|Beautiful Belmont, Part 37 -- Oberlin College.|
by John Salisbury Cochran.
See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 36 -- The Fate of Aunt Tilda's Mose.
After my friends -- Minerva, Charlie Chandler, James Van Pelt -- and I had all enjoyed our summer  vacations, of which many pleasant memories were long cherished, we all said farewell to each. The others returned to their studies of a year's duration, and I started my first year at Oberlin College. My time there was largely uneventful; I pursued my studies with great industry, impressed with the importance of getting on as speedily as possible. Rapidly approaching manhood, I had only three years separating me from adult status.
Just before my college year closed, the Civil War burst upon the country like a thunderclap. For a time after it had actually come, few people really accepted the war's reality; and many seemed in a dazed condition for months afterward. The North had presumed that the oft-repeated warnings of the people of the slave-holding states were mere idle threats. The South, through its leading men in and out of Congress, as well as their newspapers, had declared that if Abraham Lincoln were elected president, they would secede from the Union. President James Buchanan permitted his secretary of war, Mr. Floyd, to move approximately all the arms, munitions, and supplies of war into the Southern states. As a result, when the struggle came, the South was prepared while the government in Washington was absolutely unprepared, and almost defenseless.
In the last month or so of my school year I became decidedly restless and ill at ease. President Lincoln had called for 75,000 troops, which was soon followed by a call for 300,000 more. The colleges and schools all over the country were being closed because of enlistments by the students. A spirit of patriotism had seized upon the country and was sweeping everything before it like an avalanche. Whole farms were stripped of all male help, and crops remained ungathered. The young and middle-aged men came pouring into the towns and cities from the countryside to enlist, like the old clans of Scotland when notified to come on penalty of "fire and sword." One morning the call was sent out for the formation of a company from Martins Ferry; by five o'clock in the evening a reply was sent that the company was ready. This was but a sample of how the whole North was moving to the rescue of the nation after the flag had been fired upon at Fort Sumpter. The South was apparently no less active, and had already seized many places of military importance, forcing their lines as far north as possible. When the North did arise from its apathy, however, she was like a mighty giant shaking itself awake for battle. In fact, it seemed as though there was no limit to the tramp of armed men, and one wondered where they all came from. I felt it my duty to enlist, and determined to do so as soon as classes finished in May 1861.
Upon leaving home, I had made diligent inquiry in Oberlin for news about Lucinda and Sam for Aunt Tilda, but no one knew any mulattoes with those names. I was told about a woman who, by my description, sounded like it was Lucinda, but my informant told me she had gone to Cleveland to teach at a Negro school, having been educated for this purpose at the Oberlin School. I had no means of following up on this clue. Some two weeks before my college year closed, a fellow student stepped into my room and asked me to take a short evening walk. I agreed immediately, for I had been working hard all day and needed a break. As we returned from our walk in the suburbs of the quiet old town, my companion suggested we go into a church that was brilliantly lighted, where a Negro wedding was taking place.
When the bride and groom and attendants swept down the opposite aisles to meet in front of the pulpit and audience, I noticed by their dress and appearance they were altogether above the ordinary. The church was large and we were seated near the door. What impressed me was the number of the best-educated and wealthy white citizens of the town in the church. When the bride and groom faced the audience there was something about their faces that immediately engaged my attention, and finally startled me, as the minister said: "Do you, Samuel Alexander, take this woman, Lucinda Taylor, to be your lawful wife; that forsaking all others you will cleave unto her and love, honor and protect her while you both shall live?" Sam bowed in acknowledgment, and when the same question was asked of Lucinda, she most gracefully replied, "I do," in cultivated English.
After the others had congratulated the couple, I took my friend by the arm and, walking down in front of the newlyweds, said: "I come to congratulate you, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander! Though I might have raised some objection as I fancy you, Mr. Alexander, did not get the consent of Mrs. Alexander's mother, Aunt Tilda, before this ceremony took place. However, I feel I can give consent for her, as she is still living at our house in Belmont County, in good health, and would be glad to see you both, as she often talks of you. In fact, she has been waiting and hoping I would hunt you up, so she could renew communication, but until this evening my efforts have been unavailing. She will be rejoiced to hear from you."
It would be difficult to describe the looks of astonishment on the faces of Sam and Lucinda. "You will excuse me," said Sam inquiringly, "but neither of us know from whom we are having the pleasure of these congratulations."
"Perhaps I can remind you both," I said laughingly. "Do you, Mrs. Alexander, remember the boy who offered you the ginger cake at the markethouse in Wheeling about nine years ago? And you, Mr. Alexander, the boy whom the day after, you met in the graveyard on the Ohio River hill, and who showed you the Van Pelt house, and sent Campbell to you down in the orchard?" They both grasped my hands at once. The others looked on in astonishment.
I begged their pardon for my interruption at such an unseemly moment, but gave as my excuse that if I did not embrace the opportunity while it presented itself, I might lose it altogether.
Sam and Lucinda pleaded with me to go to the house of a friend nearby, where they were to go for late supper before starting for their future home in Cleveland. I went with them and found that after leaving Belmont County, they had made their way to Oberlin, where they had been taken care of by Friends, both becoming educated at the schools there, and that Sam was a minister of the gospel, having a congregation in Cleveland. Lucinda had been engaged in teaching there recently and had come back to be married at the house of those whom she regarded as almost her parents. Fearing they would be captured, they had assumed different names, and hence the futility of all our efforts to find them. As the war was already on, and the death knell of slavery was sounding, they no longer felt any fears, and determined to be married under their true names, which greatly astonished all who knew them except one or two who had knowledge of the facts.
They had been afraid to inquire about Aunt Tilda, as this might furnish a clue to their identity and possibly provoke recapture. Of course, I told them all about Aunt Tilda, but could give no information of Mose. "Poor Mose!" said Lucinda. "We all escaped but him! Poor fellow! I wonder if I shall ever see him again?"
Before leaving them I made arrangements that they should accompany me home for a visit to Aunt Tilda. I wrote home immediately, so as to give her a grain of comfort. She rejoiced and thanked God for weeks after, going around singing "The Old Ship of Zion," her favorite means of showing she was happy. What a scene there was at the old farm house when, two weeks later, these reunited souls threw their arms around each other and wept out their overflowing joy and love. As I witnessed it, I thought of their last heartrending embrace and parting, which I had seen at the markethouse. It needed but one more person to make that circle complete and happy -- Mose!
See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 38 -- My Coming to War.
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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