Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 01: HISTORIES – Creech Family
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Community
William Creech Sr., Donor of PMSS Land
“A Short Sketch of My Life”
TAGS: William Creech, Sr., A Short Sketch of My Life, Sally Dixon Creech, PMSS founders, Joseph Creech, Polly Campbell Creech, Isaac’s Creek, Greasy Creek, Poor Fork, Cumberland River, Reverend Lewis Lyttle, Katherine Pettit, Ethel de Long, Hindman Settlement School, Civil War, Regular Baptist Church, non-sectarian, Kentweva Co., Andrion Metcalf, farming, blacksmiths, log cabins, weaving, spinning, sheep, flax, education
WILLIAM CREECH A Short Sketch of My Life
*Note: The transcription below is from a transcription of the original copy prepared by William Creech, Sr., on the request of Miss Ethel de Long. This suggests that the sketch was written before 1916 when Miss de Long married and became Ethel de Long Zande. The transcription retains Uncle William Creech’s language and spelling from his original document.
A SHORT SKETCH OF MY LIFE
I was Born October 30 day 1845 on the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River in Harlan County Ky and was Raised there by good parents Joseph and Polly Creech maiden name Campbell. Boath members of the regular Babtist Church and I think they was true Christians and are gone to rest in Jesus our Lord. will say that I never heard one of them ever swear an oath or use any profane Language and was all ways stricley in obience to the law of the country and God and tried to Raise their children in obience to their savior but being very Poor was not able to give their children bu little Schooling. So I got enought to read and write a little when the Civil War broke out in 1861. I volunteered in the Union army Dec 30th 1864 and was Discharged April 12 1865 the time which I Served with Honor to myself and superor officers. After being discharged I returned back home and went to work on the farm for my Father but it was not very long untill I began going in company with Miss Sally Dixon. So on March 15 1866 We Was Married then on the 17th day we packed up all we had and took our plunder on our backs and Moved to ourselves in a old log House on my Fathers Land. After Living About 3 years there I saw that I could not make a Liveing there as the place was small and badly worn so got information of there being some wild land here on the Head of Greasy for sale so I Bought Six Hundred acres for Fifty Dollars. Also one Hundred acres for ninety Dollars. I give my note for the two tracts of land. My Notes for the two tracts was $140.00 at 6 percent interest which I had to pay and very little to pay with except to work it out By daily Labor. The next thing that I had to look after was to get to my New Home Back in the Woods. So one of my Brothers had Married by this time and wanted to Build him a House so we agreed to help each other get out our House logs and we went to work at his logs first and when Done for him we filled our sacks with something to eat took our sacks on our Backs and our axes on our Shoulders and took up our Journey for the Back Woods which was about 13 miles from where we lived.
By the time we was at our destination with our burdensome loads we was tired but we had no time to spare. Being in a dense thicket of laurel and spruce Pine we started a camp ground at a spring at the mouth of Till Hollow. We went to work cutting laurel and clearing off a camp site so we went to building a camp. In two or three days we had our camp up and covered a good bed made by filling a bed tick with leaves of the forest, and was ready to go to work at my house. But having to go back home to get something to eat and having to carry it on our back so far through the mountains we could not make much headway at our work but finally we finished our house logs. The next thing was to clear off a house site which we did by cutting down and dragging off all of the brush we could in the laurel. The next thing was to get the house logs together for a house raising, them being scattered around in and back of that great bed of laurel and no roads to haul on nor any oxen to haul with. I went home and got a good lot of provisions and asked a lot of my neighbors at my old home and also my new neighbors to meet me at my camp to help put up my house.
Well the evening before the day sot they began to arrive at my camp, some coming twelve or fourteen miles. So early next morning I had a nice crowd eager to work, so some went to cutting out the way to the logs, others with hand spikes went to carrying logs to the house site, others to notching them and putting them up. And in two days I got my house up and covered with boards slit from a large white oak tree. When this was all done my hands was all dismissed with thanks, so I cut out a door and chimney place in the wall and laid my floor by splitting puncheons out of yellow poplar logs.
When this was done the next thing was to get my wife and children to my new home, so I took my journey back after them. By this time our family had increased two in number making four in the family so we at once began packing our plunder. Finding that we had accumulated enough that we had to have horse stock to move on, I got two of my brother-in-laws and three horses and on the 23rd day of March 1871, we took up our journey for our new home in the back woods, and it was almost sunset when we got to our new home and by this time it had turned very cold and disagreeable. We at once kindled a fire in the chimney place and nailed boards over the cracks and made a door out of those boards to keep the cold wind out of the house. All of this took untill a late hour that night so we took a short rest on the puncheon floor that night. Next morning when my two brother-in-laws began getting ready to start for home and leave us in the woods, then our trouble began. Our baby began to cry and said that he wanted to go back home, and my wife almost broke down and she said that she would rather go back to Poor Fork and live on bread and water than to stay here and have everything in the world and this brought trouble on me knowing that we was in such a condition that we could not leave here. My wife being a very resolute little woman said she would try to stay so it was a trying proposition on her for I had to find some land I could rent and make some corn on, and by going away to rent land left my wife and our two little children all alone except of the nights when I would come in from my work and stay with them, and she would tell me that she would sit and study and get afraid of the Indians. It would be weeks at a time that she would not see anybody pass by our home and she had been raised up on a farm in very thickly settled country and had been raised to work the farm and in the house, and now she did not have anything to do but her washing and waiting on her little children and cooking what little we had to eat which made it much harder for her.
In June we had a baby girl added to our family making five in all and with hard times before us and hoping for the better we pressed forward, and by the next spring could plant some corn and garden truck on our new place. My wife being as good at farm work as myself and by taking our little children in the field to be the prey of flies and musquitoes and other insects and danger of rattle snakes we managed to make a very good crop. In during the same year by selling nearly all of the cattle we had I managed to pay the notes I owed against the land and that give me some relief. Then my debts being paid I began in the fall and winter clearing land and burning the timber getting ready for a crop the next year. If All the merchantable timber I have cut and burned I guess would be worth 50,000 dollars or more. Not thinking that such timber would ever be worth anything here I used it very liberal for fence rails and fire wood.
With the discontent of our new home I would visit our old home place, mother and father, every opportunity which only came twice or three times a year to get comfort and help. I always made it a point to go on the regular church meeting times. Then I could see lots of my friends and be with the [?]. In the summer of 1873 I joined the Regular Baptist church, received a full fellowship and have been a member of it ever since. I was a lay member until the death of my father which was about 22 years ago, he being the clerk of the church. The church then appointed me to take his place which I have kept ever since.
I will now get back to my subject of farm work. So early the next spring my wife children and myself went to getting ready for another crop, them to burning logs and brush and me plowing the ground and planting corn, which we worked hard until the first of August, Clearing land was the greatest industry for the fall and winter for several years until we had enough for what we needed for wheat, corn, rye and flax and buckwheat. In the dry season of the year we had to grind our meal on a hand mill which was very hard work. By raising flax and sheep my wife carded and spun and wove cloth to make clothes for us all while I tanned leather and made all the shoes that we wore. While the days was warm and dry we plowed and hoed corn and wet days and by night I worked in my blacksmith shop and my wife knit and spun. But when the children got large enough to do work the boys helped me and girls helped their mother. But all worked to gather in the cornfield.
Then we began to have some money. Then seeing that land was getting higher in price and companies beginning to seek after it, I began to try to invest all I could so I could have a little land for my children, which debarred me from giving them any education except what they got from three months free school which was from 2 1/2 miles to 4 miles distance. They all went enough to learn to read and write. This caused me to study lots about education, and moralization, seeing that some of my children were now getting about grown.
Seeing that we was in need of a church house to accommodate the preachers of different denominations that come in our locality to preach for us, I tried to get several of our neighbors to help build a non-sectarian church house in which I failed. My children soon began to get married in different families, none of which was worth much more money than myself, and it was not very long until grandchildren began to arrive and I did not see much chance for them to do much better than to do as Dad has done, grow up without education or much of a chance to get any.
There being lots of whiskey and wickedness in the community where my grandchildren must be raised, which was a very serious thing for me to study about. I heard two of my neighbors say that there was neither Heaven nor Hell. One of them said that when a man was dead that he was just as same as a dumb beast. I heard another one say who had a large family that he was afraid that he could not raise his children as mean as he wanted them to be, and it looked to me as if our country was going back into Heathenism, which worried me a great deal. My children now all grown I began thinking how to dispose of my estate and was for about two years on this matter before I got it to my satisfaction.
As they was eight of my children I had accumulated land enough for all my children a small home except one girl which I helped to buy a home and then proceeded to make deeds to all of my children so they all could have them a home that was able to take care of their selves. My oldest child was deaf and dumb and could not make a living for himself and I reserved the most valuable parcel of land I had for his benefit if he should outlive me, which was about 125 acres of well-timbered land. Some of the white oak trees are from 36 to 40 inches in diameter and said tract of land has a vein of good coal four feet eight inches thick. I could have sold this tract of land at different times at high prices but would not do so. On the 22nd day of July, 1909, my deaf and dumb child departed this life and went to the home above and that left me with this tract of land on hand without any special use for it.
About the first of May in the year of 1911 the Rev. Lewis Lyttle stopped with me for dinner and read a letter to me and said two women at Hindman, Kentucky wanted to start a new school near the Pine Mountain. And I at once offered to do anything that I coult to help and I was visited by Miss Katherine Pettit and Miss Butler and later by Miss Pettit and Miss Ethel de Long was with me this time I offered to let them have a place to build the school if we could arrange with the Kentweva Land Company to get the Andrion Metcalf farm, and Miss Pettit stayed some days longer than she intended to stay in order to get to see some of the Directors of the Kentweva Land Company, which finally arrive, and she got to see them.
Miss Pettit, the three Directors and myself all met in the public road and talked the land proposition over and succeeded in getting the Metcalf farm for the school by me letting the Kentweva Land Co. have my reserved tract of land. One more reason for me being so liberal with the school was the great work that I had been reliable informed that these ladies had done at Hindman Knott Co., Ky., me knowing that the school could not be any special benefit to me, but hoping that it would be a benefit to my grandchildren and all the community around me, so that I may spend my last days in a quite moral and peacable country and a benefit for the yet unborn children of this country.
As I have put almost all I have into the building of the new school and other friends are coming to our assistance to help us, I feel it a great work and would be glad if all who can would help, as life is short and death certain and I think it would be much better to help with the new school than to try to lay up treasures here on earth. As I never have attempted to write such a letter before, and me a poor scholar and slow to write, I will close, with many more things on my mind that I could write about.
William Creech, Sr.
Wrote for Miss Ethel de Long