The Western Speller by John A. Stembridge
Stembridge’s “The Western Speller” appeared in 1854. This book was compiled by John A. Stembridge, who was born in Muhlenberg in 1813 and died in Greenville in 1872. He was the only son of William Stembridge. His wife was a daughter of Larkin N. Akers. Their son, William junior, died in early manhood. Their two daughters removed to Evansville, Indiana, about 1875, and were connected with the public schools of that city for more than thirty years. John A. Stembridge, like his father, was a schoolteacher.
“The Western Speller” was written in Greenville in 1852 and published in 1854 by J. W. Boswell, of Hebardsville, Henderson County. The printing was done by Hull & Brothers and the binding by Hull Brothers & Caril, of Louisville. The “Preface” and “Recommendations” are here quoted in full:
We live in an age of improvement, and as there have been improvements made on almost all theories, the author of this work thought that there could be an improvement made on the Spelling Books that are published by various authors. He had two reasons for writing this Book. The first reason, he saw some defects in all the various spellers. The most important reason was his ill health–not being able, for the last three years and a half, to labor. He came to the conclusion to write a Spelling Book on a new plan, which he has done, hoping that a generous public would examine it, and give his book the preference, as he knows of no other tribunal that would judge more correctly. With these remarks he submits it to the same.
Greenville, Ky., August, 1852.
We have examined the spelling book compiled by Mr. John A. Stembridge, and consider it a valuable book. It contains a great variety of the most useful words, disposed in such order as will much facilitate the learner’s progress in spelling and pronunciation. A large number of proper and Geographical names are appended. We think it an elementary book worthy of the attention of parents and Teachers.
Greenville, Ky., August, 1852.
Rev. John Donaldson, Principal Greenville Presbyterial Academy, Ky.
S. P. Love, Teacher Common Schools, Greenville, Ky.
B. E. Pittman, Common School Commissioner, Greenville, Ky.
Chas. F. Wing, Clerk Muhlenberg Circuit Court.
Wm. H. C. Wing, Clerk County Court.
A. C. DeWitt, See. Louisville Annual Con. M. E. C. South.
W. H. Yost.
Jesse H. Reno, P. J.
Thu, 8 Nov 2001
I haven’t found a kinship between the Webbs and Stembridges, yet, other than as neighbors. It has been in just the last few days that I discovered my relation to the Webbs in Crawford County. In response to a query I posted on the Wood Co., TX list I was contacted by a descendant of the Nichols family from Crawford Co. She gave me a lead and after researching census records
I found my family–Burtis Webb–there. When I contacted her about my finding asking for more information she sent me a wonderful excerpt from the 1932 Dallas Morning News.
Diana Ware(The following article, written by W. S. Adair, was copied from the Dallas Morning News for Sunday, December 11, 1932. It appeared under the title “Early Days in Texas”)”We had the real thing of hard times in the South for several years after the war,” said J. W. Bryant, 1320 Grigsby Avenue. “The war left practically all the Southern states in the condition General Sherman boasted of having left the Shenandoah Valley — so forlorn of vegetation and animal life that a crow flying over it had to take its rations with it. The fence rails had all been burned at Federal campfires, the fields were grown up with sassafras bushes, farm animals and tools and implements had been destroyed, neither garden nor field seeds were to be had, and worst of all, there was nothing in the way of money but the worthless Confederate bills which flooded the land. That was the condition of things in our neighborhood in Georgia, and our locality was a fair sample of what the people was up against in every other part of the once almost fairyland of Dixie. Still the people somehow managed to live, but they gradually gave it up, and as each head of a family abandoned hope, he gathered up what few belongings he had, and set out for Texas, where he was assured there was at least plenty to eat. We stuck it out until 1872, in December of that year my father, W. H. Bryant, and some of our neighbors met, canvassed the situation and decided that they could not make matters worse by any sort of move. A few weeks later a party made up of our family and the families of Daniel Nichols, Ben Nichols, Sam Bundrick, Burtis Webb, Henry Stembridge and William Chapman, assembled at the railroad station, went through a tearful parting from relatives and life-long friends and boarded an emigrant car for New Orleans. Emigrant cars, built especially for hauling the poor people of the South to Texas, were equipped with all the inconveniences of the day, and always so crowded as to aggravate to the limit their numerous other horrifying drawbacks. Each family brought along in a basket, food for the journey, and they ate and slept on the hard plank seats of the cars, which, you may well believe, were not in the best sanitary condition after a few days out. At New Orleans we transferred to the steamer Economist, bound for Shreveport. The Red River had more sandbars than water in it and we were seventeen days rounding our way to our destination. At Shreveport our party separated, to go to friends or relatives, who had preceded them to Texas, and most of them I have never seen since. Our family, consisting of father and mother and six of us children, traveled by rail as far as Longview, then the end of the railroad. From there we went to the home of Joe Webb, an old schoolmate of father’s, in Wood County, near the present site of the town of Hawkins. In the oldest fields of East Texas the stumps had rotted and mingled with the soil, but there were still extensive tracts of woods in both Wood and Upshur Counties and plenty of game. Father, who was an old deer hunter, killed a deer every day while we remained with Mr. Webb. One day he killed two and brought them both to the house on his shoulders. We finally settled near old Starrville, sixteen miles northeast of Tyler. The International-Great Northern Railroad bad been completed to Tyler the year before and the Tyler Tap, a line from Tyler to Big Sandy, also was in operation. Tyler was a flourishing town of 5,000 or 6,000 population and even dreamed of becoming the jobbing center of all north and northeast Texas. Starrville, older than Tyler, had never had a population of more than a few hundred and was already going down in favor of Tyler. The site for Starrville had been donated by Joshua Starr, an early settler, who made the donation with the stipulation that if the place tolerated a saloon the land was to revert to him or his heirs. The result was that Starrville was the only town in the country where a man could not get a drink. When the Cotton Belt Railroad came along and built a station at Winona, four miles away, and got a post office, Starrville died a natural death. We were not long in discovering that we had not left all the hardships of life in Georgia. East Texas was reeking with malaria and it was quite the custom for everyone to throw a chill every other day. It is the peculiarity of their malady for the victim to think while he is wrestling with a chill that he cannot possibly survive it, and to feel the very next day that he never was in better case in his life. I never heard of anyone dying while doing a chill. On the contrary, that is the time when all of one’s energies are up, trying to throw off the poison, and life is at its height. But in time the people became largely immune against malaria, as they did against smallpox and yellow fever. The first year we were in Smith County father borrowed corn to go to mill with and paid it back in kind when his crop matured in the fall. Cotton was the chief crop in East Texas in those days, with a little corn, wheat and oats mostly for home use. The cattle, horses, and hogs looked out for themselves on the open range. The oak woods were full of wild hogs and almost every settler had a claim on them just as he had on the deer and bears and every man with the necessary energy had a full smokehouse. The canebrakes along the rivers and creeks afforded ample winter pasture for grazing animals. Before the public school system was established we had only private schools, and every teacher was his own textbook board and he taught all the grades himself and in one room. The advantage of this was that everyone in the room got to hear all the recitations and that bright pupils in the lower grades made the higher ones by anticipation. Going to school in those days was not what it seems to me to be now. It was a matter of amusement and entertainment and something of a fad and dress affair. The pupil was required to put in seven or eight hours at hard study. When he set out in the morning he dreaded what the day had in store for him as much as if he were going to pick cotton or chop wood, and that was why he looked so serious and why I still have in my mind’s eye such vivid portraits of my teachers at Starrville, Professor George Birdwell and Professor Gathwright. I moved to Hill County in 1892, lived there seven years and came to Dallas in 1899. I have been a member of the Dallas police force twenty-six years, with the rank of sergeant thirteen years.- – – – – – – – – – – End of quote – – – – – – – – – – -47
Lillie Ruby (descendant of Nichols family–yes, all those Nichols in Crawford are kin to me——at least all I know of.)
(Ben Nichols was the son of James Nichols. Daniel Nichols was the son of Vincent Nichols and a nephew of Ben Nichols)