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

Part Two


Captain PUNCH on receipt of this intelligence was in ecstasy. In a few words he informed his men of the nature of the communication he had received, and it was not long before the little army was again in motion. In an incredibly short space of time the company was drawn up in a line under the great hickory tree in the centre of the village, directly in front of the mansion where the blooming damsels alluded to had assembled.

Captain PUNCH, in imitation of the ancient heroes, such as Hannibal, and Pompey the Great, concluded he would make a short address to his soldiers. As the Captain was a member of the JOHNSVILLE Debating Society he retained in his noddle a remnant or two of his old speeches, which he thought might prove acceptable on the occasion, with a few variations. He therefore commenced his remarks by informing his companions in arms “that there was tide in the affairs of men, which taken at its flood flowed on to fortune.”

The Captain, who was a bachelor, no doubt thought it was flood time with him, as the eye of many a fair damsel surveyed with intense admiration his nodding plume and tinseled uniform. The Captain continued his remarks by saying, “that in times of peace it was the bounden duty of every nation to prepare for war; it was for this purpose they had assembled.” He complimented his men on their soldier-like appearance, on their powers of endurance, and their ready obedience to all his commands. He felt confident if the constitution of their country should be endangered they would wade up to their necks in gore for its preservation, and for the maintenance of those rights so dearly purchased by their fathers. In conclusion, he said “he felt assured that, while his brave companions lived, and could shoulder a musket, no blot, even as large as a fly-speck, would be allowed to rest on the escutcheon of their national liberties.”

The Captain’s speech was received by his men with vociferous rounds of applause, so loud and so prolonged as to startle man and beast far and near, and which sent the neighboring cats pell-mell to their allotted retreat, with a velocity unparalleled in the annals of their race.

The ladies who, during the Captain’s remarks, had been hanging gracefully on the picket fence opposite, showed their appreciation of his effort by showering upon him innumerable bouquets in the shape of holly-hocks, clover-blossoms, and sweet-scented shrubs. The Captain, at this mark of favor, gracefully removed his cap, shook his ambrosial curls, and bowed his thanks.

Aft a short drill by the company, in which they acquitted themselves to the satisfaction of all concerned, they were dismissed; whereupon these doughty warriors hied to their respective habitations without loss of time. The Captain alone remained behind -- having received a private invitation to take tea with the ladies, which invitation he very thankfully accepted. And so ended one of the old-fashioned training-days in JOHNSVILLE.

JOHNSVILLE, in point of literature, always occupied elevated ground. In confirmation of this fact, we would say that its school-houses were always located on the highest land within the village. The old seminary of learning, which, like a proud sentinel, stood for more than half a century at the eastern entrance of the village, made no pretensions to architectural display. But the old edifice was not without its ornaments, within it walls were congregated minds which have since made their (LX) mark in the world.

Education at the time we write of was not quite so costly an article as at the present day. Three dollars and twenty-five cents per annum for each child under eighteen years of age was formerly the price of tuition in the old JOHNSVILLE Academy. But probably we should explain why knowledge was measured out so cheap in “the olden time.” It was the custom in those days for the school-teacher to board around from house to house -- we mean of course at the homes of the children; his board being given him, he, therefore, as it will be seen, could afford to work cheap.

The schoolmaster was always a welcome boarder. As he was expected to know everything -- especially all the little household matters that had transpired while at his last place -- he was on this account received at his numerous boarding-places with open arms. During the two weeks the teacher boarded in any one family, the children of that household were favored with happy times. No matter how many pranks they cut up during school hours, they escaped an application of the birch; but when the two weeks had expired, and the master had changed his quarters, such delinquencies were paid up with interest.

One of the principal exercises in the old JOHNSVILLE Academy was chewing shoemaker’s wax. This article possessed an adhesiveness which rendered the operation of masticating it tedious and difficult. A small piece, about the size of a chestnut, in the mouth of a boy ten years of age would usually last throughout the day. The shoemaker who furnished the scholars with this ingredient, so essential at that time in the acquirement of knowledge, lived on the boarder of the little stream that still meanders through the village.

On one occasion the old shoemaker, after preparing a fresh supply of wax, closed the door of his shop and left for dinner. The wax lay on a little bench inside, but in full view of any passer-by who might choose to look in through the shop-window. Two school-boys after a while sauntered that way. These boys were very unlike in their appearance. One was a delicate, flaxen-haired youth, the other was short in stature, but great in circumference. The lads drew near the shop-window; they looked within and saw the wax, and for a while feasted their eyes on the tempting pile so dangerously near.

Finally, the boys held council of war and mutually agreed to make an assault on the premises. The window of the shop, fortunately for the enterprise, lacked a pane of glass. The boys measured this aperture with the nicest accuracy. After accomplishing this feat, the diameter of the thin boy was taken, when it was decided that he, the thin boy, by a little squeezing, could pass through the opening in safety. The thin boy accordingly passed into the shop, and handed out the wax to his portly companion, and them returned by the same way he had entered.

The lads divided their booty equally. He of flaxen hair having to pass the shop on his way home from school, hid his part of the plunder in a hollow log near; but the portly youth, living in an opposite direction, thought he would take his portion of the spoils with him. For security he placed the wax in the crown of his hat, which being accomplished, the boys rejoined their school-fellows, and freely indulged in various sports then going on. The portly lad, after exercising for a short time, felt a growing uneasiness on the top of his head. On investigation he discovered the alarming fact that the wax he had placed in his hat had become imbedded among his hair. He essayed to remove the wax, but all in vain. In his distress he sought help from his schoolmates. The urchins around him willingly lent a helping hand -- they pulled and tugged away at the unnatural bump, but it was no go, as the bump, at every pull, waxed stronger and stronger. After exhausting all their efforts, the boys concluded that the sticking quality of the wax were of a superior order, and that the bump could not be removed by any ordinary means. But they concluded what could not be removed could be covered up; they therefore procured a sheet of foolscap, which they placed carefully over the “rising mount,” and after surveying their work with great satisfaction they told the sufferer he would pass current for the balance of the day.

Soon the school-bell rang for the afternoon session. The boys obeyed the summons and passed into the schoolroom for the afternoon session. The lynx-eyed schoolmaster was a phrenologist, and had an eye to bumps. He was not long, therefore, in discovering the unusual protuberance on the head of the unfortunate scholar. He surveyed the miniature obelisk for a while in apparent alarm, but when the facts of the case became known to him he humanely endeavored to remove the obstacle, but was unsuccessful. The lad was sent home and the wax finally dethroned by parental hands, but by what process we never understood. It gives us pleasure to add that the intellect of the boy was in no wise impaired.

The old shoemaker has passed away; his shop, too, has long since disappeared, and very few, if any, of the present inhabitants of JOHNSVILLE know the place where it stood.

Continued . . . . . . . .

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

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