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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.