A WOMAN'S LIFE-WORK:
LABORS AND EXPERIENCES
LAURA S. HAVILAND.
My two sons, and four daughters, and families;
also to the
Home and Foreign Missionary Society,
are these pages dedicated.
In presenting the following pages to the public, without the trace of an excellent scholar or eloquent orator, I fully realize my inability to compete with writers of the nineteenth century. With this incompetency in view, I have hesitated and delayed until three-score and thirteen years are closing over me. Yet as I am still spared to toil on a little longer in the great field so white to harvest, praying the Lord of the harvest to arm and send forth more laborers, because they are too few, I ask an indulgent public to allow my deep and abiding sympathies for the oppressed and sorrowing of every nation, class, or color, to plead my excuse for sending forth simple, unvarnished facts and experiences, hoping they may increase an aspiration for the active doing, instead of saying what ought to be done, with excusing self for want of ability, when it is to be found in Him who is saying, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is perfect in weakness."
LAURA S. HAVILAND.
Parentage—Early Impressions—Childhood Skepticism—Religious Experience—The Great Leveler—Marriage—Removal to Michigan—The Semi-Christian—The Despairing Backslider Restored—Proscription— Withdrawal from the Society of Friends—Founded "Raisin Institute,"
Dream—Bereavements—Early Widowhood—Trials—Dreamy—Victory by Faith—A Fugitive Slave Escapes—Marriage of two Older Children,
Baptist Deacon Convicted of the Sin of Slavery by his Slave—Willis Hamilton's Escape with his Slave-wife, Elsie, to Canada—Removal to Michigan—Whereabouts Discovered by Elsie's Master—Deeply Laid Scheme to Capture the Hamilton Family—Threats of Violence—Second Attempt and Defeat—Death of the two Slave-holders,
AN OHIO SCHOOL-TEACHER.
A Traveling Agent—Slave Claimant—John White—Threats—Visit to Jane White—Interview with William Allen—Escape of Slaves—In Suspense— Death of First-born—Comforting Dream—John White a Prisoner—His Release and Subsequent History,
THE UNDERGROUND RAILWAY.
Two Slave Families Escape—Story of George and James—A Mother and Daughter Leave a Boat bound for the Lower Market—Sarah and two Young Men join our Party—Seven are Conducted to Canada—Raisin Institute Suspended for an Academic Year—Return to Cincinnati—Maria—Threats of her Master—The Escape of two Young Men
FUGITIVE SLAVES ASSISTED.
Clara and Three Children Rescued—Jack Betrayed and Returned to Bondage—A Little Nurse Girl taken from her Owners in Cincinnati—How Zack was Saved—Calvin Fairbanks Visited in Prison—Fugitive Slaves Forwarded
CHRISTIAN AND EDUCATIONAL WORK.
Visiting and Nursing the Sick—Nine Slaves Arrive from Kentucky— Richard Dillingham Dies in Tennessee Penitentiary—Seven Slaves Conducted to Freedom—Teach Six Months in Toledo
FUGITIVES IN CANADA.
Mission Among the Fugitives in Canada—Religious Revival— Organization of a Christian Union Church—Efforts of Missourians to Retake the Fugitive Slave, William Anderson, from Canada—The Kentucky Slave-owner Whipped in the Old Barracks in Windsor in his Effort to Decoy Three Young Men back to Slavery—Reopening School
RESCUE OF SLAVES.
Escape of a Slave Family of Six—A Slave Man Travels for a White Man and Succeeds—Trip to Arkansas—The Story of George Wilson—The Slave- daughter under Mortgage Released by her Mother—Mintie Berry Purchases her Husband—John Brown Hanged—The War Opens and takes Seventeen Students of Raisin Institute—First Trip to the Front with Supplies
Cairo—Incidents Preparatory to Removing Freedmen's Camp to Island No. 10—Death of a Child—Disbursing Supplies and other Mission Work on the Island—Story of Uncle Stephen—Hospital Visiting in Memphis, Tennessee—Surgeon Powers Reported—Forty Slaves come into Camp Shiloh—Seven Slaves come from a Plantation seven miles below Memphis —First Enlistment of Colored Soldiers—Mission Work in Columbus, Kentucky—Young Colored Man Shot by his Young Master—Turning of Tables—Return Home—Our Principal, E. A. Haight, Enlisted
Organized Freedmen's Relief Association—Solicit Supplies—Academic Year Opened for 1863-4—Sister Backus and Self leave for Fields of Suffering—Incidents on the Way—Mission Work in Natchez, Mississippi —Four Hundred Slaves Hanged and otherwise Tortured—Visit to the Calaboose—Mission Work in Baton Rouge—Arrival at New Orleans—Sketch of Persecutions
MISSION WORK IN NEW ORLEANS.
Mission Work in New Orleans—Soldiers and Prisoners Visited on Ship Island—Petition of Seventy Soldier Prisoners in behalf of Three Thousand of their Fellow Prisoners—Appeal in behalf of Ship Island and Tortugas Prisoners—Mission Work at Plaquemine—Natchez—Capture of a Rebel steamer—Arrival at Home—Release of the Three Thousand Banished Union Soldiers
FREEDMEN'S AID COMMISSION.
Refugees in Kansas—Children of Want—Afflicted Family—Scenes of Distress—Agnes Everett—Quantrell's Raid—Poor White Trash— Hospitals—Supplies Distributed—Refugee Buildings—Orphan Children— Haviland Home—Thomas Dean a Prisoner—Petition for Pardon—Pardon Granted—A Southern Clergyman—Mission School—At Harper's Ferry and Washington.
HOME MISSION WORK.
Mission Work and Incidents in Washington—Murders—Alexandria— Richmond, Virginia—Williamsburg—Fort Magruder—Yorktown— Suicide—Gloucester Court-house—Fortress Monroe—Norfolk— Return to Washington—White Woman Whipped.
EXPERIENCES AMONG FREEDMEN.
A Soldier Prisoner—Interesting Statistics—Schools—Plantations— Incidents—Return to Washington—Return Home with Fifteen Orphans and Fifty Laborers—Change in Orphan Asylum—Mission Work in Covington and Newport, Kentucky—Mission Work in Memphis, Tennessee— Uncle Philip a Remarkable Man—Return Home.
STATE PUBLIC SCHOOL.
Board of Directors Arrange for Closing the Home—Discouragements— Relief Comes by Sleigh-loads—Encouragements—Petitions to the State Legislature to make the Home a State Institution—Petitions Granted, and the Orphan's Home becomes the "State Public School," located at Coldwater—Work in State Public School.
CHRISTIAN LABOR AND RESULTS.
Work for the Asylum—Again in Washington—Mission Work—Trial of Henry Wirtz—Inspecting Soup-houses—Incidents connected with Kendal Green Camp—Peremptory Order of J. R. Shipherd Closing Asylum— Children Scattered—Returned Home with Authority from American Missionary Association to Reopen Asylum—Dangerous Fall—Restored to Asylum Work—Overtaken with Convulsions—Answer to Prayer in being Restored.
PRESENT CONDITION OF THE FREEDMEN.
Kansas Freedmen's Relief Association—Testimony of Perry Bradley— Incidents—Persecutions—Prof. Greener—Colored Republicans—Further Testimony—Negro Woman Killed—Letter from the South—Atrocities— Refugees in Kansas—Bull-dosing—Kansas Overfull—Protection Needed— Michael Walsh—Silver Linings.
PROSPECTS OF THE FREEDMEN.
Supplies Furnished—Relief Association at Work—Northern Outrages— Prudence Crandall—Colored Schools—Freedmen's Aid Schools—Industrial and Agricultural Institute.
STEEL PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR THE SLAVEHOLDERS' THREATS. SLAVE IRONS. CLARK UNIVERSITY FOR FREEDMEN (CHRISMAN HALL). MEHARRY MEDICAL COLLEGE.
At the earnest solicitation of many dear friends I have consented to leave on record some of the incidents that have fallen under my personal observation during three-score and ten years.
My father, Daniel Smith, was a native of Eastern New York, and for many years an approved minister in the Society of Friends. He was a man of ability and influence, of clear perceptions, and strong reasoning powers.
My mother, Sene Blancher, was from Vermont; was of a gentler turn, and of a quiet spirit, benevolent and kind to all, and much beloved by all who knew her, and was for many years an elder in the same Society.
It is due to my parents to say, if I have been instrumental, through the grace of God, to bless his poor and lowly of earth, by adapting means to ends in relieving suffering humanity, it is largely owing to their influence.
Soon after their marriage, they removed to Kitley Township, county of Leeds, Canada West (now known as Ontario), where I was born, December 20, 1808. I well remember the perplexities and doubts that troubled my young mind in trying to find the whys and wherefores of existing facts; yet I was naturally a happy and playful child. Some remarks made by my parents over a portion of Scripture father was reading, in which was the sentence, "and they are no more twain, but one flesh"— "that is a close relationship; twain is two, no more two but one flesh"—struck me with wonder and amazement. "Yes," replied mother, "that is a oneness that is not to be separated, a near relation between husband and wife; 'no more twain, but one flesh.' 'What God has joined together let not man put asunder.'" It seemed as if every word fastened upon my mind a feeling of awe at the new thought, that father and mother were one person. "Then they think just alike, and know all about the other, if true; father and mother believe it, and they found it in the Bible, and that," I thought, "must be true. Now for the test—If father and mother are one, they must know each other's thoughts and whereabouts." After father had been out a few minutes I asked mother where he was. "Not far off; may be he's gone to the barn." But he was not there. At my report she said, "Perhaps he's gone to David Coleman's, or some of the neighbors." This settled the matter in my mind, that they were not one. But I gave the same test to try father, which also proved a failure. But not quite satisfied without further investigation, I asked mother for permission to go to David Coleman's to play an hour with his little girls. Little did she know that the object of her little five-year-old skeptic was to present the test to their father and mother, to see whether they were one, and found the same result each time.
This settled the question in my mind that one thing in the Bible was untrue. Father and mother were mistaken in that part of the Bible that said husband and wife were no more two, but one. For a long time after this, whenever the Bible was referred to as authority, I would think, "It may be true, and may not, because I tried one thing it said that was not true."
Another mystery was hard for me to solve. In asking mother where we should go if we should jump off the edge of the world, she replied, "There is no jumping off place, because our world is round, like a ball, and takes one day and night to roll around, and that makes day and night." After the little child of six years had studied over this mysterious problem a short time, she returned with the query, "Why don't we drop off while underside? and why don't the water spill out off Bates's creek and our well?" She replied, "Water, as well as every thing else, is always kept in place by a great law, called gravitation, that our Heavenly Father made when he made the world," and she said I would understand more about it when older. But this did not satisfy me; I wanted to know all about it then. As soon as father came in queries were repeated, but he closed as mother did, that I must wait until I was older, which made me almost impatient to be old enough to know how these things could be.
Another subject occupied my childish mind a long time, and was investigated to the extent of the miniature ability I possessed. And that was the interesting fact that I discovered one bright evening while looking at the stars, that our house was just in the middle of the world; and when we went to grandfather's (a distance of seven miles), as soon as it was night, I was out in the yard measuring the distance by stars, but to my surprise, grandfather's house was just in the middle. For I tried it all around the house, and went to the barn with my uncles, and could discover no variation. Consequently I must have been mistaken at home. But on our return I could not find by the stars but that we were just in the center of creation. Whenever I went with my parents to a neighbor's for an evening's visit, my first and foremost thought was to see how far to one side they were. But I always found myself just in the center of this great world; just as grown-up children are prone to think their own nation is ahead in arts and sciences, of all other nations—their own State ahead of all other States in moral and intellectual improvements—their own town or city, like Boston, the "hub of the universe." In fact, we are about the center; our pets more knowing, and our children smarter, than can be found elsewhere. But as the study of astronomy gives ability to look upon the vast universe of thousands of worlds much larger than our own, revolving in their orbits, it develops our intellectual faculties, and enables us to view the concave appearance of the ethereal blue from a standpoint widely differing from the occupancy of the center. And when supreme self is melted away by faith in the blood of the covenant, our spiritual vision becomes clearer and our miniature minds are expanding, and we learn to make due allowances for the acts and opinions of others, that we have called peculiar, because they do not quite accord with our own usages and tastes.
In 1815 my father removed with his family to Cambria, Niagara County, Western New York, then a wilderness. Soon after we were settled in our new home, we lost my baby brother Joseph, which made a deep impression upon my young heart, and gave me great uneasiness in regard to my own future happiness, should I be taken away. I found great relief, one day, while listening to a conversation between father and grandfather, as to what age children were responsible to their Creator. Father gave his opinion that ten years, in the generality of children, is the age that God would call them to an account for sin. Grandfather said that was about the age he thought children were accountable, and all children that die previous to that age are happily saved in heaven. "Yes," said father; "where there is no law there is no transgression." At this great relief to my troubled heart, I ran out to play with my brother Harvey, to tell him how long we would be safe, if we should die, for father and grandfather said children that died before they were ten years old would go to heaven, and I would be safe almost two years, and he would be safe a good while longer (as he was two years and a half younger than myself). "Oh, yes," said he; "and Ira will be safe a great many years, 'cause he's little, if he should die as little Josie did." This earliest conviction of sin vanished like the morning cloud. This idea was so deeply embedded in my young mind, that whenever I heard of a child's death, my first inquiry was for its age.
If under ten, I was at ease over its safety; but if over ten years, I was distressed unless I could hear of some words from the one taken away, that would indicate a preparation for the change of worlds. The vividness of those early childhood impressions are frequent reminders of the importance of giving clear explanations to children, in regard to important religious truths, as their young hearts are much more impressible than is generally conceded.
EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF SLAVERY AND RELIGION.
During the first six years in our new home, there was no school within three miles of us, and all the privilege we enjoyed of this kind was a spelling lesson given daily to three of us, the two little girls of our nearest neighbor and myself. Our mothers pronounced the words for us alternately, at their house and ours. In this way we spelled our book through a number of times. This privilege, with four months in school previous to leaving Canada, proved a great blessing. As I possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I borrowed all the easy readers I could find in the neighborhood. I was especially interested in memoirs of children and youth, which increased my frequent desire to become a Christian. I wished to read every book that came within my reach. I read a few of father's books, designed for more mature minds. I became deeply interested in John Woolman's history of the slave- trade, of the capture and cruel middle passage of negroes, and of the thousands who died on their voyage and were thrown into the sea to be devoured by sharks, that followed the slave-ship day after day. The pictures of these crowded slave-ships, with the cruelties of the slave system after they were brought to our country, often affected me to tears; and I often read until the midnight hour, and could not rest until I had read it twice through. My sympathies became too deeply enlisted for the poor negroes who were thus enslaved for time to efface.
The third or fourth I had ever seen of that race was an old man called Uncle Jeff. He seemed to serve any one who called upon him for chores, in our little village of Lockport, that grew up as by magic upon the Erie Canal. Uncle Jeff was frequently employed by merchants to cry off their stale articles on the street. At one time the old man, whose head was almost as white as wool, was crying, "Gentlemen and ladies' black silk stockin's of all colors for sale," holding them up to view as he passed along the street, followed by a group of boys crying out, "Nigger, nigger," and throwing grass and clay at him. At length he turned to these half-grown boys, looking very sad, as he said, "Boys, I am just as God made me, an' so is a toad." At this the boys slunk away; and I felt very indignant in seeing the men who were standing near only laugh, instead of sharply reproving those ill-behaved children.
Another colored man, named Ben, came to our town with a family who opened an inn. He was employed mostly in the kitchen, and while Ben was asleep on the kitchen floor, some rude boys put a quantity of powder in the back of his pants, and placing a slow match to it left the room, but watched the process of their diabolical sport through a window, and soon saw their victim blown up, it was said, nearly to the ceiling. His hips and body were so badly burned that he was never able to sit or stoop after this wicked act. He always had to walk with a cane, and whenever too weary to stand, was compelled to lie down, as his right hip and lower limb were stiffened. Yet little notice was taken of this reckless act, but to feed and poorly clothe this life-long cripple, as he went from house to house, because he was of that crushed and neglected race.
RELIGIOUS IMPRESSIONS AND EXPERIENCE.
In the Autumn of my thirteenth year, with our parents' permission, brother Harvey and I attended a little prayer-meeting at our Uncle Ira Smith's house, near by. Here was singing, experiences given, with prayer and exhortations, in which young people, as well as those more advanced in years, took part. All this was new to me, having never attended any other meeting than of Friends, usually called Quakers. My father being a minister and mother an elder in that denomination, they were very conscientious in training their children in all the usages, as well as principles, of that sect. At this Methodist prayer-meeting a young girl, but little older than myself, related her experience, and prayed so earnestly for her young associates, that it took a deep hold on my mind; and on my way home, on that beautiful evening, I resolved to seek the Lord until I could know for myself that my sins were forgiven. Oh, how I wished I was a Christian, as was Hannah Bosworth. She was so young, and yet she told us how earnestly she sought the Lord, and found Jesus so precious in the forgiveness of her sins. It was said in that meeting that God was no respecter of persons, and that I had read in the Bible; and then Jesus had said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not;" "and now, this very night, I will begin to seek the Lord, and I never will give up trying, if it takes as long as I live, until I receive an evidence that I am the Lord's child. I want to realize that peace and joy those men and women expressed in that meeting." As all had retired, I placed a candle in my brother's hand, and hurried him to bed, that I might know positively that no human ear could listen to my first attempt to address my Heavenly Father.
I knelt for the first time in my life, in the rear of our corn crib, but no words could I find for prayer, and a feeling of fear came over me, and I arose to my feet. I looked all around me, but no one was in sight; naught but trees and shrubs of the garden below, and the ethereal blue, bedecked with the beautiful moon and sparkling stars, above. Is it possible that He who created this beautiful world can notice a little girl like me? And the thought occurred that I had better wait until I was older. But the remarks to which I had just listened came vividly before me, and I renewed my resolve to pray to Him who had said, "Suffer little children to come unto me," and again knelt for prayer; but that feeling of fear increased, until it seemed as if some one was about to place a hand upon my shoulder, and I again found myself on my feet. But as no one was in sight, I queried whether this was not the enemy of my soul, to keep me from prayer, and fell upon my knees a third time, determined to remain in the position of prayer until my first petition to my Heavenly Father was presented. And the prayer of the publican was repeated over and over again, "God be merciful to me a sinner." These words above all others seemed just for me. I was a sinner, and mercy was what I wanted. I returned to the house with a still more fixed resolve to continue asking, with a firmer purpose never to give over until the evidence of pardoning love was mine. As I retired, I knelt by my bedside, and repeated the same prayer, with a few additional words, imploring the aid of the Holy Spirit to teach me the way of life, and penitential tears began to flow. Before I slept my pillow was wet with tears, and was turned for a dry place. As I was reading the Bible through by course, it became more of a companion than ever before.
The next prayer-meeting was attended, and as they knelt during the season of prayer I felt an impression to kneel with them. But the cross was very great and I did not yield. I thought if I did so it would be reported to my parents, and they would probably forbid my coming to these little meetings, which I so highly prized. But this was unprofitable reasoning, increasing the burden instead of bringing the relief sought. I wept on my way home, and in my evening supplication renewed my promise to be more faithful, let others do or say what they would, if the like impression was ever again experienced. With permission I attended the next prayer-meeting at my uncle's, and, as if to test my faithfulness, two young women of my intimate associates came in, and sat one on each side of me. At the first season of prayer, as I did not have that impression, I felt quite at ease, and thankful to my Father in heaven for excusing me. But the next united supplication, I felt that I must unite with them in kneeling, and while one tried to pull me up by the arm, with saying "I'd be a little dunce if I was in thy place," the other sister pinched the other arm, "Now, Laura Smith, be a little Methodist, will thee? I'd be ashamed if I was thee; every body will make fun of thee." But I kept my position and made no reply, but secretly prayed for strength in my great weakness. But my fears were fully realized. It was at once reported that Laura Smith would be a Methodist if allowed by her parents. And for a long time no permission was given to attend those little prayer-meetings, my parents assigning this reason: "This Methodist excitement is unprofitable, especially for children. They have an overheated zeal, that is not according to knowledge, and we do not think it best for thee to attend; we want our children at a suitable age to be actuated by settled principle, not mere excitement." This reasoning by my dear father strongly tempted me to give up my resolutions altogether. Until I was eighteen I felt no liberty whatever in unburdening my troubled heart to my dear parents. They were unacquainted with the longings of my poor soul. Like the lone sparrow upon the house-top, I mourned many weeks, sought the solitary place for reading my Bible, and prayer; often watered my pillow with tears, and longed for the day, and during the day longed for the night, in which I might pour out my sorrows to my Heavenly Father out of sight of human eye. I was conscious that my sadness was troubling my dear parents. Oh! how I prayed for light to dispel this darkness and doubt—sometimes ready to conclude that, as it was my duty to obey my parents, the Lord would excuse me in waiting until I was of age. Yet in reading the many precious promises of the Lord Jesus, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" "Seek, and ye shall find," I found fresh courage. But why do I not find this rest for this weary heart? Why do I not find the way to seek for the hidden treasure I so much longed for? These queries were continually revolving in my mind, without a satisfactory solution. Sometimes I almost concluded that God was too good to send the beings he created for his own glory to perdition to all eternity, and all would ultimately be saved; at other times, I could not reconcile universal salvation with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, and was ready to conclude that salvation was for the elected few, and there were those who could not be saved, and I was among the lost. In one of these seasons, of almost despair, I ventured to attend a Methodist meeting held in a private house, in company with my uncle. Being at his house, I did not go home for permission. The minister was a plainly dressed man; the opening hymn was new to me, but every line seemed especially for me:
"God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform"
It was read and sung in an impressive manner. The fourth stanza seemed specially suited to my case:
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence He bides a smiling face."
This gave new light, new courage, and fresh hope sprang up, like streaks of the morning sunbeam in the Eastern sky, preluding the full blaze of the orb of day. The prayer and the text upon which he based his remarks were all flowing in the same channel. The exhortation was to the discouraged and despairing soul to remember that the darkest time of night was just before the break of day, a remark I had never before heard. I returned home stronger than ever before, and ventured to tell mother of the good sermon preached by Isaac Puffer. But she was again troubled, and reminded me of those we read of in Scripture, who would compass sea and land to gain one proselyte, that when gained, "were twofold more the child of hell than themselves." She also said that my uncles would be well pleased to have me go with them. I assured her that neither of my four Methodist uncles had ever intimated a word to me on the subject. "But," said she, "actions sometimes speak louder than words." This was not designed to discourage me, but darker than ever was the cloud of unbelief that filled my heart. Was Isaac Puffer a child of hell? then there is nothing in religion, with any body. It was all a farce—all mere "overheated zeal, not according to knowledge." All mere "religious excitement." I well-nigh distrusted all religion, and father's and mother's religion was the same as others, of no value. I had groped my way in midnight darkness, trying to find the true way, when there was none. In this despairing state, while on my way to my grandfather's on an errand, I halted to listen to the mournful notes of the forest birds at my left; I looked upon the field of waving grain at my right, and burst into a flood of tears as I exclaimed, Oh, what a sin- stricken world is this! Every head of wheat is bowed in mourning with poor me! Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there to heal this sin-stricken world, this sin-sick soul of mine? Like a flash the answer came, Yes, Jesus is that balm; he shed his own precious blood for me on Calvary, that I might live now, and for evermore! Yes, the healing balm is applied, and I am saved! Oh, what a fountain is opened for cleansing! My peace was like an overflowing river. It seemed as if I could almost live without breathing—my tears were brushed away by the breath of heaven. I stood a monument of amazing mercy, praising God with every breath. All nature praising, instead of mourning as it did a few moments before. O, how changed the scene! The birds now sent forth their notes of praise! The leaves of the forest clapped their hands for joy, and the branches waved with praise! Every head of wheat was now bowed in sweet submission. O, what a leveling of all nations of the earth was this baptism. I had been prejudiced against the Irish people, as I never had seen one of that nation until they came to our town, Lockport (as it was then called), by hundreds, to work on the Erie canal, that ran through a part of father's farm; and as they were frequently passing our house drunk, I was afraid of them. But now every soul seemed so precious, I thought I could toil all my life long if I could become instrumental in bringing one soul to the Savior who died to save sinners, though they might be the greatest drunkards in that or any other nation. Jesus shed his blood to redeem all who would by faith accept salvation so freely offered. The African and Indian races were alike objects of redeeming love. That was a fathomless fountain. After spending a little time in this reverie, I went from this hallowed place to accomplish my errand, and met a neighbor, who looked at me earnestly and said, "Laura, what's the matter? are you sick?" "O, no; I'm not sick," and hurried on. And the first greeting I received from grandfather was the same query, who received the same reply. I left for home as soon as the errand was accomplished, but as I was passing out of the door I met my Uncle Americus with the same query, who also received the same answer. Oh, how I wished father and mother could understand me, and the overwhelming sorrow I had waded through in search of this satisfying portion.
If any little differences arose among my younger brothers and sister, all melted away with a word from me. This unalloyed peace remained with me a number of days, and when the time arrived for the appointed prayer-meeting at Uncle Ira's, I had a great desire to attend it, and I hoped, by asking for permission to go, mother might ask for my reason. In this I was disappointed with a denial. However, I continued to pray to Him who owned me as his child, to prepare the way in his own time. My anxiety increased to do something for my dear Savior, who indeed was chief among ten thousand. I could drop a few words here and there, but with great timidity, but nothing of my experience in this new life; that was hid with Christ in God. I was anxious to attend that little prayer-meeting, where my mind first was arrested on the subject of my soul's best interests. I often dreamed of earnestly praying or exhorting in that prayer-meeting, and would awaken myself in the exercise. I had a longing desire to invite to this gospel feast others, especially my young associates.
As Isaac Puffer had an appointed meeting at a brother Crane's, half a mile distant, on Sabbath at four o'clock P. M., I asked father for permission to attend, hoping thereby to find liberty to open my pent- up feelings to my dear parents, who so little understood me. But my hopes were vain. Father said, in reply, "Laura, I want thee never to ask me to go to a Methodist meeting again."
O, what a blow was this for my trembling frame! The door closed more tightly than ever before. Not one word could I utter. I left the room, to find my old resort in the grove, to weep bitter tears of disappointment. But widely different was this burden, now resting upon my heart, from that mountain weight of sin and transgression borne a few weeks previously. I read a few days before of the baptism of the Lord Jesus, our perfect pattern. But he came to fulfill. Then I read of Philip and the apostles who baptized after his ascension; and to my young and limited understanding I accepted the water baptism as an outward acknowledgment of the saving baptism of the Holy Ghost. I fully believed I had received the spiritual baptism, but I greatly desired to follow the Lord Jesus wherever he might lead. I read "Barclay's Apology" on that subject; yet my childhood mind dwelt much on what I read in these Bible examples. But to no human being did I present these impressions. And I also found the example of singing, that I believed was vocal, as I read, "And they sang a hymn and went out." And it seemed right, for the present, for me to unite with the Methodists, were it not for the opposition of my parents, that I felt sure would not exist could they but understand me. It also seemed clearly impressed upon my mind that, if my mind should become clear to unite with that branch of the Christian Church, it would be for eighteen or twenty years at longest. But why not always be my place, if it is my duty now? was a query that I much dwelt upon. I earnestly prayed that God would send Caleb McComber to us, an intimate friend of my parents, and a noted minister among Friends.
Within a week my heart leaped for joy at the announcement by my father that Caleb McComber was in the neighborhood.
"What has brought him here at this time? His brother (Dr. Smith) is all right; he has made no trouble of late in drinking," responded mother.
"I do not know, I am sure, what has induced him to come here at this time, as there is no meeting of business on hand, for him to take this journey of nearly a hundred miles to attend," rejoined father.
Ah, the Lord has heard and answered prayer! He has heard the cry of this poor child "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." I could, with David, praise him with a full heart, and sought a lone place to return thanksgiving and praise to him who had so signally answered my petition, and was confident that the same All- seeing Eye and Directing Hand would prepare the way for the desired interview.
The following day being the Sabbath, we listened to a sermon by Caleb McComber that was thought very singular at that day for a Friend. His text was 1 Corinthians xii, 6 and 7; "And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." He referred to the diversities of denominations, that were as families composing the one true Church. And in this diversity of operations there were those whose impressions of duty were clearly given in regard to complying with outward ordinances, water baptism and the Lord's-supper; and if these impressions were not complied with, a loss would be sustained in spiritual life. And he exhorted to faithfulness in obeying our Lord and Master. This discourse appeared as directly addressed to this trembling child as did that of Isaac Puffer.
At the close of the meeting, said one of the elders to another, "Did thou ever hear just such a sermon from a Friend? I thought it sounded like a Presbyterian discourse." Said another: "What ails Caleb to-day. I thought he preached like a Methodist." While these remarks were made I felt confident we had listened to a message from the Great Head of the true Church by his servant.
As he dined with our nearest neighbor, in company with his half- brother, Dr. Isaac Smith, and wife, we all walked in company nearly to our home, and the two young women invited me to call. I accepted, with the excuse, for a drink of water (hoping for an opportunity of telling that good man that I desired to have a talk with him, and for that purpose would call after dinner).
But while waiting for the glass of water, said Caleb McComber, "Child, how old art thou?"
The reply was, "Thirteen."
"I want thee to tell thy father and mother to come I here at three o'clock this afternoon, and I want thee to come with them."
I gladly performed my errand, and at three P. M. we were there. After a little space of silence he addressed the heads of families present, then directed his remarks to us (the two young women and myself), at first rather general. Then he said: "I want to say to one of you that thou hast passed through an experience far beyond thy years; thou hast known what it was to ask for deliverance from sorrow and darkness, and thou hast also known what it was to receive the answer of peace from thy Heavenly Father that the world knows not of. Hold fast that thou hast received, that no man take thy crown. Be faithful in the little, and more will be given. Bear in mind that little things are little things, but to be faithful in little things is something great."
With exhortations to faithfulness and encouragement, this was to me an undoubted evidence that He whose ear is ever open to the cry of his children had most signally answered prayer in this clear and definite searching of my heart. Very near and dear was that faithful nursing- father brought to this little child's heart. With all freedom, I could have related to him the obstacles that appeared in the way of duty with me. But at that hour my feelings were too deep for utterance. Instead of remaining longer, as was my impression, I returned home with my parents, with the view of returning for a more private interview when I could better command my feelings.
When about to return, I began to reason over the propriety of going back. Certainly that good man had said all I could ask, both in his sermon and in the religious opportunity in the family. And now there might be danger of going too far. And there are those two young women, who made sport of me in that prayer-meeting, where I knelt while others led in prayer. Now they would make more sport than ever, as there are so many there I could not speak to him without their knowing it, and I shrank from going. I feared John Bunyan's "lions in the way;" but if I had been faithful I would have found them chained, as were his. For it was hard for me to give up the more private interview, as I was very anxious to secure an interview between that minister and my dear parents, as I was sure he understood me much better than they. But I neglected my duty in this. O, how weak was human nature!
I had previously thought I would never again offend my loving Savior, but would follow him through evil as well as good report. O, how precious his cleansing blood appeared to me! It seemed as if the drops that fell in his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane possessed power to cleanse a world of sin and pollution. Yet I was not faithful in the little. Although my parents never after forbade my going to a Methodist or any other meeting, yet I saw it grieved them as I frequently attended those prayer-meetings, but never to the neglect of our own, and was often impressed to speak or offer prayer, but did not yield. I found, to my sorrow, that these omissions produced poverty of soul, and often cried, "O, my leanness! my leanness!" In secret many tears were shed over the loss of that joy that had been my experience.
Little by little the candle of the Lord that shone so brightly became dim, and at the close of one year I sought the society of the gay and mirthful, more effectually to drown my bitter regrets for having turned aside from the path so clearly marked out for me. I fully realized that the dark cloud overshadowing me was the result of disobedience.
In company with a few of my companions, I attended the funeral of an infant in our town. The service was conducted by a Baptist minister, who had just come into the place. There was nothing in his remarks that attracted my special attention. After the meeting closed, and people were leaving, the minister passed on a little distance, and turned back, as if something had been forgotten. Pressing through the crowd, he ascended the porch, and came directly to me, looking earnestly at me, as he reached his hand for mine, saying:
"I felt as if I could not leave this place without asking this young woman a few questions. Have you ever experienced religion?"
This came upon me like a clap of thunder, he, being an entire stranger, asking a question I never had occasion to answer. I hesitated, as I had never intimated a word of my experience to any human being. My first thought was to deny, but like a flash came the words of Jesus, "He that denieth me before men, him will I also deny before my Father and his holy angels. No; I can not—I will not, though I die. With this thought I frankly replied:
"I think I have."
"Do you now enjoy it?"
"I do not"
This relieved me from the dilemma of being a disgrace to the cause of Christ, as a number of my gay companions were with me, also those Christian young people to whom I had listened with interest in prayer and exhortations. But searching remarks from him followed. Still holding my hand, he said:
"You have known of earnest pleading for the pardon of sin; and you have known what it was to rejoice, as your prayers were answered. You have known your duty, and did it not, and have brought yourself into darkness. Do not occupy this dangerous ground longer. Return to jour first love. Do your first work over; and He who is abundant in mercy will again accept you. May God grant his blessing upon you! Good bye."
And he left me bathed in tears.
These earnest words reopened the many wounds that many neglected duties had made. I could not doubt but Elder Winchell was as truly sent from God to deliver this message as was Caleb McComber, for whom I prayed in my distress. But now the Holy Spirit had sought me out, unasked for, to warn me of the danger in the effort to occupy neutral ground, as I had concluded to do until I was of age. I saw more clearly that I was responsible to my Savior, who had done great things for me, whereof I did rejoice with exceeding great joy.
Again my Bible became my daily companion, with prayer for my Savior's directing hand. But my parents were again troubled, as those first impressions returned in full force. I intimated my condition of mind to my parents, but, with my natural timidity, not as freely as I ought. They still attributed these impressions to the influence of my Methodist uncles, and considered their duty was to place these restraints upon their child. Father and mother had requested to become members of the Friends' Society while three of their children were under seven years, and requested for us, making us equivalent to birthright members, according to the usage of our Society. From the time of my Christian experience, I was never in sympathy with the system of birthright membership. I believed it to be a source of weakness, instead of spiritual life in this or any other Christian body, and that all members of the Church militant should become united by a heart-felt experience. I fully realized the loss I was warned to shun by yielding to the earnest desires of my dear parents, who were conscientious in their restraint. They said, in after years, that they were laboring under a mistake, as was their timid child, in not more faithfully following those early impressions of duty. I was not faithful in the little, consequently more was withheld. My great mistake was the lack of faith, in not fully returning to my Father's house, where the little wandering prodigal would have been received, and the new best robe again granted, and the rough way would have been made smooth, and the impassable mountain that seemed to rise so high would have melted away before the life-giving beams of the Sun of righteousness. But I yielded to my timidity, and the conclusion was reached to live a quiet Christian life, with my Bible and secret communing with my dear Lord and Savior in secret prayer, as I could not give up a strictly religious life. But dimly did die lamp of life burn, compared with its former brightness.
The greatest source of retrograding in the divine life is unfaithfulness in the performance of known duty. Many of the clouds that overshadow us we bring by withholding more than is meet, and it tends to poverty of soul. The talent committed to our charge is to be occupied, and is always doubled when occupied by its possessor; but, as I saw many, in whom I had confidence as living a quiet Christian life—and this was more congenial to my natural feeling—I reached the conclusion to make my Bible and secret prayer my companions as long as I lived, and a Christian life in the Society of my parents' choice.
At the early age of sixteen I became acquainted with Charles Haviland, Jr., a young man who was acquainted with the Savior's pardoning love, whose father and mother were both acknowledged ministers in the Society of Friends. From him I accepted a proposition of marriage, and on the 3d of 11th month, 1825, our marriage was consummated at Friends' Meeting, in Lockport, Niagara County, New York, according to the usage of Friends. The following Spring we commenced housekeeping in our own home, in Boyalton Township, nine miles east of Lockport, and my dear parents and family removed to Michigan Territory. Although parting from them was severe, yet with my young and devoted husband I was contented and happy as was possible to be, with so many reminders of the cloud that rested over me in my spiritual horizon, with all my constant striving for its removal. Phoebe Field, an eminent minister among Friends, appointed a meeting in our neighborhood, in which she dwelt upon the necessity of receiving daily nourishment from the true and living Vine to become fruit-bearing branches, and remarked that there were those whose religious experience seemed divergent from the manner in which they were brought up, and through unfaithfulness had well-nigh lost sight of the highway of holiness, in the mistaken view of neutrality, when there was not an inch of such ground all the way from years of responsibility to the grave. We are gathering with Christ or scattering abroad. This earnest discourse so clearly defined my own condition, that I renewed my many broken vows, and was almost persuaded to yield the unsubdued will, and hope was indulged that the Father of unbounded mercy, in his illimitable love, would again reveal himself in breaking the bread of life.
September, 1829, we removed to Michigan Territory, and settled in Raisin, Lenawee County, within three miles of my parents, brothers, and sister, with our two little sons, to share with others the privations of a new country, as well as advantages of cheap land. As there were a number of our Society in this vicinity, a Friends' Meeting was organized, in which we all had an interest, and endeavored to maintain it in the usual order of our Society. But no true peace was mine, I was still a wanderer from the true Church militant. I once knew the good Shepherd's voice, but was now too far away to recognize it. In these sad remembrances I sought a subterfuge behind which to hide in a false rest. Eagerly I read a book on that subject, and drank its plausible arguments without stint. It was a panacea, a temporary opiate to quiet the vacillating condition of a restless mind; yet my Bible was not laid aside, and many portions of Scripture were vigilantly brought to prove this specious error to be a radical truth; and two years in this dead faith I lived a dying life. But I found my investigations were not for the whole truth, but was dwelling upon the love and benevolence of God to the exclusion of justice as an attribute of the Lord, as well as mercy, and decided to accept the whole truth, and abide its searchings; and sought for it in the written Word diligently, as for hidden treasures In reading Paul's epistle to the Hebrews, chapter vi, I found, "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Oh, how these words thrilled my whole being! Again and again they were reviewed. No Hope! no hope for a lost soul like mine! were like burning coals upon my poor heart. I was once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift; but how dark have been these years. Oh! how soon did the lamp of life become dim through disobedience. I can never again drink of that fountain of love that once filled my soul to overflowing. But I had fallen away, and could never again be renewed, having crucified to myself the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, by not honoring such a glorious Redeemer, as was my own personal Savior. O, what delusion to have indulged in the vain hope that I was serving him in a silent, quiet life, and then cover over all this unrest with the idea that God was too abundant in mercy to cast off any for whom he died to save. Day and night this terrible thought followed me for months, "I am a lost soul! irretrievably lost. No hope! Eternally lost!"
As I had never intimated to my dear companion the vacillating condition of mind, and the effort in finding rest, neither should he be troubled with the knowledge that his wife was a lost soul; neither should our little ones on arriving to years of religious understanding ever know that their mother was a lost soul. The midnight hour often witnessed many bitter tears of regret over the awful thought. So near perfect despair, I looked upon beast, bird, or even the most loathsome reptile, and grudged their happiness of living and dying without responsibility. These sad forebodings seriously affected my health, and my anxious husband and parents feared some serious disease was preying upon me. I sometimes thought the sooner I sank into the grave the better, as my doom must be met. O, that I could but claim the privilege of the prodigal, in returning to the Father's house, and of being accepted, though a great way off. O that I never had been born! O that I had followed that loving Savior's voice, so often clearly heard. It is now too late, too late! O that I had returned to my first love when within my reach. But I rejected the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and justly am I now rejected. In this distressing despair I opened a little book—the Christian experience of one whose exercises of the mind traced through my own experience, even to my present despairing state, as nearly as I could have related it in my own words. Through the instrumentality of a similar experience in another, who was restored and was long a useful Christian, I was encouraged to return, and found the healing balm. Never can I forget the thrill of joy that ran through my whole being as I laid aside that little book. I saw that I had misapprehended the meaning of the passages of Scripture that seemed to describe my condition, and that served to confirm my despair. I saw that those referred to, had so far fallen, and so often rejected the Holy Spirit's teachings, as not to realize their condition, and therefore lost sight of the necessity of a Redeemer. This was not, nor ever had been, my condition. Then I read Esau's seeking the blessing, "carefully with tears," that I had also long dwelt upon as my condition. Here, too, was a vivid thought, that he sought the lost blessing to subserve self, instead of glorifying God. Here the bright star of hope pierced through the cloud. Is it possible that I can go with confidence to that Father who has so long borne with this unbelieving, doubting, rebellious child? Why has he not cut off this cumberer of the ground long ago? His long-suffering and unbounded mercy, O how free! how unfathomable! With many tears of gratitude, mingled with new hope, new aspirations, the bright beam of day radiating from every promise, I could now fully accept the Lord Jesus as my mediator and restorer. By faith, I could fully trust the poor prodigal in his hand. O, what losses we sustain through unbelief. I have felt most easy in leaving my experience on record, as a warning to young Christians to shun the depth of despair into which I tank through unfaithfulness and unbelief. "By grace ye are saved, through faith." Increasing faith, strength, and peace, with restored health, was my rich experience.
Our family, with others, united with Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, who organized in our neighborhood the first anti-slavery society in our State. This was unsatisfactory to the ruling portion of our Society, as it had cleared its skirts many years ago by emancipating all slaves within its pale. Elizabeth M. Chandler was of the Hicksite division of Friends, and as Presbyterians and other religious denominations came into our anti-slavery society, meetings were frequently opened with prayer, and that was thought to be "letting down the principles of ancient Friends." And the subject of slavery was considered too exciting for Friends to engage in, by many Friends of that day. I began to query whether it would not be a relief to me, and also to my friends, to become disconnected with that body, as I saw clearly my path of duty would not be in accordance with the generality of our Society. After making it a subject of earnest prayer, I became settled as to the course to pursue, and concluded to unburden my heavy heart to my parents as I had done, to my beloved companion, which I did after our Sabbath meeting. We mingled our tears together. Father referred, to the same proscribing spirit they exercised over me in my early experience, that was now exercised over them. Father and mother wished me to defer sending in my request to become disconnected with our Society, as they, too, might think best to pursue the same course. This was a severe trial for each of us. Father had been an acknowledged minister of the Gospel nearly thirty years, and mother occupied the station of an elder nearly the same time. We, too, had become active members in this branch of the Christian Church. But the conclusion was fully reached within two months after our little conference over this important step, and the following letter of resignation was sent to our business meeting:
"We, the undersigned, do say there is a diversity of sentiment existing in the Society on the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, the resurrection of the dead, and day of judgment, justification by faith, the effect of Adam's fall upon his posterity, and the abolition of slavery, which has caused a disunity amongst us; and there being no hope of a reconciliation by investigation, ministers being told by ruling members that there is to be no other test of the soundness of their ministry but something in their own breasts, thus virtually denying the Holy Scriptures to be the test of doctrine;—we, therefore, do wish quietly to withdraw from the Monthly Meeting, and thus resign our right of membership with the Society of Friends."
This resignation was signed by Daniel Smith, Sene Smith, Charles Haviland, Jun., Laura S. Haviland, Ezekiel Webb, Sala Smith, and fourteen others. A few returned, but the greater united with other Christian bodies, A few months after this there was a division in the Methodist Episcopal Church, on account of slavery. They were called Wesleyan Methodists. As this branch of our Father's family was the nearest our own views, we were soon united with them. Our testifications from Friends were said by other denominations to he sufficient to be accepted as Church letters, as our offenses named therein were "non-attendance of meetings for discipline, and attending meetings not in accordance with the order of our Society." This was the import of nearly or quite all who were disowned of our company. At that day, all were dealt with as offenders, and were regularly disowned, as our discipline at that time made no provisions for withdrawals. About a year after this, the yearly meeting of Friends in Indiana divided on the subject of slavery. No slavery existed in the society; yet its discussion was deemed improper, and created disunity sufficient for severing that body for a number of years, when they were invited to return, without the necessity of acknowledgments.
About this time we opened a manual labor school on our premises, designed for indigent children. With that object in view, we took nine children from our county house (Lenawee), and I taught them, with our four children of school age, four hours each day. The balance of the day was divided for work and play. The girls I taught house-work, sewing, and knitting. The boys were taken into the farm work by my husband and brother Harvey Smith. As our county superintendents of the poor gave us no aid, we found our means insufficient to continue our work on this plane. After one year of this work we secured homes for the nine children, except two invalids, who were returned to the county house. We then placed our school on a higher plane, on the Oberlin plan of opening the school for all of good moral character, regardless of sex or color. At that day (1837) there was not a school in our young State that would open its door to a colored person. And as my brother, Harvey Smith, had attended the Oberlin Institute, he united with us in this enterprise, and sold his new farm of one hundred and sixty acres, and expended what he had in erecting temporary buildings to accommodate about fifty students. The class of students was mostly of those designing to teach. Our principals were from Oberlin during the first twelve years of the "Raisin Institute." The first three years it was conducted by P. P. Roots and his wife, Anna B., who were excellent Christians. When they left, to open a similar institution at West Point, Lee County, Iowa, John Patchin became their successor, and conducted the school with equal ability three years. After uniting in marriage with a teacher in Oberlin, he was assisted by his wife. These thorough teachers earned for our institute the name of being one of the best in our State. Students were sought for teachers in our own and adjoining counties. Although our abolition principles were very unpopular at that day, as we generally had from one to three colored students in our school, yet the thorough discipline given in the studies drew the young people of the best intellect from the surrounding country. There were those who came from fifty to one hundred miles to prepare for teaching or for a collegiate course. Hundreds of young people who enjoyed the privileges our school afforded came to us with their prejudices against colored people and our position in regard to them; but they soon melted away, and went they knew not where. It was frequently said if we would give up the vexed abolition question, and let the negroes alone, Raisin Institute would become the most popular school in the State.
As a sample of many others, I will notice a young lady from Jackson County, who was brought to us by her father to become qualified for teaching. But her sensibilities were so shocked at meeting in her grammar-class a colored man that she returned to her room weeping over her disgrace, and resolved to write her father to come and take her home immediately. But the other young women persuaded her to attend the recitations assigned her, when to her surprise the same young colored man was in the advanced arithmetic class. And while impatiently waiting for her father to come and take her from this "nigger school" (as she and many others called it), a letter came from him advising her to remain, as he had expended so much in fitting her for two or three terms there; although if he had known that a negro would have been allowed to attend her class he would not have taken her there. She soon became reconciled, and before a half-term closed, when she threatened to leave at all events (as she read her father's letter), she came to that colored man to assist her in intricate parsing lessons. Before the close of the first term she as frequently applied to James Martin, her colored classmate, for assistance in solving difficult problems in mathematics as to any of the others. She was one of our best students; but this deep-rooted prejudice went, she knew not how, as with very many others.
As to religious privileges in our school, our prayer-meetings were held bi-weekly, Sabbath and Wednesday evenings, and ministers of various denominations frequently appointed meetings in our school on the Sabbath. While the Rev. John Patchin had charge of the institution he generally preached Sabbath evening, instead of the prayer-meeting.
In the third year of our school our two older sons made a profession of religion, with a number of other students, which was cause of great rejoicing. Surely, we were blessed above measure. Within two years after we were blessed with another shower of divine favor in the conversion of our two older daughters. Not unfrequently were these four children's voices uplifted in vocal supplication at the family altar. We were surely repaid more than a hundred-fold for all our toiling, and heavy burdens borne in founding Raisin Institute. As the fleeing fugitive ever found a resting-place and cheer in our home, we richly earned the cognomen of "nigger den;" yet Heaven smiled and blessed our work. We had many sympathizing friends in the Society from which we were disconnected as members, even with those who had deemed us too radical. There was unity with us in our work that brought us together in after years.
Our last chapter left us rejoicing in success, but how soon did deepest sorrow take its place. A dream seemed sent to prepare me for the severe ordeal so near at hand. I thought I was standing in our front yard looking eastward and an angel sitting on a bay horse appeared in the place of the sun's rising, coming to earth on some mission, gliding over the tree tops toward our house, where were father, mother, my sister Phoebe, and my husband, who held in his arms our little babe. I started to inform them that an angel was coming to earth on some errand, when his advance was so rapid I was likely to lose sight of him, and halted to watch his flight. He seemed to alight in our yard near me, and smiled as he said, "Follow thou me." "I will," I responded, as soon as I bid Charles and our folks farewell. The beautiful personage assumed a firmer tone, as he said, "Let the dead bury their dead, but follow thou me." At this command I responded, "I will," and followed him to the graveyard, where he left me. And I awoke with that angelic figure, with that sweet, yet solemn, voice ringing in my ear.
I related the dream, with its clear impression in my mind, to my husband, who replied, "That is a significant dream, and I think indicates death. I think we shall be called to part with our infant daughter Lavina; and it is quite evident that consumption is fast hastening our sister Phoebe to her long home." She was my own sister, who married my husband's brother, Daniel Haviland. He continued his remarks, by making suggestions as to the course we would feel it best to pursue about a burying-place for our little daughter, in case of a refusal of Friends to allow a plain marble slab, with her name and date of birth and death in their burying-ground; and suggested the corner of our orchard as a pleasant place, to which I assented. After spending half an hour in this conversation, he went out to his work. I prayed for my Savior's hand to lead me in whatever trial it was necessary for me to pass through.
Little did I think of the heavier stroke which was first to fall. A few days after this dream I was charging myself with being visionary; yet a few of these most impressive dreams, I believe, have been designed for our instruction. My husband was seized with a heavy cold, accompanied by a severe cough, that was increasing; yet he was able to be about the house and barn, giving directions, as to outdoor work, but nothing appeared alarming, when I was aroused by a startling dream of a coffin being brought into our front room by four men, of whom I inquired who was dead. The answer was, "A connection of yours." "I want to see him, for that coffin appears to be for a small man," was my reply. "He is a small man," was the rejoinder, "and you shall see him." Upon this, the closed coffin was brought to me, and I arose and followed the pall-bearers to the graveyard. As the people were standing around the open grave to see the coffin lowered, I saw a little child standing on the very edge of the grave opposite to me. I exclaimed, "Do take that child away, for it will cave into the grave after its father!" At that instant the light sand under its feet gave way, and, as it struck the coffin, the loud, hollow sound awoke me, trembling as with a fit of ague, and with the strong impression that I was soon to part with my beloved companion and infant daughter, although both were sweetly sleeping by my side. With this thrill through my whole being, I resorted to prayer for their restoration to health, if consistent with the divine will.
Although my husband had enjoyed good health a number of years, and had not for seven years previously called upon a physician, yet I now resolved to persuade him to call for one at once. As the clock struck four, and as I was leaving the bed to light the fire, my husband awoke, and said he had enjoyed the most refreshing sleep he had had since taking this cold, and felt so well he thought he soon should be rid of it. Whenever I spoke the chattering of my teeth revealed my agitation, and he expressed fear lest I should be ill from the hard chill. But little did he understand the upheavings of my troubled heart. Soon a severe paroxysm of coughing gave the opportunity to suggest the idea of sending for a physician. At length he consented, as he said, to please me, as he thought this cough would soon give way. But while I went to our boy's study room to awaken our son Harvey to go for the doctor, a severe pain in the region of the lungs was cutting every breath.
The doctor was soon with us, but he thought there were no discouraging symptoms apparent. I seat for Father Haviland, who also thought, as did the doctor, that I was unreasonably troubled; but during the following night he expressed doubts of recovery himself, and requested his will to be written, which was done. As his fever increased, great effort was made to control our feelings in his presence. At one time, as he awoke, he discovered fast-falling tears, and said: "Do not weep for me, my dear wife; remember those beautiful lines:
'God moves in mysterious way, His wonders to perform.'
We are not to
'Judge the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face'
Our separation will be short at longest. Then we shall be reunited where there is no sorrow—no more dying—in that glorious home. Two days ago there seemed a little cloud; but prayer was answered, and the cloud was all removed. The overshadowing now is that of peace and love." He called for the children. Looking upon us all, he said, "O, how dear you all are to me!" Calling each by name, he gave advice and exhortations as none but a departing husband and father could leave with his family—a legacy more precious than all the golden treasures of earth. Then he added: "I want you, my dear children, to promise me that you will meet your father in heaven. Will you meet me there?" Taking our little babe in his hands, he kissed it and said, "Dear little Lavina will soon be with her father," and closed with the prayer: "O Lord, I commit my dear wife and children into thy bands. Thou art the widow's God, and a loving Father to fatherless children."
The words of the dying Christian, beginning
"What's that steals, that steals upon my frame? Is it death-is it death?"
were sung by his bedside, and as the last line,
"All is well-all is well,"
was reached, he raised his hands, and repeated, "O, hallelujah to the Lamb!" Then, turning to me, be added, "My dear, I want these lines sung at my funeral." His last words were, "Come, Lord Jesus, thy servant is ready," and with a sweet smile his happy spirit was wafted home, March 13, 1845.
His disease was inflammatory erysipelas, at that time entirely new, and not understood by our physicians. It passed through our portion of the State, a sweeping epidemic, in the Spring of 1845, and proved fatal in most cases. My dear mother, who was with us during this week of sorrow, was taken home with the same disease, and in one week her happy spirit took its flight to God who gave it. She, too, left us hi the triumphs of faith. She had not left us an hour before brother Daniel came for me to go to his dying wife, as she was calling for mother, and he did not dare inform her that mother was dangerously ill. I took my little emaciated babe upon a pillow, and went to my dear sister, who was so soon to leave us. Her first query was, "How is our dear mother?"
"Mother is a happy spirit in heaven," was the reply, "and sister Phoebe will soon meet her there."
Her reply was: "It is well; but I had hoped to meet her once more in this world—yet we'll soon meet, to part no more forever. She soon followed brother Charles; but I trust we will all meet one day, an unbroken band. O how I wish I could see brother Ira!" an absent brother for whom she had often expressed great anxiety in regard to his spiritual and everlasting welfare.
The same burden of soul for the same brother had also rested on the heart of our sainted mother, whose funeral took place two days later. Within one week sister Phoebe died in peace. Here was the third wave of sorrow rolling over us.
From this house of mourning I was removed to my home with the same disease that had taken my husband and mother; and a number of our neighbors Were going the same way. My father and father-in-law thought me dangerously ill-chills and fever, with stricture of the lungs, that made respiration painful. They were very anxious to have the best help that could be obtained at once; "for," said father, "what is done for thee must be done quickly" I told him that every one who had been taken with this disease had died, as physicians of each school did not understand it. But I would return to my home, as they suggested; but felt most easy to trust myself with water treatment, and would like to take a shower-bath every two hours, and try that treatment twelve hours. This was done, and every bath brought relief to respiration, and my lungs became entirely free, though my neck and throat were still badly swollen and inflamed. Cold applications, frequently applied, soon overcame that difficulty, and in three days the disease seemed entirely conquered.
A relapse from taking cold, however, threw me into a stupor; but I was aroused by an expression of a neighbor, as he said: "She is not conscious, and never will be, unless something is done; and if she were a sister of mine a doctor would be here as soon as I could bring him."
"I will see if I can get an expression from her," said my brother Harvey.
"If we can only learn mother's wish it shall be granted," said my anxious son Harvey.
As I heard their remarks a strong impression came over me that if I were placed in charge of a physician I should not live two days, but if I could tell them to shower my head and neck often I would recover. As I looked upon my anxious fatherless children around my bed I made an effort to speak, but my parched and swollen tongue could not for some time utter a word. The answer to earnest prayer came from Him who numbers even the very hairs of our head. As my brother took my hand, saying, "If you wish a physician press my hand, or if you wish water treatment move your head on the pillow," I could not move my head in the least, and my only hope was to say no. When asked if I wished a doctor sent for, I prayed that my tongue might utter words of direction for the sake of my fatherless children, and said, "No."
"Do you want cold compresses, or shall we gently shower over a thin cloth on the swollen and inflamed portion of your neck and head?"
"Cold or tepid?"
"If you mean well-water, how much?"
Said my son Harvey, "It shall be done, if I sit by her every minute to-night"
I felt a positive impression that my Heavenly Father had answered my prayer directly, and granted an assurance, in the token of recovery, and I praised the Lord for his "loving kindness, O, how free." With this assurance I fell back in a stupor, except a dreamy consciousness of their showering, which was faithfully done, with the assistance of my brother. At twelve o'clock I awoke, and inquired where all the people were that filled the room a little while before, and was surprised to learn the hour of night. They said, as my breathing became more natural, the neighbors had left and the children retired.
I could speak easily, and the purple appearance of the skin had disappeared. In the morning the pain was entirely gone, but the soreness was still severe. But with frequent changes of compresses during the day, the swelling very much subsided. I wondered why father did not come, as he had not been to see me since sister Phoebe's funeral. My brother informed me that he had a chill during the funeral, and had not been able to leave. As he had a few fits of the ague some weeks previously, I supposed it was a return of that disease. The day following brother Sala came, and in reply to my inquiry after my father, said he was no better, but sent me a request to be very careful of myself, and hoped I would soon recover, and left in seeming haste to see brother Patchin. But I sent for him to come and tell me more about father. He soon came with brother Patchin and brother Dolbeare. He then told me that father had the same disease that had taken my husband and our mother, and he also said that it was father's request that for the sake of my large family of children, who were recently bereft of their father, that I would give up the idea of coming to see him.
But I could not be satisfied without going to see my dear father once more, and yet, the pleading of my dear children was almost too much to forego. "We have just lost our father; now what should we do if our mother should be taken from us?" "But if I am rolled in quilts and laid on a bed in the wagon, I am confident I can be taken to father's house safely"—distant nearly three miles. In this way I was taken to my dying father, though unable to walk across the room without assistance. As soon as he learned of my coming, he directed them to lay me on the bed until I was rested. In a few minutes he sent them to bring me to him. As my son and brother led me to his bedside, he placed the cold purple fingers over my pulse, and said, "I am so glad to see thee, but I feared it would be too much for thee to bear. There is a little feverish excitement about thee yet. I am more concerned for thee than for the rest of my children, on account of thy large family, that will so much need their mother's counsel and care. I want to say to thee, Look up to the widow's God for guidance, for wisdom from him is so much needed, with the heavy responsibilities now resting upon thee. Do not allow these bereavements to crush thy feeble frame. I have feared they had already seriously affected thy health. I know thy anxiety to bring up thy children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And he will grant ability to lead them to the Lamb of God, who shed his precious blood for us all." With other advice, he became weary, and said, "Now take her back to the other room, and lay her on the bed until rested." And during the few hours he lived he frequently sent for me to talk a few minutes at a time, watching my pulse each time, until within a few moments of the last farewell to earth.
There were six of his children present, to whom he gave his farewell blessing, leaving a bright evidence that all was well with him. "In me there is no merit. I am fully trusting in the merit of my crucified Savior, who shed his own precious blood for my redemption. I can say with Job, 'I know that my Redeemer lives,' and because he lives I shall live also." His last words, almost with his last breath, were, "Here she comes," and left this tabernacle for the building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Father and mother were lovely in their lives, and in their death were only two weeks divided. It seemed that my last earthly prop was gone. Three weeks later my youngest child followed her father and grandparents to the spirit home. Within six weeks, five of my nearest and dearest ones were taken from me.
There was hardly a family within two miles of us but was bereft of one or two loved ones by this epidemic. Five widows (myself included) at one time were standing around the death-bed of a near neighbor. Our female principal at that time, Emily Galpin, was taken with this epidemic, and died after three days' illness. A few hours previous to her death she requested a season of prayer, in which her husband, Rev. Charles Galpin, led. Her prospect was bright, and, clearly foreseeing the ransomed throng she was soon to join, said she, "Oh! how vain, how transitory, does all earthly treasure appear at this hour—a mere bubble upon the water." About a half an hour before she left us, she said, "Hark! don't you hear that beautiful music? Oh! what music; I never heard anything like it! Don't you hear it?" "No, we do not hear it." Being in an ecstasy, she exclaimed, "Look at that heavenly choir. Don't you see them? Don't you hear that sweetest of all music?" "We do not see them nor hear them." "There—they have left." A few minutes before her happy spirit took its flight, she again looked up very earnestly. "There they are again. Oh, how sweet! how beautiful!" And taking leave of her husband and two children, sister and brother-in- law, and of all present, committing her dear ones to the keeping of the Lord Jesus, with the request that the two lines,
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee,"
be placed upon the marble slab to mark her resting place, she fell asleep in Jesus.
Such fatality never before, nor since, visited Raisin as is 1845. In those days of sorrow commingled with the rest of faith, that brought peace and joy even in affliction, my only reliance was the widow's God, for wisdom I so much needed in the double responsibilities now resting upon me.
After the death of my sweet babe, twenty-two months of age, and my restoration to health, I looked over amounts of indebtedness with dates when due. I made an estimate of costs of harvesting and marketing the twenty acres of wheat and other grains, and what must be retained for family use; and found I would be able to reach only about half the amount due the following Autumn. I called on all our creditors within reach to inform them of probabilities, unless I could find sale for a portion of the stock. But none of the creditors wanted any of it. Said one, to whom the largest amount was due, "You do not think of taking your husband's business and carrying it forward, do you?" I replied, "I thought of trying to do the best I could with it." With a look of surprise, he said firmly, "You are very much mistaken, Mrs. Haviland; you can not do any such thing; you had much better appoint some man in whom you have confidence to transact your business for you." I informed him I had seven minor children left me, and I found seven hundred dollars of indebtedness, and it would cost money to hire an agent Then, I ought to know just where I stand, to enable me to look closely to expenditures. "Well, you can try it, but you'll find your mistake before six months have passed, and you'll see you had better have taken my advice." I knew I was not accustomed to business of this sort. All the other creditors whom I had seen spoke very kindly. Although these words were not unkindly spoken, yet they were saddening to my already sad heart.
I was too timid to go to the probate judge with any sort of ease for instruction. In looking around me for some female friend to accompany me, I could find but very few who were not undergoing like trials with myself, consequently I must submit to these new experiences, as whatever was right for me to do was proper. I depended upon an all wise guiding Hand, who is ever ready to reach it forth to the trusting child. I wrote to one, a few miles distant, to whom was due eighty dollars the ensuing Fall, that forty dollars would be all I should be able to meet. He called in a few days, and introduced himself saying that he had received a statement from me that I could only pay him the coming Fall fifty per cent on the eighty-dollar note he held against my husband. Said he, in a hurried manner, "I called to let you know that I must have it all when it is due, as I have a payment to make on my farm at that time, and I have depended on that" I told him I would gladly pay him every penny of it the coming Fall, but it would be impossible, as there were other demands equally pressing. "Very well, that is all I have to say, madam; I can not accept any such arrangement; I shall put in a way to bring it. Good-by."
He left in haste for me to ponder all these things over, in doubts as to my ability to meet all these rough places of outside life. Perhaps I had better leave this business with some man to deal with men. But prayer to the widow's God and comforting promises were my companions. Here was my only refuge and shelter in these storms. As I retired with a burdened heart, that I was endeavoring to cast at the feet of my Savior, the widow's burden-bearer, I had a sweet dream of an angelic host, that filled my room with a halo of glory, settled on every face, and those nearest my bed appeared in the form of persons dressed in beautiful attire; others were sweet faces that looked upon me with smiles of peace. As one took my hand, a familiar feeling sprang up, that gave me confidence to ask for the name. "My name is Supporter." And looking at the one standing near, "And what is his name?" "That is a woman, and her name is Influencer-of-hearts." Pointing to another still more glorious in appearance, "And who is that one?" "That is Searcher-of-hearts." "Then you all bear the name of your missions to earth, do you?" "We do," replied Supporter. As I looked over this host that filled my room I burst into a flood of tears for joy. I exclaimed, "Oh! what missions are yours! so many wayward hearts to influence, so much of sin and wickedness that reigns in this world to search out." At this said Searcher of hearts, "Support her, for she needs it" "I do," and he reached for my other hand, and as both of my hands were held by Supporter, I realized a wave of strength to pass over me, filling my soul. I awoke in an ecstacy. Yea, I will cast my care on Jesus and not forget to pray. Calm and sweet was this confidence in being cared for, and supported by an almighty arm.
A few days after I saw the exacting man coming through my gate, which, for a moment, caused a dread; but the second thought was, all, all is with my Savior. I met him with the usual greeting, and said, "You have called to see about that claim you have against me." "Yes, I have called to inform you that I shall not want any thing from you next Fall, and perhaps shall not want more than half next year, as I have received one hundred dollars that I had supposed was lost, and as I was coming within two miles I thought I would call and let you know of my conclusion." While I thanked him for the favor, secret praise ascended to Him who melts away the mountain that seems impassable, making a way where there seemed no way.
This may seem a small matter, but for me at that time it was a reason for rejoicing at this unexpected turn of affairs. It was but one of many similar cases, and none can more fully realize the blessing of these reliefs than the widow of nearly two-score years, who never previous to widowhood knew the burden of outside work in providing for a large family, which was now added to continued care of the Raisin Institute. Many night plans, for day execution, were made. I soon found sale for forty acres of the one hundred and sixty, which relieved me of the most pressing demands.
At times responsibilities were so great, and burdens so crushing, that I was almost ready to falter. My greatest anxiety was to guide my dear children aright. The four older ones had resolved to follow the dear Redeemer, but the slippery paths of youth were theirs to walk in. The consideration of these multiform cares at one time seemed of crushing weight. I questioned whether the burden I had so often left at the foot of the cross I had not taken up again, and whether I had as fully consecrated self, with my dear children, to the Lord as he required. I was endeavoring fully to yield all into my Redeemer's hands for safe-keeping. This was my constant prayer, yet this heavy burden during a few days seemed unfitting me for the every-day duties devolving upon me. In family devotion I opened to the fifty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, where I found precious promises that I accepted for my own, and the heavy burden for my children was uplifted. Never did I experience greater liberty in prayer, or exercise a stronger faith. Surely the silver lining to this cloud appears. "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord" were precious words. I was afflicted and tossed with tempest, but a sweet promise followed. All the way through that chapter the Comforter appeared with rich promises. With these before me I could freely leave all my burden with the Lord. I saw by the eye of faith all my seven children made acquainted with their Creator in the days of their youth. Although I never ceased asking, yet there has seemed an accompanying assurance. When from ten to sixteen years of age, my seven children yielded by living experience to the Savior's loving invitation, "Come unto me," that hour and day was victorious through faith. That weight of burden never again returned! The entire yielding all into the care and keeping power of Him who doeth all things well, at that hour was complete. I could say, "He leadeth me," without a, shadow of doubt.
As fugitive-slaves were still making their resting-place with us, I hired one of them, named George Taylor, a few months through hay- making and harvest. He had made his escape from a Southern master who was about to sell him farther south. Once before he had made an unsuccessful attempt at freedom, but was captured and placed in irons, until they made deep sores around his ankles. As he appeared very submissive, the sorest ankle was relieved. Being so badly crippled, he was thought safe. But supplying himself with asafetida, which he occasionally rubbed over the soles of his shoes, to elude the scent of bloodhounds, he again followed the north star, and finally reached our home. His ankles were still unhealed. He had succeeded in breaking the iron with a stone, during the first and second days of his hiding in the woods. He was an honest Christian man of the Baptist persuasion.