(These boyhood memoirs were probably written in 1911 by Jefferson Moses. Much of this was originally published in February, 1989 in the "Laurel Messenger" a publication of the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County (Pennsylvania) and edited by Jeanne M. Coleman. The memoirs continued and covered events in the early part of the Civil War. Unfortunately, the memoirs end after Jefferson Moses became ill at Vicksburg.)

Shown are Abraham and Julian (Rhoads) Moses, parents to Jefferson Moses


I was born in Somerset Co. on the 24th day of May 1843 on the Allagania Mountain. When about 6 yrs old my parents moved to a place on the National Pike (now U.S. Rte 40). Father bought some 400 acres of land that consisted of big rocks and mountains. I don't think there was 50 acres of farmland on the whole plot of ground. The house was what was formerly called a tavern. A great big barn all of 100 ft long about 40 ft wide all fixed off with stalls for 2 horses. A wagon shed of some 20 ft the length of the barn...a great place for 6 & 8 horse wagons to stop there. What a history must be connected with the house....What a nice road that National Pike was. All of a hundred feet wide and some places they cut real mountains to fill in hundreds of feet high. Some places great rocks hung over the pike. Was all cobblestone with sand as a top dressing....It was nearly as level as a R.R. bed and always kept in good repair. A stage line run on this road. I know the one passed our house at 12 a.m. and come back at 12 p.m. and just as regular as any R.R. train.

In 1854 we had an awful cold winter. The snow was up to 6 feet deep. I remember we had to cut up wood one time. We hitched up in the sled and about a half mile up the pike a fire had burned a lot of small chestnut....We chopped the trees down and dragged them to the sled. I remember people asking (later) why the stumps were so high, not knowing of the deep snow.

Thru the summer it was a sight to see great big wagons, looking like a steamboat coming along with 6 to 8 horses to a wagon. Goods was hauled from Pittsburgh to Baltimore. What a way to transport goods, then and now.


In 1855 father got the western fever and was in a deep study. I remember a man came by....and they began talking of the West. This man told father of the great chances out west. Why, he said, I would not live here if you gave me everything you have. You have a family now and your boys are growing up and soon would be a great help to you. But what can you expect to do here. Sell out and go west. Along in the fall father sold out, intending to go west next spring. But the measles caught our family. There were 7 children then. We all had them, we all got along but my brother next to me got a setback and for a long time he lay sick....Shortly after that my oldest sister was taken with putrified sore throat called diptheria. She was not able to walk nearly all summer.

Five years previous to this the great massacre by Indians at Mankato, Minn. (occurred) and that was quite a drawback to us. We of course thought we were going not far from them. I think of how the neighbors would come to our house and tell of the horable cruiltys perpated.....Us boys would sit and listen to them so that we would go to bed and in our dreams would fight Indians all night.


When fall came father and my brother next me loaded a load of household goods and started for Johnstown, some 25 miles away. (It later appears that they were living with their Uncle Jacob Helman in Shade Twp that summer until the sister recovered from diptheria). We had never seen a railroad or Injin (engine). Well we was going towards the depot, I had put the goods on the platform and the team in a stable. We were going to see the cars. We heard the Injuine whistle away around a bend....I walked some distance ahead. I was not 2 or 3 roads from the Injine when he let out the most awfulest scream I ever heard. I must of jumped a road. We got closer to the thing. Oh what a sight that was to us. That such a thing could walk on rails and haul a lot of cars was something to wonderful for us to study out. What a time we had in telling the rest what we seen.

While in Johnstown father took us over to the big iron works where they made railroad rails. We walked thru the great building. First were the big furnaces where men with great long tongues fixed on two-wheel trucks which they would run up to one of the big furnaces, run the cart in and grab a big chunk of molten iron, run to a great big crusher (and) they upended the big chunk and it began to disapere....When it got about half way thru it commenced to thunder in there. It crushed the iron together and any air that was in the molten piece would explode. It shook the ground we stood on. Then they took it out and carried it to the big rolers and begun to run it back and forth thru different places til at last a long rail was run out on a long platform and the ends was sawed off. It was a great sight for us to see.

After that we went up to the canel that run from there to Pittsburgh. We seen them turn a boat around in the head of the canel. What small little boats they were. What a sight for us, I never forgot.

Next morning we started for home again. We passed a forge where they made iron. A great big hammer that weighed hundreds of pounds was run by a big water wheel. One could hear that hammer when it dropped for miles. We also got to see what was called old Shade Furnace where they melted ore and made what is called pig iron. We seen them run the molten iron in molds made in the sand of one hundred pounds. A man stood in front and guided the molten iron in the mold. It looked to me about an acre in size. How hot for men to work and the air was full of ash.

When we got home we had a lot to tell the rest of the children. There were some stirring times. We were then living with my uncle Jacob Helman. Here we lived all summer until my sister Maggie had got better. She got nearly well before fall. What a time us children had while living with my uncle. Father was helping a man cradling grain. I was then going on my 13th year. I was along with father, raked what he cut, in bundles, then he would tie it in walking back. At night the man paid 25 cents in silver. I had never had so much money at one time before. I took it in my hand and started for home. I guess I ran all the way. Father stayed for his supper, but I was rich.


Well fall came and we got ready to go. I did pity my mother. She had to leave her father and mother who were then very old. She could hardly bear the thought of leaving them. Well do I remember how Mother would go to to see her parents. Father had a grey mare and Mother was not afraid to go over the roughest of roads. She would take the baby in one arm and the bridel rain in the other and go over roads that seem to me now I would be afraid to walk. Her parents lived some 4 or 5 miles from our home....Along this road were great big rocks and lots of great big pine trees. But it seemed as tho Coly, we called the mare, knew just where to step. She seldom stumbled. No matter how late of a night Coly would bring Mother home. All these things run fresh in my mind.

Many a time Mother would take Coly and go away over the mountain with two pails for huckelberries....One time she came home and told how bad a scare she had. She said she come to a place where there was a big flat rock and berries all around it.

The stocks grew some 12 to 15 inches high and hung over the rock. She commenced to pick around the rock and when she came to where she started in there lay a great big ratelsnakle all coiled up. She was scared. A man was picking berries close by and he came and killed it.

I remember of seeing a good many of them. They were big fellows some ten to twelve feet long and 12 to 15 rattles. We had a dog that would corner them. But I would not tackel them. Once we heard him bark and started to see what he had treed. There was a great big yellow rattler coiled in a ring. He would fly out at the dog and then coil up again. We called father and he came and killed him. I and Lewis got some hickory bark and tied it around the neck and dragged it up on the pike. It was just about all we two could do to drag it up along the side of the road. It was a beautiful color. Looked like scales and they sparkled like gold. How we ever escaped those big snakes is a mistry. But most of the time we had our faithful old dog along.


Time came to get ready to go west. We children got our instructions how to act in going on the cars. There were 7 of us children and we must take hold of each other's hands and all follow Mother while Father was buying tickets. We finally got started and got aboard the cars in Johnstown for Pittsburgh. There a minister lived who used to preach in our house. I remember the tunnels we passed thru somewhere thru a great big mountain. We stayed at Pittsburgh some 3 or 4 days. While there the minister took us thru the glass factory. What a sight to see them make glass in all shapes. One place a big Negro would take a iron rod and dip it in the molten stuff and then stick it in a mold and blow thru the rod and out came a little bottel. Others made tumblers. Some one thing and so on. We also went to their market. On each side of the street was tabels loaded with all kinds of vegetables such as we had never seen. It was thronged with people who bought such as they wanted. Our visit came to an end. Well do I remember the prayer made by the minister the last morning we were there, a petition to heaven for our safe journey to the great West. We left those good people in tears not knowing that we would ever meet again.

We got aboard the cars again and it was a long time for us. We got very tired and restless. Then noone knew of a sleeping car. When we got to Chiciago what a sight met us. Such great big buildings. Pittsburgh had no very high buildings. At that time a three or four story building was pretty big. We had no trouble finding what was then called the Galena Depot. We waited quite awhile for our train. Finally it came and what a rush to get on the cars. We had to go thru a big building full of people. Just then someone up overhead of us yelled out, look out for pickpockets. I remember seeing men slap their hands on their pockets to feel whether their money was there yet. They said it was some of the light fingered gents that gave the yell for they could tell by the action of a man just where his money was. Chicago was full of those light fingered gents and it was reported afterwards that some of the parties from the east going west were robbed. Father had only what the tickets cost. The rest was hidden somewhere. Mother had it hid on her person somewhere. Of course we children did not know where the money was for that was a secret between Mother and Father.

I remember at some big city we passed thru some boys was selling apples out of a basket. How hungry we got for apples. Once we boys were in the orchard and would pick up a nice apple, cry out, who can hit that tree. Many an apple we would throw at trees. Then is when Mother said, you boys may see the day you wished you had those apples. They bought some for us and I don't think we ever tasted apples as good as those.

We saw miles of nice level prairie lands. That was a sight for us for we had always been with nothing but big mountains. We finally reached Freeport (Illinois) and some of our old neighbors met us. There they took us out some 6 or 7 miles to a house where Henry Manges lived. We lived in the same house that winter. We were all glad to get off the cars. It was queer to see us stager around for several days til we got rid of the motion of the cars. Here we first seen large fields with no stones in them. We settled down for the winter and what a winter that was. The winter of 1856-7.


We had heavy snow storms. The snow was three feet on the level. Father took a job to chop some wood for a man and father got the tops and all the limbs for our wood for the winter. From this home we started to school that winter. What a time we had, no over shoes, no under clothes, no over coats and still we made out to get thru.

We had a mile and half to scool. We did not have no over shoes or over coats neither had we under clothes. All the clothing we had on mother made. I remember well how mother would spin wool on a big wheel also a small one. How she worked to get the yarn all spun and then take it to the weaver. We boys got each a suit coat, vest and pants. I don't think our coats were lined. But we got thru all right. One day a man came to father to get him to husk corn in the shocks. It was late in the Fall and father took the job. He took me and Lewis (brother of Jefferson) along. We had never seen so much corn cut up. It was a cold rough day. How we did suffer with the cold. We could not keep warm siting down to husk. We both cried most all after noon. But father would not let us go home. We had no warm clothes no mittens and we was chilled thru and thru. Well we got thru before night and we waited for supper. Oh how cold we was. Our fingers were so stiff we could hardly hold a knife or fork. We got good hot coffee and that warmed us up. I often wondered why father did not send us home. He often looked us in the face when our eyes were full of tears. But he never said a word.

It was too cold for us boys and not having warm and thick clothes. It often surprised me that we did not get sick. We were in a new country and everything was new to us. That was the first corn we ever had husked and we could not work hard enough to keep us warm. We would take up a stock and fish around for the ear till we found it. As old as I am now I will never forget that day we husked the first corn. What a sight for us to see so many big fields of corn stocks. We would wonder how the people ever could gather so much corn.

Father took wood to chop. He got all the tops and we had green wood to burn all winter and the winter was a hard one. The snow was 3 feet on the level. Brother Lewis and I made little boxes for traps to catch quail. We set the traps with a (unidentified word). The boxes were about a foot long and 6 inces wide. We put wheat out and some morning we would get three in one box. That winter we caught quite anough to buy all our books for school. We get from 12 to 15 cents a piece for the birds.


We lived in a house with Henry Manges that winter. In the spring of 1857 father rented old man Ranks farm. We lived at the edge of a big timber. One winter Lewis and I got most of our wood up with a hand sled we made. We had plenty of snow too this winter. We lived there some two or three years then father rented a farm from a man by the name of Benjamin Hess, a man that was supposed to be rich. We farmed this farm until 1859 then we moved in a house to the Snyder farm while we lived on the Hess farm. Mrs. Hess died. They had 6 or 7 children among them was one called Emma. During the fall a young man by the name of Bates come there and hired out to Hess to work. He became rather intimate with Emm and the old man Hess ordered him away. He rented a room not far away from there and got a macine to make brooms. He batched there and Em would furnish him with butter and a many a good piece of pie.

One morning Bates was missing and for a year no one knew where Bates was. A man lived in one of Hess houses and worked for Hess. He had a boy about 12 years old. Bates would come there once in a while give this boy a letter to take to Em.

They would be together of a night in a kitchen away from the main house. They carried this on all summer. Finally Hess got another woman and married her. Em stayed on the farm. The old man would drive out several times a week to get some butter and eggs. Em had a certain place to sell the butter. Old Hess would take the butter to those parties and allways put a letter in for Bates. Then when Hess came back Em would go get a basket which had the butter in and there was a letter from Bates. They carried this on all summer. The old man carried mail for them and never knew it. This was fun for me. I knew of some of these things. I was just a boy but I always liked Em. She gave me a many a good piece of pie. The old man acused me once of carring letters from Bates to Em. I told him I never did. He said I did. I called him a liar. He come for me with a whip. I backed up to a pile of railings. I thought old man if you strike me I brake some of these railings over your head. But he did not strike me.

One time before this I come down and Em had played a trick on the old man. She lit a lamp and set it on the table in their dining room. Then her and another girl went to the buggy shed and sat in the buggy. Luther, his son, had been to Cedarville. He come home about 10 o'clock seen the light in the room. He notified his father that Bates and Em were in the room. Old Hess came down with (unidentified) in his eye. He grabed the door and called to Em to open their door. You know I dont want that Bates to lay around here. The girls still sat in the buggie. Em did not open the door. Finally they got Aaron, another boy of Hess, he got in a window up stairs come down, opened the door, but no Em or Bates. Just as they opened the door Em come around the corner and asked the old man wether they killed Bates or not. Next day I was there Em at the noon meal asked me wether I seen Bates along the road. Said Luther and (unidentified) killed him last night (unidentified).

Finally Hess moved to town. Bates then inlisted in the 46th Ill Rgt. He was sent to Cornith (Corinth) , Miss. after the battel of Pitsberg Landing (Shiloh). Bates helped some wounded home. While home he married Em. He went back to the army and a short time after took sick and died. After that Em left Ill went to Ohio to his father and old Hess broke up, lost everything he had and lived a poor man till he died. I and Luther were chums. We were together most of the time and in 1862 in August when a company was made up in Cedarville. We both enlisted served three long years.

(According to records of the 46th Illinois Regiment, Andrew J. Bates was discharged from Company A on July 9, 1862. Company D of the 46th (a new company) was organized and Andrew J. Bates enlisted on December 11, 1863. He was discharged on disability as a Sergeant on February, 14, 1865. Sgt. Luther Hess served with Jefferson Moses in the 93rd Illinois Regiment.)