Thursday, January 15, 2009

Margaret Stewart Webb

I've posted this picture before, but I'm bringing it back because I have recently become acquainted with a lady who had information about Margaret Stewart Webb that I didn't have. Although I have not documented this, and I am trusting her that documentation exists within the Morgan Co./Scott Co., TN Historical Societies, I am posting it anyway. The reason I do so is because her story rings true to what has been handed down through the generations from my family.
Margaret Stewart was born around 1828 in what is now Morgan County, Tennessee. Her family was of very humble means. She met Willis Webb while in school, and they married in 1941. Willis and Margaret moved from the Webb homestead to a hillside where they Willis built her their first home, wherein she gave birth to her first five children, William, Samuel, Hiram, Martha and Nancy. (Martha is my gg-grandmother.)
She had a sheep that she kept for wool. She would shear the sheep herself to make clothes. One night she spent all evening carding wool, and the next morning all her wool was gone. She finally found it under the floor of the house where a pack rat had carried it. She had to dig a place under the floor so she could crawl under and get her wool. She could not afford to lose it. (Flo Zimmer)
My great grandfather was known for his sheep and the wool from it. I have several blankets that were made from carded sheep that were raised on the Webb farm.
In 1853, Willis built the family a home made from chestnut logs. The house in this picture is that old homeplace. The Webbs lived here until the the farm was sold in the 1970s.
During the Civil War they lived on the borderline between Yanks and Rebels. Willis left to join the Anion Army. He had their home nearly finished (this must be the house you were talking about of chestnut logs) except for the doors and windows and the neighbors helped her put them in. Then eldest son Samuel was 18 and he and some neighbors sons hid out in a cave in the hills to avoid being forced into the Rebel Army. At night when her other children were asleep, Margaret would slip out, get on an old white work horse and ride through the woods to take food to the boys. She had to be careful and not run into any Rebel soldiers, who would raid the farmers for food, clothes, cows and horses. When the Rebels were in the area she would hang her red petticoat on the line to show the boys there was danger. When it was safe she would hang her tablecloth on the line to invite the boys for food. She had to keep her horse hidden. (Flo Zimmer)
My family has stories identical to this one that have been handed down from generation to generation. It is known by the Webbs that Margaret kept her children safe, but the cost of the war on her family was tremendous.
One experience she had was with a neighbor (last name was either Redman or Hinchae). (I looked and in the census that lists Willis Webb...there also in that area was Redman's and Hinchae's). This neighbor was too old for the Army and was told that the Rebels killed men too old for conscription. When he heard they were coming this neighbor and his wife hid out in caves. When the Rebels found them gone, they told a negro slave of theirs that if they were not back by morning their home and barn would be burned. The slave didn't know what to do and came to Margaret Webb for help. She went and got her old white horse from it's hiding place and was able to bring the neighbor home just before sun-up. The Rebels let him go and didn't burn his house because he had came back. Another time when Rebels came to burn Margaret's house, she invited them in and offered them what little food she had. They searched her home and took what they wanted, but didn't burn it because of her kindness. (Flo Zimmer)
Up until this time, I did not know of the Webbs having slaves. This is something new to me, particularly since Willis chose to fight for the Yankees. I had heard stories, however, from my family in Tennessee about how the Rebels would come through and kill anybody they thought might be hiding people from the war.
When anyone died they used grandma Margaret's parlor to "lay out" the body. It did not seem to bother grandma and she'd go right to sleep, but to Siddie the thought of a dead person in the next room terrified her for weeks after --giving her nightmares.Even at 84 years of age her (Margaret's) mind was clear and bright as when she was young. On her death bed, she was able to recall for her neighbor the date her neighbor had bought his own farm and what he had paid for it. This neighbor was about to lose his farm, as the heirs of the former owner were trying to take it. She died three hours later, so to the very end of her life she served and helped her fellow man. (Flo Zimmer)
There have also been stories of funerals that took place inside the old homeplace handed down through the Webb generations. My grandma Virgie, often told of how they would "dress" the body for viewing, then "lay it out" on a table in the parlor. Somebody would have to stay up with it all night, although I'm not sure why, and if anybody knows, please enlighten me.
Margaret died when she 84 years old on her bed in the old homeplace. The year was 1912. She is buried next to Willis in Carpenter's Cemetery in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee. She surrounded by her children.
I loved learning this about my ggg-grandmother. It rings true with the legends handed down through my family, and I cannot wait to start documenting these very things.


Scott Fisher said...

I don't think the Webbs owned slaves, at least not these Webbs. The slave mentioned in the story seems to belong to the neighbors in hiding. That's why the slave went to Margaret for help. No one else to turn to. Margaret was probably a trustworthy neighbor.

Paula Goff Christy said...

Well, I will certainly be looking closely at the tax records for Scott & Morgan Counties. They should have the slaves listed. I don't recall ever seeing slaves counted in the census. Being a Yankee, tried and true, I hope the Webbs didn't own them. It would break my heart.