Old Pioneer Days
Addie Lenora Lawton McClain
This story was lovingly hand written by Addie Lenora Lawton McClain, (1940) and painstakingly transcribed and edited by Stephen Lawton. It was sent in and graciously proof read by Denise Crawford and her husband Vaughn. Thank-you folks!
I was born in 1868 in Big Springs, Ottawa County, Michigan in a log house in the home of my Uncle George Harris, by name, his wife’s name being Catherine. My father and mother’s name being Lyman [Lyman Pearly Lawton b. Apr 11, 1846 St. Lawrence Co., NY] and “Maggie” [Margaret Jane Harris b.1851]. I remember well of my uncle carrying me on his back out to the barnyard to feed the sheep as he raised a large flock and I loved to see them eat. I also remember the first Christmas and presents I received there. They were candy mice and fish.
I do not remember how old I was at that time, not more than three years old. My father, mother and I moved into a wilderness about eighteen miles from the city now called Cadillac. My father going ahead for some time to take up a homestead. I think he had to stay on it for three months to “prove up” as they called it. He also cleared a place for his small log house and a very small log barn, then returned for us. He has often told of the loneliness of that time while getting his home ready for his family. Not a living soul was to be seen. One day a man passed his new homestead either hunting or looking for a tract of land to homestead. He said he watched him as long as he could see him, then getting up on a log, to be able to see farther. After my father got things ready he returned after his family.
My mother, and I being the only child then, and my father’s two brothers, Silas [Silas Wright Lawton] and Charley [Charles Bradley Lawton], came with us to help us on the way. It was a great undertaking in those days, there were no railroads anywhere near there. I do not remember how far it was. Cars and airplanes were not known and would have caused great mirth if such a thing had been mentioned. We moved with an ox team. We were on the road I think for four days and nights. We ran out of bread on the way, my mother having to make biscuits, rolled the dough out on the wagon seat and baked them in the hot coals of the campfire. We also had to keep a fire by night to keep the wolves away as they were howling around and we heard other hideous sounds from wild animals. I have heard my Uncle Charley tell how scared my mother was and how she cried at being out there in the wilderness with all of those wild animals, but at last we got to our destination or about three or four miles from there to my father’s sister’s homestead of Raseleus S. McClain. For by then others were taking up homesteads scattered around through the woods. There were no roads, only Indian trails as there were Indians there at the time. I can still remember their coming to our house and that my Mother was afraid of them. Although they were friendly, one in particular used to come so much, he used to say White Squaw afraid of Indian.
I have already said there were no roads. The white men blazed a track by hewing the bark off of the trees on each side and clearing the brush away. But such rough roads as they were, and riding behind oxen, and in a lumber wagon, for that was all they had at the time, was no pleasure ride. Going hump ta bump, first one side of the wagon was up and then the other. Oxen are not very graceful anyway. One would step and then the other; seemed as they never did step together, so kept a continually jolt and jolt going through the woods. For it was all woods, such trees big Monarchs. I have often been homesick for the woods. They were so dense, and filled with ground hemlock in some places, other spots leeks, a strong onion which grew wild in the woods. The settlers used to eat them and call them good either raw or cooked but you would want to keep a safe distance from them for a long time after as they sure perfumed the breath. It was considered healthy and I could readily believe that as no germs could stand the odor. They sure spoiled the butter, and the cows liked them, as the cattle had to run in the woods for feed there was no other way but to let them eat them.
Then there was another wild plant they got that was still worse to my mind. There were wildflowers everywhere, Lily’s, Sweet William’s. Boys and girls as they called them a tiny small pink flower, very fragrant, one other I remember came very early, a wax white yellow center. How I did love to gather wildflowers and the birds were such songsters. The woods were full of them. We heard their music from morn until night. There were some kinds that even sang at night. One kind had a lonesome or mournful noise he made but most of them, especially day birds, beat any radio I ever heard. But the woods are all gone and with it many birds and flowers. There were so many humming birds, butterflies, darning needles too, at that time.
Oh yes, I must not forget to mention the mosquitoes and gnats. I have heard a woman tell of the story she heard of them in New York before coming to Michigan. They said they were so large and thick and a man tried to get away from them, so he got under a large kettle to get way from the mosquitoes (they used them in those days to make soft soap and numerous other things). But the mosquitoes got their bills under and flew away with the kettle. That was just a story but they sure were thick and came in great swarms. The only thing then to do was to build a smudge by taking a dish of some kind and kindle a fire then smother it with dirt to make smoke. They did not like that, I can remember. I did not either as the remedy was as bad as the cure.
But one thing we could do was grow good potatoes. The ground being new and fertilized by the leaves decaying. We grew such potatoes that never grew on any ground I ever seen since. It looked like cord wood to me then. One sometimes would make a meal for a small family. Potatoes were the main food in those pioneer days. I even knew of a man by the name of Norris Clark that lived on them and salt, he seemed to thrive too. Although nowadays they claim it is not good too eat to many potatoes. A good thing they didn’t think so then, for if they had, some would have starved to death with out them.
To be true there were lots of game and fowl. At the time pigeons used to fly over in great flocks. Partridges also were very numerous, deer plentiful. It was nothing to see them feeding along in front of the house, or scamper out in the woods as you went through the blazed track. Everyone was not good at the shot, you had to be a hunter to be able to get game. My father was not a hunter. I do not remember of him ever killing but one deer. I have wondered if that was not accidental as he tried many times and failed. Although he did sometimes kill a partridge or squirrel. Once when I had measles, he killed a partridge for me. I remember I was five or six at that time. We never had doctors in those days. It was impossibly too expensive and too far from a town or city. It took a longtime to go to such a place.
I think it was Traverse City to get groceries usually one neighbor would go, sometimes two together and take several days, nearly a week, they would get groceries that the neighborhood needed. For that time was a time that a neighbor was a friend. They all lived as one and helped each other build each others houses. I remember those ‘bees’ they called them. Such good times. The men hauled the logs together with the ox teams everyone having log houses and barns at that time. They would hew them on two sides and made notches in the ends to hold them together.
I remember hearing of my father tell of the deep snows the first winter he was there and how he had to cut down trees and brush and tramp a road for his cow and oxen to get something to eat for as yet there was nothing else.
Finally he got a small spot cleared which was no small job to cut down those great trees. He built a fence around it made of timber split into rails laid in a fashion to make it strong. First, point one way then the other about six feet high to keep the cattle out of his clearing, that’s what they called it then. The other settlers did likewise so we were getting small settlements all around the woods, but we had to go through the woods to get anywhere and with lumber wagons and oxen, unless we could walk it as we sometimes did, if it was not too far. I remember of going on a visit one time to a Mr. Elijah Smith place a mile and one half away. We, of course, had to go with the oxen and as the cattle run loose outside of the clearings, the cows would follow us. When we wanted to go home one ox had gone on ahead of us so my father yoked up the cow with the ox and, as I remember, we got there all right. I remember how my father used to cut the timber down and let the leaves dry then burn them over and plant right among the logs with out ever doing anything to work up the ground. How I used to love to walk on those trees after he had cut them down and to watch him do it. He notched them in deep the way he wanted them to fall then sawed the rest of the way until they begin to sway back an forth towering away up in the sky seemingly to me. I have not seen any like them for a long time. I used to love the smell of the timber while drying. I remember he always had me stand in a safe place while he was cutting down the great big Monarch and when he saw it begin to sway back and forth he would step around on the other side or run to safety. It was dangerous to fall those trees, you had to know just how to do it.
Well, my father and mother seen hard times indeed, as it was a long way from town, not able to raise much on the small clearing, only a few things, potatoes mostly was the main crop. So, of course, this was the principal diet. One time it was near the point of starvation and as I have said my father was no hunter. No one had been to the nearest town and we needed lots of things we did not have. We still had potatoes we had raised in our little clearing. My Uncle Rascelas S. McClain, at that time, gave us a chunk of venison as he often had done, he being a good hunter and they nearly always had venison. They always used all the meat they could get off, then boiled the bone three times to make gravy to eat on our potatoes. I don’t remember myself but remember hearing my father tell it a good many times since. My father was a great sugar maker and so were most of the other settlers as from the great maple tree they got their sweets. That was all the sugar I knew of in my early days then of course in time we got brown cane we used just for extra occasions. I sure can remember the sugar making times. Usually in the month of March they would tap the trees, drive spikes in a trough shape in the trees then set a wooden buckets under which they made themselves. I have watched my father make them and ox yokes, ax handles lots of times. He also built his own sleds, hewing out the runners by hand. But back to the sugar making. After the buckets were full, my father would yoke up the ox teams, hitch them on a stone boat, and drive all around through the sugar bush gathering up the sap, a sweet water at this time before boiling. Many times after I was older I have helped him, staying to watch it while it was boiling. To keep it from boiling over I would stir it with a paddle for that occasion. I sometimes gathered the sap while he was busy doing something else as I learned to drive oxen, I being the oldest and no boys as yet. Sometimes it would be very late before it was thick enough to take to the house. Then the next day came the fun of sugaring off, as we called it. They had a pan as large as the top of the stove, it usually took all day of steady boiling to get it done thick enough to cake. But before this stage I liked the most when it would wax. We would get pans of snow in when it got to the right stage it would wax, some preferred it stirred into a fudge, I liked the wax best. We would have to eat fast now as it was fast getting to the sugar point. We would grease all our milk pans, basins and dishes and get ready to put the sugar in them while it was yet soft as it would soon harden. We always could turn it out before we needed our pans for milk. We used to make enough to last the year round using it for everything, eating a hunk just as we pleased at our leisure. Especially at night, I usually got some maple sugar to eat before going to bed. Those who were hunters had dried venison to add too that, as there were no apples or other fruit, only berries, at that time. We also had syrup. After the leaves started to spoil the sugar to cake any more, we could make vinegar, a very good vinegar too.
Well, sometime before this, we had not been in the north woods long, there was a baby brother born [George Lawton b. Jul 14, 1872] but never being right was helpless and was a great care for my mother. He lived to be three years old then died.
I being about six at that time and too far from any school although they had a log school house, very small one at that time, two and a half miles from our place through the woods. The roads were a little better but to far for me to go, and nothing to brag of. They used to have school and meetings too in that little log schoolhouse. About that time a man by the name of Umstead, a minister, preaching the doctrine of Holiness and was a new creed at that time. He was a branch of the Methodist Church. The settlers all turned out to hear him, and my father and mother, with the rest. He held meetings for sometime and had some conversations with my father and mother, being among the converts. After having baptismal services down to what they called Dayhuff Lake, named after one of the settlers that lived close to the lake, they joined the First Methodist Church.
I remember those baptismal services well. Afterwards a number, with them, joined the FMC. I also remember how one Sunday my folks had company that had children about my size. They went home with them to stay for night meeting as many had long ways to go home. We were going to play baptize as it was fresh in my mind yet. My father had wheat growing all around the house and we thought that would serve the purpose of the lake, so was using it for that purpose. When my father discovered us and came out we had wallowed down a lot of it. He did not punish me but sure drove us out of there. We didn’t know we were doing any harm.
I think the winter following we moved to Clam Lake which is now called Cadillac, a lumber camp. At the time my Uncle Raseleus S. McClain kept the boarding house. All of the settlement from Meauwataka, an Indian name, from where we lived and some from other settlements were there. Two rows of shantys on one street. I can see that place now, we were eighteen miles from our homestead, a day journey one way with oxen, only one street, a hill at one end we children used for riding down. There must have been a railroad by that time to take the lumber away. I can remember it was a great long ways we came through the forest with great big pine trees after we left the settlement and a most wonderful sight would it be now. All around the Big Clam and Little Clam Lakes were great pine trees, a wealth of gold and some made themselves rich lumbering them off.
I think there must of been a few business places started too, at the time, as I remember having my picture taken. A tintype they called it and I remember how scared I was that I thought that would be the last of me. I thought they would have to fasten me to paper or something to make a picture. The man gave me a small glass full of pretty little things, all colors, to look at and managed to take my picture when I did not know it. I or some of my children still have that picture and I still had the pretty glass of things in my hand. I was six years old at that time but can remember a lot of that old camp and incidents that happened there.
I can remember how our shanty looked where the old cook stove sat an old elevated stove, they all were at the time. I have not seen any for a long time but that was what we had. It served the purpose for both heat and cooking. The floor was very rough and rickety and I do not ever remember whether they were real boards or not. It was far from being a good floor. At any rate it bobbed up and down when we walked over it. I also remember a Rev. Barrett, they nick named him jumping Barrett, that came to visit my folks in that shanty. He was always talking to people on a religious line. My father was feeling rather discouraged at the time, I have heard him tell it, and he was trying to encourage him. My father was telling him a number of things that bothered him and was asked to kneel in prayer. While he prayed for him naming the very things my father had told him making a very simple, child like prayer. My father receiving much good from it and encouragement. I also remember Rev. Barrett getting so filled with the Lords presence and jumping, how those old boards in our floor would spring up and down. He was not much of a preacher, I have heard say, of course I being too young to know, but he sure did a great work for the Lord in that camp as he used to go right out in the woods and talk salvation to them, going from one crew to another. One day at the dinner table he, also being seated at the table with the men, asked to return thanks after singing a hymn, there were so much of the presence of the Lord there the men all shoved back from dinner and bowed in prayer. A great revival broke out in that camp, some I am sure that has made it through to the skies.
In the spring we moved back to the homestead with others doing the same. About this time the first FMC church was built, that also being built of logs was larger than the little school house, our first circuit preacher being there before that and had served for a time. His name was Russell but I do not remember his first name but I have him and his family or wife’s picture. I guess just him and his wife but they had several children. I have heard my father tell what a good preacher and man he was. He also was a good hunter and was able to keep his family in venison which was a great help in the line of eatables. Then I do not remember of any more circuit preacher for a while but one, a preacher by the name of Cusick came and held meetings every once in a while. Then the next man I remember his name was Mudge. They only stayed two years, I think that being the length of time they were bestowed by the conference.
Going back a few years when I was about seven and a half years old my mother [Margaret Jane Harris] had died of what they called T.B. now, a wonderful mother, I have often wished I were as good a Christian. I have seen some of the wonderful manifestations of the Lords power, they can say there is nothing in it if they want to but I know better. I saw my mother at different times do what I call supernatural and miraculous.
I saw her fall with the power of God, out head and shoulders through the church door and though it was pouring down a rain, she did not get a drop wet, neither was she hurt. I remember they had a box stove in the church and I have seen her get so filled with spirit she would jump up so her feet would be above the stove with my crippled brother [George Lawton] in her arms, it made a great impression on me.
I do not believe in wild fire nor in fox fire but I am a strong believer in the Fire of the Holy Ghost. After she was taken sick, my Father sold his cow oxen and made arrangements to go to Big Springs, Ottawa Co., to my Uncle George Harris thinking perhaps if she could get to a doctor maybe they could help her. Now they could, yet then, the one they employed, did not understand her case. They employed another doctor who was both a doctor and a preacher. He being a doctor first and after being called to preach. His name was Getchel, I will likely speak of him later on but he took my mother’s case over and tried to do all he could. He said if he had of had her first to doctor, instead of the other doctor, he could of cured her, but the disease had gone too far by that time. She died crying out many times thinking in her sickness she was in a prayer meeting. A few days before she died, she sent for them to call me over as they were living in another small house close to my uncles. I stayed over to my uncles most of the time on account of her being so sick. I went in to her room, she taking me by the hand, told me as simple and plain as she could, she was going to leave me to go to heaven and for me to be a good girl and meet her there, said she would be waiting for me at the gate. That has always followed me and saved me from many pitfalls and snares in this life and if I live true to the Lord as I expect to, I expect to see her to be one of the first at the gate as she said. While she was dying she requested them to sing a hymn sweeping through the gates. I remember those lonely hours after she was gone, especially nights I would always think when I first went to bed so much about her. She used to punish me sometimes by making me kneel in prayer. That was worse than any other kind of punishment to me as she used to pray for me especially at that time.
After her death I stayed with an aunt sister of my father Aunt Lucinda [Lawton] Peterson then to my Uncle George’s [Harris] for a time. My father had been gone to his homestead at Meauwataka for a time, I can not remember, it seemed a long time to me. Then he came after me to go back to our old home, but as he could not take care of me, left me with his sister Alma McClain [Alma Elizabeth Lawton]. I do not know how long I was there but until my father’s marriage again.
I can remember just how my step mother looked the first time I seen her to church. I thought she was dressed up pretty nice, better than I was used to as she came from New York State. She was dressed better than I even had seen at Big Springs, where my Uncle George’s folks lived. I can even describe just how she was dressed, such a gorgeous hat, everything nice, and the back woods women folks just wore a calico dress. As for the men, some didn’t even have a suit to their name but some came in their every day clothes, best ones too, and even some of the men came barefoot and the children did too. I do not remember as I ever did but my own mother had taken great pains to have me dressed as good as she could with their sparse means. I think I always wore shoes to church, but not everyday, or to school. By the way, I had gone to the same school while my folks were at my uncle’s before my mother died then was out of school after, until he married again.
I had two and a half miles to go through the woods as the little log school was all there was as yet, so had to stayout a part of the time. There were no grades, I did not have certain books but any reader we could get a hold of. Sometimes my studies were way too hard for me and other times they were too easy. I had my old 4th reader learned by heart. I still can speak some of the pieces that I learned but we did not progress, just either had the same over and over or else a reader or other studies way ahead of our comprehension. I remember one teacher putting me from the first arithmetic to the highest old elementary, I think they called it. I did not learn one thing that turn as I can remember. I owe all I do know to four different teachers. Jennie Smith made us sing the multiplication tables so I got what I know of them from her. Another teacher, I can’t remember her name, then one by the name of Myra Nudson was very good in geography. She used to have us draw the different states putting down all the principal cities, rivers and mountains, everything most important. Also learned to repeat the states as they came and the capitals. The next one to mention was a teacher by the name of Sophie Cook. She drilled me in arithmetic, grammar, reading and spelling. She was good in all the studies and very strict also, but those were the ones I learned the most of all from my teachers. I have often wished I had of got a better education, it has been a great hindrance to me all my life.
Before this time a circuit preacher by the name of Devoice was sent there. I think he was there for two years. I have a piece of poetry he composed about the little old log church and the descriptions he gave were perfect. I was about nine years old at the time  but is still fresh in my mind. Of course by then the homesteaders were all getting to be quite the farmers and much better roads, as they now call them. Still nothing to brag about of yet, they were still rough and cordaways in place of bridges where needed. Still great sections of woods here. There were woods on one side of the road and some places both sides of the place. We were living at this time or a year before on Elijah Smith’s place as his wife had died and left a little girl six years old. My stepmother being his sister and with another sister were keeping house for him and taking care of his daughter Blanche, for that was her name at the time of their marriage. My father rented his place, so he had the two places to farm and my stepmother still could look after Blanche. We became fast friends even claimed to be cousins and still remember some of the good times we had swinging in the wagon shed, playing keep house and sliding down hill.
Blanche had bought a sled, mine was one my father had made. I did not think it was near so nice as hers and would not run down hill as good as mine but of course it was not so light. She was very good and would change off once in a while. Hers had a name written on it and mine did not but one day in the winter they had to use my sled to haul water to the house a short distance. My father had me take hold and pull while he pushed. We came to a bump in the path, I slacked up a little while my father pushed a little harder to get over it. The sled tipped spilling the water on my feet. That was funny for him but for me it was different but that made a name for my sled. My father calling it, Tip up and throw water on your heels, quite a long name it had after all. We used to have many a good time though, riding down hill one day in March we were riding down a hill in the field when it was real hard snow frozen with a hard crust on top when Blanche ran into a stump bumping her head hard so she wouldn’t play anymore.
My folks told us we could go a visiting and see a baby cousin of mine. At night, my father came after us, telling us there was a little baby boy at our house and the one that got to him first could have him. When we got into the house there was quite a scamper to see which would win. I got there first so after Blanche looked him over, she said she didn’t care as he had a crunched nose anyway.
We used to go back in the field to a black wild cherry tree, climb it and eat the cherries. That tree is still there and Blanche still lives on the place. We are still dear friends. My father moved back on his own place that spring after my brother was born, they called him Stowell [Stowell Ernest Lawton b. Mar 13, 1879 Meauwataka, Wexford, Michigan]. Blanche’s father had married again to Jennie Dayhuff McClain and was working and living on his place himself and with Blanche with them. It was hard for us to be parted so often we made visits back and forth. In a short time Elijah Smith started a little store in one room of his house. Many were trading there, of course he did not keep everything but some thing’s most needed. It was much better than having to go to Clam Lake or perhaps they were calling it Cadillac by that time. I do not remember just when it became an incorporated city but way too far for a few simple yet needful things the neighborhood had to have.
I was still going to school when I went to the little log school house, but the next summer after my father went back on his own place I was sick all summer so lost that schooling. When we were on the Smith farm, Blanche and I went to another small log school house that had been built then to accommodate the joining neighbors in another settlement. This school was named after the man across the road called John Frisbee. They left after years, I never heard where they went to but lived there for years and was among the first homesteaders. By this time some of the neighbors were using horses but still the ox was used a great deal. Still a great many cattle ran the roads and in the timber for feed in the summer times to save feed for the winter. I do remember of only two farmers that had pasture and they were considered the wealthiest in the settlement. Mr. Elijah Smith and John Cassidy both dead now years ago. John Cassidy’s son Arthur is living on the place his father owned. Mr. Cassidy was a very good successful farmer and by this time both he and Mr. Smith had a large clearing and had done away with the old rail fence for a nice board one along the road. I remember walking on Mr. Cassidy’s fence in the winter time to keep out of the snow and it was so deep those winters and it would be sometime after a storm before the roads were broken and would have to do that or wade in the snow lots of times to my waist. It was all I could do to get through. At those times the teacher used to have us set on some benches close to the stove to dry. By this time they had built a new frame schoolhouse just the other side of Mr. Cassidys and on one corner of the Dayhuff place. That still is there yet and in use.
After my father moved back on his place from the Smith place in the course of time there was another baby brother born, they called him Earl [Earl Chesley Lawton b. Jul 11, 1880 Meauwataka, MI]. Soon after that my father moved on to the Martin place, having rented it. He also having to care of their stock and leaving everything on their place and were going back to some state to visit relatives. I do not remember where, but they had a boy and daughter just a short time between a short time before this. Likely this was one reason for their going. Anyway father had rented their place, and moved into it. I remember it was a much larger house than ours, as was the same with the Smith’s house he rented before.
When my little brother Earl was 14 months he died with Whopping Cough and summer complaint, they called it then. I was a long time getting over that as I took care of him a great deal of the time and thought so much of him. I remember just how lonesome it was and as I saw his little dresser and things scattered around after he was gone how bad I felt. I was between twelve and thirteen at that time. I do not remember how long we were on the Martin place but I do think it was hardly two seasons. I think two winters and one summer then we moved back on my father’s own farm again. Soon a baby sister was born naming her Ethel [Ethel May Lawton b. Oct 23, 1882 Meauwataka, MI].
About that time we had a new circuit preacher by the name of John White who had a baby the age of Ethel. That was the first circuit he had ever been on. The district Elder’s name was Getchell. I do not remember how often he used to come, but now it is every three months. Both the Elder and circuit preacher were grand men and could preach too. Seems as though we do not hear such nowadays. I remember those quarterly meetings when all of the other ministers from every circuit would come with their members with them. Some would come with oxen, some had horses with great loads of them either in lumber wagons or large sleigh loads.
People were not so particular in those days to have everything so nice as they could be. If they could manage to get enough food to satisfy the hunger and a place at all to sleep they were well off. I remember sleeping all over the floor in the little log part of our house, for by this time we had a lean to kitchen. One side roof one window just half of a one, and great big cracks between the boards that let in the cold in the winter, and heat in summer. We used to have to wash dishes on top of the cook stove to keep the water from freezing in cold weather. The big part was warm, and we always ate in there so kept our dining room table in there to serve as both a dining room and sitting room. One small bedroom on one side was used for a sitting room, and an alcove on the other side gave more room to set things. We used that for a bedroom also and this gave us room for a cupboard to sit on, on account that there was no wall for a partition of the bed. Right in front of the bed was a trap door in the floor that went to a small cellar, where our winter vegetables were kept. My Father would bury the vegetables in the pits as they did in those days, so you can imagine we did not have much room besides the heating stove, table, chairs and just what was necessary to be in that room.
At these quarterly meeting occasions we sure did have a crowd. They would come in great loads and seemed as if they or a good many aimed to come to our place. Some way they seemed to like it there, if they did not have things so nice. My Father also liked company and both he and my stepmother both did all they could to make them welcome. My Father also is a prominent member in the Church. In the North Michigan conference they first gave him a license to preach and afterwards a Deacon license although he never took a circuit, he often filled appointments and effectuated in marriages the sacrament so forth. Before this he had been class leader at times and was well versed on the Bible. The book of all books, he could explain the Scripture the better of any one I ever knew, and he made it so plain that even a child most could understand it. He was especially gifted in this way.
Mr. Elijah Smith had now built a new frame house on the corners where the four roads crossed ½ mile from our place and on the extreme corner of his own place. Soon after, he built on a larger store which made it very handy for the people all around. He also kept nearly everything in the line of groceries. Soon he enlarged his store and kept adding to his supplies and also kept some dry goods.
My folks used to trade there a good deal. I remember one time they were in very close circumstances and did not know how to make ends meet when they were coming on a quarterly meeting. My Father and step mother talked it over and decided they just could not keep anyone this time and it came Friday night about 5 o’clock and in drove a big load of people. Of course they were not prepared for them at all, even for one meal. But they made them welcome the best they could. They met in the shed after seating them, and consulted together what was best to do.
My father decided to go to Mr. Smith’s grocery store and get enough groceries to last them through the meeting. We had vegetables and salt pork so while he went to the store, we started supper and that night while our company were gone to the night service, my stepbrother and I stayed home to prepare food for them. I remember we made fried cakes and cookies that night and the next night too. A lot had to sleep on the floor. I, with the rest, had to keep a good fire to keep us warm as we did not have bedding to make so many beds with and it was cold weather. But we got through all right and enjoyed it too. We did not think anything of sleeping on the floor them days as we were used to hardships and I even believe we were happier than people are today.
I remember the camp meetings in those days, they did not have things so nice but every one was so accommodating. If you did not have a tent of your own, you always could find a place to stay for as long as you could crowd under the tent, you were welcome. They would make one long bed on one side by putting two ticks filled with straw the long way of the tick, to the wall, so one would reach clear across the tent on one side and the table on the other the full length. They put curtains up across every so far, so everyone slept crossways to make more room for several families could stay in one tent that way. They cooked out of doors by building a little fire using two crouched sticks with one across to hang a kettle. Every one used iron kettles then and iron skillets too. They would fry meat on the coals.
Some of the men slept in the large tent where they held the meetings in to give room for the women and children. There were no floors in the tents and used the leaves of the trees for carpets or rugs. Of course they tell me we are living in another age, now more modern, but give me the good old times even though there were hardships. But at those camp meetings, the Lord used to meet with them and that was mighty powerful. I have memories of those meetings I expect to carry to my grave. Oh if I only could see such meetings again, people would fall like dead men, unsaved ones at that, and seemly was kept there by the Power of God until they surrendered. When I was nearly 15 years old I remember going with my father, just him and I this time. I being unsaved at that time and several had spoken to me about giving my heart to the Lord. I remember I wished they would leave me alone. But soon an Indian man they called Good John found out and stepped up to me and took hold of my hand and begins to talk to me. All I could understand was Jesus Jesus and the tears were running down his shinning face. It seemed as if it did fairly shine and it seemed as if something like a shot of electricity went through me. It got a hold of me I could not someway get over it. I felt I would be lost if I should die. Finally I did throw it off for a time this of course was in the summer time.
In the early fall Reverend Getchel held a few meetings at Meautaka one night he preached on the subject of the judgement. He made it so real and plain he could hold a crowd spellbound. I again felt a feeling come over me that if I should die I would surely go to Hell. Although I was only 15 years old and had never committed any great sin. I had a temper I knew that. I had a desire to do a lot of things I did not do or could not at that time, as my father was very strict with me. I used to want to go to the sugar parties they had in those days where they played what they would now claim harmless games.
They did not play cards at parties in those days but they did play some games they termed as kissing games as the one that got beat had to kiss a boy or girl to pay ransom. I never ask to go to these parties, as I knew my parents would not consent. Some of the young folks tried to persuade me to tell them I was just going to stay all night with some of my friends and go, but my conscience would never let me. So I have never been to a party and I have never been to a show. I did go to dances after I was married. I will mention later that I have been to one circus in my life and two fairs.
The winter following that camp meeting Reverend John White, the pastor at that time, held a revival in our neighborhood in the new school house as that was where they held there services at that time and as the FMC were the only denomination there. Everyone that went to church attended services and almost everyone attended at that time. For that and the sugar parties were the only place to go. There was good attendance as about everyone except John Cassiday came to those meetings.
Reverend White was a powerful preacher, although yet a young man, he had a big revival, young people and old people both flocked to the altar night after night. The altar was full of seekers, I being one of the first. Old men, one especially I remember that seldom attended church, either was one of the first to go. A good many that were hardened in sin and wickedness giving up their bad habits of drink, tobacco and other things. Good many of these joined the FMC, I being one. Of course they had have a baptismal service before joining the Church which I remember that night after going to the altar. I was also baptized being immersed in Dayhuff Lake. That was a very hard thing for me to do being very timid and extremely bashful and of course was afraid of what others would say and think. But I realized such a change. I remember one old lady I had just hated was there to kneel by my side for prayer. I had often said if I was to go to the altar to be prayed for, I wanted her to stay right away from me. I even did not know or care until after when she was one of the first I saw by my side and I could not feel a bit angry for it was all taken away. I felt such a love for her I surprised myself. I remember on the way home everything looked so different and the next morning the very trees looked as if they were so much brighter the birds sounded sweeter. It seemed as if everything was praising the Lord. I felt impressed to take my Bible and go out and read it and talk to others and tell them and urge them to give there heart to the Lord. This impression became so great that I finely confided in my stepmother. She was a very good woman and I believe a Christian that although she did not have the experience she did afterwards. She likely deemed it a childish notion so discouraged me. It was like throwing a pail of water over me so I tried to give up that nonsense.
Well soon, I think the next summer, we went to another camp meeting at Tristin, Michigan that was another wonderful camp meeting and I was in better shape to enjoy that one. But was so hard for me to do what I felt the Lord wanted me to do on account of being so bashful and timid. But I remember I was out to the 6 o’clock love feast. Every morning that consisted of prayers, a scripture reading by one of the Ministers with singing and testimony by all who wished. One of the times I felt so impressed to get up and testify and tell what the Lord had done for me but it seemed hard. I was so timid but I finely got up on my feet. I had only said but a few words, until a superhuman power took me as it were over the plank seats they then had, to the back of the tent right in front of a fashionable Lady. I remember of exhorting to her for a time and went back and came as I was up in front in the first place. There is something in the real power of God. There are many people who do not believe it today and there were many that did not at that time. Many came to make fun that went away feeling different in those times.
I remember my stepmother was a very quiet reserved woman and did not believe in any noise or Addie in religious matters especially where she was Methodist at that time. They were through with the preaching and we were having our altar service as they usually did at the evening service. A good many were at the altar a crowd had ridden getting just as far front as they could were jesting and making fun. I heard someone exhorting and talking to them quite loud so went through the crowd to see and when I got where I could see, behold it was my stepmother, a man had reached out his hand to touch.
That was the last that my mother Addie Lenora Lawton McClain ever wrote of the life of her folks in “Old Pioneer Days.” She was staying with Lula Lawton McGhan at the time and suffered a stroke and was never very well after that and died about 4 years later in 1944.