Brief Sketch of a Country Neighborhood


Chapters
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Names Index

Chapter IV
Inheritance

 

Oliver W. Holmes, on being asked where the training of a child should begin, replied, “A hundred years before it is born.”  Not only should it begin then, it does, for inheritance, together with that which necessarily accompanies it is the great conservative influence which perpetuates national characteristics and preserves the identity of races.  In the case of nations, as well as communities, education, though it may modify the results of inheritance, is, itself, for the most part, determined by inheritance.  The law of heredity has long been suspected, and in late years, has been to a considerable extent, regarded as the demonstrated and universal order of nature. It is the law by which the offspring inherits the qualities and characteristics of its ancestors.  It makes the oak tree the same sort of a tree as the parent from which the seed acorn fell.  It says that everything shall produce after its kind; that other things being equal the descendants of a fast home shall be fast, and the posterity of a plug shall be plugs.  But man has an infinitely wider range, through which his characteristics may run, than the brute or vegetable creation.  It is among his ancestry that must be sought the reason and source of his powers.  The question of whether he shall be a mechanic, a tradesman, or a lawyer, is settled before he gets a chance at the problem.  Man inherits tastes, and to a certain extent, appetites and habits.  If a man’s ancestors are true and upright, he will do to rely upon, but if they are thieves or liars, it will not do to trust him.  What is the difference between North and South America?  It is the difference between the Anglo-Saxon race and the Spanish race.  What is the difference between Massachusetts and Virginia?  It is the difference between  the Pilgrim and the cavalier.  How unlike are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Quebec?  Religiously, morally, intellectually, socially, commercially and otherwise, they differ today pretty much as their founders differed generations ago.  Communities, as well as cities and commonwealths, like men have their childhood, which is the formative period.  It is the first permanent settlers who impress themselves and their character on the future.  Powerful influences may make great modifications, but it is early influences that are far reaching and generally decisive.  So it is in this little, obscure country neighborhood which is noted for nothing but good, true, honest, upright, industrious citizens.  The first settlers were men of character and the same has descended to the present generation.  There has never been but one man sentenced to the penitentiary from this section and he was sentenced by the United States government in time of war and was soon pardoned.  There were but few slaveholders in this little section and but few colored men live here now, in fact, I think there is but one in the section.  The people of this section were somewhat equally divided on the rebellion and I do not desire to give any account of how they stood.  I only wish to tell who were the first settlers and who they are now.  There is not an infidel or atheist in this section.  Though some of the people are not Christians all believe in the divinity of the scriptures.  All the people are Protestants; we never had but one Catholic in the neighborhood and he is dead.  Our people are a mixed race, some being of English, some of Dutch and others of Irish descent, but all are Americans now.  I have shown that the first settlers lived in little log huts, worshipped in the same until a hut was built in which to worship God, and these settlers, although mostly poor men, were men of character.  I have said but little of the women, the noble women of this section,  While the men were clearing the land and undergoing many hardships, the women were carding and spinning and manufacturing all the garments that were worn.  The man’s day’s work closed at sunset while the woman’s closed at late bedtime.  She was as busy after supper was cleared away until late bedtime as the man was during the day.  The women were destitute of what modern ladies would call comforts.  Their parlors, dining halls and pantries were one and the same.  Their pianos were the little flax wheels.  Their literature was a flaxen garment to be made.  Their delicacies for the table were dried pumpkin and hominy.  Their means of travel were walking or riding behind a gentleman on horseback.  All this only enobles the fair creatures of this section.  Let the poet sing of a man, “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man.”  Let me say of our women of this section, they are noble.