William Jeffries Letter
©2002, Alan Dunwiddie

Many thanks to Mr. Dunwiddie [
src# 153] for contributing this letter to Illinois Genealogy Trails.

"The following letter was printed in the Charleston Herald on November 13, 1895.
On the copy I found was written, In what appeared to be the handwriting of David JEFFRIS, "Please save, Grandpa's letter".
Alan W. Dunwiddie, Jr.


The following letter has been an heirloom and sacredly preserved by the descendants of the writer for over thirty years* It was written, perhaps not for any one member thereaf [sic], but for all, and we publish it so that all can have a chance to preserve it and profit by its perusal. We are in receipt of the copy through the politeness of Mr. John H. MOORE." [Charleston Herald on November 13, 1895]

January 10th, 1862,

I have concluded this morning to give you a short sketch of our progenitor of our family, as far back as [I] have competent knowledge of the generation from whom we have originated.

The first account I have of them, my great grandfathers, I suppose born in Ireland, some time in the 17th century, and removed to England in the 18th or late in the 17th century, and whether my own grandfather, was born in Ireland or England, I know not; I have not the means by which I can know, but from the best calculation I can make, he, that is grandfather, came over to America with one of his brothers, who was a little dwarfish man, he never had any family, about 1734 or 5, this I only have to guess at from other circumstances, but I think it is correct.

He married his wife, Polly LOVELESS, I suppose about 1747; they had three sons to-wit: John, William and Thomas, last one named was my father. John, the oldest, being born about the Year 1748. William was born 1750.

Thomas the youngest, was born March 9th, 1756, his mother died about 1762 and he was sent up to Halifax County, Virginia, to be brought up by Thomas LOVELESS, his mother's brother, his father died about ten years afterwards; he lived then with his uncle till he was 16 years old, he then enlisted in the army as a regular soldier in the Revolutionary War against Great Britton, served as such three years; then came home and was drafted for six months and then enlisted for eighteen months longer making in all five years; the war being at a close, he came home and in 1782 married Martha FERGUSON, that was your grandmothers maiden name, they raised twelve children and lost four, making in all sixteen.

I was their sixth, being born in Halifax county, Virginia, March 8th, 1794. They remained in Halifax county until October 1797, then removed to East Tennessee, Hawkins county, and there raised a crop and bought land 20 miles from there in Claiborne county, removed to it Oct, 1798, remained there, made a large farm and sold it in 1807 and in October of that year we Came to Kentucky, Hardin county, [now Hart county] remained there until the last day of February 1811, bought land in Grayson county and there repaired an old farm and made some other improvements such as building a large barn and dwelling house. He [Thomas] then went to Virginia in 1814, came home and the next spring or forepart of the summer, took the dropsy, was sick all the summer and fall and winter until the last day of December 1815 he died and was buried on the first day of the year 1816.

I shall now give a short history, of myself that is, of my life from 1811 up to this times. I only do this first because I am doing nothing else, in the second place, when my brother, David was here last, he requested me to do so and send it to him, but you will recollect he took cholera and died on his way home and never reached there, or I should have done so before this time.

I have given the date of my birth and place of my nativity with the removings of my family up to 1811, where we were found in Grayson county Kentucky. We [had] much hard labor to perform there in repairing the old farm I spoke of and to raise a crop, I was now in my 18th year, resolute stout and willing to perform much labor, and did so up to about the first to the fourth of July, when we were near done laying by our corn, not meditating in the least on the subject of puturity [sic] or another mode of existence, but only rushing to get done plowing for the season, when about 3 o'clock in the evening, as I was plowing from the West side of the field to the east side, my mind was arrested, from some source, and by unheard voices no vocal voice was heard by me, but I was made to know and understand that I was a sinner by practice.

Now to relate all the particulars of the suggestions of my mind that [day] and the two next would occupy some times let it suffice to say, the third day after I covenanted with myself to try to leave off all outward practices, for as yet I had discovered none else, and never had been very out-breaking, but agreed with myself to try and shun all youthful vices, and I felt somewhat relieved in my feelings I did not for a moment think I was a Christian, but had done what I thought the Lord had commanded me to do and that he would, in his own time, make me such as he would have me to be.

I rested well enough in mind some six days, when hearing two persons in conversations they came on this matter, neither of whom knew anything about the matter with me, but one of them said in the conversations "for a person to break off from his outbreaking practices did not make a Christian of him". The other, with a kind of a smile, said, "no, but it was a very good sign to see them do so."

That word did not make a Christian of him, darted through, as it were, every vital part of me. I immediately left their company, to go to myself, knowing that there was something the matter which I had not discovered. I had only seen that I was a sinner in practice. If I have ever prayed, I then commenced to try to ask the Lord to show me what more he would have me to do, for I had discovered nothing but practical sins and outward practices.

The second day after this it was the good pleasure of the Lord to discover to me my situation by nature, a sinner not only practically, but that I had always been a sinner, my very heart and nature was sinful and desperately wicked. This of course caused me to look around for relief, I saw how it was out of my power to relieve myself.

While I only had a view of practical sins I knew I could cease from them and thought I was doing well enough, but now I had a discovery of inward corruptions, of the deep rooted sinfullness of my fallen nature, which was out of the reach of my power to make any atonement for myself, that by nature I was miserably lost and forever outdone. I now commenced trying to ask the Lord to have mercy on me, yet I was unacquainted with that God to whom I was trying to pray. It was now the very breathing of my soul for mercy.

Thus for many days I went bowed down, under the mighty load of sin. Resorting to secret places, where I might secret myself from the face of all men, and try to pour my complaints before the Lord and plead for mercy and make my acknowledgements before Him.

Now to give a detail of all the ups and downs of these many days, which lasted until the 15th of next March, about 8 months and half, would take much time and paper etc., but to proceed on the 15th of March, 1812, being a beautiful day for the time of the year, the family being all out of the house and I alone with a heavy heart and contemplating my situation, while reading in Watts hymns, and viewing the goodness of God in preserving my unprofitable life, until I was now 18 years and 7 days old, a sinner all the time, and instead of charging the Lord with injustice toward me, I was trying to acknowledge His justice in my condemnation, and final overthrow and ruin, for this I saw the matter, in my case, and like a criminal at the bar of justice, was looking for the vengance and wrath of God, to be poured out upon me.

All at once, and very unexpected to me, I either read the words, or they applied to my mind: This world is no my place. I seek the world above. In an instant, at the twinkling of an eye, all my load of distress, anguish and pain was removed, and was taken away and gone. My mind which had been weighed down for lo the many days and months was set at liberty, my tongue was filled with praises to Him who spake as never man spake, and with great joy I arose from my seat and went out of the house praising the great sovereign who had done such great things for me, even for me, one who had deserved it not. I then for a few minutes thought my troubles and trials all over, and peace and contentment would be my constant companion through life. I could have written much on these subjects were it necessary.

It will be 50 years the 15th of March next, about 3 o'clock p.m. since the great display and manifestation of the love of God was made known to me. My hope and confidence in the Lord is as strong and precious to me as it was 50 years ago. But as I was only giving a sketch of my travels, I shall proceed a little farther.

The next year I went with my brother-in-law and sister Clarke to East Tennessee and in the fall of 1813 about the 13th of October, my father sent me to West Tenn. to raise a crop with a view of going to that country. When I had done so, I came home the summer of 1814, he had given up the notion of going there, intending to go to Virginia, which he did in 1814. I had then to return to Tenn. to make sale of my crop, I then staied [sic] another year and raised a crop and came home in 1815, by this time my father had taken the dropsy. I staid at home a while and returned and made sale of second crop and came home a few days before Christmas. He only lived about 11 days after I got home and died on the last day of December, 1815.

I then remained with my mother until the 20th day of March, 1817. On that day I was married, (but in the summer of 1816 1 went with mother to Tenn. on a visit.) After I was married I went to myself and commenced keeping house, in the fall of 1818. I related my experience to the church called Rock Creek, when I was baptised, my wife feeling that she was left alone ( as she afterwards told me) the good Lord opened the eyes of her understanding and discovered to her her situation and lost state by natures which caused a great seriousness, so much so that I soon discovered that she was under much concern of mind, which though she tried, she could not keep concealed from me, I tried often to converse with her on the subject, and though I had joy that it was the case, yet I sometimes felt awful to know how awful she viewed her condition to be.

The matter went on till the 12th night in December. I was not present, I think not at home; the thing was not named for several days, when she opened the conversation by asking me how I felt when I obtained a hope, I immediately understood the matters then entered into conversation, the most pleasant we ever had, though her company had always been pleasant to me, but now both as I hope, both being spiritually minded, it was greater by far than every which lasted while she lived, which ended the 4th of February 1831, at which time she died. We had been together 14 years lacking 4 days.

I will now continue the matter a little farther in 1820. I left my own farm and Frederick KELLER and myself rented a large farm on Rock Creek, where we had much work to do to raise a crop. The Methodists and Baptists had lived and got along together well enough and would sometimes preach together and call each other brother etc., though they would not commune together at the sacrament of the supper of the Lord but attend each others meeting and join in worship and some of our people could masticate their doctrine tolerable well. I could not, though I tried thoroughly on account of my wife's people, they were all Methodists. I could not get along with it and my wife was as far from it, if not more so than I was, yet we would frequently attend their meetings, which was held the largest part of the time at her father's house.

However the two preachers fell out a little, by the way, this was the trouble - the Methodist was a good cabinet maker, and a first rate hand to stock a gun. STUTEVILLE, the Baptist preacher had one to stock there was none like Abram DAVIS, in his estimations so he took it to him, they were near neighbors so he went for his gun at the time it was done, and didn't know that there was anything the matter with his Methodist brothers and got his gun, but had not taken pay with him for the gun, intending to hand him the three dollars when he would see him again, but we supposed Abram had got stirred about something, we know not what, so he brought suit for the money. This at once broke off the brotherhood. STUTERVILLE would go no more to Davis' meetings and Davis no more to his meetings and hard feelings became prevalent not only with the two preachers but also somewhat with the members. This was a matter of distress to me, but their doctrine never had been the same, but we thought there were good Christians among them,

This caused me now to seriously and I hope prayerfully to examine for the truth, by reading the scriptures. I desired to know the whole truth. So on the 2d day of January 1820, I numbered the chapters in the old and new testaments, to take equal parts, every day and in this way go through in one year, which I did. I had not read far, before I was fully confirmed in the eternal predestination of all things and in the fall, as I have already stated, my wife and I paid a visit to our friends in west Tenn.

Brother George STUBBLEFIELD is a Baptist preacher, though not very strong on the predestination doctrine, He and I spent about three weeks together and had a great deal of friendly and brotherly conversation, which was a pleasure to us both. I have no doubt he is a Christian.

In our confabulation a short time before we started home, the subject of the foreknowledge of God came up; he said he believed in the foreknowledge of God. I inquired of him if he did believe in the eternal foreknowledge of God? He replied to this amount, that he did believe that God, from all eternity foreknew all things that ever did or could come to pass, that all things were open and present with him. It was one eternal now-with the Lord. I then began to speculate some on the matter, for it was the doctrine the bible had taught me to believe, which I think will fully establish the eternal pre-destination of all things; in this way I reasoned on it.

God is unchangeable and what he foresaw is inevitably bound to come to pass. No contingency can change his purpose and foreknowledge otherwise he is not the God he is represented to be, for he says "I am God and change not.", and it is said whomsoever he foreknew, them he also predestinated, etc. then I concluded that whatever he foreknew he also determined should be done.

Then I searched as well as I could, to find who were predestinated, to be saved and why were some saved and some lost. This matter is clear enough, those determined of the Lord to be saved, are those who have grace given them in Christ before the foundation of the world; those who are his legitimate off-springs and none else, yet there are another people, called by Jesus himself a generation of vipers, these are not the children of God. The Apostle says: "Ye are not of God.", speaking to this same generation of vipers, but speaking to his brethern, he denominates them little children,, saying " ye are of God little children.

It may be asked why they are denominated a generation of vipers; the answer is easy, it appears that the devil in the form of a serpent or viper or snake was he who beguiled our mother Eve, then the.. Lord said to the serpent,, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed" Evidently establishing the fact of two separate and distinct peoples, one being the seed of the woman and the other the seed and off-spring of that old serpent, the devil and satan.

Now this makes the whole matter plain enough. How God can be just in saving his own children, giving them an interest and inheritance in the propiciation and atonement made by the saviour Jesus Christ, because they being his own, the atonement was made for them and not for the devil nor the serpent's seed. This truth was fully to me made known in the year 1820, and that to my complete satisfaction, although at that time I did not know that I had ever heard of any doctrine called the two seed doctrine and I do not think of calling it by that name, although in the 3rd chapter of Genesis and the l5th verse it is expressly called the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent for it was the serpent that our God was speaking to. I am fully aware that many good writers and preachers have tried to repudiate and put down the doctrine., and some have went so far as to declare an unfellowship with those in the Baptist rank who believe the doctrine. Their ambition was against Elder Daniel PARKER who wrote on the subject and they never could overturn his ideas and never will until they condemn the Bible and make it read some other way.

After 1820 I removed back home to my own farm and was not satisfied. I and Thomas and brother David went over to Indiana , with a view of looking out a place we liked better., to move to it if we liked it, but finding no such a country as we had anticipated, we came back no better satisfied.

In August 1923, Thomas BRUSTER and I took another survey of Indiana, we traveled over much of the state and succeeded no better than before, so in August 1829, Samuel KELLAR [sic] and myself came to Illinois to explore the prairie state and was very well pleased with it, so I sold my farm to Charles WORTHAM, and on the 1lth day of June 1830 I started to move to Illinois, and on the 19th day of the same month landed in Coles county, Ill, where we are yet.

On the 22d day of September 1830 we lost our youngest child, Martha Jane; she was then 18 months old, lacking 2 or 3 days. Previous to her death, the 7th of August I took the ague and had 24 severe shakes. On the 23d of January 1831 we had another daughter born; my wife never recovered and on 4th day of February she deceased leaving me with seven children (in a strange country to us not many inhabitants were here at that time) to do for them as best I could, but she dying with such a strong confidence of her acceptance with the father and his son Jesus Christ that although it was a trying time with me yet I could not murmer at the providence of God. Firmly believing as I yet believe that my loss was her eternal gain and that she now rests in the bosom of the Father, with Jesus Christ her elder brother. I have no doubt she died in her right mind and in great composure and resignation.

Almost her last words were " Do not grieve after me for this night I shall be in the arms of Jesus." So how could I dare grieve, yet I could not refrain from grieving, lo for many days and often up to this time. We then done the best we could, I and the children which were left to me.

Knowing she could never return to me, I concluded to look out another to live with me; I did so and on the 20th of September 1832,, was married to Margaret Ewing. She was born the 3d day of January 1794, consequently she, when we were married, was 30 years, 6 months and 17 days old, as peaceable and as good a woman as perhaps any, good to me and good to my children as I could ask or wish.

In the year 1845 we took a journey up north to Galena and from there up to Wisconsin,, with about 50 head of cattle,, then started for home by way of Galena, and then down the Mississippi river and came to Burlington,, Iowa, stopping a few days in Warren county in the Jimason settlement,, 15 miles from Burlington, and staid about three days in Burlington with George C. JEFFRIES, thence through Springfield and homes having been gone about seven weeks.

The next trip we took of any importance was in the year 1853, we went to Kentucky to see our friends and spend a short time with them. Geo. and Polly STUBBLEFIELD of West Tenn. met us there, We returned home in about a month, all enjoyed our health well and had much satisfaction in being with our friends and relatives.

The next fall she [Margaret] took the flux, perhaps in September,, and did not recover, but died on the 15th of October 1854. We had lived together about 25 years and 25 days. I then married Catherine ALEXANDER on the 13th day of June 1856 with whom I now live.

I am now through with the matter which I commenced to write out, only a sketch was intended to be written. I could have written much more, especially on the subject of my own troubles from 1811 up to this time, but it is enough. I have showed the time I was first convicted for sin and showed myself to be a sinner in 1811, and the time I felt that I was delivered from sin, and the great load of guilt which had weighted me down with the awful apprehension of judgement and fiery indignation, which appeared to hang over me, the 15th of March 1812, and also the time between that and when I joined myself to the church and the people of the living God, which
was in October 1818.

Now a relation of my trials and ups and downs in minds, there is about six years and a half, might be interesting to some, while it would be carelessly passed over by others, as not interesting to them, but at the present I shall let what has been said suffice; perhaps it is more now than you will be willing to loose time to read.

Yours Truly.


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