Road I Came
THE ROAD I CAME
by James M. Sherman
A Published Book
reproduced by Dan Ellis
with permission of Joy Schneider
For fear my readers may think that I had at some time in a dream plucked this little story from the air, I am going to give here the names of three companions of whom I write: and all of whom have long since passed away, for it is all true, and if one of the very rugged parts of the long road that I would not detour. For the sweet memories of that time, more than repay me for what seemed then like more of the hard knocks of life were coming our way than we were entitled to, but now they seem to the lone survivor only like nature’s tempestuous wind to the trees, that they may set themselves more securely in mother earth, and grow rugged so that they can resist the severe blasts that will be sure to come to them later on.
Once upon a time — I love to start a story in that way, for it recalls to my mind such beautifu1 spasms of joyfulness, long, long ago when the shades of night were silently snuffing out the beauty of day. and a sweet faced woman would say to us little tots sitting before a cheery fire on a cold winter's night "once upon," but, I need not say more to my readers who will get a thrill out of those simple words, which will make them recall a voice and the sweet face of some loved one long, long ago, which will cause them to remember what that voice and sweet face was to them in those happy days when it was music and beauty to them.
And now . . . when I hear so much about unemployment and great suffering and hunger it is going to bring to so many thousands of people, even before the chilly blasts will begin to pinch this coming winter, the leaves of my memory book are made to flutter backwards by the thoughts of all those unfortunates who are going to be scantily clad and made to feel the awful gnawing of the stomach, to the time when I was among the unemployed and was very hungry, and the kind face of Mr. Fries, is so beautifully pictured before me now, that it makes me feel that I can again hear his voice when it filled me with an inexpressible feeling of exquisite joy, as if it came from an angel, and I have long wanted to show to the world my great appreciation for his wonderful kindness to me in a simple way so that it will serve as a memorial to him in remembrance of the day in the year 1879 when in the city of St. Louis, when I went in his little place and told him that I was hungry and wanted something to eat, that I did not have any money to pay for it. Quickly he said "sit down"! and he placed before me on the counter a dish of baked beans with a strip of crisp bacon across the top, a big brown roll with butter, a cup of coffee and a very thick quarter of a rich custard pie. What a picture or beauty they made to my hungry eyes. When I had finished eating, I thanked Mr. Fries more with a grateful hand-shake and look, than I could by words, and said to him "when I get any money, I will pay you". "Come and get your supper here to-night and your breakfast in the morning," was his reply. Another squeeze of the hand and my feelings hurried me out into the street to wander again from one street to another until near another eating time and when I went to our rooming place on Thirteenth street, near Olive, where my three fellow roomers were sitting gaunt and hungry looking waiting, only waiting —
They did not have to tell me that they had not eaten for a long time, and they knew that I had.
When the noon-day bells began to ring and the whistles commenced to blow from amidst that awful pall of silence, I went out and hurried to the meal I knew was waiting for me. When I opened the door to that little heaven of hospitality, I was greeted with a beaming face of pleasure and an angelic voice of welcome, and the hand of charity was again reaching me a dish when I said, "Mr. Fries, before I eat, I want to tell you about three of my roommates who are just like I was when I came to you yesterday". "Go get them"! was his command. I must have been out of the door when he said "GO", for my heart anticipated just what he was going to say.
When got to the room, the scene there had not changed. My companions were still silently waiting. "Get your hats and come with me quick". Then I lined them up before the little four-stool counter. "Mr. Fries, this is my friend Will Hollingsworth, of New Orleans, and this is Sam and this Lovell Roseau, sons of General Roseau, of Louisville, Kentucky." Mr. Fries, did all of the cooking and serving himself, and when he would go back to the kitchen fot the dinner, the three hungry boys plyed me with questions of how it all happened.
I told them that when they were finished eating, to thank Mr. Fries, and go outside and wait for me. When I was alone, I told Mr. Fries, that I would be responsible for my three friends dinner, and would pay him, if they could not. "Bring them with you to supper and for breakfast.” And so things went along until we were forty dollars in Mr. Fries' debt, and every morning noon and night, when we opened the door to that four-stool eating place, the cheerful smile and cheery voice was there to greet us.
The pleadings of famishing hunger is now everywhere over the land, the same as it was at the time of which I wrote in my last week's article. For when I was leaving the Roosevelt Hotel, in New Orleans, the morning after I had turned the article over to the editor, after a deliciously cooked meal of shrimp a la Creole, with boiled Louisiana Pearl rice. Southern rolls and coffee. I was accosted at the Baronne street entrance by a well dressed man, with a look that only the awful gnawing of starvation can portray in the human eye, with: "Oh! Mister, will you please give a hungry man a few pennies to get something to eat"? I hope my readers will not think this story is thought up to suit the occasion. For it is not necessary to make up a story, at this time in New Orleans, or elsewhere, it ts not uncommon to be accosted often by hungry men asking for food. I have never in all my life asked any person for money with which to buy bread.
When I was hungry and went to that little four-stool eating house in St. Louis, Missouri, on Seventh, near Market street, and told Mr. Flies that I was hungry and wanted something to eat, that I did not have any money to pay for it, was because I did not have the courage to go to the English Kitchen, Browning's Restaurant, Bryelerie’s Beanery or the Market Restaurant, the only dining places there at that time, it was after I had worn myself out searching for a job of any kind of work to do to earn enough money to pay for something to eat. But it was too late then to do any kind of work to get a few pennies with which to buy bread — and besides, I was too weakened for want of food to work or even think it was food I wanted, and wanted it quick. When I went to Mr. Fries, he gave it to me without asking any questions. When I followed those three boys out of Mr. Fries' Restaurant on that eventful day, we began to lay out our plans to get work to earn the money to pay Mr. Fries, and while we were thinking, with that wonderful incentive urging us on, we never missed the opportunity to advertise that little place with. such earnest energy that it was not long before there was "standing room only."
One day at breakfast time, Mr. Fries told us that he was going to have rhubarb pie, besides custard pie for dinner, that sounded like medicine to me, for down South, where I came from, rhubarb, as I knew it, was a yellow powder which. My mother gave me for some kind of ailment. But the rhubarb pie was alright and we liked it.
Billiard halls or billiard rooms in a Hotel or even in a saloon or drinking houses or winter gardens we soon found out were heavenly heavens of rest to the tired strangers like ourselves, who had no where else to go.
Often when one of us we're resting in one of those places, we would be asked by some one to play with them a game of billiards. When we made known we did not have any money they would offer to pay.
When the whistles and bells shrieked and clattered out the glad tidings (?) that it was time for dinner, we would tell our new-made friends we were going to eat, they would want to go with us and insisted on paying for our meal.
Lovell Rosseau, was the man of our bunch, and besides that he was a great thinker with a fascinating manner.
One day while in one of the hotels, Lovell noticed a transient guest reading a Railroad Guide or pamphlet, and this made him conceive the idea that it would a great thing to get up a scrap book to put on the writing table, in which to past business cards and advertisements, for which privilege a small charge would be made. That night Lovell presented his idea to us for our consideration. Of course, to us it was like a rainbow in a dark sky. We all could visualize the pot of gold hanging on the end.
A book concern made us a suitable scrap book, on the back of which was printed in gold letters the name "Southern Hotel". A photographer made a number of fine photographs for another page, and a stationery house gave enough pressed pictures, like Rock of Ages and Chromos to complete the book. Then the fun began for it was real worth while fun for us.
When we got together after the first day's soliciting, each would tell about his experiences.
Times were hard then — "Hard times – Too hard times". No money, was the reason mostly offered for not advertising. Many offered to give clothing and shoes, anything and everything in payment, so it was agreed that nothing but money would be accepted.
One night when we had all returned to our rooms, after a successful day's work, Sam, who was our poet and who often fed us on his poems, said Keivell, the hatter on North Broadway had offered to give him a hat for a page in our book. When he told him that we would not like that, Mr. Keivell promised to give each one of us a hat. Our hats were old and shabby, so we told Sam to accept the agreement. The next day Sam came in with a new hat, right up to date. When Lovell went for hat, he of course expected to get a hat like Sam's — but no, and he had to accept one of an earlier vintage. When Will Hollingsworth presented himself, he had to be satisfied with a topper of a still more ancient picking, and even then, Will said he thought the hatter had regretted his bargain.
When I went for my hat, and gave Mr. Keivell the size of my cranium, tbere was a nice little ripple of a smile upon his face, and that pleasant wave of brightness raised my expectations oh! so high, but the fall was just as great when he handed me my DIP, the shape of an inverted soup bowl with a very narrow rim, making one think that the maker ran out of felt before he had completed the little antique of a mixture of all the tints that can be made from red and yellow, a very beautiful combination to paint the withering leaves on the trees and on the ground in the autumn, but not to decorate a boy's hat.
I was laughing through and through and down to the heels of my shoes, but I kept a serious and grateful look on my face. Thanking the well known hatter, I bid him good day.
I had not gone many steps on my way to our room, before a youngster yelled, "Where did you get that hat"? at the top of his VOICE, and before the sound of his voice had died away, another boy yelled it again, so it kept up the whole way until I got to my room. My three room mates went into a perfect frenzy of hilarity as I walked around the room again and again until one of the boys yelled, "Oh please take that thing off your head, or get out, my side hurts."
When we had finished our book and collected all that was due us, we had $60, then we burned to pay Mr. Fries the $40 we owed him. After paying Mr. Fries, the $40 we owed him, we had $20 left. We bought another scrap book like the other one that was given to us for an advertisement. When that book was filled, we ordered other books made for the other two hotels and one to be put on a steamboat.
Will Hollingsworth, got a position as bookkeeper and shipping clerk for the Dozer-Wyle Bakery. Lovell was well fixed with the Culver Bros. selling clocks around the country and when the Culver Brothers began to manufacture the Home Comfort Wrought Iron Ranges, he sold ranges for them. On one of his trips down in Arkansas, he met the only girl and married her.
Sam Rosseau was selling cigars, and, I went to work in a mechanica1 engineers office to draw machinery, but up to that time, I had had no experience what ever in that line — Now, I am at a time when I am liable to forget the trend of my story, so I will stop job talk, and continue about Mr. Fries.
It was about this time when Mr, Fries informed me that he had rented a large room on the south side of Market street, between Fifth street and the Ben De Bars Opera House, and for me to make any suggestions that I thought would help in the way of arranging the place, and getting 'the fixtures and suitable pictures.
My time then with my drafting work and studying, during the day was full, so I had only the nights to give to Mr. Fries. It did not take long to move to the new location. He hired a chef, a dish washer and waiter and he himself acted as cashier.
The theatre season was on then and graduaI:y the actors and actresses began coming in for a cup or coffee or a lunch and in the course of a short time, Mr, Fries was receiving old programs and autographed' pictures of all the famous actors, and actresses and singers who had been in his restaurant and had felt for a few moments the effect of his radiating charm and goodness.
I continued to go there and eat whenever I could. His patronage began to grow enormously.
He had not had a rest for a long time, and one day he said to me, "I am going to New York, and some other Eastern cities for pleasure, and I want you to go with me and I will pay all of your expenses."
I had an excellent job and I did not feel after all I had gone through to show such little regard for my job by asking for a vacation. He understood my reason for declining his invitation. I know the trip would have been one of the brightest peaks of pleasure in my life, if I had gone with him.
Eight years after that time I received a telegram, asking me to go to New York for a business conference with the head of a large manufacturing company, with all my expenses paid. When I arrived in New York, I went to the old Astor House Hotel, where my footsteps through the great rooms and halls seemed to trail off into poetic melodies, for I was walking where many of America's greatest men had trodden, when our great country was in the making, and from the windows of the dining hall, I could look out and see Historic Trinity Church just across the street and back of it the ancient burial ground with so many of the tomb-stones crumbling so the names of some buried there were no longer legible. The graves of many of our great men are there, whose names will live on forever, though the hand of time wipes away every trace of their names and the marble slabs on which they are carved.
It was my first visit to New York, and I was shown many of the most interesting things to be seen there.
I went to the Fifth Avenue Hotel to meet a friend and when I strolled through the parlor, I saw Mr. Fries reading, although, from where I was I could only see his back, but I knew it was he, so I moved around where he could see me. At first I did not think he knew me, and I said, "Don't you know me?"
"Why yes, I know you, but I don't remember that Prince Albert coat or that silk hat," — that old refrain of “where did you get that" was forming on his lips for expression, when be grabbed and folded me in his arms and said: "Well! Well! I am glad to know that it has all come out in this way."
"The credit should go to you Mr. Fries, for it might have been different, if you had not told me at that never to be forgotten time, to sit down and you placed before me that dish of baked beans, coffee and wedge of custard pie."
That was the last time I saw him, for he went out of my life on that day. Although he is out of my life, the memory of him will ever remain fresh and green in my mind and deep in my heart.
When we met Lovell Rosseau, a stranger in St. Louis, and he, like ourselves was without work, finding him a likeab1e sort of fellow, we invited him to share our room with us, which he accepted. He told us he had a brother, Samuel. in Louisville, Kentucky. who also was out of work. Lovell wrote to his brother to come to St. Louis, and that be had nothing but hard luck to share with him.
Sam showed up in a week or so, but he did not tell us how he managed to come so far in such a short time. Of course, we took him around to see the sights, the Union Market, Snyder's Garden, LaFayette Park. Winklemeyers Brewery, the water tower, the largest example of a Corinthian Column in the world. The Big Eads bridge, down on Front street, to see the steamboats at their mooring. besides the wharf boat landings to accommodate the great rise and fall of the water in the Mississippi River, a distance at times, if my memory serves me right, of nearly forty feet.
We told him that some of the largest boats went down the river to New Orleans, and about Mark Twain, the man who wrote "Roughing It," being a mud clerk on one of those boats, and that not so long ago, but that some of his footprints could still be found in the clay at many of the landings along that waterway, where more business was done without the formality of a business transaction like today, than any other place in the world.
A man's word at trat time, with the cotton planter, sugar makers and wood men on a Mississippi steamboat, was truly as good as his bond. No water marked and silk thread bond paper printed with gold leaf and signed with an unfading ink, would stand for any more in those days, than, "I will pay you for forty cords of wood when we come back," yelled by the captain to the owner, when he showed up after the boat had pulled away from the shore where they had just taken forty cords of cord wood to fuel the boilers and had left a note at the place to the effect that the steamboat so-and-so, had taken the wood.
When the boat was on its way, after making a landing, the colored deck hands would lay around on the sacks or bales of freight, and soon one of them would be crooning some old sweet song, until all had caught the tune, then the music would peal out to the beating of the paddles of the wheels striking on the water in a cadence of melodious strains exquisitely enchanting, especially when it was a moonlight night, and the stars were out in all their brilliancy, and all was well with those on board. To me there never was and never will be a more delightful way of traveling than on one of the old-time Floating Palaces on the Mississippi River.
One day Lovell opened his trunk and took out what remained of his clothes to examine them. He looked at a dark coat very critically, and then said "Brice", (I went by my stepfather's name, before I was married.) "You can have this coat. It is one I wore when I was inspector at the mouth of the Mississippi River." It was a double breasted navy coat, and with the exception of being very much soiled, it was in good order, so went to see a Russian boy, with whom I became acquainted in billiard hall fashion, and who was very anxious to obtain employment, he tried everything. I remembered a few days before, that he informed me he was soliciting clerks and business men to let him clean their old clothes. So 1 gave him that navy coat to renovate, to be paid for, "When our ship carne in". When he returned the discarded garment, and Lovell saw it, he tried to play that old game of "Indian gift", and wanted it back. I compromised by telling him I would wear the' coat every fourth day, and each boy could have his turn to wear the coat.
Now this went along fine, for it gave us a chance to dress up on our day, which we each set aside for some regular visit or engagement of some kind or other.
No matter how hard the blow of unemployment falls and time wears out the once rich and pretty clothes so that they hang on the frame of the famishing subject like the cast-off remnants thrown over a crossed stick, to scare away the hungry birds to keep them from eating the fruits in the orchards.
Let us all do away with the scarecrow, so the birds can eat the fruit, for are they not a part of the nature that is taking care of us, and we should care for them in return and let them feast all they want on the fruit on our trees.
I was trying to tell you that there never was a poorly dressed unemployed boy who did not have some sweet girl to go to see and who saw not the thread-bare clothes — but the heart and the beauty that God had pictured in tho boys face and which she could love.
One day two of the dates clashed, and Sam having an engagement, they were not called dates then, on a day when he did not have the right to use the coat, tried to persuade the other boy, whose day it was to have the coat, to let him wear it, but that didn't work, and angrily he put on a long yellow duster, a garment worn in those days by traveling men, before the day of screened car windows.
It was a cold frosty evening, making heavy clothing most desirable. At first we thought Sam was only fun-making, so as to work sympathy for him, that he would get to wear the popular coat, and seeing that his joking did not bring any tears, he strode out of the room and went to Olive street, where he turned east. We waited a while, then followed him. It was fun to us to see the people turn around and look at him, when he walked along unconscious as he seemed to be, to what was going on around him, to Sixth street, and thence north to Cass Avenue, a long distance, where he disappeared in the front gate of a nice home. At first, unthinkingly, it was fun to us, then we began to think of it in a serious way, tragic. I can say for ever after, Sam could get that coat whenever he wanted it, for we each felt that we were in some way to blame for Sam's sadness that day.
When we boys were soliciting ads for those hotel books, I have already told you that we were offered anything and everything in payment. A photographer said he would make pictures of each of us, so we let him make them, and each when it was his day to wear the coat, fixed himself up and his picture taken.
It was remarkable how that garment adapted itself to our different sizes, for we all looked good in it, as if it had been made for the one who had it on.
The strangest thing is when looking over old photographs after writing the above, I came across the, picture of Sam Rosseau, taken with the above mentioned coat autographed, "In friendship – yours, September 17th, 1877, S. P. Rousseau." On the back of the photograph is printed, "Benecke and Goebel, Portrait and Landscape Photographers, S. E. Corner Fourth and Market streets, St. Louis, Mo., Over Alexander's Drug Store."
Perhaps the pictures of the other two boys and that of myse1f, taken in that same coat, will show up sometime, somewhere, for we exchanged photographs with each other.
I am going to preserve the picture of Sam with great care as evidence of my sincerity in relating about that coat which was so near to the heart of each one of us every fourth day.
I did not know how to get a job — at least, I could not find anyone who thought I could be of any use to them perhaps I thought I was for as strong a boy as they would like to have.
There were two public libraries in St. Louis at that time and every morning found me in one of them, looking over the help wanted advertisements in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, or St. Louis Republic, or the Westleich Post. One day I saw an advertisement for a boy to do mechanical drafting — in an office on second floor, Eighth and Olive streets.
I immediately went there and found a crowd of boys lined up on the stairway waiting for their turn to go into the office. The stairs and hall was so crowded, I could not count how many there were, but there were enough to make me feel that I could not possibly hope for my turn to go in. At last it came and I was sitting near Mr. Frank H. Pond's desk.
Of course, I do not remember any of the questions he asked, but I do recall hearing him tell me that if he wanted me, he would send me a letter, then he showed me out and let another boy in and closed the door, as it seemed to me, forever. Out of my thoughts, went that conference and back to the routine of a life of unemployment, I went hunting for a job.
Then one day a letter came from Mr. Pond. I hurried to see him, and to hear him say that he had decided to take me, but he could not pay me anything, but he would teach me mechanical drafting; and give me the use of his drawing instruments and books.
When I received that letter my anticipations began to rise to heights sublime, from where I could picture beautiful dreams, but when he said, “He could not pay me," I was sorry I had been carried up so high, for the fall was so much worse. Then I was lost in a sea of thoughts. When I was able to think clearly again, I said to myself: "There is much more chance for me to get a job with pay, when I have a job without pay, than there will he when I have no job, and no pay." So I agreed to go to work at once, there was no reason why I could not.
He got out a mechanical book showing sketches of Pillow Blocks and Gearings and told me to draw them.
Now the only piece of machinery I knew anything about was an old hand pump in our garden away down south, and my only knowledge of that was when I worked the handle up and down the water would flow out of the spout.
Up to that time I had never made a line of what is called mechanical drawing. Nevertheless, I went to work with the intention of succeeding. I will leave out all the details and only flit the high spots along this part of my experiences.
Dr. J. J. Lawrence occupied the next office, there was a door between us. Dr, Lawrence published the Medical Brief.
At odd times, I would help the young man in his office addressing the mailing folders.
One day when I was alone, the Doctor came in and asked me if I would work for him. It was so unexpected, I did not know what to say, then to add force to his words he said: "I will give you sixty ($60) dollars a month." To which I said: "No".
“Well you must be getting a big salary,"
"No" I said, "I am not getting one cent."
To a new restaurant, the Silver Moon on the corner of Seventh and Pine streets, Mr. Lawrence went for his noon day meal. The same day he offered me that job, he saw Mr. Pond there eating lunch, and he told me afterwards that he took a seat at the same tab1e. When he got a chance to speak to him, he said, "Pond, why don't you pay that boy in your office something? He is worth his board, at least". Mr. Pond never told me about this conference, but he told me he would pay me an amount sufficient to pay' my board and lodging.
It was at this time, when one day a young man came in the office and said that he had just graduated from the Institute of Technology at Boston in Mechanical Engineering, and that he was hunting for something to do. He came often to see me and we became friends. His name was J. A. Vail. One day he came in real late and said he had a job in a Model Making Shop on Sixth or Seventh street, near Pine, making little strips of wrought iron at a forge with small cast weights to fasten to the shoes of race horses, to assist them in flinging out their feet.
The man who owned this Model Shop, was the father of Burrough, the inventor of the Arithmometer, and often I saw the trail and pale young man in his father's shop, but I am drifting.
One day, I. Q. Holterman came in the office and asked if I knew of a young man he could get who could make a catalogue of mechanical gears. "Yes, I said, I know the very boy," and he asked me to send him down to this place. I did, and he gave my friend the job. From there he went to other positions, and years afterwards on his return from a trip to New York, he took a used envelope out of his pocket, on which was marked: Sixty thousand ($60,000) dollars, ninety thousand ($90,000) dollars, signature and said: "This is the order for some engines for Manhattan Railroad in New York City." These were the largest steam engines built in America up to that time.
All things don't continue to work without some kind of a hitch at some time, and so it was with my job, I was designing and superintending the construction of all kinds of machinery. I designed and erected a hand power elevator for a cigar store at Third and Olive streets, over which I had a misunderstanding, for which I was not to blame, and when I found out that Mr. Pond had told the cigar man that it was my fault, I quit and told him I was going to leave St. Louis that night.
When it was near leaving time, I remembered I owed Harris and French, on Olive streets, for a suit of clothes they had made for me. I had made up my mind if they would not agree to my going away before paying for that suit, I would not leave St. Louis.
When I finished explaining my trouble to Mr, Harris, he said: "Go and when you can, come and pay me.'. The time came very soon, and I went at once and paid for the suit. For fourteen years thereafter, Mr. Harris made all my suits.
With my way clear to leave, I hunted up my friend Vail. He was very much depressed because I was going away. He asked me when I was coming back, and when I told him, I did not think I would ever come back, he said, "Look here, Jim, I'll tell you what we'll do. Let's go to Mexico? When you finish up down in New Orleans, you wire me to meet you somewhere on the road to Mexico and I will be there."
Vail had a good paying position at that time, but what's a position to friendship? He knew that at the end of a ribbon in which I was entwined, was a sweet something that was pulling at my heart.
When we got to the train there was dear Sam Rosseau, with a box of cigars for me.
I stood on the rear platform of the train, and waved farewell to my friends until their forms faded away in the distant darkness and with a heavy heart, I went in the day coach and took a seat. I was alone, too alone, more alone than I had ever been before.
The thrill's of romance and beauty — When I arrived in New Orleans, I went up to Carrollton. to my home. Mother and father had gone to Europe, and the house was in the charge of the servants. I walked around and out in the garden, I caressed the shrubs and the roses which I had planted and cared for, particularly a Magnolia Fuscata tree that I had bought with a silver dollar, one of my first earnings. Next I went to the stable. I patted Lady, an old mare, and Bones, an o1d grey horse that was bought and given to me by my stepfather. Nor did I forget to gently stroke the old Durham, the Alderney and the Jersey cows, the milk supply of our home, that I had fed and milked and cared for up to the time I left for college.
I strolled out of the carriage gate and sat down on the bridge across the ditch, the rendezvous of my boyhood friends. While I was sitting there as in a dream, for it could not have been otherwise, for I was too depressed to think or act, someone hailed me from a buggy. It was an uncle on his way to the city, and he asked me to go with him. We had not gone far before I saw a young lady dressed in white with one of those old style wide brim drooping light colored straw hats, covered with a lace-like veil.
"That's an old sweetheart of yours,” my uncle told me without my asking. At that time no sweetheart of mine could have been old, "Let me out," but he would not stop and he carried me all the way down to I. L. Lyons Drug Store on the corner of Camp and Gravier streets, where he stopped and tied his horse. "I will be back in a few minutes, he said ,as he went in the door. He did not find me there when he got back, for I hurried to the car to go to Carrollton and went to the house where I was sure that old sweetheart of mine had gone.
I was right for she came to the door when I rattled the knocker.
It did not take me long to learn that she had not let go the end of that ribbon, but was still holding it tight, but her mother was insisting that she let go of it and marry a Captain so-and-so,— why should I remember his name,
When she wrote me her mother wanted her to wed this Captain at once. I telegraphed her as near as I can remember, as follows:
"If you think its your duty to follow the dictates of your mother, I release you from your promise.”
This did not bring any reply, and I did not write, so she presumed that I had let go of my end, but I had not — I was too entangled in it to let go.°
With those knots of love made more secure, so that they could not be torn asunder by any tempest — our boat of romance was again on smooth waters, but not for long, for that uncle of mine "spilled the beans."
When we turned to the house from a walk to the old Carrollton Garden, and to many places of beauty where we had often gone before the girl’s mother was waiting for us. Our little craft was tossed around unmercifully in the raging storm, and I thought surely we would both be lost.
When I could get control of my senses, and understand that the mother was saying, "What are you going to do? This thing has got to stop!" I said. "Give me until tomorrow and I will tell you what I will do."
Not having anything fitting to say and having that feeling of "When a boy needs a friend," permeating every part of my body, I slinked or sneaked away, — what ever you choose to call it, out Washington street, which has since been named Fern to St, Charles street as far as Carrollton avenue, where there was a drug store. This corner was the rendezvous deluxe for the boys I ran with. That sounds so ancient but it is true form.
I was feeling then somewhat like a man who was going to be hung the next day. I had gone into the drug store so often to sell my honey and yellow and white bees wax which I had gathered and bleached myself, for I had a number of hives of bees. I can see the big iron pot now, out in the back yard, filled with melting honey combs, and also the line on which was hanging sheets of wax taken from a pane of glass, after it had been dipped in the melted wax and then into a bucket of water, freeing the wax from the glass so it could be hung out on the line in the sun to bleach.
Just for old associations sake, I went in, I was greeted with, "I knew you were here, for I have a letter for you." I don't remember of having told you that the druggist was a1so the postmaster. A letter for me? I was not expecting a letter from anywhere.
I saw it was from Mr. Pond, and I hastened to a secluded spot and read it. That was fifty-two years ago and you cannot expect me to have remembered the contents verbatim, but the following is the sense and substance of what was in that letter, which was mailed the day after my departure from St. Louis:
"I want you to come back as quickly as you can. I will increase your pay. You can have charge of all outside work, to do as you please so there will not be any cause for misunderstandings.”
“Come back at once. Vail gave me your address and told me you wanted to get married. Now if you want to get married and haven't the money, let me know how much you want and I will send it to you."
Night was coming on and I had no time, not even a moment to spare. I boarded the first car passing and hurried to the Western Union Telegraph office, located at that time on the .corner of Gravier and St. Charles streets, and wired Mr. Pond to send me seventy-five dollars by wire.
I knew the banks would not be open so be could not get the money until nine o'clock in the morning, and even if he sent it promptly, it would be ten o'clock before I could get it, so I patiently (?) waited for that time before I went to the office to inquire for an answer. "No!, No!, No!," was all the telegraph man had to tell me, when I went every few minutes, and it seemed to me that “NO” was beginning to be bigger and much more harsh at the last, and without any sympathetic smile to give me hope. He did not know that my time of reprieval was quick1y slipping away.
The next time I inquired, he said, "Yes, but you will have to be identified before I can let you have the money." "You know I gave you the telegram I sent to Mr. Pond".
"Yes, but I don't know that you are James M. Brice." I went first to one and then another offices or stores to find a friend who could vouch for me, and wasted many of my remaining moments before I found Louis Hollingsworth, and he identified me and I got my money.
The world was always beautiful to me, but when I walked out of that telegraph office with that seventy five' dollars tucked safely in my pocket, it seemed to be brighter and more beautiful than it had ever been before.
I went at once to the girl’s home to tell her mother what I was going to do.
The mother met me at the gate. "I want to see your daughter to ask her something before I can tell you what I am going to do.” She led the way to the sitting room where the girl was seated.
“Will you marry me, with or without your mother’s consent?”
“Yes,” the fluttering girl answered.
“Then we will be married here tomorrow afternoon at four o’clock. I will bring the minister here,” as I turned to leave the house, for I was agitated, the girl seemed so too,
she put her hand on my shoulder as if to retain me, and said in a voice of sweetness, but sad, "Jim, I will be ready to marry you at that time. If anything happens to prevent us from getting married at four o'clock I will consider it as a warning to us that we should not marry. and I will not marry you."
I could not see any arrangement of that kind, that would make the waters of our romance any rougher and as I could not frame a suitable answer, made as gallant a retreat as I could, considering my tense feelings, and took my departure to hunt a minister to marry us.
The minister of the LaFayette Presbyterian church, or his predecessor had married my mother and all of her sisters and my cousins and aunts. I thought it was the proper thing to do, to get him to marry us.
I flew to the church, yes, I can say that, although my feet did not leave the banquette, for when I was in the street after I had voiced my ultimatum, I heaved a sigh of relief, like the opening of a parachute which carried me to the church, which like my romance, had passed through many storms, for it has since lost its steeple in a hurricane.
The minister, Dr Palmer, was out of the city and would not return for several days.
Then to another church or the home of the minister, and then to another and another, without success, for they were all away or sick. Night found me still hunting for someone to marry us.
I was tired, depressed and alone. Surely it will not take me long to find someone in the morning, there were no telephones in those days.
The first telephone I ever saw, about that time, was in M. M. Bucks Rail Way Supply Store on Third Street, near Olive street, in St. Louis. This telephone connected with one on exhibition at the St. Louis Fair, and where I saw Ellison's first phonograph on a table out in the open, but here, I must go after that minister.
The next morning was to be our wedding day, as I myself had fixed, now that is not the usual thing for the boy to do, but nevertheless, it was so. I was well shaken up. At Carrollton, I picked up every trail that lead to a Protestant church, or the home of its minister, all without success, clear on down to Canal street, where in utter depression, I went to David Hollingsworth, a veteran of several wars, and asked him what I should do. "Now, don't you worry", you go and get Winnie Rogers, he's a justice of peace, and he will marry you." And again I did some more "flewing."
Mr. Rogers was in his office, yes in Commercial Alley, or around the corner on Carondelet street. He said he would be at the house before the appointed time, and to make sure of it, I promised to send a hack for him, that's a funny name now, but that's what they called a carriage de Luxe, in those days.
Again I sighed, like a jump from the sky, for all was set, but I was six miles from my trappings and hungry and badly needed a hair cut and shave.
Common street, between Carondelet and St. Charles street was where I went to be trimmed, not out of pocket, but to look nice for this special occasion and day, for was this not my wedding day?
From the time my Uncle Joe Sherman took me to the old St. Charles Theatre one night, and went right to sleep, so I had to wake him up when the show was over and we went to McClosky's Restaurant, near by for something to eat, I have dearly loved that place, up to that time not long since when there was a change of management, and shortly afterwards the place closed.
If Frank Albers could have been with me when the doors of that place were shut, never to open again, and he had said, “Jim, don't you remember the many good times we had there?" I know I would not have been able to keep back my tears. The coffee and the wine cake, not since has any tasted so good, and the Mead, that honey drink, a glass of which I would get at the countcr and then helped myself to a wine cake, or piece of pie from the glass covered case, and sat at one of the marble top tables to eat it, and paid for it as I passed out without any question or check, regarding anything I had helped myself to and had eaten.
The Academy of Music was also right near this place, and also a shooting gallery where I made friends with Texas Jack, a great chum of Buffalo Bill.
Texas Jack showed me his big pearl handle silver mounted Colts revolver and told me lots about the West. His magnetic manner was so alluring that I came pretty near going with him to the home of the wild horses and Buffaloes.
I was hungry and memory recalled McCloskys. I ate quickly and hurried to the car and went to Carrollton. I had a long ride before me.
I finished my grooming as best I could with what I had, what is generally expected to make ones' self presentable at such a time. When putting on a freshly laundered full-dress shirt, I saw that the front tail, or apron I should call it, was missing — My! but there was no help and no other shirt, so I put it on and hurriedly adjusted my white wing collar and white string tie, and then my white vest, a two button full dress affair. I suppose two buttons are put on in case one pulled off when dancing. I looked at my watch. I did not have any too much time. I put on my coat and looked at myself in the looking glass, to see if everything was sitting pretty. Everything was. I stooped down to strap my suit case, when out sprang that tailless bosom, and stuck out under my chin like a baby's bib. I pushed it back in place, but it insisted on coming out agajn. I was six miles from where I was to be married at four 'o'clock, or not at all, at least to that girl. Long ago I read that necessity was the mother of invention. I always kept a paper of needles, a spool of white and one of black thread in my traveling bag. That obstinate bosom would not stay in place without some kind of a leash to hold it down. I got a needle and thread and sewed it securely to the top of my inner pants.
When I got to the girl’s home, I found several friends there in the sitting room or parlor where I had so emphatically laid out my plans, and not feeling in a good mood for entertaining I walked up to the Second floor and across a bridged balcony to a reception room in another building fifty or more feet away, where I thought I could rest secluded until the time I myself had set.
That time was drawing near and some one of nervous temperament rushed up to me to tell me that the minister had not arrived. Just then the bride, a vision, no, not. a vision. but a living picture of a gracious girl all in white, looking more beautiful to me than she had ever before, but now since I remember the time when I dressed up in my best, with a blossom of a Magnolia Fuscatta in the lapel of my coat and riding to the city on old Bones, I named him that because I could almost hang my hat on his hind quarters, but he was a silver gray beauty, and I never was ashamed to ride him anywhere, even out old Carrollton Shell road, where the elite of the city would ride to Lake Pontchartrain in their victorias drawn by some of the finest animals in their silver and gold metal trappings and often accompanied by a gallant young stripling on horse back, and a beautiful girl, being southern, she couldn't help being beautiful, riding side-saddle fashion in her long flowing habit hanging way down below her gaiter. That was so long ago, I have forgotten just what a gaiter was, but I remember it was some kind of a shoe or boot.
The southern ladies' feet were as small and just as pretty then, as the women's feet are now, judging by the shoe store windows at that time, for the women did not show even the ends of their shoes when walking on the banquette or even while riding horse-back, for their long train riding habit hid their tiny feet entirely.
Old men who were living at that time remember what a great treat to the eyes it was to see even the tips of a pretty woman's slipper, and if by accident or a gust of wind — a shoot of manhood should happen to see as high as the ankle of a pretty girl stepping across a gutter, it was such a dazzling and rare sight to him that it would be sometime before he could recover from the dream into which it had cast him. How things have changed.
When that tall graceful apparition, of everything that is lovely and loveable, like a living statue of Dresden China, stood before my eyes, I thought I had never seen her look as beautiful, and then, I don't know why my memory carried me back to when I washed old Bone, and curried him good, and combed his ground-touching tail, and his wavy mane, saddled him up and dressing myself, rode down to the city.
It just so happened, for it was no planned affair to meet this self-same girl on the road, dressed in white with one of those droopy brim light colored straw hats, with a Jane Haden veil.
She stopped and raised her veil, I made my horse jump across the gutter, so I could take her hand if for only a moment. She patted the horse’s neck and ran her fingers caressingly through his mane all the time looking up at me with eyes that said in that silent language, louder than words, "I love you."
I thought her then more beautiful than she was today, which was to be our wedding day, if there was no slip. But she could not have been more beautiful.
Then another distress signa1 came., that the minister had not come, and I rushed down stairs to see for myself and there I found Mr. Winnie Rogers. He had not let anyone know who he was and in my confused state of mind, I had not said anything to anyone about a justice of the peace, going to marry us. When that last signal came that the minister was not there and it was so near four o'clock, I might have been wrong, but I saw a gloating smile dancing in the mother's eyes.
I don't remember what I said to Mr. Rogers, whatever it was I said it quickly and rushed upstairs to get the girl, I still had a few minutes to spare, and on the top land;ng, I said to the mother: "I would like to have your consent."
She did not answer and went on down the stairs on the lower landing, she seemed to find her voice, for she gave us her consent with her blessing, and a gracious smile.
A few minutes more, and I was asked for the ring. I had forgotten to tell about the ring. Just like I did after buying it on Canal street, near Carondelet, and chose what I thought would be the proper size without having taken the measurement of her finger.
I went into one pocket and then the other, with troubled thoughts brooding, I hadn't lost it though, and when I passed it over to Mr, Rogers he gave it back to me and I put it on her finger and there it remained, for it was just right, something I never could understand.
"I now pronounce you."
I heard the pronouncement, and sheering congratulations, and I felt the girl pulling my hand and remember her saying, "Come" and within an earshot of the others, and said: "Jim I am not going with you!"
A feeling of the most exquisite joy seemed to take me up higher and higher the nearer the Justice got to the end of the ceremony. I was then as high up and floating round in the great realm of bliss as is possible for anyone to go without entering the heavenly gates of Paradise, and when that Angelic creature told me she was not going with me, it was such a stunning blow that it started me falling back to where I began to rise where I hit with a crushing bump, I had thought I was all over the rough places, but I wasn't.
"Why, are you not going with me?"
"Jim, it has all been so sudden, I have not had time to get ready. I will come to you just as soon as I can."
Then I remembered something that had kept me nervous ever since I had finished dressing for my wedding, and I went skyward again in a blast of relief.
She accompanied me to the train, the old Jackson route and waved farewell until her girlish figure blended with the beauty of the passing day. Then I went into the coach and took a seat, alone, and alone, not anything like the honeymoon trip I had expected, and of which I could now only dream.
The train at first made great speed, then it stopped, and started again very slowly, very much like my feelings, not over anxious to hurry away. We were at Mc;Comb, Mississippi, everything seemed to be slumbering, the train too. I dozed into a restful sleep from which I was aroused by the conductor saying: "We are going back to New Orleans, for we can not go any further on account of high water." This I thought was too good to be true. Nevertheless, I hoped that it was true and then.
Finding out that it would be sometime before we started back, I hurried out and down Main street to a store where gent's furnishing goods were sold, and made a purchase.
I then telegraphed Mr. Pond about what had happened, and a1so to Miss Amelia MacFarlane, that I was on my way back to New Orleans.
JAMES M. SHERMAN
On the back is the notation written in my Grandmother's hand - - -
Amelia Norma Sherman.
This electric light is on roof garden at entrance to room above garage.
James M. Sherman, designer , builder, blacksmith & carpenter, plumber, painting. It is solid concrete with his help of our colored boy he built this garage.
Special Note: Joy Schneider of Hampshire,IL has been a significant contributor to the Sherman Legacy in Pass Christian,
both by photographs and published booklets.