A Story of Yesterday

Written in the year 1911 by
Emma L. Townsend,
eldest daughter of Thos. Townsend, Jr.,
and Mary Gue Townsend

My life is so rich and full I feel that I must record some of the daily "benefits." As I stand where I am today, forty-six years of age, I realize I have to look back over nearly as great a space of time as I may with any likelyhood look forward to.

My inherited blessings are of more value than silver and gold could have proved. I came into this world on the morning of the 2nd of July, 1865, to be loved and cared for by Christian parents. Father was a sunny tempered, impulsive, active, broadminded man; mother a cheerful, indescribable mother, as gentle, loving, faithful, tender mothers always are. Her life and example have been heroic. I am persuaded that there are more heroes and heroines whose lives are hidden in the home, than can be brought to light, until the great books are unsealed, and all things brought to light; But my life has been touched by so many of these and been uplifted by them.

Father lived near to nature's heart. The storms of the prairie state of Iowa were robbed of their terror for me by his wise teachings. When the black clouds would come up in the west, rolling slowly toward us like a dark curtain spread out, forming a perfect background for "Heaven's fireworks," he would call us to come out on the porch to watch with him, and enjoy every lightning's flash in its varied markings, and the sound of the thunder as it rolled on and on through space above. Then as the storm approached too near to safely stay outside, we watched and listened from the hall, seated on the stairs with his dear arms around us. I can seem to hear him yet -- "See, the rain is coming, down there by the grove -- now I hear it on Uncle William's corn field!" and then the tubs of heaven began emptying over our heads -- and the patter of the rain-drops on the roof.

Winter also had its charms. Coasting down hill was the chief sport of our town, there being no skating pond. Papa fixed us up one morning for playing 'round the yard, showed us how to use a chair turned for our ship of state. Then he slipped off, to come back in an hour or so with a real coaster, which proved a choice one, and for years it was my dearest plaything -- that hand made sled.

It was his joy to plan pleasant surprises. So often, if mother would leave the kitchen for a moment before he left for the store in the morning, he would say to sister and I "Hurry up now and see if we can't get the dishes done to surprise mamma;" and we would all do our best. Then as he was finishing up he would tell us to run upstairs and hide, and he would soon follow, to find us under the bed clothes or behind the door, and then we would help him make the beds. So the common rounds of dish-washing and bed-making became so confused with play and pleasure, that they never can be to us dull drudgery.

And in order to make Sabbath a delight to us from early childhood he always provided some special treat for what would otherwise seem like long, dull, tiresome afternoon hours. In the forenoons we went to meeting and "First-day school." On summer afternoons we usually took a walk. But the shut-in days are the most memorable and most simple; upstairs in the store room was a trunk, and in the pantry was a glass tumbler which papa brought together in the latter part of the day, and the glass always returned to us full of love and sweetness -- of the purest sweetness too -- just sugar in lumps. Other such sweets were scraped turnips, hickory nuts, sweet apples etc. He made us love the Sabbath day by a little thoughtful care, and simple surprises kept just for the day of days.

Then those delightful rides with him, all over the country, on loads of lumber, or hay or grain -- whatever his errand or business, he was never too hurried or worried to take us on the wagon with him. Many times did he take us on horse-back with him, little sister in his arms, and me holding on tight behind; sometimes all bareheaded, would gallop off through the village street, up the hill, into someone's back yard for a little chat, and out, and off again as unceremoniously as we had come. Riding the cow to pasture was an every day occurance with us, and coming home papa would lift us on the rail fences and lead us one with each hand, until we could balance ourselves.

One day he had an errand to the stone house down the railroad track and he chose to walk, so he took the wheelbarrow so that I could accompany him, a mile and a half each way.

But when I was nine and Catha six, papa yielded to the Master's call, which he had been hearing for sometime to go and work among the Freedmen of the south. We all expected to go to him in a few months, after he got settled in Texas, but within three months after he left us, he went Home. He was sick only a few days.

After mother's return from Texas we began life under God's special care for the widow and fatherless; and also by the kindness of friends we were continually prospered. Mother was enabled to raise the mortgage off our home and to keep us together in it, and lay by a neat little sum besides. She sewed, kept boarders, taught school, wrote for the pension agency, and acted as treasurer for the school district. Though her health was never good, she was enabled by the grace of God, to be to us all in one -- provider, mother, spiritual guide, and close companion. I feel that my life is a reflection of her prayers. Her power was always felt more than exhibited. It has always been so quietly exerted that no one could see but that we acted on our own impulses; but mothers have a way of injecting impulses -- at least my mother had, which though I may have squirmed under sometimes, it got hold of me somehow and I acted upon it.

When we started to school, and had reached that age when some little girls have found out more about life than they can understand (there are always some such boys and girls in every school, and ours was no exception), mother foresaw and forewarned us. She said "when the girls say anything to you on certain subjects (specifying same) tell them you don't want them to talk to you about such things. It isn't nice for little girls to talk about things they don't understand, but when you get older I will tell you all about them." And we did so. We had perfect confidence in mamma. She said "never promise girls you won't tell mother anything they may want to tell you." This also proved a great shield to us.

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This "story of yesterdays" was not originally written for other than ourselves, but in preparing the memorial for our father, Thomas Townsend Jr. for the family record, I have thought these few pictures from his home life the most interesting for preservation.

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My father, Thomas Townsend Jr., was born in Fredericktown, Ohio the 10th of 11th month 1834. He was the youngest son of Thomas and Ruth Mosher Townsend with two sisters, Ruth and Letitia, his juniors. He was a very delicate youth from childhood up. In common with the others in whom we are interested in this family history, he had the benefits of an uncommon country school. As Ray Hammell describes it, "It was one in which we could continue as long as we desired, advanced studies being provided according to the ambitions of the pupils."

In the early fifties he attended Friend's boarding school at Pleasant Plain, Ohio. Rezin Thompson tells me many interesting events of those days when they were schoolmates there.

In the spring of 1859 he started on a trip to California. His diary does not state the object of his going, but gives the impression that it was neither for the gold nor pleasure. In fact it was for his health and sea-sickness was the desired potion. He sailed from New York City May 20th and crossing the isthmus of Panama, reached San Francisco June 13th -- a long journey but no sea-sickness. The return trip was made 'round by Cape Horn with better results.

Soon after his return he left Ohio for Iowa, and was teaching in the Springdale schools where his assistant was Mary C. Gue. In 1862 they were married, and located in West Branch.

Two beautiful poems were written by friends -- Joel Bean and Anna Rich which testify to the place he held in the hearts of his freinds better perhaps than marble slabs in a land of strangers. The obituary notice, also penned by Joel Bean is herewith followed by his poem.

Died at Grant's Colony, near Huntsville, Texas, on the 21st of 10th month 1874, Thos. Townsand in the 42nd year of his age; a beloved member of Springdale monthy meeting, Iowa.

For several years he had felt a deep interest in the missionary labor for the elevation of the freedmen in that part of the land. About four months before his death he felt that the time had come for him to join the few laborers already there, and he left his family and went with the full approbation and sympathy of a large circle of friends.

During the few weeks spent there, he often expressed the peach he felt in this path of duty. In his illness which was brief, he said though he was weak in body, he was stong in faith.


[Note: the poem promised above is not to be found in the typewritten manuscript. -- BBA]