Warwick, Orange Co., N. Y., June 17,1857.
BROTHER BEEBE: - Will you oblige me with a space in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES for the publication of the following brief sketch of the life and decease of a venerable and much esteemed mother in Israel?
I wish to say a little more than should be claimed in the obituary department of your paper, with the hope that a concise portrait of her rare and useful life may prove to be a source of encouragement or profit to the household of faith generally, and to her very numerous offspring particularly, as there have been, are, and I think ought to be, many of them members of the Old School Baptist Church.
Sister Josinah Hickman was the daughter of Jacob Van Meter, a wealthy and respectable farmer, who lived (when I first knew him) near Lancaster, Ohio, the consort of Elder Joshua Hickman, deceased, and the grandmother of my departed companion. She died on the 3rd day of June, 1857, aged 90 years.
The first account that I can now give of her history is, that she, with her husband, removed from the Youghiogeny River, above Pittsburgh, Pa., to the northwestern part of Virginia, in an early day, when many of the emigrants to that place were exposed to the tomahawk, scalping-knife, and other ravages of the red man of the forest.
My father removed from Fauquier to Monongalia County, Va., when I was but three years old, and was kindly received in her house and lodged on the premises until he selected and purchased a farm for himself in the neighborhood. There I had the first testimonials of her virtuous life, her benevolent heart and her liberal hand. There I first knew the interesting family with whom I have been intimately acquainted ever since. In whose social circles I spent many of the most pleasant days of my youth, and of whom it may be said (a number of them) in after years; We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.
The Lord blessed her with plenty of this world's goods, and many a sufferer has been made to rejoice in her liberal distribution of the same for their relief. I have heard her almost chided for her liberality to the poor, who were thought to be undeserving of her favors, when she would say, "If there is nothing else to claim our charity, they are a part of the human race." In my first acquaintance with her she was a member, with my parents, of Prickets Creek Church, in the county and state before named. Her husband, pastor of the church, was extensively known through Western Virginia, and highly appreciated as a prominent, an able and useful Old School Baptist minister, which he continued to be up to the close of his ministerial career in Indiana. Their removal to that country followed very close to that of my own, which took place in 1829. There they united with Lebanon Church, in Henry County, in 1830; and in June of the same year the writer of this article was baptized, and became a member of the same church. For twenty-six years I remained a member with her, and can fully testify to the steadfastness of her faith. With her I have passed through some fiery ordeals, particularly in the means division, and on other occasions, but never knew her to waver. Even at the advanced age of eighty years, when that division took place, she seemed to scan and detect the fallacy of the doctrine as with an eagle's eye, and gave place to it "not for an hour." She had a penetrating judgment and a ready mind. The Bible was her text-book, and she had that wisdom afforded her that taught her how to use it, both in defending the truth and stopping the mouths of gainsayers. In the last conversation I had with her on the subject of her pilgrimage, she informed me that the church to which she belonged, in Virginia, held their meetings monthly at her husband's residence for forty-three years in succession, and that she supposed there were few women "this side of the Red Sea" who had waited on the Baptists more than she had, and that none took more pleasure in doing so. During a considerable portion of that forty-three years her house was the principal place where I attended meeting; and often have I witnessed her incessant labors to accommodate her friends, both with temporal and spiritual things. But she now rests. The scowling tempests have all passed over; all is calm - all serene. My oldest son (J. A. Johnson) was the first one that her father saw of the fifth generation from, and including herself. The venerable man was quite lively and well pleased on the occasion, remarking to me that he had then descendants enough living to constitute an army.
My oldest daughter's only child is the first one living of a like generation from her; and if my much esteemed mother-in-law and dear companion had been preserved on the earth as late as was their venerable mother, she could have said, what I have heard of another, "Arise, my daughter, and go to your daughter, for your daughter's daughter has a daughter." She has left four sons, three daughters, and numerous relatives to survive her. Shall I say to mourn her departure? O no, my friends, let us not mourn. Her faithful Shepherd kept her as the apple of his eye, until she was fully ripe for her removal from a world of woe, and transplantation in a higher, holier, happier sphere. I have not learned the particular circumstances of her departure, but feel well assured that death had no sting for her.
A very few years ago a New School Baptist visited her, from Virginia, and remarked to her with much apparent sanctity, that he supposed she thought much about dying. "O no," she replied, "that is not my business, but his who placed me here; and it is mine to do the best I can while here. I don't think near as much about it as I did when I was young." Few have lived, in this age of quick passages through life, to see so numerous an offspring as has our dear old mother. Few in ordinary life have moved in a larger circle of devoted friends, and very few have lived more completely beyond the reach of reproach. Such was her devotion to the cause of her Master, such her untiring toil and care for the relief of suffering humanity, both in the bodily and mental woes to which we are incident, that no tongue dared to reproach her where she was known. Dear brethren, let us follow the footsteps of such.
J. F. JOHNSON.