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T H E S A I N T S ' H E R A L D
November 27, 1934
The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith (1832-1914)
Edited by his daughter Mary Audentia Smith Anderson
Chapter 2 continued--
Ever a friend to education, Father, counseled with his neighbors—Uncle Hyrum, who had a number of children, Peter Hawes, Father Huntington, Hyrum Clark, Theodore Turley, the Fordhams, John Brackenbury (stepson of Jabez Durfee before-mentioned, son of Mrs. Durfee by her first husband), and perhaps others—and they joined in the employment of Miss Wheeler as a teacher for the whole group of children.
The little log house was fitted with the necessary seats, writing-table, and fireplace for heating—and we had our first real school. The floor was made of heavy planks sawed from oak timber by what was known as the whip-saw method. The seats were formed of the outside cuts called slabs, made of convenient size, with holes bored in the ends into which were inserted legs of such length as to raise the various seats to the proper heights for the children of differing ages.
The writing-table was a wide oak board, perhaps two or two and a half inches thick, laid on large pins driven into holes bored in the logs forming the south wall of the house. It was placed in front of a window made of two small sashes placed end to end and filled with what my memory seems to indicate as panes of glass seven by nine inches in dimension. This window and a similar one in the north side furnished the light. There was a trap door in the floor leading into a cellar hole formerly used for storing vegetables. This trap door and the cellar were utilized by a number of the older boys for play purposes.
It was here, under these conditions, that I learned the art of combining letters into words, to read after a fashion, and to write in a still more primitive manner. The copy-books we used were of the ordinary foolscap paper of the time; our pens were made from the quills of the goose—wild and tame—and our ink was home-made, sometimes by boning maple bark, sometimes from the indigo bag, and sometimes from what were called ink balls—a kind of excrescence growing on oak trees. The copy-books were kept by the teacher and used by the classes only at certain hours of the day, so arranged as to accommodate all who took lessons in writing. The system employed was that known as the pot-hook system. How many pupils learned to write well under the torture of that system I would not try to say, but I am quite free to confess that in my case it failed utterly.
In this school under the care of Miss Wheeler—and I have no recollection of any other teacher there—a certain amount of progress was made in the rudiments of education and in the sports which occupied the outdoor time of the children of the neighborhood. Before the school closed Uncle Jimmie Allred had moved into the town and built on the northeast corner of the block immediately north of the one on which our house stood. He had a grandson named Jack—at least that is the only name we knew for him. I remember him [Jack Allred] particularly for the reason that he became quite a terror to a number of the younger boys, being an aggressive fellow, always ready for rough sport, frequently angry, and quite furious with his fists.
His connection with the school was productive of some odd scenes which stand out in memory. Very frequently tardy, he would enter in a cross mood and give saucy answers to the teacher. In those days "Assistant Birch" was not banished from the schoolroom, and the switch, Miss Wheeler's thimble, her knuckles, or a ruler were apparently necessary concomitants of our early education. On one occasion when Jack was tardy he had anticipated punishment by fortifying himself with an extra sack or something heavy stuffed under his jacket. Unexpectedly to him, however, the teacher stood him up near the fire, at the time pretty hot, where he soon became very uncomfortable. We surmised that the teacher, suspecting his preparations against punishment, had purposely placed him where he would get a good roasting or sweating. At all events, by the time she was ready to apply the switch poor Jack had had quite a plenty of the heat and was glad to have the program changed.
The older boys of the school formed a sort of secret organization which used to furnish them a good deal of fun, as fun was rated among us. The charter members of this order had been initiated without special ceremonies, but the opportunities offered by this cellar under the schoolhouse later inspired some more elaborate initiations. For a time Jack had not been taken into membership for the boys feared he might make trouble when things did not go to please him. However, he insisted upon joining and a committee, of which I was one, fixed up a special initiation for his benefit. The plan was to lead him into the schoolhouse blindfolded, take up the trap door, and four boys hold a sheet over the opening into the cellar. Then as he approached the spot, another boy, armed with a pillow borrowed surreptitiously from some mother's supply, was to strike him down into the hole. We would clap the door shut and then all engage in a wild Indian dance and hullabaloo over his head!
It all worked well up to a certain point, perhaps quite as well as some of the more elaborate initiations into other secret orders of modern days. Jack was eager to become a member and submitted tamely to being blindfolded. He was led into the room, up to the trap door, hit with the pillow, and pitched headlong into the sheet stretched over the hole—all as per schedule. Alas! he was either taller than we calculated or the blow was harder than intended, or perhaps the boys held the sheet too loosely. At any rate, Jack got a terrific blow upon his head as it struck against one of the beams which supported the floor and caught the edges of the trap door when the latter was closed.
Of course we popped the door shut, not knowing of the injury, and the hullabaloo began according to program; but soon cries of rage and genuine pain issued from the cellar. The door was raised, Jack dragged out, and his injury discovered. Efforts were made to soothe his anger and patch up a truce, but it was not accomplished without some difficulty. Finally, through offering to make him a principal performer in an evening entertainment to be given in the schoolroom, he was pacified. He was a very versatile lad and, while older than some of us, was very agile, quite an acrobat in fact, and a contortionist. Among his accomplishments was one of twisting his face into most grotesque shapes, laughing or crying at will, or with crossed legs walk upon his knees like a cripple. So an act was fixed up for him, to include these and similar stunts, and when the night came, with his face hidden behind a mask of dough, he took a very successful part in the comedy portion of our entertainment. So far we had made amends and he had forgiven us, but the accident which had happened to him put a stop to the society and no other initiations were held.
How long that school continued I cannot say. My next memory is concerned with one kept by Howard S. Corey in a house across the street, on the block in which Brother William Marks lived, opposite to the residence of Elder John Snider. The building was one-story and the school, held in a large room, was well attended. Uncle Hyrum's children John and Jerusha, Elder Snider's John, two of Elder Marks' boys, two of the Hawes' children, and numbers from other families furnished quite a band of scholars.
The teacher, an elder in the church, was a married man whose wife assisted him at times in his duties as teacher. He had lost his left hand in some way but had an artificial one made of cork or other light substance, on which he always wore a glove. He was tan and slender, lightly built but quite active. When or how he came into the life of the Saints I do not know, but I do recall an accident which happened to him and which I witnessed from a position near our front gate. Father came out to mount his horse at the hitching post. In a playful manner he took hold of Elder Corey and suggested throwing him down. As he spoke he gave the young man's leg a little knock with his foot, to unbalance him. It was an apparently light blow, but it upset him, or would have, had not Father caught him as he fell.
Then it was discovered that the playful kick had broken the leg. Father carried him into the house, called the doctor, and had the bone properly set. Mother was installed as nurse and he was given the best of care until his injury healed. I still remember Father's great remorse over the incident and how he not only took care of the unfortunate man and paid the physician's bills, but saw to it that the teacher lost nothing financially by his enforced absence from the school. I am inclined to think Mrs. Corey kept us going until her husband returned to the schoolroom.
One circumstance connected with the school I remember quite vividly for the reason that it illustrated a fair sense of justice on the part of Teacher Corey. Jack Allred and I lived not far apart and were frequently together. Jack occasionally was tardy, as has been mentioned before, and upon one of these occasions I was with him when we should have been in school. It had rained during the noon recess, quite a little shower, and we had taken shelter somewhere until the rain was over. Then we struck out for the schoolhouse. When we came in, the teacher was busy and we went directly to our seats. When he was at liberty he called us to him and asked why we were tardy.
Jack took upon himself the office of spokesman and, instead of giving the real explanation, replied that it had rained when we started to school, was terribly muddy, and for every step we took forward we slipped two backward!
With a serious face the teacher asked, "How did you ever manage to get here at all, if that were the case?"
And Jack pertly answered, "Why, we just turned around and walked the other way!"
I said nothing. I had no excuse to offer, though I did not think Jack's a good one. Neither did the teacher. He promptly ordered us to go to the swamp nearby and each cut a stick with which to be punished. We obeyed. I selected a stick which I thought about right for the purpose of whipping a boy, but Jack hunted around until he found a small, tender shoot of the first year's growth, very limber, but of good length. When we returned to the schoolhouse and handed the sticks to the teacher, he quietly looked them over, and sized us up, as well. Then to our surprise he took the stick I had cut and whipped Jack with it, and used Jack's on me!
I got off pretty easy that time but poor Jack got a good trouncing. After school he proposed to thrash me, but I kept out of his way and tried to give him no further occasion to seek revenge upon me.
This must have been about 1841. Many years afterwards, in 1889, when visiting at the house of Brother Thomas Gammon in Provo, Utah, Elder Corey came to call on me. In the presence of Brother Gammon, Elder R. J. Anthony, a nephew of Judge Dusenbury, and a man whose name I do not now recall but who was counselor to one of the officers of the branch or ward, we conversed of old times. In an interchange of memories I mentioned this circumstance of the law of compensation which had resulted in my favor. He laughed heartily over the incident and remarked that I had an excellent memory of old times. I answered that events of a certain character which made an impression upon me at the time of occurrence were not easily forgotten.
School days under the care of Teacher Corey were very pleasant and marked not only by his ability and kindness, but by the good fellowship which existed between the scholars. Mrs. Corey, I may add, was the one who at Grandmother Smith's dictation wrote the manuscript for the book, Joseph Smith and His Progenitors.
A Teacher With a Penknife
I have a memory of a school which from present recollections must have been held in 1841 also, in a little brick building on the south side of Water Street, directly opposite to Uncle Hyrum's house and immediately west of the house of Peter Hawes. Uncle Hyrum's children, one of Uncle Don Carlos', William Marks,' the Hawes', and at least one of Sidney Rigdon's were the attendants I recall. I am not sure who was the teacher, but memory pictures him as a medium-sized man. It may possibly have been Elder Corey, but I hardly think so, for what I seem to remember of this teacher was that he had a watchful, suspicious sort of nature, and was in the habit of thumping the children's heads with his penknife. He carried this article in his hands almost constantly, whirling it between his fingers when not using it for making or mending pens or for the stimulating exercise I have just mentioned—of which I have personal memory!
Among Uncle Hyrum's children who came to this school was a small one whose mother used to call at some time in the afternoon to bring him a cup of milk which he would go outside to drink. It was in the term of this school that Uncle Hyrum's son Hyrum died. He was a bright, cheerful, pleasant, manly little lad of seven, playful and uncomplaining, and a universal favorite with all of us. He was not sick long. I notice Grandmother Smith records his death as occurring in September, 1841. It caused a great deal of mourning among us.
This school was not largely attended nor, as I think, did it continue through the winter. It probably closed when the big room in the store was made ready for use instead.
Another school recalled was held for a time in a little building back of the store of Israel Clapp. Memory suggests that either this school did not last long or my attendance was interrupted in some way. I remember a number of the children, however, among them a daughter of John A. Forguess, who later moved with her father into western Iowa. They settled at Little Sioux where, so far as I know, she may still be living. She came to the last reunion I attended at Dow City, some six years ago. Her father identified himself for a while with the Gladden Bishop movement but subsequently united with the Reorganized Church. He was quite a writer, though making a living as a local legal advocate, magistrate, or notary public. He was a man of quite firm convictions but not altogether wise in expressing them, and did not make friends readily. I have no disposition from my memory of him to think or say that he did not desire that which was good, whatever may have been the mistakes he made. His connection with Mr. Gladden Bishop was ruinous to both his material and his spiritual well-being. He died several years ago, near Little Sioux.
The next school with which I remember being identified was kept by a man named Thompson, upon the hill a block or so north of Parley Street. One thing particularly remembered is that the teacher, while quite a pleasant man, was unfortunate in having the lower part of one side of his face paralyzed. He had no control over the muscles and when speaking his cheek would blow out, greatly impairing his speech and distorting his features. This was especially true when he became excited.
He had two sons attending the school and it was said their mother was an Indian. Of this I do not know, but I remember quite well that the boys were very dark-complexioned, slender striplings, with coal-black hair, long locks of which hung down on either side of their faces in a fashion then called soap locks. While the back of the head was quite closely shorn, these soap locks hung well down the side and were cut squarely across at the bottom.
I had not become much acquainted with the boys or noticed them much until one day, rushing out of the schoolhouse. I jostled against one of them rather roughly. He shouted, "You better look wild, running against a body that way!" I stopped short, took a good look at him, and retorted, "I'm sure I couldn't look any wilder than you do!"
Afterwards I became better acquainted with them and we were good friends. They were good boys and bright pupils, and we got along nicely together.
Many years later I fell into the company of the younger one, then a professor in a college at Galesburg, Illinois. He was, I think, a member of the Presbyterian Church, well-respected, and a successful instructor. He told me his father had been dead several years.
As I consider it, I admit the possibility of this school having been held before the one I attended back of Israel Clapp's store, for I recall that the log house stood in an open glade surrounded by timber and brush. Later that locality was more thickly settled, and Elder Clapp's store was on the main street. I believe, too, that the children who attended Mr. Thompson's school were smaller, as a rule, than those who went to the other.
The next one that comes to mind was held in the frame house built on the northwest corner of the block on which we were living. This house was occupied for a time by Elder W. W. Phelps, but vacated when he moved into his own home on the opposite side of Water Street, not far from the residence of William Law.
I think this school was taught by a man named Cole. I believe it did not continue long in the frame building for the reason that the number of attendants outgrew the accommodations. An incident occurred while the school was held there, however, which comes to mind. One afternoon, at the rush of the children from the building, one of the Lytle boys was pushed off the front step by someone, and fell on his face across a small pile of rails near the step. The bridge of his nose was broken in this accident, which quite permanently disfigured him.
The school was then evidently removed to the upper room of the Brick Store, over the storeroom itself. At the rear was Father's office, in which Willard Richards, William Clayton, and, subsequently, James Whitehead acted as clerks and secretaries.
The attendance here was quite large and the teacher, Mr. Cole, was assisted by his daughter, Delia, or Adelia. We found it difficult to account for Mr. Cole's manner. Sometimes he was a very strict disciplinarian and at other times was very lax; sometimes he was gay and indulgent and at other times was quite cross. At such latter times his daughter would appear to have been crying. She was such a favorite with us boys that this caused us considerable worry and wonder.
One day the school was dismissed in the early afternoon for the stated reason that the teacher was sick. Before it convened again some of the larger pupils told us they had discovered that Teacher Cole had been drinking and that his frequent spells of somberness and severity and his daughter's tearfulness were results of his overindulgence.
Several incidents occurred while Teacher Cole was in charge of the school which are fixed particularly upon my memory. A number of accidents had occurred upon the ice at the river and Father had instructed us boys not to go there or out upon the ice without asking permission of him or of Mother. Father and Mother were very strict in matters of family discipline or command, and worked always in harmony concerning them. What Father said Mother acceded to; and when Mother gave commands, Father did not interfere with them. So we kept off the ice obediently until one day when the teacher directed another boy and myself to take the water pail to the river and bring it back full of water.
We obeyed, and had we taken the water back to the school directly after dipping it from the hole in the ice it might have been construed that I had not broken my father's command. But —the ice was smooth, the opportunity attractive, and so we two had a little sliding before we returned with the water to the schoolhouse.
There are usually some busybodies and telltales in every school and someone must have reported to Father that I had been upon the ice. When called before him I made excuse that the teacher had sent me, but it was not considered good. I was told my first duty was to obey my parents and that I should have told the teacher I had been forbidden to go upon the river. Whatever may have entered into the spirit of the judgment passed upon me I do not know; at all events, I was severely punished. At the time it seemed to be one of those chastisements which a boy cannot account for. I thought my father was unnecessarily severe and his judgment in the matter faulty. However, it had this wholesome effect upon me; ever afterward, when commanded by my father to do or not to do a thing I never presumed to take choice or privilege about it just because someone else asked or told me to do differently. As I approached manhood and reached a period of more mature reflection I absolved my father from blame in the matter.
Another incident was this. Difficulty had arisen between John Brackenbury, my almost constant playfellow, and my cousin, John Smith. In the scuffle which ensued my cousin got the worst of it, upon which he proposed, in true boyish style, to get even with Brackenbury.
When coming out of school in the afternoon he was ready at the door with a piece of brick which he threw, striking Brackenbury on the head. The blow did not knock the boy down but did daze him so he could not pursue his assailant until the latter was quite out of reach. Just how the boyish feud was patched up I do not remember, but I am inclined to think my cousin kept out of the way and was careful not to offer further affront to Brackenbury until the latter's resentment had cooled down.
Another memory has to do with an incident somewhat more striking since it brought faculties into play that had not been tried up to that time. Brother William Marks' two younger boys, William and Llewellyn, attended the school with the rest of us. William was a sober, steady, good boy, rather spare in build. Llewellyn was larger and heavier, although the younger, was often irritable, and sometimes inclined to be vicious. A few days before the occurrence which I wilI relate, Llewellyn and my brother, Frederick, had engaged in a game of barn ball, played against the east wall of our house. In some way the former had become displeased, and in anger had struck Frederick, who was much smaller than he, with a ball club. The blow knocked the lad down and Llewellyn disappeared as fast as he could.
As we were not in the habit of telling tales out of school the matter passed without further developments at the time. The next week, however, while at play at a game of ball in the street near the store in which the school was kept, Llewellyn became dissatisfied with some part of the play and would neither continue with the game nor get out of the way and let the rest of us play without interruption. When the ball came my way in the course of the game, by some means I failed to catch it, and it struck Llewellyn smartly. His anger immediately turned against me for not stopping the missile.
It was summertime, a little shower had fallen and here and there were small puddles of water. The ball fell into one of these and rolled to a standstill. Llewellyn picked it up, threw it violently at me, and started to run. I caught it and returned it in the direction he was running, with considerable strength and accuracy. It struck him on the hip, leaving a muddy splash on his pants. I had thrown the ball good-naturedly enough, but constant practice and exercise in throwing the fine finger-stones which were to be found on the bank of the river in abundance, vying with my friends to see who could skip them the farthest, had so strengthened and trained my muscles that the ball landed on him with some emphasis. Though it was simply a yarn ball, soft when dry, its bath in the mud puddle had made it quite soggy and heavy, and the blow stung him sharply. He turned and ran to make an attack on me, calling out as he did so, "Here's going to be a fight!"
There was not much difference in our heights though he was the heavier in build. I would not run from him and did not feel very much inclined to avoid the encounter, for I was indignant at his overbearing manner and the way he had treated my brother a few days before. So I stood my ground, recalling faintly as I did so having heard some men discussing fisticuffing say that the stomach was one of the best points to attack. Being sufliciently cool to take notice of what I was doing I remembered this particular statement, and while catching Llewellyn's blows on my left arm and shoulder kept trying to land mine upon the middle part of his body.
Unfortunately for the issue one of his blows got by my guard and struck me full in the face. The blood started from my nose and the sight of the crimson stream maddened me so that my next attack was indeed a vicious one. I lunged at him fiercely, striking him upon the head in such a way as to cut a gash in his scalp, all the while delivering blows amidships which punished him badly.
Some of the school children ran into the house—the affair occurred at the noon intermission—and told the teacher what was going on. Just when the blood was flowing freely from the two of us we heard the rap of the ruler on the door-casing which called us all into the schoolroom. We also heard the voice of the teacher telling us to "stop that, and go to the river and wash your faces!"
We obeyed but we were still boiling angry. I remember telling Llewellyn that if he ever interfered with me or mine again I would hurt him a good deal worse than I had just done. We went into the house scowling at each other and the teacher told us to take our seats and that he would attend to us later. At recess Llewellyn went home and it was nearly two weeks before he returned.
The next day after the fight Teacher Cole called me to him and told me he had considered the matter and decided that as a penalty I must ask pardon of the school for breaking the rules against fighting during school hours. In those days school children were considered to be under the supervision of the teacher from the time they left home in the morning until they returned at night, a period including the noon hour. A further condition he sought to impose upon me was that I was also to ask pardon of Llewellyn for hurting him as I had.
I told the teacher I was quite waling to apologize to the school for having broken the rules but that I would never ask pardon of Llewellyn Marks, for he was an overbearing boy, ugly to children smaller than himself, had struck my brother with a club the week before, and finally that I was in no wise to blame for the attack he had made upon me. I added further that if he ever interfered with me or my brothers again, without cause, I would hurt him worse than I had, and that I had told him so and would surely do it. To this rather heated statement of my feelings the teacher replied that if I would not ask Llewellyn's pardon he would have to punish me.
Instructions which our father had given to us boys in reference to our conduct among our young comrades were to the effect that we were never to be the aggressors in any trouble, were to mind our own business generally, and be thoughtful, considerate, and honorable in play, observing closely the rules of all games. We were to impose upon no one, avoid quarreling or calling ugly names, and to behave ourselves properly on all occasions as we had been taught. However, we were told that if we ever got into trouble among our friends and playmates we should take care of ourselves and not come to him whining, complaining, or finding fault. To offset this, we were told that if ever we were imposed upon by men or those older or larger than ourselves we could then inform our father, though he did not wish to be annoyed by stories brought home from school about what took place there or on the playground which were simply of a boyish nature. With this counsel Mother had agreed in the main, though expressing her wish that we should not engage in fighting.
In harmony with such instructions neither Frederick nor I had said a word to either parent about our troubles with Llewellyn Marks. When Teacher Cole demanded an apology from me to my fellow combatant and I refused to give it, and he followed with his threat to punish me, I simply told him that up to that time I had not said anything to my father about the matter and did not intend to do so unless he, the teacher, proceeded to punish me for not apologizing to the boy whom I considered to be in the wrong in our conflict, in which case I would tell the whole story to my folks, how it all began, and all about it.
Llewellyn was not at school at the time of this conference with the teacher, and so, whatever may have been in the latter's mind as to what he intended ultimately to do in the matter, the controversy was ended by the teacher's saying he would wait until Llewellyn returned before adjusting the affair. At the end of two weeks Llewellyn returned, but I heard nothing further about having to offer him an apology. Probably the teacher thought it wise not to punish me under the circumstances and have the trouble brought to my father's attention, for he well knew my father's sense of justice would condemn such a course on his part. It may be, too, that his own sense of fairness indicated that I should not be punished for not apologizing where apology was not justly due.
I believe that was the last term that Teacher Cole taught the school. Whether he quit to engage in other business or was dismissed for irregular habits we children were not allowed to know, but a rumor was circulated among the older ones that his leaving was due to the increasing habit of drinking which so frequently incapacitated him for his duties. We took an affectionate farewell of Miss Delia, whom we all liked, but parted from the teacher himself without regret.
According to my recollections the next teacher in the same schoolroom was James Madison Monroe, who came from the East. He was a brother of Widow Clawson, mother of Hiram B. Clawson who afterwards became a son-in-law of Brigham Young. Hiram and his brother John were quite young men and the former, especially, an excellent scholar. John was somewhat erratic, fun-loving, full of mischief, often neglectful of his books, and frequently got himself and others into trouble, thus coming under the displeasure of his teacher and the discipline of "Assistant Birch." After a time nearly all the mischief in the school was, rightly or wrongly, laid to John Clawson.
At this time a number of young men attended the school, among whom I recall Loren Walker, Eugene Snider, and Henry Coltrin. There were also several young ladies and a large concourse of young and still younger boys and girls. Among those of my own age and size I remember Richard and Thomas, sons of William Law; the sons of W. W. Phelps; the two Marks' boys; the Hawes' boys, and Henry Anderson. The last-named was the lad who was killed in the fight between the mob and the "new citizens" which occurred after the "exodus," at the blacksmith shop on the east side of town, not far from Beach's tavern. The same cannon ball, fired by the mob, which killed young Henry also killed his father. I remember young Anderson well from the fact that at a school entertainment one Friday afternoon, by a secret arrangement with the teacher he came into the room disguised as an old man, and delivered a touching piece which we used to read in the old English Reader. It began:
"Pity the sorrows of a poor old man
Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door;
His days are dwindling to the shortest span—
O give relief, and Heaven will bless your store."
He delivered this poem in excellent form and made an impression upon the scholars present which brought tears and which I remember to this day. Though I have read the poem many times since I have never read it nor heard it read so effectively as it was presented then.
Oliver Boardman Huntington, one of the sons of Elder William Huntington, was a pupil at this school. He boarded at our house and between him and myself there sprang up a pleasant friendship in spite of the fact he was several years the elder.
Mr. Monroe was a thorough teacher, a man of fine attainments and noble disposition. He was one who took a great deal of personal interest in his pupils. Under his instruction the Friday afternoon of each week was devoted to literary exercises, such as recitations, declamations, readings, debates, and the old-fashioned "spell-down" style of studying the art of spelling.
(To be continued.)
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