day he said that he could tackle predestination, election and redemption but final perservance had been a Chinese puzzle until he was converted to its theology.
He had started to a campmeeting, walking, with all he owned in his saddle pockets, when he overtook a man driving a cart with a bull and a steer hitched thereto. He asked the man to let him ride. The man said- "This is a Presbyterian team. If you will take this limb and frail the bull I will take this stick to the steer". Pitts said that they got there by final perseverance, and that that doctrine would do if it tacked on to faith and genuine repentance. Another time he said no one but a redfaced Baptist, a dancing Methodist, and a lying Campbellite, believed in predestination. The last time he was at this place was 1849.
Martin B. Woods, a camper, was a wealthy planter who lived near Brick Church. He owned a gin which stood near the Presbyterian Church. A large wooden screw with horse-power attached by means of a lever was used to bale cotton. When a bale of cotton was pressed the creaking was deafening. If preaching was going on, for about ten minutes, not a word could be heard and the preacher stood with moving lips. The Church wanted to buy the land but Woods would not sell a foot. Steps were taken to stop the nuisance and Woods was indited for disturbing public worship. He was acquitted. Mr. Woods had a large family. Among the number were several beautiful daughters.