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(title page) Life and History of the Rev. Elijah P. Marrs, First Pastor of Beargrass Baptist Church, and Author
Rev. Elijah P. Marrs
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After mature thought over the varied events of my passed life, and the many trials I have been subjected to and the scenes witnessed, I have, at the request of many friends, been induced to make this publication. I trust it will be perused by them with interest. I give to the reader the history of my childhood days--my experience of twenty years as a slave--of nineteen months in the army--of eighteen years in the school-room--and of thirteen years in the ministry. I do not put forth this work as one of merit, but a book somewhat of value in a historical point of view, and one that will be entertaining to those, at least, who are old enough to remember the occurrences and events of the dark days of the past.
E. P. MARRS.
I WAS born January, 1840, in Shelby County, Kentucky, twenty miles east of the city of Louisville; and my parents, Andrew and Frances Marrs, were born in Culpepper County, Virginia. My father was born in 1810. I am unable to tell when my mother was born; but, I think, about the year 1815. My father, who is yet living, is seventy-five years old. My mother belonged to a man by the name of Jesse Robinson. My father was a free man; my mother was a slave, hence I was born a slave. On the farm where I was reared there were about thirty slaves. I remember, when I was but four years old, how I used to steal away from home and stay until the dark would drive me in. The
white boys and colored boys would leave home soon in the morning and rove the woods through during the summer time.
We had the dog-fennel for our hiding-place, and often the whole family would be in an uproar to know where we were. We would get a flogging when we returned, but the next day we would be gone again. After I became seven or eight years old I was made a dining-room boy. I remember how Brother Henry and I used to steal the biscuits off the plates while carrying them into the dining-room, and how they would burn us while hot in our pockets. In those days the colored people hardly knew the taste of wheat bread. The white boys used to make trades with the colored boys; for instance, I would have a marble he wanted; he would say to me, "I will give you a seldom for that marble." He meant that he would give me a biscuit with butter on it; that he would save a portion of what he was to eat to pay his debt.
I left the dining-room and went to the corn-field. I could tell of many romances of the field, but this little book will not allow it. It was a source of pleasure for me to leave the house and go to the field, where I could skip, hop, and jump to my heart's delight. We boys, in the time of plowing, as a general thing, only had the corn to plow over once a week. This we knew, hence we would lash our horses from morning until night,
and get through sometimes by the middle of the week, and would then spend the remainder of the week in roving and roaming up and down the creek, fishing, etc. Our master was not hard on us, and allowed us generally to do as we pleased after his own work was done, and we enjoyed the privilege granted to us. I was a cow-boy in the meantime, and for six successive years I, with my mother, attended to the dairy.
My mother was very severe on me. She used to whip me nearly every night for the misdemeanors of the day. She would wait till I had undressed, and then attended to her loving boy as she used to call me.
Mothers were necessarily compelled to be severe on their children to keep them from talking too much. Many a poor mother has been whipped nearly to death on account of their children telling the white children things, who would then go and tell their mothers or fathers. My mother always told me what she was going to whip me for before commencing, and would talk to me while she was whipping me. I only got one whipping from father, and that I richly deserved. I would blush to tell the cause of that whipping in this book, but it was a good one. He was always my friend when I thought trouble was in the air; he was my only refuge; when he failed to plead for me my hopes fled.
Very early in life I took up the idea that I wanted to learn to read and write. I was convinced that there
would be something for me to do in the future that I could not accomplish by remaining in ignorance. I had heard so much about freedom, and of the colored people running off and going to Canada, that my mind was busy with this subject even in my young days. I sought the aid of the white boys, who did all they could in teaching me. They did not know that it was dangerous for a slave to read and write. I availed myself of every opportunity, daily I carried my book in my pocket, and every chance that offered would be learning my A, B, C's. Soon I learned to read. After this the white people would send me daily to the post-office, at Simpsonville, Ky., a distance of two miles, when I would read the address of the letters; I also would read the newspapers the best I could. There was an old colored man on the place by the name of Ham Graves, who opened a night school, beginning at 10 o'clock at night. I attended his school one year and learned how to write my name and read writing. On every gate - post around the stable, as on the plowhandles, you could see where I had been trying to write. Of course, I did not know the danger of it, and that fools', names like fools' faces are always seen in public places.
I am unable to tell the day or year when I became a Christian, but it was about the year 1851. Well do I remember the time when I went to a Methodist class
meeting, and heard them all telling the experience of grace. I was then quite small. They talked about how good the Lord had been to them. I sat and listened. I cried and wondered why I could not talk that way too. I could not understand it. I had peculiar ideas as to what religion was. The Rev. R. Bain came over to our house one morning to see my father. he said to him, "Andy, I believe in my soul I've got religion." My father replied, but I have forgotten his answer. I went off wondering what he meant. My thoughts ran high; I thought that if he had religion he at least ought to know it; yet I hadn't the remotest idea what he meant. Yet I thought it was something very solemn, for he was crying. When he said that he believed that he had religion, I thought it was something written on a piece of paper, hence he ought to know it, yet the thought came back to me as to the cause of his crying. This thought haunted me. In going after my cows I would ask myself the question, "What did he mean?" My mind grew more active, but the mystery I could not comprehend. I had great faith in my father, and I thought he could whip a world, yet I saw him crying. Father said to Rev. Bain, "God is good; He saved me from hell." Hark! I began to fear though only eleven years old. A thought came to me to seek that which had been found by my father. "Seek and ye shall find," I had heard Bro. Bain remark,
but how and in what way should I seek, and hopes I had none as to the consummation of my desires. My head was bowed down in sorrow. They watched me at home, and one would ask the other, "What is the matter with Elijah?" They could not tell. I hardly knew what was the matter with myself. Nature had taught me that I was a sinner. I wanted some instruction what to do. I was ignorant. I had heard many a prayer from mother and father and old Brother Bullitt, but none of them gave me any promise.
Instruction, teaching, was what I most needed. One day I was sent out into the field to cut corn-stalks with one of my young masters. He looked at me, and he saw that I was sin sick. He, being a Christian, took me in hand and told me that I was a sinner, and that Jesus Christ died to save sinners, and all I had to do was to believe that Jesus Christ was able to save. He told me about hell and its horrors. From morning to evening he talked. I prayed the best I could after I left him. I prayed during that week, and had a special place to pray every morning, when I went after the cows, about a mile from home, under a June apple-tree. Sunday came and I went to church and heard old Brother James Venable preach from this text, "Escape for your life." I was struck with conviction, and lingered along until Rev. Charles Wells, who was then pastor of the Colored Baptist Church, Simpsonville,
commenced a protracted meeting. Shortly after the commencement of the meeting I professed faith in Christ. Oh how well I remember the time when Jesus freed me! Then, after I had found Christ, I had to go to Old Mass and Old Miss to get permission to join the Church. They consented, and then came the time to be baptized. It was extremely cold, and the streams covered with ice an inch thick. I had to again ask permission to be baptized, and with tears in their eyes my request was granted. Rev. Wells buried about fifty souls that day in the liquid grave. Thank God that I was saved!
There was something on Robinson place that was an exception to the general rule. There were forty-two in family, and all members of the Church who were above ten years of age, and all Baptists save one old colored lady, Robinson himself having been a deacon in the Baptist Church for about forty years. After my conversion and baptism I was permitted to attend Sunday-school and study the Word of God for myself. My master then removed all objections to my learning how to read, and said he wanted all the boys to learn how to read the Bible, it being against the laws of the State to write. We had to steal that portion of our education, and I did my share of it I suppose. Only a few of the white people would let their slaves attend the Sunday-school, hence I became an active member in it.
At the age of seventeen I made my first attempt at courting. There was a beautiful young lady living in Boston by the name of Mary Malone. My brother, who was older than I, persuaded me to accompany him on a visit to her one day. We had a very good time, especially so to me. It was my first love affair, and when the young lady addressed me in such endearing terms as "my little pet--my little sweetheart"--I neglected to see that the declining sun was fast nearing the western horizon, and that I was a long way from home. Alas! before I got there the sun had long disappeared. Mother was waiting anxiously for me--waiting as a mother alone can wait--doubt, fear, and anger each struggling for supremacy. Suffice it to say, I was whipped up stairs and down again, and when she gave me a rest I promised to no more a courting go until I was of maturer age. My brother was permitted to go scot-free. I thought that he at least should have shared the burden of suffering with me, but such was not the case. I thought it best, however, to quietly rest on my oars until I had passed my teens.
My next love was Miss Ella Freeman, now Ella Johnson, whom I loved dearly. At that time I was twenty-one years of age. The war between the North and South was upon us, and ideas of freedom began to steal across my brain, and my mind was active with the probabilities of being able some day to put into actual
practice the scattering thoughts of my earlier years. I would read the newspapers as I would bring them from the post-office, and I kept the colored population of the neighborhood well posted as to the prevailing news.
Robinson's was general headquarters for the negroes, and I would read to them for hours at a time. It soon became known that I was reading to the slaves of the neighborhood, and that I was also familiar with the pen. At this time the county was full of rebels, and it was not long until they heard of me. I was branded as the Shelby County negro clerk. My owner took me to task one day and warned me of the danger I was incurring if I should be caught by the rebels. One thing that gave me some notoriety was the fact that nearly all the colored soldiers who had enlisted prior to myself sent their letters to their wives, sons, and daughters, addressed to my care. My owner cautioned me in regard to this matter, and even made me take his horse and ride to Boston, and to write to all my friends in the army, cautioning them against addressing any more letters to my care. This I did, but it put no stop to the letters. The colored soldiers had confidence in me, and knew that their letters would be faithfully delivered.
I remember the morning I made up my mind to join the United States Army. I started to Simpsonville, and walking along I met many of my old comrades on the Shelbyville Pike. I told them of my determination,
and asked all who desired to join my company to roll his coat sleeves above his elbows, and to let them remain so during the day. I marshaled my forces that day and night. I had twenty-seven men, all told, and I was elected their captain to lead them to Louisville. Our headquarters were at the colored church. During the day some one brought the news that the rebels were in Simpsonville, and that they were preparing to make a raid upon the church. For a time this news created a panic--women screamed, jumped out the windows, crying "Murder!"--strong men ran pell-mell over the women and took to the woods. I, myself, crowded into the corner of the church, and Captain Marrs was about, for the time being, to throw up the sponge. But I did not despair. I picked up courage and rallied my men, and news soon came that the report was false. We held a council of war, and the conclusion of the boys was, that where I would lead they would follow. I said to them we might as well go; that if we staid at home we would be murdered; that if we joined the army and were slain in battle, we would at least die in fighting for principle and freedom.
During all this excitement no white face was to be seen. Night came, and Rev. Sandy Bullitt, son of Deacon John Bullitt, who had been drafted into the U. S. Army, was to preach his farewell sermon. The house was crowded to suffocation. He preached one of the
most powerful sermons I have ever heard before or since. He was a preacher of the Gospel that none need be ashamed of. His name as a faithful minister of the Gospel was often afterwards mentioned by the white chaplains of the army.
It was known by nearly every one present that night that there were a number of young men in the house who were preparing to leave for the army, and they the best in the neighborhood, consequently there was great weeping and mourning--the wife for husband, the maiden for her sweetheart. Such a demonstration of sorrow I have never seen, before or since.
After a many adieu I formed my men in line, twenty-seven in number, and marched them some two miles to Robinson's, where I was raised. I arrived there at about 10 o'clock at night, and I stationed my men around until I could make arrangements to get them something to eat. I went into the house where old Aunt Beller, as we used to call her, staid, who always had on hand something good to eat. She gave me what she had, which I took and gave to the men. Then I went into my mother's room where I had concealed about $300 in money, which I had saved during slave times. I took about $200 of it and left the remainder for mother. She being asleep it was my intention to steal off without arousing her, but in getting my money I awakened her, when she screamed at the top of her voice. I
immediately ran out of the door, rejoined my comrades, and we took up our march for the army. We had on the place a large Newfoundland dog, and he followed in our tracks for nearly a half mile.
Our arms consisted of twenty-six war clubs and one old rusty pistol, the property of the captain. There was one place on our route we dreaded, and that was Middletown, through which the colored people seldom passed with safety. When we got within two miles of the place I ordered my men to circle to the left until we got past the town, when we returned to the Pike, striking it in front of Womack's big woods. At this place we heard the rumbling of vehicles coming at full speed, as we supposed, towards us. I at once ordered the men to lie down in a ditch by the roadside, where we remained some twenty-five minutes, but hearing nothing further I ordered my men to arise and we took up our line of march.
Day was now breaking, and in one half hour we were within the lines of the Union Army, and by eight o'clock we were at the recruiting office in the city of Louisville. Here we found Mr. George Womack, the Provost Marshal, in whose dark woods we had taken shelter the night before. By twelve o'clock the owner of every man of us was in the city hunting his slaves, but we had all enlisted save one boy, who was considered too young.
I enlisted on the 26th day of September, 1864, and was immediately marched out Third Street to Taylor Barracks, and assigned to Company L, Twelfth U. S. Colored Artillery. My first night in the barracks was anything but a pleasant one, and an accident occurred that so jarred my nerves that I wished I had never heard of the war. Our bunks were arranged in tiers of three, one above the other. I occupied the top one. During the night the man who occupied the middle one accidentally discharged his revolver. The ball passed downward, striking the man below in the head and killing him almost instantly. In less than two hours afterwards the body of the man shot was robbed of three hundred dollars that he had received that day as a substitute. This was the experience of the first eight hours of my soldier life, and it naturally caused my mind to revert back to my old home and to those I had left behind. I thought it would have been better had I remained there, than to be in the position I then was, liable to be slain at any moment. My fears in a measure overcame me. I prayed, I cried, I said, "How long, how long, O Lord, shall it be before I am delivered from this thraldom?" The shock was more than I thought I could bear; but I was in for it, and I knew there was no way of getting out of it. In due time I dosed off to sleep, only to dream of what had happened in the former part of the night, with other horrible things, and was only
too glad to waken in the morning and find them not true.
When the sun came up from behind the eastern hills I looked towards home, and thought of my old mother and father I had left behind. I said "Lord! shall I ever see them more? I commit them into thy hands." I remembered the poet: "The Lord has promised good to me; his Word my hopes secure!"
Breakfast time came, the tattoo was beat, and the men formed into line. I was not disobedient to the call. The Orderly Sergeant called the roll, and when he called "Marrs, Elijah," I promptly answered. I can stand this said I, and like a man, with cup, pan, and spoon, marched up to the window and received my rations. It is true I thought of my mother's sweet voice when she used to call me to dine, but "pshaw!" said I, "this is better than slavery, though I do march in line to the tap of the drum." I felt freedom in my bones, and when I saw the American eagle, with outspread wings, upon the American flag, with the motto, "E Pluribus Unum," the thought came to me, "Give me liberty or give me death." Then all fear banished. I had quit thinking as a child and had commenced to think as a man. I had in camp some reputation as a writer, though I had little confidence in myself, coming as I did just out of the bondage of slavery. I appeared, however, to be above the average of those in our quarters,
and many former friends who had joined the army before me employed me to do their writing.
Soon the officers learned that there was a little fellow from Shelby County that was skilled in the use of the pen, and they sought to find me. They found me surrounded by a number of the men, each waiting his turn to have a letter written home. The officers soon made known their wishes, which was to find a man who was a penman who they wished as a Duty Sergeant. The mere mention of such a thing made me quake with fear, as I knew no more about tactics than a new born babe. This I told them, but they insisted, and I accepted the position as a non-commissioned officer, with the understanding that they would give me personal instruction in army tactics. At their headquarters I had a consultation with them respecting my duties as a non-commissioned officer. Lieut. Bassworth was my chief instructor, together with Lieut. Vaughn. Early the next day I was assigned as Third Duty Sergeant, Co. L. 12th U. S. Heavy Artillery.
An incident occurred on the third night of my enlistment that should not be passed over in this little book. We were all new men, and we soon expected to be sent to the front. We had just left our homes, and though out of slavery we loved the place of our birth; and while we could not help thinking of home, sweet home, yet we were loth to return, and a thought seemed to come
to the mind of every Christian, that though the Civil War between the North and South had separated us from home and friends, yet the protecting hand of the United Government of God was still over us all. Hence some of the new recruits proposed that we have prayer and preaching in the barracks that night. We selected Rev. Sandy Bullitt to officiate, the same brother who preached the night I left for the army, and who had been drafted from the same neighborhood that I came from. Night came, and all arrangements had been made for the meeting. Rev. Bullitt mounted the rostrum and preached one of his wonderful sermons. His effort wrought the greatest excitement--he, in a measure, set the camp on fire. Strong men, who had never before been known to bow, fell on their knees for prayer. Over three hundred took part in the exercises, and some men were so overcome as to lay all night as if in a trance. Officers came to see what was the matter, but could only look and say, "Surely God is with those people."
The next night many professed Christ. Praise God for his goodness, I thought, for it extends to the end of the world. His love nerves the Christian to action, and moves them to feel his power, however weak the subject may be. After this meeting I felt myself to be a free man in both soul and body.
The fourth day I was ordered by the commanding
officer to take a squad of men and go to Tenth and Broadway streets, and clear off ground for the erection of barracks. While I felt myself a free man and an U. S. soldier, still must I move at the command of a white man, and I said to myself is my condition any better now than before I entered the army? But the idea would come to me that I was a soldier fighting for my freedom, and this thought filled my heart with joy. I thought, too, that the time will come when no man can say to me come and go, and I be forced to obey.
We were in camp at Taylor Barracks three weeks, when we received orders to report at Camp Nelson. Some rejoiced, whilst others wept, the latter thinking we were going on a fighting tour. We went by the way of Lexington, and arrived at Camp Nelson without the loss of a man. The barracks being crowded, we were assigned to tents, mine being pitched beside the bullpen.
Whilst passing through Lexington I became acquainted with a young lady named Emma--. Our love was mutual. She followed me to Camp Nelson, in the neighborhood of which she found employment. She invited me to see her; but it should be at night, after her daily duties were done. One night I called, and not seeing her, presumed her to be in some other portion of the house, and walked in without announcement. My entrance alarmed some one in the adjacent
room, whose cries of "murder" hurried me back to camp, with the resolution of never seeing Emma again. The last I heard of poor Emma was that she was dead. Her last thoughts were of me, and her last request was to her kind lady employer to send me her only portrait. She was my first love, and was too early called away. Sweet spirit, which nothing can banish from an unforgetful heart--who never looked upon sin and seldom on sorrow--why should thy memory be so precious to me now? Never again has come to my heart that gladness that seemed to brighten thine--never more has beamed upon me the soft glory which seemed to shine from thy blessed eyes! Often coming up from the struggles of passion and from the midst of the world's temptations, the remembrance of thee and thy virtues burst upon me as a vision, and I feel purified, sanctified, and strengthened by thy presence, and with an increased vigor renew my labors in the upholding of the Cross of Christ. Emma, farewell! Thy name may not be written on a tombstone, but thy memory is enshrined within a heart!
Sitting in camp one bright sunny day, surrounded by my comrades, for whom I was writing letters home, I was very agreeably surprised by meeting with my brother, who had joined the army some six weeks before I did. I had not heard from him since his enlistment, but I knew that his regiment had been ordered to Saltville. He had gone as far as Cumberland Gap,
when he became sick, and had been ordered back. My brother at that time was Orderly Sergeant, and the man who was detailed to fill his place was killed at the battle of Saltville, and within the walls of the fort. My brother was afterwards promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major, and served in this capacity until mustered out of service.
Our stay at Camp Nelson was not altogether devoid of excitement, and this event being my first actual experience in the science of war, is now more vivid to my memory, as I presume it is to my comrades who were with me, than subsequent events of the war. One night the news reached the camp that the rebels were in Danville, Ky., and in about forty minutes afterwards Gen. S. S. Fry, accompanied by about fifty men, came galloping into camp with all speed. The alarm was at once given, the long roll of the drum was beaten, and every man roused and ordered to prepare for battle. We were at once marched to the various forts surrounding the camp, and though up to that time we had only been drilled in infantry tactics, we were commanded to man the cannons. It is true we belonged to the Heavy Artillery, but had never been drilled in the tactics thereof. Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 5, however, soon learned their positions at the cannon, and while apparently paying attention to their work, could not keep their eyes from peering into the darkness beyond the river, from
which direction they thought they heard the clang of swords and the clattering of horses coming upon us.
Day broke, however, and no enemy was in sight, so we marched back to camp in great glee, as much so as if we had met the enemy and gained a great victory.
In connection with our stay at Camp Nelson I must mention the name of Sergeant Major Geo. Thomas, who was and is yet an intimate friend of mine. He was a genial companion and a good officer. His many acts of kindness to his men will long be remembered by them as his friendship is by me. He was the only man in the regiment, white or colored, who understood vocal music sufficiently well to teach it, and he and myself, by permission, formed regular classes among the men, which we would teach at designated times in vocal music and in the rudiments of English during our entire stay at Camp Nelson.
After a stay of some weeks at Camp Nelson, we were ordered to Russellville, Ky. It was thought now that we were on our way to the front. Many of us would have preferred remaining at Camp Nelson, but the command was to march. We began to pack up on the morning of November 24, 1864, and we were marched on foot to Lexington, there being no railroad. I shall never forget that day. It was my first long march, and I had to carry my knapsack, my gun, my sword, and army equipments. Though late in the year,
the sun seemed to shine with equal force as in the hottest days of July, and the heat was oppressive and overpowering. The roads were inches deep in dust, and it filled my eyes, mouth and ears. Our thirst was intolerable, and no water was to be had save the stagnated water we would find along the line of our march. To this we would drive the horses, and of it fill our canteens. The use of this water so weakened me that I became completely prostrated and had to cry for help. Lieut. Bossworth, who was an old soldier, and who took pride in aiding and assisting his men, came to my relief, took my equipments, transferred them to his own back, and resumed his march with as light a foot as he had started with in the morning.
By sunset we arrived at Lexington, tired and fagged out, having marched a distance of nineteen miles. We expected to get our usual rations of bread, and meat, and coffee, but we did not get it. No provision had been made for our arrival, and nothing could be had but hard tack and water, off of which we made our supper.
After supper I retired. My sleeping apartment was an old hog car, but I was so stiff and so worn out from the effects of the march of the day that I was soon asleep and dreaming of home and friends. I thought I had returned--I saw my father's fond looks of delight--felt on my cheek my mother's warm kiss--even the cows that I was wont to drive from pasture seemed to
welcome me back. I again strolled along the stream on whose mossy banks I had often laid and fished--again was in the old church listening to Bro. Bullitt's farewell sermon--once more on my march to freedom and the army--again with beloved Emma.
The morning's drum-beat dispelled the happy vision, and the stern reality of my situation was before me. But little time elapsed before we were off for Louisville, where we arrived about 2 P. M. On arriving we were met at the depot by an army of women of all classes, white and colored, each with her basket. They had hams, chickens, pies, and everything that was good for the inner man, but unfortunately for us they were all for sale and we unable to buy. Our Captain finally came among us, and told us to "Press it." It was not long before we understood what he meant. We were like hungry wolves, and so soon as the idea of "pressing" dawned upon us the eatables disappeared like magic. Each man helped himself to such dainties as suited his taste. As for my part I was more modest than many others and contented myself with some ham and bread. Some, to use the common expression, "went the whole hog," and took basket and all. It was the first time I had ever been guilty of anything of this kind, and was extremely awkward at the business, but my hunger urged me on, and I only did that which the others did, and that with the connivance of our Captain.
The next morning at six we took up our line of march for the Nashville Depot, the boys singing as we marched through the streets of Louisville, "I wish I was in Dixie's land." Many of our old friends, as we marched at the tap of the drum, watched us with tears of sorrow in their eyes, while their lips muttered prayers to God that we might be able to return and enjoy that liberty which had for so long a time been hoped for by our fore-parents, and for which we were now to imperil our lives.
In due time we were on board the train and off for Russellville. We were in open cars, hence we had a very good view of the country through which we passed, and as I gazed upon the hills and dales, the fields and forests, I could not keep from thinking of the beautiful part of the State in which I was reared, its green fields and pastures, and as to the probabilities of my ever seeing them again.
We arrived in Russellville all safe and sound. We marched up into town and took up our quarters in an old stable. By this time I began to realize the fact that for a man to be a good soldier, he must subject himself to innumerable hardships. Each man at once set himself to work to make for himself a sleeping bunk, which was indispensable. It was in this sleeping-place I had my first spell of sickness, which lasted some three weeks. During my sickness I prayed to God for aid
and comfort in my affliction, and it seemed that my prayer was granted, for there visited me a kind lady in the person of Miss Henrietta Forees. She, with others, had sought the camp to render aid to any who should be sick and needing help. She and others visited me regularly, supplied me with nourishing food, and to their kind offices, and the hope they inspired within my heart, I believe I am indebted for my recovery. I frequently offered up thanks to God for leading unto me such ministering angels, and thought of how good the Lord is to those that loved Him--to those that put their trust and faith in Jesus.
Though the life of a soldier is a hard and rugged one, full of temptations, yet I tried ever to keep God and his teachings before me, though I found it often an up-hill business. In the company I belonged to there were only two professed Christians beside myself, viz.: George Thomas and Jacob Stone. They, like myself, had been brought up by Christian parents, and the moral training they received had left its impress upon their minds. We frequently communed with one another, and resolved that however evil our associations we would remain steadfast to the principles and teachings of our parents, come what would. I have already passed over my childhood days, yet I hope it will not be thought out of place here to say that in all my life I never swore an oath, never danced, never played a
card, nor got drunk--save in one single instance, and then there was extenuating circumstances connected therewith. It was on a Christmas morning, the beginning of the week of the year that all bound men looked forward to for rest, frolic, and pleasure. I was but a small boy, and in company with one of about the same age. We were persuaded by an old man to drink some whisky. Its effects soon told upon us, and on our road home there were but few mudholes that we did not tumble into. It was my first and last attempt at drinking.
At camp in Russellville I was surrounded by men whose daily habit was to brag, bully, and brow-beat, and it illy fared with anyone who was too timid to stand up for himself. They spent most of their leisure hours in jumping, wrestling, and playing marbles. In my younger days I was very fond of athletic sports of all kinds, and in the matter of jumping and wrestling very few could be found who were my superior, and I have never yet met with a man who could put me on my back. Of course, to vary the dull monotony of camp life, I indulged in these sports, and attained quite a reputation as a wrestler, so much so, that when any new wrestler appeared, the little red-shirt Sergeant was immediately hunted up to down him. I wore a red shirt while at camp in Russellville. One instance I will relate.
There was a man in camp by the name of Nick Kiger. All the men feared him in a rough and tumble wrestle as we used to call it. Now-a-days they have designated it as catch-and-catch can. Without my knowledge a match was made between him and myself. I was sent for, and at once responded to the call. He looked upon me with as much contempt as did Goliath upon David, and hooted at the idea of my being able to cope with him. Nevertheless we took our positions, and the signal being given we commenced the contest. In almost the twinkling of an eye he was sprawling on his back some five feet in my rear. I at once walked away, leaving our Company boys to rejoice over my victory. I think this was my last play of that kind.
Sunday was our day for rest, pleasure, and religious exercises, we being free from the labor of regular drill. It was, however, our general inspection day, and each man was up by daybreak and busily at work brushing his clothes, cleaning his gun and other equipments, so as to be ready for general inspection at half-past nine o'clock A. M. His non-appearance in the ranks, or even if there, his dress and arms not being scrupulously clean and coming up to a certain standard, he could certainly reckon on the guard-house as being his home for the balance of the day. No excuse, no explanation would be taken in palliation of the offense--he was marched off, his voice uttering all the oaths known to his vocabulary.
After the best portion of the Lord's Day having been spent as before mentioned, the men are marched back to their quarters, when some five or six passes are given to a company by its captain, when the rest were required to attend chapel services. This latter duty was one that gave me infinite pleasure in performing. The inspection drill I would have gladly omitted, but I was a soldier, and stern duty required that I should be present.
During our sojourn at Russellville we received the news of Hood's attack on General Thomas at Nashville, the 15th day of December, 1864, and of his defeat and retreat. A portion of Hood's command, however, had crossed the Cumberland River and attacked the Seventeenth Kentucky Calvary, which latter fell back upon us in the wildest confusion. The town was full of the defeated and flying cavalrymen. We, at the same time, received orders to at once march to Bowling Green. It was near 12 o'clock when we received the order, and we were all preparing our dinners. Everything at once was turned into confusion--men here, and everywhere, each trying to get at a dinner pot containing soup that he might not be compelled to commence the march upon an empty stomach. Then came the rattling of swords, the shouldering of knapsacks, the order to fall into ranks, and we were soon on our march to Bowling Green, a distance of about forty-five
miles. We numbered, all told, one hundred and forty men, and as we were well aware that we had been ordered to Bowling Green in apprehension of an attack upon us from the same body of rebels who had defeated the Seventeenth Kentucky Cavalry, we were not without misgivings as to our safe arrival at that point without coming in contact with the enemy, more especially so as we imagined we were marching inside of the enemy's line. We marched, without halting, a distance of twenty miles, when we went into camp at an old school-house. One-half of the men were immedidiately placed on guard, and the others slept on their arms, as we were expecting an attack at any time.
We passed, however, a quiet night, and at early dawn we were on our way to Bowling Green. The nearer we approached this place, and the greater the distance we placed betwixt ourselves and Russellville, the more exuberant were we in spirits, and many the jokes perpetrated relative to the dangers encountered during our midnight flight. At two o'clock P. M. we arrived at Bowling Green, and at once reported at head-quarters. There we heard of Hood's defeat, when we at once gave three cheers for General Thomas and his valiant and victorious troops.
We remained at Bowling Green for some few days, and as cold weather was approaching we prepared for winter quarters. Every stable and out-house in the
town had been taken possession of, our company occupying an old school-house, and we crowding it from floor to rafters. As for myself, individually, I took an apartment to myself, which I did after the manner of the ground-hog. I dug me a hole in the ground, covered it with boards and earth, and with straw and my blanket I was comfortably fixed during the short time we remained at Bowling Green.
Soon, however, we received marching orders, and contrary to our wish and expectation we were ordered to Munfordsville instead of to Nashville. On our way we met with General Steadman's Cavalry, who were hurrying to the front to assist in the pursuit of the defeated and flying enemy.
A march of two days brought us to Munfordsville. While there at least twelve thousand prisoners of war passed through on their way to Louisville, and under guard of colored troops. After a stay of some few days at Munfordsville, we were again on the move, our destination being Glasgow, Ky. We arrived at Glasgow Junction at about 5 o'clock P. M., where we camped in a grove. No sooner had the boys stacked arms than they began to forage for something to eat, as provisions were not too plentiful with us. It was not long before some six or seven shoats were brought in, which were soon killed. As we had no facilities for cleaning them by scalding, they were at once skinned and preparations
made for a grand supper. While thus engaged, a man riding at full speed informed us that the rebels had taken possession of Glasgow and that they were then on their march towards us. It was then a time for getting up and doing, which everyone seemed to have done--that is, to get a slice of pork before falling into line. The rain at this time was falling in torrents, but we at once marched back to the Junction, where a halt was called and a consultation had between the Lieutenants and Sergeants as to what had best be done under the circumstances. It was finally resolved that we should go on to Cave City, and we again took up our line of march. It was still raining and the night was so very dark that it was impossible to see where we were going. We trudged along, however, through mud and slush up to our knees, till near midnight, when we were suddenly brought to a stand by a voice in our front calling upon us to "Halt!" We imagined at once that we had fallen into the hands of the very party we were fleeing from, and to say that we were frightened is a poor expression to describe the state of our feelings. Our officers, as well as ourselves, were so dumbfounded as to be unable to speak, and it was only after a second call to "Halt! Who goes there?"--that our Lieutenant found his voice and courage to use it. At the words "Advance and give the countersign," the Lieutenant called upon some one to go in advance with him, whereupon
I volunteered to accompany him, and we started forward. As we approached the sentinel, as he afterwards proved to be, and who by the way was as much alarmed as we ourselves, we were ordered to advance with our arms down, which we did until we discovered that each party was clothed in the Federal uniform.
The party proved to be one, who, like ourselves, were fleeing from the rebels at Glasgow, they, too, having been ordered to that point, but discovered the town to be in their possession. That we were all made happy at the result of our surprise it is needless to say, and the men of both companies cried, laughed, and rejoiced that our meeting had not been with our common enemy.
We rested all night on our arms, and kept a bright look out until daylight. It being on the day before Christmas, and our courage having somewhat risen with our increased numbers, and our desire to be in Glasgow on Christmas day, we concluded we would strike out for the Glasgow rebels. We accordingly took up our line of march, and along as miserable a road as could be found anywhere in Kentucky. It was extremely muddy, and it seemed to be up a succession of hills, one upon another, for a distance of five miles. We trudged our way along until about five o'clock in the evening, when, upon turning an angular rock which projected itself across the road, we saw in the edge of a long pasture a
squad of rebels. I called the attention of our Captain to them, who at once gave the command to halt. Almost instantly the rebels disappeared. As night was approaching, and we not familiar with the country surrounding us, nor the strength of the enemy, we concluded to go into camp for the night, which we did, in a neighboring wood. Food being somewhat scarce, a portion of our company was detailed to go out foraging, or "pressing" as we called it, an other portion placed on guard, while the others were given permission to sleep if they so desired. During the night the foraging party returned, with more or less provisions. A member of my mess by the name of J. George was fortunate enough to obtain a bucket of flour, which he brought to my tent, and we soon had it converted into dough and baking before the fire. With this and some bacon we had a nice supper.
We kept a bright look out during the night for an attack should one be made, but the night passed off quietly. With the morning we made our preparations to enter Glasgow, the town we had turned our backs upon two days before. As we approached the town we saw, at some distance off, a man waiving the Union flag, but whether it was waived to signal us that the rebels were lying in ambush for us or not I never knew. So soon as our Captain perceived it he ordered us to give three cheers to the old flag, which were given with
a will. Just at this juncture of affairs, the rebels, who were secreted on a hill just above, opened fire upon us. We returned the fire, and after several rounds Sergeant Thomas, with a portion of the company, charged the hill and drove the enemy from it at the point of the bayonet. Another body of the rebels appearing in another direction, the remainder of the company charged upon them, and they at once fled.
The enemy having been dispersed, we filed into marching order and entered the town. As I have said before, it was Christmas Day, and it seemed that all the colored people throughout the county had collected in town that day. I never before saw so many of them congregated together in so small a place. As we neared the center of the town we saw quite a crowd in and about the court-house, and a body of white men from this point were seen rapidly approaching us, as if bent on a hostile demonstration. Our Lieutenant at once dismounted, and gave orders that if a single shot was fired upon us, we should immediately return the fire, regardless of who we should kill. Seeing that we were ready for any exigency that might arise, the crowd dispersed in various directions. Upon inquiry as to the locality and direction of the fort, everyone seemed loth and unwilling to give the desired information. Finally a little white boy was prevailed on to tell us, when we shouldered arms, and marched in the direction indicated.
We found the fort without difficulty. It was one that had been built by Bragg when he invaded Kentucky, and stood upon the edge of the town. As we entered the fort the rebels entered the town from the other side, and dividing themselves, one party held the town, and the other by a circuitous route placed themselves between the fort and the open country. Not knowing of this movement on the part of the enemy, we sent out a detachment to scour the country for something to eat. To our surprise and discomfiture it was driven back to the fort in a very few minutes, and we soon realized the melancholy fact that we were surrounded and hemmed in on all sides. Not being strong enough in point of numbers to leave the fort and make an attack, we could do nothing but await results. The nearest Federal Soldiers to us were those at Cave City, but they were there guarding supplies, so we could expect no relief from that quarter. Desperation gave us courage, however, and we resolved to do the best we could and fight ourselves out if necessary. We rested on our arms that night expecting an attack, but none was made. Next morning we were informed that the rebels were marching upon us in force. We knew, in this case, we would in time be forced to surrender, as we only numbered seventy-five men, all told; but we were resolved to give them a taste of our metal before being compelled so to do. We accordingly kept the breastworks
manned from early dawn till dusk, but no rebels put in an appearance, though we were satisfied they were not far away. That night we again slept on our arms, but everything passed off quietly. The next day we began laying plans to get ourselves out of the awkward position we were in, and when night set in we quietly stole out of the fort, in Indian file passed through the enemy's lines, and took up our march for Elizabethtown, where we arrived after a three days' tramp, and without the loss of a man. Our escape was a miraculous one, and the boldness of the attempt was what gave to it success. It is true we were fired upon once or twice during the night, whilst wending our way around the rebel camps, but we were so scatteringly drawn out that no man was hit.
On our arrival at Elizabethtown we found the place guarded by one or two companies of white soldiers; also two companies of colored. We took up our quarters in an old school-house near the center of the town, and separate from the other troops. We could hear the rebels all around swearing vengeance, and especially against us. So we placed on duty a guard of thirty men, while the remainder of us slept. The rebels had doubtless heard of our "pressing" proclivities. I know of no other reason for the bitter hate they seemed to manifest towards our company.
At eight o'clock in the morning, after breakfast, we
marched for Hardinsburg, Ky., a distance of about forty miles from Elizabethtown. The first day we traversed about twenty miles, when we camped for the night, stationed our guards, and threw out our pickets. It had been raining hard all day, and every man was drenched to the skin. I made my bed of old sticks, leaves, and moss, and I also built me a good fire. I was soon sound asleep. How long I slept I do not know, but I suddenly found myself in an upright position, with fire all over me. The fire had communicated with my bed, which was now one solid mass of fire. I soon extinguished myself, or rather the fire that was on me, and found myself minus of eyebrows, as also a good portion of the hair of my head. I scrambled around in the rain, however, collected and made me another bed, and slept the remainder of the night in better luck. That night the guard discovered some one spying around the camp and captured him before he could make his escape. We kept him under guard until daylight, when he claimed to be a neighboring citizen, attracted to the camp by our fires. He sent for some of his friends to prove the correctness of his statement, and we permitted him to depart, but I afterwards saw him in the rebel army.
After breakfast we again took up our line of march for Hardinsburg. This was on Thursday, March 5, 1865. At about 3 o'clock, P. M., we arrived at a place
called Big Springs. As we entered one end of the town the rebels retreated out the other. On this date and at this place trouble to Company L began its work. Up to this time we had many adventures, but we had passed safely through them all. The enemy was now around and before us, and we felt that in the future we would have work to do. We at once marched up to the Baptist Church (white), took possession of it, and built our fires. It had been raining hard all day, and the men were wet, hungry, and tired. The first thing we did was to inspect our guns, and on doing so found that there were only nine guns in the entire company that were in good condition. We remedied the matter as far as we were able, loaded our guns, and knowing that the rebels were in the neighborhood, were on our guard to prevent surprise. After placing the guard, two of our men, Corporal Harriway and W. Nichols, stole off from camp and went down into the town. They were soon surrounded by rebels, who took from them their arms and accounterments, and compelled them to flee for their lives. William Nichols succeeded in reaching the church. Not so with poor Harriway. As he jumped upon the fence surrounding it he fell mortally wounded upon the outside, while a perfect shower of bullets were rained against the sides of the church. At the time of the shooting I was engaged in parching corn, and stooping down over the fire. Behind me was a man of our
company named Henry Adcock, who was about seven feet high, with weight proportionately great. At the sound of the bullets upon the sides of the church he did not take time to go around me, but on to me and over the fire he went, out of the church and away. On getting to my feet I was literally covered with mud and ashes, so much so, that I was hardly recognized by our Lieutenant, who at once commanded me to take twenty men and proceed in one direction, while Jacob Stone was to take twenty men and proceed in another. We were to meet at a point on the top of a hill. When we arrived at our meeting-place, the enemy could be seen, but they were in full retreat, and we did not care to assume the responsibility of following them without further orders. We therefore returned back to camp to hold a council of war as what it was best to do. We were thirty miles from any of our own troops, and we knew there remained for us only one of three things to do--fight, run, or surrender. We resolved to fight it out. Night was now upon us. It was asked, "Who will take thirty men and guard the lines?" I answered the call. The enemy proved troublesome during the night, making several attempts to capture our guards, but were each time driven off by my men.
The next night, Friday, January 6, 1865, we rested on our arms, but there was no one to molest us, and we who were on guard duty done our share of bragging
over our previous night's exploits. A deep snow had fallen during that day. I was again made Sergeant of the guard, with thirty men under my command. About midnight the rebels endeavored to steal upon our guards. On one of the beats was a soldier named Oglesby, who, as the rebels advanced, gave the alarm, and I quickly formed my men in line to repulse an attack. The guard informed me that one of the enemy had entered a little house in the neighborhood. I marched up in front of the door and opened fire on the rebel, when he broke and ran, succeeding in making his escape, though one of our boys informed me that when I fired upon the fleeing man, he jumped back twenty feet. On the same night Corporal Elijah Dagner and I heard the rebels talking in a grove near by, and creeping along by the side of a fence until within fair distance, we opened fire upon them, when they at once fled.
On Saturday, the 7th, the sun shone out brightly. We were engaged in talking over the best way to get back to our regiment in safety. We decided on enjoying ourselves, and visiting the outskirts of town we gathered up our chickens and turkeys and provided ourselves with a bountiful dinner and supper, which served to cheer us on our march. Saturday night we rested in peace, no one appearing to molest us.
Sunday, the 8th of January, 1865, dawned upon us. Oh, what a lovely morning! The sun seemed to have
put on all of his beauty, and the effect was noticeable upon all of us. The boys were all merry, singing with right good will their favorite army songs, and enjoying themselves fully. "No Rebs. last night, boys! They've got enough of old Company L, you bet!" is a sample of expressions heard on all sides.
Breakfast being over, and I having been appointed to take down the names of new recruits, who were coming in rapidly, about 7 o'clock I commenced forming them in line to march down to my headquarters for enrollment and to report to the commanding officer. Just as we were crossing the road, one of my recruits exclaimed, "Lord, God! Look at the rebels!" I turned to look toward the enemy, and I have never seen one of my recruits since. As I glanced down the road at the enemy, their line appeared to be about two miles long. Our Lieutenant commanded the company to fall out, and for two hours the opposing forces remained there, intently watching each other, but neither making an offensive movement. As we were not the attacking party, we awaited their action, and finally the rebel General Williams, a Baptist preacher, who was in command of the forces of the enemy, accompanied by one of his staff officers, advanced, bearing a white flag, the remainder of his staff being stationed at about five hundred yards distance. Our Lieutenant asked who would go down with him to meet the truce party, and
Sergeant Thomas and myself volunteered at once for the duty. Advancing, Gen. Williams handed us a paper containing the words: "We demand an unconditional surrender." The Lieutenant read it and turned it over to me. Having read it, I shook my head in the negative, Sergeant Thomas doing the same. The General gave his horse what the Christians sometimes call "a short rein for a quick turn," and in five minutes he was back again among his own men. With a quick, sharp command from him, his men speedily spread out in every direction, and in an hour's time we were completely hemmed in on all sides. We quickly realized our position, but rather than surrender unconditionally we preferred to die fighting. When they had tightened their lines they again demanded an unconditional surrender, which we again refused. They drew gradually nearer and nearer, and we could see from the cupola of the church, wherein we had taken refuge, that they outnumbered us twenty to one, and were still coming from the surrounding hills in great numbers. A third time they repeated their demand for a surrender, threatening us with bloody consequences if we refused. We trembled, but refused to accede to their demand. At length the rebels procured a stack of hay, and placing it on a wagon on the hill-side, prepared to ignite it and run it down against the church for the purpose of burning us out. Sharpshooters had been placed so as to command
every window, and our situation was indeed hazardous. Word was sent us that they would give us ten minutes in which to comply with their terms.
"Here is a test. What must we do?" said the Lieutenant. I said, "No surrender." So said Thomas and Stone. But hark! It is all over in three minutes. Lieutenant Love, in a moment of time almost, drew up our terms of surrender in the following language:
"We will surrender our men to you on the following terms: That you immediately parole us and give us a safeguard to our regiment, and that we turn over to you all of our munitions of war."
No sooner was the message borne to them than they accepted it. As soon as it was understood among our men that we were to surrender several incidents worthy of note occurred. Henry Graves, a young man who entered the army with me, attempted to escape by running. I caught him by the collar of the coat and drew him back into the house. He said that he would rather die than surrender. Another man in my company, Corporal A. Jackson, said to be the bravest man in the command, was so badly frightened at the idea of surrendering that he jerked off his stripes and attempted to dispossess me of mine. I told him if the enemy killed me it would be with my stripes on.
When the time came for us to march on the field to turn over our arms to our captors, about twenty of the
rebel officers met us, shook hands with us, and talked as if nothing unpleasant had happened. There was one exception, in the case of a fellow among them who was drunk and felt that he ought to kill somebody. He was quickly placed under arrest and sent to the rear. We formed in line, marched out on the field, and after turning over our arms, proceeded back to our quarters and then down into the town, where we were paroled.
On the Thursday night previous to the occurrence of the foregoing incidents I had shot a man who was trying to steal upon one of our guards. Some of the rebels were going through our crowd inquiring for the man who did the shooting. I was the first man to deny all knowledge of it. All of my bravery had fled.
By 8 o'clock at night we had all been paroled and were ready to start on our journey. The night was dark and the snow deep, but the rebels lighted us out of town by the flames of our own wagons and ambulances.
The day I was captured, the 8th of January, 1865, will always be remembered by me. The night we left, the General ordered that those who were sick should be permitted to ride. I claimed to be sick, and four of us got on one mule. After we had reached the woods, our mule shied at a stump and spilled us off in the snow.
At midnight we went into camp, and our captors
quartered us at a Union man's house. He had just killed his hogs and he was ordered to give us all we wanted to eat. The gentleman came into camp and informed us we could have all we wanted to eat, as he had plenty. That night I made my bed under the snow. Just before day we all arose from our snowy beds and set about preparing breakfast. I remember when the last hoecake was baked, I jerked it from the griddle and appropriated it to my own use.
The rebels quickly formed us in line and we were off for E. Town. The trouble with me was, that as the United States troops did not know that we were prisoners, and we were to march into town without their being made aware of our true character, I feared our troops would be fired on by them. The nearer we approached the lines the more frightened I became, but at last, without an accident, we arrived in town, when it proved that neither our own troops nor the rebel citizens knew who we were. The latter, presuming we were rebels, began to hand out clothes, thinking we had captured the town and all the Union soldiers in it.
We marched down to the camp with the rebel General Williams and Lieutenant String in front. The soldiers stood ready to make a charge when ordered. Major Bailey, the commander of the post, was a brave and dashing officer. The rebel General told him the conditions of the surrender of Company L; that according
to promise he turned the men over to the Union troops, and asked for six hours' time in which to take his own departure. Major Bailey, a Dutchman, said:
"Me gives you zix hours to get out in. If any other force come, me don't gives you information."
At the same time he sent a dispatch to Muldraugh's Hill, and in twenty minutes we could hear the car-wheels rolling, and one hour from that time not a rebel could be seen in all the plain.
At night the rebels attempted to retaliate, but were driven off. It was reported that numbers of them were killed that night.
We received arms, marched the next day, and went into camp on Muldraugh's Hill, where we lived on half rations for two weeks--two hard-tacks, one ounce of meat, and a cup of rye coffee without sugar. This was a trying time for poor me. I wondered, the day I was made prisoner, whether I would ever be a free man again. While I was a prisoner I looked at myself and asked myself whether it was me or not.
We left Muldraugh's Hill about the last of January, 1865, on our second tramp to Bowling Green, where we went into quarters just under the hill from Fort Smith. That is now a reservoir. It was in that city I received many honors.
One night the news came that the rebels were advancing
on the town. The commander of the post ordered me to take a platoon of men and march them up to Fort Smith; also Battery A, and place it in the gateway, while each Sergeant held his place. After drilling my men for about half an hour, I commanded them to lie down, in which position they watched throughout the entire night. At the dawn of day, as we were preparing to march back to the Barracks, I chanced to glance under our cannon and to my very great surprise I found the grape and canister with which we had loaded our cannon lying on the ground, it having rolled out of the gun after it had been loaded. If the rebels had attacked us they could have marched directly through the gate without the loss of a man; for if we had fired our cannon it would have been nothing more than a blank cartridge discharge, doing no execution. This discovery I kept to myself lest we should be disciplined for our negligence.
One day while I was on duty and walking around and giving instructions to the men I saw some one over in a thick grove not a great distance from the camp. He seemed to be watching our movements, at the same time endeavoring to keep himself concealed. I at once took a guard with me, and by a sharp flank movement I was on to him before he was aware of our presence. He proved to be a rebel lieutenant. We brought him into camp turned him over to the commanding officers.
After Hood's defeat, and during the time our soldiers occupied Nashville, frequent furloughs were given to the colored soldiers to return to Kentucky to see their wives and families. One of them stopped at Bowling Green, his wife living about five miles distant, on the other side of Barren River. He informed our commanding officer, Col. Babcock, that the parties she belonged to had been treating her very cruelly, and to some extent on account of he, her husband, being in the army. The Colonel immediately sent for me, informed me of these facts, and ordered me to take a guard of ten men to accompany the soldier, who acted as our guide, and to bring the woman into camp; and further, that if the man who owned her had anything to say about it or offered any resistance, to put a ball into one ear so that it might come out of the other. When he said this I imagined that I was clothed with authority to do whatsoever I pleased on my trip. I got my men together as soon as possible, and crossed the Barren River, but instead of at once proceeding to the man's house on foot as we were ordered to do, I concluded that we would go by water, and at once commenced to look around for means of transportation. We soon discovered a small boat that was lying at the wharf, which we took possession of at once, and ordered the captain of the craft to take us nine miles down the river. This he refused to do, and as I did not propose to have my
orders disobeyed, I concluded I would take charge of the boat myself, and at once placed myself at the wheel. I was not equal to the emergency, as the wheel refused to do my bidding. Some of the other boys tried it, but their failure equaled my own. I had determined, however, to make the journey by river, and as we could do nothing with the larger boat, we "pressed" into service two skiffs, and started on our trip. We had not proceeded a great way before we were fired upon by the rebels from the southern side of the river. We at once, with great haste, rowed to the opposite shore, where we arrived in safety, abandoned the skiffs, and returned the enemy's fire at long range, the rebels being on one side of the river and we on the other. We remained out from camp until dark, when we made a forced march for our quarters.
We arrived in camp at about 10 o'clock. We claimed to have had a brush with the enemy, and that we had obtained a great and signal victory, but our victory was in beating a hasty retreat. The next morning I reported to the commander of the post as to the result of our expedition. But, unfortunately, advices had already reached his ears of our retreat, my attempt to capture the boat, which was already in the service of the Government, and of our taking the two skiffs. For these offenses I came very near losing my office, but luckily I escaped with a reprimand. From this time forward
I was an obedient officer, and never attempted to do anything without I had special orders so to do from my superiors.
The next day twenty soldiers were mounted and sent in search of the same woman who had been sent after on the day previous. They went to the house of her owner, but the woman had fled to parts unknown.
About this time I had become very expert in drilling, and as our regiment was fast filling up, I was assigned to the special duty of drilling Company K. One day while drilling I noticed that the Captain of the company was watching me very intently and with considerable interest. I was drilling the company in the Zouave drill. After looking at the varied and numerous movements for some length of time he called me to him and asked where on earth I had ever learned to drill men in that style? I replied that it was a drill originally my own. He said that it was very good, but he thought it best that I should drill the men in the old way. I had the men doubling up in such a manner that he could not comprehend the beauty of the movements; besides, he did not wish to take the trouble to learn them.
I remember an incident that happened while we were stationed in Bowling Green that is worthy of notice. In our quarters was an old man who was in the habit of sitting around the fire, sleeping in that position night
after night. The boys were disposed to tantalize and annoy him, one man in particular going to the extreme of carrying stones to his own bunk and amusing himself by pelting the old man at intervals, sometimes almost knocking him out of his chair. I informed our Captain and inaugurated a plan to catch and punish the offender. I arranged with the Captain to be on the watch, and about midnight, when our man cast the first stone, the Captain walked in and ordered every man to turn out. Officers and men promptly obeyed the order, the culprit (Lewis) among the number, but the latter quickly disappeared through the door and was absent until a search revealed a number of stones in his bunk. Thinking everything was all right, Lewis returned to his quarters, and when confronted by the inquiry as to his whereabouts, he said he had been to see a lady. The proof of his guilt were shown to him and our Captain ordered the punishment. I was ordered to tie him up. Taking my belt, I threw it over a joist, and with the aid of a twine string I had him in a few moments standing on his toes. The string broke and Lewis came down with a crash, laughing heartily meanwhile. The Captain, greatly annoyed, told him his laughter would soon be turned to mourning, and ordered me to again tie him up, and to keep him suspended for twenty minutes. Under this punishment, the poor fellow wept and moaned, and at length fainted, and after about ten
minutes had elapsed I cut him down. The lesson was a salutary one, for, from that time on, we had in our company no more obedient soldier. He expressed the greatest love for me, and was ever after prompt in the discharge of every duty. I loved the soldiers over whom I was placed and I believed they loved me, as I would not have them punished unless for a flagrant breach of discipline. I remember one night when one of our soldiers came and informed me that two of our men were in a certain forbidden place. As I was Sergeant of the guard it was my duty to look after them, and taking three of my men I soon had them under arrest. They offered me fifty dollars if I would not report them to the officer of the day. I indignantly declined to accept their bribe and moved off with them toward the guard-house. Before reaching there, however, I relented, and turning them loose, told them to retire at once to their quarters. This, of course, was not a true soldierly act, but I felt that the good of the service would not be greatly promoted by their punishment, and that the life of no man depended upon their being brought into camp.
While in Bowling Green I gained many friends among the citizens. Some of the most valued of these were Mrs. Ewing, Mrs. Frances Kersy, Mrs. King, Rev. Mr. G. Graham, Miss Johnson, Mr. Johnson, the famous blacksmith; Mrs. Nealy, a lady with whom I
boarded; Mr. Benj. Bibb, now a citizen of Louisville; Mr. George Bleaky, of Louisville, Mrs. Cook, and a host of others too numerous to mention. Their hospitalities were frequently enjoyed by me.
I remember the time our men went out on a scout and brought in ten rebels as prisoners. A sergeant being asked for to escort them to Louisville, I volunteered and was placed in charge of them. We were soon at the train, on boarding which I found four thousand veteran soldiers on their way home to be mustered out of the service. I was ordered to turn my prisoners over to these, and as they swore vengeance against the rebels, the latter begged that I might be permitted to go with them. I was, however, ordered back to camp.
A train on the way to Louisville was thrown from the track by the enemy, in 1865, the coaches were burned, and the passengers robbed. I was again chosen to go, and with twenty men proceeded to Glasgow Junction to succor the passengers on board the wrecked train. The night was dark and dreary, not a star could be seen, and the train traveled slowly. Arriving at the scene of trouble, we found all quiet, with not a rebel in sight. The citizens had fled to the woods, the cars were burned to ashes, and the ground was strewn with the debris of the destroyed train. We lay upon our arms all night, momentarily expecting an attack, and at daybreak moved off to Bowling Green. Of course, when
we returned to our quarters we had more to tell of than had really occurred, but with soldiers that was not unusual.
My efficiency as a sergeant had proven to the officers that I was capable, and as a consequence I was ordered to report to headquarters for assignment to more important duties. At this time hundreds of women and children, the wives and families of men who had gone into war, had flocked into Bowling Green for protection, their former masters having driven them from their homes. They sought that protection at our headquarters, and I was detailed to collect them together and look after their needs. I made my headquarters in the old colored Methodist Church on the hill, my duties requiring that I should see that their rations were duly distributed among them, and power was conferred upon me to punish the unruly. Unfortunately, the General Government did not provide them with clothing, and as some of these poor people were driven from their homes without even a second garment, their condition was pitable in the extreme, as in four weeks' time many of them were unable to hide their nakedness. They looked to me as if I were their Saviour. Whatever happened in camp to disturb or annoy them, the story was at once detailed to me, and I was expected to remedy every evil. Sometimes fifteen or twenty would engage in a broil, and the weaker party would invariably
come to me for protection. On these occasions I would call a court-martial, sit as judge, examine witnesses, and condemn the guilty to such punishment as in my judgment the offense deserved; as a rule, that was the last of it. There were in camp two or three old women who were always in some row. These I would talk to, and tell them they ought to act as mothers to the younger women, in which they would coincide, but before long would again be in trouble. They used to say of me:
"God knows dat's a good child! God mus' be wid him, kase he couldn't act as he do wid dese niggers."
They were in camp in Bowling Green for six months, when orders were received to transfer them to Camp Nelson, and I was directed to canvass the town and ascertain who among them would go. I set out one morning betimes, with my little book in hand, to take down the names of those willing to go. Many of them had a grave misapprehension of my object and fled at my approach, but after considerable trouble I gathered together about 750, the majority of those having no place of shelter. They embraced all ages, from the child six months to the woman eighty years. Among them were some of the prettiest girls I ever saw, and every shade of color was represented in the multitude.
Captain Palmer, myself, and ten men were detailed to go with them, and leaving Bowling Green at 7 o'clock
at night we arrived in Louisville the next morning at the same hour. But one accident marred the pleasure of the journey, and that was when, awaking in the night, I found three women piled up on my head. Arriving in the city, we found it full of soldiers, and had great difficulty in making our way through the streets. At 5 P. M. we were off for Lexington and arrived there in due time. Late in the night Captain Palmer had passed through the city without leaving orders for me. We had no provisions, our supplies having been left on the L. & N. Road. The women and children were almost famished for want of food, the children even eating dirt. I spent all the means I had for the poor sufferers, and then called upon the commander of the Post, General Burbridge. He agreed to furnish us with one ration apiece, and at one o'clock I received orders to march the women around to Morgan's old negro pen, where we found everything heart could desire. It was astonishing how the colored ladies of Lexington stole these little children in order to take care of them. Some of the women gave their children away in order to get rid of them.
An incident occurred in the camp on the morning we arrived that was very amusing. Two white men came in, and producing bottles, dipped them repeatedly into the spring on the grounds. The women came running to me, asserting that the men had placed poison in
the water, and as matters did look somewhat suspicious, I compelled the men to fill their bottles from the spring, stir up a substance that could be seen in the bottom of one of them, and drink a quantity of the liquid. I then placed them under surveillance for an hour to see what effect the drink would have upon them, and as no bad results came of it, it was concluded they were innocent, and they were allowed to depart.
At 5 o'clock P. M. we were off for camp, where we arrived about 11 o'clock. I was angry, for we were compelled to walk nearly all the way from Nicholasville to the camp. On arriving, the guard ordered me to halt, which I refused to do at the risk of my life. How often I have been frightened about it since!
Marching my people around to headquarters, I there met Captain Palmer for the first time since leaving Louisville. Down through the streets of the City of Refuge we went, the scene presented being a beautiful one. Every door was open, and in each of them stood some one with a torch in hand to light us on our way. There was no room for us in the neat little cottages, but abundant shelter had been provided in tents for my troop of females, two families being assigned to each tent. It was late in the night, and I was compelled to leave them in the hands of the Lord and under the care of the commanding officer. Mounting a stump, I delivered to them a neat little speech, wishing them well,
which called forth such expressions as they would make to a father. With many tears I bade them adieu, telling them to trust in God, who was able to do more for them than I could. They clung to my coat-tail, and I remembered the scripture that says, "The time will come when seven women will take hold of one man." I did not know but what that time had come, but I was not prepared to stand it.
I formed my men in line and marched to the Soldier's Home, where we demanded our supper. The cook soon served us a supper in fine style, which made me feel happy temporarily. I had the first happy night's rest I had enjoyed since leaving Bowling Green, as the case of these poor women and children were off my mind.
The next morning I met Captain Palmer, and he instructed me to give passes to those who desired to visit the ladies. I did so, and that was the last I seen of the Captain until I arrived in Bowling Green.
I gave one of the men a pass to go home and see his mother, who lived about five miles from Camp Nelson. While there the rebels made a raid on the place, and he moved back to camp on double-quick time.
Camp Nelson was overrun with troops at that time, and the place looked gay. Thousands of people were coming in from all directions, seeking their freedom. It was equal to the forum at Rome. All they had to do was to get there and they were free.
Col. Bridgewater was commander of the Post, and a brave one he was. As I said, Captain Palmer had left me without instructions. I remained here contented for three days, and then applied to Col. Bridgewater for transportation. He told me to go back to the Soldier's Home and eat good victuals; that I should not be hurt; that Captain Palmer should suffer for the way he had treated me.
In ten days, however, we struck a line of march for Nicholasville, Ky., where we arrived about 5 o'clock in the afternoon. There was a circus in town, and the proprietor engaged me and my men to guard the inside ring for him, for which I received compensation. The next morning we were off for Lexington, where we arrived on Saturday night. On Sunday morning we reached Louisville, where I expected to meet my mother and father. I had written to them to meet me on my return to the city, and they had been waiting for a week, expecting me on every train, but the conduct of Captain Palmer prevented my coming, and they returned home with sad hearts at not seeing the boy they loved so well. However, on Sunday I had a fine time in greeting old friends I had not seen since I enlisted, among them many young ladies to whom I had paid my regards before I enlisted, and included in the number my late wife, of whom I will speak hereafter. I done my share of boasting that day.
At 7 o'clock. P. M. we were to leave for Bowling Green. Great crowds of people, both male and female, followed us to the train. Tramp! Tramp! Some of us thought that would be our last visit to the city where we enlisted. The girls cried and we, too, wept, for we thought that would be the last time we should ever meet.
The police, in the midst of this scene, ordered us out of the depot. My tears were dried at once, and I ordered the boys to charge bayonets. The police fled in every direction, so in the sight of my friends I gained a victory. I was then ready to take my departure, and leave them to carry the news of my victory over civil officers. Ding-dong! All aboard! We kiss each other good-bye, and are off for Bowling Green.
Soon after my arrival here I was appointed, temporarily, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, with my headquarters at the Commissary Department, near the depot. One day, while I was off duty, about five thousand soldiers came up from Nashville and stopped over in Bowling Green for two rations. I was out on a visit, and the soldiers missed their dinner. For this piece of negligence I was severely censured. While I held this office I had a fine time. I was allowed to occupy quarters in town and boarded with Mrs. Nealey, a worthy lady, and one who will ever be remembered by me. Her daughter, the wife of Mr. Benjamin Bibb, was an amiable lady, of rare qualities.
While stationed here the son of my old boss, A. Robinson, visited the city to see me. It was three days before he found me, and then he was preparing to leave town for home. We had a joyous time together. I took him through my department and showed him what I thought were all the places of interest. We talked freely of old slave times without a show of prejudice on either side. He bought me a box of cigars, he bade me adieu, and I have never seen him more.
While in camp, and seeing joyous times for soldiers, religion began to grow cold. One day, on the river bank, I met Bro. Swift Johnson. I had never seen him before. He said to me, "You look like a Christian." I told him I was. He grasped my hand, and we rejoiced together that we were not ashamed to own our God. We proposed to have a meeting in our barracks. He said in his company he was the only man who would own Christ. On mentioning the matter to my captain, he said he would be glad if we would hold meetings. That night we had a glorious prayer meeting. Bro. Johnson prayed, I followed, and Thomas also prayed. Bro. Johnson then talked to the sinners and the presence of the Lord was made manifest. Bless His name! How sweet it is to think of Him!
The day of the surrender of Lee was a grand one with Company L and all the troops in Bowling Green. The war was now over, and the thoughts of going home
and being free men filled all hearts with joy. Men were shouting, some crying, and others praying, "O Freedom! how I love thee! Long have I prayed for thee, and at last thou hast come! May I enter into thy joy and rest!"
Almost before we had time to stop smiling, the sad, sad news came, on Sunday morning, that Abraham Lincoln, whom we almost esteemed as a God, had been assassinated by the notorious J. Wilkes Booth. Gen. R. E. Lee surrendered to Gen. U. S. Grant on the 9th day of April and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on the 14th of April, 1865. The morning the news reached us I had ten men and was patrolling the suburbs of the town. I marched my men out on the plain and sat down and wept. We remained there until nightfall, and then returned to town and joined with the men in camp in sorrowing over our loss. Our Moses had been slain, and we knew not what the future had in store for us. I had recourse to prayer. I threw myself on the strong arm of God, and felt that He would bring me through.
We stayed in Bowling Green during the year 1865 until fall, and then received orders to proceed to Columbus, Ky. I shall never forget the day I left. My friends accompanied me to the depot, bringing a bountiful supply of provisions, cigars, and everything necessary to make a soldier comfortable. My provisions
were sufficient in quantity to last me five weeks. I bade adieu to my Bowling Green friends and boarded the train for Louisville, on reaching which place I was again assigned to my company. George Thomas was made Sergeant Major, Jacob Stone appointed Orderly Sergeant, and I was assigned to the position of Regimental Quartermaster. Our men camped on the plain near town, while I was sent with a company of men to guard the boat upon which our rations were to be shipped. I slept on the lower deck, and this night was a dreary one for me, for the mosquitoes had so used me that the soldiers, on seeing me, were about to break ranks, but were soon brought to time by the Captain.
About 2 o'clock we got aboard of the boat, bound for Columbus, Ky. We started on Sunday and arrived at our destination on the following Tuesday evening at about 3 o'clock--slow traveling. It rained all the time, and I had to sleep on the hurricane roof. Lee had surrendered and Marrs was pretty near ready to do the same thing.
We remained there a part of the winter of 1865, when I was again relieved from active duty. My principal business was to look after the sick in our quarters, and march those who were able to go, up to the doctor's quarters for examination. The rest of my time was devoted to looking after matters in general. I
helped to throw out of the Mississippi River the cannon balls the rebels had thrown in at that point where they had been driven from Columbus. I stood on the banks of the Mississippi and looked over into Missouri, on the little town called Belmont, where, it was said, when Gen. Grant fought and routed the enemy, they fell like beating apples from a full tree.
We were ordered, finally, to leave Columbus and go to Paducah, Ky., to relieve the Fourth U. S. Colored Artillery stationed there. We rejoiced at the change, for our men were dying off rapidly in our unhealthy locality. Here I was assigned to duty as master of a wagon train, with three horses to care for. One day, while going out to where the men were engaged in cutting wood, I met three rebels coming toward me at a sweeping gallop. I was approaching them at the same speed. They swore vengeance and passed on. It made me think the war was being renewed. I went on to the woods and ordered one-half of the men to do the chopping, while the balance stood guard.
Soon after this I was taken sick. One of the men that went away with me had been on guard duty in town, and he had by chance caught the small-pox from the citizens. He was brought to the camp, when every soldier immediately fled, and left him sitting in the yard by himself. I told the doctor I would never leave him,
and took him to my own quarters, where I sat up with him all night by myself. Such a night I never experienced before or since. He was flighty, and imagined Satan had him in his clutches. He would cry out, "Oh, take him away! I see the chains in his hands! Look at him!" and to keep him in bed I was compelled to sit on him and hold him down. Death had laid his icy hands on him, and though I prayed with him it did no good. He had sinned away the day of grace, and, as the poet says, made his bed in hell. Poor J. D. Brown! I never expect to see him again. His soul is housed in hell. The next morning he was removed to the eruptive hospital, and I felt that I had played the part of a man by standing by a friend. The next day as the drum tapped for dinner a pain struck me in the head and I fell to the earth as dead. The small-pox had me. I was picked up and carried to my room, and the next morning it was found that I had a genuine case of the disease. I was removed to the hospital, there to remain and wrestle with the loathsome malady, but thank God, I was only compelled to keep my bed a few weeks. After I had sufficiently recovered to attend to business, I was solicited to remain to assist the doctor and watch over the medical department. This I refused to do, and was sent back to the camp and reassigned to duty as wagon-master. At the same time I was allowed by the commander of the Post to make extra money
with the wagon train by hauling for the citizens of the town when the teams had nothing else to do. This was called a mess-house. In this business I made $300 in six weeks.
I applied for a furlough to go home, which was granted. About this time the Fifth Cavalry, of which my brother, H. C. Marrs, was Sergeant Major, was mustered out of service at Helena, Arkansas, and he came by and we made the journey home together. Arriving in Louisville, we found the city and suburbs full of Gen. Sherman's troops, there for the purpose of being mustered out.
I mounted the stage for Shelbyville, for there were no cars running to Shelbyville in those days. I started with my stripes on, and when at Gilman's Point some of Sherman's men, stationed there, said to me, "Oh, Sergeant, I pity your case to night." I went on to Shelbyville, where I met my father, mother, sisters, and brother. You may know we had a happy reunion. We talked and cried, and friends gathered from all parts of the city to greet me. In the midst of our glee a fire broke out in the upper end of the city and everybody was excited. Without thought that I was among my enemies I pulled off my weapons, kept on my uniform, and ran toward the fire with all speed. I worked with might and main to save the property. So soon, however, as the fire was subdued, my presence was noticed,
and I was at once attacked by three men. One of them remarked with an oath "Yonder is a negro officer of the army," at the same time they rushed upon me with drawn knives. Mother threw herself in between me and them, but we soon pushed her aside, when we had a desperate hand to hand conflict, I retreating and defending myself as best I could. I was armed only with a heavy stick, which I had picked up by chance when the fight first commenced, and the knowledge of the sword exercise I had acquired in the army came in good play on this occasion. It was near half a mile down the road to my father's house, and we fought this entire distance. The front part of my clothing was literally hacked to pieces, but I sustained no bodily injury. When we reached a point in the road opposite to my father's house I at once wheeled and ran into the gate, around the house, and into the back door, when I seized upon my pistols, threw open the front door, and opened fire upon them. They at once fled and were soon beyond the reach of my bullets. My father, mother, and sister at once became very much alarmed as to my safety, they believing that my antagonists, reinforced by others, would return and attack us during the night. I had come to stay, however, but I took the precaution to stand guard throughout the entire night.
I remained in Shelbyville three weeks, and I enjoyed
myself to my heart's content. The ladies and gentlemen showed me every attention, and entertainments were almost nightly given in honor of my presence. One incident occurred during my stay at Shelbyville that will not be out of place in speaking of these entertainments. I had been in attendance at one of them, and was escorting a young lady home. She had a remarkable fair complexion, was extremely handsome, and was richly and tastefully attired. It was near midnight, and we were passing along one of the principal streets. All at once we were hailed by some one on the opposite side of the street, who started across towards us. I at once drew my pistol and leveled it at him, which, as soon as he saw, compelled him to make a hurried retreat. The young lady was speechless, for at least five minutes, from the fright occasioned by the occurrence. I had no further trouble after this while I remained in Shelbyville.
One week before my time was out I took my departure for Paducah, to rejoin my regiment, and upon my arrival entered at once upon the duties of my office. I was thus engaged but a short time, when I was sent for by my Major and Captain, who desired to know whether I would like promotion to Quartermaster Sergeant. I expressed a desire for the office, but before my appointment was consummated, orders came for our march to Louisville to be mustered out. This was
joyful news to us, and with one accord our men raised the grand old song of "Home, sweet home! There's no place like home!"
All aboard for Louisville, where we arrived on the 20th of April, 1866, and were mustered out on the 24th of the same month.
My friends on the day of my discharge from the service made me a present of a suit of clothes costing $105, a gift highly appreciated. This ends the history of my war life. I have written more in this book of my war campaign than I expected to do, but I think it will prove pleasant to my friends to have had something to say of the part our soldiers took, though it was on a small scale, in the late civil war.
As I have referred thus far only to the ante bellum days and to the period covered by the war, I propose now to speak of my life since the close of the conflict, and I trust it will prove interesting to those who may read it.
When I arrived home from the army I immediately set about perfecting plans to make a living for myself and to help my father and mother along in life. But I must not forget to speak of my old grandmother, whom I loved so well, and who was yet with her owners. I was deeply interested in her, and determined to have her make her home with my family. She belonged to Goodnough's, near Simpsonville, Ky., and I procured a
wagon and went after her. The white people with whom she lived, whom she had nursed in their young days, loved her dearly and were unwilling to part with her, but I insisted on caring for her in her old age and took her home with me. She lived but a few years, dying at the good old age of ninety years, giving God the glory.
I now began to think about business matters, and consulting with my brother, H. C. Marrs, we formed a copartnership. We purchased harness, a two-horse wagon, one four-horse wagon, and I purchased for my own use a horse, saddle, and bridle. He was to engage in teaming with the wagons, while I attended to raising a crop. For eight successive months he had as much hauling as he could do at eight dollars per day. We rose early in the morning, and attended to our horses, and by daylight were ready for business. While he drove the teams I looked after my crop, having, in connection with Mr. Benj. Burley, rented a field of twenty-five acres. The Lord prospered us greatly, and we reaped an abundant harvest.
My friends, at this time, knowing what I had endeavored to do for them in the past, importuned me to go to Simpsonville and engage in the teaching of their children, but this I did not feel myself competent to do. Their persuasions, however, finally induced me to leave the corn-field and enter the school-room to labor for the
development of my race. Oh, how I love them! I opened the school under the auspices of Wilkerson Bullitt, Isaac Simpson, and Benj. Elmore, as trustees, on September 1, 1866. The trustees employed me at a salary of twenty-five dollars a month, and at this time we had no aid from the Freedman's Bureau, the parents paying one dollar per month for each child. The trustees were generous and kind to me, making many presents as a reward for my labor. I shall ever remember them as faithful friends.
Simpsonville was not only my first field in school-teaching, but it was in that neighborhood I was converted and became a member of the Baptist Church.
I remember an incident that occurred while I was in Simpsonville. One night, while all were asleep, the K. K. K. rode into town, some of them mounted on horses, some on mules, and others on asses. They were provided with tin horns, old tin pans, drums, bells, etc., and made a terrible din. Coming into the yard of the house where I lived, they dismounted and began stripping the trees of switches, as if preparing to come into the house to administer a flogging to every one of us. I stole down stairs, and, armed with my old pistol, stationed myself in a chimney corner, prepared to fight my way through should occasion demand it. They made threats of some sort, which I could not hear, but finally they rode off, my back was saved, and I felt
mightily relieved. The women were terribly frightened, and as I was an ex-soldier they thought I had frightened the party away, and looked upon me as their saviour. I went to my room again and went to bed, but all of the men and women came and crouched around me for protection.
I was a perfect curiosity to the white people of Simpsonville, simply because I was the first colored school-teacher they had ever seen, and yet I was no stranger to them, for just three years from the time I left Simpsonville, a slave, to join the United States Army, I returned a free man and a school teacher. They would come to visit me and stare, and wonder at the change, and this was especially the case with my original owners. They said I ought to thank them for what I knew. I did, in part. They would send me sums to solve, such as 146+12--19+200, and the like, to see if I really knew anything. Then when I would work them out they would say to my colored friends, "That Elijah is a smart nigger!"
One day, while the school children were at play, during recess, some one fired a shot among them. I saw the man who did the shooting, and going to him, charged him with the offense. He denied it, and raised a club to strike me, when I retreated to the school-room, glad to get away alive, for, though the war was over, the K. K. K. was in full blast, and no man was safe from their depredations.
I had some very bright pupils in my school at Simpsonville. One young man, by the name of Wells, very attentive to his studies, and a very apt pupil, afterward learned telegraphy, but his color debarred him from obtaining employment, and he is now a policeman in the city of Indianapolis. The total number of scholars on the roll in that school was one hundred and fifty. I closed my connection with the school in my native town after having very good results.
My brother had been teaching school in Lagrange, on the L., C. & L. R. R., and was solicited to take charge of one at Lexington, which was held in Braxton's Church, on Main Street. I took charge of his school September 1, 1867, under trustees Dennis Roberts, Palmer Berry, and Albert Sanders. At that time there was considerable denominational strife between the Methodists and Baptists, which culminated in a division of the school and the formation of two distinct organizations, the Methodist school being under the trusteeship of A. Sanders, and that of the Baptists' controlled by Dennis Roberts and P. Berry. During the whole controversy I was neutral, taking sides with neither party. The first school was at this time under the protection of the Freedman's Bureau, receiving aid from it, and the new order of things brought about many differences, which were not easy of settlement. Both parties claimed aid from the Bureau, and as only
one was entitled to it, much trouble was experienced in adjusting the matter. The agent of the Bureau, then stationed in Louisville, was written to by both parties, and in November, 1867, the following reply was received:
"To A. SANDERS, DENNIS ROBERTS, AND OTHERS:
"Yours is at hand. I would suggest to you to call a meeting and have an election, and let all those who want Marrs vote for him, and those who do not, vote for who they want. But I think you had better keep Marrs.
"Brevet Col. and B. Agent."
In compliance with this suggestion, the trustees met, held an election, and I received all but three votes. I still remained neutral, for I knew if I took part in the fuss it would hurt me financially. The school was divided, one hundred of the pupils remaining with me, and only seven seceding. It was a glorious victory for me, and the result was that my friends done more for me afterwards than they would have done had the school remained undivided. The Lord seemed to guide me all through the struggle. The Bureau decided to divide the school fund. I was to receive fifteen dollars per month and the other teacher ten dollars. The parents of my pupils agreed to pay me seventy-five cents for each of them per month, and altogether I was very handsomely compensated for my services.
When the time came to make out a monthly report,
I did so, and sent it into the Bureau. The teacher of the other school did the same. In three days afterwards I received the following letter from the agent at Louisville:
"E. P. MARRS, TEACHER OF THE BAPTIST SCHOOL, LAGRANGE, KY.:
"Your report for this month is correct, but the report from the other school is so incorrect that nothing can be made out of it. You go around to the other school and show that teacher how to make out her report or she will not get any money from this office. Show this as your authority.
Up to this time she had been my enemy, but this bit of authority made us friends and we so remained.
I will recall an incident that happened while I was teaching school at Lagrange. It was not connected with the school, but with politics. In 1869, when we were to cast our ballot for the first time, Judge Wheat, a Republican, had announced himself an independent candidate for Judge of the Shelby County Court.
I had written my first political letter to the Louisville Commercial, saying that now we, as a race, were about to cast our ballot for the first time in life, and that we would cast it for weal or woe. I warned my people not to vote the Democratic ticket, but to give their suffrage to Judge Wheat, the Republican nominee. This enraged the Republicans of Shelby County. They sent a man to Lagrange to induce me to withdraw my
letter, but this I refused to do. I thought if Judge Wheat sought our suffrage he had no right to be ashamed of us.
While I was at home in Shelbyville, the Republicans held a secret meeting at the colored Baptist Church for the purpose of shaking up things for the election. It was intended that none but the colored Republicans should know anything of the proceedings or objects of this gathering. I was made secretary of the meeting. On Saturday a reporter called on me and desired to know something in regard to the meeting. Without thought I gave him the information asked for, telling him that we had resolved to support Judge Wheat in the election on the following Monday. Before daylight on election day the proceedings of our meeting had been printed on slips and circulated in every district in the county, the charge being made that Judge Wheat was the candidate of the negro party. This only had the effect of combining the colored voters in support of Judge Wheat and produced no bad results.
During my four years residence in Lagrange I made many friends. Among those I valued most highly were Elder Warren Lewis, Moses Berry, a former pupil and now a teacher in one of the public schools of Missouri; Frank James, Salathiel Berry, Susan Davis, Mrs. Berry, Alice James, Josie Sutton, Annie and William Wilson, Eliza Barber; Caroline, Washington and Mary
Bullit; Mrs. Annie Lewis, and a host of others. Of Elder Warren Lewis I can say much in commendation. When at his house, I received every courtesy, and nothing was too good for me. Elder Lewis, his wife, and Susan Davis presented to my wife and myself a beautiful bouquet on our marriage day.
While teaching in Lagrange I had occasion to go out into the country one evening to visit some of my pupils and stay all night with them. The latter lived adjacent with some white people by the name of Whitesides. They had never seen a colored school teacher, and, from their actions, one would have supposed they had never come in contact with a white one either. They had heard of my coming and were all in the yard of the house, awaiting my coming with, apparently, as much curiosity as if I were President of the United States. As I walked into the yard, I heard one of them say, "Thar he is now!" Another said, "Take keer, Ann, let me see him for God's sake!" I underwent this ordeal as I marched down to the quarters of the colored people, the crowd following and stationing themselves about the door of the house when I reached it. Finally, one of them asked:
"Teacher, can you read?"
I answered in the affirmative.
"Well, I wish you'd read some for me."
I took a book and read a portion of it to them,
much to their surprise. They were wonderfully astonished that a colored school teacher could read.
At the close of my second session in Lagrange I again went to Shelbyville. One night, sitting at home, thinking over measures for the development of my race, I proposed to my brother that we form an Agricultural and Mechanical Association. To his inquiry as to how we should proceed in the matter, I suggested that we endeavor to obtain fifty subscribers to the project, at fifteen dollars each, making a total of $750, and organize at once. He agreeing, we immediately went to work canvassing, and in a fortnight we had the men with the money. A company was formed, with H. C. Marrs as President, and myself as Secretary. The next business was to procure a site for our enterprise, and James Flint, John Tyree, and myself were appointed a committee for that purpose. We purchased from Mr. Beard 42½ acres of ground at a cost of $4,200. The President and Secretary were appointed a committee to go to Louisville and select premiums. A fair for colored people was a new and novel venture in that section, and hence the greatest interest was taken in it, and visitors from far and near were present to witness our first attempt. It is, perhaps, needless to say it was a success. Our fondest expectations were exceeded, and our inaugural meeting netted us $3,000. Of this money $1,500 was paid on our property, The second year's
receipts were $2,300, the third, $1,800, and the fourth, $1,300, a gradual decrease. When I found that interest in the matter was on the wane, I sold out to Mr. Silas Ford in the fall of 1874. During the four years of my connection with the enterprise I held the office of Secretary, and on my withdrawal turned over my books to my successor, Lewis Lawson.
We turn again to Lagrange. During my stay here as a teacher, I was superintendent of the Sunday-school, and for four years did what I conceived a great moral work, among the children, teaching them the Word of God. At times my school numbered one hundred and fifty pupils. I was also secretary of the Loyal League, organized at Lagrange by Prof. W. L. Yancey for protection against the K. K. K.
I was the first colored man elected President of the Republican Club of Oldham County, in 1869. I was the first colored man to take the stump for the Republican party in Oldham. I was the first colored man to propose a celebration in honor of the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This was a great occasion. Thirty-seven girls in the procession represented the States, and the whole affair was a grand one. Col. Sam. McKee was the orator of the occasion.
I am the man of whom the Lagrange correspondent of the Shelby Sentinel wrote, saying that after the celebration
he observed a colored man whose perspiration would make good ink, and who was ruling the negroes politically.
While in Lagrange, sitting at the fireside of Elder W. Lewis one beautiful fall night, we heard the windows of the house broken in and a general uproar. The K. K. K. was upon us. I told the women to get behind the chimney for safety. The irons were hot upon the stove, and I used them freely in repelling the assault. Mr. Roberts ran to his bed for a pistol, but was struck on the head with a stone and fell back. Mrs. R. attempted to reach it, when she, too, was struck and forced to retire. Mr. Roberts, Sr., finally made his way to the bed and secured the weapon, and would have made short work of our assailants had the pistol been loaded. The K. K. K. did not know this, however, for when they saw it they fled. I followed them up to where I boarded, and securing my old gun I returned to Mr. Lewis'. About midnight they came again, and as they got near me I called to them to halt and then fired. They immediately fled, never to return.
About this time I became somewhat dissatified, and desired very much to leave Lagrange, and having made up my mind to that effect I intended doing so without any one being aware of my resolve until the moment of my departure. It leaked out in some way, however, when the citizens, both white and colored, held a meeting
on the 20th of November, 1878, and subscribed and paid over to me $150.00 extra to remain with them another year. May God ever bless such true friends as they proved themselves to me.
While teaching in Lagrange a bright-eyed boy of seven years, named Henry Weeden, was one of my pupils. I feel that I would fail to do justice to a worthy scholar if I do not refer to him in this book. He was very attentive to his studies and always knew his lessons. Before he was twenty-one years old he became the editor of a newspaper--Zion's Advocate, a Methodist publication. He has held many honorable positions in Zion Methodist Church, and is now a letter-carrier in Louisville, Ky.
During my career as teacher in Lagrange I had under my supervision, at different times, three hundred children, and when I left there it was with the consciousness of having done my duty as a Christian and a teacher.
In 1870, when I left Lagrange, it was for the purpose of taking charge of a school at Newcastle, Henry County, Ky. I opened on the first Monday in January of that year with fifty scholars, and under the supervision of the following as a board of trustees: George Grigsby, Emanuel Bennett, Milton Hurley, London Clifton, and Esquire Hamilton. I can say of these men, as I have said of others, that they were faithful
to their trust and never faltered when a duty was to be performed.
On reaching New Castle my first thought was concerning my status with the church, and I at once wrote to Simpsonville for my letter. On receiving it I united with the church at New Castle, of which the late Rev. A. Taylor was pastor. He was a man whom we all loved and esteemed as a minister of the Gospel. Peace to his ashes!
While in New Castle, during the year 1871, I became an active worker in the church and Sunday-school, and did what I could for the development of the minds of the children and older people. In the winter I taught school day and night.
At that time Henry County was overrun with the K. K. K., and a colored man in public business dared not go five miles outside of the city for fear of assassination. Public court day always attracted large crowds of country people to town. One day one of the K. K. K. called to me and invited me to enter a stable with him. There was no one near, and as I feared to disobey, I entered with him. He at once evinced a desire to raise a fuss with me, and asked me to drink with him. This I at first refused to do, when he, with an oath, exclaimed, "What! you nigger! You won't drink with a white man? I'll show you, sir!" That was enough for me. I turned the bottle up and pretended
to drink. Thinking I had done so, he was satisfied and soon left me alone.
I then called the colored men together and organized a society for self-protection, calling ourselves the Loyal League. Of this society I was secretary, and we were always in readiness for any duty. For three years I slept with a pistol under my head, an Enfield rifle at my side, and a corn-knife at the door, but I never had occasion to use them.
My stay in New Castle was a pleasant one. School closed on the first of June, and, as usual, I had my closing exercises. This proved a financial success, netting $105.
The trustees and citizens generally of Lagrange now sent me a proposition to return to them and teach for another session. This I assented to, providing the people of New Castle would release me, and the Lagrange friends would insure a liberal support.
My term being thus closed in New Castle, I returned to my home in Shelbyville for the purpose of marrying, and on the 3d day of August, 1871, I was united to Miss Julia Gray, the ceremony being performed by Rev. Simon Grigsby, brother of Deacon George Grigsby, of New Castle, Henry County. My wife's mother, Harriet Gray, done all she could to make the nuptials a grand affair. There were eight attendants, friends of myself and wife. These were Mr. Lewis Lawson and
Miss Mary Griffith, Mr. Andrew Ellis and Miss Ida Houghs, Mr. Salathiel Berry and Miss Kittie Wilson, Mr. Leonard Taylor and Miss Jennie Gray.
Mrs. Julia Tevis, proprietress of Science Hill College, Shelbyville, was a great friend to my wife, and brought the school girls to witness the ceremony. They set the table, and aided in every way to make the occasion a pleasant one. Mrs. Tevis made my wife some handsome presents, and afterward presented me with about sixty books. In doing so she said:
"Elijah, I want to say to you that I have been teaching school for fifty years, and there is not a day but what I learn something; and I want you to take these books and apply yourself to study."
I have never forgotten her words. They are to me like words engraved on brass.
Before I married I became a believer in the old saying that we should not catch a bird before we had a cage to put it in. God had prospered me, and I had bought a place on Main Street, Shelbyville, built a two-story frame house and fitted it up. I then went out, caught my bird, and early one morning had my wagons at the door of my mother-in-law's house ready to move my wife to her new home. We remained here during the summer months, and it was indeed a happy season for us.
In September, 1871, according to promise, I returned
to Lagrange and was received cordially by the warmhearted people there.
I remember an incident that occurred while my wife and I were located at Lagrange. For the purpose of tantalizing my new wife I concluded I would remain away from home one night, not letting her know of my intentions or whereabouts. I did so and she had the whole town in an uproar, looking for me, while I was quietly sojourning with Rev. Warren Lewis. When I arrived at home the next morning I found it was not so funny as I had anticipated, as my wife was almost crazy with the thought that I had been killed. I never tried that again.
I finished my last school term in Lagrange and once more returned to New Castle, where I again opened school on the first of January, 1872. On my arrival with my wife the citizens greeted us heartily, and as it was our intention to go to housekeeping they presented us with a sufficiency of meat, sugar, coffee, etc., to last us for three months. Soon after my arrival I was again elected Superintendent of the Sunday-school, composed of two hundred scholars, with ten teachers and five officers. The labor of the Sunday-school was always one of my greatest delights. We held it in the morning, and the evening was devoted to the singing school. We soon concluded to buy us an organ, and in less than a month after our school passed a resolution to
buy one, we had it in our possession and paid for. Our day school was all that could be expected of it during this year. At the close of the school, June, 1873, we had quite an interesting and entertaining exhibition. It was witnessed by a great many persons, they coming from all directions. It was said that every vehicle within a radius of sixteen miles of New Castle was brought into service by those who attended the closing exercises of my school, which was pronounced by all to be a perfect success. The receipts at the door exceeded $100. The receipts from these exhibitions were used by me for spending money during the summer months.
I come now to the most important period of my life. I had been feeling for some time that the Lord had called me to preach His Word. I had worked in the Sunday-school. I had given moral lectures to the children, pointing out to them the happiness attending a religious life. I had frequently exhorted the older people in our prayer and church meetings. I had done what I could, as I thought, for the cause of Christ's Kingdom. I had ever tried to live a godly life. After frequent communions with myself, I conversed with Elder A. Taylor as to the state of my mind, but I expressed to him no desire to preach God's Word.
Yet the spirit continued to work within me, urging me to become a standard-bearer of God's Holy Word--that I must publish the glad tidings of salvation to a sinful world. Doubts and misgivings as to my ability to properly fulfill the mission would at times come over me, but the Lord seemed to say to me, "Go, thou, and preach the Gospel. I will be with you always, even to the end of the world." Then Satan would say to me, "You are not good enough; you are unworthy;" and with him I would agree. But hark! the Spirit would say, "Whom God calls he will qualify." Then the wicked spirit would say, "You are not converted." But the Spirit of God would again manifest itself and ask me, "Do you remember the time God freed you?" Then I remembered the passage of Scripture, "Try the Spirit; see which be of God; for many have gone out." I called aloud upon God to deliver me out of this vale of doubt and despair!
My brethren were watching my actions with the closest attention, but of this I was not aware. I grew restless, my mind was ill at ease, the burden of thought was more than I could bear. My war-beaten cheeks were often bathed with tears. Uncontrollable sighs gave evidence as to the agony of the soul. Finally, the Rev. A. Taylor called the Deacon's Board together, consisting of Brothers George Grigsby, S. Hamilton, L. Clifton, B. Thomas, and E. Bennett, and invited me
to meet with them. I had not the least idea as to the nature of the business that had called them together, as I had been trying to keep my call to the ministry with God alone. Elder Taylor opened the meeting with prayer. After prayer he arose and stated that he had been watching Bro. Marrs for some time, and, judging from his actions, he most firmly believed that he had been called to the Gospel Ministry. At this announcement I felt like sinking through the floor--I thought my secret unknown to any one save myself. The other brethren all testified to the same thing. Thereupon I told them of the trials and struggles through which I had passed in trying to avoid the responsibility of preaching God's Word; but if they, men with mature judgment as myself, thought it a duty I owed to myself and to God, I could not refuse to at least attempt the work. The meeting adjourned with the understanding that I would preach my trial sermon on the 7th day of June, 1873.
My burden now seemed to be as heavy as before. The idea of my standing in the pulpit and preaching the Gospel of Christ I could hardly comprehend, and my soul went out to God in day and midnight prayer that he would teach me how to preach His Word with simplicity and power. During this time I seemed to live with God, and he dwelt in my soul. How I loved Him then, as I do now! Bless His holy name! That
week he showered His blessings down upon me, and my soul was exalted. He made known to me that I must preach the Gospel--that henceforth I should be a messenger of Christ, to make known the glad tidings of salvation to a sinful world. Once more was my soul at peace with God! My thoughts seemed to be in unison with His Spirit, that I was the man He had called to preach the Gospel of Christ. Honor to His name forever.
On Sunday, the 9th of June, I was up with the dawn of day, meditating over and nerving myself for the task that was set before me. At 10 o'clock I started for the church. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit I entered the pulpit, with Elder Taylor by my side, who gave me all necessary encouragement and told me to trust in God, who would safely carry me through the trying ordeal. I thought of the various times I had addressed the Sunday-school children; also of the different occasions I had exhorted at prayer meetings in common with other laymen; but now I have been called to preach the Gospel, and the time is now at hand for my maiden effort. While sitting there beside Bro. Taylor, I offered up a mental prayer to God that He would help and sustain me, and that my effort should be crowned with success. Elder Taylor sung a hymn and offered up a prayer to God in my behalf, and handed me the Bible. I arose and read a passage of Scripture and commenced my sermon.
And as I began to preach, God showered His love down upon me and I was enabled to tell the people in plain words how I felt, and how long I had been shunning the responsibility of preaching. The church received the sermon gladly, and praised it very highly, saying it was a wonderful sermon for a first effort; and on the 16th of the following June they granted me license to preach.
The following is the form of them; also the date on which they were granted:
"NEW CASTLE, KY., June 16th, 1873.
"This is to certify that Bro. E. P. Marrs is a member in good standing with the New Castle Baptist Church, and held by us in high esteem. And, believing him to have a call to the Gospel Ministry, we do hereby give him our entire and cordial approbation in the improvement of his gift, by preaching the Gospel, as Providence may afford him opportunity. Praying that the Great Head of the Church may indue him with all needful graces and crown his labors with success.
"Done by order of the church at her regular meeting for business, New Castle, Henry Co., KY., June 16, 1873.
"ELD. A. TAYLOR, Mod.
"BRO. B. THOMAS, Clerk."
I will always remember the day that Elder A. Taylor said to me from the pulpit, "Now, that God has called you to preach you must go, regardless of how circumstances may be at home, and regardless even of the condition of your clothing. Should your coat not be as new as you should like, or your shirt not as neatly
done up as you would wish, still you must go and not neglect your duty."
It was a heart-rending time for my wife. She sat and cried during the services. Two things burdened her mind. First, that she might be the cause of hindering my success. Second, that she had often told me that she was afraid I would be a "Jack Leg Preacher," a public hiss among the people. The fear of this so troubled her, that sometimes she was hardly in her right mind.
But as I traveled among the churches, and was highly esteemed by the leading members of the denomination over the State, she grew proud of me and did everything in her power to make me happy. I will say more of her hereafter.
I continued to preach in New Castle during the year. Elder Taylor, who was pastor both of the New Castle and Pewee Valley churches, would leave me in charge of the New Castle church, while he preached at Pewee Valley. This gave me an opportunity of improving my gift. I tried to make good use of the advantages thus offered.
One day, after preaching, the deacons and several of the brethren gathered around me and said:
"Bro. Marrs, that was a powerful sermon, and there is only one thing you lack."
"What is that?" I asked. One of them replied,
"the tone." I made no answer. I thought over the matter, and I came to the conclusion that I must deliver my sermons more in the style of Bro. Elder Taylor, or I would not be a success in New Castle. In two weeks the time came for me to preach again. My wife went with me to church. I mounted the rostrum and announced my text--"Fear not, little flock, it is my Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." I hoped to be able to preach to the good of the souls of myself and hearers, and honestly felt myself to be full of the Holy Ghost. Then with a sing-song quivering voice, and imitating as near as possible the peculiar whine of Elder Taylor's, getting out of my own style, and conforming as much as possible to the manners of another, I attempted to preach. But I was thrown completely out, and had to stop. I made a complete failure. I have never since tried to imitate any other preacher.
It is always best for a young preacher to use the gifts God has given him, in a manner peculiar to himself.
During this year, 1873, the subject of temperance ran high in New Castle. I had always been a temperance man, and as Local Option was about to be voted on in New Castle I was greatly in favor of it. But nearly all the colored people, even professed Christians, were dram drinkers.
I was consulted by the white people, and was urged by them to use my influence in favor of Local Option, which I readily consented to do.
As soon as my intentions became known, it spread like wildfire, and some of the colored people declared that I had left the Republican party and was going to vote the Democratic ticket. I said that if opposition to the whisky traffic in New Castle was Democratic, then I belonged to the Local Democracy.
The Sunday before the election a very prominent minister, who loved his dram, came to my house and asked me to take a walk up the pike with him. I consented. After walking along awhile he said, "Marrs, I understand you are going to work against the whisky men to-morrow?"
"Yes," said I. "Well," said he, "if I were you I wouldn't do it. It will be a great injury to you in your business, and will hurt you in the church very much." "Well," said I, "If the church handles me for voting against whisky and turns me out for that, they will have to do it."
He warned me of the danger of my course. Soon after, another prominent member of the church met me on the street, and told me if I would only stay away from the polls, he would give me six dollars. So many threats had been made against me, and, as I really had no vote, my residence not being in the town limits,
Satan gained the day, and made me stay at home. Only one colored man voted for local option, and that was L. Owens, who has since died and gone to the heavenly rest. Peace to his ashes! Right will finally prevail. A few years afterwards local option was carried by a large majority.
I taught my school in New Castle during the year 1873. At the Christmas holidays I went home to rest, after which I returned and reopened my school on the first Monday in January, 1874, with nearly one hundred pupils. I began to think deeply of the two great works I was engaged in, viz., teaching and preaching. I felt that there was something lacking on my part. I knew that I was unable to accomplish my great desire of keeping abreast of the times. I desired to make myself more proficient, both in the school-room and in the pulpit.
I thought it best for me, since I had been called to preach, to make a more thorough study of the Bible, and to become better acquainted with the cardinal doctrines of the Baptist denomination before seeking to take a church. I had a long conversation with my wife, and she expressed a willingness to do anything in her power that was honorable to help me along in the ministry. I then laid the matter before the pastor of the church. He gave me all encouragement, and laid the matter before the church, telling them of my determination,
and they voted me twenty-five dollars to assist me in my school, provided I would stay and finish the remaining part of the term.
My wife said she would return home and work for my support when I desired to enter college. All this filled my heart with joy.
During the remainder of my stay in New Castle, a period of five months, I received many kind expressions of regard from my brethren and friends.
On June 3, 1874, I closed my school with one of my good old-fashioned exhibitions. The receipts at the door amounted to $90.
On the second Monday in June I bade my friends adieu, and left for Shelbyville to spend my summer months before entering college.
I applied myself to study until the latter part of July. I had before made arrangements with my brother, J. W. Marrs, a resident of Indianapolis, Ind., to take care of my wife.
I entered the Baptist College at Nashville, Tenn., about August 27, 1874. It was then under the care of the president, Dr. D. H. Phillips. I arrived before the opening of the school, and found only three students on hand, viz.: T. Z. Thistle, Colbert, an Indian, and W. J. Harvey. Things looked very dreary, and I felt lonely and homesick.
At last Monday came, and the great bell was rung
long and loud. I marched into the school-room with my books, and took my seat along side of the old students. After singing and prayer, we were marched off to the rooms of the Professors to be examined. Then came my hard time. Question after question was asked, but I answered them promptly. My teacher, Miss Smith, a white lady, said I was perfect.
Dr. Phillips was a perfect gentleman, and one that all loved. The other teachers, Prof. Teft, Miss Smith, Miss Carrie Dyer, and Miss Emma Phillips, were loving and kind to all who came under their care.
At one time I run short of funds and was about to leave the college. President Phillips told me to remain and he would make arrangements for my continuing.
I made it my endeavor to please the faculty in all things. The faculty of the Nashville College were all great Christian workers. No labor or study was entered into without first invoking the Divine blessing. It was a rare thing for a sinner to remain there six months without being converted. They made it their special duty to converse with the students frequently on this all-important subject. I am proud to think that while there I threw the first shovel of dirt on the foundation of the new building that now rises like a palace.
For prudential reasons, when given my choice of quarters, I chose to remain inside of the college inclosure instead of taking rooms outside. I attended Elder
Bradford's church, and became a teacher in his Sunday-school. I was once chosen by the Sunday-school to give an exhibition and tableaux. It was given in December, 1874. It was so well carried out that it created a great sensation in that part of the city. They tried to persuade me to repeat it, but I thought best not to do so, for what was a success at one time might not prove to be so at another.
I loved Elder N. G. Murray for his Christian courtesy. I preached often in his church. He seemed to be very much pleased with me as a young man, and manifested a disposition to do all he could for me.
Prof. C. S. Dickens, now Professor of Greek in the Kentucky State University and pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church; Prof. W. J. Harvey, Principal of the Graded School, Shelbyville, Ky.; and Prof. N. H. Ensly, Professor of Christian Evidence in the Alcorn University, Rodney, Miss., were in school with me while in Nashville, Tenn.
I have often thought over the time, after I entered college, when I was writing a communication to the Louisville Commercial concerning the college and its workings--how the students gathered around me and complimented the letter.
My seat in the Bible class-room was between a white student and an Indian by the name of Colbert, now a wonderful Baptist preacher in the Indian territories.
I studied instrumental music under Miss Emma Phillips. She was a proficient teacher.
The time had now come when I must leave the College. The Faculty were very urgent that I should remain longer, but circumstances would not permit. Before my departure Dr. Phillips invited me to take tea with him. I felt a little strange, eating at table with five white ladies and two gentlemen.
On the following morning I took the train for my home in Louisville, Ky., where I met my wife, who had just returned from Indianapolis; and on the morning of the 24th of December, 1874, we started for Shelbyville, Ky., where we arrived at 10:30 A. M. We had a joyous Christmas with our friends. The advantage of education that I received while in college was a great benefit. We remained in Shelbyville during Christmas, and on the first Monday in January, 1875, I opened my fifth term in New Castle, Ky., with about one hundred and twenty-five scholars. On my arrival back to my church Elder A. Taylor again invited me to preach for him every first and third Sunday in the month. I felt that I was more able to preach then than I was before. The people thought that since I had been to college I was not very far from being perfect. My manner was more refined and my delivery was much improved. I tried in everything to conform to
the ways of the people, and let them see that I felt myself no better than they were.
Having many applications to marry couples, I applied for license to do so, which were granted in due form by a special term of court. Deacon Charles Haydon, of the White Baptist Church, became my bondsman.
The following is the form of the license:
"COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY,
"SPECIAL TERM HENRY COUNTY COURT, April 22, 1875.
"E. P. Marrs, a minister of the Gospel, having come into court and made proof that he is a man of good moral character, and in communion with his church, the Colored Baptist, of New Castle, and having executed bond, with approved security, conditioned according to law, we therefore authorize the said E. P. Marrs to solemnize the rights of matrimony in this Commonwealth.
"Given under my hand as Clerk of the Henry County Court, this July 13th, 1875.
W. W. TURNER, Clerk."
The church feeling that I was now ready for ordination invited me to stand the test. The time set was August 22, 1875, and as it drew night I began to be burdened with the responsibilities that would be thrown on me. My heart was bowed down. I had been a successful licensed preacher; but now I was to "put on the whole armor of the Lord," and to perform all duties of an ordained minister of the Gospel. I went to God in earnest prayer, and asked for a more perfect understanding
of his Word, so that I might be able to answer all questions that might be put to me.
And God heard my prayer. When the day of examination arrived there were no less than one thousand persons assembled from all parts of the country. They began to come very early in the morning. It made me feel very weak and ill to see the great concourse of people. There were enough to frighten any man; but God was with me. Half-past eleven o'clock arrived, and I ascended the pulpit and sat in front of this large audience. For two long, long hours the council interrogated me; and after they had concluded they retired and consulted together. When they returned they announced that the "candidate was worthy of ordination, and that the church adopted the decision of the council." I was ordained in the regular form by the Presbytery. The following is the form of the license:
"NEW CASTLE, KY., August 22, 1875.
"This is to certify that our beloved brother, E. P. Marrs, the bearer of this paper, is a member of the First Colored Baptist Church, of New Castle, Ky. After being examined, he has the entire approbation of the Ordaining Council, and was publicly set apart by prayer and the imposition of hands, to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances of Christ. May he, like Barnabas, be full of the Holy Ghost and of faith; and through him may much people be added to the Lord.
"Elder A. TAYLOR, Moderator.
"Elder M. ALLEN, Clerk.
"Elders W. Lewis, P. O. Bannon, Davidson.
"Deacon Thomas Haydon."
I was then prepared for the full ministerial duties. I received many congratulations upon my success in the examination. I concluded to teach, as usual, and grew stronger and stronger, both in ministerial and school work. I completed my session in New Castle, and won for myself while there life-long friends. During my four years there I had enrolled in my school not less than three hundred children. Many happy hours have I spent in that little town.
In the summer of 1875 I made preparations to leave the place. The people owed me only about fifty dollars. They said they intended to do all in their power to pay the debt. And so they did, for those who owed me and did not have the money to pay told me to come to their houses, and if I saw anything I wanted I should have it. I made my rounds among the country people. They had hogs, chicken, and geese, and such like. They told me to help myself, and I did help myself to the hogs and chickens; for when I took my departure I had forty dollars worth of them, leaving only ten dollars due me. This ended my work in New Castle. In this town I was licensed to preach, ordained to the ministry, and licensed to perform the marriage ceremony. I love the place of my ministerial birth. Oh, how I love Jesus! He has ever kept me. Lord, I pray Thee keep me from sin.
In June, 1875, I again took my departure for Shelbyville,
for recently, while there, I had been elected as a messenger to the General Association of Colored Baptists of Kentucky, which was to convene at Paris, Ky. While at Paris the trustees of that city elected me as their teacher at forty dollars per month. I desired to engage in teaching again, and was on the point of accepting their appointment, but on returning to my home in Shelbyville I found that the trustees there desired me to teach for them. I felt a delicacy about doing so, as I did not wish to interfere with the teachers already employed. My wife was very much opposed to my moving to Paris; but she was also afraid to have me take charge of the Shelbyville school, as she thought I would meet with strong opposition. So, finally, I told the trustees of the Shelbyville school that I would not accept the charge until they had let the parents decide by a vote whether they wished me or not. The election was held in the Baptist Church, and I received all but three votes. My wife was very much pleased with this, and I consented to become their teacher. I immediately wrote to Paris and notified them that I could not accept the position they had so kindly offered me in their public school. I then stood an examination and received a certificate as a qualified teacher, and was then ready to enter into my new field of labor at my old home. I expected many "bumps" from my own people, both from a biblical
and professional stand-point. But my motto was "pro bono publico;" and I remembered how Jesus had said, "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country." I opened my first term in Shelbyville on the first Monday in September, 1876, in the Colored Baptist Church, with fifty pupils. An opposition school opened, but closed very soon after, and I received all of its pupils into my school. The trustees, Messrs. Nelson, Allen, Washington George, and Tolson Chinn, stood by me in every time of need, and supplied my wants. I was comfortably situated at home, in my own house, and nothing to do but to attend to my own affairs.
My opportunities to preach were good, though my teaching was laborious. I had removed my church letter from New Castle, and placed it in the Shelbyville Baptist Church, of which Elder Charles Clark was pastor. I must say something of this old soldier of God while I am passing along. He was a true friend to me, always willing when necessity arose to succor me. He was, without doubt, a God-sent minister, and a powerful man in the pulpit. He had a fair knowledge of the Scriptures, and was always ready and willing to help young men. He finally became very feeble, and would have me preach for him when I was at home at least once a week. He baptized not less than one thousand persons while in the ministry. He died in
May, 1881, in the full triumph of faith. I also assisted Elder Samuel Mack, of Shelbyville, frequently, who was then, as now, pastor of the Elk Creek and Mount Eden Baptist churches.
I had many friends in Shelbyville, and shall name some of them in this book. Among them were Nelson Allen, Preston Deto, Daniel Baker, Susan Baker, Luella Baker, Maggie Baker, Lucy Mack, Matilda Perry, Delcy Clark, Elder J. W. Lewis and wife, Maria George, Mary Owens, Lewis Lawson, and Mrs. Mary Lawson. These I mention, with a host of others, were my counselors and willing to do anything in reason for myself and wife.
During the latter part of the year 1875 my wife was taken ill. She was confined to her bed five months, and died in the full triumph of faith on the 9th of April, 1876. She was a loving and faithful wife. Her manners were kind and pleasant; her ways winning; her disposition was such that she always, from the first, won the love of all with whom she came in contact. Her speech was winning and affectionate. One could not help admiring her. She was a worthy member of the "Mysterious Tens," and had been elected Worthy Mistress just before she was taken ill. She bore her long sickness with great patience, always saying that she was not afraid to die; that God was able to take care of her.
On the evening of April 8th Elder Clark talked with her about the goodness of God, and she rejoiced with him in the God of her salvation. She said to Elder Clark: "I am not afraid to die; I am going home." Night drew near. Our friends began to come around her. They asked her whether she desired them to stay with her or not. She answered "No; that Mr. Marrs would attend to her." No one was thinking that this would be her last night. But, oh, look at the messenger of Death, standing ready to take one of God's children home! I went to rest by her side, in order to minister to her wants. Late in the night she called me and asked me to bathe her head. I did so. She said "that will do," and so I laid down again and fell asleep. Being very tired, I slept soundly. But, oh! I shall never forget the morning of her death. The touching scene continues to follow me. I felt something trying to draw me up to them. I awoke, and it was my dear wife, who had lost the power of speech, and only had this way of telling me that she was passing over Jordan into glory. She passed away without a struggle!
Elder Clark, our pastor, preached the funeral. She was buried by her society, the Mysterious Tens No. 1, in the Shelbyville Cemetery. She has gone home to rest in the midst of the heavenly blest, where angels shall be her company and keepers; where parting shall
be no more; where I shall meet her again, when we shall never more part; where we can join with the angels singing the anthem, "Holy! holy! holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth! bless His name."
After the death of my wife and the days of mourning were over, I again opened my school. I was unable, however, to take the same interest in it that I had before her death. I asked God to give me strength to struggle with my grief successfully and assist me in discharging my daily duties.
My wife had been my counsellor, and to her I could tell all my secrets and know that with her they would be safe. She was also very economical, and if I was absent from home I never knew her to spend a cent of my money without first asking my permission. Of course I was always willing to allow her to do as she pleased, she knowing that my interest was hers.
I taught throughout the term in Shelbyville, having the closing exercises the latter part of June, 1876; and these proving to be a great success, created considerable comment in the town. The school was now full. I had one hundred and twenty-five pupils enrolled. During this term there was a bill put before the Kentucky Legislature, known as "The Whipping Post Bill." I called an indignation meeting at Shelbyville in order to defeat this most inhuman bill. I drew up a petition and received the signature of one hundred and
fifty colored men, and sent it to the Legislature then assembled at Frankfort. The bill was not passed, and the people of Shelbyville attributed this glorious defeat to my efforts. The reason that I was so bitterly opposed to this bill was, that I thought it was a sly way of re-establishing the old whipping-post of our forefathers. Our fathers have eaten sour grapes and put the children's teeth on edge.
During this year I baptized my first convert, Leister M. Marshall, in Clear Creek. This was the opening day to my success. It encouraged me and gave me energy to carry on the great work that I had begun. After this I baptized at one time thirty-five; at another twenty, and another ten. While here I commenced to make and save quite a sum of money. I bought property in Shelbyville, situated in different parts of the city, valued at three thousand dollars. I was the Superintendent of the Sunday-school, in which we used the International Sunday-school books, and with these excellent helps and my own exertions my reign of Superintendent was quite a success. During the year 1878 the Murphy or Temperance Movement was put on foot among the whites in Shelbyville. Consequently, the white ministers came to me and suggested that I use my influence among my people. I accordingly laid the plan before the colored elders, Clark, Mack, and Straus. They were of course quite
willing to join me in this great reform movement, but hinted that they did not think that I would be successful. But I asked the aid of our Father in Heaven to help me fight the battle and gain the victory.
The first thing I did in behalf of this was to procure the Baptist Church, and then to invite the following white ministers, Drs. Pratt, Ingram, and Neal to come and talk to us on this most important subject--Temperance. They most willingly accepted the invitation, attended the meeting, and made powerful speeches on this subject. Their speeches were so enthusiastic and so entreating that when I invited all those who were willing to sign their name to this pledge, by which they swore to abstain from intoxicating drinks, there were one hundred and sixteen who responded to the invitation and signed their names.
This large response on the part of my people was contrary to my expectations and filled me with enthusiasm and energy to carry on the great work I had commenced in my town. I felt that the Lord had and would continue to bless me in this work. We continued the meetings until we had five hundred people to sign the pledge. In the meantime I received many curses from the saloon keepers, but this did not lessen my desire to carry on the meetings, as I knew that I was doing something for my Redeemer. I have mentioned before that Simpsonville was my old home, and of course I
wanted to start the temperance ball rolling here, and in order to make the first resolution successful I chartered cars from Shelbyville to Simpsonville and made the round trip cost only thirty cents apiece. One hundred and twenty went down with me and took the little town by storm, and the crowd being so large we were compelled to hold meetings in two places, one in the Methodist and one in the Baptist Church.
Here the meetings were similar to those at Shelbyville, having prayer, singing, and speeches, and closing up with entreating persons to sign the pledge. The result was that before we left one hundred and twenty had signed the temperance pledge.
Our mission being accomplished and the victory won we returned home with great thanksgiving. For three years I was President of this Temperance Society. The meetings were held once a month, and with the ministry and teaching my duties were too heavy and I was compelled to resign. After my resignation the society decreased in numbers and finally disbanded.
Just here I will relate an incident that happened in connection with my life after the war was over and I had returned home. Col. M. Taylor was making a Republican speech in the Court-house. We were now free, but were not as yet enfranchised. I went in to hear the Colonel's speech, but the Sheriff of Shelby County, Ike Payne, took me by the arm and led me
out, saying, that "this was no place for a negro." I resisted, but in vain. I was forced to leave the house. Afterward I went to the Colonel and told him of the affair. He told me that he could do nothing now, but the time would come when I would be a man. In three years from this time I spoke from the same platform from which the Colonel had delivered his speech, and in front of me I saw Ike Payne standing listening to me, the man who had so grossly insulted me. His appearance recalled to me the incident of long ago, and I alluded to him in my speech, and told of a rebel soldier who had been imprisoned in the State of Missouri, and who had by chance been elected Sheriff of Shelby County. I implored this man to give up his Democratic ideas and to join the Republican party. My speech made quite an impression, and I received applause from both Democrats and Republicans. It made a similar impression on Mr. Payne, and he left the house, but ever after he treated me as a gentleman. During the summer of 1876, after the death of my wife, I concluded that I would visit some of the northern States and learn something of their customs and habits. My first visit was to Cincinnati, Ohio, to attend the National Convention. This was the first convention of this kind that I had ever attended. The convention nominated Ex-President R. B. Hayes. It was, indeed, a joyous occasion for me, for there I not only heard
and saw the great Republican leaders of the white people, but those of my own race. Among the colored leaders were Fred. Douglass, J. M. Langston, R. B. Elliott, and B. K. Bruce. When I looked at these great men of our race it made me feel proud that we had so many political leaders among us. I remained in Cincinnati until the Convention adjourned, and then I continued my journey to Indianapolis, Ind. Here I spent the time with my brother, J. W. Marrs. The second night after my arrival I visited the Union League and addressed them on the political questions of the day. I received a great deal of applause. My name was published in the papers as addressing this assembly, and thereafter I was called on nightly to speak or preach. While in Indianapolis I received word to return home and go on a lecturing tour through the county, in behalf of Judge S. E. Dehaven, who was running for Circuit Judge against Judge C. Beckham. On Sunday night I preached for Elder M. Broyles. This was my last sermon in Indianapolis, and on the following Monday morning I departed for Shelbyville. I arrived there at 7 o'clock P. M. I began my tour of speech-making at once, and it is through the influence that I wrought in this way that Judge Dehaven, the present official, was elected by a large majority over his antagonist. During this summer vacation I had a splendid time, and on the 1st Monday in September,
1875, I commenced school again with one hundred pupils enrolled.
This term was the most successful in all my experience as a school teacher. During this term, extending from September, 1875, to June, 1878, I had not less than three hundred pupils under my charge. I tried to do my duty by them, and if all were not proficient in their studies it was no fault of mine. Some of the pupils of this term have made competent teachers, and one a newspaper correspondent, Mr. Abe Martin. Some of them are now teaching in the public schools. My life at Shelbyville was a pleasant one, surrounded by a host of friends, and making a good salary of from fifty to one hundred and twenty-five dollars per month. About the first of June, when everybody was leaving for Kansas, I concluded to go West also.
At this time I received a letter from my brother, H. C. Marrs, to come to Louisville. I at once wound up my business and in two days I was off for Louisville, and in a few hours after starting for that point I was knocking at his door. He at once made known to me his intentions. His aim at all times was to promote education. His object in this case was to start a college. I told him I was unwilling to commence the school, and besides, I had thought of going out West. However, after many entreaties on his part, I consented to undertake it. It impressed me in this way: This is certainly a good
work; some one must start it. Why can't I? Surely God will aid me. And although there are many disadvantages hanging over it, yet most every great enterprise is started under difficulties. It was in this way that I consented. We consequently laid the plan before the trustees of the school. The chairman called a meeting to discuss the feasibility of opening the school before the property was paid for. After several meetings were held, the trustees decided that they would open the school and put me in full control, giving me the authority to hire my own teachers, and have the charge of all entertainments given for the benefit of the school.
Prof. R. Davis was appointed principal (now pastor of the Zion Baptist Church, Louisville). The school was opened on the 29th of November, 1879, and on the opening day those very men who it seemed to me should have been there were absent, having some very important business to attend to in other parts of the city. In a few days after the 29th the following members were enrolled: Rev. E. J. Anderson, now pastor of the First Baptist Church of Georgetown; Rev. T. M. Faulkner, pastor of the Baptist Church, Louisville; Rev. John Thompson; Rev. George Patterson, of Midway, now pastor of Bethel Church, Frankfort; Rev. G. Ward, pastor of Eminence Baptist Church; F. P. Adams, now teacher of Brownsboro Public School;
and M. P. Berry, teacher of a Public School in Missouri. This encouraging start gave us all hope, and we were beginning to see the silver lining of the black cloud that was hanging over us at the beginning.
I shall never forget the kindness of the Educational Society, of which Miss Nellie Frye was president, from which we received fifty bushels of coal through the influence of Elder D. A. Gaddie. It seemed relief came at the time most needed. After the school was in running order I began to advertise it, and send out circulars in order to make our school popular. The advertisement in the New York Witness was the most attractive of all. I was then receiving this paper through the kindness of W. H. Helfrich free of charge, as he was paying for it for me. This gentleman wrote me a letter to Shelbyville, thinking that I was still there, asking me for information of things in Kentucky. This is the letter that I wrote to him in answer to his:
LOUISVILLE, KY., March 2, 1880.
Rev. W. H. Helfrich:
DEAR BROTHER--You letter directed to me at Shelbyville has been received, and when I had read the contents it made me feel glad to know that I had such a friend, who not only interests himself in my behalf, but in that of my race. Yes, I get the New York Witness, and for it many thanks. I have long before this pronounced it one of the first and best papers in America. It is an able defender of the right, and I think it should be patronized by all lovers of Justice. I can only say, my dear Brother, that I am unable to return to you my many
thanks for sending me the Witness. I will now tell you the great work that I am interested in, and I know you will send me the books or anything else to assist me in doing my duty. On the 24th of November, 1879, as you will see from the circulars, our Normal and Theological School opened, and it has been increasing in students ever since, until to-day we have thirty-three students. Ten of them are ministers of the Gospel. So you see that we are making a strong effort to do something for the advancement of the ministry. However, there is but one thing that we feel anxious about, and that is, that we shall not be able to pay the remainder on the property. We owe $13,500, but we hope by patience, perseverance, and faith in God to surmount the difficulty. We have ten years to pay this amount in, and I suppose we shall be able at the end of this time to stand free of all debt. We shall be very glad to receive any suggestions in regard to raising funds for paying for our school, and I hope that we shall be able to get you interested in our cause.
E. P. MARRS.
When I wrote this letter to Dr. Helfrich I had not the faintest idea that he was going to have it published in the New York Witness. But so it was. He sent my letter and circular to the editor of the Witness, with the following letter of his:
FOGELSVILLE, PA., April 6th, 1880.
DEAR BROTHER--Enclosed you will find the following letter from Rev. E. P. Marrs, colored minister in Kentucky, with circular of a Normal School of which he is Director. I wrote a letter to him a short time ago, containing a few encouraging remarks, and in answer have received letter and circular. This is certainly a good work and needs encouragement. They have yet a large sum to pay on the property of the school. Can we not aid them in some way? Could not
we raise a small sum by getting subscribers of the Witness to subscribe something for this school? I, myself, am not able to subscribe much as I am a member of the Reform Church, and have to pay yearly to our new church near Philadelphia, Pa. But I will give willingly ten dollars to the Normal and Theological Institute. But will you not try to raise a collection for this noble work by publishing this letter and circular, and putting in a good word for it in your excellent paper?
With best regards to yourself,
Your Brother in Christ,
WM. H. HELFRICH.
The following is an article from the Witness:
We have received a letter, accompanied by a circular, which states that there is a Normal and Theological School connected with the General Association of the Colored Baptist Schools of the State of Kentucky, and among other things it states, "we have no college library, and solicit donations from all interested in the cause of education. It also invites the attendance of young and old ministers desiring to be better qualified to fill their positions.
When I read this article in the Witness, I immediately wrote to Rev. Helfrich, thanking him for making this kind appeal to the Witness to assist us, and also for his donation. At the same time the Reverend had written to Rev. Mr. Burl, Pastor of the Reform Church, of Louisville, Ky., asking him to go around and see if there was such a school, and whether he thought it needed assistance or not; if so, to write to him immediately. Rev. Burl visited our school and was favorably impressed with its workings, and wrote back to
Rev. Helfrich, "Yes, he thought that any assistance to this institution would be well applied." Rev. Helfrich thereupon made his second appeal to the Witness. Here is his appeal just as he had written it.
MY DEAR BROTHER--Allow me once more to speak through the columns of the Witness to your many Christian readers, in favor of a most holy Christian work. Your readers will remember a letter from Rev. E. P. Marrs, which was written to me and published in the Witness in behalf of the Colored Normal and Theological Institute, in Louisville, Ky. This institution is under the jurisdiction of the Baptist Church of the South, but is open to all Christian denominations. The college is located on valuable property in the city of Louisville, known as the Zane property, and it was sold last year by the American Life Insurance Company, of Philadelphia, for the sum of $13,800. It is chartered by the Legislature, and is under a board of trustees and in their possession. They bought the above property, paid on it $2,000, and owe yet $11,000. They have a good title. The extension building, with attic, basement, and out-buildings, stand in a beautiful campas, overshadowed by evergreens and forest trees. It is in all respects adapted to its purpose, and the entire property is in good condition. The school opened last year with some forty students, and with an able corps of teachers. Every minister laboring on the lines of railroad leading into the city has the privilege of attending the school. Herein, my dear brethren, is an open field, of the Martha kind, to do work for the Lord. Our colored brethren throughout the South, formerly an oppressed people, at last obtained their freedom, but they are still groping in ignorance as regards ecclesiastical affairs. Now, should we not help them pay off this comparatively small sum? Brethren of the ministry, of whatever denomination you are, come, let us all help. Induce some of your members to bring an offering for this good cause.
A brother of my denomination, the Reform Church, who labors in the ministry in Louisville, writes to me: "Yes, any help to this institution is well applied." And since these people are so poor, it is doubtful whether the work can succeed without help from abroad. Christian readers, can you not help? Can you not spare a dollar, or two, or more? Send it by letter to Rev. E. P. Marrs, Louisville, Ky., or could not some one send a check for fifty or one hundred dollars? Oh! how these brethren would leap for joy. Do not think, yes, I ought to help, but take a dollar or whatever you can and send it right on. Shall these poor people struggle on, or shall we do what Christ teaches us to do. "In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, my little ones, you have done it unto me."
WM. H. HELFRICH.
When the readers of the Witness saw this appeal from Dr. Helfrich, I received donations from the following persons: Miss Mary Holmes, Masonville, N. J., July 6th, 1880, $1.00; Miss Ella Wimple, March 6th, 1880, $1.00; $1.00 was sent by a lady, and was signed a widow from River Junction, Jackson Co., Michigan, July 6th, 1880; Walter Cofton, Philadelphia, Pa., $10.00; Lemuel Lester, Sheridan, La Salle Co., Ill., July 26th, 1880, $10.00; Mrs. H. C. E., Madisonville, Ohio, $1.00; Mrs. James Helfrich, Whitehall, Pa., $5.00; Mrs. Alice Helfrich, Fogelsville, Pa., $1.00. All these donations were received through the kind appeal of my friend, Rev. Helfrich. The money was sent to the General Association at Owensboro, in August, 1880. I am proud to say that I am the founder of the Baptist College of the State of Kentucky.
Not much is said in favor of its founder now, but neither was Mordecai remembered until the King Ahashuerus was in trouble. Then it was that he had the record searched, and it was found that Mordecai had saved the King's life. Mordecai was then promoted to the highest honors. So it will probably be with me. If you will search the record closely, you will find that E. P. Marrs has saved the life of the Educational Cause of the Baptist Church of this State.
The closing exercises occurred on the 1st of June. I sent for Dr. W. J. Simmons, of Lexington, Ky., to come and deliver an address to the students. It was a masterly effort. The subject was "Iconoclasm," to which the students and those who were present paid the strictest attention.
The American Baptist complimented the entertainment in the following language:
The closing exercises of the Institute were held in the chapel of the building last Wednesday evening, which was comfortably filled with an elegant and interested audience. The exercises were well conducted, so well that it would be idle to attempt to comment upon the individual merits of the participants. The students acquitted themselves nobly, and the papers showed generally earnest thought and careful preparation. The management have had many obstacles to contend with during the past session, and the fact of their being able to succeed so well under existing circumstances shows how much could be done under more favorable influences.
The gem of the entertainment was reserved until the last, and that
was the able and masterly address of Rev. Wm. J. Simmons, of Lexington, who, after giving some wholesome advice to the students, gave the history of many of the great universities of the day, assuming that what was possible with them is possible with our school, though born in weakness and poverty. He made a most earnest plea for an educated ministry, arguing that this was only a nucleus around which would cluster achievements that many would be glad to claim in the immediate future. His remarks, and, indeed, the sentiments of all the papers, were received with genuine pleasure by the friends of the institution who were present.
Rev. E. P. Marrs, who has been in charge of the school during the session, deserves credit for the zeal and enterprise which he has displayed in the management.
I have not space in this little book for all the comments of the newspapers on the management of the school during the time of my administration. We had forty students, ten of whom were studying for the ministry, and ten for teachers. If ever I prayed to God for aid and assistance I did it while I was President of that Institution. My only object was to start the school and then to give away to some man who was better fitted for the place than I. Before the opening of the next session the trustees employed Rev. Wm. J. Simmons, of Lexington, to take charge of the school. It was, indeed, a good choice. No better man could have been selected for the place. He is shrews, energetic, and scholarly, and eminently worthy of the position he now holds as President of the University. The
colored people of the State feel proud of him. He is a diamond in the rough--may be termed what we sometimes call a fist and skull fellow, ready for any emergency that may arise. He will bristle up to the most powerful, and if they do not get out of his way some one will be hurt.
When the school opened in the fall, feeling that I was deficient in some branches, I concluded that I would enter the school, when I commenced the study of Latin, also that of Greek, being under the tutelage of Prof. Bliss White. I remained in the school two years, taking a special course in those studies I most desired.
Thus ends a brief sketch of my college history, which I prize as the greatest event of my life. God speed the time when every minister of the State shall have drank at this fountain of knowledge, the better to prepare them for preaching the Gospel of Christ.
In this connection I beg to allude to an article that was published not long since by the Monthly Magazine, printed in Philadelphia, Penn., referring to our Institute, that will perhaps be of interest. It refers to the Rev. Henry Adams, formerly pastor of the Fifth Street Baptist Church, Louisville, one who has long since been removed from us--one who was universally beloved, and who ever had the respect of both white and colored, even in the days of the dark past--as the first
person, who, moved by the Spirit of God, felt it his duty to call his colored brethren together in a General Assembly at Louisville to consider the propriety of starting a school for the benefit of preachers and teachers. After stating that property was purchased at Frankfort, money collected and paid thereon, it was discovered that the location was not well chosen, and that little or nothing could be done at that time. The writer then says:
In 1867, however, at Lexington, the name of the organization was changed to the one now here. On March 5th, 1873, a charter was obtained from the Legislature for a college, but, from inadvertancy, the school has always been called an institute. Nothing permanent was done, however, until the 24th of November, 1879, when the school was opened by the Trustees with the Rev. E. P. Marrs as Manager and Rev. W. R. Davis as Principal. Rev. W. J. Simmons, who had come to this State the year previous as Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Lexington, Ky., was called to the Presidency by the Board of Trustees and the General Association in August, 1880, and in September he began his work, and he closed the term with one hundred and thirteen students.
I will now turn to the organization and the pastorate of the Beargrass Baptist Church. On the 8th day of February, 1880, Bro. W. Pendergrass, Bro. O. Fontaine, and myself, from the Green-street Baptist Church, Louisville, and Bro. Humble, of the Lampton-street Baptist Church, and Bro. Dickerson, of the Goose-creek Baptist Church, set in council at St. Matthews for the
purpose of organizing a church. The Council was organized by electing Bro. Pendergrass Moderator and myself as Secretary. All things being ready, we called for the letters of those who desired to become members of the organization, whereupon Brethren J. Lawrence, C. Strickland, H. D. Cox, R. Jackson, and R. White presented their letters to the Council. They were placed on file, and the organization completed, and in the afternoon I preached the sermon, text, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Judges vii., 18. Brothers Cicero Strickland, James Lawrence, and Richmond White were chosen Deacons, and H. D. Cox Clerk. I went back once to visit the church before I was called to take charge of it, and the brethren seemed to be much pleased with my style of preaching and immediately set about to call me as their pastor. I thought at the time that this field was too small for me. I smiled at the idea of becoming pastor of a church with only five members, and they all men and officers but one; besides, I was in the College, and I thought it unbecoming to my dignity. I prayed and thought over the matter, and the more I did so the more I felt inclined to accept. I remembered the Proverb, "Despise not the day of small things." I at last made up my mind to accept the call, and accordingly entered upon the discharge of my duty March 16, 1880. The next thought that came over me was what shall I do
first. I had only a few brethren to hold up my arms. God directed me to commence war against Satan's kingdom. We consulted together and made arrangements for a protracted meeting. I sent for Elder J. W. Lewis, of Shelbyville, Ky., to come and assist me. In due time he was on hand, and as there was only a few of us we went to prayer in earnest, and asked God's blessing upon us. On or about the 27th of March we commenced our meeting, continuing for five weeks, with the following result: Seventeen by experience, three by letter, and seven by relation. Such a time was never before seen in this part of the country. I preached the Baptismal Sermon, from the eighth chapter of the Acts, thirty-sixth verse--text: "See, here is water. What dost hinder me from being baptized?" which created considerable sensation with both white and colored. Some of these are yet contending for the faith once delivered to the Saints. Our present Deacon's Board is composed of Richmond White, David S. Clark, Cicero Strickland, James Lawrence, Thomas Jackson, Alford McCoy, James H. Jackson, and are all Christian gentlemen. They are reliable in every respect, and one of the most essential elements with them is that they are reading men. We never differ in church matters, but work together in unison in anything we think will redound to the church's interest. My call to the Beargrass Church was in the midst of my
college work. While carrying on my meeting I would come every night from the college, a distance of seven miles, and would return that same night in order to be at my work soon in the morning.
In October, 1880, I opened another meeting, and had the assistance of Elder M. Allen, of Shelbyville. He did good service. He is a power in the ministry, but the weather was so bad that we only had seven additions to the church. God was pleased with our work and we knew it, for we felt his presence in our midst.
We passed through the winter very smoothly, and the time came for another call. The church being new, it was thought best to have a new pastor every year. Elder J. W. Lewis was called, who served the church about seven weeks, during which time he carried on a protracted meeting. The meeting closed without a single addition. The church appeared to be dissatisfied with the call. They had nothing against Elder Lewis, for he is a Christian gentleman and worthy of any good church.
In two weeks after I severed my connection with the Beargrass Church I received a call from the St. John Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky. I entered upon the discharge of my duties in April, 1881, under favorable circumstances. Deacons--Bros. James Mitchell, Calfus, and D. Clarke. I served them with perfect satisfaction for two months, and during this time had ten
additions without a protracted meeting. About this time the Beargrass Church had changed its opinion as to a change of pastors, and sought every opportunity to regain my services. I did not want to return again to this church. I prayed night and day for the guidance of God in the matter, and the Lord taught me that this was the field for me. I told the committee that I would come back, provided they would give me a sufficient salary. We soon came to terms, and I accepted the call, and entered upon my second pastorate June 9, 1881, under favorable circumstances. The Lord appeared to be with me during the summer of 1881. My relation to the church and its members appeared to be closer and closer, and in the spring of 1882 we called the Ministers and Deacons Institute to meet with us in the church. Our object was to go immediately out of the Ministers' Institute into a protracted meeting. We had a general good time, and the church was much revived. Elders J. W. Lewis, W. Lewis, and B. A. Franklin were retained to help in the meeting, and for two weeks we worked hard with no success. Finally, I called the three elders together and held a council, and came to the conclusion that we had too many preachers, and that the services of some of them could be dispensed with. It was decided that Elder Warren Lewis should stay and assist in the meeting. We continued it for three weeks without any
better result, till the third Sunday night, when one person joined the church. This seemed to wake up the members, and they went to work in earnest. We thought we could almost see Jesus walking in the air. Glory to God in the highest! His name is worthy of praise! One sister, Carrie Mays, who lived two miles from the church and unable to attend, received the Spirit without coming to the house of God. She said that she could hear the preaching--it appeared to be in the air. The results of this meeting was fifty-two additions to the church. Bless His name forever! This glorious Pentacostal feast went on for nine weeks. On the ninth Sunday morning of the meeting I preached the Baptismal Sermon, and we retired to the water, where I buried thirty-five in baptism in the presence of about one thousand people. Thus ended one of the most precious seasons of religion we ever had up to this time in the Beargrass Church.
In June, 1881, the church extended me an indefinite call, with the understanding that if I became dissatisfied and desired to leave, that I was to give them three months' notice; and if they became dissatisfied with me and wanted to change, that I was to receive the same notice from them.
In the spring of 1883, we opened another meeting and employed Rev. John Fisher, a young man, who preached with great power and acceptance. The result
of this meeting was seventeen conversions, two by letter, five by relation; total, twenty-four. This meeting was of great advantage to the church; it was much revived, and the spiritual interest was kept up until the next meeting.
In the fall of 1883 we carried on another meeting. I had the assistance of Elder N. Caldwell, a most excellent preacher, whose labors were very acceptable to the people; but our success was not as great as usual, on account of bad weather. The meeting closed with only eight additions to the church.
In the spring of 1884 we again opened a meeting, and again had the assistance of Elder N. Caldwell. The meeting closed with only two by experience and three by restoration. I have found by experience that we can not reap a great harvest every time we commence a protracted meeting. There are only times when the fields are ripe.
We are now recording the last and one of the greatest meetings we ever had in the Beargrass Baptist Church. On the 12th of March, 1885, the Ministers' Institute convened in this church, and closed on the 13th. The church retained Elder S. Mack to preach in the meeting. The Christians seemed to have their hearts centered in the work, hence it was a success. Elder Mack, of Taylorsville, did good preaching, and the results of the meeting were twenty-nine by experience
and six by restoration; and on the 19th of April I baptized twenty-five candidates in the presence of a large concourse of people, returned to the church with many and administered the Lord's Supper. Thus ends my labors in the ministry up to this date. The Lord has been good to me since my first pastorage of a church. I trust that I shall ever be a watchman for God, standing high on Zion's wall, and proclaiming the salvation of a sinful world. Since my pastorage of this church I baptized into its fellowship one hundred and thirty, and in other churches about seventy-five members, making a grand total of two hundred and five.
In 1883, the trustees of School District No. 13, of Jefferson County, Ky., desired me to teach the District School. I consented to do so, and went before the Board of Examiners and stood a first-class examination, which created quite a sensation in the city of Louisville. The following is clipped from the American Baptist:
E. P. Marrs crosses the Alps. We note with pride the fact that Rev. E. P. Marrs, at a recent examination for county schools, received a certificate for four years. His grade is First Class, First Grade, average eighty-five per cent. He was formerly a student of our Institute, and is a Christian gentleman. He has no equals. He had a most difficult examination to pass through, and on that day was the only one who passed. White ladies with tears in their eyes, because of failure, could not see how he could succeed, while they could not. He was the center of attraction, and was highly complimented on account of
his success. We take great pride in it. All over the State white teachers are failing and the colored ones passing. Nothing will keep the black man back. He will pass.
AUGUST 31, 1883.
This very flattering compliment was almost too much for me to bear. The following was clipped from the Louisville Commercial the next morning after the examination, headed "Incompetent Teachers:"
The examination for teachers in the County Schools began yesterday in Commissioner Abner J. Smith's office, in the presence of the Board of County Examiners, consisting of the Commissioners and Messrs. J. W. Reese and C. W. Null. Heretofore certificates have been granted to almost any one who applied for them, and the result has proven very disastrous to the educational interests of the county. Commissioner Smith has determined, in his work of reform, that none shall occupy positions as teachers unless thoroughly qualified, and for this reason ordered an examination. About thirty, most of whom are old teachers, were examined, and a majority of them made signal failures. The examination will be continued until competent teachers are found to fill the vacancies in the several school districts. Several colored applicants were examined, and only one, Rev. E. P. Marrs, passed. It is apprehended that there will be difficulty in finding teachers for the different colored schools.
I have been somewhat conspicuous in the works of the Baptist Church far away back, even before I became a minister, and have been a delegate to the following General Associations of Kentucky: August 15, 1873, delegate to the General Association, at Paris; August
11, 1875, delegate to the General Association York Street Baptist, Louisville; August 14, 1876, delegate to General Association, Harrodsburg; August 14, 1877, delegate to General Association, Frankfort; August 11, 1880, delegate to the General Association, Owensboro; August 17, 1881, delegate to General Association, Hopkinsville; August 10, 1882, delegate to General Association, Versailles; August 15, 1883, delegate to General Association, Maysville; August 13, 1884, delegate to General Association, Franklin.
The Central District Association, in which I take so much pride, I have been Secretary of for eight consecutive years. I have been a member of this Assembly since its first organization, and at the same time Corresponding Secretary, and a member of the Executive Board, and Secretary of the same; and twice appointed as missionary for the District, but on account of other important business I was unable to take the field. I have been a member of the Executive Board of the General Association for five years. I have been five times a delegate to the State Sunday-school Convention. I was elected President of the District School Convention, and declined to be re-elected on account of my position as Secretary of the Central District Association. I was President of the Athenæum Society, in the State University, for one term. I was a delegate to the first State Educational Convention that convened
in the city of Louisville, Ky., in 1867, called by Col. B. P. Runkle, the Bureau Agent for the State of Kentucky. I was a member of the Committee on Resolutions. Myself and my brother, H. C. Marrs, called the Second Educational Convention of this State, to meet in Shelbyville, but it was slimly attended for lack of interest among our people. I was a delegate in 1878 to the convention that convened in Frankfort, looking forward to the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I was on the editorial staff of the American Citizen, edited by Hon. Green B. Thomas, in Lexington, in 1872.
H. C. Marrs, H. Graves, and myself organized the second Lodge of the United Brothers of Friendship in the United States, in 1866, in Shelbyville, Ky. We had never heard of such a name, but I proposed it, they indorsed it, and we three constituted the society. I at once gave a history of our Organization to the American Citizen, then published by Hampton, in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was published, and W. N. Hazel, W. W. Taylor, Charles Coats, and N. Grant came up and organized us.
I was delegate to the convention that nominated Gen. John M. Harlan for Governor of the State of Kentucky. This convention convened in Frankfort. I was sent from Henry County, and was elected by the
Henry County delegation as their speaker, and placed in nomination the Hon. H. M. Buckley, of Henry County, but withdrew his name in favor of Hon. John M. Harlan. I was a delegate to the convention that met in Lexington in 1882, for the purpose of considering the condition of the colored people. I was a delegate to the first Educational Convention that convened at Frankfort in the Senate Chamber, where white and colored delegates had the same privileges, Judge W. M. Buckner, President. I was the man that offered a series of resolutions of thanks to Judge Buckner and others for calling the Peace Conference of Educators that created such a sensation in Frankfort. I was a delegate to the National Convention of Colored Men that convened in Louisville, Ky., in 1883, when Mr. Fred. Douglass was chosen President. I have also been elected a delegate and president of many meetings of minor importance, but too numerous to mention here.
The following are the names of parties that I have married: John Woolfolk, Salathiel Berry, Kittie Wilson, Henry Moore to Mary Scott, A. Dangerfeld to Mat. Perry, John Davis to Martha Smith, Wm. Scott to Hattie Perry, James Evans to Fannie Graves, Robert Johnson to Mollie Hall, Squire Shipman to Effie Shannon, George Brown to America Hunt, Allen Mays to Carrie Taylor, Archie Miner to Jennie Battle, T. M. Faulkner to Mary Vandyke, Thos. Middleton to Minnie
Ross, Anderson Burton to Mary Magruder, John McCay to Ida Jordan, Wm. Williams to Mollie Thomas, Wm. Goldsberry to Katie Dorsey, Henry Dale to Jennie Vincent, King Todd to Lottie Hoghs, Cartus Clark to Eliza Green, Berry Hundley to Martha Williams, Isham Taylor to Hattie Strickland, Samuel Stratton to Patsy Ballue, Henry Hardin to Lucy Bierman.
When I was a young man I was a great favorite among the young people of both sexes, and I have waited on not less than forty couples, and I always kept a suit of clothes for that special purpose.
The following are the ministers with whom I have set in council on examination for ordination: Peter Dent, Archy Burton, W. H. McRidly, Jeff. Jacobs, E. Enders, N. Caldwell, John Burns, Robert Mitchell, Charles Gaines, Richard Reynolds, and Philip Young.
Two have been licensed to preach from the Beargrass Church since I have been its pastor--Harvey Kingsberry and Daniel W. Lewis.
In December, 1879, I moved my membership from the Shelbyville Baptist Church and joined the Greenstreet Baptist Church, Louisville. Elder D. A. Gaddie, its pastor, is a minister of the Gospel of eminent ability, a fine scholar, and a man with fine personal appearance. He is now Moderator of the Central District Association, of which I am Secretary, and he is also Assistant Moderator of the General Association. He
is known for the bold stand he takes for his friends. As a general thing he knows the right, and sticks to it at all hazards. When he rises to speak in an assembly the whole house is silent to hear what this divine has to say. He has occupied the pastorate of a number of churches, and has baptized something over one thousand souls. The following is a high compliment paid to the writer, through the American Baptist, from the pen of Rev. D. A. Gaddie:
"Elder E. P. Marrs, pastor of the Beargrass Church, is truly a good man, a Christian gentleman, and a pastor that his church is proud of. If you put him in the school he is a success there. He is now here, and here to stay. I saw in the American Baptist where it is said that his brother, H. C. Marrs, opened the College and began to teach, and stepped down to give place to a greater. The question is, who started the wheel to moving? H. C. or E. P. Marrs. Our subject is E. P. Marrs. As a man he is fair in his dealings and deportment. Upright, his work will speak for itself if you will survey it."
I can but say a word in this book concerning Dr. W. J. Simmons. He is a true friend of mine. I love the man. He was my teacher for two years, while in the College. During these two years I never received from him an unkind word; nothing but smiles of encouragement came from him to me, and his little children appeared to love me as their second father, always calling me Uncle Elijah, and meeting me at the front gate and gallanting me into the house. Dr. Simmons,
we can not get along well without you in this State. Like Elder Gaddie, he will go his full length for a friend.
H. C. Marrs, my brother, was a man of sterling worth. As a teacher he was very earnest. He was a teacher for sixteen years in the various schools of Kentucky and Indiana, and at last quit teaching and went to college, and graduated in 1883 with high honors from the Kentucky University. His death was lamented by all who knew him. His wife and two children are in moderate circumstances.
In 1884 I visited the National Convention which nominated Hon. James G. Blaine, at Chicago, Ill., for the Presidency, on the Republican ticket.
I taught two successful school terms in School District No. 13, in Jefferson County. The number of scholars on the roll in this school was ninety. Some few of them are very bright students, viz.: Catherine King, Rosa Strickland, Lena Stephenson, Fannie Harris, and Mary Stephenson. They are destined to do great good if proper attention is paid to their future. I have had, since I commenced teaching, not less than one thousand scholars under my supervision. Of this number some are preachers, some teachers, and others are following various occupations to make themselves useful in life.
Six times I have been in danger of losing my life. Once a wagon ran over my head. At another time a
wagon ran over my leg, with a half cord of wood on it, that made me a cripple for nearly one year. At another time a yoke of oxen ran off with me; they ran for a mile, and the yoke coming off, I fell down between them. At another time, while on the steam cars going to Lexington, the cars ran into each other. At another time, whilst going to Lexington to attend a convention, the same thing happened. This so frightened me that I did not tell it for nearly a year. At another time, whilst driving out in a buggy, only one lick with a whip saved the lives of myself and brother. At another time, whilst Elder Allen and myself were crossing the railroad near Beargrass Church, we only saved our lives by a single jump.
In token of respect to my friends of the Beargrass Church, I feel in duty bound to record the names of those who voluntarily made up a sum of money to present me with a suit of clothes, which exhibits to some extent the high regard they hold for me:
These, my friends, are always ready and willing to respond to my needs under any and every circumstance. May God bless them, is my prayer.
I have always been a liberal giver to the cause of Christ, and have contributed freely not only to the support of the Church, but to charitable institutions, ever mindful of the proverb that "He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord."
Many kind friends have I among the members of the Beargrass congregation. No door has ever yet been closed upon me; on the contrary, wherever I go, whether it be a pastoral visit or not, I am always met with a hearty welcome and a pleasant smile. The Deacons of the Church, Brothers Richmond White, Cicero Strickland, James Lawrence, Thomas Jackson, David S. Clark, James H. Jackson, and Alford McCoy,
are a band of Christian gentlemen, and, together with their good wives, I must mention as having been exceedingly kind to me, ever ready with a special welcome on my visits to their homes. The same I might say of many others I might mention, but the limits of this little book will not allow. To them all I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude that will ever remain unpaid, and my last prayer shall be that the Blessed Spirit may ever keep them in that right path that doth lead to happiness and prosperity here on earth, and finally to that bright home--the home of many mansions--the beautiful home beyond the stars--illumined by that infinite, deathless love of our Father and our Saviour, before whose transcendant radiance our darkness shall disappear and our partition-walls melt away.
Readers, farewell! In my course through life I have, in my humble way, "did what I could." Do thou likewise, and all will be well with thee and thine!
"Lives of great men oft remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."
To God be all praise for whatever little I may have done.
Yours for Heaven,
REV. E. P. MARRS.
Thus far have I pursued my solemn theme
With self-rewarding toil. Thus far have sung
Of God's great deeds, for lofty strains beseem
The lyre which I in early days have strung.
And now my spirit's faint. And I have hung
The harp that solaced me in sadder hour
On the dark cypress. And the chords that rung
With the sweet praise of Jesus and his power
Now rest--their melodies forever o'er.
The harp of E. P. M. now sleeps for aye
To the soft breeze it wakens never more--
No more shall I reanimate its lay.
Oh, Thou who visited the sons of men!
Thou who dost listen when the humble pray;
To Thee is raised my earnest prayer again,
One little space prolong my lingering day!