Life of John Nash, Sr.

Mahaska County

Submitted by Larry Gould
1442 Hiddenridge
Derby, KS






Recopied in 1997 by Larry Gould, a fifth generation descendant, from copies of the original printed book.


Mr. John Nash, Sr., was one of the most remarkable men of the times in which he lived. Born in humble life, but gifted with a strong will, an indomitable courage and unremitting perseverance, as well as a desire for accumulating information from his intercourse with men of superior education, his talent for dry, witty humor caused his sayings to be admired by every one and oftimes reported in the newspapers.

In the following pages we will endeavor to give the reader a plain honest home-spun account of his life, which, by request, he permitted us to make public this little sketch of his life, witnessed by many to be true, and copied as it dropped from his own lips, and amid his great suffering we feel aware that we have related many small uninteresting circumstances; but if so, it is deemed necessary in order to get a true history of the different periods of his life as they passed from childhood onward.

We do not know of anything in this book to be criticised by honorable men--if on our grammar, we make no pretense to use it; if on the arrangement of the book, we never wrote one before and never read many, and of course know but very little about that. Many authors see fame; we seek justice for the man who has done so much good in this world to humanity, and set such a noble and pure example before his family that each member may look back over his life with respect.

As a Christian, he was a Baptist. As a Politician, a Democrat. As a neighbor, a counselor. As a parent was always looked to as a guide by each and every member of his family.

Our object in making public this little book is to prove to the public that aged parents are never forgotten, but will forever be cherished in the hearts of their offspring.

His Children


I was born in Sussex County, England, October 24th, 1800 in the Parish of Ashburnham, and was raised by my widowed mother. A three-year-old sister and myself, an infant, was all the family consisted of. My mother had no means of support for her self and family except by her own labor, and that was very scanty as she could not go out to work till I was about three years old , then she went out washing and would leave us two alone. She would go early and have to stay late at night, and would get one shilling for her day’s work. Before leaving in the morning she would set us something to eat, as we would be asleep when she would leave, and she would sometimes find us asleep upon her return from work. Sometimes I would not see my mother for several days. We lived in a small village with several houses nearby, and we would get out and play with other children. Sometimes we would quarrel and they would whip us, but my sister would fight for her little brother Johnnie, as she always called me. We had no one to take care of us. My mother did the best that lay in her power.

When I was eight years old I went to work for 5 pence a day. Had to go two miles to my work and I was weakly. I wore long shoes (they do not go in their bare feet in that country). With two miles to walk both morning and night, and in fact on my feet all day, my ankles go to swelling and it would often trouble me to get home. My mother had often come to meet me and would carry me on her back part of the way home. But I got so lame that I had to lay for a while, and my mother got me high shoes, so I then went to work and worked that way until I was eleven years old. But my mother had married in the meantime and I was then hired to a large farmer for my board. The farmer kept three hired men and two boys, all of whom slept in the same room. Besides these, he had two girls to do the housework. His own son and daughters attended school, but the boys would sometimes ride around and order the hands to work. We two boys had a hard time with the three young men and the master and his two sons. But I was sent to tend sheep; that was easy work for me. I could sit down, take out my knife and whittle and watch sheep. I would cut out different things, and sometimes my master would come along and watch me and show me how to make them. He was pleased with my ingenious ways.

But sometimes I would drop off to sleep and my master would come along, and the first thing I would know he would have the whip across my shoulders. I had a large shepherd dog and as soon as he would hit me the dog would fly at him and bite him, so the next time he would go to whip me he would tie the dog and he would tear around and howl while he was whipping me. He did not dare turn him loose for some time after. It was not often he could catch that dog, so he saved me many a whipping. My master was not a bad sort of a man, but he was very passionate. He thought me one of the best of boys among sheep he ever had, and he always gave me a sixpence soon after he would whip me.

A storm would often come up while we were tending the sheep, and we would get behind the small mound of gravel that had been thrown up by the ants, and I would throw my overcoat over us as we lay side by side. My dog was as much afraid of the storm as I was. When it was over we would get up and shake ourselves, but my dog got killed while away from home, so I lost my protector. I was about twelve years old then.

My master, sons and daughter would often go to the dancing school three miles from home. They would go before dark and I would be sent after night to carry home a large bundle of dancing suits. I would likely get home at three o’clock in the morning, get to sleep about two hours and work all the following day. But the young lady and gentleman would get to lie in bed all forenoon, they were so much better than I. They were men and I was a poor boy, so I had to walk six miles and be up nearly all night. The oldest son would often ride off, in the evening and would not come home till after midnight, and I would have to sit up to take his horse to pasture.

One night I well remember. I expect I rode the horse too fast, for after turning the horse loose and returning to the house, the first thing I knew the whip was on my back. I ran to the stairs which led to our sleeping apartment, he following me, striking me at every step. One of the men jumped out of bed and told him to come no farther or he would break his neck. He said he didn’t want to be waked up in the night by whipping a boy when he ought to be asleep. The next morning the old gentleman asked the hired hand what he meant last night. He said he meant just what he said. The master then told him he could go. He said he would if he paid him, but this the old gentleman would not do, as farm hands were very scarce (as this was the time England was at war with all nations) and he was a good hand. I don’t remember that my master ever whipped me after that, but I had some hard times afterwards.

I was sent to the plow. They do not plow there as they do here. They use from four to six horses, with a man to hold the plow and a boy to drive. They do not have any lines, but the boy walks along at the side of the horses and keeps them straight with a big whip. Some of the men are mean enough to take the whip and lay it on the boy if he does not keep the horses just right. I would walk all day with the plow and would have to go three miles to the blacksmith shop and carry a lathe on my shoulder, to be sharpened, and it would often be long after dark when I would get back. It was always the boy’s place to go to the blacksmith.

I remember and accident that happened when I was about thirteen years old. I was working for a farmer for my board. It was on Sunday and the family was away from home, excepting the servants, and a boy considerable older than myself. He had a knife in his hand and was whittling, when we got to scuffling. He got me down and I tried to get up. He held the knife in his hand and jabbed it in my left temple. I think I can feel it scrunch through the bone yet. He was very much scared and said he had forgotten the knife was in his hand. He had cut an artery and the blood was pouring out like water from a pump. We tried to stop it, but had to go in the house and the two girls got cobwebs and tried a long time and finally thought it had stopped. I was then sent to the doctor, two miles away, all alone. It was a very warm June day and my walking soon started it to bleeding again. This was just after England had made peace with all nations, and on that day the King of Prussia, the Emperor of Russia, General Blucher and his sister came through England to see the country. I met them in the road with their servants, a great many of them; I was covered with blood and scared their horses. When I got to the doctor’s he was not in, and being weak from the loss of blood I fell down, and that is the last I remember. They say the doctor came that night, but they said I did not bleed any then; the doctor said I had not an ounce of blood in me. They carried me to the nearest house and the doctor said I could not live till morning, but that he would call early in the morning. He came and found me still alive but said he thought I could not live. They sent for my mother and watched me night and day. Sometimes they could not tell whether I was breathing or not, and would take a glass and put over my mouth to see. This happened on Sunday and I lay in that condition until the following Friday. When I awoke, as I thought, and saw the sun shining in the room, I thought I had overslept, and sprang from the bed and fell to the floor. My mother and sister were in the room and came and picked me up and placed me on the bed, where I lay unconscious until Sunday--just one week. My head was bound up in the blood and smelled bad, but had to remain so two days, for the doctor said that if it started to bleeding again nothing on earth could stop it, and when they did get it off they soaked it in warm water two or three hours and it smelled so bad it troubled me to bear it. It left me so weak that I was compelled to keep my bed a long time. I do not think the youth did it intentionally. He was so scared that he ran off and enlisted as a soldier, for he thought sure I would die. He would often write home to know if I were still living.

It was over six months before I went to work again, and that was too soon, for I would sometimes drop in the field and lie senseless, sometimes alone; so I had to quit work and go home to my mother and step-father, and they were poor. My step-father was very kind to me, but they had three little children and it was as much as he could do to make a living for themselves, and work hard every day all the year round, and he did not spend his money for beer, as some say the English do. He threshed wheat in the winter with a flail. They lived five miles from the doctor and were not able to pay the doctor to come and see me, and I was not able to walk, so they got me a donkey to ride. I was to go twice a week. I was so weak and the donkey so stubborn that I could not manage him at first. He would kick up and try to throw me over his head, and if nothing else would do he would lie down with me. Sometimes I could not get home the same night and would have to stay with friends along the road, but as I got more strength I could manage my donkey very well. The doctor prescribed me one-half pint of porter every morning to strengthen me. My mother lived near a tavern, so I got it fresh every morning. It cost about three cents--this money. I was about fourteen years old when I got well.

I then went to work on a farm at one shilling per day and board myself. At the age of sixteen I went in Lord Ashburnham’s garden to work, getting two shillings per day. From the garden I went into the Lord’s stables. There were five of us in the stables, a coachman and four grooms. We did not do much work except to keep the horses clean and exercise them, and stand in readiness when called for. That would be a short notice. Sometimes the old Lord would ride out in the carriage alone and would have two men--one on each horse in front, the coachman in the box on top of the carriage and two men on horseback--one in front and one behind--to open and close the gates on his enclosure, for he would go five or six miles on his estate. Sometimes he would put his head out of the carriage window and ask if the horses were running off or if they were under control, and again he would ask if the horses were moving or standing still. The lady and her daughters would sometimes go in the carriage together. They had a house in London and they would often be there. The coach would be ordered to the front door at such a time; sometimes we would have to sit there nearly an hour. It was in the winter, and the wind would blow up those streets at a terrible gale, and we would get so cold that our feet would rattle in the stirrups.

At the age of twenty-one I married Sarah Martin, the youngest daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Martin. I then left the stables and rented a house and a few acres of land of Lord Ashburnham, and went to work as best I could.

When we had two children we moved to the south coast of England, thinking I could better my financial condition; but I taken down with typhus fever shortly after settling, and lay for months with little hopes of recovery and was among strangers, with very dull prospects before me.

Being restored to health again, we moved back to Ashburnham and I went to farming again as best I could, for in that country it was rent a very few acres and do most of the work with spade and hoe. I also carried mail from the town of Battle to Ashburnham, a distance of five miles, three times a week, and distributed it to the owners in the Parish Of Ashburnham. Lord Ashburnham kept a man to carry his mail every day.

My health was very poor. I was taken down sick in 1833 and lay for months. My friends had little hopes of my recovery, but by kind Providence I was restored to health again.

Another time I was like Job--smitten with boils all over my back. My wife counted over sixty, some large and some small. You could not put the point of your finger between them. The doctor said I was as full inside as out, and the scars go with me to my grave.

Being restored to health, and thinking the sea air might benefit me and my family, I made arrangements to go to America. It did help, for my health was good on the ocean.

But it was not so for some of my family. My wife and daughter were sick when we landed in New York. It was raining in the morning but was pleasant in the afternoon, so I took them out for a few rods, thinking it might help them. But that night they both complained of their feet paining them, and they took to swelling so that we were troubled to get their shoes off, and the next morning neither of them could stand on their feet; but my wife was soon able to walk, but it was three years before my daughter could walk, but only with a good doctor and kind Providence she got well. Then my oldest daughter got sick, but we left her in a hospital in New York for treatment and we then went to New Jersey to live.

I was forty-one years old when I left England for America, and the father of twelve children, one having died in England; and I started over the ocean with eleven. I worked hard all the time and so did my wife and children, all that were old enough; and we used all the economy possible and then could scarcely live.

You hear of great troubles in Ireland; their laws are the same as England’s, and we all were under the same government. The lords and great men own the land and they rent the farms. It takes as much money to rent a farm there as it does to buy one here, and the farmers hire men to do the work and they pay their hands from ten to twelve shillings per week and they board themselves out of that, and very likely have a large family to keep and house rent to pay and firing to buy. Twelve shillings per week is the highest they pay a farm hand, and that is about two dollars and seventy cents, if I have counted right. One pound of English money is twenty shillings, and that is four dollars and eighty cents. What would a man here think, not to get as much as three dollars per week to keep and clothe himself and family on. It is the truth, and he does not dare lose a day; if he does his pay is cut short.

It has been said that the laboring classes in England drink hard. It may be so with some, but a very few. I have known some to take their money on Saturday night and go to a tavern and spend part of their money on beer, when the family at home needed all and more that he had got, but it was not so with many; they had to save every penny. I know I did or I would not have been in this country. It was the best start I ever made for myself and family. I thought there were places where a man could make a good living by hard work.

I had a brother in New York city and he wrote to us and said it was a good country for a poor man, and he thought we could do well here; so we started over the sea with eleven children, and my youngest child, fifteen months old, died two weeks before we landed. We were eight weeks and one day on the sea, and for seven weeks we did not see anything but sky and water, but we could not get half enough water to drink and not much of anything to eat the latter part of the way, we were so long coming over. We came over in a sail vessel; there were not many steamers run at that time.

We landed in New York City with ten children and went to my brother’s house, and my wife and children took the scarlet fever. My children got along very well but my wife was very bad, and we did not think she could live. The doctor said she had it the worst he ever saw to live; and she got better. I talked of going out to Ohio, but my brother would not hear to it, at all. He said if we went so far away he would never see us again. My brother was employed by a man named George Walker, who was a preacher and dealer in charcoal, and he had land and coaled the timber and my brother said he knew he would do well by me if I would stay there, for he was like a father to him. So I was persuaded to stay, and this man Walker and I went out in Jersey, near Patterson, and he bought two hundred acres on what they called Hickory Ridge, all in timber, not a foot cleared, for which he paid one hundred dollars, and that is all he ever paid, I heard. So he said he would put me up a log house in a few days, and I and the boys were tot cut the timber and cord it up and he would pay me for cutting it and I might have the land, as he didn’t want it and it would make me a farm.

So I thought I was dealing with an honest man, and I took my family up in the settlement and paid one dollar per week for one room while I built my house; he didn’t help me at all. This was November, as we landed in September. So I got my house finished; it was a log house and over one mile from any other house. I took my family up on the mountain, as I called it, but the people in the settlement said it was too bad to take those little children to that lonesome place. My oldest son hired out for the winter, but the rest of us were up there, and I and the boys that were big enough commenced chopping wood. We got several cords cut; and I then went to the city to my boss for some money, but could not get any, so I went back without it, and we cut some more wood when we could, but it was a very cold winter and there was a great deal of snow, but we cut several cords.

We were thirty-five miles from New York City and I went there three times for money, and I got only a few dollars. The second time I went was in the latter part of February, and he let on that he could not pay me. I told him that I would leave the place and go to Ohio, and he had the impudence to laugh at me, and said, "You can’t go now, for you have spent all your money." It was nearly so, for I had a large doctor bill to pay in New York and it cost me considerable to put up my house and pay rent while I was building, for I was several weeks building it . But I was determined to leave the place, as they could not raise any wheat there and I wanted to go where I could raise wheat, for we had not been used to corn-bread. But I forgot to say that it cost me a great deal that winter to keep my family. There were eleven out of twelve on the mountain to keep, and I bought my flour and meat by the barrel at New York, so my money was getting very slim; but my eldest son, the one that hired out, took his wages and bought a horse and I bought an old one-horse wagon and we fixed up to start in March.

We took only our clothes and bedding and a few cooking utensils to get our meals with on the way. The smaller children rode, but all that were able had to walk. Myself and four of my oldest boys walked most of the way through, between five and six hundred miles, but we had started too soon. There were snow-drifts on the road and we could not travel, so we stayed at a farm-house two weeks and worked for our board. But our horse was balky, so I traded him off for an old one, and he went very well for a while, but he had spells at times when he could not go at all, and when we got into Pennsylvania he laid down and could not get up again. I had a new double-barreled shot-gun which I traded off for a blind horse; he was a good horse, so we got along finely then but we were a long time on the road. My old wagon was very shackly, and it broke at places, and when we got near Bladensburg, Knox County, Ohio, one wheel went to smash and we could not go any further, but we did not care about going any further, as we were near the center of Ohio.

There I was. A broken wagon, a blind horse, ten children, and thirty-seven cents money and among strangers; but they were very kind to us. Bladensburg is a small town, and they rented me a house, and some came with wood to make a fire and others with feed for the horse, and the tavern-keeper brought us a table and two chairs, and the next morning the store-keeper’s wife sent us a large pan full of hot biscuits. They all seemed glad to have us stay there with them. If we had only come the fall before, as I had intended doing and had already taken passage on the water for us all, we would have had money left; but I was persuaded out of it by my brother, who did not want us to go so far away.

My brother wrote to me some time afterwards that his employer had cheated him out of five hundred dollars; he was paid so much weekly, and left what he did not want to use in his boss’ hands, thinking it would be safe, as he was rich, but he found out after it was too late that all he had was in his wife’s name.

But we found friends here, and I got work for myself and boys. There was a nice large garden here and I spaded it up, and the tavern-keeper, Washington Houck was his name, would come and lean on the fence and watch me spade. One day he said he would like to rent me his farm (he had a farm of one hundred acres half a mile from town.) I said I could not rent a farm, as I had not farming utensils; all I had was a blind horse. He said he would find me utensils, and get me a yoke of oxen if I could plow with them. I said I could; so he bought me a yoke of oxen and I had to train them.

But I did not go on the farm right away. Myself and two oldest sons got a lot of ditching to do, and we made considerable money at that, and I bought a cow and some pigs and then we went on the farm. I rented it for three years and my landlord gave me a good chance; he was a gentleman and a different man from Mr. Walker, the man I worked for first. The oxen were not broken to work when I got them, but I got them to working well and I done some good plowing, though I say it; people who passed the road stopped to look at it, and said it was nicer than they could plow with horses; the furrows were straight as a line. I traded my blind horse off, and traded three times more and gave boot every time until I got a good horse, and then I quit trading and bought me another horse and then I had a team of my own. So I give the oxen up.

My harness was very poor, and being in town one day I saw a large side of harness leather and inquired the price; I then went to the saddler’s shop and asked what he would charge to make me a set of harness. He told me his price, but said there was not near enough to make a set out of. I thought there was enough to cover them, so I told him I would make the harness myself. He said he would like to see the harness that I made. But I took the side home and borrowed a double set for a pattern, and made my harness out of the side and had some left. I put them on my horses and drove up to town, and asked the saddler what he thought of my new harness. He said it looked like a good one; where did I get it. I made it, I said, but I was troubled to make him believe it.

The next thing I got was a new wagon, and then I thought I was fixed for farming. That was the second year. Then we got a two-year-old colt, for work, the boys and myself, and we broke the colt and got it to work. Then I wanted a light one-horse wagon; so I concluded to make one, which I did, and took it to the blacksmith to be ironed, and he said it was as good as if the wagon-maker had made it. I used that wagon for twenty years.

So now I had three good horses, two new wagons and two cows, besides pigs and chickens, and my third year was coming to a close. I could have stayed longer if I had wished, but I was very anxious to own a piece of land, and they told me that I could get land in Wisconsin for one dollar and a quarter an acre, or likely we could trade the team for a farm. The neighbors got letters from friends out there, giving good accounts of the country, and I thought that I could not get land in Ohio, it was getting up so high, but that is where I missed it. We were doing well and could have bought the farm we lived on in a short time.

My oldest daughter was married in the meantime, so we had to leave her, as her husband owned a farm. So I fixed for moving; got my two wagons covered; sold my wheat and oats at a low price; sold my wheat, some at forty-eight cents, and the balance at fifty. It was the latter part of August when we started, a very sickly season, but we had not heard this until after we had started. We started with nine children, leaving one behind. My old boss, Mr. Houck, walked along beside the wagons for a mile, and then we sat down together and the tears came into his eyes, and he said he never should see us any more.

After we had got started my family took the chills and black swamp fever in Indiana, and when I got to Wisconsin they were all sick. Henry, a very promising son of sixteen years, only lived three days after I got there, and was taken care of by strangers and buried, not one of the family being able to go to the grave to see him buried, on account of sickness, nor I never knew where he was buried.

Discouraged, I returned to Licking County, Ohio, and rented a farm for six years. I first rented the farm known as the Spencer Canon farm, just east of Vanattasburg, for three years, and did well financially; schooled seven children and cleared three hundred dollars, which I paid in advance for a larger farm known as the Beeny farm. My oldest son, James, married Rachel McKinney, oldest daughter of Joseph McKinney, a well-to-do farmer, of Vanattasburg.

I now went to work on my newly-rented farm, with my brain as well as my body, promising my family I would own a farm before I had been in America twenty years. I there sent my six youngest children to school in winter and had them help me on the farm in summer. While living there my second son, John, married Mary Jane Colville, oldest daughter of John Colville, just north of Newark, and a few weeks after, my second daughter, Emily, was married to William Martin, oldest son of William Martin, a wealthy farmer and a near neighbor to us, and a wedding dinner was given at our house, and a good dinner it was, too, for I knew my wife’s ability to get up a good meal’s victuals. The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. N. Cloase, of Vanattasburg, who congratulated me on my promising family and rapid gain as a renter and farmer.

The farm I had was a good one, and could be rented only by paying cash rent. My neighbors thought I was a green Englishman, and could not make anything by paying such a big money rent, as they called it. I put out one hundred acres in wheat and a large lot of potatoes and corn, and as luck would have it I had a good crop. We had a good house to live in, and a splendid orchard and cider-mill; we made cider to sell. The last summer I was on the farm my nephew, John Nash, came from England to see me, and he was so well pleased with the country that he sent for his wife and two small children to come to Ohio; they came, and seemed well pleased with this country.

When my three years was up on the Beeny farm I had made a raise of one thousand dollars, which I thought would be safer in land than any where else, so I struck, out in search of a farm, and soon bought one of one hundred and two and one half acres, of William Wertz, in McKean township, and paid one thousand dollars cash down and the balance on time. But I was compelled to work hard to meet my yearly payments, and did so without trouble. About four years after I bought and settled down in Licking County, Ohio, John and family and Emily and family moved and settled down in Mahaska County, Iowa, in order to get cheaper homes. In a short time after Richard was married to Mary Jane McMullen, of Licking County, Ohio, and moved to himself. I was now left with my wife and four youngest children, Which I sent to our district school as well as I could afford.

And now, after having paid for my farm, I set about improving it, as it was badly out of repair. I first went to work repairing my fences all over my farm, and building pig pens and sheep sheds, hen houses and in fact sheds for every kind of stock I owned; I also built a new room to my house, and a milk house, wagon shed, and many other out buildings. I don’t mean I hired them built, but I done the work with my own hands.

In the winter of 1858 there was a great revival at the Welch Hill Baptist Church, conducted by a Rev. Mr. Thomas, and on the last day of February my two youngest boys, Edmund and George T. united with the church and were immersed together; they were dressed alike, in Scotch plaids, and led into the water and immersed and led out again, by the minister, before a great crowd of people, and it was the talk far and wide how grand the twin boys looked. The next day, Nelson and Caroline were immersed and united with the church and on the next Sunday my wife and myself were immersed and taken into the church, all being immersed by the Rev. Mr. Hall, President of Granville College, and regular minister of the Welch Hill Baptist Church. There were nearly one hundred additions to the church at that time.

The next year, 1859, my wife and I made our first visit to Iowa. In September Nelson was married to Mary Ann Abbott. We got on the train at St. Louisville and run through to Agency City, where my son John met us in a wagon, one day and a half drive

from his house. Oskaloosa, at that time, was but a small town, with few business houses and very little prospect of ever getting a railroad, and the prairie looked very wild. In a few days we went to see our daughter, Emily, about five miles from John’s, We passed two houses before we reached our daughter’s. We stayed four weeks in Iowa, and it cost us just one hundred dollars for our fare on cars alone. The railroad reached Ottumwa before we returned, so we took the train at that point on our return.

The next spring I told my wife I must have me a good barn, but she thought we had better have a house, as we were able to have one; but I told her no, I would build the barn first and then I would soon have enough to build the house. I hired John Lingafelter, a good carpenter, to go ahead with the work and I assisted him myself. I got a good barn, 30x36, with stable for four horses, cow stable, bins for wheat and oats, hay-mow and feed-cutting room, all complete.

The next fall, in 1860, Caroline was married to B. C. McLain, oldest son of George McLain, of McKean Township, and in the next spring Edmund was married to Ellen McAninch; of Upper Sandusky, and settled down in Mahaska County, Iowa. The next fall, Caroline and husband and Richard and family moved to Iowa and settled down close to the other children; and James and family moved to Bellair, Crawford County, Illinois, and settled. Then I was left with one child, my youngest son, George T., and soon afterwards he was drafted as a soldier in the late civil war, and I was compelled to furnish a substitute for him.

In 1863 my son Edmund’s wife died and left a young son ten months old, which they gave to me and my wife and we raised him on cow’s milk; and on the fifth of September, two months after his mother died, my son John’s wife died, and left three children, and we also kept them for a year, so we had a young family to take care of.

But I still kept farming my place, until I had saved up some more money, and early in the spring of 1867 I concluded to have us a nice house for our old age, if we should live to enjoy it. Isaac Abbott and myself did the masonry, and I hired Mr. Weston to do the carpenter work; he was a splendid workman and a nice man. We got a nice house, with seven rooms, a good porch and cellar. My wife did all the house-work, but we got along very well.

In my hurry, I had forgotten to tell you that in 1865 my youngest son, George T., was married to Mary M. Hoover, oldest daughter of Charles and Mary Hoover and grand-daughter of Edward Franklin, proprietor of the Franklin Bank, of Newark, and they had gone to themselves, so that the drudgery of building lay on my wife and myself alone. But we finished up in good time, and I then told my wife that we would now rest from our labors and take our second visit to see our children.

We started on the first day of August, 1867. This time we had five children to visit in Iowa; we were gone one month, and the railroad fare this time was ninety-six dollars. We brought our little grand-son, five years old, with us, and left him with his father and step-mother, as they wanted him, and I thought it best, too, for if anything happened to us old people he would be left without a home. As soon as we arrived at home we went to work fixing up to move into our nice house, and we were fixed nice, too, and had plenty of room for myself and wife; but I went to work on my farm, as usual, hiring what work I could not do myself, until about the year 1871, when my wife and I made our third visit to Iowa. When we got through our visit in Mahaska County, I was anxious to see my little grand-son that we had left; but in the meantime his father had moved with him to Hampton, Franklin County, and as there were no railroads to Hampton at that time, we were compelled to go with a team. So my children rigged me up a good team and buggy, as they thought, and sent one of my grand-sons, fourteen years of age, to drive for us. We were getting along finely until the second day’s drive, at nearly night, when all of a sudden one horse began to kick hard and fast, and that set the other one wild, so it started to run off, and run till they struck a rock, which throwed me out on my head and dragged me in the lines until my wife and grand-son jumped out. My wife ran to help me and my grand-son succeeded in quieting the horses to some extent, when we found the kicker had his leg behind the double-tree. My wife held me up to help hold the horses, and when they saw me all over dirt and blood, they both made a lunge and knocked me down and run over me, then they got away and smashed up the buggy. They got loose from the buggy and run until they come to a fence on the prairie, and were caught. One horse was badly hurt, and I was in a critical condition. I had several ribs broken, and was badly hurt, internally besides. They got a spring wagon and took me to the nearest house, and we stayed all night. My grand-son took the buggy to the wagon-makers for repairs, and got help to stable the horses.

The man we stayed all night with took us next morning to the nearest railroad station, and we went as far as we could on the cars, and hired a buggy the rest of the way to my son’s house. I was feeling very badly, and surprised them very much, as they did not know of our coming just then, but were expecting us soon. They felt very sorry for me, and my little grand-son was very sick with a fever, but was so happy to see my wife and I that he set up and ate a peach that I took him. Our visit seemed to do him good, but it did not do me any good--I was nearly bed-fast.

Next day my son Edmund and grand-son Jimmy, my driver, went back for our team and buggy. I insisted on them taking a pair of gag bits, which they did, and were not sorry for it, as they were almost unmanageable, still they kept them in the road and let them run. When they got home the horses were frothing from head to foot, and the driver in a terrible passion.

We remained with him two weeks, doctoring myself, and also the injured horse. So fearing my children in Mahaska County would be uneasy about us, as we kept them in ignorance of our trouble, so my son and grand-son thought they could manage the team for me, so we started and made a good day’s travel. Next morning my son told me our injured horse was sick from the effects of over-drive or water-founder, so we did a very short day’s travel, and next morning he was past standing on his feet, so we left him and borrowed a horse of the man that kept us over night, and drove through to my son John’s and told our story, and he, with others, went and succeeded in getting the horse home, but I was no better, so I remained with my children in Mahaska County one month longer, then made arrangements to go home, most all of my children going to the railroad with us, to bid us good bye, as they thought it might be the last time they would see us. I did not get over my hurt for three months, and our expense this time was one hundred and forty dollars.

Again, my wife and I were left alone all the winter, and the next summer I kept a hired hand. I thought that made my wife too much work and I would rent my land, but I did not think that a good plan, as my wife and I were getting very old, and it made us too much work to do, but we did the best we could. May 1st, 1876, we concluded to make our fourth visit to Iowa to see our children. We went to Newark to take the train, and met my old friend, Wm. D. Morgan, editor of the Newark Advocate. He asked me how many children I had in Iowa. I thought him rather inquisitive. So the next week the following notice came out in his newspaper concerning me and my family:

"Mr. John Nash and wife, of Newark, Licking County, Ohio, are now making a pleasant visit to their children in Mahaska, County, this being their fourth trip to Iowa. They are well pleased with the country, and can’t see anything to hinder us from having a Democratic President next fall. Mr. Nash is in his 76th year, and his wife two years younger. Of their twelve children, nine are still living. They buried one in England, one in the ocean and one in their adopted country after their arrival. Besides these nine living children they have thirty-six grand-children, and fifteen great-grand-children. Two of the sons and all three daughters live in Iowa, and another son in Illinois. The daughters are the wives of John Loughrey, Wm. Martin and B.C. McLain, all former residents of Licking County, Ohio. The aged parents have satisfaction in the knowledge that their children are all well-to-do in the world, and appreciate the blessings of the beneficent government under which their lot has been cast."

We had a very pleasant journey this time, and found our children all well, also grand-children, except one, Henry Loughrey by name, had sent for us to go to his house to see him first. He said he could live but a short time, so my son took us right to see him. He only lived three days after we got there. He left a young wife and two charming little girls.

Our visit in Iowa only lasted six weeks. We could not eat enough to please our children, so every one would make us a big roast, so we could all be together, and we had a good visit. The day we started home our children said they would take the town by siege, so they all went to town and ordered dinner at Mrs. Abraham’s, widow of John Abraham, formerly of Newark, and a splendid dinner it was, and we did it ample justice, then went to the Central depot. They helped us in the car and waited until we were out of sight before they started home.

We next stopped off at Casey, Crawford County, Illinois, to visit my oldest son James, and were met at the depot by my son and his wife, who took us to his house. They live at Bellair, about twelve miles from Casey, and own a good farm. We stayed there three days, then started back home to Newark. Arrived at home June 26th, and found things all right. This trip cost me $80.00.

We remained at home about four months, until October 24th, my birth-day, we started to the Centennial and celebrated my 76th birth-day, but more especially to visit relatives. My wife had a nephew and two nieces in Philadelphia that she had not seen for thirty-five years, and I had only seen once in that time--that was in ‘62. I made them and my brother in New York a visit. They were very glad to see us, and went to the Centennial, and took us through all the buildings, and showed us the grand Court House, and we enjoyed ourselves splendidly.

We then went from there to New York to see my brother, wife and family. I met a man on the street, and inquired for my brother’s house. He showed me the house and went his way. He soon after met my brother and told him he met a stranger inquiring for him and thought it must be a brother, he favored him so much, so I could not fool him very much. He was nearly overcome with joy when he saw us. This visit lasted two weeks and, cost us $36, as it was reduced rates on all railroads, and that was all we had to pay, for we went to our friends’ houses at both places. Then we returned home again to work as usual, but my grand-son that I had raised had come back to help me, and we got along very well. But I knew his father needed him, so in 1879 I made a public sale and sold all my stock and most of my furniture, and rented my farm to my youngest son for two or three years. I thought I was old enough to rest from my labor and live the remainder of my days on my honest, hard earnings, as I had plenty to keep my wife and myself on, and I wished to live close to my children who are settled down in Iowa. We concluded to go again to Iowa, and perhaps make up our minds to stay there.

In 1879 we made our fifth trip to Iowa, as my physician recommended traveling for my health. It revived me wonderfully. We remained in Iowa all the summer, among my children, and in the fall we returned to Ohio again and remained with our children there till spring. My friends and relatives thought I looked so much better, and said I better go right back to Iowa. It did improve my health, so I settled up my business, sold my farm to my youngest son, George T., and went back to Iowa, in 1880, with my mind made up to end my days there. We took what things we thought necessary to keep house with, and started on our sixth trip to Iowa, there to settle down for the remainder of my days, as I was assured that they were few, and my children had all gone to Iowa but three--two were in Ohio and the other one in Illinois. We paid them a visit and reached Rose Hill, with our goods, in August. We were met at the depot by my daughter Caroline and her husband--also our niece from Kansas City, who had come to see our children in Iowa.

Our children all wished for us to enjoy our money. They, too, thought traveling good for my health--as I told you before, I was not blessed with very good health.

As I was now 80 years old and we all thought I could live but a few months, we thought it best to make our home with Caroline. They had but one child at home, the other boy, John B., having married at 18 years of age and gone to himself. So we lived with them and had a room to ourselves.

Sunday, October 24th, 1880, was my 80th birthday. The day before the women were very busy in the kitchen, but kept me ignorant of what they were about. Sunday morning they were stirring very early, and made me dress-up early. My daughter said her son was coming. I was scarcely dressed when, lo, they were coming from every direction. But I promised to be brief, so here it is as the editor of the Oskaloosa Standard tells it:

"The relatives of Mr. John Nash, of Newark, Licking County, Ohio, gathered October 24th, at the residence of B. C. McClain, Monroe Township, where the aged couple are making their home, for the purpose of celebrating the 80th birthday of the old gentleman.

It was grand. Load after load arrived, until between sixty and seventy of their children, grand-children, and great grand-children gathered together to cheer the aged couple with social conversation until the dinner hour; and better dinner was never set on any table, not one-third of the provisions being consumed. Next in order was eloquent exhortation, by letter, read from Mr. Vallandingham, Pastor of North River Baptist Church; also letters from relatives in Kansas, Nebraska, and Ohio, and presents from each. Splendid gifts were received from their children in Iowa, and everyone looked happy; but particularly the honored and aged Mr. and Mrs. Nash."

"For the good of all interested we insert a copy of a letter which arrived too late to be read on the occasion:

"‘Union Station, Ohio.

"‘DEAR RELATIVES, ONE AND ALL:--Being unable, on this happy event, to be with you in person, we send this, our greeting. We most sincerely regret our inability to meet with you and clasp hands with each one; but especially with him in whose honor and for the delight of whom you have all gathered to-day.’"

"‘To him whose cheeks have been tanned by the breezes of eighty summers, and whose locks have bleached and withered in the frosts of eighty winters, we send our most heart-felt congratulations on this, his anniversary.’"

"‘To her who has been his faithful companion, in joys and in sorrows, for two generations, we send equal love and affection, hoping that both may see the returns of many such happy events.’"

"‘We, your children, now cast our eyes over your long journey together, and see no blot or blemish to mar its beauty, or to cause regret for one action; and our ambition shall be to imitate the example you have given us; and to be remembered by our children as you are by yours--with love and gratitude.’"

"‘Again expressing our regret at not being able to meet with you, we are

Your Children,


About one year after my birthday we concluded to go to housekeeping by ourselves. We got a nice little house of my son John, and he built another room to it and fixed it up for us, and we moved up there and had a nice little house of three rooms and a porch to ourselves. It was a very public place and the best place we could get to be in the center of our children, and to see them often and go around visiting among them at times. But finally I got too weak to go and see any of my children. I told them so and told them to come and see me often--and so they did. My children would tell me they could see me, in warm weather, sitting in my big arm chair, a mile either way before they would reach our house.

Time passed on very well, and on the 26th day of September, 1882, my children agreed to celebrate my wife’s birthday. It was a surprise to us. They come and brought loads of provisions with them. This is the way it runs in print:

"‘The relatives of John Nash Sr., of Adams Township, this county, but formerly of Newark Ohio, met at their home, one mile north of Glendale Mill, in family reunion, to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Mrs. Nash, September 26.

"In the first place our Heavenly father favored us with as fine weather as we could have wished for, and we all enjoyed it hugely. Mrs. Nash was making arrangements to do her weeks ironing when the children began to gather in so fast she wanted to know what it meant. They told her it was her birthday, and the whole secret was out. Sixty-eight of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren ate dinner with them. We thought as we sat at that table, the dry weather during the summer has no effect on fruit and vegetables in proud Mahaska, more especially the cake crop, as we had never had anything equal to it. Dinner was provided by Ella Nash, Mrs. America Nash, Mrs. Emily Martin, Mrs. Harriet Loughrey, and Mrs. Caroline McClain. Others were invited to partake of their generosity. After dinner several pieces of music were sang, and prayer by Wm. Martin, John Martin and Richard Nash.

"Next in order of letters of congratulation from their sons in Ohio and Missouri. After the reading, Mrs. Nash was presented with a splendid embroidered folding rocking chair; Mr. Nash with embroidered slippers and stockings by their three daughters; John Nash Jr. presented a nice dress; Richard Nash, a handsome set of glassware; Sarah Ruby, a nice dress. Other presents were made by Ella Nash, Rose Ruby, Mrs. M.B. Orr, Mrs. J.R. Roberts and Nelson McClain. Wesley Ruby furnished the cider for the occasion. We judge he didn’t vote for the amendment. We then adjourned for home, everyone looking happy, especially the honored and aged Mr. and Mrs. Nash, and in the belief that our Heavenly Master approved of our conduct."---By "A Guest," in the Oskaloosa Standard.

We received letters from our four sons who were not present on the occasion to cheer us up. They said they would get something good to eat, and have it ready at the same time and imagine themselves with us. The following is a letter from my son Nelson, at Union Station, Ohio.

"DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER:---- I cannot express my regret at not being able to meet with you on this happy event. Eighty years ago, where I sit to write was almost an unbroken wilderness inhabited by Indians and wild beasts. Here and there a hardy pioneer had built his cabin, and from his door he shot the bear, the wolf, and the deer. All this has gone and given place to civilization of the white man, including the click of the telegraph, and the shrill whistle of the locomotive. In eighty years what changes have taken place! Millions of human beings have lived and died; disease and death have not been idle, and how thankful we feel today that she has been spared to us through all and is now among your glad company, still in the enjoyment of tolerable health, and in the company of her children and her children’s children, and above, all her life companion.

"Surely a happy, quiet and peaceful old age is more to be desired than riches, and let us, your children, all try to make that a main object in life."

"Give my love to all my brothers and sisters, accept the same yourselves and join me in the wish for many more returns of such happy events.

Your son and daughter,


I educated my nine children well, the four youngest being school teachers and have met with good success in teaching, and I have lived to see my whole family settled down in life and doing well financially.

My little grand-son, Jimmie, came to see me in 1883, and made us a good, long visit. I had not seen him for four years, and as I had nearly raised him I was very happy to see him. My daughter Emily had a son about the same age. They were 21 years of age when Jimmie was visiting us, so Emily made them both a birthday dinner together. They got some nice birthday presents after their dinner. I made my Jimmie a present of one hundred dollars in money, as he had been a good boy to me and waited on me when I was sick several times. He soon returned to his home in Missouri. I bid him goodby and told him I was ready to die. I also told my children several times that I was ready to die, and could die happy, as my family was all well provided for in this world’s goods; my wife would be lonesome but had plenty to live on, and I must go on before.

I wish to state here that my father’s health failed so fast this writing could not be finished, but he quietly and happily sank away to rise no more in this world, and by this means has spoiled our intention of making quite a book of this writing. It is very lonesome here without him. He was a good father to us all. We want the reader to notice he never went on a pleasure trip without mother. I can truthfully say that I never received a blow from him in my life--his word was the law. John, Richard, Harriet and Emily were present at his death--I was a little too late. His grave shall ever be kept green by friendly hands, while his name shall be cherished in the hearts of his family, for the traits of his manhood.

By his youngest daughter,