Having obtained a sufficient knowledge of Latin, Greek, and various sciences, to enable me to prosecute my education without a teacher, and my health being bad through close application and hard living, and feeling that I ought not to subject my family to such hardships any longer, I determined, very reluctantly, to leave college, at least for a time. I had now been at Eminence two years, and I shall ever thank God that even for this short time I was able to gratify my burning desire to acquire knowledge. It was at a great sacrifice we went there and remained as long as we did, but we have never once regretted it.
Through the influence of President Giltner, we secured the High School at Alexandria, Campbell county, Ky. This had been conducted for some years previously by Bros. O. A. and Chester Bartholomew, under the name of the "Mammoth Institute." I visited the place, and arranged to conduct the school and preach for the church there, which was small and financially weak; but there was no other in reach. So I could not do better than to give them all my time, at whatever could be raised in the way of salary. They had a nice little brick house, and a number of good members, and for several years the church prospered; but the county filled up with Germans, some of the best members moved away, and the cause went down. The house was sold, and to-day we have no church in the place.
After completing arrangements to preach and teach, I went over to Hamersville, Brown county, O., to see some relatives. A brother and sister of my father lived there, besides other relatives. My uncle had a large family. I had never visited any of them, and now being near and having a little time, I borrowed a horse and rode over. I sent an appointment for Lord's day at Hamersville, and got there about the middle of the week. I found that an appointment had not been made for Sunday morning, but for night. The reason was, the Methodists were to have a quarterly meeting in the woods near town -- a big affair -- and everybody was going. Hence I could get no hearing in the morning. I went to the meeting, as it was the only place to which to go. It was thought that three thousand people were on the ground. There were seven preachers. It was during the darkest period of the war, and every man from the south side of the Ohio River was looked upon with suspicion. I had been there several days, and quite a number knew who I was and where I was from. I took a seat near the stand, and when they prayed, in conformity with their custom, I kneeled in the leaves. The old preacher who "led in prayer" yelled as if his congregation was a mile away and God was on a journey. He began by praying for the President; then his Cabinet; then the Senate; then the Representatives; then the generals; then the colonels; then the captains; then the private soldiers. All this I tolerated, but did not say Amen. Finally he prayed for the utter extermination of the Southern people. He besought God to wipe them out of existence -- men, women and children -- from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico. This blasphemy and contemptible wickedness I could not endure, and I arose from my knees. Perhaps five hundred people saw me when I got up. The point in the prayer at which I got up aroused suspicion, and inquiry was in a moment rife. They learned who I was and where I was from, and the excitement grew intense. Numerous threats were made to hang me on a limb there and then. The country was full of what they called "copperheads," who had kept very quiet, because it was to their interest to do so, but now they were aroused, and any attempt at violence would have led to the most serious trouble. During the intermission at noon, men of different politics congregated in different groups, in earnest conversation, and the meeting was forgotten in the excitement over a refusal to indorse that prayer. I was waited on by a committee to know if it was my political feelings that caused me to get up when I did. Without hesitation, I confessed that it was. Then they said, "What more need have we of evidence?" It was finally decided, so we were informed, that I would not be allowed to preach at night -- that they would egg me, etc. But at night, not only the house, but the yard, was full of "copperheads" who meant "business," and I preached without molestation.
They had been holding these meetings at various places throughout the country, and at all of them sprinkled all the children that their parents could be induced to bring. One lady had a bright little boy about eighteen months old, and when the Presiding Elder took him to "baptize" him, he said, "Sister, name this child." She responded, "His name is Vallandigham." He flew into a perfect rage, handed the child to her as if it were burning his fingers, saying, "If you want this child baptized you will have to change its name. I will baptize no child named for a traitor." The mother took the child and departed. We presume that had its name been Jeff. Davis, he would have broken its neck on the spot. Such was the "religion" of that class at that time. The speeches on the day alluded to were nothing but political harangues of the most exciting nature. Previously I had thought they had politics and religion mixed, but I now discovered that there was no mixture about it.
On my return, I had a little adventure in crossing the river. The ferry was at New Richmond. The boat was a small affair, propelled by poles and oars. It was just wide enough for a wagon, and had railings on the sides. A two-horse wagon went in before me. When we got some distance out into the river, one of the horses jumped over the railing, and caused the boat to careen so that it was filling rapidly. It was astonishing how those river men, who, perhaps, had been reared on the water, became excited. They seemed almost incapable of any intelligent action, but yelled like so many savages. I decided at once upon my course. I got into the wagon, calculating that the water would probably not come to my head while standing up, should the boat go down. If it should, then I determined to take my horse by the tail and let him tow me ashore. But the owner of the team succeeded in cutting the harness, thus freeing the horse and allowing the boat to right itself so that it did not sink.
We moved from Eminence to Alexandria, and boarded with a gentleman by the name of Brown. He had a nice family, a good house, and he was a clever gentleman, and a "hardshell" Baptist of the first water.
Our school opened about the first of September, with seventy-eight pupils, and it soon increased to 130. Not expecting so many, I had secured no assistant but my wife; and the result was, we were both over-worked. I had to hear several classes out of school hours, especially in Latin and Greek. There were some young men in these studies, clerks, merchants, etc., who were not otherwise in the school, and these recitations were in the evening after school was dismissed. This, with preaching every Lord's day, worked me very hard. The school paid well, and for the first time since I gave up business for the gospel of Christ, I made some money.
In a few months, as soon as I saw an open road to success, I bought a nice little cottage and two acres of ground, from Bro. Giltner, at [USD]1,200. He had taken it for a school debt, and let us have it on reasonable terms. It was nicely improved, and altogether a desirable piece of property. Thus for the first time we had a home of our own. This is a luxury that comparatively few preachers can enjoy. Moving from place to place as, for example, Methodist preachers have to do, is unfavorable to domestic happiness. How few members of our churches ever think of this, or make allowance for the discomfort frequent changes of residence impose upon the families of their preachers! To own a home and have the taste and the means to adorn it, is an educational force in any family; its lack, a great misfortune.