Thus far in our account we have quietly slipped along through commonplace and highly important and sacred incidents from early pioneer days - the hard work and meager advantages in the conquest of the prairie, the improvement of farm and home, the introduction of children, the response to the needs of the aged and helpless with attending sacrifices, the subsequent new start in business, in the building of a new home in the very midst of the strong Quaker settlements of the great state of Iowa, on the east side of Marshall County, which is quite the center of this finest agricultural state in the Union.
Standing on the front porch of the new home fronting the south, one looked beyond the front gate and the nicely trimmed hedge row of osage to the highway already introduced as "Quaker Lane." This highway running westward from the village of Le Grand was the thoroughfare to the County Seat, Marshalltown, some nine miles to the west and north, though the name Quaker Lane did not obtain more than half that distance. Later this road became a part of the coast to coast Lincoln Highway. In the early days it was traveled by many a prairie schooner -some with Kansas or Nebraska as the objective - some Colorado - and many more were bound for the Black Hills of south western Dakota. Some of these were marked with rather unartistic lettering - "Black Hills or Bust." One day there passed one of these prairie schooners so marked but going slowly and wearily eastward while underneath the bold inscription on the faded and soiled canvas was the modest confession "Busted by Thunder."
Less than a quarter of a mile to the west and on the opposite side of the highway facing the north stood the substantial, old fashioned, well constructed Quaker Meeting House surrounded by lovely maple trees which year by year grew to greater proportions and more and more beautiful. The Meeting House was strictly after the manner of "Early Friends." There were two rooms - the east and the west and exactly similar in construction and arrangement. Each had its north entrance while the east room had an east door and the west room had a west door. Each room had its center aisle and each its front aisle running from east to west between the "gallery seats", three rows of benches in number including "the facing seats" and the seats in the "body of the House" where the congregation sat facing the gallery seats.
The seats for the congregation were on a sloping elevation, perhaps 12 or 14 inches above the aisle floor at the rear of the room then sloping to the aisle floor level at the front of the meeting room.
The two rooms were separated by a substantial partition with well constructed shutters arranged with rope and pulleys and were operated somewhat like large window frames and could be opened and closed quite easily, especially if operated by two men which was usually the case. With this arrangement of somewhat moveable partition there could be one meeting for worship with shutters open and with Women Friends seated in the east room and men in the west room, but when the time had arrived to take up the business of the meetings the closed shutters at once made two business meetings possible at the same time so there was the Men's Meeting and the Women's Meeting.
The reason for all this need not be discussed at this point. Here Friends gathered in those early days for sincere worship and to hear some local ministers and some traveling or visiting ministers preaching the unsearchable riches of Divine Grace. In the memory of the Pilgrim in the former group were Luther B. Gordon, Josiah Dillon, Barclay Jones, Benjamin Greenwood Nevell, Joseph L. Bean and Isaac P. Wooton. In the list of visiting ministers well remembered were John Y. Hoover, Benjamin Hiatt, John Bond, Lindley Hoag, Rheuben H. Hartley, John Henry Douglas and Amos Kenworthy, with sometimes English Friends as Stanley Pumphrey or Philadelphia Friends as Edward Sharpless and perhaps others who were less gifted.
Once there came a Quaker Indian, Steamboat Frank, accompanied by a vigorous white Friend with whom and with whose family in later years there was happy fellowships and fast friendships, - this good man was Ira Kellogg.
Besides the morning meeting for worship on First Days there was a Bible school for all ages and there was also a midweek meeting held on Fourth Day forenoon at 10 o'clock.
Here Friends gathered at times for "marriage in meetings" and here in quietude they assembled on funeral occasions. To the east of the meeting house space was reserved for the inevitable Burying Ground and here with somewhat limited effort at landscape architecture the gravestones have accumulated until one may there learn much of the history of the pioneer people who rest from their labors.
After all the chief interest in any community is not so much what the people plan nor what they really accomplish but the people themselves and the individual characters in the neighborhood group. It will not be possible to go from farm to farm, from home to home to visit all the people in the neighborhood though that might be entertaining. There would be some risk about it too, for later in life this pilgrim on the Quaker highway wrote a lecture on the subject, "Queer Quakers I Have Met", but he admitted he never dared to give it for fear of the reaction from relatives and friends in the audience. Even here it would be wise to leave out most of the personal incidents.
One dear wholesome character impressed the boyhood memory so positively that he seems to fit into the early community life. This good man was Uncle Thomas W. McCool, known as Uncle Tommy. Reference has already been made to the step great Grandmother of these McGrew children, Mary Abbott, and Thomas W. McCool was her son from a previous marriage - so if she was a descendant of Pocohontas, he too must have been. What an inoffensive, loveable and unique character. He and his good wife Julianna were also pioneers, lived across the Quaker Lane from the meeting house but a few rods to the west and near the "right of way" of the Chicago and North Western Railway.
Uncle Tommy was never in a hurry. On meeting days he always attended meeting - never early and never late. He always entered the north entrance just as the meeting was "settling in the quiet." Before he "waddled" down the aisle to the second facing seat he must close the door by bumping himself backwards against it and at the same moment gathering his coattails, using both hands for the purpose, preparatory to sitting when he reached the proper seat, at the opposite end of the room. All this being done true to habit he went forward looking intently on both sides of the aisle to see the people present and already seated. This regular habit was seldom broken - but one First Day it was. A large "wood heating stove" stood in the aisle and because the day was cold, in midwinter, the caretaker had a large supply of wood piled near the stove and somewhat blocking the aisle. Not expecting this Uncle Tommy was performing his transit as usual when he struck the wood pile and fell sprawling forward. Uninjured by the tumble he righted himself at once and proceeded to his place. How strange young people are - and some of those present laughed outright insomuch they were called later by the "Elders and Overseers" for a little reproof and loving advice. Of course the young people were subdued and apologetic and said they were sorry and that they thought they would have gotten along alright but for one thing, for when Uncle T. dropped his coattails it was more than they could endure soberly.
This incident is embodied in this account because of its direct connection with the Le Grand Friends Meeting. Uncle Tommy was an important feature in many other stories which need not be fully reviewed.
One was about his desire to see a snowplow in action. On the Chicago and North Western Rail Road running from Quarry station to Le Grand station the direction is south and east - or going the other way west and north. A very heavy grade approached Le Grand station from the west and rather deep "cuts" had been made during construction of the road. These "cuts' in winter filled with snow and snowplows pushed by locomotives were required for clearing the track for traffic.
Hearing an engine whistle near Le Grand station at the top of the grade Uncle Tommy ran to the nearest deep cut, climbed the fence into the right of way near to the track so he could get a good view of the snowplow. Presently at full speed and down the heavy grade came the great locomotive pushing the snowplow - but the curious man by the side of the track saw nothing of the snowplow for the snow. He was however able on his own power extricate himself from his interment and returned to his comfortable fireside assured that though he had not seen it, the snowplow really did the work of clearing the track.
Another incident was once when Julianna wanted a few eggs and went to the barn to ask Thomas to find some for her while she waited. Climbing the ladder to the hayloft he soon discovered a nest of a dozen eggs which he thought to carry in his broad brimmed hat, - then with a little chuckle he decided to get his hat onto his head and return to Julianna as tho' he was unsuccessful in his search. By skillful maneuvering he adjusted his head into the hat full of eggs and was making satisfactory progress toward carrying out his joke when, sad to relate, his head struck a beam in the hayloft just as he was starting down the ladder. Reaching the lower floor of the barn where his patient wife awaited him, he was a sad and sorry spectacle, and when she beheld the slimy streams of scrambled golden albumen dripping from every portion of his usually happy face - and matting his somewhat disheveled locks she calmly remarked, "Well Thomas, has thee bursted thy brains?"
Time forbids references to any more stories about this happy good natured Quaker man - though there are plenty more stories, and one might go about the entire neighborhood and relate something queer and amusing concerning each household. The old Quaker was right when he said, "It seems everybody is queer but thee and me and I think sometimes thee is a little queer." How good it is to remember that even the Quaker, stern, sober, sincere and rigidly pious as some people think of them were after all a happy jovial laughing fun loving human set, -but innocent of any purpose to harm anyone.
The old meeting house was center for many interesting incidents which must not have too much consideration now. One more however which embarrassed the young pilgrim greatly in his boyhood, and in which a trend already suggested may be reviewed. Night meetings were very infrequent but there were lighting facilities consisting of primitive coal oil lamps. Now and then a "temperance lecturer" came along and was allowed to speak in the meeting house and sometimes visiting ministers held night meetings. Perhaps some such person was holding a brief series of meetings, during which time there was something of "freedom of expression" for those attending. Up to this time singing in that building was hardly known but word came to the home that an elderly Friend had entertained some of the more frivolous members of the congregation with his efforts at singing - for he really was not greatly gifted as a soloist. At the report however the young lad - perhaps ten years of age at that time - besought his father to allow him to go with the father that night to the meeting for he must hear that singing - if it really did happen again. Now the father sat on the second facing seat- and his delighted son was at his side. The early part of the meeting was rather long and accustomed to early bedtime - the boy was soon asleep. Being a boy with other boys at play and in school he was interested in balls, and tops, and marbles, and skates and whatever else boys had - and possibly he was dreaming of some such things while the good Friend was rendering his quaint solo - and when it closed the boy who had slept through it all, stirred a bit but still sleeping, called out so all could hear, "I'll give you five cents for it."
On the way home walking beside the father and still ignorant of the publicity he had given himself, some older boys passed and were laughing heartily when one of them said, "Well, boy, that was a pretty generous offer you made, was it not?"
The most significant things in life are little understood and little appreciated in childhood - and some are never understood and never appreciated in mature years. It is a good thing to believe that often the things which disappoint some and seem to change the entire trend and plan for life, after all work out for greater good to succeeding generations.
The Quakers have been most sincere in their religious life, in their homes, in their meetings, in their business dealings and with this they have always been advocates of learning and of higher education and have to the extent of great sacrifice given their testimony to the value of schools for their children and young people.
George Fox, the recognized first leader of the Society of Friends, championed the cause of education urging that young people have the opportunity to learn "Whatever things are civil and useful in creation."
While into the fold of the early Quakers came many who were limited in worldly possessions and some who had known but meager educational advantages, to find in the simple faith of the Friends that spiritual ministration which satisfied their soul hunger and to find that the gospel of truth might be proclaimed by those who had never known scholastic advantages of Oxford and Cambridge, yet Friends never put any premium on ignorance but on the contrary received into that fold a wonderful group of scholarly and educated leaders.
Without reviewing their educational achievements it may be well to write the names of George Whitehead, Samuel Fisher, George Keith, John Swinton, William Lockhard, Thomas Elwood, Robert Barclay, William Penn and John Bright in England, with perhaps a few in America as John Greenleaf Whittier, Benjamin Trueblood, Isaac Sharpless, Rufus M. Jones, and Herbert Hoover.
Always in the history of Friends they were establishing schools; some enduring through many years, some continuing for a limited period to meet a temporary or local need. In America Friends have established some 12 colleges and perhaps 8 of these may yet be classed as in reality Quaker institutions.
At one time there were scores of Quaker Academies, doing a high grade of High School work and these academies were scattered from coast to coast - in various states where Friends had settled. In Iowa at one time there were half dozen of these flourishing institutions, but have now all been discontinued since the modern high school has become important in its educational service.
Le Grand Academy, or Friends Academy at Le Grand, was founded in 1872. The memory of our Quaker Pilgrim has stored much that might interest a few people now but in the most part no details are of great value. There was apparent need for a school for children and he and his sisters found it most satisfactory since the school was held in the meeting house which was so near to their home.
Now the founding of a school of the character contemplated, the necessary building enterprise, land, the financing of operating expenses was no small undertaking in those early days. Men and women of vision, of faith and of sincere conviction must be back of such an undertaking. The names of some of these might well be recorded here, for they were worthy Quakers indeed.
Life in the new Le Grand Friends Academy, like life in any school must be experienced first to be thoroughly appreciated and as years multiply this appreciation grows and values seem to increase. To be a little Quaker boy in a little Quaker school means that he is learning things good and bad from boys and girls of his age and older, that he is getting the true and the false notes of life - just as he is to get them throughout life. It means too that in his contact with well prepared and very conscientious teachers he is being carefully and efficiently directed in his approach to truth and as years multiply his evaluation of such teachers grows constantly higher. Well he may reverence such teachers as Mary Miles Minthorn, wife of Dr. John Minthorn, Hattie White, Flora E. Green, Anna Willits, Clara Levering, Anna Hunt and Sadie Henderson. And such principals and men teachers as Walter Jones, John R. White, Morris P. Wright, Charles C. Cox, Stephen M. Hadley, Calvin Owen, all of whom had some influence for good on the Quaker just treading the early pathways of his pilgrimage. Never while that pilgrimage continues will he cease being grateful for efforts on his behalf which were made by these wonderful people during these formative years of life. Never will he cease to wonder at the miraculous things that were accomplished that his life might come under the right influence and be directed along right lines. Yes it is true that such spiritual values have come through disappointing experiences and the high sense of duty on the part of other people. To leave his beautiful, well appointed pioneer farm with its promise and prophesy of financial independence to the owner was a disappointing thing to take - for it must needs be leased to others and never has it been farmed since as he farmed it and never has it been maintained as he cared for it in those early days.
A sense of obligation to others was sufficient however to prompt the change and that change meant the assumption of other years of hard service, in a large measure, for the sake of others. In the building of the Academy just across the street from the new home he and his faithful and devoted wife did their part which was to the extent of sacrifice and their satisfaction was evident when one by one, the three children were graduated from this institution, Margaret, Edwin in 1887, and Elizabeth.
The Quaker Pilgrim was a fairly normal sort of school boy whose chief hindrance was lack of application. He was not disposed to take school work too seriously - enjoying sports and social life but not given to hard study. Perhaps to his own detriment he was something of a favorite with both boys and girls though his choices for friends of both sexes were on the basis of their ethical standard and moral integrity. While some unholy habits became somewhat fixed in the lives of young people, he never sought companionship with any who were in any sense deformed. Now he is looking toward his graduation day in June 1887. Stephen M. Hadley is Principal but has received a call to the Department of Mathematics at Penn College, Oskaloosa, Iowa, so his assistant instructor, J. Calvin Owen becomes Acting Principal.
The Commencement Day approaches and there are three members in the senior class to be graduated. They are Edith Pemberton, a bright student with pleasing personality and charming manner. Later she became Mrs. Robert Young and has lived much of her subsequent life in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A second member was Michael James McCabe, an excellent student of Catholic faith and ancestry, who later became converted and adopted Protestant faith, and uniting with the Methodist Church became an acceptable Methodist Preacher, taking unto himself as life companion a thoroughly good and helpful Methodist girl, Miss Letty Forey, who until the time of his death proved the sincerity of her matrimonial pledge to "be unto him a loving and faithful wife so long as you both shall live."
The third member of the class is the Pilgrim himself who appeared in conventional Prince Albert coat to deliver his oration, entitled, Voiceless Teachers, a copy of which may be about somewhere yet, and to receive his diploma duly signed which is carefully preserved with others received later.