I at once sold my little farm
in the neighborhood of Antioch, and, having disposed of what stock and
stuff I could not take with me, on the 13th of November, 1833, I was
ready to start upon the journey for our new home in the West. On the
evening of the twelfth, many of our dear friends came into bid us adieu,
and they remained until a very late hour, when, after a prayer, the most
of them returned to their homes, a few remaining to see us off in the
We had but little rest that
night, for, before three o’clock in the morning, we were all aroused
from our slumbers, making preparation for an early start. Some one, on
looking out of the window, observed that it was almost broad daylight.
"That can not be," another answered, "For it is scarcely three o’clock."
"I can’t help what the clock says," replied the first speaker, "my eyes
can not deceive me; it is almost broad daylight --look for yourselves."
After this little
altercation, some one went to the door for the purpose of settling the
question. Fortunately, there was not a cloud in the heavens; so by a
glance, all was settled. I heard one of the children cry out, in a voice
expressive of alarm: "Come to the door, father, the world is surely
coming to an end." Another exclaimed: "See! The whole heavens are on
fire! All the stars are falling!" These cries brought us all into the
open yard, to gaze upon the grandest and most beautiful scene my eyes
have ever beheld. It did appear as if every star had left its moorings,
and was drifting rapidly in a westerly direction, leaving behind a track
of light which remained visible for several seconds.
Some of those wandering stars
seemed as large as the full moon, or nearly so, and in some cases they
appeared to dash at a rapid rate across the general course of the main
body of meteors, leaving in their track a bluish light, which gathered
into a thin cloud not unlike a puff of smoke from a tobacco-pipe. Some
of the meteors were so bright that they were visible for some time after
day had fairly dawned. Imagine large snowflakes drifting over your head,
so near you that you can distinguish them, one from the other, and yet
so thick in the air as to almost obscure the sky; then imagine each
snowflake to be a meteor, leaving behind it a tail like a little comet;
these meteors of all sizes, from that of a drop of water to that of a
great star, having the size of the full moon in appearance: and you may
then have some faint idea of this wonderful scene.
It must be remembered that,
in the Western States, at that day, there was not much knowledge among
the masses upon the subject of meteorology. No tome in a thousand could
give any rational account of this wonderful phenomenon; so it will not
appear strange that there was widespread alarm at this "star-shooting,"
so called. Some really thought that the Judgment Day was at hand, and
they fell on their knees in penitence, confessing all the sins of their
past lives, and calling upon God to have mercy. On our journey we heard
little talked of but the "falling of the stars." All sorts of
conjectures were made by all sorts of people, excepting there were but
few, if any, wise conjectures, and very few wise people to make them
along the way we traveled. Not a few thought it an evidence of God’s
displeasure, and believed that fearful calamities would probably
speedily follow. There were those who believed the Judgment Day was near
at hand, and undertook to prove out of the Scriptures that this was one
of the signs of the coming of the Son of Man. One old lady was emphatic
in the statement that it was certainly a "token of some sign."
Statements made even by good-meaning people were often quite erroneous.
Some men declared that they saw great balls of fire fall into the water,
and heard the sizzling noise, like that made when a red-hot iron is
thrown into a slake-tub. Others thought they saw these great balls of
fire bursting among the tree-tops.
We may learn of this that,
when men are in a high state of excitement, their testimony must be
taken with many grains of allowance. I heard of a few who professed
religion under the influence of these lights. In that day, for the
sinner under conviction to be able to say that he had seen a light,
whether he had heard a voice or not, furnished a ready passport into
almost any church in the land. I suppose the reformation produced by
these meteors was like the appearance of the meteors themselves -- of
very short duration. I have no faith in any repentance grounded upon
objects of sense. The gospel only is the power of God unto salvation.
Love to God and hatred for sin, only can work a permanent change in the
life of a man; and nothing short of this can be trusted as permanent in