|Beautiful Belmont, Part 05 -- Life In Our Father's House.|
by John Salisbury Cochran.
See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 04 -- Log Cabin Homes.
Our father's farm lay in the angle formed by the junction of "Buckeye Run" with "Glens Run" on the old Martins Ferry and Mount Pleasant Road at the foot of the hill, back of Matins Ferry. I think I have never experienced a cooler or more shady and refreshing drive than the road up Buckeye Run to its intersection with the old State Road, half a mile west of the Old Tavern. When the trees were in leaf, scarcely a ray of sunshine touched this road, and the small level patches of green then open to the public, which skirted the road and sloped down to the edge of the babbling water, became havens of rest. They were fragrant with the aroma of buckeye, locust, and poplar blossoms, and the perfume of a thousand flowers. Halfway up this road was the gate to the lane leading to the log cabin of our home farm. The log cabin subsequently was replaced by a large frame structure, in which most of the children were born and all of us raised.
The original log cabin and farm buildings would have made a sorry comparison to those subsequently erected. Nevertheless, the log cabin compared favorably with the very large majority of houses of its day in that vicinity. In fact, it was much above the average and was not without its corresponding degree of respect in the neighborhood.
Our father was a good man. I am glad to say this, for when it can be said of one ancestor, it is more likely to be said of the next. I really believe I have never met in this life of mine a more fair, honest, manly person than our father. He was tenderhearted, liberal, and kind to his children and family. His greatest desire was to see his children become educated, and to have a chance to do even better than he had managed to do.
He was a member of the Methodist church and a consistent Christian in all his dealings and conduct. He established a family altar in our home, something never forgotten by any of his children. In my memory I can still see the family circle gathered around that great fireplace in the sitting room, while father read a chapter from the Bible, after which we all knelt in prayer. I can never forget the earnestness and fervor with which he invoked God's guidance at all times over his children, and that they be lead down the path of righteousness and love. His pleading was so fervent and persuasive at times that it made me wonder why, after such prayers, I had seen his eyes and cheeks wet with tears. Long years of subsequent struggles and sorrows have taught us all that our father, with his affectionate foresight, saw the many thorny paths the feet of his little ones would have to travel.
In the many differences of opinion and purposes inevitably arising within a family of seven boys and four girls, all differences were decided by our father, whose judgment was seldom at fault. He was a good judge of human nature, and studied and knew well the disposition and character of each of his children. He was a calm man, and acted with deliberation on all matters. His chief aim was to be right and fair. I think there was not a trace of ill will in his heart. These qualities, coupled with his affection for his children, gave great force to any decision he might make, and while there was much aggressive and independent thought and action among them, the children always yielded with becoming, deferential respect to the judgment and mandates of our father.
Each member knew he could go to my father and expect approval of any reasonable request. He did not neglect the social growth of his children; on the contrary, he encouraged it. Although we were an industrious family, working early and late, he frequently stopped very important work on the farm to allow for recreation, social, and educational pursuits.
He was a kind father and about the only evidence of narrow-mindedness that I ever discovered in him was his objection to the introduction of the violin into our home by his eldest son, Robert H. The violin eventually remained, however, and what a cheery thing it proved to be. It added a new dimension to our lives -- the realm of music, in which every member of the family became more or less proficient. The organ and piano subsequently followed, and ultimately I think no one enjoyed them all more than father. Music is a tender, civilizing influence. There can be little malice in the mind when one is singing; it is also a medium through which to pour out one's grief. The children of Irael in their captivity, and the American slaves in their bondage, became the sweet singers of the earth.
Saturday nights, above all others, were the most popular and enjoyable ones to the young people on the farms, for they offered time for extended visiting and social activities. On many Saturday evenings our family, along with a few neighboring boys and girls, formed a circle around the piano or organ, and with violin accompaniment, mingled our voices in hours of joyful song. There was no pretense or show in that circle; it all came from the heart.
What a refreshing time Saturday night was. It was the emancipator from the slavish drudgeries of the week. It promised rest and social fellowship. It whispered of songs of love, and the meeting of sweethearts. Even if the night was spent in social mirth after a hard week's toil, the coming Sabbath promised a day of rest. What boy or girl on the farm has not often thanked God for Saturday night? Is there a person dead or living, who has ever read it, who has not thanked Robert Burns for his "Cotter's Saturday Night?"
When I look back over the long years which have intervened since those joyous days with our old neighbor boys and girls, I feel that the Saturday night of life has arrived; and I long for a Sabbath of eternal peace to be enjoyed by those loved ones whose voices have been silent for many years.
I regarded our mother as a very pretty woman. With her dark eyes, symmetrical face and form, clear, rosy skin, black hair and eyebrows and long black eyelashes, I considered her beautiful. One of my earliest recollections as a child was of stroking my mother's long black hair and looking into her large dark eyes. What a world of affection and meaning there appeared to be in them for me when I tried to commune with her through those mysterious eyes. As I grew older, I thought those eyes are what must have captured father.
Our mother was a woman of independent thought. She was very practical, and took little on faith. She did not believe in the orthodox hell and no amount of persuasion or social influence could prevail upon her to do so. She was a proud, hot-tempered woman, sensitive to a degree, but she also was the most industrious woman I ever saw. She was fearless, with boundless nerve and wonderful endurance. She was quick-witted, and always was ready with an appropriate response. She also had a romantic side to her. All the children could recall the old-time love songs she used to sing to us, such as "Lord Lovell and Lady Nancy," "Pretty Polly and the Captain," and "Sweet Caroline of Edenborough Towns."
Mother was a woman of strong likes and dislikes. She had her favorites among her children, and did not attempt to conceal it, while on the contrary, if our father ever had any he never let it be known. Father was slow to anger, while mother was quick to resent. But she loved her children, and the labor she performed for them was prodigious and would have killed an ordinary woman.
She was faithful to the memory of our father -- her first love -- living a widow's life of over thirty years, and dying such. She died fearlessly, on a bitter cold day in January 1893, and even in her last hours her thoughts were for the comfort of others, for she sighed as she said: "It will be so cold for you to go to the cemetery with me in this kind of weather."
She was proud of her boys, all but one of whom had served in the Civil War, and when she found she was dying she asked them to take a standing position around her bed, had the curtains over the windows raised to let in the light, made the attendants prop her up in bed, and with her fast-fading sight resting on her sons, she died with the last expression, "My noble boys."
Few of us realize what we owe to our mothers. They stamp the intellect of the nation on the next generation, and make it weak or strong.
See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 06 -- The Old Spring and Spring House.
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)
DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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