Joseph Palmer.

Necrology of alumni of Harvard college, 1851-52 to 1862-63 online

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1807. JOSHUA PEESCOTT died in Reading, Mass., 1
January, 1859, aged 78. He was son of Deacon John and
Martha (Abbot) Prescott ; was born in Westford, Mass., 15
November, 1780 ; and was the last surviving member of their
family, which consisted of six sons and one daughter, who
lived to mature age. Three of the sons graduated at Harvard
College, Samuel in 1799, Aaron in 1814, and the subject of
this notice. He was fitted for college at Westford Academy.
After graduating, he taught school in Saco, Me. He studied
law with Judge James Prescott, of Groton, Mass. (H.C. 1788).

1858-59.] OP HARVARD COLLEGE. 235

He was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1811, and imme
diately opened an office in Reading. He afterwards removed to
Lynn, Mass., where he remained a few months ; then returned
to Reading, where he continued actively engaged in the practice
of his profession until a few years before his decease. In
1824, he compiled a digest of the probate-laws of Massachu
setts, which was considered a valuable work, and had an exten
sive circulation. In 1827 and 1828, he was chosen repre
sentative to the state legislature. Being much interested in
agricultural pursuits, he superintended and cultivated success
fully his farm, on which he resided for many years. As a
citizen, and in all the social relations of life, he was kind,
generous, hospitable ; an honest man, and one who commanded
the universal respect of the people. He never sought public
office. As a lawyer, he was possessed of a sound and discrimi
nating mind ; always carefully and thoroughly examining the
matter presented before he came to a conclusion. His judg
ment and opinion were received with great respect and confi
dence. He never suffered himself to sacrifice his principles of
honor and integrity for pecuniary advantages ; always maintain
ing, that a lawyer should govern himself professionally as he
would as a citizen, and be guided by the rule, to do unto others
as you wish or expect them to do unto you. His faith as a
Christian in the unbounded love and goodness of God was firm
and unwavering, and he awaited his departure with calmness and
resignation. He married, in 1813, Abigail Eaton, only daugh
ter and only surviving child of Lieut. Thomas Eaton, of
Reading. He had five children. One daughter died in early
infancy. Two sons and two daughters are now living. His
wife is also living.

1807. Rev. SETH FREEMAN SWIFT died in Oswego, N.Y.,
12 October, 1858, aged 71. He was son of Joseph and Anna
(Freeman) Swift, and was born in Sandwich, Mass., 25
April, 1787. He was fitted for college at Sandwich Academy.
After leaving college, he went through a course of theological
studies under the instruction of Rev. John Simpkins, of Brew-
ster, Mass. (H.C. 1786). In the spring of 1809, he went to


Nantucket, where, for a short time, he taught a school of a high
order. The Unitarians of that island, having in view the pro
motion of their liberal religious principles, erected the present
South Congregational Church, and invited Mr. Swift to take the
pastoral charge of the new society. The house was dedicated
in November, 1809 ; and Mr. Swift, having accepted the call,
was ordained 25 April, 1810. Here he labored with great
fidelity for more than twenty-three years. Many of his parish
ioners passed away before him ; but many still survive who
remember him as one w r hose ministrations were always accepta
ble, because always appropriate to the various circumstances of
human life. The young of his society would often, at his invi
tation, assemble at his house, where he would entertain them,
and make them feel at home : always cheerful ; welcoming them
with a genial smile ; taking a deep interest in their well-doing ;
sharing their joys and sorrows ; offering counsel, that, if fol
lowed, he was certain would result in the formation of high and
noble characters, as many to \vhom it was addressed are left to
testify. He always said the right word ; and it came from a
warm, sympathetic heart. No one tied the nuptial knot with
more grace than he. His beaming countenance brightened the
joy of the occasion. In sadder hours, his apt words brought
consolation to the mourner ; and, in the ordinary course of life,
he was a genial friend. In the autumn of 1833, he resigned
his pastoral charge ; and, the following winter, he was a rep
resentative from Nantucket, in the legislature. In the spring
of 1834, he removed to Oswego, N.Y., and was principal of an
academy at that place for two years. For the last eight years
of his life he was incapacitated from any employment, in conse
quence of having become blind. After his removal from Nan-
tucket, he ever retained a lively interest for the place. A few
months before his death, he received a letter from a friend there,
reverting to the past, calling up early memories, and speaking
of his friends ; and, when he found he was not forgotten, he wept
like a child, showing how deeply his affections were rooted in
his early home.

He married, 20 March, 1810, Valina Rawson, daughter of

1858-59.] OF HARVARD COLLEGE. 237

Abel and Lydia (Briggs) Rawson, of New York. He had four
children, Caroline, who married Philo Stevens, of Oswego,
N.Y. ; Edward, Joseph, and Charles. His daughter and two
sons survived him ; as did also his widow. His last sickness was
of short duration, but of great suffering, which he bore without
a murmur. His disease was cancerous tumor in the bowels.
At the time of his death he resided with his daughter, whose
unceasing devotions to him were indicative of the purest affec
tion. His son Edward too, who is well settled in Savannah,
Ga. , was permitted to be with him to administer to his comfort
even in his last moments.

1808. Hon. NATHAXIEL WEIGHT died in Lowell, Mass.,
5 November, 1858, aged 73. He was the oldest son of Hon.
Thomas and Eunice (Osgood) Wright, and was born in Ster
ling, Mass., 13 February, 1785. He was fitted for college by
Rev. Reuben Holcomb, of Sterling (Y.C. 1774). He held a
very respectable rank in his class, and graduated with distinc
tion. He pursued the study of the law in the office of Hon.
Asahel Stearns, of Chelmsford, Mass. (H.C. 1797) ; was
admitted to the bar in 1814, and opened an office in Dracut,
Mass. In 1816, Mr. Stearns was elected University Professor
of Law in Harvard College, and removed to Cambridge the fol
lowing year. Mr. Wright succeeded to Mr. Stearns s office, and
to much of his professional business ; and subsequently pur
chased his (Mr. Stearns s) residence, which he occupied during
the remainder of his life. He attained to a high rank in his pro
fession as an able and well-read lawyer. For forensic display
he had little taste, and made no pretension ; but when an emer
gency required a sound, reliable, and disinterested opinion, he
was the dependence of his community for many years. Singu
larly simple and almost blunt in his manners, and sparing of
words, there was an honesty and independence about him which
won confidence and secured respect. On the organization of
the town of Lowell, Mr. Wright s judgment, counsel, and legal
knowledge were under great and constant requisition. He per
formed an important part in the preliminary purchase of land
by the founders of the town ; and, in setting it off from Chelms-


ford, he was an efficient agent. "When Lowell was incorpo
rated as a town, in 1826, he was elected its first representative
in the legislature, and was re-elected the two following years.
He was also chosen chairman of the first board of selectmen.
In 1834, he was elected to the state senate from Middlesex dis
trict. In 1836, Lowell was incorporated as a city; and Mr.
Wright was elected its mayor in 1841 and 1842. He was
chosen the first year as an independent candidate, and the sec
ond as the regular whig nominee. On the organization of the
Lowell Bank, in 1828, he was elected, on the second of June
in that year, its president ; an office which he held uninterrupt
edly for more than thirty years, resigning it .only on the 22d of
October, 1858, just two weeks before his death: his failing
health and strength admonishing him that his work oft earth was
done ; a fact to which he resigned himself with calmness and
cheerfulness. In all the positions which he filled, he gave entire
satisfaction to those whose interests were intrusted to his care.
He married, 5 March, 1820, Laura Hoar. They had five chil
dren, four sons and one daughter; viz., Nathaniel, Thomas,
William Henry Prentice, Emery, and Laura Grace. Two of
his sons, Nathaniel and Thomas, graduated at Harvard College,
in 1838 and 1842 respectively. Nathaniel was a lawyer in
Lowell, and died 18 September, 1847, aged 27. The others
survived him. Thomas is a lawyer in Lawrence, Mass. Mr.
Wright s wife died 21 January, 1857, aged 62.

1810. Rev. LEMUEL CAPEX died in South Boston, 28
August, 1858, aged 69. He was son of John and Patience
(Davis) Capen, and was born in Dorchester, Mass., 25 Novem
ber, 1789. His father was a substantial farmer : and, early
discovering in this son a taste for study, he determined to
give him a liberal education ; for which purpose he placed him
under the charge of Rev. Peter Whitney, of Quincy (H.C.
1801), where he pursued his preparatory studies. At college
he was exemplary in his conduct, was a diligent student, and
graduated with a respectable rank. On completing his colle
giate course, he determined to study for the ministry, and re
mained at Cambridge as a resident-graduate, going through his

1858-59.] OF HARVARD COLLEGE. 239

course of theological study under the instruction of Prof. Henry
Ware, D.D. (H.C. 1785), and Andrews Norton (H.C. 1804).
He was ordained pastor of the church in Sterling, Mass., 22
March, 1815. He early espoused the side of Liberal Christian
ity, and was one of the first to preach these sentiments in the
county of Worcester. In 1813, he wrote a pamphlet, which
was published anonymously, entitled " Memorial of the Pro
prietors of the New South Meeting-house in Dorchester to the
Ministers of the Boston Association ; " a document which even
the " Panoplist " acknowledged to be " written with more than
ordinary care and ability." His pastoral relation with the
church in Sterling was not of long duration. He resigned his
charge, 21 June, 1819, not on account of any disaffection, but
because his salary was inadequate to his frugal wants, and it
could not be increased without endangering the harmony of the
society. His farewell sermon, which has been twice printed,
was full of the kindest interest in the people who were to be no
longer under his professional charge. He then returned to his
native place, Dorchester; and, from 1819 to 1822, he taught
in the Stoughton School in that town. At the close of 1822,
he resumed his ministerial duties, at the same time taking the
part of instructor in the Hawes School in South Boston. He
was installed pastor of the Hawes-Place Church, 31 October,
1827. During the interval from 1822 to 1827, he received no
pecuniary compensation for his clerical services. He depended
upon his salary as a teacher, which was only about five hundred
dollars a year, for the support of himself and his family. All this
while, and for several years afterwards, the public worship was
held in one of the humblest of meeting-houses. The building
was ten feet high, about a hundred feet long, and less than
thirty in breadth. Under that lowly roof, he labored, in the
preaching of the Word, faithfully, earnestly, and with good
acceptance, for about twelve years. In 1832, he was called to
part with his venerable friend, Mr. John Hawes, the founder of
the religious society to which he ministered ; and set forth, on the
Sunday after his funeral, a discriminating account of his char
acter and benefactions. This discourse was published, with an


"Appendix containing Historical Notices of the Hawes-Place
Church and Society." That sturdy and trusty Christian man,
who has left his name so favorably impressed upon the religious
and educational institutions of South Boston, invariably treated
Mr. Capen with the utmost confidence and regard, and consulted
him often to the day of his death. Soon after his departure,
and by the help of the funds which he bequeathed, a new
meeting-house was built ; but with the enlargement of the
borders of the sanctuary, and the beautifying of its walls, and
the increased comeliness of its appointments, there seems to
have been no corresponding increase of the holy dispositions for
which sanctuaries are built. It is often the case, that moneyed
endowments lead to neither prosperty nor peace ; and, in the
present instance, they encouraged jealousies, expectations more
ambitious than pure or considerate, and growing troubles. Mr.
Capen again resigned his pastorate, with less of his own will
in the surrender than before, and not with the same conscious
ness of perfect favor, though he carried a better consciousness
in the testimony of his own breast. He delivered his farewell
sermon, 23 June, 1839. It was written in his usual direct,
dispassionate, and faithful manner. He never afterwards en
tered the settled ministry, though his heart was always in that
work ; and he continued, to the end of his days, preaching
occasionally where his services were requested. During his
whole residence at South Boston, the scantiness of his income
compelled him to till his grounds with his own hands ; and this
he did stoutly and cheerfully. His vigorous health, which never
gave way, nor showed sign of giving way, till it broke up wholly
and at every point at last, enabled him to perform this kind of
toil ; and, moreover, he had a taste for it, and skill in it. He
knew how to do the work of a farmer well, and to write about
its experiences. His opinions on agricultural topics, in his con
tributions to the "New-England Farmer," are said to have
been valued by the readers of that journal. In the midst of
his pecuniary straits, no one ever knew him to be penurious
or exacting or cringing or shuffling or mean. Some of the
pieasantest associations of his whole existence he declared to be

1858-59.] OF HARVARD COLLEGE. 241

connected with school -keeping ; and there were raany to appre
ciate the influence of his conscientious instructions. He was
often called to serve on school-committees, where he gave the
best of his diligence. He was elected a representative to the
state legislature in 1836, and again in 1847. When he was
nearly sixty years of age, the old zeal for both his vocations,
teaching and preaching, burned afresh in him. At an invita
tion from Baltimore to succeed Rev. Charles H. A. Dall (H.C.
1837) as a missionary to the poor, he at once left his home,
to no one dearer, and assumed that laborious service in that
southern city. A printed copy of his first quarterly report,
dated 31 January, 1846, is marked with the deepest feeling of
engagedness in his trying office. The singleness of his mind,
and the tenderness of his heart, were likely to distinguish them
selves in such a mingled work of instruction and charity ; and
the trustees of the Baltimore Ministry at Large bear ample tes
timony, in the same document, to the efficiency with which his
hard duties were discharged. Besides his publications which
have been mentioned, there is in the "Liberal Preacher" a
sermon of his on " The Religious Education of Children," printed
in June, 1831 ; and there is an elaborate article in the "Chris
tian Examiner" for September, 1855, on "Dr. Codman and the
Second Church in Dorchester." He was also the writer of
several biographical notices of ministers and of old residents
in South Boston, which have been read with interest, and even

He married, 11 October, 1815, Mary Ann Hunting, daugh
ter of Asa and Abigail (Blaney) Hunting, of Roxbury. They
had nine children, six sons and three daughters, of whom five
sons and one daughter with their mother survived him. His
children were Francis Lemuel, born in Sterling, 17 March,
1817 ; John, born 8 September, 1818 ; Mary Ann, born in
Dorchester, 19 February, 1820, died 7 November, 1844;
Edward, born 20 October, 1821 ; Charles James, born in South
Boston, 5 April, 1823 ; Sarah Hawes, born 22 October, 1824,
died 5 December, 1825 ; Barnard, born 31 October, 1826;
Jane, born 5 November, 1828 ; Eliphalet Porter, born 14Novern-



ber, 1831, died 19 November, 1835. Four of his sons have
graduated at Harvard College; namely, Francis Lemuel in 1839,
John in 1840, Edward in 1842, and Charles James in 1844.

1811. Hon. THOMAS GREAVES CARY, of Boston, died at
his summer residence in Nahant, Mass., 3 July, 1859, aged 67.
He was son of Samuel and Sarah (Gray) Gary, and was born
in Chelsea, Mass., 7 September, 1791. After finishing his col
lege course, he studied law in the office of Hon. Peter Oxen-
bridge Thacher (H.C. 1796), of Boston. He was admitted to
the Suffolk bar in 1814, and began the practice of his profession
in Boston. He married, 30 May, 1820, Mary Ann C. Perkins,
daughter of Hon. Thomas Handasyd Perkins, of Boston. They
had seven children, two sons and five daughters, all of whom,
with their mother, survived him. A short time before his mar
riage, he removed to Brattleborough, Vt., where he continued
the practice of his profession until 1821, when he removed to
New York, and engaged in the Canton trade as the senior part
ner in the house of T. G. and W. F. Cary. After eight or
nine years, he returned to Boston, and joined the house of J.
and T. H. Perkins and Co. After the dissolution of this firm,
Mr. Cary became the treasurer of the Hamilton and Appleton
manufacturing companies at Lowell, the affairs of which he
managed, with great ability and success, to the day of his death.
In 1838, he became a special partner in the house of Fay and
Farwells, of Boston. This partnership continued until the dis
solution of the firm in 1851. He was often solicited to allow
himself to be a candidate for political honors ; but he generally
declined. He, however, served as a senator for the Suffolk dis
trict in the state legislature in 1846, 1847, 1852, and 1853. In
his political opinions and action he was wholly free from a blind
partisan spirit. Though conservative in his tendencies, he was
a consistent and able advocate of real progress. He took a
great interest in all questions of education and social reform,
and carried through the legislature several of the most important
acts on those subjects now on the statute-book ; as, for example,
the law relating to state scholarships. He was for many years
a director of the Hamilton Bank, and president of the Boston

1858-59.] OF HARVARD COLLEGE. 243

Athen&um. He was also a trustee of the Institution for the
Blind ; and took an active interest in many other charitable
establishments, giving to their affairs both pecuniary support and
much valuable time. He was a member of the American Acad
emy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Massachusetts Histori
cal Society. He frequently contributed able essays to the
newspapers and the periodical publications. Hunt s "Mer
chants Magazine," the "North-American Review," and several
of the daily journals, were enriched by his elegant and well-con
sidered writings. In 1847, he delivered before the city author
ities of Boston the Fourth-of-July oration, which was published,
and which showed the refined taste, high moral tone, and purity
of style, that were peculiarly characteristic of him. He pub
lished, in 1844, " A Letter to a Lady in France on National and
State Repudiation ; " in 1845, "A Letter on Profits on Manu
factures in Lowell," and "An Address on the Fine Arts, deliv
ered before the Mercantile-Library Association." In the same
year he delivered a lecture on banking, in which the subject was
explained with great perspicuity and beauty. In 1856, besides a
"Lecture on the Gold of California, and its Effects on Prices," he
published the most elaborate of his works, entitled "A Memoir
of Thomas Handasyd Perkins, containing Extracts from his
Diaries and Letters," in 8vo ; a volume of great biographical
interest, presenting a masterly delineation of the life and charac
ter of that great merchant. In February, 1857, he embarked
with his family for Europe ; and having travelled through Eng
land, France, Italy, and Switzerland, returned, in October of the
same year, to resume his various occupations at home. His
health, which had not been vigorous for some years, began to
give way a few months before his death. He gradually grew
feebler; and, during the last week or two of his life, his de
cline was rapid, and he breathed his last as gently as a child
falls asleep. Mr. Gary was a gentleman in the truest and best
sense of the word. His manners were at once unaffected, and
marked by a chivalrous high breeding, recognizing the rights
of the lowest as well as those of the highest to the courtesies
which sweeten the intercourse of life. In thought, word, and


deed, his daily intercourse was characterized by Christian purity.
Into the transactions of business, public and private, as well as
into the intercourse of society and the domestic relations, he car
ried the principles of Christianity, as the rule of conversation,
the guide of conduct, and the assurance of happiness here and

1814. JONATHAN PORTER died in Medford, Mass., 11
June, 1859, aged 67. He had been confined to his sick-room
for more than a quarter of a century. A disease, which no skill
could remove, embarrassed and afflicted him for a time, while
struggling to continue his active labors ; and at length com
pelled him, in the midst of his days, to abandon his pursuits,
and shut himself up as an invalid for the rest of his life. His
expectations were thus disappointed, his plans broken up, and
his work left unfinished. The story of his life, though brief,
is not without interest. He was son of Jonathan and Phebe
(Abbot) Porter, and was born in Medford, 13 November,
1791. His father was a merchant in Medford: his mother
was a native of Andover, Mass. He married, 22 July, 1823,
Catharine Gray, daughter of Samuel Gray, of Medford. They
had three children, one son and two daughters. One daughter
died in his lifetime. His wife and the other two children sur
vived him. Until he reached the age of about sixteen or seven
teen, he was employed, as far as he had any employment, as a
clerk in his father s store. It was found that he had no taste
for mercantile pursuits ; but from an early age he had discovered
a fondness for books and study, and desired to obtain an educa
tion. When about seventeen years old, having up to that time
enjoyed only the ordinary advantages of common schools, he
began to prepare for college under the instruction of Dr. John
Hosmer, who was the principal of a private school or academy
in Medford. He prosecuted his studies at this school for about
a year ; and then entered Harvard College at Commence
ment in 1810. His class was large for that time ; and is now
distinguished by the eminent abilities, high position, and great
fame, of some whose names stand upon its catalogue. That it
possessed a large range and amount of talent, is evident from

1858-59.] OF HARVARD COLLEGE. 245

the number of its members \vho have obtained an honorable
rank in their several callings and pursuits. In this class, and
with these associates, Mr. Porter, as a scholar, stood among
the first, and graduated with the highest honors. He was ear
nest and assiduous in the prosecution of his studies, faithful in
the performance of all his duties, and exemplary in all his
habits. His generous and manly bearing in the severe con
tests of the literary arena won for him the esteem and friendship
of his classmates, which continued to the close of his life, and
cheered the many long years of his feebleness and confinement.
He cherished good-will toward all ; rejoiced at their success,
and bore with meekness his own. When he reached the end of
his college term, and looked forward to the future, the prospect
was bright and hopeful. His college honors seemed an earnest
of other and higher, to be won on a wider field. He chose the
law for a profession ; and pursued his preparatory studies a part
of the time in the office of the Hon. Luther Lawrence (H.C.
1801), of Groton, and a part in the office of the Hon. Asahel
Stearns (H.C. 1797), of Chelmsford. They were both able
and eminent lawyers, and stood high in public estimation.

Online LibraryJoseph PalmerNecrology of alumni of Harvard college, 1851-52 to 1862-63 → online text (page 22 of 49)