Toils and Struggles of Olden Times by Elder Samuel Rogers
I was born in Charlotte county, Virginia, November 6, 1789, and was the eldest son of Ezekiel Rogers, whose father emigrated from Smithfield, England, a few years before the middle of the eighteenth century, and settled in Bedford County, VA. The family had no means of tracing any direct relationship to the distinguished martyr, John Rogers, who was burned at Smithfield in the year 1555. But my Aunt Susan, a maiden lady of vivid imagination, was able to make out the connection quite to her satisfaction, suspended, however, upon very flimsy calculations-certainly too flimsy for the settlement of ancient honors upon our family. My ambitious aunt, as if sensible of the weakness of her cause, was in the hour of closing her argument with a flourish of the following facts, viz: that our father came from Smithfield, England, where the distinguished martyr suffered; that his family were all Protestants; that all were partial to the name John; and last, though not least, that, as far back as their genealogy could be traced, not one of the names had ever been known to show the white feather. This last mentioned fact was compensating and comforting, indeed, inasmuch as it is far better to have the spirit of a martyr in the breast than to have the blood of a martyr in the veins.
When my father, Ezekiel Rogers, was an infant, my grandfather embarked for England to obtain a small patrimony that had been left him by his relatives and he was never heard of afterwards. After exhausting every available resource to obtain information, no tidings could be had either of the ill-fated vessel upon which he sailed, or of its crew. This sad circumstance weighed so heavily upon the widowed mother that both her body and mind gave way, and she soon died, leaving four little orphans Ezekiel being the youngest.
The waves of the sea having carried away the father, and the waves of sorrow having borne the mother to an untimely grave, the little ones were thrown upon the charity of the world. By a happy providence they were kindly cared for, and found as much comfort as ordinarily falls to the lot of fatherless and motherless children.
At the age of fifteen, my father joined a company of light-horse, belonging to the regiment of Colonel Washington. He was at the battle of Cowpens, where Tarleton was defeated and pursued so closely that he lost his eye. He continued in the service to the close of the Revolution, was present at the siege of York, and witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis.
Soon after this he married Rebecca Williamson, of Charlotte, County, Virginia, a woman of strong mind and deep devotion to the Christian religion. She was a member of the Church of England, but, under the teachings of the Wesleyan Reformers, she early took her stand with the Methodists, and had me christened by Bishop Asbury, who was the first American Bishop after the separation of the Methodists from the Church of England in the year 1784.
In the year 1793, my father with his little family, joined a band of emigrants bound for Central Kentucky. Passing through Cumberland Gap and the Crab Orchard, he sojourned for a few months in the neighborhood of certain Virginia acquaintances, who had preceded him [by] a few years and settled on the waters of Salt River, a few miles southwest of Danville, then in Mercer County. The country was, for the most part, a tangled wilderness. The thick cane and undergrowth so obstructed the way, that the faithful packhorse was the pioneer's main dependence for conveying his family and household effects
A few rude culinary instruments, with bread and meat for the journey, constituted the contents of noe end of a large sack, called a wallet, made somewhat after the fashion of saddlebags; while a small bed and bedding, with now and then a little [can't read] fellow too small to retain his equilibrium on horseback, were ordinarily stowed away in the other, the head of the little one protruding just far enough, for breathing purposes. The mother sat enthroned between this moving kitchen and nursery, guiding the horse and administering to the wants of the babies, while the proud father, with unerring rifle on his shoulder and his faithful dog by his side, led the way, dreaming of contentment and plenty in the Canaan of the West. It was somewhat after this fashion that I found a safe and comfortable passage across the wilderness to the new home in Kentucky. Finding an opportunity of making a more favorable settlement, my father moved with his family to Clark County, and located on Stoner Creek, eight miles from Winchester. His family found comfortable quarters at Strode's Station, two miles from Winchester, while he and his faithful servant-boy built their cabin in the deep forest ... dense forests and thick cane covered the face of the earth, except here and there, where some emigrant had reared his cabin and cleared out the cane and undergrowth in small patches, that he might raise a scant supply of the necessaries of life. The man who could boast of an orchard or young seedlings was an object of envy. Poultry yards and pig-pens were not altogether unknown in the country, but wild turkeys supplied abundantly the place of tame fowls, while venison or bear meat was a good substitute for pork - Coffee and tea were rare luxuries - sassafras and sage teas were most common. The maple supplied us abundantly with molasses and sugar ... breakfast of boiled milk and bread or of milk and bread cold ... a supper of mush and milk, in a pewter dish, eaten with a pewter spoon, while sifting either upon the uncarpeted floor or upon the three-legged stool ... those hardy pioneers had few of the luxuries of life, but they had what was far better-good constitutions and a good common sense. They had no time to sign for what was out of each, but brought their wants within the limits of their supplies. They had no plank, but laid their floors with rough puncheons. Instead of the large windows of the present day-they had a square opening in one side or end of the cabin, which they covered with paper, or muslin, which they then oiled, so as to make it translucent. The people had very little money then, and they needed but little. He was satisfied who had enough to pay for his salt and leather, and at the end of the year, to pay his taxes. They were often without either salt or leather, and without enough money to buy with. In such cases, I have known clean hickory ashes to be used for salt and bucksin moccasins instead of leather shoes. As a rule, the children went shoeless until they were large enough to engage in profitable outdoor labor. For some time after we settled in Clark County we had no school near; and while we remained in the county, I do not remember of having heard of a religious meeting or meeting house. Our first school was taught in the neighborhood of Gatesville, by a young Mr. Stewart, in the year 1799.
In the year 1799, a pamphlet fell into my father's hands which gave a glowing description of New Spain, or Upper Louisiana, now called Missouri. It set forth the great fertility of the soil, the rare beauty of the country, the abundance of game, and the vast extent of range for stock, besides the gift of 640 acres of land to every bona fide settler. All this was too much for my father, who, by this time, had contracted a great fondness for border life. Accordingly, in company with a Mr. Bradley, of Clark County, he mounted his favorite horse, and with rifle on his shoulder, faced the boundless wilderness. They crossed the Ohio at the Falls, took the Indian trail to O'Post, now called Vincennes, on the Wabash river-the oldest settlement in the West, I believe. Then they passed through to Paincourt, now St. Louis .....
In the month of September, 1801, we loaded eight packhorses with such things as were most useful and started for our home in New Spain. I, being the eldest child had to walk and carry a rifle and help to drive the cattle over the entire route.
My father advised my mother to leave her Bible with her friends in Kentucky, as the country whither we were going was under the control of the Catholic Church, which prohibited the use of it among the common people; and the discovery of her Bible might involve the family in trouble. She would not listen to such counsel, however, but determined at every hazard to carry her Bible with her, saying she could not think of rearing her children without it, and would not be willing to live in any country where she could not have the benefit of the Word of god. To avoid the vigilant eye of the priest, she sewed it in a feather bed and carried safely through and found it, indeed, a "lamp to her feet and light to her path" in her wilderness home. The priest never gave her any trouble. We carried with us a large tent under which the family found ample protection from the storm. Before the door or our tent we built large fires, which afforded us both comfort and light by night, as well as facilities for cooking, etc. We camped several days on the little Wabash, very near the place where the village of Maysville now stands. This was in what is now Clay County, Illinois. Here my father Milled and jerked venison enough for our journey. The common practice of jerking venison and beef in those days was carried on by cutting the meat into thin slices, and exposing it to a moderate heat, until it became perfectly dry. It then might be put away and kept for a long time without the use of salt. While camping in the Wabash, my father killed a young buffalo, the first one I had ever seen running wild. The tenderloin this young animal was very delicious. I went to the little river that ran close to our camp to assist my father in washing the wild meat which he had brought in and I was astonished at the quantities of fish that inhabited those waters. When we threw the offal into the river the hungry fish fairly made the water boil in struggling after it.
We were about four weeks, altogether, on our journey and to me they were four happy weeks. My experiences were the richest of my boyhood life. In the neighborhood of the Missouri river I had my first experience in eating persimmons. We were all delighted with our new home. I especially was pleased to find game and wild fruit so abundant and so easily obtained. Our table was rarely without venison, turkey and fish of the choicest kind. The most delicious honey was obtained, not only in the forest, but also in the prairie grass. The glades afforded strawberries in their season, and along the streams I found the fox grape, and the summer grape, and a large white grape, more delicious than anything of the wild grape kind I have ever known. Indeed, the white grape of the Missouri riverbanks would rival in sweetness our best cultivated varieties. We had gooseberries in abundance, and no thorn upon the fruit or bush.
The lands were very fertile and produced as fine crops of grain as any. Frederick Bates, afterwards governor of Missouri, bought this place of my father, and lived and died upon it. I have always regretted that sale, and longed to repossess that home, around which so many youthful associations cluster.
By industry and frugality, my father, in a short time, had a farm tolerably well improved, with a large peach orchard and comfortable buildings upon it; and we were quite well to do for those times in a temporal point of view. But for that godly woman, our souls would have been in total darkness. We were all christened in the river. I never had the opportunity of attending school but three months in my life, but at the end of those months I could read and write, and cipher to the "Single Rule of Three" when I graduated with honor. In the fall of 1809, on account of circumstances not necessary to mention here, my father sold his farm and moved back to Kentucky and settled in what was then Bourbon, but is now Nicholas County.
"Recollections of Men of Faith" by John Rogers
But becoming involved with a certain Moses Kenney, who went from Bourbon County Kentucky to Franklin County and suffering as he believed, serious private injuries from said Kenney and his colleagues, he determined to leave Missouri and in the Fall of 1809 sold out and returned to Kentucky and settled on the Brushy Fork of Kingston about half way between Carlisle and Millersburg. Said Kenney left Missouri and came to Kentucky the same Fall and when in Spring of 1810, my father returned to Missouri with my oldest brother Samuel to close his business, Kenney followed him there and most cruelly murdered him by scalding him in the face and eyes and then beating him with a club. My father survived but a few days. In the meantime Kenney escaped to Kentucky and there was a man present who had witnessed the horrid murder, yet said Kenney was never brought to justice as he never could be got back to the Territory where the deed was done. He subsequently married and settled in Harrison County, Kentucky and died of cholera in 1833.