"Sixty Years in a School Room"
The following extract is from Mrs. Julia Tevis’ valuable autobiography "Sixty Years in a School Room" is very interesting, not only in connection with the Bush family, but also in connection with the early history of Clark County, Kentucky.
Mrs. Tevis writes:
"I was born December 5, 1799, in Clark County, Kentucky. My grandparents on both sides were among the earliest immigrants from Virginia into this State. Their location in the vicinity of Boonesboro brought them into familiar intercourse and companionship with Daniel Boone, and my maternal grandfather, Ambose Bush, with his four brothers, were among the most celebrated of the "old Indian fighters". Their numerous descendants were scattered over so large a portion of Clark county as to give it the name of "Bush Settlement". Thrifty and respectable farmers, they occupied a position in society both honorable and useful.
My grandmother Bush was a strictly pious Baptist; my grandmother Hieronymous a Methodist of the old school, a real Wesleyan, thoroughly and decidedly religious. I remember my grandmother Bush more distinctly, as much of my time between the ages of four and seven was spent with her. Like gleams of light come up now my joyous Saturday evenings and Sundays at the old homestead, and the man dear, merry, warmhearted cousins, with whom I so often played "Mrs. Bush" or "Lady come to see" - the Bush’s being so numerous that we had no idea but that they filled the world. Our world they did fill. I can, even now, see in the dim, shadowy distance, the tall, queenly form of my grandmother, simply attired in a dove-colored dress and plain white kerchief, with a cap faultless in shape and of snowy whiteness, setting off the most benevolent of features. I can hear her quick steps, and her sweet voice calling "Jennie, Julia, Esther, Polly" - her four daughters; for when she wanted one she never failed to call them all over before she could get the right name. And from habitual quickness of work, thought and action she often made a laughable pell-mell of words. When she called for her black mare to be saddled-for everybody rode on horseback in those days, there being nothing more than bridle paths - it was "Warrick, run up the black mare, bring down the backstairs and put my saddle on it right away; quick, quick, for I must go to sister Frankey’s at once." And how often have I ridden to the stone meeting house behind her on that same black mare, and walked over and around the churchyard where now my beloved grandparents lie buried with many of their descendants. Grandfather was often away from home on the "war-path" for days and weeks at a time. During his absence my grandmother kept her little ones about her, and never failed to commend them to God in family prayer, night and morning. She was gifted with a fine voice, and I never heard her sing anything buy hymns. Often have I heard my mother relate thrilling stories about Indians, panthers and wolves that came stealthily around the solitary dwellings, their approach undiscovered in consequence of the dense canebrake, until their gleaming eyes peering through the unchinked walls aroused the family to a terrible consciousness of danger. But never did they seem able to molest the charmed circle within. Indians would steal the horses and fly, wild beats found other prey and departed.
At the time that my grandfather, with his four brothers and sister, came to Kentucky, many families traveled together for mutual safety and protection against the Indians, whose hunting grounds extended to the border settlements of Virginia. On their way through the wilderness they encountered bears, buffaloes, wolves, wild cats, and sometimes herds of deer. Thus they moved cautiously onward, in long lines, through a narrow bridle-path so encumbered with brush and undergrowth as to impede their progress and render it necessary that they should sometimes encamp for days in order to rest their weary pack horses, and forage for themselves. A space of country that can now be leisurely passed over in less that ten days, was then a journey of many weeks, and sometimes months. I have heard interesting anecdotes related and connected with the emigration of my grandfather’s family through this wilderness. When they tarried, even for a day or night, pickets were thrown out and every pass was guarded vigilantly, lest haply some lurking foe might invade the camp. None dared to speak aloud, and generally the horse’s feet were muffled for fear of attracting attention. No camp fires were lighted, and when night dropped her dark curtains around the weary travelers some rested or slept while others gazed in death-like stillness upon the sparkling firmament, or listened to the music of streamlet or breeze, occasionally starting at the rustling of a leaf-anything that broke the solemn stillness striking terror to the heart.
Once, after having passed over many miles without interruption, the travelers grew careless and scattered groups pursued their way without apprehension. One family being considerably in advance, was entirely separated from the company. Several hours had lapsed without one of them being seen by those in the rear. Night came on; the stars shone in full glory, shedding a hazy light on a few of the nearer objects, but adding to the dimness and uncertainty of everything beyond. The profound silence was broken only by the restlessness of the tethered horses, or the low murmuring in dreams of the disturbed sleepers. So intense was the stillness that an imaginary noise more that once startled the guards into an apprehension of a night attack, deepening the ominous silence and quickening the light step of the sentinel as he made his lonely round. The report of a gun was heard, and then another, followed by the fierce war war-whoop of the savage. Some of the young men dashing rapidly onward, soon reached a spot where in the gray light of dawn, a scene of horror presented itself, not uncommon in those perilous times. A party of Indians had come upon the family stealthily and after a fierce struggle, had fled precipitately with all the plunder they could carry. The light-footed mysterious enemy had left the impress of his hand on the dead and dying, scattered in every direction. One young girl, about fourteen, had been scalped and left for dead in a deep ravine. She had only swooned, and her brother, after the fray was over, seeing something in the dim distance that looked like an animal, creeping slowly toward them through the bushes, raised his gun to fire, when he saw a human hand uplifted in an imploring attitude. In a few minutes more he discovered it to be his sister, crawling on her hands and knees, her face completely covered by her matted hair. As he drew near she threw back her hair, and uttering the word "brother", fainted in his arms. She had been scalped but not deeply wounded, and her only permanent loss was a portion of the skin of he head, rudely torn off by the firm grasp of an Indian. This young girl lived to reach Kentucky, grew up into womanhood, married and became the mother of a number of sons and daughters-proof that scalping does not necessarily produce death.
Once circumstance, often related to me, forcibly illustrates the keen instinct of the panther. My grandfather had been out on a hunt for many days. Weary eyes and anxious hearts were watching and waiting his return. It was midsummer and the tall cane, with its gracefully waving leaves, excluded the view of every object within the immediate vicinity of the lonely and scattered dwellings. About sunset once lovely afternoon my grandmother, with her faithful handmaiden "Mourning" set out to fetch some water from the spring which, though at no great distance from the house, was hidden from sight. Always in fear of ambushed savages, they were walking slowly along when startled by the lost hunter’s cry of "hoo-hoo" which was suppressed at intervals, as if listening for a response to assure him that he was in the neighborhood of home and loved ones. My grandmother answered, as she was wont to do, while her heart thrilled with the joyful anticipation of meeting her returning husband. "Hoo-hoo" in a loud voice was again heard and responded to, each time seeming nearer and more distinct: when just as they emerged from the thicket and caught a glimpse of the shelving rock that over-arched the spring. They perceived something moving among the bushes above. At first they supposed it to be nothing more than a raccoon or an opossum, but it proved to be a panther. This animal, when stimulated by hunger, would assail whatever would provide him with a banquet of blood. Lo! There he stood on the rock high above the spring, squatting on his hind legs in the attitude of preparing to leap - his glaring eyeballs fierce with expectation. His gray coat, fiery eyes, and the cry which he at that moment uttered, rendered by its resemblance to the human voice peculiarly terrific, denoted him to be the most ferocious of his detested kind. My grandmother, whose presence of mind never forsook her, even under the most appalling circumstances, retreated slowly, keeping her eyes steadily fixed on the eyes of the monster, which seemed momentarily paralyzed by her gaze, until she and the negro girl could turn by a sudden angle into the woods, when, adding "wings to their speed", they soon reached the house and barred the doors behind them.
I do not wish to give the impression that the name of Bush is entitled to any patronymic distinction, or that any branch of the family claim nobility, nevertheless, they came from a pure and ancient stock, upon whose bright escutcheon no stain had ever rested. It had never been legally disgraced, and never forfeited its claims to respect and consideration. The family was originally English, and the tradition among them is that the founder of the American branch was John Bush of Jamestown, and was the friend and companion of Captain John Smith. My great-grandfather, Philip Bush possessed a large landed estate. His eight sons and four daughters were matrimonially connected with some of the most distinguished families in the "Old Dominion". My grandfather, Ambrose, the youngest child, save one, married a Gholson, a family from whence originated statesmen and orators. My great-uncle, Captain Billy Bush, came to Kentucky with Daniel Boone on his second trip. He was fortunate in securing the fairest portion of the land in Clark County, by warrants and otherwise, extending from Winchester to Boonesboro. He gave away, or sold for a trifle, farm after farm to his friends and relatives that they might be induced to settle near him. These seemed so well satisfied with the Goshen of their choice that even their descendants had no disposition to emigrate, nor, indeed, to enter the arena of public life. Thus they continued their pastoral and farming occupations, lengthening their cords and strengthening their stakes, marrying and intermarrying with the families in the vicinity as well as among their own kindred, until the relationship can scarcely be traced to a vanishing point. There are the Quisenberrys, the Vivions, the Elkins, the Gentrys, the Embrys, the Bushs, etc. - all uncles, aunts or cousins, and at one time you might travel for miles without being out of the favored circle. When I can first recollect, it was a community of Baptists, and they all worshiped at the stone meeting house on Howard’s Creek. There is an interest attached to this old church that deserves mention. (The church/stone meeting house still stands as of 1997) It is probably the first Baptist church built in Kentucky, and its foundations are laid deep and strong, though not large and wide. A community of Baptists living in Virginia determined to emigrate to Kentucky, in 1780. The ruling elder, Rev. Mr. Vivion, was their leader. They passed through much tribulation, and finally reached their destination, but had no permanent place of worship until the stone church was erected and called "Providence". Rev. Robert Elkin was their pastor for forty-two years. Among the most prominent members for a long time were my grandparents, who lived to see many of their descendants baptized into the same church. I visited the neighborhood in 1821 and found attached to the congregation thirteen widow Bushs. During the past year (1864) I had the privilege of entering within its hallowed walls and hearing an excellent sermon from a Reformed Baptist minister. The Reformers preach on alternate Sundays with the old Baptists and the two congregations worship together, generally without and disagreement. The old church is in good condition. We reach it through a lovely bluegrass region, dotted with stately mansions and rendered attractive by green lawns and magnificent old sugar trees, through whose foliage the sunlight streaming down covers the ground with enchanting figures of light and shade. The rugged hills surrounding the creek present a striking contrast to the green valleys where summer sleeps upon beds of roses. Now and then a simple cottage is seen sparkling like a diamond in its granite cup, or on the top of some green and goodly hill a dwelling, white and fair, gleaming through depths of richest verdure. In a lovely nook, nestled among the rock hills of the creek, stands the house of a dear old relative (Roger Quisenberry) with whose family I was privileged to spend a few hours during my recent visit - a golden link in the chain of reminiscences binding me to the past. What a tide of sweet memories swept over me as I listened and learned again the oft-repeated histories of my childhood’s rosy hours, and stood once more in the graveyard where, amid crumbling gravestones, rested the bodies of so many I had known and loved in early life. What changes had passed over Kentucky since my grandparents were deposited in that quiet resting place! Their tomb-stones are hoary with age, and crumbling into dust, but affection keeps the spot green with fresh memorials. Flowers bloom in loveliness around them. The sweetbriar sends forth its fragrance and summer roses are found there gushing with dewy sweetness.
Of my uncle, Billy Bush, a word and I am done with this subject, rendered somewhat tedious by the clinging fondness of my own recollections. This famous old Indian Fighter, after having suffered, in common with the rest of the settlers, many privations and having endured much, found himself with but a few hundred acres of that vast domain he had fought to defend. He had munificently given away much, and was probably bereft of some by defective titles. He spent his latter years in the voluntary pursuit of silver mines, which he never found. Like the mirage of the desert they eluded his grasp, forever vanishing as the spot was neared. The glittering prize proved a glorious cheat, but it kept up its delusions until the silver-chord was loosened and the golden bowl was broken, and the poor old man found a resting place beneath the Kentucky soil, with many other patriarchs of the infant State.
I recollect what an inexpressible feeling of awe crept over my childish spirit as I listened to the veteran pioneers telling their exploits with the Indians and recounting with peculiar zest their perils, their bloody struggles, their hairbreadth escapes and their victories. The whites scarcely ever took prisoners, they considered it safer to dispatch them at once to another world. My heart-bubbling laughter was stilled and my childish sports forgotten as, listening, I crept nearer to my grandmother’s side.
The whole State of Kentucky was then a perfect jungle of beautiful luxuriance, and, to the admiring eyes of the new settlers, another Eden, with its green glories of canebrake (which in some places grew twenty feet high) and forest, crystal streams and laughing skies, its luxuriant cornfields and bluegrass woodland pastures. No wonder our good old preacher, with his own peculiar quaintness, in describing the beauties of heaven called it "a fair Kentucky of a place". To the early settlers of Kentucky it appeared a fairy land. Leaf-embowered streams, whose laughing waters danced over polished pebbles that glittered in the sunlight like diamonds, hill and dale, mountain and glade, varied the scene to the charmed eye of the huntsman, as he wandered through the thick forests under a canopy of softest blue, while the lofty trees sang a pleasant melody at the bidding of the balmy, flower-laden breeze. No wonder that the tales of the past, which now in memory dwell, are full of mystical fancies, arising from those days and beautiful solitude’s where -
"All the boundless store of charms
which nature to her votary yields,
The pomp of grove and garniture of fields"-
fills the heart with emotions of love and gratitude to that great and good Being who created this earthly paradise, as if to reflect the glories of that world of light and love, where silvery vales and glittering streams, green fields and budding flowers forever and forever rise.
In the early part of the present century the cotton fields in Clark county yielded enough of the best quality of cotton to supply the wants of every family and while tobacco was the staple of the State, rich harvests of wheat, extensive corn fields, and every variety of cereals gladdened the happy farmer with the consciousness of a bountiful provision for his family. Sugar was made in abundance from the maple, whole groves of which were found in Kentucky before the utilitarian ax of the woodman laid them prostrate to give place to the more useful bluegrass. Once of these groves on my grandfather’s place, contained a thousand trees, many of which are still standing (1865). The sugar making time, in February, when the rich sap began to flow abundantly was a glorious time, and long looked forward to with as much delight as Christmas. A regular encampment on the ground made a pleasant home for the two weeks devoted to this gypsy life. The children, including the little negros, and there were swarms of them - to use their own word, toted sugar-water in their tiny pails hour after hour, and were amply rewarded when the sugar was in its transition state of wavy consistency, with as much as they could eat. My grandmother’s sugar chest was every year filled with grained maple sugar, whiter and purer than that made from the cane, and as much molasses was reserved as would abundantly supply the family until sugar making time came around again.
And now, while I write, I can see the camp fires lighted, the dusky figures passing and repassing, groups of happy children laughing and shouting as they bring in their contributions of crystal water for the steaming boilers. I almost inhale the delicious breath of an atmosphere redolent with a freshness and purity never known in the crowded haunts of men. I have counted nearly sixty years since those days of unmingled joyousness, yet still the memory of that time is green, when I played beneath the boughs of the lofty maple trees, at whose roots grew the fresh moss, clustered with tiny blue flowers, or wandered through avenues of pawpaw bushes, as I wended my way from my father’s house to the dear old grandfather’s homestead.
Of a visit she paid to "The Bush Settlement", in 1824, Mrs. Tevis, in a subsequent chapter of her book says:
Most of the old landmarks had been swept away, the pawpaw bushes were gone, the double line of cherry trees that formed an avenue from my grandfather’s to my uncle Gholson’s white cottage on the hill, under which I had so often stood holding up my little check apron to receive the clustering cherries thrown down by brothers and cousins, were no longer there. There was the same old stile to cross before we could enter the yard, even then covered with a living green as soft and rich as in midsummer. There was the quaint old brick house-the first brick house built in Kentucky-with its projecting gables and its ample door standing wide open to welcome the coming guest. The next day, the news of my coming being spread throughout the neighborhood, a numerous delegation of uncles, aunts and cousins came to welcome us and invite us to partake of their hospitality. The family tree, transplanted from Virginia to Kentucky soil, had lost neither beauty nor glory. Its branches were widespread and flourishing, and from its roots had sprung a thousand ramifications , whence arose many a roof tree, affording shelter and protection to wayworn travelers and homeless wanderers. My eyes wandered about the best room in search of some familiar objects. The same old clock stood in the corner ticking its ever, forever, as regularly as of old, and near by the little square table with its deep drawer in which my grandmother kept the cakes, baked every Saturday afternoon for the children who generally came with their parents to dine on Sunday. The wide, open fireplace brought to mind the "yule log" Christmas fires and winter cotton-picking. I could almost see the little woolly headed cotton gins of olden times, each with a heap of cotton bore him from which to separate the seed, and sundry little grandchildren plying their nimble fingers in the same manner, grandmother superintending the whole-the click of her knitting needles, meantime, as uninterrupted as the ticking of the clock. Our tasks done, cakes, nuts, etc. were distributed, and then followed a game of romps, which my grandfather enjoyed as much as the children, and he could laugh as loud and long as any of us. I recalled old "Uncle Billy Bush" of Indian memory, who lived near by and frequently formed one of the merry group, chasing us about the room with his cane. How we all loved to see his ruddy face, so full of intelligence and good humor, a lurking jest ever in his eye, and a smile about the corners of his mouth, with a voice loud enough to hail a ship at sea without the aid of a speaking trumpet!! It was wonderfully rich, to, harmonizing admirable with his blunt, jovial face, and this warm, rosy scene generally closed with an exciting Indian story, in which Daniel Boone figured, as well as himself. During our stay here we spent one charming day with "Aunt Frankey Billy" the widow of this old uncle, so called to distinguish her from another "Aunt Frankey" and noted for her good housewifery, as well as her boundless hospitality. Simple hearted, right minded, and pious she was loved by all who knew her. So free from selfishness, so liberal, so everything a nice old lady ought to be-what a pleasure it was to see her still presiding at her own table, abundantly spread with all that could minister to the most delicate taste or satisfy the most craving hunger.
A word concerning Mrs. Julia Tevis herself. Her father’s patronymic was Hieronymus, and her mother was the daughter of the first Ambrose Bush. Her grandfather Hieronymus was a native of Austria, who emigrated to America and settled in Virginia prior to the Revolutionary War, and he was among the first settlers in Clark County Kentucky. Although an Austrian, the name Hieronymus clearly shows that he was of Roman or Latin descent. Hieronymus was the name of one of the numerous Roman Emperors, and there was also a Roman historian of the same name. Mrs. Tevis’ grandfather was a highly educated man, and spoke all the European languages. When she was quite young, her father, Pendleton Hieronymus, moved with his family to Virginia because of the superior educational advantages of that State at that time. He settled first in Winchester, VA, but subsequently removed to Georgetown in the District of Columbia, where his daughter finished her education under the best master. Here she saw the burning of the Capitol by the British in 1814. She continued to live in Georgetown until 1824 and met, in Washington City, the most distinguished men and mingled with the most polished society of the times. In 1824 she was married to Rev. John Tevis, a native of Kentucky, and a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church. In 1825 she founded in Shelbyville, KY, the "Science Hill Academy" for young women, and it became one of the most famous schools in the country. In 1875 she celebrated the semi-centennial of this school. Up to that time she had educated more that three thousand young women, and some of her first graduates attended the celebration and brought their grandchildren with them. Mrs. Tevis continued to direct this school until her death, which occurred in 1883.