Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

. (page 157 of 163)
Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 157 of 163)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

better to enable him to carry out his designs
of extending the trade into the interior, and
competing with the British Northwest Fur
Company and Hudson Bay Company. The
outposts of this new company stretched into
new and hitherto untrodden fields, draining a
country stocked with beaver, otter, and buf-
falo. Having now, at the age of forty-six,
acquired a fortune sufficiently large to satisfy
the ambition of most men, he conceived a
bolder enterprise than any he had yet under-
taken, which was no other than to attempt
to control the fur trade west of the Rocky
Mountains. To this end, the first post, Asto-
ria, was estabUshed in 181 o, at the mouth of
the Columbia River, by a party of surty men,
under the command of Mr. W. P. Hunt
Commodities for the supply of this setdement
were to be conveyed in ships from New
York, which were likewise to be freighted
with various articles of merchandise, which
were to be exchanged for furs at the Russian
settlements further north. These, in turn,
were to be exported to Canton, at this time
a favorable market for furs, and exchanged
for China goods, silks, teas, etc., etc Mean-
while, the war with Great Britain broke out
The " Tonquin," the first, and the " Lark,"
the third vessel dispatched to Astoria, were
lost. This stupendous project of Mr. Astor's
appears to have been attended with disaster
throughout The fort at Astoria was cap-
tured, and just at the close of the war, as
it was about to be restored, it was sold
to the agents of the Northwest Fur Com-
pany, through the treachery of one of his
partners, a Scotchman named McDougal.
When the news of the capture of Astoria
reached Mr. Astor, he said, with a cheer-
ful smile, " I am ruined."

From the time of the establishment of
the American Fur Company, Mr. Astor
became largely engaged in commerce. His
ships fireighted with furs for France, Ei
land, Germany, and Russia, and with',
tries, ginseng, and dollars for China, now
plowed every sea to receive these products
of the New World, and exdlnnge them for
the commodities of the Old. Mr. Astor's
instructions to his captains were minute and
particular. He evinced almost as intimate
a knowledge of the various markets in which
he traded as though he had been himself
a resident of each. He neglected nothing,
giving his personal attention to the very
smallest details.

Notwithstanding the magnitude and suc-
cess of Mr. Astor's business operations, the
greatest occasion of his wealth was the in-

Digitized by




creased value of real estate consequent on the
growth of New York city. He never mort-
gaged, but constantly bought at foreclosure
sales. In this mode his wealth was multi-
plied far beyond the natural accumulation
by ordinary interest. The conveyances to
John Jacob Astor during the fifty-nine years
which elapsed between his first and last pur-
chase of real estate in this city form seven
pages of closely printed matter in the Index
of Conveyances on file in the Register's
office. After the death of his father, the
late William B. Astor figures as a very con-
siderable purchaser of New York city real
estate. The last conveyance to John Jacob
Astor was made shortly before Ws death, in
1848, to wit:

John J. V. Westervelt,



John Jacob Astor.

Deed dated Feb. 26/

1848. Recorded

February 29, 1848.

liber 502 of Conv*s,

page 242.

which conveyed the imexpired term, of a
twenty-six years* lease of property in King
street, near Varick, Mr. Astor owning the
fee, and having originally made the lease.

At the time of his death, in 1848, his
property was variously estimated at firom
$30,000,000 to $40,000,000, quite a change
from that of "John Jacob Astor, Furrier, at
149 Broadway." During the greater part of
his life, Mr. Astor lived on Broadway in one
of the houses comprising the block which then
occupied the site of the Astor House. His
store was in the rear of the house, with the
entrance on Vesey street Here he lived
till he made preparations for building the
Astor House, when he moved to an unpre-
tending two-story brick house on Broadway,
opposite Niblo*s, near the modest office, 85
Pnnce street, where the entire business of
the Astor estate is transacted. Here he
lived till the day of his death, March 29,
1848. Henry Astor chose the east side of
the city as a place of residence. We find
him at 31 Bowery Lane in 1789. All his
interests and associations were in this neigh-
borhood, and to this neighborhood he re-
mained faithfiil. Two sisters of John Jacob
Astor came to this country. One, Catherine,
was married in Germany before she came here
to George Ehninger, a cordial distiller, who
was among the first to undertake that busi-
ness in the United States. He died through
an accident at the distillery. After his death,
his widow married Michael Miller, who
embarked in the business of cordial distiU-
ing, and carried it on for years at No. 11

Barley street, which ran fix)m Broadway to
Church street, and is now known as Duane
street After Miller's death, his son carried
on the cordial distillery until he died, in
1846. The other sister married John D.
Wendel, some time in John Jacob Aster's
employ, and afterward a furrier at 77 Maiden
Lane. His son, John D. Wendel, is still
living, and resides at 442 "Fifth Avenue in
this city. In early life he was a derk with
John Jacob Astor.

John Jacob and Sarah (Todd) Astor had
seven children:

Magdalen Astor, bom 1788, died 183a.

Sarah Astor, died young.

William B. Astor, bom 1793, died at 373
Fifth Avenue, November 2, 1875.

Henry Astor, died young.

Dorothea Astor.

Eliza Astor, died 1833.

John Jacob Astor, Jr., died insane in his
house. West Fourteenth street. New York.

The last was imbecile firom youth In
his wiQ, Mr. Astor directed his executors top
"provide for my imfortunate son, John Jacob
Astor, and to procure for him sdl the com-
forts which his condition does or may re-
quire." A house was built for him in West
Fourteenth street, near Ninth Avenue, where
he lived and died surrounded by every

Magdalen married Governor Bentzen, a
native of Denmark, and Governor of the
Island of Santa Cruz. After his death, she
married, in 18 19, Rev. John Bristed, of
Dorchester, England. Mr. Bristed was
educated for the medical profession in his
native country, where he became quite an
eminent practitioner. He afterward studied
law ; came to New York, and commenced
practice in company with Beverly Robinson,
and afterward turned his attention to the
study of theology.

Eliza, his youngest dau|;hter, distinguished
for her benevolence and piety, married Count
Vincent Rumpff", of Switzerland He was
Minister of the German Free Cities at Paris,
where he became acquainted with Miss Astor.
He afterward came to this country as Min-
ister fi-om those places, and negotiated a
commercial treaty with Mr. Clay, who was
then Secretary under Mr. Adams. Eliza
had no issue.

Dorothea, bom about 1 795, married, about
181 2, Walter Langdon, of New Hampshire.

William B., who all his life was known
everywhere as one of the richest men in the
world, was probably bom in the house, 40
Littie Dock street, when John Jacob Astor

Digitized by




was comparatively but little known. Among
those who befriended the latter in his early
career was William Backhouse, an importer
of wines, and a prominent merchant of this
city. In the New York " Packet " of Octo-
ber 2, 1787, when Mr. Astor was advertising
musical instruments for sale at 81 Queen
street, we find below his advertisement, and
in the same column, the following :

"Wm. Backhouse & Co.,
No. 15 Duke street,* have
For Sale
Red Port Wine, shipped by the Royal Port Com-
pany — the quality of whose wines experience has
shown to be superior to any imported into America.
Also, choice Fayal wines, four years old," etc,
etc, etc, etc

This gentleman did Mr. Astor many kind-
nesses, in remembrance of which he named
his first son, William Backhouse, for him.
William Backhouse married Margaret, daugh-
ter of General John Armstrong and AHda

In 1839, John Jacob Astor added a codi-
cil to his will, bequeathing $400,000 " for
the establishment of a public library in New
York." The building was erected in Lafay-
ette Place, and opened January 9, 1854,
some six years after the testator's death.
The late William B. Astor subsequently made
a donation to thQ Trustees, of an adjacent
piece of land, eighty feet wide by one hun-
dred and twenty feet deep. Upon this a
building similar to the first was erected in
1859, and formally opened to the public on
the first of September of that year. The
two edifices are capable of containmg 200,000
volumes, the tot^d number at present being
152446. By the last annual report of
the Board of Trustees of the Astor Library,
dated January, 1876, we find that the
property of the library has increased firom
the original bequest of $400,000 by the
founder to $778,623.80. The report, after
giving the terms of the bequest of $249,-
000, made by their late President, Mr.
William B. Astor, by which the sum total
of his individual benefiictions is increased to
$550,000, goes on to say that this liberal

• Duke street is now known as Vandewatcr street

donation will augment the aggregate prop-
erty of the library within the next three years
to a sum exceeding $1,000,000, not to speak
of the large excess of the present value of
the books beyond their actual cost.

At a recent meeting of the Trustees, Mr.
John Jacob Astor announced his intention
of personally giving the sum of $10,000
for the purchase of new books. It is more
than probable that the executors of the late
William B. Astor will anticipate the pay-
ment of the $249,000 bequest.

There is a steady increase in the public
demand for books of the character found in
the library. Of the 135,065 volumes read
during 1875, only 5,028 were novels. The
library forms an inexhaustible mine of lit-
erary wealth, and is much resorted to by
authors, journalists, and writers generally.
As long as this library stands, Mr. Astofs
name will be grateftilly remembered by the
people of New York.

John Jacob Astor was not unmindful of
the land of his birth. He bequeathed
$50,000 for the benefit of the poor of his
native village. The institution founded and
supported by this bequest was opened Jan-
uary 9, 1854, in Walldorf, and has done great
good. The anniversary of the founder's
death is annually celebrated in the chapel,
on the walls of which hangs what is said to
be an admirable portrait of Mr. Astor. In
personal appearance, John Jacob Astor,
when in his prime, was about 5 feet 8 inches
high, of square build, quick and active in
his movements. Reserved in manner, except
to his intimates, he dispatched a great deal
of business with very few words ; was seldom
ruffled in temper, and always sober of speech.
His grandsons, John Jacob and William
Astor, at present administer the estate. The
eldest, John Jacob, was Colonel and Volun-
teer A. D. C. on the staff of Major-General
George B. McClellan, and, as a Colonel at
the front, won an enviable reputation. He
has one son, an only child, William Wall-
dorf Astor, bom in 1848.

The interests of the Astors are intimately
blended with those of this city, and as New
York grows and flourishes, their estates will
prosper and increase.

Digitized by





Facing dim Paros o'er the ^Bgean Sea,
Towered a tall cliff under the shining blue ;

And in its sea-ward face, cut carelessly,

Held a hid quarry, where the sunlight through
The olive boughs, eleamed on the surface new

Of finest, whitest marble, fit to bear
The face of Tove himself with reverence due ;

Though now the cutters on a wider shore

Their weary labor plied, and hither came no more.

Thither, one only purpose in his heart.
One only prayer upon his lips, there came

The noblest of Athenians in the art
That dares to fashion the divinest frame
Of man or god; and this his secret aim:

To shape a form as far exceeding all
The glorious works that bore aloft his name.

As they the works of others, and his prayer, —

That it might worthy be of her who was so fiur.

And first a niche he hollowed wondrously.
Cut deep within the face of living stone ;

But as he cut, with chisel skilled and free.
Clear from its walls, within and vet alone.
He left the unshaped figure, a white cone

Of purest marble, wnile the niche he wrought
Above, around, with beauty all his own.

Into a symmetry exceeding thought.

With curves by all his life of patient service taught.

Long days he wrought; nay, thrice the rounded moon
Gleamed on the rapid cutting steely while he

With patient chisel toiled, yet deemed it soon
When the completed arch curved perfectly
Around the hidden goddess. Reverently

With outstretched palms he gave the praise to her;
Then slowlv turned, her prisoned form to free,

With steady nand, but pulses all astir;

Of Beauty, through his reverence, fit interpreter.

Thus day by day the marvel clearer grew:
From the round hip the folds hung drooping where

The knee, just bent, was hid, yet clear to view.
Bare trod the queenly foot; above, rose bare
The perfect column of the body fair;

The queenly shoulders and the outstretched arm ;
The curve of throat, and, crowning all, with hair

Knotted behind, the noble head whose eyes.

As scorning to look low, faced the far summer skies.

And fitted so unto its niche it stood.
As made in every part but it to serve,

And for the statue seemed the niche so good.
Fashioned alone to hold its every curve.
That even the sculptor deemed it might deserve

Acceptance of the gonds, for whose pure sight
Alone he carved, — and so with every nerve

Thrilling with joy divine, outwatched the night.

Filled with a deep content, a rapture infinite.

But when the morning dawned, he rose and turned

His prow straight northward o*er the tossing wave,
With one last look for the still form that burned

In the white light the first clear sunbeams gave.

One long farewell — and left her where she dwelt.
To the still sun and the surroundinjg air,

And hurrying billows that unceasmg knelt.
And to the gods for whom he made her fair, —
To the all-knowing gods, who see still everywhere.

And so to Athens came he once again,
Into the populous city, where his praise

Was still the common theme of wisest men.
Silent and proud he walked his well-known wmys
Till the ei^at Sculptor touched his noble face

With a cold finger, and in silent pride
He rested him from toil of many days ;

And, round his mouth, serene and satisfied,

A quiet smile content, the white-haired master died.

He died— but lived upon the lonely isle
His one best work he only knew, and they, —

The gods far seeing. It lived, the weary while
When crowned Athens crumbled to decay.
And the untutored Roman climbed to sway

The scepter with his ruthless hand profane.
And so it chanced, one sacrilec:ious da^

His savage soldiers plowing the blue plain

Came where the statue still looked far across the main.

What could the^ see of niche or statue fine.
For which their empire had been price too small ?

They onlv saw an over-wreathen shrine.
As with rude jests they scaled the lofty waJJ,
And hurled the goddess from her pedestaL

Her fair arms crashed upon the cruel stone;
One gleaming flash of white — ah, fateful ^1 !

She lies deep hidden in the verdure, prone

Upon her face divine, deserted and alone.

As sheer, as prone, the Roman Empire felL

Unheeding seasons came, and went, and came ;
Mightier than they, yet lived the memory well

Of the old sculptor in imn^prtal fame ;

Known to the gods alone his last, best claim
To immortality. Then came the day

When the lost statue, rescued from its shame.
Was lifted from the dust where low it lay.
And borne in reverence o*er exultant waves, away.

Now stands she peerless in proud solitude.
Curtained around with crimson like a queen;

Within her presence dares no noise intrude;
Long aisles of gleaming statues there are seen.
Fit only to adorn the approach between

To her high shrine. So beautiful she stands
Triumphant in her womanhood serene,

We scarcely miss the wondrous arms and hands,

Shivered long years ago on the i£gean sands.

Perfect— yet seems she alwa3rs but to brood
On something far away; unsatisfied,

She stirs us with a vague inquietude.
Ah, left and lost over the billows wide.
The canren niche the mvstic olives hide!

Were they not fashioned aeftly, each to each.
With finest insight of pure harmonv.

As perfect music set to perfect speecti?

She points in every curve to that far, rocky beadL

O statue fashioned but that niche to fill'

Through weary days of waiting, toil and pain !
O niche so sculptured with divinest skill

Thy purpose that one statue to contain !

Who Knows the hour when the long severed twain
Their one perfection shall at last reveal?

All other effort were but labor vain
To give the rest, to hush the mute appeal.
To still the longing, all who see must dimly feet

Digitized by





Revivals and Bvangdista.

Revivals seem to have become a part of the
established policy of nearly the whole Christian
Church. The Catholics have their "Missions,"
the Epbcopalians have their regular special seasons
of religious devotion and effort, while the other
forms of Protestantism look to revivals, occasionally
appearing, as the times of general awakening and gen-
eral in-gathering. Regular church life, family culture,
Sunday-schools and even regular Mission work
seem quite insufficient for aggressive purposes upon
the world. We do not propose to question this
poUcy, though the time will doubtless come, in the
progress of Christianity, when it will be forgotten.
We have only to say a word in regard to the asso-
ciation of evangelists with revivals, and the two prin-
cipal modes of their operation. With one we have
very little sympathy, with the other a great deaL

There is a class of evangelists who go from church
to church, of whom most clergymen are afraid ; and
their fears are thoroughly well grounded. There
arises, we will say, a strong religious interest in a
church. Everything seems favorable to what is
called "a revival.*' Some well-meaning member
thinks that if Mr. Bedlow could only come and
help the fatigued pastor, wonderful results ■ would
follow. The pastor does not wish to stand in the
way — ^is suspicious that he has unworthy prejudices
against Mr. Bedlow — ^tries to overcome them, and
Mr. Bedlow appears. But Mr. Bedlow utterly
ignores the condition of the church, and, instead of
sensitively apprehending it and adapting himself to
the line of influences already in .progress, arrests
everything by an attempt to start anew, and carry
on operations by his own patent method. The first
movement is to get the pastor and the pastor's wife
and all the prominent members upon their knees,
in a confession that they have been all wrong —
miserably unfaithful to their duties and their trust
This is the first step, and, of course, it establishes
Mr. Bedlow in the supreme position, which is pre-
cisely what he deems essential. The methods and
controlling influences of the church are uprooted,
and, for the time, Mr. Bedlow has everything his
own way. Some are disgusted, some are disheart-
ened, a great many are excited, and the good results,
whatever they may seem to be, are ephemeral. There
inevitably follows a reaction, and in a year the church
acknowledges to itself that it is left in a worse con-
dition than that in which Mr. Bedlow found it. The
minister has been shaken from his poise, the church
is dead,- and, whatever happens, Mr. Bedlow, still
going through his process elsewhere, will not be
invited there again.

We will deny nothing to the motives of these
itinerants. They seem to thrive personally and
financially. They undoubtedly do good under pe-
culiar circumstances, but, that they are dangerous
men we do not question. If neighboring clergy-

men, in a brotherly way, were to come to the help
of one seriously overworked, and enter into his
spirit and his method of labor, it would be a great
deal better than to bring in a foreign power that
will work by its own methods or not work at all, —
' that will rule or do nothing. If this magazine, or
the writer of this article, has seemed to be against
revivals, it and he have only been against revivals
of this sort, got up and carried on by these men.
We question very sincerely whether they have not
done more harm to the Church than they have done
good. That they have injured many churches very
seriously there can be no question. The mere idea
that the coming of Mr. Bedlow into a church will
bring a revival which would be denied to a conscien-
tious, devoted pastor and people, is enough, of itself
to shake the popular £uth in Christianity and its
divine and gracious founder. Even if it fails to do
this, it may well shake the popular faith in the
character of the revival and its results.

There is another class of evangelists who work
in a very different way. It is very small at present,
but it is destined to grow larger. It works, not
inside of churches, but outside of them. It has a
mission, not to the churches, but to the people who
are outside of them. It works in public hadls with
no sectarian ideas to push, no party to build up, no
special church to benefit. It aims at a popular
awakening, and, when it gains a man, it sends him
to the church of his choice, to be educated in Chris-
tian living. To this class belong Messrs. Moody
and Sankey, whose efforts we have approved from
the first, because they have done their work in this
way. That it is a better work than the other class
of evangelists have ever done, we have the evidence
on every hand. The churches are all quickened by
it to go on with their own work in their own way.
There is no usurpation of pastoral authority and
influence. There is no interference with methods
that have had a natural growth and development
out of the individualities of the membership, and
out of the individual circumstances of each church.

There is another good result which grows natu-
rally out of the labors of this class of men. It brings
all the churches together upon common ground.
The Presbyterian, the Baptist, the Methodist, the
Episcopalian, sit on the same platform, and, together,
learn Uiat, after all, the beginning and the essence
of a Christian life and character are the same in every
church. They learn toleration for one another. More
than this : they learn friendliness and love for one
another. They light their torches at a common fire,
and kindle the flame upon their own separate altars
in a common sympathy. They all feel that the
evangelist has to do mainly with the beginnings of
Christian life, and that it is thdr work to gather in
and perfect those results which have only been
initiated. Hence, all have an interest in that work
and help it on with united heart and voice. The
more of thb kind of evangelism we have, the better.

Digitized by




Keeping at It.

Every man has his own definition of happiness ;
but when men have risen above the mere sensuali-
ties of life, — above eating and drinking, and sleep-
ing, and hearing and seeing, — they can come to
something like an agreement upon a definition
which, when formulated, would read something like
this : " Happiness consists in the harmonious,
healthy, successful action of a man*s powers." The
higher these powers may be, and the higher the
sphere in which they move, the higher the happi-
ness. The genuine ** fooPs paradise " is ease. There
are millions of men, hard at work, who are looking
for their reward to immunity from work. They
would be quite content to purchase twenty-five
years of leisure with twenty-five years of the most
slavish drudgery. Toward these years of leisure
they constantly look with hope and expectation.
Not unfrequently the leisure is won and entered
upon ; but it is dways a disappointment. It never
brings the happiness which was expected, and it
often brings such a change of habits as to prove
fatal, either to health or to life.

A man who inherits wealth may begin and worry
through three-score years and ten without any very
definite object. In driving, in foreign travel, in

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 157 of 163)