NEW ENGLAND MAGAZINE
BAY STATE MONTHLY.
OLD SERIES FEBRUARY, 1886. NEW SERIES VOL. IV. NO. 2. VOL. I. NO. 2.
Copyright, 1886, by Bay State Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article.
BY REV. E. H. CAPEN, D.D.
Tufts College is situated on the most beautiful and commanding eminence in the southeasterly part of Middlesex county, within the town of Medford and on the borders of Somerville. This eminence was formerly called Walnut Hill, on account, it is said, of the heavy growth of hickory timber with which it was covered at the time of the settlement of the colony, but is now called College Hill, on account of the institution which crowns it. The land on which the College is built is a part of the farm which the late Charles Tufts received by way of inheritance; and, when asked by his relatives what he would do with the bleak hill over in Medford, he replied, "I will put a light on it." The tract of land originally given by Mr. Tufts consisted of twenty acres. Subsequently he gave his pledge to add other valuable tracts adjoining. This pledge has been fulfilled, so that the plot of ground, belonging to the College, given by Mr. Tufts, embraces upwards of one hundred acres. The late Deacon Timothy Cotting, of Medford, also gave to the College at his decease, a piece of land lying near the institution containing upwards of twenty acres. In consequence of the munificence of Mr. Tufts, it was determined that the College should bear his name.
The definite impulse which resulted in the establishment of Tufts College may be traced to the sermon preached by Hosea Ballou, 2d., D.D., before the General Convention of Universalists, in the city of New York, September 15, 1847. In this sermon Dr. Ballou urged the "duty of general culture" and the importance that a denomination should have "at least one college placed on a permanent basis," with such clearness and emphasis that the movement at once took organic shape and went forward without pause from that hour. Dr. Ballou declared that one hundred thousand dollars was the least sum with which the work could begin and have any prospect of success. The Rev. Otis A. Skinner was appointed to obtain subscriptions to a fund to that amount. The sum was a large one in the then condition of the Universalist body. But in an undertaking of that kind, Mr. Skinner knew no such word as fail. It took years for the accomplishment of his task; but in the summer of 1851 he was able to announce that the subscription was completed. A meeting of the subscribers was held in Boston on the sixteenth and seventeenth of September of that year. A board of trustees was designated who subsequently fixed upon the present site of the institution and determined its name. Application was made to the Legislature for a charter, which was granted April 21, 1852. The original charter conferred the power to grant every kind of degree usually given by colleges, "except medical degrees." This restriction was removed by act of the Legislature, dated February 2, 1867.
In July, 1852, the Rev. Thomas J. Sawyer, D.D., was elected president of the College. But he declined to accept the office on the terms prescribed, and in May, 1853, the Rev. Hosea Ballou, 2d, D.D., was chosen to the office, which he filled until his death in May, 1861. In July following his election the corner-stone of the main College hall was laid by Dr. Ballou. The event was one of great interest and significance, and drew together a large company of people from different sections of the country. A year was spent by the president in visiting the most prominent institutions of learning at home and abroad, preparatory to organizing the new College, and laying out its course of study. In the work of organization, Dr. Ballou received important and valuable assistance from John P. Marshall, the present senior professor and dean of the College of letters. The College was first regularly opened for the admission of students in August, 1855, though a few students had been residing at the College and receiving instruction from the president and Professor Marshall during the previous year. In the beginning the success of the institution was as marked as its friends could reasonably expect. But the great anxiety attending the beginning and development of so important an undertaking seriously affected the health of Dr. Ballou, and he was cut down before the College could avail itself of the transcendent abilities which he brought to the discharge of his duties, and before he could witness the almost unexampled material prosperity awaiting it. President Eliot generously said not long since that the remarkable growth of Harvard University in these later years is largely the fruit of the efforts of James Walker, a fit contemporary and fellow-worker in the cause of education with Dr. Ballou. Truly, other men labor and we enter into their labors. In an important sense the College was the creature of Dr. Ballou's brain. He had so clear a conception of the nature and scope of an institution of learning of the highest grade suited to this latitude and these times, and he was so successful in producing a conviction of its possibilities in the minds of rich men, that they were ready to devote to it their all. But he died before the fruits of his labors had begun to appear.
In the spring of 1862, the Rev. A. A. Miner, D.D., was elected to succeed Dr. Ballou, and continued to hold the office until his resignation in February, 1875, a period of nearly thirteen years. Dr. Miner did not take up his residence at the College nor relinquish his connection with the School Street parish in Boston, of which he was pastor. But he visited the College daily, or as often as his presence was required. It was during his presidency and largely through his instrumentality that the extraordinary material development of the College was secured. Very soon after its establishment, Silvanus Packard, a prosperous merchant and a parishioner of Dr. Miner, who was without children, announced his intention of making Tufts College his child. He gave generously to it during his lifetime, and, dying, bequeathed to it nearly the whole of his property, amounting to nearly three hundred thousand dollars. The donations and legacies of Mr. Packard exceed in amount those of any other benefactor. The one who comes the nearest to him in the aggregate of his gifts is Dr. Wm. J. Walker. This gentleman divided his princely estate between the following institutions: Amherst College, the Museum of Natural History in Boston, Tufts College, and Williams College. The share which Tufts College received in this distribution was upwards of two hundred thousand dollars. The benefactions of Dr. Walker are remarkable, if we remember that he was an alumnus of Harvard College, an Episcopalian in religion, that his trusted friend and counsellor at the time he was arranging for the disposal of his property was Thomas Hill, D.D., the president of Harvard University, and that Tufts College was in the earliest stages of its development. But notwithstanding these facts, sufficient in themselves to warp the judgment of ordinary men, his vision was clear enough to enable him to see that there was room for another great college to grow up in the neighborhood of Boston, even under the shadow of that ancient and renowned university.
Another notable friend of Tufts College was Dr. Oliver Dean. In the beginning he made very liberal offers, provided the institution should be placed in Franklin. Subsequently he devoted the greater portion of his wealth to the founding of Dean Academy, one of whose functions was to be the fitting of young men for the College. He also showed still more distinctly his favor to the College by contributing in all $90,000 to its funds.
But the College was especially fortunate in its infancy and when it was practically without funds in having for its treasurer Thomas A. Goddard, a wealthy merchant; a man utterly void of personal vanity, whose eyes swept over the whole field, and who, wherever he saw that the cause could be promoted by a timely benefaction, very simply and unostentatiously bestowed it. So when the College was almost entirely without funds and had but a small part of the income needed to meet its current expenses, he quietly paid the deficiency out of his own pocket and preserved it from debt.
At the conclusion of the first half of the college year, 1874-75, Dr. Miner, having previously resigned his pastorate in Boston, tendered his resignation of the presidency of the College. Neither institution, however, was willing to accept his resignation, and each sought to retain his entire services. After mature deliberation he decided to accept the invitation of the parish, and his official connection with the faculty of the College which he had held with distinguished ability and success for thirteen years was thus permanently severed.
The Hon. Israel Washburn, Jr., the war Governor of Maine, was chosen as his successor. But he promptly declined the office. The trustees then determined to make a new departure and place an alumnus of the College at its head. Accordingly the present incumbent, at that time pastor of the First Universalist Church of Providence, R. I., and a graduate of the class of 1860, was elected to the vacant chair in March, 1875, and was inaugurated on the second day of June following. Whatever may be the ultimate verdict concerning the wisdom of the trustees in the selection which was then made, no one will deny that the calling of an alumnus to the post has had the effect of quickening the interest and securing the co-operation of the graduates of the institution beyond anything that could have been done.
I come now to speak briefly of certain changes in the internal life of the College, many of which have taken place under my own eye, and with the shaping of which in important respects, during these later years, I have had something to do. In the matter of development few institutions in this country have made greater progress. It is a long step from what the College was when I knew it as a student, to its present condition; so that those who were only acquainted with its life fifteen or twenty years ago would scarcely recognize it as the same life to-day. Indeed the modifications which have been introduced into its discipline and into its courses of study have aroused an interest in its work outside of and beyond mere denominational lines, and are beginning to attract to it students from many miscellaneous sources.
One of the chief difficulties in the way of local patronage has been the overshadowing influence of Harvard University. It was scarcely to be expected that an institution planted in such close proximity to that powerful and venerable seat of learning would, in the beginning, attract students from its immediate neighborhood. Many persons have thought that the location of the College is a mistaken one on that account. But colleges are not made in one day nor in one decade. It will take more than Leland Stanford's twenty millions of endowment to give his University a solid and enduring fame. Colleges, indeed, like all the great and permanent institutions by which society is upheld, and the welfare and progress of humanity are secured, are the slow growth of generations. The selection of the present site of the College cannot be regarded as other than fortunate; first, because of its proximity to Boston, the most important literary centre of the new world, where it may constantly feel the pulsations of every intellectual movement that takes place in the domain of thought; and, secondly, because, owing to its contact with the foremost college in the land, it has been compelled to adopt and maintain the highest standards in its work. The result of this is seen in the steady growth of recent years. During the last five or six years there has been a good percentage of attendance from schools in the immediate neighborhood of the College which have heretofore sent their students almost exclusively to Harvard. Men have been drawn to the College wholly without reference to denominational lines, simply because they believed the College had advantages to offer unsurpassed by any institution in the country. Within the last two years the College has made a gain in students of at least forty per cent. The whole number who entered the different departments in the year 1884-5 was sixty-one, and although the number entering in 1885-6 was somewhat less, yet the whole number in the College is greater than ever before, namely, one hundred and forty, of whom twenty-six are in the Divinity School, and the remainder in the College of letters.
The course of study originally adopted was substantially that of the leading New England colleges. It has adhered throughout very firmly to its standard. The ten associated colleges of Southern New England voted at their annual meeting in 1879 that it is desirable to adopt a system of uniform requirements for the admission of students. Tufts was one of the first to accept the scheme proposed by the conference of examiners in the different institutions. The faculty as originally constituted consisted of three professors beside the president; and for many years, the entire work of the College was performed by not more than five teachers. The gifts and benefactions of Dr. Walker, designed mainly for the promotion of mathematics and related branches of study, enabled the trustees to enlarge the facilities for instruction on the side of science. A professorship of civil engineering was created in 1867. This department has been enlarged gradually, until now men may receive complete courses of professional instruction in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Some very able engineers, holding important and responsible positions, have received their training here. The subjects of natural history, physics, and chemistry have each been assigned to separate chairs. The department of physics has two excellent working laboratories. Besides the regular work in physics with the College classes, original investigations are carried on under the direction of Dr. Dolbear, the professor of physics, and assistant-professor Hooper. In the department of chemistry, the organic research laboratory has been very carefully equipped for that line of work, and offers facilities for original investigation which will compare favorably with those of any similar laboratory in the country. During the past year very considerable additions to chemical knowledge have been made by Professor Michael and his able corps of assistants. Of the department of natural history we shall speak later on.
The only degree given in the beginning as a reward for residence and study in the College was that of Bachelor of Arts. But the presence of a large number of students who were not prepared to take that course of study in full led to the organization of two additional courses, one leading to the degree of Civil Engineer, and the other to the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy. The latter course has received many modifications, and in the autumn of 1875 it was determined to make it a four years course, the same in all respects as the regular course, except that it omits Greek and substitutes instead of it the modern languages and some elective work in science. Previous to 1875 the work of the College was mainly prescribed, with but little opportunity for optional or elective studies. At that time the scope of electives was greatly broadened. There are now eleven full courses of electives open to students. From the middle of the junior year, a very large percentage of the student's work is in those lines which he chooses for himself. It was decided also, immediately after the elective system went into effect, to confer special honors at the time of graduation upon any student who attains distinction in any particular study and in two cognate studies, under such rules as the faculty have prescribed. Another important movement in the direction of sound scholarship was made about this time. It was determined that the degree of Master of Arts, which, so far, had been granted to all graduates of the degree of A.B. who applied for it after three years from their graduation, should be conferred only upon such graduates of the regular and philosophical courses as should pursue, during a residence of not less than one year, under the direction of the faculty, a prescribed course of study in at least two departments. The privilege of graduate study was also opened to those holding like degrees from other colleges. The result of this action has been to retain at the College for more protracted and profound study ambitious and scholarly men out of every class.
The modifications of discipline have been no less important either in their character or results. Formerly in all the New England colleges an elaborate system of rules, enforced by an oversight, which often amounted to espionage, was thought to be necessary to good order and the proper moral development of young men. In the eyes of the students, the faculty of a college seemed to be little else than a grand court of inquisition for the trial and punishment of offences against discipline. In point of fact, a very large percentage of the time of college officers was spent in that business. At Tufts, perhaps more completely than in any other New England college, all this is changed. Formal rules relating to conduct have been abolished. Men are put entirely upon their honor, and are no longer watched. Since 1875, there has not been a single case of a student summoned before the faculty or a committee of the faculty for discipline. Under this policy the gain in the orderly behavior, moral tone, and contentment of students has been immense. For eleven years only one student has been sent away from the College for misconduct; and not more than one or two, so far as I remember, have left the College because of dissatisfaction either with its methods or its facilities; while the relative percentage of those who graduate to those who enter has risen in twenty years from sixty-three per cent to nearly eighty per cent, placing us, in this respect, in the front rank of New England colleges.
The whole number of graduates is now about four hundred. Of this number representatives may be found in the principal walks of almost every one of the learned professions. As an indication of the quality of scholarship produced, it may be remarked that the catalogue of 1885-6 shows that no less than nine of the officers of instruction and government, including the president, are from its own graduates. The board of trustees consists of twenty-nine persons. Of this number ten are from the alumni of the College.
Silvanus Packard by will directed that the trustees should establish and maintain out of the rents and profits of his estate, one theological professorship. The Rev. Thomas J. Sawyer, D.D., was elected Packard Professor of Theology, and the Divinity School, with Dr. Sawyer at its head, was organized and opened for the admission of students in 1869. At first one professor was associated with Dr. Sawyer and very soon another was added to the faculty. There are at present four professors besides Dr. Sawyer in the Divinity School. The course of study, at the opening of the school, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Divinity was three years. But so large a number of those applying for admission were found to be deficient in elementary training that the course was lengthened to four years for all, except college graduates.
In order to give greater encouragement to men having the Christian ministry in view to secure college training before entering the Divinity School, after the present year, while a preparatory course of one year for all who have not the degree of A.B. will be retained, the degree of B.D. will be given exclusively to college graduates. Upwards of sixty students, since the organization of the School, have taken the prescribed course in theology and received the degree of Bachelor of Divinity. Of this number nearly one half are in charge of important parishes in Massachusetts, and others in different parts of the country are occupying some of the most prominent and influential pulpits.
When the present site of the College was selected, the hill was without trees and almost repulsive in its nakedness. The erection of the main college building and the first dormitory only served to heighten its windswept appearance. But other important buildings have been added; walks and driveways have been laid out; trees have been planted and have attained, on the southerly slope, a thick and heavy growth, and are beginning to get a hold upon the northerly side; the reservoir of the Mystic Water Works is established upon the summit of the hill, and, in effect, forms a part of the College grounds; so that, in the summer season, there is no more beautiful or attractive spot in the whole region about Boston than College Hill. In 1882-3 a very important feature was added to its cluster of buildings by the erection of a stone chapel from funds provided by Mary T. Goddard. The style of the edifice is Romanesque with a genuine Lombardic tower. It is as graceful a piece of architecture as can be found in this part of the country and is a worthy memorial of the woman, who, with her noble husband, has been so efficient a promoter of the origin and growth of the institution. Since the completion of the chapel, Mrs. Goddard has built and finished at her own expense an excellent gymnasium.
One of the most important additions of recent years has been the founding of the Barnum Museum of Natural History. In the spring of 1883, the writer suggested to the Honorable P. T. Barnum that as he had been all his life engaged in collecting rare objects in certain departments of natural history for the purpose alike of popular amusement and instruction, it would be most appropriate for him to leave behind him, as his monument, a natural history museum in connection with the College of which he was one of the original promoters and founders. The response was instantaneous. He directed me at once to procure plans and specifications of a building which would admit of indefinite extension, and submit to him an estimate of the cost. In accordance with the foregoing scheme, the present museum building has been erected; and a beginning has been made also in the endowment fund. The museum, which is only the central portion of what is intended to be a much larger building, is a structure of dignity and beauty. The first, or basement floor, which is almost wholly above ground, is occupied by the steam-engine and by the necessary laboratories and work-rooms. The second, or main floor has, besides a large lecture-room, a grand vestibule, containing a marble bust of the donor, by Thomas Ball. Here the larger and more important specimens of natural history now belonging to the College are deposited. Here also the skin of Jumbo and the skeleton of the white elephant are to find their ultimate resting-place. The third floor comprises a large exhibition hall, fifty feet wide by seventy feet long, with a gallery running completely around it. In addition to the important cabinet already belonging to the College, Mr. Barnum authorized Prof. Henry A. Ward to furnish a fine zooelogical collection. This collection comprising several hundred choice specimens, selected with special reference to purposes of instruction, has been received, mounted and set up in cases specially designed for the purpose.
The library has had, on the whole, a very satisfactory growth. Dr. Ballou's extraordinary love for books led him to bestow particular attention upon its formation. He was unremitting in his solicitation of gifts from friends and acquaintances and from publishers and booksellers. The interest awakened by him has never flagged. There are now in the possession of the College upwards of twenty thousand bound volumes, many of them rare and of great value, and eight or nine thousand pamphlets. The collection has entirely outgrown the quarters assigned to it, and needs a building specially adapted to its use. A gentleman of ample fortune has privately assured the president that such a building shall be supplied at an early day.
The College has been distinguished for its liberal policy towards those young men who are obliged on account of limited means to struggle for their education. The charge for tuition is $100 a year. But there are more than thirty scholarships in the gift of the College. By means of these the tuition may be cancelled for those who prove their worthiness by superior attainments. In addition to these, gratuities are given in cases of need, so that the instruction is practically free to all men of promise and fidelity whose circumstances require it. It is a gratifying fact that some of the most distinguished and successful of its graduates are from among those who have enjoyed its pecuniary favors, and who would have found a liberal education impossible without them. Moreover, on account of the isolation of the College, there being no villages in immediate contact with it on either side, it is not only extremely favorable for study, but admirably adapted to those who are obliged to practise economy. Probably there is no institution in America where a student can have equal advantages at so low a cost.
[A] The publishers have taken the liberty of incorporating in his article this portrait of President Capen.
BY CLINTON SCOLLARD.
Like some way-weary mendicant came I Unto the court where Love holds potent reign, And there in desolation I was fain Before the gateway to lie down and die. But one came forth who heard my mournful cry, Nor mocked nor spurned me with a cold disdain, But cheered me, saying, "Do not nurse thy pain! Be brave and bid the ghosts of dead days fly!"
Then I arose and cast the Past aside, And felt within my breast a gladness great That I dared meet the eyes that beamed above: And all the future time was glorified, For I, who was a beggar at the gate, Became a dweller in the court of Love.
THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC IN MASSACHUSETTS.
BY PAST COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF GEO. S. MERRILL.
When the American Volunteer Army was disbanded in 1865, by reason of the completion of the great work for which it was organized, had it been individually suggested to each one of that million of men whose eager faces were turned homeward, to become united in a veteran association, probably ninety-nine out of a hundred would have responded, "No; I've had all that I want of soldiering; no more for me."
And yet, so strong did the ties of war-comradeship prove; so tender were the memories of camp and march, of bivouac and battle; so full of heart-stirring events was the record of intimate service in the face of great peril, that even before the final disbandment, among the earlier returning veterans, soldier associations had already sprung into existence. Quite a number of these had their origin in 1864, and even the date and place of birth of the Grand Army of the Republic, with its membership of over three hundred thousand, is in doubt; two States at least, Indiana and Illinois, claim its parentage; and while there are absolutely no reliable data as to the place or exact time of the preliminary meetings out of which the great organization grew, there is a tradition—if the dim memories of only twenty years ago can be so called—that at a casual meeting of returned volunteers in Illinois in the latter portion of 1865, it was discovered that in the little group nearly all were possessed of certain mysterious signs, grips, and pass-words, by which various small bands of firm friends in rebel prisons had secretly bound themselves together for mutual protection. To no men had the value of organization come more forcibly than to these; and in this almost chance gathering was the beginning of the Grand Army of the Republic. There was, early enough after the close of the war, another reason beyond all questions of sentiment or association, demanding some form of organization among the returned soldiers and sailors. Empty sleeves, single legs, eyeless sockets, and emaciated bodies were too often coupled with personal necessities, and the maimed and diseased in need of charity or employment began to point out the larger and growing demand for organized work in behalf of suffering and dependent ones; and to what hands could this be so well committed as to those of old comrades in arms? The Post of the Grand Army of the Republic holding the first regular charter was organized in Dakota, Illinois, in the early spring of 1866, and in July following a department, including then some forty posts, was organized in that State.
In October of the same year the association had extended into eight or nine other States, and a call was issued for a convention to be held at Indianapolis, Indiana, November 20, 1866, and here the National Encampment had its organization.
Massachusetts was not represented in the gathering, the Grand Army at that time having but just obtained a foothold in this State. In September, 1866, a convention of returned soldiers and sailors representing nearly all the northern States was held at Pittsburg, Penn. Among those present from Massachusetts were Gen. Charles Devens, Gen. N. P. Banks, Major A. S. Cushman, and Chaplain A. H. Quint. On reaching Pittsburg, the attention of the Massachusetts comrades was attracted by badges worn by a large number of delegates, particularly from Indiana and Illinois, bearing the legend, "Grand Army of the Republic;" and so numerous were these badges that a spirit of inquiry was quite naturally awakened as to the character and objects of this "Soldiers' Masonic Order," as it was termed by the uninitiated. After some consultation, a number of the Massachusetts delegates, including those we have named, were informally inducted into the organization, in the parlor of B. F. Stevenson, who at the first national encampment a few weeks later was made provisional Commander-in-chief; the ritual and unwritten work was communicated to the new members, and they were fully empowered to organize posts in Massachusetts, General Devens being appointed provisional Grand Commander of the department. On returning from Pittsburg there was something of a rivalry for the organization of the first post. Comrade Cushman, who had been active in the association of the "boys in blue," was especially enthusiastic; and, capturing an old army associate upon the train homeward, he poured into his ears such an account of the new organization, that as soon as they reached New Bedford, they went out into the highways, and summoned a sufficient number of their comrades; and on that very day, Oct. 4, they organized the first post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Massachusetts. This still holds the initial number, Wm. Logan Rodman Post, No. 1, of New Bedford. The charter fee was at once forwarded to provisional Commander Devens, thus making sure of the coveted distinction.
A day or two later, these comrades organized a second post at Nantucket and a third at Taunton. Comrade Cushman exhibited such zeal and earnestness in this work that provisional Commander Devens insisted on having that position formally transferred; and the latter therefore resigned, and asked for the appointment of Mr. Cushman in his stead, which was accordingly made. As in the case of the national history of the Order, partially consequent thereon, but in a larger degree because of the destruction of all the department records in the great Boston fire, the early story of the Grand Army in Massachusetts is incomplete in many details, but it appears certain that during the existence of the provisional department under Comrade Cushman, ten posts were organized. On the seventh of May, 1867, a permanent department was organized by a delegate convention called at New Bedford, Commander Cushman being elected Department, or, as then termed, Grand Commander.
Inspiring his new official associates with something of his own ardor, Commander Cushman divided the state into ten districts, with a recruiting officer to each, and the "missionary work" was so vigorously prosecuted that the commander was able to welcome to the regular annual encampment in January, 1868, the representatives of over forty posts, with a membership of fully two thousand, while applications for nearly a score of additional posts were nearly ready for consideration. During the year 1867, a visit of Gen. P. H. Sheridan to Boston was made the occasion of a torchlight parade of the posts of the Grand Army, and the fine appearance made by the organization on this first public display attracted general attention, and was doubtless one means of largely increasing the membership.
As has been stated, on account of the careless compilation of records at national headquarters, and the substantial downfall of the posts in the West, where its great strength was at first, the history of the early years of the order is left in much uncertainty. But the organization had in the western states a wild, riotous growth; the meagre reports extant naming two hundred thousand as the membership in 1867; but the utter lack of organization, and the intrusion of politics, left the order, almost as speedily as it had sprung into existence, a complete wreck.
At the close of the year 1870, the department of Illinois, where the Grand Army had its birth, had been reduced from over three hundred posts, and a membership of forty thousand, to less than twenty-five posts, and these barely existing in name; and two years later its entire membership was but two hundred and thirty-eight. Indiana, with two hundred and seventy-nine posts, and thirty thousand membership, had become utterly disorganized; Iowa, with one hundred and forty-four posts, had ceased to have a recognized existence; the thirty posts in Kansas had dwindled to nine; Minnesota had shrunk from twenty-five to two posts; the one hundred and twenty-nine posts in Missouri had no department existence; in Wisconsin, of seventy-nine, less than a dozen were left, and in Pennsylvania, one hundred and forty-three out of two hundred and twenty-four had been disbanded. At the session of the National Encampment in May, 1870, the Adjutant-General reported that only three departments, Massachusetts being one, could give the exact number of the members upon their rolls, and the national headquarters were then involved in over $3,000 of indebtedness.
But in Massachusetts, the founders of the Grand Army of the Republic wisely bolted and double-barred the doors against the intrusion of partisan topics, and the growth of the organization was steady and continuous. In January, 1868, comrade A. B. R. Sprague was elected to succeed Commander Cushman, and at the end of his term was able to report seventy-three posts, with a membership of six thousand one hundred and eighty-nine.
How well the department of Massachusetts kept, through these early years, the Grand Army banner in the front, is evidenced by the following:—
The percentage in this department alone of the entire membership in the United States was, in 1872, 38 per cent; 1873, 42 per cent; 1874, 43 per cent; 1875, 38 per cent; 1876, 32 per cent; 1877, 33 per cent; 1878, 30 per cent; 1879, 21 per cent.
From the latter year, because of the rapid growth in Pennsylvania and New York, and of the reorganization and great increase of the departments in western states, this percentage was rapidly decreased to six per cent in 1885, but for ten successive years the official national reports accord to Massachusetts, in all respects, the position of "the banner department." In April, 1868, Commander-in-chief Logan issued his order for the observance annually of the thirtieth of May as a Memorial Day, "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of those who died in defence of their country during the late rebellion," and the ceremony into which so much of tenderness and patriotic love has since been wrought, was most heartily inaugurated in this department.
Comrade F. A. Osborn succeeded Commander Sprague, occupying the position during the year 1869. Within his term, a new ritual, establishing three grades or degrees, was adopted by the National Encampment, largely in compliance with the desires of the members of the western departments, against the earnest opposition of Massachusetts, where was a strong wish to "let well enough alone." This change was the first adverse blow felt in this department, where not only was the rapid and continuous growth of the organization retarded, but in a single quarter ending Sept. 30, 1869, there was a net loss of one thousand seven hundred and nine members. But this was partially recovered during the subsequent three months, and the Assistant Adjutant-General was able to report at the close of the year, one hundred and seventeen posts, with nine thousand members. During this year there was put in operation the system of careful inspection of the several posts by department officers, which has since become a part of the national regulations, and which, from its inception in this department, has contributed so largely to the efficiency and growth of the organization. With the retrogression of the western departments, Massachusetts in this year went to the front in point of numbers, as confessedly also in perfection of organization and completeness of Grand Army work, and held that position until 1880, when Pennsylvania passed her in point of membership. It will be impossible in the limit of this article to speak in detail of each distinctive year's administration, but the numerical loss of membership was not the most serious result of the introduction of the grade system; among those who then dropped out of the organization, disbelieving in the departure from the original simplicity of forms, were some of the most active and influential members, the loss of whose interest and personality was severely felt for years.
During 1870 and 1871, the growth was small, and high water mark for that period was reached in the first quarter of 1873, when a membership of ten thousand and seventy was reported. From this point came a reaction, the numbers slowly and steadily diminishing for six years, the lowest point in membership being reached in the spring of 1879, when there were but seven thousand seven hundred and forty-eight upon the rolls.
From that time, slowly at first, but without retrogression, the membership has risen to its present point, numbering eighteen thousand.
The question of an appropriate badge, which had received much consideration by two successive National Encampments and their committees, was finally settled by a resolution passed October 28, 1869, adopting the design now in use, to be made of bronze from cannon captured during the war.
During one or two years of the Grand Army in this state, there was no organized charity work, but the necessity for systematized action early became evident, and in 1870 posts began the establishment of a relief fund, placed in the hands of trustees, and administered by special committees; and in this direction Massachusetts has grandly led all other departments, having expended in the past fifteen years, from the various relief funds of posts, over $600,000.
This work has been most thoroughly systematized, in nearly every instance cities being divided by wards, and large towns into districts, with a special investigating committee for each, and, from the intimacy of association, the knowledge of records, and the veterans' natural hatred of shams, a like amount of money could hardly have been as judiciously or economically disbursed through any other channels; while from no hands could aid to the family or dependent ones of a needy veteran come with so little of the chilliness of reluctant charity as from those of old comrades-in-arms.
Unlike most, perhaps every other charitable society, the larger part of this money has, continually, from the first, been expended in behalf of those who are not of its membership.
From time to time the posts have appealed to the public, by fairs, concerts, lectures, and like entertainments, for the means to replenish their relief funds, and the response has ever been worthy the generosity and patriotism of the Commonwealth.
At the present time, the posts have in these funds about $120,000.
With the incoming of Commander Horace Binney Sargent, in 1876, the Grand Army entered upon a new and broader field in its work of fraternal charity; large as had been the liberality of Massachusetts towards its veterans, the Commonwealth yet lacked for its own what the national government had established for the helpless and needy wards of the Republic,—a Soldiers and Sailors Home. With the same earnestness and fervor which had made him the trusted military confidant of Governor Andrew, and later, a splendid commanding officer in the field, Commander Sargent threw himself into the work of securing this great need of the Commonwealth. The times were far from auspicious; business was suffering from severe depression, property values were feeling the apparent shrinkage incident to the approach to a coin basis, Comrade Sargent personally being among the foremost sufferers, while the strength of the Grand Army was from these causes constantly diminishing; and, at the outset, not a few of the members of the organization doubted the necessity for, or feared the failure of, the project. But there was contagion in the fiery enthusiasm and terrible earnestness of Commander Sargent, and, slowly at first, but surely, the plan won its way. Breaking their hitherto and since invariable rule of "one term" elections of department commander, the comrades in Massachusetts a second and a third time re-elected Commander Sargent, and, before the close of the latter term, he saw the beginning of the end in the establishment of a Soldiers Home on Powder Horn Hill, Chelsea.
The work had been of slow growth; the posts were appealed to, public meetings were held, and at camp-fires and other gatherings the necessity for the procurement of a Home was strongly urged; but during the earlier months there were only a few tangible evidences of prospective success, here and there a small contributor, so that many who had been enthusiastic became downcast and discouraged. But there was one comrade whose faith failed not, and when the workers wearied, Comrade Sargent became only the more resolute and determined. During his second term, he was able to announce the receipt of a small bequest in the will of a generous lady, and this afforded the basis for yet more persistent appeals to the public. An act of incorporation was procured from the legislature, by which the control of the institution was placed in the hands of the Grand Army, by the selection of a majority of the trustees from this organization. With the small amount of money secured, a beginning was made by the purchase of the property now used as a Home, and on the eighth day of June, 1881, the dedicatory exercises were held, and the Home opened July 25 of the following year. Already, however, a movement had been inaugurated for a grand bazaar in December, at the Mechanics' Building in Boston. Gen. Sargent, who had been chosen President of the Board of Trustees, which position he filled until his removal from the state, succeeded in interesting a large number of the leading citizens of the state, and was fortunate in calling to his aid as chief marshal, Col. A. A. Rand, to whose admirable organizing powers much of the success of the bazaar was due. The women, always loyal to the veterans, went enthusiastically into the work, the posts joined heartily, and the general public responded liberally, and at the end nearly fifty thousand dollars was turned over to the Treasurer of the Home, which, with the addition of $10,000, the munificent gift of Capt. J. B. Thomas, enabled the managers to pay the balance of the purchase money upon the property, and largely increase the number of inmates. For more than five years past, the deserving applicants have been in excess of the capacity of the Home, and there was also an imperative necessity for enlarged hospital accommodations.
In 1884, therefore, steps were initiated for the Carnival, held in Boston in February, 1885. By another bit of good fortune, Col. A. C. Wellington was secured as chief marshal, and again success crowned the effort, over sixty thousand dollars being realized as the net result. The legislature makes an annual appropriation of $15,000 towards the support of the Home, which now contains one hundred and ten inmates, to be increased about thirty upon the completion of the new hospital building.
Since the institution of the Grand Army in Massachusetts, its commanders have been as follows:—
1866, provisional, Chas. Devens, A. S. Cushman; 1867, A. S. Cushman; 1868, A. B. R. Sprague; 1869, Francis A. Osborne; 1870, James L. Bates; 1871, William Cogswell; 1872, Henry R. Sibley; 1873, A. B. Underwood; 1874, J. W. Kimball; 1875, Geo. S. Merrill; 1876-77-78, Horace Binney Sargent; 1879, J. G. B. Adams; 1880, John A. Hawes; 1881, Geo. W. Creasey; 1882, Geo. H. Patch; 1883, Geo. S. Evans; 1884, John D. Billings; 1885, John W. Hersey; 1886, Richard F. Tobin.
The Assistant Adjutant-Generals, to whose systematic work this department has been so greatly indebted for its efficiency, have been Thomas Sherwin, Henry B. Peirce, James F. Meech, and Alfred C. Munroe.
Having for eight years led in members and excellency all the departments of the country, with its record of over $600,000, expended in its relief work, with $120,000 now held for that purpose, with a membership of nearly eighteen thousand, and possessing the only Soldiers Home in the nation, established solely through its own efforts and still maintained in its hands, the Grand Army of Massachusetts has a right to be proud of its exemplification of the virtues of "Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty."
ON DETACHED SERVICE.
AN EPISODE OF THE CIVIL WAR.
BY CHARLES A. PATCH, MASS. VOLS.
Most sketches of battle-scenes, in their voluminous details of movements and vivid descriptions of action, so completely hide the actual feelings of the men engaged that the inexperienced may be pardoned the thought, that, having donned the insignia of a soldier, a man instantly becomes filled with martial ardor, and eager to face the most withering fire of musketry or artillery. But the reality is far different; very few men are so constituted, or are so reckless of their lives, that they can listen to the unearthly screech of the shell or the crash of solid shot, mingled with the sickening thud of grape and bullets, without a shiver of weakness creeping through their systems, and a helpless knocking of their knees together. It is a military fact that lines of combatants as they go into position are not made up of heroes, and regiments which won renown in such scenes of carnage as Fredericksburg, or Gettysburg, or the Wilderness, were composed of plain, quiet men, who were faint-hearted and homesick when forming in front of flashing batteries or heavy bodies of opposing troops. It was only when completely involved in the struggle, after the madness of excitement had overcome the real man, that they proved themselves to be, what we now know them, heroes. But it very often happened that troops were placed in positions where neither glory nor honor could redound to them, however brave they might be, and where the results of such movements were not at all in keeping with the loss of life incurred. This little sketch covers somewhat such an occasion, where troops comparatively new in the service were ordered to perform work which seemed uncalled-for and extra hazardous, and of so little consequence that no record will ever be made of it, although lives were lost in its accomplishment. An inside view is simply given of the true feelings and actions of men at such times, and necessarily lacks the glow of enthusiasm which is thrown around the picture of the historic battle. But to the story.
If there was one feature in the South which annoyed the Federal commanders more than another it was the railroad system. Through its medium they were enabled to supply their armies from the great plantation centres where war was unknown. With a railroad at the back of each army, they were enabled to move with small wagon trains, and could utilize troops that would otherwise have been detached as guards. By its potent power, also, the troops were hurried from point to point of the Confederacy, thus keeping the Federal armies so long outside the charmed circle of the seceded States. With worn-out rails, scant supply of carriage-material, and wheezy engines, they performed herculean labor throughout the war. Consequently it became the favorite pastime and the almost sole business of Union cavalry to destroy or attempt destruction of railroad communication. Thousands upon thousands of valuable lives were sacrificed in such movements, and without any material damage to the fighting centre of the Confederacy.
Our department commander, becoming infatuated with this method of making war upon the South, was urging his corps towards a well-known railroad junction one clear, cool day in December, '62. We were some fifty miles from our base, and bodies of the enemy were continually harassing our line of march, sometimes meeting us in sharp conflict, and at all times impeding our progress by road-obstruction. Already the killed and wounded were counted by hundreds, and the coveted goal still far away. As we plodded wearily along, wondering what would happen next, one of the division staff dashed up to our brigadier and ordered him to detach one of his regiments and send it to support cavalry that had seized a bridge some miles to our right. It was the fortune of our regiment to be detached for the service, and we marched into a wood-road, rather depressed in feelings, and sadly missing that sense of security which the fellowship of a large body of men gives to the soldier. On we went for about three miles through dense woods that chilled one's very marrow with their gloom. Occasional glimpses of bits of blue sky through the overarching branches were the only reminders that the outside world remained as it used to be. Once or twice we passed small openings in which some poor white had located, and where half-naked children were the only signs of civilization, or, rather, uncivilization, till, at last, under the guidance of a scout, we filed into a clearing about a quarter of a mile from the bridge. Through the woods we could see two guns planted in the road at the bridgehead, and a squadron of dismounted cavalry supporting them. The smoke rising from the partially burnt timbers, and the frequent interchange of rifle and carbine shots, with now and then the roar of artillery, gave ample evidence that business would soon be lively in that locality. The outlook was not at all enlivening; our regiment was small in number, the woods dark and treacherous,—the main army adding mile upon mile to the interval between us,—and we were very forcibly impressed that even railroad-smashing, in plenty of company, was far better than bridge-burning with such lonesome surroundings.
While chewing the cud of reflection, and anxiously considering the situation, a major of cavalry appeared from the woods calling for assistance, and cold perspiration covered us as our captain was ordered to place his company under the major's direction. Command was given to "Fall in," which we did with very solemn faces, and whisperings went through the ranks that we guessed it was all up with us; but the order to "March" called us to duty and we proceeded down the road accompanied by a battery, which had at that moment arrived and proved a welcome addition to our meagre force. Halting in a clump of trees, a short distance from the river, we divested ourselves of all luggage and then made our way through the woods to the edge of a field that bordered on the river bank; quietness reigned as we deployed as skirmishers, and just before we advanced, the cavalryman pleasantly informed us that when the line struck a certain stump, we should get abundant notice of our Confederate friends' proximity. Not in the least overjoyed at this information, we crept slowly forward, all eyes and ears, and as the extreme left came into line with the stump, the heavens opened, or at least we thought they had, and six pieces of artillery sent their compliments in the shape of so many barrelsful of grape. One grand whir-r-r-r went over us, around us, and, in imagination, through us; it took but the sixtieth part of a minute for fifty men to flatten themselves upon the earth and wish they had never gone to the war. No time was wasted in examining the topography of the position, or in looking for safer quarters, our military discipline showing itself in the unanimity with which we then and there dropped as one man. In the short interval between the first and second discharges of grape, one of those incidents occurred which often turns the seriousness of battle into a seeming frolic. While considering the expediency of advancing, our attention was drawn to the antics of several cattle, which had been quietly grazing near by, now so thoroughly astonished at the strange proceedings that they were literally attempting to carry out the old Mother Goose rhyme of "jumping over the moon." With tails stiff as crowbars and hind legs higher than their heads, they were cavorting around the field, bellowing with fright, and making such an extremely ludicrous spectacle, that, in our excited condition, it was more than we could bear, and almost hysterical laughter weakened us so that we were hardly able to move. But the range of the enemy's guns was too accurate to admit of a long stay in this locality, so we pushed on, rolling or crawling, to the thin line of trees by the river, continual discharges of grape adding increased momentum to our movements, and solid shot from our own battery crossing us so closely that it made the neighborhood more dangerous than social. Drawing long breaths of relief at last, behind the partial shelter of a rail fence, we began to make as close investigation of our opponents across the stream as the difficulties of the position would allow. We found the country thickly inhabited, every stump and tree sheltering its quota of men in gray, and six ugly-looking cannon at work upon our position with a rapidity and precision that was certainly commendable to them, if not fully appreciated by us. However, we soon lost our fears and misgivings in our eagerness to make the climate as warm for them as they had so far made it for us, and we settled down to our work with a vim that would have made old veterans envious. The river was so narrow that every movement on either side was visible, and, lying flat upon the ground, we fired for hours at any signs of life, and were continually answered by the zip-zip of bullets as they flew past our heads, or buried themselves in the rails above us. Thus the conflict continued; grape and solid shot tore frantically over us, plowing up the dirt and crashing through the woods in the rear, filling our ears with the most frightful din. Our greatest difficulty was in loading, for if so much as a hand was exposed to view, such a rain of lead would be sent our way that it took some minutes to assure one's self that he was not killed. Once in a while, the word would be passed along, "George is wounded," "Ned is killed," or, "Serg't Smith" has a hole through his arm, and we would instinctively get closer to the ground and flatten ourselves out as thin as possible. Hunger and thirst also began to tell on us, and we longed for the darkness to come, but our opponents with their larger force held us to our work, seeming loth to have us depart.
About dusk the order was given to fall back quickly and quietly, but how to do it safely in the face of a regiment of Confederates was a puzzle to be solved; edging backward till at fair distance from the fence, we suddenly rose and scampered, in knots of two or three, at break-neck speed for the other side of the field, with bullets and grape buzzing around us like angry wasps. When, at length, we gathered, shivering with the cold, around our pile of blankets, and felt hungrily in the emptiness of our haversacks for one remaining cracker, the prevailing feeling was that "we wanted to go home," but, to our intense disgust, we were ordered to eat our hardtack, if so fortunate as to have any, and, as soon as sufficiently dark to conceal our movements, to picket the river bank near the bridge and be ready to support the battery in any attempted night surprise. This we felt to be an outrage on good nature, and so expressed ourselves in language not at all polite. We were tired and hungry, and the night cold and sharp, but orders are orders and must be obeyed, and we moodily wended our way to our various stations.
It was a good time to illustrate those lines of Tennyson,—
"Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why."
Nevertheless we were not at all in harmony with the poem, but felt perfectly willing and wholly competent to instruct our commanders on the correct way to handle troops. As we pushed on through the underbrush and debris of the forest, the smallest stick trod upon would crack like a rifle-shot, and the unearthly howl of a dog, in the yard of a hut near by, made our hair stand on end as it echoed through the woods. The hours passed tediously as we peered through the darkness across the sluggish stream to the opposite side; but a little after midnight movements of the enemy, which they did not try to conceal, awakened our fears; the noise of bodies of men moving from different points, mingled with the sound of voices and frequent shouts, led us to feel that life would be safer and pleasanter behind our battery, when an officer came from the rear and ordered us to come out in a hurry. We didn't stand upon the order of going, but "got, right smart,"—not a word of fault was found, nor a complaint made, out of harmony with the officer's wishes. Company was formed at once, and the retreat up the road commenced, many an eye peering back into the darkness to see if the expected pursuit had begun; and had we waited an hour longer, our march would have been towards the prison-pens of Georgia, for our opponents then crossed the bridge with a force that would have swept us away in a moment; and the longer we live the happier we feel that our curiosity remained unsatisfied. Upon reaching the regiment we learned that our corps, having been unable to accomplish the object in view, as so many other expeditions failed to do, were in retreat, with heavy forces fresh from Lee's army in pursuit, and that it behooved us to cover the three-mile interval in double-quick time if we would join the procession in safety. We had been without rations all day, and for drinkables had only the water that lay in puddles by the roadside; but, wearied as we were, we kept pace with the other companies, muttering bitter imprecations against everybody in general, as we stumbled into holes or tripped over sticks in the intense darkness of the forest road. At early dawn we fell into the line of the retreating corps, but not till near midnight did the army halt with the feeling that it had placed safe distance between it and our adversaries. Then we 'broke ranks for rails,' and, with coffee and pipes, sat beside the cheering blaze recounting the incidents of the engagement. Our little encounter, so insignificant beside the story of great battles, was yet full of interest to us, and some were missing from our ranks who would never again respond to their country's call. To them and theirs it was the great battle of the Rebellion; to us, who live to tell of it, only an episode of army life.
A TOWN MEETING-HOUSE,
AND TOWN POLITICS IN THE LAST CENTURY.
BY ATHERTON P. MASON, M. D.
Nearly a century ago the little town, now the prosperous city, of Fitchburg, Mass., was the scene of a fierce contest that lasted a decade. Never in the history of the town was there contention so bitter or opposition so determined as that shown in the ninety-nine town meetings held during the years 1786-96. The cause of this tempest in a teapot was the location of a new meeting-house.
At that time the "center of the town" was in the easterly part of the township, in the vicinity of the present Union Passenger Depot. Here were located the rather shabby yellow meeting-house, Cowdin's tavern, Dea. Ephraim Kimball's mill, Joseph Fox's "red store," and several dwelling-houses. Westward from this ran a country road (now Main Street) along which were scattered half a dozen houses. West of the present junction of River and Main Streets there were almost no habitations until reaching the high land, now known as Dean Hill, about 1-3/4 miles distant. This high land was early settled by farmers, because of the excellent soil, and comparative freedom from early frosts. Here were two taverns, a blacksmith's shop, a store, and a number of dwellings. These people in the west were considerably removed from the river, which at that time was regarded as a curse to the town, and were desirous of being separated from Fitchburg in order to escape the heavy tax annually levied to maintain bridges. Moreover the west was then the more flourishing settlement, and its inhabitants began to feel that they ought to have a meeting-house of their own, and not be obliged to travel to the easterly part of the town to attend church,—in a word they felt rather abused at being considered a suburb.
Early in 1785 one of the articles in the town-meeting warrant was, "To see if the town will take into consideration the request of Jacob Upton and others, to see if the town will set off the inhabitants of the north-westerly part of Fitchburg, with their lands and privileges, free and clear from said Fitchburg, to join the extreme part of Westminster, with the north-easterly part of Ashburnham, to be incorporated into a town, to have town privileges, as other towns." Had this request been granted a new meeting-house would have been built near Upton's tavern; but it was promptly dismissed. Baffled, but not dismayed, the petitioners came to the town meeting held in May, 1785, with a proposition to annex to Fitchburg "about a mile or more in width of land, with the inhabitants thereon, of the northerly part of the town of Westminster," and these additional people were "to join the inhabitants of said Fitchburg to build a meeting-house on Ezra Upton's land." This scheme was very artful, but the wise men of the east saw that such a move would throw the balance of power into the hands of the west, and therefore voted it down.
These two defeats stirred up the people of the west, and they determined to carry their point in some way. In March, 1786, they petitioned "that Rev. Mr. Payson have liberty to preach some part of the time in the year in the westerly part of the town." This was certainly a modest request, but was denied, the people of the east evidently thinking that if they yielded an inch they might, at no very distant date, have to travel two or three miles.
All this, however, was but a skirmish. The date of the beginning of the real contest was Sept. 12, 1786, when, it was voted "to build a new meeting-house in the centre of the town, or in the nearest convenient place to the centre." It was thus agreed that a new house was to be built, but where to build it was not easily determined. The maxim, large bodies move slowly, was verified in this instance, for, although there was much private sputtering in regard to the location, no further public action was taken for two years. Meanwhile Jedediah Cooper and Jacob Upton, the two tavern keepers in the westerly part of the town, despairing of any redress, determined, together with some of their neighbors, to have a meeting-house among themselves at any rate. They accordingly erected in the course of time a shabby structure, just within the limits of the town, which was used to some extent for preaching; but the proprietors did not take much care of it, and its dilapidated appearance earned for it the name of the "Lord's Barn." It was sold and taken down about sixty years ago, and the proceeds of the sale (about thirty-six dollars) were divided among the proprietors.
Sept. 9, 1788, the subject was again brought before the town by means of an article in the warrant,—"To see if the town will erect a meeting-house in the centre of the town, or receive any part of Westminster that shall be willing to join with us, and then erect a meeting-house in the nearest convenient place to the centre." This article was put into the warrant by the people of the west, whose underlying object was the formation of a new town, while the rest of the inhabitants were strenuously opposed to this project. No action was taken on this article at this meeting. A few days later, Sept. 23, a meeting was called, at which a committee, consisting of Moses Hale, Oliver Stickney, Daniel Putnam, Jacob Upton, and Asa Perry, was appointed "to find a place to erect a meeting-house in the most convenient place to accommodate the inhabitants of the town of Fitchburg." The result of the investigation made by these five gentlemen was that two of them found the most convenient place to be in the west, two in the east, and the remaining member was upon the fence. A town meeting was held, Oct. 2, to hear the report of this committee, and when it had been given it was rejected, and the gentlemen were promptly discharged from further services in that direction. A motion was then made to place the new house on the site of the old one: this was negatived. Then, "after much consideration," as the record says, it was voted "to erect the new meeting-house in the nearest convenient place to the centre." Such brilliant progress must have been altogether too gratifying, for a few minutes later it was voted "to reconsider all votes hitherto passed relating to this matter." At this stage in the proceedings the meeting was adjourned to nine o'clock of the next day.
On the following morning the parties proceeded to business. It was first moved to place the new house where the old one then stood; this was again negatived. It was then moved to place it "on the hill near Phineas Sawyer's house, on the land belonging to the heirs of Mr. Ezra Upton" (in the westerly part of the town). The meeting was divided on this motion, "to find a true vote," as the record states, and thirty-two voted in favor of it and seventeen against it. So by a vote of nearly two to one it was decided to place the new house in the west, and it looked as if everything was going on swimmingly. A committee was chosen, consisting of Reuben Smith, Asa Perry, Phineas Sawyer, Elijah Carter, and Jacob Upton, "to be invested with power to agree with the owners of the new frame erecting for a meeting-house (that of Jacob Upton and others before mentioned) in the north-westerly part of the town, if that appear cheapest for the town,—otherways are invested with power to provide materials and timber for building a new meeting-house in the prudentest manner for said town on said plat of ground." This committee was instructed to report progress at the next town meeting.
This was a bitter pill for the east to swallow. Resolved on retaliation, the east called a town meeting immediately "To see if the town will comply with a request of a number of the inhabitants of Fitchburg, to grant that they, together with their respective estates and interests, may be set off from Fitchburg and annexed to Lunenburg." This request was denied. The honest people, who, for the sake of peace and reconciliation had favored the west at the previous meeting, were now thoroughly alarmed. They held the balance of power, and were in a very unpleasant predicament. If they voted to place the new house in the east, the west threatened to form a new parish; and if they favored the west, the east evinced strong symptoms of returning to the parent town of Lunenburg.
Meanwhile, undaunted by this sudden squall in the east, the committee had bargained for the frame of the new meeting-house being erected in the north-westerly part of the town, prepared a site for the new house on the land of Ezra Upton's heirs, and done sundry other wise things. Nov. 17, 1788, a town meeting was called to listen to the report of this committee. Their excellent progress was set forth with great confidence, whereupon the meeting gravely voted not to accept the report, and added insult to injury by summarily discharging the committee from further service. This was done by the peacemakers who were at their wits' ends, and this time threw their influence into the eastern scale. At this meeting a committee was chosen to find the centre of the town. After a survey, the centre was found to be on the land of one Thomas Boynton, about five hundred feet north of the pound. Their report was accepted at a town meeting held Dec. 18, 1788, and a committee, consisting of Thomas Cowdin, Phineas Hartwell, Oliver Stickney, Daniel Putnam, and Paul Wetherbee, was chosen to bargain for a site in the most suitable place. This committee bought twenty-two and a half acres of land, a little south of the pound, of Boynton, paying therefor two dollars and thirty-three cents per acre, and the town approved this action.
The west, not thinking this location near enough, resorted to the old scheme of forming a new town, and called two meetings for that purpose, thereby scaring the conscientious peacemakers nearly out of their wits; but for some reason or other the men of the west did not put in an appearance, and these two meetings were uncommonly peaceable. The petitions were dismissed. The reason of their non-appearance at these meetings probably was that the people of the west, who all this time were carrying on their plans vigorously but quietly, as will soon be seen, wished to lull the rest of the town into a sense of security.
At a meeting held Nov. 2, 1789, the town voted "to erect a new meeting-house on the land purchased of Thomas Boynton," and a committee was chosen to take the matter in charge. Two weeks later the town voted to reconsider all former votes; so that at the end of four years the town was in the same position regarding this matter as when it began operations, with the exception of owning twenty-two and a half acres of real estate. The cause of this singular action was the culmination of the move on the part of the west, alluded to above. The people of the west, together with portions of Westminster, Ashburnham, and Ashby, had presented to the General Court a powerful petition for an act of incorporation into a town.
"This petition set forth in glowing colors the delightful situation of the contemplated town—how nature had lavished all her skill upon it—how admirably adapted for a township by itself was the noble swell of land—and that nothing in nature or in art could exceed the grand and imposing spectacle of a meeting-house towering from its summit, while beneath the said swell was a region of low, sunken land which almost cut off the petitioners from intercourse with the rest of mankind.[B]"
This meant business, and the inhabitants of Fitchburg drew up a spirited remonstrance, in which they were joined by the people in those portions of the three adjoining towns not included in the proposed new township. In this remonstrance every statement of the petitioners was denied, and the whole thing denounced as visionary. This matter engrossed the attention of both parties during 1790, and the result was that the General Court refused to incorporate the new town.
After such a vigorous contest a brief breathing spell was necessary; but Sept. 7, 1791, the town voted, forty-one to twenty-three, "to erect a new meeting-house in the centre of the town, or in the nearest convenientest place thereto." This double-barrelled superlativeness shows that the spirit of the people was by no means cast down by the fruitless struggle of five years. At this meeting a committee was appointed to plan a new house. Oct. 10, this committee reported to the town "to build a house sixty by forty-six feet, with a porch at each end twelve by eleven feet, with stairs into the galleries." There were to be forty-six pews on the ground floor, and twenty-five in the galleries, to be sold to the highest bidders, and three years were to be allowed in which to build the house. This report was accepted at a meeting held Nov. 14, 1791. A committee was also chosen to clear a site upon the land purchased of Thomas Boynton and build the house. Dec. 27, 1791, the town with its usual consistency voted "to dismiss the committee chosen to build a new meeting-house from further service." Thus the matter again stood as at the beginning.
For nearly three years thereafter the pot continued to boil, but nothing more was done about church affairs in town meeting, except that on May 17, 1793, the people showed their obstinacy by refusing "to repair the meeting-house windows, and to paint the outside of the meeting-house."
Sept. 3, 1794, operations were again renewed by voting "to erect a meeting-house in the centre of the town, or in the nearest convenientest place thereto, to accommodate the inhabitants thereof for divine worship." Three disinterested individuals, Joseph Stearns and David Kilburn of Lunenburg, and Benjamin Kimball of Harvard, were chosen by ballot as a committee to discover that much-to-be-desired spot, "the nearest convenientest place to the centre." They found the centre to be a little less than a quarter of a mile north-east of the pound, but considered the most eligible location for the house to be about a half a mile south of this point, which would have placed it near the present junction of Main and River Streets. Oct. 21 a meeting was called to hear their report and it was rejected 36 to 29. So the opinions of interested and disinterested persons seem to have been considered of about equal value—as good for nothing.
Nov. 21, 1794, a motion "to place the meeting-house on the spot where the committee out of town proposed" was negatived, forty-eight to forty-five. A committee was then appointed to select a suitable place. Dec. 1 this committee reported in favor of "setting the meeting-house near the high bridge, under the hill" (the place the out-of-town committee had proposed). This report was accepted, sixty-one to forty-seven. A town meeting was therefore called Jan. 8, 1795, to choose a committee to purchase the land agreed upon; but at the meeting the town refused to choose such a committee, and so ended the plan of building a meeting-house there.
Jan. 26, 1795, the town voted "to erect a meeting-house on the town's land they purchased of Thomas Boynton, about five rods south-west from a large white oak tree, and to pattern it after the Leominster meeting-house." It was to be completed by the last day of December, 1796.
Feb. 9, 1795, the town chose a committee of three "to view Ashburnham meeting-house, and take a plan of the inside, and consult with Asa Kendall of Ashby for the mode of finishing the inside, and laying a plan for building the house." A week later the report of this committee was heard and accepted, and it was voted to pattern the new house after the one in Ashburnham. "Likewise voted to have the length of said house sixty-two by forty-eight feet, the posts to said house to be twenty-seven feet in length, and that the undertaker to build the house give bonds, with good bondsmen, to fulfil the contract." The contract was given to John Putman, Jr. Then followed other town meetings which regulated the size of joists to be used, and other minor matters that need not be here dwelt upon, Sept. 1, 1795, a committee of five was chosen "to stake out and oversee the clearing and levelling of the meeting-house spot for the underpinning on the town land." At this meeting it was also voted "that the Selectmen lay out a four-rod road in the best place to accommodate the travel to the new meeting-house spot."
At this time plans seem to have been perfected, and the prospect of a new house on the town land tolerably assured; but Oct. 19, 1795, everything was completely upset. On that day a meeting was called "to know the sense of the town whether the former vote in placing said meeting-house should be altered." After some wrangling, it was decided by a vote of forty-four to thirty "to place the new meeting-house at the crotch of the roads, near Capt. William Brown's house" (very near the present junction of Main, Mechanic, and Academy Streets). This decision was final. It is rather difficult to see how it happened to be, for this site was a little east of the town land. The opposition put in one final blow in this way. It was designed to have the house face directly "down street" and the underpinning was laid with a view to this, but the opposition party mustered enough strength to change the plan so that it should face the south and "stand cornerwise to the street."
So the momentous question was finally settled, and early in the summer of 1796 the raising occurred. This was of course an event of great importance, and extensive preparations were made to celebrate it. On May 9, 1796, a town meeting was called "to see if the town will make any provision for the refreshment of the Raisers and also the Spectators that shall attend upon the raising of the new meeting-house." It was then and there voted most amicably and unanimously "that the town provide one barrill W. I. Rum and Loaf Sugar sufficient to make it into Toddy for refreshment for the Raisers and Spectators that shall attend the raising of the new meeting-house." A committee was also chosen, consisting of Deacon Daniel Putman, Deacon Ephraim Kimball, Deacon Kendall Boutelle, Reuben Smith, Joseph Polley, Dr. Jonas Marshall, and Asa Perry, "to deal out the Liquor to the Raisers and Spectators on Raising Day." It would seem as if a barrel of rum would suffice to make enough toddy to satisfy the cravings of all that would gather to witness this raising, but the people were evidently overflowing with hospitality, and bound to have a rousing time after waiting for it so long, for before the adjournment of the meeting it was voted "that the committee to deal out the Liquor and Sugar sufficient for the Raisers and Spectators, in case the barrill of W. I. Rum and Sugar already voted should be insufficient, procure more and bring in their account to the town for allowance."
This was the only meeting in ten years where there was no contention or bitterness of feeling. For once these good people were all of the same mind, and a "barrill of W. I. Rum," which in these days gives rise to such excited controversy, in the presumably degenerate days of 1796 acted like oil upon the troubled waters.
The raising came off successfully, but it is not definitely stated how much rum was consumed thereat. However here is a copy of the order to reimburse Deacon Boutelle for the refreshment expenses.
"Fitchburg, May y'e 12: 1796.
"To Ebenezer Thurston Town treasurer you are hereby Directed to pay De'n Kendall Boutwell thirty eight Dollars and one Cent it being for providing Rum and Shugar for the Raising of the new Meeting house and this with his Rec't shall be your Discharge for the above sum
D C JOHN THURSTON } 38 1 PAUL WETHERBEE } Selectmen."
On the back of this order is written the receipt and settlement as follows:—
"may y'e 12 Recd a Note in behalf of the Town of fitchburg of thirty Eight Dollers and one Sent in full of the within Order
"April 19:1797 Order Settled with the treasurer"
Such in substance was the controversy about the location of the meeting-house. The contest was characterized by zeal, obstinacy, and bitterness, manifested equally by both factions, and so fierce was the strife that the people of adjoining towns, for miles around, were in the habit of flocking into Fitchburg to attend town meetings.
The edifice was dedicated Jan. 19, 1797, Rev. Zabdiel Adams of Lunenburg preaching the sermon. This house became, a few years later, the church of the First Parish (Unitarian) in Fitchburg, and stood until 1836, when it was removed, and a brick church, now standing, was built by the Unitarians on nearly the same site.
[B] Torrey's "History of Fitchburg," Fitchburg, 1836.
BY ANNIE SAWYER DOWNS.
Joseph Cook says, "Andover, Mass., has founded several new Institutions. Under the elms on Andover Hill is a study, in which a prayer-meeting was once held weekly to devise ways and means of doing good. There originated the first religious newspaper. There began its existence an American Tract Society which now sifts its printed counsels, like the dew, over a hemisphere. There, in imitation of a Scottish custom, was instituted the American missionary monthly concert of prayer, in response to the wants of an American Missionary Society, also originating in Andover, and on whose operations now the moon goes not down by night nor the sun by day. There had its birth the American Education Society, which to-day rings its college bells all the way from Niagara to the Yosemite. There was commenced the American Temperance Society, which in our crowded cities has before it a work of which even wakeful eyes do not yet see more than a glimpse of the importance." It was, therefore, natural that the first incorporated school for the higher education of girls in this Commonwealth should find its birthplace in Andover; and that the first public meeting of which we have any record whose sole object was the education of girls, should have been held in its South parish, Feb. 19, 1828, at the house of James Locke, Esq. The meeting adjourned after voting "that it was desirable and necessary a female academy should be established in this place," leaving the matter in the hands of a committee who were to raise funds and see if a lot of land could be obtained. At the next meeting, on the 4th of March, only a fortnight later, this committee reported that the way was clear to draw up a constitution, buy a lot of land, erect a brick building two stories high, for which funds should be raised by subscription, and that the school should be put under the charge of trustees. These trustees, seven in number, were: Rev. Milton Badger, pastor of the South Church, Andover; Rev. Samuel C. Jackson, pastor of the West Parish Church, who served until his death, a period of more than fifty years; Samuel Farrar, Esq., treasurer of Phillips Academy; Hon. Hobart Clark, State Senator; Mark Newman, formerly principal of Phillips Academy; Amos Abbot, Member of Congress, and Amos Blanchard, succeeded in later years by his son, Rev. Dr. Amos Blanchard of Lowell. Drs. Badger and Jackson and Esquire Farrar were to draft a constitution, while Messrs. Clark and Newman were to serve as a building committee. But, alas! then, as now, it was easy to vote away money, but not easy to collect it; easy to order buildings begun, but hard to find any way to pay for them. So at a trustee meeting, July 4, 1828, it was voted that it was not expedient to erect a building for the Female Academy with their present means. At the Semi-Centennial of Abbot Academy in June, 1879, several persons were present who remembered the sadness and disappointment which settled down upon the hearts which had been so sanguine of success when the plan was first made public. But it is always darkest just before day, and on July 24, 1828, "most important information" was communicated at a meeting of the trustees. The first site selected had not been universally approved. A lady, daughter of Mr. Adams, then Principal of Phillips Academy, writes, "It was the determination to put the new academy on Main Street; but many Andover mothers were dissatisfied, as this was the street most frequented by Theologues and Phillips boys. My mother and Mrs. Stuart consequently drew up a petition requesting a change in location. Elizabeth Stuart (mother of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps) and I circulated said petition. When we had received a sufficient number of signatures, it was handed to the trustees, who deemed the 'objections formidable'; so a portion of the 'important information' was that Deacon Mark Newman had presented the enterprise an acre of land on School Street, and that Madam Sarah Abbot pledged one thousand dollars to be paid at her death." Esquire Farrar was ready to advance the money on such security, and it was gratefully voted to take the deed of Deacon Newman, and begin directly to build from a plan furnished by Mr. Goddard, Principal-elect. Mr. David Hidden of Newburyport contracted to do the work, being assisted by Mr. William Saunders of Cambridge, who, it is said, is proud to claim the honor of having made the columns which support the front portico. Professor Park, who came of age the year Abbot Academy was born, and who entered Andover Theological Seminary the autumn the Academy was building, and who often amused himself by walking upon the uncovered floor joists, adds his testimony to that of many contemporary notices which declare the completed structure, with its fine proportions and classic porch, to be not only the pride of the town but of Essex County.
So Abbot Female Academy fell into line with the other beneficent institutions established by men of kindred blood to its founder, and who, like her, were enthusiastic in their love for learning, passionate in their benevolence, and extraordinarily endowed with common sense.
The act of incorporation was passed Jan. 25, 1829; and there is no record that any opposition was made or any encouragement offered, although all were aware that it was a pioneer enterprise, for a local journal says, "Abbot Academy is the first house built in New England by a corporation for the exclusive work of educating women." Madam Sarah Abbot not only pledged the one thousand dollars before mentioned, but advanced additional moneys from time to time when the exigencies threatened destruction; and so arranged her property before her death in 1848, that two years later, upon the 28th of February, 1850, the trustees came into possession of a sufficient sum to make the whole amount $10,109.04. Naturally enough the infant institution took her name, for, though Abbot Academy has received many donations since Esquire Farrar electrified her by his decided advice, "Surplus money! Use it to found an academy in Andover for the education of women!" she is still its largest as well as its first giver. The grand-daughter[D] of one Abbot, the daughter of another, and the wife of a third, she led a secluded life, unillumined by those opportunities for culture which she appreciated highly for others, and oftentimes, without doubt, like other great benefactors, half uncertain if the generosity, which to her more than frugal habits must have seemed excessive, was not as injudicious as it was unusual. For, as Rev. Phillips Brooks said at a meeting on behalf of Abbot Academy, in Boston, upon the 12th of January, at the time the school was founded, great ideas and great processes which have not yet begun to fulfil themselves had just begun to impress themselves on men's minds. The old and the new existed together; and that Madam Abbot, without advantages of early education herself, could so entirely have appreciated them that she was willing to bestow her all upon the new scheme, speaks volumes for her strength and foresight. Her portrait, probably painted by T. Buchanan Read, still hangs on the wall of the pleasant hall built by her timely liberality; and women, scattered all the way from Maine to Japan, as they recall its sagacious features, quaint dress, and old-time air, say to their pupils, or record in their books, or whisper lovingly to the little children round their knees, that old Mrs. Abbot in far-off Andover was their real Alma Mater.