MORE UNIQUE CHARACTERS
I said in a former letter that Waverly, in the early days, bad several unique characters, and none of them was more interesting than "Zeke" Ladd. In stature he was about five feet, and in weight about one hundred pounds. His head was the shape of a cone, his complexion as swarthy as that of a Spaniard; he was blind in one eye, and by nature strictly religious. In manner be was deliberate and simple as a child. He was the butt of many jokes. He fell deeply in love with one of the fair damsels of Waverly who was very much provoked at his attentions. The jokers soon understood how matters were and determined to stop his annoying the lady and at the same time have some sport at poor Ladd's expense. Word was sent Ladd to the effect that the object of his heart's devotion was ready to wed him, and would meet him at a given place from which
they would proceed to the court house where they would be "solemnly united in the holy bonds of wedlock." In some manner some of the lady's clothes were obtained and donned by one of the boys, and he then proceeded to the appointed place of meeting. Ladd was overjoyed and the couple hurried to the court house where the ceremony was duly performed in the presence of a goodly number of his friends the jokers. The poor fellow's disappointment was great indeed when he discovered the prank that had been played upon him, but it cured him of any further attentions to the lady. He never hesitated to rebuke anybody whom he thought was irreverent or irreligious. His scope of knowledge was very limited, his manner was quiet, sedate and childish. In fact, he was innocent and harmless, but posed as a biblical student of profound knowledge. The wags and mischievous young fellows often plied him with questions about the teachings of the Bible, for the purpose of drawing from him some of his queer expositions. To see him strike an attitude of dignity when answering questions was really mirth-provoking and laughable. No matter how many might be cross-questioning him, they could not tangle him, for he would stick to his own opinions like a hero, and when cornered in an argument he ended it by saying, "I know it it so, for I read it in the Book."
The old stone school house was the Mecca of all knowledge, and to it the "bunch" often resorted for general information. Zeke was invited to occupy the rostrum to enlighten the public as to why he so firmly stuck to the Bible as the only book of knowledge. He consented to accept the invitation and, of course, all the mischievous fellows anticipated an evening of real sport, and accordingly all were present. Zeke was at his best, in dead earnest, and as dignified as a bishop. Dave Clark, as usual, was chairman of the meeting, and in a highly complimentary address introduced the speaker, who was greeted with hearty applause. Zeke, on taking the platform, stood in silence for two or three minutes scanning the audience, then in a clear voice announced his text: "But God hath chosen the foolish to confound the wise." He mentioned his weakness and ignorance, and that he stood before an audience of strong and wise men, and then, to the surprise of all present, he rebuked scoffers and critics of the religion he believed in. His manner was slow and deliberate, entirely different from his style when talking on the street. The meeting was a disappointment to the promoters of it, for they expected to have an evening full of fun and sport, with Zeke as the central figure.
Among those present was "Squire" R. J. Ellsworth, a man noted for his devotion to religious work; also Dave Milburn was present. They were there more particularly to protect Zeke from the joking and nagging of the bunch of mischievous young men. Speaking of the meeting years afterwards, Squire Ellsworth declared he was astonished at the cool and self-possessed deportment of Zeke, under the trying situation. One of the astonishing features was the appropriate text the boy chose for the occasion--"But God hath chosen the foolish to confound the wise."
Ever after this try-out, poor little Zeke was respected for his calm and stubborn defense of his religious belief and faith. He was a harmless, inoffensive little man, given to saying odd things, niany of which were really bright, or rather original, in connection with his thoughts. He was dubbed "Ezekiel, the Prophet."
He was no more of a character than was his father, P. V. Ladd, who was a one-legged man, fond of discussion and argument. He was an intense republican, so partisan he could hardly be genteel toward a democrat. To slur the republican party, or one of the party, was to invite P. V. to fly to the defense. He would talk so loud and so fast that his opponent could do no more than listen to him, and when he had enough, pass on and leave P. V. roaring like an infuriated lion. In fair weather his usual place was a seat on a box in front of Hazlett's store. He and Zeke lived alone as long as they lived.
Another unique character of 1856 was "Jack of Clubs," whose real name was Samuel McClure. He looked exactly like the picture of Jack of Clubs on playing cards. He helped dig the stumps out of Bremer avenue, under the direction of Mose Lehman. My recollection is that Dow Hinton gave him the name of "Jack of Clubs" during the time of digging out the stumps. Ever after he was best known by that name. He was loquatious, keen in repartee, and a good story teller, and Mose said he was the best time killer on the job. Dow said Jack could grunt the loudest and do the least of anyone on the job. He was a good hater of England, and he and Jack Chandler had to be kept wide apart, or they would spend all the time arguing about what England did in the Revolution of 1776. Mose was careful to put one of them at each end of the work. Chandler being the best grubber, worked on the lower end, near where the east end of the bridge now is located, because the largest stumps were there. When we wanted a breathing spell, we would maneuver to get the two Jacks together, which was certain to stop the work of ,all to listen, until Mose would break loose with a lingo of Pennsylvania Dutch profanity, ending with a threat to report the whole gang to Mr. Harmon. This would stop all discussion and set the mattocks to going. If all the funny incidents of digging out the hickory stumps in Bremer avenue, from the court house to the river, could be collected and put in a story, they would be side-splitting.
Last updated 10/1/2015
|Return to Pioneer Life Table of Contents||Next|