This is the first in a series of “On this day” posts. Today is 1 May 2016. And today, we are going to meet Sallie Vincent Cason, born today in 1857.
I think I have mentioned the Rev. Jeremiah H. Cason and his wife Bettie Cooper Cason before. And I am sure that I will mention them again. They are a big part of my research and of the family stories that were passed down.
Rev. J.H. Cason and his wife Bettie were very early Baptist missionaries to Africa. In September 1856, they and three other missionary couples set out for the Yoruba country, which today is a part of Nigeria. This was one of the very first groups from the Baptist church to go into Africa.
They married 3 July 1856 and spent the summer raising funds for their missionary efforts. They sailed from New York to Africa on a trading vessel, the cheapest and slowest way to get there, and arrived early in January in 1857.
That spring, Jere Cason wrote the following letter to his supervising pastor, Brother Poindexter.
Ijoye, Yoruba, May the 15th 1857
Dear Bro Poindexter
Your kind favor came to hand May 5th. It was a comforting letter and manifested much interest on your part in our mission. We were sorry to learn that Bro Taylor was unwell and hope he has long since been permitted to engage in his duties.
On the 1st day of May we were delighted by the birth of a fine daughter. It grew and
promised well to be raised. On the 12th it died and I followed it to the grave in a small band of Africans. Mrs Cason is doing pretty well and we hope she will be up in a few days.
That little girl was Sallie Vincent Cason, named for Jere’s mother. How sad. But, how matter of fact about things, too. Jere doted on his children and grandchildren. He wrote letters to each grandchild on they day it was born, welcoming that baby to the world. So, you now that he and Bettie were devastated by the death of their daughter. But, they also felt a duty to their call and their mission. I can hardly imagine.
I found this letter through the Baptist Foreign Missions Board archive in Nashville, Tennessee. They sent me copies of all of Jere’s letters. I went to visit them and made copies for myself of the letters from the other missionaries serving with them. It’s such an amazing thing for the archivist to bring a box of letters that are 160 years old, that were mailed back to the US from Yoruba, Africa.
All I can say is just “Wow.”
“I was born in Green County Ga the 19th of April 1813.”
Sarah Bridges, my great-great-great-grandmother, was born 19 April 1813 in Greene County, Georgia. Her parents were Herod Flourney Wren and Margaret “Peggy” Ware. When she was fifteen, Sarah married George Washington Wren in Putnam County, Georgia, where she lived until the early 1850s when several branches of the family moved from Georgia to Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
Sarah and G.W. Wren had nine children, including my great-great-grandfather, Alonzo Dossey Wren. Dr. A.D. Wren, born in 1841, married Georgia Frances Vickers shortly after the Civil War in Minden, Webster Parish, Louisiana. Georgia and A.D. Wren had ten children of their own. When Georgia and A.D. Wren became grandparents, they were faced with the age-old question of what to call the grandparents. Sarah Bridges Wren was called “Great” while Georgia Vickers Wren was called “Little Grannie”.
Late in Sarah Bridges’ life, her daughter-in-law asked her to write down a little bit of her life so that the family would have it. After all, Sarah Bridges Wren had seen a lot of history. I have that letter in my possession. It’s at the top of this post. The following is a transcript of that letter. As near as I can tell from what the letter talks about, it must have been written in the fall of 1903. I’m including it just as it’s written.
To Mrs. Georgia Wren
Dear Daughter I send you this little history of my life which I have hastily writen, it is short and meager but I don’t supose that any one would be interested in much that I could tell, although I have seen a good deal of this world.
With love I remain your mother Sarah Wren
I was born in Green County Ga the 19th of April 1813.
Went over into Morgan Co where we lived until I was 6 years old, when I was caried to Putnam Co wher I grew to womanhood.
Was converted and joined the Methodist church in July 1828. was maried the 4th sept the same year to GW Wren of South Carolina. We settled in Ga where we remained until 1850 when we removed to Louisiana in Jan 51 where Mr Wren died in Augt 29th 1884 and were 5 of our 8 children have died. I was Gloriously sanctified at the Rock Springs camp meeting in Putnam Co, Ga in 1849 which bless the good Lord I still claim and hold on to t[his] [day] [He] has always been very merciful and good to me and has given me many special answers to prayer.
My blessed Lord has watched over me now for 90 years & 6 months and nere denied me one blessing that was best for me to have. He has given me good friends every where and never permited any serious harm to befall me. I feel that his abiding care has always been with me and in me to bless and comfort me and now in my old age and infirmities he has not forsaken me, but gives me the abiding witness of his Holy Spirit to comfort and sustain me. Glory to his name.
He never really thought it would come to this. His oldest daughter (one had died as a young child, so now she was his oldest) was leaving home. Not just leaving home, leaving her comfortable home in middle Tennessee, but really leaving! Going to Africa, maybe never to come home. And as a father, he was worried and a bit scared. So, as she left, he wrote her a letter.
Micajah Thomas Cooper was born in 1806 in Rowan County, North Carolina. His family moved to first Cannon County, then Rutherford County, Tennessee by about 1810. They settled in the Woodbury area and then moved south into Rutherford County. In 1829, Micajah married Sarah A. “Sallie” Vincent in Rutherford County. They had twelve children together and lost at least three of the twelve as children. Micajah was a fairly successful farmer. He bought land in Rutherford County, in the Bell Buckle area and grew to have a farm valued at $8000 in 1860, with personal property valued at $15000.
Micajah and Sallie’s daughter, Elizabeth “Bettie” Cooper, was born in 1834. By the fall of 1855 and spring of 1856, she had become quite attached to student at the Union College in nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was studying to be a preacher, a Baptist preacher. He wanted to share the Gospel not only to the people of middle Tennessee, but across the globe. This student, Jeremiah H. Cason, wanted to be a missionary in the foreign service. And Bettie wanted to serve with him, wherever that service would take him.
Micajah and Sallie raised Bettie to be a devout Christian, but this was never what they saw as her future! The wife of a preacher? A missionary? And Africa? What kind of dangers would she face there? Was this anywhere for a nice Tennessee girl to be?
Bettie and Jere married in July 1856 and by September that year, they boarded a sailing ship for the Yoruba County of Africa (today’s Nigeria). Not knowing whether he would ever see his daughter again, Micajah took pen to paper and wrote them a letter, hoping it would find them before they sailed. In it, he sent them on their way with his blessing, but with more than a little sadness and trepidation.
At Home Aug 10th 1856
My heart was very much gladdened on the reception of your short letter from Augusta and again by a similar one from Richmond. I hasten to write you a few lines which will have to be consise[sic] – first I would say we have tryed[sic] to submit to your departure with all the fortitude we are capable and am happy to say your mother has bore it better than I could have expected – but not a day has passed that she has not alluded to you – but I busy her up the best I can and mention the importance of your mission and the consciousness you feel – that you are discharging a duty to that God who willeth not that any should perish but that all should have eternal life. This reflection is gratifying but you know how human nature is such that it is hard for us to be willing to be separated from children who would afford us so many pleasures along the journey of life – but enough on this subject – we are all in good health and attending the Garrison Camp Meeting.
Bettie and Jere stayed in Yoruba for about a year, but that’s a story for a different day.
Micajah and Sallie died. She in 1864 and he in 1874 during a visit to a daughter in Kentucky. Both are buried right in front of the New Hope Baptist Church, in Fairfield, Bedford County, Tennessee.