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Written by Wilson Thompson   



WHILE making one of my visits to Johnson’s Settlement, my mind became impressed that something was the matter at home. This impression grew so strong that after meeting on Sunday I started for home, and reached it sometime after dark, but found no one there. I put up my horse and went to Brother Randolph’s. Here I found my wife sick with a burning fever, and very much affected in her mind. She seemed some better the next morning, and I took her home and gave her medicine, and her fever left her, but she continued to show increasing symptoms of mental derangement. This continued until she became entirely delirious. I was advised to have her ride every few days on horseback. She was too much deranged to ride alone, and I would take her on the horse behind me, and ride with her to prevent her from falling or jumping off when her paroxysms would come on, for they came by spells.

The next Saturday was our church meeting at Bethel. I took her to meeting, and my mother and sister undertook to take care of her. Eighteen, I think, came forward that day, and were received for baptism; two were rejected. About the time of calling for the reading of the minutes, for adjournment, my sister came to the door, and hurriedly called me out. I called for another to take the moderator’s chair, and ran out, and found my wife in severe fits or convulsive spasms. She had several of them, but finally got better, and rode home behind me. That night she became entirely insane, and went into severe spasms, and continued in these convulsions all night. She bit her tongue and lips, and a spoon that I held between her teeth, and screamed so that she might have been heard a mile.

The doctor came about ten o’clock the next morning. By this time she was so exhausted that she lay like one dead, except for a faint pulsation and breathing, and occasionally slight symptoms of spasms. The doctor gave her some medicine, and in about thirty minutes she seemed as if awaking out of a deep sleep, and was perfectly calm and more rational. The people had been coming and going, to and from my house all night, and I suppose there were more than a hundred persons present when the doctor came. Something was said about the great disappointment of the meeting, in response to which the doctor said that as she was now clear of spasms, I might go with safety, and he would stay, with some others, until I returned. She heard it, and said she wished me to go, for she felt much better.

I rode to the meeting-house, about one mile and a half distant, and found a crowd in the grove, for the house would not hold one-fourth of the people. I explained to them the condition of my wife, and that it had been a night of terrible anxiety with me. I spoke in the way of an exhortation for about twenty minutes and then the congregation, in a solemn procession, repaired to the water, about twenty rods distant, and I baptized the eighteen candidates and received them as members of the church by giving to them the right hand of fellowship. This was a very solemn and deeply affecting season. I left the large concourse of people singing the praise of God, rode home, and found all about as when I left.

My wife continued about the same for three days, and relapsed again as bad as ever, except the convulsive fits; they did not return. The doctor told me that unless some speedy relief could be obtained she must die. His medicine would not operate, and the only chance, he thought, was in the use of the warm bath. I ran about two miles on foot, got a hogshead on my shoulders and ran home with it. When I returned, the medicine had operated, and the bath was not applied. From this time her health gradually grew better, but she remained delirious and was so weak that she could not turn herself in bed or raise her hand to her head. She was gloomy, and yet, by times, very boisterous; she seemed to have no reason and was very determined.

Sometimes no one but me could do anything with her; and she would not suffer me to leave her bedside for a minute, day or night. At other times she would not allow me to enter the house nor come in her sight. If anything crossed her will, she would roll her head from side to side, and make a strange noise, and seem to be in great agony. She was not a large woman, and besides was so reduced that I could take her in my arms and carry her like a child to any of the near neighbors. Before she got strength to stand or sit alone, she took a notion that the house we lived in had made her sick, and she must leave it. To pacify her I had to carry her to some of the neighbors’, and probably after we would get there she would fret to go home, and I would have to carry her back again. As soon as she could sit on a horse behind me, I could not prevail on her to stay at home any more, but I had to go from one friend’s house to another. She took a notion that victuals would kill her if she ate, so we could get her to eat scarcely enough to sustain life.

Finally, I got her to my father’s, where she sank into a settled state of melancholy and despondency; a gloomy despair beclouded her countenance, and we could find nothing that would arouse her out of this gloom. She persisted in her fixed determination never to live another day in the house where she had been taken sick. Mother and my sister could take care of her, and I left her with them while I attended my meetings. She at length agreed that if I would build a house on my own land she would then go home and stay there, but she would not return to the house in which we had lived. She would not allow me to leave her one night to work at my house, so I had to travel seven miles every morning and evening to and from my work. My hands had become soft and tender, and I went at the work so hard that I bruised them until they gathered with inflammation, and my left hand broke between every finger and between my thumb and forefinger; the swelling ran up my arm to my body, and became full of purple spots and threatened mortification. I carried my arm in a sling, and as soon as I dared I worked with one hand and managed to get forward my house so that we could go into it. One of my sisters lived with us for awhile to attend to the house affairs, and take care of my wife.

During these heavy afflictions my cow died with the murrain, and the wolves killed my calf. The friends were very kind to visit me during the worst of my wife’s afflictions; but having so much company for so long a time, all the provisions which I had laid in for my family were consumed. I had no money, and no cow to give us milk, nor anything but potatoes, pumpkins, and corn. My only child was then about sixteen months old, and was taken sick soon after my wife got ill. I had many hardships to endure. As soon as I got my house so that I could live in it, we gathered our little household goods and went to keeping house again. I had to work for provisions, and then work in the green woods to clear and fence ground for corn the next season. This, with a sick child and a deranged wife, made my condition very trying; but still the good work of grace was progressing. This greatly sustained my mind. The church in that new country did not help me. They were thoughtless in part, and, in a new country, they had but very little to spare.

I have always found that the Baptist people were more negligent in supplying their preachers’ wants than any other order of people that I have known. There are some honorable exceptions, it is true, but they are few in the West and North. In the South and East it is different; but where I have mostly?’ lived and labored the Baptists do but very little, and that little is done by a few individuals. Frequently the most wealthy do the least. I am sorry to record this, but candor compels me to confess that in this particular the Western Baptists are far behind the gospel standard. Their ministers are generally poor men, and illy able to spend their time in the service of the church for nought. Yet they do go at their own expense, sometimes for weeks, without receiving one cent. Ohio and Kentucky do much better; but Indiana, considering its general wealth, is far behind any other state in the Union, as far as I am acquainted.

But to return: At the time of which I speak, Missouri was a new country, and but few of the people, if ever so willing, were able to do much for me. I was beginning to make a farm in the green woods. I had no house and not a foot of cleared land, nor any money to hire help, nothing but my hands and time to depend upon; and I had my wife in a weak and partially deranged state. I had, moreover, two hundred and forty miles each month to travel, besides attending many other meetings about Bethel. The little time I had at home, the ax was in my hand, plying it on the forest trees, often until a late hour of the night.

The work of the Lord still went on, and I felt stimulated to action. At last I got a small comfortable house and some out-buildings built, and I had a small field for corn and some pasture cleared and fenced. I had to carry the rails on my shoulder, for I had no team to haul them. Young men, and young preachers especially, who now live in an improved country, can know very little of the hard trials and privations that I then endured; but still the work of the Lord, which prevailed to some degree, stimulated me.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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