This post is the 2nd part of an article written by Stanley Nelson and published by the Concordia Sentinel in 2010 – last week I posted the first part. General Quitman truly sounds like a “Renaissance” man in that he loved traveling, studied the ministry, taught English Language and Spanish, became a lawyer, played the flute, trapped muskrats, was a “good shot,” and it sounds like he knew how to entertain the ladies. Future postings on this web site of Mr. Nelson’s articles will reveal the many facets to General Quitman. Until next time – happy travels. Do stop by and spend some time in General Quitman’s Study turned Lounge. We serve the most delicious mint juleps there and as you sip your cocktail - envision General Quitman sitting at his desk . . . . I wonder where he’d go to find adventure in today’s world . . . .
In 1821, John Quitman, age 23, seeks fortune in Natchez
By Stanley Nelson
September 29, 2010
For a few years John Quitman studied the ministry and later taught English Language at Mount Airy College in Pennsylvania. In 1819, when he was 21, he wrote his brother: "Philadelphia is, at present, a dull place for adventures, and it is no wonder. There are so many young men who fancy that when they get off the pavements of the city they are out of the world, and so many merchants live above their means...It is folly to remain in these parts when there are such wide fields open South and West."
A short time later, Quitman headed for Ohio country, which included the present-day states of Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania and northwestern West Virginia. There, in the town of Chilicothe, Ohio, on the Sciota River, he taught the classics to the sons of a lawyer, Col. Platt Brush, and also taught Spanish to the colonel. In exchange, Brush took Quitman into his home and agreed to teach the young man the law profession.
In Quitman's diary about his journey, in which he walked part of the way and traveled down the Ohio River on a keelboat the rest, Quitman wrote that he "enjoyed myself on the road, and had some pleasant flirtations with the girls." He entertained the ladies in his traveling party by playing the flute while another man played the flageolet. Almost penniless, he survived on biscuits and venison jerky, slept on blankets, and sampled "rot-gut" whiskey on the Kentucky shore of the Ohio River.
In a letter to one of his brothers, John discussed life in Ohio country: "I rise early, and go to bed late. The greater part of my time is spent in close application to law-books. Sometimes I indulge in a walk before sunrise...and think of my friends I have left on the Hudson, and the many girls I have loved. Sometimes with my gun I ramble through the primitive forest that flanks the town on the northwest...I spend evenings with the belles of Chilicothe...."
As he studied law and taught, he pondered his future. He wondered in a letter to his brother in 1820 what would happen should he fail to make it in law: "Nature has endowed me with some physical force, to supply the deficiency of mental power. I think I would make a good soldier, or a fur trader in the Rocky Mountains...I have a genius for trapping muskrats. Besides, they consider me here a crack shot with a rifle..."
He soon began attending court sessions in Chilicothe and assisted Platt Brush. Quitman wrote his brother that one day he was looking out the window of the law office when he noticed two local men -- a blacksmith and an "Indian doctor" -- attack Platt Brush. Quitman ran to his boss's aid and the two men turned on him. Although he suffered "a black eye in the conflict," Quitman said the other two gave up after 10 minutes. The two men were indicted by the Grand Jury for the attack on Brush. Yet Quitman lamented: "I was sorry that the prosecuting attorney noticed the affair at all, and that the poor fellows should be fined after having been soundly thrashed."
Yet Quitman was finding the law profession in Ohio "very laborious" and conditions tough. The courthouses had no fireplaces or stoves, the inns "mere shanties, crowded and filthy: the fare coarse; two, and even three, lodging in a bed infested with vermin..."
He was thinking of a change.
"I have a notion of going to Natchez after I shall have finished my studies..." he wrote his brother.