The autobiography of Margaret Dickson Van Allen Cahoon was transcribed from the original documents for the book Retracing Footsteps: Lakeside Cemetery, Bay Village, Cuyahoga County, Ohio by Catherine Burke Flament without modifications. Two handwritten copies are in the collection of the Bay Village Historical Society, 2000.FIC.02.018
The Autobiography of
Margaret Dickson Van Allan Cahoon
My father, John Calhoun DICKSON, was a native of Gulbuoy, Ireland. He came to the United States under the care of an uncle and resided in Philadelphia until he was eighteen, when he went to St. Mary’s County, Md., where he remained a short time, then removed to Washington, D.C. Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob and Margaret Hardman REASER, was born in Frederick Town, Md., Nov. 13, 1770, and was married to my father in that city May 1, 1800. They went to Washington City where they spent the remainder of their lives. I was their only child and was born February 8, 1810. My father died Oct. 2, being 59 years and three days old, and my mother’s life ended March 29, 1828. They are buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, a space for a grave between theirs being reserved, by my father’s request for their only child. When only three days old I was baptized by Rev. Mr. McCormick, pastor of Christ Protestant Episcopal, at the Navy Yard. I was sent to school very early, before I was four years old. My first teacher was an elderly lady who taught in a building which had been used for a stonecutters shop, when the first Capitol was being built. I remember her as a very kind lady, whom I called Grandma Elferd. I was taken to school by riding on horseback before my father or the man servant. I do not know that I acquired much knowledge in this school but remember distinctly the little pallet made for me when sleep overtook me.
Mrs. Haley was my second teacher. This was after the war of 1812, as the first school building was destroyed by the British. The way to this school was through the Capitol Grounds, being a small enclosure, you would think so to compare the present with the past. She rewarded us with nuts and candy. My next teacher was Mrs. Noy, a very lovely lady, sister of the Washington Postmaster. In Mr. Tippet’s, the next school I attended where the monitor system was observed, one day his assistant whipped every scholar, why we never knew.
While a pupil in Miss White’s school the Pawnee tribe of Indians came to Washington on business with “The Great Father.” The pupils of Miss White’s Seminary, having heard of the magnanimous deed of one of the chiefs of that tribe in rescuing a white woman from the funeral fire, resolved to show in a measure their appreciation of his valor on that occasion, had a large gold medal made to present to him. On one side of the medal was a representation of the event – the fire, the woman bound to the stake, the chief with two horses ready to rescue her. On the reverse side was inscribed, “Presented by the young ladies of Miss White’s Seminary, Washington City, D.C.”
I would like to narrate the proceedings as I remember them. Each pupil contributed two dollars, which was placed in Miss White’s hands to order the medal and make the purchases. We were to have a gay dress for the squaw and beads for the papoose. On the appointed day the teacher and pupils assembled in the schoolroom which was in the old Washington Bank. The scholars were in the cloakroom. The Indians came and seated themselves on the floor. Then Miss White led her pupils in the schoolroom. On our entrance the Indians smoked the pipe of peace and it was handed to each of us. Miss Mary Rapine, the oldest scholar, presented the medal and made an admirable speech. The Chief’s reply was quite eloquent, being translated by their interpreter, and the gifts to the squaw and papoose, appeared to delight him as much as the medal. He became very demonstrative when the beads were placed on the baby’s neck. Mary Rapine wore a crimson crape dress, and broad white satin scarf, which seemed to please the Indians very much. All were happy – we in giving and they in receiving.
We had two May parties while I was attending the school. The pupils voted for the queen, and she selected her maids of honor, crown bearer, and floras. We had a throne decorated with flowers and evergreen. The floras, carrying little baskets filled with flowers, preceded the queen who was guarded by four maids of honor, followed by the pupils and last by the crown bearer and her assistant. The line of pupils divided and the crown bearer and her assistant passed up to the stage and placed the crown on the head of the queen. The assistant put a garland of flowers around her shoulders. They then conducted her to and seated her on the throne. The crown bearer made a short speech to which the queen replied. After this reply the six little floras each repeated a verse and handed her their baskets to select a flower from. The rest were cast at her feet. The Queen was congratulated by the teacher and pupils. The rest of the day was spent in play. These May parties were held in the woods about two miles out of the city, and we enjoyed them very much.
Miss White was a native of Salem, Mass., and I think was the only Congregationalist in the city at that time. She rewarded us for good conduct and being at the head of our classes by allowing us gold medals. We were permitted to wear the medals a week and were very much pleased to have them over Sunday. I often received the medal for being at the head of the class, sometimes had three at once, but on account of whispering never received one for good conduct.
I next attended Thomas Wheat and Son’s Hamiltonian school at the Navy Yard. Mr. Wheat was an intimate friend of my father’s and a prominent member of the Ebenezer Church. After sometime I was placed under the instruction of Mr. Malz Brashears, where I was taught to understand Grammar more fully than ever before. He was the author of “Brashears’ Grammatical Tables.” Mr. Brashears also paid particular attention to Orthography and Reading. It was while in this school I received a copy of Thomson’s “Seasons” as a prize awarded by the votes of the audience for reading Cowper’s poem, “Cruelty to Brutes Censured.”
I was sent to Don and Madame Tastus who were Spaniard’s. Here I received my first lessons in painting. I was only a short time under their tuition. The Madame ate our dinners. Mrs. Stone, an English lady who was considered a superior teacher for young ladies, was the principal of the last school I attended. I liked all of my teachers, but think Miss White and Mr. Brashears were remarkably fine. The instruction received from them has remained in memory through all my life, and for which I am very grateful.
I have written a long chapter on education as I consider it of great importance.
Among the earliest recollections of the war of 1812, I remember distinctly my father coming into the house on the morning of August 24, 1814, and telling my mother that the British were coming up the Eastern Branch of the Potomac and would be in the city in a short time, requesting her to use all possible haste to be ready, as he had engaged a hack to take Mother, sister and me to Frederick City about forty miles distant where Mother’s sister lived. I also recollect our journey, stopping at a spring to eat our lunch, and that it was a very warm day. The news was carried from Washington daily to Frederick by a man on horseback called the Express, who called out as he rode through the streets: “The British in the City”; “The Capitol in Flames”; “General Ross Horse Shot From Under Him”; “The British have taken possession of the President’s House.” I used to sit on my aunt’s portico every evening to hear the news, not that I really understood the meaning of it all, yet I knew there was something dreadful about the war, and was anxious to hear from my father who remained in Washington and whom I loved dearly.
While we were in Frederick father was a prisoner for one day and compelled to walk to the President’s House, about two miles, a greater distance than he had walked for many years. When the soldiers entered the house to search for firearms and take father prisoner, he was reading for morning devotion in the family Bible, which I have given to Marshall. A few days before the British came our money, silver and other valuables were put in boxes and buried in the garden. We spent about a week in Frederick and returned to Washington where we found things much changed. Father took me to the Capitol and there we saw the walls of the House of Representatives and Senate Chambers all blackened with smoke, the eagle over the Speaker’s chair blackened and broken, and the names of Cockburn and Armstrong written on the walls and columns. Armstrong was the Secretary of War in 1812. It was said by some he was bribed. The Capitol buildings were so mutilated the citizens of Washington feared Congress would be removed to some other city.
A number of citizens formed an association to erect a building, which was called “The Brick Capitol,” to be ready for occupancy at the opening of the next session of Congress and it was accomplished. This building was only a few rods from our home and father owned stock in it. It was used afterward by Commissioners of Ghent, also as a prison in the war of the Rebellion. It was with some of the interest of this stock that we bought the scholarships in the Ohio Wesleyan University. We sold the stock to a Mr. Adams of Washington and used the avails in purchasing the six acres from Mr. Smith. After peace was declared, the city was illuminated with candles, put in tin sockets and potatoes cut flat to hold the lights, they were placed at the little panes of glass, some to form designs and mottoes. I remember my father’s taking one to a thickly populated part of the City to see the “Beautiful Sight.” Quite different from the Electric lights now used. Remember when you read this it took place seventy-five years ago, and I am glad that I can and do rejoice with you in the wonderful improvements.
President Madison resided for a short time until his former residence was repaired at the Octagon House, in the corner house of a row called the Six Buildings. I have seen Mrs. Dolly Madison many times talking to her pet parrot. She was a very commanding looking lady and wore elegant looking turbans. It was a source of great pleasure to me when a child to look upon her lovely face. I was present at the inauguration of President Monroe which took place at the Brick Capitol March 4, 1817, a temporary platform having been erected for that occasion. I became acquainted with Virginia Gouverneur, a granddaughter of the President’s while on a visit to Major Adlum’s who was a relative of my mother’s and who is said to be the father of grape culture in the United States.
When a child, my father took me to every session to visit the judges of the Supreme Court. They appeared to be interested in my education, asking me how I progressed in my studies, having me read, and pronouncing words for me to spell. At one time Justice Livingston gave me colander to spell, saying, “If you spell it correctly, Margaret, you shall have the nicest hat in the city and you may have two trials, for the Chief Justice could not spell it.” He thought I would spell it right but I lost the hat. The impression made on my young mind caused me ever to remember those great men with much veneration.
Those I remember distinctly are Chief Justice Marshall of Virginia, who was a very plain, mild gentleman, remarkably polite; Justice Story of Connecticut, bright and cheerful in his appearance; Justice Brockholst Livingston of New York, who was a very dignified person; Justice Bushrod Washington, a nephew of General Washington; Justice Johnson of New York; and Justice Duval of Maryland. The judges all boarded at the same house. On my way to Miss White’s school I passed through the Capitol grounds, and often stopped on my return when Congress was in session to hear the debates. It was then I heard Henry Clay, John Randolph, John C. Calhoun, Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, and many other notable men. Mr. Randolph boarded opposite the Capitol and could be seen almost any morning – especially if he was to speak on an important subject-riding on a gallop followed by his servant John and a number of hounds. Whenever it was known that Mr. Randolph was to speak the galleries of the House of Representatives were crowded. This he did not always appreciate as an instance will prove. On one occasion, on looking up and seeing the galleries mostly filled by ladies he said, “I think those ladies would be much better employed at home darning their husband’s stockings.”
Messrs. Everett and Webster were very intimate friends. They boarded near each other and the same carriage served both families. Mr. O’Brien who was the member from Maine when in 1820 it was admitted as a State into the Union. He frequently came and requested the privilege to hoe in our garden for exercise. Hon. Elias Keyes visited Father often and wrote him a letter saying he wished to rent rooms, “One for a family room, another for a bed chamber” also that “he would furnish his own provender,” and directed the letter to “John C. Dickson the grate gardener, Washington City.” I believe he was Governor of Vermont at one time. Hon. James Buchanan, then Senator from Pennsylvania, visited us twice every session always bringing us a letter from Mother’s aunt who lived in Lancaster and taking our answer when he returned. He was a fine looking gentleman, very polished and prepossessing in his manners. When Commodore Decatur was killed in the duel at Bladensburg, I saw the party on their way to the fatal field.
Commodore Decatur was a brave naval officer and was accused of cowardice by Commodore Barron, who was the challenger. He was buried at Kalorama in a vault belonging to Col. Taylor (name crossed out). “He was followed to his grave by the President of the United States, and the most illustrious men of our times. The same cannon which so often announced the splendid achievements of Decatur, now marked the periods of bearing him to the tomb. Their reverberating thunder mournfully echoed through the metropolis, and also vibrated through a heart tortured to agony.” He tried to avert the duel, saying to Commodore Barron, “I have not challenged you, nor do I intend to challenge you; your life depends upon yourself.” I have written a long account of this brave officer for the reason that my father held him in great esteem, and I remember how often and sorrowful I used to look at a fine oil portrait we had of him. I attended the funeral and recollect how sad the people appeared.
When General LaFayette visited Washington in 1824 a procession of girls from Mr. McLeod’s school, dressed to represent the States of the Union, met him at the East gate of the Capitol grounds and repeated the lines which was sung to General Washington as he crossed the bridge at Princeton.
Welcome, mighty chief once more!
Welcome to this grateful shore!
Now no mercenary foe
Aims again the fatal blow,
Aims at thee the fatal blows.
Virgins fair and matrons grave,
Those thy conquering arm did save,
Build for thee triumphal bowers.
Strew ye fair, his way with flowers.
Strew your hero’s way with flowers.
During the singing of the last two lines, the ground in front of LaFayette was strewn with flowers by the young ladies. The scene was truly beautiful, LaFayette showing considerable emotion! They then joined the procession at the East portico of the Capitol. Here he received the citizens and I am pleased to say I had the honor of shaking hands with such an illustrious and venerable general.
In my childhood there was no Sabbath Schools except for colored people. I attended classes in Catechism every Saturday afternoon at Ebenezer M. E. Church taught by the minister in charge. My father united with the church about 1812 under the ministry of Rev. Andrew Hemphill, “He was a Good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” Mother united with the church soon after, Rev. Mr. Montgomery being the pastor. My father’s house was always a home for the Methodist preachers and I will mention the names of a few who visited us frequently: Rev Hemphill, Watt, Montgomery, Monroe, Waugh, Peyton, Slicer, Wilson, and Keppler. Father was one of the charter members of the Ebenezer Station, which was the only M. E. Church in Washington at the time. I always enjoyed the visits of our ministers, and judging from the notice I received from them I must have been quite a favorite. Grandpa Watts gave me the first religious book I ever owned, having for its title, “The Life of Jesus A Token for Little Children,” which I prized very much. Father was a subscriber for the Methodist Magazine when it was first published and continued taking it until it was superceded by The Christian Advocate and Journal.
I was taught to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, which had a good effect on me in after life. I have heard many of the celebrities of our church preach, namely, Bishops Soule, Vaughn Emory, Baker, Simpson, Thomson, Foster, Merrill, Peck, Andrews, Fowler, Joyce, and Foss. Also Revs. Summerfield, Lorenso Dour, Moffit, Bascom, Peyton Hammet, Stephen Rozzel, Adam Poe, Louis R. Fechtig, French J. Evans, and John P. Durbin. I heard Dr. Durbin preach the most eloquent sermon to which I ever listened in the House of Representatives from Philippians 2 and from the fifth to the eleventh verses inclusive. He concluded his sermon by quoting the last stanza from Thomson’s “Hymn to the Seasons,” beginning with “Should fate command me the farthest verge.” I never heard anything so fine. It still rings in my ears, and the angelic countenance of the speaker til….to my vision. I also was permitted to hear Miss Harriet Livermore, sister to Senator Livermore, many times. The sermon that I will speak of in particular was in the House of Representatives during President John Quincy Adams administration from Samuel, 23 Chapter, 3, 4 verses.
I united with the Ebenezer M. E. Church in Washington City when I was eleven years old, Rev. Yelverton Peyton being pastor. I suppose my name is on the records yet. In consequence of my many removals and the care of my children for some time, I rarely attended church but I followed my early teachings reading the Bible, and having my children commit portions of it to memory, and reading religious books, and never lost my love for the church of my youth. I was and am a firm believer in her doctrines and polity. I again united with the M. E. Church in Dover in 1851, Mr. Plummer receiving me into the church. Since that time I have endeavored to be a humble follower of my Lord and Master. During my residence in Dover I have heard Bishop Simpson preach some very impressive sermons. The last time I heard the saintly Simpson was at the dedication of the Brooklyn M. E. Church.
I was married to John Douglas VAN ALLEN August 16, 1827, the Rev. William Ryland officiating. I remained with my mother until March 1828, when I went with Mr. Van Allen to New York city, his native place. We boarded with his oldest sister, Susan Van Guieson , who was very kind and loving to me. Mr. Van Allen had three other sisters; Margaret FRANK, Maria CARROL, Caroline HAGERMAN and a brother Peter, all living in New York. April 3, I received a letter from Miss Ellen Hickey who was one of our most intimate friends bringing the sad intelligence that my dear mother was very ill. We started as soon as possible for Washington and on our arrival found that mother’s death occurred one week previous. She had passed away about two hours after Miss Hickey’s letter was written, being sick but one day. The friends who were with her and so kindly cared for her assured me that everything that human skill could do was done, but of no avail. Dr. Frederick May, our family physician spent the entire day with her. Mr. Havenner, her dearest friend, was kneeling by her bedside praying with her, holding her hand in his when death loosed the clasp. The Rev. Norval Wilson officiated at the funeral, and she was laid away in the Congressional Cemetery. This was the second sorrow in my life.
I returned to New York and remained there until May, when we went to Philadelphia. Mr. Van Allen, going to work for Mr. Shuthers, I remained in Philadelphia until November, when I went to Harrisburg, and on our journey homeward we visited mother’s aunts and cousins in Lancaster – were very cordially received and kindly treated. We arrived in Philadelphia Dec. 3 and Mr. Van Allen was never out of the house after. He did not seem to suffer much pain, but gradually grew weaker, and on the fourth of March 1829 he was taken from me, leaving me an orphan and a widow. Another deep sorrow added to the death of my dear mother, but God who had watched over me in years past, provided a friend in Mr. Havenner, who had been my guardian, and for whom I have always had the tenderest love. He wrote to me immediately, to come to Washington, saying that as long as he had a home I should share it with his children. I always found it just as he said, I feel grateful to him not only for the house, but the kind counsel and fatherly love bestowed upon me.
While a widow, I spent my time at my Aunt Proctor’s (sp.?) in Fredricksburg, Va. Aunt Micheal in Frederick, Md., and at Mr. Havenner’s the latter place being my home. While I was in Fredricksburg the remains of “Mary the mother of Washington” were removed from the former burial place, the old farm of the Washington family to the site where in May the corner stone was laid by President Jackson. At the present time, Jan 18, 1890, there is a lawsuit between The Ladies Association and a real estate firm who pretend to claim the site which was bought from a gentleman with whom I was well acquainted.
I visited my Aunt in Frederick early in November 1830 and it was when there that I was introduced to your Pa. He paid particular attention to me and said he was pleased with me the first time he saw me. An attachment was formed which resulted in our marriage. The ceremony was performed at the residence of my Aunt Micheals, Rev. McSchaeffer officiating, Cousin Ellen was bridesmaid and Mr. George Rice, groomsmen. I was dressed in a light gray Gros dicNaples silk, made surplice waist, a thread lace inside handkerchiefs, the shirt full with three large sized tucks, White silk stockings and white satin slippers. My hair was dressed high wearing a high comb, two puffs each side, and long curls at the back. A head dress made of white satin braids so as to form a coronet, I carried a very fine linen cambric handkerchief made of a square of the material and beautifully marked with indelible ink. It was large enough to make a half dozen pocket handkerchiefs today.
Mr. Cahoon wore a suit of crape dressed black cloth, white vest, white cravat, white silk socks and morocco pumps. Your uncle Daniel, Aunt and family, Mr. and Mrs. Havenner their sons, John Fletcher, and Charles Wesley, Captains Parrish and Weems, Mr. and Mrs. Simmons and Mrs. Evett were the wedding guests. In the fifty-nine years that have passed since that memorable day to me, great changes have taken place. Of all the guests assembled on that day, cousin Ellen Benney is the only one that has not crossed the “River of Death.” She, aunt’s colored servant, Susan and myself are the persons that are living who were present at the time of our marriage.
Your Pa and Uncle had a heavy rock contract on the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road known as the Cahoon deep cut. They had planned they would have some very heavy blasts on the next day, your Pa and I accompanied by the most of the wedding guests drove to the section about a mile distant and your uncle had the fuses in readiness so that when we arrived about fifty blasts went off making a tremendous noise, and throwing out the largest blocks of limestone I ever saw. After remaining at the section about two hours, we returned to Aunt’s and partook of a delicious dinner. Rather a novel way to entertain a bride, you think but it pleased me, because it delighted your Pa and Uncle.
Here let me acknowledge my love, gratitude and respect for my dear aunt, who after my mother’s death filled her place more than any other person. She was tender and careful of me all the time I was near her and very indulgent of Thomas and Joseph when children. As long as life lasts I hope to remember her gratefully. We remained at aunt’s a few days and then went to New Market, Frederick County, Md., where your Pa had section seven on the B. & O.R.R. to build. We boarded at Mr. Owing’s Hotel which was a very pleasant home and where we formed many pleasant acquaintances. When this contract was completed we returned to Frederick and boarded with aunt. On the 28th of November, the first passenger cars drawn by horses, came to Frederick, having on board Mr. Thomas the president of the board of directors, the engineers and superintendents of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In honor of the occasion the citizens of Frederick gave a banquet to which your Pa and Uncle were invited. It was a gala day for Frederick, as much so then as the viaduct was to Cleveland, the cars had never run any further than Ellicotts Mills, twelve miles from Baltimore. The next day we went to Hancock, Md. and boarded with Mrs. Oliver who was very kind and motherly to me. Your Pa had a contract with the B.& O. R.R. to supply them with ties. He had to be away from home as his business was chiefly with the lumbermen in the mountains. It was while we were at this place Mrs. Charlton sent a horse with mother’s side saddle for me to visit her. Your Pa, Mrs. Oliver and I accepted the invitation and had a very pleasant visit at her home in Pa. A page of the manuscript appears to be missing
…to Mr. Cromwell’s to board, Your Pa had several miles of McAdamsed road to build. Here I saw the great shower of meteors on October 13. It appeared as though it were raining stars. We returned to Frederick and on the ninth of January, our son John Joseph, who has the name of his two grandfathers, was born. We went to Williamsport, Md., where your Pa had another contract with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Co. We remained here about one year, boarding at Brown’s Hotel. Your Pa, Thomas, Joseph and I left Frederick May 1, 1835, for a visit to Dover, Ohio, by stage; arrived in Cleveland the fifth. We put up at the Franklin House, kept by Mr. Scoville. In the morning your Pa asked Mr. Scoville where he could get a hack to take him to Leverett JOHNSON’S in Dover. He pointed him to the stable back of a crockery store on the opposite side of the street, saying it was the only hack in Cleveland. We reached Dover about noon, your Aunt Abby was the first one to meet us, she seemed pleased to see me. I thought she appeared shy and embarrassed. Soon your uncle Leverett came in and I felt more at ease. They sent your Cousin Asahel to the lake to inform your Grandpa (Joseph Cahoon) of our arrival. The next morning very early we heard someone talking in the sitting room. Pa recognized his voice and immediately went out to see him. I followed very soon and received a warm and loving reception as did the two boys. I already loved him not only as the father of my husband, but for the many loving letters I had received from him since my marriage, one in particular, the first one we received after our marriage. I will give you a sentence or two, and you will be able to form your own opinions. He commenced the letter in saying,
What shall I say, I have been saying child, I now say Dear Children, Every new connection lays me under renewed obligations to strive for their happiness, this my feelings would prompt me to do by wishing you all the happiness that an accommodating world, and a well regulated life can afford you, the reason for this desideratum I must leave for you to pursue, and bring to your view a happiness far superior to any worldly happiness.”
Two years later your uncle visited Ohio, making the journey on horseback, to visit his venerable and aged father. He spent about three weeks with the different members of the family and his visit delighted Father that he was quite overcome. As he expressed himself “he thought he would pass off the stage of life.” This proved to be true, for the day that Daniel, your uncle, intended starting on his return your grandpa was taken sick and became so ill that Daniel remained, and the next day the family was shocked by his sudden death. The most of his children were with him at the time he passed away. It was always a great consolation to your uncle that he could be with your Grandpa in his last moments.
Before this I ought to have mentioned Mother Cahoon’s (Martha Cahoon) death, but will speak of it now in connection with that of your Grandpa, Your Grandma was taken suddenly ill while alone, Father having been detained at your uncle Leverett’s on account of a violent thunderstorm. The granddaughter, Silesia, was at Newburg to visit her mother. When Father returned very early in the morning he found her very ill, scarcely able to speak, and after inquiring from her relative to her sickness went to Brother Amos for assistance. Nothing could relieve her and in a few hours, she who was so loved and lovely was removed from them by death. The old neighbors have frequently told me how much they missed her, also spoke of her many deeds of kindness, and amiable qualities. Your Uncle Daniel selected the following to be inscribed to their memories.
“The terrors of Death had not power to alarm him,
He felt not its sting, he feared not the tomb;
For the smiles of his Savior in mercy had met him,
Oh, Death thou art anguished! Oh, Grave where’s thy gloom?
Then calm be the spot where her form now reposeth,
May the friends who so loved her visit the grave,
And find, though the cold sod her ashes encloseth,
She lives in the presence of Him who can save.”
The next Monday, your Aunt Mary (GRIFFITH), uncle William and Mr. Griffith came to see us, and we accompanied them to Elyria, making your uncle’s (Wm.) house our home. Your Grandpa invited all his children home to dine with him. He requested me to have a Maryland dinner, I made potato pies. When we were seated at the table he said, “Daughter you forgot the tea” and when I told him we never had tea for dinner in Maryland, he replied, “We will not have tea, we want a Maryland dinner.” He enjoyed the gathering very much.
After spending four weeks very pleasantly with our relatives we left Ohio and turned our faces homeward. We bought a pair of horses, that we named Montezuma and Pizarro, also a Jersey wagon with two seats. We had the seats so arranged that the children could sleep there when we were driving, also had a stationary umbrella to protect them from the sun. We made our journey from Ohio to Maryland in ten days, having had a delightful journey. I kept an account of our expenses and found the cost of our return trip was twenty-seven dollars, a journey of four persons, two horses and a toll! We arrived in Frederick June 13 and went to board with an old friend Mrs. Evitt who had a beautiful residence called “Bears Folly” just in the suburbs of the city. On the 16 of August to our delight our daughter Lydia Elizabeth was born. September 17 we went to Clear Spring, thirty-six miles from Frederick and boarded at Boyd’s Hotel, until April when we commenced keeping house for the first time. Your Pa and uncle had two very large contracts on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Your uncle had the management of the Round Top work, which was twenty miles west, and your Pa had the work that was two miles distant. It was at Clear Spring Thomas was sent to school to Mrs. Miller. Joseph also attended a short time. The birth of D. Kenyon Jan 25 in Clear Spring Md. added another son to our family, August 21, 1838. I’ve started to seek a home in the South. We chartered a stage, Pa., uncle Thomas, Joseph, Lydia, Kenyon and I were the passengers. We had a very pleasant journey to Wheeling, where we had expected to take a steamboat to Cincinnati, but on our arrival, we found the Ohio river so low we were detained several days, and accepted the hospitality of Wm. Newman and wife, old Maryland friends, who heard of our coming, and came to the hotel and insisted on removing our baggage, and having us remain with them until we decided upon our mode of traveling to Cincinnati. We were so cordially entertained that I quote a line from Burns which I wish to impress on your minds.
“When thou meetest thy mother’s friend
Remember him for me!”
We hired a private conveyance to Cincinnati. From there we took passage on the little Steamer Return and even to the Louisville House for a few days, obtained board in a private boarding with Mrs. Ingham, Main street, remained there until late in November. We then went to Hamburg, Indiana, eight miles from Louisville. This place was inhabited principally by men who followed running flat boats for an occupation and were the most ignorant and degraded people I ever met, although I had not any personal acquaintance with them. Mr. Smith, the gentleman with whom we boarded, kept the stage house and was a large landholder. His wife was very kind to me and remarkably so to the children, proving to me that often beneath a rough exterior, we find a kind heart. Thomas and Joseph attended school here, kept by Miss Dour (sp.?), a great niece of the eccentric Lorenzo Dour. She was an excellent teacher, and she was the first teacher I ever knew to teach orthography by sound. We remained here nearly two years, your Pa having a contract on the Crawfordsville and Salem Road with the State of Indiana. The State suspended payment and of course the work had to stop. Our next home was at New Albany where we boarded with Mrs. Elderkin.
On October 12 we had a nice little black-eyed boy whom we called Charles Oscar. In November we returned to Louisville and remained until May, when we went to Cleves, O. Here we boarded a few weeks until the log cabin was ready for occupancy. The cabin was built on Mr. Richard Hughes’ farm. Log cabins were very much in vogue at that time, the campaign of 1840. It was built of green Buckeye logs, had a sitting and dining room combined, two bedrooms, and kitchen. We had a latch string hanging out, also a barrel of cider near the door. Several companies of delegates from Indiana passed by the door on their way to pay their respects to General Harrison at North Bend. They would “about face and salute with three hearty cheers for Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” which always was returned heartily and an invitation to drink a glass of cider. On July 7, 1841, your Pa, Thomas, and Joseph attended the burial of President Harrison on high hill at North Bend from which you can look upon the three States of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
It was while living here that “Death came unbidden on to the household band “and took from us our dearly beloved brother Daniel who died in Cincinnati with congestive chills October 7, 1841. He and your Pa had been in business twenty-one years and your Pa said they never had an angry word. We laid him away in the Gano Cemetery.
December 12 we had another daughter who we named Laura Ellen and we all thought she was a very sweet little sister. While living here we formed warm and lasting friendships. I forgot to say Pa and Uncle were engaged in building locks and aqueducts on the Cincinnati and White Water canal.
After the death of your uncle your Pa decided he would quit public works and go to his old farm in Dover, to which I acquiesced and the children were delighted with the plan. We left the Log Cabin August 19, spending two days in Cincinnati. Here we bought the carriage in which all the family traveled to Dover. It was the only carriage in the town for several years. On our journey we visited Brother Franklin and family at Norwalk. We arrived at Elyria the 27th, were the guests of Sister Mary Griffith, who was then at the Mansion House. After visiting the relatives, we went to Rockport, rented a house until we could get possession of our home at Rose Hill. The place had been badly neglected, having been rented for a long time. Your Pa went up every day and made such repairs as he could that it might be comfortable. Mr. OVIATT who was occupying a part of the house was not willing to move until June. The 29 November we moved to the home at Dover; which has been my home for forty-seven years. A home I love. There is so much associated with and about it which makes it very dear indeed, almost sacred to me. It has been the birthplace of five of my children. Here, too, I have days of pleasure, also of sorrow. Here I have been called to drink deep of the cup of sorrow in the removal of my dear husband and three dearly loved children.
“Things are around us that have ceased to be,
And starry hopes, extinguished long ago,
Still link us to the past.”
As this home has been in possession of the family for three generations, I hope it will continue for many years; and if it should be there is no longer one of the name to inherit it, I hope it may have founded upon it a benevolent institution bearing the name of Cahoon.
In the fall of 1842 your Pa commenced repairing the grist and sawmills. He sawed considerable ship plank, which he sold for fifteen dollars a thousand, thought to be a great price then. We succeeded pretty well in business matters owing to your Pa’s good management and industry. February 22 another baby was added to our household, in the person of a daughter whom we named Martha Washington. When I came here many of the relatives thought I would not remain long as it was so lonely, but I thought it was for our interest and as I had through my married life, tried to suit myself to our circumstances – I was contented with my situation. Your cousin Ruth visited me frequently and cheered me very much by her happy face and agreeable conversation. It is a pleasure to me now to think of her cheerful company. November 14 our son Leverett Judson came to us, and was named after his Uncle Leverett Johnson, who came to Dover the same day as your Pa did, and was nearly the same age, also married your Pa’s youngest sister. A warm friendship was formed that lasted until death loosed the cord that bound them. The name of Judson was for the noted Baptist Missionary sent to India 1812.
About this time the Outward Bound was built on our beach. I then formed the acquaintance of Mrs. Lyman Crowl and Mrs. Susan Snow, both of whom were cherished friends. They were the first acquaintances in Cleveland. Nothing of much interest occurred for some time except the birth of my three youngest children, John Marshall August 20, 1847. Mary Emma August 20, 1849. Ida Maria March 17, 1852. They were all lovingly welcomed, making the number eleven.
“Each time I thought how near, how dear,
The little children God has sent us;
How full they made our house of cheer,
And how their presence did content us.
Hard if but one were laid away,
This year or next as might or may be.
Our hearts would ache, would burn or break,
And now – another baby.
“Ah, so I thought, and so I said,
In ecstasy of peace and pleasure,
As bending down I kissed the head
Of any last weest, sweetest treasure;
O dear child of my life and love,
Whatever you are, whatever you may be,
I take you from the Christ above,
And thank Him for – another baby.”
In September we were called to mourn the death of Sister Mary Griffith, a favorite sister. Dr. Pierce preached her funeral sermon, taking for his text, at her request, “Prepare to meet thy God!”
We had for many years desired much to visit Washington, but our limited means, and family cares prevented, until March 1853. Your Pa, Marshall and Ida and I made the long anticipated visit, arriving at Washington March 3. The morning of the 4th your Pa went to the Capitol to witness the inauguration of Franklin Pierce, the fourteenth President of the United States. I saw the procession from Pennsylvania Avenue. This was the first journey on a railroad. We were very cordially received by our friends and had a delightful visit to my old home, also visiting many places of note that I had been familiar with in my girlhood days which was very pleasing to me. After spending two weeks in Washington, we bade adieu to our loved friends, and went to Frederick City to visit Cousin Margaret RICE and my dearly beloved Aunt Micheal, who were overjoyed to see us. Cousin Margaret and I were as dear to each other as sisters for many years, seeing each other every day. The memory of her and Mr. Rice are very dear to me. We remained with them some weeks. Mr. Rice, Mrs. Rice, your Pa and our little ones left on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for Baltimore to look on Cousin Ellen Binney for mother and sister. After spending a short time and enjoying ourselves, we left Baltimore on the B & O R. R. and had a delightful ride, enjoying the scenery very much, arrived at home, where we found all well and glad to welcome us home again after an absence of six weeks.
When I left home I promised the nicest present should be given to the one who behaved the best during my absence. It was voted by acclamation that Oscar should receive the gift. I think you were all pretty good children. I have visited Washington twice since. In the spring of 1872 in company with Marshall, and in 1885 accompanied by Leverett and Ida, I spent my seventy fifth birthday at Bettie Havenner McEwens. The remaining members of Mr. Havenner’s family with old friend Daniel Smith and his son Dr. Thomas Smith were invited to Bettie’s to tea on that day. Mr. William Rowe asked the blessing. We all enjoyed the occasion and I presented all the guests with a souvenir. I think what made it very appropriate to have the birthday reception at the home of the granddaughter of Mrs. Havenner who was guest at my mothers at the time of my birth. I went to my old home which my father and mother had purchased eighty five years ago and showed Leverett and Ida the room in which I was born; we also visited the graves of my dear departed parents.
In about two months after this pleasant visit, the first great sorrow came to our family. We had had many disappointments and losses which were of a financial character.
“These portentous clouds which hang their pall
Athwart life’s mountain tops may melt away
And leave no trace behind; the loss of wealth
Or outward things.
The sun breaks forth, and the familiar summits, as of old,
May gleam out again. Not so the nomic shroud
O’erspread by death! Death! It is like the rush
Of the remorseless avalanche.”
Although we had been married twenty years, we had never known of being bereft of any of our children. The first link was broken in our family circle June 7, 1853, when “Death the insatiate archer,” entered our home and removed from us our dear Oscar. This was so unexpected, as we did not consider him ill until a few hours before his departure. We were so overcome with grief it seemed impossible to bear the separation, but He who said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” sustained and comforted us in this great loss, of a remarkably obedient, loving and thoughtful son. His last words to us as he kissed us were, “Goodbye, meet me in heaven.” May God grant that we may all so live that Oscar’s dying request will be fulfilled.
“Angels in the home of beauty, where ye dwell,
Guard what we have loved so well!
Crowned with light above,
Where no tender ties are breaking;
In the land of love,
Seraphs are his welcome waking.”
1854 Lydia visited Washington, Frederick and Baltimore, remaining eighteen months. Cousin Margaret Rice’s death occurred while she was in Frederick. In April 1857 another great sorrow came to us in the death of our dear little Mary Emma. She was sick six weeks, being first attacked with Rheumatism, which terminated in the disease of the heart. She was very patient during her illness and talked to me about several pieces of poetry she had learned, would ask me the meaning of many of them, and when I would explain them, she answered “Oh yes, I know now.” She was lovely in life and beautiful in death.
“Peace! She sleeps at last,
The fitful dream of life is ended,
Death is with the past.–
Brightly hath her soul ascended.
Dark the waves, but winged angels waft her o’er,
Vainly we deplore; time will ne’er restore.
Softly now her white feet press the shining shore,
Blessed now forever more.”
Thomas’ marriage to Elizabeth HUGHES of Cleves, this took place March 27, 1860, being the only important event in the few following years, it being the first and only marriage in our family.
One cause of anxiety during the war was our failure to hear from Joseph, whose home had been in Memphis and who remained in the South through the dark days of the Rebellion. In April 1865, after an absence of seven years, he returned to us, making us a visit full of pleasure. That same Spring your Pa was very ill, and being advanced in years, never fully recovered his former great strength and endurance. Then Leverett and Marshall took charge of the business and farm.
On October 10, 1860, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of Dover, by Father Cahoon and his family by having a family reunion at Rose Hill. This was so delightful to all participating it was decided to have it a yearly occurrence. This plan was carried out for nineteen years, at which time all of the original excepting your Pa, had passed beyond earthly bidding, and his strength would not permit of the excitement attending the meeting. In 1885 we held our last reunion, the second generation taking up the duties laid aside by their fathers and honored the memory of the energy, fortitude and will of those who made it possible to enjoy the homes, founded for their posterity. These meetings were interesting to many friends outside of the family, among whom were Drs. Kirtland and Garlick, Messers. Harris, Root, and Day, who took particular pleasure in them, and added to the interest by the prominent and pleasing part they contributed to the exercises. Dr. Kirtland acted as President and Mr. Harris, Secretary, when they were present. Dr. Kirtland said these reunions were an oasis in the desert to him. Our first reunion was held on the site where the first house was built. The rubbish was removed that had gathered over the old hearth stone, a fire made and water boiled in the same tea kettle which was used by your Grama fifty years previous in preparing the first supper in D.
On the 14 July 1881, we celebrated our golden wedding at Rose Hill, receiving our friends from 4 to 9 P.M. The day was beautiful, all that we could have desired. There were 150 guests present. It was a day never to be forgotten. I often seem to live the day over again. In the morning we exchanged rings, again plighting our love. The rings were engraved with our initials and the date of the anniversary.
“O chain of love! O ring of gold!
O marriage true and tried!
That binds with tenderness untold
The old man and his bride!”
The many letters of congratulations we received from absent friends afforded us much pleasure, and it is still a delight to peruse them, they bring to memory recollections of many loved ones who have gone to that “Bourne from whence no traveler returns.”
Our hearts were more deeply moved than at any other time during the day, when you nine children, kissed us and offered us your loving congratulations; missing the two loved ones who were not with us, but wait to greet us in that better land. The events of this memorable day are so indelibly impressed on your minds, that I do not think it necessary to write more particularly,
We felt some anxiety fearing the excitement of the day might be too fatiguing for your Pa. Though he seemed much exhausted that evening, he rested well, and in a few days appeared as well as usual. The happiness that day brought to him was a buoy that renewed his strength. I think it was one of the happiest days of his life. Mr. Cahoon continued to get a little stronger gradually, keeping the same cheerful spirit, always seeing the bright side of everything.
He had for so many years prophesized contrary to the opinion of nearly everyone that there would be a railroad where the Nickle Plate now is, often saying, “I may not live to see it but there will be a railroad pass through Dover,” and when his prediction came to pass, Leverett and Marshall, carried him in their arms and placed him carefully in the carriage, then drove up to the track, so he might see what he had so often looked for. This pleased him so much. We had planned to have him visit you in Cleveland as soon as the passenger cars were put on the road, and he was very happy in anticipation of the trip and the visit. But alas for our hopes, in a short time he was taken sick and grew weaker. We did not apprehend any danger, the doctor encouraging us in our belief. I was his constant companion. He often said he was so glad I could be with him all the time, frequently he would say he was afraid he did not appreciate the children’s tenderness and gifts to him. He often told me he was willing to depart whenever his Master would say, “Come up higher”. Yet he was not tired of life, this world was very beautiful to him. Once he appeared very drowsy, I said to him you appear to be so sleepy, he replied, “I think sometimes I will go to sleep, and wake to an eternal day.” He continued to grow weaker until half past nine of the evening of September 28, the end came, and while loved ones were kneeling by his bedside, supplicating the Father of all mercies to smooth the way and to walk with my dear husband through the valley and shadow of death, he was taken from me, after having spent fifty-one years of happy wedded life.
“Ah! Tho’ broken be the golden bowl today,
Hence, with tears away, dim not the beauteous day!
Tho’ on earth the silver cord be loosed for aye,
The spirit wakes in endless day.
“All his grief is stilled.
The weary watch, the faint endeavor,
All his hopes fulfilled.
Perfect joy is won forever.”
It is impossible for me to express to you how desolate I felt. I had relied on your Pa for advice in almost every step of my life, ever finding him affectionate and considerate of my happiness. Fifty one years we had spent in happy wedded life and it seemed as though my heart was rent asunder. The grief at this separation had a great tendency to impair my health, which before this time had been remarkably good. After the death of my dearly loved husband, I received every attention and loving kindness from you dear children, which in a great measure assuaged my grief and loneliness, and for which I hope the Lord will reward and bless you.