Excerpts from the Diary of
Rev. James L. Cotten,
Pastor of the Methodist Church of Cahaba
and close friend and confidant of
John Gwin, William Gwin, and their families;
excerpts begin 6 Apr 1849 and close 23 Mar 1855

Page typos cleaned up 30 Jun 2012
Comments updated 24 Jun 2006

Return to John Gwin's GenealogyHome Page

A hard copy of these excerpts was sent to me by Barb Underhill Smith, the widow of my late fourth cousin Roy Smith.  Roy received it from Ms. Linda Derry, Director of the Cahawba Project office in Selma, who, I heard, transcribed it from the original.  [The italicized dates in brackets that introduce each entry are handwritten by (I assume) Ms. Derry, for clarity's sake, and those in all caps are (I assume) Cotten's.]  I transcribe it again here for the readers' perusal in hopes that it may be of assistance to them.

Changes I've made from that hardcopy are as follows: references to individuals I have put in boldface type; those to Gwins (and Gwin in-laws, and so throughout) I've listed in red; those to Bassets are in green; those to Wilsons are in purple; references to published works are italicized.

IN ADDITION, I have created another page with all the names in these excerpts listed alphabetically.  I recommend that you open that page in a second browser window and view them with this page side-by-side (or perhaps better, above and below).

--John M. Gwin
Rev. Cotten's Entries
John M. Gwin's Comments
which cross-reference (with the November 1850 Census of Cahaba and other documents) many of the people Cotten mentions
[April 6, 1849]
Commenced some time back Hornes Introduction to the Study of the Bible.  This evening I preached from the conspiracy of Abimelech with the Shechemites.  Judges 12 -[sic] We had a meeting of the church upon the completing of the church and determined to borrow the money to complete it.  We need 7 or 8 hundred dollars more we elected brethren Saltmarsh, Jones, Ulmer, Babcock, Guinn, Bassett and Saffold Trustees.  So I hope our church will be soon finished. 



Babcock--The name of a "J. Babcock," likely the same person, appears as a partner on an 1859-1861 billhead of the Cahaba dry goods firm of J. P. Fulks and Company. (Mr. Paul Whaley, Alabama historian, provided the photo of the document, pictured on my Cahaba Documents page--thank you, Paul!)  This Brother Babcock is probably the husband of the "mother of John" mentioned seven months later in Cotten's entry of 27 Nov 1849 where he records, 

In an attempt to correct John Babcock [age 11] he resisted and cursed me.  I put him out of the door. His mother sent him to the other room...
who is also likely the Sister Babcock mentioned 14 months later in Cotten's entry of 4 Jun 1850 where he speaks of "her husband's estate," recording, 
Sister Babcock is in a good deal of trouble in consequence of the embarrassed condition of her husband's Estate.
This indicates he has died; indeed, five months after that second entry, she appears in the 5 Nov 1850 census as the single-mom head of household with eight children.  Perhaps she is no longer "in trouble", as she lists the worth of her real estate owned as $5000.
Ann E. Babcock, F, 40;
Wm. Babcock, 22, M, warehouse keeper
Joseph Babcock, 20, M, telegraphist
A.E. Babcock, 18, F
M. J. Babcock, 16, F
Joel Babcock, 14, M
John Babcock, 12, M
H. C. Babcock, 10, M
Betania Babcock, 7, F
The 1830 Census of Dallas Co. lists a Joseph Babcock, in his 20's, as head of household with two sons under 5 and a wife in her 20's, so this almost has to be the same family, especially since son number two also has the father's name. 

Now this 20-year veteran family of the county is helping the new church to be built. But suddenly Dad dies, and Ann is a single mom with five teens and one pre-teen to raise with the help of the two oldest sons.  One of the five, John, is clearly having some problems, probably accepting his father's death.  It seems likely that he would take this out on the God Who allowed his father to die, as evidenced by his cursing the pastor of his dad's church. And the young and single Pastor Cotten perhaps has no idea how to best counsel this young man as evidenced by his putting him "out the door".  It would be interesting to follow this family and see how they turn out.]

Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William.

Bassett--probably Joseph Basset, but could be either of his brothers William or Louis.


[April 26, 1849]
Yesterday went to Selma and stopped at Sister Hornes, where bro. J. Y. Ramsey and family are boarding.  After dinner walked with bro. R. to the burying ground and visited the Masonic Institute under the supervision of bro. Wright.  The people in Selma have some jealousy of the R. Road from this place to Marion.  Started rather late but by riding tolerable fast got home by sunset.  Had class-meeting. The brethren seem to feel much interest in the properity [sic] of the church that is those present; but alas! so few come out.  Two bro. Guinns, bro. Ulmer and bro. Francis are class leaders.

Ramsey, J. Y.


Guinns--John Gwin and son William Gwin.



[May 5, 1849]
It has been about a week since I first moved my lodgings from Dr. Ulmers to a room connected with the office of a Mr. Campbell one of the first lawyers of case. This room is not so quiet as the one at Dr. U's and brings upon me more company.  There is also the noise of the shops around.  There is in the same building another lawyer a Mr. Lapsley who seems to be quite companionable and has read a good deal upon the subject of Theology, but does not profess to be a christian.  Col C. my other neighbor is not a professor of religion.  O what a work could these be won for Christ.  Tonight had a meeting of the Church before which bro. Jones appeared about the fight he had in the street last sabbath.  At first his confession was by no means satisfactory.  The two bro. Guinns had very correct views upon his case.   After farther conference however the brethren consented to excuse him requesting him hereafter to strive against such passions.  I think the meeting productive of good all seemed to continue in good humor.

Lapsley--19 months later, the Nov 1850Census records a Wm. M. Lapsley, 34, a lawyer from Kentucky with$10,000 in real estate holdings, living with his wife, Emily A.,24, of Alabama, in residence 551 (next door to the above-mentioned Babcocks,res. 550; the Jeremiah Listers live in res. 549, the JosephBassets in 548, and the William Gwinsin 547).

Jones--This is likely the same as the BrotherJones listed in Cotten's entry a month earlier as an elected trusteeof the church.

[May 17, 1849]
This evening I married two couples a Mr. Turner to Mrs. Rowark and Bro. McKnight to Miss Louisa Guinn both the brides being daughter of bro [John] Guinn after which I went to the church and expounded the 15th Psalm.
Turner--This is Abel Turner who appears in the Dallas Co. Census of Nov. 1850 (see entry for 5-9 Nov 1850 below). 

Rowark--This is Mary Gwin, daughter of John and Jane and widow of Drury Hampton Roark.  She appears with Abel Turner in the above-mentioned census with her son by Drury, Walter,who will die in 1863 at Gettysburg, and her daughter by Abel, Anna, who will marry her own first cousin (Rufus K. Gwin, son of Mary's brother William) ca. 1871.

McKnight--This is William J. McKnight (middle initial from the photo of his broken headstone at Cahaba's New Cem.), who appears in the Nov 1850 Census as Wm. J. McKnight, 31, a printer of SC, with his wife, L. A. McKnight, 18.

Guinn--This is Louisa A. Gwin, 16 or 17, daughter of John and Jane.

[June 30, 1849]
Went out to the Q. M.  Thought the meeting was a blessing to my soul.  Came back home this evening and went in bathing with bro. Bassett and bro. Wm. Guinn
Bassett--This must be Joseph Basset, widower of Maryann "Ann" Gwin (dau. of John and Jane) and now newlywed husband of Louisa Catherine High (the widow Blann).  I say this because he is the only one of the three Basset brothers living in Cahaba clearly identified in Cotten's diary (see entry for 

bathing--i.e., swimming

Guinn--William Gwin

[August 5, 1849]
Preached this morning according to appointment from Col -[JMG Note: probably "Colossians"--(see ch. 3:22-4:1)] on the responsibilities and __ties [JMG Note: probably "duties'] of Masters.  Had out a large congregation.  One (Col. Walker) up and complimented the sermon very highly.  So far as I know they were generally well pleased though there had been some curiosity to know what I would say.  Preached this evening to the cold. people [JMG Note: "colored people"] from I Cor 13 chap.  Bro. Guinn held class meeting with them this morning as I did not wish them to be present at the church.  Had cold. people this evening. At night I preached from Mat. __: 28-30
Mat. __: 28-30-- From which chapter this message came intrigues me, so I analyzed the contents of each chapter in Matthew's gospel.  Many chapters were eliminated simply because they did not have enough verses.  Others I eliminated because the given verses were only part of a given passage or text. Only three were left: chapters 6, 11, and 19, on the respective themes of God supplying our needs; Come to Me--easy yoke; and the first shall be last, vice-versa.  Since he was preaching to the slaves, I believe that all three have potential, but most likely it was the second, chap.11.
16 Oct 1849
16 Oct 1849; I do not yet have the diary enty for this date; however, if I did, it might reflect something to the effect that on this day, John and Jane Gwin sold to the uncle, Ezekiel B. Wilson, of their daughter-in-law R. C. J. Wilson Gwin (Mrs. William Gwin), for one thousand dollars, six lots of land in Cahaba numbered 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, and 222 (except approximately the eastern halves of lots 217 and 218) as recorded in the Dallas Co. Record Book N on pp. 195 and 196.
[Nov. 11, 1849]
Preached this morning from Rom. 5:1-5  this afternoon preached to the servants from Mat. 7:7-11.  Tonight preached from Luke 14:16-24. Sorry to see Judge Saffold has got back.  I hope I have praise with God.  This morning in company with bro. Guinn I visited the jail.

Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William.

[Nov. 13, 1849]
Took dinner with Bro. Guinn
Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William.
[Nov. 14, 1849]
Dined to day with bro. Basset supped with bro. Roberts.  After supper awhile went into the Courthouse and heard the arguments in case of Baloom the negro tried killing his wife.  The jury had not returned when  left at near 11 Oclock. To day the negro Wilson was convicted of burning a gin house.




[Nov. 19, 1849]
John Babcock is a bad boy.  This school is not under good discipline and this town is not a good place to raise children.  A Dancing Master is in town trying to make up a Dancing school.  Hope he will fail.  Regret it is to [be] opened if he succeed at the Cahaba Hotel which is kept by sisters Crosby and Bohanan. This is one of the troubles of this day.  Took dinner to day at br. Wm. Guinns and read to him a good piece out of the R. C. Advocate ____________  the Celestial Rail RoadJudge Bell gave one Doll. for the Indian Missions.



Guinn--William Gwin.


dinner--i.e., the noon meal

[Nov. 25, 1849]
Visited the jail this morning.  Raining in the morning. Preached at 11 O clock to a small congregation from Mat. 18:7.  Preached to the Cold. people from Romans 10:4-10.  Bro. Wm. Guinn led the class this evening.  At night bro. Finley preached from "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion".
A good congregation.  Bro. Finley came to my room & remained until 12 Oclock at night.  We conversed upon the subject of prayer and Christian experience.

Guinn--William Gwin.


{John Gwin Note: This is from Amos 6, KJV:
1 Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, [which are] named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!
2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: [be they] better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?
3 Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;
4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;
5 That chant to the sound of the viol, [and] invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;
6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
7 Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.
8 The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.
9 And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die.
10 And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that [is] by the sides of the house, [Is there] yet [any] with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD.
11 For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.
12 Shall horses run upon the rock? will [one] plow [there] with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:
13 Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?
14 But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.}
[Nov. 26, 1849]
Last night just after going to bed I was called up to visit a poor man at Mrs. Furlows that was thought to be near his end.  I immediately went and found him very low.  It was with great difficulty he could say any thing.  I prayed with him.  He died and was buried this evening.  I went to the grave and read the burial service. He was said to have been very dissipated.  He was taken off the boat here yesterday morning and I expect he had suffered from want of attention. His name was I think Divins.  I understand the old [man] at the poor house is dead.  This evening I visited the jail.  Recd. box of books from Louisville.  Took dinner with bro. Guinn
Furlows--I speculate that this person ran the poor house, referenced later in the paragraph.


Guinn--William Gwin.

dinner--i.e., the noon meal

[Nov. 27, 1849]
Heavy fog this morning and cold.  In an attempt to correct John Babcock he resisted and cursed me.  I put him out of the door.  His mother sent him to the other room.  Prayer meeting to night well attended. Some out who are not in the habit of attending.  Went with those of the brethren to the poor house.  Old Mr. Bowdon is not dead but is very low and I fear with but little preparation. Went to the jail this evening but did not get a chance to visit the prisoners. In company with bro. Guinn dined at br. Lucus
Babcock--see comments for entry of 6 Apr 1849


Guinn--probably William Gwin, but could be his father, John.


dined--i.e., ate the noon meal

[Nov. 28, 1849]
Took dinner to day at bro. Sneads whose house used to be a house for the preachers before the revival of last year.  Visited the jail this evening.  Have more hopes in Baloom's spiritual state. I asked him if he thought God did right in permitting him to be brought to his present condition.  He said he did for he deserved it and more too and that he had given him an opportunity of repenting instead of cutting him off suddenly.  Night before last he said he did not sleep any.  Says he feels much better satisfied and says he gets more and more so.  Wilson does not seem to be so clear.  They say they would be more comfortable if they had another blanket.  Took supper to night with bro. Bassett.  A negro woman died in town to day.  No letter from N. Carolina.



Bassett--probablyJosephBasset, husband of Mary High Blann Basset.

supper--i.e., the evening meal

[Dec. 6, 1849]
Went up to the Poor-House and read the burial service over old Mr. Bowdon. Visit the jail in company with bro. Wm. Guinn.  To night preached from Eph. 5:11 - Put a letter in the P.O. to sister Martha  -
Bowdon--probably the old man who died 26 Nov, which see above



[Dec. 11, 1849]
A very cold day; the coldest this season.  A Mr. Jones called on me to get me to subscribe for a History of North America by Frost, but I declined.  Visited the jail three times today once with bro. Broom and to night with bro. William Guinn.  Took dinner at Col. Fambro and supper at Br. Simms.  Not very many out at prayer meeting to night.  The Con. sits 16th Jany 1850--Last night there was something peculiar in my religious exercises.  I felt more than common drawn out in prayer for sanctification.  I felt more impressed with the divine fulness & the completeness of the atonement and the energy of the good spirit.----this morning early.




dinner--the noon meal

supper--the evening meal



[Dec. 12, 1849]
This morning went to jail and prayed with the convicts.  Then rode out with br. Lovett to see the gallows.  This is the day for the execution of Wilson.  A while before his leaving the jail br. Broom and br. Wm Guinn & myself up in the jail and had religious services.  We sang some verses commencing "Jesus the Name" etc.; after which I prayed and having some conversation with him we went to prayer again bro. Guinn & br. Broom both praying.  During the services I read to him the account of the death of Stephen.  After the last prayer they come up to prepare him for the execution.  His hands were bound behind him in a unfeeling manner by Jesse Comelander



Guinn--William Gwin.

Comelander--John Gwin's son-in-law or future son-in-law, constable or similar position

[Dec. 16, 1849]
This morning went to sabath (sic) school.  Took up monthly collection got one dollar & 10 or 20 cts.  At 11 Oclock preached from 4th commandment in the afternoon administered the sacrament to the cold. people. Took up a collection & got about four Dolls.  No class meeting.  At night preached from Heb. 12:1,2.  This had been a cloudy and rainy day and the streets are muddy so that there were not out many women. Took supper this evening with br. Guinn in his new house near his mill.  At the sacrament this evening I felt dull.  In this solemn service I have had before me the mementoes of suffering of the immaculate Jesus.  The scenes of ____________ Pilate's Hall and Calvary come up for Contemplation.  Without guilt of his own then he drank the bitter cup born the mocking of his enemies and suffering the shame and pain of the cross.  In taking his supper I proclaim that from his suffering and death I expect life and happiness and Oh how highly should I esteem those joys which flow from his wounds and that life which springs from his death.  In it I commit myself to his service.  May God help me with his grace.
Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.
[Dec. 17, 1849]
Took dinner with br. Wm. Guinn & supper with Mr. Ransom.  This evening Mr. Jo. Cove gave me McCauly's Essays.  After supper Maj. Little & Wm. B (R) Stouton of suppen [supper?] came over and set with me until 10 Oclock and took a dish of Oysters. Sibln Little married Mrs. Moffat -- I felt glad to see these ______ acquaintance.  Mrs. Ransom gave me that Chinese idol.
Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.


Cove, Mr. Jo.

Little, Maj.

Stouton, Wm. B./R.

Little, Sibln


Preached this morning from John 1:14.  Congregation tolerable good.  The sermon I reckon was quite lengthy.  I think a good meeting.  My soul I think had some enjoyment.  Took dinner withCol Campbells.  This evening sold a good many Catechisms to the cold. people.  The br. Guinns & br. Basset came to my room and made out a bill of lumber for the cold. Church and divided it out among the cold. bretheren to hew out. Several cold. people were in my room.  Visited the jail it had another tenant for fighting I did not hear his name.  Sister Hoot's servant gave me a supper.  At prayer meet I asked the opinion of the brethren of some texts of scripture.  I think if this made a usage in our prayer meeting it might be made profitable.  Today my soul has been blessed.
Guinn--John Gwin and his son William Gwin




[Dec. 27, 1849]
A beautiful morning.  In a buggy with bro. Broom I started to my apt. at Pine Flat but being delayed at the river we did not get there till late.  A bro. had commenced to preach but after we went in a little while he stopt. and I preached upon the duties of masters. Had out a good congregation.  Sold a copy of Wesley's Sermons to bro. Ellis.  Went to Mr. Tiptons & took dinner. On our way back we called at Mrs. Kovnegbys & Mr. Hatchers. Did not get to Town till later and went and preached from Psl. 51:10. Then went up to Col. Fambro's to a party did not get supper till 12 Oclock.  Don't like it.  BR. Broom is not to be married. He came down and stayed with me all night.  Lost my bed straw to day. Have felt but little religious enjoyment.  I neglected to mention yesterday the burning of bro. Wm. Guinn's house. It caught on fire from the stove pipe in the morning.  A great many people collected.  All his furniture and stores were saved and it is thought that people will help him build another.  This family seems to be fated for fire.  His father has been burnt out twice. Sold my saddle to day for $4.






Guinn--William Gwin. This is the home of my gg-grandfather's young family, listed here some ten months later in the 5 Nov 1850 census of Cahaba:

Will, 29
Roe, 28
Lizzie, 7
Sutt, 3

[Jan. 2, 1850]
Judge Saffold has left Town--A happy riddance.  The Steam Boat Genl. Pratt came down this morning having on board several brethren of the Con. --Kept debating in my mind whether I would go with them.  But having a horse offered me by Dr. Saltmarsh, I allowed the boat to go off and leave me.  At the river bank had a conversation with br. Wm. Guinn about an important affair.  We also conversed about a call to the Ministry. Sister Saltmarsh & the Dr. took dinner at Br. U's--Went out and stayed all night at Dr. S. and got a good night's rest.

Steam Boat Gen. Pratt--The only other reference to the steamboat General Pratt I found is at: 
Vol. ?
No. ?
St. Louis, Monday, Nov. 22, 1841

Another accession of Mormons. -- The steamboat Gen. Pratt, brought up Friday last, 250 Mormons, all of them are from England, and are bound for Nauvoo, Illinois, the "Promised Land" and city of the "Latter Day Saints.

Note: The above text is taken from a reprint in the Dec. 4, 1841 issue of the Fort Madison Courier. See also a similar report in the Missouri Republican of Nov. 20, 1841. The Times and Seasons of Jan. 1, 1842 adds this information: "As the Steam Boat General Pratt, was on her way from New Orleans to St. Louis, on the 15th of Nov. last, while about half way on her passage Mary, the eldest daughter of William and Mary Butterworth, of Macclesfield, Eng. 11 years of age, accidentally fell over board."

[Jan. 3, 1850]
Understand the Trustees of the Church have commenced prosecution vs. Judge Saffold.  Hope they will arrange it before I get back from Conference.  The people give me many remarks of regard.  Br. Simms gave me a visit.  Preached from Mat. 6:33rd.  Talked with br. Guinn about some matters.  Wrote up my journal in company with Sister Ulmer

Simms--see entry for 18 Jan 1851

Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.


[Mar. 21, 1850]
This morning after breakfast thought I would go to my room to study, but found Maj. Hays waiting for a talk, but after some time he left me and I turned my studies upon the Epistle to the Romans.  Took dinner at bro. Lovett's and visited the prisoners.  Baloom wishes me to visit him oftener.  Visited Mrs. Wm. Lapsley and Mrs. CraigMrs. Henry Crocheron fortunately was not in the carriage when the horses ran away and broke it to pieces.  Preached to a small congregation from Rom. 1:1-7.  Bro. Meridith was out.  He was married this week.  Charley Guinn gets married to night to a Miss Bell in Bouge Chitto.  Don't feel very well.  Service at Church was dull.  Poor Goldby is raging.







Guinn--This is John Gwin's youngest son Chesley Gwin who married Mary Frances "Fanny" Elizabeth Bell, the two of whom will be living with John and Jane  eight months later in the Nov 1850 census (see entry for 5-9 Nov 1850).


[Mar. 22, 1850]
Observed some degree of fasting .  Feel it hard to get myself away from this world.  This evening visited a poor woman Mrs. Lister. Gave Sister Cove and her sisters letter of Dismission to go to Texas. Prayed with her and bade her farewell at Dr. Ulmers.  Took supper at bro. Guinn's with his son Charley and his Bride. The company demeaned themselves with christian propriety.  Br. Guinn told me of a circumstance which came under his own knowledge of a man who was a member of the church and being sometimes overcome by drink was arraigned before the Church and showing penitence was excused until at last he told them he would never put the cup to his lip again if he did he did (sic) he wished God would take him out of the world before he did it. After about two years during Christmas time he was invited bysome neighbors to drink he refused stating he had made a promise against.  They insisted and he started to take a drink and fell dead.  This occurred many years ago.  No letters from N.C.

Lister--This Mrs. Lister is likely Eliza,  the wife of Jere Lister, a partner with the Bassets in their business, all of whom lived "over the point" according to Ms. Frye's book, and a descendant of whom evidently married a Basset descendant in south Texas.

Guinn--John Gwin

Charley--This is John Gwin's youngest son Chesley Gwin who married Frances "Fanny" Bell].

[Mar. 29, 1850]
Did not rest well last night.  Oh! the stirring of this corrupt nature.  Fast to day.  Do not feel very well.  This is the day appointed for the execution of BaloomBro. Wm. Guinn & I went up into the prison to see him a short time before they came to take him out.  We sang and had several prayers with him.  He prayed over himself.  He says he was beginning to serve God before he married his wife and thought if he could get her he could do it better but after he got her got her (sic) he found it was worse than before.  He thinks he has seen his mothers spirit in his cell and heard its voice.  He said yesterday that the skin had come off of the bottom of his feet two or three times.  He stood on this wife to kill her and connected his fact with the skinning of his feet and he said the fingers that he choked her with had been dead.  He said he was happy last night.  Poor fellow he has reached his end, but there may not be as much difference between him and we other criminals as we may sometimes imagine.  Sister Charlotte Hunter leaves to night for the North.  Wrote to sister Martha.  Monthly examination to day in the Acady. and concert to night.

Guinn--William Gwin.

Hunter--This could be referring to either of two different single ladies named C. E. Hunter who appear in the 1850 Census. One is 35 and from Connecticut living at the Simms Hotel (residence 556); the other is 27 and from New York living in the Bohannon boarding house (res. 594). 


This morning Messer. Spaight and Turner came to know if I would invite some singers who were giving a concert in town last night to do the singing in Church for us.  Bro. Bassett went round to see them but as we were unwilling to give it all up to them,we had none of their aid.  Preach this morning from 2 Cor 3:18.  Fine day.  Large Congregation.  Took dinner with bro GuinnBro. Francis led class this evening. This afternoon and at night read Chalmers' sermon on the Living Water. At night preached from Prov. 4:23.  Closed services at nine Oclock.  Mr. Warford had presented the Church with a good clock.  This morning Baptised bro. Bassett's child Margaret Revel.  My spiritual apprehension dull.



Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.



Revel-- Margaret Revel Basset is Joseph Basset's second child but first by his second wife, Louisa Catherine High Blann.  MRB was born 29 Sep 1849, never married, and died 18 Dec 1903.

April 28, 1850
This morning bro. Thomas undertook to preach but had not gone far into his discourse before he told the congregation he could not preach and suddenly desisted.  We administered the sacrament but there did not seem to be much spirit in the congregation.  This afternoon I felt very much discouraged.  Felt that I could hardly pray but thought I'd go to my room and appear before the Lord, but enjoyed some of the spirit of prayer.  At Love-feast the cloud fully parted and we had a precious. Some spoke who have never spoken before since I have been here.  Sister Allen told me she had a load off her mind she had not had off before for years.  Took Sister Bush and Sister Wm. Guinn into full connection. Bro. T. preached at night.  Bishop Cobb preached in town to day.



Guinn--Mrs. William (Roseann Carlisle Jones Wilson) Gwin.


May 28, 1850
Rode out to Dr. Saltmarsh's and Col. Matthew's this evening. Few out at Prayer meeting.  Bro. Quinn and wife were kept away by a sudden attack of sickness upon their old man GeorgeDocter U. says he thinks he will die soon. May grace sustain Bro. Guinn.  It is a rare thing for him to be absent from service.


Quinn [sic--Guinn?]--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.


JUNE 1st 1850
Spend the day prospering for sabbath.  Dined and supped with bro. Guinn and tonight visited Sister Hoot.  This is my birth-day and I am thirty three years old.  Time flies swiftly whether improved or not.  The thoughts of my misimproved hours is a painful reflection to me.
Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.

Hoot--Catherine Hoot, next-door-neighbor to John and Jane Gwin

June 4, 1850
Troubled some today on account of a br. McK., not being willing for us to put the Church on the lot we purchased for it and disputing our claim.  Sister Babcock is in a good deal of trouble in consequence of the embarrassed condition of her husband's Estate.  Prayer meeting tolerable well attended and tolerable good state of feeling.
McK --This must be Wm. J. McKnight, a printer, whom Cotten married a year before to John and Jane Gwin's youngest daughter Louisa.  Both Wm. and Louisa have undated tombstones in the Cahaba cemetery.

Babcock--see comments for entry of 6 Apr 1849, 14 months earlier

June 9, 1850
Did not get to sleep until late last night.  Went to the S. School this morning and heard a class.  Took up the monthly collection.  Preached at 11 Oclock.  Had made some preparation to preach on family prayer but in consequence of the absence of some of the church preached another sermon from Luke 24: 46, 47.  Took dinner with bro. Guinn.  Had class-meeting the cold. people at 3 Oclock.  At night preached from Gen. 5:23.  Had not determined to preach this until I went into the pulpit.  Mr. Cole now is very sick. Had I thought today I would keep out of certain company but to night walked with her to church from circumstances.  Left the pulpit with a heavy heart.  Br. Guinn came round to my room and we had a long conversation on sanctification.  Collection for Bishops to day upwards of $9.
Luke 24: 46, 47--This is Luke's version of the Great Commission: And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his hame among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Gen. 5:23--And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:

Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.



June 15,1850
Bro. S. has loaned me a horse to keep.  Came on by Orrville and to C.  Stopped and took dinner with br. Guinn.  Understand br. Garnett's wife is dead. This even went over to Maj. Tipton's on my way to Holstons'
Bro. S.--

Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.




July 4th, 1850
Came into town this morning.  Heavy spirit.  Took dinner with Bro. Guinn.  Had no preaching last sabbath.  Br. Francis is gone to N. Y.   Found a letter in the P. O. from Martha after a provoking delay.  Felt a little unwell this evening.  Lectured at night to a small congregation from Rom. 4th 1-8.
Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.



Rom. 4:1-8--

July 21st, 1850
Vistied the Sabbath school and heard a class.  After Sabbath school bro. Guinn and I walked up to Col. Wilson's to see Sister Wilson.  She was very low.  Said she should die.  We sang the Hymn "why should we start and fear to die What timorous worms we mortals are" &c I then read the next hymn "Jesus the visions of thy face" &c after which knelt down and prayed.  During the singing she asked her husband if that was not the sweetest hymn he ever heard.  She seemed to be effected under the singing; she saw she was willing to die if it was the Lord's will when I asked her about it.  After we left to go to church she told her husband she was so happy during the singing and praying she could hardly help praising God aloud.  Her eyes seemed to be fixed upon something which she said was very beautiful.  Her eyes seemed to be fixed on it twice.  She told sister William Guinn that dying was nothing.  Said she felt very small.  She exhorted those about her to meet her in heaven, and soon sank apparently into death.  Before leaving I told her the text which I expected to preach from.  After br. G. and I got to church and commenced service, a messenger came for him and his wife to go that she was dying.  I preached from John 3:15.  Divided a discourse for morning and evening service and so preached a shorter time this morning, than ususal. Took dinner at Dr. U. with Miss C.  After dinner had a meeting with the cold. people.  Read and explained 53 chap. Is. and sang and prayed.  Had a refreshing time; two joined the church. I went lay down in the pulpit after they were dismissed to refresh myself before class-meeting.  In class meeting this evening we had a feast of fat things.  Sister Wilson is still languishing.  I was late getting to preaching being kept back by the tardiness of my company at Br. U's.
Guinn--probably William Gwin, but could be his father, John Gwin

Wilson-- I thought this would be Nathaniel Burdine Wilson and his wife Jane, but Jane was still alive on 16 Nov 1850 in the Census, so either she did NOT die in July or this is another Wilson family.   Nevertheless, the fact that Mrs. Wm. Gwin is there is significant (she is RoseAnn Carlisle Jones Wilson Gwin, daughter of Nathaniel and Jane.)  Therefore, I believe this is Nathaniel and Jane and that she survived this.

28 Jul 1850
This afternoon in Dr. U. Rockaway and a horse from the livery stable with bro. Basset I rode over to Shiloh and preached from James 4:8.  Feel some degree of resignation to God. I hope as this world becomes more dim, heaven may be more bright and hopes more assumed.  To night preached upon the "exceeding great and precious promises."  Took a dose of phsic upon going to bed.

Jas. 4:8--

In a state of painful suspense and fear.  if I am repulsed by Miss C. it will be a very severe wound.  Sister Ulmer is quite depressed in spirit.  Miss C. has gone to the country. Friends sat and conversed with me to night until 12 Oclock.  Bro. Guinn is my pastor.  He knows my trials and counsels wisely and sympathizes with me.  Under my troubles I have support of Grace.
Miss C.


Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.

8 Sept 1850
This morning while at breakfast at Dr. U's., I was called to visit Mr. Parish who is reported to be dying with Erisyilas. I found him very low.  His sense of sinfulness seems not to be very deep.  I tried to point him to Christ but even here in this chamber of distress, my heart was troubled with another matter.  I and Bro. Guinn both prayed with him.  In the evening I visited him again with Sister Ulmer.  He is sinking.  I prayed with him and Baptized his infant son George Lawrence
Parish-- the book Vital Data from Cemeteries in Dallas County, Alabama, published 1989 by the Central Alabama Genealogical Society, Selma, Alabama, records that Caleb L. Parish, b. 1816, died 8 Sep 1850 and is buried at the Liberty cemetery located at White's Bluff, one mile south of county road #2  in Township 15, Range 9, Section 16.

Guinn--probably John Gwin, but could be his son William Gwin.

Lawrence--George Lawrence Parish

17 Sep 1850
Mrs. Charley Guinn was converted at prayer meeting to night.
Guinn--Mrs. Chesley R. (Mary Frances "Fannie" Elizabeth Bell) Gwin
19 Sep 1850
Text this evening Rom. 5-11.  Good meeting.  Two joined the church.  Mrs. Guinn and Miss Wilson. One of the Bells' sons disturbed us by very indecently whipping a negro near the church.  Perhaps he was the most available agency the Devil could use.
 Guinn--The Mrs. Guinn is Mrs. Chesley R. (Mary Frances "Fannie" Elizabeth Bell) Gwin, to whom Cotten refers in his entry of 21 and 22 Mar 1850.] 
6 Oct 1850
Enjoyed no sleep last night and did not go to bed until past 12 Oclock.  Attended sabbath school this morning.  At 11 Oclock preached upon the resurrection of Christ from 1 Cor. 15:14.  Large congregation and a good deal of feeling.  My own feelings were peculiarly tender from my own suffering.  In the evening rode with bro. Wm. Guinn in Dr. U's rockaway over to Pine Flat and preached from 2 Pet 3:18.  I was melted to tears in the sermon. On my way home was comforted by several hymns which bro. G. sings.
1 Cor. 15:14--

Guinn--William Gwin.

Pine Flat--the 14 Sep 1850 Census of Pine Flat Beat, Dallas Co., records, in residence #2, the Hon Wm. R. King, U. S. Senator, b. NC, age 63, after whom Rufus King Gwin was named.

8 Oct 1850
After prayer meeting visited a negro thought near his end.  Bro. Wm. Guinn went with me.  My neighbor Mr. Terry is quite musical and fear with his music and company will annoy me.
Guinn--William Gwin.


3 Nov 1850
Visited the Sabbath Schools.  Preached at 11 Oclock from Luke 12:15.  The congregation large and attentive.  One individual however was absent which I wished to hear this discourse on the subject of courtousness.  After dinner in company with bro Wm. Guinn rode over to Pine Flat and preached from "If we will confess our sins &c"  In town to night preached from John 15:1-8.  The congregation was attentive.  This has been a beautiful day.  I feel convinced that my experience does not come up to my doctirine.  I neglected to say that Mr. William Hunter lost a child about 5 years old last Thursday evening.  Mr. H. has been gone much of season traveling for health. 
Guinn--William Gwin.

Hunter--  the book Vital Data from Cemeteries in Dallas County, Alabama, published 1989 by the Central Alabama Genealogical Society, Selma, Alabama, records that James Hunter, son of William and Anne A. (nee Troy) Hunter, b. 4 Feb 1846, died 31 Oct 1850 and is buried at the New Cemetery located in Cahaba, Dallas Co., AL.

Mon., 4 Nov. 1850


Sat., 9 Nov. 1850

 Sat., Nov. 9, 1850--While there is no diary entry, the 1850 census of Dallas County records that on this date, a J. L. Cotton (sic), age 28, male, a Methodist minister b. in NC, is living in downtown Cahawba, residence #608, that of G. H. Harrell, age 30, a farmer b. in AL, with the following other people:
C. J.,
34, F, b. NC;
O. A.,
10, M, b. AL;
C. L., 7, M, b. AL;
F. B.,
6, F, b. AL;
M. W.,
4, F, b. AL; and
G. H.,
2, M, b. AL.

Living in nearby residences in the same week are the following other family members, parishoners, and friends:
Dr. E. G. Ulmer, 38,  res. #523;
Wm., 38, and Harriet Basset, 38, #526; 
Abel, 50, and Mary Turner, 33, #545; 
Wm., 29,  and RoseAnn Guinn (sic), 28, and family of 2 kids #547;
and RoseAnn's brother Joseph Wilson, 20
Joseph, 28, and Louisa Basset, 23, and family of 2 kids #548;
and Louisa's sister Mary High, 15
and Joseph's friend from England, Henry Bridger,19
Jeremiah, 32, and Eliza Lister, 25, and family of 3 kids #549;
Jesse, 46, and Martha Comelander, 22, and family of 5 kids #560; 
and unknown child William Beale, 10
W. F., 44, and Ferreby (sic) Harrell, 42, and fam. of 3 kids #570; 
and Miss Julia Bland (Blann?), 20, of GA
Ephraim Rasco, 26 #571;
John, 49, and Ruth Steadman, 48, Methodist minister from Georgia who will marry Isom Gwin's widow, Mary Burdine Wilson Gwin, after Isom and Ruth die. #576;
John, 58, and Jane Gwinn (sic), 56 #585;
their son Chesley R., 22, and his new bride Frances E. Gwin, 20
William, 21, and L. A. McKnight, 18, #599;
Frederick, 44, and Charlotte Cheeseman, 45, #606;
E. B., 50, and Sarah H. Wilson, 44, #613

30 Nov 1850
This morning 3 of the bodies killed by the explosion of the Russel were brought up.  Mr. Watts was one.  They were all taken off on hearses.  Bro. Guinn came to see me this evening after supper and conversed to edification. Dr. Givhan died yesterday. 
[John M. Gwin Note:  the book Vital Data from Cemeteries in Dallas County, Alabama, published 1989 by the Central Alabama Genealogical Society, Selma, Alabama, does not record a Dallas Co. burial of a Mr. Watts in 1850, although a Comer R. Watts, age 53 years and deacon at Central Ridge Baptist Ch. in 1837, is buried beneath an undated stone at Carlowville Community Cemetery located on Hwy. #89 off #41 opposite the Baptist church in Township 13, Range 10, Section14.] 

[John M. Gwin Note:  the book Vital Data from Cemeteries in Dallas County, Alabama, published 1989 by the Central Alabama Genealogical Society, Selma, Alabama, records that Dr.Thomas Jacob Givhan, b. 13 Oct 1821 in SC died 29 Nov 1850 and is buried at the Givhan family cemetery located west of #41 near Sardis and east of the intersection of county roads 77 and 30 in Township 16, Range 11, Section 31.

Further, the 1850 Census of Dallas Co. lists Thos. J. Givhan, 28, M, Physician, b. in SC, living in residence #172 with the following people:

E. A.,  26, F, AL
Wm. J., 6, M, AL
J. A., 5, M, AL
M. D., 3, F, AL
P. A.,  2, M, AL
M. A. P. Aylette, 63, F, VA
A. K., 66, F, VA.
He must have died just months after this census was taken.  The P. A. could be the Phillip Givhan pictured in the photo album's position 57, and the M. D. could be Mattie Givhan, the future Mrs. Timberlake (in position 51).]
8 Dec 1850
Visited Sabbath school this morning and distributed the first copy of the Sunday School Visitor.  Preached at 11 Oclock from Heb. 6:18, 19.  In the afternoon went out to Mr. Beene's to bury his infant.  At night preached from Psl. 91:1.  Bro. Guinn came round and sat with me after Church.
Beene --the book Vital Data from Cemeteries in Dallas County, Alabama, published 1989 by the Central Alabama Genealogical Society, Selma, Alabama, does not record a Dallas Co. burial of this infant.] 
22 Dec 1850
Preached this morning from Levs. 3:2,4.  Br. McDaniel came in after I had commenced service.  Congregation small rather. Took dinner at bro. Guinn's with bro. McD.  Understand several of the brethren are going to leave the Conference.  Rainy, small class meeting.  No sisters out but Old Sister Guinn.  Preached at night from "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?"  Windy and dark.  But few out. Took supper at Dr. U.  Was informed after service that he gives as his reason for his neglect of church that I have acted rudely &c at his house in the presence of ladies.  I suppose he refers to my having carried on some conversation with Miss L. when she was sick up stairs and I below and my calling her on the evening before referred to when he and his lady were gone to a lecture. Bro. G. sat with me until late.
24 Dec 1850
Got letter from Sister U.  Stayed last night with bro. Griffin and this morning returned to Orrville and then came on to Dr. Saltmarsh's to dinner where I was introduced to Dr. Curtis of Wilcox.  In the evening came to town and had a long conversation with bro. Guinn [at] his shop about Dr. Ulmer.  He had a conversation with the Dr. yesterday.  The Dr. is very much displeased with me for persisting to visit his house on the purpose which has carried me there for sometime past.  Says that it out of the question for me and Miss L. ever to marry.  That she and his wife has [sic] tried to break me off and that signs have been given which any man who has sense enought to get [out] of a shower of rain ought to see.  He is not in the secret with either me or Miss L. Nor does she hold him in admiration.  This Dr. U. is greatly backslidden if ever he enjoyed religion.  He was once my foremost friend paying me every mark of consideration.  How his feelings are alienated and he feels toward me disgust.  Probably I have given him some cause.  I have been too earnest with my suit with Miss L., but he at first was one of my greatest supportors in profession and he has advised her to marry me anyway whether her father would or no. I have never suffered an instance of greater fickleness in a friend.  Bro. Guinn is very much concerned for him.  I think the Dr. will leave the Methodist Church.  Here is the case of one of my most liberal applauders in the beginning.
    "Bid me of men believe
    And to my ways take heed"
Very few out at prayer meeting tonight.


Miss L(ucy?)

27 Dec 1850
A rainy day, spent the day in fasting.  Took supper with bro. Guinn

30 Dec 1850
A rainy day very with sleet and a little snow in the morning. Bro. Guinn sat with me late last night and I did not sleep well.  Bro. Smiley gave me Fletcher's WorksBro. Sheilds called on me.  Conversation with Dr. U. and we are reconciled, thank God.  He is showing his usual kind spirit.  Leaders Meeting at my office to night.  A Circus in town to day.


3 Jan1851
Wrote a letter to Miss Lucy and left it with sister Ulmer. Receive several mementoes from my friends.  Tonight bros. Wm. Guinn and Francis and Jones packed up my books for me.   ********** several brethren sat with me until 12 Oclock Saturday morning 4th.  The boat has not arrived.  Are constantly expecting her.  Fear she will not get here time enough to get to Montgomery before the Sabbath.  The boat arrived this evening, and I took passage for Mont.  There were but few preachers on board.


Rev. Cotten stationed in Selma--leaves Cahaba
(Selma 10-15 miles away.)

18 Jan 1851
Called on some of the members at Selma while the boat stopped there and came on down to Cahaba where I met old br. Guinn at the river waiting to see me.  I stopt at Simms Hotel
Simms Hotel--This is residence #556 in the 1850 Census of Cahaba, just weeks before Cotten's entry.  On 5 Nov 1850, in addition to the Simms family of six, nineteen other peopleare residing there:
J. M. Simms 42 M Mechanic SC
Sarah " 42 F
M. E.  " 16 F
H. W.  " 12 M
Sarah  " 5 F
C. E.  " 1 F
James McEwen 34 M Farmer TN
N. B.  " 19 F
Thomas Howell 40 M Physician NY
Mrs. Eliza Crosby 30 F
Revil   " 14 F
Charles  " 15 M Student AL
Sarilda " 12 F
Wm Johnson  " 28 M Serg Deuhat (?) NY
Margaret  " 19 F
James S. Dean 25 M Clerk Con?
C. E. Hunter 35 F
A. F. H. Coleman 25 M Clerk AL
Archibald Durham 30 M Overseeing Unknown
Hiram Francis 30 M Merchant Con?
Elizabeth  " 24 F
J. P. Jones 20 M Carpenter Geo.?
Lewis Engleman 30 M Merchant Ger.?
Benj. Crow 28 M Carpenter NC
Robert E. McIlroy 20 M Carpenter AL
22 Oct 1852
Spent the day in fasting and prayer.  In the evening went to Orrville somewhat expecting to [see] Lucy there at the concert.  Took supper with bro. Gwinn on the way and got to O. about 9 Oclock but Lucy is not here.  Stay all night with bro. Shields
24 Nov 1852
State Temperance convention opens in Selma to day.  Great many people in the city.  Get an incouraging [sic] letter from Cahaba.
Bro. Guinn is staying with me in attendance on the convention.  Rain.  Rain.

4 Jan 1853
Continues cold.  Go to Cahaba to see Lucy.  Stay all night with bro. Guinn.

5 Apr 1853
Lucy has been having some Dentist work done.  Have settled up all my apts and we pack up to night ready to start tomorrow. I have some Dear friends here first among whom stands Old Br. Guinn.  A man of correct principles and deep piety. He had been long & intimately in my confidence.  I have shared deeply his sympathy.  I hope we shall meet in Heaven & spend a long eternity together.

Rev. Cotten stationed far away from Cahaba--these are visits home.

Saturday Feby. 11th 1854
We had a comfortable night's sleep on board the boat.  The mostso of any I have had since we left home.  We get to Cahaba this morning about 10 Oclock and meet Ann who was waiting for us at the river.  Lucy's relatives receive us joyfully.  Her father meets me friendly. And blessed be God we thankfully acknowledge his kind providence over us through all our journey.  Having delivered us from all her own fears and brought us to our journey's end safely.  Mrs. Ulmer calls to see her.  After supper this evening, bro.Guinn calls to see me and get me to preach tomorrow.
Ann--The only other Ann I can find anywhere is Ann Babcock, widow of Joseph mentioned above in Cotten's first entry of  6 Apr 1849.  If this is she, then Cotten has stayed in close contact with her, likely having helped her through her struggles as a single mom with eight children.


21 Feb 1854
Write up this journal from the time of our strarting from home. Since I left here bro. Guinn has lost his son Isom who though not long since he had been in a backslidden state became more devout and died very happy. 
 Guinn--  the Dallas Gazettepublished the following obituary for this Isom Gwin on 23 Dec 1853, some two months prior to this Cotten entry:
-- DIED --
At his residence, sixteen miles from Cahaba, on Wednesday, the 7th inst., ISOM GWIN, Esq., in the 37th year of his age.
    The deceased was one of the most valuable  and esteemed citizens of this county; and by his upright con- duct endeared himself to all his acquaintances.  He was, at the time of his death, and for thirteen years prior to this sad event, a member of the Protestant Methodist Church.
    Before his death, he gave the brightest assurances of his future reward in heaven.  His last words, when friends and relatives were gathered round his dying pillow, were "Hallelujah! Heaven's already in view!"
    He leaves a wife and two children to mourn the loss of a kind husband and affectionate father.
10 Mar 1854
Bro. Guinn gave me five Dolls. for our N. Carolina church.   He unexpectedly found this amt. in a pocket book.

FRIDAY MARCH 23rd 1855
Since our arrival in Cahaba I have not read much; have visited some,frequently br. Guinn at his shop where I generally go in trouble when I am here.  Last sabbath night I preached from 2 Psl. 3:10-13 [sic].  It was rainy day and we had our service in the morning.  This morning I start for Eufaula, leaving Lucy with her friends as her father partly promises to come home with her.

Thus ends the sixteen pages of typed photocopy sent by Linda Derry to my late cousin Roy Smith and forwarded to me by his widow, Barbara Underhill Smith.  I continue to seek the transcript of the remainder of this diary and shall publish it here when and if I can access it.
--John M. Gwin