He Did His Best - Sinking of the Lady Elgin - W. A. Spencer, D.D. - Edward W. Spencer - Booklet, c.1800s
(3 1/4 x 5 1/8 In) This is an original antique booklet from the 1800s. "He Did His Best" by W. A. Spencer, D. D. is 8-pages long. It tells the incredible story of Edward W. Spencer of Evanston, Illinois who rescued an astounding 17 people from the sinking of the Lady Elgin which killed 300 people in the early hours of September 8, 1860.
"I HAD for my roommate in college at Evanston a frail lad, born on the banks of the Mississippi. He had learned in its waters to swim and dive until he seemed almost as much at home on the water as on land. One of his first accomplishments acquired at Evanston was not in Greek or Latin, but in swimming in the lake in time of storm. He would dive through the breakers, or toss upon their tops, or play with them as a giant might with a tiny fountain. He was a wonderful swimmer. One day there came trickling down through the village news of a great steamer wrecked at one o'clock in the morning ten miles out in the lake, whose four hundred passengers were struggling with the waves or were already drowned. My roommate heard a bugle blast in his soul that morning. He said he seemed to hear these words: "Who knoweth but thou art come into the kingdom for such a time as this?" Frail as he was, he determined that he would do a full man's duty. Two hundred others volunteered for service, one of whom afterward became president of the university, and is now a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They put a rope around my roommate's waist that they might recover his frail body if he should be killed by the floating pieces of wreckage. Backward and forward he went for six hours, helping to save human life. Through his great familiarity with the surf he was enabled to do much more than all the rest put together. Some were saved by a tug far out in the lake, but of the nearly four hundred passengers only thirty came through the breakers alive, and of these my roommate saved seventeen. He put into that one day the struggle of threescore years and ten. He was compelled to give up his studies. He was compelled to give up the Christian Ministry, for which he was prepping. To-day he is the wreck of a man, living among the hills of Southern California, far away from the railroad line, struggling on a fruit ranch for a livelihood. The price paid for that day's work was the health and strength of a lifetime- but he saved seventeen human lives.
Between his journeys into the waves he stood before a blazing fire, was covered with blankets, and drank strong stimulants in order to keep his limbs from cramping. But each time an unfortunate one came near to the breakers, if he was able to go, he threw off his incumbrances and plunged again into the water. At first he wore the rope around his arm, but, coming to a piece of debris to which a drowning person was clinging, the wreckage struck him in the face, and he commenced to bleed profusely. The crowd on shore, alarmed for his safety, commenced pulling in the line prematurely before he had laid hold of the drowning person. He threw off the rope, clutched the man, and brought him safely ashore without the help of a rope. Walking up the beach he saw a gentleman sitting in an elegant carriage, who had evidently come to the lake with his coachman from his suburban home. He said to this gentleman: "These people have almost killed me, and another accident may take my life without my having done my work. Will you consent to manage my rope for me, not allowing the people to pull until I give the signal? If you do this, you shall have half the credit for anything that I may be able to do."
The gentleman consented, and for five hours managed the rope. He was thus largely instrumental in the successful work my roommate did. The last person saved that day was a man who was coming ashore in a difficult part of the surf where the bank was high and precipitous. Anyone reaching the shore there would be pounded to death on the steep bank. Those who came to this part of the surf were absolutely lost, as it seemed more than a man's life was worth to save them. My roommate saw this man with one arm clinging to a piece of wreck, while he held in the other a bundle, supposed to contain silver plate or some other precious thing, wrapped up in a bit of clothing. A sudden lift of the waves brought the man and the raft into full view, and there streamed out from the bundle a tress of hair eighteen inches long. Then my friend knew that the man was attempting to save his wife., and said to those about him: Cost what it may, I will save that man or die in the attempt."
He ran down the beach, following the retreating wave, knelt down as closely as possible to the sand, and let the return wave pound him. When next seen he was far out in the water. He swam to the piece of raft to which the two were clinging. When within six or eight feet of them the man cried out: "Save my wife! Save my wife!" The brave swimmer said: "Yes, I'll save your wife and you, too." Fastening his hands in their clothing at the back of their necks, he said: "I can sustain you in the water, but you must swim for your lives and mine. We must push up northward to get beyond this dangerous surf if we are to be saved at all." To the joy of the onlooking spectators he came safely to shore with both unfortunates for whom he had so bravely imperiled his life.
The daily papers were full of his praises. The illustrated papers of New York and London contained his picture; but when we were alone in our room it was pitiful to see him. His face would turn ashen pale, and he would fasten his great hungry eyes on me and say: "Tell me the truth, Will; everybody praises me. Tell me the truth. Did I fail to do my best?" He did not ask, "Did I do as well as someone else?" That went without asking. He did not ask, "Did I do as wekk as any man on God's footstool?" I think he might've answered that question in the affirmative. The question that ran through him like a poisoned dagger as he remembered yhr three hundred and more who lost their lives in sight, and most of them in hearing, of land - the one supreme question was, "Did I Do My Best?"
God grant to you and me when we reach the shores of eternity, and see time's wrecked millions come in to stand with us before the throne of the "Judge of the quick and the dead" - God grant to each one of us that we may hear from the lips of our Elder Brother the "Well done, good and faithful servant! You did your best." This one day's battle cost my earthly elder brother, Edward W. Spencer, his life work, and largely his life's opportunities. I have a Brother in heaven, who, for the rescue of lost sinners gave his life, and send each one of us as his representative with the life line to save a world. We may not be able to go down into the flood; we may not be trained or fitted for work in a foreign land or in the billows of a great city of out own country. But may we not all at least hold the line for some brave swimmer, and cheer him in his struggle with the waves?"
The booklet is in VERY GOOD condition, minor wear at the edges, small crease at upper corner.
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