He was laboring to prevent the sudden discovery that he was the lost child

Posted by | February 9, 2011

“Two strokes of paralysis convinced me that I am on the borderland, I feel it my duty before my voice is hushed upon the shore to give some tragical features in the life of my brother, Stillman, in proof of the perpetuity and power of nursery impressions.

“A childless couple was my father’s nearest neighbors. During my Brother Stillman’s infancy, they were—or professed to be—very fond of him, which induced my parents to leave him in their care while making a visit of several days to relatives. On going to the house for the child after their return they found it deserted.

Snowville Street scene around 1900.

Snowville, VA, where this kidnapping occurred. Photo circa 1900.

“No information could be obtained as to when or where they had gone. Only a parent can know the anguish of their hearts. Every effort to trace them was unavailing. One man, no doubt in collusion with them, and a fine horse, upon which my father mounted him for the pursuit, was never heard of again. For thirteen years the search was unavailing,

“Most of the States were backwoods. Railroads and steamboats were not known; neither newspapers, except in the larger cities. In the meantime that child was never out of memory. Can we realize the fear of the parents for the influence of kidnappers at the best must make on his character?

“What a relief to know he had perished by the Indian’s tomahawk! How dreadful the return of Thanksgiving days! If for a moment he was forgotten a laugh was felt to be heartless. For thirteen years a pall hung over a family of bleeding hearts.

“Ultimately a traveler, earnestly engaged to make inquisition, lodged under the same roof of the boy, now seventeen years old. He was but four years old when stolen. And though so young he never did believe they were really his parents, although they had given him their name.

Dr. Chester Bullard

Dr. Chester Bullard

“And this impression was confirmed when they had children of their own. It seemed at first that they were really fond of him; and he was treated somewhat as their child; but subsequently as a slave, all of which prevented what his parents most dreaded. They had no power over his heart, which, thank God, fell into the trend of his infant years.

“While the stranger, who lodged under the same roof, was making inquiry for the lost child, Stillman was hurried off to bed, but not until he was convinced from what he heard that he was the child. Stealthily creeping downstairs, he gathered enough to determine him to seek a father’s house.

“His captors were compelled to send him to school with their children, for they had given him their name, but the foster mother was careful to butter every piece of breading in the school basket, knowing that he, from some idiosyncrasy, would be unable to eat a morsel. In the meantime he was making preparations for his advent.

“He procured some tools, such as a saw used in the repairing of clocks, and qualified himself to do honest work in this time. Indeed as time developed, he could not do any other kind of work. Gathering a very slight wardrobe, without the formalities of goodbye, he started out on his errand, supporting himself fully by the repairs he found called for in his travels.

“Just as the shades of evening closed on Greenwich Plain a rustic youth called at the gable roofed house requesting entertainment for the night. The proprietor, now grown venerable, bade him welcome, although a house of entertainment was near. Entering the house and being invited to take a seat, he remained standing and began to ask questions and attempting to converse.

Stilman Snow (A teacher & first Postmaster after the post office was named Snowville (March 31, 1854---December 31, 1857).

Stilman Snow (A teacher & first Postmaster after the Post Office was named Snowville (March 31, 1854---December 31, 1857).

“At that time, I was a white headed boy about nine years old-restless and inquisitive. I readily discovered an air of mystery in the stranger. The truth was he was laboring to prevent the sudden discovery that he was the lost child. But my childless patience could not brook delay, and I suddenly cried out, ‘Mother, this is brother Stillman,’ and mother asked trembling in every joint, ‘Are you indeed my child?’ and sank faintly to the floor. My sister sank down like the swath under the mowers’ scythe, while father, brother Stillman and myself were bathed in tears. I never saw such a scene and I never shall again.

“And now for the proof of the power of early impressions! The next day after the return of brother Stillman, I was sent with him to see brother William, who was employed about two miles from home. In passing through a woodland there was a patch of ground covered with checker berries.

“I gathered a handful, and with an overflowing heart offered them to brother Stillman. He with just such a heart, declined them. In urging his acceptance I made the impression on his mind that I professed not to be fond of them. ‘Oh, my dear little brother,’ said Stillman, ‘I had rather you would tell the exact truth all the time, and in all things than to have all the berries in the world.’

“Brother Stillman came out of the hands of his captors one of the most conscientious beings, not excepting my own Mother, that I have ever known. All of which must have been owing to the persistent influence of his child culture. He died very early preaching the Gospel of the grace of God.”

—Written by Dr. Chester Bullard about his brother, Stillman, and published in a newspaper about 1890, according to “Early History of Snowville [VA],” by Louise B. Allison, 1958

(Allison article was reprinted in Pulaski County Genealogy Club newsletter in October 2000.  Online at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~vapulask/towns/Snowville/SnowvilleHistory.html)

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