John Lemley.

Autobiography and personal recollections of John Lemley : editor of the Golden Censer, with seven years experience as editor and public speaker online

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Online LibraryJohn LemleyAutobiography and personal recollections of John Lemley : editor of the Golden Censer, with seven years experience as editor and public speaker → online text (page 1 of 31)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 187.5, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

Marder, Luse A Co.,

Klect.rotypera A Streotyper,

139 A 141 Monroe Street,




To MY FKIENDS, made so through contact as editor and
reader, whose sympathy, confidence, and approval of the
bold and fearless editorial labors, have encouraged, inspired,
and cheered me through the vicissitudes and fortunes of
an arduous task and strange experiences of seven eventful
years ; and to Mrs. L. H. Lansing, Mrs. Joseph Hayes, Rev.
Isaiah B. Coleman, and to the young people who may
appreciate a struggling life, I dedicate this Autobiography
and Personal Recollections with gratitude and affection.


While the sacred Book everywhere presents life as short,
as the flower of the field, it also informs us that it is full
of sorrow, and, if by reason of strength, it should be pro-
longed to " threescore years and ten, yet is their strength
labor and sorrow." It is also a fact that every human life is
an event in itself. As no two leaves in the vast forest of
leaves are alike, as no two blades of grass in the fields are
an exact counterpart of each other, as no two faces pre-
cisely resemble each other, so every life differs from all
other lives. It is in the recognition of these facts that
the study of autobiographies becomes interesting to us.
While every man builds his own character, yet, to some
extent at least, we gather lessons and experiences from the
lives of those who have gone before, and from each other.
In the grand temple of existence, every human creature
furnishes a lively stone.

That there should also be great diversities in the conditions
of our lives, cannot be wondered at when we for a moment
reflect and observe the almost endless capacities of indi-
viduals. Here is a Newton, there an idiot; here a Dives,
there a Lazarus; here a Bismarck, with his "Blood and
Iron Policy," there a humble, inoffensive peasant. Some
men have wealth, affluence, position, honor, and distinction
thrust upon them, while others have a life-long struggle
with poverty, sickness, misfortune and calamities. Some
men laugh at impossibilities, and with energies that make
successes out of other men's failures, push over every
obstacle. While we admire moral courage in our fellows,
we should not forget to pity those who have the up-hill
end of human life.


But to our purpose. The life about to be sketched has
been a struggling one. The boyhood of the subject has
been spent in the school of adversity. Surrounded by all
the comforts and luxuries of his childhood home upon the
Rhine, he becomes, by a sudden stroke of adversity, the
poor German boy in a strange land, surrounded by new
circumstances and relations, and a new people, and is
forced to go from door to door as a beggar-boy, driven
thither by fate and intemperance. Then the bitter struggle
through adverse fortunes and sickness for existence' sake
then the partially successful efforts in obtaining an edu-
cation and the final issue in the establishment of the

The whole narrative enforces the thought that the young
can make more of life than they in their impatience usually
suppose, and that even afflictions and adversities may
be turned to the Father's glory. It is very true that in
the dark days, when there was no one to help before he
learned to trust in God he now and then sat down in
the way of life and wept as if his heart would break
yet he never gave up the struggle. Hope always triumphed.

From the present standpoint, as he looks over the his-
tory of the past, it seems almost like a dream. Fifteen
years ago, he never expected -to be able to even read the
Bible, and declined to receive a copj of the same from the
hand of a lady because of the then supposed impossibility.
That he has since been able to read it, and appreciate its
value, must be evident to every one who has marked the
scholarly productions and editorials in the GOLDEN CENSER.

Finally, this preface would not be complete did we not
state that the change in Mr. Lemley's surroundings does
not make him proud or high-minded. He is the same
humble-minded, plainly-clad, unassuming person he ever
has been. He has neither taste for, nor is his sympathy
with, the fashions and frivolities of the age.



Reasons for publishing Misapprehensions corrected
Living witnesses to the leading events adduced The merits
of the book. 11

Parentage The old homestead Childhood. 15


The preparation The sale The departure On the
Rhine Antwerp On the ocean. 22


Landing A sudden reverse Starvation The weeping
mother Befriended. 29


Seeking a home Reduced to beggary The effects of an
unaccustomed climate Embarrassment for the want of
language Being fired upon. 35


Removal Father in jail Distress at home Rigors of
winter. 39


Removal The old steam sawmill More sorrows
Forced to beg Frozen feet Climbing the mountains A
whipping Run away Return Given away. 42



The old folks An eventful Sabbath Autumn days
Going west A terrible winter Fleeing for life. 56


Bitten by a rattle-snake At the gate of death Driven
into the harvest-field Fainting Turned out upon the
world A drover Taken with fever and ague Left in a
strange city alone. 71


Longing for a home A night in the wild woods A
dream A long journey Incidents by the way Arriving
at West Stephenson, K T. 79


A surprise At home Reduced by the fever and ague
Fleeing for life Wandering Sitting on a stone by the
roadside weeping Relief A good home. 91


At school for the first time Terrors of discovery Flee-
ing again On the canal Starving in Buffalo On the
lake A weary journey Another home Burning the
Bible. 98


Through floods Facing a storm A good lady Another
home Better days News of the death of my mother and
two brothers. 106


In Rockford the first time A mean man Swindled
out of my wages Discouraged Seeking another home
Better results A good old man Living in a Universalist
family On the farm A new experience Bad luck On


the farm again Another misfortune Weeping for very
sympathy, and there was none to pity. 116


School days Off for Oberlin, O. A sad disappointment
In Cleveland On a farm again Injured feeling vindi-
cated On the way to Illinois Change of occupation. 125


A T>rinter's devil Studying A fire Another fire A
man hung A dark day On the way to Rockford The
first night in my future home passed in a freight-car A
new place Incidents War times In camp Soldier life
Dark days A misfortune. 141


Change of purpose -At school In Evanston on the way
to Middletowu New England life Curious people The
Newtons At school again Distress Unexpected relief
Faith in God. 160


College days A strange letter Wonderful deliverance
A bright future In New Haven On the Connecticut
In New York Startling intelligence Finding my only
sister A resolve at a great sacrifice In Racine, Wis.
Out of employment On the road Yain efforts Discour-
aged. 1ST


The conception of the GOLDEN CENSER Tips and downs
in starting the paper Among the people Strange inci-
dents. 236

Discouragements Oppositions Patience under per-


plexities Success Pulpit efforts Disappointed expecta-
tions A new press The paper issued weekly. 261


The building gradually advancing to its completion
The astonishment of those who despised the CENSER Un-
paralleled success The wonderful circulation of the paper
Its new dress and enlargement Conclusion. 363


It is only by the urgent and oft-repeated requests, and
earnest solicitations of many of the GOLDEN CENSER patrons
and personal friends that I have at all been prevailed upon
and persuaded to give to them and the public the imper-
fect narrative contained in the following pages. Concious
of human weakness, and of my own imperfections, I shrink
from the task imposed upon me. It is with no small de-
gree of timidity that I unfold the history of my short, yet
eventful life. All who know me best have often observed
my retiring disposition and simplicity of manners almost
bordering an awkwardness always seeking the compan-
ionship of the common people, and content with the hum-
bler walks of life earnest, uncompromising, fearless, and
devoted to the peculiar work to which God has called me,
and to which I have consecrated what little ability I may
possess, with an earnest desire to glorify my Heavenly
Father upon the earth, and to faithfully do the work he has
given me to do.

A bird's-eye sketch of my life was first prepared for the
initial number of tile GOLDEN CENSER. It was necessarily
brief and imperfect. Presenting only the darker side, the
truthfulness of the sketch was very seriously questioned,
and many persons called upon me to satisfy themselves of
my honesty and sincerity. Two years later a pamphlet of
sixty-four pages was prepared. In this I obviated some
of the apparent incredibilities by giving more at length
the circumstances which led to my misfortunes. Still,


many people labored under the impression that the picture
was overdrawn. But it seemed much more reasonable
than the first effort, and was so favorably received that
I was importuned to give a still fuller account in the
GOLDEN CENSER. I carefully revised and gave a much
more extended history. This met with such general ap-
proval, and seemed to speak to the hearts of so many peo-
ple, that long before it was concluded, I was again urged
to give it in a more connected and permanent shape.
However, even now, I hear of expressions such as these!
" It is a remarkable history, if true" To remove all
doubts from the minds of the credulous, I cannot hope to
do, but it shall be my purpose to so enlarge upon all these
points which seemed to have called forth such expressions,
as to make this narrative reasonable to a reasonable mind.
The picture is a dark one in very many respects, and I
shall faithful!} 7 give it just as it is.

It has ever been my aim and steadfast purpose to seek
that wisdom which cometh down from heaven, and which
raises the heart above the adulations of men or the ap-
plause of popular opinion, and which outweighs them all.
It is one thing to write the biography of some great hero,
philosopher or divine, and another to narrate the events of
a struggling life, hence the more do I shrink from this
task when I reflect that the narrative which I am about to
write is that of a worse than orphan boy poor ignorant
in a strange country discarded and buffeted. It is alao
an acknowledged fact, attested by all who have experienced
the stern reality, that the majority of mankind do not sym-
pathize with the unfortunate, the fallen, the suffering.
Those who have all heart can wish are little prepared to
enter into the feelings of the life struggles of a poor, home-
less wanderer in a cold, selfish, sinful world.

In this, as indeed in all my efforts, I make no preten-
tions to literary merits, and humbly trust this candid


avowal will, in a measure at least, disarm criticism. This
indeed is only a

" Short and simple annal of the poor,"

and if the perusal of this narrative should cheer some faint-
ing, aching, sorrowing heart on the world's thorny high-
way, and lead him to an acknowledgment of the God who
has guided my footsteps, I shall feel more than repaid for
my efforts. Truth, and nothing but the truth, must con-
stitute the merit of this sketch, if indeed it possess any
merit at all; and many who may read these lines know
that real life often furnishes stranger stories than romance
ever dreamed of; and that facts are frequently more start-
ling than fiction.

I further state as I advance in the history under consid-
eration, that I shall speak of things pleasant and painful.
Also, whatever may be the criticism of the reader upon
the actions of either my father or of strangers, it must be
understood that at this remote period and in changed cir-
cumstances, I could have no motive to speak ill of any one.
I shall simply enter into the feelings in which I suffered,
and shall avoid comments leaving the reader to draw his
own conclusions. In the language of a greater than your
editor, I write "with charity for all and malice toward

I must remove another objection, and that is, too many
people look upon published lives of men as if they should
be blameless, and perfect. This, indeed is often aimed at
by the men who write them, but, as I write this in person,
very modesty and a love of truth and candor compel me
to adhere strictly to the events under consideration. I
make no claim to perfection or infallibilty. There is but
one man living who does, and he makes so many miserable
blunders, that I would be ashamed to set up a like claim.
Let the Pope enjoy his infallibility all by himself. If I


were to live my life over again I should act very differently
from what I have done, but, as I cannot do this, I shall
write as I lived, not as I would have lived with the matu-
rer experience of manhood. I hope the reader will bear
this in mind, as it is important to a proper understanding
of the sketch.

There is one perplexity I meet in the very outset of the
narrative, and that is, the year in which I was born. My
early disadvantages closed up all avenues of knowledge.
But I have made faithful inquiry, and probably I waa
born in 1843. There cannot be more than one year either
way, and hence, for the sake of establishing subsequent
dates in the sketch, I shall, with this explanation, assume
1843 to be the correct year. Finally, it ite my earnest de-
sire that this history may not simply amuse and interest,
but help and stimulate both old and young, the prosperous
and the unfortunate, in the battle of life, encourage the de-
spondent, and aid the struggling in their efforts to rise
above adverse circumstances. If I were asked to whom I
was most indebted for the molding influence that shaped
my manhood, I would answer, to'God, and a sacred mem-
ory of a good mother.

I most earnestly hope, with this introduction, if there
be any one who must . still criticise this simple narrative,
they will exercise charity, constantly keeping before their
mind, that through all the sufferings, sorrows, and vicissi-
tudes of my early life, I had neither counsellor nor guide.




In these days of transatlantic visits, a traveler, in the
outskirts of a lovely village, in the province of Hesse-Darm-
stadt, Germany, might have noticed a stone house stand-
ing back from the street, and half-concealed by the foliage
of fruit trees, shrubs and flowers. This is the homestead
where I was born. So far as memory serves me, my pa-
rents were in very comfortable circumstances. I have
heard my mother say that they owned four acres of land
and land in Germany is valuable and the house in which
we lived. My father had been an officer in the German
army, and at the time of which I write was a merchant in
my native village. Ease and comfort, to say nothing of
luxury and plenty, were manifest on every hand. Of
course I cannot speak of society or the position my father's
family occupied in the community, as all these things were
beyond my years and understanding. But I do know that
we had a large circle of relatives, living, not only in the
immediate vicinity, but at a distance. And when these
visited our house, then we children (there were three of us,
viz., John, Peter and Mary, I name them in the order of
their ages) had a right merry time. And, oh, such beau-
tiful presents! They made our eyes snap and sparkle, and
our hearts leap with joy. No childhood could have been
more happy than was mine. I had a kind, indulgent father
and a tender, loving mother.


Onr home was very beautifully located in a quiet, seclud-
ed spot. Near by, a brooklet of crystal water wound its
way through meadow and grove, now basking in the clear
sunlight, now rippling half concealed by the overspreading
foliage, now laughing as gentle zephyrs swept its glassy
surface. In the plain before us three hamlets nestled,
pointing their minarets heavenward. Near by was that
ever-beautiful river, the Rhine, while in the distance
Mintz lay in solemn grandeur with its domes and palaces
shimmering in the- sunlight. On either hand the undula-
tion of the country, with its green fields and groves, its
farm-houses and villas, formed a picture upon which the eye
ever loves to gaze.

The seasons were ever delighful, the atmosphere being
mild the year round, and springtime seemed heaven let
down to earth. To breathe its balmy air; to listen to the
music of the flowing rills, murmuring brooks, dashing
cascades, songs of birds, play of zephyrs through the trees,
and shrubs, and flowers; to behold the ever-changing variety
of landscape, hill and valley, mound and dale, lawn and
glen, to breathe the fragrance of flowers of every hue and
color; to look upon the morning dews glistening like pearls
in the clear sunlight, and to gaze upon the sunset's tinsel-
ing on the evening sky, colors far surpassing the skill of
artists, formed contrasts rare and beautiful.

Oh, with what joy I used to gather the flowers that
bloomed in endless variety hard by where the crystal spray
of that inland river dashes against the pebbly and ever-
varied shore, and with childish skill weave them into a
wreath a happy surprise for mother!

The clear silvery chimes of the village bells sounding
through the forest and along, the hillsides in tones so
sweetly musical, announcing in accents both soft and mel-
low to the weary toilers of earth that another Sabbath of
rest and meditation and spiritual refreshment had dawned


over the world; the clear blue sky with its genial sun and
bland atmosphere by day, and bright beaming stars by
night; the rich and varied foliage of forests; the anthem
which nature's minstrels poured forth from every branch
and bower; the music of the rills singing so cheerily in
their meanderings through meadows, glens and groves; the
vine-clad hills, laden with the purple fruitage of the year;
the innocent glee of my playmates; the golden hours
when no sorrow enters the heart, -are as fresh in my mem-
ory as but of yesterday.

And often, in after years, when circumstances were
changed, and sorrow and anguish had wrung the hot, scald-
ing tears from my eyes, I have lived over and over again
in memory those bright, happy, sunny hours of my child-
hood, and in them I have found great consolation. I thank
God for a happy childhood.

My parents being Catholics, I of course was early in-
structed in the duties and Tisages of that church. The
paraphernalia displayed on festal-days, and the processions
in which the whole community participated when they
marched from the church to the shrine of some dead saint,
were quite pleasing to "my curious mind. Indeed it wa>
imposing to see the white flags and banners unfurled and
waving in the morning breeze, and to listen to the charting
of some sacred hymn. Upon the whole, the altar glitter-
ing with imagery, the burning candles, the odor of the
frankincense from swinging censers, the costly robes of the
priests, were quite fascinating.

Though my parents were both Catholics, and all my early
instruction was given by that church, yet, since I could
think for myself, I could not accept of the unscriptural
and half-heathenish mummeries of that great but apos-
tate church. However, I am constrained to believe that
many people dying in her communion will be saved. My
own precious mother lived and died in the faith of that


church. But because of this, it is no thanks to the priests
or Roman prelates who bind heavy burdens upon the peo-
ple," and do not so much as touch them with their ringers.
Again, there is a great difference between the German
Catholic and the Irish. The American sees Catholicism
through the Irish the most devoted and most bigoted na-
tion. In saying this, I would not speak disrespectfully of
the Irish people. No. So far as they are under the yoke
of this unmerciful priesthood, I pity them, for a more gen-
erous and whole-souled people do not exist on the face of
the globe. Irish genius is at once brilliant and sparkling.
My being saved from the molding influences of this church,
I can account for in no other way than that God held the
destiny of my life in his hand.

But to return. At the lawful age I was sent to school.
Memory does not serve me to relate at what age I was sent,
or how long I attended school. But I do remember the
first morning at school. It was one of those lovely spring
days when the flowers breathed their fragrance into the air,
and the birds sang so sweetly, and all nature laughed for
very gladness. I remember the first book given me. Its
neat appearance not its contents as a matter of course
made it very attractive to me. Politeness to our school-
fellows, deference to our teachers, and our best manners to
the priests were among the first things learned. We were
never allowed to address a grown person without first re-
moving our hats and making a bow. I can truly say that
we were early trained at the school to respect grown peo-
ple. The story of the prophet and the disobedient chil-
dren, and of the bears coining out of the woods to destroy
them, was often repeated as an example of disobedience.

It would be no particular interest to the reader for me to
relate what grand good times we had during the holidays.
It will be remembered that Christmas originated with the
German people, and they, more than any other nation,
celebrate during this festal week.


The groves and forests in Germany are kept very choice.
By a law of the land the peasantry are permitted to go
through these forests and pick up all sticks and brandies
that may lay on the ground. They can also remove any
dead and dry limbs from the trees. To accomplish this,
they have long slender poles with an iron hook -fastened
on one end, and with these they pull down the dry limbs.
Thus the forests are kept very neat and clean by the peas-

Another curiosity in these forests is, here and there,
usually in large trees are excavations in the trunks of the
trees about four or five feet from the ground, and in these
images are placed, such as the Virgin Mary, or some of the
saints, and protected by glass being placed over them.
Whenever any one happened to come upon one of these
images, he had to fall upon his knees and pray to it. I re-
member at one time I accompanied my grandmother on a
visit to a distant village, and she took a foot-path through
a grove, and I could not help but notice how many times
the good old lady stopped to render up devotions before
these forest shrines.

The highways are constructed at a greater cost than some
of the railways in this country. The roads are all ma-
cadamized, and ruts and mud are unknown. The wagons
also, are different from those of this country. The wagon
tires usually are from four to five inches wide.

Though the houses in this country are most all built of
stone, yet straw is used for rooting. Thus a traveler may
enter a German village, and the straw- thatched roofs will
remind him of the Orient. These roofs in dry weather take
fire very quickly, yet a conflagration is a thing seldom wit
nessed, so careful are the Germans of fire. Stoves are un-
known, ovens being used altogether.

As before observed, we had a goodly number of relatives
and friends; entertaining many guests, and, in turn, visiting


them. These were happy occasions for me, for then I could
see the country, pick such large plums, pears, apples, and
receive so many good things.

One day I was permitted to accompany an aunt of mine
to a city some miles distant. This was the first time 1 was
ever in a large city, and my curiosity was raised to its

Online LibraryJohn LemleyAutobiography and personal recollections of John Lemley : editor of the Golden Censer, with seven years experience as editor and public speaker → online text (page 1 of 31)