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

Page 7

Anti- and Pro-Slavery into the territories the Old Hunders who were standpatters and office-seekers under present conditions. General emancipation was also beginning to be agitated, but this was not of great interest yet in New York, for this State had emancipated its slaves in 1827 and was not greatly interested in the domestic affairs of the other states. My father cast his first vote for William H. Seward against William L. Marcy for Governor of New York, an act he regretted as long as he lived.

     As for amusements they had that first of the great showmen, Dan Rice, with his traveling circus famous to this day. At Rochester Mr. Rice had the misfortune to offend a prominent citizen and was arrested. He profited by the affair as it gave him an additional verse to his popular song, which added to his biographical sketch; “I raised a gentleman’s dander, and I was arrested for slander, and lodged in Rochester City’s Blue Eagle Jail.”

     But why do I write these scattering notes and insignificant details?

     Well, when one is in his eighty-seventh year he cannot look forward very far but he can look backward and necessarily does so in his spare moments. Distance may lend enchantment to the view and say even exaggerate the importance of such little nothings, but there may be a few of the old generation left who will be stirred up to look back over their own dim and disappearing vista and find things to please or amuse them.

     When, too, an old man has friends who show an interest in him, or a curiosity, and desire to know more about him, and like the bearer of news to Job when he was stricken with his trials: “I alone am left to tell the tale.” It is possible also that a stray grain of wheat may be found in so much chaff that will clear up an idea, explain an event, or fill a gap in another’s train of thought; so let an old man gather up the fragment’s lest they be lost.

     They may be like souvenirs from a strange land, relics of a primitive people burgeoning into a new and more active civilization which later generations are proud to call the highest and most perfect the world has known. Then the spade was as necessary to the farmer as the plow; every hill of corn and potatoes was a real hill made the hoe; the sickle and the flail were still useful in gathering and saving the grain, and the winnowing sheet was not relegated to “innocuous desuetude” by the fanning mill. We ate “puddin” and “milk” for supper; we said “I be”, we spoke of the “steamers,” we passed the weekly newspaper around to the neighbors; the Whigs were disintergrating and the Republican Party was only in the process of formation. What effect this new civilization has had upon the scenes which memory now recalls I know not from any personal evidence, for never since those days have I visited the old home places. Thus must close the record of my earlies [earliest] memories. A new world opens before me, and henceforth it must be “Westward Ho.”

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