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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

A Birthday Reflection

Editor's Note:

Hot, sick, and stuck among the worldly company at Phelps' trading post, Marsh passed a somber anniverary. He filled six pages with reflections and prayers, including his amazement at how sacrilegious the frontier settlers were. The concept of God he advances here echoes that of his more conservative Puritan ancestors, who likened each person's relationship with God to that of an insect suspended over a candle flame.

July 20th [Sunday]
My Birth Day.
This day I have completed thirty four years. How old, how soon have childhood and youth passed and now I find myself near if not quite at the meridian of life; and yet how little have I accomplished. How poor the improvement which I have made either of my time or talents! No previous year during my whole life has appeared so short, it appears but as a dream. Or almost a tale when it has been told, short and little of it remembered. Still this year has been fraught with merits and blessings. I have been blessed with almost uninterrupted health, and the Lord has graciously supplied all of my necessary wants. ... Perhaps I have now entered upon my last year, for life is uncertain and it is appointed unto all men once to die, but if so I desire to my Lord, not my will but thine be done.

This morn. the two gentlemen, one a candidate for the legislature who passed up yesterday, called again and the whole subject of conversation was politics. In the P.M., just as I was intending to call the family together in order to hold a meeting, another company arrived consisting of six, and two of them Jackson candidates for the Legislature, and another for the office of sheriff. Very soon they commenced using profane language, with which their tongues seemed familiar, and after a short conversation the weather being quite warm, [and] thinking that good spring water of an excellent quality was not sufficient to quench their thirst, they crossed the Des Moines R. in order to do it with brandy. A part returned and passed the night, but in the eve. took another drink and went in swimming.

Alas, but what will they do in the Great Day, when God should wish to take vengeance upon those who have violated his Sabbath and profaned his awful name?

From all that I have seen around, this has not seemed at all like the Holy Sabbath... whenever I was in the house, was dull and gloomy, but passed what time I could alone in the woods.

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