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Bulletin of Central College

Bulletin of Central College
Fayette, Missouri

Series V
Number 5
August, 1910


Victor C. Vaughan, M.D., LL.D.

Ladies and Gentlemen:-Being to the manor born, I know of nothing about which I can talk to you with more positive knowledge than concerning Old Missouri. The primitive Missourian came from France and Great Britain. In point of time he started in France, from which he was driven by religious persecution. He tarried for a few generations in England, where he acquired the language of his host, married his daughter and made many friends. But England was only a temporary resting place, and after a few generations he gathered up his household gods, persuaded his best neighbors to accompany him, and came to Virginia and the Carolinas. Here, on the banks of the James and the Dan he rested for a few more generations. During this time, his sons took in marriage the fairest daughters of the English, Scotch and Welsh, who had migrated to the same Virginia and the Carolinas, were pleasant, but the promised land lay farther to the west, and our progenitors moved on. Some of them made a temporary stay for one generation in Kentucky, but many tarried not and at last the father of waters was crossed; and the promised land reached. The primitive Missourian was by heredity, instinct and inclination an agriculturist. His forebears did not come from Paris, but from the provinces. In England they avoided London and the other large cities. In the eastern United States they became planters and so they continued after reaching their destination. Let me describe the Missouri farm as I knew it more than fifty years ago. There were fields of corn, wheat, oats, rye, tobacco, flax and meadow land. There were broad acres of open woodland where the scaly bark hickory, the spreading oak and the graceful elm reared their massive trunks and spread their green branches high above the beautiful carpet of blue grass, painted in shades of color, shifting with light and shadow and more beautiful than any texture that ever came from the looms of the Orient. On this carpet so beautifully spread over hill and dale in the woodland pasture the farmer's horses, cattle and sheep fed to repletion, and then rested for more perfect digestion in the shade. The oak and hickory supplied without stint the fast growing porkers, which, happily oblivious of the fact that hog killing day would be due in December, lazily divided their time between the mast strewn ridge and the cooling waters of the pond. The grass, both carpet and food, ever renewed itself. With the coming of winter it only changed its color, and retaining all its nutriment, lay buried beneath the white blanket of snow, and when this had been imperceptibly lifted by the magic hand of spring, there it lay, an abundant supply for the quadrupeds of the farm, until through its roots it should convert the richness of the soil into a new growth of protein and carbohydrate.

The woodland pasture was not devoid of gastronomic enticement for the farmer's boy. Down in the deepest part of the shade, on the slope towards the branch, near where the lime kiln had been operated, modestly sheltered under more pretentious neighbors, grew the mulberry trees for whose rich but fleeting gifts the red-headed woodpeckers and the freckled and tanned boys contended. The boy quite equaled the bird in reaching the tipmost boughs, and in capacity was equal to a dozen of his winged competitors. The contest was soon over for the black mulberry ripens suddenly, and disappears into the stomach of boy or bird quickly; then for a few days longer it is only a memory in the form of stains on the hands and cheeks of the former, and on the white collar of the latter.

The next thing in the woodland pasture to direct the bare feet and stimulate the digestive secretions of the boy, is the wild plum. The tree grows best in thickets along the rail fence, and the fruit ripens in the dog days. The hogs have rooted up the ground in the clump of trees, and the thorns are sharp, but the boy first fills his distensible stomach, and then a" less capacious basket, and promises to return tomorrow with an empty stomach and a more generous basket. I can testify from personal experience that the prize products of the best orchards of the Santa Clara valley failed to produce the same effect on the gustatory nerve of the man of fifty that the wild plum of Missouri did upon the same nerve in the barefooted boy of ten. This observation should be referred to the American physiological society for an "Arbeit."

With the first severe frost another gastronomic feast was prepared for the small boy. In the open field, the thoughtful axe of the pioneer had left a few trees which bore a fruit fit for the feasts of Olympus. In my boyhood days I imagined that the manna upon which the children of Israel were fed in the wilderness was something like the persimmon after the killing frosts had, through the magical chemistry of nature, converted its acid substance into the richest and daintiest of sweets. Then, there were haws, red and black, and the flavor of the Missouri wild grape has been wafted to me across the wide ocean, even as I lingered in the vineyards of the Italian Riviera.

There was the winding creek with its fringe of hazel, willow and towering sycamore, with its deep pools in which dwelt the homely and elusive catfish ever tempting and generally evading the youthful Isaac Walton. The creek had other irresistable attractions for the youthful dweller near its banks. In summer the feathered songsters of the hazel fringe were constantly calling to the small boy, especially if some task in lesson or work had been placed upon him, and the possibility of meeting with a blue racer in the bush increased the zeal with which he searched for the bird's nest. Then, there was the plaintive cry of the whip-poor-will as the shades of evening were falling, and what a success was scored when the eggs of this mysterious bird were found lying in the dead leaves without form of nest. In autumn hazel nuts must be gathered and farther down, where the creel; broadens and loses its shrubby fringe where it flows through the massive timber there grows the great hickory and in late October it literally strew-e the ground with the big, creek nuts. Here on a Saturday afternoon comes the whole family with a wagon which is filled with bags of this the most delicious of the native nuts of Missouri. These, with the black walnuts that grow near by are stored away in the cellar to furnish refreshment for the long evenings of the coming winter. In winter the banks of the creek and the woods of the ridge become the haunts of rabbit and quail, the pursuit of which with snare, net or gun quickened the currents of red blood that flowed through the firm muscles of the Missouri boy of fifty years ago.

What a jolly time all had at Christmas. On the eve before, all feasted on nuts, cakes and cider, while Uncle William the fiddler of the neighborhood, gave with much vigor the Arkansas Traveler, and other classical selections. There was dancing, ending after midnight with the Virginia Reel. Then the guests departed, and the children were tucked in bed, and the great fire in the dining room permitted to burn out because Santa Claus must come down the chimney. Generally, all were so tired that they slept late the next morning. After a short breakfast, for no one was hungry came the ceremony of laying the back log. I do not know how generally this custom was practiced, but I remember it well, as it was conducted in my father's home. Christmas vacation lasted one week or so long as a remnant of the back log in the great fireplace of the dining room resisted combustion. In the fall one of the biggest trees on the bottom land was felled, and a section of its trunk measured to fit the fire-place was cut and rolled into the pond in the woodland pasture. Here it lay until Christmas morning, when the log was rescued from its bath under the ice, brought to the house and the fireplace, having been thoroughly cleaned out, it was put into place with much ceremony. Then every member of the family contributed something to the fore logs, and the fire was started. This ceremony was followed by the distribution of gifts. After this a great bowl of egg nog was placed upon the dining room table, and each member of the family, white and black, drank a cup and greeted the master and mistress of the house. There was a certain etiquette about Christmas gifts. The one who cried out the name of some other member of the family and then added, "Christmas gift," was entitled to something. Yet, between whites and blacks of the same age it was never proper for the white to call out first. White children might claim gifts from adult servants, and I may add, always had them, especially from Daddy and Mammy but with this exception it was always the proper thing not to see the servant on Christmas morning until he cried out, "Christmas gift" and then one should seem much surprised. The children of the house had great fun watching the servants on Christmas morning, pretending to hide behind the leafless shrubs in the yard in order to catch a "Christmas gift" from the master of the house, who was always stone blind on that morning, and the look of pretended surprise on his face, when he raised his eyes in recognition of the greeting, was a joy to all. "O, Marse John, I caught you that time" was the gleeful cry that came from the mock hiding place. Then, the master's eye would fall, after acknowledging that he had been taken wholly unawares, to be equally surprised at the next call. The mistress went through a like ceremony, with all the house servants and when all had assembled in the dining room before the briskly kindled fire with the great water soaked back log, and the gifts, so recently claimed, but long prepared in anticipation, were piled on the table ready for distribution, accompanied by kindly words - in recognition of services faithfully and cheerfully rendered, the scene was certainly in strong contrast to the overdrawn pictures, exceptional in reality, of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

One of the pleasing mysteries of the farm was the location of the private water melon patches. Besides the large patch for the whites, each adult servant had his private patch and the location of this was supposed to be known only to the individual owner. The water melon seeds were always planted on the first of May, before breakfast, and after the large parch had been seeded, each adult servant took himself and his well selected seed to the corner of the farm where he had already prepared the ground. All through the summer and fall the location of the patches of "Uncle Dick," "Uncle Harry," etc., was supposed to be known only to their respective owners, although there was not a nook of the farm unvisited by the bare-footed sons of the farm and their daily companions of color. Melons always grew to the largest size and had the reddest, sweetest hearts in Uncle Dick's patch, and it was with much pride that he occasionally brought from that unknown spot one of its largest products as a gift to the family. The barefooted son of the house had often looked with covetous eyes on the great green and striped melons that grew only under the magic care of Uncle Dick's hoe, and once the temptation proved more than mortal boy could bear, but, after an interview with his father, the next day, he learned that although stolen fruits may be sweet to the palate, they are prone to sour on the stomach. At the camp meetings and political barbecues in the late summer, Uncle Dick built a crude booth and using four well selected trees for the corners, and weaving the walls out of recently cut green branches, piled his great green water melons and golden yellow cantaloupes in the center and became for the time in the eyes of the small boy a merchant prince. Occasionally Aunt Mary became his partner in trade, as well as in life, and contributed piles of dark brown gingerbread as her portion of the merchandise. But how proud was the small boy to tell his cousins who had come from the adjoining county that the gray haired negro and his wife with the red bandanna about her head, the possessor of the largest and most prosperous booth in the grove, were his Uncle Dick and his Aunt Mary. Besides the "two bits" given him by his father had a long purchasing value at this booth. "Come here honey," Aunt Mary would call to him, "here's a big melon what's just got broke and you and your cousins must eat it up and get it out of the way."

The old home was on the plank road that ran from Huntsville to Glasgow, and twice a day, once each way, passed the old stage coach drawn by spirited horses. A few rods to the east of the big gate was a stable by the roadside, and here the stage horses were changed. The celerity with which this was done and the skill with which the driver handled the reins were at once the wonderment and admiration of the small boy and his companions. There seemed nothing more desirable as a future career than be a stage driver. Certainly this was true if one could hope to handle the reins and crack the whip as Lon Hether did. Many years after the planks of the old road had disappeared and the coaches had gone into the waste heap, I saw "the postlilion," on the great stage at Krolls Garden in Berlin, and while the audience applauded the music of the whip, I thought how much better Hether could have filled the title role. One day in its reckless haste, the coach went over the embankment west of the house along the line of the woodland pasture. Passengers were more or less cut by the broken glass, but the only one seriously hurt was the Jehu whose leg was broken, but after a few weeks, with a limp that never left him, he mounted the box again and became a greater hero than ever. Since that time I have fraternized with the rough men of the London busses, sat with the driver on the old road from Geneva to Chamonix, passed over the Tetz Noir and down into Martini, and enjoyed the descent from Mt. Hamilton into the beautiful Santa Clara valley, but none or these rides has ever thrilled me as did an occasional one on the box with the picturesque and big hearted stage driver of the old plank road. When the stage bore a guest for the farm, the fact was announced far down the road by a well known bugle call, then all were in keen anticipation until the visitor had been hospitably received. This road was the great highway for the tobacco wagons, each carrying three great hogsheads, and drawn by six mules. The driver, usually a reliable servant, rode the high wheeler and directed his team with a single line. Around the pummel of his saddle was coiled the black snake whip which occasionally spoke in warning tone to the mule which failed to give immediate response to gentler request.

I recall with much pleasure the monthly comings of the preacher on the circuit. The one whom I best remember weighed more than three hundred pounds, and was due at the farm on the afternoon of the Saturday before the fourth Sunday in the month. At this time, all anxiously watched for the gig, and the old gray horse the vehicle and motive power, by which this man, big in body, mind and soul, made the round of his circuit. In the pulpit he was great on theological dogma, but in the family circle he was a jolly friend, bringing good cheer, telling and enjoying a good joke, ready to help the boy in the translation of lines in Virgil or an ode in Horace explaining some principle in mechanics, making intelligent inquiry about progress in lessons, and recommending books of biography, fiction, science, travel, etc. The man to whom I specially refer had a snowy white beard, and black hair, the contrast of colors being marked, He explained this difference by saying he worked his jaws more than his brains. Once a quarter, came the presiding Elder. He arrived on Friday afternoon, for quarterly meeting meant service on both Saturday and Sunday. This dignitary was so great that he was regarded with awe by the children on the farm, and while many good men of this rank visited the home, no one of them ever touched the life of the small boy. Indeed, the coming of so exalted a personage cast a cloud over the home. Parents were too deferential, the old minister told no stories, gave no instruction, and the children were sentenced to the second table. Were you ever compelled to wait for the second table on account of company at your father's house? If not, you have no adequate appreciation of the resulting pain. The meal has been delayed beyond the usual hour by the tardiness of the guests, and the extent of the preparation in the kitchen. The children are told to play in the yard, run down into the pasture or pick fruit in the orchard. But what attraction has yard, pasture or orchard for the small boy in whose stomach there are a million peptic glands swollen to the point of bursting with gastric juice. What fascination has the yard, when the odor of fried chicken, cream gravy and hot biscuits floats from the dining room window. Why go to the pasture when the incense of the fattest mutton rises from the kitchen chimney. What raw product of the orchard can attract when a stack of pies, every one a magnet of great strength, pulls on every cell in the body with unmeasureable force toward the pantry. Oh! the torture of having to wait for second table! How slowly the guests eat. They are certainly oblivious of the cruel torture they are inflicting. At last human nature prevails and the small boy ventures to the kitchen door and casts a wistful eye on the cook who stops for a moment and then preparing a place on the kitchen table, says: "Come, , honey, and eat these scraps before they get cold." After that, the choicest samples of each course are placed on the boy's platter before the change is made in the dining room.

Whites and blacks belonged to the same church, and attended the same services, the latter occupying certain seats reserved for them in the rear. At basket meetings the servants spread the repasts in the grove, and after the whites had eaten, partook of the plenty that remained. Occasionally the colored people had services apart from the whites. At these, Negro preachers officiated, and I have heard much positive theology and many queer interpretations of scripture from Uncle Jeff, a revivalist of a neighboring farm.

In these days of special labor, of machine made goods, and of facility in interchange, one is inclined to doubt the veracity of his own memory, as he recalls the old farm and the occupations of its inhabitants. All the ordinary clothing worn by both whites and blacks was made from home grown fibres, flax and wool. Attempts were made to grow cotton and these were not without some success. The hand cotton gin, something like a diminuitive clothes wringer and home made, served to remove the seeds, spinning wheels for flax and wool, reels that cracked at every one hundred rounds, and looms for both plain and fancy fabrics were busy in providing clothing, blankets, carpets, etc. The working day garments for summer were of coarse flax, and those for winter were linsey and jeans. Sumach berries and walnut hulls supplied the ordinary dyes. Straw hats for summer and cloth or fur caps for winter were the products of the unskilled labor of the farm, while plows, harrows, corn planters, wagons and even the family carriage were joint productions of the carpenter and blacksmith. The cradle in which the child was rocked was a section of the gum tree, and the coffin in which the aged was laid to rest was shaped of black walnut boards sawed partly through and bent after being treated at the right place with boiling water.

The practical chemistry of soap making in all its details was well known to the early Missourian. The ashes stored in great wooden hoppers and leached with water supplied the alkali and this boiled with the scraps of fat obtained at hog killing time, made the soap. Candle making was a fine art, a the iron lamp with its twisted wick gave out a dim light and much bad odor. I have studied my Latin lessors and read the wonderful stories of Walter Scott many a night by the light of a sycamore ball floating in a cup of grease.

With the exception of coffee, tea and sumac, much of the food consumed on the farm was the product of its own growth. Sorghum often served the purpose of cane sugar and coffee substitutes in the form of roasted rye or wheat were not unknown. The big kitchen fireplace was a wonderful laboratory, and the memory of its products stimulates my digestive secretions even now. There was the great swinging crane on which hung the boiling pots of vegetables and meats. The broad stone hearth was covered with the baking ovens, with live coals underneath, and piled on the lid, all aglow. From these came the great pones of corn bread and the toothsome beaten biscuits. On winter nights the prizes of the hunter, rabbits, "possum," quail and larger birds, as wild geese and turkeys, were suspended in front of the blazing logs, and basted with melted butter and spices applied with swabs on long stifles as they swung about, first one side and then the other turned to the culinary artist. Sweet and Irish potatoes never tasted better than when roasted in the ashes, and it may be added that their sterilization was complete. While these delectable dishes were being prepared, the winter winds moaned and sighed through the great locusts of the yard, and black daddy told grewsome stories of "raw head and bloody bones." I have seen imitations of the old kitchen in the creole quarters in New Orleans and I may add, have enjoyed their well prepared dishes, but the greatest pleasure came from the awakening of memories of the old Missouri home.

One of the duties of those too young to do heavier work was to cure the meat that hung in tier upon tier to the rafters in the smoke house. A smouldering fire was kept going for weeks. Chips from the woodpile furnished the fuel, and the fire must not blaze, but generate as much smoke as possible. The task of keeping this fire going just right so frequently called the small boy from play or entertaining book that he has ever since had an aversion to the odor of creosote.

The methods of farming were crude and wasteful. "What does not go into granary goes into the smoke house" was a favorite saying, and implied that the hog picked up and converted into pork whatever of grain was left in the field or dropped from the wagon. The grain was cradled, bound, shocked and stacked. In the barn was a large room floored with boards or puncheons laid as smoothly as the crude workmanship of the day permitted. On this floor the wheat was spread and tramped by a troop of horses, the leader of which was ridden by a small boy. The trail was kept near the wall, and men stood in the middle of the room, and kept tossing the grain in front of the trampling horses. The grain, thus crudely and imperfectly separated, was winnowed in a fan mill turned by hand, and then carried to the old water mill on the creek and ground. The flour thus produced could have awakened in the mind of the Secretary of Agriculture no suspicion that it had been bleached.

The early Missourian was strong in his convictions and unyielding in his creed. His ancestors fought the battles of protestantism in France. In this struggle he lost his home and became an exile, but he never for one moment thought of modifying his creed. His nature would not permit his doing so certainly not at the command of some one else. The right to think for himself and arrive at his own conclusions he has always regarded as a possession from which he could never part, even at the cost of life itself. If I correctly understand the Missourian. It was his right of choice rather than what he chose, of which he was so tenacious. He began as a protestant and he continued to protest. In this country of religious freedom, finding themselves without a common enemy, the descendants of the old French Huguenots broke into factions in their creeds and differed earnestly, on free will, predestination, and forms of baptism. I have listened to many a warm discussion on these points. I well remember a most amusing termination of one of these before the open fire at the old home. The antagonists were eating juicy Northern Spies. One had cut a nice bit from his apple and holding it aloft on the point of his knife, he said: "I believe that it was foreordained before the world was created that I should eat this piece of apple." His antagonist, resorting to an argument more forceful than polite, knocked the piece of apple into the midst of the blazing logs.

I also remember how warmly the disputations concerning forms of baptism were waged. Some held that immersion was a positive command, and that entrance to the celestial city would be permitted only to those whose sins had been washed away in this manner. Fortunately, however, these differences in theological dogma had no effect upon their practical Christianity, and Methodist and Baptist lived side by side in brotherly peace and love. Their sons and daughters married, and intermarried, and wisely left nice distinctions of creed to be settled in another world, where we may be sure they will not have much weight one way or the other.

The mistress of the Missouri farm of ante-bellum times had her days filled with duties. It was for her to direct the busy and somewhat complicated machinery of the household. Meats were provided for under her direction. The dairy products must pass through the usual routine. The poultry yard demanded frequent visits. The flower and vegetable gardens were under her direction. The products of the orchard must not be permitted to go to waste. The fibre from which the clothing for both whites and blacks was made must pass through every stage of their manufacture under her supervision. The carding, spinning and weaving of both the coarser and finer textures depended upon her experience and skill. She served as nurse and in various ailments as physician to both whites and blacks. One of her duties was to instruct her daughter in the art of housekeeping and that meant much in those days. Her hospitality was unbounded in quantity, if plain in quality. Guests were frequent and welcome. On account of the distances between friends and relatives, visitors often prolonged their stay for days. Camp and protracted meetings were frequent and well filled lunch baskets were a necessity. In all this busy life they did not neglect the intellectual and moral education of their children. Good manners and refinement in behaviour were in culcated and practiced. Our mothers knew nothing of women's clubs and did not discuss woman's suffrage, but they did the duties that fell to their share and this is all that can be expected of mortal man or woman.

One characteristic of the Missourian of the middle of the last century was his respect for learning and his desire to give his children an education.

There were but few public schools in this state at that time, and all who could afford it, even at great self denial, secured private tutors for their children, or the neighbors, forgetting in this their differences in creed, built a school house at some convenient place and obtained the best instruction procurable. within the range of my acquaintance were farmers' sons who went to Harvard, Dartmouth, and to the University of Virginia, and one, who had ventured out into the world as far as Cambridge, England. But, recognizing the fact that means for higher education must be brought nearer home, they founded from their scanty means such institutions as this. Old Central founded by our fathers for our benefits should be nourished and supported by us for the good of the coming generations. Among its sons are many who have done creditable work in the various callings of life. To mention names from the lists Or former students is not desirable, and besides, how can we say what lives have been successful, and what not. He who does the duty that lies before him, De it great or small, conspicuous or unrecognized, has In so doing justified every help that has been rendered him.

Here, more than forty years ago, I began my college life, and although it was my privilege to remain here only a short time, I shall always regard this institution as the place of my collegiate birth. To me these halls are today filled with a crowd of bright, joyous faces as I knew them then. I extend brotherly greeting to those who live and loving memory to those who are dead. Men are mortal, but man is immortal The individual lives at best but a span, but the race continues. You and I are possessed of but limited capabilities, but the growth of the race knows no. bounds and the purpose of the individual life should be to contribute too the growth of the whole toward perfection.

In recalling the faculty of this college when I was a student, I must mention one name. The man who touched my innermost self and quickened it with a most healthful stimulus was Prof. Forster. Small of body, but strong in mind and great in soul, I wish to express the deep debt of gratitude I owe his memory. Generations of men come and go. Tempora mutantur et nos mutantur. Our fathers came to this uncultivated and fertile land, labored energetically and lived simply. In the great war that threatened to disrupt the nation, some wore the blue and some the gray, and all fought valiantly. The scars of that conflict have healed, and we have been left a noble heritage. We, the sons of noble men of the sixties, are now growing old, and the future of the new Missouri lies in the hands of the new generation. May this college continue to be a factor in the development in righteousness of the countless generations that are to follow, and may they ever bear in mind the well selected motto of this state, "salus populi supreme lex est."

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