THE KENTUCKY RANGER
EDWARD T. CURNICK, A.M.
Author of A Catechism on Christian Perfection.
The Christian Witness Co. Chicago, Ill.
The story, "The Kentucky Ranger," to a large extent is built around the life and character of one of the most famous early pioneer preachers of the West.
Many of the incidents in his career are recorded, but have been treated as to time, place and authorship according to the demands of the work with the freedom belonging to the writer of fiction.
A number of years ago some of the chapters in the narrative were printed in "The Epworth Era," of Nashville, Tennessee. Thanks are hereby extended to the paper for releasing the copyright.
Copyright 1922 THE CHRISTIAN WITNESS CO.
Transcriber's Note: The Table of Contents was not contained in the text. It has been generated for the convenience of the reader.
CHAPTER I. The Ranger.
CHAPTER II. An Old Time Camp Meeting.
CHAPTER III. Swapping Stories.
CHAPTER IV. The Trail of the Serpent.
CHAPTER V. Rowdies in Camp.
CHAPTER VI. Under the Pine Trees.
CHAPTER VII. The Horse Race.
CHAPTER VIII. Prayer In a Dance Hall.
CHAPTER IX. Wanted, a Mission School.
CHAPTER X. The Mission School Established.
CHAPTER XI. A Kentucky Feud.
CHAPTER XII. The Shameful Plot.
CHAPTER XIII. Into a Pit (or Pitch).
CHAPTER XIV. Returning Thanks.
CHAPTER XV. Cupid's Chariot.
CHAPTER XVI. Horse Thieves.
CHAPTER XVII. Lynch Law or the Gospel.
CHAPTER XVIII. Apple Blossoms.
CHAPTER XIX. A Proposal Without Words.
CHAPTER XX. Kidnapped.
CHAPTER XXI. The Search.
CHAPTER XXII. The Rescue.
CHAPTER XXIII. A Battle With Moonshiners.
CHAPTER XXIV. "I Thee Wed."
THE KENTUCKY RANGER
"Glory to God! another sinner's down! Glory! Hallelujah! Amen; Pray on, brother; you'll soon be through. Glory! Glory!"
These words were shouted by two young men and a young woman who were returning through the Kentucky woods from a camp meeting. They were riding in a smart spring wagon drawn by two good horses. The young man who was not driving would fall into the wagon, crying for mercy, and the driver shouted: "Glory to God! another sinner's down!" and the young lady added: "Keep on praying, brother; you'll soon be saved. Glory! Glory to God!" Then the young men would change places, and the other would shout: "You'll soon get through, brother; pray on. Glory!"
These persons acted thus to tantalize a camp meeting preacher who was riding on horseback ahead of them. He detected their mockery and tried to outride them; but his horse being somewhat lame he could not escape them.
The preacher remembered that at a little distance beyond the road ran through a swamp but that a bridle path wound around it. Putting spurs to his horse he made for this path but the driver, keeping on the road, whipped up his horses. Driving into the swamp in his haste and excitement he did not notice a stump at the side of the road. Crash! went the fore wheel against the stump, and mounting to its top over went the wagon into the mud and water. The two young men took a flying leap into the swamp, and the young lady was thrown out. She was almost smothered before she was rescued by the young men. While they were in this predicament the preacher rode up to the edge of the morass. Raising himself in his stirrups he shouted at the top of his voice: "Glory to God! Glory to God! another sinner's down! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory!" Then he added: "Now you poor, miserable sinners, take this as a judgment from God upon you for your meanness, and repent of your wicked ways before it is too late." With this he left them, covered with mud and shame, to their reflections.
Jasper Very (for this was the preacher's name) continued on his way, now laughing at the sorry plight of his mockers, again singing a hymn with such power that the leaves of the trees seemed to tremble with the melody, and anon lifting his heart in prayer to his Maker. The object of his ride through the woods was to visit a settler who a short time before had been caught by a falling tree and suffered the fracture of his leg. The man of God brought the consolations of religion to the injured man and his family. After partaking of their plain but hospitable fare, he went to the barn for his faithful horse. While he is preparing to mount him we shall attempt to describe this backwoods preacher's appearance.
We see at once that he is a splendid type of Kentucky manhood. He stands six feet two inches in his heavy rawhide boots, but his frame is so well proportioned that he does not seem so tall. His head is massive and his hair as thick and disheveled as a lion's mane; it cannot be kept in order. His eyes are dark blue, and can twinkle with merriment or blaze with indignation. His mouth is of medium size, mobile, yet strong; when closed the drooping corners give the face a set expression. Great firmness and decision are shown by the broad but rounded chin, which forms a base for a smooth-shaven countenance. His frame is large and powerful and is overlaid with muscles hard as iron and elastic as steel. His hands are large and have a Samsonlike grip in them. A long coat of homespun cloth is well fitted to his body, with waistcoat and trousers of the same material. A black stock loosely tied about his neck sets off a white shirt of coarse linen. His whole make-up gives one the impression of fearlessness, determination and energy, mixed with gentleness, kindness and charity. Humor shines in his face like heat lightning in a summer cloud.
Jasper Very's parents were pioneers from the State of Virginia. Hearing of the fertility and beauty of Kentucky they, like many others, decided to emigrate to that land of promise. In 1785 they, with their infant son Jasper, started out to brave the perils of the wilderness. Perils there were in plenty. Kentucky at that time was the scene of repeated Indian raids, ambuscades, burning of homes, scalpings, and other atrocities. The Red Man was determined that his choicest Hunting Ground should not be possessed by the White Man. The Indians were met by such hardy and invincible scouts and frontiersmen as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton and George Rogers Clark. For years the conflict was carried on until finally the savages were driven out of the state and its marvelous valleys and hills were left to the white man there to fulfil his destiny as the aborigines had theirs before him. The Very family escaped the horrors of battle, massacre and captivity. They settled on a site of great natural beauty in Lincoln County, near the Tennessee line.
While the physical surroundings of the Verys were fairly entrancing, we are sorry to confess that the moral environment was anything but elevating and desirable. In fact the neighborhood was considered one of the worst in all the newly settled country. It received the name of Rogues' Harbor and well deserved the title. Many of the settlers had committed crimes in the Eastern States and had fled to the wilderness to escape punishment. They composed a majority of the people of the district, and when arrested for breaking the law swore one another clear in the courts of justice. At last the respectable people combined for their own protection in an organization called the Regulators. Several bloody encounters took place between the Regulators and the outlaws before order was established in the community.
Jasper Very was a lively youngster from the start, and surely Rogues' Harbor was not the best place in which to bring up a vigorous and vivacious boy. He early showed elements of power and leadership, having a remarkably strong and well developed body, being a stranger to fear, a wit and a wag, and loving the rude sports and pastimes of the period. Apart from the home there were few opportunities for mental or religious training. Schools were few and scarcely worthy of the name. No newspapers were published in that section. Sunday was a day set apart for hunting, fishing, horse-racing, card-playing, dancing and other amusements.
It is little wonder that Jasper became a wild and wicked boy. He was a leader among his fellows in the rough sports of the time. His father gave him a race-horse and he became renowned among his companions for fearless riding. At card-playing he was skillful and lucky. But Jasper had one blessed, restraining influence which doubtless kept him from going the full course of sin and folly—a devout, humble, praying, Christian mother.
Happy the boy who in the slippery paths of youth can lean upon the loving arm of a godly mother.
When sixteen years of age Jasper experienced a great change of heart and conduct. It was the turning point of his life. With his father and brother he attended a wedding in the neighborhood. With others he took part in the uproarious merriment of the occasion. Returning home he began to think of his wicked ways, and at once felt condemned. His mind became so agitated that his body was affected. His heart palpitated in a very violent manner, his sight left him, and he thought death was at hand. Very sure was he that he was not prepared to die. Falling on his knees he cried to God to have mercy on his soul. Though it was late at night his mother heard his cries, sprang from her bed, and was soon at his side praying for her son, and exhorting him to look to Christ for mercy. They prayed together a long time, and little sleep came to them that night. Jasper resolved from that time to be a Christian. He asked his father to sell the racehorse, and gave his pack of cards to his mother, who threw them into the fire.
However, it was many days before Jasper really felt that he was converted. Finally he found peace of mind at a camp meeting. We quote from a record of his experience: "On the Saturday evening of said meeting I went with weeping multitudes, bowed before the sand, and earnestly prayed for mercy. In the midst of a solemn struggle of soul an impression was made on my mind as though a voice said to me: 'Thy sins are all forgiven thee.' Divine light flashed all around me, unspeakable joy sprang up in my soul. I rose to my feet, opened my eyes, and it really seemed as if I were in heaven; the trees, the leaves on them, and every thing seemed to be, and I really thought were, praising God. My mother raised a shout, my Christian friends crowded around me and joined me in praising God—I have never doubted that the Lord did then and there forgive my sins and gave me religion." He went on his way rejoicing, and before he reached his majority became a backwoods preacher. He had been ranging over the hills and valleys of Kentucky for four years, preaching the gospel in many places, when he is introduced to our readers.
Jasper Very was known early in his ministry as a great camp meeting preacher. He was always partial to such gatherings, partly because at one of them he had found religion. These meetings in the woods, "God's first temples," are of enough importance to merit description in another chapter.
An Old Time Camp Meeting.
To Kentucky belongs the honor of originating the modern camp meeting. This is no small distinction, when we consider how these institutions have spread over the land and the great good they have done. Camp meetings grew out of the needs of the times. When they providentially sprang up in Kentucky, the frontier was sparsely settled, most people living miles away from any church. Such churches as were built were small and could accommodate only a few persons, and preaching services were often weeks apart.
The revivals of genuine religion which usually attended these gatherings were much needed in the backwoods. Most of the settlers were honest, law-abiding persons, who had sought to improve their means by emigrating to this western country; but many of the vicious off-scouring of the older settlements also went west to hide their crimes or to commit new ones. Rogues' Harbor was only an extreme type of many law-defying places. Murderers, thieves, gamblers, defaulters and their kind put life in peril, and threatened the moral and social order of the state. These camp meetings strengthened and encouraged good people, reformed many bad men and women, and thus became a saving leaven of righteousness.
And what a place for a camp meeting was the Kentucky forest. What nature poet can do justice to such sylvan loveliness as we find in the "Blue Grass Region?" The pen must be dipped in the juices of that Edenic vegetation and tinted with the blue of that arching sky to record such beauty. What stately trees! They seemed like pillars in God's own temple. The rich, warm limestone soil gave birth to trees in form and variety scarce equaled in the world. Here grew in friendly fellowship and rivalry the elm, ash, hickory, walnut, wild cherry, white, black and read oak, black and honey locust, and many others. Their lofty branches interlocking formed a verdant roof which did not entirely shut out the sun's rays but caused a light subdued and impressive as the light in a Saint Paul's Cathedral.
In such a forest was pitched the camp to which Jasper Very returned. Let me describe this old-fashioned camp ground. A large, rough shed was erected, capable of protecting five thousand persons from wind and rain. It was covered with clapboards and furnished with puncheon seats. At one end a large stand was built, from which sermons were preached. A few feet in front of this stand a plain altar rail was set, extending the full length of the preachers' stand. This altar was called the "mourners' bench." All around the altar a liberal supply of fresh straw was placed upon which the worshippers knelt. On three sides of the large shed camps or cabins of logs were built for the use of the attendants. In the rear of the preachers' stand was a large room which accommodated all the ministers who labored in the meeting. The effect at the camp at night was very striking. At intervals of several rods log fires were kept burning and the bright light they threw was contrasted with the deep darkness beyond.
It is astonishing to read how great an attraction these camps became to the hardy pioneers of the Kentucky wilderness. People gathered from all quarters in all kinds of vehicles, some traveling thirty or forty miles. Many came in covered wagons in which they slept at night. History records, that at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, a camp meeting was held attended by twenty thousand people.
It is ten o'clock Sunday morning at Oak Grove Camp Meeting, where our hero Jasper Very is laboring. Thousands are in the great wooden structure, filling every seat and standing many deep beyond the edges of the building. The preachers' stand contains twenty-five or thirty ministers gathered from many parts of the State. The crowd has even overflowed this stand, and all available room is occupied.
The Christians present have been prepared for this service by the cabin meetings held at six o'clock in the morning and a prayer and testimony meeting in the tabernacle at eight. And now the service begins. A stalwart son of the prophets arises and announces the hymn:
"Come, sinners, to the gospel feast, Let every soul be Jesus' guest: There need not one be left behind, For God hath bidden all mankind."
He starts the first note, and thousands take up the inspiring strain, and the glorious music rolls through the forest like the sound of many waters. A passage of Scripture is read and a fervent prayer offered. A second hymn is sung: "There is a fountain filled with blood," and far away the cadence is heard rising and falling, thrilling waves of sound.
The song is ended. A rustling noise is heard as the people settle themselves in their places, and then a deep quiet ensues as they look expectantly toward the preachers' stand. One whispers to another: "Who is to be the preacher this morning?" They are not left long in doubt. Slowly the minister arises. It is Jasper Very, the star preacher of the camp meeting. He comes before his audience with a humble self-possession which is reflected in the composure of his face. How did he obtain this self-possession? Reader, we must lift the veil somewhat and let you see.
In the morning he had gone into the deep woods to study and pray, as was the wont of the forest preachers. Here he had prayerfully and carefully completed the outline of his sermon. Then a great burden of unfitness and helplessness came upon him. Like his Master he threw himself prone upon the ground and poured out his soul to the Father. "O God," he cried, "who am I, that I should be thy ambassador to beseech sinners to be reconciled to thee? Who am I that I should stand between the living and the dead and offer life and immortality to men? Thou, O God, only art my sufficiency, my hope, my expectation. Stand by my side and help me in this hour, for my need is great. This I ask in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen."
Coming thus from the hidings of divine power, with the Spirit of God like dew resting upon him, he announces his text: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
He began by describing the way of the wicked. He unmasked sin, showing its hideous deformity, how it pollutes the soul, and makes man unfit for fellowship with a holy God. Then he passed on to show the guilt of sin, the awful misery coming to a man when he is face to face with his iniquities. With great skill he pointed out condemnation arising from particular transgressions,—the defaulter fleeing from his country, the murderer with his victim's bloody form ever before his mind's eye, the lustful man tortured and consumed with the rewards of his own folly. Continuing, he proceeded to tell the final punishment of these sinners. In those days ministers at camp meetings preached a literal hell; and as the speaker uncovered the pit of destruction and compelled his hearers to look into it many felt that they were "hair hung and breeze shaken" over the mouth of perdition.
Now his manner changed. His voice, instead of being loud and startling like thunder, producing awe and terror, became sweet, tender, and appealing, like a shepherd calling his sheep to the fold.
Having opened the wounds of sin, he poured into them the cordial of gospel grace. He dwelt upon the words, "abundantly pardon," showing how God had planned to put away sin by the gift of his Son and had promised forgiveness to all guilty mortals who with hearty repentance and true faith looked to Christ for salvation.
As he exalted the world's Redeemer from one plane to another his soul was lifted up with indescribable joy and exultation. His voice and form were in attune with his soul. We have read that this man's voice could be heard a mile, and on this occasion it surely reached to the utmost bounds of that great assembly. Extending his arms, as though he would enfold the multitude and present them to the Savior, he besought sinners to flee from impending wrath, to come to the altar and be saved from sin so that they might "read their titles clear to mansions in the skies."
The effect was tremendous. At once a rush was made for the mourners' bench and it was soon filled. Many were stricken where they sat in the congregation and fell on their knees imploring mercy. Around the mourners gathered the saints of God, counseling, advising, quoting suitable passages of Scripture, praying with the penitents. When the meeting finally closed long after the dinner hour, scores professed conversion, and a great victory for morality and religion in Kentucky had been won.
The ministers were in the preachers' room on the afternoon of this camp meeting day. They were scattered about in delightful abandon. Some had thrown themselves on rough cots; others were lounging on rude benches which served as seats; the few plain chairs which the place boasted were also occupied. Most of the men were regaling themselves with the fragrant Kentucky tobacco, and the blue smoke ascended in widening spirals to the rafters above. They felt they must unbend after the severe mental tension of the morning.
What a fine spirit of comradeship is found among a group of preachers of one heart and mind. Can anything on earth surpass it? Here we find the hearty handshake, the contagious laugh, faces bright with smiles, a free flow of talk. We see hilarity without vulgarity, wit that sparkles, but does not burn, as when a bright sally directed at some brother's foibles is met with a quick repartee. We listen to anecdotes which cheer and enliven the senses without hurting the conscience or debasing the mind.
"Brother Larkin, give us a bit of wit or philosophy from 'Poor Richard' or tell us one of your good anecdotes."
The man addressed was John Larkin. He was about thirty-five years old and was known as the "square man" both as to body and mind. His head seemed more square than round, and was set upon a strong neck which rested upon square shoulders. From shoulders to the ground he was in the form of a parallelogram. His hands were wide and short, the fingers being of nearly equal length, giving the hands a blunt, square appearance. His gray eyes were wide apart, having a sly and merry cast in them, while crow lines in their corners gave them a laughing expression. His firm mouth and square chin showed that he could mingle seriousness with mirth. He was considerably under the average height, but thickset and strong.
John Larkin was of New England descent. When a small boy he had moved with his parents from "'way down East" to far-famed Kentucky. There he helped his father clear the wilderness and make a comfortable home. At twenty-three years of age he was powerfully converted, and soon after became a traveling preacher.
John had stored his mind with the homely proverbs of Benjamin Franklin and many bright sayings of other writers. He saw the ludicrous side of things and was fond of telling anecdotes. Hence the request which a brother minister made of him.
"About two months ago," said Larkin, "I had an appointment to preach in a private house. The boys of the family had a pet sheep which they had taught to butt. Going near him, they would make motions with their heads, and the sheep would back out and dart forward at the boys; but they would jump aside and so escape. A drunken man came into the congregation and sat on the end of a bench near the door. He had caroused the whole night before and presently began to nod. As he nodded and bent forward, the sheep came along by the door and seeing the man moving his head up and down, took it as a banter and backed and then sprang forward, and gave the sleeper a severe jolt right on the head, and over he tilted him. The whole congregation laughed outright and I joined in with them."
The preachers laughed at the story as heartily as those who saw the occurrence. One stout parson remarked: "The tipsy man surely was the butt of that joke." A clergyman from down Cumberland River way said: "I hope the sheep knocked drunkenness out of him and common sense and decency into him."
Larkin, his face wreathed in smiles, turned to a great strapping Kentuckian, and said: "Now Brother Harvey, let us hear from you."
The man addressed was well known by the company. Naturally strong he grew up on a farm, where his out-of-doors life added to temperate habits gave him a finely developed body. He lived with his wife and five grown up children on a splendid quarter section of land bordering on the Cumberland River. He was a lay preacher, cultivating his farm week days and preaching on Sunday.
"Well, brethren," began David Harvey, "I could tell you stories of wild Indians, panthers and wild cats that I saw in my youth, and some tolerably trying experiences I have been through since becoming a preacher, but today I am going to repeat a tale I heard not long ago concerning Jasper Very. He seems comfortable there sitting on one bench with his feet on another, and if my story lacks anything he can supply the missing links.
"Brother Very was attending a camp meeting in the edge of Tennessee when an incident of thrilling interest occurred. Two young men, distantly related, sons of respectable and wealthy parents, lived in the settlement. They were both paying attention to a very wealthy young lady. Soon a rivalship for her hand sprang up between them, which created a bitter jealousy in the heart of each. After quarreling and fighting they both armed themselves, and each bound himself by a solemn oath to kill the other. Armed with pistols and dirks they attended the camp meeting. Brother Very was acquainted with the young men, and had been told of the unfortunate affair. On Sunday he was preaching to a large congregation on the terrors of the law. Many fell under the preaching of the word. He called for mourners to come to the altar and the two young men, deeply convicted of sin, came and knelt before God. One entered on the right and the other on the left, each being ignorant of the act of the other. The preacher went deliberately to each of them, took their deadly weapons from their bosoms, and carried them into the preachers' room. Returning he labored faithfully with them and others nearly all the afternoon and night. These young men cried hard for mercy, and while he was kneeling by the side of one of them, just before the break of day, the Lord spake peace to his soul. He arose, and gave some thrilling shouts. Jasper then hurried to the other young man, at the other side of the altar, and he was saved in less than fifteen minutes and, standing upright, shouted victory. As these young men faced about they saw each other, and starting simultaneously, met about midway of the altar, and instantly clasped each other in their arms. What a shout went up to heaven that night from these young men, and from almost all the number present."
This narrative strongly affected the group of ministers, and some more emotional than others shouted: "Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!"
"Brother Very, did I tell the story right?" said Harvey.
"You told it about as it was," responded Very, "only there is this sequel to add: one of these young men made an able and successful preacher. After traveling a few years his health failed, and he died triumphantly."
A sallow-faced parson from the river-bottoms remarked: "Jasper Very has been through many trying experiences, and I am going to ask him to tell us how he conquered that cantankerous woman by tact and muscles."
Thus appealed to, Very told the following anecdote: "Some time ago I crossed the Ohio River into the State of Illinois where I had some preaching engagements. On one of my tours I met a local preacher who was a small, good natured, pious and withal a useful preacher. He had a wife who was a noted virago. She was high tempered, overbearing and quarrelsome. She opposed her husband's preaching, and was unwilling he should ask a blessing at the table or conduct family prayers. If he persisted in his effort to pray she would run noisily about the rooms and overturn the chairs. If unable to stop him any other way she would catch a cat and throw it in his face while he was kneeling and trying to pray. The little man had invited several preachers to his home to talk with the woman and bring her to a better frame of mind, but she cursed them to their face and raged like one possessed. Several times he invited me to go home with him, but I was afraid to trust myself. I pitied the poor little man so much that finally I yielded, and went home with him one evening. When we arrived I saw she was mad, and the devil was in her as big as an alligator. So I determined on my course. After supper her husband said very kindly: 'Come, wife, stop your little affairs, and let us have prayers.' To this she replied: 'I will have none of your praying about me.' Speaking mildly, I expostulated with her, but to no use; for the longer I spoke the more wrathful she became, and she cursed me most bitterly. Then I spoke sternly and said: 'Madam, if you were a wife of mine, I would break you of your bad ways, or I would break your neck.'
"'The devil you would!' she said. With this she poured upon me such a torrent of curses as was almost beyond endurance.
"'Be still,' said I, 'we must and will have prayer.' Again she declared we should not.
"'Now,' I remarked to her, 'if you do not be still, and behave yourself, I'll put you out of doors.' At this she clenched her fist, swore at me, and told me I could not put her out. I caught her by the arm, and swinging her round in a circle brought her up to the cabin door, and shoved her out. She jumped up, tore her hair, foamed, all the time swearing in a terrible way. The door was made very strong to keep out hostile Indians. I shut it tightly, barred it, and went to prayer. Under such conditions praying was difficult, I assure you, but I was determined to conquer or die.
"While she was raging, foaming and roaring on the outside I was singing with a loud voice spiritual hymns on the inside to drown her words as much as possible. At last she became perfectly exhausted and panted for breath. Then she became calm and still, and knocking at the door said: 'Mr. Very, please let me in.'
"'Will you behave yourself, if I let you in?' said I.
"'O yes,' replied she, 'I will.' With this I opened the door, took her by the hand, led her in, and seated her by the fire-place. She was in a high perspiration, and looked pale as death. After she was seated she said: 'What a fool I am.' 'Yes,' said I, 'about one of the biggest fools I ever saw in my life. Now, you have to repent of all this or your soul will be lost.' She sat silent, and I said 'Brother C., let us pray again.' We kneeled down and both prayed. His wife was as quiet as a lamb. And what is better, in less than six months this woman was soundly converted, and became as bold in the cause of God as she had been in the cause of the wicked one.'"
The Trail of the Serpent.
While these ministers of grace were engaged in pleasant conversation a different kind of a crowd had met not far away. They were moonshiners. Their rendezvous was a cave near the top of a hill about one mile back from the Cumberland River. A motley company of about a dozen men they were, dressed in cheap trousers supported by "galluses," coarse shirts, and wide-brim straw hats.
Sam Wiles was leader of this band. As these pages are often to be burdened with his name, we shall now take his measure. He belonged to that part of the population called "poor whites." His parents had come to the settlement when Sam was a little boy. They were poor, shiftless, improvident, ignorant, and, worse than all, apparently contented with their lot. They dwelt in a log cabin in the hills, and in a haphazard way cultivated a few acres of half-barren land, raising a little corn, tobacco, hay, fruit, and a few vegetables. There were six children in the family, of whom Sam was the oldest. Five dogs guarded the house and helped to make the inmates poor. "Tige," the coon dog, was the favorite of this quintette.
Sam Wiles was the brightest of the children, his mind being naturally active; but he had little disposition for study and very meager opportunities, for "school kept" only a few weeks in a year. At the time of this story he had just passed his majority, was somewhat above medium height, solidly built, with broad, square shoulders. His brown hair hung several inches below a coonskin cap he wore, and was supplemented by a large mustache of which he was very proud.
Behold this leader of the moonshiners as he stirs the fire of logs under the still and speaks to his pals:
"That war a mighty fine trick I played on Dick Granger, the revenue deputy t'other night. He was after me with his dorgs, and saw me as I was crossin' the road near Franklin Schoolhouse. 'Halt, there!' he hollored; but I was not in the haltin' bizness, and I made tracks fur Pigeon Crick close by. As I run he fired off his gun; but the light was dim and I was mighty peart, and dodged in time. He called to his bloodhounds and said, 'Sic 'im, Rex; ketch 'im Bull,' but by that time I was wadin' in the crick. I run 'long till I cum to that big white oak which grows by the crick where it makes a turn north, and I jumped and caught a big branch an' pulled myself up into the tree. Then I walked on the thick branches till I got to the furder side, and there war standin' by the oak a mighty fine sugar maple with branches which touched the oak. I walked out on an oak branch as fur as I could go, and then swung from my hands back and for'ard with all my might. At last my feet touched a branch and letting go my hands, I swung down like a ham of meat in a smokehouse. Soon I pulled myself up and made fifty feet crossing that tree, and then I dun the same turn to a big walnut tree; and so on till I knew the dorgs could not track me, when I clim down to the ground and got safe back to the cave."
"That war a monkey trick, shore nuff," said Tom Walker, a gaunt fellow over six feet tall, who was stretched on the ground by the fire, and who, because of his height, was usually called "Long Tom." In his cavernous mouth he held an immense chew of tobacco, and ever and anon he squirted tobacco juice into the fire with a precision and force which showed long practice.
"I wish the devil would kill the whole crew of revenue officers," said Wiles. "Why should we be hunted like wild beasts for makin' a few gallons of whisky? Do we not raise the corn, and have we not a right to turn it into drink? You fellers know how hard it is to make a living on these hills; and if we make more money by changing corn into whisky, why should we be hindered and our lives put into danger? We have a right to make whisky and to drink it and to sell it, and I'm goin' to do it in spite of all the officers in Kentucky," and he brought his big fist down with a thwack on his knee to give emphasis to his words.
 It was impossible for this lawbreaker to foresee that in about one hundred years the whole whisky business in its beverage aspects would be prohibited by law in the United States, and that the sophistry he used would be employed by multitudes in denying the eighteenth amendment to the national constitution.
"Now yer speaking the truth, pardner," drawled Long Tom as he ejected from his mouth a generous quantity of tobacco juice. "My father fit in the Revolutionary War for liberty 'way down in ole Virginy, and I'll never submit to have my right to make home-distilled whisky taken away."
"Always stick to that and you'uns will be a man, even if you'uns die with yer boots on."
The speaker was Zibe Turner, a creature who would pass for a Calaban. A monster he was except his legs, which were short and slim, giving him a dwarfish appearance. So he was a monster dwarf, if such a term is allowable. His head was immense in size, covered with long unkempt hair. His shoulders, arms and trunk would become a giant. A look at his face showed a low forehead, black, restless eyes, wide apart, flat nose, and large mouth.
Like Calaban he could be called "hag-seed," or the son of a witch and a devil.
His moral nature was as misshapen as his body. His mind was degraded, yet keen in plotting mischief and violence. His affections were debased. Prospero's description of Calaban applied to him:
"Abhorred slave which any print of goodness will not take Being capable of all ill."
The words of Saint Paul to the sorcerer fitted him: "O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness." He was a type of those whom the apostle described as "filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, deceit, malignity—implicable, unmerciful."
Strangely enough, one of the moonshiners had read Shakespeare's "Tempest," and gave Caliban's title of "monster" to Zibe Turner. From that day he was generally nicknamed "Monster Turner."
"Always stick to dat," repeated Turner in his deep, gutteral voice. "Let's drink to de health of all moonshiners and to de defeat an' death of all revenue spies. Dat's my holt (hold)." Suiting the action to the words, he raised a stone jug nearly full of spirits to his lips and taking a long draught, handed it to the next, and so it went the rounds. The liquor, which would have made an ordinary drinker intoxicated in a few minutes, had no perceptible effect upon these men, who scarcely ever tasted water, so commonly did they drink the product of their stills; but it perhaps raised their feelings a trifle and loosened their tongues to speak other words and strengthened their purposes to perform unlawful acts.
Sam Wiles then spoke: "Next to these officer dorgs who hunt us on the hills and mountains, I hate them shoutin' hypercrits who air holdin' that camp meetin' near Poplar Crick. They're tryin' to make the whul county pious, and you fellers know how their head men have jined with others around here to appint a vigilance committee to drive all such as we'uns air out'n the State. Because we believe in pursonal liberty, because we think it right to make our own whisky and to race our hosses, because we sometimes try our luck at cards and win money from the young fools in the valley, they want to put the law on our tracks. Now the more camp meetin's we have around here, the less pursonal liberty we shall have; and I propose to you'ns that we jine with the boys on Honey Crick and bust up the camp meetin'."
This proposition was hailed with delight by all the company except Long Tom. When he had cleared his mouth of juice, he drawled out: "Byes, none of ye would like to see that meetin' capsized better nor I would. But we must be sure of our ground. I have hearn that the star preacher there—what's his name? Jasper Hurry? No. Very? That's it, Jasper Very. I have hearn that he is almighty strong and brave, and we had better be keerful how we tackle 'im."
"Shucks," said Wiles, "they air all cowards, and their magistrates will run at the first attack; and I say it is to our interest to break up that meetin', and do it right away. What do you say, byes?"
They all consented to the attack, and took another swig around from the big jug to seal the agreement.
"Now," said their leader, "it's time you'ns went to yer homes. Zibe Turner will stay, and we'uns will tend de fire. Long Tom, tomorrow you go to Bert Danks, the captain of the Honey Crick crowd, and ask him and his pals to meet us here in de evenin'."
Rowdies in Camp.
Sam Wiles and Zibe Turner attended to the still while the day began to wane, and shadows cast by the tall hills were lengthening over the plain.
When darkness finally came Wiles continued to replenish the fire and supply the necessary water from a running stream. His boon companion threw himself down on some cedar boughs within the cave's mouth and was soon asleep. His watch would come later on.
While this precious pair of "wildcatters" are thus employed, a good opportunity is given us to describe their retreat.
Their rendezvous was called Wind Cave, and was discovered a few years before by a young brother of Sam Wiles. The boy, Ephraim Wiles, one day was hunting stray cattle on some hills skirting the Cumberlands River, when he came to the top of a hill which was nearly bare of timber and whose southern side was a sheer perpendicular of rock for several feet down. The boy stood looking over this precipice, lost his footing, and fell down the cliff. He was unhurt, for about fifteen feet below was a level place a few feet across covered with leaves and moss and upon this he landed. When he had recovered from his surprise, he looked about him and saw that the hillside below him was very steep, with trees and bushes growing thickly in the soil. Then he turned his eyes toward the rock, and beheld an aperture of considerable size partly covered by bushes and decayed vegetation. With a boy's curiosity and daring he crawled into the opening, and found himself in a cave of moderate dimensions. Finding in it nothing but broken rocks and white walls and a small stream of water flowing along, he soon crept out, and knowing no way of escape save down the hill side, slipped over the edge, and by holding on to bushes and shrubs and checking himself against trunks of trees he finally reached the bottom, and, returning home, told of his discovery to the family.
From this time the cave became the resort of Sam Wiles and his moonshiners, and here they carried on their illicit distilling with little fear of detection. They explored its interior thoroughly, and discovered that the cave went north for a considerable distance, when it turned to the east, its dimensions becoming narrower as they proceeded. At last they came to a second entrance which opened upon the hill's side about midway between top and bottom. This aperture was partially close by fallen logs and decayed leaves and mold. The two openings made the cave a sort of tunnel, and because there was always a current of air passing through the passages they named it "Wind Cave." The narrow entrance was used for receiving sacks of corn, barrels, and other necessaries of their unlawful work, and also for removing the whisky after it had been made. The men kept this hole well secured by covering it with brush. As the other part of the cave was much larger, it was there that the still was set up, and there the outlaws usually remained.
Behold them this Saturday evening brewing mischief as well as distilling whisky. They were a reckless, religion-hating crowd. They were mostly young men, though some had passed middle life. Nearly all were shabbily dressed, and of large and bony frame. The faces of most were heavy and dull showing marks of dissipation. Others, especially the very young men, were really fine specimens of Kentucky physical manhood. They had rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and a ready smile and laugh. Surely they were worthy of a better cause.
In a way they were as jolly and hearty, as full of fun and jokes, as the ministers themselves. Their conversation was coarse and marred the King's English; it was boisterous and narrow, but it fitted their characters.
They were seated on logs or on the moss-covered ground in or near the cave's mouth. Each one was smoking a corncob pipe or rolling a quid of tobacco under his tongues.
These men had no compunctions of conscience either as to the lawlessness of their business, or to their desire and will to disturb the peace of the camp meeting. Sam Wiles speaks: "Fellers, tomorrer is Sunday, and we'uns must spile their meetin' on de camp ground. You'ns must arm yo'selves with any weapons you'ns can git—dirks, knives, clubs, and horsewhips. You'ns, Long Tom and Bert Banks, will walk right into de crowd while de preacher is spoutin' and start to break up de meetin'. De rest of you'ns must be ready to help."
"Right you air," said Bert Danks, captain of the Honey Crick band. "Long Tom and I will go, and I 'low all we'uns can make a rip-roarin' time, for we'll frighten de people, and be too much for de preachers and magistrates. I'll bring a passel of my bully byes with me, and they'll make things lively at de camp."
Long Tom remained silent, but a close observer might have seen a look on his face telling that his part of the program was not exactly agreeable, but he was not a man to shirk a hard task.
"Won't I laugh to hear de women scream and to see 'em run over benches like scart sheep," said Monster Turner. "You'ns will have to be right smart to keep up with me on de camp ground, for I'm goin' to have my fightin' clothes on from hat to boots. Confound 'em, dose pesky preachers won't fight, and we'll be too many for de officers. Dat's my holt."
These words wrought the men up to a higher pitch of excitement, and Wiles their leader, wishing still further to work on their feelings, said to Lem Curtis, a blue eyed youth of eighteen:
"Lem, you air de best singer in de bunch, and I want you to lead us in our favorite song. No revenues air near tonight, and we'uns air safe from danger if we'uns do not sing too loud."
Thus appealed to, Lem Curtis started a well known refrain, the rest joining in heartily.
After all had paid their respects to the brown jug Sam Wiles dismissed the meeting with these words: "We'uns shall meet near de edge of de camp on de east at seven o'clock tomorrer mornin', an' all you fellers be shore to be in time."
Sunday morning dawned beautiful and bright. The numbers on the camp ground were constantly being increased by persons coming on horseback, in buggies, wagons, and every known vehicles. Jasper Very was the preacher at ten o'clock. Everything proceeded in a becoming manner until he was half through his discourse, when up stalked near to the stand Bert Danks and Long Tom with hats on and loaded whips in their hands. They remained standing, and began talking in an audible voice with some women of their acquaintance. Naturally many eyes were turned to this scene, and the attention given to the speaker was lost.
Jasper Very stopped in his sermon and, turning to the rowdies, said: "Young men, this is a religious meeting, held by Christian people, and protected by the laws of Kentucky. You will therefore get down off those benches, cease from talking, and be quiet and orderly."
Instead of complying with this request, both of the rowdies cursed the preacher, and said: "You'ns mind yer own bizness. We'uns will not get down from dese seats."
Jasper knew that trouble was present, and being sure that it was vain to continue preaching, he cried out: "I call for the magistrates on this ground to come forward and take these men into custody." There were several officers at hand; but they, being afraid, declared they could not arrest them.
Jasper spoke to them: "Command me to take them, and I will do it at the risk of my life." Saying this, he advanced toward them. "Stand off," shouted both of the rowdies; but the preacher walked forward, when Bert Danks struck at him with his loaded whip, but that moment Jasper seized him and jerked him off the bench. A regular scuffle ensued, and the congregation was in great commotion. The magistrates, having found their courage, commanded all friends of order to aid in suppressing the riot. By this time Jasper Very had thrown Bert Danks down and, despite his utmost efforts to arise, held him fast. About the same instant two lusty farmers who were standing by the preacher took hold of Long Tom and bore him to the ground.
Then the mob headed by Sam Wiles and Monster Turner with loud outcries rushed to the rescue of the prisoners. They knocked down seven magistrates and several preachers and many others. At this point Jasper Very gave his prisoner to others, and threw himself in front of the order-loving people. At once Sam Wiles confronted him. His eyes were blazing with bitter hate. His rage was so great that it weakened his judgment, and he struck out again and again at Very to fell him. The last time he struck at him the momentum threw the side of his face toward the preacher. It was too great a temptation to resist and Jasper hit him a sudden and powerful blow in the ear which dropped him to the earth.
Meantime the fight was waxing fierce in another direction. Zibe Turner led a part of the mob to the right of the fighting, and attempted a flank movement. He seemed like a personification of Satan. His black eyes glared with a terrible fury, and with his long arms outstretched he rushed on the fray. His voice of command seemed a mixture of beast and human. Women shrieked and fled before him, and he had the satisfaction of seeing them indeed fall over the rough benches. With oaths and shouts his men followed, and many camp meeting folks were knocked down and bruised.
If it had not been for John Larkin, "the square man," the mob might have won. In the midst of all the excitement and noise he remained calm and wise. He had helped in resisting the attack in front, when, glancing to the right, he saw the monster dwarf approaching, knocking the people about with his long and powerful arms. Larkin put himself in his way, and as he got nearer said:
"Are you monkey, man, or devil, or the three combined? Whoever you are, you must reckon with me."
"I'm de man who can whip ary sneakin' braggin' preacher on dis ground. Dat's my holt," replied Turner.
With this he threw himself upon Larkin, and they were clasped in a close embrace. The monster dwarf gripped the preacher's body in his terrible arms with a strength like that of a grizzly bear, and it seemed to Larkin as though his ribs would crack and his breath leave him. But while the dwarf's arms were abnormally strong, his legs were weak, whereas Larkin's limbs were as sturdy as an oak tree. Besides, in his school days he had learned several wrestling tricks, and now he used one to throw Turner to the ground. There they continued to struggle for some time, the friends of each trying to help him. But by this time the mob in the other quarter had been subdued; and Jasper Very coming to the rescue of his colleague, the monster dwarf was conquered and several of his aids subdued and captured.
All the prisoners were sent to the county seat, and placed in jail, there to await their trial before the criminal court over which Judge LeMonde presided.
Under the Pine Trees.
Judge William LeMonde lived about three miles from the camp ground we have described. He was the richest man in his township, his farm consisting of one thousand acres stretching from the Cumberland River back to some high hills about one mile distant. That part lying on the river was like a garden of the Lord for richness of soil. In this land Indian corn, tobacco, cabbage, and potatoes grew to perfection. Midway between the river and the high hills was a narrow ridge which ran parallel with the river. This natural backbone of land reached its greatest height on Mr. LeMonde's farm. But the highest point of all had been increased in size by artificial means. In prehistoric times a race of people living in this region had added earth to this hill until they had made an almost circular mound, which became a conspicuous object in the valley. Mr. LeMonde's father, who bought the farm many years before, called the hill "Mount Pisgah." He was a descendant of the French Huguenots. When he came from Louisiana he built a log house on this elevation. A few years before our narrative opens Mr. William LeMonde had removed this log house and built a spacious mansion of brick. It was the only brick building for miles around.
The mansion Judge LeMonde erected was an ornament to this beautiful site. It was two stories high, crowned with a French mansard roof. It faced the river and a country road which ran along the river bank. The visitor stepped upon a broad piazza, and then entered through a wide and ornamented doorway a large hall from which ascended a broad flight of stairs. On the left was a spacious drawing-room, carpeted with an imported Brussels and adorned with several oil paintings. It contained a piano, an instrument seldom seen in those days. Back of this room was the owner's study or private apartment. On the right was a room half the size of the drawing-room, all finished in white, containing on the river side a fine bay-window. This room was fitted up with much taste as a family living-room. At the rear of this was a large dining-room, and beyond this a kitchen in which the colored cook, Aunt Dinah, ruled supreme. On the second floor were several large bedchambers furnished in a neat and becoming manner. One hundred yards west of the house, on the ridge, was a cluster of negro cabins, and beyond these an immense barn, the largest in the county.
Viola LeMonde was an only daughter of Judge LeMonde. She had one brother, George, two years younger than herself. Her father and mother almost idolized her, and gave her advantages far beyond those living around her. A fine female boarding school then existed at Cincinnati, Ohio, to which she was sent, and there she remained three years, gaining that knowledge deemed best for young ladies in those days: the common branches of education and the higher accomplishments of music and drawing. At the time of which we write she was in her nineteenth year, and was known far and near for her beauty of mind and person. She was a perfect blonde. A bright light sparkled in her blue eyes; her golden hair was simply arranged over temples and brows beautifully formed. The color of her face was like a delicate peach, white with a blending of red. Her nose was of Grecian type, mouth firmly chiseled and of medium size, while the cherry red lips when parted showed two rows of pearl-like teeth. Her chin was pear-shaped, and revealed decision of character. Her whole appearance gave one the impression of intelligence, purity, and benevolence. She was of medium height, and her figure would have served as a model for the skill of a Phidias. Her greatest accomplishment was music. Her voice was a high soprano, and its naturally pure tone was improved by cultivation under the best teachers.
Jasper Very's preaching appointments included the home of Judge LeMonde, and he was given a hearty welcome from the first to his house. Naturally he had seen the daughter Viola and had conversed with her several times at the mansion and at church. He soon found that she was superior to all the young ladies in the neighborhood both in strength of mind and education. To this she added a bright and deep religious experience. We must confess that the ranger's frequent visits to "Mt. Pisgah" were not wholly on church business.
On a bright afternoon appeared a select company of preachers, including Jasper Very and John Larkin, sitting under the lovely pine trees fronting Judge LeMonde's mansion.
The judge had invited them to his house to rest a day or two after the labors of the camp meeting.
The host and his beautiful daughter had joined the group of ministers.
They were a happy and merry lot as they looked over the tall, green fields of corn, and beyond to the glorious trees lining the river bank, and the sparkling stream seen between the trunks of the trees.
John Larkin was in his best mood, and the different subjects of conversation reminded him of many stories. They were talking of a sallow-cheeked preacher who was leaving his church located on Salt River.
"That makes me think of the illiterate preacher I heard of, who lived in the northern part of the State," said Larkin. "He was about to give up his church, and so delivered a farewell address thus: 'My dear bretherin-ah and sisterin-ah, I am about to leave you-ah, and I feel solemncholy-ah, I can tell you-ah. This mornin' as I was ridin' to this appintment-ah I looked up to the leaves of the trees-ah, and they seemed to be sayin', 'Good-by, Brother Crawford-ah.' And then I see the little birds singin' in the woods, and I fancied they said, 'Good-by, good-by, Brother Crawford-ah.' Then I gazed at the purty squirrels runnin' along the ground and climbin' up the trees, and they 'peared to be barkin', 'Good-bye, O good-bye, Brother Crawford-ah!' After awhile I come to a lot of pigs awallerin' in mud by the roadside. When my hoss-ah got just opposite, they got up and gave some loud grunts—whoo! whoo! whoo!—and that scart my hoss-ah, and he threw me in the dirt and ran away-ah. I ris my eyes to look at my hoss-ah, and there he was a-gallopin' down the road with his mane and tail a-flyin', and he looked back at me and seemed to be sayin', 'Good-by, Brother Crawford-ah; good-by, Brother Crawford-ah.'"
"It is a great pity," remarked Judge LeMonde, "that religion sometimes must run through such rough channels to water the soil of morality and piety when it deserves the best training of mind and voice."
"God can use very ignorant Hardshell preachers in building up his kingdom if their own hearts are right before him," said Jasper Very; "but if they are imposters, they are a disgrace and injury to the sacred calling.
"I met a fellow once across the Ohio River whose name was Sargent. He assumed the name of Halycon Church, and proclaimed himself the millennial messenger. He professed to see visions, fall into trances, and to converse with angels. We had a camp meeting near Marietta, and this fellow came to it. He wanted to preach, and upon being refused pretended to swoon away. One night he lit a cigar and got some powder, and walked away about one hundred yards where stood a large stump. He put the powder on the stump and touched it with his cigar. The flash was seen by many in the camp, and they came up to find Sargent lying on the ground. After a long time he came to, and told the people he had a message from God for them. Seeing so many there, I lit a lantern and went down to investigate. Stepping up to the stump, I smelled the sulphur and saw the mark of the burnt powder, and near the stump lay the cigar. As he was talking to the people, I stepped up to him and asked him if an angel had appeared to him in a flash of light. He said, 'Yes.' 'Sargent,' said I, 'did not that angel smell of brimstone?' 'Why,' said he 'do you ask such a foolish question?' 'Because,' said I, 'if an angel has spoken to you, he was from the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone;' and, raising my voice, I said, 'I smell sulphur now.' I walked to the stump and showed the people his wicked trick. They were very indignant and called him a vile imposter, and soon he left, and we were no more troubled with him and his brimstone angels."
"What a shame that men will take the livery of heaven in which to serve the evil one," said Viola LeMonde. "Hypocrisy is like a counterfeit coin: it is not only worthless in itself, but it also makes men suspect the genuine money."
"Poor Richard says, 'Honesty is the best policy,' and that holds good in preaching as in other things," remarked Larkin.
Jasper Very added: "Men who are dishonest cheat themselves. They narrow their souls. They grasp after a substance and find a shadow. A sure Nemesis follows the present gain. The great poet says: 'Who steals my purse steals trash.'"
"Sam Wiles is a case in point," said Judge LeMonde. "He surely is cheating himself. But what gave him the disposition he possesses? Heredity and environment; and not one man in a thousand will rise out of these. The fellow has some good in him; but it is strangled by his bent and surroundings, like good seed choked by thorns. What say you, Mr. Larkin?"
"There is only one hope for him, that is religion, which he seems to despise and reject. His superior gifts, making him a leader of the moonshine gang, constitute him a greater menace to law-abiding people. The Bengal tiger kills more prey than the common wild-cat which sometimes roams these surrounding woods. I am told that Wiles is the ring leader in many reckless acts, and will stop at nothing to gain his ends. Zibe Turner, called the monster dwarf, is his right-hand man, who will pick his chestnuts from the fire, though he burn his impish fingers in so doing."
"You remember, papa," said Viola, "when we and a few friends had that picnic two weeks ago on 'Silver Knob' we passed by the cabin where Sam Wiles lives? I felt sad to see his poor mother in her faded and torn calico dress in the little front yard. She was stirring some food in an iron kettle which was over a fire of logs. Her eyes had such a dull, discouraged look in them. The children were dirty and half dressed, and how the dogs barked as we came near! The lot of the 'poor whites' in Kentucky is indeed unfortunate. Even the slaves look down upon them.
"When I saw the Wiles family and other families like them in their low condition I said in my heart: 'Cannot something be done for the comfort and uplift of these people?' Gentlemen, I put the question to you this afternoon."
After a silence of some duration Jasper Very spoke:
"I am sure something ought to be done and can be done to brighten the lives of these poor folks. They live in the hills remote from church and Sunday School, which they never attend, and exist as heathen in a Christian country. Their forefathers in England were among the best yeomen of the land, and I believe many of these have the making of good, honest, upright citizens."
"I think it is possible to organize a community school—a combination of Sunday School and day school—for these dwellers in the hills," added John Larkin. "As I was riding down 'Sinex Knob' the other day I passed a settler's cabin, larger and better built than most dwellings in that section. The owner's name is Mart Spink. He has a wife and several bright-looking children. Perhaps he would grant the use of his living-room for school purposes. The Wiles family and a number of other families live near enough to attend."
"My thought coincides with the suggestion of Mr. Larkin," said Viola LeMonde. "We ought to have such a school. In it we should teach the truths of religion and also the common branches of learning. Moreover, we should help the whole community—the farmers to better cultivate their lands and their minds; the farmers' wives to improve their housekeeping, to get out of the ruts, and to take a wider interest in developing their own intellects and those of their children; the sons to have noble ambitions in life and to prepare to achieve them; the daughters, besides the moral and intellectual training they receive, to learn sewing, knitting, cooking, and other forms of domestic science. Yes, and I would have a primitive dispensary, that the neighbors might have at least first aid in case of sickness or accident. Tomorrow I will have my servant Mose Williams to drive me in the phaeton to David Hester's house. There I will talk with his daughter Henrietta, and I am sure I can induce her to join me in the project. Together we will explore the ground and make a beginning.
"I shall ask you gentlemen to aid us in every way in your power by sympathy, advice, prayer, and work."
"Most gladly will I do so on one condition," Very responded with a laugh, "that is, that we now adjourn to the parlor, and you will favor us with music both instrumental and vocal."
"Would you have me to be so selfish as to be the whole show?" rejoined Viola. "I will do nothing of the kind, sir; but I will play and sing if the company will unite with me in singing the hymns."
This demand was heartily accepted, and the group at once left the shade of the pine trees for the parlor.
Christianity is said to be the only religion that can be sung. It began with the angels' song, and its music will continue on earth till it is transferred to the song of redemption in heaven.
The hymns of Christendom are among its most cherished and valuable possessions. They sound the depths of the human heart. They express the varied emotions of the soul.
It is no wonder that Jasper Very requested Viola LeMonde to play and sing.
We behold this queen of song seated at the piano, while around her stood her father and her mother (the mother having just come in) and the preachers.
First Viola favored them with several instrumental selections from the great masters. It was interesting to watch her hands. They were perfect in size, shape and color. The slender fingers were tipped with nails curved like almonds. They struck the keys with a precision, force and grace, leaving nothing to be desired. The quick interplay of mind and muscle interpreted the music to her hearers in a way almost to produce tears.
After a rest during which some bright, witty remarks, like sparks, passed from one to another, they prepared to sing some of the great hymns of the church. They were well equipped for their task. Viola's voice was pure, sweet, soulful, and high. She might have been a sister of Jenny Lind. Her mother sang also in a rich and expressive manner. Jasper Very possessed a fine deep bass voice. John Larkin sang an acceptable tenor. All the rest were able to use their voices in song.
As by common understanding they began with songs of adoration and praise. Each one entered into the spirit of that inspiring hymn of Charles Wesley:
"O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer's praise, The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of his grace."
The persons here were advanced agents in bringing civilization to Kentucky. They had the heroic spirit. These preachers had endured hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. They had climbed mountains, crossed valleys, forded streams, slept in the open, encountered wild beasts and base and desperate men. Songs to cheer, encourage, and strengthen their faith and zeal were needed and provided. Naturally they desired to sing on this occasion. So the company sang with zest Luther's great battle hymn:
"A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing: Our helper he, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing."
Then was sung that hymn of triumphant trust, beginning:
"Though troubles assail, and dangers affright, Though friends should all fail, and foes all unite, Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide, The promise assures us, The Lord will provide."
The pioneers of that day had an exultant experience of the religion they professed and taught. Viola next turned to hymns expressing this state. She and those gathered around her sang them with joyous, even ecstatic, acclamation:
"O happy day, that fixed my choice On thee, my Savior and my God! Well may this glowing heart rejoice, And tell its rapture all abroad."
"Love divine, all love excelling, Joy of heaven, to earth come down; Fix in us thy humble dwelling, All thy faithful mercies crown."
After they had sung a number of other hymns, Jasper Very said to Viola LeMonde: "I have heard, Miss LeMonde, that you have composed the music to a new paraphrase of the Ninety-First Psalm. I am sure we should all be delighted to hear you sing your music to the words. Will you kindly favor us by so doing?"
Viola LeMonde replied: "I am not an adept at composing music, but the words of this poem impressed me, and I joined them to an air which came to me almost spontaneously. I shall take pleasure in singing this melody, if you will be charitable in criticism." Thus speaking she sang the following words simply but with much feeling:
The Saint's Refuge.
Dwelling in God's secret place, Safe doth his beloved lie, Shaded by his sovereign grace From the tempests fierce and high. Love Divine will hear his prayer, Be his refuge and defense; Save him from the fowler's snare, And the noisome pestilence. Sheltered 'neath the Father's wings, Covered with his pinions wide, Truth the ransomed homeward brings, Shielding him on every side.
Fear recedes from terror's night, Harmless flies the dart by day; In the darkness or the light Wasting death shall flee away. Sees he, falling in their pride, Twice five thousand wicked men; But destruction's wrathful tide Shall not touch his garments then. Angels, ministrant, shall fly From their dazzling upper zones, Charged by heaven's Majesty Him to keep from crushing stones. On the lion, bold and dread, Seeking ever to devour, And the hissing serpent's head, He shall tread with victor's pow'r. God will wipe away his tears; Grant him honor and release; Crown his life with length of years; Save, and keep in perfect peace.
The Horse Race.
We left Sam Wiles, Zibe Turner and other disturbers of the peace in the county jail. In due time they were brought before Judge LeMonde for trial. They were found guilty and sentenced to prison for one month.
A few days after their liberation the following conversation took place:
Turner: "Most all de folks on de hills and in de valleys air goin' to de races tomorrer, and I look for a gay o' time."
Wiles: "Yes, and all de niggers that can get off'n work will be there too."
Turner: "Dat feller from Lexington has a right smart of a hoss. You know he wants me to ride him in de last race, and I'm bound to beat George LeMonde, if beat is in de critter. His hoss stands seventeen hands high, is rangy in de legs, has a deep chest, and has a will to go. He can easily bear my weight, and you know dat dey count me de best jockey in de whul county. If I can't win by far (fair) means, I will by foul."
Wiles: "I hearn dat Jack Ketcham's sorrel goes like de wind, and Jack's hoss is goin' to be in de big race."
Turner: "George LeMonde has been speeding his bay over de track for days, and he will get every bit of go out of him. His mother and sister are dead set agin hoss-racin' and dey are begging him not to ride; but George likes de sport too well to please dem."
Wiles: "Mr. Rawlins, of Lexington, swears by his black, and will put up a great deal of money. George will try to match it, and ol' farmer Ketcham won't be slow with his cash."
Turner: "It will be an excitin' time, and I low, as many will see de races as went to de big camp meetin'."
Wiles: "Well, Zibe, you must stick to your hoss like a monkey, and do your best to win de money and down that upstart, George LeMonde."
With this remark the two men separated.
George LeMonde was a youth about seventeen years of age, well-built, good-looking, full of life and vigor, and at this time engaged in that serious occupation, common to many young men, sowing his wild oats. He was boisterous and rather reckless, but not vicious. His moral nature was touched by evil, but not yet corrupted. However, he had begun to walk in the broad way of youthful folly, and was in great danger of going its full length. He was restrained from drinking the full cup of unlawful indulgence more by the prayers, example, and love of his mother and sister than by the correct moral life of his father.
The greatest danger to that priceless thing, character, which confronted him was his association with the hillside young men. They never felt that he was one in desire and purpose with them; but sometimes he would meet them on the big road by Franklin Schoolhouse or occasionally go to their cabins on the hills. Then he would sip lightly their moonshine whiskey, join in their coarse talk, and share in their few pastimes.
George LeMonde probably inherited his love for horses. His father, Judge LeMonde, for many years had raised his own colts from the best stock he could procure. On his broad acres they had every chance to develop their physical powers. His fields produced an abundance of the best corn and hay. Skirting the hill which bounded his farm on the north were extensive meadows rich with grass. Here his blooded stock browsed, ran and grew. It was under similar conditions that many Kentucky horses were raised early in the nineteenth century, becoming sires of the greatest racing stock in the world.
At the time of which we write Judge LeMonde owned a bay, of his own raising, which was his pride and joy. The horse, Velox by name, was far and away better than any other he had ever possessed. He was known throughout the entire county as a splendid specimen of horseflesh, and for beauty and utility had won the blue ribbon at a number of surrounding fairs.
When George LeMonde reached his sixteenth birthday his father gave him this fine animal. The son was delighted with the gift, and took the best care of Velox, often feeding him with his own hand. George rode his horse so much that he learned all the traits and peculiarities of his steed; for horses, like men, have their own individual make-up and notions. On the other hand, Velox got to know, trust, love and obey his master. He would come at his call, and could be guided when on a journey nearly as well by the motions of his owner's body as by the rein.
George LeMonde decided to enter Velox for the race which was soon to take place, and many times did he ride his willing steed over the race course to prepare for the great event.
Horse racing then, as now, was one of the most popular diversions of multitudes in Kentucky, but the preparations then were quite primitive. The track was laid in a level piece of ground some miles from Judge LeMonde's farm. It was in the form of a circle, and was one mile in circumference. The inclosure was protected by a rough fence, hewn out of logs. Within the course, near the starting place, and on the inside of the track, was a stand upon which the judges of the races sat. Some rough seats were provided for a part of the spectators, but most of the people stood during the races.
Saturday dawned clear and beautiful. It was a perfect day to bring out the speed of the racers. The time selected was near the last of August, and a crispness in the air gave a faint indication of coming autumn. People from far and wide had come to enjoy the sport. They made the occasion a holiday. Many came on horseback and by team, and families brought well-filled baskets of fried chicken, corn pone, blackberry pie, and other good things to refresh the inner man.
A number of minor races were run by horses in harness and under the saddle, which only increased the people's appetite for the grand event of the day. At four in the afternoon the three horses were called for the two-mile race. Their riders soon brought them from their stalls to a position in front of the grand stand and judges. The steeds were all in perfect condition, their glossy coats shining with bright luster in the afternoon sun. The horses seemed to feel the meaning of the occasion. They champed their bits and moved about restlessly as though impatient to be off. Their riders, however, had them under good control, and now the judges tossed the coin for choice of position on the track. Zibe Turner secured the inside place, George LeMonde came next, and Hiram Ketcham, Farmer Ketcham's son of eighteen, was on the outer rim of the circle, next to the fence.
The grand stand, composed of rough boards, was filled with the best dressed citizens of the county: while far down the track, and separated from it by a frail line of fence, stood a great company of tall Kentucky pioneers with their wives and children. Many negroes were also in the crowd, interested spectators, and the small boy was much in evidence.
A silence fell upon the waiting throng as the three horses, bearing their riders, proceeded up the track a few rods to make a dash for the line. The signal was given, and they came like three thunderbolts to the starting place; but reaching this they were not abreast, and another start must be made. They tried four times before they got away in line, when some one shouted: "Now they are off!" For a few paces they were neck and neck; but then Hiram Ketcham's sorrel, though on the outer circle forged ahead. When the half-mile point was reached, the sorrel was several lengths in the lead, and Zibe Turner's black was leading George LeMonde's bay by a dozen feet. They came in this position down the home stretch, and as they crossed the line a great cheering rose from the crowd. Turner's friends from the hills were there in large numbers, and were the loudest in their shouts. "Go it, Zibe; you'll beat, old boy!" "Hurrah for de black! push him along!" "I'll bet my money on de Lexington hoss!" were some of the words that were shouted at Turner as he dashed past the starting point for the second mile. Hiram Ketcham did not lack for admirers, who encouraged him with cheers and waving of hats and handkerchiefs. Many of the farmers living in the rich river bottom seemed to be partial to the sorrel horse. George LeMonde's friends were plentiful in the grand stand and, in fact, throughout the crowd. They were somewhat disappointed to behold him the last in the race; but they saw that Velox was going well, and they had hopes for his winning during the next mile.
As for young LeMonde, he saw nothing and gave heed to nothing except the business in hand. Only once did he raise his eyes from looking straight ahead between the ears of his noble horse, and that was when he was passing the grandstand. Then he gave a swift look in that direction, and was repaid by seeing a young girl of some sixteen years of age, Stella Nebeker by name, dressed in a pure white muslin gown with short sleeves, waving a delicate handkerchief toward him. For an instant their eyes met, then he looked along the race course as before.
LeMonde had a method in his racing which he was now working. He knew the reserved powers which were in his horse, and he purposely held him back from putting forth his greatest speed at the beginning. Turner, the monster dwarf, was also using all his skill in horse racing. His monkeyish face was lighted up with a look of more intelligence than usual, which made his ugly features more forbidding and repulsive. His eyes shone with excitement, determination, and reckless courage. His teeth were clenched, and the muscles of his lips drawn over them gave him an expression half laughing, half demoniac. On the first round his cap had fallen off, and the shaggy hair of his head and face streamed in the wind, adding greatly to the fierceness of his looks. He had perfect control of himself and horse, and rode like a centaur, ready to take any advantage which circumstances or guile threw in his way. He also had held in his horse with bit and bridle, reserving his best efforts for the closing part of the race.
During the first half of the second mile Turner knew that it was necessary for him to lessen the distance between himself and Hiram Ketcham, and LeMonde realized that he must soon close the gap separating Turner and himself. Almost at the same time they gave their horses more rein, and they sprang to their work with increased speed. Ketcham had taken advantage of his lead by crossing the track and taking the narrow arc of the circle. The three horses were trotting in a line, all hugging the inside track. Very soon the distance between the sorrel and the black was diminished, and before the half mile point was reached the monster dwarf turned his horse toward the center of the track to pass Ketcham. Just beyond the half-mile point Turner's black passed Ketcham's sorrel, and LeMonde's bay was neck and neck with the black. A few rods more, and it was plain to be seen that the bay was forging ahead of the black.
The monster dwarf saw at once the advantage of his rival, and hissing through his teeth in a low voice the words: "Dat's my holt," brought his short cowhide whip down with force upon the withers of Velox. It was the act of a jockey utterly without principle, an act execrated by every true Kentucky sportsman.
The splendid animal never before had felt the lash of a whip. The blow had the effect desired by the dwarf. It broke the gait of the bay horse. The stroke was so unexpected and painful that the horse gave a bound forward and upward that almost unseated the rider. Then he plunged along the track with irregular strides, sometimes rushing to the sides and then to the center.
Though taken by surprise George LeMonde acted with decision and judgment. He held his mount with a firm hand, and added to the strength of his arm the soothing effect of his voice: "Steady, steady, Velox! Your master did not strike you. He loves you. Steady, steady, good horse! Velox! Velox! Velox!" By these means young LeMonde renewed the race, though the other horses were a considerable distance in advance.
In the meantime a large number of the spectators had seen the despicable act and roared their disapproval. Some shook their fists at the monster dwarf, and cried for speedy punishment for his vile trick. This outburst of indignation made him fear again to molest the bay horse.
Now George knew that the time had come for Velox to use his utmost powers. He knew that the horse had great reserved fountains of strength in him, and believed he could still win the race. As for the horse, he seemed alive to the situation. Perhaps he felt a proud resentment at the insult and injury put upon him. His eyes flashed fire. His nostrils were dilated until the red blood showed through his veins. Man and horse gave to each other courage and confidence; they appeared no longer to be two creatures, but had been merged into a single unit of astonishing force and capacity. LeMonde's whole soul was absorbed with one thought—to pass the other horses and to cross the line first. He leaned farther front in the saddle, lowering his head to reduce the resistance of the air. His face almost touched the flying mane of his horse.
Again he spoke to his mount: "Steady, my Velox boy; we are nearing the end. It will soon be over; but you must pass these horses, and win the race." With this remark LeMonde gave free rein to his horse, pressed his knees a little tighter against the animal's sides, and gave him a light touch with the whip. The noble horse instantly responded to his master's urge. He released fold after fold of knotted muscle, his stride increased, and when his hoofs descended, they seemed to spurn the ground. Now as steady as a Corliss engine this ultimate unit of the animal and mechanical world rushed on, and was seen to be gaining on the other horses.
At a quarter of a mile from the home stake the sorrel horse was passed, but still the result seemed uncertain. Then young LeMonde appeared as a Jehu incarnate. He pressed the horse's flanks with his heels and shouted into the very ears of his mount: "Velox, we must win, we will win, we are going to win." With this remark, for the first time in his life he brought the whip down hard upon the glossy hide of his steed. The animal increased his speed, and went thundering down the home stretch after the black. It is a case of blood against time and space. The bay gains! He has closed the distance between them! His head is on a line with the other's shoulder! They are only one hundred yards from the goal! The grand stand is wild with shouting! Those standing near the track, unconscious of what they do, are throwing hats, handkerchiefs and umbrellas into the air, and yelling like mad men! The judges are sighting the line! They see a horse's brown head and shoulders pass the line, then a black head appears, and Velox has won by a neck's length.
Prayer In a Dance Hall.
When the three horses crossed the finishing line, covered with sweat and foam, LeMonde and Ketcham soon brought their mounts to a stop. Not so the monster dwarf. Fearing that the crowd might do him personal injury he rode the black horse directly to the stable. He was almost beside himself with rage and disappointment. He ground his teeth together, and froth showed upon his lips. His face was hideous in expression. He shook his fist in the direction of the race course, and cursed the victorious horse and rider with terrible oaths.
To Sam Wiles, who had come up, he said: "Anudder chance will come. I'll git even wid dat proud aristocrat yit. I'm goin' to git back all de money I lost today, and mo' too."
A different scene was taking place near the grand stand. When George LeMonde, with flushed face and bright eyes, dismounted from his horse, he was at once surrounded by an admiring crowd who showered him with congratulations. They praised his skill as a horseman, his coolness in a time of danger and emergency, and his good nature under great provocation. Many were the admirers of Velox. They patted his shoulders, stroked his head and commented on his beauty of color and form. The horse took it in good part, and seemed to consider it a proper tribute to the steed who won the race.
Among the rest who shook George heartily by the hand was a stout, broad-featured man of about forty, who was dressed in a good suit of blue jeans and wore what was uncommon in those days, a large diamond pin in his shirt front. His name was Costello Nebeker, and he was a tavern keeper on a country road not many miles away. The girl with a white dress and shapely arm whom George saw as he flashed past the grand stand was Stella Nebeker, the sixteen-year-old daughter of this tavern keeper. She came forward, and in a happy way congratulated him upon his success. They had known each other for some time; for we are sorry to say, George on various occasions, having been at the tavern with some of his young friend, had indulged in the liquors which Nebeker kept for sale. While at this tavern George had become acquainted with Stella Nebeker, and she soon found a place in his affections. She was comely, vivacious and sensible, fond of society, a natural leader among her set, having most of the accomplishments furnished by the schools and social gatherings of their neighborhood.
Nebeker said to George in his loud and hearty way: "LeMonde, today you have covered yourself and horse with glory, and incidentally have put a good many dollars into my jeans pocket. Now you and your friends must celebrate this victory by a layout (feast) and dance at my house. Next Saturday will be moonlight, and Stella and I will invite our friends and you must ask yours to come, and we will have a jolly supper, and wash it down with some first-class Kentucky whisky, and wind up the meeting with a party dance."
George agreed to this proposal; and after bidding the tavern keeper and his lovely daughter a kind adieu, he departed to the stable, whither his faithful servant, Mose, had led his horse.
Costello Nebeker lived about ten miles from Mr. LeMonde's plantation in rather a rough and hilly country. For a number of years he had kept a public house; and as his place was the only one of this kind for many miles around, and as it fronted on a much-traveled county road, he had many customers at his bar and guests in his tavern. His house was a large frame structure, the lower part of which was used for a bar and lounging place and the rear for a dance hall. On the second floor were several sleeping rooms, some of which were occupied by the keeper and his family, and the rest were prepared for travelers.
The sky was clear and the woods beautiful on the following Saturday evening. As the sun began to hide his brilliant rays behind the noble hills covered with regal forests, and the moon, nearing its full, was already throwing a silvery light over the scene, those invited to the supper and dance were making their way, some in buggies along the main road, but most on horseback, coming down hills and across valleys, all moving to a central point, the tavern house.
It is not our design to dwell upon that feast, which consisted of most of the good things then in season in Kentucky, but to come at once to the dance and to a striking incident which occurred there.
Rather late in the evening, after dancing had been going on for some time, Jasper Very rode up to the tavern. He had been on a long preaching tour, and was tired and hungry. When he had dismounted, he asked the proprietor if he could lodge there for the night. Mr. Nebeker politely told him he could stay, but he was afraid he would not enjoy himself very well, as a dance was in progress. Jasper then inquired how far it was to a suitable house where he could put up for the night, and was told seven miles. He felt in his present condition that this was too far, and said that if the tavern keeper would treat him civilly and feed his horse well by his leave he would stay. This was promised him, and Very dismounted and went in. He quietly took a seat in one corner of the room, and the dancing continued. While musing upon many things and wishing in his heart he could do those people good, and having finally made up his mind to ask the privilege of preaching there the next day, he was surprised to see a beautiful and ruddy young lady, who was no other than Stella Nebeker, walk gracefully up to him, drop a handsome courtesy, and pleasantly, with a winning smile, invite him to dance with her. Jasper Very in his life had been in many strange situations, but this was an experience unlike any he had hitherto passed through. He could hardly understand his thoughts or feelings, but in a moment he resolved on a desperate experiment. He arose as gracefully as he could, with many emotions crowding upon his mind. Stella with much grace moved to his right side. Jasper grasped her right hand with his left hand, while she leaned her left arm on his right arm. In this position they walked on the floor.
The whole company seemed pleased at this act of politeness in a young lady shown to a stranger. The colored musician began to put his fiddle in the best order. Jasper here asked the fiddler to hold a minute, and, addressing the company, said: "Friends, for several years I have not undertaken any matter of importance without first asking the blessing of God upon it, and I desire now to ask God's blessing upon this beautiful young lady, who has shown such an act of politeness to a total stranger, and upon the whole company."
Here he grasped the young lady's hand tightly and said: "Let us all kneel down and pray." With this he dropped upon his knees, and began praying with all the power he possessed. Stella tried to get loose from him, but he held her tightly.
This unexpected act threw the whole company into excitement and disorder. Stella seized by an emotion which she could not control, fell upon her knees. Some of the dancers kneeled, some stood, some sat still with curious looks upon their faces, while others fled as in terror. The fiddler ran off into the kitchen saying: "Lord a marcy, what de matter. What's dat mean? Prayin' in a dance hall! Dis beats anyting dis niggar ever saw."
Jasper Very continued to pray with loud voice and great unction. Some soon began weeping softly, others cried out aloud in their deep feeling, and some asked God for mercy. After a while Jasper arose from his knees and commenced an exhortation, after which he sang a hymn.
Stella Nebeker was so affected by the service and by the deep convictions of her heart that she remained for a long time prostrate on the floor, crying earnestly for pardon. This strange meeting continued nearly all night; and when it was ended, fifteen of those dancers had obtained pardon for their sins. Stella was one of them, George LeMonde was another and the tavern keeper was a third. From this dance room a great revival spread throughout that part of the country.
Wanted, a Mission School.
Let us follow Miss Viola LeMonde and Miss Henrietta Harvey in their effort to organize a Sunday School among the "Poor Whites."
It was a beautiful day in September when the two young ladies seated in the phaeton drawn by Velox and Dolly and driven by faithful Mose made their way into the hill country. Their object was to visit as many families in a remote section as possible, and try to get their consent to join the proposed school.
After riding a number of miles they came to the family of Mart Spink. The two-room cabin in which they lived had the distinction of being built of hewn logs. It also had a "lean-to," or low ell, attached to the larger part.
Fortunately they found the "old man," Mart Spink, at home. He seemed surprised to behold such a fine turnout stop at his door, but showed a native gallantry as he came to the carriage.
"Howdy, ladies, I'se glad to see you. Won't you 'light, and walk into de house?"
"Thank you," replied Viola. "My name is Viola LeMonde, and this is my friend, Miss Henrietta Harvey. We have come to consult you on some important business, and shall be glad to step into your cottage."
With this remark they both dismounted from the phaeton, and passed into the house.
Here they found the whole family, and Mr. Spink introduced them in order to the ladies—his wife, Lucinda, his oldest daughter, Susanna, then Elmira, Robert and Jonathan.
Mart Spink invited the ladies to be seated, and they sat down on splint-bottom chairs.
Viola LeMonde opened the business in hand: "Mr. Spink, some of us living in the bottoms, knowing that you dwell so far away from any church that you and your neighbors cannot well attend public religious services, have decided to start a Sunday School in this locality, if we can find a suitable place, and if the people are willing to come to it.
"Not long ago Rev. John Larkin, whom perhaps you have seen, suggested your house as the best place in these hills in which to begin a school. What do you say to the proposition?"