SUSQUEHANNA AND CHEMUNG RIVERS
These beautiful streams, one on each side of Athens village,
usually flow very quietly by, adding much to the beauty of the landscapes,
viewed from the neighboring hilltops. There is in them a succession
of rapids and pools, but no dead water, and no unhealthy marshes along
the shores. A writer remarks: “That if there be a more beautiful
river on the continent we have not seen it. From its source in Otsego
Lake, to its union with the Chesapeake, every mile of the Susquehanna is
beautiful. Other rivers have their points of loveliness or of grandeur.
The Susquehanna has every form of beauty and sublimity.” A missionary
lady in Oriental Turkey, formerly of this place, writes to an invalid friend,
living on the banks of this river: “I should love to sit with you
at your window, to hear the voice of the Susquehanna once more. I
love that river greatly.” The acknowledged healthfulness of this
part of the country is attributed in part, at least, to the constant and
regular flow of these pure streams.
But these rivers, though so universally admired by strangers, as well as by those who dwell upon their banks, do not always present the same attractive appearance. There are other features at times that are quite the reverse. The melting of the snows and the warm spring rains always swell the streams, sometimes causing a general overflow of the banks, often sweeping away the fences and carrying off trees, the growth of ages, the islands and low grounds being almost literally covered with drift wood. At such times, not only trees and fences, but lumber, and parts of bridges, and of buildings, may be seen floating over the surface, in indiscriminate confusion.
In the spring of 1784 the inhabitants all through the valley suffered greatly from the sudden breaking up of the ice in the rivers. It had been an intensely cold season, with great quantities of snow. There came an interval of a few days of uncommonly warm weather, which melted the snow in a measure. This was succeeded by severe cold weather, making vast quantities of ice. Warm weather returned again and the waters began to flow. The dams of ice that were formed obstructed the waters, and they sought other than the wonted channels, sometimes overwhelming retired farms, and filling the dwellings with water, followed by the crash of the moving bodies of ice hurried on by the raging waters, destroying everything before it. The suffering of the inhabitants, in the lower part of the valley, from this freshet, was very great.
In the fall of 1786, when the crops of corn and pumpkins
were still on the ground, continuous rains produced a freshet, which has
seldom been equaled.
The crops were swept away, and the bosom of the river was covered with floating pumpkins. The loss was severely felt, and many cattle died the succeeding winter for want of sustenance. Old people for many years past have spoken of these freshets, the latter being distinguished as the “pumpkin flood.”
THE GREAT FLOOD
But a still greater and more destructive flood, and such
as was literally beyond the memory of the “oldest inhabitant,” occurred
in the month of March, 1865. There was a much heavier body of snow
on the ground than usual. The weather became suddenly warm.
The snow was in a state of fusion, when a warm rain fell, and the whole
came rushing down the hillsides, filling the creeks, and altogether pouring
an unprecedented quantity of water into the rivers, suddenly swelling them,
not only bank full, but to overflowing; and almost covering the valley
from mountain to mountain, and intercepting communication with either side
of the rivers. The village seemed to be almost sinking in the flood.
The water found its way into nearly every cellar, and many of them were
filled. The foundations of several dwellings were undermined, and
fell. On the flats valuable animals were brought into the houses
to prevent their being carried down the stream, and many sheep were drowned.
One store in the village took fire in consequence of the water coming in
contact with lime in the cellar. The upper part of the village was
almost entirely inundated. Many left their houses for shelter elsewhere,
and many boats were in requisition, to go from one locality to another.
The waters of the Chemung and Susquehanna met just below the mile hill,
also near the Presbyterian Church, and at the foot of the hill, in the
lower part of the village, near the residence of the late Judge Williston,
thus making several islands of this village. A view from Spanish
Hill, said a spectator, made the whole appear like a great lake dotted
with numerous islands. The water was rising for several days, but
attained its greatest height on Thursday night, the 16th of March.
The citizens were sitting up watching the movement of the water.
It continued to rise until eleven o’clock. It then ceased, when,
with thankful hearts, relieved of anxiety, the people retired to their
beds. The next morning the water was found to have fallen several
feet, and many were going about viewing the devastation that had been made.
Great losses have sometimes been sustained by lumbermen on these rivers, by unexpected freshets. Often have their hopes been blasted by the sudden loss of property, the product of many a day of care and toil, and in some instances all that a man possessed has been swept away in a few short hours. But the business of lumbering has often been pleasant and profitable. Most families who have resided here long can call to mind the exciting times of rafting, when pork and beans and bread by the quantity, with ham and eggs, and sundry other luxuries, were in requisition as an outfit for the arks and rafts about to float “down the river.” But all this labor was repaid when it was announced that they had found a good market, and that the adventurers were likely to meet the reward of their labors.
It has been remarked as a peculiarity of the Susquehanna, or Crooked River, that nearly all along its course it is receiving tributaries almost as large as itself.
It may be added that notwithstanding the much dreaded inundations of
spring, with all their disastrous effects, the most of the season the Susquehanna
rolls along in majestic calmness, and in midsummer is so low that it is
forded in many places.
Some attempts have been made to navigate the river by steam. Two neat little steamboats, the Codorus and the Susquehanna, were launched upon its waters in 1826, and made several trips up and down, much to the gratification of the inhabitants dwelling upon its banks, and the time was anticipated when a regular line of boats might ply upon the river, transporting both freight and passengers. But the want of sufficient water in the low stage of the river soon proved it to be impracticable, and after the disastrous explosion of the boiler of the Codorus, and the loss of several valuable lives thereby, the enterprise was abandoned.
Less than a hundred years ago, the region of country
which we inhabit was heathen ground. The Indians, driven away by
Sullivan’s army in 1779, were, according to David Brainard and others,
“gross idolaters.” At Shamokin they had an idol that Brainard styled
“horrible.” Before his conversion Shickelemy, a noted chief, wore
an idolatrous image around his neck. At Queen Esther’s plantation,
an officer of Sullivan’s army states that “in what they supposed to be
the chapel, was found an idol which might well be worshipped without violating
the second commandment, on account of its likeness to anything either in
Heaven or earth.” At the treaty at Tioga Point, in 1790, while the
ceremony of adopting Thomas Morris into the Seneca Nation was in progress,
which was in a religious ceremony, the whole sixteen hundred Indians present
united in an offering to the moon, then being at her full. Fish-Carrier,
an aged and noted Chief, officiated as High Priest of the occasion, making
a long speech to the luminary, occasionally throwing tobacco into the fire
The first account we have of any Christian worship in this place was at the burial of those officers and soldiers in Sullivan’s army who fell in the battle of Chemung, and were brought back to Tioga Point for burial. The Rev. Mr. Rogers, Chaplain, preached a funeral sermon on the occasion.
After the Indians were removed the country was rapidly settled by white people from Wyoming and lower Pennsylvania. The Connecticut settlers were of Puritan descent, and were frequently visited by missionaries from New England missionary societies.
* Red Jacket was prominent at this assembly, and no doubt partook of the idolatrous ceremony. He was a pagan, very hostile to Christianity, and gave orders that when he died he should be buried after the Indian custom, and refused to allow missionaries to make an establishment on the Seneca Reservation in Western New York, about 1824. Rev. Asher Wright, the missionary who has labored among the Senecas many years, says: “Red Jacket was a very intemperate man, and much under the influence of infidel white men, and till near the close of his life was opposed to the Christian religion. A few months before he died he visited an old friend in Genesee county, who had formerly sympathized with him. He was greatly astonished at the change apparent in his friend, who had been converted, and had given up whiskey and was now living happily with his family. Red Jacket watched narrowly everything he saw in this old friend, and on his return he said to his traveling companion: “ There must be something better in this Gospel than I ever gave it credit for if it makes changes like this in men’s characters. I should do well to receive it myself. It must be true and good. I am going to try it.” He continued to talk of it after reaching home, and was in a very serious and tender frame of mind till attacked with his last sickness. This friend thought that in heart he believed in Jesus Christ, but he had no opportunity to make profession of his faith; though he said to his wife, whom he had once greatly abused on account of her Christian faith, “persevere in your religion. It is the right way.” This, so far as is known, was his last utterance upon the subject. Red Jacket died January, 1831, aged 81 years and was buried in a Christian manner, which fact would seem to corroborate the reported changes in his views.
Methodist preachers also were early on the ground, classes
formed and local preachers appointed.
It was but a little more than thirty years after the heathen left the country that a church was formed at Athens. One had been formed at Wyalusing as early as 1794, one at Wysox near the close of the century, one established in Smithfield at its first settlement about 1801.
In the fall of 1811 Rev. William Wisner, from Newtown, visited Athens. He was a native of Warwick, Orange County, NY, and came to Newtown in 1800. He studied law with Hon. Vincent Mathews, and had practiced at the bar a few years. After he made a profession of religion, his attention was turned to the ministry, and soon after he was licensed to preach. He came to this place, supposing that the novelty of hearing a lawyer preach might bring the people out to hear him. His subject was “ The total depravity of the human heart, the remedy which God had provided for fallen man, and the certainty of the eternal perdition of those who do not avail themselves of that provision.” The congregation was large and attentive, so much so that he made an appointment for the next Sabbath, when there were evident tokens of the Divine presence. People came many miles to hear him, and the upper part of the Academy was crowded. A general revival of religion followed. The next summer, on the 8th day of July, 1812, the “First Congregational Church” was formed, with about thirty members, and was connected with the “Luzerne Association.” Rev. Ard Hoyt, afterward missionary to the Cherokees at “Mission Ridge,” Georgia, presided. While in session, and during the examination of candidates, a middle aged woman from Litchfield township entered the room quietly, and with her usual promptness went directly to the moderator and presented him with a paper. He read it with emotion. It was the certificate that signified the good and regular standing of the aged father and mother, the eldest son’s wife, and their daughter Rebecca, in the church where they had lived in Connecticut. Father Hoyt then inquired where they had lived. She replied with a smile, “In the woods three or four miles distant; have lived there about two years.” After inquiring if any one present was acquainted with them, and being assured that they were a worthy family, Father Hoyt turned to his brethren in the ministry and said, “Here, brethren, the Lord had a church in the wilderness, and nobody has known it.” The church was organized and this family was added to it. They were constant attendants at church; and from their mountain home they might uniformly be seen on the early Sabbath morning in a cart drawn by oxen wending their way down to the landing on the Susquehanna, where they entered their canoe, the aged grandmother, her son and his wife, and sister, and several children, neatly clad in homespun, and floated down the river to the place of worship. After the two services the canoe was entered again, and the boys with their setting poles pushed back to the landing. The old gentleman, blind and feeble, seldom, if ever, came down from the mountain. It was his Pisgah, from which by faith he could view the promised land.
Rev. William Wisner was the first pastor of this church, and remained with it three years, receiving aid from the New Hampshire and Connecticut Missionary Societies. He preached alternately at the old red schoolhouse at Milltown and the Academy at the Point. His instructions were such as to make an impression, and he has been greatly blessed in his labors. Mr. Wisner was eminently a fireside preacher. He went from house to house, calling the family together and conversing with each member. The children shared largely in his attentions, and many a youthful heart was brought to a spiritual knowledge of the Saviour through his instrumentality. On extraordinary occasions he wrote his sermons, otherwise he preached offhand. The three years passed quickly, and it was necessary for him to remove to another field of labor. February 27th, 1816, Mr. Wisner sent in his resignation in the following words:
“ Dearly Beloved in the Lord. After striving in vain to retain the endearing relation which has subsisted between us, I do now, with the approbation of the Association and your consent, commit you to the love of God, and resign my charge over you.”*
* Mr. Wisner built a house and planted fruit trees on the lot now occupied by General Williston. Several of the stately trees are still bearing fruit. He was then a little more than thirty years of age. He is now near ninety, and is living at Ithaca. He writes to a friend, “ My life with all its trials has been one of great enjoyment, and I am happy in the decline of life, as I was in its morning or noon. God has not forsaken me in my old age.” Mr. Wisner has often visited here, and always frequents the old burying-ground, where he finds so many of his former congregation.
After the pastoral relation between the Rev. Mr. Wisner
and the church of Athens was dissolved, the Rev. John Bascom was chosen
moderator, and Deacon Josiah Crocker, clerk. Mr. Bascom preached
one-half of his time in Smithfield, employed and paid by the people of
that place. The remainder of his time was spent in missionary labors,
chiefly at Spencer, NY, receiving aid from the New England Missionary Associations.
The Rev. M. York, Rev. John Smith, Rev. Simeon R. Jones and others, and
Mr. Bascom, preached at Athens at Different times, and occasional additions
were made to the church.
In 1818 and ’19, a valuable accession was made of several intelligent Christian families from Silver Lake,* in Susquehanna County. They had been induced by the very flattering accounts of the country to sell their property in New England, leave their homes and invest their funds in the new region. It proved a very unfortunate movement for them, and they came to Athens in reduced circumstances. The men engaged as tenants to the farmers around, and by persevering industry and frugality, with the aid of the little money they brought with them, were carried through the seasons of scarcity which followed.+
* Those who came from Silver Lake were the Warner, Morgan, Wheelock, Muzzy and Calkins families, many of whose descendants are among our leading citizens.
+ During these seasons the crops were very short. The people could not wait to go to mill with their wheat, or pay toll at the mills, but pounded out their grain at their homes, and baked it in this crude state. Money was sometimes deposited at the mill to purchase grain, but none could be procured except what was received as toll for grinding. Many sacrifices were made by families to supply themselves with food.
But notwithstanding these trying circumstances, that fell
with peculiar weight upon these newcomers, the church prospered.
It was the practice of the church for many years to meet together once
a month, and to bring their children with them to pray for the prosperity
of Zion. The Lord hearkened and heard. From 1820 to 1824 there
was almost a continual revival of religion. The work of divine grace
was manifest in the church, and in the hearts of many others.
At this time the Rev. James Williamson came to Athens. His labors were greatly blessed. There probably was never a time when so happy and prosperous a state of things existed in the church as at this period.
In April, 1823, the Congregational Church of Athens adopted the Presbyterian form of government by a majority vote, to be in connection with Susquehanna Presbytery, originally the Luzerne Association. William B. Swain and George A. Perkins were chosen Ruling Elders.
October, 1825, Rev. Isaac W. Platt was chosen Moderator of the church, and ministered here five years. Many of the church members were not satisfied with the Presbyterian form of government, and at the suggestion of Mr. Platt the church adopted the plan of Union, recommended by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church and the General Association of Connecticut in 1801. A standing committee of five persons were chosen by the church to act upon this plan, which was generally satisfactory. During the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Platt, in 1826, the first church edifice was erected here. In 1833 Rev. William C. Wisner, son of the former pastor, was called to this church, and remained here more than a year.
Rev. William Adams succeeded him in 1835. He was a man of fine talents and had become quite popular.
About this time a student from Princeton delivered a lecture here upon the subject of slavery, which created such excitement as to make it prudent for the young man to leave town at the earliest opportunity.
The next Sabbath Mr. Adams preached a sermon against “Popular Violence,” which resulted in his removal from this place.
Rev. C.C. Corss became pastor of the church in April, 1837. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church met in Philadelphia, and the following May passed the “Exscinding Act,” by which four Synods, 500 ministers, and about 60,000 communicants were declared to have no connection with the Presbyterian Church, thereby repudiating the plan of Union, upon which ground the church of Athens then stood. A committee was sent from the Susquehanna Presbytery to notify the church members that they were no longer in connection with that body, and to organize a church which should be strictly Presbyterian and in connection with them. The Presbytery was in sympathy with the proceedings of the late General Assembly.
A portion of the church preferred to remain as they were, while others chose to be connected with the Susquehanna Presbytery, thus dividing a small church. This necessarily involved the question of church property, which was finally settled by each body consenting to use the house alternately, thus causing much that was painful, if not reproachful, to the cause of religion.
Mr. Corss preached for the Old School, and Rev. C. Thurston for the New School, Rev. Nathaniel Elmer succeeding Mr. T. This state of things existed about twenty years, from 1838 to ’58, many hoping for a reunion of the General Assemblies, which might also unite the churches.
At length during a powerful revival of religion which occurred about this time, a compromise was effected, both branches consenting to unite and transfer their ecclesiastical relations to the Reformed Dutch Church.
They remained in this connection until after the reunion of the two General Assemblies, when the church again became Presbyterian.
Rev. Augustus Todd, Rev. P. Berry, and Rev. John Shaw were pastors under this administration. Within that time the old church was burned in 1861, and a new brick church was erected in 1862.
It is not known that a Methodist class was formed in the village of Athens, until 1832. Mr. Shippy, a class-leader, lived here, in the early part of the century, and was in the habit of meeting for prayer, with any who might wish to assemble, of whatever name, but it is believed he was connected with the class on the west side of the river, in what was then called “Christian Street,” on account of the number of Methodists who lived there. Mr. Abraham Minier was their leader for many years. The street had previously been called Holland, on account of several Dutch families having early settled there. The first Methodist house of worship in the village of Athens was built in 1844. Dedicated sermon preached by Rev. J. Dodge. The church was burned in 1851, at the time of the great fire, when a number of stores, a long row of buildings, and a small Episcopal church on the bank of the river were consumed.
The Methodist church was rebuilt of brick in 1852.
The Episcopal stone church was built in 1861.
The churches in the upper part of the village were built some years previous.
MRS. CLEMENT PAINE
Mrs. P. was a resident of Athens many years, and was extensively
known in the early part of the century. We have added some account
of this excellent woman, with extracts from her diary, which it is thought
desirable to insert here as connected with the early history of Athens.
She was the daughter of Theodore Woodbridge, brother of the distinguished
William Woodbridge, and was born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, September
13th, 1784. The family were educated and intelligent. She finished
her education at Hartford in the year 1800, just before her father removed
with his family, together with twenty other families, to Salem in Northern
Pennsylvania, 90 miles southeast of Athens, which was then a wilderness.
They bought land under the Connecticut title, which was superseded by Pennsylvania claims, but notwithstanding these difficulties they became a prosperous community, one seldom equaled in any new country.
Here Miss Woodbridge commenced a diary which afforded her much comfort in her retired situation. The style and sentiments of her journal would do honor to any of our female writers. Her early reading was principally confined to religious authors of a former period, where she found much to improve her understanding and comfort her heart. Occasionally she visited Wilkesbarre, where she met congenial society, and works of more modern authors. These tended much to her improvement, and although of a very timid and retiring disposition, she could converse and write with uncommon elegance and facility.
In her solitary and retired life she found some valuable Christian society among the people who had removed with them from Connecticut.
After the death of her mother the care and responsibility of the family devolved upon her. Though but seventeen years old she entered upon her duties with fidelity and industry, by which her father, two brothers, and a sister were made comfortable and their home cheerful.
Sometimes in this wilderness the snow was so deep that the roads were impassable, and they saw no faces but those of their own family for many days. While the dreary storm continued, her diary says, “ I am by no means discontented, for I have long since been taught that happiness, if anywhere to be found, is in one’s own breast, that our own domestic scenes, and our own fireside are preferable to any other. How miserable must that person be who never finds enjoyment at home.”
“ March 6th, 1804. The storm and cold have abated, and the spring has returned with all its beauties. I find much happiness in our family. What in this life is there to be compared to domestic felicity? I do not know of a person in the world with whom I would exchange situations.” In this peaceful retirement Miss W. often expresses herself as “happily situated,” not exposed to the many temptations of more polite and fashionable society. Sometimes she speaks of the cares and responsibilities of the family, sometimes of going into the woods with her brother to make sugar. Sometimes her hand held the distaff, which resulted in a long piece of cloth for family use, and often reading books sent to her by friends, or entertaining missionaries from New England who visited the settlement. Mr. Seth Williston was one of these missionaries, and she regarded him as the instrument of her conversion.
“ My good father was overjoyed at the change in my feelings. It has been his highest hope for his children that they might all be brought into the fold of Christ. When the family were assembled for worship it seemed like a little heaven below. Retirement was sweet, and prayer a most delightful exercise.
“ There is a work for us to do, and this work is exactly calculated to subdue pride, and remove all self-confidence. It brings us to a state of humility from a sense of our own insufficiency to do any good thing, and that we are forever undone except God appear for us. When thus prepared God shows the way of salvation through Christ, pardons our sins and gives us faith in Him.”
The time came for changes in this retired and peaceful family. Her father married again, and in her diary she writes, “ The next year I was united to the man I loved.”
Clement Paine was engaged in merchandise at Athens, and purchased his goods in Philadelphia. He frequently passed through Wilkesbarre, where he became acquainted with Miss Woodbridge. He afterwards visited her father’s house in Salem, and in 1806 she came with him to Athens as his bride.
Mrs. Paine found some choice society in her new home. Mrs. Tuttle and Mrs. Hopkins, of whom she often speaks as having taken sweet counsel together, were ladies of piety, refinement, and pleasing manners. They often met for social prayer at their own private rooms, and after a little time met at the house (a log-cabin) of a Methodist family to worship on the Sabbath. Here they found the Saviour present time after time, until their hearts became so overflowing that their faith required a larger place. They asked the privilege of meeting in a ballroom on the Sabbath, and invited their husbands to read the sermons, and the Methodist brother to pray. The congregation sang, and they soon collected quite an assembly. Then the Lord directed the Rev. Seth Williston and other missionaries to preach to them occasionally, and afterward a church was formed, and numbers added to it. One of these mothers in Israel, Mrs. Tuttle, lived at Elmira until 1856, when she died. A strong friendship existed between these estimable ladies, which was interrupted by death only to be perpetuated in eternity.
Mrs. Paine had other Christian friends whom she valued highly. In her diary she speaks of her “ venerable and much esteemed friend, Mrs. Saltmarsh, Esq. She is a treasure we must soon lose, as she has passed her threescore years and ten. It was with deep regret that I beheld the decay of her mental powers once so strong, and still less weak than most in the prime of life. How beautiful does that old age appear which is crowned with the wisdom and piety of early days though bowed by infirmity. Such a one is this aged mother in Israel.”
Learning the destitution of the Bible about the country, Mrs. Paine corresponded with Robert Ralston, Esq., of Philadelphia, well-known in Bible Society operations, and from him received boxes of Bibles at different times, which with the tracts she procured at her own expense, she commenced a system of Bible and Tract Societies came into existence, making her way across the rivers and up the mountains on horseback she distributed to every destitute family within her reach. She also employed others to extend the distribution still farther. She was thus in fact the first colporteur in this region.
Nor was this the only way she aimed to be useful. Holding the pen of a ready writer she found access to many others. Her kind and faithful warnings to the thoughtless, and her encouragement to the desponding through the medium of her little notes are fresh in the memory of many. By these and many other methods of usefulness she exerted an influence for good among all classes of society.
The early part of Mrs. Paine’s life was tranquil and happy, and she speaks of finding much domestic enjoyment in her new home. She says, “ We have all we can wish of riches. We are amply furnished with everything we need; we have few intruders on our fireside enjoyments; my little Edward every day has stronger claims on my affections, and my husband each day is dearer to my heart.”
But her pathway became more rugged as she advanced in life, and increasing cares and responsibilities weighed heavily upon her. Her diary about this time was addressed principally to her children, whom she hoped might be benefited by it in after life. With earnestness does she warn them against the many snares which Satan will set for their youthful feet, and presses it upon them to follow in the footsteps of their godly ancestors, whose prayers are worth vastly more to them than a large estate. Another object she had in view in writing was her own personal benefit and gratification. She loved to call herself to an account, and “ talk with her past hours, and ask them what report they bore to heaven, and how they might have borne more welcome news.”
March 16th, 1810. She says in her diary:--“ Have been very happy in hearing that Esq. Saltmarsh, one of our most respectable inhabitants, has publicly declared his intention of making religion his greatest object of pursuit, and has commenced praying in his family;” and she takes occasion from this example to impress it upon her children to make religion the ultimate purpose of their lives. She warns them against embracing any system that does not exalt God, and humble the sinner, and urges them to see that their views are consistent with the standard of truth by which so many good men have been directed and made happy. “ Again, let me entreat you to study the Scriptures with childlike simplicity, and let no persuasions or arguments prevail on you to disbelieve the truth. If you cast that away you are like a ship without a pilot or compass on the wide and dangerous ocean. Be constant in your devotions, at least morning and evening pray for yourselves, for your friends, and for the world. If this is a painful task, pray to God until he makes it a delightful privilege, until he makes you a Christian. Begin a holy life in early days. It is the morning of life and the dew of youth which are particularly acceptable to God. It is then that the passions are most easily subdued. Bad habits and principles are not so stubborn as in later years.
“ October 28th, 1811. Last evening saw an account in the magazine of four young men of handsome talents and acquirements who had devoted their lives to the purpose of carrying the glad news of salvation to the heathen. I also saw an account of a Mrs. Norris, who had bequeathed $30,000 for the same object. A fear was also expressed that the Missionary funds would not be adequate to the numerous expenses. I was lamenting deeply with Laura that we had nothing to bestow. After many fruitless plans and regrets, the idea occurred that although Providence had not opened a door for us in this way, yet we have an opportunity perhaps of more usefulness than if we had more money at command. There are many children and youth in every village who need religious instruction. Miss Hannah More, by her personal exertions, civilized and moralized a village which previously was extremely vicious and depraved. If we have not, like her, the influence, talents, and education requisite for the establishment of Sunday Schools, yet all of us have qualifications sufficient to enable us to instruct in the simple truths of the gospel. It is also the happy privilege of every Christian mother to educate a little church for God. Another way in which we may be useful is by prayer.”
Mrs. Paine established a Sabbath School in this place in 1818. She often met with the children on the Fourth of July, and furnished them with an entertainment, prepared by herself.
Under date of November 4th, 1811, she writes:--“ It is a little more than a week since I heard the distressing news of my dear father’s death! How trifling and little has the world and all its concerns since appeared. It has seemed as if I were but a step from eternity. For a few hours my grief was without any alleviation, until the sweet thought that I should spend a long eternity with him, if like him I lived, darted into my heart. This is as a reviving balsam to my wounded spirit, nor have I since felt my grief so severe. Another great source of consolation is, that this event was the appointment of Divine Wisdom. And shall I repine? Is it not time that this faithful servant should rest from his labors? His life has been a long and laborious one. Sweet indeed must be his rest. Methinks I see him happy beyond expression, and with his usual tranquil and cheerful countenance, for that bespoke him a saint. I have often thought that his countenance, like Moses’, proved that he conversed much with God. His devotions were frequent and fervent. I have heard him relate frequent instances of the efficacy of prayer. He told me one day that he had been earnestly praying for me, and that God had given him assurance that in his own time he would bring me ‘ out of nature’s darkness into His marvelous light.’ This was great encouragement to me, as were his pious instructions. He had a deep sense of the depravity of the heart, and frequently admired the wonderful condescension of God in hearing and answering the imperfect petitions of mortals.
“ His charity was bounded only by necessity. On his only visit to me he saw a widowed mother with her fatherless family. I learned accidentally some months after his departure that he presented them with $20. A donation of $30 I also heard of his giving to another family in similar circumstances. I am persuaded that many such sums have been secretly given by him, and thus he laid up for himself treasures in heaven which he is now enjoying. His conversation was such as adorned the character of a Christian and a gentleman, and such as pleased and instructed all who heard him. There was an uncommon union of dignity and modesty in his deportment. The vicious feared and the virtuous loved him. It was his practice to do his duty in trying circumstances, and leave the event to God,--
“ ‘ All the dull cares and tumults of this world,
Like harmless thunders, breaking at his feet,
Excite his pity, not impair his peace.’
“ He had not a college education, as had his three older
brothers, who were clergymen, yet few have a better informed mind, or as
much taste, judgment, and sentiment. He became a Christian at the
age of twenty-one; then he relinquished the company and amusement of his
gay companions, because they appeared so trifling and insipid compared
with the enjoyments he found in religion. Soon after, he entered
the Revolutionary War, where he remained during its continuance, and distinguished
himself by his piety and bravery. There he obtained the commission
of major. At the age of thirty-three he married my mother, the daughter
of a rich and respectable merchant. I was their eldest child; two
sons and two daughters composed our family. By his industry he procured
a competency of the good things of this life, but our eternal welfare lay
nearest his heart. This led him to seek a residence in retirement,
after giving his children a good education in Connecticut. Three
years after our removal to Salem, my mother died. During his sore
affliction, a kind neighbor endeavored to console me by saying I ought
to be thankful that I had one of the best of parents left. His character,
which I have ever esteemed as the most virtuous and valuable that I ever
knew, since his death shines with increasing luster. Do you, my children,
inquire why he was so justly venerated by all who knew him? I answer,
it was piety toward God. It was the approbation of his God which
he sought in every action of his life. I wrote to my dear father
about two weeks since, and wrote just such a letter as I could wish, had
I known it to be my last. Oh, that he had answered it. One
request I am glad that I made; it was that he would pray his God to give
me grace to bring up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
“ A Congregational Church of eight members had been formed in our peaceful and retired settlement in Salem, but the year after my removal to Athens God was pleased to pour out his spirit on that place. My youngest brother was from home. My father sent for him that he too might be a subject of the happy work. He saw all his children professors of religion, and every family became a praying family, and, in some instances, four, five, and six in a family became hopeful converts. About forty untied with the church. He saw their temporal concerns prosperous, schools established, and the ordinances of religion enjoyed in the place, which in the year 1800 was a howling wilderness. God was pleased thus to smile on his endeavors to be useful. What more had he to do in this world? --his work was done, and God took him home. He died suddenly of typhus fever.
“ When my sister and myself last parted from my father, he enjoined it upon us to pray with and for each other. I trust we frequently prayed for each other, but a sinful timidity kept us from social prayer. The injunction came home to us the double force after his death. We have since each day regularly prayed by turns with the children under my care. I esteem it a great privilege, and it has rendered my sister doubly dear.
“ Sab., January 27, 1812. Yesterday I was very happily surprised at the arrival of Rev. Mr. Wisner, formerly a lawyer of considerable eminence, but a change of heart induced him to change his profession. He preached two of the most excellent sermons today, to a crowded audience, that I have heard since I have been in Athens. I wonder how any one could remain in unbelief. Sinners must have had their eyes sealed and their hearts hardened indeed to resist the truth. After enduring a long famine of the word of God, it was a precious feast of good things to my soul which I this day enjoyed. He preached in the old Academy, and his text in the A.M. was—‘What went ye out for to see?’ in the P.M.—“let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians.’ He showed the wickedness of the Israelites, and the goodness of God, who would not let them alone, and also who they are at the present time that desire God to let them alone.
“ I called last evening on one of our neighbors, who is supposed to lie at the point of death, Mr. John Miller, a merchant of this place, about thirty years of age. He leaves a young and interesting wife. I tried to call his attention to the importance of being prepared for death, but his chief anxiety was to know how his widow should be provided for. He died this A.M. and his death was announced to the congregation.
“ Sab., Feb. 10th. In what language can I thank my Heavenly Father for all his favors? He seems about giving his children in this place their heart’s desire—in his ordinances and the preaching of the gospel. The Rev. Mr. Williston, Mr. Parker, and Mr. Jones have frequently preached to us, but they obtained few hearers, and Mr. Wisner came to us with little expectation of doing good. He had, however, a very numerous audience, who were strictly attentive while he preached the undisguised truth. The second Sabbath he preached in Milltown to a very crowded assembly, and in this village in the evening. Last Monday I visited at Mr. Crocker’s in Milltown, and attended a prayer meeting. It was with much difficulty I obtained this privilege, yet I found it a happy season to my soul. When I arrived at Mr. C.’s I learned he was absent on the business of obtaining a subscription for hiring Mr. Wisner to preach to us a year. How joyfully did we hear the glad tidings that he was likely to succeed, and that the famine of the word we have endured was to be followed by ‘a feast of fat things.’ How glad was I to hear that several were awakened to a sense of the importance of preparing for an awful eternity, and to see at the prayer meeting some children, bathed in tears, earnestly appearing to inquire ‘ What must we do to be save?’ The little number of Christians are earnestly engaged in praying for the outpouring of the spirit, and for the preached gospel.
“ Mr. Wisner returned from Newtown on Wednesday. He proposed a conference which was attended at our house, and I can truly say it was the happiest one I ever attended. He has made our house his home when in the village, as did the former ministers, and I am thankful for the privilege of entertaining them, and of enjoying the benefit of their conversation and prayers. They earnestly pray for my family. Oh, that their prayers might not be in vain.
“ Mr. W. says his way has been wonderfully hedged up whenever he has thought of leaving this people. When he came he had no idea of spending more than one Sabbath, but the attention the people manifested, induced him to make an appointment for the next Sabbath, and for the same reason he came the third Sabbath. He had with much pleasure contemplated a journey to Ontario, where they were very desirous to have him take the pastoral charge of the church. They had made a regular ‘call,” and sent to him, but the bearer lost it on the road, and before it could be renewed he had a pressing invitation from us, and a subscription raised for his support. Last week he remained with us attending conferences, and visiting families, as he found himself too unwell to leave. From these circumstances and the spirit of prayer that prevails, I am led to think the thing is of God.”
After an interruption of three years she resumes her journal.
“ Tues., Jan. 10th, 1815. Received a call this morning from Mrs. B.—a temporary resident. She spoke of the uncommon sorrows which had fallen to her lot. I could not condole with her, for I really could not think from what source her troubles came, as she is a boarder perfectly at ease, has an affectionate husband, and an only son,--a most promising character. I studied much what to say by way of commiseration, but my attempts were awkward. This P.M. another Mrs. B—called. She too spoke of her griefs as if they could not be a secret to any one, yet apparently her situation is pleasant, having a good husband, and an agreeable, affectionate family of children, more than commonly engaging. Next Mrs. H—called. She had not only her own sorrows, but hose of her two daughters to bear; all of whom are richly supplied with all this world can give. I thought of my own woes, but had I alluded to them I suppose they would not have been better understood by others than theirs are by me—so I spoke not of them.
“Thurs., Jan. 12th. Received a visit from Mrs. Shepard, Mrs. Hopkins, and Mrs. Backus. These friends I esteem highly. With the former I have not been intimately acquainted, although a sister in the church, as she has not long been a resident here; she is a woman of a superior mind and pleasing manners.
“ Fri, Feb. 24th. Visited Mrs.---this P.M. I saw in her family the picture of those who enjoy all the pleasures the present moment can impart, regardless of the future. If all that they now enjoy could be continued, they must have more than the common share allotted to mortals. But their prospects appear to me very gloomy, nothing for a sick day, or old age, and soon they may be deprived of their present very comfortable abode and business.
“ Thurs. Apr. 20th. Today we have followed Brother Enoch Paine to his long home. After a life of activity, of health, of usefulness, death has laid him in the dust.
“ Sab., May 7th. With all my little ones I attended meeting. Mr. Wisner preached from the text—‘Follow peace with all men.’ His sermon in the P.M. was from the remainder of the test—‘ And holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.’ Oh, who could hear what he said, about the consequences of not having holiness, and go away un-awakened!
“ Wed., May 10th. Purchased the ‘ Life of Rev. David Brainerd,’ written by President Edwards. If one wishes to know the difference between him who serveth God and him who serveth him not, let him compare the life of Brainerd with that of the thoughtless and profane.
“ Thurs. Eve., May 18th. Have long had a great desire to read Shakespeare; I flattered myself with the idea of improving my style—therefore sent for the first volume from the village library. I found it was forbidden fruit to me, whatever it might be to others, for the pleasing fiction occupied all my attention, and prevented my search for beauties of style. To my surprise, I found indelicacies, which I did not expect in so celebrated an author, therefore I shall probably remain ignorant of the beauties of Shakespeare. Oh, that his genius had been better employed! then might those who seek to know Jesus, and him crucified, have known and admired his writings too.
“ Sab., May 28th. While making arrangements to wait on God in his house, I received an urgent invitation to visit a sick woman. It was two miles distant, and very difficult for me to go, yet I thought it my duty—therefore sent the four older children to meeting three miles distant, took my little one and went to see the sick woman. The family have hardly the necessaries of life, while we have so many of those refinements which sweeten our enjoyment. On our return we called at a house where lives an old man alone. It was old Dr. Dart, he was talking philosophy, and acting it; for with an invited friend he was eating some roasted potatoes on the head of a barrel. He apologized with a very cheerful countenance, said they were eating a very humble meal, but it was the best he had in the house. Poverty, where there is anything like refinement of manners and mind, does not appear half so disagreeable, as when there is nothing but vulgarity and ignorance.
“ Thurs., June 1st. The road is filled with travelers going to a camp meeting about ten miles above us. Some women passed yesterday who had walked thirty miles to attend.
“ Sab., June 4th. Crowds are still going and returning from camp meeting. Our family have all attended Mr. Wisner’s meeting, and have been richly fed with sweet, divine truths.
“Sab., June 11th. Attended meeting at Milltown. The children walked. I never love them so well as when I see them thus presenting themselves before God.
“Thurs., June 15th. Saw dear brother Bascom, my sister’s husband, who brought me the ‘Life of Winter’ and the ‘Life of Dr. Hopkins.’
“ Fri., June 16th. Have heard that Deacon Crocker, who is the chief pillar of our church, is under the necessity of removing from us, being out of employment. This will be a great frown of Providence if it takes place, next to the removal of our minister, which I fear will soon follow if God does not appear for us.
“ Sab., June 18th. Attended a reading meeting, Mr. Wisner being absent, and I enjoyed more than a common Sabbath’s blessing in hearing the good Mr. Morse pray. Since meeting, have been much entertained with the life of Winter.
“ Sab., July 16th. What a day of rejoicing has this been to our minister and his church! A degree of that joy which is felt by angels over one repenting sinner has been ours. We rejoice over four who have been admitted to our church. How strong my hopes that this awakening will not end here, that my dear children will also be the subjects of this work. Mrs. W. called to tell me that her son C.W. is under deep convictions. That he spent a sleepless night, he wept much and was in great distress. Should C. become a Christian, what a plant of renown he might be in the vineyard of the Lord!
“Sat., Sept. 16th. This evening attended prayer meeting. It was delightful to worship God with the little number of his people after a day of fatigue and care. I thought how much more delightful it would be to worship him eternally and without any mixture of sin. The eternal Sabbath of rest. How delightful and harmonious the sound.
“Sab., Sept. 17th. Have not attended meeting today on account of the indisposition of my children. When duty obliges me to remain at home I often enjoy myself, and find a Sabbath day’s blessing.
“ Tues., Sept. 19th. Some remarks having been made derogatory to the character of another, gave occasion to our dear minister to say, ‘ No matter how true a report is, if we circulate it with a view of lessening the reputation of the object, it is slander.’
“ Wed., Sept. 20th. The ‘Luzerne Congregational Association’ is sitting here. I pray that God may grant them wisdom in all their deliberations.
“ Fri., Sept. 22nd. Have felt idle because I have not engaged in any of my undertakings. My father used to say that he had rather be driven with business than have little or nothing to do, and I have often felt the truth of this remark.
“ Sab., Oct., 1st. This morning I awoke anxious to attend meeting. If I could not ride, resolved to walk. As is often the case when I determine to surmount every difficulty, Providence provided for me and I rode. I was very much edified by the sermons, and did not repent my attendance, although three miles from home and five children with me. With James before me and Seth behind on one horse, I arrived safely. Sometimes I scarcely know what duty is. I wish to attend the worship of God with my children. If I cannot take them, it is my duty to stay with them, as they are too young to leave, and the difficulty of taking them is great. We ought to show more zeal for the worship of God than Christians generally do, yet to do what appears like saying, ‘ Come, see my zeal for the Lord,’ does not glorify him.
“ Tues., Oct. 3 d. A girl who attends dancing school, walks three miles, and crosses the river, and either has to burden some family with her company, or return home after ten o’clock at night, last evening gave me a share of the inconvenience arising from it. Without any acquaintance or invitation she called and took tea, lodged, and breakfasted, thanked me for her entertainment and departed. I pitied the poor girl much for her folly, gave her my opinion, intending to spare her feelings yet be plain. Another case, similar to this, occurred this evening. It is humiliating to witness the folly of mankind. Read a chapter this evening to a child eleven years of age, who said she had never heard a chapter read before, nor had they a Bible in their house.
“ Fri., Oct. 6th. This P.M. Mr. Wisner visited us. While engaged in conversation, a carriage drove to the door in which were two strangers. It proved to be Mr. Paine’s eldest brother, Dr. James Paine, and his daughter Charlotte. I had never seen him before, and was never more happy in receiving one of my own brothers. His prayers and his conversation are a luxury, and prove him a dear follower of my own dear Saviour.
“ Sab., Oct. 15th. Attended meeting at Milltown. Mr. Wisner made some remarks, which I applied directly to myself, and felt very much humbled for my stupidity. Prayers were offered by the deacons, during the intermission, at Mr. W.’s request.
“ Sat., Oct. 21st. Attended prayer meeting, five only were collected. Mr. Wisner prayed for the outpouring of the Spirit, as if he had the assistance of the Holy Spirit, or as if Christ had met with us.
“ Sat., Nov. 4th. This evening went to prayer meeting. Saw brilliant lights throughout the village. A humble light shone at the academy where we met for prayer. I felt happy in the idea of meeting dear brothers and sisters. I met them, their number was three besides the minister, and what was worse they were just retiring. I had been detained and was too late. I felt ashamed indeed that I should not encourage the heart of our minister by a zeal for the worship of God, and more that I should cheat my own soul of heavenly food.
“ Tues., Nov. 7th. Mr. And Mrs. Wisner made us a farewell visit. We, as a church, deserve the frowns of Providence, and we experience them in the removal of Mr. Wisner, and in the indifference or opposition of our friends and relatives. Mr. Wisner intends preaching here still, but we have reason to fear that his dismission will be the next step.
“ Wed., Nov. 8th. This morning Esq. Saltmarsh was suddenly removed into the eternal world. He was a useful inhabitant and a friend of Jehovah. Oh! that my work of life was done and well done. How sweet would be the sleep of death!
“ Sat., Nov. 11th. Attended the funeral of Esq. Saltmarsh, where was a large collection of people. Heard while at the funeral that Dr. Satterlee, of Elmira, had mortally wounded himself with a gun that went off accidentally.
“ Tues., Nov. 14th. Have heard the joyful news that Mr. Wisner has concluded to remain with us until spring.
“ Sat., Nov. 18th. Tomorrow is our communion day: Had the satisfaction of preparing the sacramental bread. Had sweet reflections while thus engaged, and could say—What am I, and what is my Father’s house, that I should do this for the King of kings, my Lord and my God.
“ Sab., Nov. 19th. Our dear minister was ill, and unable to do more than administer sacrament. The affection of this church for Mr. Wisner is very great. Not one of its members would exchange him for any other minister, yet appearances are very dark in regard to his continuance here. The prejudices of the congregation are very great, but not greater than have been against every missionary who has been among us.
“ Thurs., Nov. 30th. This has been our day of public thanksgiving. I did not attend meeting, as the weather has been unpleasant, and the meeting was at Milltown. Our Heavenly Benefactor has done much to gratify our taste as well as to supply our necessities. We partake of the great variety which God has given us richly to enjoy, and although endowed with reason, and capable of all the feelings of gratitude and devotion, yet we rarely exercise them.
“ Fri., Dec. 1st. Received a visit from Mrs. Welles and Mrs. Hollenback, friends and relatives of my early days. Friends and attachments formed at that period are peculiarly dear, particularly when strengthened by a long series of favors, and a continued confidence.
“ Sat., Dec. 2d. Brother Bascom called today. He is authorized by the trustees of the academy to apply to the Theological Seminary at Andover for one who is qualified to teach our academy, and preach to us, as we have reason to fear that our dear pastor will not long continue with us. I find much access to God in prayer when pleading that a door may be opened for his stay with us.
“ Sab., Dec. 3rd. Mr. Wisner preached this A.M. His text was, ‘ And Jehosaphat said, Is there not yet a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of him? And he said, There is a man whose name is Micaiah, but I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.’ Mr. Wisner used arguments which his adversaries could not gainsay or resist. On our return from meeting we called to see an aged lady, Mrs. Prentice, who has probably but a short time to live.
“ Fri., Dec. 8th. Mrs. Prentice was buried today. She was a woman of good sense and education. She was the daughter of the Rev. Mr. Owen, of Groton, Connecticut. Although more than eighty years of age her faculties were not impaired, and there was still much sprightliness of mind and gayety of manners apparent. She paid much attention to her dress, and a stranger would not have supposed her more than seventy.
“ Sat., Dec. 30th. Mr. Paine invited Mr. Cook and his brother this evening to supper, they being left alone in their house. Their connection was very singular. Two brothers married the mother and daughter, and the youngest brother married the mother.
“ Sab., Dec. 31st. Am very much entertained with Miss More’s ‘ Christian Morals.’ She has driven me from some favorite but false notions. Few writers have ever probed my heart so deeply, and exposed its evils so much to my own view, nor has any author ever excited a more humbling sense of my attainments, and of my imperfections. I hope God in his goodness to this sinful world will spare the life, and preserve the mental powers of one so useful.
“ Sat., Jan. 6th, 1816. Attended prayer meeting this evening. Found no one there but Mr. Richards, nor were any other there but myself and children. Mr. R. sung and prayed, and while I enjoyed the blessing lamented that the ways of Zion should thus mourn.
“ Sab., Jan. 7th. Rose this morning with a desire to attend meeting. Although the weather was disagreeable, I made ready with my children to walk to Milltown. Just as we were on the point of setting out, with some doubts whether we should not suffer from the cold, Mr. R. came in and said he had liberty to take me and the children to meeting with Mrs. Welles’ cutter. I could not but think this a kind interposition of Providence, as we must otherwise have suffered, for we had not gone far when it began to snow, and has continued throughout the day. I did not expect preaching, but just as meeting began Mr. Parker came in and preached, much to our comfort.
“ Wed., Jan. 10th. Had an invitation to an entertainment this evening. Made several excuses, but none would answer, so with a heavy heart I went. My surprise and pleasure were great on finding the party composed of Mr. and Mrs. Wisner with their father, and Mr. Guernsey, the preceptor of the academy. We enjoyed ourselves in rational conversation, but these pleasures will be short, as Mr. Wisner’s connection with this church is soon to be dissolved, and we shall be as sheep without a shepherd.
“ Sat., Jan. 13th. Attended prayer meeting this evening. But two persons beside my own family were present. Mr. Wisner prayed with much fervor for the church in this place.
“ Sab., Jan. 14th. Our dear minister has this P.M. bid a long farewell to Athens—not expecting to preach here again, nor is it thought advisable to have reading meetings at present.
“ Sat., Jan. 20th. Our dear minister has this day removed from us to Ithaca. He bade us an affectionate farewell. When he had gone I wept for myself, and for my children.
“ Thurs., Feb., 1st. Took a ride with my children to Smithfield, to visit my sister. We were all pleased, and loved our little cousin ‘ Harriet Newel,’ Laura’s first-born. I felt an affection for it, much like what I felt for my own.
“ Wed., Feb. 7th. Rev. Mr. Smith arrived, and is to preach a short time for us. His society is very instructive, and amply rewards us for whatever trouble or expense we incur for his entertainment.
“ Sab., Feb. 11th. Have been much strengthened in my wishes and hopes of being faithful to my children by two discourses which I have this day heard from Mr. Smith, on these words—‘ Train up a child in the way it should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ He agrees with Mr. Williston, and many other divines, in supposing that God has made a covenant with believers and their seed—that if believers are faithful to their children, he will convert every one of them.
“ Thurs., Feb. 29th. The ‘ Luzerne Association’ meet this week for the purpose of dismissing Mr. Wisner. This is a stroke which will leave our church low. This association is a body of eminently pious divines. A number of them, after their conversion, left lucrative employments, and devoted themselves to the less profitable business of the ministry. Some have had a public education, and the advantages of the
‘ Andover Theological Seminary.’
“ Mon., March 4th. Had an opportunity of assisting by charity a soldier who had been wounded. His leg had been broken in three places, a ball had remained three weeks in the other knee, one eye lost, one ear cut in pieces, and a saber would in the side, in which were taken fourteen stitches. His countenance was very good, and it was gratifying to assist him. If it was done with a right motive, it was a pleasant way of laying up treasure in Heaven.
“ Sat., Feb. 15th, 1817. The cold is very intense. Mr. Smith says it is the most severe winter we have had for forty-eight years. There are many sufferers on account of it. The extreme distress it brings is such as I have never known. Yesterday the cold was really terrifying. The streams being frozen, a famine almost prevails, and I am under serious apprehension that some will actually perish from want. We have baked our last bread, but it is not for myself that I fear. It is for those who have no bread, nor any other comfort, and many such there are around us.
“ Wed., Feb. 19th. Yesterday Mrs. Reddington became the mother of three sons at a birth.
“ Wed., Feb.26th. Mrs. Gregory watched with Mrs. R.’s last babe the night on which it died. Not one has been spared.
“ Sab., March 2d. Cold, famine, and pestilence seem every day to increase, and threaten desolation. The oldest person of our acquaintance remembers no such time. A mother thinly clad came three miles through the storm, to beg a trifle for her children to eat. I have partially relieved three families today. The one best provided for had nothing save some frozen potatoes and milk—a family of nine children.
“ Wed., March 5th. The very great and extreme severity of the weather has abated. It has been remarked by elderly people that such a severe winter has not been known since the year 1780.”
The drought and severity of the weather, of which Mrs. Paine speaks, were felt extensively through the country. The summer of 1816 was very cold. Snow fell for more than two hours on the 3d of June, and vegetation was cut off to an alarming extent.
The drought and scarcity prevailed also through 1817, 1818, and the effects were felt greatly through the winter of 1819. Many families suffered for want of food, and many cattle starved to death. They were frequently found leaning against the fence through weakness, and were often found dead in the fields. The oldest people then living knew of no such time of cold, and famine, and general calamity.
Wells were dry and water scarce. The spots on the sun added terror to suffering among the illiterate. It was a wonder how the poor subsisted, for the rich had barely the necessaries of life, and provisions could scarcely be obtained at any price. Some nearly perished from cold and want. One family had nothing but damaged turnips. Cold and famine, during the severity of February, 1817, seemed every day to increase, and were sometimes terrific.
Abisha Price was greatly straitened for food for his family, and started out with his gun almost in despair, when he saw a fawn, and was upon the point of firing at it, but discovered that a wolf was approaching behind him. He turned and killed the wolf, then pursued the deer, killed and dressed it, and took it home to his family with a joyful heart. He went to Esq. Saltmarsh, made oath that he had killed the wolf, and obtained a certificate for which he received of the county treasurer twelve dollars bounty. But for the success of this day, he said he could not have supplied his family through the season with the necessaries of life.
March 8th, 1817. We have just heard the mournful intelligence that a little son of Mr. Park was drowned under the ice in the Susquehanna River.”
Not long after a little grandson of Major Flower was returning home, driving a horse before a sleigh. They were all found drowned the next morning under the ice, where they lain through the night.
JOURNEY TO BRAINERD
About 1818 the cause of Indian Missions engaged the attention
of many in this part of the country, and several persons offered themselves
to the American Board of Missions, to be sent as missionaries to the Indians,
and were accepted. Rev. Ord. Hoyt, of Wilkesbarre, was appointed
to the superintendence of the mission among the Cherokees. Soon after
a location was made at Brainerd, on Mission Ridge, about ten miles up the
Chickamauga Creek, and a few miles from Lookout Mountain.
Here these devoted missionaries gathered a mission family, of more than a hundred natives, under their care, with schools, agricultural instructions, and many religious privileges. The “Mission House,” was built by the president. Mrs. Paine, possessing much of a missionary spirit, being acquainted with some of the missionaries, and having a high estimation of the advantages to be enjoyed there, proposed to her husband, who was in poor health, to remove South, in the neighborhood of the mission, where his health might be improved and their children might receive the benefit of the establishment. The plan was matured to their mutual satisfaction, and after due arrangements, the family, consisting of the mother, four sons, and a servant girl, with a faithful man to take charge of them, commenced their journey, November, 1820. Mr. Paine attended them as far as Frederick, Maryland, where they expected to meet some missionaries who were destined for Brainerd. Mrs. Paine’s journal says, “ While waiting there, Mr. Pain accompanied us to Washington. We heard the President’s Message, and felt grateful for the interest taken in the poor natives. The address cannot fail to raise him in the estimation of the benevolent. After returning to Frederick, and not meeting with the missionaries, it was thought best for us to proceed. Mr. Paine was obliged to return to Athens, that he might settle some secular affairs, intending immediately to prosecute his journey to Brainerd on horseback.
“ While at Frederick we became acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Davidson, and heard him preach. One evening the conversation turned on Dr. Boudinot’s ‘ Star in the West.’ Mr. Davidson said he had a friend who had greatly ridiculed the idea, yet wished to read the book, which he did without sleeping, and before half finishing it became a convert to its doctrines.”
It was a favorite theme with Mrs. Paine that the natives of our country were the lost tribes of Israel.
“ We passed through Winchester, and Harper’s Ferry, which Gen. Jones supposes a greater curiosity than the Natural Bridge, appearing to be built in a large cleft of the rock through which the river passes. We saw the Natural Bridge also, so often described by others. From a projecting rock on the north side of it we had a view of this most fearful abyss, the bottom and each side of which are composed of limestone rock, so regularly wrought as to lead some to the absurd conclusion that the whole is a work of art, not of nature. I shudder at her temerity, who we were told ascended and turned three times round on a stump, so near the verge of this awful precipice that I dared not go with its reach. A gentleman described the Otter Peaks, a large pile of rock on Blue Ridge. A rock weighing many tons was balanced on the top of another; the surface of this rock was a space only large enough for two to stand upon, yet he saw a young lady ascend this place and dance there. Is there not a high degree of infidelity in thus trifling with death? We were willing to believe her the same foolish girl who performed at the Natural Bridge. We were much pleased with the hospitable treatment we received at the Bridge Tavern. The blacks at the house were treated with much kindness, and I was agreeably surprised in seeing one of them reading her Bible. I asked her where she had learned, she said, ‘ At the Sabbath school,’ but added plaintively, ‘ We cannot have them any more.’ I heard this lamentation from many a poor African.
“As we approached Knoxville, we met with much kindness from several families, some of whom felt much interest in our object. These formed a perfect contrast to the conduct of one family where we spent the Sabbath. The landlord was a weak intemperate creature, and his wife, of course, had the command. They were in good circumstances, but ignorant and profane. The family of blacks were numerous, and had nearly obtained the ascendancy. The house was not large, we were obliged to occupy the bar room. We felt ourselves on more than heathen ground. While the children of the family and the Negroes formed a common group in playing ball and swearing, I collected my children around me and we alternately read aloud in our Bibles. I suppose our bigotry, as they would term it, was a subject of ridicule in the early part of the day, but after a time one and another came in to hear a story read, until a small audience of blacks and whites were collected around us. I felt much rejoiced in being able to command their attention, and selected the most entertaining and instructive accounts, and read chapters which described the doom of the wicked. Mrs. W. (the landlady) sighed often, I suppose at the small prospect of comfort in her husband or children which she had in this world or the next.
“ When leaving the well-cultivated and fruitful soil of Pennsylvania for the fertile regions of the South, we were greatly disappointed in finding a country comparatively barren. Yet we could not but ascribe this and almost every evil to slavery, that bane of happiness and of almost every good principle. There was to me a gloom overspreading each field and prospect, similar to what one might see in passing through a country desolated by the ravages of war; only this we might believe transitory, the former permanent. It seemed that the ground was doubly cursed for their sake, nor was the curse less discernible on the minds and manners of the oppressors. Idleness, that source of vice, was a predominant feature. One said to me, ‘ If you were to live here you would like our country better than any you ever saw, and slaves save so much drudgery.’ True, but this drudgery is generally left undone! The remark was often made that the slaves did not half support themselves. I believe that an income of five hundred dollars at the North might support a family more comfortably than fifteen hundred dollars the owner of twenty slaves.
“ We found the poor slaves very grateful for the least instruction. I asked myself if the perishing souls of these blacks were not also valuable, and if these wretched abodes were not Mission Ground, such as I was resolved to consider them; here to begin my labors, and to lose no opportunity of telling them that they had souls most precious, to be saved by faith in the Redeemer.
“ At one place we saw four small children, the eldest eight years old, and their mother was dead. These had lately been purchased of their master for one thousand dollars.
“ We saw an encampment of nearly one hundred Negroes waiting to bury one of their companions, now in the agonies of death from the effect of poison administered by one of his comrades with whom he had a quarrel. The overseer said his master would not have taken two thousand dollars for him. We visited the dying man’s tent; his wife and children surrounded his bed in much affliction. I asked his wife if she thought him prepared for death. ‘ O yes, madam, through the merits of our Lord and Saviour, I trust he is.’ She seemed to speak this with the heart and understanding. A poor decrepit gray-headed Negro stood by. I asked him if he was prepared to die. He replied, ‘ O no, I don’t think I am.’ This poor creature without hope of a happy future, did not look as if he could survive the fatigue of a journey to Alabama, whither the overseer said he was taking the crew for trade. One who made a good appearance asked me to walk into her dwelling. This was the first which did not seem like an abode of wretchedness. It was neat and fancifully fitted up with curtains and good beds. She said she had been owned by many masters, and that all her children were sold. ‘ At first it almost broke my heart,’ said she, ‘but I am case hardened.’ I inquired if there were many Christians on the plantations. She told me of one who was very good, whom his master and mistress all loved. Soon after, I saw the gray-headed Negro almost bent double with age and infirmity, but his countenance was expressive of a benevolent heart, and peace of conscience. I said to him, ‘ They tell me you are a very good Christian.’ ‘ O no, mistress,’ he replied, ‘ we read there is none good but God.’ I found this poor slave an intelligent humble follower of Christ. It was most delightful to see their sufferings thus ameliorated.
“ Instances were not infrequent of mothers being sent from Virginia to Alabama, leaving a family of little children at home, and in these cases they were inconsolable. These bands were generally chained through fear of opposition. In some of them mulattoes might be seen, said to have been sold by their own fathers!
“ It must not be supposed that all alike were wretched; we saw many whose slaves were treated well, were well fed and clothed, yet they cost their owners far more than they could earn.
“ A runaway slave had been taken up on the plantation of Widow A. Young Atkins came in and said, ‘ Well, we put the fellow to torture, and he has confessed who his master is. He is a likely young fellow,’ said he, ‘and we could not think of putting him in jail, as there was one there already who had been taken up for a runaway, and placed there until his master should come, but his feet were frozen, as he had no fire or blanket.’ I expressed my horror, regretting that we had passed the jail fifteen miles, and could not leave him one. Mrs. Atkins said this was nothing, that three years ago a black fellow was condemned to be hanged for stealing a horse which he rode only three miles, that he was put in jail at Wythe, where he lay during the winter without fire or blanket, and when taken in the spring to the gallows, the blood and water dropped from his legs and feet, which had been frozen to his knees; and his toes dropped off! Fain would I have disbelieved this dreadful story, which was confirmed by two or three of the family.
“ One more account shall close this catalogue of woes. Our landlord in one place related the following:
“ A black fellow on the allowance of only one peck of corn a week had been able to split one hundred rails each day. His master came to him and said, ‘ I have laid a bet that you can tomorrow split two hundred and twenty rails, cannot you gain it?’ He said, ‘ I do not know, master, but will try.’ He rose early and by great exertion accomplished it. His master instead of rewarding him with approbation, says, ‘ I know now you can, and you shall accomplish this every day.’ He tried but was not able to finish the task, and was severely beaten. On the third day he fell short still farther, and was again beaten, with his short allowance of food, and repeated chastisements. At length he was not able to finish one hundred. His master in a rage approached to beat him, when the Negro seized him by the throat and strangled him to death, for which, adds our landlord, ‘ I saw him hung.’ I heard many slaveholders lament that a black had ever come from Africa. They know not what can be done with them.
“ We had not ceased to travel any day since leaving Frederick, excepting on the Sabbath, and until within thirty-two miles of Brainerd. Here the rain had rendered the creeks impassable, and we were compelled to wait three days. Our host and hostess were amiable and very kind, but with their poor management indoors and out, they could neither make us or themselves comfortable, though living on a farm which in New England could have supported a family in good style. Their house was without an outer door, or one pane of glass, and unfurnished with shovel, tongs, andirons, or teakettle, with very few chairs, and little table furniture.
“ We learned here many things about the missionaries. Our host said they were doubtless the best people that ever came into their country. We were now on Cherokee lands, the appearance of which was very pleasant, there being no underbrush in the woods, and the traveler could proceed without interruption.
“ We took leave of our hospitable friends as soon as we could proceed with safety. But we found the creeks much swollen and ourselves in peril several times. I clasped my children in my arms, but could not have saved them had we overset, as the horses could hardly stand in the swift current. Can we ever forge the good hand of our God which carried us through! We spent a comfortable night in a little hut near the creek, and the next night we trusted would bring us to our place of destination.
“ We crossed the Tennessee through much danger in a boat which was said to be old and doubtful. The river had not been so high in many years. My fears were wholly allayed by a deep impression of these words, ‘It is I, be not afraid.’ After this I enjoyed the sublime scene. We passed the last habitation between us and the mission, but near sunset we found ourselves in a dark forest, the rain falling in torrents to which we were wholly exposed, and the evil was greatly increased when we arrived at a high hill, which with much fatigue and difficulty we ascended. To our great joy at length we saw a light glimmering on the left. We had arrived at the consecrated spot. All appeared happy, the doors of each cabin near the mission were open, in each of which was a blazing fire, around which the Cherokee boys were playing merrily. We passed by these cabins and entered the mission house, where we were received with much cordiality and surprise by the family. We were introduced to a room where was a long table, around which several well-dressed Cherokee girls were sitting at work, each with her workbasket before her. A good supper was quickly prepared, and we were most agreeably surprised in finding some luxuries to which we thought we had bid adieu. After this happy interview we retired to bed. We were led to a chamber neatly furnished, where we found a good fire. All these things exceeded my expectations. I felt sentiments of gratitude to the dear missionaries, and was truly thankful to this great Giver of all.
“ I shudder at the recollection of all our dangers, the more on account of the children, and I love these young soldiers for their patience and perseverance.
“ Having one female attendant and four sons, I used sometimes to think of Christiana in Bunyan’s ‘ Pilgrim’s Progress.’ Our sleep was very sweet this night. The early bell called upon us to rise, and the bell for prayers summoned us to the dinning-room, and here I had the satisfaction of seeing the mission family, the precious property of the Christian public and of the American Board. More than ninety interesting Cherokee children were assembled for prayers. A portion of Scripture was read, we heard those children of the forest sing the praises of our God, and bowed with them the knee to Jehovah. The children of the school we ever found most affectionate and interesting; the natives have minds superior to slavery, nor can any tyrant subject them, yet they own many slaves whom they treat with kindness. We found the minds of the children most susceptible of improvement. Religious instruction did not seem like a tale twice told. Their books were their delight, and they seemed to realize their advantages as something new, and which might not always be enjoyed.
“ Charles Hicks is well-known as a Christian and as chief of the nation. He had two sons and a daughter in the school. The latter was an interesting, superior girl; her form was elegant, and she possessed much genuine wit, which afforded us all much entertainment. I had the satisfaction of seeing her improve in her temper, which was at first quite ungovernable, and with the utmost joy I saw this dear girl enter an apartment where I was sitting one evening without a light, and kneel down and pray with much earnestness.
“ Little Harriet Newel I loved much; she was an interesting sweet child, but easily offended, which she manifested by pouting. I gave her a cake which being broken displeased her. She turned away without accepting it, haughty and straight as an arrow, but reflecting turned with a charming smile, received her cake, and said, ‘ Mrs. Paine, I will give you my basket,’—her only treasure.
“ Wit, beauty, and genius are not unusual among these children of the forest.
“ Delilah Fields I had reason to think was a Christian. I had brought some presents from the school of Miss G. at Athens for the school here. I requested Delilah to write them a letter. One evening she came into my room and said she would write. I gave her pen and paper, but she said ‘ she did not know what to write.’ I dictated the first sentence, and turned to my own engagement. In about half an hour she brought me her letter finished. Very few children would have written as well, for she was not twelve years old. It could hardly be believed that a child of her age who had been at school but two years could write this. It was published in the Religious Intelligencer, and I have since seen it in the Mission Herald.
“ John Newton was supposed to be a Christian. He was only twelve years old. He was not only loved but respected. There was a degree of dignity in his manners which I rarely if ever saw in the youth of his age. In the coldest morning when called to prayers, while many of the children were trying to secure themselves a good seat, or wrapping themselves warmly in their blankets, without a choice of seat or a blanket, John Newton, regardless of the cold, with his eyes fixed on the reader, paid the closest attention to what was read and to prayers. He was a brother to Harriet Newel. Neither of them had any mixture of white blood. I have often admired their bravery, and their indifference to their food, nor did it afflict them to lose a meal. Excellent fish were plenty, and the boys were fond of fishing. There were formerly no gristmills in the nation. They are in the habit of hulling corn and making conahenna. This is made by pounding the corn, wetting it with lye, then boiling it several hours until it becomes about the consistency of gruel. We could hardly have supported the table without this dish. We also had meat, corn bread, and wheat bread, and sometimes a pudding. Our toil was very great, there being but three sisters able to do any part of the mission labor. After my children became inured to the fare of the mission table, they were healthy and contented. They were greatly amused by frequent excursions about the grounds, and much pleased with the hospitality of the Cherokees.
“ Marriage is quite customary in their nation, but formerly was but little known. A gentleman from Georgia four years ago passed through the nation, and again last year. He says their improvement as a nation is astonishing. Many of them live in good style. The women spin and the men cultivate the lands. The first class of the men wore fine broadcloth and appear like gentlemen. Ross was a chief, kept a store and post office. Their connections were numerous and respectable, and lived in brick houses.”
Mrs. Paine received some intimation from her husband that the state of his health was such he would not be able to endure the journey as had been proposed. She writes, “ Mr. Paine began his journey to Brainerd, but was unable to prosecute it, which rendered our return necessary. A man was sent commissioned and prepared to remove myself and children again to Pennsylvania. There was no doubt in the minds of our pious friends at Athens, there was no doubt in the minds of the missionaries, nor could there be any in my own mind as the duty of returning. We left the mission, April 3, 1821, with feelings of the deepest regret, which could only be soothed by the prospect of meeting a husband and a father. The missionaries and the children affectionately assembled in the piazza, where a prayer was made and a parting hymn sung. We took leave of the children individually, some of whom wept aloud.
“ Mr. Paine expected if his health admitted to meet us in Virginia. Our expedition was greater than we had anticipated, and it was not until we arrived in Pennsylvania, on the first of May, that we saw him pensively riding down a long hill, and fording a river, without observing us, until one of the children grasping his hand says, ‘ Pa, we are all here.’ Merciful Father, how great was thy mercy and goodness which enable us to say,
‘ We are all here.’”
Mrs. Paine’s life was that of a uniformly devoted Christian, always watching for opportunities for usefulness. Even after her hand was palsied in her last sickness, she commenced a note to a friend, which she could not finish, recommending an object for the benefit of youth, that would be elevating and instructive. But the map of the Celestial city was ever before her, and when the messenger called for her to go thither, she was not surprised. She calmly said, “ I have done with the world, I have nothing more to do. To look back, all is darkness, but,” pointing upward, “ yonder, yonder up there, all is bright, beautiful, beautiful. There is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
Death is welcome to those who have nothing to do but to die. She closed her mortal existence, Oct. 6, 1834, in full faith in the Resurrection. “ Christ the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” A beautiful poem she wrote on this subject, some years before her death, may be appropriate to insert.
THE RESURRECTION OF A GOD
Twice had the sun in darkness left the world.
And twice had night her sable robes unfurled,
And anxious nature in suspense yet stood,
Death held his scepter o’er the Son of God!
The hours in solemn silence passed away,
The guards were waiting the approach of day,
The midnight moon gleamed on the extended spears,
Their helmets still reflected back to stars.
At length the day-star blushed around the east,
And cast her beauteous beams on distant west;
Sweet morn once more dispelled the gloom of night,
The azure sky again was dressed in light.
When, lo! Convulsions shake the solid ground,
Spreading confusion and dismay around!
A glorious angel swift descends from heavens,
The guards fell backward, from his presence driven!
His face divine beams with immortal glow,
His form celestial, garment white as snow;
The seal was broke; the stone was rolled away,
Angelic guards the wondrous work survey.
The seal of death was broke, the work was done,
The angel sat upon the ponderous stone;
Death from the sepulcher shrunk back to hell,
The awful news of ruin there to tell!
But who is this, arising now, comes forth
In robes of blood and garments dyed in death?
In awful majesty, lo! see him come
Divine and lovely from the yielding tomb.
O Zion! ‘tis your king—ye Christians tell,
This is your God, who broke the powers of hell;
For you, the winepress he hath trod alone,
For you, the vengeance of his God hath known!
And now behold the resurrection morn,
Angels behold the first of nature born!
He rises conqueror from the cruel grave,
He comes, O guilty man! with power to save.
Ne’er did the world behold the rising sun,
In glory thus victorious return;
The morning stars with joy together sang,
The echoing sound o’er heaven’s wide concave rang.
The God of mercy from his throne looked down
Well pleased that through the atonement of his Son,
He could be just and on redemption’s plan,
Save guilty,--ruined—yet still favorite man!
Soon shall the deserts blossom and rejoice,
Soon will the nations raise their tuneful voice;
From distant heathen lands—from shore to shore,
The Babe of Bethlehem sing—the triune God adore.
ATHENS, AUGUST 7, 1829 A. P.
NOTE OR CONCLUSION
There are doubtless many interesting facts connected with
the history of Athens that have not come to the knowledge of the writer.
It is not claimed that the record is all that could be desire; it is hoped, however, that it may aid in a future and more complete history of the country in this vicinity, whenever another hand shall undertake the task.
NOTE—Chickamauga was a reservation of the Cherokee nation, containing twelve thousand square miles, guaranteed to them by the United States government; two-thirds of which lay in the northwest part of Georgia. Brainerd, the first missionary establishment of the American Board among the Cherokees, was made in 1817, on what has been since called Mission Ridge, much noted in the late war, and within the bounds of the reservation, with farmers, merchants, physician, and teachers, to instruct the natives, and introduce among them habits of industry and civilized life.
The mission was in successful operation until the laws of Georgia were extended over them. Two of the missionaries were imprisoned for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the State of Georgia. They were taken from their fields of labor, by armed soldiers, and immured in the penitentiary for a year and four months.
The lands of the Cherokees were surveyed and divided into farms, and distributed by lottery among the inhabitants of the State. The United States also took the 8,000,000 acres of land, paying them the sum of $500,000, and removed them beyond the Mississippi. Such were the hardships they endured when journeying to their new homes that one-fourth of them died on the way.
The were removed across the Mississippi in 1827, ’28, and ’29, numbering more than 20,000 when they left Georgia. Many of the missionaries went with them. They are now called a Christian nation.—Vermont Chronicle.
NOTE—Near the close of the late war, a gentleman from Chicago with two officers from Cattanooga, visited the old Brainerd Mission Station on Mission Ridge, seven miles east of Lookout Mountain. The mission house and mill are still remaining. In a clump of trees near by is the old mission graveyard. The monument of Dr. Worcester, whose dust has been removed to New England, is in a state of preservation, and the inscription plain. He died while on a visit of kindness to the Cherokee people.
Mr. Vail, who went as a missionary farmer in 1819, is the only remaining representative of the mission, now living near Chattanooga, and is an elder in the church at that place, the church being composed, in part, of members from the original Congregational Church at Brainerd. The gentlemen were greatly interested in Mr. Vail.—Missionary Herald, 1866.