William C Gilman.

The celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: online

. (page 10 of 19)
Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 10 of 19)
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is drawn from a more distant retrospect. But history (and
I must not forget that the part assigned me here is an
historical one) concerns itself with something more than
the bare record of events. These are but the result of the
play and interplay of forces, human and superhuman. Even
those events which are reasonably familiar assume a new


interest when the human factors in them are brought under
review, and the parts played by the chief actors in them and
the personalities of those actors are recalled.

It chances that the period concerning which I am asked
to speak, save only a few of its earliest years, lies within the
range of my personal recollection. True, some of that
recollection is made up of the impressions of boyhood and
youth. True, much of it is not drawn from a direct partici-
pation in what has taken place, or from an intimate per-
sonal contact with the more prominent figures concerned.
But I am obliged to confess that I am old enough to be
able to bring under review from memory the events of a
large portion of the period in question, and to have received
very distinct impressions of and concerning most of the men
who have been the chief actors upon this local stage during
that time. I shall, therefore, take the liberty of giving
expression to some of these impressions, and of bringing
into special prominence the personal side of the last half
century's history here.

The beginning of our period takes us back to times
which stirred men's souls. The great national struggle over
human slavery was near its height ; the people of the country
were aligning themselves for the momentous political con-
flict which the next year was to witness; and events were
fast rushing on to the dread climax of war. It is difficult,
I imagine, for those of us who have lived in less strenuous
times to faithfully picture to ourselves the conditions which
were then existing. The conscience of the north had been
profoundly moved by the spectacle of human bondage, and
the efforts which were being made to extend the sphere of
the influence of slavery. The issue which had been joined
was in its sight less a political than a moral one, and men
became inspired with that ardor and zeal and determination
which a moral issue alone can arouse. This was peculiarly
true of those of the old New England stock who had been
bred and nurtured under the influences of a Puritanism
which had not passed away, but still lingered among the
homes of the fathers to be deeply stirred by its sense of


wrong, and moved to action which knew no ceasing. Here
in this town and in this eastern Connecticut the blood of the
Puritan flowed in scarcely adulterated streams. The in-
fluences which he created were still potently present in this
typical New England community, and his strong, virile
manhood, which was so responsive to his ideals of right and
wrong, and made no compromise with them for peace and
comfort's sake, was the representative type of this people in
striking measure.

The year 1854, to go no farther back, had witnessed the
repeal of the Missouri compromise. In 1856 began the long
and bitter struggle over bleeding Kansas and in May of
that year Brooks made his attack upon Sumner. In 1857
came the Dred Scott decision, and the fierce controversy
between the forces of freedom and slavery over the Lecomp-
ton constitution. In 1858 Lincoln and Douglass met in their
memorable debate with all the country looking on. While
the preparations for the bicentennial celebration here in
1859 were in progress John Brown was busy with his for
the invasion of the slave states, and in October his abortive
attempt was made.

One of the most striking and attractive personalities
among the members of Brown's devoted band was born
within the limits of ancient Norwich and lived here until
his enlistment for the Mexican war, and his family were
parishioners of the Uptown church at the time of his death.
He was Aaron D. Stevens. He is pictured as a man of
Herculean proportions graceful and comely. He had
played a leading part in the Kansas struggle, and there had
come into intimate relations with Brown. He walked to the
scaffold at Charlestown in March, 1860, with as undaunted
courage as he had on many another occasion faced death for
the cause which lay nearest to his heart.

These events and others coming, as they did, in rapid
and overwhelming succession, had wrought the mind of the
north and of this community into a fever heat. The call of
the anti-slavery agitators to a redress of the wrongs of an
oppressed people had reached the hearts of some. That to


stay the aggressions of the slave power, and to save a vast
expanse of virgin soil to freedom was earnestly heeded by
others. The contest was on, and it was being waged with
all the intensity and bitterness which a challenge of the
righteousness of a great and long established social institu-
tion can engender. These calls had been heard here and
hereabouts, and the response had been no uncertain one.
And there were not lacking effective local agencies to re-
inforce the growing opinion, which had brought the recently
formed republican party into being, and a local leadership
to give it shape and effectiveness. The Morning Bulletin
had been established in December, 1858. Isaac H. Bromley
occupied its editorial chair. In that place of vantage be
brought to the service of the cause of freedom all the
enthusiasm of youth, and those rare abilities which later
won for him golden laurels in the fields of metropolitan
journalism. Senator Foster resided here. He had taken his
seat in the United States senate in March, 1855, and re-
mained a member of that body until 1867, and to become its
president pro tempore, and after the death of Lincoln its
presiding officer. He earnestly espoused the cause of the
new party, and was influential in its councils. Gov. Buck-
ingham resided here. He had been twice mayor and twice
governor. The influence of his strong hand and personal
popularity was of great service to the cause to which he
attached himself heart and soul. Amos W. Prentice, whose
contributions to the welfare of this town during a long and
busy life were manifold and untiring, was mayor, and he
was always to be found in the forefront of the advancing
battle line. Here was Henry H. Starkweather, then a young
man at the bar, with the promise of a bright future in his
profession. His tastes soon afterward drew him aside into
public service in which he remained until his death in 1876,
while serving this district in his fifth term in congress. He
attached himself to the fortunes of the new party with all
the ardor of his nature, and was ceaseless in his labors in
its behalf. Dr. John P. Gulliver occupied the pulpit of the
Broadway church. He was a man of marvelous power in


the moulding of public opinion, and rare in his capacity for
leadership. This town has seen few of his equals in that
respect. lie was the uncompromising foe of slavery and
outspoken and persistent in his denunciation of its evils.
There was gathered in his congregation an unusual group of
public leaders. Through them, and through his own force-
ful personality he reached out into this community in a
way that made a deep impress upon it. But these men
who held, or later came to hold, public or quasi-public
places were not the only leaders in the movement of public
opinion, or in effective propaganda and organization. The
ranks of the professions and business furnished many
others. The list includes such men as the brilliant Edmund
Perkins, William P. Greene, Henry B. Norton, Moses
Pierce, John Breed, David Smith, John F. Slater, Hugh H.
Osgood, John T. Adams, Deacon Horace Colton and many
others. These were all men of wide influence and they
were as firm in their faith as unfaltering in their allegiance
and as unsparing in their efforts as any others.

At the April election in 1860 Governor Buckingham
was a candidate for re-election. Great importance was
attached to the result by reason of its bearing upon the
greater presidential contest soon to follow. The opposing
candidate was the magnetic Thomas H. Seymour. The
democracy had not then suffered the division which soon
befell it. All of its members, whatever their differing shades
of opinion, joined in the most energetic efforts to stay the
progress of the principles which the republican party had
espoused. The contest was desperately waged. The
democratic leadership hereabouts was in no mean or inex-
perienced hands. It included John T. Wait, James A.
Hovey, James S. Carew, John W. Stedman, William L.
Brewer, William M. Converse, Christopher C. Brand and
others. Wait was by the war, which at Antietam cost him
his only son, carried into republican leadership, and for
ten years he was the representative of this district in
congress, succeeding Starkweather. Hovey was a lawyer
of high abilities who in 1876 became a judge of the superior


court. Carew was mayor during the stirring years of 1860
and 1861. Stedman was the proprietor and editor of the
"Aurora." The importance of the contest attracted the
interest of Lincoln, and immediately following his great
triumph in Cooper Union he visited Connecticut and came
to Norwich, where in the old Town hall he re-echoed the
keynote of his New York address, and repeated his appeal
for a faith that right makes might, and for a courage in the
people to dare to the end to do their duty as they under-
stood it. Amos W. Prentice presided at the meeting, and,
carried away by the power of the Illinoisan's ringing words,
he exclaimed: "Here is the man who should occupy the
house on Pennsylvania Avenue." Thus in one breath did he
disclose his power of discrimination if not divination. Buck-
ingham was elected, but by the slender margin of 538 votes.

The nomination, election and inauguration of Lincoln,
the secession of states and the firing upon Fort Sumter
followed in quick succession, and the Civil War with all its
dire consequences was upon the country. The announce-
ment of the fall of Sumter, which came on Sunday, April
I4th, made it a day long to be remembered. Pulpits rang
with calls to patriotic duty, and the people on every side
were stirred, as only earnest men and women can be, by the
situation which threatened such portentous consequences.
There had been no call to arms ; but war was in the air, and
the country's inevitable need was in the thoughts of every

The call came the following day, and preparations for
a prompt response were at once set in motion. Former
political differences were forgotten, and men of the faith
and stamp of Wait, Hovey, Carew and Stedman vied with
the most ardent haters of slavery in their patriotic zeal.
The popular response in the enlisting quarters was such
that the question of the hour was not so much one of men
to fill the three companies proposed to be organized, as
it was how to uniform, equip and supply them for service.
On Thursday, the i8th, a war meeting (the first) was held
in Apollo hall, with Starkweather in the chair, and prepara-


tions were then made for raising the necessary funds. The
subscription list then started is a striking and eloquent
document. Buckingham's name heads the list of 210 sub-
scribers, and the total subscribed was $21,395. On Saturday
a grand mass meeting was held, Mayor Carew presiding.
At this meeting the popular enthusiasm was aroused to the
highest pitch by the appeals of Foster, Wait, Pratt, Hovey,
Adams, Halsey, Starkweather, Perkins, the venerable
Doctor Bond and a half dozen others.

But neither money nor enthusiasm was uniforms, cloth-
ing and supplies. There was an emergency which men,
however eager and willing, could not meet. The women of
Norwich, as patriotic as their husbands and brothers,
flocked to the rescue. The city became suddenly, and as if
by magic, transformed into one great sewing circle with
Breed hall as its center. On the Sunday next after the
president's call 350 women plied their busy fingers in that
hall all day. As a result the first company was on the
following day ready to depart, and under the command of
Capt. Frank S. Chester, arm in arm with Buckingham, it
marched to the station, while the crowded streets showered
upon its members the plaudits and benedictions of a people
wrought up to the highest pitch of patriotic enthusiasm.
The second company under Capt. Henry Peale left on the
24th, and the third under Capt. Edward Harland on the 29th
both under similar conditions. It was the fortune of all
these companies to become attached to the brigade which
opened the battle of Bull Run, and in good order covered
the retreat from that ill-starred field.

In this connection it ought to be noted that out of
these united efforts of the women there grew up that most
efficient and far-reaching organization, whose invaluable
services terminated only with the war "The Soldiers' Aid
Society," at the head of which was Miss Elizabeth Greene,
and in which Miss Carrie L. Thomas and Miss Eliza P.
Perkins played leading parts.

It would be interesting to follow in detail the history
of the four eventful years which followed. But my time will


not permit me to even summarize the story which Doctor
Dana in his labor of love "The Norwich Memorial" has
put in abiding form and so worthily told. When dark hours
came, as they not infrequently did, and discouragements
beset the cause around which the hopes of anxious loyal
hearts were centered, faith did not falter here, nor courage
abate. The inspiration of indomitable leaders was steadily
present. As call after call for men came in staggering suc-
cession, and the material with which to respond grew less
and less, the devotion of the people kept rising to higher
heights of sacrifice, and their grim determination to more
heroic efforts. The public purse was unstintingly drawn
upon, and private endeavor redoubled, so that in the end
approximately $165,000 was spent from the public treasury
in order that the response to the country's call might be
prompt and adequate, and the allotted quota of the town
was always full, and often more than full. In all, the
number who enlisted from here was practically one-tenth
of the whole population. The best blood of it was included.
Of those who went out many never returned, and incom-
parable sadness came into many homes, high and low. But
the major part did return to receive a welcome long to be
remembered and to take up their parts again in the life of
this community. The roll of the men who came to distinc-
tion in the service is too long for repetition here. I can only
pause to enumerate those few who came to the highest
station upon their country's records. Joseph Lanman was
a commodore after 1862, and later became an admiral.
Daniel Tyler, Edward Harland and Henry W. Birge rose
to be brigadier generals, and William G. Ely, John E. Ward,
Alfred P. Rockwell, Hiram M. Crosby and Henry Case to
be colonels.

On the day following the evacuation of Richmond,
Buckingham was chosen governor for the eighth and last
time. It remained for him as was fitting, to welcome home
the returning veterans of the war in whose hearts he held
so warm a place, and to close the doors of the temple of
Janus, which had so long stood open. In 1869 he was sent


to the United States senate. His great work, however, was
done as Connecticut's war governor, and it is upon his
record made in those years of exacting service that his claim
to an enduring public remembrance must chiefly rest. The
burden which fell upon him in that crisis of our country's
history was a heavy one. But under it all, and through all
the perplexities and trials and discouragements which fell to
his lot, he bore himself with such dignity and poise, such
lofty and unselfish patriotism, such sympathy and unswerv-
ing devotion, such intelligence and foresight that he won for
himself a place beside Andrew and Washburne and Morton
in the select circle of the great Civil War governors. As
Washington learned to lean upon and trust Connecticut's
Governor Trumbull, so Lincoln found in Buckingham a
state executive whose fidelity and support was unfaltering
and sincere. It is a striking coincidence of this situation
that both Trumbull and Buckingham were born in the
neighboring country town of Lebanon.

Xorwich has doubtless numbered among her citizens
men of intellectual endowments superior to those of Buck-
ingham. But no one who has lived or gone out from here
has, I feel assured, so surely written his name in honor into
the pages of history as he. And it was not the result of
chance or accident. Great qualities were in him, and they
expressed themselves upon the epoch making events among
which he moved. His striking face and courtly figure as
he appeared upon public occasions wearing on his silk hat
the cockade, which was the insignia of his office, made a
deep impression upon my youthful mind. As I now look
upon his figure in heroic bronze seated among the battle-
flags in the capitol in Hartford I can understand the reason
why, and I find it easy to discover in that strong yet benig-
nant face the secret of his devoted life and of his efficient
service in a great emergency.

In the fall of 1866 I came from my nearby
home to enter the Academy. Then I met for the
first time that masterful teacher, Professor William
Hutchison, and came within the circle of his remarkable


influence. He had the year before come to the Academy,
which under the principalship of Elbridge Smith had already
been placed upon a firm foundation. He remained until
his untimely death in 1885 to continue his invaluable work
for this community in the training and inspiration of its
young men and women. He was not long in making his
influence felt, and soon the school acquired a recognized
reputation as one of the best in the land, and as one without
a superior as a place for college preparation. What the
secret of his power was I do not pretend to have discovered.
Something of it was doubtless due to the genuineness,
directness and wholesomeness of his nature. There was no
sham or pretense about him. He was human and sympa-
thetic. He was sane in his views of things. He was
catholic in his spirit. He understood the young, and how
to reach them. He set up no impossible standards. He
marked out no narrow ways. His influence was not exerted
through a system of "thou shalt nots," but through an
inspiration to the best things which radiated from him on
every hand. He looked to the instillation of ideals and the
creation of worthy aspirations and ambitions, and not to
commandments for the assurance of an honorable life. It
was a sad day to many when the news went forth that the
beloved teacher had closed his labors, and Norwich rightly
felt that one of her noblest had gone from her. Professor
Hutchison was as quiet in his ways, as simple in his habits
and as modest in his demeanor as he was strong. He
sought neither publicity nor fame. The limelight had no
attraction for him. He was content to do his duty as a
moulder of youth, a citizen of this town and a Christian.
He did it well, and the verdict of all who knew him or his
service must be that few men have contributed more to
the true welfare of this community and its people than
did he.

These allusions to the Academy invite our attention to
the growth and development of that institution. Fifty
years ago its instructors numbered five and its pupils less
than a hundred, and the courses offered were limited to two


a classical and an English. The latest catalogue shows
444 students in attendance, and a teaching force of 25, and
its courses have been greatly extended and diversified. In
1859 a single building amply supplied all its needs. Today
its teaching facilities overtax the capacity of four. Its
beautiful Slater Memorial, dedicated in 1885, was built, en-
dowed and its valuable museum supplied by the munificence
of William A. Slater, one of its graduates. Its Manual
Training building, completed in 1895, was the gift of its
alumni. The latest addition to the group was made in 1907,
when a legacy contained in the will of the late Colonel
Charles A. Converse supplied the means for the erection of
the Converse Art Gallery. The fifty persons who in 1855
combined to contribute the original fund for the establish-
ment of this institution were as far-sighted as they were
public spirited. But whatever prophetic vision they or those
others who in the early years came to its help may have
had of the future of the Academy, and whatever dreams
may have been theirs as to the service it would in
years to come render to this community, it is safe to say
that not one of them had pictured to himself in all its full-
ness what has already come to pass. Here, year by year, a
very large proportion of the sons and daughters of Norwich,
drawn from every walk in life, together with many from
the surrounding country, have come under the influence of
exceptional educational advantages, been thus led into a
broader and better vision of life and its possibilities, and
been prepared for a worthy citizenship. The consequence
has been, has it not, that the Academy has come to touch
the heart and life of this people more closely than any other
institution here. Ample evidence of this is found in the
large number who have become its benefactors, and the
large total of their benefactions, which approximates three-
quarters of a million of dollars. This is a generous offering
to a single cause by a community no larger than this. The
harvest has already been a bountiful one, and the end is
not yet.


It was during the years of my attendance at the Acad-
emy, and the half dozen immediately following, that I re-
ceived very distinct impressions of the men who were
prominent in the financial and business circles of this town.
I still retain vivid recollections of such men as the Nortons,
the Buckinghams, the Johnsons, the Osgoods, the Greenes,
the Hubbards, John F. Slater, Lorenzo Blackstone, J. M.
Huntington, David Smith, Moses Pierce, James S. Carew,
Amos W. Prentice, E. Winslow Williams, John Mitchell
and Edward Chappell. It seemed to me in those days that
these men were of the very stuff of which, to borrow a
modern term, captains of finance and business are made.
I now appreciate that I may have painted them in too glow-
ing colors. But I am still convinced that I did not misjudge
them in this, that in their character, their dignity, their
self-respecting ideals and their sense of their private and
public responsibilities they represented in a pre-eminent
way that class which makes business honorable, and its re-
wards a public blessing.

During these years Norwich was fortunate in the qual-
ity and power of its clergy. The venerable Doctor Arms
was the pastor of the First church, as he had been since
1836. In 1864 Doctor Bond, after nearly thirty years of
service at the Second, had sought a well earned retirement,
and had been succeeded by the Rev. M. M. G. Dana, who in
1874 joined in the organization of the Park church. In 1865
Doctor Gulliver had left the Broadway, and in 1868 he was
succeeded by the Rev. Daniel Merriman, a preacher of un-
usual power. Doctor Samuel Graves was at the Central
Baptist; the Revs. David F. Banks and John Binney were
in succession at Christ; and Father Daniel Mullin was
exerting a far-reaching influence for good at St. Mary's.

If we turn to the bar, we discover in Norwich during
the period we have thus far been considering a striking
group of lawyers. It included Senator Foster, who after
his retirement from the senate was summoned to service
upon the supreme court of the state ; James A. Hovey,
John T. Wait, Edmund Perkins, George Pratt and Jeremiah


Halsey. These men were of distinctly different types, and
their strength lay in different directions, but they were all
forceful factors in their profession, and in the life of this
community. In this connection mention should be made of
John D. Park. In 1855 he was, at an early age, chosen to
a judgeship of the superior court, and in 1864 he became a
member of the supreme court. In 1870 he was made chief
justice, which office he continued to hold until his retire-

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Online LibraryWilliam C GilmanThe celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town of Norwich, Connecticut, and of the incorporation of the city, the one hundred and twenty-fifth, July 4, 5, 6, 1909: → online text (page 10 of 19)