Sketches For My Grandchildren - Loizeaux
- 1 My Father and Paternal Grandfather
- 2 Childhood of Leander Roberts
- 3 Apprenticeship
- 4 Early Married Life
- 5 South Hill Farm
- 6 Child Life on the Farm
- 7 Barnyard Friends
- 8 The Beginning of School Life
- 9 Campmeeting and Watchnight
- 10 Quarterly Meetings
- 11 Blackberries and Robbers
- 12 Changes
- 13 Removal to Ohio
- 14 Dress and Peaches
- 15 Chills and Fever
- 16 Protracted Meetings
- 17 Trials
- 18 The Journey
- 19 Shady Hill
- 20 Teaching
- 21 A Winter School
- 22 A Year in Berlin
- 23 Meanwhile and Afterwards
- 24 Evanston
- 25 My Marriage
- 26 Our Journey to Vinton
- 27 Great Grandparents Loizeaux
- 28 A Footsore Journey
- 29 The Land Voyage
- 30 The People at the Farm
- 31 The Ways of God
- 32 Joy and Blessing
- 33 Trials by the Way
- 34 Our Life in Vinton
- 35 Tears that God Shall Wipe Away
- 36 General Conferences
- 37 Dark Days and Dreadful Nights
- 38 Trial and Romance
- 39 "And Your Heavenly Father Knoweth that ye have need of these things."
- 40 At Mrs. Weed's House
- 41 The Beginning of the Bible Truth Depot
- 42 A Call to the East
- 43 The Bible Truth Depot in New York City
- 44 Two Years in New York City
- 45 Trial, Joy and Sorrow
- 46 Removal to Plainfield
- 47 The Grove Street Home
- 48 Illnesses
- 49 Servants
- 50 The Reign of Miss Hamilton
- 51 Our Last Visit to the Farm
- 52 "The Fashion of This World Passeth Away"
- 53 "A Bird's Eye View" of 1215 Putnam Ave.
- 54 Rocket
- 55 Typhoid Fever
- 56 Quogue
- 57 Incidents
- 58 Occupations
- 59 In The Hospital
- 60 Wedding Bells (Anna's Marriage)
- 61 Daniel's Wedding
- 62 Elie's Wedding
- 63 Alfred's Wedding
- 64 Elizabeth's Wedding
- 65 Arthur's Wedding
- 66 Parker's Wedding
- 67 Edward's Wedding
- 68 Pneumonia
- 69 In The Bahamas
- 70 "Still Haven" in the midst of the Great Metropolis
My Father and Paternal Grandfather
It must have been an American, who, when asked about his ancestors, replied, "I don't know anything about my aunt's sisters, or whether she had any." I cannot claim to be much wiser about my ancestry than he was. A desire to know about it did not waken within me, until those who could have satisfied the desire, in Old Testament language, "slept with their fathers". In order that you, my grandchildren, may not be, in this matter, devoid of knowledge as myself, I am going to tell you, in a crude way, the little that I know.
My father's name was Leander Roberts. He was the son of William and Mercy Roberts, and was born among the hills of Otsego Co., N.Y., at the western end of the Catskill Mountains, June 1st, 1817. He had three brothers older than himself, Alfred, John and William, and one sister younger, named Mercy, after their mother. For the sister, who outlived him several years, father felt a tender affection. Father's mother died when he was eight years old, and he was sent to live int he family of "Uncle John Hamlin"; whether he was really an uncle, I do not know. I think an aunt came to keep house for the father and older boys, and to take care of little Mercy. After some years, the father married again, and had several sons and one daughter; while the children of his first wife also married.
I remember of seeing my grandfather Roberts only once, when I was quite a little girl. Nor did my father often speak of him: for having been separated from him since his eighth year, the relationship did not seem very real. On the occasion to which I refer, father, mother, brother and I had gone chestnutting on Crum-Horn Hill. It was a long way from our house on South Hill, through a very pleasant country. After gathering a large bag of nuts, chestnuts and black walnuts, and eating our luncheon on a mossy bank under a big tree, father drove home another way, that we might stop a little at grandpa Roberts' house.
Grandpa seemed to me a very old man and in poor health. He was seated at a low bench, pegging away at the sole of a shoe he was mending, and often stopped to cough. Not very long after, I heard my parents say, "Grandpa Roberts is gone." So you see the words "Grandpa Roberts" and "Grandma Roberts" were never familiar to me, until my own children called my parents thus; and since "my own children" are your fathers and mothers, it follows that their grandparents were your great-grandparents.
Childhood of Leander Roberts
I have little data from which to write of my father's childhood; but a few incidents, and a knowledge of his character, enable me to sketch a picture which cannot be far from correct.
The motherless lad of eight years who went to live in this family of Mr. John Hamlin was sturdy and active, and quite unspoiled by luxury. On a farm there is plenty of work and chores for every day in the year; and a capable and willing boy is not likely to have many idle hours. There were several children in the family: one, a boy named Adam, was a year younger than Leander.
I have heard my father say he never had more than three months consecutive schooling. Schools were not then as now. There were two terms a year; one in summer, for girls and children of the abc and primer classes, and another in winter, of which the big boys availed themselves until time for spring work to begin. One day, when I began to "do sums", my father gave me the only slate he ever possessed.
I enjoyed greatly the incredulous look on the faces of my schoolmates when I told them, "this was my father's slate when he was a little boy". Slates were usually short-lived. Lead pencils and paper in school-room were unknown at that time. It would have been thought shocking waste to make a few figures or write a few lines on paper, then to crumple it up and throw it in the wastebasket.
My father was never a great reader, but he read patiently and perseveringly, and learned much in that way. When he became a man of business, he had his own methods of calculation, not quick, perhaps, but accurate in results. When I was teaching arithmetic, he delighted in giving me some question of figures, and then in giving me the correct answer before I was half done. But I have got far away from my subject. It is well that I am writing for children who like to ramble as much as I do.
While we lived on South Hill, father and mother went to make a visit to the Hamlins, taking brother and me with them. It was in the winter and the sleighing was fine. By the way, I think the climate has changed since I was a child. Then, in New York State, the winters were long and cold, with good sleighing for several months. I remember father used sometimes, to take a "short cut" home, as he expressed it, going "cross lots". Oh, what fun to ride over the fences, on the billowy snow-drifts, hard enough to hold horses and sleigh without breaking through! These huge drifts were slow in melting away when the spring came; for I remember piles of ice in the fence corners, when I was picking early spring flowers, on my way to school.
But now for the visit. Picture to yourself a light two-horse sleigh - warm buffalo robes, dancing horses - eager to go - sleigh-bells jingling, and four happy-hearted people, and you have us, without a kodak, a thing unheard of in those days. We started early in the morning, reaching our destination after dark. At noon we stopped at a village tavern for a good, hot dinner. It was not until "sundown" that brother and I grew tired and began to ask, "how far is it now?" and "when will we get there?"
To quiet us, my father said: "I will ask the next person we meet, how far it is". Soon a man came along and was hailed with: "How far is it to Oneonta?" "Two miles", he answered. That was cheering, and merrily rang the bells as Doll and Nell trotted along. After driving what seemed a long time we saw a team approaching. When it drew near father stopped and asked: "Can you tell me, sir, how far it is to Oneonta?" "I think it is about two and a half miles, sir." With a polite "thank you" and a smile, father started the horses, now quite ready to stand without dancing. The next oncomer was a whistling boy, driving the cows home to be milked. "My lad, how far is it to Oneonta?" After scratching his head, he said: "I think it is three miles". We all indulged in such a shout of laughter, that the boy turned and stood looking after us.
Now, I am quite sure my father knew how far it was to Oneonta, but he wished to divert our minds, and certainly he succeeded. We soon drove through the pretty village, and just after dark reached the home of the Hamlins. I wish I could make you see the large living-room into which we entered. There was a great fireplace extending almost the whole side of the room, and in it was a huge log that snapped and glowed, as the flames danced over it and fled upwards into the great chimney.
And our welcome: The master of the house was not there. "Uncle John" was so old, feeble and childish, that he ate his meals alone, seldom seeing anyone but those who took care of him. "Aunt Katy" was still strong, competent, and a host in herself.
"Well, well! Is this Leander?" She gathered him in her arms and kissed him on both cheeks, then turning to us: "And this must be Fanny and Emory and Mercy! I am glad to see you." And she kissed us all. If I remember rightly, we stayed three days, and delightful days they were. All the children, save one, had married and gone to homes of their own.
Marion, a pretty girl with fair skin and soft, shining curls, was still with her mother. I thought her beautiful. I was much surprised when Aunt Katy drew me to her side, and stroking my brown hair, drawn tightly back, and braided in two "pig tails", said to Marion: "Mercy is a sensible little girl. I wish you would wear your hair smooth, like hers." No doubt I looked the wonder I felt, but I dared not say: "It is my mother who is sensible. I would give everything I have for curls like Marion's."
Adam was a minister, and with his young bride was home on a visit to his mother. He and my father had great talks, and not a few hearty laughs over recollections of their boyhood. I hovered near, listening with both my ears. Turning to me, Mr. Adam said: "You see, I was younger than your father, but I was boss. If he sat down in my chair, I immediately wanted it, and was not slow in demanding it. He always gave it to me, but I remember the look in his grey eyes as he said, "There! Do you feel better now?"
In the village of Westford, N.Y., lived Mr. Peter Platner. He was one of the leading men of the town, and had a large carriage factory. To him, when of proper age, Leander was bound as an apprentice. I do not know for how many years, but probably five. I think he must have lived in family of Mr. Platner, for I never heard of any other arrangement. He was kindly dealt with, and as long as he lived, spoke affectionately of Uncle and Aunt Platner. There were three children in the family: Henry, Mary and a little girl called, familiarly, Frank; I cannot now recall her real name.
There lived just outside of the village, on a small farm, Mr. Artemas Howe, with his wife and two children, Orsemus and Fanny. Mrs. Howe was a half-sister to Mrs. Platner; so there was much friendly intercourse between the two families. It is not strange that the apprentice boy, separated from his own brothers and sister, soon became friends with the shy little girl; nor is it at all surprising that when Leander had served his apprenticeship, and became a valued workman in the shop, at the age of twenty-one, and the gentle Fanny, now seventeen, and a school-teacher, that their friendship ripened into something more, and they were married. My father sometimes felt a mischievous desire to tell tales of that period, but my mother's embarrassed, "Hush, Leander, that's enough" usually quieted him. How I would like, now, to know all he might have told.
I never saw a more quiet and self-effacing person than my mother. Only those who knew her well appreciated her as she deserved. Kind and unassuming, she never gave offense. A plain spoken woman, visiting at our house, after my marriage, said to me, "Mrs. Loizeaux, you will never be a lady like your mother." I was neither hurt, nor disposed to quarrel with what I felt was true.
The above statement recalls to mind this same woman, Mrs. Taylor, a big woman, loud and rough-spoken, but with a heart of genuine kindness. She ruled her husband, I have no doubt; but loved him meanwhile. She had no children and so had time, and disposition, to help others. One day, when we were living in Vinton, Iowa, she came to spend the day. I had five children, no servant, and I tried to do my own sewing. Mrs. Taylor took out of her bag the flannel lining of an old overcoat, and a worsted skirt of her own. Her tongue and the sewing machine ran a lively race all day; but when she went home, Daniel had a warm flannel blouse and bloomers, and a little dress was ready for me to finish off. All honor to Mrs. Taylor's memory!
Early Married Life
When the big brothers wished to tease Aunt Bess, they used to say: "Bess remembers things that happened before she was born." I think this came about from her habit of saying, "I remember" when relating things she had heard so many times that she actually thought she remembered them. So I will not say I remember the things I am about to relate.
My father continued, for some years after his marriage to work int he shop of Mr. Platner. My brother Emory, three years and a half my senior, and I were born in Westford. Very small must have been the beginning, very simple the furnishing of the little home, compared to the way young people begin married life now. Both husband and wife were industrious and frugal. I have heard my father say, from the time he earned his first wages he was never without money in his pocket. If he earned only a dollar, he spent less than a dollar. If he earned only a few cents, he spent still less; if indeed, he must spend at all. To spend all he had, or to contract a debt, was not to be so much as thought of.
I remember a very few things that belonged to that first housekeeping. I wish I might have now some of the dark blue plates, with their wonderful pictures, that fascinated me as a child, and held their charm until I was a big girl. Then there were knives with bone handles, fastened on by steel rivets. The forks had two slender tines, that father declared were "just the handiest things in the world to pick a chicken's neck with." I remember the operation. One tine was inserted in the passage of the cord, held firmly, and joint after joint dislocated, and removed. How I wished I could do it!
The old clock that stood so many years on the mantle of the sewing-room at 1215 Putnam Avenue was perhaps their proudest possession. It is now in Aunt Elizabeth's garret, waiting to have its case "done over" and its honest old face made more attractive. I am sure I feel sorry for it. I fancy I hear it saying to itself: "How dull it is after ticking away for nearly seventy years, to stand here idle, with only the memories of past years to comfort me! And I don't see why, indeed! I've heard my mistress say while winding me up at night: 'Good old clock; you the the best timekeeper in the house.' I was never lonesome before in my life. So many babies were held up to my face, with eyes big with wonder, while I was made to strike over and over again. I wonder, will I ever hear children's voices again? And I remember the distress of my old mistress, after my master died, because she had lost my key, and she feared she would never hear my voice again. She could not sleep that night, but wept bitterly, and said softly, 'Dear Old Clock!" All the above is true, and I sigh with the old clock as I think of it.
After a few years the little family moved to Schenevus, a pretty, stirring little town at the foot of South Mountain, and my father had a carriage shop of his own. But, after not very long, my father, having a boy and girl of his own, concluded that the town was not the best place in which to "bring them up." Thereupon he bought a small farm on South Hill. Not until it because the fashion to go to the mountains for a vacation, was the grand old hill dignified by the name of "mountain".
South Hill Farm
The farm was small: it was stony; so stony that twice a year a "stone-boat" was dragged by oxen over the fields and the stones carefully picked up, a proceeding in which we children were expected to share... nolens volens. All, or at least most of the fences were picturesque stone walls. When, after leaving in the West many years, on our journey East, I first saw stone walls, near Buffalo, my heart leaped as at the sight of an old friend.
The farm was ill suited to raising grain; but well adapted to grazing and stock-raising; hence butter-making and the selling of young stock were its principal sources of profit. A country road divided the farm into two parts; on one hand stood the house; at one side the meadow; behind it, small fields of rye, oats, buckwheat or corn, the woods making a pretty background. Along the woods lay the sheep pasture, so rocky that only sheep could have grazed there. I loved the sheep. To sprinkle salt on the bare rocks, followed by sheep and lambs, bleating their musical ba-a-a, was delightful, and a privilege often granted me.
On the other side of the road were barns, carriage house, granaries and stables surrounded by yards. Beyond were pastures, orchards, meadow-land and a stream skirted by timber, or as we were wont to say, "the woods". It was, indeed, a pleasant, charming country.