This article appeared in the Mansfield Herald on March 21, 1874, a reprint from another Mansfield newspaper, the Shield and Banner
Ugh! How the wind did blow! We had a fire in the bed room that evening, and grandpa and the two girls and myself were as comfortable as though the March winds never howled and shook the windows and made fearful threats outside. It was very enjoyable. I was reading, the girls were sewing, and father sat looking at the pictures in the album. “Don’t you wish we knew how to cut out and fit dresses ourselves,” said one of the girls with a perplexed face.
“Indeed I do!” was the response.
“Very well,” said I’ “if you can stand it away from home, you may go up to Mansfield and learn of that good Mrs. Nail. I think girls should know how to do all kinds of work – it is just as much of an accomplishment as is a good education. A woman should know how to do everything – from making a coat down to writing a book or baking a pudding.”
At this father looked up and said: “Well, if this Mrs.Nail is at all like old, old Mother Nail, you couldn’t fall into better hands. Oh, she was one of the best women! She was so good to children. (Aha! There was the charm!) She was a dumpy woman, very fleshy, but she moved about like a kitten. She was so full of fun, and so cordial and kind-hearted. I remember my sister Patty and I went to visit her once. We didn’t go to see any of the children, just mother Nail herself. That was in the fall of 1811 or the spring of 1812. We both rode Old Gray. She was very quiet.”
An Old-Time Reminiscence
Which sat before?” inquired Lily.
“Oh, I did of course. Patty was fourteen months older than I was, but I was the larger and stronger. Patty was very small of her age, not as large as Del. Johnston. I was a good chunk of a boy; see, I was born in 1801. We started early in the morning and took our time going there. Henry Nail lived then where Jacob Manner does now in Worthington Township. Oh, mother Nail made a great fuss over us. She patted us and shook hands and felt of us and was really rejoiced to see her little visitors! Before we started home she caught two chickens and gave us – mine was a little rooster of a golden color, and Patty’s was a little white hen. I tell you now it made us feel rich and good!”
“Did your chickens come squalling and quawking home as you rode along?” asked Ida.
“Oh, no. Mother Nail tied and fixed them up some way so that they were contented,” was the reply. ”She gave us plenty to eat while we were there, too.”
“Did the house stand on the same ground it does now?” I inquired.
“Oh, no. It was down nearer the brook on one of the loveliest patches of green-sward I ever did see! It was one of the prettiest of places for a house to stand.”
I did not doubt his word. I remembered of clapping my hands with delight over that beautiful place almost thirty years ago – before the vandal axe had gleamed in that glorious bit of brook-side valley, or laid low the magnificent trees towing there in their strength and pride, and marvellous symmetry and beauty.
“Do you remember anything about the little Nails? Didn’t you play with them any?”
“No. I told you Patty and I went to visit mother Nail herself. We felt too important to play that day. I remember Jack was playing on a fife, and James was busy at something, and Henry seemed to me then to be a man though he was not far from the age of eighteen.”
“I went to a training up there one time, probably the first one that was held; I was a little fellow and went with my father. I mind that when we were leaving the house, mother Nail said: “Come Henry, you must go and train too. He hung back and said he was not old enough, but his mother’s enthusiasm fired him up and he went. That was the first time I ever saw Henry. His mother said, “You will soon be eighteen, my son; you’re plenty old enough to train now.” I was not quire ten years old then.”
“Did you keep you rooster a good while?” asked one of the girls.
“Not very long. Patty kept her hen for many years though. We always called her the ‘Nail hen.’ She raised many and many a brood.”
“What became of your little golden? Did the weasels catch him?”
“No, when the Copus and Seymour murder happened, people were all frightened and hurried to places of safety. My father took his family and went to Newark, and we staid there thee months, and when we came back my little rooster was nowhere to be found. I felt for awhile as if I had lost all my possessions.”
Nothing was said for a few minutes; we were all thinking, I suppose. I know I was thinking what a cute picture the two poor little affectionate chatting children would have made for an artist. Little short-legged babies, both on one old white horse jogging along, carrying their precious chickens. Wildwood for a background – wildwood in front and to the right and left, the same dense dark beautiful growth of luxuriant timber and thicket.
Pretty soon father spoke: “Seems to me the women were made of heroic stuff in those early days. They were so robust and rosy and so full of gracious good will. Ha, ha! I never will forget one noble woman. I was in my seventeenth year then. I had been down to Frederick to mill, and just before I came to the eleven-mile woods, the bag of meal fell off, right in the road. I tugged and tugged – the old horse looked down at me pitifully and understandingly and breathed long breaths but could do nothing to help. There happed to be a house not far away and after I had cried a while, I went there and found nobody at home but the woman. She was very kind and said pleasant things to me and went out and swung the bag up on the horse as easily as a woman of now days could swing a pillow!”
The wild winds raved without, and the biting sleet tinkled against the window-panes, but we four sat there in the rosy flow of the cheerful fire, and the enjoyments of home were enhanced by these old-time reminiscences.
© 2011 Peggy Mershon Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org