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Master Minds at the




Percy H. Epler

Joint Author of Yale Addresses on "The Personality of Christ,
Author of "The Beatitude of Progress,"
Magazine Articles, etc.

F. S. Blanchard & Co., Publishen

Worcester, Massachusetts



Copyright, 1909, by
F. S. Blanchard & Co.














Foreword 5

Artemas Ward — First Commander-in-chief of the American
Revolution, Victor of the Evacuation of Boston, and Hero

of Shays' Rebelhon 9

Eli Whitney — Inventor of the Cotton-gin .... 57

Thomas Blanchard and other inventors ... 78

Elias Howe — Inventor of the Sewing-machine ... 78

William Morton — The Conqueror of Pain .... 89

Dorothy Lynde Dix — Redemptress of the World's Insane . 119

Clara Barton — Founder of the Red Cross in America . 149

George Bancroft — Historian of the United States . . . 189

John Bartholomew Gough— Greatest Apostle of Temperance 217

George Frisbie Hoar— An American Ideal Statesman . 247

Luther Burbank— Discoverer of a New Plant World . . 285


Opp. Page

Ancient Kitchen of the Ward Homestead with Door and

Knocker 15

Watching the Battle of Bunker Hill 23

Portrait of General Artemas Ward 45

Revolutionary Homestead of General Artemas Ward . . 54

Birthplace of Eli Whitney 58

Portrait of Eli Whitney 70

Portrait of Thomas Blanchard 74

Birthplace of Elias Howe 78

Portrait of Elias Howe 86

The Discovery of Ether as an Anaesthetic 91

Portrait of Dr. William Morton 105

Portrait of Dorothy Lynde Dix 119

Clara Barton's Birthplace and Present Summer Home at

Oxford 150

Portrait of Clara Barton 157

Portrait of George Bancroft 189

Bancroft's Birthplace 192

Portraits of John Bartholomew Gough . . . . 217

Reproduction of Painting of John B. Gough .... 245

Portrait of George Frisbie Hoar 247

A Presidential Party at Senator George Frisbie Hoar's Residence 273

Portrait of Luther Burbank 285

Birthplace of Luther Burbank and his Cottage at Santa Rosa,

California 296

Cactus— Before and After 307


hi writing a collective biography of ten great lives in the
zone of inventive genius presented in such a book as ''Master
Minds at the Commonwealth's Heart," the danger of origi-
nality is as great as the danger of merely reproducing
recounted facts from others. Defects from each of these
qualities of the biographer no doubt abound, yet not inten-
tionally. So far a^ I have sought originality, it has been
by a diligent study of each life and time to get a first-hand
consciousness of the animating purpose of the life and re-
immerse the life story anew in that. So far as I have
clung to lines presented by other biographers, it has been
to true the account to facts, in doing which escape from
hitherto admirable biographies, long and short, is well
nigh impossible.

Not relinquishing the hope of some original presentation
through the seizing of each life's purpose amid the detail
and making it stand out in its essentials, I yet naturally
have found it impossible to get clear away from the splen-
did work of scores of magazine writers and monographers
before and after the Civil War, and from the following
authoritative and standard biographies : "The Life of Dor-
othea Dix," Tiffany; "Trials of a Public Benefactor,"
N. P. Bice; "The Story of the Bed Cross," "The Story of
My Childhood," etc., Clara Barton; John Bartholomew
Gaugh's "Autobiography," "Platform Echoes," "Sun-
light and Shadow," etc.; "Life and Letters of George Ban-


croft," 2 vols., M. A. DeWolf Howe; George Frisbie Hoar's
" Autohiograpliy of Seventy Years," 2 vols.; "New Crea-
tions in Plant Life," W. S. Harwood.

Especially does the author acknowledge the courteous
and unfailing help of these descendants of master minds or
originals themselves, in granting him access to unprinted
sources, photographs, daguerreotypes, etc.: the late Miss
Harriet Ward and Miss Clara Denny Ward of Shrews-
bury, and other members of the Ward family; Hon. Eli
Whitney, grandson of the inventor; Miss Clara Barton
and her secretary. Dr. J. B. Hubbell; Mrs. Charles Beed,
niece of John B. Gough; the descendants and friends of
Elias Howe at Spencer; Dr. William Morton of New York,
the son of the discoverer ; Miss Mary Hoar, daughter of
Senator Hoar; Luther Burbank and his sister, Mrs. Bee-
son. These once, and frequently more than once, revised and
corrected the copy, occasionally inserting a luminous touch.

Finally well-informed men, themselves authors of note,
like Professor Albert Bushnell Hart of Harvard University
or Charles Allen Dinsmore, or eye-ivitnesses and friends of
the great men of the Commonwealth, like Hon. A. S. Roe
and ex-Librarian S. S. Green of Worcester, have read all
or part of the monographs and grafted their kindly criti-

I present these ten lives in a group with a purpose. For
zones of genius have always held their peculiar place
in the history of huma/)iity. Master minds, isolated as
they may be in their originality, do not exist alone.
Others living near catch the breath of their inspiration,
and though proceeding perhaps along altogether different
paths, are animated to achieve equally great master-pieces.
The contagiousness of genius might be proved, had we time,
by a biographical map of the world's great genius groups.


We have Jiere to view hut one} While individually its
figures have been too frequently forgotten or obscured, it
has never been in any case viewed as a group originating
from one centre. But it is a mighty group nevertheless.
It is more than a school of genius. We speak of the
Concord School, and properly. They were writers, authors,
dreamers. But these in the Worcester zone of genius are
not only writers and dreamers, but founders, creators, in-
ventors, discoverers, "doers of the word and not 'writers'
only," and in this sense they are a greater zone of genius
than that at Concord.

General Artemas Ward, First Commander-in-chief of
the American Revolution; Eli Whitney, Inventor of the
Cotton-gin; Elias Howe, Inventor of the Sewing-machine ;
Dr. William Morton, "Conqueror of Pain;" Dorothy Lynde
Dix, Redemptress of the World's Insane; Clara Barton,
Founder of the Red Cross in America; George Bancroft,
Historian of the United States; John Bartholomew Gough,
Greatest Apostle of Temperance; George Frishie Hoar,
an American Ideal Statesman ; Luther Burbank, Discoverer
of a New Plant World! — Geniuses are these, small, perhaps,
if you bound them by their starting-point, the hill-crowned
region of Worcester. But they are mighty when you see
them radiate the globe. PERCY H EPLER

Worcester, September 10th, 1909.

iHad the author projected a history of Worcester, there have been
other residents of Worcester and of the county of Worcester, of na-
tional reputation whose sketches might well have been given, such as
Isaiah Thomas, and the first Levi Lincoln, and Governor Davis, and
others in the past; Andrew H. Green in the present; and still others
equally great who did not start here, but who for a time were resi-
dents of Worcester, such as Edward Everett Hale. But such is not
the object of the book as it is to deal with ten international figures
who have been distinctly creators, founders, discoverers or inventors.





THE earliest chapter of the American Revolution we
may realize afresh by reading the letters in an an-
cient trunk over which, in the old colonial home-
stead at Shrewsbury, General Artemas Ward's tall clock
is still telling the moons and tick-tocking the generations

For here are writings whose broken seals disclose the
first secrets of the conflict in the handwriting of the
fathers of the Revolution, in the handwriting of Washing-
ton and his generals, in the handwriting of the creators of
the Constitution, and sometimes, as in the following, in the
handwriting of an intercepted message of the enemy.

Just here breaks upon the scene the secret forming of the
first minute-men. There vibrates throughout the qui vive
that pulsated about the storm-centre at Concord. Con-
sternation whispers its breath and betrays its shock at the
rupture between royalist and American, brother and
brother, comrade and comrade, neighbor and neighbor,
friend and friend. Here is exposed the ominous separa-

lApril 20th, 1908, as the Patriots' Day address in Boston at
the celebration of Patriots' Day by the Sons of the Colonial Wars
of Massachusetts, the author first presented this monograph on
General Ward by invitation of Prof. Albert Bushnell Hart of
Harvard University and the Governor of the Sons of the Colonial


tion of powder-stores from the King's powder-houses to
the powder-houses of the patriots. Here is thrust in the
royalist counter-stroke of Governor Gage's proclamation
and the threat that every rebel taken in arms would hang.
In the captured missive from Cambridge, August 29th,

Mr. Brattle presents his duty to His Excellency Governor Gage;
he apprehends it is his duty to acquaint His Excellency from time
to time with everything he hears and knows to be true and of
importance in these troublous times. Captain Minot of Concord,
a very worthy man, this minute informed Mr. Brattle that there
had been repeatedly made pressing applications to him to warn
his company to meet at one minute 's warning, equipped with arms
and ammunition according to laws he had constantly denied them;
adding, if he did not gratify them, he should be constrained to
quit his farm and town. Mr. Brattle told him he had better do
that than lose his life and be hanged for a rebel.

This morning the Selectmen of Medford came and received their
town stock of powder which was in the arsenal on Quarry Hill.
So there is now there in the King's powder-house only which
shall remain there as a sacred deposition till ordered out by the
Captain General.

The facts in this letter exposed not only the patriots'
withdrawal of powder, but actuated the first attempt of
General Gage to disarm the people by securing the powder-
stores and cannon of the colony,


Amongst the first patriots to voice their rights against
British encroachment of liberties and against arbitrary
power was Artemas Ward.

Original copies of the royal Governor's official summons
to council still lie in a packet in the ancient trunk, and

iFrom a manuscript at the Ward homestead.


repeatedly bear to Ward this commandatory but reluctant
message :

Sir: His Excellency tho Governor directs a general council to
be held at the Council Chamber in Boston on Wednesday, the
11th instant, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, and expects your
attendance accordingly.

This summons was not issued with grace by the royal
Governor, but at the dictation of a popular demand he
dared not resist.

To represent their stand against a high-handed infringe-
ment of their rights and liberties, nine years before Mr.
Brattle's letter and for nearly ten years previous to the
Revolution, the Massachusetts men insisted upon the pres-
ence of Artemas Ward in the royal council. The Governor
objected and negatived their choice — an evidence of the
greatness of Ward's weight as a patriot.

In this full decade before the events of '76, among the
pre-revolutionary collisions constantly occurring, one col-
lision took place in June, 1766, at Shrewsbury Green, with
King George's Governor, Francis Bernard.

This June day Artemas Ward was engaged after the
manner of his time in doing his part towards the rebuilding
of the Shrewsbury Meeting-house. Like the rest of his
line, who did the same from the time Deacon Ward landed
in the sixteen hundreds, Ward took the lead in the Pilgrim
Church and in all that it meant to America, particularly in
fostering in the Colonies the idea of freedom and individual
liberty which had been always tabernacled in its ark.

Suddenly Ward's superintendence of the white church's
reconstruction was interrupted by a dash of a mounted
red-coat, who swirled out of the dust of tJie Boston turn-
pike. It was the agent of His Majesty's Governor at Bos-
ton, and he did not rein the wheeling nag till he brought it


up full before Artemas Ward himself, to thrust before him
the order whose seal he at once broke thus to read aloud:

Boston, June 30, 1766.
To Artemas Ward, Esquire.

Sir: I am ordered by the Governor to signify to you that it has
been thought fit to supersede your commission of Colonel in the
regiment of militia lying in part in the County of Worcester and
partly in the County of Middlesex, and your said commission is
superseded accordingly.

I am, sir.
Your most obt and humble servant,

Jno. Cotton, Deputy Secretary.

"Give my compliments to the Governor and say to him
that I consider myself twice honored, but more in being
superseded than in being commissioned, and (holding up
the letter) that I thank him for this, since the motive that
dictated it is evidence that I am what he is not, a friend to
my country!"

^'Colonel Ward forever!" shouted the fast-grown crowd
as the cloyed and chesty royalist dug his spurs into his
horse 's flanks and shot out of view back to Boston.

The Governor could revoke the commission, but he could
not stifle the breath of liberty nor shut Ward out of the
Governor's own royal council, to which, against the Gov-
ernor's negative, the patriot Colonists, as we have seen,
elected him in 1768, notwithstanding even then tlu'eats of
subjection by the King's soldiers.


There was another thing Ward carried with him besides
the breath of liberty which the Governor could not revoke.
It was, as with Washington, a knowledge of war,
which he had learned under the King's generals in
the French and Indian fights in the wilderness. In


1755-1758 such was his innate martial mettle that,
like over one third of the able-bodied youth of Massa-
chusetts, with Colonel Williams' rcf^ment of foot,
he left the feathered nest of a country seat and the j^olden
spoon of a proud family^ to risk life and limb in the
battles in the wilds of the north. Like Washincrton under
Braddoek, under General Abercrombie, Lord Howe and
Williams, he was here first to follow the ^leam and show
the mettle of the man in a school of war the teachincrs of
which he was so soon to turn back against his English
tutors in the fierce reflex of Revolution.

The very diary in which on page after page he wrote
down each day his campaigns still lies at the estate^ of his
great-grandson, the late Samuel D. Ward of Shrewsbury.
Taking it up and reading it to-day, it is easy for us to see
in Ward from the first the brand of unsullied courage.

The crux of the expedition in which he advanced from
Major to Lieutenant-colonel lay in the retreat from the
farthest point in tliis particular campaign against Tieonde-
roga. The command that came to leave the breastwork,
where at imminent danger to his life he stood amid his
falling comrades for one whole day of bloody attack, Ward
stigmatizes in his diary under that date as given at a point
whence they so soon "shamefully retreated!" Had the
faintest flaw of the fear of a coward lurked in the iron of
Artemas Ward's blood, it would have manifested itself in
these fierce and virgin battles where were hand-to-hand
fights in trackless wilds against the cunning of superior
foes. Nowhere is there a hint of anything but dare and

iHis wife was a great grand-daughter of Increase Mather.
2 Adjacent to the General Ward homestead. On the ancient farm
Artemas Ward was bom, Nov. 7, 1727.


risk. The peril ahead was in a black, untrodden wilderness
which masked redskins, who were backed in turn by the
army of the French. Privation and death lay there,
before which indeed two thousand of his comrades were to
fall, including* his particular leader, Lord Howe. But with
all the spirit of his being. Ward was for action and against

In broken battle-lines in deadly engagements beyond
Lake Champlain, hand to hand with Indians and French,
it was no longer a baptism of water of which he first
■^ATote, ''My horse flung me into the river," but a baptism
of blood. From eight in the morning till nine at night
under steady fire at the farthest breastwork, with the born
soldier's freedom from adjectives or emotion, he simply
records, "Many slain," though from the forests on the way
he passes details of bleeding men emerging '^ scalped alive"
to tell of ambush and of butchery !


Such a knowledge of war began by the patriots to be
first systematically turned against the British October 27th,
1774, when the Provincial Congress appointed Artemas
Ward general officer, together with Jedediah Preble and
Seth Pomeroy. The first of the latter two not serving,
General Ward was left first in rank, senior officer of the
Revolution and the first American appointed General in
actual command.

March 9th, 1775, the Committee of Safety was organized
"to alarm, accoutre and assemble militia," and to establish
at Concord and at Worcester stores for powder-magazines,
cannon and guns.

Ancient Kitchen of the Ward Homestead— With Doo:; and Knocker


April 18th, 1775, it was this accumulation of stores that
called out Oafjo's orders "to reconnoitre and destroy."
Tho troops that obeyed the order brought on the clash at
Lexington and Concord.

Just before this oiitburst of the Revolution, General
Artemas Ward, when all realized that they must "hang
together or hang separately," left the Provincial Congress
at its adjournment April 15th, expecting May 10th to con-
vene with it for a day of prayer and fasting. In this spirit
of deep and breathless solemnity, he retired to the stillness
of his home, the other patriots doing the same. Samuel
Adams and John Hancock (marked to be sent to the King
for trial) awaited events in the prayerful quiet of the
house of Rev. Jonas Clark at Lexington.

Hard upon the outbreak of April 19th, when the relay of
horsemen alarmed every highway and turnpike with the
simple and oft-repeated alarm, "To arms! to arms! the
war's begun!" there came at Shrewsbury as everywhere
else the breaking of a passion whose pressure had for years
been clamped down nowhere deeper than in the Ward

In the glow of the great fireplace of the ancient kitchen
we can stand in now, when the ponderous blinds had been
tightly drawn and the burnished guns still overhead hung
waiting to speak their message, the letters of the Commit-
tee of Correspondence had here been read time and time
again. Here faces gleamed with light other than the back-
log's and drank inspiration other than that from the crane.
For years only brains were fired. The guns hung ready
but mute. But at last these flintlocks,^ as a last resort, en-
forced the dictates of men's minds.

iThese guns were used in secret drilling, and the old kitchen is
yet marked with dents from the clumsy barrels.


April 20th President Warren^ of the Committee of Safety
accompanied the general alarm by this call to towns :

"Our all is at stake. Death and desolation are
the consequence of delay. every moment is infinite-
LY PRECIOUS. One hour's delay may deluge your coun-

It was the drive of this compelling passion of April 19th
that enlisted before the town of Boston, by Saturday night,
over sixteen thousand patriots and. in their lead, accom-
panied by his sons, Ithamar and Nahum. Artemas "Ward
as General at the head of the army.^

Immediately General Ward took command of the troops
inpouring from every side, not only from the Province of
Massachusetts, but from New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
Vermont and Connecticut. It was no frolic or foray, for
beyond these colonies on to New York went " f/ie shot heard
round the world," and following right upon the dispatch
of the news at Lexington and Concord, the patriots in New
York arose as one man, as is shown by this "intelligence,"'
at once posted to General Ward and still found in his
effects :

iWarren, as if anticipating his fate at Bunker Hill, transported his
wife and children to a house on Main Street, Worcester, still standing
where it has been moved, 1 Fountain Street.

2First to bring the patriots kiUed (forty-nine killed, fifty-seven
wounded) at the bridge and at Lexington, General Ward ordered
out one lieutenant, two sergeants and fifty rank and file. For
bread and other provisions for the assembling thousands, Colonel
Gardner he dispatched to Eoxbury; for cannon and ordnance, Col-
onel Bond to Cambridge.

3From a manuscript at homestead.


Newport, April 26, 1775.

Sir: It is with pleasure that I communicate to you by express
the following important intelligence:

By a vessell just arrived here from New York, we are informed
that the news of the engagement between the regulars and the
provincials got to New York on Sunday last between forenoon and
afternoon service; that the people of the city immediately rose,
disarmed the soldiers, possessed themselves of the fort and mag-
azines, in which they found about 1500 arms; that they unloaded
two transports bound to Boston, Captain Montague not dareing to
give them any assistance; that a third transport has sailed while
they were seizing the two others, and the people had fitted out a
vessell in order to take and bring them back; that they had forbid
all the pilots from bringing up any King's ships; that Captain Mon-
tague was not able to procure a pilot in the whole city, and that the
inhabitants were preparing and putting themselves into the best
position of defense.

The gentleman who brings this intelligence left Elizabethtown
yesterday morning, and tells us that on Monday the committee of
that town and county met and agreed to raise one thousand men
immediately to assist in the defense of New York against any attacks
that may be made against them. I have the honor to assure you that
the intelligence may be depended on, and that I am Sir,

Yr hum Ser

John Collins,
Chairman of the Committee

of Inspection.
The Commanding officer at Eoxbury.

Thus, to SO great an extent conceived and born in New
England, the Revolution, in whose creation Artemas Ward
was an initial master mind, spread from New England over
a continent.

The generals commanding the troops from the other col-
onies yielded deference to General Ward as head, defer-
ence being thus yielded by General Spencer of Connecticut,
General Greene of Rhode Island and General Folsom of


New Hampshire, "Ward's orders to be in the form of

The titamc task of the organization of an unformed and
unarticulated patriot army fell to General Ward. His it
was first to face the stupendous hurden of setting in order
nearly twenty thousand troops, arising, as it were, in a
night, to stand before him in the morning, a tatterdemalion
multitude of high-strung and independent spirits.

Already senior officer in command of this first army of
the American Revolution, Artemas Ward, May 19, 1775, by
the following commission was elevated by the Provincial
Congress to the post of Commander-in-chief :

The Congress of the Colony of Mass.
To the Hon. Artemas Ward, Esq.

Greeting: We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your
courage and good conduct,i do by these presents constitute and
appoint you, the said Artemas Ward, to be General and Commander-
in-chief of all the forces raised by this Congress aforesaid for the
defense of this and other American Colonies. You are therefore
confidently and intelligently to discharge the duty of a general in
leading, ordering and exercising the forces in arms, both inferior
officers and soldiers, and to keep them in good order and discipline;
and they are hereby ordered to obey you as their General; and
you are yourself to observe and follow such orders and instructions
as you shall from time to time receive from this or any future
Congress or House of Representatives of this colony or the Com-

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Online LibraryPercy Harold EplerMaster minds at the commonwealth's heart → online text (page 1 of 22)