By Rev. A. Kingsbury, Born in Coventry, Conn., July 5, 1800
In 1828, the period of my coming to Marietta, Ohio was one of the new and undeveloped States. Railways were unknown in this country as a mode of travel. The only one in existence was that from Quincy, Mass., to Boston, constructed for the purpose of bringing there the immense pillars erected at the entrance of Quincy Market. A telegraph was not even dreamed of, much less a telephone. The means of travel were horse-back riding or the stage coach, and the recently constructed Erie Canal, which extended from Albany to Buffalo, N. Y.
I was one of the second company of Home Missionaries sent out west by the American Home Missionary Society, and in company with Rev. John Spaulding and wife left New York City by steamboat via the Hudson river for Albany. Taking the canal at Schenectady we reached Utica Saturday, and there spent our first Sabbath with a classmate, Rev. H. G. O. Dwight, afterward a missionary of the A.B.C.F.M. Thence by stage we proceeded to Buffalo, in whose streets the stumps of trees still remained standing. From Buffalo we took a steamer for Erie, Pa., but were compelled by stress of weather to land at Dunkirk, and had a race with an opposition stage coach through the Cattarangus woods to Erie.
From Erie we supposed we should find a conveyance to Cleveland and thence down through the central portion of the State to Washington county. Instead of that we came down into Ohio through Conneaut, where I stopped to visit the minister of my childhood, while brother Spaulding passed on to the Ohio river and crossed over to Wheeling, where I joined him, and there we spent our second Sabbath with Mr. William Slocomb. Brother Spaulding and I preached for Rev. Mr. Wiley, who was then pastor of the Presbyterian Church in that place.
Monday, we left for Marietta, going down the Virginia side, because there was no public conveyance on the Ohio side of the river. Just at dark we encountered a very heavy thunder shower accompanied with wind which extinguished the lights in the back and left us in darkness. The forward horse (we had three) turned round under the lee of one of the wheel horses, and the driver said he could not go a step further until he had a light. But we had no means of striking a light, nor was there any house visible.
Providentially a gentleman and lady were behind us, endeavoring to shelter themselves from the force of the wind by following close in the rear of our carriage. The man on horseback said there was a dwelling a mile or two below and he volunteered to go in search of a light, the lady bringing her horse as near the carriage as possible and to the leeward. The man who sought a light had to go two miles before he found a dwelling, but obtained a tin lantern, which was of little use unless the door was open, so as to throw the light on the bank of the river; and then the first gust of wind would blow it out. The rain had ceased, but the ground was flooded and water ran down the bank in little rivulets as we passed. The problem was to show the way and preserve the light. As I was a bachelor I volunteered to take a seat on the right hand side of the driver, so that he could see the way and not go off the bank, and to keep the lantern in such a position that the wind would not extinguish the light.
Thus we went safely till we had entered the lane leading to the tavern where we were to stop for the night. After going half the distance we encountered a tree that had fallen across the track and prevented our further approach to the house. The driver, somewhat used to such diversions, coolly said: "I am going to unhitch the horses and take the mail; you can do what you please." But Mrs. Spaulding was equal to the occasion; she drew off her shoes and stockings, and taking them in her hands walked to the house, brother Spaulding and myself taking the baggage. In the morning we proceeded on our way.
In the afternoon we crossed the Ohio river at Newport, and on the 28th of October, at the close of a beautiful Indian summer day, approached Marietta. The first object that greeted our view was the Wilcox mansion, subsequently the house of Col. John Mills and now the residence of his widow. Very soon we were at the McFarland tavern, on Ohio street, where the carriage stopped. In a short time brother Bingham came in and, remarking that a tavern was no place for a minister to stay, took us to his residence, now a part of the Marietta Academy.
We were a part of the second company of Home Missionaries, sent out by the American Home Missionary Society, of which Absalom Peters was then Secretary, and were directed to consult with Revs. L. G. Bingham and Augustus Pomeroy as to our particular location. On our journey brother Spaulding and I had speculated about the place we should occupy, and had concluded that as there was no Presbyterian church in that county we would go to Meigs, he to reside at Chester, the county seat, and I to be an itinerant minister through the county. But on consulting with Messrs. Bingham and Pomeroy, they said that would never do; that one of us must remain in Washington county and the other must go to Athens. As brother Spaulding had a wife, and I was a single man, it was decided he should go to Athens and I remain in Washington county.
In the meantime brother Pomeroy, who was then preaching in Gallipolis, wished me to supply his place the next Sabbath. I was to have as a companion and guide, Uncle David Putnam, as he was familiarly called, and as I had not been on a horse for ten years, it was thought best that I should leave in the afternoon and go to Belpre to spend the night. Mr. Putnam came there for me in the morning, and we began our journey, for the most part through the woods, proposing to stay in Chester over night, and the next day go on to Gallipolis. But on reaching Chester we found no place of entertainment, except Newsom's notorious gambling place, the occupant of the other tavern having just vacated it. "I won't stay at Newsom's," said Mr. Putnam, "can you ride to the mouth of Carr's Run?" I said "I will try." "As it is but a narrow road," he said, "we shall have to go Indian file, and as I know the road, I will take the lead, and you follow me."
With that he struck his horse in the flanks, and rushed through the woods, going the six miles in an hour, and reaching the Ohio river just above where Pomeroy was afterwards built. Here we spent the night, and in the morning passed on down the Ohio. Mr. Putnam pointed out the dimensions of a sycamore tree, of which nothing remained but the ring at the root, in the hollow of which he had once taken refuge in a storm, and calculated that five horsemen might have crowded into it.
We reached Gallipolis Saturday afternoon, and on Sabbath morning I preached in the Court House. Then I rode out in the country and preached in a school house, where two services had already been held, and by different ministers, and a fourth was to follow mine. I rode back to Gallipolis and preached in the evening.
Monday, a cloudy day, I started for Marietta, and Tuesday I rode in the rain. This brought on a severe attack of pleurisy, and to reduce the inflammation so that I could take a full inspiration, Dr. Hildreth bled me profusely. Indeed, all the good blood was taken away, and for a month I was unable to preach. I then commenced by work as a missionary in the country, having the first year four places for preaching on the Sabbath, and on other days travelling through the county, studying on horse-back, and visiting those who were destitute. Two of these four places were above, and two below the mouth of the Muskingum. Not on a bridge, as now, did the people pass over, but part of the time we forded, and when the water rose we were ferried across in a flat-boat.
Marietta was just emerging from a season of terrible mortality, which prevailed in 1822-3, when she lost many of her valuable citizens, whole families being swept off in some instances, by a malignant fever, which gave to Marietta for a time, a reputation far and wide, as being a low and unhealthy place.
Among her prominent citizens then were Dea. William R. Putnam, who lived just above town, David Putnam of Harmar, Col. John Mills [at whose house then on Putnam street near Front, I was always welcomed], Dudley Woodbridge, Mr. Holden, Mr. Skinner and Nahum Ward, a gentleman always ready to do a kind office for anyone, whenever in his power. His dwelling was on Putnam St. The trees he planted are eradicated, and his mansion is now hid behind various shops and offices. Another conspicuous dwelling was that of Mr. Woodbridge, now being dismantled and turned about. The venerable maples, then in their glory, and adorning his yard have lately been removed in the shape of brush and firewood to clear the path of progress.
The residence of Dr. John Cotton, a distinguished scholar, and devout Christian, was on Butler street, now a hotel, near the Muskingum, fronting the most beautiful lawn, now covered with blocks of stone for the completion of the new locks. Gov. Meigs house (who had recently deceased) stood on Front street, now the residence of Judge Follett, and his widow keeping it darkened gave to the mansion a most gloomy desolate appearance.
The three story dwelling of Dr. Hildreth was also prominent, whose grounds and a small yard of plants and flowers were in better order than any other in the town. He had also a cabinet of minerals, and other choice things, which he gave to the college, and which I am sorry to say has been so neglected, as to lose much of its value. Fronting Putnam St. from the other side of the Muskingum stood and now stands in Harmar, the "stone house," the residence of Mr. David Putnam, emblematical of his own stability and worth. Near by was the dwelling of Col. Stone, and his store in which an immense amount of business was done; and on one corner of his counter, stood, as in all the stores of Marietta, and the country around, a decanter of pure whisky, with sugar, and a glass, from which every customer was expected to help himself, if he bought anything, and often did so when he bought not. The refusal to drink by a minister at a parishoner's house in the country was sometimes such a breach of politeness as to require an explanation, and the apology for not drinking was only accepted when he gave a reason that he was a total abstainer from alcoholic stimulants.
Provisions were cheap. Corn brought twelve cents per bushel. When wheat rose to fifty cents the farmers were delighted. One winter the grain I gave my horse was the finest wheat, and it rendered him very spirited, and ready for hard journeys through the mud of red clay, of which there was abundance, both on the banks of the Ohio, and over the hills, which would take the color from black cloth as soon as vitriol. To meet such an emergency, ministers wore indigo blue trowsers and overcoats. And to keep the mud from soiling their trousers so as to be unfit to enter a dwelling, leggins were wrapped around their legs to the knee, and fastened with a garter to keep them in place.
The streams had no bridges, and in time of high water had to be forded, the water swimming deep, and the rider must either climb upon the top of his saddle to keep himself dry, or when it became suddenly deep, was wet often up to his knees, and obliged to ride in that condition, till he could find a friendly dwelling whose inmates were willing to have him remain till he was sufficiently dry to go on his way with safety. He often forded streams that were bridged, when the water was above the railing, and sometimes when there was no railing, he went off the bridge into the stream and was obliged to change his garments before he could be comfortable. When the streams were swollen, the current was swift, and their crossing often attended with danger.
As an instance, I mention my crossing the south fork of Licking, on my way from Newark, O., to Jacksontown, accompanied by the owner of a hack which was employed to carry passengers to the latter place, where they took Neil's line of coaches, which ran on the National road, between Wheeling and Columbus. The current was so strong and the crossing so dangerous that the proprietor would not trust his driver, but preferred to go himself, as more skillful and better acquainted with the crossing. We entered the stream as high as possible. I in the lead as i was on horseback, and set our course at an angle of 45 degrees up the creek, but when we reached the deep water of the current we were borne down the stream far below the landing place on the opposite bank. Safely over, our next effort was to reach Jacksontown through the deep mud. My horse was spirited and strong, and obedient to my wishes, so I felt no particular anxiety on my own account, but the owner of the hack was anxious to have me keep company thinking I might assist him should he stick fast in the mud, as he did, and one of his horses was for a time unable to move.
But after resting awhile, he was able, with much difficulty, to start, and at the end of three hours we reached Jacksontown, a distance of six miles, and delivered the passengers, ready to take the coach for the east. This was but one of the many similar encounters with the creeks and rivers I was compelled to pass in my missionary journeys, in preaching to the destitute churches or in places where it was hoped churches would be established, and in attending the meeting of Presbytery. But though the roads were often almost impassable, I never missed an appointment I had made during my eleven years of missionary labor, and was never late but once, and then through the delinquency of a brother minister. They were years of toil and privation, but among the most successful of my ministerial life. I was wonderfully sustained, and having had help from God, continue till this present, a period of fifty years of active service. And since my retirement goodness and mercy have followed me continually, and I hope, through grace, "to dwell in the house of the Lord forever."