Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.

A Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away online

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Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 7 of 108)
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ofif. exposing the wound, and the flies had not been slow in making their
presence known to me. Although I was very much worried about the skip-
pers being in the wound the doctor said thev had probably saved my life, after
the experience I had had. I well remember how rejoiced I was to hear him
say so, as it was worrying me not a little. But how were they to be gotten
out? That was the question uppermost in my mind just then. "The easiest
thing in the world." replied the doctor, as he prepared a little diluted chloro-
form and turned it on my shoulder, and the skippers all "skipped" out in a
basin. I really believe a happier man than I could not be found in that hos-

From the day that I entered the L'nited States hospital (I was there
about one month) I was around the ward, writing letters for those that could
not write. I found many comrades that were more unfortunate than myself.
I remember one poor fellow that had his right arm and left leg off! His
name was George \\\ Truelove. He had married a few montlis before he


entered the service, and lie would liave no one write his letters to his wife but
myself. My wound was healing nicely, and if I could have stayed there a
month longer I would have been home three months sooner than I was, and
escaped no end of suffering.

Grant's army had crossed the James river and were having very hard
fighting all along the line in front of Petersburg, trying to capture the W'eldon
Railway and the works in front of Petersburg, which if captured would let
them into the fortifications of Richmond.

The sick and wounded were being sent to the hospitals in and arountl
Washington, so that those that were already in the hospitals, that could lie
moved farther north, were sent out as fast as possible. Cars were scarce,
and almost any old thing in the shape of a car was good enough for sick and
wounded soldiers; so thought the railways running out of Washington. We
were placed aboard of a regular box car, fitted up with rough plank seats, placed
crosswise of the car; and in these we were huddled like cattle, about fifty in
a car! We left Washington about lo o'clock a. m., of a hot July day, with
no provision being made for food or water for us, and the suffermg that we
endured is beyond description. We arrived at Baltimore about 6 o'clock in
the evening, and were fed by the Sanitary Commission ladies. Here I made
a vigorous protest and by so doing managed to get into a day coach. 1 told the
officer in charge of the train that I would not ride another mile in that box
car, as the jolting of the car had already caused the wound to break out
afresh. From Baltimore we went to Chester, Pennsyh-ania, where the govern-
ment had a large general hospital. We arrived there about midnight, to find
our way to the hospital as best we could. I found the hospital, which was about
three-fourths of a mile from the depot, more dead than alive. The wound in
my shoulder had sloughed of¥, so that the bone was exposed. The inhuman
treatment that I received from the time I left Washington was a disgrace
to any civilized nation ; and I so reported to headquarters.

Now commenced the battle of life and death with me. For more than
two months I did not leave my bed, and the agony that I had to endure is far
beyond my ability to describe. About two weeks after entering the hospital
gangrene set in ; and I will here say that it was at that time the most dreaded
of all the many diseases to wounds that the doctors and patients had to con-
tend with. In my case it was alarming, as it was not attended to in time to stop
its course before it had eaten a hole into my shoulder two or three inches in
diameter and at a depth that was very suggestive of being too near the heart !
At one time they thought I was dying and the doctor attending- to my case
concluded to call in counsel. Doctors to the number of twenty-two gathered
around my cot to see me, and I do not believe there was one of them that
thought I would live a day longer. They held a council and the chief sur-
geon, an old German, said, "Val, the poor boy can't live ; but we'll experiment
on him !" So they turned me over on my right side and began operations.
All this time I could hear and understand what they said, and knew what they
were doing. They cauterized the sore, and did me up the best thev could, and,
from what took place later on, they evidently thought I would die before


morning. The next day the old doctor, with all of his staff, came to see what
kind of a corpse I was making. As the old doctor came to my bed he said,
"Mine Cot! Mine Cot! the poor poy is alive." Evidently the old doctor had
expressed the opinion of all the rest. From that day I began to improve, and
in a few weeks was able to be out; and I am confident that ti'rere was not a
pound of real live flesh on my bones; in fact, I was a living skeleton, wabbling
arouiyJ in a very uncertain sort of a way. But I was satisfied to wabble at all,
after the trials that I had passed through.

About the middle of November I was transferreil to South and Twenty-
fourth streets, Philadelphia. This was called the Stump Hospital, for the
reason that nearly all of the patients (about three hundred of us) had arms
and legs off; and a jolly lot of fellows we were, too. One would suppose that
where there were so many men badly wounded and crippled as we were there
would be some that would be morose ; but I do not now remember a single one.
Some had both legs off; and the ones that had one arm and two good legs
would wheel the more unfortunate comrades in a perambulator on the street
or in the wards. It was no uncommon thing to see these comrades two miles
or more from the hospital.

The ladies of Philadelphia often invited us to dinner and the theater. On
Christmas day of 1864 one of the ladies of Philadelphia gave a dinner to all
of the boys in our hospital, and we all voted it was the best dinner we had e\er
eaten. The name of the good lady was Egbert.

All of the boys in this hospital were allowed passes to go anywhere in
the city until 10 o'clock at night, provided they always came back sober. I
got a pass one day and went out to Germantown, which is a suburb of Phila-
delphia, to spend the day with some friends and left there on the last car that
would take me back to the hospital before 10 o'clock. After going a short
distance we met a brigade of soldiers, which impeded our progress, and I
turned back to Germantown and staid all night with my friends. The next
morning, as early as possible, I went to the hospital and presented my pass ;
but the guard said, "You will have to go to the guard-house." I remonstrated,
but to no purpose. After being in the guard-house a few minutes I called the
officer of the guard and explained to him the circumstances. But, no. I had
broken the rules of the hospital and must stay under guard the full twenty-four
hours. I thought it a little tough, it being my first experience in the guard-
house. But I finally called the officer again, and this time demanded to see
the chief surgeon, as I knew that he had been to Germantown the day before^
He came and the first thing he said was, "Reeves, what does this mean?" T
then told him the circumstances, and then he said to the officer of the day
that he liad been caught in the same manner, only he had to go to a hotel to
stop. Of course I was released, but did not blame the officer of the day, as he
was only doing his duty. I merely give this as an incident, to show how strict
they had to be, even in the hospitals.

At the election for president, in 1S64, in the contest between Eincoln and
McClellan, all of the Ohio boys in the hospital were allowed to go home to cast
their vote, or if in the field they were allowed to cast their vote wherever they


were. I had a ten days" furlough, and went hunie and \-oted for [Nlr. Lin-
cohi, casting my first vote for president, although at his first election I lacked
but three months of being of age. As we were going home we were severely
snubbed by the Copperhead element of the Democratic party. They called us
Lincoln hirelings and all else that they could think of that was mean and
vile. But when we came back we didn't hear a word from that kind of vermin.
Their defeat was so overwhelming that they were ashamed to open their

I had a pleasant ten-days' furlough, spending part of that time at Orwell
and part in Warren, the town that I enlisted from. ]\Iy shoulder at this time
was nearly well, and about the 15th of December I asked for my discharge
from the army; and on the 5th of January, 1865, I received it, with my pay
in full, with traveling expenses home. I also received my pension papers
from the government. The pension papers were made out in Independence
Hall. The pension for the loss of an arm, at that time, was the fabulous sum
of eight dollars per month ! and we had to pay a lawyer two dollars of this
amount as his fees in collecting it! Since 1865 the pension for the loss of an
arm. as well as other disabilities, has been increased, and now the government
bears all the expenses of making out the papers and sends the check to the
pensioner once in three months. I am confident that our government is the
most liberal in pensioning its disabled soldiers and sailors of all governments
on earth; and yet I think there is great injustice in some cases, that congress
wall right in time, but not before man}' deserving ones have passed away.

My life in the hospital was as pleasant as could be expected. With letter
writing, games and plenty of good books to read, I was contented, as long as
I had to be under the doctor's care ; but, as the time drew near when we were
to receive our discharge, the awful and appalling question flashed upon my
mind. What shall I do to make a living single-handed the balance of my life?
But I said to myself, \Miat others have done before me I can do as well as the
best of them; and my motto from that time. "Never give up the fight until
death," has kept me doing my level best, and perhaps has been my salvaticm.
Who knows but He who ruleth all things ruleth for the best?


On my way home I went by the way of Cardiff, New York, to see my
uncle, Truman Northway. for whom I was named but had never seen. While
there I saw an example of what perseverance and frugality will do. My
uncle owned a small farm of about twelve or fifteen acres on a hillside, facing
the south, the slope being about forty-five degrees. On that farm he had
resided about fifty years, and his sole source of income was derived therefrom ;
and he seemed to be in comfortable circumstances. The farm was inclosed
wnth a stone wall, and one or two stone fences ran through it, across and
lengthwise. These fences were made from the stones that were picked off
this land in order to clear it. Uncle had a good house at the foot of the hill,
where he and Aunt Minerva had lived all their long married life, and they


seemed to be perfectly happy. I spent one week with them and other friends,
and 1 was oft' for home.

Aly home coming was an event in my native town, Orwell. After I had
been at home a day or two I said to my mother, '"I must be looking around
for something to do; for I cannot be a burden on you." The dear mother
remarked, while the tears streamed down her cheeks, "Truman, the boys and I
will take care of you the balance of your life." But I said, "Ivly dear mother,
while I thank you and my brothers for your generous offer of assistance, I
think that I had better try it alone first, and will probably get along as well
as the rest of the boys." But she, of course, did not see how I could do it,
any more than I at that time.

My first visit to my Grandfather and Grandmother Xorthway was an
affecting one. Besides my grandparents there were Uncle Isaac, Uncle
Miles and Aunt Monica, all single, and all lived at the old homestead, where
they had lived for forty years without going out into the great world to see
what was going on. They took the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the leading
Democratic paper in Ohio, and it served the purpose of a Bible to them. They
were what were then called X'allandingham Copperhead Democrats, or anti-
war Democrats; but my mother was a stanch Republican, as also my father.
I had hardly greeted them before they commenced a tirade on President Lin-
coln, and, as they called the soldiers, Lincoln's hirelings. I let them talk but
said nothing for some time. Finally grandmother said, "Truman, I wish
I had a rope around the neck of Mr. Lincoln and all of his hirelings : I would
hang them to a tree and pull the rope myself." I was sitting in front of
her, looking her squarely in the eye; then I said, "Grandmother, do you real-
ize what you are saying?" She said, "Yes, I do." Then 1 said, "Grand-
mother, would you like to put a rope around the neck of Brother Calvin,
Edwin and myself?" Then I named over my cousins in the war. I said,
with all the solemnity that I could, "Grandmother, would you like to hang
us to a tree till we were dead?" As I said this she drew her arms around
my neck and cried like a child. Then she said : "Truman, forgive me : I
will never say another word against Mr. Lincoln and his soldiers ;" and all
the rest said the same, and kept their promise. Nor was the subject ever
brought up after that. Grandfather and grandmother lived to be nearly
ninety; my mother is still alive, and is eighty-seven. Father died in 1S72,
at the age of sixty-five.

My ancestors were all very hardy people, and I probably would have
])een a well man if I had not seen the rough side of army life; yet as it ter-
minated I scarcely saw a well day for fifteen years after leaving the army,
although I managed to keep around and at work most of the time. My shoul-
der has never 1:i€en thoroughly healed as it should be. Aly ambition to suc-
ceed in whatever I undertook, and a dear good wife to second the motion,
when I started in to do a thing, has kept me aiming for something higher all
these many years. I will say that my life's work has been a varied one; and
a short sketch of it since lea\-ing the army, and I am done.



Coming back to my childhood home, every one seemed to take an interest
in my future welfare. One day, after I had been at home a few weeks, help-
ing my younger brothers in the sugar camp, a delegation of the leading citizens
of the town — C. A. B. Pratt, who had been for many years the postmaster
of the town, acting as spokesman — came to see me, as they said, on a very
momentous question and one that to me was to be a starting point in my
future life; but of all things my presence was needed at the post-office to
start me on the right road. This was delivered to me in a very solemn man-
ner, to impress upon my mind, presumably, that I w'as to pass through some
trying ordeal. I concluded that they wished to see me on some army busi-
ness, as I was then the authority on anything that pertained to the army in
the field; although I was not the oracle. That w-as left to the "fellow" that
haid been out ninety or a hundred days, or had furnished a substitute.
He was the "oracle," and could always tell you just how the war should be
conducted, or, if he were there, he would tell Generals Grant and Sherman
just where they were making their great mistakes ; and, to his mind, they were
making many. This led me to the conclusion that the generals at the front
were very much handicapped by not having the "jaw-bone of these asses"
to lean upon. To my great surprise, when I arrived at the post-office the
committee handed me a commission from the postmaster general, directing
me to serve the good people of Orwell as their postmaster for the next four
years. Of course I could not refuse to accept such kindness from my friends.
and, with many thanks, 1 accepted it. This, of course, tied me down to

At the township election they insisted upon my being township treasurer,
to which office I was duly elected. J. \V. Merriheld, who kept a general mer-
chandise store, wanted me to keep the office in his store, and I made arrange-
ments to help him with his books and whatever else 1 could do while not busy
with the duties of my office, which w-ere not arduous. This helped me finan-
cially, as well as giving me a knowledge of bookkeeping and mercantile
business. In the fall of 1865 Mr. Merrifield sold his business to M. Al.
Hilliard and my brother Calvin, and I remained with them.

During the summer of 1866 I concluded that I would take a course of
bookkeeping and commercial law at Oberlin. In my leisure hours 1 had waded
through all the books on commercial law that the Hon. Stephen A. Northway
had in his office library, and he advised me to take up law as a profession. But
for some reason, — I think it was the lack of confidence in my ability. — I did not,
although I have regretted it many times since.

As before stated, I attended the commercial school at Oberlin, where I
took a course in bookkeeping, penmanship and commercial law. Here I
met Miss Marion E. McConkey, who became Mrs. Reeves a year later and
who has always been my inspiration in any good work that I have ever under-
taken. It was she who was the guiding star to the high ambition of our son
Clarence from the time he was in his short clothes to the time of his depart-


ure for Cliina as a missionary of the gospel. It was she who has always
been the constant companion and guide to our daughter Clara, who, to my
mind, is one of the purest and most unselfish girls that I have ever known.

In the fall of 1868 I was elected the recorder of Ashtabula county, which
position I held for two terms (six years). At the expiration of my term
as recorder I, with my wife and son Clarence, then five years old, started
for San Bernardino, California, I arriving there July 7, 1875. Mrs. Reeves
and Clarence visited in Iowa until November, and then joined me.

But before entering the service, I had thoroughly learned the trade of
watchmaker; and during my odd moments, while I was recorder, 1 de\ised
ways and means by which I could work at watchmaking with one hand, and
became very expert at it. I invented a movement holder, with which I could
hold any watch movement. It was made in such a manner that it had all the
motions of the hand and wrist. I also invented other tools and appliances, as
I needed them in my work ; and I can truly say that I never got hold of a piece
of work that I did not master.


When I arrived at San Bernardino I had no idea what kind of busi-
ness I would engage in ; but the morning after my arrival, as I was walking
along the principal street, I saw a jewelry store and entered. Mr. N. B.
Hale, the proprietor, was at the bench, trying to put a balance staff in a
watch. Now, this was considered a very difficult job. Mr. Hale was a
good manufacturing jeweler, but knew very little about watchwork; since
then he has become a good workman in that line. As I watched him work,
I soon saw that he was not up to his job, and said, "Stranger, you seem to be
having a hard time in making that staff, or whatever you are trying to make."
He jumped up and shook hands with me and said, "Are youa watchmaker?"
I told him that I had worked at the trade five years. "Well," said he, "I
wish that you would put this staff in for me; I have spoiled two or three
already." Of course he did not see how I was going to do it with one hand.
I sat down at the lathe and made the staff for him. Then he said, "I want
to hire a man ;" and I then and there made a bargain to do all of his watch-
work at good w^ages. I worked for him and Mr. Mowbry all summer. In
the fall Mr. Mowbry died, and the administrator of the estate. Attorney J.
W. Curtis, hired me to take an inventory of the stock, and sell it, which I did,
during the fall and winter of 1875-6.

In the spring of 1876, not feeling very strong, and having a desire to
try out-door life in California, we moved to Crafton^ about fourteen miles to
the east of San Bernardino, to spend the summer in the foot-hills on a small
ranch. Here we spent six months, in hunting, fishing and doing a little gar-
dening, all of which was healthful but not a financial success. Mrs. Reeves
would catch the beautiful trout from the zanja (a small but swift running
stream) that flowed past our door; and I would hunt the festive cotton-tail
and the beautiful quail, that used to be the pest of the vineyardist in that


locality. In this way we had plenty of tish and game that was needed to make
one healthy, even if not wealthy and wise.

In September, with improved health, we moved back to San Bernardino,
Just here I wish to gi\e a little reminiscence of a trip to the top of Mount
San Bernardino. It was an occasion never to be forgotten. On the 30th
day of May, i^jC, a party of fourteen gentlemen, from different parts of the
United States, composed of botanists, entomologists, geologists and others
not so favored in book-lore, made a trip to the top of old San Bernardino
mountain. We started from the valley on the morning of the 29th, going
by the way of Mill Creek canyon. At Peter Fursee's we engaged William
Petty, a man supposed to know all about the mountains. We were to give
him ten dollars to pilot us to the top of the mountain and back.

Everything went oH on schedule time. We followed the trail up the
south side of the mountain that was made by Lieutenant Wheeler and his
party of government engineers, wlio established the San Bernardino base and
meridian. That night we camped at the cienega (a damp place in the canyon
that divides the two peaks of mountains. Old Grayback and Mount San Ber-
nardino), where good grass and water are abundant. Here we stayed all
night, and early in the morning we started on our trip up to the top of the
mountain, leaving our horses at the cienega. On the trip up we passed over
the most peculiar rock formation that I ever saw. A space, I should say,
of four or five acres was covered with beautiful granite in all shapes and
sizes, that looked as though they had come from the stone-cutter's chisel. I
saw shafts of granite piled up in all kinds of form; some I would think were
fully twenty-five feet long and two or three feet in diameter. As we neared
the top we found the snow to be deep, and in places, where the sun cast its
strong rays upon it, it was very difficult to cross. We arrived at the top
about 1 1 t)'cl<)ck a. m. It was foggy down in the valley, but on the top
of the mountain it was bright and clear. As we looked down upon the fog,
it looked like a beautiful sheet of silver. Here and there would be an opening
in the bank, and in these places we could see the green fields and the streams
of water as they coursed their way through the valley below.

This being Memorial Day, and as there were cjuite a number of old soldiers
in the party, we decided to hold memorial services in honor of our fallen
comrades, and at the same time dedicate the noble old mountain to the service
of the Lord by ofifering prayers to Almighty God. We felt as though we
were eleven thousand feet nearer to Him than we had ever been before. It
was an impressive ceremony, and those who participated in it will never forget
it to their dying day.

On our return trip to our camping place of the night before, about one
half of the party, including the guide, started for camp by what our guide
called the cut-ofi'. It ran down the ridge, due south, from the top of the
mountain. The descent was easy for a quarter of a mile, but finally we came
to a jumping-off place, that looked to be several thousand feet to the bottom.
So the guide said, "We will go down into the canyon and over the ridge
bevond." Now it must have been six hundred feet down a shale slide to the


bottom of that canyon. As soon as we were on the shale rock it commenced
to slide with us, and the farther we went the faster we went, with the shale
coming down upon us, cutting us badly. When we reached the bottom of that
canyon, horror of horrors ! we found the same old shale rock on the opposite
side to climb up ! Here we were engulfed in a canyon, whose sides were
more difiicult to climb than the pyramids of Egypt, and we could not follow the
canyon down to the valley because of a very large waterfall that we could
not get over or around. Our guide said, "Boys, we are lost; but I know
where my mule is; he's on yan ridge;" and he took his ax and gun and started

Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 7 of 108)