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"The Man Who Slept"


The John Bond Story

The remarkable case of John Bond, a colored citizen of Mitchell, Indiana, is told as follows:

On May 12th, 1894, we have in our town a man who has been in bed 26 years and to all appearance seems to enjoy good common health.

The circumstances are briefly as follows: About 26 years ago an old colored lady named Penny Bond owned a small farm on which she lived with her three children, Mary, Martha, and John. The old lady being blind concluded that she would trade her farm for property in town and accordingly she makes a trade for a house and lot in this city. In the meantime, her son, and able-bodied young man, protested against the sale of the land and moving to town. Indeed, he became so persistent against the trade that it is said he told his mother that if she traded the farm and moved to town, he would go to bed and remain there 19 years. 

Penny, however, not to be outdone by her erratic son, makes the trade and moves to town. John apparently satisfied, rented a small farm near him, and plowed out a crop. One day while John was out at work in his crop, there came a heavy rain fall and he was compelled to seek shelter, not, however, until he was drenched with the rain. On his return home after the rain, it is said that he told some of his friends that he never intended to work anymore. True to this and his former promise to his mother, he refused to do any more work, or to be reconciled in any way other than to go to bed this he did and has remained there all these 26 years.

All efforts have failed even to get him to the table for his meals. His meals are prepared and taken to his bed and left, and when all have left the room, he will get up and eat, then go back to bed and cover up his head.

He was waited upon and cared for like a child by his aged and blind mother, until death called her to her reward. Since which time he has been cared for by the two sisters, who are deserving the scripture name given to them by their faithful old mother. He now contents himself covered up in bed, he does not like to be seen by anyone except his sisters. He scarcely ever talks. He has become poor and emaciated and looks as though he has no blood in his veins, yet he has considerable strength and will occasionally get up and go out of the house.

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What Mitchell Means to Me

My name is Rev. Gregory M. Bonds and as far back as I can remember, we have been going to Mitchell, Indiana to decorate my Grandfather Popso’s grave.  After that, we always go to Springmill State Park for a family reunion picnic.

At a very young age Momma explained to me that the reason we go to Mitchell is that Popso made his children promise that they would go every year on Memorial Day to decorate his grave.  We later changed it to Father’s Day because it was always so wet and muddy in May.  

I was born in December 1955.  Popso passed away in March 1956. I can remember sitting at the park and listening to stories as we ate, about my Grandfather, and it seemed to me then, that everybody knew, and had a story about Popso, but me. I told Grandma how I wished I had known him.  To show me that I did know him, she dug out an old photo of Popso holding me as a baby just before he died.  Because I lived with them, not only was I the last grandchild he held, but she said he would spend hours holding and rocking me in his last days. 

And that became my Popso story.  That I did know Popso, and more important, he knew me.  Because even though I never knew my biological father, my first experience of what it meant to be loved and held by a Black man was taught to me by my Grandfather, Popso.  I can remember that when I was feeling low and lost because I didn’t know my father, I had loving uncles who stepped in to help fill that void. Still to this day, I can close my eyes and feel the love of Popso and my family rocking and holding me up.

That’s what going to Mitchell means to me.  It means continuing to carry out and fulfill the wishes of Popso and everyone we’ve buried there since.  It also means celebrating our Bonds family.  We are a very close and loving family.  Grandma and Popso instilled that in their children, they instilled it in us, and we in our children .
Momma always said, “When you pass by family, you pass by it all”.

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