Rosalie Hart Priour Autobiography

"Adventures of a Family of Emigrants" with notes and commentary by historian Frank Wagner (indicated in green).


Chapter 23


We anchored at the wharf during the night -- in the morning, all the passengers hurried ashore except mother who remained on board. My sister and I had not even a change of clothing, and we had to go to bed while she washed those we had on.

At that time, there was an Indian war in Florida, and a great many men from Alabama volunteered to protect the inhabitants from the tomahawk and scalping knife of the savages. A steamer called the Ivanhoe was moored near our schooner, bound for Tuscaloosa. It was the last trip she would be able to make up the Black Warrior before the next winter as the river was navigable only three or four months in the year. Three or four families from Tuscaloosa had been spending the winter in Mobile and were aboard the Ivanhoe returning to their homes, all of them had husbands, brothers or cousins in the Florida war. When they saw the vessel next morning they thought she was from Florida loaded with refugees and sent aboard to learn the news tand] find out whether there were any destitute on board.

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The Florida War mentioned in the text and so called in newspapers of the day, is known now as the Second Seminole War. A darker passage of American military history, it began with attempts to cajole and bribe Seminoles (a branch of the Creek nation) to leave Florida for lands west of the Mississippi. Seminoles were troublesome to large planters because slaves often escaped into Indian country where they were almost always hidden and protected. Unlike others, Seminoles accepted the runaway slaves without prejudice. Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw people fled among the Seminoles in Florida after fighting unsuccessfully their own removal. Led by Osceola, the Seminoles managed for 7 years to outwit, outmanoever and outfight the U.S. Army at every engagement. Finally, their crops destroyed in an unparalleled (for the 19th Century) course of frightfulness, they were reduced to starvation. Osceola was taken under a flag of truce by Gen. Thomas Jesup, and thrust into prison where he finally succumbed. Many Seminoles and their black allies were removed, but a considerable body remained. They never made peace with the United States. At a cost of approximately $40,000,000 over 7 years, fighting was largely terminated.

Cf. J. T. Sprague, The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War (1848), John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1845 (University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 1967)

"Tomahawk and scalping knife" was a term used by Whig publicists to denigrate support of frontier defense and aid to refugees. It was employed with powerful effect by John Quincy Adams in opposing help to refugees from the Florida War.

Ivanhoe, a 197-ton Pittsburgh-built sidewheeler, out of Mobile, was involved in numerous collisions during its short life. It was finally lost August 6, 1840. (Private communication, Roy V. Tallon, City of Mobile Museum Department, February 14, 1985).

Tuscaloosa was small in the 1830s, and the ladies Mrs. Hart encountered can be tentatively identified as:

Mrs. Dr. Ball, probably wife of Dr. Doric S. Ball, a leading physician of the community.

Mrs. Wiser, possibly spouse of Jacob Wyzer who was instrumental in starting a Masonic Lodge in Tuscaloosa about 1830.

Ann Childress Walker, wife of Erasmus Walker, a lawyer. She died in 1843, and he migrated to Belton, Texas, where he was involved in public affairs. He was present at the organization of the first Bar Association, December 23, 1856, and afterwards served as County Judge. (Private communication, Lena Armstrong, Belton City Library, February 13, 1985).

Mr. Jamison's (Jemison) sister may refer to Mrs. Robert Jemison, who husband was a large planter and industrialist in northern Alabama. A state Senator, a strong Secessionist, he owned steamboats, stage lines and was involved in railway construction prior to the Civil War.

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The Capt. [Averill] returned for answer that we were from Texas and only one lady with two little girls who had not gone ashore. Soon after they sent a messenger to inquire whether we had friends in Mobile or not. We sent back word that we had not, we were entirely alone and perfect strangers in that part of the country. They begged us to go with them to Tuscaloosa at least for the summer, and it would be dangerous for us to stay there as we were not acclimated. Mother answered that she could not think of going with them, she was very thankful to them but was forced to decline their proposal.

The next time their messenger came back, there happened to be on board three gentlemen belonging to a community to raise money to assist in carrying on the war. As soon as they heard of the massacre of the Alamo and Fannin's company, they concluded that it was hopeless for Texas to think of gaining her independence and distributed the amount they had collected among the refugees. To mother, they gave thirty-five dollars and hearing what the embassador (sic) said to mother, asked her why she would not go, her answer was, "I do not know who these ladies are, and as I have lost everything except my reputation, I have to be very particular what company I keep. I value my reputation more than wealth."

They told her they would go ashore and find out who those ladies were, what reputation they bore, and if they proved to be respectable they would advise her to go as it was dangerous to remain in Mobile during the summer.

Mother told the messenger to come back in the evening, and if she concluded to take the offer those ladies made her, she would be ready to accompany him on board the steamer. The committee made all necessary inquiries, and learned that they belong to the richest and most respectable families in the state of Alabama. Mother went up town, purchased a trunk and some clothing for herself, my sister and me and was prepared to accompany the messenger to conduct her on board the steamer Ivanhoe in the evening. The names of the ladies were Mrs. Dr. Ball and sister of Mr. Jamison, Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Wiser, the other lady I do not remember, as we never saw her after our arrival in Tuscaloosa.

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5The elaborate minuet of negotiations and messages between the ladies and Mrs. Hart (she never seems to have used her later husband's name) was the style of the day.

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That night, at supper, the ladies called for a subscription among the gentlemen, and presented my mother ninety-eight dollars, also gave us a great quantity of all kinds of clothing of the best quality, in fact, enough to supply us for two or three years. The pilot of the Ivanhoe has lately married and, as he would necessarily be from home the greater part of the time, he thought his wife would be lonesome during his absence, consequently he requested Mrs. Ball and Mrs. Wiser to use their influence with mother to induce her to live at his house as a companion for his wife. As mother did not like the proposition, the ladies told her they would rent and furnish her a house.


Chapter 22 - Chapter 24 (to come)

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