W[illiam] H. Trout
Lufkin Texas Feb 15-1913
John Muir Martinez Cal
Dear Friend John
Today is my birthday. I now finish my 79th year. I came late this season to my winter home, arriving on the Jan 23d. After arriving I saw a prospectus of the Atlantic Monthly for 1913, in which you were were prominently advertised as a contributor. I subscribed, tho I had already a big stock of of reading. The Jan number came two weeks ago, the Feb number about a week ago. With other good articles yours, In the Wilderness and Out of the Wilderness, were read with uncommon pleasure. On two separate evenings I read them to my 3 grandsons, the oldest being 12 years of age. I did not require to call for attention, they gave it. parents also were particularly attentive. I am sending for the Nov & Dec No's so as to have the whole.
These reminiscences bring back so vividly our old table talks, and evening chats, wtih yourself and Dan, and occasionally David Galloway. There was plain hearty homespun style with some lively wit, for Scotch and half Scotch, and abundance of good nature. I tell you those days in the hollow were not hollow days.
I have no small anxiety at present regarding my son who this summer past has met his ill luck, if such a phrase is allowable. In the first week of last July his house burned with scarce anything saved; but unlike our Old Mill fire he was insured. Imediately after getting ready to rebuild he got malarial fever in an aggravated form, which with indifferent medical treatment, and the consequent complications from it, leaves him still an invalid. There has been two periods for a few weeks when he attended to business 4 or 5 hours per day, and some business was attended to at the house, but several times his condition has been dangerous, and his restoration to good health seems still uncertain. He has a fine house one of the best in our town, designed by a
good architect, but he is not in shape to enjoy it, but we hope that by the spring at least he will be all right.
I am not working this winter; with the manager so long absent from business, new work did not come in to the office, so an extra draughtsman was not needed. So I am at liberty to write long letters, or do whatever else I please; so I have determined that I will finish a family history, that was begun 20 years ago. I shall now for some time be in a reminiscent mood, like you in your wilderness stories.
In writing you last spring, I stated that if strength remained good, I might visit you in 1915. You replied to me, not to put it off so long, that we were too near sundown. The strength keeps up fairly yet, I realize that, and did for a time contemplate a next summer journey; but last summer I loaded up the future, which is not usual with me; also helped my son here, and a daughter besides, near to my limit; and my roaylty payment this winter not being as large as expected, also not earning, I shall require to defer that pleasant journey, till next year at least.
I am putting in a large part of my remaining energy into church work. Our first church in Milwaukee got into a little hard luck spiritually, rather than financially, and being the senior elder it pulled rather hard on me. Also the young second church is erecting a fine church building, to which I contribute. Here in Lufkin our small but energetic congregation has also elected me senior elder, so that according to the old time brethern, you knew in Meaford, I would be sadly degenerated into something like a metropolitan bishop. Well one of the advantages of age is that one becomes indifferent to small criticism. it never worries me when I know I am right and am doing good.
In church work here the women are the workers, the men are of small account. There are only 3 or 4 real live men in the congregation. In Milwaukee it is similar; the few men are more active
but the proportion is even less than here, and in both places the business and working habits of the times are against the men. Some are in the shops on Sunday, Some on the road as train men, or travellers. Some in their business offices or stores in the forenoon attending telegraph telephone or business correspondence. Only a moderate minority of the male members will be in the morning service of the church. The women and girls will be there 5 to 1.
In Milwaukee the girls are ahead in the common and high schools. The high schools graduate 2 1/2 girls to one boy. It is similar in the Sunday school; fewer boys attend, and they give more trouble to teach and stay a shorter time than girls. Most of the girls and only some of the boys graduate into the church. And a resulting counterpoint of this is that boy criminals are increasingly filling up our jails and reformatories! The boy problem is a great one.
As for the causes of these conditions (I speak more particularly for Milwaukee) I place first the greed for wealth. 2d Socialism, which tho opposed to wealth, exalting altruistic theories, yet makes no practical advance, Ignoring where they do not directly oppose everything Christian. A few indeed try to combine both, but their influences is lost in the general trend, which is materialistic, even sensualistic. amusement seeing to be the highest aspiration. This increasingly pervading belief in the necessity of amusements, I would place as a 3d adverse cause. If amusements were a nesscessity how did you and get on? So the life of the community is frittered away, worthy objects being out of consideration. Religion regarded as only a sentiment, and morals a matter of preference, adaptable to a situation. Outward respectable people claim the freedom of their inclinations and appetites, and even their passions; and the vital backing and propelling force, behind those evil influences, is the Hyda headed, monopolistic, all pervading, wide spreading Dragon of the liquor traffic. Mutually helpful with it is political graft, the Social evil, White Slave Traffic and gambling. A combination that appalls good men, and they only dare attack the baser manifestations.
leaving the devil grinning behind the whole show, while he shifts the scenery for another "respectable" stage setting, and then proceeds with the riotous pageant.
Perhaps you think I have shot off at a tangent, and am flying wild. No No! The centripetal face of the Sun of Righteousness holds me true. Like you I am a child of the country the cities are going wild: your own San Francisco, among them. But there has been some ground winning fights over there. But the enemy is not dead. Like your shot bird, he is only scotched, and if you dont look sharp will be at the top again, singing his old specious song.
Religiously at least, the South is ahead of the North, and if its morals are no better, certainly its attitude is better. Here Christian or true morality is regarded as inherent in the Christian religion. The authority of Christ is behind the combination. In the north morals rest largely on their own basis; or as may be regarded by each individual. In a general way, you might say, they rest on public opinion, which is a wonderful conglomerate. The purest chryrstals springing from the sermon on the mount. Other scources are the criminal code and the statute books, and much the largest portion from the usage of society, and the trend of the times. Some like Herbert Spencer regard utility as the basis of morals. Not that they encompass the whole view, and determine the greatest good for the greatest number: it is only a rare one who does that; but each regards as best, what works out best for him; or for his party, if he is linked up with others. So with the great mixtures we have of races and religions, public opinion is rather indeterminate, and has little moral influence
Here in the South what moral sense they people appear to have seems directly traceable to the influence of the churches. Jesus Christ being recognized as the final authority. Individualism indeed asserts itself most strongly, and is often disposed to trample on all law. Yet the conviction lies deep, that Christ is the true scourse of law and the basis of geniune character. The South is often rude and
raw yet its look is upward. Progress toward better things is rapid and decided. There is a constant fight upon well defined lines. The liquor forces, and related allies, on one side, and the churches and progressive people, on the other. Or prohibition and Anti-prohibition, or briefly Pro and Anti. The cleave is seen, not alone in direct temperance or moral legislation, but in even remotely related matters, each being watchful for advantage The liquor forces are on the defensive, but their money is the main force that staves off their evil day.
In the North the fight at best is only halfhearted. Too many good men run their own business, and leave the public interest largely in the hands of political grafters and rum rule. Milwaukee in a fit of desperation put in power the Socialists, and in a two years trial turned them out; and now has a citizens party running the city. Tho a compromise, it is an improvement.
Our brethern in this state (The Disciples of Christ or Christians) tho third in point of numbers are even with Baptists and Methodists, in religious activity and forceful moral progressiveness.
The ministerial association of Dallas has four or five of its leading ones, that are called the cabinet. Of these Bro J.O. Shelburne is the executive or spokesman. When he visits the Mayor's office, he gets undivided attention, and it is more so with the District attorney who is a member of Shelburne's church and this respect adds to that of being the combined churches champion.
In Houston the M. association objected to the public amusements. (low dances and vaudeville) the city commissioners furnished and paid for in the public auditorium on Sunday afternoons. In this they were matching Milwaukee; but even Milwaukee's Socialistic city council could not stand the oprobrium and manifest immoral tendency of their course, but discontinued their dance. The Houston commissioners replied to the ministers, you take the show and run it yourselves which they did. Bro Lockhart was placed in charge: he employed good lectures and had sound and high class concerts, and other shows that were elevating
and instruction, and had the satisfaction of seeing them better attended, and by a better class. He was als appointed censor of the motion picture and other shows, that came to the city. It was a delicate job to steer between the careless amusement lovers on one side, and the ministers on the other, but he holds on.
In this town of Lufkin, which ambitiously calls itself a city, we have a congregation of about 150. A low third in point of numbers, but not in ambition. It meets in an old churchhouse at one side of the town, being inconvenient to reach, particularly on dark nights. As before mentioned the fine band of women we have is the working force of the church. There is not much wealth among us, but with the good will of the community we are undertaking a big job. A $3500 lot has been purchased and $1000 paid & $250 in bank toward second payment. We have a year to complete the payments; but intend to do so in 6 mos. Then make a loan from our Church Extension Society, of 4 or 5000., and build a fine 12.000 dollar house inside of one year; which is certainly a big job for a small band of women; but they are on the job with both feet, and the men are backing them. They have not called on me yet, and I have subscribed $200, and will likely double it before we get thru.
When I want a good lively chat, and a pleasant time, I call on our pastor, he is a good kindly man, looks after his flock and the community interests, like the good shepherd that he is. But his wife is the peach, she plays and teaches, violin, piano, or organ. Sings solos, leads choir, and helps in the church societies, and other public doings; and will give you more lively, sprightly, sensible chat, in one hour than most any other woman I ever knew.
I was telling her about your articles in the Atlantic Monthly. She began asking questions to find out more about you, and stretching out toward me, with an extra pleased quizzing look, and in a lower tone, Brother Trout, is he a man of much means? I laughed, now I see you are after a church building subscription, you bet I am at every chance. Well he can stand it.
Say Bro Trout can't we send him a letter and a stocking? What kind of a letter? Why a letter that we send out, telling what we are doing, and what we are going to do, and soliciting help. And what is the stocking for? Why to put the money in from week to week, or month to month, till the stocking or subscription is filled. Let me see one! A nice little baby sized mercerized cotton stocking was handed me, and a small type written letter, along with it. Well I laughed, imagining John Muir chucking church money in a baby stocking. Oh I said, I'll fix it, I am going to write soon, and will put in a good word for you, and will see what it will fetch. So if you send us a neat sum or the promise of one, when needed. I will guarantee the gratitude of the recipients, its economical expenditure, and its continnuance in doing good. That is about the kind of satisfaction I get from my outlays, and I am willing to be personally economical in order to enjoy it. I hardly need to say that you know personal economy as well as I do.
This is an awful long letter, but I know your patience. will be as good for the reading, as mine has been in the writing.
I met your old Wisconsin acquaintance, Mrs Sanderson last fall I think she is the last of the tribe, but is hearty and well.
Have you any grandchildren yet? Lucretia, that was with me 6 years ago, has one of the finest little black eyed boys you ever saw. He is 20 months old, and a Dane like his dad.
I learn thru Edward that Helen lives in Hollywood, give her my regards when you see her. And when at Hollywood you would find it a pleasure to meet C.C. Smith, our first Milwaukee pastor, and my most particular old friend. I can't give you his No He is an enthusiastic bird man.
Edward lives at 1845 Morgan Place.
Hoping that all continues to go well with you, and that I may hear from you favorably, regarding the help you may give in our building effort, and such other matters as may interest us both. I remain as ever your much interested friend
W. H. Trout
1913 Feb 15
Original letter dimensions: 28 x 21.5 cm.
Trout, William H., "Letter from W[illiam] H. Trout to John Muir, 1913 Feb 15." (1913). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 3913.
Reel 21, Image 0133
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