Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: October 1968 Volume 15 Number 2, Pages 23–31


Ivins C. Walker

Page 23

Paper written by Ivins C. Walker and read September 12, 1931, at the 200th Anniversary of the Valley Friends Meeting.

Well I sure feel proud that I have the privilege of reading a few words of foolishness to you. I have always been a dissapointment to my friends and relatives, and after this you will know why. Last Sunday a week my feet bothered me a lot so I bought a pound of epsom salts and put them in the bath tub at Denver, so had nothing much on hand for an hour and started to write this.

I placed my hat on the hat rack when I went in to dinner and some tourist finished before I did, come out and took my hat and left a little stingy affair in its place. Looked as if the hat maker stopped at quarter past three when he should have worked on until six. Being Sunday, I could not buy one until morning so I was anchored, so I finished this on the Manhatten Limited between Chicago and Mansfield, Ohio. Think the fellow who took my hat was a Quaker as I heard some one say behind me in the dining-room, "is Thee nearly through, we are late now".

I was born here among the Quakers, one mile west of here right in the same house my great-great grandparents built in 1752, Joseph and Sarah Walker, who were Quakers. It passed from one generation of Walkers to another, who were all Quakers, either inheriting it or buying it from their parents for over a 150 years. During the winter of 1777 and 1778 it was General Wayne's headquarters, who was a cousin of my great-great grand­mother Sarah. Sarah must have been a wonderful woman, as no one ever dug up any nasty things to say about her, so she must have been remarkable.

When some one publishes a lot of slimy stuff about such men as Washington and Lincoln after all these years, I would hate to hear what they say about me when I pass on. I suppose some old fellow will be sitting in a country store telling his listeners about the day I cheated him when he bought old Dobbin. Another fellow will speak up and say you were not listening carefully to what he said. Well, I want you to recollect me as a poor old foolish fellow who did the best he could. When Washington came here in 1777, he thought the Quakers were Tories, and sympathizers of the British, but he soon found out different and became very chummy with Sarah and Joseph.

When Sarah died and was buried here in this cemetery, they say there was over one thousand at the funeral. Probably the fellow who counted them had been accustomed to counting swarms of bees flying from one tree to another and may have guessed a little.

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Joseph probably was a poor hard working old daddy as lots of daddies are and was busy getting the bread and meat together while Sarah rose to fame. Do not know whether they buried Joseph in the night or gave him a ride in the sunshine. I will not go on bragging about my ancestors, as my great-great grandmother was the great-great grandmother of a lot of you in this collection. By the time the family tree got to me there were a lot of crooked limbs and weak branches.

In 1860 my father remodeled the old house my great­great grandparents built in 1752, and died before it was finished. I was then five years old. The house, before it was remodeled, was the same as when General Wayne wintered there. My mother was a member of the Port Kennedy Presbyterian Church and was born and raised on what was afterward the Todd farm and Valley Forge Memorial Chapel, consisting of 250 acres. I attended Church with her and did not get to mingle with Quakers much until 1875. In 1874 the friends here found their children going to public schools, were growing up about the same as other children in the community, but they wanted them to be ideals for other children to follow, so they decided to start a private school and looked around and selected two very good Friend teachers, Lydia Martin and Ellen L. Thomas. Lydia Martin lives in West Chester, Ellen Thomas passed on nearly six years ago.

Not being quite enough Friends children to meet expenses, they went around visiting families whose children they thought might be suitable to mingle with their children, and I was lucky enough to make the grade, as my dear mother, like every other mother, wanted her boy to grow up a good, kind and useful man and I was entered and spent four very pleasent years with the Friends and grew to like them very much; in fact, so much that I married one eleven years afterward, so must have thought they were all right.

On Fifth day the school attended Meeting,and you might think thirty-five children going into a small Meeting, some would get a little unruly, but they mostly behaved in a very creditable manner. Joseph Davis was the minister and always had a message. Josie as everyone called him, was a wonderful man. It is said when neighbors had disputes they could not settle they frequently went to Josie and went home perfectly satisfied by his decision.

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When a neighbor ran out of hay, whether he be a Quaker or not, he would tell him to come to his barn and get a load and if one was not enough to come and get another. Same way with wood. If a neighbor was out of wood he would tell him to go to his woods and cut what he wanted to last over the winter. What a grand old man he was to leave footprints like that behind him. If there were more of his kind it might be a much better world today.

At the Fifth Day Meeting Joseph Davis, his daughter, Sarah Walker, Havard Walker and his wife Martha, Joseph Thomas and his wife Mary, Blwood Thomas and his wife Anne, Joseph R. Walker and William West and his wife Rebecca, and sometimes a few others were most always in attendance unless they saw a dollar slipping around the corner, then they went to see where it lit. When Joseph R. Walker died the Valley Meeting lost a very valuable asset.

In 1879 I went to Loch's School at Norristown to get polished up a little, but was compelled to quit there in February 1881, for reasons I will not relate. I was then 16 years old and, of course, my brain cells were never filled, as lots of you know. When conversation goes beyond the ordinary I frequently say yes when I should say no, but have a fair sense of humor which enables me to get by by drawing their attention elsewhere.

I took charge of my mother's farm at 16 years of age and seemed to have a disposition to buy anything around that looked cheap, and hunt for a victim to land it on as high as I could. That is just all there is in any business today. You have a nicer way of explaining it, but it amounts to buying it as cheap as you can and selling it as high as you can.

At that time most of the Quakers were farmers and attended the Philadelphia markets, got a dollar a pound for butter when other farmers got fifty cents. Took from four to six of their choisest home raised lambs along that they bought from the cheapest drovers and took enough stuff on commission that paid all expenses, so they were sitting on top of the world. That nice, salvy, quiet talk with a little flavor of Thee and Thou sure appealed to the Philadelphians, and all fell for it. Then about every six miles there were Quaker nurserymen. They sold trees at that time from 10 cents to 50 cents a piece, and made so much money that they only worked three months in the year and pleasured around the other nine months.

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Talking to a nurseryman the other evening, he said his cheapest trees were $6.00 and run from that to $60.00. No wonder they can pleasure all the year and throw thousands in the bank each month.

Then about every six miles there was an old Quaker tanner. Every farmer killed a couple of cows during the winter and took his hides to the tanner and the tanner gave him a little tan bark in the spring to freshen up his walks, never any money, and when they passed on left small fortunes. What must it be today. Hides free and leather advanced same as trees. I sure would like to have a look at the deposits daily. What must it be in a year. So you see they always picked jobs that rolled in the money. Dumb Quakers are as scarce as hens that can read and write.

The following year I was 17 and was buying fat stock for a couple of butchers all the spare time I had. One of the old heads of the Meeting at that time had 10 fat steers to sell and I bought them. He was very particular to know when I would be after them, so we fixed Fifth Day, He had engagements for all the day except 2 o'clock, so I told him I would be there at 2. Just pulled his bait clear under. He had a nice stream of spring water running through the barnyard and when I arrived and saw the steers I knew his salt had netted him a return over $100.00. Water at seven cents a pound counts fast. I never looked surprised or made a complaint, set all kinds of traps, went as careful as I could, but in about six years he passed on. and with him my $100.00, and his children had grown very rich since. Go out in the cemetery today and you can easily tell which it is without asking. His grave is much greener than any there. I guess more water falls on it. A short time after that I wanted to buy a horse and was going to Philadelphia, but my mother advised me to buy of an old Quaker neighbor. And that was the only advice she ever gave me. Oh, what he did to me was a plenty, so I went careful for seven years and one day I caught him unaware and was able to return him evil for evil, so his grave looks the same as all the others.

That was the best education I ever had. You see I was just the age I thought I knew something, been making a little money and was getting conceited; but those Quakers sure put me back where I belonged. Most of you have read Dave Harum. He traded with a Quaker once but never again. It was raining hard and Dave and the Quaker drove under a meeting house shed. Dave wanted to trade horses, so the Quaker traded. He says after they traded, "David, this horse will not go if he gets the rain under his tail".

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So Dave started and the horse would not go as the Quaker told him. An error on Dave's part. When you trade horses listen carefully to all that is said.

I look on those old fellows today with a lot of respect, knowing what a benefit they have been to me all through my years of dealing, so when I pass over and meet them on the other side, as I know I will, for they will sure be in my class, they may be trading hot water for ice, as I know they will be smart enough, but I will sure give them a glad hand. Any of you young men in business, I would advise doing a little business with a few Quakers. It will sharpen you up.

Then I was getting to the age where I would soon be needing a wife. Thought how nice it would be to have a smart Quaker wife, intelligent children, good standing in the community, and one you would have to obey. Every man that marries a Quaker best make up his mind to obey if he wants to get along. Often wondered why the word obey was not in the marriage ceremony. But just imagine me a fat, red faced farm boy not being able to talk very intelligently, thinking I could trap a Quaker wife.

My mother was a very stout woman, could work from four in the morning until late at night if necessary, always in a good way, good company and liked to see things, advised me to look for a fat wife. Said they did not have headaches when there was work to do, could eat rough food, and never needed a doctor, did not care to tear around in society,and sleep half the next day. So I could see from an economical standpoint, having very little money, that was what I needed.

I started to look for a fat Quaker but found there was none. Either their parents were too economical to give them full feed or else their mothers kept the starchy stuff away from them so they would grow up attractive and marry city chaps. None of the mothers wanted their daughters to marry farmers. Too much drudgery connected with it. Having gone to school with Mary, knew she was a good sport, easy to get along with, and not very expensive to operate, I called several times, but Mary, like the rest, had her mind made up on a city home. Saw there was no chance, so I started to look around every place, but usually a black cat ran across the walk and the mother would appear in the door asking me what I wanted, and I was too nervous to tell her I was looking for a wife.

By that time Quaker girls looked to me like Florida bungalows. Lots of finish, but no heat. I was looking for a little warmth. Every Quaker house commenced to look frosty, so I about gave up. One day late in March I was hauling wood out of Chicken Hallow, up south of Howellville, and old Bill Hawk, who lived there, was helping me load wood.

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Bill had been married twice, each time had married school teachers, wonderful, attractive, refined women. The first lived about six years and then he married the second one about a year after the first one died. I said, "Bill how did you ever get such attractive wives?" He said, "I don't know anything about how to trap one of these city girls, but can sure tell you how a country girl will fall for you. The time to go for one is in September when the harvest moon is ripe," I says, Why September, why not now? "Oh, he says, "no time in the Spring, winter is just over, birds are sing­ing, girls are happy. September is different. Trees have lost their luster. The country really looks lonely. Their city cousins have been out spending August and all having a good time, so about the time harvest is ripe they are lonely."

So I waited, and when the harvest moon was ripe I bought a cake of Larkin's soap, applied it freely to get rid of the farm aroma, and was right on the spot. I saw Mary in the yard knocking croquet balls around by herself. Saw she was lonely, I asked her to take a ride. Those sunset winds sighing in the trees, the lazy clouds rolling along, the harvest moon to look at, all the lonely roads I could find, and home by the big old frog pond. Used to be in Erwin's field opposite Scott's entrance and those frogs were sure croaking. How I prayed for them to do their best, I don't think they could have done better. And home, no house along the road after I left the frogs. Every mile we went I felt as if we were getting a little closer. Don't forget the combination. Even if you are a little rough, catch them when the harvest moon is ripe and they are lonely. I suppose if it had not been for old Bill I would have been wandering around yet, so after a couple of years she said "yes". Think of me with a father and mother, two older brothers, one maiden sister, 12 years older, and a younger sister and two old very inquisitive maiden aunts, all giving me the once over every time I called. I did not make as much noise as a mouse when I came in, but stuck it out.

The day I was married, when I left home, I looked back over the hill a half mile west of here. Had never been away from the farm two nights in my life, and tears began to roll down my cheeks. Just realised the seriousness of it and wondered how it could all turn out. I want to tell you happiness started right then. We are on the last half of the 44th year and I have been able to increase her weight 66 pounds, so I have a lovely big fat Quaker wife. Everything comes to him who waits.

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Girls, I don't think it makes any difference whether you marry a country Rube or a city chap, providing you pull together. After I was married, life passed along about the same as it does with most of the younger Quakers. They look at most of the high spots and don't pay much attention to going to meeting. Then our children got to the age where their mothers say it is time we are attending meeting. The children of today make the world of tomorrow. So the better the children the better the world, We used to drive to the meeting frequently on First Day afternoon and it had gotten to look very much neglected. Many of the older members had passed on and the younger ones had moved into the cities, and there were only a few to keep it up. So on First Day John and Emily Harvey were driving by and a hail storm come up and they drove under the sheds. Uncle William West come out and asked them to come in and worship.

Uncle William West was a grand old man loved by every one and always doing something for the benefit of the meeting. The Harveys saw at once the meeting needed their help, as what you see here today is all due to John and Emily. If it had not been for the hail storm the Meeting would probably have looked like the other old meeting houses around the country. Any organization lucky enough to get John and Emily interested, means success at once.

I was in a hail storm out in Colorado one day this summer and wondered whether it was doing as much good there as the one did for the Valley Meeting. When Winfield Conard came along. Win is a wonderful fellow, as dependable as the Rock of Ages, Then we had a great foundation. We had started to coming then, and Sarah and I were appointed on the Improvement Committee. Sarah was sure a good sport and wanted to see it approved. We all got busy, Mary and I sent out letters to all the Friends telling them our intention and the relatives of the persons buried in the cemetery and the whole community rolled the money right in as if we had and interest in the leather or nursery business. First thing we put on a new roof. Remodeled the building outside and in. Covered the scats; tore down the sheds and put up new ones. I said to Sarah, "I don't like this old delapidated fence." She said "neither do I." "Well," I says, "what about a nice stone wall. Going to cost a good deal." "Well," she says, "let's have it anyway." So the wall went up. The road was fixed and then we commenced to get results. Look what wonderful people we have coming here now. Rather surprised that I should be permitted to be among them.

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Quakers, as you notice, are most always slow starting to meeting. It is the mothers who start them. Every mother is thinking of her children all her life. When they start to walk she is guiding them. When they start to school she combs her hair, cleans them up so they will look well among other children, and when they get a lit­tle older wants them to go to some place of worship so they grow up to be good men and women, and when they are old enough to marry she wonders whether they are getting the right kind of a companion. So all through the ages she is thinking of you.

Sixty years ago I attended a theatre at Ninth and Arch Streets, Philadelphia. A middle-aged woman came out and went into one hotel and then another and come out and sang in a snow scene, "Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?" Recollect it as if it were yesterday. A scene of that kind would have much better effect than a lot of these slimy movies that are on the screen today. I suppose there are thousands of mothers all over the world tonight wondering the same as they were sixty years ago.

Boys or girls if you are stepping a little fast, temptation may be just around the corner, think of your mother, whether she would approve of what you are doing. It may help a lot for you to grow up to be better and more useful men and women. So give her a hand as long as you can. Mine has been dead over forty years. I find myself thinking of her a lot. Don't forget poor old Daddy altogether. He has more feelings than lots of you inagine. May be a little rough on the surface but under that he has a lot of tender feelings. Get better acquainted with the Old Man as they are usually called. They are not such bad old fellows when you get to know them. Lots of children hardly know their daddy except on pay day.

Well I am sorry I had to keep you so long. Had this come off forty years ago it would have been easier for you, but to go from the cradle to the grave took too long. This is a different class of people than I usually have before me. Most of my friends live down by the railroad tracks, and their lingo is a good deal on this order;" This will be about the end of my foolishness. Feel as if it was time to wash up."

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Last Saturday night a week I was standing on the corner at Greeley, Colorado, and the leader of the Salvation Army was singing "Are You Ready?" Made me think. In fact Dr. Kriebel tills me to watch my step and go careful as it may come any time, but doctors make errors like all the rest of us, but if it should come and you have nothing on hand, glad to have you here. Any of you that enjoy a smoke light up and have a good time, as I may have to get used to smoke before I get around. No sobbing stuff, keep that for a younger and better man.

Well, I know there are a lot of real intelligent people that you want to hear, "rearin to go". If in doubt, join the Quakers as they are in a class by themselves. I love and like you all. Good-bye until we meet again.


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