Memories of Rev. Will Walker
Submitted by Nancy Paine, Typed by Eileen Tims and Annotated by Joyce M. Tice
Was there ever a man who did not think that his boyhood pranks and escapades were the greatest ever? That no body could ever duplicate or begin to equal them. The most of we men believe that the heroic race of boys ceased to exist when we donned long pants. Now we often get peeved when we behold our offspring's copying the very things we did when we were young lads and often enjoyed a real joke, only sometimes the jokes our boys play are often tinged with more fair play then some we perpetrated or had ahand in. Let’s not forget men, we were boys once upon a time.
About 1898 my parents moved to the little town of Perrytown, Pa., Rutland Township, Tioga Co. This town was a large Metropolis consisting of seven dwelling houses. The place we bought consisted of eleven acres of land with house and barn. Father was a Civil War veteran, a member of the 76th Pa. Regiment volunteers, Co., D. Among the six other men who were the heads of the six homes, there were three other Old Civil War Veterans. That made (4) four Soldiers of the seven men of the town.
I grew up in war story atmosphere; and one of the chief
diversions of the young boys of our town was to gather quite often during
the week, either at my home, or at the home of some other soldier and listen
to war tales. It was really a great enjoyment to have two or three of those
old Soldiers together in an evening, while we youngsters sat quietly and
listened. The tales of the Battles:
"BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS"
"BATTLE OF BULL RUN"
"BATTLE OF SHILOH"
"SHERMAN'S MARCH TO THE SEA"
"BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS"
"BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG"
"BATTLE OF SHARPSVILLE"
"BATTLE OF ANTIETAM"
"BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG"
"BATTLE OF VICKSBURG"
"BATTLE OF APPAMATTOX"
And they told about the "BATTLE ABOVE THE CLOUDS" (Look out Mt.) What need for us to study our history lesson at school when they were about the Civil War!
How well I remember asking the boys to come to my home one night in particular and of getting Father to tell them of how he with company of seven other soldiers were guards at a time when President Abraham Lincoln came to visit Grants army, to which father belonged.
Father told us of how he stood so close to the great President, that he could have put out his hand and touched him. He said that after the President had held a conference with Grant in headquarters tent, that he came out and requested to speak to the soldiers. Eight soldiers, of which Father was one, was commissioned to form a square. They stood with their guns at attention, while President Lincoln stood in the square thus formed, and addressed the soldiers. He wore a long overcoat with an enormous cape at the shoulder and a tall stovepipe hat. After he had spoken for some minutes, he appeared to be real tired. An old nail or powder keg was brought, and the President used that for a seat. After being seated he talked with the soldiers in a more conversational way; He even told them many humorous stories, for which he was greatly famed.
It isn't any wonder that the whole world could have had such a man as Abraham Lincoln. Cares of a war torn nation weighing him down, yet he could find time to sit and talk with the poor discouraged soldiers, who were giving their lives for that nation.
Father said, "You ought to have heard the "three cheers" those Soldier Boys gave for President Abraham Lincoln, at the close of the visit."
While on this subject of soldiers, I must tell of one, his name was, Charles King, and one of the four living in big town, Perrytown, of seven homes. "King", as he was commonly called by all, had been in the Civil War Service, but the most of the experiences which he related was of some wild army love affair; or of some unheard of impossibility in warfare, such as "noiseless powder". He never would shine at story telling when any other soldier was present, but get him alone, and you'd be surprised.
I recall one story, told by "King", or "The Old Soger" as he referred to himself, which was as follows:
"I was out scouting for food one night and got lost", said he, I decided to stay all night in an old house, which appeared to be empty. After crawling in through a window, I began a systematic examination of all the rooms of the house to determine which one to sleep in. I looked through all the upstairs, groping my way in the dark from room to room, for I had no matches. At last I came down stairs and finally selected a room off the hall. Every room in the house I had found to be empty. I groped my way into this room, and was at the point of removing my overcoat to roll up and use as a pillow when my feet struck against something. I pushed against it with one foot and found that it moved easily. Reaching down with my hand, I came in contact with what proved to be, an 8 quart, or peck measure and it was full of loose oats. This I thought was a strange thing to be left in an empty house, perhaps some mounted soldier had left it there to feed his horse, at some latter time. An idea came to me; by lying down on my side, wrapped snugly in my army blanket, the peck measure filled with oats, would make an excellent pillow, it being jus the right height. I wrapped my blanket about me and lay down with the side of my head resting easily in the oats. The moment I relaxed and lay quietly, I can't describe to you the terrible noise, or uproar I heard. You know how Old Indian guides will place their ear to the ground and distinguish the sound of footsteps a long distance away. I lay with my ear in the oats in that wooden peck measure, and I was sure I could hear the rumbling approach of a vast army. I arose and groped my way outside the house and listened for about an hour, The only living sounds I heard was the cough of a "jack ass" or the boom of the bittern. I returned to the room and lay down again, placing my head on the peck measure with one ear buried in the oats, I no sooner became quiet, when I head that terrible roaring noise again. I decided to investigate the peck measure, this time, running my hand down into the loose oats what do you supposed from that measure (forty one) 41 solid gold, 23 jeweled watches as they proved to be later. The combined ticking of the (41) watches in that measure of oats produced that terrible roarings, I thought was the coming of an army, and, "said he," would you believe it" I afterwards sold those watches to a jeweler for $1600.00. So much for the "Old Soger."
There was one other soldier I recall, who lived at Roseville. Father said that whenever there was at battle, this particular soldier would be absent. He was arrested many times and court martialed but in some way he always escaped the extreme penalty. I, myself, heard him give this answer. When he was asked why he was never in a battle, he replied, "I'd rather be a live coward than a dead hero".
It is not very hard to create situations to satisfy the mind of a reader concerning a fictitious character. You expect them to be able to do most anything, but a character in real life, well, you have to see them to really appreciate them.
I have referred to four homes in this town of Perrytown. The town as you may have guessed, was named after a rather numerous family of "Perries," "Perries," that probably descended from the family Admiral Perry, or lake Erie fame. I do not know this to be true, in fact I am skeptical or it. For the Perrys whom I knew hardly won a battle against any situation, say nothing of a naval battle.
In most every community you find one or two, possible more, who are labeled "One of God's unfortunates." The are often made the victims of others" play. Sometimes the tormented will show a flash of wit or cunning which far exceeds their tormentor. Tom Perry, was known as a "Halfwit", and was, the butt of many a rude joke. These I will not relate, but will tell of two amusing incidents about said "Thomas Perry".
Tom, was a "drug on the market" with all school teachers. And the "new school teacher" would always inevitable, immediately take Tom in hand to try and "make something of him".
Now there was teachers who have been divinely called and appointed, there are others who haven't even been "whistled at"! Tom could not spell his own name. She tried every mental incentive to try and stir a reaction in that mind of the boy before her.
"Now Thomas", as she began another attempt, "you surely must know how to spell your own name."
"You have just forgotten the letters," Let me see if I can help you to recall them. Now Thomas, what is the first letter of your name? What letter does it begin with? If you could have been present and saw the way the older boys" interests were centered in the one sided conversation between teacher and pupils. It was sided, for all that Tom had done up to this juncture was to sit on a bench and grin at the teacher's question.
"Don't you remember, Thomas, what that first letter is?" No response, but a grin. One more attempt. "Let's see, Thomas, what did your father drink for breakfast?" The room was silent as a tomb, except for he tick of the new teacher's clock on her desk. The air needed charged with some ominous portending catastrophic disaster. Suddenly the silence was broken by "Thomas", and he could not have done it in a more forceful way if he had wadded his answer into a Gun and shot it at the teacher. "Butter Milk!" was Tom's reply.
Needless to say, that the teacher, as far as her part was concerned was willing to let Tom's mind remain the "Barren waste" that it was.
One other incident concerning "Tom" will help you to understand why "Tom" was, as he was. It concerns his family. Mother called on Mrs. Perry one day, who had been preparing bread to bake. The big batch of dough had been placed in a large dish pan and the pan put under the kitchen stove, for the bread to "raise". The stove was the old drum type, with elevated oven, and having a large space under the stove because of the long legs upon which the stove rested. The said pan of bread dough, was in this space resting on the floor.
Mother, said after she had been there in the kitchen visiting with Mrs. Perry for some time, she kept hearing a "Spat, spat, Spat" or largely abbreviated "Pat." Her attention was called to its origin. There, sitting on the other side of the stove was Tom, with his bare feet playing a lively tattoo on the surface of the rising bread, Mother called Mrs. Perry's attention to the pastime of Thomas. This is what Mrs. Perry said, "Thomas! You cunning little cuss, get your feet out of that bread."
As I have referred to the school there at Perrytown, I will relate an incident connected with my sojourn there. There was a black eyed, black haired girl who also attended that institution. You know there always is: Well to make a long story short, certain "burning Epistles", none of the ordinary meaningless type, but, epistles brought with message of lasting endearments, messages, that only a heart stung with the "real thing" could propound and pen. These referred to "Epistles" were safely treasured with in a pocketbook. It had gorged so many of this type of "Epistles" that it began to take on the shape of a "pumpkin seed fish" inflated to four times its ordinary size. This precious receptacle with its precious contents, rested securely within an inside pocket of a coat. At the close of a noonday's session of riding down hill, that precious pocketbook, became, some how, dislodged from its secure hiding place. It lay in the snow path during the first hour of the school's afternoon session. Undiscovered, unmissed. A chance traveler came that way. Not one of the ordinary travelers, but a man or keen and shrewd intellect. A man who is a great farmer financier. He spied this pocketbook and the size of it! Wow! Visions of its contents floated through his mind. "Hundreds? Yes thousands!" He did not open it there in the snow. I can imagine their surprise. Most anyone would have thought, that during the hour that that pocketbook reclined in the "cruel and cold, cold snow, that its contents would have become cooled. No such thing. They certainly struck fire with their new readers; As soon as they were missed by their former possessor, there was consternation, then panic. He dared to mention the fact of their absence to the "black eyed one." This news created an awful state of affairs. Slow time wore on for a month; no trace of the treasurers. Finally when it was thought they would never be heard from again, when affairs were running, oh! So smoothly, a party was arranged for the young people at the home of a "neighbor" Right when enjoyment of the evening was at its height, our host asked that there be silence, while he made a presentation. With pomp, and ceremonious flourish, he produced the lost pocketbook and presented it to its former possessor. That romance, by that climax, received such a withering embarrassment, that it just naturally withered away and bloomed no more.