This is such a great story that it must be shared with others.
I must warn you that it is long but even if you are not a descendant of the Justus family if you read it through it will touch you. I can not vouch for any of it but even if its only folklore then folklore and genealogy go hand and hand with each other (or they should):
Contributor's Note: The following is story written by Rev. William Martin Allen of Mills River, Henderson County, N. C. The story is about his first wife. It appears that it was written by Mary Matilda Justus but I checked his hand writing against his sermon book and it was Wm. Martin Allen's hand writing. I talked with a granddaughter of Wm. Martin Allen that told me he was always writing things in
the late 1920's.
By Mrs. W.M. Allen
Though the smoke of conflict to Victory. What I have done, other girls can do if they will.
I have memories of many things that occurred when I was only three years of age. I remember living with a woman who was very unkind to me. I don't know her name, nor where she lived. I can't recall any of the inmates of her home. I just remember that when I was a child I lived with a woman who whipped me continually. I often cried for my mother, but my mistress told me that I had none. Often after being roughly put to bed in the dark I would call for mother till I cried myself to sleep.
I remember that a certain rich lady visited me very often. She would fondle me in her arms and press me to her bosom, and kiss me and call me her baby, which made my heart glad. I did not know the rich lady's name at this time. I only knew her as The School Teacher.
One day when I was four years of age the school teacher came and found me crying. She said to me "Why are you crying?" I said that my mistress had whipped me. She said to the woman "Have you been whipping my child?" She said, yes, "I sent the child to the branch to wash some beets and she let some of them wash away and I whipped her for it." Upon this they began to quarrel, then they began to
fight. They pulled each others hair and tore each others clothes, which frightened me and made me cry the more. I heard the school teacher say that she would take me away, which she did; but I stayed another year.
When I was five years of age the school teacher came again and she said to me, "I am going home now, and I will send my brother after you and he will take you to his home where you will make your future home."
In a few days a man drove up to the door where I was staying. He gave his name as Rufus McClain. I had heard him call my name, saying he had come after me. My mistress bundled up what few clothes I had and I took my seat with the man in the buggy and we rolled away. I don't remember much about the way, though it was a long ride. When we reached French Broad River and had turned up an avenue, we came to a beautiful mansion. Mr. McClain said: "Here is where my sister, the school teacher lives." I said, What is her name? He said, Her name is Caroline McClain. I wanted to stop and see her, but I was not permitted to do this. So we went on to the next farm. Here, Mr. McClain said is where I live. Here we went in and he introduced me to his wife and children. I afterward learned that Caroline McClain had been absent from home six years before I came to live with them. Her story was that she had found me an orphan child, that I was homeless, and friendless and she had bound me to her until I was eighteen years of age. So when I entered the home of Rufus McClain, I was doomed to a life worse than slavery for thirteen years. I was made wood cutter, farm hand, wash woman, house maid, cook and nurse combined. Often working till midnight. Sometimes I was permitted to attend public school, but not often.
One day one of the girls called me by the name of Matilda McClain. I said, "My name is not McClain. It is Justus." She said, "Caroline McClain is your mother anyway. As this girl was much older than I was, I decided to ask her some questions. So I said to her, If Caroline McClain is my mother why don't she tell me so?" She said, "Caroline McClain wants to move in high society." That night I asked Mr. McClain and his wife these questions, What was my mothers name? Is she still living? The answer was this: Your name is Matilda Justus and that is all you will ever know. If there is any secrets about your history we will keep it to ourselves.
One day when I was sixteen years of age, I stood at the wash tub in the snow all day. Then they kept me at work that night till 11 o'clock. Then I took a chill. My head became giddy and I fainted. It was a severe case of cold. Caroline McClain was sent for. She warmed me up and I soon revived, but I never saw her again. In a few days I heard that Caroline McClain had passed away. I felt that I had lost my
best friend. I went out into the secret grove and kneeling down I prayed these words: Oh Lord thou hast said: I know their sorrows. My sorrows are great. I have no father to care for me, I have no mother to love me. Be thou my father. Reach hither thy hand and lead me on over the snares and pitfalls of life until I reach the desired haven of rest. As I have no mother may it please thee to give me a foster mother who will guide my youthful feet in the right way. In thy Dear name I ask it. Amen. When I was done praying, there came a peace in my soul that tongue cannot express. Some people think that they can live a successful life without God. They say, "I will enjoy life and walk after the desires of my own heart, therefore good shall come into me." But many who say these things make a wreck and they morn at last over a bad spent life. Again, I have heard young girls say, "I don't care what mother says, I will do as I please. Others may step into a pitfall, but I never will for I am too smart for that. No, I will fear no evil. It is a fearful thing for young girls to forsake the guide of their youth. No one knows the worth of a mothers council until you walk the way that I have trod. I had no mother to teach me anything about sex, neither did my mistress say anything to me about it.
One day when I was seventeen years of age, I was in an upper room doing my daily work when I heard somebody coming up the stair steps. I looked around, it was the master. The man for whom I had labored and toiled all these years. He came and stood by my side saying, "Come here Matilda." He then threw his arms around me and tried to trust his hand in my bosom. With a mighty effort I slipped out of his hands. I was so frightened that I left the house and ran down the road. The first house that I saw was the home of William Henry. Here I went in. I found Mrs. Henry in the sitting room. I nestled close to her side. She asked me what frightened me so, but I refused to tell her. All I said was "I have no home, no friends, nor no mother. I further said I will soon be free, then I will seek a home somewhere.
Mrs. Henry said to me, "We want you to come and live with us as soon as your days of servitude is ended". So I went back home and went about my daily task the same as if nothing had occurred to mar my happiness.
When I was nearly eighteen years of age I was confronted with many problems. What shall I do to make a living? These were the questions that confronted me.
Now Caroline McClain had willed me one hundred and fifty dollars, so I decided to take this money and my bond money and go to school and learn to be a teacher or a clerk in some store. But these hopes was blighted when I heard that the bond was destroyed by fire, and the administrator of Caroline's estate refused to pay me anything. So the day that I was free, I walked out into the world with a glad heart, though penniless. There was one thought that made my heart glad. It was this: I was going out of bondage to a Christian home. After walking about a mile I came to the home of Mr. Henry. His wife saw me coming and I heard her say "Yonder comes Matilda Justus". Mrs. Henry said, "Come In" when I reached the door. She threw her arms around me saying, You are not a servant now, but a free woman. I give you welcome to our home, under whose wings you have come to trust", and she kissed me again and again.
The evening passed pleasantly. Then at the close of the day Mr. Henry and his wife, three children and myself sat down at a feast of good things. After supper Mr. Henry gave me a little talk. He did not say much, but it was short and sweet. He said, "You are welcome with us. I give you a home, not as a servant to do drudgery work. I have hired servants and renters to do that. Your work will be light house work. I will treat you as my own daughter. Mrs. Henry will be your foster mother, and if there is anything good that you don't know she will teach it to you. I want you to stay with us as long as you will, and when you leave us you will not go away empty". That night when I retired to my room I knelt by my
bedside and thanked the lord for his goodness and mercy to me. In the days following I went about my duties with a glad heart.
When I was nineteen years of age, Mrs. Henry said to me, Mr. Henry has got the consumption. He lingered on for one year, then he passed away. My services were greatly needed during his illness, for which Mrs. Henry thanked me.
It was not many days after Mr. Henry died that the doctor came to spend the night with us. The servants took the doctors horse to the barn and fed him. They put the saddle and bridle in the harness room.
The next morning the doctor lingered long with us after the servants had gone to work. Finally he said "I will go and saddle my horse and go home". But he did not stay at the barn long, till he came back to the house without his horse saying, I can't find my bridle. Mrs. Henry said to me, "Matilda, Will you go and see if you can find the doctor's bridle? I said yes and as I went the doctor followed me right at my heels. And when I entered the harness room the doctor went in after me and shut the door. He held the door shut saying " I want to talk to you a little while about courtship. I said you will not talk to me on that subject any where and no subject here. I then threw the bridle in his face and pushed open the door and fled. Now, the barn was in sight of the house so Mrs. Henry saw me rush out of the harness room door. She also heard the doctor call after me saying "Oh, it was not for myself that I wanted to talk. It was just some word that your beaux sent to you by me". I said, I have no beaux and on I went. When I reached the house Mrs. Henry said "Matilda , What is the matter?
You look so pale. You must be sick. Go into your room and lie down and rest". I went into my room and shut the door. Then kneeling down I prayed these words: My Father, who art in Heaven, keep me from the evil one.
That afternoon Mrs. Henry said, I have a book here that is like a mirror. It is made so that you can see your self in it. It makes no difference how ugly you are or how pretty you are. You can see your self in your true colors.
Then this book contains many character sketches, both good and bad. It tells how men and women have willingly let their feet be caught in the snares and pitfalls of life and have received a blot upon their characters, that shall not be wiped away. Now these things happened unto them as our examples and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Again, the moving
picture show is all the rage of America but if people would only read this book, they would see some of the most wonderful moving picture shows that was ever thrown upon the screen. I said, I want to see that book. Mrs. Henry then went into the library and returned with a bible in her hand saying, This is it. I will first show you a picture of a man of the world. The Lord who knoweth the secret thoughts of the heart hath said: " Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou Shalt not commit adultery, but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Mat.5:27. Then Mrs. Henry said, A man who will make inordinate love to a woman
without provocation belongs to the lowest type of humanity and should be avoided by everyone. Again she said, I will now show you a picture of a man who is pure. He entreats the elder woman as mothers, the younger as sisters with all purity. Tim. 5: 2. The man who does these things is the man who fills the position for which God intended him. Then Mrs. Henry said, "I know what the doctor said to you at the barn, but he is a fool.
No woman will be led into temptation that way. The danger lies in your affection . I will give you warning, never set your affection on a man who is not worthy of your love! I am glad that you are a Christian. Just commit your ways unto the Lord, and you are safe. He keepeth the path of judgment and preserveth the way of his saints." Proverbs 2:8".
When I was 21 years the bloom of youth was in my cheeks. The three years that I had lived with Miss Henry has wrought t great changes in me. She advised me never to go out at night unless I was going to church, not then unless she was with me; for she was the guide of my youth.
One Sunday night, me and Miss Henry was coming home from church and we passed two lovers and the man actually had his arms around the young woman's waist. Miss Henry took me by the arm and whispered "just look there. Isn't that awful!"
That night when we reached home, Miss Henry said to me !" did you ever study men?" I said, "no," I never had a beau; and for that reason I never gave men any though." She said unto me, "you soon will have a lover and you will be married in less than a year, for since you have lived with me, you have developed into a beautiful woman. Now when you find a lover don't do every thing he tells you just
to please him. For if you let a man put his arms around you in the dark, he may be one of many who goes to one house to court; and to another house to marry. Don't never keep late hours with a man if you want to be respected."
That night I went unto my room to go to bed, and kneeling down I prayed, saying, "My Heavenly Father, lead me not into temptation. I promise never to place my self in the way of temptation." Then I laid me down to sleep, with these thoughts on my mind; if I ever marry, my husband will be a christian man. That night I dreamed that I saw the man who Miss Henry said that I would marry in less than a
year. I thought that I was at the church, and I saw him come in, and enter the pulpit. He read some verses about religion which made me love him more. These are the verses he read:
Religion is the chief concern for mortals here below.
May I its great importance learn; its sovereign virtues know
It's more needful this than glittering wealth or ought the world bestows.
No reputation, food or health can give us such repose.
Religion should our thoughts engage amidst our youthful bloom
twill fit us for declining age, and for the awful tomb.."
Then when he had finished reading, he vanished out of my sight. but I believe that sometime my dream will become real.
A few weeks after these things I went to Boilston Church in company with Miss Henry's sister whose name was Laura Brittain. Shortly after we entered the church, there came a young man apparently about 20 years of age. His slender form, his black hair, and sparkling eyes made me think of the man of my dreams. He went into the pulpit and sat down. The pastor said, "we are glad to have Brother Allen
with us. He will conduct the introductory service." I said to myself, I am glad that I have learned his name.
I wonder if he will read the hymns of my dreams. Sure enough, he arose and announced the hymns that these people were to sing. He read two first lines "religion is the chief concern of mortals here below." Am I dreaming, I thought, or is it real? It was real, for he did not vanish out of my sight this time. After service it was much to my sorrow to see the man of my dreams escort Laura home. I also went home with Laura to be her guest that day. I said to myself I love that man. I dreamed about him. And now I have seen him, he belongs to another. Oh, well, Laura's father is rich and if the man I love is so fortunate as to be a sharer of these riches, it will make me happy. For my part I can't promise myself much. I have been a bound girl and a slave all my life, but I try to be lively. While we were engaged in conversation there came in a young man whose name was Goodson. He sat down by Laura's side. They talked to each other, and I saw Goodson take a ring out of his pocket, and put it on Laura's finger. He then got up and went out. Laura went into another room, then the company all left
except the young man, Allen who I will call Martin. He said to me; "Will you please tell Miss Laura that I want to speak to her." I said, "yes, " and when I carried the message she came and sat down by his side. He looked at the ring on Laura's finger, saying, "I know what this means!" she said, "yes, I have made my decision". then Martin said, "that means that you will marry Goodson.?" Yes, so we are lovers no more, she said. Martin then arose and took Laura by the hand saying, "may happiness and long life be yours." When he had said this, he went out at the door. I looked down the road after him. I wanted to take one more look at the man that I love. Then I said to Laura "I see you had two beaus
today." "I did have, " She said, "but I have only one now." I asked her where Martin lived. She said, "he lives on his mother's farm, near Mills River," "Do you love him?" Is he worth anything?" I asked. she said, " I love him, but he is not worth as much money as Goodson is." "Then, you prefer riches to love?" I said "well, I have made my choice and I must abide by it." she said.
As I look down the road until I saw the man of my dreams vanish out of my sight, my heart was sad. These were my thought; I may never see him again. He don't known how I love him. If I could see him, I could tell him that I love him. but no, modesty and disgression would forbid it. A man may search for his lover, but a woman never. I will wait on and on.
After I waited and hoped for nearly a year, another man came into my life, but not into my heart. His name was Floid. He was a young man who was in good standing, so far as I knew. Floid came to visit me one Sunday and engaged my company from the Sunday following. but I would not have promised Floid my company from Church, if I had known that before the next Sunday, the man that I love would
appear on the scene, but he came. It was this way, Mr. Orr and his wife who were our near neighbors had a sick child, and Mrs. Orr's sister Violet had come to spend a week with them. Martin was her cousin. It was Saturday afternoon when Violet came to visit me. She said, "my sister's child is very sick, and I have come to invite you to come over and stay with us tonight to keep us company. cousin will be there, so we will not be so lonesome." I said, "yes, I will go, but is your cousin, Martin, from Mills River who is coming?" "yes." she said.
How my heart thrilled with joy at the thought. My lover is coming, and I will see him again. So I said, "I would be glad to meet your cousin, I met him once about a year ago," She asked, "where did you meet him," Oh, I was present when Laura turned him down for Goodson. He looked so sad that I sympathized with him. I wondered if he had ever married?" I said. Violet, "No, he has not married for
it seems that he is very hard to please. He keeps company with the rich and poor, yet none pleases him." He says, "A virtuous woman for me, or none." Violet continued and said, after Laura slighted my cousin, I told him that I could pick him out a girl who would make him a good wife. She is beautiful and lovely. Her name is, Christi-Ann Owenby. but she did not meet his approval. The second time he visited her, he said, "Miss Christi-Ann, if you are willing I will spend the night with you?" She said, "certainly, you are welcome to stay with us." "he said, if I stay all night will you keep late hours with me?" she said "yes, ." Well, but suppose your mother should object to it. What would you do then?" he asked. She said, "I don't care what mother says, I will do as I please. You stay." He did stay, but he never went back again. He said afterward that a girl who did not care what mother said would not make a good wife.
Violet continued and said, "I have written to cousin Martin to visit us this even, I have picked him out another girl." "what is her name?" I asked. She said, "Her name is Rachel Irvin". I saw her today, and I invited her to visit with us this evening and meet my cousin, and she said she would come." Then inviting me again to come, Violet took her leave and went away.
That evening at the going down of the sun, I was on my way to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Orr and these were some of my meditations. What a predicament I am in, I am going to meet my lover with Rachel for a rival. Martin is coming in search of a wife, but he don't even know that I exist. But the battle is not to the strong nor the race to the swift, but fate shall rule this time. This shall be a sign unto me, when we meet, Martin, if he holds Rachel's hand the longest, she wins, but if he holds my hand the longest, I win. With these thoughts in my mind I reached my destination Rachel was there already. Mrs. Orr gave me a cordial welcome, I sad down to wait to see what would be next. How my heart leaped for joy when Mrs. Orr looked down the road, saying "cousin is coming." When he entered the door, Mrs. Orr took him my the hand and kissed him. Then she said, "Rachel Irvin, meet Mr. Allen." he took her by the hand say, "I am happy to meet you." He gave her one look, then loosed her hand. Now it was my time I thought. Mrs. Orr looked at me say, "Matilda Justus, meet my cousin. He took me by the hand; he looked me in the eyes saying, such lovely eyes, and rosy cheeks, and flowing hair I never saw before." He pressed my hand again saying, "is it possible that I have found you at last? I have thought of you every day since I saw you a year ago." I wanted to kiss him, the man I love. I could only say in
my heart, I have gained the day.
We all watched over the sick child until late in the night, but there was nothing said about courtship. The next morning, sad and dejected, went home. She had been fishing, she had fished all night and caught nothing.
Then my lover came to my side and he said, "will you favor me with your company to church?" I said, "yes," then we entered into the following conversation, I said, "How do you like Rachel?" He said, "Fine. she is a nice girl." I said, "then you have found the girl who measures up to your ideals, I suppose, ?" He said, " yes, I have found her." I looked around saying, "I don't see her. Why did you let her get away?" He said, "she hasn't got away yet." I said, "where is she?" He took me by the arm saying, "here she is. I was sad for a little while when Laura turned me down, but when I caught your eyes, I loved you at first sight. I have been seeking you ever since, but the trouble was I did not
know your name." "Laura could have told you, " I said. Yes, he said, but I have never seen Laura since that day, nor am I anxious to see her again. But is Laura and Goodson living in bliss? How are they doing? I heard they were married." I said, "they are not doing any good. Goodson wanted to take charge of Laura's money and property and she kicked on it. They have had many quarrels, two fights, and one separation." By this time we were nearing the Church, and Martin said "Will you favor me with your company back home after church services?" I said, "yes." then I said, I have gotten my self into a predicament. What shall I do? For I have promised Floid my company today." "well, " Martin said, "as you have asked me what to do, I will tell you. Promises and pie crusts were made to be broken. As we can't both have your company, we will let you decide for us. As soon as the congregation is dismissed me and Floid will stand in front in the door, and as you come out shake your head at the one you don't want, and bow your head at the one you want."- This I did, and when I shook my head at Floid, and
bowed my head at Martin, Floid leaned his head on Martin's shoulder and wept bitterly. Me and Martin soon reached my house and we stopped under a tree just outside the gate and he said unto me, "I will have to leave you now." I urged him to come in and take dinner with me but he refused. I supposed he was in love and did not feel like eating. Anyway, "when can I see you again?" I said, "anytime that it is your pleasure." "Alright, then" "if I decide to visit you in the near future, and stay all night, will you keep late hours with me?" I said, "I can't answer that question until I put two or three questions to you. " "Go on," he said, "I am listening." "Well, here is one question; how long did Christi-Ann keep late hours with you the last time that you went to see here?" I asked. "Oh, he said, we sat up till eleven o'clock., Who asked you that?" I said, "I know more about you than you think, but did Christi-Ann care for what her mother said when she broke up the match?" "No," he said, "the first time that her mother
spoke, she did not care, but when she spoke the second time, Christi-Ann got a move on and went to bed." "and her mother ran you off?" I asked. "no", he said "she didn't. Christi-Ann told me to beat it up stairs and crawl in bed which I did. Next morning at the break of day, I slipped out and made my escape." Then, I said, "I will now answer your question. No, I will not sat up late with you." when I said this, I started to go into the house. He took me by the hand, saying "forget my question.
I will explain later. Now listen! Next Sunday morning at nine o'clock, you stand in the door and look down the road and you will see me coming."
At nine o'clock on the next Sunday, I stood in the door, and saw my lover coming. He took me by the hand, saying, "I am on time." I said, "so, I see. Come in. Miss Henry has gone to church leaving me and the children, and the servants to keep house." I knew that my lover had come to pop the question, so I waited patiently. Presently he began, he said, "my father died a year ago, leaving a good farm. For the present I will make a living farming. Then I am a ministerial student and I know the church will pay me a salary. so I am confident that I am able to support a wife. Therefore, I have decided that ----- just then the children ran into the house, saying, "see here, Matilda, what a big rabbit we have caught!" I said, "yes", it is a fine one. Now go dress it and put it in the safe. then go out to play. " This took Martin out of commission a little. So be began again, "my mother is very lonesome since my father died, and I am lonesome too. So I think that I will "-----
Again he was interrupted, for an old hen came into the room, cackling, and flew again the window, I drove her out and sat down again. I said to myself, don't I have a time getting married! I wished that old hen was dead. Martin got up and went to the door to see where the children was at, and where the old hen had gone. Then he came and took me by the hand saying "Matilda, I love you." I said "I am
glad you do." He said. "do you love me to spend a life time with me?" I said "yes." He said, "Let us seal our engagement with a kiss. There. I am glad. Now it is over." then he sat down saying, "I will explain now, why did I ask you to let me court you in the dark? I asked you that to prove your virtues." He also said, "great men never go to the moving picture show, nor the dancing hall, nor the swimming pool to marry a wife. I never go to such places, I said. I always said that if a man wanted me for a wife he would not find me yoked with the world. When I was old enough to choose for myself, I said that I would seek high ideals. I will reach the top of the ladder of fame, but I will not climb the ladder with burnt fingers. I will not play with fire, therefore I will not be burnt. That is my motto as a Christian, and a member of the church. I am so glad that I have my being, but I am not glad that I was born out of wedlock. Some years ago when it was told to me that Caroline McClain was my mother, I said that I would not walk in her steps. She gave me birth and tried to hid it. I think that if a woman makes a mistake, she ought to confess it. The Bible says "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsaketh them shall find mercy."
We were married on the next Sunday. and we took our honeymoon on horseback through the country and several years have passed since then. I am the mother of four lovely children. I love my children, and my love my husband, too, and I am