TRIBUTES TO MY
FATHER AND MOTHER
SOME STORIES OF MY LIFE
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JESSE MERCER BATTLE
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THE MANGAN PRESS
ST. LOUIS, MO.
COPYRIGHTED 1911 BY JESSE MERCER BATTLE
To my grandson, EUGENE BATTLE SMITH, and to my granddaughter, MARGARET PARKER SMITH. May my grandson be as good and useful a man as my father was, and may my granddaughter be as good a wife and as good a mother as my mother was.
|Looking for a Job||85|
|Changing My Occupation||89|
|My First Accident||120|
|Meeting My Future Wife||128|
|Back to See My Lady Love||170|
|An Accident on the Yadkin River||191|
|Success, But Not Complete||220|
In the September, 1906, number of the “Wake Forest Student” I find the following statement concerning my father. I have been told that it was written by Professor Collier Cobb, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It contains a mere outline of a very small part of the services rendered to the Baptists by my father. Doctor William Hooper, a life long friend, wrote a more extended notice, giving more data and more detail; this obituary notice was sent to the Biblical Recorder, a Baptist paper, published in Raleigh, N. C., and edited at that time by a Mr. Richard Mills. It is greatly to be regretted that this paper of Doctor Hooper was lost, misplaced or purposely suppressed, for it contained matter of the greatest importance concerning my father, written by a master hand and a loving friend. At this time Doctor Hooper was too old and feeble to reproduce his paper.
Noting that the paper did not appear in the next issue of the Biblical Recorder, I went to its office in Raleigh and asked Mr. Mills for the paper. He said that he was very sorry, but the paper was misplaced and he could not
lay his hands on it at that time, if he found it he would send it to me. I never received it. The explanation was easy, I understood the situation well. My father was no longer a Baptist, and the Baptists were no longer interested in him, living or dead. Another reason which had some weight is that the columns of a newspaper or magazine are worth money. At that time I knew so little about such matters I did not think to ask what would be the cost of the space that Doctor Hooper's paper would occupy. Had I done so, I am almost certain that the paper would have appeared. I now give Professor Collier Cobb's paper.
“Elder Amos Johnston Battle, son of Joel and Mary P. Battle, was born at Shell Bank, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, on the eleventh day of January, 1805. His parents, being of an influential family and having ample means, gave to their son the superior advantages of a good education, which he continued to enrich by close study and extensive reading during the whole of his laborious and useful life.
“Placed above the necessity of manual labor and possessing talents of a high order, the world proffered to him success and honors in the learned professions, the arena of politics and the emoluments of wealth, all of which he spurned as possessing inferior attractions
to the sublimity and divine perfections of the Gospel of Christ.
“In his twenty-third year, traveling through the country on horseback, from North Carolina to his plantation in Florida, he stopped at a country church called Mount Zion in Georgia. It was there that he gave his heart to God, united with the Church and was baptized by the Rev. Jesse Mercer, founder of the Mercer University in Georgia.
“Three years after, having returned to , he was ordained to the ministry at a convention held with the Baptist Church at ‘Rogers’ Cross Roads,’ in the County of Wake.
“On the seventh of January, 1830, he married Miss Margaret Hearne Parker, of Edgecombe County, N. C.
“In 1834 he was pastor of the Baptist Church in Nashville, N. C. In 1838 and 1839 he was pastor of the Baptist Church in Raleigh, N. C. It was about that time that he was so interested in the building up of Wake Forest College, giving largely of his means and putting up out of private funds a large and handsome building.
“As a trustee he was very active. About 1835 he was elected agent to collect subscriptions, secured by William Hill Jordan and
John Armstrong. The Institute, as it was then called, was not able to build houses for the professors, so they gave permission to any member who was able to furnish the money and wait for reimbursement, to erect such house.
“Charles A. Skinner and Amos J. Battle accepted the proposition and each erected a house and the trustees gave their bond, payable in five years.
“The Institute was crowded with students; the rooms were unfurnished, Amos J. Battle was appointed a committee of one to secure a sufficient number of double moss mattresses. There was no more useful member of the board than he. He ceased to attend these board meetings after 1844, as his time was devoted to the education of the young women of the Baptist Church There are trees and shrubs now growing there that he planted with his own hands.
“At the same time he was giving largely for the building of a Baptist Church in Raleigh.
“From Raleigh he went to Wilmington, N. C., as pastor of the First Baptist Church there.
“Within the first six months of his pastorate there he baptized one hundred and fifty members into the Church. Among them were Mr. George R. French, Capt. C. D. Ellis,
Mr. I. Peterson, Mr. Mitchell and many others too numerous to mention, who were for fifty years afterwards prominent workers in the Church.
“Learning that the Baptist Church in Raleigh was about to be sold for the heavy debt on it, he gave up the Wilmington Church and for two years (about 1843 and 1844) he traveled over the State to raise money for that debt. Some year or two after that, feeling that Wake Forest College was doing all that could be done for the young men of his native State, he turned his attention to the building up of a college for girls. In the year 1847 he traveled extensively in the Chowan Association and stirred up the men of means to start the school in Murfreesboro, now known as the ‘Chowan Baptist Female Institute.’ For the first year he was steward of the college.
“He was one of the leaders in the Baptist State Convention. He succeeded William Roles as Treasurer in 1836, and held the position until 1842. He was also Recording Secretary of the North Carolina Baptist Bible Sociey from 1837 to 1842. He was popular and public spirited. During the Mexican War he was chosen chaplain of the North Carolina Volunteer Regiment.
“He deserves to rank along with the noblest and best of the strong men of his time.
“It was his brother, William Horn Battle,
who introduced into the House of Commons the bill to charter Wake Forest College, where the measure passed with a good majority.
“In 1843 he moved to Wilson, N. C., where he lived until his death, spending his time traveling and preaching as an evangelist, sometimes in the eastern part of the State, and sometimes in the mountains. He was preaching at Rutherfordton when attacked with cancer near his right eye, from which he died in Wilson, September 24th, 1870.”
Someone has said, “It is a good thing to be well born.” To be well born means mainly to have a good father and a good mother, that is, each one must be healthy of body and of a sound mind. The healthy body is free from those malignant diseases which can be transmitted from father or mother to their children. The sound mind means, first, a mind that can think, and think straight, and think rationally, and secondly, it means a mind that sees many truths that remain unseen to the ordinary person.
A sound mind also means good common sense, which is one of the most uncommon things in the world. My mother had the common sense, that is the kind of sense that is applied to the things of this world.
She expected and looked for the things that really come to pass. But not so with my father. He always looked for the impossible. He read in his Bible (Luke xviii. 29) “There is no man that hath left house or parents, or brethren or wife or children, for the Kingdom of God's sake (verse 30), who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come, life everlasting.” And he believed this passage was a revelation from God, through Jesus, and that it was true, and was to be obeyed implicitly, and meant exactly what it said. So, as far as he was able, he obeyed the command and he did forsake his house, his parents and his brethren and his wife and his children for the Kingdom of God's sake, and became a bankrupt as far as this world's goods are concerned. He became almost a stranger to his family and he devoted all his wealth to God and His Kingdom by giving it away for churches and school purposes. He gave all his time to the upbuilding of his Church, the Baptist. He did literally what he understood to be his duty, as he read it in his favorite passages in the New Testament. He was not a fanatic, he was not insane on the subject of religion. He simply believed the picked words that he read were true, and were meant to be obeyed, and he frequently said that he was God's child, absolutely, and if he obeyed God's commandments
as given in the words of Jesus, that God would keep his promises. Yet, after giving away all his property and leaving his family, he did not have “manifold more in this present time,” but he might have “life everlasting in the world to come.” The last years of his life were made miserable by poverty and an incurable disease (cancer). No one ever doubted his sincerity. All admitted that if there was a true Christian that man was my father. His whole life was devoted to deeds of charity. No one ever came to him and asked for help and was turned away without it. All that asked him for help got it, all that wanted to borrow of him, obtained the loan, even without security. His money, his lands, his negroes, his stocks, his bonds, his personal property of every description went as his free will offering to the Church as a whole, and to anyone of its members individually, or to those who were not members. He just could not refuse to do what he was asked to do. I have known him to go away from home, well dressed, with a good horse and buggy, and have seen him come home in less than a month looking like a beggar, dressed in the commonest kind of clothing, and bringing an old worn-out saddle on his back. He had given away his clothing and bought somebody's old cast off clothing. He had sold his horse and buggy and
given the money to build a church in a section of the state where there was none, and had bought the old saddle for a very small price and borrowed a horse to do his missionary work with; and when his journey was finished, he had returned the horse and brought the old saddle home on his back to use at some future time. He put his name on the back of some man's note as an endorsement, and when the note came due, the man did not have the money to pay with, and my father was asked to pay, but he did not have the money either, and said so, but that he would pay when he got the money. The man who held the note asked my father why he put his name on a note when he had no money, my father, in his guilelessness said he did it because he had been asked to do so. This answer so enraged the holder of the note that he slapped my father's face, and my father deliberately turned his other cheek and said to the man, “You may slap the other cheek if you want to.” I have known many good men, but I have never seen another one as good as my father. He was accessible to rich and poor alike. There was nothing that he possessed that he would not give away if some one would ask him for it. There was never a minute, night or day that he would reserve for himself or family, all his time was at the disposal of any one that would come and ask
for it. He preached, he taught, he worked, he strived for, he longed for what he called the “Kingdom of God.” This kingdom meant to him for every body to do and live as he did and lived. He often said, “He loves God most who serves his creatures best.” This was the keynote to his life. It was for this that he devoted his life and when his days were ended and we had laid him in his grave, I had put on his tombstone his own words: “He loves God most who serves His creatures best.”
He was the only man that I ever saw who implicitly believed the words of the New Testament, selected by himself to be true and put those words in practice in his life. He preached righteousness and he practiced what he preached. I saw little of him in my young days, but the last year of his life I was with him every day and I must say it was a revelation to me to know that I had such a father. I did not know that there was such a man in the world. He was so entirely different from any man I had ever known. He was absolutely unselfish, his self-denial was sublime. He was capable of giving up everything, even to life itself for his cause.
His conversation was reserved but affable and lively. He condescended to mix with men of a lower state. He never condemned on first information, but always wanted more knowledge
of the case, and the men involved. He said all were liable to err, and he had erred many times himself, and it was only through a knowledge of error that he was enabled to find the right way and to escape from the sin. He said without a body there would be little inclination to sin; but as the body was the excuse and the inclination to violate law, it was the one thing that should be watched, restrained and repressed. That its needs and requirements were only to be decided by an enlightened mind; that this enlightened mind and a cultivated conscience was to be relied upon to map out a line of conduct and the manner of living in order to fill one's proper place in this world and to be prepared for the world to come. “One may err, but the most important thing in this life is to be just. Sin, error and mistakes are a part of this world. No man or woman is exempt from their consequences. Ignorance is at the bottom of nearly all the violations of law. He who is ignorant and violates law is not so culpable as the one who is responsible for the ignorance. If you do not show to your child or your neighbor, or his child the difference between light and darkness, then you are responsible for the sin, error or mistake made by them more than they are, for you do know that the act is wrong, and your child, neighbor and his child, who does the deed in ignorance,
knows it not. You who leave them in darkness are the most culpable, for it is your duty to teach them, and the neglect is your sin.”
So he taught, he visited, he worked, he advised, trying to give more wisdom to the ignorant. He knew the value of faith, so when he came in contact with one who was miserable through a lack of it, he would say, “Look at the stars in the sky at night. Think you that they could travel on their orbits without a calamity if there was no master hand guiding them.”
“How could you and I love goodness and hate evil if there were no consequences following our deeds?”
The consequences are found in progress or retrogression. He believed strongly in the fulfillment of God's plans. If anything seemed to go wrong, he said, “God's plans are too great to be finished in a day.” He said hate and selfishness were at the bottom of much of the wrong in the world, but he said, “Hate is passing away and love is taking its place.” There are some men in the world who do love their enemies. There are some men who are merciful to their animals. There are some men and women in the world who will nurse the sick without pay. They will even give their money to build hospitals and asylums
for the care of the sick and the insane. There are some men and women who will give liberally of their means to build schools and colleges to educate the young men and women when they have no children of their own. This he said was progress, for it showed that the old injunction to love your friends and hate your enemies, was passing away. There would be more progress, he said, when men were better taught; ignorance was at the bottom of intolerance; men had no patience with other men, when they were ignorant; they were more patient as soon as they knew enough to be so. Those who had suffered themselves were more apt to help others who were suffering. Suffering itself taught us a lesson. It gives us experience, and experience is what life is made of.
Love and trust to our fellowman and to our Maker should drive away all fear, except the fear of broken law. Some law is what we call natural law; it could not be natural law unless it was first supernatural. Some law we make ourselves, and we could not even do this, unless we were first made by the supernatural law.
We obey the laws as we know them, voluntarily, and sometimes we are made to obey them, when we are unwilling to do so. The law which makes water run down hill is what
we call a natural law, but it depends on God for its moving power. The law which says “thou shalt not kill,” is a law adopted by man to protect himself and his family from the insane murderer. For the murderer is insane, in the sense that his sense and judgment are bad, especially bad for his victims.
And there is a law back of the insanity, and this law, though unknown to us, is also a supernatural law.
The law which permits the cancer cell to ingest and digest the cells of which our bodies are composed, is also a supernatural law that we do not comprehend.
The bacilli and bacteria, other cells which are taken into our bodies through our food, drink and the air we breath, get their power for harm from the same God that we worship and call His name Love.
The ability we have to investigate, the capacity we have to invent instruments to discover these microorganisms, is also given to us by the the same God that has made the law which permits these parasites to prey upon our poor bodies, destroy them and send them to the grave, where another set of bacteria shall ingest and digest them, and when there is nothing more that the bacteria of detruction can find to live on, he goes back into dust, and even there he is kept alive by the
same God that gives to us the intelligence to find him, to see him and to describe him in our imperfect way.
He knew something of these mysteries; he wanted to know more. He said to me, “You have a great advantage over me, for you were born just fifty years later, and those who are born later still will have an advantage over you, for they will have all the discoveries and inventions to guide them.” He also said, “Every genius who is born in the world is a revelation from God.” Had he lived to know of Edison, Pasteur, Metchinkoff, Erlich, Metz and a great army of kindred spirits, he would have known that his predictions would come true. While sticking close to the texts of his Bible, he felt and often said that there was something back of the men who wrote it; for said he, “There are some things that God has not told us yet, not even in the Bible.”
Some of these things we find out without the Bible. In medicine we have found out that there are certain substances that we call poisons; these poisons, as arsenic, strychnine, prussic acid, opium and its products, digitalis, belladonna and aconite; all the mineral acids, alcohol and some others, when taken in sufficient quantities, will kill the human body.
On the other hand, some of these poisons, given in smaller doses or used externally,
have been found to be beneficial in certain infections, and have been used in alleviating the pains and diseases of man.
We have found out that steam confined can be made the servant and benefactor of the working classes.
We have found that the thing we call lightning is identical with electricity and can also be used in many ways to serve the human family.
We have found that the air compressed becomes as powerful for good or evil as the explosion of gunpowder.
We have found that the winds may be harnessed and made to do our work as well as the horse and oxen. We have found that there is a law that we call gravitation, which may be utilized in many ways for the bene fit of man.
We have found many other things which are true, but not reported in the Bible. These truths, discovered by man, through pains, trials, longings, desires, plans, purposes and designs, are all as much the revelations of God as is the words contained in the book that we call the Bible.
He said there was a time when we had no art, no pictures, no statuary, no poetry, no love for the beautiful, but now the world was
filled with beautiful things, pictures, statues, poetry, which make life worth living; all seen, recognized and by man appreciated.
He said there was a time when men did not appreciate truth, honor, integrity, faithfulness, kindness, mercy, gentleness, humility, virtue and love, but now all of these beautiful characters were not only appreciated, but were concluded absolutely necessary as the adornment of a neighbor and friend.
He said the various sects in religion represented the many thoughts of men, but no one of them contained the whole of truth; so each and every one, if honest, should be glad, pleased and benefited by looking for the truth that others held, which he did not possess. Again, that if you hold a truth which you know to be true, it is your duty to offer it freely to all mankind. He said the whole duty of the Church through its preachers and priests, was to give to the world the truth in its entirety as far as it was discovered, especially the truths which enabled men to live healthfully, prosperously, honestly, uprightly, faithfully, neighborly, kindly and charitably in this world, and devotedly, trustfully, sincerely and dependently for the world to come.
He said to do this a man must recognize that there is much outside of himself, and
that all that was accessible to him could only be attained by effort, Health and vigor, he said, could only be preserved and conserved by forethought, more knowledge and a willingness to obey the law of one's physical being.
The ability to stand hard work or study meant more to one who was willing to do the work and to study than a capricious talent used sparingly.
He knew little about the modern interpretation of ancient philosophies, but he said that the rocks, the hills, the gold, the lands and all the things that looked so solid and real were not so real as the mind and intelligence that created them.
He said that the one thing needful, the one thing to desire and work for, was not something to possess, but rather something TO BE.
He said that no possibility of experience could ever be so real as the actual experience.
He said no man or woman was ever completely himself or herself at any one period of their lives, for their complete fulfillment could only be given in eternty.
He said we gain in knowledge and experience every day, but we loose the buoyant spirits and the freshness of youth.
He said that we were created by God, but that God gave to us the privilege of aiding in finishing the product; and when it is realized and appreciated that the conscious effort of man in his upbuilding shortens the slow process of what we call nature, then man will or should make an effort to be something higher and better. A contentment in ignorance is highly culpable. We should try to remember the past; the future may be read and understood better if we could only enjoy our full capacities. Why do we dream while we are sleeping? Do these dreams tell us something? Are these communications to be relied on?
Can our loved ones who have gone to the other world send us love messages or warnings of the dangers which may befall us?
He said these questions can only be answered by discovering the truth involved in them; that to discover these truths may require the effort of one, two, ten or a hundred generations; but the knowledge is in existence and much of it accessible and only prolonged, persistent and intelligent effort can get it. He said this process involved the broad question of the development of man, which means healthier children with better minds and higher aspirations; these three fundamental qualities of man will open up better opportunities, to the end that the meaning of life
shall be better understood and the purposes of life better fulfilled.
He said that the greatest trouble with the whole human family who had any religion at all, was that man was expected to know all, without time to learn, and expected to do all without time to do it in. He said no one was born grown; that he was a child first, then youth, then man, then age—then death. He said that a child was only a child and that he could learn only a little at the time; that judgment and the ability to see came only with maturer years. That some children could learn much faster than others; that these bright ones, by persistent effort became the wise men and women of the world, and they in their turn to a large extent the fathers and mothers of the bright ones of the next generation. That the intelligence of the fathers and mothers, provided better food, better clothes, better surroundings, better apportunities for their children, and the children when grown were so equipped that with the same desire for progress would give to their own children the same advantages and opportunities.
He said that this process was natural and was right, and was evidently the will of God and being right, and the will of God, it was the best and most appropriate way to lift the
whole human family toward God. That this elevation or lifting was itself a process, but being in harmony with the Divine plan, it was the true way to strive and to work in this present world.
He said this world is just a part of another whole, and the whole included all the other worlds, and that each one was controlled by God and passed on through space according to His plans and pleasure. He said if it all works like a machine it is because an all-wise God could plan it and set it in motion and put behind it all and in it all that power and intelligence necessary to keep it as He wants it to be. In it all and a part of it all is man with some qualities which belong alone to him. He can think, plan, do things and then reflect and meditate on his plans and his deeds. Sometimes he is intelligent enough to discover his mistakes, his blunders and is willing to and does make an effort to correct them, and in some instances does so. This is one of the important ways that knowledge comes into the world. He said that our inability to use our full capacities made progress in the world very slow, but said he, this is for not making an effort with the capacities we do have; small capacities well used grow to be larger capacities and capacities or talents neglected are destroyed by the neglect. It is man's duty to make the effort whether with small or great
capacity, the results belong to God. He will take care of that which is His own.
He said there is an Intelligence greater than my own. This Intelligence keeps the sun, moon, planets, stars and the infinite hosts of heaven in their proper places. It keeps the hills, the plains, the rivers, the brooks, the grand old oceans supplied with that power, that ability to be hills, plains, rivers, brooks and oceans.
This Supreme Intelligence gives life to all that lives, and makes it live until it dies, and it dies because it has lived.
This Intelligence gives to each shrub its own buds, to each flower its own petal, to each tree its own leaves and makes them bear in their season the buds, the flowers and the leaves as it pleases Him; they all live and die in their proper order.
This Intelligence gives to every element a power to unite with some other element, this power is measured and exact and is made honest and faithful to perform its proper duty by the same Supreme Intelligence that created it.
That this same Supreme Intelligence has given to man some of His intelligence so that man may in ever so little a way or in ever so great a way understand, use and profit to some
extent by this knowledge and use of the same. and may work with this Supreme Intelligence and some men do, and these are they that we call the Children of God. This does not mean that all the others who do not work with this Supreme Intelligence are not the children of God. It means that they are neglectful children, disobedient children, either through ignorance or a purposeful neglect. God knows and will deal with them fairly. He said, it is so much better to be working in harmony with this Supreme Intelligence, for all truth, all right, all good can actually be found in harmony with this Intelligence, that many of our pains, sorrows, disappointments are in some way connected with our disharmony or the disharmony of another.
He said further that this disharmony with all its pains, sorrows and disappointments are also a part of the whole; but said he, the Supreme Intelligence knows that disharmony is not so good as harmony; so he marks it with tears, sorrows and disappointments to show us the difference between harmony and disharmony, that we may not be contented with the less good.
Complete harmony with God, he said, in this world, is never attained, for the complete harmony includes a harmony with all that is external to myself, as well as all that is
is within myself. Man's greatest need is to find as much of this harmony as his talents and capacities will permit. The harmony is one, as God is One, to be in complete harmony with the whole, would be to possess the whole, in knowledge and experience, and this is possible alone for God.
He said, “I am a part and not the whole, but I play a part and the part I play is a part of the whole, and the whole is not complete without the part that I play, whether the part I play makes what we call harmony or discord.”
The whole harmony is not played on earth, that part which contains some of the discords are found on earth, some in other worlds; the sweet music, that period of the grand whole harmony which is completed and fitted for the ear of the Composer, alone is found in eternity, for neither a thousand years nor a million years is time enough for God to complete the harmony which He has composed for Himself.
It is impossible to measure the heights and depths of a man like my father by any ordinary rule. While he accepted the Bible as inspired and believed in it firmly, he said there were many statements in it which seemed to have been changed or mistranslated, but he said that no one should waste
his time on puzzles, as there was enough in the Bible that was clear and intelligent to point out a line of conduct that would make a good man of any one who would follow the light that was given.
He gave little time to the discussions of the dogmas of the Church, of his Church, or any other Church. He was first Baptist, afterward a Christian, or Campbellite. He was too busy loving his neighbors and doing deeds of charity to waste his time in discussing the trinity, atonement, vicarious punishment, destiny, good and evil, the war of being against being, human consciousness, transformation through death, of the Ego, the essence, substance, the nil and ens, nature, liberty, necessity.
He purposely avoided discussions of such subjects as being time wasted.
He would frequently say, “I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost,” without any comment or explanation of its meaning.
His love was greater than his faith, unless it was his great faith that made him love. It was his supreme love for all men, high and low, that made him a mark for all. His love was not limited to the human family, it extended to the animals, birds and fishes. It
was a supreme benevolence spreading over men and extending even to things.
He looked on deformity with a pitying eye, putting no blame on the object but seeking thoughtfully for an explanation beyond and back of this crippled life. He recognized friends in some of the reptiles. I remember his warning to the negroes and to myself not to kill two large king snakes that lived in our barn. He said that they were our friends for they drove away all of the rats and were worth more in this way than many cats, and were no expense or trouble to keep.
These snakes lived on the rats and mice, and could be seen lying on the joists or between the cracks and sometimes curled up in the feed basket. When found in the basket by the negro who was feeding the mules, there was sure to be an exclamation of horror, for the negroes, like the rest of the human family, hate a snake, and all snakes are alike to a negro.
While these negroes respected my father and were devoted to him and obeyed him without question and left unmolested these snakes for a year or two, one day I found both of them dead; they had been broken in several places and had been buried, but murder will out, for a pig found them and rooted them
out of the ground, and left the snakes un-eaten. This is curious, for hogs are fond of snake meat.
I suspected the negroes of having killed these snakes. When I told my father, he said, “Poor, ignorant things, they knew no better.”
In his mature manhood, his patience, toleration and gentleness seemed to be boundless, but an old friend who knew him when he was a young man, told me that my father, in his youth and early manhood, was passionate, hot-tempered and would fight on slight provocation. So his gentleness and even temper was a matter of conviction with him. He had curbed his temper, he had restrained his passionate nature, until he had both under control He was fond of company and a good talker. He had much to tell that was highly interesting, but the matter related almost exclusively to life; life in general and in various special lives, good, bad and indifferent, that he had known. His stories were the relations of actual experience of himself and others. I do not remember a single instance where he told a story or a joke simply to make people laugh.
He was cheerful and bubbling over with wit and sometimes made his audiences laugh when he did not intend to do so.
I was present on one occasion when he
was preaching in a country church. The people were all good, kind, simple folk; but many would go out and come in the church during the services; this seemed to annoy my father and in the middle of his sermon he digressed long enough to beg the people to be more thoughtful of themselves and of him and went on and told this story, to show how a thoughtless person could disturb a congregation. He said that he was preaching in a country church in Hyde County, North Carolina, and said, “I must have been very dull and uninteresting, for I saw one of the men on a back bench fast asleep. He had settled low down on his seat, so that his head rested on the back of the bench; he was breathing through his mouth, and his mouth was wide open. The gallery was above him, filled with young people. One of the boys, a very thoughtless boy, had heard the deep, sonorous breathing of the man below. At first he could not make out what it was. So, in his inconsiderate, thoughtless way, he leaned over the balcony to see what was the cause of these heavy sighs that he had beard; he heard the suppressed noise, and connected it with the sleeping man immediately below. I saw both the sleeping man and the boy. I knew that something was about to happen. I was so distracted I almost lost the thread of my discourse. If that poor boy and that poor man
only knew how much they were disturbing me, and through me the whole congregation, they would not be so thoughtless, the man to go to sleep, and the boy to do what he did do. I saw that boy pull out of his mouth an old exhausted quid of tobacco, and, taking aim, dropped it right into the man's open mouth. The mouth went shut like a steel trap, and the man waked up.” The congregation who heard this story, did not hear the last part of it, for when the piece of tobacco dropped, they went wild and roared with laughter. My father was so surprised at this outburst that he stopped his sermon and dismissed the congregation.
He never even smiled. He told me afterward that he felt hurt, but the big congregation in the afternoon and the close attention paid to his sermon and the great interest taken by the whole congregation in all the services and the passing in and out of the church by so many having stopped, he felt compensated for what he called his “break” in the morning.
At home, he was always busy. His days were filled with good deeds, good words, good thoughts. He lived much out of doors; he was fond of long rambles in the woods. He would do some manual labor every day, when the weather was fine he would work in the vegetable
garden an hour or so, or if the grass was getting the upper hand in the cotton or corn fields, he would go there and work with the negroes.
If the day was wet and inclement, he would put in the day answering his letters and making what he called his “skeletons” for his sermons. He never wrote out his sermons. He said, “I must preach, not read to my congregaton.” These “skeletons” sometimes covered less than one page in a small note book. After making these “skeletons” he would seldom refer to them again. Sometimes he would go off on a preaching tour and forget, leaving his “skeletons” at home.
I asked him once how he got along without his notes. He said, “I do my work mostly at night, when others are sleeping, when I am not liable to be interrupted and when I have gone over a subject and made my notes, I seem to be able to read them again without having the paper in my hand, but I loose the whole discourse, if I do not make the notes.”
He said, “There is another peculiarity about my memory. I do not think that I can repeat the words of a single hymn without the music, but as soon as the words are sung, all of the words of the hymn come to me one by one as they are sung. So I seldom use a hymn book in singing.”
He said, “I seldom try to quote Scripture, for I am liable to change one or two words, putting in words of my own and leaving out the scriptural words,” and he said, further, “I note that many others do the same thing. So to avoid this common fault, I read the words out of my Bible. That is why you see my Bible nearly worn out.”
“This, he said, holding up his well-thumbed book, “is the fourth Bible that I have worn out;” meaning, of course, the physical book, and not its contents.
At every meal, we all bowed our heads and my father would lift his hands and say, “Gracious Lord, accept our sincere thanks for these and all Thy kind provisions and save us in heaven for Christ's sake. Amen.”
At night, sometimes at the supper table, sometimes at bed time, depending on who was at our home. When strangers were with us, it was at the supper table, if our family alone were present it would be at bed time, my father would get his Bible and without a word of explanation, would open it and read one of the Psalms or something from the New Testament; the reading would include the most diverse subjects, from evening to evening. Then he would say, “Let us pray.” I note that his prayer always followed the subject of the
reading. These prayers were impromptu and were very eloquent, very devout, very humble and were always supplications. He did not pray the prayers that I have heard others pray, wherein they give to God all sorts of information and then ask Him what He thought of it.
After these “family prayers” were over, he would go out in the night and be gone an hour or more, as if the “family prayers” reminded him that he ought to pray. Out under the starry heavens, he was alone with his God, there he could lift up his heart in contemplative, peaceful, adoring mood, with the windows of his soul open toward the sky, with the visible splendor of the constellations over him; he was ready to receive, willing to have, and anxiously awaiting any and all communications from the unknown. At such times, with his heart full of gratitude for all favors received and sending up to God his whole soul in pure elevated thoughts, like the perfume of the flowers in the night; lost in adoring, dazzling, admiration, hardly knowing what was passing in his own mind, but he said that he sent “something away and received something in return.”
His meditations were of the grandeur and majesty of God, of the infinity of the future, of the eternity of the past, of all the vast
insoluble mysteries on every hand, and not trying to unravel the puzzles, he gazed in wonder at them.
He saw the obdient suffer as well as the disobedient. Saints as well as sinners. He saw old age and death coming to all alike. He saw the thorns growing with the flowers.
He saw the human bandits robbing the law abiding man.
He saw that joy lasts only a day, but tears and sorrows are with us a whole lifetime. He saw that there was little in this life to satisfy one. That all our plans seemed to be cut short. Yet, he said, “God is good, and He knows how it will end. It will end as He wants it to end. No man can spoil the final plans of God.”
He worshiped, he adorned, he trusted God. In this trust was centered the reserved force, confidence or faith which gave to him, above any man I have ever known, that power which served him in every emergency of life and did not desert him in death.
His life was a life of love. He loved God, and he loved his fellow men.
The cruelty, hatred and oppression of others simply revealed to him a greater opportunity to teach them, to show them in his own life, the immense difference between love and
hate. “How can you hate one another,” he said, “when love is so much better?”
Some men labor for gold, others for lands and others property. Some for ambition and fame, but his whole effort, his every energy, his whole life and purpose, seemed to be directed to one end, to make the rich pity the poor, to make the high pity the low, to make the strong pity the weak, to make the intelligent pity the ignorant, to make the good pity the bad, to make the powerful pity the dependants, to make the gentle pity the vicious, to make the kind pity the unkind, to make the joyous pity the sorrowing, to make the peaceful pity the malignant, to make the patient pity the impatient, to make the loving pity those who hate. This was his gospel, this was his text for all sermons. He might vary the words, but he never varied his theme, this was the burden of every sermon, this was the pith of every prayer, this was the subject nearest his heart, this was his life, this was “the all” to him; the theme was so high, so low, so broad, so long that it left himself at one side neglected and forgotten, but still looking on in wonder and anticipation, reflecting and meditating to find some new plan or course wherein he could do something more to bring in the Kingdom, where the strong would bear the burdens of the weak.
Resolutions of respect, passed at a meeting
of the Diciples of Christ at Oak Grove, Pitt County, N. C., October 8th, 1870.
On motion of M. T. Moye, the resolutions in regard to Elder Amos Johnston Battle were adopted and ordered to be placed on our minutes:
Whereas, It has pleased Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler and Disposer of events, to remove our well-beloved brother and co-laborer in the Lord, Elder A. J. Battle from his sphere of earthly usefulness; and
Whereas, The Disciples of Christ of North Carolina for whom he has labored so faithfully in the past, have heard the melancholy tidings of his decease; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED: First, That while as Christians we are constrained to bow with submission to the afflictive dispensation of his Father and ours, we feel that one of our noblest men has been gathered to his fathers, and that the Church has lost one of its most eminent preachers, so eminently qualified by the clearness of his mind and child-like purity and simplicity of his life for the promulgation of the primitive Gospel;
Second, That the Moderator of this Conference be requested to appoint some brother to prepare an obituary notice of the deceased to appear with the minutes of this Conference and to become part of its records.
Third, That we tender our heartfelt sympathies to his surviving partner and other members of his family in their bereavement, and assure them of our great and abiding confidence that God will sustain them by His grace if they lean upon His love;
Fourth, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded by the clerk of the meeting to the widow of our departed brother, and that the “Christian Review” and the “Christian Standard,” of Cincinnati, and the “Wilson Plain Dealer” be furnished with copies for publication.
JOHN T. WALSH,
MOSES T. MOYE,
Rev. M. T. Moye was appointed to write the obituary notice and Rev. John T. Walsh was asked to preach a funeral sermon on Saturday night in memory of Elder Battle, which was done.
This sermon was very eloquent and beautiful and portrayed the character of my father in the most eloquent terms. It was delivered impromptu and no copy of it was preserved.
The Rev. Moses T. Moye's obituary notice is as follows, omitting that part copied by Mr. Collier Cobb, which includes the first three paragraphs.
“In early life he was deeply impressed with the importance of obeying God and having his mind greatly confused by the mystic and muddled doctrines of those who deny to man free agency. For a few years during his early manhood he gave himself freely to the pleasures and frivolties of the world. These proving altogether unsatisfactory, and feeling deeply impressed with the convictions that life should be devoted to more noble gratifications, he again directed his mind to the serious contemplation of the salvation of his soul. Still mystified by those “mysterious manifestations” of spirit so often portrayed in the experience of those who united with the Church in his vicinity, he sought by prayer and humble supplication that God would make known to him either by an audible voice or by some mysterious agency, his acceptability and doctrine to eternal life, and failing in this to obtain that peace of mind for which he sought, he turned to the living oracles of God, and learning therein the Divine will, he became obedient to the Faith, uniting with the Missionary Baptist Church at Mt. Zion, Georgia, in his twenty-third year.
“Three years later he was ordained to the ministry. Entering upon his ministerial career with a zeal and fervency which few possess, he devoted his talents, his means and his life to the proclamation of the glorious gospel
which he loved so well, preaching very successfully during the remainder of his life with the exception of a few intervals of short duration—first to the Missionary Baptists, afterwards to the Disciples of Christ, with whom he became identified about eighteen years ago. Warm-hearted, self-sacrificing, zealous and greatly devoted to pure Christianity, he endured hardships as a good soldier, even walking from house to house and from church to church to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation. Patient, hopeful and forgiving, he meekly received the indignities heaped upon him, submitting his cause to God in the great Assize, where the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed.
In the month of March, A. D. 1869, while successfully prosecuting his work as evangelist in the mountains of North Carolina, he was attacked with cancer near his right eye, which became so painful that he was compelled, reluctantly, to abandon this inviting field, where the harvest was almost ready for the sickle, and return home to seek medical aid.
“After applying several prescribed remedies, which failed to arrest the progress of the disease, he was induced as a last resort to place himself under the supervision of Dr. Kline, of Philadelphia, who professed to make the treatment of cancer a specialty.
“Here, patiently enduring great suffering, both from the malignant disease and the severity of the treatment, which caused the loss of the right eye, at the expiration of five months he returned home so much improved that he himself and many of his friends were encouraged to believe that he would be speedily cured, but in this they were sadly disappointed.
“Remaining home about six weeks, preaching occasionally at the Court House in Wilson, the progress of his disease remaining unchecked, he returned to Kline's Cancer Infirmary. But the skill of the physician proving ineffectual, he was declared incurable and sent home to die.
“For five or six weeks longer he lingered, prostrated by the most intense physical suffering, from which he was relieved by death on the 24th of September, 1870.
“During the whole of his protracted suffering, which extended over the space of more than eighteen months, no murmuring complaints against the afflictive hand of Providence were ever known to have escaped his lips.
Addressing his wife and children a short time previous to his death, he said:
“ ‘Do not be so selfish as to have me remain here in this suffering condition. Weep
not for me. Christ was made perfect through suffering, and I am willing to endure everything that the Lord may see fit to afflict me with. It will soon be over. And I am so happy at the prospect of rest and happiness that nothing disturbs me.’
“The humble petition to the pitying eye of God was beautifully answered in his conflict with the last enemy of man; for he died with out a murmur; but with the most perfect resignation as a Christian, he neither murmured nor complained.
“Only one sorrow seemed to brood over his mind, and that was that he was denied the happy privilege of laboring in the Master's vineyard.
“He often spoke of this with deep regret. The highest order of spirituality to be attained on earth was evidently acquired by him before his death.
“As an evidence of the truthfulness of this assertion, the complete dedication of himself to God, found after his death among his papers, in his own handwriting is hereby inserted as follows:
“ ‘Eternal and ever blessed God! I desire to present myself before Thee with deepest humiliation and abasement of soul, sensible how unworthy such a worm is to appear before Thee, Holy Majesty of Heaven, and to enter
into covenant transactions with Thee, I am acknowledging myself to have been a great offender. Smiting on my breast, and saying with the humble Publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” I come, invited in the name of Thy Son, and wholly trusting in His righteousness, entreating Thee for His Sake.’
“ ‘Thou wilt be merciful to my unrighteousness and wilt no more remember my sins. Permit me, O Lord, to bring back unto Thee those powers and faculties which I have ungratefully and sacreligoisuly alienated from Thy service and receive, I beseech Thee, Thy poor, revolted creature, who is now convinced of Thy right to him and who desires nothing in the world except to be Thine. It is with the utmost solemnity that I make this surrender to Thee. I avouch the Lord this day to be my God, and I avouch and declare myself this day to be one of His covenanted children and people.’
“ ‘Hear, O Thou God of Heaven, and record in the book of Thy remembrance that I am Thine, eternally Thine.’
“ ‘I would not consecrate to Thee some of my powers, or some of my possessions, or give to Thee a certain portion of my services, or all I am capable of for a limited time, but I would be wholly Thine, and Thine forever.’
“ ‘From this day do I solemnly renounce all former lords which have held dominion over me; every sin and every lust which has most unjustly usurped dominion over my soul and in Thy name bid defiance to hell, and to all the corruptions which their fatal temptations have introduced into my soul. The whole powers of my nature, all the faculties of my mind and all the members of my body would I present before Thee this day “as a long sacrifice wholly acceptable to God,” which I know to be my reasonable service.’
“ ‘To Thee I consecrate not only my person and powers, but all my worldly possessions, and earnestly pray Thee also to give me strength and courage to exert for Thy glory all the influence I may have over others in all the relations of life in which I stand.’
“ ‘Nor do I consecrate all that I am and all that I have only to Thy service, but also most humbly resign and submit to Thy Holy Sovereign will, myself and all that I call mine.’
“ ‘I leave, O, Lord, to Thy management and direction all I possess and all I wish, and set every enjoyment and every interest to be disposed of as Thou pleasest, contentedly resolving in all that Thou appointest for me my will unto Thine, and looking on myself as nothing, and on Thee, O, God, as the Great Eternal All, whose word ought to determine everything
and whose government ought to be the joy of all rational creatures.’
“ ‘Receive, O, Heavenly Father, Thy prodigal, wash me in the blood of Thy dear Son, clothe me with Thy perfect righteousness and satisfy me throughout by the power of Thy spirit. And, O, Lord, when Thou seest the agonies of dissolving nature upon me, remember this covenant, even though I should be incapable of recollecting it, and look with pitying eye upon Thy dying child. Put strength and confidence in my departing spirit, and receive it to the embrace of Thy everlasting love.’
“Often seated by his bedside to receive spiritual instruction, which flowed so freely from his lips, he often expressed to me his entire resignation, saying: ‘No lingering shade of doubt of perfect acceptance with God disturbs my mind. I am perfectly resigned and willing and anxious for my earthly dissolution. Yet, I do not desire to hasten my death one minute, nor to prolong my life one moment, unless it is God's will. He knoweth best, and doeth all things well.’
The humble petition to the pitying eye of God was beautifully answered, in his conflict with the last enemy of man, for he died without a perceptible pang, falling asleep in Jesus as peacefully and gently as a child seeks repose, nestling on the bosom of its mother.
“M. T. MOYE.”
Wilson, N. C., Oct. 26, 1870.
Rev. Peter Hine's beautiful remarks, so affecting at his burial, touched many a heart, coupled as they were with the hymn selected by Bro. Hines.
- “Dear as thou wert and justly dear,
- We will not weep for thee;
- One thought shall check the starting tear,
- It is that thou art free.”
Here is a letter received from Rev. J. J. Harper at the time that he sent to me the foregoing minutes and obituary notice. As his letter confirms statements already made about my father, I insert it in full.
Smithfield, N. C., Oct. 22nd, 1902. Mr. J. M. Battle, St. Louis, Mo.:
Dear Bro. Battle—It gives me pleasure to have found the proceedings in memory of your father and to place them in your hands. The “Conference” (then called) at which the action was had, was held at Oak Grove, Pitt County (N. C.), and the resolutions were passed, and the obituary notice, ordered on the 8th day of October, 1870. I also have had copied the reference to Elder Peter Hines’ remarks at the funeral. Your father was held in high esteem by his brethren, including my father, at whose home he was a frequent visitor. I distinctly remember how unusually devout he was at all times—how spiritually minded and consecrated.
I remember to have heard him tell my father about the “seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,” that would come to him as he walked alone the road. He traveled much in this way. He was a strong preacher, logical, pathetic and earnest. Some of his favorite texts were:
- “Wilt thou be made whole?”
- “Let brotherly love continue.”
- “Be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
- “This one thing I do.”
“Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity,” and
“But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I have either heard him frequently quote these Scriptures or use them as texts, or both, and others that I could name. I expect to see him again “some sweet day.” God bless you and yours. Your Brother in Christ.
J. J. HARPER.
My mother's maiden name was Margaret Hearne Parker. She was a daughter of Weeks Parker and Sabra Irwin Hearne, both of Edgecombe County, N. C.
Weeks Parker, my grandfather, and Sabra Irwin Hearne had both been married before. Weeks Parker had one son, John H. Parker, by his first wife; and Sabra Irwin Hearne, whose first husband was James Cooke, also had one son, James Cooke, Jr., who was a graduate of West Point and commissioned a second lieutenant in the U. S. army and afterward was promoted to be a Major, and died in Wadesboro, N. C., while on his way to pay off some soldiers at some point in South Carolina.
This second marriage was a happy one; and all the parties concerned seemed perfectly satisfied with the marriage; for they all seemed devoted to each other; the best proof that there was no dissatisfaction.
The second marriage gave to this loving couple three children, my mother, then a brother, Baker Simmons Parker, and a sister, Henrietta Sabra Parker. The brother married his
cousin, Emely Matthewson; one son was born of this union, and they named him Weeks Parker, for his grandfather. This Weeks Parker married Miss Anna Pitt of Edgecombe County (N. C.), and there are six children from this union.
Henrietta married Benjamin Dossey Battle, a brother of my father. Two daughters and two sons were the fruit of this union, Helen, Dossey, Claudia and Richard.
Helen married Dr. Ad. Ricks and left no issue.
Dossey married Miss Mollie ——, adopted daughter of Judge Reid, of North Carolina.
A boy, Dossey, and a girl, Helen, are the fruits of this union.
Claudia never married.
Richard married first Miss McDaniel, with no issue; after his first wife's death he married Miss Belle Wingate of Wake Forest, N. C., and this union was blessed with three children, Wingate, Cullen and Richard.
My mother's marriage was blessed with nine children, five boys and four girls, namely, Caroline Parker, Ann Judson, Martha Louise, James, Walter Raleigh, Katie Johnston, George Boardman, Cullen Andrews, and Jesse Mercer, the author of these memoirs. Caroline married Dr. W. J. Bullock, and left a son Edward
and a daughter Susan. Ann married Dr. Wm. B. Harrell and gave to the state a numerous progeny, namely, Eugene, Ida, Rosa, Leon, Annie, Claude, Mabel, and Albert.
Martha Louise married Arch Rhodes, and by this union was given six children, two boys, Julian and Walter, and four girls, Margaret, Henrietta, Minnie and Clyde. The first husband dying, she married Blake Rhodes, a brother of her first husband. By this union there was born several children, of whom only one survives, by name Rosa. Walter Raleigh never married. James died in infancy. Katie Johnston married Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Foy, and by this union were given two sons and three daughters. The two sons, Paul and Phillip, died in childhood, and one daughter, Florence. Two daughters, Maud and Josephine, survive. George Boardman never married. He was killed at the battle of “Seven Pines,” near Richmond, Va., in the Civil War.
Cullen Andrews married Miss Ida Pugh, of Kentucky, and died without issue. Jesse Mercer, the writer of these notes, married Miss Laura Elizabeth Lee, of Clayton, N. C., and have only one daughter, namely, Helen, who married Eugene Fleming Smith, of St. Louis, Mo,. and have by this union one son, Eugene Battle Smith, and one daughter, Margaret Parker Smith.
The name of my mother brings back to my memory the sad, patient face of a delicate, frail being, white as a ghost. She was always thin, very thin, almost to emaciation. She was tall, and always wore black. I do not remember to have ever seen her dressed in anything but black. When she was young she had red hair. When I first saw her to know that she was my mother, her hair was streaked with white, which made her hair look like a roan, the color made by mixing white and red hair together. Her face to me was very pleasant, a very faint smile could be seen, nearly all the time. She was reserved and not easy to get acquainted with, but kind and considerate to all. She was very patient and not easily provoked, but was quick to resent anything like a slight or an aspersion, uttered against any of her family. She was amiable at all times and could seldom be thrown off her usual composure. Her benevolence was so well recognized by all that knew her, that she was the first one to be consulted when others got into trouble. It was when such appeals were made to her that her sweet, charitable disposition could be seen and recognized. She lived in the presence of the unseen, and her devotion to her religion made her a great source of consolation to all in trouble. She was earnest at all times, and no one ever suspected her of deception in any matter. She
was so serious at all times that it was remarked about her, many times, that she could not see a joke.
When others would seem to lose their faith in an overruling Providence, she would say that “all will yet work out right.”
While she was generous in her own way, she had been imposed upon so much herself and had seen her husband, my own father, begged out of all that he possessed, which brought real poverty to our family and deprived her of many of the comforts that she had been used to all her life, that she had learned that the people who had the nerve and cheek to ask for things were not the people who suffered, but the people who were poor, but too proud to beg, were the real sufferers. So she did not always give when she was asked to do so, but was quick to respond when she could see that it was a real charity.
She was high-minded and honorable above any woman I ever knew, and ascribed to everyone the highest motives, but was quick to discover fraud and to drive it out of her sight. She was quick to forgive an offense, but if the offense was repeated the offender did not get much pleasure in her company, for she could freeze out unwelcome guests in the most polished manner. She delighted in having a peaceful home; she would not tolerate bickerings,
quarrels or brawls in the family. The only time I remember to have been whipped by my mother was for fighting my brother Cullen, and at that time she whipped us both. To my eyes she was as pure and good as an angel from heaven. She had no bad habits or little vices. She was a living example of the highest type of womanhood. In going over her life for the thirty-seven years that I knew her I cannot recall a single piece of injustice or a mean action, or the utterance of a single ugly word by her lips. With such a mother and such a father, with their examples before me, how could I be anything but a decent, respectable, honorable man?
My dear mother, you have been gone to your long resting place for many years. Your poor body has long since gone back to mix with the elements, but the memory of your dear, sweet life remains with me. Your fine, Christlike example has kept me out of temptation's way many times, and though you are pronounced dead in the language of earth, you are not dead to me. You were never more alive to me than you are to-day. When I have joys I want to tell them to you, and when trials come I need your calm words of reassurance to lighten the burden. From my position on the earth I cannot see your poor, delicate body moving around or hear your words of encouragement and consolation as in the old days;
but it may be from your new life that you are permitted to see me as I am here and to sympathize with me, and it may be that the influence of your dear spirit hovers near me this Christmas eve and stirs up anew my undying love for you, that prompts me to write this tribute to you. It will not be long before I join you, just a few more days, months or years, and I will be with you, and my other loved ones who have passed through the “valley of the shadow of death.” There is nothing fearful in death for me. Nature's story, told in simple language, tells me that everything earthly that lives must die, and why not I? When the greatest majority of my loved ones are gone, it would be folly to choose to remain, where, in a few more years, I would be left as a stranger in a strange land. So to doubt the wisdom of the plan which takes every creature that breathes to another home is to doubt the goodness of our Maker. I do not, of course, know that all is right, but I believe that it is; and this unfaltering trust in my God gives to me the assurance that aids and supports me in my transition to another home.
It seems that everybody loves a baby. This seeming is very near the reality. Is it the innocence, the ignorance, or the helplessness that appeals to so many? Or is it the possibilities of development that whets the curiosity to watch the growth of the infant, to see what he or she may become? Whatever the interest is, it is surely in existence. The interest is in the real or the ideal baby. So there must be a baby—whether in prospect or in reality. It does make a difference as to whose baby it is. Sometimes the baby is waited for with a loving longing, which is of the most absorbing interest. Again, the poor little baby, all unconscious of the terrible hate, abhorrence and dread of his or her coming, comes to find anything but a kindly welcome. Sometimes the purposeful neglect sends the poor little unwelcome baby to his or her long home before baby has come to a consciousness of the fact that he or she was a baby at all. In such a case, it could not be truly said that all, even seemingly, loves a baby.
Now, when I was born, I have been told that I was present, and that I had much to say
about it all, but my language was incomprehensible to all the others that were present. Many efforts were made to understand my remarks, with but little success. I have been told that nearly everything I said was uttered in such a tone of complaint that all agreed that I objected to being born at all. If this is true, the statement would agree with another statement that the disposition of the mother, under such circumstances, is given to the child. I have been told that my mother objected very much to having another baby sent to her. And no one could blame her, for I have been told that she had presented to her, before me, just eight more babies. So when she had been told that the Lord loved her so good that He was going to give her another baby for good measure, it is no wonder that my mother sat down and had a real, good, old-fashion cry. This cry was hardly a cry for joy, but was a genuine cry of anguish, the overflow of a heart full of apprehension of coming events.
The event finally arrived, on November 10, 1850, and I have been told that my mother had another cry, this was because the baby that came was another boy. Of the other babies that had been given to my mother, four were boys and four were girls, a very equal division, leaving no grounds for complaint. So it seems that this last piece of information given to
me, about what happened at the time, is not reliable. So I decline to believe that my mother cried because I was born a boy. There must have been another reason, that she kept to herself—but, anyway, another piece of information came to me about this most interesting period of my life, and this is, that when my father came in and found my mother crying about the new arrival, he said, “Never mind, dear; this little boy will take care of you in your old age.” This was really a true prophecy, for my mother came out to St. Louis with me in 1878, and lived with me nearly all the time till she died in 1887.
My earliest recollections recall the fact that my mother's family lived in Wilson, N. C. We lived in a large house, and it was called “The Battle House.” It was one block from the railroad depot, and sometimes strangers who got off the trains would come up and stop at our house. At such times, when there were strangers, I with the other children was made to wait till the second table. This displeased me very much, for I could not understand why my mother, who loved me so much, would make me wait and let a stranger eat all of the best things and leave me to eat what was left over. When I was older I learned that my mother was keeping a boarding house or a hotel and earned the money this way to buy the food that we all ate. I know now that this must have been a great humiliation to her, for my mother was the proudest woman I ever knew. My childhood was spent mostly in crying, for real as well as imaginary troubles. My mother was very busy, and as white as a ghost. So I know now that she must have been a very delicate woman. She looked like a strong wind would have blown her away. I saw my mother
every day, but was allowed to spend only a few minutes at a time in her company. I was taken away, out in the yard if the weather was warm, or out in the kitchen or wash-house if the weather was cold. Negroes were my companions. I played with them, and spent my time with them all day, till I was about seven years old, when I was started to school. I knew my alphabet and how to read a little. This start on the way to an education was given to me by a good old colored woman I called Mammy. (Her name was Dinah.) She was a God-fearing creature. She said her prayers often. She taught me the Lord's prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven,” also the other sweet prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” This good woman remained with our family till 1865, when the Civil War ended, when she left us and moved down to Greenville, N. C., where her husband, whose name was “Shade,” lived. After the emancipation of the slaves she said that she could never enjoy her “freedom” as long as she lived with her master and mistress.
My father was away from home a great deal. He was a Baptist preacher, and a missionary, and he was so busy saving the heathens down in the coast part of the State that he had no time left to impart knowledge to his barbarian children. I use the word barbarian about myself advisedly, for I can look back now,
from the standpoint of a superior development, and I know that I was but little removed from the negroes that I played with, and some of them were like the animals in the forest. My father read in his Bible that it is “harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” and that he should “give to him that asketh thee,” and “to him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away,” and he believed this was a revelation from God, and was absolutely necessary to be done, so he did it. He was rich in lands and negroes, but he gave away to those that asked him and lent to those that wanted to borrow—and their “name was legion”—until he had nothing left to provide for his own. The first children were all well educated. They had the best advantages the schools of the country afforded. Not so with the last three boys, of which I was one. We were sent to school some, but increasing poverty, due in a large measure, to the Civil War, cut short our school days, and sent us out in the world to earn a living. The living we earned was a scant one, for I remember teaching school when I was sixteen years old, for five months, and collected, in all, for the five months’ work the munificent sum of seventeen dollars and sixty-five cents. When I note that during this five months I was walking three miles to school and three miles back home
again, with a cold dinner eaten out of my tin bucket that I carried from home, I now realize how meager were my earnings. At that time I did not realize what a great service this hard work and poor pay was doing for me.
It gave to me the one thing important above all others for the beginner to know, namely, an absolute faith in myself, that I could do the thing that I had planned to do. I do not mean that I actually did do all that I had planned to do, or that I never failed in my purposes. I mean that I had confidence in myself, and this confidence gave to me enterprise and this enterprise would start me off on my journey toward success. Starting toward the goal is as necessary as reaching the goal. In fact, there is a greater stimulation in the starting than in the finding and reaching the goal. All the causes of success and failure in a worldly sense are to be found between the starting and the ending. Here is where we discover the wide difference between how we intend our plans to work, and how they really work. Our plans are made with all the ability and capacity that we can command, and if we could command all the other individuals who are involved in our plans, and they would obey implictly our commands the results might be more satisfactory to us, and again they might be less satisfactory. So the various results, all the way, the working out of our plans, are as various and
as satisfactory and otherwise, as there are combinations of capacity and lack of capacity, and obedience to commands and disobdience to commands. In other words, none of us know all of what we want, and none of us could do it all, even if we knew it. So I now know that I have often “builded wiser than I knew,” and have, on the other hand, thought that I was building very wisely, and found my house was built on the sand, and it tumbled down when the storms came.
As a school teacher, I thought at the time that I was a dismal failure, and have never changed that opinion. Yet several of my old pupils have told me that I gave to them the first impulse to be a man; and that they had gone on and achieved success. This information is very gratifyng to me, but when I sit down and think of the fool things that I did about this period of my life, I wonder that I could give to anyone an impulse to be a man. As an example, I heard an old teacher say once that if a boy wanted to be healthy he should take a cold bath every morning. We had no bathtub at my home, nothing but a washtub, and no way to get water into the tub but by drawing it from a well in a bucket, fastened to the end of a long pole; the upper end of the pole was fastened to a long piece of timber, and this timber worked in a slot cut in the top of a post in the manner of a “see-saw.”
When the bucket was forced down the well, the end of the timber farthest from the well would go up in the air, and when the bucket full of water came up, the same end of the timber farthest from the well would come down and rest on the ground again. It was called a “well sweep.” The labor, to “draw water,” as this movement was called, was too laborious for a sickly boy of sixteen, who was small for his age. So this boy, who was myself, in my foolishness, figured out that the creek was the best and easiest way that I could get the cold bath that I believed was to give me health and strength. So, on my way to school, I would come to a creek, there I would stop, pull off my clothes, and go into the water. I would lie down in it. Sometimes there would be thin ice on the edge that I would break as I went in the water. It was so cold that I would almost faint with the chill; my hands would become numb with the cold, so that I could hardly dress myself, putting my clothes on my wet body. I did not have sense enough to take a towel along to dry my body before putting on my clothes. Sometimes I would remain cold all day, if the trot that I would take after the bath did not warm me up. About this period of my life it seemed that I could never get rid of having chills. I had a chill nearly every day for three or four years. I took quinine every day as regular as I tried to eat my
meals. Sometimes I had no appetite, and I weighed less than a hundred pounds. No one told me that I should not drink this water out of the creek or out of a ditch, so I kept on drinking such surface water and having chills as long as I lived in the country around Wilson. I now believe that all or nearly all of my sickness at that time was due to the fact that I took those cold baths and drank the surface water.
I went to school in 1865, in Wilson, to Prof. D. S. Richardson. He was a New Englander, a fine teacher. He kept every boy and girl in a spelling class as long as they went to school to him. He also made each one write from a copy, for one hour every day, so these were two of the necessary branches of an elementary education that he uniformly gave to nearly all of his pupils. At this time our family lived on a farm we called “Walnut Hill,” about three miles from Wilson, N. C., on the railroad toward Rocky Mount.
One day I was walking home to the farm from school, and Julian Rhodes, my third sister's son, then about nine years, was with me; when we got to Toisnot Swamp, where there were two long railroad bridges, we saw a negro coming up the embankment from the water below; he had in his hands two turtles; we asked him how he caught them. He said,
“On hooks.” What kind of hooks? He said, “Large fish hooks,” and he showed us one that he had in his pocket. What did he put on the hooks? “Frogs.” On the way going home Julian and I talked the matter over, and came to the conclusion that we must have some hooks. When we got home we told our story to the whole family and embellished it the best that we could, trying to enlist enough sym pathy with our plan to get the hooks. At last father said, “I will get the hooks for you.” The next day Julian went home with me again and continued to do so as long as the interest in the turtles kept up.
But this interest came to a very sudden stop. My father not only got the hooks for us, but he put the hooks on the lines and put some lead on, too, to help sink the hooks; he showed us how to put the frogs on the hooks, by hooking them through the back. He also told us to put our lines in places so that we would not forget where they were; but to tie them under the water so that others would not see them and rob our hooks. This we did in the morning as we went on to school; in the afternoon we were so anxious to reap the fruits of our planning that we ran nearly all the way to the swamp. The first day we got two turtles out of the six hooks that we set. We did not know how to get the hooks out of the turtles’ mouths, for they had swallowed the frogs, hooks and
all. So we carried our trophies in pride and jubilation to the farm. Everyone in the family were highly pleased; for stewed turtle with some parsley put in for flavoring certainly does make an appetizing breakfast. Our good luck followed us for some time, and we had got up quite a reputation as fishermen. The enthusiasm was dying out a little, for we no longer ran in our eagerness to get to our hooks, but went along more like workmen on their way to work.
One day when we had lifted nearly all of our hooks without finding a turtle, we came to one of the hooks that seemed to be hanging onto something down under the water; we could pull the hook up a part of the way, and then there would be a pull on the line like there was a strong spring working against us. We could not pull the hook out of the water; Julian and I both had a trial at it; and we were about to leave it, when I thought of one more way. I cut a pole with a fork at the top; with this pole I straddled the line with the fork, and, keeping the line taut, followed it down in the water, trying on each side of the line to dislodge the hook; at last, I felt the object on the hook giving way, and I was drawing the hook with what I thought to be a large turtle to the surface, when quicker than words can tell it a large copperbellied moccasin came out of the water with the hook in his mouth,
He was at least one inch in diameter and three and a half to four feet long. My hands were so near his head I was afraid that he would bite me; I was so excited I really did not know what I was doing; but to save myself I grabbed him about the neck with my left hand; the snake was busy, too; he tried to turn his head to reach my hand with his mouth; but he did not have enough free neck to do so; he did the next best thing that he could; he brought his long wet body out of the water and threw it upon my shoulder and around my neck. I had already got out my big jack-knife and opened it with my teeth; with this I commenced to cut off his head; two or three pulls of the sharp edge on his throat and his head was off, and I felt the body relax. I dropped my knife, took both hands and unwound the nasty, slimy, scaly body from around my neck and threw it off with that strength born of panic, and got out of the swamp as quick as my legs could carry me. Julian was ahead of me, for as soon as he saw the snake he made a bolt to get away; he must have fallen in the water, for he was wet all over. We sat down on the railroad, and after breathing hard for a while became calm; then my fighting qualities came to my rescue; so I went back, got my knife and the snake and brought him up on the railroad. Julian held the body while I pulled the skin off. We carried the skin home, and stuffed
it with wheat bran, and this snake skin was hanging in my room when we moved away in 1868.
This put an end to our turtle fishing. The shock was too great; we did not want another like it.
Here is another piece of foolishness of which I was guilty:
About the last year of the Civil War I was walking the railroad to school every day. The railroad bed was well worn, the rolling stock was in poor condition, and sometimes when a train would start from Wilmington or Goldsboro for Weldon it was no certain thing that that particular train would ever reach its destination. These poorly equipped trains would frequently overtake me, as I was on my way to the farm from school. So here is another place when my foolish calculations came near ending my days, as well as my career.
There was a freight train that passed Wilson about five o'clock p. m. This train would overtake me frequently as I was going up the hill after passing over the trestles at Toisnot Swamp. The train would be running slow on this up-grade. It was little effort for me to jump on the last coach as it came by. This coach was called the “caboose.” Now, I figured it out that I was foolish to walk nearly all the way home, and then jump on this passing
train and ride this short distance, so I would go down to the depot and get on the train as it started from Wilson and ride all the way home. The train was sure to slack up in speed when it came to my hill. So I put in practice my plan for riding home. It worked fine; for some time the train would come close enough to five o'clock to get me home by supper. But one day the train was late. Old John Crone was the engineer as well as conductor, on this particular occasion. I waited till nearly dark and still no train had come, and just as I was about to start on my long three-mile walk I saw the smoke of my train. I call it mine, for I had been riding on it so long I felt that I was really interested in it. It was but a short time before the train arrived. Old John Crone made one or two shifts of the cars, and with a very short train for a freight train, he halloed all aboard, and quicker than I can tell it, the train was in motion, with me on the caboose as usual. It seemed to me that I had never rode so fast in all my life. Before I could realize where we were, we had crossed the bridges over Toisnot Swamp and had started up the hill toward my home. Instead of slacking in speed as usual, it seemed to me that the train was gaining in speed. I looked for my landmarks, and there they were, and passing on behind like a
flash. The telegraph poles looked like a fine-tooth comb enlarged. In a minute the train would be to my jumping-off place; but, good heavens, I could not jump from a train running as fast as this train was running. It would be certain death. What could I do? I had no money. The next station was four miles from my home. It was nearly night. What would my mother think if I did not come home? So in my perplexity and dire emergency, I could see only one thing to do—jump. I must jump; even if it killed me, I must jump. So, picking out a place between the old cross-ties that were on the side of the road, I threw off my books and my tin dinner bucket. Said one, two, three and off I went; as my feet struck the red clay mud my head kept on going forward till my face and the front part of my head were buried in the red mud. As I got up I was surprised to know that I was not dead. I knew that I was badly hurt, but I did not know the extent of my injuries. I felt of my nose. I thought it was broken. I put my hand on my forehead. I thought there was a hole in it. My mouth and nose were both bleeding. My mouth was full of the red mud. I spit out the mud and felt of my front teeth. I thought that they were knocked out; but none of these things were fully true. I was jarred awfully, I was hurt terribly, but I could discover no broken bones,
and I could walk, so I went back, got my books and bucket, and went on toward home, in the dark. I knew the path so well I got along very well. When I came to the little creek or branch just before getting to the house I washed my face as best I could. I went to the kitchen and begged old Mammy Dinah to put some flour on my face to cover up the blood, which she did, and after eating a little I went to my bed in an outhouse, where I slept at night. My sleep was broken by fever and dreams of my sad experience. The next morning early my mother came in to learn what was the matter. I told her only a part of the truth. I said that I had fallen down a hill and hurt my face. I was so sore that I did not get out of bed for over a week, and even then it took another week for the scabs to come off of my face. As big a fool as I was at this time I learned a lesson that lasted me a long time. The lesson I learned was this, “Don't steal a ride on a train,” and “don't jump off while it is moving.”
Here is another piece of foolishness I was guilty of about this time:
There was another boy going to the same school, whose name was Charlie Clarke. This Charlie Clarke was about my size, though I think that he was one or two years younger than I was. There were other boys three or
four years older than either of us—Bill Barnes, Leon Ellis, Frank Deems, the last-named was a talented son of the noted Methodist preacher, the Rev. Dr. Chas. F. Deems, afterward pastor of the Church of the Strangers, New York City, and editor of the Churchman.
These three boys learned that Charlie Clarke and I could be induced to fight on very small provocation. So every few days, at the midday recess, when all the teachers were out of the way, these older boys, who should have had more consideration for us youngsters, would get Charlie and me together, and by putting a chip on my shouder and telling Charlie that he was a coward if he did not knock the chip off and when this was done they would tell me that I was a coward if I did not whip Charlie for his act. Sometimes the chip was put on Charlie's shoulder, and the same pieces of information were given to us. So that it made little difference where the chip was put, whether on my shoulder or Charlie's shoulder, there was sure to be a fight. At first we were quite equally matched, but as the months passed by I noted that Charlie was getting heavier and stronger, so I figured it out that in a month or so more Charlie would be too heavy and too strong for me, and would whip me, so I dreaded such a humiliation, and to prevent it I got up this scheme. I met Charlie one morning
and said, Charlie, I like you; don't you like me? Charlie said Yes, Jess, I do like you. Then I said, Do you notice how these big boys get us to fight every few days, just for their amusement? Charlie said that he had noticed it. Then I said, I'll tell you what we will do. You and I can whip either one of the big boys. Now the next time one of the big boys tries to get us to fight I will grab him around the body and you punch his face, so when we get through with him this will end our fighting each other. Charlie agreed to my plan. It was not long before we had the opportunity to put into execution our plan. Bill Barnes was the boy we had to tackle, and he was the oldest and strongest of the three, but we were so quick and attacked him so unexpectedly we had little trouble in doing him up, and made him beg for mercy. This ended the fighting between Charlie and me. As years passed Charlie grew into manhood and he became a giant. He was six feet two inches and weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds. He was made the Chief of Police, and in a negro riot in the town of Wilson he was the principal figure in one of the worst mix-up fights that ever took place in the town. When I saw Charlie years after this he had three terrible scars on his face, where somebody had cut three long gashes in his cheeks, all the way
from his eyes to his chin. I asked him where he got these scars. He said, “Oh! a little scrimmage I got into.” The other policeman, Peter Christman, told me some time after that a negro cut Charlie's face with a razor, but he went on and said, “After the fight was over there were three dead niggers found where the fight had been.”
I made this remark to myself, “And this is the Charlie Clarke that I was trying to whip.”
As a youth, from ten to fourteen years old, there are only a few incidents, vividly impressed upon me, enough to come down through the flight of years. The memory of my boyhood companions is bright enough. I can call to mind Jim Clark and Alvin Clark, who lived diagonally across the street from us. I used to trade biscuits and ham with them for pickles.
After supper in the evening at six o'clock there would be left a long part of the day, in the summer time. We were allowed to play until it was dark. I would leave the supper table with a biscuit and a piece of ham, that I had picked up and put between two halves of a biscuit. We were not allowed to eat meat at supper time when we were small boys.
I would meet Jim and Alvin out at the corner of out lot, which was a whole block of
ground. There I would find him or them waiting with a cucumber pickle four or five inches long and an inch to an inch and a half thick. I would eat a whole one. These pickles were made with strong apple cider vinegar, and one was enough to kill a horse, but I ate it, not once, but many times. My system must have been gorged on vinegar at that time, for I have never been able to eat pickles or take acids in my stomach since, without pain, not even lemonade.
Up the street that we lived on were some other boys: Gus Skinner and Willie Skinner in one family, with two sisters, Julia and Louise. Further up the street, opposite where Mr. Stevens lived, there was a Henry Skinner. Mr. Stevens had a son named Rozell. This Henry Skinner and Rozell were both older than I, and I did not play with them so much.
The Fountain family lived within a block of us and I was always fond of Spencer and William, that the boys called “Bill.” There were George Deems, Eddie Deems, Bill Barnes, Bob Barnes, Leon Ellis, Alex Green, Jim Tucker, Allen Blount, Albert Rountree, all good boys. I knew them and liked them well, but I met them only at school.
The same with Tom Hackney, Dug Hackney and George, but Jim Clark, Alvin Clark,
Gus Skinner and Spencer Fountain and Bill Fountain were my chums.
Willie Skinner, Gus’ brother, was three or four years younger than I, and was small for his age as I was, although I was much larger than he. He thought the world of me, and so did I of him, till one day he got me into more real trouble than I had ever had before, and after this I would never play with him, the humiliation was too great, and I did not want another piece of experience like this.
Here is the story and when you have read it you will say with me that I did right to cut his acquaintance. He was so young that he was hardly responsible, but he had some imagination and powers of invention, so I think that he must have known that what he did was wrong.
His mother was a poor woman, who had a great struggle to raise these four children. She worked hard and sewed and took in washing to earn a living.
This son, Willie, must have seen her put money away, for he got it all, a five dollar gold piece, a two and one-half dollar gold piece and two one dollar gold pieces and several quarters and dimes. He brought it all down to me. He first gave me some of the silver; then he took it back and gave me the five
dollar gold piece, and then he took them back and gave me two quarters. He would hand me a piece of money and then change it.
I thought he was very rich to have so much money. I asked him where he got it. He said his mother gave it to him.
At last, night was coming on and he said, “I must go. “You had better take this,” handing to me the five dollar gold piece and one dime, and he said, “If anybody asks you where you got it, tell them that you found it in a goat's track.” I could remember this very well. The next morning I was showing my money to Julian Rhodes and Julian's father came along and asked me where I got it. I remembered what Willie Skinner had told me. Willie came up as I was about to speak; I looked at him and he wiggled his mouth, and I understood it to mean that I must say what he had advised me to say. So I said, “I found it in a goat's track.” Another question came, “Where was the goat's tracks.” Then I had to get out of my trouble the best I could, so I said, “Down there by the railroad.” Then Mr. Rhodes, my brother-in-law, said, “Come on and show me where you found it.” I started off toward the railroad, with Willie Skinner and Mr. Rhodes following me; when I got near the water station I found a hog's track. It must have been a hog's track, because I learned
later that there was only one goat in town, and he was at the other end of town and was kept locked up, so there was no opportunity for him to make a track in our part of town. Mr. Rhodes said, “Are you sure that you found it here?” I said, “Yes.” Willie Skinner spoke up and said, “Now, Jess, you know you are telling a lie, for I gave it to you.”
I never felt so bad in my life. Here I was caught telling a deliberate lie, and the very boy who told me to tell the lie gave me away, and humiliated me before my brother-in-law. I guess I turned two or three colors; first pale, then red; but after the first shock and pain of the revelation passed, I commenced getting angry and asked, “Didn't you tell me to say that?” He said, “No, I didn't.” I did not hesitate, but I jumped on him so quick and beat him so fast, if Mr. Rhodes had not pulled me off of him, I do believe that I would have beat him to death, I was so angry.
This broke up our friendship. I did wrong to give way to my temper. I have watched it ever since.
I handed the money to Mr. Rhodes and said, “He stole the money from somebody, give it back, I don't want it.”
It belonged to his mother, and my mother sent it back to her. My mother did not whip
me for it, but she gave me some sound advice, which in effect was that I did not have to do or say a mean or wrong thing for any one.
This one vivid lesson has lasted me all of my life, and I have added another corrollary to the maxim given to me by my mother. It is this, if great things are involved, “you do not have to believe anything told to you by anybody until you prove it to be true.”
Of these, my boyhood companions, Bill Barnes, Leon Ellis, Rozell Stevens, Henry Skinner, William Fountain, Jim Tucker, Alex Green and Albert Rountree are dead. They were all dear to me. May God receive them kindly.
LOOKING FOR A JOB.
After my experience in teaching school, the hardships and the small remuneration, I concluded that I would try another job. I was always fond of tools, and liked very much to build things.
So my father, noticing my mechanical talent, proposed that I should take a place with a Mr. John McBride, a Scotchman, who had a shop in Wilson. He was a watchmaker and a jeweler and a fine workman, but he had so many friends in town who visited him and he had just come from the war; he had spent four years with Lee's army in Virginia; he had gotten out of the habit of working and dreaded it so much that he could never be contented to work longer than an hour or two at the time, just long enough to pick up a few dollars to buy something to eat and to drink; something to treat his friends with when they came to see him. So when my father proposed that he should take me as an apprentice, I am sure that at heart he was delighted, but the thrifty Scotchman came immediately to the surface. He wanted to know how much
money my father was willing to pay him for teaching me to be a watchmaker and jeweler.
My father had no money to pay with and said so. Then Mr. McBride said that as my two brothers were in the same company and regiment with him till one was killed at the battle of Seven Pines, the other one was with him for the four years of the war, he, Mr. McBride, for the kind feeling he had for my brothers, would take me on trial. He could not pay me any wages, nor board me, so if I took the job it meant a six-mile walk every day to the farm, and a cold dinner out of my old tin bucket that had been my companion so long The prospect of being a good workman, and some day to have a business of my own, influenced me to accept the position.
I did not really know what years of drudgery were before me, so I took the job, with no pay, and I must board myself. Mr. McBride was uniformly kind to me, and he showed me all that he could teach me, but he kept me busy. When I went in the shop there were more than one hundred clocks left there for repairs and several drawers full of watches and a bushel of jewelry. Mr. McBride fixed up a work bench for me and gave me the tools that he thought that I would need, and started me off to work on the clocks. At first I was awkward and
I pinched my fingers with the plyers and mashed them with the hammers. The drills would slip off the piece of metal that I was drilling and pierce my hand, and many other accidents happened to me on account of my inexperience with tools. But a few months’ use of the tools gave me the experience necessary and I was becoming a good workman. In one year I had cleaned up, repaired and delivered nearly all the clocks, over half of the watches and all of the jewelry.
At first I went home every night, but this was too much walking to suit me, so I got a bigger dinner bucket and filled it with such things as I knew would keep for three days; after this I went home Wednesdays and Saturdays. One of the friends who visited Mr. McBride daily was a Dr. Stith, also bachelor as Mr. McBride was. On one occasion he brought in Mr. McBride's back room, where there was one bed, a man who had been in a fight, and was stabbed in the back just below the right shoulder blade. Dr. Stith was a good physician, but a poor surgeon. The sight of blood made him sick at the stomach, so he said. I had seen, on the farm, one of the negroes trim up little boar pigs and spay the little sow pigs and sew them up with a crooked needle, and heard all the squealing and fuss that was made during the operation. So the
sight of a man with a little hole in his back did not make me sick at the stomach. So I volunteered to sew up the wound in the man's back. The doctor was glad to get rid of the job, so he told me what to do and how to do it.
He dissolved some corrosive sublimate in a bowl of water and had me wash the needles and silk thread in it. I also wet my hands in the water, and I sewed up the cut in the man's back and the man got well. This one act was the turning point in my life. All night I was rehearsing everything that I had done, every time I waked up I would think up other cases that I would operate on. So the long and short of it was that I started in to read medicine with Dr. Stith. I said, that I would rather be a doctor or surgeon than to be a watchmaker and jeweler. How these plans worked out you will see as you read these memoirs.
CHANGING MY OCCUPATION.
When I had been working with Mr. McBride for nearly two years, and had become quite an expert in repairing clocks, watches, sewing machines and jewelry, the novelty of the business had worn off and I could see several very disagreeable features connected with my situation. Most of my troubles were of the phyical kind and were felt in the way of discomforts. I was living on cold food almost entirely and this was stale four days out of the six days that I worked. On Sundays I was at home in the country and had warm food. I would fill up like a boa constrictor so that the quantity I ate on some occasions attracted the attention of my father, who remarked that he “believed that boy (meaning me) was hollow all the way down his legs.” The remark aroused a laugh at my expense, but it was no laughing matter to me.
Another very disagreeable feature of my situation was my sleeping quarters. The back room had one bed and a short bench, a “fireplace,” the old fashioned kind with andirons for a wood log fire, a shelf and a looking glass and three
or four chairs. When more company came than there were chairs for, some of them would sit on the bed, some on the bench; if there were more company still, they would sit on boxes secured from the stores near at hand. Almost every night we had a levee or party, it might be called, not a formal affair, but very informal affair. It might very safely be called a “smoker,” for nearly every one smoked. Mr. McBride kept on hand a box of Durham smoking tobacco, and a dozen or so pipes, old fashion clay pipes with reed root stems and fig stems, a limb of fig as large as your middle finger and about eighteen inches long. The pith had been burned out with a red-hot wire. This made a pipe stem that was very aromatic and added a delicious flavor to the smoke of the tobacco. These “smokers” were a daily occurrence, and if you can conceive a room about twenty feet square with eight to twelve men smoking in it every evening from 8 to 11 o'clock, then you will know the kind of a place I had to sleep in.
In addition to the smoking somebody would send out to the nearest saloon and get a bottle of whiskey or brandy and nearly all would take one or two drinks during the evening. The windows and doors were nearly always open; without this new air coming through the room all would have been killed with the smoke
and carbonic acid gas. We had a big fire of oak logs and each one would back up to the fire for a warming. When bed time came about, many would go home, but frequently we would have as many as six to stay all night. One bed and one short bench for six to sleep on. On these occasions, I being only the hired boy, the floor was my bed, or a chair; some times I would try the floor for a part of the night, and when I felt my bones were coming through the flesh, I would get up, fix the fire and sit up the rest of the night, nodding as best I could.
None of us undressed to go to bed. Some of the four who slept on the bed cross-wise were just as uncomfortable as I was.
They did not seem to care for the discomforts. If I had had a bed all to myself, as I knew some of these men had, I certainly would not have undergone the pain and discomforts that they did to get the questionable pleasures that they seemed to enjoy so much.
I had been with Mr. McBride only a short time when he discovered that I could handle a razor almost like a barber, so he was glad to have me shave him. As soon as his various friends saw that I could shave a man without cutting his throat, they all wanted to be shaved. These friends would commence coming
in soon after 12 o'clock noon on Saturday, and would continue to come till the last of our regulars had come in and got shaved by the free barber. It is a curious thing that not one of these men ever offered me a tip or a present for all this gratuitous service.
Had these men all been clean and genteel, my task would not have been such an onerous one, but they were mechanics, bricklayers, carpenters, cabinet makers and one tinner and one butcher. They would come to me right from their work, dirty, sweaty and begrimed, and I shaved them all alike, though I noticed a great difference in the odor of their breaths. I could smell garlic, cabbage, tobacco, whisky, bile and many other combinations that an expert chemist could not name. There was one among the rest who washed his teeth with Sozodont, and only one man who washed his teeth at all. This one man had a sweet breath and he was the only one that I shaved with pleasure. The others I shaved because they were McBride's friends.
One Saturday a man by the name of Jack Hagin came in with the rest to be shaved. He was almost drunk and was very nervous. He kept telling me not to cut him.
He had a very stiff beard and an overhanging chin, that is, there were hollow places under it that made it difficult to shave him, but I used lots of soap and got his
beard real soft and had little trouble in giving him a clean shave. On Sunday I heard through the man we sent to town for our mail that Jack Hagin was on a big drunk and had delirium tremens.
Monday morning, when I came to town, I passed by the livery stables and saw a crowd gathered around the office, so I stopped to inquire the cause of the commotion and was told that Jack Hagin was in there, that he had been out in the country since Saturday, that he must have been running through the briar patches, for his clothes were nearly all torn from his body. I got up as close as I could and looked in. There was Jack Hagin on his knees, praying, using only the words, “God have mercy, God have mercy,” and kept repeating these words. Soon I saw Dr. Stith coming, and I waited to see what he would do for Jack. The doctor told some one to take off Jack's coat and roll up his sleeves, which was promptly done. I saw the doctor with some kind of an instrument in his hand, I could not see what it was, but I saw him take hold of Jack's arm and mash it with one hand and rub it with the other. I know now that Dr. Stith gave him a hypodermic injection of morphine. The result was almost magical. A change came so quick. Jack gradually quieted down. His prayers became weaker and weaker
until I could hardly hear him at all. In less than fifteen minutes I could not hear him. I saw the doctor come out. I walked along with him and asked him if Jack would get well. He said, “No, he is dead.” I never had a greater shock in my life. The next day I shaved Jack again for the last time, and we buried him. The following Saturday when all my free customers came along for their accustomed shave, I told them that I had quit the shaving business, but if any of them died and I was sent for, that I would come and shave them, but as long as they were alive they could shave themselves. This ended my connection with the shaving business, as well as the watchmaker and jewelry business.
I was offered a position as a clerk in a general stock store at a salary of five dollars a month and board myself. As my mother owned the “Battle House” in the town, my brother and I persuaded her to move back to town, which she did in 1868.
The man I started to clerk for was Mr. Joseph Kincaid, a son-in-law of Mr. Josiah Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell was a Boston man, and a fine business man. He had trained Mr. Kincaid in business, and Mr. Kincaid was well posted in his line, and a very successful man. He had married Mr. Blackwell's only daughter and Mr. Blackwell had taken his name out
of the firm and it was simply Joseph Kincaid. I believed then as now, that Mr. Blackwell furnished the money to establish the business. His interest in the business was untiring. He was at the store, morning, noon and night. There was nothing in the store that he did not know. His energy and industry were prodigious. Every rainy day when there were few customers coming in, Mr. Blackwell would begin at one end of the store and throw down on the counter every piece of goods that was on the shelves, saying there was a certain piece of goods he was looking for. When he got them all down on the counter, he would say to Albert Davis, the other clerk, and to me, “Well, boys, see how well you can wipe off those shelves and arrange those goods again.” This was an all-day job. Albert would look at me and wink and say, “I knew he was going to do that, he does it every rainy day. We are in for it, so here goes.” Then both of us would put in a good day's work.
I know now that that was Mr. Blackwell's plan to keep the store clean as well as making us familiar with the whereabouts of every article in the store. Sometimes now I go into a store in St. Louisand ask for an article and wait and wait for the clerk to find it, and sometimes I get disgusted and leave the store. There is, of course, a difference in the size of
the store, and in the number of articles kept in stock. When I clerked in that store, I could go into the store in the dark and lay my hand on almost any article that a customer would call for.
Mr. Blackwell was an old man, but he was a very successful salesman. I would be near enough to hear him on many occasions when he would be selling something to a customer. Whether it was dry goods, hats, shoes, clothing, groceries or hardware, I noticed that he always had a story to tell about the material, or about the process of manufacture. I picked up many of his stories and would use them myself in trying to sell goods. Some of his stories would convince my customer and some of them would not. When I failed, I would say to myself that I did not get the story exact or that I could not tell it so effectively as Mr. Blackwell did. One day a countryman came into the store and wanted to buy an iron pot. I started in to tell the man the same story that I had heard Mr. Blackwell tell on a former occasion. I told him that this particular pot was made in Baltimore and had just twice as much iron in it as the same ware made in New York City. That nearly all the pots in town but ours came from New York City, and were made too light and of course, being so light, would only last a short time, while our pots, being
made in Baltimore and very heavy, would last a life time. The countryman said he did not know about that, that he had looked at some pots at Rountree's and he could see no difference. About this time Mr. Blackwell came along. He had heard a part of what I had said and he had heard all of what the countryman had said. So he came up and patted me on the shoulder and said, “The still sow gets the swill, Jesse,” and he took the case out of my hands and went on and sold the pot. After the transaction was over, I saw Mr. Blackwell and asked him why he interfered with me while I was trying to sell. I told Mr. Blackwell that what I had said to the man was almost word for word what I had heard him say to another man. Mr. Blackwell's answer was characteristic. He said, “In the first place you got your man into the argumentative mood, and he was ready to leave the store. So to prevent this, I (Mr. Blackwell) had to side with the man.” He said that he had learned that Rountree's price was eighty-five cents and he had made the price eighty cents, and the man had bought to save the five cents. He said further that if the man had gotten out of the store and gone back to Rountree's store, that he would have repeated my story and Mr. Rountree or one of his clerks would have told him that Kincaid's
man was lying, for the pots were not made in Baltimore at all, but were made in Richmond, Va.. and said further that this piece of information would have done his store much damage, and when I asked him why he would tell such a story then, he said, “When you want to tell a story, you must pick your man; get a man who wanted to hear it, and then you can tell it without doing harm, but never tell a story to a man when you see that he does not want to hear it.” He said further, “I can see that, Jesse, and you cannot; but you are learning.”
One day a countryman came in and wanted two pounds of sugar. I went over to the barrel and got a scoop full and putting some paper in the scales, I poured in the sugar until the two pounds were weighed, as I thought, liberally and accurately. I looked over toward Mr. Blackwell and noticed that he was watching me closely.
When the man had paid me and gone out, Mr. Blackwell came over to me and asked how much sugar the man had bought, and I answered, “Two pounds.” He asked me again how much sugar I had given the man, and I answered, “Two pounds.”
He said, “Go and bring the man back and weigh the sugar over again. I think you made a mistake.”
My heart jumped up in my throat, and I felt like telling Mr. Blackwell that if he wanted that man brought back and the sugar weighed again, he could go and do it himself, but I curbed my temper and choked down the words that were coming up in my throat, and went out after the man. He was three blocks away when I overtook him and I said in my sweetest tones, “Mr.——, my boss thinks that I made a mistake in weighing that sugar. Would you mind coming back to the store with me and let me weigh it again?”
He did not want to do it, but he saw the pain and anxiety in my face, so he went back with me and I weighed the sugar, and it weighed two pounds and two ounces.
Mr. Blackwell did not take any of the sugar out of the package. He told the man that he was welcome to the two ounces, and he thanked him for coming back. After the man was gone, he turned to me and asked, “How much sugar was in the barrel?” I looked at the marks and answered, “Two hundred and twelve pounds.”
Mr. Blackwell then asked if I was selling the whole barrel of sugar at the same price and giving two pounds and two ounces each time I weighed the sugar, how much would the sugar bring? I had to put on my studying
cap and after some calculating, I answered, “Eleven dollars and eighty-eight cents.”
Then Mr. Blackwell asked me what the barrel of sugar cost, and I answered at five cents per pound, not counting the freight, it cost ten dollars and sixty cents.
He then asked me how much the barrel of sugar would have brought had I weighed the whole barrel properly. I answered, “Twelve dollars and seventy-two cents.”
He then asked me what the profit was on a barrel of sugar weighed as I had weighed it. I answered, “One dollar and twenty-eight cents.”
He then asked, “What would have been the profit on a barrel of sugar had you weighed it properly?” I answered, “Two dollars and twelve cents.”
He then asked what was the loss by my way of weighing. I answered, “Eighty-four cents.”
He then said, “Now, Jesse, don't think for a minute that I am bothering about this particular eight-four cents. A merchant is not in business for his health, but for the profit in his business. There are some things we sell as an advertisement, and sugar is one of these. There is no profit in sugar at one cent advance over the cost, for this one cent or two dollars and twelve cents per barrel, gives no
profit after the freight is paid. I do not call your attention to the bad way of weighing for the eighty-four cents we lose, but for the principle involved in the weighing itself. When you balance the scales you have weighed the thing you have in the scales, but when you put in something till the scales go down, you do not know how much you have weighed.
“Suppose you were selling arsenic on a doctor's prescription. If you give what is called ‘down weight’ you kill somebody.”
Now, this piece of experience was about the most humiliating that I have ever been called upon to endure and at that time it so worked on my feelings, and I resented it so much that it was the actual cause of my resignation, but it made an impression on me that all the intervening years have not been able to blot out. Now, I can see that it was one of the best lessons ever taught to me by any one, and I know it has served me in more ways than one all these years.
The pain and humiliation given to me by the last experience started me looking for another job.
The six months spent under a merchant like Mr. Josiah Blackwell is worth more to a clerk than several years with a less competent man. So, when Dr. Peacock, of Stantonsburg, N. C., asked me if I thought I was capable of marking a stock of goods and keeping a country store in good condition, I told him, “Yes, I could do it.” So he hired me at one hundred dollars per year, and gave me my board. I slept in the store house and boarded in his family. I had no trouble keeping the store to suit him. I did everything connected with the store, from making out orders for goods needed, to marking them, selling them, collecting the bills, keeping the books, paying the bills and all the other little things coming up in connection with the store, as keeping the accounts of all his farm hands, issuing rations to them on Saturday evenings and selling to them on credit to the amount that they would be entitled to at the end of the year, giving
to them in goods, a little at the time, as the value of their labor increased and the season advanced to a close.
Dr. Peacock told me time and again that he was much pleased with my work, and he hoped that I would remain with him for some time to come. This was more than pleasant to me, for the doctor had a daughter named Mollie whom I thought was the sweetest piece of flesh I had ever seen, and my admiration was growing every day. I do not call it love, for Mollie was only a child, thirteen or fourteen years old, a school girl, and had never even thought of such a thing as having a sweetheart. I would simply look on her with the eyes of admiration as being a coming lady that I would like to know more of, but I saw very little of her, and the year passed so quickly that the rolling of time and its changing events carried me on to other places and other occupations so quickly that she passed out of my mind and life. Afterward she married a very handsome young man named Billy Bynum, whose life was ended when he was still quite young, leaving my first love a widow, and the pleasant memory has remained, but I have not seen Mollie in all these years, and sometimes I wonder if she ever knew that there was such a tender place in my heart for her.
My year as a clerk with Doctor Peacock coming to a close and my attention being required at home on account of the death of my oldest brother, I gave up, reluctantly, my position and went back home to Wilson.
The years 1869 and 1870 I spent in Wilson. My mother rented out the “Battle House” to Mrs. Richard Blount, reserving rooms for herself, my brother, Cullen, and me. Mrs. Blount gave to my mother her board and also the board of my brother as payment for the rent, and when I came in for board, Mrs. Blount said that I was not included in the contract, but my mother insisted that she stipulated her family, and that I was her youngest son and child and must be included. So a compromise was made, by which I was to get my board, but I was to visit the night trains and drum or solicit customers for the hotel. This I did; for the two years I would be present at the train that arrived at 11:30 p. m., when it was on time, and at the train which arrived at 2:30 a. m., when it was on time. But these Southern trains were then, in 1869 and 1870, just like the Southern trains now, in 1910, very liable to be one, two or three hours late. So sometimes I would not get my clothes off to go to bed for several days at the time.
I was busy all day helping the railroad agent, Mr. John Daniel, load the cars with cotton
and turpentine and rosin, the staples that made up the chief articles of shipment from up and down the Wilmington & Weldon R. R. Wilson. At night I was assistant telegraph operator, and did much in this line as a relief
Besides these occupations, I had never failed to keep up my study of medicine. All my leisure hours I was reading Gray's Anatomy, Leidy's Anatomy, Woods’ Materia Medica, Flint's, Thomas’ and Bigelow's Practice.”
Dr. Stith told me that I knew more about medicine than many doctors, but he said, “You must have a diploma to practice medicine.” I asked him where I must get this “diploma.” He said, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City all had medical colleges, and gave diplomas to their graduates. I asked him how much it would cost to attend the lectures and graduate in these colleges, and he told me he would find out.
So he wrote to all of them asking for their terms and learned that Baltimore was the cheapest, and their price for two years, including board, would be six hundred dollars. It might have been six thousand as far as I was concerned, for I did not have the six hundred dollars and saw no prospect of having six hundred dollars for some years to come. I was very economical and saved all
the money that I could lay my hands on, but somehow, every time I had about a hundred dollars on hand, some calamity would come to some of my sisters or to my nieces and they would ask for help and my savings would disappear like frost before the rising sun. I found it absolutely impossible to get together more than one hundred dollars at one time. So, in my despar, I said that I could never get to be a doctor, because I could never get together at one time as much as six hundred dollars. The two years passed quickly by and then another opening or opportunity came to me.
In March, 1871, a lightning rod company came to town. There were four wagons, all red, with their long ladders sticking out or protruding from behind.
One day one of the managers of the lightning rod company, a Mr. James W. Lee, came in the freight office to pay freight on some rods that had arrived for him. I handed the bill to him and took his money for the freight. He looked at me very attentively and said, “Young man, why don't you get out of here and get well and be somebody?” I said that I was looking for a job that would take me out doors and give me something to do, so that I could earn a living and get well at the same time. He said he needed a salesman as one of his men had gotten drunk and he had discharged him. He said if I would sell lightning rods that he would give fifty dollars per month, but, if I could not sell lightning rods he could not give me more than twenty-five dollars a month, and the last job was that of hostler or helper to the salesman. I told him that I was willing to take either job. That I would
try to be a salesman at first and if I failed I would take the next job. I knew that I could not be put in a worse position than that I occupied at that time. I look back now at what I did at that time and considering that I was sick all the time, was never well a whole day at the time, having chills every day or every other day and fever at night, it is a wonder that I did anything or learned anything at all.
Mr. Lee must have had pity on me, for I at that time gave little promise of any success for myself or him either. I was very homely, had pimples all over my face and was the color of a pumpkin and weighed less than one hundred pounds, and wore a suit of clothes made out of a woolen blanket woven by the negroes on my mother's farm. My hat was a gray one, also a home product. It had gone to seed, for its crown ran up into a cone, giving it the appearance of a fool's cap. My shoes were, what we called “stitched downs,” and made at home by the negroes. Everything I wore was “homespun” and I was about as green a specimen as could be found in the whole South.
None of these things deterred Mr. Lee. He said, “Come on,” and I went.
My mother said she hated to see me go, for I was so delicate I needed a doctor all the
time and I also needed her watchful care to keep me in the right way.
We got on the lightning rod wagon and started on the road toward Tarboro, and about ten miles from Wilson, Mr. Lee stopped at some house and said to me, “Go in and see if you can sell him a lightning rod.” So I went in and when I hollered as loud as I could, “Hey, hey, hello,” at last I saw a man come out of the house, and he beckoned me to come on up to the house. So I went on. My heart was beating funny and I felt like I would choke, but I kept on. The gentleman was Mr. Robert Pitt, whose daughter had been going to school in Wilson. He met me in a pleasant way and I told him my name and also told him why I had given up my job in the telegraph office and had gone out as a lightning rod salesman. I told him that the company that I was working for was a rich one, and handled a good quality of rods and if he had any idea of ever putting rods on his house, that now was a good time. That if he did not have the money convenient, my company would carry the account until Christmas. Mr. Pitt said he never thought of putting up lightning rods but as we were there he would have it done. So it turned out that he wanted rods on his residence and on his barn and gin house, which all together amounted to over two hundred
dollars. We worked all the afternoon and a part of the next morning. Mr. Lee did most of the work, but I watched him and handed to him the right tool and the right piece of the fixtures. When he had put up one rod, beginning at the top, when the rod had been brought to the ground, he wanted a hole drilled in the ground, so he cut a small hole with his hatchet and filled it with water and took a section of rod about ten feet long and commenced to churn it up and down in the hole with the water in it. When he had drilled the hole about two feet down, he said to me, “Now, Jesse, here is where you can get some strength. You go on now and drill this hole as deep as you can.” So I took the tow sack he gave me, wrapped it around the piece of rod and started to drill the hole. The soil was sandy on top and the rod passed on down into clay, but the sand fell down into the hole that the rod made and though the hole was kept full of water, the rod would get stuck and was very hard to pull out. After working and straining at it for ten or fifteen minutes I was almost exhausted. I did not realize how weak I was and before I knew what was to happen, I felt a dizziness in my head and the next thing I felt some one wiping my face with a wet towel or handkerchief
I had fainted and fallen on the ground from sheer weakness. Mr. Lee said, “You poor little devil, you are not able to work.” I thought this meant that I was to be discharged. So I said, “I am not very strong, but give me a chance. I will grow stronger as I work.”
After we left Mr. Pitt's place, we went on toward Tarboro; we stopped at some crossroads, where there was a store. Mr. Lee said, “Jess, go in and see if you can sell the man a rod.” I went in and found an old friend, Jim Frye, clerking for Mr. Farmer, the owner of the store. Mr. Farmer was not there; he had gone to Rocky Mount and would not be back until evening. So we fed our horses and made up the best dinner we could out of what we could buy in the store, which was crackers, sardines, cheese, pickles, brandy peaches, eggs, bacon or ham and sugar and coffee, for desert we had ginger snaps, brandy peaches and coffee. We carried a frying pan along, also a coffee pot, so we got along very well and had really more than we could eat. We drove on toward Tarboro and stopped for the night with a Mr. Knight. He was kin to the Lawrence family of Edgecombe County. He was very kind to us, and having a fine home and plenty of room, he made us very comfortable.
The next morning, we had breakfast early as Mr. Knight said that he had to go to Tarboro.
Mr. Lee was anxious to sell him some lightning rods, so when Mr. Knight quitted the breakfast table, excused himself and walked down toward the barn, Mr. Lee said, “Jesse, go and try to sell to him some rods.” My judgment was against making the trial, as I could see that Mr. Knight was in a hurry to leave, but I went on to where Mr. Knight was waiting for his horse, I walked up to him and said, “Why, Mr. Knight, you have no lightning rods on your house and this is a mighty good chance to get them.” He said he had been thinking about it. How much were they worth? What would it cost for his residence, the barn and the gin house? I had to call Mr. Lee, who gave him an estimate. Then Mr. Knight asked how long it would take to finish the work. Mr. Lee told him that we would finish by night.
So Mr. Knight said, “All right, go ahead and do the work; I will be back before you finish,” and he jumped in his buggy and was gone before Mr. Lee could say another word; then he turned to me and asked what I had said to Mr. Knight to sell the rods so easily? I answered that I only said that “if he wanted the rods, now was a good chance.”
Mr. Lee said, “If you can sell lightning rods by saying such words, you will be the greatest salesman in the business. He said here
were two big jobs that you have sold without any help from me. You did not spend fifteen minutes talking to either Mr. Pitt or Mr. Knight and both are intelligent men, and you sold to both of them.”
He said further, “You will make a ‘cracker-jack’ salesman, but you are not able to do the work; from here we will go to Rocky Mount to get more rod. I will run down to Wilson and will send the rod by the first train and a good workman to do the work till you get stronger.”
He explained to me how to figure up the cost of a rod on the different type of houses, and gave me advice about behaving myself, telling me not to fall in love with all the pretty girls that I met. He said he was sure that I would do well, and he would give me a good chance. So we finished Mr. Knight's work and got the money.
Mr. Knight begged us to remain for another night, but Mr. Lee, with over four hundred dollars in cash in his pocket, the fruits of two days’ labor, and a young and beautiful wife left in Wilson, he had only been married one month, could not be persuaded to wait another minute, so we hitched up the horses and in one hour we were in Rocky Mount, just nine
miles from Mr. Knight's. He caught the train and by 8 o'clock he was with his wife in Wilson.
I waited two days at Rocky Mount for the rods and the man who was to help me, but the time was not lost, for I had many kinfolks around Rocky Mount, as well as many dear friends and an old school mate, namely, Spencer Fountain, was the telegraph operator and railroad agent, was married and living with his family at Rocky Mount. I knew his father, mother, sisters and brothers; they all lived there.
I visited my kin in the day time, but when the evening came I was to be found at Mr. Fountain's, where the two beautiful sisters of Spencer were to be found, the evenings were spent in music and song, and all the funny stories that we were able to tell.
I must tell a story on Spencer. It was several years before this time, when he was doing his courting. It was at the time when I was visiting the trains at night in Wilson for Mrs. Blount, who kept the hotel belonging to my mother. Spencer Fountain was at that time the telegraph operator at Wilson. His sweetheart lived up the road toward Weldon, either Halifax, Enfield or maybe it was off the railroad at Scotland Neck, but Spencer, at the time I mention, was very anxious to take the
train passing Wilson at 2:30 a. m. One Saturday night, so as to reach his sweetheart on Sunday morning, spend the day with her and get back to his business Sunday night. He said to me, “Jess, I want to go on that 2:30 a. m. train. Now don't you let me get left for I would not get left for $100.00.” I told him not to be uneasy, that I would wake him up in time to catch his train.
I have always throughout my life been able to wake up at any hour that I would make up my mind to do. At that time I did not know how reliable my sub-conscious mind was, so I had an alarm clock to make sure. I would set the alarm clock to ring at 2:10 a. m., and I would wake up at 2:05 or near it and reach over and turn off the alarm so that I would not be compelled to hear it ring. This happened every night, with little variation, for two years. I do not remember but two times when I failed to wake up before the alarm clock struck, and on both of these occasions I was sick and had high fever, and I know now that I was partly delirious and hardly responsible for what I did.
On this occasion, when Spencer wanted to go to see his sweetheart, I put an extra charge upon myself, but had my alarm clock set also to help guard against mistakes. When the hour of 2:00 a. m. arrived, I was wide awake
and went over to the bed in the same room where Spencer was asleep. I told him that it was time to get up if he wanted to go on the 2:30 train. Spencer raised himself up and sat in bed, with his eyes wide open, and I thought he was awake, as he looked at me and talked with as much reason as he would at any time. He said, “Jess, I have changed my mind; I do not think that I will go.” I took this as a settlement of the matter and would not have done anything more to disturb his slumbers. My brother, Cullen, was sleeping with me, but was awake. He said, “You have not waked up Spencer yet.” I asked him if he had heard what Spencer said? He said, “Yes, but he is fast asleep.” I said I did not think so as Spencer sat up in bed with his eyes open, and talked with good sense and said “that he had changed his mind and did not want to go.”
Cullen said, “I will wake him up,” and jumped on Spencer's bed, grabbed him by the shoulder and gave him a good shaking, and said, “Spencer! Spencer! the train is coming!”
And you ought to have seen Spencer get up and get a move on himself. He got dressed and caught the train and married the girl. I have often wondered what would have happened if he had missed that train that night.
His wife never knew what a part that I and my brother, Cullen, played that night in their destiny.
My poor brother has been dead nearly two years, and Spencer is a grandfather and so am I, but here these old scenes and words and acts came before my mind as the scenes of to-day.
At last, after a wait of two days, the lightning rods and the man who was to help me arrived, and I reluctantly got on my wagon again, leaving my dearly beloved friends of the long ago to achieve my fortune.
I went first to the Falls, where there was a cotton factory, belonging at that time to William S. Battle, a kinsman, his son, James Battle, was in charge of the factory. I went into his office and told him that my name was Jesse Battle, that I was putting up lightning rods, and if he wanted some put on his factory that now was a good chance. He said that he thought there should be some lightning rods on the factory, and if our prices were reasonable he would have it done. I gave him the best estimate that I could, and he told me to go ahead.
I started in with many misgivings, for my helper, the man Mr. Lee sent me to do the work, was a green Irishman, who had only been in this country for three months, and
talked with such a brogue that I was compelled to ask him to repeat what he said so that I could understand what he said. He got it into his head that I did this to make fun of him and he was very angry. He swelled up so that he would hardly answer me at all.
I asked him to get the ladders and bring them to the buildings: he said that if I wanted the “lathers” I could get them myself. I asked him what kind of work did he expect to do. He said, “Attend the horses and drive them.” I asked him if he had ever put up any lightning rods. He said, “No, what did any person want with such things, that if God wanted to strike a house with lightning that He would do it.” I asked him if he was a Presbyterian, and he said, “Yes, I am.”
I asked him what did he wear clothes for, that according to his doctrine, if God wanted to make him cold that he would make him cold, clothes or no clothes. He said, “I wear clothes to cover my nakedness.”
I saw that I was wasting my breath talking to such a man. I hired a negro to help me that afternoon, named Howell Shines. After much trouble and awful hard work, I got these rods put up—I had to do all the work myself, for my helper would not do it. When I had finished this job, I took my wild Irishman and my new found friend, Howell Shines, back
to Rocky Mount and told my Irishman that he could go back to Wilson, for I did not want him. He said that he would not do it, for I had not hired him and that I could not discharge him. I wired Mr. Lee that if he did not relieve me of this Irishman that he could accept my resignation, that I did not want such a man and would not have him, that I had found a good negro and would take my chances with him in preference to the Irishman. The next morning the Irishman got orders to report in Wilson, which he did. I have never seen him since. I have even forgotten his name.
Howell Shines was a very bright darky, I mean mentally, not in color, he was as black as ink, a pure, genuine “nigger.” I called him “governor,” and this “tickled him to death.” He was a devoted servant and a good reliable man and not afraid of work. He stayed with me for two years and had it not been for his exalted ideas of property, real estate, he might be with me yet.
He was a good, faithful soul, but he heard of a colored girl around Charlotte who owned an acre of ground, and he told me that he “was going to marry that gal to get that acre of land.”
He did marry the girl, but I do not know whether he got the acre of land.
MY FIRST ACCIDENT.
While in Edgecombe County, N. C., in April, 1871, I was below Tarboro, near Old Sparta, at a place called Center Bluff on the Tar River. There was a ferry there. It was an old flat bottom scow or lighter. It had a fence on either side and a chain that could be put up at each end.
The ferryman had a rope fastened on each shore, running across the river, this rope passing through two pulleys at the ends of the flat boat. He used this rope as a propeller. In addition to this propeller, he used a long pole to help him get from one shore to the other. He would remain on the last shore where he had landed until some one would call him to the other shore. He would go across, jamming his boat as far as possible up the bank of the river.
I wanted to cross the river. The ferryman was on the opposite shore, so I called him and he responded promptly. When he arrived, I noted that there was nothing to fasten the boat, to and called his attention to this defect, answering me, he said, “I have had heavier
wagons than yours, so come along.” This meant for me to drive on the ferryboat.
The ferryman went to the other end of the boat and put his long pole down into the water and stood pulling on the pole to help keep the boat against the shore when the front wheels of the wagon struck it. The very thing happened that I feared. When the wheels struck the end of the boat the weight of the wagon pushed the boat away from the shore out into the river. My horses were on the boat, but the heavy wagon was not. After the boat once got started, the inclined plane of the shore and the weight of the wagon kept us all moving toward the middle of the river. I saw at once a calamity coming. None of us knew at first what to do; as the boat passed further from shore, the pole of the wagon went lower and lower toward the water and at last it rested on the end of the boat. Would the boat stop moving now? No, it kept on; as the weight of the horses held the wagon pole down at the front end, and the weight of the wagon at the wagon end, it was simply a question of buoyancy of the boat as to how long it would continue to float.
It did not float long for the end near us went right under the water, and as it did so, it pulled the horses backward till their hind feet were off the boat. I knew that something
would have to be done quickly. I was in my shirt sleeves, for the weather was warm. I got out my knife, opened it and jumped down between the horses on the wagon pole, the traces were slack and it was a small job to unhook them. I told the man to give the horses a slack rein and then I walked on the wagon pole up to the horses’ heads and with my knife cut the breast straps and the reins, which held them together. It was a job to cut the breast straps, but I knew that heavy leather had to be cut on a slant and not at right angles to the leather, so, with one or two motions across it with my sharp knife, the deed was done. I said to the man to turn the horses loose, which he did. I pushed one horse to the right and the other to the left and hollered “go,” and they obeyed promptly. This is the first time that either of them had moved their front feet; had either of them done so they would have been drowned. They swam to shore, the mud in the river stopped the progress of the wagon. We all escaped with small damages done. The people at the store pulled my wagon out with a rope. The storekeeper helped me mend my harness. In an hour I was on my way toward Mr. Elias Carr's home, where I was kindly received.
I had forgotten all about my watch and my money. When I looked at my watch, it had
stopped at 3:22 p. m. I took it to pieces, dried it out, cleaned it, oiled it, put it together again and it ran as well as ever. Had I left it a day, the rust would have ruined it.
I had in my pocket about one hundred and fifty dollars, it was wet and stuck together, making a somewhat delicate task, but I succeeded in unraveling or unfolding the various bills and put them in between the pages of a book, which gave them back to me in good shape, with the exception of some lost color.
Howell and I worked around Rocky Mount and Tarboro for about six weeks, bringing the season to about May 1st. We sold many lightning rods and took in much money and many notes. I sent nearly all the money and all of the notes to Mr. Lee. I was still sick, having chills and fevers every few days. Dr. Ricks, who married my cousin, Helen Battle, and lived at Rocky Mount, prescribed for me, without cost, but he said, go up into the western part of the state and you will get well. I made up my mind that if Mr. Lee would permit it, I would go further up the country. I had not been home to Wilson, nor had I seen Mr. Lee since he left me with the four hundred dollars cash in his pocket. I do not believe that he had been on a lightning rod wagon after he left me. There was no occasion to do
so, for I had sent him enough money to pay for all the lightning rods that he bought, and to pay all his other expenses. To be with his beautiful wife was pleasure enough for him. I got letters from him at Raleigh, Hillsborough, Greensboro and Danville, every letter would tell me where to send the next instalment of cash.
I wrote to him and told him that my physician had advised me to go further up the country and I wanted to go, as I was too sick to remain in the low flat part of the state.
He wrote me and said that all the upper part of the state had already been canvassed, and that I would not be able to make a living in that section of the state. He said that I was doing so well where I was that I had better remain in the eastern part of the state. When I got this letter it irritated me so much that I was almost tempted to resign, but I thought of my poverty back in Wilson and saw no opening outside of the business that I was in. I was handling much money and I felt prosperous. It gave me more confidence in myself. If I had only been well, so that I could do my work easier, without so much exhaustion and pain, I would have been better satisfied. Without saying any more about it, to Mr. Lee, I started on May 1st to Raleigh. I arrived in Raleigh on May 3rd. That night I put my
horses in Mr. Wynne's stable, and I put up at the Yarboro House, at $2.50 per day. After I got my supper I went around to see Dr. Wm. H. McKee, who married my aunt Susan, a sister of my father. He received me kindly, and during the evening I told him about my success and about my sickness; he was pleased with my success and said, We will cure you. You did right to leave the low country, he said. He prescribed for me; he gave me the medicine. I told him how long I had been reading, how I longed to be a doctor. He said the reading was all good enough, but to give up the idea of being a doctor; for said he, “it is a dog's life,” mighty hard work and mighty poor pay. I spoke about the good that one could do. He said that part was all right, too, but a man must live and take care of his family. Now, he said, “Don't you do like your father and give away all that you make.”
I asked him what was the medicine that he was giving to me. He said each pill has three grains of blue mass, two grains of quinine and one drop of oil of black pepper; he said take one every three hours for the first day and take castor oil the next day; then skip a day, and then repeat; then skip two days and repeat; then skip one week and repeat, and he said, when you have done this I do not think that you will have any more chills and ague; this
was in May, 1871, and now it is 1911 (January), and I have never had another chill since.
I wrote Mr. Lee about one week after I arrived in Raleigh. He was then at Danville, Va. I sent him about five hundred dollars in cash, and near four hundred dollars in notes for my first week's work in Raleigh. He wrote me that he was sorry that I had left the east; but if I could do that well in Raleigh or anywhere else that I was welcome to go anywhere that I wanted to go. I put in three months’ work in and around Raleigh and did about $7,000.00 in cash and notes.
I had enjoyed very much meeting all of my Battle kin in Raleigh, and Dr. McKee, who put me on my feet, with his chill medicine, was one of the finest men that I ever met.
My uncle, William Horn Battle, at that time was one of the Supreme Court Judges, and Uncle Richard Battle were both alive at that time. I saw them almost every day, and it was a great treat to be with them and hear them talk. Both had a strong family likeness to my father, which made them doubly dear to me, for my poor, sainted father had only been dead about one year.
I had here also two cousins, Dr. Kemp Plummer Battle, with his family; they had a lovely home on Fayetteville street. I visited
them often. His oldest daughter Nellie at this time was about fifteen years old; a beautiful girl with brown eyes and the prettiest kind of complexion, as fair and soft as a baby's skin. I did fall in love with her, but being kin and my poverty sealed my lips, so she only knew that I admired her. There were four boys, too, all bright, handsome, clean-looking boys. I believe all of them have given a good account of themselves and have succeeded in life. My poor dear Cousin Nellie passed away years and years ago and left a blank in her parents’ hearts that nothing has been able to fill. Another cousin, Richard H. Battle, that we call lawyer Dick to distinguish him from Uncle Dossey's son Richard. This cousin, Richard H. Battle, married Gov. Ashe's daughter. He had several children, but all were quite young at this time, and I did not get very well acquainted with them.
MEETING MY FUTURE WIFE.
When August came I finished my work about Raleigh and started on Saturday toward Fayetteville; I got out about fifteen miles; we came to a fork in the road; my faithful old negro said, “Which road, Mass Jesse?” I said it makes little difference to me which road you take. I want to find a good place to spend Sunday. We will have good luck any way. He left his reins slack and the horses were at liberty to take either road. They took the left-hand road; I noticed that this road was bearing toward the railroad, and I knew from my map that we were going toward a little town called Clayton. I stopped at a farmer's house and asked if the road that we were on did go to Clayton; the farmer said yes, it did. I asked how far it was? He said about four miles. I wanted to know if there was a hotel or boarding house that I could stop at. He said there was a Mr. White who took boarders, but he thought I would have trouble getting feed for my horses, so he was kind enough to sell me some. I thanked him and in less than an hour we were in Clayton. That night after supper
someone told about the great religious revival that had been going on in the town for nearly a month, and it was reported that there were about thirty candidates for baptism on the next day. I asked who was the great preacher who had achieved such success among them. I was told that it was Dr. William B. Harrell. I said that is funny. He is my brother-in-law. This attracted much attention to myself, and some of them seeing me as a beardless boy doubted what I had said. So I said further that they were living in Selma in May, and I had stopped with them on my way to Raleigh. Somone said “They live here now.” Moved here in July. I asked where they lived, and a boy volunteered to show me. So off we went. The boy took me right to their house, and to make sure that I had told the truth about the Doctor's being my brother-in-law, he went in with me and staid till bedtime. We had a memorable evening, full of music and songs and gayety. During the evening my niece, Ida, now Mrs. Hardy Horne, of Clayton, said, “Uncle Jesse, there is the prettiest girl in this town that you ever saw.” I said, “Come on, let us go to see her.” She said, “You can't see her to-night; it is too late. We will see her tomorrow.” I asked her name. Ida said, It is Bettie Lee. We talked about Bettie Lee much of the evening. I told my nieces that I had
two horses and a wagon and could fix it up so we could all go to the baptizing on the morrow, but they had already made arrangements to go with Mr. Vic Tomlinson, who had a cart and a horse. There were at this time few buggies and no carriages in the country, except in large towns and cities. The next morning I had the ladders and the lightning rods taken out of the wagon and nailed some boxes on for seats and picked up several young men to go with me to the baptizing. On the way we overtook the cart with Vic Tomlinson, my nieces, Ida and Rosa, and Miss Bettie Lee. I had to keep back to prevent my horses from throwing dirt in the cart. So I could not get a good look at Miss Bettie. When we got to Mr. Stallings’ house. It was at his mill pond that the baptizing was to be.
All stopped at the well, for the weather was hot, and the people were thirsty. As I came up, my niece, Ida, introduced me to Miss Bettie Lee. I drew up the water and with an old broken goblet gave water first to Miss Bettie, then to the others. We then went on down to the mill pond, where there were congregated at least five hundred people. It was a grand spectacle, for the country, to see these earnest faces, to hear their songs, to watch the effects produced on all who were standing there. Every time Doctor Harrell went down in the
water with one on either side and when he got a proper depth, almost to the armpits, he would stop, and with a solemn smile on his face would lift up his hand and say, “I baptize you, my brother (or sister, as the case might be), in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen,” and with his left hand supporting the candidate's head, and the right hand holding the candidate's both hands, he would push them over backwards till they passed entirely under the water. Then he would raise them up and shout, “Another soul saved, thank God.” This process went on till all were baptized.
The scene and what we heard was too serious and solemn for any compliments or foolishness, so little was said while we were at the mill pond. I asked Miss Bettie if I might come to see her; and where she lived. She told me she was not stopping at home, but was staying with her sister at Mr. Ashley Horne's store. She said Mr. Ashley Horne was her sister's husband, and that he had gone on to New York to buy goods; and that she was sleeping at the store with her sister. I wanted to go to church with her that night, but she had another engagement. I said if she would let me I would see her a few minutes before she went to church. She said if they were not at supper that she would be pleased to see me.
I had watched her all the morning, trying to find some fault with her, but, to me, she was absolutely faultless. She was so modest, with no self-consciousness; so beautiful, but did not seem to know it. She was my dream. I had seen her form before in my ideal; but not embodied. There was something in her elastic step, like the movements of a spirit. It was no trouble for her to get around. She could run like a deer. She was tall and slim and most too thin in flesh; but this made her more attractive. She was a brunette in the color of her hair and eyes; but no blonde ever had a fairer or smoother skin; it was almost transparent. Her eyes were large and brown. There was a peace and serenity in her every look, with an indescribable smile, which showed the innocence of the divine soul within. To me she was almost an angel and yet just a sweet, lovable and lovely woman.
I was infatuated, enmeshed, caught and delivered. I could think of nothing else. I was “head over heels” in love. I forgot where I had started, forgot what I was doing. I was no longer a “lightning rod man”; I was a lover. I had seen pretty girls before. I had been fascinated, entertained and enjoyed being in their society, but I would tire of it all, go along about my business and forget. But this case was different; I did not want to leave her at
all. I wanted nothing but just the privilege of sitting by so that I had her in the light, so that I could see her lovely face and hear her voice. What did we talk about? Goodness gracious, don't ask me. I had no sense left to talk with. I simply sat and gazed at her. I did manage to tell her that I had been looking for her a long time, and I was so glad that I had found her, for now I would not have to look any longer; and I said further, you need not look any further either, for I am your destiny, I am the man. She said little, but that quizzical smile, while it did not tell me what I wanted to know, it was not repression and was not banishment.
I lingered around Clayton for about two weeks, hoping every day to see my sweetheart alone; but the boys around town seemed to be banded against me; for if I went calling on her in the evening there were sometimes as many as six present, never less than two. If I went calling in the morning there sat her mother cold and stiff, like a Cerberus, guarding this precious treasure. If I would go to see her in the afternoon, there would be two or three of her girl friends, and none of them had any consideration for me, for they never left us alone.
At last I came back to my right mind. I knew that something else, besides soft, pretty words was necessary to possess, and take care
of this angel. I began asking questions of myself: Why all this espionage? I wondered if she had all this company when I was away? I did not have to reflect long on such questions before several good answers presented themselves. In the first place, my sweetheart was just sixteen years old, and going to school; secondly, this man who had come along and fallen in love with this schoolgirl was a stranger, and what little information that was available reported that the stranger was poor, wild, and a gadabout, never contented except on the wing, traveling somewhere, anywhere, to be going from place to place.
The mother of my sweetheart, her sister and all of her friends were determined that this wandering stranger should not take this lovely flower from their midst, hence all of the company, all of the barriers that I found thrown across the way of my advancement. The next question I asked myself was this, Do I have to marry all of my wife's kinfolks and all of her friends? The answer was, No, I do not have to marry them, but I do have to placate them, if I wished to make my wife happy. I could see already a cloud on her sweet face when I came in her presence. I knew it was not because she did not want to see me, for she was at all times very courteous and never refused to see me, no matter how much company she
had at the time. I told her that I must go away and work—work as I had never done before, so that I might come back with something in my pocket and in a bank, to build a home for her if she cared to take the place as its owner and mistress. She said, “This was best; that it would give her time to finish school, and be old enough to know her own mind.”
I asked her if I might write to her. She said, “I will ask my mother.” She did so, and while the mother did not approve of it, she did not object.
So with a sad heart and many misgivings, I told all good-by, and started again on my trip as a lightning rod man.
For several days I would pass house after house. I was so gloomy I had no heart to sell rods or to do the work.
I would brood for hours, going over the same circle of thought. Why was I so poor? and why did I have to leave? Each question answered the other. I had to leave her because I was so poor; and I was so poor and miserable because I had to leave her. She had never said that she loved me; she never promised to marry me.
I do not think that I had even asked her to be my wife as yet. I was too much in love to think of such a thing.
Suppose some other man should come along and win her while I was away. The thought set my brain on fire. I would want to kill him if he took her away from me. No, this would be wrong, for no man could take her without her consent; and if she consented to marry a man it would be because she loved him. If I loved her as I said I did, I should love everybody that she loved. Could I do it? Well, I might love her mother, sister, brother, but the man that she married! No, no, I could not say yes, yet; no, not yet. I would have to grow more like my father to do that.
Such thoughts as these would pass through my brain several times a day, always ending up with the first propositions, that I had to leave her, because I was so poor.
This became my text for every day's soliloquy, and the theme for my nightly dreams. At last it penetrated through my thick skull that the remedy was success; and without some kind of success I would surely lose the darling of my heart, and with this last thought I plunged forward determined to win or die in the attempt.
I had started from Raleigh to Fayetteville nearly three weeks before. What had I done in these three weeks? Very little; to make an apearance of work I had gone out in the country all around Clayton, but most of the country houses were old and unpainted, and the owners would not spend from thirty to forty dollars to put lightning rods on them. Once in a while I would find a nice painted house, and all of these had rods. The country I passed through after leaving Clayton, going toward Fayetteville, had the same kind of houses, old and unpainted. My red wagon always attracted attention, but nearly everybody that I met believed that I was a Yankee, until I told my name and claimed Raleigh as my home.
Nearly all that I met knew somebody named Battle, so I found my name my best passport.
Just before sunset every day I would commence to make enquiries for a place to stop all night. Sometimes I was successful at the first place that I stopped. Again I would be told that they did not take in strangers. Then I would exert myself to be pleasant, putting on
my sweetest smile, promising to give no trouble and offering to sleep in the barn if he wished it. All I wanted was something to eat for my horses, my man and myself, and for this I was willing to pay in cash, as I had money for this purpose.
Sometimes I was successful; again, they would send me on down the road. I would enquire at every house; at last I would find someone to take pity on me and accommodate me for the night. I do not remember but three times in the four years that I was a lightning rod man that I failed to get accommodations at some farm house, while I was traveling through the country. When I was in a city I always stopped at a hotel and put my horses in the livery stables; this was expensive and not to be indulged in except when I was doing good work in the city. I preferred the city, as I could sell as well or better than I could in the country. The city people had more money, and I did not have to travel so far to see them. In the country I always had with me my old banjo, which I played like a professional. After supper, if there were young people or children present, they would surely ask me to play. I would take the banjo out of its case, tune it up and start off on my more serious pieces at first, such as “Home, Sweet Home,” “Old Folks at Home,” “Old Kentucky Home,”
“Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane,” “Nellie Gray,” “Bonnie Blue Flag,” “We parted by the river side,” “Tenting to-night on the old Camp Ground.” I sang these songs the best I could. I did not have a fine voice for pathetic songs; so I tried to make up in expression what I lacked in tone.
I would watch my audience, to see how I pleased them. If I saw in their faces that they were really enjoying my playing and singing, I would warm up a little and give them “Old Bob Ridley,” “I Am a Good Old Rebel,” “Seven Out,” “Rhine Wine Charlie,” “The Prettiest Gal That's Out,” “Villikens and His Dinah,” “A Fine Old Dutch Gentleman,” “Devil Take the Gal That Wouldn't Have Me.” If I noticed my audience was still pleased, I would give them “The Old Virginia Reel,” “Mississippi Sawyer,” “Old Gray Horse Trotting Around the Wilderness,” “Turkey and the Corn,” “Massa is in the Cold Ground,” “Off to Charleston ’fore the Break o’ Day,” “Fisher's Hornpipe,” “College Hornpipe,” “The Old Virginia Nigger,” and would wind up with “The Arkansas Traveler,” my masterpiece. This kind of a program would last over two hours. I would quit abruptly and say that I was tired and wanted to go to bed. This left everybody in a good humor and not tired of me.
On some occasions there would be no young
people around, and the old people would not ask me to play. At such places I did not play at all.
I was surprised to find so many people who really thought it a sin to play on any kind of a musical instrument. Such people, of course, would think me a wild, thoughtless, irreligious and necessarily vicious and unreliable man. With such people joy, mirth, pleasure were also sins, no matter how innocent the joy, mirth or pleasure might be. Such people always predicted that I would come to no good end. They said that I was on the straight road to hell. Such predictions would have had a baneful effect on any other kind of spirit than my own. But I would smile my sweetest smile and tell them that as the road to hell was so rough and gloomy and had so many tears and sorrow in it that I was doing all that I could to brighten it up a little, and that they were in the wrong in not encouraging me in doing so.
I was then twenty-one years old and enjoying good health. I had my father's disposition; I was cheerful and looked for the best in all persons and things. My gloomy periods did not last long.
I had been baptized when I was seventeen years old and joined the Christian Church; but I could not see then, and have never been able to see since, that a long, gloomy face improved
a man's character, and I did not believe then, nor do I believe now, that such a face, nor the character that goes with it, ever kept anyone out of hell, if there is such a place. I did not believe then, neither do I believe now, that there is such a place in existence. Hell to me then, and hell to me now, is the invention of diseased minds, and it is not in harmony with the divine within me; hence I reject it in all its uses. These long faces and the characters that go with them, these men who mumble prayers, hate music, hate their brothers, in my opinion, make more misery here and are better fitted to take their places in the home of correction than the cheerful souls who make life worth living and love their fellow-men.
I have taken little stock in the sepulchral side of life; but have done all I can to brighten it as I have passed along.
After spending my night at a place in the country, where I had done the best I knew how to entertain them, I would ask them the next morning, Do I owe you something for your kind entertainment of me last night? In nearly every instance the answer would be, “No, sir, you don't owe me a cent. Come again.”
If it was at one of those places where they thought it a sin to make music, and I had not played for them, I would ask the next morning, How much do I owe you? And the answer
would invariably be, Two dollars or two dollars and a half, or three dollars. This, again, shows the difference in the men. It also shows what a difference it made to me. So it did not take me long to discover that the men who had families, children, many children, were the most considerate and the most charitable. Those who had no children, no responsibilities, were generally less inclined to put themselves out the least bit to accommodate me for the night than those whose houses were already full, and who were not really in condition to accommodate me.
I have stopped many times where I slept with one of the larger boys. So when I had learned these differences in men, I would enquire whether Mr. So-and-So had any children; and if the answer was no, I would pass onto a house where there were children, if such could be found in the time left for me to travel in the day.
I never traveled in the night, except when it was absolutely necessary.
I arrived at Fayetteville at last, but found the town so run down that I did not attempt to do any work there. The boats that used to come up to Fayetteville from Wilmington, on the Cape Fear River, had stopped running, and there was no railroad coming to Fayetteville at this time.
I laid out a trip by my map that would take me out of Cumberland County into Sampson County, and through Sampson into Pender County, coming out at Burgaw. From Burgaw I went on into New Hanover County, and to Wilmington, which at that time was the largest and most thrifty town or city in North Carolina.
I did right good work in Sampson County, sold some good jobs, and by giving liberal discounts, got the cash for nearly all the work that I did.
When I landed in Wilmington I had plenty of money. I had learned a lesson, too, about cash. I had sent in to Mr. Lee nearly all the cash I had on hand and had been put in tight quarters on account of it many times before. A hotel man did not like to see a lightning rod man go off leaving a bill unpaid. Sometimes we would be stopped by a sheriff who wanted a license taken out in his county. This would cost twenty dollars for the year. To be short of cash and a long way from home, among strangers, with two horses to feed and two men to be fed and housed, is an experience that always made me feel mighty bad. There was something in it that made me feel like a fugitive from justice. I expected some strange man to walk up to me and say, “I want you, come along.” I was not my true self without
a hundred dollars or so in my pocket. It made no difference to me whether the money belonged to my company or to me, I needed it to feel safe and respectable. Without it I was handicapped. I did not have the nerve, the confidence in myself or the resolution to prosecute my business with the same spirit that I did when I had it.
Arriving in Wilmington with this goodly sum of money in my pocket, again disregarding the instructions of my boss, Mr. Lee, who would have had me send to him every dollar that I had except five or ten dollars, I was in good shape to go to work in Wilmington. I went straight to the National Hotel, the best in the town, told the clerk that I would be there for three months, and asked for rates. He made me a rate of one dollar and a half per day. I got board for my man for five dollars per week. I got my horses in the livery stable for fifteen dollars per month each.
The first day I went to the depot to get some rods that I had ordered. We usually unhitched the outside trace, and left the horses alone, but this day the man neglected to do so, and something came along and frightened them, and away they went down the street toward the barn. They scattered lightning rods all along the street for a mile. They turned four corners, went straight to the stables, slacked up
just before turning in and went into the barn decently and in order. They did no damage to anybody nor to the wagon or to themselves, which seems almost a miracle, for they passed through two of the busiest streets in a run.
The next morning the two papers had the runaway written up in a very lively style. One of them said “that it was usual to see lightning rods go up; but yesterday was an exception, as the rods went down with a vengeance.” The other paper wanted to know “what this Mr. Battle of Raleigh, the lightning rod man, had against Wilmington? Did he want to stop its growth by killing off its citizens?” So between the two papers everybody in Wilmington who read them knew that Mr. Battle, the Lightning Rod Man of Raleigh, was in town. This free advertising helped me greatly, for when I presented myself there was no explanation necessary, for they already knew who I was and where I was from and my business. I did over eleven thousand dollars worth of business in Wilmington.
While in Wilmington I wrote four letters to my sweetheart back in Clayton. I received only one in return. This gave me great pain; but I was too busy to sit down and brood over my misery.
From Wilmington I started for Columbia, S. C. I passed through those immense pine
forests, which at that time could have been bought for two dollars per acre. Since then fortunes have been taken out in the turpentine, and now immense lumber mills are making fortunes for their owners in the finest yellow pine lumber in the whole world.
This brought the summer and fall season to a close. I landed in Columbia about the middle of November. I made my arrangements to spend the winter there, doing all the work there that I could in good weather. The winters in Columbia are mild and pleasant except for the many rains which come in the spring. I did well in Columbia, and when spring came I was ready to work in the mountains in the western part of the state during the summer. That is a fine country, through Greenville, Spartanburg, Laurens, Anderson, Abbeville and Greenwood Counties, and each county seat has the same name as the county. I spent the whole summer in these counties, except a trip I made into Georgia from Abbeville County. I spent about two weeks in Georgia. I met there a Mr. Lipscombe, traveling for the same company that I was. He told me that he had done well in selling rods, but he said, “I cannot get any money. I put up the rods on a credit, and then the man will make me pay him cash for staying all night. What do you think of that?” He wanted to
credit the amount charged for the night's entertainment on the note that he took for the rods, but his customer would not permit it. The explanation of the customer being that Mr. Lipscombe had proposed to put up the rods on a credit, and was now demanding a part of it in cash. He said food was cash, and as soon as it was out he had to have the cash to buy more with; hence he wanted cash for the food that he had supplied to Mr. Liscombe.
This was exactly my experience for the whole two weeks while I was in Georgia. I had over one hundred dollars in my pocket when I went into Georgia. It cost me an average of three dollars cash per day for every day that I was in Georgia. When I met Mr. Lipscombe he had no money, and he intended to go to Augusta and wait till Mr. Lee sent him some. I told him if he waited in Augusta till Mr. Lee sent him some money, that he would owe a big bill when the money arrived. So I divided my money with him and told him to leave Georgia and come over to South Carolina. So he followed me, and we crossed the Savannah River somewhere near Alpine. When we landed in Anderson County, South Carolina, he and I had just fifty cents in cash between us, with four men and four horses to feed till we could take in some cash. I told him that I knew the landlord of the hotel at
Pendleton and we could make this headquarters until we got on our feet again. So we made the drive in one day and landed in Pendleton about eight o'clock at night. We had driven twenty miles over some rough roads since dinner. We spent the fifty cents for horse feed, and divided the food between the four horses. We mixed shelled corn and oats together, and it gave each one two quarts each. This was hardly enough for horses doing so much work. It should have been three or four quarts, but the horses did not complain, and we had done the best that we could, so our consciences were easy.
I had some sardines, some bacon, some crackers and coffee, a coffee pot and a frying pan, and we got along very well; if I had had some money I would have added eggs and cheese, but we did not grumble. We were so glad to get out of Georgia that the fact that we had done so was very consoling.
The landlord at Pendleton was surprised to see two wagons drive in so late at night, but I told him there was a crack in one of my ladders and I wanted to get it mended before I broke my neck; that I had met Mr. Lipscombe, who had come along as company. The women folks hated to go back into the kitchen and cook another supper, and when I heard them talking I went in and said, “Ladies, I don't blame you.
If I were you I would not cook supper for such trifling men as these lightning rod fellows, who come straggling in at such a late hour,” but I said further, being one of the triflers, I was one of the men who would suffer. “Now, I will tell you what I will do. If you will give me some flour, lard, salt, some bacon or ham and some eggs and some coffee, you may sit down there and see what a cook I am, and I will tell you a good story on the other fellow, Mr. Lipscombe, who is very handsome and has a sweetheart over in Georgia.” With this running gossip I got the ladies in a good humor, and they accepted my proposition and gave me everything that I called for. I called for my negro man, Howell, and asked him to bring in some wood and start the fire, which he did, and while I was making up the biscuit I asked for baking powders, but she had none; she had some soda; I took this and asked for some sour milk or buttermilk; luckily she had some. Then I went to work on the biscuits, and told her this story: Over in Georgia, where we came from to-day, in that section of the country somewhere north of the town of Hartwell, we stopped with a Scotchman named McEachin, who had a mighty pretty daughter, and Mr. Lipscombe had fallen in love with her, and I heard him tell her that he was going off to make a fortune, and was coming back to
marry her if she would have him. He said, “Of course I would not ask you to marry me after knowing me for less than a day; but I am a real nice man when you know me, but I am too poor to marry now, so I must make some money, and then I will come back.” Well, when the time came for us to go to bed, the old man showed us out into a shed room; it was the weaving room, for there was a loom set up in it, and there was a piece of cloth in the loom. It was a nice piece of gray goods for men's clothes. Mr. Lipscombe, after Mr. McEachin left us a candle and went away, said “I bet that pretty girl has been weaving on that cloth to-day. Now, I tell you, that is the kind of girl that I want, one that is not afraid of work, and ain't she a beauty?” At last I said, “Shut up, you will make the old man hear you directly, talking so loud, and he will come out here and order us off.” So this made him lower his voice, though he kept on talking. At last we got in bed, for we had both to sleep in one bed. The light was out and still I heard the mumbling of his voice going on about his newly discovered beauty. I told him again I had heard all of that that I wanted to hear that night. So at last he either stoped talking, or I dropped off to sleep, for I heard him no more.
When I waked up it was broad daylight, and as we wanted to make an early start, we both
got up and were dressed in a few minutes. When we went to bed he put his waistcoat under the head of his pillow, and I put mine down in the bed and slept on it. When he raised the pillow to get his waistcoat I heard him say “Good God! look there!” I looked and there was a highland moccasin lying curled up under his pillow. I got his waistcoat for him and dropped the pillow back on the snake. Mr. Lipscombe is very much afraid of snakes. When we went to breakfast there was the pretty girl, all dressed up, with her hair all curled, looking much perttier to me than she did the day before, but Mr. Lipscombe did not seem to notice it. He said very little to the young lady, so little, in fact, that she noted it, and asked him if he was feeling well this morning. His mind was still on the snake, and he hardly heard what she said. I noticed a pained look on the girl's face; for I do believe that she had taken a liking to Mr. Lipscombe. I spoke up and said, “After breakfast I will tell you what is the matter with Mr. Lipscombe.” She said right away, “I hope it is not something that I have done.” I said, “No, it is not you, but is something very serious to absorb his mind like that.” Mr. Lipscombe looked at me and said, “Now look here, Jess, don't you tell that on me.” This aroused the girl's curiosity to such a pitch that she could hardly finish her breakfast,
she wanted to know so much. After breakfast I told her father that if he could go and look under the pillow on the front side of our bed that he would find out what was the matter with Mr. Lipscombe, and he could tell his daughter after we were gone.
The old man's curiosity was aroused too, so he went right out to the loom room and in a minute we heard him say, Bring me my gun, quick. A boy carried the gun and a minute later we heard it explode. We looked at the girl and she turned pale and fainted and would have fallen to the floor but for Mr. Lipscombe's strong arms.
After a while, by bathing her face with cold water, she opened her eyes, and asked, “Is he dead?” I said yes, meaning the snake, and she screamed again, “My poor father,” and then I understood. She thought that her father had killed himself.
We left them, but do you know that I have not heard Mr. Lipscombe say a word about that pretty girl since.
By this time I had finished cooking the supper; that is, I did a part of it for my story and my willingness to help do the work had won the good will of the ladies and they had turned in and did most of the work.
The next morning I tackled the landlord to let me tear down his old lightning rod and put
up a new one. He said that he knew it was in a bad fix, as I had explained to him once before but he had no money to spend on lightning rods, and did not want to go in debt, but if I was going to be around the neighborhood long enough to board out the bill that I might do the work. I said alright and went right out to Lipscombe and said, “We are saved again. I am going to tear down that rod and put up a new one.”
He said, “Jess, you beat the devil.”
This Mr. Lipscombe was a fine man, well educated, handsome, sociable and mighty good company. I got well acquainted with him and he told me some things in confidence that I have kept sacred all these years, but as he is dead and was in no way to blame for what he did, and not culpable before the law, and the communication was, and is such a fine illustration of the real condition of the negroes immediately after the Civil War that I give here for the first time his story.
He said, “I have not been home for four years. I live near Danville, Va.; my people do not know where I am, and my name is not Lipscombe.”
My ears were wide open. I was all attention, for I knew there was a good story back of this prelude.
He continued, “Near where I live is a negro church, every night and I mean Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, these negroes would have church meetings, preaching, praying, singing, and I could hear them after I got into my bed.
“Sometimes I would take a nap and wake up and I would hear them singing. One day when I went down to our barn to feed up the stock, I noticed a curious funnel in the corn pile. It looked as if somebody had made a hole in the back of the barn and the corn was running out of this hole. I went around the back of the barn and examined the boards, and I found one had been taken off with a nail puller. I could see the dents in the wood on both sides of the nail heads; after the nails had been drawn out and the board removed, the nails had been put back into the board, and the long points broken off, so that they would no longer hold the board in place; the nail heads still showed on the outside, as if they were still doing duty. There were two other nails driven in below the opening made where the board was removed. I examined these two nails and found some tow lint sticking to one of them. Then I knew that somebody was stealing my corn. A tow sack or bag had been used, and here were the two nails that the
sack was suspended by to expedite the filling process.
“I made up my mind that I would investigate; so that night I took my gun and got into an empty pig pen where I was easily concealed. About 11 o'clock I saw a man come, take off the board, hang up his sack and proceeded in the most leisurely manner to fill his sack with my corn. I waited until he had filled the sack, tied up the open end, picked it up, put it on his shoulder to go away, then I gave him the contents of both barrels of my gun.
“It was loaded with fifteen buckshot in each barrel; the man tumbled over; I got out of the pig pen on the opposite side where the man had fallen. I waited a few minutes to see if he would move; he did not move; so I went to my room and went to bed. I did not sleep a wink that night. I knew exactly the hour when the singing at the church stopped. It was five minutes past 1 o'clock, a. m.
“I waited for about an hour and then went back and looked at my man from behind my pig pen. He was still lying as he fell. I went back to my room and waited for some one to call me and tell me about the tragedy. As soon as it began to turn light, one of the negroes came to my room and said excitedly that ‘there was a dead nigger down there back of
the barn.’ He said, ‘That nigger had taken a board off the barn and stole some corn and somebody had shot and killed him dead.” ’ Mr. Lipscombe asked, “Who was the dead man?” The negro said, “It was the preacher.” He said further, “I was at the meeting last night and the preacher said, ‘Pray on, brethren, I will join you later.’ ”
Mr. Lipscombe asked the negro who had shot the preacher? The negro said, “It must have been some of the Ku Klux.”
The coroner commenced an investigation and the negroes did all they could to help him unravel the mystery of the killing, but to no avail. The verdict was, “Death by a gunshot wound in the hands of some party unknown, justifiable homicide.”
Mr. Lipscombe said, “I stayed around home for about a month, then some friends told me that the negroes had made up their minds that I killed the preacher and that they were liable to assassinate me any night when I went out, and advised me to get a job that would take me away from home and this is the reason that I am a lightning rod man.”
I parted with Mr. Lipscombe early in the spring of 1872. I have never seen him since. I met Mr. Lee years after this and he told me Mr. Lipscombe was dead.
The work I did for the landlord at Pendleton kept us both fed and lodged for about ten days, and during this time I had picked up over three hundred dollars in cash and about six hundred dollars in notes.
These counties that I have mentioned were all prosperous and I did well.
I wanted to go back to Clayton and see what was the matter with my sweetheart, but I said to myself, “I am not ready to marry yet, so I had better wait.”
So I spent the following summer in South Carolina. I had some vivid experiences that summer. The one event more indellibly impressed on my memory was a runaway smashup one day, when I was nearly killed. We, my negro, Howell Shines, and I, were going down a long red hill. It was cloudy and very dark; it looked like a storm was brewing. I felt a little anxious about the outcome, as my horses were very spirited and sensitive to the whip. I was looking for shelter and expected to be at a farmer's house in about twenty minutes as it was only two miles distant, but the storm caught us while we were going down that long red hill; it rained hard for a few minutes, but we were protected with rubber coats and a rubber lap robe; soon it began to hail. I spoke to Howell to get his reins well in hand, for I knew the horses would try
to get away from the lashing, as they conceived the hail to be. Howell said, “I have got them.” I said, “Keep your brakes on tight.” He answered, “I've got ’em as tight as I can.”
In a few minutes I felt the wagon running on the horses. I said, “The brakes are worn out and doing no good.” It got so dark that we could hardly see enough to keep in the road. The horses got faster and finally broke into a run. We were going down that hill like an express train. There was a creek at the bottom of the hill, just before we got to this creek, a large tree had fallen across the road, but some one had cut out, with a saw, a section wide enough to allow vehicles to pass; our wagon was too far to the right, and our right hand wheels went up on the end of this tree at the speed of a running horse. The wagon jumped up into the air so quickly and so high that it turned over toward the left. Howell, being on the right side, was thrown against me in the fall. He went clear, but I went under the wagon. I was being dragged along the road so fast I felt the top of my head rubbing against the ground. I felt my left ankle twist out of joint, and thought my spinal chord was being pulled apart. I felt that my right shoulder was broken. I felt water splash in my face, and still I could realize
it all. I knew that I was caught under that wagon and wondered how it would end, and it was done so quickly and came to a stop just as quickly. That I did not know then, but learned afterwards. All I knew then was the wagon was still, something had stopped the runaway horses; but what was it? I was pinioned under the wagon and could not move. I heard Howell's voice asking if I was hurt.
I said, “Yes, get this wagon off me.” He said, “I will in a minute.” I heard him jerk on the rein of one of the horses and say, “Damn you, I would like to kill you.” I heard the rattle of chains, then I became unconscious. I knew no more for nearly a week.
When I became conscious again I was at the house of the Rev. Mr. Wm. B. Jones, who lived at the little village in Greenwood County that I had left before the storm. I was in a little back room, and Mrs. Jones and her daughter, Venie, were both sitting there watching me. I wanted to know all about it, but they would tell me nothing. Mrs. Jones said, “Later; now you must be quiet.” I lay there for days and weeks.
I felt that every bone in my body had been broken. I was so sore. When I got better Mr. Lee came to see me and explained the events as they occurred after I became unconscious. He said the horses passed through
the creek, dragging the wagon after them; that just beyond the creek the horses had attempted to pass on the opposite sides of a large standing tree and this tree is what stopped them. The singletrees were both broken, but the breast yoke had held them together; they were standing with their faces toward the wagon. He said Howell had tried to get me out from under the wagon, but failing, he had ridden one of the horses to the farmer's house two miles away, and brought him and two or three other men with him. He said they had found my head between the spokes of the front wheel and my left foot between the spokes of the hind wheel. They sawed the spokes out to get me out. They carried me first to the farmer's house. I believe his name was Miller. I was so badly hurt they thought it best to take me to the village where the doctor lived, hence my presence in Mr. Jones’ house. Mr. Lee told me that I would get well, but it would take a long time.
Every movement I made gave me pain for at least two weeks; after this I commenced to improve more rapidly and as I grew better Mrs. Jones and her daughter, Venie,, then fifteen years old, did all they could to amuse me and help to pass away the tedious hours of convalescence. They spared no labor or pains in nursing and caring for me; had I been in a
hospital, I could not have had better care.
Mrs. Jones was a highly cultured woman, a fine musician, playing almost any piece of music at first sight on the piano or organ. She also had a good voice and sang well. The daughter gave promise of being just as fine a musician as her mother. Both the mother and daughter were near-sighted, and wore those curious glasses which made the eyes look so exaggerated. When I would look at Venie's innocent girlish face, with her rosy cheeks and dark eyes, I would say to myself, “She is pretty,” but then my mind would immediately turn back to Clayton, N. C. I could see some other brown eyes that were so much more beautiful that I even ceased to think Venie pretty.
At last I was well enough to ride on my wagon again. So with a heart full of gratitude for all the kindnesses shown me, and paying up my debts as far as money could pay them, I bid my dear, new-found friends good-bye.
I went out of my way when I was getting ready to leave the state, just to thank them again and tell them good-bye. That was the last time I saw them. I have written several letters there, to Greenwood, their postoffice, and all of them came back. So they must have died or moved away.
After leaving this place I was hardly able to work, but I could still talk and sell lighting rods. The long rides in the wagon wore me out. My back would be so tired and ache so much that at last I had some thick cushions made to put in between my ladders, and I would lie down there to ride from house to house. I would go in, and sell the rods and have Howell to put them up. So I was still doing good work when I was not able to sit up all day.
Out about two miles from Cokesbury, S. C., I found a farmer and merchant, a Mr. William A. Moore, with a wife, three daughters and two sons. I met all the members of this family except the second daughter, Miss Mollie, who was off to a boarding school.
The wife was one of the kindest and most considerate of women. I came to her house a perfect stranger, just after my terrible experience as the result of the runaway smashup. She could see what an effort it was for me to get around, for I still used a cane and one crutch. She knew that I needed a mother's care and a mother's sympathy. One day she asked me why I did not go home to my mother. I told her that I was too poor to go home to be a burden to my mother. This seemed to touch her greatly and she told me to come to her house every time that I was in
the neighborhood and especially on Saturday afternoon and stay over Sunday. The invitation was also repeated by Mr. Moore, and given in such a way that I did not hesitate to accept it. I went there every Saturday afternoon for several months. Mr. Moore would never accept any money for the lovely entertainment they extended to me. I tried to even up by giving presents to little Wardlaw, the youngest, and Maimie, the youngest daughter, seven and ten years old.
The oldest daughter was Miss Janie, one of the loveliest girls that I ever met. She was beautiful, kind and a very fine musician. I did love her and for her kindness to me and for her tender consideration for the poor afflicted stranger who came to her door, I love her yet. Had I not met the lady at Clayton, who was one day to become my wife, it is no telling what might have happened, for Miss Janie was one of the most congenial spirits that I ever met.
She was three years older than I, and for this reason she never looked upon me as a beau. She treated me like a younger brother. She was such good company in a quiet way, that I never tired being with her. We sang together, we read books to one another, we went to church together and read the service out of the same prayer book. She was an
Episcopalian. The neighbors who saw us together so much at church, on the roads driving, at her house and at the neighbors, where we visited, thought surely that there was a wedding in prospect, but they only saw two congenial souls, who were happy in each other's society.
Miss Janie knew that I was too poor to marry, for she heard me say so in the presence of Mr. Moore and Mrs. Moore one day when I said, “That a man who had nothing, and was a bohemian, on the go from place to place, with no settled home, had no business getting married, he would do the lady a great injustice if he knew that he was to take her out of a life of comfort and put her into a life of drudgery. It was not only an injustice to the lady, it was really a criminal act born not of love, but of a selfish passion.” After this speech, Mr. Moore and his wife never feared to trust Miss Janie to my care.
It was with the deepest regret that I approached the time when I was to leave this neighborhood, and to leave these dear friends, for they were so kind to me. I loved them then and I love them now. It has been a greater regret that all during these thirty-nine years the claims on my time and my duty to those whose claims cannot be ignored, have not permitted me to see them again. I have intended
and still intend, that if the opportunity presents itself, I will see some of them again. If this is denied me here on earth, I will certainly look them up in the world to come, if permitted to do so.
While I am on accidents and their results, or I might say, consequences, I will mention two other accidents that happened to me in South Carolina. One was in Columbia, when I got a terrible fall from the top of a two-story building and escaped being killed. I was on the shingle roof, working my way down to the ground. It was a steep roof, about an angle of forty-five degrees. I had on rubber shoes, and also had the lightning rod that I was putting up to hold on to. I saw a shingle with the turpentine oozing out, drawn out by the heat of the sun. I knew that my foot would stick on this turpentine, so I put my whole weight on this one foot; the nail in the shingle gave way and I was thrown on my knees and hands, the fall putting me out of reach of my rod. I had a gimlet in my hand and tried to stop my sliding downward with it, but failed. There was only one chance, to catch the ladders as I passed by, which I did. I hallowed, “Steady the ladders.” The man below tried to save me, but he was too light; I think it would have taken a ton weight to keep those ladders against the house. The ladders turned
over with me; my weight, the coming of my body, going down at such speed, carried the ladders with me. As I fell I held to the ladders like “a drowning man will catch at a straw;” the ladders did me a good turn, they broke the force of my fall. I landed about twenty-five or thirty feet from the house on soft ground. I held on to the ladders until I was near the ground and then threw them off from me. I landed on my feet, but I was doubled up so quickly that it hurt my back, and my left knee went up against my upper teeth; it almost knocked my teeth out. It loosened them and the upper teeth made such a bruise on my knee that an abscess was formed there which left a scar to this day.
Another accident that happened to me in South Carolina was when I fell down a man's chimney.
It was an old fashioned house, either built for a road house or a school. It was two stories and a half high, the chimneys being at the ends of the house and outside; they were very tall and there were two at each end; the cone or apex of the house was between the two chimneys; each chimney was about eight feet from the side of this cone. My ladders were too short to enable me to put in the top fastening, which was put in six to ten brick from the top. To nail some pieces to my ladders at
the bottom was one way to do it, and is the way that I should have done; but I was in a hurry, and did not want to take any chances of splitting my ladders by putting in and taking out the nails.
So I did the work another way, or tried to do it, and in doing so, came very near going all the way down that chimney, or becoming jammed in it, as I went down. I put my ladders up to and on the eaves, the lowest part of the roof, this enabled me to get on the roof. With my rubber shoes on my feet and carrying a piece of rope with me, I worked my way to the cone, which I straddled. Then, throwing one end of my rope to the man who had followed me to the eaves, bringing with him the third and smallest section of my ladders, at my direction he tied his end of the rope to the ladder and pushed it up toward me. With this ladder I could, when in the right position, reach each of the chimney's top. I was figuring that each chimney was a firm, well-built chimney. This was my mistake. Instead of being firm, they were very rickety, and I noticed that the chimney shook when I put the ladder across to the first top. This should have been a warning to me, but I was fearless and short on judgment. So after fastening the end of the ladder on the house first, by screwing in some fastenings and tieing the ladder
to them with marlin, then I got on the ladder on my stomach and pulled myself over toward the chimney. It was a hazardous undertaking. At last I got to the shaking chimney. I could not reach the point where I wanted to put in the top fastening, so I had to leave the ladder and straddle the partition in the chimney. It was also shaky. I took my long fastening out of my pocket and my hatchet out of my belt and reached over as far as I could and commenced to drive in the fastening, the mortar was soft, rotten, and the fastening went in too easy. Either the end of the fastening went in against one of the bricks in the partition and knocked it out, letting the others fall, or it was my weight on them and the swaying motion of my arm and body dislodged some brick that was an arch for the others. I don't know what, but I felt the bricks tumbling under me and I was going down the chimney. One end of my ladder projected far enough over the chimney for me to grab it as I went down; the whole top of the chimney was swaying but my weight on the ladder and the fastenings with the marlin binding at the other end of the ladder on the roof, saved me from a terrible fall and possibly from death. I was able to turn myself around in the chimney and get my face toward the roof. I had gone down with my face
the other way. By main strength I drew myself up out of the chimney and onto the ladder, lying flat on my stomach. Then I pulled myself along in the same way that I had gone to the chimney, back to safety and to better sense.
I took my ladder down on the ground and went to the woods and cut two small trees as large as my leg and with these lengthened out my ladders and finished my job.
BACK TO SEE MY LADY LOVE.
I finished up in South Carolina and started for Charlotte, North Carolina. It was November and the weather was beautiful. I did not try to do much work on the way. I would make thirty-five to fifty miles per day. I had about recovered from my hurt in the runaway. The chimney incident happened nearly a year before this. At last I arrived in Charlotte. I put my horses in the livery stable, gave my man a five dollar bill and told him I would be gone one week. When the train pulled out that night, for Greensboro and Raleigh, I was on board, going to see the darling of my heart, to learn what was to be my fate.
I had been working on a commission for nearly a year. I got thirty-three and one-third per cent and paid my own expenses. My earnings were all in notes and must be collected. I did not know that such notes were hard to collect, that a man would pay for everything else that he owed before he would pay for lightning rods. I had figured that I would have four thousand dollars for my year's work. So I felt rich, even though I did not have
the money. It was with a light heart that I was going to see Miss Bettie Lee, this is what her friends called, but her name was Laura Elizabeth Lee.
I had gone away with a heavy heart in August, 1871, and this was November, 1872, just fifteen months later, and here I was coming back with fine clothes on my back, nice shoes on my feet, a stylish hat on my head, and money in my pocket, and a little over four thousand dollars in notes to collect.
I felt fine as a fiddle, was in good health and had nerve enough to steal my sweetheart like Lochinvar in the poem if I could not get her in any other way. I did not know what I had to contend against before I could ever call this darling my own, but not knowing this side of the story, it gave me no pain on this journey.
I landed in Clayton on Saturday morning. I went to my sister's, Mrs. Harrell, to clean up. Here is where I got my first bump, which made a lump come in my throat. I do not know whether I got angry or sad. Here is what I heard. My sweetheart had a real beau and it was reported that there would be a marriage soon.
This made me real sick at heart. It gave me so much pain that I almost got angry with those of my own kin that told me. They said it was Mr. Richard or Dick Graham, who had
shoved me aside, that my sweetheart never even thought of me again. This hurt me in a new place. Then I thought of these months of hardships, of all that I had gone through to get money, the lack of which had banished me from her sight, then I said, “Here I come back with some money in my pocket and my queen, my angel, had forgotten me and found another lover. Fickle woman; how can I trust thee.”
Then I said, “As she is not married yet, I will not believe one word against her until I see her and she tells me so with her own lips.”
I went straight to her house. She was visiting a neighbor. Where? No one knew. When would she be home? No one knew. I saw that my arrival was known and an effort being made to keep her out of my way. I went into a store next to her home—a Mr. Bryant's—and asked him if he knew where Miss Bettie Lee was. He said he did not, but thought that she went down toward Mr. Horne's store. I waited in the store and when Mr. Bryant was at leisure, I told him that I had come all the way from Charlotte to see Miss Bettie, and I was determined to see her. I told him that I loved her, and had made money enough to take care of her, and that I intended to marry her if she would have me.
He said, “I don't blame you, but they say that she and Dick Graham will be married soon.”
Here was the same miserable news again; was it true? Near 12 o'clock I saw her coming home with Miss Bettie Cox. She came out of her sister's home. I watched her all the way down the distance. I had been waiting for two hours to see her; these two hours were lost to me forever, and now, here she was coming along just like she did not know and did not care whether I was in town or out of town. Did she care?
I noted that she had grown; she was taller, and had picked up some flesh; but she had on one of those old fly bonnets. How I hated the ugly things! It shut out my view; I could only see a part of her face, her chin, but it was beautiful. When she was opposite the store, I walked out in front of her— a rude thing to do—I extended my hand without saying a word. She said, “Why it is Mr. Battle!”
I said, “I have come a long way to see you. I did not know where you were, no one would tell me, so I waited here in this store.”
She seemed pleased, and in pain, too; what did it mean? Were the reports true? The report which said that she was to marry Mr. Dick Graham. I could not ask her. I must wait and let her tell me.
She asked me to “come in” and had a look of pain in her face, which said, “I hope you will not.”
This is the way that I read it, and I read it right. I thanked her and said it was dinner time and I would not detain her. I saw a sweet, grateful smile come over her face, which told me that I had rightly decided the matter.
I asked her if I could go with her to church on the morrow, and she said, “I am sorry, but I have another engagement.”
I asked her if I could see her in the afternoon. She said she was sorry again, but she was going into the country with her sister.
Then I asked her if I could see her in the evening. She said, “Yes, if you can enjoy my other company.” I felt like saying, “Darn your other company;” but I smiled with a woebegone look, and said I would be delighted to see her other company. All this conversation was in the presence of Miss Bettie Cox. I had forgotten she was present, but Miss Lee had not. I parted with her for the present, and it seemed as if I were parting with her forever.
My conceit was being taken out of me with lightning-like rapidity. Everything did not look so rosy or promising. My little worldly success, which seemed so important to me a day or so ago, now seemed to be insignificant,
for I wanted wealth for this beautiful girl; for her alone. Without her the money that I had worked so hard to get seemed to be worthless. What did I want with a home or money or fine clothes if I could not please and attract this, my first Empress?
With such thoughts as these I left her, and went back to my sister's.
They must have discovered my disappointment, for my sister said, “Don't let it worry you, for if she loves you, nobody can keep her from marrying you, and if she does not love you, but loves somebody else, even if she married you, you would not be happy, and I know that you would not want to marry her if you thought she would be unhappy with you.”
These remarks opened up to me the fact that there were two lives vitally involved in a marriage and besides the two parties there were a host of others, on both sides, the relatives, the friends and acquaintances and religious affiliations to be pleased or displeased in the match, all of which plays an important part in the happiness of two lives who are about to be joined together. How important, I am afraid the immature judgment of young people contemplating matrimony are incapable of appreciating.
A love match, guided by mature judgment, has firmer foundations than a match made on
love and passion alone, for passion satiated and love disgusted, means a wrecked home. Judgment protects the man and woman against the influences of outside gossip, it keeps the evil of the outside on the outside, and it deals with the evil on the inside with a passionless appreciation of peace, which keeps the peace. It knows what consideration and forbearance mean, and uses both in a useful way to preserve the peace, happiness and serenity of the home.
Poverty is a great enemy to the human family, in the suffering it produces, in the disappointment attending it, but when judgment takes hold of it, poverty loses its power, for judgment says that poverty usually comes from laziness, and laziness can be destroyed by work; work brings the fruits of labor, and the fruits of labor means thrift, and where there is thrift, there is no poverty.
Again, the difference of faith and religion is a great source of worry and trouble in the family, especially where there are children. If both parents are strong in their different faiths trouble is more sure to come than if one is indifferent about religious matters.
The liberal-minded one can bear with the bigoted one, but the bigoted one is always intolerant toward the liberal one.
Again, parents and relatives are responsible
for many of the family rows among young married people, by giving bad advice to them. Here, again, is where judgment comes in to “pour oil on the troubled waters.”
Judgment grows like an education, not by itself, it must be cultivated and this cultivation requires time, effort and perseverance.
So judgment is not so common with the young men and women as with the older men and women; hence it is a greater obligation on the older men and women to give good advice than on the younger ones, for they have more judgment, better matured.
These thoughts passed through my mind in a vague way, but they were only thoughts, and they settled nothing regarding my future.
That night I went again to see the young lady that I loved. When I got there I heard voices and laughter within. I knocked on the door and Miss Bettie came to the door to let me in. There was no light in the hall, but the parlor door was open and a flood of light wrapped my darling in its folds. She was dressed in white and her beautiful hair was parted in the middle and brushed back; a crown of rich brown as a background for this angelic face. I never saw her look more beautiful; there was a flush on her face, more like a blush than rosy cheeks.
I extended to her my hand, which she took. I gave her hand a gentle pressure, had I squeezed her hand as I loved her, her hand would have been lame for a long time to come.
I believed I detected a slight pressure as a return, but at that time I was not certain. She looked pleased and this was consoling at any rate. She took me in the parlor and introduced me to all of her friends, among others, my rival and enemy, as I considered him at that time, Mr. Richard Graham. I had to confess to myself that he was better looking than I was, and he had a very fine shaped head and was dressed equally as well as I was—I had thought that I was fixed up about as nicely as a moderate expenditure of money could provide. I noted that all became very quiet after I had entered the room. The buzz of voices and the laughter ceased. So my arrival did make a difference. How much difference it made at that time I was not sufficently developed in perception to discover.
I felt too serious to entertain that company, and I remembered the report made to me about the reputation I had for being wild. So I sat still like the balance for about an hour, then excused myself and left. It was not yet 9 o'clock. During the days that I used to go calling on young ladies, I made it a rule to go home at 9 o'clock. I heard a father say one night
when a young man went home after 11 o'clock p. m., “that he did not have enough sense to go home.” This expression made such an impression on me that I made up my mind not to give any father or mother the occasion to say that about me.
I have seen many persons since who filled the bill exactly, for they did not have sense enough to go home.
I learned that Mrs. Lee said, “Well, he has sense enough to know when to go home.”
Old people object very seriously to being kept up later than their usual bed time; for I know by experience that to conform to our regular habits makes us more comfortable and adds to our ability to perform and perfect our alloted tasks.
I did not sleep well that night, for I knew that my sweetheart was going to church with the other man, a better looking man, a man of good family, who owned land in the edge of town and had the most conspicuous residence in or near the town.
He owned a nice horse and a new buggy, which he had doubtless bought in prospect of his approaching wedding.
Here I was with no horse and buggy and had to walk, and if my sweetheart had acecpted my invitation to go to church, she would have had
to walk also. I did not blame her, I said in my misery, “Go on, ride; I would ride too; you are right, ride with the man who can furnish the conveyance; go to church with a man who can take you there like a lady. Don't fool away your time with a man who has to walk, when there is one who is ready to take you around in a buggy or carriage.”
The next morning, Sunday morning, my dream came true, for I was trudging along, walking to the church. The road was dusty, the day was warm; I was mopping my brow and cursing my luck. My shoes were covered with dust, my nice black pants were grey half way to my knees with the dust. Just then I looked back down the road and there was Mr. Graham and my sweetheart riding along so cool and comfortable, overtaking me and in a minute more would pass me going to church. I saw myself, a poor devil, walking the road in dust, and sweat, making such a poor appearance in comparison with this elegant young man with his fine horse and new buggy. I said to myself, “Yes, it is best, for all her people live here, and the young man lives here, they are all friends, and have known each other since childhood, and I am the stranger, I am the interloper. I am the man who comes in and wants something that the whole town seemed determined that I should not have; but
what if the lady did not love the other man, and did love me?”
That would be different. The lady could not ask me to marry her, I must do the asking. This settled the matter. I made up my mind then, come what may, I would know my fate before I left town, but how could I get a chance to see her. This seemed to be an impossibility, but I could try.
I did try, but no use. At the church I did like the rest. I went into the church. The ladies all went on the left side, and the men on the right. It did not take me long to find Miss Bettie, but she was busy with her hymn book and did not turn her head. When recess came she got up and went out. Mr. Graham also got up and went out, and soon I got up and went out. I looked down toward Mr. Graham's buggy and there they were sitting in the buggy. He did not leave her during the day except when he was in the church.
I intended to leave on Monday, going to Wilson to see my mother and sister with her family. I must speak to her that I loved, today, but how? There was no chance, I made one. I walked up to the buggy, pulled off my hat, and said, “Miss Bettie, you have so many engagements since I have been here that I have been unable to see you. I must leave here tomorrow. I am going down to Wilson to see
my mother. I have not seen her for fifteen months. I stopped off here to see you first, but have seen much less of you than I had hoped; please don't get married before I see you again, for I have something to tell you.”
I saw a snap in her big, brown eyes that told me that she would wait, but she said, “I have no idea of getting married.”
I looked at Mr. Graham, and he had a sickly smile on his face, which showed to me the vacillating, good, easy, don't care, indifferent disposition and character that gave me new hope.
After this, I said, “That man would not make a good husband, he is too indifferent about everything. He lacks energy, he lacks enterprise. He is too slow to love real hard, and what is more, he shall not marry Miss Bettie Lee if I can prevent it.”
I went my way. I had much to do and I went on and did it, leaving my rival a free field to win if he was able to do so. I had been back several times during the winter but had no better success in seeing the one I loved so well.
I came again in March, 1873, and went to her home to see her. I went in the morning. She and her mother were both at work sewing. Mrs. Lee was basting and Miss Bettie was sewing on the machine.
I was hoping that Mrs. Lee would go out for something. I waited about an hour, but still she kept her seat. At last I pulled out an envelope and wrote these words, “You know that I love you, will you be my wife?” and pushed the envelope and pencil before her on the machine. The machine did not stop running, the buzz went on. I glanced over toward Mrs. Lee, her head, with bonnet on, was over her work. Miss Bettie wrote underneath my writing, “What shall I say?” I wrote under this, “Say yes.” She wrote again, under this, just one word, “Yes.”
I turned around and said to Mrs. Lee, “You have doubtless noticed me coming to your house. I love your daughter, She loves me; we want to be married and I ask your consent.” She said, “You are a stranger to me, and I do not want to give my daughter to any body. If she finds somebody that she loves better than she loves me, she can make her choice; as she makes her bed so she must lie on it.”
I told her that Miss Bettie, if she married me, would have a soft bed to lie on; that my mother had five feather beds to give me.
She said, “Something else was needed beside feather beds.”
She said further that “A young man sees a pretty girl and wants to marry her, but after
he is married, he learns that there are many other things that he needed much worse than he did a wife,” and this remark I have found to be true.
I told her that we were in no hurry to get married, that I already had enough to take care of a wife and she could make inquries about me, and if the people she inquired of told the truth she would find nothing against me. I told her my record was clean; the worst that had ever been told on me was that I was wild. I said this wildness consisted in my going out with other musicians serenading the girls at night, that I had done that six or eight times in my whole life. “I also play the banjo and sing, I play the violin and mandolin and guitar. I also played accompaniments on the piano to my songs. I do not drink intoxicating liquors, and I have no bad habits, I have been baptized into the Christian Church and am fond of the Church and Sunday School. I feel at home in any church, for my kinfolks belong to almost every denomination.”
She said, “If you are as good as that, you are good enough for any woman.”
So, with no serious objection to our engagement, I left the house with the promise that the girl who was all the world to me, was to be my wife.
Oh, ecstasy! how sweet thou art! I was raised from the bottomless pit of despondency to the highest heaven!
I walked out of that yard, stepping as lightly as a show horse.
Old Mr. McCullers saw me passing his store, and something in my light, saucy air attracted his attention, and he yelled at me, and said, “Come back here a minute, I want to talk to you.” I stopped and went up to him and said, “What is it?” He asked, “How are you getting on?” I said, “It is all right.” “Have you got it all fixed up?” I said, “Almost.” “When is it going to be?” I said, “I think about the middle of next October.” He said, “That is all right, you have done pretty well.”
I went to see my loved one that evening, and had her all to myself for the first time. What a delightful evening! Why do not all men love their wives as well and treat them as sweethearts as long as they live? They would get so much happiness out of life if they only would. For thirty-eight years I have had a sweetheart. I never left her in all these years to go to some other place for entertainment. I always took her with me. If the entertainment was not good enough for my wife, neither was it good enough for me.
I left early the next morning, going to Wilson. I remained only two days. I found all
well, my mother was delighted to see me, as was my sister. When I told them that I would be married in the fall, they wanted to know all about it, and I told them all that there was to tell.
I stopped over in Clayton one day as it was on my way to Charlotte, just for one more taste of heaven before I went back to work. I had written to my betrothed that I would spend the next day with her. When I arrived she met me at the door, and what a happy, sweet smile was on her face. She took me into the parlor, saying that her mother went down to the store, but would be back after a while. We spent the whole day with each other, getting acquainted. I took dinner with her. She and I alone, with old Aunt Palace waiting on us. Mrs. Lee did not come back, taking dinner with her other daughter, Mrs. Horne. This simple little dinner, out in the kitchen, out in another house in the yard, as are many of the kitchens in the south, was one of the happiest events in my life. There sat in front of me the one being in all the world that I loved most. So quiet and matter of fact. We were almost strangers, for we had seen so little of each other, we knew nothing of each other except what the eyes of love revealed. Yet there we sat as if we had been married all our lives, with hearts full of love, and guided
by an unfaltering trust. Each could “read life's meaning in the other's eyes.” Here is the foundation of devoted lives, here is the source of all earthly happiness, and it may be found lapping over into eternity. There is nothing more lasting than love, and nothing more beautiful than trust. These two give the other one blessed member of the heavenly trinity. For there we have, “Faith, Hope and Charity.”
Our souls were in the “seventh heaven,” but our conversation was about a home we would build, about how we would furnish it and how much we would spend for living expenses. I smile now to think how innocent we were then; for in our simplicity we figured out that we could live on one hundred and twenty-five dollars per year. If we had done this all our thirty-eight years of married life we would have saved in living expenses alone, the snug little sum of two hundred and twenty thousand eight hundred and fifty dollars.
The first ten years of our married life our living expenses were two hundred dollars per month, which would make twenty-four thousand.
For the last twenty-eight years our expenses have averaged six hundred dollars per month, this would be two hundred and one thousand and six hundred dollars, adding the sum of the first ten years to the sum of the last twenty-eight
years, you will have the grand total of two hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred dollars, and if you will deduct from this amount the four thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars, which is one hundred and twenty-five dollars per year for the thirty-eight years that we have been married, you will see how near we two silly children came to calculating what our real expenses would actually be. If I could have looked down through the years to come and known the truth, and told old Mrs. Lee and her daughter, too, how much money I would make and spend on the daughter, the old lady would have said that I was the biggest braggart that she had even seen, and the daughter would have thought I was crazy and probably have given me my walking papers.
It is just as well that we do not know all the good and evil that is to come to us, for a knowledge of the evil would take away our hope and a knowledge of the good would take away one of the producers of the good, namely, effort.
If I had told my wife and her mother that one day I would build for my wife in Clayton, her own home, a house to cost more money than any house in town and I would put things into it for convenience and comfort that
neither of them had ever seen, both of them would have told me that I was the wildest dreamer to be found, and this is exactly what I have done.
The next day I had to leave for Charlotte, and while I hated awfully to go away so far from my betrothed wife, duty called and away I went.
I got my wagon and came on east, intending to work in Granville County that summer, the summer of 1873. My plighted love spent most of the summer in Raleigh, with her sister, getting ready with her trousseau. Every Saturday afternoon I would quit work, borrow a saddle and ride one of my horses thirty, forty or fifty miles just to see that lovely face for a few hours on Sunday. The time passed quickly and at last we set the day for our wedding on October 22nd, and were married.
I had already commenced to build a home in Raleigh, but I changed my plans and sold the house to a Mr. Pool and after forming a copartnership to go into a different line of business, I continued my lightning rod business for a year to give me time to collect my notes and get together as much money as I could to be properly equipped for my new business.
I had too many bumps and knocks in my lightning rod experience and had felt too keenly on several occasions the pangs of apprehension
of coming evils when my pockets were empty of cash to attempt to establish a new business without money.
I spent the winter of 1874 and 1875 in collecting. I did this on horseback.
AN ACCIDENT ON THE YADKIN RIVER.
In January, 1875, I was on horseback collecting notes in Rowan and Davidson Counties, N. C.
It was the policy of the lightning rod company to send a stranger to collect the notes, instead of the man who sold and put up the lightning rods.
I had nearly finished my work and was going east. I came to the Yadkin River at Trading-ford. The ferryman was waiting on my side of the river. It was a flat boat, with a railing on the sides and an extension gate at the ends. The ferryman worked with a cable passing through two pulleys. When all was ready, with me sitting on my horse in the middle of the boat, the man pushed the boat from the shore and with an adjustable pulley, let the end of the boat leaving the shore drop down stream, the motion of the running water carrying the boat across the river. I thought this a fine arrangement. We got along smoothly for a while. The ferryman said to me, “You had better get off that horse.” I said I did not want my saddle to get wet, as it was raining
and I was well fixed for wet weather, as I had on rubber overshoes, rubber leggins, rubber overcoat and a rubber cover for my hat. I was as comfortable as a “bug in a rug.”
The weather was cold and there were thin pieces of ice floating in the river. When we got further out into the river, the stream was running swifter, the pulley at the front end of the boat as we moved being burdened with an extra friction and increased speed, commenced to yell like the screams of a lost soul. I never heard a more unearthly noise in my life. My horse was more alarmed than I was, and started to turn around to go back. I gave her a jerk on the curb bit and must have hurt her severely, for when she found the high gate behind her closed, she reared up and deliberately turned to the side railing and jumped over into the river.
Both of us went under the water, for at this point the river is deep. When we came to the surface, my horse struck out to swim down stream. I dropped out of the saddle, holding on to the horn with my left hand. I was on the right side of my horse. I struck her on the head with my right hand and said, “Get out of here.” This turned her toward the shore, where I wanted to go. She was swimming easy. The water, when it first went through my clothes to my body, was so cold that I
thought I was freezing, but in a few minutes my body warmed this water some and I felt comparatively comfortable.
This same mare, Mollie, was one of the best I ever saw. I knew her well and was confident that she could take me to the shore in safety.
I picked out a place to land, nearly a quarter of a mile below the ferry landing. I had to do this on account of the swift current in the river.
We landed on a sand bar and went on to the shore. My clothes were so heavy I could hardly walk. I tied my mare to a tree and got a switch and scraped all the water off of her that I could and then mounted and went on up through a field to the road.
I looked back and there was the ferryman still in the middle of the river. I galloped on for a mile or two and stopped at the first house I came to and asked for help. I told my story, showed my wet clothes and made my-self known as a Free Mason, something that I had never done before. The gentleman was named Goodwood, and was a Mason. He said, “Come right in and we will fix you up in a few minutes. He brought me some towels and some of his own clothes, and as there was only one fire in his house and one in his kitchen, he asked his wife and daughters to go to the
kitchen till I could get dressed. I did not take long. He was a big man and I was a small one, but his clothes felt so good I could not complain about the misfit. I had the same job to do over again that I had done nearly four years before, to dry out my money and clean my watch.
I spent the day with Mr. Goodwood, whose name should have been Mr. Goodman, the ladies dried out my clothes for me and I was soon on my way east again.
If I had known what a disastrous windup was before me in the lightning rod business, it would have given me palpitation of the heart.
At the suggestion of Mr. Lee, I formed a co-partnership with one Mr. John Bagwell for the year 1874, in the lightning rod business. We had four wagons and were to pay ten cents per foot for the rods and were to turn over all notes taken to secure this ten cents out of the first collections. Individually, I turned over more than ten thousand dollars in notes, but the other three wagons, with John Bagwell on one and his brothers on the other two, turned over less than five thousand dollars for the three wagons. So being partners with John Bagnell cost me my whole year's work, for it took all my individual profit to pay up partnership debts. Had I worked alone as I
had been doing, my profits would have been over three thousand dollars.
So I came out of the lightning rod business, after four years of hard work, deprivations and dangers with about twenty-six hundred dollars.
I was ready to take up a new line of business. All the time that I was a lightning rod man, while I was riding along the road, I had plenty of time to think. Among other thoughts was the one that led to success. It was this: I said here, “I am going from house to house and selling something that I can never sell again. I tell them good-bye and never see them again. I want a business that will enable me to sell to a customer something that he will continue to use as long as he lives.”
If I had such a business and enough customers, it will be only a few years when I will have all the money that I can desire. These thoughts were the foundation of my fortune.
The next question was, “What is to be my business?”
A drummer from Baltimore left at the hotel in Wilson, Dun's Commercial Book of Credits for the South. I got hold of this book and commenced to examine it, and there I found all the business men's names and opposite the name would be a “letter and a figure.” These letters and figures referred to a table on the
first page. The letter would tell you what the man or partnership or corporation was estimated to be worth, and the figure would tell you what the grade of his credit was. This book was so fascinating to me that I put in hours looking up various men that I thought I knew. Some of them, whom I thought to be well off, had no credit, and some men that I thought poor had real good credit.
So I said, “Money does not give a man credit, but it is his willingness to pay and he does pay his debts”, and this led me to the second thought that a merchant, when he had little money, must not buy more than he can pay for, as the paying gave him the credit and credit is founded on confidence.
In other words, it is the upright, honorable and reliable business man who has the confidence of his creditors and this gives him the credit.
I found that “A. 1” meant one million dollars, and I found none in North Carolina.
I found several banks in the South worth five hundred thousand dollars. I found several lumber companies worth over one hundred thousand dollars. The merchants were rated from one thousand to fifty thousand dollars, some milling companies were worth from ten to twenty-five thousand dollars, the
railroad companies were rated higher than any others.
I looked for the wholesale druggists, they were rated high. I looked for the manufacturing chemists, there were very few in the South at that time. There was one in New Orleans with about two hundred thousand dollars as a capital.
Out of all of these lucrative lines of business, which one could I embark in. I could not be a banker, for that meant a lot of money, which I did not have. I could not own a railroad for the same reason. So I excluded all of these lines till I came to the manufacturing chemist, then I said I can be a manufacturing chemist, if I make only one bottle of medicine.
Here is where my four years’ study of medicine came in again. I was not yet a doctor, but I knew much about medicine.
I bought some books on chemistry and pharmacy and started in again to study these branches of medicine. I took a part of the money that I had and bought a drug store in Wilson, N. C., and started in business under the name of Battle & Co. I took my brother, Cullen, in business with me, though he did not have any money, and another gentleman, who shall be nameless, for business reasons. This gentleman was a good druggist, as well as being
a doctor. He had no money either. I was the only one of the three who had any money. In two year's experimenting, we developed the formulas of Iodia and Bromidia. The first is an alterative and tonic and the last is an hypnotic, something to make one sleep.
Up to the time that we began to manufacture Bromidia, the doctors used Dover's Powders and Hydrate of Chloral as sleeping portions, but after Bromidia became known, this was the favorite remedy to produce sleep.
We sold out the drug store in October, 1875, and moved our business to St. Louis. We rented two rooms over a bar-room at 100 South Main street. We remained at 100 South Main street for two years, and being cramped for room and having no elevator, we leased No. 116 Olive street for three years.
At the expiration of our lease, our quarters were too small to accommodate our business. We next located at 402 North Main street, and remained at this place until 1887, when we moved to our own building, which we had just put up at 2001 Locust street, where we are at present (1911) located.
In May, 1876, ">Mr. S. S. Blackwell, of New York City, who had been in business in Wilson, N. C., and who married for his second wife an old school mate of mine, Miss Josephine Blount, of Wilson, N. C., came west looking
for an opening to go into business. He had some money, We needed him and his money, so we took him in as a partner with one-fourth interest, in our business. In 1880 we bought out the nameless gentleman's interest in our business. In 1883 we made a corporation of our company, calling it by the name of Battle & Co., Chemists Corporation.
My brother, Cullen, and I started to Chicago on the 19th of January, 1876. I had just come from North Carolina where the climate is mild and pleasant. I had never owned an overcoat, I did not need it, and to land in a country where the thermometer registered around zero was such a change that a man much less sensitive than I was would have felt it keenly.
In getting ready to leave St. Louis for Chicago, I went down to the various “scalpers” offices to see if I could not save some money on the trip. In those days there were many men who would purchase the unused part of a railroad ticket for a much lower price than the regular rate, and would sell it again for a price lower than the regular rate, and still have a fair profit on the sale. These men were called “scalpers.” So all the commercial travelers were familiar with this fact and availed themselves of it, to save a dollar or so.
I, with the other travelers, was perfectly willing to “beat the railroads,” as it was called, in buying a “scalper's” ticket to any point to which I wanted to go.
The regular price to Chicago was nine dollars for one ticket. I bought two tickets from a “scalper,” Mr. Ben Wassermann, for seven dollars each. I congratulated myself that I had saved four dollars.
My brother and I went to the depot that night to take our train for Chicago. I heard a man halloo, “All aboard for Chicago.” I called my brother, Cullen, and said, “There is our train getting ready to start, so we had better get aboard.” We went to a train standing in the old depot, where there were many other trains getting ready to start. Some going east, some going west. They were backed up to a passageway from the middle of the depot. I asked a man in a blue uniform and brass buttons which was the Chicago train; he pointed to a train headed east, on the third track, and said, “There is your train.” My brother and I got on the train indicated by the railroad man, and settled ourselves for an allnight ride. We were in the “day coach.” There was a “sleeper” on that night, but this would cost us two dollars each, and we would not think of giving ourselves so much comfort at such a price.
Our train soon pulled out of the depot, and we passed over the Eads Bridge and also through East St. Louis.
We were going at a lively rate toward Chicago
and must have been at least ten miles out from St. Louis, when I saw the conductor coming along. He was collecting the tickets. When he got to us, he held out his hand for our tickets. I had them in my hand waiting for him. I handed the tickets to him. He lifted his lamp so that he could better see the tickets, and after looking at them well, he said, “You are on the wrong train.” My heart jumped up into my throat, for I thought that this was one of the schemes of the “city fellows” to rob a poor green man from the country. I asked, “Is not this the train for Chicago?” He said, “Yes, it is;” and before he could say any more, I blurted out, “Then we are alright, for we are going to Chicago.”
He then said, “But you are not going to Chicago on these tickets,” shaking his hand with the two tickets that I had given him. I asked, “What is the matter with the tickets?”
He said, “This train is the Chicago and Alton train and your tickets are by the Illinois Central Railroad, and are not good on this road.” This piece of information disturbed me greatly. I had not dreamed that there were two railroads going to Chicago, for down South, where I had come from, there was only one. This information simply took away all the sense I had, and I sat there in that train, dumbfounded, crushed, helpless and unable to
say another word. The conductor looked at my brother and me in a pitying sort of way, waiting for us to speak, but as neither one said a word, he asked, “Well, what do you intend to do?”
I answered him like a little child about ten years old, by asking another question. I asked him what I should do? He said, “Do what you please, but do it quick.” I asked him if we got off his train and went back to St. Louis, when would we get to Chicago?
He said, “If it takes you as long to get away from St. Louis as it does to make up your mind now what you want to do, I do not think that you will ever get to Chicago.”
I asked him if I could pay him in cash and go on to Chicago on his train? He said, “Certainly.” How much? “Nine dollars each and twenty-five cents each, because you did not buy a ticket.” I paid the money to him, and he passed on, but the incident, the worry, the self denunciation for my stupidity, kept me awake all night.
The night was long and tiresome. It grew colder and colder as we proceeded further north and as the night passed away.
About 3 o'clock in the morning, the fire in the stove burned low and the frequent opening of the car door to let the passengers in and
out chilled the atmosphere in the car more and more.
I got so cold I thought that the blood in my veins was turning to ice. We called the brakeman and asked him to please put some coal on the fire. He said, “The stove is full of coal now; this car is not so cold; if you think it is cold, get out doors at the next station for a few minutes.” No one in the car seemed willing to try the experiment. So we all sat still and shivered the rest of the night.
We arrived in Chicago about 7 o'clock in the morning. When I got in the omnibus to ride up to a hotel, I never felt so cold in my life. I was dressed in the same clothes that I wore in North Carolina, my underclothes were half cotton, and my outer garments were light weight. I had on an extra sack coat that I put on, and my brother did the same; neither of us had an overcoat, such as is worn by all men in this northern country.
The omnibus at last landed us at Brown's Hotel on State street. We got the name of this hotel from a Chicago man whom we met in St. Louis. When I got out of that omnibus I was hardly able to get into the hotel. My jaws were tired from shivering.
My brother suggested that we go into the bar and get a drink of brandy or whiskey. I
was so cold that I would have drank anything suggested in order to get warm.
So we went in and called for whiskey cocktails. I had drank so little in my life that I did not know what a whiskey cocktail was, my brother gave the order. The bar-keeper, one of them, there were seven behind the bar, fixed up the drinks and pushed them over toward us, looking at us with a benevolent expression of inquiry, which asked very plainly, without using words, “I wonder where these green ones came from?”
We paid for our drinks and went to the hotel office, engaged our rooms and, after washing our faces, we went to breakfast. By this time I was beginning to thaw out, and I felt real comfortable. My brother did not complain, neither did I, but both of us realized that these experiences were entirely new.
At the breakfast table the girl that waited on us brought us some oatmeal, the first that I had ever seen served as food for man. We ate it, as we wanted to appear as if we were used to such a diet. I thought at the time that it was a funny time of the day to eat pudding, as it seemed to be to me, after we had added sugar and cream to it. We usually ate our dessert in the middle of the day, and after we had finished eating our dinner, but here we were started off on dessert the first thing for
breakfast. This was a big change in diet for two green country boys from the backwoods of North Carolina.
We gradually got used to the manner of feeding the boarders, and as we were out canvassing all day, every day, our appetites were something enormous. We never had indigestion; no matter what we ate, it agreed with us, and we had no ground for complaint. We paid one dollar per day for board, and I have paid as much as three dollars per day on many occasions and did not get so good fare as at Brown's Hotel at one dollar.
After we had finished our first breakfast at this hotel, we went out to map out our work. We went into a stationery store and bought a map of Chicago; with this map we could divide the territory so that we might canvass the city intelligently and thoroughly. After doing this, we both started out to see the many doctors in Chicago. There were about three thousand of them at that time.
My first day's experience taught me many things.
The first thing I learned was that I was not properly clothed, my clothes were too thin for such cold weather. My boots were single soled and with thin tops, with high heels. Walking on the hard streets blistered my feet. I was going into well heated rooms
and out again into an atmosphere where the thermometer registered fifteen degrees below zero. Every time I made such a change, I thought the wind was blowing right through me. I suffered so, I knew that I must have more clothing, but I did not want to spend the money for clothes, for I was sure that I would need all that I had, and more, too, in my business.
So, after much thought, I consented to spend enough to keep me from freezing and to make myself presentable when I went into a doctor's office.
I went into a dry goods store and bought three-quarters of a yard of gray Rock Island kersey. I cut a hole in the middle of this piece of cloth large enough to put my head through. This I used as an extra shirt, putting it on under my white shirt. This put a thick cover over my chest and over my back. I bought some boots at a shoe store, wide and with low heels.
I bought some carbolic acid and some borax at a drug store. I added water to the carbolic acid and bathed my feet at night, and dusted the borax into my stockings in the morning. In this way I cured the blisters on my feet. The piece of thick cloth kept my body warm, so I was comfortable.
The first morning that my brother, Cullen, and I started out canvassing Chicago, the thermometer registered fifteen degrees below zero. We had never seen or felt such frigid weather. I noticed that everybody was in a hurry, I could see many going along in a trot. Down in North Carolina, where I was brought up, I never saw so much energy. I remembered an observation made by a Mr. Richard Freeman, a drummer from Baltimore, who used to come to our town, Wilson, N. C.
He asked the question, “What is the matter with you folks down here? You are the laziest people that I ever saw. Why don't you get a move on you and be somebody?”
These questions made a deep impression on me, and I thought of them long after Mr. Freeman had left town. I knew that I was willing to work, though I felt that I was unable to do so. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that it was not laziness in my case that kept me from work, but was sickness. I wondered why it was that the Northern people had so much more energy than we people of the South. When I saw the people of Chicago trot, I said, “Oh, yes darn you, I have your secret; I know where your energy comes from. You have got to move or freeze to death.” I was as good a trotter as any of them.
One day I went to a doctor's office. I rang
the door bell, an Irish servant girl came to the door; after looking me over well, she said, “What do you want?” in a very short and impertinent manner. I said, in my sweetest tones, that “I wished to see the doctor.” She snapped out again, “What do you want to see him about?” I said, “On business.” She asked again, “What kind of business?” I answered, “Medical business.” She asked again, “Are you sick?” I was warming up a little, so I answered, “Yes, I am sick of you. When will the doctor be back?” This put her in a passion, and she answered, “I don't think that he will ever be home for you.” So I had to leave without seeing the doctor.
After I got away I got to thinking it all over. So I asked myself what was it about me that caused the girl to talk to me like that? After much thought, I solved the problem. I had a little bag in which I carried advertising matter and samples, and I was wearing a soft felt hat, pulled down well over my forehead, and I had on a well worn grey coat over my fall suit, which altogether gave me the appearance of a peddler, and I am sure that this is what she took me for.
The next day I bought a high silk hat and a black overcoat. I had my beard trimmed to a Van Dyke style, and after waiting a day or so, I went back to the same doctor's office.
I rang the bell and waited. At last my same girl came. I changed my voice some, and asked if the doctor was in. She did not recognize me. She said in her sweetest voice, “No, he is not, but come right in and wait a few minutes, he will be in right away.” So polite, so solicitous, so anxious to serve the doctor. She took me for a rich patient. So much for a silk hat and a long black overcoat.
I wore a silk hat and stylish clothes as long as I canvassed, and I left off the silk hat as soon as I quit the road.
Canvassing is a business requiring a special talent, I might say, many special talents. Success, brilliant, prolonged success, cannot come to a canvasser who is in ill health, for the work is laborious; it is hard, physical endurance that counts. A man who is unable to stand on his feet all day, walk all day, and keep going every day is handicapped. So it is a part of a canvasser's equipment to know enough of the laws of health and to be willing to obey them and does obey them, that gives to him one of the first requisites necessary to success.
Another very important part of a canvasser's talents is his mentality. His mind must have had sufficient development for him to express what he wishes to say in a simple way, but above all it must be intelligent to his listener.
The ability to express himself intelligently is only a part of his mental equipment. He must also be a good listener, and this requires another divine talent, namely, patience.
No man who wants to do all of the talking in his interviews with men can succeed as a canvasser. It is a curious fact, but nevertheless true, that some of the poorest talkers insist on being heard; on the other hand, some of the best talkers are able to sit still and listen to a man make a fool of himself. This is a beautiful exhibition of the divine talent alluded to above.
To sit still and listen to statements made, that you know to be untrue, waiting patiently for your time to speak, and when your time comes, if it ever comes, you are ready, and you do speak in a mild, apologetic manner, so as not to offend your man, you make your man see your point, so that you have accomplished what you went to see him to do. Then, in this instance, you have had success. It is a part of your duty to help straighten out all of the crooked things in the world; but remember this, you cannot straighten out all the crooked things in one day.
Back of the divine talent, patience, are other divine talents, namely, meeknes, kindness and gentleness, and I might add, modesty and amiability. For a pugnacious, domineering, dictatorial
spirit will soon meet his match and in the cat-like controversy that follows, patience, with all the beautiful qualities back of it, are lost, and each one of these human volcanoes will go his way, if permitted to do so, thinking the other one an unmitigated fool and a counterfeit.
A canvasser may have good health, mental capacity, using all with skill, so that his discernment and judgment are sagaciously applied, and discreetly speaking or keeping silent, avoiding all useless debates on religion and politics, so that a wise man may recognize a kindred spirit, yet these beautiful, essential, divine and humane developed qualities alone are insufficient to complete all the qualities needed to make a first-class successful canvasser. These most aesthetic characters are essential and absolutely necessary in their place, but there are other qualities, more heroic, more energetic, more persevering which put more enthusiasm and life into the work of the canvasser. These are the dynamos that keep one moving on to the next interview. These give gameness to the canvasser, so that he does not sit down and brood over his disappointment when some ill-bred man, whom he has tried to convince and get him in line for future business, has snubbed him, ignored him or insulted him.
All of these troubles are sure to come to the canvasser. If the canvasser can only say to himself, “If I get one customer out of every ten men, I see my fortune is made.” This thought is not intended to cut short any interview and hurry the canvasser on to the next man, but is intended as a consolation, and a balm to his wounded feelings.
The talents that I have mentioned are not all that are necessary to make a successful canvasser, but they are good and essential. I would mention a good memory as highly necessary to the canvasser, for if the canvasser will only remember the things said against his position as well as the things said in his favor, it gives him time to find a convincing as well as a respectful answer to all objections made to his views.
A good canvasser calls up to mind in the evening all of the interviews of the day. He seeks for the blunders and their remedies, he keeps all the successful points of his position clear in his mind, so that he can use them at will. He studies the characters of men, that he may win them, without offending them. He studies his own character that he may cut out all that is weak and offensive, that he may add to it all that is discovered to be strong and attractive. He is a good general in his planning, yet he is more than a soldier in his
intentions, for the soldier plans to kill in order to accomplish his purposes, but the canvasser has no plans which include the killing of his fellow man. He intends and plans only good for his brothers. His success depends on the living of those that he interviews, and not on their death. The longer that they live and the more of the canvasser's products are used, the greater the success of the canvasser.
With some such thoughts as the foregoing notes, I applied myself to the work that I had to do.
I made many blunders, but I think I found them out as soon, or sooner, than others.
Sometimes I would lose my temper and talk very ugly; if an apology would remedy the evil done, I would quickly make it. Twice I was so insulted I really wanted to fight, and invited my man out into the street for this purpose, but in each instance my man, though not having sense enough to treat a stranger with courtesy did have sense enough to keep out of a street fight.
When I had time enough to cool off, I would see the ludicrous side of the encounter, and I would have a real good laugh over it. A laugh is always good medicine for wounded feelings. If I could have made the other man laugh I would not have been insulted. It is the too serious-minded, the brooding ones, who
get angry and insult you. If you can make him laugh, or even keep him in a good humor, you are safe from insult or offensive treatment. Such an undertaking, to be applied to some men, is a mighty big job, but it is worth it, for when you have once made a friend, it is much easier to keep him.
The qualities essential to success as a canvasser that I have enumerated, are but a small part of the talents really necessary. These talents may be enumerated and described more or less accurately, but the real, genuine success is achieved by the man, the person, the individual, back of these talents. He being an individual, is indescribable. He it is who has the faith to start on the road to success or failure. He it is who has the perseverance to continue his work in the face of all obstacles. He it is who cannot be turned aside from the plans made by himself. He cannot be side-tracked and left there alone inactive, while the main part of the train is on the through line, moving on to other scenes and pastures green.
He it is who believes in himself and in his cause, though other men may doubt him and deride him. He it is “who holds on when there is nothing in him but the will which says” to him to hold on.
He it is who trusts, works, hopes and moves
on, when others around him, falters, hesitates and stands still.
He it is who values all truth above riches, above comfort, above worldly success, above life, above death.
“It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore and see the ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle and see a battle and the adventures thereof below; but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth” (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene) “and see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests in the vale below.
“So always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling pride. Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.”
It is the honor in his nature that prompts man to honest, square faithful business dealings. A falsehood mixed with truth may make it apparently work better, like alloy in gold, but it is not so valuable when so debased. There is no vice that will so humiliate and cover with shame a man who thinks, acts and lives a lie. Falsehood can live only in the dark, light and truth will come again and destroy it.
In trying to give to you my ideas of what a canvasser ought to be, and is to some extent,
you may note that his character has grown from an ordinary solicitor, one who asks favors of the public, to one whose life and purposes include the good of others as well as himself. Being good himself in his own life, he is inclined to be good to others. Of all the virtues and beauties of the mind, goodness is the most like my conception of God. Without it, or some manifestations of it, man is but a poor apology of what he ought to be. Man may be deceived about the power that he possesses, and fail when he attempts to apply it, he may be proud and puffed up with what he knows more than others, but there can be no excuse of goodness or charity. This goodness that I allude to is something very much alive, it is not that goodness, where the man is “so good that he is good for nothing.”
One may be good in a negative way, I mean to say, inoffensive, and become the prey of those who are “tyrannical and unjust.” The purpose of goodness should not be to destroy the source of it. We should seek to do good to other men, but there is no valid reason why we should become victims to their capricious injustice.
Pearls are of little service to swine, nor is a diamond food for a chicken in the barnyard. Corn would be more appreciated by either.
It is true that God sends “His rains upon
the just and unjust” alike; but it is not true that He gives virtue, goodness, wealth and honor to all men equally. These special benefits can only be attained by the effort of the man who achieves them, the talent or capacity to do so being a gift of God.
This goodness shows itself in various ways. It is courteous to strangers, recognizing him as a brother. It is compassionate toward those in affliction. It forgives offenses. It is above injuries. It is ever grateful to God for all benefits received. It values men's friendships and their minds above their money and other property. It is willing, and often does give up its all for the good of others, and this is from the divine life within.
My brother and I stuck to our self imposed tasks. He was not so adjustable as I was, and was not so successful as a canvasser, but he made a good canvasser, and our trip to all the cities of the United States with more than ten thousand population, started up a good trade on our goods. We made new customers everywhere that we went.
The first year (1876) that we went out canvassing we visited only the largest cities. We went from Chicago to Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Erie, Pa., Albany, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D. C., Harrisburg,
Pittsburg, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Evansville, Frankfort, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, Montgomery, New Orleans, Little Rock, Ark., Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth, Lincoln, Denver, Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
After this we canvassed all the good towns in all the Central and Eastern States, and later we sent other canvassers through the Southern States and Western States.
As the years passed by our business grew, by careful expenditure of funds in advertising we kept growing.
We worked and canvassed, putting out samples as gifts to the physicians, with literature describing what the remedy was intended to be, and what it was intended to do. In six months we were selling goods in gross lots. In one year we were making a little money.
SUCCESS, BUT NOT COMPLETE.
In 1884 we opened up a business in England and France, sending over there Mr. Richard E. Blount, of Wilson, N. C., who had been our laboratory man for some years. Our business prospered there also.
In 1890 we extended our business into Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Holland and these branches also prospered.
In the same year we established our agency in Canada and later in Mexico and Brazil.
In 1908, we started business in India, Japan and China, and all these agencies are growing. So if the business that I have given my life to, is properly cared for after I am dead, my one daughter will never lack for bread and my two grandchildren will have plenty.
My wife came out to St. Louis first in May, 1878. Our daughter, Helen, was then going on three months old, Miss Frances Wood came with us as cook and companion. We made our first home at 1338 North Jefferson avenue. We paid twenty-two dollars and fifty cents per month rent. In 1880 we moved to 3034 Easton avenue, rent $50.00 per month.
In 1882 Mrs. Lee came out to visit us. She was well pleased with what I had done, and also pleased to know that we lived so well.
She said that it was reported down in North Carolina that I was in the saloon business and she was glad to learn that it was not true.
The same year we moved to 2819 Locust street in a large commodious house. The rent of this house was one hundred and twenty-five dollars per month.
We lived there one year. We had a nice stable and a brougham and a buggy and two pair of horses and went driving every afternoon.
One day we were driving out on Marcus avenue and saw a very pretty old rock house with about three acres around it.
My wife said, “How I would like to live there; it would be so fine for Nell,” as we called our daughter. I took the name of the real estate men who had it for rent. He surprised me when he said the rent was thirty-five dollars per month if I would lease it for three years. I reported on it and my wife said, “Go and get it before some one else does.”
So I leased it for three years.
My brother-in-law, Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Foy, with my sister, Katie, with two daughters and my mother, came to St. Louis in 1877.
As soon as my wife came out in 1878, my mother came to live with me. We were all very happy together, but in 1883, my brother Cullen, who was then a bachelor, rented a house at 3008 Locust street and invited my sister, Mrs. Jos. H. Foy, and mother to live with him.
After they left us, we no longer needed such a big house as 2819 Locust street and this is why my wife wanted a smaller house, and the big yard for our daughter to play in. We lived on Marcus avenue for eighteen months. My poor wife was stricken with pelvic celulitis, which was very painful. Our family doctor, Larew, had so much work for his horse to do that his horse was hardly able to stand these long trips in addition to all his city work. So I volunteered to furnish him an extra horse for this purpose, which Dr. Larew accepted. For three months my wife suffered, remaining in bed all the time and being given morphine every day to relieve her intense suffering. At the end of three months my wife was still in a critical condition and suffering.
One day Dr. Larew called me aside as he went out and told me that my wife was not improving and if I wanted another doctor in consultation, I might call one in. He said, “I have done all that I know how to do; and
I would rather have another doctor to share the responsibility.” I asked him did he know another doctor that he thought knew more about such a case than he did. He said there was a Dr. Barrett who had a great reputation in such cases, and he thought Dr. Barrett's advice would be worth having. So the next day he brought Dr. Barrett out with him.
Dr. Barrett took right hold of the case and after making a thorough examination called Dr. Larew and myself into the other room. I report what he said from memory. He said, “Mr. Battle, as you are in the medical line, I treat you as a doctor.”
He turned to Dr. Larew and said, “You have treated the case so far very well, the pelvic celulitis has subsided, but your patient is run down and a nervous wreck; get her out of bed as soon as you can, for when you have had as many patients as I have had go to bed and stay there, you will know the value of this advice.
“Stop the morphine as soon as possible. You will have lots of trouble and lots of tears, but stop it. There are two ways, one is to reduce the dose every day until you get the dose down to one-thirty-second of a grain a day; this is simply prolonging the misery, like cutting off the monkey's tail one inch at a time.
“The second plan is to cut off at once. I believe there is less suffering this way. The agony is more acute for a few days, but the patient gets over it quicker. You, doctor, must be the judge.
“One more piece of advice, and I am through.
“Mrs. Battle is very weak and growing weaker every day for lack of exercise. She is now too weak to take exercise. You must give her exercise, passive exercise, give her massages, either get somebody who understands it or do it yourself.” I asked him to show me what he meant.
He said, “Pull off your coat and vest and get on the bed with your patient and begin with the left arm, take her hand in your left hand and with your right hand pass from her shoulder with a slight pressure on the naked skin toward her hand. Repeat this until you see a little pink color come into the arm. Cover every side of her left arm with your chaffing.
“Second, open and shut her left hand many times, pulling gently the fingers, like milking a cow.
“Third, start at the left shoulder with your left hand under her arm and the right above, now roll the muscles on the bone, not hard enough to give pain, but enough to make it
uncomfortable. This stirs up the circulation of the blood deeper than the surface chafing.
“Fourth, do the same with the right arm and both of the legs. It is harder work on the legs, for they are larger; let the process extend to the body in every instance.
“Fifth, let your patient lie on her stomach. You begin at the neck. After kneading this with enough pressure to feel the bones in the neck, you may proceed down the spinal cord, follow the vertebrae down the spine, kneading, and with a strong pressure pushing your hands, the balls of your thumbs away from the spine. This helps the circulation all up and down the back. A warning I give you, don't be in a hurry, don't puff and blow like it was hard work. Don't get to sweating too much. Take your time. Don't wear out your patient, put five minutes on each limb twice a day to begin with, the same time may be spent on the neck and back. Gradually increase the time you spend on each limb, the neck and back till you are putting in fifteen minutes on each one. This would make one hour and a half. You should reach this maximum in two weeks, by that time your patient will be strong enough to get up and walk and also recovered to some extent from the morphine.”
He said further, “It will be at least six weeks before she will get off the morphine so that she will not miss it.”
He said, “The breast and belly should be kneaded to complete the treatment, but as Mrs. Battle had been so sore, these parts must be omitted from the treatment.”
I quit business and stayed home, devoting my time to my wife. I became the masseur. I did as near as the doctor had told me as I could. I gave the exercise midly and patiently at first, and as my wife grew stronger, I increased the pressure and lengthened the time. My wife grew stronger and stronger each day, but cutting off the morphine made her so nervous and filled her so full of aches and pains that she wished that she were dead. She could not sleep one minute night or day, at last from pure exhaustion she would doze a few minutes at the time. She would throw her arms and hands up against the head board of the bed until they had many bruises. She would throw her legs against the wall and bruise them. So I padded the head of the bed with pillows and pulled the bed from the wall. My wife was delirious off and on for three weeks, but at last, with lots of patience and perseverance, we were rewarded by seeing our dear patient come back to the world of good
sense and show decided signs of increased strength and appetite. Without any assistance she got out of bed and walked across the room. It is certainly amazing what wonderful recuperating powers can be and are given to another by and through what we call massage. If you, reader, have an invalid, do what I have told you that I did, and watch the results. You will be astonished.
At last my wife was well and strong again but she said, “I have enough of the country, let us move back to town again.” So we looked for a man to sublease our house to, found him, and in one more month we were settled at 3034 Lucas avenue. We lived at this place for a part of 1885 and all of 1886.
My sister, Mrs. Foy, moved to Omaha, Neb., and my mother came back to live with me.
Just before Christmas, 1886, I bought the house numbered 2813 Lucas avenue, and moved into it at once.
My poor mother did not live long to enjoy our own new home. She was taken with pneumonia and died in a few days on January 4, 1887. It is a curious thing to note that her own sister, Henrietta, died in Wake Forest, N. C., just three days before my mother. So these two dear sisters who were so devoted to
each other, and had been separated so long, were joined together through death without either one knowing that the other was sick.
A letter came announcing the death of my Aunt Henrietta, but my mother was too far gone for us to give her the news.
We lived at this house until 1896, when we traded it off for our present home at 4463 Lindell Boulevard. This has been our home for almost fifteen years. It is here that we have had our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows; the brightest days and the blackest nights. It is here our lovely daughter, after graduating at the Reed School in New York, and a trip to Europe with her mother and I, came back to this new, elegant home, to gather around her a number of friends to make her life a round of pleasures and joys; it was here she met her future husband. It was here her two children were born. It was here that she spent so many weary days, when she was confined to her bed as an invalid, and could hardly stand on her feet for a few minutes at a time.
It was here that she came back to health and strength again.
It is here that my dear wife and I have had our greatest luxuries; where we have had all that wealth could give us. It is here that we
have entertained our many friends and relatives, giving to them without stint all the pleasures of a city life. It is here that we have seen four Presidents pass our door, Mr. Cleveland, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Taft.
It is here that we saw all the parades during the World's Fair in 1903 and 1904..
It was here in our block that we saw the greatest gathering of Roman Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Prelates and Laymen that has probably ever been gotten together in America. The occasion was the laying of the corner stone of the three-million-dollar cathedral on the eastern corner of the block.
It was from this house that my poor brother, Cullen, was buried.
It may be from this house that my wife and I will take our last ride on earth.
And, may we “so live that when our summons comes to join that innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm where each one shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death, that we will go, not like the quarry-slave at night scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, we will approach our graves like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
If my success has given to me a life, “well lived, filled with joy and love, if I have had the trust of pure women and the love of little children,” if I have finished the task my God has assigned to me and “filled my niche” and accomplished the good that I purposed to do; if I “have looked for the best in others and gave the best that I had, whether in an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul;” if I have never failed to appreciate earth's beauty, nor failed to express it, if my “life has been an inspiration” to others, and “my memory shall be a benediction” to those who come after me; then I shall not have lived in vain.
With love to God, the Father, and love to all His Sons, and love to His Holy Spirit, and love to all of His creatures,
I am, your obedient servant,
JESSE MERCER BATTLE.