Reminiscences of A.M. COLE
Old resident of Howard, Steuben Co, NY. Original handwritten copy found in attic of home and now owned by Rosella Smith of Howard, NY. This was partially written in a 1945 edition of the Evening Tribune of Hornell, NY. Lovingly re-typed by his ggg-grandniece Annette Campbell.
Howard, NY August 27, 1904
I Alvah M. Cole writes this first chapter of his Memoirs on this my eighty-third birthday. I was born in the Town of Addison on the 27th day of August, A. D. 1821 in a log house on the bank and near the mouth of what was then called Tracy's Creek a short distance from Rathbunville on the south side of the Canisteo River. Mrs. Miles, a lady living up the river about three miles, attended us at the time. There was no physician nearer than eighteen miles down the river at that time at Painted Post, named so by the Indians for they had set a large monument post and painted it red.
I was the second son of Peleg Gorton Cole who came from New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY with his parents and eleven other children, and my mother was Mary Tracy, daughter of Isaac Tracy. Their family escaped from the Wyoming Massacre in Pennsylvania on July 5th in 1777 and settled in the Canisteo Valley at Addison. My grandfather (Isaac Tracy-AC) was a Methodist clergyman and a hunter, in those days when deer were numerous in the valleys and over the spurs of the Allegheny Mountains and not a few of the more vicious animals were often met by the early settlers. As a case told by my grandfather, "one moonlight night in October his two dogs made a barking in a piece of corn by the side of the wood and he armed with his flintlock rifle in hand cautiously proceeded to the place of the yelping. There Sanco and Mingo, the two large mastiffs, were at the foot of a tree and a large black bear was in its lower branches. A shot from the unerring rifle in the hands of an expert marksman soon brought Bruin down to number four in a hand to hand fight. The dogs were wilting under the powerful blows from the paws of the wounded and enraged monster. One of its fierce hits on Tracy's head sent his tall form of six feet two inches sprawling on the ground. With absolute necessary courage and strength of a man of 212 pounds of bone and mussle, he seized his gun as a last resort and gave the huge beast a fatal blow on the head which killed the bear but spoiled his gun." Sanco and Mingo never regained their physical powers and even the Elder suffered many months but escaped the jaws of death. He afterwards moved to Ohio and finished his days in Cincinnati, Ohio.
About the year 1832 Noah Baker was helping cut a road from Howard to Hornellsville by what is known as the Big Creek road and by the falling of a tree his knee became smashed and his leg had to be amputated above the knee. Dr. Worden, a young doctor of Bath, performed the operation in twenty-two minutes from the time he began till the stump was done up. Noah moved to Canisteo, then to Jasper where he died. Jeremiah was sent to the Assembly (NY State-AC). He died in Canisteo. Asa, his son, lives on the place where he died. Simeon stuttered much in his talk. He was constable here for many years. Basie died in Arkport. ( this refers to the Baker family, Mr. Cole's maternal grandmother)
My father, P.G. Cole, was the grandson of Jacob Cole who came from Germany about 1770 to America. He then spelled the name in German "Koal", afterwards "Coal", and later "Cole". (NOTE: according to Joseph Cole's grandson's Biography on the Columbia County site the family came to America much earlier than this as Jacob Coal was in NY City with his father working in the harbor--read Bio of William Cole--AC)
In April 1824, P. G. Coal moved to Howard with his family and settled on the farm where he lived the remainder of his life. He had ten children, vis. William P. T. Cole, Alvah M., Louisa, Celina, Franklin S (gg grandfather to AC), Mary A.., Adelia, Helen M., Lorenzo D., and Amanda M. Louisa and Helen died when but a few years old and were buried in the garden on the farm where they lived.
My mother's name, as stated before, was Mary Tracy. her mother's maiden name was Baker. She has six brothers and two sisters. The brothers were: John, William, Jeremiah, Basie, Simeon, and Noah. Simeon, Jeremiah, and Noah came to Howard about 1821 with their families and settled on adjoining farms-the farms now owned by Alonzo and Henry VanWie. (later owned by Ray Jones, later on by Howard Hopkins, still later by Francis Karr)
My father's farm adjoined their farms and all of these farms were timbered with maple and beech timber. The maples furnished the sweets for the settlers, and the beech trees furnished beechnuts for swine, squirrels, pigeons, and wild deer occasionally. There woods were green with leeks in the springtime of the year which furnished feed for the cattle.
About the Fall of 1828 or 1829 the three Baker brothers and my father all turned their hogs into their beech woods. They furnished a nest of straw in Jeremiah's sugar cabin and thus they lived and fattened on beechnuts until about the Hollydays. Then one day these four men with their boys went into the woods, heated water in the sugar kettles and butchered all those hogs, about twenty-five fat hogs, each man had his own porkers dressed.
A. M. Cole received a common school education and commenced teaching school in his nineteenth year of age, and has taught thirty-six terms of school with satisfactory success though perhaps many mistakes as all teachers are liable to make. In 1842 he purchased a wild farm in what was then called the South Woods of Howard and commenced chopping down the forest and clearing the land, raising grain, setting out fruit trees and building a home. In September, same year, he married Miss Ann B. Freelove of Howard, who has been a good helpmeet to him these many years. They have had five children, viz. Mary, Alvah Peleg, Phebe, Martha A., and Frank A. Mary and Martha have passed away. Frank A. lives in Rochester, has a good common school education and is a conductor on the Lehigh Railroad, is married and had one child Leon, an unusually bright boy, but death took him when he was about four years old. Frank's business is as lucrative as anyone could reasonably expect to have. He is known as a first class railroad man and an all around getleman of ample means. He married Miss Cora Eckler, an estimable lady of Monroe County and wealthy by inheritance from her father, John Eckler.
Mary had married (Mr. Davie) and left six children--Clair, Ella, Lemuel, Frank, Willie and Wiley. Marthy had married (John Burleson) and left four children--Larue D., Teneyck O., Erva, and Phebe.
Alvah Peleg is a farmer and lives in Howard. He had a common school education and attended the Academy at Troupsburg and also at Rogersville Academy. He has eight children, viz. Ida M., Alma R., Elizabeth, Leroy William, Sarah, Rosa A., Mary, And Mildred. He taught several terms of school, has two good farms, keeps a dairy and is a Justice of the Peace.
Phebe is married, lives in Bath, has five children, viz. Elah, Ella, Alvah, Lillie and Frank. Phebe has a common schooleducation and attended the Rogersville Academy. They have two farms in Bath, keep a dairy and furnish milk for the village. Her husband, Martin Armstrong, is a prosperous farmer, besides being a practical machinist.
William P. T. Cole was educated in the common schools and Howard Academy. He taught several terms of school. In the Spring of 1840 he got a broken leg by a fall from a horse which made him a cripple for life. He then studied medicine and went to Illinois and practiced his profession. He got married and raised four children, viz. Celina, Helen, Peleg and Rebecca and became a landowner of ample means. He died after passing his four score years and is buried at Bloomington, Illinois. His children were highly educated, are well off and mostly live in Illinois.
In 1825 it was called Howard "Corners". Then the first frame house was built by Randel Graves for a store and was used by him and Hezekiah Cole (no relation) as merchants. It stood on the east side of the "Corners" and remained there about seventy years as a store house. Mr. Burt McConnel recently tore it away. About the same time, 1825, Mr. Charles Graves, brother to Randel, built a hotel where the Hamilton Hotel now stands, and part of the old hotel remains there yet, with several additions to it. That was the first hotel at the "Corners".
The first blacksmith at the "Corners" was Nicholas VanBrunt. The first taylor at the "Corners" was Hezekiah Morris. He worked and lived in one end of a double log house that stood where Daniel Ray Bennett's dwelling house now stands. Dr. Levi S. Goodrich was the first Physciian at the "Corners". He lived with his father-in-law, Azeal Barnes, in a small log house near where the Phillipson buildings now stand. Mr. Andrew Baker was the first tanner and currier at the "Corners". He also had a shoe shop in his building and Alfred Burleson worked in it and made boots and shoes. His buildings stood where the Bennett boys mill now stands.
Edward O'brien was the first lawyer that settled at the "Corners". He was also a surveyor. He gave Ezekiel Rice lessons in surveying and sold him a surveyors compas and chain. Mr. Rice afterwards did a large amount of surveying in this and other towns in Steuben County for many years. The first preacher that settled at the "Corners" was Elder Buzzel, a minister of the Christian denomination. The first church organization was the Methodist-Episcopal Church; later on the Baptists and the Universalists built a union meeting house. The same year the Presbyterians built a church edifice.
The first stonemason and bricklayer in the "Corners" was Manly Belden. He made tombstones from native stone that is in the old cemetery on the old McConnel farm, now owned in part by A. R. Higgins.
The first professional carpenter and joiner at the "Corners" was Paul Manhart. He lived in a small shanty near where B. N. Bennett's house now stands. There were at this time about 200 voters in the town, yet not that many voted. The two political parties were Democrats and Whigs. There were three distilleries in the town: one on the Washington Rathbun farm, now owned by Melvin Graves, about one mile west of the "Corners". The worm of the still was run by one Thomas Mitchel who made whiskey that sold for two shillings a gallon, English money. The second distillery was built by Randel Graves and run by Joel Brown and James Armstrong. It stood west over the bank about twenty rods from where Dean's grist mill now stands. The said Joel Brown was the great grandfather of Hiram Brown, now of Howard.
Jonathan Wainwright shot and killed a panther in the rocky gulch down the creek below the distillery, perhaps in the spring of 1826 or thereabouts.
Amos Bacock built the first sawmill on the place now owned by William Goff. William S. Goff built the first gristmill farther down the Goff Creek. He also built a sawmill, a woolen carding machine, fulling and cloth dressing machinery, the only ones ever in this town. He also built a brick house, Manly Belden done the work, Mr. Goff had the bricks made on his own premises. The house yet stands there many years substantially good. Then the State of New York had three days of Election beside the town meetings in Howard. The first Election day was held at Towlesville, the second day at Allen settlement, two miles north of the "Corners". Then stock of all kinds were by law free commoners; settlers must fence their crops or perhaps lose them. Then there were but few horses kept in town but oxen were used to clear and cultivate the ground.
"The Murder of Thomas Mitchel"
And now I will go out of my general narative to tell a circumstance fresh in my memory though I was only about ten years old at the time of its occurence. Mr. Charles McConnell lived then on the farm where Burt Bennett now lives. He had a logging bee on the east side of the road. We boys about the same age, viz. Aaron McConnell, Alkali Bennet, Addison Osburn and myself were assigned to carry drinks for the loggers. Two carried a jug of whiskey, the other two a pail of water. After the job was done then a good bountiful supper was enjoyed by all. Mrs. McConnell assisted by neighboring ladies presided. After supper the word was given, "Less go to the "Corners". On arriving at Charles Graves hotel, whiskey that cost only two shillings a gallon was freely used. Then the word was given, "Less rais the Blue Lights." Soon a bottle of whiskey holding about a quart and costing a shilling came from the bar of the hotel and poured on the frowsley head and shoulders of one, Thomas Mitchel, who was poorly dressed and thinly clad in tow and linnen logging clothes. Then a smal pine torch was set to the dripping whiskey and it did produce the "blue lights" in earnest.
Mitchel was intoxicated at first and now got seriously burned. At length Mr. Graves, a large six-foot landlord, came out and stopped the blue light business. It was now late, all started for home. Mitchel lived on the W. Rathbun farm at the distillery (as before mentioned) went as far as the spring of water at the foot of the hill west of where Mrs. Willis now lives, where he was found in the morning. He was unconsius and was taken home. Dr. Goodrich was called, but after a few days he died, never regaining consciousness.
Back to Narrative
My beginning to get an education at six years old, I received a Primmer as a gift from Hezekiah Cole, a merchant at the "Corners". It had first the English alphabet, second small words, third short sentences in reading, fouth short stories of Aristotle and othe authors. My next book was Noah Webster's Spelling book. It contained many lessons in spelling and reading. The next reading book was the New English Reader, then the American Preceptor, then the Columbian Orator. My first Arithmetic was Nathan Daballs, then Pikes, then Ostranders, then Adams and many others. My first Geography was Smith's with atlas separate. My first grammar was Lindley Murrey's, then Kirkhams's & Co.
I first taught school in the winter of 1837 and 38 in the south side of this town called Dublin. That district then included Buena Vista also. Then teachers must board around with the scholars and the patrons of the school must board and pay a ratebill in proportion to the number of days they sent to school. That district was large, some of the patrons lived over three miles from the school house and when scholars and teacher had waded through the deep snow and climbed over the drifts for three miles it was past sunset, but we always found a cheerful and happy reception and those kind mothers always had provided things good and substantial for our health and happiness. In the morning by candlelight we enjoyed a hearty good breakfast and with well-filled dinner pails we were on our way back to the school house long before the sun was above the eastern horizon.
Arriving at the school-house, teacher would pull open a bed of embers where he had buried a hard wood chunk the evening previous and soon with previously prepared kindling wood the house and inmates were doing their daily duties. There were seventy-eight pupils names on the Register that term. The next term of school I taught was on Mount Washington, with sixty scholars names on the Register. Mr. O. Wheeler was trustee, a very satisfactory term; it continued two weeks beyond the contracted term. The pupils and inhabitants were very enjoyable people.
The next term of school I taught was on Neils Creek with eighty-one scholars names on register but average attendance only thirty-two and one half. Lewis Claflin was the Trustee, good inhabitants, a pleasant school, till the last day of school when William Caulkins received a severe punishment. We generally had an evening spelling school every two weeks, where instruction was free to all who would attend.
My next term of school I taught was at Cameron Village, David Ossar was the Trustee. There were one hundred and nine names on the register and one of the large girls was employed to assist in teaching, her name was Miss Fanny Downs. The term was every way satisfactory to teacher, scholars and inhabitants.
In the springs of 1841 and 1842 I made voyages down the Susquehanna River on lumber to Chesapeak Bay, was employed in farming through the farming seasons of the years and in the Winter Seasons in teaching schools, mostly within mt native town of Howard till I had taught thirty-six terms in all.
In my early days of teaching I always taught the scholars to write. We had none but unruled paper, we used strait rulers and a lead plummet to mark the lines to be written on. The teacher had to set the copies, and make and mend the pens, which were made of Goose quils or turkey quils, mettle pens were then unknown. I remember one school I taught, I had forty scholars that studied writing, and twenty minutes were given each day to practice in writing, and for the teacher to fix pens, rule paper, and set copies, were twenty busy minutes for the teacher as well as for the cholars, but so it was.
In those early school days there were no compulsory laws. Scholars were more free, more independent, more self reliant; yes, methinks, more happy. Their merry voices would often echo through the winter air in singing the namy school songs they learned, some as follows:
"Up the hills in a bright sunny morn,
1. "Will you come to the Temple erected for you;
2. "The knowledge we gain from schools, we are taught
I generally attended teachers institutes and after my second term of school, I always had a first grade certificate.
I began being interested in politics when William Henry Harrison was elected President of the United States by the Whig Party. Then John C. Freemont was the candidate on the Republican ticket but was defeated by James Buchannan. I have always been a supporter of the Republican Party and the Republicans of my town have given me some town office in this town for thirty-six years. I have been a voter in this town since I was twenty-one years old and when nominated was never defeated.
And now I will make a confession as a successful gambler. Before I was twenty-one years old at the General Militia Training, Mr. O. Alderman was running a fortune wheel, he coaxed me to try my luck by putting on his wheel one dollar. I heard his invitation and put one dollar on figure four. He turned the wheel and said I was in luck, that I was the winner. "Now put on some more," said he. But I said "No, I will stay in luck." This is all the game of chance I ever plaid, I never made a bet, I have never used tobacco in any form, I have never been intoxicated with liquor in any way. Now, if I should write the foolish things that I have done, the world would not contain the book.
In the Fall of 1841 I bought the contract for 80 acres of land of Nathaniel Perkins in the south west part of Howard, then called the South Woods, and gave Mr. Perkins $100 for the old Land Office contract from the Pulteney Estate. After fifteen years I settled with the Land Office giving them $375 for a deed and $25 to Mr. Perkins paid when he took the old contract; I made in all $400 or $5 per acre. James Coots, now in 1905, lives on and owns this same farm.
The Freelove Family
Barbary Ann Freelove was married to A. M. Cole on September 25, 1842 by Jacob VanAntwerp, a Justice of the Peace of the Town of Howard, at the home of her parents. Two days after the mariage she went with her husband to Bath and got things for housekeeping and same week moved into her husband's house and has always been provided with a comfortable home to live in, and a comfortable living. Her education was limited. She took a liking to midwifery, she obtained some valuable books on that subject, attended 125 births and was successful in every case both with the mother and the child. She was an all around good nurse and cared well for the sick in every neighborhood where she lived; was very industrious, could do all kinds of weaving and all kinds of spinning, and had a strong constitution and financial ability to look after things in the house as on the farm generally. She was religiously inclined, she was baptised in the faith of the Disciple and afterwards united with the Baptist Church. She was the mother of five children who all grew up to call their mother "Blessed."
In about 1899, February 9th, their house and most of the contents burned up, it gave her mind a great shock that has never regained its former vigor. Then in 1903, January 3rd, she fell down cellar, which greatly increased her mental disability, so now, August 6, 1905, she is in Bath being doctored and nursed and almost demented, her home broken up after having spent 63 years of housekeeping and prosperity.
My wife, Ann Barbary Freelove was born in the Town of Lock, Cayuga County, on March 28, 1823, being the oldest child of Henry Freelove and Hanna Jaquet Freelove, who lived and were married in the town of Lock in 1822. They resided there until 1832, when they moved to Pennsylvania and in the spring of 1834 they moved to the Town of Howard, onto the farm where they lived the remainder of thier lives, their ages being each over ninety years at death, and were buried in what was known as the Norton Cemetery. They had nine children, namely: 1. Barbary Ann, 2. W. H., 3. Alonzo, 4. Mary, 5. Amy Jane, 6. Annie, 7. Henrietta, 8. George, 9. Horace. Horace, now in 1905, owns the old homestead and lives on it.
Her parents bought the possession of a wild lot of land and were both strong and able to meet the hardships that always attend the clearing up of wild forest land. Henry was an expert hunter in those days and deer were quite numerous in the forests. In the winter of 1835, 1836 Mr. Freelove killed in the last of December up to the middle of January fifteen deer, 'hog dressed' them and took their carcases to Rochester on a sleigh where he found a ready sale and a good price for the venison. The following winter he went again to Rochester, though with less number of deer. His daughter Barbary now has the same charger that poured the powder into the rifle that killed every one of those deer.
Henry and Hannah J. Freelove received a very limited education, as did also all their children. The parents were religiously disposed, were worthy members of the Methodist-Episcopal Church, Henry's politics were Whig, then Republican. Hanna J. was a fleshy woman of over 180 pounds weight and few men, if any, in the neighborhood had equal strength to hers; she was an excellent nurse, the bedside of the sick was her favorite place.
A.M. Cole's trip to Missouri
In June, about 18__ (illegible), I and my father Peleg Gorton Coal, went to Illinois where my mother's two sisters and brothers were living. I took with me a certain Patent Right (said to be so) and like others whose values are in the imaginations only.
We came to Illinois and while waiting at the Depot two young ladies came in and took seats on the opposite side of the waiting room for the "Train" which was twenty minutes late. One ladie said to the other one, "Let us go to the store while we are waiting" and away they went. One of them left a basket on the seat and by it's side a purse. A tall well-dressed man on the opposite side of the room went over and took the purse, put it in his pocket and started for the door. I steped to the door ahead of the tall man and ordered him to return that purse. He hesitated - I seized him by the collar with a firm grip. He returned the purse and I received many thanks from the young lady for saving her $15 from the thiefs hands. She also offered to give me a reward but I had only done my duty in changing that starched collar into a limp rag.
After visiting friends in Illinois, I went to visit my sister Celina, who with her husband James Santee, and family lived in Jasper County, MO, town of Avilla. While on the train I sold the Patent Right of Cole's Co, IL for $200 cash. On reaching Carthage, MO, I met a merchant formerly from New York State by the name of Rose. He invited me to be there on the 4th for the Union flag had not been raised since the late war. I gladly promised to be there. Then I visited my sister, found her sick with 'dropsy', her husband was in a lawsuit with Mr. Jones, I tried the suit for Santee--three days trial. New York law prevailed. This same Jones helped Old John Brown at Harper's Ferry to clear the negroes for which John Brown was hanged in Virginia by the direction of Gov. Wise, but Jones ran away to Missouri.
My sister grew worse, they were needy, I sent to Illinois and father sent $100. That and what I let them have ($50) made them all right for the present. John Santee sent $100 to them soon after, but nothing saved her. She died (a few years later-AC) and is buried at Avilla, Jasper County, MO, with her infant by her side.
John Sacks married Lettie Santee, he had a sale of his personal property. I done the selling, the sale amounted to $1050, 1/2 cash (here some words missing).
Fourth of July came and with it about 3000 people to hear Mr. Pogson, an Englishman, deliver an oration. The Union men were going to raise the Stars & Stripes for the first time in the city of Carthage since the war, and a few hundred old Rebbels said the Palmetto flag should be raised. But 100 Union men with revolvers loaded and in sight stood on the platform with Pogson and when he shouted, "Men, raise the Union Flag!". it went up with a bound and the Plametto flag lay at the root of a tree a few rods away untouched by anyone and thus the Union flag was left waving over Carthage for the first time in seven years, and no shots were fired. I was on the platform with the hundred men and Mr. Rose also, who furnished the revolvers. He was afterwards our friend many times.
I was invited to a Grange meeting at Mr. Lewis's farm, known as the "Lone Poplar". I went. They had a good dinner, the subject of cheese factories came up. I told them what little I knew about it. The Grangers were anxious for a factory, they made some good offers. I wrote them down and agreed to correspond with my sons and if they agreed to help we would build and run the first cheese factory in the State of Missouri. I wrote to them the next day. While waiting for answers, I worked with Patent Rights. I sold to Mr. Renfrow, Barton County for $400, to William McCord part of Jasper Co. for $200, to Mr. Wick, California for $7000 and some smaller sales. I gave quitclaim deeds as principal agent for the patentee.
In my dealings I had got 80 acres of improved land and two acres of timberland. The eighty acres had 100 peach trees, 30 apple trees, two acres of black rasberries, a frame house and an osage orange fence on two sides, a stream of water on the west end for 15 rods and half of 16 acres of winter wheat growing on said 80 acre lot. This lot was bounded on the east by the road running north and south, and on the south by road running east and west. Mr. Charles Hough had lived on and worked the place the last two years. Mr. Warring lived on it this year, he was a blacksmith, his son worked in our shop near the cheese factory. The shop I built of poles for posts and girders, beams, plater and rafters. William McCord drew the poles, I cut them. The thermometer went to 100 degrees when I was cutting the poles about July 20. I covered the shop with good pine shingle at $3.50 per M.
I boarded at Mr. Pugh's and got shingle at Carthage. When at Carthage I boarded at the Aetna Hotel. When I was cutting the poles for the shop I would help McCord load the poles, then cut another load and then climb a large leaning tree about fifty feet to the crotch where I would sit to cool off till McCord came for another load. There was an eagle's nest about twenty feet above the crotch in the top of that old oak tree. That was the tallest and largest tree on the two acre lot. McCord was nearly overcome with the heat that day. I got some boards for the shop from a sawmill on a creek three miles off, called Dry Fork.
Before I built the shop I got answers from both my sons saying they would help. Then I made a contract with four men that I would build and run the cheese factory the next year.
I then came home and found Father very sick, but conscious. He died in a few days. I went to Wellsville, contracted for a new engine, engaged to teach school in District No. 10. Frank came home and went to school with me. My school closed about the first of March. Mr. Daniels advanced my wages, $60, and on the 9th day of March, Martin Armstrong took Frank and me in a sleigh to Hornellsville. We went to Wellsville, loaded and paid $300 for the engine then took the train and arrived in Missouri on March 12. On the 9th we left the ice bound land for weeks to come. On the 12th we came to the land with peach trees in bloom, peas, oats, wheat and gardens looking finely and grasshoppers flying up before you in the grass. We got to A.P.'s (Alvah Peleg) the 12th of March. We found him and family keeping house in Mr. Pugh's chamber. They had come there a few weeks before we did and had got lumber from Arkansas for the factory and had made several other arrangements on farm, team and other things. On the morning of the 13th, before day, I was awakened by the shrill notes of a mockingbird over my bedroom and the fine bird entertained me with its cheerful music for many months afterwards.
Now I was very much delighted to meet my aquaintances of the previous year. The inhabitants were many of them 7 day Baptists and a better class of people would be hard to find. I agreed with them that "Saturday, the 7th day of the week, is unchangably the Sabbath Day." Mr. Blanchard, a large property owner in Jasper and Newton Counties, Mo, and also in Kansas, often visited Avilla and always left them with good sermons.
In the summer a tent meeting was held on the banks of Spring River near McGinnis gristmill, dinners were served every day free, but all gave that wished to. My sons, I think, gave one or two 50 lb. cheeses. I gave a fat cow and received $12 for her. The meetings lasted several days. Several tents were up. The mill gave all flour and meal asked for free. The weather was delightful. To close, over 150 persons went into the river below and were baptised - immersed.
Many large grapes grew along the banks of the river. When our factory was near completion we learned that a man living many miles north had a No. 14 cheese vat with all other things for making cheese and not in use. So my sons went for them and in returning got into a severe storm and had to camp out in the open prairie under their cheese vat turned upside down, with wet ground for a bed and the roar of the storm and yelping cayutes and prairie dogs for outside music, but no sleep. It took men and team many days to recover.
Then on May 1st the facory began business with milk from 270 cows. The milk produced from prairie grass was rich in cassine but had a stronger taste than milk produced from tame grasses and the same semiacrid taste remained in the cheese. Eight pounds of milk would produce one pound of cheese. Mr. Davis living eight miles west and bringing most of the milk, en rout from his place to the factory, would often deliver a ton of milk before 8 o'clock in the morning at the factory.
We had three cents a pound for making, curing, and boxing the cheese and one cent a pound for selling it. We made our own boxes in the factory and sold same to nearby villages, often for twenty cents a pound. We sold at Carthage, Joplin, Granby, Minersville, LaMarr & Springfield, and one load we took south to Mt. Vernon, Newton Co., a ville of about 1000 inhabitants. Frank and I got there late P.M., we had about 50 cheese weighing about 40 pounds each. A few grocerymen called on us, each wanted a few cheese but wanted at a less price and agreed together that they would only give 18 cents a pound. Soon a boy asked me if I had sold any cheese. I said "No." He said, "My mother said to come and see her before you sell any." I went and saw the widow grocery lady. She took our whole load and paid in gold for it. She said if any of the other grocerymen get any of these cheese they will pay 25 cents a pound for it. That lady besides entertaining us gave us a lunch for our noonday meal. We came to a slew, a low piece of ground with some water in it, and up the slew 100 rods or more 100 head of cattle were feeding. Now, said Frank, we will have some milk for dinner. So with pail in hand he searched through that herd and found that every one of them were of the masculine gender. In our lunch was a can of peaches which we found had soured and while we were eating a man and wife with two children and a team of one mule and one cow came along. We gave them our sour peaches, they liked them, and with milk from their cow and some corn dodgers, had their dinner. After our dinner, on we came and reached home long after dark, safe and sound, but daylight next morning revealed a gunshot hole through the hind end board of our wagon. We were neither hurt or frightened though it was reported that Freebooters & Bushwhackers often invaded that part of Missouri after the War, and even the James Brothers and the Younger Boys from Clay County sometimes made raids in that part of Missouri. One day five of those outlaws visited us at the factory, made many inquiries about cheese making, bot some cheese, and were well behaved. They rode off east and the next day at 10A.M. robbed a bank of several thousand dollars. A large reward was offered for them, dead or alive, but no one cared to get money in that way.
Our business prospered finely. We needed more help and hired Otis Lewis to help make cheese. He worked cheep to learn the trade, we had night work to do. Mr. Stemmons, a merchant of Aville, went east into Green County to buy a dairy of cows and word came to us that he would be in that evening with thirty cows and ready to deliver the milk the next day. Our curding vat was already more than full and we were in a fix for our contract was to work up all good milk delivered to the Factory. Now I had heard that a Mr. Norris came from Ohio to Smithville to build a cheese factory but had died leaving his cheese making tools and family yet in Smithville, which is thirty miles west of Avilla. It was decided that I should go and try to get the Norris cheese vat, and Frank said he could condemn the Stemmons milk the first day. So as the sun was sinking below the western horizon, I started with team and wagon directly toward it. The road was good, level and straight and at midnight I was at Smithville. I found Mrs. Norris, arranged for her cheese tools, and as the sun was just appearing in the eastern horizon I was ready to unload the Norris goods. In a few minutes they were ready for use and our anxiety ended for the present.
After many days a new scene presented high up in the Heavens many silver-winged insects which appeared for two days, then they came down to terra firma for the next few days. They were the Colorado grasshopper. They litterally covered the whole earth eating up most all vegetables and causing a great panic with nearly all the inhabitants. We had made 24 fifty-pound cheese a day, now only four or often only three a day. Almost all had the blues, a few old settlers might be excepted. They offered me $70 a month to teach the winter school, and Frank $70 a month to make cheese next season, but my sons would not stay and if they would not, neither would I. So we decided to sell out, which we did at a loss of over $1000 in all, and came back to New York State. Besides leaving a good lucrative business worth much more, we fetched two 4-horse teams and two lumber covered wagons from Missouri to Illinois, 600 miles traveled it in twelve days, had one young mule when we started but sold it on the way to a woman for $15. A. P. and family stayed in Illinois all winter. Frank and I came home by Railroad.
NOTE: The original manuscript was written in pencil on narrow lined paper. Some puncuation has been inserted for easier reading but the spelling remains the same---- rasberries, bot, mussle, ladie, etc. - Annette Campbell (2/21/2000)
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