Account of the HOLMES Family
And their settlement of South Richland, Oswego County, New York

Written by Rev. Jesse H. Jones
as published in the Pulaski Democrat from
September 12, 1900 to August 6. 1902


Part 3:

Chapter 17 - The Great Gristmill

     Perhaps the largest and most important material improvement which John Holmes made was the second gristmill, and the raceway leading down to it. The mill was a great, two story and a half building, set about eighty rods down stream from the dam, where the foundation is still standing, though the building has been torn down. About this Almon writes: “The second grist mill was built in 1835. Milton and I with John, horse and stone boat drew the stone out of the bottom of the creek to build the foundation walls, which were thirty feet square, fourteen feet high next to the stream, and three feet thick at the bottom. (These walls were built in 1834.) Also we helped dig and wheel the dirt on a wheelbarrow to make the bank on the lower side of the ditch,”  which constituted the raceway.  “I brought a bundle of willow cuttings from Lysander, which I stuck along in the bank to make it stronger. Solomon Erskine was living on the Old Salt Road at this time, but moved down to Holmesville later.”
     Newell writes that he rode the horse, which drew the stone, which Milton and Almon loaded. He further says that Jonathan Burdick was the master carpenter and millwright who did all the wood work of the mill. And he was brother to Elder Elias Burdick, who was pastor of the Baptist church in 1834, perhaps a year earlier, and whom Almon says, “preached to us for several years?” The former has his carpenter shop on the site where the present grist mill stands, and it was afterwards occupied by Mr. Dix. I remember vividly the grist mill as it was in 1845-6 and will describe it from memory.
     As one entered the mill, and so was facing north, there was seen about three-fifths of the way to the backside a raised portion, about four or five steps, that is breast high. On this raised portion where the three run of stone which the mill contained. As you stood looking north the set of stone to the right of the short stairway was for grinding  corn, that to the left was for feed, that is cracked corn and oats or any such like two kinds of grain mixed together; and also for buckwheat. As you went up the steps you came face to face with the crowning part of all, the precious run of burr stone for grinding wheat and making flour, having its accompanying carriers to transport the ground wheat up into the cooler, from whence it was borne along to the bolt to be sifted and separated into flour, kenelle and bran. I can see it all in memory as if it were but yesterday. The wheat bolt wagon the right hand side as one stood in the door about to enter. I should say it was eighteen feet long and either six or eight sided; and was enclosed of course, though there was a flap door to lift up, which disclosed it all; and there was the long trough with cover into which the flour was shaken down. On the opposite side was a similar bolt for buckwheat, and so the mill was thoroughly equipped for any sort of gristmill work that the countryside called for.
     Late in February or early March, 1845 the cast iron mill was put in to crack corn, cob and all, so as to grind the whole of the ear of corn with oats or barley, or alone, for feed. Grandfather was a progressive man. He was a great energy for advancement and when he found an improvement in what he was working at, he adopted it as soon as he could. Hence with eager urgency he put in the corn cracker. I well remember the time and the spirit he showed in doing it.

 Note - In the letter of Mr. Waters printed two weeks ago, if our readers will put “tax” for “Fox” they will have what he wrote. Evidently he referred to some change in the method of collecting the school tax.

     Newell was the miller having been put in charge of the mill February 1 of the year before. My earliest recollection of him or the mill is, I think, in the last of February 1845, he had a stone up and was dressing it, the flour run as I remember, and much was said about the burr stone and its superiority. And I remember the tools, the handle and the steels with an edge at each end and the way he lay on the stone and used them to deepen just a little the channels through which the meal flowed when the grain had been crushed. That grist mill was a center of life for Holmesville at that time when so many raised their own wheat and made their own flour, and bought almost nothing that they ate; and the drowsy hum of its machinery even now sounds new in my ears.
     Newell had his gifts, and one of them was to make rhyme. Two of these he had chalked high up on the front of the covers of the bolts in the main room of the mill. One I remember exactly. It was this:
     “Gentlemen all, it is a good thing to mark your bags and keep a good string.”
     An important suggestion to patrons of a country mill. The other was substantially this:
     “And if you would have good flour from the wheat you bring, You must clean it from chess, smut and everything.”
     The doing away of this mill belongs to a time long after that of which I write, and I do not describe it. Nor does any of the history of the mill after Newell left it in 1847 concern what I have in hand.
     After the grist mill and raceway were built came the tannery which was a little more than half way from the dam toward the grist mill. The time when it was built I can only approximately fix; but it was before 1839, for Mrs. Orvis says, “We held meetings in a new built tannery previous to the building of the Baptist church.” That church was finished and in use early in 1840; so the meetings could not have been held later that 1839, and the tannery must have been built at least the year before, i. e. in 1838. The manager was Deacon Wood, and June 23 of that year grandfather writes, “Deacon Wood is setting up his business at the Mills. That implies that the tannery was already finished and that Deacon Wood was setting it a going.” Probably it was begun the year before.
     Deacon Wood was one of the characters of Holmesville, a man most gifted in prayer. He lived to be past ninety-four years of age.
     The tannery was burned flat a dozen years or more ago, and all that pertained to it has disappeared.

 Chapter 18 - “Breaking Home Ties”

     Grandmother Holmes was a masterly woman, of high ambition that her children, especially that her daughters should have whatever opportunity there was obtainable for them to improve themselves. She had been a school ma’am, and the best schooling at command she was determined her daughters should have; and they were worthy. The first opportunity was afforded to Elvira, her first born. January 9, 1826, she left home to attend the school of Miss Royce at Clinton, Oneida County, being less than a month past nineteen years of age; and that day she began a diary which lies before me.
     Perhaps the most distinct we note if the time, different from anything that would be looked for now-a-days, was the attitude of mind concerning religion. Thus, four days after Elviria left home, and being among entire strangers, on January 13, she writes, “A young man visited us, and conversed much on the subject of religion.” Next evening, after having “writing exercises of the Bible,” she speaks of having “an interesting conversation” with the woman in whose family she boarded “on the subject of  religion.” Four days after, January 18, she writes: “Today at school the girls began to make sport and laughter of religios subjects, and it shocked me to hear what they said. Some of the girls who have religious parents made the most sport of them about their praying for their wicked children seven times a day; and sometimes continuing all night in prayer to God. I asked if they did not fear those prayers and admonitions they received would rise them in judgement against them; but was answered in the negative. I incurred their scoffs, not being a professor, but I did not care for that.” Next day she writes, “In the evening attended a conference meeting and heard about a revival in Rome. It is said that such a revival was never known in this part of the State. One man who formerly was a professor of religion has done his utmost to check the progress of the work. He was first a Universalist, then a Deist, then an Atheist; and appeared to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Christians were amazed, and prayed that God would make it manifest that there was a God in Israel.”
     The “revival” referred to was that under the preaching of Rev. Charles G. Finney, a work of extraordinary power even among his extraordinary work, and which fully described in his “Autobiography,” a record highly worthy to be read in every Christian family in the land.
     Three days after, on the Sabbath, the 22nd she wrote: “Attended church today and heard a very important sermon from the words, ‘The Master is come and calleth for three.’ There are some who appear to be awakened to a sense of their danger; but still my heart remains hard. Oh that God would send His Holy Spirit to open my eyes, and assist me to surrender myself and all that I have unreservedly into the hands of a merciful Redeemer.”
     By the end of the term having been reached, April 26th, she says, “Attended examination and received two premiums.” On the 28th, having left Clinton, “she was accidentally detained at Utica, and heard Mr. Finney preach.” As there is no comment I infer that she was not satisfied. May 1st she was at home, but of the summer there is no record.
     August 10th she went back to the school at Clinton, and continued there until October 26th. The day before, after an all day examination, she wrote, “I am much gratified with receiving four premiums.” On her way home from Rome by stage, she “was pleased to find it nearly occupied with respectable looking passengers. One of them being an acquaintance rendered my journey quite pleasant.” This one who rendered the journey “quite pleasant” was then Elizabeth Douglas, younger sister of Col. John and Deacon Abel Douglas, who afterward was wife of Deacon E.M. Ferris. This lady herself, under the date of February 15, 1899 wrote me of the same event, not knowing of mother’s record as follows: “I had been spending some time with friends in Oneida County and was going to take passage in the old fashioned stage. I expected to have a lonely ride with company of strangers, and perhaps none of them congenial. Imagine my surprise and joy when I entered the coach to find my loving friend Elvira Holmes there. She had graduated at Clinton and was going home. We had an enjoyable ride and pleasant visit together. The next morning we took breakfast together at Union Square. Her brother came to meet her with two horses, one for himself and one for her. She expressed her regret that he had not come with a buggy so that we might have another ride together.” They had ridden all night in that stage.
     We will do well to note just here what traveling was in those days, by stage from Clinton to Utica, and again from Utica to Rome. Then an all night ride up toward Williamsburg and across westward to Union Square. Then by private conveyance, or later by stage,  on the Old Salt Road. A reminiscence of Ann Electa will make this more vivid. She was returning from a three years stay in New Jersey at her brother Newton’s school, and she stopped at our house in Rome over night. The day was about October 1, 1841. Concerning the ride from there she writes: “I well remember my visit in Rome, particularly the rest of my journey. It was in a stage coach crowded with men, all night to Union Square. There I waited for the stage going north which took me to Dewey’s tavern. From there I walked one mile home to our house on the farm.
     And every time mother went to Clinton fifteen years before, she would have to stay over night at Rome. Now you make the trip in four or five hours instead of the greater part of two days.”

 Chapter 19 - The School Ma’am

     From the end of her second term in Clinton to her marriage, nearly nine years after, Elvira Holmes was a school teacher. Six weeks after that second return she writes: “December 18th, Today I began instructing my sisters in the path of Science. It is extremely gratifying to be able to give instruction and have the sense of being useful in the world.” This school was held in the home parlor which was warmed by a fireplace. She closed it March 13, the next year, 1827, having “the satisfaction of seeing my pupils acquit themselves with credit.”
     A month later, April 13, she went to Hastings and kept a summer school, closing September 4th. After a month’s vacation on October 7th, she “commenced a school for young ladies at Mexico under encouraging prospects.”
     This school, after continuing almost six months, she closed on the 28th of March following (1828), with an examination, at which, she says, “my friends appear pleased.” of her return home she writes:
     “Returned in the evening to my father’s house. With what delight so I hail the dear mansion. It is truly a place of rest after toils and fatigue are past. It is the place where I can open my heart in unsuspecting confidence, which makes it indeed a place of repose after experiencing the fully, fickleness and treachery of summer friends. I ought with thankfulness and gratitude to acknowledge Divine Providence in thus protecting me though the various scenes which have passed, and would beg the assistance of the Divine Spirit to work in me all that I have to do.”
     That one could be in such a frame of mind, and nobody think them a Christian is passing strange, and difficult to account for. Yet it was more than three years after before any one thought her converted.
     She was at home the following summer; and Wednesday, June 11th, she writes, “Today my eldest brother and sister, (Jesseniah and Esther) left us to spend the summer abroad.” What this trip was there is no means of ascertaining.
     On the following Sabbath, June 15th, she writes, “After attending church, I rode to a neighboring district to assist in establishing a Sabbath school.” This must have been the beginning of such schools in that region; and I note that she wrote Sabbath, not Sunday school, thus showing her Puritan cast of mind. At the close of her record of this event she writes, “While I am permitted to be the instrument of instructing a few in the great truths of the Bible, I am spiritually ignorant of them; and it is at times exceedingly painful that probably those very words which I have recited will prove a savor of life unto them, and a savor of death unto me.” I quote this to show one phase of the attitude of the New England religious mind at that time; for  she was a New Englander, all her surroundings were of New England, and so was the whole atmosphere of soul in which she lived, just as much as if all had happened in Pomfret or Tolland, Connecticut, whence the family came. But that such a woman as she was when she wrote those words could now be deemed a castaway, is not an entertainable thought. Such persons as she did not know their own real state of being.
     Two weeks and a little more after, July 2, 1828, she attended the institution of Rev. George Freeman over the Congregational church in Pulaski, who according to the printed manual, had begun work as pastor of the church there the December before. The sermon was preached by Dr. Brown of Cazenovia. “The weather was cloudy and misty.” In the road “stones and logs were plenty to impede our progress. After having arrived there and waited about half an hour, the Presbytery came in and read the minutes of their meeting, and presented to Mr. Freeman a call to settle over that society, which he accepted. Dr. Brown preached from Jeremiah _ii, 15.” “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Her comment is, “And such a sermon! It is saying nothing of it to call it [word torn off] excellent.”  “The exercises were very solemn and impressive.”
     For a year and a half now there is no record. It is known from Mrs. Ferris that she taught a district school in Prattville near Mexico at some time. She also taught in Pulaski; and it is thought her school there was a private school for ladies, kept in the house of Mr. Asa French. While there she boarded with Mrs. Deacon Benjamin Snow.
     In the winter of 1853-4, Miss Clara Dodge, now Mrs. Jones, taught district school there, and boarded with the same Mrs. Snow, who used to tell about her former boarder, the teacher, Miss Elvira Holmes, what a lovely person she was; and about her going to school to Clinton and how she was beloved by everyone. Several years later, after Miss Dodge had become Mrs. Jones, she met Mrs. Mallory, a daughter of Asa French, who told her that an artistic person Miss Holmes was, and lovely lady; and of her high estimation of her character. There are letters which make it seem likely that her school in Pulaski was in the summer of 1830, and the one at “Prattham” (near Mexico) in 1831 or ‘32.
     The next recorded date in a letter from Jesse to Elvira, dated February 8, 1830; from which it appears that he was teaching “a very large school.” sometimes upwards of sixty scholars, apparently in the neighborhood of Union Square; while in April she was again at the Misses Royce school in Clinton.
     January 12th and 13th, 1831 she attended “a meeting at Mexico the object of which is to form an association of Sabbath school teachers.”  “An association was formed; and a new system of lessons was explained by the agent, and approbated by the congregation, which was to commit to memory one verse of  the New Testament a day, _ old and young, and all the same verse.” And the writer may add that for years he was brought up in that system.
     The next record is this. “June 15th (1831). Today my brother Jesse set out on his journey, we know not how long, or when he will return. He anticipates going a short sea voyage for his health. May a gracious God watch over him, and keep him from harm; and may his spirit be brought to repentance, and to trust in God through a Mediator.” This was the first going far from home; and with it we begin a new chapter.

 Chapter 20 - Out Into The World

     Jesseniah, or as he came to call himself, Jesse N. Holmes, son of John, was a man held in high esteem at home; and now, as he starts out from home, never to be seen again by those whom he loved and who loved him, a few words as to his personality may be fitting.
     He is repeatedly spoken of as looking especially like Newell, only taller. So he had brown eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion with a slight Roman curve to his nose.
     Born May 12, 1809, he was a month over twenty-two years old when he set out to make his way in the world. He had previously clerked it in two places, one at “Tiffany’s in Colosse,” and the other at Central Square. The former was among Ann’s earliest recollections, and was probably in one of the later twenties. A letter from Elvira to him shows that he was at Central Square in April 1831; and it was there that he got his idea of going to Boston. The letter says, “We wish very much that you should come home before you go away anywhere, certainly before you go to Boston. Just come to let us see you. We can not be denied.”

 Note
     Mrs. Samuel Loyd of New Haven, an elder sister of Mr. Edwin C. Waters, supplies some interesting reminiscence.
     “One of my first remembrances was when the first store was built in Holmesville. While it was being built, god were brought from Syracuse by a man named McCracken, and a store was kept in my father’s dwelling house, and I was a frequent customer. I was not over four years old then, and am sixty-nine now.” That would make it 1835 when the store began. Is there anyone remembers differently as to the date?
     “The next thing I can remember is the building of the Baptist church.” That was in 1839. “It was used for a while with rough benched. I went there sometime and attended Sabbath school with my parents and brothers and sisters. Before that we went to different school houses; and some of the circuit preachers of the M.E. church held services. The singing was in the old fashioned way, led by Mr. Solomon Erskine. He had seventeen children, all but one of whom lived to be of age. I remember the whole of them and went to school with half of them.”
     “I remember, too, the meetings in Deacon Jabin Wood’s tannery.” That must have  been in 1837 or ‘38. More likely, I judge, the former. “A protracted meeting,” as they used to cal them, “was held there; and I remember some of the different ones who were there and what they talked about. One was Mr. Albro who always had something to say. He quoted Scripture to the effect that if one asked bread would he for bread give him a stone?”
     “I remember my husband telling about going to school to your mother, when she taught school in that old Dewey school house before his folks moved to Albion, where he lived a number of years.”
     “I well remember being in the church at your grandfather’s funeral” Sabbath, March 5, 1854; “also of going to the funeral of J. Harrison Dewey at the Dewey tavern.” He died June 22, 1835, “I went with Aunt Bathsheba Pride, who was always called on to see that everything was right when there was a corpse to be prepared for burial; and father attended to the burying.”

     They were not denied. He did come home, and they looked once more, and for the last time as it proved, on the beloved face and form. Family love was very strong among those brothers and sisters. From two letters written at the end of his journey I make a sketch of what the journey was; and will those who read it, all the while carry in their minds in contrast what the journey is now, so that the immense changes which have taken place in travel during the last seventy years may be realized. Especially as there was not a railroad in the land.
     Starting Wednesday, June 15, from home he spent the night “at Mr. Fitch’s,” a special friend in Central Square. Next day he went to Syracuse, where at 9 p.m. he took a boat, presumably a packet boat, on the Erie canal, and drawn by three horses, for Albany (I rode in one in 1843, and remember it distinctly). He “arrived at Utica just at sunset”, next day, i.e. Friday. Saturday he was at Little Falls, and on Sunday he “waked up and found himself in the ancient city of Schenectady.” After taking a look at the college building he started by stage for Albany, fourteen miles distant which he reached in time to go to church, having been three days and a half on the way. He found “a Presbyterian one,”  “heard an excellent sermon,”  and notes that “there was a very crowded audience,” a striking contrast with what there is now. Monday he say the sights, and especially describes the museum with various wax figures, etc. At 4 p.m. he started by steamboat for New York which he reached at 5 o’clock next morning, and looked about town that day and the next until 5 p.m., when he started by steamboat for Providence. Next day he reached there, and took stage at once for Boston which he reached at 7 p.m., the time from New York to Boston being twenty-six hours, while now it is twelve hours less. But the most notable fact is that he was two days and a half going from Syracuse to Albany, which is now down in about six hours, and he went the best way known then. Such are the changes spanned by the lives of people still amongst us. In Boston, after a day or two, he shipped on a fishing vessel and was next heard from at Wellfleet.
     July 6th he sailed on his fishing trip, experienced all the sea sickness and other troubles of a landsman, and was back in Boston August 22. Then he went on a two weeks pedestrian tour up into southern New Hampshire, and around by way of Monadnock which he climbed, finding it “a very laborous job.” He says, “The country through which I passed is in the high state of cultivation. Farmers here have houses that would not disgrace any town in the Union. They are usually built two stories high and painted white with green blinds, which gives them an air of elegance which I have seldom seen in New York.” That was in 1831. New York has fully caught up now. He continues, “I passed through Lexington, and visited the monument to the memory of those who fell in the battle when commenced our Revolutionary struggle. I chanced to meet an old man there who was in the action, and told me where the Americans stood, and where the British came up and fired on them.” Then he returned to Boston, and secured employment in a wholesale auction store.
     In Boston he lives, he says, “in the immediate vicinity of Dr. Lyman Beecher’s church, and I attended his meetings. I find him a very powerful speaker, fully equal to the idea I had formed of him. His new church is built after the old English manner, of rough stone; and is finished in the most plain and simple manner, without ornament of any kind, not even a steeple. He has a very large congregation, and a most powerful organ.” Jesse reported his health as, “much better than when I left home,” and his appetite since he recovered from sea sickness, as “very good.” He mentions that the letter from home which was mailed at Richland July 26, did not reach Boston until August 26, being a month on the way, which he naturally wonders at. He mentions that August 25 he “heard an eulogy on the life and character of the late James Monroe [ex-President of the United States] delivered by the Hon. J.Q. Adams [another ex-President] which was highly commendable.
     As showing his loving heart, faithful to home and kin, I quote the following in the same letter to Elvira. “My Dear Sister: That little memento you gave me I value highly, and always keep it about my person. Often I take it out and read it, and think it was the gift and desire of a beloved sister to a brother who was about taking his departure from friends and home, and committing himself to the waves of temptestuous ocean.”
     Now I will leave him and return to the affairs at home.

 Chapter 21 - The Great Revival

     The years 1831-2 may justly be called the time of the great revival throughout the Northern states. In two letters to Jesse in the fall of 1831, written chiefly by Elvira, Esther and grandmother, the experiences in South Richland and Winfield are given. I wish to quote them in full, as constituting a kind of mental photograph of the period; but confine myself to an abstract.
     Elvira writes, October 22nd, that “Newton has become a praying person,” and that “he and Milton have united with this church,” the Baptist church in South Richland. Also she tells that the  “four eldest children of Jesse” (Nathaniel’s son,) have been converted; as have “Clarinda and Marcia Dewey,” two of David Dewey’s daughters. “Clarinda is an especial manner has her conversation in heaven. Aunt Olive, (Heil’s wife) and we hope Charles have been converted also, and Uncle Heil is very much affected and prays in his family.” She names also “Uncle Hartley and his wife, and Minerva Dickinson, and Uncle Horace.” Al these are descendants or other kin of Elder Jesseniah Holmes, who with his wife came to live with their daughter and son-in-law Olive and Heil Richards four years before. She also mentions or refers to “many others.” Concerning herself she writes, “I am not altogether left in indifference. I do believe that the concerns of the soul are all important; but I feel a great blindness resting on my mind. Still I believe God has appointed means of grace and has promised to bless them; and if we wait upon Him in the way He has appointed, with humble truss in Him for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, He will bless them with all the light they need, because He has promised. From time to time I feel encouraged to try to come to the Savior in this manner; and I entreat you, my dear brother, to make the concerns of Eternity the subject of immediate consideration.”
     In her diary at this period mother wrote, “Although many were inquiring for the way of life, and others were rejoicing in hope, and converts prayed and sang, still it made no saving impression on my heart. My fears were that I should be left to myself. In this state I sat musing, and in my mind saw the whole world in commotion; a contest between two conflicting parties, each taking sides under their respective leaders. Now could I see Christ enter this room and sound for recruits, and say, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who?’ What answer should I give? My heart replies I would be on the Lord’s side. The question immediately arouse, why, you are not a Christian. My heart answered, that is not my concern. My business is to be in the ranks. But you will meet with crosses and trials, and have to make sacrifices and deny yourself, if you engage in this cause. All my difficulties now vanished into air were of no account compared with my obligation to be enlisted under the banner of Immanuel.” Thus came this gifted woman into conscious dedication of her whole being to Christ.
     A year later, in 1832 she publicly dedicated herself to God and professed her faith in Christ, by entering into visible covenant relations with the Presbyterian church in Mexico, then under the pastoral care of Rev. D.R. Dixon. In reference to that event she says in her diary, “Sabbath, November 4, 1832, Today I dedicated myself solemnly, in the presence of God, angels and men, to the service and church of Christ, and partook of the symbols of his body and blood. I felt that there was never a more unworthy offering made.”
     But I have anticipated a little and must return to the year before.
     “Sometime in July (1831) Esther (at Winfield) was thrown from a wagon, her right wrist broken and she otherways considerably injured, so that she was almost helpless. She has lately become as we hope, a humble and dedicated Christian, and has united with the Baptist church in Winfield, where she still remains.”
     One sentence should be set apart. “Grace remains as unaffected as ever.” She was at this time eight months past sixteen years of age. She developed into a woman of very large and rare powers; but she seems never to have felt one impulse of response to religious appeal or to lover love. All her powers were bent on becoming a great personage.
     In this same letter grandmother writes, “I think we might count between fifty and sixty who have obtained hopes in a Savior’s blood.” Then she breaks forth with “Oh, Jesse, could you take a view of some of the scenes we have witnessed here, you could see Newton bowing before God and pleading for his brother and sisters. Jesse has not been forgotten.” Then she continues, “We have had two letters from your Uncle Roswell. He has lately become decided for the Lord.” This Roswell was Jesseniah’s second son, who went to Philadelphia and became a prosperous merchant.
     Late in the year 1831 Esther had returned home; and from a long letter written to Jesse December 18, I quote a few sentences. “There are a great many prayers offered up at the throne of grace in your behalf daily. Oh my brother, I feel that you are nearer to me than ever; but I do want that you should love Christ and work for him while he lends you breath. If you have not made a full surrender of yourself and all you have to Christ, I want you should make it your first business, and be determined you will neglect it no longer.” With such, and many more entreaties did the loving members of this family who were conscious Christians endeavor to draw their brother to the same blessed experience. Farther on she says: “Elvira has come out a decided follower of her Savior, and wants to work for him. She left the 12th of this month to teach a family school at Mr. Roosevelt’s (in Central Square) for the winter. Newton is teaching school near Pulaski. Grace is very stupid with regard to eternity. She spends the winter at home.”
     In this letter grandmother writes of Esther that “her wrist is very troublesome. The bones were so fractured we are afraid she will always be a cripple.” She says also, “your grandfather and mother are here at present,” and they remained for more than eight years until the former died in 1840.
     In the next letter the family to Jesse, written in February 1832, John Holmes says, “Dear child, we are glad of your returning health, (he had been greatly battered by his sea voyage,) and hope it may be permanent, which is the greatest of earthly blessings. But this life if not long. Our time here is short at the longest, and I hope that you will consider your latter end. I would advise you to take up your cross and follow the Savior. Pray to him daily for renewing and quickening grace. There has been a great change in this place. We have experienced signal blessings.”
     Such was the attitude of mind of religious people at this time. I can but conclude that the meeting which Elder Jesseniah Holmes held at Colosse, and the incident of the conversion of Hartley right on the highway both of which I have related before took place in the summer and autumn of 1831, and were a part of this general movement, as certainly was the “protracted meeting” in Winfield, when Esther was converted.
     I close this chapter by quoting what Jesse sent from Boston. March 23rd he wrote, “I attended Dr. Beecher’s church generally. Mr. Finney has been in town all winter, and has the care of a church whose minister is abroad for his health. I attend his meetings occasionally. I think he is the smartest man I ever heard speak. His manner of delivery is that of a good orator. He preaches extemporary, and appears to understand his subject well. In his preaching he will put forth an idea that appeared so bare faced it will make one start. And yet by his profound reasoning he will lay it open so fair that I have been obliged to own it to my own condemnation; and I presume that is the case with every sinner in the house. He will paint a picture the most clearly that I ever heard in my life. It appears like a reality, as though you could see it. He preached in a very large church, and it would be crowded to excess, all the alleys and doorways would be completely blocked up. But still I think Dr. Beecher wears the best.”
     The above description is very just. There was doubtless more of the pastoral and nurturing element in Dr. Beecher. so he wore better; while there was more of the electrical energy and flame like mind in Mr. Finney, and so he was the “smartest man” Jesse “ever heard.”

 Chapter 22 - The Cholera Year

     one strange fact appears repeatedly. It took about twenty days for a letter to go from Union Square to Boston, or the reverse. A letter from Elvira dated August 10, 1832, did not reach Jesse in Boston until “about the first of September.” Even in those stage coach times a week was a long period for a letter from Central New York to Boston, only 300 miles; and not they go over night. Such are the changes which the span of one life measures in this century just now ended.
     From the letters in hand it appears that Newton, besides going to school in the fall of 1831 five or six weeks, taught school in the winter for months, near William Hinman’s, a mile and a half beyond Pulaski, where he had sixty scholars, and was quite successful. In the summer he worked at farming; and next fall he taught “school in Sandy Creek at fifteen dollars a month,” and board around, we presume.
     In the summer Elvira was at Mexico presumably teaching school. Later Grace went to Cortland to attend school, as also Esther did to Miss Royce’s at Clinton. In the winter Esther, Elvira and the younger children were all at home. This was the cholera year 1832, and a portion of a letter from Esther at home to Jesse written November 27, gives some idea of the way people were affected by it. She says: “I did not forget your request to write before I left Clinton; and I fully intend to comply, but the cholera soon broke out in Utica, and all was one scene of confusion. The schools were all discontinued, and I knew not what to do. Cholera was to be read in every countenance and alarm pervaded every dwelling. I did not think it best to remain on expense, and traveling alone in the stage was unsafe; so I wrote home for direction. For a few days I felt near the world of spirits, but could look up with composure and say to my Savior, ‘Here I am, I will not refuse to go.’ These words were constantly in my mind, ‘Death like a narrow sea divides that heavenly land from ours.’ It seemed like coming in sight of home; for this world has not appeared like home to me lately. No, indeed! I am looking for a better country than this, far better. I thought of all my friends, I thought of that dear, dear brother, who is a stranger to my friend, the Savior in heaven; and I raised my prayer in his behalf that he might realize the emptiness of earthly things, and the richness of the heavenly things.”
     One morning Isaiah Holmes, her cousin, son of Nathaniel, called being on his way from Richfield up to Richland on business, and offered to carry her home. This she gladly accepted, “and in a short time was at home again.”
     How sudden, violent and dreadful the cholera was that year let a single anecdote illustrate. A very kind friend of the writer told him this in 1861. The home of the friend was in Brooklyn. One morning he went over to his place of business in New York City as usual, leaving his wife at home in customary health. Toward noon she was attacked so violently that all the attention of those who could help was occupied with her, and no word could be sent to him. So when he came home at eventide he found her dead, or just at the point of death, dying shortly after. And this happened in the healthiest part of the city. No wonder the terror of “Cholera was to be read in every countenance.”
     Two traits were strongly manifested in the family, religious fervor and family affection. Jesse manifests both in the following from a letter written July 8, this summer. He says: “My dear parents, you no doubt think of me often, and carry my case before the throne of grace. You feel many anxieties and fears about me and regard to my getting into bad company and being led away. But I hope that the principles and instructions I received at home will never be forgotten by me, and that a mother’s tears and prayers will always restrain me.” This was his constant attitude of mind.
    The same twofold feelings appear vividly in the letter of Elvira from Mexico to Jesse. By a Mr. Sloan he had sent home some keepsakes, and to these she refers. She writes” “Dear, dear, brother, there is nothing in this world that I can think of which would give me so much pleasure as the sight of your phiz. Yes I would give more to see it than all the shows in Christendom. When friends are together they see one another often without thinking much of the privilege. But when one is gone far away, and the thought comes home, ‘Perhaps I shall never see that countenance again,’ it brings with it feelings altogether indescribable. We were highly gratified with your favors by Mr. Sloan. I believe no person has not friends far away can have any idea of what kind of feelings there are about the heart when we receive a gift, and think in whose hands it has been.” In part this is why some people will not receive a boughten present, will only receive what is made by the hand of the giver.
     Farther on in the same letter Elvira writes as follows:  “We feel exceedingly anxious my dear brother, about your soul. Whether you live or die that should be dedicated to God and his service. What excuse in the world can you give for not immediately dedicating the whole of your life to God and his causes. Do, for a moment consider the character of God as set forth in the Bible as Creator, Redeemer and sanctifier. Can you conceive of any excellence of which he is not the essence? Are you not, as a reasonable being, under a moral obligation to approve and love that which is itself  infinitely lovely and amiable? Look at the Law. Are you not under infinite obligation to comply with it, even if you had created and supported yourself, as long as your existence continues? Consider what an awful weight of obligation is heaping upon you every moment, and will continue to increase through all eternity. Yes, if you are lost it will make no difference. Satan himself is  under as much obligation this moment to love God with all his ability as Gabriel. Do not let this strike upon your heart like an empty sound. You can not get away from it whether you consider it or not. Fly to Christ for redemption. Go! Go to Him for repentance, pardon and salvation.” Thus did the loving sister with all her heart plead with her brother next to her, her childhood’s mate, to become a true Christian. The great burden of the life of the family was set forth in these two parts of this letter.
     There is also in the letter the account of a very sad family tradgey. It says: “Uncle Richard’s little Armenia (she was nearly seven years old) was buried last Sabbath.” She died August 4th. “She was bitten about five weeks before by their dog in the face. He also bit several of his (Uncle Hiel’s) cattle the same day; and when he attacked the child, they in their fright killed him immediately. They were afraid he was mad, but he acted so differently from any other case of hydrophobia that was ever heard of, they began to hope he was not mad. Armenia apparently got well and went to school. But in a few days she grew sick; and notwithstanding all the efforts that could be made, she died on the sixth day. The symptoms in her were different from other cases, and in the cattle, four of which have died. They were very mild, except in the presence of some animal that irritated them. The child had no fits of raving at all. Her greatest distress until the last was in partial suffocation, under which she labored at intervals. She appeared rational, conversed freely and was sensible of her danger. She had three dreadful fits, before she died of convulsions and froth in the mouth. She manifested no disposition to bite or rave, but just before the spasms came on she wanted to kiss all she saw. It is impossible to conceive the distress and anguish of her parents and family; but they were supported under it in a remarkable manner, and when she was gone they appeared resigned though deeply afflicted. You will recollect that it is only a few months since they both unitedly made a profession of religion; and that God whom they a vowed to be their God did not desert them in this time of need.” With this I close this part of the family history.

 Chapter 23 - The Fatal Decision

     December 7, 1832 Jesse wrote home from Boston that “ere if this reaches you I shall be on the broad ocean, as I said tomorrow for New Orleans.” He had become strongly turned against Boston, for what reason does not appear.
     The effect produced at home by this course I will let the language used in letters to him express, so far as language can. Esther wrote, December 19th, “I presume you often pictured to yourself the emotions we should have in reading it; and I can safely say you imagined no more than was realized. The wind is very high tonight, and everything outdoors looks most desolate and distressing; and you can easily guess what a despairing scene is before our minds.”
     Elvira wrote December 20, her birthday, “We have had a tremendous storm of wind and snow; and when we awoke in the night and listened to the wind as it howled around the house, drifting snow in at every crevice, we thought of one who might not be protected so securely as we were from the rage of the elements. You do not know our feelings and you never can unless you are in our situation, and some of us in yours.
     In the next letter, February 8, 1833, Elvira writes, “My dear brother, we sent you a letter immediately on the receipt of yours; and we have waited for a letter from you with great anxiety. You do not know how much we feel about you. We think of you day and night, and were you where we could see you once more surely you would come home. I beg of you if you love your friends, if you wish to relieve their anxieties, if you love your own life, do come home. Come home once more. We feel most of the time as if there was little probability that we shall ever see your face again.” And their bitterest forebodings came true; they never did.
     His mother wrote, “When we read your intention of going to New Orleans we were stunned with horror at the idea. I think it the most unhealthy part of the world.” She also wrote of his soul, saying, “Jesse, I can not let you alone on the great concerns of your soul. Are you now rejoicing with a sense of pardoned sin, or are you still the servant of this world, eager after the world’s happiness, compassing sea and land with no other motive but selfishness?” His father wrote, “I hope you will not think of staying longer than spring. Don’t be tempted with money, for your life and health are worth all the world, and your soul is if infinite value.”
     One more quotation must suffice. In October his mother wrote, “It is with feelings I can not describe that I will take up my pen to write you once more. We received your letters dated September 2 and 18. You have but little idea of our feelings concerning you. While out hearts are filled with gratitude for your merciful deliverance, (he had had the yellow fever and recovered), we are ready to cry out, O Cruel! why will he stay there? Why will he expose his life, so dear to so many friends? O world, what would it profit in the day of death?”
     The face of the strong, loving surely burdened mother who wrote those words looks down upon me from the walls of my room as I write; and all the dark shadow of the coming tragedy hangs over me. Oh what loving hearts they of that family were, and how grievously they were afflicted. He whom they so earnestly loved, never came home. They never saw his face again. He died as they had feared, after the whole family had lived in that death shadow for over three years.

Continue to Part 4


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