I worked about one year on the farm, for Mr. Winans, my Stepmothers husband. I was paid five dollars per month, with board, washing and mending. Mr. Winans was running a tomb-stone shop on his farm; a workman, by the name of J. D. Brant, was running the shop. He was a man past the middle age, a good workman, much addicted to strong drink, and quite a politician, of the Democratic stamp, had a violent temper, quickly aroused in political discussions.
I concluded to learn the trade; and spent three years as an apprentice under Mr. Brant; receiving, as wages, fifty dollars per annum, with board and washing, as before.
During these years, a son of the boss, J. J. Brant, was a fellow apprentice. He was about two years my senior in age; he and I became warm friends, which friendship continued for many years thereafter. During these years of apprenticeship, my chum Brant and I read all that we could get hold of on phrenology and mesmerism; especially the works published by Fowler & Wells, of New York; also took courses of instruction from traveling lecturers; and we went so far as to buy out an outfit from one "Professor" Kid, a very interesting lecturer on Phrenology. This outfit consisted of a number of life-sized pictures of celebrated characters, and other illustrating the different temperaments, etc. Also, skulls and plastercasts, and a galvanic battery; the battery, at that time, was quite a novelty, and served to amuse an audience.
After practicing for awhile in the neighborhood school-houses in the country. we came to believe that we could make a success in other fields; and only awaited the accumulation of sufficient funds to make a start.
During the time I was learning my trade, was a formative period of my life in opinion on many matters, influencing my character for life. In politics, I had been reared a Democrat, but I soon came to accept the theory of the Whig party, on the protective tariff.
At that time, there was very little manufacturing in this country; nearly all our wool and cotton goods were imported from England, and it was a favorite method of the Whig speaker, in a political meeting, to wear, and exhibit a suit of clothes of American manufacture; thus showing that such goods could be made in our own country; and, if so, then it was a good policy for us to encourage their manufacture by a tariff on foreign goods, imported into this country. Henry Clay was notably a leading champion of this policy.
The question of slavery, and especially of its extension into our new territories, was beginning to occupy a very prominent place in the politics of the country; and I, very early took sides, with the Anti-Slavery party, by whatever name it was known; and, as both the Democratic and Whig parties vied with each other in their subserviency to the Slave power, I never voted with either party.
My first vote for President was for John P. Hale, in 1852, a candidate of the "Free Democratic" party. I also early espoused the Temperance cause, becoming a member of the "Sons of Temperance" at about the age of eighteen.
As to religion, I had been, all my life, under the influence of strictly orthodox religious teaching; my father and mother, grandfather and grandmother Coe, and nearly all my relatives, were members of the Christian, or "New Light" church, known as the "Rocky Springs" church, situated about a mile from our home, on the Miami river; and while my parents lived, our house was the home for preachers and others, attending what was called "Big Meetings", held about once a year, and usually holding a week or more.
At about seventeen years of age, I united with this church, fully accepting all their doctrines. I was, however, always disposed to read such discussions as came in my way, on religious subjects, and about this time I read a very able debate held in Cincinnati, Ohio, between Rev. Mr. Rice, a Presbyterian minister of that city, and a Mr. Pingree of Louisville, Ky., a minister of the Universalist church. The reading of the arguments as presented by these very able disputants, somewhat unsettled my belief in the future everlasting punishment of a portion of the human family; and a further consideration of the questions under all available light from Scripture, science and reason, soon led me to accept the comfortable belief in the "Fatherhood of God", and the "Brotherhood of Man"; and I settled down to the conviction that such a relationship would ultimate somehow, and at some time, in the happiness of all the human family; and in that conviction, I have ever after rested; being fully convinced that an all-wise, omnipotent and loving father, could never have created one of his children to be consigned to eternal torment.
With these opinions and beliefs, I had adopted certain views at that time considered very radical by most persons, and by many, quite heterodox, as, for instance, I adopted the vegetarian diet. I also eschewed tea and coffee, discarded the use of medicine, and practiced the water-cure system in disease; I favored woman suffrage, and was favorably inclined toward Socialism as it is generally understood.
In later life, I somewhat modified my views on these several questions; coming to believe that for the most part, they are, in themselves, right, but as Society is at present constituted, they are not practicable.
In the fall of 1845, my chum Brant and I, planned a trip to Illinois, as he had some relatives in Christian county, and I had some in Pyatt and Champaign counties. We therefore thought of buying a light wagon, each furnishing a horse, and starting overland on the trip; a distance of three or four hundred miles, over a country for much of the way but sparsely settled, and some very bad roads; but in the end we reached our destination without serious mishap.
It was my purpose, after a visit of a month or so, to return to Ohio horseback. At that time, there was not a railroad on the route, indeed, I think there was not one in Illinois, and only one in Indiana--a line from Madison, on the Ohio river, to Indianapolis. My brother Samuel was living with his Uncle William; my grandmother Stewart was living there, and several uncles, and my father's only sister, Aunt Hannah Moore. They were all living along the Sangamon river, in the counties of Pyatt and Champaign.
Urbana, a small village, was the County seat of Champaign; and Monticello, a new and very small place, the county seat of Pyatt. From the settlement on the river, to Urbana, 12 miles, there was but one house, and where the city of Champaign now is, was unentered government land.
After making a very pleasant visit with my friends, I was urged to remain all winter and teach a country school; and while I was not yet twenty years old, and, in my own judgment, but poorly qualified for the task, I consented, passed the necessary examination, receiving a certificate, and was duly installed as the teacher of a three-months school, at a salary of $55.00 for the term. The school house had been built of logs, with a large fireplace in one end; there were no pupils far advanced, and, for the most part, they were of a very low grade; some young men and girls who were older than the teacher, could only read in the "first reader".
I succeeded in giving general satisfaction, getting along with but little trouble, and enjoyed the roughness of it very much; none of my relatives lived near enough for me to board with them, so I secured board with a family near by from Monday mornings till Friday nights, when I went to my Uncles for Saturday and Sunday.
I was noted as a great lover of corn-bread, and at my boarding place I got almost of surfeit of it, as we never had any other kind during my stay with them.
I met some odd characters during that winter; some rough, but generally kind and hospitable; one man, I especially remember, who was a preacher of the Christian, or "Campbellite" church--preaching nearly every Sunday, and during the week running a small distillery.
He was past middle age, with little education, but well-read in the Scriptures, and a ready talker. I dont think that he drank to excess, himself, but he thought it all right to make it and use it as one of the "God-given creature comforts of life."
In the spring of 1846, I started back to Ohio on horse-back.
I dont remember how long I was on the road, but probably nearly a month, as I went out of my way to visit an uncle John Stewart and family who lived near Wabash, Indiana. I finally reached home after a ride I think, of about 400 miles.
I struck the Wabash river at Covington, and traveled up that stream through Attica, Lafayette, Delphi and Logansport, to Wabash.
At that time, the canal was building from Toledo, to Evansville, Indiana.
From Wabash, I pursued an easterly course through Indiana, passing over a heavily wooded country, but sparsely settled; much of the way over what was called "corduroy" roads--built by lying logs across the roadway, side by side, usually on wet or marshy land.
During the summer of 1846, I worked at the stone-cutters trade for Mr. Winans, at $40.00 per month. By that autumn, my friend Brant and I thought that we were well enough equipped to start on our lecture tour on Phrenology, Mesmerism, and kindred subjects; and, after giving a few lectures in the school houses in our neighborhood, we made our start. We gathered such funds as we could secure--I think, less than $100.00--and went first to Cincinnati, where we laid in a small supply of books, in line with our proposed lectures, with a view to selling them as we traveled.
From Cincinnati we struck out through Indiana in a northern and westerly course, stopping at the smaller towns, where we would put up at a hotel, put out advertising for two or three lectures at night; and during the days, at the hotels, we would give Phrenological examinations with a chart if desired. Our lectures were generally free, as the means of advertising ourselves; but sometimes we charged a small admission at the door. Our hall would be pretty well supplied with our large pictures hung upon the walls; on our stand, we exhibited two or three human skulls and plaster-casts, and the galvanic battery.
One of us would usually give a lecture on Phrenology, lasting about half an hour, after which a few Phrenological examinations would be made and some Mesmeric experiments given, and shocks with the galvanic battery would close the entertainment.
It was not difficult to fill out an evenings entertainment in a satisfactory manner. Such an enterprise may seem to have been wholly impracticable, and doomed to certain failure.
I was but twenty years old and Brant was but about two years older.
But I now believe, after all these years, that if we had owned our conveyance, and possessed a little more assurance and persistence, we might have succeeded. At that time, the subject of Phrenology was attracting very general attention; and experiments in Mesmerism were novel and interesting. Brant was possessed of more confidence than I, but either of us could put in more than an hour, with our lecture in connection with our mesmeric experiments, battery, etc., to the satisfaction of an audience. We, however, after about two months of effort concluded that if we could find work at our trade, we would do so, at least for a time; give up our enterprise, and, in fact, we were the more readily lead to this conclusion by the fact that our funds were running low; our expense of travel from place to place, was too great for our income.
We were getting up into the state, towards Lafayette, where Brant, on his return the year before from Illinois, had stopped and worked for a short time; and we therefore went there, hoping to get work for the winter, at least.
But it so happened that, just then, the shops were supplied with all the hands required. We learned, however, that a man by the name of Killen, was running a shop on his farm, about twenty fives miles down the river and about three miles from Attica, a pretty good town in Fountain county, and that he was in need of one or two men. Now we had felt quite sure of getting work in Lafayette, and our funds were running very low--so low, in fact, that we were not justified in paying a hotel bill there for a single nights lodging; so, finding a canal boat going out that night, we took passage, reaching Attica sometime after midnight; it was dark, the streets were not lighted; we were in a strange place, were not sure of getting work, but could not go further, as our funds, after paying our fare on the boat, were reduced to just seventy five cents, all told. However, we found a hotel, got a bed, and in the morning had our breakfast; then we held a consultation as to our future actions. We had our outfit; some books unsold, and our clothing; and we concluded that I should remain at the hotel, while Brant should walk out the three miles to see if we could get work; and, that he might make as good an impression as possible, we spent our seventy five cents for a new shirt for him to wear, our supply was in an unlaundered condition. He went out, returning in the afternoon, with the joyful news that we could get a job for all winter at $40.00 per month, each, with board.
And right here, it has always appeared to me, was the crisis, the turning point, in my life; by what seemed a mere chance, a thing happened without forethought on my part; until the day before, by which I found myself stranded here, and by a seeming chance obtained a footing from which my whole life course was determined.
Of course, we felt that fortune was setting in our favor.
We left our baggage at the hotel as security for our bill, and walked out the next morning and went to work. We found Mr. Killen a very pleasant man to work for; he owned a stone quarry from which he obtained stone for building purposes, and also worked into tomb-stones using some marble, also. The native stone was a sandstone. He employed two or three other men in the quarry and mainly to do the engraving of tombstones. We worked here for more than a year, with very little loss of time, and saved most of our wages; as our opportunities for spending money were limited, living as we did in the country, seldom going to town; on Sunday we generally attended a country church, Methodist, called "Bethel" about one mile from our place of work.
Mr. Killen was a local Methodist preacher, and a man of much more than ordinary intelligence; a great reader, and a close reasoner in an argument. However, he was not dogmatic or bigoted but quite inclined to look for, and accept the truth, when found.
Our shop was a large log house, with a fireplace in one end; in the other end, we had our sleeping place, and in this shop we spent the greater part of both our days and nights; and it became a sort of meeting place for some of the nearby neighbormen and our boys, during the long winter nights; and it became a sort of meeting place for some of the near by debaters, also. We set apart one night of each week for the debate of some question of interest, and had some very good discussions.
Of our own force, we had our employer, Mr. Killen, ourselves and a very bright Irishman named Mullen; among the neighbors joining with us, was notably a Mr. Rhodes, a man living near by, and engaged in running a small wood turning shop, who showed considerable ability in our discussions.
Years after, in Kansas, he was the presiding Elder of the Emporia M. E. District. I never met him in Kansas, but he stood quite high in the church as a minister.
On the whole, the time I spent here was one of the most enjoyable of my life. Here I fell in with C. H. Grosvenor, a young man from Troy, Ohio; a town near by birthplace; he was not an engraver on stone, only a dresser of building stone; he married here a twin girl by the name of Campbell; he afterwards became my business partner in Lafayette. Brant also found his wife there, a handsome girl named Lyon.
In the winter of 1847, I went to Attica to operate a marble shop for Mr. Killen. I remained in charge of this shop for about a year, doing a fairly good business.
In the Fall of 1848, I returned on a visit to my old home in Ohio; I was there during the Presidential election, but I had lost my citizenship by an absence of more than a year. Could I have voted, my vote would have been cast for the nominee of the "Free Soil" party, Martin Van Buren. Both of the old parties, in their platforms, had declared against the agitation of the slavery question.