Given to Abstraction of Thought. Cases in Point. Opinion of Debating Societies. Perseverance. Consumption. Endurance. More Comfortable Home. Death of his Father. Love of Fashionable Amusements. Meets his Future Wife. Is Married. Tribute to his Wife. Her Father and Mother.
During early life I was much given to abstraction of thought, and I am still down with the same disease. From morning till night, between the plow-handles or swinging the maul, I was absorbed in reflection. My reading and other studies raised many questions that I sought to find out. Natural philosophy and the elements of astronomy were subjects of peculiar delight, and would cause me to become oblivious of all surroundings. This frequently got me into trouble. It vexed my father very much that my mind was not more on my work, and he had but little patience with me. When about the house I would often realize that I had been told to do something, and I would start at once about it, and perchance when I came to myself I would find that I was at the barn or spring, wholly forgetful of what I had been told to do. On one occasion I was told to go to the lot and catch a horse and come to the crib, and my father would put the sack on for me, and I was to go to mill. I went and caught the horse, got on and went, but when I arrived the mill was in ashes; it was just through burning. On my return I saw that my father was not as serene as a May morning. But not till he spoke of it did I discover that I had gone off without the sack. I at once taxed my eloquence to give a glowing account of the fire, and thus divert his attention from my neglect.
Many a time have I acted ridiculously on account of this absorption of thought. While at Eminence College, there was a public exhibition one evening in the chapel. A few minutes before it began I went into the room of Prof. Henry Giltner, just across the hall from the chapel, and here I saw McGarvey's |Commentary on Acts| for the first time. I thought I would look into it for a moment before the exercises should begin; and that was the last I thought of the exhibition till some one came into the room just before its close, hunting for me.
One more instance of this nature must suffice. About 1872, I was holding a very successful meeting at Burksville, on the Cumberland river, and while I was preaching one night there came up a terrific thunderstorm, with vivid lightning and hard rain. A young man occupied a front seat who had just been reclaimed from a life of sin, and who is now a preacher. I had a faint recollection of seeing him leave the house. He had become alarmed at the storm and left, but I knew nothing of the confusion till the services closed.
Every fall and winter we would have debating societies at the school-house, and at these, men of considerable attainments would be present and participate -- teachers, preachers, and lawyers. In these I took a deep interest. My reading enabled me to become well posted on most of the questions discussed; and by careful preparation I soon came to be recognized as a good debater for one of my age. These discussions were of great advantage to me, and I am clearly of opinion that debating societies, when properly conducted, can be made useful to aspiring young men.
From childhood my under front teeth passed up on the outside, and, when a good sized boy, I concluded that that was not just the right thing, and that I would bring them into their proper place. By an effort in drawing back my under jaw, I could barely get the edges to so pass as to make a pressure of any value. But with this slight purchase the operation was continued from day to day, till the work was accomplished. The teeth became very sore from pressure, and the muscles of the jaw very tired from the unnatural strain, but in about ten days it was all over, and the job complete for life.
Another case required much greater perseverance. My older brother was very hollow-chested, and died of consumption; several others of the family were afflicted in like manner, and met the same fate. When about sixteen, I had strong tendencies in that direction. My chest was becoming |hollow,| and I decided upon an effort to counteract it. To this end I slept on my back with no pillow under my head, and a good-sized one under my chest. I would awake of a morning feeling almost too dignified to bend forward. This I kept up for two years, holding myself erect during the day, till my chest expanded and the threatening trouble was overcome. But for that I should have been in my grave long ago. The simple fact is, I have been fighting consumption since I was sixteen years of age.
While I was never robust in health or appearance, I was exceedingly tough, and had great power of endurance. One of my physicians told me long ago that in all his practice he had never seen anything that would compare with it. This enabled me to do as much work as men of much greater strength. In those days reapers were generally unknown in our country, and the grain was all |cradled.| At this I was an adept, never meeting any one that could excel me. The same was true of jumping and running foot races. Hundreds of men could no doubt beat me, but I never happened to meet them. I kept up these exercises till I left college.
When I was about twelve years of age my father built a large and comfortable house on another part of his farm. It was of hewed logs, and a story and a half high, with a large kitchen and dining-room, porches, etc. It was subsequently weather-boarded, and it is still a comfortable, commodious dwelling, owned by my mother, who never left it till her children all married and went to themselves. Father died of typhoid fever in 1860, in the fifty-third year of his age. He left my mother in comparatively easy circumstances, with nearly three hundred acres of land, plenty of stock, and a considerable amount of money on interest. By industry and economy on the part of himself and the whole family this property was accumulated, and he died in the assurance that with prudence on our part we could all make a respectable living. My mother now makes her home with her oldest daughter, Mary Crenshaw, wife of Mr. O. B. Crenshaw, a few miles north of Simpsonville, Shelby county, Ky. She waits in confident expectation that before long she too will depart to be with Christ and His redeemed, where the families of his saints will be reunited for ever.
After I grew to be a young man, I became very fond of fashionable amusements; I liked dancing, and went far and near to engage in the fascinating exercise. I gave a great deal of attention to dress; priding myself on being a gentleman; hence I found a welcome in the best society. In those years of wildness and wickedness, some things I was careful to avoid. I never learned to play cards, to gamble, or to tolerate the company of immodest women. For the latter I had an invincible repugnance that grew stronger with my years.
In the summer of 1855, while harvesting for her uncle, I first met at the dinner-table Miss Jennie Maddox, the lady whom I afterwards married. I looked as rough and unprepossessing that day as she ever saw me afterwards. I was as brown as a Florida |cracker,| and my dress was anything but elegant. Had I anticipated the forming of such a captivating acquaintance, I should have made some preparation, but I was caught, and I had to make the best of it. We were married September 11, 1856; I was twenty years and a half old; she ten months younger. From that time to this she has been a loving, faithful wife, prudent in all things, industrious and frugal, caring for me and her children; and, above all, a consistent disciple of Jesus Christ, whom she had obeyed several years before our marriage. When we first met I thought her very handsome; she was rather small, had auburn hair, blue eyes and fair skin.
|And to-day you are fairer to me, Jennie,
Than when you and I were young.|
As to myself, I was six feet one inch in height, weighed a hundred and forty pounds, had brown eyes, and was, and am still, of a nervous-bilious temperament. My complexion was then, as now, very dark.
My wife's father, G. W. Maddox, was an elder in the Pleasant Hill church, Oldham county, Ky., near which he lived. The church is about two miles south-east of Baird's Station, on the Louisville & Lexington Railroad. He was a man of a firm logical mind, good general information, and more intelligent in the Scriptures than any man I ever met, outside of the ministry. I have heard several preachers make the same remark. He was, however, a timid man, and it was difficult to get much out of him in public. He began too late in life, and had no training in that direction. But he was a very popular man, both in and out of the church, and his counsel was generally taken. His wife was a timid, unassuming, good woman, very conscientious and religious. They reared a family of six girls and one boy, all of whom obeyed the gospel in good time. I myself baptized several of them.
My father-in-law and I soon became very much attached to each other, fond of each other's company, and I loved him as I loved few others. His fine information, philosophic Christian spirit and wonderful self-control first won my admiration, and this ripened into the strongest friendship. He, more than all other men, caused me to see the error of my way. We spent the first winter of our married life in his pious home, and this gave us much time for investigation and conversation upon the subject of religion.