Click on picture of C. A. Mitchell tombstone to Enlarge it.
March 25th 2000
This autobiography was first reproduced from the original typewritten pages by Charles Frederick Mitchell, Charles Andrew Mitchell’s grandson. It was graciously made available to the family by Charles Frederick’s sister, Roberta Mitchell Fiebach, who I only recently and very thankfully became aware of in the process of my renewal of research of the Mitchell family. I have retyped and reformatted the manuscript to more efficiently reproduce and distribute it, and also to provide an electronic file record. I attempted to faithfully and accurately reproduce the original text, with only a few minor spelling corrections, and have included a picture of Charles Andrew, also provided by Roberta, and an account of Charles Frederick’s visit to Astoria in 1868.
Gary W. Mitchell
These notes, begun n 1922, were never completed, due to the autobiographer’s sudden death in July 1925, of a heart attack. He had hoped that when completed they would be edited by his eldest son, Whittier Mitchell, but this was never done because of a number of unavoidable circumstances.
Rather than delay longer the sharing of the fascinating anecdotes of my grandfather’s early times in Pennsylvania and Illinois, and his nearly sixty years in Kansas, I have reproduced this account, without an attempt at editing, from his original typed sheets. In the appendix are the “Family Record”, including some genealogical data on the Embich branch of the family, a facsimile of one of Grandfather’s business letterheads from his last years in Cherryvale; and two brief accounts—one of his Cherryvale banking experiences and one outlining highlights of his two terms as Montgomery County (Kansas) Treasurer.
Charles F. Mitchell
MEMOIRS OF CHARLES ANDREW MITCHELL 1846-1925
I have, for a number of years, intended to write a family record which might answer also for a sort of family history of the Mitchells. Putting it off from time to time, so many years have passed that I now find, at my age that my handwriting is not regular nor speedy and becomes quite tiresome if continued very long. Hence I shall use the typewriter for this sketch, as being easier and somewhat more rapid than my long hand.
I am, at this writing—October, 1922—in my 77th year, enjoying excellent health and cheerful spirits. Not active of searse when attempting to run and jump, yet walking at a fairly brisk pace, loving regular exercise, and taking it as much as circumstances will allow. As mentioned above, however, my handwriting is not good on account of nervousness which I think is most always common to aged persons.
The history of my obscure life, "to Fortune and to Fame unknown," has little to interest any except you, my children. Success in life as looked upon by the world in general, I can lay no claim to, as you well know; but I regard the best definition of success to be service, and therefore believe that so far as my ability and opportunities have (afforded success?) has attended me in a small degree at least.
Service to God, service to my family, service to the community, service to the unfortunate and worthy poor, service to my county, service to the State, in rearing, with the loyal cooperation of my good wife, our beloved children; honest, patriotic, trained and educated, who have grown up respected by all good people, and who are an honor to their parents and a credit to the humble home in which they were brought up. The home which strove to be the true American home from which to out good citizens.
This I think should qualify any man to receive the title, successful, if honestly and sincerely carried out according to the talents and opportunities afforded him.
Of my father's progenitors I know but little; nor did he. His father, Andrew Mitchell, from whom I get my middle name, was born in Philadelphia, October 30, 1788. His father, my great grandfather, and my great grandmother, both died the same day at Philadelphia, of Asiatic Cholera, raging at that time in this country, sometime in 1788 or 1789, leaving their only child, Andrew, my grandfather, who was cared for and brought up by friends of whom we know nothing, the presumption being that his parents had no relatives in America, they having come from Scotland only a short time before Andrew's birth.
This seems to be all he knew of his parentage, the information having been given him by those who raised him, who seemed to know the date of his birth as I find it as above stated in his family bible, now in my possession, which bible was published in Philadelphia in 1826. His father was a Scotch Presbyterian, as was also grandfather; so when in Philadelphia some years ago, I fully intended to search the old church records for some data, but was pushed for time, and did not. In those days careful records were kept in the churches of all births and deaths of members, a custom which, it is to be regretted, has been mostly abandoned in these modern days.
Grandfather Andrew Mitchell was raised, as father told me, mostly in Maryland, near the Pennsylvania line, a part of the time lived in Hagerstown, Md., where father was born. He married a German woman of French extraction, named Le Crone, she probably, or her parents having come from a German Province, probably Alsace or Lorrain. But she spoke the German tongue and taught it to her children, father among the rest. They had a large family, the names of whom will be given further along, under the head of Family Record.
Grandfather was a teamster and followed "wagoning" as it was termed in those days before there were any railroads. He drove the old fashioned six-horse team—many of which I have seen driven by the early Eastern immigrants to Illinois—the driver riding the "near wheeler" and directing the "lead team" with a single line and "jockey stick." The wagons used were of the "schooner" type and would hold and bear up an immense load. All farm products were thus transported, and marketed at Baltimore and Philadelphia, across a very rugged, rocky country. In father's time the principal roads to the cities named and other towns were "piked," that is, made into turn-pikes which were well made from crushed limestone which is very abundant in that country. These were toll roads, and everybody had to pay a few cents toll every few miles. When I was there in 1899, I drove over some of these pikes, that still collected toll. They make beautiful roads over the hills, but you still have the hills. You hardly notice them, however, the road bed being so smooth and well graded.
I do not think grandfather ever owned any property aside from his wagoning outfits, and left nothing of consequence to his family when he died, which death occurred very suddenly of what, I think, would now be called appendicitis, but then called colic. He died on the 13th day of Feb. 1839 when father, the oldest of the family, was 16 years old.
From what I remember that father told me, they all went out to work that were old enough. Father lived with an uncle on his mother's side for some time, and was later apprenticed to a carpenter, serving a term of, I believe, three years, then taking up the trade himself. They seemed to improve their school privileges which were very poor then, school being kept but a few months during the winter season, where the "three R's" were thoroughly taught. Father and one brother, Joseph, both had good common school learning, so much so that Father was considered qualified to teach a term of school in Illinois, and did procure a license and taught a county school one or two winters there. Uncle Joseph, who afterward became a great lawyer, had a course in a small Illinois College before taking up the study of law. You will probably recall my often talking about him. He served through the civil war as a staff officer with the rank of Captain. On his return home (Goshen, Ind.) took up his law practice, and was later elected to the Supreme Bench of the State, and was serving his second term at the time of his death, which occurred Dec. 12, 1890, at the age of 54 years.
Father and mother were married in 1842 at Carlisle, Pa. Mother's name was Elizabeth H. Embich; her mother was a Wunderlich, the genealogy of whose family we have. Mother's father was of the german Embichs quite prominent in Cumberland Co., Pa. His name was Frederick. There are a number of them about Carlisle yet, second and third cousins of mine. Saw some of them when there in 1899. Mother had two full sisters and one full brother. One of the sisters, Maria, was the mother of cousin Charles Cornman. Her only brother, Fred. Embich, died at Burlington, Iowa some years ago, where he was Supt. of the Hibernia Schools. I had the pleasure of visiting him a couple of years before his death. He was a graduate of the old Dickenson College of Carlisle.
After their marriage, father and mother lived at various places near Carlisle; first at Greencastle, where sister Susan was born, then at Shippensburg, where I first saw the light of day. Brother Fred was born at Mechanicsburg, 9 miles from Carlisle. Young as I was, I can remember many things about this town; mainly that there was a railroad there, the old Cumberland Valley, which was, I think, the first in Pennsylvania. I remember this, I suppose, because we often took the train there to visit Grandmother at Carlisle. It was such a wonderful trip that it made a permanent impression on my young mind. Even today when I catch a whiff of the coal smoke from a locomotive, its peculiar smell instantly takes me back, and I see in my mind's eye the old locomotive, that used to puff slowly by our house, and recall the smell of the oil and the smoke. I was then about three years old.
It may be of interest to mention here, that at this town my father was engaged in selling stoves. These useful appliances for heating and cooking were, at that time, little known, and were just being introduced in the East, most every one using the open fire place for both heating and cooking. There was a stove foundry at Mechanicsburg, and father was employed for a time in "peddling" the product. From what he has told me, I think they hauled them about the country, much like sewing machine and lightning rod peddlers used to do in your time; sometimes leaving a stove on trial at a farm house, afterwards collecting for it or taking it up if the party could not be induced to purchase.
In March, 1850, father and mother took their little family consisting of three children, Susan, myself, and Fred, and embarked for the West aboard a Canal boat at Harrisburg, Pa. The state of Illinois was then the Mecca of Eastern people who were anxious to better their condition, by going to a new country where they might get Government land at $1.25 per acre, and "grow up with the country." Most of these emigrants, however, moved by means of the big team and "schooner" wagons spoken of before, spending weeks driving through Pa., Ohio, and Indiana to central Illinois.
But father, because of his inability to raise the money to pay for such an outfit, "took to the water," there being no railroads to the West. I remember a number of incidents of this trip. One which particularly impressed me: some of the friends had given me a "mouth organ" (French harp) which of course was highly valued by me, but which, by some means I managed to drop overboard. A friendly deck hand, somewhat intoxicated, seeing the disaster, sprang into the "raging canal" and rescued the instrument, coming aboard wet and cold, for as I have been told the ice was still running. I don't remember whether I admired this heroic act as I should, but know I was very glad to recover my property. Mother tells of this man procuring some whiskey to help warm and dry him—which it was supposed to do—and that he gathered me up in his arms and was about to administer some of it, sweetened, to me, when she interposed and, no doubt, saved me from "acquiring the thirst."
The trip was marvelous for me, and I am sure I enjoyed every moment of it when I was awake. I never saw a canal again till 1893 on my way to Washington. Somewhere beyond Harpers Ferry, I think, there is one of the old canals still being used for hauling heavy freights such as coal and salt. I remember seeing it as we passed on the train, and it recalled to mind my childish experiences on a canal boat. I suppose they have long since abandoned the towpath and the mules, since motor engines have come into such general use.
I do not know how long it took us to reach our destination, but we went by the canal, Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, then by steamboat down the Ohio river to Cairo, then up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Illinois, then up this river to a place called Sharp's Landing, where we disembarked, and were met by some of mother's relatives and taken by wagon seven miles inland to the little town of Astoria, Fulton County, 111. This town had been located in the heavy timber, many of the large trees standing yet in the streets and the public square, and the "woods" as we called it, on all sides and close to town limits. When I visited the town in 1907, 40 years after leaving it, to attend the funeral of Sister Susan, one of the old elms, under which I had played when a youth, still stood at the Northwest corner of the square. The trunk was immense, probably six or seven feet in diameter, but the top was almost destroyed by storms and age. The town authorities had tried to protect and revive the roots by having new soil piled over them, but I fear that by this time it has disappeared and is mouldering with its ancestors.
Of the old times and my life in this town, I will speak later. Father soon found a piece of Govt. land—80 acres I believe—some 3 or 4 miles out, all heavy timber and very rough and hilly. This land he "entered" from the Govt., paying $1.25 per acre and receiving a patent to it. With the help of the neighbor-settlers, a space was soon cleared for a garden and a log house. This house was, as I remember, made of round logs, cut near; was "chinked" and "daubed"—that is, filled between the logs with small pieces of wood, and these plastered with a mud mortar which served to keep out the cold. The more pretentious cabins were made of hewed logs, that is, the logs were hewed to a smooth surface on two sides, and were often, when the settler was able to afford it, weatherboarded on the outside with clap boards or real lumber; but I feel certain ours was of round logs.
Although I was only about 5 years old, this cabin in the woods and its surroundings are still well remembered. It was all wonderfully grand to me. The big trees, the nuts and acorns and the squirrels that father often shot from the hickory nut trees standing in our door yard. The house had one room, one door and one window if I remember correctly. A large old-fashioned fireplace at one end with what was known as a "stick chimney." The main fireplace was built of rough stones, laid in mud and mortar, the chimney proper build up of "sticks" split out of timber like lath, and laid also in mortar and well daubed to prevent its taking fire; this extended outside the house along the wall to, and a little above, the roof. This roof was composed of clap-boards "rived" from the oak timber, and sometimes held in place by poles laid upon each course of boards and pinned with wooden pins to the logs at each end. This was to save nails, but I do not now remember how ours was fastened, whether with poles nails.
time before leaving for Kansas, I visited the old place. It was not much
changed in general appearance. The old house was gone, but the forest remained
and the space for the house and garden still bare. The place had not been
cleared for cultivation up to that time, leaving the hills still covered with
timber. There was one particular spot back of the house, not very far, that I
especially wanted to see again, and accordingly bent my steps thither. It was a projecting rock or ledge coming off from the side of a hill, reaching out about 8 or 10 feet and forming a sort of roof about 10 or 12 feet above the ground. In front of this had grown a hackberry tree, the body of which had grown against the projecting edge of this roof-shaped ledge, and as it increased in
circumference, had formed a sort of shelf or notch, which seemed as though it had been placed there to support the rock. Under this roof back to the hill was a large space which we children called our cave, and where we often played. I remember how we used to gather the acorns, calling them "cups and saucers," when we had our mimic meals there. I found it all intact, went under it and recalled the many happy hours we had spent there, care-free and thoughtless of the future.
these woods, wild game was abundant and my first sight of a deer was when a
number of them ran past our cabin. I still distinctly remember father
bringing in a large wild turkey he had shot nearby. I wonder why I did not
visit the old place in 1907, when so near to it, but was, as usual, hurried for
time as I always seemed to be when away from business. It is doubtful if I
shall ever have the chance again, yet I hope no one has blasted away our
"cave" or cut down that hackberry tree.
not know how long we lived on this place, but not very long. Father had no
means to clear and otherwise improve the farm, and was soon working in town at a
mill, walking back and forth almost daily, though sometimes he was away several
days at a time, leaving mother alone with her children in that lonely
place—lonely to her—because she had always lived in town before coming to
Illinois. To us children it was not lonely. We thought it was great, and the
"call of the wild" still seems to possess me, at times when I think
over my life there, and recall old memories of it.
In these days money was very scarce, and there being but little land cleared and in cultivation, settlers had to make the needed money from their timber. This was largely from hoop-poles and "cooper stuff." Barrels everywhere were then made by hand, the staves and hoops all shaved and fitted by "coopers." The oak timber was abundant, and plenty of it was straight grained, so that it could be easily split into staves, boards, and shingles, barrel heading, etc. The process was about as follows:
After the tree was felled, the body was sawn into suitable lengths for all the boards, staves, or whatever they desired to make of it. These lengths or cuts were then stood on end and "checked," that is, slightly marked with an iron wedge, making the surface of which looked like a wagon wheel, the heart or center representing the hub. It was then split along these check marks, into what were called "bolts" which if the timber was good, would be the segments of a circle, four or five or more to the cut, according to the size of the tree. These bolts were then ready to be "rived" into such slabs, boards, or staves as desired, by means of what was known as a "fro," a simple tool by which they were enabled to split off from the sides of this segment such thicknesses as they wished.
These were then stacked up in the rough to be seasoned, if not shaved on the ground, and eventually hauled to the cooper shops or to the home where they were shaved and fitted for use. Often during my youth and young manhood, I have worked in the woods with ax, crosscut saw, and maul and wedge, helping to get out these things, as well as rail splitting. But, being always a rather light weight, I fear I made a poor hand at the business.
I suppose the fro is an instrument you have never seen. The only one I have seen since coming to Kansas, had been brought from Ohio. It was at a sale, and there were but few, and the older men who had come from the timbered lands in the East, that knew what it was. My description of it would be: a wedged shaped blade about a foot long and two inches wide, the back probably 3/8 or 1/4 inch thick. At one end was formed an eye or thimble, made to receive the handle, which was 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, of strong wood a foot or more in length, strong enough to bear the leverage strain of working the blade up and down after it had been driven its width into the bolt, with a mallet (a small one-handed maul).
Thus working the handle up and down and sliding the fro downward with the split, it became in the hands of an experienced man, a very efficient and valuable tool which any blacksmith could make; hence an inexpensive device without which the pioneer would have made little headway. The block or bolt from which the pieces were split was held for the riving operation by a heavy forked limb or two logs staked firmly to the earth, one end under one prong of the fork, and the other over the other fork or log, thus forming a lever and fulcrum.
Hoop poles were young hickory poles which grew in abundance. They were selected and cut of suitable length and from one inch to 1-1/4 inches thick at the butt, so that when split each would make two hoops. It was wonderful how quickly and neatly an expert cooper could shave and make a hoop to fit the barrel he was building, and form the lock at the proper place, so that when driven on, it was there to stay. I have spent many hours when a boy watching the building of barrels at the numerous cooper shops in our little town. But machinery has done away with all this now. Staves are now cut or sawed from the bolts, smoothed and fitted by machine, and the hoops are of steel, while the great shingle mills of the Northwest now saw out untold millions of shingles, which in the old days had to be split and shaved one at a time by hand. I do not know how many shingles it required, but I know that the large barns they used to build in Illinois were covered with hand-made shingles of oak, which the farmer was often years making, at odd times, mostly in winter, to be ready for the building to be erected, perhaps five years in the future. I remember one barn, the frame of which I helped "raise" at a "raising" a short time before I came to Kansas, which was 90 feet long and about 40 feet wide, with long shed attachment, the shingles to cover which had all been made by the owner from his timberland, which also furnished the heavy framework, all squared and hewed by hand, years before.
It was a hard and slow job to clear the land for cultivation, yet years of persistent toil gradually resulted in the fine farms and comfortable homes. The soil where I was brought up, once cleared of its growth of timber was very productive and I have known "new ground" to produce the second year 100 bushels of corn to the acre. Now, in that region, you will see beautiful farms, meadows and orchards, free of stumps, where sixty or seventy-five years ago it was heavily timbered. When I was last there, I looked in vain for the big forests that had surrounded the town in by boyhood. Only an occasional small tract had been preserved as a "woods pasture" by its owner—perhaps a descendant of the rugged settler who toiled his life away opening up the country, making it a lovely place in which to live and prosper.
When the farmer cleared off land for cultivation, he first grubbed out the hazel and other underbrush, grubbing out saplings up to the size of a man's arm or larger if time permitted. This grubbing was done with a mattock and grubbing hoe. The brush was gathered and piled for burning. Then trees suitable were felled and split into rails sufficient for fencing in with "worm" fence the area intended to be cleared. All stock of every kind ran out for pasture, hence the crops must be protected by a fence.
The other trees were then chopped down or "deadened," the latter method being to girdle the body by cutting through the bark and sap clear around. This would cause the tree to die, which would to some extent destroy the shade under which nothing would grow. Most trees when girdled would die at once, but I have known elms to grow a year or two afterwards. It used to be said that there was a certain time of the year—or the moon—to girdle effectively, but I do not know the "time nor the season." When the trees were only deadened, they became a source of constant work and annoyance. Year after year the dead and rotten limbs would be falling, and as they decayed, the trees themselves would blow down, and all would be to clean up and burn every spring before plowing could be done.
If the trees were felled, which was usual, the tops and branches were trimmed off and piled for burning; then the bodies were chopped or sawed into such lengths as could be rolled into "log heaps" to be burned up. When all was ready, word was sent out that on a certain day Mr. Settler would have a "log rolling" and the neighbors for miles around would come with their log chains, cant hooks, band spikes, axes and teams—mostly ox teams—and would roll and drag the great logs together into huge heaps. They would first form a base of half a dozen or more logs, then upon these roll up on skids a second course, and so on till a pyramid of logs would thus be formed. Thus Mr. Settler had his logs all ready to burn, free of charge, only that he was expected to respond to the next call. The brush and log heaps were then set on fire, and the logs would burn for weeks, the hands spending many nights and days "chunkin up," that is keeping the partly burnt brush and logs thrown together so that all would be consumed. Millions and millions of feet of the finest timber, such as walnut, hickory, and other valuable kinds were thus consumed in order to clear the land.
I suppose you wonder why the early settlers chose for homes these heavily timbered tracts, while so much of the state of Illinois was smooth prairie land, and why the timbered positions were largely settled first. I think the main reason was, as mentioned before, the scarcity of money with which to pay for improving, living, etc., which the sale of timber afforded, and houses and barns were built without any but labor outlay. Then water was more abundant in the timber, springs and streams being plentiful. Then the protection to their stock from the storms of winter was a consideration. The prairie farmer had to haul his timber for building, often many miles, and until he could grow trees, he suffered from the bleak winds that swept across the bare expanse. Besides this, most of the early settlers came from timbered States and I suppose the prairie did not look good to them. Of course when sawmills came later the prairie farmers, and all fared better.
The clearing, log rollings, quilting parties, corn huskings, raisings, and other "gatherings," were always festive occasions, and I, with all boys of thosedays enjoyed them very much. There was always lots of fun, wrestling, sometimes fighting to see who was best man, or to settle some old grudge; but fighting was seldom, the spirit of fraternity and neighborly kindness and helpfulness being dominant in all the settlements. And the "eats" they had at the dinner and supper meals, were rich and abundant. Pork fattened by running in the woods and feeding on the "mast" (acorns and nuts), chickens, eggs, corn bread or biscuits, milk, butter, and all kinds of garden "sass," prepared in abundance by the hard working women, loaded down the long tables. And what heavy feeders those rugged men were! But, it never hurt them, because their active out door life gave them good digestion, indeed it required much strong food to keep up the physical nerve and muscle necessary for such hard and constant labor and endurance.
I have said
that we did not remain long on the tract of land that father entered; I think
only about two years at farthest. Father traded the land for a home in
town (Astoria), a frame house of one large room and a smaller one attached—a
"lean to," as it was called. He was employed here in a grist and
saw mill combined, which later he and a partner bought and operated for a
year or two. Here I attended my first school. It was held in a building known as Boyds warehouse, and was situated near a tan yard, where much oak bark (another valuable product of the timber lands) was used for tanning hides, and the way the school was conducted it seems to me now to have been an appropriate location, because, to use a popular phrase, hides were often "tanned" inside the school house by the teacher, who was a strong advocate of corporal punishment, practicing it quite frequently, especially on the "big" boys. This method of discipline was heartily approved by the trustees and all others, except of course the big boys who were its recipients. The woods were
nearby affording plenty of tough, pliant "fads," and there was always an ample supply standing in a corner.
My first teacher was a Mr. Dix, a man whom I held in awe and great respect, as I remember. He was regarded as a good teacher and well educated for that day. When I think of this and other teachers of those days, Goldsmith's picture comes to mind and seems to describe them pretty well: "A man severe he was, and stern to view . . . 'twas certain he could write and cipher too. Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage; and e'en the story ran, that he could gauge." I believe, however, laying aside the jokes and fun about the old time teachers that we are inclined to indulge in, that Mr. Dix was an excellent instructor, conscientious and thorough in his work. He taught several terms in the town, which I attended. He never punished me nor even reproved me, as I remember, because, as I suppose, of my tender age and small size.
I attended all the schools of the town, while we lived there, which were taught by various teachers, most of whose names I have forgotten; one I now remember, a Mr. Canaday, whom I have met once or twice since coming to Kansas.
I had little trouble at school or on the playground, on my own account, but was in a number of scraps on account of my younger brothers, whom larger boys sometimes "picked on" as teasing was called. I was active and stronger than most boys of my size, because I was generally older than they, and could handle boys much larger than I, but usually younger. I recall an instance when brother Fred and I were returning from school in company with a large boy who as we walked along, commenced teasing and slapping Fred. I jumped in and we soon had the fellow on his back, and proceeded to punch his face vigorously. It happened to be near our home; mother was in the garden were she could see the affray. I did not know this until, to my great amazement, Fred got up very suddenly and ran. The next moment I felt heavy blows on my back from a large pea-stick in mother's hands. Of course I got up also and ran, leaving mother applying the stick to our enemy, who skipped for home very soon.
How long we lived in Astoria, I am unable to say. I know we were living there in 1856, the year that the new Republican party put up its first candidate for the presidency, John C. Fremont. It was the first political contest remembered, and I took great interest in it, going about the street and, when I thought occasion required, yelling "hurrah for Fremont and Dayton." In our public square was erected a tall pole, bearing a long streamer inscribed with the names of these candidates. The democrats also had one flaunting to the world, "Buchanan and Breckenridge."
This latter party largely predominated in this section, and I recall how the stigma, as it was then regarded, of "abolitionist" or "black republican" used by the democratic boys when addressing me and the few other republican boys in derision, abashed and angered me and was always a source of embarrassment. But we stuck firmly to the principles we had been taught at home, were as willing then to fight for them as we were when Lincoln called for volunteers to do so. Father, formerly a whig, was now an enthusiastic republican. He took the New York Tribune, Horace Greely's paper, which we closely read, and espoused the cause, so that I was willing to endure the jeers of schoolmates rather than to be silent upon the exciting questions then extant.
The Kansas-Nebraska agitation and border troubles were then raging, and the subject of slavery was much discussed. Mother had a copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" which she would read and cry over. People were rapidly taking sides in our town as elsewhere, and of course I deeply imbibed the spirit and principles of the party of freedom.
It must have been in the year
1858, when I was 12 years old, that we again moved to the country; father having
failed in his business in town. He took charge of a steam saw mill in the
timber, and again we moved into a one room log house. I went out to work,
after a few months of winter school (log school house). First I was put to
work for a farmer, a friend of father's, for my board and clothes, which I now
feel sure I earned, when I think of the hard work I had to do. Having thus
far grown up in town, I knew little about farm work, handling horses or
chopping, sawing and grubbing. My employer was a man who seemed to know
little or care little, of what a 12 year old boy, unused to work, was able to
endure, but seemed to expect me to do almost the work that might be expected of
a full grown man. I had neither strength or endurance, being small, to do
heavy or long continued stunts. As I think of it now, I wonder that I stayed
with so hard a task master, without complaining to father about it; but I had
plenty of pluck, was anxious to please, and thought it would hurt my reputation
as a farm hand, if I quit and tried for another place. I will relate just
one instance of this man's heartlessness, indifference or lack of good judgement:
He placed me in charge of a wild team hitched to a heavy harrow, filled with
steel teeth; had me ride the near horse—a vicious one, as I learned
later—and started me out to harrow in the oats he was sowing. Only one round
had been made, when the team became frightened at something and ran, throwing me
off between them, the harrow going over me. It is a wonder that I was not
killed; was picked up unconscious, my clothes torn off me, one ankle dislocated,
a bad cut on my head and generally skinned all over. Was laid up some
length of time with my lame ankle. I continued to work here that summer, and
went to school the next winter, working mornings, evenings and Saturdays,
choring, chopping, etc. The school was about three miles away, to which I
trudged through the woods, over cow and foot paths. The next spring, a
neighboring farmer employed me at five dollars per month, for six months, and
board and clothes for the winter school months. This seemed to me to be a big
lift toward wealth. This farmer and his family were good, kind people, and I
enjoyed the life there very much. There was a son about my own age, and he and I
worked together nearly all the time. They had a large yoke of oxen, which I soon
learned to yoke, and drive. The son and I did a great deal of the plowing with
these oxen, one driving and the other holding the plow handles. We also
hauled with them, wood, grain and other products. I went to school at the
same place, to what was known as the Mulberry School House, built of logs. The
teacher that winter was Mr. Israel Renner, a fine man whom I admired. He
gave me my first idea of correct reading, and was a careful and thorough
instructor in all the branches then taught in country schools. Poor
fellow! He enlisted in one of the early regiments of the civil war, and
died in the service. After this, I worked at whatever could be found to do,
accepting any and all kinds of pay, but mostly supplies for father's family,
which now had increased to six, as I remember. He had it very hard,
striving to feed and clothe so many, had made several moves in the country,
getting such work as he could at his trade or otherwise, and I being the only
boy old enough to work, felt it my duty, as it was also a pleasure, to help in
every way possible.
My school days were now at an end.
Although the schools of that day were, as a rule, poor and the terms short, I
think now, that my opportunities were pretty well improved, at least to such an
extent, that I was considered the "best scholar" of my age in the
vicinity. I think this must have been the cause of the good luck following
soon after. About the beginning of the war I was unexpectedly called from farm
work to a clerkship in the largest general store in our town, operated by the
wealthiest man there. I think it was through father's influence that the
place was given to me.
I left a husking corn job in the winter of '62 and '63, with rough and sore hands and rougher clothing which but thinly clad my slight person, and gladly, but very bashfully took up the new vocation of selling all kinds of goods. It was surely a fine place for such a boy. I so regarded it and firmly resolved to perform my duties faithfully as I learned them. The proprietor, W. H. Scripps, one of the older members of the Scripps family, which is now known as "the Scripps newspaper Syndicate" of Detroit, was a kind old gentleman. He took me to his home to board, and I slept with another clerk, in the counting room of the store. We swept the store every night after closing, put up the old fashioned shutters, and opened up early in the morning. It goes without saying, that I enjoyed this work. It seemed to open up new fields and higher aspirations. I received as wages the first year, $13.00 per month and my board, and the second year $25.00. Mr. Scripps had a fine home for that day; the best house in town and best furnished. His daughter had a piano, the only one in the place and one of the very few in the county. The interior was by far the most elegant I had ever seen. Uncouth as I was and unused to such surroundings, I soon adapted myself to the customs and manners of my new environments. As I think over and recall incidents and experiences of the time, I know now and realize what I did not then, that Mr. Scripps and his family, readily understood my need of training, lack of polish and the natural diffidence so common to farmer boys brought up as I had been; and that they did everything they could to improve me without causing embarrassment. They often invited me to sit with them and enjoy the piano music, called my attention to the many good books on their shelves, and allowed me to take any of them to the counting room to be read during leisure hours. Here I had my first taste of Dickens, whose stories made such a lasting impression, that even now, to my mind, there are no novels as good, or that will bear as much rereading, as David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities, and Bleak House; and that but few if any excel along the same lines, Oliver Twist or Great Expectations.
I had never before had access to good literature, and being quite a lover of books, it was a great treat to be thus brought in contact with so many good ones; besides by then I acquired, I think, what taste I now have for what is considered the best, and by them my life has, I believe been largely influenced. I have often regretted, and still regret that I did not remain longer amid such pleasant and useful influences. But the war was on, and like most boys of the time, I was fired with the spirit of patriotism, which the excitement, the speeches and the drums and fifes inspired in all who had been taught love of country and hatred of slavery, so much so that I was eager to enlist, although too young and too small to be taken except as a drummer.
I forgot to mention, that before entering the store, in July or August, 1862,1 was accepted, and signed the roll of Company G, 85th Ills. Vol. Infantry, then organizing. I was then past 16 and felt that I was quite equal to the life of a soldier. But father looked at it quite differently, and to my great chagrin and disappointment, caused my name to be taken off the rolls. You can imagine how hard it was for me to see the boys and men, many of them my former school-mates, assemble on our square, receive a fine flag, a gift from the ladies of the town, and march away to the war, leaving me behind, sadly thinking the war would soon be over and I have no part in it. But that Regiment served three years, many of its members never returning from their hard fought battle fields and prison camps. I might have been one of those who made the "supreme sacrifice."
I continued with Mr. Scripps, learning much about merchandising and business generally, till early in 1865, at which time, under the last call for volunteers, having at last gotten father's consent, I passed the physical examination and was enrolled in Co. K of the 151st Ills. Vol. Infantry.
I was then almost 19 years old and weighed, as I remember about 110 pounds. My employer said or did nothing to prevent my enlisting, although he needed my services, because he was an ardent supporter of Lincoln and the war policy and realized the importance of backing up our then successful armies with fresh troops to hold what had been gained. This was largely the job of my regiment and other new ones then formed.
I soon with others of my company left for rendevouz at Quincy, Illinois, where we were regularly mustered into the service. Before starting, however, I visited the family then living in the country, and found mother very sick. It was very hard to say good bye to her, for, frail as she always was, I feared she would not recover from this sickness and that I should never see her again. But I was glad to have a letter from father shortly after arriving at Quincy, that she was well again, and during the year of my service, she faithfully wrote me loving and cheering letters at frequent intervals. She lived to come with us to Kansas in 1867 and again endured the hardships of pioneer life for many years. She was a good, kind mother and a faithful Christian, the mother of 12 children, 9 of whom grew to manhood and womanhood before she passed away. She bore her hardships, poverty and poor health with perfect fortitude and patience, and now, as I look back upon her life, it seems to me—as it doubtless does to many sons, when too late—that I might have done much more toward making her life happier and her burdens lighter, than I ever did.
At Quincy, the regiment drew uniforms, canteens, haversacks and knapsacks, and in a few days after, we were hurried by rail to the general rendezvous Camp Butler, near Springfield. I forgot to mention that my brother Fred tried to enlist when I did, but at Mount Sterling where we were examined he was rejected, and sent home. He was very much disappointed and left me with many tears. He was about two years younger than I, and I was selfish enough to be pleased that he had been rejected, on account of getting rid of the care of him, more than for any other reason, I think. But you may imagine my surprise on arrival at Camp Butler to meet Fred about the first thing, strutting around in his uniform. He had tried another regiment and was accepted. I was sorry then that he had failed in my regiment, for I thought if he must be in the service, I would much rather have him with me. We did not meet again till after my return home in Feb. 1866. His regiment was mustered out and sent home, some five months before ours.
lived in barracks at Camp Butler for a few days till we drew our
muskets—bright, shiny new ones, "Springfields," which we carried for
a year in our tramps through the South. From this camp we started for the
"front," as we supposed, via Louisville and Nashville, as fast as the
trains would take us. At the latter place we were quartered in the unfinished
hotel known as "Zollikoffer Hall," named for Confederate Gen.
Zollikoffer, killed at Mill Spring, Ky. These rooms (the hotel was said to
contain 365 rooms) were partitioned and floored but not otherwise
finished. Few Western soldiers but what could tell you something about
this old building.
The battle of Nashville had been fought late in '64, Gen Thomas having given Hood of the rebels, a thorough beating and had scattered them in all directions. We, with other new troops, were used, chiefly to overtake and capture these remnants, the last of which we did not overhaul till May 12th, a month after Lee's surrender, when they surrendered to us without a fight at Kingston, Ga. Our division, under Gen. Steedman had kept them on the run from Dalton, Ga., to this point. This body, then about 12,000, was under the command of Maj. Gen. Wofford, and I well remember his taking leave of his men and riding away after being paroled. He was a distinguished Confederate officer, and had seen much service throughout the war. But I am ahead of my story; we only stayed at Nashville a very few days, awaiting orders, then Southward, this time on foot, and we boys, new to this kind of transportation, found, as was often remarked, "the walking very bad." As yet had drawn no tents, and throughout that first day's march and night bivouac, there was a downpour of cold rain. So, you may have some idea of the discomfort of this our "breaking in." Besides, like all new troops, we were loaded down with extra clothing and other impediments, making marching much harder than it was later when we had learned to discard every thing not actually necessary. I have seen miles of roadside strewn with blankets, overcoats and other articles that were too burdensome to carry. But we always kept the rubber blanket or "poncho" as it was called. This with muskets, "forty rounds" in cartridge boxes, canteen and haversack, put us into "light marching order." Knapsacks of course we kept unless ordered to leave them, but they contained only such light articles of clothing as was necessary for an occasional change.
This first day's march and first night out, I will always remember. I tried to get a little sleep and rest sitting on my knapsack with my back to a tree, arms and accoutrements piled about me, and my poncho wrapped about my head and shoulders, but these afforded but little protection as the rain fell in torrents. So, we were all glad when the bugle blew reveille—I know I was—and we stood in line for roll call, where we could stretch our sore and stiff limbs, after which we could get our coffee, hard tack, and bacon. On reflection, I now recall that this first march was only about five miles out of Nashville, we leaving there late in the day, but it seemed to me that it was about 20 miles. The rain had ceased, and we were lined out for our second day's march about 6:00 a.m. Now we had mud to contend with. Marched mostly on the old Murfreesboro turnpike, but it was in bad repair, washed into ditches, rough and uneven, culverts and bridges gone, causing us to ford the streams that came in our course. I don't know how far we marched that day, but camped at a place called La Vergn, situated on the railroad in a flat, low country covered with second growth cedar. I think green cedar is about the meanest wood with which to kindle a camp fire; and it contains more thick smoke than any I know of. This, like the whole country at that time was a sea of mud, and to make matters much worse it turned cold (March) at night freezing the ground. My bunkmate and I, however, in scouting around for something extra to eat, discovered a cabin near the railroad, occupied by a poor white woman and her children, who not only sold us some biscuits she was baking, but kindly allowed us to make a bed of our blankets on the floor, where we slept well all night. She continued her baking till the flour was all used up, and in the morning we bought all she could spare, as many as our haversacks would hold, and became "profiteers" all the next day as we marched along, selling what we could not eat ourselves, at more than double the cost. They were hard little biscuits, made, I think without milk or soda, but tasted fine to us, compared with the hard tack we drew, and we could have sold a wagon load readily to our hungry comrades. That day was better, the weather more pleasant, but the mud heavy on our shoes. Passed over the battle ground of Stones River and arrived at Murfreesboro about dark. I camped here by the side of a fire; stretched out on a flat rock, as tired a boy as ever wore the blue, but well. Still without tents. Next point of destination was Chattanooga, but O, joy! We were marched to the R.R. station and loaded on top of box cars; and although the weather was again rainy, the top of these cars was like a Pullman to us after the tramp we had made for about three days.
Troops were thus transported often, on top of the cars, the inside being loaded with supplies. The railroads were necessarily rough and uncertain, having been so many times torn up and hurriedly rebuilt, and our progress slow, in fact we were stopped a number of times by breaks in the track, made by small bands of the enemy cavalry, and had to wait till rails were spiked in place. But it beat walking. We sat on the tops with guns loaded for these parties, a good portion of the time the rain pouring. But we were getting used to this, and complained of nothing except the rations. We were always hungry, although most always had the regular government allowance, but the sameness of it and the poor facilities for preparing it, seemed to turn us against it and cause a continual longing for something different. This only lasted a few months; later we became accustomed to the "sow belly" and hard tack and beans as well as sugar and coffee, and if we only had full rations of these things we were well satisfied. Most of the boys became hearty and strong on this diet. I did; coming home much more robust than when I left.
Remained at Chattanooga but a day as I remember, then mounted our Pullmans again, for Dalton, Ga. Here we made camp, and drew our first tents, the article known as "Dog tents," which the soldiers soon came to call "pup tents." They could be made somewhat comfortable for two men. They consisted of two pieces of canvas about 5 feet by 7 feet square; each soldier carried one piece, and when camp was made, he and his bunkmate buttoned the two together, lengthwise, thus making a sheet about 10 by 7. This thrown over a pole supported at each end by a stake of some kind or a musket, the corners being staked down, made a wedge shaped tent under which two could have a fair shelter from the sun and rain. You could not stand erect in it even at the apex, but could make a bed of blankets and lie or sit comfortably. If it could be spared, a blanket was hung up at the "back end," to shut out the storm from that direction.
At Dalton, we first confronted the rebels under Gen. Wofford, before mentioned, our picket lines being in hearing distance and in sight at some points. The rebs, however, were not very belligerent, as it was now the beginning of the end; the news from the front becoming worse for their cause every day. Lee was being held close in the grip of Grant and Sheridan, and Sherman crowding Johnston closely in North Carolina. Yet they would not surrender, but continued to fall back from town to town, we following close, till at Kingston on May 12th, they stacked their arms in front of our lines and gave up, as mentioned in a former page.
We were at Dalton yet when the joyful news of Lee's surrender came, but on the 15th, our joy was turned to mourning at the news of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln. It threw a pall of sadness over our whole command; and I know that there were few soldiers but what felt they had lost their best friend. I know I should have felt no worse if it had been the news of my own father's death. We hardly knew what next to expect. With our great commander and director gone, must it all be done over again? Was this "treason in high places" powerful enough to overthrow what had been gained for the Union cause? But with the great generals now at the head of our armies, and loyal statesmen still in the majority, we soon took heart and came to feel the truth of General Garfield's thrilling speech in New York on that fateful day, in which he said: "God reigns and the Government at Washington still lives."
We soon broke camp at Dalton and continued our march southward. At Resaca, Ga. the swift river called the Oostenaula, was to cross and no bridge, the rebs having burnt it, but we soon built a pontoon, in the construction of which I had the luck of being in the detail from our Reg't to help.
crossing the artillery, which seemed to me would sink the bridge which was
supported by canvass boats, the whole command was soon over and on its way to
Kingston, where we arrived about sundown on the 12th of May.
After the surrender and parole of prisoners, we were divided into detachments and sent to different localities to feed the destitute whites. This proceeding by the Government, I have searched for in history in vain. But the fact remains, that for many months after hostilities ceased, many millions of gov't rations were distributed to men, women, and children in need in the Southern states. I was with a squad of thirty sent to a place called Euharlee Mills where a station was established for this purpose. Word was sent out over the country covering this particular District, that two days in the week their wants would be supplied, so far as bread, beans, rice and pork would supply them, and it was interesting to see the crowds that responded. Many actually appeared to be famishing almost. Pale, sickly women and children eagerly received what we gave them, and seemed thankful. We issued no coffee or sugar as I remember, but individually did a large business trading these two articles for tobacco, of which they had plenty in the dried leaf as they raised it. These people were all what were known as "poor whites," not a negro, as I remember applied. Our detachment had a fine time here. Euharlee creek was a fine stream, with an old mill and mill dam, good swimming and fishing. Under command of a Lieut. who loved sport and was indulgent to all, no guard duty, no drills nor other "frills" as my bunkmate used to call military work, we certainly had an enjoyable time. It was in the latter part of May or first part of June, about the loveliest time of year in the South, I think.
We were here 30 days, then marched back to the regular command at Kingston. I forgot to mention, that at Resace, my Col French Woodall, was honored by being sent through the lines carrying an order from the President to Gen. Wilson then near Macon, to cease hostilities. Wilson had reached this point on his great cavalry raid through Alabama and Georgia, and not having heard of Lee's and Johnston's surrender, was threatening Howell Cobb at Macon. This little incident I saw mentioned in Schmucker's History of the rebellion. Of course, I knew at the time, only that the Col. was absent and the Lieut. Col. in command, but the reason of his absence I did not know till long after the war when I discovered the amount of it in the history named.
Now there was nothing for us to do, but take care of Gov't stations and property and guard the railroads which were being re-built, and scout for guerrilla bands who still would occasionally tear up the tracks. Just for "pure cussidness," I suppose. We soon left Kingston, boarding the tops of our Pullmans, and were sent to Atlanta, thence S.W. through Macon to Columbus, Ga. This must have been in August. At Columbus we remained through the summer and all through the winters of '65 and '66. Were mustered out here in January 1866, but not discharged, but sent to our old rendezvous, Camp Butler, Ills., where we received final pay and discharge and transportation to our homes, where we arrived early in Feb. '66. Most all of the earlier regiments had been released and sent home months before.
When I started out with this narrative of my life, I did not intend to write at such length about my brief and obscure soldier life, but as I advanced one thing continually called to mind another, so that it has taken up much more space than was expected. When I look back over this experience, and when I read the history of the times, I feel, that although uneventful and brief as was my military experience, yet I am glad that I was able to take even so small a part in the great war for the Union.
I had but little sickness during my army life. Had two attacks of malarial fever while in Georgia, the last one resulting in yellow jaundice. This kept me in the hospital about two weeks as I remember. Also had my share of Chills and Fever, better known as Ague, while in that locality, a very general disease among soldiers and the natives. For awhile would report at "sick call" for this trouble every morning, taking the quinine and "blue mass" administered by the surgeon in charge, sometimes being excused from duty for the day, but oftener not. I remember quite well of my "shaking" while on post duty, and burning with the fever that always followed the chill. But we got used to it after awhile and wore it out as the weather grew cooler.
of guard duty reminds me of my first time on picket guard. It was at
Dalton, Ga. "Guard Mount" occurred every morning, made up of
details from each regiment. These were assembled, and marched to the picket
line, often several miles from camp, under command of sergeants and corporals
except the officer of the day, who was a commissioned officer in command of the
whole. Arriving at the line, the countersign was communicated to each and
a Head Quarters of the guard established for each section or squad. Each
of these squads was then divided into three "reliefs," 1st, 2nd, and
3rd. The first relief was then marched along the line relieving each post of the
old guard as reached. After two hours the 2nd relief was placed and first
relief was off duty for four hours at Head Quarters of the guard, where it was
expected to sleep and eat if at or near meal time. This continued for 24 hours,
when the new guard came on, and the old marched back to camp to stay till again
detailed, which might be in two or three days and sometimes oftener. These
picket posts were placed along the line at different distances, according to the
more or less close proximity to the enemy, but usually within calling distance.
first picket post on the line happened to fall within an old graveyard. This
lonely place in the midst of a wood, seemed as good as any other in daytime, but
when my time came for the night hours, say from 8 P.M. to 10 P.M. or 10 to 12 on
through the night, two hours at a time, it seemed extremely lonely and dismal
indeed, causing my boyish superstition to assert itself, and putting my
imagination sharply on the alert. Am sure I should have been less frightened had
a squad of armed rebels suddenly confronted me, than if something in ghostly
apparel had appeared among the tomb stones.
Indeed I doubt if I would have even called "halt" before beating a hasty retreat. But nothing, not even a sound, except the hooting of owls in the near forest, occurred to give me an excuse for firing or otherwise making an alarm, but my hours of night picketing on this post seemed very long, and I was indeed glad when the relief was announced and I could get away from this eerie
place. After that first time, my post never happened to fall in a grave yard, and I was glad.
Sometime in March while at Dalton, Ga., one dark rainy night about 10 o'clock ten companies of our regiment were called into line, in light marching prder, with a day's rations and 40 rounds and muskets, and started on a forced march—nobody except the officers knew where to—through the mud and mire. Quick time, sometimes double quick, roads washed in gullies, creeks swollen, no bridges, and so dark that it was difficult to keep one's feet, so much so that many tumbled into ditches and over banks. It became known to us later that we were being rushed to a town called Ringold to reinforce some Indiana troops garrisoned there and who were threatened with an attack by a band of the enemy close about. There was a guide with us who was supposed to know the roads and location of the town, but he soon became confused in the storm, lost his bearings, and before we expected it, we were close to our lines, in fact ran into our picket line. These, who were expecting the enemy, waited for no information, but fired on us and lost no time in retreating to camp. Our command was hastily thrown into line of battle, scouts thrown out who soon found that we were at our destination. No one was hurt. The distance was about twenty miles. Found the garrison somewhat rattled, but scouting the next day failed to find the rebs. We returned to Dalton the second day after arrival, very tired and muddy.
I think it a great privilege even to have lived during these trying times and to have a personal knowledge of such stirring events of history.
After my return home, a short time was spent in visiting friends; then it was time to begin to look for some employment. Everything was crowded with returned soldiers, so much so that work in stores or offices was out of the question; and farm wages were very low. Fred had gone to work for a farmer. I greatly felt the need of a better education, but could not afford the expense of attending College, but in the spring of '66 a young man just out of College opened a select subscription school in Astoria, and I gladly availed myself of the opportunity to review, and take up some of the higher work which I never had been taught. I put in four months of the spring and summer at this school, and made good enough progress to receive from my teacher a recommendation that enabled me to pass the required examination and get a certificate to teach in the County Schools. I have kept my teachers' recommendation all these years.
It was not long before I had procured a country school, near enough to fathers for me to live there. It was a pioneer school house in the woods built of logs, seated with slab seats, and desks made of a board against the walls supported by wooden pins. Had a good school, however, six or seven months, and, as I remember, $35 per month.
Father and I had talked and planned from the time of my return from the army, a removal to Kansas, to which state thousands of soldiers and others were now looking for homes. Accordingly it was decided that when my school closed we should have everything in readiness to start. With the little money I had brought from the army, and what I saved from my school wages, we got together a team wagon and harness, and such other necessary equipment, and in July '67 set out for the "promised land."
There were 10 of us: father, mother and 8 children, my oldest sister having married, she making up the 9 children. She and her husband, however, with their one child, also got up an outfit of team and wagon and accompanied us. Thus our party consisted of 13, which I had not thought of before. Perhaps this accounts for our indifferent success, if not "bad luck."
We left the old home town early in July, driving in a general South West direction, from Astoria to Rushville, thence to Mount Sterling, thence to Hannibal, Mo., where we crossed the Mississippi on a ferry boat, thence S.W. through Paris, Fulton, and Columbia, crossing the Missouri at Rocheport, a town near Booneville. Here on a large farm on the River, we stopped and helped harvest several hundred acres of wheat, making good wages, the four men of us and the younger boys, resting our horses and recuperating generally. It was a lucky strike for us, as our money was running low and the horses quite run down. We had work here for two weeks. Then away again for Kansas; still South West through Sedalia, Clinton and Butler. Crossed the Marais Des Cygnes river into Kansas at a Ferry known as Trading Post (place of the Hamilton Massacre), then to Mound City and beyond about 12 miles to the home of an acquaintance of the family, the Rev. Joseph Reno, on one of the Sugar Creeks in Linn County. I think we were about six weeks on the journey including the two weeks harvesting near Booneville.
It was the intention that father and my brother-in-law to take up government land and make homes, but good public land could not then be had for entry without going farther West. Claims occupied but not yet entered, and improved to some extent, could be bought very cheaply, but it took money to do this, of which we had very little, barely sufficient to buy food, which was very high. In this connection, I remember to have paid, shortly after our arrival, two dollars for a bushel of corn, and taking it 12 miles to a mill to be ground into meal giving one-fourth of it as "toll" for grinding.
After looking the situation over, we found some State School land which the state was offering for $3 per acre with a small payment down and ten years time on the balance. Father selected 40 acres of this land, and I paid the first payment on it. It was located near what was known as the old Centerville Post Office, where I think both Whit and Fred have visited with your mother. Father put up a sort of shack and soon got some land under cultivation. After the "Kary" rail road went through that part, Centerville was moved West a few miles, and father having sold the little farm, built a house in the new town, which place all of you have visited when Father and Mother lived there, and "Uncle OH" did blacksmithing. Mother and father both lived in that neighborhood about 40 years and died there. Father was Justice of the Peace and Post Master there for a number of years.
After I had gotten the family settled, I began to look around for some means of livelihood. It was too early for schools, and as I was very low in my finances, I accepted a job with a farmer, quarrying rock and hauling them with two yoke of cattle, and building them into a stone fence. Also helped him put up a large amount of hay. Worked a month for him and received $18.00 and my board. While I always thought I earned this $18 it seemed mighty good to have that much of a start. Am sure should have felt happy if it had been but $10.
My brotherinlaw, your Aunt Susan's husband, had gone down into Bourbon County. He sent me word there was a chance for me to get a school at a cross roads town called Barnesville. So, I went there and had little trouble in securing the school, to commence in Sept. This was the Fall of '67. I went to Ft Scott and procured a certificate, taught the school that winter and for several winters afterward. Had easy sailing from that time on, so far as employment was concerned, but got little ahead, because Father needed financial help often, and I seemed to be the only source of supply. While teaching at Barnesville, I boarded most of the time with a well to do farmer (Wm. Beckford), one of the early settlers, who had gone through all of the border ruffian war, and was known all along the Eastern Border as a fearless man. Had been a scout for Col. Jennison and other free-state "jayhawkers," and was so hated across the line that for years after the war, he dared not venture very far into Mo. alone. He was a rough fellow, had been a canal boatman in Ohio in his young days, but was as true as steel in honesty and high principles.
He was one of the school board, and woe be to anyone who would criticize me or my methods in his hearing. He was one of the best friends I ever had. If I was short of money, I only had to mention it to him to get what I needed. Here is where I first met your mother, who was making her home with these people.
She was of a pioneer family. Born in the back settlements of Ohio (Perry County), the family moved when she was a small girl to Indiana and took land in the beech woods there, a locality flat and unhealthy. Fever and ague prevailed there for many years, until the flats were drained and the timber cleared away. Her father was consumptive, and the family having so much sickness, he concluded to try Kansas.
The family consisted of eight children, three sons and five daughters. About the beginning of the civil war, they started overland from Ind. stopping for awhile in Missouri, Polk County. When the journey was resumed, you mother who was then about 15 years old, remained with a family of their acquaintance, expecting to join her folks in a little while, when they should send for her, but the war coming on, she was unable to do so till after its close. Here she witnessed and shared in the hardships of the border war. The sentiment for and against the Union cause was about equally divided, and neighbors became enemies to such an extent that each lived in dread of the other and there were many murders and other crimes committed. The soldiers of each side raided the country alternately, helping themselves to supplies of all kinds, capturing and sometimes hanging those suspected of being in sympathy with the opposite side. Later, however, the union troops predominated, so that the family where she was living, with other union people, were protected and permitted to live as well as they could under the circumstances, the able bodied men all in the service, leaving the women and old men and boys to take care of their farms and stock. Your mother seldom heard from her people in Kansas during this time, and of course suffered much uneasiness on this account.
Her father was always delicate, being tubercular, and therefore not able to work hard, or push matters as was required on the frontier. He and the oldest son took government claims on their arrival in Kansas—good farming land, near what is now Prescott, Linn County. The two oldest sons joined Kansas Regiments and served through the war. The father soon succumbed to consumption, leaving the family to battle with conditions without any means except such as they could earn working for settlers able to pay for labor at small wages. Your mother knew nothing of her father's death till a considerable time after it occurred—several months, I think. Your Grandmother Post struggled along till she had enough money to pay the fees, then rode horseback to the Topeka Land Office and made her Homestead entry. They lived there several years making some little improvement, the girls, as well as the boys working where work could be obtained. The oldest son, Lyman, who had a claim adjoining, being of a roving disposition, after his return from the army, sold or traded off his place for a little or nothing.
It was not long till the mother sold out, and established a little home in the town of Prescott. She was old and financially unable to improve and cultivate the farm, with only the help of the girls, as the two oldest boys were of no help, and the youngest was accidentally killed with a rifle while hunting. These two farms are now as valuable as any in that vicinity, and if the two sons had taken hold with energy, they might soon have had good homes of their own and become independent. All are now dead, except your Aunts, Augusta and Delilah. Your uncle Lyman never married, but continued to rove through the West from one point to another, seeking gold unsuccessfully, till some time in the '80's he was frozen to death near Durango, Colo. He had left the party with whom he was travelling to search for a burro that had strayed, and becoming confused did not return to camp that night. The next day they found him dead in the snow.
The other uncle, Hammond, died some years ago at Moscow, Idaho.
Your mother, on her arrival in Kansas, at the close of the war, finding her folks in such straits, went out to work for her living, staying with different farmers' families who needed help, but chiefly with the Beckfords at Barnesville. They loved her and treated her as one of their own. She made her home here when not called elsewhere. While like most frontier girls at that time, she was deficient in education, she possessed high natural talents, was a good reader, and read much when opportunity presented, and thus imbibed learning from books, especially after our marriage, with my assistance and what books we could afford. Of course she new little of social conventionalities, and cared nothing for them. Her sound common sense enabling her to meet all social demands, such as they were. She was never effusive, aggressive or affected, but was quite willing to be taken and judged for what she was. No woman had more good friends; and although naturally retiring and reticent, she was loved and respected by all good people who had become acquainted with her. She loved her home and her children better than anything else in the world, as you all well know. To my mind she was one of the best, the most conscientious of Mothers. As a wife, there never was one more faithful, loving and self sacrificing. Did we, husband and children appreciate her at her true worth? If not, I am sure we tried to, and strove to make her life happy.
After teaching at Barnesville several terms, both winter and summer, I was offered a clerkship and peddling job at a village called Farlinville, in Linn County. A merchant there would load up various articles of merchandise, and drive over a certain district, trading the goods for butter, eggs and other produce. He had a wagon rigged up for the purpose, arranged to keep the goods in separate apartments, as well as the chickens, etc. I tried this one summer, but quit in the fall, again accepting a call to teach the Barnesville school. This was in '69 and in the Spring of '70, your mother and I were married. The ceremony was performed at the home of Mr. Beckford where we lived for a time, then rented a log house of a farmer named Morehead, a brother-in-law to Mr. Beckford. This house consisted of one large room with a fire place, and a sort of shed "lean-to." We furnished it with a new bedstead, a new falling leaf table, a second had cook stove, and a half dozen plain chairs. I later on built a stationary bed in one corner for "company" when we had any. No carpet; such a luxury was enjoyed by few in that neighborhood. Your mother had bedding plenty which she had prepared at odd times beforehand, including a feather bed, which in those days was considered indispensable.
Your mother was used to such meager furnishings, having been as well as myself, brought up in pioneer life from childhood, and she was well satisfied. Her life in Missouri, during the war had been eventful and sometimes very exciting. The home where she lived was in Polk County, the third County from the Kansas line, about due East from Ft. Scott, their nearby town being Humansville in the N.E. corner of the county. Of course this county was included as a "border" county and took its share of all the "border troubles" growing out of the Kansas early troubles for freedom and the later civil war. This section of Mo. was subjected to frequent raids of both armies, one day rebel and next, perhaps, the Union forces; still worse, roving bands of nondescript guerillas, after plunder chiefly, and indifferent as to who they plundered and robbed, whether rebel or union families, but using the pretense of supporting either cause, as a pretext for their depredations. The people with whom she lived were for the union and many of their relatives were in the federal army. It was hard for such to escape all sorts of loss and injury when the rebels came through, and at such times they had to hide what stock they had in some out of the way place in the woods until the pirates had gone. The old man of the place, the head of this family, lay out hidden for many days and nights, the women folks carrying food to him after night. All union men who were not in the army had thus to conceal themselves to avoid being carried off as prisoners, shot or hung on the spot, as many of them were. The neighbors, also were often arrayed against each other, and it was difficult in some cases to know who were friends and whom to trust. During the "Price raid" through Eastern Kansas, and on his retreat through this part of Mo. on his way to Arkansas, much damage was done along his route. Many houses were burned and the people robbed of their horses and any valuables they possessed, and many men shot on the slightest provocation. I have no doubt you have often heard your mother relate some of these things. To get a fuller and better account of these trying times, read early Kansas history, commencing back as early as the 50's.
We lived in this log house very comfortably. I had secured a school for the winter, about 3 or 4 miles North, near where the town of Prescott, Linn Co., is located, and walked back and forth every day through all kings of weather, as I owned no horse at this time. My salary, I think, was the munificent sum of $35 per month, not more I am sure, because that was at that time considered the top figure.
Had a rather hard time to keep wood enough for the old fire place, but by chopping evenings after my return from school—often after night by the light of a lamp in the window—and mornings before starting, I managed to "keep the home fires burning" through a cold and snowy winter. Here, on Nov. 27th, 1870, Whittier was born, our first baby. He was a poor, puny and sickly child, weighing as I remember, less than 5 pounds. Doctor Beard told us often that his life hung by a thread only, and so it did hang for several months, requiring constant care and nursing, till he began to grow and gain strength; and as he continued to improve from day to day, we were happy and easily forgot our nights of vigilance, and looked upon all other cares and troubles as of small consequence, so long as we had our happy healthy boy.
I procured a small store-box, shaped some rockers out of pine boards, nailed them on the ends of the box, thus making a cradle; a piece of furniture supposed to be absolutely necessary where there was a baby. I have heard the old settlers in Illinois assert that they rocked the baby in half a hollow log. I have no doubt that it would answer the purpose well. This cradle of Whit's, after he had outgrown it, was nailed to the wall and served the purpose of a book case, the rockers being detached. When Fred came a larger box was gotten, and transformed into a cradle much more ornamental, being deeper at the head and curving off to the foot in as graceful curves as I could make with the few tools I then possessed.
In those early days, most everybody outside the towns lived simply and were apparently happy, much more sociable and neighborly than now. There was a common bond of friendship, helpfulness and sympathy, that engendered a spirit of encouragement amidst the common privations, hardships and struggles incident to the making of a home in a new country.
The pleasures and diversions were many: such as neighborly visits, old fashioned dances, spelling schools and religious meetings. No one cared to miss these gatherings. While often boisterous, always jolly, there were seldom any disagreements, quarrels, drinking or drunkenness at these dances; they were always neighborly and held at some neighbor's house. Often I have known the furniture to all be moved out of the usual one-room house, to make dancing space. One place, I remember, all was moved out but the table, and it was placed in a corner for the fiddlers to sit upon, while the children were piled under it one some bed clothing. Everybody rode horseback or in lumber wagons those days, buggies being extremely rare in the country. Shortly after coming to Kansas, I bought a splendid young saddle horse, and spent many happy hours riding over the broad and beautiful prairies. Your mother and I did much horseback riding before and after our marriage. The farmer where I made my home, had all kind of horses, young and old, and we had the free use of any of them at any time.
You would hardly believe it, but your mother, in her young days was an excellent horsewoman, and would mount most any young animal, even if but barely broken to the saddle. We had good times together, galloping across the country to neighborhood gatherings or anywhere, just for the pleasure of the ride. Ladies, those days had side saddles (never riding astride as they do now). Strange what a change often takes place in one as they grow older. Your mother experienced this, for after the two first children were born, she could not be induced to mount any horse, however gentle, and all of her life thereafter, she was timid about horses, even when riding in a vehicle behind one, never seeming to really enjoy the rides we often had in buggy of phaeton, several of which we owned at different times.
There were miles and miles of unbroken, unfenced prairie lands, in every direction, covered with the most luxuriant grass intermingled with beautiful wild flowers, and when going anywhere, we had only to take a direction—a bee line—never varying the course except to look out for a crossing when coming to streams. I have ridden over these beaten trails, compassing thousands of acres of fine land that could have been bought for $5 to $10 per acre, now worth from $50 to $150, but I had little money, too little, I thought for me to undertake the purchase of a farm. However, I might have done so, had I been more saving and careful of my earnings and had I foreseen the rapid enhancement in value of these lands in the coming years. Not till later, after marriage did I begin to think of a home of some kind and some more lucrative employment.
I had a very successful school at the place mentioned, across the line in Linn County, and established a high reputation as a teacher, also, I might mention, as a fighter; though, up to that time was not considered a "scrapper" in any sense. At that time but few school houses were equipped with adequate furnishings. Seldom were there enough writing desks to accommodate all to write at the same time when writing time came. Here it was necessary to have two sessions for writing, the first to give up desks to others when their allotted time was up. This arrangement was objected to by a big Irishman whose children were attending, and who was about the heaviest tax payer in the District. He demanded that his children should have the exclusive use of their desks, and that they must have. He was referred to the Board of Directors, who were the right parties to furnish additional seats and desks; but getting no satisfaction from them, he swore he would kick me out unless his children were undisturbed of their daimed seats. Accordingly, a day or so afterward, he drove to the school early in the morning before it had opened, and with loud oaths demanded that I accede to his wishes or take a licking there and then. I confess I was somewhat afraid of this big burley fellow, but decided to risk the licking, rather than give in as to the desks. After trying to reason with him to no avail, he growing more belligerent every moment, I threw off my coat and told him I was ready for the fight if nothing else would satisfy him. At that he made a lunge at me attempting to clinch, which I avoided, being much more active than he, although much lighter and weaker. I knew that my best chance was not to allow him to clinch, but to keep him off with such blows as I could get at his face at each lunge he made. He was strong as a bear, and succeeded once in grasping the front of my vest, which being old, split up the back and came off in his hands. By this time I was in a real fighting mood, and after he had in like manner torn a sleeve out of my shirt, I got in a right to his mouth ("solar plexus" blows were then unknown, at least I knew nothing about them) which floored him, and I soon had him begging for mercy; his children, two, were also hanging to me and begging me not to hurt their father. They were good children who had never given me any trouble; otherwise I might have "beat him up" worse after he was on his back. But I desisted and allowed him to get up while I went into the house for repairs to my clothing which were sadly in need. While doing this in the back part of the room with my back to the door, some of the boys cried out "look out teacher," and turning I saw my Irishman entering with large rock in his had ready to hurl at my head. The moment I turned, however, he dropped the rock, turned and ran, I after him, till he succeeded in reaching a nearby house into which he ran claiming refuge. Of course I did not follow. After he had washed up, he loaded his children into his wagon and drove home, saying they should never again enter that school while I was the teacher. In a few days, however, they came back, and I was told that at the spring school election, this Irishman was first to propose my name as teacher for the summer term. I often met him afterwards, he always greeting me in the kindliest manner.
This incident created a vast amount of talk and fun throughout the counties where I had taught. At teachers institutes every teacher knew of it and must ask about it. I thought I never should hear the last of it. Some years ago, I met and old acquaintance of that time, who at first did not remember me, but said: "Wait a moment, I know you but can't quite get your name. Well, I cannot think of your name, but you are the man that licked Pat Keating."
I taught in this District the
following summer. In the fall was offered an advance to teach again at
Barnesville which I accepted. In the meantime had bought a claim of 40
acres nearby and moved to it. It had a one-room frame house and about two
acres of land in cultivation. This 40 acres was a part of a tract set aside as
an Indian reservation but never occupied by them, white people having settled
upon it waiting to get a government title, trading and selling it from one to
the other, at very low figures according to the amount of improvements. I
gave, as I remember, $50 for mine, kept it a year and sold it for $350. That
season, your mother and I raised all kinds of garden stuff and when we sold it,
we had a horse, a cow, about 100 chickens besides about 60 bushels of potatoes
and lots of cabbage, turnips, etc. I had plenty of time, mornings,
evenings and Saturdays, my school being quite near. While living here I taught
at a schoolhouse a couple of miles East, across Indian creek, then across the
Osage river South and after selling out, moved to a tenant house (again one
room) on the farm of Mr. Geo. Hanway, a short distance N.W. of
Barnesville. From here I taught again across the line in Linn County
(where the fight occurred) riding my horse to and from, then at the Martin
School House about a mile West. Teachers then had to do their own janitor work,
sweeping out each morning and making the fires in winter, or hire it done.
Sometime in the fall, I think of 1873, Professor Lawhead who was teaching at
Osaga (now Fulton) was elected County Superintendent of Schools, and I was
chosen to take his place. This was a promotion, and the salary $50. We soon
moved to this town. Secured a good house for those times, two rooms down
stairs and a sort of attic room above, a very comfortable place.
Here Fred was born on Jan. 12th, 1874. During the time I was there, I spent much of my leisure at the rail road station with the telegraph operator, with whom I had become quite chummy, and started in to learn telegraphy, and later bought a set of learners instruments and erected a short line from the station to our home, the operator and I using this line when we had time, for practice. By this means, I soon acquired a fairly good knowledge of the art and sometime in 1875, while still teaching, I was called to the station by the Superintendent at Kansas City, and asked if I thought I could handle the business. I told him I could. After a day or two the station was offered me, the operator having been assigned to another place. I interviewed the school board as to accepting my resignation to allow me to take the new job. They kindly acceded to the request, all of them being friends and wishing me to do better if I could. Accordingly, I resigned and took the station and that was the last of my teaching school. The railroad only paid $40, but I had the express business which about made up the difference, besides there was always a chance for being sent to a better station. I was tired of teaching and of moving about, and eager to try a job that promised better pay in the future. We soon moved to another house close to the depot—a good house with two rooms below and one above, for which I paid six dollars per month while we lived there. About the first of March, 1876, I was ordered to go to Ottawa and relieve the Agent there who was sick. I went leaving your mother and the two boys alone for what we thought would be a few days or a week only; but they kept me there over a month. After my return, a few days of resting, was called to Kansas City to work in the General Freight Office, where they kept me for about five months, mother and boys living at Fulton and I going home every Saturday night, returning Monday morning. When done with me there, I was offered my choice of either Cherryvale or Thayer for a permanent station. I chose Thayer, then a much better town than Cherryvale. We accordingly moved to Thayer in Sept. '76. Houses still getting better. Secured one with several rooms and other conveniences in which we lived all the while, till again ordered to change, almost three years. Here, on Aug. 18th, was born our boy, Bert Morse—"Bertie" we called him and still do in referring to him. We only were permitted to keep him about ten months. He died July 2nd, '78. This was our first sorrow. We all loved the little fellow more than anything in the world, and for a long time felt that the light had gone out our home and we were heart broken. His little grave in the cemetery at Thayer still is a sacred spot to me when I visit.
But we still had our two splendid little boys, who were ever a joy to us, and much more since this bereavement; our home was happy and we were reasonably prosperous. My salary was $50, and Express commissions as well as Commissions on through tickets, which were paid by connecting lines to agents selling them.
Bessie was born at Thayer, Jan. 19th, 1879. She was a puny child, and for several months we almost despaired of her life. Sometime in Jan. or Feb. of that year I was ordered to take Chanute Station. After I had been in charge there a few weeks, I rented a house and your mother and "Teenie" Hartman, our good hired girl, packed and shipped the goods. Thus we were soon settled again. My work was more strenuous than ever, though I received better pay. Had only one helper, where they now have probably 20 station hands besides the agent. Those days one man was expected to do two or three men's work if he had to work night as well as day to accomplish the task. Now, the agents at such important stations, have only to oversee the work, for which he is held responsible, and receives about $25 per month salary. At Chanute, I not only had the freight and ticket business, but both the rail road and Western Union telegraphing to do.
Sometime during the spring of
1880, Captain Ewing of Thayer, Editor of the "Thayer Headlight" and
proprietor of a small bank at that place, and with whom I had become well
acquainted during our stay at Thayer, approached me with a proposition to take
charge of a bank he intended to open at Cherryvale, which town was now growing
rapidly and had no bank. I knew nothing whatever about the banking
business and had strong misgivings as to my fitness for the place, and therefore
declined his offer for some length of time, he urging me from time to time to
accept. I was, by this time, pretty much discouraged with rail road work,
on account of the hard work, low pay and the poor prospects of promotion to a
better paying station; and especially because of a loss of $ 140.00 caused by a
robbery of my till one day while I was out on the platform, assisting my man to
load a large amount of baggage. As this loss had to be made good to the company
out of my small salary—barely enough to support the family, it was a hard
blow. If the office had been broken into by the robber, the company would
have stood the loss, of course, but as it was done by a sneak thief during the
few moments I was absent, there was no proof of robbery. Hence, I must
make it up. The company was very fair, however, and after having checked up the
office at my request, I was told to continue as agent, paying the loss monthly
in such payments as I could spare from my salary. Of course, I appreciated
this confidence highly, but $140.00 seemed a
very large amount to pay in my poor financial condition.
This circumstance, no doubt, turned the scale in deciding me to take the banker job. So in August, I submitted my resignation to the rail road company, to take effect Sept. 1st, having borrowed $100 from Capt. Ewing to pay the balance due it, and about Sept 15th, 1880,1 took charge of the Exchange Bank, the first bank in Cherryvale, with C. T. Ewing President and C. A. Mitchell, Cashier. As soon as a house could be gotten the family moved from Chanute to Cherryvale, which has been our home ever since. The banking law at this time was very crude and loose; any one could enter the business whether he had much or little capital, depending mostly on deposits to furnish the necessary cash. I did not know this, and you can imagine my surprise when I tell you that this bank was opened with eight hundred dollars ($800) only, in its vault, which Capt. Ewing brought down from his Thayer bank. This seems laughable, and hardly believable when I think of it, yet we not only opened the bank with this small capital, but ran it for years, and made good profits, until we organized as a National Bank. This was a different proposition entirely. Our $50,000 capital had to be the "real stuff" and had to be paid in by a certain time, while frequent examinations were made and sworn statements of condition published at frequent intervals. Under the Kansas Law at that time there were no examinations nor publications. It was all a matter of the confidence of the public in the men at the head of the concern.
Cherryvale, when we came here, was a little frame-built village of 600 or 700 population. It had but one schoolhouse, two rooms one above and one below; only one church, a small frame building belonging to the Catholics. Five saloons running full blast, a few board sidewalks in the business part, but the resident portion was mostly without walks of any kind. I often had to wear rubber boots in bad weather when going to and from the bank. Business, however, was lively. The Frisco rail road had but recently been built from St. Louis through the town, and a branch of the Mo. River, Ft. Scott and Gulf was just being completed from Cherokee to Cherryvale, a narrow gauge at first, which was shortly afterward changed to standard. The coal mines about Cherokee and Pittsburg, Kan. were quite active, much coal being transported to and through the place over these lines, supplying the Santa Fe road and points far West and South. The Santa Fe (then known as the L.L.&G.—Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston) had a division here, and of course many employees had homes here. All this gave much employment and made business for the merchants very good.
The town commenced building and grew rapidly for a number of years, in spite of competing towns nearby. At that time the land being comparatively new, it was easy to raise corn and other crops in abundance; in consequence of which the farmers were generally prosperous.
This "boom" lasted but a few years; then the Santa Fe removed its division to Chanute, causing a number of its employees to move away. But, the town still continued to grow, but more slowly. Three protestant churches were built and two school houses, Central with six rooms and McKinley (West side) with four. Good substantial business houses were erected of brick replacing the old frame shacks, which had been mostly destroyed by fire. It was but a short time till our population reached 2,000 and we became a City of the second class. It was my lot to be a member of the Council or of the school board while these improvements were going forward. Was President of the Board of Education when we became a city of second class. Was Mayor two terms, and do not remember how many times on the Council.
On the first of January, 1881, the Kansas Prohibition Law went into effect, and of course, all the saloons had to close up; but it was several years before its benefits could be noticed, as the Drug stores were allowed to sell intoxicants under a loose law, easily evaded, besides, what is now known as bootlegging was carried on almost openly.
Oil and Gas
Sometime in the year 1887, I think it was, an old man by the name of Larkin appeared in Cherryvale, claiming to be a geologist. Said that he had traced a deep vein of coal from somewhere South to this place, and it would be found at a reasonable depth, hereabout and of six or seven feet thickness. He also was a preacher and preached at the M.E. Church several times; was a fluent speaker and conversatialist, especially on scientific subject, which with his agreeable personality, soon aroused an interest among our business men in the matter of coal prospects. A small company was shortly organized, members "chipping in" from $50 to $100 each raising a sum thought to be sufficient to try out the matter. A light water-well drill was purchased, and one of the company contributing a location in his back yard, the work was started under the direction and management of the "geologist."
After a number of weeks work the light drill had reached a depth of about 650 feet without striking the vein of coal expected. However, somewhere about that depth, a light flow of natural gas was found; and although our capital was now exhausted, everybody was anxious that the city take steps to procure funds for further prospecting for gas with which to supply heat and light for the inhabitants. At that time there was no gas utilized anywhere in Kansas, except a light production at Paola.
Raising money was the problem. There was no law by which a tax could be levied for such a purpose. However, a law had been passed by a previous legislature, permitting cities of the second class to vote bonds to the amount of $5000, the proceeds to be used for prospecting for minerals, etc., and in my message to the Council—having been elected as Mayor—I strongly recommended that we take advantage of this law to raise the funds needed. The Council—at that time eight men, two from each ward—unanimously favored it, and accordingly the proposition was put up to the people at a special election called for the purpose, which carried for the bonds by a large majority. The bonds were prepared and offered for sale, but a question arose among bond buyers as the validity or constitutionality of the law under which they were issued. This was a stunner, and for awhile it was thought that the bonds could not be negotiated. However, one Bond Company suggested, that as the validity of the law had not yet been before the Courts, and they being now a debt of the city, we might take them up by an issue of Re-funding Bonds, which kind of bonds we had a right to issue. This plan seemed to be our way out, and we accordingly acted upon the suggestion issuing Refunding Bonds and selling them for $.95, I think. Mr. M.C. McSweeney, an experienced drill man from the gas and oil fields of the East was employed to put down a well on the City's lot near the Calaboose. At a depth of 700 feet gas was found; not a very strong flow compared with later developments, but sufficient to justify further efforts. Our find very soon stirred up the neighboring towns, and they flocked here from miles around to see the gas burning from a large pipe attached to it. The result was that Independence, Coffeyville and other towns around, at once commenced operations in this line. So the great oil and gas boom, later in the County and Oklahoma bringing in millions of money was started by Cherryvale, the pioneer gas city.
The city, after boring another well and laying pipes through a small section of Main Street, found it could go no further, its funds being entirely exhausted. In this dilemma, five of our best citizens came forward and agreed to take over the plant, paying into the City Treasury the $5,000 we had expended, and under a proper franchise to develop enough gas to supply the city. This proposition was agreed to and a franchise granted, restricting this company to certain flat rates, above which they should not charge. The franchise was accepted, and the company gave us good, honest service for twenty-one years at the lowest rates known, even in the gas districts of Indiana and other Eastern fields. Now we pay by meter rates at 60 cents a thousand and 50 cents service fee for reading meters. There was much discussion over this disposition of the matter, and some criticism, but as the city could raise no more money by which to own and operate the plant; it was thought best put the burden on a company. And it was a great burden, and several years before these men began to realize anything on their investment of all of their private means and all they could possibly borrow.
For myself, I felt well satisfied when retiring as Mayor, two terms, to know that we had gas for heat and light over all the city, and the $5,000 in the treasury toward paying off the bonds we had issued, besides the commendation and approbation of the business men and all the good people of Cherryvale.
It may be of interest to note here, the curious fact, that the old "geologist" was found to be an all round crook, going from one place to another, practicing forgery of all kinds and defrauding numerous banks out of thousands of dollars; was finally caught and sent to penitentiary in Nebraska, in which he served a term, then went to Texas engaging in the same business and finally died in that penitentiary. He was then past 80 years old. However, he never worked any of his fraudulent schemes in Cherryvale. He was frequently here during the time his victims were searching for him, under another name, and once he came to the bank, and deposited a considerable amount of money, and while transacting the business and conversing with him, there hung before my eyes, in the bank railing, a card offering $1000 reward for his capture. Every time I looked at this card after his capture and exposure, I wanted very much to kick myself.
All these years, I was practically at the head of The First National Bank, although the President, Capt. Ewing was the largest stockholder, and of course, the managing head. But he lived in Thayer and was scarcely known in Cherryvale by its citizens. So that everyone looked to me as being the banker and it was more often called "Mitchell's Bank" than by any other name. It became very popular, and everyone seemed to have the utmost confidence in it and its cashier.
none knew the trouble I constantly had with the president, trying to hold him
within the law in his transactions. Although he was an energetic honest man, he
was unfortunately an optimist of the highest order, a plunger in short. He
was always expecting "something to turn up" favorable to his
speculative operations, and trusting to luck for results. He insisted on
using our bank to carry his financial schemes, keeping me in hot water most of
the time, while to the public everything seemed lovely and prosperous.
was a most unhappy life for me, for I was in almost constant fear of disaster
through his reckless transactions, which I was powerless to control. He owned
and was connected with four other banks, all rather weak concerns, which I often
had to help by his orders. You may imagine the weight of responsibility I felt
toward the people who implicitly trusted me.
in '92 when the hard times put in I could see the end, and in '93 after his
other banks had closed and he had died without a cent, we were forced to
suspend. Here the loyalty of my good friends was manifest, all standing by
me with words of cheer and even offers of financial help. Ninety-five per
cent of the depositors signed an agreement to wait for their money three, six,
and nine months, provided the bank would open again. I took this paper to
Washington and had no trouble in getting permission from the Comptroller to open
up, which we did, only being closed about 40 days.
we found on thorough examination that the capital was impaired, almost entirely
absorbed by Ewing's paper—much of it accommodation paper and worthless, so
that a re-organization was necessary. This was soon brought about, organizing
under the state laws as the Peoples Bank, and later the Peoples National Bank.
In 1909 we again passed into the State system, reducing the capital to $25,000. I was continued as cashier until 1916 when I sold the little stock I had and resigned because of the unpleasant relations existing between the new president—who had bought a control in the bank—and myself. While the Board of Directors were loyal to me, and sustained me at all times, I could not endure certain matters causing constant friction any longer, and therefore quit after 37 years of constant service, most of this time under great nervous strain.
COUNTY TREASURER EXPERIENCE
I had been nominated for County Treasurer on the Republican ticket at the August Primaries, and elected at the November election, 1916. Under the law, the Treasurer is not installed in office until the following October. So, I had 11 months before me and nothing to do. Your Mother died December 20, and this with the other worries made me sad and lonely indeed. About February 1, the Montgomery County National Bank offered me a good salary to go into their employ for such time as I wished. I accepted and was with them for six months. And in September visited a short time with Whit at Detroit where I had a fine time. Then home ready to take up my duties as County Treasurer in Oct.
Was fortunate in securing the services of a first class man, Geo. A. Vance, for my first deputy and everything started off well. Soon we had the work well in hand, and all through the two years of my first term, the business was handled to the satisfaction of the public, the Commissioners and myself. Was again nominated and elected for a second term, this time without opposition by the Democrats, they leaving their ticket blank for County Treasurer. Of course, in this case, did not have to make any campaign, thus saving a large expense such as was incurred two years before. I retained the same deputies and office force and with the two years' experience, the work seemed easier and was handled more rapidly and efficiently by all the force.
Only one thing occurred to give me any uneasiness. That was the Coffeyville tax case in which a real estate firm collected about $52,000 in taxes, depositing it in a bank which failed before the funds reached my hands. Of course, their collectors had no authority, either from me or the County Commissioners, and I could do nothing less than refuse receipt to the parties who had paid. It caused a great excitement among the Coffeyville people.
The Mitchell Family
My great grandfather Mitchell emigrated from Scotland to Philadelphia sometime about the year 1787-88. Died there of Asiatic Cholera.
My Grandfather Andrew Mitchell was born in Philadelphia Oct. 30th, 1788. Died Feb. 13th, 1839. Was buried in what was known as the Welsh Run, Presby'n Church yard, not far from Hagerstown, Md.
Grandmother Mitchell, formerly Sarah LeCrone, died and is buried at
Waynesboro, Pa., in the German Reformed Churchyard. I saw her grave in 1899.
Jacob Mitchell, my father, was born at Hagerstown, Md., Feb. 28th, 1823. Died at Centerville, Kan., June 26th, 1909. Grave in what is known as the Oakwood Cemetery. Married Elizabeth H. Embich Dec. 18th, 1842. She died April 28th, 1893, at Centerville, Kansas. Her grave is by the side of father's in Oakwood Cemetery, Linn County, several miles South of Centerville.
Elizabeth H. Mitchell, my mother, was born at Lebanon, Pa., Aug. 20th, 1824.
Susan M. Mitchell, my sister, was born at Greencastle, Pa., Dec. 3rd, 1843. Married Andrew Engle at Astoria, Ills., March 13th, 1862. She died at Monmouth, Ills., April 8th, 1911. Buried in family plat in Astoria Cemetery.
Charles A. Mitchell was born at Shippensburg, Pa., April 1 1th, 1846. Resides at Cherryvale, Kan. Married, first, Nancy Post, at Barnesville, Kan., Feb
Nancy Mitchell, your mother, was born in Perry County, Ohio, Sept. 29th, 1847. Died at Cherryvale, Kan. Dec. 20th, 1916. Grave in Fairview Cemetery, Cherryvale, where I expect to be laid beside her.
On my mother's side, according to Cornmans's Geneologv. as far back as known
1st My Great, Great Grandfather, Johannes Wunderlich, born in the year
1700 in Ludwigsburg, Kingdom of Wurtemberg, Germany. Died there Feb. 1st, 1765.
2nd My Great, Great Grandfather, his son, Johannes Wunderlich, born April 14th, 1733, at Ludwigsberg. Emigrated to America at age of 18 arriving at Philadelphia in the ship "Duke of Wurtemberg" Oct. 16th, 1751. Engaged in farming near Palmyra, later near Carlisle, Pa. Died Sept. 3rd, 1818.
3rd My Great Grandfather, his son, John Dietrich Wunderlich, born near Palmyra, Lebanon Co, Pa., Nov. 11th, 1757. Followed farming in Cumberland Co., Pa., till his death, which occurred Dec. 10th, 1829. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, in Capt. Sam! Cochran's Co. of the 4th Battalion Lancaster County Militia commanded by Colonel Robert Elder. Later, in Capt. Simpson's Company of First Penn. Reg't, commanded by Colonel Thos. Robinson. (See Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd series, Vol. 23, Page 362.)
4th My Grandfather Abraham Embich, born Dec. 4th, 1794. Died Jan 20th, 1831.
My Grandmother, Susanna Wunderlich, daughter of John Dietrich Wunderlich and wife of Abraham Embich, born June 14th, 1796, died at Carlisle, Pa., Jan 31st, 1873.
5th My Mother (Elizabeth H. Embich), daughter of Abraham and Susanna Embich, born Aug. 20th, 1824, died at Centerville, Kan., April 28th, 1893. Married Jacob Mitchell at Carlisle, Pa., Dec. 18th, 1842.
Christopher Embich, the grandfather of Abraham arrived in America, landing Philadelphia from the ship "Nancy" commanded by Capt. John Ewing, having sailed from Rotterdam Holland, stopping at Cowes, a Port in the South of England, arriving at Philadelphia, Sept. 27th, 1752.
The Family Bible of Christopher Embich is now in the hands of Col. John B. Embich of Carlisle, Pa.
Record of a visit by Charles F. Mitchell, Charles Andrew's grandson, to Astoria, Illinois, in August of 1968.
Visit to Astoria, Illinois
. We decided to drive along the Illinois River the last ten or fifteen miles that led to Sharp's Landing, where the long journey of Grandfather and Great-Grandfather Mitchell and family ended in the summer of 1850. You will recall that the family of five, Greatgrandfather and greatgrandmother, Susan, Grandfather (age 4) and Fred had traveled entirely by water from near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to find a new home.
It was a hot sunny day. Most of the fields were in tall corn, but trees lined the river, which was perhaps 100-150 yards wide. On the Astoria (north) side, low hills rise about a half mile to a mile from the river.
In the tiny town of Browning I asked the postmaster if he'd ever heard of Sharp's Landing. He had, but didn't know just where it was. He referred me to the general store in Sheldon's Grove, five miles further up the river. When we got there, it was a tiny place, and the store was about all there was to the village.
A very old man, nearly blind, was sitting in the front of the store listening to the radio. No customers and very little stock; mostly empty, dusty shelves. He told me that Sharp's Landing had recently been chosen as the site for a sesquicentennial celebration - which was to be held there that week-end. (We were unable to stay, as we were due back in Columbia that night.)
One mile further on highway #100, then a right turn on a dirt road about a mile and a half brought us to the river bank. Here a place about 100 feet by 500 had been cleared, but there was no dock or any other visible evidence of an old or restored "landing". In the shade of large trees it was quiet and the river flowed slowly along with no activity or sign of life except for one man fishing a short way downstream.
We then drove back to Sheldon's Grove and took the unmarked asphalt road to Astoria - seven or eight miles north. Presumably this was the same way the Mitchells had traveled by wagon 118 years earlier.
Astoria is a decaying town claiming 1200 souls. In the center is a square, pleasant with trees and grass, having modest monuments to soldiers of World War I and II. (Saw no Civil War Memorial) Stores line the main street for two or three blocks which is U.S. #24, but very light traffic and few people on the sidewalks.
We ate lunch at one of the two cafes, and found the walls hung with old farm tools, such as a wooden tyned rake. There is a weekly newspaper, the "Astoria-Argus-Searchlight," and we bought the eight page, 8/21/68 edition. As is often true of county weeklies, it was filled with "Social notes" and death notices, church news and coming meetings. No editorial.
The office girl said their files went back to 1872, but that earlier editions and historical records of Astoria are to be found at Lewistown, the county seat of Fulton County. She said there is a county historical society, but directed us to the county clerk for information as to its address. (We were unable to go to Lewistown on this trip.)
Astoria must have been a thriving, pretty town about 1900. Most of the houses and stores appeared to have been built about then or earlier. There are still a few very large elms in the town square. I fancied one at least was over 100 years old and might have been there in 1850.
We drove west then, along the route Grandfather Mitchell took when he entered the service in 1865 - Rushville, Mt. Sterling, and Quincy. It was a little disappointing not to find more, and one day we hope to go to Lewistown, and look up historical records.
In the town cemetery, about a half mile south of the square, on the edge of town, we did find the graves of three of Grandfather's siblings. According to Grandfather's record, there should have been four. It is not entirely clear. He wrote that in 1867 Greatgrandfather and Greatgrandmother, with the nine of twelve surviving children headed west to Kansas. Hence three had died. Perhaps one died in Pennsylvania.
The family plat has a four foot tall obelisk shaped stone marker on which there were three inscriptions:
Andrew Engle, d. 12/17/87, aged 49 years, 4 months, and 22 days.
Susan M. Engle (wife of Andrew) 1843-1911, aged 67 years, 4 months and 5 days
Maggie Engle, d. 7/26/94, aged 23 years ten months and 1 day. We assumed
that the Engles had no other children but Maggie and that she never married.
Hence, no descendants, in the Astoria area, of the Mitchell tribe.
Oscar F. Smith, son of J. and E. H. Mitchell, d 3/30/56, aged 1 mo. 15 days.
"Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the
kingdom of God."
John Ogle, son of J. and E. H. Mitchell, d. 3/1/57, aged 3 weeks, 4 days.
"Take these little lambs said He and lay them in my breast."
Letter to Chas Mitchell, soldier in the Civil War Written from Washington, Jan 15th 1864
Friend: It is with the greatest pleasure that I pen a few lines to you informing you that I'm enjoying the pleasures of life, but not so much as I did when I enjoyed the privilege of having both arms as I suppose your mother has been informed of my misfortune in this cursed rebellion. In the 7 days fight in front of Richmond, —there's where I lost my arm. But for what, I know I've made some of the traitors lose theirs too. So you may think it strange in me writing to you. But as I was home on a visit and read the letter you sent to your cousin Cornman, I was pleased with it. It seemed to me but a short time since you were a baby, but when I reckon up the time, it is not. I am employed in the Capitol as one of the doorkeepers. Your cousin Emma was here and I showed her all around Washington City. She was highly pleased with it. She started for home on Wednesday morning. Excuse my left hand. The House of Repr. Passed a bill today that on all mail over 1 ounce, it will be 8 cents an ounce extra.
I wish you could see the forts we have around this city. If you would see them, you would feel satisfied this place could not be taken. I helped to build one of them. I went out with the 7 Pennsylvania Reserves. We lost a great many out of our company. I was in the Libby prison in Richmond,--a prisoner 25 days. I long to seek revenge from those traitors, but I cannot. I console my feelings that I made some of them bite the earth.on their own ground.
Tell your mother, sister Mary lives in Alexandria. She has 3 sons. The 4th was drowned by accident in the Potomac 2 years ago. I remember well when your mother left the single life and married your father. Henry L. Hecker, House of Repr.
Letter to Chas A Mitchell from Samuel Facklen, Astoria, 111. April 17, 1865 Friend Charlie:
Your kind letter in conjunction with friend Shelly's of Apr 1st was received a few days ago. Glad to hear from you and of your health being good. I can report my usual health, and hope you may continue in good health, for you expressed more dread of failing health than any other source. Just a few days ago, we were rejoicing over the prospect of an early peace, as the result of the surrender of Lee's army to General Grant. But now we have our joy turned to sorrow by the death, by assassination, of President Lincoln and Seward. I hardly know what to think about it! Can it be possible that we are going to be deprived of the blessings of a free government? Shall it become necessary to keep a vigilant guard over the persons of our Presidents and Chief Magistrates, to insure them against assassination? It looks as though their safety demands that it should be so. The thought is saddening beyond expression. We are again thrown out upon the sea of our national difficulties. And who can bring order and pacification to our Troubled Country? It can only be through the intervention of the Supreme Deity, for He only knoweth the heart of man and his wicked devices. But we will still hope on, though the cloud seems black and threatening.
We have been very busy in the store—just received a stock of new goods. Have had a considerable run of customers. To give you a better idea of what we have been doing, I will tell you something near the amount of our sales on Saturday, which were over five hundred dollars. Mr. Scripps, Willie and George and myself were all kept on the run as you may easily guess. Mr. Scripps has not employed an assistant, and I don't think he intends to.
Charlie, as I feel tired and sleepy, you will excuse me for not writing more. We had quite a hard rain this afternoon and tonight. I have no local news of importance to communicate. Mr. Scripps and family are well. Tell John Skelly that I will write to him soon. Please accept my well wishes for your well-being. Write soon.
As Ever Your Friend, Samuel Facklin
Mr. Scripps referred to was later to become a well-known publisher. Chas. Mitchell was a clerk in the Scripps store for some years, and actually lived above the store for awhile.
Letter to Chas.Mitchell from Samuel Fackler, Astoria 111 June 5 ,1865
(One page of apology for not answering sooner)
Well, Charlie, the Confederacy has exploded and left scarcely a fragment of itself to remind us that such a thing existed. The whole are scattered so suddenly that we can hardly bring ourselves to believe that the vaunting Rebel Confederacy has passed away, to be ranked among they that have been. " Poor Jeff' betook himself to Petticoat attire, but it did not protect him from discovery by the audacious Yankees. Well, Charlie, I don't think you will realize your desire to get into a fight before you get home. I can't say that I am not glad. We are looking for the Boys of the 85th Regiment home before many days. And I suppose you will be sent home before long. I would like to have you back in the store to help me. I have had to take it all by myself since you left, and a pretty tough time I have had of it. Trade has been pretty good this Spring and Mr. Scripps has added furniture stock to his business. He is now in Chicago for good, making the third time he has purchased goods this Spring.
Well, Charlie, you asked to know how the Copperheads Proclivity are exercising? We seldom hear from them any more, but they are rather inclined to believe the Confederacy to be "gone up". And would persuade us to believe they are glad of it. Some express consternation of the foul assassination of Mr. Lincoln while others secretly (while they don't openly) chuckle with satisfaction over the Hellish deed.The day is not far distant when a man will be ashamed to have it said that he was a Copperhead—and the name will become obsolete, except where used as a reproof.
We are to have a Sunday School Celebration at Sugar Grove in July some time. Please make it convenient to be here then. Your friend, Samuel Fackler
Letter to Charles A. Mitchell from his uncle J.A.S.Mitchell, att. In Goshen Ind. October 18, 1865
My Dear Nephew:
After a very long interval, I at last received a letter from you dated the 2nd inst.I had written two letters to you since I received any word from you. I received a letter from your father (Jacob) today. Your folks are all well, except that your father had received an injury in the knee from an accident while cutting corn. I suppose you heard of your uncle John Hickman having died of a wou/d received at the taking of Richmond last Spring. Your Aunt Susan is in great distress over his loss and seems almost heart-broken on account of her great bereavement. Write to her. She will be glad to hear from you. Her address is Mexico, Wyandotte Co, Ohio. I am glad you seem to enjoy your "soldier's life" so much. I apprehend soldiering is somewhat different now to what it was one year ago. When does your time expire?
It is so near mail time that I will forbear writing you at greater length for the purpose of getting this off in the mail. I hope you will get home before winter so that you may have anopportunity of attending school this winter. Your regiment was mustered in for one year, if I recollect correctly. Write me often as I was quite at a loss to know what had become of you until I had your letter of the 2nd.
Business is quite good now and I am intent on making both money and reputation.
Hoping that you will come through
all right, with good health and a stout vigorous
constitution. Truly your uncle J.A.S. Mitchell
Law Firm of Schell and Mitchell Goshen, Ind.
Letter to Charles A. Mitchell from his uncle J.A.S. Mitchell, Goshen, Indiana A member of the Ind. Supreme Court. November 14, 1865
My Dear Nephew:
Your favor of the 14th came
duly to hand and was very much appreciated. I have only
time to write you a short letter today, as I am making ready to start East tomorrow. I
shall see your Aunt Susan before I return. I must tell you, Charles, I am going to be
married tomorrow morning and will start for Niagara Falls on the eleven o'clock train, on
a wedding tour. I shall be very glad to have you come see me and your new aunt as soon
as you come home from the war. I know you will like her, for she is a very good and
accomplished lady. Her name is Defrees, daughter of Honorable M. H. Defrees, member
of Congress from this district. As a matter of course, there is no other person in the world
who combines so many excellencies as she does—in my estimation. I have written your
father and mother, telling them about it. I will send you our wedding cards in my next
letter. Write soon to your uncle, J.A.S. Mitchell