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The Early Life of John Rushing

April 20, 2021

This being my 85th birthday and my children having requested that I give them for a scrap-book purposes and as a family memorial a sketch of my ancestors, as well as of my own life, also the lives of various people of pioneer days. I have decided to do so, or at least do the best I can in this regard. I was born in Decatur County, Tennessee, in the year 1845. My father, Asa Rushing, was born in Anson County, North Carolina, December 25, 1801. Grandfather Jason Rushing was born also in North Carolina, but the date is forgotten. My Great-Grandfather came from England in colonial days to a free country where he could worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and where there was none to molest and or make afraid under their own vine and fig tree, so to speak. There were two brothers, Mark and Solomon. One of them was my paternal ancestor, but I don’t know which one.

I will first give a sketch of the early life of my father. He was married to Nancy G. Hendricks in 1825 and at that date Tennessee was considered a new country. It was way out west, so to speak, and so they decided to move there and build up with the country. My father had a good horse and a one-horse wagon. So the couple put all their earthly possessions in that wagon, hitched up and moved. It is a part of our family history that my mother did most of the driving, because the roads were very rough, thus through the vast wilderness they made their way to their new home. Others who traveled with them traveled in a similar way. In fact, in that day and time, there were very few wagons. The country was thinly settled and land was cheap. Arriving in the locality where they decided to locate, they stopped, pitched camp and went to work.

My father and mother were charter members of New Hope church, the first Baptist church organized in that part of the country. My father died in 1850, leaving mother to care for the children. Her main thoughts were to plant in their hearts a Christian spirit and this she did by precept and example. A few years after the death of my father, my oldest brother, Green Rushing, married and moved to Texas. He was so well pleased with the new country that he at once got busy writing us in Tennessee what a delightful place it was and that all that a home would cost would be just to file on 160 acres of land, have it surveyed and then send the field notes to Austin and get a patent to it. The total cost would be seven dollars and fifty cents, and the best land could be bought for fifty cents an acre. So it just seemed to us that the honey pond and fritter tree was surely in Texas.

We loaded our household effects on a wagon and moved to Texas in 1857. We came down the Mississippi river in a steamboat, having traveled the same way down the Tennessee and Ohio rivers to get to the Mississippi river. We came down the Mississippi river to the mouth of Red river, and then up that river to Shreveport, then on ox wagons to Texas. This being the only way of transportation in pioneer days. We crossed the Sabine river at Logansport into Shelby county, and that country was my home until the Civil War. After crossing the Sabine river, and getting into the promised land, our attention was first attracted to the thinly settled condition of the country, it being several miles from one settlement to another. When we came to a house, it was just a small log house, often not having but one door, a stick and dirt chimney, and more often a dirt floor. The house was covered with long boards having rib poles to keep the wind from blowing them off. Wild animals and birds were in abundance. One could often count fifteen to twenty deer in a bunch. There was always plenty of meat, but no cans in which to place the lard. We raised large gourds. Some of these gourds would hold half a bushel of shelled corn. We let these great gourds dry, then cleaned them, and used them for various purposes. We used smaller gourds for money. The school houses were few and far apart, and when you came to one, it was just a plain little log house, like those in which people lived. There were no penpoints or pencils. We wrote with goose quill pens and the teacher was supposed to know how to make these pens. The teacher always carried his chair with him, and if any of the pupils wanted to know about a word or anything, they would have to walk across the house and ask him. Most teachers had a long switch handy, and if the pupils did not obey him, he would not hesitate to use it. If he caught any of them acting contrary to the rules, he would pitch the switch to them and make them bring it to him, and they either got a good lecture or a licking.

The women wore cotton homespun dresses and home-made bonnets. The men wore dark dyed pants and straw or wool hats. The rich men had beegum hats, but the girls in their homespun dresses looked just as sweet as they do now with all the artificial work and paint, and starch and powder that they can put on. We all wore homemade shoes. We tanned our leather in troughs and made the shoes at home. One pair a year was all the shoes a child got. When we went to church, we rode horseback, went in ox-carts, or walked. I can say with all my heart that the old pioneer preacher always had a message worthwhile, for his congregation. As a rule, he always had good attention. There was not a cook stove in all the country. Our mothers used the old pot rack that hung in the chimney. Mother hung the pot on it and then built the fire under it. The old skillet, the oven and the frying pan were the main cooking utensils.

We now come to my early manhood and the war between the states. The war started in 1861 and the boys began to enlist in several of the companies. So I was enthused and desired to join the army of the Confederacy. On the 28th day of January, 1862, I enlisted as a volunteer at old Buena Vista, in Shelby county, in Captain Amersons company, and was sworn into service by O.M. Roberts, he being our colonel. We were sworn in for twelve months, but in July we were re-organized and sworn in for three years, or during the war. We were known as the “Walkers Greyhounds” on account of the many long marches we had to take. Our military service was confined to the territory west of the Mississippi river. We had many hardships of various kinds. We had no tents for shelter. We just had to take all kinds of weather as it came, rain, hail, sleet or snow, storm or sunshine. Our only house was called a ‘doghouse’, just tie strings to the four corners of, and the middle of a blanket, stretch it over a pole, tuck it to the ground, then dig a ditch around it with a butcher knife. Two men could get on their knees, crawl in and sleep as snug as two rats. Our battles in the Civil War, west of Mississippi, were all fought in the open field. Our mothers and sisters at home furnished us with clothes and blankets we used. The sutler, as we called him, would make trips at different times in a wagon from our homes to where we were camped and it might be in Louisiana, or Arkansas, or even in Missouri, he would come to us just the same. We were always glad to see him, for in addition to the blankets and clothes he also brought dear, sweet letters from home and the loved ones. During all these hardships I was not sick a single day, and never took a dose of medicine during the war. One of my brothers was severely wounded at the battle of Pleasant Hill, and I was detailed to go to the hospital at Mansfield and nurse and wait on him, and other wounded soldiers. I stayed there forty-seven days. The only time I was absent from command during the war.

After Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, we were marched to Texas and were disbanded at Hempstead, about May 20, 1865. We then returned to our dilapidated homes to meet our loved ones. We had lost the cause for which we had fought and suffered so much. We were an overpowered people, and had to submit to the victors. However, in the face of all this, we were glad the war was over and we were at home again. So we just started life over again as from the start. Everything was torn up and run down. There was no money in the country. Foodstuff and plow tools were awfully scarce. We had to patch old implements and get along the best we could. Many of us would plow all day, then bell or hobble our horse, or horses, and turn them out to grass. Next morning, we would listen to hear the bell, then go and drive the horse up, hitch him to the plow and work all day again as before. I used to work for the blacksmith in order to get my plow fixed, and for the shoemaker to get my shoes. From the time I came home until my crop was harvested in the autumn, I had only $1.50, and my mother gave me the money I had. I made a good crop. Cotton brought a good price and when I sold it, the man who bought it paid me in gold. It was the prettiest money I have ever seen, or ever expect to see again. It was all my own, for I had done without the things that I had needed so badly and I want to say just here that my experience that year taught me a great lesson, and that was to do without things until I was able to pay for them in the autumn, and through my long life, I have never contracted for anything more that I could pay for at harvest time. Everybody seemed to be happy after so many hardships, from a religious and neighborly point of view, but from a political viewpoint everything was hard and disagreeable.

Those were reconstruction days just after the Civil War. At that time, there was trouble and confusion concerning the Carpetbaggers and Scalawags, we were not considered citizens. We were disenfranchised and placed under military law. A company of federal soldiers were stationed at each county seat to keep order. At one time, there was but one citizen officer in Nacogdoches county. Nobody was able to qualify for a long time. Young people wanting to get married had to go to some other county that was fortunate enough to have a man to get qualified for county clerk. Reconstruction days were so hard, we could not vote and elect our officers. The federal government appointed them for us, out of what we called ‘scalawags’ and ‘carpetbaggers’. It was to relieve this intolerable situation that the Ku Klux sprang into existence and ultimately put the scalawags and carpetbaggers out of the country, even to our governor, who was E. J. Davis. In order to become a citizen again, we began to take certain oaths. The last one was called the ironclad, or amnesty oath. I did not see how we could swallow such a big one, but the others swallowed it and so did I. After this, we were allowed to vote again, but at the same time, federal officers stood at the polls with six-shooters and shotguns to watch us vote and disqualify us if we had not fully complied with all the ironclad requirements. During these trying times our schools had run down for want of money. Teachers were scarce and salaries small.

I decided to be a farmer and in order to do this, I must have a home. So I began to look around and hunt for a girl that would accept my proposition. I was lucky enough, for it seemed to me that I found this identical girl for which I was looking, and to her I made known my plans and proposition. She accepted them, and so on December 4, 1867 was happily married to Miss Sallie Stack at Shady Grove in Nacogdoches county, Texas. The first meal in our new house was dinner. I was busy in the yard when wife came and said dinner was ready. She had prepared the best dinner she could for the occasion. The table cloth was as white as snow. The knives, forks and spoons were perfectly bright. My plate was at one end of the table and her plate was at the other end. We took our seats and now comes the first step in a Christian home. She looked across the table with a reverential and godly smile and said, “Please return thanks.”. I asked to be excused for I was not a professed Christian. She was. I did feel so thankful for her and the home, and the meal she prepared with her own sweet hands. So it put new thoughts in my mind and heart. I remembered my mother’s faithfulness as a Christian soldier and how the preacher would lay his hand on my head and speak kind, good words to me, hoping I would grow up to manhood and make a good and useful man, like bread cast upon water, to be gathered up after many days. So these thoughts and many others came to me and seemed to say “Yes, now is the time” and the harvest is ripe. So I began to yield. So home building was our first thought. We began to read the Bible a great deal, and to talk about religion and go to church, and think and pray. So I waited and waited for more than a year trying to get good, but all my efforts were failures. At last all hope seemed to be lost. So one day, I took my old shotgun and told my wife I was going down to the creek, hunting. But my mind was bent on more serious business. I was hunting for the Lord. At last, when far down in the creek bottom, I just stopped and submitted my case to the Lord, saying: ‘yes, Lord, I am lost. And it is just but lost or saved, live or die, sink or swim. Take me just as I am. I give to thee my heart, my life, my soul, my mind and strength, as a living sacrifice to thee. I will serve thee and thee alone, the balance of my life.’ So sweet peace came to my soul and I arose from the place with a new life, a new heart and a new tongue with peace and joy ringing in my soul and from that moment to this, my life has been given to the Lord.

So on the following Saturday, I went to the old Honewall Church at Cross Roads, which was the fourth day of December, 1870, told the story of the cross and was received for baptism, and was baptized on Sunday, the 5th. So the real Christian home was set up and a family altar erected. We thought of Abraham when he first came to the Promised Land. His first step was to erect an altar to the Lord. Our early life and pioneer days now comes to a close.

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4 comments on “The Early Life of John Rushing”

  1. I loved the story and could relate to many parts of the story that relate to what is happening today. The story makes my heart at peace knowing I am not alone in my problems of today. I wish I could relate to my late family the way John did, but my family tree was kept secret to the relatives in my family tree.