John Leverett Merrill.

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

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Mr. Cooke as well, perhaps better than myself. Many more there are in
this place who knew him not, only as they have heard his name oft repeated,
as a sort of household word, in the families in which they have been trained.
It is befitting, then, on their account, as well as the interesting occasion on
which we have assembled, that something should be said of one who exerted
so large an influence in forming the character of the town.

On meeting the individual of whom we speak, for the first time, one would
be especially struck by his physical appearance. He was tall, well propor-
tioned and symmetrical in form. His motions were graceful, his aspect mild
and winning, his voice full and sonorous, and his whole manner such as at
once to gain your confidence, respect and esteem. No one could long feel
himself a stranger in his presence. In conversation he was varied, interest-
ing and instructive. While at times he indulged in a vein of pleasantry, he
never for a moment forgot his position as a minister of Christ, and his words
were always such as to show that he felt the weight of the cause which it was
his great object to promote.

Some one has said, " He who observes remarkable events, shall have re-
markable events to observe." In Mr. Cooke, might be seen a striking illus-
tration of this remark. He closely watched the operations of Providence,
and it was interesting to notice how, from these he was constantly drawing
lessons, by which he was guided in the duties of practical life. And to illus-
trate his ideas of Providence, he was ever ready to relate some anecdote (and
his mind was stored with them) which, while it would interest and instruct
the hearers, would impress them with his own convictions of an iinseen
hand, in all events that transpire.

When, therefore, we consider his noble and commanding presence, his
agreeable manners, his ready utterance, his musical voice, and his rich and
varied conversation, by which both the mind and heart might be made better,
we may justly denominate him the truly " Christian Gentleman."

Reference has been made to the influence of Mr. Cooke in forming the
character of the town. I think, ladies and Gentlemen, that all who were
acquainted with the facts will agree with me, that that influence was by no
means inconsiderable. He was the third pastor of the Congregational Church,
and commenced his labors, in circumstances, which rendered it easy, with a
Divine blessing, to mould the moral elements into a desirable state. He was
ordained September 7, 1814. The services were held in the open air, at-
tended by a very large concourse of people. His pastorate continued between
fourteen and fifteen years. He enjoyed the affection and confidence of his


people in a bigli degree, as was evident from the large numbers wbo attended
upon his ministry. They were preeminently a church-going people. From
every direction on Sabbath morning, might be seen men, women and chil-
dren, wending their way to the house of God, and it was full ! There they
were, old and young, devoutly listening to the words of life, as they fell from
the lips of the man of God. Thus, year after year, did he impart to them,
lessons of heavenly wisdom, which in many cases were treasured in good and
honest hearts, and who can estimate the influence of those lessons in forming
the character of the people ?

But the influence of Mr. Cooke was not confined to the pulpit. He was
the faithful and devoted pastor, as well as the able and instructive preacher.
The families that constituted bis charges were often favored with his pres-
ence, and be was never an unwelcome visitor. He knew how to adapt his
counsels and instructions to the diiferent circumstances of those whom he met.
The aged and the young, the rich and the poor, the sorrowful and the joyful —
all alike shared bis sympathies, his kind wishes and his prayers, and he left
behind him an influence for good, on all who were disposed rightly to im-
prove it. Nor was the influence of Mr. Cooke confined to his own immedi-
ate parish. It was felt through the surrounding towns and through the State,
so that to the name of Rev. Mr. Cooke of Acworth, was attached an idea of
respectability and usefulness in the cause of religion which the names of com-
paratively few carry with them. On all public religious occasions, his pres-
ence was always greeted with pleasure, and he wielded a power hardly second
to any one else. It is an honor to the town that such a man once lived and
moved among the people.

Leaving Acworth in 1S29, he was installed over the church and society
in Lebanon, N. H. After a successful pastorate of nineteen years, he was
dismissed and removed to Amherst, Mass., to spend his last days. Here,
however, be was not idle. He continued to preach as occasion required, and
labored in various other ways, to serve his Lord and Master. His death
took place in Amherst, April 28, 1853, in his seventy-second year. During
his sickness, he was entirely resigned to the will of his heavenly Father ; and
the same religion, which, for so many years, he had urged upon others, was
bis solace and comfort in the departing hour.

Permit me to add, amid all the scenes through which he passed after leav-
ing Acworth, he could not forget the people of his early espousals. He
cherished them in an afiectionate and grateful remembrance, and one of
bis last requests was, that his remains might be conveyed to Acworth and
find their resting-place, among his former friends and parishioners. His re-
quest was complied with, and the noble monument, reared by the hands of
aS'ection and friendship, marks the spot where his ashes will sleep till the
o-lorious mornino; of the resurrection. With emotions unutterable, have I
stood at the bead of that grave and called to mind the virtues of the man
who slumbers there.


And though dead, he yet speaks. He speaks in the bright example he
set, still fresh in the minds of some who hear me, in the cherished remem-
brances of him which we are permitted to recall this day, and in the wide
influence he exerted, which ceases not to be felt for good, in respect to the
intelligence, the morals and the religion of this town. He speaks to the
aged, to the middle aged, and the young, to the vast crowd assembled here,
and admonishes all to do with their might, what their hands find to do, serv-
ing God and their generation faithfully, that they may be prepared for the
irreat exchange so near at hand.

The following ode was then sung by the choir and audience :

Tune. — America.

Our father's God ! We raise
To Him a song of praise ;

Our tribute bring.
A hundred years doth prove,
By mercies from above
The wisdom and the love

Of God our King.

Remembrance loves to dwell
On light and shade, which fell

On hopes and fears.
The storied past we trace,
Search records old apace.
In mem'ry's glass we gaze

Through by-gone years.

The mem'ry of our sires.
Lit by affections' fires.

How bright it glows !
Men of a sterling mould.
Outweighing all the gold.
In fairy tales e'er told

To soothe our woes.

Our dear old town ! How grand
The views of mountain land,

Which here we meet.
We love these rugged bills,
These vales our fathers tilled,
These woods the wild birds filled

With carols sweet.

Here, we were taught His Name,
And why a Saviour came

'■f - "iint



^^ ,


Peace, joy to bring.
Here, at the eventide,
And by a motljer's side
Lessons, we've learned, which bide

Beyond life's spring.

Our native town ! How dear
Each purling brook so clear,

Each dale and steep.
But there's a dearer spot,
Tlian rock, or rill, or cot,
AVhich ne'er can be forgot —

Where loved ones sleep.

The dead ! Our buried dead !
Within their em'rald bed

Unmoved they lie.
Loved forms, we've oft caressed,
Dear ones, who gave life zest,
Life's labors o'er — they rest.


And when our spirits wait.
Before the pearly gates,

(No joy like this — )
May each this plaudit hear ;
Servant well done. Nor tear.
Nor sin, nor parting here —

But endless bliss.

The following sentiment was responded to by Dr. A. E. Cum-
mlngs of Claremont :

" Our Native Physicians — Partaking of the nature of their ancestors, success has
crowned their efforts."

Mr. President and Fellow- Citizens : — I am one of the favored seventeen
physicians who drew their first inspiration from the bills and dales of this
our native town.

Dr. Theophilus Wilson, one of your distinguished sons, eminent in his
profession, settled at Cazenovia, N. Y.; there be died, and was buried in bis
adopted town.

He was succeeded by., Dr. Jonathan Silsby, also a native of Acwortb. He
was a ripe scholar. He also died at Cazenovia.

Dr. John Hemphill, son of Joseph Hemphill, is now living on the banks
of the Ohio River.

Dr. William Grout, son of William Grout, is now an active practitioner in
Loraine County, Ohio. He bad the largest practice in the county in 1850 ;
is an eminent citizen and an active Christian man.


Dr. Milton Parker resides in Chicago, 111. He was tlie first man in Sulli-
van County tbat diagnosed diseases of the chest by auscultation and percus-
sion. He is a man of wealth, and- is an eminent surgeon in Chicago.

Dr. Nedom L. Angier of Atlanta, Ga., has been a successful practi-
tioner in his adopted State, has accumulated a large fortune, and is well
known throughout the South as a politician and an active business man.

Dr. Joseph Woodbury, son of Joseph Woodbury, is a practicing physician

in Georgia.

Drs. James Wilson, Joel Angier, Isaac Gates, Phinehas Cooke and Os-
borne Brown, I do not know their personal history.

Dr. Hiram Clark, son of Capt. Robert Clark, died in Kansas. He was
a scholar, and very much of a gentleman.

Dr. jMilton P. Hay ward is an active practitioner in Oberlin, Ohio.

Last, but not by any means least, we have our two army surgeons. Dr.
N. Grout Brooks, son of Dr. Lyman Brooks, who enlisted as surgeon in the
Sixteenth Vermont Regiment. He served his country in her hour of peril,
in her hospitals and on the tented fields to the entire satisfaction of his supe-
rior officers. Dr. Sylvester Campbell, son of Horace Campbell, enlisted as
surtreon in the Sixteenth New Hampshire Regiment. He died in a military
hospital in Louisiana, a triumphant Christian death, and we have no doubt
he is now praising God, with all the heavenly hosts. He was called the
"good physician." His remains were brought to Acworth, and now lie
mouldering in your cemetery.

Fathers and mothers, with palpitating hearts, you call these your so7is,
and well do they deserve the name, for they took their lives in their hands
and went forth from your " Granite Hills " to relieve suffering humanity, and
well have they fulfilled their mission.

These, your sons, are known on the shores of the Great Northern Lakes,
and at the Gulf of IMexico, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Moun-
tains. These are some of the brightest stars in the medical profession.
Tlieir efibrts have been crowned with success, they have gained for them-
selves lasting glory.

The next sentiment was responded to by Eev. George Cooke of
Winchester, Mass.:

" The Sons and Daufihters of Acworth— Thoy do lionor to every profession, manifest
skill in every trade, add gi-ace to the home-circle, and are to be found in every section
of our country."

Mr. President .-—Called upon to respond to a sentiment so complimentary
to the sons and daughters of Acworth, it would be very grateful to me to
refer to chapter and page, bearing records of their history, or, at least, through
intimate personal acquaintance, to be able to trace individuals, from their
birth and childhood, amid these beautiful hills, through the school, the col-


leo-e, the profepsion or the workshop, the business house, or that grandest,
purest, safest, best of all occupations, the ploughing, sowing, reaping work,
which is nearest to nature, and truest to her unadulterated nobility. Nothing
could be more grateful to one, intelligent in this history, appreciative of the
toils, the waitings, and the conquests of worthy action, and sympathetic in
the details of personal progress, than to dwell at least upon the salient points
in the lives of these "honorable," "skillful" and "graceful" sons and
daughters of our native town.

Personally only an adopted son, and having passed here but the brief portion
of my childhood, between the ages of three and sixteen, I am grateful for the
honor of an invitation to speak at all, among my betters, at this family meeting.
This adoption derives significance, however, from the fact of my father's rela-
tions to this community during the period of its development into one of the
most substantial and prosperous towns in this Commonwealth. Many here to- ■
day will unite with me in the reflection, that no one would have entered into
the festivities and reminiscences of this occasion (could he have lived to see it)
more heartily, tenderly, joyously, yet devoutly, than my own revered father.

With inspiration from this reflection, I cannot feel that I am out of place
or that I have nothing to say, while permitted to stand among you, recog-
nized as a son of Acworth When De Quincy had attained his high

literary reputation, a friend requested of him a few of the facts of his early
history, briefly and chronologically stated. The substance of his reply was
that the world were chiefly concerned with lohat he became, and it mattered
little that the inevitably facts of birth, nursery and school-life, of the robbery
of orchards, and the catalogue of common incidents usually summoned to
explain hoio he became a man, should all be assumed, taken for granted, and
omitted from history as simply impertinent. And that it might be further
assumed that the race of youngsters might be divided into two grand classes,
those who would aspire to be hanged, and those who would content them-
selves with deserving to be.

Such a sentiment may seem shockingly out of harmony with a centennial
celebration, yet something is suggested, which partially reduces the crisp and
saucy language of De Quincy. We are not so dependent, as we may some-
times think, upon the details of jDcrsonal history in the measvuement of char-
acter and its origin. Who needs the diary of the life of an oak ? or even to
wait until the woodman's axe has revealed the rings which mark its annual
progress from the acorn to maturity. The first leaf must have been that of
an oak ; the branch must have been true to its origin ; the sturdy trunk and
broad spreading top, occasionally seen, even if at intervals of many years,
inform us fully of the character of the tree and the nature of the soil which
could have produced it. The lilies of the meadow, similarly proclaim the
fitness of their birth and culture, the fidelity to nature's laws, which has per-
fected and glorified their beauty.

The elements of muscle and character found on such high, louud and fer-


tile hills, interlaced with silver streams, enameled with nature's purest em-
erald, where the school and the church are worked with the industry and
fidelity required of the plough and the hoe, — where the family altar sanctifies
the heavenly-appointed domestic relations, — where the deep things of. na-
ture and of religion possess the intellect and the heart, all-invigorating,
chastening, quickening, ennobling powers, — on such a field, with such adju-
tants, the elements of physical and moral manhood must thrive.

It is a bounty of nature and Providence to be born upon ground like this,
here to be brought into struggles, even it may be, for food and clothing, — here
to be buffeted by physical hardships, bent and swayed by strong winds, —
here to do battle with the real, long before the seductive incomings of the
ideals of the more frivolous ftishionable life can color the fountains of thought

and wholesome passion It is a blessing which many a son and

dautrhter of Acworth, in distant fields, has learned gratefully to recognize,
to have had their lives anchored here.

The sentiment which the committee have prepared for us, requires us to
indulge in a little self-adulation, as the sons and daughters, who have (in the
test) so honored their home. Hence we are fairly entitled to say, this, our
birthplace, is the home of the oak, a little rough and shaggy in its dress,
but having — what a trunk ! What strong arms I What might and majesty
of character ! This, too, is the home of the fresh, cool, trim, symmetrical
beach, a tree to wear modestly the most exquisitely fashioned and delicately
tinted foliage in early summer, and to stand its ground, in easy defiance of
all the blasts of winter. Of the maple, and whether it be hard or soft, tall
or short, with fibres straight and of milky whiteness, or curled and twisted
into fantastic figures, with the hues of an angry hardihood, still yields inex-
haustible stores of sweetness and beauty, ever dispensing consolations and
frathering glories unrivaled to its final coronation. Nor must we forget that
it is also the home of the pliant, tough, magisterial birch, which stands in
convenient proximity to our school houses, to remind us of lessons necessary
to the grand dignities of life, and to suggest better than patented medicine,
for all vices and rebellions.

It is only such hard woods as these that can combine strength and beauty
of finish. In character the material must be first of all, of sufficient firmness,
sound at the heart, and built up with no loose or soft integument, in order
that the friction of contact with strong men, the sand-paper chafing of jeal-
ous rivals, the steel-burnishing of social criticism, and the final, most delicate
touches of art and grace may bring out a substantial, pure, brilliant, perfect man
or woman. Why, then, should not the starting point be such ground as this ?

Fifty years ago, when my father had trained me to " speak a piece," he
selected for that purpose these linos of Pope commencing,

"'Tis from higli lifV, high characters are drawn,
. A saint in crape, is twice a saint in lawn."


He brought me forward at the school visitations, to speak the piece, perhaps
as an example of a hoy's duty in the matter of school declamation. On
one occasion at the school-house on Derry Hill, I had among my auditors
Captain Dickey, whose massive, astute Scotch character is still remembered
well among us, and after my boyish spouting, he called me to him, laid his
broad hand upon my head, and with a voice so grand and impressive that it
still rings in my ears, said, " Me little mon ! d'ye understand what you've
spoken?" My feeble response was, "yes sir." "■ And d'ye believe it?"
" I don't know sir " — " Don't ye know it's a lie " ? I was too much fright-
ened to answer and he continued with an energy of utterance few men ever
equalled, "My mon, never d'ye believe ony nonsense the like o' that little
speech ! I tell ye a men's a mon whei'ever ye find him."

The following song composed by Mrs. M. L. Silsby Johnson,
was now sung by the choir.


Amid New Hampshire's thousand hills —

Which stud its surface o'er ;
That ope their hearts to crystal rills.

And bend to lakelet shore —
Encradled safe, by rocks, and trees,

O'erspread with splendent dome i
Refreshed and charmed with purest breeze —

Is our Dear Acworth Home.

Bright are its snows, as moonlight beams,

When met by svmrise sheen ;
Its verdure now, in beauty seems.

As part of Eden's green.
And some who rest in battle mound.

And 'neath the light sea-foam ;
Their last heart-yearnings centered round

This Pleasant Acworth Home.

Its hills are set with beryl bright,

A royal hall would grace ;
And crystals clear as limped light,

Just touched with golden trace.
To gems that crown a monarch's head,

Our eyes will careless roam ;
With loyal hearts, we prouder tread

Our Jeweled Acworth Home.

The dew falls here, in tears at eve.

On graves of those we love ;
And we, who at their stillness grieve.

Keep watch and ward above.


Now they look down through starry eyes,

On all the paths we come,
And know, how near to Heaven now lies

Their Olden Acworth Home.

The sentiment, ^^ Sons of Acivorth — Graduates of Dartmouth
and other Colleges, ^^ was responded to by Prof. Pliram Orcutt,
Principal of Tilden Female Seminary, West Lebanon, N. H. :

Mr. President : — I speak in behalf of comparatively few of the sons of
Acworth. Of all who have been born during these hundred years, less than
thirty have graduated from any of our colleges. In point of numbers,
therefore, we are an unimportant class. But I would not speak of ourselves,
but in defence of the college, against the prejudice which is met in almost
every community, and is a source of discouragement to those, who would
pursue a liberal course of study.

"The college," it is said, "is an aristocratic institution, and those who re-
sort to it are "too indolent to work." No criticism was ever more false or un-
just. Indolence finds no rest or comfort within college walls. If, " too lazy
to work," the young man would seek any other course of life, rather than
come under the severe discipline, and endure the exhausting labor which the
college imposes and demands."

And there is no institution in the nation, whose influence reaches and
blesses so many families and individuals as the American College. This
beneficial influence is brought to bear directly upon the people, through the
learned professions. The college creates and sustains the professions of Law,
Medicine, Teaching and the Gospel Ministry. Hence all the benefits re-
sulting from the professional and personal labors of these educated men, flow
directly from the college.

Again, the college is the source of all the lower grades of schools. Com-
mon schools, never have, never will and never can flourish, without the col-
lege. Our fathers j^rs< planted the college and afterwards public schools.
The latter flowed from the former, as streams from the fountain. This ele-
vating influence always descends from the higher to the lower, never ascends
from the lower to the higher. The profounder learning of the college, gives
tone and sentiment to the public mind, and nourishes and sustains popular
education among the masses. The college matures and develops the science
which is learned in our elementary schools, and educates, directly or indirectly,
all our teachers, and authors in every department of learning. The " Ele-
mentary Spelling Book " for instance, requires all the discipline and knowl-
edge the college can impart, to compose and adapt it to its use.

An English periodical once spoke of Daniel Webster, as the great Amer-
ican statesman and the author of "Webster's Dictionary." Mr. Webster
in referring to the blunder soon afterwards, sportively remarked, "I the au-
thor of Webster's Dictionary ! Why, I could not have made Webster's





Spelling Book." And tbis was true, as he had not devoted himself to this
department of learning. And yet millions of our countrymen have obtained
the first elements of their education from this single book. And the maps
and charts in daily use in our common schools could not be made by one in a
thousand of all our public teachers. They require the highest mathematical
knowledge and skill for their construction. And hence it is true, that the
college produces and sustains our Common Schools, Academies and Semina-
ries. They would not have existed, and could not long be sustained M'ithout
the college.

Then it must follow that all our sons, and daughters are college educated.
This higher Institution has allured them forward, and helped them onward.
It is the fountain whose streams irrigate and fertilize the whole community.

Some of your sons have followed up the stream only to the common
school. Others have stopped at the Academy, and still others have gone
further, and drank at the college spring, and whatever the amount of learning
they have obtained, either from school or from books, it is a collegiate educa-
tion. And it is frequently true that " self-made men," (indeed every man
is self-made who is made at all,) who have never entered college, receive from
it more benefit than others, who have enjoyed all its advantages. We are

Online LibraryJohn Leverett MerrillHistory of Acworth, with the proceedings of the centennial anniversary, genealogical records, and register of farms → online text (page 8 of 33)