ONLY a few biographies
are worth the time spent in either writing or reading them. To make that
kind of literature a success it requires an extraordinary subject to
write about, and a first-class genius to do the writing. When one of
these factors is wanting, and attempt to produce a work of that sort
will almost certainly end in disappointment and vexation. The cartloads
of “biographies,” partly fiction and partly something worse, that are
thrown upon the market and read by both old and young, are useful only
as indicators. The fact that they find readers goes to prove that people
are fond of facts and incidents.
But much of this kind of writing is like garments made without any
measurement. They can be made to hang on almost any one, but they will
really fit nobody, Just so the descriptions of life given in many of
these books are mere distortions as compared with the real, active,
every-day doings of living humanity. To magnify or minify either the
virtues or vices of men and women is not to give correct views of
individual or social life.
But while all this is true, there are many incidents in almost any
lengthened life that are of sufficient importance to deserve a record.
In this chapter I propose to relate a few incidents in my own life
before I commence to give the experiences that I have had as a minister
in the backwoods.
I was born in the township of Clinton, in the county of Lincoln, Upper
Canada, May fourth, eighteen hundred and nineteen. My parents were both
children of U. E. Loyalists, so that on both sides I claim descent from
those whose loyalty cost them something, and whose attachment to Britain
and her institutions led them to leave good homes in the States and come
into the wilderness of Canada to make new homes for themselves, where,
under the protection of the British flag, they might be safe, and under
the shade of the maple leaf they might be contented.
My father did military duty during the last year of the war of eighteen
hundred and twelve, and at the close of the war he was granted land in
what was then called the new purchase, on the north of Lake Ontario.
When I was a few weeks past three years old my parents moved to their
home in the wilderness, it being on the last lot in the ninth concession
of the township of Esquesing, in the county of Halton. The home
consisted of a log shanty that my father had put up the summer previous,
and about an acre of clearing that had been done at the same time.
Among the first things that I can remember is looking at the shanty the
day that we arrived. It seemed to me that it was a strange-looking
house, with its bark roof and stick chimney and floor of hewed logs, and
its door of split cedar, and its one light of glass for a window. But
that little unpretentious building was our home for several years. At
that time I had a little younger sister and a baby brother two months
old. They have both gone over to the great company on the other side of
the river. The sister went more than fifty years ago, and brother within
the last few months. My father had a brother who had settled the year
before on an adjoining lot, and another brother came in the following
year and settled near by, so that his life in the new country was not so
lonesome as it otherwise would have been.
Not long after we had got settled in our new home, one evening about
sundown we were treated to an impromptu chorus by some of the denizens
of the forest, which was, in hunter’s language, the howling of a pack of
wolves. To describe the peculiar music made by “a pack of wolves” would
be too much for the genius of a Dickens or the poetic power of a Scott.
Pioneers at work
To one who never heard the sound before, the impression would likely be
that the noise came out of the ground. At first he hears a plaintive
tone, as if low down on the minor scale. Then it seems to ascend step by
step until the highest major notes are reached. And, what seems most
strange of all, is that the lower tones do not cease as the higher are
produced; but they continue right on until the listeners hear sounds
that represent every note on the musical scale, from the lowest minor to
the highest major, including all the transpositions.
My father was a blacksmith by trade, and he had brought some of his
tools with him, and among the rest an anvil. When the wolves commenced
to make the woods vocal with their musical efforts, father thought that
he would give them as much of a surprise as they had given us. So he
loaded up the anvil with a heavy charge of powder, and set it off with a
coal that he held with a pair of tongs. The noise produced by the firing
of that anvil was, perhaps, the most startling sound that had ever
awakened the echoes of these forest wilds. When the anvil went off, at
first the report seemed to pass away, but as the sound struck the wall
of the tall forest trees that surrounded the little clearing it seemed
to be broken into fragments which came back to us like a thousand
distinct echoes. But the wolves seemed frightened, and we heard no more
of them for that time. It was not long, however, before they made their
presence known in a more tangible way than by making a noise. My father
brought some cattle with him. One was a nice heifer two years old. One
morning just outside of the clearing the bones of the heifer were found
picked by the wolves. The first settlers often lost their cows and young
cattle in this way. And for some years the life of a sheep was worth
nothing, unless kept in an inclosure with a fence so high that a wolf
could not get over it.
And the black bears were by no means scarce in the locality, as more
than one empty pig-pen bore its testimony in the early days of the
settlement. I might relate almost any number of “ bear stories ” if it
would be desirable to do so, but I will relate one at all events. One of
my uncles had left the place that he first located on, and had gone on a
lot a mile and a half away from any house right into the solid bush. One
morning about the break of day the loud squealing of a pig awakened him.
He had two nice pigs in a pen near his house, and it was one of these
that was making the noise. He ran out in a hurry to see what was the
matter. He saw a large black bear clambering out of the pen and dragging
one of the pigs after it. He picked up a handspike and began to belabour
the bear with such force that it dropped the pig which was almost dead,
and ran off towards the woods. My uncle put the pig upon a shed, and
started to get help to catch the bear. By nine o’clock he returned with
a lot of men, and dogs, and guns, which belonged to a sort of Club that
had been formed for hunting bear and wolves. When they came they found
that bruin had returned and carried away the pig from off the shed. They
set the dogs on the trail, and started in pursuit of the depredator.
They had gone about a half a mile in the woods, when they came to the
place where his bearship had made a hasty breakfast off the stolen pork.
He left the remains for more voracious and less fastidious eaters than
himself, while he went on to find a safe retreat where undisturbed he
might enjoy his noonday snooze without molestation. But the dogs soon
stirred him up, and started him off at a rapid rate, while by their
barking they gave notice to the hunters that they had found the bear.
The chase now became very lively, and from the fact that the bear did
not take to a tree, the inference was that he was a very large one,
which proved to be true. After a run of three or four miles, the hunters
came up to the dogs, and found the bear in a small pond. Part of the
dogs were in the water, and the bear apparently was trying to drown them
by dipping them under the water with his paws. The men were afraid to
shoot, lest they should kill the dogs, which refused to leave the bear,
and he as stubbornly refused to come out of the water. At length, one of
the men took a gun loaded with two bullets, and he waded into where he
could place the muzzle of the gun to the bear’s ear and fired the whole
charge into its head. In a minute it was lying dead in the water. The
men pulled it out and found it to be a very large and fat one. In
skinning the carcase they found traces of old bullet wounds. By
following the tracks they found no less than six balls, all of one size,
with the flesh grown up around them. It was quite evident that at some
time the poor brute had formed a very painful acquaintance with lead,
but whether it belonged to white men or Indians no one could tell. But I
must leave the bears and wolves to themselves, and write about something
of more importance.
Our First Pastoral Visit.
The first minister to visit our home in the bush was a Methodist by the
name of Heyland. Though it was more than sixty years ago, it seems as
fresh in my mind as if it was but a few months since. In front of our
shanty there was a good-sized creek, over which had been made a
temporary footbridge of poles to walk on. One day my mother was standing
in the door, and seeing a man trying to feel his way over the creek, she
called father to go and see who it was, and if he needed help. When
father got to him, he found that the man was near-sighted. This was why
he had to feel for his way. Father assisted him over the creek, and
brought him into the shanty. Then the man said, “My name is Heyland; I
am a Methodist minister; I am hunting for the scattered sheep in the
wilderness.” Not understanding what he meant, I went up to mother and
whispered to her, “If the wolves that killed our heifer find his sheep,
they will not be worth much to him when he finds them.” She replied to
me that the good man did not mean sheep with wool on, but he spoke of
the people who were scattered in the wilderness. Mr. Heyland had prayer,
filter which he talked to my parents on religious subjects for a while,
and then after laying his hand on the head of each one of us children,
and devoutly asking God to bless all of us, he went away to visit other
families. Who can estimate the value of such a visit. Little did Mr.
Heyland or my parents think, that after more than threescore years, the
coarse-looking, awkward boy, who then stood listening to their talk,
would, with a swelling heart and a tear-dimmed eye, write about the
visit of the pioneer preacher to one of the pioneer families.
Who can even form a conjecture of the amount of the influence that the
Methodist preachers have exerted on the social and religious life of the
people of this country.
They have greatly assisted in laying the foundations of the social
structure. They have heard almost the first echoes of the woodman’s axe,
and they have gone to encourage him in his toil. They have impressed
'their teaching and their influence upon the hearts and minds of
thousands of the children of the pioneer
families of this Province as no other class of men has done. There can
be no doubt on the question. The religious element of Canadian society
owes very much to Methodism.
Our First School House.
About four years after the founding of the settlement, the scattered
population concluded to put up a log building that would serve the
double purpose of school and meeting-house. They met together and laid
their plans, and in a few days a very comfortable little house was ready
for use on the corner of Nathaniel Rossell’s lot, where the little
village of Ballinafad now stands. This same man gave a burying ground,
and then in after years he gave land for a church and parsonage, and a
piece for a temperance hall. One way or another this good man gave to
the public, and to the Lord, nearly half of the front of one hundred
acres. And yet he would blush if called a Christian. He was one of the
modest, unassuming kind of men.
After the house was up, the next thing was to find a teacher. It was not
long before an old man came along and took the school for six months.
His name was Pitcher. He was to have a certain sum for each scholar, and
to board around among the people. He was a widower, and he had a boy
with him named Peter, who was to board along with his father, and the
price of his board came out of the amounts of charges for scholars.
Well the school started in due time. I wish I could give a picture of
that first assemblage of students in Professor Pitcher’s academy for
young back woods hopefuls. Hie dominie himself was a big fat man, with a
florid face and a bald head. He would sometimes go to sleep in his home
made and bark-bottom chair. Then Peter would take the water-beech rod
out of his father’s hand and keep things going till the old man got
through his slumbers. The subjects taught were, the alphabet, spelling,
reading, and the first lessons in writing. That was all.
My mother had led me through the mysteries of the A B C's and A B ab’s,
so that I was among the advanced students from the first.
How shall I describe the scholars. No two of them were dressed alike,
and scarcely any two had books alike. One boy would have a bat without a
rim, and another boy would have one with only half a crown. One girl
wore a frock (so called at that time) made of home made linen, and
another girl had one made of home made flannel, while still another
would be clad in “linsey-woolsey,” which was a combination of the two.
But in that same school rosy cheeks were very common, and smutty faces
by no means scarce nor unpopular.
If the ghost of that school could be called up in one of our present
well equipped high schools, what a wonderful contrast would be seen What
a grand illustration of the theory of evolution would be presented. The
difference between the school in which Professor Pitcher wielded the
beech rod, and the one presided over by one of our learned and worthy B.
A.’s, would be about as great as that between Professor Darwin and the
long-tailed, chattering little quadruped that he claims for an ancestor.
The first religious services were held in the school house soon after it
was completed. Among the ministers whose names I can still recall were
Belton, Shuler, Hose, Williams and Dernorest. One man, whose looks I
remember but whose name I have forgotten, was among the first after Mr.
The meetings were held on a week day, and it was surprising to see the
way the people would leave their work to attend Divine service. This was
continued for several years.
The first religious awakening was brought about in a rather mysterious
manner. A man named John Teetzel, who lived near where Acton now is, was
thrown on a sick bed. He thought he was going to die. He had been a
wicked man. In seeking some one to pray with him, he learned that in all
the families for miles around no one could be found to do it. lie then
thought that he was lost. But just as he was about sinking into despair,
the Lord spoke peace to his soul and gave him the joys of salvation. He
then and there pledged himself to God that he would consecrate his life
to Him. And he faithfully kept his promise.
As soon as he got well, he sought out the Methodist ministers, and they
took him into the Church, lb; at once commenced to hold meetings on
Sabbath days around in private houses. A number of persons were awakened
and converted. My parents were among the number. For years Mr Teetzel
was a power for good in that section of the country. He long since died
in the full assurance of faith, and is now enjoying the reward of the
The old home of my mother was now offered to my father if he would move
back to the old place and take care of my mother’s parents in their old
age, and let my mother’s brother have our lot in the new country. We
went back to where I was born and stayed a little less than two years.
During my thirteenth year I went with my father and mother to a camp
meeting, of which I shall have more to say in another chapter.
We went back again to our home in the bush, as my father got sick of the
bargain about keeping the old people, on account of some meddlesome
relatives who were not pleased with the arrangement. On our return we
found that two years had made changes in many ways. The roads were
better, the clearings larger, old neighbours were better off, and
several new families had come into the settlement.
My oldest sister and young brother died within a year after our return.
I felt the loss of these very keenly. But the heaviest blow of all fell
upon me in the fall of 1835, when I had to look on the cold, pale face
of one of the best of mothers as she lay before me in the calm repose of
death. She had been ailing for two years. The death of my sister and
little brother had weighed heavily upon her in her enfeebled state of
health. She was very anxious for a while about the seven children that
she was leaving behind her, of whom I was the eldest and about
seventeen, and the youngest was four years old. But before she died that
uneasiness all passed away. She said that in answer to her prayers
the^Lord had given her all her children, and some day they would follow
her to the home above. Oftentimes, amid life’s clouds and storms, the
remembrance of this dying declaration of a Christian mother has come to
me like a voice from the unseen world which seemed to say, “Be strong
and courageous and all will come right at last.” I never knew how much I
trusted in my mother until I stood looking into her grave, and the
officiating minister, a Mr. Adams, spoke to me and said, “Young man, you
must pray for yourself now, for your mother can pray for you no more.” I
thought that I had realized my loss before, when I looked at the empty
chair in which she used to sit; when I looked at my little brothers and
sisters and thought who will take care of them now ; when I thought how
still the house would be when no mother’s footsteps and no mother’s
voice would be heard any more in it; when I picked up the old Bible that
lay on the stand that stood near by her as she lay in her coffin, and
remembered that she would never touch that book again, I then thought
that I realized my loss. But when I was told that my mother would never
pray for me again, it seemed to me that my heart must break. I never
till that moment knew just what it was for a young man to face the
wickedness and coldness of the world without a mother’s prayer. And from
that day to the present I never could look into the face of a motherless
child, either old or young, and not feel pity for it. Perhaps it is a
weakness, but I cannot help it.
In December, 1837, I came very near being caught in a trap.
The air was full of rumours of war. The political atmosphere seemed to
be surcharged with slumbering forces that only awaited the touch of an
electric spark to cause an explosion that would blow into a thousand
fragments the selfish combination that then misruled the country. The
family compact had been growing more oppressive and tyrannical from year
to year, until the country was becoming exasperated and men were growing
Myself and two cousins had taken a chopping contract from a Mr. Brown,
near Acton. One day a man came to us and showed us a proclamation of W.
L. Mackenzie and held out such strong inducement that we concluded to
join the patriot forces that were gathering for a march to Toronto. We
were fully persuaded that the rising was not to be against the crown and
government of Britain. But it was to be against the wicked misgovernment
of the family compact. We left our work, and went home to get ready to
start for the scene of action. It is said that we want “Old men for
counsel and young men for war.” In this case, the counsellors proved to
be the stronger force. Our fathers soon settled the question for us by
telling us the nature of the enterprise we proposed to engage in. They
said that instead of gaining the honours of war and the freedom of the
country, we would likely get a few feet of rope and a rebel’s
dishonoured grave. We went back to work feeling we had come near making
fools of ourselves. The next week we were called out to join the militia
to go to the front, and we readily obeyed the call, being willing to do
anything to show our loyalty to the British crown and government.
Some time after the death of my mother, my father married again. My
mother’s name was Mary Johnston. His second wife was Anna Thompson. She
was on the whole a very good woman; but I could not believe that any
good could be in a stepmother, so I soon got up a quarrel with her and
left home; I never lived at my father’s any more. Young people often
make serious mistakes that they see the folly of in after life. It was
so with me in this.
And now commenced a course of life that I have regretted very much. For
a few years I yielded to every bad influence and followed every
inclination to run into sinful ways; I was ready for anything that was
respectable and not criminal. Anything that I thought was mean I would
not do; but that was about the only restraint that I regarded except the
During these misspent years I came very near being killed on different
occasions through my own recklessness or the carelessness of others; but
the Lord’s arm was about me though I knew it not, and His eye watched
over me though I thought not of Him. He had better things in store for
me than to die in sin and be lost forever. I drifted about the country
from place to place until I was twenty-two years old. Then I made up my
mind to change my habits of life, and seek and serve the Lord. I
commenced at once and joined the Church. The people were very kind to
me, and although I was among strangers they took an interest in my
welfare. Eighteen or twenty young men and women joined the Church at the
time that I did. The ministers who held the revival meetings at the time
were Revs. E. Bristol and A. Roy. One of them died many years ago, and
lies buried in the cemetery of the old M. E. Church, in the village of
Brooklin. The other, Mr. Bristol, after an active and very successful
career in the Christian ministry, is now a superannuate in the Methodist
Shortly after I joined the Church, an incident occurred which I have
looked upon ever since as an interposition of Divine Providence.
I was out of work. On the Grand river good axemen were getting what at
that time was looked upon as big pay in the lumber woods. I and my
brother concluded to go to the shanties for the winter. We got
everything ready and started. When we had gone four or five miles on the
way we called at a house for a drink of water. The man had been a
lumberman, and more recently a hotel-keeper. He and his wife had been
converted lately, and closed up the bar room, and banished the liquor.
When I told Mr. Guybeson where we were going, he seemed to be sorry. He
asked me if I had ever been in a lumber shanty. I told him that I had
been one winter among Frenchmen in the business, but that we had boarded
at a farmhouse. He said, “Then you know nothing about shanty life. An
older Christian than you are would find it very hard to keep from
backsliding in a shanty among the kind of men that you would have for
associates there. Take my advice, and don’t go. Better work for your
board part of the time and go to school the other part, than to run the
risk of losing your religion.” Before he was done speaking my decision
was made to go to school. That was just what 1 needed. It was strange
that I had not thought of it before. We turned about and went back to
where we started from. My brother went to work for a farmer, chopping
fallow. I soon found a chance to work part of the time, and go to
school. The teacher was a young man from the States, as was many of the
teachers of that period.
My schooling had been very limited. I could read and write a little, but
that was all. I knew nothing of arithmetic, and I had never looked
inside of an English grammar. I started to school with a determination
to do all in my power to learn as much as possible of everything that
was taught there. I went to the school about three months. When spring
came I had learned a good deal that I did not know before, and I had
formed the acquaintance of the young lady who afterwards became my wife.
The next summer I worked for a man named Grout, at the carpenter trade.
In the fall I took the contract for a large shed and stable of a Mr.
Wetmore. This was my first job, but I did it well, and my employer was
well pleased. Part of the pay I took in board, and went to school again
the next winter till the month of March.
A new school was started in the township of Caistor. I was invited to
take that school. After consultation with my teacher and others, I
engaged for twelve months. When I commenced the school, on the 18th of
March, 1843, the snow was very deep on the ground. The Millerites were
proclaiming the end of the world. The snow was to turn to pitch, and
then catch fire, and this old earth would be turned to ashes. Many
people were nearly frightened out of their wits by these alarmists. My
school succeeded nicely, and I thought of adopting school teaching
permanently. But that was not to be.
On the 22nd of August, 1843,1 was married to E. J. Griffin, of the
township of Grimsby. She was one of a large connection of Griffins that
hails from Smith-ville, which gets its name from its founder Smith
Griffin, who in his day was a very prominent man in that community. I
expect it will be conceded without debate that the greatest of the
Griffins yet seen is the Rev. W. S. Griffin, D.D., who is now President
of the Guelph Conference. But I am of the opinion that the best Griffin
is the one that has been looking after me and my affairs for the past
I spoke of the Millerites. Well, I had some experience on that subject.
My arrangements with the trustees were that I should “board around.” I
was staying at the time'with the family of Mr. Jacob Kerr. We had been
talking about the excitement that the Millerites were causing in many
parts of the country. This was on Tuesday night. The next Friday was the
day fixed upon for the burning of the world. Mr. Kerr and I came to the
conclusion that to a Christian there was no cause for alarm, inasmuch as
being prepared for death he was ready for the end of the world, or
anything else that could possibly happen.
We had prayer and went to bed. I had not been long in bed when a man
came to me with a roll of papers in his hand. Whether I was awake or
asleep I cannot tell. The man unrolled one of the papers and held it up
before me and began to explain a number of dates in it. It was from the
prophecy of Daniel, and it made time run out on the next Friday. Then he
opened the other roll which was from the Book of Revelation, and by a
similar mode of interpretation it was seen that time would die and all
the prophecies end on the next Friday. He rolled up his papers and then
said, “ It will surely come.” At once he disappeared. After the man was
gone I considered for a while and then resolved to go and tell everybody
what I saw, that the world would end on Friday. I got up and dressed
myself, intending to start right out and give the alarm. I had my hand
on the door-latch to go out. Just then a thought came into my mind that
stopped me. The thought was this: God does not ask unreasonable things.
This may be all a mistake. If God wants me to go and give the alarm, He
will give me other proofs of the fact. I knelt beside the bed and prayed
for further light. Soon the agitation of my mind passed away. I went to
bed again and slept soundly till morning. I saw no more, and I heard no
more. You ask me what it was? I can’t tell. To me at the time it seemed
just as real as anything that I had ever seen before, or anything that I
have seen since. Call it hallucination, phantom, illusion, or dream—call
it what you like—I know it nearly upset me at the time. But the world
did not burn up and if I am not greatly astray in regard to the
unfulfilled prophecies, especially the little two-horned beast and the
big ten-horned beast of Revelation, the Irish Home Rule and the Land
Questions will have to come to a settlement, and many other abuses that
the two beasts have imposed on the world must be removed before that
event takes place. Society will see many mighty changes before the end
of the world —changes that it may take centuries to accomplish.
About nine months after I joined the Church, I was appointed leader of
the class that I belonged to.
This was a great cross to me. I was young in years and young in the
Church, and it seemed to me that there was not a man in the class but
was better fitted for the place than I was. As an illustration of my
weakness as a Christian worker at that time the following fact is given.
While I was working with Mr. J. C. Grout, I boarded with him. He was a
local preacher, and belonged to the same class that I did. One morning,
at breakfast time, he gave me the Bible and told me to read and pray. I
had never done it before. I took the book and began to read. Before I
was done reading an old man in the neighborhood came into the house.
This frightened me. I finished the reading and were all kneeled in
prayer. Something came over me so that I could not utter a single word.
It seemed to me that if the salvation of the world depended on it that
morning, I could not pray. The sweat ran off me like rain, and I
trembled in every nerve. We remained on our knees for a while and then
got up without a word of vocal prayer being uttered. This incident has
often recurred to me when 1 have had to deal with timid young people.
Mr. Grout crave me some wholesome counsel when we were at our work, and
I told him I would try again, which I did and succeeded better. Within a
month after this, when a vacancy occurred, Mr. Grout nominated me for
class-leader and I was put in. I continued to lead that class for
thirteen years, and then I left the locality.
Before my time was out in the school that I had taken, my health began
to fail, so much so that I was forced to resign the school two weeks
before the expiration of the time that I had engaged for.
My wife called in a doctor. He said that I had studied too hard, and he
forbade me to look into a book for three months. He told me that I must
give up the idea of teaching. He said in my case the mental and physical
energies were not sufficiently well balanced to bear the strain of a
teacher’s life, shut up in a school room. He advised me to adopt a
calling that would give me plenty of outdoor exercise. He left me
medicine, and 1 got better after a while. Then I bought some tools and
went to work as a carpenter in the summer, and in the winter I worked at
cooper work or any thing that came in my way that I could do. The result
was that I never wanted for a day’s work, and my family never wanted for
food or clothing.
After ten years of married life I found myself the owner of twenty-five
acres of good land, nearly paid for, a good frame cottage and good frame
shop, and about four hundred dollars’ worth of tools and other things of
use about the place. When we started we had not more than one hundred
dollars, all told.
But now we met with a drawback. One day when I was from home a young man
was working in the shop, and by some means it caught fire and burned up,
with all my tools and a lot of work and a large amount of seasoned
stuff. On my way home I met a man who told me of my loss. “But,” said
he, “you will not be left to bear it all alone. The neighbours are going
to help you. They are out in two directions already seeking help.” When
I got home I found the smoking ruins of the results of my toil and my
wife’s economy and care. When night came the men returned, and it was
found they had gotten about one hundred and twenty dollars to help me to
buy new tools. But much as I prized the money, I thought more of the
spirit that prompted this kind act on the part of my neighbours than I
did of it. My two nearest neighbours were the largest givers on the
list, namely, Robert Miller and Martin Halstead.
One more incident and I will close this chapter. I was hewing barn
timber for Mr. A. P. Buckbee. We had been at it for some days, and we
were just finishing up the job. The men had got the scoring all done and
were standing around looking at me. I was at the last side of the last
stick of timber, and within a few strokes of being done.
I was doing my best so as not to keep the others waiting. All at once
Price Buckbee spoke to me sharp and quick, saying, “Hilts, take care.” I
at once dropped the broadaxe and sprang backwards. That spring saved my
life—at least it saved me from a fearful hurt. Before I had time to look
up a large limb fell from the top of a tall pine tree, and struck and
broke in two on the piece of timber right where I had been hewing. It
was about ten feet long and as thick as a large hand pry. If I had tried
to straighten up I should have met the falling limb. If I had moved
forward I could not have gotten out of the way in time. The only
possible way of escape, as we all concluded afterwards, was by the very
unusual course of jumping backward. When I looked at the men after the
danger was over it seemed to me that their faces were nearly as white as
the paper on which I am writing. The first one to speak was Mr. Buckbee.
He was not at that time a religious man. But I never have and I never
can forget the expression of his face and tones of his voice as he said
with solemnity, “Mr. Hilts, you may thank God that you are alive this
minute. It must have been He that prompted me to look up just in time.
It must have been He that helped me to put the warning in the shortest
possible sentence, and it must have been He that prompted you to jump
backward as you did and not stop to look up to see where the danger
was.” I could not understand it then. But now I think I do. God had
something else for me to do in the world beside hewing timber and
It would give me pleasure to dwell longer on my experiences in the
locality where I spent so many days in comparative comfort. But this
chapter is long enough, and I must close it. Two years after the shop
was burnt we left that place, and in two years more I went into the