A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH of the LIFE AND CHARACTER of JOSEPH CHARLESS, IN A SERIES OF LETTERS TO HIS GRANDCHILDREN.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil., chap.4, verse 8.
SAINT LOUIS: A. F. COX, PRINTER, OFFICE OF THE MISSOURI PRESBYTERIAN.
MY DEAR GRANDCHILDREN:
We are reminded daily of the uncertainty of human life: for the young and the old, the gay and the grave, the good and the wicked, are subject to death. Young people do not realize this, but it is nevertheless true, and before you are old enough, my children, to understand and lay to heart all that your mother would tell you of her dearly beloved father, she may be asleep with grandma, close beside him in Bellefontaine. An earthly inheritance is highly esteemed among men. For this reason great efforts are made by them to lay up treasures for their children. They know not, however, who shall gather them, for "riches take to themselves wings and fly away." But a good man leaveth an inheritance to his children, and to his children's children, which is as stable as the throne of the Most High. Like the stream that gathers strength from every rivulet, and grows deeper, and broader, and more majestic, until the myriads of crystal drops are received into the bosom of the mighty deep, so likewise is the legacy of a good man. It descends to his child by birthright, and through the rich mercy of a covenant-keeping God, widens and extends its life-giving power, flowing on and on, as rivers of water, into the boundless ocean of God's love.
Your grandfather, my beloved children, was a great man. Not as a warrior, nor as a statesman, nor in any sense which is simply of the earth, earthy. But he was great by being the possessor of a rare combination of moral worth and Christian excellence, which made him a blessing to his race. In other words, he was great because he was truly good. In the midst of his days of usefulness he was cut off from the land of the living. His precious remains rest quietly in the fresh made grave; his immortal spirit has winged its flight to the mansions of the blessed, for "blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them."
While endeavoring, in much weakness, to put together for your perusal such facts as may present to your minds a faithful likeness of the noble man from whom you have descended, I sincerely pray that you may be stimulated, by the grace of God, to follow him even as he followed Christ.
Affectionately yours, GRANDMA.
BELMONT, January 7, 1860
MY DEAR GRANDCHILDREN:
If you will look in your mother's Bible, you will find that your grandfather, JOSEPH CHARLESS, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on the 17th of January, 1804; that his father, whose name was also Joseph Charless, was born July 16th, 1772, in Westmeath, Ireland, being the only son of Captain Edward Charles, whose father, (or paternal ancestor, John Charles), was born in Wales and emigrated to Ireland in the year 1663.
Your great-grandfather, Jos. Charles, fled from his native country to France, in consequence of his having been implicated in the Rebellion of 1795, "at the head of which figured the young and noble Emmet, who fell a sacrifice for loving too well his enslaved country." After remaining a short time in France, he sailed for the United States of America, where he arrived in 1796, landing at the city of New York. Upon his arrival in the United States he added an s to his name to secure the Irish pronunciation of Charles, which makes it two syllables instead of one, as pronounced by us.
He settled in Philadelphia, and being a printer by trade, he secured a situation with Matthew Carey, "who, at that time, did the largest publishing business in the Quaker City." He often boasted of having printed the first quarto edition of the Bible that was ever issued in the United States. In 1798 he married Mrs. Sarah McCloud, a widow (with one child), whose maiden name was Jorden.
Sarah Jorden was born January 28, 1771, near Wilmington, Delaware. During the American Revolution her parents, with their family, were driven by the Hessians from their home in Delaware, and resided subsequently in Philadelphia.
In the year 1800 Mr. and Mrs. Charless removed from Philadelphia to Lexington, Kentucky; to Louisville in 1806, and to St. Louis in 1808. In July of that year Mr. Charless founded the "Missouri Gazette," now known as the "Missouri Republican," of which he was editor and sole proprietor for many years. This is the first newspaper of which St. Louis can boast, and I am told it still has the largest circulation of any paper west of the Alleghany Mountains.
As regards the character of your great-grandfather, he was a noble specimen of the Irish gentleman—impulsive-warm-heartedness being his most characteristic trait. He was polite and hospitable, his countenance cheerful, his conversation sprightly and humorous. Sweet is the memory of the times when his children and friends gathered around his plentiful board. Often have we seen him entering his gateway, followed by the mendicant, who would soon return thither literally laden down with provisions from his well-stored larder. His wife was no less hospitable, not less charitable and kind to the poor, but more cautious. She was of the utilitarian school, and could not bear to see anything go to waste, or anything unworthily bestowed. Not so easily touched with the appearance of sorrow as her husband was, but always ready to relieve the wants of those she knew to be destitute, she would herself administer to the sick with a full heart and a generous hand. But she had a natural aversion to indolence, and would not give a penny to any she esteemed so, lest it should tend to increase this unmeritorious propensity. She was herself exceedingly industrious, and took great delight in making her family comfortable, and, in fact, supplying the wants of every living thing about her, even to the cat and the dog. "She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She riseth also while it is yet dark, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens."
Both possessed honorable pride, and were plain, unpretending people, making no claim to an aristocratic ancestry, but, after a long life spent in a growing city of considerable size, they died, leaving many to speak their praises, and not one, that I have ever heard of, to say aught against them. He departed this life at the age of sixty-two, having enjoyed robust health until within two weeks of his death. His widow was "gathered as a shock of corn, fully ripe, into the garner of the Lord," at the advanced age of eight-one.
From an obituary notice of her I will quote the following lines: "Mrs. Sarah Charless was an exemplary Christian, and was one of the most zealous and untiring in her exertions to build up the Presbyterian Church established in this city under the pastoral care of the Rev. Salmon Giddings. Eminently charitable in her disposition, and ever willing to alleviate the evils of others, she endeared to her all upon whom the hand of misfortune hung heavily. Well was it said of her by one of the most eminent men of our State—the Hon. Edward Bates—that she was a woman upon whom the young man, far from friends and home, could always rely."
Of a family of eight children, viz: Robert McCloud, Edward, John, Joseph, Anne, Eliza, Chapman, and Sarah Charless, Joseph alone was left in this pilgrimage word to mourn for his mother. Eliza Wahrendorff, daughter of Anne Charless Wahrendorff, and Lizzie Charless, your own dear mother, were the only grandchildren left to mingle their tears with his. Great was the void caused in our small family circle when this excellent woman, this aged Christian, this revered and much loved parent was laid in the silent tomb. It is sweet now to think about her love of flowers, and how often she would say, when they commenced shooting up in early spring, that they reminded her of the resurrection morning. May you, my dear mother, realize the blessedness of this truth—when Jesus shall bid his redeemed ones rise from the cold ground which has so long shrouded them—and come forth, more beautiful than the hyacinth, to bloom forever on the borders of the river of life! And may you, my sweet children, have a pleasant and happy childhood, loving all that is lovely and hating all this is evil, that you may grow up to be good men and women; and in old age, when memory fails, may you, like her, rejoice and revel again amid the innocent scenes of early life, looking through them up to that glorious world above us, where the "inhabitant shall no more say he is sick," or shall feel the infirmities of age.
MY DEAR GRANDCHILDREN:
You, Charless and Louis, often say to me, "Grandma, tell me about when you were a little girl," and many a little story have I told you. But now I am going to tell you about "Grandpa," when he was a little boy.
That dear, good grandpa, who looked young to grandma, but who looked so old to you, with his pretty, glossy grey hair, was once a little boy, just like you are. He had a dear mamma, too, who tenderly loved him, but she used to punish him when he was naughty, and kiss him when he was good, just as your mamma does to you. He was a very obstinate little fellow, though, and generally submitted to a good deal of punishment before he would confess his fault and beg for forgiveness. His mamma would sometimes tie him to the bed-post, but he would pull against the string until his arm would almost bleed, and frequently he would free himself by gnawing the cord in two. But he was a good-humored little boy for all that, and "mischievous as a house pig," his mother used to say. Once she locked him up, for some naughty trick, in a room where there were a number of nice fresh made cheeses, arranged around for the purpose of drying, and said to him, "Stay there, Joe, until you mean to be good, and then I will let you out." He very soon knocked at the door, calling out, "Mamma, mamma, I'll be good now," and his mamma thought "my little son is conquered very soon this time; he is certainly improving." She opened the door, but what, do you suppose, was her dismay, when she found that the "little rogue" had bit a mouthful out of every cheese!
When he was a small child he strayed off from the house, away down to the spring, and, stooping down to see the pretty clear water, fell in, and came near being drowned. Oh, how his poor mother did cry, when her sweet little boy was brought to her so pale, and almost lifeless. But she rubbed him and warmed him until he came to, and was as well as ever; and his mamma thought "surely such an accident will never again happen to my dear little son." But when he grew to be a larger boy, some time after his parents had removed from Kentucky to St. Louis, he went one day with some boys to have a swimming match in the Mississippi river. Most boys like to swim or wade in the water, and sometimes are so eager for the sport that they forget, or give no heed to the expressed commands of their parents; and many a boy has lost his life by breaking the fifth commandment, which says, "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Many a boy who, had he lived, might have become a good and noble-hearted man, doing much good in the world, has thus early been summoned suddenly and unprepared before the judgment bar of God, simply for having forgotten, in a moment of pleasurable excitement, to honor his parents by a strict obedience to their commands. But, thanks to our Heavenly Father, this was not the case with little Joseph Charless, for, although he was drawn by the current of the terrible Mississippi into a whirling eddy, he was saved from such a dreadful doom. A good, brave boy, who was larger than he, and a better swimmer, rushed into the whirl and pulled him out to the shore. Poor little fellow! he was almost gone, for he was insensible, and it was some time before he breathed freely again. He was carried home—to that dear home which came so near being made desolate—and with deep penitence did he confess his fault and beg for pardon. His last thoughts when he was drowning (as he thought) were, "I have disobeyed my mother! It will break my poor mother's heart!"
Children have a great deal of curiosity, and perhaps you will ask, "how did grandma know so much about grandpa when he was a little boy? Was she a little girl then, and did she live in St. Louis, too?" No, my children, when my parents moved to St. Louis I was a young lady and grandpa was a young gentleman. We soon became acquainted, however, and after awhile we were married, and then I took a strange fancy to learn all about him from the time he was a little baby in his mother's arms; and when I ventured to ask his mother a few questions about him, I found it pleased her so much that I was encouraged to ask many more. And now it seems to me I have known grandpa always, and was with him when he used to go with his mamma and little brothers and sisters into the country, with a company of the neighbors, all in little French carts, to gather strawberries and blackberries, which grew in abundance in Lucas Place, Chouteau avenue, and all about, where now are elegant mansions and paved streets. It was then a prairie, with clumps of trees here and there, springs of water and sweet wild flowers.
He told me himself about his frolics with the French boys (many of whom were his earliest and truest friends), how they used to have match-eating pancake parties, in the day of the pancake festival in the Catholic Church; and about his youthful gallantries, and how desperately in love he was once with a very smart, pretty creole girl, and how the discovery of "a hole in her stocking" drove the little god of love from his breast.
But these anecdotes and incidents were, perhaps, more interesting to his wife than they will be to you. Well, then, I will tell you an Indian story, for I have never known a boy yet that did not like to hear about the Indians. You know the poor things are now nearly exterminated from the face of the earth. In the early history of St. Louis, I find that they lived not far off, having pitched their wigwams only a little farther to the west, for the white man, in intruding upon their hunting grounds, had driven them, with the elk, the deer and the buffalo, still farther from the Atlantic coast, which they once claimed as their own rightful property. These poor savages, however, would often come into the town to see "the white-faced children of the Great Spirit;" to buy their beads and other fine things to dress up in; and that they might show them how fierce they looked, their faces streaked with every variety of paint, and their hair all shaved off excepting a little bunch on the top of their heads which they reserved as a fastening for their feathers and other head ornaments, of which they were very fond. But, I dare say, if you have never seen Indians, you have seen their pictures. It was real sport for the boys to see them dance, and listen to their wild songs and savage yells.
But to my story. There was an old Indian who was a great thief. He was seen alone, generally, prowling about the town, peeping through the fences into the yards, watching out for chickens, or anything he could shoot with his arrow, or slip under his blanket. Little Joseph Charless had watched this famous old Indian thief, and determined to punish him for his wickedness. To accomplish this purpose, he armed himself with plenty of dried squashes, which he kept in the garret of his father's house, near to the gable window, that fronted on the street. He watched his opportunity, and one day, as the Indian passed by, he threw a squash down upon the old fellow's head. Soon after he peeped out to see if it had struck him, when whiz went the arrow, just grazing his face and sticking tight and firm into the window beam above his head! This fright cured him of "playing tricks upon travelers," at least for awhile.
You see now, my dear children, from what I have told you, that "grandpa" was just such a boy as you are—fond of fun and frolic, and of playing tricks.
I have said nothing of his love of school and books. But I think he was about as fond of both as boys usually are. When a little boy he was sent to the village school, and after he became large enough to work, he was put to work in his father's printing office. By the time he became a pretty good printer, a school of a higher grade than any St. Louis had yet afforded was opened in the country, and his father gladly availed himself of this opportunity to continue the education of his son. He was a pupil in this school for some time, after which he commenced the study of the law, agreeably to his father's wishes, under the supervision of Francis Spalding, who was at that time an eminent lawyer in St. Louis. After having read law awhile, he was sent to complete his legal education at the Transylvania University, Kentucky.
While in the printing office he and another boy received a terrible flogging one day for laughing at a poor, unfortunate man, who had a very bad impediment in his speech, which being accompanied, with ludicrous gestures and grimaces, was more than their youthful risibility could withstand. They made a manly, but vain attempt to suppress a roar of laughter, which only gathered strength from being dammed up, and at last burst over all bounds. I never could forgive his father for whipping the poor boys so severely for what they could not avoid. He was too just and generous a man, however, to have been so unmerciful, if his better feelings and his better judgment had not been warped by a burst of passion.
The following is from the pen of his old friend and playmate, Mr. N. P., of St. Louis:
"You ask me to state what I know of the early character of your late husband. This I proceed to do. In his boyhood there were not the same temptations in St. Louis to irregularity of habits and vice that assail the young men of the present day. I do not think I err when I say that Joseph Charless was a good boy—kind, tractable, obedient to his parents, and giving them no further solicitude than such as every parent may well feel when watching the progress of a son to manhood. He had no bad habits. As a boy, there was nothing dishonorable about him, and he had quite as few frailties, or weaknesses, as attach to any of us. In the sports and amusements of that day he stood well with his fellows, and was well received in ever society. Of course, from what I have said, you will infer that he was of an amiable disposition, exhibiting less of heated temper than most of us. Not quick in inviting a quarrel, but, being in, defending himself resolutely and manfully. I do not think he was the favorite of his parents at that day. Edward was. John, another brother, was passionate and hard to govern, but he was the only one of the family who had these qualities in a marked degree.
"I think Joseph gave as little cause for anxiety to his parents and friends as any boy could possibly do. He has been taken from us, and I have written in a more public manner (as editor of 'The Republican') my estimate of his character in all the relations of life," &c.,&c.
At the age of twelve years, his brother John, who was two years older than himself, was taken sick and died. This was the first great sorrow that your dear grandfather ever knew. I have often heard him speak of it, but never without a shade passing over his countenance, denoting that time could not efface the recollection of that painful event. Oh, how his loving young heart must have swelled with unutterable grief when his playmate brother lay in his coffin, so still and cold, his hands clasped upon his breast, with cheeks so pale, and his bright blue eyes dimmed and closed! But grandpa still had brothers and sisters left, and a kind father and mother. The world which looked so dark, soon became a pleasant world to him again; the flowers looked pretty and the air was fresh, and he was again seen sporting and romping. But at night, when he knelt down to pray, and his thoughts went up to Heaven, he would think of his brother, and, weeping, to relieve his little, aching heart, he would go to bed, feeling lonely and sad.
Did you ever think what a blessing it is to go to sleep, my dear little children? What pleasant dreams; and how gay and bright the morning appears after a good night's rest upon a comfortable bed. And do you ever think how good God is to have given you a praying mother, when so many little children have never heard of God or Heaven? Grandpa had a Christian mother, too, and she taught him to pray. She told him all about the great God who made Heaven and earth, and all things, and about his SON JESUS, who came into the world as a little child; that, though rich, he became poor, and was laid in a manger. This blessed Jesus is your friend. He can hear, and he can answer your prayers, and knows all you think and feel, all that you say and do.
Affectionately yours, GRANDMA.
BELMONT, January, 1860.
MY DEAR GRANDCHILDREN:
Twelve months have elapsed since I first made an attempt, by writing, to make you acquainted with your beloved grandfather, who departed this life on the 4th of June, 1859.
I am still a mourner—such an one as I hope, as I earnestly pray, none of you may ever be. My poor heart is desolate! I have no home in this world, and I long for Heaven. I would gladly lay me down in the grave, but God knows what is best for me, and He does all things well. Then to my task, for I have a portrait to make—a portrait for you to look at, to imitate, to love, and to reverence. Not a likeness of the external man: you have that to perfection—so perfect that a friend, who knew him well, remarked, upon looking at it, that the artist must have been inspired. But to show the inner life and the daily walk of that dear man who, for twenty-seven years, six months and twenty-seven days, was the sharer of my joys and sorrows, and the prop of my earthly existence, is a more delicate task. In a few words I could sum up his life and character, for there was nothing extraordinary in it, excepting extraordinary goodness; but, then, how could my dear children, from a few abstract ideas thrown hastily together, see the path he trod, in all its windings, compare it with that of others, and with their own, and learn the lessons it teaches? I do not mean by "extraordinary goodness" that your grandfather had no faults—that he never did wrong—for then, you know, he would have been an angel, not a man.
With these preliminaries, I shall endeavor, in much weakness, to set him before you in such a light that you will not fail to see and understand him, and to feel, too, the sweet influences of a presence that always brought with it happiness and peace.
On the 8th of May, 1830, my father, Captain Peter Blow, arrived at St. Louis with his family, consisting of my mother, my two sisters, my four brothers, and myself. We landed at the wharf of our future home on the steamer Atlantic. This being the finest boat that had ever reached this distant western city, the Captain, who was evidently proud of it, proposed to give to the good citizens of this goodly city of ten thousand inhabitants a select pleasure-party on board of her, that, with music, dancing and feasting, they might, to the best advantage, appreciate its dimensions, its comforts and elegancies. My sisters and self having accepted the cordial invitation of the Captain, who had treated us with great kindness and consideration while passengers on his boat, and, attended by our father and a gentleman whom we had formerly known, and who had been residing in the city for a few months, made our appearance for the first time in St. Louis society. Our mother, who was a perfect pattern of propriety, advised us to equip ourselves in our nicest street dresses, and, being strangers, not to participate at all in the dance. Consequently, we were there in the position of "lookers-on in Vienna." We made good use of our eyes, and kept time to the music in our hearts, but used our feet only in promenading. During the evening I observed several ladies with much interest, but was greatly attracted with but one gentleman, whom I first noticed sitting opposite to us, leaning back in his chair. There was a calm serenity overspreading his handsome features, which wore a joyousness of expression that was irresistible. I pointed him out to our escort, and inquired who he was. He could not tell me; still I could not but observe him. He waltzed once with the belle of the evening (a Miss Selby). My eyes followed them; and I see your dear grandfather now, just as he looked then. He was about the medium size —five feet nine inches high, and well proportioned; his complexion rather fair, hair dark. His beard was closely shaved, but showed, from the soft, penciled tints about his mouth and chin, that it was likewise black. His eyes were grey. With considerable gaiety of disposition, he evinced a gentleness, a suavity, and a modest grace of deportment, which I have never seen surpassed, if equaled.
In a few weeks Mr. Charless sought an introduction to us, and from that time he became a constant visitor at our house, and in fifteen months from our first acquaintance, he declared himself a suitor for my hand and heart, promising to use the best efforts of his life to make me happy.
I could tell you a good many incidents of our early acquaintance —of our pleasure-rides in pleasant weather, in gig or on horseback, and of our merry sleigh-rides in winter. Delightful recollections crowd upon me, and, if I were given to novel-writing, I could weave them into a very pretty little love-story; but then I would have to make myself the heroine. There was a little Scotch song, however, that he used to sing to me, and as it will afford me a sweet, sad pleasure to recall it, I will do so, at least as much of it as I can recollect:
"Come over the heather, we'll trip thegither All in the morning early; With heart and hand I'll by thee stand, For in truth I lo'e thee dearly, There's mony a lass I lo'e fu' well, And mony that lo'e me dearly, But there's ne'er a lass beside thysel' I e'er could lo'e sincerely, Come over the heather, we'll trip thegither, All in the morning early; With heart and hand I'll by thee stand, For in truth I lo'e thee dearly."
I have before me now the first letter I ever received from him, expressing what he had several times in vain attempted to speak. For although he was at no loss for thoughts, or words in which to clothe them, in ordinary conversation, yet, whenever he felt a desire to open his heart to me on the subject of his love, he became so much agitated that he had not the courage to venture, and finally wrote and sent me the following letter:
After a brief and simple introduction, he says: "That I love, you is but a faint expression of my feelings, and should I be so happy as to have that feeling reciprocated by you, I pledge you the best efforts of my life to promote your happiness. Nature, I fear, has wrought me in her rougher mould, and unfitted me to appear to advantage in an undertaking like this, in which so much delicacy of sentiment seems to be required in these, our days of refinement. Such as I am—and I have endeavored to appear without any false coloring—I offer myself a candidate for your affections, for your love. You have known me long enough to find out my faults—for none are without them—and to discover what virtues I may have (if any), and, from these, to form a just estimate of my character.
"I feel that my future happiness, in a great measure, depends on your answer. But suspense to me is the greatest source of unhappiness. Naturally impatient and sanguine, I cannot rest until the result is known. May I hope that my offer will be favorably received, and that hereafter I may subscribe myself, as now, Your devoted, JOS. CHARLESS, Jr."
If this seems like a "love-letter" to you, my dear children, it does not to me, for it does not embody half of the love and devotion which I ever received from my husband, from the time we stood at the hymenial altar, until, in his last, faint whisper, while he gazed with unutterable tenderness, he said, "I—love—you!"
But I must try to forget, while I am writing to you, my dear children, that I am bereaved. I must not let my sorrows give a coloring to every page, for I know how natural it is to the young to delight in pleasant things, and to flee from that which is gloomy; and, besides, I cannot leave a faithful impression upon your minds of what he was, unless I enter into the spirit of the past, when our sweet home was full of joy, and gladness.
And why should I not be joyous again? Have I not dear children to love me, and is not my dear husband alive, and shall I not see him again? Is not God still good, and has he ever tried me more than I am able to bear? Was he not with me in the deep waters? "I know that in very faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me."
Then let me cease my murmurings; or, rather, let me check my yearnings for what I can never have again—a faithful, loving heart, to bear with me my sorrows, and a strong arm to lean upon. Yes, there is a strong arm upon which I can lean. May I have faith to make use of it! There is a "Friend who sticketh closer than a brother," to whom I can unburden my heart.
Affectionately yours, GRANDMA.
BELMONT, January, 1861.
My DEAR GRANDCHILDREN:
We were married on the 8th of November, 1831. No costly arrangements were made for the occasion. The death of my sweet mother having occurred a few months previous would alone have prevented display and revelry; but, besides this sad event, my father had become greatly reduced in circumstances, and could afford no better preparations for the wedding of his child than such as could be made at home. Evergreens, provided by my little brothers, and festooned with flowers by my sisters, set off to great advantage the transparent white curtains, and gave a look of freshness and gaiety to our neat, but plain parlor; and the cake, with its plain icing, showed more than the confectioner's skill in its whiteness and flavor.
The circle of Mr. Charless' own immediate family, and a few friends he wished to invite, with some of our own, composed the company. And, since I am dealing in minutiae, I will tell you how the bride was dressed. She wore a plain, white satin dress, (made by herself), trimmed about the waist and sleeves with crape-lisse, which gave a becoming softness to the complexion of the arms and neck, which were bare. A simple wreath of white flowers entwined in her black hair, without veil, laces or ornaments, (save the pearls which were the marriage gift of her betrothed), completed her toilet. The graceful and talented Dr. Potts (Mr. then) performed the marriage ceremony, saying, "what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
My father, who had always been in comfortable circumstances, had, however, never been rich; and, notwithstanding he had been called to encounter many untoward events in life, we had never known what it was to want, until we came to St. Louis. This last move, which was fraught with brilliant hopes, in a monetary point of view, proved most disastrous, and, in a few short months, his little all of earthly goods was gone, and his faithful, loving help-meet laid away to sleep in the cold earth, and he, himself, declining in health, depressed and discouraged.
Our new home was a sad place, and it was joyous, too; for young hearts were there throbbing with pleasurable emotions, which sorrow and disappointment, though they checked, could not destroy. And young heads were there, big with the future; and Hope, which could not be hid by the darkness that surrounded us, sat enthroned as a queen, ever pointing us to the beautiful castle in the distant mist, and by her reflex influence coloring even the dreary present with her rainbow-tints.
A few days after our marriage we were received, as members of the family, at the house of my husband's parents. Upon our arrival there, we found the house brilliantly illuminated, for "Joseph was coming home with his bride," and the old people must have a grand reception! Everybody came that evening, and everybody called on the bride afterwards. Next morning, however, some of the realities of life commenced. We were late to breakfast, and, to my dismay, the breakfast was over. I glanced at my husband, who seemed a little embarrassed. But a cordial greeting from his mother, who was busy in the adjoining room "ridding up," and an affectionate kiss from his sister (Mrs. Wahrendorff), who immediately advanced upon our entrance into the room, made things a little more pleasant. We sat down together, and alone. Hot batter-cakes, etc., which were covered up near the fire, were soon placed upon the table, by the servant, and our plain, old-fashioned mother (who was no woman for nonsense) very unceremoniously told me to "pour out the coffee." What a downfall for a bride!
But this was not all. Upon my return to my room, after the departure of Mr. Charless to the store, I found that it was just as we had left it, and not cleaned and put in order, as I supposed it would have been. Mrs. Wahrendorff followed me, and offered (smiling) to assist me in making my bed, which I courteously accepted; and, finding that I was to be my own chamber-maid, I asked for a broom, which she sent to me. How long I had had that broom in hand I do not remember, but, while standing in the middle of the room, leaning on its handle, absorbed in rather disagreeable reflections, (all of which I might have been saved if I had known then, as I do now, that no disrespect was intended by these stranger relations), I happened to look out of the window, down into the street, when what should I see but the uplifted countenance of my husband, beaming with happiness and joy. Our eyes met, and, in a few moments, he entered the apartment, which had been very prettily fitted up, expressly for us. There was a shade of mortification on his whole-souled face, mingled with a playful humor, as he said: "Has mother put you to work already?" A kind embrace, with "I must make some other arrangement, dear—this will not do"—brought me to my senses, and I insisted (without prevailing, however), upon conforming to his mother's wishes in all things. "I had been accustomed to do house-work (much to the credit of my sensible mother, who, although a Virginian, taught her daughters self-reliance and many useful lessons in house-wifery), but I only felt strange, and a little home-sick; I would soon get over that, however." A few crystal tears fell, not mixed with sorrow; for how could sorrow find a place for such trifles in a heart so conscious of having just obtained a treasure, in a noble and devoted husband?
The next event of consequence that will aid in developing to your minds the character and disposition of your revered grandfather, occurred a few weeks after the circumstances related above. Mr. Edward Charless, who was married and settled a few squares from us, sent one evening an invitation to his brother to come over and make one of a card-party—to be sure to come, for they could not do without him. He went. Upon his return, about twelve o'clock, he found me still up, waiting for him. He saw I felt badly. Not an unpleasant word passed between us, and nothing was said about it afterwards, that I recollect. Again his brother sent a similar message—"one wanting in a game of whist." He promptly replied, (very good-humoredly), "tell your master I am a married man now, and cannot come. He will have to look out for some one else to fill that chair." And if my husband ever spent half a dozen evenings from me in his life—except when attending to business of importance, or when necessarily separated—I do not now remember it. His pleasures were with his heart, and that was with his family.
Not long after this, news came that his half-brother (Robert McCloud) was in a declining state of health. His mother expressed a desire to have him brought home. Joseph immediately offered to go for him, and in a few days he took leave of me for the first time; left in his sister's (Mrs. Kerr's) carriage, with two good horses and a careful driver. And it was fortunate that he was so well equipped, for it was a hard trip, at best, for a poor invalid who was a good many miles distant. He returned in a few weeks with his emaciated brother, who lingered a few months, and died.
During this winter my own dear father declined rapidly, and no hopes were entertained of his recovery. This state of things passed heavily upon me. It was painful enough to know that he, too, had to die soon. But what was to become of my dear sisters, and our brothers —all of whom were younger than ourselves? The eldest, who was about sixteen years old, and our second brother (two years younger), had just commenced business as store-boys—one in a dry-goods store; the other, my father had placed under the care of my husband. Mr. Charless had, but a few years previous to this time, become a partner of his father in the drug business, (having abandoned the profession of the law, as it was not at all suited to his taste, and, perhaps, not to his talents), and, as he had frankly told me, immediately after our engagement, he was a new beginner in the world, and poor; under such circumstances I could not hope that it would be in his power to do anything for my father's helpless family. Tears, scalding tears, nightly chafed my cheeks, and it was only when emotions were too strong to be suppressed that I would sob out in my agony sufficiently loud to awake my husband from sound repose; for, through the day, I always controlled myself, and waited at night until deep sleep had fallen upon him before I would give vent to my burdened heart. At such times he would sympathize with me, and speak words of encouragement and comfort: not embracing promises, however, for he was not a man to make promises, unless he felt at least some assurance of an ability to perform them them. True, to his heart's core, he could not, even under the excitement of the moment, awaken hopes, perhaps to be blasted. And, young and warm-hearted as he was, so alive to the sufferings of others, I wonder now, when I think of it, that sympathy such as his, and love such as his, had not overbalanced his better judgment, and induced him, in such trying circumstances, to promise any and everything to soothe the troubled soul of one he loved better than himself.
He weighed matters. He planned, and thought of every expedient. As respectful as he ever had been to his parents, and tenderly as he loved them—fearful as he was of any step which they might not cordially approve—a new and nobler feeling was struggling in his breast; for a sorrowing one, whom he had promised to love and cherish, looked up to him as her only solace; and, while a thousand conflicting emotions forbade her utterances and requests, he divined all, and, folding me tenderly to his breast, said, emphatically: "Charlotte, your sisters and your brothers are mine." Sweet words, that acted "like oil poured upon the troubled waters." And has he not proved himself faithful to that declaration? Has he not been to us, in our destitute orphanage, more than a husband and a brother? Did a father ever bear more patiently with the foibles and imperfections of his children? Was a father ever less selfish than he has been? Has not his loving arm embraced us all?
But, my children, I forgot I was writing to you, and I have already written a long letter—so, will conclude with the injunction: If you want to be happy—if you want to make others happy—if you want to be truly noble, make this dear grandsire your model.
It was truly said of him by his pastor, Rev. S. B. McPheeters, that "Mr. Charless was a man of unusual loveliness of character, irrespective of his religious principles. By nature frank and generous, full of kindly emotions and noble impulses, if he had remained a man of the world, he would have been one of those who often put true Christians to the blush, by his deeds of benevolence and acts of humanity."
As regards his devotion to me and mine, I would say, there are but few brothers-in-law, and they hard-hearted, and regardless of the world's opinion, who could have refused to be the friend and brother of a helpless family, thus left in the midst of strangers. But how often do you see men so steadfast, so disinterested and devoted through life? Where is the man to be found that would not have murmured—that would not, at some time, have let an impatient word drop, showing that he felt the burden of the care and responsibility brought on him by marrying, and thus, at least, have wounded the wife of his bosom? Where is the man to be found, that, under such circumstances, has secured to himself the devoted love, and the unbounded confidence and admiration of a proud-spirited family, such as mine are? Many, indeed, must have been his virtues, clear and sound his judgment, upright and pure his daily walk and conversation, cheerful and confiding his demeanor.
Affectionately yours, GRANDMA.
BELMONT, January, 1861.
MY DEAR GRANDCHILDREN:
In my previous letters I have endeavored, with the best lights I have, to show you the circumstances and surroundings of your grandfather's early life, by giving you a sketch of his parentage, associations, youthful characteristics, etc.
But now, I am entering upon a new era. He is a married man—has left the paternal roof, and is forming new associations. The romance of the vine-covered cottage, with the girl of his heart—which, as fortune smiled, should gradually grow into the stately mansion, with none to share or distract the peculiar joys of early married life, when all is couleur de rose—were not for him. Life is too earnest for romance; for high and holy responsibilities, in the dispensations of an all-wise Providence, he has to meet and to discharge. He is young and inexperienced, but here are boys, bound to him by a new, but tender tie, just entering the most dangerous period of life, without their natural guides; here are girls, unused to the hard usages of misfortune, suddenly deprived of all "save innocence and Heaven," and he is their only earthly protector and friend.
Our parents were both of English descent, and Virginians by birth. They were married young, and settled upon the hereditary estate of my mother, which consisted of a well-improved Virginia plantation. There they lived, with nothing to interrupt the quiet and ease of their existence, excepting the war of 1812-13, between the United States and England, when my father had to shoulder the musket, as captain of a volunteer company, and leave his family, to fight for his country. This was the only eventful period of their lives, until my father became fired with the Western Fever, that about that time (the year 1818) began to rage, and which resulted in the purchase and settlement of a cotton plantation in North Alabama. Alabama was then the Eldorado of the far West, and I well remember the disappointment I felt, upon our arrival there, at not seeing "money growing upon trees," and "good old apple brandy flowing from their trunks!"
From this period commenced our misfortunes, which, although trying to my parents, were, by dint of energy and perseverance, readily overcome, at least so as to enable them to support and educate their growing family—securing the comforts of life, with some of its luxuries—until, very naturally, aiming at more than this, my father again made a sacrifice of much, with the hope of gaining the more, by removing to St. Louis—the result of which I have already told you.
My father was honest, frank, social, communicative, and confiding. He possessed an unbounded confidence in his species, believing every man a gentleman who seemed to be one, or was by others esteemed as such, and, in transactions with them, considered their "word as good as their bond." From which, as soon as the old and well-tried associations of his native State were dissolved, he suffered many pecuniary losses. He was passionate, but not revengeful; gay and animated, but subject to occasional reactions, when he became much depressed. He was a high-toned, honorable gentleman, very neat and exact in his personal appearance, but entirely free from pretension.
My mother was orphaned in infancy, and brought up by her grand-parents —Mr. and Mrs. Etheldred Taylor. She was proud of her ancestry. I can see and hear her now, when, under circumstances where her pride was touched, she would say, "Daughter, remember that pure and rich blood flows in your veins—the best in the land. If your mother had to live in a hollowed stump, she would be what she is; no outward circumstances could lower or elevate her one iota;" and she would raise her proud head with the air of an unrighteously dethroned queen. This, I may say, was mother's great, if not her only fault. She was a pure, lovely, estimable woman; quick and sensitive, but, as a friend, a wife, and mother, she was unexceptionable. Like the Grecian matron, her children were her jewels.
Her education would have been considered limited for these days, yet she was a woman of fine sense and quick intellect. She possessed great delicacy of feeling, an inflexible will, an unusual energy (for a woman) in carrying out what she esteemed right, and an uncontrollable aversion to whatever was mean or cowardly. The training of their children devolved mostly up her, my father finding enough out of doors, in business or pleasure, to occupy him. And faithful she was in teaching them the practical lessons of industry and economy; faithful in dealing with their faults. The only one never checked was pride. This she appealed to as a stimulant to every other virtue; for virtue she esteemed it—and virtue it is, in its proper place, and under proper control.
My parents were brought up in the Episcopal church—with a form of godliness, without the substance. But the sufferings and death of my eldest sister, who had become a true convert to the religion of Jesus Christ, in the Methodist church, and who died rejoicing in the hope of everlasting life, so impressed my mother that she, too, sought and found the "one thing needful"—which happy change, although it took place late in life, was long enough to evince to her children the genuineness of her faith, and the power of the Gospel in making the "proud in spirit" meek and lowly at the feet of Jesus. She united with the Presbyterian church a few years before her death; and now, as I look back at the days of my childhood and youth, and call to mind all the pleasant and sweet things which memory cherishes, there is nothing so refreshing as the piety of my mother, and that of the dear sister, who, like a pioneer, went before to show us the "straight and narrow path" through the rugged scenes of this sinful world. Like an oasis in the desert of life, it lives, fresh and green, and ever and anon directs my vision above the storm and tempest to the pure and bright realms of the redeemed.
With this short sketch of the life and character of my parents, from which you can form an idea of the peculiar characteristics and dispositions of their children, who now have become so intimately associated with your grandfather, I will proceed to say, that, after the death of my father, which occurred in June, just eleven months after that of my mother, he at once became our loving and beloved head. We took an affectionate leave of his dear parents, and removed into our own "rented house;" and that you may be enabled to place us there, I will describe our two best rooms, which were separated by a folding-door, and used as parlor and dining rooms. They were neatly furnished, with nice ingrain carpets, cane-bottom chairs, an extension dining table, and very pretty, straw-colored Venetian window-blinds, trimmed with dark blue cords and tassels. A mahogany work-stand—the only article ordered from "the east," because it was a gift for his wife—was placed in the parlor, for it was too pretty to stay up stairs, (perhaps the emptiness of the parlor made me think so).
Now, my dear children, you may laugh, and, perhaps, feel ashamed that your grandparents should have started in life with so little, and that so plain, especially if you hear others boasting of the wealth and grandeur of theirs. But, when I tell you that after awhile we had a nice sofa, (bought at auction, because it was cheap), and that at another time a small side-board was provided, in like manner, by that dear grandpa, who always did the best he could; and when I tell you that "grandma" was so happy, and so well satisfied; that nobody's house—not even those furnished in the most expensive manner, with the richest carpets, the most massive and elegant furniture, mirrored and draped in costly brocatelle—looked half so sweet and pretty to her; when you know, my dear children, and understand, that those people who have so far deteriorated, by false teaching, and the glitter of the world, as to esteem such things more highly than the far richer treasures of the heart, which alone can garnish a home with unsullied beauty, and feel the pity and contempt for them that I do, these trifling baubles will take their appropriate place, and you will see life as it is, and value it for what is pure and genuine—not for that which is false and worthless.
On the 8th of November—exactly one year after our marriage —your dear mother (then our sweet little Lizzie) was born. Not long after this, I was taken extremely ill with a fever, which lasted many, many weeks. My dear husband is now seen as the tender and devoted nurse. With my sisters, he watched beside me, with his own hands wringing out the flannels from strong, hot lotions, and applying them to my aching limbs, which gave relief (but that only momentary) when as hot as could be borne. No nurse could be procured. The few that were in the city had left from fright when the cholera made its appearance there that fall, and had not returned. But "grandpa" never wearied in attentions to his wife. After the violence of my disease had abated, and I was pronounced by my physicians "out of danger," I continued weak and in a bad state of health for months. Still, how thoughtful, how watchful and attentive he was! Often at night have I waked, and the first object that would meet my eyes would be my husband, walking to and fro with the baby in his arms, trying to hush her to sleep, lest she should disturb me.
For at least six months after my partial recovery my limbs had to be bandaged, to lessen the swelling. No one but he could do this properly. At night he would prepare the bandages, by rolling them tightly, and in the morning, immediately after returning from market, (that he might not lose time from business), he would go through with the tedious process of bandaging—meanwhile keeping up a cheerful conversation, which is so reviving to the invalid; and, after breakfast, he would return to my room, to bid me an affectionate adieu, before leaving for the store.
During this sorrowful year, my dear husband lost both of his sisters. Mrs. Wahrendorff died in November; Mrs. Kerr the May following. In this severe dispensation he derived comfort from the belief that they had exchanged this for a better world, for they both had a well-grounded hope in the merits of a crucified Redeemer; and, even while he mourned for his sisters, he was cheerful.
It is surprising how much real happiness we can have in the midst of trouble, when the heart is right; and it is surprising, too, how much real misery we can have in the midst of prosperity, when there is everything apparently to make life pleasant and blissful, when the heart is wrong.
You know the little song, "Kind words can never die." "Grandma" realizes to-day that they never do; nor kind looks either, nor good deeds. With the God of love, nothing is small. He stoops "to feed the young ravens when they cry," and yet there are men, (not many, I hope), who, from pride, selfishness, and ill-nature, imagine that, as "lords of creation," it is utterly beneath them to minister with their own hands to the sick and feeble, not even excepting the wife of their bosoms. Life is made up of little things. "A cup of cold water" from the hand of a loving, gentle, sympathizing friend, does more to alleviate suffering than rich gifts bestowed by the unfeeling and the proud; than many luxuries provided by the harsh and exacting.
I have first particularized, and then drawn a contrast, my dear children, that you may be the better able to see the beauty and excellency of true goodness; and that, like your grandfather, who has gone to reap the reward, through grace, of a well-spent life, you may be self-denying, gentle, loving, and kind.
Devotedly yours, GRANDMA.
Belmont, January, 1861.
My Dear Grandchildren:
With a return of comparative good health, "grandma" is again enabled to resume her duties as housekeeper, and is daily seen, with "grandpa," presiding at their family board. Our sisters and brothers, with two young men from "the store," (who, from motives of economy, board with us), and our little daughter, who sits to the left of her father, in her baby dining-chair, constitute the family. How cheerful the scene, after months of sickness and anxiety! "Grandpa," at least, is radiant with happiness and good-humor. No unpleasant word or look is seen or heard during our family repast. Perhaps an awkward boy upsets his cup of coffee, but the quaint remark, "accidents will happen in the best regulated families," spoken with a native courtesy, rarely seen, restores his equilibrium; and thus peacefully, (in the main), day after day passes along, although many little perplexities and cares arise, such as every family are subject to, especially where there are sons just entering the dangerous and tempting paths of youth.
In my particular duties and unavoidable anxieties I had a warm and sympathizing friend, and a good counsellor, in the person of my precious husband. But I felt that I needed more than this to sustain me in the cares, and trials, and sorrows of life. And, besides, I carried about with me a troubled conscience. For, at the commencement of my illness, in the fall of 1832, I was perfectly aware of the approach of danger, and, as I took a look from this world into Eternity, all was dark and void, and the thought of having to meet death thus alarmed me. While a raging fever was fast making me wild, I drew the sheet up over my face, and said, "Let me be quiet." All was stilled, no sound being heard, save an occasional whisper from some loved one, (who was too anxious to be mute), and my own quick breathing, while my heart was struggling for communion with God. Vague as were my ideas of that glorious Being, I prayed that He might spare my life, promising, most solemnly, that if He should do so, I would, upon my recovery, turn my attention to the consideration of Divine Truth; that I would search the Scriptures, to know what they taught, and, should I be assured that the Bible contained a revelation from Heaven, I would, in the future, govern my life by its precepts and doctrines.
Weak and sinful as this prayer was, I believe the God of pity heard and answered it; for, notwithstanding my disinclination to the fulfilment of this vow, made under circumstances so appalling, He bore with me, but never allowed me to forget it. Every appearance of evil —and especially the return of the cholera in our midst the next fall —seemed to me, "like the fingers upon the wall," ready to write my doom. I often tried to become interested in reading the Bible, but that sacred book possessed no charm to me. I found it a hard and unpleasant task to read it at all. At length I summoned up courage to communicate my difficulties and fears to my husband. Prompt in action, he immediately purchased for me "Scott's Commentary," which, he said, would aid me in understanding the Bible; the want of which, he thought, was the reason I could feel no interest in it. He was right; for, before I had finished the book of Matthew, with the systematic and attentive reading of "the notes" and "practical observations," I was convinced that this was none other than the word of that great Being who had made and preserved me all the days of my life. This blessed book—which, hitherto, had been a sealed book to me—now seemed to glow with real life, and unwonted beauty! It was no difficult task for me then, hour after hour, to pore over its sacred pages.
Your grandfather, at this time, was only a nominal believer. He had not earnestly examined this all-important matter, and made it a personal one. Engrossed in business, young and healthy, he no doubt felt, like thousands of others, that there was time enough for him to attend to the interests of his soul, (which, to the natural heart, is insipid, if not distasteful); but, when he saw his wife so deeply interested, he did all he could to encourage her. He knelt with her at the bedside in secret prayer, conversed with her on the subject, went with her to church, and sympathized with her; until, as a reward, I truly believe, for all his kindness to me, at a time when I was ashamed of myself—ashamed to let anyone know (even him) that I felt the weight of unpardoned sin—"God touched his heart as with a live coal from off His altar." So, hand and heart, we went together. Sweet is the memory of the ever-to-be-remembered day, when, "in the presence of men and of angels, we avouched the Lord JEHOVAH to be our God, the object of our supreme love and delight; the Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour from sin and death, our Prophet, Priest, and King; and the Holy Ghost, our Illuminator, Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide;" when we gave ourselves away in "a covenant, never to be revoked, to be his willing servants forever, humbly believing that we had been redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Son of God."
How different is the scene now presented at that fireside, where no God had heretofore been acknowledged! For, morning and evening, we surround the Throne of Grace; the Bible is read, a hymn sung, and that sweet voice, which we shall hear no more on earth, with a full confession of sin and unworthiness, humbly pleads with Him "in whom we live, and move, and have our being." A blessing is asked at our meals; preparations are made on Saturday for the holy Sabbath, that no unnecessary work may be done on that day, and servants are exhorted to improve its sacred hours.
After having dedicated ourselves to the service of the living God, we took our little Lizzie—the dearest, richest treasure of our heart and life—and presented her, in the solemn ordinance of baptism, to that Saviour who, when all earth, "took little children in his arms and blessed them," and there promised to pray with, and for her; to impart to her the knowledge of God's holy word, and to bring her up, not for this vain and perishing world, but for Heaven.
Now, my dear children, that I have given you a peep into the home and household of your grandparents, when your mamma was a little babe—before and after they became members of the Church—I will proceed, by telling you that, during that summer, (in July, 1834), your beloved grandfather met with another heavy bereavement, in the death of his father. None were then left of all that united and happy family circle, which caused the homestead to ring with mirth when "grandma," as a bride, first became a member of it, excepting his mother, his brother Edward, and himself. Deep sorrow pervaded our souls, most of all because, before this sad event, we had learned to feel, most keenly, the importance of a careful preparation for "the great change," which we do not know that his father ever made. But, (as I once heard a minister say at a funeral), "we will leave him where he left himself, in secret with his God," with the hope that he was enabled, by that grace which is rich in Christ Jesus, to "make his calling and election sure."
Life is made up of lights and shadows, and, before closing this letter, I will give you an account of a delightful little journey which we made early in September of that year.
Your mamma, who was then just twenty-two months old, was quite delicate, and we thought a little trip into the country would be of service to her; and her papa, having some business in Illinois that would cause an absence of ten or twelve days, concluded to hitch up our little barouche and take us with him. So we started, in fine style, on a beautiful morning—"grandpa," and "grandma," our little Lizzie; and her nurse—which, with a small trunk, a carpet-bag, and a little basket, containing some crackers, etc., for the baby, quite filled the carriage.
I'll tell you there is no such traveling these days of railroads and steam boats! Every body is in too great a hurry to stop and go slowly, as we did in our little barouche, trotting gently along across the prairies of Illinois. How balmy and bracing the air; how quiet the scene; how beautiful the prairies! Some four, some ten, some twenty miles in width—all covered with tall grasses and a profusion of large autumn flowers that waved in graceful undulations before the sweeping breeze. An apt representation of a gently swelling sea, upon whose dark green waves, nature had emptied her lap of richly varied blossoms. We traveled from twenty-five to thirty miles per day; starting early in the morning—while yet the dew glittered before the rising sun. We always took care to learn from our host, the distance and situation of the next good stopping place, where we might dine, and rest a few hours in the heat of the day, after which we would again "hitch up" and start refreshed and strengthened for our evening ride. What magnificent sunsets! How picturesque the woodland bordering of these beautiful prairies, with here and there an humble residence, and a cultivated field. We could not but lift our hearts in adoration and praise.
"If God has made this world so fair, where sin and death abound, How beautiful, beyond compare, will Paradise be found."
On we went—passing occasionally through neat little villages, sometimes large towns, such as, Springfield and Jacksonville—until we reached Lewiston, where we spent the Sabbath and attended the village church. In the afternoon of the next day we went to Canton which was the end of our journey. And when "grandpa" had transacted his business there we turned our faces homeward.
The first day upon our return, we lost our way—then appeared clouds and mists, just enough rain falling, to make the high hills we had to climb, slippery and hard upon our poor horse, who manfully pulled away without flagging, until we found a shelter for the night; which, although a wretched one we were very thankful for. From this time, there is but a faint impression left upon my mind of our return, until within a few miles of Alton, when, as the sun was fast sinking into his glorious bed of cloud and fire (giving strong indications of an approaching storm), my anxious husband, after having made a strenuous but vain attempt to obtain a shelter for the night "whipped up" his jaded horse and pressed forward.
It grew dark rapidly. As we passed from the open prairie into the dense forest, we seemed to leave light and hope behind us—for cloud and tempest, lightning, and loud claps of thunder quickly succeeded. For awhile we could discern the road; at length, enveloped in total darkness, it was to be seen, only by the flashes of lightning, which, while it horrified our horse and ourselves, served to guide us and also to show us our danger, from the tall trees as they swung to and fro above and around us. About nine o'clock we discovered (as we thought) in the distance a light from a window, of which we were soon assured —and our fears allayed by hearing "the watch-dog's honest bark."
Next day we reached our snug little home, where we entertained the family with the incidents of our trip—its pleasures, hair-breadth escapes, &c. None were more delighted in that group than our sweet Lizzie, who brought the roses of the prairie home upon her little checks, which were more than a reward for a few untoward events of that delightful and long remembered journey.
Affectionately yours, GRANDMA.
Belmont, January, 1861
My Dear Grandchildren:
There is a circumstance connected with the death of my father Charless, which I cannot pass over without omitting a very striking feature in the character of my husband, delineating his unselfishness, brotherly affection, and his strict sense of justice. I think his father had deferred making his will until his last illness. At any rate it was not until then that his son, Joseph, learned (from his brother-in-law, Mr. John Kerr), the contents of his father's will, which were, in substance, as follows: Joseph was to inherit all of his father's estate, excepting a lot of ground, fronting on Walnut street, of sixty feet, which was bequeathed to his mother. Thus his brother, Edward, was disinherited. Eliza Wahrendorff, the only child of your grandfather's sister, who afterwards became the wife of my brother, Taylor Blow, had, by the death of her parents, inherited a beautifully improved lot of sixty feet front, on Market street, which was the gift of Eliza's grandfather to her mother, Ann Charless. Edward Charless had unfortunately displeased his father; for, although he was a genial, honorable, and kind-hearted man, he had, in early life, contracted habits of dissipation, which clung to him through life, and which were very displeasing to his father. He had been married a number of years, too, but had no children. The information of Mr. Kerr, respecting the will of my husband's father, was anything but pleasing to him—for he loved his brother, and had a very tender regard for his feelings—and as much as he valued the love and approbation of his father, he could not enjoy it at the expense of his brother. He was very much worried, and seemed scarcely to know what to do. Finally he repaired to the bedside of his father, and, painful as it must have been to him, at such a time, he gently, but earnestly, expostulated with him on the subject. The old gentleman, for some time, persisted in saying, Joseph, you are my favorite son; you have a child, too; while Edward has none. I do not wish my property to be squandered, or to go out of my family: but always received the reply, father, you have but two children, do not, I beg you, make a difference between us, or something equivalent to that. At length he prevailed, and his father had a codicil added to his will, which made his brother an equal heir with himself, the property to come into their possession after the death of their mother, and should these brothers die, leaving no heirs, the estate should belong to his granddaughter, Eliza Wahrendorff. I am sure you will agree with me, dear boys, that your grandfather was right, but how seldom do we see an exhibition of such firm integrity among men, (even among brothers), of whom the poet truthfully says, "If self the wavering balance shake, it's rarely right adjusted."
In the winter of 1836 my husband paid a visit to the eastern cities, for the purpose of purchasing a stock of goods. Previous to this I had always accompanied him, so that, excepting the time he went for his sick brother, (Robert McCloud), to which I have alluded, we had never been separated. He was absent seven weeks, during which time he wrote me twenty-one letters, of which I will quote one entire, and give a few extracts from others, that you may read from his own pen.
"Steamboat Potosi, below Cincinnati, Jan. 1st, 1836.
"A happy new year to my dear Charlotte and to all my dear friends at home! I feel that I should be happy to spend today with you, but though absent, still, in spirit, I am with you, for my thoughts have dwelt all the morning with my dear friends in St. Louis. We left Louisville last night at seven o'clock and are now passing "Rising Sun," a village in Indiana, thirty-five miles below Cincinnati, which we hope to reach by dinner time. I saw no one in Louisville that we knew. Mr. B. was not there and I made no inquiries about his family, as I do not know his partner, Mr. G., and we remained there but a few hours. I read, this morning, the 46th chapter of Isaiah, and, from the fact of this being new year's day, my mind has been carried to the goodness of God to usward, in granting all the blessings we enjoy:—His infinite greatness, wisdom and mercy. I feel greater reliance on the atonement of our divine Saviour, and a full assurance that if we are faithful unto the end, we shall reap a crown of immortality and be forever blessed by His presence. Let us then, dear Charlotte, endeavor to realize more than we ever yet have done the reality of eternal things, and fix our minds more on the attainment of the salvation, not only of our own souls, but of all those who are near and dear to us. Let us "seek first the kingdom," feeling assured that all things else will be given us that is best for us. I am satisfied that love to God will purify our souls, and make us better fitted for the trials of this world, and will ensure eternal happiness to us hereafter.
"I send you a kiss, which you must share with our dear little girl, not forgetting aunt Loo's share. When you write, let me know how the boys (my brothers Taylor and Wm.) get on at St. Charles, and the news generally of all the family."
"I have just called on Dr. Drake and family, and find them very pleasant people. We stay here but a few hours, and leave for Wheeling, at 8 o'clock to-night. Remember me to mother, and to all our dear friends at home. Yours truly, JOS. CHARLESS."
This is a very characteristic letter, and I will take occasion here to acknowledge, with shame, that, with my ardent temperament, I was not always pleased with my husband's universal care, and love, and consideration of everybody, without a stronger expression of his feelings for me. When he presented me with a set of pearls, before our marriage, he brought two sets for me to select from, not being able himself to decide which was the prettiest. As soon as I expressed a preference, he handed that set to me, and the other to my sister, politely asking her acceptance of it. While I was pleased to see my sweet sister with a set of pearls, like mine, I would have been more pleased with his attention if it had been directed to me only; and often have I lost sight of his devotion to me—by every act of his life, not less in his love to those most dear to me, than in thousands of other ways—because he did not make a more marked difference in his acts, and bestow upon me, in words, a stronger expression of his love.
But I have lived long enough to find out what empty things words are: how poor and mean, compared with a life which, like "a living epistle, is known and read of all men."
"A happy New Year to my dear C., and all my dear friend's," etc. His was a courtesy which sprung from the heart—which was seen alone with his wife in the cordial New Year's greeting, or at the fireside, with familiar loved ones there; that came from his pen, or flew upon the telegraph; a courtesy that carried soul with it, and made everyone feel the value of his friendship and love; not that which is the result of false teaching, or a false heart—to be put on, or put off, as it suits the place or the whim of its possessor.
But I promised to quote some extracts from other letters. Well, here is one: "I hope, dear Charlotte, you have taken care of your health in my absence, and that I shall have the happiness to see you yourself again. I pray the Lord to be merciful unto us, and grant that we may meet again, and that our hearts may once more be raised, with our voices, around our family altar, to Him who purchased us by His blood, and, as we hope, redeemed us unto a new life; and that His blessing may extend to all who are near and dear to us; that all our family may be united in serving the Lord fervently and affectionately."
Again he says: "I hope that, in the letters you have written, you have told me all about the business of the store, and house, and farm, and generally all the news of home, as I will not be able to receive an answer to this, or any of my subsequent letters from the east."
My husband made me his confidant. He did not think me so far beneath him as not to be able to understand, and to appreciate all that interested him—his "business," his "farm." At "the house" he ever considered me the head, while he relieved me of every possible care, by strict personal attention to all out-of-door work connected with housekeeping. This little farm to which he refers was his delight; for it served as recreation from the toils of mercantile life, and afforded him unalloyed pleasure. He was fond of flowers, of fruits, of trees, of meadows, and everything pertaining to country life. It was impossible for him to stand and look at others who were at work in the garden. He would throw off his coat, seize the spade or the hoe, and go to work himself with the most intense relish. Not the most minute little wild flower ever escaped his notice, or was ruthlessly trodden under foot; but, stooping down, he would take up the tiny thing, and hold it up for admiration, seeming to think that others could not but admire it as he did. Oh, my husband! how sweet and pure was your life! Tears fall as I think of thee.
Before this period in the history of your grandfather, we had exchanged our old residence for a very delightful one, near to his paternal home, on Market and Fifth streets. It had been built by Mr. and Mrs. Wahrendorff, for their own use; had a large yard, and every improvement necessary to make it second to none in the city. Here your dear mother passed seven years of her happy childhood, and still remembers what romps she used to have with her papa; how she would watch for him at the alley-gate, with hands full of snow-balls to pelt him with, and how he would catch her up in his arms, kiss her cheeks, plunge them into the snowbank, and then give her a fair chance to pay him back. She remembers what assistance he would render her in the very grave business of catching pigeons, by creeping up behind them, and sprinkling "a little fresh salt upon their tails." She has not forgotten the happy Christmas mornings, when old Santa Claus was sure to load her with presents; nor her school-girl parties, which would have been no parties at all without "papa" to make fun for them; and many other things, perhaps, which I never knew, or noticed, she could tell you. But "grandma" remembers some things, which, as she wants you to see "grandpa" just as he was, she will relate to you.
About this time, we had a dining-room waiter, who, one day, was such a luckless wight as to be very impertinent to me. He was an "exquisite," (in his way), although as black as the "ace of spades;" wore a stiff shirt collar, that looked snow-white, from the contrast, and combed his hair so nicely that it appeared as fleecy as zephyr-worsted. He had, however, a habit of going off, without anybody's knowing where, and staying a long time, neglecting his work, and provoking "grandma." Upon his return, when she would inquire where he had been, his answer invariably was, "To the barber's, ma'am"—accompanied by a bow, and an odoriferous compound of barbarous perfumes, presenting altogether such a ludicrous picture that I could not possibly avoid laughing; after which, of course, I would have to excuse him, with the mild injunction not to stay so long again. Anthony presumed upon this mode of treatment until it ceased to be amusing to me, when, with a good grace, I was enabled to administer a severe reproof, which he returned with the most unheard-of impudence. As soon as his master came in, I related the fact to him. In an instant, as Anthony was passing the dining-room door, my husband sprang at him—caught him by the collar, shook and twirled him around into the gallery, and pounded him with his bare fists to his heart's content. In this changing world, I do not know but that, in the course of time, you little Southerners may become fanatical abolitionists, and, losing sight, in the above case, of the cause of provocation, in your tenderness and sympathy for the slave, will attribute this unceremonious treatment of poor Anthony to the fact that he was one of those "colored unfortunates." Therefore, to set you right, at least, with regard to the character of your grandfather, I will give you another instance of his impulsiveness, which, perhaps, may be considered a flaw in the character of this singularly pure and noble man.
Some years after the circumstance related above, a young friend was living with us who had a hired white girl for a nurse. I soon discovered that she was an unprincipled, saucy girl; but she was smart enough to get on the "blind side" of this young mother, by nursing the babe (as she thought) admirably well. When I could no longer put up with her encroachments, I took the girl to one side, and laid down the law; whereupon the enraged creature was excessively impertinent. After finding that my dear little friend had not the moral courage to dismiss the girl (which she might have done, for I offered to take care of the baby myself until another could be procured), I suppressed my emotions, and bore it as well as I could. From reasons of consideration for my husband, who seemed much wearied that evening after returning home from business, I concluded not to consult him about what was best to be done until next morning, when, upon hearing the particulars of this little episode in domestic life, he arose in great haste, and so excited as scarcely to be able to get into his clothes. I begged him to be calm, but there was no calmness for him until he got hold of the girl, ran her down two flights of stairs, and out of the door into the street, having ordered her, in no very measured terms, never again to cross his threshold.
In the course of his whole life, I witnessed but one (or perhaps two) other instances of like impetuosity. They were rare, indeed, and always immediately followed, as in the cases above referred to, by his usual calmness and good humor, no trace being left of the storm within, save a subdued smile, which had in it more of shame than triumph. I have been told that, in his counting-room, he has occasionally produced a sensation by like demonstrations, caused, in every case, by the entrance of some person who, not knowing the stuff he was made of, would venture to make an attack upon the character of some friend of his; or, perhaps, would make a few insidious remarks, "just to put Mr. Charless on his guard." But the slanderous intruder would soon find out the quicker he was outside of the store the better for him, much to the astonishment, and amusement, too, of his partners and clerks, who, but for those rare flashes of temper, and an occasional "stirring up" of a milder sort among the boys in the store, could not be made to believe it possible that Mr. Charless could be otherwise than mild and genial as a sunbeam.
He was never known to resent, in this kind of way, any indignity shown to himself, which was rarely done by any one. Unfortunately, however, on one occasion, he gained the displeasure of an Irishman, (from whom he had borrowed some money), who was half lawyer, half money-broker. Standing with a group of gentlemen, in conversation about money matters, per centage, etc., your grandfather remarked that he had borrowed a certain amount from Mr. M., for a certain per cent., (naming it). One of the gentlemen asked, "Are you sure, Mr. Charless? for that was my money Mr. M. lent you, and he informed me that you were to pay him only so much," (naming the per cent., which happened to be less than that agreed upon). Mr. Charless, perceiving his faux pas, expressed a regret that he had so unwittingly mentioned what, it seemed, should have been kept secret; which was all he could do. Mr. M., of course, heard of it. He knew well that he could not revenge himself upon him who was the innocent cause of his exposure, in St. Louis; but in New York, where neither were so well known, he did all he could to injure Mr. Charless' reputation. The friends of the latter, having heard of Mr. M.'s unprincipled conduct, in insidiously striving to undermine the confidence reposed in him there, informed him of it, expecting that he would take some notice of the matter—which he did not do. They came again, and protested against his allowing "that fellow" to continue these aspersions. He smiled, and replied, "I am not afraid of his doing me any harm; let him go on." He did go on, and after awhile he returned to St. Louis, when some mutual friend (poor Mr. M. still had friends among gentlemen) informed him that certain reports against Mr. Charless, which had reached St. Louis, as coming from him, were doing him considerable injury; not Mr. C, for he stood too high in the estimation of the community to be injured by slanderous reports of any kind whatever. Whereupon Mr. M. denied having made them, and expressed a determination to explain, and make the matter all right with Mr. Charless. For this purpose, one day, as the latter was passing a livery stable, where Mr. M. was waiting for his buggy to be brought out, he called to Mr. Charless, who passed along without noticing him. Again he called saying, "Mr. Charless, I want to speak to you." Mr. Charless waved his hand back at him, and went on. Elevating his voice, said he, "Do you refuse to speak to me, sir?" Still a wave of the hand—nothing more. This was too much for the hot-headed gentleman. His raving and abuse attracted the attention of everybody about there to the hand, which still waved, as "grandpa" walked on, and said, too plainly to be mistaken, in its silent contempt, " I can't lower myself by speaking to such a dirty fellow as you are."
Without a word or circumstance from your grandfather, it circulated from mouth to mouth, with considerable gusto; from which, I need not say, Mr. M. had the worst of it.
It has given me some pain, my dear children, to speak of these incidents; and, indeed, there are many things (some very sweet to me) that I feel constrained to write which I would gladly keep secret and sacred in my soul, but for a firm conviction that such a halo of light as has shone about my path, from the pure life of your beloved grandfather, should not be allowed to go out. And the faithful historian cannot give the light without the shadows.
Affectionately yours, GRANDMA.
Belmont, February, 1861.
My Dear Grandchildren:
Before the fire companies were properly organized in St. Louis, or, perhaps, before there were any at all, I was perfectly miserable whenever a fire occurred, for "grandpa" would be sure to rush to the spot, and up, probably, to the most dangerous places on the tops of houses, or anywhere else, to assist in protecting life or property. Besides the fear that he might lose his life in this way, I felt considerable anxiety on account of his health; for, after these extraordinary exertions, he would return home nearly exhausted. No entreaties or arguments, in urging him to desist, had any weight, until he found that his services were no longer needed.
With this impetuosity of character, he possessed a large share of moral courage. He dared to do right, or what he deemed right, always, and that without display or fear, and entirely indifferent to the opinion of the world. With a modest estimate of himself was blended a quiet satisfaction in the discharge of duty. But not over-careful about what others did or did not do, or at all dictatorial, he cheerfully accorded to all what he claimed for himself, viz: independence of thought and action. No one was more willing to give advice, when asked; none more free from obtruding it uninvited. Thankfully and courteously he always received it, even when pressed upon him beyond what was proper; and although to some of it he might not give a second thought, perceiving at once its invalidity; yet he was too modest, and too polite to intimate the fact—leaving an impression upon the mind of the giver (without the slightest intention to deceive) that he had conferred a favor: which, indeed, by considering the kindness of the motive, he appreciated as such. This was the result of a profound respect for the opinions and feelings of his fellow-men, to whom he would listen patiently, even to the ignorant and the weak, meanwhile giving kind and considerate responses, causing them (no less than his equals) to feel satisfied with themselves and with him, whom each one, high and low, rich and poor, esteemed as his own particular friend: and all this without study, without an effort, because the offspring of a kind, generous, and appreciative nature.
A circumstance occurs to my mind, which, perhaps will give you an idea of your grandfather's kindness and consideration towards those in the humbler walks of life: One morning a plain, honest looking youth, from whom he had purchased some marketing, accompanied him to the house, for the purpose of bringing it. They went into the kitchen together, to warm and dry themselves, and when, in a few moments afterwards, breakfast was announced, "grandpa" asked me to have a plate placed for the lad; to which I demurred, inquiring if I had not better send breakfast to the kitchen for him? He replied, "No. The golden rule directs us to do unto others as we would they should do unto us." Whereupon an argument ensued, I insisting that, according to that rule, his breakfast should be sent out, as I had no doubt that the boy would feel more at ease, and would enjoy his breakfast more in the kitchen than he would at our table. Fixing his eyes upon me, with that kind but reproving expression which was characteristic of him, he said: "Charlotte, if we were to stop at the house of that young man's father, I doubt not but that he would give us the best place, and the best of everything he has." Even this did not convince me; when, with his usual dislike to argument, and with that conciliatory kindness which ever marked his intercourse with his family, he yielded the point, gracefully, as though it was a matter of little consequence, so that the young man was only well provided for; but not without a mild, and well-merited reproof, in which he playfully reminded me of my "Virginia pride."
And thus it ever was, my dear children, with your honored grandfather. Firm in principle—kind in action; but most kind to those who had the first and highest claim upon him. Never afraid of compromising his dignity or position as head of his family, he always retained it unabated. How unlike some men, who, by attempting to maintain their rights by an overbearing, arbitrary manner, and harsh and unbecoming words, evince a weakness which makes them contemptible, if not in the estimation of the wife and children, at least so in that of others, who plainly discern that littleness, in some shape or other, and not manly dignity and good sense, places them in their unenviable position of "master of my own house."
And yet how much do I regret, now, when it is too late to remedy it, that I did not, readily and cheerfully, accede to every wish of this dear friend, whose truly consistent and beautiful character shone out most clearly at home. How much do I regret now, that I should have allowed his few little foibles to annoy me. The greatest of these, and the one that caused more unpleasant words between us than any and all things else, was his carelessness in dress. I do not know that I am scrupulously neat, but I did pride myself in the personal appearance of my husband, which was sometimes seriously marred by an unshaved beard or a soiled shirt. We were once traveling on a steamboat, and, standing on the guards, I discovered him on the wheel-house, and called to him to come to me. A lady asked if "that old gentleman" was my husband, and said: "You look so young, I am surprised that you should have married so old a man." She seemed to be an unoffending, simple-hearted woman, such as we frequently meet in traveling, and I replied, with a smile, "He suits me very well, ma'am;" but made use of the earliest opportunity to tell him of it—really taking pleasure in doing so—for I had often expressed my own views on that subject, assuring him that he looked at least twenty years older when he neglected to dress with care, especially if he had not shaved.
Next morning he paid particular attention to making his toilet, declaring it to be his intention "to create a sensation," which he certainly succeeded in doing, much to our mutual amusement; for the same lady, eyeing him closely at breakfast; expressed to me afterwards her amazement at the change, giving it as her opinion, that "he was the handsomest young gentleman she had ever seen."
I went too boldly to work in trying to correct his careless habits in dress. I formed an idea that it was my duty and my privilege, not only to attend to my husband's wardrobe, but to direct, too, how it should be disposed of; but soon found that he was not to be made to do anything. And, as "straws show which way the wind blows," I learned, in most things, to influence him by silken cords. He was willing to be led captive by love and tenderness. Why, when your dear mamma was not more than four or five years of age, she had learned the art of making "papa" do as she liked. I remember to have heard her say once (slyly to one side), "I am going to make papa let me do it." And when asked "Make papa?" answered, "Yes, the way mamma does;" and immediately turned to him with her most bewitching little smile, and said, "Do please, dear papa, let me."
O! what a joyous home we had! And what changes time has made! The old Wahrendorff house has been rased to the ground, and stores stand in its place. Where domestic peace and happiness reigned—where flowers bloomed—where childhood held its sports and holidays, now is seen the busy mart of this bustling, plodding world. The merry little magnet of that grass-covered spot is now the mother of four children; and the beloved father, upon whom her mother fondly hoped to lean, as she tottered down the hill of life, lies low, at its base.
One of my dear sisters was there seen in her bridals robes, pure and sweet. But now, she is among the angels (as I humbly trust,) clothed in the white robe of a Saviour's righteousness. The other still lives to bless us with her presence and her love.
Our brothers have passed their truant school-boy days—"sowed their wild oats"—have taken their stand among men, and are realizing themselves now the blessedness of a home of conjugal and paternal happiness, and begin to know something of the care and anxiety that has been felt for them, and of the hopes which stimulate to duty. And thus, Time, as he passes, leaves foot-prints, which make the children of to-day the men and women of to-morrow; brings changes which blight our fondest hopes, crush the heart, and leave us, in our tempest-tossed bark, to weather awhile longer the storms upon the voyage of life.
But my mind still reverts to this home of my happy married life. It is Sabbath morning there, and we are around the family altar. The chapter has been read, and we are singing a favorite hymn of the one who reads and prays. It is spring time, and the fresh air comes in through the opened window, perfumed with the rose and the sweet-brier. But we are singing:
"The rosy light is dawning, Upon the mountain's brow: It is the Sabbath morning, Arise, and pay thy vow. Lift up thy voice to Heaven, In sacred praise and prayer, While unto thee is given The light of life to share.
The landscape, lately shrouded By evening's paler ray, Smiles beauteous and unclouded Before the eye of day; So let our souls, benighted Too long in folly's shade, By the kind smiles be lighted To joys that never fade.
O, see those waters streaming In crystal purity; While earth, with verdure teeming, Give rapture to the eye. Let rivers of salvation In larger currents flow, Till every tribe and nation Their healing virtue know."
The morning is past—we have been to church, and dined; and now our little daughter is listening, most eagerly, to the Bible story, which was promised her as a reward for good behavior.
The afternoon has passed. We have had an early tea, and again we surround the Throne of Grace before going to church. The same loved voice is heard again joining in another favorite hymn:
"Sweet is the light of Sabbath eve, And soft the sunbeams lingering there: For this blest hour the world I leave, Wafted on wings of faith and prayer.
The time, how lovely, and how still! Peace shines and smiles on all below; The vale, the wood, the stream, the hill, All fair with evening's setting glow.
Season of rest, the tranquil soul Feels the sweet calm, and melts to love: And while these peaceful moments roll, Faith sees a smiling Heaven above.
Nor shall our days of toil be long; Our pilgrimage will soon be trod, And we shall join the ceaseless song, The endless Sabbath of our God."