Evening, 22 Feb 1878
"What are you trying to do with that?" Thomas shouted to his younger brother over the sounds of the storm.
“I’m…trying…to… tie… a knot,” David John struggled with the rope as he shouted back. Thomas rolled his eyes in exasperation. "That's not how it's done. Toss it to me."
"Really, David, you don't have a clue on how to do anything practical," was Thomas's unsaid thought.
David snippily countered with the obvious. "And how are you going to manage a knot with that hand?"
A half-an-hour before Thomas had deeply injured his thumb with by fumbling a crosscut saw. He had been trying to salvage the tools from the basement by bringing each item upstairs into the house. Elizabeth (1842–1933), his wife, had wrapped the hand in a tea towel. It was still bleeding.
"It’s my right hand, I can manage." Thomas was left-handed. Thomas argued further. "And tell me just what we're supposed to do with this rope, and what do you intend to tie?"
The temperature was dropping almost to snowing level. David John was shivering, soaked, mud-covered, with all of his clothes skewed into a tattered state. The rain was easing up a bit but the run-off flood was still flowing rapidly down the property, through the basement, and into the street. They needed to make their way from Thomas's house to the cabin situated about thirty yards downhill. The crossing between the two structures was covered by a rainstorm-made river of unknown depth and speed. It was dark and they could only see shadows cast by the lanterns lit in the basement and house windows.
The dim realization that this watery escapade was not only dangerous but foolhardy flickered in Thomas's head. Both brothers began to wonder if they were up to this hopeless task. The cold, wet, and dark was daunting enough. But it was the sound that had them worried; the sound of their elderly father ranting against the storm, invoking God and Noah from atop the roof of the cabin below. They reckoned it could be heard over the storm for at least a mile.
"How do I know?" snapped David. "Tie it to the house somewhere and use it as a line to get to the cabin."
"But David, the rope would already have to be tied to the cabin!"
"Well …I can stay here and hold on to the rope…and…um…you can swim to the cabin and tie it up there!"
Rainfall filled the silence.
"What in the world is that going to solve? And why me? Why don't you swim to the cabin? Why don't we both try swimming to the cabin?"
"You know I don't swim!!" David yelled with indignation. "There is no way you can get father off the roof by yourself and we do not know what condition mother is in. You need to get this rope to the cabin and I can pull myself over to you." David was determined to rescue father. In his mind, this had to be done.
"Perhaps David does have some practical ideas after all,” Thomas mused.
Father's ranting had changed. He was...singing? The brothers stopped arguing and listened:
And mightly crimson tide,
Blest fountain of salvation,
From Jesus' pierced side,
Flow on, flow on.
O sacred stream flow on, flow on:
Flow on, flow on, O sacred stream, flow on."
"What…How…?" stammered David.
"Ma told me to borrow Charles Anderson's boat," declared Junior. The Andersons lived one house up Chatham Street.
David was appalled. "Not Charles! Not the neighbors! There will be talk!"
"Too late to worry about that, Uncle David. Every last one of 'em knows. Grandpa is a right fine tenor, no?" piped Ernest.
David and Thomas glanced at each other then turned their heads to scan the street. Every house on the road had lanterns balanced somewhere by a window with curious faces staring out below, enjoying the show. Two houses up Margaret Porter waved energetically at them.
Flow on, …. flow on,
(Oh Heavens. The neighbors were singing the traditional antiphonal answer.)
O sacred stream, flow on"
It should have only taken a minute for the brothers to get aboard but David had difficulty figuring out how to move his wet body. At one point the boat nearly capsized. Finally, pulling on his brother's arm, he flopped over the side with the flexibility of an oversized trout. The sound of the neighbors' applause wafted through rain.
Thomas Junior managed the oars, ignoring Thomas Senior's patronizing directions. The four mainly floated down the thirty yards to the cabin. David John cowered with humiliation at the bottom of the boat trying to avoid the cold wind. Ernest, all smiles and holding the lantern, was having the greatest time of his life.
Readers please forgive me for making use of the Hymn "O Sacred Flood", which is not contained in the June, 1898 Primitive Methodist Hymnal. In fact, it appears to have been composed by Ohioan William Augustine Ogden (1841-1897), and was popular from about 1875 - 1940. Whether the hymn made its way north to Canada and into the rather rigid Methodist congregations is any hymnologist's guess.
London brothers John (1703-1791) and Charles (1707-1788) Wesley, the patriarchs of Methodism, were fairly rigid in their hymn singing expectations. John's 1761 "Directions for Singing" is filled with (at least to the modern vocalist) humorous musical and behavioral dictums.
Our Hersey families in Ontario, Canada were avid and active members of the Primitive Methodist Church. The Canadian Encyclopedia defines Methodism thusly:
"Methodism...encouraged personal holiness and a disciplined (hence "methodical") Christian life. It was distinctive in its Arminianism, the belief that individuals are free to accept or reject God's grace, and that it is possible to attain 'perfection' (the overcoming of a will to sin) in this life."
The nomenclature involved in the term "Primitive Methodist" would appear somewhat jocular in its primeval associations, bringing a variety of puritanical punishments to mind. In actuality the term "Primitive" in the religious sense refers to a return to origins, or the purposeful practice of a belief system as it was originally intended.
Primitive Methodism seems to have been a working-class revival in the early 1800's. Although Methodism first appeared as a schism from the Church of England, typical Methodist political tendencies leaned towards royalism and away from rebellion. This came in very handy for the protestant Loyalists in Ontario, Canada and elsewhere. In addition, the temperance movement was a strong part of Primitive Methodism in the New World.
There are still practicing Primitive Methodists today (see http://www.primitivemethodistchurch.org/index.htm).
An extensive essay on Primitive Methodism history in Canada written by Reverend J. Cooper Antliff, D.D. can be found at Centennial of Canadian Methodism; Historical Sketch of the Primitive Methodist Church in Canada. Additionally, an interesting history of the Methodist Church in Canada can be found at the blog "Fadedgenes". One can also find "Old-Time Primitive Methodism in Canada" in Google Books.