Tag Archives: Illinois

Stray Leaves Diary of John James of Alvarado – 1

This website takes its name of Stray Leaves from the diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, which he titled his Stray Leaves. John began his diary of four typewritten pages on March 8, 1903, but he never wrote any more of a diary. His progeny inherited his four-page diary. John also sent copies home to relatives in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky. This four-page document and historical record has been disseminated among the James family and its descendants since.

Stray Leaves from my diary

John James – Alvarado, Texas, March 8, 1903

Nativity

My father is of English descent on his paternal side. My mother’s name was Hall and her people were mixed-Americans. Both were born and raised in Pulaski County, Kentucky.

 

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 1
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 1

 

I was born on Flat Lick Creek, same county and state Apr. 29, 1832, and recollected quite distinctively some of the people and places there, such as Grandma Hall’s and orchard. Grandma James’ stone house and mill pond, the Peyton Randall place, and of going there and staying all night with Grandma James and of sleeping in a small side room in which I saw the first high chair for children. I was less than 4 years old then.

I can remember Uncle Perry James building me a cornstalk playhouse in a fence corner to the front and right of the stone house, and of he and I and Aunt Babe coasting downhill, out in from of the house on the sleet and snow using warped clapboards from an old ash hopper to ride on.

I can remember mother, carrying water from the mill pond to wash with in a cedar churn and of the churn getting away from her in the mill pond and of someone getting it for her own at the dam. I also remember playing hide and seek with Aunt Babe and some neighbor children and of Aunt Mary  (Mary Martha James) hiding me under her big cook apron. I also remember being at Uncle Shad Owens place and some of the family, also remember some of the places where we lived all before I was 5 yrs. old.

The stone house built by Rev. Joseph Martin James prior to the Civil War at Flat Lick Creek in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky.
The stone house built by Rev. Joseph Martin James prior to the Civil War at Flat Lick Creek in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky.

In Feb. 1857, Father (Cyrenius Waite James) and family and Uncle Henry and his young bride (who was Rachel Tomlinson) moved to Illinois. Jesse Nance hauled us to Danville, Kentucky in a covered wagon where we stayed all night with Uncle Mack James (Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames) Uncle Henry being drunk all the way and his young wife crying all the time, Uncle Mack offered her $50.00 if she would go back to her Father. We traveled from Danville to Louisville on R.R. train, crossed the Ohio River on a large ferry boat stayed all night in a hotel in the Ind. side and from our window saw a big fire over the river in Louisville. We went on to Pesotum, Illinois on the train. At Pesotum, we stayed in a small depot until Father walked out to Squire Lee’s, 4 miles, and got a wagon and team and hauled us out there.

We lived in Champaign County twp years near Uncle Squire Lee’s (husband of Elizabeth Ann James) then moved to Uncle Mack’s farm in Douglas County, 15 miles S.W. (Spring 1859).

In 1861 Father enlisted in the U.S. army and was a soldier 3 years passing through 17 of the great battles of the rebellion in Sherman’s and Grant’s armies. He got wounded slightly once at Rebecca Ga. was paroled and came home and stayed a few days and returned to his command, then in Tennessee.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, page 2
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, page 2

During the war, mother and I tried to farm and did make a crop but had a hard time to keep something to eat and wear. Everything was high-priced and Father’s 13 dollars a month was not sufficient to keep us supplied as there was then a family of Mother myself, William Henry, George Mack, Squire Martin, and Mary Martha, four children.

My little and only sister Mary Martha only 2 years old got choked to death on a grain of corn. While Father was a prisoner of war at Marietta Ga 1000 miles away but in a vision the night and hour she died, he saw her come to near his pallet dressed in white and was the most beautiful. Father woke up his bedfellow and told him of the strange vision, and looked at his watch and noted the time.

John James of Alvarado, Texas
John James of Alvarado, Texas

When Father came home in 1865, I was 13 yrs. old and could do a man’s work on the farm. Father’s health was bad and I had all the work to do. We had nothing left but a poor pony team and old wagon and one cow, but prospered and came to Texas in fall of 1869 when I was 17 years old. I had never been to school but nine weeks in my life but had picked up a fair education and had read the New Testament through one that Father brought home and given me.

(To Be Continued)

HISTORIC TINTYPE of RHODA MAY-JAMES

Rhoda May-James

RHODA MAY (1806-1889) is the stalwart spouse of the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James (1791-1848).

Rhoda withstood all transgressions, indignities, & social ostracism that her husband created with admirable Teutonic stoicism.

When acute alcoholism took Joe’s life at age fifty-seven, Rhoda became a forty-two year old widow, left alone to raise nine children.

For the next forty-one years of her life, Rhoda May James resolutely carried the social burden of her husband’s disgrace. She watched as the Civil War divided her children and tore apart her family. She never remarried.

Home of Rhoda May & Joseph Martin James, built circa 1854

Thanks to Gwen Smith-Gershwin, who is a fourth great granddaughter of Rev. Joseph Martin James & Martha  McAlister, Joe’s first wife, this tintype image of Rhoda May now can be appreciated.

The original tintype was handed down in the family through Rhoda Alice Owens-Cole-Dowell, Rhoda May’s granddaughter & namesake.

Rhoda May

Prior to the contribution of this tintype image to The James Preservation Trust, the only known image of Rhoda May was a framed oval colored photograph. This colored image still hangs in the home of Nelva Anne Herrin, a great granddaughter of Joe Martin & Rhoda May James. Nelva Anne’s contemporary home, built by her father Lem Garland Herrin, sits opposite the decayed ruin of the home built & occupied by her great grandparents Joseph Allen Herrin & Susan Harriet James on the original settlement lands of John M. James at Shopville in Pulaski County, Kentucky. Susan Harriet James is a daughter of Joe Martin James & Rhoda May.

SOME CHILDREN OF RHODA MAY-JAMES

Edward Perry James & his family. Namesake Rhoda May James sitting at her father's knee.

EDWARD PERRY JAMES (1847-1931) was only a year old when his father died. He grew up in his father’s stone house in Shopville, married Elizabeth Langford, & raised a family of nine children in the same house. His youngest child, he named Rhoda May James, after his beloved mother. Progressively selling off his land holdings in Shopville, he removed his family to a new home he built in Berea, Kentucky, where he died.

Susan Harriet James-Herrin

SUSAN HARRIET JAMES (1843-1920) was five years old when Joseph Martin James died. She was thirty years old when she married Joseph Allen Herrin, a Union veteran of the Civil War.

In a diary Herrin kept during the war, he noted the wounding of Susan Harriet’s brother, Andrew James.

Home of Susan Harriet James & Allen Custer Herrin

Herrin was returned from the war for almost a decade, when he and Susan Harriet married in the home of Rhoda May.

On the land of Susan Harriet’s grandfather, John M. James, in Shopville, the couple built themselves a new home. The home remained occupied by her descendants until about 1947, when the couple’s grandson, Lem Garland Herrin, built his bride, Thelma Hayes, a new home directly opposite the lane of the old home.

Mary Harriet James-Owens

MARY HARRIET JAMES (1842-1935), nicknamed Mary Jane, was age ten when her father died. Left alone with Rhoda May to defend the family home during the Battle of Mill Springs, she successfully retained hold of the single horse they owned against marauding soldiers, by claiming half her family fought on one side while the other half fought on the other. Shortly after the war, she married Union veteran Daniel J. Owens, who had been imprisoned during the conflict. She was mother to ten children.  At age ninety, she flew in an airplane for the first time. Flying over five states, she sang “Glory, Glory Halleluiah” and exited the airplane singing “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Rev. Martin Nall James

Rev. MARTIN NALL JAMES (1833-1911) was fifteen when Joe Martin James died. He became a Baptist preacher, but not one like his father. At twenty-five he married Susannah Elizabeth Matthews. The couple elected themselves Baptist missionaries & migrated into Missouri. During the war, he fought on the Confederate side. The couple bore eight children.

Rhoda Ann James, granddaughter & namesake of Rhoda May

CYRENIUS WAITE JAMES (1831-1911) was age seventeen at the time of his father’s death He was Rhoda’s second eldest child. Cy bore witness to much of the abuse suffered by his mother. He and his other siblings also suffered the social stigma brought upon their family by their father’s bigamous third marriage to the youthful Permelia Estepp. Though his half-siblings with Permelia lived in plain view across Flat Lick Creek, the two families remained completely estranged from each other. Cy fought for the Union in the war and was taken prisoner. In prison in Georgia, he awoke to a nightmare of his daughter dying, at the same time she choked to death on some corn In Illinois. Prior to the war he removed his family there. Afterward, he walked them to Texas, where his descendants live today. No picture of Cy is known to exist.  His daughter, Rhoda Ann James, named for his mother and shown here, operated his bank in Rhone, Texas.

A NEPHEW OF RHODA MAY-JAMES

John Smith May, nephew of Rhoda May. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society

JOHN SMITH MAY (1835-Aft. 1891) was a farmer and a teacher before the Civil War started. Shortly after joining the Confederate Army he was captured & imprisoned in Ohio. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was exchanged. He joined John Hunt Morgan in Sparta, Tennessee, but was captured later again with Morgan, David Hunt James, & Richard Skinner James. He was secondly incarcerated at Camp Douglas in Chicago, but later sent to Virginia. He surrendered with Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Afterwards he returned to Kentucky to resume teaching. By Elizabeth McQueary he had ten children and by Sallie Thurmond two more. In Pulaski County, he became Superintendent of Schools, the Court Clerk for the county, and was elected to the lower house of the Kentucky State Legislature. He and Rhoda May-James died within a few years of one another.