[Frontispiece: Pardee Butler]
WITH REMINISCENCES, BY HIS DAUGHTER,
MRS. ROSETTA B. HASTINGS
AND ADDITIONAL CHAPTERS
ELD. JOHN BOGGS AND ELD. J. B. MCCLEERY.
STANDARD PUBLISHING COMPANY
I have not attempted to write a complete biography of my father, but merely to supplement his "Recollections" with a few of my own reminiscences. He was a man who said little in his family about his early years, or about any of the occurrences of his eventful life. Nor did he ever keep any journal, or any account of his meetings, or of the number that he baptized. He seldom reported his meetings to the newspapers. I think it was only during the few years that he was employed by missionary societies, that he ever made reports of what he accomplished. He had even destroyed the most of his old letters. And so, for nearly all information outside of my own recollections, I have been indebted to the kindness of relatives and friends.
The later chapters have been written by men who knew my father intimately, and men whose reputations are such as to give weight to their testimony.
To all of these friends I now offer my thanks for their kind assistance.
And to the public I offer this book, not for its literary merit, but as the tribute of a daughter to a loved father, whose earnest devotion to duty was worthy of imitation.
MRS. ROSETTA B. HASTINGS.
Farmington, Kansas, April 23,1889.
In this country inherited fortunes, or ancestral honors, have little effect on a man's reputation; but inherited disposition and early surroundings have much effect on his character.
My father's ancestors were from New England. His father, Phineas Butler, came from Saybrook, Connecticut, where the Congregational Churches framed the Saybrook platform. His mother's people, the Pardees, came from Norfork, Connecticut. The Pardees were said to have been descendants of the French Huguenots. Ebenezer Pardee emigrated to Marcellus, now known as Skaneateles, Onondaga Co., New York. There he died in 1811, leaving his wife Ann Pardee, (known for many years as grandmother Pardee) a widow, with nine sons and two daughters. The eldest daughter, Sarah Pardee, was there married in 1813, to Phineas Butler; and there my father, who was the second of seven children, was born, March 9, 1816.
In the autumn of 1818, Phineas Butler, of whom I shall hereafter speak as grandfather Butler, went to Wadsworth, Medina Co., Ohio. There a settlement had been begun three years before in the heavy timber, and there were only a few small clearings here and there in the woods.
My grandmother came on with her brother the following spring. She had three small children, but they made the journey in a sled, in bad weather, cutting their own roads, and camping in the woods at night. Grandmother Pardee came on later. She was a woman of great energy, and brought up her sons so well that they all became leading men in the communities in which they lived. Grandmother Butler was also a capable, fearless woman, and so calm and firm that it was said no vexation was ever known to ruffle her temper.
Their cabins were built of logs, with hewed puncheon floors and doors; and on the roof, in the place of nailed shingles, were split shakes, fastened on with poles and wooden pins. But grandfather had brought a few nails (made by a blacksmith) from New York, and used them in his house. When a neighbor died they hewed out puncheons to make a coffin, and finding only eighteen nails in the neighborhood, grandfather, by torchlight, pulled fourteen more out of his house to finish the coffin.
Their lives were full of hardship and privation. Grandfather was a famous hunter, and his well aimed rifle sometimes furnished game that kept the neighborhood from starvation. He was dependent on bartering furs at some distant trading post, for his supplies of salt, needles, ammunition and other necessary articles that could not be made at home.
Often, after a hard day's work, he hunted half of the night to obtain coonskins and other furs. Father said that one night grandfather and Orin Loomis were out hunting coons with the dogs, having taken their axes to chop down coon trees, but no guns, when they found a bear, on a small island, in the middle of a swamp. But I find his bear story so well told in the "Wadsworth Memorial" that I will quote from that:
"In the fall of 1823, as Butler and Loomis were returning after midnight from one of their hunts, and had arrived within a mile or two of home it was noticed that the dogs were missing. Presently a noise was heard, far back in the rear.
"'Hark! What was that?' said Loomis. They listened awhile, and agreed it was dogs, sure.
"'Orr, let's go back,' said Butler.
"'No, it is too late,' answered Loomis.
"'But,' said Butler, 'I'll warrant the dogs are after a bear; don't you hear old Beaver? It sounds to me like the bark of old Beaver when he is after a bear.'
"Butler was bound to go back, and so they started. The scene of the disturbance was finally reached, after traveling two or three miles. The dogs had found a bear; but it was in the middle of Long Swamp, and the alders were so thick that there was scarcely room for man, dog or bear to get through. This did not deter Phin. Butler, however. They got near enough to find that the bear was stationed on a spot a little drier than the main swamp, surrounded by alder bushes, and that she was determined not to leave it. The dogs would bay up close, when the old bear would run out after them. They would retreat, and then she would run back to her nest again.
"'We can't kill her to-night,' said Loomis, 'we will have to go home and come down again in the morning.'
"'No,' replied Butler, 'I am afraid she will get away. We can kill her to-night, I guess. You can go and hiss on the dogs on one side, and I will come up on the other; and when she runs out after them, I'll cut her back-bone off with the ax.'
"They concluded to try this plan, and came very near succeeding. As the old bear rushed past, Butler put the whole bit of the ax into her back, but failed to cut the back-bone by an inch or two. Enraged and desperate, she sprang upon the dogs, who, emboldened by the presence of their masters, came too close. With one of her enormous paws she came down on old Beaver, making a large wound in his side, which nearly killed him. He was hardly able to crawl out of the swamp.
"The fight was then abandoned until morning, as without Beaver to lead the dogs it was useless to proceed. It was difficult to get the old dog home, but he finally got well. Early in the morning the hunters were on the ground. This time they had their guns with them, but found the old bear was gone. On examining her nest of the night before, her unusual ferocity was explained. She had a litter of cubs, which, however, she had succeeded in removing, and must have carried them off in her mouth. In a short time the dogs had tracked her out. She was found a half mile lower down the swamp, where she had a new nest. Butler's rifle soon dispatched her; but her cubs, four in number, and not more than three or four weeks old, were taken alive, and kept for pets."
Father said that he could remember when they brought the bears home, growling, snarling—the crossest little things he ever saw.
Strange as it may seem, my father did not inherit grandfather's love for hunting. I never saw him shoot a gun, and he has never owned one within my recollection.
Orin Loomis was often heard to say that Phin. Butler was the most courageous man he ever knew. He was quick-tempered, but warm-hearted, and full of fun, and as honest and sincere as he was bold and fearless. One time he was traveling, and stopped at a tavern. The strangers present were discussing the statement that every man has his price, and each man was telling what was the least price for which he would tell a lie. Finally one man said that he would tell a lie for five dollars. Grandfather's impetuous nature could stand it no longer, and he burst out scornfully: "Tell a lie! Tell a lie for five dollars! Sell your manhood! Sell your soul for five dollars! You must rate yourself very cheap!" And then, they said, he fairly preached them a sermon on the nobility of perfect truthfulness, and the littleness and meanness of lying and deceitfulness.
My grandmother was also very conscientious, which was illustrated by the fact that on her death-bed, after giving some good advice to her daughters, she charged them to carry home a cup of coffee that she had borrowed.
An old Wadsworth friend, writing to us since father's death, says of him: "From a boy Pardee was remarkable for his uprightness, and bold and strict honesty, and it was a maxim among the boys to say, 'As honest as Pard, Butler.' He and his father before him were specimens of puritanical honesty and courage, and had they lived in the days of Cromwell and in England, would doubtless have been in Cromwell's army."
Scarcely was the settlement begun when a school was taught in one room of a log dwelling-house. When but three years old, father was a pupil in the first school that was taught in the new school-house, by Miss Lodema Sackett, and continued to attend school a part of every year. Books were scarce, but he was fond of reading, and read, over and over, all that he could obtain.
The Western Reserve was settled mainly by New Englanders, who were intelligent and God-fearing men; and religious meetings were held from the first; printed sermons being read aloud when there was no preacher. A Sunday-school was organized in Wadsworth in 1820.
The most influential man in the neighborhood was Judge Brown, an uncle of "John Brown of Ossawatomie." He was noted for the purity of his life, the dignity of his demeanor, and the firmness with which he defended his views. He was a bitter opponent of slavery, and, what was strange in those days, a strong temperance man. Before leaving Connecticut he had heard Lyman Beecher deliver his famous temperance sermons, and he came to Wadsworth with his soul ablaze with temperance zeal. The community was strongly influenced by him, and father said that he was much indebted to Judge Brown for his temperance and anti-slavery principles.
Even in those early days Wadsworth contained a public library, a lyceum where the young men discussed the questions of the day, and an academy. Father took part in the lyceum debates, though he was said to be slow of speech; and attended the Wadsworth Academy from its beginning, in 1830. One of its most successful teachers was a shrewd Scotchman named John McGregor. Father and several young men from a distance, who boarded at grandfather's and attended this school, spent their evenings studying their lessons, or reading and discussing some good book. Dick's scientific works were among the books thus read.
There were many Lutherans, Dutch Reformers, and Mennonites near Wadsworth, and there was a perfect ferment of religious discussion.
During father's boyhood, Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott had been preaching the union of Christians on the Bible alone, and there was great enthusiasm.
Eld. Newcomb, an honored Baptist preacher, together with my grandfather, and Samuel Green—the father of Almon B. Green and Philander Green—had been reading the writings of A. Campbell for several years. Almon B. Green had been made skeptical by the unintelligible orthodox preaching. But one day, after reading the first four books of the New Testament, he exclaimed, "No uninspired man ever wrote that book." He read on until he came to Acts ii. 38, which he took to Eld. Newcomb, asking him its meaning. "It means what it says," was his reply. In a few days Almon was baptized by Eld. Newcomb, simply on his confession of faith in Christ, without telling any experience, as usually required by the Baptists. Soon afterwards four families, the New-combs, Greens, Butlers and Bonnels, all Baptists, united to form a church on the apostolic pattern. Then William Hayden came with his fiery eloquence and wondrous songs; the people were stirred up, opposition aroused, the various creeds were discussed with renewed energy, and the church grew and multiplied.
But father and his uncle Aaron, who was eight years older than himself, had been made skeptical by orthodox mysticism and the disputes of so many wrangling churches.
In September, 1833, A. Campbell came to Wadsworth to attend a great yearly meeting held in William Eyle's barn. The following account of an incident that occurred at that time, I quote from "History of the Disciples on the Western Reserve."
"An incident occurred at this time which displays Mr Campbell's character for discernment and candor. Aaron Pardee, a gentleman residing in the vicinity, an unbeliever in the gospel, attracted by Campbell's abilities as a reasoner, and won by his fairness in argument, resolved to obtain an interview and propose freely his difficulties. Mr. Campbell received him with such frankness that he opened his case at once, saying, 'I discover, Mr. Campbell, you are well prepared in the argument and defenses of the Christian religion. I confess to you frankly there are some difficulties in my mind which prevent my believing the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.'
"Mr. Campbell replied, 'I acknowledge freely, Mr. Pardee, there are difficulties in the Bible—difficulties not easy to explain, and some, perhaps, which in our present state of information can not be cleared up. But, my dear sir, when I consider the overwhelming testimony in its favor, so ample, complete and satisfactory, I can not resist the conviction of its divine origin. The field of prophetic inspiration is so varied and full, and the internal evidence so conclusive, that, with all the difficulties, the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming in its favor.' This reply, so fair and manly, and so different from the pulpit denunciations of 'skeptics,' 'infidels,' etc., to which he had been accustomed, quite disarmed him, and led him to hear the truth and its evidence in a much more rational state of mind. Within a year he became fully satisfied of the truthfulness of the Holy Scriptures, and apprehending clearly their testimony to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth as the anointed Son of God, he was prepared to yield to him the obedience of his life."
My father was present with his uncle Aaron at that interview with Mr. Campbell, and he too was led by it to listen favorably to Mr. Campbell's clear and powerful presentation of divine truth. He followed Mr. Campbell to other meetings, and listened, read, and investigated until he, too, became convinced of the truth of the Bible.
His uncle Aaron, who is still living, said in a recent letter: "I remember going to meeting with Pardee sometime about a year before I was immersed, when he put some questions to me on the subject of religion, which were very difficult to answer."
In June, 1835, at a meeting held in Mr. Clark's new barn, my father and his uncle, Aaron Pardee, confessed their Saviour, and were baptized by Elder Newcomb in a stream on Elder Newcomb's farm. A brother and sister of A. B. Green, and a sister of Holland Brown, were baptized at the same time. Holland Brown had been baptized the previous week. He walked down to the water with father, and remembers hearing him exclaim, on the way to the water, "Lord, I believe! Help thou mine unbelief." He also remembers hearing Elder Newcomb remark, "Now we can take everything; we have Bro. Butler and Bro. Pardee to fight the infidels, and the Browns to fight the Universalists." Holland Brown's brother, Leonard, and his wife—he had married my father's eldest sister, Ann Butler—had been baptized not far from that time.
Holland Brown relates the following incident, which occurred some time afterward:
"Bro. Butler was away from home, and driving a horse, which, though of fine appearance, was badly wind-broken. At times the horse appeared perfectly sound, and at one of those times Bro. Butler was offered a handsome sum for him.
"No," said Bro. Butler, "I can not take that sum for the horse, he is badly wind-broken."
"Why didn't you take it? the man was a jockey, anyhow;" asked some one in my hearing.
"'Because,' was the ringing answer, 'I think less of the price of a horse than of my own soul.'"
About that time father began teaching school in neighboring districts, which he followed for several years. But all of his spare time was spent in studying the Bible, church history, the writings of A. Campbell, and other religious books. It was at that time that he began committing the New Testament to memory.
Grandfather Butler and Samuel Green were the leaders of the new organization, as they had been of the Baptist Church, in Eld. Newcomb's absence—for he was away evangelizing much of the time. They called on the young people to take part in their social meetings on the Lord's day, at first only asking them to read a passage of Scripture, afterward to talk and pray, and, as they gained confidence in themselves, they were asked to lead the meetings. Thus there grew, in that church, one after the other, within a few years, eight preachers: A. B. Green, Wm. Moody, Holland Brown, Leonard Brown, Philander Green, B. F. Perky, Pardee Butler and L. L. Carpenter.
A. B. Green had been preaching a year or more before father was baptized, but I do not know which of the others began first, nor do I know the exact time when father began to preach, but it was about 1837 or 1838. He was not ordained at Wadsworth, for the church at that time doubted whether there was any Scriptural authority for ordination. He was ordained some six or seven years afterward, in 1844, at Sullivan.
In such times of religious excitement it was not necessary for a man to have a college education, to become an acceptable preacher. But father saw the advantages of a good education, and resolved to attend A. Campbell's school, then known as Buffalo Academy, but which was soon changed to Bethany College. But the means to acquire an education must be obtained by his own exertions.
About the year 1839 grandfather sold his place in Wadsworth, and moved to the Sandusky Plains, a level, marshy prairie, in northwestern Ohio. Part of the Plains belonged to the Wyandotte Indian Reservation, and was opened to settlement, a few years afterward, by the removal of the Indians to Wyandotte, Kansas.
Father and grandfather made sheep-raising their business while there. Father herded sheep in summer and taught school in winter. And, while herding sheep, he finished committing the New Testament to memory. He could repeat it from beginning to end, and even in his later years he remembered it so well that he could repeat whole chapters at once. I never saw the time that any one could repeat a verse in the New Testament to him, but that he could tell the book, and nearly always the chapter in which it was found.
He and his father's family put their membership into the church at Letimberville, some miles distant; and there he occasionally preached.
He sometimes went back to Wadsworth, and on the way back and forth stopped and preached for the little church at Sullivan, Ashland Co. There he made the acquaintance of Sibjl S. Carleton, the daughter of Joseph Carleton, one of the leading members of the church. They were married August 17, 1843; and he never had cause to regret his choice, for she proved to him a helpmeet indeed.
While living there, at the solicitation of his neighbors, he held a debate with a Universalist preacher, to the satisfaction of his friends and the discomfiture of his opponent.
Many parts of the Plains were covered with water, and were musical with frogs in the spring, but in hot weather they dried up, leaving here and there a stagnant pond. I have heard father tell how one of his neighbors tried to break a field by beginning on the outside, and plowing farther in as the land dried up. But the snakes and frogs grew thicker and thicker, as he neared the center. At length the grass seemed almost alive with snakes, and his big ox-team became wild with fright, and ran away, and he could not get them back there again.
Of course, such a country was unhealthful, and father's family was much troubled with sickness. His parents both died; my mother was nearly worn out with the ague; and he not only suffered from poor general health, but from a sore throat, and had to quit preaching. He moved to Sullivan, but without any permanent benefit to his health. He did not at that time attribute his sore throat entirely to the climate, but thought it a chronic derangement that would utterly unfit him for a preacher. Many years afterward he wrote of that disappointment as follows: "For five years I saw myself sitting idly by the wayside, hopeless and discouraged. I felt somewhat like a traveler, parched with thirst, on a wide and weary desert, who sees the mirage of green trees and springs of cool water that has mocked his vision, slowly fade away out of his sight. So seemed to perish my castles in the air. At that time making proclamation of the ancient gospel was too vigorous a work, and too full of hardship and exposure to be undertaken by any except those possessing stalwart good health. If I had been predestinated to the life I have actually lived, and if it were necessary that I should be chastened to bear with patience all its disabilities, then, I suppose, this discipline I actually got might be considered good and useful. If I have been able to bear provocation with patience, and to labor cheerfully without wages, and at every personal sacrifice, this lesson was learned when I saw all my hope dashed in pieces."
In the spring of 1850 father sold his property and decided to go to Iowa. Shortly before the time of starting, my little sister and baby brother took the scarlet fever and, ere long, they were both laid in the old graveyard. Heart-broken as my parents were, they did not give up the long, lonely journey. Father bought a farm in Iowa, and built a log house on it, intending to become a farmer. He and mother united with the nearest church, at Long Grove, sixteen miles distant. Father did not tell them at first that he had been a preacher, but they questioned him and learned the facts. As his health improved he occasionally preached for them.
Eld. N. A. McConnell gives the following account of his preaching in Iowa:
"I first met him at his temporary home in Posten's Grove, in the fall of 1850. During that winter he taught a school in Dewitt, Clinton Co., and preached occasionally at Long Grove. The next spring he attended a co-operation meeting at Walnut Grove, Jones Co., at which he was employed to labor with me in what was called District No. 2. His district included the counties of Scott, Clinton, Jackson, Jones, Cedar, Johnson, a part of Muscatine, Linn and Benton, and west to the Missouri river. He preached at LeClaire, Long Grove, Allen's Grove, Simpson's, Big Rock, Green's School-house, Walnut Grove, Marion, Dry Creek, Pleasant Grove, Burlison's, Maquoketa and Posten's Grove, as well as at numerous school-houses scattered over a large district of the country. He did excellent work in preaching the word. He was not a revivalist, nor was his co-laborer, yet there were a goodly number added to the Lord during the year. I think not less than one hundred. The next year, 1852, the annual meeting of the co-operation was held at Dewitt, Clinton Co. At that meeting the district was divided into East and West No. 2. Your father was assigned to the eastern division and I took the western. His field included Davenport, Long Grove and Allen's Grove, in Scott Co.; Maquoketa and Burlison's in Jackson Co., and Dewitt in Clinton Co. He labored also in Cedar Co., and did a grand work, not so much in the numbers added as in the sowing the good seed of the Kingdom, and recommending our plea to the more intelligent and better informed of the various communities where he labored. You will remember that he held in mind nearly the entire New Testament, so that he could quote it most accurately. I think he had also the clearest and most minute details of the Old Testament history, of any man I ever knew. Nor was his reading and recollection limited to Bible details; for he was very familiar With other history, both sacred and profane.
"I call to mind two sermons that he delivered. One was based on the language of Christ addressed to the Woman of Samaria, at Jacob's well—John iv.: 'Ye worship ye know not what. We know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.' In this sermon he detailed the history of Israel to the revolt under Jereboam, the history of Jereboam and his successors until the overthrow of the ten tribes, and the formation of the mongrel nation called Samaritans. In this he showed that God's promise—Ex. xx., 'In all places where I record my name, I will meet with you and bless you,' was fully realized by the people of God, and that a disregard of the law in harmony with this promise was followed by most disastrous results. And that the same is true under the Gospel—where his name is recorded, and only there, he now meets and blesses his people.
"The second sermon was on the subject of Justification by faith.' This was doubtless one of the very best efforts of his life. I will not trouble you with the details of this grand effort, since it was published in full in the Evangelist in 1852. The sermon was published, not by his request, but by the unanimous voice of the State Meeting held in Davenport that year.
"I am sorry that I can not give more of the details of his grand work in Iowa."
The winter of 1851-2 was very cold, but father did not stop for bad weather. I remember that when he started to his appointment one cold morning mother cried for fear he would freeze to death. The mail-carrier did freeze to death that day, but father kept from freezing by walking. The next summer was very rainy, and mother was always anxious when there were high waters, for there were no bridges, and father always swam his horse across streams, although he could not swim a stroke.
Then he preached for several years in Illinois, and was gone for months at a time.
In July, 1854, my little sister—for by that time I had another brother and sister—after a brief illness, closed her eyes in death. Fortunately father was at home, to mingle his tears with mother's, over the little coffin.
The next spring father sold his Iowa farm.
Before leaving there an incident occurred that I distinctly remember. The Iowa Legislature had passed some kind of temperance law, and the people were to vote on it at the spring election. Our country lyceum formed itself into a mock court, and tried King Alcohol for various crimes and misdemeanors. Father was appointed prosecuting attorney, and he went at it in earnest, as he always did at anything he undertook. He sent for every man in the vicinity who ever drank, or who had good opportunities to observe the effect of drink on others, to appear as a witness against King Alcohol. The trial lasted three evenings, with Increasing crowds. Father's adroitness in drawing facts from witnesses—often against their will—kept the Audience laughing and applauding. I remember hearing people say that he had mistaken his calling; that he ought to have been a lawyer. On the last evening, When he addressed the jury, he became eloquent. He pictured the terrible effects of intemperance, the ruined homes, the weeping wives, the ragged children. He denounced King Alcohol as guilty of every known crime—of stealing the bread from the mouths of children, of robbing helpless women of everything they valued most, of brutally shedding the blood of thousands, and of filling the whole earth with violence, until the cries of widows and orphans reached to high heaven. When he finished, the house rang with applause. The attorney for the defense tried to reply, but the boys said Mr. Butler had spoiled his speech. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty. The election came off soon afterwards, and people said that it was strongly influenced, in that township, by father's speech.
The next May, mother, my little brother, and I, went to my uncle Gorham's, near Canton, Illinois; while father went to Kansas to buy land, intending, however, to live several years at Mt. Sterling, Illinois, before moving to Kansas.
MRS. ROSETTA B. HASTINGS.
I came to Kansas in the spring of 1855, having been preaching in that part of Illinois known as the Military Tract, during the three preceding years; but my residence was in Cedar County, Iowa, one hundred and fifty miles from my field of labor, and twenty-six miles to the northwest of the city of Davenport. I had been employed for one year in Iowa as a co-laborer with Bro. N. A. McConnell; but the church at Davenport, which was the strongest and richest church in the Cooperation, determined to sustain a settled pastor, and this left the churches too poor to support two preachers, and I was left to find another field of labor.
When I first came to Cedar County I came simply as a farmer; and there were but nine families in the township in which we settled. But when the country came to be settled up the result was not favorable to the expectation that we should have prosperous churches in that region. Those who have watched the progress of the temperance reform in Iowa have noticed that, while the prohibitory law is enforced almost throughout the State, there are yet exceptions in the cities of Davenport and Muscatine and the adjacent counties. Here the law is set at defiance. This is owing to the presence of a German, lager-beer-drinking, law-defying population, Godless and Christless, and that turn the Lord's day into a holiday. This tendency had begun to be apparent before I left Iowa.
When it became manifest that I could not any longer find a field of labor in Southeastern Iowa, I was recommended to the churches in the counties of Schuyler and Brown, in the Military Tract, Illinois.
My first introduction among them was dramatic, if, indeed, we could give to an incident almost frivolous and laughable, the dignity of a dramatic incident; and yet the matter had a serious side to it. I had been commended by Bro. Bates, editor of the Iowa Christian Evangelist, to the church at Rushville, where I held a meeting of days. The meetings grew in interest, there were some important additions, and the church was greatly revived. Twelve miles from Rushville was the town of Ripley, a small village, where the people were engaged in the business of manufacturing pottery ware. Here two Second Adventist preachers, a Mr. Chapman and his wife, were holding forth. This Mr. Chapman was a devout, pious, and earnest man, and a good exhorter, and had an unfaltering faith that the Lord was immediately to appear. But his wife was the smartest one in the family. She was fluent and voluble. She had an unabashed forehead and a bitter and defiant tongue. It was her hobby to declaim against the popular idea of the existence of the human spirit apart from the body. With her this was equivalent to a witch riding on a broomstick or going to heaven on a moonbeam. Spirit is breath—so she dogmatically affirmed—and when a man breathes out his last breath his spirit leaves his body. But it was her especial delight to declaim against the Pagan notion of the immortality of the soul, and to affirm that the Bible says nothing of the immortality of the soul. A Bro. McPherson undertook to contest the matter with her, but, not finding the scripture he was looking for, she exclaimed with bitter and vixenish speech, "Ah! You can't find it! You can't find it! It isn't there! I told you so!" And thus this couple were fast demoralizing the church, Billy Greenwell, the richest man in the church, being wholly carried away with this fanaticism. John Brown lived half way between Ripley and Rushville, but was a member of the church at Rushville. Bro. Brown was a man of good sense, excellent character, and had been a member of the Legislature. He attended our meeting at Rushville, and, in the intervals of the meeting, was full of questions concerning this heresy that had been sprung on them at Ripley.
Our meeting at Rushville came to a close. It had been a good meeting; the church had been revived, and there had been important additions. I took dinner with Bro. Brown, and in the afternoon we rode toward Ripley. On crossing the ferry at Crooked Creek, "Old Rob Burton," the ferryman, a tall, stalwart Kentuckian, looking down on me, asked, "Are you the man that's goin' to preach at Ripley to-night?"
"Wall, don't you know thar's a woman thar that's goin' to skin you?"
"Well, I don't know. We shall see how it will be?"
At Rushville I had done my best, and now, being withdrawn from the excitement of the meeting, felt exhausted; and determined not to touch any debatable question that night. The house was crowded with eager and expectant listeners. My fame had gone before me, and the "woman preacher" was present, ready for a fight. But, alas! My sermon was a bucket of cold water poured on the heads of my brethren. At any other time it would have been accepted as a good and edifying exhortation; but now, how untimely! The meeting was dismissed and the buzzing was as if a hive of bees had just been ready to swarm. The woman's disciples were jubilant; and, above the din and hurly-burly, I heard a thin, squeaking voice say, "Give that woman a Bible, and she would say more in five minutes than that man has said in his whole dis-c-o-u-rse." This was Billy Greenwell.
Brother Brown said nothing that night; but the next morning he said to me:
"Bro. B., the people were disappointed with you last night."
"Why, Bro. B., was it not a good sermon?"
"Yes; but it was not what the people expected."
"Bro. B., did the people expect me, uninvited, to pitch into a quarrel with which I have nothing whatever to do?"
"Oh, is that it? Well, wait a little and you shall have an invitation."
Bro. Brown went out, and soon returned with a request that I should discuss the question that Mr. Chapman and his wife had been debating. I sat down and wrote out a statement of the subjects on which I proposed to speak in all the evenings of the coming week. The first commanded universal attention: "Does the spirit die when the body dies?" They had never thought of that. They had been thunderstruck when this woman told them that the Bible says nothing about the immortality of the soul, but beyond this they had never gone. There was probably more Bible reading that day in Ripley than any day before or since.
At night the house was jammed, and "the woman" was there, Bible in hand. I began: "The Bible speaks of a man as composed of body, soul and spirit. The body is that material tabernacle in which a man dwells, and which Paul hoped to put off that he might be clothed with a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The soul is that animal life we have in common with all living and material things. Thus Jesus is said to have poured out his soul unto death. But what of the spirit? God is spirit, and God can not die. The angels are spirits, and the angels can not die; Jesus says so. Man has a spirit, and can man's spirit die? But spirit sometimes means breath. Yes, and heaven sometimes means the firmament above our heads, where the birds fly. But does it never mean more than this? Paradise sometimes means the happy garden where Adam and Eve dwelt; but does it never mean more than that? So, granting that spirit sometimes means breath, may it not also mean more than that?
"When Jesus said, 'Into thy hands I commend my spirit,' did he mean, 'Into thy hands I commend my breath'? So, when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water and cried out, 'It is a spirit,' did Jesus say to them, 'This is an old wives' fable; there is no such thing as a spirit'? Did he not rather say to them,—'It is I; be not afraid.' So, also, when he appeared to them in a room, the doors being shut, and they cried out, 'It is a spirit,' he said to them, 'Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.' In all this Jesus encouraged the disciples to hold the idea which was then popular among the Jews, that the spirit may exist apart from the body, and after the body is dead."
I thus discoursed to them for one hour in development of the Bible teachings concerning human spirits; and in my turn ridiculed the persons that had ridiculed the ideas that had evidently been held by Jesus and the apostles.
Mrs. Chapman had always invited objections; but she was sure to make an endless talk over them. I said, "We will not have an endless confabulation to-night; but I will quote one passage of Scripture, and on that I will rest my case. Any other person may then quote one passage of Scripture and on that rest the case. I have preached one sermon; the other party has preached twenty. So far we will count ourselves even, and it only remains that I should quote my Scripture, and let the other party quote the one Scripture on the opposite side, and then we will be dismissed." I gave the views of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees as detailed by Josephus, and then quoted Luke in the Acts of Apostles: "The Sadducees say there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both." And Paul says, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee." So I also say, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, and hold to the existence of human and angelic spirits.
When I announced that I should call for objections, I saw Mrs. Chapman take up her Bible in a flutter and nervously turn over its leaves. When I sat down all eyes were turned on her, and there was a death-like stillness in the house. Then she rose up, and in a moment was out of the house. She left the town the next morning and never came back. Then it was "Old Bob Burton's" turn to speak. He said to Billy Green, "Your chest is locked, and the key is lost in the bottom of the sea."
The brethren were gratified that the power of this "soul-sleeping" delusion was broken. Billy Green never recovered from his infatuation. He afterwards built a house that, in the number of rooms it contained, was wholly beyond his necessities. But he thought that when the Lord should come, and he should own all the land that joined him, and should have children to his heart's desire, then he would need all the room.
From Ripley I went to Mt. Sterling, the county-seat of Brown County. This church had fallen into decay for want of the care of a competent evangelist. Here I remained some weeks; and the church was very much revived, and there was a large ingathering. This was originally the home of Bro. Archie Glenn, now conspicuous in building up the University at Wichita. From the first Bro. Glenn, though modest and unobtrusive, was known as a solid and helpful member of the church. He always had the confidence of the people of Brown County, and was by them elected to various public offices, at last becoming Lieutenant-Governor of the State. But his business not prospering to suit him, he removed to Wichita, which was at that time a straggling village of uncertain fortunes, situated on a river of doubtful reputation, and located in a country concerning which the public were debating whether it should be called "The Great American Desert," or a decent place, where civilized men could live and thrive.
But Bro. Glenn did not lose faith in the Lord nor in his country. He went to his new home to be a live man. Wichita has decided to be a city, and not a straggling village of doubtful and cow-boy reputation; the Arkansas River has agreed to behave itself and to co-operate with human hands in giving fertility to its valley, and the geographers have unanimously agreed to strike the "Great American Desert" from the map of the United States. Sister Shields has grown up since these old days to be a woman, then a widow, and now a true yoke-fellow with her father in these great undertakings.
Bro. Lewis Brockman was pointed out to me, when first I came to Mt. Sterling, as a disaffected member; but, on a better acquaintance, it became apparent that his disaffection was that the church members had made a solemn vow to keep the ordinances of the Lord's house, and did not do it. When better order was obtained, he was once more in harmony with the church; came to Atchison County, Kansas, and died, a pattern of fidelity to his conscience and to every known duty.
During the period of three years in which I remained preaching in the Military Tract, I visited almost all its churches. The number of disciples was large. They had a large amount of wealth at their disposal, and were not averse to using it to promote the advancement of the cause. But the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light, and there is a certain practical wisdom that has been abundantly learned by other religious communities that has only come to our churches through a sore and bitter experience; and it was through the fire of this experience they were passing at the time of which we write. "Billy Brown" had been a notable evangelist among them. Indeed, he had been the father in the gospel of the churches in Brown and Schuyler Counties. He was popularly described as having a head "as big as a half bushel," surmounted by a great shock of hair. He was an iconoclast, and devoted his life to the business of image-breaking, and, of course, the breaking in pieces of the idols of the people created a great tumult. There was this difference, and only this difference, between the work of Billy Brown and Sam Jones; Sam Jones declaims against sins already condemned by the popular conscience, but Billy Brown assailed convictions enshrined in the innermost sanctuary of the hearts of the people. He did so because these popular superstitions stood in the way of the acceptance by the people of the apostolic gospel. Of course, the work of such a man carried with it an inconceivable excitement. At Mt. Sterling a man in the audience made some objection.
"What is your name?" said Billy Brown.
"My name, sir, is Trotter."
"Well, come forward, and I will knock your trotters out from under you."
But Billy himself sometimes found his match. At Ripley he had been preaching after his accustomed style, and riding away from the place of meeting—it was in the spring of the year when the mud was deep—he saw an old man painfully and with difficulty making his way through the mud. Knowing that he was a preacher from his white cravat, his broad-brimmed hat and single-breasted coat, he said to him:
"Well, old Daddy, how did you like the preaching?"
"Haven't heard any," stiffly replied the old gentleman.
But when the tumult and excitement of this conflict had passed away, and his converts were brought face to face with the grave duties of a religious life, and with the serious work of keeping the ordinances of the Lord's house, they did not know how; they had been born in a whirlwind and could only live in a tempest. Notwithstanding, they loved the Lord's cause, and they trembled for themselves and their children, if they should not be found faithful.
If these churches are not able at the present time to exhibit a growth adequate to their opportunities, it must be remembered, on their behalf, that they have sent to the West an incredibly large number of disciples to serve as the nuclei for other churches throughout that mighty empire that within the past thirty years has grown up between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean.
The days I spent in these churches are the golden days of my life. There has been no field in which my labor as an evangelist has yielded a richer harvest; none in which there have been bestowed on me more flattering or more kindly attentions. It was the bright and joyous sunshine of a spring morning, before the bursting of the storm.
Though each year increased my attachment to the people, and apparently added their good-will to myself, there had been coming to the front a difficulty that could not any longer be thrust aside or disregarded. I was one hundred and fifty miles away from home, and from my wife and children. On holding a council of war to consider our future tactics, in which Mrs. Butler, was commander-in-chief, and myself, second in command, she said to me, "Pardee, I am willing to go wherever you say, only when we go there we must go to stay. We must not put our house on wheels. We must not leave our children without settled employment, exposed to all the hazards of a city life, or a life without a permanent habitation."
Under such circumstances the settling on a home in reference to which it could be said, "Here we are to stay," was not an easy matter. The people of the Military Tract were, almost all of them, Kentuckians. There were evidently impending storms in the political horizon. I could not bend my sails to suit every favoring gale; and if, in the future, there should come a time that my conscience should lie in one direction, and my popularity and pecuniary interest in the other, I did not like to invite such a temptation. At any rate, I did not like to place myself in such a position that to bring down on my head popular odium would be to invite pecuniary ruin. These counties in the Military Tract were old settled counties, and land was high; and I was not rich. At this time the Kansas-Nebraska bill had been adopted by Congress, and Kansas had been opened for settlement. It was certain that Eastern Kansas, in the matter of fertility of soil, and all the elements of agricultural wealth, would be a desirable location.
"But there might be a political and social conflict." Yes, and there might be a political and social conflict in Illinois; or, for the matter of that, it might cover the West as with a blanket. It was certain that Eastern Kansas would be early settled from Missouri; and in no State was there a larger percentage of the people known as Disciples. I would, therefore, be among my brethren; and, if I had kept the peace for three years with Kentuckians in Illinois, could I not do the same thing with Missourians in Kansas? In any case, there was a fair prospect of gaining in Kansas a position of pecuniary independence; and any man can see that such a position was worth all the world to Alexander Campbell, when he was constrained by his conscience to bring down on his own head the utmost wrath of his Baptist brethren.
I started in the spring of 1855 to ride on horseback through Missouri; but was soon made to feel that there were more things in this world than were known in my philosophy. I had determined to remain over Sunday in Linnville, Linn County, Missouri, the county-seat of the county, as here was a congregation of Disciples; and called on a merchant of the place, who had been mentioned as one of the leading members. He remarked that he had become acquainted with me through the Christian Evangelist, published by Bro. Bates, in Iowa; but, on learning my destination, seemed strangely oblivious that anything more should be due from him to me. And so, having waited patiently about for a goodly time, I mounted my horse and rode on till dark; then seeing a light, and having called at the house, I found an old man who kindly received and lodged me. In the morning it appeared that his house was surrounded by negro cabins. Having inquired my destination, he began to talk to me concerning the subject that seemed to be in every man's heart. I replied, submitting to him such views as were held by a majority of Northern men. To my surprise he flared up in anger, and said:
"If you talk that way when you get to Kansas you will never come back again; they will hang you."
The thing was so absurd I only laughed in the old man's face, and said to him:
"Well, you can not teach an old dog new tricks. I have spoken my mind so long that I shall continue to do it if they do hang me," and so bade him good-bye.
It was Sunday morning, and it was eighteen miles to Chillicothe. Arriving at the hotel, the people were getting ready for meeting. On questioning them where they were going, the landlord replied:
"To the Christian Church. Will you not go along with us?"
On asking my name he said:
"O yes; I have seen your name in the Christian Evangelist. You have been preaching in Illinois. I will introduce you to our preacher, and we will make an appointment for you this afternoon."
This landlord was a brother to that Congressman Graves that shot Cilley, a member of Congress from Maine, in a duel with rifles, at Washington. The people described "mine host" as one of "fighting stock "; and spoke of him as being as thoughtful of the comfort, health and welfare of his slaves as of his own children. To me he seemed simply a genial, jovial, friendly and traditional "Boniface," chiefly intent on furnishing comfortable fare and an enjoyable place for his guest.
By the members of the Christian Church I was kindly received, and was invited to take dinner with the preacher. After dinner two brethren came in, to whom I had been introduced at the meeting-house. After some desultory talk, they asked me:
"Are you an abolitionist?"
I was both angry and confounded. I had never in my life made myself conspicuous in this controversy that was going on between North and South, and why should I be insulted with such a question. I did not answer yes or no, but proceeded to give my views on the subject in general. They listened and remarked that they did not see anything offensive in such views; then made this apology for their seeming rudeness: An old man, a preacher, whom they called Father Clark, had come from Pennsylvania to Chillicothe to live with a married daughter, and had said something concerning slavery offensive to the people, and they had called a meeting of the citizens, and he had been driven out of town and ordered never to return. They had, furthermore, resolved that no abolitionist should thereafter be allowed to preach in the city. These brethren explained that, as I would be called on and interrogated by a committee, they thought it would be better that this should be done by friends, than that I should be questioned by strangers.
"Are You an Abolitionist?"
I was angry with myself for having consented to preach a sermon after being met with such a question. But by mine host, Bro. Graves, I was treated with the most frank and manly courtesy, albeit that he was brother to the man that shot a brother congressman in a duel with rifles. He seemed to feel like the town clerk at Ephesus: "What man is there that knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians is a worshiper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image that fell down from Jupiter? Seeing then that these things can not be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly."
The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was just being located through the city, yet the town was a dead town, though it was surrounded by a fertile and prosperous country. Bro. Graves seemed awake to all its advantages, and pressed me to remain, pointing out the rapid advance that must take place in the value of its property. But I kept thinking of the question: "Are you an abolitionist?" and bade him farewell.
At nightfall I found myself beyond Gallatin, on the road to St. Joseph. As there were no hotels I called at a private house and was hospitably received. This man, on whom I had called, had come from the State of Pennsylvania, and had grown to a prosperous farmer. There seemed to be no books or newspapers about the house; but he was shrewd and sagacious to a proverb, and was eager to hear from the land of his fathers, and of what was the cause of all this din and clamor and excitement of the people about him. What was the meaning of the Kansas-Nebraska bill? What were the intentions of the Black Republicans? What was the New York Tribune doing, that it should raise such a tumult? And what were the purposes of the Emigrant Aid Society that it should be such an offense to the people in Missouri?
On my own part, I also had much to learn from this man, so shrewd and well-informed, and yet so ignorant. What did it mean that citizens of Missouri should go over in force and vote in the Territory of Kansas? We had heard something of this in Illinois, but supposed it was something done by that turbulent and somewhat lawless element that gathers along the borders of civilization; but now it was apparent that this movement was under control of leading citizens of Missouri, and had been participated in by conscientious men, members of the various churches of Missouri, who would in no wise knowingly do anything wrong. What did it mean?
The reader will not be surprised that we should sit up to a late hour of the night, nor that we should renew the subject again in the morning. When I had got ready to leave this man, who had so hospitably entertained me, he explained that he had business on the road on which I was traveling, and that he would accompany me a number of miles.
This emigrant from Pennsylvania, now a citizen of Missouri, who carried his library in his brain and read his books when he conversed with men, and kept his own counsel and lived in peace with his neighbors, was now about to say farewell. With some hesitation he said: "Mr. Butler, I thank you for all you have told me. I feel just as you do; but I must advise you to be careful how you talk to other men as you have talked to me. There are many in this country that would shoot such a man as you are. Good-bye."
It is said, "There are two sides to every question." In my association with men in the free States I had learned one side of this question; now I was learning the other side, and began to be able to put in intelligible shape to myself those reasonings by which these men justified their action. They reasoned thus: "War is a state of violence and always involves a trenching upon what we call natural rights; and its decisions depend not so much on who is right or wrong, as on who wields the longest sword and commands the heaviest battalions. And if in carrying on a war some evil comes to innocent parties, this is only one of its necessary consequences, and is justified by the final result; provided always that the war, as a whole, is right and just. And in such a strained and unnatural condition of affairs men can not be governed by the same scrupulous regard for others' rights by which they are governed in time of peace. But the North and South are already practically in a state of war. This comes of the mistakes made at the formation of our government. Thomas Jefferson and the fathers of the Revolution were mistaken in holding slavery wrong. It is a rightful and natural relation, as between an inferior and superior race. The black race is far better off here in America, in slavery, than they would be in Africa, in freedom and in paganism; and if there is something of hardship in their lot, it is only because there is hardship in the lot of every human being."
These men also said: "Consequent on these erroneous views held by Thomas Jefferson and others, the settlement made as between the North and South has been wrong, from the beginning, It was wrong to close the Northwest Territory, embracing Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, against slavery. So also it was wrong to close Kansas against this institution by what was called the Missouri Compromise Line, agreed upon on the admission of Missouri into the Union."
So these men reasoned, and they said: "Now we propose to go and take by the strong hand those rights of which we have been wrongfully deprived since the beginning of the American Government. A little severity now—a resolute seizing on our rights now, in this golden opportunity—will be worth more than the shedding of rivers of blood by and by. Therefore the primary and rudimental legislation of this infant Territory will be worth everything to us in the final settlement of this question. It is certain that the law is against us; but the law itself is wrong, and has been wrong from the beginning. The right that belongs to us is the material and inalienable right of revolution."
We have no right to assume that a majority of the people of Missouri held the sentiments we have here indicated: probably they did not. But the dissent was generally unspoken. The men of this stamp commonly adopted the policy of the man with whom I had just parted. But there was dissent in some cases, bitter and vehement, followed sometimes by bloodshed.
Before I had gone to Iowa, and while I yet lived in Ohio, I had visited Kentucky. An Ohio colony had gone down into Kentucky and located in the counties of Wayne and Pulaski, on the Cumberland River. A brother of mine had gone with them, and I had made him a visit. I thought then, and think now, that there is no region on which the sun shines, more desirable to live in than the region of the Cumberland Mountains. At Crab Orchard I found a man that was born in the State of New York. He had been a soldier at Hull's surrender, at Detroit, in the war of 1812, with Great Britain. From Detroit he had made his way into Kentucky, had married a rich wife with many slaves, and had become a vehement partisan for slavery. But because he was born in the same State with myself, and because I could tell him much about that people that were once his people, he was glad to have me stop with him. Being old and choleric, he would go off into a fierce passion against the abolitionists. He would say: "These men are thieves! Our niggers are our property, and they steal our property. They might as well steal our horses." After awhile he would begin to talk about his children. He would say: "These niggers are ruining my children! My girls are good for nothing! They can not help themselves! They are so helpless they can not even pick up a needle. And my boys! These niggers are ruining my boys! My boys won't work!" And then he would go on to tell the nameless vices the young men of the city were drawn into through their intimacy with the blacks. I thought, but did not say, "My dear sir, if slavery is working such a ruin on your own children, would not the abolitionists be doing you a kindness if they would steal every nigger you have got?"
But there was a still graver aspect that this question was beginning to assume: A woman that is a slave has neither the motive nor the power to protect her own virtue; and the land was threatened to be filled with a nation of mulattoes. But this mixed race would possess all the pride, ambition and talent of the superior race; at the same time they would feel all that undying hatred that a subject people feel toward the men by whom they are subjugated. We would then be sleeping on a volcano, such as may at any hour engulf the empire of Russia.
All this I pondered in my heart as I slowly made my way toward St. Joseph, on the Missouri River, which flows along the western border of Kansas. And now this question was coming to the front and forcing a settlement, and in Kansas would be the first real conflict. In Congress they had only paltried with, it; now the people were to try their hand. And what should I do? Had I any right as a Christian and as an American citizen, when providentially called to this work, to withdraw myself from aiding in its settlement? And should I turn my horse in the opposite direction, go back to my Bro. Graves at Chillicothe, and say to him: "You are a man of undoubted courage, but I am a paltroon and a coward, and I am going to hunt a hole and hide myself, where I will be out of danger when this battle is fought between freedom and slavery."
I did not turn back, but revolving all these matters in my mind, reached the city of St. Joseph. Here I had been commended by a friend to a merchant in the city, a member of the Christian Church. He received me kindly and treated me courteously, but his partner in business did not seem to be of that mind. He was all out of sorts, and gruffly said, "Kansas is a humbug. It will not be settled in thirty years."
In revolutions men live fast. I had been ten days on my journey, and the man that now crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph was not just the man that ten days before crossed the Mississippi at Quincy. He was a wiser and a sadder man.
On the Kansas side the first company I met was a two-horse wagon load of men that had been exploring the Territory and were returning. They seemed thoroughly disgusted, and said: "The wind blows so hard in Kansas, it would blow a chicken up against the side of a barn and hold it there for twenty-four hours."
"Kansas will not be settled in thirty years." So said my not very amiable friend in St. Joseph. It is now somewhat more than thirty years, and Kansas has more than a million of inhabitants. But the State has a higher boast to make than that it has so increased in wealth and population. It has been the first State in the Union—indeed, it has been the first government in the world—to incorporate prohibition into its fundamental law; and this is the best possible criticism by which to mark its comparative progress in a Christian civilization.
After crossing the Missouri River I visited some of the principal settlements in the Territory, such as Atchison, Leaven worth, Lawrence and Topeka. Lawrence, Topeka and Manhattan were settlements made by men from free States, and with an eye single to making Kansas a free State. There was no town located on the Missouri River, and no settlement made in the counties bordering on the Missouri River, that were properly free State settlements. I thought this was a mistake. These counties had by far the largest population, and as these counties would go, the Territory would go; and I thought that no considerations of personal danger ought to hinder, that these counties should have respectable settlements of avowed Free State men among them.
What is now the city of Atchison was then a small village that was being built among—the cottonwood trees on the banks of the Missouri River, about twenty miles below St. Joseph, and the same distance above Fort Leavenworth. It had been named after the notable David R. Atchison, who had been a Senator from Missouri, and acting Vice-President of the United States. D. R. Atchison and Gen. B. F. Stringfellow had at this time won a national notoriety in this struggle now going on in Kansas; and both were leading members in the Atchison town company. Dr. Stringfellow was deputed to act as editor-in-chief of the Squatter Sovereign, a paper at that time started in Atchison; but the editor was Robert S. Kelly. Bob Kelly, as he was popularly called, was a born leader among such a population as at that time filled Western Missouri. The towns along the Missouri River were the outfitting points for that immense overland freighting business, that was at that time carried on across the western plains, to Santa Fe in Mexico and to Salt Lake, Oregon and California; and here congregated a multitude of that wild, lawless, law-defying and law-breaking mob of men, that accompanied these expeditions, and were the habitues of these western plains, or were among the gold seekers of California.
Bob Kelly was left an orphan at an early age, and was from his youth surrounded with such a population. In person he was handsome as an Apollo, broad-shouldered and muscular, with fair complexion and blue eyes, and was the natural chief of the dangerous men that were drawn to him by his personal magnetism. Moreover, he possessed so much native eloquence, and such an ability to make passionate appeals, as made him a fit person to fire the hearts of these men to deeds of violence,
I obtained a claim to 160 acres of land, twelve miles from Atchison, and on the banks of the Stranger Creek. This claim I would be at liberty to buy, at government price, if I should continue to live on it until it should come into market. My nearest neighbor was Caleb May, a Disciple, and a squatter, from the other side of the river. Bro. May was in his way as much a character as Bob Kelly. He gloried, like John Randolph, of Roanoke, in being descended from. Pocahontas, and that he therefore had Indian blood in his veins. Born and reared on the frontier, tall, muscular, and raw-boned, an utter stranger to fear, a dead shot with pistol or rifle, cool and self-possessed in danger, he had become known far and near as a desperate and dangerous man when meddled with. But he had been converted, and had become a member of the Christian Church, and according to the light that was in him he did his best to conform his life to the maxims of the New Testament, and conscientiously sought to confine all exhibition of "physical force" to such occasions as those in which he might be compelled to defend himself. Then it was not likely to be a healthy business for his antagonist.
After securing my claim, and commencing to build a cabin, I began to look around me. Fully three-fourths of the squatters of this whole region were from the border counties of Missouri. But in Western Missouri the percentage of Disciples was perhaps larger than in any other portion of the United States, consequently I had brethren on every side of me. These men certainly were not refined and educated men, as the phrase goes, still they had the qualities that our Lord found in the fisherman of Galilee.
One thought was in every man's heart, and on every man's tongue. The name Squatter Sovereign, that had been given to the Atchison newspaper, indicated the trend of public opinion. They had been flattered with the idea that if they would come to Kansas they should be "Squatter Sovereigns," that the domestic institutions of the infant Territory should be determined not by the nation, nor by Congress, but by themselves. And yet, when the election day came, every election precinct in the Territory, except one, was taken possession of by bodies of men from Missouri, and the elections had been carried, not by bona side citizens, but by an outside invasion. With pain and shame, and bitter resentment, my neighbors told me how they had driven their wagons to the place of voting, on the prairie, and hitched their horses to their wagons, and were quietly going about their business, when with a great whoop and hurrah, which frightened their horses and made them break loose from their wagons, a company of men came in sight, and with swagger and bluster, took possession of the polls, and proceeded to do the voting. Meantime whisky flowed like water, and the men, far gone in liquor, turned the place into a bedlam. In utter humiliation and disgust many of the squatters went home. Caleb May did not get into the neighborhood till afternoon. Before he got to the place of voting, he met Joseph Potter, and on hearing what was done he threw his hat on the ground, and in a towering rage protested he would no longer vote with a party that would treat the people of the Territory in such a way as that. This was done in March, but so far as any public expression of sentiment was concerned, the people seemed dumb. No public meeting was called in the way of protest till the next September, and that meeting was held at Big Springs, sixty miles from Atchison.
But if there was no public protest, there was plenty of it in private. The men from the State of Missouri grew sick at heart. It was a deep, unspoken, bitter and shame-faced feeling, for it was their old neighbors that had done this.
I often asked myself, Can it be hoped that an election can be held that shall fairly express the real sentiment of the people, if they allow themselves to be held down under such a reign of terror?
The prevalent sentiment of the squatters from Missouri was, "We will make Kansas a free white State; we will admit no negroes into it." These men regarded the negro as an enemy to themselves. They said: "We were born to the lowly lot of toil, and the negro has made labor a disgrace. Neither ourselves nor our children have had opportunity for education, and the negro is the cause of it. Moreover, an aristocracy at the South has assumed control of public affairs, and the negro is the cause of that. Now we propose to make Kansas a free white State, and shut out the negro, who has been the cause of all our calamities."
There was, however, a class of men among them that had pity for the negro. I will repeat one story, as it was told me by Bro. Silas Kirkham. Bro. Kirkham belongs to that family of Kirkhams so well known to our brethren in Southeastern Iowa. Bro. Kirkham was raised in a slave State. He said: "When I was a boy I had never thought of slavery as being wrong. There was a black boy in the settlement named Jim. Jim was so good-natured, faithful and well-behaved that we all liked him. Jim married a black girl and they had twins—boys—bright, likely little fellows, and Jim's wife and twin babies were all the treasure he had in the world."
Bro. Kirkham said: "One day I found Jim in the woods, where he had been sent to split rails. He was sitting down with his face buried in his hands, apparently asleep. I thought I would crawl slyly up to him, and spring suddenly on him, and frighten him. I did so, but Jim was not asleep at all, but lifted up his head with such a look of unutterable woe that I was frightened myself, and said: 'Why, Jim, what is the matter?' Jim cried out: 'O, my boys! my boys! Massa sold my boys!'"
Bro. Kirkham said: "I have vowed everlasting enmity to an institution that will legalize such treatment of a human being."
But while these ominous mutterings were heard in so many of the Kansas squatter cabins, little did the high and mighty Atchison Town Company, or the editorial staff of the Squatter Sovereign, or the puissant Territorial Legislature, reck that so soon they must take up the sad refrain of Cardinal Woolsey:
Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness! This is the state of man: To-day he puts forth The tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms, And bears his blushing honors thick upon him; The third day comes a frost, a killing frost, And—when he thinks, good easy man, full surely His greatness is a-ripening—nips his root; And then he falls, as I do.
The following extract, from an editorial that appeared at this time in the Squatter Sovereign, will show what a rose-colored view these gentlemen took of the situation:
SLAVERY IN KANSAS.
We receive letters, by nearly every mail, asking our opinion as regards the security of slave property in Kansas Territory. We can truly say that no Territory in Uncle Sam's dominion can be found where the slave' can be made more secure, or his work command a higher price. Our slave population is gradually increasing by the arrival of emigrants and settlers from the slave States, who, having an eye to making a fortune, have wisely concluded to secure a farm in Kansas, and stock it well with valuable slaves. Situated as Missouri is, being surrounded by free States, we would advise the removal of negroes from the frontier counties to Kansas, where they will be comparatively safe. Abolitionists too well know the character of the Kansas squatter to attempt to carry out the nefarious schemes of the underground railroad companies.
Immediately on obtaining my claim, brethren had sought me out and made my acquaintance, and soon it appeared that there were enough Disciples in the settlement to constitute a church. But the times were stormy, and we delayed making any movement in that direction. It had now come to be the month of June. There had been refreshing showers. The singing birds had come, and the bright sunshine. The prairie had put on its royal robes, the forest its richest garments, and the people had become impatient with their long isolation from religious meetings. The Lord's day was almost ceasing to be the Lord's day to them, and they demanded a sermon. We, therefore, came together in the timbered bottoms of Caleb May's claim, on the banks of the Stranger Creek. The gathering was primitive and peculiar, like the gathering at a Western camp-meeting—footmen, and men and women on horseback, and whole families in two-horse lumber wagons. Some were dressed in Kentucky-jeans, and some in broadcloth; there were smooth-shaven men and bearded men; there were hats and bonnets of every form and fashion; all were dressed in such ways as best suited their convenience or necessities. In this crowd were those that, as the years should go by, were destined to grow in wealth, in understanding, in popularity and high position, and they should be known as the first in the land.
The singing was not in the highest style of the musical art, but it was hearty and sincere.
Looking up at the thick branches of the spreading elms above our heads I said:
MY FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS:—I have never seen trees clothed with leaves of so rich a green as the trees above our heads, I have never seen prairies robed in richer verdure than the prairies around us.
Since the year of 1832, it has been known that what is called the "Platte Purchase," in Missouri, is the garden spot of the West; and now it is apparent that we have here on the west side of the Missouri River what is the exact counterpart of the Platte Purchase on the east side. It is the same in genial suns, refreshing rains, and unequalled fertility of soil. It is, moreover, true that, owing to the peculiar circumstances under which this Territory will be settled we shall have a population inferior to no population on the face of the earth.
After the deluge was past, God promised enlargement to the sons of Japheth. "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem;" and more than 3,000 years the sons of Japheth have been fulfilling their destiny. They came originally from the mountain regions around Mount Ararat, and moving westward, they have filled all Europe; and these tribes coming from the east have created the modern European nations. The last and westernmost settlement was made on the island of Great Britain, and here they were stopped from further progress by the Atlantic Ocean; and here, after many generations of war, they coalesced and mingled their blood together, and thus became the British nation; and thus out of the commingling of the blood of the most enterprising races that came out of the loins of Japheth has grown that nation, that in all lands has vindicated its right to be known as the foremost nation of the world.
Christopher Columbus discovered America, and now new causes began to operate that called for the planting of new colonies here in America. Martin Luther asserted the right of a man to stand immediately in the presence of the Lord, to be answerable directly to the Lord, and to confess his sins to the Lord alone, and from the Lord to receive pardon, without the intervention of any pope, priest, or ghostly mediator. This was counted by the Catholic Church a horrible blasphemy, and the Diet of Worms was called, and Luther was commanded to appear before it and recant. Presiding over this Diet was Charles V., Emperor of Germany; here were Electors, Princes and crowned heads, popish priests, bishops and cardinals, together with the principal nobility of Catholic Europe—these all came together to compel the recantation of Friar Martin Luther. But Luther said; "Unless I be convinced by Scripture and reason, I neither can nor dare retract anything for my conscience is a captive to God's Word, and it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience," and a great multitude of men in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Great Britain stood beside Luther and protested that they were amenable to the Lord alone, and that they could do nothing against conscience. But these Protestant governments stopped midway between popery and Protestantism; for each of these nations, while renouncing the Pope of Rome, assumed that it was the business of the king to instruct the people what to believe; and so instead of having one pope they had many popes, consequently many Protestant sects; and these took the place of that one apostolic church originally established by the apostles. Notwithstanding, there were some, in all lands that remained steadfast to the principle enunciated by Martin Luther: "Unless I be convinced by Scripture and reason, I neither can nor dare retract"; and so it came to pass that there were Protestant persecutions as well as Catholic persecutions; and so also it came to pass that men became wearied with this intolerance, and determined to seek beyond the Atlantic Ocean a place where they could worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, with none to molest them or make them afraid. It was for such cause that the Puritans settled in New England, the Quakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Scotch and Irish Presbyterians in North Carolina; and it was for this cause that the French Huguenots, driven out of France by the French king, came to South Carolina. The most notable cause that induced the planting of the thirteen original colonies here in North America was religious persecution in the Old World. And as the oak grows out of the acorn, so out of these colonies has grown this nation of which we are so proud.
Great Britain became more Lutheran than Germany, the native land of Luther, and God lifted the British nation up to become the chiefest nation of the world; the United States of North America became more Lutheran than Great Britain, and the eyes of the world are fixed on us in admiration and astonishment. God blessed the house of Obededom, and all that he had, because the ark of God was in it.
But there are spots on the sun, and there are exceeding blemishes in our Protestantism, notwithstanding the fact that the glory of the American people has grown out of it. The image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream had feet and toes, part of iron and part of potter's clay, partly strong and partly broken. So it is with our Protestant sectarianism, and because of it we are partly strong and partly broken. Compare the Protestant United States with Catholic Mexico, or compare Protestant Great Britain with Catholic Spain, and compared with these nations we have the strength of iron, but judged by our sectarianism we have the weakness of miry clay.
My friends and fellow citizens, I have the honor to represent to you a people that have said we will go back to that order of things originally established by Jesus and the apostles—we will make no vow of loyalty to any but Jesus, and we will have no bond of union save the testimonies and commandments of the Lord as given to us by the Lord himself and the holy apostles. Out of this we hope may grow such a union of God's people as Jesus prayed for when he prayed that all Christians might be one. We are striving for such an order of things that Protestants may present a united front against the world, the flesh and the devil, and against all disloyalty to Jesus.
To this appeal men often make reply: "We can not break loose from our religious surroundings, dear to us through life-long and most tender associations." But, my friends, this objection can have no weight with this audience, assembled here on this glorious Lord's day, and on this our first religious meeting. Here we have already broken loose from these associations. These ties, how dear so ever to us, we have already sundered. The people with whom we once met, and with whom we once took sweet counsel, the churches in which we once worshiped, shall know us no more forever. Here we are free to act, and to correct the mistakes that have been unwittingly made by the churches with which we have formerly been connected, just as our American fathers were free to frame a better government than the government of the nations out of which they came.
May I not appeal to you, my friends, and say you owe it to yourselves, you owe it to Christians in every land, you owe it to your Lord, you owe it to the future State of Kansas, to so act as to free the Christian profession from the trammels that have hindered its progress and glory ever since the days when our divisions began. If Protestantism seas done so much in spite of all its divisions, what will it not do if these hindrances are taken out of the way?
Kansas is certainly predestinated to be a great State. The fertility of its soil, the healthfulness of its atmosphere, and the fact that its population is to be made up from the bravest, most daring and most enterprising men in the nation, all look in this direction; you ought, then, my friends, to see to it that as far as your influence may go its religion shall be nothing less than primitive and apostolic Christianity.
In ascertaining what is primitive and apostolic Christianity, we shall pay supreme respect to the time when the old or Jewish dispensation came to an end, and when the new or Christian dispensation began. The first, or Jewish dispensation, Jesus took out of the way, nailing it to the cross. The second, or Christian dispensation, began after Jesus arose from the dead and ascended up on high, far above the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers of the world of light, and became the Head over all things to the church. This was the proposition with which Peter closed his sermon on the day of Pentecost: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." To this agree the words of Jesus after his resurrection, as recorded in the close of Matthew's gospel: "All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Luke records some things which Matthew does not record: "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved the Messiah to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins might be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem; and ye are witnesses of these things." But Mark records some things that neither Matthew nor Luke have recorded: "Go ye into all the, world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." In carrying out this commission, thus recorded by these three evangelists, if we find an ignorant pagan that knows nothing of Jesus we shall say to him, as Paul said to the Philippian jailer, ignorant pagan that he was: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house."
But if we find men who already believe, as did the three thousand who were pierced in the heart on the day of Pentecost, we shall say to them, as Peter did: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." If, however, we find a man that not only believes, but is a penitent believer, such as Saul of Tarsus was when Ananias found him, we shall say, as Ananias said: "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
In all this there is nothing human, nothing schismatical. All can accept it who are willing to accept the Word of the Lord. In the baptism we administer, we will give no cause for schism: it shall be a burial, and this, so far as the action of baptism is concerned, will meet the conscience of the Greek Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and of all Protestant churches.
Do not, my friends, attempt to turn aside this appeal which I now make to you with a laugh or a sneer. This is the Lord's word, and the word of the Lord is not to be put aside with a sneer. Do not scoff at this as a water of salvation. You certainly will not scoff at the word of the Lord.
And now, my friends, will you not demean yourselves worthy of the high place that God has given you? Adam and Eve carried in their hands the weal or woe of the unnumbered millions of their children that should come after them. Abraham, because of his great faith and because of his high integrity, sent down a blessing upon his fleshly seed for fifty generations; and for the same cause was constituted the spiritual father of a spiritual seed as numerous as the stars of heaven or as the sand upon the seashore. A few Galileean fishermen have filled the world with the glory of the Lord. Luther drove back the darkness of the dark ages and has filled the world with the light of God's Word. And now, my friends, you are laying the foundations of many generations, and will you not take heed how these foundations are laid? Can you repent if you take God at his word and do as did the apostles and the primitive Christians?
That sermon was preached almost thirty-three years ago. It was an extemporaneous discourse, and no notes were preserved. Nevertheless, there were circumstances attending its delivery, that have indelibly impressed its leading points on the memory of the writer.
S. J. H. Snyder was a Lutheran from Pennsylvania, and at that time was a resident of Atchison county. He had traveled to see the world, and was a writer of books. He heard the sermon, and was greatly taken with it. He wrote out a report of it, and handed his report to me for criticism and correction. He intended to send it for publication to a paper in Pennsylvania. I said to him that his report left out the most essential and vital part of the sermon, and proposed myself to write out an abstract of it for his use. This I did, but my friend Mr. Snyder concluded: "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" He was not willing to be counted unsound in the faith by his brethren in Pennsylvania, and forwarded the original manuscript.
There were also in the audience two young gentlemen, recently come from the New England States to seek their fortune. They were just of that age to think that what they did not know, or at least what the people of New England did not know, was not worth knowing. Such a meeting in the open air; such an audience, in which the dress of every man and woman was got up according to their own notions, and that, too, without consulting Mrs. Grundy; such a preacher! and such a sermon! Certainly these all were new to them, and did not command their highest admiration. These young gentlemen kept up a sort of running commentary between themselves, on what they saw going on, until, becoming tired of their misbehavior, I turned and said to them in effect: "Young gentlemen, you profess to be men of good breeding, and it is understood that well-bred people will behave themselves in meeting." They were very angry, and one of them wrote me a saucy letter about it. But finding little sympathy in the settlement, they went to Atchison, and there they found abundant sympathy and open ears to hear. A man who was a preacher, and a pronounced free State man, had come from Illinois and had settled on the Stranger Creek; and who could tell the mischief he might do to his brethren who were squatters from Missouri? When these same New England gentlemen were in their turn stripped of all they were worth by the "Border Ruffians" it changed their feelings toward their free State brethren "mightily."
And now that feeling of dissatisfaction that had been all along festering in the hearts of the people, began to come to the surface. An inside view would have revealed a perpetual murmur of discontent. The Territorial Legislature was now in session, and doing its work, and copies of the laws they had enacted were coming into circulation. No legislature in America had ever been elected as they had been, and we have already learned what a thrill of horror and pain this caused in the hearts of the squatters. It would have been a dictate of the most obvious common sense that a body of men whose claim to be a Territorial Legislature rested on such a basis should proceed with the utmost moderation. But they were intoxicated with success. It is an old and a wise saw, that whom the gods wish to destroy they first deprive of their reason, and these men were smitten with judicial blindness. No slave State had ever enacted such savage and bloody laws—laws of such barbarous and inhuman severity, for the protection of slave property. And now the people were reading copies of these laws, and nothing could long suppress the evidences of discontent. The following editorial is also copied from the Squatter Sovereign:
WATCH THE ABOLITIONISTS.
Circumstances have transpired within a few weeks past, in this neighborhood, which place beyond a doubt the existence of an organized band of Abolitionists in our midst. We counsel our friends who have slave property to keep a sharp lookout, lest their valuable slaves may be induced to commit acts which might, jeopardize their lives.
Mr. Grafton Thomasson lost a valuable negro a week ago, and we have not the least doubt that she was persuaded by one of this lawless gang to destroy herself rather than remain in slavery. In fact, one of this gang was heard to remark that she did perfectly right in drowning herself, and just what he would have done, or what every negro who is held in bondage should do. We ask, Shall a man expressing such sentiments be permitted to reside in our midst? Be permitted to run at large among our slaves, sowing the seeds of discord and discontent, jeopardizing our lives and property?
In another instance we hear of a servant being tampered with, and induced to believe that she was illegally held in bondage; since which time she has been unruly, and shows evidence of discontent. Such is the effect produced by permitting the convicts and criminals of the Eastern cities shipped out here by the aid societies to reside in our midst.
The depredations of this fanatical sect do not stop here. Their crimes are more numerous and their acts more bold. It is well known that on Independence and Walnut Creeks, within a few miles of this place, a great number of free slaves and Abolitionists are settled whose thieving propensities are well known. We honestly believe that an organized band of these outlaws exists, whose objects are pecuniary gain and spite, to rob us of our property, drive off our cattle and horses, incite our slaves to rebellion, and, when opportunity afford them facilities for escaping, to aid them.
Within a short time about one hundred and fifty head of cattle have been stolen from this neighborhood, driven off, and sold. Eight or nine horses and several mules have been taken out of the emigrants' camp, driven to parts unknown, and the money is now jingling in the pockets of the Abolitionists. Occurrences of this kind were never before known in this neighborhood, and prior to the shipment of the filth and scum of the Eastern cities our property was secure and our slaves were contented and happy.
The enormity of these offenses, and the great loss of property, should open the eyes of our citizens to their true situation. We can not feel safe while the air of Kansas is polluted with the breath of a single Free-soiler. We are not safe, and self-preservation requires the total extermination of this set. Let us act immediately, and with such decision as will convince these desperadoes that it is our fixed determination to keep their feet from polluting the soil of Kansas.
We published in a former chapter the letter of recommendation this same Robert S. Kelley had written, certifying to the good behavior of the people of the county, and the facts of the case were not altered now; save and only this, that a black woman, the slave of Grafton Thomasson, had drowned herself. This said Thomasson was a drinking man, and when in drink was desperate and dangerous. What passed between this man, when intoxicated, and this slave woman the public have never been informed. An altercation grew out of this between Thomasson and J. W. B. Kelly, Esq., a young lawyer from Cincinnati, in which Thomasson, a great big bully, flogged Kelly, who was a small man, of slender build, and weak in body. A public meeting was called, in which resolutions were adopted praising this big bully for flogging this weak and helpless man; and then this Kelly was ordered to leave, and was not seen in Kansas afterwards. Beyond this, if there was any of this high-handed stealing and robbery we never heard anything of it afterwards.
During the month of July, an event occurred destined to have lasting influence on the Christian cause in Northeastern Kansas. A church was organized at Mt. Pleasant. It is now known as the Round Prairie Church. This church, after passing through varied fortunes, has finally issued in being one of the best and most active churches in Kansas. The last act in his public ministry was the organizing of this church by Elder Duke Young, father of Judge William Young. Duke Young was one of the pioneer preachers of Western Missouri. When in his manhood's prime he was abundant in labors, and though he was without any scholastic attainments he had a keen mother wit, good sense, and good natural gifts as a public speaker; and, working in poverty, exposure, hardship, misrepresentation, and implacable opposition, he was one of the men that laid the foundations of the cause in Western Missouri. Becoming old, he came with his son, William Young, to Kansas, and after organizing the church at Mt. Pleasant, he failed in health, and ceased his work in the ministry.
Connected with this church was Numeris Humber. Bro. Humber and his wife were among the excellent of the earth. Sister Humber was a matronly woman, comely in person, greatly beloved, and a queen of song. When D. S. Burnett afterwards held a protracted meeting at this place, it was the songs of Sister Humber and Stephen Sales, as much as the preaching of D. S. Burnett, that made the meeting a wonderful success, and one long to be remembered. Bro. Humber and Bro. Young were slave-holders. Bro. Humber was also an emancipationist in his views of slave-holding, and often said that if a position could be secured suitable for emancipated slaves he would gladly set his slaves free. When at last they were made free by the results of the war, and went to Leavenworth to live, it was always a burden on Bro. Humber's heart to watch over them, and try and save them from the temptations that were laid for their feet in that wicked city.
It will be readily seen that no scandal would be created in Atchison by organizing a church at Mt. Pleasant with such men to take the lead in it.
It was now the middle of August. My cabin was completed, and I was ready to go back and bring Mrs. Butler and the children to Kansas. Bro. Elliott accompanied me to Atchison, where I intended to take a steamboat to St. Louis, thence going up the Illinois River to Fulton county, Illinois, where Mrs. Butler had been stopping with her sister.
The things that had been happening in the Territory had been so strange and unheard of, and the threats of the Squatter Sovereign had been so savage and barbarous, that I wanted to carry back to my friends in Illinois some evidence of what was going on. I went, therefore, with Bro. Elliott to the Squatter Sovereign printing office to purchase extra copies of that paper. I was waited on by Robert S. Kelley. After paying for my papers I said to him: "I should have become a subscriber to your paper some time ago only there is one thing I do not like about it." Mr. Kelley did not know me, and asked: "What is it?"