Volume Second 1850
Extracts from Diary, and Letters continued
Transcribed by Martha Giffen
Pedee, Cedar Co. Iowa
Fourth Month 12th 1850
. As father and J. A. expect to start for home to day, I feel like writing a few lines to thee for thy perusal and satisfaction. My last letter was written at Salem, from which place we all started the next morning towards Iowa City - and at the end of the first days journey, brother James and myself took lodging at Uncle Isaac Thomas’s, the rest of the company staying at a Hotel in a village near-by. On the morning of the 7th the company moved on, except James and myself, who were detained two days on business for Larkin. During the detention, while walking on the Prairie we discovered in the distance the appearance of a lake of water of large dimensions. Being unacquainted with the country, we knew not but the appearance might be reality, but while endeavoring to test it by a change of
our position to various points of elevation, a train of emigrant wagons approached the lake and traveled directly over its surface westward, which removed all doubts, and confirmed our previous apprehensions that the phenomena was what is termed, “the Mirage,” or the effect of refraction - the cause of which Philosophical works explain. On the 9th we traveled twenty-eight miles over a comparatively level and sandy road to W. W.’s - crossing Iowa river, on the way near its junction with the Cedar. On the 10th P.M. we arrived at this settlement, where we found a few Friends, mostly young married people just starting for themselves in this new country, far away from the homes of their childhood, yet apparently hopeful, and contented. From the time of our arrival to the present, we have been engaged in viewing this wide Prairie, and the scanty timber lands adjoining it. The surface of the Prairie is gently rolling, without a visible tree, or bush for many miles in succession. The soil is a dark, rich loam, and very productive, not a stone, nor a stump to obstruct the process of cultivation, but yet, I can detect serious disadvantages here, amongst which is the extreme scarcity of
timber, building stone, and living streams of water. There is a great amount of land here, not yet entered, and the settlers are anxious that we should take hold, but I feel some hesitation in regard to it - the place is not what I would wish in all respects. The weather is quite cold for the season - a very strong wind blowing from the north-west to day with occasional snow squalls - appears to be some further north than our native, old Harrison County I am writing in great haste as they are about to start. I must therefore close for the present and tell thee the balance when I get home.
With love, I remain, as ever, thine.
The above was my last letter during my absence from home that time, but the memorandum which I kept continued as follows:
Brother James and his wife’s brothers selected each a quarter of land soon after noon on the 12th, and we traveled on within eight miles of Iowa City and put up for the night. The morning of the 13th was quite cold, and no abatement in the force of the wind. We found ice in abundance
by the way three-fourths of an inch in thickness. After arriving at the Land Office, and they entering their land, we started on our return towards Cedar County. When we came to a house near the edge of the Barrens, a consultation was held relative to the propriety of proceeding further that evening, as the distance to the next house, across the wild Prairie was eight miles - which resulted in all stoping but James and myself, who both feeling anxious to attend the small meeting of Friends there the next day made the attempt, and succeeded in reaching Moses Butlers commodious cabin a while after dark.
On First-day morning the 14th, we attended meeting which was held in Lawrie Tatum’s small cabin. The oldest member of this meeting at that time was only thirty-five years of age. It appeared strange to us to see Friends coming to meeting in their wagons, drawn by oxen, to which there was but one exception. One Friend had his family arranged in a row on a single board extending from one axle to the other, himself on foot, acting as driver, oxen being a team hard to manage otherwise. The meeting, though silent, appeared solid, and
in a good degree, rightly gathered. A feeling of nearness, and sympathy appeared to prevail towards each other, as being mutual sharers in the privations and hardships attendant on a commencement in a new country, far away from parents, and elderly Friends.
On the morning of the 15th, while those who had entered land went to review, and stake its boundaries, I walked on towards Muscatine, with a view of attending to some business on the way for a friend in Ohio. At the crossing of Cedar river, I fell in company with a man, an entire stranger, who was traveling on foot in the same direction. He perceiving by my dress and address that I was a member of the Society of Friends, and having had as I afterwards found, irroneous information concerning them - soon became quite inquisitive relative to the faith and belief of Friends on essential points of doctrine - their form of worship - their estimation of the Scriptures - and various other particulars in connection therewith, which paved the way to a long and earnest controversy, during the course of which, such was my intense exercise and feeling of responsibility, lest
through my weakness, the cause of Truth might suffer in my hands, that I noticed but little of the country, or road which I passed over for many miles. He informed me that owing to his own peculiar views he had never felt prepared to become a member of any religious denomination of people. That although he could unite with many in some respects he could not thoroughly do so with any. That he believed in the observance of water baptism - the Lord’s supper, and other outward performances which he believed the Scriptures enjoined, but he entirely dissented from a belief in the dispensation of Divine revelation at any time since the Apostles days. That he believed the Prophets, and Apostles were inspired men, who wrote the Scriptures as they were moved by the Holy Ghost - in order that the will of God concerning mankind might be preserved as a director, and guide in the things which belong to our peace and salvation - and that this written record of the manifestation of the Spirit to us through them was our exclusive means of ascertaining our duty towards our Creator, and our only rule of faith and practice. Having been from my early years impressed with a belief that the Spirit of Truth, as it is adhered to, becomes the primary
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rule of faith and practice, and that it is by and through a measure of this Holy Spirit alone that man is enabled to work out his souls salvation with fear and trembling before God, and become prepared for an endless inheritance with the Saints in Light. It is not strange that the promulgation of such views as these should fill me with wonder and astonishment, and raise an earnest desire to convince his understanding of the irroneousness of such views if possible. I therefore endeavored by quotations from Scripture and other reliable sources, as ability was afforded, to bring to his view undeniable evidence that Divine revelation did exist, and had all along manifested itself through the Lords servants from the Apostles days down to the present time. That this was the new dispensation which we were now living under, in which, the Lord was Teacher of His people Himself, by writing his law in their hearts, and teaching them by his Spirit in their inward parts, thereby enabling them to deny all ungodliness, and the worlds lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world which ability the Scriptures of themselves could never give, although committed to memory from Genesis
to Revelations. That the Scriptures said for themselves, that they were profitable for doctrine for reproof, and for instruction in righteousness that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto all good works - and that they were even able to make wise unto salvation, but this was only through Christ by the operation of His Spirit on the heart, without which man was incapable of understanding the Scriptures aright, or of savingly applying them to his undone condition. But the most impressive evidence which I was capable of producing in confirmation of Divine revelation, and the operation of the Spirit of Truth on the heart of man, did not appear to raise even a doubt in his mind of the correctness of his theory. His idea appeared to be that where Divine revelation, or the operation of the Spirit was professed, the evidence of its actual existence should appear through the working of miracles as in the days of Christ and the Apostles and short of that, he could not believe, no matter how high the profession He was much more disposed to dwell on arguments in favour of the observance of water baptism, and other outward
ordinances which he conceived to be commanded in the New Testament than on the spirituality and substance of the matter, as a work begotten, and carried on by the Author of all good in the soul. Thus disbelieving and renouncing the spiritual appearance of Christ in the heart, he could not comprehend the meaning of a spiritual baptism, as being baptized into death that the soul might be raised into newness of life. Neither could he conceive how the Lords supper could be inwardly partaken of in a spiritual communion with Christ in supping with Him and He with us. Nor how the singing of praises could be performed without vocal sound, with the spirit and with the understanding, making melody in the heart unto the Lord. This being the case, to attempt to solve the difference in our views on collateral observances while we were so widely at variance on the fundamental principle was evidently an irreconcilable task, and I therefore endeavoured to confine our deliberations to the substance of the matter wherein our primary difference lay. I reminded him that the Scriptures themselves, which he believed to be our only rule of faith and practice, clearly set forth that a manifestation of the gift of grace was given to all men to
profit with all, not only to the Prophets and Apostles, but to “all men” - and my belief was, that he had been thus favoured as well as others - that God was no respecter of persons, but freely bestowed on all men a measure of his good spirit in order for their rescue from evil, and the accomplishment of their redemption and salvation. And I closely queried with him, whether he did not remember times in his life - including the days of his childhood, when he was favoured with feelings of comfort, and joy, when he had done right - and an uncomfortable feeling of distress and condemnation when he had done wrong. After a few minutes hesitation, he admitted that he believed he had sometimes been sensible of such feelings, but did not dwell much upon it, supposing it to be a natural consequence that persons would feel so from their knowledge of right, and wrong - as they had been taught - or learned from the Scriptures of Truth. I replied that we undoubtedly had many evidences that such feelings did not spring from a natural source, nor primarily from a literal knowledge of good and evil - for it was written that the heart of man - by nature - was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and was therefore incapable of itself of doing any good thing,
or, of even thinking a good thought, no matter how well instructed outwardly. That those feelings of remorse and condemnation for wrong doing, and the sense of peace and approbation which is experienced in connection with obedience to known duty, is nothing less than a sense of the gift of grace spoken of in Scripture as a free gift to every man “to profit with all.“ The “still small voice in the secret of the heart, that “teaches as never man taught.” The “true Light which is written of as “shining in a dark place,” and “enlightening every man that cometh into the world”- teaching - and enabling him to “deny all ungodliness, and the worlds lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world“ That this was truly the teachings of the spirit of Truth. A manifestation of the revealed will of God to lost man for his redemption from sin and iniquity That this was the principle, and the inward operation which I had been alluding to as Divine revelation to the souls of men. A small measure of the same which inspired the Prophets and Apostles, and all other good men in every age of the world since their days down to the present time - commencing as a light shining in a dark place - small in its beginnings, yet if adhered to and obeyed
would know a gradual growth, and eventually lead out of all errors into all truth, and into dominion over sin, and every corrupt inclination, and become in us “a well of living water” - “a fountain of life springing up into eternal life.” That it was the authority, and effectual working of this inward Light and Power that the Society of Friends believed in as the spiritual manifestation and coming of Christ for the salvation of all who yield obedience thereto. A Light and Power which existed, and manifested itself in the hearts of the children of men before the Scriptures were written, and through which they originated, and were brought forth - and without which they could not be understandingly read and applied - for themselves declare that the ”natural man knoweth not the things of God, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” So neither can man rightly comprehend the writings of Divine inspiration, unless his understanding is opened by a measure of the same Spirit from which they issued. That this spiritual manifestation and power was therefore valued by us as the fountain from which the Scriptures come - in full unity and
cooperation therewith, and the primary rule of faith and practice - and that although the Scriptures were profitable for doctrine, for reproof - and for instruction in righteousness - yet they were only so through Christ in his spiritual appearance in the heart - opening the spiritual discernment there to see, and feel the truths therein contained, and therefore a combined secondary rule, and blessing bestowed upon us, in order that we might lack no helpful thing, but be “thoroughly furnished unto all good works. While I was thus giving a brief explanation of the things which I most assuredly believed, the stranger walked by my side in silence, but after a while remarked, that he had never before had the opportunity of conversing with a “Quaker,” and was glad that we had thus casually met and used a friendly freedom with each other in comparing our views. That he had often heard ”the Quakers” spoken of as a people differing from other religious societies in various respects - and as disbelievers in the Holy Scriptures to some extent - which charge of unbelief, if he understood me rightly was incorrect - and his mind had become
more favorably impressed concerning them than heretofore. That during our conversation he had come to the conclusion that we did not differ so widely in our views as he at first supposed. At this period of our interview we had arrived at the place where our temporal pursuits led us in different directions, and we parted under feelings of good friendship - and I believe, with heartfelt desires for each others best welfare both here and hereafter - never, I presume to meet again. I then walked on alone, under serious reflection on what had passed, and stopped for the night at James Cattells near Muscatine.
On the following day my company met me at Muscatine and all took passage on a steamer for home by way of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, except brother James and myself who took a conveyance to Davenport, expecting to find letters there from our homes, but were disappointed. We were detained there about three days on account of the continual high winds rendering navigation hazardous. During this detention we employed our time in viewing various things in, and near the towns of Davenport, and Rock-Island City, amongst
which was the dilapidated remains of old Fort Armstrong which is situated on the southern extremity of Rock-Island, and almost directly between the above named towns which stand on opposite sides of the river, and are but little more in size than country villages, chiefly composed of small frame buildings, and at present, but a limited amount of business appears to be done there of any kind. We left there on the evening of the 19th on an energetic steamer which sterned the rapid current of the “father of waters” successfully and landed us at a town called Galena, in the northwest corner of Illinois the next evening. This town, though but small, is a great shipping point for the lead ore found in that vicinity. From this place we traveled on foot, and by private conveyance through southern Wisconsin to Milwaukee on the western shore of Lake Michigan, arriving on the morning of the 25th. This we found to be a large place - a City - built up city like, with large and costly brick buildings. It was really astonishing to behold the extensive mass which had accumulated there, in the comparatively brief space of seventeen years. We spent the balance of the day at this place in viewing many things which were new to us
and which we never expect to see again. One amongst the many curiosities we met with, was an unusually small yet well proportioned man whose weight was but forty pounds. He informed us that he was past twenty-one years of age - appeared to be intelligent and well educated - had the voice of a man, though small in proportion to his size - and was capable of acting as clerk in a store.
The country for ten miles west of Milwaukee is densely timbered and very level, with here and there a Tamrack swamp, beyond that the surface is more rolling, principally Prairie land, but interspersed with timber more plentifully than in either Illinois or Iowa, yet a considerable portion of it is a low scrubby Burr-Oak not very suitable for anything but the fire. Springs and clear rocky bedded streams are more common here than in the Prairie countries further south, but no doubt the winter cold is much more extreme.
On the morning of the26th we left Milwaukee on a Lake Steamer, in a dense fog, which continued the most of the day, which rendered objects on Shore but faintly visible, till we arrived at Chicago about four in the evening. This we found to be an extensive place - only second in size to any in the west, and contains many fine and costly buildings, and com-
mands a large trade in produce and merchandise as a central shipping point between the east and west - but as yet no Rail-Road has ever gone that far towards the Pacific coast - no scream of locomotive has ever yet penetrated the ears of its inhabitants. The nearest approach yet completed is the terminus of the Central Michigan road at New-Buffalo, opposite the City, forty-five miles distant by water. While crossing here, I for the first time experienced nothing in view but sky and water, and was gratified in beholding the oft-heard-of-phenomena of the distant waves apparently rolling over the setting sun. On reaching the shore we entered the Cars and were soon rapidly under way for Detroit. So rapid that I could scarcely restrain my muscles from rigidness under the influence of an impulse of an involuntary hold-back - for this was my first experience in railroad travel. On arriving at Detroit on the morning of the 27th we immediately entered the Steamer Atlantic by which we were soon borne far out on the bosom of Lake Erie on our way to Buffalo, New York. The surface was calm and still and the weather pleasant, and so smoothly did our vessel wend its way over the deep that we could hardly conceive how it could ever be otherwise. We arrived at our place of destination
early the next morning, and took the Cars for Niagara Falls, where we arrived in time to spend several hours in viewing this magnificent “wonder of the world” and returned to the City the same evening Feeling desirous to lose no time in making our way homeward we took lodging on a steamer that left the dock sometime in the night, and at day-light in the morning we were again far out on the bosom of the Lake, but it had lost its former tranquility, and had become turbulent and boisterous - apparently mad - heaving and foaming as though determined to relieve itself of us as presumptuous intruders. I never before knew the feelings of the tossed to and fro at the mercy of the waves - nor how to appreciate the favor and blessing of a firm foot-hold on the land - and a safe and quiet home beyond the reach of the “noise of many waters.” We were favored however, to land in safety, and took passage on the Beaver and Erie Canal for the Ohio river, and arrived at home on the 2nd of the Fifth Month, and found all well, for which, and my own preservation I hope I feel in a good degree thankful to the Author of our being. For I have traveled many hundreds of miles, and encountered many dangers, and have been preserved through them all
and brought safely home to my family, whose welfare has also been maintained under the same protecting hand - and surely for all these things - and evermore- I should feel a thankful heart, and know a preparation to say - “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits” for his merciful kindness is great towards us - “and his Truth endureth forever”
On the 9th of 7th Month of this year, Zachary Taylor departed this life after an illness of but a few hours leaving the United States again without a President Ninth Month 17th Our Yearly Meeting this year did not transact its business with as much condescension as at some other times. There appeared to be more reluctance manifest in submitting one to another, and stronger symptoms apparent of an approaching separation. My wife attended this year with more satisfaction than for some years past, our elder children being now capable of taking care of the younger ones. Some of our children are now old enough to be at school, and our place of residence being on the out-skirts of Friends settlement, and beyond the reach of Friends schools, and feeling it my duty, as I do, to guard my children against the exposure, and temptations of the District schools, I have therefore built a small schoolhouse
on my own premises, and at my own expense, and have employed Lydia Ellis, a consistent, well-disposed young woman as Teacher She commences her school to day with our own children and a few other children of Friends, whom I have taken in on low terms for the sake of inducing an interest in Friends School. This method of educating our children, I am aware will be expensive, but I much prefer it to exposing them to corrupt influences, and profane conversations at a very trifling pecuniary cost. The souls of my children feel much more precious and valuable to me than the hoarding up of dollars and cents, either for my own use, or theirs.
Tenth Mo. 14th I was overtaken with weakness last evening, and suffered my temper to rise beyond proper bounds, on account of what now appears in my view a very trifling matter - for which impropriety I feel very sorry, and ashamed. I have not been so overtaken before, for several weeks past, and may I truly repent of it, and then be very careful to watch against the temptation, and do so no more, for indulgence in a hasty spirit is surely a sin, and foolishness in the sight of God/
Twelfth Mo. 8th. First day. Walked to meeting with my two little boys, and sat quietly as others did, but did not succeed in collecting my mind to the inner temple - falling very far short of that qualification necessary for the performance of acceptable worship in the Divine sight. Neither have I been able to do so for several weeks past, notwithstanding I have attended meetings regularly, and sat them through in a becoming manner. I feel much discouraged and forsaken this evening, and entertain fears that I shall never be able to overcome my evil propensities. I fear that instead of growing stronger as I grow older, I still become weaker and weaker. O! the awfulness of such a state. Sometimes I am almost tempted to dispair, and strive no longer, and at others I feel more hopeful and take a little courage, but only again to be overcome and thrown prostrate and powerless before the grand enemy of all good. How this warfare is to terminate I know not, or what the end of my existence, but I sometimes fear that nothing but destruction awaits me.
15th Attended meeting again to day, but to no better purpose than formerly. Still as barren as the parched ground of the desert. No life within myself, nor ability to seek for help and strength. I have looked back upon days that are past that I then thought were miserable, as fruitful fields in comparison with my present utterly destitute condition.
Go to: 1851.