Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A man's best friend

I mentioned in a previous post about a story I ran across while looking at old photos.  This story was written by my aunt about her grandfather, my great-grandfather, and his dog.  I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

James E. was born Feb. 11, 1850 in KY.  Little is known about his parents and nothing about his grandparents, although a story often was told about James' paternal grandfather who "came from Ireland and lived to be 112 years of age".  

When James was 2 years old, his parents moved from KY to MO.  His father was in an accident involving a runaway team of horses and died of his injuries.  James was the eldest of six children and was 12 yrs old at the time of his father's death.  James split rails to help make money for the family and no doubt did most of the hunting of game to bring meat to the family table.  This was a very difficult time for the family and during the Civil War the dreaded Carpetbaggers came to the family farm.  James and the other children were given pieces of cornbread and potatoes to eat and told to go hide in brush piles so as not to be found.  Any farm animals were usually taken by the Carpetbaggers or bushwhackers.

James' mother never remarried, saying that she didn't have time because she had so many children to raise.  

James married at age 25 and had seven children.  He was a farmer by trade and became a trader of farms and this was a profession he loved.  He bought a farm and made some improvements and usually sold it by the following March.  It was a family joke that the E. children were never able to complete a grade in one school because they moved before the end of the school year.  The family didn't have a lot of money, but didn't live in poverty either.  They were a well liked and respected family in the community.

The E. men were well known for their walking abilities.  The story is told of a neighbor driving his team and wagon to the local town one hot summer day and meeting James walking along the road toward the same destination.  The neighbor stopped and said, "Mr. E., can I give you a ride?"  To which James is supposed to have answered, "No, thank you, I am in a hurry."   

James lost his eyesight in later years probably due to what we call now macular degeneration.  He must have been able to see a little bit, at least enough to get around.  He had a faithful friend who was the equivalent of a "seeing eye dog" long before anyone ever heard of the term in that part of the country.  His dog was called "Old Jim" and went with his master on every walk, staying close by his side to keep James from wandering off the road with a gentle nudge along his legs.  

James often walked to a park where he believed the waters in a spring there might be of benefit to his advancing years and health.  So he and his companion, "Old Jim", would go to the salt spring often during the summers to drink these waters.  "Old Jim" was able to help him along the twisting and hilly roads and even walk across a bridge.

James E. died at the home of his eldest daughter and son-in-law at 84 years of age.  All the family were with him during his last days and the body "laid in state" at the home until time for the burial.  The family followed the hearse on a rainy day over mud covered roads to the church where the funeral would be.  It was roughly 10-11 miles to the church.  James' family home was 3 miles from the church in the other direction. 

The country church has 2 aisles leading from the door to the altar.  During the funeral service for James E., "Old Jim" quietly entered the open doors and walked up one of the aisles to the casket and raised his head to check on his master one last time.  He then departed the church by the other aisle and went back to the family home about 3 miles away.  No one in the family had been in that home for a day or two, so it remains a mystery as to how "Old Jim" knew where to go to find his master. 

The photo above is a picture of a dog believed to be "Old Jim".  I am told that he was a black dog with a bit of white on his chest and was probably a shepherd mix.  I am left to wander what happened to this faithful dog.  I'm sure he was well taken care of by someone in the family.  I'm just as sure that he was never quite the same without his master to tend to.  "Old Jim"...truly a man's best friend.

Until next time...


  1. Consider it done! Thanks for responding... Oh, and I will be back to check out this lovely spot again as soon as I can.

  2. That was fascinating. I love to read about the "good ol' days". It certainly was a simpler time and yet such trials! Great post.

  3. Well, first of all, let get a tissue . . . ok. I loved the story, what a great heritage you have of faith, courage and love. I am such a pet lover, especially dogs, and what a faithful friend your great-grandfather's "Old Jim" was. Aren't we so blessed to be able to have these wonderful stories to pass down the the generations that will follow us? I think it will give them strength. Wonderful story!


  4. Quite a story! I love the rich heritage and history there. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

  5. Back to read this wonderful story. Isn't it an excellent thing that someone first told the story. So many have been lost. It makes me think that I could be doing a better job with my own family history.

  6. Wow, that was an awesome story. It is so interesting how pets are so loyal and our dogs think they ae human. The funniest is that our two dogs can't wait for my husband to get home and they run to the door to greet them. When I come home they don't even move. What's wrong with that picture??
    Hugs to you! LeAnn

  7. Terrific post. It's so great to know these kinds of things about family history; and so nice to share!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind comments!

  8. What a nice story. I love that we can preserve our family stories this way. (I'm printing out some of my family stories & putting them in a notebook.) I see that you made a new header for your blog. I love it! And your photos on here are huge! How do you get them that size? Do you have to use "minima" for a background? Looks very nice.

  9. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. I wish I had taken the time to write down some of the stories I heard from grandparents and relatives talking about "way back when" because my memory is terrible! This was a great story. Have a good week. A