John Leverett Merrill.

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

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up the frame ! We are sometimes told that, after all the temper-
ance effort of forty years, no real progress has been made. This



CENTENNIAL ADDRESS. 37

simple fact, the evidence of which is on the town records, suffi-
ciently refutes the assertion.

Let me here bear testimony to the credit due to the persistent
energy of Eev. Phineas Cooke, who inaugurated and carried for-
ward, in the face of ridicule and opposition, the temperance re-
form in this town. I remember well the excitement caused by
the movement, the witticisms perpetrated at its expense, the wrath
of those who thought their liberties infringed, and the difficulties
in the church, which resulted in his dismissal, after a faithful min-
istry of fourteen years. Though he was driven from his cherished
field of labor, yet the work he inaugurated went steadily on.
Based upon correct principles, no form of opposition to it can per-
manently succeed. Many who joined in the clamor against him,
were glad afterwards to acknowledge their error, and to join at
last in doing honor to his memory. In years to come, his name
will be spoken with reverence, both for the fragrance of his mem-
ory in the churches, and for the change he wrought in the habits
of his people, and in removing their most besetting sin. Though
dead, he yet speaks on this subject, as well as on others which per-
tain to his hio-h calling:. The words he uttered in reference to it,
from this place, were winged with a power which no time can ex-
haust. And the discussions to which they gave rise, and to which
the young listened on the Sunday noons, on the grass under the
east windows of this church, have been as good seed sown in
many hearts.

How well I remember those Sunday noons ! There was scarcely
a thought which had been uttered from this pulpit, that was not
there discussed. How distinctly I see the forms of the earnest old
men, the leading members of the parish — Col. Duncan, Dea. Fin-
lay, Dea. Grout, Samuel Anderson, Lemuel Lincoln, and many
others, their contemporaries in the history of the town ! What
hard shots they could give, and what sharp retorts they would
pleasantly receive ! Is it but a fond partiality for the recollections
of childhood, that makes me think the men of that day a noble
race ? Their foibles and vices seem to me to be overshadowed by
the finest qualities of mind and heart, that I have ever seen in
quite an extensive acquaintance with many classes of people.

" Theirs was a noble spirit ; rough,
But generous, and brave and kind."

While we honor their memories, let us prove ourselves worthy



38 THE CENTENNIAL.

of such an ancestry. Well for us, if we inherit their inflexible
adherence to their honest convictions, their untiring industry and
patient endurance, their cheerfulness and o;ood humor under diffi-
culties and trials ; well, if we serve our God as faithfully as they
sought to do.

The history of a town like this furnishes but few incidents of
general interest. It was not settled, when Capt. John Stevens so
gallantly defended Fort No. 4, from the hostile visit of the French
and Indians, under M. Debaline, in 1747. Had it been, it might
yet have escaped the notice of the enemy ; for the absence of
nearly all the nut-bearing trees, indicates that it did not lie in the
war-paths of the Indians, who usually followed the courses of the
larcrer rivers. It has, therefore, for recital, no startling details of
Indian treachery and cruelty ; though, once in a while, as the tra-
dition runs, a solitary Indian strayed through the settlement.

No terrible tragedy ever occurred within its borders ; and its
annals are unstained with the records of any appalling crime.
Few towns have had so peaceful an existence, with a quiet so uni-
formly unruffled.

Our Connecticut ancestors were devout believers in ghosts. A
few of those harmless visitors were reported to have made noctur-
nal incursions into the houses of the earlier inhabitants ; and a
number of witch-stories used to be told, to the amazement and
terror of the children of fifty years ago. But looking back to
those periods in the light of the present day, I think we shall all
agree that the worst spirits with which the people ever had to
deal came from the distilleries, and the most fearful ghosts that
ever danced over these hills were conjured up by fancies, disturbed
by an enemy the people had put to their own mouths. Witches
there certainly were here in my younger days, and I must own to
being often disturbed by their magic wiles ; and judging from what
niav be seen to-day, at this great gathering of the fairer portion of
the present and former inhabitants of the town, they have not yet
lost their power of enchantment.

Turning from the past, one look at the present and the future.
From its physical peculiarities, Acworth can never be otherwise
than mainly an agricultural town. Its water-power is insufficient
for extensive mechanical or manufacturing purposes. In the fu-
ture, as in the past, its population must be somewhat limited. But
its resources have never yet been fully developed. These hills may
be made more productive than they have ever yet been. By bet-



CENTENNIAL ADDRESS. 39

ter culture, your crops may be doubled and quadrupled. By ju-
dicious underdraining and a liberal use of the rich muck of your
swamps, by skillful composting and more attention to the adapta-
tion of the soil to particular crops, with a market so near as Clare-
mont, and a railroad for transportation to Boston within eifyht
miles of your village, your farms, may be made as profitable as
any in the country. By encouraging the introduction of such
manufactures as may be profitably pursued, employment may be
given to your young men and young women. Far better for them
and for the place, if they are kept at home by such inducements,
than if compelled to leave for a livelihood elsewhere. There is
no reason why your farms may not be made more productive by
the methods indicated, and your home-market of twice its present
capacity in its demand for your products. AVith the present im-
proved implements for ditching and underdraining ; for planting,
reaping and gathering ; for mowing, raking and pitching ; the
labor required to accomplish this will be much less than that ex-
pended by your fathers in subduing these lands. The same ad-
vance in your methods of tilling the soil as that in the manufacture
of your maple sugar, will make the other branches of your rural
industry as profitable in proportion.

Try it, fellow-townsmen. Instead of complaining of the meagre
returns for your toil, and looking with longing eyes to other sec-
tions of the country for your future homes, by intelligent and skill-
ful industry make your present homes such as shall afford you all
the comforts needed to satisfy a reasonable refinement of taste.
Encourage your boys to stay at home, by making their homes
pleasant and attractive. Educate them for a life of industry amid
this beautiful scenery ; for intelligent farmers. Dignify your call-
ing; and do not, by constantly complaining of the hard lot of the
farmer, seek to make them dissatisfied with agricultural pursuits.
I have been about the world somewhat, during these thirty years'
absence from Acworth, and in positions to witness the opportuni-
ties afforded by the different trades, professions and callings, for
real enjoyment ; and the longer I live and the more I see, the more
I am persuaded that, all things considered, no mode of life fur-
nishes so great facilities for solid comfort and true happiness as a
life upon a farm. I have never seen the place where one can get
a living without work, industry and persistent endeavor. I have
asked a good many people more or less given to complaining, to
tell me if they knew of such a place ; but I have never heard of



40 THE CENTENNIAL.

it, this side of our final home. Nor have I seen any place, or any
position in life, in which temperance, frugality, industry and perse-
verance ever fail to secure competence and comfort. They have
done it for the people of this town in the past ; and they will do
it in the years to come. God never intended that the labors of
the fiithers in subduing these hills, should be lost, or that the
farms, on which so many of us were reared, be permitted to be-
come wastes. And I am persuaded that those who occupy them,
and skillfully manage them, will be surer of prosperity, than if
they leave them, to become adventurers in even more fertile parts of
the country and the world.

While careful of these material interests, imitate the zeal of the
fjithers, in your care for good schools. liemember that there is
the same room for improvement in them, as in all other things per-
taining to human well-being. A school like that taught by Gen.
Carey fifty years ago, though then thought to be nearly perfect,
will not answer present demands. Employ the best teachers, and
avail yourselves of all the improvements that have been made in
common school instruction, for the benefit of the children. Be
liberal in all the expenditures that shall tend to the advancement
of the moral and religious interests of this community. Keep the
sacred fires of religion brightly burning in your homes and in
your hearts ; and then, he who so abundantly blessed the fathers
will as abundantly bless the children.

Friends and fellow-citizens : the events of this day will soon be
over. From its festivities we shall soon return to our homes, so
widely scattered and so far apart. Never again shall we all meet
on the shores of time. Many of us have passed the meridian of
life ; and the thin and scattering locks, silvered with the frosts of
many autumns, admonish us that our day is advancing to its close.
Our eyes begin to grow dim, and our steps have lost somewhat of
their wonted elasticity. Something of sadness mingles with our
rejoicings. These friendly greetings, with many, will be the last.
Those of us who, because of filial obligation, have best kept up
our acquaintance in our native place, will not long have these ties
to draw our steps thitherward. Our visits will gradually, for a
time, be less frequent ; and then, from advancing age and perhaps
the palsying hand of disease, will cease forever. We cannot
think, without a tear, of bidding a last adieu to these places, made
' 60 dear by the associations of our childhood.

But, while we shake the hands of our friends as we separate,



CENTENNIAL ADDRESS. 41

smiles shall mingle with our tears. Though we know we may
perhaps meet never again on life's shores, we are assured that w'c
may all meet once more,

" Where forms unseen by mortal eye,
Too glorious for our sight to bear,
Are walking with their God on high,
And waiting our arrival there."



Poem.



ONE HUNDRED YEARS.



If a man unskilled in the warrior's art —

Yet, daring to act the general's part —

Should lead men forth to deadliest battle,

Midst clash of arms and the cannon's rattle;

If one most sadly non compos mentis,

Not knowing of law what the intent is,

And, in government, not understanding

The art of ruling or of controlling,

Should be placed, somehow, in the chair of state,

To execute laws for the small and great ;

Should one essay, on a great occasion,

To please the crowd with a fine oration,

Who had failed to learn, while he was young

The mere a b abs of his mother tongue ;

Ye would think each one in pitiful case

In so far outstepping his proper place.

So know ye well how to commisserate

One like myself whom unpltying fate

Hath failed to bless with poetical pate ;

To whom it doth fall, with toil and with pains,

To tune his voice to poetical strains.

Ah ! how did I tremble, and fear, and shrink,

To dip my poor pen in the poet's ink,

As I heard Dame Fortune whisper, and say,

" It is thine, Good Sir, on a coming day —

Thine, I assure thee, to bear a new part,

And try well thy skill in the poet's art ;

Aye, when shall have come, on a joyful day,

Men, women, and children, from every way,

When, at a set time, the native townsfolk,

When, at a set time, beloved kinsfolk,




4m;



POEM: ONE HUNDRED YEARS. 43

Are truly well met from far and from near, '

To celebrate the centennial year

Of a township's birth whose pure and good name

Shows scarcely a blot to tarnish her fome ;

When hands shall be given in warmest greeting,

The hearts of all in unison beatino-.

At this great, this happy, family, meeting ;
Then, know it is thine, to bear a new part,

And try well thy skill in the poet's art."

Ah ! how did I fear, and tremblingly ask,

" Why ? why I essay this difficult task

To make vain show of poetical lore ?

Since, as oft as I would in days before,

For a time quit Earth and her homely charms,

To be borne aloft in fair Muse's arms,

The ungen'rous Muse declining her aid

Hath frowned on me, with a shake of the head,

And from out her dark and her winsome eyes

Hath cast on me looks of greatest surprise.

Unconcealed, unmistakable, wonder,

That I should make this singular blunder

Of apeing the poet — stealing his thunder."

But cometh the query, by day and by nio-ht,

" How isit? why is it that my poor mite

Can swell the joys of the great occasion ?

The joys of the festal celebration ;

For the Muse, to my prayers, hath ne'er gi'en heed.

Nor will she, this hour of my sorest need.

But ah ! I have it — the way — it is clear —

Despair, I will not, no more will I fear.

In slow moving prose, I will show my skill,

In dull, slow moving prose, my part fulfill.

And, yet, in order to make it appear

To the unskilled, the uncritical ear.

That, to the poet's tune, I'm keeping time,

I'll clothe it all in the garb of rhyme.

So, clothing my prose in a stolen dress.

My thoughts, in rhythmic lines, I'll dare express."

But, perplexities began to double.

There came a new and a sorer trouble

Of which matter troublous, I ne'er did dream,

To make choice, it was, of the fittest theme.

So, ran my thoughts about to hasten o'er

The numerous themes in IMemory's store ;



44 THE CENTENNIAL.



%



But, ah ! midst all the stuff and rubbish, there,
I could not find, with hours of search and care,
The object of my ardent wish and prayer.
Then walked I forth and took the open fields.
To seek the aid which Nature sometimes yields.
And as on I walked, I scarce knew whither.
Hither sometimes tending, sometimes thither,
I, yet, was troubled sore, perplexed, confused,
I thought, and I pondered deep, studied, mused,
So, pond'ring, wand'ring, waud'ring, pondering.
Most slowly, idly, idly, wandering,
Wandering slowly to a by retreat,
I sat me down on a mossy seat,
And 'neath the shade of a shadowy tree,
Fell to dreaming — dreaming as thou shalt see.

There stood before me, twelve winged steeds !

Just before me, twelve fiery steeds !

Twelve, fiery, foaming, prancing steeds !

These steeds were joined to a golden car !

A beautiful, gilded, golden, car !

Magnificent, shining, golden, car !

And, in the car, was an unknown form 1

Just in the car, a singular form !

A singular, fearful, giant, form !

The form was like the species human !

Twas, yet, unlike the species human !

Yet, unlike either man or woman I

On a giant frame, did tower so high,

80 huge a caput, far towards the sky !

So large the shoulders ! and the arms so strong !

Hands, so thick and wide, and fingers so long !

The feet, withal, of such wonderful size !

I scarce could credit my astonished eyes !

Such a noble form ! intelligent face !

And, when he bowed, such dignified grace !

Such a knowing look ! such a piercing eye !

Forehead, so massive ! so broad and so high !

And, further, methought, such a dark stern brow !

The boldest before it must quail and bow !

Such signs of great might, in body and soul !

Signs of great wisdom, to direct, control 1

Amazed, I exclaimed " Such wondrous nature

Doth never appear in human creature I



POEM: ONE HUNDRED YEATIS. 45

" Ti's Divine/ the form is Divine! " I said,

And turned to flee being sorely afraid.

" Haste — baste not," be cried, " but dispel tby fears,

Tbe name tbat I bear is One Hundred Years,

Aye, One Hundred Tears is my rightful name,

And mine, for my deeds, is infinite fame ;

I was born, rightly recalling the date.

Year seventeen hundred and sixty-eight ;

The Universe broad is my native place,

The Universe broad, my abiding place ;

Though it is passing strange, I testify

I had no infancy, no childhood, I,

For, as broke from the shades of blackest night,

The dawn of being on my wondering sight,

The King Eternal of — this I am sure —

Gave me all the powers of years mature,

And, strange to recount, from that very day,

On me conferred, unlimited sway,

Full, Unlimited sway for five-score years.

O'er millions on millions of whirling spheres;

And, o'er all events, great, wonderful, small ;

O'er the deeds of men, o'er their actions all ;

Gave me coursers twelve and my royal car,

To speed me to realms both near and afar.

In faith, I have ruled, as 'twas given me.

O'er countless globes, and on land and on sea ;

But, the days of my years are almost gone,

And my kingly work is now almost done,

The sceptre of which I'm now possessor,

I must soon give o'er to my successor,

As took it, once, from my predecessor.



But, sure, I see,
Observing thee, •
Thy looks do show
That thou wouldst know
What great events,
Results immense,
"What deeds so small,
As some would call
No deeds, at all,
I've caused to be,
By my decree.



46 THE CENTENNIAL.

Or brouglit about,
Year in, year out,
And, easily.
In century.
In many years,
(Thus are my fears)
I could not tell.
Both right and well,
One millionth part,
Or billionth part,
Of my good deeds.
Of my misdeeds,
But, give thine ear,
And thou shalt hear,
Of deeds, a score.
Or less or more,
Which I have done.
And glory won.
I'll pass it by.
How truly I
Have caused the sun,
His course to run.
And ne'er to stray
From destined way ;
And, how I've kept.
While men have slept.
In its own place
lu boundless space.
Each orb so bright,
That shines by night
With lovely light ;
And how I've whirled
Each wand'ring woi'ld-
Whirled each planet
Through its orbit.
Guiding, rightly,
Daily, nightly,
Orb terrestrial,
Orbs celestial ;
With no clashing,
All swift dashing.
Onward rushing,
Their course to run
Ai'ound the sun !



POEM: OXE HUNDRED YEARS. 47

Perfect order !
No disorder !
I'll pass it by,
Not mention, I,
How, in my reign,
Years ten times ten,
Good Mother Earth
Hath given birth ;
By my decree,
To fully three
Generations
Of all nations.
Tribes and races.
Clans and classes ;
How, by my leave,
For sin of Eve,
Grim Giant Death,
E'er stalking forth,
Hath frequent made
His visits sad.
To sturdy men,
Tender women,
Little children.
And, borne away.
By night, by day,
Exultingly,
Now fully three
Generations
Of all nations,
Tribes and races,
Clans and classes ;
How, 'tis reckoned,
In each second.
At dark midnight,
In broad daylight.
At eve or morn,
There hath been born,
A living soul,
For strife and toil ;
How, 'tis reckoned,
In each second,
At dark midnight.
In broad daylight.
At eve or morn.



48 THE CENTENNIAL.

A soul hath gone
To that dread bourne
Whence none return.
I'll pass it o'er,
How all things, sure,
Have been fulfilled,
That I had willed
Should come to be,
On land and sea,
On this planet,
(Earth men call it)
Except, if thou
Dost wish me now,
I'll brief review
Acts just a few,
Deeds done by me,
On land, to thee
Ever dearest.
Loveliest, faii'est.
That land, on Earth,
Which gave thee birth-
Called here and there.
Called everywhere
In Eastern World,
" The Western World."
Twould weary thee
To follow me
To far off spheres,
Sun, moon, and stars ;
Twould weary thee
To follow me
To every land,
To every strand,
On this great orb.
This mighty globe ;
I'll only tell—
So listen well —
What I did say
To self, that day,
On that day, when
Began my reign
O'er worlds and men
What said I'd do.
So long ao'o



POEM: ONE HUNDRED YEARS. 49

Do for the rise,

And entcrpriise,

Wealth, power, and fame,

And glorious name,

And honor, true,

Of nation, new,

A people free,

Whose name should bo

(Thus were the fates)

United States ;
What customs, new,

Great changes, too,

Should come to be,

Through my decree.

On every hand,

In this fair land ; '*'

What I did say

As, on that day.

Year one thousand

Seventeen hundred

And sixty-eight,

(Mark well the date)

When (swift riding,

My steeds guiding)

I saw clearly

(Halting midway

O'er the Atlantic)

England, frantic.

Cursing, telling.

How those dwellino;

On Western soil

Had ceased to toil,

Would toil no more

To swell her store ;

Then, thoughts like these.

Myself did please,

Silent expressed

To self addressed : — ■



'Old John Bull now looks over the water,
With fiercest eye, on his wayward daughter,
Aud he swears big oaths, before gods and men.
That ere a twelvemonth shall come round again

7



50 THE CENTENNIAL.

His offspring so stubborn, bis child so wild,

Must quit her proud pranks, turn peaceful and mild ;

But she, rebellious, would break from his rule

Preferring to learn at a diff'rent school."

" Now," thought I, looking out on this scene

" I'll deepen this grievous trouble, I ween,

I'll keep it in the heart of fierce J. Bull,

To hold his child under rigorous rule ;

In the heart of the spirited daughter.

To heed no edicts from 'cross the water,

As the noblest plans, I now have in view,

Touching this child o'er whom Johnny's so blue ;

Though now she's young and seemingly feeble,

She'll yet give birth to a mighty people,

The fetters which now so closely bind her,

And are daily, hourly, her reminder

Of her abuses, her oppression, sore,

Shall be broken, and that forevermore,

And, oh ! the glad day come when she shall be,

Of the nations chief, great, happy and free.

But in a conflict sad, 'tis hers to bleed

E'er the stars and stripes shall be safe, indeed ;

For I wish to show to cruel J. Bull,

That he cannot have unlimited rule.

And, too, I'd prove to the child abused,

That she hath strength if she'll only use it ;

Red-coats, I'll send to the Western shore.

There'll be clash of arms, and the cannon's roar,

Seven long dread years, I'll lead on the fight,

Then say to her who has fought for the right : —

" Lay aside thine arms ! fair child, thou art free !

Shout loud the poean of glad victory !

Up with the banner ! fling it to the breeze !

Freedom I've brought thee ! sound it o'er the seas !

And Freedom, I pledge thee, whilst I am king !

Victory's song, thou shalt joyfully sing !

Both near and afar, let the welkin ring !

Thou shalt so bask in Prosperity's light,

'Neath skies that are commonly clear and bright,

That thine shall be a subhmer career.

Than was e'er foretold by prophet or seer !

Albeit, albeit, an adverse breeze

May oft disturb thy political seas,



POEM: ONE HUNDRED YEARS. 51

And thy proud thy glorious sbip of state,

Threaten to founder on the shoals of fote ;

Albeit intriguing politician,

Willing slave to unhallowed ambition,

May pilot thy ship self only to please,

Drifting anon into dangerous seas ;

Albeit, the weapons of p)arty strife,

May oft and sadly imperil thy life,

When contending parties for zeal or hate.

Do strive to seize upon thy ship of state,

Each swearing itself at the helm must stand,

And her course direct with skillfulest hand ;

Albeit, the Chivs, hot-bloods of the South,

And the Yankees, dull slow-heads of the North,

Thinking each other to sorely harass,

Though, in houses dwelling, of brittle glass.

May each upon the other hurl luige stones.

Dismayed not by bruises and shattered bones.

And may hurl such missiles and curse and rail.

Till plain it is they must signally fail

Thus, thus to end their wordy contention,

Then with impious zeal, deadly intention,

(Most sadly, strangely, mistaking each other)

On battle-field meet, brother 'gainst brother.

Son against father and father 'gainst son,

The cruellest warfare that e'er was known !

Albeit, dark clouds envelop the skies,

As the Black Man freed, grown suddenly wise,

Shall with the White, take stand at the rudder.

To guide the dear ship with his white face " bruddcr,"

Highly elate as he goes to the polls,

That the White, the Black no longer controls ;

Albeit, thy ship as saileth along

Shall be tossed thus roughly, piloted wrong

She, yet preserved, shall her voyage pursue,



Online LibraryJohn Leverett MerrillHistory of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms → online text (page 4 of 33)