I was reading The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough. The people in mind, these adventurous settlers who are the focus of this latest book by our favorite historian, were taking civilization into far-off…Ohio. In 1787, this was the edge of civilization. It was “The West.”
Some snippets are worth pointing out…
–One character in the book, the Reverend Manasseh Cutler, once visited with Benjamin Franklin and left us a description of the man. It appears he was expecting a little more than what he got….
…a short, fat, trenched old man in a plain Quaker dress, bald pate, and short white locks, sitting without his hat under the tree…. (pp.20-21)
But as they talked, Franklin became animated and Cutler was drawn in and captivated by the man’s charm in the same way countless others had been before him.
So much for first appearances!
–In an early settlement on the Ohio River, when the alarm sounded to indicate hostile Indians were in the area, all the settlers rushed into the fort. As they took count, they realized that one of the older women was missing. Where was Lydia’s mother?
…says Lydia, mother said she would not leave a house looking so, she would put things a little to rights, and then she would come. Directly mother came, bringing the looking glass, knives, forks, and spoons, etc…. (p. 95)
Know anyone like that? Before she would leave the house to save her life, she would straighten things up a bit. (I’m a husband; I know someone like that. More than one, actually.)
I love the tiny sliver of reality that intrudes into a history book sometime.
Recently, I’ve been reading the autobiography of Pastor Thomas Cox Teasdale for the second or third time. Written in 1887 when he was 78 years old, this good man deserves a history all his own instead of the one he wrote about himself. His book was reprinted a few years back, so instead of reading the precious original in the church library at FBC Columbus MS, I now own my personal copy. Reminiscences and Incidents of a Long Life by T. C. Teasdale is a valuable historical document for many reasons…
–Teasdale knew both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln. He pastored churches in Springfield, Illinois and Washington, D. C. (what he calls “Washington City”) in the years preceding the Civil War. A native of New Jersey, he preached “protracted meetings” everywhere with great success and seems to have known everyone. In Springfield, he had lived two doors down from the Lincolns. He preached all over the South and tells of the meetings in Alabama (Eutaw, Marion, Mobile, Scottsboro), Mississippi (Columbus, Aberdeen, Mayhew, Mississippi College, Oktibbeha County, Natchez), Texas (Houston, Austin, Waco, etc), and so forth. The man kept great records!
–Teasdale got into a row with the Universalists when he was preaching a revival in Zanesville, Ohio in 1848. He devotes a dozen pages to the encounter, what he preached and how people reacted. The man was not timid!
What old books do you have? Some can be treasures.
I love to read a well-thumbed old book and think of who has read it before, what their circumstances were, what this meant to them. For that reason, if I purchase an old comic book, an old coin (I have a few ancient ones), or an old volume of anything, I don’t want one listed as “pristine” and “never touched by human hands.” Those bring more money on the market, but I’m not interested in it as an investment. I want to hold in my hand something people touched 500 years ago. It feels almost magical.
The best “old” book in my possession is absolutely pristine and valuable beyond belief.
I actually own a copy of the divine book which the Lord Jesus read from during His earthly years. Granted, mine is a reprint and not the original, but even so, I’m reading the same thoughts, seeing it through His eyes in a manner of speaking, and loving it.
I own a copy of the Holy Bible.
Am I blessed or what?!