|Biography of Veturia White Smith|
Book, pp. 199-204
914 (See 50, 506)
"I cannot say, and I will not say
With a cheery smile and a wave of the hand
And left us dreaming how very fair
And you, oh, you, who the wildest yearn
Think of her faring on, as dear
Think of her still as the same, I say--
--James Whitcomb Riley
Vetury White Smith was born at Sugar Tree, Benton County, Tenn., January 5, 1833. She passed away on June 8, 1906, and was interred on the following day in Oak Grove Cemetery, Paducah, Kentucky.
Our mother spelled her name Vetury. Others spelled it Veturia, which we think was the original way of spelling it. General information is to the effect that James White, her father, was a widely read and well informed man. Those conversant with the history of his state and of the nation at large, will observe that he exercised great care in the selection of names for his children. Hence he perpetuated the name and honored the memory of a noble son or daughter of our land by naming his children for them. We regret we were not sufficiently foresighted during mother's earthly sojourn, to investigate the origin of her name. After mature reasoning, finding it impossible to come to any conclusion, we went in quest of some historical information.
In the Encyclopedia Americana dated 185 1, Book 3, page 491, we find a most interesting and fascinating historical story, from which we weave the following:
Four hundred and ninety years before the Christian era, Corialanus assumed command of the Patricians in order to deprive the Plebeians of their hard earned privileges, even proposing to distribute provisions obtained from Sicily on condition that the Tribuneship would be abolished, For advocating such a plan, he was banished from Rome. Later he joined Attius and succeeded in placing himself in command of Attius' army, thereby becoming the military head of Latium, and in that capacity he continued to wage war against his own country. Envoys were dispatched by the Roman Senate to seek peace, but returned with the message that peace could only be had by the surrender of all territory taken from Volsci. A second embassy achieved no more. Even the Priests and Augers, who were then detailed, returned heartsick and without hope. Terror seized the people, chaos reigned supreme. As a last resort the Roman Senate prevailed on Corialanus' mother, Veturia, and his wife, Valumnia, to intercede. Praying, as a mother and wife only can pray, they proceeded on their holy mission--the establishment of peace. Corialanus recognized them in the far distance and ordered his Aides to permit them to approach. On bended knee, his mother, Veturia, implored him to make an honorable peace with his country, and in the exaltation that "Right is Might", that wonderful woman made him understand that unless he so agreed, he could only enter Rome by passing over her dead body. Her Portialike plea melted his proud heart, though he was drunk with the thought of political power and prestige. Raising his mother from the ground, extending his hand in silence, with bowed head, he accompanied her and his wife back to his native city, where as far as possible he reinstated himself. In recognition of the great service rendered the nation, the Roman Senate caused a temple to. be built on the exact spot where Veturia had knelt, and dedicated it to "MOTHERHOOD". By resolution, the Roman Senate also made her first priestess of the temple.
Twenty-five hundred years ago the Roman people loved and honored this mother and priestess no more than we love and honor our mother and princess. Twenty-five hundred years ago she had no more inspiring influence over the lives of the Roman populace, than did the life of our mother over the lives of her children.
We trust that in the annals to come this beautiful name, Veturia, with its interesting legend setting, will be made a historical name, ever keeping alive the memory of our mother. Two of her sons already have established this memorial.
Civilization was not very far advanced in the South at the time of our mother's birth. The stores were nothing more than trading posts where the meager merchandise was exchanged for furs. Farming, hunting and trapping were the chief occupations. Furs were the common currency. Some years prior, her mother had spun and woven her own silken wedding dress, her grandmother coming into Tennessee and having brought with her some silk worms. Thus it is a most reasonable deduction for us to make that the first-born daughter was dressed in a silken robe and wrapped in the finest of furs, in that wild country where only thirteen years before the first white inhabitant trod its virgin soil. Thus in regal splendor in a log house in that vast forest, our dear mother entered this early existence.
As a child her lot was a happy one. Her educational opportunities were those in common with other children of the South in those pioneer days. They had public schools part of the year, followed by what they termed "Subscription Schools", which were nothing more than paid private schools. However, these meager opportunities were supplemented with considerable reading along general lines and with study as time and conditions would permit. Our mother by nature was quite musical, but had little opportunity for the development of this talent. However, a natural, beautiful and mellow soprano voice was hers and it held its sweetness and richness to the end.
Thirteen years prior to her birth, the Indians had been driven from Tennessee, hence they were no longer a menace. Her childhood days were lived in a transitional period. The greed for gain and the ambition for the building of large fortunes, had not yet permeated the thought of the people. The forest yet stood in its primal grandeur, save here and there a small clearing for grain and vegetables. The honey bee and the drippings from the maple tree, so abundant in that country, afforded sufficient sweetening for food. Sheep were raised, the wool being manufactured into cloth at home. Wild game of all kinds abounded everywhere; quantities of acorns furnished sufficient food for pork. The social life at that period was simple but lived on a high plane of thought. They danced the old time square dances, Virginia reel, and jigs, all of which were interspersed with cultured conversation covering general topics and current events.
Our mother's father, James White, was a man of affairs. Ever thoughtful of his personal responsibilities, he was a good provider. In early life he became a slave owner, the negroes doing the menial work. He had a keen sense of humor, and with his ever ready wit, he was a splendid conversationalist. No matter what things seemed to be, he saw the happy side of life. Truly to him "Every cloud had a silver lining". He was not only the progressive farmer of his day, but was the County Squire or Justice of the Peace, and as such was the community advisor in all misunderstandings and disputes. Not only was he a man well read, but he was a very close student of the Bible, reading and rereading it till he was very familiar with its teachings. Consequently early in life our mother received religious training.
Our mother's mother was said to have been an incessant worker, a beautiful housekeeper, a painstaking mother, and a most excellent manager of her realm-the Home. With a large family to plan for, a larger corps of negro slaves to manage, and with none of the comforts nor equipment of modern domestic civilization, she directed the home with a poise and efficiency seldom seen.
With a quickened sense of modesty, but with much greater sense of appreciation, we cannot fail to make mention of our mother's wonderful beauty. It has often been told us by our father and concurred in by many who knew her, that in early life she was considered the most beautiful young lady in all that country. Regardless of the size or character of any gathering, she was the one who always attracted the most attention for beauty and genial personality. Even in her last days, at the age of seventythree, her skin was as fair as that of a baby, not a wrinkle to be seen; the peach bloom in her cheeks; snowy white hair, a queenly walk, an ideal personality.
At the age of eighteen she met the young physician and surgeon of the county, Dr. J. D. Smith. Their friendship soon ripened into love and after some months of courtship they were married.
Our mother possessed much general business ability and initiative, and no period of her life was more conducive to the development of these qualifications than that of the war of the States. When the call came to the Old South to shoulder arms, our gallant and patriotic father was among the first to offer his professional services and even his life if needed. By so doing the burden of maintaining a home and the support of four small children, one a babe in her arms, devolved on the loyal wife, the devoted mother and the patriotic daughter of the bleeding Southland. She endured all the hardships and privations in common with all other women and did so without a murmur and deemed it an honor to suffer with those who suffered-all for the vindication and the glory of the South she so dearly loved.
An incident has been told us however, of her cheerfulness and constant desire to shed a little sunshine along the way even in those dark and dreadful days. On one occasion the young people of the neighborhood requested our mother to give a house party. Food being so scarce, it seemed advisable that each and all contribute their pro rata of luxuries and dainties for a banquet. On the festive day, by noon, the young and old from all directions were arriving, bringing with them the choicest of foods procurable. The table had just been spread and all was in readiness when the unexpected announcement was made that the Confederate soldiers were coming. A self-appointed general she became at once. She ordered that the tables be cleared of all their appetizing viands and that these be served to our hungry mud-bespattered, yet gallant soldiers in Grey. When this command had been executed and the regiment had passed on, consternation seized the entire personnel of our would-be-party, for lo, here came the Union soldiers in hot pursuit.
Our mother was neither vain nor fastidious, but was the personification of cleanliness and she prided herself in keeping abreast of the times in all things which go to make for comfort, happiness and intellectual growth. In early married life she left the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and together with our father joined the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Immediately she ceased to dance, as in that day the church forbade its members to do so. Later in life an amusing incident occurred which not only brought out our mother's loyalty to the teachings and the laws of her church, but also tested her one great rule in life, namely, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well". The rumor reached her that one of her sons had been seen on the ball room floor at a neighboring summer resort. At first she seriously questioned the authenticity of the report, Once convinced it was a fact, she came out of deep serious thought and asked the question, "Well, did he dance gracefully?" This episode occurred in 1899, and from that day to this that son has never danced. The lesson of church loyalty versus good dancing found its way into his heart and the best that was in him arose and in the ascendency set the seal on his early training. Thus again it was demonstrated that the mother's life more than all else, moulds and shapes the lives and destinies of men.
Her married life was one well rounded and full. As the wife of a public and professional man, she ever measured up to the many demands made on her time, strength and ability. Loving and sympathetic, she gave financial, moral and spiritual assistance to all who came in contact with her, measuring unto each according to their requirements.
As a mother, she was the quintessence of all that motherhood implies. "A loadstone to all hearts, the load star to all eyes." Truly our mother was a living example of De Maistre's description of the real mother--"An Angel to whom God had lent a body for a brief season."
"Ask the hoary headed warrior if he remembers who it was he first loved, to whom his heart clung till the last with most reverence and affection, who rivalled his country in his heart even when he first buckled on the armor of war; ask him, too, whom he remembers with the most gratitude, and to whom, of all who have spent their merry or their sorrowful lives, he owes the greatest debt. Go to the Court, where filial affection is seldom felt and but seldom known, and ask the Prince who was his first love, and mark the answer. Go to the cottage where all is peace and harmony, where discord never entered, and where happiness has always held indisputed sway, the answer will be the same. Go even to the miser, who now cares for nothing but his gold, and as he hugs his treasure in his grasping arms, he will answer like the rest. Seek out the virgin bride, and ask her the same question. Find her husband with a countenance beaming with joy and a smile of confidence on his lips, all around him is gladness, he is the happiest man alive, but yet he will, if he answers truly, tell you that he first loved his MOTHER. Yes thefirst and best of all love may be summed up in that one little word.
"I have experienced prosperity in all of its glittering, pleasurable shapes; I have known adversity with all its sorrowing, heartrending scenes; but in all and through all I have never yet forgotten that I had a mother, who once watched by my pillow in illness, cared for me in health, and who bore for me more pains and more distresses than I can ever repay. Seas may now divide us; the wide ocean may roll between us, but to her, even now, I look for pleasure, remembering that it is my turn to foster and protect. Well do I know a child can never realize the depth, the height, nor extent of a mother's love. If you have a mother in this or any other land, cherish her image, and let the recollection of her gratuituous, disinterested and heartfelt sufferings be and continue to be the first, last and latest feelings of your heart."
As a friend, our mother was ever staunch and true to every trust confided in her. Abhorring deceit, she never assumed to be what she was not, nor promised anything beyond her power to perform, nor failed in the performance of anything in her power to fulfill.
As a church member she was faithful and loyal. As a Christian, her life daily reflected her close touch and communion with her God. Through her the Christ life was truly visualized and no one came under her influence who did not feel and know that to her the reality of things spiritual was the Pearl of great price.
In the last few years of her life she was much alone. Business and professional interests and worldly opportunities had led the children one by one away. Thus in the evening of life, there was no one left in the old home save her and our father. But like all great and courageous minds, she turned this enforced solitude to good account in the execution of much W. C. T. U. and Church work. With a passion for spiritual things, which time, solitude and approaching old age had increased, she did much reading and studying along that line, always bearing in mind and living accordingly, that precept without practice amounts to naught.
We do trust this authentic picture of the life and experiences of this saintly woman will not only interest but may inspire any one who has kindly followed us thus far, for we can assure the reader that nothing save the actual charm of truth and reality lies behind this sketch. The utilization of one's talents and opportunities for the very best possible good to mankind is the highest concept of life, and one who so lives renders the greatest homage to the Creator.
"If thou canst plan a noble deed,
May 30, 1906, our mother, in some unaccountable way fell and when found, was unconscious. Her hip bone was broken. Being in a general depleted, condition, together with declining old age, she was never able to rally. After ten days of indescribable suffering, she let loose these earthly moorings and went away to live with the Angels and to dwell in the fullness of God's own Heaven.
AGAIN I SAY
We thank sister for her beautiful sketch of Mother--"That Wonderful Mother of Mine"--who though absent for sixteen years yet every few weeks makes a pilgrimage to dreamland and there holds conversation with what the psychologist is pleased to term our subjective mind. These meetings are ever happy ones, of the most interesting nature, sometimes grotesque in character, and at times last for some duration.
Then on emerging from slumber, Oh! It seems:
"Oh, gallant ship, receding joy,
I stood a lonely watcher by
Whether mother ever really comes on these occasions, or whether these are only a panorama of phantasies substituted by nature to please the probable longings of a slumbering mind, we have never in any way attempted to fathom, nor have we ever investigated the opinions of those who write and speculate on these conjectured happenings.
The resultant effects on our semi-awakening is to traverse the streams of by-gone years, to wander over the fields of happy childhood days, and rejuvenate the soul with the sparkling love that so copiously emanated from mother.
The sculptor may chisel and picture a living expression in the shaped outline of his model;. the painter may blend and interblend his colors in many beautiful forms on his canvas, the bard may waft his enchanting sounds of song on the ear, nature with her thousand colors, forms and tones may express the beautiful in wondrous grandeur, but nothing can ever festoon our memory's mantel with any picture equal to the perduring etching there emblazoned of that Wonderful Mother of Mine.
Perchance it may be that a man with a family can divide his affections, but our mother was the ideal of our childhood days, the companion of our youth, the valentine of our young manhood and until her death the one in whom the sum total of all our affections gravitated to the common center of Motherhood.
She was a woman of wonderful pride. Pride is the chief source of all inspiration, the impetus of every great achievement, the result of every worthy accomplishment, the reward of feats well done. It lurks in the breast of the rich, and furnishes food for the poor. It affects the noble and the ignoble. It radiates in splendor from some, and under the copings of a dimmer from others, but, from all it emanates in some form when life's ambitions have been attained with due regard for civic morality.
This pride radiated from her face, from her person, from her walk, from her conversation. It was ever present in a well-kept home which found expression from the kitchen to the parlor and in the flowers that ever surrounded her home. This pride was interblended with love, motherly love, the mainspring of all human action. Love, the highest activity of the mind, found full sway in her person.
Hers was the pride devoid of haughtiness, modest in character, fragrant in beauty, symmetrically in keeping with her person. Some one has said: "Modesty is the art of concealing pride". Mother was an adept. She artfully concealed from others that pride that showed in such splendor in her home life and brought such satisfaction to her children.
Gossip found no place in her conversation and the mistakes of others were past history. Purity in thought, in talk, in action was her whole life.
Immaculate cleanliness had been taught her by her mother. Fond of biscuits, kneaded as she was taught in girlhood days, up to her death when able, she invariably went to the kitchen--as had her mother done with slaves aplenty--and performed this labor. She feared the cook might not well keep clean her person. Knowingly she would allow no negro cook to handle her family's prepared food save with a spoon or fork. All menial work could be done by others but she or some member of her family must, at each meal go to the kitchen and see in person that the food was properly and cleanly served on her table.
There may have been occasions when she felt it wise to give an evasive answer but truthful statements were universal characteristics. A falsehood she would not tell under any circumstances. She loved her husband, she adored her children, she trusted her church, and with unfailing faith consecrated her life to her Creator.
As come to all at times, some hope was blasted, some ambition unsatisfied. Events come to all which pierce the heart and trouble the soul. In these she suffered with little murmur, but those massive tragedies which bow the head, accelerate old age, break human hearts and wreck human lives were never a part and parcel of her existence.
Her well rounded features, full face, soft white skin with not a wrinkle at death, her queenly bearing, her soft proud tread, her countenance serene in sweet and frank sincerity, her pure simplicity of heart and innocence of spirit, her once jet black hair, at length turning to a beautiful silver grey where it lingered for years and until age frosted it with snowy fringe, her clear, calm, full smiling eyes, her joyful beam of pride in our successes, her sympathetic expression of love in our reverses, have painted on memory's brow a most beautiful and fascinating recollection, and have lent to imagination's mirror a reflective telescope looking backward more than three score and ten years to when the most charming lass of Benton county, Tennessee ventured her all under the protecting hand of the gallant young physician.
W. Thos. Smith