of Emmitsburg’s sturdy old boys is Mr. Bennet Tyson who
was born January 4th, 1832. So he has only seventy six
years. No doubt if he came fooling around Mr. Flaut, Mr.
Motter or Mrs. Barry trying to tell them how things were
done in the old times, they would pat him on the head
and tell him to run away and play. For they were grown
ups when he came upon this mortal scene, Even his father
was only eight years old when Mrs. Barry was born. That
will give you an idea of how old Mrs. Barry is and how
young “Uncle” Bennet Tyson is.
Emmitsburg’s ancient ones would furnish for an essay on
“The Art of Growing Old.” A man like sound liquor should
become mellow with the years; not acrid and harsh, not
cloudy and dull but radiating; he cheerful light and the
bland atmosphere of good wine. So do Emmitsburg’s old
people and Mr. Tyson is no exception and when you talk
to him you can hardly realize that his age is six years
over the scriptural allowance. His shrewd, merry blue
eye is undimmed; his mind works, as it always did, with
mathematical accuracy; his step is confident and jaunty.
Only last year he preformed feats of climbing when he
was working on the steeple of St. Joseph’s Church, way
up under the belfry, which made the spectators hold heir
breath. It is a safe bet that he could almost any time
put many a lad of half his years to the bad if it came
a day’s swinging of the hammer or shoving the plane.
When the Chronicle
reporter had been introduced and his mission explained
the cigars were lighted and when be benevolent odor of
tobacco had filled be room, Mr. Tyson was asked to tell
be famous story of his father running away to Lockport
in the early twenties. “That happened before I was born
but it is a true story,” said he. “My father was born in
Baltimore in 1804.
came to Emmitsburg about 1818 and was apprenticed to
John Barry the shoemaker. He didn’t get ahead as fast as
he thought he deserved so he ran away. He was finally;
traced to Lockport, N. Y. How he ever got there I don’t
know. Barry sent a man named Mansfield to bring him
back. It is 250 miles from Emmitsburg to Lockport as the
crow flies but Mansfield walked and I guess he thought
it was nearer 400 miles. He got a map and drew a line
between Emmitsburg and Lockport took the direction with
pocket compass and set out on his march through the
trackless wilderness. He carried his kit of shoemaker’s
tools so he could work his way and he set out with only
a lump of corn pone for food. A man named McFadden
started with Mansfield but he only got as far as Poplar
Ridge. He wasn’t much of a traveler. Well, somehow
Mansfield got to Lockport. The Erie Canal was building
at that time and my father was on the works. He
willingly agreed to return so they made the journey back
on foot. I sometimes wish my father hadn’t come back.
Then maybe I wouldn’t have been born into this wicked
world,” said Mr. Tyson, with a twinkle in his eye.
might have happened in a worse place than Emmitsburg,”
said the reporter. “That’s true,” said he. “I guess
things turn out for the best. My rather served his time
out with Barry and I reckon he was glad enough to get
back home.” “Did you ever run away when you were an
apprentice?” Mr. Tyson was asked.
I have had no adventure,” said he. “I was apprenticed to
Shorb and Miller, carpenters, being regularly bound out
for five years. “I was indentured in 1847. I got nothing
but keep and clothes. They treated me well and, let me
tell you, they taught me something about the business. A
boy learned his trade right in those lays and he
knew what work was, too. When I was free I earned as
much as $11 a month and found, and worked from dawn to
dark that was the rule. In the summer that meant from 4
A.M. to 8 P. M. I remember one job at Diehl’s Mill down
Taneytown way. The boss would call me at two o’clock in
the morning and we walked five miles to the place. We
worked as long as we could see to hit a nail. Then we
tramped back. On Saturday afternoon we quit at five
o’clock and went home to cut wood for the next week’s
Emmitsburg’s most accurate
mechanic, a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks,
Mr. Bennet Tyson tells some of his experiences. The old
racetrack on Popular Ridge and a simple gamed played in
those days that may have been the original game of
Baseball. An example of Uncle Bennet’s mechanical
ingenuity and skill.
"You can see that men who work
as hard as we did hadn’t much time to play games and I
don’t remember much about them. Long bullets were one.
The player had a long leather strap one end of which was
fastened about his wrist. An iron ball would be rolled
up in the strap and with an underhand swing of the arm
it was pitched ahead of the player. An expert could send
it several hundred yards along a straight road. It was
generally played along the public roads and I knew of
one game that lasted to Taneytown. The side that got the
ball there first won that was all there was to the game.
"A simple game was played that
may have been the origin of baseball. There were a
batter, a pitcher and a few fielders. All that I can
remember about it is that the pitcher tossed the ball to
the batter and if he struck a fly and was caught he was
out. They didn’t run bases and there were no strikes.
The only way to get a batter out was to catch him out."
"Out towards Poplar Ridge there
was a race course. The land now belonged to the Fraileys.
That was long before my time but I used to hear my
grandmother talk about it. They would have scrub horse
races and all kinds of gambling games: sweat, roulette
and others. Everybody would get drunk and stay drunk for
week; I have heard my grandmother say.
"As to the cost of living, the
necessaries of life were cheap and plentiful. I have
known whiskey to sell as low as eighteen and
three-fourths cents a gallon and tobacco in proportion.
Flour I have bought as low as $3.50 a barrel before
1850, and fresh pork for three cents a pound."
"I never had but one attack of
illness. I was down with intermittent fever in 1842.
They thought I was going to die but I fooled them and I
have never been sick a day since."
It should be said for Mr. Tyson,
who is not given to blowing his own trumpet, that for
many years he has been Emmitsburg’s leading builder. He
erected the Academy building, refectory and kitchen and
the big infirmary at the Convent; also
St. Euphemia’s school buildings; also, the
He built the
Church and rebuilt it after it was destroyed by
fire. He erected many private dwellings. As he modestly
lays, nothing he has ever built has fallen down but
everybody knows when he put up a building it was done
He never had a technical
education but he can work out the most complicated plans
with mathematical exactness. Father Hayden told The
Chronicle reporter how, on one occasion, Mr. Tyson
St. Joseph’s Church out of a serious
difficulty. It was when the new organ was bought. The
old one weighed one thousand pounds but the new one
weighed ten times as much. An architect from St. Louis
said the loft would have to be rebuilt to carry the
additional load. The builders of the organ said the
same. The situation was turned over to Mr. Tyson who
contrived a plan by which the organ could be carried
safely without rebuilding the loft. He did the work out
in his shop and so accurate were his calculations that
every timber went to its place with hardly a stroke of
the saw. Not only is there no vibration but also, in Mr.
Tyson’s opinion, the loft would support twice the weight
it does now.
That is the kind of a mechanic
Mr. Tyson is.