A Stated Meeting of the Society was held in the Hall of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday, 21 March, 1894, at three o’clock in the afternoon, Dr. Gould in the chair.
After the record of the last meeting had been read, the Corresponding Secretary read the following letter from the President of the United States: —
Executive Mansion, Washington,
February 22, 1894.
Andrew McFarland Davis, Esq., Corresponding Secretary.
My dear Sir, —I have long delayed my response to your communication informing me of my election to Honorary Membership in The Colonial Society of Massachusetts.
I desire on this day, so suggestive of the patriotic sentiments which it is the purpose of your organization to foster, to express my thanks for the honor conferred upon me by The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, with my sincere wishes for its prosperity and usefulness.
Yours very truly,
The following-named gentlemen were elected Resident Members: —
the groton historical society.
The Groton Historical Society was organized at a meeting held in Groton, 23 January, 1894.
Mr. Woods also stated that the Daughters of the Revolution bad organized a Massachusetts society, and on 25 January, 1894, had adopted a Constitution, from which it appears that the purposes of the organization are in substance those of a topical Historical Society.304 Its objects are: to keep alive the patriotic spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence; to collect and secure for preservation the manuscript rolls, records, and other documents relating to the war of the American Revolution; to encourage historical research; to promote and assist in the proper celebration of prominent events relating to or connected with the war of the Revolution; to promote social intercourse among its members, and to provide a home for and furnish assistance to such as may be impoverished, when it is in its power to do so.
Mr. Woods further remarked that the Roxbury Military Historical Society has taken active steps towards the better care and preservation of the ancient burial-ground at the junction of Eustis and Washington streets.
Mr. Archibald M. Howe presented the following list of inaccuracies and omissions in the enumeration of Societies in Massachusetts in the list of Historical Societies published by the American Historical Association in 1894: —
[Under this heading the correct title is given first.]
- Archæological Institute of America, Massachusetts branch, Boston, instead of
- Archæological Institute of America, Boston.
- Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Pittsfield, instead of
- Berkshire Historical Scientific Society, Pittsfield.
- Military Historical Society of Massachusetts, Boston, instead of
- Military Historical Society, Boston.
- Westborough Historical Society, instead of
- Westboro Historical Society.
- Old Residents Historical Association of Lowell, instead of
- Old Residents Historical Society, Lowell.
- Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, Rehoboth, instead of
- Antiquarian Society, Rehoboth.
- Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society, Dorchester, instead of
- Dorchester Historical and Antiquarian Society, Dorchester.
- Worcester Society of Antiquity, Worcester, instead of
- Society of Antiquity (T. Dickinson, Librarian), Worcester.
- Winchester Historical and Genealogical Society, Winchester, instead of
- Historical Society, Winchester.
- Bedford Historical Society, Bedford, instead of
- Bedford Historical Society, Boston.
- Lexington Historical Society, Lexington, instead of
- Historical Society, Lexington.305
- American Statistical Association, Boston.
- Fitchburg Historical Society, Fitchburg.
- Historical, Natural History, and Library Society of South Natick.
- Malden Historical Society, Malden.
- Medfield Historical Society, Medfield.
- Roxbury Military Historical Society, Boston.
- Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield.306
- Canton Historical Society, Canton.
- Cape Cod Historical Society, Yarmouth.
- Concord Antiquarian Society, Concord.
place inaccurately given.
- Universalist Historical Society, should be Tufts College, instead of College Hill.
- Boston Memorial Association.
- American Congregational Association, Boston.
- Ipswich Historical Society, Ipswich.
Mr. Howe observed that the indexes and acknowledgments of gifts in the publications of the Massachusetts Historical Society and of the American Antiquarian Society might be regarded as authorities for the titles of the Historical Societies in Massachusetts. The following errors are therefore worth noting: —
proceedings of the massachusetts historical society, 1876–1877.
- Worcester Society of Antiquaries, probably meant for
- Worcester Society of Antiquity.
- Historical Society of South Natick, probably meant for
- The Historical, Natural History, and Library Society of South Natick.
- Berkshire County Historical Society, probably meant for
- Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society.
proceedings of the american antiquarian society, october, 1890.
- Pocumtuck Valley Association, probably meant for
- Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.
Dr. Daniel Denison Slade then stated that he was much interested in the history of the gilt cross which is mounted above the entrance to the delivery room of the Library of Harvard University, on the south side of the extension of the east transept of Gore Hall. This cross, he said, was supposed to have been brought back from Louisburg by some member of the Pepperell Expedition, in 1745, and his attention had been attracted to it, not only by the exciting events of this extraordinary expedition, but by the hints which have been handed down to us that there were among the troops some, who, in a spirit of iconoclasm, are said to have equipped themselves with weapons for the destruction of the images in the little church from which the cross was probably taken.307 Dr. Slade then read extracts from Parkman, and from Bourinot,308 and from the Journal of James Gibson,309 illustrative of these points, and added that his interest in the history of this relic had led him to make inquiry among those who might be supposed to be informed concerning it, to ascertain if more facts could be obtained than had already been published in the Memorial History of Boston.310 He had not been able to find the record of the receipt of the relic by the College, but the following note, published in the Library Bulletin in June, 1878,311 contributed some additional information to that given in the sources of authority already mentioned.
“The gilt cross above the entrance of the Library is said to have been brought from Louisburg at the time of its surrender to Sir William Pepperell and the Massachusetts troops in 1745. This date is said to have been painted on it with a further inscription when it was preserved, formerly, among other relics in Harvard Hall; but after the removal of the Library from that building in 1841, these relics were transferred to a building in which the Panorama of Athens was exhibited, and in the fire in which that building was consumed the inscription on the cross was obliterated. It was subsequently placed on the wall in the eastern transept of Gore Hall, and was removed from that position at the time of the recent extension of the transept; and in December last, having been gilded, was placed as now seen.”
Dr. Slade passed round among the members present Volume V. of the “Narrative and Critical History of America,” which contains (on page 436) a reduced fac-simile of a sketch of Louisburg, taken from the original edition of the Journal of James Gibson. He also alluded to a large engraving of Louisburg, a copy of a drawing in the French archives, recently received by the College, in which the church from which the cross is supposed to have been taken, is prominently shown, and closed with a renewed expression of his deep interest in the subject, and an inquiry if any of the members could contribute any information bearing upon it.
Dr. Gould stated that the building which contained the Panorama, and which was burnt in 1845, stood in the rear of Harvard Square, near the church of the First Parish.312 From his father’s house in Roxbury, he saw the fire to which Dr. Slade had referred.
Further discussion was participated in by Mr. Andrew McF. Davis, and Mr. Henry Williams.
Mr. Edmund M. Wheelwright read the following paper:
A FRONTIER FAMILY.313
The Rev. John Wheelwright, the son of a well-to-do Lincolnshire yeoman, was graduated in 1614 at Sydney-Sussex College, Cambridge. Some memory of his prowess in college athletics held to a later time, for Cotton Mather writes that “when Wheelwright was a young spark at the University, he was noted for a more than ordinary stroke at wrestling; and afterwards waiting on Cromwell, with whom he had been contemporary at the University, Cromwell declared to the gentlemen then about him, that ‘he could remember the time when he had been more afraid of meeting Wheelwright at football, than of meeting any army since in the field.’”314
On the second of April, 1623, shortly after the death of the Rev. Thomas Storre, the father of his first wife, and the last incumbent of the living, Wheelwright was presented to the vicarage of Bilsby315 by Robert Welby, the patron. On the eleventh of January, 1632, as the Bishops’ Certificates, and Episcopal Registry of Lincoln, at the Public Records Office, London, show, he was succeeded in the living by Philip De la Mott, upon presentation by the Crown, as the presentation had there escheated “per pravitatem simoniæ.”316 It would appear that Wheelwright had arranged with the patron to resign his living for a sum of money, and that the transaction came to the knowledge of his bishop, who thereupon declared the living forfeited.
The antiquary who found these records holds that in this transaction Wheelwright was guilty of a grave offence, but the gravity of the offence cannot he fairly judged by the standards of to-day. In the early seventeenth century, and at a much later period, a church living was probably regarded as a merchantable freehold, as were commissions in the English army and navy even in our own time. A patron’s right of property in a church benefice seems to have been recognized. At all events, a high authority in ecclesiastical law317 is “not sure that a simoniacal contract to present as patron would vacate the benefice.” If patrons of livings could sell them without punishment, the clergymen who bought or who sold what they bought would not be held by public opinion guilty of “grave offence” in violating the law against simony. A law which only carried a penalty to one party to such a transaction, where the moral obligation equally applied to both parties, was so unfair that it would naturally become a dead letter. By such a law, however, a bishop could easily rid his diocese of a clergyman not to his liking, — a troublesome nonconformist, for instance.
Apparently, Wheelwright’s simoniacal act did not injure his personal reputation. Brook in his Lives of the Puritans says “he was much esteemed among serious Christians.” Hanserd Knollys318 sought Wheelwright out, after 1632, for religious conference and instruction. Later, when Wheelwright’s New England enemies tried in every way to break his influence and to justify their treatment of him, there was no intimation of any cloud on his past career. Indeed, Cotton Mather in this connection says that “his worst enemies never looked on him as chargeable with the least ill practices; he was a gentleman of the most unspotted morals imaginable; a man of most unblemished reputation.”319
Shortly after losing his benefice, Wheelwright is supposed to have lived at Anderby, Lincolnshire, where he had relatives, and also at Laceby, in the same county, where one of his children was born.
His first wife having died in 1630, he married Mary Hutchinson. In 1636, Wheelwright, with his family and Mrs. Hutchinson, his mother-in-law, emigrated to Boston. With him came his brother-in-law Augustine Storre and his family. Wheelwright was well received in the Colony. An unsuccessful attempt was made by his friends to associate him with Cotton in the Boston Church; later, he was made pastor at Mt. Wollaston of “a new church to be gathered there.” All things looked promising for a useful and happy life in his new home.
However, being a man of a contentious disposition, Wheelwright, with his sister-in-law Anne Hutchinson and Henry Vane, then Governor of the Colony, was soon in hot controversy320 with the conservative party, the question at issue being that of the “Covenant of Grace” vs. the “Covenant of Works.” The strange verbiage used in this dispute carries little meaning to us to-day, yet, in spite of all the theological hair-splitting, we can understand that the party Wheelwright so stoutly defended stood for freedom of speech and opinion, and for a more liberal theology than that held by the majority of the Puritans. “I will petition to be chosen the universal idiot of the world,” said the Rev. Mr. Ward of Ipswich, “if all the wits under the heavens can lay their heads together and find an assertion worse than this, — that men ought to have liberty of conscience, and that it is persecution to debar them of it.”
The priestly antagonism to free discussion is shown by the Rev. Mr. Welde’s lament: “But the last and worst of all, which most suddenly diffused the venom of these opinions into the very veins and vitals of the people, was Mistress Hutchinson’s double weekly lecture.”
There was not a little political partisanship mixed with these theological disputes. The controversy between Wheelwright and the conservative clergymen was the principal issue in the canvass of Winthrop as the candidate for Governor of the conservative party against Vane, who was a candidate for a second term. Winthrop was elected.
At the expiration of his term of office, Vane left the Colony in disgust. Evil days then fell on Vane’s friends; his enemies lost no time in crushing out the liberal ideas he had encouraged. Previous to Winthrop’s election, Wheelwright had been found guilty by the General Court of “sedition and contempt of the Civil Authorities,” a charge based on his metaphorical use of the word “swords” in his Fast Day sermon. This sentence was passed after a two days’ contest, when, writes William Coddington, “the priests got two of the magistrates on their side and so got the major part of them.”
After Winthrop’s election, sentence was passed on Wheelwright as follows: —
“Mr. John Wheelwright being formerly convicted of contempt and sedition and now justifying himself and his former practice, being to the disturbance of the civil peace he is by the court disfranchised and banished our jurisdiction and to be put in safe custody except he should give sufficient security to depart before the end of March.”
Wheelwright appealed “to the King’s majesty.” The Court replied that “they had full jurisdiction as expressed in their Charter.” Wheelwright, having refused to give security “for his quiet departure,” was placed in the marshal’s custody. The next day he was released “upon his promise that if he were not departed within fourteen days he would render himself at the house of Mr. Stoughton … there to abide as a prisoner.”
Although during the controversy there had been at no time fear of an armed revolt in opposition to the tyranny of the conservatives, all those who had signed a remonstrance against the treatment of Wheelwright were deprived of “guns, swords, pistols, powder, shot, & match,” and some of the leaders of the liberal party were banished. Many of the Colony’s best citizens were cut off from all active service in its public affairs. Some cause for rigorous action was not lacking. The Boston followers of Wheelwright had refused to serve in the Pequot War because their minister, who was to be their chaplain, was “under a Covenant of Works,” — an act of distinct insubordination.
In the short notice given him, Wheelwright disposed of his Mt. Wollaston lands at a loss. He left Massachusetts in November, 1637, tarried awhile just beyond the “bound-house” near Hampton; then pushed his way, through the heavy snows of that bitter winter, to the falls of the Squamscot on the Piscataqua. In the early spring he was joined by his wife and family, and by Augustine Storre, John Compton, and Nicholas Needham. These pioneers purchased from the local Sagamores a large tract of land and founded Exeter.
A little later William Wentworth, Edward Rishworth, Samuel Hutchinson, Edmund Littlefield, Philemon Pormortt, and twenty other heads of families joined the colony. All were either Lincolnshire friends321 of Wheelwright or residents of Boston and its neighborhood, who had supported him in his controversy with the colonial hierarchy.
In July, 1637, when the Antinomian controversy was at its height, several Lincolnshire families arrived in Boston. They were attracted to Massachusetts, where Anne Hutchinson, Vane, Wheelwright, Coddington, and Cotton, all Lincolnshire people, were prominent. The government gave these men permission to tarry within its borders but four months. Prompt arrangements had to be made by them for an abiding place. As they were forced to leave the Colony at about the time of Wheelwright’s banishment, it is probable that those who did not go to Rhode Island had found winter quarters along the Piscataqua.
The first year at Exeter was a busy one. The colony was harmonious without any formal government. The next year the population was doubled. Settlers of different antecedents and purposes joined the colony. As it was found necessary to have some form of government, the “Exeter Combination,”322 a document evidently drawn up by Wheelwright, was subscribed to by the colonists. One Gabriel Fish was arrested for “speaking against his Majesty.” Finally, the terms of the constitution not justifying the punishment of this contemner of royalty, he was released from custody; but the Combination was so amended that its protestations of loyalty to the Crown satisfied the most ardent royalist;323 shortly afterwards a special law was passed that made “reviling his Majesty, the Lord’s anointed,” a capital offence.
Traffic was allowed with the Indians in all things save “powder, shot, or any warlike weapons, sack or other Strong Watters.” A church was established, of which Wheelwright was the pastor.
This little Republic prospered; its independent government, however, had a short life. Against the protest of the people of Exeter, the Bay Colony planted a settlement at Hampton, territory included in the Indian purchase of Wheelwright and his associates. Exeter’s protest was met by the Baymen with the counter-claim that Exeter was within the patent of their Colony. After all the other New Hampshire plantations had acknowledged the sway of Massachusetts, in May, 1643, twenty-two Exeter settlers, but one of whom, Anthony Stanyan, was an immediate follower of Wheelwright, petitioned the General Court for annexation. The petition was granted, and Exeter came under the rule of the Bay Colony. Wheelwright and his proscribed friends were not unprepared for this turn in affairs. Two years previously, Hutchinson and Needham had arranged terms with Thomas Gorges, allowing them to take up land and build at Wells, Maine. Availing themselves of this right, these two, with Wheelwright, Storre, Wentworth, Littlefield, Rishworth, Pormortt, and six other Exeter associates, moved to the coast of Maine. By a later agreement with Gorges, Wheelwright, Rishworth, and Henry Boade, who had settled earlier at Saco, but moved at this time to Wells, were appointed a commission authorized to allot lands and to make grants to fit persons, under certain conditions, subject to Gorges’s veto. Wheelwright bought four hundred acres of land on the easterly side of Ogunquit River.324 He built a small one story house and a saw-mill at the “Town’s End.” He was, of course, the pastor of the church gathered at Wells by the Exeter Associates.
In 1607, the Plymouth Company sent out two colonies, one to Jamestown and one to the coast of Maine under Popham, with Raleigh Gilbert, the son of Sir Humphrey, as lieutenant. The Maine colony was short-lived. Later, under direct grants from the Plymouth Company, and under grants from Sir Ferdinando Gorges, settlers spread along the shore from the Piscataqua to Sagadahoc. This colony, known at first as “New Somersetshire,” was peopled as was the colony of Virginia. Many “gentlemen adventurers,” among them several younger sons of good family, sought the Maine coast as planters, traders, and for the fisheries.325 Robert Gorges,326 the son of Sir Ferdinando, came over as Governor of his father’s Province, but remained only for a short time. His cousins, Thomas and William Gorges, were longer in the Province as the patentee’s agents. At Kittery, was Francis Champernowne,327 of the best Devonshire stock, kin of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and a connection of the Gorgeses and the Pophams; at Blackpoint, Henry Jocelyn,328 of an old Hertfordshire family, and with him his friend Capt. Thomas Camock,329 a nephew of Thomas Rich, the first Earl of Warwick of that name; at Saco, Henry Boade,330 of the Hampshire gentry; at Winter Harbor, Joseph Bolles,331 an “armiger” of Nottinghamshire; at Agamenticus, Edward Godfrey,332 upon whose father’s monument in the Church of Wilmington, Kent, were carved the arms of Godfrey de Bouillon.
The bulk of the population was made up of colonists sent over by the Gorgeses, possibly not of such wretched material as Popham’s colony, but certainly not of the self-reliant and earnest character of the bulk of the Plymouth and Bay colonists. Here too were waifs, strays, and adventurers, rude in manners and loose in morals, who had drifted thither from the westward colonies and from across the ocean. The government of New Somersetshire was lax, and there is not a little evidence of a demoralized society. The colonists of this province, with many of the first settlers of New Hampshire, were for the most part from the south and west of England, not from the counties whence came the Puritan emigration, — they were not Puritans. To say the least, they had little community of feeling or interest with their neighbors of the Bay and Plymouth colonies.
Until, and even after the Revolution,333 among the people dwelling immediately about the mouth of the Piscataqua and in the Province of Maine, society had an aristocratic basis. The manner of life and the large proprietorship of Sir William Pepperell is an example of this tendency. Two forces, the climate, and the prox. imity of the Bay Puritans, worked against the development of an aristocratic society. The severity of the climate prevented the advantageous employment of many slaves; aided by the conditions of the climate and soil, the iron hand of the Bay hierarchy slowly but surely moulded gentle and common into a community of almost uniform sentiment and action. The Puritanism of the Bay, with its subtle hostility to royal power, unconsciously levelled the people into a democracy.
Wheelwright and his followers found among the settlers who had preceded them in the settlement of Wells, few, if any, gentlemen; Boade, as noted above, and Bolles joined the community on the coming of the Exeter Associates. The early inhabitants of Wells were for the most part “poor whites,” not at all the stuff to suffer martyrdom “for freedom to worship God.”
The Exeter Associates had qualities much needed in the unevenly balanced community of New Somersetshire. Immediately becoming the controlling force at Wells, they and their descendants were its recognized leaders in war and peace for one hundred and fifty years.
There was little charm and great hardship in the life at Wells. All the Exeter company of the first generation, except Edmund Littlefield, sooner or later sought homes elsewhere. Wentworth went to Dover; Hutchinson and Needham removed, probably, to Boston; Augustine Storre may have returned to England. His son, William, settled at Dover and it was possibly he who is found a little later at Ipswich. It is supposed that Joseph Storer,334 who remained at Wells, was a kinsman of Augustine Storre. Rishworth moved to York.
In October, 1643, shortly after the murder of Anne Hutchinson by Indians, Wheelwright wrote Governor Winthrop seeking pardon of the Bay Colony in terms which would make him appear a recanter of his convictions and a self-abasing apologist, if it were not that a supplementary letter to Winthrop of quite different tenor has been preserved. In the first letter he says that it then appeared to him that the cause for which he had contended was “not of that nature and consequence as was then presented to me under the false glare of Satan’s temptations and mine own distempered passions,” that he had “done very sinfully” and humbly craved the pardon of the State. It is evident that he did not expect that his words would be taken literally but rather in the sense that he was a “poor miserable sinner;” for on receiving answer from Winthrop, he hastened in reply to qualify his first letter and to explain his attitude more specifically. He asserted that he could not, “with a good conscience,” condemn himself “for such capital crimes, dangerous revelations, and gross errors” as had been charged against him; that he was willing to admit his faults, but demanded opportunity to make just defence against charges of which he deemed himself innocent; that he did not come to the court as a suitor begging mercy upon his “confession,” but to ask justice upon his “apology and lawful defence.” The second letter is thoroughly straightforward and explicit; none the less it was ignored by the General Court in the vote passed 9 May, 1644, —
“that Mr. Wheelwright (upon p̃ticular, solemne and serious acknowledgement & confession by letter, of his evill carriages & of ye Crts justice upon him for them) hath his banishmt taken offe, & is received in as a member of this com̃onwealth.”
In 1647, Wheelwright accepted a call to be the assistant of the Rev. Mr. Dalton at the church at Hampton. With those who went with him from Wells, and those already settled at Hampton, eleven heads of families of the Exeter Colony made their homes at the latter place. Samuel Wheelwright, a boy of twelve, the son by the second wife, Mary Hutchinson, went with his father to Hampton.
In 1657 or 1656, Wheelwright made a voyage to England, not at first severing his connection with the Hampton church. He remained in England six years; probably, but for the downfall of the Puritan party, he would not have returned to New England. In a letter335 to his parishioners at Hampton, bearing date 20 April, 1658, he says: —
“I have lately been at London about five weeks. My Lord Protector was pleased to send one of his guard for me, with whom [Cromwell] I had discourse in private for about an hour. All his speeches seemed to me very orthodox and gracious; no way favoring sectaries. He spake very experimentally to my appreciation of the work of God’s grace, and knowing what opposition I met withal from some whom I shall not name, exhorted me to perseverance in these words, as I remember: ‘Mr. Wheelright, stand fast in the Lord and you shall see that these notions will vanish into nothing;’ or to that effect. Many men, especially the sectaries, exclaim against him with open mouths, but I hope he is a gracious man. I saw the Lord Mayor and Sheriff with their officers carry sundry fifth monarchy men to prison, as Mr. Can, Mr. Day, with others who used to meet together in Coleman street to preach and pray against the Lord Protector and the present power.”
As to the “opposition,” these fifth monarchy men “met withal,” Wheelwright made no comment.
Hutchinson says that Cromwell, then on bad terms with Vane, was probably dissembling in the courtesy be showed Wheelwright, as he must have known of the friendship of Vane and Wheelwright. There would seem to be ground for the doubt of Cromwell’s sincerity in this instance, as he had earlier applauded the Colony for “‘banishing the evil seducers which had risen up among them,’ of whom Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson were chief.” However, the consideration shown him won Wheelwright over to the Protector’s interest, and yet his friendly relations with Cromwell did not break his friendship with Vane. Hutchinson records that Wheelwright “lived in the neighborhood of Sr Henry Vane,336 who had been his patron in New England, and now took great notice of him.” Wheelwright’s relations with Cromwell are generally understood to have proved of service to the Colony; we find in 1658 certain people of Wells and neighboring towns in a petition to the Lord Protector to confirm the jurisdiction of Massachusetts over them, referring to “their pyous and reverend friend, Mr. John Wheelwright, sometime of us, now of England,” for information concerning their character and condition.
It has been suggested that the existence of Wheelwright’s supposed portrait in the Massachusetts State House, is connected with the recognition by the Colony of his services at court.337
After Vane’s execution, Wheelwright returned to Massachusetts. He was pastor at Salisbury, where he died, being the oldest clergyman in the Colony, 15 November, 1679, aged 87. In his will he bequeathed his land at Wells and lands at Mumby, Minge, and Crofft, in “oulde England,” to his children and grandchildren. He had, in 1677, conveyed an estate at Mawthorpe, Lincolnshire, to Richard Crispe, in consideration of his marriage to his youngest daughter, Sarah. He left his “bookes” to his son Samuel, and to his “latter wife’s children all my plate to be equally divided amongst them by two indifferent parties chosen by themselves.”
Cotton Mather, who did not sympathize with Wheelwright’s religious views, for which, however, he thought him to have been “persecuted with too much violence,” says of him, “He had the root of matter in him.” This root had sprouts, which, if Mather had recognized them, he would have exerted himself strenuously to lop off. Charles Francis Adams says: —
“The seed sown by Wheelwright in 1637 bore its fruit in the great New England protest of two centuries later, when, under the lead of Channing, the descendants in the seventh generation of those who listened to the first pastor at the Mount, broke away finally and forever from the religious tenets of the Puritans.”
To return to the settlement at Wells: Alexander Rigby, a gentleman of high influence in the Puritan party, had purchased the “Plough Patent,” one of the careless grants of the Plymouth Company which overlapped territory included in Gorges’s patent. Parliament confirmed Rigby’s rights to the exclusion of Gorges, a Royalist. Gorges died in 1647. His heirs took no steps to govern what remained to them of their province, whose people, those of Piscataqua, Gorgeana (York) and Wells formed a “Combination” to govern themselves in accordance with “the law of their native country.” On this basis Edward Godfrey was chosen Governor of the province of Maine. This loose government continued until 1652, when the Bay Colony bestirred themselves to govern the whole Province. From this time on, for several years, there was a partisan struggle between the compact organization of the Bay Colony and the unassimilated people of the Province. Massachusetts claimed jurisdiction under its Charter. The people of the Province unsuccessfully appealed to Parliament that “they and their posterity might enjoy the immunities and privileges of freeborn Englishmen.” In 1653, the Colony appointed Commissioners to regulate the affairs of the Province. There was, except at Wells, general acquiescence in the authority of the Bay Colony.
Thomas Wheelwright, son of John, by his first wife, was permanently settled at Wells.338 He was an active supporter of the Bay Colony in its contest with the Gorges family for jurisdiction in Maine; in 1652 he swore allegiance, as a freeman, to Massachusetts; the following year he was appointed magistrate at Wells. At this time Massachusetts was making strenuous efforts for the submission of the people of Wells, a majority of whom did not take kindly to the rule of the “Baymen.”
Thomas Wheelwright, with others, of whom some, as Boade and Rishworth, were later of the Gorges party, petitioned the Lord Protector “for government under ye colony of ye Mass.” They asserted that the Gorges party were for the most part “professed Royalists;” that “changing may throw us back into our former estate to live under negligent masters, ye danger of a confused anarchy as may make us a fit shelter for the worst of men, delinquents, and ill-affected persons.” Under the rule of Gorges, Maine had suffered not a little by people of the kind described in this petition, still many of the better sort, although they had been forced to sign the submission of 1653, opposed the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. It is evident that the Maine people preferred lawless neighbors to the tyranny of the Baymen. Indeed, of the Exeter Associates and their sons, Thomas Wheelwright and Nicholas Cole alone consistently supported the Bay party in this controversy. Samuel Wheelwright, who returned to Wells to occupy the two hundred acres his father deeded to him before his voyage to England, did not join the political party his half-brother supported. Although the General Court exempted the people of Maine from the law of Massachusetts requiring freemen to be church-members, it did not absolve its people from the severe enactments repressing freedom of opinion. The court records show numerous prosecutions under these acts. In these political contests no small part of the opposition to the Bay Colony was due to the fear of its religious tyranny, and to this tyranny may be ascribed the later defections in Maine from the Bay party. It would appear that the “Antinomians” had more sympathy with the Church of England than with the Puritanism of the Bay; at all events, Episcopalians and Antinomians were on close terms of intimacy. Wheelwright and his associates, when forced to leave Exeter, sought asylum under a grant from Gorges. There were very friendly relations between Vane and Samuel Maverick, an Episcopalian, a sympathizer with the Gorgeses, an owner of land at Agamenticus, and in 1665 one of the King’s Commissioners appointed in the Gorges interest. Maverick’s son married a daughter of John Wheelwright. Anthony Checkley, Maverick’s friend, married another. Edward Lyde, one of the first wardens of the Episcopal church in Boston, married a third daughter. Edward Rishworth, son of one of the principal opponents of the Colony, married a fourth. The Littlefields, Pormortt, and Boade, avowed their loyalty to the Church of England. William Wardell, of the former Exeter Company, was violent in denouncing the religion of the Bay Colony; he and William Cole were strenuous in their opposition to its aggressions.
After the submission of 1653, the Bay Commissioners took under consideration the church John Wheelwright had founded at Wells. It had, at this time, but four members, Pormortt, Warded, Boade, and Francis Littlefield. Pormortt and Boade, at their own request, were dismissed; the church was then dissolved, an act without precedent, except the dissolution of the “Chapel of Ease” at Mount Wollaston. Conservative Puritanism thus crushed out the sole remaining organization of the more liberal Puritans.
Godfrey went to England to press Gorges’s claim. As a result, in 1661, a committee of Parliament reported in favor of the patentee. The next year, Gorges appointed a council of twelve to govern the Province, among them Jocelyn, Rishworth, Bolles, and Champernowne. Wells refused to send representatives to the General Court. The following year some of the towns of the Province submitted to the Colony. Wells still held aloof. The “engrasping colony,” as Godfrey aptly calls it, then took rigorous steps to assert its authority; through its commissioners it appointed its own magistrates. There were many political persecutions: for instance, James Wiggin was sentenced to fifteen lashes on his naked back for saying, “with an oath,” when asked if he would carry a dish of meat to the Bay Magistrates, “if it were poison he would carry it them.”
Charles II. now gave his support to the Gorges claim. In 1665 the King’s Commissioners339 appointed twelve magistrates to govern the Province; among them were Jocelyn, Champernowne, Rishworth, and Samuel Wheelwright. Each party in this contest had its separate government, each denying the authority of the other, each instituting against the other legal proceedings which seem to have been, in part, political persecutions.340
Early in July, 1666, the Bay Colony, finding itself thwarted by the King’s justices, sent commissioners341 to York, supported by a body of foot and horse, authorized to arrest and bring to trial all persons presuming to exercise authority not given by the Colony.
The Bay Commissioners went to the meeting-house, where they ordered the towns that had not then recognized the authority of the Colony to make returns for associates and jurymen. The King’s justices forbade the making of such returns; they presented the Commissioners with the royal warrants of their authority; these the Bay men refused to have read until they had finished their work; that afternoon they finished it, taking a leaf out of the book of the Lord Protector. Delegates from the towns, summoned by the King’s justices, convened at the meeting-house; at the convention appeared the Massachusetts Commissioners, headed by their marshal, and, we may suppose, supported by their halberdiers, and backed by grim pikemen of the Bay. They found their way through, and addressed the exasperated assembly. After a stormy debate the Bay men, in the language of the caucus, “held the rail.” With sturdy courage they declared, —
“we have been sent to settle the peace of the Province, and God willing, we mean to finish up what we have begun. We know that the King’s Commissioners have charged Massachusetts with treachery and threatened her with the vengeance of the King, but by divine assistance we have the power and we mean to exercise it.”
They did so, declaring the election of five associates, and among other appointments making two of the Littlefields, recent converts to their party, respectively, Lieutenant and Ensign at Wells.
After this, the first overt act of the Bay Colony distinctly contemning royal authority, the power of the King’s government in the Province gradually waned. On the other hand, having gained its point, the Colony does not appear to have been active in enforcing the laws in the territory it had seized, or perhaps, on account of some outbreak among its opponents, it sought to discipline the people by the temporary withdrawal of its authority. In 1668, Thomas Wheelwright writes as follows: —
“Worshipful Mr. Bellingham, — My humble service presented unto you. By the importunity of some of our neighbors, that the town of Wells is in a sad condition for lack of good government, which they had hoped they should here have enjoyed; but their hopes so defeated that it made their heart sick. Their humble desire is, that you would hasten.”
The Littlefields, with others formerly of the Gorges party, petitioned the General Court, “that our care be taken under your tuition and government, that so your honorable care of justice may be executed among us as formerly;” prefacing their petition by the statement that they had been deprived of the benefits of the Colony’s government, “by some among us who had been ill affected to your government,” explaining that the petitioners, “in revolting and turning from our former obedience,” had been led astray largely by the influence of Edward Rishworth.
There was much anger at this desertion. Several men, unwilling to abide the rule of Massachusetts, left the Province. Even with so many gone over to the Bay party, and its opponents weakened by emigration, Wells for some years persistently refused to send representatives to the General Court.
The opposition to the rule of Massachusetts gradually died away. Organized power near at hand superseded power with no force at its command, delegated from across the ocean to individuals.
In 1670, Samuel Wheelwright appears to have accepted the inevitable, and to have been in good standing with the Colony; he was then chosen one of the selectmen of Wells. In 1675, apparently at the time of threatened uprising against the authority of Massachusetts, Lieut. John Littlefield was ordered by the General Court to exercise his authority in putting down disturbances that might arise, after consulting with Samuel Wheelwright and William Sayer.
In 1676, a vote was passed in town meeting, authorizing Samuel Wheelwright, William Symonds,342 and John Littlefield to petition the King “for future settlement under the Bay Government.”
On summons from the King, dated 10 March, 1675–6, Massachusetts sent agents to England; its Charter was not annulled, but the right of soil and government of Sir Ferdinando Gorges was confirmed. Thereupon, in March, 1677, the Colony checkmated the King by purchasing from the later Ferdinando Gorges, his rights in the Province. A protest was made by certain of the Maine people. Massachusetts sent troops into the Province and proclaimed her right to govern under the Gorges purchase.343 In 1681, inasmuch as the Provincial Council instituted by Massachusetts met at Wells, it became the capital of the Province. In spite of the general acceptance of the Colony’s rule, from time to time the old rancor showed itself. John Bonython was indicted “for contempt of Massachusetts authority, and for the saying that the Baymen were Rogues, and that Rogue, Major Leverett, he hoped, will be hanged.”
Whatever the rights of the Gorgeses, whatever the faults of the Bay Colony, the people of Maine soon found that they had done well in securing the support of a strongly constituted government within quick call. Governed as they had been under the Gorgeses, the settlement would, undoubtedly, have been destroyed in the Indian wars from which it was now to suffer, intermittently, for seventy years.
“taking into their Consideration the prsent state of the Towne of wells in respect of the vnsetled frame of the Inhabitants there in this Tyme of Dainger … Ordered And Appointed that the Lieften͞nt Jno Litlefeild doe Effectually Apply himself to Comand in cheife all that are Capable of bearing Armes in yt Towne & to order them in the best manner yt may be for their mutuall safety.… [and] Consult wth mr Samuel whelewright & mr wm Symonds.… [These three men are made a committee] to Impresse all such persons, prouission, Ammunition or otherthing wthin their owne Towne as shall be necessary & cannot otherwise be had. And … all persons … there doe in no case desert the place … vpon penalty of being liable to forfeit all their estates & interests in yt towne.”344
Several attacks were made on the town, and many individuals were killed or captured, and at the close of King Philip’s War the people of Wells, with horses, cattle, and crops destroyed, were in worse estate than they were under the hard conditions of the first settlement. In the eleven years’ respite from Indian raids that followed, they made good the ravages of the past and took precautions for the next war. The town was protected by three garrison houses. Samuel Wheelwright had one at the “Town’s End;” his son, John, had another palisaded house. This foresight was to be repaid. Wells was recognized by the enemy as the stronghold of the Province. They had planned to make great efforts for its destruction.
The next war came suddenly. 23 January, 1689, Samuel and John Wheelwright and Joseph Storer sent this excited letter to Major Frost, the commander of the colonial forces in Maine: —
“These are to inform you that Lieut. Fletcher came to Wells and brought two wounded men to Wells and the Indians has killed yesterday eight or nine men at Saco, (who were looking for horses to go along after the Indians, but now are disappointed and cut off,) and they judge there are sixty or seventy Indians that fought the English and they have burnt several houses and destroyed a deal of their corn, and we judge now is the time to send some of the army east to Saco. The people are not able to bury their dead without help; and this day just as they came away, they heard several guns go off, and know not what mischief is done. Pray give York notice forthwith.”
The Baron de St. Castin, with his red brothers-in-law, was on the war-path. The garrison houses at Wells were filled with refugees from the eastward. No attack was made that year. St. Castin was held in check.
In May, 1690, Samuel Wheelwright, Joseph Storer, and Jonathan Hammond sent to Major Frost this despatch: —
“These are to inform you that the Indians and French have taken Casco Fort and to be feared that all the people are killed and taken. Therefore we desire your company here with us to put us in a posture of defence, for we are in a very shattered condition — some are for removing, some are for staying; so that we stand in great need of your assistance.”
Later, the same men, with John Wheelwright, sent a despatch to Boston urging relief, saying: “The enemy is now very near us. Saco is this day on fire. We expect them upon us in a few hours or days at least.” Major Frost wrote on the same date: “All Falmouth is certainly destroyed, and not one alive hut what is in the enemy’s hands.” He goes on to report that the scouting vessels saw —
“Black Point, Spurwink, and Richmond’s Island burning, so that nothing now remains eastward of Wells. There are 3 or 400 women and children come in from the eastward this week who will perish unless assisted of the charity of others. Wells will desert if not forthwith reinforced.”
The Commonwealth sent a strong force to the eastward. St. Castin was still kept at bay. The Indians, however, made in the spring or summer an attempt on Wells, in which two men were killed, one taken captive, and several houses burned.
Wells was now the absolute frontier. Captain Andrews, then in command, wrote to the Council in October, 1690: —
“I crave of your honors that if soldiers must be kept here that we may be relieved and others sent in our room, for there is such animosity between the soldiers and the inhabitants that there is little hopes of us doing anything that tends to God, honor, or the good of the country.”
He complained that the people were on the point of leaving the garrison for their own houses; that they would subject themselves to no discipline; “that if the enemy comes upon us I am afraid their carelessness will be both their destruction and ours also.”
The great number of refugees at Wells was a severe tax on its people. In spite of repeated appeals the government sent no provisions for their maintenance. Major Benjamin Church exerted himself to obtain assistance for the destitute. On this errand he went to Rhode Island and to Plymouth. A collection was taken up in the churches of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and forwarded to John Wheelwright, John Littlefield, and Joseph Storer, “to be appropriated as they judged necessary for the several garrisons.” The militia of York and Wells were “empowered to impress and take any fat cattle, especially from such persons as desert the Province, they giving a true account of the cattle they shall take.” Systematic preparations were made for war. The several garrisons were grouped into three commands under Samuel Wheelwright, Joseph Storer, and John Littlefield. Each was ordered to keep a constant patrol. The government did not seem to appreciate the exigency. 25 May, 1691, the Wheelwrights, Storer, and Hammond wrote to the Council, urging the need of assistance. Thirty-five men of Essex were sent to Wells in June, under the command of Captain Convers, the officer requested by the men of Wells. They came in the nick of time; half an hour after their arrival at Storer’s garrison house, an attack was made by Moxus and his band. Of this attack Governor Sloughter of New York writes: “The Eastward Indians and some French have made an assault upon ye garrisons in and neere the town of Wells and have killed about six persons thereabout. They drove their cattle together and killed them before their faces.” The siege lasted four days; then, discouraged by the resistance of the garrison, the savages retired, Madockanando crying out, “Moxus miss it this time; next year I’ll have the dog Convers out of his den.”
After the raid in July, 1691, George Burroughs, John Wheelwright, and other leaders at Wells wrote to the government “for men with provisions and ammunition for strengthening of our town,… also that there be an effectual care taken that the inhabitants of this province may not quit their places without liberty first obtained from legal authority.” Again, in September of the same year, they petitioned for soldiers and supplies.
Early in June, 1693, but fifteen soldiers garrisoned Wells. A reinforcement of thirteen men with supplies arrived by sea. Before a landing could be made “the cattel came frightened and bleeding out of the woods,” and gave warning of the approach of the enemy. Fifteen of the townsmen rallied to reinforce the soldiers at Storer’s garrison house. Five hundred Indians and Canadians led by French officers beleaguered the garrison house and the vessels, and contrary to their custom fought in the open.345 The fighting lasted three days, when the enemy withdrew having lost several of their number, among them their commander, La Broquerie, who was killed in the attempts to extricate from the mud a huge shield on wheels which his men were pushing towards the stranded sloops. This defence of Wells was, in the words of Mather, “an action as worthy to be related as, perhaps, any that occurs in our story.”
After this foray, the garrison was greatly strengthened. Though individuals were killed in the town or neighborhood, among them Major Charles Frost, who was waylaid on his return from meeting, no concerted attack was made on the town for several years. Major March succeeded to Major Frost’s command and was stationed at Wells with the ample force of five hundred men.
In such times, the owners of garrison houses were perforce inn-holders. There was relatively a greater rush of guests, and certainly a longer season for these frontier Bonifaces than now favors the Maine coast during a “hot wave.”
Wheelwright, Storer, and Littlefield were inn-holders licensed to sell liquor. Byron says: —
“There’s naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms,
As rum and true religion.”
This satire well applies to the early New Englanders. There was much hard drinking at Wells, as elsewhere in the colonies. It was customary to serve jurors rations of liquors; judges were not infrequently indicted for drunkenness.
Games of all sorts were forbidden. John Wheelwright and Joseph Storer were indicted for “keeping keeles and bowles at their houses contrary to law.” This was in the dark days of 1692, when time fell heavy on the hands of men cooped within the palisades.
At this time, the Rev. George Burroughs,346 the minister at Wells, was arrested, and executed, on the charge of witchcraft. After his arrest, we find Samuel Wheelwright with others petitioning the Governor and Council, as not only being “objects of pity with reference to the enemy and the length of the war, but also with reference to their spiritual concerns, there not being one minister of the Gospel in these parts; and in this town of Wells there are about forty soldiers and no chaplain, which does much dissatisfy them, especially some of them.” They hoped that if a minister were sent there would be “sufficient satisfaction and encouragement to stand our ground.”
In 1697, Samuel Wheelwright, then representative, petitioned that the taxes of Wells should be remitted, and that the soldiers should aid the inhabitants of Wells in rebuilding their garrisons, in view of the fact of “the distresses they are put unto, lying frontier to the enemy and often prest by their attack, and their fortifications much decayed and out of repair.” If their prayers are granted, they agree that “so will they rebuild and further adventure their lives and estates in standing their ground and defending their Majesties’ interests in those Eastern Parts.”347
At the close of the war, the people of Wells went actively into lumbering. Grants to build saw-mills at Great Falls, and later, to take logs wherever found, were given John Wheelwright and others by the General Court. To Samuel Wheelwright, also, was given a grant to build a saw-mill at the same place. Rosin and tar were manufactured. Life was simple, hard, and manly. The duties of the leaders of the settlement in peace and war were on a plane sufficiently wide to prevent them from becoming simply parochial.
Col. Samuel Wheelwright died 13 May, 1700. We have seen him early appointed magistrate at Wells by the King’s Commissioners. In 1677, he was representative at the General Court for York and Wells. In 1681, he was appointed by Charles II. one of the Provincial Council of Maine; in 1689, Judge of Probate; by William and Mary, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He was a member of the Massachusetts Council for the Province of Maine, 1695–1698.
This clause in his will has interest: “I do give and bequeath to Esther, my beloved wife, all my cattle of all sorts, with my negro servant named Titus.”
The vessels that brought rum and molasses to Wells brought slaves also. They were sold in open market at Wells and York; their offspring were disposed of with as little compunction by their masters, as their descendants would to-day sell a calf. The “institution” of slavery appears to have had greater vitality in the Province of Maine than elsewhere in New England. At York there was a slave factory, in which were kept several negro families whose children were regularly sold to those who chose to buy. Here was a germ of an industry like to that which in later times so flourished in the Old Dominion.
During the war of ’92, two companies of soldiers were quartered at John Wheelwright’s garrison. Finding the house too small for their accommodation, they tore it down; shortly afterwards, before the house could be rebuilt, the troops were ordered to another station. The government did not make restitution. Later, Wheel-wright rebuilt the house at his own expense.
In 1700, there was presented to the General Court the petition of John Wheelwright,348 then representative, which states “that by reason of a long and wasting warr the greatest part of the inhabitants are slaine or gone out of the Towne and butt about 6 houses left in which are about Twenty six or Twenty seven familyes and most of them extremely poor, and the Enemy did also burne the house which they had built for the publick worship of God.” They ask assistance now that peace was “concluded,” to rebuild their church and to pay their minister’s salary, “otherwise the ordinances of God will in great measure Sink among them, who are not able alone to afford a Subsistence to a Minister.” An order in Council was passed “for payment of fifteen pounds unto Mr. Samuel Emery, Minister of Wells.”349
War was declared against England by France in August, 1702. John Wheelwright wrote to Governor Dudley that, having had experience of the “horrible desatefulness” of the Indians, he did not trust their vows of friendship on which the Governor seemed to rely.
“Their teachers instruct them that there is no faith to be kept with Hereticks such as they account us to be.… This town being nearest the enemy and the farthest from any help or Relief, we cannot but apprehend ourselves to be in great danger, and especially at this season of the year, our necessities calling us generally from our homes to get our bay and corn secured. Our inhabitants do therefore pray that your Excellency should assist us with some men, twenty or thirtie.”
At the same time Wheelwright begged permission to build a garrison house at the Town’s End, or else he should be forced to carry a large family to “the middle of the town” where he had “but little to maintain them withal.” After some delay the permission to build the garrison house was granted, but too late to add to the strength of the town. On the tenth of August, 1703, it was surprised by the Indians. Wells then suffered the greatest disaster in its history; thirty-nine of its inhabitants were killed or captured, among them many of the Wheelwright kin. Two nephews of John Wheelwright — one a babe, the other a boy of five, children of William and Anne Parsons — were killed, and their young sister taken captive. The father and mother fled to York. The records of the Seigniory of St. Sulpice at Le Lac des Deux Montagnes350 show that Anne Parsons, with her daughter Catherine, was captured at York 22 August of the same year. Catherine was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. The fate of her mother is unknown. Her father survived the destruction of his family but a few months.
In this raid on Wells, Esther, a daughter of Col. John Wheelwright, was captured. Her father tried in vain to effect her exchange. In his will, he pathetically mentioned “daughter Esther Wheelwright, if living in Canada, whom I have not heard from these many years, and hath been absent about thirty years.” Esther’s name appears in a Canadian list of English captives taken in the wars between New France and New England and baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. She is there recorded as an Ursuline nun, called “of the Infant Jesus.” She was, tradition says, Superior of the convent. She was buried at Quebec, 28 November, 1785. Letters from her to her family when in Canada are known to have been in existence; a piece of her embroidery, worked in the convent, with certain Indian curiosities, sent by her to her grand-niece, Esther Wheelwright of Roxbury, were seen, fifty years ago, by a member of the family now living. All trace of these letters and gifts is lost.
In this list of converted captives are the names of Mary (Rishworth) Plaisted, a cousin of John Wheelwright, and her two daughters. They were captured 25 January, 1692, probably in the attack on York.
In this connection extracts from letters of a later captive, Lieut. Josiah Littlefield, have interest. He writes from Montreal in 1708:
“Now I have liberty granted me to rite to my friends and to the governor, and for my redemption and for Wheelrite’s child to be redeemed by two Indian prisoners that are with the English now, and I have been with the Governor this morning and he has promised that if our governor will send them we shall be redeemed, for the Governor has sent a man to redeem Wheelrite’s child and do looke for him in now every day with the child to Moriel where I am, and I would pray Whelerite to be brief in this matter, that we may come home before winter.”
Another letter from Littlefield says: “I would pray you … Wheelwright dear friends to be mindful in the matter concerning our redemsion. I have riten to the governor at boston.”
After the raid of 1703, Wells was left in a pitiable condition. John Wheelwright headed this petition to the General Court, asking remission of taxes: —
“We who are the Frontier wing of the body of the Frontier towns are most of all impoverished and diminished. More than a third part of us who are left, being destitute of employment and income, are so exceeding poor that if the constable, who hath already used all means more gentle should execute the law in severity he must take their bodies.”
The General Court ordered a fair abatement of the tax levy.
In spite of the danger of outdoor work, John Wheelwright tore down that fall the house built by his grandfather at the “Town’s End,” and built on its site a new garrison house. Hostilities ceased, as was usual, with the coming of winter. In the spring, the Indians went again on the war-path. Refugees and the townspeople again flocked inside the palisades. The annals of this war record desultory attacks upon individuals and upon small parties. The Indians had found this method of work less dangerous to themselves and more harassing to the English than general attacks upon the town.
A man with a guard of three soldiers went out a mile from Wheelwright’s garrison to bring in cattle. A party of Indians, waylaid them on their return; two of the Englishmen were killed, and one captured. There were numerous captives taken and many persons killed from time to time.
The following year a party of Indians attacked Winter Harbor; Wells was warned by a messenger; the great guns gave warning to the people. The Indians made no attack. They hovered in the neighborhood and picked off stragglers. It was at this time that Lieutenant Littlefield, whose letters from Canada have been quoted, was captured.
The government finally made an aggressive campaign to the eastward and in Acadia, so that Wells was freed from Indian attacks until the fall of 1709, when a soldier was killed as he went between a garrison house and the village. The savages came again in the spring of 1710. They killed two men who were planting corn. During the next year, several people, surprised either in their fields or houses, were killed or wounded. The straits to which the people were reduced to find opportunity to plant for a crop, with any protection from Indian attack, is shown by the permission granted to certain persons to till the highway four rods wide in the neighborhood of John Wheelwright’s garrison house.
On the fifteenth of September, 1712, there was a great merry-making at John Wheelwright’s house. His daughter Hannah was married to Elisha Plaisted. The bridegroom came from his home at Portsmouth with a large escort of friends. Guests came, too, from all the country round. The whole party spent the night within the stockade.
In the morning, when some of the guests started for home, several horses were missing. The three men who went in search of the horses had gone but a short distance when two were killed, and the third wounded and captured by the Indians. The firing told the story at the garrison. The bridegroom and eight or ten others, with a rashness perhaps not unconnected with the festivities of the previous night, rushed to their horses and started in pursuit of the Indians. Two hundred savages, lurking in ambush, fired on the party. One was killed; all the horses were shot under their riders. The bridegroom was taken prisoner. The rest of the party retreated. Seventy men set out to give battle to the Indians, who were concealed in the forest. A slight skirmish took place, in which one man was killed on either side. A flag of truce was then sent out to learn upon what terms Plaisted’s ransom could be had. The Indians, knowing that they had a valuable prize, were in no haste to come to terms. They disappeared, taking with them their captives. The next that was heard of Plaisted was in this letter written to his father: —
Sir, —I am in the hands of a great many Indians, with which there are six captains. The sum that they will have for me is 50 pounds, and 30 pounds for Tucker, my fellow prisoner, in good goods, as broadcloth and some provisions, some tobacco pipes, pomistone, stockings, and a little of all things. If you will come to Richmond’s Island in five days at farthest, for here are two hundred Indians and they belong in Canada. If you do not come in five days you will not see me, for Captain Nathaniel, the Indian, will not stay no longer, for the Canada Indian is not willing to sell me. Pray, sir, do not fail, for they have given me one day for the days were but four at first. Give my kind love to my dear wife.
This from your dutiful son till death,
When ransomed, Plaisted took his wife to Portsmouth.351 It is supposed that Hannah’s younger brother, Jeremiah, left the frontier with her. He lived in Portsmouth, and from him is descended the Newburyport branch of the family.
A treaty of peace was signed the following year. Wells then had respite from these savage raids. Her people were much impoverished, their tillage had been restricted through fear of attack, their houses, barns, and saw-mills burned, their cattle killed. Although lacking in material things, and not a little fallen from the standards of living brought from the mother country by the first settlers, these sons and grandsons of the Exeter Associates were, as the New England phrase goes, “real folks.” They had intelligence, fair education,352 physical strength, courage, and character qualities that made them good counsellors in peace and trusted leaders in war.
The social lines of this frontier community were drawn with sharpness. It would seem that civic or military service, with property and character, rather than the claims of descent, was the basis upon which such matters were decided. In the division of pew-holders into classes, the lines were distinctly drawn through their own brothers and kinsfolk.
After Queen Anne’s War, the several industries of Wells prospered. Its population increased. The vote of the town-meeting of March, 1716, shows that this increase of population was not thought to be an unmixed good by the old settlers who had fought in defence of the settlement. By this vote, which was signed by the landowners of Wells, headed by Col. John Wheelwright, the claim was made of “right and property of all common and undivided lands within said township, for themselves and for their heirs forever.”
In 1718, when the Scotch-Irish colonists from about Londonderry came to New England and had selected for their settlement the tract now called Londonderry, in New Hampshire, they were referred to Col. John Wheelwright to obtain title to the land, as “he had the best Indian title derived from his ancestors.” There were one or two other claimants of the same territory, a tract ten miles square, yet the government protected the settlers under Colonel Wheelwright’s deed, which is dated 20 October, 1719, in which he conveys “by virtue of a Deed or Grant made to his grandfather a minister of the Gospel 17 May 1629.”353
“Charge the people within the district of your regiment to be very careful when they go into the fields not to expose themselves by going out weak and without arms, but that they associate in their work in parties of ten or a dozen men, well armed, keeping a centinel with their guns.”
It would appear that these admonitions were little heeded; several parties and individuals at work in the fields were after this warning slaughtered by the Indians.
In August, 1724, three companies of English, in which were several men of Wells, attacked the Indian village of Norridgewock. Rale, the French priest, was killed, and the village destroyed.354
One incident of this war seems to reflect little credit on a son of Colonel Wheelwright, and, almost certainly, none on the men under his command. In November of the same year, Capt. Samuel Wheelwright355 was ordered to go with a company of fifty men to dislodge a party of Indians who were back of Ossipee Pond. The detachment delayed three days at Wells in making preparations. On account of the “heavy snow on the bushes,” they consumed six or seven days more in a march of sixty miles. Finally, the Captain’s journal says: “In the morning when I came to muster the men in order to march, some were sick, some lame, and some deadhearted, and the snow being somewhat hard, so that I could not get over 18 or 20 that were fit to march forward; upon which I called the officers together for advice, and so concluded to return again, which was contrary to my inclination.” Whatever Samuel’s “inclination” may have been, that of his men is only too evident; they accomplished the return journey in two or three days.
The “deadheartedness” of the Wells levy missed for its people the glory of sharing in Lovewell’s victory which practically ended this war; although, as this letter of Col. John Wheelwright to the Lieutenant-Governor, dated 27 October, 1726, shows, the people of the Province were still subject to savage maraudings: —
“Philip Durrell of Kennebunk, went from his house with one of his sons to work, the sun being about two hours high, leaving at home his wife, a son twelve years old, and a married daughter with a child 20 months old. He returned home, a little before sunset, when he found his family all gone, and his house set on fire, his chests split open and all his clothing carried away. He searched the woods and found no signs of any killed.”
It was later learned at a conference with the Indians that the boy was sold to the French and the other three killed.
Wells had suffered less in this than in previous wars. Not a few had been killed, but there had been no attack in force on the town. The Indians had found Wells a hard nut to crack in the past wars; now the number and strength of the garrison houses had been increased. In 1724, on the death of Mr. Emery, the minister, Col. John Wheelwright and Deacon Thomas Wells were appointed a committee to go to Boston and Cambridge to get some one to preach for several weeks. They were directed to apply first to Mr. Lowell, then to Mr. Thompson, then to Mr. Dennis. Mr. Thompson preached for six weeks and returned. Finally, Mr. Samuel Jefferds, a Harvard graduate of 1722, accepted the call. He married Sarah, daughter of Col. John Wheelwright. He lived in the manse, built in 1727, which was standing until three years ago.
In the spring of 1745, the fighting men of Wells, sixty-two strong, among them Thomas, the son of Joseph Wheelwright, rallied under Col. John Storer, to join that strangely combined muster and camp-meeting, the expedition against Louisburg. Probably there were few in the Provincial army who answered the summons to war with more alacrity than the men of Wells; a chance was offered to pay, with interest, their old scores against the French and Indians. Jeremiah Wheelwright, who went with the Plaisteds to Portsmouth, after the disagreeable ending of their nuptial festivities, was a lieutenant in a New Hampshire regiment in the Louisburg expedition.356
At this time, if we can trust the prejudiced statement of the people of Kittery in a petition for remission of their taxes, “Wells has excellent farms, a Lumber trade too. Seated in a Pleasant Bay for fish, a Wealthy and Careful People, Can Well Surport themselves and are as independent as any town in the County.”
Col. John Wheelwright died 13 August, 1745. He had been called “the bulwark of Massachusetts for defence against Indian assaults.” Besides his services at home, he had been an officer under Captain Convers, went to Pemaquid and Sheepscot, thence to Taconnet, and was afterwards stationed at Fort Mary on Saco River. In 1742, he and Eliakim Hutchinson, probably of Boston, were chosen representatives for Wells. He was appointed Commissioner to the Indians in 1717, and again in 1721,357 a Councillor of the Province, Judge of Probate, and of the Court of Common Pleas. His effigy, in judge’s robes, evidently from a portrait, is carved in low relief upon his tombstone in the “town lot,” at Wells.
This item in Col. John Wheelwright’s will is of interest: —
“In consideration of the love and affection I bear to my beloved wife, I give her all my cattle and creatures of every kind, negro and mulatto servants.”
When war was declared against France in 1753, a considerable levy went from Wells to serve under Wolfe in his Canadian campaign, among them Simon Jefferds, a grandson of Col. John Wheelwright; and there is a tradition that his son, Lieut. Jeremiah Wheelwright, of Portsmouth, was with Wolfe at Quebec. During this war, another grandson, Daniel Wheelwright, went to Fort Halifax. With the fall of Quebec, Wells ceased to be a frontier town.
In the later times of comparative freedom from Indian attack, Col. John Wheelwright probably prospered in his various enterprises, for we find his eldest son, John, a merchant in Boston before he was thirty. He is described as of “Boston and Wells.” He was a Councillor of the Province, as had been his father and grandfather. He died in 1760, in Boston, where he is buried in King’s Chapel burying-ground; on his tomb is carved a coat-of-arms.358
John Wheelwright’s eldest son Nathaniel359 was a merchant of London, England; his youngest son Joseph went to Halifax on the evacuation of Boston. Neither of these sons or their descendants ever returned to New England.
Job, son of Col. John Wheelwright’s second son Samuel, also settled in Boston; he was a protestor against Whigs in 1774. He is found in Boston after the Revolution, and from him is descended the Boston branch of the family.
The other sons of Samuel stayed at Wells; from them and from Joseph, the brother of Col. John Wheelwright, are descended all the Maine Wheelwrights; they were Whigs in the Revolution, as were the descendants of Jeremiah Wheelwright of Portsmouth. Several men of these families served the patriot cause in the Revolution.360
The descendants of the Rev. John Wheelwright and of his Exeter Associates were in successive generations until after the Revolution the recognized leaders at Wells. Men of their blood probably control its town affairs to-day. It is possible that the enterprises of the town may yield as much return now as a century or more ago, but relatively, as compared with developments elsewhere, Wells has no importance. Once the capital of the Province of Maine, it is now but a straggling farm village; its people, the descendants of the Exeter Associates and of the Bay Puritans, of the “gentlemen adventurers” and of the “poor whites” of “New Somersetshire” alike have merged into the mass of the country-folk of the Maine coast.
Mr. Edward Wheelwright communicated a Memoir of Francis Parkman for publication in the Transactions.
birth and ancestry.
Francis Parkman, eldest son of the Rev. Francis (H. C. 1807) and Caroline (Hall) Parkman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, 16 September, 1823.
He was a lineal descendant, both on his father’s and on his mother’s side, of ancestors resident in the Colonies both of The Massachusetts Bay and of Plymouth prior to their union in 1692, and thus amply fulfilled one of the requisites for admission to The Colonial Society of Massachusetts.361 His earliest American ancestor in the paternal line, Elias Parkman, was living at Dorchester, Massachusetts, as early as 1633; while a progenitor on his mother’s side, John Cotton of Plymouth (as he was called, to distinguish him from his father, John Cotton of Boston), was pastor of the church in that town, to which he removed with his family in November, 1667; and his son Rowland, from whom Parkman was descended, was born in Plymouth in December of the same year.362
Mr. Parkman’s descent in the paternal line, through eight generations, is as follows: —
- 1. Thomas Parkman, of Sidmouth, Devon, England.
- 2. Elias Parkman, born in England, settled in Dorchester, Mass., 1633, married Bridget.
- 3. Elias, b. in Dorchester, Mass., 1635, m. Sarah Trask of Salem.
- 4. William, b. in Salem, Mass., 1658, m. Eliza Adams of Boston.
- 5. Ebenezer, b. in Boston, 1703, minister at Westborough, Mass.; m. (2d) Hannah Breck.
- 6. Samuel, b. in Westborough, m. (2d) Sarah Rogers.
- 7. Francis, b. in Boston, 1788, m. (2d) Caroline Hall.
- 8. Francis, b. in Boston, 1823.
The following is his descent on the mother’s side, through the same number of generations, from John Cotton: —
- 1. John Cotton, b. in England, 1585, m. (2d) Sarah Hankredge of Boston, England, widow of William Story. Came to Boston, 1633.
- 2. John Cotton, b. in Boston, Mass., 1639, m. Joanna Rossiter.
- 3. Rowland Cotton, b. in Plymouth, 1667, m. Elizabeth Saltonstall, widow of Rev. John Denison.
- 4. Joanna Cotton, b. in Sandwich, 1719, m. Rev. John Brown of Haverhill, Mass. (H. C. 1714.)
- 5. Abigail Brown, born in —, m. Rev. Edward Brooks of Medford.
- 6. Joanna Cotton Brooks, b. in —, 1772, m. Nathaniel Hall of Medford.
- 7. Caroline Hall, b. in Medford, 1794, m. Rev. Francis Parkman of Boston.
- 8. Francis Parkman, b. in Boston, 1823.
Of Elias Parkman, his first American ancestor, it is known that he resided in Dorchester, Windsor, Ct., and lastly Boston, and that he married and had nine children, — six sons and three daughters. Two of the sons, John and Samuel, appear to have gone to Virginia. Two daughters were married: one, Abigail, to John Trask, of Salem; the other, Rebecca, to John Jarvis, of Boston. Elias, the eldest son, married a daughter of Captain William Trask, of Salem, and resided in that town till 1662–63, when he removed with his family to Boston. His death took place at Wapping, London, England, in 1691.
William, eldest son of Elias and Sarah (Trask) Parkman, born in Salem 29 March, 1658, was in 1712 one of the original members, and afterward a ruling elder, of the New North Church in Boston.363 He married, in 1680, Eliza, daughter of Alexander and Mary Adams, of Boston, and died in Boston, 30 November, 1730. He was buried in the graveyard on Copp’s Hill.
Ebenezer, twelfth child of William and Eliza (Adams) Parkman, born in Boston 5 September, 1703, was a man of note. He graduated at Harvard College in 1721, at the age of seventeen, and in 1724, when only twenty-one, was ordained minister of the church at Westborough, Massachusetts, a position which he held for fifty-eight years, relinquishing it only with his life in 1782, in the eightieth year of his age. He is spoken of as a good example of the New England minister of the olden time. He magnified his calling, and was careful not to lower its dignity, wielding almost despotic power with firmness guided by discretion and tempered with kindness.364 He was largely concerned in making the history of the town, and also in writing it. The records of the church were carefully and neatly kept by him on diminutive pages and in a microscopic hand during the whole of his pastorate, and he also kept during the same period a private diary written in the same almost undecipherable characters.365 A portion of this diary is preserved in the library of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester; other portions have been distributed among his descendants. Its quaint humor was a never-ceasing delight to his great-grandson the historian.
It would have been a strange sight to modern eyes to see the worthy pastor returning placidly on horseback from Boston, with conscience void of offence, while a negro slave, just purchased of his father, William Parkman, trudged dejectedly behind. A little more than a year after, the slave, whose name was Maro, sickened and died; when his master made this quaintly sad entry in his diary: “Dark as it has been with us, it became much darker about the sun-setting; the sun of Maro’s life Sat.”366
Many of the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman’s sermons have also been preserved, two of them, at least, in print. One of these was the “Convention Sermon,” which he was invited to preach before the convention of ministers of the Province of Massachusetts Bay on 28 May, 1761. This invitation was thought a great honor for the Westborough parson, and testifies to the esteem in which he was held by his ministerial brethren. In it he alludes to Wolfe’s then recent victory at Quebec, an achievement destined to receive new lustre from the pen of his great-grandson one hundred and twenty-three years later.367
The reverend pastor, or, as he is styled on his tombstone, “the first Bishop of the Church in Westborough,”368 also wrote “An Account of Westborough,” which has been printed in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Collections, Second Series, Vol. X., p. 84. It is only two pages in length; but in that brief space he falls into error in regard to the origin of the name “Chauncy,” first given to the infant settlement, and still retained by a sheet of water within the limits of the town. He had relied too implicitly upon a local tradition,369 — a fault which we may be sure his great-grandson would never have committed.
The minister was twice married, and had sixteen children, eight sons and eight daughters, all but three of whom lived to grow up. His third son, William, was the boy of seventeen who at Ticonderoga, in 1758, “carried a musket in a Massachusetts regiment,” as related by his great-nephew, and “kept in his knapsack a dingy little note-book in which he jotted down what passed each day.”370 There is an earlier mention of this youth in his father’s diary, where it is recorded that “Mr Solomon Wood, Tything man, complains of [his] rudeness at church.”371 He was then ten years old. Another son, Breck Parkman, was one of the minute-men who marched from Westborough on 19 April, 1775.372
But the son in whom we are most interested was Samuel, the sixth son and twelfth child, who, like many another poor boy, left his native village in early youth, to make his fortune, and made it. He became in fact one of the richest merchants of the New England metropolis, and the share of his ample means which finally descended to his grandson enabled the historian to meet the heavy cost of the researches without which his work would have been impossible. He was a man of fine presence and courtly manners, warm-hearted, hospitable, and generous. Like his father, he was twice married, but did not quite equal him in the number of his children; he had only eleven.
He was a liberal benefactor of Harvard University, having in 1814 conveyed to the Corporation a township in the District of Maine containing upwards of twenty-three thousand acres, then valued at twenty thousand dollars, to be applied to the support of a theological professor. The land, however, soon declined in value, and when sold the proceeds amounted to scarcely more than a fourth of the sum intended to be given. President Quincy, in his “History of Harvard University,” in recording the gift, says of the giver: —
“Through assiduity and talent he rose to eminence and opulence among the merchants of Boston. His manners were simple, and his habits domestic and retired. His virtues sought their chief field for exercise in the domestic circle, where his affections were fixed and reciprocated by a numerous and most attached family. During twenty-three years he held the office of deacon in the New North Church in Boston, and that society was the frequent object of his bounty, as well as of his care.… Mr. Parkman, after a life of prosperity and usefulness, died in September, 1824, in the seventy-second year of his age, respected and lamented.”373
The Rev. Francis Parkman, father of the historian, is well remembered by the older members of our Society. Born in Boston in 1788, he graduated at Harvard in 1807, and received the honorary degree of S. T. D. in 1834. From 1813 to 1849 he was the beloved pastor of the New North Church in Boston, — the same church of which his great-grandfather, William Parkman, was one of the founders in 1712, and of which his father, Samuel Parkman, had been deacon. The church edifice, built in 1804, still stands at the corner of Hanover and Clark Streets, very little altered in external appearance. It has now passed into the possession of the Roman Catholics, by whom it has been named the Church of St. Stephen. Mr. Parkman was from 1819 to 1849 one of the Overseers of Harvard University, to which, in 1840, he made a donation of five thousand dollars as supplementary to his father’s gift; and the two united, together with contributions from a few other persons, now constitute the endowment of the Parkman Professorship of Theology. He published in 1829 “The Offering of Sympathy,” a work which was highly esteemed both in England and in this country. Some occasional sermons from his pen were also printed. He held a prominent place among the Unitarian clergy of his day, was esteemed an eloquent preacher, and was thought to have “a special gift in prayer.” His conversation was delightful, abounding in wit and humor. He was a kind and indulgent father, and though he did not sympathize with all his son’s aspirations and pursuits, he never thwarted or opposed them.
Of John Cotton of Boston, who heads the list of Francis Parkman’s ancestors in the maternal line, it is not necessary to speak.
His son, John Cotton of Plymouth, is not so well known, yet he was in many respects a remarkable man. He had a wonderful facility in acquiring the language of the Indians, and preached to them in their own tongue for two years as an assistant to the elder Mayhew at Martha’s Vineyard. He also, at the request of the apostle Eliot, revised and corrected the second and last edition of the Indian Bible.
“He was,” says his son Rowland, “a living Index to the Bible. He had a vast and strong memory … had a noted faculty in sermonizing and making speeches in public.… He was … a tender parent, a hearty friend, helpful to the needy, kind to strangers,” and moreover, “was a man of universal acquaintance and correspondence, so that he had and wrote (perhaps) twice as many letters as any man in the country.”
He graduated at Harvard College in 1657, and died at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1699, of yellow fever.374
His son, Rowland Cotton, was also a graduate of Harvard (1685). At the age of twenty-five he was chosen to the pastoral office in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and retained the position until his death, a period of more than thirty years. “He had a good faculty in making and delivering his sermons, so that he was a celebrated and admired preacher,… yet would never suffer any of his works to come out in print.… He had and wrote, as his father before him, a multitude of letters.” Like his father, also, he was well versed in the Indian language, and preached to the natives once a month.375 His wife was the only daughter of Nathaniel Saltonstall (H. C. 1659), and great-granddaughter of Sir Richard Saltonstall. Thus, through her, our historian was descended from still another of the historic families of New England, whose lineal representative in the eighth generation we count among our members.376
Mention should be made of another of Mr. Parkman’s maternal ancestors, his great-grandfather, the Rev. Edward Brooks, of Medford, where he was born in 1733. He graduated at Harvard in 1757, and a few years later was called to the church at North Yarmouth, Maine, where, however, he remained only five years, having been dismissed on account of his too liberal views. Returning to his native town in 1769, he was residing there at the outbreak of the Revolution. “On the 19th of April, 1775,” as related by his son, Peter Chardon Brooks, “he went over to Lexington, on horseback, with his gun on his shoulder and in his full-bottomed wig.” His chief exploit on that eventful day appears to have been saving the life of a wounded British officer. In April, 1777, he was appointed chaplain of the frigate “Hancock,” and that vessel being soon after captured by a British fleet, he was carried as a prisoner to Halifax. While detained there on parole he took the small-pox, from which he recovered, and on being released returned to Medford; but his health was shattered, and he died in 1781, at the age of forty-eight.377
Francis Parkman, the historian, was born in what was then called Somerset Place. It is now Allston Street, and runs east and west from Bowdoin Street to Somerset Street, across the northern slope of Beacon Hill. The house, which is still standing, though much altered, is No. 4a. It is now let in apartments, and is called “The Lyndhurst.”
About 1829 or 1830, or when Francis was six or seven years old, the family removed to No. 1 Green Street, a large house known as the Gore house, having been previously the residence of Mr. Samuel Gore. It is related that the future historian, anxious to be of use in the important business of moving, and, with characteristic independence unwilling to allow others to do for him what he felt fully able to do for himself, insisted upon transporting a portion of his personal effects from the old residence to the new upon his sled, though, as the month was April, there was no snow upon the ground. Fortunately, the passage of the loaded sled over the bare pavement was facilitated by the fact that the whole distance traversed was down-hill.
It was soon after this that the boy, then eight years old, went to live at Medford with his maternal grandfather, Nathaniel Hall, who, having then retired from business, was carrying on a farm about a mile distant from the centre of the town. Here young Parkman attended, as a day-scholar, the boarding-school for boys and girls kept by Mr. John Angier (H. C. 1821), which for twenty years had a high reputation, and counted among its hundreds of pupils more than one who attained high distinction in after life.378
But there was a better school than Mr. Angier’s in the immediate vicinity, — one, at least, which young Parkman liked better, and in which he proved himself an apt pupil. This was the rocky and hilly region lying mostly in Medford and its next neighbor on the north, Stoneham, now known as the Middlesex Fells. It is a tract of some four thousand acres, or six or seven square miles, in extent, which the early settlers had vainly endeavored to convert into farms. They hewed down the primeval forest; but the uneven, rocky surface and scanty soil proved rebellious to the plough, and the only traces now remaining of their attempted occupancy are apple-trees grown wild and stone walls tumbling to ruin. For at least a hundred years it has been practically “abandoned” land, and since the introduction of coal as fuel, is no longer utilized even for wood lots. The frequency of forest fires has prevented the natural renewal of the gigantic growths which once clothed its hill-tops, but it has even in its present denuded condition many features of rare loveliness.379
Here young Parkman delighted to spend his leisure hours, learned to trap the squirrel and the woodchuck, and began that intimate acquaintance with Nature in her ruder aspects which was to stand him in such good stead in writing his histories. Here began or was developed that love of the wild wood and of all things that live or grow in it which in his life as well as in his books was one of his strongest characteristics. Years afterward, when visiting a friend residing in the country, the thing he found most to admire in the house, that which interested him most, was a rug made of the skins of three raccoons that had been trapped on the premises. He seemed never to tire of contemplating the three tails of the wild creatures as they lay side by side on the floor, reconstructing in his mind, no doubt, their agile former owners, and following them in imagination to their secret haunts among the rocks and trees, or accompanying them on predatory excursions to neighboring hen-yards.
In the Fells he found “books in the running brooks” that he studied with more zeal than those given him to con at Mr. Angier’s school, and in its stones, if not “sermons,” something that interested him more than sermons would probably have done. It was here that he began the collection of minerals, to hold which his father had a cabinet made for him, which he preserved through life, and which to the day of his death stood in his house at Jamaica Plain, ready to receive any choice rarity that might turn up.
This aptitude to receive the teachings of Nature was his only resemblance to the fantastic philosopher of the Forest of Arden. There was nothing “melancholy” in his composition, either as a boy or at any time.
While thus living with his grandfather at Medford, Parkman was accustomed to pass every Sunday with his parents in Boston, — his father driving out for him on Saturday, and bringing him home in his chaise. By his own confession, this temporary change to a city life was not altogether to his taste. So soon as the horse’s hoofs began to clatter on the city pavement, he would affect to look about him with the dazed and bewildered air proper to a rustic youth on his first visit to the metropolis. He wished to be taken for a country boy, unfamiliar with city sights and sounds.
After four or five years, this free country life came to an end, and young Parkman, then about twelve years old, returned to reside continuously with his parents in Green Street, becoming once more, as he had been born, a Boston boy. In the rear of the Green Street residence was a barn which had never been used. In the loft of this barn, Parkman, with several of his cousins and other boys, established a theatre, painted their own scenery, and for the most part made their own dresses, though the more elaborate costumes were sometimes borrowed from the good-natured Mr. Pelby, manager of the National Theatre. The performances took place on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, and were continued for one or two years. A play-bill, printed by F. Minot, who was one of the company, has been preserved. Its date is May 7, 1836, and the performance is announced to be for the “Benefit of Mr. F. Parkman.” Two plays were to be given: in the first, “Bombastes Furioso,” the part of Distafina was assigned to the beneficiary; the second was “King’s Bridge Cottage,” the action of which was supposed to take place during the Revolutionary War. In this the principal character, as indicated by capital letters, appears to have been Valmore, and was to be played by F. Parkman, whose name is also printed in capitals. His Distafina is said to have been charming.
Not long after the date of this play-bill the family moved into the stately mansion built by Samuel Parkman, the historian’s grandfather, for his own residence. It was occupied by him until his death, in 1824, and afterward by his widow, who died in 1835.
This mansion, which was numbered 5 on Bowdoin Square, stood at the western comer of Chardon Street, and marked the junction of the square with Green Street. It was an excellent specimen of the Colonial residences once so common in and around Boston, which the architects of to-day employ their best efforts to reproduce. It was a large square house, three stories in height, and built of brick, though the front was sheathed with wood, divided into panels imitating courses of stone with bevelled edges. Within was a fine entrance hall, and a noble staircase with spiral balusters. When the house was demolished, the historian caused these balusters to be carefully removed and placed on the stairs of the house which he built for himself at Jamaica Plain. They are the sole relics of his grandfather’s house that have been preserved. There was a “front yard” enclosed by a light and simple iron fence with tall square pillars at the corners. In the rear was a large, paved court-yard, and beyond that, where the land sloped rapidly to the north, was a garden, divided into terraces, one below the other, and devoted to the cultivation of fruits rather than of flowers. The flavor of a certain choice variety of Bergamot pear which grew there still lingers in the memory of those who were ever so fortunate as to taste it.
The house ceased to be the residence of the family in 1854. It was then leased to the National government, and was until 1859 the United States Court House. From this time it fell rapidly in the social scale, and after having been used for a few years for purposes little befitting its ancient dignity, was finally taken down. All the space once occupied by the house and its dependencies has long been crowded with unsightly buildings, and at the corner where the home of the Parkmans stood in the dignified retirement of its “front yard,” a tall brick structure, thrust forward to the sidewalk, is in part occupied by the Salvation Army as one of its barracks.
It was about the year 1837, soon after his parents had moved into the Bowdoin Square mansion, that Parkman, then about thirteen or fourteen, became a pupil in the school kept in Chauncy Place by Mr. Gideon Thayer. Mr. Thomas Cushing (H. C. 1834) was then a teacher in the school, of which he was afterward, for many years, the principal. He is still, at the age of seventy-nine, in the enjoyment of a green old age, and writes (19 December, 1893) as follows of the new boy who came under his instruction nearly threescore years ago: —
“He was a quiet, gentle, and docile boy, who seemed to appreciate the fact that school meant an opportunity for improvement, and always gave an open and willing mind to instruction. He became, according to the ideas of the day, a good Latin and Greek scholar, and excelled in the rhetorical department. I think he early set his face in the direction of a literary life of some sort, though the idea of historical work was probably developed somewhat later. As a means to any sort of literary work, he no doubt saw the advantage and necessity of forming a good English style and acquiring correctness in the use of language, and took great pains with all exercises tending to bring about this result. His compositions were especially good, and he used sometimes, as a voluntary exercise, to versify descriptions of heroic achievements that occurred in his reading. I remember that he put into verse the whole description of the Tournament in Scott’s Ivanhoe, and then used it afterward in declamation, and it was so much liked that other boys used it for the same purpose. I think he might have excelled in narrative and descriptive poetry (the poetry of action) had he not early imbibed the historical idea. He often expressed to me in after life the great advantage that he received from the instruction of one of the teachers at that time connected with Chauncy Hall School in everything pertaining to the use of English and the formation of style, which he followed up at Harvard with diligent use of his opportunities with that excellent instructor, Professor Edward T. Channing.”
Of the teacher above referred to by Mr. Cushing, Parkman himself wrote as follows in reply to the editor of an English publication, who had asked him for some account of the method pursued by him in acquiring the art of writing: —
“When fourteen or fifteen years old I had the good luck to be under the direction of Mr. William Russell, a teacher of excellent literary tastes and acquirements. It was his constant care to teach the boys of his class to write good and easy English. One of his methods was to give us lists of words to which we were required to furnish as many synonyms as possible, distinguishing their various shades of meaning. He also encouraged us to write translations, in prose and verse, from Virgil and Homer, insisting on idiomatic English, and criticising in his gentle way anything flowery and bombastic. At this time I read a good deal of poetry, and much of it remains verbatim in my memory. As it included Milton and other classics, I am confident that it has been of service to me in the matter of style. Later on, when in college and after leaving it, I read English prose classics for the express purpose of improving myself in the language. These I take to be the chief sources of such success as I have had in this particular.”380
With a memory so stored, it is a little remarkable that Parkman quoted so little poetry in his writings. Rarely, if ever, is a single line of verse to be found in his books, unless it be some doggerel rhymes dating from the period of which he happens to be writing, and illustrative of contemporaneous views of the events narrated.
The first edition of “The California and Oregon Trail” is an exception to this rule. Each chapter is headed by a poetical quotation, while a few more are scattered through the pages. By far the greater number of these mottoes and quotations are from Byron; there are several from Shakespeare, Scott, and Bryant, while there is only one each from Milton, Dryden, Goldsmith, and Shelley. There is nothing from Coleridge nor from Wordsworth. All these poetical headings of chapters and most of the other quotations are suppressed in the last, illustrated, edition.
In his novel, “Vassall Morton,” also, each of the seventy-four chapters is headed by a poetical quotation, sometimes by two or three. Of these, by far the greater number (thirty-two) are from Shakespeare. Dryden and Byron are represented each by six quotations only, Molière by five, Scott and Corneille by four each, and Pope by three; while there are a multitude of single quotations, mostly from the older poets, as Montrose, Carew, the Percy Reliques, Spenser, Suckling, etc.
It would be obviously improper to deduce from the frequency or infrequency with which authors are quoted an opinion as to the relative rank of each in Parkman’s estimation. The choice would depend quite as much on the aptness of the quotation as on its value as poetry. But the inquiry is interesting as showing the range of his reading; though it should be borne in mind that at the time these two books were published (1847 and 1856) some of the favorite poets of to-day were scarcely, or not at all, known. It is possible that in the interval of nine years between the publication of “The Oregon Trail” and of the novel, Parkman’s admiration of Byron may have somewhat diminished. At the earlier period it was certainly enthusiastic. In the last paragraph of the nineteenth chapter of the former work, as it now stands, he speaks of himself as —
“fairly revelling in the creations of that resplendent genius, which has achieved no more signal triumph than that of half beguiling us to forget the unmanly character of its possessor.”
Nor was Parkman in the habit of quoting poetry in conversation. If he ever did so the quotation was apt to be, not from the great masters of diction, but from some of those minor bards whose effusions, published in the yearly numbers of the “Farmers’ Almanack,” were eagerly devoured by him as a boy at his grandfather’s farm. To the end of his life an ink-bottle always recalled to his memory the pathetic fate of Peter Schminck, as recorded in the pages edited by the immortal Robert B. Thomas.
Of the greater poets he made one singular and characteristic use. In the sleepless nights to which for so great a part of his life he was condemned by illness, he would beguile the weary hours, and essay to “stop thinking,” by composing in his mind quaint and comical parodies, or new and absurd endings, to well-known poems. These he would sometimes repeat the next morning. Of course they were never written out; they had served their purpose, and are only to be remembered as yet another instance of the potency of a sense of humor in alleviating physical suffering or mental anguish, and helping our poor mortality to “put a cheerful courage on” in the face of dire calamity.
It was while a pupil at Chauncy Hall School, and especially in the two or three years preceding his going to college, that Parkman engaged with characteristic ardor in the pursuit of experimental chemistry, of which he speaks in the autobiographical fragment read before the Massachusetts Historical Society. These experiments were carried on in a laboratory which his father caused to be fitted up for him in a shed in the rear of the house then occupied by the family. As he was at the same time an active member of the “Star Theatre” Company, and was also writing voluntary exercises in poetical composition to be afterward declaimed at school, he cannot have given up the whole of his time to this favorite and health-destroying hobby. Indeed it may be doubted whether these chemical experiences had any appreciable influence in producing the state of ill-health from which he afterward suffered. They may, however, have been in some measure responsible for the too vehement reaction toward athletic pursuits by which they were soon followed.
Parkman entered Harvard College in 1840, joining the class of 1844 in its Freshman year. At that time the classes on entering were separated into three “Divisions,” first, second, and third, according to the relative standing of each student in Latin and Greek. The First Division was the lowest in rank, and the Third the highest. A good deal of importance was attached by the students to these Divisions, as indications of rank in scholarship. Parkman on entering was assigned to the Second Division, but was subsequently promoted to the Third.
In the Freshman year he “chummed” with his classmate, Benjamin Apthorp Gould, in No. 9 Holworthy Hall. At the public dinner given to Dr. Gould in Boston, on his return from South America, 6 May, 1885, Parkman was present, and being called upon for a speech, gave a humorous account of this “chumship,” which, “though its beginnings,” he said “were a little breezy, was the foundation and beginning of a life-long friendship.” “The average scholarship of the two chums,” he claimed, “was exceedingly creditable;” Gould by his superior attainments in mathematics making up for his own deficiencies in that department of study. In recounting his failure at the final examination before Professor Peirce and a committee, he assigned as the cause of his discomfiture the fact that he had not opened his algebra for six months, having devoted to rifle-shooting the time which he was expected to devote to mathematics.381
This neglect of a study for which he had no predilection was very characteristic. “Whatever he liked,” says a relative, who was also a classmate,382 “he would take hold of with the utmost energy; what he did not like, he would not touch.”
His scholarship did not need to be averaged with that of any one else in order to entitle him to one of those testimonials provided by the will of Governor Edward Hopkins to be given to deserving students “pro insigni in studiis diligentia.” He received one of these “Deturs,” as they are called, at the usual distribution in the first term of the Sophomore year (23 November, 1841).
When, in the Sophomore year, the class came under the instruction of Professor Channing, and began to write exercises in English composition, it was soon reported among his classmates that Parkman 2d383 was taking high rank in that department, and was getting excellent marks for his themes; so that, when in the second term of the Sophomore year the first assignment of “parts” was made to the Class of 1844, no surprise was felt that the name of Francis Parkman was in the list of the “First Eight.” His part in this first exhibition (13 July, 1842) was an English version, “Speech of an Insurgent Plebeian,” from Machiavelli’s “History of Florence,” — a subject which was probably much to his taste. He spoke a year later at the exhibition of July 12, 1843, at which he was assigned a Dissertation, the subject being, “Is a man in advance of his age fitted for his age?”
His “chumship” with Gould was dissolved by mutual consent at the end of their first year of college life. In the Sophomore year he roomed, as appears by the College Catalogue, at the house of Mrs. Ayer, at the corner of Garden Street and the Appian Way. In the Junior year he occupied No. 24 Massachusetts Hall, and in the Senior year, No. 21 in the same building, in both without a companion. Though rather fond of calling upon his classmates, with whom he was always popular, he rarely asked them to visit him in return. One reason probably was that he was very little in his own room except at night, for the purpose of sleeping. His constant craving for bodily exercise kept him out of doors or at the gymnasium the greater part of the day. Moreover, as is now known, he had already begun to read such books as he thought suited to help him toward the attainment of his great object, already well outlined in his mind. He did not care to have these secret studies interrupted by chance callers, who might also discover in his room some traces of the “lucubrations” which, he says, he pursued at this time “with a pernicious intensity, keeping his plans and purposes to himself while passing among his companions as an outspoken fellow.”384
His boarding-place during the greater part of his College course was at Mrs. Schutte’s, a lady who kept an excellent table at what was thought a very moderate price even in those days. The company was numerous, comprising representatives of all the classes. Much lively and interesting talk went on there, at and after meals, and not a little good-natured chaffing. Almost all the guests had some sobriquet conferred upon them, more or less indicative of their characters, or of some peculiarity of appearance or manner. Some of these, from their happy appropriateness, soon spread beyond the coterie where they originated, and have even clung to their recipients through life. Such was not the case with that bestowed upon Parkman. From being oftener an amused listener to the conversation than an active participant in it, he was called, lucus a non lucendo, “The Loquacious,” a title so absurdly inappropriate that his College friends to-day recall it with difficulty. Far from being the unsocial character this ironical nickname would imply, Parkman keenly enjoyed the society of his fellow-students. Never boisterous in his mirth, he was by no means averse to taking part in merrymakings and festivities. He was catholic in his likings, and had already begun to develop that keen insight into character which is one of the striking features of his historical writings. He could penetrate within the outer covering of mannerisms and affectations, and see the man himself. He enjoyed with equal zest the wild exuberance of William Morris Hunt, and the placid philosophy of George Blankern Cary. He took a lively interest in all that went on in College, and was always ready to do his share in protesting against abuses and redressing wrongs. An instance of this is recorded in the contemporary journal of a classmate. At one time, in the Sophomore year, the Latin Professor, Dr. Beck, adopted the arbitrary and novel practice of calling the roll in his recitation-room at precisely the hour, instead of five minutes after, as had been the immemorial custom, and also of marking as absent all who simply came late. Parkman thereupon drew up a memorial, remonstrating against the innovation, obtained the signatures of the principal members of the class, and sent it to the Faculty. The remonstrance had the desired effect, though President Quincy, with his accustomed tact, declined to lay the matter before the Faculty, but communicated it privately to the Professor.
At the end of the Freshman year Parkman became a member of the “Institute of 1770,” then a purely literary and debating society. At each fortnightly meeting two lecturers and four debaters were appointed for the meeting next ensuing. The lecturers were free to choose their own topic; the debaters had a question given them to discuss, two in the affirmative and two in the negative. When it became Parkman’s turn to lecture, he entertained the Society, according to the report of the Secretary, with “a witty production, having for its subject ‘The Puritans,’ wherein he gave us in a very original and humorous style the front, flank, and rear of their offending.” The question for discussion on the evening when he was one of the “regular debaters” was, “Does attendance on theatrical exhibitions have a bad effect on the mind and morals?” and he with another was appointed to maintain the affirmative, which he accordingly did, in opening the debate. “Then,” as the Secretary reports, “‘changing sides, as a lawyer knows how,’ he supported the contrary opinion.” The question was decided in the affirmative, ten to eight. He often, also, took part in the “general debate,” when the subject was one that interested him. He spoke voluntarily on the question, “Whether the Republic of the United States is likely to continue.” It does not clearly appear from the Secretary’s report on which side he argued upon this occasion, but it is satisfactory to note that the question was decided in the affirmative.
Other college societies of which he was a member were the Hasty Pudding Club, of which he was successively Vice-President and President, and the Harvard Natural History Society, of which he was Corresponding and Recording Secretary, and Curator of Mineralogy. He was also a member of the mysterious and short-lived P. T. Δ., in which the cognomen given him, according to the custom in that body, was “The Dominie.” He was also chosen orator of this society. He was, besides, one of that informal club, of which he gave so delightful an account in the memoir of its founder and governing spirit, his classmate George B. Cary, which he wrote for the latter’s mother soon after Cary’s death in 1846.
“A sort of society was formed,” he says, “entitled by its members the C. C., but popularly, though most unjustly, known in the class as the Lemonade Club. It was not strictly a club, however, as it had no laws, no organization, and no stated times of meeting. The members were Cary, Clarke, Hale, F. Parkman, Perry, Snow, Treadwell, and afterward, Dwight. The meetings usually took place once a fortnight, when the members read such compositions of their own as they had felt the inclination to prepare, and the evening’s entertainment concluded with a supper, which at first was anything but sumptuous, though in this respect a considerable change afterward took place.”
Another member, the late Horatio J. Perry, for many years Secretary of Legation at Madrid, in the Reminiscences which to the great regret of his friends he left unfinished, also speaks of the C. C., and for the first time divulges the meaning of those mystic letters. They stood for the harmless word Chit-Chat. The secret had been well kept for fifty years. Of Parkman’s participation in its voluntary exercises, Perry says he —
“even then showed symptoms of ‘Injuns on the brain.’ His tales of border life, his wampum, scalps, and birch-bark were unsurpassed by anything in Cooper.”
No doubt Parkman, like his friend Perry, was an enthusiastic reader of Cooper’s Indian tales, then at the height of their popularity. But it was no boyish freak which made him seem to have set up their dusky heroes as models for imitation. He was already training himself for expeditions into the wilderness, and preparing to make an exhaustive study of the Aborigines by living among them in their native haunts. As a part of this preparation he was in the habit, while in College, of taking long walks, going always at so rapid a pace that it was difficult to keep up with him. This manner of walking became habitual to him, and he retained it to the last. Long years afterward, when crippled by disease and needing two canes to support his steps, he might often be seen in the streets of Boston, walking rapidly for a short distance, then suddenly stopping, wheeling round, and propping himself against the wall of a house, to give a moment’s repose to his enfeebled knee. Whatever he did, he must do it with all his might. He could not saunter, he could not creep; he must move rapidly, or stand still.
His most frequent companion in these college walks was his classmate and life-long friend, Daniel Denison Slade, who shared his enthusiasm for the woods and the Indians, earning thereby the sobriquet of “The Chieftain,” and whose length of limb admirably fitted him for pedestrianism. Slade, with praiseworthy diligence, through the whole College course, almost from the beginning, kept a diary, selected extracts from which he has frequently read at Class meetings, greatly to the entertainment of his audience. In this diary he sometimes records, all too briefly, the mere fact that on such a day he walked with Parkman, or rowed with him on Fresh Pond; at other times he mentions, with more or less fulness, the places visited, and incidents that occurred by the way. In the summer vacations these walks gave place to long excursions or journeys. The first of these recorded took place at the end of the Freshman year, in the months of July and August, 1841. Of this, Slade wrote an account, in a separate booklet, with more amplitude than he was accustomed to use in his diary. It was, however, left unfinished, coming to an abrupt end on the twelfth day of the trip. Parkman himself also kept a diary of this journey.
Starting from Boston on the morning of 19 July, 1841, the pair proceeded by the Eastern Railroad to Portsmouth, N. H., which was as far as a railroad could take them in those early days, and thence made their way, by stage, by wagon, or on foot, through the White Mountains to the Notch, where Parkman had an adventure which came near costing him his life.
Stimulated merely by curiosity and the ambition to succeed where others had failed, he ascended the ravine excavated by the avalanche which had caused the famous catastrophe of the Willey House, surmounting precipices which had been pronounced impracticable, and at last finding himself in a position where it seemed equally impossible to go higher or to come down. He details at some length, in his journal, the means he took to extricate himself from this perilous situation. They are somewhat difficult to understand by one not familiar with the spot; but it is evident that had he not, even then, at the age of seventeen, possessed a rare degree of nerve, coolness, and courage, he could never have accomplished the feat, and that a violent and frightful death would have cut short his career. The qualities displayed in this boyish and foolhardy adventure go far to explain his triumphs over obstacles of every kind in after life.385
After making the ascent of Mt. Washington and visiting Franconia, which Parkman incidentally says he had already seen three years before, the travellers proceeded by stage to Colebrook, N. H., on the Connecticut River, and thence on foot in an easterly direction, through the recently discovered Dixville Notch, and across the State of New Hampshire to the mouth of the Magalloway River, where it empties into Lake Umbagog. Here they engaged a guide, for they were now in a wilderness untrodden save by the foot of the hunter; and by boat and “portage,” toilsome marches through dense woods, fording streams and plunging through swamps and “guzzles,” camping in the open air, and subsisting chiefly on the superb trout for which the Magalloway is famous, and such game as Parkman could shoot with the “heavy gun” he carried, they arrived, on the seventeenth day after leaving home, at the junction of the Little Magalloway with the Magalloway proper. This was about thirty miles above the place where they had first struck the main river, and was the northern limit of their journey. Here, their supply of bread being nearly exhausted, and having no blankets, they decided to give up a half-formed project of pushing on to Canada, and to return home. This they did, reaching Boston on the 13th of August, after an absence of nearly a month. “And a joyous month it has been,” says Parkman, in concluding his record of it, “though somewhat toilsome. May I soon pass another as pleasantly.” Previously, on first turning his footsteps homeward, he had said: “I regard this journey but as the beginning of greater things, and as merely prefatory to longer wanderings.”
During the winter vacation of the Sophomore year, Slade records a walk with Parkman “down Long Wharf and about Fort Hill,” in Boston, and longer excursions to Roxbury and Dorchester, and, on another occasion, “over Prospect Hill, and in the direction of Medford.”
In the second term of the Sophomore year (7 May, 1842), on a Saturday, which was then always a half-holiday, the two friends walked together from Cambridge, Parkman carrying a gun and a pistol, “to Medford and the woods back of the town,” dined at Spot Pond on crackers, and practised shooting at small birds and “one poor chip-squirrel,” which Parkman’s bullet, striking on its nose, traversed from end to end.
In the vacation at the end of the Sophomore year (July and August, 1842) Parkman made another excursion to the Magalloway with a different companion, Mr. Henry Orne White, of the Class of 1843, also an ardent lover of the woods, with a special fondness for trout fishing. Parkman took with him his favorite rifle “Satan,” well remembered by his classmates, for which he had an affection such as is usually bestowed only on living creatures. On this journey, also, he kept a journal, which has been preserved.
The two travellers made their approach to the river which was their ultimate destination by way of Albany, Lake George, — where they remained a week, thoroughly exploring the lake in an open boat, — Ticonderoga, and by Lake Champlain, to Burlington, Vt., whence they proceeded on foot and by stage to Stanstead, in Canada. Then turning again southward, they went, partly on foot and partly by wagon, to the lakes of the Connecticut, and there, hiring a guide, plunged through the wilderness till they struck the Little Magalloway, which they descended to its junction with the main stream, at the point where Parkman and Slade had made their northernmost camp on the journey of the previous year. Their descent of the main stream, whose length Parkman now traversed for the third time, was marked by a succession of serio-comic adventures, which he has graphically and humorously described in an article contributed by him to Harper’s Magazine, November, 1864, entitled “Exploring the Magalloway.” In it the route followed and the main incidents are precisely the same as in the journal, but the name of his fellow-traveller, as well as that of the guide, is changed; and while the real guide, whose name was Abbot, resembles the Gookin of the Magazine in some particulars, he differs diametrically from him in others.
On leaving the Magalloway, the travellers returned home by the now familiar route through the Dixville Notch, Colebrook, Littleton, etc., the trip having occupied, as that of the previous year, about a month.386
In the journals of both excursions Parkman shows that be took a lively interest in the people he met, whether fellow-travellers or residents. His keen appreciation of character, the vein of humor which runs through all the narrative, and the entire absence of the grandiloquence or fine writing which one might expect from a Sophomore, make them extremely pleasant reading. His style was already admirable.
In the winter vacation of the Junior year, in February, 1843, Slade records in his diary that Parkman and he made a visit to their classmates, Hale and Perry, at Keene, N. H. It was doubtless with recollections of this visit, and of others, in his mind that, in the last published volume of his histories, Parkman speaks of Keene as “a town noted in rural New England for kindly hospitality, culture without pretence, and good-breeding without conventionality.387 His two classmates were not the only acquaintances he had in this delightful New Hampshire town. Two years before, while with Slade in the White Mountains, he had fallen in with a lively party of travellers from this place, and one young lady in particular had charmed him by the “laughing philosophy” with which she had taken “a ducking” in his company while passing through the Notch in the stage and in a pouring rain. Still more was he pleased by the “strength and spirit and good-humor” she had shown in the ascent of Mount Washington. With this lady, who afterward married a distinguished citizen of her native State, Parkman kept up a life-long friendship.
In the summer vacation at the end of the Junior year, July and August, 1843, Parkman probably made another excursion into the woods, but no record of it has been preserved. Perhaps it was at this time that he followed on foot the route of the ranger Rogers from Lake Memphremagog to the Connecticut.
It was in Parkman’s Junior year that a gymnasium was first provided by the Faculty for the use of the students. It was in a wooden building of no great size, and was under the superintendence of Mr. T. Belcher Kay, a pugilist and popular teacher of the art of self-defence, but who knew little or nothing of scientific training as now understood. It was provided with such apparatus as was then common, and the young men, with virtually no one to direct or guide them, were allowed to make such use as they pleased of parallel bars, lifting machines, and other appliances. Parkman naturally availed himself with eagerness of this opportunity of increasing his muscular development, now become his favorite hobby. He was a constant attendant at the gymnasium, took boxing-lessons, and emulated the foremost in trials of strength and endurance. The strain was too great for a constitution not naturally robust, and in the first term of his Senior year he was obliged to suspend for a time his college studies, and seek relaxation and relief in an ocean voyage. On Thanksgiving Day, November, 1843, he embarked for Europe in a sailing vessel, “The Nautilus,” in which he had a very stormy and uncomfortable passage. He visited Italy, Sicily, Switzerland, France, England, and Scotland, travelled among the Apennines with his classmate, William M. Hunt, met at Naples the Rev. Theodore Parker, and at Rome spent a few days “in retreat” at a convent of Passionist Fathers. This inside view of the Roman Catholic priesthood and of the workings of the clerical machinery were to help him to portray some of the chief actors in his projected histories. He wrote an account of this adventure, which was published in August, 1890, in Harper’s Magazine, under the title “A Convent in Rome.”
He returned, by steamer, from this first visit to Europe, after an absence of seven months, and was back at Cambridge 20 June, 1844, in time to take part in the closing exercises of the year, Class Day, 11 July, and the Senior’s farewell supper at “Porter’s” the same evening.
In the latter part of the Senior year, the Class Secretary, as was then the custom, provided a large book in which each member of the class was invited to inscribe his name and date of birth, together with such details of his personal history as he chose to communicate, six pages being allotted to each for that purpose. Very few did more than to write their names, with date and place of birth. Parkman’s entry was as follows, and may be thought characteristic. It is written in a large, bold hand: —
Born in Boston, Mass.
Sept. 16th 1823.
The usual six weeks’ vacation still intervened between the virtual end of the College year and the Commencement of the graduating class. This interval Parkman utilized in making another of the summer excursions now become habitual. On the seventh of August, his classmate Slade, who was spending the summer on a farm near Greenfield, Massachusetts, was surprised by a visit from him. He had been, he said, on a foot expedition among the mountains in the western part of Massachusetts, searching out the trails of the French and Indians as they came down from Canada in the early raids upon the frontier settlements.
He returned from this excursion in time to receive his degree of A. B. “in course,” and to speak his part in the Commencement exercises on 28 August, 1844. His part at Commencement was a Disquisition, while at the July Exhibition of the previous year he had been assigned a Dissertation. The Disquisition standing lower in the scale of academical honors than the Dissertation, this was supposed to indicate a corresponding loss of rank, which might have been caused in part by too much devotion to rifle-shooting, but was doubtless chiefly owing to illness and the enforced absence from Cambridge which it occasioned. The subject of his Commencement part, “Romance in America,” was one that must have suited him. The word “History,” printed in Italics, below his name in the “Order of Exercises,” indicated, according to the custom of the day, that he had attained “high distinction” in that department; while the word “Rhetoric,” similarly placed, but in Roman characters, showed that in that branch of study he had done all that was required, but no more. There was prophecy in this distinction. Though no longer among the first eight, he was, at all events, among the first twenty of the class in rank, and was made, accordingly, a member of the Φ B K.
the law school.
Two days after graduating at Harvard College — namely, 30 August, 1844 — Parkman entered his name as a student in the school of Law attached to the University, and then known as the “Dane Law School.” He did this partly to please his father, and partly because he thought some knowledge of legal principles would not be amiss in making his historical researches, and that the mental training involved would be a decided advantage. Neither then nor at any time did he propose to adopt the legal profession as a career.
During the first year of his membership he roomed at No. 7 Divinity Hall, Cambridge, where he is reported to have injured his health, and especially his sight, by rising very early and studying by candle-light, and often without a fire. It may be surmised that these matutinal studies were not exclusively confined to his legal text-books. Indeed it is now known that he had at that time entered earnestly upon a course of general history, and another of Indian history and ethnology, and was also diligently studying the models of English style.
In the succeeding year his residence is given in the University catalogue as “Boston,” and during a part of the time at least his state of health was such that he was obliged to have his law books read to him as he lay in bed in his father’s house.
On 16 January, 1846, the third term of his apprenticeship to the Law came to an end. He had done all that was required, according to the existing regulations, to entitle him to the degree of Bachelor of Laws, which he accordingly received at the following Commencement. He was also fully qualified for admission to the Bar, had he chosen to apply for it, but he never did.
It was probably while he was a member of the Law School that the following incidents occurred, as related by Mr. Thomas Cushing in the letter already quoted: —
“I do not remember the year, but it must have been in a college vacation, or soon after graduation, that we had a very good Circus Company passing the winter in Boston, the Director of which also gave instruction in horsemanship. Meeting Parkman one day, he told me that he was taking lessons there, and suggested to me to join him. I did so, and we had very pleasant times together. He was evidently aiming to become a thorough horseman,388 and used to practise such things as jumping on and off at full speed, etc., which I did not try, having a wife and family at the time. A company of us sometimes rode out in the neighborhood, presenting rather a gay appearance, mounted on horses of wonderful colors.”
It was about this time also that he was in the habit of taking walks about Boston with his classmate Edmund Dwight, — walks which usually ended with a cup of coffee at Mrs. Haven’s celebrated shop in School Street. He appeared to be in fair health, but seemed to have something on his mind, — was “brooding,” doubtless, on his historical plans, — and would from time to time rouse himself from a fit of abstraction with a characteristic gesture and shake of the head.
relations with harvard college after graduation.
With the completion of the prescribed course at the Law School Parkman’s connection with the University as a student came to an end. But his relations with his Alma Mater by no means ceased. Officially or unofficially they continued as long as his life lasted.
At Commencement, 18 July, 1868, he was elected for the term of six years as one of the Overseers, but held the position less than three years, resigning 29 May, 1871.
He had shortly before been made Professor of Horticulture, and was the first to hold that professorship in the University. He retained it, however, only about a year, resigning in 1872.
In 1874 he was again nominated as a candidate for Overseer, and was chosen by a very large majority for the three-years term, but served for two years only, resigning in 1876.
In 1875 he was chosen one of the Fellows of the Corporation, and served the College in that capacity for thirteen years, resigning in 1888.
How faithfully he performed the duties which devolved upon him in the several offices which he held under or as a part of the College government, only those who were co-workers with him are competent to testify. President Eliot, at the commemorative service in Sanders Theatre, 6 December, 1893, said that, while serving as one of the Fellows, Parkman “was always punctual, never absent from the meetings, and if late, he always apologized;” also, that he “advocated the establishment of a course in oral discussion, and that the present College course known as English 6 is the result of his labor.”
In 1889 the College gave him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
His long, willing, and faithful service was not the only evidence Park man gave of his devoted attachment to the University, or, as his conservative spirit made him prefer to call it, the College. “Montcalm and Wolfe,” being the seventh and concluding part of his great historical work, published in 1884, bore the following dedication: —
the alma mater under whose influence the purpose of writing it was conceived,
is affectionately inscribed.
Finally he bequeathed, in the words of his will, “all my printed books relating to History, Voyages, or Travels, and also all my printed books in Greek or Latin, and all my manuscript maps, to the President and Fellows of Harvard College.”
relations with the class of 1844 after graduation.
If Francis Parkman loved his College, he loved no less, or even more, his Class, the band of foster-brothers who had shared with him the nurturing care of their common Alma Mater. If he dedicated one of his books to the College, he had already, fifteen years earlier, inscribed another to his classmates. “The Discovery of the Great West,” being Part Third of the series of historical narratives, has this dedication: —
to the class of 1844,
this book is cordially dedicated
by one of their number.
The year of its publication, 1869, was that in which the Class celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their graduation.
Parkman had a large share of what, half a century ago, was called class spirit, or class feeling, — a sentiment whose most conspicuous manifestation was the good opinion which the members of a College class held, not so much of themselves, as of each other. It was a sentiment which impelled all to take a brotherly interest in each, to share each other’s triumphs, to extend a helping hand to the unsuccessful, and animated each and all with the ambition to deserve well of the Class, of the College, and the country. Far distant be the day when such a spirit shall no longer exist in Harvard College.
Animated with this spirit, he was a very regular attendant at the Class-meetings which, since 1864, the twentieth anniversary, have been held every Commencement Day at Cambridge, in one or another of the College buildings, usually in Holworthy. No one enjoyed them more than he. Very cordial in his greetings to those present, whose College nicknames he never failed to remember, he was eager in his inquiries about the absent. His great delight was in recalling the undergraduate days, and in relating humorous anecdotes of his own and others’ experiences. He took a lively interest in any matter which might come up for discussion, was one of the original subscribers to the Class Fund, and one of the first to contribute his photograph to the Class Album.
He was always very solicitous that the Class should bear an honorable part in any worthy scheme in which the College was interested. At the meeting on Commencement Day, 1869, he strongly urged the claims of the “Class Subscription Fund,” with the result that over eighteen hundred dollars was at once obtained from those present, while a considerable sum in addition was subscribed later. When, after its heavy losses by the great Boston fire in 1872, the College asked for pecuniary aid, Parkman drew up and headed with a very generous contribution a supplementary appeal, specially addressed to the Class. The Class responded with subscriptions amounting to more than two thousand dollars.
At the Class-meeting on Commencement Day, 1874, when for the first time the Alumni dinner took place in the Memorial Building, he first suggested that the Class should pledge itself to give a stained-glass window for the decoration and enrichment of the new hall, and, later, served as one of the volunteer committee to carry that purpose into effect. When it became necessary to select two historical personages to be portrayed in the window, his choice of “the Chevalier Bayard, as representing Chivalry and Loyalty to Duty — and Christopher Columbus, as typifying Faith, or Perseverance against obstacles,” was at once ratified by the committee. It is easy to understand Parkman’s selection. Bayard and Columbus were favorite heroes with him, and he had a large share of the characteristic virtues he ascribed to each.
This is not the place to record all the difficulties and disappointments which delayed for five years the execution of a purpose so enthusiastically begun, nor how it happened that the figures of Chaucer and Dante, as they now appear in the window, came to be substituted for those originally chosen. This change was a great disappointment to Parkman, but he accepted it cheerfully, when it seemed to be unavoidable, and his interest in the window suffered no abatement. He continued to be an active member of the committee, attending all its meetings, and giving valuable advice and assistance in the composition of the Latin inscription, and in the choice of the minor emblematical and decorative portions of the design.
The completed window was first shown to the public, in its place in the Hall, on Commencement Day, 25 June, 1879. Parkman, who as an officer of the College had the privilege of an earlier private view, wrote to the Class Secretary a few days before (19 June, 1879): “I have seen the window, and like it very much. It will do credit, I think, to 1844.”
His disappointment at the failure of his Class to be the first to offer a window was mitigated by the fact that the Class which had been so fortunate as to gain the precedence in that respect had not been able to secure priority in the completion of their gift, and that the two windows were first seen by the public on the same day and side by side. There was also a further consolation. In the same note to the Secretary, and still speaking of the window, Parkman says: “Comparisons are odious; but between ourselves, I think that though darker than its neighbor, it shines in comparison with it.”
In the same note he adds: “I trust I shall be able to look in at the Class-meeting. It would be much pleasanter than being stuck behind a rail, in a dress coat and white choker.”
This was a playful allusion to one of his duties as a Fellow of the Corporation, namely, that of attending, in evening dress, the exercises of the graduating class. He had already frequently regretted, as one of the drawbacks of the new dignity to which he had been chosen in 1875, that it “would oblige him to give only about fifteen minutes, instead of three hours, to the annual Class-meeting, while it might sometimes prevent his coming at all.”
In 1878 Parkman was a contributor to the Dr. James Walker memorial, and in 1888 one of the signers of a letter, accompanied by a gift, addressed by members of the Class to Professor Lovering on his completion of fifty years’ service as Professor in the College.
In 1885, May 6, as before mentioned, he was present at the complimentary dinner in honor of his classmate Gould. He seemed then in excellent health and spirits, and made a felicitous and humorous speech. He was also one of the signers of the letter of invitation previously addressed to Dr. Gould.
At the Class-meeting held on Commencement Day, 1889, Parkman was present, but, with characteristic modesty and reticence, said nothing to his classmates of the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws conferred upon him on that day by the College. Always too much, perhaps, in the habit of keeping closely to their own room at Commencement, they knew nothing of the honor conferred upon their associate, and reflectively upon themselves, until they learned it from the newspapers. This proved to be the last meeting of the Class which Parkman attended.
In 1891 he was one of a committee appointed to prepare resolutions on the death of a classmate, Horatio J. Perry, and was a contributor to the memorial tablet to General Wild.
At Commencement, 1891, the Class Secretary received from him the following note: —
My dear Wheelwright, — I wish I could come; but Holworthy stairs are too much for me. Remember me cordially to the fellows.
Jamaica Plain, 18 June.
The allusion to Holworthy stairs is explained by the following note, addressed, a month previously, to the Chairman of the committee having in charge the Annual Unitarian Festival: —
My Dear Sir, — Thank you cordially for your kind invitation to the Unitarian Festival. I wish with all my heart that I were able to come; but for some years I have been prevented from attending any social entertainments by “arthritis” in both knees, which has kept me a good part of the time a prisoner, — a consequence, as the infallible medical faculty say, of hereditary gout; so that I can only send my good wishes to the representatives of liberal thought in religion.
Yours very truly,
Henry H. Edes, Esq.
Again, in 1892, replying to the notice of the Class-meeting which was to be held 29 June, he writes: —
Jamaica Plain, 22 June.
Dear Wheelwright, — Your circular of June 20 has come. My knees are not equal to the climb to 7 Holworthy, and I am going to Portsmouth on the 28th, so I must lose the Class-meeting. Please give my regrets and kind remembrance to the fellows, and tell those who are still bachelors to marry at once and raise up sons and daughters to serve the country.
Yours very truly,
He was very fond of giving the advice he sends to his classmates, and was an enthusiastic advocate of early marriages and large families, — matters in which so many of his own ancestors had set excellent examples.
At the Class-meeting at Commencement, 28 June, 1893, he was still unable to be present, and omitted sending his customary message to the Class. He was then recovering from the effects of a severe attack of pleurisy which had nearly proved fatal in the previous autumn, and from another malady which had followed a few months later, and which had confined him for a time to his chair. At this meeting, in view of the approaching Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the graduation of the Class, when, according to custom, some one of its members would probably be called upon for a speech at the Commencement dinner, it was —
“Voted, unanimously, That Francis Parkman be the speaker for the Class on its fiftieth anniversary, with Leverett Saltonstall as substitute, and that the Class Secretary notify them of their election.”
Dear Ned, — I will try to accept the Class golden-wedding job; and if I find that it can’t be done, will give you timely notice.
This was Parkman’s last communication to the Class of 1844. Within two months after he wrote it, his anticipations and those of his classmates in regard to their golden anniversary were frustrated by his death.
“the oregon trail” — “pontiac” — “vassall morton.”
On 28 May, 1846, two months to a day after leaving the Law School, Parkman set out from St. Louis, accompanied by his cousin, Quincy A. Shaw, on their now famous journey to the Rocky Mountains. They called it a “tour of curiosity and amusement,” but for Parkman it had a hidden and serious purpose. It was to be a part of his preparation for writing the history he proposed to undertake. He felt it necessary to have a thorough knowledge of the Indian, — not of the Indian as he still lingered, a degraded remnant, among the scenes of his ancient renown, but as he was when his effective alliance was sought by a Montcalm or a Wolfe. Such Indians there still were in the Far West. Another purpose was to give rest to his eyes, the weakness of sight which had interrupted his studies in College having again declared itself.
He was fortunate in falling in with a band, or wandering village, of the Dakota or Sioux, who were thorough savages.
“Neither their manners nor their ideas were in the slightest degree modified by contact with civilization.… They fought with the weapons that their fathers fought with, and wore the same garments of skins. They were living representatives of the ‘stone age;’ for though their lances and arrows were tipped with iron procured from the traders, they still used the rude stone mallet of the primeval world.”389
With this band he was domesticated for several weeks, living as one of the family in the lodge of a principal chief, and having unusual opportunities for observation. He had one great disappointment. A warlike expedition against the Snakes, their hereditary foes, in which all the bands of the Dakota were to engage, to the number of a thousand warriors, was abandoned after interminable and characteristic delays and vacillation; and he was obliged to content himself with joining, instead, a peaceful excursion beyond the Black Hills for the purpose of hunting the buffalo and for cutting lodge-poles. The exchange was perhaps, on the whole, a fortunate one. On the war-path there are scalps to be lost as well as taken.
It was not the Indian alone that he had an opportunity of studying on this journey. He became familiar with the life of the hunter, the trapper, the Canadian voyageur, — the mongrel race, half Indian, half white man, fair representatives of those who, under similar names and of the same lineage, played their part in the events he proposed to chronicle. He even had an opportunity of seeing the march through the wilderness of organized military bodies. He met on the return journey several detachments of United States troops on their way to take part in the Mexican War. They were only volunteers, but in their lax discipline and their want of true martial bearing did not probably differ much from the raw levies sent by Massachusetts to the invasion of Canada or the siege of Louisbourg.
The knowledge gained on this journey was invaluable to Park man. It enabled him to make the Indian in his pages a living being, and to infuse a new meaning and actuality into the stories of border warfare. He makes constant reference to it in his subsequent works, and it is evident that in the narrative of it which he published not the half of what it had taught him was told.
The two travellers reached Boston, on their return, in October, 1846, having been absent about five months. Parkman’s health had suffered severely during the journey; and now that he had no longer the stimulus of the chase and of a life of constant activity in the open air, and when the necessity of keeping a bold face in the presence of savage companions had ceased, he broke down completely. It was at a water-cure establishment at Brattleborough, Vermont, to which he had gone to recuperate, that he dictated a record of the expedition to the companion who had shared with him its perils and excitements. The narrative was first issued as a serial in the “Knickerbocker Magazine,” the first instalment appearing in February, 1847, under the title, “The Oregon Trail, or a Summer Journey out of Bounds. By a Bostonian.” In the next number, however, the pseudonym is dropped, and the real name of the author takes its place. Republished in book form in 1849, it has proved one of the most popular tales of travel ever written, and has passed through several editions. The ninth, published in 1892, is illustrated by Mr. Frederic Remington. Parkman was greatly pleased with these illustrations. He says, in his preface, the book “has found a powerful helper in the pencil of Mr. Remington, whose pictures are as full of truth as of spirit, for they are the work of one who knew the prairies and the mountains before irresistible commonplace had subdued them.” They certainly surpass in artistic merit the paintings of Catlin, and even the lithographs — some of them colored — with which Charles Bodmer illustrated the “Travels of Prince Maximilian de Wied,” to which Parkman also gave high praise for their fidelity to nature.390
“The Oregon Trail” was not, perhaps, the first of Parkman’s contributions to the Knickerbocker Magazine, In the twenty-fifth volume of that excellent periodical, in the issues for March and April, 1845, are two papers, “The Ranger’s Adventure, by a New Contributor,” and “The Scalp-Hunter, a Semi-Historical Sketch,” both unsigned, which from internal evidence seem very probably to have been written by him.
In the year before the publication of the Oregon Trail as a separate book, — that is, in 1848, — he began the composition of the “History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac.” Under what difficulties, and in spite of what obstacles this task was accomplished, he has himself related in his preface to the book, and in the autobiographical fragment which was read to the Massachusetts Historical Society at the Special Meeting, 21 November, 1893. In the latter he makes graceful mention of the assistance given by that “half of humanity,” which he felt it needless to specify. Fortunate was it for him that the like aid was never wanting to him through life.
After two years and a half the book was completed, and at once took its place among the most popular of histories. It was in a measure the accomplishment of Parkman’s original design of writing a narrative of the old French war, since a brief but graphic account of that struggle serves as an introduction to the story of the Indian hero, which in itself is a sequel to the completed series of histories.
The decade following the year 1849 was an eventful one in the life of the historian. During that period he finished and published, in 1851, “The Conspiracy of Pontiac,” his first historical work. In that interval, also, he was married, 13 May, 1850, to Catherine Scollay, daughter of Dr. Jacob Bigelow of Boston, and had three children born to him, one of whom, his only son, died in 1857, at the age of less than two years. His wife also died, after only eight years of married life. In these years also occurred what he has called the “two crises of his disorder,” one at the end of 1853, the other in 1858, as well as an effusion of water on the left knee in the autumn of 1851, involving a close confinement of two years, and permanently weakening the joint. It was in the midst of this critical stage of his malady that he wrote and published, in 1856, his only work of fiction, “Vassall Morton.” It was far from having the success of his other books, and is now nearly forgotten. Its author never included it in the list of his works, and if he ever mentioned it in after-life, it was but slightingly. It was criticised as faulty in construction, and as too melodramatic, though “The Crayon,” in its capacity of art journal, found much to praise in its descriptions of scenery; yet it is a book by no means to be neglected by Parkman’s biographer. As often happens with a first novel, it is, to a considerable extent, a self-revelation of the author. The hero, though there is little resemblance between his story and Parkman’s own, is in many respects very like him. He has the same passion for the woods, the same craving for activity, the same love of adventure, the same “sovereign scorn for every physical weakness or defect;” and he has, like him, one paramount ambition, one engrossing study, somewhat akin to that to which Parkman devoted himself.
“Thierry’s ‘Norman Conquest’ had fallen into his hands soon after he entered College. The whole delighted him; but he read and re-read the opening chapters, which exhibit the movements of the various races in their occupancy of the west of Europe. This first gave him an impulse towards ethnological inquiries. He soon began to find an absorbing interest in tracing the distinctions, moral, intellectual, and physical, of different races, as shown in their history, their mythologies, their languages, their legends, their primitive art, literature, and way of life. The idea grew upon him of devoting his life to such studies.”391
In the next paragraph the hero is represented as “seated on the wooden bench at the edge of Fresh Pond,” revolving for the hundredth time the arguments for and against his proposed scheme, and finally “clinching his long-cherished purpose of devoting himself to ethnology for the rest of his days.” It is not impossible that we have here a veritable bit of autobiography.
The conversations with which the book abounds are uncommonly animated. A great variety of subjects are discussed by the interlocutors with a force and pungency which vividly recall the author’s own familiar talk. In his autobiographical fragment, he mentions as one effect of the two years’ close confinement following the effusion of water on the knee in 1851, that “the brain was stimulated to a restless activity, impelling through it a headlong current of thought.” This book, which must have been written or dictated about that time, may have been to him a safety-valve to relieve “the whirl, the confusion, and strange undefined torture attending this condition.” Similar torture is endured by the hero of the novel in an Austrian dungeon.
horticulture — the histories.
For several years after the publication of “Vassall Morton” Parkman’s physical condition was such that all literary work was impossible. But a state of quiescent inactivity was equally impossible to him, and he took up with his habitual energy the practice of horticulture, with results decidedly beneficial to his health. Nor were these the only results.
“He practised the art of gardening with a success rarely equalled by those even who have devoted their lives to that occupation.… He introduced to cultivation in this country many new and attractive plants. He produced varieties in the lily and the poppy which will long adorn the gardens of the world, and he wrote one of our most useful books upon the rose and its cultivation.”392
His success in this new field attracted the attention of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and he was for three years its “energetic and wise president.”393 It also procured for him the appointment as Professor of Horticulture in Harvard University, already mentioned. He did not give over this fascinating pursuit when the improvement in his health allowed him to resume his historical labors, but remained devoted to it through life, though toward the end he relaxed somewhat his original ardor.
It was not till 1865, nine years after the appearance of “Vassall Morton,” that Parkman was able to publish “The Pioneers of France in the New World,” being Part I. of the series, “France and England in North America.” Part II., “The Jesuits,” followed in 1867; Part III., “The Discovery of the Great West,” in 1869; Part IV., “The Old Régime,” in 1874; Part V., “Count Frontenac,” in 1877. Then, Part VI. being passed over for the time, Part VII., “Montcalm and Wolfe,” was published in 1884. The reason for this departure from chronological sequence was, as he said, that he wished to make sure of the final chapters of his book, those which contained the climax of the story, the final victory of the English on the Heights of Abraham. To recount this had been the goal of his ambition from the start, and to this all the rest of the history was merely introductory. The work had taken a much longer time than he had anticipated, and he feared that if he did not finish “Montcalm and Wolfe” at once, it might never see the light. His fear of not living to complete the series of his histories was not justified by the event, and the temporary gap was filled by the publication of “A Half Century of Conflict” in 1892. Twenty-seven years had elapsed since the publication of the first Part of the series, and the successive Parts had followed at intervals varying from two to eight years.
During this time Parkman had also contributed many articles to the magazines, consisting in great measure of advance chapters from his histories, but comprising also reviews of books relating to American history, and a few papers upon political or social subjects, notably an article on “The Failure of Universal Suffrage,” in the North American Review for July–August, 1878.
It is needless to recount all the obstacles and difficulties encountered and overcome in the preparation and composition of the “Historical Narratives.” All this has been told by Parkman himself in his prefaces and in his autobiographical fragment. The volumes, as they successively appeared, were elaborately reviewed, and the verdict of the best critics, both at home and abroad, was decidedly favorable.
In Canada they excited great enthusiasm. It was recognized that, for the first time, the early history of that region had been fairly dealt with, and that Parkman was entitled to the gratitude of all patriotic Canadians. McGill University, at Montreal, gave him the degree of Doctor of Laws ten years before he received a similar honor from his own Alma Mater. A new township in Quebec County was named after him, and it was proposed to place his portrait in the Library of Parliament at Ottawa, while the Abbé Casgrain published at Quebec in 1872, in French, a charming brochure, in which he gives an account of the visit he made to the historian in Boston the previous year, a sketch of his life, and a review of so much of his great work as had then appeared. This review is highly eulogistic, with certain reservations natural to one who looked at events from the standpoint of the Jesuits,394 rather than from that of liberty, which was Parkman’s own.
One of the features of Parkman’s histories which has been most highly praised is his faithful and picturesque descriptions of natural scenery. In these word-paintings he follows instinctively the rule so often insisted on by his friend, the artist William M. Hunt, “Accentuate the things that count.” He thus avoids making mere catalogues or inventories of objects, — a fault into which the scrupulous but prosaic delineator, whether with pen or pencil, is apt to fall, — and gives us pictures instinct at once with artistic and poetic feeling. Many examples of his felicity of description might be given, but there is one which has a peculiar interest as a portrayal of features peculiar to the primeval American forest, — that forest of which he somewhere says his writings are the history: —
“… the stern depths of immemorial forests, dim and silent as a cavern, columned with innumerable trunks, each like an Atlas upholding its world of leaves, and sweating perpetual moisture down its dark and channelled rind; some strong in youth, some grisly with decrepit age, nightmares of strange distortion, gnarled and knotted with wens and goitres; roots intertwined beneath, like serpents petrified in an agony of contorted strife; green and glistening mosses carpeting the rough ground, mantling the rocks, turning pulpy stumps to mounds of verdure, and swathing fallen trunks, as bent in the impotence of rottenness they lie outstretched over knoll and hollow, like mouldering reptiles of the primeval world, while around and on and through them springs the young growth that battens on their decay, — the forest devouring its own dead.”395
Such scenes as this, to be found nowhere except in the inmost recesses of the primeval forests of our Northern wildernesses, can indeed be adequately portrayed only by the pen; the pencil and the brush recoil from them in impotence. The various features, each of them essential to the understanding of the whole, are so crowded and intertwined that no general view can be had at one time and from one spot; they must be taken in successively and from different points. Besides, the palette has no colors to give the mysterious twilight, the oppressive stillness, and the chilling atmosphere, which would be death to the artist who should linger long in these damp recesses.
A concise yet comprehensive summary of Parkman’s work as an historian, and a just estimate of the place it should hold in literature, are contained in the closing paragraph of the address read by John Fiske, a brother historian, at the memorial service in the academic theatre of Harvard University, soon after Parkman’s death: —
“Thus, great in his natural powers, and great in the use he made of them, Parkman was no less great in his occasion and in his theme. Of all American historians he is the most deeply and peculiarly American, yet he is at the same time the broadest and most cosmopolitan. The book which depicts at once the social life of the stone age, and the victory of the English political Idea over the French Idea in securing this continent for its expansion, is a book for all mankind and for all time. Strong in its individuality, and like to nothing beside, it clearly belongs among the world’s few masterpieces of the highest rank.”396
It was well worth fifty years of striving to attain such a result. It had taken a lifetime: the work was done, but the life, too, was nearly ended.
social life — character.
During all these years Parkman made his home in Boston or its immediate vicinity. He paid, however, in the mean time several visits to Europe, and spent one winter in Florida. He made also frequent excursions to Canada and other localities, in which were laid the scenes of his histories, and often passed a week or two in “camping out,” always with great benefit to his health.
His house at Jamaica Plain was the one which he had built for himself in 1854, and in which the later summers of his brief married life had been passed. It stood on rising ground, close to the shore of Jamaica Pond. Here he had his garden and green-houses, and here he came early in the spring, and remained late in the autumn of every year. He kept on the pond a boat, into which he could step from his garden, and obtain in rowing the exercise that was essential to him when walking was difficult and painful. Frequent friendly visits to a muskrat, his neighbor on the shore of the pond, added to the pleasure he took in his boat.
It was pleasant to visit him in his garden. He not only took pride in his flowers, but loved them, speaking of their characters, their habits, their caprices, as though they had been sentient beings. He was very generous in giving away blossoms, roots, and cuttings, and was always ready with wise counsel as to cultivation and management.
After the loss of his wife he returned to live, during the winter months, with his widowed mother, at first in a house in Walnut Street, and later at No. 50 Chestnut Street, Boston. Here his mother died in 1871, and the house having become the property of his only remaining unmarried sister, the two made it their permanent winter home, sharing together also the summer residence at Jamaica Plain. After the marriage of his youngest daughter, and the purchase by her husband of the old Wentworth house at Portsmouth, N. H., he usually made a visit there during the hot months of the summer. He greatly delighted in the place, on account both of its situation and of its historic associations. He has given a description of it in one of his books.397
In Parkman’s case the boy was truly father of the man. Such as we have seen him in boyhood, youth, and early manhood, such he remained to the end. His character broadened, deepened; it did not change. His native vehemence was chastened, but by no means obliterated. His courage was shown in enduring pain, disappointment, and delay in mature life, no less than in the hazardous adventures of youth. The calm good-judgment and fertility of resource, which had stood him in good stead in the forest and on the prairie, served him as faithfully in less romantic, but no less difficult straits. To do his work, and to prolong his life that he might do it, was the double task to which he applied himself. The task was accomplished through his own unflinching courage, his tenacity of purpose, his patient industry, his unconquerable will.
But it was done quietly and simply. He rarely made any allusion to his work, or to the difficulties which impeded it. He said very little about his books or himself, except in reply to questions, and seemed to avoid the subject of his various illnesses and physical discomforts, as though half ashamed of having them. He studied his case for himself, and was often his own best physician; but he never wearied his friends with details of his symptoms, never repined, never complained, but bore all his trials, not only with fortitude, but with cheerfulness.
There was little in his personal appearance, at least in his later years, that denoted the invalid. The “squareness” of his shoulders was noticeable even when in college, and the exercise of rowing had still further developed both shoulders and chest. There was an alertness in all his movements as well as in his speech, and he carried himself more like a soldier than a scholar. No beard disguised the high-bred refinement of his face, or hid the varying expressions of his sensitive mouth, where gentleness was joined to strength.
He was fond of society, and had the instinct of hospitality. At his winter home in Chestnut Street, when his health permitted, he delighted to entertain his club, or a small circle of guests, at dinner or at an afternoon reception. But the care he had to take of his health, and the constant vigilance he had to exercise in order to keep his mental faculties in working condition, prescribed limits to the indulgence of these tastes. He was not often seen in large assemblies. Crowds were not only dangerous to him, but he disliked them. Often he was obliged to adopt the rule of seeing only one visitor at a time. But even when confined to his chair or his bed, and when the limit of a visit was fixed by his physician at five minutes, he had always a pleasant smile and a cheerful greeting for a friend. His fondness for animals never abated, and if a friend, as sometimes happened, brought a dog with him, the four-footed visitor was never denied admittance, but was welcomed cordially and by name.
He showed in his life the qualities, so conspicuous in his writings, of quick discernment, sound judgment, a keen sense of justice and absolute integrity, together with a sympathetic imagination which enabled him to put himself in another’s place, and to see from another’s standpoint, without abandoning his own. He had a strong tinge of conservatism, and on subjects in regard to which he felt himself competent he had his convictions, and expressed them without reserve. His friends, and they were many, both men and women, came to him for sympathy and counsel, and none found him wanting.
He was a delightful companion. His wide interests, his love of all manly exercises, his passion for all animal life, no matter how lowly, his faculty of close observation, and, above all, his keen and delicate sense of humor, made intercourse with him always stimulating and suggestive. It is probable that his sense of humor not only helped him over many a rough road, but quickened his insight into character, which was very acute. He was quick to see the humor of a situation or of a character; hence his great delight in Miss Austen’s novels. Any one who has had the privilege of knowing him well will remember the peculiar charm of his smile when relating anything which amused him. It was not merely external; it seemed to arise in an inner consciousness, as it were, first stealing into his eyes, and spreading at last to the sensitive, flexible mouth, where it became of rare beauty. He was critical and fastidious in his literary taste, liking only the best. Brought up among the refinements of life, he was essentially a gentleman in manner and in taste; but as he was a Spartan in the bearing of pain, so he was also a Spartan in his love of simplicity. Luxuries did not attract him; he did not object to them, but he simply did not care for them. He lived the quiet and unostentatious life of the scholar, keeping steadily to his life work, and finishing it under great stress of pain and difficulty, but with eye and heart open to all beneficent and humane influences, simple in his wants, generous in giving, of entire rectitude, greatly beloved by those nearest him by kin and friendship.
death — funeral — memorial service.
In the latter part of the year 1892 he had a severe attack of pleurisy, complicated with congestion of the liver, from which he was for some time not expected to recover. By the beginning of 1893 he had rallied from this; but in February he was prostrated by a new disease (phlebitis), which kept him for several weeks confined to his bed, and afterward to his chair. During the summer, at Jamaica Plain, and afterward at Portsmouth, his health greatly improved. He still suffered, indeed, from insomnia, which had now for years been chronic with him; and the arthritis, which had at first attacked the knees, had lately declared itself also in the shoulders, incapacitating him at times for rowing, and compelling him to devise other means for obtaining the exercise which was absolutely indispensable. On the whole, however, he seemed, on his return to Jamaica Plain in the autumn, in somewhat better physical condition and in better spirits than had of late been usual with him.
His seventieth birthday, 16 September, brought him abundant congratulations from his friends and from the press; and it was confidently hoped that he had still many years of life and usefulness before him. But seven weeks later, on the fifth of November, on returning from a short row on the pond, he had a seizure of peritonitis, causing, as is usual with that affection, intense and persistent pain. The illness was short, lasting only three days, and the end was sudden, painless, and peaceful. He died on the eighth of November, 1893.
His funeral took place on Saturday, 11 November, at King’s Chapel, Boston. The church was crowded; and the services, conducted by the Rev. Howard N. Brown of Brookline, were solemn and impressive. Use was made of the new “Book of Prayer and Praise for Congregational Worship,” recently published, in which, “in the Burial Service, an effort has been made to change the too dominant note of gloom to one of hope and trust.” The selections read had been carefully chosen, and were strikingly appropriate.
Twelve of Parkman’s classmates, out of a total of twenty-eight survivors, were present, and a wreath, bearing the date of the Class, in white blossoms upon dark-green leaves, was laid upon his coffin in their name.
The pall-bearers, selected by the family from among his personal friends, were John Lowell, Martin Brimmer, Daniel Denison Slade, George Silsbee Hale, John Quincy Adams, Charles Sprague Sargent, and Edward Wheelwright. Of these, three were his classmates, and five, including these classmates, were members of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts.
On the evening of 6 December, 1893, a commemorative service in honor of Francis Parkman was held at Cambridge, in Sanders Theatre, the academic forum of the University, where, four years before, Parkman had received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, and where, on so many Commencement Days, he had sat among the Fellows of the College. The audience was largely composed of students, whose quiet and reverential demeanor was strikingly in accord with the occasion. Addresses were made by President Eliot, Mr. Justin Winsor, and Mr. John Fiske. In the intervals of the speaking, a choir of undergraduates furnished appropriate music. The simple ceremony was at once affecting and inspiring. There was sorrow for the loss of a distinguished son and high officer of the College; but there was also exultation over the victory won, and the splendid example bequeathed to posterity.
The three speakers paid just and eloquent tribute to Parkman’s fame as an historian.398 But the man was greater than the historian; and to Parkman the man, no tribute has been paid more tender, more exquisite, and more true than that contained in the last stanza of the poem read before the Massachusetts Historical Society by Oliver Wendell Holmes: —
“A brave, bright memory! his the stainless shield
No shame defaces and no envy mars.”
In a memorandum given in 1885 to the Secretary of his College class, Parkman made the following enumeration of societies of which he was then a member: —
- Corresponding member of the Royal Society of Canada, 1884.
- Honorary member of London Society of Antiquarians, 1878.
- Member of Royal Historical Society of London, 1876, — resigned.
- Member of a score or more of American and Provincial historical societies.
In addition to these it appears, by the last Quinquennial Catalogue of Harvard University, that he was a —
- Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
- Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- Honorary member of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec.
He was also a member of the American Antiquarian Society.
Beside these, a few others may be mentioned with which he was connected.
He was one of the Founders of the Archæological Institute of America, established in 1879, becoming a member on its organization, and a life member and one of the Executive Committee soon after. Later, he was a member of the Council. He took a lively interest in the work of the Institute, especially, as was natural, in the investigations carried on under its auspices, by Mr. Bandelier, among the Indians in the Southwestern portions of the United States. At the same time he did not neglect the work done in Europe and Asia on classic ground, and was a contributor to the fund for establishing The American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
Of the New-England Historic Genealogical Society he became a Resident member in 1865, and a Life member in 1871. He was also a Life member of the Bostonian Society, and a member of the American Folk-Lore Society. His connection with the Massachusetts Horticultural Society has been already mentioned.
Of societies of a more social character with which he was connected, was the St. Botolph Club, of which he was one of the founders (January, 1880), and for the first six years of its existence, its President. On resigning that office he was chosen Vice-President, and held the position until his death.
Francis Parkman’s connection with The Colonial Society of Massachusetts was brief. At the time when the Society was organized he was lying dangerously ill with pleurisy, and though at the date of his election, 18 January, 1893, he had apparently recovered from that illness, he was almost immediately afterward attacked by another malady which confined him to his bed for several weeks; consequently it was not until the ninth of April following that he accepted membership, and it was on the thirteenth of April that he was enrolled as a Resident member. His friendship for Dr. Gould, the President of the Society, and the fact that a number of his classmates and personal friends were among its founders and earliest members, together with his lifelong devotion to historical research, would doubtless have made him take a warm interest in its welfare and a share in its work, had his life been spared. A little less than seven months after joining the Society his life and his membership ended together.