Trail Without End
As told by Eva Carol Abbott
I WAS born in 1908, in the month of December and on the 21st day, to Grace Pearl and William Reuben Vaughan. A farm near Emporia, Kansas, U.S.A., was the place. From Emporia we moved to the prairies of Colorado, where life was difficult and lonely. We had a barn, a windmill, and a house that my mother described to me as resembling a railroad car. There was a very large kitchen and another large room combining a living room and a bedroom.
Some of the very few neighbors, though, lived in dugouts. These dwellings were half above the ground and half below. During parts of the long winter, their huts would be completely blanketed with snow. On such occasions my parents received phone calls from these snowbound neighbors (poor as they were, they had telephones) inquiring the time, and after being told, the next question was, ‘Do you mean night or day?’
Several times a year the homesteaders, as we were called, would go to the forest for days at a time to cut posts. The posts would be piled high on wagons pulled by a sturdy team of horses and taken to town to be exchanged for food, winter provisions, and summer seed for the planting of crops. During these periods Mother would be alone with me, and through the long evenings she would burn the midnight oil reading and rereading her Bible. She believed very strongly that God had a people, and she was searching for their trail.
When I was three, my parents moved to a farm in Kansas near the small town of Kiowa. Part of the trip was made in a wagon, the top of which father had covered with canvas. I became ill with what was called the grippe, and I recall lying on a pallet on the floor of the wagon, nice and warm, watching the coal-oil lantern swinging back and forth from the canvas canopy overhead. My mother was rubbing me with a combination of lard, turpentine, and coal oil. I still remember how good it felt and the coziness and love that went with it.
Included in my childhood memories is our moving to Alva, Oklahoma. Mother was still searching for the path leading to “God’s people.” One day Mother found some Bible tracts on our porch. Soon after that my father was approached in a store where he worked by a colporteur (full-time minister), who showed him one of the volumes of Studies in the Scriptures by C. T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society. Although Father purchased the book, it was Mother who read it and recognized the message to be from the same source as the tracts left on the porch.
Father was invited by the colporteur to a Bible-study meeting that evening. He did not elect to go, but Mother did, taking me along. I can barely remember attending this meeting, but the details I heard many times from my mother. There were some 10 or 12 in attendance, and the question was asked, “How do we die?” A sister in attendance answered, “As the brute beast.” Mother was shocked. She interrupted: “Pardon me, but do I understand you to believe that we die as the brute beast?” The brother conducting the meeting answered: “Will you turn to Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 and read it for yourself?”
“They let me break up that whole meeting with my questions one after the other, and they devoted the whole evening to answering them,” Mother would relish telling me. I remember Mother being very excited on returning home. Surely she had found God’s people and the course of life she wanted to follow. Here was the trail’s beginning!
This was 1913. Soon there was the showing of the Watch Tower Society’s motion picture and slide show, “Photo-Drama of Creation.” Mother was so happy to be one of the attendants during its showing in the town theater. Those years in Alva were heartwarming to Mother. I would say to her, “Mama, you smile now, and you didn’t use to very much.”
By now Mother had taken a firm stand for the truth. This was during the time when it was believed by some Bible Students that they would be taken to heaven just “any day now,” so a life of ease soon to take place was envisioned by them. But not so with Mother. She was not consumed with immediate heavenly expectations. Mother was ‘too busy,’ as she said, ‘learning, studying, going to the meetings, and sharing in the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom.’
Soon World War I was in full swing, and this brought persecution from the townspeople. I remember accompanying Mother from door to door getting signers for a petition to the U.S. government to release Brother Rutherford and his seven associates from the Atlanta, Georgia, penitentiary where they had been unjustly imprisoned. But something else happened that forced us to move.
The war ended, and the flu epidemic raged. The flu left my mother physically depleted. The doctor advised Father to move her to southern California where the climate would be better. We arrived in Los Angeles and settled in Alhambra, one of the city’s environs. There I faced the biggest decision of my life.
In 1924 my girlfriend and I boarded the train to Los Angeles to attend the funeral of a Christian sister whom we admired. On the return trip, we discussed the subject of consecration (now known as dedication). I began to think seriously about my own life and discussed this with Mother. This resulted in my researching the subject by using the Watch Tower reprints, reading everything on consecration back to the year 1908. Soon after that I dedicated my life to Jehovah, and in October 1925 I was baptized.
Partners on the Trail
One day in 1927, I was told that there was a brother named Herbert Abbott who wanted to meet me. I was startled, as I did not even know who he was. But it did not take me long to find out. Knowing that I was 18 and had been consecrated for two years pleased him. We were introduced, courted for three months, and married in July 1927.
Herbert and I bought a house in the beautiful hills of Pasadena. One day in the spring of 1928, I brought in the mail, which included information regarding pioneer service. In the evening when Herbert came home from work, I proposed the idea that we sell our home and enter full-time pioneer service. He said that if I was willing to give up our current way of life, he could not say no.
We received territory in Charles City, Iowa, to be worked after attending the convention in Detroit, Michigan. By the summer our plans for pioneering were completed, but to our surprise I was pregnant. What were we to do? For us to change our plans now would be like saying: “We know, Jehovah, that you could take care of the two of us but not three.”
After the convention, Herbert and I went to our assignment in Charles City. But at about my eighth month of pregnancy, it seemed wise to return to Los Angeles. In early January of 1929, our beautiful daughter Perousia Carol was born. Our joy with her, though, lasted only nine months; in October she died.
Jehovah’s promise of a resurrection was uppermost in our minds. However, death is an enemy, and to see our tiny daughter dead was devastating! The harsh thought of our little darling lying in the cold earth was soothed by our knowledge of God’s Word. She was simply asleep; she would remain in Jehovah’s memory. (John 11:11-14, 23-25) Indeed, she has had a long sleep, but one day in the future she will awaken and prove God’s Word true. My desire continues that she may eternally bring praise to Jehovah’s great name.
Trails and Trailers
Again we made plans for pioneering. The following March we purchased a canvas-covered trailer with a folding top and traded our seven-passenger Studebaker for a Model A Ford to pull the trailer. Thus began our 25 years of trails and trailers.
The small trailer with which we so happily rolled down the road lasted us for over eight years. The clear floor area was 4 x 5 feet (1.2 x 1.5 m), and the cooking space was a board 11 x 12 inches (28 x 30 cm) that pulled out. There were two good beds, a two-burner gasoline stove, a pail for water, a gasoline lantern, a coal-oil heater, a washtub, a washboard, a gasoline iron, and an ironing board. There was also a portable shelf above the stove, with a small cupboard where I kept our beautiful Haviland china, which had been a wedding present. One night the bolts holding the shelf broke, and down came the shelf with one big crash. Down, too, came the gasoline lantern upside down, with no harm done except that our lovely dishes were in many pieces!
A few times we had to replace the canvas top on the trailer. To do this we would buy heavy canvas covers that were used by fruit growers to cover orange trees for fumigating. We would cut the canvas into strips and sew them on with curved needles until the trailer top was finally covered.
Monday was clothes-washing day. We would wash and rinse the clothes in water carried from a creek, a river, or from the town-well and heated over an outside fire. We also had a small folding oven, which I would use to bake a cake for the coming week’s lunches. Now we were ready to meet the challenge of our territory.
In the 1930’s there was an exodus from the farms to the cities. Sometimes we would follow a road winding its way for miles across mountains and canyons toward a house, only to find the house abandoned. To solve this problem, we used a pair of binoculars to determine if there were clothes on the line, if there was smoke coming from the chimney, or if perhaps cattle were nearby. This saved us time and gas. Of course, we could not always see if there was a house on the road, so we would ask the neighbors if the road led to a house.
One time we did not know what to do. There was a ranch 15 miles (24 km) across the mountains, but neighbors were not sure if anyone was at home. Gas for the next day’s travel had to be considered. We were near a clear mountain stream about 4 or 5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) wide, and Herb was thirsty. He got down on his knees for a drink, when something shimmering caught his eye. He reached in and picked from the streambed coins amounting to several dollars. So, of course, we were no longer undecided and forged ahead. It was a long, hard trip and the rancher was not interested, but we knew the territory had been covered and the rancher had received a witness.
Through the years, we had many thrilling experiences, and amusing ones too. For example, there was the time we faced mob violence in Corning, California. Four sisters and I went to the aid of Aleck Bangle (now a missionary in Jamaica) when he was being beaten. There were over a hundred onlookers on the street, all cheering for the persecutor. It is laughable now to recall my taking off my high-heeled pump and hitting the persecutor on the head as he bent over to deliver a heavy blow to our brother Aleck!
The May 29, 1940, issue of Consolation (now Awake!) had on the cover a picture of the third American president, Thomas Jefferson, and the American flag. Since those were days of trouble and persecution, I felt it would be good always to carry several of those issues in my magazine bag, in case we needed one. Sure enough, one Saturday while doing magazine street witnessing, I approached two men on the corner. One, a very austere-looking man, said belligerently: “Well, young lady, if you had one with the American flag on it, I would take it, but you Jehovah’s Wit—” Before he could say another word, my answer, of course, was: “Oh, Sir, I am so glad I have just the one you want,” and took that issue from my magazine bag. He stopped jingling the change in his pocket, turned red, stammered, and gave me the contribution—and I gave him the magazine!
I had another amusing time when we were distributing a special booklet to all the clergy—The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. At one house, a clergyman answered. He was not the least bit interested in receiving it, but our instructions were to leave it at the door if at all possible, so I pleasantly said: “This is your copy, Sir, and I will just lay it here for you.” I turned to leave, and as I was walking down the path, the booklet came sailing past me and landed on the ground near a puddle. I picked it up, not wishing to leave it there, but at that moment a huge dog came growling after me, snatched the booklet out of my hand, and raced back to his master, the preacher. So what I could not deliver, the dog did!
In 1953, Mother, Herbert, and I settled in Sacramento. Since Herbert’s health was giving him trouble, we both had to change the pattern of our lives. Often I have thanked Jehovah for being blessed with my faithful mother and my loyal husband. Both are gone now, having received their heavenly reward. Mother died in 1975; Herbert finished his earthly course in September 1980, at 82 years of age. The loneliness is still great, but when I reflect on the years of our service together, I am comforted. And I know there will never be a trail’s end, for Jehovah, by his Son Jesus Christ, is my Guide on the trail extending throughout eternity.