Page images

In Memoriam.

MR. E. N. HOLBROOK, the munificent donor of the Town Hall and Library of the place that bears his name, was born in what was then East Randolph, October, 31, 1800, and died February 5, 1872, being seventy-one years, three months, and five days of age. He lived and died a citizen, among the neighbors and friends of the place of his birth.

He was the second son and fifth child of Dea. Elisha and Anna Holbrook, of Randolph. Both his parents and grandparents were distinguished for their energy of character, their piety, their attachment to Evangelical truth, and their efficient support of the religious institutions of the community in which they lived. The influences, therefore, that encompassed him, were religious and salutary. If to him they were ever repulsive, they were certainly not so when his judgment was matured, and from the position of his noble manhood, he could look back on the past, and survey and detect the causes that contributed to make him what he was. Then he appreciated the favor of a kind Providence, in casting in such circumstances the lot of his birth, and for the benefits conferred, —a grateful recognition by him was never withheld.

His opportunities for an early education were not limited, judged by the standard in vogue at the period of his birth. For some time he was a pupil of the Rev. Dr. Strong, his first pastor, who, besides the labors of the pulpit and the parish, conducted the studies of many of his young parishioners, and fitted many young men for college or the university. For some time, also, he was a pupil in an academy abroad. When it is asked, therefore, whence the thought of the noble benefaction which he has bestowed on the place of his birth and his name, must not the reply be — in those early impressions that were made and left upon him in the discipline of the schools ?

Knowing something of the advantages of what was there imparted, he must have felt that a Library, properly selected and thoughtfully perused, would be a quickening power to the mind of any community, expand its intellect, improve its taste, and contribute much to its intelligence and respectability.

If a single book read, stirred a Columbus and gave him no rest until a new continent stood revealed to the world; if a striking sentiment or a felicitous expression has kindled a poet's fire and made him known to himself and the world; or started the philosopher on some pathway of discovery; if a mother's smile at the rude efforts at sketching on her sanded floors made a painter of a West, as he himself affirms, then our friend might well feel, as we know he did, that a well-selected Library was a treasure to the households of any village that has the power to think and the culture to appreciate.

It was a remark of Addison, that he never passed through the beautiful villages of England, and glanced at the trees with which their streets were shaded and adorned, without feeling sure that some good man had there lived, and acted for the welfare of those who were to come after him. IIow much more, then, does a good Library, in the villages of our own New England, the gift of an individual hand, speak the kind and intelligent regard of him who in this way would make and leave forever salutary impressions on mind !

Trees, with all their beauty, fade and die. The marble itself crumbles. But the impressions, the salutary impressions, nay, even the bad also, are never effaced from the mind. The mind-cultured, polished, refined, stored with the acquisitions of knowledge—will bear onward the impress, when the marble and the brass shall have crumbled back to dust.

Such were the ideas of the munificent donor, and the thought of it may well stir every reader of a volume — the gift of his bounty — not only with an impulse of gratitude to the giver, but with emotions that are adapted to impress by their grandeur and sublimity.

Mr. Holbrook possessed natural abilities of a high order. lIad the facilities that are now furnished for higher culture and learning been enjoyed by him, there would have been in professional life few if any positions to which he might not have aspired, and with his untiring industry, energy and perseverance, held with distinction. IIe possessed those mental powers which, had they been directed and developed in almost any other sphere than that in which they were employed, would have secured success and fixed attention.

Business, however, was the field of action into which his course of life was thrown. Upon this he entered at the age of twenty years, as a partner in a firm, with a capital of a thousand dollars, and the world before him. He soon left the firm, and conducted business alone and in his own way. This he did in one form and another for more than fifty years, to the last four days of his life. With scarcely an exception, every day's toil in that life of fifty years was a success, and the results are seen at every turn in the community in which he lived. The village church in which he worshipped, the place of social prayer, the dwellings that meet the eye and please the taste, the clock that measures off the hours of fleeting time, and much of the impulse to enterprise and industry that has stimulated the community about him to action, are the results of those fifty years of vigorous and successful labor, that closed only when his sun went down.

There was no taint of sloth in his composition. Action, industry, enterprise, were his life. He was restless if he ventured on a day's relaxation, or turned aside for an afternoon excursion. It was not business, and action in the prosecution of his business was his life. He entered into its minutest details, left nothing unexamined, and nothing for which provision was not made if it belonged to him. Every thing was done on time, so that he ever prosecuted the work of his hands without being himself driven. He is an example, therefore, for the imitation of all, both old and young, who would win success in their respective occupations in life.

No man in this world can know every thing, or do every thing. If he act well his part in the sphere in which the energies of his life are directed, the meed of honor ought not to be, and seldom is withheld.

No one can say that the half century of unremitted toil of our friend was not successfully accomplished; and that if he did not choose to direct much of his attention to other spheres of action than the one selected, or to side issues as many do — it was not because he had not the ability to win a success, but because he was satisfied with the vocation to which his youth's green spring had been devoted.

It is often said of successful business men, by those who do not, and often cannot, appreciate the secret impulses that direct their action, that their sole end is gain, and their chief good, accumulation. It is doubtless the prevailing tendency of our world, and the vile idolatry of our own times. Our friend has not escaped all imputations in this regard. But he must have been a good deal more than a man, or have had an unusual allowance of some supernatural bestowment, beginning life as he did on his small capital, prosecuting his business with the energies which his youth and vigorous manhood supplied, with a success which is certainly allotted to but few, and compelled by circumstances to be thoughtful, prudent, and economical, in the first years of his business life, if there were not at times in his whole fifty years of active life, some leanings to what is inordinate, some undue attachment to the work of accumulation.

On the supposition, however, that the imputation is well founded, who among all those living in precisely his circumstances, would have been without a fault of this kind ? It is conceded that he never failed to fulfil a promise, or redeem a pledge; and that he never resorted to unlawful expedients or doubtful methods, for the purpose of adding to his wealth. On the contrary, his career was ever one of stainless rectitude and honor. He ever expressed a deep abhorrence of those methods of accumulating wealth, to which resort is often had in these days, and has said that nothing would tempt him to carry to his pillow at night a conscience that would leap and hiss and sting, as his would do, if such expedients became his own.

Like his honored father, Dea. Elisha Holbrook, he was a liberal supporter of religious institutions. He gave ten

« PreviousContinue »