Memoirs of Henry Villard/Volume 1/05
Correspondent and School-Teacher.—1857-8
I HAD saved enough money to keep me for a few months, and concluded to remain in Racine till spring. Although without any regular employment, I was not idle. I continued my contributions to the Neue Zeit, even venturing to alternate letters with brief essays on social and political subjects, which were as readily accepted. I was justified then in believing that I should succeed as a German writer. I also knew that, owing to the limited field open to German journalism and literature in this country, a career as such would hardly be satisfactory as regarded either material profit or reputation. I saw, too, the incomparably wider sphere in both respects of the Anglo-American journalist. I had acquired such familiarity with English that there seemed to be no reason why I should not, with proper diligence, succeed before long in learning to write with sufficient fluency and correctness to enable me to enter that wider arena. I therefore determined to devote myself unremittingly to the task. I practised English composition for several hours every day, unless absent from home. I had to be my own teacher, and I followed a very simple and, as the result proved, effective method. I took a newspaper article or magazine, or a chapter in a novel, or some standard matter, read it over carefully several times, and then tried to reproduce it with pen and paper. Having the model before me, I could always correct my own work. After two months practice, I felt able to venture an article on European politics for the Daily Advocate, the local Republican paper. I took it to the editor myself, explaining that it was my first attempt at writing in English, and that I expected no compensation for it if he thought it fit to be published. He looked it over, detected only one error, and promised to publish not only that but any other matter in the same line that I might bring him. I wrote thereafter one or two articles a week for the paper, with constantly increasing facility.
After the New Year, 1857, I had frequent occasion to interrupt my labors for days at a time. I learned by chance that some leading Germans in Milwaukee had formed a project similar to my Chicago land scheme, and would apply to the Wisconsin Legislature for a special act incorporating a land company with powers to acquire real estate in any part of the United States and to issue stock and bonds against it. The information revived so strongly my former faith that such an organization could make no end of money, that I went to Milwaukee to confer with the parties in question. I found that, though having no definite plans, they were very enthusiastic about the matter. The idea again got such complete possession of me that I made up my mind to try for a charter myself, alone. I went to Madison, the capital of the State, where the Legislature was holding its biennial session, and interested the Senator and member from Racine County in the scheme. They framed the charter for me, and in due time it was passed by both houses; but, to achieve this success, it was necessary to make several visits to the capital. During my stay there, I renewed my acquaintance with Hermann Goll, whom I had met the year before at Chicago, a man of thorough scholarship and great literary capacity, who was fulfilling the uncongenial duties of editor of the weekly German newspaper. He was thoroughly disgusted with his vocation and surroundings, for he was withal an extreme radical (politically) as well as a most entertaining man. He did not endure his situation long, but returned to his native land of Baden, where he died a few years ago, being at the time the editor of the conservative official journal of the Government of the Grand Duchy. I also became acquainted with Dr. Fuchs, another German scholar and thorough gentleman, and his bright, amiable wife. He held a professorship at the State University. These pleasant acquaintances were the only actual fruits of my repeated visits to Madison, for subsequent efforts in Milwaukee to utilize the charter by forming a land company conjointly with the parties referred to proved unavailing, so that I gave up the attempt in disgust and the act remained a dead letter.
In the course of the winter, I had my first insight into American domestic life and society as it then existed in a comparatively new Western town. My recollections in this connection are of the most agreeable nature. I saw then, for the first time, the neatness, order, comfort, peace, and quiet that, as a rule, characterize the American home; and made the observation, which is confirmed every day of my life, that American women of any social position have not their equals in any other country for brightness, tact, and true womanhood, and that they are as intelligent as American men and superior to them in all other respects — except, of course, knowledge of practical life. The richest men were persons who began life as mechanics or small tradesmen. Their whole bearing showed their origin, but their wives and daughters looked like ladies, and in most cases were really such. Yet those uncouth-mannered men had given, or were giving, the very best education to their children that money could command. The professors of the college imparted a somewhat higher tone to social life than prevailed in other Western towns. Some of them were really learned and ardently devoted to their calling. The older college students and a goodly number of attractive young ladies rendered the social circles very animated and pleasant, at least for one of my age.
What with my past savings and current earnings, I was able to remain in Racine till early in May. I had had such a pleasant and at the same time useful experience there that I found it really hard to make up my mind to leave for good. It was true, too, that my departure was regretted by many of my acquaintances. But it was clear that my aim had to be pursued elsewhere, and, thinking that such pursuit would be more promising in the intellectual centres of the East, I set out once more for New York. I arrived there with a slender purse and half a dozen long articles on miscellaneous subjects, three in German and three in English, prepared in advance, as a means of further introduction to the metropolitan press.
With the acquaintances I had made the year before in the Empire City, I had no trouble in obtaining proper introductions to the editors of the principal American and German dailies — namely, the Tribune, Times, Herald, and the Staats-Zeitung, the Democratic paper. It was far more difficult to obtain personal interviews with several people, whom, however, I managed to see after more or less antechambering — Charles A. Dana, the editorial manager of the Tribune, and also Henry J. Raymond and Frederic Hudson, who filled like positions on the Times and Herald. The first-mentioned I found quite talkative and affable. He began the conversation in German, which he spoke very fluently, and, after a few keen questions, he soon took my measure, and made me confess that I was a new hand at the journalist's trade and had nothing to offer but a willingness to work and ambitious aspirations. He showed a disposition to sneer at the latter. Still, the ardor with which I pressed my application for employment seemed to impress him. He took down my address, saying that he would perhaps try me as a general reporter of the doings of the Germans in the city. I offered him one of my English articles on “German Life in the Northwest,” and he promised to read it. Mr. Raymond also received me kindly, but gave me no encouragement at all, and declined to receive and examine one of my English productions. He intimated that the Times had more editorial contributions than it could print, that it was always ready to pay liberally for what it published, and for valuable news. He was perfectly polite, but brief and decided. His whole manner, indeed, revealed the vigorous, resolute mind that characterized his career as a journalist. Mr. Hudson's response to my application was substantially the same. "What do you think that you can do for us?" he asked me, when I got through with my explanation of my wishes; and I found it hard, of course, to reply. "Anything in the way of news that you bring us, I will read, and use if acceptable." He merely cast a glance at the samples of my ability to write, and turned me off, saying, "It would have to be a matter of the highest value to induce the Herald to print anything so long."
The Staats-Zeitung was then and is now one of the most prosperous newspapers in the world, and, as such, entirely able, but willing only to a moderate degree, to pay for extra contributions. Mrs. Uhl, the widow of its founder, was the active business-manager. She was a woman of commanding and pleasing presence, and superintended the whole concern, including the editorial and business departments, with untiring industry (she was at her post at eight o'clock every morning), excellent judgment, and great success. The politics of the paper were abominable, but it had a Sunday issue on neutral ground, and to it I sought admission. Mrs. Uhl had a very kindly nature, which blossomed out in after years in the shape of private and public charity on the largest practical scale. On her death, in 1884 (she died Mrs. Oswald Ottendorfer), her worth was recognized by one of the greatest public demonstrations ever witnessed in New York. I understood that she was beset all the time with requests like mine, and hence hardly expected the friendly hearing which she granted me. She agreed to have my literary articles read by her literary editor and to advise me promptly of the result. My call at the office of the New-Yorker Demokrat bore no fruit, as I had anticipated from what I had heard of its limited pecuniary resources.
In a few days I received my manuscript from Mr. Dana, with a brief note saying that he could not use it. The Staats-Zeitung, on the other hand, informed me that two of my articles had been accepted, and that they would be paid for, when published, at the rate of four dollars a column. They brought actually twenty-one dollars to me in all. This was rather a humiliating compensation for what represented more than a week's hard work, and did not augur well for the rapid acquisition of wealth by means of my pen; but I took the money and worked on. If I remember correctly, my contributions to the Staats-Zeitung earned me only four dollars a week. The Neue Zeit also continued to accept about a column every fortnight, for which I received five dollars, and I managed, too, to get something to do for the German edition of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, which was started at that time. As regarded the American press, my dream of an editorial connection had been rudely dispelled; but, nothing daunted, I resolved to get en rapport with them as a chance reporter or penny-a-liner. I tried all the three dailies named with brief accounts of special occurrences among the German population, such as public festivals, military parades, proceedings of societies, etc., and succeeded fairly well. At least half of what I offered was accepted, but the work was hard and discouraging, owing to the uncertainty of the pay. I do not believe that my income from this source ever exceeded eight dollars a week.
This was literally scraping a precarious livelihood. I continued it for nearly three months and gradually grew very weary of it. I had neither sufficient income nor leisure for social enjoyments, and led a very lonesome life. I began to long for a change and to consider my leaving the West a great mistake. I was already thinking of ways and means of returning there when a chance to do so was suddenly presented to me. A contest had broken out between the Republicans and Democrats of Minnesota in the political convention called under an act of Congress to frame a State Constitution, that attracted a good deal of attention. It flashed upon me that I might induce one of the American dailies to send me as a special correspondent to the scene of action. I proposed this without delay to the three managing editors. Mr. Dana alone was willing to consider it. He would not, however, act upon my bold suggestion to allow me a regular salary and expenses, but agreed, after much parleying, only to let me write not less than twenty columns from St. Paul, and to allow me twelve dollars a column for the work. I figured up the travelling expenses to St. Paul at fifty dollars — more money than I had at my command. I was about to give up the plan, on account of this apparently insuperable obstacle, when an American fellow-reporter, with whom I had struck up a close acquaintance, helped me out with a good piece of advice. He recommended that I should go to Albany and ask Thurlow Weed, the famous editor of the Albany Journal, to obtain passes for me. My adviser had himself tried the same thing successfully.
I packed up and took the first evening boat for the capital of the State. On landing in the morning, I made directly for the Journal office, and ascertained that the renowned personage I went to see was fortunately in town. I had the desired interview with him before noon. His exterior was the index of a remarkable man. His tall form, beardless face, set in a frame of gray, bushy hair, heavy eyebrows, and a large mouth made a strong combination of features. His kindly eyes and pleasant smile were in contrast to the rest of his face. He gave me a friendly welcome and listened to my request. After questioning me as to the object of my Western trip, he said promptly, “I think I can help you,” sat down, and wrote a letter of introduction for me to a local railroad official, requesting him to obtain passes for me as far westward in the direction of St. Paul as possible. The thanks that I expressed were sincere, for I certainly had no claim upon him. The letters had the desired effect. I was given a pass from Albany to Buffalo, orders for transportation thence to Detroit by Lake Erie, and from Detroit to Grand Haven, Milwaukee, and Prairie du Chien, the terminus of the only railroad at that time crossing the State of Wisconsin to the Mississippi River. I started at once and had a most interesting and enjoyable, but uneventful, trip of four and a half days to Prairie du Chien. There I took a passenger steamer up the Mississippi to my destination. I found the scenery formed by the banks of the river very picturesque. Going up stream and making many landings, we were over twenty-four hours on the boat. I believe that we reached St. Paul on the 15th of August.
The town had not over seven thousand inhabitants. I was struck with the beauty and other advantages of its situation and was at once satisfied it had a great future. At the levee there was a long line of steamboats, showing already an extensive local commerce. The Territory of Minnesota being then on the eve of admission to the Union as a State, the tide of immigration from the Eastern States had set strongly in that direction. Several boats arrived daily from below with crowds of seekers of political and other fortunes. The place was thronged with a floating population far beyond its residential. It consisted of two straggling business streets parallel to the river, gradually ascending to a plateau bordered by wooded hills, which had already been reached by the residence portion of the town and was considerably developed. From the plateau there was a magnificent prospect over the Mississippi valley and a large expanse of country to the west of it. There were two main centres of life in the community — the large brick hotel, at which I stopped, and the Territorial capitol. There was stir enough, to be sure, but who would have dared to prophesy that in a little over thirty years the small town would grow into a city of two hundred thousand people?
The complication in the constitutional convention that led to my journey was this: The Democrats were charged with having perpetrated frauds in the election and sent up five members from Pembina County (now part of North Dakota), who were rejected as coming from outside territory. The Republicans numbered fifty-nine and the Democrats fifty-four. Upon the rejection of the Pembina delegates, the Democrats seceded and sat in a separate hall. Each party proceeded to make a constitution, denounced the other violently, and the bitterest war was raging between them when I arrived. For a week, there was plenty of material for letters, but wiser counsels prevailed, and a committee of conference was appointed to harmonize the two constitutions and submit only one to the people. The conference was successful, and the committee's report was made to both bodies and adopted on August 30. Thereupon, the “double-headed” convention adjourned and my mission was ended, much sooner than I wished.
Being thus deprived of political material for correspondence, I sought to obtain other by visiting various parts of the Territory. For this purpose, I joined a party of young fellows who set out for a fortnight's hunting-trip to the northwest of St. Paul. We started in an ordinary farmer's wagon, drawn by two horses. After travelling some hours, the road came to an end, and we continued our way at a venture across the wild prairie. We struck a tamarack swamp in the afternoon, and, thinking that it was of no great extent, tried to cross it. We struggled on, but had not reached the end of it when the sun set and we felt obliged to stop for the night in a comparatively dry spot. From the time we entered the swamp, men and animals struggled desperately to protect themselves from the swarms of mosquitoes, but, in spite of the most vigorous resistance, we were quickly stung all over. We walked alongside of the horses, which, although we brushed them incessantly with twigs, were constantly covered and driven almost wild by the insects. Their ears and nostrils suffered especially. On halting for the night, we made a narrow circle of branches strewn with green grass about our camp, and fired it, so as to surround ourselves with a dense smoke. It did but little good, and, owing to our efforts to protect ourselves and the horses, no one of us got any rest. We started again at daybreak, and it took us nearly the whole forenoon to reach dry prairie. The mosquito plague, however, diminished but little, so that we decided to make for St. Paul again as quickly as possible. We arrived there late in the evening of the third day. I was a sight to behold. My face was really disfigured, and I was so exhausted that I stayed in bed for a whole day.
In spite of this experience, I set out on another wagon-trip to the town of Faribault, on the Minnesota River, forty miles southwest of St. Paul. My motive was to see James F. Shields, formerly United States Senator from Illinois, and a resident of Belleville, where I had become acquainted with him. He had distinguished himself in the Mexican War, but belonged to the class of political adventurers, so numerous in the West in those days, who tried their fortunes in one new State after another. Not being reëlected to the United States Senate in Illinois, he migrated to Minnesota, whence he managed to be sent as Senator for a short term. Subsequently, on her admission into the Union, he served on the Northern side in the war against the Southern Rebellion, and succeeded in being elected United States Senator from Missouri. The newspapers had announced that Speaker Orr of South Carolina and several other leading Democratic politicians were visiting him, and this fact prompted my journey.
I had another sore trial from the mosquitoes in crossing the so-called Big Woods, a strip of timber, many miles wide, extending from south to north across the State. But otherwise the drive through the rolling prairie country, dotted with lakes fringed by oak groves, to the picturesque valley of the Minnesota was quite interesting. Faribault I found to be an embryo village of a few dozen brick, frame, and log houses, for which a large growth was expected. It never became more than a small country town, however. Under the pre-emption law, General Shields had acquired a quarter-section of land immediately adjoining the town. I found him living upon it, on an eminence commanding a beautiful view of the surrounding country, in a one-story log house of the most primitive description, divided into three rooms. He was sitting in front of it, with his visitors, on rude chairs; smoking a “corn-cob” and looking altogether like a true pioneer. He received me very cordially, and introduced me to the rest of the company, and I spent several hours listening to their varied talk. They were all supplied with a good stock of funny stories, which they dispensed with great liberality. Altogether, I gathered ample material for some descriptive letters, and bitter, therefore, was my disappointment when I found, on my return to St. Paul, a letter from the editor of the Tribune, declining to authorize me to write any more, thus leaving me once more without employment. While thinking over my situation, the idea came to me that I had better return to New York and offer my services to the Tribune, or any other paper there that might be willing to accept them, as a regular correspondent from the seat of the Sepoy Mutiny in India, which at that time absorbed the anxious attention of the whole world.
I arrived in New York about the middle of September, and immediately entered upon the pursuit of my objects. As no one of the great dailies had, up to that time, published special correspondence from the seat of the Mutiny, I felt very confident of success, and visions of prospective honors and profits cheered me on; but I had not taken one important factor into consideration. The country was fast plunging into the severe financial crisis of 1857. The suspension of the Ohio Life and Trust Company, which ushered in that era of long and general distress, had already occurred and was being daily followed by failures of banks and commercial houses in the city. General distrust prevailed, and trade of every sort had come almost to a standstill. The newspaper business, like every other, was being seriously affected, and publishers and editors necessarily were bent upon reducing rather than enlarging their current expenditures. My successive applications to the editors of the Tribune, Times, and Herald resulted in nothing, although I saw them more than once. The sole encouragement I received was from the editor of the Evening Post, John Bigelow, afterwards Consul-General and Minister to France, but he only offered to pay me twenty dollars a letter for what I wrote.
I was very loath to give up my plan, and for weeks taxed my wits for means to raise the needed funds. The only result was that, in the latter half of October, I found my self penniless and without any prospect of work in the great city, which was swarming with tens of thousands of idle men and women, the victims of the crisis. I was finally obliged to put up in a German boarding-house in Jersey City, and to appeal for help to a former female servant of my parents, whom I accidentally found to be living there. Her husband, whom I had also known in my youth, was a skilful journeyman stone-cutter, and had saved a little money from his earnings. These good people gladly provided for my wants, which did not exceed five dollars a week. In my subsequent prosperity I had the satisfaction of being able to manifest to them my grateful appreciation of their kindness.
I prepared a number of articles, both in German and in English, on various subjects, and every few days went to New York and visited the newspaper offices to find a market for them. But all through October I managed to sell only two German articles, for which I received ten dollars. While in a German office one day, I accidentally picked up the Reading (Pa.) Adler, the well-known principal paper of the Pennsylvania Germans in the eastern counties of the State, printed in the singular jargon spoken in those parts. Glancing over the advertising columns, I noticed quite a number of short advertisements for teachers in Berks and Bucks and Lebanon Counties. Being very much discouraged as to my ability to earn a living by literary work, and anxious to be relieved from my pecuniary straits, it occurred to me that there lay the possibility of regular employment. To be sure, I had not the slightest knowledge of teaching, but, from what I had seen of the country schools in different places, I was persuaded that I could manage to fill the prescribed requirements. Accordingly, I left Jersey City for Reading on the last of October. On reaching it, I called on the County School Commissioner, to whom I explained my aspirations. He informed me that there was no suitable opening for me in his county, but that he had just received a letter from his colleague in the adjoining county of Lebanon, asking for a teacher for one of the district schools under his administration. I took the next train for Lebanon, and presented myself without delay to the School Commissioner. He was a very kindly, elderly man, speaking very good German, who interested himself at once in my case. He asked me whether I had a teacher's certificate, and, when I replied that I had not, suggested that I should submit to an examination at once, or prepare myself for one, as I could not be accepted as a teacher without a certificate. I declared my willingness to be examined on the spot, though doubting my ability to pass, whereupon he assured me that I need have no fears. He made me sit down, and, for an hour and a half, put me through a series of questions in arithmetic, grammar, history, and geography, three-fourths of which, under his kind leading, I answered correctly. Then, on payment of one dollar, I received a certificate pronouncing me duly qualified to teach any district school in the State of Pennsylvania; also a letter of introduction to the Board of School Directors for Swatara Township, the chairman of which resided in the village of Jonestown, six miles from Lebanon, whither I went on foot the next morning.
I found Jonestown to be a neat, clean place, consisting of a public square from the four sides of which as many streets extended at right angles. The buildings around the square, which contained some fine elms, consisted of three hotels with old-fashioned swinging signs, two stores for general retail trade, and some mechanics shops. The hamlet had a most sleepy look, which on closer acquaintance proved to be in accordance with its true character. Its population, with the exception of a single family, was entirely made up of Pennsylvania Germans, and their peculiar language was used exclusively. I made my way to the most attractive hotel, the landlord of which, a fine-looking, white-haired man, was watching the goings-on from a chair on the main veranda. He gave me a hearty welcome, and, like a genuine village Boniface, immediately tried to find out who I was and what I wanted. On learning my object in being there, he made himself known as one of the school board, and offered to take me at once to the chairman of it. This proved to be the village doctor, a native of New York State, and an intelligent, well-educated man. He received me very kindly, and, after an hour's talk, we were on the best possible footing.
Having taken my intellectual measure, he told me frankly that I was altogether too well educated for the class of people I was to come in contact with, and for the common-school work I wished to undertake. But, on being informed that I sought the latter not from choice but from necessity, he offered to make it as pleasant as possible for me. He called a meeting of the school directors for the same evening, at which I was formally assigned to the vacant school for the two terms of three months each (the common schools in the county were not kept open longer), and my compensation fixed at thirty dollars a month and board — more than had ever been allowed for the same service. I was but too glad to accept, but was rather taken aback when the doctor explained to me that I was not to have an allowance for board, but would have to “board around” among the farmers whose children were to be my pupils — that is, to change my eating- and sleeping-place once a week. There was nothing to be done, however, but to submit.
The first school-term was not to begin for a week, so I remained at the tavern I had first selected during that time. I went back to Lebanon for the valise that contained all my belongings. I was reduced to the suit I wore, a fall overcoat, and a limited supply of linen and underwear. I bought the prescribed text-books, to the study of which I devoted myself diligently. During the week I also made myself acquainted with the leading villagers and the surrounding country. I found the latter most attractive every way. The Swatara River, that flowed through the village, coursed through a most picturesque valley from the beautiful Blue Mountains, the main ridge of which was but a few miles distant. The rolling country was finely diversified and highly improved, and dotted with prosperous farms. Fine public roads extended in every direction — a feature especially pleasing to a passionate pedestrian like myself. Assuredly, I did not fail to visit at once the scene of my future labors. The school-house was an ordinary building, decidedly neglected, and too small for the number of children entitled to use it, but well-lighted and well-situated on an elevation close to a by-road, about three-quarters of an hour from the village.
I duly entered upon my duties at the appointed time. Only thirty-five pupils out of sixty reported, and the attendance was always meagre, never exceeding forty, and sinking in bad weather often below thirty. The ages of my pupils ranged from eighteen to five, the majority being perhaps twelve, with the sexes about equally divided. Most of them were healthy and comely, but shabbily dressed and anything but cleanly in appearance. The majority of them were evidently intelligent, but the examination with which I began my teaching, in order to find out how they had been taught before and how much they knew, proved that they had received very irregular and limited teaching. Their spelling was very defective, their writing awkward, and their pronunciation of English very incorrect. It became clear that I should be equal to my task, as far as necessary knowledge was concerned, in all the branches except that of writing, in which I was disqualified by my own bad hand. I graded my pupils as best I could under the circumstances, and then proceeded regularly with the prescribed instruction.
The law required five hours teaching daily. The morning session opened at nine and continued till noon, with ten minutes recess at half-past ten, followed by an intermission till half-past one, and then two hours more of recitations. Saturday was a holiday. Thus I could not complain of excessive work, nor were my duties irksome to me, as the pupils were well-behaved and I soon got on a good footing with them. During my stay I had but few occasions to administer admonition or punishment, the latter only of a light sort. The main trouble was not bad conduct so much as laziness, especially on the part of the older girls. The general ignorance of my flock was amazing, and I seemed to be among veritable German peasant children. They saw very little of the outside world, and I readily attached them to me by reading and talking to them of it. Though they were the offspring of families that had been settled in Pennsylvania for generations, only a few of them could converse or understand English, so I spoke German to them. At first they found it difficult to understand me, accustomed as they were to the dialect. This very fact made them look upon the “schoolmaster,” as they all called me, with awe, as a sort of superior being. Within a few weeks, the whole school was ready to do anything for me, obviously feeling honored by being allowed to talk or walk with me.
I certainly could not boast of great achievements in my experience as a district teacher, but when I contrasted my freedom from care with my last experiences in New York, I felt very content with my temporary lot. This feeling was strengthened when I read in the New York daily Tribune, which I had subscribed for, of the progress of the general distress in the large cities. But there was a feature in my new life that was most distasteful to me from the start. As already mentioned, the terms of my engagement included “free board,” which was to be furnished in rotation at the homes of my pupils. Each family was bound to keep me only one week, so every Saturday I had to pick up my traps and move to new quarters. As a rule, my hosts were kindly disposed and treated me to the best they had; but their coarse fare, crude manners, and primitive domestic arrangements were hard to put up with. The people I stayed with were all descended from the poorest and most degraded class of peasants, who had emigrated under labor-contracts from my native province a century previous. They brought with them their domestic habits and had stuck to them ever since. I was surprised to find that their table-fare, beverages, furniture, utensils, and domestic practices generally were all but identical with those of the peasantry of the Palatinate at that very time. I found dishes on their tables that are not known in any other part of Germany. They slept on and under feather-beds, — and, alas! I had to submit to these too, — just as the peasants of the Palatinate do to-day. The very bench at the back of the stores for lounging purposes and smoking was not wanting. Of course, these people had been elevated above the level of a hundred years before, as their parents had had the advantage of the generally civilizing results of life in America, but my hosts were, almost without exception, sadly ignorant, narrow, and low. To be obliged to eat at table and to spend the evening hours and free days with these people, and to be obliged to sleep in the same room with the male farm help, was anything but an agreeable necessity. Yet I made the most of my predicament and got along without friction.
I was, however, immensely relieved when my friend the doctor, at Christmas, in response to my earnest and constant entreaties, persuaded the school board to let him arrange for my board and lodging on a different basis. Accordingly, we succeeded in persuading a family with which I had lived a week, and which I liked better than any other, to board me regularly for the modest sum of three dollars a week, which the school board was to pay. The family bore the name of Umberger, and consisted of two brothers and their wives and four children of the elder pair, two of whom were a boy of eighteen and a girl of seventeen. During the four months that I remained with them, there never was the least jarring between us. I requited their kindness by giving the children extra teaching at night, and entertaining the inquisitive older folks during the long winter evenings by telling them of life in the West, in Germany, and in the great American cities. To show how circumscribed the vision of these people necessarily was, I need but mention that most of the farmers and their wives whom I met during the winter, had never seen a railroad, though they lived within six miles of one!
I spent my evenings, except Saturdays, at home, talking and reading. Saturdays I set out for the school-house after breakfast, and, after starting the fire in the stove, spent all day doing journalistic work. I did not want to get out of practice, and I sought also to add to my modest income by it. Nothing that I offered to American papers in New York was accepted, but the Staats-Zeitung published some descriptive sketches and a short tale, if I remember aright. Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons and evenings, I made calls in Jonestown, or spent some time among the loungers around the office stoves in the several taverns. Of course, I longed for company, and sought what there was of it, poor as it was. One Sunday a month I spent in Lebanon, where I picked up a pleasant acquaintance with the editor of the leading local paper, the Lebanon County Courier, through some communications on various subjects which I sent him for gratuitous publication. Time passed quickly till the end of May, 1858, when my engagement was terminated by the closing of the schools.
- ↑ One illusive opening was the Government's military expedition against the Mormons in the autumn of 1857.