230 History of Wake Forest College
the forest, or thridding the mazes of an eastern swamp where for miles
on end the water came to the horses knees and sometimes to his
barrel. In the mountain section a heavy rain would often render roads
impassable.4 The roads were often only Indian trails, on parts of
which the prudent traveler often dismounted and led his horse.5
The most expeditious mode of travel was on horseback, with
saddlebags thrown across the saddle and a traveling bag securely
fastened behind it by rings and strap. But more comfortable for older
or stouter men was a gig, a light two-wheeled vehicle drawn by one
horse. Thus equipped the traveler could make his way over the
muddiest and roughest roads if he were on his guard to keep the two
wheels on a level where the road was along a sloping hillside or had
been washed into a gulley; else he might be unceremoniously tumbled
out on the lower side of the road. A warm robe was needed as a
protection against cold, and a rubber slicker with a cape to keep off
the rain. Some had an umbrella.
With such roads and such means of travel in North Carolina an
agency such as was contemplated in Wait's involved great privation
and sacrifice. When he had left home he was out of all close
communication with his family, in some respects more so than he
would be today in China or Palestine, for in these places one may
today be reached in a few hours by cablegram, but he who in 1839
was a hundred or two miles distant from his family in North Carolina
was completely cut off from them. If a wife or child should fall ill it
would be a week or ten days before he could learn of it and return
home. Or he himself might fall sick and die before his family heard of
it. This last was actually the case of Rev.
4 Boyd, The History of North Carolina, Volume II, "The Federal Period," p. 209.
5 Letter of Joseph Blythe, missionary, to Samuel Wait, October 7, 1844: "My
field of labor was in the midst of lofty and towering mountains, and often I was
compelled to follow the old Indian trails while the wind and rain beat upon me, and
in many places I had to lead my horse over such bad ground that I felt it would not
be safe to ride on horseback."
Report of J. J. James, Special Agent, in minutes of Baptist State Convention of
1850: "I visited nearly all the towns and missionary stations on this side the Blue
Ridge, being prevented from going over by a severe storm of wind and rain which
rendered the roads through the mountains impassable."