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By Thomas S. Sheardown
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As I have stated that I would say something in reference to my marriage, perhaps I may as well say it now as at any other time. When I made up my mind to change my situation in life, I thought everything, as far as domestic happiness was concerned, depended upon the choice that I should make of a companion. I knew there was One who could direct me aright; therefore, I concluded to ask wisdom of God. It was my special prayer, for weeks, that He would direct me. I told the Lord just what kind of a person I desired. In the first place, she must be pious: in the next place, she must have the same denominational views with myself. I told the Lord, He knew all about my temperament of mind, and I wanted whoever should be best adapted to my circumstances and feelings in this respect.
My First Choice
After having prayed long and earnestly, I saw a certain individual coming into church. The thought flashed across my mind, "That, I should conclude, is the very woman to suit me for a wife." But, somehow or other, I had an impression that she was a married lady. I had often seen her, singing in the choir, but did not know her name. When church was dismissed, I said to one of the members, "Can you tell me who that lady is?" The answer was, "Why! Do you not know?" I said, "No, I do not." He then replied, "She is the daughter of Brother Glassam, one of our members." I continued, "She is a married lady, is she not?" The reply was, "No, she is a single lady."
In the evening, when church was out, I shook hands with her parents, (for I was acquainted with them,) and said, "I am going to walk home with you." I offered my arm to the young lady, (Esther, by name,) according to the custom of the country, tarried about an hour, had a little prayer-meeting, and said to Esther, on leaving, "If it would be convenient, I would like to call upon you, Wednesday evening, at nine o’clock." She politely accepted the call. I visited her but a short time that evening, and left with the promise of another visit.
When I went the next time—which, by the by, was only the third—instead of meeting the young lady, the father met me, and wanted to know my intentions in calling upon his daughter. I told him they were all right, but if I could spend an hour with her, I could then tell him more about my intentions. The mother showed me into a room adjoining the sitting room, and presently the daughter walked in. We talked over, in one (to me) important hour, all that we had to say, relative to a union for life. She said she also had been praying for direction from God, in view of such a change, and had been deeply impressed, when she saw me, that that would be the man of her choice if he was not a married man. But I always walked with my sister—her husband being much from home—and many had taken us for husband and wife. I told her, that evening, in closing up our conversation, "Now, I shall not be in a situation to be married, under one year. Can you wait so long?" She answered, "Yes, O yes—anything that is best." I remarked, "Then, if God will, we will be married on such a day, one year hence, at eight o’clock in the morning. We can correspond at any time when we are absent from the city. But I never wrote a love-letter in my life, and probably never shall. I want all our correspondence to be of a spiritual nature. We will write in prose or poetry, whichever suits the mind the best." The thing was settled, then and there. I then reported, to the old gentleman, our progress. We had a very pleasant year of correspondence, frequently walking and talking together as opportunity offered. I rented a house and had it furnished, ready to take her to, when she should leave her father and mother.
In those days, though the Toleration Act had taken off many burdens from the Dissenters, yet they were not allowed to marry, or bury their dead, without the Episcopal service. We could only be married according to the formula of that church, and the ceremony could not be performed except between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and twelve o’clock at noon. As we did not intend to have our marriage "published"—that is, read to the congregation, in the church, three Sabbaths in succession—we were obliged to marry "with license." Five guineas was the price for marrying in that way. The time had arrived. I went to the clergyman’s house, about six o’clock in the evening previous to the day appointed, to obtain the license, which should be given twelve hours before celebrating the ceremony. The vicar was not at home, but his wife informed me that he would be at home, in all probability, before eight o’clock. I told her my errand, and the necessity of being married in the morning as soon as the clock had struck eight. She said, "Call again, sir, any time in the course of the evening." I called the second time—he was not in; the third time—all the same; the fourth time, at about ten o’clock in the evening—I knew, from what his wife said, that he was attending a party. I told her I would be in, about six o’clock in the morning, for my license, and must have it. She said, "Very well, sir—I will inform Mr. B." The license granted at that hour would not be strictly valid, and, should it come to his Bishop’s ears, the vicar must be the individual who must suffer.
A Drunken Minister
I went again in the morning, rang the bell, and soon a servant appeared who showed me into a small reception room, saying that Mr. B. would be in shortly. I thought, at once, the thing was understood. He very soon made his appearance, in his morning gown—apologized for having been out so late over night—said he was at a party, and, while around the convivial board, had taken too much punch: "In fact," he said, "I got pretty tipsy." I told him that I knew that. Said he, "How did you know it, sir?" "I saw you, sir." "Where, sir?" "Standing at the corner of Princess street, resting your head against the wall." "Well," he said, "we will say no more about that." He went to a little closet in the room, where he had a case of old Madeira wine, brought out a bottle, two glasses, and a corkscrew, and said, "Won’t you take a glass of wine, sir?" I excused myself, by saying, "I never take wine in the morning." He said he did not generally do it, but, when he had been out over night, in the morning he wanted a little to give tone and action to his system! While writing out my license, I should think he took over one-half or two-thirds of the bottle full. But I got the paper, and started for the woman, with her mother, father, and sister, and, just as the clock struck eight, we were in the church, ready to appear at the altar. There was a word in the marriage ceremony which was "worship". It came in the clause where it is said, "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship," etc. I was willing to love and cherish my wife, but was not willing to "worship" her. Therefore I substituted the word "serve," when saying over that part of the ceremony. He said, "worship." I tried it again, and gave the word "serve". He then turned his large Prayer Book the other side up, so that I could read for myself. I knew he was in my hands, for I could report him to the Bishop; therefore I read again, "serve." He said, "Very well, sir; serve it is, then; it will do just as well." So we passed on to the end.
I took my wife to her new home, with her parents and sister. Our breakfast was waiting for us. I dropped a note of invitation to our pastor and his wife to take tea with us and spend the evening. I then went to my business, and attended to it until about four in the afternoon. Returning to my home, we spent the evening in conversation, singing and prayer, when the friends retired; and we were left in possession of our domicil. This was on the 23d of December, 1814. I shall have occasion again to refer to my wife, for she was my right hand, in affliction and sorrow, in joy and rejoicing.
Enlarged License to Preach
While trying to preach, my labors were for a time confined to the little village of Skidby, and to the church. (And here let me say, that when I spoke before the church, there were none present but those who were members of that body.) Things were on prosperously with us, and, in 1815, I received permission from the church—or what is termed, in America, a "license"—to exercise my gift wherever God in his providence might open a door.
Suffering and Crime in England
Those were times that tried both State and Church. The American and French wars were about closing. Breadstuffs were extremely high. Flour was two dollars and twenty-five cents per stone, (fourteen pounds.) Bankruptcy and failures, of every kind, had been the order of the day, for some time. The poor tax of our firm in Hull, one year, was about eleven hundred dollars—a rate of taxation which Americans never yet endured. The operators in mills, factories, etc, were sore pressed to obtain the small pittance sufficient to keep them from starvation; and many died of actual hunger. It was a common-place thing to see, in the daily papers, accounts of men being found dead: "Verdict given, Died for want of food." I saw, on one occasion, as estimated, one hundred and forty thousand operators, gathered at Manchester, parading the streets, emaciated and care-worn. Their banner was a bread loaf, dipped in blood, with an inscription of red letters upon black ground, "BREAD OR BLOOD." The soldiers were let in upon them, after they had assembled in St. Peter’s Square, Market Street Lane, to be addressed by a Mr. Hunt, who presented himself as one of the great reformers of the day. But the whole scene was summed up in the utter dispersion of the motley crowd, by the swords and sabres of the military. Highway robberies, shop-lifting, house-breaking, and murder, were everyday occurrences. None but those who lived in that day, and witnessed the scenes, can form any adequate idea of the wretched state of the nation.
New Church Enterprise
But I wish not to recall the picture of those dark days in England. Therefore I will return to that which concerns me most, and review circumstances more congenial to my nature. About this time, our church had to give up their chapel—for what reason, I do not now remember, but my impression is that it was decided, in a suit which had been for many years in the Court of Chancery, against those from whom we had rented. We then removed to a house, called Salt House Lane Chapel. Soon after that, it was thought best, by some of the church, that a few should take letters and build up a new interest in a low, wicked part of the city. We obtained a building, and fitted it up, for a place of worship. I was one in the enterprise. Our pulpit was supplied by such ministers as we could obtain. Part of the time it fell to my lot to do the public speaking. I also continued my labors in the little village previously alluded to.
A new thought came into my mind—that, if God would prosper me, as he had done, I might in a short time be able to preach the Gospel to the poor, anywhere and everywhere, as opportunity might offer, and sustain myself. But God’s ways were not my ways, nor His thoughts my thoughts. For, though I had sailed, more or less, in different crafts, I had got my foot upon a ship that I had never sailed in before—that was a partner-ship. I became a junior partner in the firm, but very soon found the vessel was leaking, and the probability was that she would flounder, sooner or later. In her, I lost a great portion of the earnings that I had been laying up for years. I concluded to leave Hull, and commence anew.
Remove to Pontefract
In the spring of 1818, I located in the old borough of Pontefract, in the same county, doing some business on my own account, and some on commission, and making about a comfortable living. But my hope of becoming a minister of the Gospel, preaching to the poor, and sustaining myself, gave up the ghost. Yet I continued to preach, in villages near the city. There was no Baptist church in Pontefract, and the nearest was in Leeds, some eighteen miles away. But I felt that the poor villages needed the Word of Life. I also preached for ministers in the place, and ministers in the country. No matter, to me, what their denominational name might be, if they were only orthodox churches.
Too Much Metaphysical Preaching
Here permit me to relate a little circumstance which occurred while I was in that place. Some three miles distant, there was a village of several hundred poor and ignorant people, the men being generally barge-men and coal-heavers. But there was an Independent chapel in the place, with a pious church, and a minister whose soul was in the work. He was a man of good education, and well understood how to use that education in the field of his labors. He called upon me, one day, to see if I could preach for him for three weeks; he had obtained a supply for other three weeks, and was to be absent six weeks. The other brother he had obtained, was from the Bradford Theological Institution. I supplied the church the first, and the young brother the next three weeks. After the pastor returned, he came up to town, to express his thanks for my labors. I was engaged in business when he came in, and asked him to walk up stairs into the sitting-room, where Mrs. Sheardown would visit with him until I was at liberty. Soon, I heard Bro. Lees laugh, most heartily—only as such good-hearted, whole-souled men know how to laugh. When I went up-stairs, I inquired the cause of the wave of merriment which had subsided. Bro. Lees said he had been relating to Mrs. Sheardown a circumstance that occurred during the labors of his young collegiate, as given him by the brother himself. He thought he had preached a very big sermon. In that sermon, he had said a great deal about "metaphysics," and metaphysical reasoning. He was quite anxious to know what the people thought of his sermon: therefore, he concluded to mingle with the congregation, as they retired, hoping that he might hear their opinions. He was close in the rear of two good old mothers, who, with locked arms, were nudging along the sidewalk, One said, "O, what a blessed sarment we had! I never heered such a one." The other said, "What part did you like the best?" I liket it all, but that part I liket best where he told us the Gos-pill was both meat and physic." The circumstance was so humiliating to the young man, that he told the pastor that, in future, he would try to use such language as the people whom he was addressing could understand. (If this should meet the eye of any aspiring young man, whose bumps of self-esteem are very large, may it be a word fitly spoken!)
Itinerate Among the Poor
While residing in Pontefract, I had all the week-day evening preaching I could do, compatible with my business. My great object was to present to the people, Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of sinners, and that He was able and willing to save to the uttermost all who came unto God by Him. The operatives in that manufacturing district—in fact, in all the land—continued to be sorely pressed for food; and it was to me a luxury to spread before them the bread of eternal life.
At that time, there was great excitement in the Baptist churches, growing out of Gill-ism and Fuller-ism. Although the beloved Fuller had recently (1815) gone to his rest, he had tapped a new vein of theology, that was just beginning to pour out its light upon the world. Dr. Gill had long been the standard of divinity, and it was very hard for some to give up his favorite dogmatical theories, and many, both ministers and laymen, were deeply imbued with the spirit of hyper-Calvinism. But Fuller had hidden the leaven in the measure of meal, and it was working powerfully upon the minds of many, so that, when a minister was the subject of conversation, the first question, generally was, "Is he a Gill-ite or a Fuller-ite?" and the churches were much divided in their views. I recollect that Mr. Arbon once said in a sermon, "If faith is not a duty, then unbelief is no sin." Two or three of the old members immediately took their hats and deliberately walked out of the church, saying they would never sit peaceably and hear such Arminian stuff as that.
Visit to France
While residing in Pontefract, in the early part of 1820, business called me to the continent of Europe. While in France, I learned more about the "mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," than I had ever known before. It would not have been safe for me, had it ever been known that I had a Protestant Bible in my possession. In traveling by the Diligence, it was almost a daily occurrence to have to take off my hat to the images of their saints, posted at the corners of the roads; and on one great festival day, I had to bow my knees in the street until the Grand Costodia—the bust of St. Peter, and other relics, which were carried upon the shoulders of twelve priests—had passed by!
A Lone Christian Woman
While in that land, I met but one Christian. That was a lady, whose acquaintance I made accidentally, while walking one morning on the beach of the Bay of Biscay. In passing her, I gave the customary salutation, in French. She answered very politely, and, turning around immediately, she added, "Anglaise, Monsieur?" She detected my English accent in pronouncing the French. I entered into a conversation with her, in which she gave me a short history of her life. She was born in London. Her father, an English officer, and subsequently, renounced her Protestantism, and became a Catholic. Afterwards, she became convinced of the great sin, (as she expressed it,) of renouncing the religion of her fathers. Her exercises resulted in her hopeful conversion to God. Seventeen long years he had cherished that hope in secret, all the time conforming to the externals of Romanism. She said that I was the first person to whom she dared to divulge the fact; for, if her husband should know it, he would take the first opportunity to plunge his dagger into her breast. I spoke to her such words of consolation, and encouragement, as I could, under the circumstances. I saw her no more, but hope she may be found among the redeemed of the Lord, in that day when God shall make up His jewels.
Mrs. Sheardown’s Adventures
While in France, my wife came over, to make a short visit to the country that was then so bitterly hated by the land that gave her birth. Her introduction was very unfavorable. I had written her that I would meet her at Calais, on the given day and hour that the packet from England was expected to arrive. The vessel came, in an hour or more before the expected time; consequently, I was not down to the port when it arrived. She could not speak a word of French, and as soon as the ship was hauled up to the dock, the gens-d’armes (armed police) came on board, demanded her baggage, and sent it away to the Custom House. She herself was taken by a class of men who looked, to her, the meanest set of ruffians she ever saw, and posted away, to a prison looking house, where they put her in the custody of some old French women, to be searched. She scolded, in her language, and resisted all she could, but they continued unpinning, etc, until they had searched her person thoroughly. They found nothing contraband concealed about her, and she was released. I was waiting at the depot to receive her. She was so frightened, that she looked unnatural. I should have given her the particulars that would be required of her on her arrival, in my letter, had I not expected to have been present when the vessel came in. A few weeks taught her, that she was not in the land of her nativity.
Visit Holland—Thoughts About America
My business was nearly done up, and we should soon have returned home, but I had to go to Dunkirk, in Flanders, and took my wife with me, that she might see more of the world.
For several years, I had been very anxious to visit America. I had read many exciting works respecting the land of liberty. A particular friend of mine, a deacon of the church where I had my standing in the City of Hull, was induced to go to America by the flattering accounts, in English publications, of a Dr. Robert H. Rose and others. I had got the impression that America was the garden of the world, and that the regions around Mont-Rose, in the "Beech Woods," were the very flower-beds of that garden. My friend, the deacon, wrote me flattering accounts of the country, but did not like the Beech Woods, and finally moved to Philadelphia. I had great confidence in him, for he was to me a brother beloved. But after I was married, and settled in life, I gave up the hope of ever seeing the new world. I could not endure the thought of tearing my wife away from all her friends, and taking her to a distant land, where, perhaps, she might never see them again. By doing this, I thought I should have a poor, broken-hearted wife.
She Proposes Emigration
But while we were at Dunkirk, conversing on our pillows, without any reference to America or any other foreign land, she broke off from the subject then under consideration, and said, "How long I have been wishing that you would take it into your head to go to America!" I was perfectly startled. I said to her, "My dear! Can you leave father, and mother, and friends, to go to a land where you may never see them again?" She answered, "If you think it best, I can." I said to her, "I can never take you to a country that I have never seen. Would you be willing to stay with our friends until I go over and explore the land, and then, if it looks best for me to stay there, can you undertake the voyage across the Atlantic alone, with you two little children?" She said, "Yes! The same God who protects me here, can protect me on the waters." I told her I would bring my business to a close as speedily as possible, and start for the land of promise.
Prepare to See the New World
I finished my business, and went up to London to take ship. I found I had to wait there some two weeks for the vessel to sail.
I found, also, that difficulties of a new cast would be liable to meet me. No individuals could leave England, at that time, who were mechanics, or who had served an apprenticeship to any kind of business. None but those who were farmers, or laborers, could get away, unless smuggled. However, I concluded to pay my passage and enter on board as a passenger for New York. The vessel went down the river, some thirty miles below London, to Graves End, the final place of her clearance. Here I found that all the passengers must come ashore and repair to the alien office. There the questions were of such a nature as I had not anticipated. While others were interrogated, I found that they must have a voucher, or recommendation from some prominent individual, testifying that their object in going to America was to possess land and follow the avocation of agriculturists. Many of the passengers had vouchers from the overseers of the poor in the places where they had lived. Those were very readily passed. When it came to me, I frankly told the officer, that I did not know that I was required to have such a voucher, and had none; but I would give him the address of an individual of high standing, in a certain rural district, who would answer all his inquiries on the subject of the land business. He did not appear to see through it; because, before he could get the information from that individual, I would be tossing on the Atlantic! After we were all through, however, he ordered every individual to rise and stand before him, while he read to us the Alien Act—thereby alienating us forever from his Britannic majesty, his Britannic majesty’s government, and all his Britannic majesty’s dominion—from any hope of protection by that government, from henceforth and forever! All safe on board, we weighed anchor and gave three hearty cheers for the land of promise!
Out, Upon the Ocean—Storms, Etc.
After we had cleared the river, and got fairly into the sea-way, we were busily engaged overhauling our sea stock, etc. By-and-by, a request was sent to the Captain, from some of the cabin passengers, to have the decks cleared, and give them the privilege of having a dance. But, to an experienced eye, it was very evident there would soon be other business for the voyagers. In about fifteen minutes, a squall struck the vessel, with a greater degree of violence than any had expected, carrying away here fore-topsail, and using the ship rather roughly. All was bustle, as it ever is on such occasions. The dancing party had enough to do to wait upon their sea-sick stomachs, and we never heard another word about dancing through all the voyage.
We parted with our pilot at the Downs, and laid our bows for the goodly land. The charge for a steerage passage was forty pounds sterling, and we had also to provide our own sea-stock (provisions, etc.) for eight weeks, the voyage usually requiring six weeks on an average. Cabin passage was probably twice as expensive, at that time. Ours was an American vessel, named The Criterion. She was an old vessel, but sailed fast, and nothing specially alarming occurred.
Reach New York Harbor
For several days, we were making a very good run, after which we experienced heavy weather, with some terrific gales, which kept the passengers, not accustomed to the water, snugly hatched down below. I always had the privilege of the decks. Having been on the water considerably, and never troubled with sea-sickness, I could always lend a hand, to help the men in any time of need. We left with our ship’s company one man short, and two were injured so that they were not able to do duty; consequently, a raw hand was better than none. We made sight of land after four weeks’ running, and put ship-about for the night, thinking, probably, the next day to be in Sandy Hook. But a very heavy gale of wind, blowing off the land, sent us out to sea; and it was ten days before we made the sight of land again. The ship being old, and badly strained by stress of weather, began to make water pretty fast. The pumps had to be worked, day and night, and the male passengers had to take their turns at pumping. When we sighted land again, it was about ten o’clock at night, I had retired to the fore-top, where I could be alone and enjoy my thoughts. I saw from the fore-top that we were running the land down. I cried to the officer on deck that we were running right ashore. The word speedily rang out from the officer on deck, "Topsail-sheets and halyards haul—ready about." As the ship came about, her keel grounded on the bottom. We fired several shots for a pilot, and got an answer about daylight in the morning. The pilot came on board, and ran us safely into the Hook: and as soon as the wind veered, (which I think was not until the next day, ) he brought us safely up to Quarantine. Here, our ship and passengers being examined, and all found right, we proceeded up to New York.
Go Up the Hudson
I spent but a short time in the city, and took a sloop for Newburg, not knowing where I should go, or scarcely what I wanted. But, after all my cogitations of heart, I made up my mind that I could proceed to Mont Rose, and see what I thought of the country after a personal examination.
Men From the Lake Country
Landing in Newburg, late at night, I went up to a tavern or hotel to stay. There I fell in company with some good, honest sort of men, who said they were from the "Lake country." They informed me that the "Beach Woods country" was a poor, barren, miserable region, and that it was not fit for "chipmucks" to live in. I must confess I knew no more about what a "chipmuck" was, than a wild Arab knows about the English grammar. But those, whom I had thus met, appeared to be very kind, and very communicative. As they were in Newburg with teams, they offered to give me a passage with them to their homes, "between the Lakes." I thankfully accepted their offer, and cast my lot with them. I was deeply interested in everything I heard and saw, and in due time we arrived at the place of our destination—Covert, Seneca County, New York—in October, 1820.
Became a Citizen of York State
Every one appeared to be friendly, open-hearted, and gave freely of what they possessed, (which, by the way, was abundant,) for eating and drinking. The father of one of the men whom I had traveled with, was an intelligent man, formerly from Long Island, and pretty well posted in relation to the country. I made up my mind that I should stay in that place until the arrival of my wife. I wrote her several letters, but received none in answer. I was perplexed and troubled, but when I came to inquire of individuals, what they though could be the reason that I received no answers, they looked upon England as being so far out of the world, that, if I got an answer in a year, I would do very well. The mails, from the Lake country to New York or Boston, were very uncertain in that day. The last letter I wrote to her, (which, happily, she received, and the only she had received,) gave her a particular account of my whereabouts, and all the directions how to proceed until she got to Newburg.
Cheap Living—My Great Awkwardness
Having concluded that I should make that my stopping place, I asked the gentleman with whom I was staying if he had anything that I could do, as I wanted to earn enough to pay my board. He told me board was nothing. I believe, at that time, wheat was selling at three shillings (37 ½ cents) per bushel, and everything of an eatable nature about the same proportion. He said, if I had a mind to work some, I might go and thresh some wheat he had in the bar, and take care of the horses and cattle, which I was very glad to do. I wanted to learn the ways of the country. I worked just as I pleased, but I had never threshed wheat with a flail, or taken care of cattle. He had to show me how it was to be done; and he promised to give me all the wheat, pork, etc, that I should want for my family. One day he remarked to me, "Now, we must go to-day and get up some wood." The team was harnessed, and everything ready; he then gave me a chopping axe, and took one himself, when we started. But I had never seen a chopping axe before, nor had I ever seen any individual cut down trees, American fashion. I had seen the English choppers prepare to cut down a tree. They would get some able man to climb the tree, take up a strong cable rope, and make it fast to the top of the tree; then put all the strain they could on the rope, and fasten it to another tree, if there was one, and if there was not, to a stake firmly driven into the ground. Then they would sit down on the ground, with an axe resembling what I should now call a long-bitted post axe. They would cut all around the tree, close to the ground, but when it was almost cut off, would be very careful to keep from under the side where the rope was made fast to draw it over. I told him how ignorant I was about the chopping business. He said he would show me how it was done. I stood, and looked with astonishment to see how he made the chips fly. After the tree was felled, he said to me, "Now you cut off that limb, and let me see how you will perform." I thought I must strike very hard, and I expected to see the chips fly, but, instead of that, the axe flew out of my hands, two or three rods. I went and picked it out of the snow, and he laughingly said, "I dare not stay within a half mile of you." But he ventured to give me another trial. He told me I must hold to the helve with one hand tightly, and let the other slide up the helve. But my hand would not slide, therefore I had to let go with that hand entirely, so that, when the blow came, I had but one hand hold of the helve. He enjoyed my ignorance, and was very patient with me, appearing to think, if he could learn me to chop (as he said) it would be a great feather in his cap! Every opportunity, I would get an axe and go off alone; and kept on trying, until such time as I found I was getting a little sleight. This encouraged me, and I felt determined to be a chopper.
So in relation to all the business of the backwoods, I worked very steadily at one thing or another, until spring. I then bought three acres of land from the father of the man with whom I was boarding. It being cleared up, I could do nothing with it until the spring was fairly in.
One day, the old gentleman said to me, "I want you should come with me into the sugar bush." We went, and he showed me what was to be done, describing all the process of tapping trees and manufacturing sugar. He said to me, "Now I want you to tap all the maple trees in this piece of woods, and, when you get tired, come down home." I did not go home, though I was very tired. I thought I would set all the spiles we had taken up. He did not know what might have happened me; I might have cut myself, or something: so—at a late hour—he came where I was, and said, "Do the trees run good?" I told him, some run, and some would not run at all. He walked around with me through the bush, and I certainly had tapped three basswoods to one maple! My friend concluded he might as well do the tapping himself.
I had gained, through the winter, some knowledge of American husbandry, but more in theory than in practice. The old gentleman told me, one day, that I must plough a part of my lot, which had never been broken up, and put corn on it. It would have to be ploughed, he said, twice; the second time; it would have to be cross-ploughed. I knew something about ploughing, from observation in my travels through the country, but the labor part I had never performed. He lent me a plough and chains, and a neighbor furnished me a pair of oxen. But they were rather fractious—probably growing out of my awkward way of handling them. Sometimes the plough was in, but more frequently it was out of the ground; some of the time I was holding to the handles; at other times I was thrown on the ground. There were some pines on the lot: I would get the plough hitched to a small root, and then whip up the oxen, and the first thing I would know, the root would break, the ends spring back and take me on my shins; so that, before the day’s ploughing was through, my shins were pretty well scarred, and bloody. But I thought, legs or no legs, I must have this part of the lot ploughed; so I persevered to the end.
My Family Arrive
Now I will return to my wife’s coming into the country. In the letter of directions that I had sent her, I requested that she should write me as soon as she arrived at New York, then come up by boat to Newburg, which she did; but I received no letter from her, consequently she become tired of waiting. Supposing there might have been a failure in her letter, and finding some English people coming into the Beech Woods, (which would be on her way to the Lakes,) they engaged a team in partnership, and started on. One of them wanted to go to Great Bend, on the Susquehanna River, which was on her direct road. On arriving there, she wrote to me again, and waited some two weeks, but no answer came. She then hired a team to bring her and her two children from there to the place where I was stopping.
One day (in the month of May, 1821) I was standing in the door-yard, talking with the gentleman I was boarding with. We saw a team coming over a little rise in the road, some thirty or forty rods distant. He jokingly said, "Yonder comes your wife." I answered, "So she does," not realizing scarcely what I said. I waited and looked with intensity; and very soon, indeed, I saw that it was she. The driver had said to her, as they were passing over the little rise of ground, "There are two men yonder now, if one should be your husband!" She replied, "If he would only move, I should know him." Just at that time I moved down towards the road, when she exclaimed, "That is he, indeed!" It was a joyous and happy meeting, after having been parted more than ten months. She had had a boisterous passage, for something over six weeks. But, with all the toil and labor of the voyage, and traveling from New York city to Seneca county, she had never been discouraged; her spirits remained buoyant to the last.
That afternoon, a good old lady—who was, Yankee fashion, asking all kinds of questions—inquired of my wife if it did not almost break her heart to leave father, mother, brothers and sisters, perhaps never to see them again? She said, "No." When parting with my friends, while they were all in tears, I had no tears to shed. My mother said to me, ‘Esther, why don’t you weep?’ I replied, ‘I cannot weep—I am going to see my husband!"
Last Intelligence From Skidby
For the purpose of bringing into view, at once, all connected with my Old World life, I will here narrate a fact somewhat out of the order of occurrence as regards time.
During a long period, in America, I had much trouble, not knowing what had been the effect of my labors in the little village where I first preached the Gospel. As I will hereafter notice, it rose up before my mind, by day and by night, that I did wrong in leaving there. I had no hope of ever ascertaining whether any good results had followed. But, after my ordination, I met one day, on the highway, a gentleman, who said, "Elder, there is a letter in the Post Office for you." (We had but a weekly mail.) I replied, "Much obliged, sir—I am going down to the office." Said he, "The Squire told me to tell you it is a shipping letter—he thought you would be very anxious to see it." I passed on to the office, and called for my letter from over the seas. At once, I saw that it was not from any of my regular correspondents, for I did not know the handwriting of the superscription. I opened it, and was then convinced that it was from some one who had never written to me before. I cast my eye to the bottom of the page, and saw the signature—"J. Jefferson."
It did not strike my mind at the time, who that was. The next page seemed to be written by an old fashioned writer—the characters looked very much like the round handwriting of my father. I saw, at the bottom, the name, "Wm. Wilberforce." The next page was in the hand-writing of a female, and subscribed, "Jefferson." I then understood who the writers were. The old gentleman (Mr. Wilberforce) was the man at whose house I first opened my mouth for Jesus. The lady (Jefferson) was the daughter of Mr. Wilberforce, and J. Jefferson, was her husband. Those kind friends had inquired, and sought out my far distant residence, on purpose to inform me as to what God had wrought in their midst. By those letters, I learned that Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson were both hopefully converted under my labors. The father named several texts of Scripture, from which I had preached, and under which a number of other individuals had been brought to the knowledge of the truth. Among these was a young man, a plowman for a neighboring farmer, who appeared to have talents, which, if cultivated, promised usefulness in Zion. He studied two years in Dr. Steadman’s Institution, at Bradford. There had been built, in Skidby, a neat brick chapel, which was occupied by a church of about one hundred members, and that young man was their pastor.
This information took away all the burden from my mind—believing that
God had done by me all that He intended I should do in that place. And
I have never had any anxiety about them since.