The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong
"SKETCHES OF MY LIFE"
Pages 145-151

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn


Well, I was just thinking,

Over sixty years ago,

How nice we went to meeting

In the winter on the snow.

And of that pleasant company,

How many now are dead

That then I rode to meeting with,

So snugly in the sled.

They thrashed the rye with flails then,

And so they thrashed the wheat,

My father took the long straw

And bound it square and neat.

And for my mother and my sister

It made a most commodious seat,

And there they sat in order,

And I thought they looked so sweet.

I remember how it looked

When bound up the three ties,

And laid across the box behind

A sheaf of good size.

And on it a double coverlet

That looked so nice and new,

The colors were so brilliant,

They were red, white and blue.

My father and my brother

Sat on a sheaf before,

And they rode on a coverlet,

Perhaps a little lower.

They gathered up the coverlet

Around their legs and feet,

And we looked as snug and cozy

As any we could meet!

And we sat in the middle,

No sheaf we sat upon,

But we sat on a coverlet

My self and Brother John.

And there was lots of straw

Under the coverlet,

Almost as soft and easy

As if we had been abed.

We sat between their seats,

Of course, were snug and warm,

Then we did not fear the wind,

Nor the cold winter storm.

I remember how they looked,

Sitting on the sheaf of straw,

And I remember father’s voice

As he sounded gee and haw.

And I remember those fine horses,

Their names were Roan and Dick,

How soon they’d trot two miles,

And they’d take us there so quick.

We were chiefly dressed in homespun,

Snug and warm and clean,

My father and his family

Then oft at church were seen.

And their Quaker-drab greatcoats,

From their ears to their feet,

And the large capes around their shoulders,

Reached down toward the seat.

My mother’s cloak was Quaker-drab,

Her hat was Quaker too,

Her smooth fair cheeks were round and red,

Her eyes were pretty blue.

But those expressive eyes are closed,

Her child no more can see,

With a look of approbation

Or reproof for me.

Her hat was very pretty,

Made of finest fur,

And she could sing most sweetly,

And I learned to sing of her.

My father, too, could sing,

But not so well as mother,

But in family worship

We all did sing together.

The preachers, too, taught me to sing,

When I was very young,

They told me I must sing for them,

And so, for them I sung.

And when they’d come to father’s

They’d often say to me,

“I want to hear you sing now,

Come sit upon my knee.”

They taught me many tunes,

And good verses about Heaven,

That I could sing for them

Long before I was seven.

The preaching place moved to fathers

Before that I was seven,

And I helped to wash their clothes

But the time I was eleven.

And when they went to conference

They, in flocks, to father’s came,

For mother made her house

Their pleasant, welcome home.

And father’s barn was large,

Well filled with oats and hay,

And they found it quite convenient

To go and come that way.

But now, that blessed father

Has gone home to his rest,

And of all living men

He was one of the best.

Peaces to his ashes,

And peace to his soul,

May sweet peace and pleasure

Round him ever roll.

Peace was his motto,

And peace was his aim,

He labored for peace

And was always the same.

He has gone to where peace

Doth flow as a river,

And joy without ceasing,

Forever and forever.

And that beloved sister

Has gone to her reward,

She loved to read her Bible

And call upon the Lord.

When I saw her with her Bible

Going toward the east away,

I knew that she was going

To the place she chose to pray.

Then I went round the south side,

Round the knoll to the right,

That way I could get near her,

And still keep out of sight.

And when I got so near,

I could hear what she would say,

I would fall upon my knees

And with her I’d try to pray.

In the northeast corner of the door yard,

Full twenty rods or more,

The wind had blown a tree down,

Many a year before.

And the bushes and the briers

Grew up, around a little space,

And left it in the middle

A clear and vacant place.

In there she laid her Bible,

On the trunk of that old tree,

And there she read and prayed,

Upon her bended knee.

And so she followed on,

To love and serve the Lord,

Till a little over seventy

She was called to her reward.

Lines written for the inspection of my oldest son.
After expecting him daily for some time to take me home with him,
I broke out in the following strain.

Most earnestly I covet

A place in they affection;

I see no cause nor reason

Why there should be objection.

It is the duty of the young

To take care of the old,

As ‘twas my duty and my pleasure

Thee to my bosom to fold.

Most carefully I tended thee

In these small, weak arms,

And I faithfully defended thee,

To keep thee from all harm.

And with all a mother’s fondness

To my bosom I did press thee,

And in ecstasy of joy

I did kiss thee and caress thee.

And, when thou wast but six,

Or but seven years of age,

One evening took to crying

And it did all my powers engage

To try to know what ailed thee,

And what would give thee ease;

I held thee in one arm

And made different kinds of teas.

But, Oh! It was in vain,

The child I could not cure;

And his heartrending screams

I was obliged then to endure.

He would cry four or five hours,

One evening after another;

Oh! It was distressing

To a young, inexperienced mother.

After four or five days’ crying,

When he would break out,

(Each day I feared his dying,)

In great blisters all about.

He would scream till he was purple

And spotted in the face,

His visage so distorted

I could scarce a feature trace.

In the palms of his hands

And the soles of his feet,

Every month for one long year,

His affliction did repeat.

Those spells came on still later

And later in the day,

Till passed through the night

And commenced on next day.

Oft times when warm in bed,

When he would begin to kick

I knew that I must leave the room,

Our child was taken sick.

When he would begin to cry

And clinch the breast and clothes,

I had to leave the room

That his father might repose.

And if I stopped in the parlor,

Such scolding I must bear,

Till I went off to the kitchen

Where his child he could not hear.

And away in that lone kitchen,

Where it was so cold and drear,

There in the deepest anguish

We shed the bitter tear.

Sometimes he would be better,

I would think it was all o’er,

And again he’d take to screaming,

And he’d suffer as before.

In the order of kind Providence

A lady once stepped in,

When she saw our sad affliction

To help she did begin.

With pleasant, soothing words

She kindly took my son,

And pressed him to her bosom,

And to walk the house begun.

She laid him on her soft breast,

With her apron him did cover,

With one hand she did support him,

And the other she laid over.

With his head upon her shoulder

She walked the house and sung,

Till at length his screaming

Seemed to die upon his tongue.

Her soft, melodious voice,

So soothing and so cheering,

He seemed to stop his crying

For the music he was hearing.

And after he stopped crying,

Then he did fall asleep,

And then I was very glad,

And I did cease to weep.

When I came to Ohio,

I brought him as best I could,

In my arms, across my stomach,

For lay at my breast, he would.

I was advised to have him bled,

And soon I had it done,

And that almost immediately

Did cure my little son.

Then he soon went on all fours,

And he could go all around;

And he loved the mud and water,

And trouble, then I found.

For when we lived in camp,

And had no way to keep him in.

And the first thing I would know,

He would be in the mud again!

And after three long months had passed,

A house we did have built,

Then I could keep in my child

When the door was but a quilt.

But after we got a door,

And he would see it opening,

He hastily made for it,

He seemed to be for loping.

CHAPTER SECOND

When thou didst first begin to travel

And to totter round,

Often, very often,

Thou didst totter down.

When I sprung to they assistance,

And snatched thee to my face,

To comfort and to cheer thee,

And kiss the aching place.

When thou didst first begin to clamber

Down, out of the front door,

I found it worse to tend thee

Than it had been before.

And often I did follow thee,

Fast as my feet could go,

To save thy life from downing

Down in the spring below.

One time I did but save thee

And timely snatch thee out,

And the water from thy nose

And mouth did freely spout.

I took thee to the house

And wiped thy face and hair,

And stripped thee off and dried thee,

And warmed thee by the fire.

When he did change his course,

And went toward the West,

He would get upon the cow path

And then he’d run his best.

Sometimes he’d get away

‘Round the hill, out of sight

And when he’d see me coming

He would run with all his might.

And when he’d see me coming

He would run and laugh and fall,

And then I could the sooner

The little man o’er-haul.

And when I could snatch him,

Then I would scarcely know

Whether to whip or kiss him,

Which was the best for me to do.

I did greatly fear wild beasts

Or snakes would him destroy,

Or he’d be lost in the wild woods,

And those fears did me annoy.

Among the troubles and mishaps

That happened to that son,

Now before I close

I will mention only one.

Chapter third

Before that he was seven,

One morning sent for tow,

And instead of coming home,

Through the wild woods he did go.

After about an hour

I went for him to look,

I found he’d taken a cow path

And gone across the brook.

For there I saw his track

In the mud beside the run,

Then I knew that he was lost;

O, My precious little son.

Then I ran along the path

Till it grew very dim,

Then I ran across the woods

To get help to hunt for him.

Then I took a horse

And rode all day alone,

Through the woods, a crying

And calling for my son.

There were twenty-five or thirty

With bells and horns and guns,

A hunting and a striving

To find my little son.

He wandered through the woods

And over the Welsh hills,

More than seven miles,

And waded through the rills.

When at Brush Fork of Licking,

He down the stream did go,

Away to Mr. Evans’,

Still carrying his tow.

He said, “Come to the house,

You must have something to eat!”

And they gave him his dinner,

And to him it was a treat.

He said, “Go catch that horse,”

He spoke to his little son,

“And take this boy to Thomas”,

Now, both of you get on.”

When they came to Mrs. Thomas’

She was surprised to see my boy,

When he told her where he’d been

The tale, did her annoy.

She said, “Go catch that trusty horse,

Be quick, my little man,

And take him to his mother’s

As soon as e’er you can.”

When they came to the mill

They could not urge him farther,

He had been used to stopping there,

And stop he would much rather.

He said, “I know now where I am,

And home I now can go,”

And so, he started on,

Still carrying his tow.

My friend, Priscilla Coons,

When she saw him on his way,

Said, “That dear, lost little boy,

Go home with him now, I may.

The child was so bewildered,

Within a quarter of a mile from home,

He’d have gone up the state road

If she had not with him come.

Then I was overjoyed,

But could not forbear to weep,

I was so much excited,

My sorrow had been so deep.

Next day I could not weave,

My heart it was so sore,

Commenced, but found I was too weak,

That day would weave no more.

I thought I’d piece a quilt,

Handwork I could not do,

That would employ my mind

And my hands keep busy too!

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