Before diving into the content of this book, there are a few interesting things to note about this individual item itself. First there is a handwritten note on the recto next to the front inside cover of the book. It appears as such:
Jonas I. Amis
Captain Fussell was a good friend and neighbor of my Uncle, Rufus Thomas, deid (sic), in his last days.
It is not clear whether Jonas I. Amis is the person who wrote this note, or if it was written by someone else who gave the book to Amis. However, it is clear that the book was once owned by at least one other person. On the back inside cover of the book there is a small bookplate affixed to the lower right corner which says: Charles R. Sanders, Jr. of Halifax County, Virginia.
Another interesting feature of this book is that it includes two photographs of Joe H. Fussell. On the verso before the title page there is a tipped in photograph of Joe H. Fussell as a younger man, and between pages 32 and 33 a page bearing another photo of Fussell is tipped in, this one showing him as an older man.
There is also a note on title page, which states: “This little book was written and compiled by Mrs. Fussell and the net receipts from sales will go to her according to a specified written contract with her. The price of the little book is 50 cents.” This is another neat feature of the book, as it shows that a woman of that time wrote and compiled a book and received a portion of the profits earned from the sale of the book.
The contents of this early twentieth century book take a look at the life of a man who lived in the midwest area of the United States between 1836 and 1915. The book is divided into various categories, with the first being an introductory section. This part reveals that the book was written by Margaret Roberts Fussell, who was Joe H. Fussell’s wife. She states the reason why she wanted to publish this book, saying: “The regret of my husband’s declining days, was the unfinished state of the church, in which he worshiped. The wish, upon my part to accomplish this great desire, has prompted me to send this little volume out into the world, with the hope, also, that many may be induced to emulate his example, as a true christian gentleman” (p. 2). She also notes that she tried to remove herself from the book as much as possible. This helps to keep the focus on Joe Fussell. However, Margaret allowed herself the indulgence of a small section entitled “A Simple Tribute to My Husband.” It contains a poem that she wrote about her husband’s life, his love of God and the church, and how he is now with God in Heaven.
The next section of the book is simply titled “History.” It gives an overview of Fussell’s family, his education, military service, and his career. Joe H. Fussell was born in Maury County, Tennessee in 1836, and he was the only son of Henry Barrett Fussell and Eliza Caroline (Kincaid) Fussell. And one special point of interest about Fussell’s family is that his maternal grandfather, Joseph Kincaid, was one of the first settlers in Maury County from Kentucky. “In 1873 [Joe] was married to Mrs. Margaret Roberts Porter, daughter of Capt. Wm. Tate Roberts, and granddaughter of Gen. Isaac Roberts” (p. 5). Growing up, Fussell spent a good deal of time with his father. When he was a boy he learned the carpenters trade from his father, who was an architect and contractor, “and they together built some of the finest houses of that day and time, in and around Columbia, Tennessee” (p. 4). Later, Fussell attended Jackson College, (which was burned by the Federals during the late Civil War). He graduated from Jackson College with “degrees, A.B., 1858, and later A.M., delivering the valedictory in Latin” (p. 4). He went on to teach school for three years, then studied law under A.M. Looney, Judge A.O.P. Nicholson, and Judge William Martin, and then attended the Bar in 1860. Next, Fussell “Entered the Confederate service April 19th, 1861, 1st Tennessee Cavalry C.S.A. Sworn into service 17th of June of same year. Was in command of Co. E. 1st Tennessee Cavalry until the surrender” (p. 5). More details about his time as a soldier are given in a later section of the book. In addition, Fussell was an active member of many fraternal organizations. “He was Past Master of Free and Accepted Masons: Past Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Tennessee, having been Eminent Commander for five years. Organizer of Knights of Pythias in Columbia, Tennessee, holding for six years the office of Chancellor Commander” (p. 5). Furthermore, Fussell advanced nicely in his career in law. “He was elected Attorney General of 9th Judicial Circuit of Tennessee in 1870, holding this office for sixteen years (two terms)” (p. 5). He was also “Nominated for Governor of Tennessee on state credit and prohibition platform in 1882, by the ‘Sky Blue’ Democrates (sic)” (p. 5). However, he did lose the election.
The following section describes Fussell’s life at home. Joe and Margaret’s house was called Resthaven, and when he was there Fussell would set aside his work and enjoyed entertaining his friends and bird watching. Margaret states that he knew the birds’ habits and most of their names, and he never allowed game of any kind to be killed on his property. Fussell’s kindness is often shown in this book. Margaret describes one of the few times she was away from home (without Joe) visiting Chicago, saying that Joe sent her a box of hyacinths from the front yard and two verses of original poetry, which is quoted in the book. She also writes that he was devoted to his parents, especially his mother, who was widowed, and that he was kind and helpful to his sisters. He is also described as being a favorite with children, “owing to his magnetic and gentle manner. He always made friends with them” (p. 7). Unfortunately, Joe and Margaret did not have any children of their own.
Next there is a small section describing Fussell’s time as a young student. It is noted that he was always at the head of the class, and was especially skilled in Greek and Latin. There is also an account given of him from an unspecified source: “On the playground he was a great favorite - could ‘jump father, and could jerk a stone farther than any of his classmates. Never mischievous, and was always willing to assist any boy with is lessons. Was never quarrelsome, but ever ready to act as peace-maker’” (p. 7).
Subsequently, there is a section devoted to Fussell’s work as a lawyer. Thanks to his experience working as Attorney General, he won most of his cases. And it is noted that he often encouraged others to “play fair.” Additionally, Fussell is described as being an excellent speaker. Unfortunately, he left no written speeches behind. Margaret notes that he only wrote headings and was an impromptu speaker, but he was often complimented on his speeches. He was also popular with the Bar and was remembered for being a conscientious practitioner. For example, one woman told Margaret Fussell, “‘Capt. Fussell wrote my will, I asked him how much I owed him for the work.’ He replied, ‘Nothing Madam, I have never yet charged a widow for anything, and I am not going to begin now’” (p. 8).
The next section of the book is entitled “As a Patriot and Soldier,” and it describes Fussell’s time in the Confederate army in some detail, where he served as both a private and an officer. Miraculously, he participated in 119 engagements, and was never shot. At Thompson Station his horse ran him behind enemy lines, but his only injury then was a crushed left foot, which did pain him at times for the rest of his life. Margaret also goes on to describe some of the stories Fussell told her about his time in the war. He begins: “I was sworn into service the 17th of June, 1861. My company was commanded by Capt. John B. Hamilton. I was a private. I went with the first troop to Bowling Green, Ky., served throughout the first Kentucky campaign. Breckenridge was Brigadier General...After the battle at Fort Donelson, I served through all the early campaigns in Tennessee and through North Alabama. Was in active service in and around Shiloh and Corinth, Miss” (p. 9). And when Fussell was serving in Shiloh he did run into some trouble. He and a comrade were stuck on a post for 5 days with no food or water. Their horses died and they were in very bad shape, but Fussell eventually made it back to camp, sent people after his friend, and was nursed back to health. Then once he was well, he participated in all of the engagements around Corinth. Then they retreated down to Mississippi and he served in Baldwin, Water Valley, and Oxford, Mississippi. Furthermore, Margaret relays another quite thrilling story from Fussell’s time serving in Holly Springs. He helped to capture a spy who had gotten “the full number of every command and all our plans for the attack next morning at Holly Springs” (p. 13). Unfortunately, the spy was executed as punishment. Then Fussell and his fellow soldiers went and captured the Yankees that the spy had been working with. During this skirmish Fussell dueled a Dutchmen and then rounded up Yankee soldiers by pretending to be one of their own officers. Needless to say, Fussell survived the war and returned home to work, advocate for causes that mattered to him, and to work for his church.
Next there is a section that describes Fussell as a temperance worker. He was “one of the first to advocate regulation of the liquor traffic. He canvassed the State thoroughly -- making Prohibition speeches of great force. He was President of the ‘Amendment Work’ in Tennessee...but those days the temperance cause was very unpopular, consequently the measure was defeated. He was an avowed temperance man, and held to that as long as he lived. After his defeat he received a great many letters” (p. 16-17). Margaret then quotes several letters that were written to Fussell to thank him and praise him for his commitment to the cause, and to console him over Prohibition not being passed. The letters were written by the following:
-(Gov.) Jas D. Porter - Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 10, 1882
-J.J. Martin - Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 10, 1882
-J.B. O’Bryan - Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 10, 1882
-(Rev.) J.H. Warren - Murfreesboro, Tenn., Nov. 9, 1882
Margaret also provides an excerpt from a letter that Fussell wrote describing his stance about Prohibition and why he is in favor of it, with his core argument being that it will help to prevent bribery and corruption in elections so a secure foundation of the government can be built upon.
The following section in the book is entitled “As a Church Worker.” Fussell did a lot of work for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church during his life. He took a great interest in the church and Sunday School, and he never willingly missed a church service. Margaret says that at one time “our church was rent asunder” (p. 21), and that Fussell “felt it keenly, and after one of the first meetings held in Nashville in its interest, he came home and said…’I am going to devote the rest of my days to the saving of our church; this will be my life work’” (p. 21). And he worked hard to do so, even when his health began to fail. Margaret began helping him by writing the minutes of different church organizations for him and answering his letters. She also read to him and in this book she quotes two verses from poems that Fussell liked and had memorized. She also quotes a prayer that Fussell had pinned in his Bible, which asked for strength and a clear mind, the ability to accept God’s will, and that his spirit may be received when he dies. Margaret says that Fussell suffered near the end of his life, but he did not complain and still enjoyed his time with her at home in their garden.
Finally, the last section of this book is entitled “Death of Judge Fussell.” Fussell’s health declined for three or four years before his death. And nearly one year before his death he took a turn for the worse and was bedridden for months. He rallied for the last two months or so before his death, but he eventually had a stroke and passed away within 24 hours. “Judge J.H. Fussell died at his home at Columbia, Tenn...November 4, 1915. He was in his seventy-ninth year. The funeral took place next day at 2:30 p.m. from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Columbia. The services in the church were conducted by Rev. A.N. Eshman, in which Revs. H.A. Gray, J.R. Goodpasture, B.J. Reagan, J.L. Hudgins and W.H. McLeskey took part...After the services in the church, the remains were turned over to the Masonic Fraternity, under the rituals of which they were interred in the beautiful Columbia cemetery” (p. 26). Fussell left behind only his wife, no children. And following the information given in the book about Fussell’s death and funeral are various obituaries that were published about him. They reference his time as a soldier, his work as a lawyer and judge, his advocacy for prohibition, his sense of ethics, and his work in the church. Then there are condolence letters included that were written to Margaret Fussell about her husband’s passing. The letters were written by the following:
-(Judge) W. C. Caldwell - Battle Creek, Michigan, Nov. 6-15
-J.N. Parker - Dyersburg, Tenn., Nov. 12-15
-W.E. Dunaway - Jackson, Tenn., Nov. 9-15
-J.W. Duvall - Moberly, Mo., Nov. 12-15
-Rev. J.N. McDonald - Decatur, Ill., Nov. 8-15
-M.M. Leftwich - Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 26-15
-W.J. Passmore - Carters Creek, Tenn., Nov. 8-15
-D.W. Fooks - Fulton, Ky., Nov. 17-16
-Lizzie Tyler - Elkmont, Ala., Nov. 10-16
-R.H. Gordon - New York, Nov. 13, 1915
-S.C. Reed - Pulaski, Tenn., Nov. 14-15
-Bessie M. Crowell - Moultre, Ala., Nov. 7, 1915
-Geo. T. Riddle - Pulaski, Tenn., Nov. 7-15
-Orra Carter - Fayetteville, Tenn., Nov. 5-15
-D.B. Cooper - French Lick Springs Hotel, Nov. 14-15
-Mary H. Stephenson - Petersburg, Illinois, Feb. 25-16
Pages 49 through 56 of the book contain a tribute to Judge Joe H. Fussell, which was written by Rev. W.T. Dale, D.D. He talks about Fussell’s work as a lawyer and judge, his run for Governor, his advocacy for prohibition, his work in the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and some of the eloquent speeches Fussell gave. On page 57 a poem that Fussell wrote about his church is also included. Then the book ends with a short verse that was written by Margaret Fussell for Joe H. Fussell’s funeral on November 4, 1915, which talks about how he can finally rest.