Surnames/tags: Shearin Grant Johnston
Dr. William Littleberry Johnston attended the Pennsylvania Medical College in Philadelphia. I do not know a thing about his schooling, or where he went to college. I suppose he went to Chapel Hill, as both Uncle James and Uncle John Willis graduated from Chapel Hill, but I cannot find my father's name in the record I have seen of the Chapel Hill graduated, and Bro. Billy does not know. We do know he graduated in medicine from the Penn Medical College in 1845.
My mother (Martha Williams Grant) graduated from a college in Burlington, New Jersey, near Philadelphia, I think. I do not know where my father and mother met. My great-grandfather Grant lived in Raleigh, North Carolina. After his death, my great-grandmother (who was Martha Bustin and married him at 14) Grant bought a farm near Enfield. They had one son, James Grant, my grandfather. He married Elizabeth Whitaker, and that it where Uncle Grant and his brothers and sisters were born. (You will see from what Cousin Mattie wrote about the Grant families in the letter I am sending you.)
My father owned a plantation within two miles of Grandmother Johnston's plantation. Also, Uncle John Willis lived about the same distance from us, but nearer to Grandmother's place. Father was a practicing country physician. He was very fond of hunting and fishing, also fox hunting. There were many wild turkeys on our place, and Father enjoyed hunting them, used the small bone in the turkey wing to call the turkeys, and he rarely came home without one. He used to take Bro. Jimmie, Bro. Billy, and Bro. Gough on fishing trips in the deep creek that ran through the plantation. One of my earliest recollections was the desire to go with them on their fishing trips, but Mother would never let me go, so one day I decided to go anyway. So when Father and the boys got nearly out of sight, I followed them, and kept them in sight and kept getting closer, but waited till they were too far from home to send me back alone. In my haste to get nearer, I stepped on a thorn that went nearly through my foot, was barefoot, I gave one loud scream. Father pulled the thorn out and they had to carry me home, so they were cheated out of fishing for that day.
My father was a very kind gentleman. Took good care of his slaves. I do not know how large our plantation was, I think we owned only about 30 slaves. They were negroes with families. Each family had a cabin, built in a row, one after the other, with sufficient ground around each cabin for a garden. the negro women had to plant and take care of their gardens. Each week provisions in way of meat, meal, sugar, and molasses were weighted or measured for each family, sufficient to last one week. The women in each family did their own cooking, except at such times when they were needed to work in the field with the men. Then our cook, Aunt Chaney, would cook dinner for all the negroes, as well as prepare our meals. We had an immense iron kettle in the yard that Aunt Chaney could cook enough beans and hominy for everyone on the plantation. Our kitchen was at least 50 yards or more from the house and there Aunt Chaney reigned supreme. She was a finicky old woman, never allowed any of us to come in her kitchen, always chasing us from the kitchen door. We teased her a lot just to hear her scold. I can remember only one occasion that my father whipped a negro and that was Aunt Chaney, who was very impudent to Mother. It was in the milk house. Father took the butter paddle and hit her over the head, cut a place on her forehead. It was not a deep cut, but bled a little. Aunt Chaney let the few drops of blood dry on her face so others could see "Master" had punished her. And she would carry buckets of water all day, balanced on top of her head, without spilling a drop. The well was over 100 yards from the kitchen. All the negroes carried pails of water, big baskets of cotton weighing from 50 to 100 or more pounds balanced on their heads, from the cotton patch to the gin house, which was ofter a mile from the cotton patch.
The negro women all wore white cotton kerchiefs tied around their heads, and the men, old straw or felt hats. Our negroes wore white cotton clothes that were made from the cotton raised on the plantation. Cotton, after being ginned, was carded into rolls and spun and woven into cloth by the negro women. When the cloth was ready, Mother would cut out every garment on a raised platform. The negro women had to make them under Mother's supervision. She taught them all how to sew. Aunt Millicent, a mulatto woman, was given to Mother by her parents when she married. She lived in the house with us, a very capable, honest and helpful servant. She assisted Mother in teaching the others to sew. When Mother was sick, Millicent was given the keys and took charge of all Mother's duties. She was devoted to Mother and all the family. I was too young to remember a great deal at this time, but do remember how I was always interested in the weaving and the carding and spinning. I remember carding and spinning enough warp and felling of cotton and wool that was woven into cloth, and a suit of clothes made for myself from it. Mother dyed the cloth gray with red stripes woven and going around on the bottom. I thought it was beautiful. We raised everything on the plantation, such as cotton, wool from the sheep, flax, and feed for the stock, horses, mules, cows, sheep, and some goats. Had two orchards of apples, peaches, pears, and plums, and sugar cane. Father had a still in the yard and made whiskey, brandy, and wines, and sold barrels of it in Norfolk, Weldon, and Halifax. This was all abandoned after the war. (Bro Billy does not remember the still. Thought the still was at Grandmother's. I think I am right about it.) Ginning and pressing cotton into bales was always interesting. We used to jump down in the cotton crib and nearly smother before we could get out. Always someone to watch us and get us out quickly, but it was fun as well as risky. I think it was Cousin Betty Grant that nearly smothered before she could get out from under the cotton lint. By side of the gin was a screw that pressed the cotton into bales. After cotton pressing into bales was over, troughs were put around the press and loads of apples were put in the press, and mules would go around the ring to press the juice from the apples so it could be made into whiskey, brandy, or wines and vinegar. We children would get long straws and get around the press and drink cider to our fill, and sometimes get dreadful stomach aches.
One of my earliest recollections was hog killing time hear Christmas or when the coldest weather came. To get ready for it, the hogs were put in a pen and the negroes would haul wood and make an immense big pile, put rocks under the wood and set fire, with a hogshead buried in the ground near the fire, fill the hogshead with water, put up a platform on level with he hogshead. When the rocks were red hot, they were put in the hogshead to head the water to scald the hog. A number of hogs would be killed and ready to scald. As each hog was soused in the scalding water, it was pulled out on the platform and slided along to be cleansed of all the hair, and so on till all were cleaned of the hair, and a place was prepared to hang the hogs on, to be cut open and thoroughly cleaned, and left to hang until thoroughly chilled. We children would hang around and beg for pieces of liver, and for hog bladders to blow up and play with as Betty and Heloise blow up and play with balloons. We would get a forked stick and put pieces of liver on and cook over the coals of the woodpile, salt and eat all we wanted. We would get up before daylight to take on the hog killing, Lucy, my maid, George, and Isoms, Bro Billy's and Bro Gough's boys. They were always with us at such times. Buck was a free mulatto and looked after all of us, but more especially with Bro. Jimmie.
We had a billy goat that stayed in the yard and had a great deal of fun with him. He would get mad at our pranks sometimes, and we would have to scatter and run to escape his horns. Once he tossed Bro. Billy over on his back and Bro Billy hung on for awhile. I have forgotten whether he, Bro Billy, was hurt or not.
Lucy, George, and Isom were brothers and sisters about our ages. They were our playmates and supposed to look after us, and to do our bidding. They usually did whatever we wanted, but sometimes they would get made with us, and then there would be a hair pulling for them. They never dared hit us, so we took advantage of them and made them do things that Father and Mother would punish us for if they ever found out. The worst thing I ever made Lucy do was to suck my dirty big toe. We all went bare footed. I used to run off to Aunt Lavinia's cabin (she nursed me when a baby) and get her to make me some cush. It was a great dish with the negroes, made of corn bread cut up and fried in bacon grease. I loved it, and we never had it on our table. Uncle Crockett was Aunt Lavinia's husband. He had to blow a horn before day every morning to wake up the hands in time for them to have their breakfast, water the stock, milk the cows, drive them to pasture, and get to work in the fields or whatever they had to do. Blew a conch at noon to come in for dinner, and again nights to quit work, water and feed the stock, etc. Uncle Crockett was also our carriage driver, always wore a Prince Albert coat and high hat when taking the ladies out. Our carriage was large and quite high. To get in and out there were five or six steps let down from the inside for us to step up and closed up after getting in the carriage.
In those days ladies wore long full dresses that just touched the floor, full sleeves. They would hold up their dresses by tips of the fingers, in front, to keep from stepping on them. Also wore hoop skirts. Most ladies had black silk dresses for special occasions, though some had beautiful dresses with colors, and stripes, and plaids. There were spend-the-day parties and quilting parties amount our nearest neighbors. Now and then night parties with dancing, and a spread of good things to eat, were given. The children and grown up young people always attended together, and usually so far away that we had to stay all night, and start home early next morning. Always had to take a nurse along to look after the small children. I remember only party I attended, that was at Aunt Lou Check's, Father's sister, and they lived ten miles from our place. I'll never forget that after getting to Aunt Lou's, we children were given some beaten biscuit and milk and put to bed by 8:00 or 8:30. I had only a peep at the beautifully dressed ladies in low necks and bedruffled dresses, and missed seeing them dance. I had a good cry when I was hustled off to bed, and I did want the good things they had to eat. Aunt Lou fixed up some cake and candies for us to take home next morning.
Young ladies were never allowed to go anywhere without a chaperone. I do not know much about the wealth of people. Only know we always had plenty of everything. Everyone seemed to have good homes and some beautiful houses and beautifully furnished, so I think there were many wealthy families as many of the old Southern homes are still in existence. We were moderately well-to-do. The house where Father's children were born and where he and Mother lived when they married was torn down and the present hold home that took its place, you have seen, but it does not look anything like it did when we lived in it, before Father's death. We had lovely furniture and a piano. Whatever has become of it I do not know. Uncle John Willis, Father's brother, was executor of the estate and after Father died, Uncle John said Father was in debt and everything had to be sold to pay his debts. Mother did not know anything about it. So everything was sold, except the house and land which was Mother's widow's dower. I have never known what became of any of the furniture or of anything else that was sold. Some of the negroes were sold. We have no pictures of the house. No full length pictures of Father or Mother. Among my pictures left in my room is a picture of Grandmother Johnston (your great-grandmother.) One of Father and Mother you have, and of Uncle James Binford, my grandmother's brother, among my pictures. Have no picture of my Grandfather Johnston.
Wish I could remember the stories the negroes used to tell us. Some of them were most thrilling ghost stories and scared us nearly to death. I have read Uncle Remus stories so much, they are so true of the negro, that I forget those I actually have heard negroes tell. Lucy, George and Isom used to dance for us and went through so many contortations and antics that we would laugh until we cried. I think I learned to jig from them. One favorite dance of the negro men was to cut the pigeon wing. To this day Bro Billy cuts the pigeon wing, and often does it for the amusement of Will's children. Even cut it for Burney, Elvia, and other guest I had over for lunch several weeks ago.
Father started a school about two miles from home. The neighbors going in with him, agreeing to build the school house, and taking boarders, and getting a teacher. This was necessary to have a school for the children of those who supported the school. It was called the Academy. Mr. Osborne was the teacher. He was a highly educated man, and prepared young men for college. We had six or seven young men, boarders, that came from town and plantations around. Bro. Gough went there and I did too, when Mother thought I was old enough and could walk that far. I was not allowed to go with all the boys, but John Henson was chosen by my mother to be my special escort to and from school, as she thought he was the most trustworthy and was older than the other boys. One day enroute to school I stepped on a little spreading adder, was barefooted and fortunate for me, stepped on his head, but scared me so I jumped and John Henson killed the snake. George or Isom used to bring a hot dinner to all of us every noon. Mother had a long tin box made with partitions in it for different foods, so meat, vegetables, and desserts never got mixed up.
Once Cousins Cookie, Mollie, Sallie and I took some grease left from the ham and greased our heads all over. You never saw such a mess. We got a good scolding from Mr. Osborne. He may have whipped us, but I do not remember now whether he did or not. He was always whipping us for something, always used switches and made us hold out our hands to be whipped, and if my mother was ever told of a whipping I got at school, I got another one from her. Mr. Osborne married while at Mother's, to my cousin Maggie Check, Aunt Lou's daughter. They built a house back of the Academy, where they lived till the Academy had to be closed after the war. They had a watermelon patch not far from the Academy, with a high rail fence all around it. One noon, while Mr. Osborne went to his dinner, Cousins Mollie, Cookie, Cousin Sallie, and I looked longingly at those watermelons and finally decided to steal one. I climbed over the fence to pull one, when we heard Mr. Osborne holler to get out of his watermelon patch. We sure did scuttle, but after school he called us up, sent the monitor out to get switches, and he sure made our hands red. Mother was told so I got another good whipping.
Going to and from school, had to cross the creek over a log where the water was quite deep. Once we dared Bro. Gough to run across the log, one morning going to school. He got about halfway cross when he lost his balance and fell in the creek. Came near drowning. One of the boys had to go in after him. He had to go back home and change his clothes.
Before I started to school, on day Bro. Gough pretended he had a toothache and begged Mother to let him stay home from school, his tooth hurt so badly. She let him. After a little, he and I stole off and went to the woods to hunt hickory nuts, was an excuse, when we got way out of sight, we sat down and played mumble peg, then waded in ditches, climbed trees, having a fine time. All of a sudden we heard George calling us. We paid no attention to him, then "Mars Gough, Miss Betsy, Missis says come straight home." We spied George up in a black gum tree looking in every direction and yelling, "Mars Gough, Miss Betsy, do you hear? Missis says come home!" We knew we had to go, and we were hungry. Mother had switches ready and waiting for us. Bro Gough took his whipping like a man, but when my turn came, I jumped over on back of the bed (where the whipping took place) as far as I could, before Mother could hit me. Liddy, the nurse, was told to pull me off. Before she could do so, I got under the bed. Liddy pulled me out. I jerked away and rad outdoors, both Mother and Liddy after me. I'd dodge from one tree to another, till Mother was exhausted, so gave up the chase and went to bed with a bad headache. She said, "When your father gets home I'll have him give you a good whipping." It was night when Father got home and he was far more concerned about Mother as she really was suffering. So the whipping was put off. Next morning Father was called off early to some patient, and I never got that whipping, which I deserved.
About this time the war came on, 1861. I do not remember just when my father entered the war, but think it was late in 1861. He was taken ill in 1863, and brought home a very sick man, head pneumonia, and lived only a short time after getting home. Sister Pattie and I were sent over to Grandmother's to stay during Father's illness. I can just remember his leaving for war, riding on a beautiful bay horse named Patty Cracker. I was more interested in watching the antics of the horse than any thought of my father leaving home to enter the war. Too young to know what war meant, or what it was all about.
Pa, Irene's father, went to war as soon as it began and was wounded severely in his shoulder and sent home. He was employed as overseer of our plantation and stayed on as overseer. My brothers were too young to take responsibility of carrying on the farm, so Mother kept Pa. They were married in 1864, I think. Mother's and Father's families were shocked at their marriage, and it was a long time before they became reconciled to it. Bros Jimmie, Billy, and Gough left home and went to live with our Grandmother Johnston. Pa was always kind and good to my mother, Sister Patty, and me. He was an uneducated man, poor, but his family were good, hard working, and honest people. Mother made a good manager and took charge of all business affairs in running the farm and managed to educate Sister Patty and Irene, though I think Uncle Grant did help Sister Patty some when she was in Salem-Winston, rather Winston-Salem. And when she finished her schooling, Sister Patty taught a private school at Mrs. Norman's in Brinckleyville for some time, then started a private school of her own in a building in the yard where Mother and Pa had moved, near Brinckleyville, North Carolina, on a smaller place. They moved from the old home place several years after I left for Davenport. Sister Payyt was a hard student and very successful teacher. She prepared boys for college, though I do not think many of those she prepared ever went to college. Pa's three nephews, whom she taught their ABC's and to being prepared for college, are all living and married, with families, and making a fine living. Irene lives with the youngest one, Dr. Warren Johnson. She helped him through his medical education. Fritz and Alvyn are good business men and well-to-do. They will always be grateful to Sister Patty's efforts in giving them an education.
Near the close of the Civil War, Mother had to learn to do things and to shoulder responsibilities that had never occurred to her before, for my father treated her like a baby that has never had to think for herself, although she did supervise everything that the negro women did, but the actual work she never did till after the negroes were freed. I think all our slaves were devoted to my mother and father. There were, of course, many slaves that were not so fortunate and had cruel masters. After my grandfather's death, Grandmother ruled her slaves with an iron hand. She had to make them afraid of her or they would have taken advantage of her. She was not naturally cruel, but a woman of iron will, took good care of her slaves, but they were afraid of her.
We did not suffer during the war as many of the Southerners did. I remember only a few incidents that happened. (We lived on a cross road where there was much passing of our soldiers. Bro Billy says the cross road was by Grandmother's place.) Anyway it was a public road by our place. Bro Billy says no Yankee soldiers ever passed us, as was shut off from crossing the Roanoke River. However, our men had prisoners when passing our place. Once a Yankee prisoner escaped from our soldiers nearby and he ran into our place to hide. Mother felt sorry for him as he seemed like a fine gentleman. She hid him somewhere in the house, and although our house and place were searched, they never found him. He was kept until there were no more of our soldiers near. Never heard whether he was again captured or whatever became of him.
Another time a troop of our soldiers camped for the night in our yard. They came about our suppertime. Some of them went to our kitchen, scaring Aunt Chaney nearly to death. They took everything she had cooked for our supper, so we and our boarders had to wait until another hurriedly prepared supper was cooked for us.
I met John Henese (Henson?) (my old escort to and from school in those days) in Weldon when I visited there with Mary Chandler and Ellen some years ago. He came to see me, took me for a drive, and asked me to marry him. He was thirty years older than I. (?) Well I could not accept him of course.
Our negroes stayed with us till work came they were free, and every one of them left, thinking they would have money given them and they could do as they pleased like the white man did. In two or three weeks they came back hungry and forlorn, begged Mother to take them back to work for her, but she refused to take them. We had only Mother, Pa, Sis Patty, Irene and myself to run the place. After being wounded, Pa never had much use of the arm and shoulder and suffered the rest of his life from the wound. Some bones were shattered in his shoulder, and every once in awhile a bone would come out from where the bullets went in. He could never do much manual labor, so his brother, Jasper Shearin, came to live with us and help manage the farm. We had no stoves at this time, cooked in open fireplace. Mother had never done any plain cooking, but she soon learned and taught me to do a good many things, so I could help her. Irene was a baby, Sister Patty helped some, took care mostly of Irene. I remember the first chicken we killed. I picked it and helped Mother clean it. Jasper Shearin would not eat any of it because he thought it was not cleaned properly. We had no money to hire help, for a long time. The white men had to go to work and the neighbors would help each other in the farm work, getting a start that way. It was trying times, but we all lived through it but just how I never knew. We made a living anyway. After awhile we hired negroes to work for us, and so gradually the South began to improve. I feel proud of her and glory in her spunk in getting back to prosperity.
The Academy had to be closed at close of the war as no funds to run it, and our boarders went back to their respective homes. After the war closed, Mr. Sledge, a neighbor, started a private school in his home. He had 5 or 6 children to educate, and the neighborhood children attended that school. I went there, till Uncle Grant took me to Davenport. I could read and write fairly well. Mother taught Sister Patty and me at home a good deal. She also taught us to knit, and we had to learn a chapter in the bible every Sunday.
Ida Shearin died while a baby. She was severely burned by the nurse, Liddy, and died from the burns. Pa would have killed Liddy, had not Mother sent her away. Pa was away when she was burned, while Liddy was supposed to be bathing her. No one was in the house at the time, Mother was looking after salting down the meat at the smoke house, Sister Patty and I were with her. We heard a scream from Liddy and ran to the house, saw baby Ida lying on the hearth before the andirons, before a bed of red coals, and Liddy on the floor screaming. Never knew how it happened, but believed she had drunk some whiskey from a bottle on the mantle in Mother's room, and probably drunk. It was terrible. Pa had gone to Weldon that day with a load of hogs to sell. He was one crazy man when he heard what had happened. He took his gun as soon as he got in, without saying a word and went hunting for Liddy. Never found her, for Mother had sent her away in hiding and told her not to show herself or she would be killed.
Right after the war there were many Bushwhackers around stealing everything they could get away with. Our farmers had to take their horses and mules and hide out in the woods. Pa dug a deep hole in the hen house and buried most of our hams and bacon and covered over with chicken manure to hide any tracks of anything being buried there. We never lost any of our stock or anything else through them. I think it was because we lived on a public road where everything could be seen in passing, for many of our neighbors had lost much of their stock and their smokehouses and barns robed. These were trying times; worse than when the war was going on. The country looked desolate, no workmen in the fields, ruin seemed to face us. Somehow we survived these trying times. The men and women had to go to work or starve. Negroes insulted white women and young girls. All sorts of dreadful things happened to our girls. Mother never allowed us to get out of sight, for fear some negro would attack us. Negroes got so bold something had to be done, so the Klu Klux Klan was organized in Pulaski, Tennessee, and started out to accomplish their purpose. They scared the negroes nearly to death as well as the bad white men. Lagree or Legrew, a despicable character and a Yankee, stirred up more devilment and trouble among the negroes than any man I ever knew about, leading the negroes on to all sorts of unscrupulous things. (Bro. Billy thinks I am wrong about Lagree, as he was a character in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." I think I am partly right about this.)
Until I left North Carolina at the age of thirteen in year 1868, I had never been in a town or a store of any kind, never saw a railroad or engine, or a boat (had seen pictures of boats) until the day I left my home with Pa for Weldon to meet Uncle Grant, Cousin Eliza Whitaker and her daughter, Cousin Rebecca, to go with them to Davenport, Iowa. The numerous railroad tracks, cars and engines, were a wonderful sight to me in Weldon. We stayed in Weldon that night, leaving early next morning on train for Norfolk, my first train ride. I had not been told we were going on a boat from Norfolk to Baltimore (on Chesapeake Bay.) When we got off the train, we walked under a shed all the way to the boat, not seeing any water at all. The boat was a beauty, I thought we were entering a grand hotel. There were large mirrors from the top to bottom of the floor in that large room (parlor I thought.) I kept running around looking at everything and especially at myself in those mirrors. Finally I heard a peculiar noise, could not imagine where it came from, but I investigated till I found the place where that noise came from. Saw a lot of machinery moving up and down, making a lot of noise. In a few minutes the hotel began to move up and down, which frightened me, so I ran to Cousin Eliza and said, "Der Lor, Cousin Liza, dis house am amoving." Cousin Liza said, "Hush up you little fool, don't you know we are on a boat, and someone will hear you?" Some did hear, and laughed at me, Uncle giving the loudest laugh of all.
Uncle Grant had evidently been telling some men he met, that he was taking me to his home to educate. One man seemed specially interested, and took Uncle Grant aside, and had a long talk with him about me. I do not remember his name. He was a nice looking man with iron gray hair. He wanted to adopt me. He lived in New York or somewhere in New England. Anyway he told Uncle Grant he had plenty of money and no children, and would make me his heir, if he would consent to give me to him. Said he could give plenty of references as to his character, his social position, and wealth. Uncle Grant really was very much impressed by this man, but told him he had no right to give me away, as my mother was living and I had brothers and sisters, and he was educating me and my brothers and other kin, who had lost everything during the war and could not afford to educate their children. Wonder what would have been my fate, had I been adopted by that man.
You should have seen me dressed for that trip to Davenport, a gray homespun dress, woven from material raised on our plantation, made plain waist with full skirt sewed to the waist, with packet of same, hand knit white stockings, and shoes with leather soles and gray cloth tops (made by old Uncle 'Bugies) and homespun underclothes, were pantalets, buttoned on to top of my drawers, pantalets were of white linen beautifully embroidered by my mother with tatting on edge. When we reached Baltimore, took a train for New York. First thing Uncle Grant did after getting into New York was to take me to a store, to buy me a warmer coat and some woolen hose and new shoes. I felt pretty fine in my new duds. I was a pretty greenhorn. Everything I said, those around would laugh. I talked so southern, I reckon, and probably exclaimed over everything I saw in Negro talk.
When we arrived in Davenport, I was greeted very cordially, but everything was so strange and so different from anything at home. I had a good cry, and cried every day for weeks for my mother and sisters. Every letter I wrote home or received from home, I'd cry to break my heart. The family were all very kind and tried to make me happy. It took two years to get over my terrible homesickness. Uncle Grant sent for Mother, Sis Pattie, and Irene that second summer, which helped me to get over being homesick. Mother would so often play the piano and we would all try to dance, and then I began to jig for them, and take off the darkies. One negro dance called the "Chinky Pin a ruler come down the meadow" that I learned from the negroes, would nearly kill them all laughing, and from that time on I was called to jig and dance that ridiculous "Chinky Pin ruler come down the meadow" on all occasions. I got so I enjoyed it as much as anyone. That summer Uncle Grant had the dancing master come every Saturday afternoon to teach us to dance. Some of the neighbor's children joined the dancing class and Mother would join with us, as lively as any of us. Uncle Grant would not let us go to the dancing classes in the hall downtown, so he hired the teacher for us. When I arrived in Davenport, only Bessie Leonard, Auntie's niece, Cousin Mattie Kaiser, Henry and Ed Leonard were there. Bro. Jimmie had been sent to college at Yale. A month later Cousin Whit Grant came, and after awhile Ria Kaiser and her brother, William, came after Aunt Rob died. Cousin Will Grant came after his medical college graduation at Long Island Medical College. He began his practice in Davenport with Dr. French, Uncle Grant's family physician. So many of us, Uncle Grant had to build onto the house until it extended from the street back to the alley. The barn being right on the alley, where we kept two fine carriage horses and large carriage, and three or four riding horses. Just a passageway between the house and barn. Mary Leonard came when five years old, her mother died, so Uncle Grant adopted her. Bro Billy came later, but was not here as long as the rest of us. He went to Ann Arbor, Michigan to college, and afterwards to Philadelphia, and graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1876, the year I graduated from Bethlehem.
Cousin Mattie and Bessie roomed together, and Ria and I for awhile. Cousin Mattie's health broke down and she then had Ria stay with her, and I had a room in the new part of the building to myself. We all had to take care of our rooms. Ria, after awhile, could never keep her and Cousin Mattie's room to suit Cousin Mattie, nor serve her meals neatly, so finally Cousin Mattie asked to stay with me in my room, which was more quiet. So I waited on her until she got mad with me about Mat Fort, which will be related on another page. I sure was glad to have my room to myself again. I was between 14 and 15 at this time. Uncle Grant hired a widow woman with a little girl, a French woman, a seamstress. They lived in the house with us and did all our sewing and dressmaking. The front part of the house was three stories and the boys slept in the third story rooms. When Uncle Gough Grant came he also had rooms in the third story, and when he could not come to meals, I always took them up to him. He was bent nearly double from rheumatism. Cousin Will Grant had a room above his office and only came to the house for his meals. I do not remember how long Uncle Gough lived with us. He went back to Alabama, his son, Cousin Gough, with him, and he suffered so terribly that one day Cousin Gough left his room for a few minutes and Uncle Gough got out of bed and got his razor and cut his throat and died in a few minutes afterwards. Cousin Gough returned to Davenport, and Uncle Grant set him up to mange the Saint James Hotel, which he owned. Cousin Gough ran the hotel very successfully, married, and brought his wife there, a very sweet attractive girl. Later on, sold the hotel and bought Chalybeate Springs, Georgia, near Columbus. Both Cousin Gough and wife died there. He left some of his property to Jeannette Maxwell, whom he said had been kinder to him than any of his relatives. She visited him several times. She got part of the money from the Enfield estate and with it sent Florence to Winston-Salem to school part of a year.
Uncle Grant laid down some rules that we were all expected to obey. One of the most important was that "there was to be no courting between cousins." If disobedient to this particular rule, we would have to leave his house, and he would do no more for us. We were never allowed to go out nights during school, except Fridays and Saturdays. I never attended, only children's parties, until I was about sixteen years old, and even then Uncle Grant never allowed a boy to come home with me. He would take me and come for me, or have one of my cousins escort me. During vacations Uncle Grant would let us have parties frequently in the home. I never attended any grown-up parties until I was sixteen or seventeen years old. The boys and girls from my school often came on Saturdays to play with me. George French, a neighbor boy, lived across the street from Uncle Grant's, and the first boy friend I had after coming to Davenport. He was over every day and tormented the life out of me trying to kiss me.
The first school I attended after reaching Davenport, was a private school for girls taught by a Mrs. Heurd. Back of the schoolhouse was quite a steep hill. In the winter we girls would pour buckets of water over it every day after school, so we could have a place to slide down hill. Could not take our sleds to school, but we used blocks of wood or planks, anything we could find to sit on. I had a heavy square block of wood. In bringing it up the hill one day, I slipped and fell. The sharp edge of the block came down on my thumb and cut a gash to the bone. That thumb has been stiff ever since and a scar the whole length of it is still with me. From this school I went to the Free School. It was a stone building and was always called "The Stone School." I entered the "B" room at this school. The lasting impression I have of that room, I was spelled down by Jacob Bussey, a negro that looked like a baboon. We had spelling bees every Friday afternoon. Would choose sides. Jacob and I were chosen on opposite sides this time. We spelled the class down, and then he beat me. I cried because a negro spelled me down. I felt disgraced.
I went through four grades in "B" room and then, promoted to "A" room. Miss Tripp, an old maid, taught the "A" room. It was in "A" room that I got so well acquainted with Jessie Davies. Miss Tripp was a fine teacher. She let Jessie and me sit together. About this time Uncle Grant thought we ought to attend the church with Grandma Leonard, the Congregational Church. I was, however, the only one to go with Grandma Leonard, others attended the Episcopal Church. The Davies family attended the Congregational Church so Jessie and I were in the same Sunday School class, and Miss Tripp, our Sunday School teacher. I always sat in the pew with Jessie and her family, so we got to be good friends. Uncle Grant and Mr. Davies were good friends. Mr. Davies's was the only place Uncle Grant ever allowed me to stay all night, except at Uncle Spier Whitaker's, until I was quite grown up. Jessie and I had lots of fun at her house. Some five or six of our special girl friends would often meet at Jessie's on Saturday afternoons, and such fun we did have. No boys ever came.
A year in "A" room and then to the high school, which I attended two years. I do not think Jessie ever went to high school. From there I went as day boarder to the Sisters' Academy. I loved those Sisters. Took music lessons from one of them. One day I horrified one of the Sisters by seeing a red ringlet of hair that had slipped out from her close-fitting white cap and black bonnet. I put my hand up to touch it and she jumped back, and said, "Why Miss Johnston, what do you mean?" I said the curl was so pretty I wanted to touch it. She told me I must never do anything like that again.
Trains were quite the fashion at that time. Even our calico school dresses were made with trains, and we wore bustles that held our dresses out from the back. It's a wonder we did not get all sorts of germs, trailing our dresses along the streets. While at the Sisters I used to take part in the plays they gave. Once had a very important part as a Countess. Next day I was mentioned in the papers as looking like Helen of Troy in the play. Uncle Grant did not like the publicity given to his niece, so took occasion to see the manager of the paper, and forbid him ever again to make any personal mention of any of his family without permission from him.
It was in the "B" room at Stone School where I first met Charlie Sheaff. He was in my class until I left high school. He was a timid fellow and never made friends much among the girls. He walked home with me occasionally, as he passed our house on his way home from school. Had several sweethearts while in the Stone School. One used to pass our house every evening going after his cow. Of course I was usually on the porch when he passed. He always threw a big red apple, a bag of candy, or peanuts up to me in passing. Once Uncle Grant caught him throwing me an apple. He was forbidden to do it again. Another boy came up on porch one day while Uncle Grant was there, to ask me to write in his autograph album, but Uncle Grant would not let me. I always received a lot of valentines from the boys, and I sent some too. They were mostly in poetry composed by themselves. Once boy lived next door to us, and we walked to high school together every morning. He would always carry my books and slate. One day he wrote on my slate, "I love you," but I did not like him very much, though I went skating with him a good many times. Once while skating on the Mississippi before the ice broke up in the Spring, we were having such a fine skate, when all of a sudden we felt the ice sinking under us, fortunately we were near the shore under the bridge and nothing happened. It was a funny sensation, sinking while skating.
After leaving for Bethlehem, I never saw or heard of Charlie Sheaff until I went to Philadelphia to wive with Bro. Billy. Charlie was a doctor. I think graduated from medical college in Philadelphia. Uncle Grant said Charlie's father was very pernicious with his family. After his death, the wife and two sons, Charlie and Alexander, found themselves rich, left Davenport and went to Philadelphia to live. Charlie certainly was lovely to me while I was in Philadelphia. He traveled a great deal. From the time I met him in Philadelphia, until his death, he sent me a large box of candy every Christmas, from 25-30 pounds of the loveliest candies I ever saw. Some were sent from London, some from New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, or from wherever he was at the time. He had a cameo head cut from my picture while in Florence, Italy. Wish I had that cameo. I tried to trace it after his death. His brother, Alexander, denied any knowledge of it, and his mother had passed away. Charlie came to Davenport once when your father and I were living there. I met him on the street while going downtown with Addison in the baby carriage. He walked home with me. As he was leaving next day, I asked him to come out that night to meet Mr. Lyman. I had no way of letting your father know that Charlie was coming that night. It happened to be prayer meeting night, I forgot about it. Mr. Lyman did not like it very well, but he stayed home and was very sweet about it. That was the last I ever saw Charlie. Before he left Philadelphia for a trip abroad, a month or two before I was married, he gave me that cameo ring which you had for awhile, and now Emmy Lou has it. He wanted to give me something I could always keep, and knew I admired cameos. I accepted it on condition that your father would not object. Elbert said it was all right with him. While abroad Charlie had my wedding gloves made to order and sent me sever pairs of other kid gloves, also those mosaic heads made for cuff buttons, a Roman and a Grecian head, you have one and Bess, the other. For a wedding present he sent me a dozen lovely irridescent cut glass goblets, they were broken in moving from place to place.
Social live while in High School in Davenport We were allowed to have young men to call on us Friday and Saturday nights, but never during any school night. The first young man to call on me when in high school was Macvern Isles. He was a senior in high school. Uncle Grant knew his family, in fact he had to know all about the families of those who came to see us, and if their social standing was not of the best, they would be forbidden the house. I never liked Mac Isles very much, but he would come to see me. We were never allowed to be alone with any one of our callers, Uncle Grant would come in and tell me to go get the other girls to come in and visit with us or have Bessie come in and play the piano and sing. He and Auntie always came in to speak to our callers, chat a few minutes, then Auntie would go out and sit on the stair steps at the top of the stairs . Uncle Grant would walk up and down the hall until it was time for us to retire, then would come in and tell the young man or men it was time to leave, and they left. These school men soon got tired coming and cut it out. Then others came as we grew older, were allowed a little more freedom.
Bessie Leonard never did finish school, and always mixed up in some love affair. Uncle Grant offered Bro. Jimmie and several of the Grant boys $20,000 if they would marry Bessie. She was in love with Bro. Jimmie. While at Yale, Bro. Jimmie fell in love with Florence Linsley in New Haven. He boarded in a house across the street from where she lived and they began a flirtation. Bro. Jimmie strung a wire across from his window upstairs to hers across the way, and passed notes to each other. That's the way they did their courting, until finally he met her at some function and they became engaged, but did not marry until after Bro. Jim was through college and went to Sedalia, Missouri to work for a railroad. He was successful, and then told Uncle Grant he was engaged and was going East to be married. On his return with his bride, Sister Florence, they stopped over in Davenport. She was a very lovely attractive woman. We all fell in love with her. She had a beautiful voice and sang for us. Her mother died when she was quite young, and had a step-mother whom I called Grandma Linsley. I met her after, years later on. Uncle Grant's nephews never fell for Bessie Leonard, they knew her too well. It was a disappointment to Uncle Grant that none of them would marry her. She tried to capture Bro. Jimmie and for awhile was in love with Cousin Whit Grant. Cousin Whit was in love with Alice Kimball. Bessie was very intimate with Alice, but when she found Cousin Whit and Alice were in love with each other, Bessie broke up the match. Mrs. Kimball was furious about it and told Uncle Grant. The families had a big quarrel over it, which broke up the friendship between the two families.
Ria had her love affair with Cousin Whit, but Cousin Whit did not love Ria only as his cousin. Then it was my turn. The family began to talk about Cousin Will and me, carrying all sorts of tales to Uncle Grant, none of them entirely true. I always went to Cousin Will with my troubles. He would sympathize with me and help me in any way he could. At that time Uncle Grant thought the talk about us was all foolishness, he thought so much of Cousin Will he trusted him implicitly. Whenever he had to leave home on business to Washington or New York, he left Cousin Will in charge of the family and telling hi to take good care of us. For some reason Auntie and her mother, Grandma Leonard, and Bessie never liked Cousin Will. I never dreamed then that I was in love with him or he, with me. They never let us alone and constantly watched everything we did, although I never did anything behind their backs that I did not do before them. If we were all together in the room, first one and then the other would go out until we were left alone. They kept carrying stories to Uncle Grant, until he came to me about them. I told him I had done nothing wrong and there was nothing between us. Then he said, "Why do you not let Ria or Bessie wait on him when he is sick?" (I really waited on every one in the house when they were sick.) I told him the others never offered to wait on him, and I always did it. Cousin Will was subject to very sick headaches, I would sit by and rub his head, which he said soothed him and said my hands were full of magnetism. When he would be sick in bed several days I carried his meals to him, bathed his face and hands and straightened his bed, etc. When I'd ask Auntie to sweeten his coffee, she would smile and say, "You better sweeten it as I never put in sugar enough." Then Grandma and Bessie would say, "If Maggie only smiles on it, it will be sweet enough." We finally did fall in love with each other, but never thought cousins could ever marry. As time went on, things got worse for me. Uncle Grant began to get worried about us. He asked me if I was in love with Cousin Will. I told him I did love him better than anyone. He said, "He is not really in love with you, he knows better than to think of marrying you." Then he wrote Cousin Will a letter about it, and accused him of only having a passion for me. It made Cousin Will furious. I never saw the letter that passed between them, but only a quotation I heard that Cousin Will said to him, "He who steals my purse, steals trash, but he who filches from me my good name, robs me of that which enriches him and makes me poor indeed." (Shakespeare) They did not speak to each other for some time afterwards.
Uncle Grant tried to make me promise not to write to Cousin Will when I went to Bethlehem, but I did not make any promise. Uncle Grant wrote to Mr. Walls, Principal of the school, asking him to intercept my letters. Mr. Walls wrote him no letters were ever allowed to go out from the school sealed, but dropped in a box in his office, sealed by him or the assistant, and sent to the post office. He may have read all my letters to Cousin Will as far as I know. He always brought the mail to the different room companies to distribute and whenever he handed me a letter, he always gave me a peculiar look. So I thought probably he did read all my mail. Uncle Grant knew Cousin Will was going to the Centennial in Philadelphia the last year I was there, to attend some medical meeting. So Uncle Grant wrote Mr. Walls Cousin Will would probably stop in Bethlehem to see me, even sent Cousin Will's picture so he would recognize him. Wanted us watched as he was afraid we would run away and get married. Mr. Walls was on my side, and let me go out with Cousin Will when he came. It was in the Spring before I graduated. One day I went to the office to see Mr. Walls, asked him if there was a vacancy in the school that I could have to teach, or take care of a room company. He said, "Why do you wish any position, when you have an uncle with plenty of money, and social position, who is willing to take care of you?" I said, "That is just the reason I want to take care of myself, and be independent of my uncle." He said, "I know all about it. You are having a love affair, and your uncle is not in favor of your marrying your cousin." Then he told me of the letters Uncle Grant had written him about Cousin Will and myself. I asked if he had replied to those letters, and what he had said to Uncle Grant after allowing me to go out with him when he came to see me. He said he wrote to Uncle Grant, he had watched me, and had every confidence in me and did not believe I would run away to marry anyone, that if I married I would do it aboveboard. That was a feather in my cap. It was lovely of Mr. Walls to tell me. He promised to let me know later on, if there would be any place for me in the school.
Go back now to Davenport when we were all going to school there, to tell you about Matt Fort, a cousin from Texas. He was Uncle Grant's sister, Elizabeth's (or Betty, as she was called) son. Cousin Betty Fort. They were very poor, so Uncle Grant offered to educate Matt. He sent for him to come to Davenport. He came bringing his accordion with him. He was with us about a week, a great big rather awkward fellow, good looking but shomehow he seemed different from the rest of us. He was to go to school at Manhattan College in Kansas. Uncle Grant felt sorry for him, and told us all to be especially kind to him. Well the night he left for Manhattan, when he told me goodbye he put a letter in my hand which no one saw him do. I did not get a chance to read that letter until I went to bed. I was rooming with Cousin Mattie and she was an invalid in bed all the time. I sat down to read the letter from Matt, and was so surprised at what he said, I began to laugh. He said he thought I was the most beautiful girl he ever saw and he was in love with me, and wanted to know if I would marry him when he finished school. It was so funny to me, and my laughing aroused Cousin Mattie's curiosity. I did not intend to tell anyone about it, for I knew Uncle Grant would be furious, but Cousin Mattie kept at me to learn what I was laughing about, so I said, "I'll let you read this letter if you will not tell any of the others about it." After reading it she gave me a lecture, thought it so dreadful for me to laugh over such a serious matter. She got herself so worked up over it that she had hysterics, got so crazy we had to send for Cousin Will in the middle of the night, to give her something to quiet her. The household was aroused, she made me leave the room, and never wanted me to sleep with or wait on her any more. When Cousin Will came, she was left alone with him, and she told him about Matt's letter to me. He told Uncle Grant, and all the family knew by morning. A wire was sent immediately to Matt Fort, awaiting him on his arrival at Manhattan, that he could go to the devil, as he had broken his rule that there should be no courting between cousins, signed James Grant. I was furious with Cousin Will for telling Uncle Grant and kicking up such a rumpus. After school next day I went down to Cousin Will's office, and had it out with him, accusing him of causing Uncle Grant not to even give Matt a chance to get an education. When he fully realized how dreadfully I felt about it, he was very repentant and sorry he said anything about it to Uncle Grant. He (Cousin Will) was so sweet to me afterwards, that I made up with him. I have never known to this day whatever became of Matt Fort.
We used to attend a good many parties in Davenport, Moline, and Rock Island, as we were getting grown-up, but we always had to go with one of our cousins if Uncle Grant and Auntie did not go. Bessie oft times went with other men, as she was a privileged person. Did as she pleased. We dressed according to prevailing styles. Sometimes wore trains with a plaited ruffle under bottom of trains to gather up the dust, so not to spoil our party dresses. Generally, wore our hair on top of our heads, with one long curl fashioned in the back, and a wreath or some flowers on top or side of our hair. Bessie Leonard and I were considered beautiful dancers and for our graceful and easy manners. Square dances were all the go in those days. The old people joined in them. The young folks waltzed, polkaed, and danced the Vienbiana, a very pretty dance. At one of these parties Uncle Grant and Auntie went with us. Uncle Grant was watching the dances and remarked to some of the men, "Maggie Johnston is the most beautiful and graceful dancer on the floor, and by George she is the only one of my nieces that hasn't a corn on her feet." It caused much laughter.
Uncle Grant did give us a monthly allowance. Do not remember how much, but we had to render him an account for every item we bought. Whenever Auntie or the girls wanted something extra, they would beg me to ask Uncle Grant for extra money, and would say, "He never refuses you anything." Good reason, as I never asked him for anything extra for myself. I was always getting myself into hot water, doing things for the others. They said I was the favorite of Uncle Grant, I never thought so.
While attending Sisters' Academy, they were very particular about our manners. One rule was that in going through any door, we were to make a deep courtesy (now, curtsy) entering and going out. There method of teaching gracefulness. Every time the clock struck, no matter where we were, had to stand up while the Sisters and Catholics crossed themselves and said a "Hail Mary" on their beads. The fall I entered Bethlehem Seminary, Auntie was abroad with Cousin Mattie and the Smiths. Mr. Smith was Cousin Grant's law partner. His father was the Smith who composed the hymn "America." I met him and his wife many times when they visited their son. Uncle Grant always had them over for dinner. After Uncle Grant's death Mr. Smith, his partner, was put in jail for many years, because he used money intrusted to him, for himself. Even took some of the funds left to Cousins Mattie and Ria in Uncle Grant's will. He was their trustee. Cousin Charlie Whitaker saved most of it for them.
The first Christmas at Bethlehem I was not allowed to go home. It was a long trip and Uncle Grant would not let me travel alone. There were several other girls that stayed, and several teachers. One especially to look after the girls who remained that Christmas vacation. She was young and full of fun. So we girls did about as we pleased, and we did have good times. Mr. and Mrs. Walls and Miss Helen were very kind to me, often having me to meals with them and to spend the evening with Miss Helen. She would invite her young men friends to meet us. Among them was her cousin Henry Walls. He was the life of all those evening with Miss Helen. We spent most of those evenings decorating different rooms for Christmas week. Made beautiful scenes from heavy brown paper, creasing it in different ways to represent rocks, with evergreens, small trees, and shrubs around, a mirror at bottom. The rocks, trees, etc. were nearly as high as the ceiling. We had white sand between the ravines of rock (or paper rock) gravel around the mirror at the bottom. In the dim light the reflection in the mirror would look like water flowing down. We called it a Waterfall. It really was very pretty and effective. We had pastoral scenes with cows, sheep, and other animals (made of wood and painted.) They wanted a rail fence around that scene but no one seemed to know how to make a rail fence. I offered to make the fence, as I knew all about them, having lived on a plantation where rail fences were around every field and the road sides. Had watched many a time the men putting up these fences. Take too long to tell about all the scenes we put up. It is a Moravian custom to make these scenes every Christmas in their houses, churches, and school buildings. Everyone would turn out to see them. They were called "Putzo." The making of them is quite an art with the Moravians. The night before Christmas I was spending the evening with Miss Helen and her friends, among them Henry Walls who was full of fun and mischief. I remarked it would not seem like Christmas to me without some eggnog. Henry wanted to know what it was, and how to make it. I said with eggs, cream, milk, sugar, and whiskey. Early Christmas morning someone knocked on my door, dropped something and ran. When I opened the door there was a box addressed to Miss Johnston and friends. In it was everything to make the eggnog. We girls got together and told our young teacher and asked her to join us in some eggnog. Was afraid we would get into some trouble, so we got Miss Helen Walls to join us. We had a lot of fun making the eggnog. It was good. We had to keep it scant for fear Mr. Walls or one of the other teachers would find it out. They never did as far as I know. Only regret was not having Henry Walls with us to enjoy it. This same Henry Walls is living in New York City and a preacher in the Moravian Church.
The girls in our room company used to have feasts in our bedrooms after we were supposed to be in bed and asleep. The maid who cleaned our rooms would get anything and hide in the room for us, usually ice cream and cake. How she ever smuggled it in without being caught, we never knew. She would order it from a restaurant in town.We often asked to have feasts in the dining room in the basement, and were never refused, but it was more fun in our bedroom.
All the room companies went out for a walk about 4:00 every afternoon, two by two, with a teacher at the head and one at the foot of each company. We used to have picnics on a beautiful little island in the river nearby, and would go out on the river in rowboats. Whenever we had these picnics the University boys across the river would turn out in their boats, and do all sorts of stunts for our amusement. We were never allowed to get near enough to carry on with the boys, always some teacher with us. Lots of the girls used to hang notes out of their windows for some of the boys after dark, and the boys would reply by putting their notes on the string, and girls haul them up. Some of the girls were caught at it and were punished, being kept in and having to write school rules over and over again many times. One girl was expelled from school because she would write notes to boys and flirt with them.
Every Sunday each company marched to church across from the Seminary. They always had lovely music. Organ with other musical instruments and good singers. Once a month they would have what was called "a love feast." After service in the church, passed around cups of coffee and coffee cake, with music going all the time. Friday nights we often had dances in the gym. We girls who studied Logic and stood our final exams in it, were allowed to go out on the campus after dark and, with a certain ceremony, bury our Logic book. A most solemn and auspicious affair. We gave concerts and plays in the Chapel sever times through the year, also recitations from the elocution classes. Attended any good lectures or operas with a teacher, in the town.
After graduating in 1876, went to Philadelphia to see the Centennial exhibition. Uncle Grant met me there with Auntie, Ria, and Bessie, and Kate Cassell, a cousin of Bessie Leonard's. We stopped at the Girard Hotel. Agnes Burtis, Fannie Bruce, and Fannie's two sisters who came in to see Fannie graduate, were also at Centennial at same time. Bessie, Kate Cassell, and Ria, with Auntie, went their way around together. Uncle Grant asked me why I did not go with them. I told him they never asked me to go, and did not seem to want me. He looked at me so funny and said, "Your Auntie thinks the other girls are prettier than you, and they may be, but one think I know, you are much more attractive to men than they are, and they are jealous of you." That was an eye-opener to me. I had never noticed that I received any more attention from anyone, especially from men, than they did, for they always had plenty of beaux around them. Well anyway, I got in touch with Agnes and the Bruce girls, and Bro. Billy, and together we took in the sights of the Centennial. One day Uncle Grant let me have the girls for dinner in the hotel. He and Bro. Billy ate with us. We had such a good time and such a good dinner. One day at the Centennial we went to an Oriental restaurant for lunch. As we sat down at our table I felt conscious of someone watching us. I did not look around, but in a few minutes, looked up and saw a man in front of me at the table. It was Mr. Phil Mitchner, and old beau of Bessie Leonard's. He lived in Rock Island, across the river from Davenport. He often came to see Bessie and went horseback riding with her. He came to parties at Uncle Grant's and we attended parties in his father's home. At these parties I danced with him a good deal. I had not seen him in over two years. I introduced him to the girls and Bro. Billy, and he asked if he could join us at lunch. So we made room for him and we had a jolly time together. When lunch was over Phil insisted on paying the bill, and he spent the rest of the day with us. After he returned home he wrote to me, asking me to correspond with him. I replied I was not allowed to correspond with young men.
I was not allowed at this time to return to Davenport on account of Cousin Will. Sister Florence was in New Haven visiting her father and step-mother. Uncle Grant sent me there to return to Dubuque with Sister Florence, as she was expecting Jim in September and Uncle Grant did not want her to travel alone. Grant was then two or three years old. It was in July or August that we went to Dubuque. Through Mr. Thompson (General Manager of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad, and Bro. Jim was Superintendent of the same road, under Mr. Thompson) I began to meet the young people of Dubuque. It was in Bro. Jim's office I first met your father, who was their telegraph operator. When Bro. Jim was away, Mr. Lyman always brought our mail to us, as he lived around the corner from us. Warren was born there on the 12th of September 1876. His mother died at his birth. Bro. Jim and I attended her funeral and sent her flowers. On the 26th of September 1876 Jim Johnston was born. I had the care of Grant entirely till Sister Florence was strong enough to care for her family.
I soon became acquainted with about everybody in Dubuque. Invited to all the parties and dances and led a very gay life. Had more beaux than I knew what to do with. Frank Thompson, Mr. T's son, was the first one that made love to me, but never liked him. He seemed so common and was younger than I was. I did not go much with him, but had to be nice to him on account of his father and mother.
The following September (1877) Mr. Thompson was going to take his daughter Ella to New York to enter a boarding school. He invited me to go with them and paid all my expenses. Bro. Jimmy also went with us. We stopped at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, where we stayed nearly a week. Ella and I had one wonderful time going to theaters, operas, and sight-seeing. A Mr. Powers, one of the hotel proprietors, asked Mr. Thompson to introduce him to me. So one night as we started to dinner, Mr. Powers met us, and we were all introduced, chatted pleasantly for awhile before entering the dining room. Next morning, about ten o'clock I was expecting a call from Lizzie Moore, one of my Bethlehem schoolmates, a lovely girl who lived in Brooklyn, she had sent me a note when to expect her. About that time the hotel boy knocked on my door and said, "Miss Johnston is wanted in the parlor." Of course I thought it was Lizzy, instead it was Mr. Powers. I did not notice him at first. He came toward me making a most gracious bow and said he sent for me to invite me to go with him to some flower show that afternoon. I told him that I was going out with Mr. Thompson and his daughter that afternoon, and to the theater that night, and we were leaving next morning. We chatted awhile, when I excused myself saying I was expecting a school friend any minute. I really was afraid of that man, he was so big and tall and had such snaky black eyes. When we got in that evening I found a beautiful bouquet of lovely roses for Miss Johnston, with no other card on it. I thought Mr. Thompson sent it to me, but he said he did not, and thought likely it was from Mr. Powers. Ella and I wore some of the roses to the theater that night. As we were leaving next morning, Mr. Powers rushed out to say goodbye. I help up the bouquet and said to him, "I suppose I am indebted to you for this lovely bouquet." and thanked him. He smiled and bowed and shook hands all around, and we started off. Took Ella to school, and then Mr. Thompson took me to my train for New Haven, where I stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Linsley for several months. When Mr. Thompson got back to the hotel, Mr. Powers called him to his office for an interview about me. He wanted to know who I was and where from and asked for my address. Said he was greatly impressed by Miss Johnston, ans wanted to know her better, etc. Mr. Thompson gave him my address. He wrote right away asking me to correspond with him. I paid no attention to the letter, but he kept on writing me until Grandma Linsley felt sorry for him, and begged me to write him, thought it my duty. So I wrote and told him I was engaged to be married and could not correspond with him. I thought it would be fun to write and tell Uncle Grant about it, but Uncle Grant was furious that a hotel man would dare to pay his attentions to his niece. He wrote to Mr. Powers a seething letter, and told him he would never stop at his hotel again. He had always stopped there whenever in New York.
Uncle Grant finally decided that I should go to Philadelphia and live with Bro. Billy, and set us up to housekeeping, sending $100 to Bro Billy one month and $100 to me the next month for living expenses. He wanted Bro. Billy to go to New Haven for me, as he was afraid that man Powers might see me when I passed through New York. I got through the city safely and Bro. Billy met me in Camden, New Jersey. (End of that episode.) It was while in New Haven at this time, that Cousin Will sent me an engagement ring, our initials engraved on the inside.
The first wedding in the family was Bessie Leonard and Dr. Mart Cassell. Cousin Will, some months before Bessie was to marry, was taken very ill with what some of the doctors said was rheumatism of the brain. During a spell of consciousness Cousin Will asked Cousin Whit to telegraph me to come as he did not think he would live, and wanted to see me. When the message came I did not have the money to go, and Bro. Billy would not give it to me without Uncle Grant's permission. I wired Uncle Grant of the message from Cousin Whit, and asked if I could come, assuring him if he would I would not marry Cousin Will if he recovered. The reply was a flat NO. Then he wrote me saying he had not faith in such a promise. Well I was crushed. I wrote pleading with Uncle Grant to let me come, but it was of no use. When Cousin Will began to get well, they sent him to Nashville where he stayed with relatives. It was while there, and the first letter I had written him since his illness, that I broke our engagement, giving no reason that I thoght it best for both of us. He met Cousin Addie while in Nashville and it was said that his relatives there made the match. They were married just two weeks before I was, and were at my wedding. When Bessie Leonard was married, Cousin Will was away and I was allowed to return to Davenport for the wedding. At this time Charlie Sheaff turns up. He was living in Philadelphia all the time I was there, had passed me many times on the streets, I never saw him. He was not sure it was me, so made no effort to speak to me, but when I went to Davenport to Bessie's wedding, my name was in the paper as being from Philadelphia, so Charlie wrote to a friend in Davenport to get my Philadelphia address, and send to him. So when I returned to Philadelphia, he came to see me. He had changed so I never would have known him, over six feet tall and broad shoulders. Only a boy when I last saw him after leaving high school. He took me for lovely dinners and to the theaters often. I had to tell him I was engaged to Mr. Lyman. That did not seem to matter much with him, for he kept coming and taking me out. Never made love to me, just the best of friends.
On my way to Davenport, Agnes joined me in Chicago and went to the wedding. During the evening of the wedding, Uncle Grant insisted Cousin Gough Grant and I should dance a jig, which we did. Mrs. Herbert Ayer (noted for her face creams, etc.) was there. She was a niece of Uncle Grant's former wife. The jig seemed to have been thoroughly enjoyed, from the clapping we had.
While there, the Thompsons of Dubuque wrote and asked me to visit them Christmas week. I replied I had a visitor with me from Chicago. They wrote and said bring her with you. They gave a big dancing party for us, over one hundred. Among them your father, Dr. Green, Mr. Brooks, and John Andres who married Ria Kaiser. During that week there was the opening of their new Opera House. I received through the mail four invitations at same time to attend, from Mr. Lyman, Dr. Green, Mr. Brooks, and John Andrews. I could not make up my mind which one to go with, so asked Mrs. Thompson to decide for me. She said, "By all means go with Mr. Lyman." So I did. The Opera was very pretty, "The Chimes of Normandy" or "The Bohemian Girl," I have forgotten which. Anyway the house was packed, and it was the first time I had ever gone out with Mr. Lyman. For the occasion he bought a pair of opera glasses. The next day Mr. Lyman called on me. He asked me to correspond with him. I replied I was not in the habit of corresponding with men. He smiled and said, "At any time if you should care to write me I'd be delighted." The next day (day before New Year's) Agnes and I decided to return to Chicago. Mr. Lyman wanted to know if he culd be of any assistance in helping us off, getting transportation, checking our trunks, etc. I thanked him and said if he would be so kind as to secure a berth to Chicago we would appreciate it. He then offered to get passes for us, and insisted on doing it. As Bro. Jimmie had been Superintendent of that road and Mr. Thompson, General Manager, I had always had passes. Mr. Lyman said it was perfectly alright that we should have passes, so I accepted them. I expected to pay for our berths, and much to my surprise, when the conductor came around for berth tickets, found they had been paid for. That money came out of Mr. Lyman's pocket. He, and quite a number of my friends came to train to see us off. The funny thing happened was after refusing to correspond with Mr. Lyman, I had to write him the first letter. On New Year's morning I wrote him a note, saying that accepted the passes to Chicago was really more than I felt I should have done, but to have hm pay for our berths was too much. So I enclosed the money for the berths with many thanks for his kindness, wished him a happy New Year, and signed my name. In return mail received a volume of Tennyson's poems from him, with a note saying he could not return the money, so invested it in the book of poems, which he hoped would meet my approval. (I think the book of poems you have somewhere in the house, or else Bessie has it.)
Several days after that I received a letter from him, proposing to me. He inclosed a letter he had written Uncle Grant, asking permission to address me, telling him what salary he was getting and gave references as to his character and standing, etc and also enclosed Uncle Grant's reply, which said, "The way is open, you can win the fair lady if you can." I did not reply to that letter until I returned to Bro Billy in Philadelphia several weeks later. I thanked him for the honor bestowed upon me and consented to correspond with him until I could make up my mind whether I could learn to love him or not. He did write such beautiful letters, many of them in my old trunk in your attic. Perhaps someday you or the children may want to read those letters. They will give you a good idea of your father and the children's grandfather. I never regretted the step I took in marrying him for he was one of the kindest, most gentle and loveable characters I ever knew. I am very proud of the fact that we were given five of the most adorable and loving children that any mother ever raised. I felt wonderfully blessed as a mother.
While living in Davenport, Uncle Grant always took us to all the good operas and theatricals that came to Davenport. Always engaged an opera box. I have heard most of the Shakespeare's plays, by the noted actors at that time, Booth, Keane, Garrick, and others, names cannot recall. All the old operas, "Il Trovatore," "Martha," and others. Kellog and Mojeska sang in some of them. Also heard Sidons in recitation. It's been so long I have forgotten names. Once I was in a local play in the opera house, was Mary, Queen of Scots. Wore a red dress with long train, some kind of bespangles front to the dress and trimmed all around from neck down side of each front and all around the train with imitation ermine. I was about grown up at that time.
SHELL CASTLE I was never at Shell Castle until after I went to Davenport. On my visits home Sister Pattie and I visited Cousin Coff at Shell Castle, spending several days at a time. The house was never entirely finished and I suppose derived the name shell on that account and castle because of its height and size, large rooms and high ceilings. I think it was Spier's grandfather or great-grandfather who first owned the place. The house was built from the lumber on the place. It finally became in possession of Uncle Matt and Aunt West Whitaker, neither of them ever married, were brother and sister. Aunt West kept a boarding school for young ladies. Cousins Bettie and Sallie attended that school. They spent their vacations with my father and mother. This was before the Civil War. Cousins Sallie and Bettie have often told me of the frolics they had with my father, how he would race them all over the house upstairs and down. They loved my father dearly. I remember very little about their visits as I was too young.
In copying this I left out something that might be of some interest, for instance, Nancy, house negro, waited on the table. I do not remember now what she did, but Mother decided to paddle her, she got Nancy down on all fours and straddled her, took off her slipper and began spanking, Nancy slipped out from under Mother, and down Mother went on the floor. It was so ridiculous we all could not help laughing, even Mother laughed, but Nancy got the spanking anyway.
George and Isom used to keep the flies off the table with a bunch of peacock feathers. In real hot weather we ate out under our big oak trees, and when it rained, we ate on the piazza, which extended from one end of the house to the other, and was very wide. My how we did enjoy the luscious watermelons out under the oaks.
One summer visiting Mother with my children, Sister Pattie, Irene, the children and I went out in the field to pick blackberries. There was a big old rotten log in the field. I sat on it to rest, when all of a sudden a great big and long black snake ran out from under that log and calling to the children, "There is a snake, hurry up and let's go." I think we scared the snake about as much as he did us, for he ran off in the woods. Black snakes are not poisonous, and will not attack you, unless you anger him, and he will then try to wrap his tail around you and keep on wrapping himself around you until he squeezes the life out of you, never heard of their biting.
There are some things in the "Annals of Iowa" about Uncle Grant and the celebration of his and Auntie's Silver Wedding. I loaned the book to William and Marguerite. They have promised to find it and send me. When they left Birmingham they stored it with other things in a room in their home, so far they have failed to find it, and are afraid it is lost. Will try to see if Burney or Will Grant, Jr. have one and will let me have it. Will is running for mayor and so busy, cannot see him. Will try to see Burney soon. Then I have written to Cousin Mamie Sledge for a book of the earliest history of North Carolina, writeen in 1918. It would be of help and interest to you.
As days go by, may recall other things that may be of interest, but thought I'd send this now. Ask questions that yo want to know about, and I'll try to answer them, with Bro. Billy's help.
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