Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Letters tell of family travels—Combs, Hendren, Souther Families

Thomas Hicks Combs (ca. 1765 - ?) married Kizziah Hayes (1782-?) on February 3, 1801. Their daughter, Mary Combs (1807-1894) married John Souther (1803-1889) on December 7, 1824 in Wilkes County, NC. Mary and John Souther would eventually settle in the Choestoe District of Union County about 1836, but not before they and some of Mary's brothers and sisters and parents migrated to Indiana.

Thomas Hicks Combs and his wife Kizziah lived in the Brushy Branch section of Wilkes County, NC on Hunting Creek. One of their daughters, Nancy Combs (1808-1888) who married Jabez Hendren in 1829, did not migrate to Indiana but continued to live on the farm at Hunting Creek. In the early 1830's, the mother and father and several of their married children set out for Indiana. It is said that Kizziah walked the distance to Indiana. A letter sent to North Carolina stated that after she arrived there, she fell out the door of the house and broke her leg and could never walk again, although otherwise she was in good health.

It is interesting to read some old letters preserved in family archives to learn of the travels of these couples who left Wilkes County to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

A letter written November 29, 1835 was postmarked in Lewisville, Indiana, Rush County, December 11, 1835. From a younger sister of Mary Combs Souther, Elizabeth Combs (1814-1836), who married Jehu Hendren in Wilkes County January 9, 1833, the letter was addressed to Jehu's father William Hendren in Wilkes County. The Combs and Hendren families must have lived close enough together in Wilkes to visit each other, for the letter asked that members of the Combs family be given news from Indiana.

I reproduce here sections of the 1835 letter, which gives information about how those who went to Rush County, Indiana to settle were faring:

"…We are well at present, through the kind mercy of God. We received your letter the 21st day of this month (November, 1835) and were glad to hear that you are all well.
"I made a tolerable crop of corn and flax. My corn was injured a good deal with the frost. All late corn planted in this country is frost bitten. I can pay fifty bushels of corn toward the mare I bought. The man says he will wait 'till next fall for the balance, or take it in work and allow two bushels for a day's work. Corn is selling for 25 and 50 cents per bushel. Wheat is selling for one dollar and 12 and ½ cents per bushel. Pork is selling for 3 to 4 dollars per hundred. I have engaged 3 hundred weight at 3.25 per hundred. I have ten head of hogs. I have two head of cattle and we get more milk than we can use three times a day. I have a first-rate young horse. I am a little in debt, but I can pay when due, I believe."
A child named William, after his grandfather William Hendren, had been born since the couple arrived in Rush County, Indiana. They have this to say about their child:
"William H. could walk before he was a year old, and began to talk tolerable smart. He is a tolerably large child for his age.”
Health is important, as they write in the letter:
"I (Jehu) have been as well as ever in my life since I left North Carolina. I weigh one hundred and sixty-five pounds. There has been a great deal of fever and ague in this county this year. It is enough to scare a fellow."
"We had prospects for a very great harvest but the frost destroyed most of it. I expect to move onto my own land next fall if I live."
Several of the Indiana relatives put their own pages in the letter. Asenath Ellis Combs, who had married William Combs in Wilkes County January 10, 1822, wrote in her portion of the letter:
"William and John Souther have gone to Cincinnati to haul goods for one of the neighbors for one dollar per hundredweight."
Asenath also urged William Hendren to hurry to Indiana to buy the rest of the Souther property, telling what good farm and pastureland it was, and stating the purchase
"would make William Hendren a rich man if he would come and buy it." She stated Souther was willing to sell it for $300 "and the land is well worth $1,000."
Jehu Hendren wrote news about his brother in law:
"John Souther moved to this country and bought 180 acres of land and sold 80 acres to (Thomas) Hicks Combs (his father-in-law). He says he will sell the balance and move from this country, for there is too much mud and cold and ague for him. He talks of moving to Georgia."
Not long after the letter was written, John and Mary Combs Souther did leave Indiana and move to Georgia, for they had purchased and settled on a farm in Choestoe District by 1836.

c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published April 16, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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