Guest Blogger, Elijah A. Smith, The Register, Blaineton, NJ
If SAINT MAGGIE reads a little like a mystery story and SEEING THE ELEPHANT has to do with skullduggery regarding economics and illness, WALK BY FAITH and A TIME TO HEAL, stories that take place in Pennsylvania, might be seen as one tale about a battle and what is left behind.
In 1862, Patrick, Frankie’s aforementioned beau, and Lydia’s husband Edgar were off fighting the war with the New Jersey Fifteenth Volunteers. My friend, photographer, and reporter Chester Carson and I got permission to go off shortly thereafter to follow the Fifteenth as war correspondents. That left Maggie, the Johnsons, Maggie’s girls, Grandpa O’Reilly, and Matilda and Chloe Strong (a fine mother and daughter who came to us through the Underground Railroad) to manage the Second Street Boarding House and print the Gazette in the absence of Mr. Carson and myself.
Then some local hate-mongers thought they might show us who’s who by burning down the boarding house as well as my Gazette building. By God’s grace, the family managed to get out alive.
Things were looking pretty grim for my loved ones. They were homeless. Everything they owned seemed to have been burned up.
Luckily, Maggie’s brother Sam and sister-in-law Abigail took them in, and Carson and I came back to help them sort things out. The sorting out included moving the whole kit and caboodle to Gettysburg and into my family’s old house on West Street. I thought it would make sense for the duration.
The events chronicled in WALK BY FAITH were tumultuous. Maggie and I were not seeing eye to eye. She didn’t appreciate my need to chase a story and I didn’t appreciate that she felt abandoned. We hid things from each other. In fact, she didn’t even tell me we were going to be blessed with a child.
As you may have surmised, we all suffered through the battle in Gettysburg – along with a few other battles along the way for me, one of which landed me in a field hospital.
Do you remember when I said two articles ago that I didn’t want to see the likes again of what happened after the minister moved into the boarding house?
I take that back.
This was worse. Much worse.
You are welcome read the first chapter of WALK BY FAITH at the Store.
A TIME TO HEAL describes what happened to us once battle was over.
The town of Gettysburg was a disaster, so Nate and I took our wives away from the mess and up to stay with my sister Sarah and my brother-in-law Andrew, who lived about eight miles north in Middletown (I think you call it Biglerville these days). We wanted our wives to have some peace and quiet, so they could heal. Frankly, Nate and I needed to do some healing, too.
We soon found a house of our own to rent and moved in. That freed up a couple rooms in my sister’s place, because heaven knows she and Andrew are a fertile pair and they no doubt would need the space in another year or so.
Frankie, Lydia, Matilda and Chloe, Carson, and Grandpa stayed behind to see to the wounded soldiers who were still recovering at our house. Our patients didn’t leave for about two-three weeks, until Camp Letterman was built as a temporary hospital.
It was starting to look like we’d be all right, until…
Another “until” happened.
Frankie and Lydia got themselves into hot water, which somehow got blamed on me. To pile on the agony, I got tossed in jail. Luckily, Maggie and the rest decided to take on a hearing with the District Provost Marshal to try to explain what happened. If they could.
But there was a big bright spot in all that. Maggie, our adopted son Bob, and I welcomed a baby girl to our family. I became a father for the second time. And a powerful proud one, at that, if I do say myself.
You can see how the whole adventure starts in a free peek at the first chapter of A TIME TO HEAL at the Store.
I’ve got one more story to talk about, SEEING THE ELEPHANT. That is, if Miss Stafford lets me.
She might as well. After all, I’ve gone this far.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder