Anderson’s Journal

Journal May 16 – June 2, 1904

May 16 [Monday]


I think it best that I begin there. That was really the beginning of everything and in truth I knew but little of it and of what was going on about me until her hand dropped into mine and the minister pronounced us man and wife. Of course there were beautiful women there and some very good and gallant men but what of them. They were to go on the morrow about their business. [Some to] the making of pictures [or at] least to the writ[ing of] songs and others to the buying and selling and the wrangling of law cases in stuffy courtrooms. We, the woman and I, were to go on quite a different mission. To live a life together and to be brave and tender and kind. I dare say if ever our son reads this little story of our journey he will know in his heart [how] well we have done. … Let us hope [that he] will at least [think of us] with a great store [of affection].
I guess I should write of that night [on the train] as man and wife [when we were] all alone … in the darkness [and] silence. And it [was peaceful] for all the rattling [of the] train. We … ate sandwiches. A few stars came into the sky and looked at us and we did a deal of looking into each other’s eyes. There was a cynical fellow once who said it wasn’t good to get a sight of a naked human soul. Well I saw such a thing that night and it only made me the readier to believe in all humanity.

May 17 [Tuesday]


Tonight we’ve been sitting in a big chair by the window. We’ve been out about the city during the day and I guess we’re both a bit tired. I don’t think we’ve really had a good talk since we’ve been married and when we try to talk we both sit[,] each looking into the other’s eyes and are silent.
Tonight there are street cars going up and down same as always and laden wagons rumble over the cobble stones. [It’s] a fairy land though. A [land] maybe we used to [live] in [,] she and I [,] but for all [that] a fairy land. I [rem]ember that when I was [a lit]tle boy and my mother [died] and I was tired from [sil]ent grief I went to [the] window at night and [felt] this same apartness [from] the rest of the living, [breath]ing world. Cornelia … had a new fine[ness envied by] shop girls and even [by] gaudy women with yellow hair when today we passed them on the street, and I know that some great womanly longing must have sprung into their hearts from the way their eyes followed her as we went along. It is very strange that both [of] us but realize our marriage in a dim half wondering sort of way and full a dozen times she has stopped on the street to say with a wonderful wonder in her voice, “Why Sherwood I’m your wife. I’m Mrs. Sherwood Anderson.”

We’re very spud, stopping at the St. Nicholas and paying 4 dollars a day for our room and tomorrow we’re going on. I wonder if we are hardened wretches or just very very wise. We haven’t been in the least embarrassed in each other’s presence. It quite takes my breath to think we’re not.

May 18 [Wednesday]

Oakdale, Tenn.

It’s good to get here among the hills and the evening is irresistible. Great Mountains see the glories of the skies and earth lifts up to look into the faces of the stars. It is night now and the hills are but dimly outlined against the sky. We went for a walk at evening and gathered blossoms from blackberry bushes. I dare say there will be less blackberries but at least we shall have a touch of color in our room.
The Inn here is a great barren breezy place that looks as though it had at one time aspired to be a fashionable hotel but growing discouraged gave itself over to the feeding and housing of trainsmen. A healthy good faced landlady, a mild gentlemanly host, a clerk who lingers half regretfully through the day and a host of Negroes, daughters cursing crippled trainsmen and dusty faced workmen make up the roster of the place. Linen, dining room and landlady are undeniably clean [but] the rest of the place is southern. We’ve an idea that if we stay we’ll clean and dust the room and we’ll probably stay. I seem to see it in the hills looking in at the windows and in her eyes and down below a little river has started a wonderful little story that I think we’ll want to hear more of. Cornelia is a bit out of patience at the natives because they have insisted on spoiling several beautiful pictures by stacking up tin cans but for all that she looks happy. We’ve both decided that we’re already far ahead on this marriage for if all the rest of our lives should be cast in bleak places we would still have this afternoon on the train left as food for happiness.

I’ve seen brides and grooms. They usually look hot, uncomfortable and ill at ease. They’re not. They’re just living in a world you know nothing of. The flying landscape, the good brown earth, the faces of people grave and gay are full of meaning to brides and grooms. You know Satan took Christ up into a high mountain and showed him the earth and the treasures thereof and was very properly rebuked. Christ owned all that and knew it and so also does the groom know it when he sits upon a railroad train going journeying with his bride. I wouldn’t be afraid to try that up into a high mountain business. No man would that had a bride.

May 19 [Thursday]


Of course we’ll never see this place. It is so made that one might spend a life time upon one of its hills looking at the play of lights on all the grandeur laid out before. This morning we reconnoitered. We went along a little path down past a sawmill and a dilapidated church. The sawmill was busy eating away at its logs but the church looked out of sorts and discouraged. I don’t blame the church. I would hate to try to be a church and preach sermons to men who live in sight of these hills. A razorback hog wallowed in the mire of an empty creek. It was very hot and very still. At long intervals a nice wind came down from the hills and tossed her hair about her face. She was very beautiful. In the evening we went to the store for stamps and fishing tackle. Long legged natives drawled under the light of the store’s lamps. We are finding the people very good here. Last night an old man, evidently a dependent of the landlord, brought warm water to our room and when I offered him a piece of money he refused it with great dignity.
I am charmed at the respect shown to Cornelia. She is the very Queen of the place and in her pretty gowns stirs the community of a graciousness that is too chivalrous to be so common a thing as curiosity. Tomorrow is to be our river day. The moon came out as we walked down the hill to the hotel. In the distance a little water fall murmured among the trees. The river continued its story. Ah little river, you are the magic for all the wonder of the hills. The moonlight sits grand and gloomy on the mountain tops, but it casts its golden heart into your little bosom at the last. See there it lies the heart of the moon in the bosom of the waters.

May 20 [Friday]


Little river Babahatchie, they have named you Emory but to us two you are still little Babahatchie (bubbling water). How gallantly the red boat sits upon your dancing body. The hills they are for truth but you little river you are for sentiment. “And the hills for all their grandeur must come down to the river to drink[,]” says the bride. It [is] right you know to be sentimental when you are young and on your wedding trip. We did not catch fish. We only sat under the bank at the foot of the mountain and dangled our lines in the water and looked at the running[,] laughing water. We had a little adventure too in trying to run a stretch of rapids and for just a moment Babahatchie showed her white teeth. She didn’t mean anything though. It was just a playful little toss of the head and a pretense of throwing the groom overboard to remind us that the sun doesn’t always shine even on the Babahatchie. Well, we’ve seen the sun and the water and the trees for another long day, we have idled in the shade and lay on our backs in the sand looking at the sky and listening to the wood sounds. It has been a good day, a bride and groom day, a day to begin a life on with courage and fortitude.
May 21 [Saturday]


I climbed one of the highest of the hills today. I suppose it lies a thousand feet above the level of the sea. A long journey for little Babahatchie. It was very fine up there on the hill lying on my back and watching the clouds in the sky. A bumblebee gowned in a wonderful yellow coat flew near me and stood on a flower close at hand. A gaudy butterfly called to pay his respects and in the dead leaves by my side a cricket sound of home and winter firesides. It was the first time I had been away from her since the wedding and I had time for a little review of myself. The hills stretched themselves in the afternoon sun and called to me to be sensible and leave introspection to eager eyed men down in the cities by the sea so I wrote a little note to her back at the hotel and had the rare enjoyment of roundly believing in myself for the next hour. Upon the side of the hill there were houses set in unexpected places and back of one of these and on a little level break in the climb a little fenced garden sat among the trees.
Last night we sat out in the moonlight and watched three geese go in single file and with great dignity down the road homeward bound. They were very majestic and very absurd. Tonight I had my first plunge into the waters of Babahatchie. I shan’t forget this little river. It was very cool and grateful to my hot body. Cornelia cheered me from the window, the people on a passing train leaned out and waved hands. Cornelia has decided that she is a woman of great common sense while I have put in my word for the fanciful and the unreal. I dare say that will make a great combination.

At evening we walked down over a little wooden bridge and along a half dry creek bed that finally merged into a street. It was a queer little uncertain hill climbing street that seemed half undecided where to stop. It surprised and pleased you that little street did, it was so toy like and half jesting in its purpose. To one used to walking in streets that stand up earnestly and make a great show of respectability this wee town’s end was wonderfully charming. You felt like stealing it and carrying it away in your pocket. We were in search of the doctor and found he had gone to tend an injured man[,] so after a few minutes[‘] talk with his rather uninteresting wife we went back down the toy street to wait for him in the moonlight by the wooden bridge. Tonight we had a very serious talk with the landlady. We have been a bit worried for fear no one about the Inn knew we were a bride and groom. We need not have worried. They had spotted us alighting from the train.

May 22 [Sunday]


Before breakfast this morning we had a very spirited discussion as to where grooming stopped and husbanding began. We decided to keep on at the grooming. Cornelia had a bad half hour about the house and the halls. It’s southern and it hurts her housewifely impulses. Down the track there is the ruins of a former hotel that once in yellow glory proclaimed itself the “German House.” Long since fallen from its Innly glories it is now occupied by a typical Tennessee family who have been so industrious in collecting dirt and children that some alterations in the house itself probably became necessary so a doorway was cut through the side of the house and the once famed “German House” that sat upon a hill became “The Germ House.” You can’t imagine how deliciously pat the name. It quite bowls you over. It put us in a laughing humor for an hour.
Up the track perhaps a mile and a half from the Inn[,] there sits a rock between the railroad track and the river that has got itself locally famous for its resemblance to the Sphinx. I suppose it is very like it. At any rate it is a very noble fellow. We came to take the old chap’s picture and we got two views of him. Then we went and sat under his mighty chin where the water swirls cool and sweet about his big neck. It was the most enchanted of spots. Across the river the hill arose a bank of green, at our feet were the whirling waters that told again the love story of the Babahatchie. Probably we were silly. At all odds we were deliriously happy. Trains went whirl[ing] past above our heads and up the stream there was a long hill half cultivated but we sat and talked of river Gods and Pan piping in the bushes. We threw stones in the water. We were a boy and a girl. We fancied a place where the water nymphs might come to bathe. I made a cup of my hand and gave her to drink and then we lay with our backs on the cool stones and made such nonsense rhymes as this:

“It was a lovely morn in May.
They by the river sat.
Her head upon his shoulder lay
Upon his head a hat.”

It was a terrific hot walk home but Oh what a dinner. Like farm hands[,] we ate it and Charley the colored boy had his reward. His oft repeated long drawled query “Have some aaaiges?” had an answering no from two tired heads.

It [is] ten o’clock and very quiet. The bride tired from hill climbing is asleep. The frogs croak hoarsely over in Babahatchie and a wind just kisses into movement the leaves of the trees. The little town is all abed. The moon and the quiet stars keep the vigil. In the west[,] a bank of clouds lays just over one of the hills. The moon shining over it has touched the whole hill with a living glory. At table tonight we had a long talk over realism in literature. I guess Cornelia is right. It’s a good thing to let the other fellow do. The discussion was of James Lane Allen and such books as “A Summer in Arcadia.”

[May 23] [Monday]


This morning we went to adventure further up the little street that looked down at us so invitingly the other night when we went to the doctor’s. It was a breathlessly hot morning. We sat in the shade at the top of the hill and read our Browning. Below us the saw mill sent up its occasional shriek of triumph as the good logs furnished it food. Down the road the teamsters stirred their creaking wagons loaded with logs. We lay in the shade and we[re] as happy as children.
On the way back to the Inn we stopped at the little store in the toy street and talked to the proprietor. He was a fellow of parts. A lean square modest young man who misused large words in his effort to arise to the dignity of an entertainer of city visitors. He has been a soldier and fought in the Philippines he told us and he talked quite entertainingly and with surprising modesty of his prowess in the far land. It was hard to think of the proprietor of this little store in the toy street with the saw mill just tantalizing the sleepy air as being a fellow of fire and sword. To go from this to that hot breathless land to swim rivers and wade swamps and to kill little brown men fleeing through the brush. And then to come back to the selling of calico and soft sugar. Well it isn’t a bad record. And it’s good to think of him as so clean and simple and ready to leave his adventuring.,p. Perhaps it made it different that there was someone waiting for him. He had a baby boy in his arms when I first saw him and I caught the flash of a blue calico gown in the little home back of the store. I’ve hardly got it all clear in my own mind but I think it’s something like this. In taking a wife[,] a man loses a certain fine spirit of adventure. He is no longer ready to risk his life or his last dollar on the turn of a card. He goes not willing[ly] to hunt little brown men through the swamps of Luzon. God has laid the hand of responsibility upon him and all the old hate and love and gamble spirit has been sobered into a quiet earnest wish to see the happy gleam in one pair of eyes.

We range the woods no more, nor shall we hunt in disquietude through the hot nights[‘] streets of cities looking for adventure but we’ll sit quietly by our fire and read our book. We too have been to our Philippines and seen the blood mark on the steel. We’ve been hot loving going and coming, ready to kiss, fight or die for a friend. Now we’ll try the other game. May God be as good to us as he has been to the store keeper on the toy street. Night with its mystery. Night with its stars. Carry this message for me. A man and woman love each other. They love God and they walk in cheerful belief in what their life holds. Give them the good brave life. There are only two of them, and they would really be true man and woman. Make it so happen.

May 24 [Tuesday]


It was hot today so that the mountain and [sky] took new shapes in the quivering light. We went across the red bridge and down a brown road and through a hot still dusty field with creepers catching about our legs. The bride rested in the shade while I reconnoitered. Yes[,] we could make it. And so down we went waist high through brown last year’s grass over a sand bar and out across an old river bed where the big round stones were scorching hot to the touch. We made a couch of branches of a sycamore tree. It was so hot that the water was almost maddening in its coaxing and so I went down along the gorge and undressed and laid my body in the current where Babahatchie comes tumbling down from a long rapids. Over to the right a mountain wall, topped with trees and great hanging piles of rock, rose a hundred and fifty feet from the river. Up the old river bed I could just see the white gown of the bride in the shade of the sycamore. Out behind me Babahatchie spread out after her headlong hurrying over the stones and lay cool and peaceful under the sun. The swift running water carried my body well out into the stream. The water ran along my back and formed a little eddy where my heels looked up. It was a happy morning. We had a turn at Fra Lippo Lippi when I got back from my swim and we enjoyed it for all the heat.
After dinner I got miserably sick and had the first experience of “being cherished” as the bride called it. The afternoon wore on til night with me swathed in wet towels and the bride looking very housewifely darning stockings.

For all the headache we had a fine evening in the moonlight. The night is probably the most lovely we have had. The moon grows larger nightly and there was the first red sunset we have seen here. The color was mostly in one pass between two mountain peaks. It was very beautiful and stilled us so that we walked in silent happiness. After we had gone to the room[,] I wanted candles for the journal and letters so I left her, the moonlight kissing her pillowed head and went down through the bushes and out over the wooden bridge to the store by the creek bed. I had to come back empty handed though and climb, my head beating with pain, up the side of the hill to the post office nestled high above the tracks. It was a very still night, with only the occasional cough of a freight engine to break the quietness. I got my candles and went home to sit by the open window where my eye could see her white gowned form. They weren’t real candles, only frivolous yellow, green and red little fellows such as children burn for making merry at Christmas time and it took five of them to make a working light, but they were better than the glaring electric light and burned very gallantly in the breathless night.

May 25 [Wednesday]


Today was our day for leaving the hills and our little river. It was hot again and very quiet so that no leaf stirred in the trees on the hillside. We sat on the porch and looked at the hills and wondered if they would miss us. We out Marioned Marion packing the trunk and then we went and sat in the little parlor of the Inn and waited for the train. We did not sit in the parlor from choice. We sat there because we had been so oft invited that the thing became a sort of personal matter. To sit in the parlor at the Inn is, it would seem, a sort of implied compliment to the Hostess and the good woman did not deserve anything in the nature of a slight from us. She has been too kindly for us to be staggered by so small a matter at this late hour. And so we sat in the parlor where no doubt we disturbed ten million microbes in their hour of rest. The place was frightfully ugly. It was faded, it had a carpet upon its floor, and time had laid its brown hand over everything. The landlord gave me three fat cigars and the landlady gave us her blessing. From the rear seat of the train we saw our last of Babahatchie. We saw our last of our hills too and the Inn with our ten year old porter running down the track for a ten cent piece cast between the rails, but it was at the river we looked longingly for it was the river [that] had saved the place.
It isn’t the pleasantest thing riding on a train that is trying to recover a lost half hour and for one I wish they’d let the half hours go once they are fairly lost. We got coated with coal black and were forced to retire inside. The train ran up the beautiful valley of the Tennessee where fighting was in war times. It is yellow and brown now with thrifty plowed fields, and faithful following of the plow has given back all war ever took from the fields.

At Chattanooga we had some trouble with an avaricious hotel clerk who, grown fat and independent with carnival crowds, saw in us no more than victims to his greed. We fled. We took bags and baggage and struck off again into the hot streets and found lodging in another hotel.

In the evening, being well fed, we hurried off to the carnival. It was great fun. The crowd was immense and went along in happy good hearted freedom that quite won you. The bride was given no end of attention. First one young gallant would shower her with a handful of many colored bits of paper, then another would come with soft brush and brush it away. The barkers shouted in praise of the little shows. The skirt dancer lady danced and Lioto the Queen of beauty came out in her silver wings and exhibited herself free before the gaping crowd. The high diver did not dive nor did we see the Hippodrome (whatever that may be) but we saw the crowd, and such a crowd, how jocundly they went along and with what good natured freedom they showered favors upon your lady. When we came out of the carnival[,] we saw the negroes standing laughingly along the road in front. All this fun and no place for them, poor souls. They gamboled up and down in rude pretense of holiday merriment but for all their gamboling they made a pathetic little picture for us to carry away with us.

May 26 [Thursday]


A hot day with crowds surging out of depots and joining the gaily bedecked people on the street. We went early for our shopping to buy a gift for Mrs. Crane, the landlady at Oakdale, and to find a little gold chain to hang our sweetheart ring about the groom’s neck. From ten-thirty until one-thirty we were hot at work getting the Collins story ready to go off. A drawling[,] good natured woman ran the machine and finally got it done acceptably, though it took a deal of chaffing on our part.
In the afternoon we moved out again though it was hot enough to frighten off all but the bravest. The streets were full for all that, showing that the people of Chattanooga are either very brave or very foolish. I prefer to think them very brave. They are a gallant, happy, fun-loving race, these southerners, with something quiet and earnest in their eyes. I’ve noticed that a quiet, fun-loving fellow is a very good sort to depend on either in trouble or in sunshine and really I suppose it is of quite as much importance to know how to have fun as it is to know how to make money.

We took the car to Lookout Mountain, and went through a section of the city reeking of negroes and negro shanties to the little station St. Elmo. The climb up the mountain is a hair raising affair. It calls for every shred of confidence you may have stored up in your breast for American engineers. The grade is 68 ft. to the 100, so we heard a blatant negro declare but it was a deal more like 100 to 68 for the last quarter mile. We stood on the back platform and speculated on the chances of the cable’s breaking til I think we both got a bit nervous. It would probably be absurd to try to keep in mind that picture from the summit by written words. The great glory of it so paints itself on the mind that the whole soul is stirred. The bride and groom sat on a stone at the edge of the mountain and took it in in installments, looking at each other in the intervals. They tried to imagine where the historic points might be and the groom had no little satisfaction in displaying his little store of historic knowledge.

They did not pick out a guide hurriedly from the crowd of noisy negroes, who held forth on their ability as guides, but went past them to where a little old negro sat quietly behind a dilapidated horse and him they engaged. He was a delightful fellow, that old negro. To look at him you might think him an ordinary black man. You might even imagine him whitewashing fences or driving a truck horse upon the street. His fine point is his unpretentiousness of character. You think you are buying the service of a guide and the ease and comfort of a carriage for your lady and for this you pay 50 cents, and then once away from the crowd about the incline station you suddenly discover that you have in fact bought the company of a brave man, or rather you have been made the confidant of a brave man. It is not a matter of buying. For this driver of summer visitors, this quiet darky of unpretentious mien is in very truth a man of battle. The smoke of camp fires hangs about his aged head, the light of battle is in his eye. In fancy you can see again the thin blue line creeping around the ridge of the mountain and hear again the loud alarum proclaiming the coming fight.

“Yes sah Massa! I’se suah seen hahd fightin. I stood heah on dis heah hill that dah and saw ebery las bit of that fight. I’se in Massa Bragg’s ahmy an went back down that gulch thah to keep the federal from a comin up. We got suhrounded ouh regiment did and was clean cut off. I guess we ah been gonahs sure only a citizen cum up and tol us and led us down Hickory Knob in de night time. Yessir Massa I’se one of de veah las men off dis mountain that day. Oh I’se seen hahd fightin Ah has.”

Poor old hero eking out an existence showing northern visitors over the scenes of his triumphs, and says the bride, “Poor citizen, to save a regiment and not even to have your name remembered.” We got a lot more than just information out of that old darky, there was a something intimate and personal about him. You could start a battle anywhere, at Atlanta, Corinth, Chicamauga, your guide immediately gave you unwritten history about the fight, built up a climax and then, like the fine old black hero he was, climbed at once into that climax himself.

We went back down the incline to our hotel and there we stayed for the night. The carnival did not tempt us. We had smelled the smoke of battles and were in no mood for frivolities.

The bride wishes me to record that in Chattanooga she saw the head of a horse that has eight legs.

May 27 [Friday]


This has been a journeying day. We were abroad early and were soon on our way to the station with a negro carrying our grip ahead. It must have been a stout walk for the negro as our bag isn’t light. He did the job for ten cents and looked as though he might be thoroughly sick of his bargain before we arrived.
A rain had gone over the city during the night and a thick bank of clouds lay over the city as we ran out of the city and around the feet of Lookout. We weren’t sorry to leave Chattanooga. A carnival city always looks dissipated and unlovely in the morning light and no shouting young men hailed the bride as we went down the tired sleepy eyed street. The day was an ideal one for a railroad voyage. A thick bank of clouds with here and there a patch of blue covered the sky, the earth looked refreshed and alive under the influence of the rains, the train ran leisurely along and stopped at quiet little villages with negroes asleep along the sides of houses. We are in the genuine south now. The homes of the blacks have become more primitive and the big white wide porched pre slavery house appears now and then sitting back among the trees. We see the negro women at work in the fields. We pass little cabins with huge brick chimneys built against the side and rose bushes in full bloom by the door. At Limrock a characteristic group stood at the little post office waiting for the mail we were to bring. The hills disappeared and we ran into a rich well cultivated country with planted field[s] and men and horses at work in them. Click here to continue with the journal.