FLAfrican-American Roots Project

The Dictated Personal History of Sarah Rebecca Rivers Moore

The following article was dictated by Sarah Rebecca Rivers Moore to her granddaughter Orrie Moore Kendrick in about 1937. It appeared in the centennial edition of the Lake City Reporter on December 13, 1974. Used with permission.

"I was born in the District of Beaufort, Parich (sic) of Prince William, S.C. on the 22nd day of June, 1838.

"My father, Abraham Isaac Jacob Rivers, was married to my mother whose maiden name was Celah (sic) Samantha Manker, on the 12th day of April, 1836 in the District of Beaufort, Parish of Prince William, S.C. which was the native home of both my father and my mother.

"These facts are taken from the family record in the Family Bible which my father bought before the date of my birth. Some member of my family reads to me each day from this Bible, which I prize as a family keepsake.

"The first eight years of my life were spent in South Carolina at the place of my birth, though about the only recollections I have of these years are those of seeing my father and his slaves going about the farm and crop work, and of my father talking with other people about going to California to find richer farm lands and I can remember my father would usually say 'I think I will stay where I am."

"My mother was sick a great deal of the time which I can remember my father talked and worried about considerably. The cause of my mother's illness was stomach trouble, and finally a man who lived not a great distance from our home, came to see my father and mother one day, telling them about a trip he had made to Upper Springs, Florida, (which is the White Springs of today) for the benefit of his health, he also being a sufferer with stomach trouble."

"He told my father and mother he had spent some time at that point in Florida and had been very much benefited by drinking the water and encouraged them to go to Upper Springs where my mother might drink the water for her health also."

"Seeing this man's much improved physical condition after his stay at the Florida health resort, and after much thought and discussion, my father decided to sell his holdings and move to Upper Spring, Florida, for the sake of my mother's health."

"The plans and arrangements to move were spread over a period of several months, and after selling his farm, his slaves, farming equipment and most of his household effects, early in January 1846, my father with his family including mother and four children, set out from Beaufort District, Parish of Prince William, South Carolina, in a covered wagon drawn by four horses, expecting to settle at Upper Springs, Florida."

"On our journey to Florida we were joined by a caravan of thirteen other covered wagons, all headed in the same direction. All covered wagons were said to have left South Carolina about the same time, but our family made it alone."

"We settled in the vicinity of Falling Creek, for when the wagon reached the bridge over Falling Creek, which bridge was at the same location as the bridge which now crosses the stream at Falling Creek Methodist Church in Columbia County, the lure of the water and the richness of the soil prompted my father to settle there. He bought a farm located within a half mile of this bridge and built a small home there."

"As soon as we were settled there my father went to Upper Springs to make arrangments (sic) for my mother to go there for a while and drink the water for her stomach trouble."

"My father finding the expense for my mother staying at Upper Springs to be rather steep for a poor family, it was suggested to him by someone that he might camp at Little Spring, a small sulphur spring on the Suwannee river, one mile above Upper Springs and have the benefit of that water for drinking and bathing, free and which water my father was told, contained the same curative value as the water of Upper Springs."

"With this advice my father took two of his slaves whom he had bought after arriving in Florida, and with their assistance built a roomy log cabain of peeled pine poles, on a high bluff near the banks of the Suwannee River at Little Spring, on land which at the time was owned by the Government."

"He moved his family there, together with a negro slave woman whom he carried along to care for the children and to assist my mother. We stayed there several months where my mother drank the water and was almost permanently cured of her stomach trouble. During the time we spent at Little Spring, my father sold the farm he had bought upon arriving in Florida and bought the farm which I now occupy as my home."

"The house which is my present home was built more than eighty years ago, and in its construction are many hand hewn sills and other heavy timbers which are the work of my father's hands."

"In our sugar house, we have, still in use two large syrup troughs, which have inside dimensions of 20 inches by twelve feet, these were hewn by my father when he was still a young man, from large cypress trees growing at that time in the swamps along Falling Creek." (These troughs were actually hewn by Jimmy Russell - information provided by Ester Moore.)

"From time to time we made visits to Little Spring and camped in the log cabin for a short rest and to drink the water. For more than forty years, the log cabin which my father built housed families from various parts of the country, who spent time at Little Spring for the benefit of the water there."

"Spinning and weaving was for many years a heavy dury with the women folks and girls in my father's family and also in my family after I was married and was the mother of children.

"The spinning wheel which my father bought for my mother soon after we came to Florida, was the one which I used also for many years to do the spinning for my family consisting of my husband, ten children and myself."

"My father bought the spinning wheel in Alligator, which is the Lake City of today. The spinning wheel is still in operating condition and is a part of a collection of antiques belonging to my eldest granddaughter."

"On our journey to Florida in a caravan of wagons we would stop often, at different points along the way, where my father and the other men in the group would talk to the citizens about farming and other advantages of the communities through which we were passing and even though a small child I soon learned what the subject of conversation was going to be every time the wagon stopped."

"After travelling for more than two weeks and after the caravan had thinned down to one covered wagon, that of our own, my father stopped at a village and inquired of a friendly looking man what place that we were passing through, he was told by this man that it was Jennings."

"I can remember today, the nice smile which appeared on my father's face when he learned we had at last reached Florida."

"He then inquired of the stranger, his name, the man extending his hand told my father that his name was John Bradshaw, also telling him that he owned a large cotton plantation near Jennings and a cotton gin in Jennings."

"I remember also, at that time cotton was being moved about there in carts, probably to be stored or going forward to market. It was thus I gained my first impression of Florida, which, in my childish curiosity I was as eager to see as was my father who rejoiced to be nearing the end of a long and tiresome journey.

"While the war with the Indians had ended before we came to Florida, there were outbreaks by the Indians from time to time for about ten years after we came into the territory."

"Ocasionally citizens in this section would have little skirmishes with them and at times it was necessary to have the aid of State Troops to drive them back."

"This went on until finally the terror of the the raids were felt in our community."

"In 1857, which was only two years after Mr. Moore and I were married and when my eldest child was an infant, news reached the neighborhood that a band of one hundred and fifty Indians had gone into a thick swamp near Benton, about twelve miles from our home. Thes Indians were trying to make their way to the Okefenokee Swamp and on into Georgia.

"All the way from South Florida, from where they came, they had terrified people along their course, burning houses, killing live stock and even a few citizens before reaching Columbia County. As soon as this news was spread, men from all the nearby homes began to plan and to prepare themselves to protect their families and property against these terror spreading friends."

"This went on for a day and night and the second day the Indians made their presence known when they advanced on the home of the Howell family who lived near Benton."

"Seeing the Indians approaching, the Howell family locked themselves in their home for safety."

"The Indians broke into the house, slew every member of the family, seven in number, burned the barns and went away leaving the entire family lying dead in the house."

"The Howells were poor like most of the people in the community and there was no money to take care of burial expenses for so many. There were no nearby saw mills in the country where lumber could be bought with which to build coffins and the neighbors who cared for these dead were forced to place the seven dead in the body of the family horse cart, nail some boards torn from the walls of the Howell home, on for a top cover and place them in a grave in this manner."

"This happening, of course spread a pall of horror as far as it was known."

"The next day, William H. Cone, who was the grandfather of our present Governor Fred P. Cone, got news that the Indians were planning to move on that night toward the Okefenokee Swamp and it was of course expected that they would make raids along their route. Among citizens along the course which the Indians were expected to travel, were Robert Sandlin, a later generation of whose family is prominent throughout both Columbia and Hamilton County today and William Summerall, the late grandfather of Major General Charles Summerall."

"Mr. Sandlin's home located one and one half miles from Benton, being large and securely built, it was decided that the men should gather there in a goodly number to fight the Indians, should they make the expected raid on the Sandlin home."

"Represented in the group who barricaded themselves in the Sandlin home that night were, Cones, Sandlins, Turners, Rivers, Moores, including my husband and many others, including also, a number of slaves.Port holes were made in the house for the men to fire their guns through, if needed."

"Other men were stationed to protect the women and children at the different homes where they had been assembled for safety, while other men were to do the fighting."

"Soon after dark the Indians were heard approaching the Sandlin home and reaching there they rushed onto the premises and were fired upon by the men inside the house."

"A furious battle of shots were fired and a number of Indians fell dead."

"The Indians soon saw than many men were inside the house and that these men were well supplied with guns and ammunition, so they decided to set fire to the house and force the white men out to fight them in the open, though each Indian who would attempt to fire the house would be shot down by the light of this own fire. The Indians then set upon a different plan, going to the barn, they loaded a cart with corn shucks and drew the loaded cart up very near the house and set fire to the shucks thinking this would burn the house also, but instead their fire so lighted the elements that the men inside could see the Indians and in this manner many of them were shot down as they fled to conceal themselves."

"The Indians were soon forced to retreat, the house did not burn, and the Indians were driven into the swamp by the citizens. In the skirmish at the Sandlin home and on to the swamp, not a single white man was killed and only several slightly wounded. The Indians remained in the swamp for several months, doing but little harm or damage to the citizens and their property, though occassionally an Indian who would attempt to pilfer and destroy would be killed."

"When they finally decided to return to south Florida, they set out in two groups, each group traveling a different route. There was said to be only about forty Indians in each group, many of them having been killed by the white men. One group passed in the vicinity of Jasper, crossed the Suwannee River at Lower Springs (which today is Suwannee Springs) and going southward by way of Wellborn, where they went on a raid leaving destruction in their path, killing stock and burning barns."

"None of the citizens were killed by the Indians there, though a vicious attack was made upon a young white woman who had gone some distance from their home for wood."

"She was seized and scalped by an Indian who escaped unhurt. The family of the young woman had fled to safety when they saw the Indians approaching, and did not witness her encounter, they thinking she was likewise safe until they found her scalped. The victim was a Miss Powell, and fully recovering her scalp injury later became a Mrs. Tillis, who with her husband and Children were citizens of the Wellborn community for many years. The second group of these Indians traveled through Columbia County by way of Ocean Pond and on down the state, doing little damage as they went along."

"This was the last trouble of any consequence which the citizens of this section experienced with the Indians."

"Then came rumblings of a war between the states."

"While Florida, along with other southern states were (sic) gravely concerned over the prospects of war and the contention for the freedom of our slaves, our real trouble began again when Florida along with other states, drew out of the Union and the Federal armies sought to seize all our coastwise towns, tear up our few railroads and take our State Capitol at Tallahassee, and this trouble came as near our home as Lake City, which is only four miles distant, at the time of the battle of Olustee, when the Federal army was defeated and driven back to Jacksonville. My first actual knowledge of this battle was the sound of guns which I heard very clearly in the late morning of the day of the battle.

"I was at my home where my father and our faithful slaves were gathered with me and my children to protect us if needed. My husband at that time was a soldier with the Confederate forces in Virginia."

"We heard the report of the guns from the battle of Olustee for several hours and of course every one for many miles around was in a state of great fear and anxiety, though before the next day we had learned that our men had won the battle and had driven the Union forces away after killing and wounding many of them. The Union men carried their dead and wounded to Jacksonville. The dead and wounded of our army were brought to Lake City. The wounded were cared for in a hospital set up for that purpose, in the Cathey building, then located on what is now North Marion Street in Lake City."

"This building was torn down only a few years ago."

"The dead were buried in Lake City cemetery, and once each year on a day set apart in May, the graves of these soldiers are decorated and appropriate ceremonies held in their honor.

"The officers quarters of the Confederate forces who fought in the battle of Olustee were located in what was then known as the Hancock building on Marion Street in Lake City and which is the present site of the Blanche Hotel."

"The horses and supplies were quartered on the Quincess property on North Marion Street, in Lake City, this site is now occupied by a modern Tourist Park."

"My husband answered the call of more volunteers in the fall of 1862 and was sent to join the Confederate forces under General Lee in Virginia."

"Soon after the battle of Gettysburg my husband (actually refers to Lewis William Rivers, not P. G. Moore. ?56) was taken a prisoner by the Union army and was held on a boat of the Potomac river for many weeks, he finally excaping (sic) by throwing a barrel overboard and jumping into the river himself, rode the barrel to the shore."

"Being in the water for some time before making the shore, he afterward became ill from the exposure, though finally made his way back to re-join General Lee's forces, and upon reaching territory where the Confederates held forth, he was again taken a prisoner by men of the southern army who mistook him for a Union man."

"It was not until he was recognized by Colonel Arthur Roberts as being one of his own men, that he was released to again take up service."

"Being still ill from exposure in making his excape (sic) from the Federals, he was given furlough and came home to visit his family."

"During the time which my husband spent at home on his furlough, the spring clock which my father gave to us at the time we were married, stopped running."

"Mr. Moore carried it to town and with a cash difference of $5.00 he traded it for an eight day clock."

"Now during my later years, since I am no longer very active and spend much of my time indoors, I find very sweet companionship in this clock, which, while it ticks away the time, brings to me many recollections of a past both bitter and sweet."

"The clock has never been removed from the mantel above the fireplace but one time since Mr. Moore brought it home and placed it there in 1864, and that was for minor repairs which it received about twnety-five years ago."

"It still announces the correct time from day to day."

"The years which my husband spent away from home during the Civil War were very hard for me as well as for all southern people at that time, though with the aid my father gave me and the help of slaves who were faithful, I managed to keep our little farm going and to care for our children in a fairly comfortable manner."

"When my husband came home after the surrender, a little crop was growing on our farm, though we had not much else."

"In the early years of my life I did not read a great deal, being a busy mother, with both my heart and hands full, most of the little time which I had to read was spent reading the Bible, for being married at the age of seventeen, a mother at eighteen, left with three children at the age of twenty-three when my husband went to war, and left a widow with ten children when Mr. Moore passed away, I felt very keenly, the need [for] spiritual knowledge for my guidance through[ou]t the problems along with the blessings which life has held for me, though throughout all my life, God and world has been kind to me and me own."

"There were churches near our home in South Carolina and there were churches in this community when we came to Florida. When I was a small child, my father rode on horseback from our home to here to attend services at a Baptist church in Alligator, which is now Lake City."

"The name of the village, which it was, remained Alligator for a number of years before it was changed to Lake City."

"I became a member of Falling Creek Methodist Church in 1855, (It is unknown when the church at Falling Creek was established. In its beginning it was probably Baptist; it did not become Methodist until 1866. ?56) and I still find great spiritual comfort in worshiping there on the first Sunday of each month."

"I enjoy hearing the word of God preached and hearing of the spiritual advancement of the world today."

"I experienced great difficulty for both myself and my children in obtaining even a limited education and it is a joy to me to see my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, and my great great grandchildren of whom I have three, along with the youth of today having the opportunities which they do, for education and training for better living."

"I do not think that modern customs have corrupted our youth, I think the youth of today, sweet and sensible."

"Living as I did in the days when Florida did not have any railroads to speak of, the days of horse drawn conveyances for travel, over roads which were not much more than mere trails, through thick woods where danger from Indians lurked, I can appreciate with the present generation, the many nice ways of travel, and transportation which we now have."

"I have heard my father say, that at the time we moved to Florida, mail was carried on horseback from Centerville, Georgia, on the St. Marys River near Folkston to Jasper, Florida, once weekly and that this was one of the longest continuous routes carried on horseback in our section of the country at that time. My father said this round was carried by the late William Haddock Cone"

.

"At that time we received our mail only twice weekly, and that by a horseback carrier, who carried mail from Alligator to Benton. In my mail, I received letters and cheerful messages not only from my relatives and my friends though also from many kindly people who know me only through the blessing which God has given me a life of more than one hundred years, and while I am ready to go when the supreme voice calls me, I still find great joy in living. There are nodding in the cold February air and sending out the same perfume which they gave for my precious mother, Jonquils and daffodils, blooming in my yard today from bulbs which my mother dug from South Carolina soil and brought them with her when we came to Florida almost ninety-five years ago."

"I remember as though it were only yesterday, the assassination of President Lincoln, and the state of turmoil and uncertainty the peopleof our country were in at that time.""

 

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