Peter Smith.

Memorials of Peter Smith. Born, Brechin, Scotland, Sept. 21, 1802. Died, Andover, Mass., July 6, 1880 online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryPeter SmithMemorials of Peter Smith. Born, Brechin, Scotland, Sept. 21, 1802. Died, Andover, Mass., July 6, 1880 → online text (page 1 of 6)
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Printed at t&e Etterfiitre


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Copyright, 1881,


THIS Autobiography and Biography of a long
and well-spent life are brought together, in this
" Memorial Volume," for the children and grand-
children of a dearly-loved father and grandfather,
with the hope that valuable lessons may be















I WAS born in the city of Brechin, Forfar-
shire, Scotland, in the month of September,
1802. My father was a carpenter by trade. His
name was Peter Smith. My mother's maiden
name was Janet Middleton. They had five
children, James, John, David, Peter, and Mary.
David died when about eight years old.

The first incident noticeable in regard to
myself, and which has often recurred to my
mind, was the saving of the life of my sister
when she was about three years old, which oc-
curred on a Sabbath afternoon.

My father and mother both went to the kirk
to hear some celebrated preacher, and left me at
home to take care of my sister. A little girl,

one of the neighbors' children, younger than
myself, came in, and we wandered out into the
vegetable garden, where was a spring of water,
built up like a well, two feet in diameter. My
sister went too near the edge and fell in. When
the little girl who was with us saw this, she ran


to tell what had happened. I was frightened
and ran some distance, but turned back ; as the
buoyancy of my sister's clothing kept her from
sinking, when she floated to the side where I
could reach . her, I took hold of her clothes and
pulled her out. If I had not turned back she
would have been drowned, as it was some dis-
tance from any help. I was then in my sixth
year. I have often looked back to the event as
one of those wonderful providences of God that
has marked my eventful life, and to Him be all
the praise.

My father died in the month of August, 1810.
I was in my eighth year, attending school. In
the following spring I had the small-pox very
severely ; was blind about ten days. It was the
end of summer before I entirely recovered.

The death of my father and then my sick-

ness brought my mother into rather straitened
circumstances. My brother James was the only
help she had, except her own hands, which she
plied with great diligence at the spinning-wheel.

Afiout this time, my brother John was bound

as an apprentice to the trade of millwright.

This cost a good deal in those days, as cloth-

.ing and a certain portion of tools had to be


* During the harvest season of this year, as
things were going pretty hard with my mother,
she went with me to a farmer where my brother
John had lived, to see if he could give me em-
ployment for my board. He heard her story,
looked at me, and said I was a very small boy
for what he had to do, but if I was as good a
boy as my brother John he would try me a while.

I was employed, during the harvest, watching
the horses in the pasture, when they were not at
work, and doing such things as I was able to do.
As the season advanced and white frosts made
their appearance on the grass in the mornings, I
took cold in my feet and legs ; sores broke out
upon them, so that I had to be carried home to


my mother, and was lame all winter from what
was supposed to be the effects of small-pox.

After recovering from my lameness, I was
sent to school for a short time. It was the last
of my schooling, except what I got at a later
period of my life by attending evening schools.

About this time provisions were very high,
which made it hard for my mother to get the
necessaries of life. By rising early and sitting
up late, plying her spinning-wheel, she endeav-
ored, as she used to say, " to make the two ends
meet; " for she had great dread of running into
debt, and gave us many a lecture on that sub-

About this time I was sent to work in a flax-
spinning mill, but did not like it, and tried to
get my mother to go out to some farmer in
the neighborhood, and see if he would not take
me as a herd-boy.

One day we started off together, but were un-
successful, farmers preferring to employ coun-
try boys than to take one from town. At last,
through the influence of a friend, I got a place,
where I lived for one year. The family con-

sisted of an aged couple and a grown-up son
and daughter. They were very kind to me and
I had a good home, but got nothing for my
services except my food. As I was only about
two miles from my mother's house, she often
came out to see me, in the summer months, on
Sabbath afternoons, and hear me say my cate-
chism, psalms, and hymns, and gave me much
good advice to be sure and not be an eye-servant.
My next place of service was with Captain
A , who had purchased a farm in the neigh-
borhood, and was building a mansion-house on
the grounds. I went myself and made applica-
iton for the place. He asked me my name, said
he knew my mother, told me to call again,
that he would talk with the man who had charge
of his cows, and let me know. I went home and
told my mother, who was surprised to think that
I should have the courage to go myself, so
small a boy, and speak to such a gentleman as

Captain A . I had then formed the idea

that if anything was to be accomplished it must
be attended to at once, and this has been my ex-
perience in all my subsequent life. My mother


called upon Captain A , to find out how

matters stood, and was told her boy would get
the place, and what his duties would be ; that I
would have to live on meal and milk. That
meant that I was to do my own cooking. I had
a certain allowance of meal ; what I did not use
went with my wages, which was a great help
to my mother in those times of scarcity. I re-
mained with Captain A through the sum-
mer months, and was pleased with my place. I
went daily into Brechin with milk to Captain
A 's family and Provost M 's, his father-
in-law. As the winter approached, my services
were not required; this was in 1812, a hard
year for poor people ; but I got a place in a
baker's shop, which I did not like.

In the spring, I got a chance on a farm near
Catterthun, a good place. The people were
kind to me ; they kept a number of servants,
male and female.

In the fall of this year, 1813, the linen trade
was quite brisk. My brother James, being a
weaver, was anxious that I should come home
and learn the trade. I felt very reluctant to go


to the loom, as I thought, if I did, I should have
to be a weaver all my days. I had then a great
desire for some mechanical trade ; but the glow-
ing colors in which my brother placed the thing
before me that I could make so much money
for a while, and then I could go to a trade after-
wards induced me to leave my place, and
commence to learn the art of weaving brown
linen. Everything went on well for a short time :
but the year 1815 came, and the end of the
French war ; with it the fall of the linen trade,
nothing but destitution on every side. There
was a complete breaking up of the business
for a number of years, a period of great suffer-
ing, many families being reduced to want.

At this time my brother James went to
Glasgow, and engaged in cotton weaving, leav-
ing my sister and me at home with my mother.
I occasionally obtained work from an Aberdeen
agency that was established in the place, but
mother thought I did not try hard enough. As
she knew I did not like the weaving business,
she thought there might be blame on my part
for not getting work, which caused me to say


some unpleasant words to her ; the only time I
ever did so, and afterwards it caused me much
grief, for I had a dearly beloved mother. The
feeling that I had done wrong grew upon me,
so that I had no happiness in my mind, and
resolved to leave my home.

As the agency of the linen-weaving was at
Aberdeen, and some of the people of the town
had gone there after work, I thought I would
go also. I told my sister I was going away
to Aberdeen, but she advised me not to do so.
Feeling so unhappy, and having nothing to
do, I was determined upon it. All the available
funds I had for the journey of forty miles was
just one penny, that my sister gave me, when
she followed me a short distance from the house
to bid me good-by.

I was then in my fourteenth year, my sister
four years younger. I have often thought of
this circumstance, it being our first parting ; so
tender were my feelings that I almost broke
down. The maple-tree at the foot of which we
parted, and my little sister Mary, as she gave
me the penny, are as fresh in my remembrance
as if it were only yesterday.

1 1

Arriving at Aberdeen, I found a Brechin man
at the head of one of the large manufacturing
companies of the place, and told him that I
could not get work. He looked at me with
some distrust in regard to my statement, but,

being an old schoolmate of my elder brother,


James, and having some knowledge of the fam-
ily, he gave me work. From this place I wrote
my first letter to my mother, which rather aston-
ished her, as she thought I had gone to visit my
uncles, about ten miles distant.

I remained in Aberdeen about six weeks, and
got along very well with my work ; but, being a
young and forward boy, I made some acquaint-
ances of a very doubtful character, and found
myself in danger of being drawn into bad com-
pany; so I resolved to leave the place, and re-
turn to my mother's house. I felt that I had
done wrong in leaving my home.

I have often looked back upon my leaving
Aberdeen and returning to my mother as one
of those deliverances which God, in His mercy,
wrought out in my behalf; for it has seemed to
me, that had I remained longer in the place, I


should have been a ruined boy. How often have
I thanked my God for turning the thoughts of
my heart homeward, for thereby I escaped the
snares of the tempter !

Having rode part of the way, I arrived at
Brechin after dark. I was unwilling to be seen
by my boy acquaintances, as they would laugh
at me for returning home so soon, and call me
" a runaway come back of his own accord." I
was even ashamed, after I reached my mother's
house, to go in, and lingered about the vicinity
unobserved, thinking what I should do, and to
make sure nobody was in the house but my
mother and sister. I knew that they had no ex-
pectations of my being so near at hand, as I had
received a bundle from home a few days before
I left Aberdeen. I felt grieved that I should
have said any unpleasant word to my mother ;
yet I knew, from her kind and forgiving dispo-
sition, that she would overlook what I had said
and done, and receive me as a repenting and
erring child. I accordingly mustered up cour-
age to go in, just as mother and sister were
preparing to retire for the night. Both of them


were very much astonished at my appearance,
thinking I was in Aberdeen.

I very soon got work at weaving, beside a
godly, praying man, who did all he could to
guide me in the right way by his counsel and
holy life. In after years he became the husband
of one of my cousins, whose family and my own
have been so intimately connected, as will here-
after appear.

During this year my brother John sailed for,
America, which was a great trial to my mother,
as she thought that she would never see her boy
again. It was many days before she could be
comforted or reconciled to it.

In the month of February, 1817, being short
of work, I took it into my head to go to Glas-
gow to see my brother James, and perhaps get
work there. I told my mother that I thought
of going to brother James. She said, " it was
a silly notion and only boy's talk," as Glasgow
was over one hundred miles from Brechin, and
that I never would attempt that journey on foot.
But, boy as I was, 1 had made up my mind to
try it.


My sister accompanied me a short distance,
bade me good-by, and went home and told
mother, who was unwilling to believe I had un-
dertaken such a journey; as my uncles' resi-
dences lay in the same direction, she thought I
had gone there. I passed by in sight of their
houses, where I had spent many happy hours
with my cousins ; but I had started on a journey
I knew they would oppose. Being on a road
at some distance, I passed unobserved, traveling
that first day eighteen miles, and got lodging for
the night in a small inn. When I awoke in the
morning, there was a hard rain-storm. I paid
for my lodging and breakfast, which took nearly
all the funds I had, not knowing what would be
the expenses of a tavern. However, I had de-
termined not to turn back, so I faced the storm
and traveled on, until about three in the after-
noon, when my strength and courage began to
fail. My limbs became much chafed and sore ;
I was as wet as I could be had I been taken
out of a river.

I resolved to go to the first farm-house on
the roadside and ask for lodging. I inquired

for the master. A man with a kindly look came
to the door; when I told him what I wanted, I
fairly broke down, my words choking in my
mouth. He probably saw that there was noth-
ing very bad abcnit me, spoke kindly, and in-
quired about my parents. I told him I had a
mother, where I was from, and where I was go-
ing ; that I had a brother in Glasgow and other
relations. He seemed to think it strange to see
such a small boy on such a long journey, at that
season of the year. He said I must have left
my home without the knowledge of my friends ;
that he had no place for me to sleep but his
barn. I told him I would be glad of that, if he
would let me stay all* night. He asked me to
come in, dry myself, and get something to eat;
I felt truly thankful, and accepted the invitation.
There was a good fire in the kitchen ; I got my
clothes dry, with the exception of that portion
around the middle of my body. In that condi-
tion I went out to the barn with the men when
they went to feed their horses for the night ; laid
down on some bundles of straw with a covering
of canvas bags, and asked the men to call me


early in the morning, as I wanted to be on my
way. It so happened that I did not need to be
called, for it seemed to me the longest night I
ever experienced; I longed for the break of day.
Being near the highway and about two miles
from Perth, I could hear teams passing during
the night. As soon as day began to appear I
looked out and found the ground covered with
snow, and it was still snowing. The rain of
the past day had changed into damp snow. I
thought that I could not wait until the men
came out to feed the horses, so I started on, and
traveled all day in the slush and snow. In the
afternoon it cleared away and began to freeze.
I traveled that day to Vithin a few miles of
Dumblane. I stopped at a small house, had a
very good night's rest, and after paying for it I
had just one penny left to carry me some thirty
miles. I started on without breakfast. When
about one mile from Stirling I began to feel the
cravings of hunger, and made up my mind to go
and beg for bread. I thought I would go to the
first house anpl ask for a drink, and perhaps they
would give me something to eat. I knocked at


the door; while waiting my courage failed me,
or, rather, my proud spirit rebelled against ask-
ing. If any one had come to the door, I could
not have told what I wanted, and accordingly

This was the nearest I ever came to asking
for bread.

In passing through Stirling, I spent my last
penny, twenty-eight miles from Glasgow.

To cross the Muir of " Take-me-down," which
is a little way from Stirling, would make my
journey four miles less ; as I was getting tired
and sore, it seemed to me a long distance to

I therefore left the highway and took the
Muir road, which was used only for travelers on
foot or horseback, principally by drovers in driv-
ing cattle to -and from market. After entering
on the Muir road, I called at a house to make
inquiries about the way, and was strongly ad-
vised against taking that road, as I should get
lost. There were a few houses on the road. It
grew cold and the snow began to drift, but I had
made up my mind to try it and so started on. I


had traveled two thirds the distance across the
Muir, when I became very tired; my courage
and strength began to fail me. Sitting down
on the top of a snow-drift, I thought over my
life ; it seemed as if every wrong thing that I
had done came up before me. I wondered how
my poor mother would feel, if she knew my
condition. I leaned my head on my hand, and
thought here I was to die, with no one to care
for me. How I did wish I had stayed at home 1
After this, it came to my mind to try it once
more. I came in sight of a house soon, and
felt new courage come into my heart. When I
reached the house, I asked the good woman if
she would let me come in and warm myself.
She seemed very kind, and had a fine fire of
peat ; told me to sit down ; inquired about my
parents and where I was going ; asked me to
take some dinner, "it was after their dinner
hour, but there was some left." She encouraged
me with the hope that after I got to Kilagath I
would have company all the way to Glasgow ;
as there were always teams on the road ; per-
haps I might get a ride. I started off, being


refreshed with food and kind words, arrived in
Glasgow after work hours and found my brother
James, who was astonished to see me. The first
salutation I got was, " You have run away from
home, i Mother never would have let you come."
He inquired how in the world I ever got there,
which has been a wonder to myself many a time

It was only by perseverance and the kind
providence of my Heavenly Father, who had
other duties for me to perform before I should
be called to the account of my stewardship.

I remained in Glasgow about one year ; got
work at weaving beside a good Christian man,
who took a great fancy to me and gave me good
counsel. He had a fine library, and encouraged
me in reading, of which I was always fond, al-
though up to this time the books had been of
the lighter sort, such as were common among
country servants. Here I got a better class of
books. I also attended an evening school for a
short time, kept by a student, who afterwards
became a missionary.

He was a good man; I have often thought


that, amidst all my wanderings, my lot was al-
ways cast among good people. I remember no
time when I was treated unkindly. The good
man whom I worked beside often talked with
my brother James about finding some other
business for me, for I was not born to be a

At length, my brother James wrote to my
father's brother, " Uncle John," as we used to
call him, who got me a place as an apprentice
to the wheelwright trade, in Kerrimuir.

I left Glasgow in high spirits, and traveled
back to Brechin on foot, but had means to sup-
port myself on the way.

My first night was at Stirling, my second at
Perth, and my third at my uncle's, ten miles from
Brechin. I reached home the next day, to the
great joy of my mother and sister, as they had
been anxiously looking for me.

After a few days in Brechin in getting my
clothes mended and some additions made to my
scanty wardrobe, in which my mother and sister
engaged with all their energy, I started for my
new home in Kerrimuir, where I was to remain


four years, as an apprentice with my new master
in learning the trade of wheelwright.

The first two years were without any particu-
lar incident. I had formed the acquaintance of
several young lads of my own age ; a good deal
of our time was spent, when the day's work was
done, in foolishness, without any profit either to
body or mind.

During the third year of my time a great
change came over me. There was quite a relig-
ious interest in the town : prayer meetings were
held in different places. I, with my young com-
panions, commenced attending these meetings ;
soon we were all very much interested. They
were conducted by a few very godly, praying
men, and their labors were not in vain.

At this time my thoughts were turned to the
salvation of my soul. I began to see my folly
and sin. I had been a regular attendant at the
kirk on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath-school, but
more from the habit of my early training than
from any desire to get personal good. The
Lord led me in a wonderful way to seek salva-
tion, and to make a personal application of the
truth of His Word.


I read my Bible with an interest such as I
had not felt before I became much interested in
attending the prayer meetings. Soon a young
men's prayer meeting was established on Sab-
bath mornings, in which I took an active part.

I was invited to take a class of boys in the
Sabbath-school, and entered on the work with a
good degree of interest It was a rule in the
school that the teachers should close the lessons
with prayer. When it came my turn, I was in
dread of performing my part ; great fear came
upon me, so that I had to stop in the service.
After school was dismissed, a good man came
and spoke to me ; encouraged me to persevere,
and I would get over being afraid to hear my
own voice.

About this time I made my mother a visit.
It was her custom to request me to read the
Scriptures before retiring for the night. On
this occasion, after reading a portion of God's
Word, I kneeled down in prayer, at which my
mother's heart was filled with gratitude to God,
who had, in any measure, opened my heart to
receive the truth. She seemed to feel like good


old Simeon, " Lord, now lettest thou thy servant
depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy sal-

From this time I became rnore interested in
spiritual things, and joined the class that at-
tended at the manse to be examined, prepara-
tory to uniting with the parish kirk at the com-
munion season, which was observed once a year,
in the month of June.

It was a parish of great extent, and at such
times there were large gatherings. After at-
tending for a few weeks at the manse, with some
eighteen others, who had offered themselves as
candidates, I had great trouble in my mind about
going forward : I seemed to have such a sense
of my own unworthiness that I almost decided
not to go. On Saturday night preceding the
communion, I mentioned my case to the gentle-
man, who was superintendent of the Sabbath-
school ; he encouraged me to go forward, which
I did with fear and trembling.

At our shop we did all kinds of carpenter's
work ; often we made coffins for the dead, which
were usually carried by two of us, on our shoul-


ders, to the house where the dead lay. On such
occasions, the family and friends of the deceased
were called in to see the body " coffined," as
we called it. After the friends had taken the
last look of the corpse, we screwed down the lid ;
then a portion of Scripture was read.

As I was considered a good reader, I was
often asked to read, when my master was not
present. I usually did so, selecting on such oc-
casions the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle
to the Corinthians. Sometimes, I ventured to
make a few remarks to those present on the ne-
cessity of a preparation for such an event, as was
sure to come to all.

This gave me freedom in speaking on relig-
ious subjects. Because of my own experience
of the great change I had passed through, I was
invited to address Sabbath-schools. On one oc-
casion, which I can never forget, I was invited
to go to a place, some four or five miles distant,
to address what I supposed to be a Sabbath-
school ; but, upon reaching the place, I found
the house filled with people of all ages. This
was more than I had bargained for, and I told


the man who had invited me that I could not
take charge of such a meeting. I was then a
young lad in my eighteenth year; there were
present old men and women, young men and
maidens, all classes that composed the neigh-
borhood. When they were assembled and I
looked upon them, the thought came into my
mind, How can I speak to these people ? Then,
again, How can I go away and not say a word ?

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Online LibraryPeter SmithMemorials of Peter Smith. Born, Brechin, Scotland, Sept. 21, 1802. Died, Andover, Mass., July 6, 1880 → online text (page 1 of 6)