Alfred, Lord Tennyson described the sadness of Sir Bedivere as King Arthur was “passing.” Bedivere said,      “And the days darken around me, and the years/among new men, strange faces, other minds.”

Arthur responded, “The old order changeth, yielding place to new….”

And so arrives 2020.

January was named for Janus, whose likenesses have two faces, one looking forward into the new year and one looking back into the past.

January is therefore a good time to make resolutions as well as to spend the winter days that “darken around us” in reading records of the past, especially the personal records kept in journals.

Technology and the avoidance of cursive writing have lessened the interest in keeping a journal. Reading one is still interesting and informative, however.

James W. M. Gooch, a resident of Cedar Hill, wrote daily in 1861. That diary/journal survives.

Billy Gooch, as he has been remembered, was early known in the history of the town. He and his brother Lum (Columbus) brought the mail from Springfield to the post office and back again once or twice a week. They rode horseback and carried the mail in “saddle pockets.”

This was not the current post office, nor the old frame post office near the train tracks.

Mary Ann Bartlett wrote her own memories of that earlier post office. She was the youngest daughter of Eliza Speer, who had married Jefferson Gooch. Mary Ann later married J.M. Bartlett. 

In 1854, Henry Bartlett had bought a house and built a store 1½ miles from the current town of Cedar Hill. It was at the ford of Sturgeon Creek.

The store stood on a hill with cedar trees. In the store was the post office, and Bartlett was the postmaster. At that time, the post office was the “Red River Office.”

In 1858, the railroad came through. Jefferson Gooch, the father of Billy and Lum, was given the right of way. A depot was built, and it was called Cedar Hill.

In his journal, Billy Gooch recorded the events of 1861, describing the weather, schoolwork, daily chores, parties, and eventually the war.

On Tuesday, January 1, Gooch attended school during the day but went to a party that night. Accompanying him were Ed Gunn and Lum. 

The party was held at the home of Esq. J. Batts - probably Jeremiah Batts, III, who was about the age of Billy Gooch. Jeremiah 3, as he is called today, would later die at the Battle of Franklin.

(Gooch often referred to his friends and classmates as “Esquire.”)

On January 2, Gooch went to school again and to a party at night. This time he went with his sisters Molly and Whit, as well as R.B. Long. The party was at the home of Col. J. Darden.

Gooch echoes current thoughts of “cold and snow in the morning, fair and very mudy (muddy) in the eavning (evening.)” This was written on January 3.

By Monday, January 7, he was already tired of school. He wrote “school, learned something i (I) guess not much though.”

In the next column, Billy Gooch will go to war.

In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.

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