On the summit of Washington mountain, overlooking the Housatonic valley, stood a hut, the home of John Barry, a poor charcoal-burner, whose family consisted of his wife and himself. His occupation brought him in but a few dollars, and when cold weather came he had managed to get together only a small provision for the winter.
The fall of 1874, after a summer of hard work, he fell sick and was unable to keep his fires going. So, when the snow of December, 1874, fell, and the drifts had shut off communication with the village at the foot of the mountain, John and his wife were in great straits.
Their entire stock of food consisted of only a few pounds of salt pork and a bushel of potatoes; sugar, flour, coffee and tea had, early in December, given out; and the chances for replenishing the larder were slim indeed. The snow-storms came again, and the drifts deepened. All the roads, even in the valley, were impassable, and no one thought of trying to open the mountain highways, which, even in summer, were only occasionally traveled; and none gave the old man and his wife a thought.
December 15th came, and with it the heaviest fall of snow experienced in Berkshire County in many years.
The food of the old couple was now reduced to a day’s supply, but John did not yet despair. He was a Christian and a God-fearing man, and His promises were remembered; and so, when evening came, and the north-east gale was blowing, and the fierce snow-storm was raging, John and his wife were praying and asking for help.
In Sheffield village, ten miles away, lived Deacon Brown, a well-to-do farmer fifty years old, who was known for his piety and consistent deportment, both as a man and a Christian. The deacon and his wife had gone to early, and, in spite of the storm without, were sleeping soundly, when with a start the deacon awoke, and said to his wife: “Who spoke? Who’s there?” “Why,” said his wife, “no one is here but you and me; what is the matter with you?"
“I heard a voice,” said the deacon, “saying, ‘Send food to John.” “ Nonsense," replied Mrs. Brown; “go to sleep. You have been dreaming.” The deacon laid his head on his pillow, and was asleep in a minute. Soon he started up again, and waking his wife, said “There, I heard that voice again, ‘Send food to John.’”
“Well, well! “ said Mrs. Brown. “Deacon, you are not well; your supper has not agreed with you. Lie down and try to sleep.” Again the deacon closed his eyes, and again the voice was heard: “Send food to John.” This time the deacon was thoroughly awake. “Wife,” said he, ”whom do we know named John who needs food?” “No one I remember,” replied Mrs. Brown, “unless it be John Barry, the old charcoal-burner on the mountain.”
“That’s it,” exclaimed the deacon. “Now I remember, when I was at the store in Sheffield the other day, Clark, the merchant, speaking of John Barry, said: ‘I wonder if the old man is alive, for it is six weeks since I saw him, and he has not yet laid in his winter stock of groceries. ‘ It must be old John is sick and wanting food.”
So saying, the good deacon arose and proceeded to dress himself. “Come, wife,” said he, “waken our boy Willie and tell him to feed the horses, and get ready to go with me; and do you pack up in the two largest baskets you have, a good supply of food, and get us an early breakfast; for I am going up the mountain to carry the food I know John Barry needs.”
Mrs. Brown, accustomed to the sudden impulses of her good husband, and believing him to be always in the right, cheerfully complied; and after a hot breakfast, Deacon Brown and his son Willie, a boy of nineteen, hitched up the horses to the double sleigh, and then, with a month’s supply of food, and a “Good-bye, mother,” started at five o’clock on that cold December morning for a journey, that almost any other than Deacon Brown and his son Willie would not have dared to undertake.
The north-east storm was still raging, and the snow falling and drifting fast; but on, on went the stout, well-fed team on its errand of mercy, while the occupants of the sleigh, wrapped up in blankets and extra buffalo robes, urged the horses through the drifts and in the face of the storm. That ten mile’s ride, which required in the summer hardly an hour or two, was not finished until the deacon’s watch showed that five hours had passed.
At last they drew up in front of the hut where the poor, trusting Christian man and woman were on their knees praying for help to Him who is the “hearer and answerer of prayer;” and as the deacon reached the door, he heard the voice of supplication, and then he knew that the message which awakened him from sleep was sent from heaven.
He knocked at the door, it was opened, and we can imagine the joy of the old couple, when the generous supply of food was carried in, and the thanksgivings that were uttered by the starving tenants of that mountain hut.
Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893