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Records of preceding meeting read.

A letter was read from H. W. S. Cleveland, in response to
the circular recently issued by the Curators of the Historical
Department, proflFering to the Society files of several news-
papers kept and being kept during the present national
troubles. On motion of Rev. Mr. Beaman, the ofiFer of Mr.
Cleveland was accepted, with the thanks of the sociely.
Letters were also announced from J. B. Colt of Hartford,
Conn. ; A. B. Johnson of Utica, N. Y. ; New York Mercan-
tile Library Association; New Jersey Historical Society;
Massachusetts Historical Society ; Samuel Blake of Dor-
chester ; J. W. Harris of Cambridge ; S. P. Fowler of

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The principal part of the evening was ©eeiipfed in the
reading of a paper by Mr. Samuel P. Fowler of Danvers,
on Cotton Mather. The following abstract of the same is
here appended.

After the excitement in 1692, caused by the Salem Witch-
craft, had subsided, and the government had made some
restitution to those persons or their families who had suffered
by the delusion, Dr. Cotton Mather tunied his attention,
amongst other subjects , to the quiet and peaceful study of
the natural productions of New England. Our knowledge
of his researches in nature was obtained by reading the Lou-
don Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 29, for the years 1714,
1715, and 1716. The letters composing the articles in this
journal were prepared and sent by Dr. Mather to Dr. Wood-
ward and Mr. Waller of London, for examination before
publication. Upon the receipt of Mather's letters, the Sec-
retaries of the Society found them to be a strange mixture
of incredible occurrences, totally unfit for a Philosophical
journal. They accordingly refused to publish several of
them, and gave but short extracts from others.

The first letter, under date of Boston, Nov. 17, 1712, was
addressed to Dr. Woodward, in which Dr. Mather brought
forward in a way peculiar to himself, his Biblia Americana^
now lying neglected in the possession of the Massachusetts
Historical Society, no man as yet having been found who
would venture to publish this ponderous manuscript in two
volumes folio.* The concealing from his friend. Dr. Wood-
ward, the author of this work, and recommending it to soiae
generous Macaenas^ (the patron of the ancient poets,) is
highly characteristic of Dr. Cotton Mather. In order to en-
list Dr. Woodward in the publication of the Biblia Americana,,
Mather speaks of its containing large philosophical remarks
taken out of Natural Historians, and gave him a specimen
of the work in a note on Genesis, chap. 6, verse 4, relating^
to giants seen in the days of Noah ; and as proof that they
once existed, relates the finding of bones in Albany, New
England, seventeen feet long, which he supposed to be hu-

*W9 exumined the Biblia Americana, and fpand it to consist of six parts in folio^
with its pagea crowded with tha small handwriting of Mather, and apparently pre-
pared tor publication.

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man thigh bones, and a tooth discovered four fingers broad,
which he thought to be the eye-tooth of a man ! Dr. Wood-
ward comments in a doubtful way upon these supposed hu-
man remains by saying: "It were to be wished that the
writer had given an exact figure of these teeth and bones/'
which had it been done, the learned Secretary would proba-
bly have at once discovered that they belonged to some large
animal, such for instance, as the Mastodon.*

The second letter describes a few plants to be found in
New England,* with a promise to furnish more.

In the third letter Dr. Mather gives us an account of the
wild turkey seen in New England, some of them weighing
, sixty pounds, but says they are poor meat, being tough and
hard. This as an ornithologist we should pronounce a
• tough story. , Audubon says, a fair estimate of the ordinary
weight of a wild turkey is from fifteen to eighteen pounds.
He saw one in Louisville market that weighed thirty-six
pounds. Bonaparte says, " I have ascertained the existence
of some weighing forty pounds, and all the relations above
this weight he considers fabulous."t Dr. Mather's notion
that wild pigeons migrate to the moon, must be classed with
those who suppose that swallows go into the mud in Autumn !

The fourth letter, on antipathies and the force of imagi-
nation, is amusing and characteristic of its author.

The fifth letter relates to monstrous births,^ but is summa-
rily dismissed by Dr. Woodward as nothing remarkable.

The sixth letter relates to persons receiving medical aid
from dreams. This is rejected and refused publications,
with the remark, these accounts relate but little to " natural

^\t is now well understood that the giants he referred to, were distinguishod for
.their great wickedness and not their large stature.

fThomas Morton in his New English Canaan, written in 1632, when speaking of
turkeys as seen at his residence in braintree, says : " at divers times in great flocks
have they sallied by our doores ; and then a gunne (being commonly called in a
readiness) salutes them with such a courtesie as makes them take a turn in the
Cooke roome. Of these have been killed, that have weighed forty-eight pounds
apeece. They are many degrees sweeter than the tame turkies of Engumd, feede
them how you can." It is said the wild turkey is still to be found on me Holyoke
range of mountains in Massachusetts. It will be noticed that Morton's weight of
the largest turkey he saw in 1632, exceeded by eight pounds, the one noticed by-
Buonaparte. All writers with the exception of .Mather, attest to the good eating
qualities of this bird. It is possible Dr. Mather eat his wild turkey out of season
during the summer, at some of the councils at Salem vilU^, held lor the purpose of
settling Mr. Parris's difficulties, or at the dinner given him by John Hathome, Esq.,
of Salem, at the execution of George Burroughs at Gallows Hill. It would not be
surprising if he thought his dinner upon that day, whether turkey or pig, was hard
and tougn !

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The seventh and last letter to Dr. Woodward, composing
this series, relates to cures deemed mortal. This was re-
jected by the Secretary as containing but little philosophical

The first letter sent by Dr. Mather to Mr. Waller, gives an
account of the Indians, and is interesting. It also furnishes
a method discovered by him, for finding the Julian Period.

The evening glade* is mentioned as being constantly ob-
served in February, and first noticed by Dr. Childrey, adding
the cause of that appearance must be sought for above the

The second letter relates to rainbows and mock suns.

The third letter has a relation of a savage murder discov-
ered by a dream, reminding the reader of the strange stories
related in the Magnalia. This letter is at once dismissed by
Mr. Waller, with the quiet remark, " as this does not direct-
ly relate to natural philosophy the particulars are omitted.'^

The fourth letter gives an account of the Rattlesnake, and
the wonderful eflFect of its bite upon the edge of a broad axe,
causing the part bitten to break out, leaving a gap ! As
this letter relates particularly to Natural History, it is pub-
lished in full in the transactions.

The fifth letter informs us of the effects produced by thun-
der and lightning, earthquakes, hail storms, and tornadoes*
Hail stones it is said, are sometimes formed five times larger
than hens' eggs, and lie upon the ground to the depth of
three or four feet ! The effects of violent whirlwinds or tor-
nadoes are noticed, and the sad ruin produced sometimes la
winter by the ice loading the trees and causing their limbs to
break under its weight. Mention is made of some ancient
works, or remains, above the hideous falls of the Merrimack.

In the sixth letter Dr. Mather gives us an account of the
famous Dighton rock, accompanied with a figure, which is
now known to be very inaccurate. This is one of the earli-
•est notices of this interesting picture rock.

The seventh and last letter to Mr. Waller relates to the
longevity and fruitfulness of New England. Dr. Mather ia
iMs letter gives us several instances of persons living about
him who had arrived to the age of one hundred years. One

*This is the lominoas tract, known as the Zodiacal light seen in the evening
after twilight.


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Clement Weaver lived to one hundred and ten years, his
wife being one hundred years old. This man to the last
year of his life, could carry a bushel of wheat to the mill,
the distance being above two miles. Dr. Mather remarks,
"I do not find by any of these relations, that the persons
observed any regularity or method in their manner of diet,
exercise, or the like." In regard to the fruitfulness of New
England, he says, in the letter, it is no rare thing to have
an aged gentlewoman see many more than one hundred of
her offspring. He mentions " one woman that had twenty-
three children, of which nineteen lived to man's estate.
Another had twenty-seven; another twenty -six, of which
twenty-one were sons, one whereof was Sir William Phipps ;
another had thirty-nine children."

It is well known that Cotton Mather and his father Dr.
Increase Mather were very desirous of writing the natural
history of New England, but neither of them possessed the
qualities of mind necessary for a natural historian, nor would
they have been willing to spend the time requisite to an ex-
amination of our natural productions. Cotton Mather
probably never saw the skin of a fox, except in a furrier's
shop of some of his parishioners, at the North End, in Boston.

Rev. C. C. Beaman offered a few remarks in defence of
Mather, thinking he was actuated by a pure desire to diffuse
information, being a pioneer in this newly settled country.
He said the clergymen of New England were the first to in-
ti*oduce the cultivation of flowers, probably obtaining the
idea in England. In many places on Cape Cod this was par-
ticularly the case, and at Eastham there are the relics of a
very ancient garden called the Minister's Garden, and it is
well known that the celebrated Rev. Dr. OriiB&n, wherever
he went, carried with him a taste for horticulture, and in
his writings there are frequent allusions to the study of
nature. In visiting West Gloucester, a year or two since,
on the occasion of one of the Field Meetings of the Essex
Institute, his attention was directed to the remains of an old
garden laid out by a former minister of the place, who died

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about the year 1800. The interest of the clergy in objects
of this kind is even indicated in the lines of Goldsmith : —

" Near yonder copse, where once the garden tmUed,
And BtiU where manj a garden flower grows wild, —
There, where a few torn shrubs the plaee disclose.
The village preacher's modest mansion rose."

Mr. A. C. Goodell followed, taking the general ground
that it was a rare instance where a man had gained so ex-
tensive a reputation upon so small an amount of genuine
merit, as Cotton Mather had succeeded in doing. He was
of the opinion that Mather strove to obtain a name among
men, and continued his remarks to some length, citing facts
to prove this position, (and alluding to Mather's connection
with the witchcraft delusion of 1692,) not oflFering them,
however, as of general application to the clergy, from the
fact of Mather's connection with the Ministry, although it
might be remembered that not only was Goldsmith's preacher,
who had been quoted, devoted to the beautiful in nature, but

" Far other aims, his heart had learned to prize.
More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise."

Some little discussion followed, Mr. Beaman remarking
that, while it was quite likely Mather may have committed
some errors, we cannot rob him of his reputation, although
we can excuse his faults when we consider the state of society
of that period. Give him his due, he said ; let us honor
those who were the early pioneers, so far as we can.

The Chair said that witchcraft was recognized by our
laws as a crime, and was tried and punished as a crime by
our Courts. It was recognized throughout the world ; and,
under these circumstances, it, at least, was not just to hold
Mather accountable for that generally diffiised sentiment,
though he might be one of its victims. He had an agency,
no doubt in carrying forward these prosecutions, as he was
a leading person in his day.

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The Institute then adjourned, the donations since the last
meeting having been previously announced as follows : —

To the Library — ^from Geo. R. Curwen ; Canadian Insti-
tute at Toronto ; C. B. Richardson of N. Y. ; J. B. Felt;

A. B. Johnson, Utica, N. T. ; Philadelphia Academy of
Natural Science ; Boston Society of Natural History ; John

B. Alley, M. C. ; Geo. C. Chase ; Geo. Choate ; G. B. Loring.
To the Cabinets — ^from Miss S. A. Chever ; Miss Rebecca

Johnson of Cohasset ; Mrs. P. M. Creamer ; Forrest River
Lead Company ; Arthur Hodges ; John Robinson.

Monday^ January 6, 1862.

Meeting this evening at Creamer Hall. The President,
Asahel Huntington, in the chair.

The records of the preceding meeting were read.

Letters were announced from Charles E. Brown of Provi-
dence, R. I. ; M. Miles of Lansing, Mich. ; New York Mer-
cantile Library Association ; Trustees of Boston Public
Library ; John Robinson.

Among the articles which had been forwarded to the soci-
ety was a specimen of the fifteen cent paper currency of the
Southern Confederacy picked up at Beaufort, and a sheet
of unsigned military orders of various denominations issued
by the Board of Supervisors, County of Winnebago, Illinois,
on the war fund appropriated for the relief of volunteers.
Also some unginned cotton from Port Royal, and specimens
of the stones of the Washington well, near Annapolis.

A. C. Goodell, occupied the evening by reading au inter-
esting paper on Thomas Maule, and his times. [See His-
torical Collections of the Institute, vol. iii, page 238.] Du-
ring the reading, Mr. Goodell presented to the Institute^ in
behalf of Mr. James B. Curwen, a pencil drawing of the old.

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iiouse built by Maule, wliicli formerly stood on the spot now
occupied by the residences of the Messrs. Curwen, on Essex
Street. It was the house for many years owned and occu-
pied by the late Deacon Samuel Holman. He also exhibited
to the meeting a collection of thirteen old mourning rings
belonging to a family of Salem, and kindly loaned for the

Donations received since the last meeting, were annoujoeed
as follows : —

To the Library — from the Massachusetts Historical Soci-
ety ; N. Y. Mercantile Library Association ; Essex Agrieul-
tural Society ; C. K. Wliipple of Boston ; H. M. Brooks ;
Geo. C. Chase ; Philadelphia Academy of Natural Science;
Jacob W. Reed of Groveland ; John Robinson ; Mrs. N. D*
Cole ; Caleb Poote.

To the Cabinets — from Joshua Cleaves ; Stephen F. Hath-
away ; Wm. Crandall ; W. G. Welch ; Mrs. H. M. Colcord
of South Danvers ; Brown E. Shaw ; Mrs. James Chamber-
berlain ; Charles Davis of Beverly ; Wm. Hulin of Rockford,

Mr. P. W. Putnam made a few remarks upon a can of
fish, and reptiles brought from the East Indies, by Capt.
Wm. Crandall. Among them were two specimens of the
East India python ; and in this connection he spoke of the
different species of this snake, as found in South America,
Africa and India.

The Institute then adjourned.

Monday^ January 20, 1862.

Meeting this evening, the President, Asahel Huntington
in the. chair.

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Becords of the preceding meetings were read.

Letters were read from A. B. Almon ; Thomas H. Johnson ;
S. H. Brooks.

Rev. C. C. Beaman read an interesting paper, being a
historical sketch of the Howard street Church in Salem,
with brief notices of the several ministers who have success-
ively officiated in that place.

Remarks were offered by Messrs. T. Ropes ; J. B. Felt ;
A. C. Goodell jr., and the Chairman, suggested by the
above paper and containing many interesting reminiscences
of the founders of the church and some of their cotempora-
ries. Mr. Goodell moved that a vote of thanks be tendered
to Mr. Beaman for his interesting and valuable contribution
to the ecclesiastical history of the city, and that a copy of
the same be placed at the disposal of the Committee on Pub-
lications to be inserted in the Historical Collections. (See
Historical Collections of the Institute, vol. iii, page 272.)

Donations since the last meeting were announced as
follows : —

To the Library — from the Directors of the Lowell City
Library ; Vermont Historical Society ; American Academy
of Arts and Sciences ; A. B. Almon ; C. B. Richardson of
New York; Directors of Newburyport Public Library ; Ariel
L. Cummings of Roxbury ; Wm. Mansfield ; John Robinson ;
Henry M. Brooks ; Geo. C. Chase ; John H. Stone.

^ To the Cabinets— {rom C. H. Mfield ; S. H. Brooks ; H.
M. Brooks ; E. E. Chever ; Thomas H. Johnson.


Monday^ February 3, 1862

Meeting this evening, A. Huntington, President in tBe

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Records of preceding meeting read.

Letters were read from Wm. Hulin ot Rockford, III. ; and
Wm. Gray Brooks of Boston.

P. W. Putnam read the following communication from
A. E. Verrill of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at
Cambridge : —

Notice of a Primnoa fbom St. George's Bank-

A specimen of coral now in the collection of the Essex
Institute has been submitted to me for examination, by Mr.
P. W. Putnam.

This was taken in one hundred fathoms of water, on St.
George's Bank, and presented by C. H. Fifield to the society,
Jan. 13th, 1862. It proves to be a genuine coral belonging
to the genus Primnoa, very much resembling and probably
identical with Primnoa lepadifera of the northern seas of
Europe. Prom the latter however it seems to differ some-
what in the more irregular branching and in the form of the
calcareous scales of the polyp cells, but these differences are
slight and may bf merely peculiar to this specimen. Lx
order to ascertain its true specific characters we need addi-
tional specimens, and particularly some preserved in alcohol
with the polyp cells perfect.

The specimen consists of several large branching stalks^
some of them upwards of two feet high, and an inch iu
diameter, attached to a stone by large calcareous bases.
Part of the polyp cells still remain on the branches, although
they adhere but slightly when dry. The branches consist
of alternate concentric layeis of calcareous and horn-like
deposits ; the calcareous substance predominating at the
base of the stalks, while the smallest branches are almost
entirely composed of the horn-like matter. In this respect
it differs from the true Gorgonicdy for among them the
axis is entirely horn-like. In many species of the genus
Plexaurea there is a large proportion of Carbonate of Lime
in the basal portion of the axis, while the upper parts are

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horny. In the genera Gorgonella Verrucella and several
others the axis is entirely calcareous, as it is in the well
known Red Coral ( Corallium.') In Isisy Mopsea, and other
related genera it consists of alternate joints or segments of
calcareous and horn-like deposits. From these facts it is
evident that the character of having a calcareous or horn-
like axis is not of so great importance as some naturalists
have^ supposed. Thus Dr. J. B. Gray, has divided the Gor-
gonidce into two sub-orders,* viz : — Lithophyta character-
ized as having a continuous or jointed calcareous axis and
Ceratophytahsiying a horny one. Into the first he puts
Primnoa^ which, as I have shown, is partly horny ^ and into
the second, Plexaurea^ which is partly calcareous. It is
therefore evident that such groups are quite artificial. He
also has a third suborder called Sarcophyta^ which corres-
ponds very nearly to the family of Alcyonidce,o{ Dana and
Milne Edwards. In this group, if we exclude Briareunij
which should go with the Gorgonidce^ there is no solid axis
and the whole mass is composed of tubular polyp cells
united in various ways in the different genera. This group
is evidently of higher value than the two other divisions
mentioned, and should be placed on a level with Gorgonid/B
and PennatulidcBy as has been done by both Milne Edwards
and Dana. But these three groups, Alcyonidce, Gorgonir
d« and PennatulidcBy present gradations of structural char-
acters which entitle them to be ranked as suborders^ rather
than as families of the order, Alcyonaria.

This order as far as yet known is represented on the
northern coast of New England, only by Alcyonium carneum^
Agassizf and the Primnoa now under consideration. A spe-
cies of Leptogorgia is found in Long Island Sound,
while farther south the representatives of the order become
very numerous.

The only specimen of Primnoa known to have been pre-
viously found on our coast was presented to the Boston Soci-
ety of Natural History, in Nov. 1860. J It was taken in

* On the arrangement of Zoophytes with Pinnated Temtacles, by Dr. J. E. Gray.
Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 3d series, vol. 4, p. 439.

tOn the structure of the Halcyonoid Polypi. By Louis Agaasiz. Proceedings of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1850.

^Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History, Vol. 7, p. 418.

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eighty fathoms of water, in the Bay of Pundy, thirty mile^
southeast from Mt. Desert, and although somewhat larger, is
not so perfect a specimen.

This is a highly interesting addition to our marine fauna,
and it is desirable that additional specimens should be ob-

The European species is said to grow to au immense 8ize»
•sometimes even fifty or sixty feet high ; but these accounts
are probably somewhat exaggerated.

Mr. Putnam presented the casts of a head of a Flat-head
^dian and Hottentot, from flie Museum of Comparative
-Zoology at Cambridge. He then made a few remarks upon .
%e geographical 'distribution of animals, and pointed out
the limitation of the Faun», with particular reference to that

If • •

The Chairman, Mr. Huntington, then stated that it might

not be generally known to the meeting that during the pres-

-ent week, the^e would occur an interesting anniversary,

namely, that of the ordination of the first missionai*ies to

foreign parts, which took place at the Tabernacle church, in

this city, February 6, 1812. He stated that as the son of

the Rev. Dr. Samuel Worcester, who took a prominent

part in the ceremonies and services of that occasion was

present, he might say something of interest in reference to

the subject.

Bev<. Dr. Scimuel M. Worcester then replied, giving a
brief but interesting notice of some of the prominent leaders
ipt the missionary enterprise, and speaking of the immense
. amount of good that had been accomplished by the move*
laent^ not merely in an evangelical point of view, but in
reference, also, to philosophy and science.

The following donations received since thl9 last meeting
were then announced :


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7b the Library — from American Antiquarian Society;
Wm. P. Tucker of Bowdoin College ; E. E. Chever ; Boston
Society of Natural History ; S. A. Lord of South Danvers ;
Mass. Legislature; Henry M. Brooks.

To the Cabinets — ^from John 0. Chadwick ; Wm. Hulin
of Rockford, Illinois ; E. E. Chever; Geo. F. Austin; C.
H. Norris ; A. C. Goodell, Jr.; Samuel P. Nichols ; Mrs. P.
M . Creamer.


Monday, February^ 17, 1862.

Meeting this evening, A. Huntington, President, in the

Li the absence of the Secretary, Mr. Gteorge D. Phippen
was chosen Secretary, pro tem.

Becords of preceding meeting read.

A letter was read from Sanborn Tenney, Esq., of Cam-
bridge, relative to the delivery of a course of lectures in
Salem, under the auspices of the Essex Listitute, on the
subject of Gteology ; which was referred to the appropriate

Bev. C. C. Beaman read a paper giving a geographical
outline of Cape Cod, its discovery, the Lidiians resident upon
it, its adaptation to their wants, sustenance from shell and
other fish, deer and other game, geese and ducks, nuts,
plums and berries, and the convenience of fresh water in

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Online LibraryLeeds Philosophical and Literary SocietyProceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and ..., Volume 7, Issues 3-4 → online text (page 10 of 23)