« AnteriorContinuar »
lowed Abram's removal to his new home saw many clearings and improvements made in that whole region. His fifty-acre tract of land underwent a complete transformation. Early and late he toiled with the oxen; and such a share did those beasts of burden have in the establishment and improvement of his home that Abram regarded them with affectionate fondness, and treated them with the most friendly and patient consideration.
It was a grand thing to see the forest and wildwood give place to the garden of vegetables, the fields of grain, and the orchards of apples. Abram and Eliza appreciated the wonderful change. Those were their sweetest, best days, when they watched for the sprouts of corn and wheat with the eagerness and innocence of children, when the whole family joined in the gathering of the harvest, or when about the roaring winter fire they sat and talked of the past or planned for the future.
Soon a log school-house was constructed, across the ravine at the back of Abram's house, and at one corner of his clearing. This furnished a means of education for their children, and Abram and Eliza were happy
BIRTH OF JAMES AND DEATH OF HIS FATHER.
BIRTH OF JAMES. — THE FOURTH CHILD IN THE FAMILY.-REJOICINGS.
— HUMBLE SURROUNDINGS. — NAMED AFTER HIS UNCLE AND HIS
NOVEMBER 19, 1831, nearly two years after Abram had taken his family to their new home at Orange, the household was made happier by the birth of another son. Yet, so far as the child was concerned, it cannot be said to be a very auspicious beginning of life. It had been a difficult task to feed the children already in the family. The gloomy log cabin, made more shadowy by the attempts to shut out the cold winds of November, could not be said to be an augury of future brightness. The crying of a child within the humble abode, and the barking of wolves in the woodland near at hand, suggest nothing unusual, prophetic, or propitious. Such circumstances have surrounded the birth of many men, and will attend the nativity of many more. These circumstances neither make nor uninake men. But they do present the encouraging thought that if, from such
humble beginnings, a useful life may be made, then there are none so poor and humble but they may improve their condition and become benefactors.
Yet the infant was welcomed heartily by his largehearted father, and his appearance was made the occasion for congratulations among all the neighbors. For in the woods then, there were loving and honest neighborly sympathy and interest in each other's welfare, which the non-conducting brick walls of a city prevent or destroy. Then, if a person died within twenty miles, all the farmers, in sincere sympathy, left their work, and appeared at the sad rites. If there was a birth or marriage all rejoiced. If there was a “raising," where help was needed, all were there. Children of the cities often grow up be narrow, useless, weakly men and women, for the lack of this wholesome large-hearted spirit which * nature and freedom impart.
When the time came to name the baby, he was given the name of James Abram, the first being that of his uncle in his mother's family, and the last being that of his father. There could have been none of those poetic high hopes of the child's future greatness on the part of his parents, which we often find mentioned in biographical works, or they would have selected some other name than James, which in that region was simply a suggestion to call him “ Jim.” Neither his father nor his mother had any loftier hopes than that he would become an honest man and a good citizen.
But when the child was about a year and a half
old an event happened which suddenly left the family in the greatest gloom.
Abram Garfield had been fighting fire. From several heaps of burning brush, a conflagration had spread to his fences, woodland, and fields, and threatened destruction to everything around. In the contest, which lasted for many hours, the strong man became so heated and fatigued, that he eagerly sought the shade and breeze of his cabin doorway. He had been warned of the danger that lurked in cold drafts of air, but, trusting in his robust health and past escapes, sat in the draft and fanned himself with his hat. It was a fatal mistake. For in three days the husband and father lay in the log cabin a corpse. Who can imagine the shock to the wife and mother? So unexpected and so terrible. The neighbors could not for a while credit the rumor that Abram Garfield was dead. He had been the most certain of a long life, of any man they knew. Could it be that Abram Garfield had actually died of disease ?
To the widow it was for a while a paralyzing shock, which she could not comprehend. But when little James, just toddling about and beginning to speak whole words, pulled at the sheets of his father's bier, as the body lay on the boards across two chairs, and piteously called for his papa, she must have felt the keenest agony. The other children, Thomas, Mehitable, and Mary, were older, and could understand what death meant. But little Jimmy would not be quiet while his papa slept such an unusual sleep. He could read in the sorrowful faces and sobs of all about him that something sad had happened; so from one to another the baby wandered, with his large eyes filled with tears, touchingly and hesitatingly saying to each, “Papa."
“What a pity,” said one, “that such a helpless little child should be left fatherless!”
“His mother cannot support him," said another; “at all events, some of the children will have to be given away or bound out.”
“ She must sell the farm at once," said a third, “for there is no one now to complete the fences nor cultivate the farm. Poor soul! This will kill her!”
Yet the sorrowing woman did have one comfort. Her husband was loved by all and she had deep and hearty human sympathy. Have you ever been poor and imprisoned in a great city, with the body of a child, or wife, or husband, or a mother, or a father lying in death in your front room? Have you ever in your grief glanced at the passing crowds, and longed for one look of sympathy? Have you everwished that your next neighbor would stop the piano, or his loud, careless laughter, or quiet his noisy children at play about your door? Did not the persistent calls of traders, market men and beggars harrow up your stricken soul and cover your cheeks with the hot tears of unutterable woe? Like the “Ancient Mariner's” surfeit of water with none to drink, you sat wretched and lone, friendless and unnoticed in your sorrow, while around you an ocean of humanity surged and rolled, wasting its super