The Life of Zachariah Butler
by Zachariah Butler
note: In the story Zachariah mentions three brothers but not by name.
The first brother mentioned is Sanders Walker Butler who died in Guntown,
Lee (old Itawamba) MS on April 9, 1867.
I was born in Alabama the 27th August 1820 or 1822. I have two records, don't know for certain which is correct. My father was murdered by a man named Nixon in July, 1822. Nixon expiated his crime by hanging. My mother died in October following, leaving 8 of us orphans, four boys and four girls. I was next to the youngest.
The Orphans Court as it was called at that time, saw proper to bind an older brother and myself each to a farmer until we became 21 years of age. I have but little recollection of my childhood until the year 1833.
Everybody that is old enough recollects that year as the year the stars fell. I saw that occurrence. That was also the year the Baptists as a denomination split on the Missionary system. These that were in favor of foreign missions, were slightly In the majority, I think, but I do not know that they are better on that account. In 1836 I left the man I was bound to, which was a bad step for me. I was too young to be provident and save what I worked for. I lived with my oldest brother the balance of that year. Having left home the first of August, and the next year 1838, my second oldest brother offered me $75 and three months schooling for a years work. I worked until crops was laid by, and then went to school in the summer which was about all the schooling I ever got except a few days before.
When idle In October or November my brother discharged me (at my request) and paid me off by letting me have a blind horse and $70, that being the first money I ever had.
About that time my brother had two brothers-in-law that were going to what was called the purchase of Mississippi, which had been bought from the Choctaw Indians. Labor being high there, they persuaded me to go with them. I went, it being the first time I was out of the county where I was born.
After the excitement of the trip had worn off, I was very lonely. I worked on a farm part of the time and also worked in a brick yard until July 1839. I got so homesick I concluded I would go to Alabama. Wages was high there then but everything else was in proper line and I had saved but very little money. I started back with $17.00 and two common suits of clothes. I traveled by foot having left my blind horse in Alabama the fall before.
I rode a horse out there belonging to one of the men I went with. Jan. 1, 1840: Now comes the worst part of my life. I hired myself to two of my brothers for 12 months labor at $10 per month. I was to board with them equally.
I worked that way two months when I became attached to an orphan girl by the name of Jane Rauls and on Mar. 8, 1840, she and I were married, both young, and not a thing In the world except my old blind horse which I had let out for his feed that year, and a few clothes. In August that year, I had a spell of billious fever, the first sickness I ever remember having except the measels, early in the same year. I was taken with typO-malarial fever and had a very long hard spell. In 1841 I rented land from a man by the name of Payne and by my oldest brother helping me in the way of provisions and horse feed enabled me to make a small crop that year.
In 1842 I rented land from a man named Walker and made another light crop. On the 8th April 1842, our first child, Mary Frances was born, now dead.
My oldest brother sold out to move to Arkansas, I wanted to move to Mississippi but was not able to move on my own hook. I had my old blind, horse, a cow and calf and 2 or 3 hogs, that was all my worldly goods. My brother told me if I would let him work my horse to the wagon, he would move me to Mississippi. I landed in Mississippi the 1st of Nov. 1842, with $10 in money and my old blind horse. In 1843 I made a crop for a man named Seal, that fall I built a house in the 16th section that being set apart for school purposes, any person was at liberty to improve them until they sold. I made a crop on Mr. Kilas land that year, 1844. The 20th August my oldest son was born and is now living in Hunt Co. Texas. I had serious thoughts about dying from my earliest recollections and many times in my youth went to the Mourners Bench to be prayed for, but got no relief. Somehow about this time, my convictions bore me stronger, and I knew if I died In that condition I would be eternally lost. There was very little preaching in that country at that time, It being a newly settled country at that time, Sept. 1844. I heard of a Camp Meeting that was to be held 20 or 30 miles from where I lived, and it seemed to me, I must go that meeting. I had never went to any meetings any distance up to that time. I got a girl to stay with my wife and little ones. I went on Saturday and got there in time to attend the meeting. That night I want to the Mourner Bench to be prayed for, and stayed until they closed for the night. All day Sunday was the same, worse and worse. I attended meeting again that night, I was again at the Mourners Bench with a good many others and every once in a while I could hear the shout of a new born soul which made me feel there was no mercy for me. I tried to pray but all I could say was "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner." It seems that my prayers did not reach to the top of my head, finally the congregation was dismissed from the arbor, there was one poor mourning soul, as well as myself, that his friends was loathe to give up, they took this friend of theirs to the secret grove to pray and sing with him. I followed at a distance behind, I felt too miserable to be with company. When they stopped, I got off to one side by myself and fell down on my knees trying to pray but I don't know whether I said anything or not. It seemed that I had about lost consciousness, then all at once a light shone before me such as I had never seen before. I turned over with my face up and the stars looked as bright as suns, I don't know how long I gazed at them. I suppose about this time, the light shone on the other mourners benighted soul and he rose shouting and his friends were shouting and I was mixing and mingling with the crowd, singing as loud as any of them, they were not strangers then. I went back to the arbor, lay down on the straw and went to sleep.
The next morning when I awoke I was perfectly satisfied. While I was washing my face for breakfast, a young man said to me, "you got religion last night.” Then the thought came to me, “What have you done? You have fooled these People and your self too. You've got no religion, it doesn't come that way." I commenced to pray In earnest. "Lord, if I am deceived, give me back my load of sin;" for I felt entirely relieved of that. I went back to morning services and thought I would go to the Mourner's Bench again but did not all that day. I was doubting, in the evening I went home but said nothing to my wife about the fix I was in. I went to sleep doubting, sometime in the night my wife called to me to know what was the matter. I told her I wanted to holler loud enough for the whole world to hear me, my doubts were all gone, and I remained in that condition, but one thing I do know, I have been in darkness a great deal of my time since then and I fully believe it is because I do not do my duty. I am too easy led astray by the vain things of this world and was always afraid to be foreward in Christian duty lest someone say, "Look at that hypocrite, he's as wicked as I am." I would advise all young converts to take tip the cross at once, hold family prayers, and pray in public when called upon. I was always too backward in performing my duty through shamefacedness. Christ says, "He that is ashamed of me before men, will I be ashamed of before my Father which Is in Heaven."
In October I moved to Arkansas My old blind horse was all the property l owned at the present time, after, I had paid most of my debts. My brother-in-law wanted to move too and he had one horse if we would feed him and his horse to Arkansas. We landed In Arkansas sometime In November. I started from Miss. with $10 when I stopped I had ? cents and In a new country and provisions were scarce. I settled in the woods, built me a house with pine logs. I cleared 9 acres of land, this was 1845. I made but little crop that year. My wife had been sick and I had to pay a large doctor bill. In 1846 1 made a crop for a man by the name of McCulloch on the halves. In the fall I moved my self back to my place, my third child was born, now Mrs. Jackson, living in Hood Co, Texas. In 1849 my 4th child was born and died. in 1893. In the fall I sold my improvements and. settled in the woods. Our fifth child was born and died in 1856. In 1852 1 was elected Justice of the Peace, which office I held most of the time I lived there. The same year I taught a subscription school, in the fall of 1853. I sold my place and again moved into the woods. There was a great deal of wild game in the woods and I exposed myself, working and hunting deer and turkey. On the 17th of Nov. 1853 we had another son now living in Palo Pinto, Texas. In 1858 I again sold my place and bought one with more improvements but It was very poor land. I could hardly make a living on it. My wife's health was very poor. She was scarcely ever satisfied when I was out of sight. She was not able to do a thing and I had to spend a great deal of my time with her.
In 1861 the Civil War started. There was great excitement through the country. In May of that year, my oldest daughter married, a very worthy young man. They had only lived together two months when he went to the army at North Arkansas. At this place he took sick and died. The following winter I took my daughter home and cared for her till she married again. In 1864 I volunteered and served under Tom P. Dockery until the close of the war. In 1869 I moved to Hunt Co. Texas settled near Greenville. In 1870 my wife died leaving me and my son, Joseph, alone. On Jan 30, 1871 I was married to Miss Arminta Jane Williams. My second marriage resulted in six children, all are still living. All reside In Palo Pinto County near Santo, Texas except one daughter Mrs. Riley who lives near Quinlan, in Hunt County.
In 1875 I moved to Hood County near Grandbury. In 1878 I moved to Palo Pinto County, Santo, where I am still living.
In 1880 I was again elected Justice of the Peace and served three years. In 1887, I was appointed Notary Republic and served until 1897. My eyesight failed me and I could not see to attend to business any longer. I have planted and worked a crop for the past 64 years, except the last 4 years, my eyesight has failed so I can't plow or hoe. My health is moderately good. I have got nine children living and 35 grandchildren and 40 great grandchildren now living.
Written a year or so before he died in 1907.
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