[Originally published in February 1908 in
the Emmitsburg Chronicle]
Samuel J. Flaut is One Of the oldest citizens of
Emmitsburg. He will be ninety-two next July 11th but he
does not feel the burden of his years and many a man of
seventy looks older than does our well-preserved and
well beloved fellow town I small. Mr. Flaut comes of a
long-lived family. His father Jacob Flaut, was
eighty-six when he died a brother died, a brother died
at the age of ninety-three; on sister lived to eighty
two; another at the time Of her death was eighty-eight
years and, ten months and one died at the age of
Mr. Flaut was born on the Blue Ridge
mountains near Euclid in Washington county. In 1835 he moved to
Emmitsburg and has remained here ever since. Since the death of
his wife, eighteen years ago, he has lived with his daughter, Mrs.
Arnold, widow of the late James J. Arnold, who ministers
affectionately to his declining years.
"When I came to Emmitsburg in 1835, I was
apprenticed to James L. Wise, a wheelwright. I stayed with him two
years and a half. After I was free I worked at the wheelwright
trade about one year but didn't like it so I went to carpentering.
I worked at that until 1875 and since then I have lived retired.
That's the history of my life."
'"But that won't do at all, Mr. Flaut,
said the reporter. "We want to know what it was like to be an
apprentice in Emmitsburg in 1835; how your boss treated you; what
he paid you how you lived after you became a journey-man ,what
kind of clothes you wore; what you had to eat and what a good
mechanic could earn it those days. All these details will interest
The Chronicle readers so you be good enough to brush up your
memory and tell us something about the old times."'
Well said Mr. Flaut, "When I was first
apprenticed, my boss agreed to pay me $30 a year. I was to buy my
own clothes. Then he found he had to take some clothing in trade
so he changed the arrangement and gave me my clothes and a little
money once in at while. Of course I lived with him. He gave me a
comfortable room and plenty to eat so I had it good while, was
with him but. I was not regularly bound out; we had only a verbal
agreement. Some didn't fare so well. The bad bosses didn't provide
good clothing or nourishing food and some used to flog their
apprentices. One boy, I remember, was treated so badly that he ran
away to Philadelphia. But his boss followed him and brought him
and he served his time out. Some apprentices even had to go in
their bare feet in the winter time but mostly they were well
treated. As a rule, an apprentice got his keep and clothes and a
small sum of money at the end of his term. Sometimes they were
allowed wages for work done during the term which were paid to
them when they were free. It all depended on the contract.
"After I was free I worked, as I have
said, 6 year at the wheelwright trade but work as hard as I could
I only made seventy-five cents a day. Later when I went to
carpentering I could earn seventy-five cents a day and found,
doing job work. That doesn't sound like much but a dollar in those
days would go further than it would now, our wants were simpler
and living was cheaper.
We paid only eight cents a pound for the
best cuts of beef; flitch was six to eight cents a pound, but
flour was $4.50 and $5, the barrel. However, it was better flour
than we get now. Good coffee was twelve cents a pound. Sometimes
we couldn't get coffee we would parch rye in a Dutch oven and grind it in
a Mill; or sweet apple suits or chestnuts thoroughly roasted and
ground made good coffee. We made teas of herbs-sage and thyme,
balm and hoarhound - and these we sometimes drank with our meals.
Our medicine teas were made from life
everlasting and wood betony the latter to warm up the system but
it had a powerful strong taste. The women would, sometimes drink a
dish of catnip tea for the headache. There were many more but I
can't remember them. I think right well of the old remedies and I
still use them occasionally.
"Clothing was expensive. We boys generally
wore Kentucky jeans or cassinette. There was no ready made
clothing. We would buy a piece of jeans at the store and have it
made up at home or by the town tailor. The cloth didn't cost much
but the tailor charged a good deal to make it up. I well remember
my "first pair of pants which I got when I was four years old.
They were made of bombazine and the legs rubbed at the ankles when
I walked; that made a sound like wheet, wheet, wheet. At the same
age I was given a rabbit-skin cap, I was so proud of it that I
took it out to show to my pet game rooster; I started to tease him
by poking it at him. He made a jump for the cap, tore it out of my
hands, and picked it to pieces on the ground. My, but he made the
fur fly I ran into the house crying, but my sister only laughed at
me for being, as she said, so idle.
The tobacco we used was twist and we cut
off the same plug for chewing and smoking There were no pack or
cut tobaccos, then. You could buy two cigars or four tobies for a
cent. Everybody took snuff, and the women rubbed it on their gums.
There wasn't much beer drunk for there were so many distilleries
that hard liquor was cheap. Around here they used to make apple
jack peach brandy and rye whiskey, At the distillery, apple brandy
sold a pint for a fippeny bit.
"I married when I was making seventy-five
cents a day and went to housekeeping. I had saved enough out of my
wages to furnish a house. My wife was a seamstress and her
earnings helped us out. I remember she made Dr. Patterson's wife's
wedding outfit. She got $2.50 for making the wedding gown and it
was flounced to the waist. As a rule, she made a dollar a week so
you see even with my seventy-five cents a day we didn't have much
but we made out to live comfortably and be happy together and
raise a family of nine children. It meant hard work though. We
were used to hardships in those days. Why, my sister and I, before
I came to Emmitsburg to live, used to walk from near Pen Mar to
Mount St. Mary's to attend, church on Sunday - ten miles each way.
We would have no dinner and when we got home we would be hungry
enough to eat an iron wedge. The young people nowadays ain't as
anxious to go to church as we used to be."
"Mr. Flaut," said the reporter, 'In your
long life what was the most interesting thing that ever happened
to you?" After a moment's thought Mr. Flaut said: "I will tell you
about something very strange that once happened and it occurred
just as I am going to tell it to you. It was when my father and
brother and I were living alone up in the mountain. We had a
neighbor named Wolff and he was a mean hard man and a bad
neighbor. You never could tell what be was going to do but he was
most always in a bad humor. Once he shot out of the window of his
house and killed our favorite hunting dog. He owned a mean dog
which would run out at people on the road. I would stone him every
chance I got and that would make Wolff mad.
One Winter night, it was the middle of
February and there was a foot of snow on the ground, just as we
were getting ready for bed, I said to my father "I heard Mrs.
Wolff call. He thought I must be mistaken and my brother could
hear nothing, but I heard her call again and then again - three
times in all - but the others heard nothing. I went out into the
yard and saw the Wolff's house on fire. He and his wife were fast
asleep and we had a hard time to rescue them. After it was all
over I told Wolff it was a providence and was sent to show him he
ought to mend his ways. We Were reconciled and were friendly
afterwards but I never liked him."
"Mr. Flaut," said The Chronicle man, it
would you rather live in the old days or in the present and what
do you think of the ways and manners of the nowadays people?"
"Well, of course, I prefer the old ways," he replied. "People were
more social able and neighborly - more helpful to each other. They
act sociable now but there doesn’t seem to me to be much reality
"To what do you attribute your long life?"
queried the reporter. "To hard work and a moderate way of living.
I never could afford to be luxurious but have enjoyed good health
and have lived to a great age so I must have had what was
necessary. I have tried to use all things moderately. Never in my
life was I drunk, thank God! But I have taken a little once in a
while as I needed it. Tobacco I have always used and I am nearly
ninety-years old." "Yes, "interrupted his daughter, Mrs. Arnold,
"and he owes his good health; and long life to his even temper and
good nature, as much as to anything else. He was always the
same-never cross and never impatient."
"Now," said Mr. Flaut, "in conclusion I
would like you to let me say a few words to the young people for
they are much in my thoughts and I may never have a chance. to
speak to them again. Perhaps they will listen to an old man who
was once young like them-selves. I see that the world has changed
but the great rifles of life have not changed. Therefore, I say to
the young men, be sober, honest, truthful and industrious and
above. all things shun excessive use of intoxicating drink.
To the young women I say, be not given to
too much pride; strive to be good daughters at home so that when
your time comes to have your own home you may have learned to be
good wives and mothers. To all I say, cultivate a spirit of true
humility, respect the, aged, be obedient to parents. I grieve to
see that the children are not as obedient as they used to be. My
father never spoke to me twice - I minded the first time. And it
is the fault of the parents that the children are deficient in
Children should be taught at home the
virtues of humility, respect and obedience. If they don't learn
these lessons at home they will have to learn them, sometimes by
sad and bitter experience, when they go out into the world.
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