As we review the lives of some of the later generation of Smithville citizens, we recall many whose fathers or grandfathers were the pioneers of the district. They were hardy, staunch and true as the giant oaks which fell before the razor edge of their axes, swung with arms strong and willing. The sons of these pioneers arc now tilling well-cleared, cultivated fields, with modern machinery, and modern methods of agriculture. But occasionally we meet one who has been but slightly influenced by modern thought and methods, a farmer of the old school, who not only continues to use many of the methods of his forefathers and emulates their sterling qualities of heart and head, men whose code of honor, homespun philosophy, and rural simplicity, might well be followed by many men of our own time.
One of such type lived near Smithville, on the old homestead farm situated half a mile from the village. The house was built in old cottage style and was surrounded by honeysuckle and lilacs. The interior was laid out in large rooms, with high ceilings, each room containing a large fire-place, before which James Harvey Griffin, nicknamed “Harvey Dick,” and his ancestors had toasted their shins and frozen their backs for over a century. The furniture was old-fashioned, which gave the place an added charm. The greatest charm of the place, however, was Harvey, its sole occupant, a bachelor of medium height, with a body round and plump and a grey beard which formed a half-moon frame for a round, smiling, kindly face, with two mild blue eyes which blinked merrily. A word as to his ancestry will be of interest to the reader. Richard Griffin, Smithville’s first citizen, referred to in former chapters, had a son, the youngest of the family whose name was also Richard. His son was Richard the 6th, in a direct line and he was the father of James Harvey Griffin. Adjoining Harvey’s house was an orchard, in which grew strawberry Pippins, Seek-no-furthers, and the yellowest harvest apples I have ever seen. There was also a huge black cherry tree in the orchard, the strength of whose every limb I have tested, and beyond the orchard was a hundred acre farm, dotted here and there with hickory trees, completes the picture. The old gentleman was a friend to all the small boys. A timid knock at the door and a polite request gave them access to the apples or cherries in their seasons, or all the hickory nuts they cared to gather.
One cold winter day a fire broke out in the dwelling of a poor family in the village. It was the home of an old couple, both past three score and ten years. Attracted by the excitement of the fire, boy-like, I was present. The building was still burning when I arrived, but I learned that James Harvey Griffin had been there already, with his team of sorrel colts which he always drove with halters and bits, and usually at a gallop. The colts were hitched to a big jumper sleigh, with a painted box and curved sides which made it resemble a huge old-fashioned cradle.
Harvey usually sat in the bottom of this box, which was partly filled with straw, and called at his team, as they galloped on a tight rein, “Hip Julee,” “Hip, Hip, Juice.” He had brought his sympathy for this old couple wrapped up in a bag of flour, a ham and a load of wood. I have seen him leave the village store for home with a big bag of oranges and before he had reached the end of the street this bag was empty. He had met friends of his boyhood, he had met children, and the oranges that he intended to take home had faded away, but his smile had broadened and his eyes had a brighter twinkle. Dear, generous, kind-hearted old man; he was the worthy son of a worthy sire. Why do I call his father, Richard the 6th, a worthy sire. We shall see. Yankee Jones was ill with an incurable disease. His family had little with which to provide fuel and food. A heavy snow-storm visited the district after which the termometer fell several degrees. Richard Griffin and his son Harvey were in the village and Richard had a burning curiosity to peek into Yankee Jones’s barn. Whether Harvey knew the cause of this curiosity we cannot say, but at any rate, they stole unobserved to the back of Yankee’s barn and peeked in. It was here that Yankee kept his wood, when he had any. A few sticks only could be seen by the observers. Richard hurried the team home, but they did not stop at the barn as usual, but went on to the bush at the back of the farm. Here a generous load of wood was piled on the sleighs and Harvey was sent back to Yankee Jones’s barn, and not empty handed. In the morning Yankee’s family discovered that they had good hard wood for the severe weather that followed. Richard Griffin had this habit of peeking into the woodsheds of poor people, in severe weather, or in cases of sickness. I strongly believe that these two men were peeking into more than an empty woodshed in these visits; I believe they were peeking into Heaven. Many a bag of potatoes and of flour found their way into the kitchens of poor homes. When Richard and his son measured grain for sale they rounded the measure and then threw on a shovelful to make sure that there was a bushel. I heard a man of seventy years of age, still a resident of Smithville, speaking of Richard Griffin, say: “He was the finest man that ever lived in Smithville.” The philosophy of these men as they lived it may be summed up as follows:
‘A man’s word should be as good as his bond.’
‘A true neighbor is one who knows how, and when, to lend a helping hand.’
‘A handshake should be a warm clasp, prompted by a warm heart, rather than a limp formality.’
‘The foundation of refinement is an inherited gentility rather than an acquired polish.’