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Prof. C. L. McCartha, 1906
My grandfather, Jesse McCartha, was of pure Scotch blood, with the industry, sterling honesty and integrity of that race. He was a very small man, weighing ninety pounds or less. In his youth he so injured his back at a log-rolling as to be always thereafter unable to ride a horse, to take long walks or to perform continuous heavy labor. He owned a considerable tract (perhaps three or four hundred acres) of poor land in the "Dutch Fork" of South Carolina. that part on which his house was located was very stony, covered with fragments of white flint rock. In his prime he was a fine shot with the old flint-and-steel rifle which I have often seen and with which on his seventy-fifth birthday he killed a deer at seventy-five yards "off-hand". He never wore spectacles. he was a wooden-axle wagon maker, and I have seen good wagons made by him of which only the tires, king-bolt and stay-chains were of iron. The boards with which his dwelling and all his out-houses were covered were fastened to the "sheeting-laths" with wooden pins whittled out at night and in rainy hours. I have seen the "shingle-borer" with which each board was pierced to receive these pins. Such was the economy which the scarcity and the high price of iron imposed on even the middle-class a hundred years ago. He was also a cobbler. Both these occupations were honorable and reasonably remunerative in his early day.When I first knew him he was about sixty-five years old, and of a sunny but not jovial disposition, enjoying a good laugh but not boisterous. He was a consistent member of the Lutheran Church and well read in the Bible. Though not a scholar he was not illiterate, and his conversation was usually of a solid and thoughtful type. I never knew him to jest or perpetrate a witticism, and I do not think he had any gift of repartee. Still there was nothing gloomy or morose in him. All that I know of his father is that he was a teacher throughout his active life.
My grandfather married and buried five wives. He died at the age of eighty-six of cancer, which had destroyed both his eyes. He enjoyed justly the absolute confidence and esteem of his neighbors. His life was quiet and received. I never knew of his taking and active part in public affairs.
My father, Jeremiah McCartha, born January 2nd, 1814, was the only son of his mother who died when he was a few hours old. She was of the Boland family, Rev. Dr. J. M. Boland, formerly of the Alabama, now of the Holston, Conference, is her nephew and bears my father's full name, Jeremiah McCartha Boland.
My grandfather has told me with what patient industry and filial fidelity he stayed at home and helped him through all his boyhood, youth and even early manhood to wrench an honest living out of the barren soil for three stepmothers and their children. At twenty-three, he said to him, "Jeremy, my son, you have done your part nobly; I cannot claim your time and labor longer, I have nothing to give you; you must shift for yourself." It was the language of love but of necessity. he had learned to read both English and Dutch ( Deutsch/German), (his three stepmothers were all Dutch ( Deutsch/German) and had already shown a desire for education.
--- 1837 ---
Leaving home and crossing Broad River, he approached Major Elkins, a rich farmer, and contracted with him to clear and fence twelve scores of woodland in payment of his board and ten months tuition.
Entering the Monticello Academy under Mr. Davis, a fine teacher, he took up grammar, arithmetic, spelling, geography, and Latin. The sequel of his life testifies to his diligence as a student.
--- 1838 ---
The McCants community needing a teacher, applied to Mr. Davis who told them of McCartha's earnestness, honesty, and probity, and on his recommendation, they employed him at a stipulated salary of $400 for ten months. the first year gave satisfaction to his patrons and decided his career. Forty-five of the remaining forty-seven years of his life were spent in the schoolroom.
--- 1839 ---
He returned to school at Monticello, having now the means to pay his way, and boarded with a Mrs. Glover where he became acquainted with my mother, Emily Britian. Her mother having died during her infancy, she spent her early years with her grandmother, Mrs. Worthington. On her death she was taken in charge by Isaac Herbert, her uncle by marriage, with whom she made her home until she was about seventeen years old when she went to Monticello to learn dress-making under Mrs. Glover. Her father, (having married again) moved to Pontotoc, Miss., and fell dead of paralysis in sight of his family as he was returning home from his mill which was not far away. In the latter part of this year, my father and mother were married; he being twenty-five, and she nineteen years old.
--- 1840 ---
This year my father taught in the Ashford neighborhood, near Horeb (Presbyterian) Church.
--- 1841 ---
This year he continued at the same place, living in a rented house on the Ashford place, where I was born, March 15th, 1841.
--- 1842 ---
Removing to Winnsboro, the county seat of Fairfield District (County) he acted as first assistant under Mr. Hudson, principal of the Mount Zion Institute, which then and for many years thereafter enjoyed an excellent reputation as a High School of Academic grade. This was a hard year for my parents as I relapsed from an attack of measles and lay a helpless and almost hopeless wrech for nine months.
--- 1843 ---
Returning to the McCants neighborhood, he rented from Mrs. McCants, a widow of comfortable means and my mother's best motherly friend, the "Sistrunk house", a very comfortable dwelling which had been vacated by an emigrating family. I think this was a comfortable and happy year. I regained health and my father's income enabled him to pay some debts incurred the previous year and to save a little surplus.
--- 1844 ---
He bought from Mr. Humphrey Gibson twelve acres of land in a beautiful oak forest. Here he began building the house which I have always known as HOME, and in which I spent the happiest years of my life. this house still stands (August, 1906) unchanged except for an added L-room and piazza. In this house I spent a night in June, 1906, and slept in the room where my three brothers were born and in which my mother laid the foundation of my education. On the same tract my father built a school-house in which he taught for the next four years. During these years he cleared and cultivated eight acres of the twelve and fitted up the home in comfort.
--- 1845 ---
In 1845, Brother Willie died at nine months of age. I did not then know what death meant. Brother Walter was born the same year.
--- 1848 ---
The children of this community having grown up and the school consequently having diminished, he accepted a more remunerative position at "Fishem Academy" in Union District (County). So the house and home were rented out to a plausible fellow who afterwards proved to be a worthless drunkard; with tearful eyes we moved sixty miles by wagon to a rented house. This was a very hard year. Three times we changed quarters, living for a time in the upper storey of the academy to the great annoyance and discomfort of my mother. Our third residence for this year was in exceedingly malarial locality and during the whole fall we all had chills and fever, often all down at once, and my father much of the time unable to attend his school.
--- 1849 ---
We joyfully returned "HOME" but on arriving were saddened to find it very much abused and dilapidated.
--- 1850 ---
This year he taught at "Willingham's", seven miles from home.
--- 1851 ---
Father still taught at Willingham's and the only striking event of the year was the birth of my brother, Frank.
--- 1852 ---
Still leaving us at home, father opened school at "Broad River Academy" and prospered.
--- 1853 ---
Renting out the house we moved again fifty miles to Sandy River Academy in Chester District (County).
TO BE CONTINUED...
Transcribed and Submitted by David L. Smith, 22 June 2016
Notes: Dale County, Alabama, From the Southern Star, Sept. 10, 1884 - Prof. McCartha opened his school at Newton...
McCartha Hall, Troy State University, Troy, Pike County, Alabama (1950) – The Clarence L. McCartha Hall houses the counseling, teacher education, psychology, human services and Air Force ROTC departments and Computer Works.