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A Brief Sketch of Elmer Shelhame's Life by His Wife


      It was in a cold December, near Vandergrift, Pa., more than fifty-five years ago that a tiny, insignificant little fellow startled every one in the house by his cries for help. For there he was -- a pitiful looking creature who had just entered this world without a thread of clothing upon his back and without a friend so far as he knew. Everybody seemed anxious to work to his interest, however, for his father put more logs on the fire and the neighbor women ministered to him in a most kindly fashion.

      At that time he did not know what all the fuss was about as he could not see anything to cause so much excitement. Finally they got his poor little shivering form all dolled up in some garments that had been discarded by the previous generation and he fell off into a sound sleep.

      He cannot remember much that happened after that unless it be that as time went on people did not pay much attention to him, except as he cried and then sometimes he had to work at it a long time before he could get what he needed. His mother was overtaxed caring for seven children, keeping house and doing a man's work in the field.

      Though some of the people did not advocate woman suffrage yet we have never heard any of them say a word against his mother's encroaching on man's sphere of activities though nine children were the sufferers.

      There were only two rooms in the log house besides the attic where the children slept. They had none of the latest improved patent ventilators -- did not need them, as they had plenty of fresh air coming in through the cracks between the logs. The children did not need to go out doors to make snow balls. All they had to do was to reach out of bed in the morning and find a drift of it on the floor.

      Elmer Ellsworth's people were so poor he did not have much scientific care. He just "growed up." True, as he grew older he got his share of whippings, plenty of pork, beans and sauerkraut, but as for being fed by the clock in his infancy, his mother did not know much about that. Indeed it is not known that he had many real baths after he was weaned, especially if he had to take them himself. But he should be given credit for being methodical to the extent that he bathed regularly once a year in the mud-hole of the creek on the fourth of July.

      Though poor, there were some things his parents did believe in and those were piety and family government.

      For some time "Ragged Elzie" bid fair to becoming a good man, but because of ostracism and evil associations he became a wild, reckless boy and broke his parents' hearts.

      But one day to the surprise of all, he came bounding into the Kingdom of Grace just as exuberantly as he had been born into his father's family. Though but sixteen years of age his entire life was changed. From a disobedient boy, ruled by a temper unequaled perhaps by any in the country, he became as docile as a lamb and his pleasure loving mind was exchanged for one that craved the means of grace.

      He at once began to develop lofty ambitions to bless the world though as yet those ambitions had not become definitely formulated. His heart was fired with devotion and on many a cold winter day he crept off into the barn and knelt in the hay mow, or behind the corn fodder to pour out his boyish heart in earnest prayer and sweet communion. Sometimes his heart became so enthused with revival zeal that he leaped to his feet exhorting like a house afire, most earnestly beseeching the corn stalks and hickory logs to get religion at once before it was too late. He did not know at that time that he was taking his first lesson in preaching and that later on he would have to ,exhort people who would be as hard to move as hickory logs and as dry as corn stalks.

      Well, I cannot say as to the number of converts only it might seem to some that at least the horses and mules closed in with the offer of mercy for their dispositions were likely improved after Ellsworth's conversion.

      Feeling a desire to win souls he broke the news to his parents who allowed him to secure a job in the iron mills, at Apollo, Pa., that he might earn sufficient to pay his car fare out West, where he hoped to prepare himself for the ministry. A bit of his experience we now give from "The Ups and Downs of a Pioneer Preacher."

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