Saturday, September 11, 2010


THE CLARION, July 26, 1808
The Story of Granny White
Communicated for The Clarion
From a Georgia Almanac 

           In the county of Davidson, about seven miles from Nashville in the state of Tennessee, lives an old lady known in the neighborhood by the name of Granny White. A gentleman of our acquaintance of unquestionable veracity was induced to call at her house, from the appearance of ease and comfort, it some how or other presented. He found the old lady to be remarkably neat, and apparently of more than common industry – her house he found supplied abundantly with the comforts of life, and observing upon her shelves thirty two clean and white looking gourds, he inquired there use, and was informed by the old lady that they were her milk vessels, and were the bell of vessels for milk and cream, and had also another recommendation, that being raised by herself , the were not expensive ones. And one question leading to another; the gentleman was induced to enquire of the old lady how long she had lived at her present residence, and the place of her nativity, when she gave him the following account of herself. She said she was originally from North Carolina and resided in the county of Stokes (or Surry, our informant could not recollect which) till she was considerably upward of sixty years old, that a poor female friend of hers then died, and left to her care and charge, two small children, these she took home, and though she was exceedingly poor, the resolve to support and bring up, and do the best by them she could. Not long after she had taken the little helpless things she said, the Justices of the Inferior court of the county came to her, and told her she must give security that the children should not be expensive to the county, or that they would bind them out. She then told the Justices she was so poor no person, she was sure would be her security for the purpose they required, but that she would not consent to have the children bound out, as she was determined, to bring them up herself. The Justices repeated their applications and expressed their determination to the old lady several times, till at length, merely to avoid their importunities, she resolved to leave that part of the country; and finding a family moving to Tennessee, she took her little all, consisting chiefly of a few __eaths, and at the age of sixty-eight years, started unknown and unfriended to seek a new residence. She soon discovered that the family she was with, was as poor, or if possible, poorer than herself, but the old lady having been accustomed to knit purses, was enabled by that employment to pay the way of herself and children, and in a great measure to support the family with which she was traveling, till they all reached the State of Tennessee. When there she obtained, the permission of a gentleman, not far from where she now lives, to occupy a little cabin on his land, which was so badly secured against wind and weather, that in every hard rain her little hovel was nearly overflowed, it had no floor but the ground and in wet weather she was obliged to make a fort of a bridge from the fire place, to the place where she lodged, in order to pass tolerably dry from one to the other. In this miserable place she resided two years, and when she took possession of it, scarcely possessed an article of any value, except the needle with which she knit purses, and this she constantly employed, and it so happened that for all the purses that she knit she always found a ready market, and of the avails of these, she was induced from necessity and inclination to be frugal. After a while she was able to procure a pair of cards and a spinning wheel, and of these she made good use, sometimes she said carded and sung, and at times spun and cried, still determining to do the best for herself and her little charge. By her carding, and spinning, and knitting purses, herself and children were not only supported in comfort, but she began to look forward to better times, and after a while she contracted for fifty acres of land for which she was to pay three hundred dollars, and mortgaged the land to secure the payment. This land she began to grub and clear with her own hands being then upwards of seventy years old. Her industry in spinning and knitting purses enabled her at times to hire some little assistance, with which and her own labor, she soon had a tolerable piece of ground cleared, which she planter herself and on which she made a little crop – her prospect now began to brighten, her prosperity kept pace with her industry and her industry was in no degree slackened by her prosperity. In a little time after the purchase of her land, she got the house in which she now lives put up and covered in, and after a time by her own labor, and other assistance, a considerable proportion of her land was cleared, her house finished, and abundantly supplied with the necessities of life. Her exertions and industry continued, and still continue unremitted, and are attended with their usual and invariable reward – from hiring she was at length enabled to purchase some assistance, and when out informant saw the old lady a few months ago, she was then in the seventy-ninth year of her age, had resided in Tennessee ten years, had a good house well furnished, fifty acres of good land, a Negro man and woman, six head of horses, eighteen head of cattle, a good flock of hogs, and had this year a crop of 100 barrels of corn, and other things in proportion, and the whole paid for, and she entirely free from debt. She is well known in Nashville, and her credit for anything she chooses to purchase there, is equal to any person in the neighborhood, and Granny White, is universally esteemed and respected. The children on whose account she was obliged to leave her former residence are now nearly grown, and she told our informant, that by their attention and dutiful behavior, they had amply compensated her for the trouble she had been at on their account. The oldest, after he had acquired a tolerable English education she had placed apprentice to a Saddler, and he had nearly learnt his trade being now in his nineteenth year, the youngest was yet at school, and everything about the old lady had the appearance of neatness, prosperity and content. She said she had been uniform in the observance of one rule since she left her native place, which was, every night before going to bed, after every other business of the day was over, to knit one purse, this she said she never omitted. These purses she formerly sold at 25 cents each, but latterly for 37 ½ cents, and she invariably found a market for all she made; she now keeps a house of entertainment, where travelers after being comfortably refreshed, will feel a pleasure in paying their worthy hostess her moderate charges. 

           The old lady seemed unable to divest herself of a spirit of refinement against the North Carolina Justices, for what she called their cruelty in driving her from home in her old age-- I have lately written to them said she, and informed them of my present situation, and the situation of the children they were so fearful of being burdened with, and I told them added she that I was now blesses with a comfortable property and that if spared a few years longer, I intended to return to North Carolina, when I hoped to be able to buy the whole of them out. 

           From this account of Granny White which may be depended upon as we reflect two important inferences are ____. The first is, that her industry and resolute perservernce in our undertakings, difficulties and obstacles, __ be overcome which appeared almost insurmountable – the second is, that those who have the charge of orphans, and are resolved to do their duty by them, are often blesses, and prospered in their exertions, in a manner to the world which may appear singular and astonishing. No situation could scarcely have been more unpromising, than that of an old woman of seventy, setting down in the woods in a strange country to support herself and children by her industry, and very little one could suppose could be accomplished by such a woman, when she commenced the business of clearing land with her own hands for a plantation. Her present situation however evidences what resolution and industry may accomplish – it furnishes also an encouragement to persons under the most distressing pecuniary misfortunes not to despair, but to seek relief in that commendable perseverance which so signally distinguished and has so happily rewarded the exertions of GRANNY WHITE.

This article was transcribed by Debie Oeser Cox. 

Check back soon for additional info on Granny White.