Updated 21 Mar 1999
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As of this date, the Carlton Combs Letter of 1885 will no longer be considered documentation of the line of John and Sarah MABRY Combs, but will instead be "only for clues."

As noted here early last summer, the following transcription of Carlton's letter (actually a transcription of a transcription of a transcription) is flawed, and although some errors have been "corrected," those corrections were themselves based on a transcription.

According to Researcher Dale Wilson (email dated 7/20/1998): "... answer to your request for the copy of the original letter... Good Luck! I can't even get dad or his siblings to agree to have it copied. I know the paper is VERY FRAGILE and they currently have it stored in a climate controlled setting where it can only be handled with soft cotton gloves..."

Although Dale himself has transcribed the letter (from the original), no copy of that transcription has been made available to Combs Research either. Moreover, even if a copy were provided, it would still be no more than yet one more unproofed transcription. At this point, anything less than the original itself would be suspect due to the too many versions already floating around.

This is an unfortunate circumstance, particularly given that even "soft cotton gloves" will damage the letter whereas a photograph would not only preserve it unto eternity, but allow it to be available to tens of thousands of descendants of John and Sarah MABRY Combs.

In the meantime, research continues and hopefully, even without the letter, it will be possible to document John and Sarah's descendants.


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Carlton Wilbur Combs, son of John and Jean JACKSON Combs, and grandson of John & Sarah MABRY Combs, was born 17 Jun 1809 in Huntsville, Mississippi Territory (later Madison Co, AL). On 30 Mar 1885, from North Auburn, Nemaha Co., Nebraska, Carlton Wilbur Combs, wrote the following letter - a genealogical treasure -- to his daughter, Orta Hope Combs Eckert.

Note: This transcription, over 20 years old, was re-typed (and proofed) by Combs Researcher Joyce Winter Kahre who recently learned that another more recent transcription from copy of original by Combs Researcher Dale Wilson, is different, and we believe, probably more correct. The initial corrections (with more to follow) are in red font below (June 1998
Surnames in this letter include: Bell, Bettis, Bigham, Cardwell, Cate (Cates), Cole, Collingworth, Combs, Cox, Daymude, Eckert, Fulkerson, Harbison, Hayworth, Hornbeck, Jackson, Mabry, Mapes, Miller, Mithill [Mitchell?] Ore, Rice, Sanders, Searle, Smith, Stimmell, Talbott, Teury [Tennery?] Thomason [Thompson?], Vance, Whetstone
States include: AL, AR, IA, IL, IN, MO, NC, TN, VA See Also List of Locations

The Carlton Combs Letter

Dear Daughter,

Your letter of late date and also one of some while ago requested me to give you a little sketch of our ancestry and genealogy. It made me glad to learn that you felt a desire to know something of the lineage or race of which you and I descended.

In regard to the nationality of my paternal side, nothing certain is now knows by any of their descendants as far as I have ever ascertained, either by correspondence or personal interviews with relatives, friends or outsiders.

For the past 25 years I have been diligently searching the nationality of my ancestors for the purpose of ascertaining who I am and whence I came, but to date I am deeply grieved to say nothing certain is known or my grandfather Combs' ancestors by any person now living. One of my cousins, George W. Combs, a man of great memory and a son of my father's oldest brother, who is now 70 years old, seems strongly impressed with the belief that he heard his father say that my grandfather who of Scotch descent, but could not state so positively and I know that I heard my father say this his father had two brothers who went to Georgia but whether young or old, married or single, I know not now. These brothers of my grandfathers are all the blood kin I ever heard of, except his own children.

His wife was Sally MABRY, but when or where married, I do not believe I ever heard. All their children but one (the youngest) as I suppose were born in or near Abingdon, Virginia (Washington County).

The youngest was born in Jefferson County, East Tenn. to which place my grandfather migrated in the year 1796, as I now remember it, where he bought land, settled, lived and died. I have heard it said of him that he was very rigid in his religious doctrine, strict in his home ties and quite disposed to controversy and a strict member of the Baptist Church. Of his wife's family there was a large family connexion, the most of who settled in or about Knoxville, Kingston, Athens, Sequatchey Valley, etc. in East Tennessee.

The offspring of my grandfathers were five sons and four daughters who I will name in order of their birth, so you may be able to better fix their descendants in your mind when mentioned below.

I happened to be born at a time to know all my uncles and aunts and nearly all their children personally and intimately.

The first son was Phillip, 2nd George Mabry, 3rd Mary, who afterward married John SANDERS, 4th Lewis, 5th John (this was my father whose birthplace was precisely midway in the family. from head to fott, and I being the eldest child, gave me position to know all but a few of the youngest personally) 6th Sarah married Eli HORNBECK, 7th Joseph, 8th Elizabeth, 9th Frances.

Philip married Rebecca ORE, who had 8 children, five daughters and three sons and in the following order. Sarah, Elizabeth, Frances, Agnes, Joseph B. F. who is or was in his prime, 6 foot 4 1/8 inches high and is a local preacher of the M.E. Church: next George W., next James Ore, and last Lalvina, only of the females (Elizabeth, mother of C. W. CATES) ever married. Joseph B. F. and George W. married but have no offspring. James has a large family (John, who came out with me and worked for us is Jame's son).

George Mabry Combs married Agnes ORE, sister to Rebecca. The fruit was seven sons and one daughter, to wit: Nelson T. and John C., Hugh L. W. T. P., Pleasant M., Alfred S., Caltha Constant, Napoleon B. and Oliver Perry, but not a single one of these are living but some left large families, except Nelson and Hugh, are our Coles Co. relatives. Hugh also came to Illinois, settled and died young in Effingham County, leaving 3 children. Nelson married Sally TALBOTT, a short thick heavy woman, but of strong natural intellect and considerably cultivated. They also had 3 children. Nelson died at age of about 30 and his widow (I think) moved either to North Alabana or the Forked Deer County in Tenn. This man was the oldest son of my Uncle George M. and I the first born of my parents. Both born on the 17th of June, just ten years apart, he in 1799 and I in 1809. The coincidence of each being the first born of our parents and on the same day of the month, I admit caused me to look forward for 10 years to his death day with some superstitious apprehension.

John C. married Dorcas COX. They had a large family of children, but only two sons, William Alexander and John Tilford.

Pleasant M. married Mary HAYWORTH who also had a large family with 3 if not 4 sons. I remember Oliver P., Thomas Jefferson and John Nelson. The latter and John Tilford are the two who accompained their Mothers to visit when we lived at High Point. Hugh married Mary MAPES, had one son and 2 daughters, who names I cannot now recall. He died young, also, leaving his widow and children in Effingham, Ill.

Alfred Sterling is the next in order. This was my favorite of the family. He and I were nearest of an age of any others. We attended the same school together and studied the same questions in arithmatic at the same time for a whole year and not missing over three days apiece. He was remarkably studious and after leaving school studied medicine, went into practice in Tenn. but soon migrated to Coles Co., Ill. and located in practice in a town then called Independence, now Oakland, or which he was in part proprietor. Before leaving Tenn. as I now remember it, he was attacked with measles, on which he took cold. The cold settled in the lungs, producing consumption of which he died at the age of 30 to 35. He never married.

Caltha Constant was the only daughter of the family, came with them to Illinois, married a man by the name of PEMBERTON, had one child and died.

Napoleon married also in Illinois and died soon after, leaving a son who is deaf and dumb, but mental power pretty good, I conversed with him 2 or 3 hours by asking and answering question on a slate.

Oliver was scarcely grown when reaching Illinois but the country proved too unhealthy for all of them and he too soon after died. Their Mother came out with them and soon died. Their father died many years before in Alabama.

Next in order was Aunty Mary, who as before stated, married John SANDERS, a man possessed, I think, of the most remarkable memory of any person I have ever met. Could tell the precise age of any child born in his vicinity, also any horse or cow. Nine children constitu[t]ed their family 6 sons and 3 daughters, to wit: William, James, Sarah, Harmon, Margaret, John, Bettie, Lewis, and Solomon. The last two being twins. William married in Tenn. his wife's name just now beats my memory. They soon after moved to Missouri and lived or or near the Mississippi River. James lived in the enjoyment of single blessedness all his life. Sarah, when about 16 or 18 years of age accompanied her Aunty Sarah HORNBACK to her home on Duck River Hickman Co. Tenn. Hickman Co., Tenn. some 45 miles south of Nashville, where she soon after was attacked with fever and died in a short time. Harmon, who was about 1 1/2 years older than myself, married Polly BETTIS, several years older than myself. Fruit, 4 daughters and one son. The oldest daughter married Mr. VANCE, had a large family and died. One of her daughters, Kate, came out to Aled, Mercer Co., Ill. married a man by the name of DAYMUDE. They have a bouncing young man whose name they call Herbert Carlton. Guess must send him a present, what would you advise?

This is no. 10 or it may be no. 8 while nos. 9 and 10 are here. I forget. No other one of Harmon's children ever married. The son is a confirmed invalid and the sisters have to work for his and their living at any thing they can get to do. They are the best of women but extremely poor. They want to come here but have not the means to bring them. The remainder of Aunt SANDERS children followed William to Missouri and South Illinois and lived in Monroe County, Ill. and just opposite to it in Missouri, near Cape Girardeau but as I learned were rolling stones and gathered little or no moss. But Aunt Mary herself was one of the best of women, was a devoted member of the Baptist Church.

Next was Uncle Lewis who married one Jane SMITH. They left the old home and first went to Sequatchey Valley, Tenn. but some years afterwards moved to Indiana, where most of their children were born and raised. The exact number as well as some of the names have left me just now, though I knew them all personally. In this family were only two daughters but either 9 or 10 sons. The oldest John, was some 8 or 10 years older than myself, then Henry, Polly, Sterling, Matthew, Sarah Luke, Joseph, Wilson, Pleasant, Jackson and 1 or 2 more of the youngest, who names I cannot recall. Uncle Lewis was the first of our relatives who broke out for a free state. Settled in a wilderness country in Dubois Co. Indiana, where his children came up without schools or education only as they picked it up from others of the poor white slave states.

Since I have left there and the death of their parents, they have scattered off to the four winds and I know not the abiding place of a single one of them.

Next is my father, John Combs, named for his father. In him, rather more than the rest, is our interest concentrated. I am a direct descendant, you stand next in descent. My parents met, as I understand it, in Jefferson County, Tenn. where they were married in the year 1807, father at the age of 18 and mother at 20. In three weeks after their marriage they packed 3 horses, mounted them and started for the wilderness part of the state and located in a cane brake on Duck River, in what is now Maury County and near where Columbia is now situated. Built a log cabin in the thick woods or cane brakes full of Indians, bear, panthers, wolves, wildcats etc. etc. and commenced work to open farm land and make a beginning at the first end of what they doubtless contemplated a long life. But unexpected difficulties arose. Indians were not only too thick but made themselves entirely too familiar with anything and everything about the premises, to which they took a fancy, especially in the lines of provisions. The immense number of wild monsters of the woods and cane brakes where the cane grew 30 feet high and so thick that a bear could not be seen a whole rod in the thicket, had their influence on the young pair who were nearly alone in the wilderness (so far as white neighbors were concerned, and very naturally awakened some apprehension for their safety. To add to their troubles their stock of provisions gave out. This made it necessary for father to go somewhere where there was a settlement of white human beings to procure supplies. The nearest place to them at that time, as I suppose, of the desired sort was Huntsville, Alabama. Nashville is nearer now but I think it probably at time were there no Nashville as Knoxville was then the capitol of Tenn. At any rate his went to Huntsville, leaving mother in this wilderness place with only a niece (Sarah, daughter of Uncle Phillip Combs) with her.

After father left, the Indians became more bold and more aggressive and although the doors were kept securely pinned bolted and barred, the Indians on one occassion undertook to batter them down. But whether to scare the inmates or for plunder, I do not remember that I ever knew. But they did not remain here very long time for soon they found a home in or near Huntsville and while there on the 17th day of June, 1809 as before stated, I first saw light. So you can see I am a native Alabamian, by accident.

Had I have a choice in the matter, I would have preferred to have been born a native of Tenn. where seven brothers and sister were born, but you will understand that I was not consulted. At my birth my father was only 19 1/2 years old, just how long they remained in Alabama, I am not prepared to say. They left there, however, before I can remember. Before the birth of the second child who was 2 years 1 month and 24 days younger than myself and who ws born on or near the premises where they built their cabin in the cane brake and near Columbia. After the birth of the second child, Milton Crawford, and before the birth of the third child, Jefferson Lee, they pulled stakes very much opposed to the wishes of my Mother and crawfished back to Tenn. and lived in Jefferson and Grainger Counties until 1828 and in that interim Jefferson Lee, Louisa Mariah, George W., Campbell, John Winford Tilford, Theresa Mira, Jane and Elfred Sterling Jackson were born. While there my father following boating, accumulated a handsome start in the business but an unfortunate crash came, not unmixed with intoxicants, I am deeply sorry to say, and I would not say it, but in the sincere hope that it may be a valuable warning to any and all my descendants wherever they live and for all time to come. The use of intoxicants is now the greatest curse on mankind. All other evils known in the catalogue of crime will not count more than one to ten of the horrors which result from the use of intoxicating liquors and drugs. How deplorable that such an intolerable curse is allowed to exist for a single day in the wide world. If I had 1000 votes and had a legal and just right to use them, all would count in favor of giving women the ballot in the earnest hope that rum would be sent to the bottomless pit. This is quite a digression from the subject in hand but I desire that you and all my descendants may know and appreciate my sentiments on and about the evils of drunkeness for I fully and verily believe that a man when drunk, enraged and infuriated with whiskey or any of the intoxicants, will kill his best friend, will kill his wife or child, his father or mother, his brother or sister, which he would not do for all the world if not thus intoxicated or infuriated. When I left my father's roof to go out into the cold, strange world, at about the age of 20 years, a cripple, to go 60 miles on foot, all the money I had to defray expenses was 62 1/2 cents. What led to this wretched condition Poverty! Low down in the deepest dregs of proverty. What led to poverty! Whiskey, simply whiskey. Used in moderation at first. Only a dram before meals to sharpen the appetite. A quart a week was a supply. But a few years more a perverted and depraved appetite required a quart a day and the red hot cravings of a burned out system, less satisfied with a quart a day than at first with a quart a week. The best thing for men to do, I think, is never cultivate the acquaintance of the vile stuff and give the women the ballot.

About the middle of November, 1828, we left Tenn. and landed in Indiana about the first days of 1829. (Have no record of the exact date) Our means of conveyance was an oxcart, with only two wheels, one yoke of oxen, a small one horse wagon and an only horse constituted the outfit, for a family which numbered ten persons. My father was a proud ambitious man, using terms in their best sense, proud of an honest, upright reputation and ambitious to have and make an independent living. He was generous to a fault, his liberality limited only by his ability to accomodate his friend or neighbor.

How intensely humiliating to a man of his make up and to his wife and children to see an ox cart start from the place of nativity of most of them and where all had lived during the last 15 years (who were that old) and that cart containing all the goods and chattels and all the provisions for a family of 10 persons and to travel 400 to 450 miles in search of a new home in a backwoods country, virtually to hide from society and from the conditions of better days. My father was a tall, large, healthy, handsome, handy man, 6 ft. 1 in. weighed 175 lbs., possed more ingenuity and enterprise than any of his brothers, was a skillful, rapid and handy worker, and blessed with competent, wide awake business habits. Then what did it? What led to that ox cart? Oh, as long as I remember anything in the wide world that wretched ox cart will never be effaced from my memory. Do you ask what did it? Spare, of me the wretched answer required to disclose the information that sunk my formerly high minded, ambitious, independent father down, down to an ox cart. The little one horse wagon and the horse was a gift to my Mother from her brother for her and the babe and those too small to walk, to ride into their retreat from former acquainances and from civilization.

But now, after a long, tedious tiresome journey of 6 or 7 weeks camping out, taking the weather, rain or snow, just as it came with no protection but a tent cloth, we find ourselves alive in the town of Hall, County of Dubois, and State of Indiana, and to our dire disappointment and chagrin also find ourselves in the poorest country we have even seen anywhere in the green earth up to this time. Two of the uncles of the writer (Uncle Lewis and Uncle Joseph) has preceded us to this heathen corner, as it was afterward called. The inhabitants, as a general thing, were not really bad people, but were nearly entirely of that class denominated "poor whites" from slave states, brought with them their indolent habits, with very little education, less energy and enterprise and apparently without aim, object or purpose. We found shelter in one of the abandoned huts common to the country. Our "seasoning" cost us a long severe desparate run of typhus fever (typhoid, now called) with which Mother, brother Milton and myself were prostrated for 6 or 8 weeks each and kept us confined to the hut till the leaves started next spring. At the time of landing in this poor country I was 19 1/2 years old.

The first thing I did (beside the most common avocation of the inhabitants, which was hunting wild animals in the thick deep forest woods, were game was plenty) was to keep a country school in a house built for a dwelling and small for that. The house was crowded, many of the pupils older than the teacher. Everything was fairly successful, except the pay for the services of the teacher. I some time afterwards from dire necesity worked 1 1/2 months on the canal at Louisville, Kentucky. Then next I left home for good, as afore mentioned, virtually destitute, reached some relatives soon after who was a sister of my mother, whose husband was David WHETSTONE, a pretty fair farmer and fairly well to do. I remained here two or three weeks, raised a school in a good neighborhood, kept either 6 or 9 months and became tired of confinement, took a farm on halves, everything found by the landlord, including board. And through such pain and suffering with my diseased leg, made a fair crop of corn. This was on the Ohio River and in the vicinity of Evansville County Indiana, and was a decidely better country for soil and lay of land than the country around which my father stopped, for farming purposed but more unhealthy.

By the time I had completed the cultivation of my crop the neighbors on a contract with me to teach for they had built and all ready a new school house; so I went straight out of the corn field into the school house. My landlord of the corn field was Gen. Joe Lane, at that time a member of the State Legislature. Afterwards a Gen. in the Mexican War and subsequently a member of Congress and finally a Democratic candidate for vice-president of the U.S. on the Brackenridge ticket and was left. This was not nearly so pleasant a school as the one kept 3 miles out from the river. Too many grown up young men and boys who had spent very little time in school previous to this and were from the habits of the community, rude and uncivil, and I came back because I was homesick. This was a voting precinct of about 120 voters and consisting of 4 congressional townships, four persons only owned the land they lived on. The majority by large odds living on government land, liable to entry any and every day by anybody at $1.25 per acre and all improvements lost to the man that made or bought them. But just whether this return to this outlandish region was fortunate or the reverse is not for me to know.

For many years afterwards I looked upon it as a great mistake and deeply regretted it but now I conclude that finite beings are not always capable of deciding just what is best for them as relates to earthy things. Had I remained at Evansville, my intention was to have engaged in boating and the corn crop raised on the Ohio River was to make a beginning at this business, or to engage (if I could get the employment as a steamboat clerk or clerk in a store) but fate, or fear of sucess in the most desired avocation sent me back to Heathen Corners.

This, besides being a retreat for illiterate and uncivilized people was just the place for wild game. We had all kinds of forests, tall trees, splended timbers, thick woods intense thickets, thin openings, impassable under brush, clear open woods, high and low hills of every conceivable shape and form deep and dark hollows. Great crops of mast from oak and beech trees, feed for deer and turkeys as well as hogs and cattle. I was unable to perform manual labor, had there been a deman for it, which by the way among the good easy, idle inhabitants was quite out of fashion. None but an able-bodied man and one able and willing to do a mighty days work at 37 1/2 to 50 cents a day could expect to obtain employment in such a poverty stricken country. It was no part of my nature to be a drone in the hive. For several months I got down and participated in the very general habits of the country by turning hunter. The more I hunted, the fonder I became of the sport, the more deer I killed, the keener by desire to kill them. But being a cripple, it was throught I never could make a successful hunter. But this in part was a mistake. I succeeded by a still hunt and verily believe that I killed 100 deer, besides one bear while at the sport. In the midst of his hunting spree, along came an old broken down merchant with a small stock of goods and opened a store with the very common sense idea that everybody must and would have "store goods".

He was in want of a salesman and clerk. Just the occupation I had been seeking, craved, honed after and longed for for many years. It required no ur[g]ing to induce me to accept the position and in an exceedingly short time the store stock was reduced to little more than remnents and no money with which to recruit stock but large amounts were standing on the books, sold to neighbors with the understanding that they could pay in deer skins, venison, hams and pork. A few paid in pork, which after being hauled to Louisville, Ky. was a cash article. Nothing else, the products of that country, would command cash. But deer skins and ham were readily bartered for goods and with these and his pork he after some delay, replinished stock and business revived.

About this time the county seat was removed from the extreme outer edge to the center. Soon a few houses were built in the new town and my partner forsook his country stand and old customers, hied himself and shipped his good to the new town to grow up with the new county seat. I was delighted with the change, the idea of living in town was as charming to me as it was new. But my highly enjoyed employment soon came to an end. In 3 or 4 weeks time unpaid bills to a large amount for such a stock of goods was presented and the means not in reach to satisfy the, sheriff turned the owner out and me with him and locked up the store. Thus I was turned loose again on the cold wild world and no employment. I went to New Albany on the Ohio River, thence to the Wabash and out into Illinois and sought diligently for employment but failed of success. This was in the spring of 1832 for a while in Illinois I met with a regiment of Soldiers on march for the Black Hawk War. So sorely disheartened I turned my face back toward in the sincere hope that something would turn up and got back in time to cast my first vote for one Major General Andrew JACKSON.

A few more feeble but fruitless efforts were made that year for employment but none was obtained. A short time before this, he who afterwards became my father-in-law moved into our corner and settled himself down in our woods. He bought a Congress im-prove-ment (give each syllable a full sound, with great emphasis on the last, if you would know the literary ability of these good backwoods people.) This was a remarkably good farm for that region on which he set his boys to work while he diligently and vigourously pursued his vocation of goods peddler and added more clean cash to his little pile than any other 20 men in the precinct. At this anno domini 1832 I began to look around for a life partner, took a fancy for this man's daughter with the impression that she make a good companion for life, father, mother daughter and all appeared satisfied. Pleased and gratified. The father becoming overstocked with goods for his wagon hinted that he would, if I desired set up a small store a little outside of his customers where I could take charge of the sales and have a share of the profits. About a cart load or so of goods of general assortment was put in an old abandoned dwelling and I became bachelor, salesman and clerk. Soon after this, on the 30th of June, 1833, I was married to Elizabeth Tichenor.

After a few renewals of the little packet of goods, it was evident that there was no pay to any party except such as bought and never paid and the experiment was abandoned and I took a school again. Here in the Harbison Township in County and State afore mentioned our first child, Mary Jane, was born on the 27th day of August 1834. On the second day of June, 1835, my father-in-law, Moses Tichenor and family, accompained by Nathaniel APPLEGATE and family, whose children before and afterwards inter-married to the extent of three pair, pulled stakes and started for the prairies. I too went along, but simply as a passenger and when on the 9th day of July, we reached our destination in the town Hall, then county of Putnam (now Bureau Co.) Illinois all we could call our own in the world was five head of cattle, seven sheep, about $75.00 worth of household goods and $3.75 in money.

Now we are out on the frontier with settlers confined altogether to the streams and a few groves, where timber grew. A thin scattering population with magnificient distances between was the sum total that we found on our arrival here. In a very important sense, however, it was a fortunate and happy one exchange of countries leaving the poorest, we lived on the richest soil, as a general thing, ever seen by any of the company, to that time. But nobody ventured to plant their residence out on the high and beautiful prairies, which afterwards was found to be the most productive soil of the country. This left an immense majority of the country unsettled for many years and left hundreds of places 10 to 20 to 30 miles without a human habitation.

The impression among the first settlers was that the prairies never would be inhabited for the reason that they could not exist there on, for the intense cold and piercing and almost incessant high winds in winter. If the owner of high point had offered me a deed free of cost and required me to go out and live on it only one mile from timber, any time during the first five years after reaching Illinois, I would not have accepted it. Twenty-two years afterwards I gave $26.00 per acre for it, held it for 24 years and sold it (160 acres) for $10,000. While the land selected by the first settlers at the date of my sale would have commanded little more than half as much.

The land sales by the government happened precisely at the time of our arrival and the settlers were all gone to Galena to bid in and pay $1.20 per acre for their homes. We arrived too late to get any unclaimed lands that we or any body else would have at that time. But this was a matter of no difference whatever to the writer who not only had no means to buy land but hardly enough to buy bread for a month. The prospect ahead had a deeply fearful look to one without means and nearly without ability to work from my diseased leg, which before and since has been discharging would at least 20 years of my life. The disease was what the doctors called necrosis but generally better know while swelling, and which took about half of the large bone from the left leg. I was attacked by this disease the night of the 25th of December 1825 when I was 16 years old. Now nearly 60 years ago and have suffered the most intense pain occasionally and repeatedly with it since the first attack until last 2 or 3 years whenever I performed manual labor. But I do not allude to this for your information, Orta, you have know it all your life, but that Clyde Waitien and others may know it when I am no more. But this is getting slightly ahead of the facts as they occurred. On our arrival at the place for which we started, our first shelter was a log cabin two families thick and which wa first built on the n.w. side of the Illinois River in the vicinity, as I was informed by that man that built it.

All wintered together in this cabin and during the ensuing spring, summer and fall the seasoning (as some times called) incident to a change of countries was encouraged and pased through, but instead of typhoid, it was ague and fever terminating with some in long lingering chills and fever. As regards myself I had had this disease for six long months the year before in Hoosierana, which virtually wore it out of the system and hence only slight brushes of it. But now comes the tug of war. Our money long since gone and our stock of provisions exhausted, flour $12.00 per barrel and bacon proportionally high, both shipped from Cincinnati was not innured to manual labor. No settlements in the vicinity, strong enough to furnish a school could only work at that kind of labor that required no walking to perform it, such as chopping wood, making rails, mortising fence posts and the like. But it was an innate principle to make a living and to make it honest and I want to say right here that a purpose was settled on and fixed from early in life never to rent other people's property only temporarily, that is was both cheaper and better to buy for the man commencing life poor than rent and pay 1/3 to 1/2 of his hard labor to other people. If you will impress this idea on Clyde's mind while young, as well as on the mind of others of our young relatives, I feel sure that it will prove no disadvantage to them in after life. For three long years we have no place of our own except as tenants at will and also, with the exception of a new unfinished house and town lot which we bought, lived in one winter during which Minerva Lee was born on the 10th day of March 1839 and died the 19th of March 1843, at the age of 4 years and 19 days. These 3 years found us moving from "pillar to Post" and stopping for a longer time at each place, depending mostly upon where work or business (business was teaching) could be obtained and the kind of same. Leroy Benton, our second child, was also born during these 3 years on the s.w. 1/4 of section 34, 16N 116 4th Pl. Mo. now the town of Hall, on the 8th of December 1836 and in the same cabin we first took shelter, but after having occupied another place or two in the interim. Several settlements in these 3 years became strong enough to furnish schools and I occupied my time mostly in that line wherever and whenever required in the near vicinity.

In the spring of 1839 we rented a farm and went to live on it. This was at the foot of the bluff just north of where DePue now is. Remained there 4 years and 4 months ran a farm, kept school for the two years was revenue collector for the county. The law at that time requiring the collector to call on every tax payer at his or her place of residence at least once. As the county was large and the inhabitants still few and far between, I was compelled to do an immense amount of riding for small amounts of money as the taxes had to be collected in winter, my suffering from cold, sometime was very great and even perilous especially so in the parts of the country where houses were 8 to 10 miles apart. The first of these two years, the whole amount of revenue was only $3500, the next $8500. The first year no land except school land which had been bought by individuals was taxable, the second, a portion of the government lands earliest bought became taxable, which accounts for the difference in the amount of the two years revenue, my pay as collector was 5% on the first 5000 and 3% o the rest. This though small pay was largely better than chopping cord wood or splitting rails, etc. in calling on the people at their cabins and homes for their taxes, I made acquaintance (as I believe) of all the men and two thirds of the women of the county and the following year to wit, 1842, was nominated by the democratic part, the party to which I then belonged and on election day got left, but only by 3 votes. This was wholly due to inaction of my friends who fully believed that I was in for a handsome majority and they or at least many of them stayed at home. But as ran far ahead of my party ticket, they nominated me next year for county clerk and succeeded by 131 majority. Served out my term (4 years) was nominated for re-election but an extensive split in the party that year not only beat me but all the regular nominees except one. That one, being a candidate for the legislature ran also in another county the the vote of which we succeeded. The leader of the disaffected Democrats had held office of probate Justice since organization of the county as well as the Post Office for a long time, and in addition to this indicated unmistakable signs of a desire and intention to dictate to the party as to whom should be its candidates as well as the county public officers. This officious dictation was unpleasant to his best friends, disagreeable to all and actually disaffected a considerable number. By this time a man every way competent to fill the office of probate Justice had settled among us and beginning to be generally and favorably spoken of for that office and that impression was fast fixing itself in the minds of the party that he woud secure the nomination. The present incumbent began to show signs of uneasiness then of jealousy of many of the leading men of the party and when the facts became palpable that he could not succeed in the convention, he refused to submit his name and claim to it and after the gentleman alluded to was almost unimously nominated as was all the rest of the candidates, he, his dictator, announced himself an independent candidate and bargained and fused with the opposite party, and the result was the defeat of all the nominees of the Democratic party, whose election depended on our county. That defeat, I have always thought and now believe to have been the best days work the public or anybody else ever done for me. While holding the clerk's office, I had bought in partnership with my brother Jefferson, a quarter section of land for $2.75 per acre on long time. I at once furnished the rails to fence the whole quarter so that we could realize from the land very soon. This so exhauster my means that it took years to get the land paid for. Also I found while a clerk in making out the tax list for the assessor 40 acres of valuable timberland lying vacant on the river bottom. To satisfy myself as to its value I went to it and at once was convinced that one of the best days work I could do was to find the land office without letting grass grow under my feet. I lost precious little time in reach the land office, then located at Dixon Illinois, paid $1.25 per acre, took a certificate of purchase and went home, owner of the land. While living on the farm at the lake we tilled it the best we could but for the want of means, farm implements, proper teams, and especially for want of ability to work it was rather poorly done, but furnished us plentifully with all the necessaries of life, in the provision line and teaching, tax collecting supplied clotheing while living there, our fourth child, Atlanta Pearl, was born December 2, 1841. She married Jessie COLE and died February 5th 1865. It was while living here that Minerva died with scarlet fever. In Sept. 1843 we moved to Princeton, Illinois took possession of running the clerks office, county commissioners court 5 straight years and while in this town Iris Juan was born on the 11th day of June 1845 and died at High Point Farm Sept. 29th 1865 from hemorrage of the lungs and terminating in lung fever. And also born in Princeton, Ill. was Worth on the 22nd day of October 1847 and died from being run over and crushed Feb 1882. He married Ella STIMMELL and a daughter (Blanch May) was born to them after his death.

In May of 1849 we left Princeton and settled on E 1/2 NE 1/4 Section 36.16.0: 10 now the town of Solby. On this land I had a tax title but afterwards lost it, as I believe by the trick, the false statement of a lawyer. Our object in moving to this place, instead of to the farm land on the prairie was to chop off the wood then growing on the 40 acres tract recently entered for steamboat wood. The first chopping corded up 1000 cords and subsequently 300 cords of the refuse. When we went to Princeton I owed $124.50 on leaving there our indebtedness was about $700, principally for land bought while there, and but for my cord wood strike, to have paid it would have been nearly an impossibility as times then were hard and money scarce. In 1852 we moved to the prairie and located on the E 1/2 NE 1/4 of Section 18 16 N.11 E now Hall town. This is the first place that we ever lived on that we felt to be our permanent home. But it was only 80 acres of land. We had had it in cultivation or at least a large portion of it for 6 years and when we got there it was home. I soon added 40 acres more to it. Made fine crops and the completion of the canal about this time gave us a cash market for nearly all kinds of farm products and ever afterwards had a plentiful living. But not content to let well enough alone, having paid up for our lands and paid $1000 for a barn and some of the best teams concluded we ought to buy more land. And in 1837 a secion and 1/2 of land belonging to heirs was offered at public sale to the highest bidder and it was then and there we bought the land on which our High Point Farm was made but took it in the state of nature for $26 per acre, 1/8 down, balance payable in seven annual installments at 6% interest to be paid annually. This sale was made in flush time of money, all kinds of property booming and farm produce cash at high figures and I concluded we could buy and pay for that quarter of land as well as do nothing. But how delusive appearance sometimes are. How deceptive to the finite mind. A crash in the money market with a very general suspension of banks all over the United States almost immediately after the purchase ensued. Previous to the crash however, I had hired 100 acres of prairie brake with the intention of sowing it to wheat and confidently expected to realize there from at least 2400 bushels, worth a dollar a bushel and thus be ready to keep far ahead of our payments. But imagine our disappointments when the harvest came our wheat crop and oats too, through an immense growth of straw, was found to have blasted and the yield almost worthless. As I now remember it, I sold 100 bushels of this wheat for $37 but it was soon ascertained by the millers that it would not make healthy bread and the balance was used for feed. This was true of the entire copy of wheat and oats in that part of Illinois that year, 1858.

In the month of June the next year a severe frost nearly ruined our crop of corn. The following year (1860) the war between the states (North and South) was inaugurated knocking the price of corn down to 15 cents a bushel. These failures of crops, the desperate hard times for money, the war, etc. cut off our ability to pay even the interest on our new land debt and a sale of the homestead became inevitable. But rather than lose our homestead, however, I offered to give up the newplace with all I had done on it if they would release me from my obligation and give me my paper, I had bid in mine for $26, others had bid in theirs, at least some of them for $31 per acre, but at that time I offered to hand back none of it would sell for more than $10 or $12 per acre and hence they could not afford to release purchases of whom they thought collections, probably at some not too distant date, could be made. It was compulsion that required us to hold, not choice but proved a valuable thing to us in the long run. Our payments including interest was $6000, our sale for the same $10,000. We lived on it and enjoyed it for 21 years, had a good living and made some money. But while living at the river place, running the wood yard, on the 10th of December 1850 Orena Harp was born, which is on the point just across Negro Creek from Aaron RICE'S place. Her birthplace and that of Minerva Lee's both occurred at this place, and yours, Orta Hope, happened on the 2nd day of July 1853. Lawson Landor's on the 18th day of Feb. 1856 and died on the 14th day of Dec. the same year. And Osko Willie born on the 6th day of Oct. 1858. The last mentioned three were all born on the E 1/2 NE 18, 16N 11E Hall town and where William SEARLE now resides. (Sorry that I failed to get this in the proper place.) After leaving High Point which was on the 14 NW 1/4 8 same township, moved to and lived at our Bluff place 14 months and left the Great state of Illinois on the 26th day of March 1883, after living in it over 47 years and arrived at our house in Auburn, Nemaha County Nebraska, next day where I write this sketch at the age of 76 years less two months and your Mother even three score and ten on April 17th 1885.

This greatly more in detail than I intended to give of myself when this sketch was commence but it is always desirable that when any subject is spoken or alluded to that it should be sufficiently explained to be clearly understood.

Will now proceed to finish the genealogy of the remaining portion of my Grandfather Combs descendants. Next to my father was Aunt Sarah who married at the age of 15 to Eli Hornbeck, who also moved to Duck River and first settled near my father but afterwards permanetly down the River in Centerville, Hickman County, Tenn. Their progeny consisted of one son, Pleasant Miller Hornbeck, who was first cousin of Pleasant Miller Combs and both named for a prominent lawyer then of Knoxville, Tenn. and first cousin of mine, each about 9 to 18 months older than myself. Two daughters more ended the chapter of their children and whose names I have lost sight of. Pleasant's wife I never saw nor anyone of his 8 or 9 children. They all lived and died in the vicinity of Centerville, Tenn. Aunt and Uncle Pleasant died long before they were old. One of the daughters once wrote me, giving all the descendants and their names down to the fifth generation on my application for it. I think I have that letter still and will send it or copy when you come, if you desire.

Uncle Joseph is next in line. He married Nancy THOMASON. While he was 6 ft. 1 in. his wife was a dwarf and I suppose never weighed a hundred pounds in her life. Their children who lived to be grown were six in number: Lucinda, John, Martha, Jacob, Peck Jacob Peck, Mary and Frances. Lucinda who was but a few years my senior, married an uncle of Henry and Smith MILLER. They went to Texas about 1830, when the government, the then nation of Texas offered a league of land to each family who would migrate to and settle in Texas. A league of land is three miles square and hence 9 sq. miles of 9 sections. My recollection is that they had 5 sons, 4 of who shouldered their muskets and went into the army but on the rebel side and not one of them ever lived to see home again. Soon after Lucinda married and left Uncle Joe also left Indiana and moved to Clark Co., Ill. where his wife died after a residence of some 8 to 10 years. Uncle married again and I think 2 more children were born to him.

John married Mary Ann MITHILL [Mitchell?] of Coles Co., Illinois. Joseph A. who visited us at High Point was their son. Two or three sons moved to Lyons County Kansas whence they lived at last account.

Martha married a Mr. PEMBERTON (a brother or cousin to her cousin Caltha's husband) and she too soon after died.

John Peck Jacob Peck married a stranger to me. Though I visited them on my return from Tenn. in 1885. Found her to be an intelligent, interesting woman. They have a large family of children but the precise number is not recollected. They resided then in Kansas in Edgar county Illinois

Mary married William TEURY [sp? probably TENNERY] who died young, leaving an only daughter and a good farm. Your mother and me staid all night with them in Paris Ill. A few weeks after their marriage, while on our moving trip to Illinois in 1835. They soon afterwards moved on a farm in Jasper County where they lived but a short time and died and when as I remember to have heard it, the mother and daughter live together on the farm left them by the husband and father, the daughter never marring at all and the mother never married again.

Frances, like her mother, was a dwarf, married some one from Indiana and settled not very distant from Terre Haute. And this all I know about them My Uncle Joe was the first of our relatives that ever snuffed the breeze or smoked a cob pipe in Illinois.

My Aunt Elizabeth married Wilson ORE. She was the dwarf of the family, weighing about 110 pounds. They had six children who lived to be grown and I think one or two died in infancy. The eldest a daughter, was Laodicea (also a dwarf) married Robert CARDWELL and soon died. John Hamilton also married someone that I never saw and soon after moved to Texas where he died some ten years ago. He was a local preacher of the M. E. Church south. I believe that he wrote me that they had 5 children but that is all I know about them now.

Next is Wilson, who when we left Tenn. was but a little over a year old. His wife I saw on my visit in '75 but do not remember who she was. She was in feeble health and has since died. I think that they had but few children but am unable to state the number. One of their sons has been for some time attending college in the town of Mossy Creek but is anxious to come to Nebraska to get land and to get a start in life. His autograph is J. C. ORE and he writes that he intends to come out in June next after school closes.

Next is William who died in Missouri during or soon after the war.

James brings up the rear is about 45 or 50 years of age, never married, was in the war on the wrong side thereof and got an arm shot off up to the shoulder joint. A man of some talents and a member of the M. E. Church South.

But I have missed one. Joan who was C. W. CATES first wife, whose place in order of birth stands 4, a bright, intelligent woman, tall and slender as Orta. They had but one child and it died when about a year old. Joan never had robust health, lingered along, half well and half sick till about 40 or 45 and died. If you trace back a little you will find her husband second cousins.

Next and last of my grandfathers children is my Aunt Frances of tall, elegant, majestic physique, married Addison COLLINGWORTH, got a little on the edge of the old maid's list by rejecting earlier and highly worthy suitors. Their union produced one son and two daughters only. John Wesley, their first born, is now about 58 years old. I nursed him when a babe before we left Tenn. He married his wife near Galena, Ill. They moved to and settled in Jackson County, Iowa in 1842. John was also in the war, but on the right side and got home safe. He moved farther west a few years since, I guess into Jones County but do not know certainly.

Sarah is next, has been married twice. But the names of both husbands has left me know. Two children, a son and daughter, are the fruits. The daughter died some 15 or 18 years ago but once visited us at High Point, accompained by her Grandfather COLLINWORTH. The sons name is Isaac. They lived at Clay Center, Kansas, but correspondence ceased with them a good many years ago and sight of them to us is lost. The youngest daughter of Aunt COLLENSWORTH, whose name I have forgotten married James FULKERSON. I have no clue of their progeny she is nearly a six footer but very slender and feeble. I once loaned him $100, which I suppose the vile saloon got. I never got it back.

My Mother was of Irish descent. Her parents came to America young, one at the age of 11, the other at 13. Her father's name was John JACKSON. Her mother Margaret. They were married in North Carolina but in what part of it I do not remember. They were tenacious protestants, belonged to the Presbyterian church and bitter against Catholicism. It is my belief that their ancestors were from Scotland, as their birth place was Londerry which is separated from Scotland only by a small arm of the sea, and as they were such rigid Presbyterians and also that my grandfather, who lived several years at our house showed but little of the characteristics of the Irish. His wife died at the age of 41 and of course I never saw her. Their childrren, five by number, were: James, born Oct. 4 1783; Martha who married David WHETSTONE, was born Oct. 26, 1783 [sic]: they had two sons and two daughters, Margaret, their first was a year or two older than myself. She married James BELL of Warwick Co., Indiana. A large family was the result but just how their names and number have gone from my recollection except Isaac, who in 1875 resided in Newburg in the county and state just mentioned. He had a second wife and I think only two children, one by each. His daughter by his first wife at 15 years of age was 5 ft 5 in. high. They were educating her for all she would hold and the capacity seemed as great and easy of access as she was long. I am sorry that I have forgotten her name. She would be an interesting correspondent. Aunt Martha's second child was John. I saw a son of his at Newburg, do not remember his mother's maiden name nor the number of children.

Next Peter and last Ann, I believe. Both died young, at about 16 or 18 as I remember it. John also died not long after his marriage.

Uncle Thomas was next. He was born Oct 1785 the day is not mentioned in the records. He had a large family, but the number and names are forgotten except James Crawford, their oldest son. These brothers lived and practically riased their families in Claiborne Co., Tenn. on Clinch River and where James died. This was about 30 miles from where we were raised and in those days and in that country there was precious little visiting indulged in at that distance.

My Mother is next in order of births. Her father wrote her name Jean. She was born Dec. 18, 1878 [nb:1788?]. She possessed a cool calculating judgment, indefitigable worker. Spun, sewed, knit much of her time untill midnight. She craved property, never reconciled with crawfishing back from their cane brake home where they had a fat range for stock raising. The occupation she delighted in above everything else in farm life. It is vividly imprinted on my memory today that she urged and insisted on going to a new country where they could have access to range horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. It is from her that I inherit my hankering desire for broad acres and my bitter objection to renting other peoples premises, and paying out a third, 1/2 or 3/4 of the earnings of hard toil and labor.

Aunt Polly is last of the family. She was only 5 years old at her mother's death and was born Jan. 23, 1790. She was raised and educated by a merchant who kept her in his store as a clerk and sales woman till some what advanced in young womanhood. She subsequently married Robert BIGHAM, a very good man but small, blind in one eye and homely. Aunt tired of him and they separated after having two or three children. The children were brought up by some friend of their father by the name or HARBISON near Rockville, Park County, Indiana, where they the last I ever heard of them.

The father was a man of some property in North Carolina, as I understand until his death. Aunt Polly came out and visited after some years, then went and lived with her sister WHETSTONE of the latter and as I have been informed and suppose to be true and soon after died.

The uncle Thomas and family and the only son, I believe, of my Uncle James, moved to Cass Co., Mo. in a year or two after we went to Indiana where they lived until death over took them or most of them in early life with consumption. Whoever may be left of those families and their descendants I suppose to remain there still, at least I have never hear of their removal.

You will notice a space of 4 years between my Grandfather's first and second child. Those are the years in which he was in service as a soldier in the War of the Revolution. I have passed over and through my proposed sketch and much more but find many points and incidents not even alluded to.

C. W. Combs (April 29th 1885)

This sketch is deferred to too late in life on account of defective memory.

List of Locations (including Counties of Record)

AL (incl. MS Terr)
Madison Co, Mississippi Territory, was organized in 1808/9, in 1819, the State of AL was organized.

Jackson Co
Jones Co

Bureau Co, towns of Depue and Princeton, org. from Putnam
& unorganized territory in 1839
Coles Co, town of Independence (a.k.a. Oakland), from Clark & Edgar Cos. in 1834
Edgar Co., towns of Kansas & Paris
Jasper Co, from Clay & Crawford 1830, but not org. until 1835
Jo Daviess Co, town of Galena
Monroe Co (across the river from Cape Giradeau, MO)
Putnam Co, town of Hall (now Bureau Co), organized 1825-1831 from non-county area
Lee Co, town of Dixon - organized from Ogle Co. in 1839.

Dubois Co, Twp of Hall
Floyd Co, town of New Albany
Jasper Co
Park Co, town of Rockville
Vanderburgh Co, Ohio River, town of Evansville
Vigo Co, town of Terre Haute
Wabash Co
Warrick (cwc: Warwick) Co, town of Newburgh

Lyon Co, re-named in 1862, formerly Breckenridge, which was
Butler or Clay(?), town of Clay Center

Cape Giradeau Co?, Mississippi River, Missouri near Cape Giradeau, directly across the river from Monroe Co, IL

Nehama Co, town of Auburn

Hamilton Co, town of Cinncinnati

Claiborne Co, Clinch River (org from Hawkins and Grainger Cos in 1801)
Knox Co, town of Knoxville. Knox Co, TN, organized from Greene & Hawkins Cos., TN in 1794.
Roane Co, town of Kingston. Roane organized from Knox Co, TN in 1801.
McMinn Co, town of Athens. McMinn organized from Indian lands in 1819.
Maury Co, town of Columbia. Maury was organized from Williamson Co in 1807.

The Sequatchie Valley includes the TN counties of:
Marion, organized from Indian lands in 1817.
Sequatchie, organized from Grundy, Bledsoe & Marion Cos, in 1857.
Grundy, organized from Coffee & Warren Cos in 1844
Van Buren, organized from Warren & White Cos, in 1840.
Forked Deer County not found. Possibly refers to Forked Deer Country? (Gazeteer not yet checked)
Hickman Co, Duck River, town of Centerville. Hickman organized from Dickson Co in 1810
Davidson Co, town of Nashville. Davidson was organized in 1783 from Washington Co, NC (TN)

Washington Co, town of Abingdon. Washington
Co org from Fincastle in 1776-7. (Fincastle no longer exists, records are in Montgomery Co VA. Note: The town of Abingdon is on the East TN border.

Ed Note: See Also John & Sarah MABRY Combs who "married in Guilford Court House, North Carolina 1772. Philip Combs witnessed application for license." (Combs Family News 21 August 1983) Note: Combs Family News did not specify source. A Marriage Index CD gives a date of marriage record as 19 Nov 1772, Guilford Co, NC.

To Be Continued…