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Penfield Family

Charlotte Penfield’s Journal [1]


(Thornton [2] 5 years, Irene [3] 3 years) A table full of company—Thornton, near one end—Irene at the other end. A slight pause in the merry conversation and Thornton’s voice is heard clear and sweet. “Irene, only think—when we get up there, God will wipe all tears from our eyes—all our tears, Irene. What do you think of that?” A dead silence around the table. After a moment, Irene’s baby voice responded, “I think he must have a big handkerchief, Thornton.”

Thornton and Irene both wanted the same book, so Thornton said, “Irene my Sunday School teacher says the verse ‘He that wanteth the book the mucheth, he shall have the book.’ ” Irene began to cry, so Thornton said, “There is another verse, Irene: ‘He that cryeth shall not haveth the book.’ ”

Thornton, indulging in half a bit of candy sent to Irene, said “Mamma, this is fit for angels.”

Today Irene said, “When I go to see Jesus I’ll say ‘O dear Papa, how glad I am to see you.’ ”

Another time she said, “When Jesus says, ‘Come little children, you may come up to heaven now,’ then I’ll say ‘Come little children, now let’s go.’ ”

Irene was talking to the parrot. Thornton said “Irene, you should not think so much of ‘Dolly;’ you should think more of God.”

A cousin, Henry [4], was staying with us and played with Thornton. Irene was much worried for fear Thornton would be hurt, so she cried out, “Don’t hurt him. Don’t hurt Thornton.” We all were obliged to laugh. Seeing Thornton laugh, she was much incensed and cried out, “Kick him, Cousin Henry, kick him.”

Thornton, being in a happy frame of mind last night, said before going to sleep, “Mamma, I love to think that we are Jesus’ little lambs. Irene and I are his little lambs, and you are a great goat!” (He meant sheep.)

He was selfish about giving Irene a flower today, and I told him that a great weed of selfishness was growing up in his heart, and I hoped he would pull it up directly. He replied, “I can’t Mamma, for my heart is hard. It is as hard as Pharaoh’s. It is as hard as Pharaoh’s heart was when he refused to let the children of Israel go.” Then Irene spoke up, “By and by the Lord will say, ‘why, why, Thornton, you would not let your little sister have a pretty flower.’ ”

Thornton, in hugging me, mussed my hair. I said, “Do be careful, Thornton.” “Yes I will,” he said, “but that’s my custom.”

I wish to record for the benefit of all mothers (that is if he ever makes anything in the future) that he is an extremely mischievous boy. In this one day, he went to the strawberry patch and helped himself contrary to all law. I punished him severely as I had promised I should do. He thought “it was more severe than I had promised.” He poured water down Irene’s back, watered his grandma’s [5] sewing machine with the watering pot, blacked his shoes with his grandma’s toothbrush, and began splitting a part of the wheelbarrow for kindling wood.

Thornton prayed, “O God, I thank Thee for such a nice day. I thank Thee more than you would if you was me and I was God. Bless everybody, me myself, but especially everybody.”

Last night Thornton prayed “Dear Lord bless everybody except...” I said, “Why do you say ‘except’? You want him to bless everybody, don’t you?” “Well,” he said, “except cows.” I said, “No,” and explained how valuable cows were and what might happen if they were not protected. He said, “O Lord, I didn’t know all that before. Please bless the cows, but except the houses.” So I went over the same argument respecting houses. So he began again, “Please bless every thing except...” “Why must you say except at all?” I suggested. “Well, except potatoe bugs. You don’t want them blessed, do you, Mamma?”

Thornton asked the Lord to bless his mother “severely.” He probably meant “exceedingly.”

Thornton said he “went a mile and a half because he could see one mile stone and half the next.”

He read an “essay” today upon “Savages:” “I have heard of savages, but I do not know much about them, but what I do know I have written down here. Savages go around and kill people, and little babies—so that any of you who have little babies will be obliged to keep them in the house or else they will be caught by big savages or by little ones and will be killed.”

Irene struck a big boy today. She said he struck her back, but Thornton said he did not; he “bore it very meekly.”

Irene was sick a few days since. She feared she was going to die. Turning to me, she asked as she tried to look on her back, “How soon will the feathers begin to grow?” The preliminary of wings, I suppose.

Thornton asked the Lord to send a China man to work for Grandpa [6], “ ’cause the trouble is I want to see how he eats the rats.”

Irene wanted the kitty so she called, “Here kitty, kitty, come and see this Auntie.”

Thornton forgot to pray for the heathen. On getting into bed he said, “O there I forgot to pray for the heathen, but never mind. I’ve prayed for them so often, now it’s time they prayed for themselves. I guess the Lord will excuse me.”

Thornton’s sixth birthday. This evening on putting him to bed, I said, “Thornton I do hope you will love Jesus more than ever this year and try to be a better boy,” etc. He responded in an injured tone, “Why I do love him. I love him like, like, like - fury.” When he kneeled down to pray, he said, “Dear Lord, Thou knowest how I love Miss Mary [7]. I love her 60 barrellsful. But I love Thee 77 barrellsful.” I [said], “I wouldn’t say barrels full to the Lord. It does not sound quite respectful.” He continued, “Please excuse me for saying I loved Thee 77 barrelsful. I didn’t know it was not polite. But I do love Thee like everything.”

Grandpa hugged Irene so hard she began to cry a little. Thornton said, “Poor darling little Irene, you do have a great deal of trials.”

Aunt Fannie [8] would not allow the children to go into the parlor where I was receiving a caller. Thornton consolingly put his arms around Irene and said, “Never mind Irene. Aunt Fannie is growing older every day, and I think she will die soon, and then we can go into the parlor whenever we want to.”

Tonight Thornton prayed, “O Lord, bless my dear Mamma. Bless her every day she lives, and when she goes to heaven too, or if she should go to hell!! O Lord may that not be.”

Irene said if she wanted anything in the night she would go to Grandma and say “Maiden arise,” and Grandma would get up and wait on her.

She calls the Israelites the “Miserable-ites.”

Thornton says that when he grows up he means to be a girl if he possibly can, and wear long dresses, for he thinks nice gentle girls are so much better than great rough boys.

Irene says she wishes “Mamma did not always know best.”

Thornton says if Mamma would only let him do just as he has a mind to do, he would never make her the least bit of trouble; he would be just the best boy in all the world.

Irene—“Mamma, I do wish you would tell me when Thornton is naughty and I’d pray for him, and then the Lord would be pleased with him and not write it in His great book, and we’d all be so happy.” Thornton—“Thank you, Irene.”

Thornton prayed, “Please bless my dear darling Mamma; bless her for her care of me up to this point, and if it is Thy will that I should die now, make me willing to go.”

At tea I narrated something which happened many years ago. A little boy stopping with us (4 years old) said, “Was I there?” “No,” I replied. “That was before there was any little Henry.” “Where was I then?” he asked. Thornton said, “O you were flying along the road. Didn’t you know you were made of dust?”

Grandma said to Irene in connection with something previously said, “You want to go to heaven don’t you?” Iren—“Well I don’t know as I care to go. I don’t believe it is such a happy place.” Grandma—“How do you know? You have never been there.” Irene—“No more have the people been there who write good books.” A few days later Irene said something about going to heaven, and Grandma reminded her that she did not care to go to heaven. Irene replied, “Well, I know that my Mamma and God will be there, and they will make it comfortable for me.”

The flags on the “Centennial 4th of July” being displayed—Irene, clapping her hands, shouted “The flags of Jehovah, the flags of Jehovah.”

She broke two teacups and a tumbler this morning. She asked if she could go to heaven if she was careless.

We were away from home and Irene prayed, “O Lord, if we don’t get home safe, please don’t let Grandma get worried. Help her to think that it is your affair and you’ll attend to us.”

A lady asked Thornton how his Grandma was. He replied, “She is as well as such an old lady could expect to be.” “How old is your Grandma?” “O, 190, I think.” Seeing the lady look surprised, he added, “Well, perhaps not quite as old as that, but she is over 100 anyway.” (Grandma was 64.)

My precious boy Thornton united with the church March 4, 1877. He was admitted last December, but was too ill to be present. Is nine years old and shows conviction of sin and an earnest desire to belong to Christ. There were many interesting things in connection with his conversion. I wish I had made note of them at the time. Last evening April 1, 1877, after all were abed and asleep, I was aroused by hearing a soft voice from his cot, where I supposed him to be asleep, saying, “Dear Jesus, I give my heart to Thee. Take it and keep it; it is Thine forever.” Silence for a moment or two, then again the soft voice whispered, “Dear Savior, take it and keep it, and make it pure and wash it in Thy blood,” and after another short pause, “Blessed Jesus, I come to Thee; do take me, and keep me forever.” After which all was quiet. My heart echoed, “Amen.”

Thornton, Edith [9], Irene and I, walking in the woods looking for flowers. Edith and I found few. Thornton said, “Follow me—I find plenty,” and turning to me, he said, “Mamma, it seems as if the hand of the Lord was leading me, for everywhere I go, I find so many.”

At breakfast, Irene broke the silence with the remark, “I never shall forget the night I was born, how Thornton cried for me to come to him, and how he cried for fear when I did go.”

Irene says, “Evil is the wretch of everybody. It is what gets them all into trouble.”

Thornton prays, “Help us to serve Thee, O Lord, but we know that all we can do is but as the point of a pin compared to an elephant.”

Irene on her eighth birthday started afresh on her Christian way and for a long time was as nearly perfect as a child could be. In speaking of it, she said, “O Mamma, I do enjoy being good so much. I am a great deal happier than I was when I was a sinner.”

Thornton (five years old) listening to Grandpa’s Bible reading, reflectively observed, “That’s a precious assurance.”

He says he thinks his first sermon will be “a pretty blushing one.”

When we were at breakfast, Thornton said, “Grandma, I was so much interested in what Grandpa read at prayers this morning about ‘adulterers and whoremongers God will judge’ and I thought about the kings of England and how they put away their wives, and I was so interested.”

Irene, 8 years old, “When I was a little girl I used to think it was high time I was beginning to get married, but now I don’t.”

Irene told of her dream when she awaked this morning, “O Mamma, it was so beautiful. I dreamed that I was a true Christian and I was uniting with the church. I had just united when the whole church was filled with song, and I looked and there was dear papa and little Flora [10]. It was so beautiful.”

We were talking about the Good Shepherd and Thornton said, “O Mamma, you are such a help to me. I think you must be one of the Shepherd’s dogs—or rather, I think He lets the martyrs and such persons be that.”

Thornton, 11 years old. After a week’s absence from home, on my return, I said, “Well my boy, how have you gotten along?” He replied, “My boy! That’s it. It goes clear to the ends of my toes. O Mamma, I do love you so much. It is so good to have a Mamma. I have felt so badly and missed you so much. I was like the prophet Jeremiah: ‘All the night long made I my couch to swim!’ ”

Irene says, “If I would spend less money upon oranges and such things I’d have more to spend upon some baby she wishes us to adopt.”

9 years old. She prayed this morning. “O Lord, may I never cheat, for you know, O Lord, I haven’t been brought up to be a cheater, nor a liar, nor a killer, nor a murderer, but O Lord, may I be a martyr.”

Thornton prayed, “Please bless and spare dear Grandpa and Aunt Fannie, but please spare dear Grandma most of all.”

Thornton’s school teacher, Miss G--, was ill. He prayed, “Please make Miss G-- well, but may the doctor say that it is absolutely necessary for her to go to Florida or some other remote place and stay there, so we can have Miss R-- in her place.”

Dr. Jessup from Syria preached and greatly interested Thornton. He asked the boys to write a note after they went home, stating that they would like to be missionaries D.[Next letter is unclear]. Monday I asked Thornton just why he did not write it. He replied, “Why Mamma, I scarcely know. I think I do not feel like looking so far into the future just yet.”

Thornton reproved a boy in school for using bad language. The boy replied, “O you’re a Christian and we are cannibals.” Showing Thornton has some influence for good.

A rainy Saturday. Irene proposes to give her dolls religious instruction. Thornton says, “ I’ll set the table and cook the dinner and you take the children to Sunday School. Then I’ll come and preach.” So the mamma took the children and taught them hymns and catechism on the stairs, while papa prepared the dinner, after which he proceeded to church. Hymns etc., then came the text—Job 1.22, “In all this Job sinned not nor charged God foolishly.” A history of Job followed. “Job had six sons and four daughters, making ten children in all that Job had, etc. If Job, who was afflicted more than any of us can be, so patiently bore his trouble, ought we not to bear our less ones without grumbling, and with faith that He doeth all things well! Ought we not to be justified by faith?”—pause—“I ask, ought we not to be justified by faith?”—longer pause—and finally the one animate member of the congregation replied, “I suppose so.” “Yes, we all ought to be justified by faith and our children should be taught that there is a God in heaven. I came here for the purpose of obtaining missionaries. Is there no one here who will go to China and convert the Chinese?”—pause—“I repeat—will no one go?” —After a deep silence, Irene replies, “I will.” “Right! Come out here, madam, and shake hands.” After a hymn, the meeting closed.

Irene came early this morning to finish out the night with me. Soon I suggested that it was time to get up. “O no, Mamma, let us enjoy the present.”

Thornton’s prayers are often most comforting and helpful. I am ill in body and mind. After my prayer he follows. His prayer contained the following petitions. “Dear Lord, help my precious Mamma over the hard places. Help her to feel that Thou ‘wilt be with her, her trials to bless, and sanctify to her her deepest distress,’ and help her to put her trust in Thee, and after it is all over may she be able to thank Thee for this trying experience.”

Irene, speaking of expected Christmas presents, said that “most of all she wished the grace of God in her heart.”

Irene, sitting with smiling face, hugging herself quietly, was asked what she was thinking of, replied, “O, I love everybody so it makes me shiver all over.”

Thornton prayed for a naughty boy in school that “God would take away his heart of stone and give him a heart of cotton or something as soft.”

Irene quotes from “Dr. Watts Poems.”

Thornton and George Bates took a trip up to Paterson on a canal boat. Thornton gave the boatman’s son a bean shooter if he would stop using bad words, which he did, and they had no more trouble.

Thornton and Willie are building a “cave” or rather digging out a “cave.” Irene says she thinks it will be a “cave in.”

Thornton was much annoyed with Ted and Willie teasing him. When we were saying verses he asked if “My tormentors shall be punished” was not in the Bible as he wanted to “say something that would take effect.”

Thornton prays, “O Lord, may I tell the truth the first time and not wait to have it pumped out of me.”

When trying on some trousers that Thornton was outgrowing, I said, “What shall I do? You are outgrowing all your clothes.” Standing at a little distance, he gesticulated with one hand and said, “Mother, the Lord will increase you more and more, you and your children!” [11]


[1] Charlotte Elizabeth (Lottie) Hubbard Penfield (Aug. 9, 1844 - Dec. 11, 1932) was the widow of a missionary to India. Her husband, Thornton Bigelow Penfield, had left her with three small children, including an infant, Flora, born the day of his death. The baby died three months later, Nov. 12, 1871. In 1872, Lottie returned to America with the two older children to live with her parents and her older sister, Frances (Fannie), in New Jersey.

This journal has been transcribed September 1998 by Charlotte Elizabeth (Holly) Leonard Mertz. I have taken the liberty of correcting capitalization and most punctuation, but have tried to leave the words as Lottie wrote them. Where she used quotation marks mixed with a voice other than that which was speaking, I left the punctuation as she had indicated in order to avoid losing her intent in the narrative. Although she frequently indicated familiar names by use of an initial, I have taken the further liberty of spelling them out when possible. Otherwise, in regard to spelling, when questions arose because of the difficulty in reading her handwriting, I have given her the benefit of the doubt and have used a commonly accepted form. When the text was easily legible and the spelling is clear, I have chosen to use her spelling even when it does not conform to the preferred usage of today.

[2] Thornton Bancroft Penfield (Nov. 13, 1867 - Feb. 4, 1958)

[3] Frances Irena Penfield (Jan. 31, 1870 - Jan. 20, 1885)

[4] Probably Henry Bateham (born 1865), sixth child of Josephine Abiah Penfield and her second husband, Michael Boyd Bateham. Josephine was Thornton Bigelow’s older sister. Henry was a first cousin of Thornton and Irene.

[5] Mary Irena Treadwell Hubbard (Mar. 25, 1811 - Jan. 1883)

[6] Joel Miller Hubbard (Dec. 26, 1807 - Jan. 10, 1881)

[7] Possibly a reference to Mary Cowles Penfield (Feb. 2, 1860 - Jan. 18, 1953), Thornton and Irene’s orphaned half sister, who lived with her paternal grandparents in Oberlin, Ohio.

[8] Frances Irene Hubbard (Jan. 16, 1841(?) - April 4, ?) later married M. DeWitt VanWinkle (dates unknown).

[9] Possibly Edith Margaret Penfield (born Feb. 3, 1873), the second child of Charles Henry Penfield and his second wife, Sarah Ann Dutton (m. 1864). Charles is the second child of Anson and Minerva Dayton Penfield, and brother of Thornton Bigelow. She was a first cousin of Thornton and Irene.

[10] Thornton Bigelow Penfield (Oct. 2, 1834 - Aug. 19, 1871) and Thornton and Irene’s baby sister, Flora Eliza Penfield (Aug. 19, 1871 - Nov. 12, 1871)

[11] On Oct. 18, 1883, Lottie married John Bancroft Devins (Sept. 26, 1856 - Aug. 26, 1911), a foundling who adopted young Thornton’s second name as his own. She had no more children. Irene died of measles just 11 days short of her 15th birthday. Both John Bancroft Devins and Thornton Bancroft Penfield became ministers. By 1998, the number of Thornton’s own direct descendants (both living and deceased) had “increased” to approximately 100.

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