Peter Smith.

Memorials of Peter Smith. Born, Brechin, Scotland, Sept. 21, 1802. Died, Andover, Mass., July 6, 1880 online

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Online LibraryPeter SmithMemorials of Peter Smith. Born, Brechin, Scotland, Sept. 21, 1802. Died, Andover, Mass., July 6, 1880 → online text (page 2 of 6)
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So I resolved, the Lord helping me, to do what
I could to interest them. I was afterwards care-
ful not to accept invitations, except where there
were others to help me sustain the meeting.

I had formed the acquaintance of some
Christian men, who invited me, often, to visit
with them the sick and dying. On such occa-
sions the conversation was very profitable to
me, for their confessions were, generally, of their
misspent time and neglected privileges.

I kept up my attendance at the young men's
prayer meetings and other means of grace.

Entering on the last year of my engage-
ment, I had written my brother John, who was
in America, that I had a great desire to go out


to him. I seemed to have a desire to emigrate
at a very early period of my life.

In the latter part of May, 1822, I received
a letter from my brother John, saying that he
had formed a partnership with two men ; that
they were to commence the building of cotton
machinery at Plymouth, Mass. If I was still in-
clined to come out to America, he had made
arrangements with Captain Lewis for my pas-
sage in the ship Champion, of Boston. A
letter was also received from Captain Lewis,
saying he would sail the last of July.

I showed the letters to my employer, who
thought that it was a good chance for me, and
kindly consented to let me go. In two hours
after I received the letters, I was on my way to
my mother's to prepare for my journey.

I left Brechin for Liverpool by way of Glas-
gow, as my brother James and family and some
other relatives resided there ; spent a few days
with them, and took steamboat for Liverpool.

I found the ship in Queen's Dock, and heard
that I would have to pass the custom-house
examination before I could go on board. I had


to take lodgings, and was told that I would have
to employ a broker to get me through the
custom-house. I was rather limited in funds,
and did not see how I could employ any one
to do this business for me. As the ship was
still taking in cargo, I was in the habit of going
to the custom-house daily, to see how things
were done.

As it was then against the law to let mechan-
ics leave without a permit from some govern-
ment official, I was careful not to say I had a
trade. When asked where I was going and
what was my business, I said that I had herded
cattle, and that I was going out to my brother.
I suppose that my appearance (being clothed in
a suit of corduroy, which was common for coun-
try lads in Scotland to wear when at work) con-
firmed my statement.

I accordingly got a permit to go on board,
without costing me anything, but the delay took
all the money I had to pay for lodgings. I
sailed from Queen's Dock on the ist day of
August, 1822, without a penny in my pocket.
Not having means to buy a mattress on which


to sleep, I slept among the spare sails that were
stowed in the hold of the ship, and never had my
clothes off my back except when I changed them
on Sabbath mornings.

There were seven passengers in the steerage ;
they were all English people, and a very good
company, going out to friends on business.

I kept a daily journal of the passage and
what occurred on board that seemed of inter-
est to me. In after years, I often read it to
my oldest children with great delight, as it
served to keep alive in my mind the many
strange scenes through which I had passed ; to
remind me to thank my Heavenly Father for his
preserving care over me, and for the kindness
I uniformly received from those with whom I
made acquaintance.

My journal was lost or destroyed, for which I
have always felt great regret.

We made land on the American coast on the
second day of September ; and on the third I
landed in Boston with just one cent in my
pocket, that was given to me by a fellow-pas-
senger on board, and was the first American
coin I had seen.


I wrote my brother John at Plymouth that I
had arrived in Boston.

When the ship was made fast to the wharf, a
great many people came on board to get the
news from England, as there was no telegraph
in those days. As we had made rather a short
passage for a sailing-ship, we had the latest

I stepped on shore about three o'clock in the
afternoon, at the end of India Wharf. It was
quite warm, and being very thirsty, from the
eating of salt meat, I walked up the wharf in
search of a well, where I could quench my thirst,
for it was getting to be intolerable. I could
find none. Under the terrible craving for
water, I spent my keepsake cent for a glass of
ginger-beer, so that I was then in the same con-
dition for funds that I was when I left Liver-

I had expected to remain on board until my
brother John should arrive from Plymouth, but
was told that no passengers were allowed to re-
main after the ship was made fast to the wharf.
This put me in a sad plight, as I knew no one


in Boston, and had no money for lodgings. My
case became rather a hard one. Some Scotch-
men happened to come on board. As they were
making inquiries about the old country, they at
once became interested in me. I told them my
condition ; that I had to stay so long in Liver-
pool, after leaving my home, before the vessel
sailed that I had spent all my money, and had
nothing to pay for lodgings. They kindly told
me they would take me to a house where I could
stay until my brother came. I was thankful, and
accepted their offer. They accordingly intro-
duced me to the landlady of the then called
" Burns' Tavern," which was kept by a Mr. Nich-
olson and wife, a Scotch man and woman. I
suppose that all the Scotchmen that were then
about Boston called to see me and get the news
from Scotland. I was feasted as if I were some
great character. In the midst of it all I began
to think there was too much whiskey used.
The landlady was very winning in her way ;
her house was quite a resort, as she used the
broad Scotch dialect, which had an attractive in-
fluence on those who had been many years from
their native land.

I often look back with thankfulness to God
that I was preserved from the temptation to
drink, which was freely offered to me. I was
then in my twentieth year, and, with the excite-
ment of landing on a foreign shore, I was in a
condition to become an easy prey to the temp-
tation of strong drink ; but, thanks be to God,
I was saved !

In two days after my arrival, my brother met
me in Boston, and it was a meeting of much joy
to us both.

My first Sabbath in America I spent in Wal-
tham with my brother, who went to call upon
some friends, whose acquaintance he had made
while at work there some years before. He was
received with expressions of great kindness by
his old friends, to whom I was introduced
as "My brother, just arrived from Scotland."
Everything seemed new and strange.

We left Boston for Plymouth, where we ar-
rived on the Qth of September, 1822, when I let
myself for one year to the firm of John Smith
& Co., machinists, at the rate of eight dollars
per month, board and washing included.


While here, there sprang up quite a revival of
religion, in which I took an active part, previous
to which my spiritual feelings had become very
cold and dead. I humbled myself before God,
and made confession of all my sins. He was
graciously pleased to give me great evidence of
His forgiving grace. From that time I had
much comfort while laboring in His service,
both private and public, so that it was suggested
to me, by some good Christian people, that I
should study for the ministry.

My brother John, although not a Christian at
that time, offered to send me to college. I took
the subject into prayerful consideration, and
spent many hours in prayer, desiring to know
what was my duty, but could never obtain satis-
factory evidence that I was called to that service.

During this time I had made the acquaint-
ance of Miss Rebecca Bartlett, with whom I con-
ferred on this subject. She was a devoted Chris-
tian girl, and said that any partial. engagement I
had made with her should not stand in the way
of my duty, for she willingly released me from
all engagement. It was a trying time to us both,


for I sincerely believe we tried to find out what
the will of God was on the subject. I kept it be-
fore my mind for months; but as I could find
no more evidence that I was called to that work
I gave it up, thinking that the Lord had other
service for me in His vineyard. I have always
felt satisfied that my decision was right.

On the 24th of August, 1824, I married
Miss Bartlett, and on the ist of May, 1825, we
moved from Plymouth to Andover. Here a new
field was opened for my religious improvement,
under the preaching and religious instruction of
the Rev. Dr. Justin Edwards, who at this time
had a third service, Sabbath evenings, a Bible
class, which was very fully attended by the
adult members of his congregation and by many
of the students from the Theological Seminary.
His expositions of Scripture were so interesting
to me that I longed for the Sabbath to return ;
and although more than forty years have passed,
they seem still fresh in my mind.

I was in the habit of attending the weekly
prayer meeting of the church, where I formed



the acquaintance of many godly, praying men
and women. I was often called upon to take
part in this service. I was very timid at first,
but as I became more acquainted with the
brethren and sisters of the church I gathered
more courage, and felt that they would overlook
any imperfections in my speech, if my daily life
was " such as becometh the Gospel of Christ."

Deacon Newman seemed to take great in-
terest in me. I was in the habit of often calling
at his bookstore, where I received much good
from his conversations.

In 1826, Dr. Edwards commenced his more
public labors on the subject of intemperance,
which made quite a stir all over the town. As
there was only one church or society, at that
time, in the place, all the people who went to
meeting had to hear what he had to say on the
subject. Many were filled with indignation at
his plainness of speech.

My brother John and myself took an active
part in the reform, as it was then called.

In the latter part of this year, the West


Parish church was formed as a colony from the
South. As my residence was within the bound-
ary line, I could not think it to be my duty to
leave the valuable instructions of Dr. Edwards.
But, in 1828, I left the South and joined the
West church, then under the pastoral care of
Rev. Samuel C. Jackson, a young man of great
promise and a good preacher.

In 1829, I was asked by my brother John if
I would not like to go to Scotland and see my
mother. He had a double object in view, hav-
ing been there the year previous and renewed
his acquaintance with a 'Miss Ferguson, of Glas-
gow, and by correspondence had proposed the
subject of marriage to her. He offered to pay
all my expenses and take the- charge of my fam-
ily while I was absent, which consisted of my
wife and three little children. My wife very
readily consented to have me go.

On the ist of May, 1829, I sailed for Liver-
pool in the ship Boston, Captain Mackay, and
returned in the same ship, arriving in Boston on
the ist of August. The people in the town were
very much surprised, on my arrival, to find that


I had brought over a lady for my brother's wife.
They were married in the West Parish church,
in the month of October, 1829.

Just after their return from their wedding
tour, Mr. Warren Richardson, one of my
brother's partners, died very suddenly, and in
1831 his other partner died; so my brother
bought out the entire interest, and put me in
charge of the machine-shop. It was rather try-
ing at first, as there were many workmen in the
shop of more experience than myself. It was
hard for me to give orders and oversee those
with whom I had worked* as a journeyman. How-
ever, things all went on smoothly.

In 1831 and 1832 there was a great religious
interest all over the country. It was the time of
protracted meetings of from three to four days
at a time. The first held in Andover was at
the South church, then under the charge of
Rev. Mr. Badger. About twenty-five of the
men in the shop banded themselves together to
attend all of the meetings, out of a spirit of op-
position more than from a desire to be spirit-
ually benefited.


As the hearts of all men are in the hands of
God, He was pleased, in great mercy, to make
these means the instrumentality of the conver-
sion of many of those men. I thank God that
their record has been an honor to themselves
and to the church of Christ. I gathered them
together in an upper chamber of my house, and
gave them some religious instruction, encour-
aging them to take a part in the weekly prayer
meeting I had started very soon after coming
to Andover.

About this time, my brother James and fam-
ily arrived from Scotland. He was a good man
and a great help to our meetings, for he was
well acquainted with the Scriptures and had an
excellent memory.

My brother John now also became interested
in the subject of personal religion. I was most
pleasantly situated, having the enjoyment and
comfort of the precious promises of the gospel,
and doing what I could to advance the interests
of my Saviour's kingdom.

My cup of joy seemed to be running over, but
a sad affliction was just before me. On the 2Oth


of May, 1833, the Lord was pleased to remove
from me my dearly beloved wife. This was a
great loss to me and my five little children, the
youngest only twenty-four hours old.

I was so overwhelmed and prostrated at the
loss that I scarcely knew what to do with my-
self. She was a direct descendant, on the ma-
ternal side, of the Mayflower Pilgrims, a very
pious, good woman, and a great help to me in
my Christian life.

After the death of my wife, my friends ex-
tended to me their sympathy and prayers, more
particularly the wife of my brother John, a most
excellent woman, with a large Christian heart.
She took my babe, and nursed it for a while as
her own.

As time passed on, I began to take fresh
courage for the battles of life, and to do what
was my wife's last request, to take good care
of the children. I lived in single life for more
than two years. On the 5th of June, 1835, I
married Esther H. Ward, who was living in the
neighborhood with her married sister, Mrs. War-
ren Richardson, and who was well acquainted
with my family previous to my wife's death.


It was during the fall of 1834 that I entered
into a partnership with my old friend, Mr. John
Dove, with whom, when a boy, I worked in one
of the flax-mills of Brechin. He had come
with his family to America, and had forwarded
his address in New York to my brother John,
who, having occasion to be in that city, accord-
ing to my request, called upon my old friend,
and brought him to Andover. We had not
seen each other for twelve years, and of course
had both changed very much in looks, as in
that time we had passed from boyhood to man-

Mr. Dove being a machinist, my brother John
engaged him to work for him in his shop, and
he removed his farrlily to Andover.

Mr. Dove proposed to me to build a machine
for making chalk lines. After he gave me a
sketch of the same, I told him that I would ad-
vance five hundred dollars to pay for the mate-
rial and the support of his family while he was
doing the work ; that I would retain the charge
of my brother's shop, which I would not give up
for an uncertainty. He agreed to these terms ;


and went to work and built the machine. The
agreement was that I should have half the prof-
its from patent or production.

I wrote to the Patent Office in Washington,
making inquiry if there had been any patent is-
sued for a machine of that kind. I received a
reply stating that a model would be required, in
order that an examination might be made. On
reflection, I thought there was so much trouble
about procuring patents and taking care of
them, I was in doubt what to do, when brother
John proposed to unite with us, which was a
very timely offer, as he had the means to assist
in starting a new enterprise.

The making of machine twine from cotton
yarns seemed to be rather a small business for
three machinists to enter into.

It was suggested to go into the manufacture
of yarn, and was proposed that brother John
should erect a building, on the opposite side
of the river from his machine-shop, and rent
it to the firm, which had taken the name of
Smith, Dove & Co.

The subject of flax spinning was talked over ;

as we were from a flax-spinning district in Scot-
land, and when boys had worked in the mill, the
thing looked feasible. We accordingly sent Mr.
Dove to Scotland to obtain plans and informa-
tion about the kind of machinery needed. Mr.
Dove returned, after being absent a few months,
with plans for flax machinery. We commenced
on the same as soon as the patterns were made,
and spun our first yarn in the month of August,

I have been particular in giving an account of
the formation of the firm of Smith, Dove & Co.,
which afterward became the Smith and Dove
Manufacturing Company, which has been so
successfully carried on.

I have digressed somewhat from my personal
narrative to speak of the business in which my
brother, Mr. John Dove, and myself were equal
partners : brother John taking charge of the
books and finance department; Mr. Dove of the
machinery ; my part being the charge of all
the operatives, looking after the raw material,
the manufacture of goods, and all mill sup-


We thus worked in our different positions
with harmony and success, often riding nights,
through winter's cold and summer's heat, spend-
ing days in cities and towns, trying to get our
goods introduced to the market, as we had now
become the manufacturers of shoe thread. We
met with much opposition, at first, from import-
ing houses, as that class of goods was all im-
ported from England. It was thought by the
trade that shoe thread could not be made in

I would here notice the first sale of shoe
thread that I carried to market, making a bundle
of thirteen pounds. I started in ths stage-coach
for Boston ; made several attempts to expose the
goods for sale, but without success.

I was getting somewhat discouraged, when,
entering a store, I saw behind the counter a
kindly looking man, and, watching the opportu-
nity when he was not engaged, I went up,
opened my bundle, and asked him to examine
the thread.

He pronounced it strong, but not very well
finished ; but said, that if I could make it as


good as that he had from Leeds, in England, I
could do well.

Thus, being encouraged, I went into other
stores, and sold my package, this being the first
sale, so far as we know, of shoe thread, made by
machinery, in the United States.




FROM the date 1836, at which the Autobiog-
raphy of Mr. Smith closes, for the next seven-
teen or eighteen years, he devoted himself most
assiduously to the establishment of his business,
which, though attended with discouragements,
was crowned at last with success.

It was during this period that he selected the
site for his new home at Forest Hill, which he
occupied until his recent decease. With a keen
appreciation of beauty, both in nature and art,
every hour that could be spared from his busi-
ness he devoted to planning and arranging his
grounds, taking the first steps toward the ful-
fillment of his ideas, which he lived to see, in a
good degree, realized. His love for nature and
his desire that the exterior as well as interior of
his house should bespeak refinement and cult-
ure were among his prominent characteristics.

4 8

Whether at home or abroad, he was ever plan-
ning a new attraction.

By the increasing demands and pressure of
business, the care of a large family, and the anx-
iety of settling in new quarters, the mental and
physical taxation of these times proved too much
for even his sturdy constitution. An entire re-
laxation from all perplexing questions became
a necessity ; therefore, he resolved to gratify the
desire of his heart to revisit his native land.
This privilege he was permitted to enjoy, not
only once, but repeatedly ; taking with him on
every trip one or more of his family, until nine
of his children and three of his grandchildren
had been his traveling companions.

The bracing sea air and the sailor life, which
were always rather fascinating to him, proved a
panacea for all his infirmities. Every day only
added new vigor to his worn-out body and mind ;
as he expressed it, " It seems the harder the ves-
sel heaves the better I feel." When, amidst the
fury of the winds and waves, most passengers
were driven to cabin or state-rooms, he remained
on deck, his whole soul awed and his mind filled


with thoughts of Him " Who maketh the clouds
his chariot ; who walketh upon the wings of the
wind." " He maketh the storm a calm, so that
the waves thereof are still."

His correspondence during these seasons of
travel shows plainly the depth and firmness of
his Christian character ; the affection for his
family and home; the interest in the church and
Sabbath-school, of which he was a member ; and
also the yearnings of his soul for nearer com-
munion with God.

He never tired of wandering about the haunts
of his boyhood, and allowing the varied scenes
of his life to pass, panorama-like, vividly before
him. In 1854, he writes:

" It is with feelings of no ordinary kind that I
date a letter from the town of my nativity, where
it is my desire to enjoy for a few days the soci-
ety of kindred who still remain upon the earth.
The town of Brechin looks beautifully : its spires
and churches, standing among the trees clothed
in foliage, present a scene of great beauty for the
eye to behold ; the streets and dwellings, many


of them remain the same as in my early days,
but the inhabitants are greatly changed."

In the same year, after a season of sight-see-
ing in London, and a visit to the graves of cele-
brated men, he writes :

" We have stood by the graves of those who
have moved the world by their power, made
kings tremble on their thrones, and, like slaves,
bow down before them. It is but a small space
they now occupy. How applicable the words of
the poet:

' Princes, this clay must be your bed,
In spite of all your powers.'

We have stood by the graves of Wesley, Bun-
yan, and Watts. How different are the aspira-
tions which dawn on the mind when contem-
plating the lives and characters of these good
men, who blessed the world, while they lived in
it, by their works of labor and love, and who,
through the divine influence of the Holy Ghost,
are now preparing many who shall shine as stars
in the kingdom of our God forever and ever ! "


It was in 1860 that Mr. Smith first went to
Italy. His impressions he gives in the follow-
ing letter to his wife :

" Here we are in the great city of Rome ! We
entered its gates on the evening of the I5th.
After passing through many of its narrow streets,
with turns to right and left, we at length arrived
at Hotel de 1'Europe, after a tiresome journey,
by sea and land, from Naples. It is really vexa-
tious, the obstructions that are placed in the way
of travelers, the police, custom-house, pass-
port regulations, and beggars, whose name is
legion, from the priest to the blind fiddler, who
meet you at every landing or public gate, with
such importunity as none but Italian beggars
know how to exercise. Our first day in Rome
happened to be one of the high days, being that
of Ascension. We accordingly started with our
courier for the church of St. John Lateran,
where the ceremonies of the day were to be per-
formed. Immense crowds of people were gath-
ering to the place. Soon after we entered the
square, the approach of the Pope was announced


by a troop of horsemen, with drawn swords ;
then came horses and carriages in the most
gaudy style, with Pope, cardinals, and bishops,
ambassadors of foreign courts, and other digni-
taries (who seemed to be innumerable) ; priests
with all shades of color for clothing, monks in
their mean attire, and citizens and peasants from
the country, made up the great multitude.

" We had a good place to see the proceedings
in the church. A line of soldiers was drawn up
on either side, from the high altar to the door,
with swords drawn, guns and bayonets fixed.

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Online LibraryPeter SmithMemorials of Peter Smith. Born, Brechin, Scotland, Sept. 21, 1802. Died, Andover, Mass., July 6, 1880 → online text (page 2 of 6)