Peggy Dow's fretful nights under the wilderness stars
by Stanley Nelson - posted Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 @ 12:50 pm
12th in a Series)
In the fall of 1808, Peggy Dow was awaiting the arrival of her 31-year-old husband, Lorenzo Dow, a Methodist circuit rider who traveled the world preaching the gospel. Peggy, age 28, and Dow had been married for five years but for 12 months the couple had been separated by thousands of miles.
Dow's wanderings across the country had been curtailed since 1806 when he moved to Claiborne County in Mississippi Territory to take over a sawmill venture left incomplete by his brother-in-law. Two years after that, he returned to Georgia and to the northeastern states to preach and for business. Being too ill to travel, Peggy was forced to stay behind in the company of sisters Ann and Elizabeth Coburn, whose father was the sheriff in Claiborne County.
"I had joined society when I first came to that country," Peggy recalled in her autobiography ("Vicissitudes in the Wilderness," 1833). "I lived in great harmony with my two companions that Lorenzo had left me with, while he was going to visit the States once more. I attended meeting (church) regularly every week, and had many precious times to my soul. I had some trials to encounter, but the Lord was my helper, and brought me through them all. I was desirous to return to some part of the States, if Providence should spare Lorenzo, and he should again come back to me in safety."
Dow had left in October. Peggy said she "spent that winter and the next summer, as agreeably as I had done such a length of time in almost any situation that I had been placed in for several years; at the same time these people that had pretended a great deal of friendship to us in former times, were quite distant; however, this affected me but little, as I learned in some degree this lesson, that our happiness does not depend on the smiles or frowns of the world; but we must have peace in our own breast, or we can find it no where else."
Peggy and Lorenzo had been scorned by many in Claiborne County because Peggy's sister, Hannah, had left her husband for a younger man. Hannah's husband, Smith Miller, had failed at his sawmill venture, ran up a huge debt and began drinking heavily. Although Dow assumed the debt and attempted to complete construction of the sawmill, the scandal caused by his relatives was the subject of much gossip and condemnation.
Just before Dow departed for the eastern seaboard, Hannah died. Peggy was crushed. Hannah had reared Peggy and Peggy mourned Hannah's passing as if her mother had died. She also worried over Hannah's salvation and feared she would not see her in heaven. Peggy found some solace from the words of another preacher who told Dow that Hannah was repentant over her affair. Yet she refused to leave her lover in Spanish West Florida and move in with Dow and Peggy.
"I lived quite retired from the world with a few exceptions," Peggy wrote about the year apart from Dow. "I seldom went out but to meeting -- there I found most peace and consolation. Thus I continued to spend my time, until the period that Lorenzo was to return...I received a letter from him, to meet him about twelve miles from where I was, where he had sent an appointment to preach. This was pleasing intelligence to me, as I had then been separated from him for near twelve months.