Sketch of the Life of Willard H. Nickerson
The captain had to go ashore to go back to the plantation for something he had forgotten. About an hour after he left, the old planter drove up with a horse and carriage, and called to me to come ashore. I went ashore and he said, "Get into this carriage and go down to the plantation with me." He said "that d fool came down to the plantation and said that the schooner was fast on the flat and he wanted some help to get her off." I told him to get to h off of this plantation, and if I ever saw him there again, I would shoot him." He told me to stay over night and that when I went to supper I would find some letters and some papers on my plate and tomorrow morning to take some men and go up and get that schooner off. I told him I would get some men up there, so when I went into supper, I found these letters that he had mentioned and one large envelope - an official document, making me master of the schooner "Fawn," of "Deer Range." I went up in the morning and got 3 or 4 hands and went aboard the schooner, and as good luck would have it, a tow boat came down and kicked up a heavy sea, and rocked the schooner until she widened her bed, and with the anchor over the stern, we pulled her out into deep river, and we reached the city without any further difficulty. I transacted his business for him, and then brought the schooner back. The planter was greatly pleased. For about 2 months I was running that schooner on the river, then when he got all the work done that he wanted done on the schooner, the sugar season set in. He had a big Dutchman there as overseer, paying him $125.00 a month. After I had loafed around there about a week or so, the old man came to me and said, "Cap, you know Vaughn," and I said "Yes." He said, "Go down into the field and tell him to go to h and you take his place." I went down and told Vaughn the Colonel wanted to see him, and I have never seen him since. I stayed there about a year, and then came back to New Orleans. About that time a shoe factory had been started by a French syndicate there in New Orleans. There were beginning to be rumors of war between the North and South, so this syndicate went to Boston and bought up all the improved machinery for starting a shoe factory that there was at that time. They brought it down to New Orleans and they also hired about 15 Yanks to go down, and paid them from $15 to $20 a week to start the factory. They also hired 40 or 50 men from New Orleans to work in the factory. They all worked on piece work. I hoard of this factory and went in one day and got a job. Mr. Rosette, a Frenchman, approached me and asked me where I was from. I told him "Nowhere." He wanted to know what my native state was, and I told him Massachusetts. He asked me if I wanted to go had; - I told him I did not. Then he told me there was prospects o( war between the North and South and he thought if war was declared all these Yankees would get scared and go back. The most important machine in the factory to run was the pegging machine. I was the first man he had spoken to about this thing and the man who was running it, he was satisfied would leave and he wanted me to learn to run it. He asked me how it would suit me and I told him all right. He asked me what I was getting now, and I told him $9.00. He said "I'll give you $9.00 a week until you learn to run the machine, and then I will pay you $18.00 a week, the same as the man we brought here, but I will keep back $3.00 a week of your wages to bind you to a contract, for a year. And after you learn to run the machine, the man who is already working, will do most of the work, and all you will have to do is to keep your hand in. After I had worked two weeks I was able to take charge of the machine. I could take it all to pieces and put it together again. Then my wages went up to $18.00. In a few weeks after that, war was declared and the Yankees all started for home except one, a man by the name of Barton. They put him in as foreman at $25.00 a week. They had put in a new general superintendent - a military man and a Frenchman, who didn't know anything about shoe making. His name was Farsean, and he wanted to be saluted by every one he passed. I didn't have time to salute him when I was busy, and he discharged me, and ordered me down to the desk - and they settled with me, even to the $3.00 a week they had been keeping back, so I went out. Then he went to a man and told him to run the machine. The man told him he didn't know anything about it and the shoemaking began to slacken up. There was no one in the state who could run the machine and no one in the factory who could peg by hand. Then Kosette, the secretary, came down. He told Farsean he had made a great mistake in discharging me and he sent a boy out to hunt me up. The boy found me and told me that Mr. Eosette wanted to see me. I told him that I was busy and couldn't come. Then in a few minutes Mr. Rosette came to me and said, "Come, I want you to go back to work. ' ' I said, i ' I 'm discharged, ' ' and he said ' ' Mr. Farsean has made a great mistake and he has found it out now. "Well," I said, "Where I come from when they discharge a man and hire him over again the same day, they give him more wages." He said, "How much do you want?" I said "If I should ask you $50.00 a week, you would have to give it to me, but if you will give me $20.00 a week and keep no money back to bind me to a contract, I will go to work." "I am perfectly willing to give it to you," he said, "and hereafter Mr. Farsean has nothing to do with you at all - I am your boss." I said, " That suits me. " Just before that the conscript law passed and every male citizen between the ages of 21 and 45 was conscripted. The company at once applied to the government for exemption papers for me - exempting me from all military duty. When I first went to work in New Orleans, I joined the "Fire Co." Being exempted didn't hinder me from going out and drilling in the militia if I wanted to, so I drilled about two hours every afternoon. I turned out with the militia two or three weeks and held a position as lieutenant. Then the fire company organized into a military company, and after they had all their officers elected, I left the militia and joined them.