Sylvester Barbour.

Reminiscences online

. (page 7 of 11)
Online LibrarySylvester BarbourReminiscences → online text (page 7 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

partings and the departure of the emigrants. The aunt
died out there in 1850, aged 63 years.

Intermarriages between the Cases in Canton have been
common, but I have never seen any evidence of that por-
tion of the human race suffering any degeneracy In con-
sequence. In general thrift and respectability they have
not been surpassed in that community. Eliminate the
Cases from that town, and it would not rank where it now

In her early life Mrs. Williams taught school in dif-


ferent districts in that region, holding sessions every other
Saturday, as was then the custom, boarding around, and
receiving the uniform wages of one dollar a week. It
was my pleasure afterward, in 1852, to have as a pupil
in a school in North Canton one of her scholars, Everett
Case's daughter, Antoinette, now the widow of George
Weed, who was also my pupil, as was his sister Martha
Weed, now living with her brother James in North Can-
ton. That pay for a teacher now^ seems small, though it
was then common for female teachers in district schools;
and three times that sum was considered good pay for
male beginners, as I can testify from personal experience.
If the latter pay was adequate, in my judgment the former
was not, for in teaching quality there is not, as a general
rule, that difference, if any, between the sexes. I suppose
the theory is that man surpasses woman in discipline,
though, judging from my observation, I am not sure of the
soundness of the theory; but, be that as it may, consider-
ing the mettle Mrs. Williams exhibits, I will wager a guess
that she was in no wise deficient in government. I don't
know when the practice began of having school sessions
every other Saturday, or, perhaps, I should rather say,
of allowing to teachers and scholars the fortnightly Satur-
day holiday. There was no statute for it. Mrs. Lydia
Griswold Humphrey (widow of Alfred F.), who has re-
cently celebrated her eighty-second birthday, tells me that
in her early teaching in Wethersfield, she was given the
option of teaching every other Saturday, or a half-day
every Saturday, she, however, choosing the alternate ar-
rangement as preferable to herself and scholars. In those
days it was the common practice for teacher and scholars
to join in reading a chapter in the Bible as an opening
exercise. I know there is now an almost unanimous opinion
that the practice is objectionable, though I don't remem-
ber to have heard any objection to it then. The branches
of study then receiving chief attention were the three



R's, reading, writing and arithmetic, and the two G's,
geography and grammar. There were, too, daily oral
spelling exercises, the classes, sometimes large, being ar-
rayed on the floor, " toeing a mark," the member mis-
spelling a word being displaced by the first one down the
line spelling it correctly. There was great strife to see
who would " get to the head " most times during the term,
a reward of some sort being sometimes given to the victor,
but, if not, the glory was suflicient pay. The book of
words used was Webster's " Elementary Spelling Book,"
beginning with words of one syllable, and ending with
those of seven syllables, every one of which selected words
should be in the vocabulary of even^ cultivated writer and
speaker. The tables of words were interspersed with
sentences of a line or two, happily illustrating the meaning
of many of the words. Then there were in the book pages
of words, arranged in pairs, differently spelled, but identi-
cal in pronunciation, with definitions appended, to be
learned and recited by the scholars in like manner; and
in the back part of the book were short fables and accom-
panying pictures, moral in their signification, notable
among which was that representing the pilfering boy in
an apple-tree, looking down contemptuously upon the
owner standing underneath, whose moral suasion being
insultingly disregarded, as a final argument, missiles, first
pieces of turf, then stones, were resorted to, and were
said to have brought the urchin down from the tree and
upon his knees, begging the old man's pardon — the book
being on the whole of priceless value, suflicient to have
immortalized Noah Webster, if he had made no other
contribution to literature. I recall with the greatest pleas-
ure those spirited contests, and one of my lamentations
is that I did not preserve a twenty-five cent book thus
won one four-months' term, when, by reason of the num-
ber of good spellers in the class, the result was in doubt
until the last day. The book disappeared in some way,



as, to my present grief, did my school books, the spelling
book, Peter Parley's geography. Smith's grammar, and
Colburn's Intellectual arithmetic, the last named book
being properly named " intellectual," the solution of its
problems not permitting the making of a figure, but was
wholly oral, sometimes lengthy, and was designed and cal-
culated to strengthen the intellect by unbroken continuity
of thought, a mental attainment not easy to achieve. I
didn't realize that such books long afterward would be
prized as mementos of the happiest days of life. In good
sense I was unlike my schoolteacher niece, Miss Lucy, who
can show most of her school books. She has also her
father's early reading book, " Easy Lessons in Reading,"
containing pleasing and instructive fables and stories,
edited by Joshua Leavitt, and published in 1823. It is
illustrated with divers wood cuts, which are amusing in
this day of pictorial art. I find folded in the book, which
had been loaned to Judge David S. Calhoun, a letter
written by him years ago, expressing his great pleasure in
having had " the opportunity of reading it once more,"
the inference being that it may have been his first reading
book. Now that there has developed such a taste and
craze for the antique, it would seem probable that there
will not hereafter be such a reprehensible neglect in pre-
serving the educational implements of childhood, to afford
delight in the period of old age. There were added, to
the spelling by classes what was called " choosing-sides "
spelling matches, in which the school as a whole par-
ticipated, the teacher naming leaders, one for each side,
who exhibited their estimate of the relative spelling ability
of the scholars, as, alternately, they chose their assistants,
till the list was exhausted, the victory being given to the
side having the member that stood up longest. So much
attention given to spelling exercises helps to make good
spellers, and everybody, who ever writes a letter or any-
thing else, knows the comfort there is in being able to



spell correctly. In this da}' of stenographers, howe\er, it
is less essential to the business man than formerK', pro-
vided the stenographer is up in the art, as is probably
generally the case.

Mrs. Williams speaks of the old church edifice at North
Canton, known as " The Independent Meeting House," it
being for general religious services, and for all people
regardless of sect, though, as she knew it, the services were
Episcopal in form. It stood about one mile north of the
schoolhouse, on the corner of the road leading to Granby
and the crossroad therefrom, to the road going to Bark-
hamsted. In a historical address delivered at the Cen-
tennial Celebration, Mr. Sears does not mention it, in his
enumeration of church edifices in Canton, though of its
existence there is no question. In Phelps's history of
Simsbury, published in 1845, '^ '^ stated that it was built
about sixty years before that date, namely, 1785, and that
religious services having ceased to be maintained in it, it
was taken down in 1842. It appears to have been the
second church built in West Simsbury, now Canton, the
first was that at the center, erected in 1763, taken down
in 1 8 14, and succeeded by the present house on the same
site, dedicated in 1815.

Mrs. Williams has no children. She was married to
Alonzo Williams, a widower, with children, at Pine
Meadow, New Hartford, February 27, 1855. He was
born May 28, 1804, and died December 22, 1880. His
nephew, Albert (son of his brother, Douglas Williams),
was born in New Hartford, December 22, 1828; was one
of a family of ten children; in 1853 was married to Helen
M. Graves (born in Agawam, Mass., April 14, 1834);
was railroad station agent at Collinsville for twenty-five
years, from March 17, 1857; carried on the coal and feed
business there some forty vears; built a dwelling house in
1867 on the site of an old house long occupied by Mr.
Frisbie, near the water tank, on the corner of River road



and Maple avenue, where his widow now resides. He
was a highly respected citizen, for years a deacon and
tireless worker in the Congregational church in Collins-
ville, and died October 15, 1906.

That old Frisbie house was a familiar landmark to
me, when sixty-six years ago, as a lad of ten years, I began
to drive an ox team to Collinsville, laden with the produce
of my father's farm, six miles distant from Collinsville.
In these days of high prices, it may be of some interest to
mention that that year, 1841, we carried to Collinsville
and sold over 400 bushels of potatoes at 20 cents a bushel;
among our customers were Samuel W. Collins, Charles
Blair, Ben Wingate, Sam Barbour, George Lane, Pliny
Humphrey, Samuel Victor Woodbridge, Deacon Horatio
N. Goodwin and the father of Congressman Simonds.
My father sent me on ahead, following later with the
horse team. My return trip was not on foot as was
the down trip, but, Barkis like. I rode perched up in
the front end of the cart. It was always after nightfall, the
up-hill-and-down, winding road being dreary, as there were
no electric lights on it, except when I got caught in a
thunder shower. There were few inhabitants on the road,
Case families preponderating. How my heart throbs, as
I recall those toilsome, though happy vears of childhood,
doing what I could to assist my father, always burdened
with debt, to pay interest and taxes, and support and
educate a family of nine children ! But I thank God I
was permitted to have just that strenuous boyhood and

Mrs. Williams takes great pride in her family relatives,
having a carefully kept record of them, which she is
pleased to exhibit. Of her brother Robert's children there
are living four, Ansel (born December 17, 1826), John
Julia, Ann and Martha. Their brother Trumbull (born
January 15, 1831) was my beloved pupil, my senior in
age, but always abundant in the manifestation of the re-


Born March 14, 1812. Died Nov. 11, iqo6.


Born Oct. 9, iSii, Died June 9, 1907.

Born Nov. 30, 1814. Still living, in good health.



spect due to the relationship existing between us. Within
one month of the close of the school it was my great
sorrow to attend the funeral of himself and his father,
buried in one grave, the father having died March i8,
1852, and the son, March 20. Mrs. Williams's cousin
Joseph's son, Wilbert J. Case and his wife Lucelia (Wil-
cox), my pupils, now reside in Hyde Park, Mass. My
admiration of that young man's name (resulting, partly,
perhaps, from his lovable character), led me to suggest
his name for a nephew, my eldest sister's son, born that
winter, and the child lived to be proud of the name, as are
two grandnephews now bearing it.

Mrs. Williams's brother, Ambrose's grandson. Birds-
eye Erskine Case (born, September 2, 1878), a practicing
lawyer in Hartford, distinguished himself in Yale Law
school, graduating from it in 1906, receiving a prize of
one hundred dollars, and delivering the Townsend essay on
" The International Police Power of the United States on
the American Continent," an address in which he forcibly
and ably discussed and urged the duty of the United States
to exercise that power over the South American republics,
if they are to enjoy the benefits they receive from the en-
forcement of the Monroe doctrine. As time goes on,
the urgency of the exercise of that power over those mis-
behaving, scrappy republics grows more apparent. That
was not the only prize Birdseye there received for excel-
lence in legal scholarship. Birdseye was married July 17,
1906, to Louise Marion Sage of Collinsville. Birdseye's
mother, Frances (born December 23, 1849, ^^^^ January
I, 1886), was the daughter of Ambrose Case; his father,
Emerson Case, again married, now resides in x'\von.

Mr. Smith, husband of the niece Georgia A., above
referred to, was born October 8, 1852, in New Hav^en,
Mrs. Smith in North Canton, October 4, 1853, ^""^ they
were married November 13, 1873, in Springfield, Mass.;
Mr. Reid, husband of Edna L., was born in Tariffville,


March 4, 1848, Mrs. Reid August 9, 1862, in North
Canton, and they were married in Suffield February 8,
1883. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have no children, except as
they playfully claim part ownership in the Reid children,
living in the same house, and for whom they manifest
parental affection; Mr. and Mrs. Reid having eight chil-
dren, a pleasing group, William J., Lydia E., Leslie C,
Henry W., Savilla J., Malvern E., Stuart I., and Elton
R. William has been in the Charter Oak National bank
of Hartford four years, having been promoted step by
step to the position of bookkeeper at present. Lydia is
a stenographer, Leslie in the high school, and the other
children in district schools. The Smith and Reid families
are most harmonious and delightful in their association,
and are enthusiastically devoted to their Aunt Ruth. She,
however, has specially adopted Elton, 3K' years old, whom
she delights to call her child, who beautifully reciprocates
her affection. Mr. Smith's father, Henry A. Smith, a
well-preserved man, will be 80 February 16, 1908. Mr.
Reid is the son of James Reid of Simsbury. Of the
children of Chester Case, five are living, W^illiam, Willis,
Frederick, Frank and Rachel. Besides Mrs. Weed and
the wife of Dr. Case, children of Everett Case, there is a
daughter, Lucia, living in New Britain.

Mrs. Williams's husband is buried in the old cemetery
in North Canton, as are her parents and many other rela-
tives, where she expects to rest by the side of her husband
till the resurrection day. She makes no prediction as to
the period of time she will sleep in that sacred ground.
She is willing to leave that all to her Saviour, assured that
in His own good time she will come forth to meet Him.
Who will say that such faith and trust are not most beauti-
ful? Religiously, Mrs. Williams is an ardent Second Ad-
ventist, and is humbly, trustingly and joyfully looking for-
ward to the second coming of her Saviour on the earth,
when, on the morning of the resurrection, the trumpet



shall sound and the dead in Christ shall be raised; she
being a firm believer in the tenet held by the church of
her faith " that death is a condition of unconsciousness to
all persons, righteous and wicked, a condition that will
remain unchanged until the resurrection at Christ's second
coming, at which time the righteous will receive everlast-
ing life, while the wicked will be punished with ever-
lasting destruction, suffering complete extinction." Mrs.
Williams retains her loving interest in the work of the
church, reaciing its literature extensively, having been a
subscriber to the " World's Crisis " from the beginning
of its publication, over fifty years, and to the " Herald of
Life " more than twenty-five years.

The Second Adventist church came into great prom-
inence in this country in the late twenties and early thirties
of the last century, when William Miller, a plain farmer,
residing in New York state, a profound student of pro-
fane history, a disbeliever in a revealed religion, became
converted to Christianity, and espoused the Second Ad-
vent doctrine, and preached it extensively, and for a time,
in Hartford, winning many converts to it, who were
popularly known as " Millerites." It was then, and
for some years afterward, the belief of those good
people, that the coming of Christ was near at hand,
and days were successively set for that coming. By
this prediction, based on an interpretation of the Bible,
a sensation, though of a different kind, was produced in
the community, as extensive as occurred a little earlier,
when William Morgan renounced Masonry and pub-
lished a book which claimed to reveal the secrets of the
Masonic order. He mysteriously disappeared shortly
afterward, the popular idea being that his disappearance
was due to foul play, occasioned by his disclosures. I well
remember that years afterward the excitement over that
disclosure and disappearance continued, and distressed
many good people who were not connected with the order,


and were prejudiced against it, among whom was my own
mother, though she was much reheved by the assurances
of her Christian son, Heman, a Mason, that there was no
inconsistency between the principles of Masonry and those
of Christianity.

The Adventists have a church organization in Hart-
ford, with a pleasant house of worship on Foot Guard
place, and a devout membership, the Rev. Mr. Johnson
being their zealous pastor. Mr. William J. Pierce, a man
of much culture, saintly in character, and of venerable
presence, has long been a pillar in the church, having
written a history of it. Any one, liberally inclined in
religious matters, must admit^hat this sect finds some war-
rant in Scripture for its tenet concerning the future con-
dition of the dead, as what sect does not there find some
warrant for its peculiar beliefs, if independent passages are
relied upon?

With the condition of friendly relations now existing
between the different religious bodies, no harm to the peace
and welfare of society would seem likely to result from the
existence of many sects. But, to our amazement, there
has not always been this fraternizing spirit manifested.
Even my own limited memory goes back to a different
situation. I well remember, for example, how Christians
believing in a future salvation limited to those dying re-
generate, regarded with distrust, and did not receive into
fellowship, churches of the Unlversalist faith, who ap-
parently find no warrant In Scripture for limiting human
repentance and divine forgiveness to this life, and urged
In opposition to them, that the effect of a belief in the
doctrine of universal salvation was to encourage a life of
sin, though the preachers of that faith, no less earnestly
than preachers of other faiths, proclaimed the duty of re-
pentance and holy living, and the importance of securing
divine forgiveness here and now.

Divide as we may religiously, 'twould seem that all



must admit that the L'nl\ersalist and Adv^ent churches In
their creeds impliedly pay a beautiful tribute to Jehovah's
mercy, exercised though it be in a widely different manner,
in the one case by the ultimate salvation of all, and in
the other by the extinction of the wicked from the moment
of death. Let no one be shocked at the last part of this
rerhark, for, if there were such an alternative, would not
extinction be preferable to an eternity of unhappiness?
If It were permissible to apply finite reason to a matter of
divine arrangement, not made so clear by revelation that
there should be no difference of opinion concerning It,
might it not be said, most reverently, that it seems im-
probable, nay, impossible of human belief, that a Being,
of whose power and wisdom we have such proof in our-
selves and In the universe, can have established a scheme
of creation, involving the unending, conscious estrange-
ment from Himself of a portion of His creatures, made
in His own image? Unutterably horrible! such a sup-
position, a seeming affront to the benignity of a God
of Infinite compassion! It must have been just that con-
dition of soul of which the poet speaks. "Oh! what
eternal horrors hang around the second death!" Not
a cessation of life, but an eternity of misery — a living
death is clearly meant.

In further proof of my assertion of the former mani-
festation of an un-Christlan spirit between different
Christian churches, I quote from the words of Chief
Justice Swift, In his " System of the Laws of Connecticut,"
published in 1795 : '' For near eighteen centuries, the dif-
ferent sects of Christians have been quarreling with each
other, respecting a religion which recommends brotherly
love as the most essential duty ! It is time they began to
practice the religion they profess. They ought to know,
that no one can have any occasion to quarrel about It,
because every one has a right to think as he pleases. May
we not hope that the period is not far distant when man-



kind will have sense enough to discern the extreme folly
of a religious quarrel?" No wonder that broadminded
Christian jurist was shocked and indignant ov^er the
quarrels of which he speaks; quarrels mainly over non-
essentials, such as nice distinctions of theology, evolved
by the different schools, and not material to man's moral
well-being; quarrels in which the disputants forgot to
exercise that charity which St. Paul so beautifully portrays
and enjoins; quarrels in which the participants usurped
the prerogative of the Judge on high, and undertook to
pass judgment on each other! With what greater amaze-
ment and grief the Master himself must have looked down
on that spectacle !

In this era of such a beautiful exhibition of Christian
charity, a humble layman might be permitted to inquire,
why not let it have one other manifestation, namely, in
an interchange of pulpit service between the robed and un-
robed clergy, such as there is now between members of the
latter class? I have never known such an exchange. And,
please, why not here in Hartford let the courtesy go one
step further, by inviting Rabbi Elkin into Christian pul-
pits? He has been heard once in a Congregational church,
and his reported utterances, though a Jew, recognized and
honored Christ and breathed His spirit. The failure to
make such exchanges is not due to any lack of mutual re-
gard of the clergy, nor to any probable opposition of their
congregations. How passing strange ! these separations,
the result wholly of man-made regulations, how out of
harmony with the sentiment of the hymn, " Blest Be the
Tie," etc., sung in all worshipping congregations, with
emphasis on "fellowship!" Such interchanges would
tend to still further unify believers, who in heart and
purpose are one.

Something of a sensation has been produced by Dr.
Parker's praiseworthy suggestion of a church, to be made
up of all souls who love and strive to serve the Lord, to



be received into membership, in the observance or non-
observance of rites and ceremonies, according to the
dictates of each member's conscience. Would not the
carrying out in practice of this suggestion bring the world
one step nearer the millennium? Most sincerely do I
thank the doctor for thus leading the way to the establish-
ment of a church, to which all may be admitted who give
evidence that it is their ruling purpose and constant effort
to live according to the teachings of the Bible, as they
understand them ; and I wish he might have the support
of his brethren in the ministry, in carrying out that scheme.
That's all that's needed to make it a success; the people
will welcome it, I verily believe.

Greetings to Mrs. Williams.
Should any persons be inclined to call to-morrow,
Sunday, fore/ioon or afternoon, to pay their respects to
Mrs. Williams, I am authorized to say that such calls
will be pleasing to her, and that the families with whom
she is living will greatly appreciate such a compliment to
her. Will not heaven be pleased with such a use of a few
minutes of holy time, and with such an exhibition of af-
fection to this mother in Israel? I feel that I myself
cannot more appropriately spend the Sabbath than by my
presence on the occasion, to assist in it as I may be able.
Cars on Capitol avenue, Lafayette street. Park street and
Zion street, pass within a few steps of No. 48 Oak street.

S. B.
Hartford, November 30, 1907.

[Hartford Tuies. Dec. 2, 1907.]


Congratulations for Mrs. Ruth Williams on 93D


To the Editor of The Times:

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11

Online LibrarySylvester BarbourReminiscences → online text (page 7 of 11)