Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 21

pray for her, and a warning that she must not be buried in consecrated ground. The warning, however, was not heeded and she was buried in the family lot in Bertrand.

          Bertrand was an old Indian mission of Father Badin in 1830, but when the Fathers of the Holy Cross came to Notre Dame they established their Sisterhood at Bertrand and built a neat brick church. Then the Sisters removed to Notre Dame. Bertrand with its church and cemetery reverted to the mission of Niles, and in my days Father Cappon sometimes said the first mass there not Sunday and the second one at Niles, but he never went there for burials as far as I know. Years later a cemetery was established at Niles and the old one was particularly abandoned except for the burial of some of the old settlers whose families were mostly buried there. On a late visit to the old cemetery I found the graves of most of my old friends and acquaintances, and I lingered long reading the names on the tombstones, for it seemed I was getting deeper and deeper in the atmosphere of old times than when I visited the places where the old houses once stood. Here at least were the names and remains of real persons whom I had known, but few of the old homesteads were now occupied by a descendant of the original settler. Except in the cemetery I almost felt like a stranger in his own country.

          One of Father Cappon’s principal worries was, I have no doubt, the weakness of many his congregation for strong doubt, the weakness of many of his congregation for strong drink. He did not hide his aversion for liquor, and there was a lot of it consumed by the early settlers. It could be had for twenty-five cents a gallon. Yet I must say that I knew but few who could be called “Old Topers.” I really knew no one who made it a business to hang around the saloons and wait for someone to treat them. Some spent all their money for drink but they worked hard for it and kept sober while working. In the country it was common to have gatherings called “Bees,” for mutual help when one was behind with necessary work, or sickness or death might have stricken a poor family. These were purely charitable occasions, and with the food a ration of liquor was ordinarily provided. It might be that on these and other social gatherings a part of the night would be spent in chat enlivened by the contents of the little brown jug. Songs were always in order on such occasions and the palm of musical merit was awarded to the one who could sing the loudest. Few had any knowledge of music, and “Rise it! Rise it!” was the cry if the tone was not satisfactory. In town a game of cards was often the accompaniment of a social glass, and pugilistic encounter might follow a dispute over the game.

          But all this was among the older ones. A new generation was growing up and pioneer customs and freedoms moderated and gave way to milder and humaner ways, leaving the old traditions to be smiled at but not imitated by their legatees.

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