Excerpt From Samuel Moore's Memoirs

 

 

Going to church in the early 70’s was real part of our lives.

When we moved to Brimfield, Ill., our trading town 3 ½ miles away, there was no Presbyterian church there, so my grandfather and several other men got together and built a very nice church and parsonage. They planked down $1,000 each and when the church was dedicated it was all paid for.

The people who attended church took their religion more seriously than they do today. They felt that it was their duty to attend church regularly each Sunday if possible—as much as health, roads and weather permitted. They began to get ready on Saturday for Sunday cooking as it was usually from 1:30 to 2 p. m. on Sunday before we got home. They even set the dinner table Saturday evening. Mother would lay out all of our Sunday clothes on the stand ready for us children so that we could dress directly after breakfast because we had to get an early start to drive 3 ½ miles. When the road were good we drove it in three-quarters of an hour but when the roads where bad it took us an hour and a half to two hours.

At the time there were six if us children two were added later. Eight of us went to church in our two-seated buggy. There were few buggies in those days—about one in ten families had one.

Dad would harness and hitch up the team to the rig and then to a shade tree and then dress. It surely took good management to get a bunch of kids ready for church, but Ma always had us all in ship-shape when Dad drove the buggy up to the stoop and called, "All ready!" and out we came and got in were off to church. We were packed in the buggy like sardines in a can.

When we arrived at the church Dad drove up to the church stoop and we all got out. Then each one went to his class in the Sunday school. Our teacher was the elder’s wife. She would get us in a U-shape so she could see all of us and talk to each one. I believe she was a really good woman. I had heard she wore a wig and I had spent a good deal of time figuring out just how she kept it on and looked so well.

My next teacher had quite a history. When a young child I got the low-down on most every bit of scandal. I had heard that this woman had gone to work for quite a prominent man, as his wife had a lingering illness and this girl was there quite awhile. As the story goes she and the man got to running around together and were really mashed on each other before the wife died. In less than three months this old guy married the young girl but I will say she made a good wife and took good care of the first crop of children and raised three of her own.

I would think of her early life when she was teaching us children. I have often thought we just don’t know what a child is thinking about some of the time anyway.

When Sunday school was over we had 15 minute recess. Then each family gathered into certain pews. My grandfather would get a chair and go up near the preacher and sit down, facing the audience and lean his chair back against the wall, put his feet on the front round and then shut his eyes as if he where asleep. He caught every word the preacher said. His daughter said later, "Dad weren’t you asleep all the time the preacher talked?"

He replied sharply: "I was not". Then he commenced (and made her sit there) and repeated the sermon in full to her. She never said anything again to him about sleeping.

Oh my, oh my! I will never forget one old preacher. He would preach for an hour and half. How hungry and thirsty and tired we children got sitting there on those hard seats, and then having to ride 3 ½ miles home before we got anything to eat or drink. His sermons were dry—lots of hell fire and brimstone in them but those old church-goers really were good and most of them practiced what they thought was right.

In the big protracted meetings is where things got hot! In their big sermons they took the sinner by the toenails and shook them over hell fire for their sins. I have covered my head after night after attending, afraid the old devil was in the room looking for me.

Well we will go back to Sunday school again. My teacher told us if we sinned just a little bit we were sure on the road to hell. Then she said, "You children can ask any question you like". I was thinking of the James brothers running wild at the time. I said, "If one goes to hell for those little sins, will they suffer the same as the outlaws that murder a lot of people’? In other words I wanted to know if they had a graduated punishing plan down there. My teacher hesitated and then put it off until next Sunday. But I never did get her answer.

I will say again. We don’t know what is in a child’s mind. I heard Dad tell Ma that the drug store man sold more whiskey than a saloon and sold it to men that needed every cent to feed and clothe their families. I, as a kid knew some of these families. I said to myself "If I ever get a chance at him, I will show him up and it came just 20 years afterwards.

His son, who was a partner, married the old long-winded preacher’s daughter. Then he joined the church and became Sunday school superintendent - he made a good one, too, and was splendid singer. And when he cut loose on "Hold the Fort" etc. the old church just roared. I couldn’t get it off my mind how much whiskey he and his father were selling and starving those poor children and mothers. He sold out to his brother and left town but his father continued to sell booze. I grew up and went into the grain business in this town.

Now this is history: I was elected on the town board. I thought, now was my chance. So at the first meeting of the town council I told them that the illegal voting for saloons or dry had to be stopped. They laughed and all agreed to make me sole judge of election. I will tell the reader the situation at Peoria, Illinois.

Peoria, our county seat, was the biggest manufacturer of whiskey of any town in the world. There were 18 distilleries running from 12,000 to 20,000 gallons of spirits each in 24 hours. They fed 100,00 cattle inside the city limits on the slop in the hard times in 1893. The starving people would go and drink this slop and the police were ordered to shoot anyone staling slop—some were shot. This gang just ran the county as it looked to me.

Well, election day came. I was on the job. The first man to offer to vote was a man I personally knew. I said "………., you have no right to vote here. You have not lived here for 7 years".

He went outside and had a drink and got encouragement to go ahead and vote. He came back and said, "I an going to vote if I go to hell".

I said, "If you vote, you will go to the next door to hell".

He voted.

I had the town marshal put surely hot in there. I had five him in the calaboose and it was men thrown in and the illegal voting stopped. It stirred up the people so the saloons were voted out 3 to 1. At the next meeting this old druggist applied for a whiskey license for $35.00.

I said, "Are you going to grant this license?" They answered in the affirmative. I said, "If you do, I hold the balance of power. I will grant the license to two saloons at $1000 each. It’s not whiskey or no $2000.00, as there will be as much whiskey sold by the drug store as by the saloons. They would get it by the bottle and very poor quality. In this way there would be more drunks than through a saloon".

I sent word to two men and they came and planked down $1,000.00 each. I said. "I should determine how this money shall be spent. I want a fire engine bought for the town". So I was to head the committee to buy one and we did—a nice one for $2,000.00.

Well, of all the town rows you ever heard this was it. One preacher went out to tell my wife what he thought of me voting two saloons into town. She said, "Did you vote the prohibition ticket at the last election"?

He replied he hadn’t and went home. The row soon quieted down but it gave the druggist a big show up as to what he had been doing for years. The five men were taken to the county jail and stayed there all summer. By fall, though a crook in the law in the hands of the gang, they were turned loose. I got a grape-vine notice that when these men got out I would be shot on sight. I at once notified the officers of the law and the men who made the threat.

I said I would shoot any one of the gang and shoot to kill, that made a pass to draw a revolver and I knew every one that was in this threat. They knew I could shoot and would do as I said. I never saw or heard anything more of it. Well, as I said before we don’t know what is in a boy’s head and what it will lead to.

I will get back to the church. We all took our seats in the buggy and home we went and when we got there, out we jumped and to our bedroom. Of course our "Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes and clothes" had to be changed. Oh, how good our bare feet felt. We could stretch out toes out and gosh, I can feel that good, comfortable feeling of my bare feet yet after 70 years. Then we all came down to the dinner Ma got ready Saturday. Dad unhitched the team and fed them and Ma lighted the fire. Oh, oh!—those big Sunday dinners—so much good food! We were all so hungry and needed plenty. It seemed Dad’s dinner blessing was longer than usual—but it wasn’t. My mother was an extra good cook.

After dinner my older sister, the twins and I were ready for a walk over the farm. It was a half mile square. We had laid out our annual spring trip over the farm to gather will flowers. Dad laid down on the lounge to sleep and Ma and the older sister cleared the table and washed the dishes. Now we were on the hunt for wild flowers and the enjoyment of true nature on this spring afternoon. Old Illinois could pull off some beautiful spring days and this was one of them.

Jack and Tip, out dogs were tearing around. They had scented some way that we were going on a walk. Jack was a big yellow and white dog and had been lost from a show. Tip was about one-half as large as Jack. A stream ran from one corner of the farm to the other and some places the wild prairie grass has never been plowed up—it was mostly soggy. We hit out to the far side of the farm where the creek forked and there were about two acres of prairie land that was never burned off. The walk there was a real pleasure.

This little prairie was just as the settlers found it—like you read about. I am sorry that I cannot enumerate the names of the wild flowers—I have forgotten them. But there were prairie lily, Johnny jump-up and I bet there were dozens of different kinds—even wild onions; sour grass had a very good taste. Each of us gathered out own bouquet. Then we went to hunt a skunk den that Dad had told us about. We found it and there were eight little skunks and their mother all were dead. The little ones were really pretty. Dad said he killed them with a 16-foot board and the mother threw its scent up the board 14 feet. There was lots of smell there yet, but it made our flowers smell better when we got away from it.

Each of us got our handful of lowers and then we started home. We walked down along the slough as we called the stream and looked at the little waterfalls and then we almost stepped on a prairie chicken setting on her nest. She ran off, letting on as though she was lame to get us to follow her away from her nest. There were 12 eggs in it. A little father along a meadow lark flew up. We found her nest—there were two eggs in it; there were large cottonwood trees on the forks of one of the sloughs and a pair of crows were building a nest in one of them. We watched them for awhile; they could not have carried straw and sticks any faster.

On a little farther we came to a hedge and our path was alongside of it for a third of a mile. Jack scared up a rabbit and made for the hedge and through it, and Tip, the small dog ran after it, up the other side of the hedge. Jack was on our side. Then the rabbit jumped into the hedge again as Jack passed it and Tip was on the other side. The rabbit jumped into the hedged again as Jack passed it and came back out back towards us, Jack came back after it and Tip was on the other side. The rabbit jumped into the hedge again and Tip passed them and ran up to the orchard and it got away. It was exciting to us kids. We were on our tip-toes, yelling for all we were worth while the dogs were doing real team work.

When we reached home we were hungry as ever but before we ate supper we had to do chores—each one of us had so many to do. This was only one Sunday out of the year, but I will try and tell you about one Sunday we didn’t go to church.

We were all dressed up ready to go and Dad let the team stand in the stable that morning to eat hay and he got himself ready. He had the harnessed.

As he stepped out the door we heard a terrible crash and he looked towards the stable he saw Barney, the big gray horse, come out through the side of the stable backwards, his legs up in the air, carrying 16 feet of the side of the stable with him. He fell into a big hole with water in it. Dad ran out and he jumped over into the mud-hole and grabbed the horse’s head and pulled his nose out of the mud. To keep him from drowning he yelled to me to get some rails so he could prop his head up.

I bought the rails. Oh gosh! I never saw anything like it. Dad over there in that mud-hole with his go-to-meeting britches on and the horse had out new harness on him and was in the mud. Dad had to throw the rails in and pry the horse up so he could get on his side as he was on his back with his legs up in the air. Dad did some loud cussing and I didn’t blame him either. Finally he got the horse up and all of the sights you ever saw—that horse was it. He had the habit of pulling back and getting loose and Dad had put a big rope around his neck, then through the halter. This morning he had pulled back so hard that he had pulled part of the manger out and he couldn’t stop himself when it broke and out through the stable he went—16 feet of it going with him.

Well it was a dirty mess. Dad had to wash the harness off. Then he scrubbed the horse. He soiled his go-to-meeting clothes. You see they had cleaned the stable out for years and threw it out on that side of the stable and each time the fertilizer was hauled out it took a little dirt with it. Finally it got to be a big hole and when it rained it filled up full of water.

We didn’t get to go to church that Sunday and old Barney never pulled back again. Dear reader, don’t you believe Dad had a right to do some cussing and I tell the truth, we kids really were not disappointed that we didn’t get ready to go to church that Sunday.

THE END

 


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