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Home arrow Writers arrow Wilson Thompson arrow Autobiography: First Eight Months in Missouri
Autobiography: First Eight Months in Missouri PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   


I NOW was the possessor of one two-year old colt, one-quarter of a dollar in cash, one bed and bedding, some broken chairs, one small table, some clothing which was badly mildewed, and not a thing to live on even for one day. We were far from all our old friends, the church, and the pleasant walks of childhood and youth, and were now among strangers and in a strange land. Corn was fifty cents per bushel, wheat one dollar, and pork ten dollars per hundred, and these were very scarce. I began to cast about in my mind how to dispose of my cash (the cut quarter) to the best advantage, and soon decided to spend it all for ammunition. I took my gun and marched off to the woods, and in a short time procured plenty of venison, turkeys, and ducks. I borrowed one bushel of corn and had it ground, and I borrowed also a small piece of bacon, and so we began to live. This was in January, 1811. I kept my little family well supplied with wild meat from the woods, for I was used to the rifle and hunting wild game. I worked for bread, and made sugar and molasses in plenty, and in a short time rented a small farm. The house was filled with flax, and I dressed one-half of it for the other half. This gave my wife some business, for she was a spinstress. I repaired my cabin and we moved into it.

The next week after I moved to the country, I went to a meeting at the Bethel Church, about seven miles from where I lived. I found it to be a small church, and in a very cold state, but sound in the faith, and in peace. I had never been without membership in a church since the day I was baptized, and I panted for a place in the house of Cod. So I gave in my letter, and also the letters of my wife and father and mother, and cousin John Reynolds. This little church was situated in the district of Cape Girardeau, on a fork of Bird’s Creek, not far from where the town of Jackson now stands. This was then the only church in southern Missouri, except a small one about thirty miles distant. Both these churches were under the care of Stephen Stilly, the only ordained minister in the vicinity, who was assisted by a man named Cochrane, a licentiate. I believe they were sound men, but weak men, and could not teach doctrine.

I was young, and being a stranger, and far from my associates, I felt lonely; and soon I found that I was surrounded with a very rough class of society. The Lord’s Day was devoted to hunting, sporting, and shooting at marks, horse-racing, jumping and foot-racing. Shooting-matches and all wild sports were principally set for Sunday. It was common for hatters to bring hats, blacksmiths their hoes, axes, etc., while others would bring turkey, geese, ducks, chickens, deer-skins, etc., to the place of assembly (Hubbe’s mill) where all things were there shot for. I had to pass by this mill going to, and coming from, meeting. As I would go in the morning, the crowd, with their guns, and the articles for which they were going to shoot, would be gathering; and by the afternoon, on my return, they would be pretty well inebriated, for these festivities were generally attended by plenty of whisky. Some would be quarrelling, some fighting, some swearing, and some playing tricks, such as knocking off each others hats, and cutting bridles and saddles. I, therefore, could expect nothing less than abuse from such outlaws; oaths and vulgarity, and all that bad words and threats could do to annoy, were hurled at me. My course was to pass on my way, without either making any reply, or seeming to notice them. All this was so very different from anything that I had ever seen before. I sometimes felt awful bad to see so much wickedness, dissipation, and immorality among the people.

I often reflected on the pleasant seasons which I had so richly enjoyed in Kentucky, and I pondered over the deep impressions I had while there of work to be done here, believing that God had called me to go to Missouri to preach and there see the displays of His power and grace, in the gathering in of His people, and building up of His church. These anticipations had fortified my mind to leave all my friends and the church, to come to this strange and rude community. The contrast was such that I felt greatly discouraged. This first year was to me, emphatically, a year of persecution. It would fill a large space to detail what I passed through. I will record only a very few cases out of many.

When spring began to open, I took a school for four months, and my employers agreed to do my plowing when called upon, for I had neither team, plow nor harness. I had a singing school for Saturday and a common school the rest of the time, and for Sunday I had preaching. So I was closely confined. I called on my employers for plowing, but none came. I called again and one came and, finally, another, until I got my ground plowed. Then I dismissed my school for a day, and got a team to furrow my fields, and I planted my corn mornings and evenings. When my corn was large enough to plow, I could get no one to plow it. After trying in vain to get it plowed, I became fully convinced that I must have my crop attended to in some other way, but I knew of no chance of hiring either horse, plow, or plowman. I felt much discouraged, and was pondering one day in my school what I should do. The children were playing and I was alone, when, suddenly, I was interrupted by a stranger entering the door. He said he was poor, and a new settler, and was not able to pay for the schooling of his children; he had two to send, but could not pay. I told him I would take the pay in work.. He said he was obliged to leave home, and so could not work for me, but that he had a good horse and plow, and that I could have them to tend my crop, if I would let his children come to school. I agreed at once, and, after dismissing school for one week, I took his horse and plow and worked in my crop during the time. After this I worked mornings and evenings, late and early, and thus tended my ten acres of corn, my garden, potatoes, etc., and lost no more time from school. After I had finished my school term, I had no trouble in collecting my money, for all were pleased with my teaching.

There was one bill, however, I could not collect; it was a bill I held against a Mr. Hendrickson, on whom I called for a settlement. lie came to me as I sat on my horse and seized the bridle near the bit, and then commenced a torrent of abuse, saying at the same time that he was well pleased with me as a teacher, but I ought not to be permitted to live, for I was bawling and preaching around the country such doctrine as should never be tolerated, as election, predestination, and salvation for only a part of Adam’s race, while another part was bound to suffer eternally. He said that such doctrines were abominable, and the law ought to put to death every man that would preach them; but if the law would not hang such villians, he would kill them. Then, with an awful oath, he swore that I should never leave that spot alive, for he would break my skull and scatter my brains on that spot of earth. I might now say my prayers and make ready, as my time was short, for there and then he would send me to my last account. Then followed the most awful oaths, and calling the heaviest judgments and curses of God to fall upon him if he did not break my head before I left the spot. All this time he held my horse by the bit with his left hand, and the fist of his right was rubbing about my mouth and nose, and I was watching for him to grasp my throat to pull me off my horse. I had made no reply all this time, but when he had fully exhausted his store of oaths and curses, I said: “Now, sir, if you will let loose my bridle I will go on and leave you to your own reflections.” His tongue broke loose again, and in the profanest manner possible called the bitterest curses upon his head if he did not take my life before I left that spot.

I can not account for my feelings, for I felt no excitement, anger, fear, nor confusion; but at that moment my confidence became so strong that I could not keep silent, and, placing my eyes steadily in his face, I spoke as follows: “My dear sir, I am sorry for you; I pity you from my heart; you can do me no harm. The wrath of man shall praise my God, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. Your evil heart, propelled by the prince and spirit of enmity against God and His cause and truth, would willingly incite you to do all that you have threatened, but He that has set bounds to the waves of the sea, holds you in restraint so that you can do me no harm. You cannot hurt me. My religion is not in my head; and if you were to break it and scatter my brains here in the road, it would not do my religion nor the truth which I preach any harm. It would be more awful if all the curses which you have invoked were to fall upon you, than for my head to be broken; but, poor man, strong as you feel, and malignant as your passions are, you are helpless and harmless to do me any injury. You cannot break my head, rid neither can you strike me nor hurt me. Here is my head; break it if you can. You cannot, you dare not attempt it. The God that I serve holds you in restraint, and He whose truth I preach will not permit you to harm me. Your ravings are as a chained lion when he gnaws his chains in his rage, until his strength is exhausted and then he quietly lies down to refresh his energy. Now do all that you can; strike if you can; break my head if you can. If you cannot, then take shame to yourself; let your enfeebled arms fall, let my bridle go, and, repulsed with shame and a consciousness of your gross impropriety, leave me and return to your house. There reflect on your vice and folly, the many false oaths you have sworn, and the many curses you have called upon your devoted body and soul. All these you have tried to tempt God to do to you, and you have done me no harm, neither can you; so now be ashamed and leave me to pursue my way in peace; and while you reflect on your folly, learn that there is a God who will sustain His people, and restrain and punish the wicked.” As I closed my speech, his fierce, fiery countenance began to relax; he turned pale and his arms fell to his sides, and his eyes fell to the ground, and without one word he left me and walked toward his house, slowly and without looking back. I then rode on my way.

This is but one case out of many, of a like sort, that occurred during this trying year. This man was a Universalist I had no society except when at church and among the brethren there. They were sound, social, and free to converse on religious subjects. Among them I enjoyed myself well; but I lived seven miles distant, and seldom ever saw any of them except at meeting times. I often went among them on Saturday and remained until Monday morning, to avoid the sporting rabble at the mill. I was very poor, a young beginner and a stranger. My father and his family, Uncle Benjamin and his family, were all I could associate with in the neighborhood. I was so closely confined to business that I. traveled but very little. After my school engagements were finished I made one visit to the church in Tiawapity Bottom but I found the people all so sick that there were scarcely well persons enough to take care of them, and of course none to go to meeting, so I returned.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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