On March thirty-first in the years long ago,
My eyes caught the first beam of light.
But those days and those years -- how fast they have sped!
And seem just like a dream of the night.
My father was taken when I was but two,
The sorrow I cannot recall;
But to Mother and all of the dear ones,
'Twas a terrible shock to them all.
Five children there were when he left us,
But in just two months there were seven;
God's promise of care for the orphans
And also the widow were given.
Some friends came to see us one morning,
They had driven fifty miles and then some;
For they wanted to ease up the burden
By taking me back to their home.
Fresh air and good food were abundant,
And they taught me the things that were right,
But my room was a lone dreary prison
With no kiss or a mother's "good night."
My juvenile heart crushed within me,
No room there for laughter or mirth;
And at the end of two years I was pardoned,
And returned to the place of my birth.
For twelve and a half years I took refuge
With a kindly old lady near home,
Who had bread and to spare in abundance
To share with the unfortunate one.
She taught me one day how to bake it
And also the butter to churn,
And I soon had the privilege of milking
The cow with the old crumpled horn.
I went to the "mash house" one morning
To purchase some feed for the cow,
And I fell in the vat and was scalded --
The scars I am carrying now.
For three months I sat around helpless
In my mem'ry it is lingering still,
But it taught me a much needed lesson
To execute caution with will.
Six weeks was the length of vacation
Meted out to the children those days,
We made sure of a trip to Niagara --
And the rest spent in numberless ways.
I loved the old haunts of my childhood,
The woods and the old gravel pit
Where we gathered for sport in the winter
On the ice with those "borrowed misfits."
My constant companion was "Nellie,"
I loved her and so did she me --
We shared all our joys and our sorrows
And she told all her secrets to me.
We went to the country together
To visit some very dear friends,
And tho' it's forty years now since it happened
I'm sure she remembers the end.
She now lives in London, Ontario,
And I'm hoping to see her some day,
To talk of our forty years' wanderings
And the blessings we found on the way.
My guardian had promised her fortune
To me -- if I'd be faithful and true --
But she failed so to write, and her wind took its flight
The outcome I guessed -- couldn't you?
So I waved a goodbye to my country
My schoolmates and all I held dear,
And joined the loved ones in Chicago
Who preceded me the space of three years.
My mother kept roomers and boarders
I assisted her all I was able.
But resented with looks at two boarders,
Who complained at the food on the table.
They wanted ice cream and fried chicken,
And a bed for four-fifty a week,
But they got a surprise the next morning
When invited new pastures to seek.
My education was sadly neglected,
So I went down to Galesburg one year,
At the end of the term I was sent for
To care for my mother so dear.
When she rallied I entered an office
To keep books for the good of my health,
And I weighed and sold coal to the public
In exchange for a part of their wealth.
Do you wonder I sought out a pilot
To guide my bark onward through life?
Thinking not of the joys and the sorrows
That were stacked for the minister's wife.
We set up our home in Chicago
A mile west of the old Humboldt Park,
And we took the steam cars to the city
Or rode on shanks Mare in the dark.
The Sky Pilot's lodge was no mansion,
'Twas not finished in cherry or birch,
But we furnished with love and contentment
Those three rooms in the rear of the church.
At the end of one year we decided
To go to Wisconsin's fair state;
But the precious wee bundle I carried
Made protests wherever we'd wait.
Four year and a fraction we tarried
To tell of God's wonderful love;
How he suffered and died for our meanness,
And then rose to the mansions above.
Yes, there's tender and sweet recollections
Of that home by the side of the road;
For our two precious boys "He" there gave us,
To train them and tell them of God.
We took our three lambs in the winter
And went west 'mid the ice and the snow;
But we longed for those breezes in summer
When we went to Chicago's big show.
The neighbors and friends in that Iowa town
Renovated our house with a will;
Where two more little girls sought a place in our hearts
And a seat at the table to fill.
Pottowattamie County was our next stopping place
Where luscious strawberries did grow,
There were cyclones and hills in abundance
But never a stone to throw.
The folks in that town, they were worldly,
Puffed up like balloons in their pride
Thinking only of power and prestige
And not of a Savior who died.
Unable to do much we left them
to work out their own destiny;
And sought us a station more hopeful
At the close of the last century.
This church proved to be such a medley
Made up of all sects with their creed
But united in service together
Sought to help the poor brother in need.
For their worldly but scanty possessions
Which the preacher was destined to share,
For the purpose of keeping him humble
They paid him seven hundred a year.
We kept us a cow and two horses
For service and pleasure those days;
As the "movies and Fords" were not heard of
We substituted picnics and plays.
One picnic we'll always remember
Which was held by the Chickasaw Lake,
And the appetites we brought for the good things
I rose in the morning to bake.
Oh, that dinner who could ever forget it!
How we worked to have everything nice --
For some cows to devour in our absence,
Leaving nothing but lemons and ice.
Then Leona fell into the mill pond
But was rescued real quickly by "Win,"
Yes, that was a day of disasters
As many others have been.
We went down to Clarence that summer
In the year nineteen hundred and one
And we'll never forget all the kindness
That was shown us from every one.
There are two noble souls in that village
On whose faces no creature could frown
But the friends that are left, in the winter
Go out west to Los Angeles town.
One friend she has never forgotten
The love of our little "Tow head,"
Since her dad who was sometimes forgetful,
Shut her up in the old folding bed.
Who can measure the love of the other
As she toils 'mid her prodigies rare;
A sample of truest devotion
To the little ones placed in her care.
After battling ten years with the measles
And fevers and mumps that were great,
Along came two more precious jewels,
If you count right you'll find there are eight.
We fed and we clothed them, and all were content,
Tho' it took lots of planning to buy it;
But the problem to train them and fit them for life
'Twasn't easy! If you're doubtful, just try it!
When the youngest was two we departed
Farther east where a home we were given
In the state where at first we got stared,
In that notable year of '87.
The meeting house there it was dingy,
Out of keeping with the folds or the place;
So an effort was made to replace it,
With a new one of dimensions and grace.
Fifteen thousand was raised for the building
From the rich as well as the poor;
And when finished we learned to our sorrow
It was short just twelve thousand more.
The service was largely attended
At the laying of the big cornerstone;
There were speeches and timely devotion,
And praise to the Infinite One.
The little tin box was then buried
With its contents and writings of truth,
Including a shiny new penny,
Placed there in the name of our Ruth.
In ten months the church was completed
'Twas a credit to all that took part,
And the pulpit was made and donated,
By the preacher who gave it the start.
The dedication took place in the winter,
And the debt was all raised the same day;
Now it stands as a haven of refuge
And a temple to those who do pray.
Our son who still lives in that city
Is a dentist with skill and research;
With his wife who directs all the music
Of the city as well as the church.
It's a pleasure to see the improvements
That's been made in that Illinois town,
Three churches, a school and a depot,
Paved streets and the lighting that's fine.
Since we left for the school in the mountains
Where we tarried the best part of a year,
Doing all that we could for the students
Who seemed anxious God's message to hear.
The creek by our house how it murmured
As it passed by the old mountain road,
Rushing over the stones and the boulders
On its way to the noted "French Broad."
The wild flowers grew in abundance
As well as some natives I know;
For one "House" had twenty-three children,
But nine of them only did grow.
The wife in that mountaineer's cabin,
Rolled the logs never daring to tire;
While the men sat in idleness smoking
By the warmth of that open grate fire.
But I must go on with my story,
And leave those poor souls to their fate;
It is seven years now since we left them
But the story seems hard to relate.
From North to South we have traveled
And also from East to the West,
But of all the fair states in the Union,
The one we call home seems the best.
Eighteen houses I've lived in from my birth until now,
Who is there can prophecy more --
For the fate of the preacher in this land of ours,
Is to travel from shore unto shore.
Our five girls have left us for homes of their own,
The youngest is still at her post;
But we'll never surrender the love for each one
Tho' they leave when we need them the most.
One is wed to a Doctor in an Illinois town
and the next to a Dominee true;
While the balance is getting an income,
From business that each one can do.
Is it needful to speak of the dear one
Who made the supreme sacrifice;
For the love of mankind and his country
He journeyed and paid the big price.
We laid him to rest in God's acre
In Crown Hill on the Government lot,
Which will always be tenderly cared for
And his mem'ry will ne'er be forgot.
But our hearts are so sad and so lonely,
For his face we shall never see more
Till the time when our labors are ended
And we meet on eternity's shore.
'Twon't be long when the journey is over
In my weakness I'm trying to mend --
Where I've failed in fulfilling my mission
As mother, or sister or friend.
May this message be used for God's glory,
In the lives of the dear ones who read,
His Grace will suffice on Life's Journey
If you follow where Jesus doth lead.