Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
Cornelus was an old colored man who had worked for Doctor Hunt, our family physician.
Cornelus took care of the Doctor's old yellow horse and occasionally washed the old carryall which for years and years had carried the Doctor over the red, muddy, sticky roads of Raritan Township, long before such a thing as macadam was thought of.
If you have ever seen a Jerseyite coming up from the Ferry at Desbrosses Street or Courtlandt Street in New York, I don't need to tell you what is the color of Jersey mud. It is the color of a red brick.
In the summer when the roads are dry this red shale clay is beautifully hard and smooth but in the spring and fall I tell you Man, it is some oozy and sticky!
Ellis Ayers told me that in the old days, around 1830 or thereabout, he had seen all the ox teams to be hired for miles around, trying to pull the mail coach out of the mud.
The mail coach ran between New York and Philadelphia before the Pennsylvania Railroad was built in 1835.
But to get back to Cornelus.
Among other duties it was Cornelus' duty to milk two cows morning and evening.
For several days Mrs. Hunt had noticed that Cornelus brought in the milk but once a day.
She spoke to him about it.
Cornelus said, "Mrs. Hunt, the cows don't expect to be milked more than once these short winter days."
Once Cornelus got tired working for others and decided to go to farming on his own account.
He procured a most forlorn looking old pony and a dilapidated old spring wagon and rented a few acres of the most sterile, sandy, hopeless land, way out two or three miles from where he lived.
One day my father and I met Cornelus driving his old plug to his farm. Referring to some sermon which had recently been preached in our church (of which church Cornelus was a faithful attendant) on the subject of finding one's vocation, my father asked Cornelus if he had at last found his vocation.
This was on a hot summer's day. Cornelus answered with a rather dubious sigh: "Well, Mr. Marshall, I ain't so sure."
When fall came and it was time to gather in some kind of a crop, poor Cornelus decided that his vocation was not farming and went back to his job with Dr. Hunt.
If the poor guy had ever succeeded in raising any kind of a crop (which he never did) the tramps and petty thieves would have saved him the trouble of gathering it.
Cornelus was a good soul.
I have no idea how old he was but he must have been some old.
There was for many years a colored man about Metuchen by the name of Hank. To me Hank seemed about 25 years old and for nearly twenty years I rated him about that age.
I knew he had children and grandchildren but somehow it never occurred to me that Hank was old. When I left Metuchen in 1896 I believe Hank was about 70 years old.
At one time Dr. Hunt made an agreement with Cornelus that part of his wages as general utility man should be taken out in the shape of medical treatment for Cornelus' family.
Like many another contract doctor and lodge doctor, Dr. Hunt soon found that where medical treatment is furnished free the occasions for such treatment are much increased.
One day Cornelus brought his young daughter to Dr. Hunt telling the Doctor that his daughter was suffering "from a pain."
When the Doctor asked Cornelus where this pain was located Cornelus said, "Oh, it is just a wanderin' pain, just wanderin'."
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Lasted updated 5/13/99 by Jim Halpin.