Retrieved by Albert C Metts, Jr.
Nicholas W. Hodges In the 44th year of my age, being confined at home by protracted illness, from which it is very uncertain whether I may ever recover, I proceed to the execution of a task, which I have desired and intended for many years, viz: to write a brief narrative of my life, for the instruction and benefit of my own children, hoping they will not fail to discover the hand of that remarkable Providence by which I was induced (when neither myself nor my parents would have thought of it) to obtain a liberal education and was conducted on to some degree of usefulness in serving God and my generation. I must first gratify a natural curiosity in giving some account of my parentage. My grandfather, Richard Hodges, emigrated from Virginia, before the Revolutionary war, and settled in Abbeville District, on Mulberry Creek, then a frontier settlement in the vicinity of the Cherokee Indians. His wife’s maiden name was Jones. She survived her husband many years. I can recollect her when she was nearly a hundred years of age. My father’s name was James. There being no school established in that newly settled part of the country, and all that were capable being necessarily employed in opening the country and reducing it under cultivation, my father had no opportunity of going to school. Three days were the most of his schooling. The deficiency he lamented in after life and endeavored to supply it by his own efforts. He learned to read and sign his name. Before the Commencement of the Colonial dispute (Revolution) my grandfather died, leaving a widow and twelve children. The Tories and Indians, soon after commencing their depredations, those of her sons who were able to labor for her support, being compelled to fly to the protection of their country, my grandmother was reduced to great suffering. The Indians burned her house and carried one or her daughters (Dorothy Hodges) away captive. She returned home after the war, scarcely able to speak English. My grandmother had to fly for protection to the woods and shelter herself and children in the hollow of a large tree. My father was about 18 years of age at the commencement of the war and was soon engaged in active scenes. He was not the man that ever shrunk from danger, where duty or necessity called, and was consequently, employed by his captain, with other daring young, men, in several dangerous adventures against the Tories—-He fought mostly as a militia man, under Col. Williamson, and was in several battles with the regulars, as at the siege of Savannah and the battle of Stone Ferry. He was also in the expedition against the Cherokee Indians, in which, after some hard fought battles, they were subdued and brought to a surrender of their lands in the State. In all these battles, my father never received a single wound, though he never deserted his post and saw many fall dead on his right hand and on his left. If this was not an evidence of a special providence I know not where to find any. After the return of peace, my father married Ann, daughter of Nicholas Ware, who had emigrated from Virginia and settled on Turkey Creek, Abbeville District (then Ninety-Six County). With her he obtained a negro man and commenced the cultivation of some vacant land. My mother’s parents both dying, left under my father’s care their two youngest sons, Edward and Nathaniel A. Ware, at a tender age. He brought then up as his own children and gave them the best education which the schools in his reach afforded. But this was quite ordinary. When the younger, Nathaniel, came to years of maturity, he was not satisfied with this. A circumstance occurred about this time, apparently trivial which changed the course of his life, and has had a great bearing on my own destiny. He was on his way to market with a hogshead of tobacco, in company with other tobacco-rollers. John C. Calhoun had taken his diploma at Yale College and was returning to his native District. He alighted from his carriage and saluted them with that affability and ease of manners for which he is so much distinguished, inquired familiarly about the affairs of the District. My uncle was struck with his appearance. After Mr.Calhoun’s departure, he said to his companions: “If education can do so much for a man, I will sell my tobacco, return home, and get an education too,’ He put his resolution into immediate execution. He sold the property left him by his father, and commenced, when about 22 years of age, studying languages at Willington, under Dr. Waddell. He made rapid progress arid soon entered the Junior Class of the South Carolina College.. He was roorn-mate with Judge Harper and graduated I think, with the second class of that College. (It was in the 3rd class which graduated in 1808. In it were William Brantly, Josiah J. Evans Judge, John K. McIver, John E. McIver, Stephen D. Miller, Editor, Gov.) He taught school a year or two and then entered as a student of law in the office of J. C. Calhoun, at Abbeville, C. H. ( I was born on Lord’s day, 1st Jan 1797 and was the sixth of eleven children. I was delicate in appearance and thought not to be equal to the labors of the farm. My uncle selected me from the rest and begged my father to keep me at school until he himself should finish his education, and he would then educate me, by way of return to my father for the kindness he had shown to him. My father died so, and when there was no school near, he sometimes boarded me out. But the teachers were most wretchedly ignorant. They pronounced their words in the vulgar manner, usual among the country people, and read in a sing-song tone. The style of reading, however, soon disgusted me with these teachers. I learned to be a good speller, to read fluently and had gone through the most useful rules of Arithmetic several times, though I understood nothing of the principles of the science. I was considered, in those schools, a prodigy of learning. One trait of character early developed itself–that was fondness for reading; but unfortunately I had not access to suitable books. My father had a few romances and story books. These I devoured with greediness. Having read all I could lay my hands upon in my father’s little library, I at length found an old book with very fine and dim print. I resolved to know its contents. It was the Bible. I commenced at the beginning and read on with increasing interest. I often read by fire-light, after the rest of the family had retired to rest, and thus early injured my eyes, from which they never fully recovered. Very salutary impressions were nade on my mind at this age. I saw that God befriended those patriarchs wherever they were and suffered none to hurt them. I had a great desire to be like them. I was now about 12 years of age. In the summer of 1810, my uncle came to carry me to Abbeville, to commence the study of Latin with him, whilst he was pursuing the study of law. I must stop here to review the scenes among which I had been brought up, together with their effect on my mind. My conversation had been among the plain people, who lived mostly by their labor and the extent of whose knowledge was limited to their own fields and the road to market. The neighborhood was destitute of regular preaching and it was quite common to spend the Sabbath in visiting, while the children were suffered to roam from house to house. My mother had a great respect for religion, which she had imbibed from her parents. They were both pious members or the Baptist church on Turkey Creek. She used to reprove her children about using bad words and indulging passion. My father was brought up in the Episcopal Church in Virginia, and certainly had great respect for religion and ministers; but very little for the church in which he had been brought up. He often read the Testament and other good books, but said nothing to his children about doing so. The Testament, however, was generally used as a school book. The effect of this on my mind, together with the manner of reading it, was to create a prejudice against the book. But another thing I will notice. A good part of the conversation among those with whom I was brought up, was in remarking upon the manner and style of some in the neighborhood, who, being a little wealthier than their neighbors, lived in a different style, and, as was thought, affected to be superior. These were censured and called proud. Pride, appeared to me, from what I heard, to be a most hateful thing. Thus I insensibly associated pride with the manners that differed from the rustic ones to which I had been accustomed. With these prejudices, I was introduced into the family of_________where my uncle and several other law students, boarded. There were many fine people in the room when I was taken in by my uncle, to be introduced to the family. I blushed so deeply that I hardly knew anything, and after swallowing a few mouths full of dinner, I hurried back to my uncle’s room. I was put to memorizing the Latin Grammar. Here I found new and strange words and hard to remember. I could not see what use they would be. Flying, therefore, from such dry things, my imagination speculated on the new scenes and manners around me and contrasted them with the simplicity and freedom of country life. I hated Latin because I was to be made proud by learning and could not become the humble Christian I had desired since I first read the scriptures, and gave way to grief and melancholy. After some months my uncle entered me as a student, at Old Cambridge arid engaged boarding for me with Mr. Thomas Chiles. I was under the instruction of Mr. Harper. Mr. George W. Frye, a graduate of Cambridge University, Mass., was elected principal at the close of the year. After a short stay at my beloved home, I was carried back to Cambridge, in the beginning of the year 1811. My uncle having made his arrangements to move to Natchez, Miss., paid me a short visit. He gave me good advice which made an impression upon me. This was the last time that I ever had the pleasure or seeing that dear uncle to whom as an instrument I am indebted for what education I have. Mr.Chiles was a consistent professor of religion and an officer in the Baptist Church. He was as regular in attending upon the duties of religion as upon his meals. This struck my mind with great force and I shall have occasion to praise God in eternity for his influence. He sincerely loved Christians and held open doors for preachers of every denomination. Mr. Frye, as a teacher, united suavity and dignity which commanded proper respect. I became deeply interested and prosecuted the study of Latin, Greek and higher English, and succeeded in taking the prize offered our class. I remained until the close of the year, 1812. I spent the year 1813 in reviewing, reading, and instructing my younger brother and sisters. During the present year, l8l3, my religious impressions increased. I began to discover my depravity more and more, and was often in much distress. I made many resolutions, but was unable to keep them, which destroyed my peace of mind. But, as yet, I knew not the way of salvation. In the year, 1814, being about 17 years of age, I taught a school at Turkey Creek Church and boarded with my Uncle Edmond Ware, at Scuffletown.I returned to Cambridge in 1815 and remained one quarter under R. M.. Todd, a Baptist preacher. In the spring of the year I entered Willington Academy, then in charge of Mr. Dobbins, Mr. Waddell’s nephew. Here were about 100 students mostly from the low country. At the examination in July, we were classed according to age and size. I fell in the second class. I wrote my composition on ‘ The Instability of Popular Applause. When the Judges, among whom were John C. Calhoun and Patrick Noble, retired to decide on the merits of our productions, they called the teacher to know if I was the author of mine. He told them he had no doubt of the fact. They awarded me the highest honor. This performance gained for me the high regards of Mr. Calhoun, and at his request I visited him and was delighted with his affability and instructive conversation. During the following vacation I occupied a student’s cabin alone. Here, happy in my seclusion, I had much time for medication and prayer. I began to reflect seriously upon my situation as a sinner. I had been long striving to obtain religion, but found myself further off, instead of approaching nearer my object. Although I had been always outwardly moral, yet I thought I had sinned under the most aggravated circumstances. I had had opportunities that others had not enjoyed, I had had calls and impressions; had made many solemn resolutions, only to break them. I thought myself the chief of sinners and was at my wits end. I could make no greater exertion than I had already made, which had proved abortive. Thus the lord was stripping me of my selfrighteousness; for I had been, for years, trying to work myself into His favor. One Sunday morning I was sitting in my cabin, reading Buck’s Miscellanies. I was reading about a man who was in the habit of cock fighting. Having lost a bet, he took a solemn oath not to be enraged in such sport again on the Sabbath. But after some time, be concluded merely to go and look on while others were gaming. He was, at length, tempted himself to make a bet, but was struck dead in an instant. When I read this I closed the book and thought I was as guilty as that man, for violating so many solemn resolutions. I looked for the hand of God to be let loose and cut me down. I rushed out of the cabin and sought the woods. Falling upon my knees I cried to God for mercy. Tears gushed from my eyes which afforded some temporary relief. I returned slowly to the cabin with despair seated at my heart. I began now to suspect that the doctrine of predestination and that every one’s fate was fixed by an irreversible decree. I was surely one of those doomed to destruction and it was in vain for me to strive. I concluded to read again the Epistle of Paul to the Romans to be more fully satisfied about this doctrine. Every chapter I read but confirmed me in my despairing view of myself. But when I came to the l0th chapter, new views began to be presented. I read, ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth–the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth & in thy heart; that is the word of faith, which we preach: that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Verses 4-10. These remarkable words arrested my attention. I thought ‘ Is it possible that salvation is placed on such easy terms merely to believe? I had been all the while under the impression that I must reform and do something to gain the divine favor. Here was a new doctrine to me, and I felt ready to lay hold upon it, for every other refuge had proved a failure. I then asked myself, Do you believe in the lord Jesus? I answered I most certainly do. I then began to feel some degree of joy from the thought that there was a bare possibility for such a sinner as myself to be saved. This joy gradually increased until I left my cabin to walk to walk in the open fields. Here as I looked around, all nature seemed to put on a new and more lovely aspect. Still doubts arose in my mind whether this was true religion. I had no one to consult; but recollect—
Source: Family Search Memories