David N. (David Nelson) Camp.

David Nelson Camp, recollections of a long and active life online

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Class Jj^/t2.j

Extra copies of this book have been
printed and will be presented to any
who would value them. Request should
be sent to D. C. Rogers, 319 Elm Street,
Northampton, Mass., or P. K. Rogers,
21 Camp Street, New Britain, Conn.


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D. of D.

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Mr. Camp was already a very old man when he began
to put together on paper the reminiscences which are col-
lected in this little volume. His strength failed before
his undertaking was completed. Of some portions of his
life there are parallel accounts in his manuscript. Some
prominent topics are left quite unmentioned.

In the preparation of these memoirs for publication
brief statements on the subjects which are omitted from
his own account have been inserted in bracketed para-
graphs. It is the desire of his grandchildren to add here
a brief mention of some of the distinctive impressions
which his life has made on them.

As small children they found him warm-hearted, gener-
ous to their faults, interested in their thoughts and wishes,
skillful at tempting them into interest in serious pursuits,
courteous to every one including themselves, an unfailing
example of industry and sagacity and of religious devo-
tion and reverence. In later years they found the same
characteristics continued. It was typical that each time
as they returned for college vacations he would question
them as if they were his equals and as if the details of
their affairs were matters of large importance.

Having received the beginnings of his education and
religious training with a much earlier generation, he had
kept through his life the habits of reading and of obser-
vation of people which are indicated in his own account
of his youth. The result was an unusual progressiveness
of spirit, openmindedness for new points of view, and
generosity for the opinions of those who differed from him.
In him these traits proved to be thoroughly consistent
with clear convictions and ideals, and with unswerving
loyalty to them. Paragraphs from Mr. Camp's own pen,
in the pages that follow, give evidence of a deep religious
experience. It is for us to record the fact that long years
of active living realized the religion of aspiration with
singular completeness.



I Parents and Early Life 1

II Teaching in Public Schools 11

III Visit to New York and Ohio 19

IV Meriden and Teachers' Institutes 25

V State Normal School 29

VI Visit to Europe 48

VII Annapolis — Bureau of Education — New

Britain Seminary 58

VIII Our Boarders 63

IX Second Visit to Europe 65

X Literary Work 70

XI Financial and Civic Interests 73

XII Religious Training and History 78

XIII Later Years 91


In compliance with the requests of my sisters and others,
the following recollections of a long and busy life have been
placed on paper. While the account necessarily includes
much of personal history, much has been omitted. As
the narrative is designed merely for the members of my
own family and my nearest friends, I have not hesitated
to include personal experiences which may have an interest
for them, though they would not be expected to interest
the general public.

My life has been a varied one, partly because I have been
affected by circumstances beyond my control, — a frail
constitution, disease, disappointments, trials, lack of
intimate friends in early life, — and partly through my
own mistakes, but at all times and in all circumstances I
have seen the leadings of a kind Providence, for which I
have reason to be supremely grateful.

My father was Elah Camp, son of Nathan Ozias Camp,
and a descendant of Nicholas Camp of Nasing, Essex
County, England. My mother was Orit Lee Camp,
daughter of Eber Lee, of Guilford, Connecticut. On her
mother's side, she was a descendant of Theophilus Eaton,
the first governor of New Haven Colony.

My grandfathers were both farmers, each living some
two miles from church, post-office, stores, and principal
places of business of his native town. The home of my
grandfather Camp was in the South West District of
Durham, Connecticut, and that of grandfather Lee in the
north part of the Nutplains District of Guilford. The
farms of both were diversified, consisting partly of land
suitable for tillage and partly of hilly and stony land used
only for pasturage or woodland.



My parents, thus, were both reared in farming com-
munities, enjoying such privileges and subject to such
privations and limitations as were connected with agricul-
tural life in the latter part of the eighteenth and the first
part of the nineteenth centuries.

My grandfather Lee was a soldier in the Revolutionary
War, and after his return from the war, opened a free
evening school where the boys and young men of the
vicinity could study arithmetic and geography, studies
which at that time were not allowed in the public schools.
My father was in the army for a time during the War of
1812. Both had many interesting stories of events in
the wars for their children and grandchildren.

My parents received such education as the public
schools of that time afforded, with a little help from short
terms in private schools. Both were teachers in the
public schools of Guilford, and my father taught in a
public school in Durham. His principal occupation was
farming and stock raising. His teams, which were mainly
employed on the farm and in taking produce to market,
were sometimes engaged in transporting the goods of

I was born at Durham, October third, 1820. The home
of my parents and my own home for the first eighteen
years of my life was in the South West School District of

This district included a cluster of about twenty-five
homesteads, chiefly farmhouses with farms adjoining
them, situated in the extreme southwest corner of the
town, and extending for more than a mile and a half on the
New Haven Turnpike and nearly as far on an old road
partly parallel to the turnpike. The hamlet was separated
from the center or business portion of the place by more
than a mile of vacant land, some of it swampy, on which
was no building of any kind.

Most of the proprietors were farmers with small hold-


ings. Hay, grain, and apples were the principal products.
On some of the farms were a few cattle, horses, and sheep.
In this hamlet there dwelt two or three carpenters, two
shoe-makers, and a blacksmith. The produce of the
farms not used by the families was exchanged at the stores
two miles distant for groceries and other goods, or sold to
workmen in the shoe shops, or marketed at New Haven
and Middletown. Nearly all the houses were occupied
by the persons who owned them, or by those employed in
service by the owners.

My father's farm was the largest in this hamlet and he
■employed the greatest number of "hired help." Adjoin-
ing the farm was a mountain lot from which wood was
obtained and on which his flocks were pastured in suminer.
He also owned in Great Swamp more than a mile from
home a meadow lot where the young cattle were pastured
in the spring and from which several tons of hay were
obtained in the summer.

It has been my fortune to see many changes in society
and in manners and habits. In my childhood there were
no railways, telegraphs, telephones, or electric lights.
The public travel was by stage-coach, steamboat, or canal-
boat. Houses were lighted with tallow candles, and
a few rooms were warmed by wood fires in open fire-places,
but usually the chambers and many of the lower rooms
had no artificial heat, having to depend on the sun's
rays for whatever heat was obtained.

In farmers' families the meat supply for the year con-
sisted chiefly of beef and pork salted down in barrels in the
autumn, with perhaps a few hams cured at home and
sausages made at home. The killing of hogs or cattle
on the larger farms in the autumn or early winter provided
fresh meat for the neighborhood for a few weeks, and in
most families the occasional killing of a fowl varied the
meat supply at all seasons of the year.

Bread and cakes made from rye and buckwheat raised


on the farm, with corn-meal cooked in a variety of ways,,
constituted the principal articles of cereal food. A few
pounds of wheat flour bought for some special occasion
varied the diet.

The clothing was chiefly made in the family, and in
my early home, largely from wool sheared from my father's
flock or from flax raised on the farm. In winter, boys
wore woolen caps made by their mothers, and in summer,
hats braided from the straw from which the grain had been

The household work in our home was generally done
by my mother, or if help was employed in the family it was
usually some American girl.

There were few books in my early home, except the
Bible, Scott's Commentaries, a few hymn or psalm books,
a few religious books, and a few old school books. A
weekly newspaper was received part of the time. Postage
on letters depended on distance carried as well as on

In the hamlet was a one-room schoolhouse located on the
highway. There was a similar school in the Union Dis-
trict a mile distant. Both of the district schoolhouses in
which the first eight years of my school life were passed
were one-room buildings with long writing desks against
the walls on two sides of the room. In front of these
desks were long benches made of plank or slabs. When
writing or using slates and pencils, the pupils turned
around with backs to the room and feet under the desks.
Near the center of the room were lower narrow benches
without backs for the younger pupils. A small box-
stove for wood supplied warmth for the room. The
writing was with pens made of goose-quills, in homemade
books formed by folding sheets of foolscap and placing
them in brown paper covers.

The principal thoroughfare in Durham was a turnpike
extending from New Haven to Middletown through


Durham and past my parents' and my own home. Stage-
coaches and other vehicles were seen passing on this road
with frequency. There were toll-gates in Northford and

Besides agriculture and the breeding and raising of live
stock, the principal business in Durham for twenty or
thirty years after the War of 1812, was the manufacture of
shoes. The leather and other materials were brought from
New Haven or Middletown by ox or horse teams, and
the finished products were transported to these ports for
shipment in the same way. The distance of the shops
from Middletown was about six miles, and from New
Haven three times as far, but the greater part of the
traffic was with New Haven. My father's teams were
employed a part of the year in this transportation and
in taking the products of his own and other farms to

One winter when the harbor of New Haven was frozen,
and ships could not come to the wharves, there was a
scarcity of sugar in the city. My father, learning that
there was an abundant supply at Middletown, bought
several loads in hogsheads and barrels, and had it carted
by teams to New Haven, selling it at a good profit. The
gun barrels for the firearms manufactured at Whitney-
ville, Connecticut, were formed at Higganum, and trans-
ported from that place through Durham to the factory at
Whitneyville where the guns were finished. My father's
teams were used in this transfer.

At some seasons of the year considerable freight passed
between Hartford, Middletown, and New Haven over the
turnpike. Mail stages passed over the road every day, —
sometimes as many as four or six four-horse stages might
be seen in a line, all going in the same direction and all
filled with passengers. A home on such a thoroughfare
though far removed from the excitements of city life was
by no means a lonely place.


My mother taught me to read, and I was sent to the
district school quite young. At first I attended the
school a quarter of a mile from our home for four months
in the year, but when eight years old I also attended
the same school when open in the Union District, more
than a mile away, for another four months. The latter
school was reached by a lonesome route which for most
of the way was by a footpath across the fields.

The teachers in the public schools seldom remained
more than one term, the schools being taught by a man
in the winter and by a woman in the summer, a change
being made each spring and autumn. There were few
classes in the public schools except in reading and spelling
and sometimes in grammar. In arithmetic, geography,
and some of the sciences, each pupil studied by himself,
and recited when the teacher could find time to hear a
lesson. The winter schools would sometimes have as many
as seventy or eighty pupils of different ages from four
years to eighteen. There was of course very little of
thorough teaching.

At about twelve years of age I was sent to a small
private school taught by Mrs. Goodwin, widow of Dr.
Goodwin, and by her niece. Miss Urania Stone. These
teachers were cultivated women, thoroughly educated,
and their influence over their pupils was great and highly

After a few terms in this school I was transferred to the
Academy, the sessions being held sometimes in the
Academy building on Durham Green, and part of the
time in a building on Durham Street. The former place
was two and a half miles, and the latter three miles from
my home. The teachers were Benjamin Coe and Gaylord

The vacations and a portion of the summer months
were passed in labor on the farm, — tending the sheep on
the mountain lot, driving young cattle to the swamp


meadow and watching them there, or assisting in cultivat-
ing the fields or in gathering the crops.

While attending school I was accustomed to give
several hours daily, both before and after school, to the
care of the stock or to other work on the farm. I was
expected to rise at four o'clock, or half-past four, both
winter and summer. In winter the feeding of horses,
cattle, and sheep had to be done before breakfast, and
in summer, work in the garden, grinding scythes for the
mowers, driving the cows to pasture, and other farm work,
all had to be performed before I started on my walk of
two and a half or three miles to school.

As my mother's parents resided in Guilford, we often
went there on visits to her father's home. The numerous
incidents which her father recalled from the Revolutionary
War were very interesting to me. He was at Greenwich,
Connecticut, at the time of the British attack, and though
he did not see Putnam's escape, he was at the place a few
hours afterward, and he saw distinctly the impress left
by the feet of Putnam's horse, as he rode down a steep
bank, — not down stone steps as represented in the school

The route to Guilford was usually through "the farms,"
a series of pastures and wood lots separated by fences
with gates at the road crossings. We would sometimes see
foxes, squirrels, rabbits, or partridges as we drove by the
woods. The road passed Quonepaug Lake where we
frequently stopped to fish. A little distance from my
grandfather's farm was a large lot in which were large
quantities of huckleberry bushes with plenty of berries
at the proper season, and my sisters and I picked many
baskets full in berry time.

I attended school for several weeks in Guilford, in the
Clapboard Hill District, with a pleasant teacher, and in
the Nutplains District, with one who seemed to me to
be ill-natured. We often visited with cousins at the


Bishops' and Dudleys', three miles from my grandfather's

My father believed in teaching his children self-reliance
early, and in placing upon them responsibilities which
would tend to develop that trait of character. Perhaps
because I was the eldest of the family, or because the next
two children were girls, a large share of responsibility
rested upon me, more than upon any of my sisters or
brothers. This was the case not only in matters relating
to the care of the stock, and the work on the farm, but in
business transactions. Thus before I was fifteen years
of age I was entrusted with buying horses, cattle, and
sheep, and was frequently sent to market at New Haven
and Middletown, with wood, meat, and other produce of
the farm.

Through such a trip made while I was a mere boy, my
first knowledge of New Britain was obtained. I was sent
from Durham to White Oak, in Plainville, on a business
matter, and thus drove through New Britain village. I
little thought then that my home would ever be in that
place, or that it would ever become a flourishing manufac-
turing city. My mother did not think that I was old
enough to go far from home alone and among strangers,
and many anxious hours she had while I was away.

On one occasion, I was sent from Durham to Westbrook
for a load of shad. An uncle, my father's brother, had an
interest in the fishing company and provided a place for
my horse and gave me a bunk in a fish-house with the
fishermen. I enjoyed my stay, also the special dishes of
the place, which were fish taken fresh from the water,
nailed to a plank, and broiled before an open fire, and
chowder such as is found nowhere but in a fishing station.
The weather was unfavorable for catching fish, and I
was detained several days before I could get the quantity
wanted. My mother became so anxious about me that


she had a messenger sent to find me. He met me on my
way back some distance from home.

I intended to have a college course, and my purpose was
encouraged by my mother who gladly did all that she
could to further my plans for a liberal education; but
the income from a farm, much of which was rough and
stony, was barely sufficient to furnish comfortable support
for a growing family, and I could expect little help from
my father. During the years from 1836 to 1838 I was a
part of the time in the Academy taking some special
studies, and part of the time at home. My health was
not good. A part of the time I was at work on the farm.
Sometimes I took business trips for my father to Middle-
town, New Haven, and elsewhere. Finally my father
had a severe and protracted illness, and my continuous
presence at home in the care of his business and of the
family became for a time necessary. I studied some,
read more, and became especially interested in the revival
of educational enthusiasm which occurred in these years.
However occupied, I still held to my purpose to go to

While I was still engaged in studies preparatory for
college, a serious illness occurred which weakened my
constitution, left me nearly blind, and necessitated a
change in my plans of life. All books and papers were
forbidden, and I was kept in a darkened room for what
seemed to me a long time. When able to bear the light, I
found employment on the farm and in driving to New
Haven, Middletown, and elsewhere on business. As soon
as possible I resumed my studies, taking Latin, book-
keeping, surveying, and higher mathematics, in prepara-
tion for a business life. I had at different times taken the
place of an absent teacher for a day, and had heard some
recitations in the Academy. At the age of eighteen I was
requested to teach the school at the center of North


Guilford. My plans of life had been frustrated, and my
studies had been interrupted. Two sisters and two
brothers had become helpful in the family at home, so
my services were not so much needed as before. My
health was not yet fully restored and I seemed to be
ready for some change. I knew nothing of the place or
the school, but it seemed an opportunity for some good
to others and perhaps to myself. I accepted the proposi-
tion and became a teacher.


The school was to commence the Monday after Thanks-
giving, the examination to be on the previous Sunday
evening. My father took me to the home of the clergy-
man, the Rev. Mr. Whitemore, where were gathered the
school visitors, consisting of the pastor, two deacons, a
doctor, and a justice of the peace. The visitors, with the
school text-books in their hands, proceeded to question
me from them. The examination seemed to be satis-
factory, and a certificate was given. I was to "board

On going to the schoolhouse on Monday morning, I
found a low unpainted building with one room and a small
entry. On three sides of the room were desks against the
wall, with long slab seats in front of them. When the
pupils wrote they turned their feet over the benches and
faced the wall. There were a few small benches in the
middle of the room for the younger pupils. These
benches had no backs, and were so high that the smaller
children sitting on them could not put their feet on the
floor when sitting upright.

There was a small wood stove in the room, but no wood
had been provided. It was a cold morning, so with some
of the older boys I went to the neighboring woods and
picked up fallen limbs sufficient to maintain fire for the
day. Before night wood was supplied by the committee.

At my boarding place my room was cold, and the only
warm room was the living room where the cooking was
done, the meals eaten, young children dressed and un-
dressed, and the ordinary domestic work of a farmer's
family performed. As I had taken no books with me
except what were at the schoolhouse, I asked for a book



to occupy my time. The only one that could be found was
an old edition of Murray's Grammar.

I passed the three months of that winter in this farming
town, boardiVig in many homes and gainjng some valuable
lessons in the study of human nature.

There was little excitement in this community, but the
ordinary routine of a farming village had its interests. A
debating society was organized, and some of the debates
exhibited the results of careful reading and much general
knowledge. As my school was in the center district of the
society, the meetings were near and convenient to attend.
I formed some pleasant acquaintances, became much
interested in the work of teaching, and began to see its
opportunities of usefulness. My sister Elizabeth taught
the school the following summer.

At the close of the term I returned home with thirty-
nine dollars, the reward for three months' work in a dis-
trict school. As I was under legal age the money was
given to my father, and I was at work on the farm the
following summer, giving my spare time to reading and

Frustrated in my plans for a complete college course,
and pleased with my success in teaching, I now determined
to prepare myself for the business of a teacher. The State
Board of Education had been organized in 1838, and Henry
Barnard, who had been appointed Secretary, conceived
the idea of having a temporary normal school in Hartford
for a few weeks in the autumn of 1839, designed especially
for the benefit of teachers of winter schools. My father
was persuaded to allow me to attend, and he and my
mother went to Hartford to establish me in a suitable
boarding place. This was found in a family hotel at the
corner of Main and Asylum Streets.

The school, or institute, was held in connection with the
Hartford Grammar School, and Mr. T. L. Wright, the
principal of that school, and John D. Post, teacher of


mathematics, were two of the instructors of the normal
class. Among the other teachers and lecturers, were
Charles Davies, Professor of Mathematics at West Point,
Professor Barton of Andover, Massachusetts, Rev. Thomas
H. Gallaudet, principal of the Asylum for Deaf Mutes,
Mr. Snow, principal of the Center School, Hartford,
Henry Barnard, and others. The instructions and
lectures were all practical and very helpful. I formed at
that time a personal acquaintance with some of these
teachers and lecturers, especially with Professor Davies,
Mr. Gallaudet, and Mr. Barnard, which, with some of
them, was continued until the time of their death.

The next winter I was invited to teach the upper de-
partment and have oversight of the primary department

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Online LibraryDavid N. (David Nelson) CampDavid Nelson Camp, recollections of a long and active life → online text (page 1 of 8)