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 Camp Meeting 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.
Child Life on the Farm
My earliest recollections are of this home: a little red house, with the usual country door-yard in front, and kitchen garden behind. The front doorstep was a large flat stone, my favorite place of sitting to watch the sunset. the front door opened into a small entry, with stairs leading to the rooms above. On the left, a door opened into the parlor, with a little bedroom for guests. This part of the house was seldom opened, except for cleaning and airing, unless we had company, and, likewise white bread and biscuit; for our usual bread was "rye and injun" (Indian meal and rye flour).
The door to the right led to the living room, off which were a bedroom, buttery and pantry. The outside door opened into a large shed, half of which had a floor, shelves, benches and various conveniences, for in summer it served as a kitchen. The other side had places for washtubs, churn, grindstone, and piles of wood in the winter time. Just outside was the old-fashioned well with curb and sweep, superseded, after a while, but the more convenient pump.
All this was comfortable, but unpretentious. Not so on the other side of the road. The farmer's family may have been housed in small quarters; but his stock, if numerous, and his farming machinery, his tools, his carriages, wagons and his crops must be well cared for, if he would be prosperous. So there were two large barns, a granary, a carriage house, cow-sheds, pigpens, chicken-house, &c., surrounded by large barnyards; altogether, a place of never-failing interest to me.
I had no sister; my brother was three and a half years older than I, and our tastes were entirely unlike. Sometimes I was permitted to share some outdoor sport, such as riding downhill, with him, and his boy friends. Otherwise we rarely played together. But I was never a lonely little girl. Somewhere, in the fence corner, under a tree, in pleasant weather I had always a playhouse where my treasures were carefully stowed away: bits of broken china for dishes; corncob dolls, dressed in calico pieces and bits of ribbon, collected and saved with care. These dolls were my scholars, for I dearly loved to play at keeping school. It was such fun to lean them up in a row against my treasure-box, for spelling, and to see the one at the foot march proudly to the head of the class. This was easy, since I did the spelling, and marched them up and down as I chose. Perhaps my little grand-daughters, who have such large families of dollies, would like to hear about my dolls. Well, I remember just two. I think these must have been all my family, and that I cared more for books than for dolls.
We children were not allowed to go into the parlor, except when open for visitors; I really do not see why. It was a simple room; its floor covered with a striped rag carpet. There was a bureau in one corner, and a table, and chairs stood against the walls, I suppose waiting patiently for company. stove made the room cheerful when it was cold. A looking-glass, a framed marriage certificate, and one or two pictures adorned the walls.
Well, one day, perhaps it was a rainy day, I stole into the parlor and looked around. I wondered what mother kept in the bureau, anything but "Sunday clothes"? "I think I'll see;" and I opened a drawer, and putting my fingers down carefully, so as not to "muss up" anything, I was startled by feeling something hard.
Carefully I peeped, then eagerly I seized the object. And, forgetting my disobedience, I ran to my mother: "Oh, mother, see! I've found a doll!" Had she ever seen me so glad before? Did she scold me? Not a word. She laughed and said: "I suppose I should have given it to you before. It was my doll when I was a little girl, and I meant to give it to you when you are old enough to take care of it." "Take care of it? I will love it!" and I thought it perfectly beautiful. Now, I will tell you, in confidence, it was perfectly ugly. You would say horrid. It was a wooden doll, without a movable joint in its body. It had been painted white, but the years had turned the white to a deep yellow. When my enthusiasm had cooled, I began to regard my doll with other emotions than affection, and my consolation was found in pretending that it was dreadfully ill with jaundice.
Not long after, as mother was putting the bureau in order, I spied a little pink gingham dress, with short sleeves. "Oh! Whose little dress?" "Yours, when you were a baby." "Give it to me and we can make a dolly." So an old sheet was tightly rolled, just a little shorter than the dress. A pillow case was rolled up for arms and sewed in place. The dress fitted beautifully! When my father came home for dinner, he penciled eyes and nose and mouth, and a bang of curls over the eyes, "where the forehead ought to be", and I was satisfied. I had a doll to hug and to love. It went with me to the barn, the field and the brook. It slept with me at night, and never cried. After I went to school, I did not care for dolls. I hear you say: "No wonder!" and I echo: "No wonder." Books, and things alive, were what I wanted.
The first to greet me at the barnyard were the fowls, who, well housed at night, had the freedom of the farm by day. When grasshoppers were "in season", they were found in the meadows far from the barn. This liberty greatly increased the zest of egg-hunting, for a nest might be found in a corner of the fence, as well as in manger or hay-mow; and sometimes a mother-hen, waywardly inclined, came proudly home with a fine brood of chickens hatched in the field.
Well, the greeting of the chickens meant no affection for the little girl, but rather expectation of corn or buckwheat. The geese were more interesting; white and beautiful, but saucy, they followed me with wagging gait and gentle hisses. To my mother they meant feathers to sell and replenishing of feather beds and pillows. Sometimes there were goslings; oh, the soft, yellow, fluffy dears! Ever so much prettier than little chicks.
But let us go into the big barn; the main floor, with its great double door at either end, permitted the largest load of hay to be hauled in, to be pitched into the hay-mow. At one side were stalls for horses, open above the manger, so I could walk along and stroke the faces of such as liked to be petted. How beautiful their large, soft eyes! My usual welcome was a soft whinny, for I often gave them a bit of clover or an apple. There were Doll and Nell, work horses, and Prince and Charlie, who worked, of course, but were called the carriage horses. In a nearby pasture were young horses and colts; also an Indian pony, whom brother and I often rode around the pasture, without saddle or bridle. I do not remember that he was used for anything but our amusement.
the long cowshed had room for fifteen or twenty cows. Each cow had a stall with a stanchion at the manger. These had to be opened every morning to release the cows. At night the cows filed in and put their heads through the stanchions, and, strange to say, each cow knew her own stall. The first cow coming in might go to the further end or stop midway, but she rarely made a mistake, at which I never ceased to wonder.
Every cow had a name, usually suggested by her color or character; for cows have individuality as well as people. Many of the names I can recall. "Star", of course, had white spot in her forehead; "Cherry" was a reddish brown; "Brindle" a mixture of colors. "Black and White" always suited certain members of the herd. "Old Belle" was the leader, and wore the cowbell, the sound of which I was pleased to hear again in some Catskill mountain pastures more recently. Then there was "Lady Lightfoot", a little heifer, with the daintiest feet ever a cow had. Well I remember old "Kick-um", an ugly tempered cow, who would always put her foot in the pail if she could, or send the milker over backward. Dan Beadle, the hired man, was the only one who could manage her.
Before we left the farm, I used to milk two cows every night. I must not forget old "Buck" and "Berry", two mild-eyed oxen, with broad backs, on which I used to ride after they were unyoked and went down to the creek to drink. No reins were needed; they were obedient to "Gee" and "Haw" and a touch of my hand.
I will just mention the sheep-pen, where the gentle creatures were safely folded at night. Farthest of all from the house were the pig-styes, with their noisy occupants. Sometimes there was a pen with a clean straw for a mother with a litter of little pigs, so cunning, it was fun to watch them. Once, at the farm of grandpa Loizeaux, Aunt Lydie took Fred, two years old, to see some wee piggies. "Aren't they funny little scallywags?" They had been back at the house but a few minutes, when Lydie heard Fred calling something a "scallywag". In distress she came to me, saying, "Oh! Anna, I didn't mean to teach him that. How could he remember it?"
The Beginning of School Life
About a mile and a half from the farm was a little schoolhouse, gray and weather-beaten. I doubt that it had ever been painted; neither were the seats and desks, but the latter were more or less carved by jack-knives. The front seat was low and without a back. On this seat sat the ABC scholars, when not playing out of doors.
A common punishment for trivial offenses was standing on the floor. I had learned my ABC's and AB AB's, and was beginning words of three letters. When I persisted in pronouncing r-e-d "yed", the teacher thought me stubborn and said: "You may stand on the floor until you will say red." How long I stood there I don't know, it was a weary while. Then my brother told the teacher that I always pronounced "y" for "r". She tested me, and sent me to my seat. This is the only time I remember of being punished at school. Probably I needed the spur, for in a few days I had mastered the sound of the letter "r".
No one in our house had time to read stories to me, and I dearly loved stories, and love them still; so I was very anxious to learn to read. Perhaps I learned as much at home as at school. There was a Bible, an almanac, and "The Guide to Holiness", always on the table. I could spell out the words and ask what they were. I must have been a great bother to my busy mother, but I soon learned to read.
I was taken by my parents to visit some friends. We stayed overnight. There were two daughters about twelve and fourteen. One played the organ while her sister sang. After supper they studied their school lessons, and the older people visited. I had found a book and was oblivious to all else. As soon as I was dressed in the morning, I resumed my reading. After breakfast, my father said: "Well, Fanny, I guess we must be going; I will go and hitch up." "Oh, we can't go", cried I, "I haven't finished my book!" When father saw that our departure would be a tearful one, he turned to the girls and inquired the price of the book, and if they would sell it. So I became the proud possessor of my first "very own book": Robinson Crusoe.
The winter school was taught by a man. He could better face the snowdrifts and manage the big boys. There was usually a "birch" on the teacher's desk: if not, and one was needed, the master would ask: "Who has a jack-knife?" Up went all hands, save one. "John, go and cut me a whip; be sure and get me a good one." Sometimes whips were voluntarily brought at noon and laid on the teacher's desk. But there were other punishments besides whipping, indeed, many sorts.
One day my brother was caught in mischief of some kind. The master asked for a long scarf, a knitted woolen comforter. When one was brought, he tied it under Emory's arms, saying: "You are so bad I am going to hang you." Now I supposed hanging under the arms was as fatal as hanging by the neck. As the culprit was dragged toward a big hook by the door, I gave a piercing scream. Proceedings were stayed; instead of being hung, the naughty boy stood on the floor all of the rest of the afternoon.
Not far from the schoolhouse was a church, without steeple or ornament of any kind, but it was painted white, and so were the long sheds back of it, under which the farmers hitched their horses and wagons during services. Here we always went to meeting and to "Sabbath School", for father and mother were Methodists.
How pleasant seemed the Sabbath morning, with its haste to be on time. When the carriage came to the door, I was the first one in, to hold the horses, while my father changed his coat and locked the door. Then the pleasant drive and the S.S. with its singing and repeating of verses, and after the prayer, the excitement of exchanging our S.S. books. After this there was preaching, and last of all, class-meeting. I do not remember any prayer meetings at the church, but sometimes they were held in private houses. My mother was never too tired to go to prayer meeting, or, if very tired, she still felt it her duty to go. Not liking to go alone, she took me for company. When the night was dark, we carried a lantern.
Quite a distance from our house lived an old man who had been a class-leader for many years. As he was ill and bedridden, the meetings were often at his house. To make the distance shorter, mother and I often went through our pasture, then through a piece of woods, crossing the brook on a fallen log. "Weren't we afraid?" Never, there were no wild animals to hurt us; we never met anyone. The country is safer than the city, especially far removed from village or town.
Arrived at Mr. Wager's, I was given a little chair near his bed, so when sleepy, I could lay my head against it, and take a nap. Sometimes I was awakened by an emphatic "Amen!" or the shout: "Glory to God!" so common among the Methodists in those days, and very real when uttered by this aged Christian, so long ill, and so patiently waiting to be called to his home above.
Camp Meeting and Watchnight
Of all the Methodist meetings, I like the Camp Meetings best. They were a regular institution and held every year. The tented grove seemed a fitting place in which to worship God; and men and women, of deep piety and earnest purpose, flocked to these meetings, seeking and finding blessing for their souls. The gospel was preached, more or less clearly, and the salvation of sinners earnestly sought. The desire to be a Christian and live for God was felt very early in my life, and always deepened by these occasions.
So also by the solemn Watchnight meeting usually held in the church the last night of the old year. If I fell asleep during the long sermon, I was awake and fresh for the last exercises. A few minutes before Twelve, all stood in silent prayer, to watch the old year out; and, at the first minute of the new year, all joined in singing the New Year's Hymn. I sang it with all my heart, feeling perhaps, what I did not understand. Here is the hymn; perhaps you will agree with me that a child could scarcely be expected to understand it.
New Year's Hymn Renewed Fidelity and Zeal, by Charles Wesley
"Come let us anew our journey pursue, roll round with the year, and never stand still 'till the Master appear. His adorable will let us gladly fulfill, and our talent improve by the patience of hope, and the labor of love. Our life is a dream; our time, as a stream, glides swiftly away, and the fugitive moment refuses to stay. The arrow is flown, the moment is gone; The millennial year rushes on to our view, and eternity's here. Oh that each, in the day of His coming, may say, I have fought my way through; I have finished the work Thou didst give me to do. Oh that each from his Lord may receive the glad word: "Well and faithfully done! Enter into My joy, and sit down on My throne."
Another interesting occasion of childhood memory was the Quarterly Meeting, held, as its name implies, every three months. Sometimes it was "on the Hill", sometimes "in the Valley", as the churches of South Hill and Schenevus were designated. The presiding Elder must be present and in charge of this meeting. He came on Saturday, as the "Love Feast" was at 9 A.M., Sabbath morning; preaching immediately after, then the Holy Communion. There was no breaking of bread at any other time.
The Elder usually came to our house. I remember one, a dignified, elderly man with a kind face, and a lover of children. How pleasant it all was! The opened parlor, lighted in the evening with more than one candle. All gathered around the table, while the elder read from the Bible and explained the lesson so simply that children could understand. Then there was the prayer, sometimes long, but always ending with the request that God would "bless the head of this house, his wife and his children". If my thoughts were wandering, they always came back at this, and how I loved the "Amen", which most ministers pronounce in an impressive way.
I don't know why, but the ministers who called my father "Brother Roberts", always called my mother "Sister Fanny". Perhaps it was because she was so timid and retiring, as we speak with kindly familiarity to bashful children.
Because of an accident, I especially remember a time when the meeting was to be held at Schenevus, the road to which we called "down the Gulf". It was a steep, narrow road, with several sharp turns, where teams could not pass each other. When approaching one of these the driver would call out, so that, if another was near he might take warning and wait where the road was wide enough to allow teams to pass each other. The scenery was very picturesque; on one side rocky cliffs rose to a great height; the trees on their summit seemed to me to touch the sky. On the other side was a deep gorge with a stream at the bottom, a torrent in the spring-time, a ?ill in summer. Stunted trees, underbrush and rocks clothed its sides, and only at places could we look down to the water.
It was winter; there had been a rain, then a freeze, making the still good sleighing very slippery. It was a proper time to drive sober old Doll and Nell, so thought my mother; but father was a careful driver, and Prince and Charlie needed exercise.
I see them now, as they were brought to the door, gaily tossing their heads, as pleased with their jingling bells as I was. So we, tucked snugly in among the warm robes, were off. At a neighbor's we stopped for Charlotte Booth, a young woman who wished to go to the meeting. On we flew, past the schoolhouse, past the church, until we came to the Gulf road. Here the pace was slackened, and all went well until we were half way down, when something startled the horses; as they sprang into a run, the sleigh slid round and turned on its side, spilling us all out.
Alarmed at what might have happened to some of us, my father, after being dragged some distance, let go of the reins and hurried back. We were all unhurt except poor Charlotte, who had been thrown down the bank against a tree, which saved her from the water. Father crept down to her, and managed to bring her up in his arms. Then it was seen that her jaw had been broken by the fall. Near the foot of the Gulf was a house, and to it my father carried Charlotte. We were very kindly taken in and someone sent for a doctor.
My father and Emory now hurried on after the runaways. They had been running so fast that instead of turning with the road, they had gone straight on into the snowdrifts and over the rail fence where the entangled sleigh held them fast. They were uninjured, and quite sobered. I don't doubt they were glad to hear their master's voice. We were able to go home in our own sleigh, after the doctor had set the broken jaw, and promised that all would go well with Charlotte after a little rest. So we left our young friend to be brought home the next day. Sobered, like our horses, we sadly returned. I am glad to add that Charlotte's face was not at all disfigured.
Blackberries and Robbers
Since South Hill was a cattle raising country, it was visited every year by a class of men called "Drovers". These were men who went from farm to farm buying up cattle for sale. At night they stopped wherever a farmer had accommodation for them and their herd; sometimes this chanced to be at my father's.
This was a rare treat to us children; not only because we liked to see the cattle arrive and depart, but the strange men were interesting; they were always good talkers. After supper they gathered around the kitchen stove and "spun their yarns" to my father, and incidentally to wide-eyed children who ought to have been in bed, but were not at all sleepy. It was not unusual to relate a ghost or murder story. The unwisdom of permitting children to hear such stories was probably not realized by our parents. The incident I am about to relate shows that our minds were not unaffected by them.
One day my parents wished to attend a funeral. Life in a thinly settled farm country is very monotonous, and I am not sure that a funeral was not regarded by many as an entertainment. Certainly, many who "never went to church", were quite ready to go to a funeral. The small houses were more than filled, and men and boys stood about the yard, or listened at the door. For this reason my mother said: "You children had better not go; the house will be crowded. I have put up a nice luncheon for you. You may take your tin pails and go blackberrying." This suited us exactly, and me, especially, for I loved the woods. We started off a little before our parents were ready to go. The morning passed quickly. We filled our pails with berries, gathered wildflowers, and chased the chattering squirrels, handsome little red fellows with bushy tails.
After eating our luncheon, we started homeward. As we approached the stone wall on the barn side of the road, my brother suddenly stood still, staring at the house.
- Mercy: "What's the matter, Emory?"
- Emory: "There's somebody in the house."
- Mercy: "How do you know?"
- Emory: "I know there is; look at that hat hanging on the woodpile!"
- Mercy: "Yes, I see a hat hanging on a pole."
- Emory: "well, whoever is in the house hung his hat on the woodpile so no one would dare to come in. I'll bet it's a robber."
- Mercy: "Are you sure?"
- Emory: "Hark! I hear a man running up and down stairs; don't you?"
- Mercy: "No, I don't."
- Emory: "Stoop down, quick! I saw a gun pointed out of that open window." Emory sat down by the stone wall which was higher than he was.
- Mercy: "I don't see any gun, and I don't believe there is anyone in the house. Let's go in."
- Emory: "I tell you there is, and they'll kill us. Come on, we must stoop until we get behind the barn, then we'll run to the Booth's and tell them."
He suited his actions to his words, and I followed, not a little relieved that we did not have to go into the house. Arrived at the neighbors, we told our story in haste and in concert. It had grown more sure and terrible as we ran. The family was at dinner. Mrs. Booth was alarmed. She said to her husband and son: "You had better go right over, before they have time to rob the house." "And take your gun", my brother suggested.
"We haven't got any gun", the young man said, "but I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll sharpen this carving knife and, if there's a man in the house, I'll fix him!"
Mr. Booth laughed at this, and I think Mrs. Booth was glad to have the carving knife sharpened. Then someone said, "I hear a wagon coming, perhaps it is your folks." "Yes, here they are!" And out we ran and climbed into the back of the wagon. I can see now the smile that played around my father's mouth, and the twinkle in his grey eyes as he listened to my brother's excited story. Then he laughed, and mother laughed until she was near crying. "You foolish children", she said as soon as she was able to speak. "Your father painted his old silk hat this morning and hung it on the woodpile to dry, he said it would be nice to wear on rainy days. I left the windows open for I knew it would not rain."
We were quieted, but not altogether pleased. I think it might have suited us better to have found a robber in the house.
Father's brother William was, I believe, considered the smart one of the family. He, certainly, had no doubt of it. He got an education, studying to be a minister, and turned out to be a lawyer! He went to Ohio, which at that time was considered "out West". Having gotten a little money by the practice of law, he invested it in an iron foundry, in the city of Logan. From time to time he wrote to my father of the folly of digging away among the stones on South Hill for a living. He suggested selling out and investing in the iron foundry, where fortunes were being made. He reminded my father that his children had reached an age that demanded better schools than South Hill afforded. Now father greatly desired for his children that which he had missed, an education. Uncle's arguments sounded sensible and set him thinking. Finally he sold out and left the Hill.
"Were we sorry to leave the dear old place?" My mother should have been glad to leave a place of hard and incessant toil. Ever after, she had only housekeeping for a family of four. As to us children, did you ever see children who weren't ready to "jump out of the frying-pan into the fire" for the sake of a change? Father's little all was $7,000. This he allowed his brother to invest for him without security.
We did not go West immediately. My grandmother Howe, for many years a widow, had married again, happily married, Calvin Holmes, a Baptist deacon. She was a Methodist, so they compromised: one Sunday she went with him to the Baptist church, the next Sunday he went with her to the Methodist church. I remember them as two lovely old people, and really godly. We lived in grandmother's house in Westford. This house was unique: it was built against a hill, with a pretty front yard on the street. On the first floor was an entry, living-room and kitchen. the outside door of the kitchen opened on a lane running up the hill at the side of the house; Another opened into a cellar with brick floor and walls, on the level of the kitchen. From the front entry, stairs went up to a landing, with windows and a door opening into an orchard. All the rooms upstairs looked both to the village street, in front, and to the orchard and meadows in the back.
I went to the village school, to church, and often to grandmother Holmes', a farm a few miles from Westford. I became acquainted with the family of "Uncle Peter Plaurer?", whose apprentice boy my father had been. Aunt Parmelia was a stately lady in black silk dress and snowy lace cap. I always felt somewhat awed in her presence. Once she said to me, when I was enjoying a delicious dinner at her table: "Don't smack your lips, Mercy; it isn't lady-like." But she was really very kind, as were all the family.
At this time a great joy came into my life, in the shape of a melodion. I found it one day when I came from school. My delight knew no bounds, and I could not go to bed until I had succeeded in picking out the notes of "Mary at the Saviour's Tomb". Our friends said, "Now Mercy must have music lessons". But my father's answer was, "What need of lessons, she will soon play anything she can sing."