Print
Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

In 1862 our yearly meeting was held at Emporia, and in 1863 at Ottumwa. These meetings were little better than failures. Yearly district meetings were kept up in Northeastern Kansas, in which more vigor was manifested.

 

And now the writer began to feel the pressure of hard necessities. For five years I had kept myself in the field on a salary utterly inadequate to my needs, and had been gradually running into debt, and these debts had to be paid. In anticipation of the future wants of my children, I had invested my available means in land; but as this land was not improved, it yielded me no return. In the distress that came on the people in those days, one means of making money presented itself, and many availed themselves of it. Gold had been discovered at Pike's Peak, and thitherward had flocked a great multitude of people. There were no railroads, and all supplies had to be carried across the plains in freighting wagons. This business was carried on by the roughest class of a rough and frontier population; still, it was an honest business, and honest men might lawfully engage in it, provided they had the hardihood to face the dangers and exposures of such a life.

During the years 1862, 1863 and 1864, I went into this business with a small freighting outfit. This certainly was not just the thing for a preacher to do, but necessity knows no law. In the spring of 1862, Bro. James Butcher was going to Denver with a freighting train, and he with myself agreed to go in the same train for mutual convenience.

The President, Abraham Lincoln, had ordered a draft, and many young men in Missouri had found themselves in a sore strait. In the South were their kindred, and they felt that they could not and would not fight against their own flesh and blood; and to avoid this they determined to flee to the gold mines in the mountains, where every man did what was right in his own eyes--and so they came to Atchison or Leavenworth and engaged to drive these freighting teams to Denver. Many of them were sons of rich fathers, well educated, and had never engaged in manual labor, much less in such menial work as this, and when these proud and high-spirited fellows felt what an ignoble life they had been reduced to, the reader may well believe they did not feel good-natured over it. And now, when these young gentlemen came to understand that they were to be associated with a man that was reported to be the representative of the hated Yankees, who had made war on the people of the South, and set free their slaves, they bitterly attacked me in wordy warfare. Of course I defended myself. And so day after day, in the intervals while our cattle were grazing, we debated every question relative to slavery that has been debated within the last fifty years. Their hearts were bitter; they were passionately excited, and would often end the talk, which they themselves had begun, With noisy profanity. They seemed to think they had this advantage of me, that they could swear and I could not.

We were now traveling up the valley of the Platte River. It was the month of June. The weather had become rainy and there were frequent showers. One night we had corralled our train on an almost dead level bottom, and I was sure, from the appearance of the heavens, that we should have a storm. Bro. Butcher had been taken sick and had returned home, and, except myself, there were none to think or care what was coming; and yet it was plain to be seen that the air was thick and sultry, and the heavens overcast with clouds, and that everything betokened a tempest. Our canvas-covered wagons had been so crowded with merchandise that we could not get into them, and we had slept on blankets on the ground; but here on this dead level bottom, in case of a heavy rain, we would be drowned out by the flooding of the ground. I dragged under my wagon a number of ox-yokes, and with these and some strips of boards I made a platform, and on this I laid a narrow pallet, and crept under the wagon, where I would be sheltered from the rain by the wagon-bed above me. During the night there fell frequent showers, and the boys were soon drowned out from their pallets on the ground. They were tired and sleepy; they were homesick and in bad temper at their mean and unaccustomed surroundings, and were inclined to hold the Yankees responsible for it all, and they began to curse and swear in rough and bitter speech. Then there came on the most awful thunder storm I ever witnessed. Vivid flashes of lightning kept the whole heavens illuminated with a blaze of light, while a thousand electric lights would not so have turned night into day around our corral of train-wagons. Crashing peals of thunder were in the air, and the bolts seemed to descend to the earth around us. Then there came down a flood of rain that was as if a water spout had burst above our heads. I looked out from my narrow bed, and could see the boys gathered in groups, standing leaning against their wagons, soaked to the skin, and their faces white with ghastly paleness; but not a word was spoken. They had forgotten to swear. Then there was a lull in the storm, which subsided into a drizzling cold rain, and I went to sleep.

When morning came we were a sorry looking lot. The boys were soaked, and chilled, and _blue_, and dreadfully homesick. Words would not tell what these poor fellows would have given if they could have been where they could have been coddled and petted by their mothers and sisters. I saw that a warm cup of coffee and a substantial breakfast would do them good, and I hastened to have it provided. They came with alacrity at the call for breakfast, for they were hungry. When a good square meal had somewhat thawed them out, I said, "Boys, what made you quit swearing last night?" The one who was usually their spokesman, and who knew how to be a gentleman if he had a mind to be, said reverently, "We were afraid." From this time forward our debates over slavery and the Southern Confederacy were at an end, or if we had them it was in a friendly way. Given a fair chance, these boys were not so bad as they seemed.

In the summer of 1864 we had reached the "Cutoff," and were within eighty miles of Denver. It was late on Saturday afternoon when we got to the Bijou Ranch. We were tired and our teams were tired, and we debated for some time whether we should drive ten miles further, where we would find better feed for our oxen. We did so, though it took us till midnight; and there we rested on Sunday. This was providential; for it was on this Sunday that the Cheyenne Indians made their memorable raid and plundered the trains, burned the ranches and stole the horses for three hundred miles along the Platte River. They attacked the Bijou Station that we had left on Saturday, but they did not venture any nearer Denver; consequently we were safe. On our return we saw how the people had been murdered, the trains plundered and the ranches burned along our route; and it presented a terrible spectacle. A man named Butler was killed and scalped on the Little Blue River, and the people in Kansas got the word that it was myself. Immediately on my return home I rode up to the church at Wolf Creek, in Doniphan county, where we had a district meeting appointed. It was to them as if I had come from the dead. I went home for dinner with my old friend, Bro. John Beeler. I noticed his little boy peering attentively at me; he climbed upon a bedstead close behind me, then, jumping down, he ran to his mother, and, pulling Sister Beeler by the apron, said, "Ma! Ma! The Indians did scalp Bro. Butler; I can see it on the top of his head." The reader must know that, like "Old Uncle Ned," I have no hair on the top of my head.

But, in spite of disasters and hardships, and dark and stormy days, our churches continued to grow and prosper, and we kept up a vigorous and aggressive church organization. On Sept. 27, 1864, the churches of the State came together at their fifth annual State meeting at Tecumseh, Shawnee county. Here the brethren organized a missionary society, fashioned after the plan of our General Missionary Society, and in which life directorships, life memberships and annual memberships were obtained by the payment of a sum of money.

The writer of these Recollections will explain that the formation of this Society was not his work. He doubted whether the brethren were prepared for it. Nevertheless, he was willing to be governed by the majority. By resolution of the State meeting, the writer was requested to prepare for publication with the minutes of the meeting an address, of which the following is a copy:

ADDRESS TO THE CHRISTIAN BRETHREN OF THE STATE OF KANSAS.

_Beloved Brethren_: We present to you in these pages the details of the organization of the Christian Missionary Society of the State of Kansas. We hope for your approval and ask for your contributions.

The warrior may fight for his country on the battle field; the statesman may seek to develop its resources and improve its laws; the husbandman may make its fields heavy with their weight of golden grain; and those who love domestic life may seek to create in that place they call home a second paradise; but broader, deeper, more comprehensive and sweeter far, is the work of Christianity. It underlies all good, and is the only sure basis of progress.

For two thousand years China and Japan have been without the Bible, and what they were then, that they are now. For two thousand years the millions of India have been left without God and without hope in the world, and they have only progressed into infinite degradations. The aboriginal inhabitants of America, left without the Bible, have only gone down deeper and deeper into a night as black as that which brooded over old chaos.

No Herschel counts the stars, numbers the planets, measures the length of their years and computes the number of their days, unless his observatory is illuminated by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. No Luther thunders against priestcraft, shakes the thrones of tyrants, and wakes the nations to a new life and a new progress, save that Luther that finds a Bible in his cell. No Franklin calls down electricity from the clouds to carry messages across a continent swift as the lightning flashes through the sky, save that Franklin whose fathers brought the Bible with them from their native land, and prized it more than all the gold of Ophir. No mother country has had such reason to be proud of any colony that was ever planted on the face of this green earth, as Great Britain has had reason to be proud of her colonies in North America, and no colonies ever so loved the Bible. Judson, Howard, Wilberforce, and Florence Nightingale drew the inspiration of their benevolence from a dying Saviour's cross, and learned of him who, "though he was rich, yet for our sakes become poor, that we through his poverty might be rich."

Christianity, as it was given by Jesus to the apostles, and by the apostles to mankind, was as perfect as the God who gave it. Our whole duty then is this, that we should restore primitive and apostolic Christianity again to the world. Many reformers have sought to do this; but they have only reformed in part. Though they fled from Babylon they stopped short of Jerusalem.

We can not pause in this work which we have begun. We can not allow ourselves to grow cold and our churches to die. We must go forward in that path in which the rays of our glorious sun--the Sun of Righteousness--grow brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.

God does not make Christians as he created Adam out of the dust of the earth. He works by _means_: "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" God works through the voice of the Bible scattered over the world. If any doubt this, let them reflect that among all the millions of men that inhabit the whole earth not one becomes a Christian save him who either hears or reads of a crucified Saviour.

Money is the sinews of this war. True, there is peril in money. It is not safe to be rich; and it is admitted that by wealth preachers may be corrupted. But this is not the present danger. The present peril is, that haggard want, stalking in at the preacher's door, will paralyze his tongue, make his knees feeble and his hands heavy, and turn away his heart from his proper work to the question, What shall I eat? and what shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed? The preacher is told to put his trust in the Lord. But when, after long waiting, no ravens come to feed him, he sometimes loses his heart, and says, "I go a fishing." Surely the brethren will not have a controversy with the Lord. They will not deny that he has appointed that "they that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel."

It is by no weak, sickly, faint-hearted, lukewarm, languid, and spasmodic efforts that the cause is to be kept alive. God will have all or nothing. This is an age in which, if never before, both good men and bad men are truly in earnest. The devil is fearfully and terribly in earnest "Therefore rejoice you heavens, and you that dwell in them Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time."

_We must give till we feel it. The widow's mite was most precious in the eyes of Jesus, because it was her all_.

The objects we aim at are unquestionably scriptural. "Go disciple all nations." This was the Saviour's last command. To sustain our missionaries by the free-will offering of our brethren--this is also scriptural.

powered by social2s