Sunday, March 28, 2010

The History Of Pocomoke by Murray James (2)

In eighteen hundred and twenty-nine, I commenced learning the shoe making trade with my brother. I was then in my fifteenth year. I was very apt, and soon learned to make a boot. During the next year, however, he concluded to leave the City, and he made an engagement with Captain John T. Taylor, of Snow Hill, Worcester County, Maryland, to act as foreman in his shoe and boot factory, in that place.

This event took place in eighteen hundred and thirty, and to me it was an epoch in my history that I shall never forget. I was then turned out on the world to shift for myself, at the age of sixteen, without counsellor or friend to take me by the hand and direct me in the way I should go. It is true my father and mother were then living, but they were living in New Town and I was in the City of Baltimore. I have often thought upon this part of my early history as being marked by the special providence of my great Heavenly Father who watches over the present and future doings of those that are left destitute. I procured board at the house of a kind humane man, for one dollar and twenty-five cents a week. I could make two dollars and fifty cents a week at my trade, consequently I could have, after paying my board, one dollar and twenty-five cents to buy my clothes, shoe findings, and to pay the laundress, and the balance I could have for spending money. This state of things continued until the latter part of the year when my father moved back to the City, and I was again with the family.

In the latter part of eighteen hundred and thirty-one, my father died and was buried in a Roman Catholic Cemetery, in the western part of the city of Baltimore. Early in eighteen hundred and thirty-two, my mother, with her three A Brief History of the Author's Life. 15 youngest children moved back again to New Town, and I was left in the city. I was then in the eighteenth year of my age. I was ambitious to excel at my trade, and in order to be a proficient, I went under instructions with one of the best workmen in the city, and boarded with him. I soon became master of my own trade and could hold a seat of stitched boots in any of the best shops in the City. But this prosperity at my trade, was attended with a series of wickedness that ought to be truly alarming.

My association was entirely of a vicious character. In those large shoe- maker boarding houses there would be sometimes as high as fifteen or twenty men upon their benches, strewed around the room. In such a company there must be entertainment, and scarcely, without an exception it would be of a vicious character. The bottle of liquor would be in the middle of the floor; the singing those songs and telling yarns which had an immoral tendency. Then theatre going, ten-pin alleys visited, gambling saloons tarried at> frequently, till after midnight. I have, since, often wondered at the alarming progress I was making, in fixing my habits that, without some interposition, would end in my utter ruin. In eighteen hundred and thirty-three, my brother, who had established himself in business in Snow Hill, wrote to me to come and work for him.

This was a providential door opened to me, for which I have, ever since, had great cause to be thankful. I was, by accepting this invitation, lifted out of my old associations, and placed in an entirely new element of society: I held on, however, to my old habits of swearing, gambling and tobacco chewing. In the winter of 1843 and 1844, there was a great revival of religion, in the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Snow Hill. I was provi- dentially brought under its gracious influence. Before this, how- ever, I would argue Roman Catholicism with the Methodists, yet I believed they were under some blessed influence to which I was a stranger. This conviction was the result of my observation of their godly walk, their chaste conversation, and their acclamations 16 A Brief History of the Author's Life. of joy in their religious meetings. The leading men engaged in conducting that revival were Mathew Sorin and Shepherd Draine. These were the ministers on the circuit. Stephen Town- send, ;t ft envards Doctor Townscnd, of the Philadelphia Conference ; Ephraim Mathews, father of I. T. Matthews, Esq., who is the present clerk of the county ; George Hudson, who was for many years clerk in the office of the Register of "Wills for "Worcester Count}' ; and Levi Nelson, a boot and shoe maker. These men commanded my highest respect. I could not gainsay their Chris- tianity in any particular. I often wondered at their kind and gentle bearing towards me.

Notwithstanding, I attended their meetings regularly, yet I would avoid those men by taking a seat in the rear of the congregation. They would, however, find me out, and by their kindly, gentle course would persuade me to go up and mingle in the congregation. "With unabated love I have often thought of those men, when they would come to me some- times, la} r their hands upon my head, though hot a word would be spoken, and weep over me. This was more than I could bear. I thought if I did not } T ield to such loving entreaties as this, I ought to go to Hell. I determined to make an unconditional surrender of myself to God. I was ignorant of the ways of God and the Gospel plan of Salvation. I submitted to be taught like a child. I bowed at the altar. I deplored and confessed my sins, the more I prayed, and contemplated my condition, the more I saw myself a lost sinner, my feelings became intolerable. I sought the Lord day and night without intermission except when I was asleep. This was a long, dark, dark night of experience to me, but finally in fixing my eyes upon the da3 T star from on high 4 the day-light of pardon, peace and jo} r broke into my soul. Before this I was decidedly opposed to making any ado about religion. I said if I embraced it I would let the people see how decently and in order I could get it. But oh ! how foolish I was. I was as ignorant as a beast before the Lord. "When I received the witness of pardon and my A Brief History of the Author's Life. 17 acceptance with the Lord, I was lost in praise, and thought of nothing but Jesus and his love to ine, and shouted aloud before a large congregation the veritable experience of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Though this experience was realized nearly fifty years ago, yet to this day it is unspeakable, it was Christ in me the hope of glory. I was truly convinced that I was as thoroughly changed in my spiritual nature as that I had a being, and the savor of the good, I then received, I have to this day. A new life then opened up to me. I broke off my old habits at a stroke, excepting tobacco chewing, which I did not then realize to be inconsistant with a profession of Christianity.

I can say, since that day I have studiously avoided all those places in which I previously took delight, places where God was not honored. During eighteen hundred and thirty-four I returned to Baltimore and worked at my trade. An event occurred that year which liked to have cost me my life. There was a mob raised upon the breaking of the old Maryland Bank. The spite of the mob was directed to the officers of the Bank, such as Reverdy Johnson, John Glenn and others. It commenced operations on Saturday night. I had finished my day's work and had eaten ray supper and walked down town. I discovered their aim was at Reverdy Johnson's house, on Monument Square. A guard was already posted across Calvert street, on the North side of Baltimore street. As I came along I was requested to volunteer.

I did so, and about twelve o'clock, while fighting the mob, I was struck in the fore- head with a stone which cut through my hat and cut my head about an inch long. I was knocked down as quick as if I had been shot. My wound was examined and pronounced not dan- gerous, and I was placed on the retired list. No changes occurred in my life, but such as are of common occurrence until eighteen hundred and thirty-six. In the first of January of that year, I established myself in the boot and shoe business, in New Town. I was in the twenty-second year of my age.

Up to this date my 18 A Brief History of the Author's Life. education was of the most superficial character. With the excep- tion of a few weeks, I had not gone to school since I was thirteen years old. I could, however, at that date read, write and cipher some. I understood the multiplication table up to the twelfth line, the four fundamental rules in arithmetic, was somewhat aquainted with the single and double rule of Three, and Practice, and was a tolerably good speller. This was the ultimatum of my schooling until I was twenty-two years of age. During that year, by some casuality, Kirkham's grammar fell into my hands. It was a dead science to me.

I took the book, however, to a friend and desired him to °;ive me some insight of it, he did so, and Ibecranto understand it, and I was so ambitious to improve my education that I went to school two months, to a good scholar. I confined my studies chiefly to English grammar and geography, and with- out any praise to myself, I soon stood at the head of the grammar class.

This was the result of two considerations : first, I had a longing desire for knowledge, and secondly I was at a more mature age to receive instructions than the younger scholars. After this I would carry my book in my pocket as I would walk the street, or have it on the bench while I would be at work, and would parse everything that came under my observation. On the 11th day of January, 1838, 1 was married to Mrs. Mary Atkinson, widow of Thomas D. Atkinson, deceased. Her maiden name was Long, she was the daughter of Josiah and Sally Long. In this instance I assumed a responsibility for which I was scarcely adequate.

I was poor, and to support a large family from the beginning with no other means but my trade was no small under- taking. Yet I succeeded, by good management to provide, in some little degree, things convenient. In the course of a few years my health became so impaired by sedentary life, that I was induced to make a change.

I commenced farming in a small way until 1849 Prior to the above date I had served two terms as justice of the peace, and when the Magistrates Court was established 1 was A Brief History of the Author's Life. 19 appointed chief judge of this district, but refused to accept the appointment. During the time of which I am writing I was serving the Church as class leader, recording steward and local preacher. Up to 1849 all my children were born, and my second son James Henry was dead. At the above date I leased a farm, four and a half miles in the country ; the farm was poor and I was told that I would starve on it, but by careful management, after living on it four years, and living well too, I had gained four hundred dollars. While on the farm I would ride to town of a night, after the day's work would be over, lead class and return home. During my sojourn on the farm, an event occurred, which has ever since been a source of congratulation. It was my aban- donment of the use of tobacco.

This may seem to some persons a very small matter, but to me it was of vast moment. I had had, for many years, misgivings with regard to the propriety of its use. I had sought to justify myself by all possible considerations, chief among them was the example of christian men and christian min- isters, some of the highest dignitaries of the Church in the habitual use of tobacco. I dared not unchristian ize them, some of them were, in other respects way marks to the better land, and if they can use it why not I? This was a powerful argument for me to continue its use. Another consideration in favor of its contin- uance, was the fact that I commenced at such an early day, when I embraced Christianity and knew I was accepted of rny gracious Heavenly Father, I was still using it. But notwithstanding all these considerations, I still had my misgivings when I read the precious word of truth and considered that cleanliness was an attribute of godliness.

I reasoned, also, that in many instances, if not all, tobacco was unhealthy in its use, and that our money was a precious talent to be used in a proper way, and not to be used in feeding a debased and an unnatural appetite. I bad made, probably, a hundred attempts to quit its use, ahd as many times failed. But in this last effort I succeeded, and one great induce- 20 A Brief History of the Author's Life. ment urging me on was the bad example I was setting my children, for how could I tell them not to use it when I was using it myself | Another event took place while I was on the farm, which has been the greatest pleasure to me. It was a revival of religion, at Swansgut Methodist Episcopal Church, in which about fifty persons professed religion, and there was no other instru- mentality employed in it but the Rev. John Hersey, of precious memory, and the writer. In 1852, 1 served as one of the assessors of Worcester County. At the close of 1853, 1 moved back to New Town, and in 1854, 1 embarked in the steam saw mill business, but had not more than got the mill in running order before I discovered that I had made a mistake, and I determined to sell out as soon as an opportunity presented itself It was not long before I had an offer for my interest in the mill, and I sold out with a loss of about three hundred dollars. Some thought I was fickle in this instance, but I had made up my mind to get out of the mill, and the sequel showed the wisdom of the act. I had invested but a few hundred dollais which I had been gathering together for between fifteen and twenty years by hard work, and had I continued in the mill I should have lost all. In reviewing the history of this incident, there is cause for praise to my Heavenly Father, and admiration of this special providence over me. At the close of 1856, 1 removed to Somerset County, on a farm which I had purchased of Hon. Isaac D. Jones.

I now began to think that I should be settled in life. I had moved about so much that I desired that this should be the last time until I would go to my long home. But I had not been on the farm two years before circumstances were brought to bear upon me, which caused a change. I owed one-third of the purchase money on the farm, but I had that all secured, and could have had such time as would be convenient for me to pay it in. But I was in debt to the merchant, mechanic, school teacher, Arc. I had made a good crop of corn and oats, and would be amply able to pay all such bills if I could bold on to my produce A Brief History of the Authors Life. 21 until such seasons of the year in which it would bring the best price. As soon as ray crops were made, the payment of those bills was called for, and, generally speaking at that season, the price of grain is the lowest. It was in vain to expostulate, and the officer was paying me visits. I began to see more clearly than ever before, that what I had was not mine while I was in debt, but that I was simply an agent in the hands of my creditors, to obey their wishes at what time and whenever they said pay. I had always been in debt, from the date of my marriage up to the time of which I am writing, and I thought I could see clearly, if possible, a thousand ways in which I had suffered by the credit system.

I thought it was my only hope of success to abandon the credit system, to get out of this dirty pool. I was resolved upon it if it broke me. I had an offer for my farm at an advanced price and I sold it, sold out my stock and grain, paid all I owed, turned over a new leaf and seemingly commenced life square for the first time. After this I moved back to New Town, and I soon discovered the benefit of such a change. When I would go into a store to buy anything, the merchant knew that he was going to get the money, and with- out any word from me the price of the article would be put down at the lowest figures.

I now began to get along better than ever before. I need buy, now, only such things as I needed and if I could not get them at one place, I could go to another. Whereas under the credit system, I would be compelled to deal at certain places, and pay whatever prices they charged, and if that store at which I was dealing did not have the article I wanted, it was frequently the case that something else would, though not answering so well, have to be taken in lieu and probably at a greater price.

In 1861,1 was appointed post-master, under the administration of Abraham Lincoln, and served in that capacity until 1866 when I was removed under the administration of Andrew Johnson. In 1867, 1 was ordained a Deacon by the impo- sition of the hands of Bishop Simpson, at the Philadelphia Con- 22 A Brief History
For I had often heard the remark that they that own a farm and sell it to goto merchandising would never own another. I bought my goods for cash and was prepared to sell as low as the lowest. I would not go into any ring or form any combination, but sold goods on my own convictions, and as a general thing sold for cash and would not let a customer go out of the store with his mone y if it was possible to reach him in the price of the article and I generally got his money and he got the goods. During the first two years, the price of goods was steadily on the rise, and dry goods went up one hundred per cent, in six months after I made my first purchase, so that I could wholesale to some of the merchants at a lower price than they could buy for iD the city, and still make a heavy profit. During this period I was so fearful that I would become a bankrupt that I would invoice every few months, and the result would show that I was whole footed, and so I became more careless. At the end of two years goods had reached their highest point in price, and the crisis came, and the after part of my mercantile life was like Pharaoh's dream, it ate up pretty much all that I had made in the years preceding, but after all, when I sold out, I came out as good as when I went into the business. In I860, 1 was employed by the Rev. Solomon Cooper, Presiding Elder of the District, to serve as Junior Preacher, on Church Creek Circuit, in Dorchester County.

This may be considered the beginning of my life as a traveling Preacher, although I had preached at different places before and, many times at all the appointments on the circuit where I live, and had served the Church in every capacity, as Class-Leader, Exhorter, Trustee, Recording Steward and Local Preacher.

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