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Autobiographical Reminiscences of David Johnston
Chapter XXX


"A careless thing, who placed his choice in chance,
Nursed by the legends of his land's romance.
Eager to hope, but not less firm to bear;
Acquainted with all feelings, save despair."
Byron.

TEN dollars each, in addition to the usual fare ($52.50), secured the privilege of joining the teachers of Oakland in an excursion to the east. The incidents attending this journey were of a many and varied character, partaking of tragedy, comedy and serio-comic. On reaching Sacramento a party joined the excursion consisting of a lady and her two children (Mrs. Dr. Tinckham), the eldest a beautiful girl 16 years old, the youngest a boy about 8. The train had reached but a short distance when, at Rocklin, the report of a pistol was heard from a car in the rear of us. In common with others I rushed to the melancholy scene to behold that beautiful young lady in her mother's embrace, breathing her last. The ball had penetrated her heart, and such was the sympathetic confusion at the time that the fellow who did. the shooting was suffered to escape. Opinion on the train was pretty evenly divided as to whether the tragical event was the result of accident or design. In either case, had the scoundrel been caught it would have stood hard with him.

We are slow in remedial measures to check a fearfully growing evil—the concealed-weapon curse. While we lament the tragic feature of our excursion, we must not omit the serio-comic portion thereof. On our way through the valley of Utah from Ogden to Denver, by the narrow-gauge Rio Grande railroad, the party was divided up, some desirous of seeing the lions of Salt Lake City, others anxious to proceed to Denver. The latter party we joined, and proceeded on our way to Denver. On approaching Provo City I inquired of the conductor how long we stopped there for dinner. His laconic answer was, " thirty minutes." Having dined, I resolved to employ my time taking a photograph of the snow-capped mountain of Nebo. It seemed posed and draped ready for its picture. I had succeeded in posing the mountain and had him in focus when the train was backed, cutting off the view. I had just time to throw the plate away at the depot and behold the train growing beautifully less in the distance. Here was I, penniless, left among the Mormons, with my wife, daughter and ticket retreating from my helpless view. I seated myself on a bench and ventilated my feelings by perpetrating the following doggerel:

This smiling morn of June,
By Utah's lovely banks,
I find my heart in tune
To offer up my thanks,
That thus I'm left behind
This paradise to view.
The faults let others find,
I sing of merits due.
Fleeing from the tyrant,
A helpless, homeless race,
Here they found a desert,
New trials stern to face.
Now a smiling garden|
Meets the wondering gaze,
The traveler stands aghast
At the marvel of the phase;
Nor has he time to probe
The every ways and means,
By which the broad disparity
Is made to lie between;
Whereas he found a wilderness,
A sterile, barren waste.
Now a scene of beauty
Adorned by arts and taste.

While thus engaged, the telegrapher, seeing me writing from his window, asked me if I was communicating with the train for my ticket. When shown the fruits of my study he seemed tickled, and asked permission to copy the lines in his journal. Being allowed he immediately became my friend. He proffered his services to row me on the lake, and in two hours handed me a note from my thoughtful Annie, inclosing my ticket and a $5 bill, with instructions to my erring steps to take the train on the following day with the remainder of the party. Extraordinary kindness appeared to be brought into full play by my mishap. Well entertained at the hotel in Provo I took the train as directed on the following day. The ladies of the party partook of no delicacy that I must not share. On reaching the grand junction we were met by a telegram announcing the destruction of a bridge between us and Denver, and consequently had to retrace our steps to Ogden, thence by Cheyenne to Denver—a city which, for enterprise, was more like Chicago than any I had seen—which we reached two hours after our folks had started for Omaha, where, after a separation of some four days, we met to traverse the rich fertile fields of Iowa and Illinois together to the live city of Chicago, where we were in two weeks after our arrival visited by our benefactor, Dr. Stoddart, who, in his munificence, purchased a splendid new brick house for us, wherein to dwell and end our days when the time comes for us to go; and now this juncture suggests itself to me as a fitting time to close this desultory record. Notwithstanding its being a pledge redeemed, I go to press with fear and trembling. I have endeavored, by interspersing such historical matter as came from time to time under my notice, to tone down that crude personality which a volume of this nature is apt to assume, rather than make any attempt to embellish. I ask my circle of friends to be tender in their criticism. Beyond that circle I have not the presumption to look.

On politics in these memoirs I have been somewhat reticent. However, I think due to my democratic friends (and they are numerous as they are respected) some reasons for my clinging so pertinaciously to the opposite party. Those friends will doubtless agree with me in the assertion that hatred of slavery is natural to a Scottish man. This feeling of hatred had the effect of drawing me into the ranks of the anti-slavery society in London. After residing in that city twenty-seven years I became a citizen of this great republic, and for ten years voted in Wisconsin by virtue of my first papers. It so happened that, landing in this country in 1848, I found the agitations of the factions pretty high. The slave-power, squirming under trammels of former compromises, was assuming a bolder front, threatening the stultification of Mason and Dixon's line and the measures employed in the introduction of Missouri into the Union in 1821. To counteract those influences a new platform was formed at Buffalo, under the auspices of Mr. Van Buren, called the "free-soil platform." Could there be any marvel that I should become attached to that party whose proclivities were so much in unison with my past life? This party ripened into what is now called the Republican party. With its laudable endeavors I have drifted, and at this late day regret it not, although I think the nation has profited by our defeat at the last presidential election. All honor to the present incumbent! May his noble efforts to purify this grand republic from all evils which the bias of party spirit inevitably engenders be crowned with success, is the sincere wish of the subscriber, D. J.


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