|Dow draws crowds at Washington, Port Gibson in 1804|
(Third in a series)
On September 4, 1804, evangelist Lorenzo Dow and his brother-in-law Smith Miller departed New York state enroute to Mississippi Territory.
Dow, only 27 years old but already becoming famous for his preaching, had just the day before married Miller's sister-in-law, Peggy Halcomb, and was making his second journey to Mississippi to preach. Miller planned to scout Natchez country for land to begin a new start in life. He would return later for his wife, Hannah, who remained in New York with her sister, Peggy, Dow's new bride.
The men traveled across the Allegheny mountains, and through Ohio Territory where Dow preached and held camp meetings along the way. They arrived in Tennessee in October where they met up with Methodist preachers Learner Blackman and Nathan Barnes, both also traveling to Natchez.
Dow was a Methodist, too, and was trained in the Methodist church. But for most of his adult life, Dow traveled and preached without denomination association although he always worked closely with the Methodists.
"The Natchez mission had almost discouraged the western conference, having made several trials with little success," Dow noted in his journal, published in a book that became a best seller in the 19th century, "History of Cosmopolite." (In Dow's case, "cosmopolite" meant that his home was wherever he was.) With Blackman and Barnes now in their company, the four men journeyed together down the wilderness road, soon to be known as the Natchez Trace.
"We started for Franklin (Tennessee), where I received some kindness and riding thirty-two miles, encamped in the woods," Dow wrote in his journal. "It rained and apparently we could get no fire, but some moving family from North Carolina, got affrighted by some Indians and were returning being fearful to venture on their way. They showed us the remains of their fire where they had encamped the preceding night; and with difficulty I prevailed on them to stay with us, until I let them know my name, which they had heard before; they intended traveling all night to the settlement, being fearful of being massacred by the Indians."
The four men later passed through the Big Town of the Chickasaws (Tupelo, Miss.), continuing south until arriving at the cabin of a white man named Gunn, where they "tarried two days...held some meetings, and receiving gratis (the) necessaries for our journey, took our departure. Having a gun with us, we killed some turkies, which were numerous in flocks. From what we saw, there were bears, and plenty of wolves and deer in these woods. The canopy of heaven was our covering by night, except the blankets we were rolled in. We kept fires to prevent the wild beasts from approaching too near."
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