This grandmother I remember as a stately old lady, quaintly and plainly dressed, reading a large Bible or answering questions by quotations from its pages. She was unsuspicious as an infant, always doubtful about “actual transgressions” of any, while believing in the total depravity of all. Educated in Ireland as an heiress, she had not been taught to write, lest she should marry without the consent of her elder brother guardian. She felt that we owed her undying gratitude for bestowing her hand and fortune on our grandfather, who was but a yoeman, even if “he did have a good leasehold, ride a high horse, wear spurs, and have Hamilton blood in his veins.” She made us familiar with the battle of the Boyne and the sufferings in Londonderry, in both of which her great-grandfather had shared, but was incapable of that sectarian rancor, which marks so many descendents of the men who met on those fields of blood and fought for their convictions.
In April, 1816, father moved from Pittsburg out to the new village of Wilkinsburg; took with him a large stock of goods, bought property, built the house in which I first remember him, and planted the apple tree which imprinted the first picture on my memory. But the crash which followed the last war with England brought general bankruptcy; the mortgages on Col. McNair’s estate made the titles valueless, and this, with the fall of his real estate in Pittsburg, reduced father to poverty, from which he never recovered.
PROGRESS IN CALVINISM—HUNT GHOSTS—SEE LA FAYETTE.—AGE, 6-9.
My parents were members of the Covenanter Congregation, of which Dr. John Black was pastor for forty-five years. He was a man of power, a profound logician, with great facility in conveying ideas. To his pulpit ministrations I am largely indebted for whatever ability I have to discriminate between truth and falsehood; but the church was in Pittsburg, and our home seven miles away, so we seldom went to meeting. The rules of the denomination forbade “occasional hearing.” Father and mother had once been “sessioned” for stopping on their way home to hear the conclusion of a communion service in Dr. Brace’s church, which was Seceder. So our Sabbaths were usually spent in religious services at home. These I enjoyed, as it aided my life-work of loving and thinking about God, who seemed, to my mind, to have some special need of my attention. Nothing was done on that day which could have been done the day before, or could be postponed till the day after. Coffee grinding was not thought of, and once, when we had no flour for Saturday’s baking, and the buckwheat cakes were baked the evening before and warmed on Sabbath morning, we were all troubled about the violation of the day.
There was a Presbyterian “meeting-house” two miles east of Wilkinsburg, where a large, wealthy congregation worshipped. Rev. James Graham was pastor, and unlike other Presbyterians, they never “profaned the sanctuary” by singing “human compositions,” but confined themselves to Rouse’s version of David’s Psalms, as did our own denomination. This aided that laxness of discipline which permitted Big Jane, Adaline and brother William to attend sometimes, under care of neighbors. Once I was allowed to accompany them.