Here to return to
I WAS in that part of Maryland which Whittier describes in his “Barbara Frietchie” — a region of “meadows rich with corn,” of “green-walled hills,” and of orchards “fair as the garden of the Lord.” Nevertheless, when I rambled out from one of the larger places into this bounteous farm region, I felt no especial disposition to linger, but went on and on until I came to where the billowing fields of wheat and corn began to merge into woodland, with a sturdy mountain ridge rising in the near distance. Here was a quaint, scattered, old-fashioned village, Smoketown by name, and I fell in love with it at first sight. Many of the houses were of logs, and certain of the rickety sheds and barns were thatched with rye straw. The public buildings included two plain, spireless churches, a schoolhouse, and a store.
I had loitered along through the village to its farther borders when a dash of rain made me hasten to seek shelter in an adjacent log house. A sunbonnetted woman welcomed me into the kitchen and gave me a chair which I took care to place near the open door, for the odors of the apartment were rather dubious. There was one other room on the ground floor, and some sort of a low, cramped sleeping-place over head. Out in the yard were two small children. The increasing rain had put a stop to their play and made them want to come in, but they regarded me as an ogre in their path and stood looking from a safe distance. Nor would they come in when their mother ordered them to do so, and she had to go out and fetch them one at a time.
The storm soon became quite fierce, rain fell in torrents, and there was an ominous gloom brightened momentarily by flashes of lightening, and the thunder boomed and muttered, while through it all the numerous flies in the kitchen buzzed monotonously. The furnishings of the room were meagre and the walls unpapered. A board partition separated it from the next room. There were three carpet-rag rugs on the floor. “I hooked them when I was at home before I was married,” said the woman, by which she did not mean that she had stolen them, but referred to the process of making.
On the walls hung a lantern, a broken mirror, an advertising calendar, and two patent medicine almanacs. The older child climbed on the table and got the almanacs, whereat the younger protested vehemently that one was his.
“Now you get down there,” the mother ordered, and she restored quiet by seating herself in a rocking-chair, taking in her lap the baby, as she called the smaller urchin, and giving him his almanac.
“Solly can’t have your book,” she said.
I could look out of the door and see a long line of crocks turned bottom upward on the garden palings, and I made some comment on them that elicited the information that the family kept their “spreadin’s and such things in ‘em.”
“And what are spreadin’s?” I inquired.
She glanced toward me, surprised at my ignorance, and said: “Why! them are apple butter and peach butter and jellies and preserves. Yes, sir, we spread ‘em on our bread, but we use cow’s butter, too, usually. Some of ‘em we put in glasses, but if you want to make right smart, glasses cost too much. The crocks hold a gallon. Do you make apple-butter where you live? No? What do you do with your specked apples then?
“We raise lots of peaches. My! we had an awful crop last year and cleared eleven hundred dollars, but we had to give half of that to the man who owns the land. Fruit and berries are the main crops here on the mountain. You’ll find very little wheat, and we only grow enough corn to fatten our hogs in the fall. Our peach trees got quite a setback last winter. It was so everlastingly cold the bark was bursted off of ‘em, and a good many was killed dead.
“Land is sellin’ terrible dear around here. The man who lives jus’ down the road from us asks three thousand dollars for that place of hisn, and he’ll get what he asks one of these times, too. Somebody will come along and buy it. There’s forty acres, but it’s growed up bad to briars and bushes, and the buyer’ll have to clear off a mess of rocks and blast out stumps or plough around ‘em. The house is a little old log house like this one, and the stable is ready to fall down any time — ‘tain’t no good.
“Mrs. Cromer sold her place the other day. She’s a widow woman. Her man died long ago. There was only a small house, and not more than an acre of land, and you could n’t farm all of that it was so wet, and yet she got nine hundred dollars. A man who cuts tombstones bought it. He said rents were so high in the town he could live cheaper out here, and, besides, his children would have a chance to earn something pickin’ berries.
“When the black raspberries are ripenin’ fastest we pick fifteen or twenty crates every other day, and they raise lots of ‘em on the mountain farms all along. We have to board our hired pickers, and some keep ‘em over night yet. Often we get men from the railroad. They could earn two and a half and three dollars a day harvesting wheat, but they’d sooner pick berries. We have to pay the pickers a cent and a half a basket and furnish their dinner. It’s kind o’ hard farmin’ when help is so dear. You can’t get hands any more at less’n a dollar a day. Most men would sooner work in a shop. I have to get three breakfasts when we have hired help. The regular time for breakfast is five o’clock, but we are all done with ourn and ready to go to the field before the hands come for them. After they finish I have to get breakfast for the children. We have dinner at half-past eleven, and supper at half-past four. It’s very seldom that the big ones eat again until the next morning, but the children gen’rally have something just before they go to bed.
“The men you hire are always ready to quit at sundown, but a man that’s workin’ for himself has to put in a good deal longer day than that, specially if he’s going to market. There’s three market days each week, and we start at midnight, or by one or two o’clock. You see we got eight miles to pull. The load has to be made ready, and a man don’t get much sleep the night before a market day — only an hour or hour and a half. It’s a lonesome road, though of course lots of wagons travel it on the way to market, and may be five or six will string along together. At one place on the pike a good many people have been robbed. It’s in between two hills where there are no houses. One time a cousin of mine — Charlie, his name is — was going to market, and he was asleep on his wagon. It was Monday night, and on the night before he’d been to see a girl; so he had n’t had much sleep for quite a while. His horse stopped, and he woke up, and there was a man standin’ right at the horse’s head. Charlie said it looked like the man had gray hair and a gray beard. The horse Charlie drove was blind, and if she was hit with the lines she’d jump, and away she’d go. It did scare Charlie like sixty, and he hit the horse with the lines, and off she went like a streak, and you betcher he got to town pretty quick.
In the garden
“The earlier you hit the market the better it is for you. Seems like the rich people and all try to get down on the market as early as they can to have first choice from the produce before it’s been picked over, and lots of farmers are sold out by seven o’clock. The buyers are there as soon as it gets good daylight. Everything is fixed so the market is the best place to buy the nicest produce. Wholesale men dassen’t come to buy there., It’s against the law; and the farmers are not allowed to go and peddle the town from house to house until after ten.
“An inspector is there every market day, and your butter can’t be under weight — not a wee bit — or he takes it.
“I never was on the market but seven or eight times. I don’t like it. I don’t like the way people does you. Often sales are slow, and you have to stand a long time, and you feel sleepy and cranky from losin’ so much of your rest the night before. It may be that one day you’ll get a good price and people will buy straight along, and the next day the price is perhaps most awful low. I’ve sold berries for five cents a quart, a’ready. The customers want to make out they’re poor and ain’t got money to pay what you ask. They tell you some other person has got the same stuff cheaper or nicer. Very few will pay your price until they go up and down the market a couple of times. They’ll stand there five minutes and jew you and root all through your produce, and even then won’t take anything, but will turn up their snoot and go along.
“Sometimes they want you to trust ‘em, but by Jiminy! if you do they tell one another, and they all want to be trusted. The trouble is you don’t get your money for so long. We trusted a couple last year — a storekeeper and a woman — and we’ve run after ‘em and run after ‘em. We did get a dollar out of the woman, but she still owes another dollar. The storekeeper died in the spring and his business broke up. We tried to collect from his widow, but she said she did n’t pay his debts.
“You can sell most anything at the market — don’t matter what it is. We make potato chips and these hyar what you call crullers to sell, and we bake bread to take, and we sell buttermilk. Saturday is a great day for selling flowers. We carry garden flowers, and we pick wild-flowers and make bouquets. When the arbutus is in blossom we can sell it at five cents a bunch as fast as we can hand it out.
“One man here makes a business of getting things out of the woods, and he’s at the market with ‘em every Saturday. He don’t raise none of the stuff, but gathers it all up wild. His name is Bud Lester. He lives in what used to be a schoolhouse, but he has divided it off so there’s three rooms in it now. People along the mountain don’t care much what sort of a house they live in just so they keep dry and warm. Bud has got ten children and they’re pretty near all small, but he dresses ‘em real nice for that many. Oh, he makes a good living. He’ll dig the horse radish that grows wild in the little meadows and grates it and puts it up in baking powder tumblers. Sassafras is another thing he gets. He digs that there in the woods. Even freezing weather and snow on the ground don’t stop him. He digs it anyhow. Late in the year he makes laurel wreaths, and cuts small cedars for Christmas. I’ve seen him sellin’ mistletoe, but I don’t know just edzactly where he gets it at. I saw him come down with a bagful of fern last week. It don’t take a very large bunch for five cents. He digs ‘em up root and all so people can plant ‘em in their yards, and for the biggest and nicest bunches he gets forty or fifty cents. He sells bouquets of black-eyed Susan, and wild carrot, and dogwood, and such flowers. All winter he picks watercress that grows on the spring branches. There’s plenty of it now, but it’s gone to seed and has too many snails and bugs on it. He can’t get much from the woods right in the dead summer time, and he has to hire out some then. You’ll find him doing odd jobs around till after corn-cutting and husking are done. But he’s a man that wants to make money without workin’, and often he’s goin’ through the mountains huntin’ gold when he might be earnin’ good wages.”
By this time the storm had passed on, and the sun began to glimmer through the breaking clouds. I called the woman’s attention to the jubilant singing of the birds.
“Them birds are in our cherry trees,” was her comment. “That’s the reason they are singin’ so. Up the hill we’ve got some of these hyar white cherries, and they’re nice. There’s a whole lot of meat, and only a little bit of a seed. But the birds take nearly all of ‘em. Are you thinkin’ of startin’ now?” she asked, as I rose to go. “Well, the shower is over, but they say if you get a storm in the morning you’ll get one in the afternoon. That pretty near always comes true, too.”
The outdoor world was thoroughly water-soaked. However, a breeze soon shook the lingering drops from the tree foliage, and a hot, bright sun dried off the grass and the ground, and only in the ruts and hollows of the road did there continue to be pools and mud.
I presently left Smoketown and betook myself to a byway that skirted the mountain. It was a narrow, unfenced road through a park-like forest of stately oak, hickory, and chestnut trees. After tramping several miles I suddenly emerged in a forlorn little hamlet, which, with its small log houses huddling close along the stony main highways and half-wild lanes, seemed a remnant of some former rude civilization. Back of the village loomed the highest part of the mountain, crowned by a gloomy ledge known as Black Rock. The hamlet itself was called Bagtown. One of the men I met told me how it got its name. “This has been an old settled place for years,” he said, “and every fellow who lived here in the early days, when he went to Beaver Crick, where the nearest store was, brought home some provisions in a bag. There was n’t nobody hardly kept horses, and they went back and forth on foot. A stranger happened to be here one time, and he see that all the men comin’ from Beaver Crick carried bags, and he said, ‘Well, this is certainly Bag-town;’ and it has gone by that name ever since. The next village north on this mountain road is Jugtown. There they used to come home carrying jugs instead of bags.”
The afternoon was drawing to a close, and I returned to the lowlands and began to seek lodging for the night. My appeals at the farmhouses met with a cold response. The people were wholly unsympathetic and took not the slightest interest in my plight. They would go right on with their work and scarcely bestow a glance on me or offer any help in the way of suggestion. The truth of the matter was that, though their environment was seemingly secluded, and their homes primitively rustic, the people were rich. They had no fellow-feeling for a roving stranger.
I was plodding on discouraged by continued rebuffs when I observed a young fellow, a little aside from the highway, watering a horse in a stream that flowed through an outlying portion of a barnyard. Once more I ventured a request for lodging, and this time the response held a ray of hope. They sometimes kept travellers, and perhaps they would keep me, but I would have to go up to the barn and ask “Pop.” I went through the straw-strewn yard to the barn and interviewed “Pop,” who in turn referred me to the women at the house, and they, after warning me that “everything was all torn up” in house-cleaning operations, agreed that I might stay.
The house was a massive structure of stone backed up against a steep hill, and its surroundings were quite idyllic. Several enormous, thick-foliaged willows shadowed it, and it had a very inviting aspect of cool comfort and repose. In front was a narrow, grassy yard, across which a roughly flagged path led through a gate to the same stream that a few rods farther on invaded a corner of the barnyard. At the edge of the stream, beyond the gate, was a platform, and a dam just below made a pool which served as a washing-place. Along the pool’s muddy borders were some lively colonies of polliwogs, or “mulligrubs” as they were called locally. Close by was a bench with soap and a basin on it, but the men and children preferred to resort to the platform and stoop and wash their hands and faces with a copious splashing of the water. The women used the bench, as a rule, though they often did minor washing of garments right in the pool.
For drinking water they depended on a wonderful spring that came forth from the earth at the foot of the hill, between the house and the barn, and flowed away a full-fledged crystal brook. The spring’s broad expanse was stoutly walled about, and two or three steps led down to it. On the verge of the brook was the springhouse in which the milk, cream, and butter were kept in stone or metal receptacles standing right in the cool water. In this vicinity, too, was the washhouse with its ponderous chimney at one end and an open fireplace inside. After the heat and stress of the day it was delightful to sit on the porch of this pleasant old mansion and hear the murmur of the stream, and the clear call of a Bob White off across a neighboring pasture field, and the domestic sounds indoors and out, and to watch the bevies of twittering swallows darting hither and thither above the trees and roofs, and the fowls and dogs and cats with which the place was populous, and the workers coming and going about their tasks.
The family consisted of a man and his wife, their son and daughter-in-law, and two small boys and a baby. By and by the farmer came to the house and brought out a United Brethren religious weekly for me to read, but its pages looked so glum and serious that I did little more than glance it through. Now and then I had a chance to chat with the women as they were getting supper.
“It’s nothing but cook and eat, cook and eat,” the older woman said with a sigh. “There’s lots of work on a big place like this, and it keeps a body hustling around. We’ve got a good bit over two hundred acres, and we harvest nice big crops of corn and hay and wheat. Oh my! we’re goin’ to have a fine crop of wheat this year if nothin’ happens to it. This farm dates back an awful ways. The house was built when there was only woods here. It’s very well situated to be comfortable no matter what the weather is. Last winter was won’erful cold — colder than was ever known by any of our old people; but we were protected by this hill on the north side of the house. In summer the water and the willow trees help to keep us cool. I have a heap of company then. Saturday week we’re goin’ to have a little setout here for our Sunday-school. Well, supper’s ready.”
After considerable effort she got the members of the family together, and we ate. Then the women took their pails and went to the barnyard to milk, and I soon followed them and looked on from outside of the high rail fence. The two small boys lingered at the gate. The lesser one was a little toad of a fellow who was always tumbling down, and he was tired and sleepy so that he often had a spell of squalling, and his mother had to give him her attention to comfort him. The youngsters wore shoes, but no stockings. Overalls, shirt, and a straw hat turned up behind made up the rest of their costume. Presently the larger boy took off his shoes and amused himself by throwing them around till one of them went down the hill into the stream, whence I rescued it.
Coming from the spring
The sun had set, and the dusk was thickening into night. Two turkeys flew up with a great flutter to roost in one of the trees. Several of the neighbor’s boys were wandering about in the pasture meadow opposite the house. “They’re lookin’ for their goslings,” the shoeless boy said, “but I reckon the goslings have gone up the crick.”
There were five cows chewing their cud in a corner of the barnyard near a dilapidated but still sizable straw heap. The older woman stood and leaned against the cow she was milking. The younger sat on her heels. They put their pails on the ground.
“Very few men around here does any milking,” the former said. “Lots of ‘em don’t know how. Just after we were married we spent a year in Illinois and hired out on a farm. The men there thought it was a terrible thing for a woman to milk, but I said to ‘em, ‘I don’t want any milk that you fellers milk.’ I did n’t like the way they slopped and sloshed around; and they’d curry the horses and go to milking without ever washing their hands. There were no boys in my father’s family, and we girls did the housework and helped Paw, too. I could drive a six horse team. I wa’n’t the sort to lay around not doin’ anythin’, but, my goodness! them Illinois women looked lazy to me. The farmer we worked for was an old bach, and he said to my man, when we left him, ‘I’ll give you a horse and buggy and ten dollars if you’ll git me a wife like yours.’”
This evening her man had driven away on some errand. Harry, the son, busied himself feeding the horses and the “shoats.” Alice, his wife, called to him that she had cut her finger and wanted him to take her place, but he did not. She only milked one cow, and that an “easy” one. Her energetic mother-in-law milked the other four and then hurried down to the springhouse, where six cats were awaiting her coming. They purred ingratiatingly, and she “slopped off” some of the warm frothy milk from the top of one of the brimming pails into a dish for them. The pails were soon emptied into the proper receptacles, and she swashed them in the brook and hung them on some pegs to dry. That done, she went to the house and tidied herself up. “I’m goin’ over to our church at Smoketown practisin’ tonight,” she said. “We’re gettin’ ready for a special service next Sunday.”
Three young people had come in from the neighbors, and one of them, a young woman with a music book under her arm, went with the farmer’s wife to the practisin’. The others were a neat young girl and a barefooted boy in overalls. Alice showed them the baby. “He’s got Harry’s frown and my complection,” she said; “and just look at how big his feet are — ten cent shoes won’t do for him a great while. I’ve just got the two boys off to bed. I tell you what, I’m kept busy now. Clarence ain’t much more than a baby, and it’s about all one person wants to do to look after him. Perhaps you think he can’t travel fast, but he’s out of sight in no time. Yesterday he and David were at the spring suckin’ water through straws, and he fell in head over heels. The water was just up to his neck.”
“Who does the milking at your house now, Grace?” Harry inquired.
“I milk three cows,” Grace replied, “and Maw milks three and Tommy here milks one. Wes’ used to help, but he’s got above milkin’ since he put on long pants and joined the church. You know he got religion lately at the big meetin’ at the Beaver Crick Disciples Church. We all went every evenin’ and I’d go to bed so tired they’d have to call me ‘bout a dozen times before I’d get up in the mornin’.”
“What is a big meeting?” I asked.
In response Alice said: “It’s a revival meeting — that’s the right pronounciation of it. ‘Twas only last Sunday night that it broke up. They’d been havin’ it for two weeks.”
“There was fifteen converts, I think,” observed Tommy.
“Naw, sir, more than fifteen,” Harry declared, and he named them one by one and counted them up on his fingers.
“I’m goin’ up home to stay a while soon,” Alice remarked. “They want me to help pick berries.”
“Her father’s a trucker and lives on the mountain,” Harry explained to me.
“He says he don’t know where he’s goin’ to get pickers at,” Alice continued, “but there’s a good many just in our family, and it’s our way to all take hold and help. Even my brother Ned’s little girl helps. She was only three last year, but she would pick right along with her mother, two boxes in the forenoon and two in the afternoon. That was her idea of what she ought to do, and as soon as the two boxes were full she’d quit.
I picked one hundred and forty-three quarts of black raspberries one day. Ned picked the other side of my row, and he carried out all my berries with his’n, or I would n’t have picked so many. I commenced that morning ‘bout five o’clock and kept at it on into the evening till I could n’t see to pick a bush clean. It threw Ned back carryin’ out the boxes or he’d have picked more than I did. He can beat me all to pieces. He’s got a sleight of hand at it, but, as papa says, his berries don’t look as nice as mine. In his hurry he grabs off red ones, and he don’t fill up his boxes like mine.
“Papa ain’t one who makes you work too hard. You don’t have to get back to pickin’ tireckly after dinner, but can rest half or three-quarters of an hour while the men are takin’ the berries into the smokehouse. But of course we don’t stop if it looks like a gust was comin’ on. After supper some of us have to wash the dishes and take care of the peepies and milk the cows, and only a few go out picking.
“Last year papa’s raspberries were like good big marbles. I’d rather pick ‘em than strawberries. You don’t have to stoop so much and don’t get so wet in the dew. We don’t have many strawberries on this place, and today we bought some. I’m kind o’ sorry we did. We got ‘em of a Bagtown man, and every time he says a word he spits. I’m afraid the berries are not clean.”
Harry had taken up a local paper and was reading it. Alice asked him for the middle sheet. “They always tell about the weddings and parties on the inside,” she said, “and that’s what I like to read about.”
But Harry was loth to part with that interesting portion of the paper, and his wife induced him to surrender it by snapping him playfully with a toy whip of the children’s.
Soon afterward I retired, and then the young people gathered about the family organ and enjoyed themselves singing hymns.
At half-past five the next morning I was aroused by a rap on my door and the announcement that breakfast was ready. The work day of the older members of the household had begun some time before, and, when I descended to the kitchen the women were carrying the food for the morning meal to the dining room. In the latter apartment I could hear the farmer reading in a mumbling monotone. Once he came out to the kitchen bringing a Sunday-school lesson paper in his hand and pointed out to Alice some religious statement that seemed to settle to his satisfaction a point on which they had differed. Then he went back and resumed his mumbling.
I washed my hands and face at the pool in the crick, and wiped on a towel in the kitchen. When I finished, Harry said to me, “We’re goin’ to have pra’rs;” and the several members of the family who were scattered about the two rooms kneeled while the head of the house prayed long and fervently.
As soon as breakfast had been eaten the men went off to the barn, and Mrs. Farmer remarked to me that she did n’t get home from the practicin’ till after eleven. “They was all talkin’ about you there,” she said. “The way you looked around and talked with ‘em made some of ‘em think you was takin’ a census of the world, and others thought you was workin’ for agriculture.”
I expressed surprise that she was able to start the day’s tasks at the usual early hour after being out so late. “Well,” she said, “ if you’ve got a big lot to do like I have you must go at it whether you want to or not. I’ve sat up many a time sewing till twelve and one to have clothes for the children. We need an extra helper in the house, but hired girls are pretty dear. You have to pay ‘em two dollars a week, and you can’t hire a woman by the day for less’n fifty cents.”
She took up a pail and went out to fill it at the spring. I was looking in that direction from an open window when she observed a cat prowling in the chicken yard. “Scat cat!” she cried. “If I ketch you ketchin’ the peepies ‘twill be the worse for you;” and she heaved several stones at the creature, which scampered off in a panic.
A few moments later she came in with the pail of water. “Daddy’s goin’ to plough the preacher’s truck patch this mornin’,” she said. “That truck patch is where the preacher of our United Brethren church grows his potatoes, and Lima beans, and the like o’ that. He takes good care of it, but don’t work in it every day.
Some days he works out at carpentering. The United Brethren have two churches at Smoketown. One is radicals and one is liberals. All the difference in ‘em is that the liberals allow their members to belong to lodges, and the radicals don’t. The radicals contend that to belong to these here lodges and secret societies draws away a person’s attention from religious things, and their support from the church. I was only a girl when they had their split on that subject. The church pretty near went under. Oh, they had bitter feeling at first, but now they’re about ready to make up.”
When I left the old stone house where I had been so hospitably entertained I continued for some time my wanderings in the vicinity, for the region seemed to me particularly delightful. The highways were very narrow and were flanked by gray fences of post and rails or quarterboards, with sudden transitions to whitewashed palings in front of home premises. Life here was evidently quaint and quiet, like a leaf out of the past. It was a nook uninvaded by modern conditions — an eddy in the current of national progress undisturbed by the hurrying tides of business. Year after year the land produced great crops to feed mankind, and the money returns were generous. The people worked persistently, and their days of labor were long, yet they did not lack incidental breathing spells, and had the pleasures of prosperity, of interest in the neighbors, and of religious recreation and contemplation.
At one of the old wayside homes the farmer showed me about the place. Among other things he called my attention to a great ash tree and said: “Ain’t he a bird? — ain’t he a dandy? How fur do you guess those branches spread? I think seventy feet anyhow. Yah, you bet! You see this grindstone? I fixed those cog wheels myself to make it go fast. But the stone is most worn away. I’m goin’ to get a new stone and then I’ll cut the buck (do rapid work). There’s a lot of goslings yust goin’ into the crick. Them’s ourn. That hen hatched ‘em out. Hear her cackle. Now she flies over the stream. She has a big time with ‘em all right. They don’t give her any peace, and she’s runnin’ around a-cluckin’ all day long. She’s afraid now they’re goin’ to drown, I reckon.
“Look into this holler tree, and you’ll see an old goose settin’ in there. She found the place herself and drove out some tame rabbits that had been living in there with their young ones.
“My wife’s been makin’ butter this mornin’ — her ‘n’ our oldest girl. Hyar’s the churn in front of the springhouse. Yust step through the springhouse door. The water comes in at that little hole no bigger than your thumb, in the corner. Yah, and you may think I’m lyin’ to you, but it always flows yust the same, no matter how dry or how wet the weather is. Last year eighteen pounds of butter that we had in hyar was stolen. A huckster had engaged to take it, but he was beat out. When he came there wa’n’t none for him. I keep everything locked now. Ha, ha! There’s a clique of fellers up along the mountain who would help themselves a little too often, if I did n’t. A short time ago one of the neighbors was goin’ to have company for Sunday, and he shut up some chickens intendin’ to eat a chicken dinner with his visitors. But Saturday night the chickens were stolen. We think we know the thief. He’s got a wife and children, and they live good and dress good, and yet they don’t work none at all. This feller goes in town every market day and he comes out with a whole big basket full of stuff. I been talkin’ to the sheriff about this hyar feller. ‘You folks in town,’ says I, ‘have got loads and loads of police. Yust watch the roads on market days and see what that feller brings to market.’
“But the sheriff would n’t do anything, and I’m goin’ to see what I can do myself. If I ketch him stealin’ on this place I’ll fix him all right. I’ve got the guns, and I’ve got the ammunition. Come in the house, and I’ll show ‘em to you. I’ve spoken about my intentions to the preacher, and he wants me to use a shotgun and only yust burn the feller a little. But that would make him mad, and like enough he’d come and burn my buildings. No, I ain’t goin’ to shoot to scare. I’m goin’ to shoot to kill, and he’ll never trouble us any more. A man that steals is too ornery to live.
“There’s no need of stealing in these days. Every industrious man around hyar does well, and this is an awful rich settlement. The man I rented this place from seven years ago was worth nearly a hundred thousand dollars. I’d been living in another town, but I came to see him when I heard that the place was for rent.
“‘Ach!’ he says, for he always grunted every time he started to speak, ‘I don’t know nuttin’ about you. What sort of a reputation have you got?’
“‘People talk about me yust like they do about you,’ I said. Some’ll tell you I’m a blame rascal, and others that I’m all right.’
“‘Ach!’ he says, ‘how many children have you got?’ “‘Six,’ I says.
“‘Ach! that’s too many,’ he says.
“‘How many have you got?’ I asked him.
“‘Ach! two,’ he says.
“‘You’re luckier’n I am,’ I says. ‘But what’ll I do with mine — kill ‘em?’
“‘Ach! well,’ he says, ‘I think you’re a pretty good feller,’ and he rented me the farm.
“But for all he was so rich he was greatly worried for fear he was goin’ to get poor and have to work for somebody, and at last he committed suicide. He was one of the nicest men I ever knowed. The landlord I had before I came here was rich, too, but he was grabbin’ and scrapin’ after every cent, I tell yer, and he was always gettin’ into a splutter, with his mouth runnin’ like a bell clapper. He thought it was yust throwin’ away money when some of his relatives made a trip to California.
“But what’s the use of bein’ so chinchy? Men come along asking for food or lodging — and they may be tramps or beggars, but whatever they are, we never turn ‘em away. If a man is too dirty to sleep in the house we let him take a blanket or something like that and sleep in the barn. It’s curious, but some of those fellers with no place to lay their heads except what the Lord gives ‘em seem perfectly contented; and after all, what does it amount to, if you have this whole world and ain’t happy?”
This man’s attitude toward the stranger and the unfortunate was akin to that of the family with which I had lodged. I suppose it was a matter of religion with them. They belonged to the sect of United Brethren or Dunkards. The latter word is derived from a German word meaning to “dip,” and the Dunkards were originally German Baptists. They are particularly numerous in Maryland and the several states adjacent. They accept the Bible with extreme literalness and try to follow the example of Christ with technical faithfulness. Their garments are very plain, yet are not so peculiar as to attract marked notice except in the case of the women, who, when they don their best clothes, wear a queer little bonnet without any trimmings.
One day I had a chance to observe a considerable number of Dunkards on a train. They were returning from an annual conference in a Pennsylvania town. I sat in the same seat with an elderly Dunkard who told me something of their beliefs. He acknowledged that the trend away from simplicity was irresistable, and said: “I don’t think the men need to have clothes just alike. If your heart is all right, you can put on a good suit, and it ain’t goin’ to hurt you. But you can’t go too far. You see the women’s bonnets — they can have ‘em any color and different in shape, if only the bonnets are modest and small. About the next thing they’ll be after will be flowers and ribbons on the bonnets. We’d feel obliged to take a woman to task if she was to put on one of the big hats that are fashionable now. As a preacher said at the conference, ‘A woman with her heart full of Jesus Christ would n’t run around with a dishpan on her head.’
“I don’t believe a man who chews tobacco ought to be a delegate to the conference. The church don’t approve of tobacco, or whiskey, or neckties, and we think dancing and all such stuff is wrong. I used to drink whiskey, but I knowed it was n’t right, and I just made up my mind to give it up. How can you jump on a man for wearing a necktie if he can pick on you for chewing tobacco or drinking whiskey?
“Parents are supposed to instruct their young ones, and train ‘em, and keep ‘em under if they can, but what the older one are used to don’t always content the young ones. Some want an organ in the church, and we’re fightin’ that. Our churches are plain and substantial, with no spire, and I never see one that had a bell on it.
“Every three months we have a council at which we’re supposed to tell on one another if we know any have done things that ain’t proper. A person who’s shown not to have done right has to promise to do better, or out he goes.
“If one of the brethren lends money to another he don’t charge interest, but he expects to be paid back at the time agreed on. Perhaps the debtor don’t do that. Then the other can tell some of the deacons, and they talk with the man, and if he still won’t pay they throw him out. After than he can be sued.
“We have a love feast every fall, and you’ve got to be pure, or you don’t feel like steppin’ up there and takin’ the loaf. If I’m mad at you, and you’re mad at me we have to make up. But in other denominations people can be so mad they won’t speak to each other and yet will go through all the church ceremonies just the same.”
Some other details that I gathered from an outsider may be of interest in this connection. “I like to go to their fall meeting,” he said. “It’s worth while just for the singing. When all those Dunkards cut loose singing I’d as soon hear ‘em as a crack band.
“They go through the Lord’s Supper just as it’s described in the Bible. A mutton has been killed and a big kittle of soup made, or perhaps a piece of beef has been boiled because some don’t like mutton. They sit down on benches along either side of tables in the church, and each person has a bowl of the broth. You ought to see those old fellows go down into it. You can hear their lips sippin’ all over the church, and they take bites of bread big as my fist. After they finish eating they wash each other’s feet. The men have their tub, and the women have theirs. A man will sit down and put his feet in the water, and another man with a towel fastened around his waist washes and wipes the brother’s feet. Afterwards they kiss — yes, kiss right square in the mug and distribute their germs. It makes a sound about like slapping two shingles together. They kiss and smollok too on Sunday when they meet at church. Seems kind o’ queer, don’t it? That reminds me of old man Broil. He always took the contrary side in an argument. He’d argue with the preacher till he had him wound up so tight it was like havin’ him down with Broil’s thumb on his mouth. Well, Broil said it would be a pity to have everybody believe alike. ‘Why,’ said he, ‘if they did that, all the other men would want my wife and there’d be a dickens of a time.’”
MARYLAND NOTES. — A number of good pikes radiate from Hagarstown and make sightseeing easy for the motorist, and railroads and trolley lines are available to visit many interesting places in the region. The rude mountain settlements are only a few miles away. Twenty-six miles from Hagarstown, on the route to Washington, is Frederick, the scene of Barbara Frietchie’s exploit with the flag and Stonewall Jackson. Frederick, too, is of interest as the burial place of Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The great battle of Antietam was fought 12 miles south of Hagarstown, and the battlefield of Gettysburg is 28 miles north. Two places in the eastern part of the state that are particularly worthy of a visit are Baltimore, the “City of Monuments,” and Annapolis, the capital. The former is one of the chief Atlantic seaports. Before the days of railroad transportation it was the principal center for the trade with the West. Goods and produce were carried across the mountains in huge broad-wheeled wagons, usually covered, and especially adapted for travelling in soft soil.
On the road to Washington, 10 miles from Baltimore, is the town of Relay, so named because here horses were changed that drew the coaches on the first railroad built in America. The cars were shanty-like structures, 12 feet long, with 3 windows on each side, and a table in the middle.
The first American telegraph line was built from Baltimore to Washington, 42 miles, in 1844.
In 1904 a conflagration swept over an area of 150 acres and destroyed property to the value of $70,000,000.
On Monument Street are the buildings of Johns Hopkins University, founded in 1876 by a bequest of $3,500,000 from a Baltimore merchant, whose name the institution bears.
Among the former residents of the city was Francis Scott Key who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” while a prisoner on board one of the British men-of-war which were bombarding Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore harbor in 1814.
Edgar Allen Poe, another poet associated with Baltimore, wrote “The Raven,” one of his most notable poems, while living here, and his tomb is in the graveyard of the Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Quaint old Annapolis is 27 miles south of Baltimore. Its chief industry is oyster packing. In the grounds of St. John’s College here is the famous “Tree of Liberty,” with a girth of 30 feet and an estimated age of 700 years. Under it a treaty is said to have been made with the Indians by the early settlers. The town is best known as the seat of the United States Naval Academy, founded in 1845, the buildings of which are picturesquely located on the Severn River.