"Fear God and Walk Humbly": The Agricultural Journal of James Mallory, 1843-1877

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James Mallory was an uncommon Southerner. Most inhabitants of the Old South, especially the plain folk, devoted more time to leisurely activities--drinking, gambling, hunting, fishing, and just loafing--than did Mallory, a workaholic agriculturalist, who experimented with new plants, orchards, and manures, as well as the latest farming equipment and techniques. A Whig and a Unionist, a temperance man and a peace lover, ambitious yet caring, business-minded and progressive, he supported railroad construction as well as formal education, even for girls. His cotton production--four bales per field hand in 1850, nearly twice the average for the best cotton lands in southern Alabama and Georgia--tells more about Mallory's steady work habits than about his class status.

But his most obvious eccentricity--what gave him reason to be remembered--was that nearly every day from 1843 until his death in 1877, Mallory kept a detailed journal of local, national, and often foreign news, agricultural activities, the weather, and especially events involving his family, relatives, slaves, and neighbors in Talladega County, Alabama.
Mallory's journal spans three major periods of the South's history--the boom years before the Civil War, the rise and collapse of the Confederacy, and the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. He owned slaves and raised cotton, but Mallory was never more than a hardworking farmer, who described agriculture in poetical language as "the greatest [interest] of all."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817387303
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 712
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Grady McWhiney is Lyndon Baines Johnson Professor of American History at Texas Christian University.

The late Warner O. Moore, Jr., was Associate Director of Student Services and an Adjunct Professor of History, The University of Alabama.

Robert F. Pace retired from the history department at McMurry University and is currently an Episcopal priest.

Read an Excerpt

"Fear God and Walk Humbly"

The Agricultural Journal of James Mallory, 1843â"1877

By Grady McWhiney, Warner O. Moore Jr., Robert F. Pace

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1997 The University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8730-3



April 1834 Myself, wife & infant (Virginia) Father, Mother & their children, Hugh S. Darby & family left [Madison County], Virginia, on the 28th of April 1834 & arrived at Huntsville Madison County, Ala., May 27th. We were kindly & hospitably furnished houses for ourselves and servants during the summer by Mr John Connelly near Huntsville free of expense. My mother and Betsey Darby, each lost their infant children during the summer, to be so early afflicted in a strange land causes us much distress. In October we all moved & made settlements at Taladega [Talladega] City (then and for several years after inhabited by the Creek Indians). We were joined in the fall by our beloved relative Oliver Welch and family, who also became citizens of the same County. Mrs Darby (my wifes mother) and two of her children Fanny and Shepherd moved out & settled amongst us in the fall of 1836. Shepherd was taken with fever the next summer & died. For four years afterwards we all enjoyed the greatest amount of health and happiness, prosperity & every blessing attending us. We seemed to forget that such days could not last but must be succeeded by affliction & distress—ours at last came—on the seventh May 1840 a most awful rain fell which deluged the whole country the effect of which spread sickness and death through the land. Scarcely a family escaped distress. We lost a darling boy (John Marshall), my Father, Mrs Darby, Uncle Olivers wife & youngest daughter. All were called on to try the realities of another world—such heavy afflictions sunk us low & made us feel our nothingness before God. The Almighty in his good pleasure continued his chastising rod over us. Fanny Poe, who had been in bad health from an early age, was taken off by decline in September 1841—Aunt Welch who moved out & joined the family of our Uncle soon followed. Borne down year by year by such heavy afflictions we hoped the almighty would be pleased in mercy to spare us one year, but it was not so. In Febry 10th 1842 we were called to meet the heviest of all earthly afflictions—the death of our mother. Her health was good but from exposure took cold, lingered for several weeks, dying in full confidence of meeting her Lord in piece. During the summer of this year 42 alarm was excited in us for the health of Betsey Darby. She continued to linger until the last of July when she made the most happy & triumphant death. My Father and Mother, Mrs Darby, Betsey Darby, Ann Welch were 3 members of the Baptist Church. May we learn to imitate their virtues & so live as to meet them in heaven.



January 1 With Divine assistance we will try and conform nearer to our duty to God and our fellow men. The first of this month was cold and disagreeable, the latter part pleasant & agreable, planted peas, Potatoes & cc. A time of great embarassment in the country—cruel derangement of the currency, exchanges from 20 to 30 percent, produced mainly by the Legislature winding up all the Banks of the State but one, cotten varying from 4 to 7 cents. The Legislature adjourned the 25th of the month after imposeing a tax on the citizens for the support of its government and payment of its publick debt. They passed a most odious & unjust law in districting the state upon the basis of a white population.

February 1 This month has been generally cold and wet, an uncommon fall of hail occured on the seventh being from one to two inches deep.

March 1 Cold and rainey, very unfavourable weather for planting opperations.

March 13 A comet of considerable magnitude made its appearance, discoverable about seven oclock, and setting half after eyght.

March 16 This morning the snow covered the earth to the debth of one inch or more.

March 19 Snow fell the debth of an inch.

March 20 Snow again to about the same debth, falling during the night & melting in the day.

March 21 Snow this morning an inch and a half deep, still continue to plough.

March 23 Turned bitter cold, the ground frozen, no prospect for ploughing or gardening for some time.

March 24 Snowing nearly all day.

March 26 More pleasant today.

March 28 Very cold with rain & some snow.

March 29 The weather mild today with every appearance of its continance, think most of the fruit destroyed. Comenced planting Cotten today.

March 31 A very heavy rain and planting stopped.

April 1 Wet & part of the day very cold.

April 2 (Sabbath) Clear and sweetly mild, seeming to woo all things to worship & praise the God who made them.

April 9 Commenced planting Cotten in the gin house field, the weather two cold, but the ground in fine order having frozen during the winter which make it light & spongey.

April 13 Planted forty acres of Cotten in the field next to N. W. Mallory.

April 15 Finished planting of Cotten all to some seed sent me by Dr Peebles.

April 20 The weather pleasant, very dry for seven day[s] past, unfavourable for the crops comeing up.

April 21 Planted by dropping eyght acres of cotten from seed sent by Dr Peebles, two feet apart.

April 29 Had a fine rain, the cotten up well, & weather promiseing to be good.

April 30 Corn up & looking well.

May 1 Commenced harrowing cotten, it looks well.

May 3 Started to chopping cotten today, still looks well, the weather a little two cool to promise a rapid growth.

May 7 The weather dry & pleasant, cotten grows rapidly—great complaint of bad stands of corn.

May 13 Weather dry—corn doing poorly, many are ploughing up & planting again, the worm [is the] principal cause.

May 17 Have had a fine rain today with a prospect of more. Crop in good order.

May 18 Rain with the appearance of a wet season, planted out potatoe slips.

May 19 Our community is in a high state of excitement from the gold fever that is now rageing, it having been discovered in the Hillibies [Hillabees], where it is said to be plentiful, many of our people have engaged in it I fear to their injury—being to the neglect of all other pursuits.

May 20 Fair weather, crops doing well.

May 22 The two last days have been very cool—had fire through the day—produced no doubt from a hail storm near Taladega Town that entirely destroyed the crop on several plantations, falling to the debth of several inches.

May 29 The past week still cool, the drought begins to effect the crops very much—the lice are very numerous on the cotten, fear they will seriously injure it.

June 1 Weather warm & some prospect of rain uncommonly good health prevades the neighbourhood and county generally.

June 5 Very hot during the day—in the evening a severe hail storm fell in different parts of the neighbourhood, doing much damage to crops, vegatables, fruits &c. &c.

June 10 Weather pleasant with fine showers, the crops seem to be recovering from the effects of the late hail storm—cotten is larger and earlier than is common at this season of the year—being very full of squares the storm not injuring it so seriously as was at first supposed, having the effect of driving off the insects which in the end may be a benefit to it.

June 15 The weather still continues wet, now raining and every prospect of its continuance, crops look well, but are becomeing very foul, the planters are makeing great efforts to keep it under the wheat crop is still in the field & will probably injure and spoil.

June 18 Rain today, a most grand & beautiful rainbow appeared in the evening that attracted much attention.

June 20 The weather has at last cleared off with the appearance of its being settled—the crop of corn has been much improved by the rain, the cotton crop has had two much rain causeing it to grow tall, the lice have made their appearance again in great numbers on it and should the sunshine not have the effect of driving them off will greatly injure it—no blooms yet.

June 22 Rain commenced again with every appearance of a rainy season, wheat badly sprouted in the field.

June 28 Rain has fallen daily—the crop of cotten much reduced in size by the insects—crops of every discription very grassy.

June 30 Fair weather once more, with a hot sun that seems to promise an abundant corn crop. How our hearts swell with thankfullness to the giver of every good gift for his bountiful provision for his creatures.

July 1 Very hot and clear.

July 4 Spent the day at home with a few friends, read the Declaration of Independence and conversed & contrasted our government with others less happy than our own, where the blessings and happiness of ours was denied them—may the lord give us good rulers, and continue the joys & comforts of peace and happiness unto us.

July 8 Had a fine rain today, it was much needed.

July 15 The crop of corn is growing finely from repeated showers the past week, cotton out growing the insects, commence laying by my cotton in good shape.

July 22 Good rains are frequent, corn doing well.

July 30 Rain still continues, fears are expressed that the cotten has taken two rapid a growth to i[t]s injury—health of the country entirely good.

August 5 The past week has been clear with a delightful temperature—the Lord in his goodness still favours us with good health. The cotton crop looks well from the sunshine of the past week, much two large, all depends on the weather to come, should it turn dry a large crop may be expected through this county. It is said to be more promiseing here than in any other portion of the state.

August 8 Commenced toping cotton—rain two heavy for cotton today which is in a rapidly growing state should it continue will greatly injure it.

August 9 Engaged in building servants houses, stone chimneys, gates and other conveniences.

August 12 Rainy and cool, cotton matureing but little prospect said to be indifferent through the State.

August 16 Commenced pulling fodder, corn very fine, [neither] peas nor pumpkins are good the field being overrun with grass.

August 22 My health has been indifferent for some months being very much afflicted with pains in my stomach—having been dieting on milk & bread alone, do not improve any from it—find myself irritable and fretful—may the Lord enable me to submit more humbly to any afflictions that may be my lot to bear—a good deal of fodder has been lost by the rains.

August 26 The weather is now fine, fodder is being saved in great quantities—corn is large & fine—cotton seems to be doing well but much later than usual, but little open, no picking in this county.

August 27 (Sabbath) Attended preaching at Talasaha[t]chie [Tallaseehatchie], the congregation was large, baptised ten—Our good paster delivered a very pleasing & instructive discourse.

August 29 A heavy rain [and] wind, injured corn & cotton very much.

September 1 Moved in and commenced our annual campmeeting.

September 4 Most of our ministering bretheren near were with us, also Brother Devotee of Perry County, they were very zealous and ably dispenced the word to an orderly and attentive assembly, but it seemed not to be the Lords time to bless—the meeting broke up without any additions to the Church—I truly hope the seed has been sown that will bring forth much fruit to the honour and glory of God.

September 5 Commenced picking cotton which is very inferior from the wet season.

September 8 Some appearance of fair weather, it would be very agreeable as we have had a great deal of rain.

September 10 The weather fine,—Our Community is much distressed at the death [of] sister Jenkens who died of advanced age, a model of industry and econemy.

September 15 Weather still good—Cotten opening finely, should the weather remain good a large crop may yet be made.

September 16 The Lord blessed us in the birth of a fine boy [Francis Shepherd Darby], mother & infant both doing well, may we be enabled to bring him up to the service of the Lord.

September 18 Commenced gathering corn, the grain not very dry, fine weather and good health still continues.

September 20 Weather good, more warm than has been the [season] being more than usually cool.

September 25 Hear that is prevailing in Taladega Town several deaths, supposed to be caused from the bad order of the Spring—health of the country good—very warm for the season, cotton matureing rapidly.

September 28 Somewhat alarmed for the condition of my dear wife, who from imprudence has taken pueral fever.

September 29 Wife better today—hope with care she will recover in a few days.

October 1 Much co[m]forted from the almost entire recovery of my wife from her dangerous sickness.

October 2 The weather fine and health of country good.

October 5 Cotten opening rapidly and staple much better than what opened in the early part of the season.

October 6 The market has opened for Cotton under better auspices, it is from seven to eyght cents in good funds, the excitement seems to be very great, as their is reports of a short crop, from the lateness of the spring and extremely wet summer, the crop being better in the high dry portions of the different States than in the lower countries, a belief in the prospect of better times both in our country & Europe has caused speculation to commence with a belief that it is to be higher than for several years past—hope it may bear a moderate price, but do not wish it to get so high as to engender extravagance and wild speculation that will be followed by ruin to thousands and a long depression in the business of the country.

October 7 A heavy rain and wind that has caused much damage to cotton crop by blowing it upon the ground and filling it with trash.

October 10 Weather pleasant for out door business, find the cotton much more difficult to rid of trash than before the storm.

October 14 Frost tonight sufficient to kill the cotton leaves in the bottom and flat lands, not severe enough to injure the balls.

October 16 Frost more severe—doing considerable damage to the tender balls of cotton but not so severe as most years only affecting the crop from this Northward—the injury is slight below which makes it doubtful as to a short crop as the weather is of the most favourable caracter now and a promise that it will be so for some days to come.

October 20 We were much pleased to receive the visit of our brother & sister with their children from Lowndes, they are in fine health and spirits.

October 22 Brother Peebles and uncle Oliver left us for divine service at Talasahatchie, may the good Lord bless their labours, I was prevented from joining them from indisposition with the Tyler gripe, it is spreading through the county less violent than in many other places.

October 26 A killing frost to destroy all vegetation with much loss to cotton crop in this region and farther north, the crop in this county is so abundant that the loss will not be felt.

October 30 Dug potatoes today and found them very fine.

November 1 Finished sewing wheat today, soaked it well in bluestone to prevent the smut—fear it two late to ensure a good crop as it will be liable to be injured by the winter and danger of rust when matureing.

November 5 Weather mild and pleasant for the season.

November 7 Weather still continues pleasant.

November 12 Cold and cloudy.

November 14 Providence is truly kind, in bestowing on us the best of health as a family, as also the community at large.

November 16 Warm and rainy for some days past.

November 20 Very pleasant today.

November 22 Wet, but not enough to prevent picking cotton.

November 25 Favourable weather for the season.

November 26 Cotton is yielding finely in this county, some complaint in the lower counties of a light crop.

November 27 Wheat is doing well having had the best of warm moist weather since seeding.

November 28 Rain today—quite warm.

November 29 Rain, Rain, Rain.

November 30 Raining fast, no out door business going on.

December 1 Raining heavily, fear of great damage from high water.


Excerpted from "Fear God and Walk Humbly" by Grady McWhiney, Warner O. Moore Jr., Robert F. Pace. Copyright © 1997 The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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James Mallory's Last Will and Testament

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