An industrious farmer always found plenty of work to do at all seasons of the year, and his children were trained to be helpers in accordance with age and ability. But my youth was not overburdened with tasks. I found time for play and rest in the midst of a busy life. Our family relatives on both sides of the house were many, and they lived within visiting distances, mostly in Clark or adjoining counties. At intervals, when the farm work was not pressing, a visiting trip to the home of an uncle or an aunt which would require an absence of several days was not uncommon. These visits are bright spots in my memory for there were many cousins of my age, or nearly so, whose companionship I greatly enjoyed.
I recall a trip made with father, mother and my youngest brother, Clinton, to Midway (now Sedalia) Madison county, Ohio. It required an early start and a steady drive to cover this distance in a day. Lunch and horse feed must be prepared to be served at noon somewhere on the roadside. This trip is memorable because of an unseasonable frost that occurred at this time. The date of starting was Saturday, June 4, 1859. While the early morning was quite cool, we thought little of it. At Springfield we made a short stop at the home of my brother Samuel, who, at that time, lived in West Main street. Here we obtained extra lap-robes for additional comfort and then pursued our journey as speedily a our lumbering farm horse could be induced to travel. I remember that in spite of the extra wraps I got cold and got out of the buggy and warmed myself by running until I puffed like a race horse. We arrived at our destination, Dr. Milton Leman’s, late in the afternoon and were welcomed with a good, warm fire just as acceptable for our comfort in this June afternoon as the same would have been in the month of January. That night came the famous killing frost that history relates, and is still remembered by the very few old-timers now living in this vicinity. It is called the “Big frost of June 5, 1859”.
After an enjoyable Sunday visit and a second night’s rest we started homeward. It was pityful to witness the condition of the crops along the roadside! Wheat, which was now near the blooming stage in growth was lying flat on the ground as if it had been run over with a heavy two-horse roller. Corn, much of which before the frost, was knee high, lay flat on the ground. It is needless to say that the wheat crop for this year was entire failure throughout this section of the state; fruit also. Much of the corn was replanted and, though late, a fair crop was raised.
On our return home we thought to aid nature and encourage root growth by clipping off the wilted corn-blades with sheep-shears, but this did little good. In spite of the frost the up-ground corn on our farm was but little injured, being protected by the deep furrows in which it was planted and the nature of the soil. From one wheat field of twenty acres we cut two shocks, which when thrashed, should have produced one bushel, but the chickens took possession and saved us further trouble. Seed wheat for the next crop had to be purchased abroad. Also flour for home use unless the farmer was fortunate enough to have a supply of old wheat in the mill for that purpose.
Similar visiting trips were made to the homes of my mother’s brothers and sisters all of which gave pleasure to parents and children. To me the expectancy of going was cheering; the journey, thrilling, and the companionship of my cousins at their homes created a deep friendship among us, lasting from youth to old age. In this connection I would mention the families of my aunt Catherine Johnson, near Urbana, Champaign Co., O., Uncle Ira Smith, near Cable in the same county, and aunt Mary (Smith) McReynolds, whose home was at one time in Waynesville, Warren Co. and later in Miami county; also aunt Sarah (Smith) Leman in Madison county. These names and their descendants are all properly recorded in the “Smith Family Genealogy (1922.”