At length the time had come when I could no longer skulk behind a printing press. That bulwark had been torn down, and now I must literally open my mouth for the dumb, or be one of those dogs spoken of in Scripture who would not bark. The resolve to speak at that meeting had come in an instant as a command not to be questioned, and I began to prepare. James McKelvey, a lawyer, and nephew of my husband, drew my will and I executed it, settled my business and wrote a statement of the Visiter trouble that it might live if I ceased to do so, then went to bed, sent for Miles Brown to come to my room, and saw him alone.
He was a Pennsylvanian, who had the reputation of being a dead shot, and had a pair of fine revolvers. He pledged himself solemnly to go with me and keep near me, and shoot me square through the brain, if there was no other way of preventing me falling alive into the hands of the mob. My mind was then at ease, and I slept until my mail was brought. In it was a letter from William M. Shinn, saying that without his knowledge, my husband had succeeded in having my one-third interest in the Swissvale estate sold at sheriff’s sale, and had become the purchaser. Mr. Shinn added his opinion that the sale was fraudulent, and proposed entering suit to have it set aside; but I could attend to no suit and lost all hope of saving anything from my separate estate. Surely the hand of the Lord lay heavily upon me that day, but I never doubted that it was His hand. The Good Shepherd would lead me and feed me and I should know no want.
When it was time to go to the meeting, I was dressed by other hands than my own. I knew Harry and my brother-in-law, Henry Swisshelm, had organized for defense, and asked no questions, but went with them. Elizabeth carried her camphor bottle as coolly as if mobs and public meetings were things of every day life, while Mrs. Hyke, a New England woman, held my arm, saying:
“We’ll have a nice time in the river together, for I am going in with you. They can’t separate us.”
As we approached the Stearns House, the crowd thickened and pressed upon us. Harry stopped and said:
“Gentlemen, stand back, if you please!”
The guard closed around me, every man with his hand on his revolver. There were oaths and growls, but the mob gave way, and made no further opposition to our entrance.
The meeting was called to order by Thomas Stearns, the owner of the house and for whom the county had been named, who with his brave wife had made every possible arrangement for the meeting. The large parlors were packed with women, and every other foot of space downstairs and even up, were filled with men, while around the house was a crowd. It was a wonder where all the people could have come from. A rostrum had been erected at the end of the parlor next the hall, but I had no sooner taken it than there was an ominous murmur outside, and it was discovered that my head made a tempting target for a shot through the front door, so the rostrum was moved out of range.