John Leverett Merrill.

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

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And if the youth present will bear with me in a word of exhortation, I
would say to them, do not be in haste to leave these rural scenes, and peace-
ful homes, in pursuit of a fortune, or to improve your condition. If you do,
the chances are ten to one that you will reap the fruit of disappointment.
It has fallen to my lot to visit many parts of the country, and to see social
life in the city and great thoroughfares of business, and of pleasure, and I
can most sincerely say, if I had children to leave in this world, I would much
prefer to leave them on these Acworth hills, amid this virtuous and prosper-
ous community, than mingling in the public marts, exposed to the uncertain-
ties and surrounded by the temptations of city life. It was a scriptural
commendation of Uzziah, that "he loved husbandry."

Never leave the farm, or the workshop, merely for a more honorable, a
more hopeful, or a more happy vocation. Be content to till the soil, to be a
good farmer, a skillful mechanic, or an honest merchant, where you are, un-
less duty calls you elsewhere.

The spot where our noble ancestry chose to dwell, and toil and die, is a
good place for their offspring. Be content with your lot, seek first the king-
dom of God, live to do good, and your reward is sure. Be satisfied with
the home of your ancestral mothers, to live where they lived, to die in sight
of their honored sepulchres, and to be buried by their side. And may the
blessing of their God, and our God, and our father's God, ever be with, and
save us all for Christ's sake.

Plymns of " olden time " and fugue tunes, were now sung by
tlie choir, and remarks were made by Eev. Davis Brainerd of
Lyme, Ct., who when fresh from the Divinity School, spent a few
months in pastoral labor among these hills. The following toast
was then introduced, and was responded to by Dr. William Grout,
of Loraine County, Ohio :

" TJie Soldieis of the Revolutionary War — Though thieir forms have left us, their
deeds still live and their memory shall be forever cherished."

Mr. President, and Fellow- Citizens : — Permit me to preface my response
by saying, that it aflbrds me unspeakable pleasure to be with you here to-
day, to mingle in this gathering, and participate in the festivities of this oc-
casion. After an absence from most of you of more than forty years, I
still feel an undying attachment to the land of my birth, to the home of my
chiklliood. My heart sm'cIIs v.ith emotion on being again permitted to tread
this soil, and breathe once more the air that sweeps over these my native
bills, where first I drew the breath of life, and learned to tempt its untried
paths. But, above all, that which is the greatest source of joy to me on
this occasion is the privilege of greeting once more in the flesh, of behold-


ing the forms, and clasping the hands of a few of the surviving companions
of my early life, who, in the good providence of God, "by reason of
strength," have borne up against the rude elements of time, having out-
ridden its fearful storms — and, with me have gathered here to-day to contrib-
ute their mite to the interests of this occasion. And though worn with
cares, and clad in the gray garniture of age, yet inspired by the memories of
the past and the demonstrations of the present, we are young in heart, and
feel something of the freshness and vigor, which characterized the days of
our boyhood.

In responding to the sentiment which has been assigned me, I am forced
to the conclusion, Mr. President, that your committee must have had some
knowledge of my capacity or rather J7i-capacity — that they took into consid-
eration that I was but an ordinary man, like ancient Moses, slow of speech,
and unaccustomed to public harangue, knowing little or nothing of the
science of rhetoric, or subtle disquisition, and altogether unskilled in the
art of speech-making. Hence, they have called upon me to respond to a
sentiment that needs no comment, but which is a finished oration of itself,
full and complete in all its parts, and to which the heart of every loyal
American citizen beats a response, and which at least finds an echo in the
bosom of the most degenerate sons of the Eevolutionary soldiers. Let me
repeat : — "Tlie soldiers of the Revolutionary war; though their forms have
left us, yet their deeds still live, and their memory shall be cherished for-
ever." Why, Mr. President, this sentiment is replete with interest, and
though it may fail to make an orator of me, yet so far as meeting a response
in our sympathies, it seems to me to be akin, to the sentiment, " My Mother,
God bless her for all she has done and suffered for me, her name shall be
engraven on the tablet of my memory forever." "The forms of the Revolu-
tionary soldiers " have indeed left us. The last one has gone down to the
silence of the grave. They no longer mingle with us in our public cele-
brations, as in days of yore. But this is no more true than the fact that
"their deeds shall live," and God grant that they may never perish or cease
to exert a moulding influence over their posterity. We cannot forget " their
deeds," if we would, for they are inscribed as with a pen of iron, upon the
sacred altars, and mighty bulwarks of our nation. On every hand we see
them cropping out in symmetrical beauty, grandeur and glory. All that we
fondly boast of, as American citizens, our free political institutions, our civil
and religious liberties, our cherished right of suffrage and all, in short, that
distinguishes us from, and elevates us above the monarchical governments of
the earth, giving us a name and praise throughout the civilized world, has,
under God, been transmitted to us and our children, by the bleeding hands
of the soldiers of the Revolutionary war. And shall they be forgotten?
Never! No! never! Rather let us say of them, as ancient Israel did of
Jerusalem, "If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem ! let my right hand forget her
cunning, and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth ! "


The sundered bonds of oppression ; the riven yoke of British tyranny ;
the freedom of speech ; the pursuit of happiness ; the exalted privilege of
worshiping God according to the dictates of our own conscience ; our na-
tional escutcheon ; the glorious stars and stripes — the emblem of liberty —
triumphantly waving over us to-day, and which is flung to the breeze through-
out the wide world commanding the respect of all nations, unitedly call upon
us to hold the names of the Eevolutionary soldiers in sacred and perpetual

And while we shovild forever cherish the memory of the Eevolutionary
soldiers, we should not be forgetful of their noble sons, who clearly demon-
strated in the war of 1812, that they had been taught in the school of their
fathers, and were able to defend against a foreign foe the sacred interests,
which their sires had wrenched from the grasp of the enemy, and committed
to their charge.

And now, that I have digressed, permit me to trace the lineage of the
noble brave. You will excuse me, sir, if I briefly refer to the more distant
descendants of the Revolutionary soldiers, their grandsons, and great-grand-
sons, who so recently, in the midst of the nineteenth century, when the
dearest interests of our beloved country were menaced, by a most unnatural
foe, when our cherished ship of State was tossing to and fro, on the angry
waves of mad ambition, while alienated brothers in arms, like a blind Sam-
son, were feeling for the pillars of our glorious republic, so nobly rallied to
the rescue, and triumphantly bore aloft the flag of our Union, though their
ungrateful brethren had determined to trail it in the dust. God, bless the
loyal GKANDSONS of the Eevolutionary soldiers, and characterize them with
the sterling integrity of their illustrious predecessors.

Mr. President, I may say in conclusion, that the sentiment before us, is
fraught with deep and thrilling interest to every American citizen, but more
especially perhaps to the sons, and daughters of the soldiers of the Eevolu-
tion, as they came into more . immediate sympathy and contact with them.
There are doubtless some of us here to-day, whose heads are whitened by the
frosts of many winters, and whose eyes are dim with age, yet who can dis-
tinctly recall, among their earliest recollections, the fact of climbing, of a
winter's evening upon the knee, of a Eevolutionary soldier — not a stranger,
but one whom we delighted to call by the endearing name of father — and
how, with almost breathless interest, we listened to the recital of some thrill-
ing incident, or daring adventure, as it came with touching pathos from the
lips of the veteran soldier, causing our young bosom to heave with deep emo-
tion, as he graphically narrated the hair-breadth escapes from the missiles of
death, or the equally dreaded clutch of the enemy. And, even now when the
name of a Eevolutionary soldier is mentioned in our hearing, the smoulder-
ing emblems of patriotism in our bosoms, are fanned into a flame, as it brings
to mind the tragic reminiscences of "ye olden time" when our hearts beat
high with hope, as we fondly anticipated entering upon the full fruition of

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that priceless boon — "Liberty and Independence," for whicli our fathers
fought and bled.

There is something so inspiring in the names of the Revolutionary soldiers
that when reference is made to them in such an assembly as this, it kindles
so much enthusiasm in our bosoms, we find it almost impossible to listen to
the commonplace responses of an ordinary man.

Nay, verily, even the most popular orators of the age are in danger of
beino- silenced, while the promiscuous multitude break forth in unrestrained
and irrepressible applause, and simultaneously call for " tiikee times three"
in honor and sacred memory of the departed soldiers of the Revolutionary

The next sentiment was responded to by J. M. Barnard, Esq.,
of Eocliester, .N. Y. :

" The Soldiers of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War— The former closed the
mouth of the British Lion, the latter compelled Mexico to respect her obligations
and pay her honest debts. For their sacrifices a grateful people will ever pay to
them a tribute of respect."

Fellow Prodigals, and Pilgrims to this Mecca Shrine of ours — Glorious

old Acworth :

" Where'er we go, what other lands we see,
Our hearts untrammeled, fondly turn to thee."

A quarter of a century ago, nearly every able bodied man in this town
was a soldier, and enrolled in the Second or Sixth Company of the Sixteenth
Eegiment, New Hampshire militia; appeared regularly on parade, armed
and equipped as the law directed, ready to learn and practice the mystic
maneuvers and evolutions of the military art, and if need be, to go forth at
the call of the country to meet alike the foreign invader or domestic traitor —
whether in the harbor of Portsmouth, or on the bloody field of Lundy's
Lane, under the gallant Scott, or with glorious old "Zack" on the neutral
bank of the Rio Grande.

The boys of my own age, and older, remember with what thrilling sensa-
tions of pride and pleasure they first listened to the " ear-piercing fife, and
the spirit-stirring drum " on training days, when we

Gathered from the hill-sides,

Gathered from the glen,
Longing for the glorious time

When we should all be men.

Yes! from the frowning dominions of "Black North," from the prolific
regions of " Grout" and " Deny Hills," fiom the sylvan shades of " Parks"
and " Keyes' Hollow," and the romantic borders of Cold Pond, we came,
the sun-bronzed sons of toil, some of us, perhaps, loaded down with six and
one-quarter cents in our pockets, ready to commence tremendous raids on


cakes and candy, or gathered around the grand old liberty-pole, that stood
so long, the stately sentinel, on the cap-stone of the common, the pride and
glory of the town, from whose top floated proudly to the breeze, the same star-
spangled banner — thank heaven, and the boys in blue — that still floats from
the dome of the capitol, and over all the republic.

If in after years, induced by a long period of peace and quiet, this good
old custom became a fancied burden, and fell into disrepute, and the citizen
soldiery, by unfriendly legislation, was suffered to decay, it only needed,
as we have seen, the bugle blast of war, to arouse again the old military
ardor and patriotic spirit of Town, State and Nation, and show to the world
that though sleeping, it was by no means dead.

Long may that spirit survive ! the spirit of '76 — and if the time shall
ever come, when it shall find no longer here its congenial home, and shall be
compelled from any cause, to take its farewell flight from our beloved land —
then, and not till then, will the days of the republic be numbered. For all
history teaches, and its humiliating lessons are being daily repeated, that no
government, however pure and free, is safe from brutal assault, and malig-
nant destruction, from the iron heel of the despot, or the envenomed tooth
of treason, and that in its hour of need, there is no strong arm for its de-
fence, but God and the soldier ; that the camion and the musket are the
only power on earth, that can command a peace, protect defenceless inno-
cence, and guard the sacred citadels of the Union ; that the whole fabric of
civil government rests upon the sword ; that the most revered constitutions,
and wisest laws, would all lose their force, and fail in their purpose, but for
the " power behind the throne," which compels obedience to their behests.

But while in the governments of the old world, this overwhelming re-
sponsibility rests in the hands of mercenary hirelings, it is the pride and
boast of the Republic, that its citizens and its soldiers, are one. That the
same hand which to-day hurls a bullet at the heart of its enemy, may to-mor-
row drop gently a ballot for its friend. Oars is an array, moved and controlled
by that emanation from the Deity, that was breathed into man with the breath
of life, and not the mere machine that blindly follows the beck and nod of
the despot. The patriotic aspirations of the sleek and oily citizen, as he
treads his lordly halls, and basks in the splendor and luxury of wealth, are
no higher, and holier, than the quivering, gasping " God bless my country,"
that moves for the last time the thin pale lips of the dying soldier.

Fifty years ago, England, haughty and insolent in pride and power, pro-
claiming herself " Mistress of the Seas," attempted to enforce upon the na-
tions, and especially upon the United States, the odious and absurd dogma,
that " once a British subject, always a British subject," claiming the right
to press into her land or naval forces, all persons who had the misfortune
to be born within the limits of her dominion. It mattered not, that oppres-
sion had driven them from their native land, how long they had lived in
America, or how many times they had sworn to bear faith and true alle-


giance to the United States, the moment they were found on British soil, or
even upon the "high seas," they were claimed by British officials, dragged
from our merchant vessels on board their ships of war, and compelled to suiFer
the most brutal indignities, and death even, if they refused to fight against
that country, in which they had reared their altars, their firesides and their

Remonstrance and warning by our government were alike unheeded, and
the only alternation was ivar. Hence on the 19th of April, 1812, President
Madison, authorized by Congress, and impelled by a long list of accumu-
lated wrongs, issued the declaration.

Looking back upon the jDast, and coming down to the present, where in
all this broad land is the man who, to-day, would not hang his head in shame,
at the thought that he once counseled submission to such brutal wrongs, such
high-handed tyranny ! The idea is humiliating to the pride, and abhorrent
to the soul of every American freeman. Yet, history, which sometimes re-
peats ITSELF, will make us remember a Hartford convention, and that bane
of republics, a peace party in war.

The old around me, the living witnesses, and actors in that great drama,
have the events of the war written indelibly on the tablets of memory. To
the young, the historic page has made its heroic deeds, and examples of pa-
triotic daring, as familiar as household words. The base surrender of the
northern army at Detroit, by a timid or a traitorous leader, cast for a time a
shadow on the land, but it was soon dispelled by the grand achievements of
our gallant navy, and all the winter of our discontent was made glorious
summer by the immortal Jackson, who met the enemy on the plains of New
Orleans, and closed the war in a blaze of glory ; not only stopped the mouth
of the British Lion, but drew his hu^e eye-teeth, and thrust them down his

The great object of the war was accomplished, the impressment of Ameri-
can seamen was abandoned by the " Empress of the Sea," the rights of citi-
zenship, as well to naturalized as to native born Americans were secured and
the great principle for which our government has ever contended, the right of
expatriation — the right of a man to change his home, and his allegiance —
firmly and forever established, and to-day the governments of Europe, under
the lead of Prussia, have abandoned the exploded doctrines of a feudal age,
and recognize the fact that the " Stars and Stripes" wherever they float, pro-
tect alike the native born and adopted citizen.

Another cycle of time is past. Another generation is upon the stage of
action. Texas, always a " wayward sister," has seceded from Mexico. But
not until the last lingering hope of her reconquest was extinguished in the
bloody battle of San Jacinto, did they tell her to " depart in peace."

The vast region between the Neuse and the Rio Grande, was indeed a land
of terror, occupied only by predatory bands of Indians from the mountains,
guerillas from Mexico, and bush-whackers from the Texan border. Owing


to the generally mixed condition of affairs in Mexico — one, military chieftain
to-day and another to-morrow — the important question of boundary between
the two countries had never been finally adjusted, and when the annexation
of Texas to the United States had been consummated, it became at once the
right, as well as the duty, of the latter to extend its protecting care over its
new domain, and put in process of speedy settlement, all questions of bound-
ary. To accomplish this object, and with no thought of invading the sacred
soil of Mexico, Gen. Taylor, with a small force of the United States army,
was sent in the spring of 1845 towards the Kio Grande. Before reaching
his destination, the flower of the Mexican army, led by its most famous gen-
erals, exulting in its vast superiority of numbers, and smarting under former
defeats with Texans, determined to redeem, if possible, its fast waning mili-
tary glory, by, as they thought, the nice little arrangement of " gobbling up
old Zack." How true it is,

" The best laid schemes of mice and men, aft gang agley."

The news of the battle flashed over the land ! the tocsin of alarm was
everywhere sounded ! "American blood has been spilled on American soil."
By the act of Mexico, war existed. All unexpected, it came like a clap of
thunder from a cloudless sky, and startled again the half-sleeping sentinels
on the watch-towers of freedom. Then there was hurrying to and fro, and
mustering in hot haste. The army of occupation was in danger; and
henceforth, bearing aloft, the streaming banner, inscribed with " Indemnity
for the past, security for the future^'' the flag of the North soon floated not
only over Palo Alto and Resaca, but over Monterey, Bueua Vista, Tampico,
San Juan, Vera Cruz, National Bridge, Cerro Gordo, Jalapa, Perote, Pue-
bla, Chepultipec, Moliuo del Bey, and the Halls of the Montezumas. In one
continued series of victories without a single defeat, the soldiers of the Be-
public, bore in triumph the flag of the free, until Castilian pride was humbled,
Mexican cruelty, treachery, and duplicity duly punished, indemnity for oft-
repudiated obligations secured, and ample guarantees for future good conduct

It may be, that their existence as a nation, was finally saved by their in-
veterate habit of non-payment. For, with the national life in the strong
grasp of Gen. Scott, they surrendered, rather than pay the debt of nature.

Of the results of that contest which has enabled our country to make its
giant strides in material greatness, I will only mention one, the acquisi-
tion of California, the richest gem in the coronet of the Union, and the
consequent building of the great Pacific Bailroad, the grandest highway
yet created for the grand march of commerce, and civilization around the
world. Here in New England you have not yet begun to realize the mag-
nitude of that most wonderful achievement of the nineteenth century. But
its influence is already felt with terrible earnestness in the growing AVest,
that magical realm, where if you but " tickle the land with a plough, it


laughs with a harvest." It is to them as though a mighty river — another
" Fatlier of Waters," had just been discovered, having its sources in the up-
per Mississippi, and flowing directly towards the setting sun, — rending
mountains asunder, — pouring its turbid waters into the broad bosom of the
Pacific. It opens up to them a choice of markets, for their vast products,
between Western Europe via New York, and New Orleans, and the opulent
East, the millions of China and Japan. A free and easy outlet, cheap
and ready transportation is the great desideratum, the vital necessity of that
stupendous grain-field. What wonder then that her gallant sons swept away,
as with a besom of destruction, every barrier planted by treason, upon the
banks or upon the bosom of the sacred river, their own consecrated highway
to the Gulf and Ocean. "Its free commerce forever," was an ordinance of
nature. To defy it was to defy the will of heaven. As soon attempt to
dam its waters with bulrushes, as- to stop its free navigation again.

Manifest Destiny, backed by the soldier has given us a most magnificent
country, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the inland oceans
of the north, to the sparkling surface of the tropical seas, embracing all
earth's variety of soil, climate and production. Our Revolutionary Fathers
severed the bonds that held us British subjects, made us American sovereigns,
and gave us the noblest form of government the world has ever known. But
it remained for Washington and his heroes of the battle-field to estaUish and
secure, — for Jackson and Taylor with their braves to protect and defend, and
for the glorious soldiers of the Union army to preserve and perpetuate.

Can posterity profane such a record, or fail in its profoundest gratitude to
those who periled their lives to make it? No! whatever may- be the faults
of the American people, however bitter may be the rage of partisan rancor,
denunciation and hate ; they never yet have failed, and I trust in God they
never will fail, to duly honor and reward the faithful soldier of the Republic,
to crown with the civil wreath the laureled brow, and cherish with kindest
care, and noblest charity, each war-scarred veteran, and hero-orphaned child.

" For gold the merchant plows the main,

The fi\rmer plows the manor,
But glory is the sodger's praise,

The sodger's wealth is honor,
The brave, poor sodger ne'er despise,

Nor count him as a stranger,
Remember he's his country's stay,

In day and hour of danger."

The fifth sentiment, " To the memory of the Lite Rev. Phinehas
Cooke," was responded to by Rev. Amos Foster, President of the

Ladies and Gentlemen: — My acquaintance with Mr. Cooke commenced
in the winter of 1819-20, and it was my privilege to be on terms of intimacy


with him, till within a few years of his death. I Icnew him well in private
life, iii the domestic circle, in the social relations, in the meeting for prayer,
and in the public religious assembly. And to enjoy the acquaintance of such
a man is a privilege which any one might highly value.

The remarks now made, are rather for the sake of the beloved youth of
Acworth, than of those in more advanced life. A few yet survive, who knew

Online LibraryJohn Leverett MerrillHistory of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms → online text (page 7 of 33)