MEMOIRS OF HENRY VILLARD
FIRST EXPERIENCES IN AMERICA
New York and Westward Ho—1853-4
MY landing upon American soil took place under anything but auspicious circumstances. I was utterly destitute of money, had but a limited supply of wearing apparel, and that not suited to the approaching cold season, and I literally did not know a single person in New York or elsewhere in the Eastern States to whom I could apply for help and counsel. To crown all, I could not speak a word of English.
It was natural that this consciousness of my condition should weigh upon my spirits. I felt, indeed, greatly oppressed, and spent the first day in gloomy thoughts at the Hotel Constanz. A travelling companion who had tried to persuade me to accompany him to California noticed my depression, and guessed its cause from what he had drawn out of me on the voyage about my antecedents and plans. He generously offered to lend me twenty dollars, which I accepted, of course, with joy. As my weekly board-bill was to be only five dollars, I felt quite relieved from immediate anxiety, and sufficiently at ease in mind to look the future straight in the face. I resolved to seek some sort of employment without delay, but, at the same time, I could not feel at all sure of success, and determined to make an appeal for help to my relatives in the West. At home I had become acquainted with several of them — my great-uncle, Theodor Adolf Engelmann, the brother of my step-grandmother, and Johann Scheel, who married one of her sisters. But I did not remember their addresses. I knew, however, that another distant relative, Dr. George Engelmann, was a physician in good practice in St. Louis, and so I ventured to address a letter to him, enclosing another for my father's brother Theodor, with a request to forward it. Next I took counsel with the landlord regarding employment, got a number of addresses, including that of the Bavarian consul and the German Emigrant Aid Society, from him and from advertisements in the two German daily papers for help in various occupations, and, thus equipped, began my search for something to do by which I could earn my daily bread.
In the pursuit of my object I saw much of New York. The city had then only about three hundred thousand inhabitants, but, unless my memory deceives me, its leading business streets presented as striking and stunning a picture of intense commercial activity as to-day. The sidewalks on Broadway were certainly very crowded with people, and the street proper jammed full of vehicles of every description. But, of course, the city had comparatively small dimensions. Fourteenth Street was the limit of animated street-life. Beyond it the rows of buildings began to thin out, and above Twenty-third Street things still had an open-country appearance. The Fifth Avenue Hotel was not then built. Between the City Hall and Canal Street there were still whole streets exclusively occupied by private residences. The best and most frequented hotels seemed to be located south of Canal Street. I remember very clearly being struck with astonishment at the sight of the lounging habits of their guests, visible through the great windows of the reading- and smoking-rooms on the ground floor. Whole rows of elevated legs were presented to the passers-by on Broadway. The black servants in several of them astonished me also.
The most renowned hotel was then the Astor House. Several of my fellow-boarders had, like myself, read at home descriptions of its grandeur, and we were all very anxious to see it, as one of the wonders of the age. So we agreed to take a meal there for that purpose, as it was only a few minutes walk from our own hotel. No one of us knew any English, but that did not deter us, as we supposed that in such an establishment of world-wide fame all the languages of Europe would naturally be spoken. We made our way up-stairs to the office and boldly made our wishes known in our native tongue, but discovered promptly that we were not understood. One of us then tried French, saying: “Nous voulons diner.” The last word was understood by the official in charge, who called a boy and motioned to us to follow him, which we did. We were taken into the dining-room, which did not, however, as far as either size or decoration was concerned, much impress those of us who had seen large Continental hotels. After we had taken seats at a table, each of us was handed a bill-of-fare; but, being English, it was no clearer than Sanskrit to us. We tried both German and French with the waiter, without making the least impression. The head waiter was attracted by our loud efforts to make ourselves understood, and, although equally ignorant of our language, managed to comprehend the situation and, by signs, let us know that we should be taken care of. We were duly served, but, instead of having one course after another, according to the Continental practice, a medley of dishes was put before us, consisting of several kinds of meat and as many vegetables, all at once, followed by a miscellaneous assortment of pudding, pies, cakes, fruit, nuts, cheese, and other things. We were so taken aback that we did not enjoy anything, but were glad, under circumstances so embarrassing, to finish the novel repast at the earliest possible moment. We with drew in disgust, paid seventy-five cents each, and made our exit from the great building as hungry as we had entered it.
Our landlord was Max Weber, an ex-officer of the Baden army, who had emigrated in consequence of his participation in the revolutionary outbreak of 1849. He afterwards rose to prominence in the War of the Rebellion. Among his regular boarders were several political exiles. These two circumstances made the “Constanzer Hof” a favorite resort of the German refugees then still numerous in New York. Almost every evening there was a gathering of them in the tap-room, where there were noisy political discussions in true German beer-house style. They dwelt upon the Fatherland as well as the United States, and I listened to them with intense interest. That the talk about Germany was very bitter and angry was not surprising to me, in view of the high tide of reaction that had set in; but it astonished and puzzled me to hear likewise violent denunciations of the United States as a sham land of liberty, of its institutions as republican only in form, of the material attractions for European immigrants as a humbug—with other like expressions of grievous disappointment. Among the loudest declaimers in this strain was an individual called Professor Boehm, who supported himself as a writer for the local German press, and who spoke with a deep, gruff voice and snappish sort of delivery. He seemed surcharged with bitterness against the American Republic, and broke out into roaring diatribes against it on the slightest provocation. His prejudices amounted to a kind of monomania, and they were known all over New York. It was considered an amusement to hear him hold forth, and devices were resorted to, such as purposely opposing his views, in order to provoke outbursts on his part. This man did not know a single American, hardly ever saw anything of New York beyond the two or three streets through which his daily round took him, had never been outside of the city, and yet railed continually against everything American. This was an extreme case, but the minds of nearly all the refugees whom I heard express themselves were affected the same way. I need hardly say that, not knowing any better, I was much discouraged by their unfavorable judgment of the country. It acted as a damper to my sanguine expectations of a rapid and highly successful career.
The northern part of William Street, in which the Hotel Constanz was situated, was, in those days, a succession of hotels, boarding-houses, and beer-houses, and hence a centre of attraction for my countrymen. At the upper end of the street stood the Hotel Shakspere, then kept by one Fickler, a fat, jovial Boniface, who had, however, followed at home the more honorable profession of barrister and politician. He had taken a leading part in the Baden revolt, as a member of the revolutionary executive committee. His hostelry was much larger than ours, and was also a popular rendezvous for South Germans, who crowded it on Sundays to overflowing. But the character of the house was low, and it harbored adventurers of both sexes and of all nationalities. Some of the other William Street places represented a still lower grade of entertainment, being nothing less than vulgar concert-halls with suspicious-looking female attendants. Among the inmates of our house, too, some unsavory scandals broke out, and I began to feel decidedly uncomfortable in such surroundings and longed to get away from them. For two weeks I followed eagerly and faithfully every clew in my hunt for employment, but without the least result. The Bavarian consul had an average of twenty applicants for each of the few positions he heard of in the course of a year. I could have had a clerkship with mercantile wholesale and retail firms if I had had a commercial training and known English. My inability, too, to give references prevented me from getting the unfilled places from employers upon whom my earnest appeals and readiness to do any work made an impression. My disqualifications narrowed the circle of possibilities around me every day. Under the impulse of the rapid decrease of my small fund, I tried to get a place as helper in a drug-store or restaurant, and finally even as a waiter in a beer-hall. But my “greenness” or recent arrival in the country, and maybe my perhaps too genteel appearance, were against me. I received, indeed, my first lesson in the advantages which immigrants accustomed to manual labor enjoy over all classes in this country.
While I did not feel at all sure of being made welcome by my relatives, I still had a faint hope of an encouraging reply to my letter. But it had nearly become extinguished when, one evening in the third week of my stay, on entering the hotel in a very discouraged mood, the office-clerk handed me a letter post-marked Belleville, Illinois. It was the expected answer. For some time I did not dare to open it, lest its contents should prove disappointing. It turned out to be a letter from my great-uncle Theodor, couched in cautious language, and telling me, in response to the intimation of my intention to visit Belleville, that my relatives did not desire to see me until they clearly understood the reason why I came to America. As an offset to this rebuff, I unfolded from the letter a draft for fifty dollars.
The next day I made up my mind what to do. Having repaid the twenty dollars I had borrowed, I resolved to try and reach the West with the remainder. As it was already the latter part of November, and as I had nothing but an overcoat in the way of winter clothing, I invested one-third of the balance in a cheap, but warm suit. Thus equipped, I left New York on November 19, with eighteen dollars in my pocket and all my other possessions in a large hand-bag. I had decided to go via Philadelphia and Pittsburg to Cincinnati. My reason for choosing this city as my destination was solely the fact, gathered from my guide-book, that it had a large German population, including a considerable percentage of Bavarians.
There was no direct railway connection between New York and Philadelphia at that time. I took the principal route of travel, by boat to Perth Amboy and thence by rail to Camden on the Delaware, opposite Philadelphia. The boat and train were crowded with emigrants, among them many Germans. We reached Camden after dark, and found the ferry-boat literally swarming with emigrant-runners, who at once beset us with their solicitations. Knowing the risk one was exposed to in trusting them, I felt called upon to warn the ignorant peasants among my countrymen against them. This made me at once the target for their foul abuse and threats. Nothing daunted, I tried, after landing on the other side, to save a party of South Germans from being carried off by three of the ruffians. They seized the baggage and loaded it without permission on their wagons, so as to compel the owners of it to follow. As the runners were Germans, I boldly denounced them before the crowd and called on them to desist. Thereupon all three suddenly fell upon me, swearing loudly, and, before I could defend myself, I was knocked down and probably should have fared very badly but for the intervention of a German-speaking official. My assailants, however, got away with their prey. The official kindly showed me the way to the inn where I intended to spend a day before continuing my journey West.
I wished to stop at this inn for a special reason. I had learned in New York that it was kept by a refugee, formerly a lawyer in my native town, a classmate of my father's, and a friend of long standing of all our family. He had been a member of the German Parliament, and the head of the provisional government that ruled over Rhenish Bavaria for two months in the summer of 1849, and was under sentence of death for that offence. I remembered him as a very good-natured and witty fellow, rather too much given to conviviality, but a gentleman withal. I expected to receive a hearty welcome and to have a good time with him. A disagreeable surprise awaited me. I found him entirely changed. He received me in a cold and indifferent manner, showing no astonishment at my appearance before him, as I naturally expected he would. His face wore a stolid expression and disclosed a reddish hue, the sure sign of the habitual toper. I soon satisfied myself that the man had sunk low in every way, so that I was glad to be turned over to the solitary waiter. The inn was of a third-class character, small and insignificant in all its appointments. Under the circumstances, I was glad to be again under way the next day, having seen as much as my time permitted of the City of Brotherly Love.
The condition of my purse compelled me to travel again by an emigrant-train, as I had done from New York. The sight that greeted my eyes on entering the cars was anything but comforting. The cars were low, narrow, and only half as long as the present ones. The interior, including the seats, was of plain wood. The passengers consisted of a number of families, more or less numerous and dirty, with children of all ages. Each had brought hand-baggage, cooking-utensils and bedding, and was trying to occupy as much room as possible, which led to angry disputes among them. Before starting, the cars reeked with tobacco-smoke and bad odors. I went through all the cars in search of the familiar sound of my native tongue, but I listened in vain, and found myself in the embarrassing predicament of not being able to converse with a single one of my travelling companions, who seemed to consist of native Americans and Irish immigrants.
We moved slower even than freight trains, out of whose way we had to get time and again, and it took us fully a day and a half to reach Pittsburg. At that time the passage of the Alleghany Mountains was still made, on what is now the main line of the Pennsylvania, by means of stationary engines, placed at intervals in the mountains, from which one car after another was pulled up by means of wire ropes. I think that in this way it took us over twelve hours to cross the range. I had to share a narrow seat with another person, so no comfort was to be had in the daytime and no rest at night. A still greater trial, however, was to be obliged to go almost without food during the long journey. We passed the larger towns on the route during the night, when my inability to speak English made me afraid to leave the car, especially as I could not find out the length of the stops. For the same reason, I was afraid to leave the train in search of food in the daytime. Thus I had to depend for sustenance upon the apples and cake that were offered for sale in the cars here and there. Dirty and tired as I was, I greeted our arrival in Pittsburg as a deliverance from much misery. But I had to fare still worse. I had bought a through ticket to Cincinnati, entitling me to a second-class passage down the Ohio on a certain steamboat-line from Pittsburg. Not knowing the time of the departure of the boats, I made at once for the landing-place. This I managed to find by inquiring my way in stores whose signs indicated the German origin of their owners. There were three boats of the same line loading. I could not find out which would leave first, although I discovered some countrymen among the deck-hands, whom I questioned on the subject. “Whichever will be loaded full first,” was the reply. So I felt obliged to spend all day waiting and watching in one of the low German lodging and beer-houses frequented by the deck-hands who crowded the levee. Being no wiser by evening, I thought it best to spend the night there, repulsive as it was. I was given a bed in a room with two others, lay down with my clothes on and slept soundly. In the morning I was told that one of the boats had a sign up that it would leave at noon. After breakfast, I went on board in order to see what accommodations I should have as a second-class passenger. This I soon found out with the aid of a German deck-hand. To my great disgust, I ascertained that my ticket only permitted me to claim a place on the lower deck-quarter occupied by the deck-hands, including a sooty, bare, rough bunk. Made wise by my railroad experience, I laid in a good supply of bread and meat, and betook myself and my bag, with anything but a light heart, to the boat.
We steamed down the river promptly at the appointed time. It was a beautiful Indian summer day, warm and slightly hazy. The bluffs were still bright with the autumn hues of the foliage. The broad, winding river was alive with steam- and other craft. Farm-houses, hamlets and villages were constantly in sight. We stopped at several towns in the course of the afternoon, discharging and receiving passengers and freight. I sat all the afternoon and long after dark on deck near the bow of the boat, beholding and enjoying these varied sights. Finally, I became drowsy and sought the deck-passengers quarters astern. I found not only all the bunks on both sides occupied by two or more sleepers each, but men, women, and children crowded so closely together on the deck that one could hardly help stepping on them. I tried first to sleep in a sitting position, but after a while I likewise stretched out on the floor with my bag for a pillow, and soon forgot my surroundings. The warmth from the steam-boilers kept those comfortable who, like myself, had no other covering than their overcoats.
I was up again at daybreak, feeling stiff and dirty. I looked about for some washing utensils, but failed to find any. I actually was unable to wash my face and hands during the whole journey, lasting nearly forty-eight hours, owing to the score, more or less, of protracted stops made by the boat. What with my filthy surroundings and the low company, I could not help again feeling much dispirited. Though the weather continued to be fine and the sights along the river even more attractive than the first day, my only thoughts and wishes were for my release from these repulsive experiences. This feeling was intensified by the impossibility of sleeping at all during the second night, owing to the fearful racket made by the landing of piles of freight and filling the empty space with firewood. It was nearly noon of the second day when the City of Pittsburg reached the Cincinnati landing. The levee presented an imposing sight. At least twenty-five boats, sternand side-wheelers, were loading and discharging freight, and the bank was crowded with people, vehicles, and goods. Swarms of hotel-runners and omnibuses and carriages were waiting for passengers. Of course, the dirt-begrimed individuals emerging from the deck did not attract the runners. I had the address of a hotel kept by a Rhenish Bavarian whom I had known as a policeman in Zweibrücken, but my appearance seemed so discreditable to me that I was ashamed to go directly there. Moreover, my money was reduced to three dollars, and I had to be satisfied with the cheapest possible quarters. Discovering a number of emigrant boarding-houses on the street along the levee, I selected one kept by an Alsatian, who agreed to furnish me with board and lodging for the even then low price of $2.50 a week. The “Hôtel de Strasbourg” consisted of a bar-room in front, on the first floor, and behind it a room large enough to serve for both cooking and eating purposes. The second floor consisted of a loft, divided by thin board partitions into sleeping quarters. I was assigned to one containing three single beds, of which I happily remained the sole occupant during my whole stay. Altogether, it was the worst-looking tavern I had ever seen, but it at least gave me immediately a chance to clean up, for which I longed, and the food proved to be as good as that I had often had at peasant-houses in the vicinity of Phalsbourg.
Cincinnati even then laid claim to the title of Queen City of the West, and seemed to me to deserve it. It had already over two hundred thousand inhabitants. It occupied as fine a natural site as could well be found, rising gradually from the river to the hills that picturesquely enclosed it like an amphitheatre. It was regularly laid out in streets running parallel with and at right angles to the river. The streets adjoining the Ohio were solidly built up with business edifices, and those farther away with private residences. The buildings were mostly plain, but the whole presented a substantial and comfortable appearance. The upper part of the city was separated from the lower by the Miami Canal, nicknamed the “Rhine” from the fact that the quarter to the north of it was almost exclusively occupied by Germans, who even then formed fully one-third of the inhabitants. My first walk about the city naturally was in that direction.
I had no difficulty in finding the inn kept by the ex-policeman. He welcomed me with real heartiness, as he had served under my father and remembered our whole family well. He at once invited me to take up my abode with him, but, not feeling sure whether he meant to offer me hospitality or to wish to have me as a paying guest, I was afraid to accept. He told me of several Rhenish Bavarians whom I knew by name and who knew my family, and who were in the habit of enjoying a bottle of beer or wine regularly at his house. This was joyful news to me, for I felt sure of finding a suitable position with his and their help. I agreed to call again in the evening, in order to be introduced to my Landsleute. I continued my exploration of the city all day, and received such favorable impressions of it that I ardently wished matters would shape themselves so that I could remain there.
As a matter of fact, I stayed only a few days in Cincinnati, as I soon found that my entire ignorance of English and lack of a specific calling made the difficulty of finding employment among the German-Americans in that city very great. In my subsequent wanderings I was obliged to accept whatever work offered, whether light or hard, including manual labor; and altogether had a very trying experience during the winter following, as also during the greater part of 1854. I returned to the Queen City in March of that year, and for several months represented a firm of publishers as canvasser among the German-Americans. I then drifted from Ohio into Indiana, where I had my first experiences as a railroad man as part of the crew of a wood-train on the Indianapolis & Madison Railroad. Every day this train went out into the country for twenty miles or so, loaded up with wood to be used as locomotive fuel, and then ran back to Indianapolis and unloaded in a woodshed. The work was light, the hours were easy, and the pay good, so that I enjoyed the experience (little dreaming what an important part railroads would play in my career) until prostrated by a serious attack of intermittent fever, with which I had already made acquaintance. This confined me to my bed for so long a period that my place on the wood-train was filled before I was able to return to work. After obtaining light employment in Indianapolis until I had fully recovered, I set out for Chicago, and arrived there at the end of October, 1854, a year after my arrival in the United States.
Leaving my trunk at the station, I walked all over the city. Chicago had then a population not exceeding thirty thousand people, though the inhabitants claimed that it was more. Then, as now, the best improved part was south of the Chicago River, while on the north side there were only a few short streets, and still fewer on the west side. Five-sixths of the buildings were cheap wooden structures. Hardly any of the streets were paved, and most of the sidewalks were of wood. Still, there was an air of stir and push about the town that indicated great vitality, and promised a rapid growth in the future. I felt sure that I had come to the right place.
In passing along State Street, even then one of the most important thoroughfares, I noticed under the sign of a boarding- and lodging-house the name Bernhard Norkin, that borne by the elder brother of a playmate of mine in Speyer. Out of curiosity, I entered and inquired for the landlord, and saw, when he appeared, that I was correct in my surmise. As he had left Speyer many years before, he did not recognize me, but welcomed me very heartily, and invited me, on being told that I was a new-comer, to stop at his hotel. I of course gladly agreed to do so, and my trunk was sent for. He introduced me to his wife, a buxom, bright German woman. We had a very well-cooked German dinner together, and I congratulated myself on such an auspicious beginning in Chicago. But this feeling was considerably dampened when I discovered that, after all, I had only got into an ordinary emigrant boarding-house. The keeper of it employed a wagon and two runners, and, by means fair or foul, obtained all his patronage from the emigrant-trains arriving twice daily from the East. I subsequently saw for myself that the runners were not any more truthful or less urgent in their demands than their colleagues in New York. There was but one dining-room, in one corner of which the baggage of the guests was piled up, and a sleeping-hall directly above it, divided into two parts by a thin partition, for men and for women. Each compartment had eight beds, in one of which I had to sleep. Emigrants in those days were no more attractive in respect to cleanliness and otherwise than to-day; hence I was not very happy in my surroundings. But, as the host and hostess were really anxious to do all they could for me, and as I expected the former, who had been in Chicago for some years, to be very helpful to me in getting employment, I concluded to stay in spite of all drawbacks.
Norkin knew a number of Pfälzer, some of whom held influential positions. One of them was one of the publishers, and another one of the editors, of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, at that time and to-day the leading German paper in the city. Another was a successful physician, and still another a wine-merchant. I applied to them all for advice and assistance in finding a suitable occupation, but, though they freely gave me counsel, they proved to be of no real help. I also inserted an advertisement in the Zeitung, but received no responses to it. I called daily at various intelligence offices, and, moreover, made personal inquiries for work in all sorts of establishments. But the only openings I found were for waiters in lager-beer saloons, which already abounded in the city, and for drivers of delivery-wagons. My host having assured me that he would board me all winter, if necessary, I did not avail myself of these unsatisfactory chances, although one week after another passed by in involuntary idleness. One morning, when I came down from my sleeping-room, the landlord sang out to me: “Here is some important news for you,” and pointed to an advertisement in the Zeitung. It was an urgent request to me to send my address immediately to the signer of it, in Belleville, Illinois. The advertiser was Robert Hilgard, my step-uncle and schoolmate. Of course, I felt a great shock of surprise, for it looked as if Robert had come to America on purpose to find me. Norkin had not been told that I was not in communication with my family. He questioned me, and I had to admit the fact, whereupon he urged me to answer the summons immediately. I told him that I had resolved not to make known my whereabouts to my family till I could tell them that I was able to support myself independently; but he insisted that it was my duty to write to Belleville without delay, and he added smilingly that if I did not do so he would. I replied that I would think the matter over for a day or two. Finally, I sat down and wrote Robert briefly where I was, and said that my lot had not been an enjoyable one since landing on this side of the water. I said further that, although I had not been very successful, I was confident of getting along, and that he need not have any anxiety on that account. I begged him also to explain how he happened to be in America, and to give me the fullest possible news of my family.
A week elapsed without bringing an answer to my letter, until, on returning to my lodging-house on the eighth day, a figure rose from a chair, and I recognized at once the tall form and the well-cut, handsome face of Robert himself. He greeted me very cordially, and, without waiting for any questions from me, told me all I wanted to know. He had been away from Belleville for a couple of days when my letter reached there. After reading it, he hesitated whether to write a reply or to make it in person, and advised first with my uncle and other relatives about it; the former authorizing him to offer me a home in his family. He decided finally to come, as he was afraid I might hesitate to accept. His strongest motive, however, was the solemn promise he had given to my mother, who had been a second mother to him, to make every effort to discover my whereabouts and to aid me in my upward struggles. This promise was not, indeed, his main motive in coming to this country a few months before. He had been wishing to go to America ever since he had finished his four years apprenticeship at Frankfort, believing that his prospects in life would be much better over here. He had visited my parents shortly before leaving Germany, and thus could give the latest news of them and of my sisters. It was such as to move me inexpressibly, and I promised to write home at the earliest possible moment, and open communication with my loved ones after the long interval of more than a year.
Robert then brought up the subject of my immediate future. He urged me to go at once with him to Belleville, assuring me that our relatives were ready to extend a kindly welcome to me. At first I could not look upon his proposal in the same light that he did. At last he appealed to me in the name of my mother, who certainly would not be relieved of her anxieties about me if I continued to lead the precarious life I had led for a year, instead of being under the care and guidance of my relatives. This argument prevailed with me, and we agreed to start together for St. Louis on the following evening. The next day I showed Robert the city. In the evening I took leave of my host and hostess, to whom I expressed my sincere gratitude. We travelled all night, and reached St. Louis the following noon.
We went directly to the house of a maternal aunt of Robert's, Mrs. Caroline Decker, one of the daughters of my great-great-uncle Friedrich Engelmann, a man already of advanced age when he emigrated with his large family from Rhenish Bavaria. She had married a German-American lawyer in St. Louis, who died, after a few years of happiness, and left her without means, but with a son and daughter to support and bring up. She resolutely started a boarding-house for the better class of Germans, and she was keeping it at the time. She made me feel at home at once. We remained there three days, seeing as much as we could of St. Louis and of some other relatives there. We then went by rail to Belleville, in St. Clair County, Illinois, only fourteen miles distant, stopping over night at the house of John Scheel, whom I knew, as he had visited us in Zweibrücken some years before. He had emigrated with Friedrich Engelmann, having been his assistant in the forestry service, and had married over here his youngest daughter Betty. He was a very active, shrewd man in a business way, and had succeeded in accumulating a moderate competency. He was very popular, and held at the time the lucrative office of Register of Deeds and Clerk of the Probate Court. He lived in a commodious house, enlivened by three small children. This very kind-hearted couple gave me a most cordial welcome, and invited me to remain with them as long as I liked. But Robert and I thought it best to drive to my uncle Theodor Hilgard's farm the next morning.