My earliest memories can be summed up thusly; I remember feeling as though a great emptiness was both around me and inside me, and always having the need for something more.
The strangest part of it was, I never felt unloved nor was I ever alone!
I was born about 1812, near by Coeymans, New York when this country was still very young and unsettled. My father was a farmer as his father was before him. Our family is and will always be members of a society of friends. Many call us Quakers. Father came from a large family and so I did as well. The house was full of brothers and sisters in addition to many uncles and aunts and cousins and friends! Dogs and cats and roosters, too. My youngest sister Anna kept a menagerie in her and our sister Mary's room, which irritated the rest of us but both father and mother doted on her and allowed for this as she was the youngest.
It was, as I imply, a busy home and a loving one too. But it was a hard life and a dreary one. Structure in all aspects abounded. One was either off to school, religious study, working in the field or tending to the cows and chickens in the barn and shed. I was a good son, I believe. I never gave father a reason to be cross with me not out of fear of reprisal but out of love for him and mother. I was not a lazy child but rather, easily bored. Longing for something other than what I knew the coming day would bring. I never disrespected him and shirked my responsibilities but father could sense that the life that he had so pleasantly settled into, that had been passed down to him by his father, might not be one that would provide for me a lifetime of gratitude in the kingdom of our Lord.
And so, when I reached the age of 16 or thereabout, father apprenticed me to work in his brother Jacob's jeweler and watch repair business in the town of New Baltimore. Uncle Jacob happend to be my favorite uncle and the news of my being sent to work in his shoppe each day could not have been better news. I took to my new position with some apprehension but a great deal of curiousity and excitement too! My uncle offered patient guidance and I quickly took to learning the skills involved in the intricacies of jewelry manufacture, miniature portraiture, music boxes and time piece repair.
For over two years, I would travel by horse from the family farm in Coeymans to New Baltimore to work and learn the trade at my uncle's jewelry business. Each day I would return home, assist in the remaining household chores, attend meetings of religious instruction and retire to the bedroom I shared with my brothers Jacob and Henry. The moments during the day when I was happiest was spent wearing a watch repair loupe, carefully investigating the wonders of a customer's L'Epine Repeating.
In time I became quite adept at the work involved. I even came to building spectacles and even silverware for sale to uncle Jacob's loyal customers! In time I began to consider the thought of venturing my own establishment in another community and the opportunity presented itself in or around my 25th birthday. My uncle Jacob had learned that a fellow jeweler in Little Falls, who he knew to be an honest and fair servant to his clientele in that hamlet, had died suddenly and his widow was forced to sell her husband's shoppe.
As He would, so often in my blessed life, God was there to guide me when, in meeting with the widow, I not only managed to secure amicable terms on the purchase and transition of her husband's business but little was I to realize that on the very day I began to ply my trade under the name of J. Gurney, I would also come to meet the most devout and wonderful woman who would become my wife.