Sunday in The Woods

Need of Sabbath in Woods—A Revelation to James—Meeting-houses and Sabbath Bells—Pioneer Meetings—How Families Went to Meeting—Itinerant Preachers described—Sunday in the Garfield Cabin—The Bible its Preacher—James wants to know where it came from—Joseph Coat of many Colours a Puzzle—His Singular Inquisitiveness—Influence of the Bible on Him—The Temperance Reform—James’s First Lessons in Temperance—Taught Loyalty to Country—Bravery in Doing Right—The Den of Lions—The Garfield Coat-of-Arms—Moral Heroism of his Home—Religious Controversies—Baptism—Effect on James—A Whig, not Baptized

Pioneers need a Sabbath full as much as anybody else,” was Mrs. Garfield’s remark to James and her other children. “‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,’ is a commandment that must be kept in the woods as faithfully as elsewhere. In large towns and cities people prepare for this by building houses of worship, some of them with tall and handsome spires pointing to heaven, with bells in the towers.”

“What for do they want bells?” inquired James, to whom this announcement about houses of worship and bells was a revelation. Neither James nor the other children had seen a house of worship, or heard a Sabbath bell, and their mother touched upon a theme as new and fascinating as a novel when she described Sabbath scenes in large towns.

“The bells call people to worship promptly, by ringing at the time of meeting,” Mrs. Garfield replied to James’s question.

“Bells would not be of much use to pioneers, who live so far apart, even if they could afford to have them,” she continued.

“Wouldn’t they sound splendid in the forests?” exclaimed James.

“Indeed they would,” responded his mother; “and they would be good company, too. I imagine it would not be so lonesome if Sabbath bells echoed through the wilderness. But pioneers ought to be thankful that they can have preaching, under any circumstances whatever.”

“I should like to live in a big town where they have meetin’-houses with tall spires,” added James.

“Perhaps you will some day,” suggested his mother.

“None of us will live to see them in the town, probably.”

The last remark was rather of a damper upon James’s aspirations, who scarcely expected, then, ever to find a home elsewhere. The foregoing conversation will derive significance from an acquaintance with the religious privileges of the family.

At the time of which we are speaking, there was no stated preaching in the vicinity of the Garfield estate. The sect called Disciples held occasional services in school-houses and dwelling-houses. These occasional services began before the death of Mr. Garfield. As the latter, with his wife, had united with that sect before removing into the township of Orange, they were especially ready to welcome the itinerant preacher to their log-cabin, and to the school-house. Sometimes the meeting was at a cabin or school-house five, six, and even eight miles away. It was not unusual, in James’s boyhood, for pioneers to travel six and eight miles to a religious meeting, on Sunday. They went with ox-teams and horse-teams, single and double, and some men and boys walked the whole distance. Often in some sections the father would ride horseback to meeting, with his wife on a pillion behind him, carrying her youngest child, the older children following on foot. The meagre religious privileges were highly valued, and there was much labour and hardship involved in availing themselves of them.

The preachers of that day were illiterate men—good, but uncultivated. They were pioneer preachers, just as the settlers were pioneer settlers. They were well suited, perhaps, to the times and locality—rough, sincere, earnest men, who found real satisfaction in travelling through the destitute country, usually

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