Charles H. (Charles Henry) Fiske.

Oration delivered before the inhabitants of Weston, at the Town Hall, July 4, 1876 (Volume 2) online

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ORATION



DELIVERED BEFORE THE



Inhabitants of V/eston,



AT THE



TOWN Hall, July 4, 1876,



Charles H. Fiske.



WESTON:
Printed by vote of the Towns-People.

M D C C C L X X V I .



ORATION



DELIVERED BEFORE THE



Inhabitants of \AAeston,



'vu*



AT THE



TOWN Hall, July 4, 1876,



Charles H. Fiske.




WESTON:

Printed by vote of the Towns-People.
mdccclxxvi.



F7-f



Press of Gribben cS: Co., S8 Federal Street, Boston.



JULY 4, 1876,



Celebration at Weston.



At a meeting of the Citizens of "Weston, June 17, 187G, it
was voted to celebrate the One Hundredth Anniversary of the De-
claration of American Independence.

Edwin IIobbs, Edward Cor.uuN and Hexky L. Brown were
appointed a Committee of Arrangements.



The exercises of the day were held in Town Hall, which was
appropriately decorated for the occasion. A large audience was
present. Edwin Hobbs presided.

The order of exercises was as follows :

INVOCATION Rev. Geohck Sandekson

MUSIC (the Russian Hymn) Weston Cornet Band

reading of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Rev. Amos Hakkis

PRAYER, Rev. Chandler Roubins, D. D.

ORATION Charles II. Fiske

SINGING, NATIONAL HYMN, "America."

BENEDICTION Rev. Amos Harris



After the exercises in the Hall, a procession was formed, under
the direction of Frank W. Bigelow, Chief Marshal, and moved to
Mrs. John Lamson's Grove, in the following order :

Chief Marshal.

"Weston Cornet Band,

Officers of the Town.

Committee of Arrangements.

Clergymen and Invited Guests.

Veterans of the War of 1812.

Citizens of the Town.

After partaking of a collation in the Grove, the assembly was
called to order, and eloquent addresses were delivered by Rev. Dr.
Chandler Bobbins, Alonzo S. Fiske, and Bev. Amos Harris.

In the evening there was a brilliant display of Fireworks, with
Music by the "Weston Cornet Band, from their new stand on
the Common.

The weather was fine, and the day passed off agreeably.



O EAT 10^.



In order to understand aright the events of any par-
ticular time, and to fully comprehend the meaning and
force of particular circumstances, it is necessary to go
back and inquire into the little incidents in the lives of
the people of the period, and that too, not alone of the
Princes and Kulers, but of the average man and woman.
It is very often the smallest circumstances and the gene-
ral every-day life which foster the growth and strength
of character; and the greatest results in the history of
the world, owe their existence to the humblest begin-
nings. The small spring of bubbling water trickles
into the brook, then, with increasing strength, flows
into the stream and river, and there turns the great
water wheels and machinery of the world. It is diffi-
cult to get satisfaction in our search for the remote
causes, especially as the means for recording ideas and
events were so limited, in the absence of a proper knowl-
edge of the art of printing, the recent growth of which
has had such a powerful effect upon the world. Tra-
ditions handed down from father to son, from one gene-
ration to another, and growing dimmer and fainter
with each downward step, are frequently our only
guide and light.



It is to learn and understand the unrecorded history
of the world that has caused so many lifetimes of study
and toil, and often with fruitless and barren results.
The more widely the printing press is used the easier
will be the future historian's task, for the items
and facts of every-day life will be the more carefully
preserved, together with the comments and criticisms
on them, which will show the true character of the age.

Something of the olden time has been preserved in
the scattered speeches and discourses of certain promi-
nent persons ; to a great extent, however, the pam-
phlets containing them have not been carefully kept,
but stowed away in neglected places, and when they
have been sought after, with the greatest eagerness, it
is discovered that most of them have found their way
into the waste basket and the fire. A great many
valuable papers and documents have been destroyed,
even within the last generation, causing an almost in-
calculable loss to posterity. It is therefore extremely
important to collect and transcribe, in bound parchment,
all information of the character and customs of the
people of the past time ; and for this purpose, before
it is too late, to glean all the facts we possibly can from
the old persons now among us, who have heard from
their fathers and grandfathers so many interesting items
of the last century.

To get at New England character, which is so potent
in its influence upon the thoughts and lives of the peo-
ple of this country, it is necessary to go back to the
early settlement of New England, and see under what
circumstances our forefathers came and settled here ;
what their motives and habits of life were, what labors
and struggles they underwent, and what courage they



evinced to carry out their ideas of right and duty. And
to get at the true history of our country we must go
back to the same source ; for the country is only one
united cluster of municipalities and towns, all of which
were modelled and molded after the fashion of the New
England towns. New England furnished the forms
and patterns for the other sections of the country to
imitate in laying their foundations of government. The
New England town meeting was something by itself
and alone. It originated here, almost at our wvn doors,
and after having been tried and proved, found its way
into the other settlements ; and it is not too much to
say, formed the political framework of our country.

You can therefore understand the importance of the
suggestion of the President a short time ago, that the
several towns should have their early history written
and preserved ; and on what more fitting occasion coidd
the task of reading that history be performed than on
this, the Centennial Anniversary of our Independence ;
when we have completed the golden circle, and, before
starting on a fresh voyage, we stop for a moment for
rest and refreshment, sit down quietly, and reflect upon
the past and present, perhaps with some misgivings,
and with our faith, in the future prosperity and welfare
of our country, just a little shaken. If our way now
seems dark and uncertain, perhaps we may profit by
the experience of the i)ast, and start out on our course
with fresh vigor and with new ideas of life's duties and
trials. With these thoughts, and with the hope of in-
creasing our respect and reverence for the olden time,
I have written, with the limited time at my disposal, a
short, though incomplete description of our good old
town of Weston. I call it good, for here there is health,



contentment, and happiness, to a remarkable degree ;
and old, as it Avas incorporated in the early part of the
eighteenth century, prior to this forming a part of one
of the oldest towns of the Massachusetts Colony. We
have reason to be proud of its history, not only from its
connection with the prominent events of our State and
Country, but also on account of the wisdom and dis-
cretion of the inhabitants in the management of its in-
ternal affairs.

The town of Weston lies about thirteen miles west
of Boston, on the eastern side of the range of hills in
Massachusetts which slope toward and to the sea,
measuring about five miles north and south, and four
east and west, and containing almost 11,000 acres. It
was formerly a part of Watertown, which was made up
of the present Watertown, Waltham, Weston, and a
part of Lincoln.

I shall not say much about the settlement of Water-
town, for this has been so well described by Dr. Henry
Bond in his history of the town, and many interesting
and valuable facts about it are to be found in the Cen-
tennial Sermon preached here by Rev. Dr. Samuel Ken-
dall, January 12, 1813 ; and also in the address delivered
by the late Rev. Dr. Edmund H. Sears at the celebration
of the fiftieth anniversary of the settlement, of Rev.
Dr. Joseph Field, February 1, 1865.

As many of you know, Watertown was settled by
Sir Richard Saltonstall, Rev. George Phillips and others,
there being forty families, at the least calculation, who
in the year 1630 set out from Salem to find a more pro-
pitious place of settlement, in their journey stopping a
few days at Charlestown, and finally deciding upon the
land on the north bank of the Charles River, which was



named Watertown, on acconnt of its water privileges.
It was of the utmost importance to have the imme-
diate settlement on the banks of a river ; for the only
easy communication with the other settlements was by
boats and rafts, the journey through the wilderness be-
ing rough, uncertain and dangerous.

The town founded here soon increased in numbers,
and in a short time ranked in this respect next to
Boston ; holding this relative position for the space of
fifteen or twenty years.

This part (that is, what was afterwards Weston)
was called the Watertown Farms, sometimes the
Farmers' Precinct, or the Western Precinct, and some-
times the Precinct of Lieut. Jones' Company. Waltham
was the Middle Precinct until after the incorporation of
Weston, when it was generally known as the Western
Precinct ; and was not set off as a separate town till
January 4, 1737.

An early writer, in describing the people of Massa-
chusetts Bay, says : " Some of them merchants are
damnable rich." I think that this remark was not
intended for the people of Watertown, for the Charles
River being shallow and not easily navigable for large
vessels, did not afford the proper advantages for a strictly
mercantile community ; and therefore the inhabitants
became, to a great extent, farmers, who, as a class,
very seldom require the use of so strong an adjective to
express their wealth : and what shows their early posi-
tion more than anything else is the recorded refusal of
the town (1631-2) to pay a tax of eight pounds im-
posed by the Colony, giving as a reason that " it was
not, in their opinion, safe to pay moneys after that sort,
for fear of bringing themselves and theii* posterity into
bondage."



10

The institution and growth of the towns was closely
connected with that of the Church ; for this last was
always the nucleus around which the people gathered,
and the bond which held them together. The settlements
were generally made as soon as there were sufficient
persons willing to unite with each other, and able to
support a minister, whereupon a tract of land was
granted to them, and they were empowered to establish
a Plantation and a Church.

On the settlement of Watertown the inhabitants,
with Rev. George Phillips at their head, and as their
pastor, established a church, at the same time drafting
and signing a Church Covenant, which was considered
at the time very liberal, more so than any other in the
Colony ; but to which I am afraid we might not be wil-
ling to subscribe.

The meeting-house stood at the extreme eastern part
of the town, near the old Burying ground, over a mile
east from the centre of the present Watertown. To
this place the poor farmers had to travel every Sunday,
through sunshine or rain, staying there to both the fore-
noon and afternoon services, and not reaching home till
toward evening. We must remember what poor means
of transportation they had at that time, with probably
not much more than rough cart paths for roads, running
through the forest and wilderness. Besides this the
people were much scattered, for as there were many
little separate brooks and springs in the town, and as it
was necessary to live where they could easily get water
for themselves and cattle, they were tempted to settle
at distances from each other. It was, however, about
their only opportunity of meeting their fellow towns-
men, and no doubt was looked forward to with a great
deal of interest.



11

In those days church-going was not only a moral
but a legal duty ; staying away from church without
good cause shown being an offence punishable by fine,
confinement in the stocks, or imprisonment.

In selecting this place to make their settlement we
very naturally applaud the taste and good judgment of
our ancestors, but it did not please every one, as will be
seen in the short description written by Captain Edward
Johnson in 1(351. He was an historian who came over
with Gov. Winthrop, and finally settled in Woburn,
being foremost in the affairs of the church there.

Of Watertown he says: "The Seventh Church of
Christ, gathered out of this wandering race of Jacobites,
was at Watertown, situated upon one of the branches
of Charles Iliver, a fruiti'ul plat and of large extent,
watered with many pleasant springs and small rivulets,
running like veins throughout her body, which had
caused her inhabitants to scatter in such manner that
their Sabbath assembleys prove very thin if the season
favor not; and has made this great Towne, consisting
of one hundred and sixtv families, to show nothin


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Online LibraryCharles H. (Charles Henry) FiskeOration delivered before the inhabitants of Weston, at the Town Hall, July 4, 1876 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 3)