In 1863, ten years after my birth and during the Civil War, father built the "new house". Four of my sisters participated with me in its dedication. In it two more children, Stella and Seymour, were born.
From time to time father purchased more land until he finally owned one hundred and ten acres. When he died twenty acres remained uncleared. A careful examination of this farm revealed the fact that a soil five or six inches in depth covered a hardpan base. How my father and mother succeeded in bringing up a family of seven children is to me a profound mystery. All of the children were sent to the district school with a degree of regularity that defied storms and ordinary ailments. When father died in his seventy-first year he owed no man, had hundreds of dollars in the village bank and held small mortgages on several nearby farms.
The reader should remember that up to my fifteenth birthday, father and I cut the hay with hand scythes, raked the hay with hand rakes, cradled the oats and buckwheat; in fact, did all the farm work in the old fashioned way. When I was sixteen or seventeen, we hitched an ox to a wooden revolving rake and took our first step forward in the use of labor saving machinery. Passers-by would frequently stop on the highway to watch our unique performance. While I led the ox, father manipulated the rake. Shortly after this innovation, a neighbor was employed to cut the grass with a mowing machine.
Up to the time I was twenty-one father never owned a horse. The farm was so hilly that he thought it necessary to use oxen.
In the home my mother was seriously handicapped. I was ten before we had our first kerosene lamp. Up to that time we had used candles. Mother had a tin mold in which she could make three candles at a time. Occasionally, borrowing a mold from a neighbor, she made twelve at a time. Prior to my becoming twenty-one there was no sewing machines in the home. Making garments for a family of nine by sewing with a "cambric" needle was no small task. The stockings, mittens and hoods were all hand knit.
At no time, except for a week or two when a new member was added to the family, did my mother have any outside assistance. How did father and mother perform their Herculean tasks? I did not know. I do know that every one of the children was required to make some contribution. In other words, we all worked.
All of my sisters learned to cook, sew, knit, wash and iron, and I mastered what could have been called the fine art of farming. None of the children ever enthusiastically sought these golden opportunities. Father was the commander-in-chief, as he frequently called himself.
My father and mother directed the most important part of our education. I learned obedience, diligence, thrift, sobriety, honesty; in fact, all the virtues that ever adorn a noble manhood.
The most important lesson I learned from father is embodied in "finish whatever good thing you begin." When I was seven or eight years of age I asked him to buy me a top. He said, "No, I will not buy you a top. Ask your mother for an empty spool, take my pocket knife and make your own top."
I proceeded to follow his instructions. When, in a short time, I returned his knife he asked, "Where is your top?"
I replied, "I do not want a top."
His answer was, "Take my knife, finish that top or I'll finish you."
In due time I returned his knife together with the completed toy. After giving it a spin he said, "That is a good top."
When his eagle eye discovered the beginning of a sled, a cart, a wagon, a waterwheel, or a wind-mill, he never failed to demand the finished product. No small part of my success has been due to finishing whatever I undertake.