The Story of a Pioneer by Anna Howard Shaw and Elizabeth Jordan

TO THE WOMEN PIONEERS OF AMERICA They cut a path through tangled underwood Of old traditions, out to broader ways. They lived to here their work called brave and good, But oh! the thorns before the crown of bays. The world gives lashes to its Pioneers Until the goal is reached–then deafening cheers. Adapted by
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They cut a path through tangled underwood Of old traditions, out to broader ways. They lived to here their work called brave and good, But oh! the thorns before the crown of bays. The world gives lashes to its Pioneers
Until the goal is reached–then deafening cheers. Adapted by ANNA HOWARD SHAW.
















































My father’s ancestors were the Shaws of Rothiemurchus, in Scotland, and the ruins of their castle may still be seen on the island of Loch-an-Eilan, in the northern Highlands. It was never the picturesque castle of song and story, this home of the fighting Shaws, but an austere fortress, probably built in Roman times; and even to-day the crumbling walls which alone are left of it show traces of the relentless assaults upon them. Of these the last and the most successful were made in the seventeenth century by the Grants and Rob Roy; and it was into the hands of the Grants that the Shaw fortress finally fell, about 1700, after almost a hundred years of ceaseless warfare.

It gives me no pleasure to read the grisly details of their struggles, but I confess to a certain satisfac- tion in the knowledge that my ancestors made a good showing in the defense of what was theirs. Beyond doubt they were brave fighters and strong men. There were other sides to their natures, however, which the high lights of history throw up less appealingly. As an instance, we have in the family chronicles the blood-stained page of Allen Shaw, the oldest son of the last Lady Shaw who lived in the fortress. It appears that when the father of this young man died, about 1560, his mother married again, to the intense disapproval of her son. For some time after the marriage he made no open revolt against the new-comer in the domestic circle; but finally, on the pretext that his dog had been attacked by his stepfather, he forced a quarrel with the older man and the two fought a duel with swords, after which the vic- torious Allen showed a sad lack of chivalry. He not only killed his stepfather, but he cut off that gentleman’s head and bore it to his mother in her bed- chamber–an action which was considered, even in that tolerant age, to be carrying filial resentment too far.

Probably Allen regretted it. Certainly he paid a high penalty for it, and his clan suffered with him. He was outlawed and fled, only to be hunted down for months, and finally captured and executed by one of the Grants, who, in further virtuous disap- proval of Allen’s act, seized and held the Shaw stronghold. The other Shaws of the clan fought long and ably for its recovery, but though they were helped by their kinsmen, the Mackintoshes, and though good Scotch blood dyed the gray walls of the fortress for many generations, the castle never again came into the hands of the Shaws. It still entails certain obligations for the Grants, however, and one of these is to give the King of England a snowball whenever he visits Loch-an-Eilan!

As the years passed the Shaw clan scattered. Many Shaws are still to be found in the Mackintosh country and throughout southern Scotland. Others went to England, and it was from this latter branch that my father sprang. His name was Thomas Shaw, and he was the younger son of a gentleman–a word which in those days seemed to define a man who devoted his time largely to gambling and horse- racing. My grandfather, like his father before him, was true to the traditions of his time and class. Quite naturally and simply he squandered all he had, and died abruptly, leaving his wife and two sons penniless. They were not, however, a helpless band. They, too, had their traditions, handed down by the fighting Shaws. Peter, the older son, became a soldier, and died bravely in the Crimean War. My father, through some outside influence, turned his attention to trade, learning to stain and emboss wall- paper by hand, and developing this work until he became the recognized expert in his field. Indeed, he progressed until he himself checked his rise by inventing a machine that made his handwork un- necessary. His employer at once claimed and utilized this invention, to which, by the laws of those days, he was entitled, and thus the corner- stone on which my father had expected to build a fortune proved the rock on which his career was wrecked. But that was years later, in America, and many other things had happened first.

For one, he had temporarily dropped his trade and gone into the flour-and-grain business; and, for another, he had married my mother. She was the daughter of a Scotch couple who had come to England and settled in Alnwick, in Northumberland County. Her father, James Stott, was the driver of the royal-mail stage between Alnwick and New- castle, and his accidental death while he was still a young man left my grandmother and her eight children almost destitute. She was immediately given a position in the castle of the Duke of Nor- thumberland, and her sons were educated in the duke’s school, while her daughters were entered in the school of the duchess.

My thoughts dwell lovingly on this grandmother, Nicolas Grant Stott, for she was a remarkable woman, with a dauntless soul and progressive ideas far in advance of her time. She was one of the first Unitarians in England, and years before any thought of woman suffrage entered the minds of her country- women she refused to pay tithes to the support of the Church of England–an action which precipitated a long-drawn-out conflict between her and the law. In those days it was customary to assess tithes on every pane of glass in a window, and a portion of the money thus collected went to the support of the Church. Year after year my intrepid grandmother refused to pay these assessments, and year after year she sat pensively upon her door-step, watching articles of her furniture being sold for money to pay her tithes. It must have been an impressive picture, and it was one with which the community became thoroughly familiar, as the determined old lady never won her fight and never abandoned it. She had at least the comfort of public sympathy, for she was by far the most popular woman in the country- side. Her neighbors admired her courage; perhaps they appreciated still more what she did for them, for she spent all her leisure in the homes of the very poor, mending their clothing and teaching them to sew. Also, she left behind her a path of cleanliness as definite as the line of foam that follows a ship; for it soon became known among her protegees that Nicolas Stott was as much opposed to dirt as she was to the payment of tithes.

She kept her children in the schools of the duke and duchess until they had completed the entire course open to them. A hundred times, and among many new scenes and strange people, I have heard my mother describe her own experiences as a pupil. All the children of the dependents of the castle were expected to leave school at fourteen years of age. During their course they were not allowed to study geography, because, in the sage opinion of their elders, knowledge of foreign lands might make them dis- contented and inclined to wander. Neither was com- position encouraged–that might lead to the writing of love-notes! But they were permitted to absorb all the reading and arithmetic their little brains could hold, while the art of sewing was not only encouraged, but proficiency in it was stimulated by the award of prizes. My mother, being a rather pre- cocious young person, graduated at thirteen and carried off the first prize. The garment she made was a linen chemise for the duchess, and the little needlewoman had embroidered on it, with her own hair, the august lady’s coat of arms. The offering must have been appreciated, for my mother’s story always ended with the same words, uttered with the same air of gentle pride, “And the duchess gave me with her own hands my Bible and my mug of beer!” She never saw anything amusing in this association of gifts, and I always stood behind her when she told the incident, that she might not see the disrespectful mirth it aroused in me.

My father and mother met in Alnwick, and were married in February, 1835. Ten years after his marriage father was forced into bankruptcy by the passage of the corn law, and to meet the obliga- tions attending his failure he and my mother sold practically everything they possessed–their home, even their furniture. Their little sons, who were away at school, were brought home, and the family expenses were cut down to the barest margin; but all these sacrifices paid only part of the debts. My mother, finding that her early gift had a market value, took in sewing. Father went to work on a small salary, and both my parents saved every penny they could lay aside, with the desperate determination to pay their remaining debts. It was a long struggle and a painful one, but they finally won it. Before they had done so, however, and during their bleakest days, their baby died, and my mother, like her mother before her, paid the penalty of being outside the fold of the Church of England. She, too, was a Unitarian, and her baby, therefore, could not be laid in any consecrated burial-ground in her neighborhood. She had either to bury it in the Potter’s Field, with criminals, suicides, and paupers, or to take it by stage-coach to Alnwick, twenty miles away, and leave it in the little Unitarian church- yard where, after her strenuous life, Nicolas Stott now lay in peace. She made the dreary journey alone, with the dear burden across her lap.

In 1846, my parents went to London. There they did not linger long, for the big, indifferent city had nothing to offer them. They moved to New- castle-on-Tyne, and here I was born, on the four- teenth day of February, in 1847. Three boys and two girls had preceded me in the family circle, and when I was two years old my younger sister came. We were little better off in Newcastle than in London, and now my father began to dream the great dream of those days. He would go to America. Surely, he felt, in that land of infinite promise all would be well with him and his. He waited for the final payment of his debts and for my younger sister’s birth. Then he bade us good-by and sailed away to make an American home for us; and in the spring of 1851 my mother followed him with her six children, starting from Liverpool in a sailing- vessel, the John Jacob Westervelt.

I was then little more than four years old, and the first vivid memory I have is that of being on ship- board and having a mighty wave roll over me. I was lying on what seemed to be an enormous red box under a hatchway, and the water poured from above, almost drowning me. This was the beginning of a storm which raged for days, and I still have of it a confused memory, a sort of nightmare, in which strange horrors figure, and which to this day haunts me at intervals when I am on the sea. The thing that stands out most strongly during that period is the white face of my mother, ill in her berth. We were with five hundred emigrants on the lowest deck of the ship but one, and as the storm grew wilder an unreasoning terror filled our fellow-pas- sengers. Too ill to protect her helpless brood, my mother saw us carried away from her for hours at a time, on the crests of waves of panic that sometimes approached her and sometimes receded, as they swept through the black hole in which we found our- selves when the hatches were nailed down. No mad- house, I am sure, could throw more hideous pictures on the screen of life than those which met our childish eyes during the appalling three days of the storm. Our one comfort was the knowledge that our mother was not afraid. She was desperately ill, but when we were able to reach her, to cling close to her for a blessed interval, she was still the sure refuge she had always been.

On the second day the masts went down, and on the third day the disabled ship, which now had sprung a leak and was rolling helplessly in the trough of the sea, was rescued by another ship and towed back to Queenstown, the nearest port. The passengers, relieved of their anxieties, went from their extreme of fear to an equal extreme of drunken celebration. They laughed, sang, and danced, but when we reached the shore many of them returned to the homes they had left, declaring that they had had enough of the ocean. We, however, remained on the ship until she was repaired, and then sailed on her again. We were too poor to return home; indeed, we had no home to which we could return. We were even too poor to live ashore. But we made some penny excursions in the little boats that plied back and forth, and to us children at least the weeks of waiting were not without interest. Among other places we visited Spike Island, where the convicts were, and for hours we watched the dreary shuttle of labor swing back and forth as the convicts car- ried pails of water from one side of the island, only to empty them into the sea at the other side. It was merely “busy work,” to keep them occupied at hard labor; but even then I must have felt some dim sense of the irony of it, for I have remembered it vividly all these years.

Our second voyage on the John Jacob Westervelt was a very different experience from the first. By day a glorious sun shone overhead; by night we had the moon and stars, as well as the racing waves we never wearied of watching. For some reason, prob- ably because of my intense admiration for them, which I showed with unmaidenly frankness, I be- came the special pet of the sailors. They taught me to sing their songs as they hauled on their ropes, and I recall, as if I had learned it yesterday, one pleasing ditty:
Haul on the bow-line,
Kitty is my darling,
Haul on the bow-line,
The bow-line–HAUL!

When I sang “haul” all the sailors pulled their hardest, and I had an exhilarating sense of sharing in their labors. As a return for my service of song the men kept my little apron full of ship sugar– very black stuff and probably very bad for me; but I ate an astonishing amount of it during that voy- age, and, so far as I remember, felt no ill effects.

The next thing I recall is being seriously scalded. I was at the foot of a ladder up which a sailor was carrying a great pot of hot coffee. He slipped, and the boiling liquid poured down on me. I must have had some bad days after that, for I was ter- ribly burned, but they are mercifully vague. My next vivid impression is of seeing land, which we sighted at sunset, and I remember very distinctly just how it looked. It has never looked the same since. The western sky was a mass of crimson and gold clouds, which took on the shapes of strange and beautiful things. To me it seemed that we were entering heaven. I remember also the doctors com- ing on board to examine us, and I can still see a line of big Irishmen standing very straight and holding out their tongues for inspection. To a little girl only four years old their huge, open mouths looked appalling.

On landing a grievous disappointment awaited us; my father did not meet us. He was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, nursing his grief and pre- paring to return to England, for he had been told that the John Jacob Westervelt had been lost at sea with every soul on board. One of the missionaries who met the ship took us under his wing and con- ducted us to a little hotel, where we remained until father had received his incredible news and rushed to New York. He could hardly believe that we were really restored to him; and even now, through the mists of more than half a century, I can still see the expression in his wet eyes as he picked me up and tossed me into the air.

I can see, too, the toys he brought me–a little saw and a hatchet, which became the dearest treas- ures of my childish days. They were fatidical gifts, that saw and hatchet; in the years ahead of me I was to use tools as well as my brothers did, as I proved when I helped to build our frontier home.

We went to New Bedford with father, who had found work there at his old trade; and here I laid the foundations of my first childhood friendship, not with another child, but with my next-door neighbor, a ship-builder. Morning after morning this man swung me on his big shoulder and took me to his shipyard, where my hatchet and saw had vio- lent exercise as I imitated the workers around me. Discovering that my tiny petticoats were in my way, my new friend had a little boy’s suit made for me; and thus emancipated, at this tender age, I worked unwearyingly at his side all day long and day after day. No doubt it was due to him that I did not casually saw off a few of my toes and fingers. Cer- tainly I smashed them often enough with blows of my dull but active hatchet. I was very, very busy; and I have always maintained that I began to earn my share of the family’s living at the age of five– for in return for the delights of my society, which seemed never to pall upon him, my new friend al- lowed my brothers to carry home from the ship- yard all the wood my mother could use.

We remained in New Bedford less than a year, for in the spring of 1852 my father made another change, taking his family to Lawrence, Massa- chusetts, where we lived until 1859. The years in Lawrence were interesting and formative ones. At the tender age of nine and ten I became interested in the Abolition movement. We were Unitarians, and General Oliver and many of the prominent citi- zens of Lawrence belonged to the Unitarian Church. We knew Robert Shaw, who led the first negro regi- ment, and Judge Storrow, one of the leading New England judges of his time, as well as the Cabots and George A. Walton, who was the author of Walton’s Arithmetic and head of the Lawrence schools. Outbursts of war talk thrilled me, and occasionally I had a little adventure of my own, as when one day, in visiting our cellar, I heard a noise in the coal-bin. I investigated and discovered a negro woman concealed there. I had been reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as well as listening to the conversation of my elders, so I was vastly stirred over the negro question. I raced up-stairs in a condition of awe-struck and quivering excitement, which my mother promptly suppressed by sending me to bed. No doubt she questioned my youthful discretion, for she almost convinced me that I had seen nothing at all–almost, but not quite; and she wisely kept me close to her for several days, until the escaped slave my father was hiding was safely out of the house and away. Discovery of this seri- ous offense might have borne grave results for him.

It was in Lawrence, too, that I received and spent my first twenty-five cents. I used an entire day in doing this, and the occasion was one of the most delightful and memorable of my life. It was the Fourth of July, and I was dressed in white and rode in a procession. My sister Mary, who also graced the procession, had also been given twenty-five cents; and during the parade, when, for obvious reasons, we were unable to break ranks and spend our wealth, the consciousness of it lay heavily upon us. When we finally began our shopping the first place we visited was a candy store, and I recall dis- tinctly that we forced the weary proprietor to take down and show us every jar in the place before we spent one penny. The first banana I ever ate was purchased that day, and I hesitated over it a long time. Its cost was five cents, and in view of that large expenditure, the eating of the fruit, I was afraid, would be too brief a joy. I bought it, how- ever, and the experience developed into a tragedy, for, not knowing enough to peel the banana, I bit through skin and pulp alike, as if I were eating an apple, and then burst into ears of disappointment. The beautiful conduct of my sister Mary shines down through the years. She, wise child, had taken no chances with the unknown; but now, moved by my despair, she bought half of my banana, and we divided the fruit, the loss, and the lesson. Fate, moreover, had another turn of the screw for us, for, after Mary had taken a bite of it, we gave what was left of the banana to a boy who stood near us and who knew how to eat it; and not even the large amount of candy in our sticky hands enabled us to regard with calmness the subsequent happiness of that little boy.

Another experience with fruit in Lawrence illus- trates the ideas of my mother and the character of the training she gave her children. Our neighbors, the Cabots, were one day giving a great garden party, and my sister was helping to pick strawberries for the occasion. When I was going home from school I passed the berry-patches and stopped to speak to my sister, who at once presented me with two straw- berries. She said Mrs. Cabot had told her to eat all she wanted, but that she would eat two less than she wanted and give those two to me. To my mind, the suggestion was generous and proper; in my life strawberries were rare. I ate one berry, and then, overcome by an ambition to be generous also, took the other berry home to my mother, tell- ing her how I had got it. To my chagrin, mother was deeply shocked. She told me that the trans- action was all wrong, and she made me take back the berry and explain the matter to Mrs. Cabot. By the time I reached that generous lady the berry was the worse for its journey, and so was I. I was only nine years old and very sensitive. It was clear to me that I could hardly live through the humilia- tion of the confession, and it was indeed a bitter experience the worst, I think, in my young life, though Mrs. Cabot was both sympathetic and understanding. She kissed me, and sent a quart of strawberries to my mother; but for a long time afterward I could not meet her kind eyes, for I be- lieved that in her heart she thought me a thief.

My second friendship, and one which had a strong influence on my after-life, was formed in Lawrence. I was not more than ten years old when I met this new friend, but the memory of her in after-years, and the impression she had made on my susceptible young mind, led me first into the ministry, next into medicine, and finally into suffrage-work. Living next door to us, on Prospect Hill, was a beautiful and mysterious woman. All we children knew of her was that she was a vivid and romantic figure, who seemed to have no friends and of whom our elders spoke in whispers or not at all. To me she was a princess in a fairy-tale, for she rode a white horse and wore a blue velvet riding-habit with a blue velvet hat and a picturesquely drooping white plume. I soon learned at what hours she went forth to ride, and I used to hover around our gate for the joy of seeing her mount and gallop away. I realized that there was something unusual about her house, and I had an idea that the prince was waiting for her somewhere in the far distance, and that for the time at least she had escaped the ogre in the castle she left behind. I was wrong about the prince, but right about the ogre. It was only when my unhappy lady left her castle that she was free.

Very soon she noticed me. Possibly she saw the adoration in my childish eyes. She began to nod and smile at me, and then to speak to me, but at first I was almost afraid to answer her. There were stories now among the children that the house was haunted, and that by night a ghost walked there and in the grounds. I felt an extraordinary interest in the ghost, and I spent hours peering through our picket fence, trying to catch a glimpse of it; but I hesitated to be on terms of neighborly intimacy with one who dwelt with ghosts.

One day the mysterious lady bent and kissed me. Then, straightening up, she looked at me queerly and said: “Go and tell your mother I did that.” There was something very compelling in her manner. I knew at once that I must tell my mother what she had done, and I ran into our house and did so. While my mother was considering the problem the situation presented, for she knew the character of the house next door, a note was handed in to her– a very pathetic little note from my mysterious lady, asking my mother to let me come and see her. Long afterward mother showed it to me. It ended with the words: “She will see no one but me. No harm shall come to her. Trust me.”

That night my parents talked the matter over and decided to let me go. Probably they felt that the slave next door was as much to be pitied as the es- caped-negro slaves they so often harbored in our home. I made my visit, which was the first of many, and a strange friendship began and developed be- tween the woman of the town and the little girl she loved. Some of those visits I remember as vividly as if I had made them yesterday. There was never the slightest suggestion during any of them of things I should not see or hear, for while I was with her my hostess became a child again, and we played together like children. She had wonderful toys for me, and pictures and books; but the thing I loved best of all and played with for hours was a little stuffed hen which she told me had been her dearest treasure when she was a child at home. She had also a stuffed puppy, and she once mentioned that those two things alone were left of her life as a little girl. Besides the toys and books and pic- tures, she gave me ice-cream and cake, and told me fairy-tales. She had a wonderful understanding of what a child likes. There were half a dozen women in the house with her, but I saw none of them nor any of the men who came.

Once, when we had become very good friends indeed and my early shyness had departed, I found courage to ask her where the ghost was– the ghost that haunted her house. I can still see the look in her eyes as they met mine. She told me the ghost lived in her heart, and that she did not like to talk about it, and that we must not speak of it again. After that I never mentioned it, but I was more deeply interested than ever, for a ghost that lived in a heart was a new kind of ghost to me at that time, though I have met many of them since then. During all our intercourse my mother never entered the house next door, nor did my mysterious lady enter our home; but she con- stantly sent my mother secret gifts for the poor and the sick of the neighborhood, and she was always the first to offer help for those who were in trouble. Many years afterward mother told me she was the most generous woman she had ever known, and that she had a rarely beautiful nature. Our depart- ure for Michigan broke up the friendship, but I have never forgotten her; and whenever, in my later work as minister, physician, and suffragist, I have been able to help women of the class to which she belonged, I have mentally offered that help for credit in the tragic ledger of her life, in which the clean and the blotted pages were so strange a contrast.

One more incident of Lawrence I must describe before I leave that city behind me, as we left it for ever in 1859. While we were still there a number of Lawrence men decided to go West, and amid great public excitement they departed in a body for Kansas, where they founded the town of Lawrence in that state. I recall distinctly the public interest which attended their going, and the feeling every one seemed to have that they were passing forever out of the civilized world. Their farewells to their friends were eternal; no one expected to see them again, and my small brain grew dizzy as I tried to imagine a place so remote as their destination. It was, I finally decided, at the uttermost ends of the earth, and it seemed quite possible that the brave adventurers who reached it might then drop off into space. Fifty years later I was talking to a Cali- fornia girl who complained lightly of the monotony of a climate where the sun shone and the flowers bloomed all the year around. “But I had a de- lightful change last year,” she added, with anima- tion. “I went East for the winter.”

“To New York?” I asked.

“No,” corrected the California girl, easily, “to Lawrence, Kansas.”

Nothing, I think, has ever made me feel quite so old as that remark. That in my life, not yet, to me at least, a long one, I should see such an arc de- scribed seemed actually oppressive until I realized that, after all, the arc was merely a rainbow of time showing how gloriously realized were the hopes of the Lawrence pioneers.

The move to Michigan meant a complete up- heaval in our lives. In Lawrence we had around us the fine flower of New England civilization. We children went to school; our parents, though they were in very humble circumstances, were associated with the leading spirits and the big movements of the day. When we went to Michigan we went to the wilderness, to the wild pioneer life of those times, and we were all old enough to keenly feel the change.

My father was one of a number of Englishmen who took up tracts in the northern forests of Michigan, with the old dream of establishing a colony there. None of these men had the least practical knowledge of farming. They were city men or followers of trades which had no connection with farm life. They went straight into the thick timber-land, in- stead of going to the rich and waiting prairies, and they crowned this initial mistake by cutting down the splendid timber instead of letting it stand. Thus bird’s-eye maple and other beautiful woods were used as fire-wood and in the construction of rude cabins, and the greatest asset of the pioneers was ignored.

Father preceded us to the Michigan woods, and there, with his oldest son, James, took up a claim. They cleared a space in the wilderness just large enough for a log cabin, and put up the bare walls of the cabin itself. Then father returned to Law- rence and his work, leaving James behind. A few months later (this was in 1859), my mother, my two sisters, Eleanor and Mary, my youngest brother, Henry, eight years of age, and I, then twelve, went to Michigan to work on and hold down the claim while father, for eighteen months longer, stayed on in Lawrence, sending us such remittances as he could. His second and third sons, John and Thomas, re- mained in the East with him.

Every detail of our journey through the wilder- ness is clear in my mind. At that time the railroad terminated at Grand Rapids, Michigan, and we covered the remaining distance–about one hundred miles–by wagon, riding through a dense and often trackless forest. My brother James met us at Grand Rapids with what, in those days, was called a lumber-wagon, but which had a horrible resem- blance to a vehicle from the health department. My sisters and I gave it one cold look and turned from it; we were so pained by its appearance that we refused to ride in it through the town. Instead, we started off on foot, trying to look as if we had no association with it, and we climbed into the un- wieldy vehicle only when the city streets were far behind us. Every available inch of space in the wagon was filled with bedding and provisions. As yet we had no furniture; we were to make that for ourselves when we reached our cabin; and there was so little room for us to ride that we children walked by turns, while James, from the beginning of the journey to its end, seven days later, led our weary horses.

To my mother, who was never strong, the whole experience must have been a nightmare of suffering and stoical endurance. For us children there were compensations. The expedition took on the char- acter of a high adventure, in which we sometimes had shelter and sometimes failed to find it, some- times were fed, but often went hungry. We forded innumerable streams, the wheels of the heavy wagon sinking so deeply into the stream-beds that we often had to empty our load before we could get them out again. Fallen trees lay across our paths, rivers caused long detours, while again and again we lost our way or were turned aside by impenetrable forest tangles.

Our first day’s journey covered less than eight miles, and that night we stopped at a farm-house which was the last bit of civilization we saw. Early the next morning we were off again, making the slow progress due to the rough roads and our heavy load. At night we stopped at a place called Thomas’s Inn, only to be told by the woman who kept it that there was nothing in the house to eat. Her hus- band, she said, had gone “outside” (to Grand Rapids) to get some flour, and had not returned– but she added that we could spend the night, if we chose, and enjoy shelter, if not food. We had provisions in our wagon, so we wearily entered, after my brother had got out some of our pork and opened a barrel of flour. With this help the woman made some biscuits, which were so green that my poor mother could not eat them. She had admitted to us that the one thing she had in the house was saleratus, and she had used this ingredient with an unsparing hand. When the meal was eaten she broke the further news that there were no beds.

“The old woman can sleep with me,” she sug- gested, “and the girls can sleep on the floor. The boys will have to go to the barn.”
She and her bed were not especially attractive, and mother decided to lie on the floor with us. We had taken our bedding from the wagon, and we slept very well; but though she was usually superior to small annoyances, I think my mother resented being called an “old woman.” She must have felt like one that night, but she was only about forty-eight years of age.

At dawn the next morning we resumed our jour- ney, and every day after that we were able to cover the distance demanded by the schedule arranged before we started. This meant that some sort of shelter usually awaited us at night. But one day we knew there would be no houses between the place we left in the morning and that where we were to sleep. The distance was about twenty miles, and when twilight fell we had not made it. In the back of the wagon my mother had a box of little pigs, and during the afternoon these had broken loose and escaped into the woods. We had lost much time in finding them, and we were so exhausted that when we came to a hut made of twigs and boughs we de- cided to camp in it for the night, though we knew nothing about it. My brother had unharnessed the horses, and my mother and sister were cooking dough-god–a mixture of flour, water, and soda, fried in a pan-when two men rode up on horse- back and called my brother to one side. Immedi- ately after the talk which followed James harnessed his horses again and forced us to go on, though by that time darkness had fallen. He told mother, but did not tell us children until long afterward, that a man had been murdered in the hut only the night before. The murderer was still at large in the woods, and the new-comers were members of a posse who were searching for him. My brother needed no urging to put as many miles as he could between us and the sinister spot.

In that fashion we made our way to our new home. The last day, like the first, we traveled only eight miles, but we spent the night in a house I shall never forget. It was beautifully clean, and for our eve- ning meal its mistress brought out loaves of bread which were the largest we had ever seen. She cut great slices of this bread for us and spread maple sugar on them, and it seemed to us that never be- fore had anything tasted so good.

The next morning we made the last stage of our journey, our hearts filled with the joy of nearing our new home. We all had an idea that we were going to a farm, and we expected some resemblance at least to the prosperous farms we had seen in New England. My mother’s mental picture was, natu- rally, of an English farm. Possibly she had visions of red barns and deep meadows, sunny skies and daisies. What we found awaiting us were the four walls and the roof of a good-sized log-house, stand- ing in a small cleared strip of the wilderness, its doors and windows represented by square holes, its floor also a thing of the future, its whole effect achingly forlorn and desolate. It was late in the afternoon when we drove up to the opening that was its front entrance, and I shall never forget the look my mother turned upon the place. Without a word she crossed its threshold, and, standing very still, looked slowly around her. Then something within her seemed to give way, and she sank upon the ground. She could not realize even then, I think, that this was really the place father had prepared for us, that here he expected us to live. When she finally took it in she buried her face in her hands, and in that way she sat for hours without moving or speaking. For the first time in her life she had for- gotten us; and we, for our part, dared not speak to her. We stood around her in a frightened group, talking to one another in whispers. Our little world had crumbled under our feet. Never before had we seen our mother give way to despair.

Night began to fall. The woods became alive with night creatures, and the most harmless made the most noise. The owls began to hoot, and soon we heard the wildcat, whose cry–a screech like that of a lost and panic-stricken child–is one of the most appalling sounds of the forest. Later the wolves added their howls to the uproar, but though darkness came and we children whimpered around her, our mother still sat in her strange lethargy.

At last my brother brought the horses close to the cabin and built fires to protect them and us. He was only twenty, but he showed himself a man dur- ing those early pioneer days. While he was picketing the horses and building his protecting fires my mother came to herself, but her face when she raised it was worse than her silence had been. She seemed to have died and to have returned to us from the grave, and I am sure she felt that she had done so. From that moment she took up again the burden of her life, a burden she did not lay down until she passed away; but her face never lost the deep lines those first hours of her pioneer life had cut upon it.

That night we slept on boughs spread on the earth inside the cabin walls, and we put blankets before the holes which represented our doors and windows, and kept our watch-fires burning. Soon the other children fell asleep, but there was no sleep for me. I was only twelve years old, but my mind was full of fancies. Behind our blankets, swaying in the night wind, I thought I saw the heads and pushing shoul- ders of animals and heard their padded footfalls. Later years brought familiarity with wild things, and with worse things than they. But to-night that which I most feared was within, not outside of, the cabin. In some way which I did not understand the one sure refuge in our new world had been taken from us. I hardly knew the silent woman who lay near me, tossing from side to side and staring into the darkness; I felt that we had lost our mother.



Like most men, my dear father should never have married. Though his nature was one of the sweetest I have ever known, and though he would at any call give his time to or risk his life for others, in practical matters he remained to the end of his days as irresponsible as a child. If his mind turned to practical details at all, it was solely in their bear- ing toward great developments of the future. To him an acorn was not an acorn, but a forest of young oaks.

Thus, when he took up his claim of three hundred and sixty acres of land in the wilderness of northern Michigan, and sent my mother and five young chil- dren to live there alone until he could join us eighteen months later, he gave no thought to the manner in which we were to make the struggle and survive the hardships before us. He had furnished us with land and the four walls of a log cabin. Some day, he reasoned, the place would be a fine estate, which his sons would inherit and in the course of time pass on to their sons–always an Englishman’s most iri- descent dream. That for the present we were one hundred miles from a railroad, forty miles from the nearest post-office, and half a dozen miles from any neighbors save Indians, wolves, and wildcats; that we were wholly unlearned in the ways of the woods as well as in the most primitive methods of farming; that we lacked not only every comfort, but even the bare necessities of life; and that we must begin, single-handed and untaught, a struggle for existence in which some of the severest forces of nature would be arrayed against us–these facts had no weight in my father’s mind. Even if he had witnessed my mother’s despair on the night of our arrival in our new home, he would not have understood it. From his viewpoint, he was doing a man’s duty. He was working steadily in Lawrence, and, incidentally, giving much time to the Abolition cause and to other big public movements of his day which had his interest and sympathy. He wrote to us regu- larly and sent us occasional remittances, as well as a generous supply of improving literature for our minds. It remained for us to strengthen our bodies, to meet the conditions in which he had placed us, and to survive if we could.

We faced our situation with clear and unalarmed eyes the morning after our arrival. The problem of food, we knew, was at least temporarily solved. We had brought with us enough coffee, pork, and flour to last for several weeks; and the one necessity father had put inside the cabin walls was a great fireplace, made of mud and stones, in which our food could be cooked. The problem of our water-supply was less simple, but my brother James solved it for the time by showing us a creek a long distance from the house; and for months we carried from this creek, in pails, every drop of water we used, save that which we caught in troughs when the rain fell.

We held a family council after breakfast, and in this, though I was only twelve, I took an eager and determined part. I loved work–it has always been my favorite form of recreation–and my spirit rose to the opportunities of it which smiled on us from every side. Obviously the first thing to do was to put doors and windows into the yawning holes father had left for them, and to lay a board flooring over the earth inside our cabin walls, and these duties we accomplished before we had occupied our new home a fortnight. There was a small saw-mill nine miles from our cabin, on the spot that is now Big Rapids, and there we bought our lumber. The labor we supplied ourselves, and though we put our hearts into it and the results at the time seemed beautiful to our partial eyes, I am forced to admit, in looking back upon them, that they halted this side of perfection. We began by making three windows and two doors; then, inspired by these achievements, we ambitiously constructed an attic and divided the ground floor with partitions, which gave us four rooms.

The general effect was temperamental and sketchy. The boards which formed the floor were never even nailed down; they were fine, wide planks without a knot in them, and they looked so well that we merely fitted them together as closely as we could and lightheartedly let them go at that. Neither did we properly chink the house. Nothing is more comfortable than a log cabin which has been carefully built
and finished; but for some reason–probably because there seemed always a more urgent duty calling to us around the corner–we never plastered our house at all. The result was that on many future winter mornings we awoke to find ourselves chastely blanketed by snow, while the only warm spot in our living-room was that directly in front of the fireplace, where great logs burned all day. Even there our faces scorched while our spines slowly congealed, until we learned to revolve before the fire like a bird upon a spit. No doubt we would have worked more thoroughly if my brother James, who was twenty years old and our tower of strength, had remained with us; but when we had been in our new home only a few months he fell and was forced to go East for an operation. He was never able to return to us, and thus my mother, we three young girls, and my youngest brother–Harry, who was only eight years old–made our fight alone until father came to us, more than a year later.

Mother was practically an invalid. She had a nervous affection which made it impossible for her to stand without the support of a chair. But she sewed with unusual skill, and it was due to her that our clothes, notwithstanding the strain to which we subjected them, were always in good condition. She sewed for hours every day, and she was able to move about the house, after a fashion, by pushing herself around on a stool which James made for her as soon as we arrived. He also built for her a more comfortable chair with a high back.

The division of labor planned at the first council was that mother should do our sewing, and my older sisters, Eleanor and Mary, the housework, which was far from taxing, for of course we lived in the simplest manner. My brothers and I were to do the work out of doors, an arrangement that suited me very well, though at first, owing to our lack of experience, our activities were somewhat curtailed. It was too late in the season for plowing or planting, even if we had possessed anything with which to plow, and, moreover, our so-called “cleared” land was thick with sturdy tree-stumps. Even during the second summer plowing was impossible; we could only plant potatoes and corn, and follow the most primitive method in doing even this. We took an ax, chopped up the sod, put the seed under it, and let the seed grow. The seed did grow, too–in the most gratifying and encouraging manner. Our green corn and potatoes were the best I have ever eaten. But for the present we lacked these luxuries.

We had, however, in their place, large quantities of wild fruit–gooseberries, raspberries, and plums –which Harry and I gathered on the banks of our creek. Harry also became an expert fisherman. We had no hooks or lines, but he took wires from our hoop-skirts and made snares at the ends of poles. My part of this work was to stand on a log and frighten the fish out of their holes by making horrible sounds, which I did with impassioned earnestness. When the fish hurried to the surface of the water to investigate the appalling noises they had heard, they were easily snared by our small boy, who was very proud of his ability to contribute in this way to the family table.

During our first winter we lived largely on corn- meal, making a little journey of twenty miles to the nearest mill to buy it; but even at that we were better off than our neighbors, for I remember one family in our region who for an entire winter lived solely on coarse-grained yellow turnips, gratefully changing their diet to leeks when these came in the spring.

Such furniture as we had we made ourselves. In addition to my mother’s two chairs and the bunks which took the place of beds, James made a settle for the living-room, as well as a table and several stools. At first we had our tree-cutting done for us, but we soon became expert in this gentle art, and I developed such skill that in later years, after father came, I used to stand with him and “heart” a log.

On every side, and at every hour of the day, we came up against the relentless limitations of pioneer life. There was not a team of horses in our entire region. The team with which my brother had driven us through the wilderness had been hired at Grand Rapids for that occasion, and, of course, immediately returned. Our lumber was delivered by ox-teams, and the absolutely essential purchases we made “outside” (at the nearest shops, forty miles away) were carried through the forest on the backs of men. Our mail was delivered once a month by a carrier who made the journey in alter- nate stages of horseback riding and canoeing. But we had health, youth, enthusiasm, good appetites, and the wherewithal to satisfy them, and at night in our primitive bunks we sank into abysses of dream- less slumber such as I have never known since. Indeed, looking back upon them, those first months seem to have been a long-drawn-out and glorious picnic, interrupted only by occasional hours of pain or panic, when we were hurt or frightened.

Naturally, our two greatest menaces were wild animals and Indians, but as the days passed the first of these lost the early terrors with which we had associated them. We grew indifferent to the sounds that had made our first night a horror to us all– there was even a certain homeliness in them–while we regarded with accustomed, almost blase eyes the various furred creatures of which we caught distant glimpses as they slunk through the forest. Their experience with other settlers had taught them cau- tion; it soon became clear that they were as eager to avoid us as we were to shun them, and by common consent we gave each other ample elbow-room. But the Indians were all around us, and every settler had a collection of hair-raising tales to tell of them. It was generally agreed that they were dangerous only when they were drunk; but as they were drunk whenever they could get whisky, and as whisky was constantly given them in exchange for pelts and game, there was a harrowing doubt in our minds whenever they approached us.

In my first encounter with them I was alone in the woods at sunset with my small brother Harry. We were hunting a cow James had bought, and our young eyes were peering eagerly among the trees, on the alert for any moving object. Suddenly, at a little distance, and coming directly toward us, we saw a party of Indians. There were five of them, all men, walking in single file, as noiselessly as ghosts, their moccasined feet causing not even a rustle among the dry leaves that carpeted the woods. All the horrible stories we had heard of Indian cruelty flashed into our minds, and for a moment we were dumb with terror. Then I remembered having been told that the one thing one must not do before them is to show fear. Harry was carrying a rope with which we had expected to lead home our reluctant cow, and I seized one end of it and whispered to him that we would “play horse,” pretending he was driving me. We pranced toward the Indians on feet that felt like lead, and with eyes so glazed by terror that we could see nothing save a line of moving figures; but as we passed them they did not give to our little impersonation of care-free children even the tribute of a side-glance. They were, we realized, headed straight for our home; and after a few mo- ments we doubled on our tracks and, keeping at a safe distance from them among the trees, ran back to warn our mother that they were coming.

As it happened, James was away, and mother had to meet her unwelcome guests supported only by her young children. She at once prepared a meal, however, and when they arrived she welcomed them calmly and gave them the best she had. After they had eaten they began to point at and demand ob- jects they fancied in the room–my brother’s pipe, some tobacco, a bowl, and such trifles–and my mother, who was afraid to annoy them by refusal, gave them what they asked. They were quite sober, and though they left without expressing any appreciation of her hospitality, they made her a second visit a few months later, bringing a large quantity of venison and a bag of cranberries as a graceful return. These Indians were Ottawas; and later we became very friendly with them and their tribe, even to the degree of attending one of their dances, which I shall describe later.

Our second encounter with Indians was a less agreeable experience. There were seven “Mar- quette warriors” in the next group of callers, and they were all intoxicated. Moreover, they had brought with them several jugs of bad whisky– the raw and craze-provoking product supplied them by the fur-dealers–and it was clear that our cabin was to be the scene of an orgy. Fortunately, my brother James was at home on this occasion, and as the evening grew old and the Indians, grouped together around the fire, became more and more ir- responsible, he devised a plan for our safety. Our attic was finished, and its sole entrance was by a ladder through a trap-door. At James’s whispered command my sister Eleanor slipped up into the attic, and from the back window let down a rope, to which he tied all the weapons we had–his gun and several axes. These Eleanor drew up and con- cealed in one of the bunks. My brother then di- rected that as quietly as possible, and at long in- tervals, one member of the family after another was to slip up the ladder and into the attic, going quite casually, that the Indians might not realize what we were doing. Once there, with the ladder drawn up after us and the trap-door closed, we would be rea- sonably safe, unless our guests decided to burn the cabin.

The evening seemed endless, and was certainly nerve-racking. The Indians ate everything in the house, and from my seat in a dim corner I watched them while my sisters waited on them. I can still see the tableau they made in the firelit room and hear the unfamiliar accents of their speech as they talked together. Occasionally one of them would pull a hair from his head, seize his scalping-knife; and cut the hair with it–a most unpleasant sight! When either of my sisters approached them some of the Indians would make gestures, as if capturing and scalping her. Through it all, however, the whisky held their close attention, and it was due to this that we succeeded in reaching the attic unob- served, James coming last of all and drawing the ladder after him. Mother and the children were then put to bed; but through that interminable night James and Eleanor lay flat upon the floor, watching through the cracks between the boards the revels of the drunken Indians, which grew wild- er with every hour that crawled toward sunrise. There was no knowing when they would miss us or how soon their mood might change. At any moment they might make an attack upon us or set fire to the cabin. By dawn, however, their whisky was all gone, and they were in so deep a stupor that, one after the other, the seven fell from their chairs to the floor, where they sprawled un- conscious. When they awoke they left quietly and without trouble of any kind. They seemed a strangely subdued and chastened band; probably they were wretchedly ill after their debauch on the adulterated whisky the traders had given them.

That autumn the Ottawa tribe had a great corn celebration, to which we and the other settlers were invited. James and my older sisters attended it, and I went with them, by my own urgent invita- tion. It seemed to me that as I was sharing the work and the perils of our new environment, I might as well share its joys; and I finally succeeded in making my family see the logic of this position. The central feature of the festivity was a huge kettle, many feet in circumference, into which the Indians dropped the most extraordinary variety of food we had ever seen combined. Deer heads went into it whole, as well as every kind of meat and vegetable the members of the tribe could procure. We all ate some of this agreeable mixture, and later, with one another, and even with the Indians, we danced gaily to the music of a tom-tom and a drum. The affair was extremely interesting until the whisky entered and did its unpleasant work. When our hosts be- gan to fall over in the dance and slumber where they lay, and when the squaws began to show the same ill effects of their refreshments, we unostentatiously slipped away.

During the winter life offered us few diversions and many hardships. Our creek froze over, and the water problem became a serious one, which we met with increasing difficulty as the temperature steadily fell. We melted snow and ice, and existed through the frozen months, but with an amount of discom- fort which made us unwilling to repeat at least that special phase of our experience. In the spring, therefore, I made a well. Long before this, James had gone, and Harry and I were now the only out- door members of our working-force. Harry was still too small to help with the well; but a young man, who had formed the neighborly habit of rid- ing eighteen miles to call on us, gave me much friendly aid. We located the well with a switch, and when we had dug as far as we could reach with our spades, my assistant descended into the hole and threw the earth up to the edge, from which I in turn removed it. As the well grew deeper we made a half-way shelf, on which I stood, he throw- ing the earth on the shelf, and I shoveling it up from that point. Later, as he descended still farther into the hole we were making, he shoveled the earth into buckets and passed them up to me, I passing them on to my sister, who was now pressed into service. When the excavation was deep enough we made the wall of slabs of wood, roughly joined together. I recall that well with calm content. It was not a thing of beauty, but it was a thoroughly practical well, and it remained the only one we had during the twelve years the family occupied the cabin.

During our first year there was no school within ten miles of us, but this lack failed to sadden Harry or me. We had brought with us from Lawrence a box of books, in which, in winter months, when our outdoor work was restricted, we found much comfort. They were the only books in that part of the country, and we read them until we knew them all by heart. Moreover, father sent us regularly the New York Independent, and with this admirable literature, after reading it, we papered our walls. Thus, on stormy days, we could lie on the settle or the floor and read the Independent over again with increased interest and pleasure.

Occasionally father sent us the Ledger, but here mother drew a definite line. She had a special dis- like for that periodical, and her severest comment on any woman was that she was the type who would “keep a dog, make saleratus biscuit, and read the New York Ledger in the daytime.” Our modest library also contained several histories of Greece and Rome, which must have been good ones, for years later, when I entered college, I passed my examination in ancient history with no other prep- aration than this reading. There were also a few arithmetics and algebras, a historical novel or two, and the inevitable copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whose pages I had freely moistened with my tears.

When the advantages of public education were finally extended to me, at thirteen, by the opening of a school three miles from our home, I accepted them with growing reluctance. The teacher was a spinster forty-four years of age and the only genuine “old maid” I have ever met who was not a married woman or a man. She was the real thing, and her name, Prudence Duncan, seemed the fitting label for her rigidly uncompromising personality. I graced Prudence’s school for three months, and then left it at her fervid request. I had walked six miles a day through trackless woods and Western blizzards to get what she could give me, but she had little to offer my awakened and critical mind. My reading and my Lawrence school-work had already taught me more than Prudence knew–a fact we both inwardry–admitted and fiercely resented from our different viewpoints. Beyond doubt I was a pert and trying young person. I lost no opportunity to lead Prudence beyond her intellectual depth and leave her there, and Prudence vented her chagrin not alone upon me, but upon my little brother. I became a thorn in her side, and one day, after an especially unpleasant episode in which Harry also figured, she plucked me out, as it were, and cast me for ever from her. From that time I studied at home, where I was a much more valuable economic factor than I had been in school.

The second spring after our arrival Harry and I extended our operations by tapping the sugar- bushes, collecting all the sap, and carrying it home in pails slung from our yoke-laden shoulders. To- gether we made one hundred and fifty pounds of sugar and a barrel of syrup, but here again, as al- ways, we worked in primitive ways. To get the sap we chopped a gash in the tree and drove in a spile. Then we dug out a trough to catch the sap. It was no light task to lift these troughs full of sap and empty the sap into buckets, but we did it success- fully, and afterward built fires and boiled it down. By this time we had also cleared some of our ground, and during the spring we were able to plow, dividing the work in a way that seemed fair to us both. These were strenuous occupations for a boy of nine and a girl of thirteen, but, though we were not in- ordinately good children, we never complained; we found them very satisfactory substitutes for more normal bucolic joys. Inevitably, we had our little tragedies. Our cow died, and for an entire winter we went without milk. Our coffee soon gave out, and as a substitute we made and used a mixture of browned peas and burnt rye. In the winter we were always cold, and the water problem, until we had built our well, was ever with us.

Father joined us at the end of eighteen months, but though his presence gave us pleasure and moral support, he was not an addition to our executive staff. He brought with him a rocking-chair for mother and a new supply of books, on which I fell as a starving man falls upon food. Father read as eagerly as I, but much more steadily. His mind was always busy with problems, and if, while he was laboring in the field, a new problem presented itself to him, the imperishable curiosity that was in him made him scurry at once to the house to solve it. I have known him to spend a planting season in figuring on the production of a certain number of kernels of corn, instead of planting the corn and raising it. In the winter he was supposed to spend his time clearing land for orchards and the like, but instead he pored over his books and problems day after day and often half the night as well. It soon became known among our neigh- bors, who were rapidly increasing in number, that we had books and that father like to read aloud, and men walked ten miles or more to spend the night with us and listen to his reading. Often, as his fame grew, ten or twelve men would arrive at our cabin on Saturday and remain over Sunday. When my mother once tried to check this influx of guests by mildly pointing out, among other things, the waste of candles represented by frequent all-night readings, every man humbly appeared again on the following Saturday with a candle in each hand. They were not sensitive; and, as they had brought their candles, it seemed fitting to them and to father that we girls should cook for them and supply them with food.

Father’s tolerance of idleness in others, however, did not extend to tolerance of idleness in us, and this led to my first rebellion, which occurred when I was fourteen. For once, I had been in the woods all day, buried in my books; and when I returned at night, still in the dream world these books had opened to me, father was awaiting my coming with a brow dark with disapproval. As it happened, mother had felt that day some special need of me, and father reproached me bitterly for being beyond reach–an idler who wasted time while mother labored. He ended a long arraignment by predicting gloomily that with such tendencies I would make nothing of my life.

The injustice of the criticism cut deep; I knew I had done and was doing my share for the family, and already, too, I had begun to feel the call of my career. For some reason I wanted to preach–to talk to people, to tell them things. Just why, just what, I did not yet know–but I had begun to preach in the silent woods, to stand up on stumps and address the unresponsive trees, to feel the stir of aspiration within me.

When my father had finished all he wished to say, I looked at him and answered, quietly, “Father, some day I am going to college.”

I can still see his slight, ironical smile. It drove me to a second prediction. I was young enough to measure success by material results, so I added, recklessly:

“And before I die I shall be worth ten thousand dollars!”

The amount staggered me even as it dropped from my lips. It was the largest fortune my imagination could conceive, and in my heart I believed that no woman ever had possessed or would possess so much. So far as I knew, too, no woman had gone to college. But now that I had put my secret hopes into words, I was desperately determined to make those hopes come true. After I became a wage- earner I lost my desire to make a fortune, but the college dream grew with the years; and though my college career seemed as remote as the most distant star, I hitched my little wagon to that star and never afterward wholly lost sight of its friendly gleam.

When I was fifteen years old I was offered a situa- tion as school-teacher. By this time the com- munity was growing around us with the rapidity characteristic of these Western settlements, and we had nearer neighbors whose children needed instruc- tion. I passed an examination before a school- board consisting of three nervous and self-conscious men whose certificate I still hold, and I at once began my professional career on the modest salary of two dollars a week and my board. The school was four miles from my home, so I “boarded round” with the families of my pupils, staying two weeks in each place, and often walking from three to six miles a day to and from my little log school-house in every kind of weather. During the first year I had about fourteen pupils, of varying ages, sizes, and temperaments, and there was hardly a book in the school-room except those I owned. One little girl, I remember, read from an almanac, while a second used a hymn-book.

In winter the school-house was heated by a wood- stove, to which the teacher had to give close personal attention. I could not depend on my pupils to make the fires or carry in the fuel; and it was often necessary to fetch the wood myself, sometimes for long distances through the forest. Again and again, after miles of walking through winter storms, I reached the school-house with my clothing wet through, and in these soaked garments I taught during the day. In “boarding round” I often found myself in one-room cabins, with bunks at the end and the sole partition a sheet or a blanket, behind which I slept with one or two of the children. It was the custom on these occasions for the man of the house to delicately retire to the barn while we women got to bed, and to disappear again in the morning while we dressed. In some places the meals were so badly cooked that I could not eat them, and often the only food my poor little pupils brought to school for their noonday meal was a piece of bread or a bit of raw pork.

I earned my two dollars a week that year, but I had to wait for my wages until the dog tax was col- lected in the spring. When the money was thus raised, and the twenty-six dollars for my thirteen weeks of teaching were graciously put into my hands, I went “outside” to the nearest shop and joyously spent almost the entire amount for my first “party dress.” The gown I bought was, I con- sidered, a beautiful creation. In color it was a rich magenta, and the skirt was elaborately braided with black cable-cord. My admiration for it was justi- fied, for it did all a young girl’s eager heart could ask of any gown–it led to my first proposal.

The youth who sought my hand was about twenty years old, and by an unhappy chance he was also the least attractive young person in the country- side–the laughing-stock of the neighbors, the butt of his associates. The night he came to offer me his heart there were already two young men at our home calling on my sisters, and we were all sitting around the fire in the living-room when my suitor appeared. His costume, like himself, left much to be desired. He wore a blue flannel shirt and a pair of trousers made of flour-bags. Such trousers were not uncommon in our region, and the boy’s mother, who had made them for him, had thoughtfully selected a nice clean pair of sacks. But on one leg was the name of the firm that made the flour–A. and G. W. Green–and by a charming coincidence A. and G. W. Green happened to be the two young men who were calling on my sisters! On the back of the bags, directly in the rear of the wearer, was the simple legend, “96 pounds”; and the striking effect of the young man’s costume was completed by a bright yellow sash which held his trousers in place.

The vision fascinated my sisters and their two guests. They gave it their entire attention, and when the new-comer signified with an eloquent ges- ture that he was calling on me, and beckoned me into an inner room, the quartet arose as one person and followed us to the door. Then, as we inhospit- ably closed the door, they fastened their eyes to the cracks in the living-room wall, that they might miss none of the entertainment. When we were alone my guest and I sat down in facing chairs and in depressed silence. The young man was nervous, and I was both frightened and annoyed. I had heard suppressed giggles on the other side of the wall, and I realized, as my self-centered visitor failed to do, that we were not enjoying the privacy the situation seemed to demand. At last the youth in- formed me that his “dad” had just given him a cabin, a yoke of steers, a cow, and some hens. When this announcement had produced its full effect, he straightened up in his chair and asked, solemnly, “Will ye have me?”

An outburst of chortles from the other side of the wall greeted the proposal, but the ardent youth ignored it, if indeed he heard it. With eyes staring straight ahead, he sat rigid, waiting for my answer; and I, anxious only to get rid of him and to end the strain of the moment, said the first thing that came into my head. “I can’t,” I told him. “I’m sorry, but–but–I’m engaged.”

He rose quickly, with the effect of a half-closed jack-knife that is suddenly opened, and for an in- stant stood looking down upon me. He was six feet two inches tall, and extremely thin. I am very short, and, as I looked up, his flour-bag trousers seemed to join his yellow sash somewhere near the ceiling of the room. He put both hands into his pockets and slowly delivered his valedictory. “That’s darned dis- appointing to a fellow,” he said, and left the house. After a moment devoted to regaining my maidenly composure I returned to the living-room, where I had the privilege of observing the enjoyment of my sisters and their visitors. Helpless with mirth and with tears of pleasure on their cheeks, the four rocked and shrieked as they recalled the picture my gallant had presented. For some time after that incident I felt a strong distaste for sentiment.

Clad royally in the new gown, I attended my first ball in November, going with a party of eight that included my two sisters, another girl, and four young men. The ball was at Big Rapids, which by this time had grown to be a thriving lumber town. It was impossible to get a team of horses or even a yoke of oxen for the journey, so we made a raft and went down the river on that, taking our party dresses with us in trunks. Unfortunately, the raft “hung up” in the stream, and the four young men had to get out into the icy water and work a long time before they could detach it from the rocks. Natu- rally, they were soaked and chilled through, but they all bore the experience with a gay philosophy.

When we reached Big Rapids we dressed for the ball, and, as in those days it was customary to change one’s gown again at midnight, I had an op- portunity to burst on the assemblage in two cos- tumes–the second made of bedroom chintz, with a low neck and short sleeves. We danced the “money musk,” and the “Virginia reel,” “hoeing her down” (which means changing partners) in true pioneer style. I never missed a dance at this or any subsequent affair, and I was considered the gayest and the most tireless young person at our parties until I became a Methodist minister and dropped such worldly vanities. The first time I preached in my home region all my former partners came to hear me, and listened with wide, understand- ing, reminiscent smiles which made it very hard for me to keep soberly to my text.

In the near future I had reason to regret the ex- travagant expenditure of my first earnings. For my second year of teaching, in the same school, I was to receive five dollars a week and to pay my own board. I selected a place two miles and a half from the school-house, and was promptly asked by my host to pay my board in advance. This, he ex- plained, was due to no lack of faith in me; the money would enable him to go “outside” to work, leaving his family well supplied with provisions. I allowed him to go to the school committee and col- lect my board in advance, at the rate of three dol- lars a week for the season. When I presented myself at my new boarding-place, however, two days later, I found the house nailed up and deserted; the man and his family had departed with my money, and I was left, as my committeemen sympathetically remarked, “high and dry.” There were only two dollars a week coming to me after that, so I walked back and forth between my home and my school, almost four miles, twice a day; and during this en- forced exercise there was ample opportunity to re- flect on the fleeting joy of riches.

In the mean time war had been declared. When the news came that Fort Sumter had been fired on, and that Lincoln had called for troops, our men were threshing. There was only one threshing- machine in the region at that time, and it went from place to place, the farmers doing their thresh- ing whenever they could get the machine. I re- member seeing a man ride up on horseback, shout- ing out Lincoln’s demand for troops and explaining that a regiment was being formed at Big Rapids. Before he had finished speaking the men on the ma- chine had leaped to the ground and rushed off to enlist, my brother Jack, who had recently joined us, among them. In ten minutes not one man was left in the field. A few months later my brother Tom enlisted as a bugler–he was a mere boy at the time– and not long after that my father followed the example of his sons and served until the war was ended. He had entered on the twenty-ninth of August, 1862, as an army steward; he came back to us with the rank of lieutenant and assistant surgeon of field and staff.

Between those years I was the principal support of our family, and life became a strenuous and tragic affair. For months at a time we had no news from the front. The work in our community, if it was done at all, was done by despairing women whose hearts were with their men. When care had become our constant guest, Death entered our home as well. My sister Eleanor had married, and died in childbirth, leaving her baby to me; and the blackest hours of those black years were the hours that saw her pass- ing. I can see her still, lying in a stupor from which she roused herself at intervals to ask about her child. She insisted that our brother Tom should name the baby, but Tom was fighting for his country, unless he had already preceded Eleanor through the wide portal that was opening before her. I could only tell her that I had written to him; but before the assurance was an hour old she would climb up from the gulf of unconsciousness with infinite effort to ask if we had received his reply. At last, to calm her, I told her it had come, and that Tom had chosen for her little son the name of Arthur. She smiled at this and drew a deep breath; then, still smiling, she passed away. Her baby slipped into her vacant place and almost filled our heavy hearts, but only for a short time; for within a few months after his mother’s death his father married again and took him from me, and it seemed that with his going we had lost all that made life worth while.

The problem of living grew harder with every- day. We eked out our little income in every way we could, taking as boarders the workers in the log- ging-camps, making quilts, which we sold, and losing no chance to earn a penny in any legitimate manner. Again my mother did such outside sewing as she could secure, yet with every month of our effort the gulf between our income and our expenses grew wider, and the price of the bare necessities of exis- ence{sic} climbed up and up. The largest amount I could earn at teaching was six dollars a week, and our school year included only two terms of thir- teen weeks each. It was an incessant struggle to keep our land, to pay our taxes, and to live. Cal- ico was selling at fifty cents a yard. Coffee was one dollar a pound. There were no men left to grind our corn, to get in our crops, or to care for our live stock; and all around us we saw our struggle reflected in the lives of our neighbors.

At long intervals word came to us of battles in which my father’s regiment–the Tenth Michigan Cavalry Volunteers–or those of my brothers were engaged, and then longer intervals followed in which we heard no news. After Eleanor’s death my brother Tom was wounded, and for months we lived in terror of worse tidings, but he finally recovered. I was walking seven and eight miles a day, and doing extra work before and after school hours, and my health began to fail. Those were years I do not like to look back upon–years in which life had de- generated into a treadmill whose monotony was broken only by the grim messages from the front. My sister Mary married and went to Big Rapids to live. I had no time to dream my dream, but the star of my one purpose still glowed in my dark horizon. It seemed that nothing short of a miracle could lift my feet from their plodding way and set them on the wider path toward which my eyes were turned, but I never lost faith that in some manner the miracle would come to pass. As certainly as I have ever known anything, I KNEW that I was going to college!



The end of the Civil War brought freedom to me, too. When peace was declared my father and brothers returned to the claim in the wilderness which we women of the family had labored so des- perately to hold while they were gone. To us, as to others, the final years of the war had brought many changes. My sister Eleanor’s place was empty. Mary, as I have said, had married and gone to live in Big Rapids, and my mother and I were alone with my brother Harry, now a boy of fourteen. After the return of our men it was no longer necessary to de- vote every penny of my earnings to the maintenance of our home. For the first time I could begin to save a portion of my income toward the fulfilment of my college dream, but even yet there was a long, arid stretch ahead of me before the college doors came even distantly into sight.

The largest salary I could earn by teaching in our Northern woods was one hundred and fifty-six dollars a year, for two terms of thirteen weeks each; and from this, of course, I had to deduct the cost of my board and clothing–the sole expenditure I allowed myself. The dollars for an education accumulated very, very slowly, until at last, in desperation, weary of seeing the years of my youth rush past, bearing my hopes with them, I took a sudden and radical step. I gave up teaching, left our cabin in the woods, and went to Big Rapids to live with my sister Mary, who had married a successful man and who generously offered me a home. There, I had de- cided, I would learn a trade of some kind, of any kind; it did not greatly matter what it was. The sole essential was that it should be a money-making trade, offering wages which would make it possible to add more rapidly to my savings. In those days, almost fifty years ago, and in a small pioneer town, the fields open to women were few and unfruitful. The needle at once presented itself, but at first I turned with loathing from it. I would have pre- ferred the digging of ditches or the shoveling of coal; but the needle alone persistently pointed out my way, and I was finally forced to take it.

Fate, however, as if weary at last of seeing me between her paws, suddenly let me escape. Before I had been working a month at my uncongenial trade Big Rapids was favored by a visit from a Universalist woman minister, the Reverend Marianna Thompson, who came there to preach. Her ser- mon was delivered on Sunday morning, and I was, I think, almost the earliest arrival of the great con- gregation which filled the church. It was a wonder- ful moment when I saw my first woman minister enter her pulpit; and as I listened to her sermon, thrilled to the soul, all my early aspirations to be- come a minister myself stirred in me with cumulative force. After the services I hung for a time on the fringe of the group that surrounded her, and at last, when she was alone and about to leave, I found courage to introduce myself and pour forth the tale of my ambition. Her advice was as prompt as if she had studied my problem for years.

“My child,” she said, “give up your foolish idea of learning a trade, and go to school. You can’t do anything until you have an education. Get it, and get it NOW.”

Her suggestion was much to my liking, and I paid her the compliment of acting on it promptly, for the next morning I entered the Big Rapids High School, which was also a preparatory school for col- lege. There I would study, I determined, as long as my money held out, and with the optimism of youth I succeeded in confining my imagination to this side of that crisis. My home, thanks to Mary, was assured; the wardrobe I had brought from the woods covered me sufficiently; to one who had walked five and six miles a day for years, walking to school held no discomfort; and as for pleasure, I found it, like a heroine of fiction, in my studies. For the first time life was smiling at me, and with all my young heart I smiled back.

The preceptress of the high school was Lucy Foot, a college graduate and a remarkable woman. I had heard much of her sympathy and understand- ing; and on the evening following my first day in school I went to her and repeated the confidences I had reposed in the Reverend Marianna Thompson. My trust in her was justified. She took an immedi- ate interest in me, and proved it at once by putting me into the speaking and debating classes, where I was given every opportunity to hold forth to help- less classmates when the spirit of eloquence moved me.

As an aid to public speaking I was taught to “elo- cute,” and I remember in every mournful detail the occasion on which I gave my first recitation. We were having our monthly “public exhibition night,” and the audience included not only my class- mates, but their parents and friends as well. The selection I intended to recite was a poem entitled “No Sects in Heaven,” but when I faced my au- dience I was so appalled by its size and by the sud- den realization of my own temerity that I fainted during the delivery of the first verse. Sympathetic classmates carried me into an anteroom and revived me, after which they naturally assumed that the entertainment I furnished was over for the evening. I, however, felt that if I let that failure stand against me I could never afterward speak in public; and within ten minutes, notwithstanding the protests of my friends, I was back in the hall and beginning my recitation a second time. The audience gave me its eager attention. Possibly it hoped to see me topple off the platform again, but nothing of the sort occurred. I went through the recitation with self-possession and received some friendly applause at the end. Strangely enough, those first sensations of “stage fright” have been experienced, in a lesser de- gree, in connection with each of the thousands of public speeches I have made since that time. I have never again gone so far as to faint in the presence of an audience; but I have invariably walked out on the platform feeling the sinking sen- sation at the pit of the stomach, the weakness of the knees, that I felt in the hour of my debut. Now, however, the nervousness passes after a moment or two.

From that night Miss Foot lost no opportunity of putting me into the foreground of our school affairs. I took part in all our debates, recited yards of poe- try to any audience we could attract, and even shone mildly in our amateur theatricals. It was probably owing to all this activity that I attracted the in- terest of the presiding elder of our district–Dr. Peck, a man of progressive ideas. There was at that time a movement on foot to license women to preach in the Methodist Church, and Dr. Peck was ambitious to be the first presiding elder to have a woman ordained for the Methodist ministry. He had urged Miss Foot to be this pioneer, but her ambitions did not turn in that direction. Though she was a very devout Methodist, she had no wish to be the shepherd of a religious flock. She loved her school-work, and asked nothing better than to remain in it. Gently but persistently she directed the attention of Dr. Peck to me, and immediately things began to happen.

Without telling me to what it might lead, Miss Foot finally arranged a meeting at her home by in- viting Dr. Peck and me to dinner. Being uncon- scious of any significance in the occasion, I chatted light-heartedly about the large issues of life and probably settled most of them to my personal satis- faction. Dr. Peck drew me out and led me on, listened and smiled. When the evening was over and we rose to go, he turned to me with sudden seriousness:

“My quarterly meeting will be held at Ashton,” he remarked, casually. “I would like you to preach the quarterly sermon.”

For a moment the earth seemed to slip away from my feet. I stared at him in utter stupefaction. Then slowly I realized that, incredible as it seemed, the man was in earnest.

“Why,” I stammered, “_I_ can’t preach a ser- mon!”