Chauncey Giles.

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came enthusiastic in studying out the mechanical principles involved
in the ordinary implements used in their homes and the streets, and
the chemical changes taking place under their own eyes.

" The idea that a school-book ever exhausted a subject was never
tolerated, or that of finishing one's education on leaving school.
The school course was looked upon as only the introduction to an
education, — a learning how to learn. If the taste for knowledge has
been quickened and developed in the school, and habits of acquiring
h 2*


it are formed there, the business of education is merely well begun.
Mr. Giles's methods of teaching were, perhaps, better adapted to
the development of a well-rounded, harmonious character than to
extraordinary acquirement in any one direction.

" His schools were the most perfect specimens of true democracy
I was ever brought in contact with. The only distinction recognized
seemed to be moral worth. So far as one could see, all were on a
perfect equality. The efforts of the teacher and his interest in their
individual progress were unwearied. His patience was not exhausted
by the dullest, nor were his interest and pride centred upon the
gifted. All he asked was that each should try to improve and do
the best he could. You could never guess who were the children of
rich or influential patrons. Some of the children of one of the rival
churches in town, it is said, were once upon a time told by their
parents to notice and see if the teacher were not partial to so and
so's children of the other church. In a few days the children re-
ported that they had watched carefully and did not see any par-
tiality. It seems quite surprising, under the circumstances, that the
children should recognize Mr. Giles's sense of justice.

"In the primary department Mr. Giles did not insist upon the
little ones sitting up straight and still by the hour, neither did he
expect them to give their attention to any particular subject more
than a few minutes at a time. Their lessons were very short and
rehearsals frequent, and their slate and pencil were always at hand
ready for use ; and they did use them a great deal. There were
generally on one of the black-boards some of the capital letters
written, or some simple drawing easily imitated, a cup, slate, or
book, which they might copy if they chose. They had learned a
variety of pretty little songs for children which they delighted in
singing, and singing and marching were much relied upon to relieve
the little ones of the weariness of long sitting. Mr. Giles's sister
Caroline had charge of this department for a time in Hamilton.
To see her with her fine voice leading the children's voices in their
marching music was something one would not willingly forget.
The children were as happy as birds, and as musical. One of the
mothers remarked that she did not know but it was extravagant to
send all of her children to Mr. Giles, but when she saw the little
ones so happy she felt she could well afford the extra expense.



'Why/ she added, 'they sing themselves to sleep every night and
awake in the morning singing, and during the day it must be a seri-
ous discomfort that a song will not dispel.' "

Mr. and Mrs. Giles, when they came to Hamilton after
their marriage, boarded with a Mr. Garrison, a tailor.
Mr. Garrison was a New-Churchman and he lent them a
book of Swedenborg's. It was " Conjugial Love." As
Mr. and Mrs. Giles sat talking in their room one evening
the book lay on the table, and as he spoke Mr. Giles
carelessly turned the leaves. He glaaced down at the
book and his eye fell upon the word ' ' heaven' ' in one of
the ' ' Memorable Relations. ' ' He read a few lines to
see what the author had to say of heaven. The conver-
sation paused as he read on, and when he closed the book
it was with the remark that if the crazy man had written
nothing worse than that they must have slandered him.
Mr. Giles has often referred to the act of the tailor in
handing him this book as the greatest service ever ren-
dered him by any man, and has used it to encourage
others to do like services.

This beginning of interest in the doctrines of the New
Church was in the latter part of the year 1841. The first
mention of Swedenborg in Mr. Giles's journal is Decem-
ber 31, 1843, when he writes, —

" If there is anything in the history of the past year worthy of
notice, it is that I have become interested in the writings of Sweden-
borg. They have opened new views of life to me. The world wears
a new face. If they are true or false, they will exert a most impor-
tant influence upon my life."

The next day he adds, —

"If I mistake not, the new ideas of life which I have obtained
from the New-Church works will assist me much in overcoming


many defects in my character. I think they will give me new
strength of purpose, and perhaps in time enable me to overcome
and correct some origina:! deficiencies in my nature. I must set my-
self seriously at work, and though I put no confidence in myself, yet
there is One who has strength, and who is ever willing to impart to
others if they are willing to receive it. ... I think the idea that a
kind Providence watches over us and directs all things for our good
— an idea which has now become a part of my life — will do much to
strengthen me in remedying some of the greatest defects in my

We see the practical nature of Mr. Giles's interest in
the doctrines of the New Church from the first. They
attracted him because they promised to give help to
overcome his faults and to lead a truer life.

The Rev. Mr. Prescott, or Prescott Hiller as he was
afterwards called, was the minister of the New-Church
Society in Cincinnati in those days. Mr. Giles heard him
sometimes when in Cincinnati, and Mr. Prescott preached
in Hamilton occasionally. Both being cultivated men
and interested in education, they became warmly attached
to each other. A letter of Mr. Prescott' s is preserved,
dated May ii, 1843, in which he says, referring to a visit
to Hamilton, —

"There was a gentleman there who interested me still more than
the others. He is a Mr. Giles, a teacher, formerly from Massachu-
setts. I have been introduced to him and already feel well ac-
quainted with him. He is an uncommonly fine man, one after your
own heart on the subject of teaching. He is devoted to it, and
means to make it his profession. He keeps an academy here, and
the best school in town. I visited the institution and was charmed
with his manner of teaching and governing. I am sure you would
be pleased with his acquaintance. I have had a great deal of con-
versation with him. He is already half a New-Churchman in his
views. He has also read a little— part of the ' Divine Love and Wis-


dom' — and is much pleased with what he has read. He is now read-
ing ' Heaven and Hell.' I think he must become a New-Churchman
in time."

On the other hand we find appreciative mention of Mr.
Prescott in Mr. Giles's journal. He speaks of seeing
Mr. Prescott in Cincinnati, and hearing him preach from
' ' the Parable of the Sower. " " His sermon was a very
good and profitable one." Later, when living in Leb-
anon, Mr. Giles writes, —

" Mr. Prescott came to town and has preached several discourses
on the doctrines of the New Church. It is cheering and comforting
to hear him. I always gain new strength every time I have an
opportunity of hearing him, and when he goes away I feel refreshed
and can enter upon the duties of life with new vigor."

Hamilton is the place which Mr. W. D. Howells has so
picturesquely described in '^A Boy's Town." Mr. How-
ells' s father was one of the few New-Churchmen in Hamil-
ton, and for a time he used to meet regularly with Mr.
and Mrs. Giles in their rooms on Sunday for a simple
service. Occasionally one or another was in town who
joined in the worship ; but those were days of small
meetings, when four was a large congregation, and five
was a crowded house.

While in Hamilton a feeling of dissatisfaction with
teaching as a permanent profession was working in Mr.
Giles's mind, and in the spring of 1844, when he was
thirty-one years old, he yielded to the advice of friends
and began to study law, still continuing his school. This
was a line of study which, if it had been continued, would
have led Mr. Giles away from his real life work, and he
afterwards saw the hand of Providence in the family cares
and the illness which cut short the study of law after a


few weeks, and turned his attention more deeply to the
new spiritual truths. ' ' I have been reading some of the
New-Church doctrines lately," he writes in October,
1844, "and if I have health this winter, I think I shall
investigate them more fully than I have yet done."

Mr. Giles speaks, in " Why I am a New-Churchman,"
of the increasing light as he continued his study :

" In this state of darkness and negation the doctrines of the New
Church found me, as it seemed to me then, by the merest accident,
but as I have since learned to know and beheve, by the providence
and infinite mercy of the Lord. They came at first as a ray of Hght
which excited interest and attention. Whether it was a solitary ray
that gave a little light on one special subject and was limited to that,
or a star that was to usher in a new morning and a new day, I did
not know. But it was precious in itself, and I rejoiced in it. . . . It
was not a solitary ray. It came from a central sun. Special truths
harmonized and threw light upon one another. Each one was seen
to be a part of a rational and ordered system. Confidence was
increased and the way of progress became assured. Mysteries with
regard to man's spiritual nature, which had been involved in impene-
trable darkness began to give up their secrets. Problems which I
had supposed to be beyond the reach of the human mind to solve
began to yield to the power of the new truths and assume rational
forms. The darkness that brooded over the chaos of conflicting
opinions was gradually dispersed, the illusions and fallacious appear-
ances with which the natural mind invests and perverts the form and
nature of spiritual truth were gradually dispelled. I could truly say,
'Whereas I was blind, now I see.' "

Mr. Giles writes in his journal, —

" I do not regret coming to Hamilton, though my lot has been one
of suffering most of the time since I came here ; sickness and I know
not what has laid me low and kept me so, but I have become ac-
quainted with the New-Church doctrines, and I think I have found
in them what will be of more value to me than physical health or


Lebanon was a town of about the size of Hamilton, in
an adjoining county. " It was a charming town, which
from early times had always enjoyed an enviable reputa-
tion for the intellect and cultivation of its people. ' ' A
new academy had been built in Lebanon, and they were
looking for a principal. It was suggested to Mr. Giles to
apply for the position, but he was in feeble health and
disheartened. He always remembered with gratitude the
encouragement received at this time from one of his early
New-Church friends. "Go," Mr. Ross said, "and you
will get it. " " Why do you say I shall get it ?" " You
will get it because you have some ability as a teacher,
and you want to be useful ; and when a man wants to be
useful, the Lord opens the way for him." Thus encour-
aged, he applied, and, although the competition was sharp,
he got the position and opened the school in Lebanon
September i, 1845, continuing in charge till January,

Very pleasant memories of this school linger in the
minds of many who there came under Mr. Giles's care.
One of his pupils speaks most affectionately of Mr. Giles,
and says, ' ' Lebanon has never had a teacher so accom-
plished as he, nor one whose memory is so warmly
cherished." The same friend tells an interesting inci-
dent. The academy was new, and the grounds nearly
bare of trees. The first spring after going to Lebanon,
Mr. Giles one day took the boys to the woods, with a
large wagon and picks and spades. There was much fun
among the boys as each took up a tree and planted it on
the academy grounds under Mr. Giles's direction. As
the planting was going on, Mr. Giles suggested that



some day they might come with their children and sit
under the shade of their trees. They were a bright,
ambitious, studious set of scholars, and many of them
have since held positions of trust and influence. One at
least, in fulfilment of Mr. Giles's prophecy, has taken his
son to the scene of his own school-days, and sat with him
in the shade of the tree which he planted.

In Lebanon the school was large from the beginning,
and the duties were exacting. The same friend who has
given us the glimpse of the school at Hamilton was still
associated with Mr. Giles, and tells us of the wise and
pleasant ways in which he awakened a love of learning,
and developed the character of the young people under
his care. He organized a club which met in the long
winter evenings and served a good use in the days when
books were less common than now, in awakening an
interest in historical and literary subjects. Music was an
important feature of the meetings, as it was of the school
exercises. Mr. Giles had a happy way of overcoming
the difficulties of writing compositions by asking the
children to write descriptions of familiar and interesting
things. Their exercises were sometimes given the form
of letters to real or imaginary people.

" The school day always began with devotional exercises, reading
from the Word, music, and prayer, which was often followed by what
was called a little morning talk, which never occupied more than five
minutes and seldom more than two. A practical suggestion was
offered, current events alluded to, or the effects of some historical
event were noted. The death of some distinguished man was men-
tioned, discoveries and inventions were spoken of, anything having
a tendency to expand and broaden the visible horizon of these active-
minded young people was seized and utilized for this purpose. If the


children asked hard questions, he did not hesitate to say that he did
not know but would look into it.

"He took educational journals and kept himself abreast of the
times in his work. Methods of interesting his pupils were a constant
study with him. His heart was in his work, and of course from year
to year he was constantly perfecting himself in it."

For a time health was better and hfe happier in Leb-
anon than in Hamihon, and interest in the New Church
was growing. May 16, 1846, Mr. Giles writes,—

" It is impossible for me to believe as I once did. The doctrines
of the New Church have thrown new light upon the Word, upon life,
upon everything, and I hardly know what my duty is with regard to
an open profession of adherence to those doctrines."

January i, 1848, he notes that a small society of the
New Church has been formed in Lebanon, and that Mrs.
Giles and he have added their names as members.

While living in Lebanon the interest in the New Church
was much strengthened by acquaintance with Mr. and
Mrs. David Espy, who lived some miles nearer to Cin-
cinnati, at Twenty Mile Stand. They were people of
lovely character, and beautiful examples of the life to
which the doctrines of the New Church should lead.

In the latter part of the stay in Lebanon the sky be-
came overcast. Mr. Giles had suffered severely with
pleurisy and with terrible neuralgic pains in his thigh,
which interfered with his work in school. The ist of
January, 1848, found him much disheartened, and he
resigned his charge of the Lebanon Academy, It was
decided to open a family boarding-school for boys, — they
had already made a home for a few scholars, — and It was
hoped that Mr. Giles might be so far relieved from care
that he would recover his health. A pleasant location
£ 3


was found at Yellow Springs, a summer resort on the line
of the Little Miami Railroad, which had been lately built,
and they moved to the new home in April, 1848. A year
was passed in this place. Mrs. Giles gave the boys a
good and happy home. Mr. Giles, though suffering
intensely much of the time, was with them in their out-
door amusements, arranging excursions into the country,
which was full of flowers, and visits to mills and factories
in the neighborhood. He also gave what personal care
he could to their instruction, taking them into the house
when he became unable to go to the school-room, and
hearing them in bed when he was unable to sit up. After
a time, through long and painful treatment, his suffering
was relieved.

A page of the journal kept in Yellow Springs gives the
first suggestion of Mr. Giles's becoming a New-Church
minister. He writes March 3,1849, —

"This morning I received a letter from the Rev. J. P. Stuart, in
which he announced his intention to visit us again soon. He has
hinted several times that I would sometime preach New-Church doc-
trines. If I was free from debt and qualified, I should like nothing
better. But I am neither. [For some years he had been burdened
with debt incurred by endorsing for another.] My "intellectual cul-
ture has been too meagre, and my habits of thought and reading too
desultory, to enable me ever to be an able expounder of the doctrines
of the New Church. But if I was going to preach at all, I should by
all means wish to preach them. They are so consistent with the
nature of man and with themselves. There seem to be no weak
points in them. They meet every want of the human heart. They
embrace every idea that is rational concerning God and the spiritual
world, and embrace in their noble philosophy every atom of matter."

This was a season of great discontent with himself, of
many regrets that he was not more useful and that he had



had so little system or perseverance in his efforts to edu-
cate and train himself. But the sunshine of trust in
Providence soon returned. Occasional visits from Mr.
Stuart were a source of much pleasure and comfort.
Reed's "Growth of the Mind," Noble's "Lectures,"
and Swedenborg-'s tract on "The Infinite" were among
the books which were read with pleasure. "I consider
the greatest blessing of my life," Mr. Giles writes, March
25, 1849, "that I became acquainted with them [the
doctrines of the New Church]. They have removed the
darkness which enveloped many objects, and made them
a matter of reason, when before they were only cognizant
to the eye of faith. They have done more than this.
They have presented the Lord in such a light that the
whole universe has become changed, and is radiant with
His love."

Mr. Giles had not been long in Yellow Springs when
a proposition was made to him, through the father of
one of his scholars, to remove his school to Pomeroy, a
mining town on the Ohio River. In April, 1849, he took
his family to Pomeroy, and the old Pomeroy mansion, in
a commanding position above the river, was prepared for
the uses of home and school. The Pomeroy family, the
owners of the mines, were cultivated people, and their
large " connection" formed a delightful society into which
Mr. and Mrs. Giles were cordially received. This was
their home till their removal to Cincinnati in the autumn
of 1853. The stay in Pomeroy was delightful in many
ways. The home was charming and healthful, the society
was pleasant, the school prosperous, and when leaving
was spoken of, Mr. Giles was told that if he wished for


more money, he could remain and have whatever he
wanted. A friend who had charge of the common
schools of Pomeroy during Mr. Giles's stay, and had
good opportunity to know his abilities as a teacher, says,
"As an educator he had no superior and few equals-
He held to the view that love and justice will control
where force would fail."

Mr. Giles continued his study of Swedenborg. After
a time there was opportunity to be useful in conducting
services, and a friend suggested that he obtain a license
as a reader. Accordingly he was ordained May 23, 1852,
with authority to lead in worship, and on Sundays he
conducted services in turn in several places within reach
of Pomeroy. At Rock Spring, two miles from Pomeroy,
he preached in summer in a barn ; at Rutland, seven
miles distant, in the Universalist church ; and at Kygers-
ville, twelve miles away. He held service also occasion-
ally in the school-room at Pomeroy. In undertaking this
work Mr. Giles expected to read the sermons of others,
but he had not read more than one or two when he began
to write for himself The first attempt pleased him so
little that he threw it away. The first sermon of his that
was heard was from the text, "The leaves of the tree
were for the healing of the nations,'' delivered in 1852.
Mr. Giles used often to recall a meeting at Rock Spring
at which he delivered this sermon. It was in a log house
on a summer evening. The only light was a tallow candle,
around which the insects fluttered, and all that he could see
of his audience was their eyes shining out of the darkness.

The Sunday rides to the places of meeting are remem-
bered with pleasure by one who often accompanied Mr.



Giles. There were others who attended the services in
the several places, and enjoyed the same sermon four
Sundays in succession. Mr. Giles had preached in this
way for a year, when there was desire that he should per-
form the marriage service and administer the sacraments.
He was therefore ordained with the full powers of a min-
ister of the New Church, May 29, 1853, by the Rev.
David Powell, in Cincinnati, who also performed the first
ordination. Thus far he had given most of his time and
strength to his school, and the preaching took a second-
ary place. The time was near when he must choose
between the two.

In the summer of 1853, Mr. Giles took some of his
scholars to their home in Cincinnati, for the vacation, and
was invited to preach one Sunday for the New-Church
Society. He often recalled with amusement the disap-
pointed look of the congregation when he, a school-
teacher from the country, entered the pulpit. But it gave
place to intense interest before he finished. From that
time his call to Cincinnati was talked of. He continued
his journey to St. Louis, where he was engaged to
preach for a few Sundays, and returning, he took back
his boys to Pomeroy for the opening of the fall term. In
September an invitation came to Mr. Giles from the First
New-Jerusalem Society of Cincinnati, to officiate as their
minister for one year at a salary of one thousand dollars.

The question was a hard one. On the one hand were
a pleasant and healthful home, and an assured support in
a profession in which he had long experience. On the
other hand were city life, a greatly reduced income, and
a profession which was almost untried, and for which he



had no regular preparation, but which offered the possi-
bility of greater usefulness. He decided in favor of the
change, and removed with his family to Cincinnati in
November, 1853.

From a worldly point of view the step was most unwise.
Some of Mr. Giles's friends almost doubted his sanity ;
others were sorry for the change, knowing his excellence
as a teacher, and feeling that his best use was in that pro-
fession. But the step was taken, and Mr. Giles entered
into the active work of a large and long-established
society, at forty years of age, with no theological training,
with less acquaintance with the doctrines of the church
than many in the congregation, having written but twelve
sermons, and having seen the sacraments administered in
the New Church but a few times. He began at once to
preach twice each Sunday. He was called here and there
to long distances to attend funerals. Within the society
he found conflicting elements to harmonize and an almost
utter lack of young life. It was not an easy task which
he had undertaken.

Mr. Giles, in beginning his work in Cincinnati, made
special effort to meet the needs of the young people and
to interest them in the services and in the practical uses
of the church. His long acquaintance and experience
with his scholars prepared him to succeed with the young
people and the children of the church ; and his cheerful-

Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 2 of 26)