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When I was nine or ten years old, father took me with him to Philadelphia. There were no street cars and those who did not have a carriage and horses, walked to business, etc. I remember that the trains were all brought into the city from the outskirts by horses--it was too dangerous to have them come in by steam power! A year or two later, I saw the same thing in Baltimore.
In 1856, the Donati Comet appeared for several weeks and it made a deep impression on me. Many people believe it pressaged war, and strange to say, the Civil War opened four years later.
I remember the first grain reaper brought into this country by Mr. William Sloan who lived near us. It was horse-drawn and a man stood on a platform attached to it. As the grain was tossed on the platform by the reaper, this man formed it into sheaves with a rake, dropped it to the ground and from there it was gathered and formed into shocks by workmen. There was much talk of burning this machine as the men felt they would be out of employment with a machine requiring only five men to harvest a field of grain.
My parents' farm was a very productive one. Father often sold twelve hundred bushels of wheat and six hundred barrels of corn yearly. When I was twelve years old, father began to give me some business training. He had me oversee the measuring out of the grain, collect the cash for it, etc. Corn was selling at $1.00 a barrel. One day father was away from home and a Mr. Connelley, the manager of a farm at Emmaville twenty-five miles away, drove into buy some corn. Hearing that we had only about three hundred barrels, he said he would take that amount. As we measured the corn, he would take an ear form the crib and toss it into an empty barrel standing near, in this way keeping tally of the measuring. When the barrel became full, he started to put it into his wagon until I reminded him that it belonged in the crib. He paid me cash for the corn and when father came home, I proudly told him of the transaction and handed over the three hundred dollars. He seemed much annoyed and reprimanded me severely. I remember I cried and Ma came in and defended me, telling father I had done exactly what I had been told, etc. This made a deep impression and it made me timid and affected my self-confidence. Such things are important in a child's life. All my life I have fought an inferiority complex (to use an over-worked word) and it may have had its origin at this time.
I frequently drove Ma to Campbellstown (now St. Thomas) a distance of fourteen miles to her dressmaker, Miss Hawk, who made Ma's good dresses, the silks and mousseline delaines. Ma made her own cotton print dresses. I do not know where she got her hats, but I remember the type of bonnet she wore. They were straw-colored leghorn, the brim was scoop shaped and inside the brim was pleated lace ruching besprinkled with little pink and blue flowers and I remember that these bonnets were tied under the chin with ribbon.
During these early days, there was a Debating Society at Webster Mills which met in the abandoned storeroom. It was attended by all the neighbors. The persons I especially recall were my father and his cousin, William, whose father William was a brother of my grandfather, Thomas Patterson; Mr. Charles Taggart, an intelligent farmer and quite an orator; David Hughes, the shoemaker, a well-read man and a good debater; George Meyers, the tailor; Joe Meyers, the blacksmith, who had read Doctor Weems "Life of George Washington" and was a great Bible student; Frank Hess who came out of the Civil War a captain, joined the regular army and became a colonel, and Jake Suffacool.
Such questions were chosen for debate as "Is Fire or Water the More Destructive?" and "Which is the Greatest Influence in a Man's Life, the Love of Woman or the Love of Money?". I especially remember the question, "Which deserves the greater credit, Columbus for discovering America or George Washington for gaining our independence?". Charles Taggart made an eloquent speech and in it described Columbus, how he embarked on the Atlantic Ocean, his brave crew willing to face the elements with their courageous leader, how his little bark encountered the dangers and terrors of the unknown seas, etc., etc. When Jake Suffacool arose in support of the opposition, he began thus: "Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, who ever heard of a man attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a piece of bark?"
The Debating Society of those days had an educational value. Many of the statesmen really got their start in these societies. The foundation of Daniel Webster's success in the United States Senate as one of the greatest debaters of his time was laid in one of these lyceums, as they were called in the New England States.
My reading as a boy consisted of Pilgrim's Progress, Jane Eyre, the magazines (Harper's Weekly, Waverly Magazine, Godey's Lady's book), the New York Tribune, and the county newspapers. One of my memories is of Ma reading the newspapers to us, as we sat round a table in the candle light. Ma knew what was going on in our government, the names of our statesmen and what offices they held. We gained this knowledge at home, not depending on the schools for such information. In many of my mother's and father's letters written to me while at college, they commented on the conditions of the country and activities of the government with an intelligence and alertness, surprising when we consider that the newspapers were only issued weekly.
Horace Greely was the editor of the New York Tribune and a very wonderful editor. He was defeated by General Grant in 1872 for the nomination for President of the United States. The New York Tribune was our political bible.
Through all these years, seldom a day passed that we did not have guests. Visiting was almost a pursuit in those days, and in Ma's diaries she constantly refers to someone "dropping in" for dinner and to "sit awhile". Indeed, this continued to a great extent through all my life at Webster Mills.
There were many parties and some dancing in my younger days. It was looked down upon by our elders and frowned upon by the church--nevertheless the Virginia Reel, Money Musk, and later the Schottische, Polka and Waltz flourished. Card playing was not a pastime, but considered only a gambler's game.
Introduction … by David Hunter Patterson
Chapter 1 … The Valley of the Big Cove
Chapter 2 … The Tall Oaks & Towering Pines of Gallant Little Fulton
Chapter 3 … The Pattersons and the Hunters
Chapter 4 … Concerning Some of my Forbears
Chapter 5 … Childhood Memories
Chapter 6 … Some Church History
Chapter 7 … Boyhood Days
Chapter 8 … I Go Away to School
Chapter 9 … Incidents of the Civil War
Chapter 10 … Springfield - Graduation
Chapter 11 … Your Mother
Chapter 12 … A Quaker Family of Western Pennsylvania
Chapter 13 … From 1870 to 1880
Chapter 14 … Home Again at Webster Mills
Chapter 15 … The Centennial - I Buy a Farm and get into Politics
Chapter 16 … Last Years in the Old Home
Epilogue … by Elizabeth Patterson Neeson
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This page was last updated on Sunday, 18-Dec-2016 14:17:29 EST
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