Page images
[ocr errors]

Old Manse in 1835, at the age of thirty-two. He believed in high thinking and simple living, and he made some attempts to work on his own land. But his infant son stopped him by saying, “Papa, I am afraid you will dig your leg,” and he surrendered his hoe and spade to hands more skilled.

He was not too serious to play, and would sometimes go skating on the river with Hawthorne and Thoreau. Hawthorne, wrapped in his cloak, moved like a Greek statue, Emerson leaned forward as if weary, while Thoreau, who was expert on skates, danced and cut strange figures.

After dwelling two years in the Manse, Emerson moved to a cheerful stately house on the opposite outskirts of the village, and that continued to be his home for the rest of his life.

Hawthorne came with his bride to make his home in the Old Manse in 1843. Besides writing, he raised vegetables, and, in domestic emergencies, washed dishes and cooked. After a sojourn of three years he moved away, but at length returned, and bought and remodelled a house which he called “The Wayside.”

His next neighbor to the south was Ephraim Bull, the originator of the Concord Grape. Mr. Bull had a passion for grape-raising, but none of the varieties he could obtain were hardy enough to be relied on for a crop. Wild grapes abounded in the vicinity, and by planting selected seeds of these he at length developed the original Concord vine.

Hawthorne's nearest neighbor to the north was Bronson Alcott, who called his dwelling “Orchard House." There his daughter Louisa wrote several of her famous books for children.

Henry D. Thoreau, the noted nature writer, was born at Concord in 1817. It was his custom to spend a portion of each day in the fields or woods or on the

Concord River. He knew the country like a fox or a bird. Under his arm he carried an old music book in which to press plants, and his pockets contained his diary, a spy-glass, microscope, jackknife, and twine. If he saw in a tree a hawk's or a

squirrel's nest which attracted Henry D. Thoreau, him, he climbed up to investithe famous

gate, and he often waded into writer

pools after water plants. Once, in order to prove that a person could provide himself with food and other necessaries and live comfortably, and yet have plenty of time for enjoyment, he put up a cabin in the Concord woods beside Walden Pond, and there dwelt for two years.

The spot where the cabin stood is marked by a cairn of stones to which every lover of Thoreau's genius who goes thither adds a stone from the shore of a near cove.



[graphic][merged small][merged small]


HE fertile Connecticut valley did not long escape

the notice of the settlers on the New England coast, and in the autumn of 1633 Plymouth sent a little vessel under the command of William Holmes to the river. In the hold of the vessel was the frame of a small trading-house and boards to cover and finish it. When the vessel had sailed up the stream as far as Hartford the crew were surprised to find that the Dutch had built a rude earthwork there and equipped it with two cannon. As they approached this port the drumbeats resounded from it, and the cannoneers stood with lighted matches beside the two guns under

the banner of the Netherlands.

The Dutch threateningly demanded that Holmes should stop

the gunners would fire. But they did not fire, in

spite of his reThe Wethersfield elm, twenty-seven feet in fusal to comcircumference, the biggest in New England ply. He went

on up to Windsor and there erected the trading-house. A garrison was left in it, and the vessel returned to Plymouth.

By 1635 settlements had been started at both Windsor and Wethersfield, and late that year one party of sixty men, women, and children from the vicinity of Boston marched overland by compass,



driving their cattle and swine before them. They were overtaken by winter while still on the way. When they arrived at the river they built rafts and crossed to where Hartford now is, but were obliged to leave some of their cattle to subsist without hay on the east side. Navigation on the stream was completely blocked by ice before the middle of November, and the vessels which were to have brought the settlers' household goods and provisions were abandoned or sailed back.

About this time Lieutenant Lion Gardiner with thirty men took possession of the river's mouth. They tore down the Dutch arms which they found there fastened to a tree, and named the spot “Point Saybrook.” Then they built a wooden fort and some houses, and set up a palisade twelve feet high across the neck of the peninsula. Gardiner's young wife came from Boston to dwell in one of the houses amid the drifting snow before the palisade was completed.

Meanwhile the condition of the pioneers at the settlements up the river was so forlorn that many of them were ready to abandon their new homes and return to Massachusetts Bay. In December a party of seventy straggled down the river, and twenty miles above its mouth found a ship frozen in the ice. They went on board, and soon afterward a warm rain set the ship free. Sails were hoisted, and they went as far as Saybrook, where the vessel stuck on the bar and had to be unladen. The unlucky colonists found a

« PreviousContinue »