JOHNSVILLE IN THE OLDEN TIME
From the Book by the same name by Nathan J. Bailey, 1884

Part One

        THE LITTLE VILLAGE OF JOHNSVILLE, some forty years ago, was a bustling, active place, full of hubbub and gaiety, and, as such, presented a striking contrast to its present quiet, dreamy-like appearance.

        THE GOOD DAMES OF THE VILLAGE, in the olden time, were an energetic people. They arose betimes in the morning, and devoted the early hours of the day to scrubbing, dusting, baking, scolding, and to household operations in general. Their afternoons were spent in social intercourse, in meeting around from house to house, enjoying sociable tea-drinks, and discussing the news of the day. As the ladies of those days, especially in that vicinity were inveterate smokers, the village every afternoon was enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke, which made navigation through it some times difficult. But everything has its advantages, as the more vigorously the good matrons puffed away, the more their imaginations became befogged, and hence their discussions, which ofttimes were rather boisterous and excited, happily ended in smoke.

        JOHNSVILLE, in the days we write of, enjoyed a lucrative trade with the country around. The anvil of the village blacksmith resounded with heavy blows from early morn until the shades of evening interposed. The old shoemaker and his one-eyed apprentice were forced to peg and wax away to keep the understandings of their customers in good order and repair. The village store, with its large assortment of calicoes, and other finery of that age, never lacked for a supply of customers. The inhabitants of the adjacent mountains came down in untold numbers to barter eggs for mackerel, and such was the quantity of the latter article carried off to the hill country, that the street, or road, leading from the village in that direction, became known in time as Mackerel Avenue. The village Doctor, whose business it was to supply the community with a full measure of health, discharged his onerous duty with entire satisfaction. He possessed a never failing remedy for every variety of sickness. No matter what epidemic turned up, whether cholera or cholera infantum - the Doctor in all cases administered his never failing remedy, epsom salts. The wisdom of the Doctor’s treatment of his patients, in time, became manifest - as they finally became so throughly salted as to be ever afterwards impervious to all attacks of disease. Consequently the Doctor to guard against starvation was obliged to remove to another locality where the saving power of salt had not been so thoroughly tested.

        MILITIA TRAININGS in the days we write of, were in vogue throughout the country. “Muster-day” was a great institution - on such occasions all went to see the sogers. Ethiopia, in particular, was let loose. For months and says prior to “muster,” the colored gentry throughout the country were usually wide awake. All of them invariably had the promise of a look at the sogers, and the loan of a horse for that day, if they were good boys, and did up their work betimes. They therefore would, without exception, perform the various services required of them, at such times, with alarming dispatch - not forgetting to give the promise horse occasionally a sly mess of oats.
        In those good old days JOHNSVILLE eclipsed all her sister villages in military matters; within her jurisdiction existed an uniformed company, known as the “Butterfly Guards.” This organization remained in full force for many years, and attained to a great proficiency in arms, under its gentlemanly commander, Colonel OLIVER LADUE. Owing to the lapse of time, we fail to remember why the appellation of Butterfly Guards was applied to this organization - but presume it was owing to the variegated character of the uniform worn.

        The regular militia, also, in those days frequently had their company parades in JOHNSVILLE. On such occasions they shouldered arms, and performed other various warlike evolutions under the dread orders of their commander, Captain BENJAMIN PUNCH.

        Captain PUNCH deserves more than a passing notice. He was a soldier frank and furious. Had he received his military education at West Point and flourished in this our day - when wars and rumors of wars pour in upon us like a flood - the world would have stood aghast at his deeds of heroism, and his fame would have eclipsed that of the first Napoleon, in the same degree that the light of the glow-worm pales before the full blaze of the orb of day. But, unfortunately for Captain PUNCH, and mankind in general, he lived in “piping times of peace” - hence his military exploits, which otherwise might have dazzled the world, were smothered for want of a proper outlet - and his name, instead of being recorded in the annals of fame, remained confined to the limits of his own township. The poet has well sung,

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And Waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

        TRAINING DAY was always a great event to the urchins of JOHNSVILLE. We remember on one occasion, when Captain PUNCH and his brave grenadiers had assembled to perform the arduous exercises of bloody war - how through the livelong day, barefooted, and with rimless hat , we hung on to the rear of the grand army, as it marched and countermarched through the streets of JOHNSVILLE. We remember, too, how we became inspired by the stirring music of the fife, and the heavy rub-a-dub of the drum, and, like young Norval, we longed to be a soldier. On the afternoon of that eventful day, Captain PUNCH marched his company into a field, in the rear of the mansion then occupied by Captain STEPHEN R. WALDRON, for the purpose of giving his brave soldiers an opportunity to recuperate. While the company were thus reposing on their laurels, Captain PUNCH received a message that the ladies of JOHNSVILLE and vicinity had assembled at a certain house in the village, and had expressed a desire to witness the manoeuvres of his company.

Continued

Typed and submitted by Virginia A. Buechele
Ginny's Genealogy Page

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