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Written May 5, 1835 by Jesse Vawter
Published in the minutes of the 1838 Madison Baptist Association annual meeting
I, Jesse Vawter, being in my eightieth year, do this day begin to write a journal of my life. I was born December, the first day, 1755, in Culpepper County, Virginia. I was sent to school in my eighth year. About this time my father moved into Orange County, and I worked on a farm for about ten years. I was the oldest child of six, and had by nature a mechanical turn of mind. I did some coopering, and made me a lathe and did some turning; I also made some wheels with a millwright. In 1774 my father hired me to a house carpenter and joiner. In 1775 my father set me at liberty to act for myself. At this time there was a great call for flax wheels. I joined my Uncle Oppill. We prepared our timber; built us a shop with two rooms, chimney in one and stove in the other. Each of us had a lathe made and mended wheels until in November, 1777, when I drove a team and moved a family out to Holston, three hundred miles, where I attended a farm with two negro men for Joseph Early.
In December, 1778 , I went back to Virginia, and followed house carpenter’s and joiner’s work until November, 1779, when I drove a team for Uncle I. Coper, when I had three uncles and a brother all in a company moving to Holston. We unloaded our wagons the second day of December, 1779. I had bought of Joseph Early four hundred acres of land, on which my brother Philemon and Jonathan Underwood settled at that time. In the next year, 1780, I labored on a saw and grist mill for old Mr. Keywood. In December I went back to Virginia, and in 1781 was married, March twenty-ninth day, and in June was drafted for two months’ tour. I got back to my wife’s father’s late in August, and was three months sick. My wife has told me that they sat up with me forty nights and thought every one might be the last. The next winter and spring I made myself a light wagon and had it ironed nicely. In January, 1782, our son John was born.
In the latter part of April I geared three horses and loaded our little property and set out for Holston, three hundred miles, and unloaded the 17th of May on my own premises, and raised a tolerable crop of corn that year. In the fall of 1783 I went to old Virginia with my wagon and moved Aunt Underwood to Holston. In 1785 I, with my wife and children, went again to Virginia on a visit, and was gone from the I3th day of September to the 24th of November. I had built me a shop, and followed making and mending wagons, and other work, as also attending to my farm until 1790. In December 1787, I went to Kentucky on a visit to see my friends, and in 1790 I sold my land and moved to Kentucky, and landed there in September 1790. In 1789, my wife and myself, with Sally our baby, went on horseback to old Virginia on a visit to bid our friends a final farewell, as we expected to move to Kentucky the next year. We unloaded our horses at Brother Stapp’s, September 22d. I took a lease on Mr. Shannon’s land for five years, put up a log cabin and moved into it in November, 1790. August 13, 1791, I left home and went to Holston to aid my Brother Philemon to move to Kentucky, and got home again September 20.
August 7, 1793, I left my home and went to V irginia to aid father Watts in moving to Kentucky, and got home again the `8th day of November, 1793.
In 1795 I moved to the north fork of Elkhorn, three miles above the forks, and we lived there until September 6, 1806, when we moved over the Ohio to Indiana. During our residence in Kentucky, I made looms, made and mended wagons, made and mended wheels, reels, and did other mechanical work, but never neglected my farm. And also, while I kept house in Indiana, I had a shop and did do almost all kinds of mechanical work, yet never neglected my farm. I have observed on a minute book that I had earned in my shop $344, and that I had received for marriages $151. In 1830, we broke up housekeeping and on September tenth my wife died, and I have made my home with Polly Branham, but am a great deal of my time absent. Since the death of my wife I have not confined myself to labor, but have done some little jobs, and have received about forty dollars for marriages. Julia Wise died May 10, 1834. September, 1835, I attended at Loughery Association, and came home sick, and am yet quite feeble this first of December.
I have been at the constitution of twelve churches, and have aided at the ordination of eight ministers; have baptized persons in eighteen churches; the highest number at any one time was 18, and the greatest number in any one church was 127. I have been at the formation of three associations, and have served as moderator twenty-three years in succession; and have solemnized perhaps little short of two hundred marriages. In the year 1834 I attended three associations In the year i8~~ I attended three associations and have baptized three persons this year. In 1836, I was at Coffee Creek Association but was very feeble. In 1837, I was at Madison Association, and was very feeble.
Jesse Vawter died March 20, 1838, eighty-three years old.
JEFFERSON COUNTY PIONEERS
This was a series of articles that appeared in the Madison Courier. Some were first hand accounts by the early settlers and others were taken from autobiographies from other sources. They are reproduced in their entirety by the Jefferson County Historical Society and with their permission we offer them on our website.
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