John Leverett Merrill.

History of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms online

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the grave has gathered within its icy arms more than three generations of men.

Meet it is that to-day — and to-day of all days — we strew the colorless
flowers of our love over their graves. Meet it is that to-day we offer to the
memory of their virtues the tribute of our respect and affection — that to-day
we recall the history of their devotion to humanity and religion, their fidelity
to the fundamental principles whereon is built the structure of liberal govern-
ment, whereon repose the solid walls of the Temple of God.

From the charnel-house they speak to us and bid us imitate the excellencies
of their lives; bid us revere them as sturdy laborers for the good of mankind.


In yonder burying- ground stand tlie sculptured monuments whieli tell us
their brief history — they were born — they died. And if we search among
these mementos of the departed, we shall find few whose memory is more
worthy of our regard than that of him who is so fitly recalled to our recollec-
tion by the sentiment to which I now respond.

Lyman Brooks was born in the neighboring town of Alstead, where he
remained until he was eleven years of age when his father removed to Ver-
mont, to a farm in the County of Caledonia, the name of which is a kindly
memento of that land of mountain and lake, of battle and of song, to which
many of you with just pride trace your origin. Partaking of the common lot
of the sons of New England, he labored on his father's farm until he was
twenty-one years of age ; and afterwards during the intervals of study gained
the means of his support and education. He pursued his professional studies
with Dr. Dewey of Lancaster, and Dr. Adams of Keene, and in the year
1821, at the age of twenty-four years, he graduated at the Medical School of
Dartmouth College.

The first two years of his professional life — years of trial to the physician —
were passed in the adjoining town of Marlow, and in the year 1823 he re-
moved to this town, where, with eminent success, he practiced his profession
until his decease in May, 1865.

In the \i^ of a physician, whose practice is among the inhabitants of a
rural district, there is usually little to attract the attention of the historian
or the eulogist. He is not called to address listening Senates, nor may he
engage in the strifes of the business mart. The very nature of his inter-
course with his fellow-men shuts out of view his words and his deeds.

The confidential adviser in regard to the ills of those who require his
services, he may not proclaim his acts in the ears of a curious community ;
he quietly passes from house to house, from bedside to bedside, the minister
of healing to the suffering and the bearer of comfort to the sorrowing. He
listens -to the griefs of his anxious fellows and scatters, if it may be, the af-
flictions that smother their hearts. In the heat of your midsummer, in the
fierce, way-blocking storms of your winter, the doctor's daily round must be
made — nay, he must make the " night joint laborer with the day," and, as
the suffering children of men know no Sabbath of rest from their pain, so he
knows not the repose which men of other pursuits enjoy. To the alleviation
of human suffering he has made a solemn dedication of the energies of his
life, and he must not forget his vows. But while there is little opportunity
for physical comfort, there is ample room and verge enough for that peaceful
satisfaction which the consciousness of faithful service must ever produce.
.It will not require an effort of your fancy to present before the minds of
many of you the constant, unwearying labors of Dr. Brooks for nearly half
of that century the completion of which you so appropriately celebrate to-day.
Many of you will remember how earnestly you watched the expression of his
face, as he stood by the bedside of various members of your families and gave


you words of elieer — told you by the kindling eye, even before his gentle,
syrapatliizing voice was heard, that the crisis was passed — that the skill of
healing had prevailed, and that your loved ones would yet be restored to
health: or, it may be, (for it is written "All men must die,") your worst
fears assumed the form of fact and he found no word or hope to whisper in
your ear, but rather, that the summons hence must be obeyed — told you iu
few and kindly words that the mortal must put on immortality — that you
must prepare to see your dear one pass

" beneatli the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings."

From many a scene like this the faithful physician must depart ; the privacy
of domestic grief may not be disturbed by one even so confidential as the
family physician. He may take your hand in the warm grasp of friendship
— he may say to you " good-bye " and but little more, he turns his face
from you and is gone.

The breaking heart must rest — must find for itself that healing which
cometh not from human agency — must, in its loneliness, look to that fountain
of pure beneficence which faileth not. I should do injustice to the subject
of these remarks, if I should omit to speak of him as a citizen and as a
friend. In whatever seemed to be for the public weal he was always an
active and vigilant promoter, ever realizing the fact that there is no subject
of greater interest to the citizen of a free country than that of the mental
and moral training of the young ; that within its compass are gathered the
hopes of all the future ; and I think you will join me in asserting the truth
of the remark that in his decease education lost an earnest and a faithful

There are many in this assembly celebrating with filial love and veneration
the deeds of their fathers and their mothers, and they will tell you with what
fidelity their fathers and their mothers wrought.

Look around you ! compared with the great cycles of years it is but a
little time since the place where you now stand, nay, all the surrounding
territory was one wide wild wood of maple and oak and hemlock, the home
of the bear and the eagle. The axe has laid the forest trees low and they
have been shaped into cottages and farm houses, granaries and barns ; the
wild beast has fled and the eagle is scarcely known to you except as the em-
blem of your country.

Where aforetime stood the wigwam of the children of the forest you now
behold the district school-house and the church, emblems, in this favored
land, of mental culture and moral and religious training, so that this
rural town has put on the garments of the ages. Too much of this be-
neficent result Dr. Brooks contributed an ample share, and, for his labors,
we, as citizens, to-day wreathe his memory with the chaplot of our grateful


As a friend and neighbor Dr. Brooks was faithful and true ; warm and
genial in his sympathies ; hearty and sincere in his manifestations of regard.
There are many here now, there are many absent who remember with keen
gratitude his kindness to them, who remember with what good nature and
good heart he bestowed upon them the tokens of his generous inclinations,
and I am sure that from the realms of the happy his beautiful spirit looks
with placid eye upon the thousand evidences of his love.

Of other and oentler feelings which cluster around the hearts of those
who were of his fireside I may not speak ; they belong to the seclusion of
his own bereaved family, where I know they are treasured in the storehouse
of their most abiding aifection.

With the hope that it will not be thought improperly obtrusive I beg the
privilege of saying he was my friend, and that personally I feel a pride in
the consciousness that he was so. While I grieve that any one must speak
his euloo-y, it is a melancholy pleasure that I am permitted at this time to
bear testimony to his many virtues, and to join with you in paying a grateful
tribute " to the Memory of the late Dr. Brooks."

The following sentiment was responded to by George B. Brooks,
Esq., of East Saginaw, Michigan :

The Native Lawyers of Acworth—F.yev true to their early impressions. One of them
is done brown (Brown). Others run as swiftly as the brooks (Brooks). Many seek
the cool retreat of the bowers (Bowers) : while all, ere they reach their graves
(Graves), will pause and pay a tribute to the memory of the late Levi Turner, Esq.,
and the Hon. Milon C. McClm-e."

Felloiv- Citizens and Friends : — Although the number of native lawyers is
small, it is not an occasion for even a brief history of individuals, and I can
only hope to show the direction in which lie the rights, duties and tendencies
of the leo-al profession. The true type of our citizenship and civilization is
found in the lives of our best men and women. If we have paupers and
convicts, they are unfortunates, and detract nothing from the higher order of
manhood that does exist. The ministry of the church has its hypocrites, the
noble profession of medicine has its quacks, and the law has its pettifoggers ;
yet these are no honest part or index of the learned professions, but parasites.
The English novelists, of the past few years, have given much felse coloring
to the American Bar. Their representations, — forceful, eloquent and truth-
ful, as the part in romances which they are made to take, requires, — are no
more the type of character in the history of American jurisprudence, than
the Salem witchcraft is of the freedom of the religious sentiments of New
England in the year 1868, But they left impressions that stay late in the
minds of many, who accept them without a doubt or an inquiry, as a truth-
ful likeness of the whole class of lawyers everywhere. I remember a good
old lady, who would as willingly have gone down to her grave with a lie
upon her lips as to have represented any human being falsely or unjustly,


and she said to me in a voice of tenderness and sadness, " do you really be-
lieve a lawyer can be a good man ? "

But the testimonies concerning the dignity of the profession have prevailed,
and it is vs'ell that the old discredits and disgraces, which it has received
through ignorance, — but ignorance in many disguises, coming sometimes
through the zeal and jealousy of divines, sometimes through the severity of
political hatred and sometimes through the learned and the philosopher, —
have been removed.

The lawyer is the product of civilization. Savage life and the earlier
pioneers do not require his services, for in these conditions brute force has
the mastery, and " might makes right." "To give counsel, to secure men's
persons from death and violence, and to dispose of the property of their
goods and lands," are their true labors. The nation, the State and the in-
dividuals are their wards. Their life, liberty and estate are in their keeping
while reason and right rule. Questions of great weight and great difficulty.
Weio-hty for that the things of such value are at issue, difficult for the able
practice and learned opinions, on the one side, and the equally influential
and learned authorities on the other side. And then, there are men and
women of fine fiber and sentiments, and they must be managed delicately ;
and there are men and women of coarse fiber and sentiments, and they must
be managed delicately.

But bar the nobler purposes, and the moralities if you will, and bring all
to the low level of expediency, and then ask, " What pays best," in the
practice of law '? The answer is, strict integrity, unquestioned probity and
unsullied honor. " Just law and true policy never go apart." This is no
sickly sentiment, for sensational occasions, but the daily experience of pro-
fessional life. Through all, in all, and with all, if true to the high calling,
the end sought is, that " truth may first appear and then prevail."

Our rugged and rocky hills, with their pleasant valleys, that the grand
old primal ocean left us, when the great law made other beds for the waters,
have given us sweet influences amid scenes of beauty and grandeur. They
have made us better, if not always good men, and women, — and better law-
yers too ; — and the early and lasting impressions that have come from these
hills, we shall never forget and can never cease to love, scattered though we
may be among mountains, among other hills, or in our prairie homes. I speak
for a profession that I love and reverence, and how gratefully and tenderly
too, if time allowed, would I go to the grave of our honored dead, whose
lives were the ripe consummate fruit of duty done to all mankind. Of the
living, their works should tell more and better things than any words of mine
can speak.

Native lawyers of Acworth, brothers and volunteers in the ranks of hard
workers, that are second to none in intellect, in heart, in culture, in acquire-
ments, in veracity, in justice, and in humanity, let us remember that " the
greatest trust between man and man, is the trust of giving counsel." If


you are not true men in the profession, you are false men, and cannot be true
anywhere. If worthy the dignity of the profession

" it must follow, as the night the day

Thou canst not be false to any man ! "

The sentiment next in order was responded to by L. V. N.
Peck of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., as follows :

" Our Native Teachers — A close attention to their calling, has won for them a pre-
eminence in this profession worthy of commendation."

3Ir. President, and Fellow -Citizens: — It is no part of a teacher's duty to
make long speeches ; whatever he says is expected to be short, sharp and
decisive, and I am sure I cannot please this audience better than by making
my remarks short, though they may be neith'er sharp or decisive.

That which distinguishes New England above other parts of this country
and above all other countries, is her system of common schools, a system
which enables every child to secure the advantages of an education, and
makes our people the most intelligent among the nations of the earth. I
tell you',' my friends, I am proud every day of my life that I was born and
byed in New England, and this feeling of pride and gratitude deepens and
streno-thens the more I see of the social life and educational deficiencies of


other communities.

Our rocky soil and sterile hills may not compare very favorably with the
rich praiijies of the West, or the productive savannahs of the South ; but of
what aviil were those rich soils until New England genius and enterprise
brought their hid treasures to the light, and made them minister to the com-
fort and sustenance of our people. Go where you will, over the broad West,
and in every village you will find men whom the rocky soil of New England
nurtured to manhood, whose intellects New England teachers have sharpened,
and fitted for their work. Tell over the prominent public men of our coun-
try at any period of our history, and you will find that New England has
always contributed her full share and sometimes exceeded it threefold.
Well did the sturdy farmer answer the traveler's half contemptuous query, as
to what were our productions, " Well our land is rough and our soil poor,
so we build school-bouses and raise men!" To raise men who can
wisely and justly control the affairs of the nation, we need, as we have
had, good schools and earnest, devoted teachers. This brings me to my text,
"The native teachers of Acworth." I do not need to point them out to
you by name, they are with you and of you. They are your neighbors
and friends. I see before me venerable men, who wielded the birch, when
a powerful physique was one of the first requisites demanded by the care-
ful committee ; for — be it spoken with all fitting reverence — the bois-
terous spirits of our fathers and mothers, the outgrowth of an exuberant
life and health, of which this generation knows little, sotnetimes needed the
restraininor hand of the master.


How fondly do our old men dwell upon the hearty good will and cordial
hospitality of those times, with the huskings, and apple-bees and spelling-
schools, when red ears were prizes better than gold, when apple-par in o-s
mysteriously curled into cabalistic symbols of future destiny, and merry
games and forfeits made the hours flit by with lightning speed, and brouo'ht
the pleasant pain of parting all too soon. In all these merry-makino-s the
teacher was an important and honored guest. Generally he " boarded round,"
and his coming was an event to be dreaded by over-anxious housewives, lest
their hospitalities might prove inferior to those he had already experienced,
but he was sure of a hearty welcome, and the best the house afforded. Alas !
those good old days of rugged simplicity and sterling honesty are gone never
to return — the people, customs, institutions, even the very face of the country,
all are changed, all except those principles of liberty and justice, which our
Pilgrim Fathers stamped upon their offspring, and which can never be ef-
faced until our rocky hills are leveled with the sea.

In none of these things has Acworth been behind her sister towns. She
can show a long list of heroes of the bloody field, and of the peaceful home ;
many a man and woman of to-day holds in grateful remembrance the pre-
cepts of the teacher. I believe Acworth can show a larger list of teachers
than any other town of its size. From my own native district, No. 7, con-
taining barely 15 families, there were at one time full thirty engaged in
teaching. Other districts could perhaps show as good a record. But most
of our teachers have not thought the business a good one to grow old in, so
after a few terms or years they have changed into those ministers, doctors,
lawyers and dentists, so highly eulogized here to-day, or have adopted the
quieter but not less useful pursuit of farming.

At this moment I recall but one Acworth man who has made teachino' a
life business, and he is present. I am sure you will all agree that his
past success and his present position as Principal of the best Young Ladies'
Seminary in all New England, prove that he has not mistaken his calling.
My friends, we are all teachers, by example, if not by precept. Let us re-
member, too, that we are all pupils of the same great Teacher, whose lessons,
if well learned, will make us useful and honored here and happy hereafter.

The next sentiment was responded to by David Campbell
of Nashua :

" The Mechanics of Acworth, Native or Adopted — Rich in power of invention,
skillful in workmanship, and industrious in their habits."

In replying to this sentiment allow me to arrange the mechanics into three
classes, or generations covering the hundred years we this day celebrate. In
giving the names of the first class — our father mechanics, it will aid my
memory (for I rank with the middle class) to associate location with names
I wish to recall. I shall be pardoned, perhaps, if I begin near home, both
personally and geographically. Three-fourths of a mile from where we stand,



resided James Campbell, "the weaver," as recorded in his deeds, when he
bought three lots of unbroken forest land. He was apprenticed to the trade
of a weaver when fourteen years old in Londonderry. His health failed
from the effects of small pox, and he was discharged from the Continental
Army before the close of the great contest ; and as soon as able he entered
upon his part of this then wilderness. His trade was of much service to
himself, as well as to his neighbors, for he would weave their "coverlets,"
and by one day's work in his loom would pay for two days' work in felling
the forest trees around his dwelling. Having plenty of land, he was glad
to settle other mechanics around him. A little east of his house, was the
first hatter in town — James Pearsons, father of Deacon John Pearsons, lately
deceased. A little further east was Andrew Woodbury, cut nail-maker, and
a small water-power was used for cutting the nails, but foot-power machinery
was used in heading them. It is probable that the older houses in town
contain nails made by this early mechanic. Farther down on the same
brooklet was a blacksmith's shop, and a trip-hammer, built and operated by
John Keed, son of Supply Keed,' the first carpenter in the east part of the
town. On the site of this trip-hammer shop was afterwards the tannery of
David and Joseph Blanchard. Passing up this brook north were two saw-
mills, one built by Supply Reed, near his residence, and the other by Deacon
Jonathan Silsby, and afterwards continued to be operated by his son. Deacon
Henry Silsby, till near the time of his death. Still farther north was the
residence of Amos Ingalls, Acworth's first plough-maker, so far as my rec-
ollection serves.

I will now pass over west to Derry Hill. There lived Capt. Joseph Gregg
the carpenter, and near him John Wilson the maker of the " spinning-jacks
and spinning-jennies" of those times, which served our manufacturing
mothers (I will not say mechanics) a good purpose for spinning cotton,
linen and wool, and as one of the speakers here to-day has said, served
the daughters as pianos and melodeons. Near this was the first cooper
I remember, Aaron Kemp. Jonathan H. Reed was afterwards cooper
in the north part of the town.

Passing in our circuit from " Derry Hill," we came to " Parks Hollow"
on Cold River. Here were the first saw-mill, fulling-mill, and gristmill,
and a little east of these was the blacksmith's shop of Maj. Joel Anglers.
Following up the river you find the first " local " shoemaker, Joseph Gleason,
and beyond him the saw-mill of Capt. Robert Clark. Here I first saw
"water-power" applied to the "breaking" and "swingling" of flax.
Every farmer's barn before this was vocal with the sound of hand-power flax
machines, in winter. This " water-power machine was the work of Barnabas
Mayo if I recollect aright.

I will finish this circuit by following Cold River up stream to " Keyes
Hollow," on the east side of the town where was another saw-mill and after-
wards a fulling-mill, owned by John Thornton. That water-power is now


used to drive machinery for making various kinds of wood work, owned by
J. M. Reed.

Return now to the middle of the town. Here was the first blacksmith's
shop in town, or the first I ever saw. Capt. Gawin Gilmore was a model
mechanic, and his sons after him. Dawson Russell was the first saddler I
remember. William Heywood, carpenter, Asa Newton, shoemaker, and
Josiah Boutelle, painter.

Approximating to the second generation were James Wallace, shoemaker
Adam Wallace and Capt. Edward Woodbury, blacksmiths, David Montgom-
ery, saddler, David Campbell, shoemaker, John Davidson and Frederic
Parks, machinists, William Hayward, tinner, John Moore, cabinetmaker,
also, William and Daniel Warner, carpenters, but residing west of the center.
Many others noio omitted complete the list of the mechanics of Acworth of
the first and second generations. Many of these were adopted, but where
Acworth has adopted one mechanic, she has sent two and perhaps three to
help build up the great West ! I have seen them in all the western cities I
have passed through, and in Central Minnesota I have seen three of Ac-
worth's mechanics in one rural township.

Leaving the names of the present generation of mechanics to be recorded
by the historian who may follow me, I will speak of their power of invention,
skill and industry. I will give as a general rule what I think a fair test of
judgment on this point. It is this. Have the mechanics of Acworth invented
all the improvements which their local wants require, and the advancing civ-
ilization of the age demands of them ? Let us see. There is no heavy
water power in this town, such as would develop inventive genius in the di-
rection of larger kinds of machinery. Nor are your hay-meadows so broad
as to call the attention of your mechanics to the invention of horse-power
mowing machines, or your prairies so broad as to require a steam-plough.
Your sons who have gone West have attended to these matters. What are
your wants? You have "side hills." I remember how difficult it was to
plow these ridges on the upper side of the field. One year ago, the New
Hampshire State Fair was held in Nashua where I now reside, and under a
large tent, but not so large as this, my first attraction was an exhibition of
mechanical skill in the construction of ploughs. A young man was revers-
ing a plow with great rapidity, showing how easily it could be done, in less

Online LibraryJohn Leverett MerrillHistory of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms → online text (page 10 of 33)