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 5 of 6)
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the summer resorts among the mountains or at
the sea-side, ever heard him speak of himself as
if he were a " man of affairs," had become
"rich and increased in goods ? " Let the stran-
gers who have fallen in with him in these jour-
neyings say whether they saw anything in him,
or heard anything from him, to indicate in any
degree his own consequence. Reticent, rather
than loquacious, on all themes, he was most of
all reticent in matters pertaining to himself.

How did one who thus hid himself away
consent, in his Autobiography, to bring himself

His pastor, the Rev. Mr. Merrill, knowing


something of the romance of his early life, per-
suaded him to write it. If he could only have
gone through the last half of his history as he
did through the first, what an inheritance would
this volume be for those who come after him !

Some of us remember with the tenderest in-
terest the time, some five or six years ago, when,
at the close of one of the annual Thanksgiving
festivals at his house, he read the narrative
which marked his wonderful way to the middle
of his life. We remember what he said when
we asked him to go on till the end should come :
" I leave that to those who come after me."

Would it be possible for any hand to write a
biography which the autobiography would not
leave out of sight ?

" Who is sufficient for these things ? "

To make the falling off less abrupt, if not less
apparent, a search was made among the family
friends for such letters, in the correspondence of
Mr. Smith in all his later years, as might supply
the links to the chain. With what success the
search met these friends must judge.

Very thankful, we are sure, they must be that


the letters are of such a nature and in such
number as to make good the inscription on the
monument at his grave, " He, being dead, yet

So far as we speak of him, our aim is to hold
ourselves in, rather than to let ourselves out, in
the disposition to magnify the excellences of our
dear good friend. At least, we do not so far
forget ourselves as to say, " Mark the perfect
man," for his imperfections were to him a mat-
ter for confession and for lamentation, up to the
time of his latest breath.

" You ask me," Webster's eulogist said, " if he
had no faults, and I answer, He was a man."
Yes, Peter Smith was a man, and " there is not
a just man upon earth that doeth good and sin-
neth not."

Leaving the marks against him to be washed
away in that Fountain in which he trusted while
he lived, and whose praises he celebrated most of
all when he came to die, we pass now to notice
four traits of character, in which he leaves an
example to his children and his children's chil-
dren, that they should follow in his steps.

Of what, being dead, does he speak ? Some-
body has said, " When the name of Plutarch is
mentioned the Echo answers, Philosophy ! "
What does the Echo answer when the name of
Peter Smith is mentioned ? Industry Energy
Integrity Piety.


What in the beginning was matter of neces-
sity became at the end matter of choice ; so
that when the opportunity was before him, in
advanced age, to retire from the battle of life he
preferred to keep on his armor : after only the
briefest and most painful experiment at putting
it off, he took it up again, and kept it on until
life was ended.

" Rising up a great while before day " in the
winter, and with the rising of the sun in sum-
mer, he was all the day giving himself to his
work. Even after his days were three-score
years and ten, and by reason of strength almost
four-score years, instead of sleeping, lying down,
loving to slumber, he was doing with his might
what his hand found to do, in his own private


affairs, or in those public trusts which were com-
mitted to his hands.

The Echo of Mr. Smith's name is something
more than Industry. Many a man is his equal
in gathering up the fragments of time, that noth-
ing be lost, who knows little of his


Most men are subservient to circumstances,
instead of making circumstances subservient to
them. If they are not appalled by difficulties,
they are, at least, deterred.

Something there was in our friend which
made him accomplish his purposes, though
" the Alps or the ocean lay in his way." You
seemed, all the while, to hear him say, " Should
such a man as I flee ? " Was ever boy more
plucky ? David Copperfield's courage in his
journey from London to Dover, what enthu-
siastic praise it has enlisted, and from how
many thousands of sympathizing hearts ! The
mountains of difficulties he climbed up and the
" Sloughs of Despond " he waded through were


all in the novelist's eye. But a stern reality
they were to " the small boy," as his mother
called him, who braved all, over the one hun-
dred miles from this mother's home, in Brechin,
to his oldest brother's, in Glasgow; in this, "the
boy was father to the man." That indomitable
force which carried the mere child through the
terrible trials of that journey led the young
man, " without a penny in his pocket," to take
his voyage across " the great and wide sea," to
seek his fortune in this new world.

From the day of his landing on our shores,
through middle life, and until " gray hairs were
thick upon him," " his eye was not dim and his
force was not abated."

Of a higher grade than Energy is his


When the Psalmist asks, " Lord, who shall
abide in thy tabernacle ? who shall dwell in
thy holy hill ? " his answer is, " He that walketh
uprightly and worketh righteousness."

In these days, when defaulters are so multi-


plied and the defalcations are so glaring, even
of those from whom better things might be ex-
pected on the score of their profession, we have
special occasion to emphasize Pope's saying,
" An honest man is the noblest work of God."

In the manufacturing corporation, of which
this honest man was for many years, a leading
member, never was any business done in any
other way than " on the square." No pains and
no expense were spared to make honest goods,
such as might challenge inspection.

It was the nature of Mr. Smith to give a wide
berth to anything that savored of shams, and to
all dishonest or dishonorable deeds.

One of the business men of New York, after
his decease, said, " For forty years I have been
connected with Mr. Smith in business, and have
never known him to do a mean or a dishonest

Advancing now on the scale of virtues, we
leave morality, and come to



Morality looks round, piety looks up. Happy
is the man whose morality and piety meet to-
gether and embrace each other ; who exercises
himself to have a conscience void of offense to-
ward Go4 and toward men ; who pays respect to
his fellow-creatures and to the great Creator.

Peter Smith remembered his Creator. He re-
membered Him " in the days of his youth."

The " Scottish laddie " in the early days of
his apprenticeship " sought the Lord." There it
was that those religious principles were adopted
which " brought forth fruit in old age." What
are these benevolent offerings but the fruit of
religious principle ? It was not natural for one
so schooled in economy to give by the thou-
sands and tens of thousands for the support of
educational and religious institutions. It re-
quired the powerful exercise of grace to triumph
over nature ; to give out with such a free hand
that which had come in by the hardest.

It was not natural for one so reticent and so
diffident " to cause his voice to be heard " in the

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public assembly in defense of the faith, " once de-
livered to the saints."

It was the inspiration of the Almighty that
made him lift up his voice like a trumpet in
honor of the Lord's day, insisting upon it that
our ecclesiastical bodies and our railroad cor-
porations should " remember the Sabbath-day
to keep it holy ; " going against the " Sunday
trains," in the meetings of the Board of Direc-
tors, when they went for them, and that with a
kind of determination which seemed to say, " I
shall fight it out on this line if it takes all my
life." Yet it was the exception rather than the
rule for him to strive, or cry, or cause his voice
to be heard.

While he was careful to let his light shine out
far and wide on all the great questions involving
the interests of morality and religion, it was in
the privacies of every-day home life that the evi-
dences of his piety were most unmistakably rec-

Those who knew him best saw most clearly
in him " the marks of the Lord Jesus." His
children will always recall with interest his rev-

erence for sacred things ; for the holy Sabbath,
the Divine Word, the family altar, and for the
secret place of prayer. As if it were not enough
to have the household devotions, he must also
" enter the closet and pray."

" In secret silence of the mind

My heaven, and there my God, I find.">

How touching that call of his, just before his
death, to be wheeled in his chair into that little
room, whose walls and ceilings could testify to
many an hour of communion with Heaven !
What an influence in making him what he was
those silent hours had !

" When one that holds communion with the skies
Has filled his urn where living waters rise,
And, once more mingles with us meaner things,
'T is e'en as if an angel shook his wings ;
Immortal fragrance fills the region wide,
And tells us whence his treasures are supplied."

Just what was the making of Mr. Smith we
do not know. " Secret things belong to God."
Let us be looking to the time when, in another
country, that is a heavenly, he may tell us, in
the new light gathered, what ways God adopted


to bring back his soul from the pit, and to be
enlightened with the light of the living.

In part, the question is answered in his Auto-
biography. To the praise of the glory of God's
grace he ascribes it that in all the changes to
which he was subject, in early life he was
brought under the influence of good men. He
was under special obligation to that good man
by whose side he worked when learning his
trade, and who improved the opportunity to
say, " Behold the Lamb of God."

What a new meaning there must be, now, to
that good man in the saying, " He that convert-
eth a sinner shall save a soul from death ! " Of
another good man, whose influence made our
friend what he was, we cannot now particularly

When the still surviving senior member of the
firm Smith, Dove & Co. shall have gone the way
of all the earth, we may say how much he did
for his younger brother Peter : encouraging him
to come to America ; paying his passage across
the water ; setting him up in business ; taking
him as a partner, and leading him on in wis-


dom's ways. Blessed be he of the Lord that
hath not left off to show kindness to the living
and to the dead."

After all, it may be questioned whether it is
the influence of the good men which is to be
magnified so much as that of the good women :
of the good wives, " one of whom is taken and
the other left ; " of the good sister Mary, who,
like some of the Marys of the Gospels, has left
such fragrant memories ; and especially of the
mother, whose children " rise up and call her

What an undertaking for that mother! A
widow, with no other resources than such as
were divine, attempting to fit a family of four
young children for this world and the world be-
yond, and three of them boys !

We have heard of this poor widow's anxieties
for her trio of sons, her Peter, James, and John ;
especially as to what was to become of Peter,
his tendencies being those of the wild ass's colt.

Did ever a troubled sea more truly subside
than when that mother, on reaching this coun-


try, found these three sons to be the sons of
God ? What a prayer meeting that was to her
to which she went, soon after her arrival, where
her Peter, James, and John, as if in "the apos-
tolic succession," were the leaders.

One of these sons has said, " It was the proud-
est day of my life when I walked up the aisle of
the West Parish church with my mother on
my arm."

Let the widows who trust in God take cour-
age. To them are the " exceeding great and
precious promises." Let all Christian mothers
take courage. The promise is to them and to
their children. If, with an holy trust in God,
they are training these children in the way they
should go, when they are old they will not de-
part from it. When the vote is taken among
our theological students as to the influence
which makes them what they are, with great
unanimity the mother's influence is exalted.
One of our notable metropolitan ministers has
recently said that " it is the hand of the mother
of the Wesleys that is ringing all the Methodist
church-bells of the land and of the world."

Whatever doubt there may be as to the forma-
tive causes in the character of Mr. Smith, there
can be no doubt that he was a " man of mark,"
and that his influence everywhere was felt. He
would not say, as Job said, " When I went out
to the gate through the city, the young men saw
me, and hid themselves, and the aged arose and
stood up ; " but he could say with Job, " When
the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when
the eye saw me, it gave witness to me."

In the family, he was looked up to with little
less than reverence. In the factories, where it
was his peculiar province to manage the opera-
tives, there was never a " strike," and hardly as
much as a murmuring word.

In the educational and religious institutions
to whose boards he belonged, his words were so
"few and well ordered," and were with such
wisdom, that men " gave ear, and waited, and
kept silence," at his counsel.

Who of his descendants, for whose sake these
memorials are gathered, will be like him ? To
equal him we can hardly expect, but let us re-


member that " he who aims his arrow at the
sun shoots higher than he whose aim is lower."

Strictly speaking, there is in the moral world
only one sun, " the Sun of Righteousness."

" One is your Master, even Christ," and His
command is, " Follow me." But we may follow
Mr. Smith so far as he followed Christ.

Under this restriction, our prayer is that " the
shadow of Peter, passing by, may overshadow
some of us ; " that his mantle may fall on us all ;
that we may live the life of the righteous, and
' die the death of the righteous, and our last
end be like his.'




ON the 23d of May, while in his full strength,
Mr. Smith was suddenly stricken with paralysis.
Having rallied a little, he resumed, for a short
time, his daily occupations to some extent, but
the progress of the disease was so rapid that
only two or three weeks sufficed to show that
the end was near.

During his sickness, he was constantly sur-
rounded by the members of his immediate family
and its various branches. Not to his children
only, but also to his grandchildren, numbering
nearly a score, he gave most affectionate and
memorable farewells. Around those weeks will
ever cluster, in the minds of all, precious mem-
ories. It seemed as if God dealt the blow just
as gently as possible ; amid the deep sorrow
there was much cause for gratitude.


One Sunday, about two weeks before he died,
when he seemed for the first time to realize fully
that he was to bid farewell to all his earthly
associations, his friends, his beautiful home, his
family, there was evidently a sharp conflict
within. He said little, but asked to be rolled in
his invalid's chair to the top of the hill, that he
might look for the last time upon the house of
God, where he had been so strengthened and
helped for the battle of life; that he might enter
once more the grove where, in the early morn-
ing, he had had so many communings with his
Maker; that he might again behold the fields
waving with corn, the fragrant flowers and beau-
tiful trees, the fruit of his industry. The con-
flict was soon over, the victory won, and he could
leave all for the better land beyond.

One morning, as he sat by the window and
heard the singing of the birds, he said, " This is
a beautiful day ; but how much more beautiful
it is in the land where I am going, where the
streets are paved with gold ! " At another time,
when listening to the expressions of affection
from one of the family, he said, " Ah, yes, I


know you all love me ; but my Father calls me.
My life is over, and you must n't try to keep me."
He requested to have read, and he himself
repeated, many times, the old familiar psalms
and hymns, especially this one :

" Give me the wings of faith, to rise
Within the vail, and see
The saints above, how great their joys,
How bright their glories be."

There were no more touching scenes than
those between the two brothers. These aged
disciples conversed together of the heavenly
joys in store for them, as they strengthened and
encouraged each other ; the one about to enter
the valley of the Shadow of Death, the other to
remain a little longer on this side of the river.

On one of the last days, too feeble to respond,
or scarcely to recognize any one, being asked,
" Do you know me, brother ? " he replied, "I
know that hand."

Yes, that hand that had been taken so many
times. A beautiful testimony it was to broth-
erly unity and affection that, amid the toils and
vexations of so many years of business life, there

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had never been any trouble so serious that, in
parting at night, they could n't shake hands.

In all these closing days, it seemed to be
much on his mind that, while he was to be
taken, she who had been the companion of his
life was to be left He dwelt much upon the
loneliness which would come upon her when
he should be gone, expressed great solicitude
for her increasing infirmities, and repeatedly
commended her to the care of his children, that
everything should be done for her comfort.

When all supposed the last words had been
spoken, rousing himself, he called for his wife
and family, who immediately gathered about him.
He assured them of his affection and of his
appreciation of their devotion. As he looked
about and saw their tears, and heard a sup-
pressed sob, that occasionally broke the solemn
stillness, he said, in a calm voice, " Be still, and
know that I am God." He told them not to
mourn, assuring them he was happy, saying,
" It is all sunlight on the other side." Then


taking the hand of his wife, who sat beside him,
he repeated these words': " My grace is sufficient
for thee."

In the early morning hours of July 6, 1880,
this life came to an end ; gently, peacefully, and
gradually the spirit returned to God, who gave

" It was a fit end for such a life as his had
been. He was a" man into the four corners of
whose house there had shined, through the
years of his pilgrimage, the light of the glory
of God. Like Enoch, he had walked with God,
and was not, for God took him."

On the 8th of July the tokens of respect were
paid to the departed one. The remains, for an
hour before the services, were seen by the opera-
tives, who came to look on that face whose
kindly eye and pleasant word were always so
welcome. Simplicity, on such occasions, had al-
ways been the preference of Mr. Smith ; there-
fore, those arranging his obsequies kept that in

The spacious rooms were filled with delegates


from various business, banking, and railroad cor-
porations with which the deceased was con-
nected ; also with representatives from religious
and educational institutions which he had be-

All these came to weep with those that wept ;
though they had no claim to kinship or even in-
timate acquaintance, they yet felt a sense of per-
sonal loss.

The services were under the charge of Rev.
Charles Smith ; he was assisted by Mr. Burr,
present pastor of the West Parish church, who
read appropriate selections of Scripture ; also by
Professor Park, who made the following address :

It was the desire of our departed friend that
he should not be praised at his obsequies. Such
a desire ought to be respected. It is difficult,
however, to check the impulses of nature at an
hour like this.

When the woman who " was full of good
works and alms-deeds which she did " had been
called away from her life of charity, all the wid-


ows lingered in the chamber of death, and
showed " the coats and garments which Dorcas
made while she was with them." They could
not repress the reminiscences of her good life.
In like manner, assembled as we are in this
house of mourning, it is impossible for us to for-
get that many widows are in Israel whom our
friend has made glad ; many orphans has he
comforted ; many young men have been saved
by his wise counsels ; many indigent students
have been relieved by his thoughtful generosity ;
there has been a well-worn pathway from our
Western colleges to his residence.

On the island of his birth, our friend had
stood in the cathedral of St. Paul, and admired
the inscription over the tomb of its architect :
" Do you inquire for his monument ? Look
around." As we walk around the homestead of
the man who has now been summoned to his
better home, we need not ask for tablets to his
memory. The edifice in which he worshiped
from Sabbath to Sabbath is a monument to him.
The building for the Library on the Seminary
hill, the spires of the two chapels there, are


monuments to him and to his generous partners
in business. Our Abbot Academy and our Me-
morial Hall are among his other monuments.
We cannot cross the railroad in our village with-
out recalling his efforts to prevent its being des-
ecrated on the Sabbath. When we remember
his benefactions to our town, we must also re-
member that he was not indebted to it as the
home of his ancestors ; he was not trained in
our schools ; his early friends lie buried in a
far-off land.; his gifts were those of a foreigner,
who " loved our nation, and built for us a syna-

As we reflect upon his fruitful life we are re-
minded of his early consecration to the God of
his fathers. For sixty years he has been an
earnest follower of Him who went about doing
good. His thoughts were in heaven. His men-
tal habits were run in the right mould. There-
fore, when he was called to leave the world he
was tranquil. He knew whom he believed, and
was persuaded that his faith would not fail him.
He went from this life to the next, as if he were
going from one room to a better in his Father's


We are also reminded that his religion had a
practical character. It was not merely contem-
plative. It was not confined to the sanctuary
nor to the prayer meeting, both of which he
loved. What good cause was he not glad to
aid? He was a pioneer in the temperance ref-
ormation. He moved among the foremost in
securing the freedom of the slave. He loved his
adopted land as if he were a native of it. Our
country needs such an example as his among
men of business. He was a man of honest
speech. Who ever suspected him of malfea-
sance in office ? Who ever doubted his probity
in the smaller or the greater affairs of life ?

The secret of his prosperous career lay in the
fact that he regarded himself as a servant of
God. He ascribed all his success to God. As
a manufacturer he meant to be a truthful man
and a Christian. He often expressed his obliga-
tion to his mother, a woman of strong mind and
an earnest spirit ; but, above all, he felt grateful
to God for giving him so devout a mother. He
loved his father, and the instructors of his boy-
hood, and the pastors to whom he listened in his

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early days ; but he ascribed their influence over
him to God. This was the tendency of his
mind. The lesson which he has left us is that
we should live for the glory of our Redeemer.
Our friend has gone from us, but he still lives
with us. We know what he would say if he
were now among us. His past life is his present
counsel to us.

The day on which he died was the same day
on which Rev. Dr. Sears, the superintendent of
the Peabody Fund for the benefit of our South-
ern States, was called from life. Dr. Sears was
the intimate friend of Rev. Dr. Jackson, who was
for many years the beloved pastor of him whose
remains now lie before us. That pastor now in
heaven welcomed his two companions both at
once. This thought suggests the blissful re-
unions which await us. Let us not think of our
pious friends as torn from us, but rather as wait-
ing to receive us. Let us not think of their

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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 5 of 6)