See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.
These incidents begin in the early 1840s, at which time I was a mere boy. Our grandfather had moved from his farm at Burlington to his large estate, which extended from Glens Run on what is now the Martins Ferry and Colerain Pike, to the National Road west of Bridgeport -- his land lying on both sides of the Cadiz Road. He resided on the Old State Road, which runs along the top of the Ohio River hill back of Martins Ferry and Bridgeport, from the "Cut" on Colerain Pike to "Neelan's Tavern," on what was subsequently known as the Bridgeport and Cadiz Road. His extensive tract of land was later divided into many farms and homes, but at the time of which I write, he lived on that portion of it which was later known as the Louis Cook Farm.
What subsequently became our father's home farm was once on this tract of land, and was within hailing distance to my grandfather's home, which was near the Old Tavern, located on the Old State Road, later the Cadiz Pike [still later state rounte 250], four miles west of Wheeling, West Virginia, two miles from Bridgeport, and three from Martins Ferry, and stood just across the road from the subsequent site of the Reid mansion. The old tavern is long gone, and no trace of it remained as far back as 1907 except the well, which was at the corner of the barroom. The well was sheltered under the long, ample porch, which swept the whole front of the tavern. Facing the road, the porch's floor of well-laid flagstones welcomed the weary traveler.
Many a tired traveler and animal quenched their thirst at this well, the water of which came cold and sparkling in the oaken bucket from a depth of 100 feet or more -- drawn by windlass and chain. In time, these were replaced by a wooden pump made out of a massive tree, altogether too large and heavy for the purpose. In my mind, I can still see the moss around that old pump stock, when, as a child, I slyly lifted the lid on the platform and gazed into the wonderful mysteries of that deep old well.
In that barroom and on that porch many a joke was cracked and many a story of the road and pioneer life was told. Here, too, occurred many fights with fists and weapons. In the broad, open barnyard, through which the road passed in front of the tavern, men of great strength often competed with each other in throwing the shoulder stone, lifting, jumping, wrestling, boxing, and other competitive sports.
Near the tavern were large fields in which were herded and fed the droves of hogs, horses, and other stock being driven to eastern markets. Sometimes the hogs and cattle would be kept in these fields for days, to rest and graze, and on such occasions the news that the "drover" had come, would immediately spread to the neighboring farms. Soon that herd would be increased by surplus animals from our neighborhood, because these traveling drovers furnished a ready market for this surplus. Many a long "dicker" [negotiation] over prices took place in that spacious, open barnyard, in many of which peach brandy, applejack, whisky, and gin played an important part. Sometimes, under their warming influence, the poker table in the little back parlor next to the barroom was called into use; and the fate and ownership of many a flock or herd of animals was determined amid the amusement of the "wee sma' hours."
Such activities had to be indulged in with caution, however, for even at that early day considerable moral, religious restraint had crept into this pioneer life -- so that gambling had to be done more or less "on the quiet." Frequently, through the resentment of some industrious and frugal housewife whose husband had wasted their hard-earned savings at the card table, the participants -- especially the landlord of the tavern and the "drover" -- were made to pay dearly for the innocent amusement of "robbing" her needy family of what they had so laboriously earned in their struggles of a frontier life.
Many a faithful housewife, with tears in her eyes, saw her favorite "sookie," which she and the children had carefully raised and devotedly petted from early calf-hood, driven down the farm lane never to return. Little did they anticipate, though they might later suspect and know, that the only price paid for this family favorite and pet was a game of cards won by the "drover" and a dozen drinks sold by the landlord -- all paid for dearly by the errant husband.
Such incidents were not uncommon. They are facts, repeated time and again under my own observation. I remember the case of poor old Mrs. Henderson, who lived in sight of the tavern. She was very poor, but kind hearted, painstaking, industrious, and frugal. She was tender and loving to her family, and I am convinced she many times went hungry so that her children and drunken husband might have plenty. Kind neighbors had given her some lambs and a young calf. She had raised these upon the common [land not owned by a specific person] and from her own meager earnings until fully matured. She hoped from their increased value -- achieved through her own industry -- to obtain the funds to secure a log cabin home on a half-acre of ground near the one in which she was then living and renting.
Her lambs and heifer seemed to be the pride of her declining years. The pleasure of owning something at last, no matter how small, seemed the only ray of sunshine in a long life of struggle and sorrow. I can never forget that heavenly smile of gratitude and satisfaction, radiant with hopes of better times to come, which lit up her expressive Irish face when talking to me of her contemplated cabin home "for myself and wee ones," as she expressed it. In one short night, however, her husband, under the influence of strong drink, gambled away that flock and heifer, and before she knew of it, they were already driven into Virginia. I saw her just once after that, and she seemed heartbroken and crushed. Her patience and optimism left a deep impression on my young mind, and I sometimes wonder if such sacrifice and suffering is not given to educate and prepare others for a better life and higher attainments.
See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 03 -- Stage Coaches and Wagons.
For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.
This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)
DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
ENTRY NUMBER: EBK30011821