Philander Chase



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Fragment of a letter in which Chase describes staying with a family who had no knowledge of religion, and whom he attempted to teach by providing an example of a man who once worked in Gambier but died in a drunken accident.




Gambier, Coshocton, Joseph Richardson, whiskey, Cryder, Danville


Steubenville 25 Jan.


My dear Wife

I wrote you on my leaving Gambier on Tuesday. I set off, and hoped to reach Coshocton that night but delay & bad roads prevented. I was obliged to stop at Joseph Richardson’s about 5 miles short of my intended day’s journey. I’ve had gone to a raising; so his little son Bill and myself took care of the House. It was cold and no wood cut: and from this cause we should have suffered had not a neighbour in passing called in & cut off a few sticks. After the fire had been burning a little time so as to make the place somewhat comfortable I asked the woman if, in the troubles and difficulties of life & especially in the deprivations thereof of which she seemed to have a considerable share, she ever made religion her resource? Instead of answering me to this question she seemed not to know what I meant. I then asked her if she did not go often in prayer to her Savior who had promised to give rest to those who were weary & heavy laden? To this she replied that she did not know who he was. You may well suppose such a reply would shocked me tho’ of late years somewhat accustomed to hearing & seeing strange things in the way of exemplifying the profound ignorance into which our Country is fallen. As soon as I had recovered from a kind of spasmodic choking into which my feelings of surprise and pity existed by her hapless situation, had thrown me I again asked her if she had any knowledge, or notion of God, her maker: or how he had formed the world the sun and the moon the earth water and trees? To all these questions she gave me answer no. I then asked her if she would wish to know something of these important particulars. She answered with as much eagerness as I thought she was capable that she would be glad to know something for she was no scholar herself and her husband Joe was still more ignorant than herself. She once could read a few easy words but had forgotten. He could never read a word and the children were growing up with as little learning as herself and man. If I could tell her anything about what I had mentioned she would be glad. This was the substance tho’ not the very language of her reply for to put such on paper would be improper & perhaps to you who know how this ignorant woman of our country convey their ideas unnecessary. I then began to tell her in as plain a manner as possible the history of the Creation – the fall – the deluge – of the calling of Abraham. Of the coming birth life and Death of Jesus Christ the eternal son of God – of the atonement which he made by his suffering and death for our Sins and of the hope of pardon & of eternal life thro’ faith in his blood which God had given in infinite mercy. To all this she listened most attentively as unto a story which she had never heard before! Not long after her man Joe came in and I found him as most of poor backwoods men are who go to raisins. Tho he had evidently drank a good deal of that curse of our country Whiskey yet he had the use of his reason, & treated me well. I asked him if he ever attended any religions meeting. From his answer I understood that he sometimes went at a distance himself to hear the New Lights (the backwards unitarians) and was getting into their opinions. As the woman seemed to desire it I knelt down and wetn to prayer with these unhappy people: as soon as it [was] day I called to him to get my horse, which he did: but before I mounted he offered me what to him seemed of so much consequence the Whisky [sic] bottle. In response to this I thought it my duty to earn him of his danger; and to inforce [sic] my words I addressed the example of poor Cryder, of that wretched place of darkness & intemperance, Danville. This man worked for us at Gambier last summer and got some money: which after going home he spent in dreadful fits of intoxication. One day after having abused his wife most shamefully he sallied forth in quest of more whiskey: he tarried among his mad companions till long after midnight. His wife after having been long weared with grief and tears – with great sufferings of body and of mind had gone to bed and fallen into a very deep sleep – but it was a sleep from which she was [awaked] to unexampled horror. Her husband had swallowed so much of the poisonous liquor at parting from his Friends at the Inn, the Landlord the seller and his companions in drunkenness, that when he came over his own threshold it is supposed he stumbled & fell with his head into the fire from which he had not power to extricate himself – there he lay and literally burned his brains out. The dreadful stench which this occasioned was that which awoke his wife from the sleep which exhausted nature required. What must have been her feelings of horror (surely next to those of the damned) when she saw the lifeless trunk of him once the object of her tenderest love – of him who also so lately had smitted and wounded her without mercy and in a fit of the damnable sin of drunkenness was now goin without the possibility of repentance to the eternal world! Dreadful scene!

Letter to Sophia Chase



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