In 1859 when I was 5 years old they made their first and only visit back to Arkansas taking Jim and me with them. Some incidents of that trip I well remember going down. We crossed the Missouri River on a steam ferryboat at Boonville. I suppose they had things to sell on the boat as I remember jars of striped stick candy in sight and Oh, how I wanted some. We crossed the Osage River at Warsaw. Father with the wagon went over on a Hand Ferry. There was a frame of a bridge nearby, but was not floored but there was some loose boards layed across so Mother took Jim and me and walked across carrying Jim and me holding to her dress skirt. I didn't know the reason for this but now think it was to save fare.
I have a very dim recollection of our camping out as we went and came on this trip. When we arrived at Grandpaps, Grandmother, the girls and uncle Jack were digging sweet potatoes. I can see Grandmother throw up her hands and came running when she saw who we wereUncle Jack was the only boy at home There was a big orchard and lots of apples. Uncle Jack had a trough dug out of log and he would fill it with apples and pound the cider out with a maul. Aunt Jane Dean visited us there and had a little girl nicknamed "Poney", about my age. I could not resist the temptation to "ride the Pony" every opportunity when we were playing away from the older folks. She would squall. Mother would come running and give me a whipping but I would repeat the next day. Coming home we stayed a day or two at Uncle John Swetman's in Howard County where the first snow of the season fell. He had several Negroes who lived in cabins in the back yard. The boys and me would go into the woods and get Paw Paws and Persimmons. Before starting on our trip, Father took us up to Callao to see our First train of cars. The Hannibal and S.Joseph Railroad was just finished.
The Great comet appeared about the same time we went to Arkansas. I think it was in October. It was called the "Blazing Star" and everyone was convinced it was a "sign of war". Anyway the great Civil War came on in about 18 months-April 1861.
Those were hectic days with everyone-a large majority sympathized with the South in our community. All the young were urged to join the Confederate forces. Brother Will was about 20 years old and with many others of our neighborhood joined General Sterling Price's army at Lexington, Missouri. He was gone 4 years or until the war ended. He got home in June 1865. We were at Uncle Jim Ford's place and was resting after setting a patch of tobacco when Dick Wright came to us and told us Will had come home. I jumped up and ran all the way home.
I heard one battle of the war. It was the Battle of Panther Creek on the Cooper farm about half way between New Cambria and Ethel. It was between Col. Porter (Rebel) and Col. Merrell (Fed). They battled all one afternoon. We could distinctly hear the rattle of musket fire and the cannon at short intervals. The next night, just before we went to bed four of Porter's men came to our house as the Rebs were defeated and scattered in the battle. Mother gladly soon cooked them some super and father guided them away somewhere. We were cautioned to keep "mum" which we sure did. One of the men was wounded in the head.
Will had become quite a hunter. Had guns and a pepper box pistol which he left hidden on the plate of the kitchen and about year after he went away, Betty found it. It was an automatic cap and ball affair. You pulled the trigger and it would revolve and the hammer would strike the tube. Betty thought it was not loaded was pulling the trigger when one chamber exploded and Mother was standing near and the ball struck her in the hip. The cap being so corroded or rusted so it was invisible. So far as I know Mother had fully recovered. The next year she died of what was said to be childbirth fever leaving a boy baby a few days old. I well remember it was early in the night. Doc Winn was there, also Aunt Polly Sears-when the Doctor said Mother would not live through the night; she called me to her bedside and hugged me. She said,"oh. If I could only see my boy again," meaning Will. When I got up the next morning Mother was dead, laying on a board and the bed moved out of doors.
Dr. Winn told me 35 years afterwards that the gunshot wound was the direct cause of death.
Father found an old lady, Aunt Crail, who came and took care of the baby until it died a few weeks afterwards. Aunt Crail made our house her home or main stopping place for several years and she sure was a friend to us children.
Mother died in March, I think it was, and father married Liza Bunch September 1 the same year. Jim and me were bad boys; I think-had a fight every few days. I could always whip him, but he would not stay whipped, so one day (Saturday) when Father was gone over to Mt Salem to preach, Jim and me got into a fight out in the yard and he ran into the house and out the front door with me after him with a switch in my hand. Liza was sitting near the front door and as I passed her she grabbed me, took the switch out of my hand and gave me a whipping. I went out the door and picked up a Loom-Bean stick and threw it at her striking on her legs. What made me so mad, Jim was the aggressor that time. Well I knew when Father got home she would tell him and I would get a "licken". Father got home late Sunday afternoon so early next morning I went out back of the orchard and went to hoeing tobacco. Soon I saw him coming through the orchard looking up at the limbs and soon found a good switch and he have an extra good tanning. Well, Aunt Crail was mad as I was, so a few nights afterwards she took me behind the house and told me that she overheard Alfred tell Liza that night not to whip me anymore.
Will had an old hunting dog-Old Beaver. And after he had gone to war the old dog would go out and howl nearly every night for a long time and mother would cry.
I have mentioned the great comet of 1859. It rose in the east soon after dark and it extended well across the sky and with density almost like moonshine. In the fall of 1860 was the Great Pigeon Roost southeast of our house. They would come from the west awhile before sunset and circle around until roosting time. Thousands of them so dense they would hide the sun just like a cloud. Men and boys would come and kill them mostly with clubs and poles. Everybody had all the pigeon meat they wanted. (It is said that they are entirely extinct all over the world).
In 1867 I seen a total eclipse of the sun. It was in July, I think, about 3 p.m. the chickens all went to roost and the stars shone as bright as midnight, for a few minutes-there has never been such an eclipse since in this country.
One of the first families I remember was Uncle Cager and Aunt Tilda Hull. The first I ever knew of death was when Uncle Cager died July 5th 1860. They were wealthy and great entertainers. Had a lot of company the day before and had butchered a fat pig and from eating too much the old man took cholera morbes (acute indigestion) from which he died next day- they were large land owners-had a large hewn log house-had no children of their own but raised 10 or 12 orphan children. They all called them Mother and Father.
Schools in those days were very crude. The prevailing idea of most parents was to "spare the rod and spoil the child." And it applied to school teachers. If a teacher went through a term with but none or but little whipping he was considered "no good" and his qualifications were rated very low.
They started me to school when 5 years old at the old Griffin school house one and one-half miles away, almost entirely through the woods. Crossing the creek on a foot log (in my mind's eye, I can see every crook and turn of the road through those woods). The school house had a door in the east and a window in the west. The seats were long benches without backs-a long broad board in a slanting position against the wall for a writing desk-two of the larger boys were detailed to go for water either to Mr. Griffin's or north to a spring 3 or 4 hundred yards away. For fall, the boys were sent out to cut dead saplings and carry it up for wood. The schools were subscription schools, 4 months regular attendance was unheard of. Always a vacation of two weeks in corn gathering time.
My first teacher was John Salyer and then Perry Sears-John Salyer, Lew Simpson, Bill Mathis, Fletcher White and Judd Dye. Two or three terms he was a good teacher for he done lots of whipping. But one teacher whipped me, that was Perry Sears. Lim Simpson never licked anyone, never heard of him teaching again. Nearly all parents thought all that was necessary for their children to learn was to read and write and a little arithmetic.
On the first day of May I was married. Lived at home until September. Billy Berwick had leased a piece of timber land from old John Gross, had one more year to stay, had a good log cabin and 5 or 6 acres in cultivation. Had 1 acres of tobacco ready to harvest. I bought him out for $70.00 . Borrowed the money from John Fletcher at 12 percent. Sold the tobacco that winter and after paying the note had $9.00 left-cleared 2 acres of timber land for tobacco. Gross paid me 50 cents a hundred for the fence rails, charging me $1.00 for an iron wedge. My tobacco crop that year, 1874 brought me $180.00 and I sold a mule colt for $20.00. The first part of July when I had my tobacco crop going good and was about done ploughing corn, Dave Black (who lived in the John Henry Gross place) came along and hired me to make him 500 hickory rails to peel and stack them on timber her owned a mile west of me. I was to get $1.25 a hundred (Big Wages). I made those rails in 5 days and went for my money. He told me he could not pay me until he threshed his grain.
I have jotted down only a few of the incidents that I remember of my early life. Maybe someone sometime will be interested.
Daniel Levan Bealmer
The original of this record was typewritten carbon copy found among Bertha Bealmer Richardson's keepsakes. After Elmo Ford received a copy of it he had it published in the Macon newspaper and two cousins in the area sent clippings to me (Celia Bell Yoder.)
Celia Bell Yoder along with most of my family tree sent this document to me. I have made no attempt to edit.
Submitted by Ronald Bealmear