DIARY FROM 1820'S GIVES INSIGHT INTO ANOTHER AREA Excerpts from the diary of Mrs. Maria Toncray (Toncre) Watkins, age 22 at the time of the first entry Editor's Note: the following is part of a diary kept by Maria Watkins during the early 1820's. It gives a look at a young girl's sorrowful life. It was a hard time, indeed. [Note by submitter, Meredith Gibson, Maria was 27 yrs old, not exactly a young girl, but used to easier life than she would encounter in next few years.] ====================================================== Left Shelbyville, Kentucky, on Sunday 31st December 1820, arrived at Louisville, Monday 1st January 1821, and remained there until the 30th, January in consquence of the ice. Left on Thursday, 30th, on board steamboat "Frankfort, O" The sorrow of heart I felt at parting with my sister's children who are dear to me as my own--farewell, dear ones. My Lord, I hope, will be your guide and Jesus your friend. Arrived at the mouth of White River on Wednesday, Feburary 7th. We stayed at Squire Patty's who was so hospitable, showed us all the kindness possible. I met with a widow woman. She appeared to sympathize with me in leaving dear ones behind and coming to this wilderness of sorrow. We set out from Mr. Patty's, mouth of the White River, on Tuesday evening, 13th of February, arrived at the Post of Arkansas on Sunday evening, stayed at Judge Hambleton's until Monday evening and had our boat repaired. They were very kind to us, but I discovered great discord or uneasiness in the mind of Mrs. Hambleton. I endeavored to converse with her on the subject of religion but found she was a stranger to the happy influence, and I thought if she knew Jesus, He could heal all her diseases. I pitied her and recommended my Divine Master, and we left her, proceeded on our way to the Rock, very slowly and many times my heart is put to task, but I endeavored to trust in the arm of the Lord, who is my only refuge. I found sticking up in the keel of the boat in which we ascended the river, the best tract I ever saw, "The Shepard of Salsberry Plain." It was blessed to my comfort and benediction. On our way my son George Claiburn fell overboard and remained quite sick and very pale during the day. I again was constrained to acknowledge a kind of protecting hand in preserving the life of my only son, one that has been the child of many prayers. At last we have arrived at Little Rock. Sunday evening, 11th day of March, 1821. Oh, the disappointment to me, only one house and few cabins, but two decent families. From the leaving of the boat I was sick several days. I hope I will be as much resigned to death when it comes as I am now, but the Lord's ways are not our ways. I endure many privations in this place, the sound of the Gospel of Jesus is not heard in this village. Oh! How I long for that command to be fulfilled, "Go ye out into all of the world and preach my Gospel to every Creature." The first year we endured much sickness in the family. On the 20th of October, 1822, the Lord was pleased to take my little son, Henry Conway to himself. Oh, what a trying year to me. It was blessed for the good of my son, I trust, I was again enabled to renew my covenant with the Lord that would put all my trust in Him. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him -- but I see the wisedom and goodness of my Heavenly Father in preparing me by these small trials to heights of greater magnitude. Oh, my dear little Catherine, my afflicted infant, when she was born, bid fair for health and vigor, but to my grief, she never grew any nor appeared to have one day's health, and in the midst of this great affliction, there was a greater one at hand. My husband was assassinated on 13th , December, 1827. He left home after dinner as pleasant as ever I saw him in my life. At dinner he seemed to gaze over me if could not put his eyes definitely on me. He walked uptown as was common after dinner and was sitting in a store way, unconsious of anything except of a newspaper which he was reading, when -- awful to tell -- a villian took deliberate aim and pierced a rifle ball into his right breast, which deprived him of mortal life. He was not able to speak, but was heard to pray in a lisping voice. Oh, if ever I was in need of grace to support me it is at this time. When I saw him pale and lifeless, the bleeding wound exposed, my reason and all was gone, and for a moment I knew nothing, but that God who near my soul has always stood restored me and supported me. My poor little afficted Catherine now seems to be a comfort to me, but a short time after her father died, it pleased the Lord to remove her to some happier clime. September 21st, 1928. Now I have but two surviving children, my dear George and Mary Eliza. My blessed Lord and Master keep me from clinging too much to earthly comforts. Oh, be thou my all in all, I pray. I fear I look forward too much to my promising son who is now under the care of his affectionate uncle Dr. A. Watkins. A kind providence seems to provide for him, and Oh, will he not take care of His own? My mind was but just reconciled to my Father's will when my heart was again called upon to endure another severe shock. I saw in the Lexington Reporter the death of my brother-in-law, Dr. Anderson Watkins. He died in Scott county, Kentucky at the home of his sister, Mrs. Polly Nuckolls, on the tenth day of September, 1828. Oh, my heart was again overwhelmed, the loss George has sustained cannot ever be replaced in this world. I extol his qualifications as a man of learning and a Christian to each as rendered him worthy of the charge committed to his superintendence, but he is gone. Oh, Lord, righteous and great are thy ways, Oh, God -- I now give up my fatherless children to God -- and write a hasty letter to Dr. Coffin, President of Knoxville College where my son is now. I made ample provision for his support and for him to receive a liberal education. Lonely do my hours pass away with only one poor little chick and myself at home. I cannot rest, I am resolved to go to visit my son, if the Lord will be pleased to favor my design. After consulting with my friends, I have written to him on the subject and made arrangements for him to meet us in Kentucky (Shelby County) early in April, where he will have an opportunity of seeing his father's relatives and spend a few weeks with me during the vacation at college, after which he is to return to Knoxville and myself and daughter contemplate spending the summer there, then return to our lonesome home. March 1829 -- The time is arrived for me to set out on my long anticipated journey to Kentucky. Left Little Rock, March 28th, morning at nine o'clock, in company with Mr. Hitchcock and Mr. Washburn in skiff, arrived safely at White River on Saturday 4th, April. Embarked on board steambost "Huntress" at daylight next morning. We have had safe passage which is great cause of gratitude to my Heavenly Father who governs all things by His hand. Mary Eliza had some little indisposition since we came on the steambost, but not severe, recovered, arrived at Louisville early on Sunday, April 12th, after a passage of eight days from mouth of White river. ===================================================== The above info came from the Kentucky Explorer of Nov 1992 - p 73 and is quoted as written. ===================================================== Note by submitter: Maria was to meet and marry Rev. W.W. Stevenson on 29 Mar 1831 and they were parents of Robert Watkins Stevenson b- 25 Dec 1831 and Maria Jane who died as infant , date nk Maria married Major Isaac Watkins in 1815 in Kentucky. Ca 1820 he had co-signed a note for a friend. The friend could not pay it and he felt honor-bound to pay same and it left him in severe straits. Thus going to Arkansas Territory to take up land and get new start. In the short time he had he did well. Maria, in period of 16 year had six children, lost three of them. Two husbands, one killed and the other went to California in 1849 and never returned. Why? He died there in 1894. She did indeed endure some hard times. She died 21 March 1874 well loved by family and many friends. There is no other record of her keeping a diary other than this short period of time. The original is is keeping of The History Commision in Little Rock, Ark. Submitted by Meredith Gibson in May of 2001, a 2nd ggdaugter of Marias brother, Rev. Silas Tracy Toncray.
Pulaski County AR GenWeb Coordinator
Return to Pulaski County Homepage
Return to Family Page