From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.
At last, the Stones moved for Texas. Along the way, Kate Stone enjoyed wild fruits, natural beauty, and the occasional generosity of strangers.
June 15, 1863
Near Monroe, La.
Visiting and visitors, blackberry parties, and long walks over the hills have occupied the time since Wednesday. Julia Barr and I took tea with Mrs. Dortch and were agreeably entertained. We have been since to see Mrs. Waddell, who is a charming pretty lady.
Mamma and Johnny are busy making arrangements for us to get off. Will start on Wednesday. All busy this afternoon making a tent of some carpeting, the only thing to be bought in Monroe and it was $4 a yard. From Jimmy’s letter, received today from Titus [Texas], think we will be on the road two weeks. He does not write encouragingly. The country is not more abundant than this, and Billy, another Negro man, is almost dead. But Mamma hopes to find it better than Jimmy paints it.
Our delightful sojourn at this place is nearly over, and it will be many a weary day before we are so comfortable again. They are the very kindest people we ever met, and Mr. Wadley, who returned a few days ago, is just as generous and kind as all the others. To crown all her good deeds Mrs. Wadley this morning refused to take a cent for our board all these seven weeks. Mamma insisted on it, but both Mr. and Mrs. Wadley declared they could not think of such a thing, saying Mamma would need every cent she had before she got settled again. Our own relations could not have been kinder, and we were total strangers to them when they took us in out of the goodness of their hearts. May God reward them, we never can.
Tomorrow is our last day here and we will go around and say good-bye to the neighbors. This lovely family and Julia Barr I shall be sorry to leave.
Between Monroe and Minden, La.
Half past twelve this sultry June 19 we are sitting under the shade of a spreading oak about halfway between Monroe and Minden eating rosy June apples. …
We are on the road for Texas at last, and I imagine no party of emigrants ever started with sadder hearts or less pleasure in anticipation. If we had gone on at once when coming to Monroe, we would have liked the idea, but we stayed just long enough at Mrs. Wadley’s to spoil us for a trip like this. We find it very lonely, only we four and the servants. If we could have joined another party, it would be so much more enjoyable. … A passing soldier tells us that a Federal force is advancing on Monroe. … We all left home without a tear, the dread of staying there was so great, but we and all the family were in tears when we told them good-bye at Mrs. Wadley’s. Shall we ever meet such kind friends again?
The first long hill halted us. We tried for an hour to get the mules on the wagon to pull up it, but they would not or could not. Mamma had part of the baggage unloaded and sent back to the Wadley’s, and at last we got underway. It was such a dark, rainy afternoon that we thought we would not commence camping that evening but would stay at some house on the road. So we went ahead of the wagon, and before sunset commenced enquiring for lodging. At house after house, dark and uninviting with a host of little towheads and a forelorn-looking woman, generally spinning, amid the barking of a pack of dogs, would come the response, “Naw, we don’t take in travelers,” in a tone of contempt, as though the very name of traveler was a disgrace. We kept this up, the poor tired mules dragging on from place to place, until 10 o’clock at night. Being refused at the last house, Mamma declared we could go no farther. … But [of] three swampers staying there … one of them heard our distressed voices, came to our relief, and induced the owner to allow us to stay. We were glad enough of the shelter, for that was about all it was. Chunks of fat meat and cold, white-looking cornbread with very good water were all the refreshments. This night’s experience satisfied us, and we have determined to camp out for the rest of the way.
The next day we went on as far as Mrs. Bedford’s, about twenty-five miles from Monroe. They gave us a nice dinner, and we had a pleasant little stay there. We went on in the afternoon with a supply of pretty June apples from their orchard, camped out that night for the first time, and found it far better than asking for shelter and getting nothing, nothing but snubs and coarse fare at exorbitant prices. It looked like it would rain every minute. It seemed nothing new to be lying out under the shadow of a tree with the stars looking dimly down through the branches, with the lightning flashing in the North, the sultry night breeze swaying the wildwoods grass in my face, and a nondescript bug attempting to creep into my ear. We have read so many stories of camping it seems like an old song. Shall we have any of the startling adventures that travelers usually have to relate?
Near Bellevue, La.
We are resting for dinner in a thicket of blackjack and towering pines after a wearisome ride over the worst roads. Now we find we branched off in the wrong direction and are only four miles farther on our way than when we left camp this morning.
We passed through Minden — such a pretty little town with the deepest white sand in the streets, about the size of Monroe. I wish we could have located there. It looked very inviting, but we must go on where [our] Negroes are. We camped near a nice-looking house, and the people were kind in sending us out milk and butter, the first time we have been able to get anything of the kind. We also bought some chickens, a relief after a steady diet of ham and bacon. We get a lot of fruit, apples, plums, and huckleberries, the large low-bush variety — also, the blackberries are ripening. We stop several times a day or whenever we see a tempting thicket and enjoy the fruit. We so often have to wait for the wagon. We need never hurry. No flour yet, but we hear it is plentiful farther on. Some tea bought in Monroe is evidently made of blackberry leaves. Dampened and untwisted they are identical, absolutely without flavor.