The Memoirs are as follows:
“I (Thomas R. Myers) was born in my father’s house (Mount Reserve) in the 2nd Civil District of Bedford County, Tennessee, on the 15th day of January 1840. I am now in my 78th year of age.
I have never lived elsewhere than in Bedford County. In my rearing I had the best educational advantages the country afforded—being placed in school when 6 years of age in Pin Hook Academy, (a school built by my father on his place near his home) under Miss Atwater, a well educated, capable teacher; I was kept in school there, and later at Dixon Academy, in Shelbyville, Shelbyville University, Tillman’s Training School at Fairfield Tennessee, and at Western Military Institute at Nashville, Tennessee, until the commencement of the Civil War in the Spring of 1861. I took a full academic course and I would have graduated from college in June 1861 had the session not been interrupted by the war excitement and the withdrawal of our State from the Union on June 8th 1861. General Bushrod R. Johnson, the Commandant and President of Western Military Institute, accepted a Commission in the Confederate service, brought the school to a close and the 250 pupils departed for their homes throughout the Southern states. All of them, so far as my information extends, sooner or later, entered the Confederate Army.
In September 1861 I enlisted in the “Shelbyville Rebels” under Capt. A. S. Boone [Abner S. Boone, Editor], which afterwards became Co. F of the 41st Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A. The seething atmosphere and war madness, which then prevailed throughout this country could hardly be erased from the memory of anyone who passed through it. Reason and moderation vanished before the presence of the approaching war storm. It was impossible to escape taking sides. Neutrality was out of the question.
About the 1st of October 1861 our company went into training at Camp Trousdale, Robinson County, Tennessee, over 100 stalwart, active young men, very few of whom are now living. We remained at Trousdale until late in December 1861 when we were sent to the front at Bowlinggreen, Kentucky, and took camp on the Underwood Fortifications, north of the city. There we remained until about February 13, 1862 when we were sent to confront the approach of General Grant at Fort Donaldson. There we remained through the skirmishes and battles occurring as history shows, suffering many hardships and dreadful exposure until about the 20th of February 1862 when Generals Pillow and Floyd fled and General Forrest with his cavalry marched out leaving General Buckner to surrender the fort and the Confederate troops remaining after Floyd’s departure with his Virginia regiments and Forrest’s with his cavalry. It was a desperate experience; my regiment and company were among the surrendered. We were quickly hustled away to Bison at Lafayette, Indiana and later to Camp Morton, Indiana.
No member of a captured command can ever erase from his memory the deep humiliation to which we were subjected by the great crowds who flocked to the various railroad stations along the route. Our clothing and skins all caked with the mud of the trenches at Fort Donaldson, our faces unwashed and begrimed with dirt and powder smoke afforded our Northern brethren great amusement, which greatly intensified our deep humiliation and mortification. No one came near to tender a word of sympathy or kindness or to offer any relief to our distressed condition except the Catholic Sisters, who, when we reached Illinois on a bitter cold Sunday evening had prepared for us hot coffee and a satisfying meal, and, when we reached Lafayette, Indiana had a bountiful supper for us and had provided to care for our sick. While we remained prisoners of war these same Catholic Sisters were untiring and unceasing in their attention and Christian ministrations to us, especially to our sick. Be it ever said to their honor, credit and Christian life and character that they have no peers nor any of Adam’s sons or daughters who approach them in doing the work of the Master. I never meet them on the street, in the railroad or street cars or elsewhere but that I feel constrained in my heart to say: God bless you.
We remained at Camp Morton, Indiana until September 1862 when we were sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi for an exchange of prisoners. Our regiment was shortly after that reorganized and campaigned up and down in Mississippi until Christmas Day 1862 when we were sent to Chickasaw Bayou to meet Sherman’s advance on Vicksburg. Considerable heavy cannon bombarding and some sharp infantry fighting, at one or two points on the line, took place when Sherman retired, and we were shortly sent to Port Hudson, Louisiana. Here, on or about the 15th of March 1863, in the evening, we were subjected to a heavy bombardment by the U.S. fleet six miles below us. That night we witnessed Farragut’s spectacular attempt to carry his entire fleet up the Mississippi River, past the heavy Confederate land batteries. As the fleet moved up toward the batteries, every ship’s gun was put to work throwing shells. The whole atmosphere appeared to be full of the screaming, exploding heavy bombs. The man who would say he could look with complacency and ease on such a scene has no regard for the truth. It was terrific. Farragut succeeded in passing the batteries with his flagship, Hartford, and her tender Albatross. But the next ship immediately behind them was the famous sloop of war, Mississippi. She was struck with a red hot ball from the land batteries and set on fire. It was otherwise badly disabled, lost her course and floated around under the bluff under the land batteries. Flames were pouring out of her various portholes. Dewey, now Admiral of the U.S. Navy but then a Lieutenant, was in command of this ship. The burning ship, with the shooting, exploding pyrotechnics from guns of the land batteries, accompanied by the hideous, terrifying screams of the flying shells, presented a spectacle which is feebly expressed by saying it was awe-inspiring.
The 41st Tennessee Regiment was placed that night on the old Baton Rouge Road near the rim, immediately near the land batteries and near the river, in plain view of the scene. The crippled, burning sloop hugged the East bank under the bluff for a short while and then floated off down stream in the current. All of the ships below retired out of her reach. Five miles below her magazines exploded and this good ship ceased to exist. How Dewey and the ship’s crew escaped destruction I have always been curious to know. Next morning about forty of her crew were picked up near the water under the bluff. One of the midshipman or Commissioned Officer name Blake or Blakey; another I remember was a large, good looking mulatto, who said he was the cook and was the worst frightened man I ever saw. He thought his capture doomed him to death or slavery. He said he was from Baltimore.
A few weeks after this I was, by General Gardner’s order, detached from the regiment and put in charge as Chief Clerk of the Quartermaster’s Department of the command at Port Hudson. In fact the whole Department was then in my hands. About the same time the 41st regiment was sent elsewhere in Mississippi. The Federal Commander promptly moved up from Baton Rouge and began the siege of Port Hudson. His army of 30,000 tightly environed the place on the landside and the ships above and below looked after the waterside. The siege was begun in dead earnest. The Confederates, in prospect of such a siege, had months before prepared elaborate defensive works, well prepared ditches, battery stations at close intervals supplied with heavy and light artillery, magazines, and all of the appendages of a fortified town or post. General Gardner’s force consisted of not exceeding 4,500 men of all arms. It would be a long story to relate all in detail that took place within my observation during this siege which began about April 1, 1963 and continued uninterruptedly until July 14, 1863, when General Gardner surrendered. My station was immediately on the bluff near the Commanding General’s quarters.
Every Confederate in the post was supplied with gun and ammunition and required to take the rifle pits when attack was made on his part of the line. Hard and serious fighting and battles occurred daily and frequently at night along and on the works out from the river. It occurred several times that I took the rifle pits, as also did all other attachees of the Commissary Department, and once I saw all of General Gardner’s staff in the rifle pits in front of his Headquarters. This was in June 1863. One bright, hot morning a brigade of Negro soldiers of about 4,000, commanded by General Daniel Wellman of New York, came out of the heavy cotton wood forest about ¾ of a mile in front of the bluff we were on, formed a beautiful line, and struck a double quick pace for the bluff. In time past the river had its bed and course along at the foot of the high bluff extending for several miles. In front of the village and above, the river had changed its course, leaving the bluff and moving several miles west, forming and elbow and striking the village near its center. This change in low water left a large, wide plateau of ground in front of the abandoned bluff, extending west ¾ of a mile to a dense, heavy cotton wood forest. This broad, extended plateau was level and had the appearance of a smooth, clean sea beach. The bluff was almost abrupt and, along its whole line, bristled with heavy Confederate artillery. It also had rifle pits and light artillery stations. It was astounding that this negro brigade would assault such a place. But they came on in splendid form, bayonets glistening like silver in the bright June sun, uniforms spick and clean, and the Commanding officers riding close behind them. When they got within 150 yards of the foot of the bluff, every cannon, heavy and light, double shotted, and every rifle turned loose on them. They stopped, and at once fell to piece in this terrific fusillade playing havoc and death among them. They stampeded, and every man, not on the ground, took to his heels for the woods, the guns meanwhile playing on them, and, after the ones fortunate enough to escape reached the heavy timber, the 100 heavy cannon continued to pour a volcano of shot and shell into the timber producing a terribly crashing noise. About 500 or 600 of the negro Federals were left dead and wounded on the ground which they traversed. I once had a Commission of a negro Captain (Capt. Andrew Cailloux) taken off a dead negro Captain killed on that field. And the first green back bill I ever saw as a $5.00 bill I took out of this dead negro Captain’s inside coat pocket. His Commission was signed by General B. F. Butler. I don’t remember what became of it. I could relate many other interesting incidents which occurred during that siege. The battles were fierce and desperate. In the end the federal artillery tore the little wooden town to pieces. No other attack was made on the bluff side than the one related.
Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, and this information was caught by Sergeant Whitehead of our signal office while the message was passing between the Federal fleets above and below. Before the siege ended the Confederate food supply became reduced to cow peas and molasses and that very scant.
An armistice was held on July 14 and terms of surrender agreed upon. All non-commissioned soldiers were to be paroled, not to take up arms again until exchanged. On July 15 General Gardner marched his little army out and took positions in line just South on the West side of the Baton Rouge road; and General Banks marched his 30,000 Federal soldiers in and took position in lines on the opposite side of the road. He and General Gardner rode through the lines to the head where the command was given to the Confederates, and the opposite side stacked their guns. The whole proceeding was conducted with great formality.
While the paroles were being prepared General Banks had team loads of provisions hauled in and distributed to the Confederates. Bank’s soldiers were all Eastern men from the North Eastern states. They were kinder and more considerate than any Western Union soldiers I met during the war. They displayed no bitterness or rancor, were better educated, more courteous.
On the 3rd day after the surrender I received my parole, signed by Colonel Thomas E. Chittendon of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, who was the paroling officer. On the evening of that same day, in company with Sergeant Whitehead of Virginia, the signal officer, W. W. McLemore of Memphis, Tennessee, and my negro servant Abb, I passed out of Port Hudson and took the road to Clinton, Louisiana. We reached this place that night about 10 o’clock, laid down on the platform of an old abandoned store, and the balance of the night slept the sleep of the just, first consuming the day’s rations furnished us by the Federals. Next morning we arose with the birds, and each struck out our several ways in search of breakfast.
My position in the Quartermaster’s Depart at Port Hudson had afforded me the opportunity of supplying myself very well with some good, clean shirts, socks, shoes, and a good new and neat Confederate suit of clothes out of a large lot of such supplies we had and other supplies stopped in transit to the Western armies by the approach of Banks’ army.
I had also supplied McLemore and Whitehead, also had given my negro servant, Abb, some of the clothing. And the supplies were further distributed to the other Confederate soldiers during the armistice. I noticed on the way to Clinton that a good many citizens were slow to allow the soldiers to come into their houses for fear they might have some very undesirable company which in those days took up with and associated with soldiers, and could be transmitted.
So when I awoke at Clinton, it appeared to be a very neat town. My clean clothes were stored in a large, new haversack which my negro by Abb carried for me. We went to a nearby creek before sunup and took a bath rigged myself out in my new clean clothes, left my old ones, with such cattle as had a lodgment in them, lying on the banks of the creek, and sallied forth in search of something to eat. I had not gone far until I noticed a very nice residence presenting the outward appearance of comfort and abundance, and I marched in and knocked at the door, which was answered by a servant girl. I was invited in. Directly a kindly faced, motherly looking woman put in her appearance and introduced herself to me as Mrs. Kitchen. I told her my name and who I was and where I was from and where I lived. She arose and gave me a warm, cordial handshake, and at once broke down in tears. While she held my hand, as the tears poured from here eyes, I could feel she was under great agitation. She related the names of her friends and acquaintances who had perished in the Confederate Army. Among others he named was N. B. Barfield, a splendid young man and her neighbor’s son, an artillery officer who was killed at Port Hudson. I knew of young Barfield’s death, learned it the day he was killed. I knew him well. He had been my school mate and class mate at the Western Military Institute in Nashville, and he was a fellow member of my Greek letter fraternity SAE. His father, a wealthy planter, lived near Clinton, and I spent part of the next day at his home. I had intended, before I met Mrs. Kitchen, to call on Mr. Barfield and acquaint him with the circumstances of his son’s death.
Just before I was invited in to breakfast at Mrs. Kitchen’s, two bright, very pretty girls, her daughters came in and she introduced me to them. I spent several hours at this home before noon and went back again in the evening and took Whitehead with me. We were charmed with these attractive girls. When I went back in the evening I took a book I had gotten at Port Hudson, Howe’s Shakespearian Reader , and wrote my name in it and gave it to one of the girls. This was over fifty years ago. I was then young and susceptible, and the pretty, charming faces of these two bright, attractive girls are as clearly photographed on my memory as the day I parted from them. I would like to know their lives, whether they are living, who they married if anyone, what lines their lives have fallen upon.
We spent that night and the greater part of the next day at Mr. Barfield’s home, where I related to him the circumstances of his son’s death. The old man was intensely southern in sentiment, yet exhibited deep sorrow over the death of his only son. His family consisted of his wife and a young single daughter, apparently 18 or 20.
We received information that, by hastening to Tangepalor, a station on the N. G. & Jackson Railroad, we could catch a train next morning. So we soon departed and got to Tangepalor next day. It was a tiresome walk. We traveled nearly all night. Just before day, when near the station, we lay down on the ground and went to sleep. We lay there until afternoon without hearing any approaching train. In the evening we went into the village and were informed that no train was expected, that in fact none was coming, if we could get to Magnolia by early morning, we might catch a train to Jackson. Our informant was not advised, nor were we advised, that Grant, with his whole army, was then attacking the Confederate Army at Jackson. However we struck out along the railroad track for Magnolia, reaching there next morning, to find the town occupied by 5,000 Federal cavalry looting the town. They took us in, but, finding we had paroles, discharged us. That section of country was in an awful condition. The planters or many of them, with their negros and what cotton they could take, were fleeing to the interior, further East. Every road going East was full of paroled soldiers from Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and the country was literally skinned of everything to lie on. All were hastening to Shubuta, the nearest point on the M. & G. Railroad, 100 miles away, and through almost a trackless forest of pines apparently as little disturbed as it was the day Columbus landed at San Salvador.
I will refrain from giving the details of this weary, tiresome tramp from Magnolia to Shubuta. Nothing to eat except the fruit of the peach trees growing by the side of some woodsman’s long abandoned cabin, or from the little corn patches of some small Quaker settlers, living in almost absolute destitution, who had fled from the Quaker settlements in North Mississippi, West Tennessee, and Western Kentucky to his and secrete themselves in this vast wilderness to keep out of the war.
When we arrived at Shubuta, the place was filled with planters fleeing with their negros and cattle and what cotton they could haul, and paroled soldiers from Vicksburg and Port Hudson, all seeking railroad passage. When we got in the planters seemed to have possession of all available transportation. Long freight trains standing on the side tracks were filled with the negros, cattle, cotton and other chattels and plunder of the fleeing planters. Some 10,000 paroled soldiers, hungry, mad, and desperate, looked on the situation with great displeasure, and at once determined to take the case in hand. Among the paroled soldiers were many negros, who had gone with their masters to the Army as cooks and servants. This element joined their soldier friends in expressing their displeasure vehemently and boisterously. A meeting was quickly held and determination formed to take possession of the planters’ loaded trains and dump out the planters’ negros, cattle and plunder. No quicker determined on than done. It was exciting and intensely amusing to see our Army negros, led by some strong headed, white men, mount into the cars and hurl out the negros, cotton and plunder of the planters. At once the cars, so emptied, were filled with the paroled soldiers and their negro servants. Each train as soon as filled by soldiers, moved out for Mobile. I rode to Mobile on one of these trains, also my companions Whitehead and McLemore and my negro boy Abb. This negro was very loyal to the Confederate soldiers. At Port Hudson he vehemently put aside all entreaties of the Federal soldiers and negro camp followers to abandon me and go with them, and at Shubuta his boisterous activity and participation in dumping the planter’s negros and plunder afforded the great crowd of bystanding soldiers infinite amusement. This act at first had the appearance of incipient riot.
We arrived at Mobile in good order. At Port Hudson, a large amount of Confederate money, destined to the Western Army, was also with the clothing and stores mentioned, stopped by the approach of Bank’s Army of several hundred thousand soldiers. This money General Gardner, during the two days armistice, directed to be distributed among the soldiers. This fund was in the Quartermaster’s office. Whitehead, McLemore and I put our shares of about 40,000 of it in a haversack and hung it over Abb’s shoulder, and, when we got to Mobile, we had plenty of money to meet our pressing needs. It was the first place we found, after leaving Port Hudson, where we could buy anything with it, and here we blew it in lavishly. We remained at Mobile several days and then separated. I have never seen nor heard from either of them since.
We were ordered by the Commanding Officer at Port Hudson to report to General Pillow in command of the P. Camp at Demopolis, Alabama. I could not go to Tennessee as all of middle Tennessee was in possession of the Federal Army. I knew a good many of my Tennessee acquaintances were refugees in Northern Georgia and North Alabama. So I took the train for Atlanta, thinking to go by and see them on my way to Demopolis. Among those I met at Rome, Georgia was Colonel Henry H. Erwin, who was then in control as Confederate Superintendent of Round Mountain Iron Works, situated on the Coosa River in Chencher County, Alabama, above Gadsden. He was the son of Colonel Andrew Erwin, who was, for many years, associated in business with my father in the rope and bagging business and in owning an iron furnace on the Cumberland River. The Round Mountain furnace was being run solely in the interest of and by the Confederate Government. It was a large concern and required a large force, a good many of who were skilled white men, subject to military service but detailed to this work. There were only about 1,000 negros on the force. I informed Col. Erwin of my situation, that I was on parole and ordered to report to the Confederate General Pillow at Demopolis and go into parole camp. He said he needed my services as Clerk and Purchasing Agent at Round Mountain, and that he would have me assigned there by General Pillow. This he did, and in August, 1863 I went to Round Mountain to remain under my parole and perform the duty of Clerk and Supply Purchasing Agent for the iron works force. These works made large quantities of pig charcoal iron, which was shipped to Richmond, Virginia, to be made into cannon and ammunition.
I remained at Round Mountain under parole until the Federal Army in 1864 moved South. General Baldy Smith, in command of a large force of cavalry, raided the place on the 2nd day of May, 1864 and captured a large part of the white employees, including myself. It was 1 o’clock at night when they rushed in. Colonel Oliver of a Wisconsin regiment came into my room, made me get out of bed and he got in, and I, with others, was put under guard. Next morning I pulled my parole on him and asked to be discharged. He said no, that I was helping to run that Confederate works and he would not recognize the parole but would send me with the rest to prison. And so we (about 30 of us) were hustled straight through to Rock Island Federal Prison. I was put in Barracks 44 where I remained until after the war ended.
The prisoners were subjected to very many hardships, guarded by a regiment of cruel negro soldiers who never hesitated, on the slightest provocation, to shoot a rebel prisoner. We were on very short rations which caused great suffering and despondence. We were strictly denied all news, except what was allowed to come in under strictly and closely censored letters from home. All war news was cut out.
Finally, it leaked in that Lee and Johnson and all the Confederate forces had surrendered. On what terms we knew not, or that Lincoln had been assassinated. At least four prisoners were cruelly and without any just provocation, shot down by the negro guards on the day Lincoln was killed. [14 April 1865] It was desperate. We had no information as to what our fate was to be or how long we were to be confined in that hell-hole.
Finally, Abram Mayfield, who lived at Lincoln, Illinois, and was my first cousin, came to the prison and got permission from the Commandant to see me. He gave me the first reliable news as to the situation. He said the Confederate forces had all laid down their arms and the war was over. He advised me to take the oath and go home with him. This I did, and shortly I was subjected to the humiliation of seeing Illinois regiments returning from the South loudly and boisterously singing: “We’ll hang Jeff. Davis on a sour apple tree.”
I landed home in August 1865, which was the first and only time I had been in Tennessee since 1861, except the flying trip when I rushed through the state to Rock Island in 1864.
When I landed at Wartrace, my home railroad station, the evidences of the cruel war storm were everywhere present. Four years of see-sawing back and forth of hostile armies across this section of the state had left a condition hard for me to realize.
About the village knots and small groups of idle, destitute negros straggled, or congregated and sat on the station platform and elsewhere about, apparently incapable and unable to appreciate and understand their situation, that they were free and must stand on their own resources and root hog or die. The small garrison of Federal soldiers likewise strolled or sat idly about, and with them a good number of people whom I had know before the war, some among them who, at the beginning, when the war sentiment was practically all Southern, took on a hot war fever and vapored and stormed at any suggestion of moderation or expressions of any doubt as to the advisability of our rushing into the war. Now this latter class appeared to be on fine terms and in high feather with the Federal soldiers. It was: “We did it.” One of them made an insulting, offensive remark about me as I passed. He was endeavoring evidently to impress the soldiers with his loyalty to the Government. This same individual later was loud and vehement in his support of the Republican policy of disfranchising the “rebels” as he called them. They were then in the saddle. They had their feet on the necks of the rebels and their sympathizers.
Comparatively all of the Southern white people who had been successful, prominent and respectable before the ware were, for four years after it close, disfranchised, and on election days stood about like orphans, having no rights that the scalawags and negros, whom they had enfranchised, felt bound to respect. Some of the men who were prominent and active in support of this infernal business, at the beginning of the war were the loudest of the loud in urging the South to go into the war. One of them I knew was an inspector and mustered soldiers into the Southern Army.
These facts deeply and sorrowfully impress us with the inconstancy and the weak, vacillating, untrue and uncertain character of a great many people we come in contact with in this life.
Over fifty years of subsequent life, as a busy lawyer, in which I have been in a personal and professional way in contact with all classes of people, have not made a misanthrope of me; but it has given me an opportunity to rightly judge human character, and hence has caused me to feel and believe “men are not villains all”, but, at the same time, has convinced me that many of Adam’s sons and daughters are cast in a mold of unstableness and inconstancy and grow up to man and womanhood weak, vacillating, untrue and uncertain characters, who lives are governed and controlled, not by high and sound principle, but by selfishness, avarice and love of gain, pride and desire for social prominence, a disposition to be with the strong and winning side and other sordid ambitions, all bespeaking a low cast of human character. We meet these conditions in all the relations of life. The churches, the political parties, the benevolent orders, all to a considerable extent are infested with this element.
In the evening of the day I landed in Wartrace, August 1865, I walked out to the old home on Knobb Creek. The colossal forests which stood on each side of the road and covered the Cleveland hills, from the railroad to the Garrison River, had practically all disappeared, giving the country a wasted, desolate appearance. This forest was the paradise of my boyhood hunting days. The country had been stripped of all valuable timber and smaller trees by the hordes of plunderers who followed in the wake of the Federal Army on its march South. I reached the bridge across the Garrison River where I could see over the large farm, on which stood the old Mt. Reserve homestead where I was born. Also in view was my mother’s present home situated on the bank of Knobb Creek, on which place, when I left home four years before, stood the hemp factory and the numerous buildings of a large rope an bagging manufactory operated in ante-bellum days by my mother and older brother (William). On all these places it appeared a scene of waste and desolation; fences and out houses all down, not a hoof of stock of any kind to be seen. The hemp factory and all buildings formerly connected with it were literally erased, not a plank or board left. As I found later, all had been torn down by straggling negros and plundering white camp followers and carried to Wartrace, the most valuable lumber shipped, and the refuse erected into hundreds of negro shacks. Such desolation follows in the wake of war, and gives us a feeling of deep sympathy for the people of Belgium and Northern France, trodden under foot in the ruthless destruction being inflicted by the barbarous Germans as we read in the daily papers of the present time.
As I crossed the creek and turned up towards the house I saw my old mother sitting alone on the steps of the front porch. She saw me and walked briskly to the gate and met me. She was not an effusive, over demonstrative woman ordinarily, but on this occasion she could not control here feelings but gave way to emotions of commingled joy, sadness, pleasure and deep sorrow. No one was with here but my younger brother, Andrew, who had been at home with her during the four years of my absence.
From my birth, January 15, 1840, until I reached manhood and enlisted as a soldier in August 1861 in the Southern Army, I was reared at Mt. Reserve on Knobb Creek, Bedford County, Tennessee. This section was settled by a splendid citizenry; the Erwins, Hords, Halls, Davidsons, Clevelands, Peppers, Cortners, Huffnans, Osborns, the families of my father and uncle, and others, all of who came in from North Carolina when the County was opened. The soil was fertile and the people prospered, making fine homes and a splendid community. From the first they fostered the education of their children. They brought with them from the old North State the Reverend George Newton and Samuel Vannison; the first named being a highly educated Presbyterian minister, the second being a highly educated and trained school teacher. Into the hands of these two was entrusted the religious and educational interest of the community. Bethsalem Presbyterian Church was soon erected on the hill where its successor now stands and Pin Hook Academy was erected on the hill on the North side of the creek on my father’s land. The people fostered these two institutions, always keeping the church supplied with a cultivated people; and thus has always stood the old Mt. Reserve-Bethsalem Community, known far and wide in ante-bellum days as one of the finest in the state.
In this community and among these people I was reared and spent my boyhood days. The people became great readers, took published journals, newspapers and magazines, established a well selected public library which was kept at the church and was assiduously read by the people of the neighborhood. The memory of these things form the glory spot in my life, an increasing source of pleasure among the treasures of memory.
In 1861 the cruel war broke upon the country, and for four years the contending armies struggled and fought over this section, and, when it ended, waste and ruin and wreck was all that was left of the former rural paradise, from which it has never recovered. Strangers have moved in and taken the places and seats of the old residents, all of who have passed away. I have for years rarely visited the old community, I see so many strange faces that I find myself anxious to go away.
In April 1867 I came to Shelbyville and procured a clerkship in the County Court Clerk’s office and took up the study of law; applied myself with great diligence and at December term 1868 of the Circuit Court I was admitted to the bar. At the time there were over twenty matured, practicing lawyers at this bar. I had no money, and in the face of what I was confronting, it was calculated to give great discouragement. But it did not. I was well and strong. My education was good; I was buoyant and diligent and never allowed a doubt of my future success to come in my way. I was cheerful and agreeable, made friends rapidly, and soon began to pickup some small cases, to all of which I gave my undivided attention. Whether I succeeded as a lawyer, my professional brethren and the public I served will attest. I remained in active practice until a year ago when I retired, 46 years. I now live quietly at home with my daughter, very much disabled physically from stiffened joints and depleted nerves. I spend my time reading books and trying, from what I can gather from daily papers, to keep up with the horrible war in Europe.
A lawyer engaged in general practice is compelled largely to live the life of a “scrapper”, in the field of human contention and controversy, where every shade of human character and disposition is constantly presented to him. Likewise he sees much of human experience that is pathetic and full of sorrow and unhappiness.
On the 13th day of June 1871 I married a splendid woman, Anne Eliza Wadsworth Blakemore. She lived with me for over thirty-five years, when she died suddenly, survived by myself and three children, all adults at that time. My family life was most pleasant and agreeable, my dear wife standing by and with me in all my efforts.
I was successful as a business and professional man. I have jotted down the brief statement of my life heregiven for the benefit of my children, who may, in after years when I am gone, find some pleasure in looking over it…
These pages are written in no spirit of vanity. It is well that people should know of their forbears. It may help serve to inspire them with a pride and ambition to imitate their virtues and worth. But it should be ever kept in mind that knowledge of worthy forbears can never be counted for credit by unworthy descendants. Of such it can only stand to their discredit and dishonor, that they could not or would not maintain what was handed down to them. Nothing in fact counts or is worthy to count in this life except personal worth, a lofty, just, honorable personal character, all of which must be self acquired and maintained and, when so, worthy ancestry serves well to add to its luster, dignity and worthiness.
This may be of interest to my descendants, for whom alone it is written in my eightieth year.”
This was signed by Thomas R. Myers, March 11 1919
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